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Tuesday, December 9

Knit Updates

Happy Winter to All!

I hope mid-December finds you all healthy and happy! It was about -4 f. this morning, here in NW Vermont. But now it's in the 30's and blustery. The joy of living in New England!

Here's an update on my knitting adventures. Please click on the pics for a better and larger view...

I've been working on and completing some Holiday gifts. I can't say much about them, as the recipients may read this blog!

The first pair of socks are made with Esprit yarn by Cotton with some nylon for support. This pair (for a female) has a lace pattern on the top, and I used size 3 needles.

The second pair (for a male) is plain knitting on size 5 needles. Same yarn, different colorway. It's a fun yarn to knit with. Stretchy but soft.

Both pairs were done with Judy's Magic cast-on (super easy and better than the figure-8 cast-on), toe-up, short row heel.

Third pair of socks (for me!) in Noro sock yarn. This was the yarn my BFF Kenny from Houston bought me on his visit to Vermont this fall. The yarn comes in long stretches of color. It was fun starting the yarn on the second sock to match the first one! Luckily the yarn is designed so that, if one wants to, you can knit matching socks. You can also knit the second sock from the end of the skein (instead of continuing in order), and you'll get the same color but reversed order. I added red cotton yarn on the heels to give them some strength. I'm not sure how well these socks will wear. I wear my socks pretty hard. Most socks don't last me two years--at least in the heels.

Two nights ago I started knitting wrist warmers for me. I used Atacama 100% alpaca yarn by Araucania in Chile. It's hand-dyed and very nice. I picked up a bunch of this yarn from in a super bag sale (for about $2.50 a skein), but I purchased this colorway at A Stitch in Time yarn shop in Jericho (where I am teaching learn to knit worskhops!). Note: you can pick up some really good deals at Littleknits! They have tons of stuff on sale. And, Atacama alpaca yarn is being sold for $3-4 a skein in lots of places. Just google it.

Anywho, back to the wrist warmers. There are dozens of free patterns online--I just did a simple 2x1 ribbing, and an added thumb gusset separated by a stitch I alternated in knit, then purl. Knitted the thumb plain (stockingknit) and topped with 5 rows of the ribbing. Very nice, warm and very soft! I love the colorway. Earthy tones.

I am also playing around with handspun and swatches. I did a diagonal Madeira lace with 8 stitches of stockingknit panel in between. Top to bottom handspun: purple corriedale with white merino/bamboo; alpaca with the mer/bamboo, and another alpaca with mer/bamboo. Kind of fun imagining this as a woman's top--possibly for cool fall nights over a white t-shirt. Semi-open separated by the knit panels. I am planning on designing some pieces. This would have some decreasing on the sides, for more form fitting, and possibly some lacey picot edging flaring out on the bottom portion. Tank-top type shoulder straps. Knit panels on the side (to compensate for the decreasing) and over the, you know, female parts for more support. Or not. But that's an x-rated version! Lol.

I have some gorgeous merino/bamboo from the U.S. in a steel gray-black. I think it's called gunmetal or something like that. I'm planning on spinning it sockweight and using this pattern for a similar top. It's machine washable, while the alpaca isn't.

So, there you go! I have some other projects going on: a silk scarf for my mom, about 3/4 of it done in ribbing. And, 3 pairs of socks for me in various stages of completion: Imagination in Wicked Witch colorway from (superwash merino, alpaca, nylon: perfect for socks!), some handspun alpaca, and some other stuff. Using the magic loop method--progressed from the 2 circs method to the ML.

Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, whatever you celebrate!


Tuesday, November 11

Handspun Shetland Sweater...for ME!

It's finally done! And I can now update my blog. I've been getting nudges from people e-mailing me, asking me to update my blog. The last time I blogged was around my birthday in October, and I've been kind of busy since then.

I meant to blog a couple of weeks ago, but we got a new computer, and I've been getting it up and running and transferring files. Then, there was that little thing--you know--the election, that kind of got in the way! I'm really excited my guy got elected. I just hope the pile of crap the current prez left for him doesn't sidetrack the new administration too much.

