2012 in review (Knitting)

Posted in knitting, made with handspun, Organization, planning by tchemgrrl on January 21, 2013

A chance for me to see a bigger picture.

I go through phases where I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in terms of craft. Toddler has been going though a phase of un-awesome sleep combined with a phase of all-Mommy-all-the-time, and I haven’t been getting much creative work done as a result. It’s a good time of year to actually assess output and see where I could go in the next year.

A hat for J (He started wearing it immediately off the needles so I haven’t had a chance to block and photograph it yet, but a post will be coming soon.)

5 Mason Jar covers (4 pictured, one more was knit and given too fast to take a picture):

Mason Jar sleeves

Eze Shawlette:

120512 009

Never-worn Rainbow Sweater (not that I’m bitter):

squash sweater

Paxton for Hunter:


Vest for Lydia:

L's vest

Vest for no one in particular:

Little vest

Hitchhiker v.2:

Handspun Hitchhiker

Braided ball:

cool toy

Hitchhiker v.1:


Hoodie for Charlotte:

Charlotte's Hoodie

Springsteen-inspired hat for Unca Billy:

springsteen hat

Year of the Kid Sweater, I think. And shawls.

That’s an average of one thing (or set of things) per month, which is actually way more than I expected to see. There are a lot of gifts that were sent out almost immediately upon completion, which may be why it doesn’t feel like much, because I don’t *see* them all the time. There are also a lot of smaller items–all those one or two skein projects, and I often don’t give those the same level of consideration that I do to a large shawl or sweater. More than half of them involved a significant contribution from my handspun, though, and I only bought commercial yarn for one of the projects. This seems about right.

Looking through the group does clarify some things that I’d like to do this year. I have several sweater-scale quantities of handspun. Both the larger scale of a full-size sweater and the exclusive use of handspun in a big project appeal to me.

Also, what the heck, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve knit socks. I got some really lovely sock yarn at the yarn swap this summer, so maybe that’ll happen.

The baby sweater craze is not likely to abate anytime soon; I actually have some yarn balled up and another baby project for another baby of friends is next on my list.

And someday, though maybe not this year, I’d like to knit something that the Toddler will deign to wear. (He’s been getting more interested in the pointy sticks recently. “Mommy knittin’,” he’ll say, and wave his arms in a fair approximation of what I’m doing.)


The C word (or the Ch word)

Posted in planning, sewing by tchemgrrl on October 25, 2012

I know, I know. You hate when the holidays show up before their time. “It’s not even Halloween yet and I heard Jingle Bells at the mall yesterday!” I don’t particularly want to see any jolly old elves before the leaves are off the trees, either.

But! But.

That doesn’t mean I’m not already getting stuff ready. There is gift knitting, there is wish list checking, there are General Preparations Happening. Most of that stuff I won’t show you until January, but I figured I would show you the wrappings I’m working on.

One of the ways I’m trying to reduce waste is by making fabric wraps for gifts vs. using paper that gets tossed.

The Japanese have a long history of doing this. The furoshiki–large squares of beautifully-printed fabric–that were traditionally used can be folded in a huge variety of ways to accomodate various package shapes*. And my understanding from my readings is that the cloth itself was considered part of the gift, but a regiftable one, so that the wrapping could be reused for another present. It’s a nice way of being environmentally conscious without having too much dirty-hippie about it.

*Note to self: Write more about furoshiki some time, because even having some basic abilities is one of those handy life-hacky skills that I think everyone should have.

I do occasionally wrap a gift in a single square cloth, but it seems a little….harder to interpret? By which I mean that people aren’t sure how to unwrap it, and if they should give the cloth back, because they’re not sure how to use it if they do keep it. I did have success last year wrapping a gift basket for my mom in a large vintage tablecloth (it looked like Santa’s sack, it was perfect), but that worked because she likes vintage tablecloths and it was clearly part of the present.

Usually, I make fabric gift bags. I’ll admit that my interpretation is Westernizing it a bit, but a gift bag is a form factor that we regularly see in the States, and we know how how they interface with the social contract. And the fabric gift bags hold up to more regiving than paper ones do.

For fabric, I rarely buy new. Most often, I go to Sew Green, which is my amazing local sewing supply resale shop. They’ve always got stacks of fat quarters and other squared-off remnants for a song. I just pick a few in cheerful colors, or with amusing prints, when I stop by there. Thrift shops often have a little craft area too, though the selection is usually less. Sometimes I’ll get a fat quarter or remnant from the local fabric shop, too, because they’re really nice and I want them to stay in business even though I’m not much of a seamstress. (And that $2 square of fabric is totally going to do that.)

My sewing skills are slovenly at best. I’ve been using a sewing machine since I was pretty small–longer than I’ve been doing any other craft–but I hate ironing, and I like flying by the seat of my pants. My finished products barely reach the “rough draft” level compared to my family members’ work. Gift bags, though? Little mostly-square things in fun fabrics that won’t see much wear? They’re right at my level. Churning out a bunch of different little gift bags is pretty much the perfect project for me. Instant gratification, very little piecing or worrying about seam perfection. I sewed all the bags below during one toddler nap. I didn’t use a single pin. Boo-yah.

