Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finished Yarns - Jill Draper Makes Stuff Fibers

Over the holidays I spun a ton. It was great to be able to spindle spin while watching my son play with his new toys. He loves that I can pay attention to him and I love to keep my hands busy. I was able to finish up a braid of Jill Draper Makes Stuff fiber that I had purchased from the Yarn Cupboard. This colorway didn't have a name so I'm calling it "Williams' Pick" since he decided on it at the shop as well as which spindle I should spin it on.

Initial 100% merino fiber at 4.55 ounces:

Finished yarn in 3 skeins:

(More details on my stash page)

While these colors aren't necessarily my favorites, I was able to get more practice with spindle spinning and I learned that I really need to figure out Navajo plying on a spindle. Looking at the 3 skeins, the first is by far my favorite because it has the least amount of the barber pole effect. I had originally thought that I only needed to learn how to Navajo ply on my wheel but I'm adding learning this on a spindle to my list as something that would be nice to know. I could always just spin the singles on a spindle and then ply on my wheel but I would rather have my spindles projects be self-sufficient.

Enough about the colors though, the fiber was amazing to spin! I didn't have to split the fiber because it's already a smaller than normal width. I would place it somewhere between a regular roving top size and pencil roving. No pre-drafting or splitting required means that I just divided the fiber into 3 sections, bagged them up and started spinning. Absolutely no VM in the entire braid and super soft fibers. This is definitely one of my favorite fiber bases to spin so far - Jill's color palette is very different from mine so while it limits what I buy from her it also helps expand my normal color choices range.

I would definitely recommend buying this fiber for wheel or spindle spinning. It's very cool that she tries to completely source and produce her fibers within a 100 mile radius of her home. Plus, I met Jill at the last Yarn Cupboard retreat and she's just fabulous. I'm planning to keep an eye on her Etsy shop as well as what's delivered to the Yarn cupboard in the future.

Friday, December 30, 2011

An Update & Some Changes

I put so much thought into planning for that self-imposed spindle club that it's now funny how much of it has changed. I received 3 Golding spindles for Christmas. It was a huge surprise. I thought maybe I might be getting 1 but 3 just blew my mind. Here they are in all their glory (details on weights and sizes are on my Ravelry stash page):

Strickland VIII:

Celtic Spiral:

2" Cherry:

I was completely shocked. I received all 3 on the early afternoon of Christmas Eve so I immediately spent the afternoon spinning up some samples that shipped with them and one I had in the stash.

I spun up 23 yards from .3 ounces of Inglenook Fibers in the Christmas Berry colorway on my Strickland:

Next up was 25 yards from .3 ounces of Inglenook Fibers in Disco Bunny (hate the colorway, loved the fiber):

Last was 83 yards from .5 ounces of Corgi Hill Farms Falkland fibers on my 2" Cherry spindle. I am so impressed with this little guy, I'm calling it Lightning:

So the addition of these spindles got me looking at my stash differently. I decided to separate my fiber stash into 2 bins with one dedicated to wheel projects and the other to spindles. In my wheel bin I have the fibers that are more than 4 ounces and those that I wanted to try out new techniques with like learning how to long draw or Navajo ply. Everything that was left went into the spindle bin. This left me with 14 bundles of fiber at 4 ounces each either in braids or long hanks.

Instead of assigning a spindle or a month to each fiber I'm just going to choose whatever I feel like spinning next out of the bin. I am going to rotate through the new spindles for spinning singles and I'm leaning towards using my Ashford spindle for plying since it has the biggest whorl and longest shaft. The only time I might get picky is when I have a spin night coming up that requires me to spin on a Yarn Cupboard fiber out of courtesy. Also, when the 2" Cherry spindle comes up in rotation I'll need to make sure the fiber would be nice as a lace weight.

That's about it for planning. I have been told I'm over thinking things and it's finally settled in. I love to plan, especially for a New Year, but it's not supposed to be stressful. I've got my fiber sorted and my list of techniques to learn so that should be enough to get me going in the right direction for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spindle Candy Self Imposed Spinning Club

I finally got my act together and sat down with my fiber stash for 2012 planning. I've matched up fiber to the techniques that I wanted to learn in 2012 (ex. Navajo plying with Wooly Wonka Fibers painted ponies colorway). I saw a thread on Ravelry in the Spindle Candy group about a "Spindle Candy Self Imposed Spinning Club" aka "Fraking Awesome Self Imposed Spinning Club" and it sounded fun.

