Another Successful Tour de Fleece

I didn’t finish all of Tour de Fleece spinning, but the past 3 weeks have been a great success. Plus I got great yarn out of it. Another Successful Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

I started Tour de Fleece this summer after a long spinning drought. I had set up my wheel and cleaned it, but never picked out anything to spin. Something else always came up. The daily spinning challenge that is Tour de Fleece turned out to be just what I needed to get moving again. I’ve spun for the Tour every year since 2012 and I wasn’t going to skip this one. Three weeks later I’d spun a pound of fiber into 3 skeins of yarn - with leftover minis - and drafted the plies for 5 more skeins. I won’t have a tallied yardage count until after the plying is done, but I’ve got at least 500 yards. Might even have another 500 by the time I’m done.

I picked three projects to spin. A set of mini batts, 2 matching skeins of sock yarn, and an ombre bundle. I didn’t spin every riding day of the Tour, but I finished everything except for plying the bundle. And here I thought I was going to have to pull more stuff out of the stash. Even though I didn’t finish everything on my list, I’m calling Tour de Fleece a success simply because it got me spinning again. The dry spell is over and I’m ready for making yarn to be a regular part of routine again. 

I didn’t finish all of Tour de Fleece spinning, but the past 3 weeks have been a great success. Plus I got great yarn out of it. Another Successful Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

First up is finishing the ombre bundle from Greenwood Fiberworks. When I bought the kit, I thought I’d make one long striped single. Instead, I’m making my own mini-skein kit. I love the colors and will get exactly the kind of yarn I want. I’m aiming for a fingering to sport weight 2-ply and enough yardage to make an extra long stocking cap. Let the winding and plying begin. Then it’ll be time to set the twist on all this yarn with one big washing party. 

Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn!

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

The last week and some change of my Tour de Fleece spinning finally moved to the next step over the weekend. I finished drafting all 6 sock yarn plies and rewound them onto storage bobbins so I could spin them from the same end. I only have 3 regular bobbins for my wheel which wasn’t enough to leave the plies as they were. Also, it was an attempt to hack my brain. If I stopped midway to ply the first skein, I knew it’d be harder for me to sit down and spin the remaining 3 plies I needed. Assembly lining the process definitely kept the motivation going. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I made the last minute decision before drafting the 3rd ply that I wanted to go for an opposing ply construction, 1 ply going in the ply twist direction. The general thought is that this construction makes for a more durable yarn. I haven’t conducted my own tests on the matter though. I’ve spun sock yarn with this construction before and I don’t remember plying being this aggravating. Should have taken better notes. Anyway, I started plying the first skein and it didn’t go well from the first yard. Because one ply shares the plying twist direction, it was hard to tension all the plies equally. It looked like the 2 other plies were wrapping around the opposing ply instead of bonding together. Didn’t look like the most comfortable thing to walk around on. Plus, adding slack to a fine yarn with hard twist meant that I was constantly unkinking the yarn. Ugh. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The second skein a little better since I knew what to expect. The second skein appears to be more evenly plied than the first too. I upped the tension on the lazy kate and made one other change which seemed to help. For the first skein, I plied with the yarn feeding through the left arm of the flyer. For the second, it fed the right side which is the default arm I use. Note: I also drafted the opposing plies on the left flyer arm. I’m not exactly sure why changing which arm of the flyer I used would affect the twist, but I have a guess. Plying on the right arm changed how the yarn fed onto the bobbin and resulted in less twist. Therefore, the opposing ply was able to better meld with it’s companions. I have no idea if this is true, which means I’ll be experimenting to test this hypothesis in the future.

I have one tip for spinning opposing ply yarns which I’ll definitely be using next time around. Spin the opposing ply with less twist than the other plies. When it comes time to ply, the plying twist will give it the remaining twist without creating hard wire. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

So, how did the yarn turn out? Well, it’s definitely wild and not quite what I was I was expecting. That’ll teach me not to sample first. Maybe… I was aiming for 700 yds of fingering weight yarn. Some sections are fingering but there’s more heavy fingering and sport weight though. I haven’t set the twist yet either so there’s a good chance this yarn will bulk up a lot in the bath. At least the ~330 yards I have are enough to knit socks for size US 14 feet.  

I was also trying for a striped yarn. The parts of the beginning of the skeins definitely are, but there’s more marl than stripes. Oh well. I knew going into this that trying to line up the colors on 3 different plies was going to be a hassle. At least both skeins match so I got that part right. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

There was a good chunk of extra yardage with the same twist leftover that I ended up chain-plying. It’s 52 yards of gorgeous. Kinda wish that the rest of the yarn looked more like it. Next time. 

Tour de Fleece 2016: Sock Yarn Challenge

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge. | withwool.com

It’s the second week of Tour de Fleece and I’ve spun a lot of yarn. Definitely far more than I expected to for this point in the tour. In the first 5 days, I drafted, plied, and skeined 200+ yards of bright colorful goodness. I’ve haven’t stepped away from the wheel since I’ve also been spinning the 6 plies I need to make 2 matching skeins of sock yarn. I am so glad I did all the prep work for this handspun before the Tour. It’s made the whole process go so much faster. Here’s how that went. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge. | withwool.com

I was checking out the local yarn shops in town and found these blue, tan, brown, and white beauties. The mystery wool isn’t the softest stuff, but it would make a good durable yarn if spun the right way. The Bearded One liked the colors so I picked up 8 ounces to make him sock yarn. 8 ounces is probably overkill, but 4 certainly wasn’t going to be enough either. Spinning 2 skeins of matching sock yarn seemed like a good challenge for Tour de Fleece so I pulled the fiber when it came time to prep. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge. | withwool.com

I was rather surprised when I opened up the braids to find finger-sized top instead of the regular bundle. I love spinning pencil roving, which has a similar diameter, so this was pretty awesome. After a little trial and error, I found the color repeat and laid out both braids the same way. The top was dyed in just such a way that I could evenly split it up for 6 plies without breaking the color sequence. Perfect. The repeats aren’t a 100% match, but they’re close enough to work. 

