Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Puzzle

So what do you do when you have a skein of multicolor chunky single-ply yarn that's pretty but doesn't have enough yardage to really do anything with?  

What if you have another ball that's a lace-weight solid color yarn that you don't yet have a project for?

What if you try to combine them? What size needle would you use?  What would you make with them?

It's kind of a fun project to figure out. 

For me, I decided to do a cowl. The chunky would be nice and warm and the lace-weight would allow me to add some nice details. 

I started off with a sort of in-between needle size but quickly realized that it was going to be way too small for the chunky. Since I was going to be doing a lacy insert into plain stockinette, I realized I could use different size needles for each of the yarns with very little effort and bridge the gap that way. 

So I did stockinette for the chunky using size 8-9 needles and then I transitioned to size 4 needles for the lace. 

For the lace I did a really simple, super lacy old lace pattern called "faggoting" which is simply doing 1 round of yarnover/knit 2 together and 1 round of knit. These 2 rounds are repeated as often as needed to make it the length you want. 

I did a few short sections in the bottom before knitting a long center section, basically to use up the whole skein. 

I was going to do a long lace section before doing the edging but I got bored so it was shorter. This was one occasion I was glad of my sometimes short attention span because it came out much better. 
I used a little 8-stitch VanDyke edging from the 1846 Cornelia Mee book to edge it (which took forever!) so it ended up like this. 
It turned from being a snood to a lacy neck warmer and I love it. 

So go explore your stash and try your hand at combining 2 different yarns that you might not have thought to put together. See what you come up with!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Another one down

I wrote a beautiful long post this morning and with a swipe of the finger, I managed to delete it before publishing. Hmmmm… So I'll try to recreate it knowing it's never as good the second time around. 

I finished a skein of milk chocolate brown silk that I started a couple of years ago. 
In the process of the plying, I learned something new. 

While looking for a video to help a friend of mine with her new spinning wheel, I found one by Tim from New Voyager Trading who distributes Kromski spinning wheels. In the video, he makes the point that when you spin with a Z twist, you use the brake band strung from right to left. That's how they come. 
However, his point was that when you have spun your singles with Z twist, you ply using an S twist. For this, reversing the direction of the break band, stringing it from left to right makes the scotch tension much more efficient. 
You can see that I've strung the cord over the mother of all, then through the left hook and over the bobbin to the right-side hook. I'd never thought about it befor but it makes sense. It uses the action of the spring and improves the draw in while plying. 

It was like a Festivus miracle!  It made a real difference. I do have a project in mind for this yarn, which I'll share more about later. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Beading Your Purse

The other night I was looking for something in my home office and found this little beaded coin purse that I'd made about 10 years ago.
After posting it on Facebook, I had a request for the pattern.  It's a really basic beaded purse pattern that you can adapt to fit whatever size purse frame you have.  These purse frames can usually be found at chain craft stores, although you can also find them online.

You can also find kits to made this type of coin purse at some craft and/or knitting stores or online but it's just as easy to buy a spool of perle cotton and some strands of pre-strung seed beads.

So here's how I made mine.  This is a "down and dirty" pattern, written out from looking at my purse. Make, do, change to your heart's content and to fit your own purse frame.  And, most of all, enjoy!

Beaded Coin Purse
  • Size 8 perlé cotton (with beads loaded – load as many beads as you can manage since you’ll have to cut the thread to load another set of beads and then make a join.)
  • Size 10 or 11 seed beads (pre-strung strands of bead make it easy to transfer the beads onto the perlé cotton.  You’ll use approximately 3,000 beads. The easiest way to transfer the seed beads to the perlé cotton is to make a loop at the end of the sewing thread holding the beads and rest the end of the perlé cotton through the loop.  This will allow you to slide the beads from the sewing thread onto the perlé cotton.)
  • Size 0 or 1 knitting needles
  • Lining material
  • Purse frame

Piece is worked flat and then stitched together when attached to the purse frame.  This may not be the best project for working on the move. 

For the smaller coin purse frame, I cast on 28 stitches. Knit 2 rows without beads.  This will give you an edge to attach to the purse frame.

Basic row: K2, *slip 1 bead, K3* (repeat across to last 2 stitches), K2

Every row will be knit in this manner, the only difference being the number of beads you slip.

Work the basic row 2 times slipping 1 bead.
Work the basic row 4 times slipping 2 beads.
Work the basic row 4 times slipping 3 beads.
Work the basic row 90 times slipping 4 beads.
Work the basic row 4 times slipping 3 beads.
Work the basic row 4 times slipping 2 beads.
Work the basic row 2 times slipping 1 beads.

Knit 2 rows.  Bind off.

Using the lining material, cut a piece a little larger than the purse.  Shape the ends to match the curve of the purse frame.  Sew the lining, making sure to leave enough of the side open to accommodate the purse frame. 

