Playing Catch-Up

You may have noticed some general quiet from me over here. Nothing is wrong, that’s just me doing a very poor job of prioritizing my time. Once the polar vortex moved on, we were excited to get outside.

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We found this spot — that little triangle in the lower left is a spot where an otter was entering and exiting the water. You can tell because you can see his little otter slides straight out in front of the point.

And we found some super cool icy prints…

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This one we believe is from a skunk!

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And of course there was ample sign of the mighty beaver!

We also made a quick trek out to my parents’ house where we got to play with grandpa’s “tank.”

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And then we drove back in a snowstorm.

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This photo was probably during the best driving conditions of the trip. We started out in rain, then it turned to freezing rain, and then heavy snow. Suffice to say, the trip took about twice as long as normal and the car was coated in a sheet of ice when we got home.img_5890

This photo was taken after we dug ourselves out from getting stuck trying to get in our driveway. Ah, winter in Wisconsin!

Oh, and yesterday we had another snowstorm.

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No big whoop, just another 14 inches.

Bear is ecstatic with this development.

The snow is probably another 8″ deeper now than when I took this video and, as you can imagine, every trip outside is mostly hilarious with this little dude as he tries to navigate through snow that is basically at eye level with him.

In between shoveling and school and more shoveling and and laughing at the dogs and more shoveling, I’ve been managing to get some knitting, spinning, and setting handspun yarn done. I finished my Weekender Sweater and it is washed and dried and ready for photos. And I started a new knitting project, a Milliken vest in Quince & Co Ibis.

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I missed the announcements provided by Quince & Co and was sad to hear that this yarn is discontinued. I used it for my Fairbanks sweater last year and now the Milliken vest. I’ll be sad to see this base gone, but I’m sure Quince & Co has more goodness coming, they always do!

I finished some spinning, too. I’m foggy on the timing of everything because I’ve just kind of kept on spinning, but I have this pile of handspun to photograph and share with you.

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With the return of my maiden from Schacht, I finished the singles for my 2-ply challenge over in the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder SAL.

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I had so much fun with this and I cannot wait to talk ply twist when I get into it! For those who didn’t know it, I did post up a video on prepping fiber, especially when it relates to this Organic Polwarth/Cultivated Silk blend. I have a set-up now that is pretty easy to do tutorial videos so if you have something that you’d like to see, please just let me know and I’ll see what I can do to create the content.

While I let my singles rest, I spun this bobbin.

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It’s from Nest Fiber Studio and the colorway is called Young Woman at  Half-Open Door. I had a bag of Organic Polwarth and I was gifted a second bag in the Organic Polwarth + Silk blend, so I broke both bags in half and am mixing the two. The blend may turn out to be a disaster, but I’m optimistic it’ll work out just fine. These things usually do.

I’ve got some school tasks, more shoveling, and snow pup play on the agenda for today, as I slowly work on playing catch-up here, but expect a post that is largely a finished handspun yarn dump coming up later this week and hopefully a few snapshots of my newly finished Weekender as well. I just wanted to touch base today and catch y’all up on where I’ve been. While you’re waiting, I’m answering “Ask me my top 3” over in my Instagram (@knittingsarah) stories today — pop over and ask me for a top 3 list!

 

 

 

 

The Polar Vortex and Me

It’s been big news all week — the Polar Vortex. Schools and businesses across my fair state of Wisconsin closed and the governor even declared a state of emergency for a day this week due to the extreme cold. You know when Wisconsin says the cold is an emergency, it must be bad!

At our humble abode in north central Wisconsin, I think our lowest recorded air temp was -31F and — as if to add insult to injury — during the cold we had some decent wind as well forcing the wind chill to register at it’s coldest -52F. It was cold enough that Mr. Knitting Sarah — whose motto is “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” — even stayed home. I don’t think that in the almost 20 years I’ve known him that’s ever happened.

I left the house Monday for a lunch, but from that time until yesterday afternoon I didn’t leave the house except to scamper around the back yard with the puppy. As part Newfoundland, part Shepherd, part Great Pyrenees, Bear doesn’t mind the cold (as illustrated on this GIF from the trail last weekend).

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In fact, I don’t know that there’s much on this Earth that he’s discovered in his 13 weeks on Earth that he loves more.

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In fact, we wonder if he may in fact be part wolverine (not really, but he sure does move like one!).