A little digging - thank you, internet - told me that I’ve got Northern Lights Top from Louet. Northern Lights has been on my “spin it” list for a while so this is all a happy coincidence. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge. | withwool.com

Next came the hard part, storing the top so that I spin it all in the same direction. Don’t want to mess up the colors after all. My plan was to spin a yarn that striped when the colors matched. I’m not trying to make the colors line up perfectly, just make sure that they end up in about the same place. A little blending is A-OK. I pulled my never before used storage bobbins out and wound all the top on them in the same color direction. Then I kept the original braids together by stringing the bobbins on the cables from my interchangeable knitting needles. When it came time to spin, all I had to do was grab a bobbin and get going. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge. | withwool.com

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The spinning has been pretty easy and really fast too. When I made sock yarn during Tour de Fleece 2015, each ply took me 3 days to finish. Now I’m knocking them out in a few hours over the course of a day. Woo! Opting for the opposing ply construction again - where 1 ply is spun in the same direction as the plying twist. I finished the plies for the first skein on the 7th, and I’m so close to finishing the last ply today.  

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

There’s one more step before I start plying. I’m rewinding the plies onto storage bobbins for two reasons. One, I don’t have enough bobbins for my wheel to spin 6 different plies at once. Two, I’m hoping that by plying from the same end of the yarn as I started, that the colors will match up better. Let’s see if I’m right. 

Off To The Races

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece kicked off 5 days ago and I’ve been at the wheel for every one of them. It’s been an absolute blast. I’ve gone stash diving, spun yarn that’s been on my list for way too long, and am pushing myself to become a better spinner. The Tour came along at the right time to be the perfect motivation I needed to get going again. It’s been months since I’ve spun anything at all, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until now. 

Since I’ve taken such a long break, I picked 3 projects I thought I could tackle in 3 weeks. The first is something that I’ve wanted to spin since last year, a 2-ply yarn barber pole yarn with one solid ply and one wild variegated ply. I bought a 2oz set of random mini-batts from PineRiverKnits last year just for this purpose. To go with it, I set aside an equal amount of Ashland Bay merino in logwood. Then I put it all together in a bag, and that was the prep.

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I started spinning the batts right after breakfast on Saturday. I didn’t want to fuss over the color progression, so I grabbed batts without even looking at them. The bigger ones I split in half lengthwise and worked the smaller ones as they were. There was so much color bundled up in every one! All of them were so fun and so easy to spin that I was sad when they were gone. Then I wasted no time spinning up the grey ply. My hands still felt pretty good and a had a couple of hours to myself, so I started spinning the first sock yarn ply. That first day of the Tour was really productive.

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I didn’t have quite the same output on Day 2, but there was still plenty of plying. I use a jumbo flyer and bobbin for plying because I can get 4+ ounces on it without a hassle.  The yarn was beautiful and plying was going really well until I started running out of grey. I started plying a little slower in hopes that the grey would last a little longer. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I couldn’t help myself. There was still half an ounce left of the batt ply when I finally used all the grey. I wanted as much yardage as possible out of this one skein so drastic measures were taken. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Having 2 flyers for my wheel made this really easy. I took the jumbo flyer and the front maiden assembly off and replaced it the standard flyer and maiden. No cutting of yarn required. Then I spun another half ounce of grey and let the twist rest for a couple of hours. Once I switched out the flyers again, I was back to plying. There was still a little bit of the batt ply left, but I pliedit with itself. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I am absolutely thrilled with this yarn. It’s lofty and cushy and soft. The colors are way outside of what I would usually pick for myself, but I love how they interact with the grey. The yarn is thick and thin, ranging from sport to bulky weight. I can’t get the idea of using it for a trianglar or crescent-shaped shawl out of my head because it seems like the best way to show off the colors. I’ve got about 206 yards to work with which is probably enough for a small shawlette. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Now I’m putting all of my spinning time into this sock yarn. One ply left for the first skein and 3 to go for the next. Spinning these is going much faster than I expected. I might be spinning more than 3 projects after all. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Getting Ready For Tour de Fleece 2016

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

It’s officially summer which means it’s almost time for Tour de Fleece, a spin-along that runs alongside the Tour de France. If I’m being honest, both summer and the Tour snuck up on me this year. How is almost July? I’m not complaining through since I love summer and a reason to spin for 3 weeks straight. Tour de Fleece starts on July 2 and runs through the 24th, same as the Tour de France. The only tour “guideline” that I abide by is to spin every day and take breaks on the 2 rest days. There are also specific challenge days with the goal of spinning something difficult. For me, every day of Tour de Fleece is a challenge. I use this event as a time to improve my spinning through practice and trying new things.

The Tour de Fleece Ravelry group is the best source for info and a great community too. Check it out if you’re interested in spinning along this summer. Plus, here are my 5 tips for prepping for Tour spinning. 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

2016 will mark the 5th year I’ve spun-along with the Tour. The first 2 years I used spindles, but since getting my wheel, it’s been my weapon of choice. There’s less than a week left to prep, but I only need to do 3 things. First, I need to give my wheel some love. I haven’t waxed or cleaned my wheel since moving from the humid Pacific coast to a much more arid climate - it could definitely use some attention. While I’m at it, I might as well clean my other tools. I recently picked up some second-hand cotton hand cards and a drum carder - both need a good detailing. 

Second on my prep list is picking what I want to spin and prepping the fiber so that it’s ready to go. Well I’ve picked my projects, but still need to prep so that they’re ready to go on Saturday. The last thing on my list is joining a team. I’ve only spun rogue, aka spinning without a team, in the past, but want to change that this year. Any recommendations? 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

I’ve got one big goal this year, spinning more sock yarn. I spun my first skein of the stuff during last year’s Tour de Fleece. Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough yardage out of it to make socks for the Bearded One, and now that sock yarn is mine. So I’m going to spin 8 oz - which is overkill, but I will have enough - to make 2 matching skeins of sock yarn. Still need to settle on a yarn construction though. 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

My second project is for fun. I love the look of 2-ply yarn makes where one ply is a solid color and the other ply is a mix of wild color. I’ve got some adorable mini-batts and gray roving to create my own version.

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

My third project is this ombre pack from Greenwood Fiberworks. My original idea was to spin it as one long gradient single. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m really tempted to spin each color by itself and make a mini skein set. Then I’d pair it with an equal amount of a solid color for easy stripes.  

If I manage to do all that, I’m going to dig into my stash of alpaca and try my hand at that too. Tour de Fleece is going to be a fun and busy 3 weeks. Are you spinning for Tour de Fleece too? What are your goals?

Going Cold Sheep

After coming to terms with the overwhelming enormity of my yarn stash, I’m going cold sheep. Going Cold Sheep | withwool.com

Let’s play a game called “Find The Knitter”.  

