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 / 55β€œ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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.

Always Knitting

Despite the past couple of posts being all about sewing, there has been, and always is, knitting going on. I think I’ve had at least one project on needles since…. 1977? And before that always some kind of craft project in the works. Since I was very young. Anyway, here are the latest knitting projects.

It’s hard to believe, but even with this shoulder injury, I’ve finished six things so far this year (photo above)! I’m surprised myself. A sweater, a baby blanket, a pair of socks, a hat, a shawl, and a huge Shetland lace christening blanket.

I only have two things on my needles right now – a hat and a test knit for a friend that I really can’t talk about much. I can show you a bit of that project and a nice tip for changing skeins of yarn.

If you are knitting something with an edge that will always show, like a shawl, or cardigan where you are knitting the front edges at the same time as the rest of the sweater, or in any situation where an edge will not be hidden with a seam or picked up stitches, you want that edge to remain beautiful. You don’t want to see, anywhere near that edge, where a new yarn was started or ended. How do I do that?

You can see in this knitted piece (photo above) that the ends of new and old skeins begin and end inside the knitted edge. I knit with the old yarn to the end of the row, turn, and then knit back to the end of the edging section (in this case, 5 stitches). Then I add in the new yarn and continue knitting the row to the end. Turn and knit back all the way to the end of the row, passing by the point where the yarn was added in. Turn and knit to the yarn change point, 5 stitches in. Pick up the old yarn and continue down the row to the end. Turn and knit back to the end. Continue in this way for a few turns and then cut the old yarn (or when you run out of that skein, if your yarn estimation is good!). Continue knitting with the new yarn. In this way you can weave in the ends farther into the knitted piece where it won’t be seen and the edges remain perfect. Actually, if you are knitting with commercially dyed yarn with a matching dye lot number, you don’t need to do this back and forth exchange of skeins. Just start and end the skeins inside the edge. I knit with both skeins for a few turns because they are hand dyed and are not identical and I didn’t want a jarring change to be seen in the knitted fabric.

The other photo I can show you of this project is the pile of bobbins I’m using to knit the intarsia part of the design. Yes, it’s intricate and fiddly to get started, but once you are 10 rows into it, it’s less fiddly and starts to become automatic knitting. And the results are stunning, trust me. πŸ˜‰ I hope to be finished in a couple of weeks to show you the FO.

As for the hat, I’m knitting this with Western Sky Knits Merino 17 in the color Cake. This is the softest yarn you’ll ever knit with, other than cashmere. And I’m sure it will pill less that cashmere. I’m knitting the pattern Musselburgh from Ysolda. This is going to be a double thickness hat. You start at the crown of the inside, knit to the bottom edge, keep knitting the same length to the shaping of the crown, then decrease to the outside crown point. You end up with a tube with rounded points at each end. Fold one end into the other and voila a double thick hat! I’m knitting this with 2.5mm needles with a gauge of 8.5 stitches/inch, which is smaller than the smallest gauge in the pattern. I just estimated how many stitches I’d need based on the other sizes/gauges given and also compared it with a few other hats I have. So far so good! It’s super easy tv watching knitting, even though my shoulder still can’t take very much of that. I hope to be finished before it snows.

Finally, I UNKNIT something this week.

Last year at Stitches West I bought yarn, Sincere Sheep Cormo Worsted, with the advice from the lovely Yarniacs. I bought 6 skeins thinking it would be plenty for a sweater. I knit Foldlines, by Norah Gaughan. I love the pattern. I love the yarn. Unfortunately I made the 42″ size for a boxy fit (which ended up being 45″ with my gauge) and I didn’t have enough yarn for long sleeves. I hardly wore this sweater because 3/4 sleeves with a worsted weight sweater just didn’t work for me. I needed a warm sweater, which needs long sleeves. So, again with sage advice from the Yarniacs, I decided to frog the whole thing and I will reknit it in a smaller size and will have enough yarn for long sleeves. It took me all day yesterday, painstakingly pulling out the seams and woven in ends, to unravel it and now I have 660g of balled up yarn.

Next I need to skein it up for washing before I can think about starting to knit it again. Along with a couple of other sweaters I’m looking forward to starting. Without hurting my shoulder again.