Monday, January 28, 2008

Weekend recap

So I was a busy beaver this weekend. I finished up the Eyelet Yoke Cardigan. Isn't it sweet?I sure hope it fits. Having no kiddies around to gauge the size against, I knit it strictly by the pattern. The yarn is incredibly soft and cuddly. And the fabric is a fairly loose gauge so it drapes well and should be multi-seasonal.

At the request of my yarn store owner friend, I sewed up a mess of sock bags.
Pretty new spring colors. And dyed up a bunch of yarn.From left to right: Lady Cardinal, Quartz, Shale and 2 skeins of Vincent. Whatever she doesn't take will be up on Esty soon.

I also finished up the first bobbin of the singles for my sock yarn.
The color is a bit washed out here, it's a darker green color in person. It will probably take me a bit longer to spin the second bobbin as tax season (and thus overtime) starts this week. Less time and way less energy means I may not be able to keep up with my half hour of spinning each night.

The highlight of my weekend was a comment on Ravelry about this little gem.
This is the felted case I made for mom's Zen mp3 player for Christmas. The pattern was written by Vicky Howell (find it here). It's super easy and fast. Not to mention adorable. Anyway, so yesterday I got a new message notice on Ravelry and it was from the rockstar knitting goddess herself, Vickie Howell! OMG, how awesome is that?! It was just a quick little message, but it so made my day. I'm so disappointed HGTV and DIY aren't producing Knitty Gritty anymore. Her show was great. Miss you Vickie.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It doesn't count against the yarn diet, it's not yarn yet!

Looky what came in the mail today! The fantastic rovings from Hanks in the Hood.
First up is the Lavender Cream. It's a rambouillet/columbia cross. It's really fluffy and springy. It puts me in mind of fiberfill it's so lofty. I envision trying to spin this as a soft single and making a hat.
This is Denim. It's merino and, ooo mama, is it soft. The color is quite a bit darker than what I expected from the picture on Etsy, but still very beautiful and definitely denim like. I almost didn't get it because I've heard merino is a difficult fiber for beginners to spin. But, the whole "start like you mean it" spirit said, what the heck. I don't have to spin it now while I'm still learning. I'm sure it will age just fine in stash. At the moment, no plans for what this might become.

I'm still spinning along on the colonial wool. So far, I'm very pleased with the
singles I'm producing. The thickness is fairly even and quite thin. I'm afraid it's actually going to be a bit too thin for the 2 ply I had hoped to make. I like a slightly heavier sock yarn, so I'm thinking I'm going to end up doing a 3 ply. As to whether I navajo ply or do a straight 3 ply, I'm not sure yet. I had divided the roving in 2 when I started, so dividing now to get 3 equal bobbins would be a bit difficult, not impossible, but difficult. And I only have 3 bobbins at the moment, so I'd have to off-load the singles some how before plying. There's lots of info on how do to all these things on Ravelry so I'll be able to research it as I decide what I want to do. I'll try to get some pictures this weekend of my progress.

My husband and I love to watch the birds in the yard. And so do the cats! So we put birdseed out around our deck every day. The other morning, I noticed Quinn staring out the window, much more intently than usual. As I got closer I could see why. There was a hawk sitting on the rail. I tried to get a picture, but by the time I got back with the camera, it had moved to the wash pole so the picture is pretty fuzzy.
We're pretty sure it's a Cooper's hawk. It was in the yard last week, as well, but not close enough that we could identify it. It's a truly beautiful bird, but not a good thing to have around when you are trying to attract little birds to your yard.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Just do it

I took yesterday off from spinning. I did try my hand at dyeing another 4 ounces of the corriedale roving. This time I followed a suggestion I saw on Ravelry to braid the roving first, before dyeing. This seemed to work much better.I soaked the roving and laid it out on plastic wrap. I used an old baster to apply the dyes.Then I wrapped it all up and steamed it for an hour. Let it cool, rinsed very gently and hung it to dry. This morning it was still damp so I put it in front of the heater to dry.Quinn immediately took up a post of guard cat (actually, I think she just liked having the wool as a pillow in front of the heater! I unbraided the roving and it's finishing drying now. It's still a little compacted, but not as bad as my first attempt at dyeing roving. However, I think I much prefer dyeing yarn and will leave the roving to the professionals.

