Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spinning, spinning, spinning (and socks)

That crazy-colored wool I mentioned buying?

Spun like a dream.

Plied like a dream.

And made one really awesome-looking skein.

I'm so proud of this yarn, probably more proud than I should be. It's soft, bouncy, and looks much better than my first couple batches of handspun. I have plans for it to be a funny earflap hat, probably with a pompom. Whatever it ends up being, I'm thinking it'll end up on Etsy.

I ended up plying the plied yarn again because I wanted something thicker, and it made me realize that I need to learn more about plying. Thank God for libraries and Google!

On the knitting side of things, I've been making socks out of the Sockotta yarn I picked up in Kaleidoscope Yarns over the summer. It's been a nice break from all the color work, cabling, and general frustration I've had with my other recent projects.

I didn't like the extremely primary colorway at first, but the little flecks of white in the colors give the finished product a muted, heathery look that's grown on me. Plus, the heel flap on this one looks kind of like an ear of corn, which I found oddly endearing. Sock #2 is on the needles for knitting in lines, in the dark, and whenever Lost is on. (Is anyone else crazy excited about the season 4 premiere next week? Furthermore, has anyone else been playing with It's like crack for Lost fans.)

Also on the list for knitting:
-- gloves for my brother, on the needles but the size needs checking
-- the Phoebe pullover for me, sometime in the future
-- a pattern as close as I can get to Marketa's gloves in Once
-- a super-secret design project
-- a semi-secret not-for-me sweater project

I'm about to be a very busy knitter!

Mood: hydrated
Music: Dan Fogelberg - Make Love Stay

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two birds with one stone

Tuesday afternoon, I got to make use of Mike for the first time!

I made a brief sojourn to A Touch of Twist (during which it started to snow like crazy, but I was too stubborn to turn back), bought some fairly inexpensive white wool and some slightly more expensive crazy-colored wool, and returned to the house to spin!

I've only seen someone else use a spinning wheel up close once. The other times I caught glimpses were all through crowds at Rhinebeck. So, being the way I am and liking to teach myself how to do things, I got a stack of spinning books out of the library last week. Before I sat down with Mike and my wool for the first time, I spent a bit of time flipping through them and reading the bits that were pertinent for someone just starting out.

Of course, there's a lot I still don't know about spinning. There's a lot I have to learn and there's a very good chance that I'm doing something wrong. (Did I ever mention that I purled the wrong way for about the first year and a half of my knitting life?)

That said, I really enjoyed myself and produced this:

My first crappy handspun!

So then I had this handspun. It was white. It looked funny. What to do with it? Why, get some Kool-Aid, of course, and make it my first dyeing project!

I had to hunt around to three stores for the Kool-Aid I wanted, which is kind of sad given that I grew up drinking the stuff and every store used to have scads of those little packets. But I did finally locate the colors I wanted.

Lemonade and tropical punch, respectively. It only occurred to me after I made a complete mess of the stove that I probably should have suspended the yarn over the pan on a spoon handle or something. Ah well, live and learn!

After the obligatory rinsing and drying, the yarn miraculously looked less odd, at least to me. To me, it suddenly looked less like crappy, over-twisted first handspun and more like some of the deliberately uneven yarns on the market.

I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet. I'm thinking a hat, if there's enough. If not?

There's always batch #2 from today!

Mood: accomplished
Music: The Frames - Your Face (live)

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Toy

This is Mike.

Mike is an Ashford Traveller, purchased last week from The Woolery and assembled this morning with a little aid from Dad.

The decision to buy Mike was a fairly easy one, despite my dinky budget. I've found spinning fascinating for a while, having seen someone in the local Stitch 'n' Bitch spinning llama yarn, and watching a friend learn to use a drop spindle a couple years back.

But the thing that really caught my interest was reading Barbara Albright's The Natural Knitter. It was the first book I ever read that specifically discussed fibers and their characteristics, and one of the few non-fiction books I've ever read with enthusiasm. The focus on natural/organic fibers and dye processes fit with the mindset that my entire family has been moving toward in the last few years, and the idea of getting back to nature with knitting made me seriously start to contemplate learning to spin.

I didn't want to start small. I wanted to pull out the big guns, so to speak, and learn to spin on a wheel. Thus, after several weeks of frantic saving and budget readjustment, Mike was purchased.

I am so. So. Excited. As soon as I can, I'm going to go out and visit A Touch of Twist in Pattersonville and get my very first fiber. I know there are places on the internet that I could just as easily order from without leaving the house, but I want to be able to see and touch the first thing I'm going to spin before I buy it.