Christmas bags

The two largest have drawstring tops, the rest don’t. For those without, I’ll just tie a ribbon around the top to close it off, or fold the top over and wrap a ribbon around the whole thing. I tacked the corners down on a few of them to make the bags sit flat on the ground, and to more easily accommodate a boxy object. Depending on what goes into them, I may sew handles on later if seems necessary. None of these have specific gifts in mind, but the four small ones are the perfect size for a mass-market paperback, and we’re a book giving family.

The fabrics are all cotton calicos; the largest one has flowers and their latin names, the second-largest has a small vegetable print on it, and the bright yellow fabric is this adorable vintage-looking fabric with a “Laundry Day” theme–soap and bubbles and washboards and things. I think I need some more kid-friendly fabrics, and will keep that in mind the next time I’m out looking.

Preparing for the Games

Posted in knitting, Knitting Olympics, made with handspun, planning, Ravellenic Games by tchemgrrl on July 25, 2012

(still no camera)
Off of one boundary-stretching craft game and right into another.

My primary goal, as it was for the Tour, is to minimize my computer time. I have one main project and a few WIPs that I’d also like to make progress on, but if I don’t finish any of them but continue to avoid frittering time, I’ll have succeeded.

The project I’d like to make from start to finish is the Toddler’s rainbow hooded cardigan. You can see the rainbow yarn in the middle of my last entry. Here’s what the original fiber looked like.


Bright. Just a little. I did some fancy footwork in the spinning with the goal of having the stripes all line up nicely, so part of my challenge may lie in gently fudging the yarns to make that work out. It’ll be striped with some dark blue yarn of the same weight as the handspun. Based on yardages, I think I’m going to alternate 2 rows of handspun with 4 rows of machine-spun. I’m swatching to confirm that right now, and I’ll knit a sweater sleeve first so that if my numbers are way off, I won’t have as much to unravel.

Other projects in the pipeline which may show up during the Games: I have a mostly-complete baby vest that needs completion before the baby I’m knitting it for arrives (sometime in August). I have a sweater for myself that is at a very awkward stage, and I need to sit down with it and confirm that I’ve got everything sorted for the next step. I have some very small holiday presents planned which will require some stash diving, but which would be good bus knitting when the other projects get large and/or complicated to cart around.

TdF Finish Line!

Posted in made with handspun, planning, spinning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece by tchemgrrl on July 22, 2012

The Tour is over, and a whole lot of spinners are stretching their fingers and legs, looking around their house and saying “Okay, time to clean the house this week before the Games start.”

Here’s my finish line:

Final TdF Tally

Clockwise from upper right side:
-Two skeins of 3-ply Ashland Bay oatmeal-colored BFL, 8.4 ounces and 400 yards total.
-Small skein of 2-ply wool (Falkland maybe) in colorway Mahogany from Susan’s Spinning Bunny: 45 yards and 0.8 ounces.
-Small skein of 2-ply brown mystery wool, no idea where it came from but it was sitting in a nice plying ball in my stash for a good long time and now it can be turned into something. 0.7 ounces, 40 yards.
-One 3-ply skein of superwash merino in the Grateful Dyed colorway from Wild Hare Fiberworks. 4.3 ounces, 300 yards, and I will have lots more to say about this yarn later. (Short version: Love.)
-One 4-ply skein of various lightweight singles that I had laying around from other projects. I didn’t think that a skein of randomly-striping laceweight would ever appeal to me, so I just kept adding singles to it until I ran out. 180 yds, 2.2 ounces, so it’s still fairly lightweight, but it looks like a real yarn that will knit up beautifully. (Mostly, it’s two plies of various oranges and pinks, one ply of light natural-colored fiber, and one ply of dark natural-colored fiber. Not entirely sure where most of them are from, but the end result’s real purty.)
-Small 2-ply skein of leftover singles. I’m pretty sure this is the remains of some Shetland wool that I spun up a while ago but still haven’t knit with; I may put it in that bag with a warning note about potential lot variation, because I know I ply with a lot more twist than I used to. 1 ounce, 50 yards.
-Not shown: nearly 1 ounce of fine silk singles. Maybe 500 yards? I’ll find out after I ply it but I still have 1+ ounce to go.

Final tally:

About 2900 yards of singles. About 1200 yards of plying. Just over a pound of singles spun. Over 21 ounces of yarn plied. Total fiber that passed through my hands to be turned into either singles or yarn: About 2 1/3 miles.

