Category Archives: I knit

Knitting update

20140616-090411.jpgBefore I get further in my current spinning project, I wanted to pause and see what kind of fabric the yarn I’m making is producing. I made sample skeins of (from left to right) two plies of the Gotland fleece, one ply Gotland/one Gotland blended with mohair top, and one where both plies are Gotland and mohair and swatched them each on #9 needles. I went into this experiment fully expecting to love the one with the most mohair content the best, but it was actually my least favorite; it’s too heavy and dense and I think the colors got muddied. Both of the other swatches are really lovely though; it’s impossible to choose a favorite. I think I’ll probably spin singles of Gotland/mohair until the mohair runs out, ply it all with Gotland singles, and then ply whatever’s left of the Gotland with itself. It’s a decent-sized fleece; I may end up with a sweater’s worth of each.

While those projects are just barely in the planning stage, though, this cabled cardigan is in the home stretch. I just need to do the front bands, weave in the ends, and block it. And find buttons, but considering that I won’t be able to wear it for at least four months, there’s no real rush on that end.
And, lastly, I am thrilled and honored to announced that my wedding dress won both the knit/crochet category and Best in Show at the Crafty Awards.

Sunday productive Sunday

P1090128Now that the weather is warming up, my craft focus has started to shift back to spinning and sewing. I’ve been carding the Gotland fleece I got at Rhinebeck last year with some hand-dyed mohair top I’ve had since before I moved to New York, so 1999? 2000? I know I bought it on eBay from a seller whose name I can’t remember who sold different base fibers dyed in the same range of colorways and that this one was called Vienna Woods. I bought the plain wool and the mohair, spun them separately, plied them together, and knit an oversized seamless raglan cardigan out of the yarn. I’m not sure what happened to the sweater. Maybe I gave it to my mom at some point?

Anyway. I had close to a pound of the mohair left over and it’s been sitting in my stash, moving with me [counts] either seven or eight times, depending on where I was living upstate when I bought it, and I’m delighted that I’m finally doing something with it. My original plan was to ply this blended single with a plain Gotland single for yarn for a big, wild, wooly pullover. I may still do that, but I think I’ll have enough of the blend to ply on itself and still have sufficient yardage for a big, wild, wooly pullover.

I had my favorite kind of day yesterday, the kind where I spend my time moving from project to project, making demonstrable progress on a number of things. I made a batch of spicy peanut sauce to have with noodles and vegetables for dinner and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a work party today. I worked on my cashmere/merino cabled cardigan (the back, two fronts, and one sleeve down; the last sleeve, assembly, collar, and ribbing left to go), the scrap chevron afghan I’m crocheting, and the handspun log cabin blanket I’m knitting. I made a batch of soap (scented with orange, clove, and cinnamon) and cut out fabric for a Scout tee. I got caught up on The Americans (I really like the show, but have kind of forgotten what Larrick’s damage is in the first place, so I’m not as fully invested in what’s going on as I could be), watched an episode of the original Swedish The Bridge, and listened to a fair chunk of The Alienist audiobook. Looking at my calendar for the next couple of months, I’m not sure when I’m going to have another full day just for puttering, so I’m glad I put that one to good use.

Ombre handspun project

Last summer, I assessed my spinning-fiber stash and realized that it didn’t really contain much of the kinds of fiber that I like to spin (minimally processed, generally carded over combed, enough for a large sweater–at least a pound and a half). There were a few kinds of commercially prepared merino-blend top in amounts ranging from 4-10 oz. or so that were very pretty, but that I wouldn’t really have much use for on their own. They looked beautiful together though, so I embarked on a project that I’ve been chipping away at since then and am within a few hours’ work of finishing.

The dark gray is merino/tencel, the red is merino/alpaca, and the silver is merino/silk. I’ll probably have another two skeins of the silver once I finish that up. There’s one skein each of red/dark gray and red/silver, but varying amounts of the solids. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it; initially I was thinking a top-down sweater, possibly another Alga, but since the yarn has been spun over such a long period of time, it may not be consistent enough for that much stockinette. A garter stitch wrap would look great, but I don’t know how much use I’d get out of it.

Mostly though, I’m just so happy to be coming to the end of this project. This kind of fiber makes a perfectly nice yarn, but the heavy processing and leaves it feeling dead in the hands as far as spinning goes. Happily, that won’t be the case for my Rhinebeck fleece, which is all washed and waiting for my to clear off my bobbins and get going on it.

