The First Handspun of 2016

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I made a lot of grand plans and overarching intentions for 2016. All of them were inspiring at first, but every one of them became overwhelming at January marched on. I couldn’t decide where to start, which step to take first, or even what project to work on. I needed to clear my head. Spinning has helped me focus in the past so I thought I’d try it again. The wheel came out of the closet and got a good dusting and a bit of oil. Next, I went rummaging through my fiber stash, and pulled out a blended roving from Spun Right Round

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I’ve never spun anything quite like those 4 oz, and they turned out to be the perfect project to kickstart the year. Instead of single chunk of dyed fiber, this roving was a combination of orange, teal, and navy merino with shiny, white seacell. The colors weren’t blended into a heather - more like they hung out next to each other. I probably could have separated the colors, but where would the fun have been in that? If anything, the roving was comparable to a batt with big chunks of solid color.

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I split the fiber in half at the mid-point, and started spinning without an end goal in mind. I just wanted to spin and let the fiber call the shots. The first few yards that went on the bobbin made it pretty clear that would be no plying. I was drafting back and forth like a typewriter which mixed the colors together two and three at a time. White twisted up with orange. Teal pulled in navy and seacell. Plying the single would only muddy the colors and hide the distinct combinations. The single was interesting enough by itself. Plus, those first few yards were thick and thin. The single did get more consistent as I went along but I let the thick and thin happen without fussing over the differences.

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I wish I could say that I used the process of spinning as some sort of daily meditation. I did no such thing. I throughly enjoyed spinning it for 30 minutes before stepping away from the wheel for weeks. It wasn’t until I read the Singles issue of Ply cover to cover that I felt the urge to get spinning again. The enthusiasm in the magazine is rather infectious after all. I sat down, got drafting, and didn’t stop until every last gram was on the bobbin. Well, not the stray seacell that stuck to my pants and my hands, but you get the idea. 

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com
The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

When I started spinning, I did so with the intention of having no intention. There was no plan, no deadline, no blog post. There was nothing that tied the process of making yarn to anything else. I was able to spin for the joy of spinning and play with fiber. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it made me happy - like playing with kittens happy. This project was a great antidote to stressing out about everything, good and bad, that 2016 has in store. 

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

Next time you get wrapped up and stressed over future plans, try making something for the fun of it. Ditch the deadlines and the self-imposed rules. Stop imagining all those future projects. Jump in and see what happens. You can be retrospective when you’re done, just like I’m doing with this post. Happy making!  

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

Notes About Spinning Cashmere

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Brave readers, it’s time for the next installment of adventures in spinning cashmere. In the first entry, I wrote about my attempt at drafting the singles and overcoming the idea that spinning cashmere would be as hard as everyone made it sound. At the time, I was working on the second single with the idea that the true test of whether or not I could spin cashmere would be in the plying. If the singles fell apart every couple of feet, then I’d failed. If the singles stayed together, then I could actually spin cashmere without screwing it up. 

One mama skein and one baby skein of plied cashmere ready to come off the bobbins. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Did the singles pass the plying test? If you haven’t already guessed from all the pictures, yes! Seeing all the plied yarn on the bobbins was a relief because I wasn’t sure I was going to pull it off until they were done. There were a few times with the singles pulled apart on me, but I didn’t need all the fingers on one hand to count them. Whew. 

A little uneven and limp, the yarn is ready to be finished with a good soak. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

The final test came with the finishing. Would the skeins be the lofty, airy yarn I set out to spin? Before the skeins went into the bath, they looked a little limp - plenty of plying twist in them, but limp all the same. Finishing the skeins with a soak and a gentle thwack changed them for the better. The yarn plumped up to a beautiful, airy body and texture. Soft too. Oh, so soft. Of everything I’ve spun, this was the hardest to let go of. If the fiber hadn’t been sent to me to spin and then send back, I probably would have kept the yarn as a pet. Have I mentioned how soft it was? Mmmm…

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! The mama skein is about 240 yrds and mini is about 25 yrds. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Enough with the daydreaming, onto the technical details. Now that I know that what I did to spin this cashmere actually works, I can share my notes in good conscience. They still come with the disclaimer that I’m still a newb when it comes to working with this luscious stuff though. 

I didn’t actually read up on how to spin cashmere before I started the singles. My idea to spin cashmere woolen came from a cotton spinning demo with Stephanie Gaustad when she visited the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. (Side note: Fiber guilds are great resources and worth joining.) My biggest takeaway was Gaustad’s comment that people thought spinning cotton, a short staple fiber, was hard was because they tried to spin it the same they they spun grabby, long-stapled fibers. Instead, she recommended woolen spinning because the twist would move into the fiber supply and keep things from falling apart during drafting. 

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

I decided to try this idea with the short, slippery cashmere. So, I used a woolen drafting style and let the twist come into the fiber supply. To keep the twist from locking up the fibers, I set the take up low and used a larger whorl. There’s usually at least good foot and a half between my hands and the wheel’s orifice, so this distance let more twist enter the single before it went on the bobbin. As for plying, I didn’t do anything beyond the ordinary tensioning andbalance checks. 

I did do some research on how to finish cashmere but didn’t turn up much in my cursory internet search. I was working on a deadline, remember. Ended up following my usual steps for finishing a woolen yarn. First, the skeins soaked in cool water with a little Eucalan for about 20 minutes. After the yarn came out of the bath, and I squeezed out as much water as possible first with my hands and then by rolling the yarn up in a towel. I evened out the twist with a few good snaps around my hands before giving the yarn a few gentle thwacks against the shower wall. Gentle is key here since I wanted the plies to open up but not develop a halo. Then I hung them up to dry, and the wait proved to be the hardest part of finishing. The last step, which I heartily recommend, is petting the yarn like it’s an adorable kitten. So soft... 

Made sure to send off the handspun with a tag detailing the weight, WPI, and construction. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Fiber: 2 oz cashmere top

Yardage: Mama ~240 yds and Mini ~25 yds

Plies & Weight: 2-ply Sport; Mini skein plied on itself

Start & Finish: November 28 - December 15, 2015

@Ravelry

FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths

Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? I made this pair as a Christmas gift, and now I want to make a pair for me. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

The Non-Felted Slippers pattern has been in my queue for years, and I finally got the chance to make them. Turns out that slippers are fun to knit. Quick to make too when you use super bulky yarn. I made one other pair but they were essentially socks with soles sewn to the bottom - so these are technically the first pair of slippers I’ve ever made. 

Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? I made this pair as a Christmas gift, and now I want to make a pair for me. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

One of the great things about knitting a pattern that’s been made 2,953+ times is that there are plenty of helpful tips and hints to find. I researched people’s mods to see what was possible and went from there. Definitely didn’t want a seam on the bottom of the foot so I used Judy’s Magic Cast On to start the sole - it’s not just for sock toes - and worked everything except the sole in the round. I made up plenty of time from not having to sew the slipper together even after ripping out the sole twice to get the right size. Full mods and numbers on the slipper’s Ravelry page. 

Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? I made this pair as a Christmas gift, and now I want to make a pair for me. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com
Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? Sewing on the soles did take a good chunk of time though, but the work was definitely worth it. They gave the slippers structure and a bit of slip resistance. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com
Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? Sewing on the soles did take a good chunk of time though, but the work was definitely worth it. They gave the slippers structure and a bit of slip resistance. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com
Here's what the inside of the slipper looks like after the soles were sewn on. I didn't pull the seams too tight and they blended in well with the sole fabric. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

The one thing I did underestimate was how long it would take to sew on the soles. I probably could have knit a third slipper in the time it took me to sew on all 4 pieces. At least I didn’t sew the top and bottom together…more than once. Ahem. Anyway, the soles added something special and slip-resistant too. I used the medium size suede Fiber Trends soles which were a good fit for a US 8 slipper. I’ve got a large set stashed away for when I make slippers for myself. 

Who knew slippers were so quick and fun to make? I made this pair as a Christmas gift, and now I want to make a pair for me. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

Pattern: Non-Felted Slippers by Yuko Nakamura

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash Bulky - 41 yds Fjord Heather and 67 yds Briar Heather

Needles: US 8 (5mm) circs

Dates: November 5 - 27, 2015

@Ravelry

Washcloths are a tried and true gift. Plus, they're a quick knit so you can make a bunch before you get bored. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

Washcloths are a tried and true gift. Always practical and fun, they’re quick enough that you can makea bunch before you get bored. I usually knit a few of them to giveaway every year. There was a set of 4 on the gift list last year. Each cloth used a different pattern to keep things interesting. I made 2 of my own designs, 1 that’s been in my queue for years, and 1 old favorite. Even though every one is different because of texture or slipped stitches, making them the same color really tied them all together. The washcloths were a big hit so I’m definitely going to knit more sets like this in the future.  

Washcloths are a tried and true gift. Plus, they're a quick knit so you can make a bunch before you get bored. | FO: Non-Felted Slippers and Practical Washcloths - withwool.com

Pattern: Bridges Towel and Laddered Cloth by me; Little Tent Dishcloth by Vaunda Rae Giberson, and All Washed Up by Jill Arnusch

Yarn: Pisgah Yarn Peaches & Creme Ombres - Ivy League (30 - 33 yds per cloth)

Needles: US 6 (4mm) needles

Dates: November 8 - 12, 2015

@Ravelry

Two Bears And A Bunny

Beatrice and Bernard are an inseparable pair that make for quick knit gifts! Cute too. :) | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

Beatrice and Bernard are an inseparable pair that make for quick knit gifts! Cute too. :) | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

What do you make for a cute 1-year-old kiddo? A cute bunny and bear, of course. 

Once I decided to make Beatrice and Bernard, they almost seemed to knit themselves. I’ve made the pair before and used a few mods to make them even faster to put together: stuffing them as a go, knitting the arms from the paw up, and grafting the head closed. The only hard part was the making the grafting look nice. Scratch that, I lied. The hard part is sewing on the arms at the same height on both sides. I thought the bunny was almost finished until I got a good look at the arms after sewing them on. One of them was definitely higher than the other which meant I had to unpick the seam and do it again. The second time was the charm fortunately. 

After the pair had arrived in their new home, I got a text that they’d each gotten a kiss when they were unwrapped. Pretty sure that means I won Christmas knitting. :)

Beatrice and Bernard are an inseparable pair that make for quick knit gifts! Cute too. :) | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

Pattern: Beatrice and Bernard The Inseparable Bunny and Bear by Rebecca Danger

Yarn: 65 yds Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash Bulky

Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) circulars

Dates: November 24 - 26, 2015

@Ravelry

One adorably Christmas ornament coming up! | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

I slacked off in 2014, but I have a yearly tradition to make a new ornament for the tree every Christmas. The first ornaments were just an excuse to make cute things to go on the tree, but they’ve grown to tell a story over the years. That’s how I ended up making a stocking covered in palm trees and knitting a color work house among other things. When it came time to make an ornament for 2014, I never really figured out what I wanted to make or how to make it. The idea to knit the extinct California grizzly bear didn’t occur to me until 2015 gift knitting time. Thankfully, making it didn’t take anywhere near as long as it took for me to have the idea. 

Making the bear went quickly even though I essentially knit the pattern twice with the second attempt worked in the round. Then I couldn’t decide on the design for the embroidery. The bear sat to the side while I worked on other Christmas knits and ordered the yarn I wanted to use for the embroidery. Once I had the design sketched out, the final stitching went reasonably quickly even though I redid it a few times to make it neat. So, 2014 finally got its ornament.

As for the 2015 ornament, I have the yarn and an idea. I still have to work out the charts, but it’ll be a nice project for February even if it is a few months late. 

One adorably Christmas ornament coming up! | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

Pattern: Grizzly Bear Toy by Linda Dawkins

Yarn: 64 yds Knit Picks Gloss Fingering - Doe for the body and Honey for the embroidery

Needles: 2.75 circulars

Dates: November 13 - December 5, 2015

@Ravelry

One knit bear checking out the view. | Two Bears And A Bunny - withwool.com

FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and The Dewberry Cowl

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

I decided to go all out with my gift knitting for Christmas 2015. The list started out small - less than 5 pieces - before growing and growing and growing just a little bit more. When all was said and done, I had knit a shawl, a cowl, a hat, 4 washcloths, a pair of slippers, 2 pairs of wrist cuffs, a bear & bunny duo, and one golden bear. Plus, there was that skein of handspun. This was a pretty ambitious list considering that I skipped holiday gift knitting the previous years. I’m pretty sure the only reason I was able to get everything done was because I’d committed to #yearofmaking, and had built a habit of making something every day. Even a few stitches a day can add up to something really big.

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com
The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

What do you knit for the lace knitter that loves fantasy and general geekery? Fantasy themed lace, of course! The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl fit the bill, and had the added bonus of a reversible stitch pattern. 

I had a few hiccups reading the pattern and had to rip out a few times - once all the way back to the beginning - but the knitting was fairly easy once I figured out the rhythm and quirks of the design. It was also my first time using Dream in Color Smooshy which was lovely. The shawl was also great tv knitting aside from that one time I really messed up the lace pattern. (Note to self: Don’t stay up to 2AM knitting lace. You’re just going to give yourself a headache and a giant time suck the next morning.)

