A Simply Wonderful Wednesday

I started yesterday here…

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On our little balcony with my Jensen Tina 2, my new flyer & hi-speed bobbin, and a basket of Three Waters Farm “Flying Home”, the June Top of the Month Club fiber. If you look really close, you can get just a tiny glimpse of Moose — Mr. Knitting Sarah and coffee and all our wonderful yard birds (including a visit from the resident Cooper’s Hawk) were also present making the morning complete.

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The fiber is indeed a beauty — it’s 100% Corriedale, so I broke it up into little uneven nests — probably 1-5 grams each and will eventually chain ply them. If it winds up light enough, I will make it into socks when the time comes.

From our little slice of heaven, we took a little hike, as we often do on Mr. Knitting Sarah’s days off.

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We went to one of my favorite trails. It’s quiet and wide open and it always holds surprises. I didn’t take many photos, but I did find this little bumblebee…

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With his pockets full of pollen. He was very busy and could not hold still for a good picture. He had too much too do! We also had the joy of witnessing not one, but two American Bitterns fly in opposing circles around us and — after waiting a while to see if they’d take off again from the tall marsh grasses — we learned that like a Great Blue Heron, they do indeed make a noise when the take off. It is quiet and understated, as it should be for sure a quiet and understated bird.

With the sun starting to beat down on us and a flock of 40 or so White Pelicans circling on the thermals overhead, the Common Yellowthroats and Sedge Wrens (or Marsh Wrens, I’m not 100% sure) sung us back toward the car. There was a flock of Cedar Waxwings nibbling berries along the way that I stopped to admire. Mr. Knitting Sarah was hot, though and he forged ahead, about 10 feet in front of me. Just as we were almost to the gate near the parking area there was a sudden explosion almost directly under Mr. Knitting Sarah’s feet. He jumped, a little freaked out as I shouted, “Woodcock!!!!!” and sure enough, it was a pair of American Woodcock. The bouncing and dancing and fist bumps that ensued were to celebrate this experience because I’ve been trying to see a Woodcock for roughly 15 years and I’ve just never been in the right place at the right time. Until yesterday. That’s what we call a “life bird” in the birding world and when you’ve traveled a bit and you’ve been birding for 15 years, seeing something brand new is worthy of a lot of bouncing, dancing, and fist bumps. Trust me. And I won’t lie, the fact that it also made Mr. Knitting Sarah jump was kind of fun, too.

Elated from a wonderful morning on the trail, we headed home and grabbed the kiddos to go see the latest Jurassic World movie and then home again where I did a little spinning. The night before, I’d worked up another set of rolags from Bumblebee Acres

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And while I wasn’t in the mood to ply this project just yet, I’m still really into this whole “freestyle supported long draw” thing, so I grabbed a couple batts from my stash to experiment with the technique with batts. This is one of them…

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Which looks like this unrolled…

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It’s a little lighter than it’s sibling, but close enough to still work together. In any case, I’ve been pulling them apart into more manageable batt-lets according to color…

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And spinning from them with my fast and loose supported long draw…

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It’s really vibrant. Originally I had thought I’d spin them both lightly and then chain ply them, but now I’m thinking I may make a 2-ply and play a little more with the colors. We shall see.

For good measure, I also put a couple rows into my Rainbow Warrior…

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I believe I’m one row away from Section 7, about to start Row 130 out of 158. Not that I’m counting.

I don’t know about you, but being around all this excitement and action has tuckered Moose out.

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I suppose that’s what a simply wonderful Wednesday, full of all of my favorite things can do!

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?!

Spring in Wisconsin

Just a couple days ago I was sharing images of sunshine and open water and praising the oh-so-glorious vitamin D rich day. And this morning, we awoke to this…

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That’s a solid 8″ of fresh snow (our neighbor measured!), the first 2″ of which turned into ultra-compacted slush when it hit the warm-ish spring ground. I know because my son and I shoveled it! Fellow snow aficionados out there will know that snow that has a layer of slush next to the ground is the toughest to move because not only is it heavy, but it also likes to stick to your shovel. This means that with every scoop and dump of the shovel, you need to add a “thump” as you need to smack the shovel against the ground to get the sticky bottom layer of snow off.

This could have taken a very long span of back-breaking labor which my son & I were settling in for, but for our wonderful, wonderful neighbor who came over and helped us dig out with his snowblower, a fact for which I will forever be grateful. Coincidentally, I am pretty sure the time has come for a snow blower to reside in my own garage, even if just for the couple times a year we have this kind of snow. That heavy snow is just… heavy and I’m not the youngster I once was!

In any case, if this isn’t exciting enough for mid-April, we are bracing ourselves for the potential of 9-12″ more between now and Monday morning. I’m happy to share that I did manage to run to the grocery store yesterday and grab the couple of essentials we were low on, so beyond clearing the driveway so Mr. Knitting Sarah can get back home after work and possibly filling bird feeders, I will be cozying up at home. Welcome to spring in Wisconsin!

