Holidays Lazy Days

Mitten cuff

It’s the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year – technically a holiday week here in NL – but I’ll still write a little something on the blog. I have no finished object to share, but I do have some new projects to show you.

Above is the first cuff of my Kainoruusu mittens. I’m making them per the pattern, mostly. I just can’t help but modify something in every pattern! I’ve added the 2 Latvian braids below and above the color work section (the red and white candy cane). The cuffs I’m making in red and white and the rest of the mitten will be dark grey and white.

The yarn is some Estonian yarn that I bought during my trip there in 2013. It’s not soft yarn but it’s sturdy and great for mittens. It should be softer after washing, but I wouldn’t want to wear it around my neck.

Here’s a photo of the inside, in case you’re curious what that looks like. I always like to see the inside of things. 🙂

Inside

I’ve also started a pair of gloves for DB. When we went to Texel a couple of weeks ago (to get our Christmas lamb) he saw this yarn and wanted to buy it for himself. Either for a hat or gloves. I was secretly hoping for a hat, but in the end he chose gloves.

left hand

You can see that I’m working up the hand, increasing on the right side for the thumb. I chose the pattern, thinking that it would be great for gloves – sturdy and long wearing. That is certainly true! But the stitch pattern used is hurting my hands to knit. The pattern is Seascape Gloves. Here’s a closeup of the stitches. This multi-colored yarn doesn’t make it easy to see, but it’s a 2-stitch twisted thing.

You put the right needle through the first stitch on the left needle, and knit the SECOND stitch on the left needle, bring your right needle back out, and knit the first stitch through the BACK loop, then slide both stitches to the right needle. I had no idea it would cause my hands so much trouble. But you know, the things we do for love.

Here’s the inside of the glove.

I’m trading off working on the mittens, then the gloves, so my hands get a break. There has also been a little spinning going on, for the next Experimental Spinning post. Hopefully I’ll have that ready to show in another week.

These dark days make photography so difficult! I spend a lot of time trying to get the colors to match what my eyes see. I think I’m pretty close this week.

That’s it for craft pursuits this week. I’m also practicing the accordion and cooking and baking and taking care of the neighbor cat while they are out of town, and visiting family. I hope you are having a nice holiday week and can find joy, even in the smallest of things, during these pandemic times. Til next week, happy end of 2021!

Experimental Spinning – 1

Corriedale fiber

For the past couple of years I’ve been thinking about writing a book. About spinning. Because I have so many questions and I want to take readers on a trip with me to find the answers. Writing a book feels very daunting so I’ve decided to take it in pieces, starting with blog posts, and starting with this one today, which is why it is titled with the number “1”. There will be many more of these spinning experiment posts, put into a separate category on the blog called “Experimental Spinning” so as not to confuse it with just every day normal spinning. 🙂

I’ve already got many topics outlined and summarized like chapters in a book and I hope that they will fit nicely into blog posts. Otherwise I’ll chop them up to fit.

The format for each topic will be the same: Subject, Hypothesis, Methods, Testing, Results, Conclusion. For anyone who has taken science classes in school this should look familiar. It’s a way to structure this work and make it easy for someone else to follow the steps and see if they get the same results, or to modify the experiments to test a similar hypothesis. I hope this will make sense as we go down this road together, my readers and I.

OK, now that I’ve set the scene…

Experiment 1 – Effects of multiple numbers of plies on color and texture

Hypothesis – 3-ply yarn is the best for knitting/crochet. It is round and bouncy. Colors play well together in 3’s. 2-ply is less round, 4-ply is ropey and 5-ply even worse. More than 3-plies in multiple colors is just not pleasing to the eye. Therefore, 3-ply is the best yarn to make when planning to make garments from spun yarn.

Methods – As you can see from the photo above, I have 5 similar colors of fiber. This is Corriedale that I bought from World of Wool (WoW) in the UK. The colors range from dark to light, blue-ish to red-ish and a basic purple. All of the colors are listed in the “purple” category by WoW.

Create 4 yarns, from 5-ply to 2-ply.
1. Create 5-ply yarn: Spin 5 x 10g bobbins, 1 of each color, as lace weight, and ply them together. Wash and set the yarn. Look at the yarn created and choose the 1 color that stands out and remove it from the next round of spinning.
2. Create 4-ply yarn: Spin 4 x 10g bobbins of the 4 remaining colors and ply them together. (I chose to remove the lightest color from this round, using purple, red-ish, blue-ish and darkest colors.) Repeat the washing, setting, reviewing and deciding which stand out color to remove for the next round.
3. Create 3-ply yarn: Repeat step 2 for the 3-ply spin. Spin a little thicker single to try to keep the total grist the same. (I chose to remove the blue-ish color from this round, using purple, red-ish and darkest colors.)
4. Create 2-ply yarn: Repeat step 3 for the 2-ply spin. (I chose to remove the darkest color from this round, leaving the purple and red-ish colors.)
At the end of these steps there should be 4 skeins of yarn, a 5-ply, 4-ply, 3-ply, 2-ply, all different combinations of colors, as close to the same grist as possible.

