Through The Eyes Of Others

Late last year one of my cousins reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to work on a handspun handknit commission for his girlfriend for her birthday in spring. I don’t do much at all with commissions, but for family & close friends I make exceptions when I have time and ability. Since he contacted me with plenty of time and is generally an awesome human being and a talented artist himself (you can see his artwork here), I quickly agreed. At the time we discussed ideas loosely and settled on something purple and that I’d work on yarn and then we’d revisit pattern ideas once the yarn was ready.

My Three Waters Farm Mercurial Light seemed like it would fit the bill nicely.

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I’d originally started it for a weaving project, but as I got to plying…

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I had a feeling it was never going to make it to the loom.

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I took a photo and sent it to my cousin for his ok and we quickly agreed that it would work. It’s such a rich, pretty purple!

From there, we messaged back and forth regarding patterns and after reviewing a few options, he selected Golden Sand by Joji Locatelli. It’s versatile and yet feminine and the silk blend would make for a lovely drape. I got right to the knitting.

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I agonized a bit over the pooling color that you can barely see in this photo. As a handspinner and handknitter, it’s common practice to agonize over such things that normal humans won’t notice. I kept knitting, though, as I had a feeling I was being a little crazy. As I kept going, I could see how much rich depth the varied colors gave the shawl. And once I started in on the lace border…

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Well, all doubt washed away. I knew it was going to be even better than I had hoped.

I got it blocked and finished straight away because I could not wait to see it…

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It was indeed better than I’d imagined. The silk blend gave it such a nice drape and the lace weight of the yarn made it beautifully airy…

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While still providing excellent structural detail for the lace edging.

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It turned out stunning, I think. I helped get it packaged up and made a little card sharing whose hands the project had passed through on its way to its forever home. And then off it went!

I am flattered and humbled that I was asked to take on this project and I’m so very happy with the results. It was a wonderful experience. Not only was it fun to work with my cousin to find just the right piece for his lady, but it also felt good to put my skills to work for a purpose beyond my own small circle. There is something very, very cool about sharing those skills and seeing them appreciated through the eyes of others. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget!

 

 

 

Balancing Plans and Inspiration

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I am at my best with my craft when I listen as much as I plan. Like many, I usually have a plan — what I want to work on and what I want to accomplish and a general timeline for those things. Like maybe fewer, I am someone who tends to stick to those plans. More importantly, though, over the years I’ve learned to always proceed with balance in mind. There has to be a balance between the plan at hand and where curiosity and inspiration takes me.

This week, my wheel and I weren’t connecting as much as I thought. I love the project I’m working on…

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It’s the February Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm and I really truly absolutely adore it. I broke it into 4 roughly equal lengthwise pieces and I’m planning to chain ply it. I think it’s going to be a true stunner.

But…

You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?

For a multitude of reasons, I just wasn’t getting the time I’d hoped for with the wheel and when I did, I was tired and we just weren’t clicking.

I turned instead to an experiment I started a few weeks ago: the Turkish spindle.

I’ve been hot and cold with Turkish spindles. Really, spindle spinning finally made sense to me for the first time about 2 and a half years ago with a Turkish spindle, but I have struggled to find the Turkish spindles that I want to spin with regularly. I have bought and subsequently sold or gifted away at least 5 different “Turks” since I first started spinning with them in 2015. I’ve been through a number of very nice ones from very skilled spindle makers, but they just weren’t it.

A few weeks ago, I was ordered something for my wheel or loom from The Woolery and noticed they now carry a few Jenkins Turkish spindles. I’ve heard nothing but good about these and have long assumed if there’s a Turkish spindles that I’m going to get along with long-term, it might just be one made by Jenkins. One thing about spindles over the years is how to interpret the word-of-mouth skinny on them and these babies get nothing but praise. I hopped on The Woolery’s online chat — oh how handy that is! — and I explained what spindles — weight and makers — I like and asked which version of Jenkins they recommend I try. I really wasn’t sure how I should compare them to my beloved top-whorls and sometimes it just helps to ask, you know? I got some great advice, ordered an 18 gram Aegean and a 22 gram Lark. Reassured by the online help I received, I figured if one of those 2 wasn’t my jam, none would be. The beautiful thing about spindles is that if you take good care of them, they really do hold their value and reselling is a breeze.

