Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Setback

Well here we go again. It seems some days you just can't get ahead. After that last frogging incident I put the Nicole Vest aside for awhile, but over the last few days I have been working on it again. The road trip to Manning Park and back had me moving ahead by 2 repeats (8 rows per repeat). Today I had added an additional repeat --- and I should have stopped there.

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But noooooo, I was enjoying myself and decided to press on. After another 3 rows I was admiring my work, draping it over my foot of all things, seeing how some of the patterns would look as a sock, when out it leaped, another darn error. And wouldn't you know it, it was in the dreaded faggotting again. Aargh. I find faggotting is rather unique in that it is easy as pie to knit, but horrid to try to drop down and ladder back up again. Those interconnecting YOs in the centre are the trouble. They have to fit into the p2tog tbl just so. Any errors are quite glaringly obvious. You know I tried. I really tried. And in the end, just like last time, I ended up having to rip several rows (5 this time around), with the slow and fiddly tinking of the last row.

I don't mind the reknitting --- I DO like knitting after all. It's all the time wasted ripping that I resent.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day Trip

It's unusual for my husband to get a Friday off so we made the best of it by taking a little day trip up to Manning Park. That's one of the beautiful things about living where we do. Many interesting attractions are just a short hop away.

We hiked as far around the lake as we could. We had to turn back when much of the path was closed because clearing of the Fall and Winter windfallen trees was taking place. We saw a LOT of wildlife during our hike though. Besides the usual variety of birds in the air and on the water, we also saw 6 deer. These three, a mama and her twins, were on the path just ahead of us. They were much closer than shown in the photo. By the time I got my camera turned on and zoomed in, she of course decided she should take the babies farther away.

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Now these little marmots were not so easily spooked. I found that if we were all quiet and sneaky like they disappeared down one of their numerous tunnels --- BUT, if you spoke to them in the manner that you would a beloved kitten or puppy, they held still, posed even, for the camera.

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Rustle a food wrapper and they came a runnin'.

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Drop a few crumbs of granola bar and they practically ambushed your feet.

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Think they've met humans before?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Winning Scarf

Last September I knit three scarves out of my own handspun llama laceweight. The first was "Branching Out", done exactly as the pattern was originally written.

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The second and third ones I knit using my own modification to the pattern. I then overdyed one with black, which resulted in a rich chocolate brown colour. That one became a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law.

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The other I dyed with scarlet and it became a pretty brick red colour. I gave it away last night at a scarf exchange at the year end dinner for the Chilliwack Spinners and Weavers Guild. After the exchange the scarves were put on display and we had a chance to vote for our favorite in two categories: Knit or Crocheted, and Woven. Mine gathered the most votes in the knit or crocheted category and ---

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--- I won this pretty begonia!

Alternate Skein Winder

I've joined a 'spin-to-knit-along' for handspun shawls. I posted over there about my trouble with the broken niddy noddy and Tyler suggested using my umbrella swift. At first I resisted the idea thinking how awkward it would be. Then I read somewhere else in the blog-o-sphere (can't remember exactly where) that it works well if the swift is mounted sideways, on the table leg, instead of in its usual position on a table top.

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Well, look at that! It does work. I tied a non-stretchy string into a circle of exactly 2 yards and then opened the swift until it fit the string. I then tied a colourful piece of yarn to one section of the swift as a marker. Rotating the swift around and around by hand (easily done by hanging onto one of the 'spokes') I counted each pass the marker string made.

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I have at least 760 yards of 22 WPI, 2 ply laceweight in one continuous strand. (The handspun wasn't as tight on the swift as the measuring string was so I figure each 'lap' was slightly more than the 2 yards I counted.) I have a wee bit more that I Andean plyed from what was leftover on one of the bobbins after plying. I'll likely use that bit for my gauge swatch/es.

