Friday, March 6, 2015

Handspinning Milestone

...Aaaaand they're done! (Finally!!)

This is my first pair of handspun socks, several years in the making. I love how sturdy they feel, yet comfortable. Getting them right took a lot of ripping and re-knitting. The process was definitely more involved than working mill-spun sock yarns, but I'm delighted with how they turned out. Who cares if they're a little bit funky? I don't.  (Yeah, especially those side ribs.)

If you look closely, you can see that I worked the gussets differently between the two socks, adding stitches further away from the side rib to avoid an awkward distortion that appeared in the first sock.

The fiber is a Dorset-silk blend dyed by Dan of Gnomespun yarns. I originally worked on this yarn as part of a Tour de Fleece challenge, using my lovely Golding spindle. 

The yarn was "chain-plied on the fly", a technique that is a favorite of mine when spinning on a spindle. I ended up with dense, stretchy socks; the Dorset wool is rather bouncy, and I tried to run with that in my spinning, too.

I consulted Cap Sease's book, Cast On, Bind Off to find a bind-off that wouldn't ruin a perfectly good sock. Peggy's Stretchy Bind Off for K2, P2 Rib gave very satisfactory results. (Just last night I was complaining about a great pair of socks that I was struggling to pull off, simply because the bind off is too tight. Word to the wise.)

I love the look of what I call the PGR method for the heels/toes; while still work them with the book on my lap or on my phone (yes, I got both formats), I find it has indeed become pretty easy to do. I remember feeling doubtful when first reading Priscilla Gibson Roberts' claims that it would become intuitive, so it is nice to look back and know that I was right to trust her. I'm grateful for the book, which was part of the swag I received back at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat a few years ago. It has given me a lot of pleasure in my socks.

I'm also grateful for Carla, who first introduced me to spindles, and spinning in general. Look at me now, Carla!

Monday, March 2, 2015

March FO Parade

Heheh... see what I did there?

Here's what I've been making during my blog silence:

Gloves modeled after a lovely gift from a friend... these were a labor of love (totally worth it, though) - particularly getting the fingers the correct length. Next time I consider knitting gloves, I think I may try a top-down construction to get this part out of the way.

I dyed yarn for an idea I've been cooking up for a long while, then decided to use a completely different yarn.

The original yarn matched the little blue bit you see below. While I didn't feel the green was right for my idea, it is perfect for another idea I've had simmering for some years.

The idea not pictured here is the one I'm actually knitting up, having toyed with it for a number of years. It's cabled, and serves as a nice accompaniment to my audiobook listening of Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings. If only I could get the recording of The Silmarillion....

A couple lace projects that took me a good bit of time (and which I gifted in an almost timely fashion) share a common main stitch pattern:

Jared Flood's Leaves of Grass in Plymouth Yarns Encore. Not my favorite yarn, but it was requested. Despite not being the clearest yarn to read, it still looks amazing in this pattern.

A friend from the LOG KAL was so inspired  by one of the stitches that she designed a cowl/infinity scarf thing; at least that's how I'm guessing things went down. It's the lovely Penny Infinity Scarf by Andee Fagan. It's a nice knit, and I love the mesh she included to frame the central pattern.

When it came time to create a swap gift I even ran with the idea and put together a few stitch patterns for an infinity scarf I lovingly dubbed "Filet Mingaise." A faggoting rib stitch is combined with a flame chevron for a little tongue-in-cheek humor. I'm very pleased with how it came out. It's mostly because I used a most amazing yarn.

I wrote out an off-color pattern, then decided to scale it back and try to keep things nice so that my friend could use it in her shop if she so desires.

At this time, the pattern can only be obtained through Hidden River Yarns. The yarn is a skein of Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona that I purchased at Rhinebeck. I'm thinking of knitting another one, adapting it for sock yarn.  If I do, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Oh, and I have Dorset Socks!  Another luxe addition to my stash was some rather pricey but farmalicious Solitude Wool. To milk this skein for its worth, I knit ankle socks, PGR style. I love how the colors lined up on almost all the short-row sections.

Friends inspired me to start knitting two socks at mostly the same time on separate circular needles, and it has proven to give me back a bit of mojo.