Since I don't know how to Navajo ply yet on a spindle I focused on solid or semi-solid colored fibers in my stash. Surprisingly I don't have 12 separate 4 ounce braids to choose from based on those qualities so I had to divide up one 8 ounce ball in half and one 1 pound ball into quarters. This is the list that I posted in the group with my intentions (I really wish I knew how to create a collage with my pictures - all of the details are in my handspun stash section in Ravelry):

Jan - Ashland Bay dark blue

Feb - Corgi Hill Farm vamp

Mar - Ashland Bay light blue (have 8 ounces total)

Apr - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)

May - Ashland Bay light blue (have 8 ounces total)
(see above)
Jun - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)
Jul - Wooly Wonka Fibers yellow

Aug - Corgi Hill Farm blue

Sept - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)
Oct - Wooly Wonka Fibers blue

Nov - Wooly Wonka fibers pinks/reds

Dec - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)

Can you tell I went alphabetical through my stash in Ravelry and then switch up the colors so there were no repeats? Yeah, I'm predictable. I also have a thing for blue and red fibers apparently. I need to expand my color palate big time. The only month I'm struggling with is July because I haven't set my goals yet for the Tour de Fleece. I'm looking at this one as a place holder until I'm sure of what I'd like to do. I may try to Navajo ply that one since I should have learned how to do that on the wheel by then.

The other half of the challenge is to pair up a different spindle with each of the fibers so that you're spinning on a new one each month. Some people have a ton of spindles to choose from so I can understand why that sounds so appealing. I have 2 spindles with one custom Golding on order (yay!) so I'll have to tweak this a bit so that I'm just alternating through them. I am expecting it to be hard to spin on anything other than the Golding once it arrives.

I have no idea if I can spin 4 ounces of fiber a month on a spindle while I'm also knitting and spinning on my wheel as well. This is a great challenge for me to continue improving and see what's comfortable to do in a set amount of time. I also like the idea of setting aside fiber specifically for certain goals whether it's a specific technique to learn or something to improve upon. This should be fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


With it getting closer to the end of the year I'm still in the mode of making lists. No pictures today but I should have some hand spun yarn to show soon.

The topic of podcasts came up on Ravelry a little while back and I thought it might be useful to have a review type post on the ones I like.

Cast On - By far, Brenda Dayne has set the bar for sound quality, content, and mood. I started from the very beginning so I never dealt with the wait involved when she took breaks. I would definitely recommend this podcast for any knitter. Be prepared to wade through some woes as Brenda tries to find herself and decide if she can make money from podcasting. It's worth it to keep listening - her essays are wonderful and the music she includes is varied. She's now back to a weekly format and decided to make money from patterns, CDs, books and retreats. It's great to hear her so happy again.

Fiber Beat - This is a fairly newer podcast by Michael Wade. Great sound quality and content here. You can really tell that he puts a ton of time into the production of each episode. At first I was distracted by all the little sound clips during the interviews but now I really like how it breaks up all the talking. Even if you're not into the particular fiber art of the interviewee Michael still makes it interesting. He doesn't talk over the person, no constant agreeing while the person is talking and great thought provoking questions. So far I think he's covered knitting, spinning, crochet, weaving and a few more. Definitely start from the beginning on this one.

KnitaJourney - Susan Dolph has a good voice and I love her slight Midwest accent. I didn't start from the beginning with this one but I may go back and listen to them all if she ever decides to take a hiatus. I started in the middle of her current series on perma-culture and how it relates to our knitting and larger life. There are some parts where she discusses friends and work issues but I don't mind that too much. Her knitting style doesn't match mine but I like the way that she approaches knitting in general as something larger than a hobby.

SpinDoctor - Sasha Torres is an American living in Canada and started this podcast as a forum for reviewing all things related to spinning. As a relatively inexperience spinner I love being exposed to new products and fiber vendors. My favorite part of her podcast is that she is brutally honest. It's refreshing to hear some cons along with the pros in each of her reviews. I started from the beginning with this one too and haven't quite caught up yet. I did see on Ravelry that she's going to include more personal information about her own spinning and I'm open to that as well. She's big into fiber prep (which I am not) and trying out all kinds of fibers. I would love to do a rare wool breeds study someday based on all of the interviews and vendors she's profiled. This is a podcast that I have to listen to at my desk so I can look up things she mentions as we go. So informative.

Sticks & String - I'll admit, I was drawn to this one because David Reidy is a guy who knits and spins and also happens to have an Australian accent. The content that he's able to provide kept me listening. I've started from the beginning with this one and I'm no where near caught up with 105 episodes to go. He interviews people local to him and while it's interesting I'm probably not going to be able to buy from them. I end up listening to this podcast while I work out since each episode is about 35-45 minutes long and the easy listening music he plays helps with passing the time on the treadmill. While I'm not into the same kind of knitting he is I like hearing about how he chooses yarn and patterns from a guys point of view, "sometimes guys just like plain boring patterns in plain colors, just be ready to knit a lot of stockinette stitch to make them happy and they'll wear it."

I have several other podcasts that I used to subscribe to but they all either quit or pod-faded. I tried CogKNITive for a couple episodes and while the content was interesting I couldn't get past the lecture style while driving in a car. There are a ton of people who like this one but it just didn't mesh with me. I may try it again later on in life. Next on my list to try is SpinControl.

