Ketchup

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Oh I have so much to catch up on! I’ve finished a lot of stuff since I last posted here.

Let’s start with the above shawl. Done! What a project – from the dyeing to fiber blending to spinning then knitting. It was a 6 month labor of love.  The end result is really lovely but I was very glad to be finished with it.  I was tired of looking at those colors every day for so long.

Then I made a hat for a precocious 5 year old.  This was a quick and easy off the top of my head knit using Wolmeise in color Red Hot Chili.  Perfect.

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Then I made a baby blanket and romper that I had to get done before we went to the Netherlands so we could give it to the new parents-to-be. They are scuba divers so I thought the sea turtle was better than a teddy bear.

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And THEN I made a sweater for myself.  I decided I had so much yarn in stash that I had to start knitting sweaters – maybe even a sweater a month! If you are going to make such a bold statement like that it’s best to start with a sure success, which meant knitting with bulky yarn to get it done quickly.  I really love this sweater and wore it almost every day during our vacation and even the past few cold days here in SoCal.  It’s knit with Cascade Eco+ Wool which is a lot softer than I imagined it would be.  The patten is from Vogue Knitting Fall 1994.  Some things just don’t go out of style.

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And of course I had to knit a couple of gifts for my friends who I miss so much.  It was so great to see them, even if just for a short evening.

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Last but not least, I finally finished these socks.  I started them in February 2017! OMG what a bad case of second-sock-syndrome.  I only really finished the second one because it was the only plane knitting project I had going on to take with me.  I worked on it a lot during our layover in Toronto on the way back from Amsterdam, and also on the plane until they turned the lights out.  I do have a light with me, but I always feel a bit guilty turning on lights on a flight when so many are trying to sleep or watch movies.  I am pretty good at knitting without looking, but with this patterning on the legs I didn’t trust myself to do it.  But they are DONE and I love them!

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PHEW! That’s a lot of knitting.  But there is also spinning!  I just finished spinning 108 grams of 2-ply lace weight, gradient from dark turquoise to light green, BFL/silk.  This is a gift for a friend who has given me many hours of podcasting joy.

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Lastly, I’m almost finished with a worsted weight lace cardigan for myself, but I don’t have a good photo of it yet.  I hope to have it done this weekend.

My next projects will be hats for charity.  I’m going to make hats for the Camp fire victims and most likely take them up to Chico at Christmas time.  I’ll keep you posted.

And that is my project catch up post for today.

I have been seriously considering starting a second blog, that is not at all fiber or knitting related.  Since moving from the Netherlands to the US I have a lot of stuff in my head that needs to get out into words and into the world.  I am afraid of alienating any blog readers I might still have, or would attract, who are only interested in the crafting posts.  What if I had buttons at the top that said “click here for only craft related topics” and “click here for NON-craft topics” and “click here to see everything”.  That seems easier than creating a whole new blog.  Stay tuned.

Gradient in Lace

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I’ve made good progress on my Evenstar shawl in the past week.  I had a lot of hanging around time last weekend and also a lot of sitting in the car while DB drove knitting time (yes, you read that correctly, DB is driving!) If you’ve been following along on Ravelry or FB you might be thinking “Hey, you were going to make Briarcrest with that hand dyed, gradient blended, hand spun yarn! What gives?” And you would be right.

I haven’t even finished spinning all the yarn for this project.  I still have the solid light blue to finish up.  I’ve got one bobbin done and I’m half way through the second bobbin of singles and I’m trying with all my might to keep up the enthusiasm to finish it off.  I’m just so ready to be finished with this spinning project!  And at the same time I’m super excited about knitting the shawl, so you know where I’m spending my time.

I ended up with 104g and 636 meters in skein 1, and 95g and 595 meters in skein 2. That’s already going to make a huge shawl.  When I thought about wearing a huge triangular shawl, I just didn’t see it making me happy.  If I have that much gradient yarn to use up I’d much rather put it to good use in a square or circular shawl.  And Evenstar has been on my radar for AGES.  It was time to cast on.