Done? Awesome. That’s my 5’6” self standing behind the majority of my yarn and spinning stash and I can only just see over the top. I’m not standing on my tippy-toes either. Had I piled on those WIP bags and roaming skeins, I’d be well hidden. 

Hello, my name is April and I have a yarn…storage problem. After several years of separation and a recent road trip, the bulk of my yarn stash, my recent yarn and fiber acquisitions, and I have finally been reunited. I knew I had a lot of yarn thanks to my Ravelry catalog, but I’d gotten a bit fuzzy about the exact scale of the stash. The boxes are currently stacked behind me and they make a rather impressive wall. All the clear tubs are full of yarn. The two bags at the very top are stuffed with handspun. The green bins are holding my fiber stash. Plus, there are those 3 bags of poly-fil I’ve picked up over the years. 

I’m glad to have it all but, honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming. Though I do like the idea of being able to build a literal yarn fort. Fort Yarn would be quite cosy too. That said, effective immediately, I’m going cold sheep. The only rule is don’t buy more yarn or fiber. I might give myself a few more rules and an exception or two as time goes on but not yet. 

I’m also trying to let go of the idea that I have to knit or do something with every skein and cone of yarn. It is perfectly okay to give the stash a good toss and donate/sell/give-away the yarn that I’m not in love with anymore. Like some of that stuff that I bought when I first started knitting and don’t want to use anymore. I want a well-curated stash off yarn and fiber that I can’t wait to play with, not something I feel obligated to use. 

Wish me luck and a bit of will power too.   

Self-Striping Travel Goodness

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

It’s almost surprising how much knitting I get done when I actually work on a project. I’m traveling this week and somehow convinced myself to only pack one project, a pair of toe-up socks. Unlike my last sock project which lingered for months, this pair is going pretty fast since I'm not just carrying them around in my purse.  Some credit for my voracious knitting goes to the the self-striping yarn by TurtlePurl Yarns. I keep thinking that I’ll finish just this stripe. Then that I might as well start the next one. And repeat. Add in bits of down time and a simple 2x1 rib - my favorite for self-striping yarn - and I've got most of a sock. Or parts of two. I’ve been jumping back and forth between the two and working on whichever was shorter. It’s how I combat second sock syndrome which seems to work most of the time. 

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

Since this is self-striping yarn, I don't want skew the color repeats with a gusset and heel flap. The plan when I cast on was to knit a toe-up tube and drop in an afterthought heel. For whatever reason, matching the stripe pattern and coming back to knit the heel seemed like a lot of work. So, I’m doing an afterthought leg instead a la Cat Bordhi’s Houdini Socks. An afterthought leg and an afterthought heel are the same amount of stitches and the same steps, but a different order. What seemed like work was continually checking if I had enough yarn to knit the heel starting with the right color.

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

The first foot is almost finished and the only thing left to do is close up the heel with kitchener stitch. It’s a happy coincidence that the heel used most of a stripe repeat and I’m almost back to the the green I need to start the leg. This afterthought leg thing just keeps getting better. 

The Perfect Face Washcloth

After years of searching, I finally found the perfect pattern for a knitted face washcloth. The Perfect Face Washcloth | withwool.com

There are plenty ofthings I should have been doing yesterday: cleaning, designing, making phone calls, etc. Instead of doing any of those things, I cast on for something fun, the Mini Almost Lost Washcloth. The pattern popped up in my Pinterest feed and was too cute too resist. I’ve been on the hunt for a good face washcloth for a while and this seemed to fit the bill.  Plus, it was small so that meant it would go fast, right? 

After years of searching, I finally found the perfect pattern for a knitted face washcloth. The Perfect Face Washcloth | withwool.com

I pulled out my leftover balls of cotton & my favorite washcloth needles, picked out a color, and cast on. This pattern is the definition of potato chip knitting. Each of the wedges goes so fast that I have to knit the next one, and next one, and the next one. Even better, one wedge uses up exactly one color repeat which makes this knitter very happy. You’d think I’d planned this, but it just a happy accident and a perfect use for my last bit of discontinued Dishie Multi.  

After years of searching, I finally found the perfect pattern for a knitted face washcloth. The Perfect Face Washcloth | withwool.com
After years of searching, I finally found the perfect pattern for a knitted face washcloth. The Perfect Face Washcloth | withwool.com
After years of searching, I finally found the perfect pattern for a knitted face washcloth. The Perfect Face Washcloth | withwool.com

I ended up making a few mods as I went. One, I used the long tail cast-on which I won’t do again because it puts the tail in the wrong place to cinch up the center. Two, instead of binding off and sewing the ends together, I picked up stitches from the cast-on and closed it up with the three needle bind-off. The bind off took the place of the last knit row which made the join almost invisible. 

All said and done I used about 15 yds (about 8g) of yarn and the finished cloth is about 4.25” from point to point. It hasn’t gone through the wash yet though. I ended up getting exactly what I wanted in a face scrub: quick to knit, scrubby texture, and just the right size. I’m going to be making a whole stack of these…after I finish my to-do list. 

Pattern: The Mini Almost Lost Washcloth by Sandy Tieman

Yarn: 15 yds (8g) Knit Picks Dishie Multi - Nettle

Needles: US 6 (4.0mm)

Date: June 6, 2016

@Ravelry 

Giving 2-At-A-Time A Second Shot

My first attempt at knitting two-at-a-time felt like wrestling an octopus. I gave it another try and decided the technique wasn’t that bad if paired with the right project. Giving 2-At-A-Time A Second Shot | withwool.com

I've tried knitting two-at-a-time before. The exact details of the project are fuzzy - maybe it was a pair of socks - but I do remember not being fond of the technique. Learning to knit with double pointed needles felt like holding an ornery hedgehog. Trying to knit a pair of socks at the same time on one long circular needle was like wrestling an octopus. After that initial attempt, I didn't bother trying two-at-a-time again as it seemed more frustrating than useful. 

Let's jump to 2016 when I was in the middle of knitting the Gramps cardigan. When I cast on, it seemed like a great idea to start with the sleeves and skip second sleeve syndrome. That first sleeve went quickly, but I couldn't finish it until I knew what cable row I'd have to match on the body. So I started the sweater body and knit to the join. Then I added the necessary rows to the sleeve and put the two together. My satisfaction of having something that looked sweater-like was short lived because the sleeve was too long. Ugg. I tinked back, removed the sleeve, and ignored the whole thing for a day.

