Dear People Who Knit Chunky Things with Chunky Yarn,



And this is not even that chunky. Boy do my hands hurt. I thought I could whip off a sweet hat in a couple of days, but I still have four more inches to go. Four more inches!

Henley and I had a wee falling out - I knit all the way to the end of the first lace row only to discover that I had started the chart one stitch too far to the left and therefore the lace motif was not centered. I couldn't have that. I started ripping back, but since I've knit the body in the round it was quite a long way. I flung the half-ripped piece into the knitting basket and didn't pick it up again until today. I finished ripping back and knitted the row again.

Wrong again.

Part of the problem may be that there is a random stitch marker in the middle of the row on the right front side. No idea what it's there for. Completely messed me up, I am positive.

I'm giving my hands a break from the chunkies and trying it again. Third time's a charm?


Can't We All Just Get Along?

But first: It Happened In Sun Valley

I've not been crafting the past few days but this afternoon I picked up the spindle again. At first everything was fine, and I was cruising along with some pretty fine-gauge yarn, when abruptly the yarn broke. And broke again. And again. And again. It then occurred to me that probably, because my spindle is fairly heavy, the weight of the spindle, plus that of the yarn newly wrapped on, had exceeded the capacity for the yarn at that thickness to support it. However I think what was really happening was that the spindle was telling me it didn't want to spin ultra-fine singles. It wanted to spin what I was spinning before. So I went back to the thickness I spun the second ounce and all is right with the world again. My spindle and I are on speaking terms again.

I am also just three little rows away from the lace portion of the body of Henley. I like the look of the dividing rows very much.

No photos today though.


There are Standards and Then There are Standards...

... and one of the new standards has just got to be Santa Baby as sung by the inestimable Eartha Kitt. A gold standard for sure. I'll bet Eartha had Santa eating right out of her hand, don't you think?

Not much to report here. Spun a tiny bit of fluff but my hands were tired from the work I did today. Have not quite gotten the charts for Henley worked out. The new Knitty is out, and though I am not a big bobble fan I have to say that I am enamored with Surface. Well, it is a Norah Gaughan design, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Reclaimed my box of holiday cards out my spare bedroom, which has been kept shut to preserve heat in the rest of the apartment and which will henceforth be known as the Walk-In Freezer. I got the cards out, but haven't written them out yet. I'm feeling the pressure, as I have already received a few in the mail. Since I have nothing else to show, take a gander at what I'm sending this year:



I always buy cards after Christmas. (The sales, oh, the sales! Why would you ever pay full price for holiday cards?) These are from last year, or possibly the year before. Aren't they cute? The red one features cutouts and the other one, well, who could resist those birds?


Baby It's Cold Outside

One of my favorite holiday songs (even though it has nothing to do with the holidays other than inclement weather and the possible abuse of certain alcoholic beverages (is it just me or is the man in the song a selfish whiny lush?) My favorite version, with Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, kicks all others to the floor.

It's around 35 tonight - baby it's cold outside! The heat is on and I had a flash of brilliance last night, or at least, common sense. I had previously bought several tension rods for the doorways to hang extra curtains to help keep the heat where it's needed and not heat empty rooms, but haven't gotten around to buying the actual drapes/blankets/whatnot yet. But what I do have are two extra sets of flannel sheets.


I hung the straight sheets on the rods, one secured with the drapery clips I got at Target and the other held on with clothespins. One is hanging in front of the front door and the other is in the doorway to my room (so I can have the heat on in there at night but keep the door cracked so the cats can come and go). It doesn't have to look nice, right now all it has to do is preserve heat. And it does help. I need to get my ducks in a row and order those heavy duty drapes!

In the meantime, I've still not progressed on Henley, or the new clown car multicolored item, but I did spin a little:


I know the yarn on the spindle is under tension, the yarn on the ball is not, and the yarn in the hank (chain-plied) is "finished", but it amuses me to see the difference. Chain plying was interesting, but I don't think I'd do it a lot, at least not right now (and there's no reason to think when I get "better" that I'd go back to it). In places where the singles are uneven the chain bumps are somewhat apparent, and the radical unevenness of my spinning is not masked by averaging over separate strands but highlighted by the fact that thin parts are right next to other thin parts and thick parts right next to other thick parts. I haven't measured it since washing, but it was about 30 yds previous, and it's thick stuff - about 7 wpi I think (on average, again, thicker and thinner in spots). It's comprised of the first quarter (~1 oz) of the Allspunup roving.

