Been a While….

It’s been a while since I last wrote. 2 months and 2 weeks, to be exact. And my life has not been devoid of knitting nor crafty stuff….no, not at all! There has been a lot of travel, and not a ton of knitting…..but there has been some.

The first adventure I had after the last post was completely unexpected. I was at a conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I was reading a blog post by Stephanie Pearl McPhee where she mentioned flying from California to Minnesota. At first I thought “how cool, soon I’ll be flying from St. Paul to California!” and then I wondered, “will we overlap in the Twin Cities?” (If you don’t know, those cities border each other.)

The answer, my friends, is yes, and this happened at Steven Be:
Stephanie blesses my sock

Steven was absolutely fabulous and was in full force that day. The yarn shop has yarn and knitted things everywhere. I loved it from a chaotic good perspective. I bought some sock yarn and some sock needles, and immediately started in on a sock. And I had Stephanie sign some books, of course.

The next adventure I had was when I found the Mass Ave Knit Shop in Indianapolis. It was about half a mile from the hotel I was staying at, and I spent several hours there on a Saturday before leaving for the airport. I picked up some plain white yarn (purpose to be revealed later) and knit for several hours….though at this point I cannot remember what I was knitting! For arguments’ sake, let’s say I was knitting a pattern from Jeri, a fellow Common Cod Fiber Guild member, which she showed at Show and Tell during our September meeting. The pattern is called “Vestboro”, and this is how far I got as of mid-October, so it’s a pretty good bet to say that’s what I was working on:

Vestboro center

The knit shop was large, and had tons of yarn! Due to all my travel this year, I have not been knitting and spinning as much as I used to. Last November I stopped being able to keep up with my monthly fiber club, and I stayed behind all year. Suffice it to say, I am overflowing with yarn and fiber….and so is my fiber room. So I am limiting my souvenir yarn…for now.

The knit shop was full of women knitting, and wonderful local donuts, and instead of souvenir yarn I bought myself an accordion-type box to store my dpns in by size. It was a great place to spend several hours knitting.

I attended Rhinebeck aka NY Sheep & Wool, where I acquired a Bernina 1230 sewing machine, circa 1989–1998. I haven’t yet started playing with it, as I have been WAY too busy with other things – Halloween crafts, holiday gift knitting, and test knitting! At Rhinebeck I took 2 classes – a spinning class with Abby Franquemont (I can cross that off the bucket list now!) and a dyeing class with Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer, in which I learned a ton about dyeing and made this beautiful rainbow:

my rainbow of dyeing

I did not knit for much of September and October because I was doing other crafty things – specifically, I was hand-sewing my Halloween costume – Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas. It came out better than I expected, which was great, because it was for an awesome wedding:

Julia as a nurse and me as Sally, from the Nightmare Before Christmas

And yes, I also knit the wig.

In November I was test knitting. And test knitting. And test knitting. I will show you pictures once they are public, but for now, things remain secret.

I took a mitten class at Mind’s Eye Yarns and still have not finished knitting the first mitten, much less the second mitten. But I learned a few good tips along the way and am excited to use them.

Remember that white yarn I bought in Indianapolis? It was for some classes with Lucy Neatby, who is chock-full of amazing tips and tricks for knitting. I filled out a wishlist with stuff I want, from patterns to DVDs. Lucy is fun, smart and easy to learn from. I took three classes with her – buttonholes, finishing, and socks. Her handouts are invaluable. I took time off work and spent a pretty penny to learn from Lucy, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. She’s THAT good.

And then it was December…..the test knitting was finally finished, and then it was time to knit gifts! I knit hats for my brother-in-law and his wife (in grey and red Ushya yarn), and I did not, sadly, take any pictures of those hats. I also knit a hat for my mother-in-law in green, and again, no pictures. I do have pictures of the tiny slightly felted purse I made for my aunt-in-law (using handspun Portuguese Merino in the “A Bug’s Life” colorway) and the DNA scarf I made for my father-in-law out of Kauni (that I bought while in Halifax on my knitting cruise in July):

Felted wallet

DNA Scarf

And then during and after Christmas I knit 2 chemo caps for a cousin-in-law – one was brown and one was black with sequins (so she’d have “evening hair”) – here’s a pic of me modeling the brown one:

fun fur hat in brown

So with all that done, I have started spinning again….although I find I cannot spin for hours like I used to. I’ll have to work up to that again. In the meantime, I’ve been spinning an hour or two at a time in the evenings, and yesterday I took a break to knit myself the Mind’s Eye Yarns free Waffle Stitch Hat pattern, so I could finally have a hat for myself:

my hat!

