A Weekend In

This week was a total doozy, man. Between feeling sick earlier in the week, a stressful work-from-home snow day, a visit to the dentist, some crazy work stuff going on, and what I’m assuming might be food poisoning (both the Fiasco and I are nauseated and ill this morning)… I’ve had better weeks. Nothing really bad has happened, but it just feels like a whopper. (A lot of people around me have been having crappy weeks, as well.) My energy levels have been super low and I’m just trying to take it easy to avoid getting sick(er). C’mon, immune system!

All that is to say, that I’m really looking forward to a weekend in, where we really don’t have much planned besides maybe a trip into Providence to see a friend. As you can see in the photos above, I’ve been taking my sock mending seriously and putting in some considerable time. For this weekend, I foresee more sock mending, more shawl knitting, lots of reading (I’m on Outlander book 4 now, I can’t stop!), and some spinning. Oh yes, certainly some spinning.

I’ve had my eye on Derek’s Turkish spindles (from Subterranean Woodworks) for quite some time. If you peruse photos of some of his work on Ravelry, you’ll notice that his spindles often combine different woods in beautiful striped arms, or use maple dyed in a fun color. I would always just miss his announcements or updates, though, and finally got tired of waiting and asked if I could place a custom order. He was perfectly happy to make whatever I wanted and I figured hey, I’m ordering one, why not get both of the spindles that I admired. So a small-sized turquoise-dyed maple spindle with an East Indian rosewood shaft and a medium-sized holly and purpleheart striped spindle with purpleheart shaft have now joined my collection.

A Weekend In | Woolen Diversions

Oh, so lovely.

They’re great. I’m partial to the wee one, but I’m learning to flick the larger/heavier one a little better. I’m really finding it fascinating how the same basic style of spindle can differ so much between makers. The SWW spindles both have much thicker arms and shafts than my Jenkins and Enid Ashcroft Turks, which affect flicking speed and the ease of winding on (a little slower and a little easier, respectively, I’m finding). I’m spinning up half an ounce of Louet merino/silk on each to continue my somewhat neglected spindle experiment for which I’m spinning and plying the same fiber on multiple spindles to try to discern any differences in the ‘default’ yarn I produce when using each tool. This inquiry is clearly a good use of my scientific skills, yes?

What are your plans for the weekend? Hope they’re as relaxing or as exciting as you’d like them to be!

 

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Prepare for Eye Candy

Oh boy, oh boy. My new Woodland Woodworking support spindle showed up and it is beyond gorgeous.

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Feast your eyes!

If you haven’t heard of Woodland Woodworking before, you must immediately go admire Carl’s work. His spindles are fairly unique in both shape and style. I had never encountered a teacup spindle before his, and rarely have I seen any spindles painted with such gorgeous precision.

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Pretty, pretty snowflakes!

His custom list is filled up months and months in advance and his updates seem to be few and far between, and sell out in seconds. In truth, I was hoping to land this blue snowflake beauty, but I am thankful to have been able to purchase any spindle at all. The one I received is a bead spindle made of German hornbeam and redheart. It is quite lightweight (0.87 oz, or 24 g) and shorter than some of my other support spindles (9.75 in).

My collection currently consists of a Texas Jeans Russian spindle in curly maple, a Texas Jeans Tibetan in maple and purpleheart, the new Woodland Woodworking bead spindle, and a Hipstrings tahkli for cotton spinning in carbon fiber and acrylic. The two Texas Jeans spindles are the longest at 12″ and 11″, while the tahkli is the shortest at 9″. The Tibetan is the heaviest (31 g), followed by the Russian (27 g), then the new bead spindle (24 g), and finally the tahkli (7 g).

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Spinning tip comparison.

What I found really interesting is the difference in the thickness of the spinning tip of the new Woodland Woodworking spindle from the tips of the Texas Jeans support spindles I’ve been accustomed to using. The WW tip is much thicker than the TJ spindle tips. So while the spindle is lighter, you don’t get quite as much spinning force bang-for-your-buck as you do with a thinner-shafted spindle and it took my fingers a little bit of time to adjust to the different feel.

