Saturday, July 30, 2011

Orange You Glad?

I'm not sure how it happened, but it's been a while since I made a pair of socks!

I try not to have more than 3 projects on the needles at once, but finishing the pink cardigan opened up a slot, and I immediately cast on:

This is actually the second sock--I knit most of the first one on the way to and from a regatta in Delaware last weekend, knit the toe at home Sunday night, and started sock #2 immediately. It's Cookie A's Hedera pattern, from Knitty. This is actually the second time I've knit these socks--the first one turned out a little to narrow, so they became a gift. These are turning out just right though--I'm using a thicker yarn (Nichole, instead of Anne), and slightly larger needles (2.75 mm instead of 2.5 mm.... although I think the yarn is what's making the difference).

People who remember when gray was the brightest color I would wear: I might actually keep these socks for myself... although I will wear them mostly under tall boots, so they won't technically be visible.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cardi, Carding

So, I finished the pink cardigan, and I've carded more than a pound of the fleece.

... and I can suddenly see why people might think knit blogs are boring!

But really, the whole process was filled with excitement: I'd been half following a Garnstudio pattern for the cardi, but I knew I wanted to lengthen the sleeves (the original had cap sleeves). I'd planned to cast on enough stitches to fit around my lower arm, then increase to match up again with the pattern by the time I got to the shoulder, but when I read ahead, I discovered that I needed to cast on more stitches for the cuff than the pattern wanted for the shoulders. Naturally, I decided to wing it, following the Elizabeth Zimmermann yoke decreases, but making the yoke a little shallower and incorporating ruching.

I worked the sleeves, attached then, then worked even on those stitches (minus some stitches in each underarm which I set side to graft later) for about 3.5 inches. In Knitting without Tears, I believe EZ says to knit half of the desired yoke depth before the first decreases, but when I followed those directions my yoke seemed very deep. Instead, I decided to knit so half the width of the set-aside underarm stitches plus the height of the yoke I'd knit so far would be half the desired yoke depth (on the thinking that the underarm stitches would also contribute to the finished depth of the yoke). Thinking about it again, that may have been what she meant anyway, or maybe she sets aside fewer stitches at the underarm.

In any case, when I'd knit 3.5 inches of yoke, I decreased dramatically, knit a band of garter stitch, worked 2 bands of ruching, then realized I could combine my ruching decreases with my yoke shaping decreases to keep things simpler. The ruching called for K2tog across all sts, and the shaping called for K1, K2tog. After some math, I converted that to K3tog across, worked that, then the garter stitch band and ruching again. I also worked short rows in the ruched sections to build up the back of the sweater about an inch higher than the front--because of the gathers in the ruching, the turns were nearly invisible.

I worked on it while visiting my mom for the weekend (my dad was out of town), in connection with a conveniently located consulting job. (And I got to go to Wegmans!) It was the perfect lazy knitting--didn't require much attention, and the decrease rows gave me a nice sense of moving faster as I got closer to the end (even with the increases for the ruching).

I was briefly concerned about running out of yarn, but I had enough, and finished it when I got back home. Close calls with yarn supply--especially when I've changed a pattern and made a decision which really affect how much yardage I'll need--always make me wonder. It seems like I'm guessing about length based partly on other factors (flattering length, tolerance for the stitch pattern, etc.), but am I actually able to calculate how much yarn I'll need without being consciously aware of it? In this case, did I hear "Hey, these sleeves look like a good length!" when my brain was actually saying "STOP! STOP! You'll run out of yarn for the yoke and button bands if you keep going! Stop!" Wouldn't it be great if I could figure out how I'm doing that?

Carding, on the other hand, may actually be as uneventful as it seems. I don't think I skirted the fleece aggressively enough before I started washing it, so there are some patches with a lot of vegetable matter. I'd been picking it out, but it occurred to me that I could probably wait to see if I even need that fiber before I pick out a zillion snippets of grass. And for that, I'll have to spin it up and see what it wants to be. If I don't need the additional yardage, I can just use the grassy bits as stuffing. Liberation from picking out grass! What's next? The ability to buy yarn already spun? Machines that knit for you? Sweaters for sale in stores! Craziness!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just What I Needed

Kevin is away this week visiting his family, and I've been catching up on crafts which have the potential to be annoying when experienced up close.

I finished a dress which has been in pieces in the living room for weeks (possibly, the dress in pieces was just as annoying as the noise of the sewing machine, but let's attribute my procrastinating to being considerate about noise, not inconsiderate about piles, shall we?).

And I accidentally expanded my spinning into the area of raw fleece:

Here's what happened: Jennsquared and I were at spinning on Sunday, and one of the other women had 2 fleeces from her neighbor, for sale for $10 each. Picking a fleece has always sounded like an arcane process--and one where I could easily make an expensive mistake, either in selection or in overestimating my own interest in fiber prep--so I've stayed away from buying raw fleece. On the other hand, $10 seemed like a good way to test the whole process out, especially once Jensquared and I decided to share a fleece. I'm totally willing to throw away $5... I mean, invest $5 in a learning experience.

So we bought one of the fleeces (from a Finnsheep named Holly) and divided it in half. Unfolding it, it was immediately clear that I needed to get it at least partly clean before it alarmed Kevin, so I ended up washing it Sunday evening. I've never paid much attention to how one might wash a fleece, so I looked online and found some directions that seemed easy enough, even for me: I loosely filled mesh laundry bags with fleece, then soaked the bags in the hottest tap water I could get, to get out the worst of the dirt/lanolin/manure. (Hmm, maybe I should get new laundry bags?) I changed the water a couple of times for each batch, till the water seemed merely dirty, rather than completely gross.

I tried washing one batch with dish soap, but it still seemed greasy, so I googled some more, and found a site that recommended washing with laundry detergent in the washer--filling the washer with the hottest water possible, soaking for 20 minutes, the draining and spinning (without letting the washer agitate at all!), then filling the washer again, soaking for 5 minutes and draining/spinning (repeating the 5 minute rinse as needed till the water was clear).

I tried that, and found that the wool seemed nearly clean--so I did it a second time (including the 20 minute soak and 5 minute rinse), and was happy with the wool. Currently, it's spread out on towels in the living room, and it smells like laundered sheep, instead of sheep who've been camping. Progress!

When Jennsquared and I divided the fleece, we each got about 3 lbs. After washing and drying, I had about 2 lbs left (I also threw away some clumps that were especially full of vegetable matter).

I already had hand carders, so I've carded about 3 ounces of it, thanks to more googling and youtubing. So far, it's kind of fun--and a bit like blocking lace, since you start with a clumpy blob and end up with everything aligned and neat--but talk to me again in 29 more ounces!