17 May 2017

Good Weekend at Maryland Sheep and Wool

This year, I was able to attend the 44th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. As many of you know, I have a very lovable cat with health issues that curtailed my travel in 2016. While Vincent is not fabulous this year, he appears to be more or less stable. It was with some trepidation that I penciled a couple weeks at the Maryland man cave into my schedule.

Time with the Cuddly Hubby was well-spent. He has made geek friends that he sees usually two or three nights a week. Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) fell on the group's usual Thursday game night. It was an all-out Star Wars party with decorations (including a Princess Leia cardboard standee) and appropriate games including Trivial Pursuit DVD: Star Wars Saga Edition. The competition between both teams was tight. I think next year we want a rematch using Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Classic Trilogy Collector's Edition instead. I brought Star Wars chocolates. Michelle brought Wookiee cookies — gingerbread cookies decorated with bandoliers and fork impressions to imitate fur. There were other nights of team trivia at the local pub, more games, and about a dozen people attending the opening night of Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2.

I was delighted to be able to attend Maryland Sheep and Wool with my dear friend from Center for Knit and Crochet, Jennifer Lindsay. I must admit we did not provide much adult supervision for each other. In addition to being president of CKC, Jennifer curated the Twist: The Art of Spinning by Hand exhibition I participated in last autumn. This meant that walking through the show with Jennifer was great fun, as she was able to introduce me to many people from the spinning world. Together we did a lot of shopping and admiring. And we bought some fleeces (more about mine in another post later).

The highlight for me was that I decided to participate in the Skein and Garment show. In order to get the submissions into the show, I sent them through the mail. It is anxiety-inducing to put carefully-crafted items into the mail and send them 700 miles away, trusting they will arrive okay. They did. And the exercise was worth the anxiety:

The knitting part of the competition has 16 categories, about half of which require handspun yarn. Items also must have been completed since last year's show. The Rainbow Zing scarf received a blue ribbon (1st place) in category K04 — Scarves knit from handspun yarn. The Kennesaw Kudzu hat was in category K14 — Miscellaneous knit from commercial yarn. And the Assiduous scarf was in category K10 — Scarves knit from commercial yarn. And somehow I haven't blogged about any of these projects!

The rainbow scarf is made from the optically-blended yarn I made last summer. An article about that yarn will be in the summer issue of Spin-Off magazine. The pattern is a simplified version of Za-Zing, which was last year's Georgia FiberFest knit-along. Assiduous is a hat and scarf set worked in lace weight yarn. The hat is Kennesaw Kudzu, a sock pattern with a bonus hat pattern that I haven't even published yet.

The irony here is both of the blue ribbon winners took me less than a week to make. I knocked out the hat in five days back in January. And the rainbow scarf was my Dragon*Con project last year. The white scarf took about 6 weeks and around 75,000 stitches on a size US 2/ 2.75mm needle.

I truly did not expect to win any ribbons. The Skein and Garment show at Maryland Sheep and Wool has lots of very good entries. There is always someone who submits an incredible beaded lace shawl. And I really did not expect to win ribbons for smaller projects. The hat didn't even use a full skein of yarn, for crying out loud! I just wanted to get the reversible lace technique in front of more eyes.

As with so many things in life, just showing up and making an attempt is the first step.

17 April 2017

What Was I Thinking?

The game master asks, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

This is a running joke between Cuddly Hubby and me. Cuddly Hubby is a benevolent role-playing game master. He is not trying to get the player characters into mortal danger. Danger, yes, as that is part of the game. But he wants everyone to have a good time. Having your 12th-level elf cleric bludgeoned to death in two rounds by a hill giant does not a happy gaming session make. If a player is about to make a decision that is maybe not the smartest thing to do, Cuddly Hubby will ask, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

Sometimes life needs a little pop up to say, "Are you sure you want to do that?" (I also need an iPhone app to say, "Don't listen to the Garmin! That way lies traffic madness.")

