Friday, May 29, 2009

Spinning, shawls, and a tiny bit of wedding stuff

As promised, here's the spinning update. Over the last few weeks, I have slowly started to realize that my handspun stash is growing, and my fiber stash isn't really shrinking thanks to my membership in two awesome fiber clubs. Why didn't I ever realize that fiber takes up more room than yarn? So I'm trying to spin more with projects explicitly in mind, and also group fiber into complimentary colors for larger projects to try and keep the stash manageable. Although I am not yet tired of knitting cowls, I'm getting a little sick of searching for other one-skein projects that take about 250 yards of DK to worsted weight yarn.

I have wanted to make the Danish Heather Shawl (scroll down for great pictures) from SpinOff magazine, which calls for over 1000 yards of aran-weight handspun yarn, for awhile now. I recently acquired more Pigeonroof Studios fiber from a destashing Raveler, and I'm thinking of combining them with some others from my stash into a pink-purple-wine-with-bits-of-orange colored shawl.

Pigeonroof Braids
Colorways lined up. Blended? Plied? Striped? I have no concrete plans yet! The colorways and fibers are, from top to bottom: Cornucopia BFL, Calla SW Merino, Persimmon Shetland, and Millefiore SW Merino.

Lots of folks have knit the shawl in DK or sportweight yarn, so I'm not too concerned about the weight of the yarn I spin. I don't feel inclined to make an extremely heavy shawl, and I think this will be a great stash buster project. Plus, it's a huge garter stitch shawl! Super no-brainer. Lately I've also felt the need to keep another, simpler project on the needles while I work on my Halcyon sweater, so I have something to knit while watching movies or on the bus. In light of this, I've just cast on with this new handspun yarn:

Rainbow Brite Yarn
Rainbow Brite 3-ply Sock Yarn (8 ounces), spun from these two BFL tops from the Etsy shop Theytoldmesew:

BFL Rainbow

I split the tops in half, and spun and n-plied to preserve the long color repeats. I am totally getting better at spinning true sock weight yarn! There's still some variation in weight across the two skeins; the first one starts out much thicker than the second one. I want to make very tall socks out of this yarn. The first skein has 310 yards, and although I forgot to measure the second one before taking it off the swift, I'm betting it's comparable, so I'll hopefully be able to get some nice cozy knee socks. On the plus side, I got to cast on something bright and rainbow-y in support of all my married friends, family members, and acquaintances of every persuasion, in spite of Tuesday's desicion from the California supreme court. I had to redo the toe I cast on at knit night (it was too big, you all were right), and now I have to look up how to do a short-row heel and do some figuring. This project is especially fulfilling because it's what I intended to do with the fiber from the instant I saw it.

Rainbow Brite Socks
All ready for the heel turn!

On to the other spinning project with a knitting pattern in mind.

Handspun Targhee Processed Fleece
Targhee Laceweight Singles (4 ounces)

I bought this pin-drafted roving at the Verb Workshop grand opening. It's a prize-winning Targhee fleece from Black Sheep Gathering and (if I remember correctly) processed by Morro Fleece Works. It's heavenly, incredibly bouncy, and a little sticky from the tight crimp. I've been spinning it pretty fine, on the larger groove of my new high speed whorl. If I do end up knitting a shawl for my wedding, this will be the yarn. I'm thinking maybe Laminaria or, if I don't have the yardage, perhaps the mid-size Aeolian with pearl beads. I've never knit with beads before, but the tutorial on Knitty makes it look easy enough (famous last words, right?). I want to let the singles rest for a few days before winding it off the bobbins and measuring the yardage, and I'm not going to make myself pick a pattern right away. This yarn probably won't get knitted one way or another until I'm done with the sweater anyway, so I have some time to think about it.