Sew the sides of the knitted purse together, leaving enough of the side open to accommodate the purse frame.

With the wrong side of the lining facing the wrong side of the knitted purse, fold in the lining to hide the edge of the material and stitch the pieces together.

Attach the purse and lining to the purse frame, making sure there is room for the frame to open and close.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Antique Spinning Wheels

I get asked by new spinners or those who would like to learn to spin and are looking for a wheel that is affordable whether they should buy a used or antique spinning wheel.  To be honest, my answer 99.9% of the time is no.  Even for more experienced spinners, my answer would be a very reluctant maybe (with a lot of grimacing and shrugging of shoulders).  The vast majority of the used/antique wheels are not functional.  I came across this video by the always wonderful Abby Franquemont where she discusses what specifically to look for when considering a wheel you might find on the internet or in an antique shop.

I particularly like her comment near the end that if you're shopping for your first wheel or your only wheel, you should go for one that is a "newer" used wheel, i.e. one that is still being manufactured so you can easily get any missing parts, and that you should buy it from a spinner who can assure you that it is in working order.

So, thanks Abby for making your video so I don't have to and providing a practical guide for this important question.

I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who have dreamed of learning to spin only to waste their money on a wheel that isn't functional.  This is to keep you from being such a person.  I know you don't have money to waste because you need to buy fiber to spin!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Experiment Time

I love, love, love experimenting. To just get a bunch of stuff and start putting it together in different ways to see what happens is heaven to me. Whether it's cooking or knitting or spinning or anything else, that's what I love. But I don't get as much time for it as I used to or as much as I would like to. 

My new spinning project, though, is just that. I've had an idea in my head for a while now to do a riff on tartan patterning with spun yarn. I did a few samples several years ago when this first came to mind and loved how they came out but I just never got back to it. 

Now it's my Year of Completion so it's time to get stuck in and experiment. I have a lot of fiber I've been collecting that are appropriate colors for tartan patterning but I also had some fun tropical colors I found the other day in a local shop so I thought I'd use that for my first experiment. 
I don't know if you can see the purple at the bottom, that's serving as my deep color. They are fun and cheery colors, perfect for this past stormy, cold week, and I know I'll make at least one person happy (Michelle) with it no matter how it turns out!

It's going to end up being about a DK weight, I think, and should make a fun scarf or shawlette. Not sure yet what the yardage will be but it should be enough for at least that. 

Most of the fiber I'm using is what I found at Mary Lynn's Yarn Garden in downtown Bloomington and it is spinning like a dream. They sell it by the ounce so you can get as much or as little as you want.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mission #3 Accomplished

In my Year of Completion, I've now completed my 3rd project - lace weight (sort of - we'll see after it's washed) yarn spun from a 75% Suri Alpaca & 25% Cormo Wool mix.  Suri Alpaca fiber is a long silky fleece and Cormo wool is fluffy, softy wool.  That's why I'm not sure how much it's going to fluff after it gets washed.  It weighed out at 8.25oz (or 236g).

Here you have 1,434 yards (before washing) of yummy scrummy yarn.  Now I just need to figure out what it wants to be...

For anyone who in interested in details, I spun this on my Kromski Symphony (which is now open and ready for it's next project) on the 10:1 ratio whorl.  Unfortunately, that's all the technicals you'll get from me.  I'm not into too much more than that. It is what it has become.

And I WROTE the damn thing

Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post about a sweater that I put together based on one that a TV character was wearing.  In case you missed it, here's the link.  I ended up making 2 sweaters using the natural white Fisherman's Brand Wool from Lion Brand.  I love the pattern and, in fact, I wore one of them on Sunday when I was shoveling snow and never felt a bit of cold.  I love it.

Last year I bought a beautiful Valley Yarns burgundy wool for a project that I later decided not to make.  I thought it would be perfect for a new jumper and I knew just which pattern I wanted to use - the pretty man sweater.

One thing to keep in mind that this is a pattern that I wrote and have made twice.  That will be important later.

I downloaded the pattern and made an adjustment right away.  The fisherman's rib, or brioche stitch, is a very stretchy stitch.  It's effectively a double knit stitch and has a huge amount of give to it.  In my pattern, I didn't use any sort of rib on it but then I had issues with the cast on being too rigid.  This time I decided to start with a provisional cast on that will allow the garment to stretch to its heart's content before I go back and add whatever I'm going to add for the bottom edge.  That should give it a better edge.

All's good, I got it started and knit to the armhole shaping.  This particular pattern has raglan sleeves outlined by a simple cable.  As I started this shaping THE FIRST TIME, I goofed and decided to add the decreases on the wrong side since I was doing the cables on the right side.  It wasn't until I'd got through the 3rd cable crossing (18 rows in) that I realized that doing the decrease on the wrong side was the wrong thing.  All the nice stitches was on the inside with the decreases.  The outside didn't look terrible but it wasn't right.  So I ripped it out to the beginning of the cabling.  Not a terribly easy thing with this stitch but I did it because it was the right thing to do.

