Crafting explosion

After a month of virtually no crafting, it seems to be Big Projects month. I finished a Little Waffles shawl/scarf with some handspun Organic Polwarth from Corgi Hill Farm. I’d spun a 3-ply sportweight and got 328yds that just kept on going. It got big when I blocked it.

Handspun shawl

Next project on the spinning wheel is 10oz of blue-purple Rambouillet, dyed by Corgi Hill Farm. My plan is to spin six bobbins, then ply up two 3-ply skeins that are hopefully even. Most of the way through the first bobbin and aiming for sportweight.

You’d think that a project described as "epic" and "a bit brutal" would put me off, but no. Hello Amortentia and your 603st beaded cast-on, got got past the ruffles and into the short rows so far and it wasn’t that painful. Who starts a ruffled shawl at the ruffle end and adds beads?

To take the edge off the mammoth cast-on, I have a sock project in progress, my Squishville Socks pattern for a friend.

Niobium Byzantine chain

There’s also a Byzantine bracelet in blue niobium I’ve been working on, it’ll be a double-wrap when it’s done and I’m two inches past the first full wrap. Niobium is heavier and a little stiffer than aluminium, the dark blue looks good.

Sheep sampling

I’ve started making a Deco cardigan, from Scottish pattern designer Kate Davies, and I’ll be working on it for a while. A long while. The rows for my size are 241 stitches long, and that takes some time to knit. There’s no side seam so I’m working on the back and both fronts all together. I’m knitting sportweight yarn on a US4 needle. Had to go up one needle size but I got both stitch and row gauge. I got gauge on the Toasty Cardigan on the specified needles and it’s an English pattern, then I almost got gauge on Deco on the specified needle. Britons are definitely more uptight in their knitting!

The yarn is one I’ve been planning to use for a while, it’s a CVM/mohair blend sportweight yarn from Winterwind Farm. CVM stands for California Variegated Mutant, a subtype of the Romeldale sheep (which is a cross of Romney and Rambouillet, developed in the US in the early 1900s). It’s undyed and a nice grey colour, a little unevenly spun but I think this will be a hard-wearing fabric.

Deco Cardigan - Swatch.

The next project after Deco is another large endeavour, the Topiary wrap. Got the yarn for this in Portland OR earlier this year, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a Targhee/Columbia wool blend. I’ve used Columbia wool before, in Imperial Stock Ranch yarn, and I wasn’t impressed with finding 3 knots in the first half-skein of yarn. Hopefully Shelter will be better yarn, though I’m expecting some vegetable matter. I liked the spongy feel of the wool, but not that yarn.

I’ve also knit with handspun Gotland, Polwarth, Wensleydale, Finn, and Jacob wools, and commercial BFL sock yarn. The BFL tends to be thinner than regular sock yarn and wears well, though the dye may not last as well as the yarn. It amazes me how different the sheep breeds are.

Spinning FO: Ginger baby camel/silk

I got two 2oz braids of this amazing fibre in November 2011, intending to make a two-ply skein of light fingering weight yarn. It came out a little thicker than I wanted but I have 296yds to play with.

Corgi Hill Farm baby camel/silk.

Fiber: Corgi Hill Farm baby camel/silk 50/50 blend in Ginger

Construction: 2-ply

Amount: 296yards, 4oz

Tool: Majacraft Rose spinning wheel

This was the first yarn plied on my new Woolee Winder, since as everyone knows, the seventeenth wedding anniversary is Fibre Tools and Audio-Mixing. I was pleasantly surprised how much yarn fit on the bobbin, four ounces of this took up a little over half the space available and was so neatly wound.

I’d like this to grow up to be a scarf or possibly a cowl with matching fingerless mitts. It’s shiny and full of drape, there’s not much body to the yarn and I think it will block nicely.

Plans and Previews

I’m currently reading (and annotating the glitches in) my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel with a view to finishing the story. The last three chapters are missing and I need to tidy things up and put a pretty bow on them so I can put this project to bed. It’s odd to read something I wrote but have no memory of the specifics. There’s a third book to be written which will finish off the story arc and I’m planning that for my 2013 novel, because I’ve got a shiny new plotbunny for this year’s NaNoWriMo with an all-new story to write.

Finally got the second bobbin of baby camel/silk blend on the spinning wheel. The fibre is from Corgi Hill Farm, I’m hoping it turns out to be a nice light fingering weight yarn I can use for a lace scarf. The fibre is very drapey and the silk gives it shine.

My Etsy store, Albion’s Forge has gained a few new items for sale and I’m working on a second design to put up for sale. I lost the prototype to someone that was playing with it, so I’m counting that a success. Pink rubber rings should be in my hands in July so I’ll make something pink. But what colour to put with it? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white?

