TdF Day 1

Posted in spinning, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on June 30, 2012

My primary Tour de Fleece goal this year is to just focus on spinning for the next few weeks and not waste so much time online doing I-don’t-even-know-what. So while I’ll be updating regularly here, the posts themselves will either be on the short side because I’m not saying much so I can get back to spinning, or else they’ll be longer because I won’t spend as much time editing myself. 🙂

Here’s the results from day 1:

TdF Day 1

Most progress made on the right; that’s some wool from Starcroft Fiber Mill that I got as a gift from my in-laws. I spun a bit while chasing the toddler around; it’s a reminder that I CAN do that, at least some of the time. He’s getting a lot more independent; we went to a playground today and the only time he wanted help was when he accidentally dropped his ball off of the structure. The remainder of it was spun with my Saturday knitting group. Another regular is also doing the Tour so we compared notes and fiber. (She’s a phenom so I assume she’s washing her first pound of plied yarn right about now.)

The fiber is a nice crunchy medium wool roving; I’m spinning it as a not-too-thin two ply. Easy, mindless stuff.

I also did a very small amount of spinning on my Bossie; the fiber on the left is silk from Susan in the Blimey colorway. I haven’t done much fine spinning lately so this is an effort to keep those skills fresh; I’m spinning it as finely as I’m comfortable spinning this particular spindle with an ounce of fiber on it. (I tested this by doing a brief sample on one of my heavier spindles). It’s going to take forrreevvvver, but that’s the point. I just want something lovely to work on in odd bits of time, and when I’m done I’ll have a few gazillion yards of beautiful silk thread.


Little Big Vest

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on June 29, 2012

It may take me longer to write this post than it did to knit this thing:

Little vest

The Toddler looks good in vests, and I’m pretty sure he will have outgrown his current crop by the time the weather cools off again.

I found this ridiculously fat yarn (Schaefer Kathleen in the Mr. Greenjeans colorway) in the freebie bucket at the yarn swap and I couldn’t leave it alone. So I took some numbers from the Knitters’ Handy Book of Patterns, made some minor modifications to account for my kid’s big round belly, and just sat down and knit 2/3rds of it in a single sitting, even after ripping out to make another little change. Not too shabby.

The weather’s been really warm here so I haven’t had a chance to try it on him yet, but when I hold it up to him it looks just a little big. Since he probably won’t wear this for another 2 or 3 months, that’s perfect.

Picking Up Another

Posted in FO, knitting, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on June 25, 2012

I never used to knit the same pattern twice. Even plain socks–I’ll try a different toe or make a minor change in the ribbing.

And now my past two FO’s are exceptions to that. I fully plan on knitting another Braided Ball soon, and two of my past three knitting projects have been Hitchhikers.

Like my first one, I also made this Hitchhiker from some handspun yarn I’d made last year. I never blogged about this yarn, but it’s four ounces of yarn composed of 2 2 ounce batts from two totally different sources. The first batt was from Bob at Winderwood Farm, composed of llama, angora and at least one other thing, and with a uniform light color. The second batt was from Susan at Spinning Bunny, layers of cream and cinnamon, and which also contained a whole bunch of different fibers (the only one in my notes is cashmere.) The multicolored batt was torn into strips, held so that the colored layers were spread across my hand rather than being sandwiched together, and then spun back and forth across the tip, to intentionally give some color variation (each stretch of color ended up being somewhere between what you’d see in a hand dyed yarn and a yarn with longer dyed-in-the-wool stretches like Noro). I had just shy of 400 yards for 4 oz, somewhere around sport weight. Loosely spun, with a little extra plying twist.

natural closeup

The only modification made to the pattern was to work this primarily in stockinette rather than garter. I worked the 5 stitches at the sawtoothed edge in garter stitch, so that each sawtooth actually reads more like a little square. I like the effect.

Handspun Hitchhiker

Early into the shawl, the stretches of darker yarn pooled in an odd way that read very strongly as an animal print.

I’m really not an animal print person, and hoped that my eyes were just playing tricks on me. So I showed it to several people hoping they’d contradict me and encourage me to continue, but every person said the same thing.

“It really does look like that. How strange!”

I kept knitting anyhow, and the tiger print disappeared about 1/3 into the shawl. Phew.

