Monday, July 26, 2010

Mission Accomplished

At the beginning of the tour, I started with this:

Tour de fleece 2010 - 011

And I ended up with this:

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 079

Goal met. Hurray!!

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Field of Screams
11-13 wpi (worsted)
171 yards

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Cold Front
16 wpi (sport)
198 yards

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16 wpi (sport)
296 yards

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Storms of Jupiter
10 wpi (worsted)
141 yards

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Kentucky Derby
10-13 wpi (light worsted/DK)
135 yards

I'm happiest with the Storms of Jupiter yarn, even though it's one of the heavier yarns. This was my challenge yarn and I was really happy with the results.

I'm the least happy with the Shetland.'s crap. It's awful. It's inconsistent and the plies don't want to hold togther at all. This is actually a consistent problem across most of the yarns I have made lately. The two plies don't stick together at all. I make splitty yarn. It seems to me that it means I need more twist per inch, but how do I get that without ending up with an unbalanced yarn? I don't think I can really spin the singles much tighter without kinking. I'm not really sure what to do about this so I'm going to have to do some research.

I finished all of this on Saturday, which meant that Sunday I was free of my spinning obligations. Challenge met, tour over, now I can do whatever I want. So what did I do?

I spun some more. Flush with success, I pulled out a Butterfly Girl bat and spun it up. Spun it, plied it, and washed it, in fact, so hopefully I can photograph it tonight or tomorrow. It's super bulky, but I don't really mind, because it's also totally awesome. It's a blend of green bamboo and black merino and it practically glows. Seriously awesome stuff so even though the spinning was more difficult than I anticipated, I really like the yarn.

This does mean, however, that I am not ready to spin the Blue Morpho versions that I have in the stash. I am saving that until I am good enough to make some really good yarn out of it, because I think it is going to be really, really cool.

I hope I will continue spinning more regularly (although my back pleads, not every night any more).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Super Scientific

It took me a week to spin the first half of the shetland. This weekend, I decided that I didn't want to spend another week staring at that fiber and I spun the other half in, essentially, two sessions, on Saturday and Sunday. Mostly on Sunday, since I actually spent part Saturday finishing the first half.

I can see from putting the two bobbins side by side that my super-scientific method of folding the length of top in half and splitting it at the center point did not give me an even distribution of fiber across bobbins. It may be time to buy a larger scale. I have a really cheap one that is exactly big enough to fit a ball of yarn and nothing more. Not really effective for fiber measurements, so I pretty much eyeball everthing.

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 053

I'm actually pretty okay with these two being uneven, since I suspect the singles at the beginning of that first bobbin probably aren't that great anyway, since it took me a while to figure out they didn't have enough twist to hold together properly.
The second bobbin actually probably has a lot more twist than the first, because I was annoyed, and trying to spin quickly, which means I had to fight the urge to run the wheel like an exercise bike (sometimes...I didn't fight it).

I've continued knitting the Maia shawl every time I could come up with a reason not to be spinning (such as "My back hurts!" "I'm tired!" "I HATE THIS STUPID FIBER!").

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The pattern directs to repeat chart E 5 times, and in this photo I had done exactly one row of the fifth repeat. I think I'm going to do two extra repeats. For one thing, I have a crap-ton of yarn - the pattern calls for something like 400 and I have somewhere around 700. Also, my yarn is slightly lighter than a normal fingering weight and I'm using a size 4 needle (the pattern directs a size 5) since that's what I used with this yarn last time and I was happy with the results (also, I could not find my size 5 needle tips).

As you can see (or not, since it gets a little blurry), the shawl currently measures about 7 inches down the center spine. Using my usual super-scientific methods, I dropped the tape measure down my back, pinched it at the spot I would like the shawl to reach, and checked and it was about 13 inches. I MIGHT get that kind of length out of it after blocking (keeping in mind there are two more charts to be worked after the last repeat of chart E), but I'd rather be sure. Two extra repeats, at slightly less than an inch per repeat, should give me some insurance. Plus, look at that ball. I've barely made a dent in the yarn.

That said, someone on the forum posted that she had finished the chart Es and she hadn't even touched her second ball of yarn, and did the last two charts really take up that much? The answer was I'm trying to keep that in mind.

