2015 Spun Up

Two weeks into the new year (can I still call this year “new”?), and I’m already behind. I spent the first several days sick, and the next several trying to catch up from having been sick, and I’m still trying to recover my knitting mojo (not to mention finishing up the photographing and logging of my 2015 knits). It’s been a little demoralizing.

But this right here has perked me up:

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That right there represents the most I’ve ever spun in a single year – just shy of seven pounds. This was in large part due to getting an electric spinner (a Hansen miniSpinner) for my birthday in June. The first seven yarns I spun this year happened over a period of five months, on my Ladybug. The next 20 happened over the next seven months, on my miniSpinner.

I am sad to say that my Cherry Matchless has seen no action at all this year, and she is in a high sulk. I need to make some decisions about her this year. The miniSpinner has completely revolutionized my spinning, and I’m just not sure I need two wheels on top of the spinner. I’ve always adored treadling, but the truth is, I’ve done no treading since June. It’s hard to justify keeping my Matchless under the circumstances, but it’s also hard to consider letting go of such a beauty. So … we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m in love with spinning these days and am hopeful that I can maybe spin around 10 pounds this year, while honing my technique.

Also, just because I like to see the numbers, here’s what I made:

  • basic 2-ply: 19
  • chain-ply: 4
  • singles: 4
  • already knit up (or in the case of 2 of them, woven): 15

Even after almost seven years of spinning, it still always amazes me that I can make yarn with my own two hands (and a tool of some sort). Such a deep and simple pleasure, and one of the brightest spots of 2015 for me.

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Winter is Coming Spinalong :: Annunciation

At the end of the year, I finished up my third (and final) spin for the Winter is Coming Spinalong (in the Southern Cross Fibre Ravelry group). Considering themes and images as inspiration for my spinning is a new way of doing things for me, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

For this spin, I chose “Bloodstone” on Superwash Merino:
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I absolutely adore this colorway – so deep and rich.

Initially, I thought of its resonance with winter fires, or with red Christmas decorations, but in the end, I was drawn to something altogether different. It was an icon of the Annunciation – Gabriel’s visitation to Mary – a story I get to read at our church’s Christmas Eve service every year. I loved the particular depiction I found (which I won’t post here because I don’t own the rights to it), because Mary is holding yarn. It’s red yarn. In some icons, she is depicted as spinning (and, in at least one, even knitting). In this one, she has dropped her yarn to listen to the angel. What’s more, she’s also wearing red socks. Okay, maybe they are shoes. But I like to imagine that they are socks. I also like to imagine that they are handknit handspun socks, that she made for herself. The deep red really enchants me. I wanted some for myself, so I spun up the yarn.

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The spinning itself was a total delight. The chain-plying was another story entirely. I’ve been having trouble with my chain-plying lately, and I don’t know what the problem is. I ended up with more twist and less yardage than I’d hoped. I actually ran it back through the spinner to take out some of the twist, and that helped (though it didn’t increase the yardage, of course).

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I think I need to go back to one of my wheels for chain-plying, because I do believe that part of the issue is my electric spinner tempts me to go faster than is wise. That works fine for regular plying, but not for chain-plying. But even on the wheel, I struggle with consistency in my chain-plies. I am very, very interested in hearing any words of wisdom from those who have this process a little more down pat. What advice would you give me?

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Even with my plying issues, it’s hard for me not to love this yarn. The color is so deep and luscious (which I didn’t capture very well in these photographs). I’m looking forward to knitting it up!

 

Winter is Coming, Second Spin

It was Tuesday, and I blinked, and then suddenly it was Friday. I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to find that sweet spot between Getting It All Done and Enjoying the Moment. It’s a tough balance to find any time of year, but especially as we move further into this season.

Waking early for quiet time to think and create is one thing that really helps me find my breath. The fact that I end up with something beautiful to show for that time alone is quite a nice bonus!

Last month, I told you about the Winter is Coming Spin-along in the Southern Cross Fibre Ravelry group. I’ve had a lot of big plans for this, but the spin-along will be up in two weeks and I’m realizing I’m not going to make everything I dreamed of. But I did finish my second yarn this week.

With this spinalong, I’ve been experimenting with using pictures as inspiration to guide me in the process of spinning. It’s been really fun! For this spin, I used this picture for inspiration:

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That’s Jon Snow’s direwolf “Ghost” (from Game of Thrones), and I adore this picture. It seemed a nice match to the Southern Cross Fibre October Classic Club offering:

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I love those luscious colors so much! This is Comeback Wool, an Australian wool I’ve never spun before. It was a total delight.

Ordinarily, I would just spin this up and ply it with itself, with my biggest decision being whether to have it barberpole or line up the colors. But this time, inspired by the picture of Ghost, I really wanted to add a significant amount of white to the finished yarn. So I ordered some undyed Falkland from Spunky Eclectic and spun that up. Then I plied it with the October Showers. I had 4 oz. of the October Showers and 3 oz. of the Falkland – I had uneven amounts because my original idea was to use an undyed grey fiber in there as well. So I ordered 1 oz. of an Icelandic blend in a natural grey from Spunky Eclectic. The color was great, but the feel of the fiber was so different from either the Comeback or the Falkland, that I ended up deciding not to use it.

With an uneven amount of fiber, I decided to ply a small portion of the Comeback Wool with itself. So when I ran out of the Falkland, I wound the Comeback with my yarn winder into a center-pull yarn cake and plied one end with the other, which yielded a nice long streak of lavender at the end of the yarn.

Enough shop talk! Here’s the final product:

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This is 7.25oz, 362yds worsted 2-ply, and I love it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of plying it one more time – chain-plying it for a really fat 6-ply. But I’m torn, because I also really like it as it is. So … we’ll see!

As I’ve been writing this, snow started to fall, hard. Maybe, after these strange couple of weeks of record high temperatures, maybe winter is coming after all!

 

And Then My Head Exploded

Now that I’m splint-free, my mind is reeling with possibilities for making, and it turns out I want to make all the things at once.

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From left to right:

  1. Sunday Shawl (crochet)
  2. Handspun for weaving
  3. Undyed fiber from Spunky Eclectic (for my current spinning project, which I think I haven’t shown you yet)
  4. Handspun socks
  5. Cross-stitch I apparently can’t finish

I am so close to done on the shawl (one more row!) but I really need to focus on gifts right now, so here’s what I’m committing to today:

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Socks for my kiddo. Cast on last night and am almost done with the first sock (afterthought heel will happen later). The yarn turned out heavier than I meant it to, but I’ll take it – heavy worsted yarn makes for quick knitting.

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left: Hello Yarn (for warp), right: Southern Cross Fibre (for weft)

have to get my loom warped today. I’ve been planning this for two weeks, but I keep dragging my feet because warping takes so long. But I could’ve warped it ten times by now. Mark my words, internet, today is the day I’m getting it done!

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.

The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

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!

Sunday Spinning

Sundays are so full and busy for me, in a good way, but it means they spin away from me so quickly. Today is spinning by especially fast. But I’m helped by the fact that I started the day by doing all the things that ground me, including some spinning.

  
Finished the first two ounces of Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises” (June 2014 fiber club). I love it and plan to make a little time for more spinning tonight.

I hope your Sunday is beautiful, and that you are able to make a little time for whatever fills you with joy.

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!