I can tell that I could get really wrapped up in analyzing the different spin times / feels / speeds etc. of different spindle types. I may or may not have already begun a spreadsheet tracking the dimensions of my spindles. I suppose this means I’ll just have to obtain one of every kind for a thorough analysis… what do you think? 😉

(P.S. The lovely fiber I’m spinning on the new spindle is some Merino wool hand-dyed by June Pryce Fiber Arts. I love the colors!)

WIPWed #74: Feeling Thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, and despite all the busy and the crazy and the deadlines swirling around my life right now, I’m feeling really thankful for everything this year has brought. At this time last year, we had just learned about my mom’s cancer diagnosis, and several surgeries and treatments later, she’s doing quite well and we are optimistic about her recovery. This time last year, I was still a fiancée, and now I have a husband who always knows the perfect thing to say to make me feel better when things get rough (such as, “C’mon, Alicia, what would Katniss do?”). This time last year, I weighed about 60 pounds more than I do now, and I’m hopeful that I will continue to make progress along this (stupidaly hard) path to better health. This time last year, I had never traveled outside the country, and I now have wonderful memories of sloths and howler monkeys and palm trees and Costa Rican rain drumming on tin roofs to soothe me when I need it (note to self: finish those recap blog posts!). And finally, this time last year my Sweet Sheep lotion bars were a mere twinkle in my mind’s eye, and now I’ve filled over 125 Etsy sales, received over 70 5-star reviews, and have over 390 ‘likes’ on Facebook. It’s been a rollercoaster of a productive and somewhat frenzied year, and when I feel ‘stuck’ or like I’m not making any progress, it’s incredibly beneficial and kind of amazing to pause and look back on it all with a sense of gratitude and appreciation.

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Free shipping for the holiday weekend!

To celebrate the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — oh my!) in one small way, I’m offering free shipping on all orders from today through December 1st. Use the coupon code “THANKS2014′ at checkout to receive free shipping on all domestic and international orders! Thanks for all your support, and consider shopping indie this holiday season. 🙂

And I cannot forget all my knitting and spinning in the list of things-for-which-I’m-grateful!

Baby Kalamazoo:

Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller, colorway Kalamazoo. Click for project page.

I knit this project in about 2 seconds flat (ok, 2 days) for a coworker who is having a little girl and going out on maternity leave today. I’m really happy with how the hat turned out. There are very subtle 2-stitch faux cables throughout the body which make for interesting texture without being overtly cabled. I’m thinking of incorporating this fabric into a larger design. And I just love the little i-cord loop at the top of the hat!

Overdyed Cypress:

Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, overdyed by me. Click for project page.

My #NaKniSweMo sweater is nowhere near done, and definitely won’t be finished by the 30th, but I’m super proud of the fact that the back is finished and I’ve made good headway on the front. This is one garment that I’m actually going to complete, and that is exciting in and of itself.

Petrol BFL:

Woolen Diversions

Countess Ablaze BFL/silk/firestar. Click for handspun page.

To occupy myself while I wait for my new wheel to arrive, I started a braid of Countess Ablaze BFL/firestar/silk on my Babe. I intend to spin this as my ‘default’ yarn: a thin single that I then n-ply into a DK-worsted-weight yarn. I have two such handspun skeins in stash already, and have vague notions of spinning a bunch of color-coordinated BFL in this way and using them together in a larger project. I’m using this spin to take part in the Indie Untangled Knit/Spin/Crochet/Weave-along, come join us, there are prizes!

Finch Test:

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Abstract Fibers sample. Click for handspun page.

Finally, I’ve been spinning a bit on my new Jenkins Finch spindle. That photo shows all of the little sample it came with spun up, and later on I will ply a wee skein!

I hope you’re prepping for a wonderful holiday and enjoying all your WIPs this week! Check out other WIPs at Stitch Along Wednesday with Gracey.

WIPWed #73: Preoccupied

My crafty thoughts this week have been all caught up with spinning. Between internal wheel debates, a new spindle in the mail, and some brilliantly tropical fiber, my poor #NaKniSweMo sweater has been a little bit neglected, but I’m still knocking out at least a few rows a day and am nearing the end of the back piece. Just a couple of inches of shoulder shaping left to do before I bind off!

