Early Christmas Gifts, Trail Cam Discoveries, And Some Knitting & Spinning, Too!

I hope each of you celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful holiday and got to spend some quality time with friends and family. Since Mr. TKS works on almost all the holidays, we are generally hosting my parents and a few others and this year was no different. I’m not much of a cook so I have always been a little terrified of the big holiday meals, but after taking the reins since our move I’m now to the point that I kind of enjoy the cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go until I can start bragging about my holiday meals, but I’m no longer just overwhelmed by the prospect. I find that getting more familiar with some of the recipes to the point that I don’t mind incorporating some news things has lightened the stress level quite a bit and made it much more fun.

Alas, part of my learning curve — because the learning curve is ever-present — this year was a reminder not to use a mandoline while trying to have a conversation.

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Yes, I managed to slice a bit of my thumb off. It bled an alarming amount which is the main reason for the giant bandage. In reality the cut was pretty small and while I opted to take that night off of knitting and spinning, I was back at it the next day.

In fact, I grabbed a new pack of fiber to test out the ol’ liquid bandage remedy.

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What a pretty way to recover! This is Vivid Choosing on Falkland from Three Waters Farm and it’s sheer delight. I’ve got just one small nest left to spin of it, so clearly I’ve been flying! After the long sweater spin, it was fun to just spin to spin.

Speaking of the sweater, I finished!

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My Tecumseh sweater is done and drying! I bound-off the final sleeve Sunday night and put it in the bath straight away. I’m not sure yet if I’ll need to lengthen the sleeves, so I left whatever ends I’d yet to weave in as is just in case I do want to add on some length. The sleeve length was close, so I’m guessing the relaxation brought about from the bath will do the trick. Usually I just knit them longer and roll the sleeves, but I thought I’d try something a little different this time. We’ll see how it looks in a few days — with the colorwork the drying is going to take some time!

Beyond these two projects, I’ve been working on my sock blank socks a bit, wrapping gifts, and — oh yes! —  I must not forget, I got an early Christmas gift! I went to run the dishwasher after dinner on Saturday night and apparently it have given up the ghost. We tried some troubleshooting, but it’s quite old and it was just fried. So in one of the world’s most exciting (is there sarcasm there, I’m not sure…) surprise joint Christmas gifts, Mr. Knitting Sarah and I treated ourselves to a new dishwasher! Try to control your enthusiasm!!!

I grew up in a house where we had no dishwasher so for 18 years I was a designated dish dryer while my sister washed. Maybe it wasn’t all 18 years because once I had a job and other obligations in high school I don’t think my parents expected much dishwashing out of me… but you get the idea. In any case, I don’t take it for granted and I fully recognize the dishwasher as a “want” not a “need” when it really comes down to it. While I may be a little sarcastic about my excitement for my Christmas gift, I am indeed very thankful for it. Perhaps the most exciting part, however, is that my dishwasher will no longer be called the “Quiet Partner” — I don’t know why, but that name has always been weirdly disconcerting to me. The new one will have a “name” that’s a bunch of numbers and letters — I’m much less creeped out by that!

And in one final bit of news from the Knitting Sarah homestead, I checked our trails cameras today after almost a week of not touching them and in between a zillion pictures of squirrels and deer, look at what I found!

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At first I thought it was our friend the Red Fox, but my friend asked a furbearer biologist she knows and was told it’s actually a Grey Fox. The good news is it’s a fox in the yard again (because YAY!), but the bad news is that Grey Foxes and Red Foxes don’t generally share territory, so as long as this guy is around, we aren’t likely to see our friend the Red Fox.

And that, my friends, is the latest from Knitting Sarah HQ. I hope your holiday was grand and that you are all recovering, enjoying leftovers, and maybe relaxing with some knitting & spinning, too!

Mastering Stand-Alone Singles

I’ve spun stand-alone singles in the past, but it was always kind of stressful and scary. If you’ve ever had a dream (or experience in reality — no judgment!) where you find yourself in public having forgotten your pants, that’s what spinning stand-alone singles has always made me feel like. Exposed. That’s it — they make me feel exposed. Plying forgives so much — you can work out that section that had too much twist or coax your yarn into a nice balance by convincing it to play nicely with its other ply/ies or get that thick and thin to finish a bit more evenly when you’re plying it. Singles though, you’re laying it all on the line. There’s no second or third ply to hide behind. It just is. You’re out there. In public. Pants-less.

