Friday, February 27, 2009


Holy cow, I just realized two really weird things:

1. I have been blogging for a year now.

2. I apparently decided to put up my first post on Feb 29th last year, and I'd completely forgotten it was a leap year then.

So, since the next leap year is 2012... does that mean I'm going to skip my blogiversary until 4 years have passed? No way! Also, since I really didn't feel like doing a year-in-review of my knitting and spinning at the beginning of January because it would have included a lot of projects I didn't blog about, I'm going to do that now. Seems like a good time to put some perspective on my knitting, my stash, and whatnot right before my next trip to Stitches! So here's some statistics on my nearly-1-year-old blog, my knitting and spinning over this year, and some random thoughts:
  • Number of posts: 78 (not counting this one)
  • Average posting frequency: 1 post every 4.7 days
This is a little misleading, because my posting frequency was really closer to 1 post every 2 days over the summer, and has tapered off over the last month or so to one post a week.
  • Knitting projects completed during this blogyear: 20
Huh. I thought I knit more than this, but I guess two of those projects were sweaters, and I really did amp up on my spinning this year, so I guess that sort of cut into knitting time? Maybe? I'm not sure! Oh, and one ginormous lace stole was in there, too.
  • Percentage of completed projects that were also mittens: 20%
This means that nearly one fifth of my knitting output was spent on mittens. I may have a problem.
  • Percentage of completed projects knit with handspun: 35%
A little more than one-third of my projects are handspun and handknit. Shiny!
  • Skeins of yarn spun: 30 (some big, some small)
  • Bumps of spinning fiber acquired: 44 + 1 fleece (ouch)
So my intake was greater than my output as far as spinning goes, and the word "output" hardly applies. Spinning did not significantly reduce the stash, because I only knit 7 of the skeins I produced. The upshot is that my long-term stash is slowly being converted into handspun. This also means I need to put a little more time and thought into planning projects for my handspun.

Ok, shifting gears back to some more regular-blog-type stuff. I have gotten back on the mitered squares wagon. Since the previous post, I've finished another 2 and a half blocks (four squares each) and it's starting to feel as though I can taste the finish line. I've also started the second Brie glove, and I'm itching to cast on my Buckland yarn. I'm thinking the Zeebee Hat. I also have a backlog of stuff to photograph and put up on Flickr (those new mitered squares, plus some gift yarn from Vancouver).

And, of course, Stitches West is now on! I'll be going on Sunday with a bunch of friends and maybe (just maybe) going on Saturday if I find the time. Next week I'll be back with the haul, the damage, the sights, the sounds, and the start of a new year of knitting and spinning. One last thing before that... I think it's time for a new banner photo, or at least a second one in rotation with the current one. Right now what's up there is a close-up shot of the leg section on a pair of socks I knit out of Claudia Handpainted sock yarn, in the colorway Ingrid's Blues. So which one should I take a rectangular chunk out of and start using?

Handspun w/ tile:
Indigo Dyed Black BFL

Handspun without tile:
Hydrangeas 2-ply closeup

Or, should I try to create a new photo for the banner, specifically and from scratch? What do you all think?

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Ever-Present Blanket

So way back in the day, I got crazy inspired by Cara's mitered square blanket. I cannot now recall if I already had a copy of the first Mason-Dixon Knitting book, or if I picked it up later. But the colors! They were awesome, some planned, some unplanned, but all gorgeous. I had to have me one of those.

Tahki Cotton Classic

So I started buying Tahki Cotton Classic, which comes in a boatload (literally) of colors. Not trusting myself to come up with good color combos by choosing randomly, and being secretly worried I would be paralyzed by too many options, I limited myself to colors I associated with irises (flowers, not the part of the eyeball): purples, greens, yellows, and blues. A second rule: I would only use one skein of any given color dye lot + color number combo (this rule did not last, but was helpful at first). I began with something like 8 skeins of yarn, and the idea that I was going to be economical and mathematical about the process. I would keep track of how often I used one particular color and for what combination of stripes, calculate (roughly) how many mitered squares I could get out of a single skein, and thus be able to predict how many squares total I could get out of a given amount of yarn. Behold block #1:

Royal Purple Square
(The colors are off, the "background" color should be a deep royal purple, not the dark blue it appears to be here. This was way before I knew how to edit photos properly).

