I Won A Contest And Will Knit Many Socks

I woke up to some cool news this morning: My submission for the Summer of Socks 2008 button design contest won!

The button's tiny, so here's a bigger version so you can see it:

Please use the appropriate button size when posting on your blog, though:

Just make sure you download to your own server so you don't create problems with my bandwidth!

Summer of Socks is the brainchild of Jessica, who blogs at Zarzuela Knits and Crochets. Last summer saw fierce competition, with the "Most Socks" winner cranking out 42 pairs in a 2-month period. I can't even begin to imagine doing that! I decided to join up for this year, but I won't be doing the "Most Socks" contest. No, I've got a dissertation fellowship to complete—which means I have a dissertation to finish (also by September). So I'm in contest just for the fun of it. Who knows... I might win one of the bi-weekly completed-sock lottery drawings... or I might just enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of knitting while I dissertate.

And the winnings? This wasn't about money. I've gotten the obvious esteem boost. The button's being posted all over the place, so there's definite gratification in that. And the fabulous Wendy Johnson of Wendy Knits is sending me one of her patterns sold through The Loopy Ewe along with some yarn to knit it up in. I got to pick the pattern this morning, but I'll wait to blog about that until the package arrives. I can't wait—they will definitely be high on my queue!!!

Time for me to re-focus my knitting. Prepare to see a bunch of sock-related knitting posts!

Sign up to participate in Summer of Socks 2008 here.

If you're on Ravelry, this year's group can be found here.


Getting The Family In On The Act

In the course of the last week, both J and C have expressed an interest in learning how to spin. Not one to miss such an opportunity, I made these:

Two CD drop spindles. These made up quickly Saturday night, in just a couple of hours. I have enough materials to make two more, but I didn't want to do all four at once to leave open the possibility of tweaking my design a bit. I originally planned to dress them with abstract geometric images, but I decided at the last minute to take a different approach. I though the Seattle skyline was a good starting point, since that's where we live and I thought the colors would look pretty from above as the spindle whirls. The other is a close-up image of Ukrainian pysanky eggs (another of my crafty pastimes). They do look spectacular from above as they spin!

I'm particularly proud of the way I use the image to support the design and assist the spinner. I selected images with a strong vertical line pointing to 5 o'clock. This is important because the hook opening is at 12 o'clock, which means the vertical image points the spinner to the exact place where she (or he!) will want to place the yarn before running it through the hook. On Seattle Skyline, that line is created by the Space Needle. I did also put a notch in the CD for this one (thanks, J, for letting me call upon your muscle power for that part of the task!). Pysanky Spinner, whose visual orientation line is created by the black area that points like an arrow to the right spot, sports no notch.

The visual orientation line works so well that even without a notch to control the yarn, I was able to acclimate really quickly — to the point where I don't have to think about how far to turn the spindle when I'm winding on. It's brilliant! (Yes, I do say so myself.) With my Schecht Hi-Lo, I have to pay closer attention during wind on so I can "find" the notch. But with these spindles, I don't have to think about it as much because (1) my brain wants to orient the image vertically and (2) my eye wants to follow the strongest vertical line. Perhaps even most impressive is the fact that I place the yarn in the best spot every time so the fiber doesn't slip.

Here's what the spindles look like from behind.

Pretty normal. The dowel is 3/8-inch diameter, 12-inch length. I used rubber grommets, clear painter's tape (as a shim to fill in the gap between the grommet and the dowel), 180- and 220-grit sandpaper, a CD, cup hooks, and lemon oil. And yes, they do smell lovely!

"What's that fiber already spun?" you ask.

That, my friends is (on left) the next installment of my Song For Dalai Lama yarn (100% wool) and ... [drum roll] ... (on right) ... J's first handspun singles! Check it out!!!

That's right — my newly knitting husband spun himself some awesome looking singles! As soon as I finished making Seattle Skyline and gave it a little test, he had me teach him. He learned quickly and was spinning the entire time I worked on Pysanky Spinner. Truth be told, he did best once I stopped yammering at him with my running monologue of "helpful" little tips and tricks from my own, not-too-distant, learning process.