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, blocking is magic. Once the shawl was bound off with a ridiculously stretchy decrease bind off, it looked small and crumpled. Even knowing how blocking can transform a piece, I was still nervous that the finished shawl wouldn’t be a worthy gift. I needn't have worried. 

The shawl got a nice long soak before I stretched and pinned it to an inch of its life. Flexible blocking wires made shaping and pulling out the points so much simpler and quicker then working with only pins. Inserting the wires and shaping the shawl still took at least 30 minutes though. When that work was done, instead of a small and crumpled shawl, the crescent was long and delicate. The yarn overs had popped open, the columns were visible, and every leaf was distinct. Whew…

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

Pattern: Crescent Over Lothlorien by Cordula Surmann-Schmitt 

Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy - Icy Reception

Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) circulars

Date: September 12 - October 23, 2015

@Ravelry 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting. FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

The second gift knit was the Dewberry Cowl which I've wanted to make since I first saw it. I like the combination of lace and garter stitch. I like the shape and how it’s worn. I liked how it could be a showcase for lots of different yarn. Plus, I thought the recipient would like it too which is always an important thing to consider when making gifts. Can’t just make stuff you like after all.

It was a pretty quick knit even considering that I had to rip it out - totally my own fault - and make it bigger. The pattern calls for an aran weight yarn, but I mistakenly picked out a DK weight instead. Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag is a beautiful silk wool single and I don’t regret picking it at all. 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting. FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com
I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting. FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl - withwool.com

Mailing these goodies off was hard but, I’ve got the patterns and plenty of worthy yarn. I already have the perfect skein picked out for my Dewberry.

Pattern: Dewberry by Hillary Smith Callis 

Yarn: 1 skein Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag - Hollywood Cerise

Needles: US 6 (4mm) circulars

Date: October 26 - November 4, 2015

@Ravelry

Looking Back At 2015

I’m usually not sentimental about the start of a new year, and the beginning of 2016 is no different. But I do like look back over the past year to see what I've accomplished, what to do in the new year, and what to be grateful for. 

 With Wool

I’ve kept a fairly consistent schedule writing, photographing, and designing for With Wool, but I wasn’t very dedicated. I frequently waited until the last minute or just hoped that an idea for something to write about would just fall into my lap - didn’t happen often. It was until October that I finally got serious and made the work a regular part of my routine. My goal was to spend 2 hours a day working on With Wool - be it designing patterns, writing tutorials, editing photos, putting together the newsletter, brainstorming, or learning about social media. Those 2 hours were occasionally hard to fill though they could expand to take up an entire day, like when I was releasing the Mosaic Sisters.

What about the numbers? In 2015, I self-published 2 patterns: The Cuddly Chevron Blanket in January and The Mosaic Sisters in December. Not a bad pair of end caps for this year. Behind the scenes, I also worked on a few others patterns that I’m looking forward to showing you in 2016. Hats! Socks! Color work! Oh my!

I wrote 51 blog posts, including this one. My favorite is How To Knit And Block A Giant Blanket In 47 Easy Steps. 19 posts were tutorials for knitting or spinning. I'm proudest of Mosaic Knitting 101 and of the long-tail cast on video tutorial. In total, I’m only 1 post short of managing 1 blog post for every week this year which sounds like an awesome goal to aim for next year.

2015 was also the year I got serious about sending out the With Wool Weekly newsletter every week. I’ve really come to enjoy putting it together and seeing it grow as the year progressed. Tomorrow, I’m sending out the 50th newsletter of the year, but it’s also the 54th newsletter since I started sending them out. Looking forward to seeing how to grows and changes. You can sign up here or through the sidebar to the right. 

#YearOfMaking

#yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#YearOfMaking was my other major project this year. My only intention was to make something everyday, and post a photo of my progress to Instagram. I haven’t kept up with the photos lately, but I have kept making for the entire year. Some days, the only thing I made was dinner, but dinner still counts. There were times when I was sick, tired, or stuck on planes all day. I am proud to write that I only skipped 13 days. If I finish the year strong and I intend to, I’ll have made something 352 days this year which is nothing to sneeze at. 

After years of being a WIP, I finished my extra large Norma Blanket! Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

During those 352 days, I’ve done more and learned more than I would have otherwise. I finished knitting my first sweater and finished my extra large Norma Blanket. I spun yarn for Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla. I spun my first sock yarn and gained the confidence attempt spinning cashmereI spent a month drawing. I built cairns in the Arizona desert. I’ve hauled my camera all over San Francisco to practice photography. 

I finished my first sweater for myself, Amiga, thanks to #yearofmaking. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

Deciding to do a #yearofmaking was a great last minute decision which is why I’m doing it again. While I’m glad I did a lot over the past year, I have one complaint. A lot of the time I felt like I was just going through the motions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to spend this year learning and improving my skills. That’s why, I’m picking one thing focus on this time around.  2016 is about making art - not with yarn or fiber, but with pencils, ink, and markers. Maybe I’ll even learn to paint. There’s still going to plenty of yarn, but the urge to draw and make art everyday is something I can’t deny any longer.  

Looking back, 2015 has been a great year on all fronts. Here’s hoping that 2016 is even better! What are your plans for the new year? 

Easier Plying From A Center Pull Ball

A rolled up piece of paper makes it so much easier to to ply yarn from a center pull ball. No tangles! 

I always forget how long it takes to ply a skein of fingering weight yarn until I’m halfway through. Silly me thought I could ply a skein over the course of 2 days. Took a bit longer than that. When I was almost finished, there was still a good chunk of yardage on the second bobbin. There’s no sense in letting cashmere singles wallow on the bobbin especially when I need to mail the finished skeins by the end of the week. Plying the leftovers from a center pull ball seemed like the best and quickest option.

A rolled up piece of paper makes it so much easier to to ply yarn from a center pull ball. No tangles! 
A rolled up piece of paper makes it so much easier to to ply yarn from a center pull ball. No tangles! 

Thankfully, the single held together during winding. I was about to pull the ball off the winder when I remembered a tip: slide the center pull call unto a toilet paper tube to keep it from collapsing on itself and tangling. I’ve lost plenty of yardage to tangled center pull balls and really didn’t want to lose a single yard of cashmere. The problem was that I was fresh out of toilet paper tubes. Instead, I folded a piece of regular printer paper into a strip and loosely rolled it up. Then I slipped the ball onto the paper directly from the winder.

