Finally! Soft Alpaca Handspun

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

After many long months and countless other projects, I started feeling the itch to get back to spinning yarn. I hadn’t sat down at my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in 2017! Pretty sure my Sidekick was starting to feel a little lonely, and I can’t have that. My last project was 4 ounces of alpaca that I’d turned into batts on a rented drum carder. I spun the batts during Tour de Fleece and set them aside to let the twist relax a little before plying. I just never got to the plying part so the singles have been looking pretty on my shelves since then.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

Since the singles were the closest thing at hand and the easiest thing to spin (plus I had to clear my bobbins), they went on the wheel first. Not wanting any leftovers, I decided to ply each single with itself which meant winding each into a center pull ball. Happily, not one of the single broke during winding, and I wasn’t particularly gentle with them either. I’m not going to lie here - I was worried that the plies had too much twist because they didn’t pull apart. Weird thought for a spinner to have, I know, but my previous attempts at spinning 100% alpaca didn’t turn out great.  At least this batch of alpaca was still soft at this point.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

My last alpaca handspun turned out wiry and over-twisted which I did not want to repeat. After all, I only had this fiber in my stash for 10 years because I didn’t want to mess it up. So that I’d have to work to add too much plying twist, I went with a slower ratio for me, 5.7:1. Even though the drafting twist had been resting for several months, which could have skewed things a bit, I still aimed to line up the individual fibers and create a balanced yarn. Mostly pulled it off, and the newly plied yarn was soft and not wiry at all. Whew!

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

I didn’t wash this fiber before turning it into batts which I probably should have because I was cleaning up dirt and VM, and washing my hands every step of the way. I did my usual 20 minute soak with Eucalan and the water was so dirty that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink. There was no missing that dirt ring though. It took 3 soaks for the water to finally run clear. After squeezing out the excess water, I lightly snapped the yarn but skipped thwacking it against the shower wall because it already had enough of a halo.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

The yarn looked pretty limp and sad when I hung it up to dry, but that changed fast. I suppose this is the reason why you spin samples first.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

All 4 skeins bloomed into an airy, plump, and positively luscious yarn. Not one of them was wiry or prickly or over-spun. There’s definitely some thick-and-thin spots but it’s reasonably consistent overall. Plus, getting rid of all that dirt made the yarn even softer which I didn’t think was possible. Washing and setting the twist had some other side effects too. Before washing, 2 of the skeins were a DK weight and 2 of the skeins were about worsted weight. All of them plumped up to a light bulky weight of about 7-8 WPI. Of course, this changed the yardage too. The 313 yds I started with turned into 264 yards, a difference of about 15%. Totally not complaining though.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

So now what? I’ve finally spun soft alpaca yarn which is a first for me and a long time goal. Definitely going to knit it into some sort of cowl or small shawl because there’s plenty of yardage to play with. Maybe something based in garter stitch with a simple lace pattern. Or I could just keep wearing it as is. :D It is really soft after all. I’m also thinking about submitting the best skein of the 4 to the handspun competition at a local fiber festival - that is if I can figure out all the rules and requirements.

Finished: The Owl In The Thicket Hat

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com

It seems like I say this every year when I finish a new hat, but this is my new favorite hat. It’s soft, warm, and perfectly slouchy. There’s even cables and owls with beaded eyes for good measure. The only thing I’m kicking myself about is that I didn’t cast on until a year after I’d bought the yarn! Still I’m glad it’s finished and just in time for weird spring weather. Will it rain? Will it snow? Look out the window to find out.

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com   

The pattern, Owl in the Thicket by Sara Huntington Burch, was a great challenge. This hat is all about the details and required lots of attention. Aside from the ribbing, there were only a handful of rows that were the same in the entire pattern. I had a lot of fun knitting it, and now I want work on more complicated projects. It’s nice to break out of the auto-pilot knitting every once in a while. And the knitting didn’t actually take all that long because I had a hard time putting it down. I just got hung up on how to block the thing which I’ll show in more detail in my next post.

I splurged on a skein of the recommended yarn, Anzula Cricket in the Lenore colorway, which I don’t do often. The benefit and responsibility of having a large stash means I usually shop from it first. The reason I splurged is that Cricket is a blend of merino and cashmere with a beautiful luster. The yarn was wonderful to work with and the semi-solid dye job added the right amount of detail. I’m glad I didn’t pick out a darker color because then all the cables would have gotten lost which would have been a complete waste.

