Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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Thanks for the nice comments on the handspun scarf! If you do end up knitting one yourself, do send me a photo or link, I'd love to see your version.

I have not been much of a blogger lately. I have plenty of stuff to talk about: dyeing, spinning, new fiber acquisitions. I've even been taking photos at lunch when the sun deigns to shine. However, the blogging just hasn't been happening.

The main culprit: Scott's first semester of college classes is coming to an end, and we've been ramping up to tackle research papers and exams. The last 2 weeks have been exhausting for him, tiring for me. I don't like MLA so much. Let's just say, we'll both be glad when classes end tomorrow!

I've been sick, too. Caught a cold last week. I coulda used some cold medicine. Just sayin'. Still have a nagging tickle in my throat, but otherwise back to normal.

FO

The Project is complete, sent, and in the hands of the recipient, so I can actually talk details! This was tough to keep quiet, as evidenced by my vague and nonsensical posts. The FO is just so cute and perty, it's hard not to want to share.

Guernsey Dress

Guernsey Dress
Started:
11/1/06
Finished: 12/5/06
Pattern: Guernsey Dress by Debbie Bliss from Cotton Knits for All Seasons
Yarn: 5 skeins Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton in pink (#125600)
Needles: #2, 3
Notes: This was knitted at a smaller gauge than I'm used to, and the lower dress portion felt like it went on a while; once I got to the decreases and patterning section, it went much more quickly.

Guernsey Dress - detail

Erin mentioned that only a friend would knit bobbles, and she's right. I'll admit, when I first settled on the pattern I did consider omitting them. I'm just not a bobble fan! But they're few and really do add to the charm.

The front design is repeated on the back, no shortcuts there. The sleeves are simpler, but still very patterned. The seed stitch / cable combo makes for a denser knit; they softened somewhat in the wash, but they did feel sturdier to me than the body. I hope it looks fine on the baby.

Scott picked out the buttons. Despite being colorblind, he's my go-to guy for advice/opinions on color and buttons.

Guernsey Dress - buttons

I've mentioned before that it's a fussier knit than I'm used to. In fact, I would say (with a blush) that I wouldn't knit something so complicated for my own child! I don't knit such patterned things for myself, either. I guess I'm a lazy knitter, through and through (albeit with high standards). This one was definitely worth the effort, though, and I kept thinking about Erin's baby girl wearing it as I knit.

The only thing I would change in the future (not that I'll knit this particular dress again) is how I did the neck decreases. Hindsight being 20/20, I figured out a better way to do it after the front was already done. Ah well. Next time.

(Beth left a comment on Erin's post wondering how I parted with the dress. I did want to keep it to gaze upon its cuteness. Debbie Bliss knits will do that to you. But, besides knitting it expressly for Erin, the wool content sealed the deal. I shall try to stand firm on the "no wool knits for baby" rule for as long as I can.)

Thanks for the nice comments on the NC spun yarn! The magical transformation that is spinning, gotta love it.

Two things I did differently with these yarns:

I (mostly) didn't draft the fibers or split them. I used to separate combed top into narrow strips that were closer to the finished single, and then pre-draft the whole thing. For thin yarn, that took a looooong time. After reading Spinnerella's notes from her spinning lesson with Judith MacKenzie McCuin (paraphrased from memory: it's only a true worsted if you don't split the top and if you work from the whole width, moving side to side), after my spinning lesson with Barbara Clorite-Ventura, and after reading somewhere that there were 2 "camps", those that pre-drafted and those that didn't (before I read that, I didn't realize people didn't pre-draft!), I decided to try this not-pre-drafting thing out.

I split Calico Cat into 2 strips so it wasn't so unwieldy. But I didn't pre-draft. And I did a little pre-drafting on the primaries dyepot, but only because it was felted.

I kinda like it. It's less prep time, and esp in the case of dyed top which will stick together more than undyed top, I feel like I have to pull the fibers out, which, while more work for my fingers, also means that the fibers aren't slipping out of my fingers, either. More control. If it's very sticky, though, I would probably do some light attenuating (I'm not even sure if I'm using that word right). Eg, last night, while trying out some silk, I didn't split the top but I did do some gentle pre-drafting to open up the top a bit, allowing the fibers to move past each other better.

