Countdown, part one

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning, Wensleydale on September 19th, 2014

SIX bobbins of Wensleydale. One may turn out to be slightly different to the others because my sample card went walkabout for a couple of days. I’m not all that worried, these are going to become a four ply yarn so hopefully the difference in one ply won’t be all that noticeable. I’m going to start plying now, I decided that six bobbins would be the perfect number to kick off a four ply yarn. The first skein will leave me with four part bobbins, the second one will be made from the two full bobbins and the four part ones left from the first skein. There will be a significant amount left over but that’s fine because two skeins isn’t going to be enough for a sweater.

FIVE – buttons on the cardigan. I bought the first set of buttons while the knitting and I were on holiday. In my mind they were perfect but I don’t know whether this is true because they never got near the cardigan. I’ve worked out how I came to lose them, they were in a small paper bag in my handbag for weeks before they mysteriously vanished. I remember sitting with a coffee and clearing out all the shipping receipts, shopping lists and till receipts that I stuff in my handbag. It’s more than likely that the small paper bag went in the bin with the rest of the rubbish. I’m now at the stage where I want this finished (because last week I met a baby that it could be given to) so the button tin that originally had nothing suitable now has something that meets my newly lowered standards. I understand that not-matching-on-purpose is a thing these days. The pattern is Butterfly Net, it’s knitted bottom up in one piece with the sleeves picked up and knitted down. It would be a good use of leftover bits of sock yarn because the overlay would make the background stripes less prominent. I thought I’d be knitting one after the other but one was quite enough.

FOUR – socks from the sock blank. Yes I know I’m stretching it a bit here with the numbering but I have a theme and I’m running with it. I don’t have four of anything else but I do have four finished socks. That’s not quite true, it seems that I have a lot of buttons in fours which is telling me that I should stop making buttonholes in fives. It would have been simple to start at the top of the blank and knit until all the socks were done. I didn’t do that because of the sunset in the middle, the second sock would have been very much more yellow than the first. My second sock was knitted from the other end of the blank so both missed the sun. This was a good idea, bonus marks to me for thinking ahead and planning, except that I then went on to make the second pair exactly the same as the first pair so really I needn’t have bothered. I probably could have knitted as it came and paired socks one and four together. The leftover sunny yarn will go into another pair of school socks when I feel like it, for the moment I’m done with black topped socks. We’re entering the season of grim, grey days and I don’t appreciate spending dark evenings trying to count rows on a black sock.

Do I have a three, two, one? Not yet but I’m working on it. I’m sure by next week I’ll have something that I can force to fit the theme.



Trundling along

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks on September 14th, 2014

That was another week that escaped from me. I’m blaming the endless back to school to do list, this year there’s no decorating on it (I did that before school broke up) but there are plenty of other jobs that are eating my time. It’s always the same at this time of year because I spend six weeks saying “I’ll do that when school goes back” and I then have to deal with the results in September.  I’m still at the stage of adding two jobs for each one I cross off but I know that soon there will come the phase where everything that really needs doing is done apart from those items right at the top of the list that have been there for a very long time and exist only to make the rest of the list look good.

It is starting to feel like Autumn, some days I need a coat for dog walking, some days I don’t. There are a few conkers on the ground now and a lot of active squirrels. It’s not woolly jumper time yet and that’s good because I’m a long way from having a new one. This week I combed and spun a grand total of one bobbin of single which puts me now at a total of five. That’s pretty poor going but spinning does not feature on my to do list at the moment and it won’t be until the weather turns colder. Six is the magic number for bobbins, once I have six full I’ll start to ply. I know from experience that once I have some finished yarn in my hands the whole process will speed up, once I have the yarn then I’ll start planning a sweater and after that I’ll make time for the spinning because I can see that I have a real need for the yarn. At the moment I have a more pressing need for windows I can see through.

I enjoyed knitting the sock blank so much that I found the other one that I have stashed (if you click on the photo it will enlarge so you can see the trunks on the trees). This is also going into uniform socks, I should get two pairs from this and then another pair using the leftovers from this blank and the previous one. I was a bit concerned about the sun over the mountains because yellow tends to shout and there’s only that one patch of yellow in the panel. I’m keeping away from the sun by knitting the first sock from the right hand of the panel and the second sock from the left. The first pair of socks avoided the sun altogether and I’m hoping that I’ll get lucky and have about the same amount of yellow in each of the second pair.