Back in October, I decided to spin a pound of lace weight yarn. I spun all during Spinzilla. I took a bit of a break going into the holidays. Then I heard there were people trying to spin for fifteen minutes every day in 2017. I liked that idea. That would be a way to make steady progress and keep up the spinning mojo. So that's what I did. I spun for at least fifteen minutes every day, except the couple weekends when I was away teaching. I did this through January. I did this through February. And I did this through March.

A pound of lace weight yarn on a Majacraft overdrive head.
At the end of March I finally finished the yarn. It took more than an hour just to wind it off the bobbin and up onto the swift, and that was with my super-nice Strauch free-standing swift. The skein is so large I could only soak it, rather than finish it in the steamer. It took three hours to wind it into a ball. If my measurements are correct, this is about 1½ miles/2.4 km of yarn, or about 3 miles/4.8 km of singles. Yes, this is almost the 5K of spinning.

My thought was to make a reversible lace circle jacket. Reversible lace takes twice as much yarn, hence my interest in having a whole pound of fiber rather than merely eight ounces. This is so fine I am wondering if I would be better off putting it on the loom instead? Or I could just go for a giant circle shawl after all. There's enough yardage to be sure it is big and spectacular.

After I finished it, I took about a week off from spinning. Now I'm on to another project. But I must ask of you, dear readers and friends; if I ever say, "I think I'll spin lace weight from a pound of fiber," please, please, please look me straight in the eyes and ask, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

21 March 2017

Last Call

I just happened to pick today to drive out to Robinson Salvage. I've been visiting about every-other week since January as the pile evaporated but the savings deepened. Apparently, today was the day the remaining stash was marked to 90% off.

That's the first pile. Some yarn, a few books, some spinning add-ins. Lots of cotton.

The second pile is all Mountain Colors. When you mark $21.95 down by 90%, that's only $2.20 a pop. This pile was about $50. I must say, I was surprised these didn't go faster. Then again, there are fewer spinners. It isn't surprising that the spinning fiber didn't move as fast as the yarn.

In between January and today, I purchased a whole breed study and enough silk-wool blend to make an entire sweater. Over the course of the sale, I think I purchased around 4 or 5 grocery-cart fulls. I have more than doubled the spinning fiber stash. If you see me at a fiber festival this year and I attempt to purchase any yarn or fiber, please redirect me to the nearest ladies' restroom and splash cool water in my face until I snap out of the hypnotic trace induced by wool fumes and hand-dyed colorways. I can't even rationalize a fleece, as I have an amazing one I purchased last year at SAFF. If I were on the board of one of the guilds, I would have been tempted to scoop up the pile of Ashford scarf kits at $2 a pop, as I think they would make nice door prizes.

By the way, at least some of this will probably be gifted to friends. This is truly an embarrassment of riches.

16 March 2017

Reversible Lace Double Decrease

Several months ago, I posted a video of how to work the centered double decrease in reversible lace. I finally got around to shooting a video for how to work a regular double decrease in reversible lace.

For the double decrease, the center stitch is on the bottom of the stack. Unlike a centered double decrease, a double decrease tends to break up the vertical line. While this is a subtle distinction, it can make a difference in lace patterns where uninterrupted wales are part of the design.

knit-wise, right stitch on top (leans left) =
  • slip 1 stitch knit-wise
  • knit 2 stitches together
  • pass the slipped stitch over

purl-wise, right stitch on top (leans left) =
  • slip 2 stitches together knit-wise
  • slip 1 knit-wise
  • return all 3 stitches to the left needle
  • purl all 3 stitches together up through the back of the loop

knit-wise, left stitch on top (leans right) =
  • slip 1 knit-wise
  • slip 1 knit-wise again
  • return 2 stitches to left needle/cable needle through the back of the loop
  • knit all 3 together

purl-wise, left stitch on top (leans right) =
  • slip stitch #1 purl-wise
  • reorder next two stitches:
  •     put right needle behind stitch #2 and into stitch #3
  •     remove left needle so stitch #2 is loose
  •     replace left needle in stitch #2 but not stitch #3
  •     return stitch #3 to left needle
  • return stitch #1 to left needle
  • purl all 3 together

Reversibility and symmetry can be peculiar. Either knit decrease can be paired with either purl decrease. Depending which you choose, you may get identical reversibility or mirrored reversibility. When designing on your own or converting patterns, be sure to swatch to confirm you are getting the intended result.