He's using the 100% Merino wool roving I had gotten from A New Yarn. (Sorry, B. This roving had been destined for you, but the man needed something to learn on, and I knew you'd be so psyched about him spinning that you'd forgive me... as long as I find another yummy roving to send you!)

I have to say that I'm really impressed by how well these spindles work! They spin forever. I spin yarn noticeably quicker on this spindle than on my Schecht Hi-Lo. And they're much more balanced than I ever would have expected.

The only unfortunate thing I might say about them is that they don't work too well for spinning in bed. They get a little wobbly when I'm lounging in bed watching TV because of the angle I use to hold things.

As for finished product, my Song For Dalai Lama singles pictured above are every bit as fine as the original singles I had spun on my Hi-Lo.

Now I know you're probably doing some math here and saying, "Hey, if she was making these spindles so J and C could learn, and then she started using one of them herself, that leaves one little 8-year-old girl without a spindle."

Never you fear: C and I picked a lovely image of a mommy and baby horse to put on a spindle for her. C was in bed by the time I started making these first two on Saturday night, and I wanted to include her in the process. She'll have a spindle of her very own soon. That's why I bought this:

Plain, white, beginner's fiber. I'm pretty sure it's the same stuff I used to learn on. I now know it's Coopworth fiber. C doesn't know it's for her yet. I figured that once I make the spindle, I won't push her to start using it. I'll just have it laying around with this ecru fiber to be at-the-ready for that magical moment when, overcome by curiosity and the lure of her pretty Mommy-Baby Spindle, she decides it's time. She can't resist anything mommy-baby oriented.

I did, however, involve her right away in another experiment I'm conducting now: She helped me select colors for some roving I'm going to spin together. Here they are:

Top Row (L-R): lavender, teal, lime green. Bottom row (L-R) Barbi pink, berry, tangerine. Her only instructions were to limit her selection to five colors. Now, you mathematicians, I know darn well there are six colors pictured, not five. That's because after C picked her five colors, I asked her what color she wanted it to be mostly. She said pink. I picked up the berry as my own addition to her selection.

Despite how it looks in the picture, I do not have equal amounts of each. The fiber is New Zealand Carded Wool from Weaving Works. I started spinning the singles on the wheel last night. This is my first time working with that particular wool, and so far I'm finding it wonderful to spin.

C's proud to call herself a yarn designer! I'm proud to call J a drop-spindler. I'm proud of myself for making such awesome spindles — for well under $2 each. And I'm thrilled that my family can share this with me!


Sometimes The Bear Gets You

My high-school Latin teacher used to say, "Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you!" Imagine this fiber was the bear:

It royally kicked my butt on the spinning wheel. I can't begin to tell you how much trouble I had spinning this stuff. It's one of the mystery fibers I picked up from A New Yarn — so soft that I originally wondered if it might not be something like camel. (Okay, if you've worked with camel and looked at the picture and thought, "What on earth was she thinking?!" because you know at a glance it's not camel, please cut me some slack — I'm totally just feeling my way through this mystery fiber thing right now.)

I did eventually get it all spun into singles and plied into this skein:

We have here 80 yards — spun mostly 2-ply, with the last dozen yards spun Navajo 3-ply. I figured it'd given me so much trouble that it probably wouldn't be worth much as an addition to my stash, so why not make the 3-ply experiment? A day later, while petting the finished product and trying to figure out what I would make from it, something about the texture reminded me of... could it be...????

A trip to the Weaving Works confirmed it. This stuff isn't wool at all. It's cotton. No wonder it kicked my butt all over the place! I'm amazed it came out as well as it did.

I call the yarn "Red Bear" — because this one got me!


Song For Dalai Lama

My family and I were part of the 1,600-member Seeds of Compassion choir that sang for the Dalai Lama's visit to Seattle earlier this month. I took my drop spindle with me and spun throughout one of the events. No surprise why I named this most recent handspun "Song for Dalai Lama."

