sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

spinning to stitches


The Stash and Burn ladies have inspired me to take a look at my past Stitches West purchases (and maybe get some worked up and out of the stash!) before heading back again for 2009. So, I'm spinning some Pigeonroof Studios Superwash BFL purchased @ Article Pract's booth last year (for a 4 ply, cabled sock yarn. goodness i love this spindle-- bosworth red cedar featherweight, 12g) and realizing I've done pretty good as far as using past purchases, not much leftover from past SW's. It's not a free pass to go nuts, but I can finally put together my 'must-see' booth list before I cross the stitches market threshold since I usually peter or paul out before seeing it all and I don't want to miss a select few.

My list starts with bay area handdyers at the top... There are a lot of excellent handdyers attending this year, but I have a real softspot for locals :)

A Verb for Keeping Warm-- free totebag + 10% next purchase coupon with $80 purchase (did you listen to the latest yknit, where kristine talks about how labor/time intensive natural dyeing is?) You'll also be able to find zero stitch markers here too, freshwater pearl/semiprecious stone lovelies made by my own hands :)

Tactile Fiber Arts-- free totebag + 10% online order with $75 purchase... and I heard Maia say she has naturally dyed superwash BFL and loose washed locks for spinning!! Excited about their "Amber" colorway too.

Pigeonroof Studios-- do I need to say more? (see above!) I wonder if there will be anything left, but a girl's got to try ;)

Fiber Fiend-- I am so there for the intense superwash merino and maybe superwash corriedale, if Margit has some left...

Urban Fauna-- I just received the nicest superwash BFL from Karrie's Girl on the Rocks online shop and can't wait to check out more here (and other local dyers!) at this new store.

Lisa Souza-- yall will probably decimate her handdyed spinning batts before I get there! Can't wait to see if they actually last past the market preview tonite :)

I also want to buy a few patterns this year-- CoCoKnits' new fleece thrummed hat (and I *will* use washed fleece!), Knit Whits' Elfin booties (Stanley is still very loved and I'm thinking the kid will dig a pair of felted boots), and I can't wait to thumb thru the sweater pattern books at Black Water Abbey. I'm sitting here with their worsted weight colorcard on my desk thinking I should buy a sweater's worth of yarn from them, the colors are just amazing and cables would sing in their yarn! Ergh... maybe enough for a hat til I get my other messes under control. And Cookie A's new book will be available for preview at Shelridge Farms-- along with their lovely Canadia goodness.

I'm also kindasorta looking for an 8 dent reed for my 25" Schacht Flip, but I know I can order one thru Verb (and have a good excuse to visit the brick and mortar store!) so it's not that big a deal if I don't find one. I'd love a new spindle too, but I've been a little nuts buying them from the Bellwether and others lately that I don't know if I'll find something I'll love as much :) We'll see!

If you're still figuring your must-see booths and haven't seen it yet, EGarcia has once again put together a map of the market that includes the names of the vendors (ravlink), and highlights those that have spinning supplies for sale. You'll also see that XRX has invited a Girl Scouts troop to man a donation-run bag and coatcheck-- no need to drag armloads around, or even wet umbrellas/coats if it's raining outside.

I would *love* to hear your booth suggestions-- I'm excited about this year and am sure I've missed some!

Til then and no fisticuffs over fiber on the market floor!

Monday, February 23, 2009

carding on handcards and grafton fiber batts

[if you are a member of the Verb for Keeping Warm and/or the Grafton Fibers fiber club/s and don't want to see a February shipment spoiler, please skip this post!]

Yall who are obsessed with fiber prep like I am probably had the same reaction to the Yarn Harlot's post on loading fleece/fiber sideways onto a drumcarder-- namely, "dude, I need to try that!" Since I had sold my drumcarder I opted to try the method on my almost longlost pair of handcards instead... tools I don't usually use or reach for or admittedly even think about.

I started with the light brown cormo from Cormo Sheep and Wool Farm ("Henna")...


...trying to load the staples on the handcards in a sideways motion. Really though, I tried for a few passes and just gave up-- it is just not intuitive enough for me to drag a staple sideways across a handcard like it is to drag it longways. That's not the really interesting part-- instead of giving up the ghost and setting the carders aside, I continued handcarding a small mountain of flat cormo batts...


...that I rolled up and pulled into short roving lengths.


All said and done I had about 3.5 ounces of pulled rovings from rolags, which looked like a huge mountain even next to my relatively huge spindle I intended on spinning them on.

(the forrester dervish has an 11-12" shaft)

I had hoped to load more than the weight of the spindle onto it and managed just that (50+gm on a 45 gm spindle)...


I keep wanting to add more but get more nervous about dropping it as time wears on so I've stopped for now.

