Simple Yet Effective

An amazing thing happened yesterday — I snuck just enough time to photograph a finished project! Whew-hoo! I am beyond excited to share — it feels like it’s been too long, so let me get right to it!

It all started here…

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

 

Three Waters Farm Bright & Distant on the 40/40/20  Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk base (you can find it in the shop right here!).

On a whim a couple weeks back I grabbed this fiber out of my stash and just started spinning. I was in the mood for a singles yarn, something I could start and finish rapidly just to shake the cobwebs a little from multiple long draw rolag projects I’d been working on and this gorgeous fiber happened to be on the top of the bin of fiber next to my chair. I broke it up into four roughly equal strips and just started spinning.

I was aiming for a low twist single to really play into the hands of this fiber blend. Plus, with my recent singles yarn successes, I wanted to see — I’m going there, brace yourselves! — how low I could go and still create a good yarn.

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The answer? Pretty low! This yarn mostly hit the sweet spot where it just holds together. There was one place where I had to splice it back together when I got a little too overzealous with the low twist, but beyond that I’m extremely pleased with the results. As per my usual with singles, I did a light felting finish. With this particular skein, I was a bit more aggressive with the finish to ensure a good, stable yarn because of the very low twist aspect of it.

For those unfamiliar, how I finish most of my singles yarns goes like this:

  1. Gather 2 basins and wool wash.
  2. Fill one basin with a bit of wool wash and HOT water (like as hot as the tap will go/you might need tongs to get the yarn out hot) and one basin with a bit of wool wash and COLD water (as cold as you can get it from the tap).
  3. Place the skein of yarn in the hot water and make sure the yarn is saturated. Let sit a minute or so (for a more aggressive finish you can gently aggitate at this step, but be very careul — you don’t want to felt too much!). Carefully (because it’s hot!) pull the yarn out and squeeze excess.
  4. With excess water removed, submerge yarn in the cold water. Let it sit for a minute (for a more aggressive finish, you can gently aggitate at this step, but be very careful — you don’t want to felt too much!).
  5. Repeat steps 4 and 5  2-3 more times. If either basin gets tepid, I switch out the water or I add more of the designated temp to  maintain the temperature differential.
  6. Ending with cold water, pull the yarn out, squeeze out the excess, and give the yarn a few good snaps, rotating the skein around your wrists to a different spot for each snap.
  7. Hang to dry.

I want to add that as far as I know, it does not matter whether you end on hot or cold water. I always stop with cold simply because it’s easier on my hands to handle squeezing more water out when the skein is cooler.

For this skein I did aggitate very, very gently while the yarn was in both baths. Basically this amounts to just swishing the yarn around and past itself a bit. Done well, this will felt the yarn very, very lightly making it more stable to knit with. For those familiar with commercial yarns, think Malabrigo Silky Merino. Personally, I like how that light felting works with such a low twist silk blend.

Shortly after finishing the skein, I was inspired by a fellow spinner & knitter in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group to knit a Simple Yet Effective cowl for our Tin Can Knits SAL+KAL. And as I already stated in an earlier post, the knitting was super addictive…

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In the interest of full disclosure I started no fewer than 3 times. Once with the long version, then the short version, and then back to the long version. My dilemma was that the short version would have matched the yarn & yardage a bit better, but I prefer longer cowls I can double-up. I finally settled into knitting the long version, knowing I’d use it more and just hoping there would be enough yardage to at least make the cowl a width I could live with.

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Turns out I did! This is one of those projects I’m really proud of because it all came together flawlessly and turned out so well.

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While not perfect, you can see from the repeats here that my yarn was pretty consistent based on stitching, but also on the regularity of the repeats. Usually I don’t get that part to turn out quite this nice, so I’m definitely chuffed!

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From the fabulous colors, to the elegant drape to the simple, large-scale texture, this project is exactly what I hoped it would be! Simple yet effective, indeed!

