Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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January 2007 - Posts

Sunday we got a dusting of snow. We saw a couple of birds playing in the bushes, with one trying to fly into our (closed) window. Silly bird. When we left to visit Gram, our front porch looked like this:

bird dance

It's like one of those crazy diagrams teaching you how to dance, complete with complicated moves:

bird dance

and wing sweeps only for the birds:

bird dance

when turkeys fly

About a week ago, before the frigid temperatures hit, I saw a turkey on my way to work. I had been worried about them, not having seen them since before Thanksgiving, though Scott said he saw them a few times since then.

Last time we saw them, they were congregated in our yard, 20+ strong. I think it was a convention, or a pre-mating opening ceremony:

when turkeys fly

I had just pulled into our driveway and hurriedly grabbed my camera and called Scott. He circled 'round the back of the house and casually walked towards them so they'd fly between us:

when turkeys fly

when turkeys fly

I've been wearing Norwegian Hat for a week and still haven't decided if I'm going to redo the lining. It's a little tighter than I'd like, but it sure is warm and all sewn up and stuff. I know I'll feel marginally better about the fit if I re-did the lining. But it's a lot of work for marginally feeling better, y'know?

I took a page from Ms Hello Yarn for the lining and used up some 4-ply DK cashmere I had leftover from my birthday scarf.

I guessed on the number of stitches I wanted for the lining, and after picking up stitches from the provisional cast on, decreased accordingly. The yarn is a similar weight to the Jaeger I used for the hat, maybe a hair heavier; if I had used a lighter weight yarn, I'd have less bulk issues, and therefore a looser fit. But it's so purty:

Norwegian hat - sewing in the lining

and though no one else can see it, it does match my scarf:

My Birthday Scarf

Too short a lining made the bulk more noticeable. I put the stitches onto waste yarn several times to test the look and fit and decided on a good sized lining. After pinning it into place, I basically kitchenered to a row of knitting using black JaggerSpun Zephyr.

Norwegian hat - sewing in the lining

I kept the kitchener stitches loose because I didn't want the point-of-kitchenering to pucker the row, but after the fact I realized they were too loose, so the purl row folding edge is not perfectly at the folding edge, if ya know what I mean. I could go stitch by stitch and tighten it up.

Off the head, the row does look a little puckered:

Norwegian hat

But on the head, it's not at all noticeable.

There is zero itch factor with the cashmere, and the hat really keeps my head toasty, even with the frigid temperatures we had last week. Because it's tighter than I would prefer, it does flatten my hair a bit. Again, I haven't figured out if I will make any changes. But... considering how much effort I put into this hat, perhaps it's worth re-doing?

If I did make changes, I'd reknit the lining entirely and with fewer decreases, therefore having slightly more stretch to the hat. If I were really serious about it, I'd switch to a lighter weight cashmere so there'd be less bulk to boot. But I don't have anything nearly as pretty lying around.

Maybe another week will decide it.

Meanwhile, here's my current Twisted Knitters project:

Lagoon on the Schacht
colors not quite accurate

It's the superfine merino I dyed a few weeks back and started spindling. I'm not a big spindler since the wheel, so if I'm going to get anywhere with Twisted Knitters, it's gotta be on the wheel. I'm not quite happy with how my Schacht is handling laceweight (it hiccups and tugs on the fiber supply) but I'll make it through this batch.

It's hard to tell my size from this outfit:

Week 27

Don't mind the dorky smile. Scott says, "Smile" and silly me, I smile. Man, my hair is getting long.

I look really round from here, hunh:

Week 27

And I was worried she didn't have enough room in there. Seriously. I think she's fine.

I think the top line zags to my left because I always sleep on my left. Did you notice how clean my belly button is? Pristine clean.

And from this particular angle (and possibly only this angle and not if I've eaten too much), I look like an outie:

Week 27

Hands for perspective:

Week 27

Getting bigger.

