Stitch Markers Make Cables Easier

Losing count of cable rows? Use a locking stitch marker to keep track! #knitting | withwool.com

It is go time here on the holiday gift knitting. The current project is a cabled scarf with a hard deadline that I can’t miss. Much to my surprise, I’m already past the halfway point and might actually finish with time to spare. I’m attributing part of this speed to my favorite stitch marker trick. 

Losing count of cable rows? Use a locking stitch marker to keep track! #knitting | withwool.com

I can never pinpoint exactly which row I twist cables on which is frustrating when you have to work them every 8 rows or so. Locking stitch markers to the rescue! After I finish a cable row, I put a marker on that row. Then I keep knitting and can easily count the rows as I go. And it’s easy to put down and come back to a project because there’s no question about what row to work. 

I much prefer this method to row counters because I’m not always sure if I counted a row after I knit it. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Without the marker, I’d have no way of knowing for sure.  

P.S. Stitch markers are some of my favorite knitting tools. Here’s 5 more ways that stitch markers can help with your knitting. 

Review: Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

Yarnitecture is one of the more recent additions to my spinning library. It had been on my radar for a while and I finally bought it after flipping through it at the bookstore. My first impression was that it was a beautiful book with striking photos and a clear layout. The paper felt nice under my fingers, and the book had a nice weight. It felt like an expensive reference book that was pretty enough to hang out on the coffee table.  

When I got beyond that initial skim, Jillian Moreno's Yarnitecture proved to be jam packed with spinning information and help. I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. There’s a chapter about different fibers. It talks about the different kinds of drafting methods with photos and instructions. There’s info about plying, details about spinning balanced yarns, tips for sampling, and so much more. And sprinkled throughout this treasure trove are little side notes to back up the main text. For example, there was a note about leaders, those helpful pieces of yarn that feed your yarn onto the bobbin at the beginning of a project. I learned to spin on a spindle and knew what a leader was and it’s name. But when I got my wheel and sat down to spin, I didn’t know how to correctly get the yarn through the orifice and onto the bobbin. I didn’t know if the “leader” for a wheel was still called a “leader”. How do I look something up online or in a book, if I don’t know what it’s called? A few clumsy google searches told me a leader is a leader and I was able to set up my wheel.

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

This story brings me to my next point. Yarnitecture is a great reference with photos and step-by-step instructions that covers a lot of the questions and problems a spinner might face. While it’s not the end-all-be-all of spinning references, it gives spinners the knowledge and correct words to ask questions, whether online or in person, and continue learning about their craft.

Earlier I said that I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. What about now that I spun miles of yarn on spindles and a wheel over several years? What if I’ve spun yarn thats reasonably consistent, made from several different constructions, and suited for different purposes? What if you’ve done the same? Yarnitecture still has value to an intermediate spinner because the book’s main goal focuses on spinning yarn for a purpose. Maybe that purpose is making yarn for a particular pattern or spinning enough yardage to make something bigger than a hat. Yarnitecture provides a method and thought process to think about spinning yarn beyond the lone skein. Now I love spinning just for the fun of it as much as the next spinner, but I want to use my handspun too. There’s far too many beautiful skeins just waiting for me to find that one perfect pattern. If I’d put a little more thought into the process at the beginning, I could be wearing and enjoying my handspun instead of keeping it in a bin because I don’t know what to do with it.

And making a sweater’s worth of yarn for myself (and the Bearded One too) is on my spinning bucket list. I’ve never spun that much yarn for one project, but I feel like Yarnitecture has given me a blueprint that I can use to tackle that goal. 

In this vein of making yarn with an end project in mind, Yarnitecture includes 12 patterns for handspun yarn by well-known knitting designers. There are shawls of course, but also a variety of sweaters and accessories. Every pattern includes the usual knitting pattern preamble notes as well as detailed information about how the handspun was spun so you can recreate the yarn. And you’ll actually want too because the patterns are beautiful. I’m very tempted to spin and cast on for the Maya Cardigan by Kirsten Kapor, the Hive Mind mitts by Adrian Bizilla, and the Rigby Cardigan by Bristol Ivy.

Let’s sum up. Yarnitecture (<<— affiliate link!*) is a great book for new spinners just getting into the art of making yarn, and intermediate spinners who are interested in spinning for larger projects. It has clear photos, detailed step-by-step instructions, and lots of helpful information. Definitely give it a look and consider adding it to your spinning library.