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com   

The yarn and cables certainly go a long way towards making this my favorite hat, but the pom-pom is what really makes it. I add pom-poms to stuff on a case-by-case basis. They’re cool, but not always necessary. Not this time. The pattern sample looked so good with a pom-pom, and my hat just looked so lacking without one. So I made a very large and in charge pom-pom, but how to put it on? This pom was pretty weighty and used 5 yds of yarn! I didn’t want it to pull the hat out of shape or for it to look tacked on. The answer turned out to be a .5” button. I used this tutorial for how to attach a removable pom-pom. Now, I have no intention of wearing the hat without the pom or taking it off (except maybe to wash it). The button gives the pom somewhere to sit, and that little bit of extra structure makes all the difference.

Now to wait for the weather to get cold enough to wear this beauty. I might not have to wait long with this random weather.

The Specs:
Pattern: The Owl In The Thicket by Sarah Huntington Burch
Yarn: 190 yds Anzula Cricket - Lenore
Needles: US 4 - 3.5 mm
Dates: January 11 - March 11, 2018
@Ravelry

New (Free) Pattern: The Windbreaker Hat

The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting | withwool.com

The Windbreaker hat got the chance to live up to it’s name this weekend. The Bearded One and I trekked through the falling snow, wind, and 19 degree temps to run errands and grab lunch. Every minute outside, the hat kept his head warm and the wind out. No cold ears here.
 
Windbreaker is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Seriously. It fits both me (22") and the Bearded One’s 24” noggin. The secret to this stretch is that the hat, even the cables, are based in 2x2 rib. This has the added bonus of making the hat an easy knit while the cables keep things interesting. And thanks to the long brim, Windbreaker can be worn as a slouchy hat or with the brim folded for an extra layer against the cold.

The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting | withwool.com
The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting | withwool.com

The pattern uses worsted weight yarn, and this hat is made with less than one skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca (Oceanic Mix). Both written and charted instructions are included for the cables and crown decreases. The pattern includes two sizes, medium and large, and an option to work a longer section of cables and a shorter brim.

Add it to your queue and favorites on Ravelry!

Sizes: Medium (Large) - Shown in size Large which fits a head circumference up to 24" (61 cm)

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) 40" circular needle (for magic loop) OR 16" circular needle and DPN's

Gauge: 13 sts and 13 rows = 2" (5 cm) in 2x2 rib, unstretched

Yarn: 130 (145) yds / 119 (133) m worsted weight yarn. Shown in Berroco Ultra Alpaca - Oceanic Mix.

Notions: Cable Needle, Tapestry Needle

Sign up to the With Wool Weekly newsletter to get the Windbreaker pattern for FREE. You’ll also get news about new patterns, blog posts, tutorials, and a roundup of fiber arts links. Plus, get special discounts and bonuses just for subscribers.

With Wool Weekly

Spam is bad. There's none of that here.

17 Fiber Arts Things That Made 2017 Great

I’ve enjoyed making lists since I was kid and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I wanted to write up a 2017 review, but couldn’t muster up the energy or motivation to write about in paragraph form. So, I’m taking a page from Austin Kleon’s blog and making a list of the knitting and spinning that made 2017 great. Somehow the 2017 list was 17 items long without any extra help from me.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

1. The Bearded One and I going to our first fiber festival, Estes Park Wool Market.

2. Completing 100 Days of Spinning where I spun and worked with handspun yarn for almost all of those 100 days.

3. Putting in the work to design more knitting patterns. Most of them didn’t make it past the layout stage, but they’re so close to being released in 2018.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

4. Releasing the Melded Scarf, a free pattern for a striped reversible scarf, in February.

5. Knitting a Boneyard shawl with my own handspun yarn.

6. Mostly staying on the sheep and being more conscious about my yarn and fiber buying. The stash is still worthy of the name Yarn Fort, but it hasn’t taken over any more space.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

7. Spinning along with Tour de Fleece for the 5th row in year.

8. Pushing my spinning boundaries to try new batts and more textured yarns.

9. Going to Interweave Yarn Fest.

10. Finally playing around with the drum carder and figuring out how to use it.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

11. Digging into my fiber stash and spinning a beautiful gradient from one giant batt. 8 matching skeins!

12. Taking my first ever spinning class about different ways to spin color with Maggie Casey.

13. Going to meetings and being a member of my local fiber guild.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

14. The KIS hat and Mosaic Sisters patterns being used to teach classes on color work and mosaic knitting respectively.

15. Getting a whole room to use as my studio where I can work and get to all my art supplies, yarn, books, and notions. Wanted this for years so it’s great, but scary too.