I got them, I played with them a bit, and instantly loved how they spin. Great news, right?! Even better, it’s reignited my interest in a spindle spinning WIP I’ve had on a low simmer for a while (I’m all about getting through the WIPs lately!).

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This photo shows the Aegean on the right and the Lark on the left. The arms on the Aegean are thinner and wider, giving it a very balanced, spin, but the spin is not especially tight. Think more whimsy, less zoom. The Lark’s arms are more compact and a bit thicker and, as I understand it, was actually designed for tighter spaces, like public transit. Personally, I just love it’s fast, tight spin.

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Yes, it’s undeniably my favorite. As I’ve added yarn to the Aegean, it’s grown on me and I do intend to keep both for the long haul, but the 22 gram Lark has certainly captured my heart. It’s a lot like when I discovered the Bosworth top-whorl short shaft in the 22-25 gram range. It just fits and I love it. And I’ve been spending time daily in my kitchen — where I love to spindle spin — watching the birds, hanging with Moose, and spinning.

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Moose has enjoyed the quality nap time.

This week I also revisited a hibernating WIP, my handpusn Brillig. I started it back last fall and got behind on it and then distracted from it. It’s a long story as to why, but I ripped it back, rewound the yarn so I wouldn’t have to knit from the kinky bits of yarn that had sat on my needles for months and started fresh…

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Simply put, I am so adoring working on it. It is as scrumptious as a knit can get.

So there you have it. Sure, I had planned to finish that bulky sweater and wheel spin this past week, but this is where my inspiration took me. In the grand crafty balancing act, I think I’m crushing it. Sometimes the thing that keeps us going, that keeps us moving forward, if the freedom to veer off the plan. Balancing the plan and inspiration is the name of the game, my friends!

Prescription: Knitting (and a lot of other healthy things)

A week ago the mister & I both started to come down with a cold. He had a big week at work and did not have the luxury of letting it take him down, so I’m still not sure if I wound up more sick or he just held it together a lot better than I did, but I was not at all well. I even spent most of Tuesday in bed — something I quite literally cannot remember the last time I did. The rest of the week, I barely left the house save for a short daily walk. I’m happy to report that today I’m feeling much better save for a lingering cough that I am taking all measures to combat, but ugh… what a week!

The silver lining of being sick is that when I wasn’t accidentally asleep (which happened a fair bit), doing the things that needed to get done around here, or just too head-cold-y (UGH) to have my wits about me, I was able to get some knitting and a tiny bit of spinning done.  Today is the first real sunny day we’ve had since I finished a couple things, so the FOs I have are having their spa day. I do have a bundle of WIPs that I’ve started up though and I thought I’d share those with you.

I mentioned it in an installment of Today on your needles…, but I started a knitted toy cat. And this is how far I am as of this moment…

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You probably all remember I’m not super keen on knitting toys, but it’s pink, so you can probably guess which soon-to-be birthday girl I’m knitting this for. Inspired by Rachel at Dyeabolical’s Parlor Cat project and using her SW Worsted Merino dyed in the colorway named Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and Love, it’s been going all right. I ran into a little snafu with the pattern a couple nights ago and have been banging my head unsuccessfully against a wall since, but I woke up today determined to draw a little picture and get things sorted out properly. I did just that and am confident today I’ll start moving forward again. I’m 85% sure I’m just interpreting something wrong because I’m not using DPNs and the cold has left me a little impatient. That, or I’m being too fussy about how something is centered. Either way, I have a plan and hope to be moving past the sticky part soon which is good because the birthday is coming up and I think this will be super cute.

Next, I started my Brillig for the NimbleNim SAL+KAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group. I started working on it…

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And then I kind of had some issues putting it down…

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It’s a really fun knit. And it’s the kind of knit that is pretty easy to learn and just potato chip knit through a movie. As you can imagine, in my current state, that is a pretty great fit!