Yet again it's not the spindle spinning that's the more interesting thing to me (I'm on a bit of a spindle buying and spinning tear lately)-- but that I *really* enjoyed carding with the handcards! I had a few neps in the rovings, from a heavy hand before I found my rhythm, but all in all they stood up very well-- especially in comparison to how brutally I nepped another cormo fleece on my drumcarder. I think I enjoyed carding more on handcards than my drumcarder :)

As one good one always deserves another, I took this...

4 oz of naturally colored polwarth from aVfKW

...and this...

3 oz of tussah silk from February aVfKW Ultra club shipment

...carded them together on handcards for this...




...and have used the handcarded polwarth/silk to spin a bulky single on the wheel and a very fine single on a spindle...

(terrible horrible no good very bad rainy weather lighting)
eta: much better lighting today :)

...that'll be eventually plied together into a bumpy textured but soft bulky yarn. I still have another bobbin at least to fill, but it'll take no time at all.

I really, REALLY enjoyed blending the fibers on my handcards-- using commercially prepared fibers (as opposed to raw fleece) seemed to help me in not nepping them, and it was just effortless! I love combing, don't get me wrong-- but I can't put my feet up and watch episodes of Firefly on hulu (new to me!) while wielding them like I did with the 'cards. Blending on combs isn't really a great proposition anyways (fibers generally need to be the same length on the combs or will pull off sooner/later than the others you're trying to blend with, making homogenity difficult)-- but I can't wait to try this again with more luxury fibers and utilitarian wools.

Speaking of utilitarian and carding-- my son and I went to the Oakland Museum of California a few weekends ago (second Sundays free admission!) and found this super great reproduction display in their "Art and History of Early California" collection...


Handcards made from thistle heads, and a big old (supported?) spindle.

I think its so cool, coming so far but still being very close to the techniques of a hundred years ago.

On the other, far end of the cool carding spectrum, I was gifted a membership to the Grafton Fibers "Colorways" club from my secret santa this year (!!!) and have been hoarding the stunningly beautiful color batts and petting them when I need a shot of color and love in my life.



I have no idea what I'll be making with these... part of me wants to spin each batt to the same weight and end up with 12 skeins to knit into an afghan, an amazingly colorful block afghan. The other part just wants to hoard them; I can't believe how soft and perfect the batts are and it makes me happy that colors like this exist in the world.

I read that Linda is still accepting memberships into the yearly club (she has a monthly one you can sign up for as well, both include a pattern and spinning tips with the fiber)-- the yearly enrollment includes bonuses like Grafton spindles and Darn Pretty Needles (my new favorite dpns!)


Made in the USA by hand, they are sharp and solid-- these are the 2.25mm (US 1) size and I am not afraid in the slightest for snapping or bending them. See?


Surviving being my walkaround knitting, stuffed in the bottom of a bag while I wait in line at the post office and chase after my little one, jumping in rainpuddles :)

Til then and thanks again Santa :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

best intentions

Almost everything I knit has a mistake in it. Usually not glaring errors, something easily fudged in finishing-- but it doesn't bother me to know that there are small imperfections in a piece of work. Most of the time they're trivial, I wouldn't even tell you what they were or how I fixed them because it isn't important and unnoticeable. For big stuff, I have no qualms ripping out projects (usually just let them sit around for a month so my heart's not as tied to them...)

And then sometimes there are just hot messes I can't let go.

A small one...

Pea Pod Baby Cardigan (pattern no longer available)
Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere
US 5, 3.75mm 24" addi
Started: January 2009

SO cute. I've loved this pattern for forever (and yes I'm sad it's not around to be downloaded anymore but I believe Kate Gilbert has said she'll re-release it sometime in the future), and even bought the pattern's yarn when I found this beautiful grey. My sister is expecting a boy in a few months and I figured that the leaf lace panel wouldn't be turned up at on a tiny, newborn boy (honestly I don't know how my sister/brother in law feels about lace + boys, but everyone's different and that's okay with me)... so I started the 3 month size.

I ass-u-med that my gauge would be close to the yarn/pattern, but oy. My 3 month directions are working into the 18 month size, literally. I've also only cracked the 3rd ball of yarn so that's not the worry-- it's just I don't know about a toddler boy + lace.

I worry too much. I'm going to finish it, and offer it. It is really adorable.

I also finished, mostly, the asymmetrical cardigan from months back...


Beautiful! I love the color (saffron), the yarn (Vermont O-Wool), the idea of the pattern. What I don't love? My own mistakes that may have made this unwearable.

First... the two front panels are knit seperately and then joined as one piece for the arms and the back (this post has a photo of what I'm trying to describe). I managed to knit the left panel a half repeat longer than the right and the back...


Yeah, it's not THAT asymmetrical.

Another view...