Speaking of lists, here's a great Wiki on Ravelry that lists all the podcasts out there that are fiber related and still active. I'm always open to new ones and
I use this all the time to find new ones that I might like.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Planning

This time of year is great for making lists. Laurie from Crazy Aunt Purl and I would be fast friends when it comes to this area. I've been thinking a lot about what I would like to buy, make, and learn next year and this is the best place that I have to document it all.

My yarn stash is starting to burst at the seams for storage reasons. My husband disagrees with me (so cool) but I'm at the tipping point for having too much mentally so I'm not planning to buy any yarn in 2012. I have a total of 14 kits coming my way next year that are already paid in full:

So yeah, no need to buy yarn. Spinning fiber on the other hand is full on. I'm spinning up fibers from the depths of my stash currently and it's freeing up space for more. I like that. Since the inception of Ravelry I prefer to work with fiber that I know all the details on. This whole mystery fiber business just kills me to work with. I'm planning fiber acquisition at the retreat, fiber shows and festivals as well as online. Not sure on joining any fiber clubs just yet.

I am sure on purchasing spindles and a Woolee Winder for my Sonata. Let the countdown begin until our income tax check is received and the buying will begin!

For knitting goals I'd like to finish the cardigan for myself and then I have these projects on my radar:

  • Leaving cardigan - for Mom
  • Bountiful Bohus - for me
  • Shakespeare Lace shawl - not sure which one but I'd like to knit one this year
  • KnitSpot kits - it's fun to knit along with the other members month to month

All are big projects so that could easily be more than a years worth of knitting for me. Especially since I'm spinning more than ever now. There may be a baby made sometime next year since I have friends getting married this Saturday. If that happens, everything will take a back seat to some serious baby knitting.

This is the biggest part of my focus for next year. There is so much that I don't know that I don't know what I don't know when it comes to spinning. I am reading as much as possible but I have a feeling as I learn one technique it's just going to add more to the list . . .

  • Steeking - see Bountiful Bohus cardigan above, this freaks me out
  • Navajo plying - had a quick lesson in my plying class but I really need to practice it on yarn with long color repeats both on my wheel and on my spindle
  • Gradient spinning - many great lessons out there on the Internet
  • Alpaca fiber spinning - I gave up on it before, I think I can do it now
  • Using a drumcarder - I have one but have never used it. Planning to card the fibers from my "how to spin for socks" class that I took at Hemlock this year
  • Woolen spinning - Looking for some loftier yarns
  • Long Draw - I think this is related to woolen spinning but not sure
I think I have all the fibers needed already in my stash for the above techniques except for the alpaca. I plan to remedy that tonight at spin night by purchasing some Salt City Fiber Works alpaca if they have any left.

I am planning to take classes again at Hemlock in the fall mainly around spinning. If I ran the world though, I'd rather go to a monthly spinning workshop at my LYS to learn new techniques. To get that type of teaching I may have to look into joining a spinning guild in my area.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mystery Stash #1 - Update

I finally finished the second and third colors from this mystery stash. They have been hanging up dry for days in my bathroom, life has just been that crazy. After spinning these two I'm seriously considering alpaca as the fiber or an alpaca blend. When drafting it doesn't grab the other fibers like a wool blend but it's not hairy either. I really don't know. Is there any definitive way to tell if fiber is wool or alpaca? I haven't been able to find anything other than pictures. This could very well be a 50/50 blend of wool & alpaca and I'm ok with that.

After finishing up the dark grey I treated myself to some color by picking the dark blue next. It was a bitch to spin. I wish there was a nicer way to put it but it fought me the entire way. I was so glad when I had finished that I didn't have to touch it ever again. It didn't want to draft at all. My best guess is that the dye did something to the fibers (not my fault) or I just started from the wrong end of the roving (my fault). I didn't think of this until I was done spinning but I was kicking myself later for not trying the other end.

I was very close to scraping this whole "spin the old stash" movement but I already had the next two colors bagged up and ready to go that I just stuck with it. I am so glad that I did. Before I referred to this natural fiber as a cream color but really was a light silver color when spinning. After I plied it and hung it up to dry it's a cross now between light silver and light tan, maybe a taupe? I have never been good with colors so let's just say it's beautiful and be happy. It spun like a dream that I didn't want to end. Loved this fiber. It put my faith back into spinning the unknown from the depths of my stash. In fact, we had some friends over this weekend that are not into knitting/spinning/yarn/fiber goodness and they all raved about how this skein was just wonderful. (And I got the "wow, you could totally sell this" comment but I let it slide, they don't need to know that I'm no where good enough to sell hand spun yarn so I just took it as a compliment and smiled)

Stats so far:

Dark Grey: 213 yards of DK weight yarn finished on 12/5/11

Blue: 156 yards of worsted weight yarn finished on 12/12/11

Light Grey: 168 yards of worsted weight yarn finished on 12/12/11

I have just the red bump left from the set of four to spin. If it is the dye that made the blue yarn crappy to spin then the red should be tough too. I will definitely remember to try both ends this time if I have problems.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Old Stash

When I first started spinning about 10 years ago I started with a pound of Romney roving. I randomly bought fiber at local festivals and from online vendors like Paradise Fibers. There was no rhyme or reason to my purchases other than I liked natural colors. For the most part I didn't keep track of what kind of fiber it was or where I purchased it from. Then I had a baby & lost interest in spinning. I call all of this fiber my old stash and it lives happily in a bin in my closet.