This is 150 yards, 2-ply, spun top-whorl up on my garled Schecht Hi-Lo. You would have first seen it in this post. I haven't used all the roving in this colorway. There's enough fiber to make another skein this same size, so I will eventually have a respectable 300 yards of this song!

I used the Andean hand-wrap technique for plying. The cop of singles was so big it took me nearly an hour just to wrap all the fiber onto my hand and another three hours to ply it all. Quite a daunting proposition!

I've developed a technique to avoid cutting off circulation in the middle finger when doing the Andean wrap and will post a blog about it soon.


Have You Any Wool?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the massive wool haul I scored at A New Yarn, but I hadn't gotten around to taking pictures yet. At long last, I can share with you the glory that is my MIL's early birthday present to me!

First up, the darker wool I've already posted pictures of in some spun-up skeins.

As you can see, the 5 ounces I spun barely made a dent in this >5-pound monster, which I had selected as my learn-to-spin practice fiber because... well... with such a luxury of fiber, I knew I wouldn't be hurting too much if I royally messed up a bunch of it.

There's a nice silver/grey in with all that dark brown. See?

It's really a joy to work with this wool. In perusing fiber at Weaving Works last week, I decided that it's probably Romney. I'm open to being wrong about that, though. It would help if I took samples of each of these fibers in for comparison's sake.

Up next, the pretty fawn-colored roving of unknown origin:

This weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. My scale stinks, so that's the closest weight I can get until I make my next trip to the post office.

It's the softest, smooshiest of the lot, and I love the color. I'm excited to work with it but plan to wait until my spinning gets a little more consistent. I'd love to make this into a sweater for myself. Even have an idea or two in mind!

Third up is this gorgeous white stuff:

It's between 1 and 2 pounds, and it's decided not to stay in any kind of neat, tidy formation like its darker cousins.

I really like looking at it...

...but I'm not sure what it will be like to spin...

...because it's not nearly as soft and squishy as it looks. In fact, it's the scratchiest of everything I've shown here. I don't have a clue what kind of fiber it is. Again, a sample taken to Weaving Works should clear up that question.

That was "the good." Now for "the ugly":

I say ugly only because the locks aren't all spiffed up into roving. There are some really pretty colorations here. Dark brown at the base (is that what you call it?) with redder tips. I don't have any cards or combs yet, so I'm not quite ready to tackle this project. Someday! It weighs about 2 pounds.

So there you have it: The most amazing, fortuitous fiber find I could possibly have imagined. Strike that... I couldn't have imagined it. We bought this fiber before I got my spinning wheel. In fact, it's what inspired me to "take a peek" at what was listed on Craigslist that lucky evening.

Yessiree, this fiber has already made a wonderful wonderful impact on my life—and I still get to spin it!


Urchin on the Couch! /
Dear Mom:

I made you a hat, but I just can't give it to you.

Instead, the Urchin On The Couch is going to my own little urchin on the couch.

Pattern: Urchin by Ysolda Teague
Started: April 21, 2008
Completed: April 22, 2008
Materials: My Handspun "Mom's Couch," 84 yards
Needles: US 11 / 8.0 mm

This pattern knits up super-quick, but I'm not sure I'd attribute that solely to its ease. Unless you're the type to write down rows while you work—which I'm only inclined to do on complicated Arans—there's a certain intellectual drive required for this pattern in order to keep counts going in your head. With such short rows, it seemed wrong to constantly pick up a pencil to make little tic marks. Bad enough that I was flipping needles so frequently. I probably should have tried knitting backwards to avoid some of these irritations, but truth-be-told, I quickly assessed that I just wanted it done.

Further evidence of my desire to finish as quickly as possible: I originally set out to work this project Continental (I'm a longtime thrower—which you know since you taught me how to knit—and I'm dying to get picky with it!). I even started the hat that way, and I was getting more comfortable with Continental style when my urge to get this pattern done quickly surpassed my desire for the learning experience.

