Saturday Spinning

I have a new favorite fiber, y’all. It is Eider Wool and it seems very similar to Shetland, but with maybe a little more poof after washing.

 

Southern Cross Fibre “Water” on Eider


David (of Southern Cross Fibre) is a genius with color, as you can we’ll see.

This is 226 yards of DK-weight 2-ply, and I’m extremely pleased with it.

  
I’m planning to use it as weft for a scarf I’m going to weave, with some Hello Yarn Kent Romney Lambswool as warp:

  
I’m pretty excited about this project and hope to get to warping it soon!

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Winter is Coming (A Spinalong)

Snow is coming down hard here today, and I would love nothing more than to just curl up with coffee and crafts and be cozy all day. But today is a writing day for me (so, a different kind of crafting, plus there will still be coffee). At the end of the day, I hope to get back to this:

This is my current spin-in-progress, Southern Cross Fibre “Winter” on Eider. I’ve never spun Eider before, but I’m finding it quite similar to Shetland, which is to say, I LOVE IT.

I’m participating in the November/December spinning challenge in the Southern Cross Fibre forum on Ravelry. The theme is “winter is coming.” Here’s my photo inspiration for this spin:

A long winter’s night, featuring the same gorgeous deep blues, purples, and greens in this fiber. I’m spinning this up to become the weft for a winter scarf, so that’s in keeping with the wintry theme as well.

I hope you are staying cozy and warm, and enjoying a happy weekend.

Just keep spinning

To be without the ability to knit right now has been truly difficult for me. But I am so grateful that I can still spin.

On Friday, I finished this:

   
Southern Cross Fibre Shetland in “Beltane,” chain-plied for socks for one of my sons. This would be for a Christmas present but I doubt I’ll have enough time to knit them after I get out of this splint.

 
But the yarn is ready when I am!

Then Friday night, I watched the third Lord of the Rings movie with the youth at my church. It is so long that I managed to spin an entire four ounces during it. And the movie still wasn’t done!
I started with this:  
 Southern Cross Fibre Bond in “Esmerelda,” picked by my other son for slippers (which would also be for Christmas if my hand weren’t  broken).

  
I spin it as a fat 2-ply, and I love how it turned out.

To paraphrase from a certain fish we all know: When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep spinning, just keep spinning, just keep spinning, spinning, spinning. 

My Own Personal Tour de Fleece

Thanks for all the sympathy and support regarding my broken hand. It is a depressing and discouraging development, especially after everything else that has happened in my life in the last six months, but it should be only a temporary setback. It’s definitely disappointing not to be able to knit (I have tried, and it is so clumsy, cumbersome, and slow, that it gives me almost no pleasure or relaxation to do so). Fortunately, there is no shortage of other activities I enjoy that don’t require two fully functional hands.

Happily, spinning is one of those. My right hand is mostly stuck in exactly the correct position for how I like to spin:

perfect!

perfect!

So I am going to treat these next four weeks as my own personal tour de fleece. Let’s see how many yarns I can make, shall we?

I finished Yarn #1 Tuesday night:

Look at those colors!

Look at those colors!

How delicious is that?! It’s Hello Yarn Falkland (one of my fave fibers) in “Mignardises.”

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Look how plump!

Spun as a a light worsted 2-ply with an attempt to line up colors as much as possible. 4 ounces, 218 yards.

I got the next fiber on the wheel yesterday morning:

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Southern Cross Fibre Shetland, “Beltane.” I’m going to chain-ply this for socks for one of my kiddos. Shetland will be okay for socks, won’t it? If Shetland is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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The greens, blues, and golds in this fiber are so yummy. I hope to finish up the spinning tonight and ply tomorrow!

Lying and Plying

I accidentally lied to you yesterday. I said that when I spun that Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk “Slumber” that it was one of those cases when I knew exactly what I wanted the fiber to eventually become and then I spun it that way. Later yesterday, I reread my original notes (i.e., looked back at my blog posts from a year ago), and discovered that no, it was exactly the opposite of that. I spun the fiber the way I felt like spinning it, and then as soon as it came off the wheel, I was like, This has got to be a Pi Shawl! And then I became obsessed with knitting it. So yeah, sorry about the lying.