Norwegian hat is done! For now. I'm not 100% sure on the lining, but I figure I'll wear it for a while and see how I feel. (I do like wearing it.) Photos when I can combine Scott, sunlight and me with hat.

I want to do a post but I'm not feeling very post-y. Know what I mean? I've been fighting off a cold the last several days and I'll be heading to bed early again today to ward it off.

The little goober gave me a scare last week. She's been very active throughout my workday for the last couple of weeks, and without warning, went into seeming hibernation for several days. That and a couple of other things panicked me so off to the doctor we went, Scott driving and consoling, me crying. Everything is fine, everything checks out, and naturally, as soon as I was back in the office, she started moving around again. I'm sure an ultrasound would have revealed an innocent look on her face. I'm back to trying not to worry about things I can't control, and she's back to bopping around to her own drummer.

There has been some spinning, but I'm not up to talking about it. Here's a peak, though:

Crosspatch Creations
Crosspatch Creations batts spun up

What I can show you without much talk is some fiber that's joined the flock in the last couple of months.

From The Fiber Denn, some lovely finn and merino (8 oz ea):

Fiber Denn finn in Blue Fescue Fiber Denn merino in Poppy
I want to eat up those blues

From Hello Yarn, gorgeous merino/silk (4 oz ea):

Hello Yarn merino/silk Plush and Lavish
my photos don't do the colors justice, though Adrian's photos are quite good

And from Alpaca Direct some Ashland Bay multi-colored merino (found them via Google Checkout promo) in Sandalwood (2 lbs) and Sapphire (4 oz):

Ashland Bay multi merino in Sandalwood Ashland Bay multi merino in Sapphire

All happy shopping experiences. Yum yum.

After several attempts and Pooh bear style thinking, I finally got a crown that works and that I like:

Norwegian hat - in progress
stretched over a CD case

Onto the lining!

Today would have been the perfect day to wear either pair of socks. This winter has been so mild that hand knit socks just haven't been in my head. On autopilot, I sailed out of the house in the usual black cotton socks. And my feet were COLD. Twenty minutes in a toasty work environment and they were STILL cold.

All winter my office stays warm. Overwarm. Most of my handknits don't get worn because I'd be sweating bullets by noon. In fact, these days, I usually have to take my socks off mid-afternoon because they get too warm. Not today. Today was a good handknit-sock-wearing day.

Alongs

I joined me some knitalongs for the New Year. First, Stranded: The Colorwork Challenge:

Silly me, I was on the lookout for a repeat of MJ's Norwegian Knits-Along from last year and it took a while for me to realize Stranded is Norwegian Knits-Along (on steroids).

Second, I joined the 2007 UFO Resurrection:

Now, usually I wouldn't join something like this because the pressure is too great. I'm weak. I lack KAL stamina. However, I really want to whittle my WIP list further. Last year I downsized from 67 to 24 WIP's during my WIP Management campaign. I know. 67 WIP's. Doesn't it make you feel faint? I managed that in just over 6 months. My next goal is to get (and stay) within the 12-18 WIP's range. It's totally do-able. And it's something I want to accomplish. With the UFO Resurrection challenge, I have a whole year to wipe out some old knits.

To get things started right, I picked up the Norwegian Hat I started last April at the end of the Norwegian Knits-Along. Here's where it was:

Oh hat - in progress

It's basically the Bea Ellis Ufserud (modeled after MJ's) with modifications and knit at a finer gauge. I didn't want to buy the kit, so I had reverse engineered the pattern, adjusted for gauge, and added side panel details to make my stitch count work out. After a good evening's knit it looked like this:

Norwegian hat - in progress

I had been working on bamboo dpn's but they were aggravating the hell out of me. So I switched to Addi circs and Ahhhhhh. My stitches evened out and I settled into a good rhythm.

Unfortunately, when I transferred to 2 circs and tried the hat on, it was tight. Tight enough that I knew it would be uncomfortable. Tight enough that it wouldn't stretch with wear.

