New Projectitis

What’s this?

A few years ago someone on the s’n'b yahoo group alerted members to the fact that Dimmeys stores across Melbourne had $1 balls of italian yarn on sale. Four store visits later I had 76 or so balls of laceweight mohair, wool, and a cashmere/wool blend.

This was before I realised I hate the itchy feel of mohair, and that if you’re not into lace shawls or knitting with 2mm needles there’s not a lot you can do with laceweight.

But knit with 6mm needles, the cashmere/wool blend made a nice drapey fabric. A year ago I stared knitting up a kind of ruana/wrap thingo called a Thneed. A fashion designer friend had picked up one in a market somewhere and suggested I knit my own, so I’d made sketches and measurements. I dyed up several balls of the cashmere/wool blend in grey and started knitting. After knitting a large square I stopped, did some calculations and realised I hadn’t dyed up enough. So I knit the darn thing in undyed yarn and dyed it when it was finished.

I kept the bit I’d knit in grey, and the rest of the dyed skeins. It wasn’t so much an unfinished object as a test swatch and I couldn’t be bothered frogging it. But every time I went through my stash I’d pick it up and the word ‘kimono’ would pop into my head.

It kinda bugs me when I see patterns for ‘Kimono Top’ designs that don’t look anything like the proper kimono shape. They’re more like ‘bat wing’ tops. Sweaters made in one piece, arms and body together. A kimono is definitely not made up of one piece, but lots of rectangles. The grey square could become a rectangle, and it was about the right width for the back of a kimono.

The fabric this cashmere/wool blend knits up into is much more drapey and stretchy than kimono fabric. To give it a bit more structure I’m going to knit bands around the cuffs, neck and hem, using the same yarn but on smaller needles, and maybe add some beads. We’ll see. I expect I’ll be knitting this well into next year, so there’s plenty of time to make up my mind.

And because having two socks and a kimono top on the needles is already too much knitting to do, I started another WIP.

A vest. In the Inca I bought at the Australian Country Spinners shop this year. Knit in one piece, in rib, with a cabled button band. Why? Because it all came together in my head and I decided I should make a start ‘while the iron’s hot’, as they say. It should be a quick knit, anyway. And it’s nice to get away from sock and laceweight to some chunky knitting now and then.

Who’s My Buddy?

I finished the first of the Rosebud Socks on Sunday, but they were kind of overshadowed by all that spinning.

A detail of the ‘flower bud’ lace pattern:

Peri Peri decided he ought to help out with the picture taking.

I now have the strange situation of having three single socks finished. Two chocolate socks in different colours, and one Rosebud sock. I’ve started second socks for both the white chocolate and Rosebud sock, though.

In other sock news, when I popped over to Peeve’s house last night to deliver sock yarn for her to test the chocolate sock pattern with, she presented me with this:

A very nice birthday present indeed! Socks That Rock. Which I haven’t knit with before. In lovely chocolatey colours. Mmmmmmm. Thankyou Peeve!

It was kind of amusing and yet totally appropriate having this unplanned secret late night sock yarn exchange.

Okay, it wasn’t that late, nor secret.

Finished object, final spinning class

The Scribble Knit Shawl is finished!

I’m amazed how quickly it knit up. I’m also amazed that the laceweight and slubby silk finished up pretty much at the same time. Somehow I got the ratio of slub to laceweight rows right. I don’t often knit shawls, as they tend to be special occasion garments I wear only now and then.

I’m also amazed at how clutzy I am this morning. I had nice photos of the blocked shawl, but somehow I managed to delete them all from the camera instead of copying them to the computer.

Yesterday was the final of our spinning classes. We spent the whole day playing with different fibres.

From left to right: merino carded with silk, silk with some silk noir bits in it, alpaca, and cotton.

The merino was much easier to spin with the silk adding strength to it. The silk with noir bits was fiddly, because if you slid your fingers along while drafting the noir bits would gather behind your fingers until they formed a big lump, rather than smaller, nicely spread out lumps.

The alpaca was great to spin with, especially once it had been flicked. Unfortunately the dustiness of it made me sneeze. The cotton was bl**dy hard to spin, particularly ginned cotton (though Gabrielle, spinner extraordinaire, spun it with grace and aplomb). The sample is spun from cotton roving, which has no strength, so I would simply draft it out thinner first, then just letting the wheel twist and draw it in.

