Long time, I know :) It's the strangest thing-- ever since my son started school I can't manage anything timewise like before, even with a huge block of time in my day. I have no idea what's happening and have no doubt that it'll sort itself soon, but ...

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"sock prØn." - 5 new articles

  1. mittens mittens everywhere
  2. Lambtown 2009
  3. yvonne shawl from cocoknits
  4. Two new ways to use your Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom
  5. spinning mohair from attenuated locks
  6. More Recent Articles

mittens mittens everywhere

Long time, I know :) It's the strangest thing-- ever since my son started school I can't manage anything timewise like before, even with a huge block of time in my day. I have no idea what's happening and have no doubt that it'll sort itself soon, but yeah... hang in with me :)

I don't think I'd even knit if I didn't have a goal-- this past month I've been working on projects for Verb's "Smitten Mitten" contest. Kristine put out the call for submissions of mittens and armwarmers knit in Verb fibers and yarn, both in personal and published patterns, and I managed 3 out of 4 :)

My first was more accident than anything. I absolutely fell in love with zigzagstitch's End of May hat and knit it in Verb's sadly discontinued Yakkity Yak (50/50 yak/merino). I had a lot of yarn left over from the 2 skeins, and thought about reverse mirroring the MC/CC for a duplicate hat-- but then Mandy released an End of May mitten pattern with that prominent, striking flower and I was obsessed :)

P1080240
End of May mittens and hat
Verb for Keeping Warm Yakkity Yak, "indigo blue sky" and "cafe au lait"
Hat: US 4, Mittens: US 3
Started and finished: October 2009

Can I tell you I'm also obsessed with matchy-matchy now?! I want to knit a bunch of matching mitten and hats-- I always thought it was scarves and hats to match, but mittens are f*ing brilliant. I've already picked up some Ultra Alpaca for another set :)

I *really* love this set though. The pattern reminds me of something vintage, and the color pairing of the blue and tan-gold do as well. (go bears!) I can't take credit for the colors working together though-- I went into Article Pract and these skeins were just sitting there next to each other like they belonged together :) I think AP is the only place you can get the Yakkity Yak now-- they had some and even in these colors last time I was there.

I did make the shorter hat version; this one fits me perfectly like I want a warm hat to (over the ears and forehead). Also fits over big curls :)

P1080281

SUCH a hammy pie. I like the gold detail at the cast on edge-- I did use some waste yarn to make a forehead-length lining, but removed it since the yak really is soft enough to wear (and I hate extra finishing :)) I just used some extra gold to do a crochet chain around the picked-out waste yarn edge to secure it. I didn't know I needed the shorter version til I was halfway done (swatch? for a hat?! ;)) so I just shifted the chart and its top decreases over halfway for the same result. Easy really.

No mods with the mittens, except I used a 2-color caston for that same gold detail at the cuff, purled one row in MC, then started the pattern.

Speaking of mods, my next Verb mitt project was Gasteropoda by Kristi Geraci...

P1080290
Gasteropoda by Kristi Geraci
Verb for Keeping Warm Creating Superwash Sock, "Wonder Boy"
variety of needles
Started and finished: November 2009

I fell in love the minute I saw this on Kristi's blog. Look closely-- it's a 2" spiral that winds its way around the hand and arm! I am a SUCKER for innovation, and this! is! OSSUM! Knitting these I kept thinking that I want a spiral knit sweater now :) I'm not a cool enough knitter to figure that one out, but seriously I'd make one.

I lengthened mine (Kristi's version is a more traditional armwarmer length), and chose a shorter dye repeat with "Wonder Boy" (original knit in Wisdom Yarns Poems sock, a long striping yarn like Noro). I chose to lengthen them because lately I've been wearing my handknit kneehighs under my jeans in the mornings I drop my son off to school-- quite warm and almost like secret garters under denim in highschool. I think these will serve under a jacket with a light shirt quite nicely with our cold mornings and warm afternoons.

