Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You've Got Scarf!

I guess when you have a blog and a digital camera, you get a little carried away. You become an amateur photographer whether you want to or not! My digital camera is pretty simple, and very outdated compared to what’s out there today. But it was one of the smallest ones going when I bought it, and my biggest need at that time was taking photos for ebay. I like the fact that I can fit it into a plastic traveling soap holder. Other than that, it’s nothing fancy.

But now that I’m trying to take more appealing photos for Etsy and Ravelry, I’m playing around with composition a little more. Not too much – I still just lay a lot of items out on the carpet and call it good. But yesterday I had the whim to get creative, and this is the result. I like this photo. It’s cheery.

I like the scarf too. I bought three balls of Twilleys Freedom Spirit last summer without a project in mind. I just liked the yarn. It sat on a bookcase in the hallway for most of the year. Through the usefulness of Ravelry, I found out that I could make this scarf and it would show off the yarn very nicely.

I don’t always wear scarves in the winter, but I think I’ll wear this one. It’s cozy, and again, I’m drawn to the colors. The yarn was loosely spun, so I’m not sure it would hold up for a harder-wearing item. It would have made a nice felted something, but maybe then the colors would have gotten too muddy. This will do.

Of course, it will be months before scarf season comes around. Until then, happy knitting!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I realized, looking back at past blog entries, that I’ve left some writing undone. I’ve written about some projects here on the blog, then finished them on Ravelry. There aren’t too many people reading this, but the few who do probably think I never finish anything!

So here are some updates…

The Blue Tank Top: is finished, but the armholes are way too deep for me to wear comfortably. So I either have to A: shorten the straps, B: pick up and fill in the armholes, or C: never wear it outside the house. Right now, I’m leaning toward C. The Blue Shawl: is finished. I was able to needle felt the hole that Rusty made in it well enough that it’s not too noticeable. However – I HATE WEARING IT!!! It’s like torture. I put it on one chilly Sunday morning, and I actually had to force myself to wear it for two hours. Here’s why: 1. It wouldn’t stay closed across my chest, until I pinned it. This looked stupid because I had to pin it in several places, or it kept gaping open. 2. It wasn’t long enough to completely cover my arms, so my forearms were colder than my upper arms, even though I had a long-sleeved turtleneck on. 3. It got into everything! I couldn’t reach over the stove without holding it back so it wouldn’t touch a burner or drag in the soup. I just kept thinking: I’d rather have a sweater. Sweaters would solve all these problems. Sweaters are so modern compared to this archaic thing! So I may just let Rusty have it for a cat blanket after all. I know there are different types of shawls out there, and I might try a Faroese shawl or Pi shawl next, but this triangle shawl is just not for me.
The Olympic Sweater: hasn’t been touched except to take that photo. Something must be done about this!

And the cats!
Lilly: is much better, although she is started to sneeze and chuffle again somewhat. At least the goopy eye cleared up nicely. See how pretty? Rusty: is fine now, although we went through some intestinal problems this past winter.

Rollie: My good cat, who never gets sick, did the unthinkable, and GOT SICK. He’s being treated for an inflamed bladder, which is either from trauma or food. And I’m watching the others to make sure they aren’t headed in the same direction.

That's all for now - hopefully I can keep the blog up to date with what's going on, although summer activities are numerous. And I've noticed that not too many people are even reading this, so maybe it's all for naught. However, I've been thinking about having one of those contest giveaways to shamelessly lure people to this site. Just for fun. More to follow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spinning My Wheel...

This is my spinning wheel. It’s an Ashford Traveler, which I bought as a kit, almost 20 years ago, and put together by myself. It’s been very neglected and was in a wretched state just a few short weeks ago. But when I found out the batch of sheep’s wool was headed my way, I pulled the wheel out of the corner, cleaned off the dust and cobwebs, tightened up all the joints, made a new drive band, and gave it a whirl.

Here’s a tidbit – Did you know wool that stays on the bobbin for five years loses all of its elasticity? Yep, it surely does. I was working with a very nice wool/silk blend when I stopped spinning five years ago. I have one good skein, that’s all. What was left on the bobbin was rubbish, but I didn’t find that out until I spun some more, and tried plying new with old. What a mess. I pulled off all the old stuff, and started over, spinning up the rest of the roving.

Here’s another tidbit. If you stop spinning for five years, you pretty much become a beginner all over again! At least, the yarn I’ve spun looks like a beginner made it. All thick and thin, over-spun and under-spun. Part of it might be that my wheel still needs some adjustment, but a big part of it is me. I need a remedial class. So I pulled out some sturdy roving, and I’m trying to re-learn proper drafting, and just working toward making a balanced yarn, even if it turns out bulkier for now.

It’s a long road back, but I hope that I can come up with a decent looking yarn by the end of summer. Then maybe I can plunge into some of the new sheep’s wool that will be waiting for me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Life Gives You Wool...

…Make Yarn! A co-worker who lives in Southeastern Minnesota has these three sheep, and last winter she offered me the wool when it came time to shear them. It’s been years and years since I’ve handled raw wool, and then I only played with it a little bit. In fact, it made me realize that it’s been five years since I’ve even done any spinning! Too long, that’s for sure.

