Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ravel It, Twist It, Ply It--All to Knit It

So once there was this sweater that I picked up from Goodwill. It was orange and I liked to wear it. Especially in the fall.

But then I was tired of it, and there was a spot on the cuff I couldn't wash out. And in a fit of decisiveness, I took it downstairs, sat on my couch and ripped the sweater apart. In a very organized way, of course.

I got 230 grams of very lightweight 40% merino/30% viscose/20% angora/10% cashmere. When I entered the yarn in my Ravelry stash, I discovered I had unraveled the same sweater in pink! (You can see a picture in this post.)

I got a hankering to knit socks out of this yarn so I decided to ply it. In order to ply it, I decided to twist it. You twist in one direction and then ply in the other. Then the yarn wants to stay put. You could just ply it and block it, but I didn't want to in this case.

Here is one sleeve twisted on the spindle next to the yarn from the other sleeve:
I had a funny moment getting started. I twisted the yarn the "regular" way (clockwise or Z-twist), letting the spindle spin and spin. Then I stopped to inspect the yarn and it was utterly not twisted--in fact, I thought it was less than before I started. So I examined the wool straight from the sweater a little more closely and realized it already had some twist in it (very unusual for yarn from a commercial sweater), and it was going the other way! So I twisted it in the other direction and things went fine from there. (There's no advantage to one direction or the other; it's just a convention to twist the one way and ply the other.)

Once the yarn was all twisted, I was eager to ply it. Not only was it the final step, it also would go a lot easier and quicker than the first step! But I had to do some other stuff, get ready for a trip, etc., and my spindle sat on my table for a couple days.

But finally I had a few minutes. I put the spindle in my "super fancy" lazy Kate (yup, that's what they're called):
Constrained by the holes in the side of the box, the spindle
can spin freely, making it easy to unwind.
and wound up a cake of yarn:
Once I had a cake of yarn, I put it in my project bag to take on the trip.

I tried out a double strand, triple strand and quadruple strand and decided that the triple strand gave the thickness I wanted. That meant chain plying (aka Navaho plying). It's basically a long crochet chain done with your fingers while you ply.

When my fingers got sore from knitting socks during the drive, I pulled out the ball of yarn and my spindle, and got to plying.
It was easy work as the yarn practically plies itself since it was twisted already.

With just a little more time once I got to my destination, I had the whole ball done.
The yarn has nothing to do with my trip to the Netherlands, but I feel like they will make nice souvenir socks of the trip anyway. I did purchase a sock yarn while there that I optimistically called orange, but it's really yellow. It was the best I could do at the time, but I have admitted to myself that it's not orange.
I am happy with this result and can't wait to cast on a new pair of socks. My first plan was to knit one sock with the plied yarn and the other with the yarn from the other sleeve unplied, just to experiment, but I've since decided to use the plied stuff for the toe, foot and heel of the pair and use the unplied for the leg. The wear parts will be stronger and I won't have to ply everything. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Not Quite Christmas Colours

I recently finished the pair of socks I've been working on for Wool-Aid. You know, the grey pair. And I decided No More Grey.

How about some orange and green?
I took the other sleeve from the same grey sweater and attempted to dye it in a self-striping pattern. I split the ball into two halves (by weight) and wrapped each on my niddy noddy, which yields about 2 yard/meter loops. I put half the loop in one dish and the other half in another dish and added the dye:
There are two hanks of yarn, one on top and one below.
Half of each hank is in the orange and half is in the green.
I used five packs of Mango for the orange and four packs of Green Apple for the green.

After not very much time in a 200^ oven, the dye looked exhausted, but the wool wasn't coloured enough.
So I added three packs of Orange to the Mango and four packs of Ice Blue Lemonade to the Green Apple and put it back in the oven.
I let it cool down at least over night and here's how it looked out of the water:
After it was dry, I had this:
Apparently I still didn't use enough dye because there are still areas where the blue/grey is showing:
But I can live with it.

Here it is wound up:
I was trying for an orange with the green and didn't quite get there. It took me a while to come up with a positive word for the colour, and I ended up with "rust".

I made sure to get some socks started before taking a road trip.
This pair of socks will not be grey!

Merry Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Socktoberfest (or is it Desockember?)

So it's been a long time since Socktoberfest but I honestly have not been hung over for all this time. I swear. (Even though I did have really bad hiccups this afternoon. While shopping. It was embarrassing. Wait...are hiccups a stereotype for when you're drunk or hung over? I have no idea. And are we still using the word "stereotype" or do I have to say "meme" now? It's hard to keep up when I've been doing all this Socktoberfesting...)

