2015 First Quarter Plans

Last week we discussed the knits I finished in 2014, and the intention words around which I’ve chosen to focus my year. I also mentioned needing a ‘plan of attack’ for my WIPs and yarn stash. For the stash, I’ve ruthlessly gone through and and either donated or put up for destash all of the skeins that I don’t foresee using anytime soon. (If there’s anything in my regular stash that you’re interested in, feel free to inquire as well, I might be persuaded to let it go.) For the WIPs, I’ve decided to split the year up into quarters (3 month chunks) and have listed a 5 ‘new’ projects (began since Dec 2014), 4 sock WIPs, and 3 other WIPs (projects begun prior to Dec 2014) to work on each quarter.

Woolen Diversions

Knitting plans for Jan – Mar.

 

Let me tell you, when you only allow yourself a certain number of projects to knit at a time, it really forces you to choose wisely! I’ve given careful thought to the yarns I want to work with, the variety of projects I like on my needles, and the finished objects I’m anxious to wear to sort out my lists. I have not planned out every new project through the entire year, but I did assign all my WIPs to each quarter so I will at least be required to either finish them or frog them at some point soon. The above photo represents my first quarter knitting plans (minus 2 sock WIPs that I forgot to pull out).

New Projects:

Sock WIPs:

Other WIPs:

Phew! I bet you guys are sick of lists by now, but I have one more.

Woolen Diversions

Spin the Bin 2015

 

This year’s CTA Spin the Bin Challenge! The idea for this challenge is to pull out 12 ‘types’ of fiber from the depths of your stash, put them in a bin, and commit to spinning the whole shebang this year. This helps a spinner stay focused when the shiny, new, colorful braids are being too tempting. You only need to count 2 oz as one ‘type’ of fiber, so it’s easy enough to spread large bunches of fiber out over several categories, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t spin new fiber, just that you also commit to spinning up some of what you’ve had for a while. Here are my 12 types, many of which have been lingering in stash since 2012.

Spin the Bin 2015:

  1. Loop! Kermit Coordinate Bump – 5 oz
  2. TwoSistersStringworks Gotland in Rime – 4 oz
  3. TwoSistersStringworks Gotland in Canopy – 4oz
  4. BMFA Sheep 2 Shoe Kit in Single Cell Dating Pool – 4 oz
  5. BMFA Sheep 2 Shoe Kit in Single Cell Dating Pool – 4 oz
  6. Woolgatherings Polwarth/Silk – 4 oz
  7. Woolgatherings Polwarth/Silk – 4 oz
  8. Woolgatherings Polwarth/Silk – 4 oz
  9. BFL x Cormo locks – 2 oz
  10. BFL x Cormo locks – 2 oz
  11. BFL x Gotland locks – 2 oz
  12. BFL x Gotland locks – 2 oz

As you can see, I’m taking what are really 7 different fiber stash entries and spreading them out over the 12 ‘types’ for the year. There are plenty of other things I want to spin this year, but these bin spins are on the list because I don’t want to keep putting them off, especially the BFL cross locks. I’ve only committed to the minimum for those fibers, since I’m considering washing and prepping them by hand to be part of the challenge for me. Plus, I have a full pound of each and I’m not yet sure what I want to do with all of it, the goal this year is just to sample them.

And those are all of my lofty plans! If I manage to accomplish all of my first quarter knitting and the first three Spin the Bin goals, I will have used up 20 skeins of yarn and 13 oz of fiber. Not bad, right? Here’s hoping I can make it!

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Happily Handspun

I’m pretty sure I think/say this every time I finish a skein of yarn, but this one might just be my prettiest handspun yet.

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This gorgeous thing is the finished product of my brief drum carding experiment. I blended about 5 oz of undyed baby alpaca fiber with about 2 oz of blue/green silk and a sprinkling of firestar. I carded each little batt twice and the spinning was delightfully fluffy and easy.

IMG_6397I absolutely adore the way the little pops of color from the silk shine through the soft, white base of the alpaca. The carding blended the fibers enough so that the yarn has a bit of a heathered look from afar, but up close you see all of the variation. Guys, it’s seriously pretty. I almost can’t stand it.

IMG_6426I even broke out my yarn balance to try to take some more accurate measurements of this skein and my last skein of handspun (pictured above). To use a yarn balance, you cut a length of yarn about 2 feet long (possibly longer if it’s a thin yarn) and let it hang from the arm of the balance. Then you remove the yarn, snip little bits off the end, and replace it until the arm no longer slams down as soon as weight is added. On my balance, the arm didn’t exactly move into a balanced position at any point, I kind of had to help it along. I figured that if it didn’t slam down immediately and if I was able to lift it back up again while the weight of the yarn was on it, then that was balanced enough.

