Over the weekend I finished the first half of the Purple Pansies. I’m really pleased with this spin; despite the short staple length I’m not finding the fibre particularly difficult to work with, and the singles are coming out reasonably even. I’m a little tempted to chain-ply each half to keep the colours and striping clean, but then I don’t think there’d be enough yardage for a pair of socks, so I’ll stick to the original two-ply plan. Purple and orange together make muddy brown, but it should still be interesting to see how the colours will come together in the final yarn.

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And of course, I watched the end of the Tour. Here’s Chris Froome and the rest of Team Sky celebrating his victory with a photo-op moment, not long before riding into Paris. I’m so impressed at their ability to ride more than two thousand miles (3,519 kilometres) over three weeks – and that the entirety of the team finished the whole Tour! It’s made me want to go for a road ride myself, except for that the heat index has been between 105-110 degrees F (40-43 C) all weekend, and the heat wave isn’t supposed to let up for quite some time.

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It feels very strange this morning not to be putting the Tour coverage on. I’m going to try to finish the second bobbin of Purple Pansies this week, and remember how much I enjoy spinning so that I don’t go so many months without touching the wheel again! There’s been so much to take care of with the new house – but now nearly everything is unpacked, almost all of the windows have curtains, I’ve had blinds installed in the living room, and it’s not yet time to worry about painting the walls. I’m starting to settle into a good routine, so I should be able to get back to the fibre.

On an administrative note, apparently the plugin I use to share posts on social media was setting everything on G+ to private, and I had no idea. In addition, G+ doesn’t allow you to retroactively edit the sharing settings of a post. How silly is that? I think I’ve fixed the problem now, but if you’re one of my G+ followers, you might want to come visit the blog directly – there are posts you’ve missed! (Does anyone even use G+? I’d mostly forgotten it existed at all, to be honest…)

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With a week left in Le Tour, I dove into the stash and came up with this beautiful fibre from Sheepish Creations that I bought at the end of 2013. The colourway is called “Purple Pansies,” and it’s a blend of 60% superwash merino,
30% bamboo, and 10% nylon. That kind of fibre blend just cries out to be spun into sock yarn, doesn’t it? So I didn’t spend too much time wondering about how I was going to spin this one.

sheepishcreations_merino-bamboo-nylon1

The purples and golds are splotched onto the white fibre in a nice distribution, though not in a regular pattern. That made it easy for me to decide how to split it; I simply folded it in half and tore it, and I’m spinning each half end-to-end without paying any mind to how the colour plays out. When the two strands are plied together, there should be some interesting spirals and striping as the colours line up and separate again.

sheepishcreations_merino-bamboo-nylon2

Because I mean for this stuff to become socks eventually, I’m spinning with a lot of twist (but not so much that it feels like wire) with a short forward draw. I usually prefer a backwards draw, but the staple length here is short enough that I feel as if the strand is always just about to pull free, even with the brake tension set very lightly so the wheel isn’t tugging at the new yarn too much. It feels like slow going, but on the plus side, I find it a lot easier to spin evenly when I’m not going too quickly.

20160719_purplepansies

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I had a much-needed weekend of being a hermit, and of course that included starting each day with a good breakfast, watching Le Tour, and then lots of spinning. (I also put away my laundry, did some other chores around the house, and went to the gym – but it was just so good and necessary to have a weekend all to myself!)

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On Sunday I finished spinning and skeined up the three colours of Ashland Bay merino/tussah blend, ending up with around 115 yards of each one. The yarn still needs to be washed, but it’s around sport weight. Having two almost-equal skeins of each color will make it easier to knit paired items, should I choose to do that – though I have no idea what I’m going to use this for.

350 yards is too much for a hat, but not enough for a shawl. It would be more than enough for armwarmers – possibly even two pair if they aren’t super long ones. Ideas are more than welcome! What would you make with this yarn?

