Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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October 2005 - Posts

Is it just me, or have they always had so many creepy movies and horror-related shows for so many days before Halloween??? I know my memory is for crap. I'm hoping it's just the whole weekend before that makes it seem especially insane. Maybe the commercials for Hulk every 10 minutes have done me in (how many times can you hear that too catchy tune "monster! monster! monster!" without turning green and going Hulk?). Maybe I've just been spending too much time in front of the TV.

The kids are a-prowl. Scott says he heard them. Nothing against the kids, they're so cute dressed up and all, but man, our house looks dressed up for fright night. Cobwebs, leaves, general disarray. And then there's the outside. Plus we don't have any candy. I was looking around the kitchen today, thinking, "hmm, Ritz crackers... maybe these unopened Tic Tacs... ooh, we could give them ramen, we got lots of that..." I mean, in case our scary unlit exterior doesn't scare them off.

If you want to see cute and devotion, look at Alison's Thing 1 and 2 outfits. Aren't they the cutest?

Gatsby Pullover

On the knitting front, my project and stash guilt are ever growing, so I flipped through my project notebook to see what I could close up. (I'm also trying to counter startitis brought on by newly acquired stash 1 and stash 2.) I settled on the Gatsby Pullover from Interweave Knits Spring 2003. Front and back are done, just need to do 2 sleeves and the usual finishing. Yarn is Donegal Tweed in light grey on a cone; it has some lanolin, which I'm not crazy about in general, and also working off the cone introduces lots of unnecessary twist, which I have to fix every few rows. The latter is probably why I dropped the project, since it does knit reasonably fast and with enough interest from the shaping.

Gatsby Pullover - yarn

Grrr, that twisty twisty yarn... but it's so purty knit up. First sleeve is about a third done.

Gatsby Pullover - sleeve

I ran into a knot, pretty near an edge. We had talked about spit splicing at Knitsmiths that night, so I decided to do a non-spit spit splice. Worked nicely.

Went to my first Knitsmiths knitting group, which happened to be a yarn swap. Look what I walked away with:

Knitsmiths swap goodies

Just think: it's less than what I brought. Crazy, hunh?

From top:
Jaegar Odessa in silver grey with sparklies, which may become a shawl
Patons Cotton dk in lilac and white, mebbe a baby sweater
Cascade 220 in a nice red, to play
Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in yellow, will probably end up in a felted slipper
Manos Cotton Stria in white and roses, to play
Rowan Rowanspun dk, to play
Brown Sheep Nature Spun in various bright colors, either a felted project (fishies?) or a sweater for my niece

I get so freaked out being in a large group of new people, esp when they all know each other. But they were very friendly and there's always the knitting to focus on. Besides the Yarn Harlot's book tour stop in Acton, MA earlier this year, this is the largest group of knitters I've been around. The main difference is that I actually talked to some of them. I bet some of them were at that event, too.

It was fun to see what everyone else was working on. I wonder how many knitted pieces were in the room? For each knitter, a different preference, for colors, texture, pattern, technique. And I suppose that's what makes a yarn swap work -- what someone doesn't like, won't use, can't stand, someone else will love, be inspired, pet. You drop off your dirty laundry and pick up someone else's clean. Playing dress up with your stash.

Here's what I worked on:

Modular afghan-in-progress

It's gonna be an afghan, one of my guilt projects. The basic pattern is from Colinette's Ab Fab Afghan. The yarn, color and placement are mine. Can you see the sparklies? I added a purple sparkly carry along yarn with the mohair for a few rows, I luvs it. I finished most of the 3rd diamond today; after the 3rd, each additional diamond is built from stitches picked up from previous diamonds.

Here's a so-so picture of the to-be-felted slippers for my niece:

Felted Slippers - prefelted

The dark purple is not so flat. Maybe my camera, daylight and I will cavort tomorrow.

The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky; I added nylon eyelash handdyed by Danette Taylor for the cuff. Think she'll like it? (She's 6.)

