Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The End of the Tour

Well, I hung in there better than I expected, but in the end I wasn’t able to keep up with Tour de Fleece this year. Between a busy workweek, a lot of reading to do and another short trip, I didn’t have extra time for spinning during this last week. But I was still thinking about creating!

I have a plan in mind for my next spinning session with the hand-dyed Mystery Wool. I want to take random chunks of color and spin them a bit thicker for what I hope will become a fun yarn with splotches of color. Another idea is to spin mostly the undyed gray wool, but intersperse small bits of color for some fun variety.

While I attended a wedding on Saturday, I sat behind my aunt who was wearing a lacy white crocheted shrug over her dress. I found myself mentally deconstructing the piece, which is always a fun exercise. I was surprised to notice that at the edges of each piece of crochet, some knitting stitches had been added to make a more solid fabric at the seams, presumably for ease of seaming as well as for seam strength and to hold the garment’s shape better. The final trim was then crocheted onto the bound off knit stitches along all of the outer edges. While this construction makes perfect sense, it’s the first time I can recall seeing it and I’ll definitely file it away mentally for future projects.

At another aunt’s house after the wedding, I had the chance to see some of her projects; she likes to knit and crochet afghans as gifts. She’s currently knitting a baby afghan that calls for a “w2s” stitch. I hadn’t heard of that specific stitch before, although I’ve knit wrapped stitches in the past. It’s not difficult and the result is quite pretty! Here is a video tutorial (not by me) that describes the process:

What new-to-you techniques have you learned about recently?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

One Step at a Time

This is the part of the summer I’ve been dreading. The kids are out of school, work is busy, I’m in the latter half of the classes I’m taking (read: research papers due soon), and now my husband is about to begin an intense project that will span the next several months. We just need to get through the next six weeks, then I’ll have a short break from classes and we’ll be settling into our school-year routine so things should calm down a little bit. But getting through these coming weeks will be rough on all of us.

All that to say: You probably won’t see any incredible projects on this blog anytime soon. I’ll keep making projects because they keep me sane, but progress will be slow and blog posts may be short. That’s the way creating works, though, isn’t it? Every project suits a purpose — some are elaborate and amazingly creative, and others are simple and relaxing.

A skein of hand spun mystery wool yarn dyed in a rainbow of colors on a white background.

So while it may seem simple and slow, I’m happy to report that I’ve been keeping up with Tour de Fleece. This week, I focused on spinning the hand-dyed Mystery Wool that I wrote about last week, and I met my goal of completing one plied skein.

The fiber was divided into two approximately even piles of each color. I spun them up in rainbow order, although I started with orange instead of red/pink for some reason that I no longer recall, and plied them in the same order. The result is 100 yards (1.25 oz) of a long color gradient that I really like.

Two skeins of wool yarn spun for Tour de Fleece 2016 so far, rainbow-dyed on the left and red on the right, on a white background.

There’s less than a week left in the Tour de Fleece, and I plan to keep spinning through this Sunday. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll spin next. Next week’s blog post will be a surprise for all of us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Keep Spinning

I’m back home from my conference. I learned new things and was able to see friends who I only see at these events. I was even able to get more reading done than I expected. Overall, the trip was a success!

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the success category was that I was able to keep up with Tour de Fleece. I didn’t break any records, but I made steady progress over the first ten days.

Dyed blue and green mystery wool on a spindle next to a skein of 2-ply hand spun red merino wool yarn on a white background.

I haven’t mentioned it before, but I spin on spindles, not a spinning wheel. Spindles have always been more appealing to me. Friends told me that after I started spinning I would want to make the switch to a wheel, but here I am six years later and I still love my spindles.

I think the biggest draw for me is the portability of spindles. If I only used a wheel, it would have been much more challenging to spin on my trip; I was able to tuck the spindle and fiber into the bag with my conference materials and steal a few minutes here and there between sessions. It’s a great conversation starter, too!

Filigreed spindle resting on a 2-ply skein of hand spun red yarn and unspun red roving on a white background.

This Malabrigo Nube Roving (100% Merino) was a gift I received two years ago, and I’m excited to finally work with it. I've spun 0.9 ounce so far; the yarn is turning out as I’d hoped and I still have just over 3 ounces left. I wasn’t expecting the purplish tone that’s coming out as it’s spun but I like it.

Dyed and undyed mystery wool roving ready to be handspun into yarn on a white background.

The other fiber I've been spinning is a Mystery Wool Roving that was passed along from person to person until it ended up with me. The original gray fiber is a bit dull but each year after my children dye Easter eggs, I pull out some of this wool to use up the remnants of their dye. I spin some up from time to time, and have yet to create the same yarn twice. It’s a fun adventure to see what new effects will emerge from the same dye colors.

Hand painted spindle with handspun wool on the shaft, resting across a rainbow of dyed mystery wool on a white background.

My goal for next week is to have a plied skein of the Mystery Wool. I'm sticking with slow-but-steady!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On the Road

Today, I’m en route to a conference across the country. And the big question is: What projects do I bring with me?

Protecting a spindle for travel by surrounding it with fiber inside a Glenlivet scotch box on a white background.

I’m not going to have a lot of time to make anything during the conference — bringing something to do during an educational session is frowned upon, go figure. But I should have plenty of time in airports and on planes.

I have a few equally important priorities when deciding on travel projects:
  • It has to be small. This isn’t the time to finish a queen-sized quilt.
  • It has to be something that takes a good bit of time. There’s nothing worse than finishing everything on the first leg of the trip. I’m fine with bringing more than one project, but that takes me back to the first point of making sure everything together doesn’t take up too much space.
  • It has to be something that’s relatively simple because I may be distracted by what’s going on around me and might need to stop regardless of whether I’m at a good stopping place.
In addition, packing projects for a flight is a different challenge from packing for a road trip. On a road trip, I can pack a larger bag and keep a small project with me in the passenger seat. This gives me more flexibility in my choices.

Flying can be more of a challenge because the projects need to fit in my carry-on along with my usual carry-on items. And while knitting needles and crochet hooks are legal on flights, their approval is ultimately up to the individual TSA agent. For that reason, I usually aim for a crochet project with worsted weight yarn; a US K-10.5 (6.5 mm) hook’s diameter isn’t much different from that of a pen or pencil. For someone who is unfamiliar with knitting or crochet, that hook will be less scary than a set of five US-0 (2 mm) sock needles pointing in every direction, particularly the metal ones!

A pen, crochet hook, and double point sock knitting needle aligned for size comparison on a white background.

That said, duty calls and I have a lot of reading to do this week so I packed books this time around — and not fun novels, unfortunately. Although I’m an avid reader, it feels wrong not to have a project with me.

I may have sneaked a spindle and some fiber into my checked luggage for Tour de Fleece.

What are your priorities for travel projects?