Friday, August 24, 2007

Bulletproof Swatch

I neglected to mention my other fiber purchase at the farmer's market last Saturday. This one has been keeping my hands busy during evening chats with friends and the long hours of yard sale tending (I did get some money for all that junk, and I'm thinking it will go into the fiber budget). Did you want a closer look?

So lovely.

I actually have a project in mind for this, so I have been following all the sage advice about spinning a sample and making a guide. I even made of sample of my fiber prep (the top sample).

size 9 needles, 3.5 st per inch, 7 wpi (measurement iffy due to great variation), approx 10 yds

Um, good thing too. I found out I was making some heavy-duty stuff. My first swatch on size 8 needles was as relaxed as particle board. Going up a needle size helped, but I'm still not getting soft and fluffy.

I think a combination of things led to this yarn being over spun: I tried to make the singles a bit thicker (more fiber = less twist needed), I was using a fleece with more crimp (more textured fiber = less twist needed) and I was impatient and plied right away without letting the single relax. Also, my top whirl spindle likes to go fast, which is good for thinner yarn or for people who can draft faster... but I need to concentrate on getting the spindle to rotate more slowly for it to work for me.

This is the first time I've tried to "boss the yarn around" and make it thicker, rather than letting the spindle and the fiber interact and accept the resulting gauge. Ironically, this yarn ended up being much heavier than what I was aiming for, and my experimental yarn knit up to the gauge I wanted.

Size 7 needles, 4 st per inch, 8 wpi (wpi iffy), approx 10 yards
(not pictured, looks the same) Size 6 needles, 4.25 st per inch, 8 wpi (wpi iffy), approx 10 yards

This is a sample of my first yarn, spun just to get a feel for the process. It is finer and the fiber is less crimpy, so the yarn is much softer. I also tried to make this particular single a little less energized by testing it (letting it twist back on itself) and then backspinning until I got a gentle twist.

Having tried these two different fibers using two different approaches has helped me to understand what factors I need to change to get the result I want.

For now "unspinning" before winding on seems the easiest way to get a fluffier yarn since I need to keep the spindle moving while I'm drafting and that seems to inevitably lead to over-twisting. The woman at the market also suggested that I wind on sooner and not let my length of yarn get so long.

To all the non-spinners out there - sorry if this post has been too wordy and too technical. It amazes me how physical the process of spinning is, and how tedious it can be to translate that verbally. It takes so many words to describe a relatively simple action! However, I like to use this blog, in part, to keep a journal for myself as I learn new things. Otherwise, I find that I forget so much of the crafting process.

One last note: tomorrow we will actually be moving across the state :) We are exhausted, excited and a bit overwhelmed. During the transition the blog will almost certainly be neglected, so don't worry if I disappear for a few weeks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Farmer's Market

The wonderful Mr. M came with me to the market last Saturday and we made quite a haul -tree ripened peaches, zucchini, lemon cucumbers, Walla Walla onion sausage (a local specialty) and Brandywine (sp?) tomatoes. The tomatoes have that amazing thick, fresh flavor that lends itself to a salad - a little basil, a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of cheese. Even better if toast a minute under the broiler.
As the market reaches its peak, more craft vendors are also appearing. I had a lovely chat with the local spinner extraordinaire (she raises sheep and sells raw fleece, roving, handspun yarn and crocheted items). She sits and spins in her booth, which is so fun to watch. A few steps away was a woman with a weaving booth. She showed me how her loom worked and answered my questions. And she sells her fancy towels for only $14! I bought her last red one (pictured above), which I plan to use as a Christmas table topper. I'm too much of a softy to put it to hard use.
I would be tempted to blather on here about the beauty of handmade things and fresh local food, but there is a lot happening here. We have 3 more days to pack things up before we head out of town. The house is degenerating into a giant mess as we try to sort and box everything.
My goal is to get lots done so I can make one more trip to the market this Saturday and sit and spin at the fiber booth. I really hope there is a market just as good in the town we are headed for...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hat Trick

Orangina is finished - just in time for those last (slightly cooler) days of summer! To celebrate with me click on the links to see a bevy of sites related to France's favorite beverage - my personal favorite is the last - don't mess with soccer players - he he he.
Now, onto the post project soliloquy. I learned a lot while working on this project. No surprise there, as it was my first full sized garment AND first lace project.