Someone on the forum asked me to post my progress since she is a little behind me and also using a slightly lighter yarn (I believe she is using Schaefer Heather, which I covet greatly), so I did something out of character and weighed my yarn. I had 85.2 grams left at the time that picture was taken. Someone else asked me how many yards I had used. This stumped me for a little bit since I hadn't weighed the yarn beforehand. The label for Audrey says that it starts at 4 oz, which google informs me is equal to 113 grams. So I did the math and determined that I had 13 yards left to finish my project.

Okay, there was no possible way that could be right, so I e-mailed the SO and asked for help, and spent some time pouting about the fact that my teachers were right about the usefulness of all those stupid word problems. Happily, I figured out my mistake before he e-mailed me back, so I don't have to feel totally stupid, though I did wait for his answer to confirm my numbers before I posted, just in case. Unless we have both lost our minds, I have used 172.2 yards.

Of course, the odds of the skein being a perfect 113 grams and 700 yards are pretty low, I figure, so I'm expecting to find out I have actually used more than that. It's probably more accurate to say I have 528 yards left.

There have been glimpses of the third shawl in the series on Romi's blog regularly, and I am so eager for it. Having used Audrey for the first two shawls in the series, I am seriously thinking of using it for the third. I'm also contemplating getting some Schafer Heather. I've always wanted to try Heather for socks but none of the local shops carry it. Actually, that's not true, I think Knit Happens carries it, but frankly, it's a bit of a difficult area to find parking in, so I really dislike going out there. I may call and see if they have either yarn in stock in the Indigo colorway, since if you call ahead and tell them what you want, they will run it out to your car. Though, I'd really like to visit Fyber Space which is in the same area, and Bead Obsessions. That area is full of great shops. It's too bad it's also so full of people and cars, and so low on parking.

I'm really enjoying these small shawl knits and the e-book subscription. The only problem is, it distracts me from spinning.

One of the things I have learned from doing the Tour de Fleece, and I have learned much, is that knitting is still my first love. I enjoy spinning, I love making yarn, but if you give me the choice between the two - I'd rather be knitting. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop spinning at all by any means. I'm just going to try in the future not to torture myself with trying to do nothing but spin for weeks at a time!

Despite my difficulties with the Pomegranate fiber, I'm not too, TOO behind on my goals. Knowing myself and the demands of my job, I calculated what I thought I could do and then gave myself some leeway. The kicker will be the extra spinning I will have to do for the challenge day. I'm pretty sure I can finish my last bag of the four I wanted to get through, but finishing that challenge bag of merino may be more difficult.

Or not, who knows. Since I have so much trouble drafting merino, I'll probably spin it at a heavier weight than the easier wools, and if that's the case I may actually get through it faster. This is another thing I have learned - the finer you spin a yarn, the longer it takes to go through the same amount of fiber. Which explains why going through 2 oz in a sitting was a breeze when I first started out, and now it seems like 2 oz takes foooooreeeeevveeeerrrr.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Uphill Climb

I lost some momentum this weekend on the Tour de Fleece. I went out with my coworkers on Friday, so I only spun for about half an hour when I got home, just so I didn't miss a day. But, that put me behind. In order to reach my goal, I want to spin 2 oz per day and then ply on the third day. Yesterday was supposed to be my plying day and I haven't even finished the first two ounces of my next fiber bag, which was this:

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 036

The little nests you see in that top half of that photo are the first two ounces, and as of last night, I still had two nests left. The top in the bottom part of the photo is the second two ounces and I haven't even predrafted yet.

I love the color - I'm a big fan of the jewel tones you get when dying natural colors (as opposed to bleached or otherwise white fiber). Sadly, I kind of feel like I'm spinning crap. This fiber is not so challenging to work with as the wensleydale. Although I've tried to stick with fiber I've never spun before, I'm kind of feeling like maybe I have actually spun Shetland before, right at the very beginning, but I'm not sure. I've decided not to worry about it too much. Anyway, I don't feel like the fiber is that difficult, I'm just not handling it well for some reason. I may just be tired. I really planned to spin at least the rest of the first two ounces yesterday, but I was nodding at the wheel, so I gave up and took a nap. Here's where I am:

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 049

Knitting is still my first love, so I while I wasn't spinning, I did work on Maya. I'm having such a blast with these little shawls, and I kind of love the subscription model, where I get a new one every couple of months. I've also been hanging around the Designs By Romi group forum on Ravelry and popping in on the Maya KAL board, and that's been a lot of fun. I have traditionally been more of a lurker on these types of things, because there are just so many people and posts that I get overwhelmed trying to keep up with them all, but the Maia knitalong is a small enough group that I feel like I can participate without getting lost. This photo shows through the second repeat of the leaf chart, but I'm halfway through another repeat since this photo was taken.