*This review contains an affiliate link which means, if you decide to buy through that link, I’ll get a small commission. My opinions of this book are unbiased and totally my own. I wouldn’t recommend this book if I didn't think it had value. Thanks!

A Trip To The Frog Pond

 Sometimes ripping out is the only way to get the knitting project you want. | withwool.com

This hat is my white whale. Okay, that might be a little bit of an over statement, but this pattern has been lingering in my “Get It Done” list for years. It’s not that I’m not excited about this pattern or that I don’t like it anymore. Both of those things are still true even 4 years after I first sketched up the initial design and agonized over the color work chart. 

So why the hold up? The hat and my notes on how to make it didn’t get back in my hands until last year. And it wasn’t until the last few months that I started getting everything together to write a pattern that someone else could knit. Detailed notes that you can find are the best. Seriously. Everything sounds good right? Well, there’s one more thing to do before I can get to the important stuff like photographs and tech editing and publishing it. 

As much as I love the color work and the colors, there is one thing that I really don’t like about this hat. It was bound to happen after 4 years after all. The crown and length of this hat is way too long. I love a good slouchy hat, but this is not a good slouchy hat. It just looks weird, and not in a fun way. So it’s time to take a pair of scissors to my stitches and rip out the crown and a few extra inches. Definitely not starting over from scratch. At this point having to rip out part of a project, even a finished project, isn’t frustrating. It’s just a step in the process of making something both that I’ll want to wear and share. Now where did I put those scissors…

On The Shelf: Knitting and Spinning Book Reviews

I’m on a quest to read all my knitting and spinning books, and I’m sharing the reviews with you! #knitting #spinningyarn #bookreviews | withwool.com

I have shelves of fiber arts books. There’s a section dedicated to knitting techniques, sock construction, and patterns. There’s another section filled with spinning references and magazines. Some I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Some were gifts. And some I picked up from the clearance table. But you know what the dirty little secret is uniting all of them? I’ve only read a handful of them cover to cover. They’re definitely not bad books. I found lots of great info and help inside of them when I skimmed through them the first time. And that’s the problem. I’ve only skimmed through them, not settled down to read one with a notebook and a cup of something warm for company. 

That misstep is going to fixed though. Part of my love for knitting, spinning, and fiber arts in general is that there is always something new to learn and try. For me, part of that learning comes from books and reading. There’s inspiration and help and ideas tucked away in those pages that I don’t want to miss. So I’m making it a goal to read through those books. No page will be unturned. No magazine shall continue collecting dust. 

To keep myself accountable and share the really good stuff with you, I’m going to be posting my progress and reviews. First up, is Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want by Jillian Moreno. Then I’m branching out and having fun with the AlterKnit stitch dictionary. After that, I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll dive deep into the technical details of sock knitting or new yarn constructions. 

And since I’m always on the look out for great fiber arts books, what are your favorites?

Sock Knitting Tutorials & Tips for #Socktober

Happy #Socktober! Check out these tips and tutorials to knit comfy, well-fitting socks. | withwool.com

And it's Socktober, a month all about knitting socks. I've written a few tutorials demonstrating different sock knitting technique. If you have any questions, ask away! And happy knitting!

As for my own sock knitting, I've got a pair on the needles, but haven't made it past the toes. Still have to figure out out to combine cables, ribbing, and a princess sole. More on that later as I figure it out. 

Afterthought Heel Tips & Tricks

Spinzilla Watching

Following Spinzilla is making me want to spin again! | withwool.com

Spinzilla, an epic competitive spin-along to make as much yarn as possible, kicked off on Sunday. The event started in 2013 both to promote hand spinning and raise funds for the NeedleArts Mentoring Program. And whether you joined a team or are spinning rogue this year, I wish you lots of wool, yardage, and happy hands. 

I made a yardage calculator for previous Spinzillas which you can find here. It should take the guess work out of tallying everything you’ve spun, and will also calculate the plying yardage. 

I’ve spun rogue, aka without a team, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, but decided to sit this one out. Just the thought of a week of near constant spinning made me tired. Though it’s been a lot of fun watching other spinner’s progress and yarn pop up on Instagram over the past few days. So much color and yardage! Even though I’m not spinning along this year, Spinzilla has made me realize that I haven’t touched my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in July. Eeek! That’s quite a switch after my 100+ days of daily spinning I tackled in the first half of this year. I’ve got 4 bobbins of alpaca ready to be plied and 500+ yards of fingering weight 2-ply to get back to. I really shouldn’t let that sit much longer so guess it’s time to get back to the wheel.  

