Category Archives: spinning

A poncho in a weekend, no week, no week and a half…

I was itching to finish something (something knitted something), but my unfinished somethings all need a good amount of time yet, and the effects of the Rosa’s Caponcho kool-aid I drank last fall (and decided to rip) hadn’t worn off yet.

The long Easter weekend had no holiday and associated obligations for me, and the weather’s been shitty, so I cast on the poncho the Thursday night before thinking I might just be able to finish it by the end of the weekend. And I could have if I knit for more hours than just the evenings and one afternoon for a bit, but instead, I sort of finished it in a week. Not finished, exactly – started the bind-off the following Thursday and then found it was too stretchy, and I would have liked another row in garter, and I was going to run out of yarn for the bind-off anyway, and I should have gone down to smaller needles for the garter portion, then bigger needles for the bind-off but not too stretchy of a bind-off, the regular kind whose name I don’t know and that can be too tight but sometimes you need a little less stretch, and I’m really not sure if the thing is long enough as it is because I never stopped to take off the needles or on to another set to try it on and I didn’t love that the gauge was so loose, at least in partsssss……….

So I almost finished it in a week, then unknit the cast-off I began on Thursday, ignored it on Friday, tried it on on Saturday, deemed it a very good cozy thing, finished un-knitting it – took it up another row or two (I didn’t keep track, damn me) so I’d have another row of garter, and started a few stitches of garter to remind myself it should be smooth sailing from here on out and maybe I could finish by the end of the weekend?

But that was Saturday night.

But it was finished (though still needs to be blocked) courtesy of the plumber opening up some knitting time on Monday.

As a practical wearable woolly thing, it is perfect – cozy as all get-out – perfect for shoulder seasons, perfect for sitting around indoors and out.

But again I’ve made something that looks like a souvenir from a 1990s gap year in Central/South America. Not that that is a bad thing by any means, it just doesn’t look handmade by me, or a not-quite-handmade where did you buy that because a lot of commercial knits have a handmade aesthetic now? On the one hand it is utterly boring stripes, easy mindless chunks dark to light, or light to dark if you’re flat on your back, and I should have done something more creative, inventive, unique, and…. hip? It is utterly not hip. But I don’t like hip. But I’m feeling a bit frumpy. But is it frumpy? But I don’t care.

And there’s always the option to wear it sideways.

I like options.

The sheep geek (not geeking sheep) in me likes that this is all Jacob wool, and I’d like to think that most of it came off of one sheep, but of course, it didn’t. The bulk of it was roving from Jenny Jump farm and it is gorgeous – soft but structured – the rest was an ounce or two of not very nice stuff (more about the spin here). And oddly, my spinning varied much more than I’d thought between the colors. My favorites where the darkest and second darkest, and by far they were the best spins. The white sucks – I hadn’t gotten chain plying down by then yet and it is overspun. The spinning on second lightest is much better, but for whatever reason, this was much thinner than all of the other colors… no specific reason for that…?

Also there was more white than dark, but the dark part is vast – and that’s obvious because the rows were short for most of it, but I still thought the white would have a tiny bit more than it did, but not an issue, just a mild huh…

So the details:

Quad-colored Jacob roving, separated by color, chain plied to a bulkyish weight, roughly 528 yards.

Dark ~166 yards, medium dark ~82 yards, medium light ~110 yards, light ~170 yards.

Stretchy cast on 70 (might have miscounted and it was 69) stitches

4 plain knitting rows on US 10 needles, then 3 repeats of the 2 row pattern, 2 repeats on US 10.5, 7 repeats on US 11, then roughly 30 repeats on US 13 – this is the part I lost track of since I ripped back a bit, then three ribs of garter on US 11 needles, bind-off in traditional one over the other way with a US 13 in my right hand.

Then done.

I’ll bother blocking it when it needs its first wash – I’m slightly concerned about it stretching out since the gauge is a bit too loose, but a couple more inches is fine – more than that and I might have to felt slightly or take it up a few rows – or knit another…?

I might just have to knit another anyway…

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Lion or lamb wham…?