I know what I’m going to knit next, it’s going to be another of these baby jackets but using the yarn on the left. It’s not yarn yet of course and it won’t have a chance to be until I’ve cleared some bobbins of Wensleydale. My plan is to fill six bobbins with grey, make two skeins of grey yarn and hopefully that will then free two bobbins that I can fill with colour. I’m going to split it into four to make two skeins of two ply and hope that they still match when I get to the sleeves. I like having a plan, it’s like a list but with less crossing off.

 



Diversion

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks on September 4th, 2014

My plan for last week was to fly through the piles of Wensleydale but this idea fell apart when I tried to cut my finger end off with my brand new topiary shears. It’s taken a week for it to heal to the stage where I’m not worried about dragging wool through the cut so I’m no further on than I was before. I could knit provided I covered my finger end with a plaster, once I’d dragged sock yarn through the wound once and climbed down off the ceiling I learned that my good intentions about keeping the yarn away from the cut were not enough to do the job well.

What to knit? The baby sweater took no time at all to finish, I’d show it off if only I could find the buttons that I bought for it while I was on holiday. I’m still hoping that they will turn up so it can sulk in a corner until they do. The fallback project, as always, was socks. I fished around in the sock yarn drawer and pulled out a dyed sock blank. The idea with these is that you machine knit a panel, dye it (someone else did that) and then reknit it as socks. The design in the panel then changes into some sort of stripes in the sock. I have two of these sock blanks but I’ve never knitted with one so now was the time.

I’m making a lot of black topped socks, the son and heir still has two years of school uniform ahead of him and even after that he’ll need them for concert dress. Like the rest of us he prefers to wear hand knitted socks but unlike the rest of us he never has enough of them. I think this may be connected to his habit of balling them up and throwing them about, fortunately once he has shoes on even the odd ones match. These are my current standard child sock, a seventy six stitch sock, twenty rounds of 2×2 rib, forty two rounds plain, a forty two row heel flap, eighteen plain rounds after the heel flap, some sort of transition to colour (hurrah) and the toe decreases start eighty two rounds after the heel flap. I’m now past the stage where I could get all the black from one 50g ball of yarn but on the plus side that means that I don’t feel that I HAVE to use every last inch by working from both ends of the ball. It worked out that one is mostly green and the other is mostly blue, if you want the two socks to match you need to start with a blank that’s been knitted with doubled yarn.

I finished the first pair and as I still had a dodgy finger, no buttons and no inspiration I started the second pair straight away. The transition between the two yarns is slightly different, with the first pair I tried to be clever with a 5:1, 3:1, 1:1, 1:3, 1:5 colour change. Looking at it, it wasn’t work the effort so the second pair (nearly a pair, another two nights of tv knitting will see it done) is just a nice simple 1:1 join.



Piles of grey

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning, Wensleydale on August 25th, 2014

I put the Wensleydale away before we left on holiday but before that I had grey wool piled up in various formats. The first stage pile is a messy one resulting from me pulling individual locks from the mass of wool and opening them up. The fleece was muddy and two soaks, two washes and a rinse wasn’t enough to get all the grot out. If I don’t open up the locks I need another combing step and that means more waste. It’s easier to open them up by hand using paper to catch the fine dust that falls out. When the pile threatens to topple over I put the bag of washed wool away and get the combs out. What comes off the combs is lengths of smooth roving with no sign of the original lock structure, all ready to spin. I’m putting those in a wicker basket (lined with a silk scarf to eliminate snagging) and when that pile starts fighting its way out of the basket I spin it. There is exactly the same amount of wool in the photo on the right as in the photo on the left, all of that big pile of fluff went onto one bobbin. So far I have four bobbins full of single, enough to start plying but I’m not going to do that until I have another three bobbins full. This is not going to be a quick project, the majority of my time is spent in fibre preparation, the spinning and plying are the last stages of a time consuming process.

The other fibre that comes off the combs is made up of shorter wool together with any tips that have broken off the locks and any second cuts. This is the combing waste although it’s only waste if you don’t use it. I’m throwing it into a carrier bag and then in the evening I sit and spin it into something thick/thin and lumpy. In the morning I chain ply it and by the evening the yarn is dry and there’s just enough to knit what looks like a small hat. Once it’s had a vicious hot/cold wash the lumps and bumps all vanish into the thick fabric. I want five of these little bowls, one for each weekday. The husband needs cash each day for the station car park but as a household we use plastic more than cash and so don’t generate many coins. We’ve had little piles of change lined up on the kitchen counter but they get knocked over so I’m moving to the five pot system. After that there will be a matching but larger pot to organise the free range rechargeable batteries that have multiplied and are running out of control across the breakfast bar. Only then will I be generating proper combing waste or maybe slippers, depending on how the mood takes me.

