How’m’I doin’?

Posted in knitting, made with handspun, planning, spinning, Sweater for JJ, WIP by tchemgrrl on March 8, 2012

I was getting tired of referring to this post with the neverending WIP report whenever I talked about a project, so I’ve been focusing more on the finished products than the arbitrary goals involved. But I do want to return to the list, all at once, now so that I can keep track of things for my own sake.

Crossed-off things are totally done (or frogged, in any case, no longer in progress), italicized things have been worked on. Links where appropriate, additional notes where needed.

1-A big loose black ribbed hat for my uncle.

2-Hooded baby sweater for baby C.

3-Baby sweater for baby J.

4-Spindle project, 4 ounces of handdyed BFL, spun as a 3-ply DK weight.

5-Wheel project, with two 2-ounce batts I got at Roc Day.

6/7-Mittens and hat for the little guy, which were already too small when I finished knitting them on his birthday. (Hat is missing presumed dead, I’ll finish it if it ever resurfaces.)

8/9-Calorimetry and Wavy.

10-Convertible mittens–found the buttons, at least. Next thing to work on on the bus.

11-Yak/merino spindle project.

12-Sweater spinning project 3-ply DK weight, 6-8 ounces into a 2 pound project.

Proof of progress:

BFL in progress

It’s the thing I’ve been working on at home.

13-Some socks in Jitterbug. Frogged, they were too big and it’s a shame to do that to such nice yarn. They’ll be something else someday, but they’re not a WIP anymore.

14-Geography Bee shawl. Have not touched it. That’s a lie–I touched it when I was reorganizing my yarn bag, and said “Oh, this is pretty,” and put it back in the bag. To return to it will require some inspiration and some time with the notebook to sketch out some lace ideas.

15-Christmas fiber. Haven’t touched it, but haven’t been avoiding it–just did other spinning projects first.

16- Cashmere. Cashmere, untouched! A crime against spinning. I found the bag of fiber at least.

17- Some samples for an article for the guild newsletter. Samples spun and knit. Article not written, but it’s not a WIP on this list anymore.

18-V-Yoke cardigan Frogged for overoptimistic gauge calculation. I swatched with different yarn, with much better results. Will start knitting soon, but again, it’s not a WIP now. (Or, yet.)

19-Thrummed mittens for Th. Frogged the two whole rows I’d done, it’s getting too warm for thrums and by the time next winter rolls around they’ll doubtless be too small.

20- Curtains for Th’s room. One good free afternoon or evening will do it, but I haven’t had but free moments recently. Now that I’ve been able to clean up the fiber areas, though, I have room to leave everything out for a few days, which will make finishing them easier.

21- Yarn organization. Ongoing. Isn’t it always? But as is often the case, getting rid of a few things has made room to really organize more thoroughly. I really needed to take care of a few things on this list before I could make a dent. My knitting bag closes now, I know what’s in my spinning basket, many random bits have found permanent locations. I really want to make a better craft space in the new house, and the next step for that will be to hunt down some inspiration. Anybody seen some nice-looking craft rooms, tables, corners, etc?

22/23-Cross stitch projects. Have not touched, do not care. They don’t take up much mental or physical space.

From 23 things in progress to only 9 in about a month, three of which are of the infinitely-ongoing variety, so it’s really only 6 undone things. Wow. WOW. I am really proud of myself. My craft space is looking much better, and I’m actually getting ideas for things to work on again–I’m not caught up with the hate-all-projects cycle.

Two more of these things (the convertible mittens and the curtains) will probably be taken care of within the next week, and at that point I will take a well-deserved return to starting a project–the V-Yoke cardigan.


Quickie Mitts

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on March 6, 2012


I made mittens and a matching hat for Th. in October. This pattern is from EZ’s Knitter’s Almanac, modified slightly for baby hands. For a coordinating hat, I knit the Norwegian Sweet Baby Hat, which has a similar mitering thing happening, and seemed like it would go well.

The knitting was no trouble at all. I used some yellow Dale Baby Ull I had sitting around (I have a LOT of random Baby Ull sitting around, it’s my absolute favorite yarn for baby stuff and colorwork). The stripes are some Koigu that I got on sale because there was only this orphan skein left–not enough for a single sock, so it needed to get stretched out somehow. It all came out cute. I even finished the hat just in time for us to attend a Very Cold Wedding (for those of you in the Northeast US–this wedding happened the same day that the amazing multi-day power outage early freak snowstorm happened. We had lots of fun, and now have some good stories.)

Unfortunately, the damn things are too small for my big dude. And somewhere in the midst of travelling with a baby through a wasteland of damn downed power lines, I seem to have lost the damn hat.

Damn it.

So these will go into the donation box, and if I have the heart to I’ll knit another matching hat someday, since I still have plenty of yarn left.

Yak Yarn Causes Intense Geekery

Posted in spinning by tchemgrrl on March 5, 2012

Science ahoy. You have been warned.


2.3 ounces, 195 yards of 3-ply fingering weight yak-merino blend. The fiber came from (oh big surprise) Susan’s, specifically the “Fondle This” fiber of the month club from 2010.

