Huzzah, I haz returned!

My blog vacation, in photos

1. Pretties from the States!, 2. Sigh. Liberty., 3. Liberty purchases, 4. At The Globe., 5. Ranger cardigan, blocking, 6. Magrathea, finished, waiting to be blocked, 7. Noro Sekku scarf, WIP, 8. First piece of lace, framed., 9. Stitchy iPhone case!, 10. Mirror of Erised, respun and plied, 11. Oscar sunbathing on the kitchen counter, 12. Making lots of scrappy wreaths!, 13. 1940s day, 14. Vintage buttons, 15. Vintage buttons, 16. Oh my.

Well, my little blog staycation was a little bit longer than I meant it to be – it’s been a chaotic couple of weeks. Mostly nice, but busy! I got most of my blog nitpicking done (except for one layout problem that is Making. Me. Crazy. and I can’t figure out how to fix it. If you happen to be a WordPress whiz kid and want to help me out, please shout in the comments. I’ll be forever in your debt!) and had a really nice time doing some cool non-internet-y stuff. The mosaic above is basically my last few weeks in photos. I’ll narrate for you:

First, my family had some really special visitors from the States, who brought me a lovely stack of beautiful fabric as well as embroidery floss. I’ve already started playing with them a bit! While they were here, we all went to Liberty, patted all the beautiful things, and may have brought some home. We also went to see As You Like It as The Globe theater (one of my very favorite places in all the world, it’s magical!) and just had a lovely visit all-around. I got the Worst Cold In The Universe, which knocked me down for ages and is still kind of lingering in annoying ways, but managed to finish the Ranger cardigan for my brother as well as the Magrathea shawl. The cardigan is blocked and waiting for buttons, the shawl will be blocked soon. Over the last few days, I’ve been working on the Noro lace scarf, which I’d avoided for at least a year for being too boring and not really my style, though pretty enough not to frog. Turns out it must be exactly the project I’m craving at the moment, because I’ve doubled its length in about 3 days and am now feeling a bit sad that it’s almost finished. In fact, if you’re at my real blog (as opposed to a feed reader) and you peek over at my WIP list of shame, you’ll notice that I’ve pretty much kicked its ass lately! Well, the knitting section anyway – ahem, pay no attention to those other categories.

Anyway, so I’ve been wrapping up projects and it’s made me feel so much more organized and less like my thoughts are swimming all over the place. I’ve even framed my first piece of finished bobbin lace and I’m so so proud of how it came out! I cross-stitched an iPhone case, because why the hell wouldn’t you?, and respun some yarn that I’d originally spun too loosely. Oscar took a nap in the sunny spot smack in the middle of the kitchen counter (because, again, why the hell wouldn’t you?) and I got a wee start on some Christmas projects. I realized last year that, although I love making gifts for people, that last-few-weeks panic and stress just ruins Christmas for me. I pretty much hate it by the time it finally comes around. I’m working hard to avoid that this year, getting smaller things done early so I don’t have to think about them anymore. Last weekend, I visited the 1940s in a little wartime village event nearby with a dear friend, found some ridiculously cute vintage buttons to add to my collection, and gave Oscar some much-deserved head scratches.

(We’ve also been working on *two* new sets of embroidery patterns in the Little Dorrit & Co. office – I’m super-crazy about them all, I seriously Can’t Wait to get them out in the world!)

And now you’re all caught up! I’ve missed you guys!

Tour de Fleece 2012 wrap-up

Tour de Fleece 2012 Total Output

So the Tour de Fleece is over, and I had an awesome time! I regret just a little tiny bit that I chose a challenge that made for such difficult spinning – picking new-to-me fibers meant feeling like a beginner again, frustrated stress and all. Next year I’ll probably do something more project-related: spin enough for a cardigan, or spin the yarn for specific projects, etc. I do usually tend to pick my wool in combination with a project before spinning, so I don’t end up with an awkward yarn I can’t find a use for, and I think that will make for more relaxing spinning.

But I had a great time with the tour anyway – I’m so so so glad I did it! I learned new things, I made some really cool new friends, I re-enjoyed spinning in general. It was lovely, and I think it will help me keep spinning as part of my regular crafty activities again, for a while at least. It’s usually the thing I don’t end up with any time for, and a low priority because I have so much yarn I want to knit anyway, spinning more doesn’t seem that important. But I had such a good time, I’m already craving more time at the wheel!

My last yarn for the tour was that beautiful bamboo that I was so afraid of, but it turned out to be a joy to spin. I will definitely keep my eye out for more bamboo to spin eventually. Not all at the intimidating challenge I thought it was going to be. My only (minor) complaint is with the dyer (not mentioning any names, and I don’t think she sells anymore anyway) — the colors are gorgeous, the quality of the dye job is perfect, but this dyer did have a tendency to pick colors that will muddy when blended, and then place them far to close too each other. So the first bobbin is absolutely stunning – long stretches of aqua and sea greens interrupted by soft coppers (the left bobbin).

