Of Failures, Fibers and Finished Objects

So let me start this off with an apology.  When I started my blog it was just about knitting and probably 90% or more for my own edification.  Then I made a couple things and a few things more and found myself with a blog that while not front page news is being visited more days than not out of the year.  So this year I started off with a goal of bumping up that post number so there would be a bit to read a bit more often… and its looking an awful lot like I’ve failed at that, but I hope you will forgive me as I keep trying to keep up.

I was kind of holding off on updating this time because of my failure feelings, so you can probably imagine my surprise when I have six finished objects to share.

First up, I finished my twisted two color socks made from yarn swap yarn!

The pattern for these is an obscure free one called Twisted. Its done without a cable needle and for me, I decided to continue the design on the legs, which meant going up a needle size.

Then I turned up the full steam of “really its only 180 more rows” and finished up my There and Back Again Hobbit Scarf even before Ben’s birthday.  I figure this way he can wear it on the winter trip rather than finish for Christmas and have him freeze before then.

Now if I had this to knit over again, I’d probably not have chosen single ply yarns (the pills!) and I’d have picked a true solid instead of a tonal.  That said, the charts are exceptionally well done and its an epic scarf with an epic tale.

Now at this point I shall remind you that I was yarn swapping last post and so point out that my gifter sent me some AMAZING gifts, including a glorious skein she spun herself (on the left here).

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This is relevant because whenever I do a yarn swap I have a wonderful time picking out the yarn to give which is then immediately followed by shame and guilt over yarns that are still in my stash.  There is yarn in my stash I was gifted three years ago.  You see… I have this thing where gifts are significant to me, and thus yarn gifts need to become something significant and meaningful.  And there are a few yarns that end up in that pile too… such as the Araucania Lauca yarn which was a wool, camel and silk blend.

So I fixed that by knitting up a honey cowl, and in true “leave no yards behind” mentality I also made up a matching slouchy hat.

Now September and October are currently lace knit along months and so I started out with a lace and bead cowl.   The yarn for this one includes Sea Cells in the blend, which is made from the cellulose of sea weed fibers, and when I saw it on the yarn crawl this year I knew it was in need of something with beads.

I should mention that this is my first time using bicone style beads and they are taller than a typical 6/0 bead so instead of border beads on the side of the pattern I just did a simple purl stitch.  I restarted this so many times before I did that change just trying to make it work.  This was a classic example for no one is judging your final project based on the tribulations you went through except you…. unless you tell them.

Which brings us at last to the sixth finished object.  Technically this was cast on way back in January, but at that time I had a bit going on and this is a pattern with both front and back side charting and is one of those projects you kind of have to pay attention to… but boy is it worth it.

This is in fact another swap yarn and you may remember it from the Maple shawl.  This time its a white oak lace scarf, and there is actually a bit of this yarn left… I’m contemplating a matching hat to finish it off, but don’t hold your breath just yet on that one.

Whew! That’s quite a few finishes.

But wait!… There’s More!

I did put Fiber in the title for a reason… and not just because I was going to namedrop so many different fibers either.  It was actually about something that came just today.  I found a thrift auction for 6 lbs of wool fleece, and it was a good enough deal that I bought it.

For yarn reference there are over 450 grams in a pound and most average commercial skeins weigh either 50 or 100 grams.  Its a very big bag.

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The majority of the bag looks to already be washed and is ready to be carded then spun.  There was a smaller amount of it still “in the grease” which shows it was a bit of a curly hair breed.

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So we will see how this new endeavor spins out.

And lastly a WIP update… I need to get back to my tulip cross stitch.. I did make it past the half way spot, but I’m a bit behind for where I wanted to be at this point.

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A Frugal Sweater to Fall For

Wool yarn is generally not inexpensive.  This makes sweaters on the more expensive end of wearable crafts, and a bit of a hurdle for some new knitters.  One option when you are scouring sales racks and finding your way through the options are thrift sales.  If you are a little bit cautious and a little bit adventurous you can find a good deal.

I say cautious because it can be easy to see a brand name and some people will bid up to near retail price without considering any shipping or handling costs.  One of the main dangers with thrifted yarn is you don’t know how the last person kept their stash and paying near retail (or above if you forgot about the additional fees) only to discover you have a moth nest is going to be a bad time.

But also adventurous.  Take a chance on a wool brand you aren’t quite sure about.  Find one of those swooned about skeins in your price range.

It was this spirit of frugal adventure that ended in a purchase of 12 skeins of Christopher Sheep Wool for $21.99 or the equivalent of $1.75 a skein.  (7 in Barley, 4 in Chris Robin, 1 in unlabeled dark brown)

Now I can say that based on the Ravelry stashes and the color options seen on their website that my finds were from a much earlier period and in colors they no longer produce.  When I wound it into the balls I can say that the stash keeper before me had some issues with pests and so several of the Barley colored skeins were not unbroken.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of stash busting cold sheeping I decided to have a go at making it into a garment.  And because its a bit more of a rough texture yarn I wanted to use it as an outer layer style garment.  Enter Sylvi.  I loved the design on the back, and even more so the idea of making it pop out a bit with some color work, as a few knitters before me had done.  What I didn’t care about was the hood and that there were no pockets.  But with only $20 on the line… time to test out the ability to make modifications.

My modifications included Intarsia Cables and bud/leaves, an alternate cuff in the Celtic Vines pattern, Two front pockets, a separate button placket, and a shawl style collar. I found some coconut shell leaf buttons to finish it off. The front vine/flower was added as an afterthought i-cord design.  It fits well enough I wore it out to fall cider and apple fritters.  I just forgot to get any photos.  (And my other photos are late night cell phone shots which leave a bit to be desired)

And now something for the curious knitter…. what the interior of it looks like.

sylvi interior

I personally don’t think I am the best at weaving in ends, but to me this looks fine enough I don’t think I would line it.

