Friday, August 9, 2019

Spinning to Knit!

Since I have gotten back to spinning, I have noticed that my handspun looks a lot nicer once I knit something with it! Since knitting is my first love, that makes both hobbies more fun. Here is my most recent finished spinning project, Malabrigo Nube Piedras, knitted into a buttoned neckwarmer:

Although I was satisfied with the handspun before it was knitted into the neckwarmer, you can see it wasn't the prettiest skein of yarn I could have hoped for since I still have a lot to learn about spinning yarn:

My advice to anyone else trying out spinning as a new hobby would be to knit a swatch of your handspun to test it out and see if you like the knitted fabric after blocking. Don't judge it too harshly in the skein or even right after knitting the swatch. It seems to me that blocking does wonders.

Not only do I soak all of my handspun after plying in a Eucalan bath, but I also make sure to soak the knitted swatch or item in a Eucalan before blocking. These extra steps are well worth it to get a finished look in the knitted garment that you will like a lot.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Back to Spinning after a Long Hiatus

My beloved Ashford Traveller Spinning Wheel:

I was fortunate to be able to buy a spinning wheel back in 2006 after I had earned a little bit of extra money doing some test knitting for a knitting book. I bought my beloved Ashford Traveller Double Drive, Double Treadle wheel at that time, and began a process of learning to spin yarn. I remember it not coming easily to me. I definitely experienced frustration, but I kept at it. Over about the course of a year, I spun various rovings and combed tops and became a bit more proficient.

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and as I become really busy with my kids' activities, I found myself too tired to spend the time at my wheel I needed to continue the process of learning. My lonely wheel sat in the corner gathering dust. 

Almost ten years later, I am ready to begin this journey again. I still have a lot to learn, but as an empty-nester, I now have the mind space and enthusiasm for the learning process again. Here are some of the spinning projects I have been working on in the last couple of weeks:

Malabrigo Nube Combed Top

A few years back, I took a class on spindle spinning and bought some Malabrigo Nube from my local LYS. I never really took to the spindle, so I almost forgot I had this fiber. Now that I have taken up spinning on my wheel again, I have been seeing a lot of beautiful photos of Malabrigo Nube spun up and began considering buying some. Luckily, I went looking through my fiber stash first to take inventory and was pleasantly surprised to see I had some!

I am finding that I still need some practice spinning Merino from combed top, but I felt like I had a better handle on it than I remember having when I tried it on the wheel with another Merino top back in 2007 or so. Here is what I ended up with after spinning some of the Malabrigo Nube:

Here it is after plying from my tensioned Lazy Kate from Ashford to make a 2-ply yarn (the yarn at the bottom of the photo -- the knitted swatch is from another yarn I spun):

As you can see my yarn isn't the prettiest yarn I have ever seen and seems over-twisted in a lot of spots. However, I decided to knit it up to see if I would like it better that way. I am fairly pleased with what I got, especially for an early try after just getting back to this:

Coopworth/Mohair Roving

Currently, I am working on spinning the large amount of remaining Coopworth/Mohair blend fiber that I have from a fiber festival purchase back in 2007 or 2008. My plan was to make a sweater from the resulting handspun yarn, so I bought 2lbs. I am not sure what I will make now, but I am having fun thinking about it and working my way through the fiber. 

I am beginning to accumulate some skeins and making progress towards my goal:

What I am finding about starting again is how much I have to learn but also how much fun the learning process can be. The important thing is for me to remember that learning any new skill takes time. I can't expect to be perfect at it right away, but I can take pride in every improvement I make along the way. 

Since my profession is teaching, I truly believe that becoming a student of a new skill is an important way for me to keep connected to my students and to be able to understand the challenges, frustrations, and successes they have along the way in their learning processes. Learning to spin is just another way for me to experience all of these aspects of being a student.

Friday, March 23, 2018

I am back!

I have taken an incredibly long break from posting here over the last several years. My complete focus was on my teenagers as I followed them and guided them through their busy high school years. Now that I am about to be an empty nester, I thought it might be a good time to start my blog again.