You can see more photos of the yarn on my Briarcrest hand spun Ravelry project page.

I WILL make Briarcrest, which is really a perfect shawl for hand spun yarn.  But I will make it with some Shetland gradient that I spun as a fractal.

I’m such a nerd that I’ve made a spreadsheet to track progress of the shawl to see how I’m doing against a KAL deadline. Yes, another deadline project.  I swore I wouldn’t do these anymore for a while, but this one is fun and with fun people and it’s very relaxed with a long 3 months to get it done.  This is the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL (all info here). You cast on the first day of Summer and must be finished by the first day of Fall.  That’s in order to be in the drawing for prizes. But I’m really going with the attitude that I will do my best against the deadline and that’s all the pressure I’m putting on myself.  So far I’m ahead of schedule according to the spreadsheet calculations!

I’ve calculated the total number of stitches in the shawl, how many stitches I’ve done so far and what % that is, compared to the number of days in the KAL and the number of days into it we are now.  And the % of yarn I’ve used up.  This is almost as much fun as the knitting itself.

In other news, two weeks ago I painted my little Electric Eel Wheel Mini.  I used chalk board paint and then found some chalk markers to write on it.  I really love the idea of writing on the bobbins what I’m spinning. Not that I would forget.  Probably.

The bright green makes me happy.  What makes you happy?

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Grey

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Sometimes what first seems like failure is not failure at all.  Last night I tried to make yarn from two small bobbins of spun singles, Shetland wool, and it was a disaster.  The singles were so badly spun – uneven thickness, terribly under spun – and it just fell apart in my hands before I could twist the two together.  I managed to get about 10 grams plied, and then I gave up and just unwound the rest into a ball of grey wool.

But I will never throw it or give it away.  This failure represents something valuable to me, in memory and symbol.

I spun the singles about 10 days ago (can it be that long ago already?) while staying in a little house with DB and my mom, in Chico, California. We had originally planned to arrive later, nearer Christmas, to spend it with Mandy and John.  But we got a call from John telling us that Mandy’s fight with cancer was about over and we’d better come sooner.  So we changed our flights, but she left us the next day.  We arrived in Chico in time to say good-bye to her in spirit, with family and friends and all the love we could muster for each other.

While waiting for the day of the memorial service I tried to stay busy.  And spinning is like meditation for me, so I spun this wool.  I was really struggling with it and the wheel.  Everything seemed jerky.  My hands weren’t able to smooth out the wool very well.  I thought it was bad wool.  I thought it was the fault of a new wheel that needed to be broken in.  But I continued on and finished this little bit of 20g of grey Shetland and I set it aside.

It was spun with grief and sadness.  It was spun with no chance of being useful for anything other than a meditation on that grief.  It was never going to be used for anything other than what it was – a way to focus my mind on the turning of time and the world around me and to try to stay centered in the hub of that turning.

And grey was the perfect color! I felt grey. The world felt grey and still does.  Fog and rock, rain clouds and big bad wolf fur.

Yesterday, 8 days after Mandy’s memorial service, I started spinning in color again.  Red Shetland.  Red as roses, red as big bad wolf blood.  Red as the blood in my veins as long as that blood flows.  Color will return to my world slowly, I’m sure of that, because anything else would be contrary to Mandy’s voice in my head, nagging me to “Carpe That Fucking Diem Auntie”.

For Mandy I will spin colors of vermillion, and chartreuse, periwinkle and blaze orange.  For her I will do my best to seize each day and live it like she lived her life – full of more color than most of us can imagine.

She was the color in my life, manifest in a person who shone so bright, like all the colors of light combined into one beam.

The grey wool will stay with me always.  It is grief and pain that I can hold in my hands.  I can touch it and see it and put a shape to it.  And I can slowly, so slowly, put it in its place in my heart and in my house.  And begin to find color again – Mandy colors – unexpected and true and unique and fine.