The second thing I did differently: whack that yarn! I read on the Knitter's Review Forums (sorry, can't find the link now...) that you should abuse your yarn to finish it, even out the twist, etc. I gave it a try. It made the merino fuzzier, not sure I want that. But it didn't affect the BFL the same way. I don't have a before and after, but I think it made a positive difference. I'll be (selectively) abusing my yarns from now on.

It's steam sauna hot today. Even at 11:17 pm, the heat has not let up much. We have 2 window A/C units in our basement from our previous apartment dwelling life. Back when windows went up and down and A/C units fit logically. Our 30+ year old house has casement windows, the kind that go side to side. We haven't found our solution yet. Meanwhile, life without A/C, not so fun.

On the plus side, the Mosquito Magnet we bought for a terrific price at season's end 2004, which we finally got up and running a few weeks ago, magnificent. We used to get eaten alive. No hyperbole. Eaten. Alive. We used to run from car to house, house to car. They waited for us, swarmed and attacked us. No more. Hardly any mosquitos in our yard now. It's wonderful. We might get some yard work done now. If the incessant rain and raising heat let up. Or, more accurately, if I can tear myself away from the wheel.

We also bought a humidifier for our basement, it's much too damp down there (the unit tells us it's ~65% humidity, at what % does it start raining indoors?). We have a full unfinished basement that serves as storage and that icky place where the washer and dryer live. Well, sort of storage. No books or yarn, of course. We're hoping to one day finish it and make it liveable. It's at least 15 degrees cooler down there now -- if only it weren't so buggy (spiders) and damp and ill-lit, we could beat the heat down there. One day.

Meanwhile, we picked up a new shower head (with 8 fancy settings) and a new hallway light (which Scott already installed). Before: 20 year old showerhead and bare bulb (okay, I exaggerate on the showerhead). After a few dual paychecks, we're starting to edge away from tight-belted frugality and starting to look at improvements around the house. We even picked out paint colors for the bedroom! 2 1/2 years and we've only painted the bathroom. This is a huge step! I may even shock you with a new living room set one day. But don't hold your breath.

I went to Knit Club at Fabric Place in Framingham last Friday and made this startling revelation: a lot of knitting can be accomplished if you sit down and knit! Shocking, isn't it? Because I sure wasn't getting much done while spinning this:

A Touch of Twist rambouillet/silk

9.6 oz of rambouillet/silk from A Touch of Twist (MDSW). 3 oz were spun way back when, the rest finished since returning from NC. It'll be a little slubby and textured when plied. It's soft, has a nice sheen, and was pretty nice to spin. Don't be surprised if I bring back more from Rhinebeck. Just sayin'.

Knit Club knitting helped get me to a finished Trellis back:

Trellis - back finished!

The shaping looks a little wonky (wide below 'pits, narrow after), but I know it's just the way it's designed, so I'm trusting.

I also combed the rest of the cormo with the pet comb, but I think I'll leave that for tomorrow. Time to peel myself from the desk and chair and melt somewhere else. Preferably in front of a fan.

Thanks for your nice comments about the spinning demonstration! I felt a little guilty as I was leaving my now-spinning niece, wondering when she's gonna want a wheel... sorry, sis!

I was driving home from work a couple of days ago, it was sunny and nice. The closer I got to home, the darker it got. Why? Trees, lotsa trees. I realized we need to cut down our neighbors trees so we can get more sunlight. (Not just for blog photos. Really.) Do you think they'd mind?

I threatened before to start taking fibery projects to work to photograph if I couldn't find any good sunlight at home. I finally did. Yesterday. When I left home it was sunny. Wouldn't you know: when I took my lunch break it was overcast; and when I went outside to take photos, it started to rain. Barely. Spitting. Taunting. As if the skies were laughing at me, mocking my futile attempts. Shortly after, it really rained.

Lucky for me Scott has a good view from where he works so he let me know when the sun came a-peeking. I ran outside and got a few photos (below).

If I were a glass-half-full kinda gal, maybe I would see the spitting as a gentle, nay, kind, warning of impending rain. If the skies had wanted to be spiteful, wouldn't they have opened a deluge on me, suddenly and without notice?