We’ve had four nor’easters in three weeks.

At first it was gearing up to be an early spring – the blackbirds were hanging out, the buds filling out, and I wasn’t quite ready, but at the same time itching to get out.

For the sake of seasonal documentation. #hyacinth #springiscoming #bulbs

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And then foot after foot of white stuff – the heavy kind, not the fluffy kind, and now I’m fearing our Magnolia blossoms have been damaged again – we had exactly one last year – one bloom on a giant old tree…

But then again, we’re a little too north for Magnolias anyway…

I started a linen stitch scarf for N out of yarn from one of his old sweaters.

Then I realized I couldn’t finish it before the season was out, so there is no hurry…

Late winter afternoon. #shadows #horse

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Then I got out a very long-suffering sweater that has a serious game of yarn chicken going on, and less than ideal options for the bottom hem. After hemming and hawing about the hem, I’ve set off for sleevetown to knit down the yarn. If there is any remaining, I’ll unknit the current hem and re-knit it in the way I’m thinking will drive me crazy the least.

I forgot to note when I finished this spin – I’d meant to keep track since I’d like to know how long it takes me to spin for a sweater when just spinning for 30-45 minutes or so here and there, but at least around 3-4 days a week. I think I finished at the end of February, but February is short – maybe early March? Either way, it took around/a little less than, two months…?

Sweater, eventually. #spinning #handspun #kitchensinkspinning #wool #yarn

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Not unreasonable – a good pace actually since I don’t need to make yarn faster than I can knit it. But it’s only 1,200 yards, so about the minimum I’d need for the bigger/longer things I like to wear these days. I haven’t done any swatching yet, but I was aiming for a worsted/aran generally (it’s got an intentional thick and thin thing going on) and I’m thinking it might be slightly less, so I’ll start with a US 7 needle first…

Debating about a very basic pullover or a cardigan (really need cardigans)…if it is a cardigan, I’ll probably need to spin more or more likely use commercial yarn for the button bands and such.

(And perhaps it’s worth a mention that the yarn almost exactly matches a felted bag I made probably around 10… 10! years ago but have yet to finish. And should I admit that part of that is from bedbug fear? I’d made it as an overnight/light traveling bag but then imagined that the felt would grab and hold thousands of bedbug eggs from overhead compartments and hotel surfaces… That, and it is a bit heavy too, so it defeats the purpose of traveling light…)

The garden is almost ready – I started writing this last Wednesday thinking the snow would melt by the weekend, and it didn’t, but it has today, but it’s still fairly cold and I’ve got a little cold.

Waiting… #seconddayofspring #impatient #springstorm #gardening #snow

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But the storms have also caused other delays – the farm store I get bagged compost to supplement ours has had their scheduled dirt delivery overdue for a month…

But I’ve got babies growing in the basement (let’s hope I didn’t start them too soon) that should be ready to be outside by the time everything else is…

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Not mittens for kittens

I finally knit a pair of mittens for myself.

The pattern is The World’s Simplest Mittens and they are, but perhaps not yet a go-to, never-fail, can knit it in my sleep pattern for me.

I spun the yarn last summer from fibery odds and ends acquired mostly from the NJ wool fest – some of it was an ounce or so pity purchase, much of it came from $1 or so an ounce grab bags containing matted bits of roving, second cuts, and all around mystery fiber both happy and nasty – it’s likely about 60% alpaca and 40% sheep – the most common breeds around here are Romney and Jacob.

Something went wrong in my weights and measures department because I thought I had over 8 ounces of fiber, but ended up with around 160 yards of yarn – granted, it’s a 3-ply and I wanted a thick, denser yarn – and I got that, but not too dense that it was painful to knit – and apparently I’m too lazy or forgetful to weigh my mittens, so we’ll just say that these took much or many beast/s. And the yarn was mostly fun to spin – just when I was annoyed with some rough and sticky or filthy stuff, I hit some angelic alpaca – and it transformed into a plump beaut after its first bath.

I spun the yarn for mittens or slippers and decided on mittens since I’d yet to make some for myself, and commercially made “warm” mittens often aren’t – or they’re too expensive and poor-fitting for me.