16. Developing a new appreciation for hats knit with fingering weight yarn.

17. Wearing and enjoying my own hand knits. And seeing the Bearded One wearing and enjoying his hand knits too.

The Last Knits of 2017 and Then Some

You wouldn’t know it by the snow falling outside, but it’s 2018 and the frenetic season of gift knitting is over and done. Well, not done for me. There’s still a few unfinished projects still on the needles, but they’re smaller things. Still, I am happy with what I did get finished, and it’s no small amount of knitting.

Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com
Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com
Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com
Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com

This is the second time I’ve knit the Elder Tree Shawl as a gift. One of these days I’ll make one for me. The pattern can be subtle or so so dramatic, especially if you add beads to every leaf. I used a single skein of Colinette Jitterbug which made a shawl-ette perfect for wearing tucked in to a coat. I also added beads to the picot bind off for extra sparkle.

Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com
Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com

I wasn’t sure what to make for a friend of mine, so I asked her what she wanted. She requested baby socks. Funny how well asking works. I picked up 2 skeins of Patons Kroy Socks FX, each a different color, and got to work. The charts in Kate Atherley’s Custom Socks where really helpful for getting the measurements I needed once I knew the length. As for the pattern, I used my my own basic toe-up recipe and sized it down. Both pairs came out pretty cute if you ask me, and there’s room to grow too.

Scarves, hats, shawls, and socks - 2017 saw a lot of gift knitting. | withwool.com

I tried something a little different last year and put something for myself on the gift list too, the Owl in the Thicket hat. It wasn’t a reward for finishing everything else, but a gift for myself because why not. I bought the pattern and the yarn a year ago and never made it to casting on. So I pulled out one of my favorite knitting bags and made a kit. I wound the yarn, printed the pattern, got the right needles, put the beads on my Fleegle beader, and gathered all the notions. While I didn’t actually cast on until after New Year’s Day, it was so nice to have that kit ready and waiting. I’ve finished the brim and am a few rows into the body charts. It’s been awhile since I’ve knit such a complicated chart, and I’m enjoying the change of pace. The yarn is lovely too. Why did it take me a year to get started!?

As for the stuff I didn’t finish, the first projects was a pair of socks for the Bearded One. Still working on the cable design for that one. The other is a hat which I’m halfway through designing. Plus, there’s a handful of ornaments from previous years which I haven’t started yet. At least I have a plan. Is anyone else finishing up their gift knits in January or getting on with the new 2018 knits instead?

A Christmas Nautilus + A Break

Weird ornaments are the best ornaments. #knitting | withwool.com

The fiber guild’s last meeting of the of the year is a break from the usual routine. We have a potluck and play white elephant with handmade ornaments. For the potluck, I brought pumpkin spice cookies. For the ornament exchange, I decided to go cute - weird cute - and made a nautilus.  Actually, I made 2 of them because I wanted one for my tree too.

Weird ornaments are the best ornaments. #knitting | withwool.com

I used the Nautie pattern from the Spring 2006 issue of Knitty. To get a smaller version, I used leftover DK and sport weight yarn instead of worsted which made nicely-size ornaments. I’ve got the full list of mods and changes here if you want to make your own. Both the Nauties are about 5.5” from the back of the shell to the tip of the tentacles. You can’t miss them on the tree. I still have to embroider 2017 on the one I kept, but that shouldn’t take too long.

Now, back to the exchange. I’m glad I went with the nautilus instead of a more traditional idea. The nautilus got a lot of laughs and ooh’s and aah’s. It was also “stolen” a few times which did make me happy too.

Weird ornaments are the best ornaments. #knitting | withwool.com

The nautilus’ are far from last FO for 2017, but the others are still a secret. I’ll share them with you next year when I come back from my holiday break in mid-January. Until then, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. Maybe it be full of beautiful yarn!

Weird ornaments are the best ornaments. #knitting | withwool.com

A Handspun Boneyard

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve wanted to knit a Boneyard Shawl for years. Not with the burning desire that makes you drop everything and head to the yarn shop, but when I eventually found the right yarn. Eventually is the key word. I wanted a variegated yarn that’d be fun to knit and fun to wear. I’d know it when I found it. I didn’t find that perfect yarn because I ended up spinning it during the 2017 Tour de Fleece. It’s a thick-and-thin variegated mix of greens, blues, and browns. The skein is one of my favorite yarns that I’ve spun this year, and was thrilled that I had enough yardage to make something big out of it. Well, bigger than a hat anyway.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

With 260 yards of aran weight to work with, I knew it was finally time to cast on for a Boneyard Shawl. So I did, and it was a fun knit. The shawl was so hard to put down because it was good auto-pilot knitting and I wanted to see what color would come next. The only change I made was to switch out the m1’s for lifted increases.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The only trouble came when I was trying to figure out how much shawl I could knit. There were still a few yards left and I didn’t want to waste any of them. So, the Boneyard sat on my desk for months, mocking me, while I worked on other projects. The shawl would probably still be sitting on my desk too if I hadn’t needed a break from all my holiday gift knitting. I’d knit 7 ridges already and decided to start the edge and see how far I got. A few tv shows and an inch of garter stitch later, it was time to bind off. Why did that take me so long to do? Ugh! At least I made the most of the yardage.

