Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty

I missed a posting last week because things have been super busy on the work front. I think I’m back on top of things again now (famous last words and all that!)

This week I’ve mostly been spinning because even endless rounds of stockinette stitch socks was too much. Well to be fair, I turned the heel, messed up somehow, ripped it back and haven’t had the heart to pick it up again so spinning it is.

I’ve made a start on an art yarn gradient using fibre from the 2020 Fellview Fibres 12 Days of Christmas Calendar, you can see the original batts here on the Fellview Fibres website. I wanted to do something different to my usual ‘spin it and see what you get’ although I’m a bit sad I’ve lost the lovely lustre of the blend. I’m not quite good enough to spin a balanced singles core spun yarn so I’ve gone with making a plied core spun.

I’m spinning it around a lace weight cotton core and then plying it with some gold thread to keep that Christmassy theme. I still have to finish the yarn so I’m not sure what metreage I’ll have at the end yet but I’m hoping for enough for a knitted cowl or maybe I’ll try a woven project but I think that would need to be mixed with another yarn. I’m also not really sure how to measure the WPI with art yarn so I need to investigate that.

In other projects I’ve given my wheel a bit of a polish as she looked a bit ‘dry’. Maybe the winter heating affects her too, I’m starting to feel like the central heating is sucking all of the moisture from my body too. At this rate I’ll be a desiccated husk by December! I’ll try and remember to give her an oiling too as I don’t think I do this anywhere near enough.

As for the garden is pretty much going to ruin now. I think I’ll just close the curtains and check on it again in March!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Eighteen

I’ve finished up my Vanilla socks this week so it was nice to get those off my needles and on to my feet! I’ve also made some progress with the two pairs of socks I’m working on for my partner. It really is strange how large they feel in comparison to mine – I have to keep making him try them on to double check sizing.

I seem to have stalled on my spinning so I want to try and get back to that in the next few weeks. My spinner’s ‘12 Days of Christmas’ arrived from Hilltop Cloud in this cute, hand printed bag. I’m really looking forward to getting started with this. I may even start it early as I’ll be on leave for a good chunk of December but that seems wrong somehow.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet week on the projects front. I did pick up a new book which was James Rebanks’s English Pastoral. I’ve really enjoyed his other books on shepherding in the Lake District so I’m looking forward to settling down with this one, it comes highly recommended.

Finished Object: Vanilla Socks

I’ve been in a sock mood these past few weeks, and I have finally finished up a pair. The pattern for these is Jo Torr’s Vanilla Sock with Gusset and Choice of Heel Ravelry link. The yarn is Third Vault Yarns in Librarian Sock blend which is 75% BFL 25% nylon.

What I really like about this pattern is it explains how to make a custom-fit sock, as well as explaining why the pattern asks you to do certain things. I’ve been knitting for over a decade but I’m still very reluctant to go off pattern in any way and I don’t always know why I’m doing the things I am, I just follow the pattern and hope it works out. So the little asides about measuring and working out the calculations for a perfect fit, why the heel flap increases work, and the benefits of different heel stitches were very welcome.

The pattern itself is very straightforward and adaptable. They’re toe up using Judy’s magic cast on. I used the heel stitch pattern for the heel, but I think I prefer Eye of Partridge as a stitch. I love the lack of tiny holes I tend to get at the heel of cuff-down socks. I cast off using Jenny’s Stretchy Bind-off which inserts a yarn over between cast off stitches to give it some extra stretch. I haven’t used it before and I think this has revolutionised my cast off! It’s great for getting socks over heels.

These socks are fantastic! I’ve never knitted a pair that fit this well before. I’ve already cast on a pair for my partner!

Year of Projects Week Sixteen

I’m having a bit of a sock thing right now and I currently have three pairs on the go. I love how this sock fits so much that I’m casting on another for my partner (since he’s going to be waiting a very long time for the Ogopogo ones). They’re perfect TV knitting. I think I’ll change the heel in the next one and maybe go with Eye of Partridge as I prefer that to the rib. It’s nice to be knitting small socks!

There’s been a new yarn purchase for said socks. I love the colour and feel of this Malabrigo yarn.

