- I'm sure you get faster at posting when you do it all the time, but it takes me a fair amount of time to compose posts. I guess those gossip bloggers I read really are earning their keep.
- A half hour spent posting is a half hour not spent crafting. Because I was posting about already completed projects, I was able to crank those posts out, but once I ran out of recent projects, I began to get a little frantic. But then, instead of taking photos of long ago completed projects around the house, I just stopped posting. Hmm.
- There must be some third thing I learned, but I'm not quite sure what it is.
Things I learned about trying to post every day:
I do have a crochet post upcoming, though I make no promises about when. I will leave you with this awesome photo of the McCartney family I came across on Child of the Moon. All I see when I look at this picture is the cover of the most awesome family sweaters knitting booklet ever.
I wish it was in color.
Be forewarned, this post will be about spinning, and therefore possibly incomprehensible/boring to non-spinners, but also possibly fun and interesting (?).
There is no way to do justice to all the information out there on this wheel. I’ll just give you a quick overview and a synopsis of my feelings about it. So, here is my beautiful Kromski Sonata. Kromski is a family company, and they still build their wheels in Poland. The main thing I was looking for in a wheel was that it was compact and portable. We live in a small house and we own a lot of stuff, so I knew I didn’t have the space for a large wheel. Also, apparently, wheels with two pedals, as opposed to one, are easier for beginners to operate. (I don’t know about this from experience because I’m hardheaded and I usually just buy what I want after doing research, instead of trying things out. This generally works okay, so I haven’t altered my practices.) Price, of course, was also a factor. You can spend a lot on a wheel, but it seems like the very least you can spend is around $350. This one cost a bit more than that, but it is also full sized, which a lot of folding wheels are not. This wheel folds down and fits into a nice carry bag, that I can wear as a backpack (though it is big enough that I look a little like a Ninja Turtle). Also, like many of the other Kromski wheels, it has a more traditional look, which I thought was attractive. Also, I sprung the extra $20 for the walnut finish.
Let me tell you, learning to spin from written instructions and short clip videos on Youtube is not for the faint of heart or short of patience. I chose a weekend when my husband was away fishing and I had the whole house to myself to curse, cry, etc. I had a dickens of a time getting started. To get started you attach some leader, or waste yarn, to the bobbin where the spun yarn will be collected, and then attach your unspun wool to that leader. Well, I was remembering my spindle, and trying to use acrylic yarn for the leader, or some of the unspun yarn, twisted up into rudimentary wool. These things really do kind of work on a spindle. But the wheel was too strong and my spun wool kept breaking. Additionally, I got one spindle “full enough” before I realized while reading an article on plying, the second step in this process, that I was doing the whole thing LEFT HANDED. I’m not left handed.
One additional hurdle I seem to have conceived for myself is that the wool I’m spinning with was not meant to be spun with. A spinner friend of mine bought way too much wool at some point. She had some of it converted into batts for quilts, big flat rectangles of unspun wool. I took two of these batts off her hands, thinking I would make quilts with them, but then I was thinking, why learn with good stuff, why not learn with not so good stuff and move to the good stuff later, and also it is a nice color anyway. I think, because it wasn’t meant for spinning, the folks who processed the wool into a batt didn’t card it as well as wool intentioned for spinning. I think this because this wool is full of neps, little fuzzballs that are hard to stretch out into flat enough and so they stay little fuzzballs form slubs, which are the non-uniform parts of the yarn that are like soft bumps. See, neps and slubs, all kinds of fun language. In the end, all I can hope is that they give the yarn a little bit of a tweed look.
So, I’ve started to fill my second bobbin, and once that is done and I have somewhere around the same amount of spun wool on both then I’ll ply them together, and then I’ll have yarn. Well, I’ll have yarn after I “set the twist” which is basically like blocking the yarn, like you would block a sweater (blocking: to get a wool thing wet and stretch it into the shape you want, and then pin it or something until it is dry, and then it retains the shape you want).
Things that bewilder me: getting the spun wool to be collected evenly on the bobbin. There are lots of photos of people’s spinning and it is very nicely collected on the bobbin, whereas mine is all humped. Second: people in spinning articles I’ve been reading keep talking about twists per inch, and how you want all the yarn you are using for one project to have the same twists per inch, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how you count twists per inch.
