Caught in the rainbow

New blog look. Waddya think?

My other projects are all yelling at me, ‘Hey, what about me? You love me. What’s going on?”

But my swatch to test colors, that turned into a sock and is now becoming something else, a vest? takes over. The color changes are mesmerizing. Blends are just sucking me in and I have stopped all other work for this growing swatch, sock, sweater thing. I want to wear these colors on my body like a flag to say ‘I blended these. This is just my leftovers; you should see the other stuff’. But the yarn would be lying – these colors, these lonely leftover bobbins and yards are the growing story. The bits you pull out when you are spinning something nice or the big clump of a dirty twisted end. That’s what is blended into this yarn that has become magical. I am totally enchanted.

Merino, for me, was most often a yarn used for gifts. I can’t remember ever using straight Merino in a project for myself, though I did blend it into a few things. Even in my old professional wardrobe, I had a few purchased Merino sweaters and they were almost too good to wear. For a frugal person, when you have little extra bits of something luxurious, you use them up. This swatch thing has become a glorious colorful celebration of frugality and, in that, has its own beauty. You can see the knitting, but Oh, I wish you could feel the sleek but spongy tactile sheet of it forming under my fingers. You would see why I am swayed, nearly swooning over this.

Ok, maybe I have been finishing a little of my other projects. Check out the nifty decorative join on the side of the foot where the two layers come together. I just love a refootable sock, but these were nice. I would change the pattern a little however. I would go down the top of the foot, still in two strips joined, as you see here. Then the toe, then the bottom of the foot. Last the heel. Remember, this is Kureyon. That heel isn't going to last 5 minutes on me without reinforcements.

Oddly enough, I have searched and searched and found no one, that is NOT ONE BLOG that made these socks as called for in the pattern. Why do you think that might be? If you have blogged them, or even just knit them, I'd like to hear from you.

I would do 'em again, without the fussiness. In fact, I just purchased the Kureyon in a different color to work on just that thing.


Noodling around with superwash

Boy, I just love superwash merino. I forgot how soft it can be. I have been digging into my new stash of it, and picking out a handful of this and a handful of that. It is all from The Black Lamb and you will be hearing Laurie's name a lot around here. Her stuff is great.
I haven't been carding it, just finger fluffing. I have carded the black and yellow, but I am still spinning. This stuff just goes on forever.

Now the leftovers are interesting too. You know when you are plying how you have just a tad left on the bobbin and perhaps a couple of yards left on another bobbin? Or on the carders, how you didn't really clean them fully and pile on another color? The little bits of mixed colors were very fetching and I had to get them on needles right away. So I am trying my version of a sideways sock - made up as I go along - striped periodically with the black. Inspiration comes from Magknits Bakerloo obviously, but I just looked at the photos and was off and running. I wish it were daylight so I could show these colors better, it is just so interesting. I switched to straight needles and it is just growing so fast. My preference is for tall socks and I could plan color changes if I wished. But I think I will just let this one go and see where the colors take me.

And today's question - how many blogs do you read on a regular basis? I would be embarrassed to show my full blogroll, as it is quite long. How about yours?

Gates of delirium

Yes, folks, I am back! Fever is a bad, bad thing. I did manage to knit and spin a bit finally, but I am weak and shaky still. The sock yarn is all drying now and will show up another day, but this is some silk, Rambo and yak down. The mousing mitts were for my DH but they ended up being a little loose. We plan to overdye them a nice rich wine color. So what you see below just got all ripped out and is being reknit. I want them perfect before dyeing. I want some serious blooming of the yak in the dyepot.

And I am off and running on some socks. I like the Ram's Horn, but the side gussets were just not wide enough for the big guy's freakishly large instep. Fitting socks on him has been a difficult task at the best of times. These socks are made of Romney and are made to stand a lot of wear, so knit quite tightly. I love them but I ripped out too and have restarted. Notice the subtle color change in the orange? It just makes them more lively in person.