My fiber passion has kicked into high gear again in the last several months with a lot of focus on crocheting blankets thanks to Lucy's wonderful designs over at Attic24. Finding her blog over five years ago re-ignited my passion for crocheting blankets (my first love as I was taught by my great-grandmother as a child). Here are a few of the blankets that I finished in recent years while away from the blog:

Granny Stripe afghan for my daughter when she left for college over a year ago:

A Granny Patchwork Afghan modeled after one made by Lucy on Attic24:

This one sat for a year with a border that I was very unhappy about since I had forced myself to use yarn left over after completing the squares. The colors were not ideal, so I finally decided to order more yarn to create a border that I love! Here is a photo of the blanket with the old border:

As you can see, the older border emphasized the pink in the blanket too much when my original intent was to bring out the warmer tones and let the brighter squares pop here and there. The new border achieves this effect a lot better, is wider like Lucy's original version, and coordinates a lot better with my home's decor.

Lastly, I used left over yarn skeins from my original Granny Stripe, my daughter's Granny Stripe, and another baby blanket I had made awhile back to create this stash-busting Neat Ripple blanket:

I was so happy with the experience of making it and with the end product that I definitely see a lot more stash busting in my future (More on that in an upcoming post).

Currently, I am working on a Granny Stripe for my son who will be off to college in the Fall. He needs one just like his big sister! Here is the beginning of his afghan made in colors coordinated with his school colors and with colors approved for their marketing materials:

As you can see, I have a passion for making blankets. It is in the genes; my great grandmother, Mom Jo, was known for making an afghan for each one of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was from a very large Italian family! Here is a photo of the one she made for me that I use to this day:

I hope to match her blanket-making prowess. I am well on my way with the one I have recently made and several that I made in past years but never documented with photos, unfortunately. Happy blanket-making everyone. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Honeycomb Cowl

It has been a busy Fall without a lot of quality time for knitting, crochet or any other fiber pursuits. However, in anticipation for the very cold temperatures I knew would be coming my way (it is currently two degrees outside), I decided to make a cowl. It took me awhile to finish, but here it is.

I made it with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran wool that I found on sale at my LYS. The yarn feels wonderful up against my skin, so I can wear it with anything. The pattern I used can be found on Ravelry for free. Check out this link on Ravelry for information: Suzknittyspinner - Honeycomb Cowl.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Wonders of Blocking!

I have always been a fan of blocking knitted items even though it takes time at the end when you just can't wait to wear the item or to give it to someone special. However, wet blocking an item in no rinse wool wash (I use Eucalan for moth prevention), especially when it is made of wool, can do wonders for it.

In the past, I always finished the entire piece before blocking it, but lately, I have been tempted to block it in pieces as I see many knitters do. There are advantages to each method. When you block the whole sweater at once, you are completely finished with it once it is dry. If it is a cardigan, you have already picked up and knit the button band since all of the pieces were already seamed before blocking. This means you only have to wet the item once. The down side is that when seaming the pieces, they can sometimes be a bit tricky to work with since they are still curled up more than they would be after blocking. This is where seaming in pieces can really be great and it is why I decided to do it this time. Once the pieces are blocked, seaming it is so much easier! The edges of the pieces are almost flat and the stitch definition is sharp, so it is a lot more clear which stitch to use for mattress stitch as you work up the sides of each piece.

Here are some photos of the cardigan I designed for myself in the process of blocking (they are a little dark since I block them in my basement):

As you can see, I lay out a large lawn tarp on the basement floor and cover it with towels. I then lay out each of the pieces, measuring them as I lay them out to be sure they meet the desired dimensions. I don't usually pin sweater pieces, but the two fronts of this cardigan appeared unusually small to me. I wanted to be sure they reached the dimensions, so I pinned them in a few key spots to be sure they stretched out a bit. I put on a fan and let these pieces dry for over day. 

I was so happy with the results. Each of the pieces seems to be exactly the widths I desired. Unfortunately, the lengths are slightly longer than I had planned, but not too much so that it will be a problem. I am not sure why this happened since I was extremely careful during the blocking process not to let the wool pieces hand down as I picked them up and moved them around. My only theory is that it has something to do with the lace pattern. I will admit that I didn't pay as much attention to my row gauge as I should have. 

I am working on seaming the pieces now and hoping to have an FO soon. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to Aran Knitting - Honeycomb Cowl

If anyone is still following my blog, I am sure you have been wondering if I had given up for good. Sorry it has been so long. Not only has this summer been very busy with my kids' activities and my work, but I also suffered from a running injury and have been in physical therapy. Trying to recover has really been my primary focus. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though, so here is hoping I can get back to blogging on a semi-regular basis.

