Monday, April 30, 2007

Socks in the Springtime

Plum Tree. It, and our cherry tree, are blooming right now. The apricots bloomed two weeks ago, and the apples and peaches are thinking that maybe, spring has come to Minnesota and they should start getting in on the show.

Daffodils. If you're thinking they should be peeking up through the melting snow, you're right. But not this year! Snow doesn't last long when the highs are near 90 degrees. Once upon a time we had a host of tulips as well, but they've fallen prey to the animals that enjoy them as midwinter snacks.

Lily of the Valley. Two years ago, we planted 10. My husband thought they were weeds and leveled them with the weed-eater. They didn't mind. If I moved the bird bath, I'm sure there'd be plants trying to come up there. They're even sneaking under the border of the bed and coming up in the yard.
Peach Tree! (Really and truly. It's the twig sticking through the little yellow piece of tape.) The tree which used to be there lost its trunk last year in a bit of wind, a tree without a trunk is best saved for the fireplace, not fruit production. We also planted a pear tree, but it's hard to tell them apart in a photo.

Baby hat for the Loopy Ewe's Quarterly Challenge. Also, another April Stash project. Acrylic has such body ... this hat could practically get up and walk away, I think.

Socks. Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Steelhead, using the Crosshatch Lace pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks and a Horizontal Chain Selvedge for finishing. I may remove the selvedge and pick something with a bit more give, but I do like it and definitely will be using it now and then. The heel is done with a heel flap, and it's okay, I suppose. I'm not really a heel flap fan, but I am looking forward to seeing what Wendy has done with her latest pair .. a heel flap that looks top-down, but was done toe-up!

I went on a bit of an Internet shopping spree during break. A bit of curriculum here, a bit of harp music there, some kitchen goodies from over there, and YARN from Knitpicks. And, I listed my loom on Craigslist. Anyone know anyone who wants a loom?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's spring again

And this week is Spring Break. Break is a time for cleaning, organizing, sorting through rooms ... and that's what I've been up to.

Monday was the Daughter Day. Dd and I spent some time sorting through her clothing, then some more time searching through the clutter in the rest of her room for more clothing. We found a pair of socks that doesn't belong to anyone in the house, several things I've been missing for a while, and ended up with 3 paper sacks of clothing to donate, and 3 buckets of trash. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday was the Son Day. He started off the day in a pair of size 8 shorts, and ended up in a pair of size 16 shorts. That was *not* supposed to happen. He's set for the summer AND winter, having received 3 trash bags of boys clothing from Freecycle. He is, as he puts it, too shy to throw things away, but we're working on learning that skill anyways. Even a pack-rat need not save empty packets of apple cider mix.

Wednesday was the Craft Room Day. I am looking for good reasons to keep my fabric stash, and hoping not to find any, for I am not a sewer at heart. I can sew when the mood takes me, but I'd rather knit. I have put away ALL my yarn, and needles, and gotten all the ironing done. The mending is in a pile on the sewing machine.

While I was bustling about, I came across a single mitten I had been (and will be) keeping. It's a twisted-knit mitten, roughly akin to the one on page 106 of Twined Knitting. I used Harrisville Designs Shetland Wool, small needles (US 1 or 2, I'd guess), and got 30 sts/3". It's a lovely gauge swatch, and scratchy as all get out. I wonder if I knew about blocking when I made it?

This was a good week for Stash Projects. First, I finished the hand-spun, hand-knit, blindly-follow-the-pattern two-end mittens. The blocked gauge was 8 sts & 8 rows per inch. They will get much wear next winter.

I finished the Tofutsies socks. Then I knit up a pair of half-mitts from a pattern at Knitty for the Loopy Ewe Quarterly Challenge. I've never been a customer of theirs, but I saw a post on Wendy's blog and decided that would be a good stash project. Of course, one pair of mitts isn't much to mail off, so I knit a hat too. And then I found two more hats in my Homeless Completed Projects pile, so I'll have a respectable amount to send off to them.

Lastly, and leastly of the pictures, here is a Final Picture of a sweater I made for DS. It's about 4 years old, and he decided it was getting a bit Too Small. The design is his - his second choice, actually. The first design he submitted for construction was a rippling American flag. I offered to teach him Intarsia, as I avoid it whenever possible. He declined, and came up with this version.

I wonder where it will end up?

But what I really wonder is ... what will I cast on tonight? Socks? Or???

Monday, April 09, 2007

I think I'm in love

Spinning is fun. Playing with fiber is delightful. Working with fine yarns is exquisite. Creating designs with two colors is enchanting. Learning new things can be energizing.

So ... if you take fine handspun yarn (fine in the traditional sense, not in the cobweb sense) in two colors and play with it while learning new things ... it's a recipe for a great project. And if that project happens to be a mitten (or pair of mittens) destined to replace the mishmash of unmatched or severely mended mittens ... words fail me.

Twined knitting, or two-end knitting, did get selected as "The Use For My First Handspun in Over 10 Years". But a two-color design called to me, and I decided that some of my old handspun was decent enough to use. Two-end knitting can be tough on the wrists - there is a LOT of twisting to do - so I figured I'd be a week or two on each mitten. But love intervened.
This is what I had on the needles Saturday. I tried to blog about it, but my printer loved the photo so much it wouldn't allow the computer to access the chip, and so I went back to knitting rather than wrestle with electronics. There's half a mitten, and my yarn source.