I was not a big fan of spinning the fiber, to be honest. The brown yak down had a pretty short staple, 1.5 inches or so, and the white merino had a longer staple, about 4 inches. While spinning, it was difficult to keep the two fibers from separating out. The first few makes would be very light in color, being mostly Merino, and the last few makes would be very dark and require significantly more twist to hold together.

I hadn’t seen this sort of behavior in a blend before, and aside from it being kind of frustrating, I found myself thinking about chromatography a lot while spinning this. With the big stuff coming out first, my hands were acting a bit like the pores in a GPC.

In gel permeation chromatography, you put polymers through a multiscale maze. There are big wide paths that are relatively straightforward, and skinny little paths that will take forever to get through. Little molecules get stuck in the little paths, but big molecules can’t fit, and so the big guys get through first while the little guys are still taking a left turn at Albuquerque. Something about the way I was spinning was making it easier for the longer fibers to get through, and slowing up the shorter ones.

One way of dealing with that was by changing the length of my draw. When I’m not thinking much about it, I start with my hands 3-4 inches apart, draw until my hands are nearly a foot apart, and then go back to the home position. Well, that’s a thing: from the home position, I was right in the staple length range for the merino, but too far for the yak. Moving my hands closer together made a significant difference. There was still more merino at the beginning, more yak at the end, but it wasn’t as startling.

The second way of dealing with this was by changing size and thickness of the fiber lump that I was dealing with.

In chromatography, when you’re trying to maximize separation, you try to arrange it such that the whole sample starts at exactly the same time (or as close to that as possible). If one piece of sample starts the race 10 minutes after everything else, it won’t end the race at the same time as its chemically similar compatriots. So you do a quick little pssht to get a small, high-concentration sample in all at once. The fiber equivalent would be grabbing one staple length from the full width of a piece of top and spinning that. Which….is more or less exactly what I do when spindle spinning. Hmm.

So instead I started stripping the top down into 4-6 thinner pieces, and taking 2-3 staple lengths at a go. That way, there would probably be a little merino in reserve way at the end of the fiber, and I wouldn’t be pulling out every little bit of it right at the beginning, with it all hanging out in front together. This seemed to be effective, too–less of a pure-merino start, though I still had a small wad of yak in my hand at the end.

The last thing in chromatography is that, sometimes you’re doing it just to see what’s in your sample, but other times you’re trying to purify what you have, and you can toss the stuff you don’t want. So, I tossed most of those little yak wads. There wasn’t more than a few grams in them anyway, and life’s too short to fight unpleasant fiber.

Even with all these modifications, it wasn’t the most pleasurable fiber, and I was still getting variations, and the yarn still imploded now and then in a yak-heavy spot that needed more twist than I was giving. But it got spun.

I did a pretty harsh wash to this, hoping to full the merino enough to hold the slippery yak in. I am still worried that it’ll shed some, but what the hell, the horrible fiber actually won me over in the end. I think it’ll make a nice little cowl.


Charlotte’s Hoodie

Posted in FO, knitting, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on March 3, 2012

I. Love. This.

Charlotte's Hoodie

The idea for knitting this started with a commercially-produced hoodie that Th. had last spring. It was a 6 month size, but it was the only thing in that size that lasted him past 6 months (or, frankly, past about 4 months. Big dude.) I swear it feels like he wore this every day for months, but I only have this picture of him in it, when it was finally getting small:

Ready to go to daycare

It’s reversible, which is nice, but which I wasn’t going to do for a handknit. It was a perfect weight–it was a primary layer in the early spring, an outdoor jacket in late spring, and a thing to wear to school on an occasional cool summer morning. This fingering weight merino-tencel blend, originally spun for socks, seemed like the right three-seasons, washable, cheerful yarn for this sweater.

The sleeves were a lot wider than other, similar items, which made it easier to squeeze floppy baby arms through, and which also allowed it to fit for longer (he was getting his circulation cut off at the wrist with a bunch of outfits that fit in every other dimension). Something about the shape of the hood actually allowed it to stay on his head and not slide right off. And it looked cute with most of his clothes.

I liked this jacket so much that I wanted to replicate it for the newest baby cousin. So I did a ton of measuring, wrote out all the numbers with the swatch I had, and got to it.

superwash hibiscus

The yarn is this yarn–3 ply handspun fingering weight, which I fractal plied. I love how the fractal plying broke up the color while still giving it some unity.

Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn just before starting the hood. Fortunately, I had more fiber, and just needed to spin it up. Unfortunately again, it took me long enough to knit, then spin, then knit, then find and order the zipper (local shops didn’t have anything that would have been close to matching), then put in the zipper, then finish and wash it, that Charlotte is now edging up on 6 months old, herself, having been born in September. But from the pictures I’ve seen, I think she’s a more modestly-proportioned kid, and so I’m hoping that they’ll get a lot of use out of this sweater in the spring.

Great project. Everything came together just right. I’ll almost certainly knit another one of these. I’m actually thinking about sizing it up and using the same general pattern for another sweater for Th. for the fall (or maybe next winter). I have some superwash rainbow-colored fiber that I want to stripe with a more-neutral yarn, so as to extend the amount of rainbow fiber I have. I think this style would look great as a cheerful little hoodie for the dude.