A Knitting Conundrum

I can’t settle on a stitch pattern for this sock. Cables? Texture? Ribbing? 

This is a sock toe, and the first of a pair that I’m making for the Bearded One. It also happens to be one of my most confounding pieces of knitting I’ve got going right now. Not because it took frequent try-on’s to make sure the stitch count is correct. Not because of its 76 stitch circumference. Not because I’m knitting the sock inside out so I can skip purling a princess sole. Nope, all of that stuff is stuff I’m used too - even knitting a pair of socks inside out.  The problem is that I can’t decide what stitch pattern to use over the top of the foot and up the cuff.  

My original back of the envelope plan was to work an alternating 2x2 rib for the entire sock. For example, *k2,p2* for 8 rounds, and switch to *p2, k2* for another 8 rounds. Repeat until bind off.  Now I’m not sure. 38 stitches for half the sock is a lot of space to cover, and I wanted to add some interest both for the eye and my fingers. And of course I want the Bearded One to like them too. Does that mean cables? A simple texture pattern? Some sort of edge detail going up the side of the foot? I have no idea. Good thing the yarn is pretty and nice to look at while I ponder my choices.

Any tips to help me solve this knitting conundrum? 

Red Scarf Update

Halfway finished knitting a scarf for the 2017 Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

At 28” and 9 repeats, I’m about halfway finished with the Mabel’s Scarf I’m making for the Red Scarf Project. 32” and 11 repeats to go. I couldn’t resist doing the math and figuring out how many repeats I’d have to knit for a complete scarf. Counting the squares is a lot easier than breaking out the tape measure every few inches. 

Halfway finished knitting a scarf for the Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

The yarn, Shepherd’s Wool Worsted, is new to me. Now that I’ve spent a good chunk of time knitting with it, I like it even more than when I first bought it. The yarn is soft with good stitch definition, and is turning into a cushy and warm scarf. I’m tempted to pick up a few skeins for myself once I have an idea in mind.

I’m really enjoying working on this scarf, but I’m not used to counting this much! It’s been awhile since I’ve knit a pattern with such a large repeat, and I’ve had to get cosy with a chart. Makes it hard to tote around, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried. Soon it’ll be too big to keep as purse knitting since I’m making good progress. My original plan was to knit a repeat every day, but I haven’t been able to stick to that. So the new goal is 3+ repeats a week which will still give me plenty of time to put the scarf in the mail. And work on the next batch of holiday knitting. 

Halfway finished knitting a scarf for the Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

If you’ve been on the fence about making a scarf, there’s still plenty of time to knit a scarf for the Red Scarf Project before the December 15 deadline. You can find the requirements here. And there’s a helpful Ravelry group too. 

A New Hat For Winter

It’s still warm around here, but I know winter is coming. New red hat to the rescue! | withwool.com

Ever since figuring out that most of my hand knit hats are green, I decided to branch out. First I knit myself a marled Sockhead hat which turned out to be the perfect slouchy hat for snow. Next, I wanted something lacy, maybe with cables, and still slouchy. Slouchy hats are my favorite kind of hat after all. I went digging through my Ravelry queue and found just what I was looking for, the Regina Hat by Alex Tinsley. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn. I kept digging through the green stash until I found a skein of Knit Picks Hawthorne in Picnic red. I don’t knit a lot of things for myself out of red so this was an added bonus.

It’s still warm around here, but I know winter is coming. New red hat to the rescue! | withwool.com

I decided to be a through knitter and work a swatch before I cast on for the real thing. I had to do down 2 needle sizes to get a nice fabric which meant a different gauge. Based on my swatches, I figured out I’d need to add 2 more repeats to get the right fit. The ribbing turned out way too big, like ‘could wear this hat at the same time as someone else’ too big. After a break, I ripped out the hat and started over with the original stitch count. But I still needed that slouch and to compensate for un-stretchy cables. After finishing the ribbing, I knit one round plain and increased all the stitches I’d need for the body. That little trick worked perfectly. I got the fit and fabric I wanted without losing what I loved about the pattern. 

The rest of the hat was smooth sailing since I didn’t have to make any other modifications. I don’t knit a lot of lace or cables and it was a nice change of pace.