So I left it on the needles and cast on again. This time I noodled and adjusted the pattern for more stitches and knit an inch and a half before trying it on. Too LOOSE! Too many stitches and looser knitting.

You see, it all makes sense. I blithely laughed at Anne's misfortunes the other day, and in the back of my head, I knew the knitting gods would smite me. They did. Boy did they.

I frogged back. After many calculations, I decided to try my luck with what I had before, hoping that my looser knitting would compensate enough for it to be wearable. It did. Just. Enough.

Norwegian hat - in progress

I was quite excited to be almost binding off last night, I never imagined it would go so quickly!

Norwegian hat - in progress

And then I realized today at lunch that I was knitting on crack. While I really liked the way the decreases don't disrupt the pattern:

Norwegian hat - in progress

I found no less than 3 mistakes in the side panels post-decreases:

Norwegian hat - in progress
too many rows

Norwegian hat - in progress
what was I smoking???

Norwegian hat - in progress
too many rows

It's pretty funny. Only 1 panel was fine.

I'll frog back and pay a little more attention, finish it up right. I'm not sure how those side panels ought to meet up yet (at the top), but I'll figure something out.

Meanwhile, there is one mistake I'm not bothering to correct:

Norwegian hat - in progress

Da-Dum. Da-Dum. Da-Dum Da-Dum Da-Dum Da-Dum Da-Duuuuuuuuuuummmmm...

Pink Panther

Pink Panther
Started:
5/26/06
Finished: 1/13/07
Pattern: basic toe up with short row heel
Yarn: Kona superwash dyed as knit blanks
Needles: #3
Notes: Let's not talk about how long it took me to knit these socks (a little more than 7 months) or the number of times I reknit the heels (3 on one, 2 on the other). It's better that way (for all involved).

Pink Panther

This was a fun project, from dyeing the yarn to discovering the speckly color transitions when knit. In hindsight, it's a lot of work for a pair of socks; at the time, the dyeing was a cool experiment, a "what if". Honestly, when I began knitting and saw how the striping/speckling was coming out, my curiosity was satisfied. (This probably had something to do with the 7 months it took to finish them.)

It was the first time I made an effort to change the yarn sequence at the heels, and it was worth it.

Pink Panther

I used the extra heel yarn to finish off the tops so there's very little left over. Because the yarn was dyed as knit blanks, the yarn was crinkly, and the socks need a soak to smooth out the texture.

Pink Panther

They're a little roomy at the ankles, so maybe in the future I should decrease a couple of stitches there. Or not. Overall I'm very happy with how they came out, and even happier that they're DONE! AND, officially, they're my first finished object of 2007. Heh.

And for the first finished object started and ended in 2007:

Pebbles

Pebbles
Started:
1/1/07
Finished: 1/13/07
Pattern: basic toe up with short row heel and double seed stitch pattern
Yarn: Kona Superwash dyed in blues and purples
Needles: #3
Notes: I finished knitting the Pink Panther socks while traveling and immediately cast on for these socks. The impetus: seeing how the yarn I dyed would knit up. I was surprised that it spiraled so nicely.

Pebbles

I wanted a textured stitch to play with the changing colors, to give them more depth/dimension, but nothing complicated because the colors would obscure a lot of patterning. So I chose double seed stitch and named the socks for the "pebble-y" texture.

This is the first time I continued stockinette stitch on the back of the heel on a patterned sock, and I like how it affects fit. Next time I'll add an inch instead of half. They're shorter than most socks I knit, but I wanted to knit it with the one skein, and apparently, I dyed smaller skeins. It's a good length, though; high enough to keep my ankles warm without needing to fold down.