My spindle is pretty heavy, so I am pleased with how this newest batch is going. It looks like the Allspunup fiber is going to be all spun up - as samples! I may try plying the stuff on the ball into a 2-ply (from both ends of the ball) and see if I can't spin all the rest as thin as what's on the spindle and ply from 2 separate balls. Oh, the bit on the spindle is spun from the fold, and I love that technique, more than pre drafting and more than splitting the roving. You just rip, flick, and away you go! I find it much easier to spin a consistent single this way, and feel like I have more control. I've also backed my hands out more and let the twist extend past my right hand (I'm a right-handed spinner) and into the drafting triangle, which I wasn't doing before. It is so much easier when I allow the twist to pull the fiber from the wad of fluff in my left hand than trying to do it myself! I'm sure someday I'll look back and wonder why I ever did it the hard way.


Two Weeks and Counting

It is two weeks until the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the Northern Hemisphere winter, and I am practically counting the minutes. On days when the fog lasts far into the morning it feels as though I am living in a world of perpetual twilight (northern latituders feel free to quibble with our "long" winter days). Outside the sky is very white, while inside buildings it is just dark - natural light is precious and fleeting. Despite the fact that I am now further south than I was in New York City by a full three degrees it feels like the winter is interminably longer, made all the more confusing for my instinctual sense of the seasons by the fact that, while cold enough to be winter (or at least, late fall), and though the leaves are nearly off the deciduous trees, at the same time things are starting to green up.

This is a poetic way of saying I missed my short window of opportunity to photograph the Basketweave Scarf. (It is also a way to complain about the shortness of winter days. I do not have nearly enough good interior lighting to make up for it.) Badly lit interior shots will have to suffice, and no modeled shots, because that is just asking too much.



Project Specs:
Pattern: Basketweave Scarf (2x2 stitch pattern, 6 row repeat, over 30 stitches, with a slipped stitch edge)
Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted in Charcoal, ~ 1.5 skeins (approximately 350 yds)
Needles: Clover bamboo 14" straight US size 4 (3.5mm)
Size: 72" x 5.5"
Started: 5 November 2008
Finished: 28 November 2008
Pattern mods: How can there be? I made it up.

This yarn was gifted to me by Opal last year (!) and I have been sitting on it waiting for the right project. I think the yarn matches the stitch pattern perfectly. The second photo is a little more representative of the stitch clarity, but you can tell that different angles highlight different aspects of the yarn, and you can really see the lovely texture. I love it, and am tempted to keep it for myself, but this is the Year of Scarves (for Christmas), and I have need of a manly scarf. I still have 2.5 skeins of wool left, and I was thinking Henry would be great, but it will probably be too dense. Any ideas?

I worked up through row 72 on Henley (rav) but stalled because I need to figure out the simultaneous shaping of the back and front. Mission: Failed, though I did get a good 2" done on the body. I think I might like to swatch the lace pattern as well before proceeding (now there's an idea) to make sure my gauge will not be too crazy different. I am using a much different yarn after all. In retrospect I probably should have done that before I even started. Oh well...

Because of the Henley impasse I accidentally cast on for another project:


I swear the colors are not that clown car-ish in real life.

I finished spinning the second ounce of the BFL from Allspunup I talked about yesterday. I now have an important decision to make - how should I ply it? I am concerned about just doing a regular 2-ply because I don't think the colors will look that good when mixed together, specifically the blue and green together (blue+yellow and green+yellow I think would be fine). I was careful when I split the roving to split it into relatively even pieces, but I am sure my paltry spinning efforts have not preserved the color repeats exactly, especially since it is not that evenly spun, and if it did then it is a miracle.

That leaves Navajo ply. I'm kind of scared of Navajo ply, and I don't know how thick a yarn it will make (pretty thick I would guess). I guess this is all a learning experience and I should just go for it, and I still have 1/2 of the roving left to try something else, but...


All Spun Up

Before breaking out the spinning news let's first talk about Henley. I ended up ripping back 15 rows or so and replaced the double decreases with regular left and right leaning decreases set apart by 3 stitches. I hope the wonkiness blocks out because, since I messed with those stitches so much they are a little screwed up looking. I also think maybe I should have separated the decreases by only 1 stitch, but I didn't want there to be too much stress on them since there are no seams, but I think I would have liked the way it would have looked better. Oh well, live and learn.