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And here is Maia with Ella, because it was cute.

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I also fixed most of my Follow the Leader Faroese shawl. I didn't rip back any further, I just managed to get the stitches in order and then proceeded from there. I still haven't quite finished the shoulder bands. I'm just not feeling too sure about this project. I kind of thing I should have popped up a needle size, it feels kind of tight to me, and I'm afraid of the color obscuring the lace pattern. This really isn't a big deal, though, because there is only this small lace panel and the rest of it is mostly garter stitch, which looks fine. When I stretch it out, the pattern opens up some, so I may just continue on and trust that blocking will fix the things I'm not liking. This picture is terrible, as it pretty much shows exactly what I'm talking about.

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 047

See? You can't tell there's any order to that openwork at all.

I'm not going to frog it, not yet. We'll see how I feel about it once I get all the way past the shoulder band and into the garter area. This is supposed to be my easy take-a-long project, so if that part isn't fun, it'll never get taken along and I will have to take corrective action.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Not Giving Up

This week was a tough stretch on the tour. Time was very short thanks to work and family issues, but I still managed to keep up (although, as a result, I only went to the gym once this week).

The second bag of fiber I pulled out for the Tour was the club shipment from December 2009, a set of blues called "Cold Front."

Tour de fleece 2010 - 019

The fiber is wensleydale, which I had never spun with before. I did absolutely no research prior to plunging in, other than pulling a few staples out to check them out. I saw that they were super long, and didn't appear to have much crimp.

I decided to predraft this fiber. I don't do a whole lot in the way of color control when I spin, I pretty much let things fall as they may, other than deciding to strip the fiber or predraft it (Amy the Spunky Eclectic queen can tell you about that here, so I'm not going to try). When I spun the falkland over the weekend, I tore the roving into strips. This time I predrafted, which gave me a lovely watercolory result - which I did photograph this time:

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I posted previously that I had a lot of trouble spinning this fiber, and I did, right up until the end. Even the plying was a bit of a challenge. I actually felt rather discouraged after the first bobbin, and I thought about switching to something else, but I soldiered on and completed both bobbins.

Tour de Fleece 2010 -   - 033

When I sat down last night to ply, I was pretty worried. I was afraid the singles would just break. But, although plying was not without its challenges, my singles held together and I am actually really pleased with the finished yarn.

I mentioned in my TdF prep post that I wasn't getting enough twist in my singles, and that as a result I thought I would also have to add more ply twist. I have found this to be less true than I expected. I am paying a lot of attention to my singles, making sure they stay in my hands long enough to get some good twist. The more even my drafting, the less of a problem it is, since the physics of spinning dictate that twist accumulates in the skinny areas and you don't get as much in the thick areas. (I can't explain why this is, but I'm sure it's physics. It's always physics.) So, if my singles are mostly even, the twist distributes mostly evenly anyway, and I don't end up with skinny areas that are too tightly spun and thick areas that are barely holding together.

Anyway, I've been stopping regularly to check my ply twist, and almost always, if my yarn twists up, it twists up because of too much ply twist instead of too little. (We won't speak of the agony I went through trying to figure out how to tell. Suffice it to say, after much struggling with the concepts of z twist and s twist and pictures of same, I have concluded through trial and error that if it twists to the left, it has too much ply, and if it twists to the right, it doesn't have enough. Don't ask me why this was so hard for me to grasp.) So even though I'm adding more twist to my singles (I think), I haven't had to add more ply twist.

After all the pain, I have to say, the wensledale looks pretty good.

Tour de Fleece 2010 - 034

I soaked and blocked it last night after this picture was taken (wet handspun looks ratty) and this morning I checked on it before I left, and I was pretty happy with the results. There's one or two areas that look kind of wonky (I had issues maintaining even tension on the singles while plying and it shows) overall the yarn looks good and useable. I came out with about 190 yards I think.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You Can't Stop Progress

Three days down on the Tour de Fleece and...a whole lot to go. I'm starting to think my goal may be a little ambitious. It wasn't that hard to go through 2 oz a day back when I was spinning super-bulky yarn, but now that I'm getting things down a little finer, it kind of takes a while.