After watching Carmel teaching Gabrielle to spin woollen, I began to suspect that I’ve been spinning somewhere between worsted and woollen all along, which might be why I find it hard to spin finely and easy to make slubby yarns. (But on the other hand, deep down fine laceweight just doesn’t rock my boat, wheras I love slubby yarn, so where’s the motivation to spin finely?)

We raided the shop at lunchtime. I bought these:

Since the last class, I’d decided to buy a white Finn fleece. I can spin it up in whatever style or quantity I fancy, then dye it the colour I need. I also bought some merino possum, some of the noily bits, a silk cap, and some 50% cotton/50% lyocel roving (before we tried cotton and I learned how difficult it was to spin) and I popped back later to pick up a reel of pale cream silk thread to ply the silk+noil sample with.

On top of all this, I bought the fall issue of Interweave Crochet. In retrospect, I should have bought the summer one, since what I’m looking for is a cotton summer cardy pattern.

Another student, Natasha, had brought some spindles in for me to look at. They were so light and pretty, suddenly I can see why some spinner bloggers have ten or more spindles. I’m going to have to do some spindle shopping…

When I got home I plied up the samples. I kept sneezing and assumed it was the dusty alpaca that was bothering me. But it wasn’t. It’s a head cold. And when I consider how fast it came on and how awful I felt last night, I’m relieved it didn’t arrive at the class!

Moss and Scribble

Here it is: my mystery handspun project:

Since I bought the wheel I’ve been toying with the idea of giving the former owner something made from yarn I spun on it. I think this might be it. I cast on 11 stitches first, and knit 10 rows of moss stitch. Then I weighed everything and worked out it would make a 60 cm long scarf. Too short. I reckon a scarf needs to be 90cm at the very least. So I ripped and cast on 9 stitches and the maths told me it would be a decent length.

It’s very ‘airy’ moss stitch. I chose larger needles than I’d ordinarily use, so when I got to the lumpier bits of the handspun they wouldn’t be a problem. And moss stitch, being all bobbly, went well with the lumpy yarn.

After the Handspun Scarf was finished, I started this:

The Scribble Knit Shawl. Not seen scribble knitting before? You knit a few rows in a thin yarn, then one in a thick, slubby yarn, on large needles. The slubby yarn looks like scribble:

With the thick and thin yarns being close in colour, the scribbliness isn’t as noticable as it is in examples I’ve seen with brightly coloured slubby yarn matched with black thread. I hadn’t realied how subtle this colour combo would be until I’d done a few rows. But I like it.

Spinning Sunday

As I warned in my last post, there is quite a bit of spinning to report from yesterday. I was determined to make up for my lack of spinning mojo last weekend.

First I flicked up a whole lot of the brown polwarth and spun it until I’d filled a second bobbin. Then I needed an empty spool so I could ply it, so I andean plied my dog’s dinner attempts at spinning roving last week:

Small and humiliating. Actually, the red-yellow stuff wasn’t too bad. It was spun from carded rolags, which seemed easier to spin. The red spun from straight roving makes a small bit of yarn because I had spent most of the practise time rethreading the singles through the orifice because it kept breaking.

Next I made a lazy kate out of a cardboard box and a coat hanger:

Then I plied up the white singles from the class, and the brown polwarth:

These are now soaking in a bucket. I’m being much more careful about cleaning this lot. The last skein of white had blobs of grease still in it after washing, though I followed the teacher’s instructions to the letter, so I put it through the hot water and woolmix soak a couple more times. I don’t know whether it was that, or the extra movement involved, which caused it to felt onto itself and go a bit harsh and scratchy.

The instructions say (after the initial overnight soak in warm water and dishwashing detergent) to soak the skeins in very hot water and woolmix for a few hours then rinse in water the same temperature, reducing the temperature with each rinse until its luke warm. Avoiding sudden changes of temperature is essential to avoid felting. But if you leave the yarn for a few hours it’s no longer hot. So then rinsing it in hot water means a sudden change of temperature. And so is adding yarn at room temperature to a bucket of hot water in the first place.

This time I’m trying to avoid any abrupt change of temperature. I added warm water to the bucket first, then gradually added hotter water. I’ll do the same when it comes to rinsing, reheating the yarn slowly then reducing the temp as the instructions say.

Anyway… back to the spinning. After I’d plied so much yarn my foot was tired from pedalling, I took a break and then tried spinning roving. I had bought a big bag of un-dyed white tops from the Guild, figuring I wouldn’t feel as guilty if I messed it up than if I messed up something dyed in pretty colours.