This weekend as I was leaving the house, I knocked over a glass-totally-full of orange juice. All over my spinning area. Luckily, only a few drops got on my wheel and most of my fiber was in bags. Still, plenty of fiber got sprayed, including a generous slosh on my newly washed cormo. It took an hour to clean the mess. When I was in high school I went through a period when, just as I was leaving home I'd guzzle down some orange juice and somehow spill it on my shirt. Off I'd go to change. The next day, the same. And the next. What is it with me and orange juice??

Hard won photos

Winterhaven Farm cormo

That's dyed cormo roving from Winterhaven Fiber Farm bought at MDSW. I had spun a sample of it back in May, but was not so happy with it. It was tough to draft evenly and had bits of veggie matter in there. I decided to be okay with irregular spinning, and the portions of roving that are on the inside of the ball are a little easier to spin, but the VM is still annoying. I pull out bits every foot or so of spinning and usually have to stop spinning to get them out. Not so fun.

Below is shetland from a fiber sampler I got in a swap, spun on the Joy. I'm keeping it low twist to keep the softness. When I'm home the Joy doesn't call to me so this bobbin may sit mateless for a while.

Shetland

I'm also working on some more rambouillet/silk from A Touch of Twist, also purchased at MDSW. Photo soon. I spun up a bobbin back in May (last photo). The prep is not conducive to regular smooth singles, so again I'm being okay with irregular spinning. Still loving this fiber, though.

I managed to get a little knitting done in NC. Almost at the armpits on Trellis:

Trellis - in progress

I wrote a draft of this at work, and, surprise, surprise, I lost the post. It's the skies. I know it's the skies. They're being spiteful! When I left work, it was raining. They knew I didn't bring an umbrella. As I drove home, it got progressively heavier until it was pouring when I got home. Scott came out with an umbrella for me (awwww), foiling their attempts to drown me. Now that I'm safe inside, no rain. Coincidence? Unlikely! In fact, I begin to suspect that the skies have something to do with the fact that my drum carder is not yet here! It's related, I tell you. I know it is, I just don't know how yet.

Tomorrow I'll show you the yarn I spun in NC. If the skies allow.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Sunshine! I even managed to get these photos this morning between cloud cover:

Washed cormo lock (the top end is the slightly felted cut end):

Washed cormo lock

Based on feedback the other day, I'm trying to comb it with the Forsyth combs. We'll see how it goes (initial attempts are so-so).

Clover Leaf Farms silk/merino, 4 oz spun up:

Clover Leaf Farms merino/silk

Love the colors. The plan is to spin the other 4 oz which is a different (hopefully complementary) colorway, and then ply them together.

Pink Panther socks, just started the heel:

Pink Panther sock - in progress

The second pink band had much less black dye drool on it. I think both bands are interesting.

And last, a new project, Trellis from Knitty.com, in Rowan All Seasons Cotton:

Trellis - in progress

The yarn feels soft and squishy while knitting. It's the actual yarn called for in the pattern, which is so rare for me. I bought a few skeins specifically for this project at that yarn closing sale back in April. Anyone know if the All Seasons Cotton stands up to the washer and dryer?

It didn't rain at all, all day. I looked for pigs, but didn't see any. I wouldn't have been so shocked.

I'm looking forward to when my sinuses drain and I stop making noises that gross out Scott.

On my trip to NC, I found out my sister reads my blog! She called Buttercup the upside down noses scarf, hehe. Hi Lisa!

I took so much knitting with me and did so little. Knitting can't compete with this:

Akira and Auntie

and the drool he produces (danger, will robinson!):

Akira

That's the best photo I could find of me and my nephew, taken by my niece. My slacker husband didn't much pick up the camera this trip.

Here he is wearing Blueberry Fields, with room to grow:

Blueberry Fields

And Matching Hat (the cardi looked like it might be too tight on him; he SO does not like being changed, clothes or diapers, so I didn't want to risk it):

And Matching Hat

That's Scott, scruffy and not looking at the camera (very camera shy).

Some more New Year's knits:

New Year's

My niece wearing Bramble Roll Hat 2 (here's Bramble Roll Hat, which is just a smidge smaller, and from the top), brother wearing Charcoal Cashmere Scarf, and his fiance wearing Buttercup. Unfortunately, don't have photos of my sister or parents wearing their scarves.