Testing – The best way to test the results of the method is to knit swatches of each yarn. The photo below shows the swatches from 2-ply on above, to 5-ply at the bottom of the photo. I used size US4/3.5mm needles for all the swatches. Each one measures about 6″ x 5.5″ (15 x 14cm). They were all knit: CO 32 sts; knit 4 rows; (seed st 4 sts, stockinette for 24 sts, seed st 4 sts) for 4″/10cm; knit 4 rows; bind off. Weave in ends and steam block.

You can see that from the 5-ply I removed the lightest color. From the 4-ply I removed the blue-ish color. From the 3-ply I removed the darkest color. What remained in the 2-ply was the purple and red-ish colors.

While I knit the swatches I developed a ranking/testing method that will hopefully show the “winner” of this test and whether or not the winner is the 3-ply that I hypothesized it would be. There are 8 categories and each one will be ranked from 1-5, 5 being best.

Test5-ply4-ply3-ply2-ply
ease of spinning2345
enjoyment of spinning2355
efficiency of spinning1245
pleasing color result3454
enjoyment of knitting3453
ease of knitting3554
hand of fabric3553
visually pleasing fabric2554
TOTAL19313833

Below are close up photos of the swatches, from 5-ply to 2-ply.

5 ply – All 5 colors used
4 ply – Darkest, blue-ish, red-ish, purple colors used
3 ply – Darkest, red-ish, purple used
2 ply – Red-ish and purple used

Conclusion – Obviously this is not empirical testing and the results are subjective. These are my opinions about my own spinning and knitting and color choices. According to the ratings, the hypothesis holds and 3-ply is the best yarn for knitted fabric and mixed colors (of similar hue).

What surprised me? I was surprised by how nice the 4-ply yarn is. I think that apart from the extra time to spin an extra bobbin (as compared to 3-ply), it would have rated right up there with 3-ply yarn. It is NOT ropey, but still soft and bouncy and the chosen colors look nice together. It is not too busy in my opinion.

An observation about the 5-ply yarn – I found that it felt ropey in my hands and the yarn was kind of splitty, meaning that it was easy to split it with your needle while trying to knit. If you have ever knit with Wolmeise sock yarn, you know what I mean. That yarn is 6 plies of wool, however it is so ropey that it feels almost like cotton. Based on that yarn knitting experience, and this spinning experiment, I am coming to the conclusion that anything more than 4 plies is probably not going to be bouncy and lofty.

An observation about 2-ply yarn – The 2-ply yarn is rated so highly in the testing mainly because it is very efficient and easy to make. If I were to give a weighting factor to the table, I would weight the resulting fabric higher than efficiency (I’m spinning for myself after all, not for money) and maybe the 4-ply would have come out with a higher ranking than the 2-ply. The 2-ply fabric is nice, but not as bouncy and kind of boring in the depth of color. I also made a 2-ply using the darkest and lightest colors together to see what that would look like (bonus testing) and it’s really your typical marled effect.

marled 2-ply (darkest and lightest colors used)

In summary, if you are looking for fabric with nice depth of color and nice round crisp stitches, go for 3-ply. If you are just a little more adventurous, try a 4-ply.

Want to play along with my spinning experiments? Please do! I hope to share an experiment per month or two. I’m starting with the most simple and moving on to more and more complex. Next up – Experimental Spinning 2 – Plying the Color Wheel.

Here are some more photos of Experiment 1 results. Enjoy and til next time!

5 ply
4 ply
3 ply
2 ply – similar colors
2 ply light & dark colors

FO & WIP

This past week I finished the 12 recipe tea towels/wall hangings that I started in November. WHEW that felt good to get those off my plate. I hadn’t touched them in several weeks and in that time I had kind of forgotten how I made them so I spent more time ripping out than sewing for the first one. But after that it went smoothly and I finished them in 2 days.

I’ve decided not to trust them to the mail. They’d have to cross 2 countries and 5,000 miles and probably cost a fortune because they are heavy. I will take them with me the next time I visit my mom and mail them from there. Hopefully this Spring. Everyone will just have to wait!

AND I started a new sweater. This one is a cabled cardigan that I could really use in my wardrobe. This is my second winter after returning from California and I need more warm sweaters. This sweater is called Sandstone Peak, designed by Irina Anikeeva. I fell in love with it the second I saw it.

(c) Irina Anikeeva

I’m knitting it with Cascade 220, which I had in stash. The colorway is called “Galaxy” and it’s another one of those hard to capture colors. Most of the time it looks dark brown, but in some light it looks dark purple. On dark winter nights it’s just black and I need a neck light to knit.