It was excruciatingly slow at first. I literally drafted a bit, then turned the wheel by hand to add the twist, then drafted more, then turned again. It took ages to get the tension just right. Finally I was able to mix pedalling with hand turning. The trouble is, there’s a ‘dead spot’ on the wheel where it locks and won’t shift if I pedal, and if I pedal slow it always gets stuck there.

Eventually I did manage to get things running smoothly. I was surprised to find I’d filled a bobbin, so I went on to fill another. Then I plied them, filling up the bobbin to bursting point:

Not the most even yarn, but I was pathetically grateful just to have yarn.

And the finished skein, which is luxuriously soft. Now and then I wonder if I should dye it, or what I could make out of it, but for now I’m just grateful to have achieved what I didn’t at last week’s lesson: unhumiliating spun roving.

And I should probably spin up and ply the rest of the white roving before I made any decisions, too.

Last night I decided to start knitting the yarn we spun and dyed in class. More on that in the next post…

A Knitting (Re)Treat

Just for fun, this is me modelling the %@#&*!! Patons Zhivago top.

Only a couple of sizes too big.

You know, I’m having doubts now that this would have suited me anyway. I’ve folded it up and put it on shelf with the other knitted projects that I need to find homes for. Perhaps, like the Thneed, a nice bit of serendipity will occur, and I will be as happy knowing it has found an appreciative home with someone it suits (and fits) much better than me.

It’s also got me thinking about what I’d hoped to gain from knitting this pattern. I wanted a jumper I could wear on the colder days of summer. Maybe I should knit up a nice cotton cardy instead. Or crochet one. From the Stitch’n'Bitch crochet book. Hmm.

In the meantime, I knit a consolation project. Remember that Naturally merino silk blend I bought recently? This is all that’s left of those two balls:

And what did it become? Well, there was a little pattern I’d printed out and saved for a rainy day. A rather Fetching fingerless mitten pattern from Knitty.com.

Which provided the instant gratification – a yummy yarn and a fun pattern – I needed. I could have made the mitts with one ball of yarn, but since I had two I decided to add an extra cable twist to the cuffs. And then I used the same cable pattern for a ‘panta’ (headband/earwarmer) to use up the rest of the yarn.

I love them. They’re so soft and warm and cosy. I want to wear them all the time. Even in bed. Of course, now that I have a lovely pair of Fetching and matching panta, the tropical heat of more typical Melbourne November warm weather has arrived. The beau kept giving me amused looks the night I finished them, because I put them on to test the fit, then still had them on quite a while later… while watching tv, on a night warm enough that I was wearing a t-shirt.

Today, despite the heat, I decided I needed lots more practise on Harvey, so I named it Spinning Sunday and worked him hard. I got a lot done, which will make quite a long post, so I’ll save it for tomorrow.

New Podcast

Thanks for all the sympathetic comments on the %@#&*!! Patons Zhivago top. I’m swaying between annoyance and being philosophical. When I’m being philosophical, I tell myself that I’ve had a pretty good run this year. There was a time when about one in ten projects was a dud. This year I’ve only had two duds (the other was the shower scrubby thing, which was such a quick experiment that I didn’t even bother putting it in the FOS list). That one of the duds was a three month project is just bad luck.

And it isn’t a failure as a garment. It’s a perfectly good garment. It’s just not the size the pattern promised it would be.

(Michelle – if you do fancy it, let me know. Hey, weren’t you coming to Melbourne some time?)

I’ve been consoling myself with a ‘knitting candy’ style quick project on fabulous yarn that wasn’t on my to-do list. I’ll reveal that one when it’s done.

This morning I updated the knitting podcasts on my nano. I’ve pared my list down to what’s in the sidebar. I’ve cast off (haha) Cast-on (too political), Brit-Knit Cast (didn’t hold my interest), Knitcentric and Knitting Psychos (no longer podcasting), and Math4Knitters (I’m never in the right frame of mind). Even through there hasn’t been a KnitCast episode in ages, I’ve left the link there in the hope Marie will revive it. FibreCast appears to have finished, too, but I’ve still got lots of episodes to catch up on.

Thanks to Fitknit, I’ve got a new podcast to listen to. By an Aussie male knitter. I’ve only listened to his test cast so far, and I have to say, noice voice!