In the meantime, I have been able to keep up with a bit of knitting. I finished all four pieces of the sweater I am designing myself (Aran and Lace Cardigan). They are waiting patiently to be blocked so that I can try to get them to meet my measurement guidelines. They appear to be a little small at the moment, but if they block in the same way the swatch did, everything should work out well. I have been a bit nervous to test out my theory, though, so they sit in the corner calling to me. Maybe once I finish up the two five-week summer classes I am teaching, I will get up the courage to bite the bullet.

While I have been procrastinating about blocking the pieces of my sweater, I have begun a new project to have some fun. Here is the beginning of my Honeycomb Cowl (knit from this Lion Brand pattern). (Notice I changed the title! I bet you aren't surprised.)

Below is another photo to give an idea of the size of the cowl. Keep in mind that I intend to use the blocking process to get it to relax quite a bit to meet the desired dimensions. I always knit the type of fabric I like and then rely on blocking to get the piece to fit in the way I like as long as the blocking doesn't distort the pattern in any way. Since this is a cowl, I have a lot more flexibility.

I am really enjoying working with Debbie Bliss's Cashmerino Aran for the very first time. It has a lovely soft hand. I realize that this means it could grow and might pill considerable, but I will keep these factors in mind when blocking and when wearing it. Since it is a cowl, I am not too concerned about pilling. There doesn't seem to be too much abrasion when wearing something on your neck. However, softness was a primary consideration for me since I hate to have any scratchiness next to my neck.

What has everyone else been working on this summer? I would love to hear about your projects in the comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Increasing Stitches in Pattern

Sorry that I have been away for so long, but life just seems to get really busy around this time of year, doesn't it? My teaching semester ended, but that just means I am beginning a new summer session soon, which entails a lot of planning. Of course, my kids are at the end of their school year, which means a lot of events and a lot of studying for final exams. Sometimes that involves mom providing some support!

I have managed to work on a bit of knitting during this hectic time, though, mostly on my husband's Kearsarge sweater. I began the sleeves and immediately realized that it had been awhile since I had been asked to increase a sleeve in pattern without explicit directions of how to do so. In fact, most patterns won't give specific directions about which type of stitch to knit into the make-one on the next row in order to keep the pattern consistent. Like my pattern, they will tell you where to increase, on what rows to increase, and how often to do so, but not exactly what kind of stitch to be knitting into any specific increase. I had faced this situation at least two or three times before in my knitting career but not often since most sleeves have a bit of stockinette or something like moss stitch before any patterning, which is fairly easy to keep track of while increasing. Since this sleeve is mistake rib, I had to come up with a system to keep track of it.  Here is a photo to illustrate how I am doing so:

Here is a step-by-step explanation of my method of keeping track of the pattern while increasing using the photo above as a guide:

  • The coiless safety pin marks the first make-one increase. Notice that it falls between the first stitch of the sleeve and the second. I decided to keep the first stitch in st st so that it would be eay to sew up in the end. 
  • The mint green locking stitch marker is marking the second increase. Since it falls right before the first increase, which is obviously a st st column consistently throughout the pattern, it is easy for me to look at the next instance of a st st column further along to see that I need to purl this stitch. 
  • Now for the arrows, which really illustrate the overall principle I used. The two hot pink arrows indicate the original first stitch of the pattern and the original second stitch of the pattern before I began the increases. This allows me to always refer back to the original directions and work backwards from there to determine which stitches should come in between these two.
  • The blue arrows indicate the stitches that have been increased. There are three increases so far; the first two are marked with markers lower down in the sleeve, and the third increase had just been completed recently, so it hadn't been marked yet. I usually move the mint green marker up to the most recent increase after I have built up a couple of stitches above it but before it is time for another increase.
  • To check to be sure I am increasing in pattern properly, I glance down the row to see what the stitches look like before the column of st st to be sure the look of my new stitches is the same. 
Here is how the sleeve is looking so far:

It had been much further along, but I realized after I had completed it up to about the elbow that I wasn't increasing consistently at the end of the row. Apparently, I was increasing at the beginning of the row every time I needed to do so, but I would often forget to increase at the end or that same row when needed. This would have produced an awfully lopsided sleeve! You know what that means -- rip!  It seems I do a lot of ripping, but it never bothers me too much since I love to knit so much. As you can tell I am a process knitter -- the time it takes me never seems to get to me too much since I just enjoy doing it. Not very efficient, though!