Polar Prep

For a lot of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota residents last winter was a test of patience, stamina, and good old fashioned Midwestern stubbornness. The term ‘polar vortex’ was born and those who experienced it firsthand grew a new layer of already frostbitten skin. Throughout the summer I’ve run into people already complaining about the potential cold of the coming winter and they’ve run away from me in shock and horror when I respond with “I actually really enjoyed the cold last winter.”

Strangers don’t know the context of my liking of the cold weather and generally if you aren’t complaining about the weather in the Midwest you are seen as inhuman. Of course negative thirty degree temperatures are awful and undesirable but those days also gave me a few weeks of excuses for why I would rather stay home knitting and drinking coffee from the comfort of my bed.

IMG_20140906_191720Through these last couple of months of summer I have been prepping for the coming winter by both making garments to be worn in the event of a polar vortex sequel and building a stockpile of supplies to keep me entertained.

This extra wooly vest is made from my souvenir yarn from my trip abroad to Ireland. It is from Kerry Woolen Mills and is delightfully rustic and insulating. The flecks of blue and red tweed against the base purple color add warmth in a visual sense while those colors are complimented by rich leather buttons. The pattern ofIMG_20140822_165835 the garment itself is one I made up as I went along, my first wearable personal design of something other than an accessory. I love its simplicity because it lets the yarn take center stage and as a souvenir piece it personifies my trip to Ireland. I cannot wait to don it over a flannel button up this winter and have already picked out the outfit I will wear with it on the first really cold day of the year.

Apparently I am in a purple groove these days as my three most current projects deal with the entire purple spectrum. I am nearly halfway through with Hillary Smith Callis‘ design Hawkes. It is a youthful pullover with tons of IMG_20140906_155033texture. I’m using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca so the resulting piece will be beyond just warm. This is a really simple pattern and the broken rib texture is a test of my patience at this point but with four inches of the body left to go I think I can make it to the end of the piece. Plus, I know the work and slight tedium of one by one rib stitch rows over about 180 stitches will be worth it once it is blocked, dried, and tried on.

I have a few more sweaters for myself in the works, a sweater for my boyfriend and socks and hats for us both yet to make this winter. I don’t know if I could squeeze all that making into the coming season unless there is to be another month of paralyzing chilliness so bring on Polar Vortex Two, because I have work to do.

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Lackluster Spree

The increasing heat, moving to Chicago, and starting a new job have taken their tolls on my motivation to do anything productive lately which really bums me out. I’ve been thinking less, making less, and doing less which really is not so positive. I think it is an adjustment period that will dissipate soon but it is still pretty odd and annoying. And of course at the beginning of every summer it can be tough to reintegrate your body to the warmth so many things crafty fall to the side.

In hopes to reverse this lackluster spree of existence I’ve set some goals and bought some tools. This summer I want to make at least five really and truly wearable garments including one pullover sweater, one cardigan, one skirt, one dress, and one top. Sewing my own clothes is something I have been wanting to work on for a while and right now I just need to jump in and do it.

 

These two patterns are the top contenders for the project.

As for the two sweaters I’ve just upgraded my interchangeable knitting needles from the flimsy and melty plastic Denise needles to the sleek and pretty Knit Picks Rainbow wood set. These new needles have me itching to make something lovely but I’m lacking specific direction at the moment.

DSCN9984I’ve also completed spinning about 200 yards of springy thick and thin (bulky to dk) 2-ply Polwarth yarn so I am on the hunt for a pattern that will highlight the texture of the yarn. Any suggestions for what to make would be amazing! I haven’t knit much with thick and thin yarn so I’m not sure what it will look best as.

For now, I’m slogging through some boring projects in order to clear my WIP conscience so I can purchase some new patterns and materials and rekindle my drive to create.

Documented Failure

I am afraid of failure. Terrified actually. I also abhor the possibility of other people knowing about my failures. But I think it is time to confront this fear and show off my most recent disappointment.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

Behold the yellow merino of my nightmares.

So. I began spinning this four ounce bump on my trusty drop spindle. The first half went well, fantastic even. The first two ounces yielded nearly 300 yards of mixed fingering and lace weight yarn. While I spun this first half I noticed that yes merino needs a higher spin and tended to react better when I moved through the process as quickly as possible.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

Then came the second half of the bump. For some reason I couldn’t keep the spin fast enough, the fiber was constantly breaking, the plying process resulted in tons of little twisted bobbles that I cannot get rid of, and the fiber continued to break as I plied so I ended up with a multitude of tiny overhand knots holding the fragile fibers together. There are a few stretches of unmarred yards of usable yarn but I am so angry at the sight of all of those little knots that this skein may be going directly into the garbage can.

Here are some more up close shots of the disappointment skein.