I finished knitting the silk merino scarf last night, just need to block it out and sew in the ends. I was hoping to wear it to the swap, but then realized it would need to be blocked anyway. I was thinking steam blocking, maybe 1/2 the length at a time. It's so soooft.

Silk merino scarf - unblocked

I dropped everything and took care of some guilt knitting last night. I had promised my niece some felted slippers and started them in April. (Okay, that's not quite true. I started a pair in December, but then abandoned it and restarted in April with a different yarn.) All summer long, the excuse was that they wouldn't get worn anyway. And then it was late summer and I was planning a wedding and going on a honeymoon. Then I got back, (putter putter,) it got cold (snowed today!), and when I talked to my sister about New Year's gifts and asked what my niece would want, she mentioned the slippers. Eek. The slippers. The looong neglected slippers.

Don't get me wrong, the guilt was all mine, not placed there by anyone. Not my sister, not my niece. They are nothing but appreciative of anything I make them, however wearable or useful. All mine.

It wasn't that bad, once I changed needles. My god, the whole problem with the slippers was the needles. I should have realized sooner. They were 12" circular 10 1/2's on an 11" circumference. Duh. Ya think? I switched to 2 bamboo circs and finished up the first and then the second slipper in no time. Ahhhh, relief. I'll shoot for pictures tomorrow.

Other guilt knitting: finish an overdue afghan, start another, and start a scarf.

Finally took some photos of the yarn I bought honeymooning in Atlantic Canada. I was pretty reserved buying yarn since I spent most of my money on fiber. And in case you don't believe me, I'll have to admit that the Fleece Artist silk boucle was actually a gift from Scott out of his vacation budget. Bad bad Monica...

Souvenirs from Atlantic Canada

The first (top) is singles wool from Cottage Craft in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick. They had tons of handmade sweaters there, beautiful cabling and colorwork. It's a cottage industry (hence the name?) - the sweaters are made by dozens of knitters in (mostly?) New Brunswick that work out of their homes. Cottage Craft also sells their yarn; it reminds me of Briggs & Little, and not the kind of yarn I knit with much these days, so I only bought one skein to try out. Hmm, I didn't get a solo shot. It's a nice rich brown; I plan to make a scarf.

There was another yarn shop in St. Andrews by-the-Sea: Cricket Cove (I think that's the website; it says they're in Black's Harbor so I was a bit confused - but pleased - when I found them in St. Andrews by-the-Sea). A lovely shop, lots of Fleece Artist. It was my first yarn shop so I decided to wait before spending all my money. I ended up going broke before I made it back.

Next stop: London-Wul, where Heidi taught me to spin

Thank you, Heidi!

I bought a spindle and fiber, and then picked up some more fiber the next day before heading to PEI. On the way home I stopped by again to show Heidi what I had spun, and to buy some Fleece Artist sock yarn for Gram (Scott's grandmother). Forgot to take a picture of it, though... There were a few ladies happily spinning and knitting. After I showed them my yarn:

Heidi: Why aren't you spinning? Go get your spindle!

Me: Uh... okay!

I was soooo nervous and excited. My first time spinning in public! In front of experienced spinners! What would they think? Would I be too nervous to spin well? Would I be all two left spindles??

My palms did sweat a bit and I could only half-listen to the conversation for the first 10-20 minutes and I think my hands were a little shaky. But no one laughed, or stared, or shook their head in disbelief. So I relaxed, and started to enjoy it. Of course, my state of shock precluded remembering any names, but they were a friendly lot and the lady spinning from dyed silk hanky gave me some to try out. I left wishing I lived closer to London-Wul!

Next stop, PEI. The Fleece Artist silk boucle was purchased at Great Northern Knitters in Charlottetown, PEI and is luscious luscious luscious and the colors rich and loverly! I don't think the attached V-neck pattern will flatter me so I'll have to hunt around for another. They had a good selection of Fleece Artist that was hard to resist.

Fleece Artist silk boucle

The next three skeins are from Belfast Mini Mill in Belfast, PEI. I purchased a good bit of luxury fiber there as well. They give tours of their mini mill, where you get to see how their yarns are made! Since I had just learned to spin, it was especially cool.