It may have taken years to find the right yarn and also a good bit of procrastination, but this Boneyard Shawl is just what I imagined. It's cosy, just the right size to wear under a coat, and special. Also, it feels good to knit with my own handspun in the same year that I made it. Who knew?

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The Details
Pattern: Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
Yarn: 253 yds 2-ply aran weight handspun
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dates: August 20 - December 2, 2017
@Ravelry

Monogamous Knitting For The Win

A little bit of monogamous #knitting works! I knit a scarf and hat in 2.5 weeks.  | withwool.com   

I did it! Two and a half weeks of monogamous dedicated knitting turned into cabled scarf and a matching hat. It’s nice to know I can still speed my way through a project or two every now and then. Why the rush? The scarf and hat were gifts for a friend visiting over Thanksgiving and I wanted to give them to him in person. Nothing like a hard deadline to light a fire under under your butt.

A little bit of monogamous #knitting works! I knit a scarf and hat in 2.5 weeks.  | withwool.com

I spent way too long trying to pick out a pattern which is part of why I cast on at the last minute. Nothing seemed quite right, and I was just about to give up and design something myself when the Palindrome scarf popped up. Easy reversible cables? Yes, please. I knit this pattern way back when as a newish knitter and was pleased with the results then. And I’m pleased again with this latest version. The only difference this time is that I made a few mods. The scarf started and ended with 2.25” of ribbing. I added an extra cable repeat for width. Plus, cable twists happened every 8 rows for a looser cable.

I can’t leave out the yarn’s wonderful contribution either. Normally, I wouldn’t choose Ultra Alpaca for a cabled project because the alpaca/wool blend wouldn’t have the same crisp texture as a 100% wool yarn. I wasn’t worried about that in this case since the purls would be “hiding” and not acting a background for the cables. The blend created a beautiful textured fabric that is perfect. And warm. Did I mention warm? The main reason I picked a wool/alpaca blend was that it’d be worn through winters with regular snow, wind, and freezing temps.

A little bit of monogamous #knitting works! I knit a scarf and hat in 2.5 weeks.  | withwool.com

And because the weather required it, I made a matching hat. I did end up coming up with a pattern for this beauty at the last minute. My original plan was to have both the scarf and hat finished before he arrived. That didn’t quite happen. In fact, I knit most of the hat in front of him and figured out the crown decreases on a drive through the mountains.  Then I gave it to him mere moments after weaving in the ends. The look on his face was totally worth it.

I am absolutely smitten with this hat pattern. So much so that I’m writing it up with a few more sizes so I can knit at least one more for myself or as gifts. I’m all for versatility. In the meantime I’m getting on with the rest of my gift knitting and making. Since monogamous knitting has been working for me, I’m going to keep it up. Thankfully, the rest of my projects are on the small side so I won’t get bored and can power through.

The Pattern: Palindrome Scarf and a hat pattern I’m writing up
Yarn: 3 skeins Berroco Ultra Alpaca
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) circulars
Dates: November 5 - 24, 2017
Scarf details @Ravelry
Hat details @Ravelry

 

A New Hat For Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Specs:

Pattern: Regina by Alex Tinsley

Yarn: 239 yds Knit Picks Hawthorne - Picnic 

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

Dates: May 8 - August 10, 2017

@Ravelry

Definitely Feeling Groovy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pattern: Feeling Groovy by Nim Teasdale

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

Needles: US 4 (3.25)

Dates: December 16, 2016 - July 5, 2017

@Ravelry

Tour de Fleece 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intentional Spinning vs. Playful Spinning

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’ve really enjoyed spinning and working on the epic green yarn. It’s pushed me to be more consistent with my drafting. It’s made me be more intentional and focused on the details because I can’t spin 500+ yards of fingering yarn otherwise. On the whole, the project is going well. I’ve finished the first round of sample skeins and I’m in the middle of swatching to see how they knit up. Then I’ll spin another round of sample skeins if I need to make changes. Which means at least another round of swatching before starting on the final skein. Glad I’m not on a deadline because this handspun is not a quick project. 

