Silk Sadness

Sad news, guys, remember these?

Play at Life Fiber Arts silk hankies (a.k.a. mawata)

I bought them to try spinning silk and it turns out… I don’t like it.

I tried!

It… just doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to explain. Drafting silk is difficult, you have to tug pretty hard and pre-draft before you try spinning it (at least, that’s what it seems like I need to do). Which is fine, I suppose, though I think what I’ve learned is I really like the way it feels to draft wool while spinning it and this is not at all like that.

Where’s the twist?

I also can’t seem to get enough twist into it. See how loosely the single twisted back on itself? That can’t be right, can it? I just don’t know! I’m thinking I’m going to have to join the Nutmeg Spinner’s Guild of Connecticut and try to make it to their next meeting, whenever that might be. This spinner needs help!

Finally, my wool/silk blend Shiny Slouch hat is taking way too long to dry. I want to wear it already:

Patience, patience, I know.

Have any of you had success with spinning silk? Got some tips?

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Friendfest!

A fantastic cure for a lame workweek is a fun-and-friend-filled weekend, for sure. On Saturday, my dear friend Katy arrived and we went to the Rhode Island Sheep & Wool Festival held at a really neat historic working farm: Coggeshall Farm Museum. The grounds were spacious and pretty with a few barns and a farmhouse build in the 1790s. We caught a glimpse of home life 200 years ago:

Hearth-cooked lamb stew
Salt-cured bacon and locally grown garlic

We saw lots of friendly animals:

Gulf Coast Native sheep being sheared
Fuzzy bunnies! Grey angoras, I loved them.
Not-so-friendly turkeys

And of course, lots and lots of pretty yarn:

Everybody say, “Hi, Katy!”

The really great thing about these wool festivals is that I discover yarn companies and products that I might not have come across otherwise. The Play At Life booth was my favorite of all the lovely vendors there. The colors were gorgeous and they had a nice selection of different items. I spent a solid 20 minutes hemming and hawing over what to take home with me and finally settled on this:

Silk hankie, colorway Firenze

I have played around a bit with silk hankies (or mawata) before, but have not tired spinning it yet, which is what my plan is for that lovely teal creation pictured above. (No, those mittens are not done yet…)

After the wool festival we drove up to our friend Bridgit’s house for a backyard bar-b-q and lots of nice relaxing knitting time. I even (finally!) got both of them to give spinning on my spindle a try. We’ve determined that it’s a good thing I have wholesome hobbies because otherwise my determination to get everyone addicted to the things that I love doing could be very, very dangerous. I’m a yarn-and-fiber pusher, and I am not ashamed. 😀

Hope your weekends were wonderful, as well! Happy knitting.

Excitement Afoot

I’ve been making some progress on my mawata mittens! These are taking longer than I thought they would, but I suppose it makes sense when I need to stop and prepare the silk every few rows . Between that and the fact that silk is not very elastic, my fingers get tired quickly so I can’t knit on these for very long stretches of time. But they sure are pretty, aren’t they?
BMFA Mawata/Silk Hankies, colorway Aurora Borealis
You can see in the cuff where the stitches look all wonky that it took me some time to figure out how much to tug on the silk fibers to get them to a thickness I liked before knitting with their supremely fluffy selves. Closer to the needles the stitches are smaller and more even because I became accustomed to what I need to do. I  decided to add a thumb gusset to these (on the other side) due to the aforementioned inelasticity of silk. I’m kind of winging it, though, so I hope it works out ok! I’ve knit thumb gussets in other patterns, but I’m not following any of those at the moment out of laziness and am just going with my gut. Living on the edge!
The other exciting thing afoot (sidebar: wouldn’t “Excitement Afoot” make a great sock pattern title? I call dibs!) is represented by these:
Weeeeeeee!
I’m going to start learning to spin! I was inspired by some recent blog posts I’d read (this was one of them, be warned that it is a sad but beautiful post, and this was another) and some threads on Ravelry discussing spinning– I couldn’t resist the idea of playing with different fibers and turning them into yarn,  I had caught the bug. My darling Fiasco agreed that a drop spindle would make a good birthday gift so I’ll have one shortly! I’ve already read through the “Start Spinning” book he gave me early and half of the “Respect the Spindle” book. I have to wait until Tuesday before I can actually start spinning, though. I can hardly contain my excitement!!!
Sigh. I don’t think the idea of spinning one’s own yarn from various types of fiber does this to normal people…

Some Progress

Even though I’ve been working 14-hour days trying and failing to get my thesis data to model correctly, I have been making some progress on my four ‘active’ works-in-progress lately. Time for update pics!