One WIP this week met an untimely end…

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You’ll remember this image from last week. Yes, this incarnation of the Rainbow Warrior has officially been scrapped. I so wanted to love this combination, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I just was not feelin’ it. I have another combination in mind, but I just need a little time to let this one go and let the new idea simmer for a while.

I also accepted and received a new yarn for review last week.

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This Shepherd’s Lamb Rambouilllet is from the mountains of Northern New Mexico and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get this new-to-me American wool on my needles. I wound it over the weekend…

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And I’m looking at knitting it up into an End of Summer hat for my daughter. It’ll hop on my needles as soon as the cat is finished. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

And I think that’s it, my friends! I have to admit, I am a grouch when I’m sick and for that, well, let’s just all take a moment to feel bad for my family (sorry everyone, especially Mr Knitting Sarah!). At the same time though, I think it was good to be forced to slow down for a bit. It felt good to put my feet up and settle into a couple new knitting projects, even if my nose was running, my head was full, and my throat was raw from coughing. I’m going to slowly start picking up the pace again this week, but I’ve not forgotten the two months it took me last year to tackle a nasty cough, largely because I spent the first 6weeks ignoring that I was sick. This time around, I’m going with a prescription of more knitting with my feet up, lots of vitamin C & eating well, continued rest, and some fresh air & light exercise. That should fix me right up, even if it’s at a ‘slowly, but surely’ pace I’m hopeful that it’ll continue to heal me up and kick this illness to the curb a little faster than the last time. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!

Last, but Not Least

I really do love being a part of the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group because there is always inspiration, there’s always something happening. January and February this year — like last year — the group is doing an SAL + KAL focused on Susan Ashcroft, or Stitchnerd, Designs. Susan is a master of potato chip knitting patterns and they are often, if not always, written to be very adaptable. It’s an attribute that I really appreciate as a spinner who isn’t always perfect in producing the yarn in my mind’s eye. I mentioned my Stone House + Light Relief project earlier this week and while I do have another couple braids of fiber that I plan to spin and then knit into a Winterplay in February, I actually still had at least 2 yarns I’d spun last year specifically for some of Susan’s designs. Happy with my Light Relief finish, I hopped right into another project.

This particular project started here…

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                                     Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

September’s Top of the Month Club colorway named, Summer’s End, on a BFL/Tussah Silk blend. It turns out that looking back this may just be my worst documented spin ever, unfortunately.

I have exactly 4 WIP photos.

One…

img_4455Two…

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img_4718And then the trail of photographic evidence of this skein completely disappears. I think Spinzilla crept up right on the heels of finishing it and then I just forgot to take finished photos. Suffice to say, I chain-plied it. Of that I’m positive and I wound up with 235-ish yards, I think. Not realizing the lack of photos, of course, I wound the skein and started knitting without any. Whoops!

Anyhoo, after I printed the Yarn Optimiser pattern for which I spun this yarn, I’ll admit I was excited to knit away on it, but not as excited about the weighing involved. I’d been totally spoiled by the particularly ‘light’ brain requirements of Light Relief. I got going nonetheless.

yarn-optimiserI’ll admit that once I got going it was really kind of fun and fast. I was wary of the edges and how it could possibly block out evenly, but I carried on because aside from having to stop and weigh things now and then, it was just super easy and fun to watch take shape. As with my other Stitchnerd Designs, I was done in the blink of an eye.

yarn-optimiser-fo3And the blocking did mostly work out. I’ll admit that I rushed it a bit and there are some little peaks from the pins where I really should have used blocking wires. Yes, blocking wires would have been smart, but I was in a rush.

yarn-optimiser-fo2I may block it again when I’ve got a little more time (this was admittedly rushed), but I also may just wear it and not be such a perfectionist. Maybe? I think stranger things must have happened somewhere once probably.

yarn-optimiser-foSub-optimal blocking aside, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It really is just as I’d hoped when I spun it and I think it was just the perfect fit for my purposes for this colorway. It’ll be just perfect for spring, I think. Summer’s End, Spring Beginning — either way, this one works for me!