As I envisioned this project, Urchin seemed the perfect match for this handspun, named for you. It doesn't require a lot of yardage (although it did use up every little bit I had), and it's designed to celebrate thick-thin yarns (a category for which this, my second-ever attempt at drop spindling, certainly qualifies).

Please believe me when I say I had every intention of giving the hat to you. After all, you are the "Mom" of the eponymous couch fame. But when I pulled the hat off the needles and tried it on my head, I went, "Ugh!" It looked absolutely horrible on me and should never again grace the head of a self-respecting adult.

The problem had less to do with the pattern and more to do with the color-striping effect. You see, all those nifty, vertical short rows that give this hat its interesting construction are fine knit up with solid-color yarn. But for anything that will stripe, the short rows look dreadful. You end up with weird poolings in odd, unflattering places on your head.

So, I'm sorry, Mom. The Hat That Would Have Been Yours would not have looked good on you at all. But on C, whose head is a smaller circumference, it can be a little more floppy and slouchy and, therefore, becomes more tolerable. Of course, this kid can wear paper bags and still look smashing.

C's thrilled because "Mommy made me something, FINALLY!" (Surprise!) She wore it all day at school and has set out an outfit that matches it again for tomorrow. So some good has come from it all!

We can probably chalk this experience up to good karma. Remember that for Christmas last year I sent you The Hat That Would Have Been Mine: the Kool Kool[river]haas, the third and final fling of my love affair with Jared's Koolhaas. Well before I had that one off the needles, I knew it looked like it belonged to you!

Now that's a good-looking hat for Mom! (Thanks, B, for sending the pictures!)


Because You Asked

I've had some requests for a more detailed write-up of my pattern for the Tweedy Cabled Cap, which I first blogged about in early March. Thanks!

Download PDF here!

Tweedy Cabled Cap

I'm happy to provide pattern support if you need assistance. Just drop me an email. Also, please let me know if you encounter any typos or corrections I should fix.

As always, I'd love to get your feedback about this pattern. If you make it, please pop back here to post a comment and picture!


Second Off The Wheel

In my rush to experience color on the wheel, I worked up some of Lorna's Lace's 100% combed wool top in the Watercolor (18) colorway. The roving is put up in 10-ounce balls, and I've got three of them. (Another great find from A New Yarn.) I have to say, the roving itself didn't look overly exciting, but it really brightened up in the spinning!

To-date, I've spun and plied 4 ounces. Total yardage is 257; average wpi is 13-14, making this a sport/DK weight. Again, the yarn is remarkably well-balanced and consistent, especially considering it's only my second attempt on the wheel!

Given how much of this wool I have and how well it's spinning, I'm planning to knit it into an adaptation of Lijuan Jing’s Swirl Shawl, which I saw made up at the Yarn Barn on my recent trip to Lawrence, Kansas. It was love at first sight!

Look for my next post to return to knitting topics. My Mom's Couch handspun is on its way to becoming a finished object!

First Off The Wheel

Haven't had much time for fiber this week, but I did ply, wash, and skein up my first two attempts at yarn on the spinning wheel. I'm pretty proud of how they came out.

First up, 5 ounces of the big roving score from A New Yarn a few weeks ago. I shared the singles in my previous post. I'm now fairly certain that this is Romney wool, and I've got about 5 pounds left to spin after this batch. Here it is in a 2-ply:

I haven't quite gotten the hang of judging how much is on the bobbin when I'm spinning singles, so I didn't have equal amounts for plying. Between the 3 total skeins of 2-ply, though, I've got about 165 yards of surprisingly consistent and well-balanced yarn! At an average of 11 wpi, this is a heavy worsted, almost bulky weight yarn.

There was a little bit left on one bobbin after I'd finished the other, so I tried my hand at the Navajo 3-ply method:

That's a little more than 8 yards, and it's way over-twisted. I'm going to have to practice more on this technique!


Yes, sir! Yes, sir!

Two bobbins full... and ready for plying. Those bits of over-twist will work out in the process — at least that's my hope. Everything I've read says plying undoes a lot of ills!


