Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A delicious bit of lace and some thoughts on sock yarn

For the last couple weeks, I've been knitting this in spare moments:
It's the Winged Shawl by Sarah Fama, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010. It's been in my queue since that issue came out... I finally feel able to knit it! I am absolutely loving it so far. It's simple enough that I can knit it while my kids are awake, yet complex enough to hold my attention. I think the end result will be gorgeous. And the yarn... oh, the yarn. It's the skinniest yarn I've ever worked with. This is my first time knitting lace with laceweight yarn, and it seemed a bit fiddly at first, but I quickly got comfortable. It's Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight in the Desert Bloom colorway, and it's knitting up so beautifully! I have had it in my stash for over 5 years, and I think it's been waiting for this pattern. It's extremely reasonably priced... $16.50 for 900 yards of hand-dyed laceweight yarn. It's also a singles yarn, so it's not at all splitty, which is really great when knitting lace! I think I'll always have a lace project on the needles no matter what else I'm knitting, just like I always have a sock on the needles. I'm hopelessly addicted! Speaking of socks... I've noticed that socks knit with sock yarn that has a bit of nylon in it last a lot longer than 100% superwash merino socks. So I've decided to keep 100% merino for shawls and to stick with wool/nylon or alpaca/nylon, whatever/nylon blends for socks. There are so many amazing lace shawl patterns for sock yarn out there, like Kitman Figueroa's stunning, inspiring patterns! I don't feel ready to tackle one of her patterns quite yet, but there are like 7 waiting in my Ravelry queue. Maybe I'll have the guts to start a Damask by the end of the year! In the spinning world, I've spun 3 ounces of that lovely brown alpaca roving I picked up a couple weeks ago, and this weekend I plan to acquire some Romney wool and hopefully some mohair (!!) too at a fiber festival that's... once again... 5 minutes from my house! I'm really excited to see the sheep, being an aspiring shepherdess, to get my hands on the fiber, and to see my kids' faces as they experience the sheep, goats and the beautiful natural surroundings. And oh, good, Blogger's new interface still has the problem where it's ignoring my carriage returns, making my post look like one big paragraph, when it's not. GRRRR! Apologies for this post's goofy look. I'll see if I can find a workaround to this extremely annoying bug when I'm in more of a troubleshooting mood!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Typing While Spinning...

... is impossible. That's why it's been 6 weeks since I've blogged! I've been spinning and knitting like crazy. My addiction to lace knitting is still going strong. A few weeks ago, I made this:
It's Evelyn Clark's "Shetland Triangle." That has to be the easiest lace pattern ever! I will definitely be making another in the future. I also made these socks, from 100 grams of random Koigu scraps. Koigu KPPPM is a work of art in and of itself, before it's knitted into anything, so none can go to waste! I love how they turned out.
I also spun 8 ounces of Black Diamond carbonized bamboo fiber and 4 ounces of silk, both of which had been in my stash forever. Like, since before my 5-year-old was born. I never felt capable of spinning those fibers until now, and I'm glad I finally felt like I could handle them, because I love the finished yarn. Here are the singles:
And here's the finished yarn:
It's my first 3-ply, and I'm so happy with how it turned out. The silk pops through so subtlely, and it's so soft! I knitted it into a lace shawl, but I can't show that until it reaches its recipient! Bwah-hah-hah! I just acquired more local alpaca to spin, and got started on that Saturday night (yes, that's what I do Saturday nights, stop laughing). It's glorious, and it was raised 5 minutes from my house. I met the animal that grew it! That's pretty special, I think, and at only $3 an ounce, that's way cheaper than most alpaca roving you'll find online.
Did you know that October 12th is "I Love Yarn Day?" I just found that out, and I'm delighted with it! Way less annoying than "Talk Like a Pirate Day," way less contrived than "Sweetest Day." I love yarn every day, but I'm glad it now has its own special day. I Love Yarn Day is having a photo context over on Facebook, and the prizes are pretty great. Now, off to select a photo to enter!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Handspun Shawl

Despite the hot summer weather, I knitted that handspun Suri alpaca that I talked about last post into a shawl!

I absolutely love it! It turned out to be quite the stashbuster, too, because I quickly realized that I didn't have enough of the alpaca to make the pattern, Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water. So I went stash-diving and came up with some 80/20 merino/silk. The dark purple I spun last year; the lighter purple and the blue I spun before my oldest daughter was born, about five and a half years ago! It has just been sitting in my stash this whole time, waiting for this project.

It's huge - I didn't do a gauge swatch, since it's a shawl and I was using handspun, so why bother? I'm very happy with the size it ended up being, though. I will definitely not be cold this winter!