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The beads are leftover from another project. There won't be enough to do the shawl, but they match so well that I'll take them with me when I'm hunting down some more. I think I know where I got them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plyed and Busted

I don't think I've ever had one of these large, Majacraft bobbins so full! I plyed and plyed and in the end I got nearly 250g of 2 ply laceweight (22 WPI) on there. I'd love to tell you how many yards that made but ----

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--- when I had counted off well over 300 wraps (on a 2 yard niddy noddy) the piece of junk broke under the strain. I knew it was cracked, and I've ordered a new one, but I was hoping the loosely jointed, weak, poorly designed, piece of good for nuthin' kindling would hold together long enough to finish this job. As it was I had to yelp for help before hundreds of yards of handspun became hopelessly tangled.

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I quickly finished winding the skein while my husband held it on his outstretched arms. *whew*

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It's had it's bath and is hanging (perfectly balanced, *woo hoo*!) to dry. Hopefully I'll be able to borrow a yardage counter to get an accurate length before choosing a shawl design.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Decisions, Decisions!

I've been on the computer all morning searching for just the right shawl pattern. I'm still not sure exactly what I want, but I'm narrowing it down.

I don't want circular or square --- twice the knitting (and yarn!) and the second half doesn't really show --- otherwise I'd do the Tina Shawl.

I don't want rectangular either as I find stoles awkward to wear.

I do like "Birch", but I'd like something with a bit of variety in the stitch patterns --- not one pattern throughout.

I also like the look of an elaborate border.

72" wingspan would be perfect.

I'd like to add beads, although they don't have to be present in the original pattern.

The Mountain Peaks Shawl might work --- or ---

I love the look of the Peacock Feathers Shawl, but I've done it already and I'm not normally one to repeat a pattern. I might just decide to do it again anyway. It's such a beautiful shawl. I've never found one I like as much. It's been two years since the last ---

--- Help me, I'm falling again!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Next Up

Now on the wheel:

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This is the beginnings of 250g of "Black Rainbow" a dyed, Halfbred wool blended with 10% rainbow glitter. I bought it from the Aurelia booth at Fibrefest International. I'm spinning it fine, to become a 2ply laceweight.

I hope to use the finished yarn for a beaded, evening type shawl to use in the holiday season. I still haven't picked a pattern though. Any suggestions? I'd like something reasonably complex --- not just one stitch pattern throughout.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dazzling RED!

Remember this shawl?

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It's the Swallowtail Shawl from the Fall 2006 issue of Interweave Knits. I knit it from my own spindle spun BFL yarn. I liked it but it felt "granny-ish" to me. Although I'm a Grandma and quite happy to be one, I wasn't ready to stoop over and walk with a cane --- which is the image it conveyed to me.

Nope. Natural cream colour just wouldn't do. I had to jazz it up a little.

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Three packages of Kool-Aid drink mix later (Tropical Punch flavour) and my ho-hum, natural coloured granny-shawl is now a dazzling, scarlet scarf.

Okay, worn like this it is still pretty granny-ish,

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--- but I'm thinking maybe I'll wear it like this, with a cowl/scarf effect under my black jacket in the winter. Just the thing to brighten a drizzly and grey winter day.

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And here's a little detail shot because lace is just so darn worthy of close-up, detail shots.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From The Trash Bin

I have a big garbage bag full of wool that has been carded on a drum carder. I have no idea who originally owned the sheep and what breed it was. I also don't know who put it through a drum carder without picking out the second cuts and excessive amounts of VM (vegetable matter). I was just asked if I would like to have this big bag of wool, donated anonymously to the guild. I opened the bag and looked inside, and even me, a relatively new spinner, could see that there was trouble.

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I took it on the condition that no one would complain if in the end I decided it wasn't worth the effort and threw the whole lot in the garbage. It was obviously not spinnable "as is".

Out came my handy, dandy combs. I discovered that with a lot of time spent combing (just as much as if the wool was uncarded) the VM dropped out quite nicely. The resulting 'nests' spin up into a beautifully soft and springy wool. Of the two samples I tried the thicker one is the nicest.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fleece Salvage

Shelby, the resident fleece inspector, checks for spots that need more washing. Her report? Loads of VM still present but most of the dirt and all of the yolk and poop are gone. *sigh* (The aromatic poop is her favorite part.)

