Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WIP Wednesday: She Who Knits and Runs Away...

Rips and Knits another day!

The Wyvern Sock cannot make me feel guilty anymore. I loved the color of the STR Mustang Sally, the firm dense yarn, the dragon scales, and the new toe-up flap heel I tried. Just, not all at once. I was well past the heel on the first sock, but this yarn wants to be something else (toe-up Monkeys, Kate?) The pattern wants to be knit with something else, something lighter and less dense. The foot was a little too long and I didn't want to give these to my sister, I wanted to keep them for myself. RIP. Problems solved. That was easy.

STR Monkey Sock toe-up
Monkey, Maybe?

Or maybe since Sock Madness Round Two calls for STR this sock toe will not survive the week either. We'll see.

And, I love the Sea Fever Cardi too. No, don't worry, I haven't ripped it. But, I'm giving myself permission to put this on the back burner again. Small projects are better suited to my necessarily short attention span right now. I'm leaving in two and a half weeks to spend two and a half weeks in Seattle with my nephews while my other sister is away. I need to get the taxes done, a bunch of client work done, the house Spring Cleaned because the Hubs has out-of-town guests coming while I'm away, wash some fleece, and finish the secret project, and y'know, stuff.

And knit the second round of Sock Madness, which starts next Tuesday. So,...


WIP’s in Active Rotation:

Bird in Hand: Kate Gilbert’s stranded mitten pattern, knit in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, charcoal and blue.

Status: First mitten Done! Second mitten cast on! My gauge has worked out to between 6.5 and 7 stitches per inch, for a mitten that's just a tiny bit large on me. I think fulling it slightly will be just the ticket. Click each photo for bigger!

Bird in Hand - Mitten One back
Back

Bird in Hand - Mitten One palm
Palm

Bird in Hand - Inside back
The inside? Why yes, I can show you the inside

Bird in Hand - Inside palm
Why no, I haven't woven the ends in yet

Goal: Work on Mitten #2. I'd like to finish this project soon.


Secret Project: Still a secret, but it's coming along after a break for Sock Madness, and a mitten. It is soft and pretty.

Status: About halfway done.

Secret Project - detail

Goal: Finish in the next week!


Startitis Alert:

Meh. A spring sweater (didn't I just put a sweater on hold?) A shawl, which one? Truthfully, I'm having a bit of knitting and spinning and blogging ennui. I have some reasons. It will pass.

I'm looking forward to signing up for and hopefully getting into a workshop at SOAR. I'll be teaching a basic lace class at the Fall Fiber Festival. And I'm working out how and where I might teach occasional knitting classes at some other venue, since it did NOT have a happy outcome teaching at the LYS.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WIP Wednesday - Mad Slacker edition

All the WIP's have been sadly neglected, again. But, I did knit something!

FO - Zombie Socks:

The first round pattern for Sock Madness 2 was released last Thursday, and I knit a pair of socks in about four and a half days. With lots of breaks. I missed making the cut in the first round last year, literally by minutes, and I was determined this year. Determined, I tell you!

Sock Madness 2 Zombie
OOOoooooooOOOOOOOoooooo

Zombie Socks, designed for SM2 by Emm1e, were knit in Colinette Jitterbug, Castagna colorway, on US0/2mm circs. Because the very stretchy drop stitch consumes extra yarn, I finished up the toes with some Koigu KPM.

Notes:
When I say this pattern is stretchy, I mean STRETCHY! Like, I could fit both feet in there stretchy. The drop stitch is easy to knit, and looks OK in this variegated yarn. Though I think it looks better in the photos I've seen of it knit in semi-solids. Knitting this again, I would definitely reduce the stitch count, by one or two repeats around the leg, then add stitches for the plain stockinette portion of the foot if needed.

The eye-of-partridge heel flap was knit with a garter border, and gusset stitches were picked up in the ridges. Several knitters opined on Ravelry that this was quite a bit fiddlier than picking up the bars between, but all agreed it gives a nice finished look, with no holes and gaps.

Sock Madness 2 Zombie - Heel detail
Click for bigger

Given how much extra fabric was knit, I ran just short on the toes using one of the old put-up 100g skeins of Jitterbug, and finished with some Koigu. But, I do think I could get a pair of socks, even for my size 11 canoes, out of one skein of Jitterbug. For the competition, I knit 9 full repeats of the drop-stitch pattern, then a few plain rows before the toe decreases. They were still a bit short for me, so I've already ripped the toes and am re-knitting them with a few more plain rows.