I really wanted the far edge of the shawl to have the same sawtoothed border, but after trying 4 or 5 different ideas, I changed my mind. The direction of the stitches would be different and they seemed to be even more noticeable than a plain flat edging. I knit as many rows of garter stitch as there were in each sawtooth and bound off.

Handspun Hitchhiker

I really like how this shawl came out. It seems like a sign of a good knitting design that it can flexibly lend itself to variations well outside the purview of the pattern itself. I really like the rhythm of this particular pattern, and while I do feel like my yen for knitting it has been sated for the time being, I’m sure it will be at the top of my mind the next time I have a nice skein of yarn that doesn’t seem right for anything I pair it with.

Less sporty than table tennis

Posted in fun, knitting, Knitting Olympics, planning, spinning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece by tchemgrrl on June 21, 2012

I’ve been thinking about the Tour de Fleece and the Knitting Olympics, which are coming up pretty soon.

I’ve decided that my goal this year is going to be pretty basic, but still a challenge compared to my recent tendencies: spinning and knitting take precedence over goofing around online. I’ve been spending way too much time doing way too little, lately, and have just gotten to the point where I’m getting annoyed at how much time I’ve wasted. I’d like to see how much I can get done with that “waste”, as a reminder to myself when click over to Ravelry the 30th time that day.

Some projects I’ll likely work on in the Tour:
-Finishing the yarn for J’s sweater.
-Finishing the spindle spun wool I’m doing now, and probably starting a new spindle project after that. I’ll have to look through the stash beforehand and come up with a good candidate.
-Spinning this awesome rainbow yarn for a sweater for Toddler. I have some very particular plans about striping on this one; I’ll need to know quite a bit about which sweater pattern I will use first, but once the organizational phase is complete the spinning will be straightforward.
-It seems ambitious, but if I finished all those, the next thing in the queue is some very nice Jacob roving for a winter hat for J, which I think he asked for two winters ago now. Oops.


Spot Hollow

Likely Knitting Olympic* projects:
V-Yoke cardigan, which has had a significant amount of work go into it, but which is still FAR from done.
– A sweater for toddler, if I get the rainbow yarn planned in the Tour spun up.

Inspiration from the pile of yarn that I got in the yarn swap will probably fall on my head, though, which would render any of these plans moot.

The plans are intentionally pretty low-key, like I said. My main goal is to get back into the habit of sitting down in front of the wheel instead of the computer. The main prep will be to decide on a toddler sweater pattern, pick a likely spindle spinning candidate, and clean and oil the wheel.

*Knitting Games, maybe? I wrote this just before this got started. I have no comment except “Hoo boy, don’t get knitters mad.”

Math, Baby. Baby, Math.

Posted in FO, knitting, toys by tchemgrrl on June 18, 2012

I’ve got a little niece coming this summer, and will be seeing her mama very shortly, so I thought I’d whip up a quick toy so that I wouldn’t be showing up empty-handed. (I’m working on a vest too, but I probably won’t have it done in time.)

It’s the Braided Ball pattern. I somehow had it in my head that this was an entrelac project, but when I actually looked at it, it’s composed of 6 strips, which are woven around each other and then grafted into loops.

The knitting itself couldn’t be more straightforward, just a bunch of stockinette strips (not even tubes; you take advantage of stockinette’s curl so that part doesn’t show.) The piecing is a little more complex, though not too difficult. I sewed all the pieces together at my last knitting group meeting while chatting.

It looks really cool for the amount of work.

cool toy

I finished it, showed it to my knitting buddies, and happily went back home to look at more pictures of ones that other people had made.

But after looking at a couple, I realized that mine looked different. I’d made a mistake. A minor one; minor enough that I couldn’t tell by looking at the low-res copy I’d had to hand at the knitting group. Minor enough that it still works (by “works”, I mean that the loops are all held in place by other loops.) Minor enough that it took me a half hour of fiddling to even figure out what I did.

But there is a mistake.

Look at this view.

cool toy

If you trace one of the yellow strips from top to bottom, it goes over a pink strip, then under a pink strip, then over a blue and under a blue. That’s what they’re all supposed to do. Over and under each in turn. But if you trace the path of the upper blue strip from left to right, you’ll see that it goes over a pink strip, then under BOTH the pink and yellow strip before going over another yellow.