Tour de Fleece - last day

But the second bobbin happened to mix the colors much more, and did get ugly in a few spots when the aqua and reds mixed unpleasantly. So I’ve decided to keep them as singles – this way, I can pull out any really muddy colors as I knit if it’s a problem, and this also gives me the option to use just that first bobbin on its own if I don’t like how the second knits up. These singles seem to be about a laceweight (I’m letting them rest on the bobbins for a while before skeining and measuring) so I’m sure 50g would be enough for a little project if I wanted to split the two bobbins. I was afraid that plying them with further mix the colors too much – I’d rather leave them this way and at least come out with 50g that I love, rather than 100g that isn’t quite right.

Tour de Fleece - Day 20

As for my other two finished yarns: The alpaca (orange, in the photo at the top of this post) turned out to be about 225m of sportweight yarn, the silk (blue) is 330m of as-yet unmeasured weight. I have decided to go ahead and spin the other 50g in a matching skein – I think. But I will take my time prepping the hankies and not let my hands be destroyed by it again! The practice mini-skein there, alpaca, isn’t as soft as I’d have liked, but I think it might work nicely for a pair of simple striped or colorworked mitts. I’m going to stashdive for something that would work in combination with it.

So next up: the Ravellenic Games! I have a specific plan for this, but I’ll tell you more about that on Friday before the Opening Ceremony Cast-on. I’m really really excited to take part and hope it’s just half as awesome as the Tour de Fleece!

Tour de Fleece, alpaca

Tour de Fleece Day 9

My second Tour de Fleece batch of spinning was a little pile of alpaca, from Spunky Eclectic, but first I played with a bit of alpaca left from the first time I tried to spin it, which was a terrible disaster. I had no idea what I was doing and I totally turned it into rope. Scratchy, dense, horrible. So before I even started on the lovely Spunky Eclectic fiber above, I practiced on the other stuff:

Tour de Fleece Day 8

I read everything I could find on Ravelry first and the general idea seemed to be to spin from the fold, underspin the singles, then overply them together. I’ve spun from the fold once or twice before, but now that I’ve done it a bit more, I’m pretty sure I didn’t really get it then. Now I see the how it works properly and I quite like it as a technique! It does seem much easier to control slippy fibers that way, and keep the twist right where you want it.

The practice skein was silky-ish to the touch, but still quite scratchy around my neck, but a massive improvement over the last time. I also navajo-plied that one, which wasn’t necessarily the best idea, since I have a much harder time controlling the plying amount that way. I’m really glad I worked those kinks out first though, I think it paid off!

Tour de Fleece - Day 19
Tour de Fleece - Day 19

It’s actually still not fully dry, but I keep testing it for softness anyway. It definitely feels lovely to the touch, maybe a little prickly around my neck, but that’s not really fair since it’s still a bit damp. I could swear it’s softer now than yesterday, but I can’t really be sure. I’ll report back at the end of the tour. Anyway, I haven’t measured this skein yet, but it looks about fingering-weight-ish at the moment. I’ll measure up when it’s properly dry.

The other day, I had to admit that my ‘5 new-to-me fibers’ goal was totally unrealistic. Actually, that’s not fair, it would’ve been fine if the fibers I chose weren’t ones that want to spun so thinly! If I’d gone for big bulky wools, I could’ve done it easy. But silk, alpaca, and now bamboo are all fibers that can’t help but be thread-thin. So I had to bring it down to 3 new-to-me fibers, and next year I’ll know better how to make a realistic goal for myself. But I will try to finish my full 5 after the tour though, I still have some silk I’m dying to try, and some new wool breeds.

There’s still a few days left though, and now I’m working on some bamboo:

Tour de Fleece - Day 19

Which is turning out to be a really easy spin! Of course, now I’ve jinxed it and it will turn out looking awful in the end. But so far, it’s going really well – it’s slipped away from me a few times, but otherwise, it’s kind of like spinning butter. The challenge in this one is turning out to be keeping those colors from turning muddy – they’re gorgeous when spun, but it’ll be really easy to let that orangey-red and aqua mix too much and become sludge. I also have no idea how I’ll ply it to keep it pretty, I might have to test a little first. In any case, this is the first of my TdF fibers that is really pleasant to spin, not hard work at all – I can’t stop thinking about getting back to it!

Fibre-East 2012 breakdown

Woohoo, Fibre-East was SO. AWESOME! The Knitters and I had a wonderful time, got lucky with a one-day let-up in the constant rain (this photo makes the sky look ominous and it was getting a little cloudy right as we were getting ready leave, but the rest of the day was lovely), and went home with some beautiful yarny / woolly treats!