This is their quiviut/merino a 2 ply sport weight, and my first quiviut! It will become my warm snuggly scarf:

Mini Mills Quiviut / Merino

and their "Northern Mist" quiviut/alpaca/merino blend, a 3-ply worsted:

Mini Mills

and their cashmere/merino blend, a 3-ply bulky worsted:

Mini Mills Cashmere / Merino

Hmm, they all look alike. So much so that I couldn't tell from the pictures which one was the Northern Mist, and which one was the cashmere/merino. I had already wound the skeins into balls. I can tell by touch... I think I got it right.

What I said about the silk boucle -- times three. Well, the "luscious" part. Yummers! But I wish the colors were a little more... non-beige.

On to Nova Scotia. Visited Lismore Sheep Farm but the owners were out and it was raining so I didn't get a tour or learn about the sheep. The woman in the shop (Jeanine?) was very friendly and we talked about spinning. Their yarns are like the Briggs & Little so I didn't get any (see reason above), but I bought a braid of Fleece Artist blue faced leicester.

Last is a small ball of Fleece Artist sock yarn I bought at LK Yarns in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Fleece Artist sock yarn

Woah, lots of yarn. They had a basket of Fleece Artist sock yarn mill ends and I wanted to buy it all. I restrained myself and picked out one (sob) but also grabbed a couple of Fleece Artist blue faced leicester "braids" (here's one of them spun up).

And that was it.

Sigh. Good times, good times.

NB: In case you think I'm obsessive... I have wanted to see Fleece Artist yarns up close in person ever since I found their website earlier this year. When we decided to honeymoon in Canada, I checked the Fleece Artist website and made a list of all the shops near our proposed route. (Doesn't everyone plan yarn shop stops into their vacations?) This was a biased Fleece Artist trip. :)

I was "in town" (Boston) yesterday afternoon, so I figured I'd stop by Mind's Eye Yarns before heading home. Lucy, the proprietress (is that the right word?) pointed out the Ashland Joy, parked it in front of me and gave me the keys! Wheeee! After I got used to the "patting your head and rubbing your stomach" sensation of doing so many things at once, I relaxed and realized I was making yarn. And man, I was making it so much faster and easier! Gotta get me one of dem wheels.

I liked the double treadle. Tried the other line she carries (Schacht?), which was a single treadle, and did not like the feel so much. I think I'm a double treadle kinda gal.

I was going to buy some roving but I'm really into the handdyeds right now, and without a wheel I don't want to get the ... what are they called ... the combed silky kinds. Rather get roving. So, picked up some white merino roving and decided to give a go at Koolaid dyeing.

What I realized: 4 oz of roving is a heck of a lot!! This from a spindle spinner who purchased a bunch of 50g bags, one 4 oz bag of merino-silk, and a few 2 oz bags of luxury fibers. Well, maybe 4 oz to any spindle spinner is a lot... but for me, getting through a 50g bag is an accomplishment! Can't imagine buying POUNDS of fiber... but it will happen soon enough.

Shutter happy

Took some more photos of the yarn I've spun. They're on flickr and you can see them here. I'm getting much better at the manual focus thing, but I sure could use some lessons in photography. Some natural light in this house would help, too! I like having bright rooms and workspaces, but Scott (the new hubby) is very photosensitive and is prone to migraines. We compromise, so neither of us is quite happy, hehe.

The house is surrounded by trees and the placement of windows is not the best, AND we tend to sleep in and miss the best sunlight. So I guess I have a few barriers to taking great photos...

I love the photos on Felicia's blog, sweet georgia. Besides the nice light and things being in focus, her composition is really nice too.

Back to the horse and buggy...

Tried my hand at tussah silk last night, HATED IT. Maybe I need experience, or a wheel, but man, how do you draft consistently??? Or at all??? I suffered through about 10 yards of it and then gave it up. When I get a wheel or a lot more experience, I'll try again.