Pop Up Shop @ Stephen & Penelope

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The announcement above says it all – come on down to Stephen & Penelope on the 7th or 8th of November and participate in Spin Days!

I’ll be there all weekend with spinning fiber to sell and a couple of spinning wheels for you to try out.

The very talented Christopher Kale will be giving spindle spinning lessons on Saturday.

Myself, and a few others, will be there with different kinds of spinning wheels, spinning flax into gold. Come see for yourself.

If you have a spinning wheel, or a spindle, come on over and join in the fun.  And buy some fiber of course!

Introducing Blend A

I’m very happy to introduce you to Blend A.  On the left is the un-dyed fiber, worsted spun and 2-plied.  The skein on the right was spun in the same way after dyeing in a succession of color from dark green, light green, yellow, orange and finally dark pink.

What is the blend? BFL, Oatmeal BFL, Merino, Silk, Mohair.  I love the shine and softness of this combination!

Now that the yarn is finished, what should I make with it?  I want to make something to use as a sample for this blend.  I’m thinking that a cowl would be nice. With the un-dyed background and color work green leaves and above that, flowers.

What do you think?  Any other ideas?

Here Comes the Sun

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

After stressing myself out over a contest project, which I finished just in time, but can’t show you yet, I jumped right in to finish some long waiting WIPs.

The vest on the left was 99% finished for so long!  All I had to do was weave in the ends and block it and it was done.  The one on the right has been finished for over a year but I never posted anything about it.  I was always planning to write up the pattern for these vests.  Left is a size L and right is a size S.  What I like about the pattern is that the size differences are in the size of the leaves.  The neckline and armholes areshaped along the leaf decreases, in the same manner, no matter the size.

I decided that the design is not so special, and I’d probably spend a lot of time writing it up, and no one would publish or buy it.  I am wearing the yellow one.  My niece is wearing another size S version in a light brown, and this green one is destined for my friend N’s wardrobe.

For all of them I used Madelinetosh Vintage, a worsted weight yarn.  Above you see colors Terrarium and Edison Bulb.

Luckily today the sun came out in the afternoon so I could quickly take these photos.  Thanks to DB for holding the pole. 🙂

I also did some spinning this morning.  In my jammies.

A First!

Here are my new fingerless mitts that I finished last night.  I knit them with my own hand spun yarn.  This is my first finished project with yarn I made myself!

They fit snugly and are very warm.  The fiber was 50/50 merino and silk.  I cabled plied the singles (first time cable plying!) which resulted in a worsted weight yarn.

I’m pretty proud of this first project!  They aren’t perfect, but I don’t expect perfection.  I only expect warmth and a smile on my face when I look at them.  Success!

Stash Enhancement – Hilltop Cloud

Falling down the rabbit hole that is Ravelry, I found a new source for spinning fiber, again from the UK.  Hilltop Cloud is located, more precisely, in Wales, and specializes in British breeds of wool.  I was especially excited about her gradient dyed fibers.

I saw these kits (there are TWO kits pictured above) using Welsh Black Mountain fiber mixed with silk.  The idea is that you spin up the colored fiber separately from the dark fiber and then knit them up as fair isle mittens.  She has examples on her web site.

Of course you can spin this up in a variety of ways to achieve mitten yarn.  You could split each colored braid in 2 length-wise, spin them up and 2 ply them so that you have exactly the same yarn for each mitten.  Or spin it up and chain ply it to keep the colors together.  Or fractal spin it.  So many possibilities!

But I saw this combo and immediately thought “Brioche!”.

I bought 2 kits.  My plan is to spin the colored braids from dark purple, through blue, green, yellow to red – and then add on the other braid starting from red, through yellow, etc etc so that in the end I have 2 bobbins.  Each bobbin will be identical double rainbows.  Then I will 2 ply them so that I have 100g of double rainbow yarn.

I’ll spin and ply up the dark brown to the same wpi.

Then I will knit them together into a 2-color brioche shawl.  Ta da!

I was so excited that I started on the color right away, the same night that I got the package in the post (VERY quick shipping by the way).