Overdyed Cypress. Click for project page.

I’m not super hopeful that I’ll finish before the end of the month, but to tell you the truth, I’m just happy I’ve gotten this far and that it’s all going well!

Wooldancer 19.5 micron Merino

That’s the lovely tropical-looking Merino fiber I picked up from Madison Wool when I went to try out wheels. Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m not usually a pink person but this is just so vibrant and gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. I guess my eyes were craving color after a string of grey days, and I wanted something new to spin on this little guy after I finish the sample it came with:

I was super duper excited when the Jenkins ran their most recent Finch spindle lottery and allowed the runner ups to purchase a spindle, because I was a runner up! I believe with their new website that the lotteries might be a thing of the past, so I feel especially lucky to have gotten this little guy. It’s itty bitty, weighs only 12 g, and is made of a gorgeous two-toned granadillo wood. I’m officially a tiny spindle convert. It spins effortlessly, I can use it easily in the car or curled up on the couch, and when you remove the shaft it fits within a sunglass case for storage!

That’s all I’ve got going this week. How about you? (And does anyone know what’s happened to Tami? She hasn’t posted in quite a while!)

WIPWed #71: Instant Gratification

As a knitter, you wouldn’t think that I’d have a deep love of instant gratification, since knitting is probably one of the slowest ways to create something. Yet, I do. I can only stay project-monogamous for so long before my fingers get itchy for something new and quick. Especially when lovelies like these arrive:

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The Verdant Gryphon Zaftig, colorways Russian Sage and Kiss of Cabernet

As I mentioned on Saturday, The Verdant Gryphon brought back my beloved Zaftig yarn (worsted weight MCN blend) and I just could not resist. Skeins were acquired, and swatches were  nearly immediately made.

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Swatches!

The top swatch was made with size 7 needles because I could not find the size 6 needles the pattern called for and of course, my gauge was too large. I finally did find my size 6 needles and made a second (slightly less enthusiastic) swatch, which was close enough! (Pattern called for 5 sts/inch, I achieved 5.25 sts/inch.)

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The beginnings of a Lucy Hat. Click for project page.

Hats are my absolute favorite instant gratification project, and normally around this time of the year I’m knitting hats like crazy for gifts. However, this one’s for me, and it’s going to be awesome.

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SG Codex, colorway Lioness of Brittany. Click for project page.

The project I’ve been (mostly) monogamous with is my Sweet November shawl knit with luscious, silky Codex. I know I’m going to love this thing like crazy when I’m done, it’s just not particularly engaging to knit anymore since it’s quite simple and repetitive. But that ball is shrinking quickly, so an FO should be in my future soon enough!

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Inglenook Batts. Click for handspun project page.

I took a little spinning break after Spinzilla, but have since picked up my supported spindle project here and there. I’m still enjoying this spin. The singles are so colorful and such a crazy mix of fibers that I’m really looking forward to seeing what it will look like plied!

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Spindle storage.

Over in the Spindlemania group there has been some discussion about how people store their spindles. The above photo illustrates my little spindle corner in the living room. If you look closely, you’ll spot two Turkish spindles on top of the tallest bookcase (one of the few spots in the house that Darwin can’t terrorize). Hanging on the wall are two colorful bags that each contain a top whorl spindle (my Golding and my Kundert) with their fiber. The small hanging bag holds fiber for one of my support spindling projects. Below the bags are my two support spindles and one additional top whorl stuck in a vase with glass beads to hold them upright. For traveling, my Jenkins Aegean and my larger Capar Turkish spindles each fit well within my Dakine school supply case (with shafts removed and with plenty of fiber).

How do you store or travel with your spindles? What do you do when the urge for instant gratification strikes?

FOFri #33: Need An Extra Foot?

Somehow, even though I knit and blocked and measured a gauge swatch, and calculated an approximate length I wanted my cowl to be and cast on the appropriate number of stitches, I ended up with a cowl nearly a foot longer than I had intended.

Pre-work, dusty mirror selfie is all you get.

It’s a wee bit large: 63″ circumference, 8″ tall. I don’t hate it, though I’ll never wear it long like that. I’m currently wearing it doubled up around my neck and it has a comfortably loose drape. I can also wear it tripled for increased warmth.