The instructions have you knit this from the bottom up, seamless, then knit the sleeves in the round, then put them all together at the underarms and knit the yoke seamless. Well, you can guess from other posts that I am a fan of seams in such a garment so I’ve decided to knit each piece flat and seam it together. It just takes more teasing out of the pattern instructions, especially at the yoke, but so far it’s not too bad. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, which makes it also easy to tear them apart and see the pieces separately. I added 1 stitch at each edge for a selvage for seaming. I’ve finished one sleeve and started the second.

My plan is to have this finished by the end of January, with plenty of winter left to enjoy it. I’ve also got some mittens queued up to start, and DB has asked for either a hat or gloves (he hasn’t decided yet), so plenty of knitting on the horizon.

And that’s my FO (finished object) and WIP (work in progress) for this week. I was hoping to post about my spinning project(s) but I’m not quite ready for that unveiling. Come back next week for some spinning experiments in color.

Sweater Spin 2021

spinning BFL on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0

Since I started spinning I have always had at least one “big” spinning project each year. Some years it was yarn for a sweater and some years it was at least 200g of lace weight yarn for a large shawl. Since the pandemic, and not working (and since I wrecked my shoulder with too much knitting), I’ve spun about 3 times that much per year. This year I finished spinning lace weight Shetland for a ginormous shawl, plus 2 sweater quantities of yarn. And some other spinning tests (more about that next week).

Last week I talked about sewing seams in sweaters and this week I’m going to show you my handspun seamless top-down sweater. It’s good to have options in your knitting!

I had been meaning to spin up this fiber since I dyed it a couple of years ago. I just love red and bright pink together. This is BFL (Blue Face Leicester sheep breed) fiber. I think BFL comes in a close second to Shetland wool for my favorite to spin. It’s very soft, but not as soft as Merino, which means that, for me anyway, it’s an easy relaxing fiber to spin. I’m not constantly fighting to keep it under control. It’s happy to be spun very fine, or thicker – whatever you want, it will oblige.

The fiber itself had to be pulled apart a bit and fluffed up before spinning. I didn’t do the greatest dye job and it was a little bit flat and matted. But with little effort I had beautiful little nests (nests on the left, matted fiber on the right).

I grabbed random nests from my bag to spin the singles. I made 3-ply yarn because that is my favorite yarn to spin and knit and wear. Those 3 plies together also hide any imperfections in your spinning pretty well. I ended up with about 455g/16oz of sport weight yarn. I hoped it would be enough.

I went looking for a super simple, plain raglan sweater pattern. You would think that after all these years I would have a go-to pattern like this all ready to cast on. But I rarely make something simple and plain. 🙂 I do have some books that have calculations for sweaters (“All Sweaters in Every Gauge”, “Knitting From the Top”, “Designing Knitwear”) and I did look through them but I was feeling lazy and just wanted someone to have done the work and figured out the numbers for me. I chose “#265 Mid Weight Neck Down Pullover” by Diane Soucy. Lots of people on Ravelry love this pattern so I felt confident it would work for me too. And it did! Super simple, straightforward no-nonsense pattern. I highly recommend it.

I was happily knitting away (see my previous blog post about fit) when I noticed that my yarn was being eaten up pretty quickly. I hadn’t planned to use the solid colored bits of my yarn because the blended yarn was so much prettier, but I HAD to use it to have any hope of finishing with long sleeves. The length of the sweater was plenty long, so in the end I had to go back and unravel part of the bottom and use that yarn on the second sleeve! I unraveled a row, knit it onto the sleeve, unraveled another row, knit some more sleeve, and on and on until the second sleeve was the same as the first. I ended up taking out 5 body rows.

Since I wanted the body ribbing to be a good length, I unraveled the rest of the ribbing and then 5 body stockinette rows, then knit the ribbing again and bound off. I was left with less than an arms length of yarn. WHEW. The sleeves are JUST long enough. The sweaters weighs in at 453g. I need to remember that number so that I spin at least 500g of sport weight in future to be sure to have enough for a plain sweater. And also measure the length of the yarn, not just the weight. (eye roll here – silly beginner/laziness not to have measured the length)

I’m really happy with the sweater and the yarn and the pattern. It took me exactly one month to knit. Almost-instant gratification! It was a cold grey day when we took outdoor photos.

I also want to share how IMPOSSIBLE it has been to capture the colors of this sweater. In the end, YOU pick which color you like best and I’ll say that’s what it looks like. I tried to take photos in all kinds of light and it was never just right. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Any of them are good. 🙂

Do you plan out your projects, months ahead? Do you fantasy knit or spin? I sure do. I’ve already started another cardigan, I’m planning to make mittens starting the end of this month. I’m going to start a new spinning project the end of this week. I have a sweater planned for January, a baby blanket in February, and maybe a handspun sweater in February too. If I was smart I’d make seasonal items the season BEFORE I want to wear them, but I feel like I’m always running to catch up. I’ve just cast on a winter cardigan but I want to be wearing it now. Maybe I need to just skip a season and jump right into lighter weight sweaters to be ready to wear them in the summer. If I was smart.