All the Spinning followed by All the Not Spinning

When Tour de Fleece happened last month, I was ALL IN. For three weeks, I spent all my crafting time spinning, and it was glorious. I finished my Tour on the first day of my vacation. First, I spun up a pile of Hello Yarn:

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn

The top yarn is 4 skeins of “Gobbler” on Cheviot – 17oz., 814 yards heavy worsted 2-ply. The bottom left yarn is 4oz., 296 yards DK 2-ply “Light as Feathers” on Romney Lambswool (a spin I loved so much I went back and bought a pile more of the fiber). The bottom right is 4oz., 192yds light worsted 2-ply “Crivens” on BFL/Silk (I somehow managed to spin this as 2 skeins of the exact same yardage).

After spinning all that Hello Yarn, I branched out a tiny bit to spin some more Discworld MegaSAL fibers.

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Bottom middle is Nest Fibers “Magrat” on Mixed BFL, spun as 218 yards bulky thick-n-thin singles. Bottom right is Into the Whirled “Death” on Superwash Merino, spun as 380 yards fingering(isn) 2-ply (which I’ve already knit up).

This was by far my best Tour ever, with slightly more than 2 pounds spun up, for a total of 8 skeins. It was a delight from beginning to end.

I had imagined I would be spinning throughout my vacation, but it turns out I haven’t spun one bit in more than three weeks now. I’ve gotten back to knitting instead – and with my newly-made handspun, that’s been total delight. Soon I hope to show you something I knit up in just a few days on vacation, but for now, I’ll just show you what I cast on this morning:
Handspun beginnings, potential #rhinebecksweater - #helloyarn "Gobbler" on Cheviot. #spinnersofinstagram

This is possibly my Rhinebeck sweater, the Laurie pullover. Love, love, love those fall colors. Only I realized after a few inches that I made a huge and stupid mistake – at the end of the cast-on, I ended up joining in a round, when it actually doesn’t say to do that in the instructions. So I joined and then just kept knitting for a few inches before realizing that the beginning is to be knit flat. Oops! So I’m ripping back and starting over. I hope to have something more to show you soon!

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Again with the Spinning (and a winner – or winners actually)

(And again with the technical difficulties, too – sorry for my delay in posting about the giveaway winner! I tried to post yesterday but failed).

We are deep into Tour de Fleece now, and I have been spending all my crafting time making yarn. My pile of knitting keeps staring at me sulkily, but I’m committed to doing as much spinning as possible during this three-week tour. I’ll be picking up th knitting needles again soon.

The Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot was a delicious spin. I finished the final skein on Saturday:

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Which meant that, in one weeks’ time, I had completed an entire sweater spin:

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This was a feat I’d never have been able to accomplish without my new miniSpinner. So, thank you, miniSpinner!

There’s obvious variance from skein-to-skein with this spin, but I plan to alternate the skeins while knitting, so I think it will all even out. I have one more 4oz. bump of the fiber to spin up, in case this isn’t enough for the sweater I have in mind, but I think it will be. I can’t wait to cast on for this!!

But instead of casting on, I put more fiber on the spinner, and away I went:

action shot

action shot

This was the dreamiest of dreamy spins:

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This is Hello Yarn “Light as Feathers” on Romney Lambswool and it is AH-MA-ZING.

In almost no time, I had this:

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I have very special plans for this skein, but once I finished it I began dreaming of an entire sweater of this lusciousness. I’m very, very tempted to try to get my hands on more of it.

But for now, I put more Hello Yarn on the wheel, this time part of the MegaSAL I’ve been a part of this spring and summer:

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This is “Crivens!” on BFL/Silk – aren’t those colors just divine? I’ve finished chain-plying the first half and am now spinning up the second half, for a pair of yummy socks.

Okay, okay, I know you’re not really here to see the spinning – you want to know who won the giveaway, right? First, let me say, thank you, THANK YOU, for spreading the word about this. The best way I know to express my joy and gratitude for our son’s safe rescue is to do my best to prevent this kind of accident from happening to anyone else’s child. Thank you for helping me do that!

Secondly, I decided to pick two winners. There were lots of people who shared and posted on Facebook who didn’t comment on the blog post, and I wanted to include them all in the drawing, but I didn’t want to be unfair to those who had also taken the time to comment on the post. So I did one drawing just for the people who commented on the post, and that person will receive the original skein I posted:

Southern Cross Fibre "Nobby" South African Superfine

Southern Cross Fibre “Nobby” South African Superfine

The winner of that skein (or of something made from that skein if she isn’t a knitter) is Molly Gee – Molly, thank you for spreading the word. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address and ship this off to you (or something made from it)!