Alpaca WHAT?!?!

Last night J revealed that one of the women he works with once mentioned that she raises alpaca. Today he confirmed it. She has 11. He told her about my new spinning wheel and asked about the alpaca fiber. According to him, she seemed puzzled by the inquiry. He's not sure what she does, exactly, with her 11 alpaca, but sheering them and selling the fiber is off her radar. According to her: "I think people just give it away."


J asked about getting some from her. We'll see... she's going to ask some of her alpaca-raising friends the fiber question. Wouldn't it be nice to have some fiber come my way for free?

I have to ask, what on earth are they doing with 11 alpaca?!


If At First You Don't Succeed...

Try, Try Again!

Just before 10pm last night, I sat down to try my first spinning on the new spinning wheel. Given that I'd never laid hands on a spinning wheel before, it should be no surprise that I ended up with the scrabbly scramble above. Perhaps I shouldn't have started so late at night?

Patience prevailed even where fatigue might have overtaken a lesser woman. I cut yarn, started over, and produced this before heading to bed:

Not perfect (see the funky wrapping at left), but not too shabby, either. Hope springs eternal!

That's some of the massive fiber buy I made last weekend, too.


Traveling Light

This is the only project accompanying me on my job interview in Lawrence, Kansas.

As with the last fiber I spun, this came from A New Yarn — the non-profit yarn shop I love which accepts donations of all kinds — and I don't know exactly what the fiber is composed of. I can tell you that it's not quite as soft and silky as the last one. I'm thinking it's probably just plain old will (read that "just" with all sorts of love in your heart!). The color is so richly saturated.

This picture gives a different sense of the brightness:

For all you University of Kansas fans out there who can't figure out why my blog came up on your Google search: Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Of course, they just won the national basketball championship. The big welcome home celebration for the team was last night, which is lucky because if it were tonight, I'd have more than 40,000 loud, happy people outside my hotel celebrating the victory right now!

I had planned to pack a sock project, too, but just ran out of time to prep one I thought would travel well. It's for the best that I didn't pack anything else. My bags were really heavy, and I'm not sure how much spinning I'll actually get to do. I've got a 13-hour interview day ahead of me tomorrow.



Look what I went and did:

I bought a spinning wheel!

Actually, J bought it for me. An early birthday present. How cool is that?!?! It's a single-treadle Ashford Traditional.

How does a thing like this happen? And so suddenly? Serendipity.

On a whim, I checked Craigslist for used spinning wheels Sunday evening. Nikki in Kingston had just posted an ad for this wheel at an amazing price — one of the best deals for a good quality, used, beginner's wheel in good shape that I'd seen in nearly 6 months of periodic looking. I knew I was likely to be the first respondent on this one, so I showed it to J. He agreed that I should contact the seller.

The next evening, we loaded the entire family (including MIL) into the car and drove up to the Edmonds Ferry Terminal. Nikki and her daughter met us on the mainland side. Rain poured down in buckets as we loaded the wheel into the car. I was so excited about my new toy that I almost forgot to pay Nikki, even though I had the cash in my hand!

Nikki raises sheep, too, and she said she'll bring me a fleece next time she comes to the mainland. I've got her cell number and am hoping it will happen. Not that I don't have enough great wool to spin... there's still that box full of natural fiber to work through. I still need to take a picture to show off!

Another whirl

I'm in deep — can't believe I didn't learn spinning sooner! It's amazing to me that I can take a pile of fluff and a weighted stick and end up with beautiful yarn. This is my second attempt:

Not bad for self-taught, eh? And this one shows it as compared to my first attempt:

That's the single. Here are more, after its 2-ply transformation:

I have no idea what the fibers are. Primarily wool. Long staples. Maybe mixed with tencel or mohair?

It's very soft and silky.

I picked up the fiber at my new favorite LYS: A New Yarn. It's a non-profit yarn store benefiting Northwest Family Life. In addition to being a place for amazing finds, they've brilliantly incorporated a large, well-equipped children's playroom. That's going to pay off in dividends for the shop. This is the only yarn store where C will leave me alone the entire time I want to be there — no nagging!

