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What were your favorites in 2008?
knitting book: I hardly bought any new books last year. I find most new pattern books are really not that useful in the end, particularly because suitable replacement yarns are often all but impossible to find. The closest I can get is probably Start Spinning, by Maggie Casey, which I gave a less-than-completely-favourable review, but which I now, when I am a wheel spinner, is quite fond of. Ironically, this book contains no knitting patterns and precious little knitting info.
pattern (regardless of whether you have any intention of knitting it): The Cloisters Sweater from Spin-Off fall 2008, without a doubt! As with many of my favourite patterns, I suspect that the colour is a big part of the attraction. Sarah Swett, the designer, used plant colours to dye a grey handspun yarn, which gives the sweater an amazing, rich heathered colour. But apart from that, I love the lace details on the sleeves and the wearability of the pattern.
yarn discovery: my handspun! Knitting with handspun yarn is so much fun! Other than that, I liked the Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit that I used to knit my daughter’s cardigan.
FO (your own): The February Lady Sweater, I think. I wear it constantly to work and in private.
new knitting technique or other discovery/experience: Spinning, absolutely! I started spindle spinning in April 2008 and bought a used wheel in November. I spin a couple of times a week, and I love it.
One of the real pleasures of spinning is knitting with your own handspun yarn. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can consistently spin to my own project requirements, but my handspun is more and more usable. My latest handspun project gives me a little thrill every time I see it because it is just.so.cute:
Pattern: Djevellue/sweet baby cap (it’s free! and so simple!) I knit the two-year-old size. I started knitting on 3 January and finished 7 January.
Yarn: My own handspun, BFL handpainted by Jeni from Fyberspates. I spun it using the 5.5:1 ratio on my Ashford Traditional and two-plied it at the same ratio. It’s about 14 wraps per inch. I got 260 metres from 106 grams.
Needles: 2.5 and 3 mm needles, Knitpicks and Addis respectively (I like them both equally, but will not contemplate knitting with anything else. It’s a shame really, because I’ve inherited a large collection of assorted aluminium needles that I just can’t use).
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about this week’s knit. I decided to try knitting the Three-Cornered Hat, one of the May projects from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitters Almanac. I didn’t have any bulky yarn like the pattern calls for, so I decided to recalculate the stitch count for a worsted-weight yarn (the leftovers from my February Lady Sweater). Either my gauge math or my measurements (or both!) must have been wrong, because about halfway through the top decreases I could no longer ignore that nagging little voice at the back of my mind asking if this hat didn’t seem just a tad… big?
What annoys me the most is that with the worsted-weight yarn and the ridiculously inflated stitch count, there is actually quite a bit of knitting in that knitting disaster. I’ve ripped in disgust and am contemplating casting on for a lace beret.
I think it was Elizabeth Zimmermann who admonished us to be the boss of our knitting. I’m continually experiencing the wisdom of that, but am apparently a slow learner. I recently (as in four days ago, on Christmas Eve, just three short hours before we started opening the presents) finished this Christmas present for my daughter:
Pattern: Kragejakke i 3-trådsgarn from Strikk til nøstebarn.
Yarn: Freedom Spirit by Twilley’s of Stamford, #502, almost 4 balls.
Needles: Addi Turbos 3 mm and 3.5 mm.
Modifications: None. This pattern is very well thought-out and easy to follow. It is knit in one piece from the waist and the sleeves are knit in the round until you start the raglan decreases.
As you can see, I had a problem with some truly hideous pooling on the lower fronts. I could see it right away, but for some reason managed to convince myself that it would look alright once it was finished and the buttonbands installed. I often claim that my motto is “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, but my knitting belies it…
After all the fiddliness of installing buttonbands correctly (I ripped out one and redid it because it pulled in too much), I needed some mindless knitting and have churned out six dishcloths of various designs. I’m now in the process of trying out the mitered hanging towel design from the new Mason-Dixon knitting book. I’m knitting it in a linen-cotton yarn and if I do say so myself, it’s looking lovely.