My ‘almost being choked by knitwear’ face.

My blocked swatch had a gauge of 5.5 sts/inch, so I cast on 285 sts to arrive at hopeful finished length of 52″. My swatch was small, which might have had something to do with it, and while I did knit it in the round, I did so on bamboo DPNs, rather than on the KnitPicks harmony wood circulars I ended up using for the cowl. I suppose those changes could have resulted in a project gauge of 4.5 sts/inch (285 sts / 63 inches). Let this be a lesson in the dramatic difference one stitch per inch can make!

Inglenook Fibers batt spinning.

I am still spinning for #Spinzilla, but sadly had no time at the wheel last night. I’ve been piling up the singles on my Russian spindle, though! All of that is the result of just one of the eight little batt poofs (batt balls? batt sections? batt muffins?) from Inglenook. I’ve yet to spin a large project on my supported spindles, so far I’ve only just sampled and then andean plied the yarn off the spindle into a 2-ply. Does anyone have tips for singles management when you only have one supported spindle? How to you spin and organize your singles for plying for an entire project?  I need to figure something out, since promptly after shooting that photo, Darwin ran off with my spindle and tragically separated the cop from its rightful place on the shaft (bad kitty!). The single appears to have maintained its shape so I’m hoping it won’t be a total mess to wind up later.

What was your worst ever gauge miscalculation fail?

WIPWed #68: Mid-Spinzilla

Since we’re in the middle of #Spinzilla, this post is chock full of spinning! I shocked myself by working my way through a full 4 oz of the Louet Perendale fiber in one evening (thanks is due to several episodes of Game of Thrones, Season 1).

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Spinzilla day 1

When I was too tired to sit up straight in my spinning chair, I curled up on the couch with a pretty little Inglenook Fibers batt and my TexasJeans Russian supported spindle. I really like spinning supported, it’s completely different than wheel or drop spindle spinning, I find it even more relaxing.

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Perendale 2-ply

Then last night I plied up my Perendale into a light, fluffy woolen 2-ply. I ended up with 176 yards of worsted-ish weight (just eyeballin’ the weight) which count as 528 yards for Spinzilla [plied yardage + (plied yardage x number of plies)]. That’s nearly half of the total yardage I spun last year already! Seriously, woolen spinning (carded prep and long draw) is wicked fast and makes a delightfully fluffy yarn.

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2 oz of Louet Jacob wool

I then knocked out 2 oz worth of Louet Jacob singles, as well. I have a date with the remaining 6 oz as soon as I publish this post.

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Honey Cowl, more on this soon.

And then I finished my cowl! (Hopefully some modeled pics on Friday).

I think it’s safe to say that I’m on a roll this Spinzilla and I’m really looking forward to adding everything up by the end of the week! If you spin, are you trying any new techniques this week? If you don’t spin, how are you not tempted?!?! 😉

WIPWed #63: Lessons Learned

I’ll start with the bad news… If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this disaster:

Sock knitter's nightmare.

Oh, woe is me. Click for project page.

Yup, that’s right folks: the special, gorgeous sock that I knit on before my wedding and during my honeymoon does not fit. It fit as a cuff, it fit as a partial leg, but with the longer-than-usual leg length, the less-elastic-than-usual fiber content (BFL instead of Merino), and the smaller-than-usual needle size (US 0 instead of US 1), it just does not have enough stretch to make it over my gigantic arches and heel.  The combination of tightly-knit stockinette and less elastic wool spelled disaster for this sock, even though I added more stitches (68 vs usual 60). I’m considering this a (hard) lesson in the difference in sock yarns. While I was (and still am) excited to try sock yarn made from a longwool breed (I’m hoping the socks will hold up better over time), I now know I need to take the elasticity of the stitch pattern into account. Here are three things I could have done (coulda, woulda, shoulda) to avoid this problem:

  1. Knit a swatch. I might have knit one, but it was probably tiny, and I really don’t remember if I did or not. So knit a big swatch, in the round, and get a good feel for the fabric and its stretchiness (in addition to figuring out how many stitches to cast on).
  2. Knit the cuff and leg on larger needles than the heel/foot/toe. In general, I want the foot/sole of the sock to be super snug but the cuff/leg could use some extra elasticity.
  3. Continue the cuff ribbing all the way down the leg. The difference in stretchiness between the ribbed cuff and the plain stockinette leg is pretty amazing. Basically, if I had knit the leg of this thing with almost any ribbed stitch pattern, I bet it would have fit.