I got some other great fiber there, too. I'll post more about it as I work the fiber.

While I was there, a woman donated a large box full of natural-colored, prepared roving. She had gotten the fleece from a friend who raises sheep in California and had it processed, but she hadn't done anything with it yet and didn't think she ever would. As you can guess, I thought I might come back and get some of it. The shop manager, Claudia, promised to call me when she finished pricing the wool. By the time I arrived home, she had already left a message offering to let me buy the entire box for a very reasonable price. (We're talking AMAZINGLY reasonable.) I went for it. My MIL, who is in vising from Ohio, ended up getting it for me for my upcoming birthday. Amazing, no? There's more than 10 pounds — I still need to weigh it.


Autodidactic Inclinations: Spinning

I taught myself to spin this week.

Ta da!

Spinning and dying are my final frontiers as far as handcrafts go. I learned most others at a young age. Spinning and dying always seemed mysterious to me, and I didn't have anyone mentoring these crafts in my family. This week I decided I didn't need a mentor or a class to pick up spinning. I have all the skills and good sense I need to get started!

When I wandered down to Weaving Works on Monday, I had the sole intention of picking up a pair of craft gloves. My left wrist and forearm have been bothering me, and I thought they would help keep me knitting. While there bemoaning my recent achy knitting sessions, I walked past a display of beautiful, hand-carved spindles and remembered that Jared Flood recently floated the idea of putting up a hand-spun yarn tutorial. I simply couldn't resist.

Ten minutes evaluating resources in the books section, and I identified my guide: Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert by Connie Delaney.

One of the shopkeepers helped me pick a good beginner's spindle. Good being defined as functional, balanced, and pretty without breaking the bank. (I may love all the gorgeous options, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on one until I figured out whether I like spinning or have any hope for some talent doing it!)

I ended up with a Schacht Spindle Co. Hi-Lo spindle, which not only meets my criteria but can be used either high whorl or low whorl. It has a 2.5" whorl and weighs 1.1 oz. I don't have anything to compare it to yet, but I thoroughly love my new toy!

The nice woman at Weaving Works (whose name I'll have to get next time I go in — it's shameful that I'm calling her "nice woman") also set me up with an ounce of medium-grade, undyed wool. I can't remember the C-name of it right now, so I'll call my patch of sheep fluff Charlie wool.

One of my little Cairn terriers, Barclay MacGregor, who has never destroyed any of my things before, got hold of my precious purchase before I did. I didn't have the heart to photograph the carnage of the Charlie wool all over the carpet. The spindle survived, but it definitely took on a new character.

Needs a name, don't you think? Scar? Chewy? I welcome suggestions!

I scraped up the Charlie wool and set about figuring out how to spin. The book's great, and I checked out some helpful internet resources, too — including a few really good videos on YouTube. Still, it's all trial and error unless you have an expert around to demonstrate and give feedback about what you're doing.

It took me about 2.5 hours to spin the wool top into a single — learning as I went. Lo and behold, at every turn a little miracle!

The next evening after dinner, my MIL and I figured out how to turn my single into a 2-ply using the method in Delaney's book. I didn't see this method anywhere else online. It's a really cool technique that plies the beginning to the end and works toward the middle — so you can do this with just one spindle-full of single-spun yarn. We had a little trouble figuring out the hand wrap but finally rigged up something that worked.

It's small and misshapen, but it's mine and I love my Charlie yarn. Clocks in at a whopping wpi of 5-7 (variable because of its extraordinary qualities) — that's hyper bulky. As you can imagine, 1 ounce spun to such massive heft does not go far. We have here just 28 yards. That's ok. I'll come up with something special to knit it into — or I'll get more of the same fiber and see if I can recreate the bumpy learner's goodness.

The next spinning project already has my fingers flying — and at a much finer gauge. I hope to finish by tomorrow night. Can't wait to show off that one. Looks like I've found a new obsession, and dying now stands alone as my final frontier!