My first attempt at knitting two-at-a-time felt like wrestling an octopus. I gave it another try and decided the technique wasn’t that bad if paired with the right project. Giving 2-At-A-Time A Second Shot | withwool.com

There was a fair bit of math involving gauge, cable repeats, and cuff ribbing, but I figured out how to get a perfectly sized sleeve. Then I ripped out sleeve #1. Knowing that I was essentially knitting three sleeves didn't appeal. For once, trying to knit two sleeves at the same time seemed more appealing than slogging through them one at a time. I'm blaming The Knitmore Girls podcast for putting the idea back in my head.

This video tutorial from KnitFreedom about how to cast on for two-at-a-time was the least fiddly that I found. Still, the first couple of rows were like wrestling with an octopus. There were strands of yarn and dangling cables everywhere. A needle tip even flicked up and winged me in the face. This only made me more determined to wrangle the sleeve beast. Thankfully, things did calm down after the first couple of rows. Knitting the sleeves went reasonably quickly and wasn't a complete slog either. The thought that I'd essentially be knitting 5 sleeves if I messed up this pair did occur to me. Fortunately, the sleeves turned out the right length this time around.

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Since working sleeves two-at-a-time went so well, I decided to try knitting a pair of socks the same way. To be fair, the only reason I did was because I couldn't find my second 2.0mm circular. Casting on would have been easier if I'd started both socks at the same. I added the second sock to the needles when the first toe was almost finished. By the way, I do not recommend this. I've since put a few more rounds on these socks and I'm not loving the process. Maybe it's the stitch count. Maybe it the cable on the circular needles I'm using. Maybe it's how often I have to untangle yarn. All of these frustrations are adding up and it feels like wrestling an octopus again. These socks are supposed to be purse knitting: easy to pick up and work on for a minute or two at a time. This pair is anything put. The good news is that I found my other 2.0mm circular so each sock will get it's own needle ASAP.    

Knitting two things on the same needle has proved itself to be a mixed bag. It was great for making matching sleeves without having to psych myself up to make the second. Though trying to knit two socks at the same time is everything aggravating that made me ditch the technique in the first place. Two-at-a-time isn't going to become my default way of knitting pairs of everything, but I'm not throwing is aside either. It's great for knitting pairs of small things: baby sweater sleeves, ear flaps for hats, or softie parts. I'm definitely going to use the technique again, just matched with the right project. Octopuses are awesome but I don't want to wrestle one every time I knit.  

Frogging Day

Ripping out knitting get a bad rap, but it's worth the aggravation. - Frogging Day | withwool.com

The first half of the week was full of marathon knitting sessions. I worked up a lot of yarn but was still left with several tangle-prone balls. To save me from later headaches, I busted out the winder to rewind the yarn into tidier packages. The before and after is always super satisfying. That done, I decided to rip out a few projects I was never going to finish. First up was a striped cat that's been without a head for years. Then a pair of socks that had been waiting for me to turn the heels for at least a year. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I decided to film the sock frogging on a lark. Then I couldn't resist editing the video to make it look like it was magically knitting and frogging itself. I love living in the future.

Ripping out knitting get a bad rap, but it's worth the aggravation. - Frogging Day | withwool.com

When all was said and done, I'd reclaimed 3 balls of Koigu KPPPM, two balls of mystery yarn, 2 stitch markers, and my missing 2.0 mm circular. Ripping gets a bad rap, but this just goes to show that you can get good results - and more yarn - once you're past the aggravation. 

Ripping out knitting get a bad rap, but it's worth the aggravation. - Frogging Day | withwool.com

Before I put the winder away, there was one last skein to take care of. I picked up this skein of Happy Fuzzy Corrie Sock last year and have been trying to decide what to do with it. Well, its time has come and I've got big plans for this yarn. More on that soon. 

FO: Gramps Cardigan

Adorable baby sweaters and adorable! I made the Gramps Cardigan as a gift and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. FO: Gramps Cardigan | withwool.com

My secret knitting is no longer secret! The sweater can get its time in the spotlight now that it’s arrived at its new home. If I hadn’t been keeping this a surprise, it would have shown up several times and probably with a poem titled ‘An Ode To Ripping’. I haven’t written said poem but could have thanks to all the inspiration knitting the sweater gave me. All the frogging aside, the Gramps cardigan turned out to be a lovely sweater that I was proud to give to a very good friend and her new baby.

Adorable baby sweaters and adorable! I made the Gramps Cardigan as a gift and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. FO: Gramps Cardigan | withwool.com

When I was trying to decide what to make, I had to cross blankets off the list because I didn’t have the time. A hat or booties didn’t seem like enough, but a sweater seemed just right. After a couple hours looking through baby sweater patterns on Ravelry, I picked the Gramps Cardigan by Kate Oates. The finished sweaters all looked really cute. Plus, I like the idea of dressing up babies in vintage “old-man” style sweaters. Sold. I ordered the yarn, knit a swatch, and cast on. 

The knitting was pretty easy and the cables were fun to work once I got the pattern in my head. All the times I had to rip were my own fault for not reading ahead. I ripped because I didn’t like how I’d handled the cable pattern next to the neck decreases. I ripped again because I knit the first sleeve before knowing where I’d have to match up the cable patterns and said sleeve turned out way too long. I ripped a third and forth time because I kept messing up the short row shawl collar. Tinking short rows worked in 2x2 rib is not my jam, but binge watching Haven helped get me through it. 

Adorable baby sweaters and adorable! I made the Gramps Cardigan as a gift and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. FO: Gramps Cardigan | withwool.com
Adorable baby sweaters and adorable! I made the Gramps Cardigan as a gift and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. FO: Gramps Cardigan | withwool.com

It’s been awhile since I’ve blocked a sweater and it wasn’t as complicated as this one. The cables definitely needed some tidying up and the shawl collar needed a little preening too. It got a good bath with a capful of Eucalan before I squeezed all the water out that I could. I was holding my breath when I unrolled it and did my initial measurements so I could block it to size. It hadn’t grown, or shrunk, and the sleeves hadn’t added any extra inches. Whew. I used my blocking wires and this tutorial from Tin Can Knits to get the cables looking crisp and even. The wires also added just the right amount of structure to support the shawl collar while it dried. 