The elephant-minded folks in the room may remember I began a pair of handspun Dorset-Silk socks a year ago. After struggling with getting the fit right on the first sock, I placed it in the naughty seat for many months. Finishing the above socks inspired me to resume work on the second handspun sock.

Since the above picture was taken last week, I finished the second foot, and ripped back the first sock ribbing so that I could work them at the same time. I am so very close to finishing them. If I can stop blogging, I may even finish them tonight!

Did I mention that I started weaving? Well, I did.

My first scarf. It's surprisingly very wearable.

Two yarns dyed by Blue Moon Fiber Arts - Woobu for warp, and Luscious Single Silk for weft. This one is very nice to wear, and goes with lots I have.

This one is purely Marr Haven. It's fairly solid, and I keep it in my car for emergencies. It took a couple washings to get it to feel comfortable around my neck.

I combined Green Mountain Spinnery Green with Briar Rose Fibers Fourth of July for this gift that my sister snatched up at Christmas.

That's not a comprehensive list, but at least you get the idea. Now I'm signing off... I need to finish those socks!

The blessing of snow day knitting

With my line of work, I don't really get snow days. Everyone I come in contact with has been cursing the harsh winter and the white stuff that keeps falling from the sky. But I still become giddy when it comes, and even more so when I get to be home on such a day.

When I was a boy, I think my fascination with snow was as a thing in which to play. Now that I am older, I have lost my interest in sledding or building snowmen, but not in playing.

Now that I am older, a snow day means a day to stay indoors.
I love to pull the shades back, sit by the window, and let the bright, soft light flood the room. I pile up a few good knitting books, a basket of yarn, spare needles, and some graph paper. With a cup of hot coffee next to me, I begin to let my imagination run.

When the snow is falling, it is not a time to tend to business; it is a time for dreaming. It's a time for trying out yarn that I've been wanting to knit for ages. It's a time to pore over stitch patterns, to rethink my priorities, to take time to just be present with knitting. The need to be productive is on vacation for a space, and I can steal the moments to visit with Barbara Walker and Elizabeth Zimmermann and other knitters who help me connect with my self.

In such times, I often find new projects jumping ahead of long-standing WIPs, begun solely on a whim. I may feel inspired to magically finish more than one project in a day, by some trick of a time warp and a marathon approach. Or I may suddenly have the courage to start a design I'd been stuck on for years.  Perhaps I may even write a random blog post (or two or three).

Even as I type this entry, the snow has already fallen, and the blue sky has just begun to peek through the clouds. With the passing of the cloud cover, I feel my creativity waning. The blue sky brings with it the reminder that I have bills to pay and taxes to file. The sun is climbing through the sky, marking the time in harsh strokes; there are dishes to wash, and laundry, too. It was fun while it lasted; for a brief while I was able to play. Now I must be an adult again.

When I was young, the play left nothing but a melting mound where there had been a snow fort; now I am older, and it often leaves me with the beginning of a new pair of socks. In the grand scheme of things, it's all transient. Knitted items develop holes or lose their shape, and even the knitter eventually loses the ability to wield the needles effectively. But while the snow is falling, I swear it feels as it time has stopped, and anything is possible.

On a snow day, even a trash dumpster...

Functional knits

Having finished my big deadline knitting for the Christmas-and-following-swap season, I feel a bit freer to flit about between projects.  I've knit a few smaller items of my own devising, including some more cup cozies.

This one is knit in my handspun Dorset.

I finished knitting the Treppenviertel Cowl, and it has held me in good stead in the chilly blast that we've been experiencing of late.

It was a long knit, but I have to say, the simplicity and elegance of this functional design is either genius or a really great accident. Or perhaps the genius is in sifting through all the possibilities to find that one, simple solution.

 It can be worked in different weight yarns, since the pattern is really a concept more than a line-by-line holding of the hand. That's my jam, anyway; I love to have a framework which I can build upon or tweak for my purposes. Here I used a bit less than a skein of Madelinetosh DK, and I love how it came out.

Time with a working computer seems to be far and few between these days; I've attempted to blog several times, but technology is against me. it would seem. So don't be surprised if I blog in rapid fire succession, while I can...