Now that this hat is done and blocked, I’ve got a nice little pile of new knits ready for Winter. It’s holiday knitting time already, but I’m still thinking about starting another hat for myself just because. Maybe the Owl in the Thicket Hat? Or maybe I should make a pair of mitts just to round out the set?  Should probably just get started on the gift knitting though. We’ll see. :D  

It’s still warm around here, but I know winter is coming. New red hat to the rescue! | withwool.com

The Specs:

Pattern: Regina by Alex Tinsley

Yarn: 239 yds Knit Picks Hawthorne - Picnic 

Needles: 2.5 mm (for ribbing) and 3.25 mm (for lace) circular needles

Dates: May 8 - August 10, 2017

@Ravelry

Definitely Feeling Groovy

Looking forward to cooler temps, so I can finally wear my newly finished Feeling Groovy Shawl. | withwool.com

Are a process knitter who knits a project because it seems fun to make? Or are you a product knitter who knits because the finished object is what you want? Me, well, I’m usually a mix of the two. Most of the time, I start a project because I want the finished object or think that it’ll be a good gift. How fun a project actually is to knit - thanks to an interesting construction, the yarn, or neat details - usually gets me to actually cast on. When a project large or small starts to feel like a slog, I keep knitting because of how nice it’d be to have the finished thing. Deadlines help me get stuff done too. Most of the time. 

Looking forward to cooler temps, so I can finally wear my newly finished Feeling Groovy Shawl. | withwool.com

The Feeling Groovy shawl is the perfect example of product vs process.. I wanted to wear this shawl and to go stash diving for the perfect colors. Once I cast on and figured out how the pattern worked, I was hooked. loved casting on a tiny number of stitches and seeing them grow. I loved how the shawl increased in the chevron pattern. I loved the texture of the alternating rows of garter and stockinette. I loved learning and using a new centered double increase. 

Then it all started to feel routine and like a bit of a slog since the rows kept getting longer and longer. Plus, I had to do the math to figure out just how big I could make it. So I put it away while I worked on other things that did have deadlines. Eventually I remembered that I wanted to wear it next winter. So I did the math and got back to knitting. The vague deadline helped, but it was binding off the repeats that really got me motivated again in the middle of summer. I could compare how many repeats I’d bound off vs. how much I had left to go. 

Looking forward to cooler temps, so I can finally wear my newly finished Feeling Groovy Shawl. | withwool.com

I admit to binding off and just randomly wearing it for a few weeks before blocking. I gave it a bath and pinned out the points to keep them neat. I didn’t stretch it, because I wanted to keep the texture, but it still grew a few good inches. Feeling Groovy isn’t the largest shawl I’ve ever made, but it’s cosy and easy to wear. Even better, it’s ready for cooler temps, long walks, and a bit of snow.

Pattern: Feeling Groovy by Nim Teasdale

Yarn: 327 yards Colinette Jitterbug (Velvet Plum) and 325 yds Shibui Sock (Honey)

Needles: US 4 (3.25)

Dates: December 16, 2016 - July 5, 2017

@Ravelry

Knitting for the 2017 Red Scarf Project

Time to knit a scarf for the 2017 Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

There’s a few days left in August, and I’ve already written down my holiday gift knitting list. It’s on the short side so far and the projects are mostly small stuff. Hats, a few scarfs, a pair of socks, and probably a few ornaments. Seems doable, right? Near the top of that list is a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. The project is run by Foster Care to Success which provides scholarships, coaching, care packages, and an emergency fund to help foster kids graduate from college. The Red Scarf Project sends out hand knit red and crocheted scarves as part of Valentine’s Day care package. The due date to send in the scarves is September 1st through December 15, 2017, and I’m going to mail mine off before December this year. 

I had a back of the envelope plan to knit another Melded Scarf, a pattern I designed last year for the Red Scarf Project. If you want to knit a scarf for the project too, you can download the pattern here

Time to knit a scarf for the 2017 Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

That plan changed when I joined up last minute with Yarn Along The Rockies, a widespread yarn crawl, and stopped by Gypsy Wools. They had a lovely selection of yarn, and I loved the look and feel of Shepherd’s Wool. I bought 2 skeins of a nice garnet red because I couldn’t settle on a color combo that I liked. 

Since you can’t knit a striped scarf with just one color, I had a to find a new pattern. There was a bit of a false start with a cabled scarf that was way too narrow for my liking. Nor could I get into a rhythm with the knitting. Back to the drawing board. This time I went digging through my Ravelry queue and found Mabel’s Scarf which has been on my list since 2013! It’s been 4 years, and this isn’t always the case, but I still wanted to knit the scarf. Having a 20 page queue pays off occasionally. 