The sheep were sheared in May, and suddenly I had several sacks of raw wool to deal with. I called another friend for help, as she used to raise sheep and could at least give me some advice on skirting, and preparation, etc.

We spent a lovely spring evening skirting through the first two bags of wool, removing burrs and manure tags, sticks and straw. I have since skirted one more bag, and have three left to do.

This leaves me with a large pile of nice creamy wool, and that wonderful fresh sheep smell. There’s nothing like it! The sheep turned out to be a Corriedale cross, and since this is their first shearing this is truly “virgin wool”. Most of it is in very good condition, but the one bag I sorted through on my own was full of second cuts (short clippings). It almost made me cry, because it was such lovely clean wool, but chopped to bits. I did save a pillowcase full, and will see if I can use it for stuffing. The next step in the process will be washing the wool, but I’m saving that to do all at once. I’m planning on sending the washed wool to Blackberry Ridge in Mt. Horeb to be carded into roving. The big question is, should I dye some first, before it’s carded, or wait and try to make some hand-painted roving? I might try both, if there’s enough.

All this activity is reinforcing my recent revelation that good fiber craft can and should be very intensive. The past few years, I’ve done so many “quick and easy” projects. Portable, no-fuss projects. That’s ok, but it’s really satisfying to sink my teeth into a time-consuming, mind-challenging project that throws up challenges from start to finish. And I’m up for the challenge!

Monday, June 09, 2008

I'm in Love...

…with my latest knitting project, that is. I wouldn’t actually say I was in a slump lately, but I was becoming increasing frustrated with my knitting, and not really having any fun. Well, all it took to change that was to read a few blogs! This one in particular. It got me to thinking (always a good thing). I have, in the past, designed a sweater or two. And a few pairs of socks, and hats, mittens, etc. I’ve learned plenty of technique at Knitting Camp, and Stitches, and Midwest Masters. But lately, I haven’t been applying much of it. I needed a new stimulus, a challenge, to learn, and think, and be creative again.

So I took the plunge, and started designing a new sweater for myself. From scratch. I started with creating a stitch pattern that pleased me. Then I thought about it. What did I want to create? Usually I plunge headlong into a project, telling myself I’ll figure out the details later. I didn’t want to do that this time around. I wanted to have a plan. I worked on the development of the sweater long before I cast on, even for the swatch. While I was knitting the swatch, I read Barbara Walker’s “Knitting From the Top”, because I decided I wanted to make a top down v-neck. Now, I made one once before, following a vintage Spinnerin pattern. But this time I wanted to work completely on my own. So I read. And thought. And read some more. Barbara’s book is great, but wordy. Not a bad thing, but how many knitting books do you see that are almost all text these days? Not too many. Usually there are plenty of photos, diagrams, and charts. Not this book. I started thinking about it as a college textbook. Dry, but not really, because there is a wealth of information there. Just not very snazzy.

But I read, and I thought, and I knit. I used my swatch to make changes in the stitch pattern, the needle size, and type. When I was satisfied, I cast off, washed the swatch, smoothed it into shape, and measured. And observed. And thought some more. When I finally cast on for the actual sweater, it was amazing. I felt like I was soaring, because all that prep work had freed me to just run with it. Although, I will say, the initially set-up of the stitch pattern had me a little baffled at first, and I spent about an hour so deep in concentration that I actually shut out any other distractions. I haven’t done that in a long time! But it worked, and now I’m off and knitting away, fast approaching the spot where I join the v-neck and start working in the round. I realize that I could have steeked the v-neck, but I didn’t like the idea of cutting and sewing a steek on yarn with this much halo. That’s also the reason why this will be a pullover, and not a cardigan. This project has gotten me out of whatever kind of knitting doldrums I was in, and I’ve already been thinking ahead to other projects, both original designs and a few patterns I’ve been studying. It’s a great feeling to have the knitting brain in gear again!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Knitting...

To make these: a simple pair of slipper socks. I’ve been working away on several very interesting knitting projects lately. But after a weekend of rummage sale treasure hunting, I had to stop and whip up this quick project. In one of the “free” boxes I found a very crudely crocheted scarf. Obviously a beginner’s project, obviously acrylic yarn. But I figured the next stop for it was the trash, so I pulled it out and added to my haul. I’m sorry that I didn’t take a “before” picture, but just imagine wide stripes of purple and gold in wobbly double crochet. On Saturday afternoon I took the scarf apart, and wound the yarn into balls. It was clear there wasn’t enough for a big project, so I decided to make my standard slipper socks. I added a strand on coned yarn that was black, with slubs of color, including gold, hot pink, purple, blue and green. Adding an extra strand of yarn seems to help unify and spruce up any “leftovers” type project.

I finished the first slipper on Saturday evening, and then made the next one on Sunday, in time to toss in the washer with the laundry. All in all, I’m very pleased with the result. The speckled strand does help pull the project together. For acrylic yarn, the feel is ok, not too stiff. I used up about 90% of the yarn from the scarf. The rest went into the bag for Goodwill. I’ll get some good use out of these, saved some yarn from the trash, and all for zero dollars. Serendipity!

Note: This entry was originally written at the end of April, but I way behind in updating the blog! More to follow!