Sock 1 of my South Fork Socks is complete, with the second one begun. This pattern is really enjoyable, I highly recommend it.

STR Mediumweight, colorway Puck’s Mischief

This is sock 2 of my made-up-as-I-go ribby holiday socks.

STR Lightweight, colorway X-Mas Rock

 The first is done and since this one is so close,  I think I will bring it with me to my Fiasco’s family’s house today while we visit. That will give me a couple of hours of driving time to knit on them and since they are so simple, I might even be able to finish them today!

Here is the progress on my super-fussy-yet-wonderful Flint mittens:

The Sanguine Gryphon QED, colorways Radius and iSkein (blue)

The yarn is quite thick and the needles quite small, so the cabling gets tough to do at times, but I think they are going to be fantastic when they are finished… and practically bulletproof.

Finally, the metal needles I was waiting for came in and the mawata/silk hankie mittens were so much easier to work than when I was using bamboo.

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mawata, colorway Aurora Borealis

It’s not the neatest knitting I’ve ever done, the thickness of the silk fluff varied considerable in the first few layers that I prepared for knitting, but now I know what thickness I like so when I separate more layers I will know better how much to stretch them out before knitting with them. I love the way these feel, they are amazingly soft. I am using Kollage Square DPNs in size 5. Square DPNs are supposed to be easier on your hands and for some people they tighten up their gauge while they knit as well. I’ve noticed that mine tightens up a bit, which is good for things like socks on thin yarn where I would need to use needles smaller than 2.25mm to get a tight enough gauge, which I don’t like doing. My only issue with the Kollage needles is that they are very blunt, so it is difficult for me to manipulate stitches like K2tog or SSK or cables. So I reserve my square DPNs for plain knitting, but I do like using them.

That’s what I’ve got going on. What’s your favorite WIP at the moment?

Silk Is Fluffy

Unspun silk is super fluffy! I was surprised. The other night I took my mawata / silk hankies and started playing around.

BMFA Mawata, colorway Aurora Borealis

I peeled off a layer, stretched it out until the center became so thin it turned into a big ring of fiber, then broke the ring and yanked on it until it evened out thickness-wise.

Ball-o’-fluff!

I then took my newly-formed cotton candy fluff and cast on for some mittens.

Needle-o’-fluff!

You can see that I haven’t quite got the even thickness thing down yet. The stitches to the left are kind of sport-weight sized and the stitches in the middle are worsted/aran weight sized. No matter since I’m frogging this anyway. I suffered through several rows before I realized that the reason every stitch was being a pain in the butt to knit was probably because I was using bamboo needles to which the unspun silk clung too tightly. I’m waiting on some new metal needles to arrive before I continue with my fluffy mitten adventures. I’m excited, how about you?

Mitten Madness

A while back, the Yarn Harlot made a blog post about her Mawata mittens that started something of a silk-hanky-buying craze at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. It was so neat to see her stack of whisper-thin layers of cocoon silk turn into rustic, colorful mittens. I instantly wanted to try it and just got some in the mail yesterday:

BMFA Mawata / Silk Hankies, colorway Aurora Borealis

These feel incredibly soft and light, I absolutely cannot wait to turn them into mittens. Silk is many times warmer than wool, so even though they are lightweight they should keep my hands nice and cozy, if winter ever arrives. (50 degrees F in January, really?) I actually had the chance to see how silk hankies are made at a knitting event at my local yarn shop. I got to pull the cocoon off the pupa and stretch it out and over the square frame to dry. It’s a little bit squicky, especially if you don’t like insects, but they’re dead already anyway and it was too cool not to try. Each hanky is comprised of layer upon layer of these stretched out cocoons, it’s really neat.

So many layers!

There’s another pair of mittens I’m really excited about, as well. This obsession is particularly strange because I’m really not into knitting mittens, I’ve yet to complete a pair, I’m easily confused by cables and am usually not interested in 8 page patterns or fussy knitting, but I saw these mittens and just had to make them ASAP :

Copyright Brooklyn Tweed / Jared Flood

Those are the Flint pattern by Jared Flood. I love the cables, the texture, the colorwork braid. LOVE. As soon as my Mawata mittens are finished, I will be casting on those lovely, fussy little things, and it will be glorious!   😀