Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thumbelina -- all fixed up

A while ago I was looking for a wheel for my eldest daughter's 21st birthday. She actually asked for a wheel for her birthday, I kid you not.  So, I put out word amongst the guild members and even put an ad in our newsletter about wanting a second hand wheel.  Several offers came in:  one was perfect -- an Ashford Traditional in great shape, with bobbins, a lazy kate and a set of wool carders -- at a good price.  That's the one I purchased for her birthday.  There were other offers at either end of the spectrum - junk or way out of my price range.  One gal had an interesting box of wooden pieces that contained an entire wheel that she was willing to give away. A neighbour of hers, knowing she was in the guild, asked her to find a home for the sad thing.  I traded her a pound and a half of handspun for the box of bits.

I brought it home -- assembled it to the best of my knowledge and lo and behold, it was a lovely little wheel, a castle style wheel. Some internet research revealed that it was made in New Zealand, called the Thumbelina.  Thumbelinas were made by Baillie and Watts under the name Sleeping Beauty, probably in the 1970s.  I love the size and shape of it. 

After a bit of tinkering I got it to work and spun on it for a while.  Right before a spinning demonstration the leather piece attaching the wheel to the treadle broke.  As I was trying to fix it, the flyer broke.  This seemed like a bad omen.  The leather thingy I could fix, but the broken flyer, I was stuck.

It has sadly sat in the corner of the landing for the last two years.  Then, inspired by the other wheels I have brought into the house, I tried fixing this up.  Did the leather thing no problem.  Then tackled the broken flyer.  I drilled a hole in either side of the break, inserted a dowl into it, glued it like crazy, then clamped it for the week.  I took off the clamp, sanded it and to my amazement, it worked.  You can still the place where it broke, but that's like a scar.  A sign of being well worn, and loved enough to be repaired.

And here she is, nicely sanded up with a first coat of natural MinWax on her.  I can't believe what that stuff does to wood.  I brings it back to life in the most amazing way.  I am going to spin on her this afternoon.  Will let you know how things progress.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The finished pair that isn't yet a pair. . . .

I am so done with these mitts. 

I agreed to make them for a good friend of mine -- but somewhere between the promise to do it and finishing up all the other things before the promise, something shifted.

I still tried to make them.  I made the first one.  It's lovely and perfect and follows the pattern I have designed for them.  [The fibre is a lace weight alpaca/tussah silk blend doubled throughout.]  In the meantime, I got became bored distracted and started several other projects, like the Claudia Skirt, preparing the Polwarth fibre, knitting the Lazy River socks, refinishing spinning wheels to name a few.

I even tried a variation on the pattern, making the coin lace happen every fourth row, so it coincided with the increases on the thumb gusset. . . .and that is where I think the trouble started.  Too many patterns in my head.

I needed to finish this pair of mitts, so I cast on the second one and started knitting.  I was pretty disciplined about it and only brought this along on my commute to town.  Things were going well and I was making good progress.   It seemed a bit smaller than the other one, but I didn't believe it.

I counted the repeats for the cuff, yes, there are supposed to be three.  Check.  I counted the repeats leading up to the thumb itself.    There are supposed to be six.  Check.  Then to finish it off, do a total of 10 repeats. Yes, time to CAST OFF.

But they weren't the same size. 

They were supposed to be the same size.  I wanted them to be the same size.  I even found reasons why they were the same size: same yarn, same needles, same number of stitches cast on, same number of repeats of the pattern.  Same darned hand measuring it each friggin time. 

Maybe the first one stretched because I tried it on so many times.  Maybe it would size itself when I washed it. 

No.  The second one I made was indeed smaller than the first one.  And the reason was much simpler than anything I was willing to admit to at first consider.  It was due to the fact that I took such a long break in between making these two mitts, and also tried a variation on the theme that I forgot.  I simply forgot that in the first mitt I did the repeat every 8th row, and in the second mitt I did it every 7th row.  Why?  Who knows?  But after a total of 10 repeats, that's 10 extra rows on one of the mitts.  Thus, they aren't the same size.

Look at the photo, it seems that the problem started after the thumb.

The question is: do it rip it out and re-do it, or consider myself halfway to two pairs of mitts?