13: Tussah Silk

I sought solace in some unknown dyed wool in blue and teal. I had tried it before (my second spun thing ever), with a tight twist, blending the two colors, but this time I spun each separately with minimal twist. I like how it came out, kinda like an icelandic.

14: Handdyed wool

It spun up pretty fast, so I switched to the merino silk blend, which was also my fourth ever spun thing. Amazing what some experience will do for you. My yarn is much more consistent and it goes a lot faster! :)

15: Merino silk

So... what does one do with lots of small amounts of handspun yarns?????

The luscious scarf

Made a little progress on the silk-merino scarf, just took a pic, losing light so it's a bit dark. I'm wondering how long a scarf I can get with the 1 ball. Any bets?


This is my second foray into the more "exotic" yarns I bought at Belfast Mini Mill in PEI (the first was a bit of camel, came to only 20 yards when plied). Equal parts soy silk, alpaca and mohair. I figured this was a good candidate because the soy silk would probably have a longer staple. The other candidates are cashmere, cashmere/yak, quiviut/merino, quiviut/alpaca/merino, and more camel. Did I make a good choice?

I liked spinning this soy silk blend. It reminded me of some of the luscious silk/merino yarn I've knit with. It seemed to hold the twist more than some of the other fibers I've spun (I'm not sure of the lingo or how to explain...).

I went with a sort of DK/baby weight, didn't want to make it too thin. And I don't think I'll ply it, keep it a single like the other silk/merino yarns I've used. I really want to see it dyed up all pretty, either before or after spinning. But I'm not yet a dyer.

Has a nice sheen. I think I spun up almost half of the 2 oz I bought.

I really want a spinning wheel before tackling most of the other Mini Mill purchases because of the shorter staple. I don't want to be parking and inching along, 2 oz would feel like 2 miles at that rate...

Here it is on the spindle:

Soy Silk / Alpaca / Mohair on spindle

and here it is wound into skein form.

Winding into skeins

This is the same type of gizmo I used to wind all the yarn I've spun so far, and while on vacation. The only difference -- on vacation, it was filled with toiletries. You use what you have, right? :)

And the twisted up skein:

Soy Silk / Alpaca / Mohair

Isn't it purty?

In the last week I also spun up some Fleece Artist handdyed blue face leicester.

Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester, 2 ply

Talk about luscious! For a wool, I mean. :) I LOVE spinning handdyed fibers, keeps my interest going. Waiting to see what color comes next, wondering what it will pair up against when plied... and when two colors blend and you get the barber pole effect, it's mesmerizing. It's like having a cup of water and adding a drop of dye -- watching it swirl and wisp like a living expanding being. Only with spinning, the fun lasts a lot longer!

This was my second time using the Fleece Artist BFL and it was a lot of fun. I have one more "braid" of it left, in blues.

Also tried my hand at spinning from a silk hanky.

Handdyed Silk Hanky

Ouch! My poor fingers... :( Very tough to draft, and not easy to keep the diameter even. Makes some pretty yarn, though, and the spinning part is easy 'cuz the silk is so strong. Easy to attach new ends. Pre-drafting helped a lot and was easy to do without the fibers falling apart (the soy silk blend didn't take well to pre-drafting; in fact, I had to keep the bag in my lap so that no undue pressure split the roving).

Not bad for a newb, eh? :)

I spent a good hour trying to figure out why my first post wouldn't appear. It worked fine on my local test setup, but no matter what I did, just wouldn't show up! Finally, I added a test post and it showed up right away! But the post time was one hour earlier. Aha. Time zone difference. I want my hour back!

Five scarves and a bag

I knit a few rows on a silk-merino scarf I'm modeling after one I saw in London-Wul on my trip to Canada. The yarn is by Danette Taylor, in either Purple Haze or Seaweed. It's coming out lovely, but not a fan of this yarn on #11 needles. Love the yarn, though. Luscious silk and merino. Yum...

