Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Mission Continues

I've spent some time over the past week continuing my mission to learn to spin with a spindle and to practice dyeing up some roving. All of that focus on handspun got my fingers aching to finally knit up the lovely yarn that Anne spun for me oh so long ago.

I've had this gorgeous skein for ages now, but never seemed quite ready to knit it. Part of the reason is that I just loved looking at it and squeezing it in its skeined state. It's a little work of art just as it is! Or just as it was actually . . .

The other reason I hadn't cracked into this yarn yet is that I couldn't decide what to do with it. It kept crying out to me to become socks, but that just didn't seem grand enough for something so lovely and made with such care. In the end, I decided that it was best to listen to the cries of the yarn and allow it to become what it wants to be. These won't be socks that are squeezed into sneakers and mercilessly ground at the heels until they are worn and old. These will be socks that will glide onto warm pink feet fresh from a hot bubble bath. These will be socks that will pad along into the living room where they'll curl up with me for those rare evenings when a long stretch of indulgent and glorious relaxation while knitting and watching TV is on the agenda.

I also chose to make the socks pretty short in the cuff, since I'm pretty sure that I'll have enough leftover to perhaps whip out another small project. It's quite a hefty skein!

You can't see the stitch pattern terribly well in the photo, but I'll be sure to show you a modeled shot when they're done. I chose a simple lacy rib stitch that I think really strikes the right note for the handspun yarn.

For my own spindling adventures, I've moved on to my next attempt.

It's nothing to get too excited about, but I'm definitely making progress with my pyarn. (Side note: A few folks asked me what the heck this "pyarn" this is. That's just my name for my own handspun. The P is hard, as in "pleather" and the meaning is about the same. It's almost yarn, looks a bit like yarn, but is not quite worthy of the name yarn.)

I've got about 125 yards or so of this two-ply roughly light worsted to worsted weight in tones of heathery plum and gray. I'm thinking of whipping up a pair of fingerless mitts with this. It's still not really deserving of the time and effort to knit it up into something that will likely look quite a bit too handmade for my taste, if you know what I mean, but with the blood, sweater and tears that I've poured into my spindling attempts I feel compelled to see the pyarn through to its final destiny. (Okay. Perhaps there was no blood, but the sweat and tears aren't too far from the truth. I'm definitely not a natural at this spindling thing!)

I chose the colors for the fiber I dyed for that pyarn mostly based on a desire for something light enough to give me good visibility to the twist as a I spun. My next attempt will be with something dyed more along the lines of the style and colors that I enjoy so much.

This looks pretty messy in my hastily taken photo (no post-dyeing grooming and primping done, no pretty braiding), but you can see a bit of where I'm heading with the style of dyeing. I want to achieve lots of lovely variation of color but in a way that will spin with more subtlety than many of the more colorful rovings I've seen. I'm also leaning away from the use of undyed/white portions in the roving. As I learn a bit with my little spindling attempts, I can see the allure of that type of roving. The natural white sections provide lots of variation as they sometimes mesh and sometimes remain in tact as one spins. I can imagine that an experienced hand could also control how the colors mix and mingle quite well. The swirling colors with lights and darks mixed together is also great fun to watch emerge. But with that said, that's just not really my personal style. In the end, what is created is yarn (or, in my case, pyarn) which is meant to be knit and since my personal preference for knitting involves more detailed stitch patterns, I tend to gravitate toward more subtlety of color. I do plan to keep a good amount of variation of color in the roving, as you see in my first little sample here, and that will likely show up pretty strongly in the spun yarn (particularly if singles are plied together), but I'm not looking at this point to go for the really wildly varied shades that I so often see. They're very enticing and lovely and spin up into some gloriously beautiful yarn, but a gal has to follow her own voice and much as I admire that style of dyeing, it is not mine.

Well, I think I've rambled on enough for today. I'll leave you with this final note . . . Get ready for next week's big event: my Whisper of Spring Lace Club will be launching for signups! Here's one last reminder from the teaser photos I posted last week:

Everyone have a great day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Morning Surf

For this morning's project feature, I have a lovely scarf to share with you, knit by Debi.