Adorable baby sweaters and adorable! I made the Gramps Cardigan as a gift and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. FO: Gramps Cardigan | withwool.com

The last step was sewing on the buttons which I did after the sweater had dried. Then I just had to mail it and it got there just in time. Now, I’m not saying this sweater has baby summoning powers but I’m not going to explicitly deny it either. 

The Specs

Pattern: Gramps Cardigan by Kate Oates 

Yarn: 363 yds Cascade 220 Superwash - Citron

Needles: US 6 (4mm) Circulars

Date: April 12 - May 12, 2016

@Ravelry

FO: Colorado Socks

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

The yarn I used for these socks has taken a very long, circuitous journey. I bought it on a trip to Denver way back when in 2012 and it came back home with me to Birmingham. It hung out in my stash for years and made good friends with all my other sock yarn. I can’t remember whether it was the part of the travel-stash I hauled cross-country when I moved to LA or if I hauled it out later. Either way, it was a beautiful part of the stash. However, it wasn’t until I knew The Bearded One and I were moving to Colorado that the yarn was ready to be a pair of socks. 

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

I had this grand idea that I’d cast on, knit the pair up in a flash, and wear them the day we drove into the state. I totally could have done it too if I’d actually worked on them more than once in a blue moon. The yarn was gorgeous and the pattern simple so the socks hung out in my purse. They made pretty good waiting in line knitting and stuck in traffic knitting too. I put a few rounds on them and turned the heels while binge watching Netflix, but they were mostly purse knitting. Other yarn and patterns kept me busy at home. When we finally did drive across the Colorado state line, one sock was finished and I was lackadaisically knitting the cuff of the second. Then there was there that 2 week period where I couldn’t knit at all. Boo. 

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

When I could knit again the urge to finish all the things took over. The last few inches went fairly quickly at fiber guild meetings, in line at the DMV, and binge watching Haven. I didn’t even even in the ends before I pulled the pair on. After all the waiting, they were just as warm and cosy as I’d hoped.

I did eventually weave in the ends and wash the socks. The pair went on a set of blockers after I squished out all the water which I don’t usually do with non-patterned socks. The ribbing definitely wasn’t as giving when I put them on afterwards - expected, but surprising annoying. Turns out I really like pulling on snug socks. I’m hoping another bath will return the ribbing to a stretchier state. 

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

Even through I didn’t finish these socks in time to wear them for the move, I’m really glad they’re done. Now the grand plan is to wear them tromping around Denver.  

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

The Specs:

Pattern: My own toe-up vanilla sock with 2x2 ribbing and an alternating band on the cuff

Yarn: 364 yds Sleep Season Goods Sock Yarn - Two Sugars

Needles: 2.5 mm circulars 

Dates: December 13, 2015 - May 9, 2016

@Ravelry 

After months of knitting I’m so happy to have these socks on my feet instead of my needles.   FO: Colorado Socks | withwool.com

Review: Stranded Magazine #1: Warm Weather Issue 2016

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

I first heard about Stranded Magazine back in March when I was reading Andi Satterlund’s blog Untangling Knots. I’ve enjoyed reading Untangling Knots for years and I’m always interested in knitting magazines, so I signed up for the Stranded mailing list. When the first issue was released I went through the look book. The photos were beautiful and the styling hooked me since it reminded me of my own recent cross-country trek through the Southwest desert. There was a good variety of patterns ranging from shawls to tops to mitts. A few clicks later and it was downloading.

On The Pages

Stranded opens with all the usual magazine content and then gets down to business with an interview with Cirilia Rose about designing commercial yarn. There’s a tutorial about cabling without a cable needle, an essay about the perils of packing the right knitting for trips, and a 101 about how to start English Paper Piecing. The photos for the tutorials are clear and large enough that I can zoom in to get all the un-pixelated details. There are also ads but there only 6 in the entire issue.

The bulk of the magazine is all about patterns. It is very clear, even just skimming through, that the 6 patterns are part of a collection. There is a unified color palette of warm oranges, yellows, and blues that definitely evoke a summery vibe. They’re also geared toward’s being road trip knitting. There are small and large projects, simple and complicated projects. That said, the patterns appeal to both warm and cold weather knitters. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Rabbitbrush - a cropped, short-sleeved cardigan - is exactly what I picture when I hear Andi Satterlund’s name. It’s perfectly styled as an extra layer over a dress. Satturlund has one other pattern in the collection, Median, which looks plain from the front but has a lace panel running down the back. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Route 99 - a turban-inspired hat that uses slipped stitches - couldn’t be from anyone except Lee Meredith. It’s a bold and graphic take on a simple technique that’s been pushed to a new level by an interesting construction. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com
Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

I’m usually drawn to triangular and crescent-shaped shawls, but Bottle Cap by Erin Birnel has gotten my attention. The lacy stripes seem like the perfect showcase for a variegated yarn or one with a long gradient. Pit Stop, a pair of fingerless mitts also by Birnel, have grown on every time I’ve flipped through the mag. The pattern uses less than 100 yards and I can’t help but think I’d like a pair for when my hands get cold at the keyboard. Plus, I can think of a few people that would like a pair.  

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!  Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Interchange Socks by Ariel Altaras was the first pattern to catch my eye in this issue. I am firmly in the toe-up sock knitting camp and the socks are cuff-down but the pattern seems easy enough to flip around if you’re so inclined.

Every single one of the patterns includes a clear schematic in metric and imperial as well as several “lifestyle” and close-up detail photos. It’s nice to see that all the pieces actually seem to fit the model too. There’s no weird bunching or sagging where there shouldn’t be. The patterns are written in a mix of line-by-line instructions and charts as needed. Thankfully, the more complex charts take up an entire page so they’re easy to read. If you hate working from charts, fear not, they’re all written out line-by-line too. With the exception of the mitts and shawl, all the patterns include a number of sizes. Both tops are written in 7 sizes from XS to 3X and the Route 99 hat is easily customizable for both circumference and depth. I would have liked to see a third size on the Interchange socks though. 

When you want to print the patterns and stuff them in your project bag, all the ink eating, extraneous stuff - photos, schematics, descriptions, and supplies - is kept to the first few pages so you can print just the instructions. There’s even a handy note in the table of contents so you can print what you want without scrolling through the entire magazine - that’s a small detail that I really like. 