I did a second drawing that included everyone who had commented on the original blog post and also those who only commented on Facebook, and that person will receive another handspun skein (something I’ll pick from my stash) or something made from it. The winner of that gift is Jessica Pressley – Jessica, thank you for spreading the word. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address!

Thanks, y’all, for your very kind words, your ongoing help in raising awareness of this kind of accident and how to prevent it, and for your continued willingness to share in my joy!

All the Spinning, All the Enthusiasm

Thank you, thank you, for your kind comments and your willingness to spread the word about how to prevent sand hole collapses. I’ll leave the comments on that post open until next Wednesday and then will use the Random Number Generator to see who will receive the handspun yarn (or something knit from it).

Now that I’ve started blogging again, I might as well continue, right? And while I do have some knitting to show you, I thought I’d instead show you what I’ve been obsessed with lately.

HansenCraft miniSpinner

HansenCraft miniSpinner

I got this beauty for my birthday last month. It’s a HansenCraft miniSpinner, in cherry wood, with a Woolee Winder. Oh mercy, y’all, I love this thing. I’d been kind of wanting one for awhile, and after doing some investigating and talking with some spinners who have them, I decided it would be the perfect addition to my spinning tool collection. I just didn’t realize how perfect.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the miniSpinner is an electric spinner – meaning it requires no foot power (treadling), leaving you free to focus entirely on drafting. It’s powered with a foot pedal and is plugged in to an outlet or car charger (it can also be plugged into a battery pack, which is my next hoped-for acquisition). The portability is unparalleled. In years past, I have frequently loaded one of my spinning wheels into our car for long trips. But this time, I was actually able to spin while en route!

spinning in the car

spinning in the car

I love treadling, so I wasn’t sure if I would really love spinning without treadling, but I do. It’s fantastic to be able to focus more completely on the drafting, and I feel like my spinning has already improved as a result. And my production has increased exponentially.

In the last month since I got the miniSpinner, I’ve spun the following:

Southern Cross Fibre,

Southern Cross Fibre, “Breeze” on Finn

Spunky Eclectic Wensleydale,

Spunky Eclectic  “Octarine” on Wensleydale

Southern Cross Fibre

Southern Cross Fibre “Nobby” South African Superfine

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot, skein 1

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

I’m working on a sweater spin of the Hello Yarn “Gobbler” for this year’s Tour de Fleece. I think it will make a perfect fall sweater! And in the first six days of the tour I’ve already finished two skeins and gotten nearly halfway done with the third.

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

Like I said, the increase in my productivity with this thing is pretty amazing. In all of last year, I spun up 40 oz. of yarn. In the month since I got my miniSpinner, I’ve already spun up 20 oz (and more than 1/3 of that month included zero spinning because of more intensive traveling) . I know I won’t keep that pace year-round, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

Now if only I could figure out a way to make my knitting needles move as fast as my new spinner, I’d be set!

A Wee Knit for a Wee Pup

We got a puppy and he is straight-up adorable.

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This is Louie. (Middle name: CK). He’s a chocolate Havanese, and we’re in love. He’ll be 13 weeks old tomorrow, and he’s already learned how to sit on command, lie down on command, and use the bathroom on his potty. He’s a whip-smart little dude!

Evidence of his intelligence: he’s also a Tigers fan.
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I made him the first dog sweater I’ve ever made:
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I made this for him to wear on St. Patrick’s Day. And yes, we matched (me in my Cape Cod).

I loved this sweet little pattern, which can be made to fit any pup (or cat, or rabbit, for that matter). It’s called the Perfect Fit Dog & Cat Sweater, and it’s free.

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I made this one a bit short (let’s call it a crop top), but you can make it whatever length you want. I have plans to make him one in handspun for fall, once he’s quit growing. I mean, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, right?

That Time I Made Not-Socks

For someone who doesn’t really consider herself a sock knitter, I realize I’ve posted a lot about socks lately. Yes, it’s true that I knit six pairs of handspun socks basically in a row, and then I began my plans and swatching for my Crackerjack Socks. But I did interrupt my sock-knitting to make a special wee baby gift.

I was packing for my trip to Nicaragua and wanted some good plane knitting. There was a wee babe in Nicaragua I wanted to give a little gift to, so my need for travel knitting and my desire for baby gift knitting converged. I found a pattern I hadn’t knit before – a Bunny Blanket Buddy – and cast on in the Detroit airport, by the time we’d landed in Managua, I was all done, except the stuffing and the embroidery.