The pattern is the Morning Surf Scarf by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer. Debi knit it using FF Lightweight Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Brick House colorway.

Such a lovely scarf! A big Thank You to Debi for sharing her work! You can see lots more of Debi's knitting on her blog or on Ravelry where she is Phretys.

Great Monday to all!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whisper of Spring Lace

Everything appears to be on track for signups to open for the upcoming FF "Whisper of Spring Lace Club" in early February.

That's the finished shawl which is the first project for the lace club. I'm really pleased with how it turned out in this special club "whisper" color on my FF Laceweight Merino Yarn. (There will be a few alternate color options as well.)

The colors are all done and ready to go for the second and third projects as well, but I'll save those to show you when it's time for signups. The patterns themselves will remain a surprise for those shipments, but I can tell you that the second shipment will be a lace sock designed by Tess Mattos in FF Tight Twist Superwash Merino Sock Yarn and the third and final shipment will be a lace scarf designed by Anne Hanson in FF Laceweight Cashmere.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a couple more photos to whet your appetite for a bit of Spring lace!

Ahhhhh .... Spring!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Eye Candy

I have two great projects to share with you today to get those Monday morning yarn juices flowing!

First up is this cowl knit by Kimberlyn using FF Superwash Merino Wool Sportweight Yarn in the Smoke colorway.

The pattern is the Stacked Eyelet Cowl by Ami Madison. Suitable for keeping warm or - with a tug upward - for hiding your identity for a bank heist.

You'll find more of Kimberlyn's beautiful work on her blog or on Ravelry where she is knitpickins.

I also have another tatted project by Pam to show you.

As with Pam's last project, this is made with FF Lightweight Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Speak Softly colorway.

Pam made this as a custom item for a customer in her Etsy shop, where she has a beautiful array of tatted items, including lots of unique tatted jewelry.

Thank you so much to Kimberlyn and Pam for sharing their work to start us off on a happy note this Monday morning!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We're Getting Close!

Here it is the middle of January already. The time for signups for my upcoming Spring Lace Club is getting closer and closer. I'm planning for signups to start in early February. If you're not on my mailing list and want to be added, just pop me an e-mail with a request (or send me one through an Etsy conversation message, including your e-mail address) and I'll be happy to add you. The mailing list folks will be the first to be notified when signups open.

Since the time is drawing near, I'll give you a bit more of a taste of what the club will be. It's going to be similar in format to my last sock club. There will be three shipments, one per month beginning on the first day of Spring. There will be three projects with yarn + pattern, with each pattern from a different designer. The lineup will be the same as the sock club: one original FF pattern, one by Tess Mattos of Polar Bear Patterns, and one by Anne Hanson of KnitSpot.

The three projects will all involve lace, but each will be quite different and each will use a different base yarn. The FF pattern will be a triangular shawl using FF Laceweight Merino. Tess' pattern will be a lace sock, using FF Tight Twist Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn. Anne's pattern will be a lace scarf using . . . drumroll please . . . FF Laceweight Cashmere. That's right! The cashmere is returning. The first taste of it will be for the sock club, with a general reintroduction of the cashmere coming not too long after that. I'm going to wait until the dust settles on the club signups before working on new colors for the reintroduction, since I want to be sure to set aside enough of the precious cashmere for all of the club members.

The club will be called the Whisper of Lace Club, with each of the three projects having one "Designer's Choice" color with a gentle, whisper of color theme uniting them. There will also be a few back-up color choices available for each project, so everyone can be sure to get something that appeals to them.

The patterns by Tess and Anne will remain a surprise, but there will be photos available at signup of the first project -- the Whisper Shawl -- that I'm designing. As some of you may recall, I actually finished the design, pattern, and had the test knitting done for this shawl quite some time back. Rather than releasing that, I set it aside with the secret little plan for this club already brewing. I am now just knitting the shawl yet again, so that I will have a version of it to show you in the actual club colorway. It's very close to the finish line!

The pattern is in three sizes and this is the large one, so what you see in the photo is just a section of one side. This baby's got a pretty large wingspan! In the photo above, the edging is all curled and bunched, but here's a little better shot of that:

It will, of course, transform considerably once blocked. It's rather nice to have this pattern completely done already. I have no lingering questions about how it will look when done and blocked. Been there. Done that. Just waiting to see it in this minty green "whisper" color.

