So Close, Yet…

… still so far. Folks, I did my darnedest, but this vest is just not going to be complete by tomorrow.

The shoulders and sides are seamed, but the armhole and neckline edgings still remain. While that’s not really a lot of knitting, it is an awful lot of fiddly knitting involving 3 different needle sizes, tubular bind-offs, and copious amounts of kitechener stitch. That’s all well-and-good for a quiet evening at home, but not so great for traveling or for when a bunch of your out-of-state friends are about to come visit. I was a bit of a madwoman last night filling orders for Sweet Sheep, seaming up the sweater, and writing and printing knitting instructions to use when I teach some Girl Scouts how to knit tonight. (Thanks for your helpful suggestions, I ended up putting together my own little booklet with text hat I wrote and with illustrations borrowed from the TechKnitter’s blog. She’s amazing, btw.) I’m glad I was able to get the vest more-or-less assembled, but I’m accepting that it just won’t be ready to wear in time.

Woolen Diversions

Swatches for teaching.

I also had to do a little swatching to demonstrate to the kiddos their two Harry Potter scarf options: garter stitch or 1×1 rib. I’m really looking forward to my evening of teaching, I just wish it didn’t coincide with this particularly busy weekend and a host of other things I need to be doing. Ah well, deadlines wait for no one, am I right? That reminds me of one of my favorite (and ever-relevant) quotes:

European-Paper-Company-Douglas-Adams-Whooshing-Deadlines

Yes.

 

Douglas Adams totally gets me, man.

WIPWed #79: Blocking and Plotting

For me, certain projects require a bit of a push. There’s almost always one all-out, late-night, knit-fest to get through some part of a project. Last night was the endurance portion of my Overdyed Cypress vest knitting, but it paid off.

WIPWed #79: Blocking and Plotting | Woolen Diversions

On the blocking boards! Click for project page.

The back and front of my vest are complete, similarly-shaped (the back is purposefully narrower than the front), and vaguely garment-like. Once they dry, I will seam them up and then it’ll be just a matter of adding armhole and neckline trim before Saturday. I’m a little worried that the pieces are too long (I didn’t make row gauge and tried to compensate for that) but we’ll just have to wait and see about the fit. Sometimes, staying up into the wee hours to power through shoulder shaping sections is totally worth it.

WIPWed #78: Blocking and Plotting

Garnet Tonic, click for project page.

Meanwhile, the cowl that I’m so in love with is progressing, slowly but surely. I’ve forgotten how much I like working a simple lace pattern back and forth on straight needles. No shaping to fret about, it doesn’t get longer any as you go, and there’s no annoying circular needle join to contend with. Pure pleasure.

WIPWed #78: Blocking and Plotting | Woolen Diversions

Lendrum Falkland wool, click for handspun page.

I’m still chugging away on the never-ending-pound of Falkland wool that I used for my ply experiment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a delightful fiber and a joy to spin, I’m just itching to make some big fluffy colorful singles yarns, and this flow of fine white fiber is not abating.

On an entirely different note, does anyone have any good teaching resources for brand new knitters? I’ve volunteered to teach a bunch of middle-to-high-school-aged girls how to knit this Friday, and I haven’t had a chance to do much searching for materials yet. We’re going to be making Harry Potter scarves, in either striped garter stitch or 1×1 rib (their choice) and I’ll have some samples to show, but it would be great to have some illustrations and written directions that they could take home with them on a handout. If anyone knows of some good resources, please let me know!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Here’s what the Great Blizzard of 2015 looks like from my home office today:

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Blustery!

The nice thing about my job is that I can more or less do it from wherever there is a computer with internet/network access. However, that means I don’t really get snow days, I get ‘work from home’ days. At least I’m still in my PJs, right? And I’m honestly just grateful that I don’t need to be out in that mess.

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Overdyed Cypress vest, inching towards the finish line.