Time to knit a scarf for the 2017 Red Scarf Project! | withwool.com

I frogged the 2” of the first scarf and started over. I added a few stitches of 2x2 rib as an edge to accommodate for the finer yarn and started knitting with some Netflix for company. This scarf is definitely a winner. It’s got texture and interest. It’s cushy and soft. It’s reversible. It’s also interesting to knit, but not finicky. 

And I’m enjoying working with Shepherd’s Wool. It’s the first time I’ve used this yarn and it’s a plump 3-ply wool that love the look of. Plus, when you get a close look at it, it’s heathered with navy blue. The yarn is just as soft knitted as it is in the skein, but I wouldn’t recommend ripping it out too many times or it’ll get fuzzy.

I’m only a few inches into the scarf, but I can already tell it’s going to be my constant companion during movie and tv time. I’m already back to my old habit of knitting and watching sci-fi and horror movies. I’ll keep you updated as it grows!

Places You Can Knit: Solar Eclipse Edition

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Places you can knit when on a last minute trip to see a solar eclipse:

In a car heading up the interstate in the middle of Wyoming. Bonus points, if you can watch the sunrise while you do it. 

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

Waiting for a table and breakfast at a tiny greasy spoon.

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

Relaxing in a field with thousands of your closest friends while you count down the minutes to the solar eclipse.

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

Of course, you can take a random break to photograph the countryside too. 

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

I suppose you could knit during a complete solar eclipse, but why risk missing the event you drove 4 hours to the middle of nowhere to see? And that tiny little speck to the left of the eclipse is Venus.

Totally worth it by the way, even considering the 8+ hour drive it took to get back home. 

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

Stuck waiting in massive traffic jams just to get back on the interstate. 

Don’t leave your knitting at home! Take it with you for the countdown to the eclipse, and something to do during the traffic jam. | withwool.com

And, finally, at home after a good night’s sleep.  

The Bearded One and I took a last minute trip to see the solar eclipse. Seeing the complete totality and standing in the shadow of the moon was an amazing experience that I’m glad we didn’t skip. Traffic be damned. 

I was a reasonable knitter and only brought one project, a handspun shawl, (and a book, sketchbook, and games) to get me through 12+ hours of traffic. I’m using a yarn I spun this year during Tour de Fleece that cried out to be a Boneyard Shawl. So a Boneyard shawl it’ll be. I didn’t knit as much as a I expected too because I was tired lump. I did put a few more rows on it today, and it’s been fun working with this yarn. Really makes me want to knit with more of my handspun. 

Were you able to see the eclipse too? 

Excited About Knitting Again

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

I have not touched my spinning wheel since Tour de Fleece. Well, that's not entirely true. I did move it to a different spot where I wouldn't trip over it all the time. After spinning everyday for more than 100 days, it's weird to realize that I haven't spun anything for weeks. Making yarn was such a big part of my routine, and now it's not. I'm sure I'll get back to my wheel soon, but all my creative mojo has gone towards using yarn instead of making it. I have been knitting so much recently. And planning a bunch of future knitting. I even started writing up my Christmas and holiday knit list. And we're only halfway through August!

I’ve finished and blocked both the Regina hat and the Feeling Groovy shawl. More on those later. 

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

I bought a sweater's worth of Cascade 220 Superwash Effects and the Ease sweater pattern! The package arrived this morning and I am positively smitten with the yarn. Can’t wait to get swatching.

I finished a swatch for a new design, but I haven’t figured out all the details. I'm not sure where to take the pattern next because I have many questions and ideas about what to try next. 

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

The Bearded One has been patiently waiting for a new pair of socks so I pulled out some yarn to make that happen. This is a long term purse project right here. I tried knitting him a pair of socks with this yarn before, but ripped them out for some reason. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck with the yarn this time around.

On the holiday knit list is a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. Probably going to knit another Melded Scarf and mix up the color scheme a bit. Red and blue, maybe? Or 2 different shades of red?

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

The most recent project on the needles is a new kitchen towel. Dug into the stash, pulled a couple balls of cotton out, and cast on for the Lizard Ridge Dishcloth. It's been a really fun knit, and now I really want to make the Lizard Ridge blanket

The Tour de Fleece yarn has been calling my name too. Pretty sure I’ll be casting on for a Boneyard Shawl soon, because why not?

