Thursday, May 30, 2013

Green Sweater Chronicles

I've been pretty quiet of late, and this time it is because I've been studying up on how to make sweaters fit.

I have knit a few sweaters, and a few more sweater vests, and all but one were done pretty much off-the-cuff. But I've only been moderately satisfied with the sweaters I've made for myself.  So this is my journey to fix that situation.

Next to my chair there is a black back pack filled with books I've acquired on the subject.  That seems to be the way I learn; even when I was re-teaching myself to knit back in college, I had to place two or three sets of instructions side-by-side before I could be sure that I was wrapping my brain around the way to wrap the yarn.

In theory, much of it makes sense, but I have found that putting it into practice provides its own set of challenges.  That's my journey.  I don't expect to bore you with all the things I discover on the way, but rather just give you a few peeks at my progress.

Seaming practice: mattress stitch
Mattress stitch is kinda awesome.
This process is taking some time because I'm trying to do my homework before casting on. A bit of seaming practice gave me a lot of confidence that I can at least seam up the sides pretty well!

Mattress stitch stretched
Stretched to show seam

All of my sweaters up to now have been done seamlessly. Now, as you see, I am turning over a new leaf.

Mattress stitch
Hot dog! Look at that beast!

It's a funny coincidence that I pulled from the stash some old yarn in "Leaf" green for my first of several sweaters.


That's right, I have high hopes of knitting not one, but a few, sweaters this summer.  

Ick.  (Sorry, that reaction was provoked by the current heat wave we've had out here. I haven't worn anything but my undies since coming home from work today.)

A few notes about my green sweater so far:
You can see that I steeked the neck; it's so much easier than knitting the front shoulders seperately!
It's been kinda fun to crunch numbers, knit the pieces, then be able to see how they actually work out (which is harder to do when knitting in the round). If you look closely, you may see that I added some back shaping.  I'm eager to see how that turns out once the sweater is on my body.
I'm also eager to see how my sleeves work out; I'm designing my own sleeve cap. How is it going to turn out???

Gratuitous kitten holding:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

MDSW 2013 part 2

Guess what! There are harps in this post!

folk music at Sheep 2 Shawl

I know, I mention "harp" in my blog tagline, and when I started out this blog, I had intentions of including occasional links to my own home recordings.  Well, for a couple reasons, that hasn't happened. I don't even talk about harps most of the time, and I apologize.  So I made sure to get photos of harps at Maryland Sheep and Wool for ya, as if that makes anything better.  Two of the three harps I saw are even the same make as my own Dusty Strings!

Sansone trio

I don't know if it was my preoccupation with sheep taking me to different parts of the fairgrounds that is to blame, but I didn't catch as much music as I would have liked.  A couple other years, the grounds seemed to be almost overrun by musicians; I kinda missed that this year.

Still, I did manage to steal a bit of time Saturday afternoon to work on my shawl at the music pavilion. I  enjoyed watching the people in front of me do a bit of spinning, too.

Sansone trio

Shetland Triangle progress

Spindling with Common Ground

The weather on Saturday was gorgeous.  Cool enough that I was able to wear my vest (and fish) comfortably all day, but warm enough that the breeze on my arms felt very nice.

Welcome to MDSW

We had delicious fries. I didn't even miss ketchup.

Nom nom Fries!!

People always complain about the food at Maryland; this year we decided not to fuss over it, and simply made pb&j sandwiches back at the car. It made for a great chance to drop off all that fiber I bought.

On Sunday we missed most of the goings on because of our class, but I did manage to snap a few pictures of the sheep-to-shawl contest.
sheep to shawl competition

sheep to shawl competition

Here's one of the completed shawls, which -- despite not winning first place -- went for hundreds more dollars than the others at the post-contest auction.

Sheep to Shawl, finished

And now, speaking of handmade shawls, here's the shawl I finished just yesterday!

Handspun Shetland Triangle

This is a big deal for me, since I've been wanting to knit a shawl using my own handspun for a couple years. In fact, it was five years ago that my first trip to MDSW introduced me to handspinning! Some of my first yarns were in a blue-green colorway, too.

Handspun Shetland Triangle

Handspun Shetland Triangle 

blogged about it in more detail over on girlsinsheepclothing.  I'm already planning to do another similar project, in order to blend the colors better at the transitions; I can think of about two or three simple ways to improve them. The process of making this shawl has been so much more thrilling than merely knitting it would have been.  The knitting took less than a week, actually. But the spinning feels like the culmination of all I've learned so far, and represents the learning I continue to acquire.

Handspun Shetland Triangle

Sigh.  Lace.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recounting MDSW 2013: sheepish impressions

Thank you for the well-wishes, everyone! I'm back home after a full night's sleep, and there is so much I wish to share with you.  But where do I begin?

Being the master of the obvious that I am, let me begin by giving you one word that expresses the largest impression left on me: sheep.

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That may sound stupid, but I think it reflects a significant change from my previous experiences at sheep and wool festivals.  In past years, I think it would be appropriate to cite "yarn" as being my primary impression; this year, I almost found myself buying an obligatory hank of yarn out of a sense of nostalgia.