Here are some pictures I took yesterday of recent projects. The first two are knit from handdyed handspun wool from Colorado Sandstone Ranch that I bought on eBay:


Once I realized the striping effect of their yarn (I bought 3 different skeins), I wanted a different pattern for the next one that would make it less... stripey. I tried the Short Row Rib scarf on Magknits but the colors were too strong for the pattern (at least for me).

scarf - abandoned

But I liked the three row rib thing going on, so I frogged, cast on length-wise, and did the whole thing in three row rib. The colors are still too bright for me, but I like how they blend more. It's a good length scarf, too, will make a nice gift.

scarfscarf - closeup

Here are a few cashmere scarves that I knit as gifts. All are handdyed by Danette Taylor, and took 2 skeins. (Which is to say, I used 2 skeins and stopped when I ran out. If cashmere weren't so durned expensive, I would probably use 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 skeins.) They are wonderfully soft and buttery, to wear and to knit! They were all knit on #13 needles over 13-14 stitches.

This first is in her Azaleas colorway. This one is going to my mum. Simple seed stitch pattern. One skein is more red, but I wasn't too concerned.

Azaleas Cashmere Scarf

The next two are in her Summer Rain colorway; the first is... hmm, what is it called, elongated seed stitch? I think there's a name for it... The second is just seed stitch. These are "wedding thank you" gifts to be sent out soon.

Summer Rain Cashmere ScarfSummer Rain Cashmere Scarf

And finally, the bag! I knit this on the road and finished it a couple of days before we came home. It was meant for the camera, so in the end, not so useful. Yet. I used Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim, about 1.5 skeins, knit on #5 needles. Liked the yarn, but wasn't so crazy about it on #5's, too small. But, wanted a tight knit so the bag wouldn't stretch out.

Camera Bag

Knit in the round, made it up as I went. This is in its empty state. Kinda hard to take a picture of it with the camera in it... eh? ;-)

That's from "Cats". Okay, probably more info than I wanted to share on my first post... I used to listen to that CD over and over again and again. And I still don't know more than... 25% of the lyrics... and that's probably being generous. Not sure where my CD's are these days, haven't opened that particular box since moving into the house, since there's no place to put them. Ahh, well, one of these days. Maybe now I'm unemployed I'll get some shelves put up.

Website Woes

I spent the better part of the last 24 or 48 hours trying to set up my website with DNN 3.1.1 and CS 1.1 and getting them to play nice together just did not work. So, for now, they share the same database and live as virtual directories under the same domain name, and we'll call it a day. One of these days one or the other will finally figure out how to integrate with the other and the rest of us (whoever we are) will be very happy indeed. Until then... enh, what are you gonna do?

First Handspun Skeins!

I soaked and hung up the rest of the skeins of handspun I made during my trip to Canada. Pictures when they're dry. Here's a picture I took on the trip:

My first yarn

From top, L-R (this is the order they were made): Brown Coopworth single; some blue and teal wool that I tried to combine while drafting, also a single; awesome bulky locks single; I think merino/silk blend single; white Coopworth single; greens/blues/yellow wool, single; more white Coopworth single (much smaller skein, I was getting bored); Fleece Artist dyed blue face leicester navajo plied (my first plying!); more fun locks single; more Fleece Artist BFL navajo plied; a bit of camel 2 ply (my first 2 ply!).

All of these were done in the week and half after I learned, and while honeymooning/vacationing in Atlantic Canada. I learned from Heidi at London-Wul just outside Moncton/Dieppe in New Brunswick, and not only did I have an excellent teacher, I just picked it up like breathing. Well, a little forced breathing there at first. I am truly addicted and can't wait to get a wheel! More pics and details will follow.

Coupla Scarves

Also pinned out a couple of scarves today. Can you tell I'm jobhunting? Below are "Branching Out" from

Branching Out - blockingBranching Out - close up

and my version of Balloon Scarf from Interweave Knits' Scarf Style. Like my slippered feet?

Balloon Scarf - blockingBalloon Scarf - close up

Haven't figured out how I will post project info yet. Geez, I'm being overambitious adding photos in my first post. But I've got tons of photos from the last couple of months and I've been thinking about starting a blog for ... a long time. All in good time, though, all in good time.