Farewell, Quietude

It’s been a longer than normal lapse between posts here. Truth be told, there’s just been a lot happening here. We reached our necessary hours for our homeschool and are marching toward wrapping up our main subjects. I joined a local Rotary club in January and I’ve been helping to organize a fundraiser event at the end of this month. We’re planning and organizing an upcoming vacation. We’ve been attending puppy manners classes with the Bear and working hard to drive home good manners in him as he’s topped 70lbs at his ripe old age of 5.5 months (we’re being told he may not reach full-size until 18months). And a bunch of other things are in the works. Suffice to say, we’ve had a lot of things in motion at the same time and it’s left me with little extra energy.

Perhaps as significant has been that we’ve started to see a real shift toward spring. Granted you wouldn’t know it today as we awoke to 6 or 8″ of fresh snow yesterday and then it rained ice all day. Walking the dog and shoveling was sort of like what I would imagine microdermabrasion to be like, but less pleasant. Alas, spring is springing even if there is currently fresh snow on the ground. The birds are coming back and singing their hearts out. And while I love the birds and all the sounds of nature and the life that is present in summer, there is always a part of me that feels wildly overwhelmed this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a long winter here and I’m ready for the warmth of the sun, the birds singing me awake each morning, and being able to just go out and enjoy the fresh air without my protective layers of wool and down. As an introvert through and through, though, I am always a little sad when the quiet respite of winter and all its solitude is ending for the season and a little overwhelmed by the constant busy-ness of spring. But I digress.

As a family, we have managed to enjoy some fresh air and, of course, the blues and neutrals of this time of year are beautiful.

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Even if the wind off the icy water is still awfully brisk.

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And this guy is pretty happy with the change in the weather. He is not a huge fan of the bitter cold or the deep snow, so we will often let him stay home if it’s not weather he’ll enjoy, but he loves the cool days where he can get a good hike in.img_6606We’ve been taking Bear out whenever we can, too. With his heavy coat he is much more of a lover of winter and we’ve been taking advantage of that and exposing him to new a lot of new experiences while the trails are still relatively people-free. We’ve been working through a fear stage with him — basically if he’s not familiar with something, he is afraid and barks at it. We’re told it’s very normal at his age and thanks to some guidance in our manners class and a whole lot of time and patience, he’s been showing remarkable improvement and is growing in confidence daily.

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All that work is pretty exhausting for li’l Bear though.

On one of our hikes, we spotted this guy….

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Oh, how I do love a good porcupine sighting!

And on another…

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Moose looked particularly stoic and handsome.

And after one very rainy walk…

Bear did a pretty epic impersonation of Puss in Boots. He wound up getting a bath after this that he did not like at all, but upon his release from the bathroom, he then got wildly excited when Moose jumped in the tub and requested a bath for himself. I was soaked and ready for a nap after that.

 I’ve still found time for some knitting and I’ve been wholly addicted to my latest sweater knit, Tanis Lavallee’s French Braid Cardigan.

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Usually I steer clear of variegated yarn with cables, but I had a feeling this one would be all right.

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And I adore it. I mean, just look at that main cable! The yarn is also a Tanis Fiber Arts creation, their Pure Wash Worsted in the Driftwood colorway. I bought it a while back on a whim during one of their Boxing Day sales and I am really overly excited about the fact that it is working so well with this pattern. The construction is unique in that you are working the front panel right along with the rest of the sweater. It’s the first knit in a long time that I will actually cut time out of my spinning for the pure joy of working on it. 57650553472__a8880bf4-358c-4e93-8de4-05fe07760452

I even snuck a glorious 30minutes of this with the sweater and my boys one morning when Mr. Knitting Sarah had to work early this week. It was incredible.

I have been spinning as well. One project is under wraps as it’s a test spin to check out a colorway and I’m nearly done with it. It involves some attempts to take some video while I spin, so it’s been touch and go time-wise as I work with moody lighting situations. My other main project has been spinning singles for the chain plying Skill Builder in the Three Waters Farm group and I just finished them up last night!

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I have to double check, but I’m fairly certain this is the March TWF Top of the Month Club colorway, Spring Loves Caprice. I’m very much looking forward to plying this soon!

