Zen And The Art of Darning Socks

Sometime toward the end of last week it became apparent that almost half of Mr. Knitting Sarah’s handknit socks were starting to go threadbare. When it rains, it pours, right?! I mentioned to Mr. KS that I’d started another pair, but that he might need to supplement with some ready-to-wear socks. He informed me that he’s totally converted to handknits and doesn’t intend to go back. I was kind of shocked because I thought he might be kind of ecstatic at the chance to integrate some RTW socks into his rotation, but as a knitter I knew I needed to jump into action. That one pair of socks I was working on was not going to cut it! I needed a new plan. I knew it was time to get darning!

I spent the first 2 days of the great sock repair extravaganza of 2019 (which included a whopping 4 pairs of socks) working in Swiss darning. “Swiss darning” is the same thing as duplicate stitch, for those who weren’t aware. I just think “Swiss darning” sounds way more elegant so I like to go with that name (because I can!). In any case, one pair had a pretty small hole near the toe which was relatively easy to fix. The next pair we decided we would just let nature take its course because the socks are 6 years old and entirely stockinette where Mr. KS prefers a 2×2 ribbing on the top of the foot and cuff for a better fit. It’s weird to relegate them to just be worn until their eventual demise, but we agreed that it was time better spent to work on a new pair that fit better than to prolong the life of this pair.  And so I was down to the last two pairs.

The first pair, I darned. And I darned. And I darned.

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I was reinforcing the foot in each sock as well as areas along the decreases on the toes, all of which were showing a lot of wear. I didn’t have any yarn that matched, so I just grabbed a skein of similar yarn that I didn’t think Mr. KS would want a full pair of socks from. Since the mending would all be hidden within a shoe, the bolder colors would be hidden, after all. After what felt like Swiss darning forever, Mr. KS was ecstatic with the outcome.

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I wasn’t really going for pretty with these, just functional. A band-aid for the sock shortage of 2019 and I’m fairly confident they’ll do the trick for a while. I was really concerned that the patches would feel weird or uncomfortable, but Mr. KS assured me they were great and he was very happy.

After darning what felt like a lot of real estate on these, I was curious to try a different technique. Instead of the relative tedium of Swiss darning — as elegant as that name may sound, it is still pretty grueling — what if I would just cut off the worn part of the foot and re-knit the whole thing through the toe? Surely the ability to go into auto-pilot knitting with a basic foot and toe would be faster than trying to neatly Swiss darn 1/3 of the footbed, right? I resolved to try it and compare. I mean, you’ll never know unless you try!

Normally I’d look up loads of tutorials since I’d never tried anything like this. I mean, I’d never cut my knitting for steeking even! But I just kind of visualized what I thought would work and went for it. I’ve probably knit close to 100 pairs of socks at this point, so I am pretty confident in the ins and outs of handknit socks and figured based on the terrible state of this pair, I wasn’t going to make them any worse!

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It was surprisingly easy. I used a set of one size smaller DPNs to pick up the stitches just because it made the process a little easier. The variegated yarn also helped me to stay in the correct round when picking up stitches. Since I could literally pick anywhere to start, I chose a round that both stood out from the one next to it and was one consistent color all the way around just to make picking up that much easier. The ribbing was a bit trickier until I knew what I was looking for, but I figured it out. Before I knew it, I had the sock on the needles, the worn foot & toe cut off, and I was knitting it off the smaller needles and back onto my 3mm (Mr. KS prefers sport/DK weight socks, hence the 3mm needles). Easy peasy!

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For those wondering, this was the old foot & toe.

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You can see it was already darned once and the rest of the knitting was almost threadbare.

I took no scientific measurements because I was just exploring the technique this time around, but I would venture to guess that for this extensive of a mending project it was probably about equal to Swiss darning the whole thing, if not a smidge faster. And the second sock was definitely much faster to get set up and back on the needles. I took a little more time to add some heel reinforcement as well with a little duplicate stitch… er… I mean Swiss darning.