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The comb loaded up with the VM filled wool.

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3 to 4 complete passes through the combs and it is looking fairly VM-less.

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Dizzing off a roving and picking out any noil that shows up.

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The long strip of roving rolled into a nest for later spinning.

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It takes me about an hour to do six small nests. Pretty labour intensive, but it saves a fleece that otherwise would have been thrown in the garbage. The resulting roving is soft and springy and should make for nice spinning.

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Too bad it takes most of the summer to comb up one fleece! I can only stick with wool combing for about an hour at a time. Even if I somehow found the time to do it twice a day, that's a LOT of wool to get through.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rattle Yer Dags

Disclaimer: I am a relatively new spinner with very limited experience dealing with raw fleece. I've been asked to show the process I use, and some of the things to look for when sorting through a newly shorn fleece. I am not qualified to make judgements on the quality (or lack thereof) of a fleece. This fleece was free and from a sheep not raised for it's wool --- if that tells you anything.

The first thing I do is to lay the fleece out "whole" if possible. The shearers seem to try to keep the fleece in more or less one piece so if you are careful and don't tug it to bits, you can usually lay it out and push it into the basic shape it was when it came off the sheep's back.

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I find it helpful to do this because you can then sort out general areas to look for problems. For instance, around the outer edges are where you will find the wool that was at the bum end, the underbelly and legs and around the neck and face.

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The bum end of course is where you will find "dags" as the New Zealander's call them. This is the dried bits of sheep poop. Never fear, although it is smelly and unpleasant it does wash out.

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New Zealander's have a saying "Rattle yer dags". It means to hurry up. It comes from the rattling sound that the clumps of dried poop make as the dangling bits bang together when the sheep are hurrying along.

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Another thing to keep an eye out for is VM (vegetable matter --- bits of grass, thorn and feed). You can see large bits of it in the above picture.

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The yellow crud is "yolk", something like sheep sweat. It is seen close to the skin of the animal. Although it washes out it can stain the wool if it is particularly bad. In the above picture the yolk is visible along the bottom edge. The dark bits at the other end of the locks are weathering. This is dirt and sometimes sun damage that forms on the outside of the sheep's coat. Sheep that are raised specifically for handspinners sometimes wear a coat to prevent this.

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After looking at the top side of the fleece I turn it over and look close at the cut side for short bits called "second cuts". These shorter bits are the result of a shearer going over the same area more than once. The short bits of fiber, if left in and carded, will result in noil in the batts or rolags. Noil makes your yarn lumpy and sometimes weaker.

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The pictures above and below show an example of how second cuts look on the underside of the fleece. In the picture above, the second cut stands out( in the centre of the picture) like a little cotton ball floating above the locks.

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This final photo shows the dreaded VM. In this particular section it is quite fine and spread thoroughly through the fleece from tips to cut ends. I suspect this section may be from the neck of the sheep where it would be exposed to more of the animal's feed. If you are carding your wool this VM is a problem and needs to be removed first or it will be spread throughout your wool. I comb my wool (I don't own carders) and find that most of the VM just falls out into my lap during the process so I don't worry about it too much.

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Like I said, I am inexperienced and if you can add more or if I need correcting, please feel free to elaborate in the comment section. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hut By The Pond

You know, I might as well build myself a little hut by the frog pond. I seem to be spending all my time here lately.

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I ripped back the Nicole Vest all the way to the waist eyelets. I tried to stop sooner, really I did, but there was just no picking it up correctly and I decided to go all the way back to the last plain row.

Even then I had my troubles. When I was knitting the upper body the first time I thought I had made an error in the way I was forming the SSP. What I was getting LOOKed correct so I had been content to go with it, but seeing as I had to reknit anyway I thought I would do the SSP the way I thought the pattern meant.

I should have left well enough alone. After knitting 4 rows I had to admit it looked better the first time. Rip it, rip it, rip it.

I'm sure Froggie is mocking me!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Frogging Faggotting

Awwwwww, SHOOT!