Lastly, I have a pretty funny story to tell you all. Last week I was wandering around a local yarn shop after work with another knitting friend. She is in love with cellulose fibers (bamboo, cotton, linen), so I felt it was my duty to bring her over as they were having a sale on yarn with those fibers that afternoon. I didn't really need to buy any yarn, so I was browsing the books. And dudes, I think I found my wedding hairstyle in a pattern book. I am such a nerd. Yes, you are all laughing at me, but since you are reading a knitting blog that also makes you a nerd of the same caliber (ha!). And in my defense, it's an issue of Rowan magazine. Sometimes the Rowan style goes a little over-the-top, but I think this hairdo is pure class. Scroll down and click on the pictures for Short Sleeve Bacall, De Havilland, Garbo, and Hayworth. It's the same hairstyle in all four photos. I love it. I also secretly relish the idea of bringing a knitting pattern book into a hair salon, and getting to explain the whole knitting thing. I think that a hairstylist, being someone who works with their hands in a creative way, would be more likely to "get it" than the average person.

That's it for now, let's see if I can keep the blog rolling a little more over the rest of the summer. Enjoy the fiber pictures, I'm off to go make some stuff!

Catching up with life

It's what I do whenever a semester ends. I'll have exams, then a slow wind-down afterwards including piles and piles of grading, painstaking entering of grades, and then responding to student emails for about 10 days. Only half of that time will be spent in the office, so I get to indulge myself by knitting during grading breaks, but mostly my free time is taken up with activities like laundry, seeing the dentist, cleaning the apartment, and in general doing all those things I've put off during the last month.

Today is different. All grades are in, the student email rate has reduced to a trickle, and I am caught up on random chores. I have enough energy and free time this morning to make myself some tasty scrambled eggs for breakfast, throw on a podcast, and reflect on my knitting and spinning over the last month or so. Let's get the un-updated updates out of the way first, then move on to the meatier stuff.

1. Brie gloves are still languishing. I need to re-read the directions for the thumb, and I don't feel like doing so.

2. I got some more Soak woolwash, and washed a bunch of handspun. Three of the skeins felt stringy rather than squishy, and I wasn't in love with them until they dried after the wash. I must remember this: washing your yarn is a good thing.

3. Spinning progresses apace. I finished two big spinning projects, which I will save for another post later.

4. The Halcyon Sweater is also chugging along. I'm almost done with the front, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the knitting goddesses are going to toy with me by allowing me to finish this sweater with only a small amount of yarn short. We'll see. I was interested to find that I am able to memorize the 12-row and 16-row cable repeats, but not the 24-row main cable. I don't need to grab the book as I can read the pattern from the previously worked repeats, but I can't hold the whole thing in my head. Did my brain hit a saturation point, or just a plateau? I guess I should wait and see if I have the thing memorized by the time I finish the back of the sweater as well.

5. I was lucky enough to be part of Verb's fabulous Keep the Fleece event two weekends ago. It was a day of many firsts. In addition to being the first Verb Keep the Fleece event, it was also the first time I've been around that many spinners all spinning at once, my first sheep-to-anything event (we did a scarf), and my first time being on video talking about knitting, spinning, crafting, and blogging. I sat next to the fabulous Aija and we chatted about getting connected to other crafters through the internet for a very charming gentleman (whose name escapes me at the moment) who is making a documentary film about knitters. I also introduced another knitter to the joys of handspun yarn for the first time. There was good food, good company, and good conversation, all for a good cause!

We started with fabulous Verb naturally-colored and naturally-dyed fiber:
Keep the Fleece 2009
The whole shebang

Keep the Fleece 2009
Delicious dyed BFL

Yummy Shetland locks

We were given partners, one spinner and one knitter per team. We had creative license over color choices, with the restriction that one ply of the yarn be Black BFL, and that we spin for a DK-weight 2-ply yarn. For an hilarious picture of me choosing colors, go take a look at my knitting partner's flickr photo. I think my claw hand is too funny! I look like a storybook witch cackling over which plump little child she's going to bake in the oven first. For the record, I am actually trying to decide on a purple colorway or a red-orange colorway for the second ply of our yarn.

Next, we handed our freshly spun yarn to the knitting halves, who churned out squares:
Keep the Fleece 2009

and then we combined the squares into an awesome scarf:

It was a great day, and I managed to not get sunburned! Living in Fog City has turned me into a total lizard, and I have very little self-control where direct sunshine is concerned. Luckily we had a little room to spin in, so we were all in the shade during the hottest part of the day. It was such an overall awesome event, I hope I get to be involved in something like that again. I've never been one for competition, so I'm not looking to join a sheep-to-shawl team, but it was very exciting to be around so much creative energy all packed into one day. I can't wait until next year!

