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I am quite pleased with myself and my yarn. I spun the roving and rigged myself up a lazy kate:

(It’s a shoe box with knitting needles jabbed through it)

I plied the yarn, but as you can see I wasn’t quite perfect on making the bobbins the same length. Can anyone tell me if there a fix for this that I don’t know about?

I had a little trouble getting the feel for the plying at first, but by the end the yarn was beautifully balanced with no weird twistiness, and for what I want to use it for I don’t think the mis-plied sections will matter that much (I am keeping my plans up my sleeve for now).

Here it is on the bobbin:

And off:

I am quite pleased with my results and have a bigger bag of the same stuff in a red colour way to work with in a little while after I try out a few more things. I fancy a matching beret and gloves out of that one as I think it will be enough.

I am messing around with different fibre I have, trying out different yarns — trying to figure out what works and how best to use each kind.

This is the roving I have decided to tackle next:

It is hand painted alpaca.

There isn’t that much of it. I have split it in half and am spinning it thin:

I plan to spin the other half the same and ply them.

The Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits pattern previews are out, which always excites me.

I don’t actually have time to knit anyone else’s patterns anymore as I can’t seem to find time to get all the ideas in my own head out in the time I can devote to knitting, but I love to look at them still.

If I did have time to knit someone else’s pattern (so if this were, let’s say fall 2004), I would be most likely to knit the orange/red/salmon cardigan with short sleeves and cables in the “Signature stitches” story in the Vogue issue (I like all the sweaters shown in the preview for that section) and the “Afterthought darts cardigan” by Theresa Schabes, which is similar to some ideas I have kicking around in my head.

I don’t think I could ever have too many cardi’s and the “Afterthought darts cardigan” looks eminently wearable. The only change I might consider would be to make the sleeves three quarter length as I like all my sleeves to be three quarter length, and the only change I would consider on the Vogue sweater would be to have a straight garter stitch border on the sleeve instead of the chevrons that seem to be there in the picture.

I love knitting for that reason, you can’t walk into the _______ (insert mainstream clothing store of your choice here) and say: “I will get that one, but in green, with long sleeves, and with the buttons on that sweater over there.”

I was absolutely incorrigible last night and sat in the bookstore and actually read Start Spinning by Maggie Casey cover to cover. I did not set off the alarm when I left the store, but I should have. It really is a great book, and I recommend it to anyone learning to spin as it had all sorts of things I didn’t know yet (that isn’t actually that difficult at this stage).

For example I figured out why the tension didn’t work initially on spinning wheel: from the instructions it wasn’t clear which way the tension should be set up, and I was using both Scotch tension and double drive tension at once. Now I am just using the Scotch tension and it works fine. I plan to try the double drive tension with my next skein.

Maggie explained about setting the tension and why it matters and what it means to be able to spin a balanced yarn, so got up this morning and tried to do what she said for setting twist. I didn’t do the whole process for the plied yarn as it didn’t seem like it needed it (I said I read it, I didn’t say I would obey it), so I soaked it in hot water with Eucalan. I did the whole deal for the single ply as it was weirdly overspun and a little willful — I decided that a good dunk in scalding water with dish soap was just the thing it needed:

(Please don’t take those as the whole instructions — read the book instead)

I then squeezed out the water with a towel and hung it on my airer:

The one at back is actually balanced, and I made it before I knew what that meant. The one at front is weighted and still twisty, but I think I want to do some sculptural crochet with it, so at least it won’t be a twisty sweater.

I was trying to get the knitting machine working again. I had Glenda come over to teach me about it and while she was here it all seemed so very logical, but then she left and the logic went with her.

At this point what I want to make is a stockinette stitch rectangular shawl — that should be easy enough, or so I thought. I have this lace weight silk noil, which I want the shawl to be made of — of course that won’t be happening any more.

I got cast on and was going along as pleased as punch:

And here is a look up its shirt:

My yarn was wound; I had done my swatch; everything was going according to plan, when I noticed I was dropping a few stitches here and there, but I thought — it’s the first thing I have made with the machine and its for me and a rustic style anyway, so I will carry on. It doesn’t look that bad:

Here is the kind of thing that was giving me a hint something was wrong:

Then there was more:

Finally the whole thing had a bit of a fit, threw up its metaphorical hands in the air and in a final insult to me and my efforts, broke the yarn with a snap and the whole middle of the shawl jumped right off the machine and just sort of hung there.