We went on a drive this weekend. Long drives = excellent knitting time, but because I’m the designated map reader/juice dispenser/peace keeper/CD changer the car is not a good place for my Faroese Shawl (Rav link), so I decided to bust some stash and cast on for a top-down raglan t-shirt using my Idena silk yarn.
Now, because this yarn was purchased when I was a very new knitter, this t-shirt will be called “The three-dyelot t-shirt” (yes, really!). I picked a ball and cast on 100 stitches and knit a couple of rounds the night before and packed the newly-cast-on project in a bag for the drive. Settling into the passenger seat with my map book, my bag of juice bottles and CD stack, I pulled out the project and started knitting. I had knitted several rounds of seed stitch for the neckline before I realised that I had twisted the cast-on row before I joined to knit in the round. I thought I had checked carefully before I joined, but apparently not.
I ripped out and cast on 100 stitches again. Five rounds in, I realised that I had two purl stitches next to each other, and in examining how that came about I realised that I had a) placed two knit stitches next to each other at the beginning, and two purl stitches next to each other in the middle of the round and b) twisted the *%&/”# cast-on row again. This is what makes me wonder if I can even sort this blog post under category “lesson learnt” because apparently, it isn’t.
I cast on 100 stitches again, and started knitting, this time in garter stitch, as I didn’t trust myself to manage seed stitch. By the time we reached our destination, two and a half hours after setting off, I had less knitting done on my project than when we got in the car.
I’ve blogged before about my newfound love of reds and oranges. When I started spinning, I was immediately drawn to a small box of red, orange and burgundy felting fibre at our local hobby store. I started spinning it up, and in those first few weeks of spinning I managed two small skeins. They had all the problems of first yarns – they were thick and thin, had wiry bits where one single had made very tight coils and had big, unspun slubs. The colour, however, was glorious. I started dreaming about a cowl. A long cowl, long enough to cover my ears and the back of my head in really cold weather. I didn’t have enough yarn, and so, after a couple of months of intensive spinning, I tried to replicate those first skeins of badly spun yarn.
I’d read on the Ravelry spindling forum that it is relatively easy to spin thin on a handspindle, but as you become better, it gets harder and harder to spin thicker and to spin yarn with a variable texture. I won’t pretend it was easy – I had some false starts, where instead of spinning a roughly worsted weight textured yarn I spun a smooth, even fingering (!), but I did manage.
(The successful skein is on the left, the unsuccessful fingering weight one is on the right. The two balls are the nøstepinne-wound skeins from my earliest weeks).
How did I do it? I did several things. I spent some time looking at the overall thickness of my previous yarn, to try to emulate the general weight without copying the structural weaknesses. I realised that my heaviest good spindle was too light, and so went back to my earliest homemade CD spindle. After adding an extra CD, for a total weight of 47 grams, the spinning went very easily. The texture I achieved by letting twist escape into the drafting zone and occasionally pulling fibre from inside the drafting triangle. Not too far inside, because I didn’t want huge slubs, just far enough inside that I didn’t draft an even amount of yarn with every drafted length. When you start doing this, you quickly realise how much the exact placement of your fingers in drafting affects the look of the final yarn. By pulling on the drafting triangle just a couple of millimetres above where I usually would, I got a much more rustic-looking yarn. I think realising this will make it easier for me to achieve a very smooth yarn.
After finishing the spinning, knitting up the cowl was but a couple of days’ work. Knitting with your own handspun is so rewarding. I cast on 71 stitches and knit in 1*1 rib for 29 centimetres, then cast off in rib, twisted the cowl lengthwise and sewed up the side to create a “fake” moebius*. And I love it.
It is warm, soft and stretchy, and will warm both my body and my soul come the long, dark winter. That’s why I call it my antidote cowl (Ravelry link).
*Well, it’s not fake, because the definition of a moebius is a continuous strip that’s twisted 180 degrees so it only has one side, but lovers of Cat Bordhi like to claim that this is not the proper way to knit a moebius.
I was really excited to knit the Baby Surprise Jacket with stripes of pink and dark brown (“pinklate”!). But I should maybe have thought this plan through better.
Yeah. I don’t really like weaving in ends. And, if you’ve ever knit a BSJ, you know that this is a very public edge, so I will need to be very, very careful.