I saved the pattern to my iPad but when I got to the part for making the head, I was a bit confused. Since I was in the air at that point, and had no access to WiFi, I forged ahead with the sense that I wasn’t making it right but with no way to look up any comments anyone else had made about the pattern. Turns out, the pattern is poorly written. If you know what you’re supposed to do, you can make sense of it, but since I was basically flying blind, I just made stuff up as I went along. The head is supposed to be double-knitting (which, surprisingly, I’ve never actually done before), but nowhere in the pattern does it actually say that.

The upshot is, I made the head HUGE, about twice as big as it was supposed to be. And then I had to knit a
back to it so that there was something to stuff. And then I needed to seam it. Basically nothing about the head was as per pattern. Even so, I think it turned out pretty cute:

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Big-headed Bunny Buddy Blanket

I made this with Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (are you surprised?), leftover from my Crackerjack Scarf.

I have a dark secret about embroidery. It is the number one reason I sew or knit so few stuffies – I get hung up on embroidering the faces! In fact, in my craft closet right now there are two adorable big-footed bunnies I sewed for my boys for Easter presents when they were four years old (i.e., six years ago), that have languished there for lack of a face. It’s a problem. But this time, I got right to it. We landed in Managua on Friday night, I stuffed and sewed up the head as soon as we got there, and on Saturday morning, I embroidered the face.
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The baby did not seem judgmental of my embroidery skills, nor unhappy at the size of the bunny’s head, so I think it all worked out fine.

Now that I know what the pattern means to say, as opposed to what it actually says, I will definitely be making this again!

So Guess What I Made Next…

After completing five pairs of handspun handknit socks in a row (with a brief break to make a baby sweater), what do you suppose I made next?

If you guessed more handspun handknit socks, you’d be correct.

My Old Man’s son had a birthday in February, and it had been awhile since I made him anything (he believes that I now direct all my gift-making energy towards his girlfriend, and he may be right). Around the time I was completing my second pair of socks for myself, I realized that the yarn I had on the wheel at the moment would be perfect for socks for him.

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This is Hello Yarn Targhee in “Bracken and Gorse,” the November 2014 fiber club, which I spun up as 280 yards of light worsted weight 2-ply. I had initially been thinking to weave with it, but my recent handspun sock obsession shifted my thinking.

As soon as I was done with my Munhacke Campfire Socks, I cast on:

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to marvel again at how quickly worsted-ish socks grow:

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They grow so fast!

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Of course I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, this time with no afterthought heel or anything unusual at all, other than throwing in my beloved 3×1 garter rib for the leg. If you want to do ribbing for a sock but want it to be as fast and easy as possible, go with garter rib. Though if you are like me, you will forget that’s what you were doing and accidentally switch to regular rib for the second sock. I did this for two of my last three pairs of garter rib socks.

But this pair, I got just right.

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I will admit that, once I tried them on, I really kind of wanted to keep them for my own self.

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They are so soft and cozy! But since I had just made two pairs for myself already, I managed to give them away as planned.

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The recipient seemed pleased!

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And the fit seemed pretty spot on.

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I am very, very happy with how this pair turned out.

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

raveled

After I was done, I still had roughly 90 yards of the yarn left. I briefly experimented with turning into more socks, striped with some Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool:

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But I wasn’t loving it, and I soon came up with another idea of something I want to save it for. More details on that another day, but – believe it or not – it’s not socks.

More Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Sat in the Snow in the Dark and Created Something I Love but Failed to Take Any Notes.

Immediately after finishing a pair of handspun knee-high-ish socks for myself, I cast on for another pair, using my handspun Hello Yarn Superwash BFL in Mochi, the first yarn I finished in 2014:

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, "Mochi"

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, “Mochi”

I adore those bright, warm colors, which I spun up as another chain-ply (205 yards light worsted, out of 4 ounces). When I originally spun this up, I was thinking mittens, but lately I’ve been all about the socks, so that’s what I went with.

I decided to do the toe on this pair differently:

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Basically, I pretended I was making a wee top-down hat. While I love the figure-eight cast-on I usually use to start a pair of toe-up socks, this cast-on was the simplest, fastest start I’ve ever had. Plus, I love the look of the toes. And the fit is perfect:

sock toes

sock toes

Next, I decided to do some arch shaping, to accommodate my high, narrow arch. I’ve done this once before and was very pleased with the results. That was a few years back, but fortunately I made some notes on my Ravelry page that helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do.

arch shaping

arch shaping

Because I’m in love with an afterthought heel, that’s what I did for these socks. I knitted in a line of waste yarn where I wanted the heel to go, and then I just kept knitting a tube. Good grief that’s such an easy and fast way to make a sock. I put some of the brown parts of the yarn aside for the contrast heel, and then just kept knitting my tube.

