Wool And The Gang Lovisa Mitts

Wool & The Gang Mitts

About a million years ago, Wool And The Gang, a London-based yarn and knitwear company, contacted me about trying out some of their yarn. Yum! Yes, please! But as you know, I’ve been through a pretty crummy time over the last few months, and the timing of the yarn arriving to me was the worst you could possibly imagine. I decided what I wanted to knit almost immediately, but I just wasn’t able to get my mind properly into a knitting pattern.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

Until one day a few weeks ago when I picked up my half-heartedly begun pair of Lovisa Armwarmers, sorted out some minor sizing issues I hadn’t had the brain power to deal with, and knocked them out in a couple of days. Suddenly, the time for comfort knitting had arrived – I’ve done and planned more projects in the last few weeks than I have in a year. Knitting has always been my comfort craft, but distraction crafts have been better for me this year. I’m really glad knitting is back for me now, I missed it.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

So anyway. Wool And The Gang were kind enough to send me out two colors (Snow White and Space Black) of their Sugar Baby Alpaca, so that I could give it a go with some colorwork knitting. You know how I love colorwork, don’t you? I’m always on the lookout for yarns that knit colorwork well but give a drapey, snuggly fabric. Colorwork can often be more pretty, less cuddly, on account of the rustic yarns traditionally used. A sportweight baby alpaca seemed like a perfect one to try out.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

Full disclosure and all: you know Wool And The Gang sent me this yarn for free, to review, and I promise I’d tell you if I hated it – scout’s honor. But oh the yummy! The Sugar Baby Alpaca knit like butter, such a pleasure to play with, and made such a delicious soft fabric. I used 4mm needles for these Lovisa Mitts (pattern by Sarah Pope, available free on Ravelry), which have been in my queue foreeeeeever, and added an extra 4-stitch repeat to make them slouchier on my sadly not-thin arms. Alpaca is so perfect for something slouchy like this, it just sits on my wrists like a scrumptious alpaca puddle. NOM.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

I added these cutesy-pie vintage buttons (eep, tiny hearts!) and I love these mitts to pieces! (They look perfect with my new winter coat too, as an added bonus.) I’m really in love with the yarn – thanks so much for letting me try it out, Wool And The Gang! – and I already have a possible pattern idea for it. I haven’t written a knitting pattern in ages, but there’s something a-brewin’ in my head!

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!

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!