And, I'm teaching a couple "learn to knit" workshops at A Stitch in Time Yarn near the Jericho/Underhill townline on Route 15 and River Road. I'm really excited that the owner Kelly has given me this opportunity to teach workshops there. I just taught three women how to knit last week. It was super fab to see them "get it" and the glow on their faces when they were "stitching" as one put it!

So, what's finally done? My handspun Shetland sweater. My extremely talented friend Joanne of Pine Ledge Studio and I visited the Maple Ridge Sheep Farm in Randolph, Vermont, oh, about ten years ago. I believe this was one of the first, if not THE first, Shetland sheep farm in the United States. I picked out three fleeces: a black with a hint of white, a lovely creamy color, and a light grayish brown--either a Musket or Mioget. You can see the wide range of Shetland colors here: Shetland Color Range.

Joanne meticulously washed and carded the fleeces for me, and even divided the carded batts into over a dozen paper grocery bags, labeled "best black", "best grey", "mixed", etc. These bags have been sitting around in "the fiber room" for years, along with pounds of roving, and other forms of fiber, waiting for me to get around to spin them. It's only been recently that I have fallen into the "use up what I have mode"--everything from a back-stock of shampoo and soap, to spinning what I have, and knitting what I have already purchased--before buying more. It's been a combination of my not working very much lately and the economy souring that has put me in this use up mentality.

Months ago I posted pics of spinning this yarn, so I'll skip that for this post. Plus, all of the pics are on the old computer and I haven't transferred them to the new one.

The Knit Game
Okay, how many times can one re-knit sleeves on a sweater? Depends on how anal you are. I re-did the sleeves three times. Really. I used a basic top-down raglan sweater pattern, but made several changes to it. I wasn't happy with the looseness/baggyness of the sleeves, and kept ripping them back to the shoulder or to the elbow until I was happy with the size and the amount of decreasing.

I did a 3x1 ribbed pattern between the shoulder sections on the top. I wanted to give the sweater more strength on the top, just in case it sagged/grew a little while wearing.

Another change I made was adding a split welt to the bottom. I wanted this sweater the drape freely, and I also am not found of the bulkiness created by having ribbing on the bottom (it also makes one look, well, heavier). I haven't blocked this yet, so the bottom rolls up a bit. This should end up flat after washing and blocking.

The other big change was the collar. I made a stand-up, fold-over collar, by knitting about 2.5 inches of shetland, doing a K2, yo, row, then a knit row, then 2.5 inches of handspun cashmere I had hanging around. I then folded it over inward, and tacked it down.

I knit this in a 1x1 rib, which made it nice and stretchy. For the V-neck section of the collar, I just crocheted one row in black, evening out the edging, which made it nice and uniform to pick up stitches for the collar. I then knit a couple rounds in black, then 4 in the grey, then single crocheted 1 row of white cashmere. I followed this up to the standup collar, creating a nice and even white edging. It might flatten out with blocking, but I don't mind the outward curl. It makes it more relaxed looking.

It fits pretty well! The only thing I'd change would be to have about 1.5 inches less in the underarm. The pattern called for 4 more inches than what I had, and it was too baggy. The spinning is light and lofty, and will be a very warm sweater! I tried it on with just a t-shirt to take the pics, and it was not very itchy at all! The cool thing about it is each one of the different fleeces yielded a different hand (feel) to it! The white is the softest, the greyish is closer to the white in softness, and the black is the "roughest" but I use that term loosely.

I'm pretty psyched that I finally have a handspun sweater for ME! J has 2, plus a vest, so I thought it was my turn to get one!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Friday, October 17

It's My Birthday!

Today is my birthday! Wow. And I have a blog! First birthday with a blog. I won't bore you with details, but just wanted to do a quick birthday post about how grateful I am.

I took this picture on Sunday when J and I went on a leaf peeping expedition. There's so much symbolism in this pic!

The last verse/stanza (I'm not a Literary Critic) in Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' sums it up ...

"Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

I just hope that I'm getting wiser as I get older. Oftentimes I wish I could relive portions of my life--those years of making mistakes and hurting people with my words and actions. But, then I wouldn't be the person I am now.