A rolled up piece of paper makes it so much easier to to ply yarn from a center pull ball. No tangles! 
A rolled up piece of paper makes it so much easier to to ply yarn from a center pull ball. No tangles! 

The rolled up paper worked so much better than I expected. As I pulled out more and more yarn, the roll expanded to fill the center hole and kept the ball from falling apart. There were absolutely zero tangles, and I was able to ply every bit of the single. The only thing I’d do differently next time - and I will be using this trick every time I ply from a center pull ball - is to make sure there’s an even edge on the outside of the roll to keep the single from snagging.

Spinning Cashmere

I'm spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

2 ounces of cashmere ended up in my fiber stash innocently enough. A friend of mine asked me if I would spin it for her and, of course, I agreed. She’s an awesome friend who deserves handspun, and I wanted to spin cashmere. It’s a win-win in my book. When the cashmere arrived it was as soft and lovely and amazing as I expected it would be. Then the doubt set in. Sure, I knew how to spin yarn, but most of my experience was with long-stapled, grabby wool. Everything I’ve read about cashmere told me it was slippery and had a relatively short staple length. Plus, I hadn’t figured out how to spin fine singles on my wheel yet which was what the cashmere would require. So the fiber sat for I don’t don’t know how long.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

It wasn’t until my successful attempt spinning a 3-ply sock yarn during Tour de Fleece 2015 that I started seriously thinking about spinning the cashmere. Spinning that sock yarn meant that I’d finally figured out how to draft a fine yarn. That was half of the hurdle was gone. Now, only the fear of messing up the fiber - because I repeatedly read that it was hard to spin - was holding me back. I didn’t want to waste my friend’s cashmere. If the fiber had been mine, it’d probably still be sitting in fluffy little bundles. It’s not mine though, and I’d been holding on to it for long enough. The only thing left to do was start.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

My end goal is to spin a 2-ply fingering weight yarn. Getting the wheel set up in the beginning with just the right amount of tension and twist took some fiddling. The first setting put twist into the fiber but didn’t pull it onto the bobbin. The second adjustment had too much twist and not enough uptake. The third attempt, on a larger whorl setting, was just right with enough twist and enough uptake.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

I want the yarn to be lofty and airy so I went with a woolen style draft where the twist comes into the fiber supply — only a little twist though since I’m aiming for a fingering weight yarn. Then I waited for the spinning to be hard. I working my way through the second single at the moment, and I’m still waiting for the spinning to be hard. Has it taken more patience and attention? Definitely, but spinning cashmere isn’t the insurmountable challenge that I’d created in my head. Just goes to show that the only way to know that something is “hard”, is to not let fear hold you back and try it for yourself.

I am by no means an expert at spinning cashmere. Not even a little. I’m just fumbling along and finding what works. Are my singles perfect? No, but they’re fairly consistent and holding together. Fingers crossed that the pair doesn’t fall apart during plying - then I’ll have to take back that whole ‘I can spin cashmere’ thing. Stayed tuned for adventures in plying.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

Pattern: Mosaic Sisters

Colorful and geometric, the Mosaic Sisters are textured mosaic knit cloths perfect for the kitchen or the bathroom. Each cloth is made with garter stitch and slipped stitches that are simple to knit, but create complex patterns. All of the sisters can be made as a kitchen towel, washcloth, or coaster. Make a full set in 2 colors or mix and match.

I am thrilled to finally share the Mosaic Sisters! Why sisters? Because each mosaic design, though unique, shares several traits. They all have wide stripes, are knit in garter stitch, and have geometric designs. The pattern is a set 3 three different designs that can be turned into kitchen towels, washcloths, and coasters. Or anything else your needles desire. Mosaic knitting makes the cloths the perfect thickness and texture to be useful in both the kitchen and the bathroom. Since the basis of the patterns is garter stitch, the cloths won't twist or curl. Since they're all sister designs, you can make them in as many or as few colors as you want. Make a whole set in 2 colors or mix and match for maximum rainbow. 

If you're nervous about working mosaic knitting for the first time, I wrote a few tutorials to help. Mosaic Knitting 101 will show you the basics, and the next tutorial shows how to carry yarn up the side of the work. To cast on, I recommend the long-tail cast on - it's great with cotton.

Colorful and geometric, the Mosaic Sisters are textured mosaic knit cloths perfect for the kitchen or the bathroom. Each cloth is made with garter stitch and slipped stitches that are simple to knit, but create complex patterns. All of the sisters can be made as a kitchen towel, washcloth, or coaster. Make a full set in 2 colors or mix and match.

I had the idea for the Mosaic Sisters years ago. At the time there was only one cloth, the oldest sister of course, and it had a different name. I knit the first sample, wrote the pattern, and made the chart. For one reason or another I never published it. Years later I saw a call to submit designs for home related patterns. The oldest sister came to mind, but I knew I couldn't just submit one - that's when the middle sister came along. Spoilers - the submission wasn't accepted. Now two designs were hanging out on my hard drive. Once the sting of disappointment wore off, I looked at them again and decided to add a third pattern to the set, the youngest sister. I've been swatching, charting, knitting, and putting the pattern together ever since. It's been a long road, but I'm glad that the sisters are finally getting their debut. 

To celebrate the Mosaic Sisters release, the pattern is free until Sunday, December 6 11:59 PM PST. Afterwards, it'll go to it's regular price of $5. No coupon or Ravelry account required. Happy knitting! 

Mosaic Sisters

Sizes: Kitchen Towel - 8.5" x 14"; Washcloth - 8.5" x 8"; Coaster - 4.25" x 4"

Gauge: 5 sts = 1" in pattern

Needles: US 6 (4mm) straight or circular needles 

Yarn:  Worsted Weight Cotton Yarn in 4 colors

Shown in Knit Picks Dishie - Swan, Azure, Crème Brulee, and Tranquil

For the kitchen towels: 37g / 70 yds each color

For the washcloths: 20g / 39 yds each color

For the coasters: 7g / 14 yds each color

Mosaic-Sister-3.jpg


Stripes and Carrying Yarn Up The Side

The Mosaic Sisters pattern- a set of colorful mosaic knit kitchen towels, washcloths, and coasters - is here! Meet the sisters and get the pattern.

Check out the other tutorials for the Mosaic Sisters: The Long Tail Cast On and Mosaic Knitting 101


Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

In Mosaic Knitting 101, I showed that mosaic knitting is just stripes and slipped stitches. Knitting stripes is fun, but weaving in ends for every color change is not. The first few times I knit stripes, I cut the yarn at the beginning and end of every color. Ugh. Thankfully, there’s a way to carry yarn up the side of the piece which means you don’t have to spend as much time weaving in ends as you did knitting. The carried yarns will twist together as you work and tuck themselves in nicely behind the edge stitches.

