Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Did It

A few days ago, I finished knitting the sweater out of my handspun 3-ply yarn! And I finished it an entire month ahead of my self-imposed deadline of June 1 (I won't go into what didn't get accomplished in the last two months).
Even after blocking, the sweater has a wonderful boingy feel that can't be all attributed to the moss stitch pattern. The yarn really does have more life than a standard commercial merino yarn. But most importantly, this sweater is my color (mud), my size (big and baggy) and my style (plain). Too bad I didn't plan to have this finished back in January when the temperatures were in the single digits.

With the help of my spinning teacher (Maggie Casey), I learned five ways to make the yarn in a handspun sweater look most even and consistent.
1. Spin about 25% more yarn than you think you'll need.
2. After spinning, set aside the skeins that look dramatically heavier (or lighter) than the others. Don't use these skeins.
3. Wind the yarn into many relatively small balls and choose the balls randomly. This helps distribute the slightly thicker and thiner yarns throughout the entire sweater.
4. Use an allover stitch pattern that will also help camouflage differences in yarn thickness.
5. Knit the sweater in the round. This eliminates seams and having to match up pieces that may be slightly different lengths.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sock Summit 2011

The Sock Summit website went live yesterday. It will take place in Portland, Oregon, from July 28 to 31, 2011. I went as a participant last time and took classes from Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Amy Singer, and Meg Swansen. I had the best time ever.
This year, I will be teaching two classes: Beginnings and Endings (a variety of cast-ons and bind-offs that give the same look whether a sock is knitted from the top down or from the toe up) and Socks at Any Gauge (how to make socks that fit no matter the gauge of the yarn or the size of the foot).
I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making Progress

I spent most of last week in the mountains with several of my knitting pals. We knitted, watched movies, shopped, and ate very well. I had high hopes of completing my handspun sweater while there, but I still have one sleeve left to knit. In order to spread any yarn variations evenly around the entire sweater, I knitted it from the top down without seams. I picked up stitches for the sleeve around the armhole and worked in rounds to the cuff. I tried a variety of other stitch patterns to set off the lower edge, but they all seemed to distract from the overall look. So, I've decided to simply work the non-curling moss stitch to the bind-off edges.  

I have 5 balls left, which should be enough to knit the other sleeve and the neckband. So far, I estimate that I've spent at least 30 hours already knitting this sweater. I think the spinning and plying took only about 25 hours. I still find it curious that this sweater took less time to spin than to knit. I'm now in the market for fleece to spin for another project. Alpaca might be nice...


Monday, April 11, 2011

Handspun Heaven

To tell the truth, I've been a little nervous about knitting up all that yarn I spun for a sweater. I'm having these existentialistic thoughts about how it's so full of potential right now and that every choice I make will limit the possibilities. So, instead of staying up all night swatching once I finished fulling the yarn, I set it on my desk and have been simply admiring it ever since.

But my self-imposed deadline of June 1 is creeping up. To prepare for knitting this handspun, I asked my spinning teacher (Maggie Casey!) to give me pointers. We sorted through all the skeins and pulled out the three that appeared heavier than the others. That left me with a total of 33 ounces (936 grams) or 1,626 yards (1,487 meters) of reasonably even yarn. Maggie suggested that I wind the skeins into many small balls so that I'd be sure to mix of the skeins as much as possible. She also suggested knitting it in a texture pattern and at a slightly tight gauge to help mask the thickness variations. I think Maggie is brilliant. 

I wound the yarn into 25 small balls, which I put on my desk to admire for several days. 

Today, I got out my needles and started swatching. This yarn works up to about 5.5 stitches/inch on size 6 needles. I began with stockinette just to get a feel for the yarn. It was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped: the bounce, the loft, the spring! Following Maggie's advice, I then tried my favorite of stitch patterns--moss stitch. Yum. (And before you all post comments tell me there's an error in my pattern, I know.) Now I just have to think about exactly what kind of textured modified-drop shoulder, crewneck pullover this will be. While some doors will close, others will open.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why I'm a Spoiled Brat #14 and #15

A couple of months ago, I applied for the SOAR scholarship. SOAR is the SpinOff Autumn Retreat that includes an intensive 3-day workshop and 2 days of 3-hour classes, all about spinning. And I have it on very good authority that there's a fabulous marketplace for the duration. The scholarship is designed for those wanting to "expand their interest in spinning, to share valuable information within the spinning community, as well as to preserve, expand, and promote spinning in the community at large." Between my blog, teaching, and books, I figured that I had a chance.

Well, the good luck keeps pouring in--I found out this week that I awarded a full scholarship. That means that not only am I guaranteed a spot at this very popular annual retreat (why I am a spoiled brat #14), but I don't have to pay for it (why I am a spoiled brat #15)! I just have to get myself to Manchester, New Hampshire, October 2-8 of this year, which should coincide with the gorgeous autumn colors. I feel like a kid that's just been given the key to a candy store.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I've Got Yarn!

This weekend I threw myself a plying party and turned the roughly 900 grams of singles I spun last month into about 2,000 yards of three-ply, honest-to-goodness yarn. I finished plying Saturday night but I was so excited that I couldn't sleep. I finally got up at 2:30 am Sunday, reviewed Maggie Casey's instructions in Start Spinning, and proceeded to soak the yarn in warm water and dishwashing detergent, then rinse it with vinegar, then rinse it again with clear water. I squeezed out the excess water with beach towels, "snapped" the damp skeins vigorously a few times, then hung them on the handle of a broken mop to dry. By this time it was 7:30 am and I decided to go back to bed. Later, my oldest son Alex was kind enough to hold the skeins near a window so I could snap this photo. (Notice Alex's handknitted socks--he decided to wear a matching pair this day.)

It took about 24 hours for the yarn to dry enough to wind into skeins--there are 17 of them of various sizes.

The next step is to wind it into balls and swatch to see exactly what I have. Hopefully, the yarn will "speak" to me as I swatch and I'll figure out what kind of sweater it wants to be. Most hopefully, there won't be too much variation in thickness and I'll be able to get a decent looking garment. I may not sleep tonight in anticipation!

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Foolin'

I'm happy to report that my bug bites are much, much better. Thanks for all the suggestions on ways to control the itch. It seems that the best remedy was time. Now I'm just bothered by minimal itching in isolated areas. I never went to the doctor, but I've decided that the most reasonable diagnosis is sand fleas. The little buggers set up house in my skin. It makes my skin crawl to think about it. Oh, wait; my skin is crawling. Eew!

A friend pointed out that the number of responses to the bug-bite blog far outweighs the number of responses I get from posts about knitting. She said, "when you blogged about an adorable, beautifully photographed sweater in a trendy yarn, you got 3 comments. Even the tasty dude in the Quince mitts elicited only 4 comments. Then you post a blog photo straight out of a dermatology text book, and the fans come out of the woodwork. Just like insects."

So, should I change the focus of my blog to weird medical issues?