Sock Madness 2 Zombie - Toe
Here's a good look at the drop stitch pattern, too

ETA: I forgot to mention, that I really enjoyed knitting with the Jitterbug. It's tightly spun but not as stiff as the STR lightweight I'm using for the Wyvern Socks. I was knitting with a combination of Addi and KnitPicks US0's, and didn't find the yarn to be splitty at all. The finished socks have a nice sturdy but cushy feel. I expect the fabric will bloom a little with a soak, and I'll let you know after a wash how the dye holds up.

Other WIP's:

All languishing, except that next up when the sock toes are finished this AM is the Secret Project. It's still a secret, but here's the yummy yarn I'm using.

Secret Project - Yarn
Lovely to knit


Startitis Alert:
Startitis Watch Level - Low.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Ardmore Round Tower
Round Tower, Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland, 1984

Many of you would have no way of knowing that I spent most of my life named O'Reilly. My sisters have even more irish names than I and the week the three of us spent in Ireland with our Dad in 1984 was amusing at times. "Oh, the Da, the three girls!" We arrived by overnight ferry from France (I don't know what the Canadian kid down the bar did, but I was drinking free whiskeys on the ferry because I was American not Canadian), I was the designated driver, stick shift, left-handed, on the wrong side of the road, with a hangover. Let me mention now that the Irish, known for their fatalistic attitude, drive with no fear of death. It was June 1984, early Summer, beautiful, and President Reagan was touring the Irish countryside (while we all hoped no Irish eejit would lob a bomb at him).

I've not been back since. But the Hubs has asked me to plan a trip to Ireland for September and it will be fascinating to see how things have changed, and what remains timeless.

Sláinte

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mail Box

Admit it! When you see one of these, doesn't your heart beat just a little faster?

Mail Box
And then, sometimes, your next thought is "Hmmm, I don't remember ordering anything"

Well, this time a big Thank You! goes to Norma, who just had her fourth blogiversary, and a contest, and I was among the lucky winners.

Prizes from Norma

Lucky indeed! The yarn is pretty tiny-new-leaf green Piece of Vermont merino/bamboo/nylon fingering weight in the Hoping for Spring colorway. Bamboo gives it a really nice subtle sheen and a soft silky feel. Though it's machine washable, there's enough yardage for a shoulder shawl, and this is too nice for the feets. Plus, yummy Vermont maple syrup (I love the real stuff!), and TRUFFLES from Vermont Nut Free! I am definitely hiding these from the Hubs.

Truffles from Norma
Ooops!

For such a thoughtful package of local Vermont goodies, Thanks Norma! Love your blog.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Sky - March 15, 2008 & Socks

Tall things. Oak trees, pine trees, lilac stems, 4-element SteppIR multi-band yagi antenna.

Saturday Sky 20080315
Wait, that's the Hubs' hobby

Does it say something about how much I am used to the ham radio tower and antennas that when I snapped this photo this morning, I didn't even notice the antenna was in it?


Sock Madness 2 Zombie - 02
Socks-in-Progress, and a really cute little bag from Sandra's Satchels (at the Pike Place Market in Seattle) that my sister C sent for my birthday

The Sock Madness 2 Zombie Sock is coming along, slowly but surely. Sock #1's gusset is nearly done, and Sock #2 is halfway through the first of four pattern repeats on the leg. I am really just hoping to make it through the first round this year, but need far fewer distractions (like my work computer making an unscheduled trip to the shop yesterday when I was trying to get client work out the door). Really, I'm not a fast knitter, and if I knit too much, my arm gets a little mad at me. So, the goal truly is to have some fun, and see what crazy patterns the designers have come up with this year.

Sock Madness 2 Zombie - 04
Fortunately, I had help

Sock Madness 2 Zombie - 03
A LOT of help!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sock. Madness.

Sock Madness 2

Yes, I am.

Sock Madness 2 Zombie - 01

Sock Madness 2, First Round, Zombie Socks, Colinette Jitterbug in Castagna, KnitPicks US0/2mm circs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Got Fleece?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled WIP Wednesday to bring you the following special report. WIP Wednesday will return next week at its regular time, unless I’ve still been spinning instead of knitting, and teaching knitting classes instead of knitting, and rolling in fleece instead of knitting, and, well you get the picture.

