Only a quick update from me today as it’s been a quite week in terms of actually producing anything. I’ve finished the fourth skein in my five skeins gradient spin. This is a 3-ply sweater spin using a Hilltop Cloud Fade pack. I still need to skein and soak it.
I’ve also made progress with my homework for my spinning course. I’ve been experimenting with pre-soaking fibre before spinning. I’ve been very surprised at the impact pre-soaking fibre has, and it definitely makes for a smoother draft and loftier yarn. I’ve only tried it with BFL so far, but I have some other fibres to try. I’m also experimenting with some different ways of spinning sock yarns so hopefully there will be some updates on that shortly.
In other news I’m slowly putting the garden to bed for the winter. I plan to grow some more shallots over the winter as these were one of last year’s big successes. I’ve also got the last few courgettes to harvest. I don’t think I will go near tomatoes ever again as they just seem to be a disappointment. I do have my first, very tiny, aubergine coming on, but I’m not sure if it will grow big enough in the last few weeks of warmer weather. The flower beds were a huge disappointment so I’m giving one of those over to potatoes next year.
Hopefully there will be a bit more to report in the coming weeks. We’re heading in to my favourite season so plenty of time for knitting by the fireside as the nights start to draw in.
Some steady progress this week but nothing much to show for it. I’ve been working away a few rows at a time on my Ogopogo sock (I find cables on socks very fiddly and I really can’t get the hang of cabling without a cable needle). I’ve also finished spinning the second set of singles for the fourth skein in my five skein 3-ply sweater spin (did you manage to follow that?). This will be the largest project I have ever spun for and I ‘think’ I’m keeping things pretty consistent.
Of course I only ‘think’ I’m being consistent because I’ve not actually kept notes. Not properly. Not helpful notes. I found the notes I did write down, for example I wrote down that I was spinning it on my largest ratio, but this is not helpful when I have subsequently bought new whorls with larger ratios. Which was my largest ratio when I started? When did I start? It tells me I’m spinning from the fold. This is good, this is great in fact, but it also tells me I’m spinning it ‘LBD’. What does this mean? I don’t think it means anything except Little Black Dress and I know I’ve not been spinning in one of those. The best I can come up with is it meant long backwards draft, which isn’t even a thing, so I don’t know if I meant long draw or short backwards draft. Anyhow the upshot of all of this (and the fact it’s one of my pieces of homework for my spinning class), is that I have to think about a system for managing my spinning notes and samples.
Essentially this combines all of my yarn hobbies with my inner stationery nerd. Add in a smattering of basic preservation knowledge (because although I reckon I’ve got about forty more years left in me at best, my project notes must survive for a thousand years) and there’s a good chance I’ll never make anything again as I’ll still be perfecting my project note system!
Ring binders seem the obvious choice. They’re flexible, can take extensive notes as well as small sample skeins/fibres, they can combine paper, card, wallets etc. I think I’ll end up going forward with this although I’m not a big fan of binders. I find them too large for sitting on the sofa leafing through my projects with a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
A card index system could work, and I have an old library card catalogue unit for this (it’s currently used for my spindle and pocket notebook storage). Or maybe these and a storage box for them for portability? I have a feeling though that I’d lose lose cards and they’d never end up back where they should be.
I’ve used Happy Planner in the past for my planning, and something based on their disc binder system could work and would function a little like a binder. Or maybe scrapbooking or photo albums with stiffer pages could work where I could punch the paper and tie my sample yarn in, paste in any notes and then cross reference with samples skeins kept in another box?
I’ve still got a lot of thinking to do on this but I’d love to hear about how you store your crafting notes.
Two weeks after finishing it I’m finally getting around to posting my Mothed FO. I struggled to get gauge with this so I knitted the large hoping for a medium(ish) (why yes, I am terrible with gauge and just hope for the best). Then lockdown happened and I wished I’d knitted the next size up 😂. Still I’m nearly back down to my pre-lockdown weight so hopefully I’ll get some autumn wear out of this. I want it to hang loosely and it fits a little too well at the moment.
The yarn is a Fellview Fibre spin from a few years ago in the colourway Jet Powered, which I think was a merino/silk blend. The yarn was a traditional 3-ply with the rolags as one ply, and then one ply of a camel/silk blend and one of yak/silk.
I was pretty happy with this spin at the time, but finishing up this project a couple of things strike me. The first is that my spinning has really improved over the last few years. I’m still far from perfect, but I spin much more consistently now and my yarns are softer. The second is that Yak is not a fibre for me. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it always seems to come out a little over plied. Still it’s made for a jumper with a nice lightness and drape to it that I think will make good autumn/spring wear.