That said, I'm still on schedule. Yesterday, I took advantage of my day off and spun until my toes were numb. I finished the singles for the first batch of fiber, and after letting those sit until late evening, I went ahead and plied them. I ended up with probably about a 160 yards of 2-ply from the Falkland wool in colorway Field of Screams.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 017

I haven't checked the wpi yet, but based on the yardage I'm guessing it's about heavy worsted,

Next up was some wensleydale fiber in Cold Front.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 019

Beautiful - especially when you draft it out so that it's all watercolory. I love the look of predrafted fleece (but I didn't photograph any of it, so use your imagination.

I had some serious trouble with this stuff. I'm not sure if it's just a difficult fiber or if it's just very, very different from the Falkland. The Falkland spun a lot like BFL, but the wensleydale is a super long staple fiber, and pretty slick, so it took a while to get used to. My singles were falling apart at first. I think I've gotten the hang of it now. This is spinning out super fine, but I'm watching it as carefully as I can to make sure it gets enough twist to hold together. We'll find out how successful I was when I ply. Anyway, I got one bobbin finished.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 018

In non-Tour related spinning, here is the blue and white yarn I spun before the Tour started.

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And, though I am spinning like a fiend, I have not completely neglected the knitting. I finally unpinned Merope, which was pinned out blocking for practically a week before I let it off the wires. Oops. Oh well, It looks great. The top edge made it really easy to block.

Knitting - 005

So did the points along the side edges.

Knitting - 003

It's really beautiful, and it's way, way too hot to wear it, so it's going to have to go in my drawer to await cooler times.

Knitting - 004

In the meantime, the next shawl in the series has been released. I present Maia in Schafer Audrey (yes, again) colorway Dian Fossey.

Knitting - 001

I'm in love with this project. The yarn is dead perfect. The beads are a great match (although I question whether I should have used size 6 beads rather than 8. Audrey is a heavy laceweight/light fingering yarn so I went with the 6, but I'm thinking the 8 would have been fine. I might be in danger of ripping out and starting over, if the beginning of this wasn't such a huge pain. I seem to have issues with provisional cast ons. I worked the beginning of this shawl three times on Sunday night, and each time I completely failed to properly pick up the stitches from the provisional cast on. Since you knit a full chart after the provisional cast on, with beads, this got a little annoying. I gave up on the Sunday knitting since everything I knit on Sunday turned to trash (more on this later).

When I tried again on Monday, I did the provisional cast on, knit about 3 rows of the chart, and then I put my stitches on a holder, and went back and picked up the provisional cast on. I did this on the theory that if I messed up again, I wouldn't have to reknit the whole first chart again. Since I was now prepared for failure, I of course had no problems. I knit the second chart, put the stitches on a holder, went back and knit the first chart. Problem solved, cast on successful, carry on.

Anyway, the piece is beautiful so far, and my picture doesn't do justice to it. In the right light the yarn practically glows, and the beads are just the right color to be compatible with all the shades of green in the project (they look darker in the picture than they actually are).

My only regret is that I don't own any green stitch markers to make it perfect.

The other project I have on the needles right now is the Follow the Leader Faroese Shawl using Rio de la Plata in a discontinued yarn, in a special colorway from Yarn Market called Paris Rain. I started this to be a semi-mindless project that I could take around with me. Problem is, it doesn't really become mindless until you knit through that shoulder band. Still, it's not hard and I thought I would be fine taking it with me to knit over the festivities for the 4th (since said festivities for us involved a lot of sitting down). I had some trouble at the beginning of the pattern, and I think the reason is that I am most used to seeing a knit two together followed by a yarnover ( O/ ) rather than the other way around ( /O) so I kept getting confused. Well, I sorted it out, but I made a mistake at about the second or third row of the pattern that I didn't see until I had already done three or four rows past it.

Normally, this is not a problem for me - I am a master of dropping stitches to correct a problem. Only, there were some issues with this. One, I didn't have a crochet hook with me. Setting aside that this is poor planning, it's not usually a problem. I can generally make repairs work with just the needle. Two, the stitches that needed fixing had become involved in decreases in the following rows which I would have to undo and repair. Third, and this is really what undid me I think, this is a garter stitch project and not a stockinette project. I find stockinette infinitely easier to ladder up and down.