Now, I'm no knitting doctor but thinking about this mess... I think I can undo the longer panel at the CO edge, rip to the point where the ribbing should start, put the front panel sts on a holder while casting on and knitting a seperate ribbing and then seaming that to the sts on the holder. I don't know... I know you're never supposed to rip a caston edge but there is no fix in ripping back (the construction means it'd ALL be ripped out).

Have I mentioned I'm pretty disgusted with myself?

Here's another reason: I modded the arms to be longer than the 3/4ish the pattern originally calls for, and also upped the increase rate so that the arms would have less of a "wing" at the back... now? They're way too wide for the body, swimmingly so.


To fix this? Scissors.




The only thing I can think of is instead of seaming at the edges, to fold the edges inside somewhat and seam so that the edges fold inside the arms. And maybe cut them off after some rigorous machine stitching.

(You can tell how mad I am, wanting to cut this poor thing into pieces.)

Aside from these GLARING errors, the cardi is really actually nice-- you can see where I've safety pinned it together to try it on :) I think I'll bury it for a bit, let other idea fixes marinate.

Whew. Just talking about this stuff has me all !!! :) Almost as much as last nite.

Til then!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

fleece intentions

I keep collecting fleeces and with each passing one I try and figure on what I'll be doing with them project and prep-wise (probably will change, but fun to plan for!)

This one arrived last week, a variegated white/silver/brown Polwarth from NZ via Treenway Silks...


I have to admit, I'm not in love. Not for any rational reason-- I've washed up samples that are silky soft and check out the length of these staples...


You know me, size queen.

It's a combination of things-- one being I know I can't reliably blend a variegated fleece on the combs (I could, but it would mean combing it all and then blending and goodness patience is not one of my strong suits.) Another would be the cleanliness of the fleece.

I'm spoiled. I know :) I seek out super clean, coated fleeces since I wash here at home and anything washed off goes down my sink-- so I try to keep the dirt down the drain to a minimum. The fleece overall is very clean, but its tips are gunky and opening them up means more dirt inside.


It's really not that bad, but I know that unless I open each caked tip by hand before washing, the dirt inside will still be trapped after I wash (water won't magically open up caked tips full of dirt). Even though I comb and those monsters will easily open up and let fall the dirt of war, it'll make a NZ sandy mess all over my floor and... again, spoiled. I could comb outside like a normal person I suppose :)

So I'm not sure what this fleece's future will be. Part of me is tempted to wash in large chunks then space dye it-- then comb it (or flick card and spin from the individual lock). The resulting colors would probably be amazing if my dye job were up to par... but 2# washed, dyed fleece would be a lot. Another part wants to ship the 3# off to Spinderella's and have them deal with the washing and blending-- I know that I'd get back a beautiful, oatmeally-colored roving of wonderfulness. For now? Packed back into the closet!

Since I was going over the fleece for pics and maybe for mailing, I pulled off a few samples that may be interesting to yall.

Second cuts:

(above and below the staple)


These happen when the shearer goes over the same spot on the sheep in more than one pass-- sometimes you'll find little short-short bits of staples (1st pic) and sometimes you'll find a staple shorn in half or less (2nd pic). It's a hard job, shearing... and I don't think I have seen a fleece with NO second cuts (these were the few I found in this one). Left in when carding they'll turn into little neps in your batts, left in combing they'd get combed out but there's no reason not to pull them when you see them.

Variation across a fleece:


The staple lengths can vary across a fleece, but the crimp can as well. Here, it's fun to note the whiter portions have a bolder/stronger crimp (less crimps per inch) than the brown portions which have a finer crimp (more crimps per inch). Also, more finely crimped fleeces generally grow at a slower rate than a less crimped fleece-- here the stronger crimped staples are longer across the fleece. A Fine Fleece had a really interesting tip-- not only for spinning to the crimp, but using the crimp to determine the size needle you should be using for the fiber you're spinning into yarn (by laying a needle in the crimp itself!)

I love that book.

Anyways, a closer look at fine vs bold/deep/strong crimp in a lock:


When I say 'fine' here, it's not the fineness of the fiber (micron diameter, fine wool like merino etc.) but how many crimps there are per inch. You can see that the darker staple has more crimps per inch and the whiter staple has fewer-- fine vs strong *for this fleece and breed.* A finely crimped Romney may have as many crimps per inch as the stronger crimp of this Polwarth.

I've seen lots of online sellers of wool take the time to describe the type of crimp in the fleece they're selling and how even that crimp is across the fleece; here you can see a fleece that has a variation across the fleece (but not the staples themselves).

Now, for an even across the entirety, so clean let's have a picnic or a bearskin romp on it Polwarth (also from Treenway Silks!)...



Random staples, slight variation in color (some are a bit silvery, some are a warmer/cooler brown) but overall very even in length, color and crimp:


Intention? No question-- next in line for washing up here at home and eventually handcombing.