For Narrow Stripes

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

If you’re working 2 row stripes there’s only one step to carry your yarns up the side. For the sake of clarity, yellow is Color 1 and white is Color 2. When it’s time to change colors, hold color 1 to the back of the work and start working the next stripe. You can drop Color 1 after you’ve got a few stitches of the new stripe on the needles because the two yarns are now twisted together. 

Is it possible to hold the yarn to the outside of the work instead of along the back? Definitely, but there is one benefit to holding the yarn to the inside. It’s faster because you always know what strand you just used and what strand to grab next. Plus, it easier to keep the yarns from tangling which means you get to spend your time knitting and not untangling yarn. Which ever direction you choose, be consistent and stick with it for the entire project.

For Stripes That Don’t Start At The Edge (And Wide Stripes Too)

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

So what about when a stripe starts a few stitches in from the edge of work? The Middle Sister of the Mosaic Sisters pattern has a row that starts this way. You’ve got a couple options and neither of them involve cutting the yarn or weaving in more ends. Both choices equally effective, it’s just a matter of what you think looks better. 

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

Option 1 is treating the stripes above and below the short stripe as one wide stripe. 

Begin by holding Color 1 to the back of the work just like with the narrow stripe. Slip the stitches at the beginning of the row and work the short stripe with Color 2. When you’re finished working the short stripe, twist the two colors together and start working with Color 1 again. Don’t forget to keep a little slack between the edge and the first knit stitches so the edge doesn’t pucker.

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

Option 2 starts a little differently. When you start the short stripe with Color 2, hold Color 1 (green in this example) to the outside instead of against the back. Finish the short stripe.

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

Now hold Color 2 to the the outside. When you start the next stripe by bringing up Color 1, it holds Color 2 in place. Go back to twisting yarns to the inside until the next short stripe. 

Spend your time knitting, not weaving in ends! Here's the final tutorial celebrating the Mosaic Sisters pattern! Today's tutorial is about how to carry yarns up the side of your work when you're knitting stripes. Doesn't matter if the stripes are narrow, wide, or take up less than a row.

I know I recommended earlier to twist to the inside, but twisting to the outside on stripes that start away the edge works well in this case. When paired with inside twists, the occasional outside twist prevents longer strands of yarn from being carried up the side and potentially snagging. 

Mosaic Knitting 101

The Mosaic Sisters pattern- a set of colorful mosaic knit kitchen towels, washcloths, and coasters - is here! Meet the sisters and get the pattern.

Check out the other tutorials for the Mosaic Sisters: The Long Tail Cast On & Stripes And Carrying Yarn Up The Side.

Mosaic-Knitting-101

Mosaic knitting is a technique that creates beautiful and intricate finished projects with the simple slip stitch. What it makes it different from other types of color work is that you’re only working with one strand of yarn at a time. For such a simple technique, mosaic knitting is quite versatile. It can be worked in garter stitch or stockinette. It can be smooth or textured. It can be worked flat or in the round. The patterns can be bold and geometric or create simple images and all manner of things in between. There’s no limit to the type of project it can create either. Mosaic knitting can create scrubby washcloths, cushy socks, warm shawls, slouchy hats, and colorful blankets.

How Mosaic Knitting Works

Aside from slipped stitches, the real reason why mosaic knitting works is that it's based on 2 row stripes.  So if you can knit stripes, you can mosaic knit.  

To work a stripe of mosaic knitting, you work across the first row and slip certain stitches purl-wise to create the pattern. On the second row, the stitches slipped on the first row are slipped again. Then it's time to make the next stripe. Drop the first color and work the next stripe with a second color and slip more stitches. As the stripes repeat, the slipped stitches build on each other. The below GIF shows the stripes and slipped stitches adding up to make the finished design. 

Standard Mosaic Knit Abbreviations

Mosaic patterns are presented as written, charted, or with a combination of the two. Small patterns might only be written.  The key abbreviations in written mosaic patterns are slX, wyib, and wyif.

sl means to slip a stitch purl-wise and the X afterward tells you how many stitches to slip. wyib and wyif are paired with slX.

wyib means to slip the stitch with the yarn held behind the work on the wrong side. wyif means to slip the stitch with the yarn held in front. If you don’t see wyib or wyif or any variant of them, it’s assumed that the yarn is always held to the back of the work. 

The other important abbreviations are MC, Main Color, and CC, Contract Color. The different colors might also be referred to as C1 and C2 or Color 1 and Color 2. 

Finished-Mosaic-101-Swatch.jpg

Here is a swatch of a simple mosaic pattern where there are slipped stitches on the garter rows (white) and a stockinette background (blue). The written pattern for the swatch reads like this:

Cast on 15 stitches (a multiple of 4+3) with C1.

Row 1: With C1, knit

Row 2: purl

Row 3: With C2, *k3, sl1wyib*, repeat between * * to end of row, k3

Row 4: *k3, sl1wyif* k3

Repeat the 4 rows until piece is desired length. End on Row 2 and bind off. 

How To Read Mosaic Charts

If the above pattern were charted, there are 2 fairly standard ways the chart could be presented and it’s designer’s choice. The difference between the two styles is in how the 2 row stripes are presented: a stripe, 2 worked rows, per chart row OR every row is charted. Personally, I prefer the chart where it’s one stripe to a row because it gives a better visual of the finished pattern. If I make a mistake early in the pattern, I find it easier to notice if I have the chart to compare it too. Also, it's easier to find my place again if I put the project down for a bit.  

The two styles do share some similarities. Both will show show what color to use either in column on the right side or on the chart row. Rows are usually numbered. Both charts will use the same symbols to show when to slip. There are 2 common versions of the slip symbol. Always read the instructions on the pattern though in case the designer has different instructions for a symbol. 

slip stitch definitions.jpg

V means to slip the stitch purl-wise with the yarn held on the on the wrong side to the back of the fabric.  A V with a horizontal line through the middle or underneath means to slip the stitch purl-wise with the yarn held in the front on the right side of the fabric. 

To work from the 1 stripe (2 rows) to a chart row style, you read the rows first from right to left and then backwards from left to right. This means that each row is worked twice; once forwards for the right side and once backwards for the wrong side. If the pattern is worked in the round than you’d work both rows from right to left because you’re always working on the right side of the fabric. 

To work from the 1 chart row equals 1 knit row style, you’ll always read from right to left. The 1 to 1 style chart is more common for mosaic patterns knit in the round. However, as is the case with the Pair-a-normal Socks, the same mosaic effect can sometimes be made with 1 row instead of 2. 