I’m prepared, of course. I’ve got my new Making magazine to peruse…

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And just a few rows left in my special handspun knitting project…

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Isn’t that border looking nice?!

And then I’ll be digging in to a new spinning project. Long draw is on my agenda, but I may spin up a quick worsted weight single first to get reacquainted with that slow treadle on the big whorl speed before getting back into the long draw. I’ve got a new technique I’m going to try with it and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, so I’m very excited to get spinning!

While I’m sipping hot coffee out of the wind and snow, I haven’t forgotten the Peregrine Falcons on the nest I shared in my last post. This kind of weather is hard on this little family…

imageAs evidenced by this snapshot of  poor bird around 11pm last night. I usually turn the live feed on in the morning while I wake up and get ready and this morning through the snow I watched this exceptional pair of birds make the quickest tag-off on the eggs I’ve ever witnessed. I heard one of them call from off screen, the bird on the eggs called back, took off, and less than 5 second later the second bird was settled down on the eggs.

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Such good parents already! Send warm thoughts their way — they are going to need them tonight!

Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe, my friends!

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.

 

 

Forward Progress Through Frogging

I awoke to a winter wonderland again this morning, with soft snowflakes falling gently to the ground. With 2-3″ of fresh snow, it’s so much fun to watch the birds fly into our beautiful snowy yard. Bird nerds that we are, we’re loving the much wider variety of birds that come in to our feeders in the new yard. I’m hoping to add a heated bird bath soon as the water source is a major plus for the wildlife. Mr Knitting Sarah has claimed the bird feeder acquisition and design as his domain though, so I am waiting for expertise to pick the right one.

In any case, in addition to the new snow, this week we saw our first really chilly days with highs not getting out of the teens. My girl, who has been bitten by the baking bug, has been baking up a storm and we’ve been enjoying warming the house with lots of home-cooked meals. You can also imagine the cold temps make the fiber artist in me go a little bananas. So when the kids and I aren’t digging into our school work or out on field days and we’re not cooking and baking, I’ve been sneaking in a lot of quality time with my needles and wheel.

I finished the first Christmas sock for my son…

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I’m a total convert to dividing yarn into separate balls of yarn for toe-up socks. This Turtlepurl Yarns Baah Humbug yarn came in two equal skeins, so I just hand wound them and started knitting. It’s made all the difference! I used to get super bogged down in toe-up socks, but having that one little ball shrinking noticeably as I go is like a magical addiction that just propels me forward. I will absolutely work this way from now on with toe-up socks.

I also finished the singles of a spinning project…

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The plan here is to ply each colorway into a 2-ply and then weave them together.

Currently my thought is that the Granite will be the warp…

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And Moving in Circles will be the weft…

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We’ll see how the yardages come out in the end though.

In other knitting news, I ripped out my handspun Brillig last night. It’s going to sound more than a little crazy, but there was this really simple direction I misread through probably the first 20% of the project…

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See how the edge on the left 2 “teeth” look different than the one on the right? I was slipping the stitch with the working yarn in the front instead of the back. I realized it, saw the difference, and then set the project aside in a little time-out while I considered if I could live with it as is or not.

Turns out, I couldn’t. I frogged it last night.

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And I started over this morning. I don’t mind. In fact, I’m really happy and relieved that I did and that I can knit this up and just love it and enjoy the knit. I may not hit the end of the month deadline as I still may need to spin more of the blue colorway to finish, but I am happily plugging along on it.

I also opted to start another spinning project rather than stopping to ply the one above. This month’s Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm inspired a larger scale weaving project (yes, I kind of have weaving on the brain at the moment).

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A little hard to see for the plastic bags and the lighting, but the colorway on the right will be spun and plied into a 2-ply for the warp and the colorways on the left will be spun and plied together to be the weft. I think it’s going to be wonderfully moody.

I started the Mercurial Light warp yarn…

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And it is gorgeous. Add in that it’s on one of my favorite bases, BFL + Tussah Silk and I’m in heaven. What a joy to spin!

So did I make forward progress this week? It’s not a sure thing, I don’t think. I’m thinking that even with the total tear back of my Brillig, though, that I did finish a sock, start another sock, re-start Brillig, and spin through maybe 8oz of fiber. That’s not bad. I will need to pick up the pace a bit if I want to hit my Christmas goals, but even those are flexible — I’m just never going to be someone who stresses about hitting holiday knitting deadlines. But I digress. The important thing, for me at least, is enjoying the process and continuing to move forward. So in some ways, I suppose all progress is forward progress, even when it involves ripping back. That makes perfect sense, right? That’s forward progress through frogging!