Here’s a small mess I had to tackle this morning. I knit on my vest all weekend long, racing through the neckline decreases, feeling the possibility of finishing this thing inching ever nearer… only to discover when I reread the directions that I was supposed to change the rate of decrease about halfway through the neckline before reaching the shoulder shaping. Rip, rip, rip. Luckily, I only had to rip back about 3″ of knitting and with all of the decreases there really aren’t too many stitches on the needle right now (benefit of knitting in pieces vs. in the round!). It’ll be a bit of a stretch to finish this by part three of my birthday celebration this Saturday, but I’m still harboring hope. If I can finish the front and block the pieces today, I can seam tomorrow night, and hopefully whiz through the armhole and neckline ribbing and tubular bind-offs (because tubular bind-offs are ever so speedy — ha!). And then, of course, we’ll all have to keep our fingers crossed that the thing actually fits.

Baby It's Cold Outside | Woolen Diversions

My first Plucky

I’m remaining focused on my vest, but my newest yarn acquisition is begging to be knit. I acquired this lovely grey-with-the-slightest-hint-of-teal skein of Plucky Bello Fingering (55% Merino, 45% cashmere) specifically to knit Thea Colman’s Black Tea hat design. I handled the sample at the Knitting Weekend (part one of my birthday celebrations) and fell in love. The luxurious yarn is held double and the cables stand out nicely even while the fabric is covered in a delicate halo from the cashmere. I fiercely coveted the hat, so I hunted down the yarn and now can’t wait to get started. It will be my post-vest prize, other knitting goals be damned (I’m the worst at plans).

Speaking of the weekend, my parents came up to celebrate part two of my birthday extravaganza. We saw John Oliver perform at the Foxwoods casino (I’ve never heard anyone utter the phrase ‘like a menstruating snail’ in my entire life, but it was hilarious. Go see him, he’s genius.) and managed not to lose too much money. The next day we headed to The Breakers, the ‘summer cottage’ of the ridiculously rich Vanderbilts in Newport, RI. It was gorgeous. There’s a whole string of such mansions to check out, if you’re so inclined. (There were people surfing in the water, btw. Crazy!) Then we headed to an excellent Irish pub and ate the hell out of some whisky-and-Bailey’s-infused desserts. Well worth the caloric indulgence, I’d say.

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Last day of the sale! Click for shop.

I’ll leave you with a wee reminder that today’s the last day of my 30% off birthday sale at Sweet Sheep.

Are you experiencing a snow day? How are you spending your time?

Celebrating My 30th

So folks, this weekend is the big Three-Oh for me. Thirty years old! Gosh, I remember when that sounded so old. By 30 I thought I’d have everything figured out, I’d have a settled career path, I’d maybe even have kids and a house! Thirty just seemed so far away and intangible. Now that it’s here, I’m realizing that 1) I don’t feel ready for half of those things anyway and 2) I’m totally ok with that. I’ve got fuzzy goals and even fuzzier plans, and I’m feeling pretty relaxed and flexible about if and when they come to fruition.

Celebrating My 30th | Woolen Diversions

Darwin, demonstrating the way in which I should approach life.

As much as I’ve loved the past 30 years, I’m expecting the next 30 to be even better. My 20s were full of more than their fair share of upheaval and angst, and I’ve recently been making strides towards living a healthier, less anxious, more joyful life. I’ve also realized that many of the people whose work I admire didn’t do their great [whatever it is I admire them for] until they were middle-aged or older. When I start to feel the pressure of time on my back I stop and remember that I really have no idea what I’ll be accomplishing or experiencing over the next few decades, and that there is still plenty of time.

Celebrating My 30th | Woolen Diversions

… for yarn. Always time for yarn.

You know how I really know that I’m 30, though? I’ve caught myself, on more than one occasion, making small talk with the poor, bored high school cashiers at the grocery store. Those kids don’t care what an old lady like me has to say, and I know that, I can remember that feeling, yet I still find myself doing it as if it can’t be helped. (When did I start small talking with strangers anyway?) To those kids, I’m just another old-ass adult with old-ass adult stories, and that just blows my mind.

Celebrating My 30th | Woolen Diversions

Use code ’30BDAY’ at checkout.

In celebration of my birthday weekend, all purchases of lotion bars or lip balms at Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe are 30% off with use of the coupon code ’30BDAY’ at checkout through January 27th. Be sure to tell your friends, and thanks so much for your support! Here’s to 30!