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I was already that far into it with the toes, I might as well take some precautions on those heels as well, right?!

And I’m happy to report that Mr. KS loves his mended socks!

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I just looked them up on Ravelry and these are also 6 years old! Considering Mr. KS spends 10 hours a day, 5 days a week minimum on his feet and has been wearing this pair regularly for the first 4 years of its life and pretty exclusively in rotation with about 5 other handknit pairs the past 2, they have held up remarkably well, I think! Yes, they are still worn, but the fact that re-knitting and reinforcing might buy another year or so out of this yarn is pretty remarkable. And knitting a couple toes and heels is much faster than knitting a whole new pair of men’s size 13 socks!

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And what a great way to use a yarn that’s not exactly Mr. KS’ palette, too!

I’ve been pretty shocked throughout the process at Mr. KS’ enthusiasm for this mending of his handknit socks. Honestly, I always kind of look at him when we’re discussing it, waiting for him to crack a joke about my dedication to such a weird process because there are a lot of things in the knitting and spinning world that he loves that I love, but he himself does not understand. It turns out mending is not on that list. Instead, he explained this morning that he really appreciates the process of not just pitching the socks when they are worn. There’s something special, he said, about giving them a second life. And in that sentiment, there is something that touches my heart.

I’ve come full circle now to see that the mending honors the time commitment of creating the socks in the first place. To give them a little TLC, a gentle refurb, a small time investment in order to let them live a longer life — that’s placing a value on them that I don’t think we consider as much as we probably should when it comes to the ‘things’ in our daily lives. In the throes of the project, it was easy to see it as a tedious task, for me to make comments about how it was a true sign of love to mend because it is so boring. I won’t say mending is my favorite thing in the world to work on, but by the end of this process and by seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for his drawer full of mended socks, I’m looking at it all from a much more zen place. How wonderful that I have the time and skills to be able to take these socks that were essentially a couple weeks away from the trash and breath another life into them. Another season of hiking, another year of toasty toes on the cool floors on spring mornings, another first truly chilly day of fall — another year of handknit socks.

The next time I take on a mending project, I have no doubt that I’ll approach it with more patience, maybe even just a hint of reverence for the time and love this project represents and how mending it is really the way you honor that. I’ll be sure to document it better for all of you, my friends, so you can add the same handy skills to your knitting toolkit. And so that you, too, can discover (if you haven’t already) zen and the art of darning socks.

 

A Box Full of Memories

As the leaves are past peak here and the temperatures feel mostly down for good, it’s become apparent that I needed to re-organize the cedar chest where I keep most of my handknits. I did not take a “before” picture, but to know what it looked like all you have to do is imagine a heap of handknits wadded together in a ball and smooshed down — that was about it!

As I started pulling stuff out and tossing it into heaps with like articles…

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I realized that I don’t just have a wealth of handknits, I have a box full of memories at the foot of my bed.

Folding sweaters and pairing socks and separating out big shawls from scarves from lace shawls, I was reminded of the history of each piece. And I thought, what a sweet nostalgia-inducing collection I have here at my fingertips.

There’s a scarf I crocheted for Mr. Knitting Sarah before our kids were born. I bought the yarn back in Madison when I was still working in the area.

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Somwhere I have a picture of Mr. KS wearing it in a McDonald’s playland one winter day having taken our toddler babes to run some energy off.

There’s the first shawl I ever knit as a shop sample when I took on teaching knitting…

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Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West made in Malabrigo Silky Merino. This was way back when I had to print a Stephen West pattern from a blog he posted, I think, because he was not yet publishing patterns.

And there is the last item I knitted as a knitting instructor…

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The Carter Cardigan by Laura Chau knit in Lamb’s Pride Worsted. I never got to teach the class, but it was and still is an amazing sweater!