I cast-on for an adult medium (fearing that it might be too small) in worsted because I usually wear men’s gloves or largest women’s (I did a provisional CO so I could later pick up and knit the cuffs down in case my yarn ran short) and I wanted them to be dense – the yarn was more of a bulky weight.

And they were way too big. Part of that was a brain fart on my part – I was doing the thumb gusset as a Kf&b since the fuzzy yarn wouldn’t show the less neat increase as much, but I forgot that makes an extra stitch between the markers, so I ripped back and did a M1R and M1L like I should have in the first place, thinking the too-bigness was mostly due to the too-much-thumbness.

But ass that I can be, I kept knitting when I could tell that they were still too big. I justified this with the intention to line them with old cashmere sweater scraps and/or felt them a bit. But… the fit seemed slightly short. I started the the decreases after I’d cleared my little finger like I do with my little toe when making socks (and interestingly both are a little over 1 1/4 inches in difference) but this mitten decrease is faster than the toe one I use, so I added a knit every other row once I was a few rows in. Either the whole thing should be knit every other row, or I should wait until the cuticle of the next finger from the end to decrease.

My hand isn’t in the right place and my fingers look more aligned than they are, but I’ve got at least an inch or more of width I don’t need – if I knit them again, I’d take off at least 4 stitches. The other issue I’ve always got with mitts and now mittens, is the that palms are never long enough, so I automatically always add at least 4 or 5 rows, maybe at least an inch or so before starting the thumb gusset.

Then there’s the issue of the pointy tops. I don’t like perfectly rounded mitten tops because my middle finger does poke up (in its resting state, not just when gesturing), and I don’t love the sharply-pointed tops you see on some colorwork mittens – so by adding a few knit rows my tops are more of a relaxed point, but if I cup my hands, I still get a pointy nubbin.

That looks like a rooster beak.

And I don’t want to mix my wool and poultry – I’m a little grossed out by the thumb gusset that resembles a chicken leg even though I’m sure it’s a more practical one – and really this might be the pattern I should try next…

But back to my current mitten bitchin’ – this combo of pointy top and side thumbs (not left or right specific) does not work. I knew this going into it – I’ve made several fingerless mitts and the side thumb is fine for a plain top. But one pair I made has a singular design element that twists in when the thumb tucks toward the palm – and the decrease lines of the top twist in toward the palm. So to correct this, either the thumb needs to be left and right specific and needs to be in more, or the pointy decrease needs to happen in more, or the top should have more spaced out decreases so it can spin a bit (though I don’t like the ones that align and end up a bit pinwheeled)…

But whatever, I knew the risks but I wanted mittens quick.

So I’m a little concerned about loosing length if I felted them, and they aren’t as itchy and in immediate need of a lining as I thought they might be, and figured I needed to test drive them first to find out how water and wind tight they were on their own and maybe I needed to do nothing and I had arctic-ready hand protection and I just needed to wait for next winter (or clean out the freezer) to test them out.

Then we had a nor’easter with not-too-much precipitation but way too much wind, and our power was knocked out for 4 days – a bone-chilling, smelly (no water either), very long four days. And the sun came out and it was in the 40s in the day and I still couldn’t get warm – even the dog wanted under the blankets. So the mittens got their test – and failed – the wind still comes through a bit and they are stretching out a little too, so rather than re-knit them, a lining and a little bit of felting should do the trick – or at least improve them enough.

And wearing them made me think of street festivals in the 1990s with Central and South American flute players and hand-knit goods and crystals and shit and I had a very strong suspicion that perhaps I already once owned some hand-knit rustic alpaca mittens…

But I think I was thinking of these – that have seemed to have gone AWOL…

And in the end, I don’t think I need a solid-go-to vanilla mitten pattern like I have with socks – I don’t really need or want another pair of knitted mittens soon (have thoughts of sewing a pair anyway) though perhaps I do need one for fingerless mitts since I wear those very frequently and always have to scramble around a bit to determine stitch counts and whatnot.

