Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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These are the photos that go with yesterday's post. :)

Picovoli progress

Picovoli - in progress

The irregularity on the right is the end of skein one. One skein goes along way, doesn't it?

I'm very ambivalent about skein size. When I'm counting stash, having a good number of skeins is a good thing (if there's space) because it means you have more flexibility in project choice. But man, a sweater's worth of yarn takes up a lot of space. When I'm knitting and measuring project progress by number of skeins used, each skein seems sooooo long. And then, the stash seems enormous! If it takes x hours to knit one skein of yarn, how long will it take to knit through the stash??? When I'm afraid of running out of yarn, each skein seems smaller, each yard more precious. Then I'm worrying about squeezing out an extra row or two with the last yards of each ball.

Each Provence skein is 125 grams - larger than usual. I have 3 skeins total, but I'm guessing I'll finish it with 2. That's some serious yardage.

DRCB progress

DRCB - in progress

Today I gave the cabling without a cable needle method a try. It's come up a few times recently so I thought I should at least figure out what the hullabaloo is all about.

Convenience. That's what it's all about. Speed? Hmm, not sure. If I were knitting something like a sock, with many stitches in constrained quarters, I'd definitely use the cableneedleless method. On this project... I'll try it for a few inches and see how I like it.

Wheel progress

Well, no photo. But it's at the post office, so there'll be photos tomorrow!

And the haircut

New haircut

Swish, swish

New haircut

Yup, that's spin-dye-knit-a-scarf. First time out. A little scratchy but purty. And that (gasp!) non-black top? Also cashmere, on (serious) sale, nabbed this weekend. Told you it was a busy weekend. :)

It shipped! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Last night Picovoli started here:

Picovoli - in progress

and ended here:

Picovoli - in progress

and that's with some frogging.

This project has been on the challenging side, but not so much frustrating. I knew what I was getting into, and I was up for it.

First, the pattern is written with negative ease for shapeliness. This is a good thing. The finished size I want is between pattern sizes. Not so good.

The yarn I'm using has a great feel and sheen and the color is magnificent. It is the red. Poifect. I'm not getting gauge. Not so poifect.

Before I began a single stitch, I pored over the pattern and figured out what was going on. I then calculated all the stitches, increases, decreases, etc, for the in between size. Finally I adjusted the new numbers based on my actual gauge, making sure I had the "right" number of stitches in the appropriate places (some guesswork here). You should see my notes, some numbers have been crossed out 7 or 8 times as I worked things out. Right. Time to knit.

From the start, I ran into a number of problems, most of which had to do with being tired. (Yeah, all those calculations will do that to ya.) Lots of frogging, forehead slapping, and head hanging. It took quite a while to get to row 7, but then it was smooth sailing until the beginning of last night. And I realized... my gauge in the round is different than my gauge swatch, which was worked back and forth. "Eh no" (think Phoebe from Friends). It happens to us all, eh? I debated, I hawed and hemmed, and decided to try it on. There wasn't much to try on, no armholes, just a big loop to lay over my shoulders. It was hard to tell, it seemed maybe fine, maybe a hair small. But workable. I had read that some people's Picovoli's tended to stretch a bit so being on the small side might be okay. I plowed on with the understanding that all those calculations might need to be reworked.

A few rows after the armholes, I tried it on again. Ouch, armpit pinching. Too small. I decided to add another increase round and figured the extra stitches should be okay. I thought of adding 2 increase rounds, but then remembered that it would probably stretch, and the last thing I wanted was a loose body.

Frog. Reknit. Try on. Better! Knit knit knit knit. Try on. Hey, not bad! The bust area is comfortably snug, not tight, not loose. It may stretch a bit with wear, who knows. The part from the armpit up is just tall enough. The extra 2 rows made the needed difference; I just hope it doesn't end up being too tight anyway.

I'm about an inch from the waist decreases. There will be more try ons and more adjustments, but it's all good. You wanna know why?

I'm a sale shopper. I buy yarns I like when they're on sale. Not for a particular pattern or idea. Just because. I. Love. Yarn. (You noticed?) What does this mean?

There are so many patterns I want to make but don't have yarn to match. There are so many yarns I want to use, but don't have patterns to match. It can get frustrating. Some yarns sit around for a while waiting for the perfect pattern written at the right gauge. Or for inspiration to strike.