That’s everything you need to get started with mosaic knitting and start the Mosaic Sisters! Have fun and knit on! 

How To Do The Long Tail Cast On And Helpful Tips

The Mosaic Sisters pattern- a set of colorful mosaic knit kitchen towels, washcloths, and coasters - is here! Meet the sisters and get the pattern.

Check out the other tutorials for the Mosaic Sisters: Mosaic Knitting 101 & Stripes And Carrying Yarn Up The Side


The long tail cast on was was one of the first cast ons I learned after branching out from the backwards loop cast on that most new knitters learn right off the bat. After years of knitting, the long tail method has become one of my favorites and my default cast on when a pattern doesn’t ask for a specific method. It’s stretchy, makes a tidy edge, and works up quickly once you get the hang of it. It can be worked in knit, purl, or ribbing (this tutorial focuses on the knit version). 

The long tail cast-on creates the first row of your work - which is why I especially love this cast on when working with non-stretchy yarns like cotton or linen which can be hard to start from a backwards loop cast on. Having a row already made is also great for when you join to knit in the round because it’s much easier to check that the stitches haven’t twisted around the needle. Plus, if you mess up and knit too many rows like I did on a recent project, you can even un-pick the cast on to fix the mistake. The process is a little finicky, but completely doable. 

Even better, for all of this long-tail goodness, all you need are needles and yarn. 

Getting Started

Pull the yarn over the needle with the tail end to the front. There’s no need to tie a knot. The photos above show how to hold and position yarn on the needles with and without my fingers in the way. Hold the yarn in your left hand with the tail end of the yarn over your thumb and the working end over your pointer finger. The needle goes in the middle. The yarn over your thumb becomes the bottom edge and the yarn over your pointer finger becomes the first row.

How much yarn do you need to pull out? Eventually, you’ll be able to eyeball the amount, but a good trick is to cast on 10 stitches, then unravel to find out how much yarn they used. Multiply the amount and had a few inches to weave in later and you’ll have a good estimate. 

Here’s an interesting fact: if you reverse positions and hold the needle in your left hand and the yarn in your right, you’ll make purl stitches instead of knit stitches. 

The 4 Steps To Make A Stitch

How to make a stitch with the long tail cast on. Also, gifs are perfect for when you don't want to watch an entire video.

How to make a stitch with the long tail cast on. Also, gifs are perfect for when you don't want to watch an entire video.

There are 4 distinct steps to make a stitch which seem complicated at first, but your hands will learn. Cast on enough stitches and you won’t even have to think about doing them. I exaggerated the motions to make the steps clearer, but I usually work with much smaller and faster movements.

Step 1: Bring the yarn in front and up underneath the yarn in front of your thumb. This is the loop that will secure the stitch. 

Step 2: Move the needle behind the forward strand on your pointer finger from right to left.

Step 3: Move your thumb backwards which bring the the loop over the needle and the yarn.

Step 4: Take your thumb out of the loop and pull on the front piece of yarn to secure the stitch.

Repeat those 4 steps until you have all the stitches you need on the needles and your first row. If you’re working in stockinette, purl the next row.  

When Casting On Lots of Stitches…

The main complaint about the long-tail cast on is when making a lot of stitches. I’m going to be conservative and say 50 stitches and up. If your yarn estimate is off, you’ll have too little yarn and have to rip out to start again or too much yarn and have a long tail hanging off the end of your work. To avoid both of these hassles, work the cast on with two strands of yarn instead of one.

You don’t have to knot them together either. Just hold the ends in place on the needle with your fingers. Once the first 2 stitches are on the needles, the yarn is secure and isn’t going anywhere. When the cast on is finished cut the front strand of yarn long enough to weave in. Yeah, it’s another end to weave in but it’s still less time and energy than having to repeatedly redo the cast on.

Tangle Free Circular Needle Storage

I’ve been knitting a lot during the past few weeks so I’m not making hats, mitts, toys, and ornaments during the wee morning hours of December 25th. The pile of gifts has gotten taller but my circular needles and extra cables are a tangled mess. I needed to pull a 2.75 circ out of the bag they’re all crammed in and ended up with all of them in my lap. Ugg. Then I had an idea. Why not coil them the same way as flexible blocking wire?

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Before, my knitting needles were a mess, but now they’re neat and tidy. I can actually grab just the one I want - it’s the small things in life. This trick works well on interchangeable cables too. I’m just got to make myself coil all of them up. 

FO: Amiga Cardigan

The Amiga Cardigan and I have a long history together. My notes tell me that I cast on January 21, 2014, but it seems like so much longer because I originally cast on for a bolero with the same yarn. I fell out of love with the first sweater (and all my mods) and ripped out all my work. Life’s too short to knit sweaters you’re never going to wear after all. 

Amiga is a simple stockinette raglan. Knitting the giant Norma Blanket was more complicated than this, but the Amiga is special because it’s the first sweater that I’ve ever finished. I’ve swatched and cast on for others but this is the only one I’ve ever been able to wear. So, I’m happy with it even though it turned out completely different than I thought it would. 

It wasn’t that my swatch lied to me, per say, but that it didn’t have all the information it needed to tell the truth. When I swatched over a year ago, I cast on just enough stitches to measure 4” between a garter stitch border. Then I washed and dried it the same way I would the finished sweater. The stitches evened out but the gauge didn’t change. I even hung and weighted it to see if the fabric would stretch. It didn’t and and I got started. 

After the initial excitement of casting on for THE first sweater again wore off, I worked on it here and there. Somewhere in the middle I bought 2 extra skeins which took some doing since the color had been discontinued. The off and on knitting might have something to do with why the sweater grew or it might not. I’m not really sure. Eventually an overwhelming urge to finish all the things took overand I finally bound off the collar, weave in all the ends, and blocked the sweater 20 months to the day after casting on.

The first sign that the sweater wasn’t the same size was when I pulled it from the soapy water of the sink. It definitely looked longer when I laid it out. I measured to make sure everything was even but I didn’t compare the measurements to the schematic. I know you should, but I didn’t want to know for sure. There was no denying it though when I tried it on. Instead of ending mid back, the sweater hung inches lower. The previously three quarter length sleeves were full length. The carefully placed button holes had moved several inches down to my belly button.

Disappointing? Yes, but I also wanted to make myself a light, flowing sweater with plenty of drape. I ended up doing  just that so I’m not going to complain. Next time, though, I’m knitting a bigger swatch.

