Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer scrap knitting

What is it about summer?  I'm still daydreaming about epic projects and buying yarn in unreasonable quantities, but can't seem to get myself to knit anything that requires concentration or more than 50 grams of yarn ... so stockinette stitch in scrap yarn has been the name of the game.

Scrap knitting the first:  phone cozy

I threw half a ball of black wool (knitpicks, I think) and every gumball-sized ball of leftover Noro Kureyon I could find into a pencil case, along with some DPNs, as in-flight entertainment for my trip to Maui.  Making the cozy took the duration of the inflight movie (True Grit -- pretty good for airplane fare) and a couple podcasts (This American Life -- Father's Day; Planet Money -- Why Do We Tip?).  

I didn't realize until it was finished just how 1980s this project is.  But the neon colors, black background, and zig-zag stripes take me back to the days of my childhood.  In 1989, I remember saving my allowance for months to buy a pair of biking shorts, which were THECOOLESTTHING and looked a little like this:

Scrap knitting the second:  ankle socks

This is a much more sedate project, without actually being at all subtle.  I hope you guys appreciate that I shaved my legs just to take this picture for you!  Pretty easy knitting -- they took me more than a year to complete, but languished in my 'someday' bin all of fall, winter and spring.  

I love this yarn so much -- if you were to spin yarn from all the fiber you find in the jungle (tiger fur and vines and twisting rivers) I think this is what the result would look like.  I made my first ever pair of socks out of it last year, which (sob) ended up being too big for me and were given to Peter instead.  But there was enough yarn left to try again!  And I like them as ankle socks -- this way I can wear them in the summer and people can actually see them.  I think I maybe don't hate socks as much as I thought I did.  I can see myself making one pair every summer ... 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thrilling conclusion of the Tour de Fleece + Maui Recap

Well, it was a little less than thrilling, because my spinning flagged toward the end. Not because I was sick of it, heavens no, but because I was engaged with other things. Namely, snorkeling.


Sometimes, with sea turtles.


Sometimes, with fellow blogger Emily.


Sometimes, tiki drinks followed.


It was, perhaps needless to say, awesome. I did actually spend a fair amount of time spinning. Sometimes on the lanai of our condo.


Once at a lavender farm.


The progress for the week I was there was not too shabby.


It's somewhat tragic that Maui has no yarn stores. Not a one! Granted, it's a little hard to imagine what one knits when it's 85 degrees Fahrenheit every day year round. It would be a lot of loosely knit silk, cotton, and linen, I'm guessing. Plus the one wool hat for going up to the Haleakala summit at 10,000 ft.

What Hawaii does have a great tradition of is quilting. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take a quilting class at the delightful Maui Quilt Shop while I was there.

I have only flirted with quilting a little bit. It was long ago, in a galaxy far far away, when I rode the school bus to Mrs. Leerkes' farm to have after school sewing lessons at her screened-in front porch. That was all machine work. Hawaiian quilting is entirely done by hand. It's hard, y'all. I'm determined to eventually finish this one piece. It'll probably take me years, but I'll be proud of it, and maybe by the end my stitches won't look like a complete disgrace on the wrong side of the fabric.


To bring this back to the Tour de Fleece, here's a family photo of all the finished yarn for the week. I did not complete all my goals: the charkha cotton is still incomplete. Still, I'm quite proud of what I did get finished. Now back to regularly scheduled programming in which I also do things like knit, crochet, read books, etc.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What color is yarn?

Since I started dyeing my own fiber, I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting color combinations. That's why I was delighted to find out about a little web doodad called The Color Of. The concept is simple: you search for a term, and The Color Of searches Flickr for that term and averages the results into a single image.

I can't really stop playing with it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pour un maillot jaune

Spinning! I'm still doing it, every single day! With two spindle projects complete, I started in on the third, purple BFL from Fiber Optic. After one day of working on this fiber, I was here.

This is of course on top of all the progress that had been made on this fiber that is from MDSW 2010.

I took a side trip to ply the cashgora/silk yarn that was one of my original goals. You can see the little disk up in the corner here.


That little disk of yarn was a bit of a disaster. I think I didn't wind the silk and cashgora onto the spindle tightly enough before plying (I was plying using the traditional Orenburg method, which I may henceforth forsake entirely). When I started plying, the yarn slid up the spindle and started felting to itself and tangling up at the top. I fought with it as long as I could, but ultimately I had to throw some amount of the fiber away. I think I plied more than half of the fiber, maybe even 3/4 of it. It's sad, but there are always a couple of crashes in the Tour de Fleece.

Richard Move, Car Bro Gif - Richard Move, Car Bro

I've moved on from the crashgora (see what I did there?). I finished the first cop of the purple BFL, with 2 ounces of fiber on the spindle, which is a personal best.


A few days later, another cop joined it.


Last night, I plied, and the resulting yarn is just under 400 yards of light fingering weight. I'm in love with it, I must say. I'm open to pattern suggestions at this point, but I'm thinking a simple-ish shawlette.


With my three spindle projects complete, I can't believe it, but my spindles are empty!


No spindle stays empty for long, however, because I just acquired a couple of new toys and took them for a test drive.


That tiny Turkish spindle? It's so adorable I just want to keep it in my pocket and feed it M&Ms.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Continuing Dispatches from the Tour de Fleece

Although I'm on team Hopelessly Overcommitted, my commitments for this year's tour have been surprising me in their ability to be completed. This may be due to the fact that I've been spinning instead of doing other things I like to do, like knit and read. I've also been spinning instead of doing other things I don't like to do, like cook and clean. I'm still eating, sleeping, and going to work, though, so no worries.