Our non-traditional New Year's feast of Korean delights: 

New Year's Feast

I should explain: my family is Buddhist, and for New Year's, they drive to DC. They stay in some kind of Marriott, get some food, bring champagne, hang out and watch the countdown on TV. In the morning, they go to the Temple for New Year's, hmm, what do you call it, a meeting? prayer? Then lunch, shopping at an Asian food mart, and the long drive home. I've been a non-practicing Buddhist for a while now, so I usually don't join them; but I suppose I got tired of going to NC for New Year's and then spending only a few hours of New Year's day with them on their evening return; plus I missed out on the family time. This year Scott and I went for the ride and the New Year's eve celebrating; were even going to go to the Temple with them, but our colds got in the way. Maybe next year.

Last pic: my sister and me at my niece's school on her birthday. she's wearing the Belt tie that we had dyed together and I knit. The other pics had kids in 'em, but Scott and my dad were there as well.

School lunch

I finished My Birthday Scarf and the Grey Cabled Socks last night! Mebbe pics tomorrow. I'm battling serious startitis, distracted by all the yarn and books I just acquired, projects that have been calling out to me throughout holiday knitting, stash that begs to be made useful...

And Matching Hat is done. Awwww. Holiday knits are now 13 of 16!

And Matching Hat

And Matching Hat
Started:
12/21/05
Finished: 12/22/05
Pattern: my own, see below;
Yarn: Danette Taylor's superwash merino in Seaweed (I think), 1 oz
Needles: #5 circulars
Notes: Knit to match Satin Grape. Quick satisfying knit. I lied. I knit this one twice. Everything I've knit this week I've had to reknit at least once. What is up with my knitting mojo??? I didn't cast on the right number of stitches, and the stitches were coming out smaller than a previous project using similar yarn. Second time I counted, recounted and knit loosely. Phew.

Pattern: Cast on 80 sts, join; knit 36 rows, then begin decreases next and every other row:
(Knit 8, k2tog) across; knit 1 row even; (Knit 7, k2tog) across; knit 1 row even; ... ; (k2tog) across (8 sts remain); knit 1 row even; (k2tog) across (4 sts remain).
Knit I-cord over these 4 stitches for 2.5", cut yarn and pull through; secure ends; tie knot in I-cord.

Ribbed Wristwarmers

Wristwarmer one done!

Ribbed Wristwarmers - 1st warmer

Looks like a tree or cactus.

Ribbed Wristwarmers - 1st warmer

Ribbed Wristwarmer one was reknit twice: once because it was way too big on the recipient; and then again because the thumb gusset was waaaay too long. Took a lot of work to get the effect I was after, but I'm quite happy with it!

Ribbed Wristwarmer

And so is Dan! His fiance, Linda, wanted to claim it for herself. And I'll be making a pair for myself, too. Once the second one is done I'll take some closeups so you can see the details and fit.

Photo taken at Minado; mmmm, all-you-can-eat sushi.

(I took a photo of Linda wearing the Esther hat but it wasn't the greatest photo so I'll try again after the New Year. She loves the hat, though!)

Thanks for the nice comments about the job! It's the one that's 5 minutes away. 5 minute commute, baby!

I found this on my computer the other day.

Satin Grape

That's my nephew, wearing the "Satin Grape" cardigan I knit him with superwash from Danette Taylor. Ain't he the cutest? The pooling on this project was fantastic, I Loved it. The center front are the lighter colors, and the center back is dark purple, like he sat in... (Scott named it with specific spelling). Looks like the smallest size was maybe too small; I know he was eating good.

A matching hat was requested for the holidays. In progress and almost done:

And Matching Hat

I'm 12 for 16 gifts for the holidays, this will make 13! Another is in progress, and 2 yet to be started. We're a New Year's celebrating kinda folk, so I've still got time. So I keep telling myself.

I got a job

Did you read that right? I got a job. I got a job! I'm soon to be gainfully employed! I can stop job hunting! I can buy a wheel! I get back my Budget and can buy things (read: yarn and fiber) again! [does a little dance]

No goodbyes today. Instead, I present 4 WIPs that were picked up and finished this week!