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The yarn was there, but my mind didn't have much room for it. On Friday morning, Jeff and I took a class on beginning shepherding; this class opened my eyes to a whole different approach to sheep than simply as wool producers. There's a lot of work that goes into caring for sheep, and without the folksy farmers doing their part, the city slickers wouldn't have much to keep their fiber frenzy going.


And you have to admit, we fiber frenzied folks can be a bit nuts.

leicester longwool

I never really thought of myself as properly citified; in fact, I tend to feel like a country bumpkin when I hang with city folks. But the success of internet resources for knitters has led to an emphasis on the sleek and trendy, much like the flashing lights of the city. I have found much of my knitting driven unintentionally by the fads going around. While I enjoy the fresh, updated take today's designers bring to knitting, I am realizing that all the emphasis on the new and fashionable has encouraged me to overlook the plainer -- and perhaps more practical -- end of the spectrum.  If you've hung around my blog much, you'll probably remember that sheepy, rustic yarns have a special place in my heart. I think there's something wonderful to be said for the folksy side of knitting.

Well, that, and I could never defend my aesthetic on the grounds of fashion.

Kissy Fish
I had so many people sneaking pictures of my hat, there were times I had to pause what I was doing just so they could complete their photographing. I figured I might as well have a pic, too!

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Sunday we went on the sheep breeds walkabout with Deb Robson. If you get a chance, do it! Especially as a budding spinner, I found this class to be very fascinating.  One of the points Deb stressed is that we fiber enthusiasts play a huge role in providing support for the sheep that give us so much. I also was struck by the wide variety of fiber that is available, each breed with its own backstory. Once you begin putting names to faces, it changes everything.

hello, friend

Is it any wonder that instead of seeing yarn, I walked through the booths seeing breeds? Lemme see how many specific breeds I took home for sampling. Fiber for spinning: Falkland, Bluefaced Leicester, Border Leicester, Masham, Cormo, Shetland, and Corriedale.  I also picked up a beautiful skein of sock yarn made of Perendale wool blended with mohair to add strength.  Yeah, a little crazy, but so excited.

Parade of Breeds
The Parade of Breeds

Thanks to the walkabout with Deb, I have a better idea of some of these breeds and where they come from; I think I'll be consulting The Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook a lot more in the coming days. I also think Dan of Gnomespun Yarns deserves a shout-out for introducing me to some of these breeds before I even knew better.

little ones at the parade

Knowing many of you couldn't be there, I petted a few sheep just for you. They were wonderfully spongy and greasy, and very sweet.

Pettin' a sheep

I met old and new friends, learned a heck of a lot, and spent up all my money. And somehow I managed to completely evade the anxiety I was feeling beforehand.  I have some more I want to share with you, but I think I'll save it for another post.  


Saturday, May 4, 2013

I'm embracing it on the front end...

Counting down the minutes toward departure for Maryland Sheep and Wool.  This year's house color is purple, so I have a few items I'll be wearing along that theme.

The weather should be nice, though it was a bit chilly yesterday, so I'm going modular. If I made my armwarmers for one thing, this might be it.  Those barns can get hot, but a large hall in the shade can be rather chilly...but a full sweater is a bit much to carry, right?

I think I'm the only person who thinks this way.

A couple pics from yesterday's visit to the fairgrounds make it hard to believe how crazy things will be in a little more than an hour:

Wish me well. I don't like the crowds, but I'm trying to embrace waiting in lines as much as I embrace my inner Abominable Knitter.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day Handspun Maynia!

Happy May!  Happy May!

I got tired of my spindle box having Christmas-y snowmen, so I put a skein of one of my favorite colorways to work:

spindle case

The yarn is one of my little skeinlets spun up on a Trindle using the Navajo Ply On The Fly technique. The color is Deep Blue Sea dyed by Gale's Art, and it's the first colorway I spun up several years ago after learning about handspinning on my first trip to Maryland Sheep and Wool. I used glue to make the yarn a permanent fixture on the case; I love that it shows of the color gradation so beautifully!

spindle case

Just last night I plied my Maryland Sheep and Wool challenge yarn and gave it a bath. And now we have the big reveal!

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I finished just in time to cast on for the May Day KAL with GirlsInSheepClothing. I love the tawny olive blended with the sea foam that is coming up in the first bit. The pattern is Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle; I've wanted to knit this one for a long time, as I have heard great things about it, and frankly, every time I saw a different version of it in real life, I loved it.

Shetland Triangle

The above photo is already outdated; I'm banging this one out at the moment. Oh, and in the background we have my Leaves of Grass, which I have not been neglecting along the way, despite channeling much of my brainpower into some other areas of knitting which I will not now relate.

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It feels pretty good to be out of chart C.

It also feels pretty good to be going to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend! I can't believe it is almost here.  If you are going, feel free to say hello. Looks like the weather will be quite lovely this year, and the music never disappoints.  For those of you who can't make it, I promise to pet a sheep for you.  Actually, I only promise it because I'm pretty sure that's just what I'll be doing at some point; I'm excited to be taking a 'basic shepherding' class and a sheep breed walk. This is a part of the festival that will be rather new for me.  I love that there are so many ways to participate in the festivities!

Happy May, and May your yarns be Happy!