It was super-quick to knit, and I love it!

Fractal 3-ply: A “gradient spin”

When I think of gradient spinning, I think of starting with “gradient-dyed fiber” such as Fiber Optics’ gradient collection. Sadly, I have not yet gotten my hands on on of them yet. However, a fractal 3-ply attempt last year gave me the push to try a kind of gradient spinning.

I got a great batt from Fiber Stash back in April at the Wild and Woolly Weekend in Vermont. The 3.7 oz batt is 98% Corriedale, 2% twinkle, in a blue-purple, light blue, and black – here it is, unrolled:

The first step was to divide it into three sections, for a 3-ply, so that each section had each of the three colors. I then split 2 of the sections into even thirds, based on the colors, and the last section was split into sixths based on colors. I split the sections based on weight.

The idea is a fractal ply, but because I am doing a 3-ply, I will do it so that 2 of the sections are the same color, and a third is changing. The middle is the part divided into six:

I finally finished spinning, plying, skeining and washing, and here’s what the finished result looks like:

I think a shawl is in order to show off the lovely and subtle color changes. This produced 284 yards of yarn at 12 wpi. I have an identical batt which I will spin the same way, and will knit with all of it to make a good-sized shawl.

Owls, Towels and Shawls, Oh My!

I am so excited about tonight’s Common Cod Fiber Guild Meeting featuring Pam Parmal of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts talking about the collection strategy for textiles and fashion. And since I last wrote, I have finished a few objects…..

The first is another Hoot Cardigan, this time made out of Universal Yarns Supreme Cotton Batik, that I picked up in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year. I love the Supreme Cotton line from Universal yarns, because it is super soft. Unfortunately, I have only been able to find it in LYS in North Carolina….I hear that is changing soon, though! Here’s the cardigan, made for a friend of mine who just had his first son:

And then there’s the August Weaving Club from Spunky Eclectic – cotton dishcloths! I did not follow the pattern; instead I tried out a herringbone/pinwheel pattern. It came out wonderfully!

I ended up making 2 towels, one a bit shorter because I ran out of warp, but here’s the shorter one hanging from a peg next to our sink (please excuse the dirty dishes and Guinness cans to be rinsed).

The bigger one is in constant use as Tony’s “potato cozy”. That’s not a euphemism, Tony eats a baked potato like one would eat an apple, whole and uncut. Because it’s hot, he uses a towel wrapped around it to hold it.

And finally, the pièce de résistance. This is a Color Affection Shawl that I made from 3 different skeins of Novita’s Polku yarn, which I acquired in Finland earlier this year.

Here’s a close-up shot of the ‘center’ of this assymmetrical shawl:

And a little zoomed out:

Here’s the full-size shot:

I also spun up a “fractal 3-ply” which I will write about next time.

Finished Objects!

So, I mentioned in the last post that I had finished 2 objects – Spunky Eclectic Weaving Club, which I opted to do a table runner. It was my first experience with using a pick-up stick. I’m happy with how both came out (especially after ironing the scarf…I don’t even iron clothes!).

Crooked Little Tony scarf

Pick-up-sticks table runner

I’m thrilled with how drapey the table runner is. My only problem is that I have no idea what to do with it – it’s 33 inches by 22 inches. It’s too short for a scarf, but I don’t have an appropriate table to use it on. It’s a superwash merino/bamboo/viscose blend. Folded over a towel bar it’d make a very long kitchen or guest towel, I guess?

Any ideas?

More Travel Knitting, Finishing Tony’s Scarf Again

It was very important that I write my previous post when I did – Wed 25 July – because the very next day, I went on the Sheep Ahoy Knitting Cruise from Boston to St. John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have posted pictures of the fun I had, but I’d also like to highlight the knitting I did.

