Wednesday, July 22, 2009

tdf day 18

I thought yesterday was the challenge day for the Tour de Fleece. When the bikers are having a challenging day, the spinners push themselves by either using a new technique, a new fiber, or doing some other personal challenge. My challenge was going to be spinning up an ounce of yak/tussah silk that I bought at the Spinning and Knitting Estonian Lace Workshop I went to in April. So I ended up doing my challenge one day early.

Spinning this fiber blend was a little tricky. It wanted to be spun so very thin. I had to remove almost all of the tension on my bobbin before it would stop flying out of my hands. I really can't wait to finish plying it and knitting it into a set of wrist warmers. They are destined to be a Christmas gift for a friend.

If you can, you should get some of this fiber. It is FABULOUS. The Trading Post in Pendleton, IN has some really great fiber blends. The website is a little interesting to use but, if you click on the picture of each fiber, you can get more information about each. Susan is really nice and has great customer service. She comes to a lot of the fiber festivals in my area. I can't wait to get more stuff from her at Yellow Springs.

Because the 22nd is the real challenge day, I guess I will start spinning up the other fiber blend I got from The Trading Post, a 50/50 merino/camel blend. It is going to be another challenge and delight to work with.

State Fair FOs

Last year, I listened to David Reidy's podcast (Sticks and String March 23, 08) and he was talking about entering projects in local fairs. His discussion about entering items was very inspiring. But I didn't get around to getting anything finished for the state and local fairs that year. Then I went to our local fair. Not to be a yarn snob but FUN FUR placed. FUN FUR. I was determined that this year would be different.

This Saturday and Sunday was the submission deadline for the projects for the state fair. I, of course, was not finished with the various projects. I entered 5 different items: a skein of fingering handspun, an item knit from handspun, a sweater, a semi-constructed item (why did I enter that one?), and a knitted lace item. I had a couple of projects that were already finished or so close that it would only take a couple of days to finish them. The skein of handspun was already finished.

I can't remember if I blogged about this and am too lazy to go back to look. This is a 100% BFL 3-ply fingering weight yarn and is intended for socks.

The item from handspun was going to be one of two scarves: the Morning Surf Scarf or the Waves of Grain scarf. Rereading the entry information, I realized that needed to have a skein of the handspun yarn. Well, neither one of these had any yarn left over. I think I had 2 inches of the one and maybe a foot of the other but, of course, I threw it out long ago. The Morning Surf Scarf has a bind off edge. The Waves of Grain is grafted in the middle. That means that one was significantly easier to get a skein of yarn from it. I ended up unpicking the bind-off edge on the Morning Surf Scarf, ripping back one row, and rebound off. I quickly washed the yarn and dried it with a hairdryer on my mini niddy noddy. Even though they probably didn't want it this way, I wrapped it around an index card just because there wasn't much of the yarn.

morning surf scarf
The sweater was one of those projects that was mostly finished but not quite. It is the Hey, Teach! cardigan from Knitty. I started this project back last year but just didn't get around to finishing it. I think my main problem was that it was knit in pieces. Sure the pieces go fast but the seaming (or thinking about doing the seaming) takes forever. In addition, I kept knitting the same sleeves over and over. I was going to make 3/4 length sleeves rather than the cap sleeves that the pattern calls for. The first pair I made were waaaaay too tight and would have cut off my circulation in a heartbeat. I started them again in the next biggest size. They were waaaaaay too big. (This is starting to sound like Goldilocks!) Saturday night, I made the decision to rip the second set of sleeves out and start over with the original size. Luckily, I wasn't deluded enough to think that I could get the 3/4 length finished in that amount of time (I still needed to finish the semi-constructed garment). The decision was made to knit the cap sleeves and, once the fair is over, I can decide to knit the 3/4 length if I want. That is the great thing about handknit sweaters; you can tweak them after they are finished.

front of sweater
back of sweater
When I realized I had entered the semi-constructed garment categorey, it made me wonder why in the world I thought that was a good idea. I mean, what in the world does semi-constructed mean? When last Monday rolled around, I realized that I still hadn't done anything for this category. A shrug seemed to kind of fit the bill but I wasn't sure what yarn I had on hand. Then I looked at the Dream in Color Classy I had bought in Pittsburgh when I was visiting a friend last November.

I bought this yarn with a shrug in mind. The skeins are 250 yds each and with two of them I probably would have enough on hand for a shrug. Then when I started looking around, I couldn't find a pattern that only used 500 yds and looked like something I wanted to wear. On Monday, I did a search on ravelry again for a shrug with my yardage and yarn weight. The Dream in Color Lace Shrug popped up and it was like the designer was in my head and could see the shrug I was picturing. And the pattern called for 500 yards of Dream in Color!

back of shrug
I really liked knitting this shrug. After finding an online store (the Dream in Color site was down when I was searching) that had the shrug as a download, I cast on at 10 pm on Wednesday. I ended up seaming it together on Sunday morning at 11am. It was a really fast knit whose lace pattern is definitely memorizable.

You knit the shrug as a rectangle and then sew the ends into sleeves, pick up the stitches around the opening, and knit some ribbing around that. After looking at some of the FOs on ravelry, I decided not to flip the cuffs up which would have meant seaming up the WS for a couple of inches and then switching to the RS. I also decided to knit 2 1/2 inches of ribbing rather than the 1 1/2 inches the pattern called for. It made everything look more balanced with the cuffs unflipped.

arm of shrug
The yarn was so sprongy and fun to knit. It was so much fun that I could even do another shrug in the same pattern without being bored. That is saying a lot about both the yarn and the pattern.