The correctly-knit versions have a more delightfully complex texture, and are a little fuller-looking. But! I still like how this one looks, it’s well-knit, and it’s a baby toy, not a final exam. I’m keeping it the way it is, after one run through the wash to full it slightly.

(Also, I wove in all the ends before I noticed the problem. Not a knitting jury in the land would convict me!)

What do you do with mistakes like that? Do you call them “design features?” Or do they keep you awake at night until you rip them out? I must admit that it does make me itch enough that I will probably knit another one for the baby gift pile just to see it put together the right way, but I’d probably knit another anyway because they are super fun and use very little yarn (each strip used 13-14 g of commercial worsted weight yarn that I got from the freebie bin at the yarn swap.)


Posted in Black Sheep Handspinners Guild, fun, spinning by tchemgrrl on June 13, 2012

Good things happening at my spinning guild lately.

1) Abby Franquemont is coming to the guild in November! I’ve been a fan of her spinning and writing since the long-ago days before Ravelry. Back then, she was on the largest spinning group on LiveJournal and I was but a raw newbie trying to spin laceweight Border Leicester because I didn’t know any better.

If you’re local and want some information about the class, I put it up on our guild website a while back. Registration will be available to non-members starting in August.

2) I’m teaching a class on working with hand dyed yarns this summer at the guild (probably August). I ran a class on this topic at our Roc Day celebration in January. This will be a refinement of that class, now that I know that yes, indeed, I *CAN* talk for 90 minutes straight on the topic without anyone drafting an inch. I’m narrowing the focus a little (avoiding the issue of batts entirely, frex). I’m adding more pictures and samples into my notes based on parts the Roc Day attendees thought confusing, and making some other minor adjustments to cope with talking to 32 people instead of 2. I really enjoyed the Roc Day class and it’s the kind of presentation that lends itself to a lot of other people talking about their experiences, so I’m wicked excited.

3) One of the guild members has been doing some amateur historian work on the origins of the guild and scanned a ton of beautiful notes, articles, and dye books collected by one of the founding members of the guild. Looking through the sheer quantity of knowledge is inspiring, and I’m really excited to put it on the guild website and get it out into the world. (I’ve only just started sifting through it but I’m hoping to have at least a skeletal “Spinner Education” type page up on the guild website before the next guild meeting in July. I may link to particularly cool things here too.)

I’ve been kind of a lump lately, but I feel like there are a bunch of things coming together that I’m finding very inspiring–the yarn swap, these activities at guild, some ideas for spinning and knitting project bubbling to the surface, some wonderful conversations with friends, yarnie and not.

There’s a lot of good stuff coming together and I’m happy about it.

Yarn Swap, and Inspiration

Posted in fun, knitting, planning by tchemgrrl on June 11, 2012

I had a yarn swap at my house over the weekend. I had one at my old apartment a while back, so I had a pretty good idea about how to set things up. A few notes that may be helpful to anyone else wanting to set up similar:

1) The yarn table was in a different room than the room that I expected we would congregate (my house has a somewhat open floor plan, it’s just a doorway separating the two spaces). None of us ever went into the other room. The yarn fumes must have overcome us. Fortunately it wasn’t a bad space to be in, but as the other room is larger, I may move everything in there next time. If the weather had cooperated, being outside might’ve been even nicer.

2) In the entry I linked to above, I mentioned how a little bit of generosity seemed to open the room right up. I made more of a point of encouraging that to happen this time around by putting a laundry basket labeled “Freebies” right in the middle of the room, and seeded it with a few items. Again, I think that there’s something about seeing other people’s generosity that makes people more generous. What started out as a couple of nice-quality but partially-used balls of yarn turned into a HUGE bucket that I’m distributing out in a couple of ways (a local barter-and-freebie group, charities in town.) I myself ended up with at least two sweaters’ worth of yarn and didn’t get rid of anything in the process (except the food I’d made and some freebies).

3) I still think that the best number of attendees is somewhere in the 5-15 person range. We had 8-10 folks and it felt right.

4) The other thing that seems to serve as a social lubricant is the presence of someone who brings a TON of yarn. Laura brought several tubs’ worth of yarn, most of it leftovers from her design business, and it was hugely fun to go exploring and hear her describe where different yarns came from.