The bulk of my sock knitting in October was on a Christmas gift. I wasn't sure if I was going to show them to you all, but I just finished the last fiddly finishing work and I don't want to wait!

Apparently the first picture I took of these socks was when the knitting was completed:
I mentioned that they were a special shade of blue and now you can see why.

I had seen similar socks on Ravelry and decided to make some as a gift this year. When I went looking for specific patterns, the one I ended up liking the best was actually just a chart for the leg design. You were on your own for the rest of the sock. Considering I usually ignore everything but the pattern design in sock patterns, this was perfect for me.

The chart was writen for 80 stitches, however, and I reduced it to 60. Many people reported that 80 was too big and I was making them for a smaller foot. (Although I am really, really nervous right now that they won't fit. Let's hope that's paranoia talking and not experience.)

Although I worked quite steadily on them in October (as far as I remember), they were not done until November 8. Then they sat, waiting for the final touch--the embroidery.
The original pattern called for the letters to be knit in fair-isle style but since I was converting from 80 stitches to 60, I thought it would be easier to do them at the end. My first plan was to duplicate stitch them, centering the letters on the front of the sock, but the thought of duplicate stitching over the black background just made me sad.

So I copied another Raveler and stitched the letters with simple embroidery stitches. It was still a little saddening to try and get the letters even and matched. (Those four "O"s were stitched a number of times each, I can tell ya!) But it's done and I like it.
As long as they fit...
Project Stats
Started
: 13 Sep '14
Finished: 8 Nov '14
Pattern: Tardis Socks by Gina Waters (free)
Materials: Cascade Yarns Heritage Solids & Quatro Colors ($14.75) in a pretty convincing Tardis blue colour of 5603 Marine (.6 skein). I also used bits of black wool and white wool/angora raveled from sweaters.


Since I don't have a lot of progress pictures to show you, I'll give you a little tip instead. I stitched the letters with a double strand of white yarn. Now I used to thread the yarn on the needle, pull the two halves even, and make a knot:
But then you've got a knot at the end and ends to work in. (This is for sewing. For embroidery, I would skip the knot but leave a length of yarn that had to be worked in later.)

Instead, I now thread both ends of the double strand through the needle like so:
That leaves you with a loop at the other end. When you start stitching, you can put your needle through the loop on the wrong side after the first stitch:
and there will be no knot and no end to work in:
This is still showing the wrong side. Now that the end
is secure, you can continue stitching.
I thought this was genius when I first saw it. Hope you like it too.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Enough with the Grey Already!

Don't you think? I sure do. In contrast to the grey socks I'm working on, I cast on with some of this pink loveliness:
My sister found seven of these balls at a second hand store and paid a pittance for them. It's wool, which she doesn't work with, so she picked it up for me. At first I pictured lots of pink socks, but the yarn has a "thick and thin" texture that wouldn't be the best for socks. And I had seven skeins!

So I started on my first Wool-Aid sweater. I looked for a pattern that I liked with a deep shawl collar. Not one of those big shawl collars that hangs over the shoulders; one like this:
Hmm. Kind of confusing that they are both called shawl collars. Anyway, this type of collar gives plenty of room to fit a head through without leaving a big opening around the neck. I'm probably going to change it to ribbing though. I don't like the garter stitch.

I chose the largest size I thought I could get out of the yardage that I had. And then I added in some insurance--I skipped the bottom border and started with a provisional cast on:
That way I can knit the borders at the end and use the same yarn if I have enough and no one will be any wiser. Or I can use a contrasting yarn for all the trim and it will look like I planned it. Clever, right?
I liked how after knitting one row, it reminded me
of hairpin lace. (Not that I've done it, but I've seen it!)
The pattern is written to be worked in the round to the armholes, but I didn't feel like working on circular needles. So I split it up and worked the front and back separately. Here's the back after I finished it:
I have a row or two left to do on the front and then it will be done as well. Then the sleeves. I haven't studied the pattern to make sure it's possible to do them flat, but I'm certainly going to try. I am loving using my wooden straights and don't want to give it up!

And can I say again how nice it is to use a nice bright pink instead of grey grey grey!?

Friday, December 5, 2014

One Step Forward?

Once I sent off a package of socks to Wool-Aid, I started another pair. That's how it goes.

Somehow I ended up doing another grey pair. I'm not sure how that happened!
I am using wool raveled from a sweater again (with my Navy sock yarn reinforcing the toe and heel). Maybe I just have a lot of grey sweaters? Maybe because I'm using sweaters for men and they're all boring grey? I don't know. I know I have one green sweater and I think that will be next.