I don’t have a pattern lined up for the yarn, I’m not even sure yet whether I’ll be making a cardigan or a sweater. I have plenty of time to consider my options because I worked out that there’s about four hours work in a bobbin of single which means that there’s about 48 hours more work before I have enough yarn for a sweater.



I’m blaming the weather

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters on August 22nd, 2014

I know the blog has forgotten all about this, the last sighting was in the middle of June when all I needed to do was pick up for the collar and add a zip. I finished the collar, ordered the zip and then it turned really warm (hello summer) and I couldn’t face the thought of a pile of wool in my lap. For the last two months the knitting has been living in a bag down the bag of the settee and I assumed foolishly that the zip was in there with it. It’s cooler again now, nearly cool enough for me to be wearing wool, so I thought it was time to finish it up. Needless to say the zip was not in the bag with the knitting, I had an afternoon when I thought I’d have to admit defeat and order another one but the original surfaced from its exciting tour of the dining room floor and all was well. The zip went in right, first time, which shows the value of basting. Note to self – take the time to do it right then you only have to do it once.

This is a rather poor photo of the finished Foro Romano cabled cardigan, I chose this pattern because the cables would add a bit of interest while knitting and the rib would add some shaping without me actually doing any. I realise now that I was probably also influenced by the colour, the grey it’s shown in on the pattern is very like the grey of the yarn that I had. Had I looked more closely at the pattern then I might not have started this, the cables don’t flow from the rib at all, they just start randomly. I’m so used to knitting things where the cables emerge naturally from the rib that it never crossed my mind that this wasn’t a given. My cables do flow from the rib but that’s because I did the bit of design work necessary to make that happen. The yarn is a commercial bfl aran wool that was formerly Rogue, now dyed grey. There was enough left over for me to never worry about running out, the leftovers will make a few hats but there’s not a huge amount left.

What else is there to say – it’s finished, it fits, I wouldn’t knit it again.



Holiday knitting and several surprises

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters on August 16th, 2014

I thought that there would be enough knitting in the body of a baby sweater to keep me amused on a week’s holiday, I was so sure of this that I didn’t pack the dpns I’d need for the sleeves. I like to have a back up plan so I took another pair of yarns with the idea of putting the first cardigan on waste yarn when I got to the sleeves and using the needle to start a second one. My other back up plan was to buy a set of dpns while I was away but that idea went out of the window when the yarn shop I found had no dpns in any size. It had tea and cake but that’s not terribly helpful for knitting a sleeve in the round. I would have needed the waste yarn if I hadn’t read three books, as it was I made it to the end of the week before joining the shoulder. This is a Butterfly Net cardigan although mine is more of a Brick Wall because of the colours. It’s another in a long line of seamless baby cardigans, it promises to be mindless tv knitting with a bit of picking up at the end. My interest in this is as another sock scrap eater, I could use a variety of leftover sock yarns for the background with a contrasting single yarn for the overlay to tie it all together. The overlay would mean that it didn’t scream “striped”, or at least I think it would. That’s in the future, I didn’t want the fuss of packing a bag of leftovers for a week away, it was much easier to pick up two balls of sock yarn and head for the door.

I packed reserve knitting but no camera, I have exactly two photos for the week courtesy of my new phone and the wonder husband who showed me how to get them from there to here. It’s no surprise that I’m baffled by new gadgets, the surprise is that I ended up with a pair of socks last week. With it being holiday week I turned out my wardrobe in search of my swimming costume and as a result I found the missing Roses sock. I’m so pleased that I had the foresight to make my test spots just on the sole because it means that I have a pair back in rotation. At some point I’ll mend the iffy colour with dye but for now I’m happy to have two that match.

There was another surprise this week when I went to collect my male family members from the station and found their train being brought in by an engine that I’d heard of. I am not a train enthusiast, not by a long way, but even I had heard of this one. Getting off the platform was made difficult by the lines of people (I try for inclusive language but in reality I didn’t see anyone who was not male) standing next to the engine to have their picture taken. The diesel unit that should have been pulling the train broke down and had to be replaced by a steam engine. Oh dear, how sad, never mind. I’m not going to apologise for the quality of the photo, it needed pointy elbows to get it at all as the platform was suddenly alive with men of a certain age with cameras, ipads and anything else capable of taking a photograph.

Would you like to see photos of a mountain of laundry? No, I didn’t think so. In that case, that’s all I have for today.