But I'm beginning to accept this situation. This means: Using my stash requires creativity. Using my stash requires adjustments. This year I want to make summer tops before summer rolls around. I know, revolutionary, isn't it? There's Picovoli, a ChicKami, maybe the Honeymoon Cami, and the Bistro Shirt (though that's a whole other story). And there are yarns I want to use for summer tops that probably don't match any patterns I have. But I want to use them. To make this work, I'll have to be creative and make adjustments. Because you know I don't have any more yarn money. It's all going into fiber these days. I'm even selling stash so I can buy more fiber. Yup, it's like that.

So adjustments to Picovoli? No problem. Frogging and reknitting and frogging? No problem. That's what I have to do to get them summer knits. And I'm gonna do it. It's all good.

Thanks for the supportive posts the last few days, it is mucho appreciated.

After the blogging break last night I went back and decided, enough "playing", let's make something real. Well, actually, it was more like... Hmm, I'm out of random fiber and everything else is either handdyed or luxury... guess I have to make something real. Luxury we'll leave for another day. Who spins cashmere, yak or camel on their second run? Hmph. Ditto alpaca. That left undyed Finn and Corriedale, and some handdyeds (doesn't that word look weird? Wait, it sounds weird, too). After little thought I chose the handdyed superwash merino from Paradise Fibers (photo here), since I have 8 oz of it and it's enough to make something real with room for error. And it's purty. As I spun, I hummed classical tunes, just like the last time I spun on a Joy.

37: Superwash Winter Solstice

Socks. It will be socks. :)

Project: Part I

You'll have to see this in pieces. It's a lot to take in. Today we'll look at the "before":

Yarn Room
Upon entering the Yarn room: Chair o' handspun. Covered desk. Yarn on the floor.

Yarn Room
Turning slightly to the right: More yarn on the floor. Box o' fiber. Bins stacked high.

Yarn Room
Turning to the right: More yarn on the floor. Lotsa bins in wire shelves.

Common theme: lots of yarn on the floor. Lots of piles. No walking room, no room for a wheel.

Actually, common theme: Lots. O'. Yarn. Told you it was a lot to take in. In my "defense"... I've been knitting for 25 years... Hehehe, it's not like any of it is from when I was 8.

Coming soon: Part II - Construction.

Madness. I've been checking 6 times a day for the last few days (incredible restraint!), and there has been no change! My wheel is somewhere between here and Seattle:

Wheel progress

I imagine it wending it's way here, over hill, over dale, through bush, through briar (Shakespeare, just the last bit; probably remembered it wrong). I'd love to be more specific about the landscape in these visions: corn fields? meadows? mountains? It's due to arrive Monday. I've managed to refrain from believing it might be here sooner. Good thing, I would have been sorely disappointed. 2 more days I can wait. It could be late, though... but I won't think about that today.

I've had plenty to distract me. The Jacquard Acid Dyes I ordered from Dharma Trading arrived! I ordered the primaries and black, though just what are considered primaries is a subject worthy of debate.

Squatting in the kitchen, with mask, fan and latex gloves on, newspapers laid out, hair tied, scale at the ready, heated distilled water (we're on well water here and it's a bit reddish; I'm guessing the prepared dyes will go bad sitting with whatever is in our water), and a few other items, I measured out 1% solutions of each:

Mixed Jacquard Dyes

It was a bit stressful, what with not really knowing what I was doing, worrying about the dyes floating about, not wanting to knock a jug over and inadvertently dyeing the kitchen... I'm clumsy, after all. But all worked out well. Until I tried to fill the smaller containers:

Red dye

Half again of the above ended up on the newspaper. A mess! The lip of the larger container is not conducive to pouring; we're actively pursuing solutions chez 2LN.

Some supplies I picked up last night might help:

Dyeing Supplies

Well, maybe just the funnel... Except for the turkey basters, all at the Dollar Store! Drop cloth, plastic storage containers, a measuring cup, latex gloves and a large funnel set, and the plastic bowl. A buck per! And the turkey basters were only $1.76 at Shaw's. The black gloves cost much more than a buck, they were bought a year ago.

In all the only discoloration of floor or body occurred:

Dyeing - blue thumb

due to the blue Sharpie I used for marking the containers.

Knitting too

Creamsicle T is still in pieces:

Creamsicle T - in pieces

I haven't been in a blocking mood while fighting the cold/flu. And actually, I'm thinking of seaming and then wet blocking, since I want to give it a quick wash before wearing. I usually block then seam; at last check (when I started the project) I was getting gauge so it's just to get the rolly polliness ousted. If the seaming is too much of a pain, especially at the shoulders, then I'll have to block.

Since I couldn't pour out any more dyestuff, I worked on Gram's Socks. At last check in (11/21), I was a few inches past the heel (ie, almost done), but had to rip back because it didn't fit (last sock photo). It fit fine up to the mid-foot; from there, her foot gets wider, which is something I couldn't have foreseen.