It’s worth it, though. I think the stripes show off the ingenuity of the BSJ pattern far better than the Artyarns Supermerino I used for my previous BSJ.
“I really can’t say enough about the pleasure of using your handspun. First you have the enjoyment of creating the yarn and then the satisfaction of turning it into fabric. Using your yarn to create a garment or other article of useful beauty completes the spinning process. Just as a chef needs to taste the dish to see whether the ingredients are in balance, using your yarn will make you a better spinner.”
– Maggie Casey in Start Spinning
Being liberated from the Great White Socks has me all giddy with creative possibilities. The little unassuming skeins of handspun BFL called me, and I’ve cast on for my Faroese shawl. Now, I have nowhere near enough yarn spun up (only about 280 metres so far, and part of that is a very inconsistent sample skein), but I figured that starting the project would give me added incentives to finish the spinning, and also, that knitting with the yarn would let me see if any changes need to be made to the spinning. I’d rather have a shawl with changes in the yarn than a whole shawl with crappy, unsuitable yarn.
My thoughts so far: Mostly, I really, really like this yarn. It is VERY soft and just slightly elastic, and creates a lovely, springy garter stitch fabric. I’m knitting on 4.5 mm needles. I want to spin more consistently, not because I mind the occasional fluffy bits, but the slightly stringy bits are a little too thin and detract from the soft springyness. Also, in the beginning I was very careful to split the fibre to maintain the equal blend of all three colours. I now find that I really like the parts where there are slightly darker and slightly lighter stripes, so I will be less diligent about splitting and predrafting the roving into strips with equal amounts of each colour.
A close-up of one striped section:
Speaking of this picture, can I just say how great nøstepinner are? The centre-pull ball on the right is wound entirely on a nice and heavy ballpoint pen that my husband gets at work. Winding is so easy, and at the end you have a nice, flat-top centre-pull ball, which won’t roll around on the floor. Also, I like that nøstepinne is a Norwegian loan-word into English. Usually, it’s the other way around.
My current spinning project is 500 grams of Bluefaced Leicester in “Humbug” – a blend of the three natural colours white, oatmeal and brown. I’m planning to make a fingering-weight two-ply yarn and knit it into a shawl, preferably a Faroese. I thought it would be fun to document the process I use, and maybe it will be useful to some beginning drop spindler. Here is a slideshow which shows all the steps in my spinning process for this yarn (click on the “i” for comments to each picture).
When plying, wrap yarn the OTHER way around the hook.
I’ve read several places that it is useful to have a wristaff/wrist distaff for spindle spinning. A wrist distaff is a tool which sits on your wrist and hangs down, on which you can coil your strip of roving or fibre. This keeps the fibre organised and away from the spinning spindle. It takes about two minutes for the beginning spindler to see the attraction of this gadget, when the loosely flapping roving is sucked into the path of the spindle and you end up with a huge cloud of fibre half attached to the single. I have seen some wristaffs that are knit or crocheted, but I thought the fibre would easily get stuck on those. Then I saw an ingenious solution on Spinning Spider Jenny’s blog. She’s using a yarn keeper bracelet as a distaff. The piece holding the yarn (or in this case, fibre) rotates, so the fibre feeds off easily. It’s slick, so the fibre slides well, but the arms keep the fibre from sliding to the floor. The yarn keeper bracelet is available online, but I’m impatient and loth to spend money on shipping from the US. A trip to the hobby store later, and voila (or “woe la”, as I recently saw it spelled on a blog):
The wire is not quite as large-gauge as in the original, so it looks a little fragile, but the wire is holding up surprisingly well. I’m amazed at how well it works. Not only does it eliminate the risk of my fibre being “snarfled” (that sounds like it should be a word, doesn’t it) up by the spindle, but my wrist is so much more relaxed and rested when I have less fibre wrangling to do. Also, I can spin longer lengths of roving, because I can fill up the distaff with more roving than I could hold on my arm.
In case you want to make it, I used a pack of 0.8 mm silverplated wire (my pack holds ten metres, but you won’t need nearly that much), four Czech glass beads, a swivel hook, some universal glue and a pair of jewellery-making pliers.