I really like these socks, the colors make me happy, and there's something special in knowing I dyed the yarn (even more than with the Pink Panther socks, couldn't put into words why; maybe because Pink Panther dyeing was more of an intellectual/technical experiment, where this one was done whimsically, intuitively, with luck thrown in for good measure). I've been a lot more hesitant to dye yarn than fiber because there is less wriggle room with yarn. With fiber, if it doesn't come out the way you want, there are many ways of spinning to compensate. With yarn, Game Over. I think I'll always be more comfortable with dyeing fiber for that reason.

Before I forget

You may have heard by now, Mini is organizing hat knitting for Children's Hospital Boston:

"There seems to be a ward of 10-16 year olds who are undergoing radiation and chemo for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses who need some hats. No, not just ANY HATS... they want the fun fur. Yup, I said it. FUN FUR. And they want a lot of it! Girls, boys... teens, preteens... all running around the wards at Childrens' Hospital with fun fur "hair"--- laughing, playing, raisin' hell.... sounds good, doesn't it?"

(Okay, non-fun-fur hats are allowed, too.)

She's got a bunch of patterns put together, you can find all the info here. There'll be prizes for most hats knit, random drawings, etc. She's got a bunch of prizes already and I'm donating a skein (or two?) of to-be-determined handspun. If you're able, sign up and knit a hat!

Knitting

Pebbles sock 1 is done! I wanted to knit the pair from one skein, and the skeins are about 3.5 oz, so I had to stop a bit sooner than I might have. Here's the last photo I have of it: 

Pebbles Socks - in progress

I really like how the color swirls around the foot.

I like knitting socks with this weight yarn, it's just right for me. It makes a heavier sock, which maybe is not ideal (especially this winter); but it takes less time and requires fewer stitches, which is more my speed. For socks.

Sock 2 is already at the heel! Some lunch knitting and Knit Club tonight did some damage. I suppose it helps that I have small feet...

Stash

Last weekend we met up with a friend in Cambridge and I was too close to Mind's Eye Yarns not to stop by. Dangerous, I know. I couldn't help picking up a couple of things.

Merino/tencel sock yarn dyed by Lucy. Gorgeous! Socks? Lacy scarf?

Mind's Eye Yarns merino/tencel

4 oz merino/tencel top, soft and silky:

Merino/tencel

Isn't it weird that I bought merino/tencel in blues, one fiber and one yarn? I didn't realize until afterwards... I'm definitely into the blues these days...

A few weeks ago, while organizing and trying to reduce the piles of fiber in the dining room (I call it that out of convention, but really, it's "the open space adjoining the living room where my wheel and current 'want to spin' bags of fiber sit" ... which happens to also share space with the dining room table, the hutch...), I set aside two bumps of fiber that I knew I would never spin, that I wouldn't want to gift, and that would make excellent experiments for the carder. First up, a couple of ounces of 100's merino I had dyed back in April in blues and purples, which was slightly felted and therefore no-fun-to-spin:

more stripes
100's merino on the right, dyed in the roaster

Second, ~5 oz of red and green cormo I bought at MDSW, which was a hair felted, a good bit neppy, and full of VM (vegetable matter), also no-fun-to-spin:

Winterhaven Fiber Farm, cormo in "Autumn"

I've been afraid of the drum carder. Intimidated. Worried about breaking it or screwing up. With fiber I was not going to spin, I had nothing to lose.

I started with the cormo and ran it through, spreading it out as I went, and picking out the larger pieces of VM. I didn't try to do anything special with the sections of red and green, and knew that red + green = mud brown. The colors would not be as rich and vibrant, I knew that. But with no-fun-to-spin fiber, who cares?

The carder kept out the neppy bits and maybe half the VM, and there was a fair amount of waste. The crimp on the cormo made the fiber take up a good bit of space on the drum, so I had to do at least 3 batches, but just once through each time. Each batch came out a little different depending on how much green happened to be in that batch:

dyed cormo, recarded

dyed cormo, recarded

I tried to diz off into roving, but it didn't go smoothly, so towards the end I gave up and pulled off wide strips.

What did I learn?

