Sunday, October 26, 2008

Swissy Sunday

I was at SAFF this weekend so the intrepid duo of Sherman and Scarlett was home alone with Brad. He took them for Scarlett's first walk in the woods. It sounds like they all had a good weekend together, but I think Brad is glad to have another adult back in the house.

I've got a lot to do around the house to catch up on things since I was gone. I'll be back with more about SAFF later.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Handspun Friday - Getting Ready to Spin

I wouldn't really call this a new project, but I thought it would work to show what I do when setting up to start spinning a new yarn. Even if I don't have a project in mind for a finished yarn, I find it very helpful to know what type of yarn I want to spin. The desired yarn, say a 2 ply, 3 ply, or even a fat low twist single, will cause me to prepare and divide my fiber in different ways to prepare for spinning.

This project is actually homework for one of the classes I'm taking at SAFF this weekend.I am required to bring two bobbins halfway filled with tightly spun singles for the class. We are going to learn to create different types of yarn with the singles we bring.So based on that information, I'll be preparing this fiber as if I was going to spin a simple two ply yarn.

First thing to do is select the fiber. In an effort to be thrifty and save money for festival shopping, I picked something from my stash. This selection is Peruvian Merino wool from the Black Bunny Fiber Club. There is about 8 ounces of fiber in this bundle and the colors is called French Lavender. Color management is not going to be a concern for this project for a couple of reasons. The fiber is dyed in such a way that keeping the colors together would be difficult and I'm using my singles to take to my class so I'm not going to try and get any particular color pattern.

So the first goal is to get the fiber divided into two equal piles. I will use each pile to spin one bobbin and assuming that my spinning is consistent; I'll end up with two bobbins that contain very similar yardages. If I was making a 2-ply yarn, this would make plying easy and hopefully I wouldn't end up with a lot leftover on one of the bobbins.

You could go about dividing the fiber a couple of different ways. But I like to do some preparation to the fiber before spinning. Some people refer to this as pre-drafting. You can call it what you want, but it does make spinning easier especially if you are a beginner or if you a trying to spin a very fine thread. Sometimes I do more or less, depending on what I'm hoping to achieve,but I always do some.

So I start by undoing the braid/bundle of fiber and pulling the long piece into equal halves length wise.I continue to pull the lengths of fiber into even width strips until I have them about the thickness of a pencil roving.You can adjust the width of the strips depending on what you are trying to spin.I would guess that if I took a typical 4 ounce braid of fiber, on average, I would end up dividing it into about sixteen strips.

Once you have all the fiber divided into strips, you can loosen the fibers up by holding the fiber and placing your hands about 4 inches apart. I picked 4 inches for the hand spacing here because I'm using merino and I know the staple length of the merino fibers is usually 3-4 inches. Adjust the spacing between your hands Gently pull the fibers loose but do not separate them completely; you still want the fibers connected in long pieces. You won't have to make as many joins that way. The top strip of fiber has not been pulled apart, but the bottom part shows where the fibers have been opened up for spinning.

If it seems difficult to pull the fibers apart easily; try loosening your grip. it is much easier to accomplish if you do not hold on tightly to the fiber. This is the step I most often skip. Although this step helped me the most when I wast just beginning to learn how to spin. I was able to concentrate more on what to do with the wheel and less about the fiber itself.

Anyway, once all the fibers are loose and ready to go, I wrap each strand into a separate ball around my hand and pile them up. Wrapping the fiber around your hand will introduce a small amount of twist and help hold the fibers together until you are ready to spin.I use a kitchen scale to weigh all the fiber and then I divide everything into two equal piles and start spinning.

I've finished spinning the singles for my class and they came out okay. I'll be sure and share the results of the class and show any yarns that result. Maybe I'll have some singles leftover for a 2-ply as well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Faceted Ribbed Socks

Between the dark ride to work and the new puppy, knitting time has been scarce. I did manage to finally finish this pair of socks though.

The pattern was an easy four row repeat and after one round I didn't have to look at the pattern anymore. It is a slip stitch pattern and those are supposed to work well with variegated yarn and prevent pooling. I didn't really get what I would think of as true pooling, but more of a cross between stripes and pooling.

The knitted fabric is interesting it has a great texture and overall look, but it is kind of thick and used up my yarn quickly. Even though the socks are thick, I find the feel of them to be very pleasant, even in shoes. I did have extra yarn, so I could have made these a bit longer, but I was really tired of knitting them and so they are a little shorter than my average pair. I think the only reason that they even got finished was because the project was sitting in the living room next to the chair where I usually sit.

I love the colors in the yarn and I love the pattern. I'd probably even knit the pattern again, but somehow the combination of the two just misses the mark for me.Oh well, on to the next project

Project Info

Pattern: Faceted Ribbed Socks
By: Charlene Church and Beth Parrott
From: The Little Box of Socks
Yarn: Hello Yarn Sock; 395 yards per skein
Color: Sour
Needles: addi TURBO Lace Needles - US# 1 (2.5 mm)
Notes: pattern was knit toe-up with a short row heel

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Swissy Sunday

Scarlett is doing much better this week. It seems like all the health issues are on the mend and hopefully we won't have to go back to the vet's office until the scheudled check-up visit on Halloween.