It feels like I’ve been knitting the Rill Scarf forever, and the yarn just keeps on coming. In reality I’m nearing the halfway point in the pattern (15 of 36 central repeats completed), I have 20yds more yarn than I need, and I’m convinced the yarn ball is growing when I put it back in the project bag. My plan is to finish the first ball of yarn and put the scarf aside until I finish my cropped cardigan. I like Rill, and I’m making it with a long-discontinued yarn made from mink, milk, and merino, which is amazingly soft when knitted up. Great Northern Yarns is the only yarn producer I know that uses mink fur from sheared mink (that image makes me smile every time) and the company experiments with new fibre blends. This one was sold for a while but didn’t make it into the long-term stable of yarns.

2012 Tour de Fleece plans

I’ve done the Tour de Fleece in 2008, 2009, and 2011 and it’s the biggest boost to my spinning productivity all year. This year the Tour goes from Saturday June 30th to Sunday July 22nd, and my goals are:

Spin every weekday of the Tour de France

One way to achieve this is to spin while I’m in front of my lightbox first thing in the morning. The light box is great for helping me sleep but you do have to sit in front of it for 30 minutes every day. And the wheel is right next to the sofa by the light box.

Spin the 4oz merino/brushtailed possum fibre

From the gone-but-not-forgotten Woodland Woolworks catalog, I’m curious how this will spin. Having knit with a merino/possum/cotton blend, this could be great yarn for a warm hat or soft cowl. The fibre is a nice greyish brown colour and soft like cashmere.

Have at least two skeins of usable yarn by the end of the Tour

One should be the merino/possum, another might be the camel/silk fibre, I just need to spin the second bobbin and ply. I might spin some Jacob, or Cormo, or Teeswater. My 2012 stashdown applies to the spinning fibre stash as well as yarn, I haven’t bought any this year and I’m hoping to spin down some of the stash for the Tour.

Spinning FO: Chocolate cherry Finn

This fiber was dyed in Amy’s kitchen back in December, using brown and red dyes with some patches left undyed. The Finn was a new wool to me, it’s coarser than merino with a hairy feel like Wensleydale. It went through the microwave and the salad spinner in the dying process, I had no idea the spinner would be so useful. The colours came out more muted than I was expecting given the colour of the dye in the pot, but I like how this turned out as yarn. There are red bits and brown parts and red/brown mixes.

Finn 2-ply yarn.

Fiber: Finn wool, hand dyed with Amy from Fibercycle

Construction: 2-ply

Amount: 230 yards, 3.5oz

Tool: Majacraft Rose spinning wheel

I was aiming for a fat fingering weight or skinny sport weight. This is over-plied in places, but I prefer that to under-plied and falling apart. The singles broke a couple of times as I was plying but that always happens. This skein is going to be an Age of Brass and Steam kerchief, I have just enough.

Next thing on the wheel is some Ginger baby camel/silk 50/50 blend from Corgi Hill Farm, which is a shimmery caramel colour. I’ve spun pure baby camel before, and I’ve spun pure silk before, neither were my favourites to work with. It looks like the long silk fibres will corral the short camel fibres and make it good.

Under the radar

Between the secret swap gift and some long-delayed half-finished projects, it’s gone a bit quiet around here, but I have been working on a few things:

There’s some chocolate cherry Finn wool on my spinning wheel that is almost done, I need to spin another half-bobbin and ply it. This is my first Finn and it’s got a texture similar to Wensleydale or Gotland, more hairy and silky than puffy.

I have a short story in the works for the April meeting of Fictional Authors, our post NaNoWriMo writing group. The prompt for the story sparked all kinds of interesting ideas. The 2011 NaNoWriMo novel is still about 5000 words from completion, and my two beta readers want the ending. They know this is now book #2 of a trilogy and I have to write book #3 to finish it all off. I like the world I created for this set of stories.

My knitting has felt like a slog because I’ve had too many projects in progress and not enough project completions. I need those regular wins to keep going, which makes larger projects hard. I’m planning to finish off a pair of socks and a cropped cardigan, then start something new. Given the erratic office AC system, I’m thinking my next project will be a Featherweight Cardigan in fingering weight yarn instead of the Amelia in worsted weight yarn I was planning. I’ll still make Amelia, but Featherweight has more immediate usage.

Chainmail has been made, a Full Persian bracelet for a friends husband in plain aluminium. I completed a Japanese Lace bracelet, like this one but with silver large rings and dark small ones, it completely changes the look. I also made myself a keychain because the USPS gave my subdivision lockable mailboxes (which is good) but put them in a place that is no longer on my way in and out of the subdivision (not good, and also means I can’t put my mailbox key on my regular keychain with the car keys).