The knitted lace was probably the easiest thing for me to have finished. I have a number of shawls around which are already finished but I wanted to take the opportunity to finish up one that has been hanging around for a while. The Queen Anne's Lace shawl has been a hibernating WiP since last year sometime. It was started last June when I was coming back from a trip to Maryland and I got stuck in the airport. I was in the airport so long that I finished the shawl I was working on and didn't have anything else to work on. I think I will be scarred for life with that experience. Luckily, I had more yarn and the shawl pattern so I immediately started making another one and called it the QAL 2.

I modified the pattern a little bit. The first lace section was knit on US4s, the next section on US 6s, and the following one on US 8s. I did the extended version of the shawl and used US 9s for that section. I would say that using the 9s was on purpose so that the edge would be nice and lacy but that would be a lie. I just couldn't find the 8s because they were in another project somewhere. As a final touch, I put pearl seed beads in some of the last rows. After finishing it, I wish that I had put the beads throughout. They gave the shawl a little flare.

The deadline for turning in items to the local fair is August 8th so now I just have to see what I have finished. Or rather what I can get finished by then . . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More TdF

The Tour de Fleece keeps rolling on. July 13th was the first rest day of the Tour which means the bikers and the spinners are both took a break. I used it as an opportunity to catch you guys up on what I've been doing (of course that doesn't mean I actually posted on that day!).

I've been busy pretty much every day of the Tour so far. The first project I was working on was the 4 ounces of BFL that I showed you last time. I finished spinning it yesterday morning and figured out that I have about 301 yards of 3-ply fingering weight.

day 9 mosaic
As a sidenote, if you are in the Tour de Fleece group, have you seen the great photo mosaics that people have been making? I used fd's Flickr Toys for this one. I wonder if Picnik has any fun mosaic tools? If you have any suggestions for places to do mosaics, let me know.

Once the BFL was finished, I wanted to keep going and was poking around for something else to start. A few months (how has that much time passed?!) ago, I reorganized my fiber and yarn stash in hanging bags along one wall of my room. It has been very helpful to be able to see everything in the stashes. It's harder to forget what things are in there if it is right in front of you. Well, one of the hanging bags has drawers in it (IKEA, I love you) where I put some different singles that had been spun but not plied. These different singles were spun a long time ago. I just looked back at my flickr pictures and it looks like the one single was spun during the last Tour de Fleece!

ballwinderThis is some 100% soysilk roving I bought from Earthly Hues. The colorway is called Rainbow Feet and all of the colors are from natural dyes. I remember spinning the soysilk was like spinning with cobwebs. It would stick to itself in a heartbeat! It made joins super easy and you could spin it so very fine. I remember that I didn't finish plying this because I couldn't figure out if I wanted to keep the colors together or ply it with another color to create a barber pole or ply each end together for a different kind of barber pole. When I looked at the single again this Tour, I decided to use the chain plying technique I've had just been using on the BFL. The result is a very squishy DK-ish 3-ply.

soysilk in a circle
I'm very happy with the result. I think it will make a very nice hat. The purple, blue and green section, though, is going to be at the top of the hat. The indigo has a tendency to rub off on your fingers. Wouldn't that make for a great look on your forehead? :)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TDF 09

On the 4th of July, the Tour de Fleece started with competitors off to a roaring start. And, oh yeah, there is a bike thing going on, too. If you haven't heard of the Tour de Fleece before, it was begun as a group blog in 2006 and has grown since then. Now, it mainly takes place on the ravelry group with people sharing pictures and details of their spinning. You set your own goals for the Tour from spinning 10 minutes a day, spinning up your stash, learning new techniques, etc. etc. The Tour de France goes from the 4th to the 26th with two rest days on the 13th and 20th. On July 22nd, the bikers are going through a major mountain challenge so the spinners challenge themselves in some way. For me, that challenge day is going to be spent spinning up either the merino/camel or the yak/silk blends that I got at the Trading Post in April.

I've mainly been using the spindle for these first two days. I pulled some muscles in my shoulder last week and using the wheel is more uncomfortable than using the lightweight spindle. It also means that I can spin wherever I am. The new horse, Ivy/Lily (we haven't decided what to call her yet because everyone keeps calling her Lily since she doesn't look like an Ivy), is absolutely fascinated by the whole thing. Of course, she has the attention span of a toddler so anything moving keeps her interest!

I've signed up for 3 different teams, Team SOS -- Spin our Socks, Stash Busters 09, and Team Spindle. Right now I'm working on 4 ounces of 100% BFL in a colorway called Peach Season from the stash. It originally wasn't my stash but the lady from whom I bought my Kromski wheel. I really am liking the colors and the way the BFL is spinning up. It is going to be a very nice 3-ply fingering weight that I'm going to use for my first pair of handspun socks. This picture is from the end of the first day.
end of day 1

This one is from the start of day 2.

start of day 2

And this is from the end of day 2.

end of day 2

You can see the true color of the yarn in that mini skein. Isn't it funny how the yarn vs. roving can be so different?

So far I've spun of 2 ounces of the 4. Now I've started thinking of which roving I should tackle next. Should I do a merino tencel or maybe the silk milk? Or even some more of the various fleeces which are hanging around? Or maybe that fabulous bamboo? Or the fun wools that have been marinating in the stash? Or maybe . . . .