We did try a field trip to the pet store, but that was just a little too overwhelming for the puppy. Sherman enjoyed it though. He was pet and loved on by so many people that we had trouble getting through the store. We are hoping she enjoys the trip next time, but we'll wait a couple weeks before trying again.

I think her improved health has made her come to life; she's a lot more playful this week. It's been a lot of fun - but she can be a handful too. Although it may be hard to see in the photos, I can tell she is growing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Going Natural.

I've been spinning about a year and my fiber stash seems to have grown very rapidly. I have a lot of hand dyed fiber and I love spinning the fiber and knitting with the resulting yarn. Watching the way that the colors combine as you spin and knit really help to keep things interesting, especially for small projects like scarves and socks. Then of course, there is a whole different level of things to consider when you want to try and manipulate the colors into behaving a certain way.

As much as I love color, and I really love color, I've wanted to try spinning a few yarns in natural colors. I'm not talking about neutral colors, but the natural colors that actually come straight from the sheep or alpaca as the case may be.

My first step in this process was to buy some unprocessed alpaca blanket (fleece) at a local fiber festival this spring. My grand idea was that I would learn how to process the fiber; that includes washing, picking out any and all foreign matter, and then of course combing or carding the fiber into something spinable. Well, to get to that step was going to require some work and the purchase of at least some simple, though potentially expensive, equipment.

So instead, I decide to send the fiber off to a company that handles all the processing and send you back spinable fiber or even yarn. I sent my alpaca fiber off to Morro Fleece Works and got back some beautiful pin drafted roving - just begging to be spun. It kind of resembles a red chocolate soft serve ice cream. It is soft and will be very easy to spin. I have to mention too that the cost was less than a set of hand cards would have cost me. Including shipping, I spent about $40.00 to have the fiber processed.

I ended up with about 1 pound 12 ounce of spinning fiber; just slightly less fiber than I sent. The fiber I sent in didn't meet the recommended minimum limit, so I was limited on what I could get back and I has charged a set minimum fee for the processing. But I'm please with the results. And at least I don't have unwashed fiber sitting around in my closet.

The other natural project I have in the cue originated as part of the knitting and spinning guild I joined. They occasionally hold a fiber challenge. The idea being that everyone brings in 4 ounces of spinning fiber in an unmarked bag. Everyone takes home a bag that wasn't theirs and is tasked with spinning the fiber and knitting a project with the yarn. The guild will hold a meeting in the spring for everyone to show off how they used the fiber in a project.

The guild gave every participant 2 ounces of white Shetland to incorporate into the project as well. The fiber I drew from the pile is a combination of wool, mohair, and silk. I like how the light tan color work with the white Shetland fiber. I've been considering spinning each fiber into a single and then plying them together into one yarn. I think the over all effect would be nice and maybe slightly tweedy. I'd like to have a pattern in mind though so I know what weight yarn to spin. I've only got four ounces though so the project cannot be too large. I do have some dark brown Shetland that I could incorporate too. That would give me more yardage. Maybe something stripey would work.

So, now I have a dilemma. I have all this great natural fiber and now it is ready to spin. I even have a deadline for one of the projects. But I have no idea what I want to end up making. I think for these two projects, especially the guild challenge, I'd like to have a project in mind before I start spinning. So if you see these photos and are struck with project ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Morning Surf Scarf

I just love the colors in this scarf. As I spinning the yarn I knew that it would not be in the stash very long before I started to use it in a project. I like how the yellow moves from orange to pink and back again to yellow. I liked all the colors in the roving - but it seems to look even better in the finished yarn to me. I really like how it held the color sections to make stripes.

I've being eyeing this pattern for awhile, really ever since I saw the handspun version on Smoking Hot Needles. I had just started to get interested in spinning when I saw this and figured it would be a good project once I was able to spin an appropriate yarn. I thought of this pattern as soon as I saw the roving. So I did spin the yarn with this pattern in mind.

The pattern was very easy to memorize and travelled well. I was able to put this into a small drawstring bag and carry it around with me until it was finished. It went quickly too - it probably helped that I was traveling for work and I was cooped up in hotels an airports. That is always conducive to easy knitting projects.

I like the wave appearance in the stitch pattern. It reminds me of the Lizard Ridge Afghan pattern I knit. The dropped stitches are nice and show off the handspun yarn very well. An added bonus is that the dropped stitches seem to help you get maximum length out of a skein of yarn for a scarf. I was very please that I was able to get this length, 65.5 inches, of scarf out of one skein of my handspun.

I did have to block the scarf to end up with the best finished length possible. I was hesitant to block it though because I liked the way everything looked unblocked. I blocked my chevron scarf and was actually sorry I did. But I wanted the extra length the blocking would give so I went ahead and blocked. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I like the finished project very much; in fact, I think I like it better blocked. It seems to show off the yarn a little better than it did before. I wish I had taken pictures before the blocking so I could compare it here.

