Best Present Ever

December 19, 2014

I just got my Christmas present, and I believe it is the best present one could get!

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It is an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel! Yay! It arrived on Monday, and I assembled it Monday night and started spinning immediately. You can see the dark blue single in progress. That’s a nice wool/silk blend (75% BFL/25% silk), hand dyed from Cloverleaf Farms. I started by dividing it into two piles of 30 g each, and then spun each half into singles. Then I plied the two singles together tonight to make my first wheel-spun yarn! (Technically, I spun a teensy bit of plain white wool first to get the hang of spinning and make sure no grease ruined my wool, and I then did a rather disastrous chain ply on it, so it was really the very first yarn.) Below is the finished dark blue yarn, along with the chain plied white and a short length of chain plied blue that I did with the rest of the bobbin after the other single ran out.

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I was rather intimidated by the idea of spinning on a wheel at first, as the first time I’d tried wheel spinning a while back, I found it rather difficult. But I took to it like a natural. All the practice drafting yarn while spinning with a drop spindle paid off, and I was spinning decent singles within minutes of the finished assembly. I eventually even started to pay attention to the amount of twist in the yarn and got something that was not too unlike my drop spindle product. Plying took a little getting used to, but also wasn’t so bad, for two plies. I will certainly need more practice with chain plying, though I started to understand the source of my disaster with it.

It is the Year of Fiber, we must remember, and I actually have a last-ditch chance of actually spinning up all my fiber stash by the end of the year. There are some yarns I began spinning with the drop spindle; I am not sure if I want to finish them that way or move to the wheel. It’s a tough call, as the wheel is so much faster and produces nice two-ply yarn.

Anyway, I hope you have a merry Christmas! If you’re stuck on what gift to get someone on your list, may I recommend a spinning wheel? In my experience, it is the best gift ever and will earn you eternal gratitude!

Tiny Stockings

December 6, 2014

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I got a bit sidetracked from all the other projects in progress by knitting tiny stockings for everyone on my team at work. My boss wanted to decorate her door before the big Holiday ‘Do, and I thought that a double row of tiny stockings would make a great decoration. Perspective makes the lower ones appear bigger, but they’re all knit to the same pattern, the Knitcellaneous Keychain Sock Blocker Sock. I used worsted weight yarn and size 8 (US) needles to upscale them from teeny tiny to merely small. They were really quick to knit; I did the majority of them in the car on the way to and from Scotland for our Thanksgiving holiday. By the end of the trip, I had the pattern memorized. They’re a bit addictive; I’m thinking of knitting some for my other team at work, too. I’ve been told someone else found some mini candy canes to put in them. Yay! I tried to embroider the first initial of everyone on a stocking, but after mangling the first two attempts, I decided they looked better without my ham-fisted embroidery attempts.

Scotland was amazing! We toured Edinburgh castle, climbed a mountain, walked through a herd of reindeer, saw a rainbow over a loch, visited the rugged coast where sea birds nest in the cliffs, and climbed inside ancient stone cairns! We hoped to see the northern lights, but the rainy, foggy weather prevented us. I think it was a wonderful trip just the same. The land is overflowing with sheep, but I saw only a single yarn store the entire trip, and they didn’t have any local yarns, so I will just assume that they send their wool off for processing elsewhere and not that the grisly alternative– that they’re meat sheep– is true.

 

November 23, 2014

I loved loved loved Twisted Yarn’s Christmas Trees!!! So I made a couple myself! There’s also a third nearly knitted. I’m looking for beads to add to them, too. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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I Should Be Knitting For the Holidays

November 16, 2014

It is swiftly approaching that time of the year, what I think of as The Point of No Return, when if you haven’t started a hand-knit gift for someone you love, then you should start shopping for their gift card. That time of the year has slid back in time as I’ve gotten wiser and more aware of my own knitterly abilities, though it is still perhaps not what one might call entirely rational. (“Well, last year I might not have been able to knit everyone a sweater in two weeks, but if I give myself four weeks, I’m sure it will all be fine.”) Anyway, this year I haven’t even started thinking of whom I need to knit what for, and with the delay in postage from the U.K. to the U.S., I’m starting to see that The Point of No Return has probably already passed. Honestly, there’s nothing far enough along on my needles to make it to someone’s hands by Christmas. I’m trying to find that liberating, not knitting gifts for Christmas, but it doesn’t really feel like the holidays without the blur of knitting needles and the repetative stress injuries. (“But you know, I could still knit in December and then they’d just receive their presents in January…”)

I’ll fill you in on a few of the knitterly things lately. First, I love knitting lace, but the last lace scarf let me feeling like I needed a break from lace knitting, so instead, I cast on this lovely Ionic Columns Lace Scarf from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2009. (That’s right; I took a break from knitting lace scarves by knitting another lace scarf.) It’s a very simple pattern, though I admit I don’t particularly like the way it gets rather narrow in the middle. I’m over half-way through it, though, so I’m not complaining about that too loudly.