Ah, that’s better

I decided that the Zhivago top needed a grumble post of it’s own, so I’ve saved the good bits for their own post. And it’s nice to finish on a positive note…

Yesterday I decided that, if I was going to have any chance at knitting up my handspun by the next spinning class, I had better get stuck into the overdyeing. I went through the stash to see if there was anything else saying “dye me!” to do at the same time.

I had picked up some natural Shetland wool and a little white ball of angora from an op shop the other day, so I grabbed them. And there was a ball of Marta’s laceweight that I had long intented to dye up for the Scribble lace shawl (stalled because I found some silk thread, but I’ve decided since that knitting with the thread would be a fast track to insanity).

Unfortuantely the Shetland wool turned out to have been eaten by moths into short lengths, so that went in the bin. (Fortunately, it hadn’t made it into the stash… though I could see no signs of eggs on it so it probably wasn’t a danger anyway.) I skeined up the laceweight and angora, soaked everthing for half and hour, mixed up the dyes and got my dyeing post steaming.

The handspun dyed up beautfully, the blue dye filling in the white bits and deepening all the other colours:

The angora turned out a lot pinker than I wanted, unfortunately. The laceweight turned out the wrong blue, so I chucked it back in with some purple. Now it goes very well with the slubby silk (shown in the middle).

Now that the %@#&*!! Patons Zhivago top is finished, I have to decide what to knit next. The handspun, definitely. And I might take advantage of my renewed enthusiasm to knit the Scribble Knit shawl now I have dyed up the laceweight. But I’m also feeling the call of the Grey Kimono top, which I started last year (intending to make a Thneed) and put aside.

Decisions, decisions.

%@#&*!! Patons

It must have been before last Christmas when I first decided to knit this, because one of the suggestions I gave my Mum for gifts was the yarn. She got me something else, but later in the year Zhivago went on sale and I bought the yarn myself.

I hadn’t knit a lace garment before, apart from socks, so this was a challenge I deliberately set for myself. Though I’m a bit of a yarn snob, preferring natural fibres, wool makes me itch so the only way I could ever wear something like this was to knit it out of cotton or acrylic. I figured I may as well use the Zhivago specified by the pattern. Even though the pattern was in Crapacious Knitting magazine, it was supplied by Patons, using a Patons yarn, so if I followed all the directions exactly what could go wrong?

I was amazed to find I got gauge straight up (I’m usually knit a little loose). It took a few repeats to get the hang of lace knitting, and aside from a few mistakes fixed by ripping, all went well. I felt the pattern was a bit lacking in detail, but realised it only seemed so because I wasn’t an experienced lace knitter.

I started it in early August. More than a month later the front and back were done. Then the sleeves in October, which I lengthened. I got stuck in the knitting black hole while on the collar, but eventually it was done. Then, because I didn’t have the courage to convert a lace garment to one knit in the round, I had all those seams to sew up.

Last night I finally finished the sewing. It was done.

I went into the bathroom, whipped off my top and put on my sexy new lace jumper.

It’s huge.

Okay, it’s not HUGE, but it’s clearly about two or three sizes larger than the size I knit on the pattern. It’s at least a 14. I’m a 10. I swim in it. It looks patently ridiculous (boom boom).

Crap.

CRAP.

Another skein, another sock, and a bit of a sook

Yesterday I finished spinning the blue-green roving. The second half seemed to take forever, and when I plied it the reason became clear. Even though I’d seemed to split the roving into four fairly evenly matched strips, they weren’t, so one lot of singles was a lot longer than the other. For the last bit of plying I had to wind the rest of the longer single off onto another tube, attach the end to the tail of the shorter single, and andean ply it to itself.

The result has nearly all the combinations of the colours twisted with each other somewhere in the skein. Watching to see which colours would end up together next provided the same sort of fascinating entertainment value as knitting with self-patterning sock yarn.

And I used the microphone stand I bought along with the podcasting equipment I have barely used as a lazy kate. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of, er, substitution.

Now for a pic of the Rosebud socks.

Don’t you just love it when the right pattern comes along for your yarn, or visa versa? I found the lace pattern, Flower Buds, in “The Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches”, which was sitting in a tray outside an op shop.

These are going to be beautiful socks.

Despite this, I’m feeling a bit grumpy this morning. It could be my sore neck, or that it’s so dark I can barely see to walk down the hall (yay to the rain, though), or that of all the blogs I visit each day, only four had something new to read and only two of those contained knitting content. (I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually getting a bit tired of kitten photos.) But I’m sure the grumpiness will pass in an hour or so. Maybe with the assistance of some chocolate…

Hey, the sun just came out!