Now, a smart knitter, a clear-headed knitter, would have put the project down and waited until she could get home and stack the odds in her favor. But I was a knitter sitting out in the heat, with nothing else to work on and the prospect of several more hours of sitting ahead of her. I got desperate. I attempted to ladder the stitches. The attempt failed. I gave up, and decided just to rip back. I did. But in ripping back, I couldn't get the stitches back on the needle properly. So what I have right now is a total mess. I'm thinking I will just rip back the rest of the lace band, pick back up at the eyelet row, and work the whole shoulder band over again. This project did not get a photo because it was in time out.

I have family business to attend to tonight (an inconveniently timed birthday), which means my TdF goal is really in question, but I am technically 2 oz ahead since I spun 2 oz of singles yesterday, which was supposed to be a plying day. Hopefully the setback won't be too detrimental!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spinning My Wheel

Well, the Tour de Fleece has begun and despite my previous whining, I did get myself together in time for a timely start. First, I pulled out my entire fiber stash.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 001

Then I separated out my Spunky Eclectic club fiber...

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From my non-club fiber.

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Then I put all my club fiber in order by month.

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It almost didn't fit on my loveseat but I made it work.

I had two bags that had lost their labels. I put these aside.

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I pulled out the bags that had fiber I considered to be 'difficult' and set those aside for the challenge day of the tour.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 008

I pulled out two months that contained BFL fiber, since I want to try to spin new fibers during the tour, wool breeds I haven't spun before.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 009

I still had plenty left.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 010

I hemmed and hawwed over what remained, and picked out four bags (20 ozs) based on color and fiber.

Tour de fleece 2010 - 011

This is my goal for the tour, to spin these four bags plus one of the challenge bags (24 ozs total). My target three days per bag - spin 2 oz of singles each day and then 1 day to ply.

I started with Field of Screams:

Saturday I spun my two ounces and then some.

Sunday, being the 4th and a holiday, I had very little time, but I did manage to squeeze in some spinning time to at least meet the challenge requirements of spinning a little every day. Even though I spun extra on Saturday, I didn't get the full two ounces done in the time I had (although I came darn close, and if I had known everybody else would be so late to the party I would have stayed and finished it off).

Today, I have no plans, no obligations, and I don't have to go to work, so I'm hoping that today I will be able to finish off the last of yesterday's fiber and get at least my two ounces for today done as well.

I did manage to clear some bobbins before the tour started. I had a bobbin of red merino/bamboo that I intended to ply with some black merino/bamboo that I hadn't spun yet, so I spun up the black and finished off that yarn. I also spun through the white fiber that I had intended to pair with the colored puffs, and plied that. However, I ran out of white fiber before I had plied even one full bobbin of the colored! I snagged some white Corriedale at Uniquities that I will use to ply the rest.

I was, unfortunately, not pleased with the result of either the black and red yarn or the white and colored yarn. Once plied and soaked, I could see that the yarn was badly underspun. Anywhere there was a thick spot, it had very little twist at all. I think it's usable (if used gently) but it's definitely not what I want to be turning out.

I think the issue is that I have either gotten better with drafting or I've been using fiber that drafts more easily. As a result, I'm not holding on to the yarn as long before winds onto the bobbin. When I struggled with drafting, the wheel kept turning the whole time the yarn was in my hands, and the twist built up and I got kinky twisty yarn. Now that the fiber slides through my hands more easily, it's not building up as much twist.

I've been paying very close attention to this as I've worked on my TdF spinning, checking the singles frequently to make sure they're getting enough twist. I'm drafting with my hands further away from the wheel and I'm trying to be more aware of how much twist goes into it before I let it feed onto the bobbin. I won't know whether I'm successful until I ply, but I feel pretty good so far. I'm a little concerned about balancing the yarn when plying, though - I think I will have to be more aware of how much ply twist it needs as well. Up until now I have plyed best when I just let my hands and feet go on instinct, but since I am adding more twist in the spinning, I expect I will need more twist in the plying to balance it out, which means just going on instinct may not be enough.

I really like this fiber, so I hope I can get it to turn out well