IMG_6427Once you have your balanced length, you measure it. In the photo above, the top strand measured 12.0 inches and the bottom measured 9.0. You then multiply the length of yarn (including any decimal places) by 100 to calculate that the grist of the top yarn is 1200 yards per pound and the bottom (alpaca/silk) is 900 yards per pound. This means that if I had spun up a full pound of fiber, I would have had 900 yards of yarn at this yarn’s thickness. What’s interesting is that I measured 344 yards for this yarn on my niddy noddy before washing. The ball of yarn weighs 175 grams, or 0.386 pounds. When you multiply 0.386 pounds by 900 yards/pound, you get about 347 yards, which is very close to what I had measured on my niddy noddy, so that’s a nice check!

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There’s a helpful chart in this blog post that compares yarn weight to wraps per inch and yarn grist. The grist for the alpaca/silk, and the fact that I measured about 12 wraps per inch, puts it in the DK/light worsted weight range according to that chart and one I have from a Spin-Off magazine. There was a handy article in KnittySpin recently that was all about measuring your yarn, if you’d like to read about this topic further.

This skein makes the 3rd finished of 12 planned spinning projects in 2014 for my Spin the Bin challenge. Not too shabby for April! I am pretty sure it needs to become a Morning Surf Scarf. What do you think?

Going Batty

There are so many spin-alongs happening right now that I don’t even know where to start! I guess first I’ll chat about what I’m most excited to spin: the Jenkins Woodworking “Just Batty” Challenge.

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Gorgeous Nunoco batts!

The Jenkins Woodworking Lovers group is a very active, enthusiastic group of spinners on Ravelry full of people who really, really love their Jenkins spindles.They organized a great little SAL for April – June where we each chose 5 batts that we would like from Nunoco fibers, then purchased one batt that our downstream partner liked and received one batt from our upstream partner — so we ended up with 50 grams in a colorway that we expected and 50 grams of a surprise colorway that was in our list of favorites.

My two colorways: Hafgan and Underwater Love

My two colorways: Hafgan and Underwater Love

I’m really enjoying spinning my batts. One of the first ‘nice’ yarns I ever spun was made from a batt and I just love the way that the light, fluffy preparation drafts. A well-done, drum-carded batt makes such a nice, smooth yarn — even when there are ‘bumpy’ additions to the fibers, the light preparation drafts more evenly for me. I like the way that the different fibers play off each other in the mix, too.

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My pretty Aegean spindle, wearing some Hafgan.

I also finally learned how to wind a neat and pretty cop (or ‘turtle’ as they’re called in the bottom-whorl Turkish spindle world). The Simply Notable blog has a great photo tutorial on fancy cop winding that shows the process clearly. I’ll be spinning each of the Nunoco batts separately and then plying them together, it should make a pretty, subtly-shifting, pastel skein. I predict some really wild yarns from some of the batt combinations that the other SAL participants received, so it’ll be exciting to see the results!

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Alpaca carded with blue/green silk.

I’ve also continued working on my third Spin the Bin challenge skein, 5 oz of alpaca that I carded with about 2 oz of silk. I have to admit, I don’t know how the people at Nunoco create such smooth, even batts because I just did not have the patience for it. I used the drum carder only a handful of times in the month that I had rented it and then gladly gave it back. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather spend my time spinning and leave the batt-blending work to the artists who are really good at it!

There are two more ongoing SALs of which I’m aware. You can read about one over at the Porpoise Knits blog. Briefly, the goal is to spin samples of every yarn (or even just some of them!) described in Chapter 2 of The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design, which I’ve previously blogged about here. I love this book and think this SAL is a crazy, crazy idea… so I love it even more. Whether I get a chance to actually do it is another story, but I’d certainly like to make some time to try. Come join us over in the Porpoise Pod group if you decide to play along, too!

In case you’re unfamiliar, Rachel of Porpoise Fur (I freakin’ love that name) is a dyer of beautiful British wools.

The last spin-along I wanted to chat about is sponsored by Louet and The Woolery, an amazing source for spinning equipment and supplies. It’s a 3-month long ‘spring training’ event for which each month involves new techniques, goals, and prizes. You can play along in either or both the Louet or Woolery Ravelry groups. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do for this one yet, either, but it just might involve that Shetland fiber pictured above, since one of the goals is to spin some different sheep breeds. You can find more details over on Stefanie’s blog at Handmade by Stefanie. Check it out!

(Note: I’ve recently become an affiliate of The Woolery. If you click on a link to their site from here and subsequently make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage. I really enjoy their store and am happy to support a company I believe in. I also aim to respect my readers by keeping them informed, so now you know!)

WIPWed #48: Pshhhh, What Commitment Issues?