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Now what to do with 300 yards of nice yellow yarn and 300 yards of garbage yarn?

Masterpiece

This journey began way back in November 2013, in Dublin, Ireland. I picked up this glowing bit of BFL wool and started daydreaming about what it could be.

While with my family in Wyoming I began spinning the fluff into a simple fingering weight two-ply yarn. Each full wrap of the cop showcased a new hue of purple encouraging me to spin faster.

DSCN0058After a couple of weeks of intensive spinning I ended up with nearly five hundred yards of amazingly soft yarn. I let it adorn my desk area so I could pet it whenever I wanted.

I spent weeks searching for the perfect pattern that would stretch the labored yarn as much as possible. I landed on Henslowe, a popular pattern with a lot of detail. I cast on in March and the shawl kept me company through the homework, work, and interview speckled weeks.

DSCN9919On April 6 this piece was complete. This is my first real spin to finished product project and every second of it was completely satisfying. The final project is luminous with a fuzzy halo of comfort in person. There are a few mistakes in the lace and a few places where the yarn thickness changes drastically but I think those mistakes make it that much more exciting. This shawl feels like a masterpiece.

Details
Yarn: handspun fingering 2 ply 490 yards
Pattern: Henslowe
Measurements: 53″ in wingspan 18″ deep
Mods: added two repeats of the lace pattern

DSCN9916I ended up with about 4 yards left of the yarn and made it into a tiny skein and hung it on my bulletin board as a souvenir of the process.

 

 

 

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Keeping Cozy During the Never Ending Winter

I swear I have some real content a-brewing but for now I’ve got project updates galore. I’ve gotten into the habit of always having a pair of socks on the go for travelling/at work during downtime and I just finished a pair for my sister and promptly cast on another for my brother.

DSCN0084They are both in a dk weight acrylic knit on size 4 needles. Although I have come to see that knitting with acrylic really isn’t the most luxurious of experiences, it is a hard-wearing and cheap material that is great for making things that are likely to be lost by (relatively) small siblings. The purple stripes are for my sister and the blue for my brother.

 

DSCN0092After completing the Beurre shawl I began the infamous French Cancan shawl. I have had this shawl pattern on my radar for at least two years and finally decided to conquer it. I am using a soft grey wool/acrylic blend that I had left over from a Christmas sweater. Though this shawl won’t have quite as much drape as the original it will be incredibly cozy and perfect for wrapping tightly around your shoulders.

IMG_20140301_153952Moving beyond knitting, I finished the first half, about two ounces, of the Lemon merino. I ended up with 294 yards of fingering weight yarn. It is my most even spin to date and highest yardage from two ounces of fiber! I’m going to begin the other half this evening.

I have a question for other spindle spinners out there, have you ever used a Russian support spindle? What was it like? What fiber did you use? What fiber would you recommend? Do you recommend a certain spindle maker? I am really interested in trying a new spindle breed and am captivated by the action of spinning supported. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks!

Speed Knitting and Slow Spinning

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My Beurre

So my last post detailed the beginnings of my Beurre shawl. I started this shawl on February 2 and completed it February 10 and sewed in the couple of ends last night. This shawl is not a small piece of fabric with its final measurements being 68″ long and 17″ wide. It incorporated miles of garter stitch and should have taken me much longer to complete. What’s my secret weapon? Massive amounts of stress and uncontrollable business. It seems that on my busiest days I find the most time to knit because I need that time to take a step back from whatever I’ve got going on and just breathe. So stress+minimal time to spare=a giant shawl in eight days.

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Organic Polwarth

Since my life has been a little more hectic than usual due to class, homework, and preparing for the real world (resumes and applications) I crave simplicity when I need a craft to work on. Spinning fills this need perfectly. The repetitive motion and need for precision allows me to focus my energy and worry into something that I can control one hundred percent. Last week I purchased two new to me types of fiber to spin on as the semester winds up towards midterms. I bought a 4 oz braid of merino wool in the colorway lemon and a 4 oz braid of organic polwarth in its natural color.

 

Lemon Merino

Lemon Merino

I’ve begun working on the merino braid and am taking it slowly and am just enjoying the calm that washes over me as a work and think and sort out my life. I’ve not spun merino before and I am really loving the look of the singles. The staple is a bit shorter than I am used to but its still lovely to work with. I can’t wait to see what the finished yarn looks like when I complete this project but I’m definitely not rushing to finish.

Beurre In Progress

beurreLast Sunday I cast on for the shawl, Beurre by Hillary Smith Callis and have been hooked ever since. It combines super simple lace, garter stitch, and short rows so it is easy enough to work on while relaxing after class but retains my interest.

When I bought the pattern I was dismayed by the minimal instruction but I found that the simplicity worked as I went on. The most challenging part of the piece is the first step, casting on over 600 stitches. This really tested my patience and continually counting and recounting the stitches was such a hassle. After that step it was all smooth sailing.