I am horrible at dealing with complete setbacks like that. So the sock languished and I focused on holiday knits.

Well, I've had just over 2 months to brood and mope and brainstorm. Last night I finally ripped back to the last set of toe increases, added one more set of increases, knit 5 rows plain, and then increased 1 stitch every 4 for 4x1 ribbing. I figure ribbing will be most forgiving, and adding the extra stitches will hardly affect the finished silhouette, while adding plenty of room to stretch. I imagine that even with her currently swollen feet, she would be able to fit into these!

Gram's Socks - restarted foot

The added bonus is the knitting is more interesting; every other needle I have something to do! Plain socks at this gauge is not for me.

At my last job, after 4 years of showing off sweaters, scarves, baby sweaters, socks, and hearing many times over, "I wish I could make that," and "When are you gonna make me one?" I decided to start a weekly knitting group and teach anyone that wanted to learn how to knit.

I had taught 3, maybe 4 people to knit in my life: my sister (a lefty), and 2 eight year olds. Not a lot of experience, but I've been knitting since I was eight and tutored when I was in high school and was doing some training in my job, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Day one, 6 people, 5 of them new to knitting, including Maria. Thankfully the 6th, Kathryn, knew how to knit and could help out here and there. We started with the cast on where you're essentially doing a knit stitch and then transferring stitches back to the left needle. Took a while to get the hang of it, but the beauty was when they realized they pretty much already knew how to do a knit stitch! Voila, knitting! They started their first project over the next couple of weeks, mostly scarves, and their pride and the way their faces lit up when they showed me their projects in progress was delightful and gratifying. Instead of the "I made that!" jingle that often runs through my head, I thought, "I showed them how to make that!"

Over the next few months, I taught a dozen women of varying experience and ability: all to knit, some to purl, some to cast on long tail, some to fix errors, backtrack, pick up dropped stitches, cable, simple knit-purl patterns, how to read your knitting, and so on. I learned a lot in the process; that's a part of teaching someone else, isn't it? Mostly, I gained confidence in my knitting knowledge and abilities. After spending most of my life knitting alone, I didn't have much to compare to. I knew what I knew, but I didn't know how much it was, and I didn't have much reason to examine my knitting.

My approach was that knitting was not difficult, just took some getting used to and practice. You want to purl? No problem. Fix mistakes? Okey dokey smokey! Backtrack? Simple. Try cabling or basket stitch? Sure, why not? And I brought in lots of projects to inspire and encourage them, mostly scarves: garter stitch knit end to end, simple 2x2 rib, basket stitch, seed stitch - all things most of them could easily tackle.

Teaching affected me in unexpected ways. For example, undoing mistakes used to be painful for me. Sometimes it was the reason I dropped a project. I'd get so disheartened at having to rip back rows and rows to fix a mistake that I'd just drop the project and move on to something else. But with the "sure, no problem" attitude I was preaching, I found I had to live it, too. Fixing mistakes is part of the process. Sometimes, mistakes can be left and no one will know. Sometimes, you need to fix them. I used to consult with Scott on whether or not I should frog on serious mistakes; inevitably, he'd get me to see that I needed to fix it, that I would feel better if it was done right. With my new attitude, I saw it as part of the process. And, I didn't want to scare them off. If I was intimidated by fixing mistakes, wouldn't they be?

You know what happened? I got more adventurous. For example, on my Nothin' But A T, once I had knit the front and back, I tacked the seams and tried it on. Everything below the waist just didn't fit me! I didn't want to frog the whole thing, so I thought about it, and decided to undo a waist row, frog a few inches and reknit it shorter with adjusted shaping, and then graft to the upper stitches. Magic. Challenging, to be sure. Required patience and trust in my skills. But it worked!

Here's a shout out to all of the Knitters Lunch folks, whether or not you're still knitting. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to every week, and inspiring me to become a better knitter!

Maria's knits

Maria took to knitting like I took to spinning. Mostly, she just got it. She understood what was supposed to happen, and with some practice and not much time, she figured out how to do it. In no time at all she finished her first scarf, then her second, and it didn't take long before she made her first sweater (with lace) and was figuring out her own patterns:

Maria, scarf for son
Scarf for her son Silvestre

and combining yarns for cool effects (with short rows to boot):

Maria, scarf for Mom
Short Row Rib scarf from with a thin brown boucle and black yarn, for her mum; doesn't she look happy wearing it?