On the food side of things, I also made some AMAZING popovers. I can toot my own horn on this because I made mediocre ones the night before. It was all in the recipe, which I took from Ratio. Hot pan, letting the batter sit for a while to hydrate the flour, and using plenty of butter to grease the pan made a huge difference.
One great side effect of this kind of trading environment is that it really got me thinking creatively. I try to only go into a yarn shop with very specific things in mind so that I don’t waste any money on something that I won’t use later. But when someone walks in with 10 skeins of Charlie-Brown-Sweater yellow Cascade 220, and someone else says “Wow that is amazing yarn!” and the first person says “Here, make something with it, I want it out of my house!” it sets up all kinds of interesting opportunities.

(Yes, I have 10 skeins of Charlie-Brown-sweater yellow Cascade 220 in the craft room right now. I’m thinking about a Wonderful Wallaby for the toddler. Or maybe 3 of them, with the amount of yarn I have.)

I’d also been thinking about my niece-to-be who is expected to arrive this summer, and what I will knit for her. I had these leggings:

kid leggings

(I’d bought a huge pile of them on sale and have been putting them in every baby package since because I loved putting tiny T in them. These are the last pair, since there’s been such a baby boom with my friends lately.)

I didn’t have anything that coordinated with these, but getting something in my stash to coordinate was clearly on my brain’s back burner. Because I found this yarn:

kid leggings with matching yarn

Which couldn’t have been better if I had special ordered it. It’s even sock yarn, so washable. It’s probably not enough for a baby sweater on its own so I’ll mix it with some white superwash I have. It’s still amazingly perfect. I just need to figure out the pattern.

More BFL

Posted in planning, spinning, Sweater for JJ, WIP by tchemgrrl on June 8, 2012

oatmeal bfl

Hey, look, the middle 3 skeins of an oatmeal-colored, sweater-sized project. For all two of my readers, I will put one word into your mouth: YAWN.

It’s too bad that there’s no Feel-o-vision on the internet though because this stuff is not yawn-worthy in person. Bouncy and subtle and with a longwool crispness while still feeling soft enough for close-to-skin wear. This is for a sweater for my husband, and I’m going to have to find JUST the right pattern to be worthy of this stuff. It’s. So. Nice. I’ve spun a fair amount of yarn and I’m at the point in my spinning career where I’m mostly happy with what I make, but something about this stuff is really spectacular. Maybe it’s the fact that it IS so boring looking from a distance. It just looks kind of… commercial. But only in pictures. In person, it’s the thing I always try to have be true about my knitting, that it’s not something that can be bought in a store. I can’t even put it fully into words, all I know is that this is the best yarn I’ve ever made, the one I’ve been working towards since I started spinning 7 years ago, without even knowing it.

6 more ounces to go.


Posted in FO, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on June 4, 2012

This one kind of jumped on me.

A bunch of people in my Saturday knitting group have been knitting the Hitchhiker shawl. It looked like an easy but interesting knit, assymetrical but not Out There.

I had this yarn:

tartan yarn

A shade over 4 ounces and 200 yards of Aranish weight 3 ply. I wanted to do a pattern that would emphasize that aqua end a little, make it more interesting and intentional-looking than a plain rectangle could manage.

Eh, what the heck, I thought. Put those two ideas together, what’s the harm. I wanted something easy to work on while my mom was in town because I knew I’d be talking so much that anything more complicated is going to get set aside. (I’m not normally quite so much of a blabbermouth, but my mom comes for a visit and I turn into a 7 year old LOOK AT ME MOM LOOK WHAT I CAN DO YAY.)


Boom. Size 9US needles with big yarn just ZOOMS. Even having to rip out twice before I figured out a good system of stitch markers, it took me about 30 seconds to finish. Okay, three days, but you know the last time I finished something in three days? Yeesh.

A fun knit! The only downside is that the fiber was a dyer friend’s test batch for the colorway and it’s pretty bleedy. I washed the yarn a ton, washed the FO even more, and I’m still wary of putting it over a light-colored shirt. That means it won’t be a present, but it does mean that it’ll look great with my darker-navy pea coat this winter.


(with bonus catbutt)

This pattern is totally addictive, I highly recommend it. It’s got the perfect rhythm for a not-paying-much-attention-but-can’t-be-boring-either project. I cast this one off and immediately cast on another, in this creamy yarn. I’m playing around a bit with this one–making it partly in stockinette, and maybe changing the bound off edge so that it’s toothed, thus slightly more symmetric.