Twist Takes Center Stage

As I shared earlier this month, March has been a month of spinning singles. I’ve spun singles before, but I’ve never really dedicated myself to a deep dive study of them. This month, I managed to spin, wash, and dry 6 skeins of singles. 28 ounces of yarn that are so much more than just a few hundred yards of yarn with which to knit or weave. These skeins represent hours of study, sprinkled with a hefty dash of doubt and uncertainly, that slowly grew into self-confidence and understanding and ultimately culminated in a very basic level of mastery over the technique. That’s pretty heavy for 28 ounces of wool.

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All from Three Waters Farm, these colorways are from L-R: Calendula Flowers, Quilter’s Magic, Spring Forth, Common Ground, Cold Sunny Morning, and Storm Clouds. They are almost all different fiber content, so let me introduce them to you!

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Calendula Flowers was dyed on a 60/40 Polwarth + Silk base. This was the most challenging of all the spins for me, just because it was the hardest for me to find the right amount of twist. At first, I was spinning it with too little twist and it was at risk of falling apart. Then, I panicked and starting adding too much twist — because, of course that’s what you’d do, right?! And then I think I started to find the “sweet spot” for the fiber.

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Thankfully with handspun yarns, a good finish can forgive some of those early inconsistencies in a yarn. It was an 8oz spin, so it’s a substantial skein of heavy fingering or sport weight yarn and it’s settled into a pretty well-balanced skein. I just love the bright, warm colors of this skein, too. It was absolutely the perfect colorway for an end of winter spin and I’m really excited to measure this one and start dreaming of possibilities for it.

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Quilter’s Magic was dyed on 100% Rambouillet. I’ve spun singles on this base before so it was much easier to find my stride on this base. I find Rambouillet lends itself really nicely to a worsted weight single.

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It’s a really lovely, low-twist single here with rich, bold colors. It’s absolutely a perfect yarn for a nice cozy hat.

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Spring Forth was my last singles spin this month and it was by far the best executed. This was the companion colorway to the Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club and I got both on the 100% Falkland base.

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Falkland, I’ve learned, lends itself really, really nicely as a singles yarn. I spun this 4oz in an evening and I’m really just totally in love with it. I think it’s the perfect example of when all the stars align — when feet, hands, and mind are all working in perfect harmony and you create a truly wonderfully balanced skein.

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Common Ground was the Top of the Month Club colorway for March. As I mentioned, it’s also on a 100% Falkland base.

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This worsted weight single also turned out super nicely. My original thought was to weave these last two together in a squishily delicious scarf.

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Cold Sunny Morning was dyed on a 40/40/20 Merino + Superwash Merino + Tussah Silk base. It’s the least uniform in diameter and twist of all the singles I spun this month. It might have been just that I rushed through this spin a bit too fast or that I didn’t quite hit the “sweet spot” where my feet, hands, and head are all working just right. I’m honestly not sure.

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I know it will knit or weave up just fine, but I will definitely be revisiting this blend in the future for a singles spin to try to refine my skills with this blend just a bit more.

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And last, but not least, Storm Clouds on 75/25 BFL + Silk.

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I shared this with you earlier this month, but I thought it was worth bringing it back and putting it in the context of the entire month-long study. This may have been my favorite silk-blend for spinning singles. I take that back. I found it the easiest silk blend to spin as a singles yarn because it came most naturally to me, I found that balance more quickly with it. Truthfully, once I was really going, they were all very enjoyable spins.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve still got a lot to learn about the nuances of different fibers as singles and, you know, how to not panic-text spinner friends and mentors at random times for advice on if I’m getting the TPI right on a certain spin. But I am worlds beyond where I started less than a month ago with spinning singles and I’m very proud of and thankful for that. Not only has it really widened my spinning horizons, I feel as though my depth of knowledge when it comes to twist has leveled up.