When I got to where I thought I would need it, I started some calf shaping. And then before I knew it, I was done with the first sock, and I finished off with some brown for the cuff. I cast on for the second sock immediately, and when I was done with both tubes, I went back and added in the heels with the brown yarn.

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I took this project with me on a winter campout with a Boy Scout troop my son is thinking of joining. I’ve got to say, sitting outside in the snow, watching the sun set, and knitting a sock is an experience I’d never had before. And I liked it!

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It was a cold and snowy weekend, and we spent most of the afternoon and evening outside, around a campfire. Knitting a sock with an afterthought heel was basically the perfect project for this, because I was just knitting a simple tube. I continued knitting on into the night, because I didn’t really need to see what I was doing.

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The thing is, I had intended to release this as a free pattern. And sitting outside in the cold, in the snow, in the dark, with the scouts, I totally failed to make notes about what I was doing. And now, more than a month later, I don’t know if I can remember exactly what I did. So at some point, I will need to study the sock and/or make another pair.

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The truth is, I want to tweak the heel just a bit (this is another hat/bullseye heel like in the pair I showed you yesterday). So knitting another pair is probably the way to go anyway.

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In the meantime, I have very happy feet (though I do need to back and close up that little gap at the heel on the right sock). (Also, I know more now about how to prevent that from happening in the first place, so I want to incorporate that knowledge in my next pair.)

sock blocking

sock blocking

I should add that this pair is cat-approved as well.

As with the pair I showed you yesterday, I managed to magically make a mostly matching set of stripes from one sock to the other:

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That comes, I think, from how I spun the yarn. I split it as evenly as I could, straight down the middle, and then spun each half from the same end, and then chain-plied. I ended up with one skein of 101 yards and one skein of 104 yards, as close a matching set as I have ever managed to spin.

Maybe no one but me is interested in making handspun, toe-up, hat-toe, arch-shaped, afterthought heel, hat-heel, knee-high-ish socks. But they are fun to knit and a delight to wear, I assure you!

raveled

Handspun, Handknit Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Got Through Winter.

I like winter a lot. Even really cold ones, like the one we just had. But that could be because I know the secret to staying warm and cozy. (My husband says my other secret is that I’m never the one who shovels the snow….)

Last month, I showed you the handspun socks I made for my menfolk for Christmas. As I made those socks for my guys in December, I promised myself a little reward if I could get them all done – the next pair of handspun socks would be for me.

So in January, I made good on my promise. For starters, I pulled out one of my loveliest yarns:

spun :: Hello Yarn Finn
This is 240 yards of light worsted chain-plied Hello Yarn Finn in “Winter Storage” (September 2009 Fiber Club), a fiber I loved from the word “go.” When I first received this fiber, I knew I wanted to chain-ply it, but I had only been spinning for a few months at that point, and I didn’t feel very skilled in chain-plying. So I waited until I felt confident I could get it the way I wanted, which turned out to be a few years (I’m slow I guess). And at last, in 2013, I pulled out this fiber and managed to get it exactly the way I had in mind:
spun :: Hello Yarn Finn

I knew from the beginning that this was destined for socks. What I didn’t know was that it was destined to become knee socks. What a happy surprise!

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As usual, I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, my go-to for handspun socks. With my worsted gauge and my narrow feet, not only did the socks knit up very quickly, but they turned out a lot taller than I’d anticipated.

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It might be a bit of an overstatement to call them knee socks – they don’t actually go all the way to the knee. But they are pretty long socks, and very cozy, and extremely happy-making.

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I’m still kind of in awe of how well the stripes matched up between the two socks. With handspun, I just assume that fraternal socks will be my default. But look at that matchy!

With this pair of socks, I did an afterthought heel, which is one of my favorite ways to make socks these days. It keeps the stripes of the sock continuous, and it allows me to more easily plan for a contrast heel. This time, I decided to do a heel I’ve never made before – a “hat” heel or “bulls-eye” heel. Basically, I decreased for the heel the same way I would if I were making a brim-up hat. And this might just be my new favorite thing:

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I love the fit, and I love the look.

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Y’all, this was the fastest, most fun pair of socks.