In the downtime between steps for the epic green yarn, I worked on a few smaller spinning projects too. The main goal of my #100HandspunDays project is to spin every day, and quick projects I don’t have to continually measure and refine let me do that. Plus, I get to play and spin to see what happens instead of working towards a specific result. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playful “spinning for the joy of it” as much as “spinning for a specific project”. Each of those projects scratches a particular spinning itch. Sometimes I want to play and see what happens. Sometimes I want to take notes at every step while I spin a specific yarn for a specific project. These two opposites feed and encourage each other. I’d get bored only doing one or the other. What about you?

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’ve spun a few skeins (and a few mini skeins) when the green sampling wasn’t filling up all the bobbins. The first started as a wild batt that I bought in 2016, and didn’t get a good luck at until I opened it up this month. The colors moved from yellow, to orange, and then pink with random bits of sparkle mixed in. Sunset, anyone? I wanted to preserve the colors so I split the batt into strips, pre-drafted the fiber, and spun it in order. After spinning so much time working towards a smooth, fingering yarn, it was hard to let the fiber do its thing. I picked out the veggie matter, but didn’t do anything else. The ply was thick and thin with random clumps. Chain-plying only magnified those qualities. 

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I talked my self out of taming the yarn so many times, and I’m glad I did. The 74 yards of more-or-less bulky yarn are so fun to look at. I’m glad I didn’t take the life out of this yarn. Now I get to figure out what to do with it.

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

One of my other small projects is much closer to what I normally spin. One ply is a wool/silk blend of blues, purples, and grey. I paired it with a solid grey to get more yardage. The colors are subtle, but the silk pops and catches your eye. I had leftovers of the wool/silk and plied it with itself to make a mini skein. I want to use the two yarns together for a project and the combined 160 yards gives me a lot of options. The pair might make a nice hat or fingerless mitts with extra long cuffs. 

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’m still swatching the sample skeins for the epic green spin (really like what I’m seeing too). I’ve got time to spin a few more small projects, but I’m going to switch things up a bit to prep for Tour de Fleece. #100HandspunDays officially ends on July 4, and one of my goals was to learn to make batts on my drum carder. I haven’t even touched the thing yet so this week is all about playing and making batts. Then I get to spin them when Tour de Fleece kicks off on July 1. Sounds like a good plan to me. 

The Inseparable Duo

Rebecca Danger’s patterns never let me down with I need a cute gift. Say hello to Beatrice and Bernard! | withwool.com

I knew I was going to have leftover yarn. Not a tiny little ball I could put in my hand and post to Instagram tagged #socute. Nope. After binding off the February Baby Sweater, I had about 125 yards to work with and I want to make something cute to match. I thought about booties and hats but shelved the idea. I wanted something that could be used and enjoyed for more than a few minutes before being tucked away in a drawer to keep safe for later. A cute, soft toy seemed like just the thing.

Rebecca Danger’s patterns never let me down with I need a cute gift. Say hello to Beatrice and Bernard! | withwool.com

Every toy I’ve made from a Rebecca Danger pattern has been a big hit. Like this cat that’s now a favorite. And this tiger. I picked The Inseparable Beatrice and Bernard this time because they’re adorable and not too big. The fact that the duo is a relatively quick and easy project might have had something to do with it too. Didn’t hurt that I already had the right safety eyes too. 

I knit the arms and tail first just to get the fiddly bits out of the way. Knitting the bodies went fast once I actually sat down to do it. I followed all my usual mods, which I’ve listed on the Ravelry project page, and ended up with 2 adorable buddies. And who could resist that cute bunny tail!

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Pattern: The Inseparable Beatrice and Bernard by Rebecca Danger

Yarn: 57 yds Cascade 220 Superwash - Lake Chelan Heather

Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm)

Dates: March 28 - April 28, 2017

All mods listed on Ravelry

The Famous February Baby Sweater

Pithy instructions, a little garter stitch, and a bunch of lace make up the famous February Baby Sweater. It’s a good test of knitting skill too. |    withwool.com

I spent the first few months of 2017 working on secret knitting. It was a baby gift for a good friend of mine, and now that the sweater is at it’s new home, I can share it with you too. When I first heard that my friend was having a baby, I thought about making a blanket. She had plenty of those coming in though so I decided to make a cute sweater instead. After scrolling through page after page of baby sweaters on Ravelry I picked Elizabeth Zimmerman’s February Baby Sweater. The pattern has been in my queue for awhile but that’s not why I picked it. It looked cute and I wanted to make something with lace for a dedicated lace knitter.  

I went into this project knowing EZ’s patterns have a reputation of being, as she calls them, “pithy”. Concise, terse, succinct, condensed… Having made a Pi Shawl a few years ago, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I was mistaken. 