Speaking of which. I caved and ordered some more roving from Hanks in the Hood. Lavender Cream and Denim this time. I sold a book on Half.com this week and decided to do my part for the economy and spend the profit. That's right. I sold one book and had enough money to buy 2 hanks of roving. AWESOME. Jen is so delightful to shop with. I just can't recommend her highly enough. This is why I love shopping on Etsy. You get to meet the best people. And, Jen, if you're reading this, I'm not just sucking up. :)

Anyway, back to spinning. Saint Brenda's most recent podcast was titled Start as you mean to go on. She spoke about making your dreams come true. Doing what it takes. Not being afraid. Then yesterday, Miss Violet posted about getting past a particular art project that had her stymied. She "put on the big girl panties" and faced the challenge and succeeded. So with all this just do it karma floating around, I decided to pull out the lovely HITH roving and get to spinning this sock yarn I'm dreaming of. It's slow going. I'm really paying close attention to everything, the tension, the treadling (painfully slow), the drafting and movement of my hands. I spun for about half an hour and didn't even get one row across the bobbin. But, what's there is super even and very fine. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? Thanks Brenda & Miss V for the encouragement to take the first step, the risk and to succeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Brambleberry

So I really liked the look of the 2nd handspun yarn and decided I was tired of spinning just plain cream colored wool. So I pulled out the dyes last Sunday and tried my hand at dyeing some roving. I more or less followed the instructions in Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning. I measured out about 4 ounces of the corriedale wool and loosely tied it in a few spots. I soaked it in warm water, then transfered it to a pot with a little water and vinegar and poured 4 colors of dye in quadrants. I used blue, purple, orange and black. Then I cooked the wool on medium low heat for an hour, let it cool, gently rinsed it and hung it to dry. I'm afraid I didn't take time to take pictures. I didn't have much hope it was going to be useable. When wet, the roving looked pretty hopeless. It took forever to dry, 2 days for the whole thing to be thoroughly dry. And even after it was dry, it was pretty compacted. But I gave it a try anyway. I split it into 2 pieces, then sectioned each strip into eighths. It took me all week to spin two bobbins full. I thought I was doing pretty good. There were almost no overspins this time. But I'm still struggling with keeping an even thickness. I'm sure it has to do with the way I'm drafting and will just require more practice. I plied the two bobbins together and here's the result...
I love the colors. I'm calling it Brambleberry. The yarn is a bit darker in person, but the colors are just fabulous. Doesn't look anything like the dyes I poured in the pot. That's one of the joys of kettle dyeing, the colors blend into very unexpected and usually fascinating results. I got 140 yds in 4 ounces. Still a long way from my goal of spinning a sock weight yarn. I'm feeling somewhat frustrated that I can't get my consistency down. I'm not into the whole thick/thin yarn so I'd really like to spin more evenly. Now I'm faced with the dilemma of what to spin next. I've got over a pound of the corriedale left. I could spin that as is, or dye off another hunk. Or I have the Hanks in the Hood roving I would love to spin. I wanted to try to spin that into sock yarn, and I know I'm just not there yet. Maybe I'll just take a few days off from spinning to think about it. The toddler sweater is coming along really well. I finished the body and have started the first sleeve. If I put some serious knitting time in this weekend, I should be able to get started on the yoke and possibly finish it by next weekend.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Handspun #2

So yesterday I spent a good two hours straight spinning at the wheel. I found some roving I forgot I had and practiced spinning the whole 2 ounces of it. (A while back I bought a drop spindle and it came with this roving. I never got the hang of spindling but I never threw out the roving.) It was great practice and I was able to be fairly consistent in thickness. I'm still struggling with overtwist. I spun enough of the corriedale to have 2 bobbins of about 2 ounces each.
You can see an over twist on the mauve yarn on the left. Today I plyed the 2 singles together. The singles weren't quiet spun to the same thickness so I didn't have enough cream to ply all the mauve, but I did as much as I could and skeined it off on to the niddy noddy.I love the way it looks plyed together.
It's about 42 yds. I'm going to have to research patterns that use small amounts of yarn.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My first yarn!

