Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Bet you didn't expect to see this:

Fair Isle Yoke Sweater

I started it back in November, but had gauge issues and had to start over after knitting the body and one sleeve, and then the dog ate my yarn, but I've been slowly persevering since then. It just turns out that plain stockinette doesn't make good blog fodder, and then when I got to the yoke, it was like reading the last 100 pages of a good book and I couldn't put it down until it was done.

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Fair Isle Yoke Sweater (Henley Neck Variation) from Knitting Around
Jamieson & Smith Shetland 2-ply Jumper Weight yarn
US 4 needles (US3s for the hem facings, which, by the way, are orange)

I followed the pattern almost exactly, no added waist shaping or anything. I don't think the sweater needs it at this gauge, and I didn't want it to hug my curves too snugly. The only thing I did a little differently was to use the updated, more subtle, decreases from the non-Henley variation to avoid puckering at the decrease rounds.

The yoke background would have been all in brown, as per the charts, but I was afraid of running out of the brown yarn. I considered trying to get another skein in the same dye lot from Schoolhouse Press, but then realized that that's not what EZ would do. In fact, one of her listed benefits of starting a pattern from the bottom is that, should you run out of yarn, you can insert some color patterning into the yoke. So I opted instead for the dark orange as the background, and I'm so glad I did, even though I probably would have had enough brown yarn to squeak by. I think it really adds something.

The only thing I would do differently would be to drop to a size 3 needle for the garter stitch placket and neckband. It doesn't bother me enough to re-knit it, but I think it would have looked just a little neater if it had been knitted a little more tightly.

It's my new favorite sweater. I love the lightweight warmth, the color, and the way the yoke pulls the eye up and away from 'problem areas.' I see more yoked sweaters in my future. In fact, if I had enough yarn, I'd knit this one all over again.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Baby, baby

The February-ish baby sweater is complete, except for, you know, weaving in the ends and sewing on buttons, but since this was purely a process knit, I'm not too concerned with that.

handspun baby sweater

When I told my mom that I was knitting a baby sweater for no reason, she said she'd buy it from me to send to a friend of hers. Only problem, her friend is having a boy, and this sweater is decidedly girly. So I spun up some roving I had dyed and knit this for her:

handspun baby ensemble

I'll be taking it by the post office today, since Mama wants to bring Baby home from the hospital in it. Which is so gratifying, but also a little scary. I just kind of made up the pattern based on EZ's baby proportions in Knitter's Almanac, so hopefully it won't be too far off. My husband swears that it's too small to fit anything, but I think it's a 0-3 mo size.

Thanks for all the comments about the roving in my previous post -- it really meant a lot, since I dyed that myself. As you can tell, I've got the bright colors down pat! I haven't been able to dye much lately, though, because I'm sick yet again. I usually never get winter colds, but this year I seem to catch everything that's going around. I think the next time my husband asks me to cuddle him because he's cold from a fever, I'll give him an extra blanket and go sleep on the sofa!

As a little matter of housekeeping, I've switched to Haloscan for comments since Blogger makes it really hard to reply sometimes, and that's hidden all of my old comments, but hopefully it will be worth it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love y'all.

Happy V Day

Special thanks to Kristy and Peggy for saying that I make their day. To anyone who reads this blog, leaves a comment, or posts something about knitting or spinning out there for me to read, thank you for making my day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Home is where the yarn is.

Remember how I said that in February I would start finishing up some WIPs? Well, apparently I'm not over the handspun obsession, because for some reason all I've wanted to knit is a baby sweater out of this girly Falkland wool that I spun up (Pipsqueak from FatCatKnits), even though there are no little girls expected among friends and family.


So the other day I pulled out the swift and ball-winder and, luxury of luxuries, found a place to set them up. In our old house, there was nowhere to clamp them both, so I clamped the ball winder to a desk and would hold the swift in my left hand while I cranked the ball-winder in my right and if the slightest thing went wrong I'd have a big mess on my hands. I marveled a little bit at the beauty of the whole set-up while getting ready to knit.

I cast on for a modified EZ February baby sweater. It became clear early on that I wouldn't have enough yarn to finish, but I figured I could use that little skein of leftover singles that I had plied to crochet on a lacy little cap sleeve if I needed to, so I persisted. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn while casting off, and the little yellow yarn is a little thinner than the rest, so I decided that maybe the yarn just wanted to be something else after all.

Back to the ball-winder I went, and ripped the whole thing out. And as I was walking out of the kitchen, I saw something on the floor under the swift. Another skein of yarn. Half again the yardage of the first one. Apparently, I had more than a bobbin full of the plied yarn, and I had twisted the two skeins together into one hank, and then dropped one when putting it on the swift. (So that's what my "150 yds +80" notation on the tag meant!)