So there you have it, folks. Learn from my mistakes, please! The sock is now in time out until I have the fortitude to face frogging it.

Fiasco De-constructed:

Fiasco - Deconstructed

BMFA STR LW, colorway Sigur Ros. Click for project page.

Since sock weather is swiftly approaching, I grabbed an already-in-progress sock to continue working on while I figure out what to do with the BFL pair. (Don’t worry, this one fits.)

Sweet Codex Shawl:

Sweet Codex Shawl

SG Codex, colorway The Lioness of Brittany. Click for project page.

Because I needed a win, and because I have a wedding to attend in October, I cast on a simple shawl in one of my favorite yarns, using a tried-and-true pattern. The yarn is the incomparable Codex (52% silk, 48% BFL) and the pattern is the Sweet November Knit Shawl designed by Caryl Pierre. It’s mindless and soothing and just the thing right now.

Sweet Companion:

Sweet Companion | Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller, colorway Hobart, IN. Click for project page.

I tried and did not like the hat pattern I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. So instead, I’m designing my own hat to accompany the Honey Cowl I plan to knit with the rest of this yarn. I think it’s going to make a pretty snazzy set, if I do say so myself.

Tarnished Yak:

Tarnished Yak | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Yak/Silk fiber on my Jenkins Aegean.

I’m making slow-but-steady progress on my Jenkins Fall SAL spin. My goal is to spin 2 oz by the end of September. I have quite a ways to go yet…

Seaglass:

Seaglass | Woolen Diversions

Miss Babs Merino/Silk in Seaglass on my Enid Ashcroft Mini.

I’ve decided that bringing an itty bitty Turkish spindle to work is totally acceptable behavior. It sits on my desk and I give it a flick every now and again while I’m waiting for something on the computer to load or while my office mate is chatting. Even if I don’t spin anything, seeing it there makes me happy. As you can see by all the yarn in the temporary cop (wrapped around the shaft), spinning during those little idle moments can add up!

Phew! That WIP roundup has been a long time coming. I hope you’ve been making progress on things, as well! Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

Finding Time

Last week was a whirlwind and this weekend was no different. I’ve been having difficulty finding time for everything that needs attention. I completely missed my intended Inspiration Saturday post (a followup to part 1 of our Costa Rica trip) because I haven’t had a single second to devote to processing the rest of the 1200+ photos we took on our trip. Instead I was making lotions, working on my business plan, developing a household budget, doing some scientific soul-searching, and finally (FINALLY!!!) cleaning up and organizing my office, which had been a hopeless mess since May and full of no-longer-necessary wedding junk. Since that task alone took me about 6 hours, I rewarded myself with 20 minutes to try out the new hipstrings tahkli cotton spindle I purchased at the beginning of July.

Finding Time | Woolen Diversions

Cotton tahkli from hipstrings, click for Etsy shop.

I’ve noticed a lot of Etsy sellers making punis on Instagram lately, they appear to be all the rage.  Punis are basically just tightly-wrapped rolags, a carded fiber preparation. They are traditionally used with cotton spinning (and other short fibers) but can be made with any fiber and are typically made with wool blends by Etsy sellers. If you’ve never used them before, they are incredibly easy to make.

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Charging the carder.

First, you need to load your fiber onto a hand card, this is called ‘charging’ the carder. I am using Strauch cotton hand cards in the child size. These carders have 255 teeth per inch (many wool carders have between 70 and 100) so they are particularly suited for fine, short fibers like cotton, angora, yak, quiviut, fine merino, etc.  The truck is to place just a small amount of fiber on the carder, you don’t want to use too much at once.

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After a few passes.

