Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Spinning and Thoughts on Softness

    1. 1. b.Yielding readily to pressure or weight.
  1. Smooth or fine to the touch: a soft fabric.
See those definitions above? Both come from the American Heritage Dictionary, and they are both definitions for "soft" Both can apply to yarn, and yet the two definitions have very different meanings.

Do you know how one person can call a yarn soft, and another can call it harsh or scratchy or just not soft? Some of it can come down to personal perceptions, but some of it has to do with the inadequacy of the Mother Tongue for spinners. We need more words for soft.

Sure, we use the word "squooshy" to mean "yielding readily to pressure or weight." But you must admit that squooshy is a bit informal.

And there is no word (that I know of) that has the exclusive meaning of "fine to the touch."

There is one softness of angora, another of targhee, another of merino, another of cormo, another of silk, another of alpaca, and of cashmere....

There is softness of a springy wool, not necessarily the finest, but spun lovingly woolen and plied just so.

There is the softness of a fine wool spun woolen and finished with care, and that is softness upon softness. Or the softness of one fiber complementing another in a blend.

So tell me, my fellow spinners, is there a language out there that we can borrow from, with many words for soft? We sorely need them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Little Dollhouse for Mercy

Jan Messent's Knitted Gardens book was the inspiration for my little dollhouse. Mercy wanted one with twins, a boy and a girl. See them wrapped in their little baby blankets? Tucked in their little Moses basket?

I unvented my own house with knitted, unspun roving, felted in an effort to construct a building of substance.
The dolls, grass, and clothing are knitted with both millspun yarn scraps and handspun yarns from fiber samples.

Knitting a dollhouse is a delightful task, almost as much fun as playing with one.
Despite the fact that the doll's abode tends to unexpectedly crumple in on itself like a long-abandoned farmhouse, both Verity and Peace wish that they had asked for a dollhouse for Christmas. Looks like I will have opportunity to perfect my architectural construction....

I wanted to take a picture of the kids for the grandmas again, but they don't hold still enough and my pictures keep blurring. This was the best of the bunch. You can still see the cuteness despite the blurriness.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Baby Sweater Kai

For my brand-new baby nephew, the Kai Sweater from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms.

In superwash lambswool merino, from Yarn or a Tale, handspun.

We don't have any babies of the proper size to act as a model, so I hailed a passing snowman. Agreeable fellow.
I'd love to stay and chat, but like most of you, I have some frantic knitting to do!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CA Swap Goodies and CotLin Review

My secret sister from Christian Artisans (my favorite Yahoo group ever, peopled with encouragers, pray-ers, and fiber lovers all wrapped in one) was Charlotte, and a most lovely package from her arrived today.

Yummy coffee and tea.

Frankincense essential oil. (Does that remind you of something?) I collect essential oils, so this is a real treat.

The Dagoba chocolate bar, ahhh....flavored with "mint and a hint of rosemary" I am saving that for my birthday, on Christmas Eve.

And last, but not least, some tussah silk. I so wanted some silk for the Blue Castle scarf, the first in my "Lacy Scarves for Dear Friends" series that I'm starting in the new year. So after I finish my Christmas presents, out will come my dyepot again, to play with silk.

Thank you so much, Charlotte!

Theresa wanted to know what I thought of Knitpicks CotLin.

Here's what I think. CotLin and Peaches and Cream should be friends.

Both of these balls of yarn weigh the same. Poor Peaches & Cream. Yes, and I would be skinny, too, if I were taller.

CotLin 70% cotton, 30% linen

more refined. Suitable for special gifts

slightly more expensive, but still economical

a special sheen from the linen content

can be splitty. Not enough to trouble me. Its hand is a bit different from dishcloth cotton, but just as (maybe more) pleasant to knit, because it is not at all stiff.

smaller gauge. I actually prefer the slightly thinner CotLin for dishcloths, for this reason alone. I do all of my dishes by hand, and stuffing a thick cotton dishcloth into a glass to wash it just doesn't work sometimes. Cotlin makes for a more versatile thickness.

Durability??? Only time will tell. Linen should make for a very strong and durable yarn, but is the spinning job adequate.... and the quality of the fiber???

I plan on using CotLin again. It doesn't replace Peaches and Cream, but it is a nice alternative, in my opinion. They get along well in the Stash.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Little Project

Here's what I have been spinning and knitting. Hope to have a finished object to show you next week.