There’s this Quaker Ridge Shawlette by Susan B. Anderson

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I knit it in Madelinetosh Pashmina. When I made this one, I remember thinking it was the height of luxury as it is so soft and cozy and the colors were just a beachy dream to me.

There’s this little kerchief I knit in the skein of qiviut that Mr. KS gave me as a gift one holiday…

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The pattern was kind of a train wreck, but I muddled through and it’s still a favorite piece as it was such a thoughtful gift.

There’s this little sweater I knit as a shop sample and then my daughter later got to wear…

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I always meant to gift this to another little girl, but I’ve never gotten around to it.

There’s Deco by Kate Davies

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I knit this as knitalong with a friend shortly after I left teaching. I made it five years ago and it’s probably the best made sweater I’ve knitted. I like to think it was the excellent company during the process!

There’s my most worn sweater — Agnes in Quince & Co Puffin.

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It looks pretty rough and could use a spin with the Gleener to clean up the lint, but in its almost 3 years of life, it’s been on almost every wintry outdoor adventure I’ve been on. That is a lot of wear and oh, how I am thankful for this sweater!

There’s my second Three Waters Farm knit (the first I gifted away)…

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Samothrace Wings in Broken Pavement that taught me what a true joy it was to knit with handspun.

And my first handspun sweater…

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A Featherweight Cardigan in Birds in the Holly from Three Waters Farm, which is still a layering favorite.

And there’s this little handspun shawl knit with a friend’s handspun after she said, “Let’s do an exchange.”

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It’s a Pebble Beach Shawl in the colorway Pebble.

 

There’s my first pair of socks for the Socks with Sarah KAL

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Still in use almost 5 years later.

And there’s my first 100% handspun socks

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Oh, the fit on these is divine. My heart still flutters a bit when I put them on.

And then there’s the knit where it all started, my very first handknit…

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Before Ravelry, before my kids, before we bought our first house, knit in our last apartment in Madison. A simple custom cardigan knit in Lamb’s Pride Bulky so it is basically like wearing a furnace, I’ve never actually worn it anywhere as my first teacher didn’t really teach me about gauge… well, you know how that story ends. Despite the ill-fit, I’ve not yet had the heart to get rid of it.

Along with these memories are a bunch of other socks and sweaters and scarves and shawls, each with their own story. And isn’t that just the best part of handknits — they each hold a place in time and in our hearts. Tidying up my cedar chest quickly turned from chore to a stroll down memory lane. Not a bad way to spend a few minutes this Monday morning, tidying up a chest to make it easier to use my handknits and sifting through a box full of memories.

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Second Annual

This past weekend was the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and while I was unable to attend this year, it brought back a lot of truly wonderful memories from my last time there. Last year, if you remember, a large group from the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group traveled from near & far to get together and meet up for this event. It was just totally incredible! This year, the same amazing group of women set-up a similar get-together, but this time in Maine. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards for me either this year, but they’ve been sharing stories and images with us and my heart is full knowing they are having a fantastic time.

True to form, these enthusiastic band of ladies haven’t stopped at just the travel and adventure, die-hard knitters that they are, they had the idea to put together a knitalong to coincide with the whole event. It’s such a grand idea as it allows those who can’t travel to still participate and be a part of, even if the travel is not in the cards. Last year, the group decided on Rainbow Warrior and believe it or not, a year has passed and I’ve yet to share my finished project. Well, friends, today is [finally!] the day!

My Rainbow Warrior project has existed in not one, but three incarnations. It started as this…

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But it just didn’t suit me. So I switched it up and tried it with this combination…

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But it was still not quite right. It was a little too Green Bay Packer-y for me (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just wasn’t tickling my fancy). After ripping attempt #2 I had this inkling that this skein might be the ticket…

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It’s a skein of KnitCircus Greatest of Ease Lothlorien Panoramic. And I thought… this gradient + that grey I’d been using — SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock in Silver — I think that could be it! With the holidays coming and other things on my mind, I tucked both skeins away in my cedar chest only to unearth them again months later in mid-June.