OK.  Got it ripped out and back on the needles and started off again.  I got to the 5th (30 rows in0 cable twist when I realized it wasn't shaping right.  It has narrowed too quickly and I was running out of stitches.  This happened last night when I had sat down to knit 2 simple rows before I went to bed.  It was late.  I realized I hadn't paid attention to the pattern.  I got cocky and didn't look at the pattern.
So I pulled it up and, sure enough, I was supposed to decrease every 4th row, not every 2nd row. Even I know that will make a difference. My question is, how could I have not known this?  How did I not even look at the pattern?  I wrote the damn thing!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Easiest Part is Sometimes the Longest

One day I'm going to write an article about the slowest part of spinning. HINT: it's the plying. 

When you're spinning fiber into yarn, there's a lot going on. Just ask a brand new spinner. Sure you've only got 2 hands (for holding and drafting the fiber) and 2 feet (for treadling the wheel) but it feels like you need 40 of each - not to mention a few extra eyes and a couple of brains to keep track of everything. It can definitely be overwhelming. 

That's why, when in working with a new spinner, I have then break down all the things that need to happen into stand alone tasks. 

1.  Pre draft the fiber. It helps them get a feel for how the fiber acts as well as taking away one of the spinning tasks. 
2.  Hold the fiber and treadle until you feel the twist in the forward hand. 
3.  Stop treadling and draw the hands back to let the twist run in. 

That's a lot to take in and do all at the same time. But it can be learned. 

By contrast, to ply 2 of those singles together only requires the spinner to treadle and let the the twist run in. Of course, you do have to remember to move the yarn forward on the bobbin but it should be easy and fast - much faster than drafting fiber. 

And it is easier but it's by no means faster. For the first years of my spinning life, I produced under plied yarns. I still have yarns that are woefully under plied. (I keep meaning to run them back through the wheel). 

The reason is simple psychology. You think that because it's easier, it should be faster. That ain't always the case, mon amis. 

Ah, you say, but I can always use a faster whorl. Get the twist in faster, move things along. Yes, I say, you can do that but then you change the character of the yarn you're spinning. There may be times you want to use a whorl that's a different size but it should be done on purpose and with a reason. 

If you don't believe me, go experiment. Using a generic light colored wool, spin 2 singles with your chosen whorl and make it long enough for several samples. Keep a sample of the singles yarn long enough to have a "before washing" and "after washing."

Now, regardless of the size whorl you spun the singles on, use your largest whorl and spin a sample long enough for a before/after.  Now do a sample with your next size down and so on until you've used all your whorls and have your 2 sets of samples. 

Keep track of which is which - loop the unwashed samples on a piece of cardboard and note which is which. 

Wash the other set and let them air dry then loop them next to their unwashed counterpart. Look closely at the subtle differences. You could even do this twice, one with a worsted style drafting and also with a woolen style. You could expand it further to repeat the experiment by spinning singles with each of the whorls and seeing what difference the various singles make. 

Yes, the differences in the small samples may appear subtle but it's the same principle as the gauge swatch in knitting. It may call for 5 stitches to the inch but if you are 1/2 stitch over in your gauge, once you multiply it out, it adds up to a big difference. The same for your spinning swatch. Over a project, it can make a big difference. 

When you're spinning, always keep in mind that singles need more twist than you might think because you will lose some of it when you ply. When you're plying, you need more twist than you might think because you'll lose some when you wash your project. 

The point of all this, really, is be patient in your plying. Be present and you'll get the most out of the experience and you'll get the yarn you really want. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

How many licks…

Remember that old commercial about the owl trying to figure out how many licks on the tootsie pop before you get to the chewy center?  That's how I feel with this spinning project.
I've had this project on my Kromski Symphony for about 3 years. 
I love all my spinning wheels but this one is the most elegant and the best at spinning the lace weight yarn. 

The fiber is a Cormo/Suri Alpaca blend that I found at Knitorious and it's kind of a denim color. So pretty and super soft and silky. 

As you can see, my bobbin is full and I only have a short strip to go to finish this half of the fiber. Just the second half to go!  The first half took 3 years, wonder how long the second half will go. 

Keep in mind that this bobbin has about 2 ounces of fiber spun super fine which is probably about 1200 yards of singles. 
Or more. 

So happy to make some progress with this thing. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Delicate wee thing

Finished!  I can't tell you how pleased I am with this delicate wee thing. I will definitely be working this design again. The previous exercise prepared me for this one and I could tell that my spidering skills have improved. Never thought I'd say that and be happy…

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Making progress

I've almost finished the latest bobbin lace project in my Torchon workbook. I've really enjoyed this little 4" (20cm) wide doily. Now I just have to finish it off without screwing it up!