Colorway Inspiration for the Weekend: Major and Minor Keys---Value

When there is a wide range of light and dark in a color composition, that composition is in a "major key" of value. (If you have a hard time perceiving value, imagine your composition broadcast on a black-and-white tv....what you see are the different values of the colors... each color corresponds to a particular shade of gray, whether it contains gray or not. Snow pictures are ideal for noticing value because we naturally perceive them as blacks, whites, and grays, even when other colors are present.)
A narrow range of light colors or of dark results in a "minor key" of value.

For yarns and rovings, I tend to prefer a minor key. If I am spinning along a roving and come to a spot that is much lighter or darker than the rest, it jars me somehow.

And yet, mixing lights and darks in a knitted object can be quite pleasing to me. I simply prefer using

light and shadow (i.e., a textured stitch pattern)

or several different yarns to achieve that end.

What is your preference for dyeing? For spinning? For other fiber crafts? Major key or minor key? Or does it depend on the project?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

So I Look Up from My Knitting.......

......and this is what I see. Please tell me that this is a good sign.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Knitting with Icicles

Hah! Got your attention, didn't I? No, I am not knitting with the icicles, they are just having their pictures taken together. This is my first bit of Christmas knitting. I am so trying not to get carried away this year. I envision myself knitting away, snug in my little nest....after the stress of NaKniSweMo, the projects will be small and few for the month, and my focus will be not on crafting at all...but the Quest to fit the Vest. I can only focus on one extra thing at a time, folks. If I can focus at all.

Here's my first Christmas object. A lovely "warshrag" in Knitpicks CotLin. The linen makes this red glow from within, and that is just right for the season at hand.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

NaSpiKniVeMo---FO pictures

Berchtesgaden-inspired vest, based on a sweater from Knitting in the Old Way, made with handspun from naturally colored lambswool; collar trimmed with handspun merino-silk, dyed on my dye day.

The wind blew. The pictures blurred. Top photo, more accurate colors. Bottom photo, closer up. Enough so you can see that I really did finish! No time to write now, but I love the vest. However, although it goes on, it doesn't fit in a way that I agree to model it. I am hanging it up where I can see it every day and going on a Quest to fit the Vest. We'll see if I'm ready to model on Groundhog Day. Call me on it!

Enjoy your weekend, dear friends and neighbors!

Friday, November 30, 2007


I remember, when I was in college, getting a paper back from a professor. "This is a very good paper," he wrote. "It would be an A paper if you had used more than the minimum number of words." He gave me a C.

So, it seems fitting in a way, that here I am, severely short on stitches. I will complete my project, the Lord willing. (I never turned in a paper late.) But I ran short on fiber, so there will be no sleeves; my novel has turned into a short story, my sweater into a vest. And I have learned. I have learned that a pound of wool does not a sweater make. I am reminded of what a novice I am at this craft of spinning, where there is so much to learn.

Yes, November, I dub thee "NaSpiKniVeMo" and go to fix a pot of tea. I will need the caffeine, because turning in a project late simply will not do. And perhaps, tomorrow, when you see my finished object, you will say to yourself, "That would be such a nice sweater, if only it were not a vest." If you say that, I will have done well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dye Day

This Spunky Eclectic fiber is called Harvest Haze. I am spinning it up for rug yarn, and needed more to make a rug of any useful size, so I pulled out my dye pot, and had a dyeing session. I had a wonderful time, and the results were is dyed Lincoln.... looking out the window.....

Autumn Rain

Harvest Sunshine

Autumn Deepens

Lichen Log

Lichen Log Wensleydale

the Wensleydale took to the dye like a duck to water...I am starting to understand why Wensleydale seems to have such a loyal following. I do not know what I will make with this....yet. Some lovely, drapey scarf or shawl, most likely.

And Kid Mohair. That's what fairytales are made of.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Colorway Inspiration for the Weekend

According to Deb Menz in her wonderfully understandable book on color theory, Colorworks,

"A white background tends to make all colors a little darker, duller, and cooler."

Interesting, since I think our instinct tells us that high contrast automatically intensifies color. But instinct can be wrong.

Perhaps, in the case of snow, the contrast simply makes us notice what we normally do not see at all. I never saw these fruits before on my daily walk. They are exactly the sort of rich color I love, a deep purple red that is almost black....the stems are a brighter version of the same color. Go on the picture for a closer look.