I am having serious commitment issues — though not about knitting. I’m planning a honeymoon to Costa Rica and I am having the absolute hardest time choosing where to go, where to stay, what to see. I’ve read no less than 790 pages of travel guides in the last 3 weeks and have spent countless hours browsing hotel websites and I think I know where I want to go, but two things are stopping me: 1) thinking about all the lovely things that I’m NOT going to get to see in different parts of the country since I can’t be everywhere in one week and, 2) the cost. Oooooooh, the cost. Pulling the trigger and committing to spending that much money on one trip all at once — oooh boy, is that hard. (Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to have this “problem”, but this will be the first big trip I’ve ever planned/taken so it’s kind of scary! I want to get it right! Costa Rica-related travel tips appreciated, if you have them!) Anyway, when it comes to my knitting, I’ve actually been extraordinarily committed. Remember my recent failures? Well, I resolved one of them.

Festooned Joy:

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BMFA Socks that Rock Lightweight, colorway Comfort & Joy. Click for project page.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that my two previously not-matching socks, now match. I frogged back the heel and shifted it over three stitches in order to get the purl columns to occur at the edges of the instep next to the gusset, like they did on the first sock. It wasn’t a big fix, just time-consuming and a little bit face-palmy, but thanks to three hours of Monday meetings the fix hardly set me back time-wise at all. Onwards!

Kelp-y Kelpie:

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Brooklyn Tweed Loft, colorway Sweatshirt. Click for project page.

My Kelpie shawl is progressing nicely, as well. The Loft yarn is probably not for everybody, it’s not “scratchy” but since it’s woolen-spun, it has an unusual “spongy” texture while knitting and the finished fabric is very matte. It feels a bit like pebbly velvet… sort of. Hard to describe, but very interesting!

Stitch Block Blues:

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Quince & Co. Osprey in Glacier, Peacock, and Belize. Click for project page.

To reward myself for so much committed knitting, I started a new project: Purl Soho’s Stitch Block Cowl. What you see above is my swatch, to test out how my lovely new yarn from Maine would look in the pattern, and the very beginnings of the cowl. This project is a great example of why you should always swatch, even for a simple garment. [Cue mini swatch lesson!]

The pattern is written to produce a cowl that is 12.75″ wide with a 51 stitch cast on and a gauge of 4 sts/inch using worsted weight yarn on size US 7 needles. I know that I personally like knitting worsted weight yarn on size US 8 needles, especially a thicker, nearly-aran weight yarn like Osprey (which I am now madly in love with,by the way. Delightful stuff!). So I swatched, measured, washed, let dry, and measured again. My gauge was 3.24 sts/inch before blocking (5.25″ wide swatch divided by 17 sts that I cast on for the swatch) but it stretched a bit width-wise after blocking (to 5.5″) giving me a blocked gauge of 3.01 sts/inch. Now, if I had cast on the ‘required’ 51 sts at my gauge, my cowl would have turned out to be nearly 17″ wide! Since this is a simple pattern that just requires an odd number of stitches, it is easily customizable. Therefore, I cast on only 35 stitches so my final cowl should be about 11.6″ wide (35 sts / 3.01 sts per inch = 11.6 — plenty wide enough for me). In summation: always swatch, if you care about the look/feel/proportions/size of your final project!

StB #1: Alpaca for Mom:

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Long Island Livestock Alpaca Firestar. Click for handspun project page.

And finally, here’s some solid progress on my first Spin the Bin challenge for 2014. Those bobbins hold 6 oz of lovely alpaca fiber, waiting for plying (my favorite part). My goal is to do finish by Friday so I can gift the skein to my mom when I go visit this weekend. (We are going wedding dress shopping. I’ve been dreading this experience for a long time solely because I hate dresses and I hate shopping, so if I never blog again, you will know I did not survive. [Cut dramatics.])

Well, I’d say that’s more than enough out of me this week! Hope you’ve been making good progress on all of your projects this week, as well. Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis!

IS #61: Spin the Bin 2014

I have to say, I think I found my new favorite spinning group over on the Ravelry forums: Completely Twisted and Arbitrary Spinning. They’re fun, welcoming, and really anything but arbitrary in their spinning because they’ve inspired me to organize myself and join in with their Spin the Bin 2014 challenge. The idea is that you choose 12 items from your stash that you wish to spin this year, and then you attempt to do it all! If you remove something from your list of 12, you have to add 2 other items to make up for it, so there’s a little bit of incentive to stick to your plans. Just the other day I was dreaming up all the spinning projects I wanted to undertake and lamenting the lack of a spinning queue feature on Ravelry to keep track. This isn’t exactly the same but it’s great motivation to commit to some of the things I’ve been meaning to get around to doing.

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My grand, grand plans.

There are a few things not pictured because they are still on their way to my house but once they arrive, I’ll have 85 ounces (over 5 pounds!) of fiber to spin this year. That number sounds kind of scary, until I remember that I did spin up 11 ounces in one week for Spinzilla in October, so it should be doable. Here are the details for my 12 bin items.