I haven’t forgotten about my big spinning projects. There’s the 4 alpaca singles waiting on the bobbins, and writing up my notes so I can move to the next step of the Epic Green Spin. I’m really enjoying and excited about my knitting right now so I’m not rushing back to my wheel just yet. 

What about you? Is there a project you’re really excited about?

40% Off Birthday Sale!

To celebrate my birthday, all my knitting patterns are on sale! From now until August 22nd, everything is 40% off! No coupon code or Ravelry account required. Click the button or photos below to head over to Ravelry, add the patterns to your cart, and the discounted price will show up automatically. 

And because it’s my birthday, I’m taking the week off. I’ll be back next week with more knitting and spinning goodness.

Second Cast On's The Charm

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. Usually works out on the second try though. | withwool.com

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first time attempt is always too big. Even when I throw in the 10 - 20% amount of negative ease that I like in my hats, too big. I added an extra repeat to the Regina Hat and knit an inch of ribbing before trying it on. Here’s the ribbing with a copy of Yarnitecture for scale. Way too big.

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. Usually works out on the second try though. | withwool.com

I put the hat out of sight until I felt like ripping out and starting all over again. That turned out to be a few days before I needed some simple knitting for a day trip. Casting on 100+ stitches at home sounded a lot better than frogging and casting on 100+ stitches on a bumpy road. So I grudgingly got to work. 

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. Usually works out on the second try though. | withwool.com
It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. Usually works out on the second try though. | withwool.com
It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. Usually works out on the second try though. | withwool.com

Here’s a tip that’s saved me a lot of frustration over the years. Whenever I have to cast on a large number of stitches, say more than 80, I use stitch markers. It’s easy to count to 20, place a marker, and start another group of 20 stitches, than count more than 100+ stitches at once. The number of stitches in a repeat is a nice place to drop a marker too. Those markers mean that interruptions aren’t as big a deal. Also, you don’t have to question if that was the 82nd stitch or the 83rd before giving up and starting from 0 just to be sure. This trick is just one of the reasons I have so many markers.  

I got a few rounds on the needles and packed it into my purse with the pattern and my usual notions. Travel knitting ready and waiting to go. 

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. | withwool.com

Ended up with a nice chunk of time in the car and another inch of 1x1 rib. The hat actually seems to fit this time! Thankfully, the second time is usually the charm. I didn’t spend the entire time looking at my hands which is why I keep my travel knitting simple. I want to enjoy the sights and the adventure, not be stuck looking at my knitting counting increases. Ended up seeing a lot of beautiful landscapes, incredible views, and chubby marmots at Rocky Mountain National Park.  

It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. | withwool.com
It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. | withwool.com
It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. | withwool.com
It never fails. No matter how diligently or how much I swatch for a new hat, the first attempt is always too big. | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece 2017

12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

And that's a wrap! Another Tour de Fleece is behind us. If you spun along this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself and made handspun you can't wait to use. 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

While I didn't spin every ounce of fiber I pulled from the stash, I'm still pleased with what I did accomplish. I started spinning just for the fun of it with the rough goal of making a heavier than a sport weight yarn. Definitely succeeded on that count. The first skein of the Tour is a textured bulky yarn and the closest I've come to spinning art yarn in awhile. It's 158 yards of Shetland Wool, Alpaca, and Silk Noil. You can read more about the technicals of how I spun it here

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

The second skein started as 4.2 ounces of hand painted top and turned into 260 yards of aran weight. I split the top in half down the middle. The first ply I spun as is and second I split in half again. It made a nice lazy fractal that I really want to knit. Pretty sure I've got enough yardage to make a small Boneyard Shawl if I knit at a loose gauge. 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

I spent the last chunk of Tour de Fleece doing some challenge spinning: 4 oz of alpaca batts. Plus, I got to check "Spin a batt I made myself" off my goals for this year. My previous attempts at spinning alpaca turned out wiry and over twisted, and I wanted to do a much better job with this batch. Obviously, I haven't plied it yet but I'm pleased with what's on the bobbins. It's got a reasonably smooth surface and is still soft. Seems like it's got enough twist to hold together during plying too. I'm cautiously optimistic about getting a soft, cushy yarn that'll do justice to the 10 years I've been waiting to spin this precious fiber

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

What I didn't do much of was play around with my drum carder. I got 2 batches of fiber through for one pass each. Then I hit a snag. The locks I'm working with are a bit felted. Teasing them open helped get them onto the main drum, but a good quarter of the fiber stayed trapped in the tines when I peeled the batt off. Got any tips for picking the fiber off the drum? I haven't found a good solution that doesn't involve teasers and a lot of time. 