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Last month, I finished knitting a beret from some Soy Wool Stripes I had lying around in the stash forever. The pattern is the Gothic Tam from Interweave Knits Accessories 2011. I had to use size 8 needles throughout the project, as the yarn was too bulky for smaller needles, which meant that it turned out a wee bit too large in the brim. Unblocked, I call it my “disco hat”, as when I’ve tried it on, I’ve immediately broken out in a veritable fever of saturday-nightness. The beats start pumping, and I become a dancing queen! Anyway, I’m going to rip out the ribbing and do another round of decreases to make it fit a normal human-sized head, then I’ll probably block all the lovely 70’s character right out of it. In this picture, it’s clearly just a beret.

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And in this picture, I’ve tried to capture some of the true essence of this disco hat.

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Finlly, a picture taken at our visit to the local arboretum to see the fall colors. I took the time to high-five a maple tree, while wearing some fingerless gloves I made last year from the most luscious Manos wool/silk blend. (You may remember these glovelets match my jaunty beret.) They’re not new, but they’re still quite lovely, and perfect for this time of year!

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Remembrance Sunday

November 9, 2014

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In the U.K., this is Remembrance Sunday, a day dedicated to those veterans who died in wars. (The U.S. celebrates this as Memorial Day earlier in the year, reserving November 11 as Veterans’ Day to honor living veterans.) This year is especially important as it is the hundredth anniversary of Britain entering WWI. The symbol of Remembrance Sunday (and Memorial Day) is the red poppy, and most people in the U.K. wear one every year. I bought mine rather early, and it’s not holding up so well, especially in the torrential rains we’ve seen lately, so I took a bit of spare yarn and crocheted a replacement. If you get a chance over the next few days, think of the people who sacrificed themselves to ensure our freedoms, or better yet, thank someone who is making sacrifices even now to keep our world safer.

Elegant Scarf, Blocked

November 2, 2014

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The Elegant Scarf is blocked! This is the lovely gossamer laceweight yarn I picked up on our trip to Rome last year. The pattern is half the size of the original shawl (Interweave Knits Accessories 2011).  It used a single ball of yarn. Less than one, really, because I got tired of knitting it and quit a wee bit early, to make sure I had enough for the second diamond border. I really like how it turned out. Unblocked, it was a little ungainly because the diamond parts (knit in the opposite direction from the body) were wider than the ring stitch body. I have a feeling that it will be the most beautiful, light weight scarf I’ve ever set eyes on. Best of all, I can knit a second scarf with the second ball of yarn. It will be a simpler pattern, though. I learned a lot about knitting lace with this pattern, but it was not appropriate for knitting while your attention was distracted at all. Since most of my knitting is done slightly distracted, I found it hard to carve out time to complete it. I have become a master at a ring lace pattern! Fear my elite ring lace skills, oh mortals, and weep!

Weight a Minute

October 27, 2014

I finished the Elegant Italian scarf, and I’ll post a picture when I block it. In the meantime, I have been spinning the most beautiful fiber that a Dear Friend brought me last weekend. It has all sorts of greens and blues and orange in it, and is some blend of silk and wool, probably BFL from my guess of the staple length. I’ve got a tiny ball of it spun up, with more on the spindle. I’m using my favorite Golding spindle and a chain ply to get the most lovely thin smooth yarn you ever saw. I’m really appreciating how fine and smooth the yarn is turning out; I like yarn with a decent amount of twist in it, and this fiber is taking all the twist I have to give and then some! Because I finally bought a scale, I can tell you that it’s approximately 100 grams of fiber, with less than 20 of it spun so far.

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I’m especially happy about the new scale. It’s not like I haven’t had ample opportunity to buy a scale. In the U.K., they cook by weight, so that instead of a recipe asking for a stick of butter or a cup of flour, it would say 200 grams of whatever. Kitchen scales are in every shop, cheap and prevalent. I just waited so long because I wasn’t sure if I needed a fancy one or if the cheap ones would suffice. It turns out, this cheapest of digital scales (which measures down to single grams) is all I need, and much more useful than years of no scale at all!