 



Sample time

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, socks on August 2nd, 2014

This shows why I don’t knit light coloured socks. It might be different if I washed them all by hand but I bundle them all together and stick them on a wool wash, reds, greens, blues and blacks. I manage to separate the lights and darks in the main wash but all the wool goes in together. This pair was originally knitted with undyed yarn but over time they’ve become even more off white and are leaning now towards on-grey. This one has been living in bedsock corner, not so much because of the colour change but because the other half of the pair is in hiding. When I’m fishing around for a sock in the dark the colour is unimportant, as long as it warms my foot it’s fine. Even single grubby looking socks can have a function, this one came out of the bedroom for a star part in a dyeing experiment.

I kept the spots on the sole so that if the other sock magically appears I can still wear them as a pair. Providing that I keep my shoes on no-one will know that one sock has a dotty sole. I wanted to see whether I could dye spots after knitting without the dye running into blotches or penetrating across to the other side of the tube. I could have knitted a sample tube to practise on but it was quicker to use a sock that was already made. The dots stayed round and red, didn’t run, bleed or wash out so this was a success from the start. I know that if I’d gone straight to the real thing I would have had a pink splodgy mess, the time to sample is when there is a high price to pay for failure. My learning points in a nutshell are that if you stick a plastic bag down your sock you prevent bleed through and that if you thicken dye it doesn’t run.

These were released to feet on the Friday before the Tour finished on the Sunday. I dyed enough yarn for another pair because I was expecting a request from Woolforbrains junior as soon as he saw them. That’s not happened yet because the socks were worn and put in the washing basket while junior was away on his course. It’s possible that it might be a few more weeks before he sees them and I might even evade the new-sock detector altogether. If I can manage it I’d like to keep the other ball until next year’s Tour but I think my chances of that are slim. This is my standard 72 stitch sock with King of the mountain polka dots added after knitting.

 This is my current major time suck. The Wensleydale is all washed now and I’ve started to comb it. There was a learning curve with the washing and the combing, the first batch of each wasn’t all that good. Funnily enough once I’d cracked the washing the combing magically improved too. I’m planning to end up with a sweater or two from this and I had initially thought that the Wensleydale might be too harsh around the neck. That’s not all that big a problem, it just needs a neckline that isn’t too close fitting. I’m reconsidering that now seeing as the yarn is obviously not itchy at all. I know this because I stuck the spun sample down my bra to test for itch and surprised myself when it fell on the floor at bedtime.



TdF week three, return to Wensleydale

Posted by Caroline in Spinning, Wensleydale on July 23rd, 2014

Last week I combed the last of the Oxford Down and said that I had no fleece in the garage. At the time that was correct but it isn’t now.  This is Wensleydale, the left hand side is the original chocolate colour, the top right corner is what it will end up as when washed. It’s seasonally hot this week so a good time for wool washing because it dries quickly. I’m still working out the best washing strategy, my first batch had a cold overnight soak, one hot wash and two rinses but that produced a finished product that was still too sheepy. My second batch had a cold overnight soak, two hot washes and two rinses and that resulted in acceptable fibre but I’m going to see if a second cold soak will substitute for one of the later steps. The reason for this is that I have two big water butts full of rainwater that I can run off for soaking and the resulting bucket of very brown water can then go on the border plants. It seems a shame to use lovely drinking water for washing wool and then pull the plug and have it vanish down the drain. This is going to be a long term project and I can guarantee that the blog will be seeing it again at different stages.

The Tour de France is still on and I’m still spinning. I’m now on the third bobbin of what will be a three ply yarn, the last bobbin looks remarkably like the other two which is something that pleases me greatly. The bobbin on the left has more of the burgundy, the right one has more of the green and the third has equal amounts of both. It’s superwash bfl and nylon so will be good for baby things or socks, should it meet my exacting quality control standards it will end up as shop stock but if it’s “too” something then it will have to stay at home. Oh dear, what a shame that would be.

I had a trip out on Monday to deliver the heir to his first summer music course, had I taken a photo it would have been identical to the one I took last year so let’s just run with that. He’s at the same venue, assigned to the same room and he bagged the same bed. This year I had no worries about turning him loose with his peers, last year the pastoral care was excellent, the accommodation was good, the food was good, he enjoyed himself and he wasn’t out of his depth musically. Habits are hard to break, it’s day three and I’m watching for the school bus going past in the afternoon and walking about at night as if he’s in his bed.