The exciting fact is I have more finished yarn! I bought this bump of roving from Loop at MDSW this year, and it took about 2 months to get it all spun. I spun it on a bottom whorl spindle I got at MDSW because I wanted to start spinning this roving immediately. Here's a sparkly champage-colored cop on the spindle.


Each time the spindle was full, I slid it off the spindle onto a douple pointed needle (I don't use them to knit anymore, so I'm glad they have found a new life for themselves). This is the complete collection of spun fiber.


Saturday I spent a long time plying. Like, I woke up with shin splints on Sunday. That was stupid, perhaps, but there was a Harry Potter movie marathon and I was transfixed. I plied the single with a commercially spun white silk thread. I did this so I wouldn't disrupt the color transitions and because making a chain ply would result in too thick a yarn for my purposes. Behold!


In case you're wondering about the fiber content of the yarn, dig this:
* alpaca
* merino
* corriedale
* bfl
* kid mohair
* yak down
* tencel
* nylon
* cotton
* bamboo
* ecospun (recycled soda bottles)
* tussah silk
* silk noil
* angelina
* firestar
* recycled denim

Friday, July 8, 2011

What we've got

I think what I love most about Farhad Manjoo's slate article about Ravelry yesterday is his jealousy :-).  Sure, it's fun to read the accolades ("world's best social network"), but it's even more fun that he's not a knitter.  He doesn't exactly wish he was one -- he just wishes that his hobbies had a kick-ass social networking site too.

He's married to a knitter, which might explain why he gets a lot of the details about the site right -- come for the patterns and the ability to post your projects, stay for the message boards and awesome sense of community.  But, and hear me out on this, I think he's missing out on one important point about Ravelry.  Which is that as a group of people, knitters are just plain awesomer than most other groups.  You could build a Ravelry-type site for some other hobby, but it wouldn't rock as much as Raverly.

What do I base this sweeping generalization on?  Well, for one, most of you readers are also knitters, and so will be inclined to believe me :)

But also, I've moved a lot.  In the last 5 years, I've lived in Berkeley, Melbourne, New Hampshire and Boston.  As an academic, meeting people when I move somewhere new isn't hard -- there are lots of other nomadic young academics looking for social lives too.  However, as a mathematician, making female friends is still challenging.  I've gone to yoga and capoeira classes, hung out with campus political groups, taken pottery courses, and joined knitting circles.  Of all of these, the knitting circles were by far the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming, and probably the liveliest too.

What's been especially fun for me is that, in knitting circles, I get to know people who I don't think I'd meet under other circumstances.  People with jobs and situations very different from mine (nurses, translators, graphic designers, stay at home moms, computer programers, Italian teachers, veterinary pathologists, librarians and mechanical engineers).  And yet, in my experience, they all inevitably turn out to be awesome people.  I don't want to call anyone out by name, for fear of leaving someone out, but I do want to say that the Melbourne Stitch-n-bitch, Portsmouth library knitting circle, and MIT lunchtime knitters are some of the greatest groups of people I've ever gotten to hang out with.

Rather than leaving off on this sappy if heartfelt note, I want to leave with a question -- why?  Why are knitters, as a group, so much awesomer than other people?  Of course, part of it is a self-selection bias for knitting circles.  No one *needs* to go to a knitting circle, so everyone who's there is there because they'd rather knit socially than by themselves with the TV on.  (Or perhaps it's more accurate to say "in addition to by themselves with the TV on.")  But I think it's more than that.  Knitters are smart and eager to learn new things.  Think back to the first pattern you ever knit from -- it was as scary as a tax worksheet, wasn't it?  You have to be smart to figure this stuff out.  More than that, I think knitters tend to have active rather than passive personalities -- certainly, we're good at making the most of our time and keeping ourselves entertained (since I started knitting, I no longer dread long car rides).

So, Farhad, I do hope you get your social networking site for cooks -- but don't be surprised that Ravelry is still better!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dispatches from the Tour de Fleece

It's not wrong to watch the Wimbledon finals while doing Tour de Fleece spinning, right? I haven't watched any of the actual cycling...ever...

Anyway, I've been productive! For whatever reason I zeroed in on my Rhinebeck 2010 wool/mohair blend to start. I had just slipped a batch of singles off the spindle before the Tour started, so this is the actual amount I spun on day 1:


Not too shabby. Spindle spinning goes quite slowly for me, as much as I do enjoy it. This frankly isn't the dreamiest fiber to spin; I really debated getting it in the first place given my tenuous relationship with mohair, but it's really fun to see the colors change. I'm such a sucker for color changing anything! Everlasting Gobstoppers, traffic lights, you name it.

Day 2 was Sunday. That's when I watched tennis and did a bunch of spinning:


Well, it seemed like a bunch of spinning at the time.

Day 3 was July 4. Long weekends make for great spinning progress. It was pretty hot and super humid, so I forewent watching the hot dog eating contest at Coney Island and watched it on TV instead (What did we do before cable? Go outside when it's hot? Perish the thought!). I finally finished spinning the roving!


I was really surprised that the last cop (leftmost one on the lower needle) didn't match up colorwise with the first cop (rightmost one on the upper needle). I was sort of expecting it to be a cycle? Shows how long it had been since I looked at the first cops! I like it so much as a laceweight single I can't bear to ply it, even though maybe it'd be better suited for socks than lace. I wound all the singles off onto the niddy noddy, and behold, yarn!


I used a lot of hair conditioner to try and soften it up when I gave it the old wash-and-whack. I'm dubious that this method will work. It's not as if hair conditioner makes my hair soft in perpetuity; why should I expect it would do that for a goat? I still have to figure out the yardage. Now I think I'm going to focus on finishing my Loop batt that looks like Falkor!