Firewood.....or ice?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NaKniSweMo: Plowing On

A freshly plowed field, ready for planting..... the sweater tricks me, brings back memories of cool May mornings on the mountain top, working next to grandmother and grandfather, planting strawberries on the tops of the ridges, century old stone wall holding back trees and horses on one side, glorious morning sky on the other....
The time has come for the parting of the stitches.

The back stitches will take one road;

On the fronts, the neckline will begin to take shape.

One of my fingerless mitts, almost complete.

Thanksgiving day will be with friends this year.....a salad and dessert are what I am to bring. And so I will still have time for a little fiber in these next days, I hope.

To you I wish a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Colorway Inspiration for the Weekend

Everywhere I go. I see colorways. How can I imitate my Father? How can I copy what He does?
Fiber and yarn are my crayons for drawing. Crude as my copies are, they bring a certain joy.

Not just color, but texture. What fiber can echo in its texture

the fuzziness of November snow....

the glitter of water,

the shine of ice,

the blurriness of mist?


The new issue of Spindle and Wheel is up. Full of simple, quick projects for the holidays. And in it is my first pattern! There you will find my little Crochet Baby Cap. I am both excited to have a pattern published, and a little apprehensive. Suddenly designing and pattern writing seem fraught with responsibility: the potential to bring satisfaction vs. frustration to fellow crafters. If you find any bug in the pattern, let me know, and I'll be happy to fix it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Plugging Away

Here's a picture of my yarn for the sweater (with our first snowflakes of the year), flattering enough that maybe someone else other than a mother would love it! The focus is a little fuzzy, but the yarn is a bit fuzzy too, so it suits.
This, by the way, is my first skein. I don't know why it has taken me so long to buckle down and learn how to make a skein. But I am glad that I did. What a nifty trick!

There is not much to show on the sweater. Inches upon inches of 1x2 twisted rib is not so exciting for a blog, however enchanting velvety chocolate coffee corrugations may seem in person. But the work on the sweater continues. Doggedly I keep at it. I promise to show you when it gets interesting.

Spunky Eclectic October fiber. Love the subtleties in this colorway.

I am doing some Christmas spinning. I have two sisters who knit, and what better present could there be than yarn? (Shh, don't tell. Oh, right, I already did. "You are getting handspun for presents for the rest of your life." I was always rotten at surprises.) Right now I am spinning singles when I need a break from sweater spinning.

Here's your daily dose of colorway inspiration. I love the gold, the green, and the cinnamon brown together. But you might choose the grey and gold, or something else. Colors everywhere.
My dyepot hasn't seen use yet in the new house, but it will soon. Very soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Crochet Baby Cap

(this pattern is now available at Spindle and Wheel.)

I needed a change of pace, so I picked up my crochet hook. Ever since I crocheted my wedding dress almost a decade ago, I have been kind of burned out on crochet. But it was nice, for a change. I started out with a pattern, but the hook and yarn took off to places of their own, and I went along. Crochet is like knitting untethered. Not as comforting (for me), but more unpredictable, and therefore, adventurous.

In my handspun koolaid dyed BFL and natural colored camel-silk.

This concludes my Hat Series. Next up is the Mitten Series, again for the family. Then I want to do a Lacy Scarf series, for dear friends. Am I alone in this? Or do you tend to craft in series, too?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

NaKniSweMo----Days 3, 4, 5 : A Spinnin' and A Swatchin'

Day 3. I spin up a sample of yarn, watch it bloom as I plunge it into hot water. And spin singles.

Day 4. A day of Rest, in honor of the Lord's Day.

Day 5. I swatch the yarn, and spin singles. As fast as I can.

Today I will ply. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will ball up the skeins and cast on. There will not be enough yarn for the entire sweater, but there should be enough to prevent stalls in my knitting progress. For a while, it will mean daily spinning and daily knitting.

The yarn is the closest I have come to a true woolen. It also is terribly unskilled. I am a novice at carding, and a novice at spinning hand-carded preps, and it shows. In spite of the fact that it is a yarn that only a mother could love, I love it. It feels like I am knitting with cords of velvet.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

NaKniSweMO Day Two----Fiberscape

In which the gallant handcards assist our heroine in her Task of tranforming the Lofty Heap into a Rolag Mountain of beauty. Our heroine pauses here at the foot of the mountain to admire the fiberscape before eagerly proceeding to her next Task.