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 2021/2 Week Three

So the Tour de Fleece comes to a close. I managed to complete my Witch Hazel gradient from Fellview Fibres. I really love the colours in this one and although there are some subtle differences in the spinning between the first part which I spun last year and this year’s two skeins, I don’t think it is enough to make much difference.

Gradient Spin

This year I’ve committed myself to keeping better notes on Ravelry about my projects so I’m pleased to say this is already logged and stashed. I can also say that the project worked out to be:

  • Length: 550m
  • Weight: 202g
  • Ply: chain
  • Wheel: Schacht Matchless
  • Ratio: 9:1
  • Twist: S
  • WPI: 15
  • TPI: 4
  • Angle of Twist: 40°
  • Grist: 1321 YPP

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with it so I’ll get to spend some time poking around Ravelry looking for ideas.

In other project news this week has seen some garden related productivity. I planted some shallots last autumn and harvested these a couple of weeks ago. Courtesy of my partner they’re now on their way to being our first pickles of the season. We have cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegars here – just waiting for some more red wine to top up the middle one. We’re hoping for a good crop of chillies for pickling later in the year.

Pickled Shallots

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Two

It’s been slow progress this week with one thing and another. Work was hectic at the start of the week and then we had a couple of days in Hay on Wye. I love mooching bookstores and there are certainly plenty in Hay, the town of books. I was surprised at how utterly exhausted I was but I think it’s probably the most I’ve done in a single day since we went back into lockdown at the end of last year!

Anyway, being busy and away from my wheel means there isn’t a lot of progress to report this week but I have made some progress on my gradient spin. I have one more batt to spin and then some chain plying, I’m hoping to finish up that in the next day or so. My next project is this sweater spin:

Fade pack for a sweater spin

I’m spinning this as a traditional 3 ply. Annoyingly I can’t remember what the base is so I’m hoping I come across the packaging soon. Keeping better records, either using Ravelry or a paper journal, is one of my goals for this year as I hardly ever remember to log them properly.

I’ve also spent some time digging around some of my WIPs:

  • Mothed 3/4 of body done and 3/4 of one sleeve. I think I’m going to have to start the sleeve again as I’m not too sure where I got to with the stitch decreases. This is a handspun project.
  • Le Facteur another handspun project that’s been on the needles for over three years. I will probably frog this.
  • Elizabeth Montagu socks as part of the Bluestockings knit along. I’ve fallen waaaay behind with this KAL
  • Piccolo Mondo Antico socks I see these have been on the go since 2017
  • Fyne Vest I lost heart with this a bit when I kept having to rip it back but I’m determined to finish it!
  • A project on the loom that I haven’t looked at in a couple of years. It’s a straightforward wrap, nothing fancy but I hand dyed the yarn to go with a dress for a friend’s wedding. I had to go out and buy a cardigan instead!

To be fair there aren’t as many as I expected, but I’m not ruling out finding some more stashed in odd places. This week I want to push on with spinning and see what I can get done in the last few days of the TdF.

Year of Projects 2021-22/Week One

I stumbled across the Year of Projects group on Ravelry this week. The group set out their crafting plans and projects for the year and then blog about their progress each week. You can read more about the group here.

As you might have guessed, I like the camaraderie of this, not to mention the hint of accountability. I love planning things. I love planners. I love getting behind systems that this year will absolutely revolutionise my sloth-like tendencies and make me more productive. But I’m trying to get away from that at the moment so I’m not going to be planning anything in minute detail, I just want to spend the year working on things that interest me and sharing them with people who I hope will also find them interesting.

That said, I have some plans, obviously. I want to do some stash reduction (doesn’t everyone?) I have both fibre and yarn to use up and it might be good to get it in to Ravelry, so there’s a project right there.

I have some fleece I need to finish prepping. I’ve not been great with prepping my own fibre, it always seems to be a bit disappointing so this is definitively an area I’d like to explore. I also have some equipment I’ve not used very much like my loom and blending board. It would be good to get to grips with these.

I’d like to finish the sweater spin that I’m doing at the moment for this pattern, although I’m open to other gradient patterns. I ‘think’ I will get enough yardage out of the fibre but I’ll have to wait and see. I also have this double knit scarf on the list. I have done double knitting before but I admit I’ve struggled to get going with this in a lace weight yarn so that will be an ongoing labour of love I think.

Oh and WIPs. I want to take stock of WIPs and decide to finish them or frog them. I’m tired of their silent taunting from the various cupboards I’ve stashed them in. I’m also tired of them falling out of every cupboard I open!

But first up for me is to finish my TdF. I’ve made some decent progress on the gradient spin I’ve been working on. I hope to finish that this week and move on to my next project, probably the sweater spin I mentioned which I am 3/5ths of the way though. Here’s my tour spinning to date.

Gradient spin

It’s been a year between the two skeins and I think I’ve spun the second skein a little more semi-worsted than the first so there is some variance. I’m not sure how this will play out in a project. Depending on length I’d planned a cowl or shawl so hopefully it won’t make too much difference.

The long slow run

So it’s Tour de Fleece time of year again. My job means that July and August are my somewhat quieter times of the year and so the Tour generally signifies the start of a slower pace of life and an opportunity to transfer some of the year’s pent up tension into some fibre.

Despite the calm the Tour ushers in, I always make a ridiculous amount of plans and line up way too many projects than I could ever hope to spin in the time available. ‘This year I’ll learn long draw/process a fleece from scratch/finally spin lace weight/complete a jumper’s worth just on a spindle…’, you get the idea. I just seem to try and make things complicated. And no, I don’t ever really get to any of that.

This past year I’ve started taking running a bit more seriously. I’ve come to appreciate the need for goals. I understand why just going out there and doing what feels good (or least bad) won’t help me break any records or go any further. I need structure and I need challenges. More importantly however, I’ve learned that improvement comes with rest days and slower days as much as it does with hill drills and sprints. And I’ve come to enjoy these days instead of thinking I should be doing more/faster/further. I’m thinking there is possibly something to take from this into my spinning.

So this TdF there are no big plans for me. There is no photo of the several kilos of fibre I want to get through; there are no hoops to jump through; there isn’t even a stack of books on my bedside table. What there is this year is the equivalent of that weekend longer run. I’m going to oil up my wheel, pick the next fibre project to hand, and just enjoy my time at the wheel and with the spinning community. I think the running and the fibre craft community are two of the most supportive corners of the Internet so here’s a shout out to you both and thanks for everything.

Oh, and since we’re here, this is my progress to date after Day One.

The start of a gradient chain-ply