Aaannyywwaayy, I got the first sock done in pretty quick order. But then the second sock.

I don't know if it is because I have gotten used to working two at a time, but this second sock has not been smooth sailing.

I was working on it at a friend's while we were all chatting after Thanksgiving dinner when I looked down and actually looked at what I was doing. I was almost done the heel and I had forgotten to add the reinforcing sock yarn. So rip, rip, rip that went while we were sitting there. Either I looked confident or no one cared, but no one asked why I took the needle out and ripped the sock back a couple of inches.

Then when I finished the heel (at the same dinner party, maybe?), I started the 2x2 ribbing on the leg.
Do you see anything wrong with that. Neither did I as I worked two-plus inches. But then one part of my brain finally listened to another part of my brain and I asked myself why one needle was ending with Purl 2 and the next needle was starting with Purl 2. That is not the way you do 2x2 ribbing. (Perhaps this is why I've heard not to mix knitting and drinking wine?)

Then I remembered that I had to add two stitches to the first sock after the heel so that the total number of stitches would evenly divide by four and I could do a 2x2 rib. So last night I ripped the leg out and reknit about half of it during small group. Now I think I am in for some clear sailing to the end.

Knock knock on wood and throw some salt over my shoulder.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paper, Glue, and Tape

I had a great day this past weekend crafting with my sister and her daughter. They drove to my house and we spent the afternoon working on our own projects while watching Dr Who rescue planets.

My niece was working on a crocheted baby blanket. A pretty shell pattern. At one point she had to start a new ball and it turned out it was one of those skeins where you can't find the end from the centre without pulling out half of the ball.

And then it was knotted. So I worked on that for about 30 minutes while she grabbed a different new ball and kept crocheting. (What a prepared crafter to have at least two extra balls with her! Or maybe she was ambitious and thought she'd go through them both...)

After I had that sorted, I rewound the yarn with my ball winder. She was delighted to have a yarn "cake" instead of a skein. She agreed it was a good name for it because it was delicious.

My sister was working on sewing mittens from felted sweaters. Well, she never got to sewing them, but she cut out a lot of pieces and matched them up. I brought out all my felted sweaters that I have been saving up for a blanket. But that day is a long way off, so I let her use what she wanted with no dibs. She was delighted and couldn't help asking several times, "Are you sure? Even this one?" Yup, even that one. I can get more and even more important, I was glad to see them getting used.

And I decided to work on something completely different. I have been hankering after some magazine boxes for a while. The kind that hold magazines up on a shelf. But it has never been worth buying them.

Then while visiting my mother-in-law while she was trying to empty a house they were selling, she offered me a box of them. I was amused to see that they were from the same company I still get office supplies from at work, but obviously decades old. I think there was a 25 cent sticker on the box so I suspect she got them from a yard sale. These boxes have been waiting a long time to be used!

While my company was with me, I went through a bunch of magazines and ripped out anything that caught my eye. I also had leftover papers from my trip to the Netherlands because I had finally finished up my photo album by sticking in the papers and pamphlets I wanted to include. All the extras became fodder for this project.

After my sister and niece had to leave, I kept working on the project. (Watching Notre Dame get killed by USC certainly wasn't keeping my attention!) I assembled a box:
and then mixed my own decoupage glue. The online recipes recommended three parts white glue to one part water. So that's what I used.

I covered two boxes with the pictures and text that I had cut out:
Elephants, of course, because always elephants.
I loved this line of turtles looking like round little rocks.
Hands shaking:
And text from a sample book by Clara Parkes I thought was appropriate:
I was worried about the durability of the paper along the edges of the box so I decided to wrap the edges. I considered gluing paper or fabric like binding around the edge of a quilt but then decided on duct tape.

Fancy duct tape:
Coincidentally this was a gift from the very sister who was visiting me.

I cut strips long enough for sections of the box and then cut them in half lengthwise so they wouldn't be too wide. I didn't try to carry the strips past the non-square corners, but cut the strips and trimmed them so the pieces would meet neatly.
Unfortunately I didn't know I would be doing this when I put the paper on so I lost some of the elements like these turtles:
and some of the text and small pieces that were right near the edge.
I'm happy with my two boxes and also happy that I have eight more that I can do when I'm in the mood to pretend I'm in kindergarten again and work with some paper and glue.

Although I might try some spray adhesive instead of glue because of the way that the latter wrinkles the paper. I've done a little research online about how to avoid wrinkles (they say to let the first layer of glue dry before adding the top coat) but I'm not confident that it's going to work because I'm pretty sure I let one of the boxes dry before doing the top coat.