The Specs

Pattern: Amiga by Mags Kandis

Yarn: 5 skeins Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool - Thunderstorm

Needles: US 10 (6 mm) circulars 

Dates: January 21, 2014 - August 21, 2015

@Ravelry

How To Do The Math For Toe Up Sock Gussets

I am a toe-up sock knitter. There are lots of reasons why I made the switch to toe up socks after knitting a few pairs of cuff down socks but the main reason is pretty straightforward. I, and most of the people I knit socks for, have big feet. Working from the toe-up means I can increase until I reach a stitch count that fits at a gauge that will make a comfortable, durable sock.

There are plenty of options for heels to work on toe up socks: heel flaps, short rows, afterthought heels, and all manner or hybrids. I usually go for a heel flap with a gusset because that style fits me the best. Luckily, the math to figure out where to start a gusset is easy-peasy.  I do this math for every pair of socks I knit, whether I working from a pattern or making it up on the fly, and it takes less than 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes are worth it to get a great fitting pair of socks. 

To get started you need your stitch count, row gauge, and the finished foot length. When you do the math on the back of an envelope, this is what it looks like. Seriously, the hardest thing about the whole process is measuring the row count. 

Stitch Count x .5 = gusset rows

Gusset Rows / Row Gauge = Gusset Length

Foot Length - Heel Turn Length - Length of Gusset = Where to start gusset

I’m working on pair of 2x2 ribbed socks that I’m going to use as an example. Here are the numbers and the math.

64 x .5 = 32 sts

32 sts / 13 rows = 2.46”

10.25” - .75” - 2.46” = 7.04”

Stitch Count: 64 sts

Row Gauge: 13 rows/inch

Sock Length: 10.25”

Step 1: The usual number to increase for a sock gusset is 50% of the stitch count. For this pair, that means increasing 32 stitches before beginning the heel turn. 

The typical gusset construction of increasing 2 stitches on one row and working a plain row the next makes figuring out the gusset’s row count really easy. The answer is 32 because I’m increasing 32 stitches. Here’s why:

32 stitches / 2 (because increases happen twice on increase rounds) = 16 increase rounds

Add an equal number of plain rows and: 

16 increase rounds + 16 plain rounds = 32 gusset rows

If you’re knitting a sock to fit a high instep, you’ll probably need a taller heel flap. Increase 60% of the stitches instead of 50%. The rest of the math is exactly the same. 

Step 2: Now to find out how long the gusset will be.

Gusset Rounds / Row Gauge = Gusset Length

32 gusset rows / 13 rows an inch = 2.46” 

Step 3: Now that we have the length of the gusset, we can figure out where to start it. I estimate needing .75” for the heel turn. If you’re making socks for smaller feet, .5” is a good estimate. For a more exact number, measure the length of heel turn on a sock you’ve already knit. 

Foot Length - Heel Turn Length - Gusset Length = Where to start the gusset

10.25” - .75” - 2.46” = 7.04”

After rounding down the final number to get something easier to work with, the gusset needs to start 7” from the tip of the toe. That's all it takes to figure out the increases and where to start a sock gusset. Happy sock knitting! 

How To Knit And Block A Giant Blanket in 47 Easy Steps

1. Spend 2-3 years knitting a giant blanket.

2. Feverously finish the last 50+ rows and bind off in a month.

3. Decide you need blocking wires to stretch the blanket to its max.

4. Research rigid and flexible blocking wires. Order the flexible ones in hopes of making all future blocking easier. 

5. Impatiently wait 3 weeks for blocking wires to arrive in the mail. 

6. On the day you're going to block, remember that you still need to weave in ends. 

7. Weave in ends. 

8. Decide that filling up the tub would probably be overkill to soak the blanket. Plus, you really don't want to scrub the tub.

9. Figure out that the kitchen sink is probably big enough.

10. Do the dishes so you can scrub the sink. 

11. Scrub the sink. 

12. Get wrapped up in a bunch of other tasks. Decide the sink is clean enough so you don't have to scrub it again. 

13. Fill the sink almost to the brim with cool water and a few capfuls of Soak. 

14. Squish the blanket under the water.

15. Let it soak for 30 minutes. Try to figure out how to squeeze all the water out of it so you can haul it to the bedroom floor to pin it out with dripping a river behind you.

16. Watch a few last minute videos about using blocking wires.

17. After the timer rings, go pull the stopper out of the bottom of the sink. Squish as much water out of the blanket as possible.

18. Take the blanket out of the sink and plop it down in the middle of a much smaller towel.

19. Haul the blanket burrito to the bathroom and drop it on the bath matt. 

20. Make lunch. 

21. Spread out a sheet to keep any bleeding dye and loose fiber out of the carpet.

22. Go back to the bathroom and step on a soggy matt to pick up the blanket. 

23. Gently spread out the blanket on the floor.

24. Carefully uncoil the blocking wires so you don't wing yourself in the face with the tips.

25. Pick a corner and gingerly thread the wire through one edge while hunched over the floor. 

26. Screw that. Sit on the floor and drag the blanket into your lap to thread the wire.

27. Halfway through the first edge, realize you should have started a podcast or music or something to keep you company. 

28. Finish wiring the first side, get up, grab your phone, come back, start a podcast. Not a podcast about knitting though because that's what got you into this mess.

29. Uncoil another wire and start the second edge. Repeat for the third and fourth sides which only take 15 minutes each instead of 20. 

30. Get out from underneath the giant blanket to start spreading it out.

31. Prick your fingers taking t-pins out of the bag. 

32. Stick one pin in a corner and begin smoothing things out. 

33. Start stretching and pinning with what might be described as reckless abandon. 

34. Stand up and check out your handiwork. Notice the blanket looks lopsided.

35. Sigh.

36. Go track down a tape measure - but not the the puny one that you keep in your notions bag - the big metal one. 

37. Stick a pin the blanket's cast on (in the center of course). Measure until you find the longest distance from pin to side. 

38. Take out pins and readjust, readjust, readjust all they all have the same measurement. Also, make sure the corners are about 90 degrees. Smooth, pull, and sweet talk the knitting as necessary. 

39. Somewhere in the middle of this, run out of pins. Get up to look for more and find absolutely zero. Bah.

40. Move pins around until all the edges are straight-ish.

41. Measure one more time just to be sure.

42. Stand up and survey your 2 hours of work. Yay! It's not lopsided anymore. 

43. Go do anything else while the blanket air dries with the help of several fans pointed directly at it. 

44. Keep waiting. All night and the next day if you have too. 

45.  After poking at it a million times, find out that it’s finally dry! Time to celebrate by pulling out all the t-pins without poking yourself and pulling the wires out of the edges. 