Twisted knitting is typically worked from one ball of yarn, using one strand from the inside of the ball, and one strand from the outside of the ball. First one works a stitch with one strand, then the other. Unlike Fair Isle, the yarn is *always* twisted between the stitches. For my project, I took the 'back' strand over the strand I just knitted with. Always, always, always. The yarn gets twisted beyond recognition every half row or so. The typical advice is to wrap the yarn around the ball and let it dangle to untwist.

I had an idea. What, I thought, would happen if I had wound the yarn on my spinning wheel bobbin? I could use a Very Large whorl and slowly treadle while spinning, and thus keep the yarn untwisted. I would also lose any and all portability. I mean, you just don't see people carrying spinning wheels around as a yarn source for their knitting, do you? And I like to knit in the car. It just wouldn't work.

Then I noticed the spindle next to me. I impaled the ball of yarn on the spindle, set it on the floor, gave it a healthy twist ... and was pleased.

I exhibited some care for my wrists and fingers - harp solos on Easter Sunday do require the use of both, and I really didn't want to wake up Sunday with incredible pain in both hands - so I managed to pull myself away from the mitten and work on the Tofutsie sock. One sock down, one to go.
Sunday, after church, I was free to knit. I did, and I did, and I did. And before bedtime, I was finished with Mitten #1. It fits, and it is delightful.

If it wasn't for the soreness I get from knitting this way, I think I could see a whole year of experimenting. My son would like black and orange Bengals mittens. My mom is hoping these mittens are hers instead of mine. My daughter would like some mittens (probably in pink and purple). And the book has some gorgeous hats with mosaic patterns. For that matter, I've got Barbara Walker's Mosaic Knitting book, and ANY Mosaic pattern can be converted to a twisted knitting pattern. Amazing. Knitting with two colors per row AND twisting the yarn AND knitting mosaic patterns. Does life get any better?

Here's the back side (non-palm) of the mitten. It's got a thumb-side gusset, and fits like a dream, despite the fact that the pattern said "Cast on 72 stitches". No recommended yarn, no gauge, no sizing. The author does say gauge swatches are essential, but they're not much help if the pattern says "Cast on 72 stitches" and one doesn't know either the finished size of the mitten OR the gauge to aim for.

Still, it worked.

My cardigan? The cardigan which I finished last week, despite numerous setbacks, and have been wearing ever since to offet the chill in the air? I singed it on the stove Saturday. This cardigan is not happy with life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spring left

Spring, which was so present last week, has left. Flurries are whipping past my window, being sped on their route from South Dakota to Wisconsin on a crisp breeze, and the temperature may be above freezing some time later this week. Maybe.

All of which means I won't be putting my Spinnery Jacket away for the fall quite yet. It had some more tricks for me up its sleeve. As I was sewing up the final sleeve seam (using a lovely, hand forged silver yarn needle which continues to delight me), I noticed something in the instructions that I hadn't seen before. I wasn't supposed to pick up the bound off underarm stitches when I picked up stitches to knit the sleeve. Oops.

I evaluated the condition the sweater was in, pictured the condition it was supposed to be in, and decided that I really did want a half-gusset style sleeve, rather than a modified drop shoulder .. and kept sewing. It's all done now, save for finding and attaching buttons. I crocheted the button bands ... oh, about 6 times. The first two times looked a bit wavy, so I crocheted a gauge swatch, recalculated my rows / sc ratio, did a row or two, and checked my gauge. Frogged, recalculated, and tried again.

At the present time, the left front is set up to a 4:7 ratio, and the right front is at a 4:8 ratio. (stitches crocheted per rows). I may re-rip the left front some day, but right now, it's not bothering me. I'd rather wear the thing. And ... look what I found to do while I'm wearing it!!

Spin. My friend Denise has been nudging me to spin, and my stash-eradicating conscience has been suggesting to me that I spin my stash down, and to top it all off, another friend convinced me that I would be doing her a large favor if I would accept some fiber from her stuffed fiber closet, so there would be room for this year's fleeces ... and so I dusted off my wheel, gave it a nice coating of lemon oil, and started spinning.

No, I really don't know how to spin. I know enough to be a very little bit dangerous. I know to spin with my hair up, so that I don't get sucked into the orifice by my scalp. I can even get away with a short draw technique for long periods of time without having the spun yarn depart from the unspun yarn in a precipitous, unplanned manner. I know S from Z ... but not much else. Unfortunately, the only spinners around here are either on bicycles or waving something called a poi ... so I get to be self-taught (or, self-untaught.) This lovely chocolate colored fleece came from my husband's softball coach's wife's mother's token sheep ... used in training sheep dogs. I've had it about 15 years, so this part of it has aged enough to become mittens. I *think* they'll be twined knit, but perhaps not. First I have to get through the plying.

I finished a pair of ankle socks for dd, from Elann's sock yarn. The elastic doesn't help the ribbing have any sort of shape, but there's not much room for it to fall down, so it should be okay.

My travelling project is now Tofutsie socks for mom. The gauge is 8 spi on size 2 ... I'm getting 10 spi on the same, not unexpectedly. I like the stripe.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~ Aristotle