I'm so into the idea of spinning and knitting shawls, I've joined the Spin A Shawl group on Ravelry. The current S-KAL (spin and knitalong) is Jaala Spiro's Red Sumac shawl pattern. Most of the spinning fiber I have is too variegated and colorful for this shawl, but I do have a pound of black alpaca that's been in my stash forever, as well as about 9 ounces of "black diamond" carbonized bamboo fiber, that I haven't known what to do with. I think, though, that this pattern would look so pretty in that gunmetal grey color, so that might be the fiber that I end up using.

I'm going to need more fiber if this keeps up! Good thing I've got a couple excellent fiber-acquiring opportunities coming up, both about 5 minutes from my house.

I prefer to buy fiber locally. I just don't want to buy fiber that was grown across the world and shipped across the country. When possible, I like to meet the lovely animals that grew the fiber! Thankfully, Washington is a great place to be a fiber artist, and the Seattle area is loaded with wonderful places to buy yarn and fiber! Cascade Yarns is based here, so is Skacel... it's pretty much knitter's heaven.

I'm going to remind myself that I said that in a few months when I haven't seen the sun in weeks and I start bitching about how I hate the weather here.

I have a plan, though, for when those dreadful sunless months arrive. I'm going to knit my own sun.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tour de Fleece Spinning!

I hadn't spun in a while, so when I heard about the Tour de Fleece, it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get my wheel out. It's so embarrassing, I have spinning fiber that I bought 5 years ago and haven't touched. I have a goal for next year of spinning enough for a sweater, but I need to work through some of the stash that I have first. There are a couple very tempting fiber festivals coming up this fall, and I need to make some room!

During the Tour de Fleece, despite being sidelined by a back injury for about 2 weeks, I managed to spin 8 ounces of lovely, champagne-colored Suri alpaca roving. I don't remember where I got it, but it was loaded with VM (vegetable matter, for the uninitiated). I don't mind VM... I like being reminded that the fiber I'm spinning or knitting came from a real, living, breathing animal, but holy shit... every time I spun this stuff, I had to sweep the floor. More came out when I washed it and still more when I wound it into balls. The rest will come out when I knit it, wash it and wear it, so I'm not overly worried about it.

Here it is:

I love it. It's crazy-soft. It was almost weird to spin, it reminded me of extremely fine human hair. I liked it, but I prefer huacaya alpaca, and I think I'll stick with huacaya in the future. I hope to score some more of that, along with some wool, at the fall fiber festivals!

I spun it with Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water shawl in mind, and I think I have enough. If I don't, I have more handspun in a color that will coordinate well, so soon I'll cast on!

I think it'll be gorgeous in that natural champagne color, and I think the pattern will look great made from handspun. My handspun looks like handspun. It won't win any county fair prizes, but I love it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sheepual Healing

This last week sucked. A catastrophic, expensive, gross plumbing problem and an excruciatingly painful back injury ate all of last week for me. My back injury sidelined me from the Tour de Fleece and made dealing with the aforementioned plumbing problem, which was expensive enough that we had to wait till last Friday (payday) to fix it, that much more difficult.

So when I saw Jaala Spiro's beautiful Balm to the Soul shawlette in Knitcircus, I immediately bought it, because my soul really needed some balm. Using worsted weight yarn, it was the perfect stashbuster. I had a ball and a half of wonderful Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted sitting in my stash, waiting for something special, so I cast on with it. The project went quickly, and its soothing, simple stitch patterns occupied my mind.

I thought I had enough Lamb's Pride Worsted to finish, but I didn't. I finished the lace section and ran out. But no problem, I just dove into my stash and pulled out half a ball of Noro Kureyon in a pink/red/orange/purple colorway. I love it! I think it's even better with the extra pop of color from the Kureyon than it would have been if it were all one color.

This pattern is so easy and fun, and since the lace section is so simple and the project uses either worsted or DK weight yarn, it would be a perfect first lace project.

Now that my back is better thanks to nice Mr. Chiropractor, I am back to the Tour de Fleece, spinning some lovely champagne-colored Suri alpaca on my Ashford Joy. What do I plan to do with it? I had so much fun with Balm to the Soul, I am planning to use it for Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water shawl.

I can't stop with shawls, and I can't stop with lace. I have a problem! I'm casting on another lace shawl this week, the Winged Shawl by Sarah Fama, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010. It's just the thing for a hank of Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight that I've had in my stash for 5 years. It's been sitting that long because I wasn't ready for lace or laceweight yarn until just this year! Now I'm on a lace shawl knitting tear, with no signs of stopping anytime soon, especially since I took advantage of Knit Picks awesome clearance sale and got enough lovely laceweight yarn for two more shawls for $15. Whooo-hoooo!

