Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Spinning Round-Up - February

I seem to have got my enthusiasm for spinning back - hurrah!

So, what have I been spinning during February?

Finished spins:

The green Exmoor Bluefaced has been finished:

98g, 263 metres, so enough for a pair of socks.  This yarn has a bit of a sheen and I'm rather pleased with it.

I continued spinning on my top-whorl wooden drop spindle, finishing off the dark red and then the light, bright green into three singles.  Each single got wound onto the inside of a loo roll and then I used a shoebox, two straight knitting needles and a paintbrush to cobble together a lazy kate before using my wheel to ply the three strands together into a skein of yarn:

This is only 81g (I think I weighed the grey fibre incorrectly as there was less of that than the other two colours), but is 288m in length so, again, is destined for socks.

I spun the yarn on the right using my wheel and, to be honest, I'm a bit disappointed in it.  My plan was to spin it into a sock yarn, so when I plyed the three strands together, I put quite a lot of twist into the yarn to make it harder-wearing.  The fibre is Teeswater, which is a longwool and I prefer a woolier-feeling, softer fibre to spin (at times, this felt like spinning hair) and, whilst I like the look of it and it's got a nice sheen, the 92g skein only measures 184 metres, so if I use it for socks, I might have to use a different yarn for the toes and cuffs and possibly the heel turn and flap as well.  I shall have a think.

Spins in progress:

Last week, I was looking in the cupboard I have in the garage for storing 'stuff' such as cleaning products and came across a plastic bag of ancient Kool Aid and old bottles of food colouring.  Promptly forgetting what I'd gone into the cupboard for, I brought them out, went into my fibre stash and pulled out the leftover cream/white merino roving from my Keith Moon sweater, some white/cream pencil roving from a World of Wool lapwaste bag I'd bought, plus some other random bits of white/cream fibre (that's probably merino as well), soaked them in white vinegar and water, gently squeezed them out and then laid them on a sheet of cling film.  I then randomly splattered the various food colourings and dissolved Kool Aid over the fibre, wrapped it up in cling film and microwaved it to set the colours and this is what I got:

As there's only 72g of fibre, I decided to split it in half, spin each half into one single using my spindle and then use a toning colour for a third strand (which, of course, involved a purchase of various colours of Corriedale from World of Wool - it hasn't arrived yet, so I haven't decided which colour to use yet).

The first half has been spun up and wound into a ball ready for plying:

I find it very easy to pick up my spindle and do a few metres when I've got a few minutes, waiting for DD2's taxi to arrive in the morning and afternoon, waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle, etc, much like knitting a pair of socks, when a round only takes a minute or two.

I've also got another spindle project on the go because I discovered, via a Facebook spinning group, that one of the members (who trades as Cat and Sparrow) is the European distributor for Turtle Made Turkish spindles (she also has some nice-looking fibre, but I resisted temptation).  These are 3D printed spindles and, as well as the bright colours, I like the idea of making yarn in an ancient way, but using tools made from modern technology.  Here it is, with my first effort, which was a 4.5g, 9-metre micro-skein of yarn:

Isn't it cute?  I'm now using it to spin some fibre from a World of Wool lap waste bag that a bit of sleuthing on the WoW website leads me to believe is a mixture of merino and flax; probably the leftovers from someone's custom order:

I've no idea what this will become, but it's good fun.

I also started something new this morning, which I'll talk about in a standalone post, I think, but here's a teaser:

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What a week!

Last week was the half-term holidays for schools in our county, which meant I had both girls at home.  I hadn't made any particular plans, but thought we might do 'something' on a couple of days, just to get out and about.  Unfortunately, the best laid plans, etc.....  The Friday that the girls broke up from school, I went off to Friday knitting group as usual and had a very pleasant couple of hours with our little group, then came home.  I had some lunch and then took Jess out for her early afternoon walk and then sat down.  Half an hour later, I started to feel awful.  Hot, then cold and by the evening, my throat was very sore and all I wanted to do was go to bed.  Fortunately, DH works from home on a Friday, so he cooked dinner while I flumped on the sofa.  Saturday morning, my throat was feeling better, but I'd obviously been hit by a cold virus.  I did go to work on Saturday and Sunday (mainly because it's very difficult for the management team to get cover at the weekend, especially at short notice) but wasn't functioning at full speed and came home feeling very tired after each shift.

So, to cut a long story a bit shorter, I felt full of cold and not up to much all of last week and am only just feeling more like my usual self.  Having a cold impacted to some degree on my crafting, so I haven't felt up to knitting my Na Craga sweater and, although I've started the body cable pattern, there's not a great deal to show and it hasn't been out of the bag for about a fortnight.  So, over the last couple of weeks I've mostly been doing a bit of spinning and knitting easy, straightforward things.

