Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Color and Cardigan

Hi everyone, sorry it's been such a long time between posts. This month has been busy-busy-busy, and not just for me! Seems like the autumn is just slipping away from everybody I talk to. It's definitely getting a little chilly in the mornings around here, and the ground at work is covered in oak leaves, which makes me smile.

Pacific School of Religion

So Saturday was Color: Fall 2008, and it was another beautiful day in the East Bay. Wow has the festival grown! See how we have TWO tents for the spinners in the picture? There were also double the number of vendors, and it definitely seemed like there were more people floating in and out throughout the day. I took two classes, which left me a little more time to sit and chat and browse the market, and I wasn't nearly as brain-dead by the end of the day as I was in April. I took Spinning from the Lock with Maia, where we basically learned the various ways to spin fleece directly from the lock (without turning it into a carded batt or roving or combed top). We spun some basic wool (no particular breed), some Romney, and dyed and undyed CVM (California Variegated Mutant), all still in lock form. Here's the plied results:

Spinning from the Lock Class

The Romney was fun, I don't think I'd spun that one before. I also took Kristine's Fiber Prep class, where we looked at handcards, combs, and drum carders. Kristine brought her drum carder and a bag full of random fiber, and let us all make batts! Super-fun. These were not huge, thick batts, maybe an ounce (or less) each, but I had SO much fun spinning mine up later that evening. I was so excited about it I forgot to take photos of it before spinning, but it was some black BFL fiber along with some green wool/silk and mohair locks. I can see why people go all crazy with their drum carders, there is a sense of adventure when you're using one (is it shiny? Sure! Throw it on the tray!)

Fiber prep class batt

So we were essentially playing with different fiber prep techniques, and I had enough foresight to bring along some of my clean locks, so I got to try out the combs! Yippee! Here's the comb set-up, along with a little cloud of my combed Cormo and the pile of waste fiber (yikes!).

My combed locks!

We had stations set up to use the drum carder and two sets of combs, and just spent the last 45 minutes or so playing with fiber!

Fiber prep class

I really wanted to try every different hand-produced prep method I could before deciding how to process my fleece, and I feel like I accomplished that goal during this festival. So now I have little samples of yarn, all spun from the Cormo, in a variety of different preps and spinning methods. I did two yarns that were combed, one spun worsted on my Maggie, one spun woolen on the Mt. Rainier; one yarn spun woolen from a carded rolag, and one yarn spun worsted from flicked-out locks.

Worsted-Woolen Prep Rainbow

The picture doesn't have my worsted-spun combed yarn, because I spun it after taking the picture (oops)! I knit them all up into a little sample (pictures later), and I'm stuck between the true worsted and the yarn spun from the lock. Surprisingly, the lock-spun yarn feels rather slick and nice, even compared to the combed fibers. I can't tell if that was just part of the fleece that perhaps didn't get quite as clean as the rest, or if the different texture is a result of the prep method. The true worsted yarn came out very very squishy and just looks more like a sweater yarn than any of the others, but I also spun it on a different spindle than the others, so I might just be biased because it's a thicker yarn. I definitely didn't like the carded rolag yarn for the kinds of projects I have in mind for this fleece, though. I've had one of the cabled sweaters from the book A Fine Fleece kicking around in there for a few weeks now, so I picked up a copy of the book from the marketplace after classes. Some Ravelry folks did a potluck lunch, and man did folks bring the tastiest food! It was a very long, very fun, very fibery day. I came home exhausted, with my name tag still stuck to my shirt and my addi turbos around my neck for safe-keeping, and wanted to stay up and spin all night long. I can't wait for the next one!

In other knitting news, the Rivendell socks are on hold since I got to the boring foot part. I also need to figure out the length of the potential recipient's feet before I go on so I don't put the toe at the wrong place. In the meantime, I have been itching to cast on another sweater since I finished the Tangled Yoke to such great success.

The February Lady sweater has been all the rage on Ravelry (up to nearly 2500 projects!), so I picked up some yarn and, like a very good and patient knitter, made a nice big gauge swatch. I swatched in both garter stitch and the lace pattern in three different needle sizes (US 8, 7, and 6), and even washed the swatch again and double-checked my measurements before casting on. Even though the pattern recommends US 8's, I got gauge on my 6's, so I dutifully trusted the swatch and worked on the raglan increases all this week. Last night, after trying on the nearly-completed yoke for the sixth time (first two try-ons in a cafe in public with other knitters, the rest at home) I realized that the neck is actually too small. My brain had a very difficult time accepting this state of affairs. It whined at me: "But we got gauge! And it doesn't look like it's going to choke anyone else on Ravelry, even when they knit the size small! And dammit, I want to knit on the stupid thing after I did all that stupid math to figure out how to spread 47 yarn-overs evenly over 219 body stitches!" I might have stamped my foot in girlish petulance. I'm sure I dreamed about this sweater, agonizing in my sleep whether to bravely trudge on or rip it out and try a new needle or pattern size.

Finally, after a (not so restful) night of sleep, I decided to hang the gauge swatch. The thing is too constricting about the neck, and I need to go up at least one needle size for this pattern size. Still struggling over how it came out wrong when I did everything right, I had an epiphany while brushing my teeth. I grabbed the half-ripped-out yoke and snatched up my tape measure. My heart pounding in my chest, I picked a random spot on the yoke I'd just spent the last 12 hours agonizing over. I laid down the tape measure, lined it up with a garter ridge, and slowly counted stitches. I counted twice, people, just to be sure. And then compared it to my gauge swatch. These are the following results:

Gauge swatch: beautiful, even, LYING 18 stitches per 4 inches

Sweater: lovely, squishy, DECEITFUL 19.5 stitches per 4 inches

They were both knit with the same exact needle, my beloved addi natura US 6 (4.0 mm) 24-inch circular. The swatch was knit back-and-forth, and so was the sweater. I was dumbfounded that my gauge swatch could so easily have led me astray, but also relieved to know that I'm not bonkers and can still do basic arithmetic. I have learned that maybe (just maybe) if the sweater looks great on everybody else, and everybody else knit it on needles two sizes bigger than yours, and you sweater is a little small, it's okay to trust your instinct and go up two needle sizes. Especially if that means that you 16 stitches per 4 inches in the gauge swatch might translate to 17.5 stitches per 4 inches in the sweater.


karrie said...

I was nice meeting you at Color! I have to say I am a big fan of Romney. It is really fun to spin. My first fleece (washed prepped and spun) was a Romney.

Oh, and I love your spindle... I have a st. helens and a baker.

wildtomato said...

Hey, we might have seen each other! I was there, too, but I didn't take any classes.