Later this year, I want to take a little break from shawls (if I can get this lace shawl monkey off my back) and make a sweater for me, sweaters for my kids and a blanket for my bed. And holiday gifts. Oh God... holiday gifts. It's time to start planning those, isn't it? *shudder*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The world's oldest UFO... completed!

Finally, the afghan squares that sat unjoined in my mom's closet for 36 years have become an afghan!

After taking my sweet time weaving in the ends, about 2 weeks ago, I crocheted the squares together and then made a simple single crochet edging. The joining method I chose was from Edie Eckman's fantastic Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. It's a mix of single crochet and chain stitches and it's quick and very pretty!

I was going to keep this afghan (about big enough to be a baby blanket or a lap afghan) in the living room, but my 2-year-old decided it's hers. She named it "the beautiful blanket" and dragged it to her bed. Who can argue with that?

Completing this afghan put me in a granny square kind of mood and I decided to make a half-granny square shawl out of leftover Koigu KPPPM that I had from baby blankets, mittens and my recent Charlotte's Web shawl.

I've named it "Charlotte's Granny." Like Charlotte's Web, it has exceeded my expectations!

I started with the colorways I had the least of and worked to the ones I had the most of. Conveniently, this went pretty much from light to dark. It only took a week to make, and it was loads of fun! My 2-year-old has declared this also to be hers, and keeps it in her bed.

Hmmm... this is a disturbing trend. I didn't expect my kids to start commandeering my FO's quite yet! Since it's pretty sturdy, being just half a granny square, and superwash wool, I gave it to her. She grinned her little head off and threw it over her little shoulders just like she sees me do. Pretty awesome. :-)

Now her big sister, 4 and a half, wants one, too. Thankfully I still have more leftover Koigu AND other glorious handpainted sock yarn, so I'll be beginning another soon.

For now, I've got a sock and the 2nd Frida Kahlo-inspired pattern on the needles. After I finish a big load of work later this week, I am going yarn shopping, so there a lot more projects coming!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sun hats, in hope of someday seeing some sun!

Here in the Seattle area, this June has been dubbed "June-uary." It's cold, wet, gray, dark and dreary. June is young, so I'm hoping this will change soon, because as usual, it is driving me a bit nuts.

Back in May, we had one really nice week of sun and 70+ degree weather. I got hopeful and made the kids and myself some sun hats. I hope I didn't jinx the weather by making them, but it is looking an awful lot like a conspiracy to me. I make sun hats, the sun goes away... hmmm.

Anyway, I'm sure we will need them at some point, and I could not be happier with them! They are Alla Koval's Garden Party Crocheted Hat pattern (which is free!).

I made two of the orange hats, one for each of my girls, in Tahki Cotton Classic and one for me, in some Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. The flower on each is my favorite crocheted flower, the Flower Power Posey by Heather Lodinsky (free pattern!). They're feminine, they're super sunny and cheery and I love them! The pattern is fantastic, super-easy and loads of fun. Even after making three of them in a row, I wasn't bored. Whenever the sun does appear, our heads and faces will be stylishly well-protected!

Alla's Ravelry profile says she lives in Seattle. I've noticed she uses a lot of bright colors in her designs. I wonder if she, like me, finds color a wonderful antidote to this intolerable weather!

Speaking of color, I am dying to make a Colour Affection. I have three delightfully bright colorways of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock picked out. I want mine to glow in the dark! The question is, do I start it soon, when our all too brief season of sunny weather is due to start in a few weeks, or do I save it for oh, September, when the wretched gloom comes back? Decisions, decisions. We'll see what kind of willpower I have.

On a whim, I started a pair of socks made with some leftover Lion Brand LB Collection Superwash Merino, a yarn I am in LOVE with. I didn't want any of it to go to waste, and holy crap, is this a great yarn for socks. It's super-elastic and boingy, it's cushy and squishy, it's not at all splitty, and being DK weight, it works up fast. I'm going to get more of this soon just for socks! I'm envisioning more stripes, Fair Isle, lace, cables, whatever strikes my fancy!

I'm also making progress on joining my mom's 36-year-old granny squares. I have them crocheted into strips, now I just need to crochet the strips together and make a pretty edging! It took me a while to weave all the ends in on all the squares. No wonder mom let them sit for 36 years, weaving in ends is so tedious! The result was worth it, though, it will be great to turn these squares into a lovely afghan at long last.