My order came in from baglady.com. I think I came to their site first through a Google image search for Herbert Niebling, the ridiculously beautiful knit lace designer (And I was pointed to Herbert Niebling by Franklin Habit’s blog). I was lured in to the site by an image of the beautiful knit bag that you can see on the front cover the magazine here. Also, Piecework seemed like too perfect a publication for me, and I’m going to subscribe. I mean, the annual lace issue, with articles about Dresden lace, tatted lace, knit lace, and needle lace? You had me at “annual lace.” I’ve knitted lace with big needles and skinny yarn, but we all know I won’t be happy till I’ve knitted lace with tiny needles and thread. It must be said, if there is a more technical way to do a thing, that is the way for me.
And then, once I was on the site, and ordering one back issue of a magazine, well, I was already paying $8 shipping. So, I got the thread to make the bag, though I got mine in light blue. I once came across the blog of someone making the Princess Shawl in light blue and I thought it was so beautiful. I do have the pattern book for the Princess Shawl, bought in a fit of optimism, but lets not kid around here, that isn’t happening any time soon. I’ll be happy enough to be knitting tulips with practically sewing thread and 00 needles.
And speaking of needles, those colored tubes in the bottom right of the photo are my new needles, 4/0, 5/0, and 6/0. Here is a photo with my thumb for scale. I swear I do not have a giant thumb that I have to drag around behind me. Now that I see the 4/0 next to the 6/0 I think, why did I order such giant needles? And whenever I go on bugknits.com, I think, why am I not ordering 11/0 needles? I know why, I know why. At the very least it has to do with all the projects that are sitting around the house half finished. I mean, I’ve run out of canvas bags to keep projects in, and I have a lot of canvas bags. Let me see what I can do about that.
I know, I know, what do I do, just sit around making Amigurumi animals all day/night? Yes, yes, that is exactly what I do/would like to be doing. Well, here is the fiddler crab, one of those patterns I mentioned in the last post that aren’t in Hansi Singh’s book, quite tragically, but are for sale on her Ravelry page, quite fantastically.
I modeled my crab on this photo of a real fiddler crab. Turns out there are a lot of fiddler crabs out there with a lot of pizzazz, so actually it was a little bit of a challenge finding one in colors that still looked convincingly natural in yarn.
Of course, like the mantis, he came out WAY TOO BIG. I mean, as it was, I did this guy on size 2s, and he still came out like some kind of hulking beast. But who wants to do a toy pattern for the first time in sock yarn? Even I shutter to think of some weird aspect of a pattern I haven’t even dreamed of that would be impossible somehow to do tiny, or to do with dpns instead of circular needles, or something. And so I will be fated to make all these toys normal sized at least once.
When I had made a few legs I could see which way the wind was blowing, and as a pretext for checking out a new yarn store (The Swift Stitch in Santa Cruz) I got some blue and white and red lace weight alpaca. I looked for tinier needles than I have, but those don’t seem to have hit the general commercial market (imagine that!) I thought I could use the 000 needles, but you know what, they are too large (I say this with glee tinged with dread), and so I’ve ordered 0000, 00000, and 000000 needles. I’m pretty excited, and also concerned. If I start typing the blog in tiny sized font, someone should come help me. The next question would be which critter should really be the first to be the tiniest of all? The seahorse is a long time favorite pattern, and I’m always trying to make life-sized seahorse (more on that later). However, in general I’m worried about bending these tiny needles making toys, but even a bent needle knits straight, right? Isn’t that a Zen koan or something?
Here is another version of the mantis from Amigurumi Knits, which is absolutely my favorite toy pattern book. I could not believe how big that first mantis came out. It is just way too big. Also, I used pipe cleaners in the legs, and they are not strong enough to hold up the mantis body. You set it on the table and it collapses, you pick it up and it throws its head back, and it’s grabbing legs in the air, as if to say, “Party!” This little fellow is a vast improvement. As I look at him now sitting on the table, he looks alert and ready to spring. (Perhaps that isn’t what most people look for in a toy, but I like my inanimate objects to have a little personality.)
I used plastic covered steal wire in the legs, so they are much stronger and more ridged. Also that thin wire was almost too thick for the skinny legs, but it just fit. The other alteration I made was to work the last row of the eye with the main body color, giving the mantis pupils. I’ve included here a photo of the second eye under construction. It just looks so creepy, mantis eye surgery.