Rhinebeck report

I bought a fleece. I wasn’t planning on it, hadn’t even given it a thought really, but I’d been walking around with Cassandra all day, neither of us tempted by anything we saw, and when she suggested we take a look at the fleece sale, I said sure. It was late in the day, and I figured it would be pretty picked over, but the section with my favorite kind of fleece to spin (colored longwools) had plenty of good stuff. I found a small (4 lb.) charcoal/black Gotland that I fell for pretty hard, and so I bought it.

I didn’t know anything about Gotlands before I picked this up, though I think I held a hazy notion of them being sort of similar to Icelandics. That’s not all that far off, structure-wise, I think, since the fleece does contain what looks an awful lot like an undercoat and outercoat:

I don’t think they’re classified as a primitive breed though, which I’m guessing has something to do with the fact that most of the extant flocks have had a fair amount of human tinkering when it comes to breeding, but that’s true of Icelandics and Shetlands too, and they’re still considered primitive, so clearly I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I do think Gotland might be replacing Romney as my favorite spinning breed though, based on my limited handling of this one and what Deb Robson has to say about them in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, which is basically that it has a lot of the same qualities of luster and length and drape that mohair or the British longwools have, but that it’s remarkably soft for all that. Also, the elven cloaks in the Lord of the Rings movies were made from New Zealand-bred Gotlands, so there’s that.

I was originally thinking about spinning it in the grease because it’s really pretty clean and not especially greasy, but decided against it because of the poop factor. Instead, I’m going to do two rounds of hot-water soaks in small batches (about two big handfuls per), which I think should get out most of the dirt and muck while retaining some of the lanolin. Then I’ll card it (using dog brushes, I guess, since I sold my handcards years ago and don’t especially want to buy new ones when $5 dog brushes will get the job done) and spin a two-ply worsted-weight yarn for a big, cozy sweater that I’ll wear to death.

The fleece was the only thing I bought at Rhinebeck this year, the only thing that tempted me even a little. I had the same reaction there that I did the last time I went to a TJ Maxx—seeing such abundance of yarn/fleece/clothing/things to buy made me feel a little dizzy, even sick. It made me want to have a tiny, tiny stash in which everything is earmarked for a particular project that happens to be something I want desperately to have in my closet. I actually came home yesterday and cleared out more than half of my yarn stash, and it felt delicious. So much of it is stuff that I’ve had for ages and would never buy today, a phenomenon that’s also true of my clothes. I’ve been feeling an urge lately to impose upon myself what Erin of Dress a Day calls the “live like a stereotypical architect project“—a few pairs of pants, a few skirts, some shirts and sweaters: done. Will I do it though? We’ll see…

Spinning again

I find that I do a lot more spinning in warm weather. I know that’s the way it worked, like, yore (since you’d shear the sheep in the spring and spin it all up to make the next winter’s woolies), but it still feels like right to my post-industrial little heart.

I finished a batch of black and white tweed alpaca/silk that’s probably sportweight overall. I have more than 1400 yards of it, which is enough for just about anything, I’d say. I’d love to make a Still Light Tunic with it, but I’d have to rejigger the pattern; it’s written for fingering-weight yarn.

My current project is about 7 ounces of merino/tencel that looks like hematite. I’ve had it for more than 10 years, probably closer to 15 really, and was expecting it to be pretty unpleasant to spin. It’s not bad, actually, especially after all that slippery alpaca. I have a couple of other smallish amounts (under a pound) of fiber that I think would look nice with it, so I think I’m going to spin up all of the singles and then decide if I want to ply for an ombre effect. I don’t know if I’ll manage to clear out the fiber stash before fall, but I’m putting a pretty good dent in it.

Simple geometrics

Inspired by these coasters, I used some fabric I had around to make a bunch of light/dark squares. The red/white floral was a piece of flocked cotton, maybe half a yard, that came into my hands when my favorite cousin bought a house that had previously been owned by a hoarder. There was other fabric and yarn, but most of it had been gnawed on by little beasties, both winged and naked-tailed, and wasn’t usable. I’d wanted to use it for something special and had almost given up hope when I hit upon this idea. The plan is to put them together for cushion covers, but I haven’t quite nailed down which configurations I like best. I think these two may be the winners though. I like the strong graphic quality of the patterns and the contrast between the small pieces and the large motifs.
But there are almost limitless other combinations, not to mention the fact that I made a bunch of squares using the same striped fabric and a darker red silk paisley that used to be one of my favorites dresses in the late 90s, so that increases the combinations exponentially.
I have a crafting date with some friends this weekend, so I may pull them all out and see how everyone else puts them together.