Fast forward to about nine months ago when I decided to take a plying class. This re-energized my spinning interest (obviously since most of my posts now are about spinning) and I began to buy lots of new fibers. All were meticulously tracked in Ravelry as I purchased them and all are dyed in great colors. This is my new stash and it lives in it's own separate bin in my closet right next to the old stash bin.

New stash is starting to run out of room so I decided to tackle my old stash. I had been saving some of it until I was a better spinner but how am I ever going to learn if I don't try new types of fibers? Life is too short to wait to spin the nice stuff. I started with Mystery Stash #1 (as it's labeled in Ravelry) and it's the only one with any dyed fibers in it:

It's 4 ounces of each color and I think I purchased it at the Jefferson County Fiber Festival near Watertown, NY (I think it was a 1 or 2 year thing only - best guess is I was there in 2008-ish). I originally thought it was wool but after spinning the first ball of fiber I'm leaning towards some kind of alpaca blend. I'm no expert though. The fibers are long but don't have the hairy quality that I would normally expect to see in alpaca. I know I should do the burn test on these fibers but it's cold outside and I don't feel like stinking up the house with burnt fiber. Even with the burn test I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between wool and alpaca. I'm ok with that. It's not like I'm selling my finished yarn so we can go with a best guess.

I started with the grey and finished it up in two nights. It was super soft and I was trying to go for a worsted weight yarn (it's really hard for me to spin thick yarns now). I ended up with 213 yards of DK weight yarn:

It's beautiful and soft and evenly spun. This is probably the best hank of yarn I've ever done. I just want to squish it and hold it to my neck all day.

I've already got the blue bump spun up and it will be plied tonight. That one didn't spin up as nicely as the grey. Maybe the dye did something to the fibers? It just fought me the whole way. I tried to spin it the same way as the grey but it just didn't want to. This is my inexperience coming through but I'm not going to let it stop me. I'm going to take detailed notes and hopefully learn something from it for next time.

I love how the 4 colors look together so my initial thought is to make color-work mittens out of the final 4 yarns. A couple pairs would be so soft against the skin and warm as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spindle Spinning Progression

I finished the first braid of fiber this past weekend that I had purchased for my spindle class. I labeled the yarn with my do-it-yourself labels and I took time to note the order in which each skein was spun. I was hoping to see marginal improvement in my spindle spinning. What I got was pretty cool.

The colors photograph horribly but what I most wanted to see is the yarn. Starting from left to right:

1st skein: 71.6 yards of sport weight yarn from 1.2 ounces, finished on 11/25/11 (spun on sprinkler top spindle)

2nd skein: 81.6 yards of sport weight yarn from 1.3 ounces, finished on 11/30/11 (spun on sprinkler top spindle)

3rd skein: 95 yards of DK weight yarn from 1.3 ounces, finished on 12/5/11 (spun on my Ashford spindle)

That third skein is absolutely beautiful. I understand that the 1st skein was learning from scratch and the 2nd skein was making sure I remembered how to do everything. That 3rd skein is just lovely. I switched over to my Ashford spindle which is a bit lighter than the other one just to compare how I like spinning on them. It took some getting used to it but I did well.

After finishing this project I can see how one person can amass a large stash of spindles all depending on what fiber you're going to spin and what you want the resulting yarn to be like. I plan on adding several spindles to my wish list as I start exploring spindle vendor possibilities. I never thought I would love this as much as I do. Spindle spinning has replaced my social/mindless knitting projects completely.

Next up on a spindle is fiber that I let my son pick out - he picked the spindle to spin it on as well!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yes, I Still Knit

I took about a week off from having anything on my knitting needles. This was a big deal in my household since I rarely even go one day without a knitting project of some kind. I took some time to really think about what I wanted to create. With the help of the Yarn Cupboard's Black Friday sale I purchased enough yarn to make 2 cardigans for myself and one for my Mom.

I ended up casting on Bernhardt first. This is going to be a great cardigan for me and I picked out a gorgeous shade of red in Berroco Comfort yarn.