To make this mantis I used 000 needles and sock yarn. The brown is some yarn that I had left over from the snail socks from the first post on this blog. The green is some lovely variegated yarn I bought in a department store called Coop in Switzerland. It was sort of one of those “yarn in a department store, how novel, I must buy some” moments, but I’m so glad I did. It came out so buggy, and I always forget that I don’t have a problem with variegated yarn in stockinette stitch. I truly hate it, say, in the ribs of a sock leg, where it comes out so messy, but it looks very pretty here. Though I did end up bending one of my 000 needles during some tight knitting, I’m so pleased with this guy and he makes me want to make all of the Amigurumi animals on a small scale.
Also, a little side note. I had first discovered the designer of this pattern, Hansi Singh on etsy.com. She published a book of patterns last year, but many great patterns, including my favorite, the sea horse, were not in the book. After the publication of the book, her etsy store closed, and I often felt very sad about it. I love her patterns and want everyone to own them, but also, I hadn’t bought them all! Well, it turns out that she still has all her patterns for sale on Ravelry.com, a fiber arts social networking site. So, sheeps be praised, you can still get the patterns. I find that almost as pleasing as this mantis.
Though I sometimes balk, I’m mostly willing to accept that knitting, crochet, and even sewing, are generally old-fashioned. Knits might be in, but knitting, generally, is not. As I write this, I try to think about what the possible symbolic appeal of a big bulky sweater is to the general non-knitting population, but I’m too far down the woolen rabbit hole to conceive of the thoughts of the non-knitting public. The thing I find appealing about a big bulky sweater is the hands that made it, even if those hands were just pushing buttons on some big machine. To my mind, a good knitted garment conjures up at least a glimpse of a little lady knitting in a shack on the Scottish moors.
And perhaps, because that is my knitting tableau of choice, I have been keeping a little cozy catalog in my head of knitting popping up in unexpected places, and I though that perhaps I should just post about it, instead of keeping it to myself. I will present them in order from least to most unexpected.
The first two instances appear in books, so I’ll try to make them quick to make way for the pictures.
I’ve been reading the Anne of Green Gables series of books The last one, Rilla of Ingleside, is set in the Canadian home-front during WWI. Let me say, heart break and romance and gossip aside, those ladies spent the whole war knitting socks for the soldiers. There is one scene where Susan, the old house-keeper, is knitting and reading at the same time. These ladies knit when they are socializing, they knit when they can’t sleep, they knit all the time. After hearing news that the Germans have broken through the British line, the ladies of the house are all beside themselves with grief, thinking the war is lost, and this exchange takes place:
“…They all walked the floor; except Susan, who got out her grey war sock.
‘Mrs. Dr. dear, I must knit on Sunday at last. I have never dreamed of doing it before for, say what might be said, I
have considered it was a violation of the third commandment. But whether it is or whether it is not I must knit today
or I shall go mad.’
‘Knit if you can, Susan,’ said Mrs. Blythe restlessly. ‘I would knit if I could—but I cannot—I cannot.’”
Don’t worry though, because just a few pages later we find Anne knitting away, though in agitation she knits four inches past where she should have turned the heel.
The second instance in a book was a little less expected. Besides the Anne books, I’ve also been reading some great 1940s screwball mysteries by the pseudonymous Craig Rice. They are full of hard drinking, wild driving, and three or four murders a novel, so imagine my surprise and pleasure when I came across this passage in 8 Faces at 3. The main characters go to the Chicago brothel where they stashed a possible murderess:
“They found Madam Fraser engaged in teaching Holly the intricacies of a new knitting stitch.
‘Oh, hello,’ the gray-haired woman said as they came in the door. Then to Holly, ‘No, dearie, no. You
wind the yarn around twice, and then—,’
‘Show me too,’ Helene said.
There was a brief discussion of the pattern, the eventual effect, and the kind of yarn to use. Jake thought it
gave a pleasantly cozy touch to the murder.
I think it is pretty cozy too.
