New sweater

Posted in knitting, planning, spinning, Sweater for JJ by tchemgrrl on October 23, 2009

I have too many projects right now, and they are all thoroughly failing to capture my imagination. (For me, this is usually the problem with having too many WIPs; too many options leads to dissatisfaction with all of them.) Clearly, it’s new project time.

At the recent Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, I bought about two pounds of some very nice Ashland Bay BFL top from Winderwood Farm, mostly natural white with some streaks of medium brown.



Super soft stuff, very creamy to the touch, and with some nice lanoliny smell to it. The excuse I made to buy it was that I haven’t knit J anything in a while, and maybe he’d like a handspun sweater. (If he didn’t, I did!)

He liked the fiber and has had a general sweater-type in mind for a while, so I spun up a sample and trolled Ravelry for interesting-looking fitted men’s sweater patterns.

I’m always disappointed when looking for men’s sweaters.  Limited gauges, baggy sloppy fit, none of the types of details that make so many women’s patterns must-knits. What J wants is a sweater that can be worn indoors without sweating to death, and for him that means DK weight or lighter. He looks good in fitted stuff, he likes sweaters with full- or half-length zippers.  He likes the idea of a cable or two.

He liked the Expedition Pullover, but still wanted a lighter yarn than the Cascade Eco Wool recommended. Brooklyn Tweed’s modification of the Urban Aran Pullover for a man and a cardigan looks great too, but it’s also a fairly bulky yarn. I may have to give it some more thought–I could adjust the gauge, but it’s always a slippery slope from adjusting gauge to just writing my own darn sweater pattern, and right now I’m just in the mood to follow instructions.

At the same time, I decided to sample the fiber a bit. I wasn’t sure if it would be advantageous to make the color variation stick out more or not, and I wanted to see what the fabric felt like knit up. I spun up a small amount of two 3-ply yarns. The first one was spun semiworsted, with a shortish backward draw, keeping the fibers aligned but allowing some air to get into the drafting triangle. The second was spun from the fold, trying to get my non-wooleny self to spin as fluffily woolen as possible. Spinning from the fold was also a way to maximize the color variation–the color variations go in the direction of the fiber here, so spinning perpendicular to that minimized the amount of color mixing which could occur. For the purposes of sampling, I chain-plied the singles I spun, and knit a teeny swatch, not even big enough to trust gauge, but enough to give me an idea of which direction to go.

biffle sample

biffle sample

More-worsted yarn on the bottom, more woolen yarn on the top. It’s a bit difficult to see the color variations in the woolen yarn, but they’re quite apparent in person. Spinning from the fold certainly made a difference in the character of the yarn–it’s a bit bumpier, and looked better on a larger needle in spite of nearly-identical wpi on the singles.  I was worried that the more worsted yarn would feel harsher and less comfortable, but I found that the feel of the fabric was still light and soft, while maintaining beautifully crisp even stitches and just enough subtle heathering to make it compelling.  It makes a great light fabric on US5’s, 5.5 stitches to the inch.

I’m thinking that it might be an interesting exercise to see how fast I could spin and knit a whole sweater. A little challenge for myself, just the thing to kickstart the creativity. I just need to decide on a pattern.

New Spinning Toy

Posted in spinning, toys, WIP by tchemgrrl on October 13, 2009

A new spinning toy! One that doesn’t actually do any spinning, assist in holding singles or plying, or even help to make my yarn look prettier.

What is? Just a gram scale, that I got during a clearing out of some less sensitive equpiment at work. But wowwie, it is giving me some useful info.

Take this yarn,

2 ply laceweight

2 ply laceweight

I’ve been working on spinning the singles off and on for ages now–I had a half-filled bobbin that had been set aside at least two years ago, possibly three.  Finally, FINALLY, last week, I actually get around to finishing off the second bobbin of singles and plying everything up. I knew I had about 10 ounces of fiber, and that Ashford claims that their standard bobbins hold about 4 ounces of fiber each. The two larger skeins, 720 and 700 yards respectively, each filled the bobbin pretty thoroughly, but at the same time they weren’t completely maxed out. The pile of fiber that was left sure looked like a lot, but how much did I actually have left, and how much yarn might I have at the end?

2 ply laceweight wpi

2 ply laceweight wpi

Now that I have a gram scale, I know all that, and I also know how similar the two skeins are. I’d been spinning to match a small sample I had, but this was spun up over such a long time that I had little confidence in its consistency.

First skein: 105g. Second skein: 97.5g. Third tiny skein: 6.2g.

So, it looks like with really well-packed, worsted spun, fine yarn, the practical limit for an Ashford bobbin for me is about 3.7 ounces. If I had a Woolie Winder and cranked down on the tension I’m sure I could get it up to 4 ounces, but 3.7 is good “best usual case” info for me. The grist was reasonably consistent between the first and second skein. Considering the many life changes that have happened in the intervening time, I’m pretty pleased with that.

I also weighed the remaining fiber: 93g. So I’ve got one more skein, slightly smaller than the first two, left. That’ll give me about 2100 yards of this 28-30wpi 2-ply wool-silk blend, which means that I can start looking up useful patterns even as I spin up the remainder. The yardage is actually less than I’d guessed–somewhere in the 3000 yards-per-pound range, when I’d been thinking vaguely of Jaggerspun Zephyr which is in the 5000 ypp range. But over 2000 yards is plenty for a nice-sized shawl, probably knit on US2’s or 3’s.

I’m finding it to be a useful thing to have around. In the couple of weeks I’ve had it, I also used it to weigh all my spindles. I have six which is not too many for a happy spindler. They all look totally different from the others, but  three of them are 14-15 grams, and three are 37-38 grams. Apparently I had preferences I wasn’t even aware of. I’m also clearing off all my spinning bobbins, so I can weigh them. I’ll make a small note of their weight on the bobbin itself, so I can try to have the same weight of singles on each bobbin for a multiply yarn. I have a few different styles of Ashford bobbins, so this will be considerably more accurate than my current “scratch my chin for a minute and then guesstimate” method, which is entirely dependent upon my inconsistent spatial awareness.

So yeah, a convenient tool, one I should have gotten a long time ago.