Friday, November 28, 2008

Stash Update, Part 2

And we're back from a second helping of turkey leftovers! Yesterday I was talking about new stash, and then promised you all a projects update, both of which require a little bit of context. Let me set the scene. So, we drove from the Bay Area to Orange County (yes that Orange County) for Thanksgiving, which is actually a bit unusual for us. Typically we spend the weekend with the significant other's family, which is a heckuva lot closer. Less holiday traffic and all. But this year we decided that since we didn't get to see my family that much this year between the business trips and Germany that we'd do Thanksgiving there to make up for it. Also, my folks recently took a trip to Toronto and wanted to show us pictures and souvenirs and whatnot.

Now, my mom was very brave in Toronto. They go on a trip about once every other year visiting places all across the globe for a professional conference that my dear old dad attends, and they like to get us kids a souvenir. Sometimes these work out really well (my sister got an awesome blanket from when they went to Germany) and sometimes not so much. This time, my mom just flat-out asked me what I would like her to bring me from Toronto. I said something about a famous blogger/author living there (those of you who are here for the knitting content already know who I'm talking about), and how she frequents this one yarn store, and wouldn't it be cool to have yarn from that yarn store, and to support local Toronto businesses, and how I'd have plenty of art posters and typical souvenir stuff from my travels in Germany. To make a long story short, my awesome mother made a pilgrimage to Lettuce Knit" to buy me yarn.

It was fabulous. I didn't know what she would get, but I knew it would be good. It turned out to be a little shocking because she actually called me from inside the store! I giggled a bit when she said "There's a lot of yarn here!" but I remembered that the first trip to a yarn shop can be a little overwhelming, and tried to be more helpful and think of a yarn that they'd probably have there but that would be harder for me to find locally. And I came up with the Fleece Artist brand. She got me two skeins, one each of Blue Face Aran (in Ivory ?) and Scotian Silk (in some deep plummy red color I can't identify). That's just what was for me. In addition, she apparently saw a store sample of some fingerless gloves and thought that it would be nice to have a pair for driving, so she picked out two skeins of Misti Organic Cotton (one a light tan and the other with one ply white and one ply dark brown) for me to use to make her fingerless gloves. The skeins of Fleece Artist are big (400 yards each!) and squishy. I keep petting them. They might have gravy on them by the end of the weekend.

Anyway, on to the project update. I found buttons for the February Lady sweater, and we didn't even have to go to San Diego to get them! Last weekend we took an impromptu day trip down to Stinson Beach, and managed to squeeze in a visit to Blue Bird Yarns in Sausalito. It's a new shop, but very cute and within walking distance of the rest of downtown Sausalito. They had a nice selection of yarn, including some brands that I don't see often in the city, so I will definitely be back. While the significant other made friends with the ladies knitting in the shop, I poked through their button boxes and found just what I had in mind: about 1-inch diameter circular wooden buttons. They got sewn on that evening.

Next: Remember this combo?
Orange and Brown

Well, I have decided what it must become: a smaller project that will turn into a Christmas gift for someone who reads the blog, so I can't show you photos of the progress or tell you the name of the project. The recipient is not on Ravelry though, so once I have some photos, I'll link you all over there to check it out. I was packing up on Wednesday morning, stuffing projects into my tote bag, when I realized that my two current works-in-progress were gifts intended for family members I would be hanging out with all weekend. Ack! Emergency project required: into my bag I stuffed my Tigget's Hollow Wensleydale yarn, some sock needles, and the book A Fine Fleece. I realized on Thursday that I don't know exactly how much yardage I have in the skein, so I have no idea if my plans for the Ancient Oak socks will actually see me past the heel turn, but I'm hoping I can at least get little ankle socks out of the skein. No pictures yet, but they are coming along nicely.

The good news is that I finished the other secret project today, which means I meant that I could give my mom her birthday present on time, and that I can now share it with you without fear. Here's the Rivendell socks in all their lovely green glory:

Rivendell Socks

Details recap: Most of one skein of Sundara Sock yarn in the colorway "Pine over Gold", pattern is the Rivendell Socks. I used Addi Turbos in 2.75 mm for the cuff and instep and 2.0 mm for the heel flap, heel turn, sole, and toes. Originally I had planned on using 2.5's for the upper parts, but it was completely my fault for having shoddy yarn storage habits. For the rest of the weekend I'll just have to settle with squeezing the Fleece Artist skeins and knitting furiously on the other gift project in secret.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stashtastic Update!