When I stop to think about why I feel such a deeper understanding in how I create yarn, I can’t help but recognize that the crux of it is a simple as the yarn itself. Twist takes center stage with singles. Because the construction of a singles yarn is so very simple, as a spinner you reach a new level of intimacy with twist when you spend time spinning stand-alone singles yarn. It’s the basis for all the yarns we make, but with singles that interaction between fiber and twist are much more exposed, much more raw. Stand-alone singles are so beautifully simple; fiber + twist to create one of the most basic iterations of yarn possible. And that, indeed, is something to take the time to explore and celebrate.

A Tale of Many WIPs

My last post was about an FO, so it seemed only fitting that this one be about WIPs. For those not familiar with the term, a WIP is a “work-in-progress” whereas an FO is a “finished object”. As you might guess, I’ve usually got a few WIPs going. It just so happens that today I have more than a few, more than I usually do. So let me tell you a tale, a tale of WIPs.

First, a sock.

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This is my autopilot project that has no real finishing timeline or goal. They are another sport weight pair for Mr. Knitting Sarah and they are what I pick up anytime I’m tired or I want to keep my hands busy, but my mind free. I’m almost to the heel flap on sock #1 and while I could probably have the pair finished in a day or two if I applied myself, I’m not in a rush at all with them. They are my project for unwinding and I’m content to not rush them.

You might also recognize my handspun Brillig.

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Why, oh why, with so little left am I dragging my feet on this beauty?! Well, I need to spin more Iron Blue from Three Waters Farm so I can finish! Because of how I spun this project, I want to use up all the African Sunset colorway which requires as much or more of the blue. And I’m short on blue!

I’ve been busy spinning singles for our singles challenge this month, so the Iron blue has been pushed a few times in favor of other projects. So I’ve purposely been making super slow progress on knitting this project, knowing that I have another hurdle to clear before I can totally finish it. Thankfully, I finished up a couple more skeins of singles this weekend and then finally

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I pulled out that other braid of silk blend Iron Blue from my stash and got going on it. It’s absolutely swoon-worthy. I just LOVE this blue.

For some not super clear reason, I also thought it was about time to chain ply my February Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm

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It has been sitting here since the third week of February at least, so it was time. It’s unusual for me to have spinning projects on both wheels at once, but it’s happening!

And let’s not forget the spindles…

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I’ve not been real driven to make progress on this, but they sit on my desk and while I wait for the computer to boot up or sit on hold on the phone, I spin a few lengths here and there.  I added a couple Turkish spindles to my flock of favorite spindle weights, so while I may be taking my sweet time on the spin, I’m super excited to try out these new spindles!

And let’s not forget my soon-to-be WIP…

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Unless winding the yarn makes it a WIP, in which case it’s the newest WIP. It’s not yet on my needles, but it will be shortly. This is destined to be a special gift and I absolutely cannot wait to get started on it!

And that, my friends, is my tale of many WIPs! What kinds of WIPs are you working on today?

Later, Dudes!

Last week the weather here warmed up and with temps in the 20s on Mr Knitting Sarah’s day off, we were excited to hit the trail. We’ve been exploring the area around where I saw the ermine from my last post — the trail is just a couple miles from our house and the more time we spend there, the more interesting things we see.  This hike took place in a lovely January… fog?

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Not pea soup fog, obviously, but definitely spooky fog conditions. We were actually surprised by how cold it felt. After coming out of weeks of subzero temps, we all felt a little nipped by the cold. We’re guessing it must have had something to do with the moisture in the air making it feel cooler than it was. Humid cold feels colder than dry cold, just let humid warm feels warmer than dry warm? That was our best guess anyway.

In any case, we struck out and as is his way now, Mr KS was on the prowl for tracks to see what kinds of creatures were about. It wasn’t long before he called us out to follow a trail into the woods…

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At first glance, we figured it was either 1) a beaver or 2) something somewhat large dragging something else. We found our pretty definitive answer by following the tracks for a little while…

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That is pretty unmistakable. And just in case you don’t see what I’m talking about…

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A close-up. Tracking is a new to our family pasttime and it’s astounding what you can learn from it. It’s a lot like birdwatching in that it teaches you a lot about the landscape, things you might not notice if you weren’t looking as carefully.