I think everyone has a color that just speaks to them and this one is mine. That deep, rich, burnt red that is more on the blue hue than the orange. When I pulled it out of my shopping bag my husband said "oh yeah, this is your color". I am nervous about knitting a non-wool cardigan with this being a mix of cotton and acrylic but it's so soft and the chain ply really looks great knitted up.

That's about two nights of knitting and I like the lace edging. It's simple but not too boring. I'd like to have this done in time for the retreat in mid-March so I can get Sandi Wiseheart to critique the shape for me during the sweater workshop that I signed up for. I missed it last time so I was happy to see it on the class list again this year.

I have knit 2 adult sweaters, 1 adult vest and several baby sweaters but nothing for myself. I keep thinking that I should wait until I lose some weight first but life is too short. I want one now. I have no problem going out and buying more yarn to knit more sweaters if by chance I lose a ton of weight and this one won't fit anymore. So many knitters only knit for themselves while I tend to be a gift knitter. I still like knitting for other people but I think it's time to even it out a bit with a few items for me. So if this cardigan should no longer fit me in the future I'm sure I have plenty of knitting friends that will take me up on gifting it to them :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Love for Spindles

During my vacation, I used my spindle project just like I would use a mindless or social knitting project. Anytime I had some free time, even if it was only 15 minutes, I would get out my spindle and work a bit on my spinning. It's so addicting. I completely understand now why they say you can actually spin more on spindles because you spin more often.

My main project was with the sprinkler-homemade spindle that I got from Beth during my spindle class:

I finished two small skeins of yarn on it both at a heavy fingering weight. The first skein I got 71.6 yards from 1.2 ounces and the second I got 81.6 yarns from 1.3 ounces. This was a great learning experience. Since the spindle weighs 1.9 ounces I don't think I'd want to go much more than 1.3 ounces of fiber at one time. It just starts to get too heavy and the yarn slips and breaks more often. Here's of the skeins:

I'm pleasantly surprised at how nice it turned out. I still have a slight problem with how small the yardage is with spindles but it's makes great yarn for smaller projects like cowls or mitts. I used my ball winder to make a center pull ball and then just did a two-ply yarn from the center pull ball.

I had one section of this fiber left weighing 1.3 ounces and my husband suggested that I use my Ashford spindle to get a feel for a lighter weight spindle. This one weighs 1.75 ounces and you can definitely feel the difference when spinning it.

I'm not finished with the fiber yet but I have been spinning a little here and there during the day. I can tell now that the lighter the spindle the finer the yarn. I've been able to get a nice, smooth yarn so far that will probably end up as light fingering weight once it's been plied.

Working with the Ashford spindle has helped me understand what I like and dislike so far. I like the smooth wood whorl but don't like the longer shaft. I have been spending way too much time admiring new spindles online. Just looking at the Golding and Bosworth sites along can waste an hour or two (I'm obsessed with the Golding Celtic themed ones right now and the Bosworth Moosies that have a waiting list). I'm thinking I'd like to round out my spindles with a lighter medium weight and one true light weight spindle. With that full range I should be able to get a good idea on what I like to spin on for each weight yarn.

I joined a few spindle spinning groups on Ravelry and came across The Spanish Peacock spindles. There's no prices on the site because everything is custom ordered. His cut-out spindles are just amazing (there's a tempting snowflake design in a lighter wood). Lots of spindle makers use exotic woods so I've asked my husband to check out some of these sites with me. He's so much more knowledgeable on them that I am. I'm more of a "ooh that's pretty" type of opinion.

I have some fiber lined up next my next couple spindle projects already. I'm thinking about taking each of the 4 ounce braids and breaking it up into 1 ounce packages just for ease of use. Having these spindles has opened the doors for me in terms of where and when I can spin so I expect to have lots more handspun yarn to show in the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Finishing Vacation

I took about a week and a half off for the Thanksgiving holiday and it was desperately needed. It's good to just disconnect from work like that once in a while. I was very productive with my time off.

I finished the wedding shrug and gave it to my friend. My learning experience from this is that not only do you need to swatch but you should also soak and dry the swatch for the final measurement, especially when working with a new yarn. This yarn grew quite a bit making it go from half sleeves to three-quarters. The end product was still good but I should be washing my swatches from now on. I'll put up some better pictures next month from the wedding since so many people have been asking about it.

Next I finished up a pair of socks for my Mom. This was a kit from my Shakespeare in Lace accessory club subscription. I loved the lace pattern and the heels were fun. I'm not sure on the name for this heel technique but it was surprisingly quick and fit my Mom well. She's getting these for Christmas since we're so close to the holiday.

Then I went on a spinning frenzy. I hadn't spun at all while knitting on the shrug so my hands were just itching to spin. The only way I can describe it like when you go on a diet and say no chocolate. Then when you finally give in you eat a ton of it. That was me and I got so much done.

