New Year, New Plans

No matter what’s going on in life, January always feels like a breath of fresh air. A time to come down from the holiday rush, reflect on what I’ve done/been through the year before, and jot down some Grand Plans that may or may not come to fruition but that at least make me feel motivated to get the year going.

It turns out that 2016 was not a great year for my knitting or my blogging, but hey, I grew a human so I’m ok with that. In years past I liked to tally up my projects and make pretty graphs and generally nerd out over the data. But since I nerd out over data all day long for my job and the opportunity to sit and write is rare, I’m not going to get lost in spreadsheet land right now. This year, we’re just doing a list, because there were only 10 completed projects anyway (about 20-25% of past output (<– data intrusion)):

  • 6 hats (3 for baby, 2 for friends, 1 for me)
  • 2 baby sweaters
  • 1 pair of baby socks
  • 1 shawl (that I still need to blog about, oh my).

2016fo

If you’re on Ravelry, you can view all my finished items in one place here. It is clear that I am an instant gratification knitter, yes? And I love me some hats. And apparently the color green, as 80% of the items contained green! (Damn, I can’t resist data analysis.)

Now onto the new plans. My new favorite place on Ravelry, the LSG Parents board, is doing a completely casual “17 anything crafty in 2017” style KAL so I’m going to roll with that. Since my crafty time is limited, I’m going to make the most of it by knitting 17 completely luxurious, indulgent projects. I’m going to be using my best stuff, the stuff I can’t wait to knit, make, or wear. Here are about 20 stash items I’m planning to choose from over the course of the year:

stash1

Laceweight – Fingering – Sport

stash2

Sport – DK – Worsted

I am highly amused by the ubiquitous presence of green/teal/blue hues here. WHATEVER, I LOVE THEM. There will be lots of yak, silk, cashmere, fine merino, and handspun in my knitting future and I’m excited about it. The O-Wool Fingering is already in progress for Hatchling’s Sky Blanket and the aqua Yaksi DK is involved in my hibernating Yaksi Cancan. The Westminster was started but I’m frogging that shawl, so it and the rest will be used in new projects. This theme of ‘indulgence’ will carry over into my spinning, too. Whenever I carve out time for it, I will be spinning my favorite stuff first. (Let’s not talk about how I finished zero skeins of yarn last year… *sob*.)

What’s on your list of crafty goals for the year?

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WIPWed #119: Beholden

The choosing of One’s Next Knitting Project can be so fraught with difficulty. It’s never quite as straightforward as it seems it should be, and often involves as much intuition and gut feeling as rational decision-making. I do my best to be sensible but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. Last week I discussed the three options I was considering for my next ‘luxurious’ cast on. I then narrowed it down to which skein of yarn I wanted to work with the most, but changed my mind about what pattern I wanted to knit. I even put up a poll on Ravelry to help me decide between the new pattern options:

poll.JPG

So many shawls, so little time.

Then I went ahead and ignored the overwhelming vote and cast on whatever the hell I felt like, regardless.

Beholden:

IMG_4065

Kettle Yarn Co. Westminster in Florence, click for project page.

I ended up choosing Holden (designed by Mindy Wilkes) for my Kettle Yarn Co. skein of 50% camel/ 50% silk loveliness. While I do really love the Antarktis shawl, I think it’s perfectly suited for high-contrast variegated yarns, and since I have so many of those in stash, I didn’t want to ‘waste’ this more subtle yarn on a pattern suited for variegation when I could use it in something more nuanced. I’ve admired Holden for a long time, but worried that it would be too small for me in the single skein size (I like my shawls big). So I modified the pattern ever so slightly by adding 2 extra stitches on every other wrong side row. This should change the shape from a typical triangle to a slightly elongated triangle, but not all the way to a crescent-shaped triangle. We’ll have to just see how it goes!

Rotted Days:

IMG_4066

Handspun BFL and a mystery singles yarn, click for project page.

While I was deciding on my shawl conundrum, I decided to pick up one of my *ahem* seven *ahem* shawls already in progress and give it a little love. The garter stitch short rows on my Dotted Rays (designed by Stephen West) shawl are getting ever longer, but I’m nearing the end of my second skein of handspun which means I might be in my final wedge. I’m thinking of adding an extra slice of purple at the end just to tie it all together.