I started knitting a Color Affection shawl, in some Novita Polku that I bought in Finland in May. I started the shawl the first day, which was mostly lounging around while we were in the port of Boston (where we all embarked) and then while the cruise ship was traveling. I continued the shawl on Friday 27 July, and then on Saturday 28 July we landed in the port of St. John’s, New Brunswick. I chose to take a bus to Fredericton, to see the city hall, learn some history, and visit Yarns on York to meet local knitters and take a class on Newfoundland Mittens, aka “Newfie Mitts”. I got a bit done, but I believe I will rip out what I’ve done, make it smaller, and do the “windows” in the multicolored black and the background/wrists in the green. Still, here’s the progress shot, even though this will be frogged later:

On Sunday, I chose to do one of the two classes offered at The Loop in Halifax. The class I chose was one on how to do thrummed mittens, and the instructor Mimi was amazing. I did not take the class for the Bermuda Scarf/shawl, but I heard that the 2nd class was not as great, probably due to the first class running very late and Mimi running out of steam (teaching 2 classes in one day is tough, and who knows if she even had time to eat!). Given that, I’m glad I did not stay for the 2nd class (I did buy the pattern and yarn for it, so I can make the shawl), and instead did a 10-mile bicycle tour of Halifax. At any rate, I did enjoy working on the thrummed mittens, and here is my progress (I haven’t done anything with it since that weekend):

And the inside looks like this:

I learned lots of great tips from Mimi, like using a wool with a lot of lanolin in it, so it’s “sticky” and holds the thrums in better.

There was a lot of knitting that weekend, and in the few weeks that followed. This past week I finished knitting Tony’s scarf, after having to spin more yarn and buy more on Cape Cod while helping a friend do the Pan-Mass Challenge at the beginning of August. I still have to finish the scarf by weaving in the ends and blocking it, but it’s finally the right length, and Tony will be able to use it this coming fall/winter.

I also finished the scarf I was weaving (the June Spunky Eclectic weaving club), but I still need to block it before taking a picture of it. A new weaving club for August is on its way, so I’ll have something new to warp soon.

I am not going on a plane until the end of September, and my next travel is scheduled for mid-September, around Rosh Hashanah – I will be going to the New York City area for 2 weekends (coming back to Boston for a wedding in between). I hope to finish the Color Affection Shawl soon, and get pictures of both it and the woven scarf before long.

Travel Knitting

So, I recently went to several Latin American countries (and one Caribbean island) to speak about database technology. For those that are interested, I spoke at a conference and a 6-country tour. I had long plane flights and plenty of waiting, as well as some relaxing time, so here is what I got done:

I participated in the Tour de Fleece.

I worked more on my top-down Cecilia raglan cardigan. Before I landed in Boston I was able to get to the point where I put the sleeves on hold, so I’m down to the armpits:

Cecilia cardigan progress

I finished all the yarn I had for Tony’s Crooked Little Scarf. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too short, so I’ll have to find some other wool to ply with the Louet Black Diamond, that will match the purple, and then knit on it some more:
Tony's crooked little scarf

I made a baby sweater for an impending baby girl that my friend Linda is having. This is made out of Universal Yarn’s supreme cotton batik, which is the softest cotton ever:
For Linda's baby

Also out of cotton batik, I made another hoot cardigan for my friend Nathan’s son, who was recently born. I have to sew on the buttons and
for Nathan's son

And I made a pair of regular stockinette socks, with a sweet tomato heel, out of Mind’s Eye yarns amazing merino/tencel hand-dyed yarn. This yarn is wonderful, it feels like the socks hug my feet! The top pattern is just a knit/purl basket-type pattern (repeat 4k, 4p for 4 rows, then 4p, 4k).
pink/green socks

And I made some hexipuffs in my spare time:
hexipuffs

That’s it for travel knitting, for now. Tomorrow I depart for the Sheep’s Ahoy knitters cruise, so I hope to get a lot of knitting and spinning done then, too!

The Tour de Fleece

I participated in this year’s Tour de Fleece. It was particularly difficult for me, because the Tour de Fleece, which parallels the Tour de France, was Sat 30 June through Sunday, 22 July – 23 days, and all but the last 5 days, I was abroad.