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I discovered an error in one of the SSK/P2tog sections of a column of faggotting in the Nicole Vest. Seems I SSK when I should've P2tog. *sigh*

Over my morning coffee I discussed my possible courses of action with my husband.

  1. I could leave it. It wasn't a huge, in your face kind of error. No one but me would notice it when it was being worn.
  2. I could (in theory) drop the 2 stitches down and knit them back up correctly. Faggotting complicates this procedure because it involves some tricky YOs and directional decreases. I wasn't sure my skills were up to the task. If I dropped them down and couldn't get them back up correctly I would have to resort to #3.
  3. I could rip back all the way to the mistake and reknit. Didn't want to do that as it involved around 16 rows, maybe more. Over 200 stitches per row.

Originally I thought I would just go with #1. Leave it. Small error, no one will see it ---

--- except me.

As I worked out at the gym (I do my best contemplating there) I came to a self-realization. There was no way I was going to be able to live with the mistake so it had to be corrected. Yes, yes. I could do it. I'd go with #2. Drop down those stitches and ladder back up correctly. If worse came to worst and I wasn't able to ladder it up? I could always rip it back all the way to the error and reknit the 16 rows. The idea of reknitting those rows was bothering me less than the thought of having a glaring (to me) error right on the front of my top. I know me. I'd be pointing that error out to every person who ever gave me a compliment.

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Looks like some frogging is in order. Oh well. It's only knitting, right? I like knitting. I'll just reknit all 3,200+ stitches.

----murrmurr, froggin', freakin', faggotting, frrrrumsnickle, murrmurr, murrmurr fir----

Monday, June 04, 2007

Welcome Visitors

According to Statcounter my blog gets an average of 100 - 125 "unique" visitors daily, actual "page loads" are higher meaning some visitors are looking around at more than one post each time they drop by. With my visitor count standing at 99222 right now, it seems likely that I will reach the 100,000 mark in the next week or two.

Here is a breakdown of where the last 500 readers came from. (I get a kick out of that sort of information).
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One of my most frequently visited pages is HERE. (Of the last 500 visitors, 78 were for this one page.) Seems my sorta-pattern for the Knitty-Gritty Sockettes has gotten on a few free pattern listings. 1, 2, 3, I even found it as the featured sock in a knit-a-long at one time. The funny thing is I've only knit ONE of them myself. That's right, it didn't even hold my interest long enough to get a pair. They're cute enough, but when I put socks on my feet I want warmth. I don't even like those short little sport socks. For me it's either nice, warm, handknit, woolen ankle socks or, in hot weather, sockless.

So you bloggers who host contests now and again, how do you go about organizing that? I'm thinking I should have some kind of contest in honor of the 100,000 th visitor. How do you take entrants? How do you pick a winner? How long do you take entries before doing the draw? Any cautions I should know about? What makes a good prize?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Let 'er Rip

Saturday I discovered that the sock I've been knitting off and on over the past little while just was not going to work out. I love the wave pattern. I like the way it breaks up the otherwise very boring, completely predictable striping of this particular sock yarn and the stitch count was working out to perfectly fit my foot.

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Unfortunately I will still have to frog it. The stitch pattern, for whatever reason, doesn't have a lot of give and it is a real struggle to pull that section past my heel. With a lot of effort I can get this leg section past my heel and up to my ankle where it belongs. With the addition of the heel they would even fit quite well --- once I got them on. But I know me, there is NO way I will wear socks that are a horrendous struggle to put on. *sigh* Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it!

Just in time to save me from the gloom of a failed project I found a link to the "Nicole Vest" on the SKC group blog. It is one of the projects nominated for consideration for the next knit-a-long. I really like it but not as modelled as a vest over a blouse. I think it would be nice as a summer top.

Anyway, being not much of an "along-er", preferring to work at my own pace, I downloaded the PDF pattern and was out shopping for yarn the next day. By day's end I was well on my way.

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Even if a knitter isn't much for knit-a-longs, it's worth keeping a eye on the SKC blog. It's a great way to find out about new and interesting patterns out there and see them done up in yarns other than the ones specified. I think I might do this one as well. Pattern available here.