There are no pictures of this stage as I had to peer through the space between the beds and up from beneath to figure out what had happened. I am used to hand knitting — you can always see the part where you made the mistake even if you don’t know what you did or how to fix it.

So I took the whole thing off the machine and don’t have enough yarn left to start again, and I have another weird bit of knitting to figure out what to do with. I think it may be calling out to be another cushion cover:

Here is the story of the second skein I have made with my wheel.

I got this romney roving from Princess Farms:

I spun it into a single, which looked like this:

I bought this lace weight mohair silk blend on my trip last week:

and it seemed like the perfect thing to ply the romney:

and here it is:

I just can’t tell you how proud of myself I am — it’s like real yarn.

Now I am thinking about how to use it. I think I will take Debbie New’s example and combine scribble lace and labyrinth knitting like she did in her Scribble Lace Bolero from KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave, but I am not sure what it will be.

The flax is just coming into bloom:

I am glad I will have a bit of time to figure out what to do with it before I need to do anything with it. The spinning is coming along nicely.

I have been out of town for a few days, so I don’t have that much to show, but I would like to show you a little skeinlet I have spun with my precious spinning wheel:

I got the niddy noddy on my travels and gleaned the information that skeining yarn actually has a purpose, so there it is, and I will be taking off the yarn and washing it to set the twist in a bit.

It’s fun having a new craft — it’s all so mysterious with all these steps, some of which can safely be skipped and some of which will ruin your project, yet no information on which are which.

Susan Gibbs has finished her draw for her stash, so if you bought tickets, head on over and check.

I didn’t win, but that’s okay I don’t really need more yarn anyway and it sounds like the mounts raised are substantial.  She raised $10,380, when she needed $5000 to cover the costs of the wheelchair.

Congratulations Susan! You must be so happy your efforts are so successful.

After a great deal of waiting and impatient checking, my spinning wheel arrived this week. I have not written sooner as I wanted to commune with it alone for a few days.

Of course the last any of you know it was on the Pacific somewhere — I had great imaginings about its life on-board ship. I think my imaginings were not very realistic and revolved around a strange mixture of the ages of sail and steam. Actually I think a great deal of it would not have been out of place in a Joseph Conrad novel. I imagined it in a wooden packing crate, stuffed with straw, strapped on board, tossed by the waves. Perhaps it stopped in Tahiti or Fiji on the way or was held up in the Doldrums.

As you can see I had some pretty unrealistic unexamined assumptions about what was happening. I even asked Jon to come with me to help me carry it, so you can imagine my surprise when Glenda put this on the counter for me:

It was so clean and spare and light: I confess I was somewhat taken aback, but not so much that I didn’t have to contain myself from opening and taking everything out of the box in the store.

When I got it home this is what it looked like:

And here it is taken out of the box:

I didn’t really internally examine the fact that it would come disassembled, and while I did get it together in one evening, it wasn’t the easiest assembly job ever. If any of you are thinking of buying one, you will want to have a hammer (preferably one of those rubber ones that won’t knock the wood around), scissors, candle wax, and screw drivers — this of course will only be an issue for those like me who go through life perennially unequipped or who get divorced.

After a modicum of frustration and receiving blanket permission from Jon to buy any furniture that needs assembly I want to as I can obviously put stuff together, I was inordinately pleased with this:

The hardest part was getting the brake and driver right — as there were not great instructions in the box on that part (the rest were fine), but after messing with it for a little while and making some odd overspun yarn, I think I have got it going, and here is the fruit of my labours on my first evening spinning:

I am working on modulating the thickness and making it more uneven, as my natural inclination is to make a yarn of about fingering weight that is perfectly smooth and boring. Lexi Boeger (I think it was here) said that you need to be able to spin a regular yarn before you start experimenting with fancier fare. I am giving myself permission to start that phase of my spinning career now (but please don’t judge me if I am not the most exciting spinner at first — it’s a work in progress).

July 2008
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