The idea behind carding is just to open up the fibers, get some air in there, and straighten them out a bit. Carded preparations are usually spun woolen style (with the fibers aligned every-which-way instead of straight like worsted) so I don’t fuss over keeping the fibers neatly aligned. I just work on getting them fluffy. There appear to be a ton of different ways to card and after watching a video and reading a book, I basically just do what feels right to me (though those resources are good ones to get you started).

Finding Time | Woolen Diversions

Rolling the puni.

For the next bit you need a dowel or a thick knitting needle. You place it near the edge of your card with the teeth facing away from you and roll the fiber up around the needle. This lets you get the edges tucked in neatly and gives you something to manipulate during the rolling.

Finding Time | Woolen Diversions

Tidying up the puni.

Once all the fiber is lifted off the card and around the needle, you can lift it off and bring it down to the front edge of the card to roll it up a few more times. This compacts the fiber around the needle and neatens up any stray fibers.

Finding Time | Woolen Diversions

Spinning!

Then you spin! While I love spinning with supported spindles, the tahkli took a little getting used to. It’s extremely lightweight and does not stay vertical or spin for very long because of it. However, it does spin extremely quickly so it adds twist to the fiber at a fast enough rate to keep it all together. It’s a very different feel than spinning with Russian or Tibetan supported spindles but I’m enjoying the exploration so far.

How do you like to reward yourself after a lot of hard work?

WIPWed #62: Anti-Progress

I think there must be some force in the universe that is actively preventing me from making any knitting project progress. (I suspect that force is Time, or The Lack Thereof… perhaps with a healthy dose of Indecision.) Here’s what I accomplished (ha!) this week.

Spindling:

Turkish Spindles

Three little spindles L to R: Capar Large, Jenkins Aegean, Enid Ashcroft Mini

I’m enjoying playing around with my three little Turkish spindles. On the Capar to the left is some Louet Merino/silk, on the Jenkins Aegean in the middle is a BMFA yak/silk blend, and on the mini Enid Ashcroft is Miss Babs Merino/silk. I’m amazed at how differently they each spin! The Capar feels slow and steady. The Jenkins is flighty and needs lots of attention (i.e., multiple flicks per make). The EA is easygoing and a real pleasure to use. I pick them up here and there throughout the day. I have not yet made a habit of spindling for long, productive lengths of time nor have I gotten comfortable spinning out and about (like, say, waiting in a doctor’s office) which is when most of my crafting time occurs. Do you spin in any unusual places?

Simply Royal:

Picture2

BMFA BFL superwash, colorway Royal. Click for project page.

You’ll have to pretend like that’s a current, decent picture of my sock project… because it’s not. The purple area is meant to represent the length it is at the moment. Some progress, yay!

The Project That Isn’t:

Cephalopod Yarns Traveller | Woolen Diversions

Cephalopod Yarns Traveller, colorway Hobart, IN.

Just before we left for Costa Rica (like the night before), I went crazy (“I won’t have enough knitting, OMG!!!” ha) and wound up two skeins of CY Traveller for an emergency airplane project. I had decided I wanted to knit a Brickless shawl, but then I noticed how different my two skeins were. The top skein has a much bluer/greener cast and the bottom skein is more on the orangey-brown end of this colorway’s spectrum. (In case you’re wondering, the skeins were split in half so I could force them to fit into my bursting carry-on. See: crazy.)  I tried alternating skeins while knitting and it just didn’t look tidy with the way this pattern incorporates bound off edges into the design. I knit the tip of this shawl about 4 times, each time second-guessing myself and wondering if it wouldn’t be better in a thicker yarn with some silk in it (my original plan) or at least some better-matched skeins. Then I remembered the other projects I had wanted to knit with the Traveller yarn:

Photo copyright Hunter Hammersen. Click for pattern page.

Like the Chrysanthemum frutescens hat…

Photo copyright madelinetosh. Click for pattern page.

Or the Honey Cowl. I think if I use half of each skein for each project and alternate for a bit in the middle, the color differences shouldn’t be too noticeable, more like a gentle fade in tone. I should have enough yarn for the hat and a small version of the cowl. A fun and easy fall accessory set should be just the thing to get my knitting mojo back. Have you ever had a project that just did not want to be?

Check out Tamis Amis for more WIPs!