On the wheel already was the deep purples spinning fibers from Spinner's Hill. It's not my normal color but I loved how saturated it was and how easy it was to spin up. It's no secret that they're my go to fiber at the Yarn Cupboard no matter what the color. This is destined to be a Christmas gift for my Mother-in-Law since she asked for some handspun yarn this year. (I really need to find a way to photograph my yarn better, it's not this hairy looking in person)

I tried to spin it thinker than normal but I still ended up with about 480 yards. It would make a nice scarf or loose cowl since it's so soft and the color variations turned out well.

Next on the wheel were two lots of fiber that my Father-in-Law purchased for me at the NYS Fair. In the future I will remember to direct him to a yarn shop or local festival instead. It's not that the fibers were bad, just not as nice as what I normally spin. First up was an ounce and a half of romney wool that was super scratchy but had nice blues and purples:

I ended up with 145 yarns of light fingering weight yarn. It did soften up a bit after a soak. I'm going to recommend soaking with a little hair conditioner if my Mother-in-Law thinks it's too scratchy for knitting (or she can just weave with it instead). There's some nubs and thick/thin sections in there, more that I would normally like but it does add character to the resulting yarn.

Then there is the natural Romney wool that he bought to be eventually dyed. It's hard to believe that it's from the same farm as the blue/purple fiber since it felt like a cloud. Not a cashmere cloud but a soft wool cloud. The label said 8 ounces but when I weighed it I got 7.35. I spun it up as thick as possible into 2 sport weight skeins. This is beautiful as it but should look even better when dyed:

I struggled with the twist on this yarn because it wouldn't wind onto the bobbin even with my little spring fully cranked. I had to really slow down and work at it but I love the resulting yarn. All of these will be going in their Christmas box to be mailed as soon as the last couple skeins are fully dried.

Once this came off the wheel I didn't have the itch to spin anymore. Well, there still is the itch but it's not as pressing as before. I'm fine now to start thinking about knitting projects again, even if I'm not actually starting any. I don't have any knitting on the needles for the first time in a long time. I truly have evolved from a knitter who likes to spin to now a spinner who likes to knit and that's ok with me.

This isn't even all I did on vacation. Next up: spindle spinning progress!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Will Never Be a Knitwear Designer

I mean this in the best way possible but this shrug project has shown me that I never want to be a knitwear designer, ever. There is so much self doubt involved that every stitch has been wondering if I'm doing the right thing.

So, an update with no pictures after the second wedding dress fitting over the weekend:

Yarn look ok with the wedding dress?
Absolutely. It looks fabulous. What looked bright white in my hands while knitting faded to a soft ivory when held next to the dress. Huge success and sigh of relief there.

Beads: too many? too little? just enough?
The overall verdict was just enough. They will catch the light here and there but not be the focal point of the outfit since the dress is lacy and ornate enough by itself.

Does the re-written pattern fit?
No. The back seems to be ok so that will not be ripped. Both the left and right fronts come too far over the dress so those will be ripped and scaled back (we thought that would be the case from the initial look at the pattern). The sleeve didn't even come close to fitting. My best guess is that since the pattern was written for chunky yarn the sleeve was intended to be knit loose and then tighten up a bit at the upper arm. With using DK weight yarn that is intended to be a tight fit all the way I am improvising and doing the opposite of what the pattern states. I'm starting out small and increasing instead of decreasing. So far all of my measurements and calculations are coming out correct. I should be able to finish the first sleeve tonight & get started on revising the fronts tomorrow. We have another fitting for the shrug only scheduled for this Friday so my hopes are to have the back pinned to one front and one sleeve for final fit approval.

I have so much respect for knitting designers. I did before but after working on this project I no longer have that daydream that I could design someday. This whole knit, rip and re-knit thing is not what I like to do. I like to sit down with a well written pattern and just knit without having to figure out if something is going to work out or not. That's why I don't mind paying for a pattern, they've done all that work for me and deserve the few dollars that I paid to just knit it up.

This shrug is for a wedding so I'm being a perfectionist. I understand that not every project is this way but this is special. I'm willing to work on it right up until the day of the wedding if I have to just to get it right. BUT if things go well I could be done by Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed for good knitting karma until then.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Knit, Knit Like the Wind

(yes I stole that title from Brenda Dayne but I thought it was appropriate)

My best friend is getting married next month and she asked me to knit her a shrug to wear with her wedding dress. So after all that spinning obsession talk I haven't touched my spindle or wheels for over a week now. My local yarn shop ordered the yarn we picked out, Lana Grotto VIP:

It's a merino/cashmere blend and so luxuriously soft. I'm stressing out about the shade of white but we have a fitting on Saturday that should ease my concerns.

Since the pattern itself was a bit on the plain side (which we wanted) I still wanted to dress it up a bit with some beads. There's a great bead shop just across the street from my yarn shop and we picked out white pearl seed beads to go with the yarn. Once I got the yarn and the right size beads it was the pattern next. We picked out one that was knit up in chunky weight yarn so the pattern had to be rewritten for the lighter weight yarn. Thankfully my friend Shannon who teaches at the shop offered to help out.