My main goal for the Tour, as I mentioned in the beginning, was to spend more time doing useful things at night and less time goofing off online. I’ve definitely cut down my time but I’m amazed at how much I got done because before I started crunching the numbers I wasn’t feeling like I’d done the most amazing job on that front. There was so much beautiful stuff showing up on the Ravelry Tour threads that I spent more time than I’d planned just ogling. And I can’t really spin while surfing the way I can with knitting, so that was all time spent not doing anything. I’d say I cut my online time at home by 50%, maybe even a little less than that, and I wanted to do better than that.

Nevertheless, the results really speak for themselves. Holy Hell that’s a lot of yarn. For comparison, I’ve spun a comparable yardage to this for the ENTIRE YEAR SO FAR. Without trying that hard and being slightly disappointed in the lack of time I spent on spinning. While doing gardening (which doesn’t happen for most of the year in this climate). While solo parenting for almost a week. It really tells me a whole lot about what I can get done when I have a goal.

I looked at my yardage tallies and the first thing I said to myself was “That’s it, I’m spinning a sweater next year.” You heard it here first.

TdF Day 11

Posted in planning, spinning, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 10, 2012

In theory, this is a rest day, so no pictures (keeping up with the pictures is more work than the spinning is!). I did some spinning last night after I took pictures and may do more tonight, and I spun a bit of silk on the bus, but those can wait for tomorrow’s show and tell.

Today I’m mostly catching up on little spinning-related things that I have been putting off because they aren’t strictly spinning. Fixing a loose button on my spindle bag, and washing the yarns I’ve plied. Updating the guild website. That kind of thing.

See you tomorrow.

TdF Day 10

Posted in planning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 9, 2012

TdF Day 10
Last of the BFL!

These skeins aren’t finished yet and feel very twinelike, as all the other BFL has just off the bobbin, but I know it’ll be great once it takes a bath.

Further proof that I am a robot: Both skeins are 200 yards and 4.2 ounces. Bleep Bleep Bloop.

Finishing the BFL can only mean one thing: I’m ready to start some rainbow spinning! As I mentioned on Day 2, I have some rainbow-dyed fiber that will be stripes in a sweater for the toddler, and I did a few pages of calculations on how to split the fiber so that all the colors would start and stop in the same place.

TdF Day 10

This is the result. It involved more top-splitting than I normally like to spin with, but the color effect will be SO WORTH IT. It’s going to be a double rainbow, of sorts. The red will be at the chest, and it will shift through all the colors of the rainbow in both directions, ending with purple at the top of the hood AND at the bottom of the sleeves and sweater body.

If it works out well I’m going to be so stoked.

TdF Day 8

Posted in planning, spinning, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 7, 2012

I did a bunch of things today, so I thought I’d change up the format of the picture:

TdF Day 8

Just a quick shot of everything I worked on.

Starting from the left:

The thicker purple and navy yarns are going to go into a sweater for the Toddler–this would be one small bit of the rainbow fiber that I’ll be working on once the BFL is complete. The purple is one of the handspun 3-ply samples that I made to match the navy blue commercial yarn. This particular sample got closest–even the twist looks surprisingly similar in spite of the fact that the commercial yarn’s a 4 ply. I’ve got the singles sample for this yarn, unwashed, to compare as I do the spinning for the rainbow yarn.

The lighter blue yarn is the laceweight silk I’ve been working on in short stretches since the first day. I started breaking the thread a bunch today, so it might require more attention than I pay in my knitting group.

The next yarn is some llama fiber that I got in a fiber club a while back and never did anything with. I still don’t know what I will do with it (as per my recent post), but I’ll be spinning it up into a 3 ply yarn in the DK to worsted weight range. The fiber is lusciously soft but I’m having a hard time spinning it without overtwisting; it’s been a while since I’ve worked with pure camelid yarn and it doesn’t seem to be like riding a bicycle.

The last yarn is the last–last! bit of the BFL fiber. My Big Project basket is disturbingly empty now that I finished all that. Something will need to be done, pronto. Once these singles are all plied up, the rainbow fiber will be taking up residence.

TdF Day 2

Posted in planning, spinning, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 1, 2012

TdF Day 2

Finished the Starcroft singles. A mindless project that can follow the toddler around is a boon. I wound them into a plying ball, and then added some old singles to what singles I had left over. The leftover singles are from Susan’s Spinning Bunny. I’m not sure about the fiber (though it’s probably Falkland) but I know the colorway is Mahogany. I then had leftovers of the mahogany, which I wound into its own plying ball. I have a couple of plying balls ready to go so there will probably be a plying spree sometime this week.

I spent quite a lot of time on the silk, not that you can tell. Fine spinning is fine.

I have some rainbow-colored superwash wool that I want to use as stripes in a sweater for T. I want the colors on the sleeves and body to roughly line up, so last night after I posted, I did some calculations to figure out what goes where–that’s what’s on the paper. It’s not spinning but this has been the thing preventing me from starting on that fiber, so I’ll count it. I’ll also be doing some sampling to see what goes best with the commercial yarn it’ll be knit 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.”

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.