So is it your instep that sits opposite of the heel? And when making an afterthought or peasant heel on a sock, should I pick up more than half or less than half if his instep is large? Oh, I just never get this right. Unless his socks are ribbed, he just can't pull them over his large heel/instep/ankle area. I am happy to take all suggestions. The area measures larger than his full calf, with slim ankles. How the hell do you fit this?

I added 1x1 gussets that I increased in this area and hope that works. This sock is in its third incarnation.

Moral: Knitting with a fever is a bad idea and will lead to much ripping. Drink soup, watch old movies and don't pick up those needles.


Out of commission

Too sick to spin, too sick to knit, too sick to blog. Damn, Damn, D A M N ...


Flitting badly

I seem to be jumping from project to project. I am a glutton at the yarn feast on my living room table. It is a good thing for my arms too. I am stretching my knitable hours out by switching to smaller and larger projects. A few rows here, a few rows there and things are getting done. If I didn't switch, I would suffer the dreaded elbow tendon problems that had me out of commission for 4 months last year. Four months without knitting, spinning or anything fun. Four months not even being able to hold a book. Made me more than a little nuts.

So today's finished items are a pair of alpaca and wool gauntlets (the other one is drying) for mousing. The big guy also got a pair of silk, Rambo and yak mouse gautlets but they are drying too and you shall see them tomorrow. Think it's been cold here? We both have to wear gloves to mouse around.
I seem to be doing a lot of garter. I haven't for about 20 years, but here it is all over my current projects. I love the edge you get on two color garter when you (remember to) twist those stitches.

My socks are garter too. Oh, and had I read the pattern before, I would have known they were refootable. Actually a wonderful place for people to learn the technique. And yes, before you ask, I am purposely putting the corners at the top of the sock.

All this garter is really setting in. I was at Knitpicks and saw they had up the Einstein coat in one of their yarns. Then it hit me - you know the 'play the match game' moment. I had this great yarn in just about the right gauge. And I always wanted to make the Einstein. Got gauge, woohoo! And I was off before my swatch was even dry. I am using Atlantic in grape. And is it going fast.

For those unfamiliar it is the Einstein Coat from The Knitting Experience by Sally Melville, book 1. I think everyone has already made this coat, it was so popular. And I had swatched in the called-for lopi. But the Altantic is firmer and so much nicer. It won't seat out like some yarn. At first, I thought it was going to be only good for rugs - it was stiff and trashy. But once washed it turned soft and lovely.

Originally I thought about a felted bag and the swatch was just so soft after washing that it stuck around as a coaster because I wanted it to be a sweater instead. Not the match game worked and I have a jacket rapidly forming under my needles.


Snow on the Sandias

Snow on the Sandias
Originally uploaded by scouts_swag.
I have been reading fellow Albuquerque fiber person Scout's wonderful blog for a while. She has great colors on her yarn and I so recommend her products. But today I have to show you a photo she took (one of many nice ones). Maybe this is why she has such nice colors, eh?

This is where I live. Isn't it lovely? We get great sky.


Spin, span, spun

Been a busy little spinner girl, I have. See that big basket of superwash merino? I have been turning it into lovely spongy twisted sock yarn. What fun. It comes out of the bag very dull. It is dull and, OK - a little clumpy, when I spin it. It becomes this fun shiny springy and surprisingly smooth stuff when it is spun. How cool is that? A magic eraser for quick bad spinning.

I have also been working on some soft Rambouillet. This just keeps going and going. I couldn't add my leg to the skein photo for scale, but if I had, you would see that skein is as thick as my thigh. And it is only 6 oz. I must have a gajillion yards there. I just love spinning with no project in mind. Makes me really have some great project dreams.

And my last entry for the day is a tiny little computer wristlet in garter of some baby alpaca leg wool and Nature Spun Fingering doubled. I am spindle-spinning this as I knit. I plan just to have a button hole thumb for best mousing.


Must Have Tools

What fiber processing tool would be the last one you give up? You know, if disaster occurred and people were beating down your door begging for fiber tools and you were sharing, that sort of thing.

