Finish Line to Starting Line

I finished my spinning for the Tour de Fleece with a little time to spare.  I didn’t want to go too crazy with the spinning since I’m participating in what one of my online knitting groups (Friends of Abby’s Yarns) is calling the Masochism Tango where whatever you spun during the Tour de Fleece gets knit into something during the Ravelympics Ravellenic Games.  Since one of the things I spun was a skein of laceweight singles with a total of 864 yards, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me in the knitting department.

So, the final totals at my Tour de Fleece finish line are
1. (Top) Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club – August 2011 – Falkland – Change, 3-ply, sport weight, 234 yards
2. (Bottom) Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club – December 2012 – Superwash Corriedale – David’s Gift, singles, laceweight, 864 yards

Plans are still the same for the knitting up as I posted at the beginning of the Tour de Fleece: the 3-ply Falkland will become the Autumn Vines Beret, and the laceweight SW Corriedale will become a Citron shawl.

I cast on the beret Friday evening.  If I had been thinking ahead I would have had the yarn balled up and ready to go to cast on while riding the bus home from work that afternoon.  But I was totally unprepared for the start of the Ravellenic Games.  The yarn was balled up, the pattern pulled out, and a quickie gauge swatch knit up after dinner while watching the woefully time-delayed opening ceremony (probably the only thing except for the closing ceremony that I’ll actually watch during the whole thing, I think).  I am ready and willing to except that my gauge swatch might have been lying to me as I only knit about an inch or so before measuring and deeming the chosen needles good to go.  But the fabric I’m getting looks good, and the hat itself does not look overly small or large.

I’m hoping to have the beret done and the shawl cast on by Monday of next week, the sooner the better obviously.  I’m expecting that the shawl will go quickly since it doesn’t have the same amount of patterning as the hat; the hope is that I will be able to mostly memorize the shawl pattern and go at it like a speed demon rather than having to check the pattern every few minutes like I do with all the cables on the hat.

Tour de Fleece – Day 3

I chose to start my Tour de Fleece spinning with the SW Corriedale in David’s Gift. I’ve gotten the bobbin about half full, and it’s all orange. When I stopped spinning this afternoon, I had just begun to see a little of the brown creeping in. I’m a little worried about how I’m spinning it – sometimes I think I’m going too thick and other times, too thin. I have a Spinner’s Control Card somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it. Normally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the thickness variation because I’d be plying it, and most of the time it all blends together. Since this is destined to be singles, I won’t have a second ply to balance it out. I think I’m just psyching myself out a little cause I keep thinking it’s a good weight if I were to ply it as a laceweight, but I want this to be a laceweight without plying.

Part of the problem is I don’t usually spin singles yarn.  I jumped in without thinking about the thickness much at all other than knowing I want laceweight.  For this single to be laceweight all on it’s own, it needs to be a bit thicker that I normally spin the singles for a plied laceweight.  But when I spin that way, some part of my brain tells me I’m spinning too thick and I back off.

I guess I’ll just need to trust my fingers and understand that I can work with whatever the end result is.  I am spinning this for a shawl after all and that means that a little thicker will simply give me a slightly larger shawl, which can be nice.

Tour de Fleece – Day 2

While drinking my tea this morning, I prepped the Spunky Eclectic Falkland in Change.  I opted to divide the top into 3 even portions.  Two of the portions were then split into thirds lengthwise, and the third was spilt in half; not for any particular reason, that’s just how they seemed to want to spilt.  A little pre-drafting later and I have 3 fluffy balls of fiber ready for spinning.

I’m a little surprised at how much orange I have going on for Tour de Fleece this year.  I’m not usually an orange person as it looks hideous on me, or more appropriately, I look hideous in it.  (There are a couple shades of green and orange that have caused strangers to approach me and ask if I’m feeling well and if I need to sit down or have some water.  I kid you not.)  Spunky Eclectic really seems to like oranges and yellows, and while I doubt anyone will ever convince me that yellow is a nice color, her oranges have started to grow on me, especially when she mixes them with a sage-y green and a raspberry red.  :)

Now to decide which fiber to start spinning first.

Tour de Fleece 2012 – Day 1

Today was the beginning of Tour de Fleece 2012. This year I’m going the Masochistic Tango version where I spin during Tour de Fleece, then knit using that yarn during the Ravelympics Ravellenic Games. I have two main projects planned: 1) laceweight singles spun from Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club – Dec 2010 – David’s Gift – SW Corriedale (pictured left) to knit a Citron Shawl, 2) 3-ply sport weight spun from Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club – Aug 2011 – Change – Falkland to knit a Autumn Vines Beret (Rav link).

Today, so far, there has not been any knitting.  I’ve been working on prepping the fiber.  The David’s Gift is a progression dyed fiber, and I want to maintain the color order.  I opened up the fiber and did a little pre-drafting without splitting the fiber at all.  I really only did the pre-drafting because the SW Corriedale can be a little sticky, and I want to concentrate on spinning it not on fighting it.  For the Change fiber I’m not sure if I’m going to spilt it 3 ways lengthwise or divide it into 3 pieces horizontally.  I want this one to have the colors mixed up so they don’t argue with the pattern of the beret.