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And I just knew it was going to work almost instantly. And in a few short weeks, I was finished.

Since that time I’ve been wearing it. And loving it. And not photographing it. It actually made it on my little shawl and sweater rack near by bed so I could throw it on on chilly morning. Finally, this morning — inspired by my latest knit — I brought it down to the mannequin and took some photos to share. Would you like to see?!

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After being through two combinations I did not care for, it’s even more satisfying seeing how this version turned out.

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The pattern was really fun and easy to knit and I adore how the gradient worked with it. And while I can take or leave a picot edge, on this shawl, I really love it. I think it suits the texture perfectly.

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Beautiful. And already in my regular rotation of shawls!

The reason I opted to share this with you today is that just like last year, the Friends of Knitting Sarah Group (really, it’s a shame my name is on it because they are well beyond me at this point!) have selected a new KAL to coincide with the get-together and while a group are knitting away in Maine, those of us unable to attend are enjoying their photos and stories and knitting away on this year’s selected pattern, Down The Road And Back Again.

This year, I pulled a few options out of my stash and put them in a bit where I could walk past them, get used to them together, and ruminate on my options. Then, as I was contemplating photographing my options and posting them to the group for opinions and thoughts, I thought what about…

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It’s my handspun Merry Poppies spun with Three Waters Farm fiber and a skein of String Theory Caper Sock in Dark & Stormy I received as a gift a couple years back. I’d started a project or two with the Caper Sock, but never found anything that was good enough. Before losing incentive, I wound the Merry Poppies, weighed both skeins (the project goes by weight, so awesome for all you handspun knitters out there!) and started. And unlike the many false starts of the Rainbow Warrior, this one I knew was going to be perfect from the get-go.

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I am just smitten with everything about this project. It’s fun to knit and the colors just work.

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I am struggling to put it down — just one more color change, I tell myself all the time! It’s one of those knits!

So I don’t think the second annual Friends of KS Fall KAL will take as long as last year’s (at least I hope not!), but there’s no denying that both are/will be lovely and that I’ll get a whole lot of wear out of both of them. Even though the first took a good long time, this event has quickly become a KAL I really look forward to and enjoy knitting. Here’s to many more years knitting with this wonderful group and to many more adventures and opportunities to get together in the future!

Pink For The Peanut

In yet another installation of a series we could call, ” Hey, Let Me Desperately Try To Catch Up On Things,”  I’ve got a sweater FO to share. As a sweater for my daughter knit in worsted weight yarn, it was a quick knit that took less than 2 weeks to knit up. Unfortunately, it then took me over 2 months to sew on its 2 buttons. It guess it’s true that you win some and sometimes you spectacularly fail!

In any case, the chosen pattern was Bulle by Oomieknits which is available on Ravelry. I’d had this pattern bookmarked since my daughter — who we often refer to as our Peanut — would have fit one of the smallest sizes and since she is precariously close to growing out of the largest, it was time to get this sweater knit up.

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I’d found some Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted in a pretty pink on close-out from Jimmy Beans Wool a while back and knew it would be just right. After the last time I made a sweater for my girl out of Malabrigo Worsted which is decidedly NOT machine washable and she proceeded to roll down a freshly cut hay field in it, forever embedding bits of hay and thorny do-dads into it, superwash was a must in my book.

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It really did knit up in no time at all and the yarn — although not what I’d call luxurious — is really exactly what you want for a child’s sweater. Soft enough to the touch, durable, and machine washable.

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As I said, the knitting was done in under two weeks. I picked out the buttons within the next day or so and then it sat… for more than 2 months!

I’m happy to report that I finally got it finished though. This morning — finally, finally — I got the sweater, the buttons, and the needle and thread and got to it.

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And now it’s finished!

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It’s a very cute design and it fits her nicely.

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And let’s not forget the pockets knit from my handspun!

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I like the whole sweater, I love the pockets.

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Oh! And look! I managed to get a smile!