Day three of spinning was not good. I sat down and started spinning and became so frustrated with how over twisted and uneven my yarn was coming out. This just HAD to get easier. Rather than chopping the lovely Minstrel into kindling, I walked away and turned to my good friend Ravelry for solace. I didn't post anything, just read every spinning forum I could for tales of other's spinning troubles. I came across a thread talking about Scotch tension and it was like a light bulb went on. My wheel could run double drive or Scotch tension. Maybe that would make a difference. So I got my Teach Yourself Visually book and set about switching the tension and getting it adjusted properly. It didn't take long and with trepidation I picked up some roving and tried again. It was such a HUGE difference. Now, maybe I just had the tension set wrong on the double drive (although I did fiddle with the tension quite a bit on days 1 & 2, I did it more by feel than actually following the written instructions) so I will try the double drive again some day. But for now, I'm spinning along like a lark. Its fantastic! I'm still getting some thick and thin spots, but that's really improving. This stuff actually resembles yarn. I even managed to get enough singles on 2 bobbins to try my hand at plying. Here it is folks, my very first handspun yarn
My very first handspun yarn
It's about 15 yds of 2 ply corriedale wool. It looks just like the book says, like a string of pearls. Its not enough to really do anything with, but seeing how it's my first yarn, I want to keep it as a souvenir anyway. My next goal is to spin 2 full bobbins and see how much yarn I can get.

The lovely roving came from Hanks in the Hood. Look how pretty!
Hanks in the Hood Roving
I am really tempted to spin a little bit of it. But I'm going to try to resist temptation until I get more consistent. I would really like to turn it into yarn I can make something with. Maybe a hat. Oh goodness. I just went over to Etsy to grab her URL and see she has new rovings listed. m u s t n o t s p e n d m o n e y. Quickly closing Etsy.

And, I'm back to knitting. Hubby asked if I'd knit a sweater for his friend's little girl. Quite serendipitously, the new Lion Brand catalog arrived the same day and I found this adorable little Eyelet Yoke cardigan. I didn't have enough Cotton Ease that's called for in the pattern, but decided to make it with some Knit Picks Bare superwash merino worsted yarn. I can't remember what I originally bought it for (yet another reason for the yarn diet!) Someone on Ravelry mentioned she knit the sweater in one piece rather than in pieces. And she was right, it's very easily converted to be knit whole. The yarn is lovely. I decided to put the swatch through some washing tests since it is for a child. So far it's been through 2 cycles with no shrinkage or felting and it appears to only be getting softer. When the yarn diet is over, I may have to get some of this yarn to make myself a sweater!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Spinning day 2

It was an unseasonably warm day here in Pennsylvania. Even more odd being the start of Farm Show week (traditionally we have bad weather at least part of the week, usually snow). This week they are calling for temperatures in the 50s, it may even reach 60!

Despite the warm weather, I did relatively little today. I did practice spinning some more. I wound off the yarn I made yesterday using my new niddy noddy. What a cool tool. It is such a simple thing that makes skeining yarn a breeze. There's about 20 yds of wonky yarn. I soaked it and it's hanging to dry under weight. It does look better than before washing. Today I spun about half a bobbin full. It's coming a bit easier now. I'm having trouble adding a new strip of fiber on and drafting is still a challenge, but it's coming along. I'm able to get longer sections of even thickness yarn and there's fewer overtwisted and undertwisted sections. I find if I pull my roving into fairly thin strips I'm able to control my thickness more easily. And I have to try hard not to let my treadling get to fast. But it really does seem to get a little easier each time I sit down and try. As incentive, I decided to treat myself to some hand-dyed roving. I won't touch it until I'm more consistent, but having it sitting in front of me should keep me motivated to keep trying. Plus it was a fantastic deal, 4 oz for $7 from Hanks in the Hood on Etsy.