Despite the two years it sat in a cupboard (a lot less than I thought) this is actually a pretty quick and easy knit and I think I’d use it as a template for another jumper in the future, probably with a slightly thicker yarn or one with less drape and more ‘spring’.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been looking at the School of SweetGeorgia classes and after poking around with my two week introductory price I thought I’d stay at least long enough to complete the Spinning Study Group.
The main purpose of this nine week class is to think about how to plan your spinning for a project. I admit I’ve been spinning for years and I rarely think about what I’m actually going to do with the yarn I spin – maybe this is why there is an enormous tub of handspun yarn under the bed right now! Spinning is my relaxation. I don’t think too hard about it. I like to watch tv or listen to an audio book and just let the fibre do its thing.
Mostly this is fine. Sometimes this is terrible! I’m a fast treadler. If treadling was an Olympic sport I’d be lapping Chris Hoy. If I don’t pay attention I can end up with very twisty yarn that’s always just a bit tougher than it should be. So spending nine weeks learning to think a bit more about each of the processes, from fibre choice to final product, sounds like it is the kind of thing I should do.
After watching a few videos of other spinners talking about their thought processes in designing yarn for particular projects, the first week’s homework is to assess a commercial yarn in the style we’d like to spin over the next few weeks. I considered bulking up a bit and trying for at least a DK/aran weight but then I decided since fingering weight is what I use the most, mastering that would probably be a better use of my time. So today’s job is to finish off gathering information about the John Arbon Exmoor Sock yarn (wpi, tpi etc) which I’m going to use as my guiding yarn for this spin and I’ve ordered some sock fibre as that’s what I’m aiming for as my final project.
Other than working on the workshop there has been some small progress on the next pair of socks I’m knitting and I’ve finished blocking my Mothed jumper – I will get around to posting pictures next week.
I’ve had a blending board under my bed for over a year now. I bought it early on in the first UK lockdown thinking investing in crafting materials would probably be a very good investment for the months ahead and then I just never got around to using it.
It’s a Golden Fleece Carders blending board which comes with the blending brush and the rolling dowels. I think the TPI is probably 108 as I work mostly with finer fibres although I’m trying to get out of my rut of merino and silk at the moment, There isn’t a stand with this one that I have seen on the back of others so you need to work it flat, but it does have a non-slip backing to the board.
I don’t really know why I’ve left it untouched for so long as getting going was pretty straight forward at least, it really does feel like painting the fibre on. The silk was a bit hard going but I think that was a little bit compacted from the dyeing process. The hard work of putting the colours together was done for me by Katie at Hilltop Cloud and I think I will pick up a few of her colour co-ordinated packs while I get to grips with the process as it’s possible to make great looking rolags even if the technique needs some work.
I really like the paintings of Van Gogh and as I was filling the blending board I was reminded of The Starry Night and how much I love the colour and texture of that painting, so here are my Starry Night rolags.
I followed the recommendation I’d been given to offset the wooden dowel rods to make it easier to slide the fibre off. Despite my best efforts I think I loaded too much fibre on to the board so pulling it off the board was a bit more difficult. My first rolag turned out to be a giant one as I hadn’t quite got the idea that you pull and roll in one movement rather than roll and roll and then try pulling. As a result I ended up with far too much fibre in the first one.
I think the other ones turned out ok though for a first attempt. I have so much respect for the people who make those lovely neat, tight rolags I get in the post! I now need to work out how to not get thick/thin spots. And how to not get holes in my thumbs from the carding cloth!
Only a very quick update from me today. I’ve finished my Mothed jumper this week and it’s currently being blocked. I’ll write a proper post about it later in the week but here it is.
I’ve made little progress on anything else this week as I have shingles and haven’t felt like doing much of anything. There has been some progress on the socks but not much. I’ve also finished watching the School of SweetGeorgia class on blending boards and I’ve dug out a Hilltop Cloud mixed bag of merino and silk to start having a go. It will be good to finally get the board out from under the bed where it’s sat for the last year!
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks so I didn’t get around to posting last week. I’ve been making some steady progress on my Mothed jumper and I’m now onto the final couple of inches on the body. I went with 3/4 sleeves, partly because that’s what I like but also I’m a bit worried about having enough yarn to finish the body! I’m keeping this as my TV knit this week.
Despite having some WIPs still to finish up I cast on a new project this weekend because I found the yarn and had to use it. This is Third Vault Yarns in Deep Space on the Librarian Sock base. I love this colourway and it’s knitting up great with the Ogopogo sock pattern.
I also decided to try out the School of SweetGeorgia fibre craft school with two weeks access for $1 at the moment. I enjoyed Felicia Lo’s Craftsy classes on dyeing several years ago and her SweetGeorgia platform has dyeing classes as well as knitting, weaving, spinning, and more. I’ve dipped in and out of a couple of classes and watched most of the one on blending boards as that’s my next project I think. There are opportunities to attend live sessions online although I’ve not looked into how that will work out with the time difference. I can imagine I’ll dip in and out of this with a monthly subscription here and there but I don’t know whether it would be worth a subscription for a whole year.