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So even when it’s -20F outside, he still requires short jaunts around the yard. Moose is having no part of those shenanigans (proof of his ‘older & wiser’ status, clearly), so the job falls to me. There are worse things in life than playing with a puppy, even in subzero temperatures. Thankfully, our family has no shortage of cold weather gear.

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Of course, being (mostly) captive indoors doesn’t really bother the fiber artist in me. I worked on the sleeves for my Weekender sweater. I got all the way to the ribbing on sleeve #1. And then I tore it all out.

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My gauge was just a smidge off and when you are decreasing based on rounds, not measurements, of course, gauge being a smidge off throws the whole thing off. So rather than do a bunch of fudging mid-sleeve, I ripped it out, took the time to do the math, and now I’m back to within 5″ of being done. This kind of set-back is a little irritating, but I’d rather have the sleeves done well than doing the mid-sleeve mega fudging, so I don’t second guess or feel bad going back. Thankfully I did take good notes for sleeve #1, so I’ll be able to replicate sleeve #2 without any problem.

I’ve also been spinning away. I finished singles for my  Nest Fiber Studio ‘Hayride’ colorway.

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I fell in love with this colorway and got it from a friend willing to destash it to me. I’m excited to be working on it.

Part way through I started having some issues with my Schacht Reeves — the back maiden wasn’t holding its position and was causing pressure on the drive wheel to the extent that the screws that hold it in place were coming loose. I could still spin, but it was clearly not right and I didn’t want to cause further problems with the wheel. I emailed Mielke’s Fiber Arts where I purchased the wheel and they got back in touch with me in less than an hour. Within 24 hours we had an action plan with Schacht who will be replacing the piece at no cost as it’s still under warranty. The only bad part is I need to send the part in so they can be sure they get me a part that properly matches my wheel. “Bad” only because it means I’ll be without this wheel for an estimated 2 weeks. I was pretty bummed (and still sort of am!) to be without my “big wheel” because it’s my main wheel for spinning singles, but as Mr. KS pointed out, I have 2 other wheels and a whole bunch of spindles. I will manage (somehow).

And manage I am! I’ve been spinning away on my Jensen Tina 2!

This is Summer Palette from Three Waters Farm. I may have gone to my stash and grabbed anything with the word “Summer,” “Hot,” or ” “Heat” in the name Tuesday evening as the hinges on our door froze to the point I used a blow dryer to defrost them. Next up is “Roasted Gold” — again with the nod to all things warm, even as temps are above zero today for the first time in a week.

For those who may be missing stories of my dear Moose, I assure you he continues to be spoiled and loved…

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And to instruct me in the fine art of the nap. Undoubtedly he is occasionally bummed he has to share me with his attention grabbing little brother and when he goes back inside alone because his feet are sore while I continue to chase Bear around the yard, but I make sure he gets lots of attention and love. He is and always will be my spirit animal, after all.

I hope you all have stayed warm and busy this week, too!

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(gratuitous cute puppy picture)

The Forest Or The Trees: Lessons In Consistency

It seems quite appropriate that as I awoke to 6 inches of new snow and subzero temperatures that today should be the day I share my Frosted Daybreak results with you.

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Each month the colorway featured in the Three Waters Farm 2019 calendar will be available for pre-order in the shop and this fiber happens to be  January’s Calendar Colorway (available through January 31st). I’ll be using the Calendar colorways each month in conjunction with the Skill Builder SAL hosted in the TWF Ravelry group and this month’s theme was none other than the elusive consistency.

I shared the prep for this spin back on January 4th

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Splitting my fiber into 6 equal nests, my plan was to spin a traditional 3ply yarn matching the colors as I went with the theory that equal divisions of fiber would produce similar color runs throughout my singles.

Remember how I said no plan survives contact with reality? Well, the same was true in this spin. Near the end of my second bobbin, I opted for a 2ply instead of a 3ply — and instead of using 2 nests per bobbin, I added 3 per bobbin. I made this choice for a couple reasons. First, I’ve never tried to match color runs outside of chain plying and as I got spinning I had a feeling starting with a 3ply might be a bit chaotic. I also was spinning my singles rather thin, to about 28 wpi, and I know for a fact that I am not as consistent with lighter singles as I am with those that are closer to 22-20 wpi. I was pretty sure my color runs would not be synced up as well as I would like and that would lead to some waste in my spinning — amplified by the 3rd ply — as I pulled out parts of my singles to keep the colors lined up.