The nice UPS man brought me two big boxes. Two big boxes of fleeces. Almost 18 pounds of fleece. Does that seem like a lot? It seems like a lot to me.

Skylines Farm Fleeces

We’ve had a bit of sunny breezy weather this week, so I’ve aired out the fleeces (they were cooped up in a box for a week), and washed a handful of each fleece to sample. Here’s what I’ve got.

Rosalie, a Romney-Suffolk-Columbia ewe, half a fleece, 3.5 lbs

Skylines Farm Rosalie

Mostly pale soft grey, with some darker sections that I separated out. Medium crimp, long staple 4-5”, easy to spin.

Skylines Farm Rosalie - Staple


Shirley, a Romney-Montadale-Suffolk ewe, 6.5 lbs

Skylines Farm Shirley

Medium grey, and somewhat variegated – more of a pewter grey than Rosalie’s cloud grey. A little softer and finer than Rosalie, long staple 5”, medium crimp.

Skylines Farm Shirley - Staple


Beverly, a Romney-Montadale-Suffolk ewe, 6.25 lbs

Skylines Farm Beverly

Very dark brown/black with a slight chestnut cast and a little bit of silver shot through the fleece. Medium crimp, long staple 4-5”. Beverly is soft like Shirley, with a staple length more like Rosalie.

Skylines Farm Beverly - Staple


Carole, the mystery girl, a portion of a fleece, 1.5lbs

Skylines Farm Carole

This was a surprise addition to my order since Beverly was re-skirted just before shipping and the lost weight was made up with 1.5lbs of Carole’s fleece. I just completely forgot to ask until today what sort of sheep she is, but you’ll hear more about Carole in the future since this is very nice fiber. Variegated ranging from medium grey to very dark grey/dark brown. Medium crimp, long staple 5”, very soft.
ETA: Melissa emailed to let me know Carole is a Romney ewe lamb, and this is her first fleece!

Skylines Farm Carole - Staple

Carole has had a bath and is enjoying the afternoon out in the sun and breeze.

Skylines Farm Carole - Washed
Oh yeah, that white in the back, that’s the rest of 8oz of alpaca from North Star Alpacas, that’s had it’s bath and is out drying too


Now, for a minute, I need to sing the praises of SkyLines Farm and Thank Melissa again! Rhonna (enabler of the first order, even though she is all the way over in Norway) pointed me to SkyLines’ Handspinning Fleeces page where one can not only purchase prepared roving, but also reserve raw fleeces prior to the year’s shearing. Each fleece has a description, including last year’s weight, and photo, and is reserved by email and held with a PayPal deposit. The sheep are raised largely with organic practices, and a compassionate approach to predator management. The website has a wonderful description of their Great Pyrenees guard dogs. The farm’s philosophy certainly seems to inform all that they do, and these beautiful fleeces reflect it.

The fleeces have been well skirted, have very little VM and very few second cuts. The fleeces are not particularly greasy (some sheep breeds have a lot more lanolin), and not particularly dirty. So, the samples and Carole have been pretty easy to wash.

But, I’m leaning towards sending most of this out for washing and carding. See, I have a washer, a top-loader, but it is incapable of filling the tub with hot water to soak the fleece. It will fill a few inches with hot, then start pouring in warm, which just will not do for washing a raw fleece. I have already given Carole a wash, but had to resort to the bathtub after a first wash using the washer just didn’t get the job done.

I’ve also been playing with a new toy, a Strauch Petite Drum Carder, which was a belated birthday gift from the Hubs. Encourage your significant other to pursue an equipment-intensive hobby, and your reward will come when your own birthday rolls around. Still, I do not see myself carding pounds and pounds of fleece! So, I have some ideas on small batch processors, am leaning toward one who also uses organic methods on their own farm, but would love to hear in the comments if anyone has experience with a good mill.


Samples

Wow is this fiber easy to spin! I took a handful each of Rosalie, Shirley, and Beverly, washed it, carded it, and span it from the batts. The long staple of their Romney heritage, combined with a medium crimp and a smooth hand means each of these samples spun up very easily with a semi-worsted draw and fairly low twist. The fibers bloomed with a wash after spinning for a very light, lofty, bouncy yarn. I think these may be sweater yarns, rather than next-to-skin soft, but I want to sample a bit more to find the best way to spin each fleece, and to try spinning some laceweight.