I finished the last of the waist decreases (which there were eight sets of, not six like I had initially stated, and which actually is a different number than anything in the pattern in case you are keeping track, because of my differing gauge). I was up to row 53 past the turning row, and supposedly you knit 2" past that for a total length of 8" before beginning the bust increases. It did not seem like I had even 6" (even though I knew the gauge would increase with blocking).  I had more like 4". So I pulled out my gauge swatch and it's a good thing I did. The numbers I had written down initially were totally incorrect. My gauge swatch is 25 stitches and 32 rows to 4", not 24/30 like I wrote down. 

This means my decreases happened over a somewhat smaller distance than strictly necessary, but I think it will be ok. It is helpful though because I want to lengthen the body a bit, since both Salina (rav) and Mrs. Darcy (rav) ended up being rather on the short side on use. So I'm up to row 57, plan to knit straight until row 72 (9" from the turning row instead of 8"), and at that point it will become necessary to work out what to do next since the shaping is different on the front and back. I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have just knitted it flat like the pattern prescribes. (I think when I get to the lace part I will be thankful though!)

I did sort of halfway pin it to my ironing board and steamed it out a bit with my iron. It looks ok, the curl of the hem end relaxed somewhat, and the gauge increased (decreased? fewer stitches per inch) to be closer to my gauge swatch. I always wet block items though, which I think will relax the stitches even more, so it's going to be ok I think. I'm hoping I will be to the lace by tomorrow (is that crazy ambitious?).

Moving on.

As I mentioned several posts ago, I am thankful for the internet being open 24 hours.


I ordered some handpainted roving from Allspunup on Opal's recommendation. I suppose I didn't need handpainted roving quite yet since I am such a beginner, but shoot it's pretty, plus having pretty fiber will likely encourage me to practice more than plain fiber would. Right? She doesn't name the colors I don't think, but doesn't this just like like cotton candy?


I know, I know, I've never seen green or yellow cotton candy but that's what it reminds me of. I decided to start with this one because it is BFL, and you know how everyone says it's one of the easiest for beginners to spin.


(I just had to stick the penny in there because you know it's what everyone does.) Yes, I can verify that (it's easy). It's very soft and smooth, but not slippery at all. It's smoother than the Coopworth that came with my kit, which was a little more scratchy and the individual fibers of which I think were maybe more curly as well (though really it's hard for me to tell). Now my only dilemma is whether to ply this right away or wait and spin some more of it. I kind of want to see what it would look like if I split the roving into more thinner pieces so that the colors are more concentrated, rather than splitting it into only a few pieces and then pre drafting it out a lot (which is what I did). On the other hand I am itching to see what it might look like plied.

PS The Basketweave Scarf is dry! Man that took a long time. I think I like it. The stitches are not super crisp but give it rather an air of controlled texture. Photos tomorrow.)


Last Time, I Swear

(Although who are we kidding, really?)

First off I have to say I did work on Henley, and just finished the fourth of six waist decreases - 12 more rows to go before it's worked even to the placket/underarm (whichever comes first, I'm not sure). I may try to steam the piece tomorrow (though all I have is a regular iron) to see how the hem is going to act.

And now for the really important stuff.

I finished spinning the starter fiber that came with the Learn to Spin kit, and I must say that I am really pleased with the result. Once again I Andean plied. I would have taken a photo of the yarn wrapped around my hand but the circulation was being cut off to my middle finger and it was starting to turn blue. So instead I just have a shot of the singles on my wrist, like a bracelet.


I did find out that once you start Andean plying you are kind of stuck doing it until you are finished, because the yarn is all wrapped up in a neat little packet on your wrist.

After plying I wound it off onto a chair back.


Would you look at that? I can absolutely not freaking believe it. That's approximately 60 yds of mostly even 2-ply. It has had a bath and is now hanging up in the bathroom and behaving very nicely. Wow.

PS Heat is lovely. Remind me this when the December gas bill comes.


Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready For My Closeup


1. It's difficult taking photos of yarn in the dead of night (what's up with these colors?)


2. Yarn is hard to spin consistently, though it gets a bit easier with practice.


3. Spinning yarn is addictive.


I swear this is not turning into a spinning blog, but you have to admit it is pretty darn exciting! These photos are from my very first little mini skein of yarn. It consists of the yarn I spun during the first 2 days of spindle ownership and is approximately 7/8 oz, or nearly 1/2 of the roving sent along with the kit. I only ended up with about 25 yds because of my massively uneven initial spinning. The fiber is Coopworth, and supposedly very easy to learn on. In my (extremely limited) experience the length of the fibers seems extremely long (presumably making the drawing really easy when you are learning.)

I simply spun until the spindle was getting a little unwieldy for me to handle and then plied using the Andean plying method. Andean plying is genius - it allows you to wind the singles in such a way (on your hand no less - very low tech) that when you are done you can ply from both ends of a the single, thus avoiding having to wind the singles into separate balls. Truth be told I was kind of worried about the whole "winding singles into balls" bit. The only problem is that my singles were pretty variable in diameter, especially when comparing the very beginning of the single as compared to the very end, though I was getting a little better at keeping it even by the end. You can see from the photos above that some sections were very balanced, where the two singles were close in size, whereas others were definitely not. The singles were also generally very overspun, and even after plying there was a bit of kink in the yarn. I washed it and dried it flat though, so maybe if I had hung it to dry that would have helped.

This photo is my favorite one. It is the alpha and the omega. (What's more the alpha is joined with the omega because of the Andean plying!)


I'm already halfway through the rest of the fiber. Good thing the internet allows us to buy things in the middle of the night.

(Next question: so how do you spin hand painted roving so that it doesn't end up looking like mud?)

(PS I turned on the gas. Weak.)


Not Even a Photo

Once again I got home after dark, not that that's an unusual thing these days, three weeks before the winter solstice. The sun is a heavy sleeper these days, staggering out of bed after seven, and it tumbling back behind the pillowy hills before five. Nine and a half hours of daylight is just not enough for this heat- and light-seeking child. If I were a plant I would have shriveled up and died by now (and many of my plants have, though mainly through neglect and not due to any sort of seasonal change).

The darkness, or rather, the lack of sunlight, prevent the daytime temperatures from topping 60 (the fog plays no small part in this as well), and the nighttime lows hover around 40. Soon the temperatures will dip into the 30s, but I have already broken - today, when I returned home at 7:30, the temperature inside my apartment was 53 degrees. Left to its own devices it would have eventually fallen to match that of the outside air, as it did last night. It was too much, and though I did not turn the gas heater on I did drag the space heater over to the couch, plug it in, and hover over it the entire night. A little while ago I dragged it into my bedroom and shut the door to warm up that room a little. I feel like this might be cheating.

Though I did not turn on the gas heater this course of action is stupid. Gas is cheaper than electricity. Or at least, it is more efficient to heat the apartment as a whole with gas than with electricity.

My Resolve
d. Dec. 03 2008

I put the heavy cotton drapes back up on the sliding door, though I don't think it does much good. I attached a new door sweep. I bought some additional weatherstripping that I haven't had a chance to install. I have yet to order any additional insulating window coverings, due to a couple of factors, but if I am going to turn the heat on I'm going to have to decide on a plan of action quick. My parents think I am crazy because it isn't as though I can't afford the heat, I just don't want to pay the piper for it.

In other news, I made yarn! It looks kind of bad! You'll see. If I ever see daylight again. The beret is also finally dry... and also about 1000 times too big. (While this might be a slight exaggeration it is true it is far, far to big for me to wear. That will teach me to assume that superwash won't grow - it grows more than a lot of other wool I've ever worked with.) Back to the drawing board.


Supporting the Economy Since 1998!

Even though we do not get ice here I had a little slip and fall.


And instead of working on Henley (or eat dinner) I worked on something else.


That there is quite possibly the worlds most overspun and string-like first handspun. (Actually it didn't start out all that string-like, but as time went on I kept thinking "I wonder how small I can go?")

One cat thinks the spindle is a toy, while the other thinks the roving is a toy. But I have no photos because I kept trying to get them to not eat my new toy.

I am in love love love. I would also like to say thank you to Opal for all her awesome advice! This spindle is a Golding Tsunami. Boy do they have some lovely spindles, but I decided to go basic (and get their kit), you know, just in case.

Now I just need to figure out how to ply. And buy more roving. Yeah.