Other things that have happened since I last posted:

  • I moved in with my boyfriend. We have the first floor of a rambling old house, complete with a deck, a bathroom that’s tiled on the ceiling, a sort of North African … mirror installation in the living room, and some truly ghastly 1980s wallpaper in the kitchen. The latter is not long for this world, but the rest of it is thoroughly charming.
  • I became obsessed with Homeland.
  • I became obsessed with Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl. I actually almost regret reading it because it means I can never read it again for the first time.
  • I became obsessed with Draw Something.
  • I made this, possibly my favorite salad ever.
  • Knitting-wise, I’m plodding away on Effortless and Folded.

Drive-by blogging

Some things!

1. A ripple blanket. I think I’m going to end up giving this to my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas.

2. A striped sweater! Making the third attempt at the neckline I want.

3. Spinning! Some finished merino/tencel and alpaca/silk in the works.

4. A lace scarf! This is the porcupine stitch from one of the BW treasuries. I love it. It has an odd number of rows, so is automatically reversible. #neato

5. Bacon jam! The full, glorious jar and spread on bread with ricotta. Recipe here.

6. Silkscreening! I took a workshop last weekend, which was really fun, even though there were a lot more chemicals involved than I was expecting. Jenn has a much more comprehensive report here.

Current projects

I’ve been doing pretty well at plowing through some projects that have been hanging around for altogether too long. It gets to the point where I just want them DONE. The time I spent doing production knitting for the fashion industry comes in handy here; I can really churn out product if I put my mind to it. The striped sweater has been joined for the yoke and I should be able to plow through a fair bit of that this weekend. The proportions look wonky here, since the yoke is so squished up on the needle — those sleeves look HUGE to me! even though I know they’re quite closely fitted! — but I think it’ll be good.

I’ve also been putting in some time spinning some hateful-but-pretty merino/tencel (last mentioned here, in December). The singles are done; I just need to finish plying. Then I’ll move on to something else from that post, maybe the merino/alpaca since I have the least of that.

Both the spinning and the plying are pretty deplorable here, which is what happens when you take a lifeless, overprocessed fiber that you kind of hate working with but love the color of enough to deal and spread the spinning of it out over several years in between much more interesting, enjoyable projects. It’ll be usable, one way or the other, so I’m not really worried. I’d just like it to be over.

Full batch

I finished plying all of the wool/silk tweed over the weekend and skeined and washed it. I was a little surprised to have ended up with only 1057 yards. Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to me that a three-ply yarn would yield fewer yards than a two-ply. It’s still enough for a sweater for me though, which is all I care about. I haven’t swatched it, so don’t have a for-sure gauge yet, but I’m thinking Aidez might be a good fit.

Unfinished projects

I had to move my bin of spinning fiber to get some winter clothes out of my above-closet storage space over the weekend and poking through it, was kind of amazed to see how many of them I’d already started spinning.

Going clockwise from left, we have:

  • about 8 oz. of alpaca/silk fiber with more than 1000 yards of sportweight yarn
  • 5 oz. merino/tencel and 120 or so yards of dk yarn, plus singles on a storage bobbin
  • 4ish oz. of merino/alpaca and more than 400 yards of fingering/sportweight yarn.
  • 6ish oz. of merino/silk and 120ish yards of dk yarn, plus some singles

I really like all of the completed yarn, but it’s not the kind of spinning I enjoy. It’s all pretty heavily processed fine fiber, while I’m partial to less processed fiber that has a little bite to it. My number-one favorite thing to spin is naturally colored wools lightly carded with dyed silk or mohair. I would never, ever, in a million years buy a commercial merino-blend spinning fiber these days. Still, though: I dig the yarns. I think the blue and light gray would make a terrific striped pullover. If I spin up the rest of that black and white alpaca/silk, I’ll have enough of that to make pretty much any garment I could possibly want. And maybe a matching blanket. The merino/alpaca is a gorgeous, subtle black-and-jewel-tone tweed that would be spectacular in a lace wrap.

So I’m going to spin it all. Probably slowly and not without some under-the-breath muttering. But I vow to work at it for at least 15 minutes a day, and eventually it’ll all get done.