Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hold on to your chairs...

...I have a scarf update.

Breaking News -- it's longer:

I'm about to finish the first ball of Noro Cash Island, and the scarf currently measures about 20" x 5", so should be an optimal 60" long by the end of the third ball.

I'm really enjoying knitting this. I just do one or two sections at a sitting, and can even put it down mid-section and figure out where I am when I pick it up again later. Yet it maintains my interest as it grows and the colors change. A fun knit. It'll probably end up as some family member's Christmas gift. And when I finish it, I might just start another. Maybe.

Here's a couple of shamelessly self-indulgent close-ups:

Is anyone else as excited as I am about next weekend's Fall Fiber Festival? And look at that weather forecast:

If the weather really is that nice all weekend, I may go both days! Can't wait!

But I must also visit the State Fair at some point, possibly Friday afternoon, to see this year's TNK ribbon winners. Patsy, Amy, Jon and Lou all won ribbons again for their sewn, spun and/or knitted crafts. They are my heroes!

I will end this short post, so that I can go back to playing with fiber.

But before I go, I must say two things:

  • Rest in peace, Paul Newman. Your sparkling blue eyes will be missed.

  • Go Redskins, beat the Cowboys!

That is all. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ziggy-Zaggy Knitty-Spinny

Two posts in two days (in less than 24 hours time)! Can you stand it?

Don't get used to it!

This morning I took Iris Schreier's workshop, sponsored by our River City Knitters knitting guild, and learned modular knitting using Iris' Zigzag Modular Scarf pattern (P57).

Yesterday afternoon, as I was driving home from the spinning guild meeting, I was mulling over the fact that I still hadn't settled on what yarn to use for this morning's workshop. So on impulse, I veered off the Powhite Parkway onto the Grove Ave. exit and stopped at Knitting Basket, to see what they had in the way of ArtYarns (or anything else, for that matter). I was hoping for some Supermerino, but they only had Ultramerino. Ute suggested Noro Cash Island, which I've since decided is a brilliant choice for this scarf. Noro's long stretches of color are perfection for any striped, multi-directional or entrelac knitting project. That's Basic Yarn Knowledge 101, but I really didn't want to use the scratchier Kureyon or Silk Garden. I hadn't considered Cash Island, and its softness (60% wool/30% cashmere/10% nylon), coupled with its signature Noro self-striping, made it a perfect chioice.

See what you think:

Modular (or multi-directional) knitting is fun! I can't wait to keep working on this. Once you get past the set-up sections and figure out how to read the knitting, it's fairly mindless, which is PERFECT for my feeble brain. And I adore the look of garter stitch fabric, especially in this type of tweedy yarn. I also love the ease of knitting every row, which makes the project even more popular in my mind. I may actually finish this, rather than relegate it to hibernating ("zzz") status on Ravelry. Wonders never cease.

Iris shared her basic formula for knitting this type of project if one wants to stray from the pattern and increase or decrease the number of cast-on stitches -- also handy to know. She also had a little trunk show again, which was just as fun and inspiring the second time around, getting to see and touch all those pretty garments and yarns. Plus we got to hear about how she got her start as a knitwear designer and her philosophy as a yarn designer and manufacturer -- all very interesting. At the end of class, she signed our books, and I was sorry I only had one in my possession (Exquisite Little Knits) for her to sign. I am motivated to get the other two (Modular Knits and Lacey Little Knits). We also got to flip through all the proof pages of her upcoming book - Reversible Knits, and there are some great patterns in there, too. I'll be adding that to my wish list, for sure.

Since we're on the topic of knitting, of which I've neglected for months, it seems, I thought I'd share a few other humble little works-in-progress I have going:

Here's a Spiral-Ribbed Bed Sock (an Interweave pattern from an old issue of Spin Off) that I've been working on, a little bit at a time:

yarn is Dream in Color Classy in "Pansy Golightly"

I like this pattern because it calls for worsted weight yarn and it doesn't have a heel, (basically one long tube that's closed at one end), so it will be fairly mindless knitting until decreasing for the toe. Somewhere around the ankle, I'll also have to start moving the first purl stitch in each row over one, every four rows, to start the spiral. That's not terribly challenging, I don't think.

You'll notice I'm using two circulars to knit this sock -- my first time using that method to knit in the round. I have to say, I love it. But, size (and the tool) matters. I started out using 16" circulars, and as many people have told me, they're just not as comfortable to knit with doing this technique. It can be done, it's just not as pleasant. And I'm all about the pleasant. ;-) So these are 24" Addi Lace needles, which are divine to knit with. I want 2 pairs of every size and length they have. Doesn't mean I'll get them all. I just want them all.

I'm taking my sweet time and not feeling any urgency to finish those bed socks, so don't expect an FO photo anytime soon.

One more thing I've worked on in the recent past, although I haven't touched it in at least a month, is the Prism Long-tailed Wrap. Here it is as an amorphous blob:

colors are fairly true in this photo

Here's a close-up, (colors a little washed out):

yarn is Prism Kid Slique in "Smoke" colorway

It will be pretty once it's done, but I'm not sure when that will be.

All of these are out on my Ravelry projects page, if you need more details.

And since I'm feeling particularly prolific today, I'll share a couple more things in my fiber queue.

This is just a basic ball of Lion Brand self-striping sock yarn I picked up today at Ben Franklin.

But it won't be made into socks. Instead, I'm going to use it to learn and practice navajo-plying. In yesterday's spinning guild program, it was suggested that we use a self-striping commercial yarn so that (a) you don't ruin a perfectly good handspun while practicing, and (b) the color changes in the yarn will help you practice when to close the loop when plying. So, when all is said and done, I hope to have a not-too-terribly-ugly ball of this in a much-bulkier navajo-three-ply on top of the four plies it already has. And what starts out as 438 yards should be reduced to one-third, or about 146 yards. I'm interested to see how it turns out. Might make a cool-looking hat, after it's done. Or it might go straight into the trash can, depending on how things go.