That’s all that’s happened knitting-wise this week, it was quite a busy one. As for reading, I’m just about done with A Prayer for Owen Meany, which means I’ll need to decide on my next book soon. Thank goodness that decision-making process is not usually as intricate as a knitting-related one… Linking up with Yarnalong.

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn

Since the Rhinebeck Sweater is still in the same state it was on Monday, I’ll chat a bit about the other crafty thing occupying my attention right now: handspun sock yarn.

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

My view at Slater Mill.

Over the weekend, I took a sock yarn spinning class at Slater Mill with the Rhode Island Spinners Guild. The focus of the class was to experiment with different amounts of twist and plying structures to discover your personal ideal sock yarn. Amy King (of Spunky Eclectic) gave us lots of fibers to play with in class (green = Polwarth wool, gold = Falkland wool, handpainted autumn tones = Corriedale wool) as well as some samples to experiment with on our own (red = Wensleydale wool, white = generic wool roving, purple = Panda blend (superwash Merino, bamboo, nylon)).

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Spunky Eclectic fiber samples

We discussed three key things to think about when spinning your own sock yarn:

  1. what kinds of fibers make a good sock yarn, considering aspects like elasticity (different high-crimp wools), warmth (silk, camelids, luxury fibers), and strength (silk, nylon, bamboo, longwools),
  2. what types of prep are best for sock yarns (combed prep, worsted spinning), and
  3. most importantly, the amount of twist needed in the the singles and in the ply to make a yarn that is springy and strong while still feeling soft and comfortable.
Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Plyback samples.

We did a whole lot of spinning. I am not accustomed to spinning for 6 hours straight, so that was definitely an endurance run for me! We practiced making low twist singles that barely held together and very energized singles, and measured the twist per inch for each. For the first ‘typical’ 2-ply sock yarn, we spun our singles with an amount of twist somewhere between the low and energized samples we made. Then, during the plying step, we plied the singles as if we had spun them with the energized amount of twists per inch. So if our energized sample was 20 tpi, then our plied yarn measured 10 tpi (tpi in singles / # of plies). We also navajo-plied those same singles, and since that yarn had 3 plies, the plying tpi was proportionally lower (20 tpi / 3 plies = approx. 7 tpi).

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Polwarth sock yarn samples, 2-ply and n-ply.

If you’re confused about all of this, don’t feel bad, I think many people in class were lost. It was advertised as an intermediate class but you could be spinning for years and never get so technical about your yarns as to actually the measure the twists per inch. I think some of these concepts could have been explained a little more thoroughly, the only reason I understood the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ behind a lot of the instructions is because I’ve read up on all of this stuff before. That said, it was really beneficial to go through the steps of the exercise with some guidance.

The second half of the class focused on making opposing ply yarns, which are basically yarns where one or more of the singles is spun in the same direction as the plying twist, instead of the opposite direction as usual. Opposing ply yarns have a lot of extra energy that contributes to strength and elasticity, which can be really beneficial in sock yarns. I admit, however, that I am not a fan of these samples. It could perhaps be the fiber (I don’t love Corriedale) but even while swatching, I didn’t enjoy these yarns. They are crazy strong, though, I tried breaking the thread with my hands and nearly cut myself! For opposing ply yarns we plied everything in the S direction and made a 2-ply (gold = low twist S single, multi = high twist Z single) and a couple of 3-plies (2 gold + 1 multi, and 1 gold + 2 multi). I liked the 3-ply with two high twist Z singles and one low twist S single the best, likely because the amount of opposing ply in this yarn is quite low since the S single was low twist to begin with, so it feels the most ‘normal’.

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Opposing ply 2-ply, 3-ply, and ‘normal’ 2-ply.

I’ve swatched the n-ply Polwarth (not pictured, I forgot it!), 2-ply opposing ply yarn, and the 3-ply opposing ply yarn that I liked best (I didn’t bother with the other one) and then began to actually knit a little baby sock out of the 2-ply Polwarth that we first made. I really like the way this yarn came out. Polwarth is such a  springy, fluffy fiber to begin with, and with the extra ply twist the final yarn plumps up in such a satisfying way while still remaining soft. My 2-ply is a thicker sport-weight yarn, but it’s making a nice little sock and I’ve already got the rest of the sample fiber on the bobbin to spin more.

In conclusion, I’m really glad that my spinner’s guild arranged for Amy to teach us. The guidance for experimentation was really valuable and I am looking forward to spinning some more sock yarn! Now I just need to get my singles a bit thinner so I can spin a 3-ply yarn that comes out near fingering weight, as all my 3-ply samples were closer to worsted weight. Have you tried spinning your own sock yarn before? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks?