I could live without my ball winder as I could use a pvc pipe as a Nøstepinde. I could live without my carder, if need be, as I could hand card with dog brushes. I could live without my spinning wheels, if I had to, because I could make a spindle out of almost anything. We all have different physical limitations and strengths and some decisions would be based on that, of course.

The tool I must have, must keep above all others surprises even me, but it is my
Babe's Electric Skein Winder. I just love this thing. It works just as well as you could ever want. And you can stomp down on the pedal and really make that sucker fly. Or not, if you want a soft and gentle winding. I know, you are thinking, 'PVC, who wants a big white thing in their fiber studio?', aren't you? Well, I do!

I love tools that work well. And clean up well. This may not be an issue for some, but have you ever wound off skeins of Angora? The haze can get everywhere. Wipes up with a wet paper towel. Or commercial mohair? I once wound 6 lbs of mohair that had been in 2 oz balls. Think about that for a minute - a mountain of fluff. It had all been in a musty basement and was stinky, but a severe bargain. How long would you have been winding it into skeins by hand? It took about 45 minutes by hand and would have been faster if I could have tied knots between balls any faster. Blazing speed.

You look at this simple tool and think that it will be too flimsy for use, but I beat mine to death and it works well. From spinning wheel, bobbins, yarn balls, or cones, it really flies. My biggest criticism is that it is just a hair larger, skein-wise, than my adjustable LeClerc winder that lives near my ball winder. That tool gets used less and less these days.
What is your must save tool?


The value of tools

The thing I remember most about my Dad was that he always had a tool in his hand. He built things and fixed things and invented things when he needed them. As a consequence, I love tools. Good tools. The Right Tool for the Job.

Why is it, then, that I have such a collection of crappy knitting needles? I have dents and scratches, bad joins, lousy points and bent needles. Oh, I have some nice Addi Turbos, but doesn't it always seem like you don't have the size you need? Or length? I know a lot of you have moved on to sets like Denise, but I wasn't satisfied with the joins or tips.

And then it happened. Knit Picks Options came out and I had tool lust. The tips were pointy without being sharp and the joins were smooth. I had wicked tool lust. I waited to see if people said bad things - did the plating flake? No. Did they become unscrewed? No. Were the cables difficult? No, they seemed to be even better than my Addi Turbos.

So when my birthday rolled around this year and my very sweet MIL sent money for tools, I jumped. This was a tool set that I would touch every day, thinking of her fondly. And it is a set of needles that should last for life. I love my drills and grinders, but a set of tools to use every day for knitting - now that is true luxury. Why did I ever wait so long to do this?

The needles are better than I expected. They are really smooth and nice. The biggest criticism is that the double pointed needles are a little too short and I would like to see them longer, especially in the bigger sizes. I am tickled. I had a lot of fun putting them all in their little pouches. I have tried them all and really like them.

Birthday Swag:

Of course, I did need a little yarn to go with it and Renaldo is helping with display. I was thinking of making the Saguaro from Knitter's 78. I got gauge with the Connemara.


Refootable Example

The emails have been building up for an example of refootable socks, so here it is. The top is a delicate kid mohair, Romney lamb and Angelina blend. It is knit in a loose gauge to let the mohair bloom. This wouldn't have stood up very well for a sock bottom. So I found a matching sock yarn with some percent nylon and knit the foot bottom for strength.

In this case, it was knit from the top down and when I got to the heel, I just continued the top ribbing until it came to my toes. Then I switched to sock yarn and shortrowed a toe. The bottom of the foot was knit back and forth, picking up a stitch from the ribbing on the edge and knitting the two stitches together. Short row heels brought me up to grafting the two open ends together

I also knit these with just the foot portion to start, including toes and heels. Then I add whatever handspun fluff on top. I have a box full of foot bottoms in Knitpicks dye your own sock yarn. I toss them in a dyepot along with whatever top yarn I like at the time and always get them to match. These can be prepared ahead by hand or machine and keep me from darning.

Lost in socks

I have so many socks on the needles right now that, just for comic relief, I have spent some time cruising to get away from them all. I found a nice site that has info on creating your own walnut needles and a wire gauge / needle size conversion chart.