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When I bought the fibre, I was in the mood for stranded colourwork. However, there isn’t a lot of contrast between the purple and teal yarn. This is easiest to see by looking at the picture in grayscale; you can barely tell the two apart. That means they wouldn’t really show up well next to each other, and the white yarn would have to be used as the contrast colour between them. For inspiration, I’m looking at patterns like the Dither socks and Dither scarf, where one colour is gradually worked into the next.

20160717_tdf_merino-tussah_grayscale

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My Tour de Fleece got off to a slow start, but this weekend I picked up the pace. I’m starting with this Ashland Bay merino/tussah blend that I picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool way back in 2011. I have two ounces each of three colourways, so I split each one into quarters to make two equal skeins of two-ply yarn. The blend of colours in the purple one (“Concord”) is fantastic – and yes, all that does come out to be a heathery purple, as you can see in the plied yarn below.

20160710_ashland-bay

I like to watch the Tour de France while I spin. On Sunday morning I first watched the F1 race and then the Tour stage, and listened to the purr of the Sonata as the riders climbed up yet another mountain and complained about the spectators who run alongside them on the road. Some of them do get frighteningly close!

20160710_wheel-and-tour

By the end of the weekend, I’d spun and plied all of the purple and half of the white (the colourway is actually called “Lilac”.) The third colour is a dark teal blend named “MacKenzie”. As usual, there aren’t any plans for what to do with the finished yarn, which seems to be plying up at a sport or DK weight. A hat? Armwarmers?

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Then I get the fun of choosing the next fibre to spin and which wheel to spin it on – last weekend I unpacked the Schacht-Reeves, which has come through the dangers of moving house completely unscathed, and is all set up and ready to go. I’d have to carry it down two flights of stairs into the living room if I wanted to spin and watch the Tour at the same time, though.

Speaking of “unscathed,” did I mention that I had to glue the Sonata back together? The upright had split where the rod for the mother-of-all drops in, almost certainly because I’d overtightened it too many times. (Hey Kromski: it would be a significant design improvement to have a metal sleeve in that hole.) I repurposed one of the syringes that I usually use to transfer ink, and injected wood glue into the crack, then clamped it and left it to dry. Now you can barely tell where the crack had been, and I’m being much more careful about tightening the screw – though that does mean the MOA is more prone to shifting around.

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The weather this past weekend kept me indoors, and I decided to use some of my time to start carding Fleece Four-Twelve. I chose a section of fleece at random (it was the piece nearest me on the floor) and started by opening up the locks on the teasing tool so that the carder wouldn’t choke on them:

washed-fleece

Then I fed them to the carder sideways (yes, sideways!) until the drum was full, packing it down a few times with a scrub brush so I could fit more fibre on. Even with the drum carder, it’s a slow, slow process. Too much fibre at once, or cranking too quickly, will cause lumps and bumps in the batt. The fibre needs to go on the input tray in a super-thin layer – so thin that you can read the “keep hands clear” sticker on there. (They aren’t kidding. The licker-in drum will mangle your hands if you get too close. Those pointy bits are *sharp*.)

carding-fleece

After the first pass through the carder, the batt was super fluffy but not done yet. It needs to be run through at least once more to get all those fibers aligned and the batt even all the way across. I’d like to get to that tonight, after grocery shopping and cooking dinner. If Four-Twelve really is going to be my Tour de Fleece project, I need to move the carding way up on the priorities list.

doffing-batt

(I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not going to get all that fleece carded in time for the TdF, though.)

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The eight-pound fleece which Caroline and I are splitting came from Sheep #412, as the envelope tucked in the bag informed us. Four-Twelve (a merino/rambouillet cross) spread out nicely on my floor for admiration, and we were surprised to discover that it had a bitty white streak in one corner. We’re going to keep that separate, though there might only be enough for a bit of duplicate stitch on our finished projects.

whole_fleece

Four-Twelve was a coated sheep and the fleece had already been skirted, thank goodness, so there wasn’t much to pick out or discard. It smelled sheepy, but not dirty or disgusting. We gently loaded lingerie bags, filled the sink with hot water and Scour, and started the washing process (which is mostly a waiting process). Each batch took three washes and a rinse, then we laid it all out to dry upstairs… except for one of the bags, which we put on the sweater-rack in the dryer, because we were really impatient to try it out.