My savings jar worked out better than I could’ve imagined:

Which was just the change, there was also some cash stuffed in there and some I had set aside too, so I ended up with about £110 – I never, ever expected the change to be so much though, I will totally do this for events like this from now on! I didn’t notice the little wee bits of money going in there, so I got to enjoy a totally guilt-free shopping spree. Last year I focused on undyed wools and yarns because I had a much smaller spending budget. This year, my jar let me buy a few luxury treats as well.

Fibre-East Loots - dyed

There’s some dyed Wensleydale from the amazing Yarnscape, a big beautiful vampy batt from Boo’s Attic (no website that I know of, which is maybe just as well because I’d never leave it), and a deliciously hot pink Merino / Seacell (a blend I’ve never tried before) from Fluff ‘n’ Stuff (which was the hardest choice ever, I really could’ve spent my whole budget there in about 15 minutes and gone home totally happy).

The Skein Queen yarn is stunning, intended for a Winter Sparkles Shawl. That pattern has been in my queue for-ev-er and I finally found the perfect dreamy yarn for it. The gold is from Oliver Twists (who doesn’t have a website, which is both a shame and maybe lucky, because they had some of the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen!) – laceweight silk, totally for no reason other than being beautiful like liquid gold. I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, though I have no specific plan for it.

Fibre-East Loots - undyed

As for undyed treats, I did pretty well there too. I was surprised not to find more stalls with unusual breeds; I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but that was something I was hoping to find. There were some, definitely, especially in more raw forms, but I was hoping to find more processed wool of new-to-me breeds. I did get some Masham and some Swaledale, neither of which I’ve tried before. These are supposed to be on the less-soft side, but I thought they felt lovely. A little rustic, sure, this isn’t the finest merino, but I actually like a more woolly wool. Those came from Adelaide Walker, where I also got a little bundle of BFL / silk blend – my favorite wool in the world, mixed with silk?! No brainer. Actually, my only regret of the day was not getting more of these small bags from Adelaide Walker, just to try different wools, but honestly, I probably won’t even get to spin all this before Fibre-East 2013 anyway! The bag of fluff is angora straight from the bunny, kind of stinky in a nice animal sort of way (my dog can’t stop obsessing over it), though lovely and soft. The skein is sparkle sock from DT Crafts, which I plan to dye a deep-dark-midnight-blue.

Better get to work, eh? Oh, but wait – first, admire the face on this guy, who really, really wanted to come home with me:

(Anyone know what kind of breed he is? Just curious!)

Tour de Fleece, silk hankies

Tour de Fleece Day 5

If you remember my post a few weeks ago, my challenge for the Tour de Fleece 2012 was to to try five new-to-me fibers. Today is Day 5 and I’ve finished my first one! Well, sort of finished. The blue above is my first finished skein: silk hankies, 50g / 330m. I haven’t measured WPI yet (this yarn hasn’t had the twist set yet), but I’ll guess a somewhere around a fingering weight on average – though it’s really all over the place. Because I was really a beginner with the hankies, the singles were, predictably, much thicker at the beginning of the bobbin than at the end. It turns out that silk hankies are really hard on your hands, and really difficult to draft evenly. That said, I did get much better at it as I went on – here’s two progress photos that should show the difference between the start and end of the bobbin:

Tour de Fleece Day 2
Tour de Fleece day 4

I know the top Instagrammed photo isn’t that clear, but I hope you can see how much thinner and more consistent the single became as I went on. Plying helps, of course, but it is still very uneven. I can’t yet decide if I should prep the second half of this batch of hankies and spin it up the same, or if I should call this done and save the other half to work on separately now that my spinning of the fiber has improved. I might get something closer to a laceweight like I’d hoped for. On the other hand, 330m is an odd amount and I’ll get more useful yardage if I do the other 50g. On the other other hand, I might not be able to spin the second half the same as this skein, since I gradually changed over the 50g. Hmm.

In any case, I need a little break from the silk. My hands need a rest! I’m going to try alpaca next – this lovely sunshine-y batch from Spunky Eclectic that’s been in my stash for years.

Tour de Fleece Day 5

I’m terrified of alpaca, really. I have no idea what to do with it. If you look online for tips, most people will tell you to blend it with wool or something, but this is what I have and it’s all beautifully hand-dyed, so I’m not going to mess that up with blending. This is maybe the one challenge fiber I’m properly scared of – it’s so lovely and cloud-like in this form, and I’m afraid I’ll turn it into twine. I’ve tried pure alpaca once before and it felt like rope; I didn’t even finish the whole 100g. I still have a little of that roving left, so I’m going to do some practice on that today before I start the good stuff tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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