Project Info

Pattern: Morning Surf Scarf by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer (Ravelry pattern link)
Yarn: Geddesburg Handspun Yarn
Skein weight - 4 ounces; 320 yards
WPI: 15 wraps per inch
Fiber: Corriedale
Dyed by Traveling Rhinos
Color: Cancun
Needles: addi TURBO Needles - US# 5 (3.75 mm)
Finished Measurements: 7 inches wide and 65.5 inches long
Notes: No pattern modifications

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Swissy Sunday

I think Sundays will be good day to do any puppy updates and show off any recent cute pictures. We spend a lot of time in the yard with Sherman and Scarlett over the weekend so there will usually be fresh material. It will also be a good way to chronicle her growth over the next few months.

Right now we are dealing with some gastrointestinal parasites and anemia with Scarlett. Which required a nice Friday vet trip. The anemia is causing her to eat dirt, stick, rocks, lick concrete, and try and take down the trees in the yard bite by bite! We seem to be on the right track for treating that, but we expect to head back for an unrelated issue on Monday morning. I'm suspecting we now have a uti or bladder infection to add to the mix.

Well I guess those are all things you have to expect with a new puppy. She has been fun too. She loves to follow Sherman around and bite his tale and snip at his heels. She also like to bark at him too. Anyway, we are hoping her health improves this week and we can have a little more active weekend.

I'm sure there will be some good photos to share!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fiber Friday - 3 ply

Yeah, it is another 3-ply yarn. I spun this yarn before I got all of your feed back last time. So, I thought I'd go ahead and post this one now. I'm going to start spinning something new today and will try to incorporate the suggestions you gave me in the post for that next skein of handspun.

This is superwash Corriedale. The individual fibers are longer than merino and that helps make it easy to draft and spin. I do like spinning Corriedale, but it isn't quite as soft as Merino. But it is still nice enough to wear next to the skin. The fiber is a little bit hairy too. So the yarn isn't as quite as smooth as the yarns I've spun from Merino either.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this knits up and how it wears in a pair of socks. I'm going to guess that the coarser fiber will produce stronger socks. Time will tell.

Geddesburg Handspun Yarn

Fiber Content: Superwash Corriedale
Fiber Source: FatCat Knits
Color: Champion
Weight: 4 ounces
Yardage: 238 yards
WPI: 14-15 wraps per inch
Spinning Style: worsted
Spinning Ratio: 10 to 1
Plying Ratio: 10 to 1
Notes: 3-ply

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Introducing Scarlett O'Terror

Nah, actually she's a very sweet little puppy, but she is a lot more active and adventurous than Sherman was when we first brought him home. I have a feeling she will really open up in the coming weeks as she grows and gets use to being here with us in her new home.

Sherman and Scarlett are getting along too. We were a bit taken aback by the size difference in the two. She is a lot smaller than he was when we brought him home. So, right now playtime has to be supervised to keep the Scarlett from getting accidentally trampled. Although she does like to walk behind Sherman and bite his tail and she growls at him to try and entice him to play. She runs to hide as soon as he seems willing to play though.

One nice thing is, she is small enough to be held for now and she actually likes to cuddle up with you for a nap. I"ll enjoy that while I can. Because now she's small but she will probably be around 100 pounds or so when she is full grown. All these photos are from her first night with us.
I'll stop the puppy madness for now, but you can expect to see regular updates and photos as she grows.

I've also got a winner in the name that puppy contest. We did end up using one of the names we already had. And to be honest, she helped pick her own name. We tried several of the names we liked out on her. She seemed to consistently respond to Scarlett, so that is what we ended up using. Everyone had great suggestions; thanks to everyone that posted a suggestion.

So with out further ado, the winner is...... Stephanie . Stephanie, please contact me so I can mail you your prize. My e-mail address is available in my profile.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fiber Friday -Poison

I've been spinning again and I went for another 3-ply yarn. I really have enjoyed knitting with my handspun 3-ply, so another seemed in order. I think this skein is destined to become another pair of socks.

I really haven't been trying anything new with my spinning. I've reached a comfortable place with my spinning and I enjoy knitting with the yarn I spin. So that has led to a rut of sorts for trying new things.

I've wanted to try and post some spinning tips or describe some of the methods I use for spinning and plying. But I haven't set aside anytime to take photos while I'm spinning. I also wonder what you want to see posted with the photos of my handspun. Maybe the photos by themselves is enough. So what do you think, is something missing from these posts?

I'm going to a fiber festival (SAFF) at the end of October and have signed up for a a couple spinning classes and a class about hand painted rovings. I'm looking forward to the classes and maybe it will give me some new things to share here too.

Geddesburg Handspun Yarn

Fiber Content: Super wash Merino
Fiber Source: Pigeonroof Studios
Color: Poison
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Yardage: 250 yards
WPI: 13-14 wraps per inch (average)
Spinning Style: worsted
Spinning Ratio: 10 to 1
Plying Ratio: 10 to 1
Notes: 3-ply