We had a bit of a rough night last night as poor Bear had an upset stomach, so he and I were up every couple hours to make a trip outside. Poor guy! We are both pretty tuckered and I’m hoping for a quiet weekend ahead with some relaxing walks, easy on the chores, and with a fair bit of relaxation. I’m not sure, frankly, if it would be better just to get out there and embrace the spring time hubbub in a baptism of fire or if easing my way into it is better. Whatever the case, time and seasons and all the changes that are coming will keep on coming. I will do my best to meet them, to bid a graceful farewell to the quietude of winter and the embrace all that is on the horizon. Thankfully, I’ve got a killer knit and some colorful spins to help ease me through the transition.

 

Dispatch from Early Spring

I may be a couple of days early, but it is definitely the early days of spring here. Our record-breaking snows of the last couple of months have started receding at an alarming pace — those of you downstream, be prepared! — and what was thigh and waist deep snow a week ago now is ankle deep or less. In fact, for the first time in quite a while, I saw a couple patches of actual ground in my backyard last night.  The birds have erupted in song and we’ve had our first Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Grackles of the year visiting our house. I even caught a glimpse of a Robin flying over our yard yesterday. Yes, it seems spring is on the way.

As it goes in these parts, however, winter to spring is not a smooth transition. Worries of too much snow on our roof have morphed into dealing with a sump pump pipe that is still frozen. While we did not have any issues with damage or flooding in our basement, I did spend a fair bit of time last week preventatively hauling water out of our sump well in 10 gallon Shop-Vac loads (thank goodness there were no stairs involved!) until we were able to rig an outdoor waterfall pump to do the heavy lifting for us until we can give the system enough time to fully thaw. It’ll be a while before we know the fate of the actual sump pump or what the blockage is, but we are hopeful it’s just a matter of letting things thaw out. In the grand scheme of things, I’m thankful that this was just an inconvenience and that we were dealing with the issues before there was actually damage to anything and that now I just have to roll the hose out and plug in the pump. You do what you have to do, but I’m happy to not have to take those multiple trips lifting 10 gallons of water (google tells me that’s about 85 lbs) anymore!

While we awake to the flurry of spring and deal with all that entails, I’ve of course caught the spring cleaning bug as well. No, I’ve not been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix (I read the book when it came out) like the rest of the world. I’m not sure if it’s normal or not, but every year I actually enjoy spring cleaning. There is something about the seasonal change that inspires a fresh, clean start in me. We’ve been in our “new” home almost 2 years now and I’ve been making some minor adjustments in functionality — a broom rack in one closet, a couple hooks in another — and trying to formulate better ways to make tidying more accessible and easier to do regularly. I’ve just, I’ve got a hankering to make things around here a bit more efficient, I suppose you could say. I don’t anticipate this lasting long, so I’m going to ride the wave and enjoy the benefits of it while I can!

But it’s not been all work and fighting the elements and tidying up around here. There has been time for play. The footing on the rotten snow is terrible for hiking, but we’ve been going out anyways. Bear likes to protest a little on the front end as he’s still not very happy about riding in the car. When we start to suit up and ask him if he wants to go on an adventure, he bolts for his crate and does this.

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Moose, for those who might not be aware, has always loved going along, no matter what we’re doing. If he could open doors, Moose would be the first one in the car every time. It’s definitely new for us to have to convince a pup to go.  Isn’t that just the case with siblings though? What one loves, the other loathes. C’est la vie!

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In any case, once we’re out of the car, Mr. Bear is a happy fellow and is proving almost as good of a trail dog as his big brother. I saw “big” with a grain of salt as this is my hand and Bear’s paw print.

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While it’s true that Bear is much fluffier so size comparisons are deceptive with these two, they are growing ever closer in size.

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They are both very happy good boys though.ee2ab9b8-dae4-492b-aa15-fd3742b8b750

And they are enjoying the last hurrahs of winter, to be sure.

When not tearing up the trails wit us, they are proving worthy spinning and knitting supervisors.

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And I’ve been working on a few things in my spare time as well.

This morning I turned the heel on sock #2 of a new pair of socks for Mr. KS.

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I’m going to try to work on this over morning coffee — I think that’s the best recipe for getting it finished in a timely manner.