End of the Line, Temporarily

My niece’s first birthday is next month, and I had decided to knit her a sweater made from my handspun.  Because my sister knows how to take care of nice things, I decided that I wasn’t restricted to just superwash fibers.  I selected the organic merino I got in the Spunky Eclectic club in March 2011; the colorway is Little Periwinkles, which is pastels — pink, blue, green, purple with some white.  For the pattern, I choose Elizabeth Zimmerman’s February Baby Sweater from The Knitting Almanac.  It’s pretty much seamless, with some lace to make it pretty.

I started by spinning up 4 oz, which gave me approximately 194 yards of light worsted yarn.  I used about 30 yards knitting a swatch to determine which needle size would be best for the yarn and get me the closest to the gauge listed in the pattern (5 sts/inch).  I tested out size 5, 6, and 7 needles.  It was hard waiting for the swatch to dry, but in the end it told me that I could get 5 sts/inch on size 6 needles.  However, I liked the fabric from the size 7 needles better, and the gauge was only 4.8 sts/inch; close enough, and would allow me to err on the bigger size for the sweater since Miss M is growing quickly.

Unfortunately, the 160-ish yards I had left were not enough to complete the sweater. I got through the yoke, the arm separation, and about 3 inches of the body before I ran out. So, it’s back to the spinning wheel for me to get more yarn for finishing up. I’ve gotten the 4 bobbins of singles done and am just waiting for them to rest a little before getting the plying started.

I must say, the organic merino is a dream to spin. I have more of it in different colors from Spunky Eclectic and am now looking forward to spinning and knitting it up. So soft.

Selfish Spinning

New niddy-noddy was obtained on Friday, and there was much rejoicing.  I decided to go with the fancier, albeit more expensive, Schacht niddy-noddy because I loved the idea of being able to create either a 1.5 yard skein or a 2 yard skein with the same tool.  I was also a bit put off of the Ashford niddy-noddy because my old one (the one that was eaten by the pup) was an odd length — 1.66 yards (otherwise known as 5 feet, don’t know who thought that was a good idea).  It was a bit of a pain to remember that when figuring out yardage.

I actually managed to begin spinning the Selfish Shetland over the week, but only just got half a layer on the bobbin before things like errands, laundry, and cleaning crab (tasty, tasty crab) got my attention.  This is my first time spinning Shetland, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

One of the things I’m going to focus on while spinning this 2-ply laceweight will be the plying.  I think I’m doing okay with the amount of twist I get into my laceweight singles, but the finished yarn still comes out a bit… um, what’s the word… not fluffy at all, sort of rope-like.  The singles when I test them with ply-back are as I want them.  So, it must be that I’m over-plying; I tend to add plying twist to my singles so that they look they way I want them as I feed them onto the bobbin.   But, I think I read somewhere that twist continues to be added until the yarn actually winds around the bobbin shaft.  Several of my early yarns are nicely balanced and fluffy, and they are from the time period when I just let the wheel pull the plied yarn in as it went.  I wasn’t overthinking things or trying to control how the plying twist entered the yarn and put the singles together.  I may need to try that again.

4 Ounce Challenge

Having too many options always seems to make decisions more difficult.  The days are ticking by on the 4 ounce challenge (deadline is Sept 30).  I don’t have any fiber from Hello Yarn or Southern Cross Fibre, but I do have plenty of Spunky Eclectic fiber to choose from.  That’s part of the problem.  Well, that, and not even being able to decide what kind of pattern I want to try to come up with.  Socks are always fun… so is lace… ooo, what about a cowl?  If I can’t even settle on what it is I’m going to make, how can I pick the right fiber for the project?

The top fiber in the running is a Spunky Club offering from last year – Selfish in Shetland.  I’m also considering the newest shipment, which I can’t give details on yet.  The nice thing about the Selfish is that it’s all set to go.  When I received it last year, I split it up and pre-drafted it.  So, it’s ready to spin.  I’m also finding the maroon, orange, and green combination appealing.  I think I’ll aim for a 2-ply laceweight yarn as I’m considering knitting something like a cowl or shawlette.

Off to ponder…

A Niddy-Noddy Problem

I was hit by the oddest fever in the middle of the week.  No other symptoms, just a fever and all its fun side-effects like aches, chills, joint pain, and sore neck.  Thankfully, it only lasted a few days, and by Saturday morning I was feeling much better but still not up for much.  So, I got out the spinning wheel and sat down to plying.

Plying up 4 ounces of wool into a approximately fingering weight yarn (I’ll know more details once it has finished drying from its bath) went a lot quicker than I expected.  I am so used to spinning 2-ply, laceweight yarns that take forever to see a finished product.