Okay, I better stop there because this is getting kinda long. I'll tell you about my handspun projects soon (hopefully tomorrow morning, cross your fingers!). On Saturday I will be tooling around Maker Faire and I am expecting to run into all manner of crafty/DIY friends. I've never had a bad time at Maker Faire, and it's especially awesome because it's one of those events that is really exciting for me, the significant other, and just about all of our friends. Between the tech geek displays, the man-sized mousetrap, power tool drag races, and Bazaar Bizarre, there's something for everyone to see. I always leave tired, but I always learn new things there. Alright. Commercial over. I must go clean up after my scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Remember those gloves?

The ones I talked about in this post? Well, for anyone who says that one needle size won't change your gauge that much, look ye upon disaster:

Brie Gloves comparison

All gloves are unblocked, and no that one on the end isn't flipping the bird. It doesn't even have a bird to flip, since I stumbled upon my error while knitting the index finger and never got around to the middle finger. From left to right, we have:

1. Left glove attempt #2

2. Right glove

3. Left glove attempt #1

So that's the difference between a US size 1 (2 mm) and a US size 2 (2.5 mm) for me. Placing everyone side by side, it seems obvious. The ribbing is a full inch shorter, the palm isn't nearly as wide. I guess it's easy enough to miss if you whip through the wrist portion very quickly and never get the other glove out to see how they compare. Also, since these are knit flat and seamed up later, it didn't really click that the left glove had a lot less ease than the right glove. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough yarn to make glove #2 #3 without having to rip back, which is good. I did make an effort to rip out the glove, but it would go for about 5 stitches then I'd have to tug so hard the yarn would break rather than undo the stitch. Mohair is like cement. But cuddlier. Before this fiasco, I was going to try and make myself finish these before casting on for my Halcyon, but now it gets to wait at the bottom of my project bag until I'm darn well ready to knit fiddly little fingers again. Which might be awhile, because I'm in love with that sweater.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Toy

Seems everyone's doing it these days.

Hazel Rose 4-inch Loom

I procured this (Hazel Rose 4-inch loom) during a really fabulous event: our local knitting group hooked up with Urban Fauna Studio for a get-together at their shop. We had cheese & crackers, did some shopping, and had an all-around great time! I am super excited to start using up all the little sock yarn leftovers I have in my deep stash. It's also endlessly fascinating to feel the woven fabric, and how different it feels than knitting. I did a square in Malabrigo worsted last weekend, and it's like knitting at a really tight gauge. Or maybe I'm just warping the thing too tightly... not sure yet.

I haven't been blogging because I've been spending the weekends trying to get out of my head. It's looking more and more like I won't get the new job I applied for (back in January... yeesh) and I've been really down about it. I'm not totally shocked, but it was a full-time job for a place I'm currently working at part-time, and I'm going to continue to work there part-time for the foreseeable future. So the office dynamic is going to change with a new full-timer, and everyone knows I tried for and didn't get the position. It all makes for work being a little awkward right now, and nothing will be settled for sure for another few weeks. So I am trying to get re-involved in other aspects of my life besides work (lots of crafting got put on hold while I was preparing for interviews) and sorta distract myself with the hand loom, lots of spinning, and this:

Handspun Halcyon Sleeve

The first sleeve. Currently I have both sleeves done, this photo is a few days old. Thank you Purl Jammers for convincing me to do one more cable repeat! At least now I'm sure they will be long enough. Now, I'm getting mentally prepared to cast on for the front of the sweater. I have a few decisions to make about inserting some waist shaping (just a little teeny bit), but the knitting is chugging right along. I hope I won't run out of yarn! If that ends up happening, the problem is not spinning more, it's combining the light and dark locks I have left into something that's more homogeneous in color and at least attempts to match the rest of the sweater. There's also the last-ditch option of making some of the ribbing at the waist or the neck in a slightly darker color. I'll be back soon with another update on the handspun!