And in the category of super-secret underground projects, I’m making stock for a future Etsy shop. I have a shop name sorted out but the product name is giving me fits. I need some quality time with a thesaurus, a good cup of tea, and some creative friends.

Spinning FO: Corgi Hill Farm Polwarth Silk

This was my first fibre order from Corgi Hill Farm, a custom-dyed braid of polwarth/silk in Burnt Orange. I was a little afraid of how tightly the braid had been made, but the fibre was a dream to spin and not compressed at all. I was aiming for a sportweight yarn for this, deliberately trying to spin thicker than my last skein, which came out as laceweight. That was polwarth too, I like spinning polwarth and a polwarth silk blend was something I’d never seen before.

Corgi Hill Farm 85/15 polwarth silk.

Fiber: 85/15 polwarth silk, dyed by Corgi Hill Farm

Construction: 2-ply

Amount: 306 yards, 5oz (25yds in a mini skein)

Tool: Majacraft Rose spinning wheel

This was some of the fastest yarn I’ve ever spun, 20 days from start to finish. It was difficult to adjust to spinning thicker, my default has been to spin as thin as I possibly could and accept the consequences. It came out well, it’s not entirely even but it’s close enough that knitting will smooth it out.

Next up is some Finn top I dyed red and brown with Amy. The undyed patches are getting nicely lost in the coloured sections as it spins.

Looking back

In 2011 I knit:

  • 6 pairs of socks (all my own designs)
  • 3 neck-warmer scarves (one from unspun silk hankies)
  • 2 shawls (Larix and Citron)
  • 4 toys (two bats, a hedgehog and a bunny)
  • 2 lace scarves (both knitspot designs, Butternut and an unblocked Aria Delicata)
  • 2 tops (Eris, still waiting for a zip, and a Dew Point shrug)
  • 1 washcloth and one mouth guard holder

That’s a total of 21 finished objects, which is pretty good. I taught two people how to knit, which I love doing.

I also spun three good skeins of usable yarn, one fingering, one lace, and one sport, plus the little leftover skeins from the bobbin ends. Could have been better.

In the last week, I’ve made five Celtic Star pendants, three Celtic Visions bracelets, and two Helm chain flowers, plus a bunch of short practice pieces of Box chain, Byzantine chain, and Full Persian chain. I have plans to make other chainmail bracelets, since the only bracelets that fit me well are ones I make myself. Manipulating dozens of small wire jump rings into shapes is like building a three dimensional jigsaw, and you end up with curiously mobile piece of jewellery.

In November I wrote 58000 words on a novel which turned out to be book #2 of a trilogy, book #1 being my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not quite finished yet, though I’m working on the last three chapters and I can see the end from here. The final book of the trilogy will be written next year, possibly for NaNoWriMo.

I changed job this year, leaving a company I’ve been with for nearly seven years. Not an easy decision to make, but I’m loving the new company. Got my green belt in Kenpo and started working on 3rd degree Brown Belt techniques. Brown belt is the first of the advanced level belts and the tests get more difficult now. Also you’re no longer allowed to have people watch your test unless they’re above you in rank.

I read forty books and watched twenty-seven movies. I wrote twenty-seven haiku, which is a good habit to keep up. So, what’s next?

Back to what passes for normal

It was a long November. I haven’t finished my novel, though at 58,000 words it’s at the end of chapter nine, with three more chapters to go. I’m going to finish this one, read the first book, then this second book, and then plan out an end to the trilogy. I did win NaNoWriMo, my eighth win since I started this in 2004, and my first sequel (though I realised partway through it was actually the middle book of a trilogy).

I have several knitting projects in progress, most notable is a pair of socks for my karate instructor, and two secret projects. There’s a hat I’m toying with a design for (silver cabled band, rolled edge, orange crown with the cable band folded back) and a cardigan waiting patiently for two fronts and a button band. The socks are fun because I’m taking what could be a boring pair of ribbed socks and periodically breaking the ribs by purling across them.

Broken Rib sock.

This week I’ll be putting some good fibre on the spinning wheel, an orange polwarth/silk (an 85/15 blend) from Corgi Hill Farm, who dyes beautiful fibre and has interesting blends to spin. I have some of her baby camel/silk (a 50/50 blend) to play with after the polwarth/silk is done, that came in two 2oz braids. I love polwarth fibre, that and Falklands are my favourites, but I do not like spinning batts. Even very good batts, I much prefer roving. So, some beautiful Cupcake Fiber batts are on their way out of my stash to a good home.</p

Corgi Hill Farm spinning fibre.

The weather has turned wintery, first frost and snow flurries this week. Roll on summer…