The carder is not to be feared. The Supercarder rocks. It makes a nice batt with one pass. VM in fiber sucks, and while the carder will loosen some of it, that's not what it's made for.

After cleaning the drums, I switched to the blue and purple merino. I predrafted and teased apart before running through, and I think that helped minimize waste. The merino ran through very easily and made a soft, lofty batt. Despite being ~2 oz of fiber, I had to make 2 batts because it fluffed up so much. If I was intent on packing it on, I would have prepared the fiber by spritzing with a weak water/conditioner solution, or "humidifying" it. But for experimenting on short notice, not an issue.

I loved these batts. The purples and blues blended so much that it was difficult to tell there was more than one color in the batt; but they definitely added subtlety and depth to the new blue. Plus, the resultant batt is so soft and inviting. Of course, blues and purples are really hard for my camera to capture so you'll have to take my word for it:

dyed merino, carded

Below you can see some "layers" of colors, light and dark, it's not just the sun:

dyed merino, carded

I left them undisturbed in batt form.

On this run I understood that commercially prepared top will leave MUCH less waste than roving, hands down. And I learned a bit about how much the carder will blend colors. I already have ideas for blending to retain more color definition.

Merino is a fine crimpy fleece, just as cormo is. However, this cormo had a LOT more crimp and bounce than the merino. This merino was commercially processed, and likely lost crimp in the processing. That gave it a very different feel than the cormo, and, surprise surprise, made it easier to card. Most commercially processed merino top is practically flat, crimp-free. Lifeless? Makes me understand a little more the charm of processing fleece.

Happy Friday! These 2 day work weeks are the worst, aren't they? I'm pooped.

Scott got me a video iPod for New Year's:

Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!
Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!

I've been wanting something like this for a couple of years, but have been waiting for prices to go down, or technology to settle, or hard drive space to increase. It was worth the wait. I lurv it!

Pebbles sock yarn

I didn't mention the yarn I had dyed back in August because I was afraid it would look like crap. Pretty lame, hunh? It was dyed in the roaster without measuring anything (shocking!):

blues and purples

I just kept adding dyes until I liked what I saw, or couldn't improve what I had with more dyes. The good thing about Kona - it's superwash. Poking and prodding to get the dyes to migrate does not felt the yarn. 

Due to how I put the skeins in the roaster, I ended up with three skeins, two alike:

blues and purples

Here they are dry:

blues and purples

And wound:

blues and purples

The white was unexpected. The dyes didn't settle to the bottom as much as I expected/hoped. I've had this happen more than once. In this case, I think it adds a nice accent to the yarn. But in general, I'd like to have more control over it. Methinks if I adds more water for the yarn/fiber to swim, that would help.

On the topic of baby knitting

Nothing started yet, though I bought some GGH Java in 2 shades of peach and white from Little Knits to make a little blanket. I knit a tank top from Java a couple of years ago and really liked the sproinginess of the cotton. I'm thinking alphabet squares or something along those lines.

I also have some Debbie Bliss Cotton DK (also from Little Knits) earmarked for another Debbie Bliss knit, but I haven't picked it out or started it yet. There's some irrational part of my brain thinking, "I've got time." Could be related to the fact that it's knitting with COTTON, for gosh sakes (see? cleaning up the language around here, there's a baby due, donchaknow). I did feel guilty after saying I wouldn't knit something fancy for my wee one. You know I would, right? Eventually? Just gotta find the right project.

Dyeing

Beth asked if I'm "allowed" to dye while I'm pregnant. As far as I understand, some dyeing is fine, provided you're taking the usual precautions (dust mask for dye powder, gloves, etc). I did feel a distinct desire NOT to dye during the first trimester, despite being in the middle of dyeing up batches of corriedale for the carder. I followed my instinct and found other things to do (not hard around here). And then I was too pooped to do much of anything.