Another spinning project in the queue was handed to me today at the end of our knitting workshop. A fellow River City Knitter who is not a spinner has somehow found herself with some roving:

and was looking for someone to spin it for her. Robin H. volunteered me and my electric spinner (thanks, Robin H! I'm volunteering you to hook me a rug!). Actually, it should be a fun project -- the white roving is about 10 oz. of babydoll wool, (I'd never heard of that breed, until just now.) It's still got a lot of lanolin in it, so should be really nice to spin. It's also got little bits of VM throughout, but the pieces are so small that I'll probably not trouble myself to pick them out, unless they're really big and obvious. (If you more experience spinners reading this disagree, please speak up!)

The multi-colored roving is some Blue-faced Leicester from Lisa Souza, which should also be nice to spin. I think I might wait to spin that until after I learn how to navajo ply, so that I can preserve the color sequences.

And that, my friends, takes us to the end of my fiber update, for now. Not sure when I'll post again. It could be a day, a week, or a month, as lately, I tend to write when the spirit strikes, when time allows, and when I have something interesting to say or show. And that magic trifecta doesn't always come together frequently. So, if you get tired of seeing the same old post at the top of the blog for days and days and days, might I recommend Google Reader?

Hope your weekend was wonderful. Have a great week, my friends!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is this thing on...?

...tap, tap, tap....

Apparently, I've lost my audience, which is what I deserve for not blogging for weeks. But I'll write a new post and send it out into the universe, and see what, if anything comes back.

First of all, I have some finished yarn to show ya:

Those were all spun and plied on my electric spinner. All are wool of one form or another and purchased from various sources.

Casey approves, and has adopted them as a pillow:

Here's one more skein I've recently finished:

It is 100% Corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms in their "As Above, So Below" colorway. The singles were spun on two drop spindles; they were then plied on my electric spinner, skeined, washed, whacked, dried, and reskeined.

Here's the obligatory dime photo:

The skein is 1 oz., 112 yards, and about 20-24 wraps per inch -- roughly laceweight.

Last week I was spinning up a 50/50 blend of cashmere/silk, with plans to submit it to the Fall Fiber Festival Skein & Garment competition. Well, disaster struck when I went to ply the luxury yarn, (don't ask - it's still too painful to discuss), so this wool is a last minute substitution.

Here's my entry all ready to go, along with my entry form and $2 entry fee:

high hopes

This is turning into quite the yarn-centric weekend for me, so it seems.

Iris Schreier, a published knitwear designer and the talent behind ArtYarns, is in Richmond this weekend teaching workshops for the River City Knitters knitting guild. At the last minute, Robin H. talked me into attending a mini-workshop Iris gave last night (Friday) at Lettuce Knit, which was quite fun. Iris handed out tiny skeins of ArtYarns supermerino samples, taught us a few of her very unique knitting techniques, and passed around knitted samples from her three previous books as well as from her new book coming out in April. We actually got to see a few pages from her new book, which was cool. Oh, and she has a new yarn coming out that is a machine-washable cashmere/merino/nylon blend. She passed around a crocheted baby blanket made from it that had already been machine-washed, and it was just lovely, and so soft. Can you imagine - a machine-washable cashmere yarn? Think of the gift-giving possibilities!

Another cool thing she showed us was her way to do a mobius cast-on by using a modified long-tail cast-on, which did seem less complicated than Cat Bordhi's mobius cast-on. I hope I can try it sometime. If you have Iris' book 'Exquisite Little Knits', it's the cast on she does for the belt ring, but converted to a long circular needle (at least 36").

Today (Saturday) I attended the Clothos Children spinning guild meeting, my first time attending an actual meeting other than their silent auction back in April. It was a much smaller group this time, and quite nice. They have a show-and-tell session, which is fun, and then a little instructional program, and this time the program was about plying. Some very helpful tips and suggestions were offered, and a demonstration of navajo plying was given. I'm very motivated to learn that technique, and am eager to start practicing next weekend. Once I learn how to navajo ply, I will probably ply everything I can that way, if I have enough yardage, and especially if the colors in the fibers dictate. I'm not a big fan of the barber-poling effect of plied yarns, and when I buy a gorgeously-dyed fiber, I want to preserve the color sequences that attracted me to it in the first place. Plus, it will be lovely to ply from just one bobbin without having to wrestle with a tangly center-pull ball. (See above-mentioned cashmere/silk painful fiasco.)

Tomorrow (Sunday) I'm attending Iris' morning workshop for her zig-zag scarf, which should be fun. I have to admit that I have not been a huge fan of the look of many modular knitted items, but the techniques are really cool, so I'm ready to give them a try. And after seeing some of the knitted samples from ArtYarns designers like Iris and Sharon Sorkin up close and personal, I believe I'm a convert. Keep an eye out for Sharon's Sequined Mohair Lace Vest pattern (I120) (Ravelry link) -- the photo on the pattern sheet does not do it justice. In person, it is gorgeous enough to wear in a wedding or to the opera. And another pattern I loved, (not sure if it's released yet), is for a gorgeous cabled cashmere scarf, where the cables are different on each side. Beautiful and inspirational. The yarns themselves are exquisite, with a price tag to match. But there seems to be some very decent pattern support, so that one can create a beautiful heirloom knitted item with just a skein or two, and therefore worth making a splurge, now and then.

It's getting late, so I will end this. If you're attending tomorrow's workshop, I'll see you there!