I am grateful for...
...being alive today.
...being sober today. Each day is a gift and a blessing. The days now add up to six years, and almost nine months!
...a loving and wonderful partner who has been very supportive during
these tough times for me. My migraines have kept me from working full-time, but things are looking brighter.
...a family that lives close enough to stay in touch.
...a beautiful, gentle, loving kitty who found us and adopted us. Each day is sweet.
...all the friends I have from my various interests: tea drinkers, knitters, spinners, hockey, and all my new friends I've made from Ravelry, Plurk, Brightkite and other social networks! You all enrich my life!

Tuesday, October 14

Fall Foliage in Vermont...Enjoy!

The first were taken on a drive on Poker Hill Road in Underhill--the next town north of Jericho. The last three pics J took on a hike on a hike up Hunger Mountain near Montpelier! Nice. Enjoy!

Monday, October 6

Catching Up on Stash Posting...

Okay, I'm guilty. I've been neglecting my blog lately! About a month ago I went to the Vt. Sheep and Wool Festival. I got some great stash (in the form of roving), and I meant to post the pics here before I forgot the sources of ones without id tags/business cards. But, then I was caught up in a cleaning frenzy for Kenny's visit--my knit friend from Houston, and another week passed by.

Then he was here--and we spent a week leaf peeping, visiting yarn shops (three) and now I have a ton more of yarn and roving stash--thanks to Kenny's generosity. I'll post some of it here and try to get caught up.

Click on pics to enlarge...

From the Sheep and Wool Festival:
The trio in the top picture: top left--Merino/Bamboo, 8 oz. To spin and dye (and sell as handspun). Top right--Corriedale (to spin and sell some); bottom--Merino/Tussah silk. To spin and maybe sell some.

Colorful balls of "Walk in the Woods" by my friends at Mountain Fiber Folk Co-op in
Montgomery Center. It's a blend of mohair, alpaca and fine wool. I've spun up a couple samples of lace and sock weight. Yummy. I've also spun up 3 oz of heavier worsted weight. Pics later.

Shetland/Alpaca blend. Can't remember the farm. I'll update later. Very silky, super soft. Spun up a little sample--will make wonderful lace garment.

Fourth picture: top is some mystery thing I can't identify. Bottom of the pic is Llama down from West Mountain Farm in Stamford, Vermont.

Very soft. Silky. Divine. Most llama is sold with the down and rough, longer hair mixed in;
in this format it's just okay. But, Gayle from West Mountain told me that this new process is capable of separating the two, and the result is incredible. Like cashmere, but stronger. Ohh Laa Laa!

Fifth picture, 8 oz of BFL (acronym for Blue-faced Leicester, a soft, but strong sheep wool, suitable for sock yarn and wonderful for dyeing). I plan on spinning and dyeing some of this and maybe keeping a bit for myself.

Bottom pic: top two balls are of angora bunny, kid mohair and lambswool--this is from the Mt. Fiber Folk Co-op.

It's really soft. But, when I spun it up, the angora (which is 50% of the total), was too dominant and clumped up--possibly because the three fibers are different and carded differently. I e-mailed Carol (it's her roving) and suggested lowering the percentage of angora to about 24-30%.

Angora rabbit is about 8-10 times warmer than wool. Like alpaca and llama, a good percentage is about 30% in the blend, which lends greater warmth to the yarn, but won't add so much weight to it. (I picked up 4oz of a 33/29/37 blend of angora/kid mohair/lambswool on our leaf peeping trip. This spun up perfectly.)

The two darker balls on the bottom of the pic are Jacob's Wool. This is a natural 3-color fleece, and if you can get it carded with all three colors in parallel stripes in the roving it's really cool! This roving had dark and light grey, which is pretty, and it has great strength but a lot of natural loft/air in-between the fibers, kind of elastic. Will make nice socks.

So, there you go! Fiber stash from the Vt. Sheep and Wool 2008. Next post will update you on the roving and mostly yarn stash I picked up during Kenny's visit to Vermont.

Take care, and happy knitting and spinning!


Monday, September 29

September Update...

Wow! I haven't blogged in ages! Kenny, my knitting friend from Houston, is here in Vermont for a week's vacation from the hurricane after-effects in Houston. He was without power and water for 9 days, and just had the power restored the day before he flew to Vermont. Luckily, he has a kind friend in Houston (with power) who let him stay with him for a number of days.