And this leads me to my final instance of knitting popping up unexpectedly. Like most knitters, I’m sure, I like to knit and watch movies or TV. And I’m not sure if most people are like this, but I’ve definitely watched all the new content I’m interested in on the streaming video section of Netflix, leaving me to re-watch plenty of old favorites, but also leading me to watch a lot of movies that are chosen a little haphazardly. That is how I came to watch Foul Play, a Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase vehicle/Alfred Hitchcock homage. Though it seems, judging from the Wikipedia page that the film was not a critical success, it does have a lot to offer: a young Dudley Moore, a behind the scenes shoot out at a performance of the Mikado, and, most importantly, death by knitting needles! Also, I would like to give a shout out to the set dresser, because though Goldie Hawn’s character seems to be exclusively a knitter, there are a lot of nice crocheted afghans in her apartment as well, leading me to believe that either, this lady crafts a lot off camera, or she has a very devoted Grandma.
Goldie knitting while sitting on a pretty nice Granny Square afghan.
Goldie's hand reaching into her knitting basket during the attack, and then her attacker, laid low by knitting needles.
Goldie looking cozy under a beautiful ripple afghan.
Now, I've got a little goal of posting every day this week, so there will be some real crafting coming soon!
After that first plying adventure on Friday, I wanted to try again, better, so I got a better beginner’s spindle. I marked it up a little so I won’t spin in the wrong direction again. (At least not until I get a fancier spindle that I can’t rubber stamp.)
It is “s” for spin direction and “p” for the ply direction. Vocab lesson: Spinning is when you turn the roving into a “single,” or one piece of yarn. Yarn is made up of at least two singles, or three, possibly four. Plying is when you spin singles together. That is done in the opposite direction of the spinning, which makes the whole thing stay together.
In this photo, the top sample is the first yarn I spun, and the bottom sample is the second try. I made an effort to make the singles for this second sample much looser, and I think even in this picture you can tell that it looks more like yarn and less like some kind of trim for the sides of a pillow.
I still have yet to wash either of these, which I’ve heard is what makes them actually look like yarn, similar to blocking a sweater. How annoying, to have to block the same fiber twice. But now I’m trying to think up a simple project, besides just a gauge swatch to make with this stuff, and I’m also thinking how nice it would be to spin some chocolate brown wool. I think it is good to use this variegated stuff to learn on, because I feel like all my mistakes show, and so I work harder not to make them, but by that same token, it would be nice to use something monochromatic that would be more forgiving.
As an addendum, I do have a cute little knitted t-shirt with saddle shoulders that I’ve finished everything except sewing up the sides, and I’m just too nervous to do it. The last time I sewed up sides I did it way too tight and the whole thing didn’t work out. I knitted this garment in an alpaca silk blend, so it is less stretchy, so I think the problem of the too-tight underarms will be abated somewhat but I’m still scared. Hopefully I will get over this fear by the next post and take some pictures.
Well, I have to say that one of the foremost impediments to my posting is that most of the time I work on gifts. I guess that, in combination with the fact that I have supportive friends who read my blog. Therefore I can’t post pictures of projects until they have been received. Case in point this cute little mailbox.
This was a commissioned piece. A friend of mine who loves the mail and all things related to the mail found this pattern on Etsy and sent it to me right away with heart rendering pleas to make it. The whole project is comprised of a mailbox, one parcel, and three letters. I love making toys, so it wasn’t too difficult to sell me on the idea. We went to Michael’s and looked at every shade and weight of grey, ultimately settling on a combination of a thin silver sparkle yarn from Vanna White’s collection and a nice wooly grey heather. My friend loves orange, so we made the mail flag bright safety orange instead of the traditional red. Also, we chose a sparkle white for the letters, just to make them a little more magical. After all, the fun of a toy is that you don’t have to shoot for total verisimilitude.
I was going to do something much more complicated for the stamps, but then in my fabric stash I found a fabric that was printed with stamps with cancelations stamps and everything. Pretty perfect. To give them a little more oomph I embroidered little parts of the picture on the stamp, just one color per stamp to keep it simple. For the name labels I first wrote what I wanted on the felt with a pen and then embroidered over that. The pen ink bled a little bit, but I don’t think it was a disaster. My only true regret is that due to the limitations of the skill of my embroidery and the size of the text I was able to embroider, I wasn’t capable of making return address labels. But I guess perhaps letters that come from magical destinations cannot be returned. If you are interested in my friend’s musings and more photos she took of the mailbox, here is a link to her blog. If I had a blogroll, she would be on it.