Its been a few hours since I took these photos and my girl is still wearing the sweater, so I think that bodes well. Pink for the Peanut, this project turned out just the way I wanted it to. Here’s hoping that even with my delays getting started and then getting finished that my girl doesn’t grow out of it overnight!

Simply Brilli[g]ant!

Last October I started out on a project. Over in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group, we held a designer based spinalong + knitalong dedicated to the work of Nim Teasedale. She’s a brilliant designer and just a very awesome human being in general so it was a real treat to participate. I picked her design, named Brillig, and two braids BFL + Silk Three Waters Farm fibers, African Sunset and Iron Blue, which I spun into two chain-plied fingering weight skeins.

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And I started knitting…

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And I kept knitting despite this nagging feeling…

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Something wasn’t quite right with the edge. Finally I couldn’t take it, so I went back and read the instructions more carefully and realized that when slipping a stitch on the saw-tooth edge I was holding my yarn in the wrong spot.  Note to self: when your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, something probably isn’t and you should dig deeper, preferably before you spend a month knitting on and questioning a project.

So about a month later, I found myself here…

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Starting over. Sure, I could have just kept going doing it the wrong way so it was all the same or I could have left what I had and worked it correctly going forward. There was a fair bit of soul-searching involved in this choice. At the end of the day, though, having spent that much time spinning the yarn and as much as I loved the color combination, I just had to rip it out and do it right.

So frog it I did.

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Ribbit! Or shall I say, “Rip-it!

Thankfully, once I make this kind of choice in my craft, there’s not a lot of post-decision hand-wringing. As the motto of Wisconsin dictates, I just move “Forward.”

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And forward I did go, with so much relief and happiness in the improved edge. Totally worth it, totally the right call.

I got it re-started and then the the SAL + KAL ended and I lost momentum. I worked on some holiday gifts, spun a lot of yarn, picked up my Find Your Fade and finished that, made a couple pair of mittens, and then I came back to my Brillig.

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It’s a pattern I really enjoyed, so it was easy to come back to. Somewhere in the knitting it became evident that I was going to run out the Iron Blue I needed…

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Because this saga was not dramatic enough yet, I suppose. In any case, I managed to pick up an extra 4oz of the fiber that I needed and I got right to it.

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I didn’t mind the extra spinning. I love this colorway.

Meanwhile I kept knitting toward the end…

 

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I finished up the spinning and came to the end of the first skein of Iron Blue…

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And in a few short days, I was done.

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I adore the color combination.

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And I think the whole shawl is just so elegant.

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Totally worth the extended hours put into it — the spinning, the knitting, the ripping, the knitting, the extra spinning, the knitting — just 100% worth it. It is simply Brilli[g]ant!

 

 

WIP Round-Up

After yesterday’s post, I had a few people interested in just getting re-acquainted with my WIP situation. I can certainly oblige and –let’s be real — it’ll certainly not hurt my own mental organization of the whole thing!  A quick run-down of what’s in-progress — ready, set, here we go!

First, I’m 90% sure I’ve shared this already, but my Three Waters Farm Merry Poppies singles are finished & waiting for plying!img_1392

This is a 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Silk blend and it’s destined for a simple 2-ply. I can’t decide if I want to ply on my Jensen, too, or switch it up and ply on my other wheel. It’s making me wonder about a second AkerKate for the upstairs to give me less  excuse to put starting the plying off. I’m still considering. I do have my next spin lined up for this wheel, my June Top of the Month Club installment from Three Waters Farm so I really must just get plying one way or the other!

Oh, and last week I finally got my new Jensen flyer, bobbins, and scotch tension pegs finished. I don’t yet have they new scotch tension peg on, largely because I have it set up in double drive, but…

 

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Isn’t the flyer just lovely?! (The bobbins are, too, of course, you can see them below — they are the lighter ones.) The new pieces are not as red as the originals, but I knew that would be the case because the wheel is so incredibly red for cherry wood. When I spoke with Audrey Jensen on the phone, she said they sourced their cherry wood from many places across the country and sometimes a shipment or a location would just produce a more red hued wood. Add into that equation the 22-years the wheel had to mature in color (as cherry does) and there was just no way they’d be the same. In any case, it’s hard to tell from this photo, but the pieces actually blend better than I expected which is great.