On Sunday, I wanted to see about getting the yarn into a bath to see how it looked finished.  Go to pull out my niddy-noddy only to remember that the pup chewed it up a couple weeks ago.  *sigh*  I also remember that my LYS is on vacation, so no quick dash to the store to save me.  This is when I recall that I have a back-up niddy-noddy.  It’s a handmade piece that I bought from The Rug & Yarn Hut years ago.  I also have a spindle made by the same guy.  It took me a little while I find where I stashed it and to get it back together into one piece (it splits in the middle for storage and it held together by a wooden pin, which has a very tight fit).  I gleefully proceed to winding the yarn off the bobbin into a 2-yard skein for washing.  I tie up the ends and go to pull the skein off, when it dawns on me why this is my back-up niddy-noddy.  I can’t get the yarn off, at least not easily.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful piece of wood and craftsmanship.  A dark hard wood with a lighter wood inlay.  The maker thoughtfully put a slot in one of the arms to hold the end of the yarn as you beginning to wind it.  But, and it’s a bit of a but, he left all 4 arms of the niddy-noddy swooped up in a pretty little design.  A pretty little design that does not allow the yarn to slide off the niddy-noddy.  My now gone Ashford niddy-noddy had all 4 arms smoothed in a downward fashion making slipping the skein off a breeze.  I have seen more ornate niddy-noddies such as mine with the decorative ends, but they usually have one arm left smoothed down for yarn removal.

This beautiful niddy-noddy took me a good 15 minutes to get the yarn off as I slowly slipped small sections off at a time, hoping that doing so wouldn’t hurt my newly-minted yarn.  So, unless someone can recommend a way to make this tool work more easily for me, I am now on the hunt for a usable niddy-noddy or skein-winder that doesn’t cost too much.

Meanwhile, the yarn came off the niddy-noddy looking extremely excited.  It’s gotten a nice soak and several thwacks.  I can’t wait to see how it looks once it’s dry.

Tour de Flop

The Tour de Fleece began July 3, and I happily sat down in front of my spinning wheel with the hopes of seeing it through to the end.  This was my first time doing the Tour de Fleece, and I signed up with Abby Franquemont’s Team Suck Less because I wanted to focus on improving my technique as well as Amy King’s Team Monkey Farts because I planned on working my way through some of my Spunky Eclectic Club backlog.  I spun on Saturday.  I spun on Sunday.  I spun on the Monday Holiday.  On Tuesday I had the beginnings of a bad headache, which revealed itself on Wednesday to be something wrong with my back, right between my shoulder blades.  I felt like someone was ramming something into my spine.  My shoulder hurt.  My head hurt.  Spinning was not going to happen.  Thankfully, my chiropractor got me in for her last available appointment Wednesday afternoon, but I was instructed to ice and take it easy for a few days.  That’s all it takes to fall off the wagon.  For the rest of the tour I found excuses not to spin.

On the upside, I did manage to fill 3 bobbins with singles on their way to becoming what I hope will be a sportish 3-ply.  I tried to spin so that the yarn would have a bit more loft, thus make the final yarn more fluffy.  I have such a bad habit of making smooth dense yarns that are all thinner than I want.  So, this yarn is an experiment.  I have no idea if I did the right things to get the yarn I’m hoping for, but I’m willing to accept that.  (I still have another 4 oz. of this fiber/color combination, so I still have a chance to make a gorgeous, usable yarn.)  I had discovered when I took Janel Laidman’s spinning class at Stitches West 2010, that if I draft faster, I get yarn that’s fluffier.  Now, granted, I was doing that on a spindle.  But, I gave it some thought and tried to apply what I did with the spindle to my wheel.  Like I said, I have no idea if I did it right; for all I know I did the complete opposite.

I wanted to ply faster.  But, plying faster means nothing if the yarn is sitting around waiting to move onto the bobbin.  I also figured that a fluffier yarn needs less twist to hold it together (this may be one of the places I’ve gone completely wrong and find myself with singles that just fall apart as I try to ply them).  I was basing this on thinner yarn needs more twist, thicker yarn needs less twist.  So, I turned up the uptake on my wheel and plied like the wind.

Who knows, maybe the bobbins of singles sitting around while I do nothing with them for 3 weeks will work in my favor allowing the twist to settle in a bit.  Or I might just be on my way to ending up with a huge mess.

That was loads of fun… not

I apologize right up front to anyone who visited my bog in the last month and found it redirecting them to some stupid, fake “anti-virus” site.  My blog was somehow hijacked, and a script was inserted in every. single. frikken. post.  Thankfully, my server host provided me with a SQL statement to run against my database to clean out the script.  And I wasn’t affected by any of the other hijacking symptoms that were possible.  I’ve backed up and upgraded, so hopefully, this won’t happen again.  I have plans for backing up more often and keeping on top of making sure I upgrade in a timely manner.

In other circles, I completely failed at Tour de Fleece.  I spun for the first three days, then I hurt my back and didn’t get my wheel out for the rest of the tour.  On the upside, I did manage to get the singles for a 3-ply yarn spun, just need to find the time to ply it up and see if my experiment to try getting a specific type of yarn worked.

I’ve been knitting, working on a baby blanket for my niece, who should be joining us in October.  I’m also working on designing a pair of socks.  This isn’t the first time I’ve created my own pattern, but it is the first time I’ve done something more than just stockinette or ribbing.  I’ve actually put some thought into it.  It’s been fun enough that I’m already thinking of a second pattern for the first installment of the Mean Girls Yarn Club, Part Deux that I just received.