Sunday, August 10, 2014

Besides the knitting

I've actually been pretty productive on the knitting front lately. I finished my big lace shawl, and the lace scarf that has been my train knitting for much of the last year. Are they blocked? Well, no. But I did weave in the ends, so that's something, right?

And I've almost finished a sweater for sprout (my replacement train knitting once I finished the scarf) and started a new sweater for her once the first one got too finicky for commuting.

Do I have pictures of any of this? Nope.

But I do have pictures of the other crafty things I've been up to besides the knitting.

After all, I have my Tour de Fleece spinning to share:

That's 612 yards of BFL 2-ply (roughly a heavy fingering weight - I haven't checked the wpi count) spun from 6 ounces of Briar Rose top. The Tour was a fantastic way to focus on spending time at the wheel. I actually managed to spin every day that the riders raced. But I've managed to sit down at the wheel only twice since. Not for lack of motivation (I'm really looking forward to spinning up the second half of my fiber and turning it into a Tilt wrap), but there are only so many hours in the day/week and I have plenty of other demands on my time.

Like this little person helping me take an FO shot of my new yarn:

 Just for comparison's sake, here is (part of) what I spun when I first did the Tour three years ago

and this is the not-yet-washed BFL from this year

What can I say? My girls like yarn. At least they come by it honestly.

Yarn isn't the only thing to keep me occupied these days. The quilting bug bit again. I'd pieced these giant flying geese blocks while I was still on maternity leave and then sewed them together into a mini quilt top a few weeks ago. The fabric had been sitting on my desk for a while and, with some great encouragement from Jacey, I decided that decluttering my workspace needed to include taking my first stab at free motion quilting.

It's not perfect (there's a reason I'm not showing the back) and quilting only in the dark sections hides imperfections nicely, but it's done! And I had so much fun that I'm planning to use FMQ on my next quilt, which I spontaneously/accidentally got started on this weekend with leftover squares from Tadpole's birthday quilt.

Yes, I probably should have watered the back garden instead of dragging Mr. Tinks and Frogs outside to snap a quick picture. But I was so darned proud, I couldn't contain myself. You see, I somehow managed to lay out the blocks and chain piece the rows together in an hour on Friday night. An hour!

And, just in case looking at this picture makes me think that I really should go put my quilt sandwich together (a very bad idea) instead of knitting a few stitches and heading to bed (the responsible approach), I'm going to leave you with a shot of our pumpkin collection. 

Who knew pumpkins ripened in August? Not me. We're going to be eating a lot of pumpkin pie this year.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tour Update

No fancy updates here but I did finish my second bobbin of Briar Rose BFL last night so I'm all ready to start plying tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer non sequiturs

I'm spinning like a dervish (well, a dervish who sneaks in 20-30 minutes with the wheel after work in the evenings) and having a blast with the Tour de Fleece. So far, I've managed to spin every day of the Tour. Yay! Naturally, my photographic evidence is scant - my only daytime shots are from last weekend and are making their way from my phone onto the computer while I type (along with several hundred other pics of this and that). Tomorrow is a rest day on the Tour and I'll poke around a bit to see if there is some fun way to show off my nighttime snapshots of spinning progress. A gif maybe?

But for now, I thought I'd share a few non-spinning delights. Ok, not too far removed from spinning, at least for this first one.

Pretty much as soon as the yarn was dry, Tadpole and I wound up my new polwarth/silk yarn. And I cast on the next day. Kuura is a delightful pattern to knit - interesting yet intuitive and not too busy. I'm flipping the main body and edging charts to have a lacier body to the shawl. We'll see how it looks in the handspun.

So far, so good. This yarn is just lovely to knit.

And, bit by bit, I'm slowly working the crochet bind off on my Fiori di Sole shawl.

I feel like this is moving at a glacial pace but it's not quite that bad. Maybe more like tortoise speed. It would probably finish up more quickly if I didn't ignore it to play with my new handspun.

And, in non-knitting news, I have pumpkins!

Honest to goodness pumpkins in my backyard garden (ok, expanding onto the driveway, if I'm being really honest). That picture is a day old now and the little pumpkin was almost the size of my fist when I went to check on it this evening.

I've got some handspun calling my name before it's time to turn in for the night so I'll just leave you with this shot of our garden visitor hanging out with the zucchini.

How many rows can I knit before I nod off on the needles?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

And we're off!

Sitting down at my spinning wheel last month proved much more fun than I'd hoped. The polwarth/silk blend was a dream to spin and exactly what I needed to get back into the groove with my wheel. So, in a typical fit of ambition, I decided to join the Tour de Fleece this year.