In other awesome fiber news,

the Red Sweater of Doom has been vanquished! Here it is, blocking a bit to even out the seed stitch. Seventeen months of agonizing knitting, frustration, and setting it aside and trying to pretend it didn't exist...and now it's done! I'm glad I listened to my whim and picked it up again. It's nice to have it off my back, and Mom will finally have her sweater. Honestly, that's the only reason I kept plugging along with it at all. Had it been for me, I would have given up and frogged it long ago.

A word on the yarn: unless you don't mind tough, non-elastic yarn that has a tendency to split, I suggest staying away from Saucy Sport. It has wonderful strength, I'll give it that, but it feels and behaves rather like twine.

As for the pattern...if you're a knitting masochist, give it a try. If you value your sanity, stay far, far away!

Onward and upward to other things! *bounces away*

Mood: excited
Music: They Might Be Giants - Feign Amnesia

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The dawn of a new knitting year

Here I am, back in the blogsphere after a whirlwind of a holiday season. I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that it's 2008 (where did 2007 go?); that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's have passed; and that my vacation is very nearly over.

You would think two weeks off from work would give a girl ample knitting, writing, blogging, and all-around goof-off time, right? Wrong.

Well, sort of wrong. Shortly before the start of my vacation time, I was cursed with what seemed like a winter cold. Said cold was annoyingly persistent, so my doctor put me on medication, which eased the symptoms a bit, but didn't kill them entirely. So I'm stuck with the remnants of the cold (or whatever it is), which include a nasty cough that has landed me in bed more than once doing little aside from chatting and watching unhealthy amounts of Jeeves & Wooster. So I haven't done much that's productive.

I did, however, work on the circus sweater--er, the Mirepoix--over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The whole steeking business has, so far, been easier than I thought it would be, albeit more time-consuming. (That's the front neck steek in the picture.) Cutting them open when the time comes still makes me uneasy, but since other knitters have been using steeks literally for centuries, I suppose I shouldn't be worried.

I'm finished with the armhole and neck decreases and am now on to the bit where I have to knit miles and miles of the exceedingly ugly circus colors until the armholes are the right size. On the upside, I have found someone who doesn't think the colors are deathly offensive, and so the sweater will be shipped off to her when all's said and done.

I'll probably knit the pattern again for myself at some point in the future, but definitely not any time soon. Fair Isle is fun to knit, and it's fascinating to watch the color pattern come together, but it also takes a really long time. For now, I'd rather knit something I can work on easily without having it take all of my attention.

And, *gasp* what's that? That's right, it's the Red Sweater of Doom, back again!

I got the weird urge to work on this last week, so I got out the size 5 needle tips and went to it. I haven't hit a point where I can't stand it yet, so I'm going to keep at it until I do. Hopefully the urge won't run out before the sweater is done.

I think this is the best picture I've taken of it so far. The color is a little lighter than the yarn looks in real life, but it's very close, and you can finally see the cables clearly. These are just the small ones; the leaf motif doesn't start for another 20 rows yet. I'm hoping to get to it today, or at least finish the little cables.

Best thing about this sweater (and the only thing that isn't "of Doom" about it)? The edges are all in seed stitch, so it'll seam in no time.

In other news, I finally got to see the acclaimed movie, Once, shortly before Christmas. I had read and heard so much about it over the months between when it was released in theatres and when the DVD came out, that I was practically bursting when it hit store and rental shelves. I had already fallen deeply in love with the soundtrack when I bought it back in September, and was well-acquainted with the music by the time I ran out and rented the DVD.

Guys...see this movie. If you love music or play music, see it. If you've ever completely lost track of time while doing something you love, see it. If you now or have ever loved someone who has music in their soul, see it. See it with them. See it with friends. And keep some tissues handy. It's different, it's bittersweet, and the music is amazing. The fact that Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (the leading Guy and Girl, respectively) wrote and performed all the music on the soundtrack makes it that much better.

Believe it or not, there is actually a knitting-related connection here. There are some fun knitted things hiding in this movie, most notably (to me, anyway), Marketa's gloves. Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting has a cable charted that's very similar to the one on the back of the gloves, and I have plans to work out a pattern for them using that as a guide. When I do, I'll post it here so we can all knit cute mitts!

That's all the knitterly news for now. I'll try to be a little more consistent with my posting now that the busy holiday season is over!

Happy 2008, everyone!

Mood: sick
Music: They Might Be Giants - I Can't Hide From My Mind