So, we've been off leaf peeping, visiting yarn shops, seeing the sights, eating great food and just hanging and relaxing. We visited the Mountain Fiber Folk Coop in Montgomery Center, Vermont. (First three pics at right.) I met Sabra (pictured with me), and Carol at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival about 3 weeks ago and told them we'd make the trek up to MC to see them. We had a blast! Nice stuff, nice people.

We had a lovely trip to Craftsbury Common, which is one of the most beautiful towns in Vermont, and saw lots of wonderful foliage, and some sheep right next to the road (dirt road)! I think it was the Bonnie View Farm. I'll have to goggle it and update here.

Other pics of foliage I think were on the way to Montgomery Center.

I just wanted to get a quick post off to update ya'll. I had lots to blog about after: visit to the Vermont Sheep & Wool, the stash I got there, spinning updates, and knitting updates. But, that's all for now!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

-Vtknitboy (chris)

Friday, August 29

Stash for sale!

Hello my friends all over the U.S. and elsewhere! I will be selling handspun yarn soon, but am going to start off by getting rid of some of my huge stash of purchased yarn! I will be adding other things to my Esty site (vtknitboy), which is not up quite yet, and am opening up a Paypal account, which should be operating in 3-5 days. If you want to purchase any of this-at this point I'd take a check (and send out the yarn once the check clears).

Note to Vermont knitters on Ravelry's Vermont Knitters group: you have first dibs! If you want any and are going to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday, September 6th, I'll bring it and you'll save on shipping! Shipping is $4.50 for up to a pound. I'll let you know what it is for a skein or two, although I'd prefer to sell each color as a group. I'll sell the entire lot for $85! That's 2,165+ yards!

First batch up is Vermont wool, and Vermont wool/mohair blend. This yarn was spun by Green Mountain Spinnery about 8 years ago, but has been stored safely with no moths or yarn deterioration. I just washed all the skeins, and have re-skeined them. The yarn is a singles yarn. Some of it is slightly thick and thin, but the majority of it (90%+) is worsted weight to maybe slightly heavier worsted weight.

All this wool is from a woman who lives in Morrisville, Vermont, from her sheep and mohair goats.

White Vermont wool: 12 oz approx 660 yards $30This yarn is very soft, light and lofty, some thick and thin. Will dye easily, and probably felt well too! Great for socks, hats, mittens.

Grey Vermont wool with about 15% mohair: 16 oz. approx 890 yards $40 (PLUS 170+ yards skein that is slightly bulkier)
I made a sweater out of some of this yarn 8 years ago, and it's warm, soft, and a little fuzzy from the mohair. One of my "comfy" sweaters!

Red: Grey Vermont wool with 15% mohair, overdyed with red: 6.65 oz approx 365 yards $16.

Enough for a pair of socks, or maybe a hat and small mittens? Or buy it and add as an accent yarn with the grey.

Green: the same white yarn dyed in a pale, lovely green. 4.6 oz approx 250 yards, $10. Soft and light! Nice for socks.

Thanks for checking out this stuff. I'll have more up later. Email me or comment here with any questions.

Have a great day!

Friday, August 22

Spinning for Socks

In the past week I've been spinning a number of samples for socks. My goal is to get the sock yarn in the range of 6-8 stitches per inch. Following are some of the samples and some notes on the various fibers plied together in the yarn. I will be knitting them up over the next couple of days.

I spun up a couple ounces of white Shetland top I got at Paradise Fibers. This is fabulous top! It glides super, and drafts wonderfully--soft yet strong. Not hairy like some Shetlands, but also not downy. I then spun up smaller samples of various fiber.

Click on all pics to enlarge them...Sorry that some of them are a bit blurry!

Sample number one: The first is the blue-turquoise-green-purple roving of fine Merino. I got this at the Mens' Spring Knitting Retreat in Easton that I went to in May.

This roving was a bit compacted and I spent a lot of time attenuating the fiber so that it would draft easier. I first broke the roving into strips lengthwise, then attenuated them. I really love the colors, although they don't show up very well against the white Shetland. (I did another sample with this and dark wool with mohair, where the colors stand out much better.)