Screen Time

So, since this is a digital magazine, how does this all look on the screen? Initially, I set it up to view as a 2-page spread on my 13” laptop and full-screened it so I could get the magazine experience. The photos were beautiful, but the text seemed small and occasionally cramped. I had to zoom in to comfortably read the articles, then zoom out to see the full-page photos which killed the typical magazine experience for me. However, reading the magazine on a tablet or phone as the 1 page spread was a much better experience. The photos were beautiful and easy to read. On a tablet, the text was much easier to read and I’m used to zooming in to read text on my phone anyway. 

Final Thoughts

There were two reasons that I bought this issue. The most obvious is that I liked the patterns and wanted to make a few of them. Good, relatable styling helped too. The second is that I wanted to support a magazine with a model that I would like to see flourish more often in the knitting industry. When you buy a copy of Stranded, you get every article, tutorial, and pattern included in it’s pages for $16. Getting 6 patterns for $16 is a pretty good deal with you do the math. What’s more, is that every designer get’s a portion of that $16 from every magazine sold in addition to their flat payment for creating the pattern. Yes, it’s a more expensive than the usual knitting magazine but both the knitters and the pattern designers win.

I’m looking forward to the second issue, Mild Weather 2016, and to see how Stranded evolves in the future. Definitely take a look whether you like to knit for warm or cold temps.


Title: Stranded Magazine: The Warm Weather Issue 2016

Released: April 2016

Schedule: Published 3 times a year

Format: Available only as a PDF download - no print option - and only through April 2017

Price: $16

Where to Buy: Directly from their website, strandedmag.com, or through Ravelry (no account required)

*All photos copyright Andi Satterlund. 

FO: Precipitous Cuffs

The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com

I’ve been a little lazy updating Ravelry with project details and recent stash enhancements. Part of the plan for this week is to photograph fiber and update my stash catalog. I’m bribing myself into doing the work with knitting on a fun new project which is working pretty well.  As I was scrolling through my project page, I realized that I’ve never talked about the last few things I made as gifts in 2015. That’s the problem with secret knitting - sometimes it easy to forget to talk about it after it’s been given away and the festivities are over. Fixing that right now. So, here’s the Precipitous Cuffs I knit for my Mom and a friend.  

The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com

I had some difficult criteria to match while picking out stuff to knit for gifts. The pattern had to be relatively quick to knit ( I was on a holiday gift knitting deadline); use yarn I already had; and be small enough to pack in a suitcase for the flight to visit my folks. Plus, the recipients had to like it too. Enter Precipitous by Hunter Hammersen. I had a dark charcoal yarn which would be perfect. Partway through this first pair, I realized my Mom would like a pair too. While these weren’t the hardest things to knit from almost black yarn, I was glad to make the second pair in golden yellow. They were both pretty quick to knit too even with all the twisted stitches.

The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com
My thanks to @HunterHammersen for sharing this blocking trick. Instead of graph paper, I made a template to get the 5 points evenly spaced and sized. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com

After I’d bound off, I knew blocking was a necessity. There was no way the points would be distinct or that the twisted stitches would pop otherwise. Plus it would help even out the stitches on the increase rows and ribbing. I wasn’t sure how I was going to block these until I saw this neat trick using bottles and graph paper on Violently Domestic. Finding the bottles was the easy part. The hard part printing the 5 pointed star template so I could block both mitts of a pair to the same size and angles. Thankfully, the ink didn’t bleed onto the yarn during the whole process. 

The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com

It is so easy to see the difference yarn choice can make on a project after both pairs were dry. The gold pair is made from Knit Picks Gloss, a merino/silk blend, and the charcoal pair is made form Knitted Wit Gumballs Fingering which is 100% merino. I knit both pairs on the same needles and, aside from a few extra rows on the cuffs of the gold pair, the two pairs are the same. Row gauge and stitch gauge are definitely different. The gold cuffs have a lot more drape because of both the looser gauge and blend of fibers. The charcoal pair has body and memory because they were made from a firmly spun wool yarn at a tighter gauge. When I took the pair off the blocking rig it held it’s shape, and I didn’t knit bullet-proof fabric.

The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com
The kind of yarn you use matters! I used 2 different yarns to make 2 pairs of Precipitous cuffs on the same needles, and got two wildly different finished projects. - FO: Precipitous Cuffs | withwool.com

Of course I had to try them to make sure they would fit. They both passed with flying colors, and now I’m tempted to make myself a pair. Not sure if I want drapey cuffs or a no nonsense kind of pair. Either way, the pattern doesn’t use much yardage and I’ve got plenty of sock yarn leftovers. Just need to pick out the right needle size and get to knitting. 

The Specs

Pattern: Precipitous by Hunter Hammersen 

Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss - Honey and Knitted Wit Gumballs Fingering - Carbon

Needles: 2.75 mm and 3.25 mm circulars

Dates: November 15 - December 3, 2015

@Ravelry 

Yarn Storage - Boxes To The Rescue

Cardboard boxes to the rescue! I don’t have shelves yet, but these boxes will do the job until in the meantime. Yarn Storage - Boxes To The Rescue | withwool.com

Know what I had stacks of after I unpacked from moving? Boxes. Know what I had none of after unpacking? Shelves. 

I was so happy to get my yarn, spinning fiber, and tools unpacked that I was completely fine dumping it all out on the floor. The giant piles of yarn and fiber, pretty as they were, got old fast. What’s the point of unpacking if you still have to rummage around for 5 minutes to find something? So everything went back into the boxes with one big change.

I taped up the bottoms, pushed the top flaps in, and stacked the boxes along the wall. The boxes aren’t pretty - and are far from Pinterest perfect - but they’re functional which is what matters. There’s a spot for fiber and handspun. There’s room for notions, and yarn, and WIPs. There’s room for the bigger stuff like my Sidekick and yarn swift too. I even have a dedicated shelf for knitting and spinning books above the stack. I can see everything and get to everything. After years of having to having to put stuff wherever I could find the space, it’s amazing to have it all in one spot. I’ll get some real shelves eventually, but these boxes work perfectly for now. 

FO: Fructose Hat

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Don’t let the green leaves in the background trick you. I finished knitting and blocking this hat just in time to wear it for the weekend’s snow. 