Pithy instructions, a little garter stitch, and a bunch of lace make up the famous February Baby Sweater. It’s a good test of knitting skill too. |    withwool.com

After years of knitting from (and writing) more detailed row-by-row instructions, the 3 paragraph pattern took some getting used to. It wasn’t that the pattern was hard to understand - the gist of it was definitely there - I just had a lot of questions about specific details. So I had to answer them for myself. Thankfully, lots of other people have knit this sweater and I found helpful mods and size charts to make a 9-month sized sweater. Swatching was definitely a requirement. 

Pithy instructions, a little garter stitch, and a bunch of lace make up the famous February Baby Sweater. It’s a good test of knitting skill too. |    withwool.com

Since I was writing more detailed instructions to work from, I made a few of my own modifications to knit the sweater to my own preferences. You can find the full details on the project page.

  • Cast on more stitches and worked fewer rows before starting the first yoke increase row to get a wider neck opening.
  • Switched out the "M1" for "kfb" because it looked neater. 
  • Worked the button band over more stitches and made larger button holes.
  • I knit the body of the sweater flat, but worked the sleeves in the round. After reaching the spot to set up for the sleeves, I knit those stitches with waste yarn and decreased to get the stitch count of the sleeves. Then I came back, picked out the waste yarn, and put the live stitches on the needles to knit the sleeves just like an afterthought heel. Finicky? A little, but I got a neat, seamless join that didn’t break the lace pattern. Totally worth it in my book. 
Pithy instructions, a little garter stitch, and a bunch of lace make up the famous February Baby Sweater. It’s a good test of knitting skill too. |    withwool.com

The February Baby Sweater is definitely worth the effort, and I encourage you to make one yourself. I say this counting the time that I frogged the sweater back to the cast on because I had to re-do the yoke increases. Figuring out how to get exactly what you want out of this pattern is a good test of skill that will up your knitting game. Plus, the lace and garter stitch are an absolutely beautiful combination. I am proud to give this sweater to a good friend who is also an amazing knitter. 

P.S. Since this post has gotten on the long side, I’ll show you what I did with the leftovers next. 

Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles (February) by Elizabeth Zimmerman

Yarn: 317 yds Cascade 220 Superwash - Lake Chelan Heather

Needles: US 6 (4 mm)

Dates: January 18 - April 28, 2017

@Ravelry

A Handspun Purple Gradient

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

And done! The extra long purple gradient I’ve been working on since mid March is finally yarn and ready to knit. I tackled the last bit of spinning and plying last week, and got the handspun off the bobbins on Sunday. Then the later skeins got a bath to set the twist before I hung them up to dry. In fact the bigger skeins were still a wee bit damp when I took these photos.

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

This felt like such a big project when I was in the middle of it. I usually spin 4 ounces at a time and keep it as one big skein. Working with 6 ounces and splitting it into 8 mini-skeins definitely changed things up. There was more upfront prep. More bobbins. More plying. More letting the twist rest overnight. More baths to set the twist (otherwise I would have mixed up the gradient order).  All that extra work tricked me into thinking it was a much larger project than it was.  An additional 2 ounces of fiber isn’t all that much, nor is 6 ounces anywhere close to a sweater quantity of handspun. When I look at the skeins all lined up, they still seem like a big project because I know just how much work, time, and brain space when into making them. Because of that, I’m proud of all 8 of these skeins. They’re the same weight and have the same finished texture. I feel like I can move onto bigger and more involved spinning projects now. Might not be all that long before I start spinning yarn for a sweater. Or a giant blanket.

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

I really enjoyed spinning this fiber, and I wish I could remember the vendor I bought it from. All I know is that it’s wool and that it was one of the last things that caught my eye at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016. I wish I’d put all the details up on the Ravelry stash page when the info was fresh in my mind. Maybe I’ll find the receipt, but I doubt it. 

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

Now for the technical details. Since it had been so long since I saw what was in the middle of the roving ball, I laid it all out flat. Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do before, but seeing the complete color gradient made my decision easy. I split the gradient into its 8 major color sections and wound them into nests, making sure to keep the colors moving in the same direction. I wanted to preserve the colors and variation within each section as much as possible so I decided to chain ply. 

I started with the smallest nest of fiber which just so happened to be at one end of the gradient. Then I treated this first skein as a sample to figure out how I wanted to spin the 7 other bigger skeins. You can read more about that process here.

Once I figured out which drafting method worked for the fiber and the finished yarn, the only thing left to do was to get spinning. This fortunately coincided with the start of #the100DayProject where I dedicated myself to making yarn everyday for 100 days. That little bit of daily spinning, even if it was only 10 minutes, really added up. And the 100 Day Project kept me spinning even on busy days when I would have skipped it otherwise. 