And, of course, it didn't take long for her to get hooked on Danette Taylor's yarns, too:

Maria, scarf for daughter
Maria's version of Seaweed Love using 100% silk, for her daughter Natasha

and tackle lace:

Maria, scarf for niece
Misty Garden from Scarf Style, using Danette's angora in Violets, for her niece

She's a knitting machine!

Maria, lots of scarves

She kept me on my toes and it didn't take long for me to use jargon with her and discuss projects conceptually, knowing she'd go home and figure out how to do it. I'm still trying to convince her to start her own blog, but seeing as I can't get her to post a comment, it will take a lot more work.

Here's her current work in progress:

Maria, scarf in progress
Scarf on the diagonal using Danette's super soft cotton ripple in Cascades

Knit on, Maria!

Creamsicle T sleeves are about 3" done. I'm knitting both at the same time, which is my preferred method of knitting sleeves. That way, I know my gauge is the same, and I don't have to figure out what I did on the first one. Creamsicle T shows that I can stick to one project if it's the right one at the right time. Sure, I threw a little bit of fairisle mitten and Kiri knitting into the mix, plus a wee bit of spinning. But that's as close to knitting monogamy as I can get.

The wee bit of spinning is plied and is lovely. It's soft and squishy. Pictures tomorrow.

I ordered some Jacquard acid dyes from Dharma Trading Company. I'm starting with primaries and black, and some tools. We have a second crock pot in the basement that I'll put to good use. I'm reading good info on the Dye Happy Yahoo group and can't wait to experiment. I'll admit to feeling a bit intimidated and clueless, and I'm hoping it will all work itself out once I get started. In addition to good ole fiber dyeing, I'd like to try some superwash wools for self-striping sock yarn.

And in the "I'm an idiot" category, I got off my butt and decided to figure out how to write a pattern for Buttercup. I mean, it's only been, what, a month??? Sometime before winter ends would be nice, eh? It was then that I realized: Buttercup is in NC. I already gave it away! My notes are, well, let's just say, I didn't even write down how many stitches I cast on. Yup, I'm an idiot. I can rework it from the photos and memory, and I'll probably use an easier to find yarn to test knit it. Sigh. Live and learn.

In the winter, I get to wear a lot of my handknits. Yesterday was a 4 knit day: Grey Cabled Socks, Blue Biffle Wristwarmers, Seaweed Love, and Grape Snuggy (hat). 3 knit days are easy to achieve: hat, scarf, mittens. 4 knit days are special. Any sock day is special. 5 knit days are giddy, but I can't remember the last time I had one.

I saw my reflection in the Mini window; I really like my Grape Snuggy. I think it fits me well, and I've received a few compliments from knitters and non-knitters on it. I don't always like hats on me, and I've convinced myself I don't generally look good in hats, so this is a cool realization.

While in the grocery store, I looked around at those wearing hats, all machine made. Enjoying my 4 knit day, wearing 4 knits I happen to love, I thought how limited their selection is, and wondered what they do. Do they wish for a handknit hat, custom designed just for them, in materials, color, pattern to their specifications? Would they want a handdyed handknit one-of-a-kind silk-merino scarf? Can they imagine the cozy comfort of handknit socks?

Does this have anything to do with the current surge in knitting's popularity?

Random observation

It's harder to use chopsticks while wearing wristwarmers. It feels a little off.



These be the swatches I mentioned yesterday, forgot to take a picture of them before. Notice the sizes, nice and big. Remember the Grey Cabled Socks swatch? Hahaha, I've come a long way.

I really liked knitting with the Filatura di Crosa 501 Tweed (left). Fairly soft, and firm yet flexible fabric. It was interesting to see how the barberpole yarn knit up, not quite what I expected. I want to match it to a project soon.

Bamboo (middle) was nice to knit with, crisp feeling. The colors are so much nicer knit up than I expected, I really like the variegation. To be honest, I was kinda disappointed when this color showed up, it just wasn't what I was hoping for. But knit up, I just love it and can't wait to make it into something. My gauge is way off, though, 6 sts instead of 5 to the inch. And that's on bigger needles. Has a lot of spring when stretched width-wise.

Thanks, Beth, for the heads up on the Bamboo. I see what you mean about the scratchiness and I'm glad I made the mistake of using #7 needles. At this gauge it doesn't feel scratchy per se, just... crisp.

Okay, had to stop and play. After roughing up the swatch for a few minutes, it changed gauge, closer to 5 sts per inch. Better for following patterns written at 5 sts per inch, but, my mistake of using #7 needles means the stitches are now a little holey. A little risque for a tank top for conservative me. Guess I'll have to knit me another swatch.