When I moved to Los Angeles, I only brought one hat knitted hat with me, the Slouchy Babe. That was fine for awhile because it never got cold enough to wear it. Then I moved to San Francisco, the land of fog and rain, and actually needed a hat. Slouchy did it’s job admirably, but I got bored of only wearing one hat. But not bored enough to actually cast on for another hat until I moved again. Road trip knitting is a definite necessity after all. Alex Tinsley’s Fructose had been near the top of the queue for awhile and I already had the yarn picked out, a sparkly handspun single. I cast on the week before the cross-country drive and stashed it in my purse for the trip. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com
Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Fructose turned out to be the perfect project. It was simple enough to let me knit while checking out the scenery and easy to come back to after navigating or putting it down for the night. I knit while we drove across stormy Donner Pass. I knit round after round across deserts, salt flats, plains, and mountains.  Sometimes I took it out just put in my lap and stare out the window. I put a few more rounds on it after The Bearded One and I were unpacked. Then I couldn’t knit for 2 frustrating weeks which is why it took a month for me to finish. The hat’s worth the wait though. It’s warm, cosy, and cute too. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

I spun the yarn, a blend of Columbia and green Firestar, during the 2015 Tour de Fleece. I only had 2 oz of fiber so I decided to keep it as a single. It’s definitely not my most consistent handspun but the thick and thin created great texture within the ribbing. Going to file that trick away for the next time I knit with wild or wild-ish handspun. I haven’t given up on the #handspunchallenge and this hat is only making me want to knit with more of stashed beauties.

When I cast on I was a little worried that the sparkle from the Firestar would be overwhelming. It’s not though. The Firestar adds mottled color and only up close does the glint of the fiber come into play. Glad I didn’t shy away from it and skip the sparkle. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Pattern: Fructose by Alex Tinsley

Yarn: 138 yds of sport weight handspun

Needles: US 6 (4 mm) circulars

Dates: March 5 - April 8, 2016

@Ravelry

Knit All The Things!

There was a terrible, no good, absolutely rotten time when I could not knit or spin because of stitches and doctor’s orders. Thankfully that time is now over! To make up the two weeks when all I do was longingly pet yarn and plan what to do with it, I’ve been finishing and casting on for all the things.

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

My almost finished Fructose Hat was the first thing I picked up after my stitches came out. I was working my way through the crown decreases when I had to put it down. Knowing that I was so close to a finished hat that I could’ve been wearing was incredibly annoying. All that was standing between me and a finished hat was a few rows of decreases. It was so tempting to finish the hat during my knitting hiatus - doctor’s orders be damned - but I didn’t. Thought about it though. 

Anyway, the hat and I went out to lunch Friday. I was 4 rows away from cutting the yarn and pulling it through the last stitches when my food arrived. Hunger and tasty Indian food won out so the hat had to wait until I got back home. Worth it. I still need to wash and block the hat but at least the knitting is done. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

With the hat off the needles, I pulled out a cone of cotton and cast on for the Garterlac Dishcloth that I’m modifying to make a kitchen towel. I’ve knit this pattern before and it does great things to variegated yarn. The last cloths were a gift and it’s past time to make some for my own kitchen. 

This is only the second or third time that I’ve knit entrelac and it’s still addicting to make square after square. I don’t even mind picking up stitches to do it. Shocking, I know. Plus, each square has been pretty good bribery. Whenever I cross something of my to-do list, I get to knit a square. Makes for slower knitting, but a completed list at the end of the day.  

This time around I cast on using the increasing base triangle method which starts with just one stitch. It’s not any easier than casting on all the stitches for the bottom edge in one go, but it is a lot more flexible. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

These socks have been hanging out in my purse for way too long. They’re still purse knitting for the time being because there’s still a few inches to put on the second cuff. If I can put in a few rows between garterlac squares, this pair should be on my feet soon enough. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

And the most recent cast on. I’m swatching for a secret project so this is all I can show you for a bit. I can say that it involves some fun cables.

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

I might be going overboard with the knitting to make up for the two week hiatus, but I regret nothing. I had a winding party Monday night and wound these three skeins of Malabrigo Chunky in Frank Ochre. The plan for them is to knit the Vertigo Cowl; I feel in love with the shop sample years ago but didn’t get the yarn until last week. Once I finish that green swatch, casting on for Vertigo will be my reward. Sounds like good bribery to swatch right?

Interweave Yarn Fest 2016

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

Normally I hear about an interesting yarn/spinning convention/festival, find out it’s a day’s drive away, decide NOPE, and do my best to forget about it. Not this time. I’ve been looking forward to The Interweave Yarn Fest since I realized I’d be able to go without needing to spend a day in the car or book a hotel room. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any classes this year - and a few of them were really tempting - but that didn’t stop me from doing a little stash enhancement. 

I walked into the marketplace with a vague plan. I was looking for yarn and buttons for 2 projects and new types of fiber to spin. There was no shortage of yarn or fiber, but after doing my first walk around it was all fiber that really caught my eye. Then I got caught up in a whirlwind of yarn fumes until I escaped out the front door. I stuck to my shopping list, but looking at all of my fiber purchases now, I’ve realized that I bought something that satisfies every reason why I love to spin. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com
I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love trying my hand at spinning new fibers. I’ve spun lots of wool but only a few ounces each of cashmere and alpaca. So, one of my goals for this year is to expand my fiber repertoire, and now I’ve built the stash to do it. I’ve got yak/silk, llama/silk, and merino/silk. Apparently, I really wanted to spin silk this year and didn’t know it until now. The blue roving is 100% mohair. I even splurged on an ounce of ultra soft paco-vicuna. Looks like I’ve got a pretty full year ahead of me.

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love spinning color. I was walking by the 100th Sheep booth when I spotted this amazing blue and rust colored roving. There was no way those colors weren’t coming home with me. The 6oz of blended roving looked amazing spun up and I couldn’t resist it either. Note: The ball of roving is a big as my head.

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love learning new yarn constructions and new techniques. The handy Fiber Preparedness Kit packed full of punis, dyed locks, and roving seemed like a good way to branch out from my usual 2-ply. As for the firestar, there’s a drum carder coming my way and I want to make some sparkly batts. 

The market was also full of handspun and handspun-looking yarns. Inspiration and motivation was everywhere you looked. There was handspun with beads and coils. There was handspun that showcased color. There were absolutely gorgeous crepe constructed yarns that I want need to learn to spin. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love fun spinning and batts are fun spinning. This absolutely giant 8 oz batt (Ysolda’s Mousie for scale) fit the bill perfectly. I can’t wait to start tearing into that thing. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I only bought 3 skeins of yarn and none of them were for projects on my list. One of them was a secret gift and the other two, well, I’m a sucker for beautiful grey -  Stone Walk by Western Sky Knits - and a good gradient - white to purple by OgleDesign. Enough said. 

