Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Important Reminder...

...to myself.

When you are using a spindle, and you notice that you are winding the spun yarn on the spindle in the wrong direction, you should stop immediately and fix it.

Yes, it's a hassle to unwind a few dozen yards of yarn and then rewind it again, but it's far less of a hassle than it is to deal with the irritations that occur by winding the yarn on the wrong way for the entire batch of yarn.


Hassle 1: the yarn frequently flipping off of the hook so that the spindle drops to the ground and a bunch of already-spun yarn tries to escape, letting its twist run up into the half-spun yarn to the detriment of both.

Hassle 2: the yarn sliding around on the spindle as it spins, causing the spindle to lurch around at unexpected moments and also causing the already wound-on yarn to unwind and try to ply back on itself instead of behaving like a nice, well-behaved single strand of yarn.

Hassle 3: spending so much time dealing with 1 and 2 that one does not do a good job of spinning, both because I'm managing already-spun yarn instead of drafting roving, and because the whole thing is so annoying that I want to get done as quickly as possible.

This batch of yarn will have one ply that is not as consistent as I'd like. It will have thick and thin spots, sections that are underspun or overspun, and so on.

I'm spinning up a blob of teal roving, dyed by me. It is from some old Romney roving, originally mostly white with streaks of gray. It's slightly compacted (from before it was dyed). That's part of why I'm doing it on the spindle. I can spend a bit more time dealing with imperfect roving. It's also a very good quantity of roving for a spindle, since my spindle holds less yarn than the spinning wheel bobbins.

I'm sure the yarn will end up OK in spite of it all. Plying and setting the twist balance out some of the flaws. Knitting the yarn hides most of the rest.

But I re-learned a lesson the hard way. I haven't made that mistake for a long, long time. And I'm now quite sure I won't make it again for an even longer time.

What is the right direction? For me, it's the direction I'm spinning. I twirl the spindle the same way for spinning and for winding on the yarn. If you do it differently, more power to you.


Whenever I get around to downloading photos from the camera, I'll put a few up on the blog. The photos include the last batch of spindle-spun yarn (red-orange), this batch (teal), the sock I'm knitting (Opal self-patterned sock yarn), and a few other odds and ends. By the time I actually deal with the photos, there might even be more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Here are a few photos. The first is a close-up of the blue mohair scarf. I think you can see how there are cables on one side (the bottom half), and the lace panels on the other (the top half).

This other photo is of one of the hats I knit last year. I grabbed some oddballs from the stash, double-stranded them, and started knitting. When Color A ran out, I doubled Color B and knit until the yarn was pretty much gone. It's thick, warm, fuzzy, and very red and orange. I am happy to have gotten the yarn out of my stash.

That's it for photos.

I've made rather a lot of progress on the long-stalled sweater. No photos of that, though. I've finished the lower body and both sleeves. Now it's time to unite them all and do the upper body.

Here's where the dithering comes in. What kind of upper body? The last sweater I did from handspun was a raglan style. While it's very nice, and I always enjoy doing raglans, perhaps I should do something different this time.

I'm dithering between a saddle shoulder or hybrid saddle shoulder (either from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop or Priscilla Gibson-Roberts Knitting in the Old Way), or perhaps a round yoke. If it's a round yoke, chances are I'll put in some nice color patterns. I've been looking around for interesting color patterns to use. I certainly have plenty of small quantities of handspun that would be perfect for this!

That's the excitement for the day. Everything else is progressing in a calm and placid manner -- socks, afghan, spinning projects, and so on.

Now you understand why I haven't been updating the blog all that much.

Other exciting ditherings are about the next sweater project. I have a couple of problems. One, I have a lot of smallish batches of yarn, and two, I am very neurotic about running out of yarn. Therefore, I am always convinced that my bigger piles of yarn are still not enough for a sweater. Of course, when I do knit the sweater, I often find that I have way more than enough. And then I have a smallish batch of yarn leftover, probably not quite enough for another sweater.

So... Do I take a chance on a smallish batch of yarn? Spin up another humongous batch that will be way too much for one sweater but possibly not enough for two? Plan on a mixed-color sweater, where the worries about Not Enough Yarn can be spread out over several batches of handspun?

You see the problem. It's good for a lot of dithering.

I have a batch of brown yarn that I'm pretty sure is enough for a sweater. Although it would be fun to turn it into a gansey, I think the yarn is too fuzzy to show off stitch patterns. I'd have to use something a bit more obvious, such as a wide rib or garter rib or moss stitch.