I did not make a ton of yarn (I spun up about 2 ounces total), but I did spin on 22 of the 23 days, which was pretty good. This was mostly all spindle-spun, because I did not take my wheel with me – I traveled from Argentina to Colombia, to Ecuador, to Trinidad, to Guatemala, to Honduras, to Costa Rica, and finally home to Boston.

If you want to see the picture progressions, you can see them on page 1 and page 2 of my Tour de Fleece photo album.

Yarn Shopping in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires has a span of a few blocks, not too far from the Malabia metro station* where there are many yarn shops, I counted 15, and went into 11 of them before I had to stop. The shops are on Ave. Scalabrini Ortiz just southwest of Ave. Cordoba, towards Ave. Correintes. The Malabia metro station is on the corner of Correintes and Scalabrini Ortiz, which is 1 km away from the corner of Cordoba and Corrientes, and about half that until you see your first yarn shop. There was a small bit of yarn bombing between two of the stores:

Yarn shopping in Buenos Aires is quite different from what I’m used to in the States. The stores all look like this:

The yarn is beautiful, and well-organized, but there’s no signs as to what the yarn is made up of, how much it costs nor the gauge of the yarn. In addition, you’re not supposed to take the yarn out of the bins. If you look at the bottom right of that picture, you’ll see some white yarn and blue yarn that is actually sitting on top of a counter. That counter separates you from the wall, and there are people behind the counter who can help you get what you want.

So it’s very different from the experience I’m used to. I got the feeling that a lot of people knew exactly what they wanted to buy, or walked in and would say “do you have anything made of wool?” I was feeling a bit shy due to the language barrier, so I picked up a Spanish phrase: “solamente mirando” – it means “Just looking”. The people are friendly and willing to help, but I like the yarn buying process to be a solo activity.

There were 2 exceptions to the fact that most stores don’t give any information about their items.: Milana hilados and Yanabey. Milana hilados had tags like this near most of their yarn:

Note that that’s in Argentinian pesos, and at the time, this was less than USD $10 per 100g. Another thing to note is the price is per 100g, not per hank of yarn. You’d ask a sales associate to take the yarn down for you and they’d weigh it and ask you if that was OK (kind of like at the deli counter). Then they give you a slip of paper and you take it to a cash register, where you’re usually helped by someone else. Another interesting thing is that the stores seemed to be staffed by about half men, half women, which is very different from yarn stores in the States, which are probably about 90% staffed by women.

I bought 3 hanks of yarn there, for about $25:

Yanabey had signs like this:

These prices are still in Argentinian pesos, but they’re in kilos. So these prices are $171 for 1 kilo, which is $17.10 for 100g. This is a wall of “seda vegetal”, or “vegetable silk“. By the way, that’s about USD $35 per kilo. So I bought 6 skeins, which was just over a kilo, because the tree which this comes from (ceiba speciosa, or “silk floss tree”) is native to South America, and I haven’t seen “vegetable silk” in the US.

A lot of the stores have the recycled t-shirt yarn, and I bought some at Arte Natural:

BUTTONS!!!

I was thinking I might make a purse from the yarn, like this:

That purse is crocheted, but I’m sure I can come up with a knitted version.

Here’s what I bought from that store:

Here’s a Spanish primer for some important words:
cachemira – cashmere
acrílico – acrylic
lana – wool
seda – silk
alpaca – alpaca
hilo – yarn (plural: hilados)
Also, I found out that cashmerillo is just an acrylic yarn that’s very soft. Don’t be fooled by price, some of the acrylic yarns are *very* expensive, even more expensive than the wool.

I was very excited by the prospect of all these yarn stores, and after these three purchases I was done, and passed by 4 other yarn stores that I didn’t even walk into. In addition, there were at least 2 weaving stores, and another 2 fabric stores. Only one of the yarn stores had fiber to spin, and it looked like combed top, and was somewhat expensive (by US standards).

All in all, I was extremely satisfied by taking a few hours to shop for yarn, but I found the experience quite different from what I’m used to.