I have a bump of 12 oz of Briar Rose Fibers BLF top that will be perfect for my goal of spinning every day of the Tour. And I have my team in place to cheer me on:

We dropped our cable subscription ages ago so I was thrilled to see that you can download an iPad app to watch the Tour de France. Tadpole and I watched today's stage streaming live while I spun this morning.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I could spin the BFL, I had to finish up my polwarth/silk blend. Nothing like a holiday weekend (and a baby who naps reasonably well, not to mention a three-year-old inspired to nap, too, by the prospect of staying up late to watch fireworks) to make the time to finish up spinning and plying that fiber braid.

This is the first handspun yarn that I've wanted to start knitting up as soon as it came off the niddy noddy. 

That's approximately 4 oz, 418 very light, airy yards of worsted spun 80/20 polwarth silk top from SweetGeorgia Yarns

It's still ever so slightly damp so I'm trying to restrain Tadpole's (and my) urge to wind it up right now. I think it wants to be a Kuura with the charts flipped like in this version.

I think we can hold off a little longer. My team is chomping at the bit to get back to spinning.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rogue fibre

It's been a while since I've sat down at my spinning wheel - I'd gotten bogged down in an ill-fated attempt to learn woolen style spinning. So, with a burst of inspiration from a fellow spinner, I decided it was time to go back to my comfort zone of worsted style.

This week I pulled out a braid of Sweet Georgia polwarth + silk fibre in the rogue colorway and stole some time to sit back down at the wheel. (I may have even moved sprout's play mat down into my office/craft room so I that could spin a bit with her while tadpole was at school.)

Hello, wheel. It's good to see you again.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I had a fantastic idea for a kids sweater bouncing around in my head recently. It would be a simple stockinette raglan, worked bottom up, with the bee lace from Cookie A's Kai-Mei sock pattern along the raglan seams. 

This design started to get a bit squirrelly from the get go. I couldn't figure out what edging to use for the bottom hem that wouldn't detract from the bee lace. A turned hem would have been great, except that I only have 400 yards of the yarn I'm using and I didn't want to lose yardage on the hem. So that was out (now that I think of it, a picot hem might have worked). Then I thought: seed stitch! At this point, I didn't want to transition from seed stitch at the hem to a stockinette body so I decided to make the whole body in seed stitch. 

I happily motored along to the underarm and used a provisional cast on for the sleeve stitches at the yoke. This is my favorite sweater construction for babies and kids - work bottom up to the neck and then back down the sleeves with whatever yarn is left. 

I think I made it through two repeats of the bee lace. It was just a mess. 

I had forgotten one of the key elements of Kai-Mei's success: negative ease on the sock so the foot stretches out the lace. That was not going to work on a kid's sweater. 

So I ripped back to the start of the yoke and decided to borrow from another of my favorite patterns. This time around, I tried a braid cable at the raglan and hid the decreases in the cable. 

That works much better. I threw in some short rows to shape the neck. The sleeves are stockinette and should knit up quickly at this gauge. I'll probably use a turned hem to finish them since it looks like I'll have enough yarn. 

Miss Tadpole even agreed to help me check to make sure the neck was loose enough. 

EZ's sewn bind off worked like a charm. But then the sweater was off a moment later. 

Once I'm done with the sleeves, I think I'll write this pattern up. At the very least, I'd like to make a coordinating sweater for sprout. And this will be a nice pattern recipe to have handy for gift knitting. Plus, if I'm really good, I can set up a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers for me. 

(I haven't forgotten about the purple sweater pattern - it's on the list. I just need to get my pattern writing feet wet again before I dive into that one.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

On the edge

Two blog posts in a week - when was the last time I did that? Someone must be napping in her crib more.

Two of my current WIPs had me thinking about garter stitch edges lately. If you just knit row after row, that first stitch often gets loose and floppy unless you do something to tighten it up. These two designs tackle the problem in clever ways. No simple slipped stitch here!

First up, Martina Behm's Hitchhiker - that addictive little scarf pattern - grows into a toothy swirl of garter stitch. The teeth have a stockinette edge and the curve is formed by a k1f&b on every row (beginning the RS rows and ending the WS ones). The result is a tidy, yet extremely elastic, edge. No need to pick up and knit a border to hide imperfections on the edge.

(This is my new midnight knitting project, now that I've finished the girls' latest knits. The decadence of the cashmere silk blend I'm using more than makes up for any boredom my fingers might feel with the garter stitch.)

Romi Hill's Fiori di Sole has the cleverest garter stitch edge treatment that I've seen on a lace shawl. Instead of the typical basic garter edging, she has you work a garter eyelet band with a decrease on the very edges of the shawl to balance the yo eyelets (ssk, k1, yo, k2 on the right edge and k2, yo, k1, k2tog on the left). The decreases tighten up any looseness from the previous plain WS row and give a lovely (yet sturdy!) edge which I expect will come in very handy for blocking.

If you're working a sweater or similar garment with a garter stitch edge, I'm a big fan of slipping the first stitch of the row knitwise, with the yarn in back. It makes for a neat and tidy edge without disrupting the garter ridges. That's what I used on Sprout's latest sweater and it worked like a charm.