01 March 2017


Now that Yarn is over, I've shifted focus to what is happening in my own home. I spent the last week or so organizing the stash. This required two trips to Ikea. I'm not completely finished, but I have corralled most of the yarn, fiber, and craft supplies (including the beads) into one room. This involved moving some stash out of the master bedroom. I don't even remember why there was stash there, other than it must have been when I first started knitting, since most of it was very old stash. In the process of doing that, I discovered moth damage.

The basket isn't even in my Ravelry projects, as it was executed B.R. (before Ravelry). It is also B.B. (before blog). The pattern is Entrelac Tote by Melanie Smith marked "Revised 10/25/2005." It was probably in the very first order I ever made from Knit Picks. I recall it being a very fun knit that I worked up almost immediately. In fact, it was so much fun that I ordered 2 more skeins of spruce, 2 more skeins of hollyberry, and 1 more skein of cloud and knit a second tote. Note to yarn sellers: If you offer a pattern where I can easily make two by buying a little more yarn, please let me know. I'd rather knit it twice than add a big pile of partial skeins to the stash. And you might sell me more yarn!

I improvised on the second tote by making the narrow stripes at top and bottom as waves. Interestingly, they pulled in more when felted giving the tote a vase-like outline rather than the rounded basket shape. I also hid a small pocket behind every other diamond in the entrelac. I twisted the large i-cord handles around each other to give a braided effect. And I made a multi-twist möbius edging at the top. What was I thinking? Maybe I was going to use this as a knitting tote? I even used up the last little bits of yarn by making some "Five-Star Flowers" from Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers (New York: Sixth & Spring Books 2006), page 100. (Long time readers will remember I've used the "Buttercup" from this book to cover a hole in a woven bamboo bag.) And I added a couple tendrils because, clearly, this variant should be labeled, "More is more, dang it!"

The moths had munched on the felted totes, especially the first one. Fortunately, they are felted. I took the first bag and ran it through the wash, thinking more felting would ameliorate the problem. Instead, a piece of the bag bottom disappeared. That would make the tote less-functional, wouldn't it? Sigh.

To the stash!

I have a box of half a fleece of freebie merino wool that is too fine for spinning. If you tug on it, it sounds like Rice Krispies. Snap, crackle, pop! It has lots of nepps and noils. If I were to make batts on the drum carder, it would make a very textured yarn. However, there is no such thing a bad fiber. If all else fails, it can be used as stuffing. This wool has turned out to be very useful for felting. While it takes some time to prepare (picking out all those little short bits), most of the time when I am needle felting I only need a small amount of wool. Fifteen minutes of picking isn't all that onerous.

I needed to dye the wool. I got out my Jacquard acid dyes and my set of samples. I was hoping there would be an obvious match. No such luck. Color 631 Teal seemed like the obvious choice, but it was a little too green. In the end, I started the dye process with a bath of teal. After an hour I added some 621 Sapphire Blue. After that cooked for awhile I finished off with more teal. As you can see, the dye struck the wool with quite a bit of variegation. It looks a lot like Malabrigo. Very, very pretty.

To make the patch, I got out my felting needles. The variegation was a tremendous help. There were parts that were too green, parts that were too blue, and parts that were about right. If the wool had taken the dye evenly throughout, it would have been an all-or-nothing outcome in terms of whether the color matched. Because there was variegation, I was able to use mini-combs to blend color. In the end, I got enough fiber that was a close enough match.

I spent about an hour needle felting. Ta-da!

Not a perfect match, but not obvious.