* I was instructed by a friend who had visited Buenos Aires to take a taxi to the corner of X and Y. However, I enjoy walking around and public transit, so I noticed the subway stop was not far, and decided to walk a few blocks. To those who are considering what to do, a taxi would have cost about 20 pesos (about USD $5) each way. The subway costs $5 for two rides, but of course is not door to door. Another thing to note about the subway is that it is not the most modern system:

And you will get plenty of people trying to make money – some play music, which you may be used to from other subway systems. Others will go around a subway car, handing out products, and then go around and either collect the product back or collect money. I was handed tissues and Disney books – or at least, they attempted to hand stuff to me, and I refused. It helped that I had knitting in my hands, but I saw them just place stuff on people’s laps if their hands were busy, so don’t just look away, make sure you actually refuse by shaking your head.

Note: I hope this article is helpful! Due to spam reasons, all articles on this site have comments disabled after a short time. If you want to leave feedback, you can tweet @sheeri or e-mail me at awfief at gmail dot com. (replace “at” with @ and “dot com” with .com to get the real e-mail address).

In My Crafty World, Sat June 16th

It has been almost a month since my last post on my crafty goings-on. Since then I have gone to Finland (click for pictures) and Charlotte, North Carolina, to speak at conferences. I bought yarn in both places, and have done a lot of knitting and spinning while on planes, in airports, and generally in the cities themselves.

Tony’s Crooked Little Scarf has gotten bigger, and while it’s not quite finished yet, it is over 32 inches long and you can see that the ball of yarn is getting smaller and smaller:

The scarf is done when I run out of yarn. Next week I fly to Buenos Aires, so I think I will be able to finish the scarf on the plane.

While in North Carolina, I went to some yarn stores, and picked up some Universal Yarn’s Cotton Supreme Batik yarn. I was very excited to find this yarn again, I had found it a few years ago when I was in the Raleigh-Durham area and visited Shuttles Needles and Hooks. It’s very very soft, feels more like a microfiber acrylic than 100% cotton, and was perfect to make a baby sweater out of. So I bought some more for some more baby sweaters….

I bought the cotton batik at YarnHouse, where I bought a skein of ribbon yarn, that made this scarf:

The yarn was difficult to work with, and I’m not in love with the final product, but I am sure there is someone I know who will love it, that I can gift this scarf to.

At Charlotte Yarn I helped my (new) friend Carrie Stokes pick out some yarn for a Mobius shrug, and helped her with the pattern for it – specifically I helped start it. I also got out of my comfort zone and bought some ribbon yarns.

I bought some leopard-print ribbon yarn, to make a scarf for my friend Victoria:

If you look in the middle of the scarf you can see the ribbon itself (there was some left over at the end) and you can see the holes cut into it. I feel like I could re-create this yarn, with 30 meters of wide yarn and a hole punch. This yarn cost $20, and for 30 meters I find that somewhat expensive (although for a whole scarf, it’s totally reasonable). The yarn itself is called “tecido trico”.

Also for $20 I picked up some purple ribbon yarn, which I am making a scarf out of (but it is not done yet):

While in Finland, I bought some amazingly colored sock yarn, from Novita, a Finnish yarn company. I have already made a pair of socks from half of one skein, and I have several more skeins which I think I want to make a Color Affection with. Here are the socks I have made (well, I am *almost* done making):

In this picture I really played with the settings of my camera, and I love how it came out:

Here is the other, completed sock:

I went back and played with the settings, lowering the F-stop as I did for the in-progress sock. I love how this came out:

Compare and contrast the two photos….I think I’m learning how to take some great photos! If you are curious about the pattern, it’s just a regular stockinette sock, with a Sweet Tomato heel, and 2×2 ribbing with an i-cord cast-off for the leg of the sock.

I also finished the Monkey Socks. Here is the 2nd sock:

You probably don’t remember what the first sock looks like, which is OK, here’s the picture I took a while ago of it:

As you can tell, they do not match….but they are from the same yarn! (Superwash Correidale….)