Skylines Farm - Samples

For close-ups, click to go to Rosalie, Shirley, and Beverly.
Skylines Farm Rosalie - Sample
Rosalie

Skylines Farm Shirley - Sample
Shirley

Skylines Farm Beverly - Sample
Beverly


Meanwhile, I also managed to spin up a small 60yd skein of Bison down, another club fiber from Wooly Wonka. This was not easy to spin, and is certainly not my finest work, but boy oh boy is it soft! Light worsted weight 2-ply, 60yds, 0.8oz, wet finished to full it slightly.

Bison
Oh, give me a home...


And that’s why I haven’t been knitting.


Skylines Farm Carole - Fleece

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Spinning FO: Icelandic Snow Squall and a little Saturday Sky

Snow Squall Icelandic - FO

Spun from Icelandic wool roving, the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club January 2008 offering. Since the fiber was smooth, but not next-to-skin soft, and it’s best use will be for outerwear (mittens or such), my goal was to maximize warmth and spin with fairly loose twist and ply for a lofty rather than tight worsted weight.

Snow Squall Icelandic - Two Ply

That was very easily done. This roving had quite a long staple length, 4-6”, as is typical of this type wool, and enough crimp to hold together. But, I did have to be conscious of drafting more fiber, and letting it spin and wind on with less twist than some of the spinning I often do. I split the roving two or three times lengthwise and did a little pre-drafting especially where the dye was dense, and used a worsted/forward draw.

After it was done and plied, and since I had let the spun singles sit on one of the bobbins for a day or so before plying, I thought I might have put in too much plying twist as it had a pretty strong Z-twist (the plying direction) in the finished but un-set skein. (Should have taken a picture to show you!) But, one of the things we learned at spinning camp is to take a little control sample while the twist is fresh.

Snow Squall Icelandic - Control Samples

Spin a length of single, stop treadling, pinch to isolate about a foot or so of the single and fold it in half rolling it just slightly between your fingers to allow the single to ply against itself, tie this off, save it as a control sample for later plying, join your fiber back on, and keep spinning.

I had done this, and used my sample when I started plying to gauge how much plying twist to use to balance the yarn. So, having faith, I gave the yarn a soak (which awakens any twist that may have set on the bobbin), and about a dozen thwacks on the shower wall. Amazing to behold, the yarn was nicely balanced. Patsy Z was right!

Snow Squall Icelandic - Detail

Day before yesterday, the Hubs asked for some sturdy fingerless mitts for outdoor wear and climbing the radio tower. Now I think I might just have the right yarn for that!


Details:

Fiber/Starting Weight: Handpainted Icelandic Wool Roving / 3.8oz
Purchased from: Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club, January 2008
Spun with: Lendrum DT
Whorl / Tension: Fast Flyer, Large whorl 12 : 1 / Med-High
Plies/Method: 2-ply / standard
WPI/Gauge/TPI: 12-14wpi / worsted /6-7tpi
Yardage/Finished Wt: 185yds / 3.6oz
Started: 3/1/2008
Completed: 3/6/2008
Intended Project: Mittens


And if you want to know why all my photos today look so gloomy,

saturday080308a
It’s 43 degrees, raining, wind advisory

Friday, March 7, 2008

Eye Candy Friday – March 7, 2008

Harbingers of Spring!

ECF 20080307 - Daffodil

ECF 20080307 - Crocus

ECF 20080307 - Forsythia


Also, I owe a long overdue but heartfelt Thank You to Milly at Stitches and Stories and Natalie at The Yarn Yard (go see her beautiful yarn and fiber) who each named mine as a blog that Makes their Day!

makemyday

I’m so glad to brighten your day! And I’m so belated in fact, that this meme has pretty much run its course in the blogosphere and I’m not going to officially tag other blogs. But there are plenty that make my day, and a listing of inspiring blogs may be a post for another day!