 

 



The wheel turns (TdF week two)

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 18th, 2014

Well I’m still keeping up with the Tour De Fleece in that I’ve spun every day apart from rest day. I may not have spun for very long but I’ve added something to a bobbin every day. The pink is Southdown in “dyer’s mistake” which I like as yarn. The white is all there is of the Oxford Down. Last week there was a huge pile of it and I genuinely believed that there was at least 200g there. No, I didn’t go as far as to actually weigh it and yes, I do know that a pile of fluff is mostly air. When I started combing it last summer I pulled out the 4″ locks and I’ve continued cherry picking it on and off through the year. The result was that the remainder was barely long enough to comb and the waste was much higher than with the first batches. I’ve ended up with about 100g of three ply sock yarn which is good enough. As it turned out this was the last fleece in the garage, the other two bags in there turned out to contain combed top. I may have only got enough yarn for a pair of socks but the result is three bags out of the garage. That must mean that it’s time to buy another fleece…

As I anticipated, the first half of the threading took me a week and the second half took no time at all. I’m positive that I’ve been careful and threaded this perfectly with no mistakes but then I think that every time. It’s always such a disappointment to tie on and find out how wrong I was. That will be next week’s treat, I’ll have time to sort out the mistakes with the extra hour I’ll gain each morning. Next week I don’t have to make breakfast, hunt for missing items (this morning it was the bus pass that had gone walkabout) and check that junior has checked that he has everything ready for school. We haven’t quite broken up yet for the summer, school is open for another three days next week but junior is away on a residential music course for all five. I will miss him and I’m sure that the washing machine will pine for him too.

On my to do list this week was “repot bamboo”. This one is a thug and has to be contained or else it would run and take over my garden and my neighbour’s too. Every few years I take it out of the pot, hack it in half and put it back again. Last time I had to call in a husband with a saw, the pot had a fancy strip near the rim and the root had pushed out into the detailing and he had to cut the pot off to get it out. I can learn – this pot has a flat internal face and so I got the bamboo out without any trouble. I knew there were ants in the pot but I didn’t realise the extent to which they had taken over. It’s bad enough trying to cut the roots in half without having hordes of ants running up your limbs while you’re doing it. It’s raining now with more forecast for tomorrow and I’m hoping that will persuade them to move elsewhere.

 



TdF week 1

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 10th, 2014

Last week I said that I was done with socks but clearly I’m not. The last pair have been finished, initialled with duplicate stitch and released into the wild and I started another pair just as soon as this yarn was dry.  I checked and the new ones aren’t the ones that are in the dog basket (don’t ask me why there were socks in the dog basket, I was just pleased that they were a pair) so they could be anywhere. The new ones will be husband socks, he doesn’t have to wear uniform quite as often as the school child so can have colour all the way to the cuff. I usually avoid white in socks because I find that it picks up stray colour in the wash and over time turns to a murky grey but if I need to I can always dye them at some point in the future. I still believe that all colour challenges can be solved with either navy, red or brown dye and with this pair the cure would be navy.

This is my Tour de Fleece spinning for days one to five, it’s pretty underwhelming but although I undertook to spin every day I never said how long for. This is Southdown, probably, and it is a shop reject because I intended it to be a more interesting range of colours. The Tour related project that I have put most time into was the weaving because I added yards to that during Le Tour de Yorkshire. I can’t remember the last time I watched so much television in one day and then I did it all again the next day too. It was a five yard warp, I’ve not measured the final length but I’m certain that there will be enough for whatever I want to do with it. It’s turned a bag full of random handspun into something I can work with although it’s not at all what I set out to make because the bag of random handspun really needed to be twice the size.

Progress here is measured in inches rather than yards, I know from experience that I drag myself across the first half of the warp and then the second half zips along. Threading is not difficult, it doesn’t take as long as I think it does but I find it to be so monumentally boring that I want to run away just as soon as I’ve started. I have started, that’s something at least, but I’m not promising that it will be finished before the next time I post. I can always find something else that needs to be done, even the ironing is more interesting than threading the loom. My target is two inches a day, every day which is nothing at all really but just as much as I can stand.

One of those other things that needs to be done is combing the bag of fleece that I took out of the garage. This is my next TdF spinning project, it’s Oxford Down and I promised a pair of socks out of it. I’m not sure how much there is left but there’s certainly enough for a pair of socks, possibly even three pairs. I’m going to comb until the bag is empty, spin enough for one pair of socks and then take a decision on the rest. Whatever I do with it only the empty bag will be going back into the garage.

Next week is the last week of school and then after that it will be my annual wool week. This year is even more exciting because it’s not going to be wool week but wool fortnight. The first week I’ll be excused from all parenting duties as the child is going away and the second week I’ll be excused all meals because both males will be out of the house for twelve hours a day. Will I have enough wool to see me through?  Watch this space.