Some of the ladies at Monday knitting group are currently knitting hats, mittens, gloves and scarves which will be going out to Nepal with a volunteer one of the ladies knows as there are still many people without homes following the 2015 earthquake.  I went into my stash and pulled out a ball of Cygnet aran I'd got and made a ribbed hat using The Boyfriend Hat pattern, although I modified it from the original, using 3.5mm needles and casting on 120 stitches.

I then got out my bag of plain coloured Drops Fabel and, holding two strands together (I chose taupe and cream), made the same hat, but knitting in stocking stitch for the body of the hat and the crown.  I won't do this again though and will do a different decrease sequence as the hat's a bit ruffly at the crown (but looks ok on, so I won't rip it back).

I also finished off my plain vanilla socks using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Zombie BBQ colour:

There's nothing special about these socks, except for the pooling that occurred when I increased for the gussets, which is a bit bonkers!

I don't think I've shown the next thing off before (not sure why).  A few months ago I felt the urge to make another crocheted Neat Ripple blanket (Attic24 pattern), using Caron Simply Soft.  I'm using a 5mm hook and the blanket's 140 stitches wide (10 pattern repeats).  I used the weighted random stripe generator from Biscuits and Jam and am about two-thirds of the way through the stripes.  If I decide the blanket's not long enough once I get to the end, I might just start again at the beginning.  This is a project I pick up every now and then when I don't fancy doing something else.

Obviously, despite my best intentions, I haven't sewn in the ends as I go, so that's going to be a bit of long job once I've finished the crocheting as most of the stripes are one row wide!

I'm hoping to get back into the swing of my Na Craga cabled sweater in the next day or so, but having felt so rubbish last week, plus having DD2 at home, I'm behind on housework, so need to get on top of that as the lounge and hall are starting to look like a spider hotel!

I'll be back soon-ish.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Spinning Round-Up : 2016 and January

I've decided to post at the beginning of each month, logging my spinning progress during the previous month.  I'm hoping by doing this, it might spur me on to be a bit more consistent in my spinning and improve my yarn-making skills!  As this is the first one, I'm also including a skein I made last year, which I haven't talked about on here.

The skein of yarn below is waiting to be made into something that I can wear with fond memories.

It weighs 79g and is 241 metres in length (approximately sport-weight).  The background behind it?   I go to two knitting groups.  Monday morning's is held in a local village hall and all are welcome (we get between 7 and 16 people each week).  Friday morning's is much smaller.  There are 8 of us in total if we're all able to make it and we meet in a local pub.  Up until last summer, there were 9 of us on a Friday, but then we lost Joan, a lovely lady in her 80s, who had been battling cancer for some time.  Joan was skilled in many forms of needlework and had amassed a sizeable stash of crafting materials, which one of the other ladies sorted through and then brought to one of our Friday get-togethers.  In amongst the stash were various small bags and packets of dyed wool locks, bits of silk, etc, which we think Joan had used in her embroidery work.  I took those little bags of 'bits' and carded them up into a batt, which weighed 34g.  I spun the batt into a single of yarn and I then found in my stash some fibre that was steel grey, dark blue and rusty brown and spun that into a second single, before plying the two bobbins together to make the tweedy yarn above.  I just need to find a project to knit the yarn into.  Possibly a hat as it's not next-to-skin soft.

So, having spun that yarn, I pulled a new 'bump' of fibre from my stash and started spinning that.  It's a 70/30 merino/silk blend from World of Wool and is called Phoenix.  My plan was to spin a 3ply yarn with a fairly high twist to knit into socks and I'm pleased with the result:

I'm still not able to spin a 3ply yarn as thin as I'd like, but I think I just need to keep going and practice more.  Anyway, this is nice and soft (probably won't last too long as socks, but that's the beauty of making things oneself; more can be made!) and is 97g and 261 metres.

That's finished handspun, so now onto WIPs!

On my wheel:

Some Exmoore Blackface (I think - I was sure I kept the label, but I've misplaced it at the moment).  The fibre was bought from Hilltop Cloud and is a mix of greens.  So far, I've spun two bobbins:

and once I've spun the last bit of the fibre onto the third bobbin I'll play the three singles together and see how much I've got.

the cloud of fluff on the left is what's left to do!
I was hoping to spin this for socks, but my plans may not work out as I don't think I'm going to get the metres I need for socks (we'll see - maybe!) and, at the moment, the yarn's not feeling overly soft, \although that might be because I'm comparing it to the merino/silk of the blue skein.