Things have obviously been a little disorganized lately (understatement), but I’d like to get back to more regular posting, and to bring you some more mini-tutorials from the projects I’m working on. Please feel free to send questions in the comments, or email me.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! I’ve just gotten an email and will be meeting Robin H and Mary tomorrow for a little yarn browsing and spinning wheel enabling!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stretchy Bind-off

Well Jenny quickly spotted the “design feature” on my Swap Mitts! I used a K2tog bind-off and out-thought myself trying to remember which way I’d bound off the first mitt. So, I knit one through the back loops and the other through the front loops. Either way, it makes a nice bind-off that is good for socks if knit loosely, and is similar to an even stretchier bind-off used for shawl edges that you want to block assertively.

Now, I’ve seen this sort of bind-off done at least two different ways - knitting two stitches first and knitting a stitch between each decrease (Evelyn Clark), or just launching into the decreases with no stitches in-between (Nancie Wiseman & Vogue Knitting). The first method results in a stretchier and more substantial bind off, the second is a little firmer, but in my opinion, still easier to knit stretchy than a standard bind off. The choice to knit through the front or back loops depends on whether you want the look of a distinct chain or not, and to a lesser extent, if you are binding off from the RS or WS.

A photo? Of course! Here’s a little swatch from the RS:

Stretchy Bind-off - Four Ways
Click to go to full size on Flickr


Directions:

#1 K2tbl Bind Off with a stitch between:
Very stretchy, with the look of a chain stitch on the side it’s knit.

Knit 1, *Knit 1, insert tip of left hand needle from back to front through the front loops of both stitches on the right needle so as to knit them together through the back loops. Repeat from * to *.


#2 K2tog Bind Off with a stitch between:
Stretchy, a bit more fiddly than #1 since you really have to slip the stitches back to the left needle.

Knit 1, *Knit 1, slip stitches back to the left needle, K2tog*. Repeat from * to *.


#3 K2tbl Bind Off:
Firmer, but can be knit loosely for a fairly stretchy edge, chain stitch on the side it’s knit. When knitting in the round, I would knit this with one stitch to start, rather than none, as I find it easier to make a neat join at the end of the bind-off.

*K2tbl, slip this stitch back to the left needle*. Repeat from * to *.


#4 K2tog Bind Off:
As #3 this is firm, but can be knit loosely for a fairly stretchy edge. Again, when knitting in the round, I would knit this with one stitch to start.

*K2tog, slip this stitch back to the left needle*. Repeat from * to *.


And here are just a few links that I’ve checked out on this topic. Google is a great tool when looking for information on knitting techniques. But I’ve also found that I have to use quite a bit of common sense in evaluating the results, as each of us is posting our own opinion and experience. Remember, YMMV!

Knitter's Review Forum post

Grumperina
SheeptoShawl
WeebleKnits

WIP Wednesday Lite – March 5, 2008

How did it get to be Wednesday again so soon? What have I been doing for the past week to get so little knitting done?

Well, one reason is that the Hubs got home on Saturday, and I hadn’t seen him since February 12. I went off to take care of my Dad, and he’s been away helping settle his father’s estate. Before he leaves again for a long-ago-planned week in FL with some pals, we had to get some serious work done.

See, I work with the Hubs in the consulting business he started with two partners 14 years ago this month. Over time, one partner was excused, the secretary left for greener pastures, and the other partner was bought out, leaving just the Hubs. Shortly after I met the future-Hubs, I left a career in construction management (the last four years spent with non-profits) that had left me burned out and a bit crispy around the edges, to “help out” in the office while I hunted for a new job. Seven years ago. Sometimes we work really hard, long hours. Sometimes we have a lot of free time. Sometimes it’s stressful working without a safety net. Sometimes just the thought of going back to having a boss and a “real job” gives me the shivers.

But, this is supposed to be about Knitting. I can make this brief. I’ve knit a few inches on the handspun scarf. I’ve spun a bit (that’s a post for another day). I’ve started a top secret project (twice to find the yarn I liked) that you can’t see until a little bit later. No I didn’t knit on the sock, or the mittens, or the sweater. Because I am Bad.

Peer pressure won’t work unless you make me feel like a slacker for my lack of progress, OK.

You will get a two-fer today though as I’ll have a post on the stretchy bind-off used on the mitts up in a little bit.

Startitis Alert:
What am I supposed to do now that my Wooly Wonka Seasons of Lace package has arrived? Zephyr 2/18 in a rich spruce green and a brand new pattern, Zephyros by Miriam Felton. Go look at Mim’s photos as they really capture how pretty this project is going to be.