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 12

Posted in Black Sheep Handspinners Guild, spinning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 11, 2012

TdF day 12

Left to right: Little bitty bit of the rainbow yarn, the two washed skeins of BFL SO PRETTY OMG, one plied and washed skein of extra singles that had been laying around for a while.

And I’m going to toot my own horn and show off the new section of the guild website that I was working on last night on my “rest day”: education. It’s still in progress, but we have all this amazing material from one of the original guild members, and the goal is to get all of it up with enough description to make it useful and somewhat Google-friendly. It’ll all be materials or articles by or about guild members. I’m only about a third of the way through the stuff I already have and when I’m done with that I’ll be headed to the local historical society to pick up more. I’m hoping that this will make the guild a good resource for spinners from all over. We’ll see.

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 9

Posted in spinning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 8, 2012

TdF Day 9

Toddler helped me with my plying today.

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.”

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.

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.



Posted in spinning, Sweater for JJ, Tour de Fleece by tchemgrrl on July 18, 2010

Weekend stuff:

1) I finished and passed along all the shop samples.

Wild Hare Fibers, non-breed specific wool top, Bonfire colorway:

bonfire yarns

The top yarn is the chunky singles, the middle yarn is the barberpoled 2-ply, and the bottom is a chain-plied yarn. Three ounces total.

Abstract Fibers, Targhee top, Gypsy colorway:

Gypsy yarns

Targhee top dyed by Abstract Fibers in the "Gypsy" colorway. Spun up as samples for my LYS.

The top yarn is the not-very-chunky singles. The middle yarn is the barberpoling two-ply. The bottom yarn is mostly a novelty coil yarn. Very goofy, but fun.

(At the very bottom of the picture is a stealth appearance by the Baby Swell’d Area, which is apparently big enough that I can take a picture of it without realizing until loading the picture onto Flickr.)

2) I did another yarn sample and swatch with this fiber, since I was using a different wheel and wanted to get comfortable using a faster whorl to spin a consistent yarn. I got a yarn that J and I really liked on pretty much the first try; a heavy sportweight 3-ply that’s light and smooth. I’ve just started spinning the singles but I haven’t gotten very far.

3) I finished plying and cabling the remainder of the cotton I’d spun up:

cotton pre-wash

And processed it in the way I’d seen recommended:

cooking cotton

Boiling for about a half hour in water with a little dish soap and baking soda thrown in to clean the fiber and maintain a slightly higher pH to develop the color. The green did indeed darken considerably; it’s now very obvious. (Pictures tomorrow when I get batteries for my camera.)

4) I finished plying the silk/sea silk after my plying ball adventures, and started working on the yak/merino blend I’d mentioned. That was indeed the most compelling thing in the stash for a spindle project. While looking for it, I did a good little organization of the fiber stash, and found the box considerably emptier than I’d remembered. It will be even more so once I work through that Blue Faced Leicester. Huzzah! Another tour goal achieved!

I had intended to get a little bit more done this weekend (working on the sweater yarn in particular), but for various reasons it just didn’t work out. No matter–I’m pleased with how much spinning I’ve gotten done over the last two weeks.

It seems like a good time to check in on my Tour goals to see if there’s any little things that need sorting out in the last couple of days.

-Get comfortable with the charkha again? Check.
-Spin up all the naturally colored cotton and cashmere? I’ll finish up the cotton in an evening this week, but I probably won’t get to the cashmere. On the other hand, I did a bit more with the cotton than I’d initially planned by plying most of the singles.
-A quick and good job with the shop samples? Big check. It took me a while to get the hang of spinning a chunkier yarn but the end results came out really well, plus I felt like I knocked them out quickly.
-A day where I go for spinning a mile of yarn? Argh. It just hasn’t panned out and it’s not going to by Wednesday–mostly the weather, mild pregnancy woes, and some Life Busyness have conspired against me. I’d still like to try it sometime soon, and I’ll probably do it with the sweater yarn. Perhaps next weekend.
-Less slacking more spinning? Pretty much, yeah. It’s good to see all these skeins of yarn building up.

All that, plus a fair amount of spindle spinning. Not too shabby.

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.