On my spindle:

Autumn 2015, I bought two basic spindles from Hilltop Cloud, hoping to get DD2 to use them.  She hasn't shown any willingness to spin herself, but I have found that, with her sensory issues and input requirements, getting her to watch the spindle going round and round can have a calming effect on her, so I decided to try and be ready in the morning five or ten minutes before her taxi is due to arrive so that I can get her to watch the spindle, thus setting her up for her school day (and it does seem to help).  Spindle spinning is, for me, a very slow process and so far, this is what I've wound off (yes, onto the cardboard tube from inside a loo roll!):

40g of grey merino.

To go with that (which I'm trying to spin thinly), I've now got some claret red merino on my spindle:

This has gone a little bit more quickly simply because I'm trying to do some every day and I'm about halfway through the red.  Once I've finished that, I'm going to spin another 40g, but of a light spring green and then I'll ply all three together and see what I end up with.

I also started watching the Wool n' Spinning vlog/podcast towards the end of last year and have recently watched the episodes from last year where Rachel (the blog/vlog owner) started using a Turkish spindle so, of course, now I want one.  Will I give in, or will I be good?  I'll let you know next month!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Norby Scarf - Finished

Hurrah!  My new scarf is finished.

I think the top photo shows the colour best.

After blocking (which I did using my wires) it measures just over 6.5" and is approx 6' 6" long, so can be wrapped around my neck twice, or folded in half and the ends put through the loop.

I'm pleased with it.  In fact, I might wear it this morning when I go out to knitting group.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

WIP Round-Up

Now that I've got my Keith Moon sweater finished (and worn!), it's on to other things.

As usual, I've got a pair of socks on my needles.  I started these right at the end of December and progress has been a bit slow:

The colours haven't come out particularly well in these photos - it's hard to find somewhere with decent light in these dreary January days), but the main colours are claret red, a dark auberginey purple, khaki green and a light greenish-yellow.  The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, which is one of my favourite sock yarns and the colour is Zombie BBQ!  When I saw the yarn online and spotted the colour name, I had to buy it.  Because I knit an elongated gusset on my socks, self-striping/colouring yarns do tend to give me some interesting pooling, but that's part of the fun of multi-coloured yarns and, unless I were to make my socks with an afterthought heel (which isn't a good fit for my feet), there's no way of avoiding the pooling.

Also on my needles (and progress has been very good since I started, to the point where I should cast off later today or tomorrow) is a new scarf.  Back in July 2014, I posted about two yarns I'd handspun, from braids of fibre that had been dyed the same, but which I'd spun differently - link to post.  One of the yarns (the one where I'd blended the colours on my drum carder) was knit into a Norby hat in January 2015.  This hat:

It's a hat I like very much (as does DD2, who has worn it to school today).

I'd been thinking since then about what to make from the second skein of that yarn I'd spun and I'd ummed and ahhed about it, thinking that I'd knit myself a Hitchhiker scarf (but then I knit one just before Christmas and didn't want to dive straight into another).  Then, inspiration hit, as it does, on occasion.  A Norby scarf?  Why not!  Using 3.5mm needles, I cast on 41 sts, knit 8 rows of garter stitch and have then knitted three repeats of the hat pattern, which a 4-stitch garter border on either side.  It's going really quickly as the pattern is so easy to remember:

I think I've got about another 5 pattern repeats to go before I cast off and then I'll soak and block it, which will show off the pattern.  I think I'm going to end up with a scarf 5'6" - 6' long.  I'll let you know!

I also cast on a new sweater last week.  I bought 16 (I think - that's what I could find in my stash anyway) balls of Rowan Purelife when it was on sale somewhere (Kemps Woolshop, probably) a few years ago and started knitting Alice Starmore's St Brigid sweater.  However, a few inches into the knitting, I decided that, although the sweater is nice and is considered one of Ms Starmore's best cabled patterns, I wasn't really getting into it and it wasn't really 'me'.  So, I frogged it, with the intention of starting again with the Na Craga pattern, which I decided I preferred.  Last week I finally got round to knitting a swatched as the pattern suggested and ended up going down a needle size to get gauge (which I thought I might have to do) and I cast on a few days ago and have done about 8 rows of the ribbing so far (this one is knitted in pieces and seamed).

Not quite as bright as this in real life - photo taken in artificial light
I shall keep you posted as to progress and with a few more details about the pattern.

The only thing that's struck me is that the scarf and the sweater are similar colours and I can't help wondering if I've done it subconsciously.  Maybe, with all that's going on in the world at the moment, I just wanted to stick pointy needles into something orange!!!  Voodoo knitting?  Now there's a thought.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Keith Moon Sweater - Finished!

My first finished object of the year.