But after spinning the Spring Lamb skein I last wrote about I realized that for the first time ever really, I wasn’t really stressing while I was spinning. I was just shooting for relatively uniform low twist yarn. And it turned out. No really, it turned out! The finished skein was a nice balanced single. The question in my head begged to be answered: Was this a fluke, or had something fundamentally shifted in my spinning? There was only one way to answer that question — spin some more singles & see what happened!

And that is what I did.

I walked up to my stash and grabbed a braid of Three Waters Farm 85/15 Polwarth + Silk in the Hot & Sweet colorway…

 

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I’d purchased this braid in a destash sale and it was a little compressed, so I took a few minutes to open the braid back up. This is the “before” picture — you can see there’s not a lot of air in this fiber.

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If you have a compressed braid where the fibers are a little tight, don’t worry! It’s totally normal. The air often gets smooshed out of the fiber in storage if the fiber is handled a lot or packed tightly. It doesn’t take long and it’s super easy to fluff it back up. I just gently open it up width wise and then gently draft the fibers out a bit — not so much that you pull the fibers all the way apart and break the braid (unless you want to for handling or color distribution purposes), but just enough to let the air back in.

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In this photo, the left side has be “pre-drafted” (air back in — whew-hoo!) and the right still needs to be. Spinning it is a night and day difference. You can pre-draft fibers for plied yarns, too, but especially with singles, personally I want my fiber to be super airy and easy to draft so I can focus on how much twist I’m using and the diameter of my yarn. I pre-drafted the whole braid, breaking it a few times totally by accident. I did keep it all in the original color progression though, so I spun it as if it were left as one.

I spun away comfortably, anxiety and worry free. I got to the end of my braid and…

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Hey now! Those looked like some not bad singles… again!

The morning after I finished this braid I wound it off…

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Oh, I was feelin’ this braid — in the late January winter, these colors were not just calling to me, they were screaming my name.

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I think it turned out so nice.

 

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It is about a DK weight yarn at roughly 11wpi and 260yards and it is a nice, balanced single. Again!

 

So, was that well done stand-alone singles skein I last wrote about a fluke? I’m thinking no. Something has definitely changed in my spinning. Have I been studying how to make singles yarns? Not explicitly. But what I have been doing is spinning daily for a very long time. And while I was spinning all those yarns I was spinning every day for so many days and weeks and years, I was subconsciously learning how to exercise better control over my wheel, getting stronger with my drafting skills, gaining a more intimate understanding of twist, and how to make more uniform yarns. Through curiosity and attention to detail, I unraveled so many handspinning mysteries and in kind, I learned all the skills necessary to spin a really nice singles yarn. So, even though I wasn’t studying to spin a good stand-alone single, I was practicing the skills I needed every day, even though I wasn’t really thinking about that. And then one day, it seemed that out of no where I had the skills I needed and beautiful singles yarns were coming off my wheel. Of course, it wasn’t magic or luck. In fact, I’ve been working toward mastering the stand-along singles yarn for a very long time. I just wasn’t aware I was doing it.

 

 

Recovering from the Happy Merry

I hope you’ve all had a happy holiday season thus far! Perhaps, like me, the hustle and bustle is mostly over for you and you’re able to settle back into a more normal schedule. I came down with a mighty cold right before the holiday — so much so that my darling husband took one look at me and declared, “You look awful!” one morning. He meant well, somehow, I think, and really I did marry him for his honesty, so I’m not sure what else I should have expected. The important thing is that he seemed to take my horrific appearance to mean I really was not feeling well and so make an effort to help me to plan a easier work load for over the holiday. I am super thankful for that!

In any case, I recovered (for the cold and the trauma of looking so hideous) enough to put it out of my mind and enjoy the family time — gifts and hosting and all that good stuff. My body is still working things out with the germ invaders though and we’re all discombobulated from the weird holiday hours, so we are taking everything light this week — school, housework, the works.

It’s been mighty cold out — we haven’t seen temps crawl out of the singles digits in a while. In fact, today’s 6ºF feels downright warm by comparison to the last few subzero days. But that hasn’t stopped us from taking short hikes. It really does feel good to breath that super cold air when you aren’t feeling great. And that quiet, crisp, low winter light is just…

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Restorative. On so many levels.

Plus, when it’s below zero, you tend to have the trail all to yourselves…

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We never go super far in the below zero temps because that kind of cold gets into your bones awfully quickly, but it’s definitely worth every minute.