Oh, and I have a knitting-pattern rule. All four squares in one "block" would have the same main color, and I could basically do what I felt like with the contrasting colors. I've been a bit all over the map here. All four different contrasting colors, three contrasting colors (one repeated over two squares), one strip different from all the other contrasting colors (this arose in an attempt to use up tiny little leftover balls that I started accumulating at about the halfway point). So far I haven't used more than three colors in a single square, and no more than five colors in a signle four-square block. With my yarn in hand, I started to knit squares and collect new colors of TCC whenever I saw them in yarn shops. With my no-repeating-colors rule, it got to the point where I had to carry a list around of what colors I already had, so I wouldn't accidentally buy a second skein of lily pad green or pale lavender. All my data made its way into a spreadsheet, where the computational/archiving/obsessive side of my brain could indulge in all the minute details. Meanwhile, the visual, creative side of my brain is pleased by other aspects:

Lilypad Green Square
(One of my favorite blocks, especially because the purple is so unexpected. The blanket's theme is Irises, but this block reminds me of water lillies.)

The blanket has been my fall-back project for almost two years now, spanning five yarn stores, 48 unique colors, and several days' worth of knitting time (72 squares at about 2 hours per square). I've turned its hibernation tag on Ravelry on and then back off twice since I entered it into the database. I tend to bring out the project bag when I've just finished something big, or when I can't think of what I want to knit next, or when all my projects are complex or fiddly or at a sticky bit and I just want to knit something mindlessly. Several of these factors coincided in my knitting life recently: I'd just finished the two Noro scarves and a ton of spinning. With no idea of what to make next, not wanting to go back to the sewing-intensive Brie gloves, and needing something in a flash for my knit night, I grabbed a few colors at random and my size 6 (4 mm) Addi Natura circulars a few weeks ago. This morning, I spent about two hours updating the spreadsheet: adding in recently purchased colors, entering in two newly finished squares, checking totals, and re-estimating how many blocks I could reasonably get out of my current stash. I also planned out the next five blocks. I'm now past the halfway point, whether my ultimate goal is 30 blocks (5x6 block blanket) or 36 (6x6 block blanket), and I got all excited about the color combinations and the prospect of finishing the dang thing. While going through the completed blocks, I noticed this:

Mitered Square blanketMedium Lavender Square

My first inadvertent duplication. (Ok, I'm using the word duplication loosely. There are actually no repeating colors from one block to the next. I swear. I checked three times.) The formula: lighter purple background with one dark green contrast color, one dark purple contrast color, and two washed-out green contrast colors. I even photographed the blocks with the same orientation of the contrast colors (although one is rotated 90 degrees compared to the other), completely unconciously. I started to wonder if I'd been knitting this thing for too long, when another voice in my head reminded me: It's going to be an enormous sewing project after it's done being an enormous knitting project.

For the rest of the currently completed squares, here's the Flickr Set. I know I don't need to buy any more yarn, and I hope now I can power through the rest of the squares. They certainly don't take long. On the other hand, when I started this project I neither belonged to Ravelry nor owned a spinning wheel. Maybe it'll take another two years.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fourth Annual Blogger (Silent) Poetry Reading

So I'm normally not one for modern poetry, and I just haven't reached a point in my reading where classic or epic poems are to my taste. I'm fairly confident I'll get there someday, I just need to give my brain time to process more literature first. In spite of this, I am a sucker for poems that are more typically called "nursery rhymes," especially when they have one simple, surface meaning and some deeper levels. I know last June I mentioned my longstanding relationship with "The Owl and the Pussycat", and the impression it still makes on my life. In light of all this, I present you with the full version of "The Queen of Hearts" as my offering for this year's Blogger (Silent) Poetry Reading.

A couple notes: I'm new to this, so I'm going off a version I found online. It is credited to William S. Baring-Gould and Cecil Baring-Gould, who are editors of The Annotated Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes Old and New. I am taking some liberties with spelling for consistency.

tap tap Is this thing on? Ok, here we go:

The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts
all on a summer's day.
The Knave of Hearts, he stole the tarts,
and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts,
and beat the knave full score!
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts
and vowed he'd steal no more.