So I'm stranded sans camera at the parents' house for Thanksgiving. Well, that's actually a lie, we have the camera but no way to connect said camera to the computer and upload any new photos. So I'm going to regale you with older photos of new stash, and tell you about some of my other new stash. The new stash falls into three categories: stash acquired of my own free will, stash acquired after a sacrifice of old stash, and stash that my mom gave me.

I'm a little ashamed of the new stash, because I told myself I was going to cut back this year. See, last year was the first year that I really had a yarn budget to speak of, because I had my first real full-time job (but this is only sort of true. I'm in education and live in California. It's a full time job in that I work about 40 hours a week and they pay me money, but there's very little security. But I'm not here to talk about work. Back to the regularly scheduled program.) So I had money to spend on yarn, even if I wasn't at the end of a project. Also, the new yarn didn't have to come from the sale bin or be something I had saved up for. I had a lot more freedom to try new fibers and more expensive brands, and I built up a sizable stash. So this year (since May or so) I've been trying to be a little more discerning in what I purchase, and to buy at a rate that more closely matches my rate of knitting yarn up into projects. Part of me trying to cut back includes a caveat that I am allowed to acquire yarn/fiber from certain sources without feeling any guilt. One of these sources is anything dyed by Adrian of Hello Yarn. So I snapped up these puppies, both from a fellow Raveler who was destashing:

Hello Yarn Wensleydale Fiber: 6 ounces of Mollusc
Hello Yarn Wensleydale Mollusc

Hello Yarn BFL Fiber: 8 ounces of Earth
Hello Yarn BFL Earth

I'm super-excited about these colors, and the other day I saw a fabulous shawl knit from Wensleydale fiber (this from the Verb fiber club, but still fabulous). I think I want to do something similar with my Mollusc, and having 6 ounces instead of 4 gives me a bit of wiggle room in case my spinning isn't as even or as fine as I plan. The BFL I have absolutely no plan for, but I've had striped vests on the brain lately and this would be neat as half of a striped vest (maybe paired with a dark blue or green?).

I also achieved a long-standing goal of mine. I've had this goal since before I got the blog, and I think I've even mentioned it here before: to get into the Hello Yarn Fiber Club. Well, apparently my web-stalking skills have been built up enough, or perhaps things in the universe were just aligned correctly, because I got in! I haven't had time to stop petting the November installment long enough to take any photos at all, but it's gorgeous and I can't wait to spin it up.

Now for the stash that required a sacrifice. It sounds a little more dire than it actually is. Our Tuesday-night knitting group decided to have an unwanted stash exchange a few weekends ago. There were six of us, and we got together with about one large paper grocery bag's worth of yarn each to trade and socialize and eat fabulous cupcakes decorated with red and black frosting so that they looked like ladybugs (thanks thesecitystreets!). There was lots of yarn, and we basically just piled it on the kitchen table and started slowly picking out stuff we liked. I gave up a lot of really really old yarn that I knew I would never ever knit anything out of, and got a few nice things, including a skein of Artyarns Ultramerino, a partial ball of Meunch Touch Me (really soft chenille yarn), and a little puff ball of black angora yarn, all stuff I've been meaning to try. I also scored 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in a lovely blue-green heathery shade that reminds me of mallard ducks. That's where this whole idea for a striped vest came from. The swap was a ton of fun (we really should do that once a year!), and I was very pleased to take home less yarn than I'd walked in with. We'd all agreed to only bring yarns that we really and truly did not want anymore so that there wouldn't be any hard feelings, but that did mean that some yarn was completely unwanted by any of us, so one group member generously took the bag of leftovers to a yarn shop that accepts donations. It was nice to clear some stuff out and be left with yarn that is more likely to get my creative juices going, even if there isn't as much of it as there was before.