I've got the back all knit up and plan to start the fronts tonight. Overall it will be a quick project which is wonderful just in case I need to rip back and re-size anything. To say this needs to come out perfect is an understatement - my best friend would probably be fine but I know that this is going to be a hand knit item that will last forever through pictures.

I'm not normally monogamous with my projects but there will be no spinning or knitting on other items until this shrug is done and perfect :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Successful Drop Spindle Class

During tough times like today it's helpful to have distractions. Spinning is one of my many distractions.

I bought a spindle from the Yarn Cupboard about a month ago with the hope of teaching myself to spin on it. I thought it would be nice to have a true travel spinning project that didn't take up a bunch of room. This is the Ashford spindle that's top whorl, 3 1/8 inches and weighs 1¾ ounces:

I tried reading articles and watching YouTube videos but I couldn't get it to work for me. I think my body was just used to spinning on a wheel and didn't understand the different mechanics needed to get started. Plus I was spinning on some junk fiber that I didn't care about so that contributed to the crappy spinning I was doing.

Thankfully I heard about the class and thought if it's possible for me to learn this was my best shot. Beth is a wonderful teacher (I was in her plying class earlier this year) and I bought some special fiber just for spinning on a spindle:

It looks really red in this picture but it's really neon orange, neon pink and a little bit of red. I should wear sunglasses when spinning this stuff! But it's good quality fiber (Spinner's Hill of course) and I thought the colors would be fun for learning.

There were 6 of us in the class, some with no spinning experience at all and some, like me, who had spun on a wheel before. It was a good mix with everyone struggling but staying positive, no two people had the same color fiber. I didn't swear the entire time - big achievement there! Beth gave us each a hand made spindle that was heavier than the one I had. That made it so much easier to learn on. Once I understood the "park and draft" method I could then figure out which hand wanted to be where (I'm right handed but spin left handed) and then I got it like a big light bulb moment. It began to feel like a fluid movement and I no longer wanted to park it, I was fine just spinning and winding, spinning and winding, etc.

I proceeded to spin for the rest of the weekend off and on just making sure it wasn't a fluke and that I really had absorbed all of the information. I even got to the point of letting my son spin the spindle for me and wind the yarn on, he loved it for about 20 minutes. Here's the handmade spindle and my spinning from that short amount of time:

I'd like to spin up an ounce at a time and ply it back on itself using a center pull ball for practice resulting in 4 smallish skeins of yarn. The hard part will be not shopping for fancy spindles ($50 to $250ish a piece) in the meantime. I've promised my self to finish up this 4 ounces of fiber that I bought before buying any other spindles just to make sure it's something that I will continue to like doing. But I have started looking in a couple places . . . Golding spindles with Celtic themes are tempting as are the Bosworth spindles made from Moose antlers or exotic woods. I'm not shopping, I'm just researching for Christmas 2012 :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spinning: My New Passion

Ever since I linked up my blog to my Facebook account I've been shy about posting. If you're reading this in Facebook and you don't care about knitting or spinning or yarn/fiber in general you may want to just hide me now :)

Back in the spring I got really flustered because I loved to spin but the resulting yarn wasn't anything I would ever knit with. It hit me that I wasn't plying correctly so I asked for a class from my local yarn shop. That class was my last straw, either I could make yarn that I liked or I was going to stop spinning. Thankfully I had a great teacher and it turned out well. The only bad thing is that now my free time is torn between wanting to spin and wanting to knit. I left the store that day with this:

It's a very basic braid of Colinette roving that I liked the color variations on. When I took my time and used what I learned to ply I ended up with yarn that I would actually knit with (Ravelry link with all of the specs):

It was a huge revelation that yes I can spin and yes I can make a nice yarn. I kind of went a little crazy buying fiber from there. I joined a fiber club with 6 monthly shipments, I purchased a bunch of Spinner's Hill roving from the Yarn Cupboard and I bought even more from the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock.

My biggest problem was finding time now for both spinning and knitting. I need to have some structure around my crafting otherwise I start feeling overwhelmed. I ended up working out an every other night schedule with alternating spinning and knitting. It's working out ok so far with a few changes when my husband is out of town for work.

One of the nice things to come out of this discovery process is that I really enjoy listening to audio books while I spin at night. It's a great way to keep my mind engaged and keep up with my love for books. I found that my local library had a digital media section on their website so I've checked out a ton of audio books all for free that can be downloaded to my iPod. The trade off is that they don't have a huge selection but I am listening to authors that I would have normally not tried before. So far the science fiction & fantasy genre has fit me best but James Patterson's Women's Murder Club was an interesting find. I've listened to the first 3 books in that series and while it's not amazing writing it is very entertaining with the twists and turns.

