Finish Line

I finished this skein of yarn during the Closing Ceremonies. (And, IMHO, the most boring Olympic ceremony EVER. Good thing I was multitasking.) But, was it really ”finished”?

As I said in my last post, nothing is constant except change, and even after I wrote that post I changed my mind about this spinning project. It was last Friday and I still had to finish the 3rd bobbin and also the 4th bobbin, 50g, of very thin singles to spin, and then ply. I wasn’t going to make it by Sunday. I had a brain wave! I love 3 ply yarn. So, why not 3-ply those first 3 bobbins and be done! Then later I can spin 3 ply yarn again with a different set of 3 colors, and again with yet a DIFFERENT 3 colors. I’ll end up with 3 slightly different colored skeins of about 125g each, which will be enough for a light weight sweater. And that is what I did. (Skein 1 using colors 1,2,3; then skein 2 using colors 2,3,4; then skein 3 using colors 1,3,4)

Back to the ”finished” question. Here is a photo of the skein of yarn on Sunday, just after plying it and skeining it up.

Unwashed

And here is a photo, taken in similar light, in the same spot, after washing and drying.

After washing and drying

Here is a close up side by side, unwashed left, washed right.

Can you see the difference? When I finished plying it I was kind of disappointed. It was not very soft and not at all fluffy. It didn’t look overspun at all so I guessed it was just the type of wool and prep (commercially dyed and prepared Corriedale top, fiber from New Zealand, 25-30 microns). BUT, after I soaked it in very hot water and some wool wash, let it hang dry, it’s much softer and is even a little fluffy. NOW I consider it finished. NOW I like it a lot! And I’m enthusiastic about starting on those other bobbins for the rest of the sweater quantity of yarn.

Consistency

This photo shows you exactly where I am with my 4 ply 200g spinning project. Not as far as I’d hoped, but not bad considering all the things going on around here. The top 2 bobbins are done (50g each). The lower bobbin is almost done and the fiber on the left has to be spun. And then ply them together. The plying will be quick and easy. I love plying.

I’m very happy with the consistency of the singles I’m spinning. This is Corriedale fiber that I bought from World of Wool (in the UK). It’s lovely to spin. I find I can spin it very fine or thicker with ease. I highly recommend this fiber for beginners and advanced spinners alike, plus it comes in a huge range of colors.

Speaking of consistency, there seems to be a serious lack of consistency in my life! Change is the only constant, which is something my husband is not always happy about. He longs for more consistency, less change. I seem to attract change like a magnet.

One change is that we are now the proud parents of 2 great big 9 month old Ragdoll cats. Their previous owner couldn’t keep them and we jumped at the chance to bring them home. They are the biggest cats I’ve ever owned, and the fluffiest. It’s taken a little adjustment on all our parts but Jake and Frank are settling in well.

Jake & Frank

The biggest news is that I have a new job. I’m pretty excited about it. I didn’t realize how excited I would be about working again. As my husband said, “you aren’t the retiring kind”. I guess he’s right. I missed having extra money for fun things. I missed using my brain to work out problems. I missed colleagues (ok, only the good ones 😉 ). And then this job fell into my lap and I’ve grabbed it up. It’s only 3 days a week so I still have time for fun things too, like my craft projects and accordion playing. But, it’s a change and requires finding a new routine. I’m suddenly busy. I’m suddenly having to plan my days. The consistency of our household is going through a period of inconsistency and change until we find a new rhythm and a new consistency.

I will still keep up this once a week posting, and I hope to still have enough interesting things to show you. I still have big plans for Experimental Spinning. I might expand the blog topics to include not only what I’m working on, but places that I visit that are craft/design related. Writing this blog will be a consistent thing in an ever changing world. 🙂

Spinning for Gold

The Olympics have started and so has my Ravellenic Games spinning project.

There is a group on Ravelry that organizes the Ravellenic Games (which used to be called Ravolympics until the Olympic Committee threatened Ravelry with a lawsuit and shutdown if they didn’t change the name. Which pisses me off to this day.) to coincide with the games. There are “events” for types of knitting/crochet projects, and spinning. You pick your own goal and work towards it from the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing Ceremonies.