The King of Spades, he kissed the maids,
which made the Queen full sore.
The Queen of Spades, she beat those maids,
and turned them out of door.
The Knave of Spades grieved for those jades,
and did for them implore!
The Queen, so gent, she did relent,
and vowed she'd ne'er strike more.

The King of Clubs, he often drubs
his loving Queen and wife.
The Queen of Clubs returns his snubs,
and all is noise and strife!
The Knave of Clubs gives winks and rubs,
and swears he'll take her part.
For when our kings will do such things,
they should be made to smart.

The Diamond King I fain would sing
and likewise his fair Queen.
But that the Knave, a haughty slave,
must needs step in between.
Good Diamond King with hempen string,
the haughty Knave destroy!
Then may your Queen, with mind serene,
your royal bed enjoy.

I love that the Knaves are all bad boys: they steal, make advances towards their Queen, and generally disrupt the kingdom. The only time one is doing something that appears to be noble is when standing up for the maids who were only taken advantage of by that rascal the King of Spades. Even then, the author implies that the maids didn't deserve to get beaten and turned out, only turned out, and still refers to them as "jades" (not a good thing to be as a female). And who knows why the Knave of Spades wanted them back in the first place? Given his compatriots' behavior, my guess would be that he figured they'd be easy and it was worth a shot to keep them around. That's it for today, enjoy the poetry all over blogland!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Two Weekends of Spinning

So last weekend and this weekend I was pretty much on my own, and got to spend some quality time with the wheel. Earlier in the month, I got a little fed up with the fleece spinning and decided to ply the two bobbins of singles together instead of waiting for a third bobbin and doing a 3-ply. That turned out to be a good instinct, because the resulting yarn is delightful!

Gray Cormo Yarn Closeup
Two skeins, one 330 yards and one 285 yards, 2-ply from my cormo fleece. I managed to have a very nearly equal amount of singles on each bobbin (probably just luck, I don't own a scale so I didn't weight the bobbins or anything like that!).

It's not as even as I could hope, but I think it's some of my favorite handspun yet. As I knit with more and more handspun, I'm beginning to see how much the needle size choice determines how nice the yarn feels. The yarn I spun for my sister's Broad Street Mittens, for example, was spun rather haphazardly and without much effort on my part to keep even. I just spun it for fun, letting it turn out whatever weight it wanted to be. The resulting fabric looks much more even and smooth than I would have anticipated, so there's hope for this future cabled sweater to not be too lumpy and bumpy. It's really fun and gratifying to look at the photos of the dirty fleece and all the different stages of the process. If I thought it would keep and not get funky/nasty, I would totally have kept a few dirty locks to show my non-fibery friends the entire transition from just-off-the-sheep to clothing.

I wanted to get the fleece singles off my bobbins so I could do some non-gray spinning, and I blasted through a lot of fiber last weekend. I did a few Hello Yarn offerings, some Mollusc Wensleydale I acquired from another Raveler:

Wensleydale Mollusc
300 yards of a low-twist single, about DK weight.

And my first fiber club shipment (marinating since November... bad spinner!), Buckland in Finn:

Buckland 3-ply
175 yards of n-plied worsted weight.

I also spun up some old fiber, stashed a long time ago at the first Color festival last spring:

Merino/Silk/Angora Supernova
About 115 yards of bulky Merino/Silk/Angora, loosely spun and 2-plied in the Supernova colorway.

I think this yarn is destined to become another cowl, perhaps as a gift. I love the idea of using these luxurious fibers as something you can really snuggle your chin into! I have no idea what I want to do with the Buckland or the Mollusc, I really just wanted some color on the wheel. I spun all three of these as singles last weekend, and had a ply party yesterday. It was good to have a little break, and accomplished just what I hoped it would. By the time I was finished with these three skeins of yarn, I was itching for my handcards and reaching for my fleece pillowcase. I've got a new pile of brushed-out locks waiting to get on the wheel again today (as a reward after I finish a little laundry and grading). I figure I can safely start swatching after another two skeins, and will have enough yarn for my (as yet imaginary) cable sweater after I have 6!