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace

Even though my entire weekend was filled to the brim with knitting-related events at Slater Mill’s Knitting Weekend, I feel like I’ve hardly accomplished any knitting this week! Here are the results of my weekend knitting:

Woolen Diversions

Swatches from classes. Ignore how unappealing and unblocked they are.

The top swatch is a mini version of a Shetland-style lace shawl that we worked on during Gudrun Johnston’s Shetland lace class. I have not finished knitting on the border because my needles fell out so I decided I’d gone far enough. Besides, I’ve already knit a couple of shawls that employ a Shetland-style construction: my Aestlight shawl (designed by Gudrun) and my Rock Island shawl (designed by Jared Flood). Both involve garter stitch bodies, lace borders, and edgings knit perpendicularly to the body. It’s a fun way to make a shawl, I recommend giving it a shot! Gudrun has a new Hap shawl class up on Craftsy, too, which I bet is great (check her blog for details).

The bottom swatches show a couple of the textured cables that we talked about in Thea Colman’s Playing with Cables class. This class was super interesting as it had a roundtable discussion / workshop feel to it. She essentially explained her creative process, demonstrated how to start coming up with designs featuring cables, and how to manipulate cables in subtle ways to make them do interesting things. It was really great to get to know Thea a little bit and hear about her process. Plus, now that I’ve seen so many of her designs in person, I’m itching to knit them all.

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

VG Zaftig, colorway Kiss of Cabernet. Click for project page.

So I started one. My original plan for this wine-red yarn was a Filemot shawl, but after I started it and messed up the stitch count in the first repeat a few times, the project quickly lost its charm. I also didn’t like the way the yarn felt in all of the twisted stitches. Instead, I cast on Thea’s Tonic Water cowl and am loving it. The lace is simple to work but complex enough to be interesting, and the yarn is creating a beautiful fabric. I’m excited to add the accent color, which will be the pale purple colorway used in my Lucy Hat. (Color coordination makes me stupidly happy, can you tell?) It’s kind of funny that the first Thea pattern I chose to knit involves no cabling at all. However, as the Fiasco noted, the lace in the pattern is essentially cable-shaped (twisting around itself), so there’s that. All in all, I’m psyched about this project. My quarterly goals are intended to fill gaps in wardrobe and/or to use up specific yarns, so swapping out a shawl for a cowl pattern is still playing by the rules in my book. (Also check out my new stitchmarker’s! They’re from Lisa’s new Etsy shop, The Knitting Artist.)

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

Instagram bobbin shot.

As for spinning, I’ve been working my way through the final few ounces of the same Falkland wool that I used for my ply experiment. I had 17 oz to begin with, and have just about 5 oz left. All that white wool is starting to feel a little endless, and I’m itching to get some color on the bobbins, but I’m persevering!

I almost forgot to show you my Knitting Weekend loot! I received two skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca (a Rhode Island company!) as a welcome gift, purchased some cute buttons and a hook gauge from a fellow Rhode Island spinner and knitter who runs the Katrinkles Etsy shop, some fun speckly yarn from Julie Asselin that I gave away in a gift swap to a very yarn-worthy friend, a lovely blue-green gradient from Play At Life Fiber Arts, and (last but not least) two gorgeous, undyed skeins of Cormo/Alpaca/Silk DK weight yarn from Foxfire Fiber & Designs. I’ve got ideas brewing for all of these new additions, but I’m really trying to stick to my goals… Sigh. Discipline is the worst!

What have you been working on this week?

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill

Just a quick post today as I was up quite late last night and ungodly early this morning, but I can’t wait to spread the word. There’s only one thing that can get me out of the house prior to 7am on a Saturday morning and that’s the prospect of sitting in a historic mill, surrounded by enthusiastic knitters, learning from talented teachers, with copious yarn fondling to follow.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Trad Arts Studio at Slater Mill!

Last night was the opening reception for the 2015 Knitting Weekend hosted at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The reception involved wine and snacks, a combined trunk show featuring designs by Thea Colman, Amy Christoffers, Ellen Mason, and Gudrun Johnston, and a wonderfully inspiring talk about Elizabeth Zimmerman and how feminism and domestic arts intertwine in Adrienne Martini‘s life (the author of Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously). Adrienne was a really entertaining and engaging speaker, if you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you should! You should also, obviously, check out the book. I read it some time ago but remember really enjoying it.