As for a fleece with an actual project...

raw merino x from mmfwool/Merry Meadows Farm (only 18 oz)

washed in lock formation

To be used with the black-black corriexrambo for this...

50th anniversary Wool Gathering sweater (WG #79)from Schoolhouse Press

I'll blend my own two shade of grey from the black and white-- this small amount of blending I don't mind and is actually pretty fun.

One more, not a fleece anymore...

3# of 65/35 merino-yak down, pindrafted by Fibers 4 Ewe

Remember I had taken the shorter staples of the brown merino and sent it away with a pound of yak down for blending/carding into pindrafted roving? It just came back and is really, really great.


I've been spinning for a bulky weight yarn...


I think a merino/yak o w l s converted into a cardi would be awesome. Maybe would have enough leftover for an Estes Vest, too.


And if you're still in the mood and have eight minutes-- check out this Serbian vid on wool processing and spinning. Rad :)

get well soon!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

year of the class

I really like the end and beginning of the year on blogs, not just for holiday and new year cheer but to read about past year roundups and new year goals (resolution seems to be a bad word this year!) For me, mine's not so much a goal or resolution but something to work thru... I've decided to not shy away from taking classes when I want to learn something new.

I have nothing against learning from a book or teh internets (I learned almost everything fiber-wise that way!) but there are several things I'd like to learn and learn among the company of others. I've already started-- I enrolled in a digital photography course at the local city college, and just completed a sewing 101 course offered at Knit One One by KiraKDesigns.

In Town Bags by Amy Butler
(only one is mine! these were finished by everyone in class)

I've never touched a sewing machine before in my life, which is nuts in a way because my mom gets all breathy talking about sewing the way I get talking about knitting and spinning. My little sister sewed all of the linens for her wedding (omFg srsly if only I had a pic of the tablecloths and chaircovers and and and...), my grandma was an amazing quilter and made zakka toys and housestuffs before I'd ever heard the term, and even though I was never interested in the tomboy phase lately I've felt like there was a hole in my knowledge base that would actually help in the fiber world (machine steeking! lining bags! finishing woven fabrics!)

After my four week class I'm not so afraid of the sewing machine :)


I couldn't help but make another-- I had the fabric left over and since I'm using them to hold spindles + fiber I *needed* them since my spindle stash seems to be growing while I'm not looking.

Okay, I was totally looking.

Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle in spalted tamarind with Pygora from A Verb for Keeping Warm

And it sort of kind of fits into the new year and learning new things! I never thought I'd want a Turkish spindle (or even a bottom whorl) but seeing these wee loves at The Bellwether I couldn't help it...


Turkish spindles are usually larger (9-10" shaft, 2 oz weight) but mine is tiny-- only a 5" shaft and weighs 0.7oz. My son loves taking it apart and putting it together...


..and I have to admit I fell for it not because it was new to me (bottom whorling) but because the wood is amazing.


I like the Turkish Delight so much I'll probably add a big brother in regular size to my spindle stash sooner rather than later-- but for now I am just in love with this lovely creature that I can demonstrate sitting in bed. And pygora...

2 oz of naturally colored pygora, January 2009 aVfKW fiber club
from penzance and paper moon (the names of the goats!)

I've heard Kristine has some pygora for sale at her brick and mortar store in Berkeley-- totally worth the trip, or stopping by her booth at Stitches West* to see if she has any left. The Verb for Keeping Warm's Workshop is also a good place to start class-wise if you're looking to expand your fiber knowledge, along with Article Pract and Knit One One for fiber + knitting/crocheting. Me? My next class will probably be to learn how to crochet! :)

Happy belated new year!

*, say yes!

Monday, February 02, 2009

tis the season take this


and this


add water and soap to get this


choose your own fiber prep adventure for something like this


plan something special


and spin for it.

handspun 2-ply Jacob, separated into white/colors

I am pretty proud of myself, waiting all the way thru January to get excited. About what you ask? Spring shearing! Is! Coming!


I shouldn't be excited. I have an inordinate amount of fleeces on hand, have at least 3 reserved for 2009 that I can remember (2 from Little Meadow Farms, where the above Jacob fleece is from), and literally no space to store them... but still!

I decided that I needed to actually try to work thru some of the fleeces before I could justify buying more. I finally spun the black and white yarns I've meant to for almost a whole year-- intended for Haavisto or Selbuvotter mittens for me.


The dark skein is a heavier weight than the light... I was originally planning gloves but think the fingers may be too skewed for the gauge change. I'm still going to try and use them together-- I just think it's too cool, 2 distinct colors from one sheep!

Off to wash (more) wool... I also promised myself to have everything on hand scoured before any new wool arrives :)

...waiting anxiously,

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