I'm blogging during our traditional post-turkey coma nap rest hour, but my dad's calling us for the pie. I'll be back again later to tell you about the stash from my mom, and give you a project update (teaser: I found buttons). Enjoy the holiday weekend (if you're in the USA) or just the regular weekend (if you're somewhere else)!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It Never Rains but Pours

Except for this weekend. Sheesh, it was hot! I think this definitely counts as an Indian Summer, seeing as we've had one cold rainstorm through here prior to the heat wave. It was hot and sunny even in our part of the city, which is unusual. I cannot wait for it to be cold all the time! It's usually dark by the time I leave work these days, and I love to come home, put on a sweater and some comfy pants, and play with my fiber. We've had wintertime food on the brain, too. Two weeks ago the significant other made a reeeaallly good batch of chili that lasted us for three days of lunch leftovers, and last week I realized I hadn't made a quiche in a very long time (apparently I also decided that we don't have enough saturated fat in our diet- this was a serious quiche).

Has anyone else looked through the Winter Twist Collective? I am in love with the "Creature Comforts" section! The artwork kills me (squirrels and kittens and bluejays!), and I want to make everything. The workmanship on this magazine is top-notch, and the patterns are presented beautifully.

The title of the post is actually in reference to FOs. I managed to finish up lots of projects since I last posted here. First of all, I spun and plied the Black BFL/Shetland blend all in one weekend. I know, insanity, right? But it was really nice to let myself get a little obsessed with a project. I put my audiobook on while the significant other was out, sat down with my wheel and fiber at the kitchen table, and just spun spun spun. Like all day. For two days in a row. And the result is this:

Chocolate Fruit Loops

Here's a close-up with the Scrabble tile:

Chocolate Fruit Loops

It's definitely a dense worsted (possible bulky?) yarn, about 235 yards. I originally intended the yarn to be a 50/50 blend of the Shetland and BFL, but I ended up not using all the BFL. In the end, I think that's for the best. Too much brown would have drowned out the colors more than I intended, and I was going more for a homogenizing effect. I don't have a scale, so I don't know exactly how much the skein weighs, but I'm guessing somewhere around 6.5 ounces. I definitely have less than half of my 4-ounce bump of BFL left over. And Kristine just told us on Ravelry that the November package has been shipped! Yippee! I'm going to have to do a separate post for all stuff I've stashed recently (uh... pay no attention to that pile of unphotographed fiber behind the curtain).

I also finished the February Lady sweater, on Saturday evening. Dudes, this was a seriously quick knit! Not counting the time spent knitting a teeny tiny too small neck, I took about 3 weeks on this from start to finish. The only problem now is buttons. I know exactly which buttons I want. This is good, as I can take an inappropriately long time to choose buttons. The buttons I want are in San Diego. This is bad, as I am not in San Diego. It might be awhile before the sweater has buttons. In the meantime, enjoy some FO pictures.

The front:

February Lady Sweater Front

The back:

February Lady Sweater Back

The sweater isn't washed or blocked, and I'm a little reluctant to wash the thing. There is the distinct possibility that the sweater will grow significantly in the wash, and I really really like the size the way it is now. But I guess I'll have to wash the darn thing sooner or later, so I might as well do it now. Oh well. I can justify putting off washing it until I have buttons, right?

And now to transition to another FO using one last photo of the February Lady Sweater:

I love my fleece!

The fleece is washed! Two Fridays ago I washed the very last batch of fleece, so now the whole thing is done. I've gone through and picked out the darkest locks and the lightest locks, separating them out from the rest of the fleece. I'll probably use them for different projects, but those piles are probably about 1/3 of the total fleece, and the leftover 2/3 is a much more even shade of gray. Much better for a cabled sweater! While I was trying on the February Lady sweater for photos, I had the whole thing laid out in the sunshine for sorting, and eventually I couldn't resist just picking up a double-armful of fluff and squishing it. You know what the really sick part was? A little voice in my head said, "We finished washing this one, so now we can have another one, right?" NO! The last thing I need right now is a raw fleece stash in addition to a yarn and processed fiber stash. I really should spin up a large chunk of this fleece before I get any thoughts about a second one. But overall, I was surprised at how manageable it was for me to wash the whole thing. Even in our tiny apartment, it really only took four or five afternoons to get the whole thing done. If I had been a little more organized, I bet it would have been done in October, too.