This is a hard to see image, but this is a fisher track, I believe.

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I could include one of Mr. KS’s images of the trail for better identification purposes, but I just wanted to share the size with you with my mitten as a comparison. And check out those claws! These tracks we find everywhere and while I’ve never actually seen a fisher, I’m keenly aware that they are all around me! Bobcats are the same up here — They. Are. Everywhere. including right in the city limits!

After a nice long hike through the humid cold, we settled in for some lunch and I had a little spinning time. I’m working my way up to another long draw project, but until I washed and dried the first skein and see the finished results, I didn’t want to start that — you know, so I could go into the next one a little more informed. Instead, I opted to work on something a bit simpler. I selected a braid of 75/25 BFL + Silk from Three Waters Farmto spin as singles, continuing my recent love affair with spinning singles…

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I love BFL + Silk. And I’m looking at winding this lovely off later today…

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I am very interested in seeing this one finished as well as I was a little less on top of the whole uniform weight thing with this one and the twist is a little higher than I’d like. We shall see!

I also finished up the mittens I was working on late last week and — I’ll be honest — my Fairbanks sweater pattern was upstairs and I didn’t quite feel like picking up that big project anyways, so I cast on sock #2 for my Clever Girl gradient socks from Dyeabolical

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These are just simple vanilla socks, so they are great for road trips and just all around auto-pilot knitting. I am slowly but surely working my way through my UFOs from 2017 here and this will be the 2nd to the last that I have still lingering out there. It feels good to be making steady progress on that UFO list — I’m definitely not one who handles those unfinished projects well.

Over the weekend I also got over 20oz of freshly spun & finished handspun yarns on the drying rack, but while they were drying we had another family day. This time, we opted for some tubing a couple towns over.  For those who don’t know, “tubing” is basically taking an inner tube down a snow hill. Usually it’s billed as the family/kid friendly alternative to skiing or snowboarding — you know, good for all ages. The bigger tubing hills sometimes have tow ropes, just like the beginner ski hills. We’d never done it, so we thought it would be a fun new family pasttime.

We made a day of it with lunch out and we timed it so we’d get there right when the hill opened to hopefully avoid the worst lines. Very reminiscent of when my son & I went on the fatefull lumpy Apostle Island boat tour last summer, we had the head of the tubing hill come out when the ticket booth opened and announce that since we’d had two 40°+ days and the temps had just dipped down to the teens and low 20s. It was ICY and the runs were FAST and that they’ve tried to make it as safe as they can, but if you don’t like speed today might not be the day for you to go tubing. Only the main hill would be open because those 3 runs were at least straight and at the end of the speech he added, “we’ve done our best to slow you down at the bottom of the hill.”

Okaaaaay. So I’m not exactly sure how much confidence we were supposed to be instilled with after that, but we aren’t ones to turn back when we’ve come that far. We got our tickets, grabbed tubes, and hitched a ride with the tow rope. At the top we found what could only be accurately described as 3 luge runs that you happened to ride down on in inner tubes.

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You can see here, that it really is just bumpy glare ice. The brown half circle at the bottom of the hill is a 45° bowl full of woodchips. They laid down rubber mats right at the end of the ice run, too, just for added brakes because you seriously were flying. But still… really the only way to explain this is experience is…. well, have you seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Yeah, this was basically us:

Standing in line next to the woodchip backstop, it literally sounded like you were on an aircraft carrier while the flight deck was in use with the regular WHOOSH of the tubes nearing and then hitting the woodchip brakes. While we were there, no one breached the upper fence, but many definitely came close.

Our little family all survived (somehow), though, and it was admittedly really fun. We all did 4 runs — the line became very slow very quickly because it was hard getting around, so aside from the flying down the hill, everyone was moving pretty slowly and carefully and those 4 runs took a couple hours to complete. We headed home exhilarated, amused, and genuinely a little bit stunned that we all made it home without injury.