For now though, I’m just hoping we’ll have power while another storm is upon us…

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Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

Bathroom reno time? #miniature #dollhouse #childhoodthings #idontneedanotherhobby

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And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Stash flash – the spinning fiber edition

This was going to be a four-part inventory series for my own notes when I started it 2ish years ago – the first was commercial yarn, the second would be the handspun, the third spinning fiber, and the fourth the “froggers” (sweaters waiting to be unraveled). But my handspun has always been a small collection and recently on the needles pretty quickly, and the froggers get a regular toss to see if I can sell one or two whole, and my spinning fiber also kept itself to a couple of tubs and boxes. But I’d like to restrict it to a smaller space, and I’ve finally amassed enough to make some decent yardage. Though I do need to spin/knit up some mittens and slipper-like things, I’m not feeling the random 4 ounce braid these days – my scarf/shawls need to be in the 8 ounce range – and I don’t really need another hat at the moment. So a few of my 4 ouncers will be combined with random bits and larger bobs to become garment quantities of yarn.

Everything is still in decent condition with the exception of a few lavender sachet explosions, so I’ve introduced even more vegetable matter to some of it… And is there a shelf-life to wool? That shit survives on dead people in peat bogs and whatnot, so I’m not concerned with not spinning it up immediately, but I did wonder if some of my raw fleece was slightly more brittle* than before…

I started an inventory of weights and colors and fiber types, but it wasn’t really necessary – I’ve only got a few large collections and the rest are random bits. Most of the large amounts were acquired when I’d just barely learned to spin (and had more disposable income), and I’ve since mildly regretted buying some of it – I was mildly screwed/slightly taken advantage of, or the seller was just as much of a novice as me in a few instances and I’ve got some unspinnable stuff – or I’ve found that I don’t much like something after all.

The large collections consist of several pounds of mostly bright-colored Lamb’s Pride roving:

That raspberry colored stuff has come up here a few times, and I’ve still got around 12 ounces left. And this is a good example of too much enthusiasm as a newbie – I found a good price for it and bought as much as I could reasonably justify – and… I don’t love spinning it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lamb’s Pride – it’s domestic wool, comes in great colors, and the yarn is strong and sheepy. But my color choices for the roving were limited, making my love for it slightly lessened just because of that, and I also just like spinning less-processed, more rustic roving more. (However, a good portion of this is also superwash, so it has to be very processed to be so, so I will buy it again as I spin down what I have since most of my gift knitting needs to be superwash.) And I need to figure out which is which! I saved the receipts (somewhere) for this purpose, and I’m pretty sure I had all of it separated in its own box, but that organization has been lost.

My aunt (thank you M!) sent me a few pounds/four large balls of llama a couple (three?!?!?!) years ago, and I was originally going to mix them with other things, but I’m going to spin them as one and make a throw blanket – I need to decide about stripes vs. gradients vs. random blends, but I hope to get it on the wheel this winter – it is currently third in line in my spinning queue, but it could be next…

And the raw fleece is the biggest collection with the most problems. I’m not going to buy raw fleece again. I’m probably not going to buy raw fleece again. I will only buy raw fleece in small amounts if it’s the only way to try a new breed, or is a pity purchase at a festival. Or maybe a little alpaca if it’s really clean. That six pounds of Romney was a bit of a scam – the seller put the cleanest, longest locks at the top of the bag; the bottom contained literal shit and short second cuts and very brittle, sunburned tips – I should have known better and they should have said it wasn’t skirted, or whatever… Lesson learned.

And there’s the lovely Nestor the llama I still have to finish – he was going to be my reward for finishing the never-ending Romney.

And then there’s the damned raw alpaca – I bought three bags (light, medium, and dark) of the stuff very early on – back when I still dreamed of being an alpaca farmer. I don’t think I even had a spinning wheel at that point… but I was in camelid love and had a festival fever and the price was good and the lady selling it was nice. And I got whomped again (this was actually the first time).