I also started a new sweater!

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It is Tanis Lavallee’s French Braid Cardigan. It’s an interesting construction so far — this is actually the collar which you cast-on with a provisional cast-on, work one direction and then go back to the cast-on and work the other direction so you have live stitches on both ends. My center pick-up is a little messy, but I think it’ll block right on for me. In any case, I’m about to pick-up stitches and begin the actual raglan part of the sweater. So far, I’m really enjoying this one.

I’ve also got 2 spinning projects ready to ply!

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This is Tranquil Gleam on a BFL + Nylon base.

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And this is Common Ground on Falkland, both from Three Waters Farm and both destined to be traditional 3-plies for the Skill Builder SAL happening over in the group. I’m hoping to start plying later today as I just pulled fiber out of my stash for my next traditional 3-ply spin! I was totally inspired by a member in the group to spin a gradient and I’ve got just the perfect two colorways with which to experiment!

And with this dispatch, this little update from the wee moments of spring, I’m off! I’ve got things to tidy, dogs to play with, yarn to spin, and socks & sweaters to knit! I hope that spring is springing where you are and you are feeling inspired today, too!

Ply Twist Takes Center Stage

This month’s Skill Builder challenge in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group was focused on 2-ply yarns. I had the pleasure of spinning with their February Calendar Colorway, East Window on their Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk 80/20 base.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

Due to travel and sickness in my house, I’m a bit behind in sharing it, but better late than never, right?!

As I shared earlier, I always take the time to pre-draft this particular base. I just find it spins a little easier that way. If you’ve got a cultivated silk (also called “mulberry silk”) spin on the horizon, you can check out this video I shared for how I prep my fiber.

Since the goal was a two ply, I first split the fiber into its three color repeats. And then each of those 3 repeats I split in 2, creating 6 more or less even pieces. The first 3 pieces I spun as is, end to end.img_5897

For the second 3 pieces, I broke each piece into 2, 3, or 4 pieces (or more!). I like randomness in my barberpoling skeins, so I find purposely breaking the fiber into uneven pieces and in different ways helps with that. I spun both portions each onto their own bobbin.

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You can see how different the color repeats are even in this photo!

 I had hoped to create a video of how I ply my 2-ply yarns because I think there’s no other type of yarn where ply twist quite takes center stage, but with a house full of sick family, including my husband who was diagnosed with pneumonia this week, it just didn’t happen. I do plan to make a video of this though at some time in the near future though and I’ll be sure to share it here when that happens. I find that because the idea of a 2-ply yarn is so basic, it is often overlooked as far as instruction goes and I’d like to share how I find the amount of ply twist that I like to work with.

While we wait for me to get a video together, though, I can share a couple photos.

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This is the amount of ply twist I usually look for while I’m plying a 2-ply yarn when the yarn is under tension, but not yet up on the wheel.

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And without tension, but still on the wheel. I used to subscribe to the idea that a “balanced” yarn is one that will lay limp and flat in this same position, but over the years I’ve landed firmly in the camp that would label those limp yarns as underplied. That’s not to say there is not a place for low twist yarns, but generally speaking I want my handspun to have some soft twist in a plyback test while plying. It just makes a better yarn. This spin is probably a smidge more ply twist than I’d call ideal. With a snap or a thwack to even out the twist after a nice bath, all that extra twist relaxes and you get this…

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It’s a finished skein with just enough ply twist to make the yarn plump and full of life & energy, but not so much to be twisting out of control.

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It’s going to make a great knitting yarn to be sure!

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I just love the colorway — from the true yellow and grey to the soft blues and oranges. And I’ve really come to love the Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk base, too, as it makes such a nice yarn. Today is the last day to pre-order your very own East Window on Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk from Three Waters Farm, so if you want to give it a whirl you still have time!

And March’s Skill Builder in the TWF Group will start tomorrow! We’ll be taking a closer look at traditional 3-ply yarns and I can’t wait to get started! Since my spinning time was limited this past month, I’m hoping to make up for some lost time at the wheel in March. The featured Calendar Colorway for March is Common Ground on Falkland and it’s available already for pre-order! It’s time to get spinning some traditional 3-ply yarns!