This lead me off onto a Japanese short row site with great photos.

After quite a bit more time lost on sock sites, and there are too many to mention, I went back to my drudgery. How is it that the second sock always takes 3 times longer than the first one? Especially in the inch before the toe decreases?

Most of my socks these days are refootable. I love the book SWAN socks - Socks Without a Name by Lucy Desgrey. Though this is for machine knitting, you can easily adapt it to hand knitting using a short row technique. The book can be hard to find - try eBay. The colors in the sock pic show each section and they can each be a different color or technique, such as mosaic on the top and ribbed on the bottom. Great concept. This is especially useful if you have a soft and delicate yarn or stitch, such as cashmere lace, but want them to be worn with Birks and not wear out the heel.


Year end tally

I live with a man who understands fiber. He weaves, dyes and actually spun a few times. He learned to crochet from his French Grandmother at a very young age. The day he learned to weave, I knew that 1/2 my stash was his. Kinda like the division that occurs during a divorce without the pain of separation. So between us, we have a LOT of UFO's around the house.

But I don't know if I could list them or even count them. Can you? It would take me hours of valuable knitting time alone to mention those in the living room, let alone the loom room (major fiber storage area) or machine knitting room (formerly painting studio).

I see a lot of people count their ufo's and I think "Pikers". These people don't know what it is like to be swayed by that pure angora, then called by my handgrown colored cotton or my best friend's Rambouillet. I don't think I want to be numbered among the counters who tally for the new year.

Ok, I am fickle. I LOVE fiber - all fiber. I am a fiber slut of the greatest magnitude and I am not ashamed. I spin without a project in mind most often. I swatch for the pleasure of the alpaca running through my fingers and not necessarily for a project. I knit for others, but also for myself and 95% of my socks are handknit. Only 10% use commercial sock yarn and most use handspun at some outrageous gauge. Fiber that leave this house in a project is rarely the color that it came into the house. I don't care if my dye spots. God, I am all that you all don't like about fiber people, right?

The thing is, I don't see why counting all those UFO's matter. I don't see why I can't knit with 8 strands of cashmere yarn or one ply of merino. So many people have fiber rules, and I guess that there are reasons for them. I just don't seem to care. I don't mind pills if I can get loft. For years, silk neps were BAD BAD BAD. Dye them and toss them in with some wool and you have a lovely tweedy yarn. Last year bad, this year good.

I think this all comes from the fact that I haven't stepped foot in a mall for over 5 years and even then it was only to get my driver's license renewed. I don't have a clue about fashion. As a geologist, I was taught to examine life in Geologic Time and fashion doesn't mean anything if you are looking at 10,000 or 10,000,000 years. I am here for the pure sensual pleasure of fiber passing under my fingers and don't mind who knows it.

So if I don't have a roll call for projects finished this year, or last, it is because I am so fickle. But also because I treasure them all so much. My husband's vest is done after 5 years. It was his music vest. 'Here you can see where we were at the John Prine concert'; 'Here is Bob Dylan'; 'This section is where we saw Reeltime Travelers for the first time - I must have liked them a lot - look how my gauge changed'. His music sweater was not due to be done for at least 5 years of concerts and all that great music is in there. It is harder than you think to save a lovely project that long and only for music. To finish it was so sad. I really love my knitting projects and how they fit into and capture our lives. I love to hear the big guy say 'This sock was made from the first Indigo dye class that I had with Judith MacKenzie McCuin", or "I dyed this with a plant that Rita Buchanan pointed out to me". The joy that I learned some technique in a class with Stephenie Gaustad or Alden Amos means so much more than any label from any designer out there today.

I give up a nice neat house for a lovely pile of fiber near me. I relinquish my hopes for order in order to wallow in interesting fiber. If you ever visit - good luck on finding chairs without needles protruding or tables without a spindle. I forever give up all chance to count my ufo's and give to to the fun of fiber.

My new year's wish to you is to do the same.