fleece_rolags_cards

I spun a couple of rolags into a quick sample of chain-plyed yarn, soft and bouncy and poofy, and I’m pretty sure that the eventual yarn will be a true three-ply. This seems like it will be perfect for the sweater I have in mind – something like Alpengluhen, October Frost, Jackaroo or the Stonecutters Cardigan – a nice round three-ply yarn will be great for stitch definition and cables.

fleece_rolags_sample1

Once all the fleece is dry, I’ll be spending lots and lots of time with the drum carder. Making a few rolags to test out the fibre is one thing, but there’s no way I’m hand-carding half a fleece!

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Hello, friends! It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been super-busy! Most of the year so far has been swallowed up by the process of packing, cleaning, fixing, selling one house, and moving into another. Whooo! But now that is pretty much taken care of. The mountain house has been sold, and while I miss it, I know it was the right decision. The new house is lovely, but a time-consuming work in progress as I unpack and arrange everything just so. But today I took a break from all of that and went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival with a friend.

We bought a fleece.

2016MDSW_with_fleece

I hadn’t had plans to buy anything in particular; packing up my yarn to move had helped me realize that my hobby has become more about collecting yarn and fibre than actually doing anything with it, and that’s not the road I want to go down. So I haven’t actually purchased any yarn since my birthday in January, when I bought just one 50g skein of white sock yarn for a specific project and purpose. It’s not that I was opposed to buying something today, it’s just that I wasn’t planning to. I was open to the possibilities, of course.

So we went into the fleece show and sale, and were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over one too-expensive merino cross in particular, when a lovely volunteer whose Ravelry name I promptly forgot (sorry!) came over to ask if we had any questions. The next thing we knew, we were following her all over the barn, sticking our hands into giant bags of fleeces and discussing their relative merits… and then we found The One.

It’s an eight-pound merino/rambouillet cross, it’s a lovely dark brown with silvery bits, and it was in our budget. So we bought it. I took a couple more pictures after I got it home:

2016MDSW_fleece1

2016MDSW_fleece2

Anyway, we dropped the fleece off in the car and did a bit more shopping, and then I tried out my camera’s zoom lens on the herding demonstrations. I think it worked pretty well:

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We couldn’t hear a word of the explanations, but it was still really cool to watch the dogs happily doing their work. They’re obviously having a great time out there; border collies need to have a job and these dogs were just so eager to get out and do what they were meant to do. At times I could swear they were laughing at the sheep!

The fleece-cleaning will begin in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll decide whether we’re going to comb or card. Our goal is to have it all ready for the Tour de Fleece in July – how great will it be to do the TdF with an actual fleece this year?

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Over on Ravelry, the Remrants group is hosting a Colour Your Winter Craft-A-Long challenge – to finish a colourwork pattern before 31 March. Works-in-progress are acceptable entries, but I decided to start my year off with the challenge of designing a new hat in four shades of DK-weight yarn: brown, tan, red, and light blue.

My first attempt at two-colour ribbing didn’t have a nice edge, so I started over. My second attempt curled up far too much, so I started over. For the third attempt, I changed tactics and tried a two-colour brioche rib, a technique that’s completely new to me. Unfortunately, the instructions I found had left out a bit of important information, which is that even on knit rows, stitches are slipped with the yarn in front. So I started over. Again.

20160110_brioche_fail

The fourth try was the charm, and I have some two-colour brioche on the needles now. It’s reversible, so my plan is to knit enough to have a fold-up brim, which allows for the wearer to adjust the length of the hat…

20160111_brioche_win

…but my gauge for the width was totally off, and I think the finished hat might end up being two or three inches too large for my small head. That’s okay, because I’d wanted to write the pattern for two sizes, so I guess this one is going to be the larger. I’m also planning to design and knit a matching set of fingerless gloves and/or mittens!