IMG_3482-600x450

They were targeted for their cuteness and proximity to completion. Blueberry Fields needed sleeves and finishing; the three Flax Jax's just needed buttons (how lame is that?). This brings me down to 50 projects. I'm thrilled! I still need to halve that to reach my goal... [deep breaths] We'll get there.

Blueberry Fields Blueberry Fields

Blueberry Fields
Started:
1/26/05
Finished: 12/4/05
Pattern: "Raglan Sweater" by Debbie Bliss, The Baby Knits Book; size: 3-6 mos
Yarn: Mezzotint by Colinette (1 skein), Patons La Laine superwash merino #6246 (less than 1 skein)
Needles: #8
Notes: This pattern was my opportunity to use up an oddball of Mezzotint and make one of those raglan tops with different color sleeves. Choosing the sleeve color was the toughest part. The pattern is super easy and satisfying. When casting on, leave enough tail to sew sleeve/body the seam; when binding off each piece, leave enough yarn to sew up one raglan seam.

The only mod I made had to do with gauge. La Laine is thinner than the Mezzotint; knit with the same needles, it has the same row gauge but less stitches per inch. I added an extra increase for the sleeves (adding 2 stitches), and kept the rest the same.

Flax Jax notes

The next three are the Flax Jax baby cardi's. The pattern is easy; main mod was to leave out the seed stitch detail from the sides and back. I liked knitting the body in one piece to the armpits, and picking up the sleeve stitches from the armhole: less aggravation later. The top button didn't look quite so good for me; I might change the buttonhole placement on future versions to include a bottom button and lower the top button.

Striped Flax Jax Blueberry Fields

Striped Flax Jax
Started:
5/23/03
Finished: 12/5/05
Pattern: "Flax Jax" by Jil Eaton, Minnies; size: 3-6 mos
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in M-72 (teal) and Colinette Prism in Blue Parrot (#16)
Needles: #9
Notes: One of my first attempts to combine a handdyed yarn with something else. I love this little sweater!

Prairie Silks Flax Jax Prairie Silks Flax Jax

Prairie Silks Flax Jax
Started:
5/27/03
Finished: 12/5/05
Pattern: "Flax Jax" by Jil Eaton, Minnies; size: 3-6 mos
Yarn: Brown Sheep Prairie Silks in Real Royal (PS600)
Needles: #8
Notes: Simple with a slight sheen from the silk. Soft hand.

Manos Flax Jax Manos Flax Jax

Manos Flax Jax
Started:
7/12/03
Finished: 12/5/05
Pattern: "Flax Jax" by Jil Eaton, Minnies; size: 2 years
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay (I forget the color), 3 skeins
Needles: #8
Notes: Love this yarn! Knits up fast. Soft. Beautiful. This cardi I'm stockpiling for when I have my own little bumble of joy.

Only mod: picked up an odd number of stitches for the sleeve, instead of even; I liked the way the seam looked better in seed stitch over an odd number.

Final tally

Week three:
Started with: 54
Abandoned: -0
Finished: -4
New: +0
(Number of projects I wanted to start: 24)
Current Projects: 50!

A lot of knitting can be done while watching The Wizard of Oz and Amadeus. With minimal amounts of frogging, Esther Williams:

Esther Williams - in progress

She's probably 2/3 done! It's snug on my head, so may not work well for the intended recipient...

Blueberry Fields

Here's one from the WIP list that I picked up. The front and back were done, just needed some sleeves:

Blueberry Fields

It didn't take long to figure out why this was in the WIP pile; those colors were HARD to match! I spent a good half hour trying to match up something that didn't clash or mute it or lie limply. In the end, I felt the particular dark blue I chose made the colors pop a bit.

Blueberry Fields

Two sleeves done:

Blueberry Fields - sleeves

Here's its twin, Strawberry Fields, started (and finished!) about the same time but with a much easier time with colors:

Strawberry Fields Strawberry Fields

Pattern is from Debbie Bliss' The Baby Knits Book. The body on both is knit with exactly 1 ball of Colinette mezzotint. I had a few balls and no idea what to do with them. On Strawberry Fields, the sleeves are knit with Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride, which made a bit too firm a fabric. Blueberry Fields sleeves are knit with Patons La Laine, knit on needles 2 sizes larger than the recommended size, which makes them very drapey.

No access to a baby so I don't know how they fit, but boy are they cute!