I also have a large batch of white yarn that I'm quite sure is enough. That would end up being knit into a top-down Aran-style sweater, drop shoulder with square-set sleeves, possibly also with saddle shoulders.

I think the white yarn I'm using now will have enough left over that I can use it as a major color in another Icelandic round-yoked style color-patterned sweater.

And so on.

Then I move on to dithering about hats and mittens. I won't bore you with that. Something should be cast on and started within a week or two. But for now, I'm dithering.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Boring Progress Report

If I don't insist on including photos or interesting content, then maybe I can post more often.

Thus, a boring project report.

1. The blue mohair scarf is done. I used about one and a half 50g skeins of yarn (70% kid mohair, 30% acrylic, 167-ish meters per 50 gram skein). I could have kept going, but the scarf was plenty long enough, thank you. It wraps around my neck and hangs to a good length.

Pattern comments: This was a very pleasant little knit. I didn't block it all that hard, and so it's not all that wide. The cables aren't very obvious, but I think it does give the scarf a bit of structure, if that makes any sense. The scarf looks nice on both sides. It's warm and fuzzy and pretty. I'd make it again. It's quick and easy to knit, and it looks more elaborate than it is. It would make a nice gift if one was needed, especially if it's done in some kind of luxury yarn. I suppose kid mohair counts.

I found the specified bind-off to be too tight, at least for my knitting style. I redid it with a very loose regular bind-off.

Someone mentioned using this stitch pattern for a shrug. I think that would work great! The sleeves could be worked circularly, or they could be seamed after the shrug was done. You'd end up with something that looked good either way. Obviously, one would do more pattern repeats to make it wider.

For those who aren't reading all the archives, the basic pattern is by Charlotte Quiggle. It's in the Fall 2000 issue of Interweave Knits, and it's the second scarf in the article.

2. Another granny square afghan is underway. The first 5-ounce skein of acrylic yarn is used up, and I'm on the second (a solid-color 7-ounce skein). To make my life easy, I use roughly 3-4 skeins of yarn without worrying too much about the exact size or anything.

3. I've resumed work on a sweater. This one is from spindle-spun Icelandic wool, from a sheep raised by a friend. I'm doing it in the round, bottom up. So far, it's nothing fancy. I've finished the lower body. I need to do the sleeves. Then it will all get joined together as I decide how to do the upper body. Some of that will depend on how much yarn I have left at that point. I might need to add some color patterns to the yoke.

4. Spinning is occurring. I plied a couple of bobbins of brown wool. It ended up being 650-700 yards of 2-ply, about 4-5 ounces. That's a depressing quantity of singles. Well, not too depressing. The yarn is pretty even if it's taking longer to spin than I had initially expected.

There's a lot more of this stuff left. It will eventually become a sweater or two.

But since I'm not in the mood to spin more of this just now, I need to decide what to spin next. The two main candidates are each 8-ounce blobs of roving. One is some kind of Ashland Bay multi-colored stuff in dark shades. Dunno what the fiber content is, but it's probably mostly wool. The other is an old Mountain Colors handpainted targhee roving in soft shades of green and brown. What will I do with the resulting yarn? I haven't a clue!

5. Spindle-spinning is occurring. The latest batch is some semi-compacted mostly-Romney. The roving was never all that wonderful. However, it was a nice shade of pale gray with darker gray streaks. It ended up getting dunked in a dye pot a few years ago at a get-together with like-minded friends. I've slowly been spinning up all the dyed blobs. They're all in the 1-4 ounce range, a good amount for spindle-spinning. This particular blob is a bright orange-y red. I strip it lengthwise into a bunch of skinny little strips, then open it up a bit with my fingers to make it easier to draft. Color variations end up getting spread out throughout the batch of yarn.

A lot of these blobs have ended up getting turned into the quickie hats I've been cranking out over the past year.

6. Next sock is on the needles. It's a toe-up plain sock, done in an old Opal self-patterned sock yarn.

I'm sure there's more, but I'm tired of typing now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A brief post about Lucets

One of the things I did last year was playing on the lucet.

What is a lucet, you may ask. It's a fork-like tool that is used to make long cords. As far as I can tell, it makes a 2-stitch I-cord. If you want to see what it looks like and how to use it, do a quick internet search.

Making a cord with the lucet is really, really fast. It's also quite portable, useful for idle moments, and good for attracting attention when you're out in public.

"Here!" I say. "Try it! It's easy, see?"

Then comes the part where someone asks what you're going to do with a zillion yards of cord.

I don't know. But I'm thinking it would work as the core for some coiled baskets.