The good:
Swatched, blocked and calculated number of stitches to cast on to get a more fitted top.
Cast on with larger needles to prevent neckline from rolling.
Tried it on again and again to get just the right body length.
Blocked back and front to slightly different dimensions to get a flattering fit.
Shortened ribbing from "so right now" to "classic" (as a short person I'm not sure inches and inches of ribbing are really what I need, even if that look is all the rage).
Endless Summer Lara - not too splitty and comes in great colors.
Life lines - how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Next time:
A slightly larger swatch to get a better feel for the lace pattern.
Only needed to go up one needle size for cast on, not two (some larger yo's near the neckline resulted)
I never did resolve my difficulty with the ribbing looking just a bit different than I expected it to, despite trying 4 different combinations of wrapping stitches and twisting stitches. I think that the cotton just doesn't have enough spring to hide any fiddling with the stitch pattern. I might have had better results if I had been able to go down a needle size. However I discovered the hard way that with my Needlemaster set the plastic joints are LARGER in diameter than the smallest needles, which made the smallest needles useless of course because it is nearly impossible to get stitches made out of any non stretching fiber over the joint. Grrr.
However, I did avoid the dreaded gap between the knitted columns... I just switched it for a looser row of purls, which I think is at least less obvious.

And naturally, there had to be a skirt to match. :) I decided to forgo shorts this year and instead declared this the summer of skirts! I wanted something light and fresh to compliment the lacy top and I like how the eyelet pattern is almost an echo of the twining trellis of vines.

I traced a lovely wool skirt my mother gave me, so the pattern is pretty much "made up." It is fully lined and the waistband was formed just by folding/pressing/folding again and top- stitching. The only really ugly part is the invisible zipper I inset between the lining and the outer fabric. I should have practised (especially with a new machine) but when it comes to sewing I'm lazy I guess. I was able to make my other mistake a design feature - I didn't quite get enough yardage to keep bottom edge of the four panels on the fancy edge of the fabric, so one quarter of the skirt is "upside down." But I love the unexpected funkiness of that imperfection. Over all, the skirt came out nice and long and swishy. Other lazy crafters take note - eyelet skirts need not be hemmed!

I feel like I've blabbed on long enough, but here are a few pics of a bag I made for Senora Fuerte. My favorite detail on this bag is the flower I included on the inner pocket. The pretty little design elements in the pattern just beg to be pulled out and given the spotlight. It was all I could do not to buy myself yards and yards more of this fabric!

Finally, as promised, a pile of fiber loot. I am ashamed. Ashamed of my rampant participation in our consumer culture. I now understand the saying "an embarrassment of riches." And I didn't even photograph it all!
As you can see though, I fell down at the Knitpicks sale (Runway Knits, The Opinionated Knitter, Last Minute Knitted Gifts, 4 skeins of Gloss) The LYS (new IK), and the Flawful Fiber shop's grand opening (top). But that skein of sock yarn was courtesy of the generous ADD Knitter (thank you!) via her blog contest - so I don't have to feel guilty about that one right?
So much yarn... so little time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Distant Shores

I have been absent from the blog a little longer than expected, but I return with good news. Our
vacation was prolonged because the talented Mr. M got a job interview as soon as we returned from NY - so we took a few more days off and headed to the coast. It all went well and it looks like we will be relocating there ASAP. We are very excited about this opportunity - it really is Mr. M's dream job - but it was a difficult decision to move further from our family. Thank goodness for airplanes! We will be able to turn the 10 hour drive into a 4 hour trip. So many other things are still up in the air though - the sale of our home here, finding housing there, packing, moving, and a new job for me. Our life together is never boring!

In crafty news: I Andean plied a single on my drop spindle and it came out nice and squishy and soft! I have about .5 oz here, as that seems to be all I can do on the spindle at one time. I was aiming for worsted weight and I though I would probably be a little on the light side, but the yarn really bloomed. I have another single that is "relaxing" a bit. I was thinking that I need to not spin the singles so much because they seem to kink up. However, I like how my first single plied. Overall I think consistency with the thickness of the yarn will really help me - then I won't have so much variation in the amount of twist needed.

It is about bed time here (I know, I know... I'm getting old and boring) so I'll leave you with a shot of some great vintage buttons that I got at a flea market in Ithaca, NY. There are some glass buttons, shell buttons, and even bone buttons in there. All for a dollar! The lady also had a big box for only $10, but I chickened out thinking of all the things I already have to move. That may prove to be the one that got away...

I'll try to post tomorrow, I'm looking forward to sharing some great pictures of new knitting books, new roving and some blog contest loot that all arrived while I was out of town.