Drum carder snag aside, this was a good Tour de Fleece. I enjoyed spinning everyday - even on rest days - and spun just for the fun off it. I joined a few teams and had fun sharing and talking to other spinners. I’m pleased with all my new handspun, and even have a few ideas of what to do with it. So I’m calling this Tour a win. 

How did this Tour de Fleece go for you? Did you learn something new or try a new fiber? Spin a lot or a little? Make yarn you can’t wait to use? 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece 2017 Challenge

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

I admit that I haven’t really been keeping track of the day to day calendar of Tour de Fleece. When are the rest days? No clue. I’ve just been spinning every day and having fun with it. The only reason I figured out Sunday was a challenge day was because I happened to check the forums that day. By some random happy coincidence I just so happened to have some challenging spinning.

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

If you’re not familiar with Tour de Fleece, or Tour de France, there are 3 challenge days when riders tackle mountains with steep grades above 10%. Spinners get to set their own challenges. I was fairly sure that I was going to tackle some sort of art yarn construction. Instead I pulled 4 oz of alpaca batts out of the stash. I haven’t spun a lot of alpaca, and my last attempt had so much twist that it was a wiry, prickly beast. So I’ve been hesitant to try again. Making the mental hurdles even taller is that fact the Bearded One gave me this fiber when we were dating many, many moons ago. I’d had it for several years and it was scary enough to put the fiber through a rented drum carder in 2013! 

Let’s do a little math. The shearing date on the label says 2007. I turned the alpaca fiber into batts in 2013. Now it’s 2017. I’ve had this fiber stashed away for 10 years! To cut myself a little slack, I was only just getting into spinning in 2007 and didn’t truly learn for several more years. Still, 10 years is way too long for such beautiful fiber to be hiding away in my stash. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

The batts are 100% alpaca and one solid color. Since there was no need to preserve color sequences, I split the batt into strips and started spinning. I wanted a smoother fiber and went with an inch worm worsted draft and an 8.0:1 ratio to keep from over twisting the fiber. 

I finished drafting the first batt yesterday, and it was much simpler than I expected. Could be that my spinning has improved in the years since I last attempted spinning alpaca. Could be that my brain made things much harder than they had to be. Sometimes the mental hurdles are the hardest to jump. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

This fiber is special and I don’t want to waste a single bit of it. The batts aren’t all the same so I’m going to spin each one separately and ply them back on themselves. Sure, it’s more work, but I could use the practice. And I can’t help but picture how cute 4 little skeins are going to be. 

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

And in non-challenge spinning, I finished plying the 4.2 ounces of hand painted green top! I know I said the galactic handspun was the most yarn I’d ever packed a bobbin, but this skein beats even that. I hand wound a good chunk of the yarn onto the bobbin, and don’t think I could get another yard on there if I tried. Really curious about how much yardage is packed on there because I’m tempted to turn it all into a Boneyard Shawl.

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

The End of #100HandspunDays

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

Wednesday, July 12th, is the official end of The 100 Day Project. I have spun yarn, swatched with said yarn, and fiddled around with my drum carder to prep fiber to spin into yarn. There was one day at the beginning when I completely forgot to spin something until I was tucked into bed, but the other 98+ days have not lacked yarn or spinning or fiber. 

I started this project with 5 goals that I thought would be easy to do over and over again for 100 days. 

  1. Sit down at the wheel and spin! - This part was pretty easy and what I did for most of the project. 

  2. Fiber prep counts. So taking a few days (or weeks) to learn how to make batts or practice hand carding is encouraged.  - I didn’t do as much of this as I thought I would. My lofty idea that I’d be churning out batt after silky batt didn’t happen. I did pull out some locks and start figuring out my drum carder’s quirks though. 

  3. Work out of the fiber stash and see just how far it’ll go. - I have bought the occasional bump of fiber and gotten samples to spin from classes, but the bulk of my spinning has been from stash. The stash bins do look a little emptier.

  4. On busy draining days, reading about fiber, breed characteristics, and yarn construction is a-ok. What good is having a spinning reference shelf if I never use it? - This didn’t happen outside of my usual blog reading, which I do regret. Maybe my next bookshould be Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno? 