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This is the official end of 2015 tallying-up post!


Incoming fibre:

None. Zero, zip, zilch. That took a lot of willpower!

Outgoing fibre:
4 ounces Bonkers merino-tencel, spun into 250 yards of two-ply
4 ounces Bullens Wullens merino-silk-bamboo, spun into 105 squooshy yards of chain-ply
4 ounces Rambouillet, spun up forever ago, finally chain-plied into 268 yards
quite a lot of mystery wool, spun longdraw, 922 yards of two-ply

12 oz plus however much mystery wool there is; I didn’t weigh it.

20150711_tdf15_plying


Incoming yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash in gray (220)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Serpentine (294)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn (294)

5 balls / 808 yards

Outgoing yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash, Dave’s Hat (220)
.66 ball Lily Sugar & Cream in Pink Camo for a washcloth (100)
1 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure for Stef’s Handwarmers (110)
1.5 balls Jo Sharp Classic DK wool for my own handwarmers (160)
2 balls Patons Kroy in Summer Moss Jacquard, sold (332)
2 balls “Starry Night” handspun given to Mom (256)
.33 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure and half a ball each of gray and white Cascade 220 Superwash for Michael’s Bicolour Hat (37, 220)
2 balls Noro Silk Garden sock for the Rhinebeck Shawl (656)
1 skein handspun merino/silk for Mom to make a hat for Grandma (170)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn, Michael’s new Fleeps (294)
1 ball Berroco Sox for a pair of mindless stockinette socks (440)
1 ball Loops & Threads Impeccable for the Such a Square afghan (192)

16.5 balls / 3187 yards

Plus, Dad gave me this awesome yarn bowl:
dad_yarnbowl1


The Year in Crafting:
I feel really good about my projects this year! I got a lot done. They’re all together on a 2015 Projects page.

Favourite project:
It was a tossup between the Bicolour Hat and this, but I gotta say… it’s the Schultertuch. I loved making it! I still don’t know when or how or where to wear it, but it’s gorgeous and I love just looking at it.

schultertuch_finished


Patterns Published:
Only one this year, the Carved Lines Armwarmers – I’m really happy with the shape of these! I have a bunch of ideas for new patterns too, including a colourwork hat that I charted out a few weeks ago, lacy socks, cabled socks, mittens… it’s a long list!

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Michael had mentioned that his Fleeps were starting to get thin in places again, and after Thanksgiving I took them home with me for their third repair job… which was really just a sneaky excuse to take some measurements and observations so I could knit him new ones. I worked from my notes from his first gloves, combined with the constructive feedback that he’d provided and checking to see where the old ones had worn out.

The new ones have longer thumbs to prevent a gap, seed stitch flaps rather than ribbed so they won’t pull in quite as much over time, and duplicate stitch reinforcements at all the corners where the flaps attach to the body of the gloves. It looks as if the mitten-top is crooked, but they’re lined up with the hands rather than the wrists, so they fall straight when the gloves are actually on.

michaels_second_fleeps

They’re also a grayer kind of gray; his first pair was a darker gray with red tweedy flecks, but I couldn’t find the darker colourway. The yarn is Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed, which wasn’t available in the US for a while but now WEBS is carrying it again. I used Peppercorn for Michael’s Fleeps, and bought two balls of Serpentine for another future pair.

I used a combination of the Cigar and Gnomittens patterns, adjusted for the shape and size of his wrists and hands. Both patterns are free, but I found that they needed quite a bit of customization to make them fit perfectly. The cuffs would have been too large around as the patterns are written, so I took some stitches out of them, and then had to add width back in for the hands. I was very glad to have taken such careful notes on the first pair; it made it much easier to make the second set fit to perfection as well.

The gloves were done enough for me to wrap them up and give them to him on Christmas Eve, but I hadn’t had the chance to sew on the snap-magnets (which is the most annoying, fiddly part of the whole project). I’ll do that today, and then they’ll be the last project on the books for 2015!

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