Now that Thanksgiving is almost upon us, it's time to start thinking about gift knitting. Last year my gift knitting included some pretty fancy stuff: a pair of colorwork felted slippers, a large man's sweater, a gloves & scarf set, just to name the gifts within the immediate family. I've been spinning up a storm this year, so I think it's time to consider making stuff from handspun. But no sweaters. While the gifts I made last year were very well-appreciated by their recipients, some were not so fun to knit. What holiday gift knitting have you all done, either current or past, that you most enjoyed knitting?

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Short post today, as I'm in the middle of finishing my fleece washing. It's a good thing, too, before we really get into the wet season here, otherwise I'd have to wait weeks for the locks to dry.

I finished winding and measuring my new cotton yarn:


It's about 190 yards, a heavy worsted to aran weight yarn. But it's got that beautiful smoothness of a cotton yarn. I'm still deciding whether or not to boil it to finish it, but in the end I don't think I will.

I also finished carding all my rolags:

Shetland/Black BFL blend rolags

Here they are all laid out, waiting to be spun. I've decided to do a 3-ply yarn. I roughly divided the rolags of each color into three piles, and each bobbin will be spun red-orange-brown-blue, and plied together in the same color order. Hopefully there will be large stretches of solid color, with some blending near the joins.

I'm almost done with the body of the February Lady sweater, but the significant other is picking up a new lens today and has absconded with the camera so I have no action shots yet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's Officially Autumn! Or: Three Projects

I don't know why the weather got the memo about five weeks late, but this weekend we got our first sizable storm through the Bay Area. It sprinkled a bit on Friday, and was coming down steadily by the afternoon. It really got going Friday night and has been rained steadily all day on Saturday. I'm ridiculously excited about the rain, mostly because it means I can wear my knits again. I spent all day in my favorite scarf, even indoors!

I've been mainly working on three projects these days, with the Rivendell socks on hold for a while. One is a knitting project, one is a spinning project, and one is a future spinning project that requires a lot of prep. I'm really enjoying the balance of having projects in all three stages. One of them is portable enough for me to take it on the airplane to visit old college friends, I'm using stash fiber for the spinning project, and I'm practicing my new carding and blending skills with the prep project. Having more than one means that when I'm sick of knitting the lace pattern I can sit down and do some carding or spinning, so my short attention span is satisfied. Finally, having three means that the project I switch to always has a bit of novelty, like passing a friend while running errands or a colleague in the hallway: "Hello, haven't seen you in a few days, how's it going?" Pretty sweet. So here's what is happening with each one.

Knitting Project: February Lady Sweater Update

I've switched to size 8's on the February Lady sweater, and it fits just fine now! I got through the yoke, knit the 8 or 10 agonizingly long rows after the eyelet increases, then split for the sleeves and body last weekend. I was able to try the sucker on, and it's going to be a peach of a cardigan. I wish I could knit the sleeves on their own, though. The pattern calls for you to pick up sleeve stitches after finishing the body, and I'm not looking forward to turning the whole damn thing over and over in my lap while I crank out the sleeve. Sleeves make great travel knitting, and I'd love to be able to work out a way to knit them now and attach them later.

So far the only thing I can come up with is to do an invisible cast on and graft them on at the end, but the thought of grafting in the gull lace pattern gives me heart palpitations. Not to mention this is promising to be a really lovely sweater and I tend to get impatient with finishing, and I'd be really pissed if the grafting looked crappy and I ended up having to re-knit the sleeves. I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but this pattern is a sized-up-for-adults version of an Elizabeth Zimmerman baby sweater. Perhaps I'd better not mess with her genius. She really knows what she's talking about when it comes to sweater construction. Anyway, the sweater is coming along, and I'm hoping this will get done quickly now that the weather has taken a turn.

Spinning Project: Cotton!