I retained the original caston #s for my size and only used a change in needle size to add width and extra spirals for length-- a US 3 for the above and upper forearm, a US 2 for the middle arm and US 1.5 for wrist and hand. I think if you wanted, you could also decrease stitches while spiraling if you wanted to use the same needles throughout-- the nice thing about sock yarn though is that it is forgiving knit on a range of (small) needles when you're not worrying about abrasion and feet and shoes.

I want to knit another pair of Gasteropoda from a long-repeat handspun... I can't help but think how AWESOME they'll be spun/knit from a DyakCraft (formerly Grafton) batt. And what a great choice for small leftover bits of sock yarn?! But I do like these a lot... it's like a maybe-poisonous snake squeezing me.

Aside from the spiraling construction (which is effortless-- no finishing), what really got me was the gusseted afterthought thumb. I'm not familiar enough with mitten construction to know if this is new or not, but it's really cool. I want to figure out how to use it for traditional afterthought mittens now!

P1080386

Yay for a nice shot of the colorway and sheen of the yarn too :)

For my last mitt project, I knew I wanted to use handspun-- specifically the baby llama from the Verb Ultra fiber club shipped in August.

P1070814

There were three distinct colors so I sketched up a stranded design using 3 colors (2 colors per row), tetris stylings.

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The baby llama on its own didn't have enough body to stand up to mitts, so I swapped in some Lana Cash (dark grey) for one of the colors. I'm glad I did-- when I saw this colorway it immediately reminded me of Bohus knitting for some reason, and I spun the llama drafting against twist for LOTS of halo. Paired with the matte commercial yarn, the halo pops off like it does in Bohus collars against the body yarn...

P1080394

I love these... they may actually get the most wear for being practical. (Tho I'm sitting here wearing the Gasteropoda to type this ;)) They are super warm but very, very light-- the pair weighs one ounce (30 grams). The afterthought thumb I kept very short so I could grip things easily-- I can drive without taking them off, unlike the fullon lovely End of May mittens. I also loved using three colors-- I usually only use two, and while I'm not aching to start some true 20 color fairisle, three was nice :)

Phew. If you thought that was a lot of mitten action, be sure to pop over to Verb for Keeping Warm's Ravelry group to see all of the entries and vote-- the threads are all stickied to the top til next week.

And as if that wasn't enough self-promotion... brand new stitch markers in my etsy shop! Hubei turquoise, carnelian, peridot, lapis, coral, garnet in nugget shapes... I guess I have been busy ;)


Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade
zero.etsy.com


Still adrift tho. Til next time :)
    

Lambtown 2009

Another year, another Lambtown :) Just like last year, my experience this year was quite different from the last and also quite wonderful. I went more to be able to take my son and gander at fiber animals and the fair atmosphere than to purchase fiber and (...) -- mission accomplished.

P1080175
still with the freedom bit?

Tika was able to join up with us and this may have been the best part of my kid's day :)

P1080190
(my son LOVES her, can you tell?)

Well, minus the bouncy house and train ride... so number 3. Pretty high for a 5 year old surrounded by animals and food :) They had a lot of kid-friendly activities I never paid attention to before, including the sheepdog trials and pony rides (we missed both, but don't tell the kid, I think he's forgotten by now.) Lambtown was also moved from July to October, and it was SO MUCH NICER weatherwise than the past two years. More coordinated overall as well-- very nice to see our local fiber expo growing.

Lambtown had a large alpaca contingent this year with Calpaca running concurrently which was fun to see, including an alpaca fleece judging which I didn't watch. I did get to watch the fleece judging (of course!)... this year's judge was Martin Dally.