IMG_20140208_151243I’m making my version out of some leftover beige aran weight wool/acrylic blend yarn so it is a bit denser than the original version (original is knit in dk). It keeps my lap warm as I work on it and the yarn is really shiny so it looks much more luxurious than it cost to make.

I’ve completed the lace bits and am about half way through the garter stitch and I’m sort of sad to see it so close to completion. I may have to line up a new yarn to make another version of this toasty shawl.

The Importance of Using Rad Project Bags

So I pinned a few tutorials on how to properly make a boxy bag and decided to make a few for project bags for my current WIPs. I’ve been using a drawstring canvas bag for my portable projects and though it has been functional I have been wanting something more flashy. I’ve been waiting all week for some free time to get cracking on these bags and today I finally had some.

I used some sparkly black material for the outside, red flannel for the lining, and a heavy duty jacket zipper not because it needs to be heavy duty but because it makes a cute little knitting project bag into a bad ass little knitting project bag.

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Outside

Inside

Inside

This little guy is the perfect size for a travelling project and a few necessary notions.

I’ve also got a finished object to show this week. I’ve been working on these socks on and off for a month and half. They are in the University of Wyoming colors for my Mom. She works at the University and the people of Laramie, WY are constantly showing their support of the school through their apparel. I made a reverse of this pair in November (gold foot and brown heel, toe, cuff).

DSCN0060They are a worsted weight superwash wool and are incredibly smooshy.

Adventures in Handspun

DSCN0058I just recently finished spinning the purple/blue fiber I acquired at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ireland and it is so soft and rich that I’ve been keeping it near my desk so I can occasionally pet it when the mood strikes. I ended up with one 50 gram bundle being 210 yards of fingering weight yarn and the other 50 gram bundle being 235 yards of fingering weight. The smaller bundle turned out much more blue than the larger one but they still coordinate really well and should make a lovely garment.

I’ve decided to make a shawl but I can’t decide which shawl pattern to choose. I feel like this is a really momentous decision because I have not made a usable garment from my own hand spun yarn before. I have made a small pair of rainbow hand spun mittens (child size) but they adorn my yarn board as decoration rather than a functional item. I’ve picked out a few patterns I might use and will spend the week deliberating. Let me know which one is your favorite because I need all the help I can get with this decision!

IMG_1366Henslowe by Beth Kling

I adore this delicate shawl and apparently so do 1562 other knitters. With so many projects it is easy to tell that this pattern is one worth making. The crescent shape of the shawl is really sweet and really compliments the soft lace edging.

 

 

 

 

The Birthday ShawlThe Birthday Shawl by Kate Twirl

I really dig that the lace edging is knitted onto the main triangle piece of the shawl because I am a newbie to lace work so the thought of ripping back, in case of a likely accident, a few stitches as opposed to hundreds is really appealing. It is also a really traditionally shaped and designed piece so it would be a nice addition to my collection of knitted items.

 

IMG_1610Momijigari by Beth Kling

The size of this shawl is great because it can be worn draped over the shoulders or as a scarf with minimal awkwardness. Shawls can be hard to pull off in an everyday setting because of their shape but this shawl would not be a challenge to wear at all. The lace pattern is also really intriguing.

New Year, New Tools

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are looking forward to getting into the swing of a bright and shiny new year.

Since I grew out of the dolly and makeup phase of my childhood, my new years have always been brought in while enjoying new tools. My mom is my number one arts and crafts enabler and made our Christmases about giving the proper tools to further interests and skill levels in the fields I was obsessed with at the time.  The past ten or twelve years have brought me some magnificent tools to further my crafty endeavors and this year/Christmas is no different. Last year I learned how to spin and have been coveting some basic tools to make the whole process of spinning much easier, including a second spindle, an adjustable niddy-noddy, and a skein winder.

New spindle with its current BFL project

New spindle with its current BFL project

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Adjustable skein winder

Adjustable skein winder

These tools came from an Etsy seller called theknitstore. Their items are amazingly priced and cover all your basic spinning and weaving tool needs.

I’ve already been able to make good use of my new tools and was able to spin up one of two bundles of a purple toned BFL bundle and ply some purple-blue silk.

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Blue-purple silk - 85 yards-Sport weight

Blue-purple silk – 85 yards-Sport weight

I also snagged a few really great books for Christmas and can’t wait to do some proper reviews for them here. They are: Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog, The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn: Techniques, Projects, and Recipes by Brenda Gibson and Eling Chang, and Sticky Readers: How To Attract a Loyal Blog Audience By Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews.

I want to say thank you to all my readers for following along this last year and that I hope to keep you entertained throughout 2014. I wish you all a fruitful and creative new year!