I'm currently working on the first half of this 4 ounce braid from Spinner's Hill:

I had a hard time photographing the colors. In person it's a deep, dark purple that transitions to a slightly medium purple. Not my normal color choice but it's good to get outside of your comfort zone once in a while. I'm looking forward to seeing how the resulting yarn will look with a blend of the dark purples. It's spinning so nicely I haven't even needed to pre-draft the fibers. I just split it in half, weighed the halves so I could be as close as possible and then started spinning. I'm hoping to have this one done in time for Christmas as a gift but I'm not going to rush the process.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Done & I Love It!

I finished my Midsummer Night's Dream lace shawl over the weekend and I couldn't be happier. Of course there's mistakes here and there but the common observer would never notice. This was my first project actually knitted from the Shakespeare in Lace subscription club. I can't wait to wear it to my next festival or retreat.

Here's it blocking on Saturday morning:

Close up of the beads in the center and top sections:

On final modeling shot to show how big it is:

It took me about 4 months to knit from start to finish. The first rows with 439 stitches were a bit hard for me to do mentally when I was barely knitting 2 rows a night. I loved the beads and I have enough yarn left over for another scarf or lace cowl. I can't say enough how much I loved knitting this and I'm really looking forward to starting my next Shakespeare in Lace project.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mittens for Kids in Upstate New York

A friend of mine from my former high school is organizing a offering "The Angel Tree" at our old school in Upstate New York (NNCS in St. Lawrence County). During the Christmas Holidays, this helps the less fortunate families in our local school district celebrate Christmas. This is the second year that he has made winter hats for the Angel Tree. He can make hats but can't knit (I think he has a knitting machine). He's asking for volunteers to knit mittens to be given with the hats.

If you know anyone who would like to knit a few mittens for this project, please contact me via Facebook, Ravelry or and I'll give you my address to send them too. This will always be an annual event so I will gladly accept mittens year round but they will be collecting for an October 1st deadline this year right when the weather starts turning cold. I'll either make the trip up north to drop them off all at once or mail them when I have enough for a flat rate box.

The donation last year was 104 hats and 76 pair of mittens. They place the hats in one pile and the mittens in another and let them choose their combination. All hats and mittens were taken home!

Here's the specifics:
1. Most mittens are 32 stitches but knitters are making different youth sizes as these hats and mittens are given to families with children ages 4 to almost adult.

2. Just mittens only, no scarves at this time.

3. Unisex, multi-color, whatever so have fun with it. His mom knits what she calls "Crazy Mittens". She will make a brown and orange mitten with the cuff orange, palm brown, thumb orange and top orange. The other mitten reverses the color pattern. The kids like to be different and like bright colors.

4. He uses Red Heart Super Saver for the hats so any yarn that is machine wash and dry would be preferred.

Here are pictures of the hats and mittens that they did last year.

Thank you all and let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Tale of One Sock (so far)

A long time ago my son, Will, asked me to knit him a pair of socks. Not just any yarn would do either. He specifically asked for gray, yellow, blue & red yarn. I thought it was a phase that would pass but each time I asked it was the same 4 colors. Even with a little prodding and suggesting that maybe just 1 color or even 2 colors would be better he stayed firm with the original 4 colors.

So I searched Etsy figuring it would by my best chance for find such specific yarn. No luck. I tried the alchemy feature but found out it had just been shut down the day before. Desperate, I posted on the Etsy Ravelry group asking for suggestion on what to do. Several people gave me great ideas and then one indie dyer spoke up and said she'd do it for me. I checked out Jill's shop and loved everything I saw. We messaged back and forth with the details and I placed my order.

When the yarn arrived I made sure that Will was there when I opened the box. It was more than perfect. He was so happy that I had found him the exact yarn that he asked for. In fact, he now wanted socks, a hat and a scarf all out of that yarn (thankfully I ordered 2 hanks just in case). Next up was finding the right pattern.

My go-to pattern for men's socks is Anne Hanson's Gridiron. It's super simple, manly with enough detail not to get boring and it fits very well. The problem is that my son is almost 5 and I wasn't sure if it would fit him. I posted to Anne's fan group on Ravelry asking the question and very quickly was given several patterns to choose from that would size down to fit Will's feet. Anne even confirmed that she loves to use Gridiron to knit socks for her own nephews that are close in age to Will. She included a helpful explanation on how she sizes her sock patterns so I can feel confident that I'm knitting the right size the first time.

It didn't take me long to knit the first sock and when he came home from school I asked him to try it on. The sock wasn't even all the way on his foot, his eyes lit right up and he said "Oh this feels really nice!". Once it was on we did a modeling session. This is how he wanted me to take the picture:

This is me trying to get him to hold his foot still:

This is him pointing to the coolest socks ever:

This is one happy boy who is ever so patiently waiting for his second sock: