What I have been doing with my extra brain bandwidth. Or, Reindeer Games.


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This is a hat. I spun and dyed the yarn and while the overall design is my own, the chart for the reindeer and trees I got from Ravelry. This one is for sale, it is $35 plus shipping if you might be interested. I am making another with opposite colors but that one is already spoken for.  The colors are a bubblegum pink  and grapey purple.  I can’t remember the name of the dye I used for the pink, but the purple was called ‘amethyst.’

I have not been knitting much the past month or so, no time thanks to OfficeAlly, our EHR program. Which SHOULD be named OfficeEnemy. Or OfficeOpponent. I lose work every single day and find myself having to waste large spans of time on tasks which should be easy but aren’t. Every time I click on a medicine to enter it I have to wait for the page to reload which take 30-45 seconds. And it is not very user friendly because of this. The autosave has been responsible for me losing more work than any other single feature of the program. Plus it bumps us off several times a day and you have to waste precious time logging back in, going back into where you were, and redoing everything you just lost.  Honestly paper is so much faster.

Some people make beautiful jewelry, I make silly crap like this.  The doctor I work with said after seeing this hat that I’m twisted in all the right ways and that’s why he likes me.    I figure I’m doing my part with sympathetic magic to ensure that we have future populations of deer and reindeer to enjoy 😉

And yes, I realize this is a pretty awful photo.  Sorry, my photography skills seem to actually getting worse rather than better.  The brim does not roll, and if I can get a photo on an actual model tomorrow I will try to post that.

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*sigh*


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Handspun lovely rose grey squishy soft baby alpaca?  Check.  Knitting needles?  Check.  Pattern to go with the yarn?  Nope.

I’ve started two sweaters in the past three days (one is still on the needles in the photo) and both need to be frogged which is knitter speak for ripping out.  It turns out that my hand spun alpaca is not, as I thought, a sport weight, it’s most definitely either a heavy DK weight or a light worsted weight.  AND.  Alpaca, it turns out, has no memory.  So the sweaters I started, will not keep their shape.  They will grow.  Which will be bad.

The first sweater I started had a lovely drape, which would have taken into account the stretch factor, but I’m not going to spin and ply 1800 yards of this stuff before it’s due to be given!  And the body of the sweater was quite drapey but the sleeves looked distressingly tight on the models which concerned me enough that I ripped it out.

The second sweater was working up nicely in the ribbed section at the waist, but when I started on the body I realized there was no way a light weight 2 ply was going to work with a sweater designed for a heavy worsted 10 ply yarn.  Nope.  Knitting you can see through just doesn’t work unless you’re knitting lace.

So, back to square one.  Another two hours wasted surfing patterns at Ravelry yielded exactly nothing that I thought my intended recipient would care for.  Lots I would wear, but this time of year I can’t possibly knit for myself.  I have custom knitting for pay, gift knitting for loved ones and no time to knit for myself, not even socks.

Then I remembered a pattern I had purchased last year.  I searched Ravelry for this pattern made with alpaca.  And found a quite lovely example that proved it could work.  So.

Enter Hitofude.  Lacey, light, drapey and yet slim and stylish, perfect for alpaca.  Win.

Now I’d better get ripping so I can get knitting!  Oh, and find my size 4 circulars….

 

 

Wool has to be soft…?


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This is hand spun, hand dyed wool from local sheep. It’s reasonably soft, being a Jacob/Merino mix, but not the softest thing I’ve ever felt by a long shot. Who cares, right?

Well, this yarn is for sale on consignment at a local yarn shop. When I was last in there, several women were feeling it and commenting that it wasn’t very soft. Then they asked me why the alpaca yarn was so much softer. I never got the chance to answer, because then they realized it *was* alpaca.

Now, I’m not a fan of really scratchy wool. I don’t know anyone who is, except perhaps people who weave carpets. But because I buy raw fleece from a variety of breeds, and process it myself or send it to my friend Rita at Arizona Fiber Mill, it is not processed by using chemicals to burn the vegetable matter out of the fleece. This preserves the inherent softness. It gets plain old soap and really hot water, just as it’s basically been done for hundreds – thousands – of years. Though to be fair in some regions urine was boiled to wash the wool. Urine actually is a pretty powerful antimicrobial cleaner, believe it or not. The active ingredient is ammonia.

But back to the title of the post.

As a hand spinner, I spend a lot of time with fiber. I want my finished product to be beautiful, functional, and above all durable. There are many types of sheep who produce many types of wool. ALL of these sheep were developed for specific purposes. And until recently, those purposes had to include not only meat, but fiber as well.

Want a durable carpet? Don’t use merino wool! Use the outer coat of an Icelandic, or Lincoln, or a primitive fat tailed sheep variety such as is found in carpet producing regions like Pakistan or Turkey, or Iran.

Want great long lasting socks that stay up? Again, don’t use merino! Use Dorset down, which in my opinion is far and away the springiest and most resilient wool and excellent for socks.

Want a blanket or a jacket? Use Cotswold. Spun worsted, it makes the ideal weaving yarn.

Want a really soft yarn for a scarf or a hat? OK, now use merino. But be aware that it probably won’t last for years and years, not if it’s spun to current standards. Industrially spun yarns are not very tightly spun nor plied. It give a softer hand to the yarn, but it will pill and make your hard work look quite bad in not a very long time. It’s even worse in a sweater unless it’s spun with something like silk.

I’m not anti-merino. It’s a wonderful type of crimpy fleece that is pleasurable to spin. BUT. Because I can spin my own, I choose to spin a slightly ‘harder’ yarn with more twist than you will see in commercial yarns. This is because I want my yarn to pill less and last longer in good condition.

The above Jacob/merino cross is a perfect example of what people don’t understand about wool yarn now days, because our mass produced industrial society encourages overconsumption and throw away items. This apparently includes hand knit items, because the only thing most knitters I know who don’t spin look for is “soft wool.” OOH, it’s so soft!! When I hear how soft a yarn is I automatically picture the product pilling and being discarded after a year or two. This yarn pictured is actually pretty reasonably soft, because the wool itself is medium soft and because it’s spun to preserve a reasonable portion of the ‘soft’ factor.

ETA: after I re-read the above paragraph this morning I realized I should include how it’s spun to clear up the apparent discrepancy between saying I spin a ‘harder’ yarn and spinning to preserve its softness. I spun this particular yarn in a semi-woolen manner. Meaning, I spun it using a modified long draw (picture my arm drawing way back like I’m going to pitch a ball, only I have wool in my hand and a twisted single going into the spinning wheel as I draw back. When I bring my arm forward, that single gets taken up onto the bobbin). This is what gives the fluffy and soft aspect of the yarn. I spin from carded pin drafted roving when I do this which gives the semi-part of the semi-woolen. It’s not quite full worsted (firm and durable) and not quite true woolen (really fluffy and soft, not durable at all). As I said, my yarns have more twist in the singles to start with than a lot of commercial yarns do, so even my softer stuff will hold up better than an equivalent commercial yarn.

In older times, people weren’t so concerned about “soft” because they knew they were sacrificing durability for softness. If they put a wool item on as a warm layer, they usually had something like linen underneath. No one had time to reknit something just because they wanted another one. Things got worn until they were past mending any more. As a hand spinner, my outlook is much more closely aligned with my ancestors’ than with current standards. I want soft, yes. But in small quantities for specific uses. Otherwise, I want durability over soft.

It takes me about a week to wash and comb enough fleece to begin spinning yarn for socks. I make a 3 ply yarn when I make sock yarn, so I spin up 3 four ounce bobbins worth of singles. Then I ply them all together to make my 3 ply yarn. I lose a bit in length by doing a 3 ply because they are circling around themselves in a larger diameter than in a 2 ply, but I also get much better resistance to wear by doing so. A round yarn wears better than a flat one. You want this for socks. It takes me approximately 5 hours to spin 4 ounces of singles at the thin diameter appropriate for making a nice thin sock yarn. Before I’ve even begun to ply I’m already at 15 hours of time at the spinning wheel. Plying takes another 3-4 hours. Then I have to wash it and set the twist.

If I’m going to dye it now is the time, which takes another day for dyeing and drying. I’m now approximately 40 hours into these socks, and I haven’t even begun knitting yet!

I can knit a regular crew length sock in approximately 5 hours. So it takes me 10 hours to knit a pair for myself. 50 hours worth of work is a lot of time to invest in an item! From my 12 ounces I can knit 3 pairs of socks for myself, 2 pairs for a man, or 1 pair of kilt hose. And this is why I won’t use merino for hand spun socks. Not only does it tend to pill, but it felts VERY easily. Which is something you do NOT want in a pair of socks, because felting shrinks them too. Dorset doesn’t felt very well in my experience, at least when it’s spun true worsted (all the fibers aligned in the long ways direction).

It’s a similar process for a sweater. The average sweater requires a pound of wool. And for a woman, approximately 1200 yards of yarn. That’s only if it’s color work or plain knit. If you are doing a lot of cables like an Aran sweater, you need closer to 3 pounds of wool, and 1600 yards of yarn. Regardless of what you may have read about Aran sweaters being a traditional garment, the plain fact is that they weren’t in common use until well after the industrial revolution and most women were no longer spinning their own yarn. No one is going to invest that much time into spinning the yarn for that kind of sweater when they are knitting for their entire family.

So soft…? Only sometimes. Mostly I prefer to sacrifice a little softness in favor of durability. But then, I’m a very practical person. What about you?

I give up.


Kilt Hose for Mr. Tin FoilNot on these.  These are finished.  The yarn is hand spun superwash Blue Faced Leicester, purchased when I thought I was going to have time to actually make a business out of my crafting.  Purchased, not incidentally, for the specific intention of spinning sock yarn.   ETA:  I know I have said before that superwash isn’t as good for use in socks, but I wasn’t buying this for me.  I was buying it to spin and sell, which didn’t end up happening.  I still have several pounds of this to use up; if you want hand dyed hand spun sock yarn, email me for prices.

I used it for Mr. Tin Foil’s hose because this is pair #3 I’ve made for him, and pair #2 of hand spun.  He is *very* hard on socks.  I’m hoping these hold up longer than the last pair; I made his last pair out of worsted weight wool and he wore a hole in the tops of the toes the first day he wore them.  We all (friends who also wear kilts/hose) told him he must walk by curling his toes up every time he picks up his foot in order to wear holes in the tops of the toes.  He wasn’t amused.

There is a supposedly debunked urban myth that says knitting a pair of socks takes as much time and as many stitches as knitting a sweater.  I say supposedly debunked because the debunker did some math and decided that was not possible with size 3 needles and regular socks.  Said debunker has obviously never knit a pair of kilt hose on size 1 or size 0 needles or said debunker (who shall remain nameless though if you look I’m sure you can find the relevant information) would not be so sure.  These are made on size 2, which to me is HUGE but made the knitting of these go relatively quickly.

No.  I give up on making more things for family members who don’t care and don’t appreciate it.   I just can’t spend that much time making things for children whose parents put it away and the kid never wears it because the parents don’t put it on the kid.  I just can’t spend that much time making things for adults who put it in a drawer and let moths eat it or even worse, never even acknowledge they received the gift.  Cash is more expensive in dollars, but easier on my heart by far.

I guess it will free up more of my time to spend on making things for sale — I do a fairly good side business with my weaving and knitting; if I”m not wasting time making things for family members who don’t care about the gifts anyway I will certainly have more time to design and weave things that may actually sell.  Or to design and weave things for myself.

Yes, there was an incident that provoked this post.  I asked someone of the same approximate age as my children if I was being overly sensitive and was told no, that I had every right to be upset.  Ah well.  I will save my creative energies for those who appreciate them I guess.  Fewer tears for me.

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Holiday knitting


Hand spun hand knitted sweater for someone in Maine. I love this pattern! I will definitely knit this one again for other deserving people including one for myself. At minimum wage and materials this sweater costs over $600 (before taxes of course).

Pattern is called hitofude, which is Japanese for one brush stroke. It’s appropriate, because the pattern is knit entirely in one continuous piece and the only ends are where I made joins for new skeins of yarn. Absolutely ingenious construction and a very enjoyable knit. Continue reading

What I’ve been working on in my newly found spare time


Shetland wool, Faroese design

Hand spun Shetland wool, cream and natural brown colors.  Dyed with natural dyes, from top to bottom:  Holly hock, onion skins, annatto, chrysanthemum, henna, holly hock.  And I’m telling ya, I did not see that seafoam green coming from a holly hock dye pot that was burgundy colored!

It’s 84 inches wingspan, 25 inches deep, knitted neck down.  I used pretty much every single yard of each color which is why I chose neck down.  The lace patterns are not centered because I didn’t know how much space each section of color would take up due to the increases and increasing stitch counts every two rows.

I’m just not a very good weaver I guess — I hate sewing.  So I still have a pile of weaving to hem!  Gotta get to it today, because I have to take my stuff to the gallery by Wednesday.  Nothing like a deadline to motivate me…days like this make me wish my grandmother were still alive.  She was a professional seamstress for most of her adult life, and made much of our clothes when we were growing up, including our bathing suits (anybody remember Stretch and Sew patterns?).  She could have finished all this stuff in no time and done probably a much better job than I will do.  Certainly she would have done it with less swearing!

I have had three job offers in the past week, pending background checks and reference checks, of course.  But for the job I really want I’m still waiting on the second interview.  I will accept one, and probably two of these offers, so that I have income while I wait for my preferred job.  I hope I do get an offer from them.

That’s about it.