On a completely separate note, I've continued to try to work on my spindling and have come up with a small quantity of pyarn number two. This second attempt is using a basic Australian wool roving that I dyed myself in a semi-solid dark blue. I did my best to spin this thinner and more evenly. Although the results aren't great, there is definitely much improvement. I then took the singles I'd spun and tried my hand at plying.

It's definitely not a work of art, but I'm getting closer to making that p go silent in the pyarn.

I think it was a mistake to dye the yarn in a dark color (it's actually darker than it shows in the photo), because it made it hard to see the twist and since I don't have a clue what I'm doing that made the process more difficult. I have another batch of this same wool drying now in some heathery shades of raspberry and gray that should be easier to see.

I've also got some superwash merino roving drying now that is my first experiment in applying some of my favorite dyeing techniques and my usual dyeing style to fiber rather than yarn. That's a really interesting experiment for me and one I'll tell you more about in a future post.

Right now, I'm off to whip up the last bit of edging on the Whisper Shawl. I should have blocking photos for you next week. I'm so looking forward to this club!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Four Feet

This Monday morning, I have two pair of socks knit with FF Lightweight Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn to share with you.

These are Linda Jo's men's Christmas gift socks knit with the Deepest Forest colorway. I'm personally a big fan of various types of broken and spiral ribs for socks, as it really helps them stay put. The detail is certainly very pretty as well.

You can see more of Linda Jo's lovely work on her blog and on Ravelry where is BeadKnitter. You'll also find details of the stitch pattern for these socks in her Ravelry project post.

Next up are Emily's Basic Socks knit with the Discipline colorway.

These delicious socks were also knit as a holiday gift, this time for a deserving grandmother. In my mind, even the most beautiful and intricate sock pattern in the world will always have a tough time competing with a plain ol' vanilla stockinet sock. I just love how every little stitch lines up in knitterly perfection!

Emily also has a blog where you can view more of her beautiful work and she can be found as Cringer on Ravelry.

A big thank you to Linda Jo and Emily for covering four feet this Monday morning!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Hat Only a Mother Could Love

I've continued following the advice many of you gave me to continue trying to learn to spin with a spindle by practicing for brief periods every day if possible and I'm beginning to see the first glimmer of hope. Your tips on trying "park and draft" also helped quite a bit. Thank you so much for your help and support!

After my first attempt with the "practice" fiber included in the beginner's kit, I moved on to the dyed fiber that was also part of the kit. (This was pretty funny to me. Does anyone "practice" with a tiny bit of undyed fiber and then decide they've nailed it and are ready to go?) Keep in mind that I only had about a dozen yards of pyarn from practice, so these next photos are still very, very early in this little spinning endeavor of mine!

It's still rather a monstrosity. Some sections are so thin that the twist gathers there and creates little piglet tails of tightly coiled pyarn, while other sections are so thick that the twist can't possibly travel through them which results in puffy sections that look like a snake that just swallowed a gazelle.

Despite not seeing much improvement in the results at the stage when I spun this last week, I did see marked improvement in my comfort level handling the spindle and the fiber. That alone was a big step. I'm also starting to feel just the tiniest bit more comfortable with the whole drafting process. My drafting skills are still sorely lacking, but I've at least reached a point where it is no longer a violent game of tug o' war (which is what seems to have caused my earlier problems with fiber flying everywhere; that problem is pretty much gone now).

Since this pyarn I'm spinning (I use that word loosely) is so very thick, it didn't take more than a few sessions before I had blown through most of the 3 or 4 ounces or so of fiber in the kit. I never planned to do anything with this pyarn, but once I saw it all sitting there looking so pathetic I found myself overcome with the desire to make it into something.

And so I present A Hat Only a Mother Could Love:

I'm going to send this sad little hat to my mother, who I know will enjoy the story of its creation. Whether she will actually attempt to wear it is another matter altogether!