Orange Rosemary lotion bar

In preparation for Squam this weekend (squeeeeee!) I’ve been busily re-stocking the shop with some sold out lotion bar scents, including: Orange Rosemary, Lavender, Smoky Patchouli and have brought back a seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Spice. Check them out!

As for reading this week, my kindle is still dead (the horror!) but I picked up the largest John Irving book I could find and am slowly working my way through it: Last Night in Twisted River. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News

Have you guys been over to the Knitted Bliss blog yet today? Julie’s been kind enough to post an Indie Business Interview with me for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. There’s a special coupon code available to her readers, too, so definitely go check it out!

I’m happy to announce that I have a new handmade soap available for sale: Ocean Mist! It consists of a lovely pale blue aloe vera gel base scented with Sea Moss (gentle, clean, slightly floral) and contains swirls of goat milk soap scented with Down by the Bay (bright, tangy, herbaceous). If you saw my post on Instagram, you’ll know that I was unsure about my first swirl attempt but I really like how the finished soaps look and will definitely be making more.

In spinning news, I’m happy to report that despite my busy weekend, I was able to power through and finish spinning one last Tour de Fleece skein. I spun some undyed Wensleydale top from Three Waters Farm in a 2-ply to coordinate with a gradient skein of Wensleydale I had previously spun. Unfortunately, I was rushing so much that I spun the undyed singles with the opposite twist than I had the gradient skein singles, so the finished skeins do not have the same direction of ply twist. This will likely not matter too much in the finished fabric, but since I do intend to use the skeins together it bugs the attention-to-detail part of me. Now the question is, do I spin the second 4 oz of undyed fiber to match the undyed skein I just finished in case I need more yardage or to match the gradient skein and use the first undyed skein elsewhere?

Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News | Woolen Diversions

Tour de Fleece 2015 finishes

All told, I certainly did not spin every day I was supposed to, but I did spin far more than I would have and managed to spin three skeins from start to finish over the last three weeks. If you ask me, that output isn’t too bad, especially since it’s three more skeins than I likely would have finished without the tour! (See this post for finish details about the other skeins.)

And now another question: what to spin next?! Oh, the possibilities…

In Five Days Flat

Who would’ve thought that I could transform a braid of fiber into a finished skein of yarn in just five days flat? I’m sure many others have spun greater yardage in shorter timeframes, but I think this might be a record for me. Thanks, Tour de Fleece!

Falkland Dusky Greens:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun Falkland wool 3-ply, click for Rav page.

This Falkland wool from Three Waters Farm was an absolute dream to spin. I split the braid into three pieces cross-wise, and then split each third lengthwise to spin. I noticed during plying that often 2 of the 3 plies would be the same color, which mixed all of the colors up fairly evenly throughout. It helps that the colorway was tonal to begin with, but I really love the way the colors played out. I was aiming for a weight similar to the first Falkland I spun and more-or-less achieved it by referencing the single and ply-back sample I had preserved in my hand-dandy spinning notebook.

In Five Days Flat

Previous vs. current handspun Falkland skeins

The finished skein weighs 112 g and contains roughly 140 yards of worsted-aran weight yarn. (Well, it’s 140 yards measured after washing, but it was about 180 yards wrapped around the skein winder.) It’s approx. 600-700 ypp and 10-12 wpi and should coordinate nicely with the undyed Falkland (10 wpi, 600 – 900 ypp). I am not quite sure what I want to make with it, but it fluffed up so beautifully after a wash that I want to make sure whatever pattern I choose makes use of it’s bounce-tastic nature.

Eggplant in Ashes BFL/Silk Singles:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun BFL/silk singles, click for Rav page.

I also finally got my Bee Mice Elf BFL/silk singles yarn off the bobbins, soaked, and dried. They are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I’m not sure if they’ll knit up on the bias or not, but I’m willing to give it a try (you know, whenever I have time for more WIPs, that is). I ended up with approx. 700 yards of fingering-sport weight yarn (18 wpi, 1500 ypp). That deep purple bled A LOT with washing, but the finished yarn is really gorgeous. It’s all slinky and silky and delightful to touch.