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Almost 2 months later, I’ve got about 560 yards of sport weight yarn. I’m sure that number shrunk when I set the twist, but there’s still plenty of yardage to make a cosy shawl. I have an idea in my head for what that will look shawl will like, and I’m almost ready to get that down on paper. I think it’s time to get swatching.  

The Sockhead Hat

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

I was kicking myself for taking so long to make this hat because it seemed like I’d finish it just to pack it up for next Winter. But then it started snowing the afternoon I bound off. So, I guess my timing was perfect. 

The Sockhead is the first hat I’ve made out of fingering weight yarn. Every other hat I’ve made has been knit from sport, worsted weight or bulkier. Those yarns certainly work up faster, but I also thought they’d be warmer because it’s a thicker layer. This hat, worked at reasonable gauge of 8 stitches an inch, certainly proved that theory wrong. The Bearded One and I went on a spontaneous 8+ mile walk through the falling snow. I wore snow boots, a down jacket, this handspun cowl, and of course the Sockhead hat. Not once did my head get cold even with the wind and heavy snow flakes. 

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com
How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

And the other thing that makes this hat awesome is that it has the perfect amount of slouch. I can fold up the ribbing for a medium slouch (and extra warm ears) or not fold it all for maximum slouch. 

There’s also something to be said to have a hat that looks good with pretty much every coat I own. And having enough yardage leftover to make a matching pair of mitts is icing on the proverbial cake. 

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

I know it’s a lot of “boring” stockinette, but if you’ve got a skein of fancy sock yarn that doesn’t want to be socks or a shawl, consider making a Sockhead Hat. The finished hat is definitely worth the effort. 

The Specs:
Pattern: Sockhead Hat by Kelly McClure
Yarn: 319 yds Rio de la Plata Yarns Sock Multicolor (sadly discontinued)
Needles: 2.5 mm circular needles
Dates: February 19 - April 27, 2017
@Ravelry

FO: Meadow Multi Socks

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

It’s March and it feels a little strange to be thinking about holiday parties right now, but that’s when I cast on for these socks. I needed something to keep my hands busy at a potluck last December and a pair of toe-up socks were just the thing. Then the pair was my constant companion, even if I didn’t always take them out of my purse. They flew cross-country and back, went to movies, binge watched tv, and went skiing with me too. I’ve got a lot of memories knit into these socks even if they are just a simple 2x2 rib.    

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The pattern is my own default toe-up vanilla sock with an afterthought leg. Ever since trying Cat Bordhi’s Houdini Socks pattern, I really prefer it over working an afterthought heel. When you bind off the cuff, you’ve got a finished sock - aside from weaving in ends - that’s ready to wear. That beats having to come back and add a heel any day of the week. 

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The weather’s been on the weird side for the past few weeks. It snowed for a couple of days, and by the end of the week temps were in the 70’s. I didn’t need a jacket, let alone a pair of wool socks. And now it’s chilly again. Weird. At least the socks are ready to warm my toes when it does get cold. 

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The Specs

Pattern: My Default Toe-Up Sock with an Afterthought Cuff

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Multi - Meadow Multi

Needles: 2.25 mm circulars

Dates: December 13, 2016 - February 18, 2017 

@Ravelry

FO: Shawls for Two

I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com

An Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl. These were the 2 big projects I made for the holiday gift knitting rush. I was definitely rushing and around to finish things at the last minute, but these two were first on the list so I wouldn’t stress over them. Staying up late, counting, beads, and an impending sense of doom are not a good mix for me. So, once I’d finalized the knitting gift list and pulled the needed yarn from stash, I started on the Elder Tree Shawl. It was the most complicated project on the list and I didn’t want to rush it. 

I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com

Elder Tree turned out to be a fairly easy knit once I got the pattern straight in my head. Except for this one repeat. It was almost finished and I was all too happy to mark my progress. Then I got to the far edge of the pattern and noticed my stitch count wasn’t quite right. My first inclination was to fudge it and keep going, but no such luck. The leaves were mashed together and I had no choice but to rip back. Still, I didn’t want to lose a night’s progress and tried ripping just that one portion. Probably would have worked too if there’d been enough yarn to work all the stitches. I ripped and reknit that one section 2 or 3 times and it never looked right. So, out came the needles, all of those rows turned into yarn again, and I spent the rest of the night making sure the yarn overs didn’t run away. Worth it. 