Now as to the stash busting and how that is going…. I still have a couple more sweaters-worth of thrifted yarn.  One in a fingering weight black and another in a worsted weight beige that I am hoping to dye a more suited shade.  And then the latest yarn swap came in…. so 10 skeins out… and it looks like 7 skeins in.

Must… knit… faster

Socks and other things that happen when pigs fly

Whew!  I am writing this post while sorting through songs to play wedding day… and finding all the photos of things I didn’t blog about.  (Shame on me!) But I have reasons!  Some of them are better than others too!  One of my reasons is we have been redecorating some of the house by painting.  And we finished up the guest room just in time for my future (soon!) mother-in-law to come visit. This is also the home of most of my yarn stash, and now it sports a great chair for sitting and knitting in.

While she was here, we visited a local yarn mill called Abundant Earth Fiber, where we enjoyed getting a full tour from Lydia which included Ben trying out her loom. Even though both his mom and I encouraged him, I am not sure he is going to make any of the rugs we will use when we put in the hardwood floors.

Anyway… back to socks, and specifically Sock Madness.  I did finish the pair with beads for the competition.  I did it “Hollywood Style” which means they are too long in the toes (and I did run out of my skein there too!) so I shall just have to fix them in post-production.

I solemnly swear to try to post my post-production sock fix.

I solemnly swear to try to post my post-production sock fix.

And then after the socks with cables and beads… it was Kilt hose to narrow the teams down to just seven.  So I tackled my first pair of socks made intentionally for someone else.  Which turned out better than I had hoped, and I have the distinct pleasure to present as worn with kilt.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Tradescantia Zebrina Socks

Tradescantia Zebrina Socks

So this is the second to last round… and while I did get started, I’ve not gotten terribly far and will not be advancing to the final round.  The pattern is by the same designer as the Semki socks I made, so its quite the challenge.

While I didn’t make it all the way to the finals, I did win a prize!  And all because I knit a very silly little flying pig between the rounds.

I had so much fun making him… I’ve started to knit a whole fleet!  (While there are several names for groups of pigs, there doesn’t appear to be any for the flying kind.)

As for the other things… well in addition to finishing my wedding shawl, I did actually tackle a shawl that I have had in my queue with yarn assigned from nearly 3 years ago.  I know.. that’s a long time to have something in queue with the yarn, but let me take you back…. back to the early years.  Like many a newer knitter, I started out trying to balance budget and skill, and you know me, I tend to be frugal.  So it was a real splurge when I used some reward bucks at a yarn shop to pick out a gorgeous skein of Malabrigo lace.  The color is called Archangel, but in my opinion, its the Orion Nebula.

The pattern for this one is both simple and complex… mostly bare half-charts which leave some of the mechanics open to interpretation…. so I did my best.

And before I forget yet again… I did enjoy the Yarn and Fabric Swaps.  And quite frankly… I totally made out like a bandit!

Here’s my fabric gift write up.  My giftee posted a thanks, but no photos.

And the one for yarn.  (Here’s what I sent)

So now I have more piggies, more wedding knits, and two pairs of color work socks to finish up… anyone have a knitting clone?

Know Your Fiber: Grow Your Own Yarn Edition

Remember when I was talking about Yarn Swapping previously?  Well my received yarn included some simply amazing 100% Bamboo yarn.

Its like they went out on an autumn drive, waves the yarn in the air and voila!

Its like they went out on an autumn drive, waved the yarn in the air and voila!

So this got me and a few of my friends curious as to how exactly one makes Bamboo yarn.   Consider if you will that Bamboo is indeed very woody in nature, even though it technically is a grass.  How exactly do you get silky softness from that?

Bamboo, staple of panda edibles and amazing wire work ninja fighting in the movies... and yarn.

Bamboo, staple of panda edibles and amazing wire work ninja fighting in the movies… and yarn.

Well after some digging around… there are two ways to make bamboo yarn.  One method is shared with making linen(flax), hemp and ramie plant based yarns.With that method, the fibrous material is soaked typically in water sometimes with added microbial help, to break down the outer hard layer and soften the under-layer of the stem, called the bast fibers.  This is called retting.   The long fibrous strands are then dried, and spun into yarn.

Another method is used to make what gets classified as more of a semi-synthetic fiber, such as rayon(wood), modal(wood), viscose rayon (wood), Lyocell/Tencel (also wood), etc – apparently we wear a lot of trees.

Wood you like to see my future yarn stash?

Wood you like to see my future yarn stash?

In this method, chips of wood/chunks of bamboo/bits o’ cotton (didn’t see that non-wood one coming did you?) are treated to a chemical bath to break apart the cellulose fibers that make up the plant and dissolve them into a pulp.  They can then be treated with other chemicals to add flame retardation or other desirable qualities if so desired.  And then finally… the pulp is then extruded through spinnerets into an acid base that hardens the fiber strands to prepare them for spinning.

Now… lest one of you points out that thus far I’ve only briefly mentioned the most famous of plant fibers… cotton yarn is not made using either of these methods.  Cotton has natural cellulose chains.  Whereas all the prior wood  was only about 40-50% cellulose, cotton is 90%.  Which means that you can comb/card and spin those fibers directly into yarn.

Oh plants... so helpful in giving us yarns for our friends allergic to the animal fibers.

Oh plants… so helpful in giving us yarns for our friends allergic to the animal fibers.

To be clear I do not know which method was used to make my yarn.. and honestly it doesn’t really matter… its a beautiful gift and I can’t wait to knit with it!  If I were to describe it… I’d say its like cotton and silk got together and had a love child.