So thank you, Tour de Fleece, for helping me spin up 8 more oz of yarn than I would’ve this month (so far). I’m happy to add these pretties to my stash! Onto the next spin…

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through

Tour de Fleece is in full swing and I’m doing what I can to participate. I was away celebrating our first wedding anniversary when it began, but I did take my spindle and some fiber to at least make a start. We got back stupidly late Monday night (more like early Tuesday AM) so yesterday was all about catching up with life, but I did manage to get a couple of ounces spun up on my wheel, as well. Needless to say, my knitting progress has slowed with all this spinning going on, but I’m not complaining. Spinning is quite soothing, despite the old wrist injury that I aggravated by using the grip of death on a crazy carnival ride the Fiasco made me do. (Yeah, I blame him for my wrist pain. That’s what marriage is for!)

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

This spin is going to take a good long while, but I’m loving it. That Subterranean Woodworks Turkish spindle is one of my absolute favorites. The weight is perfect, the color makes me happy, and it’s a zippy little spinner.

TdF BFL/Silk Singles:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes. Click for handspun page.

I spun one braid of these singles before TdF began (left bobbin), but got a decent 2 oz spun last night while I watched more Vampire Diaries (still obsessed!) and made a few batches of lotion bars (Lavender EO has been restocked and a new scent, Smoky Patchouli, has been added to the shop). Fingers crossed that I can speed through the final 2 oz tonight.

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Actually using my handspun! Click for project page.

Spending 9 hours in the car over the long weekend lead me to resurrect my handspun Dotted Rays shawl. I’m at the point where the short rows take much longer to get through, so there isn’t as much flipping back and forth and I’ve settled into a nice rhythm with it. I’ve nearly finished my first skein of handspun and desperately need to switch to a larger cable so the shawl won’t look like a pile of mush in photos.

That’s all I’ve really worked on this week. I’m currently in between books right now, although I’m listening to a really good one (Birthmarked by C.M. O’Brien). It’s about a young girl who is a midwife in a post-climate-change society and there is some kind of drama starting between the ‘advanced’ people who live within the walls of the city, and everyone else on the outside. Not deep into it yet but it’s intriguing so far.

And just for fun, here are some pics from our trip to Maine:

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

(And congrats to Alexis of CobCottageCraft, the winner of the Myra cowl pattern from my review post and giveaway. Keep an eye out for my e-mail!)

Singles or 2-ply? I’m biased.

After (finally) finishing my Malabrigo Nube yarn last Friday, my wheel was taunting me with its alluringly empty bobbins. “C’mon, what are you going to spin next? I’m ready!” Not counting all the new stuff in the Spinzilla pack from Louet, my fiber stash has somehow blossomed to about 60 lots of fiber… I was overwhelmed by choice.

Single or 2-ply? I'm Biased. | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes.

I eventually settled on some fiber from Bee Mice Elf that was part of the co-op custom order organized on the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary spinning board last year. I have two 4 oz. braids of the lovely stuff and wanted to spin something special… but what?

Singles in progress

Singles in progress

My first thought for this fiber was a lovely, thick, fluffy singles yarn. I chose the largest whorl of the regular flyer and got going. The single wasn’t very thick at all, it was about a light fingering weight thickness, so I plied it into a 2-ply to compare.

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

In truth, I loved the look and feel of the 2-ply a bit better, but  I always gravitate towards thick cushy yarns and have plenty of that in stash already. Many people on Instagram voted for the singles so I decided to swatch to get a better feel for the yarns.

I cast on with size US 6 needles (16 sts for 2-ply, 20 for singles) and knit small stockinette swatches for both yarns. A charming thing happened with the unblocked singles swatch: it biased! This happens in stockinette fabric when there is too much twist in the yarn (it has something to do with the physics of all knit stitches on one side and all purl stitches on the other). To balance an overtwisted yarn, one could:

  • ply the yarn
  • run it back through the wheel in the opposite direction to remove some twist
  • knit a balanced stitch pattern (like garter, ribbing, or seed stitch)
  • block the dickens out of the finished piece to even things out

Or, one could embrace the bias and use it as a design element, as in the new Bias Stripe Wrap pattern from Purl Soho:

Photo copyright Purl Soho. Click for pattern page.

This wrap alternates sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch to highlight the bias in an overtwisted yarn and create the interesting chevron effect with very simple knitting. So now I’m tempted to spin the rest of my singles up in this overtwisted fashion and knit a simple, striking wrap. What would you do?