I have been on a bit of a sock kick – I started and completed a pair of socks from Mind’s Eye Yarns, hand-dyed by Lucy. It’s 75% merino, 25% tencel, and they are extremely comfortable socks…again, the pattern is just simple stockinette, with ribbing at the leg, and the Sweet Tomato heel. At $20 for 100g, I can get 2 pairs of socks out of one skein, so it makes me happy:

I have been spinning a fair bit, too. I got some BFL from Spunky Eclectic in the “More Coffee” colorway a while back, and decided a few nights ago to spin on my wheel while I was home. I have spun up about a bobbin and a half, and probably am about halfway done with it:

Also from Spunky is the May 2012 fiber club – also BFL, in the “Big Bang” colorway. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to spin it, so even though I still have not spun the clubs from December through April, I went to work on the May colorway right away. I’m still in love:

While in Finland I started to get back in touch with my spindles, spinning some of the Falkland mini-braids I bought at the Wild and Wooly Festival in April in Vermont, from The Spun Monkey Fiber Shoppe. I have spun just about half of one package – which is 2.5 mini-braids:

I also spun some of the fluff I received in a Phat Fiber sampler box I bought in February (a mixed box):

There was a spindle in the box that I spun on, but I have to say that the Bosworth spindles and my Golding mini ringspindles I have are so perfectly balanced, that everything else feels like spinning with a boat anchor (including the bigger Golding ringspindles, sadly).

The Monkey socks were knit using handspun, and I still have a lot of it. Rather than make tons more socks from the same yarn, which would probably result in 8 more unmatched socks, I decided to make a Cecilia. I have not gotten very far yet, I’m about 33 rows in:

And that’s it! For now. I look forward to making more socks, finishing Tony’s scarf, working more on the Cecilia, and spinning more, on my trip to Buenos Aires and various locations in Central and South America in the next month or so.

In My Crafty World, Sat May 19th

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged about my crafty world. Last weekend I went to a conference and afterwards surprised my mother by showing up at her Mother’s Day brunch, and the weekend before was a quiet weekend at home.

I finally finished the Color Me Pretty sweater for my niece, and it’s a great sweater-dress on her right now. I think she could get 2 years’ worth of use from this, this year as a dress, next year as a sweater:

And then I realized I had a friend with an impending baby to be born and I hadn’t made anything, so I quickly whipped up the Hoot Cardigan, which I saw Lucy Lee knitting at her weekly knitting group at Mind’s Eye Yarns now with an online store too! (note, I bought the grasshopper sky sock yarn a few weeks ago and still am in love with it) and I knew it would be perfect for the newest arrival in my tribe:

I have been working a bit on photography skills, and part of what I have learned is to not have anything directly on a background, because that will produce shadows that may skew the object a bit. The best thing to do is have the object hanging vertically somehow, and shaped (see how the Hoot Cardigan is done above?). So, in order to actually accomplish this for socks and gloves, I bought a plastic hand and clear plastic foot online. The foot looks very nice with the one completed Monkey Sock I’ve done:

Compare and contrast that with the pictures on my project page and you’ll see hands-down the plastic foot is the way to go.

Of course, this prompted my partner to tell me I had to stop buying body parts online.

I am currently working on the second Monkey Sock, so soon I will actually have a pair to wear!

I finished weaving the Spunky Eclectic Weaving Club April offering – the “This Way and That” scarf:

I need to work on not beating so hard – I learned that I should only beat once, but as my friend and amazing weaver Anna Branner says, “beating is more like placing the yarn.” So, I know that for next time!

With all this traveling I’m doing, I’m trying to knit while traveling and spin while at home (I’m bringing my spindles on the longer trips). So last night I spun up the Gnomespun Mythic Fiber Club Heqet I received earlier this month. The Manx Loaghton spun like a dream, although there is a very obvious “right” end and “wrong” end. I deliberately spun this thick, instead of my usual fine stuff, and then plied 2 strands together. The 4 oz bump yielded 3 3/4 oz of yarn, 172 yards at 7 wpi. It is soft and squishy and downy.

I also practiced playing around with my camera’s ISO settings. This first pic is on the highest ISO setting, 1600, which is good for very dark indoor scenes:

And here it is at the lowest ISO setting, 80:

It’s still way too sunny out to take the perfect picture, but I was not going to wait until the sun was at a different angle to take the picture. Note how the yellows are very washed out in the top picture.

That’s what’s been going on in my crafty world!