Friday, April 30, 2010

Be Not Afraid...

Over the last few weeks I've been going through my stash and digging through a lot of fiber that I forgot I had. I've managed to collect around five large rubbermaid bins full of fiber in a variety of fiber blends. Mostly, these are combed tops. Mostly. This last week I turned my attention to the handful of batts I've bought.

Batts are my spinning nemesis. Up to this point, my only positive experience with spinning batts has been in core-spinning. I love using batts for that purpose. However, every time I've tried to spin a batt into a standard two or three ply yarn, my best efforts have ended in disappointment. I'd never even attempted spinning a fine single like I usually would for a fingering weight yarn. Seeing another spinner's beautiful, even handspun created from batts, usually causes me a sharp pang of jealousy.

Recently I decided to do something about it. A short while ago I bought a pair of batts from a fellow Raveler's destash and decided to try my first sock weight yarn.

After untwisting and laying out the batt,

I tore off a strip and just tried spinning straight from it. This method didn't work well for me. Even after tearing that strip into a few much thinner strips I had a very difficult time drafting it out evenly as I was spinning.

Next, I tore off another thicker strip and pre-drafted it out as evenly as possible. This second effort (along with spinning a bit more slowly than usual) worked beautifully.

I don't really like spinning from pre-drafted fiber, but I'm usually using fiber that I've pre-drafted out from combed top. The fiber I drafted out from the batts was actually much nicer to spin, though I'm not sure why. My best guess would be that it's because batts are not as compacted and dense as combed top, so perhaps it's easier to draft them out evenly. Whatever the reason, the second try worked.

Here is the final yarn, spun from a sw merino Funky Carolina Batt in the Oak colorway.

chain plied ~ fingering weight
approx 3.7oz and 356yards

I still prefer spinning from combed top, but now I think spinning the occasional batt will be an enjoyable experience too. Now I need to figure out what my next growing experience as a spinner will be. Longdraw perhaps?

Friday, April 16, 2010


Yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday. It turned out to be a very nice day. In the morning my husband took our daughter to school so I could have a relaxing morning for myself. Throughout the day I received several phone calls and messages from friends and family wishing me a good birthday. Then last night my husband took me out to dinner (just the two of us -which rarely ever happens).

And even though it didn't come by my birthday, my birthday present finally came in the mail today...

Mmmmmm.... Mama Blue. It's a rare and special treat for me. I'm really loving this order, too. I managed to finally get a hold of a skein of Kale (the rich green one at the top), a gorgeous skein of Palomino (the color is the most lovely, buttery shade of yellow) and... a beautiful and coveted skein of Corset (not exactly blue, not exactly purple, but something in between with possible hints of grey). They're all Smart Merino Sock and they're all very nice. I'm thinking that at least two of them will become baby sweaters, but only time will tell.

I'm excited that my birthday has passed. For me it usually signifies the beginning of warmer weather on the Olympic Peninsula. I miss blue skies, warm breezes and long summer days. Since we've moved I've felt lucky to see even 1 or 2 sunny days out of every week we've had. I'm even starting to daydream about getting in a short camping trip before my due date (and before it gets too hot).

Speaking of pregnancy and how it's been affecting life, I'm trying to get in both as much spinning and knitting as I can -while I still can.

The spinning has sort of hit a slow patch. While I have a few different spinning projects in the works right now, I've been working exclusively on one of them, pushing myself to get it done. It's approx. 20-24oz of baby llama. I agreed to spin it for a friend and at this point I've had it (still unspun) in my possession for way too long. It's taken me forever to get going on this project because the preparation of this llama is very rustic and to be honest I really just don't like working with it. Even so, I've been working on it whenever I feel up to spinning over the last week and I'm currently about halfway through it right now. I'm hoping that I'll have a very pro-spinning sort of weekend and that I'll manage to get through the rest of it by Monday. I really want to finish this project because I have such an exciting line-up of other things to spin when I'm done.