The light is almost all ridiculously short cuts underneath the thinnest layer of acceptable ones. I’m considering sending this out to be made into felt, or use it for stuffing, or make the felt myself… but this is the kind of situation that makes me hang on to something far too long because I know it is useful for something, just not my original intention…

But thankfully, the other two bags are mostly fine. I’ve been wanting to have a mostly black handspun shawl/scarf and this alpaca might be right for it – it’s got some sun faded tips, so it might spin up on the brown end, so I’ll have to run a test first (otherwise I’ve got a pound and a half of pure black Lamb’s Pride).

The smallest largish collection is just under a pound of Jacob fleece and roving – the roving from Jenny Jump Farm is crazy lovely – it is a tricolor that was easily separated by color, then there’s a few ounces of just dark roving from another farm, and then there’s a bag of raw tricolor that looked clean and claimed to be 4 ounces but… you guessed it! It’s under 2 ounces and got a decent amount of scurf (sheepy dandruff) – I’m using most of it anyway since I have the least amount of the medium brown – and this was a fairly recent purchase, so luckily I only lost a few bucks and I now know which farms to avoid (if they’re even still in business by the time the next festival rolls around).

I started spinning the lightest portion and still haven’t decided on leaving it as a single or chain-plying it – either way it will be a gradient. And I’m pretty sure it will turn into a poncho. I’ve had ponchos on the brain for myself and the dude, and I’ve got many thoughts on their functionality, but perhaps those thoughts are for another day…

And then I’ve grouped together a sweater quantity for the next or third in line spin – most of this is local, or at least mid-Atlantic wool – some Gotland, more Jacob, some unique unregistered breeds, a bit of dyed stuff – Romney usually, and a few little bits dyed or not – one is an angora blend. And this is what I’m most excited about and/or have decided on as my collection policy: naturally colored wool, and a bit of dyed non-white wool – I want a murky depth of semi-muted colors.

I chucked a few other things that would go well together in bags and boxes – a sweater quantity of a couple of colors of superwash that compliment a lovely Pigeonroof braid, a sweater quantity of grab bag scrap fibers in warm colors with some natural brown roving, and a few experiments – I’d like to do a short spin with dangling Lincoln locks, and I have some fake flowers and whatnot to make some “art” yarn, but I’m not really feeling that now.

I will always buy from small fiber farmers – in fact, that is who I buy from nearly exclusively now since going mostly cold-sheep – I hesitate to even complain about occasional unsavory products when I’m guessing my disappointing purchases were also disappointing to the farmer – I get that – sheep have bad years, not all shearers are good, your scale goes on the fritz, you’re just starting out and don’t know better, etc., and yet you’ve still got to sell something. I’m not going to out those who I suspect might be a bit unscrupulous, but I am going to reach into the bottom of the bag and talk to the seller a bit more – and stick with the farmers I trust, even if I’m only able to buy a few ounces from them here and there.

*Wool could get more brittle if it’s stored in a highly acidic enclosure like cardboard or a cedar chest unless there’s a barrier between it…

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Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Mid August

And so it goes – much the same as it has been…

Beans must be picked every other day.

And tomatoes are expressing their juicy demands.

And I need to learn about more diseases and pests to ward off next year.

Some thrifting is still being done here and there – picked up some “vintage” yarn for more and bigger scrappy things – I’ll probably dye the one on the right since the white is actually wool, or mostly, and it’s interesting that this seemingly semi-shitty novelty yarn was once spun in Belgium and France…

And some finishing is happening – this spin will be mittens or slippers, but will go on the back burner for a bit.

(Next up for spinning is still TBD – either a shit-or-get-off-the-pot spin with raw alpaca I’ve had far too long, or a quick palate cleanser with a colorful superwash braid… either way, the wheel is freshly cleaned and oiled and swept up underneath and is ready to go.)

And of course, beach time – just a bit here and there though – and I’m finishing up this knit – hopefully by the month’s end (secretly by the end of next week).

Some upcoming travel means socks need to be on the needles, but I’ve really run out of room in my sock drawer… In theory I “need” a few more pairs that better match my work clothes, but I have none worn out enough to purge to make room, so…

I’m going to knit them anyway and have more disorder and chaos and cramming going on in my life again!

 

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