You can also see from the stored bobbins that I bought a couple extra spare bobbin holders. They fit right in pre-drilled holes on the wheel and make for perfect on-board storage. Odds are I won’t spin with all 6 bobbins sitting on the wheel, but since the wheel is in a spot that I like to keep neat, tidy, and compact, this option lets me store everything in one place. I love that.

On my Schacht Reeves I’ve continued to play with variations on long draw. This is a long draw/supported long draw spin of some Bumblebee Acres rolags — you may recognize them as the ones I picked up at Shepherd’s Harvest.

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The rolags were a fun mix of fibers and thus my spinning is pretty uneven as I worked on spinning outside the comforts of the whole world of short forward and short backward draw. I’m interested to see how it comes out!

And then, when I should have started plying, instead I started spinning some Three Waters Farm Maybela’s Promise Shetland fauxlags I rolled a couple weeks ago.

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For these I am working with a supported long draw. I’ve found that however I’m rolling my fauxlags currently long draw is kind of a challenge. I really need to work on that technique. But in the mean time, it’s pretty manageable with a supported long draw, so I’ve been going with that. I’m amazed at how much more confident and comfortable I am with different options for how I draw my fibers since delving into long draw. It’s really made a world of difference. For this spin, I separated and rolled by color and breaking with all my norms, I am aiming to have a few mini skeins that are color specific. The thought is perhaps trying something with colorwork at some point, pairing these mini color specific skeins with a natural Shetland I have in my stash. Oh, such fun plans!

One friend here asked how my weaving is going. Well, this is what I’ve been looking at for a few weeks now…

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I ordered this Sett Checker from Liz Gipson aka Yarnworker as soon as I saw it. As a total weaving neophyte, I find it extremely helpful. When I mentioned that I was only as far as having the yarn wound, said friend replied, “Yarn wound for weaving means you are one step closer to weaving.” I LOVE this attitude! Sometimes it’s all about whatever baby steps you can make toward your goal! If the word “LOVE” above could shoot confetti and do kicks, it would be closer to how I feel than simply bold and italics! It is such a perfect sentiment for all our crafty endeavors!

Based on another suggestion (I read all those comments, I really do!), I have dug out and started on a project that was supposed to be part of our Friends of Knitting Sarah meeting last September, Rainbow Warrior. To be fair, I started it with everyone in September, but tried 2 different color combinations that I wound up not really being that into. But I had a hunch about another… that has sat, wound and ready to knit ever since. Upon reading my in-between-project-ness yesterday, I saw, “Hey Sarah, what about that Rainbow Warrior?” Oh yeah!!!! Perfect!

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I got started this morning and I’m hooked! I’m using the Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in Silver I was using for it last fall, but this time for the contrast color I’m using KnitCircus Greatest of Ease gradient in the Lothlorien colorway. I actually got this yarn in the yarn exchange we did at our event in September and from the moment it crossed my mind after failed attempt #2, I just knew this yarn was meant for this project. I think it’s going to be simply spectacular with that gradient!

And last, but not least, two spindle projects!

First, my Reykjavik from Classy Squid Fiber Co

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This has been on-going for an embarrassingly long time. At some point, I really need to buckle down on this one… although probably not until after the Tour de Fleece. Clearly I don’t have much urgency here, but I do have a contrast blue to spin and ply with it whenever that time comes.

And then there’s my Giant Celosia from Three Waters Farm

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The singles of this one are all spun — I just need to wind the last Turkish spindle onto a bobbin and start plying!

And that, my friends, is what is in the works here! What are your current WIPs?!