As you can see if you really look closely, these plies are just not as consistent as you would hope for a consistency spin.

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Don’t get me wrong, they are pretty darn consistent, but when you are trying to pin that 28wpi down so 4oz of fiber matches that measurement on the nose… well, this just is not that spin. 2-ply it is, I decided!

I will say that the plying was… it was more nerve-wracking that I’m used to. The truth is, I probably lost 3-5yards (maybe a bit more) of singles trying to keep the color runs synced. It was never as much yarn as I felt like I was losing, but it was always more than I’d hoped I would have to pull out to keep colors lined up. As I got to the end of the plying though…

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I could see that even if each and every length of yarn I measured wasn’t consistent, overall, it was pretty darn good. This led me to ask: What are the components that play a role in consistency and — ultimately — what are we really talking about when we talk about a consistent yarn?

Is consistency in handspun hitting a perfectly matched wpi at each place measured across an entire skein of yarn? Is it plying to the same angle and hitting a specific tpi (twists per inch) across the whole spin? Is it spinning a skein that on a whole knits up at a consistent fingering (or sport or DK or worsted or bulky) weight? After this study, I’ve come to believe the answer is complicated.

If I look at my finished skein, it’s easy to see that I did not hit a perfect wpi on each and every length across the entire skein.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good. And it’s definitely one of the best 2ply skeins I’ve created with regards to consistency, but you can see here and there where plies are uneven. So, if I’m using the yard stick of “perfectly match wpi in each length of yarn” I’m off the mark.

If we start talking about TPI, or twists per inch, I’m probably a bit closer. Samples taken throughout are between 6-6.5 twists per inch with a few outliers where I got a little flamboyant. When the diameter of the 2 plies diverge. I tend to adjust the angle of the twist in this spot to really play-up that little poof.

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That, to me, is art. That’s why I handspin yarn. So while it may adversely affect the overall mathematical measurements in my spinning, I would never want to sacrifice that for technical perfection. That’s just me.

What about consistency in weight across the spin? A-ha! Well, there I did a good job.

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Across the skein, this yarn produces a consistent 14wpi. So, despite the fact that where you take individual pieces of the yarn and find the measurements will be inconsistent, the bigger sample set, 1″ at a time, gives me 14wpi, every time.

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And, at least in my opinion, it also gives me a really beautiful yarn.

So where does that leave me with this study in consistency? Did I succeed in creating a consistent yarn?

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If spinning consistently means you have the control to spin the yarn that you want, then I have to say the answer is no… and yes. What I was working toward was consistency across the board complete with 28 wpi singles across the skein. In dissecting the skein and the details of the yarn, I was not as perfect as I was aiming for. BUT the goal was also a fingering weight 2ply yarn in which the color runs synced up. And I have in my possession a skein of Frosted Daybreak that is a 2ply fingering weight in which the color runs match up quite well. So are we looking at the forest or the trees? Which ultimately defines a consistent yarn?

Where I land, at least for now, is that consistency is more complicated than I originally thought. Who would think that minor inconsistencies across a skein would lead to a consistent skein on a whole? It feels so counter-intuitive and yet I have a skein of Frosted Daybreak in my possession that says it’s wholly possible. Like so much in spinning, all the elements involved in a spin interact and play a vital role and somewhere in the mix of it all yarn is born.

I’ll continue to study the individual elements and work toward mastering a greater level of perfection across them. Clearly there is room for improvement. At the same time, though, I’m quite happy to know & to celebrate that even if my skills are a work in progress, it doesn’t detract from my finished skeins. I’m of the opinion that while the trees are all important, even if they aren’t all perfect, on a whole the forest still makes quite a pretty picture.

Spinning Toward Consistency

Two weeks ago on the nose I shared a post entitled Skill Building for Spinners. In it I shared my prep work for a spin focused on consistency as part of the Skill Builder SAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group. Of course my vacation interrupted progress on this project and you might be at home seeing my latest “Today on my wheel…” installments thinking, “Whatever happened to the consistency spin she prepped? Why is she avoiding it?” Well, I was thinking that as well. And then I had a bit of an A-HA moment when I realized that I actually have been working on that consistency spin… I just haven’t yet gotten to that particular 4oz of fiber. Let me explain.