Third swatch (right) is some Knit One Crochet Two Meringue I bought on sale at A Good Yarn at the end of the summer. I was hoping to use it for Bistro Shirt, but I'm not sure it'll work. It feels very spongy knit up, and has some bulk. It will probably be warm; maybe a bell sleeved sweater.

Kiri just a little bit bigger.

A friend of mine told me how she cracked up about my abandoned projects (poor projects, they're laughing with you), so I thought she'd get a kick out this:

Wisdom Toothless Wisdom Toothless

This is me post-wisdom tooth extraction. 3 wisdom teeth, 2 impacted that later got dry sockets (ouch!). The towel is holding 2 ice packs in place and yes, it's binder-clipped in place. I think I've taken prescription painkillers at this point, I look pretty perky. In less than an hour I'll be asleep.

(Interesting choice for knitting under the influence, that's the lace shawl I just finished!)

Update: Thank you for the well wishes, you're so sweet! The photos are from July, though, so while it was a painful painful couple of weeks, I'm painlessly wisdom(tooth)less now. ;)

It's done, it's done! Here she is blocking:

Multidirectional Silk Scarf - blocking

I used blocking wires on just the silk boucle portion, since I liked the garter part just fine and didn't want it to stretch out. Gave it a good steaming and then let sit to cool.

Multidirectional Silk Scarf

Very cool.

She competes with Seaweed Love as my new favorite scarf!

The blocking took care of the buckling middle and the bulging ends. I would still use 4 rows on the half diagonal diamonds in future because of stitch count, but it's good to know the bulging goes away. I think the boucle holds a firmer edge than the Regal Silk. In the pattern photo it sags just a bit.

Multidirectional Silk Scarf
Started: 11/5/05
Finished: 11/20/05
Pattern: Multidirectional Silk Scarf by Iris Scheirer,
Yarn: Danette Taylor's silk boucle (~2.3 oz) and 50/50 cashmere/merino (3.5 oz), both in Bramble Rose
Needles: #8
Notes: See above and yesterday's post.
The cashmere/merino has nice spring and is lovely to knit.


Thanks, Noelle, for your comment about Winderwood Farm. I like their rovings and hope I can figure out the email and delivery delay problems. The package smelled smoky, but the rovings themselves, sealed in their baggies, had a different smell, could have been vinegar as you mentioned. I have heard of packages getting a smoky smell en route with the USPS.


Yesterday was Gram's birthday. We brought Chinese and chocolates. What more can a birthday girl want? Oh yes, watches with replaced batteries. Check!

I had her try on mostly done sock one. Too tight! To frog pond we go.

10 Things about Gram

  • She had the blackest hair in Neponset.
  • She could out-skate her brothers.
  • She had 7 or 8 brothers and sisters and took care of most of them. She has 1 daughter.
  • Gram retired from Gillette after 41 years as a chemist.
  • They wanted her to go to Europe to help but she refused; she doesn't like flying.
  • Gram loved to shop at The Christmas Tree Shop; I always expected to see her in the next commercial.
  • She has a sweet tooth the size of New England; she always leaves room for dessert.
  • Gram crocheted dozens of afghans for family and friends.
  • When Scott was younger and lived nearer to her, he would come home to chicken dinners hanging from his door.
  • She welcomed me from day one and is one of the sweetest spitfires I know.

Happy Birthday, Gram!

First of all, thanks for the nice comments about my spun yarn and Gram! And Danette, no way I will exceed your dyeing skills. :)

WIP Management

I've been heading in this direction lately, but now it's official: I need to get my WIPs under control! Here's what I put together yesterday:

"One of the side effects of blogging and reading other people's blogs is taking a new look at how I knit. I am a Gemini, and it shows. Besides mountains of yarn, I have mountains of WIPs going back years!

I have resolved to get this mountain down to a "manageable" size, and to that end, will keep a list here of all projects and status. Manageable for now means 18-24 projects (!), which I think will effectively half my current WIP list. Sad sad sad. Once I meet this goal, I may reduce even further! (Or not.)

Projects will either be completed, put on the list for completion, or else abandoned. New projects may be started, but not with abandon (haha).

Wish me luck!"

and here's my oh-so-scary project list. 67 projects! 67! How... shocking, and embarassing, and ridiculous, and hysterical! I can already see a few that can be abandoned, and a few that just need buttons. 67 is a lot more than I was expecting, but it's time to clean up the list and the WIP pile. Think I can do it?

I'll try to do an update every week or two, and keep a running balance in the sidebar. Any words of encouragement, or outright laughter, are welcome. You can encourage me or chide me into whipping my WIPs into shape!