And that, my friends, is that end of my parade of FOs. I hope it’s been as fun for you as it has been for me. Coming up, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled (mis)adventures and sharing my projects as they slowly come to life. As you well know, there’s always something happening on my needles, wheel, spindles, loom, and…well, you know, life.

Life Goes On

While the who’s who of the knitting & spinning world met at Rhinebeck over the weekend, the timing just happened to work out and my little family stole away for a quick couple of days up at my parents’ house to have an early birthday celebration for my daughter. She joyfully got to make her own cake (which was pink, of course) with my mom and then we let her decorate it.

img_4861This what we get for setting a nearly 9-year-old up with an entire tube of pink frosting and letting her go at it. The most ironic part: she does not really care for frosting. It’s on her own personal “warning list” of things that are too sweet and should either be avoided or eaten in extreme moderation. The rest of us, not wanting to disappoint her, ate it. The sugar coma that followed was almost fatal.

Thankfully, we could escape afterward to recover with a walk along the big water.

img_4829As you well know, it’s a favorite past time of mine. And thankfully, unlike last time there was enough beach to walk along.

img_4838And the fall colors along the shore were a beautiful backdrop, too.

img_4832And as the beach was loaded with tons of beautifully flat rocks, I may have left a few little rock piles behind. They are so good for the soul.

When we got back, the kiddos opted for some biking and running off their sugar high. And then my dad broke out his leaf blower and I pitched in with the old-fashioned rake and we created the most incredible leaf pile in the history of leaf piles.

img_4860It was… enjoyed.

(That is the understatement of the century.)

My girl got to open a couple gifts from my parents…

img_4876Including this placemat sized Stash Blaster Loom from Purl & Loop. She has such a phenomenal love for her Wee Weaver, we thought graduating to a bigger loom would be a hit. I’d contemplated a small rigid heddle, but I thought the warping might be frustrating as she wouldn’t be able to do it herself right out of the gate. If I hadn’t mentioned it, she’s a tiny bit independent. As you can see from the smile on her face, I think we chose wisely.

In between all the fun, I managed to knit away on my handspun Featherweight Cardigan…

img_4874I think I’m around 5″ past the armholes now. If the yarn holds out, I’d like to aim for about 10 or 11″ before I start the ribbing. I may have to cut that short though… we shall see. I suppose I can always go with shorter sleeves… or order more fiber…

When we got home, I plied up those mini art batts I’d spun for my daughter to weave with. They are currently in the bath or I’d share a photo of them as well. Instead, how about a picture of my next wheel spin?

img_4879Three Waters Farm’s “Black Pansies” on a merino/silk base. It’s not currently available on the merino/silk base, but you can find it in the shop on a polwarth/silk base. I grabbed it at random a couple weeks ago and started pulling it apart as an example to explain to a friend how I prep my fiber, so when it came time to pick a new spin I figured I might as well go with this since I’d already broke into it. And now I’m thoroughly excited to dig into this spin — can you blame me?!

All in all, it was just a fantastic weekend doing all the things I love to do with the people I love.

img_4839And life goes on in the most spectacular way.

In Review: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

The first chills of autumn found their way to our neighborhood over the last week. With them have come cries of distress from my girl whose hands were freezing each morning as we walked to school. No, that’s not right. They weren’t freezing, they were FREEZING — spoken as only a true knitter’s child who has never known the discomfort of cold hands or head. Partly to get her stop complaining and partly because it’s what I do, I promised to knit up some mittens for her. She could pick the yarn & help me design them and I would ensure that her hands would not be cold on the way to school again. She accepted the plan of action & muddled through the chilly morning yesterday.

After school yesterday over her snack, I gave her some yarn options. She emphatically selected a skein of Greenwood Fiber Works Handspun.

image_medium3I selected this braid of fiber last year on my birthday from Susan’s Fiber Shop…

image_medium2And spun it up during the Tour de Fleece this summer into a skein of bulky/super bulky, Navajo-plied loveliness. My daughter has loved it since it was on the wheel, so it’s only fitting that she get it.