At home, I’ve been working on plying…

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This plying is not exactly going according to plan, but I kind of can’t stop myself from just letting it take its course. It’s too pretty to fuss with it. The plan is to weave with it, so I’m getting excited to be nearing the point of actually, you know, weaving. Every day I get closer!

And having finished the holiday socks ahead of schedule, I had planned a Christmas Eve (or Christmas Eve Eve as it ended up being because I finished on the 23rd) cast-on, but instead I found myself compelled to pick up an old WIP…

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My Find Your Fade! According to my Ravelry project page, I started this March 14, 2017 so it’s definitely about time I pick it up again. I had knocked a bunch of stitches off in the middle of the lace section, so instead of trying to sort that out, I ripped back a substantial portion of the color I was in, found my place, and started back in. I’m kind of luke warm about the current color, but I have faith that the next color and the final color will bind the whole project together so I am being patient.

At the moment I’m tantalizingly close to adding that next color which will be the second from the last. I feel like I totally have the momentum to wrap this project up now which feels like a tremendous weight lifted and a huge accomplishment all rolled into one. If I can finish my Find Your Fade, I’m one sock and 2/3 of a shawl (remember Brillig?) away from having finished all my current WIPs for 2017. It won’t all happen in the next 3 days, so 2018 won’t begin with a clean slate, but I don’t feel buried by WIPs either. So I am continuing to plot and plan my craft projects for the coming year… I’ll have to share some of those with you soon, right?!

I hope you are all enjoying a little down time to recover from the happy merry season and that your 2018 plotting and planning is coming along very nicely, too!

 

 

 

We Make Yarn.

I’ll catch y’all up on my holiday soon, but today I’m over the moon to be able to share a new project on which I’ve been working with Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm. It’s called #wemakeyarn, an Instagram-based month-long photo challenge for the month of January designed to inspire and connect the community of handspinners. We’ve worked hard to develop prompts that would help us all share and discuss about, as well as reflect and celebrate this beautiful craft.

For those who may be interested, this is the image and prompts that’ll be the cornerstone of the event…

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You can find the image on Instagram on my account, @knittingsarah, as well as the official Three Waters Farm account, @threewatersfarm, and also the brand new @wemakeyarn account where we’ll be curating beautiful and inspiring spinning photos throughout the event to share.

For those who were considering participating in the #spin15aday challenge for 2018, this is a fantastic way to get started with it. I’ll be using the month to really spring-board myself into a year-long habit of daily spinning. I hope those of you who are spinners will consider joining and sharing with all your spinning friends!

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Destined For My Girl

There are just some colorways that beckon to be spun for a certain someone. For me, from the moment I saw Dyeabolical‘s Rainbow Vista, I saw something for my daughter.unnamedSorry for the tiny photo — it’s the only one I can find of the braid before I spun it! In any case, it’s the one in the front on the right. Bright & cheerful, I saw a fun winter hat and ordered it on the 100% Targhee base.

When I awoke this weekend to our very first dusting of snow, I knew it was time to spin this braid.

img_5265-1I mean, how does it get any better for a cold, snowy day?

As I’m practicing for another bigger scale worsted weight spin, that’s exactly how I spun this one. Spinning sport weight is pretty much my default, so fingering or worsted are always kind of like stretching before a run — it feels good, but it’s not exactly comfortable in the first few moments. I used my control card though to be sure I’d stay on target and went for it. It was just the happiest, brightest spin. I spun the singles on and off during one day and then let them rest overnight before plying the following morning.

img_5273I was a little worried with the level of saturation in these colors that there would be some bleeding so I ran out to pick up some white vinegar (somehow I was out…) to help set the colors in the wash just in case. Nine times out of ten with the dyers I use bleeding is not a problem, but sometimes the extra precaution — whether necessary or not — is worth it for my own piece of mind. I’m happy to report there was no bleeding, no problem. And the finished skein is…

skeinPretty much spectacular.

detail-2Bright and fun and more or less 200 yards of worsted weight yarn.

rainbow-detailMy daughter’s been lobbying hard to weave with this skein. I might let her have it… or I might go ahead with my original plan. Try as I might to envision it woven, I still see a simple little knitted hat. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see which way this one goes, but regardless of what it becomes unlike so many things I spin and knit that just sort of find their way to my girl, it’s pretty indisputable that this skein is and always has been destined for my girl is one form or another.