If anyone recalls those yarn singles that I spun... I typed this and then realized that I had never posted those photos. So to begin with, here are some photos of the original roving, think like a long dyed cotton ball of wool, and also of the yarn as I spun it and wound it around my spindle shaft.
To begin again, well, those singles from a while back are now well on their way to being yarn. At the knitting club meeting last night I got assistance and learned that a.) my singles are spun too tight, and in the wrong direction (for some mystical reason I was told that this would make it better for crochet), but that b.) it was still very nice first yarn. I still have to wash it, but here are some photos of a 2-ply yarn, made by yours truly. Pretty exciting stuff.
Finally, though this is not a blog for cats, because my cats do a lot of interacting with craft projects, I’m deciding that it is okay to post cat pictures if they are fiber related. My younger cat has developed a great affinity for a little leftover ball of sock yarn, and has been doing various art installations around the apartment every time he finds it again, despite the fact that I keep rewinding it and putting it in higher and more difficult to reach places. I can tell when I’m rewinding it that it is clearly an amazingly fun toy, so I’m not really too upset about it. Here is a photo of the artist, explaining his work. He looks a little defensive, so watch out critics of the art world.
So much to write about! I know it has been ages since my last post, and actually I've been quite busy. Oldest projects come first I guess.
Here is a photo of a sweater I made for my mom. A very sweet friend chose to de-stash and gave me the proceeds. This fuchsia mohair was just screaming my mom's name, so I dug around a little and found this pattern. I have to say I was surprised how hard it was to find a reasonable mohair pattern. I mean, I know all the arguments against it, it can be scratchy, and too warm, and sheds, but come on. This was the only modern pattern I could find for worsted weight mohair. All other patterns are either from the 80s or the 60s, and in either case most closely resemble ottoman covers. Like I said, I get why mohair isn’t popular any more, but I also don’t get it. This was truly a weekend long project, knit on size 11 needles. It went so quickly, and after blocking, it has a very nice drape. It has been reported to me that it was a success on its maiden outing.
Next are some more little mice. These little mice, commissioned by my mom for a gift, are the country mouse and the city mouse. I used the same pattern I've been using from Fuzzy Mitten and then used guess work to create some little clothes for them. The country mouse wears a little hooded cape. I did try to make an apron for her first, but these little mouse bodies are not really set up for clothes that cover the waist down. The city mouse wears a little fancy hat.
I'm going to crow about the flower on her hat for a second. It was done with sewing thread and a 0.75mm crochet hook. I'm quite proud of it. The city mouse also wears a string of glass beads. These little mice represent my favorite type of project, riffing on an established pattern by making changes in yarn and embellishment.
Next on the agenda for sharing are some repair jobs I did. Both projects were completed for the same friend about five years ago when I was still pretty inexperienced. I recently took them back to fix them after being unable to withstand the guilt of turning out lousy product any longer. As I tell everyone, my projects are guaranteed. If they fall apart, send them back. I’ll fix them or make something else.
First, pictured above are the ill effects of whip stitching a granny square blanket together that was made from soft acrylic yarn. The effects are quite ill. The poor thing was washed once or twice and went all to pieces.
Now here is my repair job. I took the whole blanket apart and single crocheted the squares together using a yellow that was pretty close to the original yellow. I think it looks better than before and I kind of want my own now.
The second "repair" was blocking this poor scarf. This is really my first successful knitted garment. I chose the pattern and the boarder pattern from a book of 500 (or some such number) knitting patterns. I didn't know doodly-squat about blocking when I made this poor scarf though, and as a result, for the last few years it has existed as a kind of thick neck sock, all rolled up upon itself.
The blocking was really pleasant because I got to see the lace pattern open up. Due to the fact that the pattern is knit all the way to the edges though, I'm afraid it will always roll up a little, but it is much improved. The yarn is a cotton silk blend and was lovely to handle again.
Here is a quilt update photo. I’ve gotten a little farther than this, but not by much.
And finally, here is one of my kitties reminding me that if it is crocheted, no matter how small it is, it will be sat upon and kneaded by one cat or another. How could I have forgotten that?