She also has a lot of undyed fiber in her shop and I couldn’t resist trying some from a breed of sheep I’d never heard of – Dorset Horn.  I bought 200g for 8£ total. Wow!

It’s pretty soft (not as soft as Merino, but far softer than Texel) and looks like it will be wonderful to spin.  AND it just so happens that the “Spinner’s Study” group on Ravelry has voted to study Dorset Horn in January!  Perfect!

I will certainly buy from Hilltop Cloud again.  Stay tuned for more photos of this gorgeous fiber!

Skein 5 – Pink Party!

Remember this ball of merino/nylon I bought back in September?  It’s from Fondant Fibre in the UK.

I started spinning it in September and then it got set aside while I worked on some other spinning and knitting projects.  I picked it up again 2 weeks ago and finished it off.

Here are the 2 bobbins of singles.

I had started spinning this back before I was making lace weight singles.  Coming back to it after 2 months meant that I had learned better technique in that time and wished that I had actually started this thinner.  It was not easy to match the same thickness of the single after so long and forgetting what I was doing in the first place.  This is something I need to remember for future projects, at least while I’m learning and EVERY spinning project is something completely new and different.  Finish what you start in pretty quick order or you will forget what you were doing and how the spinning felt in your hands!

Anyway, I pretty quickly finished the second half of the 120g ball.  The fiber is super soft and was prepared very well.  It really flowed through my hands like water. I wanted to keep it fairly thin so that I could maximize the yardage so I 2-plied it.  It came out like this:

Now, notice that there is no white in this skein while there was white in the fiber? Well, when I dropped the skein into hot soapy water to soak, so much dark pink dye came out that the water turned that color immediately.  I left it alone to soak until the water cooled off and then hung it to dry.  The dye colored the white fiber a light pink.  I don’t mind.  It’s still really nice and there’s less of a barber pole effect now.  But this is something I’ll keep in mind next time and I’ll also let the seller know what happened.

The resulting yarn is about a sport weight – 300 meters to 100g.  I have 116 grams (from a 120g ball of fiber).  I think I’ll make a really simple scarf out of it.  It’s so very soft and bouncy and will feel really nice next to the skin.  I have to hold myself back from casting on right NOW!  But first I have to finish some other knitting….

Close but not quite – Skeins 3 & 4

Remember this fiber I bought in September?  Merino and silk.

I spun it up into a heavier than lace single and then cable plied it and now I’m making mittens!

I’m really happy with the yarn.  It was my first time cable plying and actually this is only my 3rd skein of yarn EVER.  I worked really hard to finish spinning it before my last business trip so I could take the yarn with me as a travel project.  This is as far as I’ve gotten since other home-bound projects have taken over my time.  I expect I’ll pick them up and finish the mittens before Christmas.

Now, I had also bought the lighter colored sister of this fiber, also in September.  This..

I started spinning this in September and finished spinning the single in October.  I went for lace weight and did really well at making lace weight singles.

I decided to do a 2 ply. Here is the skein with also a tiny little bit of chain ply with the leftovers from one bobbin.

I have to say, this is not as nice as I was hoping for.  The chain plied bit I like a lot, but the 2 ply is just kind of blah.  Boring.  The colors blended together into this kind of flesh toned boring thing.  AND the ply is too loose.  The only positive thing about it is that I’ve proven that I can make lace weight yarn. 🙂

I have thought a lot about what to do with this skein.  I could run it through the wheel again making a tighter ply.  I think I’d like it better then.  But that means I have to wind it either into a ball or onto a bobbin first and we’re taking 800+ meters/yards of very thin yarn. Not fun.  And that doesn’t solve the boring color.

OR I could do the above AND over dye it an interesting color.

Or I could just use it for further spinning practice by running it through the wheel again and over spinning the 2 ply a bit and then turning THAT into a 4 ply, just for practice.

OR I could just chalk it up to experience and set it aside and move on to something else fun and interesting to spin.  Life is short….