46. Stand up and swing the blanket around your shoulders like a cape. So warm and comfy!

47. After doing a happy dance with your blanket/cape, go find someone to cuddle with underneath it. Done! 

Feel free to skip a few steps. I personally recommended not stabbing your fingers with t-pins, pinning the blanket lopsided, or running out of pins. 

Joking aside, I’m so glad this blanket is finally done. It was one of the few things I hauled cross country in the trunk to Los Angeles. Didn’t work on it much more before I moved to San Francisco, but Ididn’t want to move again with it still on the needles. Part of the reason Norma took so long was because I wanted to use up 4 skeins of Lion Brand Nature’s Brown Fisherman’s Wool. Knitting all 1860 yards meant I worked the expanded chart available on Ravelry before charting out an additional 24 rows and then working the edging. Having to bind off 820 stitches was definitely worth it. 

An overwhelming urge to finish all the things helped push progress along too. I knit 2 rows or more a day for weeks until it was finally done. It became one of my daily rituals and I almost miss working on it. Almost. I’m much happier that it’s done and looking forward to snuggling up underneath it for years to come. 

Pattern: Norma by Meghan Jones

Yarn: 3.9 skeins (1813.5 yds) Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool - Nature’s Brown  

Final Size: 60” x 60”

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)

Dates: December 25, 2012 - October 22, 2015

@Ravelry

The Almost Finished Norma Blanket

It was the first weekend of October. There was sci-fi on the TV and I’d grabbed a comfy seat on the couch to finish the last few rows of my extra large version of the Norma Blanket. It takes a long time to knit a row that’s 820 stitches around so I settled in for the long haul with snacks and a drink. Thankfully, knitting garter in the round is still faster than working lace. Even though I was keeping track of each row as I knit it, the bound off row snuck up on me. I even double checked that I’d knit the right number of edge rows before starting. 

Instead of a complicated bind off requiring lots of yarns overs or a tapestry needle, the pattern recommends the simple purl two together bind off. Not only is it stretchy, it moves really quickly once you get into a rhythm. I expected to be up half the night just binding off. Nope. Less than an hour after starting, the Norma blanket was off the needles. I took a lot of breaks stretching it out as I bound off each side. 

I had some idea of how big it would be while it was bunched up off needles, but seeing it spread out was something else entirely. The blanket is about 47” across unblocked. It’s bumpy in the middle and lumpy in the way that lace is when it’s fresh off the needles. The edging waves back and forth with thepattern repeats and almost looks too big for the center. Almost. I’m not worried though because, when I stretch the blanket out over my knees, the lace grows and opens up. It’s going to need all the room the edging can give it. 

Blocking has been on hold for the past three weeks while I non too patiently waited for a set of blocking wires to come in the mail. They finally arrived yesterday! Today, I’m taking over the bedroom carpet and stretching the Norma Blanket to its limits. 

How I Won Spinzilla

I started Spinzilla a day late on Tuesday by spinning 1 ounce of a batt. Wednesday, I spun the second ounce and finished the single. I let the twist rest Thursday and Friday. Saturday, I wound the single into a ball to ply it back on itself. On the last day of Spinzilla, I plied and had a lovely new skein of handspun to drool over. 

This year I thought I’d spend a few minutes spinning everyday until the end of the challenge. Enjoying spinning and not rushing the process was the name of game. I also wanted to spin through my stash of batts which, while not large, is enough to play with. Didn’t really happen like that. Certainly enjoyed the spinning and process, but I didn’t spin every day or clear out my batt stash. I spun just the one batt, and an awesome batt it was, into 130 (390 yards with the plying credit) yards of worsted weight 2-ply yarn. 

That one skein was all it took to win Spinzilla. I definitely did not top last years winning total of 20+ miles spun by a rogue spinner, but I did change the rules. Instead of spinning as much yarn as I could in week, I had fun spinning a batt; added a great new skein to my handspun stash; and got excited about spinning again. The weekend before Spinzilla, my bobbins still had leftover singles from Tour de Fleece on them. Other projects - daily drawing, finishing the Norma Blanket, and yoga - took over my time. Spinzilla brought me back to my wheel after a long drought. Now that I think about it, that long drought is probably the reason I wanted to revel in the process instead of pushing to spin, spin, spin. Now that Spinzilla is over I’ve got plans for for new handspun to make, and spinning is going to be a regular part of my routine again. In the end, 390 yards was all I needed to win. 

What was your Spinzilla like? I hope you won too.

In The Middle of Spinzilla

We’re three days into Spinzilla and I still haven’t finished filling my first bobbin. The fiber, a batt from Fairytale Fibers, is lovely, so why am I not filling all my free time with spinning? Simple. I don’t want to rush my spinning. I know Spinzilla is a challenge to spin as much yarn as possible, but there are other priorities higher on the list this year. I want to enjoy the fiber. I want to enjoy the process of spinning. I want to enjoy the ritual of sitting down at my wheel. I can’t do any of that if I’m rushing to make miles of yarn in a single week.

That said, I’m not ditching the challenge part of Spinzilla. Just redefining it. Instead of spinning all the yarn, I’m spinning all the batts and the wilder stuff I’ve got stashed away. There are batts, mini-batts, and mashups of fiber. This is the week I step out of my comfort zone and spin something with texture. Maybe even art yarn which I want to make, but have no idea what to do with afterward. If I happen to spin a mile of yarn doing it, great. If I don’t, that’s great too.

The rest of my goals for the challenge are pretty simple. Spin every day. Don’t hurt myself. Have fun. These are things I can do. 

What are your Spinzilla goals?

Updated Yardage Calculator for Spinzilla 2015

Spinzilla is next week! The deadline to sign up for the annual challenge to spin all the yarn is this Friday, October 2. You can join a team or spin Rogue if you just want to challenge yourself. Spinzilla costs $10 to join and the money goes to support the NeedleArts Mentoring Program which teaches kids spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, and spinning. Signed up? Great!

I've spun Rogue since Spinzilla began in 2013 and I'm doing it again this year. In 2014 I wanted to spend more time making yarn and less time totaling yardage so I made a spreadsheet to do the math for me. I've made a few improvements to this year's version and it still calculates plying credit. The first is that the calculator will now tell you how many miles you've spun. The other improvement is actually a second calculator that converts meters to yards and gives all the same information as the first calculator.

To use this spreadsheet, please click "File" in the main menu under "Spinzilla 2015 Yardage Calculator". To use in Google Docs, click "Make a copy..." To download for use in Excel or as an Open Document, click "Download As".

Thanks and Happy Spinning!