There was one other purchase this week which was a Hilltop Cloud 12 Days of Christmas fibre calendar so that’s my festive spinning sorted. Other than these I’m hoping to see the year out making my way through some stash yarn. Probably.

That’s it for this week. I’m hoping work will get a bit less frantic soon as it does tend to get in the way of crafting!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Fourteen

It’s pretty much just socks for me this week. I’ve made progress on my Ogopogo socks for my partner or as I’m calling them Librarian Sock for Librarian’s Socks as they use Third Vault Yarns Librarian Sock blend. Given my partner’s profession it seemed an apt yarn. I’m starting to wonder why I knit socks for people with big feet. I have size four feet and I have decided I’m not knitting socks for anyone with feet bigger than mine again! Well that’s probably not true, but I’d be almost to the cuff by now if I was knitting them for me.

Size eleven socks don’t quite work on a size four sock blocker

I’ve struggled a bit this week as the heel turn seemed unusual to me and I couldn’t make sense of it. Once I stopped trying to make sense of it and just did it, it all worked out fine. I need to remember heels are mostly magic and no good comes of trying to understand why they work, just accept they will and all will be well.

I really like the pattern but they do take a bit more concentration than I really want on some evenings at the moment so I’ve also cast on a pair of simple vanilla socks for me (so short, yay!) for more mindless knitting when I’m a bit frazzled. This is most evenings right now.

I’m struggling with both reading physical books and knitting at the moment (not at the same time, I’ve always struggled with that!) I’m now at an age where my eyes don’t want to do close work without a lot of effort and I don’t think the light in my living room helps. It’s cosy and ready for winter, but I need something brighter for the darker evenings (and the darker days given that it hasn’t stopped raining here all week) so I think that’s going to be my task for this week. Oh and finding some bright red sock yarn as I’ve been asked for a pair of red socks and this is just about the only colour I don’t have in stash.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Thirteen

A bit of a late update from me this week as yesterday got away from a me a bit. Progress has been slow on various projects but at least it’s being made. My Ogopogo sock has reached the heel. Remind me never to cast on cable socks again. I know I said it last time but I forgot. I love the pattern but it’s slow progress for me. I think I will cast on a second, easy project to do while I’m watching television. Trying to watch the Vigil finale last night and make progress with a cabled sock was just too much!

As with previous weeks I’ve been making progress with my online spinning workshop with SweetGeorgia Yarns. I’m really enjoying this as it’s been a great opportunity to try out new things. I generally spin fibre as it comes. It would never really occur to me to try to change the preparation of a bought fibre to alter how I spin it, or to change how the colour works when spun, or even (the horror) put different coloured braids together and alter someone’s carefully thought out colour scheme.

Last week we experimented with soaking fibre in warm water and drying it before spinning. The purpose of this is to reinvigorate fibre which may have lost its crimp in processing or storage, and to make it a smoother, loftier spin. I only tried this with some undyed BFL I had (it’s not supposed to work as well with dyed fibre) but it did make quite a difference in terms of the loftiness of the finished fibre.

L-R: not soaked, unfinished; not soaked, finished; soaked, unfinished; soaked, finished

I’m not sure that you can really tell from this photo but the final sample skein was spun from pre-soaked fibre which was then soaked again after spinning to set the twist. The finished result is definitely lighter and fluffier than the non-soaked but similarly finished skein. This might be something I’d do again with older braids I’ve had crushed up in storage boxes under the bed.

I’ve also been experimenting with twist and ply. This is some of the sampling I’ve done so far. Next on the list is to try with some sock yarn techniques, I’m interested in trying out the opposing 3-ply technique where one of your singles is spun in the opposite direction before being plied with the other two.

I think what’s struck me most about the course so far is that there is genuinely a reason why yarn doesn’t want to be a particular project (I mean a reason other than I saw something I liked better a few days after casting on). I’m happy with the idea that certain yarns have drape or loft, but I’m getting a better idea now of why two, three, or four ply yarns suit certain projects better depending on whether it is lace or cables, or why high or low twist yarns might alter a project. Hopefully this will help me with deciding what commercial yarns will work better for a specific project. Or maybe I’ll just by multiple skeins anyway!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twelve

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.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Eleven

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.

Finished Object: From Fluff to Stuff

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’.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Ten

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.

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