P1080180

I have to say, he was the best judge I've had the pleasure to watch so far. It's not that the others were bad-- it's more that Martin is almost a showman in offering information about judging and buying fleece. I was also super impressed that he was the judge for the open and fiber sheep show (also missed). I took a few notes and am going to add them to the end of the post-- feel free to skip them, but I don't want to forget so it seems like a good place to store them :)

The judging this year was split into three divisions: 1) colored handspinner's wool, 2) handspinner's white wool, and 3) market (white) wool. The field was definitely smaller than Monterey's, and did not include breed classes. It makes sense for Monterey to have so many categories since they have so many to judge/for sale and want to accommodate as many as possible. Then again, the breed class judging is almost a... disservice to handspinners (reluctant to use that word) because of the issues Heather and I saw with it at the Monterey judging in 2009-- the fleeces in the breed classes aren't judged on external problems with the fleece (second cuts, VM) as it isn't not a fault in the breed standard but a bugger for handspinners buying fleeces.

The question of "handspinner's" wool came up during the judging-- to the eye, many handspinners and market wool fleeces can't be told apart. For example, the stunner I purchased...

P1080217
cormo from cormo sheep and wool farm, market wool, fine 64s or finer (17-22 microns)

...doesn't really scream "market"/commercial wool, eh? More like a sheep that has never missed a meal and has a name, unlike others with numbers and that forage for food? (A distinction between the traditional market wool and handspinner's wool category, according to Dally.) I spoke to a shepherd who said that if it were done correctly, she'd only enter one fleece in the whole show since she only raises fine combing, coated handspinner's fleeces. As it is though, shepherds can choose to enter 2 fleeces into each class of each division (and rams aren't allowed in the market wool category).

Traditionally the market wool category was shaped around what commercial buyers of wool wanted-- big, productive, sound fleeces, not necessarily the showstoppers in the handspinner's class. We heard from another observer of the judging that fifty years ago shepherds used to select for heavy lanolin producing sheep to get the weight and placing up in the market wool category. This was the first time I saw an honest application of the category-- even though my "market wool" was silky and bright white, at only 5# it couldn't compare to the first place finisher at 8# that was less white and had a slightly shorter staple.

P1080215

It has always felt a little sketchy to me seeing true handspinner's fleeces entered into the market wool category, even though the buyers at Lambtown and Monterey aren't industry but individual handspinners. It was good to see Dally making the distinction, and the winners of each division made sense from that standpoint.

You can see the differences here:

P1080181
l to r: colored handspinner's fleece, handspinner's white fleece, and market wool white (champion in front, res ch in back for each)

The handspinner's category were showy but not necessarily large, and definitely well skirted. The market wool winners were definitely larger, and were discounted less heavily in judging for less dramatic skirting (though the winners were both well skirted). And the colored wool was just gorgeous as always :)

After the judging Tika, the kid and I went to see the sheep shearing competition...

P1080182

...admittedly, we cringed watching blood be drawn several times. It would be interesting to see shearers work on handspinner's fleeces-- the shearing competition only judged on speed, not keeping them intact. I know Sue Reuser has invited people to come to the shearing at her farm at the beginning of the new year... it'll be an interesting trip.

Also interesting? Angora bunny shearing.

P1080198

Much sweeter and with no complaints like the sheep. If only I were so easy :)

Til then!


***

Notes from Lambtown fleece judging, Martin Dally

- Wool over 30 microns will feel prickly to the skin because at that diameter, the individual fibers don't bend.

- Pick up a bag of fleece and drop it on the table. A "thump" means a less productive fleece that has a lot of dirt and VM. The dirt will add weight to the bag and make it fall louder and harder.

- Denser fleece will "hold" dirt and VM at the tip. Less dense wool will show dirt and VM further down the staple. Less dense, uncoated wool will be less productive as it will let in and hold more dirt/VM throughout the staples.

- Touch two different fleeces with two hands. If you can feel a softness difference between the two, that means there is at least a 3 micron difference between the two.

- Yellowish looking white fleece can sometimes be attributed to carotene in corn feed and soybeans; the yellow color comes out in the lanolin which coats the wool (and can be washed out). Not the only source of yellow, but a washable, non-staining one.

- The Japanese love the look of crimp in wool (hahahaha it's genetic!), Australians less so. The Japanese are also the buyers of the very finest wool produced-- they use it in undergarments.

- Fine wool fleeces that have a "shine" to them aren't "lustrous" (used exclusively for longwools), but are said to be "silky."

- A problem in uncoated fleeces is that the lanolin cannot travel to the very tips of the locks (coated in dirt/vm), and those tips will be less soft than the rest of the staple because it lacks the lanolin protection from the elements, resulting in uneven hand or broken tips in worst cases.

- A ram will produce a 10% heavier fleece than a wether as testosterone affects wool production and rams are generally larger bodied than castrated males.

- and more but my handwriting's terrible! :) next year...


(eta 10/6, found more notes...)

- Color banding within a staple (color changes that are easily delineated straight across a lock of wool) is generally a mineral issue, namely copper. Either the sheep was gestating or lactating and the amount of copper intake changes due to stresses of motherhood on the wool, or the copper supplements in the feed changed. Does not always indicate unsound wool.

- The term for uneven fleece growth in general is "cauliflowering" and should be selected against when breeding. [The term "quilting" is used for Jacob sheep as the black and white sections of wool may grow at different rates and different micron counts. --a.]

- "Crossfibering" is the term when a individual fibers cross when growing in locks. More of an aesthetic issue but non-crossed locks will show better and place better in larger competitions.

- 7 pounds of pressure is what is needed when "pinging" a lock of wool to determine soundness. If it can withstand 7 pounds of pressure then it is strong enough to withstand milling processes and spinning. Pinging any lock of wool too hard will rip it, even though it may be sound.
    

yvonne shawl from cocoknits

It feels like no time has passed at all even though it had been too long. Same breath but it feels like ages, but really nothing's changed. Now it's only the distance without a foil.

My son started school and it's been a blur-- I didn't even realize I hadn't written until taking these pictures today.

P1080121
Yvonne Shawl by Cocoknits
Handspun 3-ply from scoured, combed corriedale lamb (Tour de Fleece spinning)
Started & finished: after the TdF? srsly it's a blur :)
US 6 40" Addi Natura

I wouldn't have even taken pics today except for the fact I need to weave in one end and send this and the remainder of the skein to Schacht... I was thrilled to learn yesterday that my 2 handspun skeins as well as the tablet woven band made on my Flip were chosen as finalists for the 40th anniversary contest Schacht Spindle held. The actual entries are due in CO next week, and as distorted as I've been I need to get them out the door before I forget :)

I say one end to weave in because the whole shawl took under 2 skeins... two giant skeins. This is the big one I entered...

brown2
5.5oz, ~925 yds

That's my hand! That came out of one bobbin!

::blushing::

The skeins really did get this wonderful texture after I really aggressively fulled and shocked them-- hot water, cold water, hot water, cold water, agitateagitate, moremoredontstop... SMACK! against the walls. Too fun... and knit up into a beautiful, felted-tweed type cohesive fabric.

P1080110

Looking closely you can see the hopeful shots of grey in the brown in the occasional one of three plies. The welt pattern gives this simple shawl a really interesting depth as well.

It really is a simple shawl, but so lovely. I know, I should have modelled pics :) but I really do like it on me even if I hate looking at myself. I'm ox-wide across but the exact same shawl looked just as great on Adrienne when she tried it on at the Workshop. On both of us there remained movement when worn, a hint of ruffle or grace at the edge echoing the staggered increases. A ridiculously simple and effective pattern.

I keep thinking that this would be a great beginner project, so much better than a scarf-- just knit and purl, with LOTS of practice. The first rounds would be closer to the body and hidden, the cast off edge is the display side and after so many stitches any new knitter would have to have improved :) Not to say more experienced knitters wouldn't enjoy it-- it replaced my walkaround socks/mindless knitting project for those times when my hands just couldn't be still and needed something to touch.

P1080045

The real joy was the yarn though-- working with my handspun and in so visible a project, I can SEE how consistent my spinning was with every bit pf progress and it thrills me because that's just what I was trying for. A definite lesson learned that I am applying to my current fleece-to-sweater project...

P1080039

I've finally picked it up again, my gorgeous, painfully true black sweater from trueblack fleece. Marble Peaks Ranch breeds for true black corriedale and corrie x rambouillet sheep (they show and win ribbons for both sheep and fleece, an anomaly among shepherds)... and I just love the black fleece I won at last year's auction. (The same one I used in the English combs combing post.) I didn't allow myself to buy another black fleece at Monterey this year since I needed to finish this sweater, but bet you me it'll be done soon cos I want another Marble Peaks fleece!!

The reason I stopped knitting on this was partly because I started spinning for the Tour, but also because the skein I'm knitting with is visibly lighter than the previous ones. I'd say "shaping!" and "design detail!" but it's 11" in from the bottom and at a weird spot on the bust... you can see I just crumpled the poor wip up in exasperation. I think I'll just set the lighter skein aside and start spinning again-- all of the yarn I need to complete the sweater. Even, consistent yarn... the lesson taken away from the Tour for me :)

Missed you!
    

Two new ways to use your Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom

Schacht Spindle Co. recently celebrated their 40th anniversary with a contest, both for spinning and weaving novices and experts. One option was to upload videos to youtube of Schacht products or weaving/spinning contest entries on the Schacht tools... so of COURSE I had to go that route :)

I've been thinking about the contest for a while and tho I didn't feel I had any chance against true expert spinners (I entered my tour de fleece skein and my mohair/silk I just wrote about in the spinning +2 years/expert category), I did think I should use the weaving contest portion as an opportunity to look at my Flip in a different way. You may remember I love using the Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle book as inspiration... hopefully these vids will inspire someone else :)

First, I used the Flip as a frame for tablet/card weaving, and wove a beautiful strap for a bag I wove. Originally I was going to enter the bag into the contest (handspun wensleydale warp and handspun supercoil weft, both dyed by Black Bunny Fibers, but I think the strap was more interesting to talk about in a video.

P1080059

You may notice this looks nothing like "regular" tablet woven bands-- instead of using several colored warp threads and a pattern, I warped the Flip as if I were plain weaving using the direct warping method and let the pattern emerge from the beautiful yarn. If you look closely you can see the undulating wave pattern from when I turn the cards forward and back, it's even more striking in person.

P1080060

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock lightweight in Sunstone, if you MUST know :) I used about 1/2 of the skein for the band? I haven't weighed the leftovers yet, but it's enough for something.

I've always been tangentially interested in tablet weaving, but for reals... I am LAZY. I don't want to measure and wind warps (I know I'll get emails and I'll try it someday, promise!)-- but direct warping and relying on yarn for patterning made for a FAST project that was easyeasy. I love it, I think I'll make a camera strap for my Lumix later... and Kristine will have to make one for her new camera (i know you have some "sample sale" yarns to use up ;))

Speaking of easy... you may know I have a kid who is the apple of my eye :) We work on silly projects together like painting and drawing and those types of creating endeavors-- not really fiber. I always want to get him knitting and spinning and weaving, but his lack of any attention span coupled with his hardheaded nature (who knows where that came from!) means it's mainly been a short adventure. I have been thinking a lot about resist dyeing with wax for ikat-style patterned warp and decided I could modify the idea into something my son and I could work on together-- so I direct warped the loom with heavy sportweight non-mercerized white cotton and pulled out our textile paints. He painted the warp directly on the loom and then I wove it.

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I used the same weft as warp-- I thought about dyeing the entire fabric with fiber reactive dyes via low immersion dyeing for even more interest, but haven't decided yet. The fabric will end up eventually as a bag for him, it's stiff but I think once the paints have been heatset they'll be a bit more pliable. I'll wash it in finishing and think the cotton will pull in quite a bit, if not I'll make a bag liner (yay for my sewing 101 class and Kira K! :))

The painting went well...

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...we used 7 different colors, but with the "metallic" addins of the Jacquard Lumiere its a bit hard to differentiate metallic purple from metallic pewter in pictures.