One, Two, Fourteen

I’m fairly certain that those of us who choose to handspin yarn for fun commonly let the spinning get away from us. No, I don’t mean any sort of comical cartoon-like spinning wheel come unhinged and rolling down the street inexplicably leaving a trail of yarn in its wake while I chase after it (although my kids absolutely wish something that exciting would be associated with my handspinning). I just mean that you get in a spinning groove and you find yourself spinning just to spin. For a long while. And the skeins of handspun yarn pile up. If you’re like me, they may even pile up to the extent that you start to forget the clever name of the colorway let alone the fiber content and dyer. If you’re like me, you’ve acquired a small box that holds the bags from the fibers you spin. If you’re like me, you inevitably find yourself rifling through said box with your fingers crossed hoping you can decipher which skein of yarn goes with what bag.

I definitely need a new system of organization. Please don’t tell Marie Kondo how bad this has gotten or the fact that my 3 clothing drawers are organized and folded neatly may be overshadowed by this shadow of failure. But let’s go there another day.

Suffice to say, I went to photograph and share my recently finished yarns and found not one or two skeins, but fourteen. Oy. Dating back to the end of last year. Oy. And I did the rifling through the plastic bags with the crossed fingers. Oy.

But, on the bright side, through the crossed-finger search I did come up with a new idea for organizing that may just manage to not step on my voracious appetite to keep spinning with minimal interruption. I suppose time will tell on that point.

For today, I’m going to quickly (or as quickly as I can) share those fourteen skeins with you with minimal commentary. I’ll be leaving out yarn weight and yardage, just because I’ve not yet gotten to logging that all in and there’s really a need here to share them and get these skeins tagged and on the shelf before I get any further behind. I’m hopeful that today you’ll forgive me and be OK looking at some pretty yarns and stand with me, fingers crossed, in hopes that the future will be slightly more organized.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some pretty handspun yarns!

Fall Foliage 8 from Three Waters Farm on the 85/15 Polwarth/Tussah base.

Maple Leaf Rag from Three Waters Farm, a simple 2-ply on the 80/20 Merino/Tussah base.

Three Waters Farm’s Firefly Dusk, a chain-ply version on the 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah base.

A 2-ply Kelp on 85/15 Polwarth/Silk from Three Waters Farm.

From Nest Fiber Studio, this is Damaged Goods on Superfine Merino.

Hazelnut from Inglenook Fibers spun from battlings made of a 40/25/25/10 Corriedale/Superfine Merino/Mulberry Silk/Flax base.

From the Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club, a 3-ply version of Dried Rose Petals on the 50/25/25 Merino/Bamboo/Tussah base.

Dungarees and Flannel on a 100% Mixed BFL base from Three Waters Farm.

TWF’s Summer Palette on 80/20 Merino/Tussah base.

Roasted Gold on an 85/15 Polwarth/Tussah base from TWF.

Hayride on 70/30 Mixed BFL/Silk from Nest Fiber Studio.

60/20/20 Merino/Cashmere/Silk from Three Sisters Fiber Co. (now Abacus Dyeworks) — This one either had no name or I misplaced the tag with the name (insert eyeroll here).

Chasing Deer on 100% Falkland from Nest Fiber Studio.

And last, but certainly not least…

Multifarious Ruse on 100% Finn from TWF. This one could have been any color and I’d have bought it for the name, but I’m in love with the colorway, too!

And there you have it, all 14 spins!

The Polar Vortex and Me

It’s been big news all week — the Polar Vortex. Schools and businesses across my fair state of Wisconsin closed and the governor even declared a state of emergency for a day this week due to the extreme cold. You know when Wisconsin says the cold is an emergency, it must be bad!

At our humble abode in north central Wisconsin, I think our lowest recorded air temp was -31F and — as if to add insult to injury — during the cold we had some decent wind as well forcing the wind chill to register at it’s coldest -52F. It was cold enough that Mr. Knitting Sarah — whose motto is “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” — even stayed home. I don’t think that in the almost 20 years I’ve known him that’s ever happened.

I left the house Monday for a lunch, but from that time until yesterday afternoon I didn’t leave the house except to scamper around the back yard with the puppy. As part Newfoundland, part Shepherd, part Great Pyrenees, Bear doesn’t mind the cold (as illustrated on this GIF from the trail last weekend).