The knitting isn't super exciting, but I have been making progress. Right now all non-baby projects have been put on hold and stashed away in the closet. I'm somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way done with baby blanket #1. It's a pattern called Lullaby and I've already knit it twice before. I love it because it's girly, without being too lacy (which for me equals not being durable enough for daily baby wear and tear). I also like the pattern because it's very intuitive and simple to memorize. After that, I think I might take a break with a baby sweater before I jump into knitting baby blanket #2. My only hold-up is finding the right pattern. Mama Blue is to precious to waste on a plain, unremarkable pattern.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Simple Baby Cardigan

A few weeks ago I got together with one of my friends and was asked to knit a 2nd sweater for her 2 month old baby girl. When she gave me a rough idea of the sweater she was hoping for I realized I already had a perfectly-colored handpainted yarn in my stash. At home, I found the yarn, wound it into a ball and began searching for a 3-6 month-sized pattern. I searched through all of the pattern books on my shelves, all of the individual patterns I've collected and even spent some time searching for a pattern on Ravelry. After searching for a few hours and not finding that "perfect pattern" that would work with the amount of yardage and the gauge I had, I decided to work something out on my own.

After digging out one of Paige's old cardigans to use as a sizing guide for a 3-6mo baby sweater, knitting a gauge swatch and doing some quick math, this is what I came up with. (Please note: What follows is just me sharing my experience with putting together a sweater without the use of a pattern. Any similarities between this and any other pattern I'm not aware of are absolutely not intentional.)

Materials I used:
420 yards fingering weight yarn (I used Knit Me Now Handyed Sock Yarn- Chocolate Covered Cherries colorway).
3mm 24" circular needle
3mm dpns (set of 4 or 5)
6 - 1/2" buttons
tapestry needle

Gauge: 7 st to 1 inch

pm= place marker
k2tog= knit 2 together
kfb= knit into front & back of stitch

I began by CO 92 st (I used a long tail cast on, my favorite cast on method for garter stitch)

k 7 rows (or a total of 4 garter ridges)

1st row (RS): k 18 st, pm, k 14 st, pm, k 28st, pm, k 14 st, pm, k 15, yo, k2tog, k1. This row is the set-up row for the increases and the first buttonhole row. For this sweater I chose to make another buttonhole every 8 ridges or 16 rows, at the end of the row on the right side of the work.

2nd row (WS): k 5 st, purl across to last 5 st, k last five st.

3rd row (RS): knit across, making a kfb increase on each side of all 4 markers (increasing a total of 8 st).

Repeat these last two rows until there are a total of 42 st between the 1st & 2nd markers as well as the 3rd & 4th markers. Work one more 2nd (WS) row.

Begin working sleeve: k to first marker, move the next 42 st onto 3 dpn (14 st each) for sleeve. On the end of the 3rd needle and using a backwards loop cast on method, CO 8 st. Join for knitting in the round, being careful not to twist st. After knitting the first round, rearrange the stitches so you have 18 st on the first needle, 14 st on the second needle (across the shoulder) and 18 st on the third needle. The beginning of the round should now start at the center of the underarm. Knit until sleeve measures 3 1/2 in. Then, beginning at the start of the next round, p one row and k the next to create a garter stitch cuff. On the 4th RS-facing ridge, bind off in purl. Cut yarn.

With the RS facing and leaving 12" of yarn as a tail, rejoin the yarn and knit across the back from the finished sleeve to the next set of stitch markers. Work 2nd sleeve the same as the first.

With RS facing, and again leaving 12" of yarn as a tail, rejoin the yarn at other side of underarm and finish working across to end of row.

On the next row (WS), work across to first underarm gap, CO 8 st using a backward loop cast-on; join to back section and work across to second underarm gap, CO another 8 st, join to left front section and work across to end of row.

From this point, continue working the piece in stockinette st, with a 5 st garter border on each end, putting in buttonholes as desired. Work body of sweater to 1/2" short of desired length. Work 4 ridges in garter st and bind off in knit on the WS.

Using the 12" yarn tails, seam underarms together. Weave in yarn ends. Sew on buttons opposite of buttonholes. Wash gently and block as desired.

So, that is it. A cute, super-simple baby cardigan with garter stitch edges. After finishing this one, I can already see a few things that I might change or experiment with the next time around, though, for now I think this one will do.