Recently I did get the urge to throw color on fiber, so I took advantage! My dyes are already mixed into solutions, so I didn't have to deal with dye powders. I threw a whack of finn and romney in the roaster, about a pound and a half total, and threw some dyes on. (Why yes, I did make calculations and measure dyes, so I'm just being glib.)

Luck of the dyepot
layer 1

3 hours in the roaster at 250 did the job. No bubbling or boiling.

I was definitely going for particular results, and I definitely did not achieve them. I wanted rusty reds to appear, and they didn't. Instead, I got a lot of nice greens reminiscent of the primaries dyepot batch. I shoulda had an idea of how it would come out once I added the water:

Luck of the dyepot

But really, by then, it was already too late (4 layers of fiber in there).

Luck of the dyepot
left: 8 oz romney; right: 1 lb finn

No worries, I'll try again and change my tactics. And I am curious to see how it spins up.

At the same time, I tried out my new electric skillet that I bought at Home Depot:

Dyeing in an electric skillet
4 oz superfine merino

I lurv lurv lurv the colors!

Superfine merino in Lagoon

Too much fiber and not enough water meant the dyes didn't penetrate to the lower areas without a bunch of jostling with a chopstick, so the fiber did felt a bit. Lesson learned. (Maybe.)

I spun up a sample on the wheel and lurv it:

Lagoon sample wheel spun

enough to bring to NC and spindle it:

Lagoon on the spindle

Lagoon on the spindle

This may be part of my Twisted Knitters project, but (good grief) I'm STILL undecided.

Happy New Year!!!

I don't even know where to start.

What's up with BSG being on break until late January???

Just kidding. (Though, seriously, what up??? I am not as happy with this season as last, but I'm seriously addicted. Seriously.)

I just got back from a weekend of family and good eats and New Year's celebration in NC and DC. It was a darned good time. I mentioned recently that we celebrate New Year's and not Christmas, but what I failed to mention was how Christmas and the weeks leading up to it tend to seriously bum me out. I won't go into the wherefor's now, but I'm sure it had a lot to do with my radio silence. I didn't want to rain on anyone's parade; maybe next year I'll actually talk about it.

For now, I'll share some highlights from New Year's.

My dad is more talkative with Scott around. We learned some things about him growing up in post-war Japan. After the war, much of his hometown was destroyed. They collected a large pile of debris in the field behind his house and set it on fire. The heat from the fire set off a bomb that had fallen but not detonated, probably hidden in the field. If the fire had not set off the bomb, who knows what would have. My dad playing in the field? There was a sobering moment as we all realized how close we had come to not being there together, or at all.

[Edited to add: Scott reminded me I remembered it wrong. The sobering moment was if the bomb had actually detonated on landing. Duh.]

Between eating out in DC and home cooked meals, we ate delicious Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian and Middle Eastern meals. It was truly a weekend of gluttony.

Baby girl had been relatively quiet for several days, but managed to kick everyone at one point or another. Bonding pre-birth. My family is so excited about the baby and, between not being allowed to lift heavy things, concern for my physical and stomach state and general belly rubbing, it was impossible for me to forget I was pregnant while I was there. It didn't take long to forget once I got home, however. Business as usual. Then, being startled looking in the mirror! Hey, look at THAT!

I'm so round. I'm almost an outie.

I'm sure I had another growth spurt since last week (I'm sure the gluttony had something to do with it). When I wash my hands at work, my belly touches the counter. I've got the beginnings of a waddle. I nearly fell over trying to fold my pant cuffs in the grocery store.

From the front there's not much to see:

Week 24

But from the side:

Week 24

HELLO!

Between the plane ride and car ride, I finished knitting the second Pink Panther sock and started another pair from Kona superwash I dyed back in August:

Pebble Sea - in progress

I'm realizing I'm not a big sock knitter. When it takes months to finish a pair, this becomes self-evident. However, I wanted to see how the yarn knit up. I think it's nifty.

Pebble Sea - in progress

I also spindled some, but I'll leave that for another day, hopefully soon. :)