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In fact, I don’t know that there’s much on this Earth that he’s discovered in his 13 weeks on Earth that he loves more.

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In fact, we wonder if he may in fact be part wolverine (not really, but he sure does move like one!).

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So even when it’s -20F outside, he still requires short jaunts around the yard. Moose is having no part of those shenanigans (proof of his ‘older & wiser’ status, clearly), so the job falls to me. There are worse things in life than playing with a puppy, even in subzero temperatures. Thankfully, our family has no shortage of cold weather gear.

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Of course, being (mostly) captive indoors doesn’t really bother the fiber artist in me. I worked on the sleeves for my Weekender sweater. I got all the way to the ribbing on sleeve #1. And then I tore it all out.

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My gauge was just a smidge off and when you are decreasing based on rounds, not measurements, of course, gauge being a smidge off throws the whole thing off. So rather than do a bunch of fudging mid-sleeve, I ripped it out, took the time to do the math, and now I’m back to within 5″ of being done. This kind of set-back is a little irritating, but I’d rather have the sleeves done well than doing the mid-sleeve mega fudging, so I don’t second guess or feel bad going back. Thankfully I did take good notes for sleeve #1, so I’ll be able to replicate sleeve #2 without any problem.

I’ve also been spinning away. I finished singles for my  Nest Fiber Studio ‘Hayride’ colorway.

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I fell in love with this colorway and got it from a friend willing to destash it to me. I’m excited to be working on it.

Part way through I started having some issues with my Schacht Reeves — the back maiden wasn’t holding its position and was causing pressure on the drive wheel to the extent that the screws that hold it in place were coming loose. I could still spin, but it was clearly not right and I didn’t want to cause further problems with the wheel. I emailed Mielke’s Fiber Arts where I purchased the wheel and they got back in touch with me in less than an hour. Within 24 hours we had an action plan with Schacht who will be replacing the piece at no cost as it’s still under warranty. The only bad part is I need to send the part in so they can be sure they get me a part that properly matches my wheel. “Bad” only because it means I’ll be without this wheel for an estimated 2 weeks. I was pretty bummed (and still sort of am!) to be without my “big wheel” because it’s my main wheel for spinning singles, but as Mr. KS pointed out, I have 2 other wheels and a whole bunch of spindles. I will manage (somehow).

And manage I am! I’ve been spinning away on my Jensen Tina 2!

This is Summer Palette from Three Waters Farm. I may have gone to my stash and grabbed anything with the word “Summer,” “Hot,” or ” “Heat” in the name Tuesday evening as the hinges on our door froze to the point I used a blow dryer to defrost them. Next up is “Roasted Gold” — again with the nod to all things warm, even as temps are above zero today for the first time in a week.

For those who may be missing stories of my dear Moose, I assure you he continues to be spoiled and loved…

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And to instruct me in the fine art of the nap. Undoubtedly he is occasionally bummed he has to share me with his attention grabbing little brother and when he goes back inside alone because his feet are sore while I continue to chase Bear around the yard, but I make sure he gets lots of attention and love. He is and always will be my spirit animal, after all.

I hope you all have stayed warm and busy this week, too!

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(gratuitous cute puppy picture)

The Forest Or The Trees: Lessons In Consistency

It seems quite appropriate that as I awoke to 6 inches of new snow and subzero temperatures that today should be the day I share my Frosted Daybreak results with you.

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Each month the colorway featured in the Three Waters Farm 2019 calendar will be available for pre-order in the shop and this fiber happens to be  January’s Calendar Colorway (available through January 31st). I’ll be using the Calendar colorways each month in conjunction with the Skill Builder SAL hosted in the TWF Ravelry group and this month’s theme was none other than the elusive consistency.

I shared the prep for this spin back on January 4th

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Splitting my fiber into 6 equal nests, my plan was to spin a traditional 3ply yarn matching the colors as I went with the theory that equal divisions of fiber would produce similar color runs throughout my singles.