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So here is my secret for a happy winter: handspun, toe-up, afterthought hat heel, knee-high-ish socks. Both the making and the wearing. If you can wear a pair while making more, even better.

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 raveled

To Welcome Baby Girl #2

Last summer, after eight boys born in the span of nine years, our family welcomed the ninth baby – the first girl in 32 years, born to our niece and her husband. She is a complete delight! I made her a wee cardigan, as well as a handspun dress. I love knitting for little boys, but I have to confess that getting to make tiny feminine items takes things up a notch.

And right before the new year, I got one more reason to do so: our nephew and his wife welcomed their own baby girl into the world. For her sweater, I tried a pattern I hadn’t made before, Scrap Sweater for the Small Ones. Y’all, this pattern is so sweet! (and fast) It comes in sizes from newborn to 8 years old, and can be made with either a heart motif or an hourglass motif (or substitute your own). I went with the hearts, and I only used two colors (the pattern calls for four), to keep the color scheme soft and simple:

baby pullover

I made this in one of my favorite yarns for baby knits – Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport (a superwash wool) in “whisper” and “natural.” It hardly seemed to use any yarn at all, but came out a nice newborn size. The colorwork is extremely simple and would be a great introduction to stranded knitting for anyone who might be a bit hesitant to give it a go.

The sweater itself was soooo quick to make. But then I pulled my usual trick of waiting a few weeks to get a button sewn on. But I finally found the right button, got it sewn on, made the little crochet tab, and shipped it off just in time for Valentine’s Day (like, literally, it was scheduled to arrive on Valentine’s Day).

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Pretty cute, right?

Welcome to the world, baby girl! We love you already.

 

A Look Back :: 2014, in Knits and Spins

Yes, I realize it’s a bit ridiculous to do a retrospective in mid-February, but apparently that’s what happens when you are still logging your Christmas knits well into the new year. I always like to take stock of what I’ve accomplished each year with knitting and spinning, so here we go.

2014 Knitting

Less than I’ve knit in some years, but more than I might’ve, given how much was going on for me in 2014. Here’s the tally:

cowls: 2
baby: 4
adult sweaters: 1
kid sweaters: 2
mittens: 1
mitts: 2
socks: 5
hats: 1
toys: 3 sets
boot toppers: 1
blankets: 1
handspun: 7
my own design: 5
for others: 18

I think that last total is a record for me (a self-proclaimed selfish knitter). Out of 23 items knit, 18 of them were for other people. I also clearly majored in accessories in 2014, with almost a record number of socks. Another record for me: nearly a quarter of my knits were ones I designed myself. Nearly a third of my knits were handspun. Notably missing from the round-up: shawls. I almost finished one in the spring but then ran out of yarn during the bind-off and still haven’t gotten that sorted out. I also cast on for two shawls in 2014 that I didn’t finish in the same year (one, cast on in June, is hibernating; another, cast-on in November, was finished in early 2015). In 2014, I also accomplished a long-standing goal of mine, of knitting sweaters for each of my kids in the same season. I didn’t manage to finish until sweater season was almost over last spring, but it has been a true joy to see both boys wearing their sweaters this season.

My most-worn knit of 2014 is my Spy vs. Spy, a handspun infinity cowl that I lovelovelove. My most fun-to-knit knit was my Detroit Tigers Crackerjack, which kept me company all through baseball season. And my favorite knit of 2014 was the one adult sweater I made, my Autumn Reis.

Goals for knitting in 2015 include: more knitting with handspun, a new version of Crackerjack, and at least one more sweater for me (ideally, more than one, as I have several partially-completed ones hibernating that I would love to finish up).

Here’s the spinning round-up for 2014:

2014 spinning

That’s a sad number of spins, isn’t it? I have struggled with my new wheel, and it took some of the joy out of spinning. When I gave myself permission to pull out my old wheel, I got a lot more spinning done (70% of these yarns were made on my Ladybug, in the last 4-5 months of 2014). Even though I would’ve loved more production, I am very happy with the yarns I did make (70% of which are Hello Yarn). I’ve already knit up half of these yarns, and as I noted above, one of my hopes in 2015 is to do even more with my handspun.

A new thing that will include this year: weaving. I got a new loom for Christmas (a Schacht 20″ Flip) and I have had so much fun with it so far. I’m envisioning lots of handspun handwoven goodies.

Also, apparently I’m going to be knitting lots more handspun socks this year, because I’ve discovered I can’t quite get enough of them.

So! That’s a look back at 2014 and a look ahead at (what’s left of) 2015. Thanks for indulging me! For my next trick, I’m actually going to show you something I made this year!