They are worth finishing.  But I am so dismayed by this rookie mistake, I need time to heal my knitter's ego make a plan B.   Off to spin some yarn.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Somewhere Down the Lazy River -- Socks

You can only comb so much fleece in a day.  After a while your arm gets tired, and the pile of fleece isn't diminishing as quickly as you'd like it too.  So to keep myself inspired, I started a pair of socks.  I bought the yarn at my LYS a while ago, can't find the label right now, but it was a varigated yarn by Cascade.  Then I searched for the right pattern -- and found it on Ravelry.  It's called Somewhere Down the Lazy River, by Lorraine Umbers. Perfect companion to the blues, greys and purples in my yarn.

The pattern uses carefully (yet easily) constructed drop stitches.  The piece is a 2 X 2 rib stitch.  On alternating knit stitches, you set up the drop stitch by doing a yarn over.  This creates a third stitch in the rib pattern.  On the 7th round, you drop that stitch and it ladders down, created a widening, that I think looks the like waves and currents on a lazy river. Here's the photo essay.

These are the channels of dropped stitches.

This middle stitch is the one that is going to be dropped.

The only time you love to watch a dropped stitch travel down the ladders.

On the next round you close it up by continuing in the 2 X 2 rib. 

It is indeed a thing of beauty.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Claudia Skirt Update #3 - nearly done

This has been a terrifically fun skirt to knit -- it's not done yet, so I mustn't get ahead of myself.  It's about 90% complete.  Not only did I use thicker yarn than the pattern called for -- and compensated by making a smaller size -- I also changed needle sizes when I began the eyelet pattern.  I love gored skirts and wanted to really emphasize the way the panels were expanding.  So I changed from a 3.5 mm to a 4mm which gave me an increase in width, without increasing stitches. 

As a result, the skirt is getting longer, faster than the pattern calls for.  Increasing the needle size may end up being a mistake, but for now I am claiming victory.  I have several more repeats -- 48 more rounds to be exact -- before I am told to cast off.  However, as you can see, it's already 16 inches, which when measured against my frame, brings the skirt to an inch or two above my knee.  I don't have much more to go.

This skirt will also get washed and blocked which will stretch it out a bit more as well.  I have about 4 more inches to knit, so will need to order more yarn. That sad, proud, wee ball of purple is all I have left.  I plan to finish it off with the same purple.

I love the way the colours merge together.  Thanks Elann and Adara. 

Plan is to finish knitting this soon, make modifications to the pattern, and then spin and dye my own locally sourced yarn -- thus creating a 100 Mile Skirt!!

Back to 100-Mile wear - local Polwarth

So you may have been wondering in the past while, what ever happened to the idea of 100-mile wear.  Well, I haven't abandonded the idea at all. I was seduced by all the wonderful yarns and patterns out there and my own desire to make things FAST.

However, 100-mile wear, is much like the Slow Food Movement. Good things take time and energy to produce. With that in mind, here are some of the things I am working on lately:

The fibre I am using is locally sourced Polwarth.  All washed up, I have a pound of the fibre.  In the photo here is a combed nest, waiting to be spun; some fibre already spun on my Houndesign lace spindle; and a sample swatch from fibre that I spun on my Ashford Traditional last weekend.  Here's a close-up:

This fibre is amazing: it is extremly soft - no surprise since the breed is 3/4 Merino, yet the staples are long -- 4 inches, (10 cm) thanks to the 1/4 addition of the longwool from the Lincoln. 

There is a good crimp on this wool -- crimp being the waves you see in the wool.  Crimp allows the yarn, once spun and washed, to have some elasticity, a desireable effect.  You want your sweaters to stretch with you when you bend your arm or reach for someting, and then move back into shape.  The staple on the left, when stretched out is 4 inches, the one on the right, when stretched out is nearly 5. For those of you out there who spin, this makes for dreamy spinning, especially if the fibre has been prepared using wool combs.

My plan today is to comb up a bunch of nests -- maybe even as much as a 1/4 of a pound, and spin it up on my wheel.  This kind of fibre wants to be spun fine, so I'll do it.  And then, the skeins will hit the dye pot -- I'm thinking some varigated yarn with analagous colours. 

Stay tuned.