For my Ravellenic Games project I chose to spin 4 ply yarn, matching the 4 ply swatch I made in Experimental Spinning 1. I really thought that I could spin 540g of lace weight singles and then ply it all in 3 weeks. I was silly.

Opening Ceremonies spinning with the Dutch team.

I started spinning during the Opening Ceremonies and after Day 1 realized that there was no way I was going to get all that done. So I’ve revised my plan. I’m now going to spin 50g of each color and ply them together and then see what day it is. It might be Day 21! We’ll see.

This first color took me 4 days to spin. Here’s the finished 50g bobbin.

pinky finger size comparison

I’m spinning this project on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0, which I really love. I can set it in front of the TV and spin away.

I’ve also been working on my cardigan. Here’s a photo of the body (mainly the back). I’m knitting the body in one piece, flat, up to the armholes and then I’ll split and knit the fronts and back separately.

The yarn is actually more brown than this, but you know, photos in winter light….

Part of the slowness of the spinning and knitting is that I don’t have good light at night. I would normally knit while watching tv but my husband complains that my lights disrupt his tv viewing with a big blob of light reflected in the tv.

I’ll have to see if my NEW JOB seriously impacts my craft time. I’m starting a new job next week but it is just 3 days a week so I still have plenty of time for spinning and knitting and writing here. I’m pretty excited about working again and it really seems like the perfect situation.

Next week I’ll have another finished bobbin to show – maybe 2! Are you watching the Olympics. I’m watching every day. I love the Olympics.

Goodbye 21, Hello 22

In this year of stops and starts, ups and downs, open and closed, left and right, here are my best 9 projects of 2021. All of them are on Ravelry if you are interested in more details. From top left:

  1. 374 grams, 2670 meters of Shetland lace weight, spun on a Schacht Matchless; knit into 9.
  2. Shark tank baby blanket made for the newest member of the family
  3. 920g of 2-ply Aran weight, 70% Shetland fiber, 30% sparkly merino/sparkles, spun on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0
  4. Canal Poncho, pattern by the fantastically talented Nancy Marchant
  5. Exploration Station shawl, pattern by the also fantastically talented Stephen West
  6. Sweater Spin 2021, knit with yarn from 8.
  7. Best Vacation Ever sweater, my own pattern, knit with 10 colors of Holst Garn Tides
  8. 450g 3-ply BFL, fiber dyed by me, knit into sweater 6.
  9. Shetland christening shawl, 140cm / 55“ square, 291g final weight, knit from 1.

If you know me, you know I’m a planner. On 1 January 2022 I’m planning my projects for the coming year…. Finish the 3 projects that are in progress. Make yet another baby blanket. Spin the next episode of Experimental Spinning. Send an article proposal to Ply Magazine. Knit another version of the Best Vacation Ever sweater and write up the pattern. Sew a dress with my own designed fabric. Sew a dress with all of our cast off jeans. And then we’re up to summer and I want to do some dyeing outside……

I have also been thinking about this blog, and Instagram and FaceBook and Twitter, and how to make this all work together and create things that others find interesting enough to come back to. I have re-opened the Under Dutch Skies FB page. I’ve linked Instagram to that page and also to my Twitter account. Today’s blog post will be a test to see if the link between WordPress and those accounts play nicely together and will post simultaneous updates.

That’s the technical side of things, but what about content? What am I trying to do here? What keeps the blog from becoming a chore instead of a fun creative thing? I have found that trying to write a blog post every week with a “big story” is really difficult. I am not that fast with my projects! I really want to write about the start, middle and end of a project every week. But, starting in 2022, as you are seeing here, I’m going to write more often, smaller posts, and at least once a month write a longer complete project (or technique) post.

I’ve been blogging for a long time (those old years are archived now) and I found that when I wrote something every single day for a month, my readership went way up. People have the attention span of fleas and if you aren’t creating, they aren’t coming back. I’ll start writing more. Please come back!

What are you planning for 2022? Are you planning ahead or do you just pick up what feels good in the moment?

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.