So I cast on for the little sweater again. Luckily, it goes pretty fast. This time, I went for a cardigan instead of a pullover, and did YOs for the increases to make cute little eyelet rows. Aww. And I think I even have enough yarn for sleeves!

Friday, February 8, 2008

On Spindling

I haven't had a lot of time for knitting or spinning this last week, but we did get moved and the house is listed and has already been shown twice, so we're very excited. Unfortunately, the handyman that we had called to do the last needed repair just got the flu, so I guess we're going to be doing that ourselves tomorrow. :-P

I did finish knitting the handspun socks and spinning the Flawful Fibers January shipment, so if you're interested, check out the sidebar.

I don't have much time, so I'm going to cop out a little bit and paste in a post that I wrote over the holidays when I didn't have internet and then never posted. I always feel kind of weird putting up how-to-type posts because I haven't been doing this very long and I feel like it's a little pretentious of me. On the other hand, if I have information that might help someone, I don't want to withhold it. I have learned a lot from reading blogs and seeing how other people do things. So here goes.

* * * * *

On Spindling

There are apparently people who can pick up a spindle and fiber and, without much trouble, create fine, even singles. Either that or a lot of people are lying on the internet (and that’s always a possibility).

Either way, I am not one of those people. When I took spindle to fiber, the result was something only vaguely resembling yarn, and I will not pretend otherwise. Just about everything I have learned so far about spinning, I have learned the hard way.

Not that I’m complaining. Spinning isn’t as forgiving as knitting – you can’t unspin the fiber and start over – but it is rewarding to stick with something and see progress over time. If I could spin commercial-quality yarn right off the batt (ha), it would just be a chore. It is it’s own craft, and learning it is half the fun.

In the interest of helping, or at least encouraging, others who are interested in spinning but off to a bumpy start, I will share what I have learned so far. Experts, feel free to chime in with additional hints, or to tell me what I’ve still got wrong.

Lesson 1: Maybe your first spindle should be a first couple of spindles, at different weights and from different makers and manufacturers. Play with them, and with different fibers. Experiment and see what you like and what works for you. Your first yarn doesn’t have to be yarn at all; it’s a learning experience. I bought some merino yarn and one spindle, and figured I wouldn’t invest any more until I could make good yarn with what I had, but making the yarn I wanted (sock yarn, natch) with the materials I had would be pretty difficult. If I had branched out earlier, I would have been less frustrated.

Lesson 2: Spindles are not one size fits all. Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if there’s a limit to how fine you can spin with a heavy spindle and a fine fiber. I was eventually able to spin a fine yarn on my 1.8 oz Cascade Pilchuk spindle, but I had to put so much twist in for the single to be able to support the spindle that the yarn itself was hard and wiry.

Lesson 3: Don’t think your yarn has to be thin to be good. Let the fiber tell you what kind of yarn it wants to be. That merino made a really nice, soft bulky weight on the Cascade spindle once I stopped being such a control freak.

Lesson 4: Spindles are not perpetual motion machines. Yes, it will spin longer if you can feed it a steady stream of drafted fiber, but eventually it will stop. A well-balanced spindle can spin all the way to the floor, but don’t be surprised if it stops and reverses (a lot) while you’re just figuring out drafting.

Lesson 5: It really does get easier with practice. The faster you draft, the longer the spindle spins without attention. And you’ll start to be able to tell when it’s slowing down or reversing and fix it before it takes all the twist back out of your fiber and drops.

Lesson 6: The spindle will still drop sometimes. I find that mine start to drop when I’ve got them pretty full of fiber. It makes sense; if you’re spinning on, say, a 1 oz. spindle, and you spin an ounce of fiber onto it, now you’re trying to spin the same kind of yarn on a 2 oz spindle. At some point, you reach critical mass.

Lesson 7: When drafting, hold the fiber gently in one hand, and pinch and pull with the other hand. I had a death grip on the fiber in my left hand for the longest time, and it slowed down my drafting and gave me snarls of fiber when I got to the end. Easing up was the single thing I learned to do that made the most difference.

Here’s what I can do on a spindle now, after a few months of inconsistent practice. The skein was spun on the larger spindle, which is, I believe a 1.3 oz. Golding. It’s a bit underspun and basically unusable – it drifted apart a couple of times when I was skeining it, and I just finger spun it a little and tied it back together – but I’m proud of it nonetheless. The smaller spindle is also a Golding (.6 oz?), with the same Shetland top.