Since the Tour de Fleece last July I’ve been spinning a lot of 2-ply worsted weight yarns on and off in between other projects as I work on a stash of yarn for a Vivid blanket project. My most recent spin before leaving on vacation I’d been working on my Jensen Tina 2 as well as a couple free-for-all spins on my Schacht Reeves. I love throwing in free-for-all, spin as you will spins into the mix with my more intentional spins — I find the practice keeps me loose and my spinning is better if I’m not always overthinking things. In any case, neither of these projects had my head or hands in the mind space of consistent lightweight singles.

Upon my return, it just didn’t feel comfortable to hop right into my Skill Builder spin on my Schacht Reeves. I’d be aiming for a 40-36wpi single as opposed to 22wpi single and to do that I knew I’d want to move to a smaller whorl to make the treadling less taxing and the process more efficient. It’s here that my A-HA moment kicked in as I examined how I spin for consistency and to a certain specification. I realized I rarely just sit down and spin a certain yarn. I settle on a certain fiber and the yarn I want to spin it into and then I work toward that in a series of spins. While I can certainly sit down and crank out whatever yarn I need or want, my preference — because it is just a more joyful, relaxing way to spin — is almost always to get to that chosen project slowly & methodically, by way multiple spins. A journey & a process, more than a one-and-done skein.

So step one to build up to my Skill Builder was, to first get settled back in with my Schacht Reeves and to focus on consistency at the yarn weight I was already synced into. I selected 4oz of Polwarth + Tussah Silk 85/15 in the Kelp colorway from Three Waters Farm to start…

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I spun with just the intention of being mindful and a focus on consistency at that same 22wpi on my medium whorl at the 14.5:1 ratio at which I’d been spinning. This will be another for my Vivid project. I’m not being super fussy about consistency on this project, but it was a good spin to kind of start me in the right direction.

For my next spin I moved on to the next faster whorl, my “fast whorl” at the 20:1 ratio and I spun to the 36-40wpi to which I’m working toward.

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This, again, is a silk blend. Since my Skill Builder spin will be a silk blend as well I wanted to work in silk blends as I work up to it. This time it’s Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk 40/40/20 as I’m not too worried about the differences in the fiber blends beyond the fact that I want to stay in that silk blend realm. The focus here was not to really push that consistency, but to get the rhythm of the lighter weight singles in my hands and in my head and to make sure the whorl felt like a good fit for the yarn I was spinning.

And now, I feel sufficiently ready to dig in to my Skill Builder spin! Unfortunately, I’ll have to do a little plying before I can get there to free up some bobbins as I’ve been a lazy about getting to my plying lately, but that won’t take too long. My Tina has rested up since the harrowing vacation and is ready to handle the plying duties. That’s next up on my to-do list and then it’ll be off to the races on my Skill Builder! That is, of course, if Bear will let me. He’s grown attached to not just one wheel…

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But two…

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I’m guessing when the Tina makes her appearance, he’ll decide she is his as well!

Hat Mania

I don’t know if it’s the weather or the appeal of the simple, easy, quick project, or just necessity born of the fact that I have successfully lost or at least misplaced a number of hats by this time of year, but this time of winter I tend to go into a hat mania.

Just before Christmas, I shared my finished Rikke Hat. I’ve been wearing it a ton, so I was aptly inspired to finish up my Acai Hat. I wound the yarn at the same time as the yarn for the Rikke Hat. It’s handspun Three Waters Farm Superwash Targhee in the Put Off My Blues colorway.

 

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It’s a beautiful colorway that makes me super happy, but the way I spun it really made for a busy fabric. I start with a stockinette stitch hat pattern, but I was not a fan of it so I opted to switch gears and find a pattern that is more textural.

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I’m really happy with how the Acai Hat worked with it and it proved a great project to work on with the puppy in the house. Interesting to occupy my mind that was tired after chasing the pup all day, but easy enough that I could still knit it on auto-pilot to an extent.

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It’s quite different from the hats I usually knit and that’s exactly why I like it!

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I think the texture compliments the busy colors nicely.

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And I have just enough slouch in it for the relaxed look that I love.

It won’t shock you to know that I’ve got 2 more skeins of yarn sitting on my desk, all wound and ready to become hats. Let the hat mania continue! You can’t have too many hats during winter in Wisconsin, can you?!