Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog? What blog?

For those of you who have been pestering me for weeks to write a new post, here it is. Short and sweet.

I've been caught up in work and school lately, so I haven't been knitting much. And, really, I've got little of interest to say that doesn't relate to wool. Somehow, I have managed to find some time to dye and spin -- as the photos below will show, my photography skills leave much to be desired, but my spinning skills are slowly improving! 

This is ~143 yards of heavy worsted / bulky Shetland from Louet:

Merino/silk, 450+ yds, heavy laceweight singles, hand-dyed:

Merino/nylon, ~350 yds, n-plied, fingering weight, hand-dyed:

Superwash merino from Pigeonroof studios, 330 yds, n-plied, light sportweight:
 (This is probably my favorite thing I've spun. I love this colorway!)

I've been trying to expand my horizons by ignoring the siren call of merino and buying other types of wool. In my stash, waiting to be spun: BFL, Romney, Shetland, Icelandic (!), and alpaca (!!). Oh, the possibilities...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I did it! I finally made a sweater that I like so much that I would buy it if I saw it in a store. And it fits perfectly! Drumroll please....
Bliss by Samia Buchan
Cascade 220 Heathers, in colorway Birch
US 7, 8, and 10

Not only do I love this object so much that I never want to take it off, but also, it gave a chance to employ three techniques I LOVE -- and to preach about them here!

  1. Magic Loop Knitting. For the uninitiated, magic loop is a method that allows you to knit small tubes or things that are composed thereof (e.g. sweater sleeves, socks, hats ... ) in the round using only one long circular needle. This method totally obviates the need for dpn's, which were sent to this earth by Satan many years ago in an unfortunate turn of events. Magic loop is wonderful for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it places a very reasonable upper bound on the number of needles you need in your collection. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Here's a video that demonstrates the technique.
  2. Italian Tubular Cast-On. This is a method of creating a stretchy cast-on edge that is also aesthetically pleasing (or at least inoffensive). I like to use it for mitts and sweaters -- anything that needs to have a little extra give. It's got a fancy name that can make it seem intimidating, but it's actually quite easy and definitely worth having in your bag of tricks. Here's a great link. (One thing that can trip you up: when you're holding the yarn and needle as shown in the pictures, the working yarn should be on your left. Otherwise, your cast-on edge will not be stretchy. Obvious point, maybe, but I've messed it up by being careless!)
  3. Cabling without a cable needle. This is probably the second most valuable trick (behind magic loop!) that I've learned in my short 8 months as a compulsive knitter. It saves me so much time, especially in projects like this sweater, where there are several cable twists in every other row. It might seem fiddly, because there are times when stitches are hanging in midair, but I find it less fiddly than repeatedly picking up and putting down a silly piece of curved plastic (and, inevitably, losing it, blaming the cat, and wasting 10 minutes tearing the cushions off the couch, only to find it lodged somewhere in your knitting). Here's a link.
I also got around to doing a bit of spinning in the time since my last post. Most notably, I spun up the handpainted roving (of colorway still to be named -- help, please!) I featured in my last post. Since I'm so new to spinning, and I don't have the good fortune of having real-life friends who spin, it's been hard for me to determine how much twist to put in my singles -- and how to tell if my plying twist is balancing the twist in my singles. With the last 2 oz of this roving (someone correct me, please. it's actually combed top. meh. whatevs.), I finally managed to spin a well-balanced yarn. It came out to about 130 yds and 15 wpi.  The key for me was to put less twist in my singles than I thought I needed, and to ply more than I thought I should.

Look! It hangs in an open loop! Maybe I'm not completely hopeless after all!

It's already in the process of being knit into something, but that will be kept secret for now. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Dye For

Disclaimer #1: This post is a photo-documentation of my first attempt at dyeing. It is not intended to be a tutorial (as I said, I'm a first-time dyer!) -- hence the lack of specific instructions, measurements, etc. However, if any of this information is useful to you, by all means, use it! :)

Disclaimer #2: This is a photo-heavy post. (Please excuse the blurriness of most of the photos... my camera is old.)

Since I learned to spin, I've wanted to dye my own roving, but, since I don't know what the heck I'm doing, I was never willing to make the financial investment. Recently, I was perusing and I noticed they'd started selling undyed roving for hyper cheap! I added several lengths of it to my cart, excitedly received them in the mail days later, and, lo and behold, let the dye experience begin!

Here is what my makeshift dye studio looked like:

Among the things I used:
  • Undyed roving (Peruvian wool, 3.5 oz, from Knit Picks)
  • Jacquard acid dyes (Sapphire Blue, Yellow Sun, and Vermillion, also from Knit Picks)
  • 12 wide-mouth mason jars (from my grocery store)
  • paint brushes (both the "hair" variety and the sponge variety)
  • a large pot
  • a steamer (like you use to steam vegetables in)
  • white vinegar
  • cling wrap
  • plasticware
  • plastic cups
  • gloves
I used methods described in Gail Callahan's book, "Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece." I highly recommend this book for first-time dyers (whatever this recommendation is worth, since this is the only book I used!). One caveat though: if you use this book, you should read through the whole book before beginning a project, because there are bits of crucial information scattered all through it... perhaps this style of writing is not ideally suited for linear thinkers like myself... but I got by.

Because I used acid dyes, I needed to pretreat my roving so that it would accept the dyes. I soaked it in a vinegar-water mixture.

While my roving was drying, I mixed my dyestock. Since I only bought acid dyes in the three primary colors, I had to mix them together to get the secondary colors.

In these pictures, it looks like I'm doing this operation on top of an unprotected kitchen counter, but, I assure you, the counter is covered with a kitchen trash bag!