Sample number two was plied with some of the light gray alpaca I also got at the Spring Retreat, this was from the Alpacas of Easton I blogged about it May. This alpaca is super silky, and yields a thin yarn that is easy to draft. This plied up into a nice soft yarn.

Sample three I plied with some dark brown llama I got from our friends Chris & Leigh at Mountainshadow Farm. It has a different texture than alpaca--I describe it as more like hair--but it is as warm as alpaca; about 8 times warmer than wool. It makes nice sock yarn!

I did another sock yarn out of some black Shetland I bought years ago from Maple Ridge Shetland Farm in Randolph, Vermont years ago. My friend Joanne at Pine Ledge Studio in Fairfax, Vermont hand carded it for me, along with some gray, off white, and fawnish color. I plied this with some of the dark brown llama from Mountainshadow Farm. This is a bit more rugged than alpaca yarn--I overplied it on purpose to yield a nicely balanced, but firm sock yarn. This is the heaviest weight of all the yarns I did for this study.

I have another batch of samples drying, but I just did little bits. I'll post later about them.

Oh! I did have some fun with cashmere! Here are pics of the 100% cashmere yarn, and one small ball of cashmere plied with the Shetland. It's the small white ball of yarn in the bottom left of the picture--below the dark alpaca/llama yarn. Note that I overplied the cashmere on purpose. Down fibers like this and others tend to relax drastically after washing. In this case it was overplied, but relaxed into a just barely balanced yarn!

Some of the things to think about when spinning fibers that you are going to ply together are: fiber length, twist, and compatibility. The various fibers should be similar in length as possible. The longer the fiber, the less twist to get the yarn you want. I mean this in general. There are always variants and different ways to achieve different results. So, one example of not too compatible fibers would be cashmere and Lincoln wool. Cashmere is very short, about .5-1.75" and Lincoln wool averages about 7 inches! The problem that arises when plying these together is that there needs to be an incredible amount of twist in the Lincoln to come close to the twist in the cashmere. Thus, the Lincoln would be almost entirely unspun when plied with the cashmere. Okay, so these are kind of at both ends of the spectrum. But hopefully you see the point.

So, for the samples:
In sample number one, I could create a better yarn by spinning the Shetland thinner and with more twist. The colorful merino is a much finer fiber, and spun up thinner naturally. It had more twist in my sample, so the Shetland in between the twist bumps is looser.

In sample two: it worked out well. The alpaca and the Shetland were similar.

In sample three: it worked out well. The alpaca and the llama are similar.

It didn't work out so well having the cashmere plied with the Shetland. The Shetland is very loose--and in between the bumps in the twist of cashmere, it's pretty loose. I could overcompensate for this by spinning the Shetland very thin and tight, because the cashmere must be spun thin and with lots of twist to yield a nice yarn. I could spin it with less twist, but I think that it would shed and or pill a lot due to the ends being loose. Although, the yarn is super soft, it's not the best fit.

As far as compatibility, plying cashmere with any of the above isn't the best use of the fiber. It's expensive, and has a short length, so would best be matched up with another short fiber. In this case it would be better to blend cashmere with another base fiber, therefore lending softness to the final product.

Alpaca and most wools are pretty compatible in fiber length, so I think any of these will be good sock yarns. Plus, alpaca lends a great warmth factor to the yarn.

So, I try to match fiber as closely as possible in similar lengths and twist required for a good yarn, and that's why sampling is so much fun! I get to see what goes well with what.

Someone asked me if it was possible to ply from a single. Yes! I use this technique frequently when I want to spin up small amounts fiber. It's really easy. Just spin whatever you want onto one bobbin. Then, using a ballwinder, wind up into a ball. Have your wheel all ready to ply, and carefully take the ball of yarn off the ballwinder. Keep a couple of fingers inside the hole of the ball! Now, gather up the inner and outer ends of the ball, and keep two or three fingers inside the ball of yarn--creating enough tension between your fingers to keep the ball stable, but not so tight that you can't get the single yarn to unwind.

Tie the two ends up to the leader from your bobbin, and ply! There you go. When the ball starts getting loose and starts to collapse, insert another finger into the ball. Keep tension even on the yarn between the ball and the bobbin.

That's all for now!