The yarn diet is still going strong. Although I was sorely tempted by the Knit Picks catalog that arrived this week. No new yarns, but they have adopted a new look and everything looks so enticing! But I'm committed to finishing these projects and then using some of my stash before I buy more yarn. And there's plenty of good stuff in there. I've still got that luscious Lime & Violet Darvoset from last summer and the Ranco and the RAVEN! Right now, though, knitting seems to be sucking the life out of my sole. I knit exactly 2 rounds on the Jaywalker socks in the last 4 days. I did manage to knit an inch or 2 on the Chevron scarf while watching The Prestige today. But mostly, I haven't been much in the mood to knit. I'm sure this funky will pass soon. For now, I'm enjoying the break and using the free time to get some reading done. My backlog of knitting magazines is immense, but I'm making a dent in it now.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Good and bad

Good first. I was able to find the colored Danish oil at the other local hardware store. I should have known they'd have it. This place is amazing. It's a small, old fashioned, family owned store. They've got just about anything you could need around the home. Anyway, they didn't have the Red Mahogany, so I went with Cherry. I applied 2 coats with a foam brush, let her sit over night and gave a good rub down with a cloth. And tada...I couldn't be more pleased. The color is not showing up well in the picture. It's a lovely reddish brown color, not orange at all as it appears in the picture. I want to get a coat of wax on her yet too. I've ordered some lavender scented beeswax polish. All you can find in the store is lemon scented furniture wax and I hate lemon scented stuff. I tried to do a bit of spinning as you can see from the white blob on the bobbin. All I can say is I'm glad the wheel came with 2 pounds of fiber. It may take me the whole bag to get the hang of this! It is, of course, difficult learning any skill without the benefit of a teacher, so I'm sure it will take time and practice. There is a lady not far from here who gives spinning lessons, so I may indulge in that option at some point if self-study fails.

I had thought of naming her, but at the moment have decided not to. It does seem to be the thing to do, but I feel a little weird giving an inanimate object a name. For now, she's just "the wheel".

Now the bad. So I got the rest of the yarn I needed to finish the Ali bag. The rest of the knitting went super fast and I finished it on New Year's Day. I felted the bag in the washer with a pair of jeans. It just wouldn't felt properly. I used Wool of the Andes for the whole project and the same size 15 needle for the whole project. Yet after 5 agitation cycles, the bottom still wasn't felted, the straps felted to 2 different lengths (one is about 4 inches longer than the other), the top pipes overfelted making the bag stiff as a board at the top. I can't even get the disaster to sit upright so I could get a picture! I'm completely disappointed in the project. At least it didn't take much time, but the cost of materials was considerable. And there's not really any way to reclaim that yarn. Since it is felt now, I might try cutting it up and making hot pads or something with the body portion. I might try felting the bottom again and doing the same if I can get it to felt. I want to emphasize, I don't think any of this is the patterns fault. Sharon wrote a good pattern, and the bag looked very promising before it was felted. But I would not suggest trying to make such a radical yarn substitution as I did. I also want to say, I loved working with the Wool of the Andes yarn. It was WAY softer than I expected for such a cheap wool. I would seriously think about using this yarn for sweaters. At the moment, the disappointment of this project and the enchantment of the wheel has me pretty much not knitting. I've got the 2 pair of socks and the scarf still on the needles, but I'm not really inspired to work on any of them. For now, concentrating on reading all I can about spinning and practicing on the wheel.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

She's heeeere

She arrived at lunchtime today. I had the wheel delivered to the office rather than having it sit on my porch all day while I was at work. Due to a situation at work, I worked through my lunch hour so was able to leave early. Everyone was chiding me that I just wanted to go home and play with my wheel. True, I won't deny it.
This is definitely a Polish wheel. Check out the packing paper.
It looks like there might be whole newspapers. I found myself sorting the packing papers just to see what the Polish newspaper looked like. What a GOOBER! Then I came to my senses and got the wheel unpacked.

It took about an hour and a half with the written instructions and video to figure out how to assemble her. The drive band gave me some trouble. Both instruction and video said the band came attached, which it didn't. There were 2 lengths of twine in the parts bag which were the drive bands. Luckily I've been reading "The Joy of Spinning" and the author describes how to attach a drive band. I think it's right. The wheel turns so I guess that's what's important.

Here she is...
She's still nekid, but I hope to get oil to finish her tomorrow (barring any more crisises at work that would prevent me from getting to the hardware store). My preference is for Red Mahogany Danish Oil, but I may settle for plain Danish Oil or Antique Oil. Chuck said he likes the bare look and I'm starting to think I might like the light wheel as well. Once she's dressed, I'll name her. More pictures this weekend.