I finished a thing and finally got the opportunity to take a couple of photographs between the rain. This is my Fichu Bleu shawl. The pattern is nice and clear with simple blocks of stockinette and broken rib. Despite this I still went wrong and made my sections of stockinette too deep, which is a good lesson in reading the pattern through to the end rather than assuming I know what I’m doing.
It’s made from these beautiful Fellview Fibre gradient batts in merino. I spun these from the fold but the year it took me to spin them meant that my drafting technique was a bit free and easy to be honest. The singles were then chain plied.
In the end I don’t think my mix and match drafting technique mattered too much in the final finished object. It’s got some nice drape to it despite being a bit more substantial for cooler days. I love the colour changes but with hindsight I think they obscure the side panels of broken rib. I had no real idea what this yarn was going to be so this was a pattern picked knowing what yarn I had on hand and how much but I think it’s worked out well.
Now I just need to figure out how to wear a shawl.
It’s been a reasonably successful week this week. I finished my Fichu Bleu shawl for the Ravellenics. As it’s pretty miserable weather here this weekend I’ve not been able to get out in some decent light to take some photographs so I haven’t properly updated my Ravelry page or done a finished object post about it yet, but here it is on the blocking mats. I definitely need a second set of blocking mats for longer projects!
The shawl has taken up the majority of my time this week but I have made a start on one of my WIPs. This is Mothed which has been on my needles for a good couple of years. It’s another handspun project and there is quite a bit unevenness to the stitches in places as a result of the handspun but I’m quite enjoying the texture it’s giving the piece at the moment.
Not much progress on other projects although there has been some reasonable harvests from the garden. The courgettes and potatoes are still going strong and I need to find something to do with chard. I think we’re going to have a great chilli crop too. If only I could grow some flowers in the borders instead of the fine showing of weeds!
I love a ‘top’ list so as I’m starting to do a bit of craft sorting at the moment it seems like a great opportunity to go through some of my tools and share my particular favourites.
I suppose we should start with the main tools of the trade and talk needles. I’ve tried a few different kinds over the years. I started out with Pony needles and made my way through various kinds. I found the aluminium ones too slippy and the bamboo ones too grippy and I was always splitting the yarn with them. The plastic ones seemed like a good compromise but they just didn’t feel right, I think it was the lack of clicking! Then I tried the KnitPro Karbonz and I fell in love. The metal tips are sharp and slippy enough that they glide through yarn without splitting it but the carbon fibre shafts are grippy enough to prevent the stitches sliding off. They feel ‘warm’ and pleasing to knit with and I love the flexibility of interchangeable needles. The Box of Joy is just that!
Continuing the needle theme the only other needles I use regularly are these Addi CraSyTrio needles. I’ve tried various needles for socks and these are my favourite. Like the Karbonz these combine what I want from sock needles: they aren’t as fiddly as dpns and I don’t have to keep pulling the cable through and rearranging stitches like I do with circulars. The short cable keeps them flexible and not as slippery as metal dpns. I’m also less likely to lose one on the go (or down the sofa).
I’m a sucker for stitch markers and I have a range of stitch markers of various kinds: some nerd themed, others beaded, a smattering of Christmas themed ones, and even one of Elizabeth I’s ‘spymaster’ Sir Francis Walsingham. But these simple metal ring stitch markers are my favourites from a practical perspective. They’re completely smooth so they don’t snag, there are no fiddly bits to get in the way when I’m moving yarn back and forth when knitting and purling, and they have just enough of a pop of colour to keep them interesting. There’s also a bonus cute stitch marker in each tin. I have three or four of these but can usually only put my hands on a few at a time so hopefully I’ll track the others down during this sort out!
These blocking mats and pins from KnitIQ have revolutionised my finishing. I’m not the best finisher (sometimes literally, I’ve had stuff on the needles for years!) but these mats are excellent. The grids really help with shaping the garment, the pins slide in and out of the matting easily and the little case they come in makes tidying them away a breeze even for me. I no longer have to borrow Dylan’s rabbit flooring when I need to block things!
And last but not least is this two at a time sock project bag from QuincePie. I love the fact that the divider is a zippered pocket so that you can keep your bits and pieces separate from your yarns, something I find really helpful when knitting two at a time socks as I usually get all sorts tangled up in the yarn. The addition of a couple of clips for feeding the two separate yarns through keeps everything really tidy, and they come in a range of really cute fabrics. I don’t knit two at a time very often as I find it too fiddly but this really is a great bag
So that’s me and my top five, what would you recommend?