Now that the yarn fumes have faded, I’m happy I went. I came home with yarn, fiber, ideas, a ton of inspiration, and even a pair of earrings. Looking forward to going back to Yarn Fest next year. Until then I’m going to keep an eye for other fiber events to go too. What are your favorite festivals?

My Favorite Chain-Plying Trick

Mugs, cups, and cardboard tubes make it so easy to take a break when you’re in the middle of chain-plying handspun. | My Favorite Chain-Plying Trick - withwool.com

I love chain-plied yarn. I love how plump it is compared to 2-ply yarn. I love how it keeps the clear distinct color of the single and fiber. I love how I can take one single from one bobbin and ply it into something that looks like it came off of three. 

What I don’t love is stopping in the middle of chain-plying, and not because it breaks the rhythm. If you’ve never chain-plied yarn before, the process is a lot like making a crochet chain. Make a big loop from a single piece of yarn, use your fingers to pull another loop through the first, then add twist. Repeat until every single yard is plied. Making a new loop and pulling it though the old one allows you to work with 3 strands at a time instead of 1. The result is a plump, cushy yarn. Nifty, right?

The problem comes when you need to take a break and let go of the open loop. All the twist comes along and closes the loop which needs to be open so you can pull another loop through and keep plying. I always hated untangling that twisted mess, so I waited to chain-ply until I had long stretches of uninterrupted time. Sometimes the single had to sit on the bobbin for awhile until that Netflix marathon came along. Thankfully, I figured out a way around that on my last chain-ply project.

I couldn’t fit all 4 oz of fiber on one regular bobbin and had to finish drafting the single on a second. There was no way I could hold the loop open, get up, reach over to the lazy kate, find the end of the single on the next bobbin, sit back down, and join the two ends together. I don’t have enough hands for that. I needed something to hold the loop open for me and my favorite cup came to the rescue.

Mugs, cups, and cardboard tubes make it so easy to take a break when you’re in the middle of chain-plying handspun. | My Favorite Chain-Plying Trick - withwool.com

I slipped the loop over the bottom of the cup and put it on the table. Voila! The working loop stayed open and the next loop in the chain hung out of the way. Plus, that next loop could still be adjusted for length. Wish I thought of this earlier. Now I can ply for smaller chunks of time, take more breaks, and give my arms a rest.

If you’re getting to up to grab something to drink or calling it a night, a toilet paper tube or any lightweight tube works just as well. I’m keeping a cardboard tube in my spinning kit from now on for this exact purpose.

Happy spinning!

Mugs, cups, and cardboard tubes make it so easy to take a break when you’re in the middle of chain-plying handspun. | My Favorite Chain-Plying Trick - withwool.com

Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

This is part 3 in a series reviewing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarns Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

When last we left our intrepid handspun, it was still on the bobbin and plotting it’s escape… I’m pretty sure the grand plan was to look really pretty so that I’d have to skein it up. Well, it worked because I couldn’t resist anymore. I used a swift to wind the skein and popped it off to get a better look at the yarn. The neps and clumps of wool, which has been the determining factor for how the yarn was spun , were still visible but didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, the neps along with some uneven tension they created during plying gave the handspun a bit of rustic charm. The chain-plied single was both distinct and rather plump. Plus, It didn’t look all that different from a yarn drafted with a more conventional method.

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

I quickly measured the wraps per inch, and dunked it into a cool bath with Eucalan for about 20 minutes. The water had a slight blue tinge, but the yarn didn’t leave any dye on the white towel I used to squish out extra water. Then I snapped the yarn across my arms a few times to even out the twist. Those steps are all part of my usual yarn finishing routine. On a lark, I decided to also give the yarn a few good thwacks against the shower wall with the thought that it would make the neps less visible. Then I hung the yarn to dry overnight. 

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

There’s a reason I only sometimes “thwack” handspun, and this yarn is a perfect example why. Thwacking definitely made the neps less visible but it also changed the yarn’s surface. The distinct “plies” relaxed which means that a lot of the finer details were lost. The bloom also gave the yarn a bit of a halo - great for hiding neps but at the cost of making the yarn a little prickly. I’m not particularly sensitive to prickle, so I could still wear this yarn next my neck, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a cowl. The yarn, and the roving it used to be, was definitely softer before it got a good thwacking. If you like the character neps can add to a yarn, just snap the yarn to even out the twist and hang it up to dry. 

There was one other change to the yarn after finishing, wraps per inch. Before getting a bath, the WPI averaged 7-8 which put into into the aran-bulky range. After washing, the yarn was definitely a bulky weight at 7 WPI. Pre-bath measurements also told me that I had about 158 yards but I’m sure there’s less now that the yarn has plumped up. If I’m doing my math correctly, that would mean I turned 294 yards of pencil roving into a 474 yard single.

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

Since we’re talking about a chain-plied yarn, here’s where two of the chains linked together. This bulky change is actually an exception in the skein because I was able to find it. In spite of the thick and thin nature of the single, the joins between links are generally invisible. It probably helps that I made fairly large chains, usually 18” or longer.

The other good thing about making long chains while chain-plying a single with a distinct stripe pattern is that it helps colors shift from one to the next without muddying them. While most roving is one long length that’s been dyed, Rainbow Roll is a combination of pre-dyed wool carded in stripes. Check out these photos of Noro’s yarn being made to see what I mean. Sometimes the color is solid and other times a heather where colors overlap. Chain-plying helped blend those two different kinds of color.

I got so caught up in how to deal with neps, that I forgot to mention vegetable matter earlier. There was some VM, but not much and it was easy enough to pick out. I also noticed a small amount in the bottom of the sink when I took the yarn out of the bath. The roving definitely didn’t feel dirty while I was spinning it. 

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

Now that I’ve got a fresh skein of handspun in the stash, what’s my verdict? Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing. Figuring out how turn a nep-filled roving into yarn without hating every second of spinning it became a puzzle I had to solve. I’m absolutely thrilled with the yarn Rainbow Roll became, but I know the process required to get there isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It was frustrating before I found a solution and afterward the spinning never did go to autopilot. Nor was this the kind of project where I could do anything I wanted. The fiber called the shots 100% and completely changed my original plan. If you want autopilot spinning where you’re in control, pick something else and save the Rainbow Roll for knitting or weaving. Just don’t tug too hard. If you're up for some focused spinning, Rainbow Roll will certainly fit the bill.