Once the powders were measured and mixed, I dissolved each of them in a little bit of water, and then added one cup of boiling water. This stage brought back memories of hours spent in analytical chemistry lab. 

Once I had made the ROYGBIV colors, I mixed neighboring colors to fill out my basic color wheel. (i.e. equal parts red and orange to make red-orange; yellow and green to make yellow-green, just like in sixth grade art class.) This resulted in twelve total dye solutions.

Oooh pretty, it's a color wheel!!

Once my roving had been pre-soaked and left to dry, I picked my favorite color combination (orange, blue-green, reddish-purple, and a brown I made by mixing equal parts of red and green) and began handpainting.

And so on, until I reached the end of the roving.

Once the painting was finished, it was time to set the dye. I chose to do this by wrapping my roving in Saran wrap and steaming it as if it were broccoli. Yep, exactly like broccoli, but less tasty, and way stinkier!

Once the dye had set, I let the roving cool to room temperature (hot fiber is surprisingly HOT!) before rinsing it gently so as not to exacerbate the felting that was bound to happen given my clumsiness, inexperience, and impatience... alas, I am sad to report that some damage was done, but I was able to draft out some of the fiber and convince myself that it's more than worth trying to spin it up! Then it was out to the deck for an afternoon of sunbathing (for the roving, not for me).

And, voila! My first handpainted roving!
The colorway reminds me a little of the Caribbean because of the jewel tones, especially the tropical teal color. Not sure what to name it, but since it's repeatable (I saved the leftover dyestock, and I obsessively recorded how I made it!) it deserves a name... any suggestions?

Whew. Now, for a long evening of plying my laceweight BFL. UGH! The next post will have more knitting-related content, as I'm sitting on some pics of my latest FO. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An FO and an expedition.

I'm usually very good about finishing projects in a timely manner after having started them. Not so with this FO. I cast on a month ago, finished the first sock in a few days, and .... nothing. Everything else seemed more interesting than casting on for the second sock. I'd rather start an enormous, intricate lace shawl. I'd rather wind 400 yards of singles off my spindle, by hand. I'd rather scoop the litter box. You get the point. Second sock syndrome is a b!+¢#. I decided to finally put an end to the madness. I refused to be beaten by a harmless sock, much less a pink one. So, yesterday, this was born:
Pomatomus by Cookie A. (rav link)
Fibra Natura Yummy
US 1

Despite the horrible attack of second sock syndrome, I actually enjoyed knitting this pattern. It is so named because the motif resembles the scales of a blue fish, whose genus is Pomatomus. The yarn, however, I'm not so wild about. It's got tons of twist in it, and it feels very stiff. I like the dye job, though, as it didn't pool or stripe.

Can't finish one thing without starting another. So, I cast on for Selbu Modern by Kate Osborn (rav link). I'm using some Knit Picks Palette I had lying around for purposes like this.

This afternoon, I made the trek to Article Pract, a wonderful yarn shop in Oakland. I love the variety of gorgeous yarns and fibers they have there! Mmmm! (Ooooh, and this was the scene of my first encounter with Malabrigo Rasta. It was quite epic to see a wall full of huge hanks of daringly-dyed super-bulky single-ply awesomeness!) I purchased the raw materials for my next sweater, Bliss by Samia Buchan (rav link). I'm going to do it in Cascade 220 Heathers, in the colorway birch (shown below). The color is actually less nasty-green-brown in person, and more mustard yellow. If you look closely (in real life, can't see it in the picture), you can see hints of rust and olive. That's delicious. Nicholas agrees.

While the above was a premeditated purchase, at a price with no guilt attached, the following was more of a love-at-first-sight/touch type thing. 2 oz of handpainted merino. Meh. Not too shabby!

Oh, and a sidenote about this adventure. As I was walking from the bus stop to my apartment, above-pictured goods in hand, I came across a woman sitting on a bicycle, craning her neck towards a second-floor apartment, reciting lines from Shakespeare in full voice. There is no apparent explanation for this. Oh, the joys of living in Berkeley.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hello World

Hello (insert echo: o, o, o)... is anybody out there? No? I suppose I'll take this opportunity to welcome myself to the vast blogosphere. Cue warm applause. Now that that's out of the way...

I'll use this blog as a space to report my findings as I delve further into the world of knitting, spinning, and general fiberphilia. I will aim to provide as much eye candy as my little point-and-shoot will allow, since pictures are the primary reason we all "read" blogs. ;)

A couple weeks ago, I ventured out to k2tog in Albany. The activation barrier to get there is very low, as the number 18 bus drops me off right at their doorstep. Not so good for the stash, but excellent for mental health! Anyway, while there, I picked up two skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool and one skein of fingering weight Malabrigo

The former quickly became this: 

o w l s by Kate Davies
Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool, in colorway Light Taupe
size US 10 needles

and the latter morphed into this little number:

Gail (aka Nightsongs) by Jane Araujo
Malabrigo Yarn Sock, in colorway Cote d'Azure
size US 6 needles

and, the obligatory blocking photo to show off the lovely peacock-y motifs:

About a month ago, my boyfriend got me a "learn to spin" kit for my birthday. It consisted of a top whorl drop spindle, 1 oz of a white merino/alpaca blend, and 3 oz of a gorgeous hand-dyed merino roving (deliciously dark blue and purple, with hints of pink). I quickly devoured both, and let's just say it was a learning experience! My first mini-skein is *almost* too embarrassing to post, but here goes:
The second attempt was more fruitful:

My current ambition is to turn 4+ oz of undyed Louet BFL top (a birthday present from my mother) into massive laceweight yardage. Good times.