In the meantime, the only problem I will be addressing is whether to put the boxes on the shelf with the tall side or short side showing!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Had to Do it

Remember this yarn?
I spun it last month. It's been sitting on my coffee table ever since. I didn't know what to knit with it. It didn't have enough yardage for a hat which was my first thought. Then someone suggested a cowl. Maybe something like this one I knit last year:
But I didn't have enough yardage for that either. But I couldn't let it go. And I couldn't put the yarn away. I knew if I did, it would be stored for a long time and I would forget about it. I let it keep nagging me from the table.

I looked at patterns again today and I found another similar cowl pattern (link here). I didn't think I'd have enough for that either, but I had to try. I just had to work with the yarn and see what I'd get.

So I cast on some stitches on some very fat needles and worked some garter stitch. Maybe two inches.

I didn't like it. The yarn is too busy for garter. And it's too thick. And really, I wanted to see it in stockingnette stitch.

But meanwhile, since I had a sample knit up, I could measure the gauge I was getting: 20 stitches made 8 inches.

Changing to stockingnette stitch meant knitting in the round from the bottom up for various reasons. So I measured from my nose, around the back of my head and to my nose again and got 24 inches. That made for some easy math and I then cast on 60 stitches in the round.

I knit one row and purled one row to set up a garter stitch edging. Then I decided one garter round was enough (I was really worried about how much yarn I had and it didn't seem to be curling...much) and just started knitting and knitting.
It's not very nice knitting with the big, fat bulky yarn and big, fat needles, but I was interested to see how the yarn was knitting up. I knit to the end of the ball I had hand wound. And there it sits.

It's just short of five inches wide, not really tall enough in my mind for a cowl. I could maybe go a smaller (like 50 stitches?) but I don't think that will get me enough length to make a difference.

If I decide to keep it like this, then I'll have to undo a couple rows so I can add my purl row (to keep the top and bottom symmetric) and then bind off.

I could also supplement with another bulky yarn and reknit it with stripes. I have nothing in the right colour in my stash so I would probably dye some light blue cashmere that I have.

But I'm just not crazy about how it knit up. The stitches aren't balanced. (You can maybe see in the picture above that one side (or "leg") of the stitch looks very twisty and you can see all the plies. The other side of the stitch only shows one ply and it's much narrower--more vertical.) Blocking may help the overall feel or smoothness of the texture, but it's not going to fix those stitches.

I don't know. Now I have a unfinished cowl sitting on my table instead of a hank of yarn. But I'm chalking this all up to experience and hoping I'm learning a little bit about my own handspun yarn before I do some more.

Because I just won a new braid in the Malabrigo October Stockpile event on Ravelry. They were kind enough to send me this braid of Nube:
You should imagine the blue parts to be purple
because they are.
It is also sitting on my living room table, whispering to be spun up. I don't think I'm ready yet, but I don't want to put it away yet either...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cashmere Cap

Here's a little something I made in the late summer/early fall:
Isn't that a darling cap? I really loved the picture that came with the pattern, which made it look very much like a little flapper hat. Mine doesn't have quite that same vibe, but I still think it's cute.

I mentioned that I plied four strands of some thin cashmere I had raveled from a sweater (here). The yarn worked quite well and was easier to work with than separate strands. But not so much better that I'll be plying everything now.

The cap starts at the top and then increases to the final size.
I start with what is basically a provisional cast on over the yarn tail. Then when the hat is done, I can pull the tail so all the stitches come in tight before I work in the end. If I'm worried about the tail breaking, I may put it through the stitches a second time around before pulling it tight.

I think the eyelets are just sweet enough. Obviously this isn't a "high winter" cap, but being made from cashmere, it will be warmer than it looks.

But the real attraction in the hat is the scalloped edging:
All the scalloped edging I've ever seen is crocheted, but this is knit! It's a bit of a pain to do but I think it has great effect.

I'm worried the hat will be too short for my little niece that I gave it to. On the pattern picture, it comes down to a good length over the baby's ears but I don't think mine is going to, even though I followed the pattern measurements. I just hope it's long enough to stay on.
The hat was a enjoyable quick knit. And I learned something new!

Project Stats
Started
: 22 Aug '14
Finished: 13 Sep '14
Pattern: Little Flapper Hat by Hayley Albertson (free)
Materials: Raveled Cashmere Charter Club sweater, lace weight (or less) spun into a 4-ply (21 g) ($0.40)

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