Remember how I said no plan survives contact with reality? Well, the same was true in this spin. Near the end of my second bobbin, I opted for a 2ply instead of a 3ply — and instead of using 2 nests per bobbin, I added 3 per bobbin. I made this choice for a couple reasons. First, I’ve never tried to match color runs outside of chain plying and as I got spinning I had a feeling starting with a 3ply might be a bit chaotic. I also was spinning my singles rather thin, to about 28 wpi, and I know for a fact that I am not as consistent with lighter singles as I am with those that are closer to 22-20 wpi. I was pretty sure my color runs would not be synced up as well as I would like and that would lead to some waste in my spinning — amplified by the 3rd ply — as I pulled out parts of my singles to keep the colors lined up.

As you can see if you really look closely, these plies are just not as consistent as you would hope for a consistency spin.

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Don’t get me wrong, they are pretty darn consistent, but when you are trying to pin that 28wpi down so 4oz of fiber matches that measurement on the nose… well, this just is not that spin. 2-ply it is, I decided!

I will say that the plying was… it was more nerve-wracking that I’m used to. The truth is, I probably lost 3-5yards (maybe a bit more) of singles trying to keep the color runs synced. It was never as much yarn as I felt like I was losing, but it was always more than I’d hoped I would have to pull out to keep colors lined up. As I got to the end of the plying though…

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I could see that even if each and every length of yarn I measured wasn’t consistent, overall, it was pretty darn good. This led me to ask: What are the components that play a role in consistency and — ultimately — what are we really talking about when we talk about a consistent yarn?

Is consistency in handspun hitting a perfectly matched wpi at each place measured across an entire skein of yarn? Is it plying to the same angle and hitting a specific tpi (twists per inch) across the whole spin? Is it spinning a skein that on a whole knits up at a consistent fingering (or sport or DK or worsted or bulky) weight? After this study, I’ve come to believe the answer is complicated.

If I look at my finished skein, it’s easy to see that I did not hit a perfect wpi on each and every length across the entire skein.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good. And it’s definitely one of the best 2ply skeins I’ve created with regards to consistency, but you can see here and there where plies are uneven. So, if I’m using the yard stick of “perfectly match wpi in each length of yarn” I’m off the mark.

If we start talking about TPI, or twists per inch, I’m probably a bit closer. Samples taken throughout are between 6-6.5 twists per inch with a few outliers where I got a little flamboyant. When the diameter of the 2 plies diverge. I tend to adjust the angle of the twist in this spot to really play-up that little poof.

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That, to me, is art. That’s why I handspin yarn. So while it may adversely affect the overall mathematical measurements in my spinning, I would never want to sacrifice that for technical perfection. That’s just me.

What about consistency in weight across the spin? A-ha! Well, there I did a good job.

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Across the skein, this yarn produces a consistent 14wpi. So, despite the fact that where you take individual pieces of the yarn and find the measurements will be inconsistent, the bigger sample set, 1″ at a time, gives me 14wpi, every time.

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And, at least in my opinion, it also gives me a really beautiful yarn.

So where does that leave me with this study in consistency? Did I succeed in creating a consistent yarn?

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If spinning consistently means you have the control to spin the yarn that you want, then I have to say the answer is no… and yes. What I was working toward was consistency across the board complete with 28 wpi singles across the skein. In dissecting the skein and the details of the yarn, I was not as perfect as I was aiming for. BUT the goal was also a fingering weight 2ply yarn in which the color runs synced up. And I have in my possession a skein of Frosted Daybreak that is a 2ply fingering weight in which the color runs match up quite well. So are we looking at the forest or the trees? Which ultimately defines a consistent yarn?

Where I land, at least for now, is that consistency is more complicated than I originally thought. Who would think that minor inconsistencies across a skein would lead to a consistent skein on a whole? It feels so counter-intuitive and yet I have a skein of Frosted Daybreak in my possession that says it’s wholly possible. Like so much in spinning, all the elements involved in a spin interact and play a vital role and somewhere in the mix of it all yarn is born.

I’ll continue to study the individual elements and work toward mastering a greater level of perfection across them. Clearly there is room for improvement. At the same time, though, I’m quite happy to know & to celebrate that even if my skills are a work in progress, it doesn’t detract from my finished skeins. I’m of the opinion that while the trees are all important, even if they aren’t all perfect, on a whole the forest still makes quite a pretty picture.