Yes, Keith Moon turned out to be a very quick knit and I cast off last Friday, soaked and blocked it over the weekend.  Drying was turning out to be a slow process, so having patted it out on Saturday morning, when I got home from work in the evening, I folded a bath towel in half, draped it over the shelf in my airing cupboard and then carefully hung the half-dry sweater over it and left it in there until Sunday afternoon, which worked well (I usually hang socks and other small things in the airing cupboard to dry as well - woe betide any members of my family who use the front half of the middle shelf to stack towels!!).

Here it is:

Before soaking and blocking.  Nice, but a bit wrinkled.

After soaking, patting out and drying.  Much smoother and even.

I knit the pattern mostly as written, with just a few modifications:

  • The sleeves in the original have a slight bell shape, which isn't really me and which I think I'd find impractical for my lifestyle, so I cast on fewer stitches and just increased at the same rate as the pattern stated until I had the right number of stitches.  The sleeves are also full length rather than three-quarter.
  • In the original, the hem facings of the body and sleeves are knit in the same colour as the lower band of colour (CC1 - in my case, the blue) and the i-cord edging is knitted in the second contrast colour (CC2 - green for me).  However, I'd read comments about people running out of CC2 and having to buy more, so I used blue for the body hems and green for the sleeve hems because I thought that might use my yarn more efficiently, because buying more roving in the same colours and then spinning them up to the same thickness would be a pain.  I also (as you can see from the photos) used different colours for the i-cords, so green for the bottom and neckline and blue for the hems.  You can see the facings (before the i-cord was knitted on) in the photo below (it's the same photo from my last post about this sweater):

  • Many of the examples of this sweater I've seen on Ravelry have the neckline/collar standing up a bit, but I wasn't sure I wanted that look, so I deliberately knitted a little bit more tightly for that part, which pulled it in just a teeny bit, so the collar/neckline sits flatter.

Am I pleased with it?  Yes I am.  My only niggle is aimed at myself, because one of the skeins of yarn I spun was slightly thinner than the other three, but that's my fault for not making a spinner's control card so I could keep checking while I was spinning the yarn.

Would I make this sweater again?  Yes, I would.  It was a quick, easy knit, but with several nice features such as the faced hems and i-cord edgings.  Would I change anything if I knitted it again?  Probably.  I might put it a few short rows across the back yoke of the sweater so it sits higher than the front.  I might also sew down the neckline/collar facing rather than picking up stitches on the wrong side and doing a three-needle cast/bind-off as I think it would look neater.  As it is, I might sew a length of ribbon around the neck edge, just to finish it off and hide the cast-off line.

So, have I cast on anything since finishing this?

What do you think?  Of course I have, but I think I'll leave doing a WIP round-up for next time.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Keith Moon: A Sweater

I had this idea that the next time I wrote a blog entry, I'd be showing you some cakes of yarn and maybe six or so inches of knitting.  However, in the week since I last posted, this sweater has been flying off my needles.  It's helped that the yarn is an aran weight:

This is the handspun merino which was my big spinning project during 2016 (I didn't do much spinning at all last year).

I cast on 6 January and by last Thursday, I'd got the body done, up to the armholes and I cast on the first sleeve on Friday morning and by Sunday morning, that was finished and joined up to the body:

The pattern is Keith Moon, from the Yokes book by Kate Davies.  It wasn't a design that immediately made me think I wanted to make it, but as I saw more and more examples and interpretations on Ravelry, the more I liked it and decided to spin the yarn for it.  As I'd got some blue and green in a mixed bag of pencil roving I'd bought from World of Wool, I decided to use those colours for the stripes.

In the original, the hem facings are knitted in the same colour, but I decided to be a bit different and used the blue for the body hem and the green for the sleeves.  I've also changed the sleeves.  In the original, the sleeves are three-quarter-to-bracelet length and have a flare at the cuff.  I started off following the pattern, but decided I'd be happier with a narrower cuff, so cast on fewer stitches and just increased at the same rate as the pattern said to.

On Sunday, I cast on the second sleeve and by this morning:

I'm about 17 rounds away from finishing the second sleeve.

Give it another few days and I reckon I'll have a new sweater to wear.

We woke up to a cold, frosty morning today.  We had a bit of snow last Thursday.  It didn't settle, but I had to drive up to DD1's school for her GCSE certificate presentation, which wasn't pleasant as in the places where there are no streetlights, visibility was poor as the snow was coming towards me.  It was clear by the time we came back though, which was much better.  When I took the rubbish bags out for collection, I looked up and saw the sunrise.  My word: I haven't seen one like this for a while, so I grabbed my camera and dashed outside to snap a couple of shots before the opportunity passed:

Lovely colours; quite inspiring.  By the time I took the recycling boxes out 20 minutes later, the sun had risen and the sky just looked light grey, so I'm glad I managed to catch the above shot.  It always surprises me how quickly the sun and moon move around the sky.

I'm off to do some household chores and then I'm going to crack on with that second sleeve.