1) Long Island Livestock Company Alpaca Firestar, 2-ply, 6 oz

Alpaca Firestar. Click for project page.

I’m halfway done with this spin already, but since I started it after January I’m still counting it. This will be a DK-ish weight 2-ply for my mom when I’m done.

2) BMFA RWC Camel/Merino/Silk in Spring Dreamin’, 2-ply, 5 oz

BMFA Camel/Merino/Silk. Click for project page.

Similar to the alpaca, this spin has already been started (post-January) and will become a 2-ply yarn. However, this beauty will be for me!

3) Pigeonroof Fibers BFL with Frabjous Fibers BFL Sparkle, 2-ply, 8 oz

Frabjous Fibers BFL Sparkle. Click for stash page.

My Pigeonroof Fibers BFL hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll be spinning up the Filigree colorway for this quarter’s CTA spin-along. (It’s so pretty!) I’m thinking that it will look lovely plied with this Frabjous Fibers braid.

4) Loop! Bump in Kermit Coordinate, 2-ply, 5 oz

Loop! Bump. Click for stash page.

This is the fiber that I am planning to ply together with the other Loop! bump that I am currently in the middle of spinning. The other bump won’t count for this challenge, but this one will. I think plying the two together will have a neat fractal effect on the color changes.

5) BMFA RWC BFL and Merino/Silk in Sleepy Hollow, possibly 2-ply, 8 oz

BMFA BFL and Merino/Silk. Click for stash page.

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this Rockin’ Whorl Club kit yet. I’ve seen some gorgeous examples of yarn where people spun each base and then plied the two together. I love how the silk stands out like little jewels. I might do the same with mine.

6) BMFA RWC Polwarth in Prism and Winter Solstice, 2-ply, 8 oz

BMFA Polwarth. Click for stash page.

I don’t have a photo of the Winter Solstice yet, but it’s a basic light grey. I have 4 oz of the Prism left and plan to either ply each color with itself and knit a two-color project, or ply the two colors together to create a muted rainbow, like in this lovely example. Still deciding.

7) BMFA Sheep 2 Shoe Kit in Single Cell Dating Pool, 3-ply, 8 oz

BMFA Sheep 2 Shoe Kit. Click for stash page.

I think I’ve finally gotten to spin thinly enough that I should be able to make a decent skein of 3-ply sock yarn, so that will be my goal with this kit.

8) Plymouth Yarn Alpaca carded with Silk, ? ply, 7 oz

Plymouth Yarn Alpaca. Click for stash page.

I received this baby-soft alpaca for my birthday and have ordered 2 oz of shiny, blue-green silk (that I’m still waiting for) to go with it. I’d like to use the drum carder I’ve rented to blend the alpaca and silk together into fluffy batts. Not sure how I’ll spin it yet, let’s see how the blending goes, first!

9) Two Sisters Stringworks Gotland in Canopy and Rime, possible 2-ply, 8 oz

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Two Sisters Stringworks Gotland. Click for stash page.

Again, I’m undecided about how exactly I’ll spin these, I think they’d work great spun separately and knitted together into something stripey, or plied together for a different look. Either way, I want to try out this Gotland fiber sooner than later, so it’s in the bin.

10) BFL x Cormo fiber, ? ply, 8 oz

BFL x Cormo fiber. Click for stash page.

I have about 16 oz of these lovely, unwashed locks stashed and I think it’s a good goal to aim to wash, flick, and spin up half of them this year. If I do more, great, but I wanted to commit to less than the full amount just in case I hated the process for some reason (which I obviously hope I don’t).

11) BFL x Gotland fiber, ? ply, 8 oz

BFL x Gotland fiber. Click for stash page.

Similarly, I have a bunch of these BFL x Gotland locks stashed that I’d like to experiment with. For these, I want to dye the locks in a few different colors and try combing and blending the colors into some sort of gradient (I think – don’t hold me to that).

12) West Mountain Farm Llama Down, 2-ply, 5 oz

West Mountain Farm Llama Down. Click for stash page.

Finally, last-but-not-least, a little bit of llama down to spin up since I’ve never spun llama before. I’m hoping it spins similarly to the alpaca that I’m enjoying so much right now!

Phew! I’m a bit tired already just looking at all of that fiber but I’m also feeling really excited about all the lovely yarn I’m going to make. There’s nothing I like more than a good plan. I’m sure I’ll spin other things throughout the year but it will be great to have this list to keep me motivated when I feel like I’m lacking inspiration. How do you choose what to spin (or knit, or make) next? Do you find goals to be helpful or a hindrance to your creativity? What’s been inspiring you, lately? Link along or leave a comment below and let us know!