So when I first got back from Germany, I ordered some cotton fiber with ideas of spinning it up quickly for a project that wouldn't make my hands sweat in the late August heat. Turns out 100% cotton is a lot trickier than I imagined, and the fiber got stuffed down in a fiber stash bag. I tried different wheel ratios, re-read my notes from the cellulose fiber tasting class, even went back to a drop spindle to try and figure it out. Every now and then, I'd pull out a little more and try again, but I kept getting the most incredibly lumpy yarn that would pull apart at the fat bits (which were getting underspun) or break at the thin bits (which were absorbing all the twist) before it got to the bobbin. On the Thursday night before Color I felt stubborn and sat down with an empty bobbin, determined to make progress. I ended up staying up a little too late in the evening and a lot of little bits of almost-yarn ended up in the trash bin, but at least I was getting somewhere. After a few hours, I was starting to learn how to hold my hands, how tightly to grasp the fiber, teaching my body that it needs to do something differently to make yarn from cotton. In order to keep this knowledge fresh in my hands, I've been trying to spin a little bit (even if it's just five minutes at the wheel) every day, and the improvement is there, if small. My yarn got more even, especially on the second bobbin. I don't think I'll get enough yarn to do something bigger than a hat (or a cowl... I have had cowls and mittens on the brain lately. Can you tell I'm ready for the cold weather?) but I will be proud to have met the challenge. My all-time favorite handknit scarf is out of cotton, and it would be a real treat to re-make it some day from scratch. I just finished plying the two bobbins together, so we'll see if how much yardage I get out of it later.

Fiber Prep Project: Blended Colors

At the beginning of our fiber prep class, Kristine gave us a lesson on using handcards, and gave us all samples of bright red commercially dyed wool and some of her delicious black BFL to blend together. I fell in love with the resulting tweedy yarn, so when this came in the mail:

Verb Wooly Fiber Club Fruit Loops

I knew my plan. This is 4 ounces of Shetland wool, the second shipment in the A Verb for Keeping Warm Wooly Wonders fiber club, colorway Fruit Loops. I ordered 4 ounces of Black BFL fiber from Crown Mountain Farms with plans to blend it with the Shetland to make a tweedy, heathered yarn. I split the Shetland into four chunks, roughly separating the colors. One chunk was blue, one mostly deep red, one kind of pinkish-orange with bits of yellow, and one a more brownish orange. I ended up with a bunch of rolags in each color, and now I have to decide what I want the yarn to look like in the end, which I think will mostly depend on what sort of project I want to get out of this. The colors are still lovely, but much more muted and I can't wait to see the yarn.

I'll post some pictures of the rolags before I start spinning (and of the cotton yarn before I start knitting), I promise! Here's my excuse this time: the significant other got some new toys for the camera. And when I say some new toys, I mean he found his mom's old stash of camera bits and bobs from when she used to work as a professional photographer. Filters, a flash and flash screen, and (so I'm told) a Very Serious Tripod. He wanted to take some photos to play around with the new stuff and get acquainted with it, and I told him to go ahead, I could get a little spinning in before it was my turn. Aaaannnnnd... He used up all the battery on the camera before I could take my WIP pictures. So even though I can't show you the pretty heathered Shetland/Black BFL blend, the status on my cardigan, or my new cotton yarn yet, I can give you a few artsy photos taken of me and the wheel while I was doing the 2-ply. Enjoy!

The flyer and bobbin from the back of the wheel, while I was finishing up the second bobbin of singles:
The Flyer doing its thing

The Schacht sheep logo and the flyer during plying (notice how I switched to Scotch tension?):
Schacht Logo and Flyer

So now that I have my first bobbin full of cotton yarn, I'd like to ask you all a question: do you actually need to boil cotton yarn? If it makes a difference, the fiber was in sliver form, the yarn is now a 2-ply, probably bulky weight. I've heard something about boiling to set the twist in cotton yarns in the distant past, and if it's the difference between my project falling apart or something awful like that, I'll go for it. For example, I know that setting the twist by washing with protein fibers is not absolutely vital (or at least I haven't been struck with lightning for knitting with unwashed handspun and those mittens turned out just fine). I usually wash my yarn anyway, just to get any dirt from my hands off the yarn before knitting with it, but I rarely weight my yarn while drying anymore, as I feel it deadens the bounce that I love about my handspun. Also, boiling my yarn frankly sounds a bit scary. So if I like my cotton yarn the way it is, what's the worst that could happen if I don't boil it? Inquiring minds want to know!