  5. Share the day’s spinning on Instagram and in blog posts. I’m using #100HandspunDays to keep things organized.  - I shared some of this project on IG, but my attempt at this really fell flat. I did share a lot about #100HandspunDays here though.  Thanks for following along!

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I finished spinning a long purple gradient that had been lingering on the bobbins for far too long.

Then I started a new big project, 500+ yards of fingering weight yarnLearned to love spinning sample mini-skeins too.

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I somehow tricked myself into thinking #100HandspunDays ended last Sunday. So these last few days seemed like a surprise bonus. When I thought that the project was over, I was surprised at how strongly I didn’t want to stop. I want to keep spinning and to keep learning more about spinning. Besides from getting me a lot of great new yarn, #100Handspun Days has shown me that I’m not ready to give up on my wheel and making yarn. It’s something I still enjoy and want to do. Sure, there will be times where this need will ebb and flow, but it’s not going to dry up over night or over a couple months. 

Once #100HandpunDays is officially over, I’ll be putting my spinning motivation into Tour de Fleece. The past week’s project has been 4.2 ounces of hand painted top. I split the top in half down the middle and spun the first ply. I split the other half in half again to create shorter color segments for the second ply. Almost finished with the second and then it’ll be time to ply. I’m curious to see how the yarn comes together.

Off to the Races - Tour De Fleece 2017

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece kicked off on Saturday! What’s Tour de Fleece? It’s a giant, international spin-along that runs along side the Tour de France. This is my 4th year spinning with the Tour, and I wholeheartedly recommend joining up if you’ve been on the fence. It can be a personal challenge or a team affair or both! It’s still early and not too late to start.   

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I’m not setting a ton of complicated goals this year, but keeping things simple. Spin every day. Work from stash. Spin a few batts I’m going to make on my drum carder. Anything else is a sparkly bonus. 

I tossed my fiber stash out of its bins a few days before the Tour kicked off and it looked like a wooly explosion. There was roving on my desk and couch. There were batts on the floor and chilling in the corner. Hand dyed fiber everywhere. By the end of it, I’d picked what I want to spin and better organized the fiber stash. Here’s what I’ll be spinning for the next few weeks. 

  • A giant 8 oz batt. Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but it was taking up too much room to keep hanging around.
  • 4 oz of Dudley Spinner hand painted top. I fell of the sheep last week and bought this to spin during the Tour. Totally counts as spinning from the stash since I got it before Tour de Fleece right?
  • A bundle of 100% alpaca batts I made several (maybe 4) years ago on a rented drum carder. Way past time to see how these spin up. 
  • A Fiber Preparedness Kit from Wild Lily Artisan Fibers. It’s got punis, dyed locks, and random bits of dyed roving. Thinking this will be challenge day material. 
  • The Epic Green Spin is also on the list. Still working my way through sampling and swatching, but I hope to start the final yarn during the Tour.
  • 4 oz of top that just looks fun to spin. 
The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I wanted to kick of the Tour with something fun and easy so I started with the 4 oz of carded roving. It’s a blend of shetland wool, alpaca, and silk noil. Just looking at all that silk noil, I knew there was no way it would turn into a smooth, even yarn. So I drafted long-draw and occasionally double drafted the larger chunks.

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I ended up with 2 almost overfilled bobbins that I plied last night. Not even the bulky flyer with a jumbo bobbin was big enough to get all this yarn on by itself. Once no amount of tension would feed yarn onto the bobbin, I had to do it by hand. It went something like this: ply as long a length of yarn as my arm would allow, wrap yarn around my fingers, turn bobbin to slowly feed yarn onto said bobbin, and repeat. Not a quick process, but I got all the yarn plied. No mini-skeins here! And the bobbin is absolutely packed with bulky yarn. Can’t wait to get wound into a skein and see how much yardage I have.  

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I also pulled out the drum carder, and I’m starting simple with this too. The carder is new-to-me and I haven’t used it until a few days ago. Before I get into making complicated multi-fiber art batts, I wanted to see if the carder had any quirks. Last year I bought 4 oz of dyed wool locks to try out the carder, so I started with them. The fiber is slightly felted so it’s more difficult to process than I expected. And taking way longer to process than I expected. I’ve been putting on a little bit at a time since Friday afternoon, and I’m about halfway through the first pass. I’m pleased with what I’m getting off the carder and plan on putting the fiber through at least once more to smooth it out. Maybe by next week, I’ll have a few new batts to spin. 

So that’s how my Tour de Fleece is going. What about your Tour? Keeping your spinning simple or doing something big?