I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com

The yarn, Jojoland Melody Superwash, and the lace worked so well together. I happened to have purple beads from a previous project and they were the perfect added touch to the last repeat. This was the first time I’ve knit a beaded shawl and I love the look. Definitely need to add a few to the queue for myself. 

I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com

And now the Myndie Shawl. This pattern is also on the list of things I want to knit for myself this year. Once I figured out how to work the pattern in a heaver yarn, it was smooth sailing. I ended up using way less yardage than the pattern called for, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. Thanks to a firm blocking, this shawl grew from a sad looking lump to beautiful 80” long wrap. 

Knitting a shawl or anything else as a gift can be a stressful and time consuming endeavor, but I’m happy to do it for good friends and family. It’s not something I do lightly either, because every stitch is a declaration of how much I care for and appreciate the recipient. I’m not a human knitting machine after all. 

I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com
I made an Elder Tree Shawl and a Myndie Shawl as gifts for two excellent friends. | withwool.com

Pattern: The Elder Tree Shawl by Sylvia McFadden

Yarn: 431 yds Jojoland Melody Superwash - ms08

Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) circulars

Dates: September 21 - October 9, 2016

@Ravelry

Pattern: Myndie by Ambah O’Brien

Yarn: 358 yds Araucania Nature Wool - 07

Needles: US 8 (5 mm) circulars

Dates: October 10 - 16, 2016

@Ravelry  

Swamp Thing Plied

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

I’ve made a lot of handspun over the years and have a bin full of the stuff. There are skeins I’m intensely proud of. There are beautiful skeins that I have no idea what to do with. There are skeins I made because I wanted to spin. There are skeins I learned a lot from. Then there are skeins that I want to keep on my desk and pet when the urge strikes. Swamp Thing turned out to be one of those. 

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

I finished plying this yarn and the leftovers over a week ago, but was lazy about getting it off the bobbins. I was smitten with it then and when I wound the skein, but it wasn’t until I set the twist that Swamp Thing transformed into my dream yarn. If I saw this at a yarn shop, it would be coming home with me - Cold Sheep be damned. The yarn has body and drape. It’s just the right amount of softness, but still seems sturdy. It has a smooth, lustrous surface with just a bit of uneven texture. And it’s deliciously plump with a pleasant wooly smell. Plus, I’m a complete sucker for grays and earthy greens. I know most this description seems contradictory but that’s my dream yarn. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

And now I’m rethinking my fiber buying preferences. I usually go for hand dyed fiber with distinct, matching colors. The Swamp Thing roving was different. The fiber was dyed with a few similar shades of color and small pops of contrast colors. The colors were mottled across the width of the roving instead of taking up long sections. The end result is a yarn that looks more like a semi-solid than the 2-ply barber pole that it is. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for roving dyed in a mottled style in the future. 

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

There’s one other good thing about this yarn. The roving was 100% superwash BFL which I’ve never spun before this skein. Spinning it was the aggravation the internet lead me to believe. Now I’m not afraid of the other superwash fibers I’ve got tucked away in the #YarnFort. So long as I stick with a short forward draw that I used with Swamp Thing, I might end up with more dream yarn.  

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

Now that the yarn is ready for knitting, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do with all 386 yards of swampy goodness. It’s going to be a hat and mitt set. I haven’t decided on a pattern for either yet. Only that the hat is going to be slouchy and on the simple side. I have to finish my holiday gift knitting first though. At least I can pet the yarn for the next couple of months.  

New Socks For Winter

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

Yesterday was an autumn day when the wind didn’t stop. It roared outside my walls and took all but the most stubborn leaves off the trees. I’m going to miss waking up and seeing branches covered in red and yellow.

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

When I started these socks, it was summer and and they were good travel project. When I bound off the cuffs, the weather still felt like summer. I washed them and tucked them away in my sock drawer for winter. Now that the days are getting chilly I’m glad I didn’t slack off and keep putting these aside for more interesting projects. This pair is another of my basic ribbed vanilla sock pattern. To keep them from feeling like a complete slog since my last pair of socks had a 2x2 rib, I went with a 3x1 rib. It’s not as stretchy, but shows off the random patterning of the colors much better. Also, I’m really glad I don’t have to make all my socks match perfectly. It would have been impossible with this yarn and would have driven me up a wall. 

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

Ya know, knitting socks is an awesome thing to do any time of year. They were one of the things I wanted to make when I first learned how to knit. Even my rage-inducing first attempts with DPN’s could not persuade me otherwise. I’ve lost count of how many pairs I’ve knit over the years and in climates where wool socks weren’t exactly a necessity. Now that I live in the land of snow, wind, and really cold winters, all these wool socks I’ve made seem even better than they did before. 

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com