I really love it. It was easy enough to do with the boy-- the paintable area of warp in front of the heddle was perfect for a short attention span that returned once I had dried and woven over the painted portion, and he loved being able to pick and choose his own colors and "designs." I'll definitely be thinking about direct warp painting as a "grownup" project-- eventually I want to use some soy wax and tjanting tools to paint soy wax onto the warp and cold water dye the resulting fabric, and use thickened fiber reactive dyes for a more wearable/less stiffened (read: scarves, etc.) fabric. Maybe even break out my vintage wood type ampersand collection and stamp a fine warp.

It was nice doing this as a jumping off point for more possibilities of direct warp painting, especially since my baby started KINDERGARTEN and I'm so ... oh, you know :) Everything! This was our last project before he started school, so even more special.

The videos:

Tablet weaving on the Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom:
 


Direct warp painting on the Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom:
 


(unfortunately the white warp is doing some weird psychadelic dancing because of the HD video being condensed down to nothing :( )

    

spinning mohair from attenuated locks

I recently swapped with Adrianne for 3 oz of unwashed, very fine first clip kid mohair fleece on the Spin or Dye swap board on Ravelry. I really am not interested in buying a whole mohair fleece, but it was too pretty to pass up and just enough to do a good sample with.

kid-mohair-1_medium
photo © 2009 Adrianne L. Shtop -- washed kid mohair fleece
wakingthebones.com

I decided I wanted it to be VERY halo-y, and also not retain any of the curlylocks look once spun... so spun it from the lock. Instead of spinning over the fold, I attenuated the entire lock prior to spinning.

I started with an intact lock-- I scoured this partial fleece myself and maintained lock formation by washing in tuille.

1

Starting at the middle of the lock, I gently opened it up by teasing it open and separating the individual fibers apart but just enough, not to make the lock fall apart.

2

Aside from the other reasons for spinning the mohair this way, the other plus to attenuating the whole lock prior to spinning was that I was able to detect and shake out the small amounts of dandruff hidden in the fibers. It's a small amount, and not a dealbreaker for mohair, but still not something I wanted in the final yarn.

3
(look closely around the shorn end)

After loosening the entire lock up, I went back and separated the fibers even more. Starting from one end...

4

...and working to the other.

5

The small lock creates quite a long length of fiber. I made several of these long attenuated lengths, lined them up and started spinning.

9

My idea in spinning the kid mohair was to have as many ends (tip, shorn) sticking out from the single as possible. Initially I was going to do this by spinning from the fold, so that the middlemost section of the individual fibers would be the ones caught up in the twist and allowing the opposite ends to stick out... but I tend to grasp folded locks a bit tightly when spinning and wanted them to be as lofty and not-smoothed-down as possible (plus there was the scurf thing... ew ;))

So I took the lengths of attenuated locks, as if they were a commercially prepared long length of top/roving I was spinning from the tip of and feeding directly into the orifice-- but it was the middlemost part of the locks getting the bulk of twist and not the aligned ones of a top. This way both tip and butt end of the locks were free to be free... and I was able to loosen up quite a bit in my grip compared to my spinning from the fold (letting those ends halo even more).

7

You can get a sense of the amount of halo the single produced this way... I placed a white card on the mother of all to show you.

8
(still can spot a bit of scurf that shook out in plying)

As much as I wanted a halo-y yarn, I didn't want a 100% mohair one. So I dug out this precious bit of tussah silk, handpainted by String Theory Fiber Art, and spun two bobbins' worth of silk singles to ply the mohair with.

P1060688
"kalapana," 2 oz tussah silk by stringtheoryfiberart.etsy.com

I spun the silk at a high twist (17.5:1) and the mohair at a lower one (9:1) to allow for more halo and a look that the silk was "holding" the mohair together, and plied with an even lower ratio (6:1) so I can knit something with drape and on big needles and not worry about it being too round for lace.

The halo is definitely there...

P1080026

...and so is the yardage.

P1080021
750yds, 105 grams 3 ply silk/kid mohair

Very, very soft and warm, and makes me appreciate mohair all the more. Probably not a whole fleece's worth... but maybe I'll change that tune when I knit this up into something simple for me. So many intentions...
    

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