There were samples galore to admire. I fell particularly hard for a gorgeous grey lace cowl with a unique yellow garter stripe. As you know, I’m working on a cowl design myself, and I spent lots of time trying to work out how best to hide the join. In Thea Colman’s Tonic Water cowl, she simultaneously hides and highlights the join with a pop of colorful garter stitch. Genius! I suspect that cowl will hit my needles sooner than later.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Weekend Knitting e-book samples.

Best of all, some of the designers teaching this weekend paired up with some local New England yarn vendors to create a collection of really gorgeous patterns that are being sold as an e-book, the sales of which will go to support the restoration and preservation of the mill. Weekend Knitting from Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill features five accessory patterns: a cabled beanie (Sylvanus Brown Hat by Thea Colman), a rustic shawl (Wilkinson Scarf by Amy Christoffers), some cabled mitts (Bridgetruss Mitts by Alicia Plummer), a nifty hooded cowl (Blackstone River Cowl by Ellen Mason), and a simple-yet-stylish infinity scarf (Slater Mill Cowl by Bristol Ivy). The photo above doesn’t do these knits justice, be sure to check out the pattern pages, and if you like them, know that your purchase will go to support the place that is responsible for housing very active knitting and spinning guilds, as well as a variety of traditional arts programming. If I move away from Rhode Island, I think I’ll miss the mill (and the guilds) most of all.

If you live nearby, you should head on down to the mill to check out the free vendor market. The classes are full, but the market is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm and will feature lots of local artisans. It’s also a good time to take a tour of the mill, its history is quite fascinating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cool stuff to go learn.Yay, knitting weekend!

Have you taken any good classes recently? Are you involved with your local arts community somehow? What’s been inspiring you lately? Let us know in the comments!

Inspiration Saturday at Woolen Diversions

 

 

Ply Experiment

A few weeks ago, I watched Jillian Moreno’s spinning class on #Craftsy called Ply to Knit: Spin the Yarn You Really Want. If you’re not familiar with Jillian, she writes and edits KnittySpin articles as well as a weekly spinning blog post on the Knitty blog. I enjoy her writing and her spinning very much, so when Craftsy had a sale I figured I’d give the class a try.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

I don’t intend this post to be a thorough review of the class, but I will say that I probably would have been a little disappointed if I had paid full price for it. I think Jilllian is a great teacher and I love the Craftsy platform, I just don’t think there was enough material in the class that I didn’t already know for me to feel it worth the money. I would recommend it for an absolute beginning spinner. As a very beginner, or as someone who has only spun on spindles and just started on a wheel, it is always worthwhile to watch someone else’s spinning technique. You will invariably pick up little tricks and tips you never thought of if you are primarily self-taught. If you’ve never plied singles together before, the class will likely provide lots of little lightbulb moments all at once. Since I’ve been spinning for three years now (how did that happen?!) and I’m a voracious reader of spinning-related books, blogs, boards, and magazines, not much in the class was news to me. At one point, I thought she was going to start getting into some of the more unusual ways to ply yarns (for art yarns and such), but then she stopped and implied that those topics were for another class.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Three bobbins of Falkland wool, ready to ply.

There was, however, one excellent nugget of information that I gleaned from the class, my own personal aha! moment that inspired this post. I’ve sometimes been underwhelmed by my handspun, feeling that some skeins lacked the oomph that other lovely skeins had, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why or what was different. I plied them to the point where they seemed balanced, I did the same to one skein as I did to another, but I didn’t really pay close attention to exactly what I was doing. This class taught me that the secret to great yarn is in the plying twist.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

(L to R): Ply 1, Ply 2, and Ply 3

You see, I knew that handspun skeins lost some twist after finishing, but I didn’t really understand how much, nor did I know how to tell how much twist was enough to add in the first place. Jillian does an excellent job demonstrating how to detect the amount of plying twist you are adding, and how to get a feel for when enough is enough. So I conducted a small experiment to see what difference the amount of plying twist really made in the finished yarn. I used the same Falkland wool singles for a all three 3-ply yarn samples (spun Z twist on a 8:1 ratio whorl), and I changed the ply twist as follows for each one:

  • Ply 1: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 5
  • Ply 2: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 3-4 (roughly alternated)
  • Ply 3: ply ratio = 6:1 (larger whorl), treadles per length = 4-5 (roughly alternated)

By adjusting how many times you treadle before you allow a set length of yarn (whatever is comfortable and consistent for you) wind onto the bobbin, you are adjusting the amount of ply twist that enters the yarn. You also adjust the amount of ply twist by changing your whorl or drive ratio, which determines how much twist energy is inserted with each treadle (higher ratio/smaller whorl = more twist, while lower ratio/larger whorl = less twist). Ply 1 seemed to have way too much ply twist, while ply 2 (not pictured above) had too little with 3 treadles per length, but too much with 4. So I lowered the ratio and aimed for roughly 4 to 5 treadles per length, which resulted in the nice easy loop on plyback that looked just about right, and this amount of twist is what I used for plying the rest of my singles.

I then took a series of notes and measurements about the different yarns. I measured wraps per inch (WPI), which helps classify the thickness of the yarn, and yards per pound (YPP), which you can think of as a measure of the density (or grist) of yarn. In the photo gallery above (hover for captions or click for closeups), you’ll notice that the sample strand for Ply 3 (to the right) is much longer than for Ply 1 or Ply 2. Those samples were strands that were cut until they balanced out on a McMorran Yarn Balance (one way to measure YPP). The Ply 3 strand is longer because the scale could hold a longer length before it balanced out, meaning that yarn had a much higher YPP. (Translation: you could spin more yardage out of a pound of wool at this grist because it is a thinner, less dense yarn.) I used a chart from an old issue of Spin-Off to help determine what the knitting weight was (classifications are not very standardized at all so it differs by source) but another chart you could use is here. The stats:

  • Singles: WPI = 25, YPP = 2,350, knitting weight = laceweight to fingering
  • Ply 1: WPI = 9 -10, YPP = 525, knitting weight = aran to bulky
  • Ply 2: WPI = 10, YPP = 625, knitting weight = aran
  • Ply 3: WPI = 10 – 11, YPP = 900, knitting weight = worsted
Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Swatches, pre-blocking.

While the changes in measurements were subtle for WPI, I was a little shocked at how big of a difference small tweaks in the number of treadles per length or the size of the whorl made in the YPP measurements, or the grist of the yarn. More ply twist (Ply 1) lead to a thicker, denser, chunkier yarn while less (Ply 3) resulted in a thinner, fluffier, more pliable yarn. I commenced swatching each yarn on size US 8 needles in a variety of stitches.

From a distance, the swatches don’t look all that different and their stitch gauges were practically identical, but you’ll have to trust me that they each felt different to knit. Ply 3 (which I knit first) was delightful in every way: fluffy, soft, smooth, and it produced a cohesive, fluid fabric in all stitch patterns. Ply 2 was distinctly beefier than Ply 3, it was a tad thicker and denser and it felt it, but it had a pleasant ‘toothy’ feel to it and I could see adding a little extra ply twist to purposefully make an extra spring-y yarn. Ply 1 was the least pleasant to knit with, I would have wanted to go up a needle size to relax the knitting process. If you look closely, you might notice that the extra ply twist is much more visible in the stitches of Ply 1, making the fabric as a whole look less smooth. The extra twist created great 3D relief in the seed stitch sections, but is somewhat less desirable in the stockinette and garter stitches.

Conclusion: You could certainly not pay much attention to your plying and get a fairly serviceable yarn in the end. However, I did find that checking for the right amount of ply twist (and actually counting my treadles!) produced a yarn I enjoyed knitting with the most. From a practical standpoint, plying ‘properly’ also produced a heck of a lot more yardage than I would’ve obtained from overplying my singles: 375 extra yards per pound of fiber, in fact. Finally, while the stitch gauge or swatch appearance didn’t change much when using the same size needles, the thickness of the yarn and the feel of the fabric certainly did. All in all, I will certainly be paying closer attention to my ply twist in the future and I’m excited to explore its effects further.

If you spin, how do you usually ply your yarn? Do you keep track of how much twist your adding?