You may say, "Hey, it's not all that bad. It's even kind of cute, in a home-grown sort of way." Well, let me tell you that looks can be deceiving. Although it doesn't look that horrifically bad in the photos, the hat is actually very inflexible. It feels more like cardboard than fabric. Much of the pyarn was thick enough to knit on a size 13 or so needle, while other sections were so thin that a size 2 might have done better. I settled on a size 10, fearful that going any larger than that might leave holes and gaps in the sections where the pyarn becomes very thin. The result is a very rigid hat, which is particularly thick and cumbersome through the crown where the decreases are.

Once this was done, I continued my adventures with the spindle by using the final bits of fiber to attempt to spin a slightly thinner and more manageable version of pyarn. I very stupidly forgot to photograph the finished pyarn! It's still not good at all, but I have to say that I did see some improvement and was also surprised to find that I found it easier to spin thinner. Anxious to see how the knitted fabric would look, I started up a little swatch with the new pyarn before I thought to take a picture of it in its unknit state.

This is knit on size 5 needles, so considerably thinner than the first rounds of pyarn. Knit up, it doesn't look half bad (despite the slightly out of focus picture).

Phase Two of Project Spindle is to dye up some fiber myself. I've got a small quantity dyed now in a semi-solid rich blue, but I haven't done anything with that yet and I think I've rambled on enough for today. More to come on that next week, along with an update on the Spring Lace Club that's coming (signups will be in early February, so not far away at all!).

Everyone have a lovely day and a wonderful weekend!

Monday, January 05, 2009

More Beautiful Things

It's Monday again. Time for more finished projects to show off!

First up are Leilana Socks knit by Angie using FF Lightweight Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Humility colorway.

Aren't they glorious with their winding, twisting details?!

Angie also knit this scarf using FF Mohair/Wool DK Yarn in the Astronomy colorway. The pattern is Irish Hiking Scarf from Hello Yarn.

This is handpainted colorway and if you step back and look at the photo you can see a criss-crossing X pattern created by the dark charcoal color repeats. It's fascinating the way that handpainted yarns play out in different patterns. A change of a couple of stitches in the row length or a slightly looser or tighter gauge and the effect would likely have been quite different.

A big Thank You to Angie for sharing her work! You can see more of Angie's work on Ravelry where she is kachelmeier.

Everyone have a wonderful start to another week!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year and Things to Come

It's officially 2009. How is that possible? I remember my mother saying that time seems to go faster as you get older. I scoffed in my youthful way. Now I understand. Sigh.

Rather than dwelling on the quick passage of time, and the new wrinkles and grays, aches and pains that come with it, I'd prefer to look forward to something special I've been planning and that's coming soon: a Spring Lace Club!

It may seem that Spring is a long ways off, but in yarn terms, it's really just around the corner. I'm tentatively planning this club for signups in February, with the first shipments to go out on the first day of Spring. I'll be posting more details here as the time gets closer and will also be sure to notify my mailing list when it's time for signups.

The plan for the club is similar in format to my sock club that ended recently. There will be three shipments, three projects, three different base yarns, three club-exclusive colorways (and a few back-up color choices to be sure everyone gets something to their taste).

The designer line-up will also be the same as the sock club: one FF original, one by Tess Mattos of Polar Bear Patterns, and one by Anne Hanson of KnitSpot. My FF original will be a lace shawl in my Laceweight Merino, Tess will be doing a lace sock in my Tight Twist Superwash Merino Sock Yarn, and Anne will be doing a lace scarf in my Laceweight Cashmere. (Yes, you heard that right! The cashmere is returning at some point in the Spring, with the first taste of it going out to the club members.)

The sock and scarf patterns will remain a surprise, but I will have the shawl ready for viewing before signups. You've actually already seen a good bit of it. Remember this?

It's a shawl that I designed and knit last year. I finished up the pattern and test knitting was complete, but then set it aside as the thoughts of a lace club began to brew in my mind. For the club, the colorway will be a new one exclusive to the club and different than the original. That means knitting a new version, which is well underway now.

Of course, not the best photo with the stitches all crowded together on the needle and the fabric bunched up and unblocked, but still proof-positive that I'm well underway and also a sneak preview of the color.

I'll have more info on the projects and colors coming over the next few weeks. I'm really excited about this club and hope you are too!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and amazing New Year!