Rather than sifting through Ravelry for a pattern that fits my needs, I grabbed my favourite book for this situation: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs by Ann Budd. Here’s how it works:

1) Flip to the chapter on what type of item you want to knit (i.e. mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests, basic sweaters — yes, they are all in this book!).

2) Select the size you want to knit, preferably using the measurements of the person for whom you are knitting.

3) Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn.

4) Read through the basic design elements included at the end of the chapter & decide which — if any — you’d like to use, or continue on with the basic no-frills pattern.

5) Follow the instructions for your designated gauge & size, incorporating any design elements you desire.

6) Enjoy your simple, custom garments & accessories.

 

Now I know there are probably some of you out there who this scares to death. ‘Work without a pattern? Uh-uh, no way!,’  but I promise that as long as you take a few moments to understand the layout of the book it is really very simple. It’s as basic as understanding how to check gauge & read a chart (not a lace chart, they call it a ‘chart’ but it’s just an excel-like spreadsheet). Oh, wait. You don’t know how to do that?  There is an excellent explanation on how to knit a swatch and read it on page 6  complete with a great illustration. There is also an in-depth explanation of how to interpret the charts within the book — they are pretty straight-forward to begin with, but just in case the author walks you through it. Perfect! Really, this is do-able for all knitters with basic skills.

There are many books from this publisher & author as well as many other series that are specifically written as a kind of blank canvas for design. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for most knitters, especially those who aren’t particularly fond of math. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs is a great place to start though. I love that it includes the most basic accessories and presents basic design so simply. As a spinner, I especially love that I don’t necessarily have to have slap a label on my handspun — super bulky, bulky, worsted, etc — it doesn’t matter here. What matters is that I knit a swatch at the density I wanted for these mittens and it was 3 stitches per inch. Voila. With Ann Budd as my guide, I cast-on and was off.

Because I knew I would be tight on yarn & I was free-styling a bit, I knit these mittens 2-at-a-time. This means that they will definitely match and I don’t have to make notes as I go if I don’t want to. No stressful attempts at re-creation on mitten #2 because it is already done — that is my kind of approach for this kind of project! In the interest of full disclosure, the mitten pattern did not go down to the 3stitches per inch for gauge that I needed, but there was enough information there for me to easily make adjustments (and really, trust me when I say I am not a math whiz so this is do-able for most with enough patience). Because I am a new spinner I found that my yarn was actually a bit heavier on one end of the skein — the joys of handspun! — so I ended up adding a couple extra rows to the body of the lighter weight mitten before decreasing so that I would have the hand length I needed. When all was said & done, I finished my girl’s mittens last night and she awoke this morning to her brand new mittens.

Disclaimer on following photos: Now when I asked her to get dressed for school today, I also mentioned that I wanted her to pose for photos with her mittens for me. What she came out wearing was a hot pink tuille skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, neon striped knee socks, and completely different color family striped fleece pullover. And fuzzy ugg-type slipper shoes. Not exactly my dream for showing off these mittens, but she was adamant and I was not interested in a fight over the matter. We compromised and rolled up her sleeves a bit for the photos.

on kneeThey are sweet & colorful and soooooo my girl!

close-up on kneeI will say that at 3stitches per inch, getting the thumbs to look normal was a bit of a challenge, but I managed.

off handOverall, I am so very happy with the results of these basic mittens — the ease & speed with which I was able to knit them up, the fit, the colors — they are just perfect for my girl. Most importantly though, she loves them & her hands are warm. She wore them from the moment she woke up until she walked into school. I believe the above photo and a bathroom break or two were the only moments they weren’t on. She even refused to take them off for teeth brushing! I think I am safe to declare mission accomplished here.

If you are looking for this kind of basic no-fuss patterns that you can easily customize or maybe just looking to dip your toes in the waters of design or maybe you are a spinner who is having trouble knitting with your handspun, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs. It is guaranteed to fit the bill & be loads of fun to use!