But THANK YOU for the nice comments here and elsewhere about my Pi Shawl. And to answer a question in the comments: I spun the yarn into light fingering-to-laceweightish singles. I ended up with close to 800 yards. Even so, that was only 4 ounces, and that meant a slightly smaller shawl than the shawls my friends brought to Rhinebeck. I am already plotting my next Pi Shawl, and am thinking towards something bigger.

In the meantime, I did another kind of lying yesterday – and that was lying all the way down to ply. That’s right, I am exactly that lazy. To wit:

Made with Live GIF-2

(I made a gif, y’all! I’ve never done that before. I’m playing with the Live Photos on my new phone and used a new app to convert this one into a gif. I hope it comes through right).

That’s me, lying all the way down on the couch to watch Jon Oliver and ply some yarn (that’s my sweet puppy hanging out on the floor). I’ve certainly put my feet up before while plying with my new Hansen e-spinner, but I’ve never gone into a full on lie-down – I didn’t realize I was that lazy and/or tired. But apparently I am. And I’ll be honest, I actually did snooze a little while plying – crazy but true.

And when I woke up, I’d made this:

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It’s still drying from its bath, but I’ll be back tomorrow with better shots and more details. I’m excited to think I might be really back to spinning at last.

Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

IMG_7559

and this:

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And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

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:

20150717-113559.jpg

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 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!

 

 

Handspun Hurry-up Holiday Socks for Hubby

My husband is one of the most low-maintenance people I’ve ever known. He almost never wants anything more than what he already has, and he rarely feels he needs anything either; he certainly never wants anyone to go to any trouble for him. As someone whose temperament is rather the opposite of this, I find this quality in him admirable. However, it makes gift-giving a huge challenge.

This includes gifts of the handknit variety. In a decade of knitting, I have made him the following: 2 hats, 1 sweater, and 1 vest. The end. That’s it. The only reason he let me make him two hats is that he lost the first one (sometime after I made the second one, he found the first one; he tried to give the second one away, since he didn’t feel he really needed it, but I wouldn’t let him). The sweater, early in my knitting career, was an unmitigated disaster, though he did try to make me feel better by wearing it once or twice.

I wanted to knit him something for Christmas, but the question was what. I didn’t have the time for a sweater, he doesn’t like mittens at all (they are not utilitarian enough for him – he wants basic, functional gloves), and he has less than zero interest in a pair of slippers. When he’s not wearing nice dress socks for work, he prefers to walk around the house barefoot (this is a thing with all three of the guys I live with, and I will never understand it). Regardless, I decided to knit him a pair of socks.

I selected a yarn I spun in 2013, one of the first on my then-new Cherry Matchless.
Tour de Fleece :: Day 1

176 yards chain-plied Pigeonroof Fiber Studios Superwash Merino in “Calico.” I had intended to spin something finer than aran weight, but I was still getting used to spinning in double drive (something I still don’t feel super-comfortable with – I spin almost exclusively in scotch tension).

I dug this yummy yarn out of my stash, made a gauge swatch, and then used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, as I usually do, to determine all my sock numbers. I’ll tell you what, aran weight socks on size 5 needles with 36 stitches are fast. I decided to make them even faster by employing the same technique I used with my son’s socks – I made the cuff 3×1 garter rib. Five days later, BOOM, a pair of socks.

handspun hubby socks
Here they are Christmas morning (hence the Christmas mess in the background). He opened them and immediately began wearing them.

I did that thing again, where every modeled shot I took was either blurry, or had poor lighting, or both.

photo 1-10

photo 3-6

photo 2-10

But you get the idea.
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I love, love, love the earthy tones of this yarn.
photo 3-5

I was very, very happy with how these socks turned out. I have never gone wrong using David’s sock calculations. The fit of these is absolutely spot-on. And I’m thrilled with how they look.

in situ

And the best part is, he wears them all the time. They have been totally perfect as housesocks during this cold, cold winter. He totally loves them.

We were both a bit surprised by how much he loves these socks. All this time of knitting, and I could’ve been making him socks, but neither of us had any idea he would like them or wear them. So not long ago, I was enthusing over how, now that we know, I can make him handspun, handknit socks all the time. Perhaps I should have expected his low-maintenance response: “Why? I already have a pair.”