And so, with new and exciting memories under my belt — from tracking beavers and fishers, to spinning singles and knitting socks, to my very first luge in a tube, I wish you all a great start to week. And until next time — later, dudes!

Communing with Ents & Other Things

We had a busy weekend in the very best of ways. Saturday, started with two inches of fresh snow so the kids raced outside to build snowmen from the super wet snow before it was doomed to melt later in the day. I got bunches of work and cleaning finished. Most impressively though I got the pom on that hat I mentioned last week. I’m hoping to get a post up about that later this week.

Once I waded through the less fun & exciting tasks, I took some time to wind yarn for a first pair of Christmas socks and got the foot measurements of certain future handknit sock owners so I could do some math and get going. I used a basic custom toe-up formula and plan to utilize the Fish Lips Kiss heel and — get this — I am taking notes as I go so I know how I made them. I know, I know. Pick your jaws up off the floor! I’m really doing it!

Since they’re stockinette, I’ve just been working on them a bit before bed and a bit right when I wake up and here and there in between.

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And I’ve been making great progress. I think I’ve got 2-2.5″ left to go before the heel (and that’s saying something because these are for size 11-11.5 men’s feet). I’m loving this whole yarn wound into separate balls for each socks — it definitely makes me less weird about getting bogged down in toe-up socks land. I may have to wind for individual socks more often! I also need to mention that this is my first time using Turtlepurl Yarns and I am IN LOVE with the base as well as the colors. It’s just a treat to knit.

I also finished up spinning the singles of my Three Waters Farm Polwarth + Silk 60/40 fiber in the Granite colorway.

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This colorway is another thing I’m super IN LOVE with. It’s seriously just like granite — with that silvery grey and subdued bronze-y-ness. Just yum.

I prepped the color I intend to weave with Granite straight away…

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This is Moving in Circles, also from Three Waters Farm, on the Merino/Superwash Merino/Silk 40/40/20 base. I didn’t get to start it right away though as another adventure was in store…

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My family and I had a date with this deep, dark forest. Mr Knitting Sarah tracked down this forest about an hour north of our house. The Gerstberger Pines County Park is home to some very old trees and especially on this dark, foggy morning it had all the feelings of amazing and slightly creepy that comes with forests that have been around since the last ice age.

With some pines and hemlocks that have been standing for as long as 200 years, it was a majestic place and had that feeling of holding a lot of secrets that come with being around for two centuries.

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Moose tried his very best to blend with this place’s majesty and was listening closely to what the forest had to say.

The canopy in places is substantial and much of the ground is damp and moss covered…

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You can see that not even all the snow has melted yet on the forest floor.

It’s a favorite haunt of Pileated Woodpeckers.

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We didn’t see any, just flocks of chickadees at the end of our hike, but they’ve certainly left their mark with the trees.

And with the dampness, of course…

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There is plenty of wild plant and fungi around.

The trees were the real stars of the show though…

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Some of them with over a foot in circumference and over a hundred feet tall. Whether there were quiet predators observing from a safe place or it was just the ancient trees, it was hard to not feel like we were being watched. Like I said, it was slightly creepy and amazing. A new favorite spot for us; to commune with the Ents, to remember that grand scale of time, and to be reminded that we are kind of small in the grand scheme of the world.

We drove up to a small town nearby for lunch and saw Buffleheads on the neighboring lake while Moose snored away in the van. And then, full of good food, humbled by the ancient trees, and ready to be in the comfort of our home and out of the cold misty air, we journeyed back to our little cozy home.

When we got home, everyone went back to their rooms to reflect and relax and I, I dug into that freshly prepped fiber…

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And I kept going until there was just a fraction of an ounce left of the first half, the portion set aside for the first bobbin.

All in all, what a wonderful weekend. Full of just the right amounts of adventure, chores, family time, Ents, and craft. For us, there’s no better way to recharge the ‘ol batteries and be ready to go for another week.