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We we also went to a “working yarn museum” today. It is a mill originally from the late 1800s, which still produces yarns that you can buy in their little shop today. It’s more of a museum than a commercial mill, these days, though. Today was the day of the semiannual “steam up”, where they actually stoke the giant boiler and fire up the huge mill steam engines that volunteers have restored. It was pretty cool to see steam engines running. The air was pungent with the smell of grease, and the steam seemed to leak from every corner. Inside the mill, we also saw the spinning machines demonstrated. The one pictured here is the oldest of them all, over 100 years old, and draws the wool fibers over rollers and into a thinner, but not yet spun, yarn. They had many machines which drew fibers thinner and thinner, adding just enough twist so that they wouldn’t fall apart, until finally spinning and plying and winding it with the final three machines. It was really cool, though they didn’t shy away from admitting that the mill had once hired child labor. They were in fact proud that they didn’t hire six-year-olds, but waited until children were at least eight. I also learned that no one cared if you maimed an orphan, and in the Second World War, there were gas masks for babies, two  surprising lessons from a spinning mill.

Elegant Italian Scarf

September 30, 2014

I visited Rome a year ago and came across a yarn shop just around the corner from our hotel, so of course I had to buy a couple of skeins of a super elegant laceweight merino in a very elegant camel colorway. I have been knitting (off and on) on this elegant scarf for several months now, and I thought you might want to see the progress I’ve made so far. We took another trip to Italy last month (where I managed to not buy any yarn), but did get the hankering to knit on this scarf some more. Although at first it was too complicated a pattern for mindless knitting, I have grown used to the lace repeat and can now knit while watching telly without any problem. I really really like the way it is turning out. The bonus is that it looks like a single skein will suffice for this pattern, so I could make a second one, equally elegant, for a gift. (It’s not a quick knit, though.) I hope to be able to show you the finished scarf before I go to Italy a third time!

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More Quilt Kits

September 29, 2014

My three new quilt kits arrived in the mail today, and I can hardly wait to start on them, but first I need to finish piecing the Harvest House quilt. I finished the subblocks for the ten large stars, and will work on sewing them into the blocks tonight. In addition to quilting this weekend, I also did some long-overdue tidying in my crafting and writing rooms, motivated by the fact I couldn’t find my chalk pencil when I needed it to mark sewing lines yesterday. My crafting room looks normal for the first time in months, and the writing room isn’t filled with yarn and fabric any more, though it is not yet tidy. If I devote fifteen minutes a night, maybe I can get it in shape this week.

As for the new kits, I’m really excited about the one on the left, Flowers for My Wedding. I plan to make it without the appliquéd flowers (not because I dislike them, but because I know I’ll never finish it if I include them). It’s a pretty complicated quilt even without appliqué, and I am nowhere near psyched up enough to start that one yet. The one in the middle is a small bed or table runner from Jinny Beyer. Although the blocks are complicated, there are only five of them, so it’s a nice bite sized quilt to learn foundation piecing before tackling the wedding ring quilt. My kit is the lovely blue green color. Finally, the Penny Points quilt on the right is a simple flannel quilt. I haven’t quilted with flannel yet, so this will also be something new, though the cutting and piecing are pretty easy. The fabric is so soft that I’m really looking forward to piecing it soon. With so many beautiful quilts to choose from, which should I do first?

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Harvest House Quilt Kit

September 27, 2014

I’m a bit behind on blogging, both reading and writing. But I’m so excited about this quilt kit I just started that I can’t help but post about it. It is the Harvest House quilt by the Buggy Barn, a pattern for which can be found at www.henryglassfabrics.com. I cut out the blocks last weekend, and starting sewing them together just now. The construction is pretty simple, just half square triangles, four patches, and flying geese. The result is really nice. I’m especially glad I got it in a kit, as I don’t really enjoy picking out two dozen matching fabrics, but these all came from the same fabric line, so they matched by default. If I do a quilt like this again, I will try to find a single line of matching fabrics like this. Or More likely, I’ll buy a kit. In fact, the reason I started this quilt is because I ordered a couple of quilt kits which were on sale from Keepsake Quilting. It’s a dangerous website for me. It is so easy to find beautiful quilt kits, and they generally turn out so well, and shipping is reasonable, and they have these sales and email me about them. I’m tempted to unsubscribe, but I’d rather just buy and make beautiful quilts.

I already have had a couple of issues with this pattern/kit. It asked me to cut out twice as many rectangles of one size (80 instead of 40) and when I didn’t have enough fabric for what they instructed, I panicked before consulting the diagram and counting for myself. I also didn’t have enough cream background prints to cut all the things they wanted from them, but I had some extra of another light fabric, so I made do with that. Finally, the instructions say things like “cut 20 total squares”, when really you want to cut 6 from two fabrics and 4 from the other two so that you have a single fabric used within a block. (I think it just looks nicer, like the quilt in the picture.) Anyway, I think I have cut everything out successfully, and the piecing seems to be just as stated in the instructions.

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