Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fiber Buying MANIA!!!

Well, first I bought THREE freaking tops. Just liked all three. They're all merino or BFL and I like spinning both of those.

Meanwhile, there was a 4th I was VERY intrigued with, but that one was 50/50 Merino/Tencel blend. I saw a lot of glimmer to the roving, which made me think slippery. I contacted the seller, and she loves to spin that blend, but she uses a wheel. Drop spindles can be quite different.

Here's that top, I just loved this colorway.

So I went on a search on Etsy, hoping to find other sellers with the same blend, one of whom might say how it is to spin on a drop spindle. That's all I was after, honest.

Whereupon I ran across this amaaaaaaaazing roving. I clicked on it, and said, "SHEEEEUT! What the hell IS that! I just stared at it. I truly didn't know what to make of this colorway. It is so totally off the charts in terms of anything I've bought so far. I stared at it some more. At one point, I thought, "This is a love/hate thing." But I just kept looking at it.

Time out! Years ago, when Jenny was just a little thing (2nd grade or less) we had bought a Nintendo. We got Super Mario Bros. with it. Well, I played that with Jenny, and we could get to the 4th part of the first level maaaaybe. But that was it. So this is a thing that kind of grows on you. Well, one day I came home from tennis and thought I'd have a little rest before showering and getting out of my tennis duds. So I grabbed a cup of coffee and put on Super Mario Bros. Well, I really got on a roll with this thing. I mean, I kept dodging the bullets, the bangs, the zaps. I was so ridiculously into it by this point (I mean wired from all that fast reacting, like... sitting at the edge of my chair with this maniacal gleam in my eyes, lips peeled tight in anticipation of yet another thing to come bouncing across the screen to get me). And I got through levels we hadn't even SEEN yet! Suddenly, I heard that suspense music that happens when you're going to another level. But now there was something a little more shrill about it. That meant only one thing. I was headed somewhere BIG!
Whereupon, I got plunked down into this Living Hell Place. I was just absorbing that when, all of a sudden, this HUGE FREAKING TERRIFYING DRAGON popped out of nowhere and started coming at me. FAST! With everything it had! I couldn't help it. I screamed! I mean, in real life, sitting in the family room, I totally screamed. LOUD!!! Freaking loud!! Somewhere in the back recesses of my mind it registered that if the neighors were home they'd come running out of their house, calling hysterically over the fence, maybe even jumping it, because that was no normal scream. But meanwhile this dragon was wasting no time. Fire shooting out of its mouth, with this loud, terrifying "Whooooooosh" sound you NEVER want to hear anywhere near you. And its eyes were gleaming. RED! I could see right away that I'd obviously have to jump over this recessed pit, and it led God Knew Where and my timing would have to be perfect. I mean, now the veins were popping out in my temples, my heart was racing and my hand was clapped over my mouth in horror, but there was no time for that, all sorts of crap was being hurled at me. But I just had to see more of that dragon.

Well, I just freaked. I put the whole program on Pause, because I had to think this over. I went into the bathroom, not to pee. But to stare at myself in the mirror, and I said, "OH MY GAWD! WHAT the FUCK do I do with THAAAAT!!!! Out loud. And no neighbors were pounding on the door.

Okay, now that did NOT happen when I saw this fiber. Trust me. I'm a totally sane person. Pfffffft. But for some reason this fiber made me think about that day.

Here it is.
Is this amazing or whaaaaaaaaaaaat!

And another view.

I mean, fiber doesn't get dyed like this. Look at the deep teal, and deep wine. The other odd colors in there. The gold. I didn't know what to make of it. I had to buy it. Even if that fiber had been so expensive that it meant living on lentils (with no bacon) for a year, I had to buy it.

So now I'm resisting setting up camp in front of the door of the post office until Sat. morning like Snoopy's little friend sits in front of the dryer waiting for his bankie. I've sure looked at a lot of fiber, I mean for hours. Nothing like this exists. I'm either going to love it. Or hate it. Just like with that dragon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Comparisons between 1st and 3rd batch, HAH!

Okay, still working on the Verdant colorway. As my ability to draft Jenny's technique (pretty much a standard technique you see in experienced youtube videos) gets better, my yarn gets thinner.

I wanted to check this as I went, so even though I'm no where near through that 4 oz. of roving, I've done it in three batches.

First batch and the Third batch, side by side.

Here's just the third.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Thinner Spinner - Verdant Merino

Well, Jenny's drafting technique has gotten some practice, and it does make you tend to spin finer, which I'm just wanting to do with this spin anyway. I'm learning the yarn plumps up when it's off the spindle, plus plying it seems to make it do that more because, as Jenny said, plying takes some of the spin out.

I wasn't too sure about this colorway once I got into it, it seemed all I was spinning was dark blue. I wasn't sure, either, about spinning quite as fine a thickness as this was turning out to be, so stopped at just under an ounce, plied the yarn (amazed... 90 yards of singles, 45 yards of plied obviously, but all that out of less than an ounce?)

This time I used the expected penny reference. This yarn looks a lot like the Printemps EXCEPT it's a whole lot darker and more intense hues, through and through. It does not feel like I'm duplicating, at all. I'm really liking it!

The thinnest (plied) seems to be 14wpi. A super thick stretch comes out to 8wpi. I'm likely to average it out for purposes of patterns, etc. at 10-12. Or, as a lot of spinners seem to say, "Somewhere between DK and Worsted Weight."

I STILL don't have consistent thickness, but waaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAY more so in this spin than before. At least that's how it looks to me when I go through the 22 strands I have on the niddy noddy in various places in the skein.

So that's progress!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ta Daaaa.... My First Cowl

This is my first try at a simple pattern modification. I loved the stitching in the cowl designed by NovaMade, but she has the neck for a bulkier cowl (plus finer yarn) so I tried my hand at some changes...

1. Less bulk under my chin, so closer fitting there;
2. Yet a little spread out as it went down toward my chest so it would lie flat;
3. I wanted the scallops that her pattern creates to be at the top edge; and
4. Since I would be knitting this on bigger needles with fatter yarn, I didn't want the larger size holes from using a Yarn-Over.

At first I was clueless where I'd plug in increases as the cowl progressed, but my gut said to leave the straight stitching alone and put the increases in the diagonal ribby-sort of stitching, so I put them in the center of that, switching WHICH center-ish stitch each time. As for the holes, I tried what I THOUGHT was a M1 instead of the YO on a swatch, and got a nice smaller hole. Well, it turned out I made a mistake in "M1" but that mistake is actually a real stitch, called an "Eyelet." So that worked out.

As for the RATE of increase to get the right spreading out over shoulders, measuring my body's rate of increase there with a tape measure was next to impossible, so I just winged it. I'm going to try it like this a couple of wearings, and if I decide it "must" lie flat, it'll be a little frogging time, that's all.

So here it is on the table...

And here it is on me with nostrils cropped out because this was definitely an up-the-nose shot (easy to get when you're photo-ing yourself).

Now looking like an "angry Arab" from self-shooting (hence concentrating), these photos were as good as I could get under the circumstances.

And a sorta side view. I discovered two things here -- if you stand in front of a mirror and point the LCD screen at the mirror, duh, you can see what's in the LCD screen; and (2) is it reeeeeally necessary to concentrate on the LCD screen to THAT degree?

Okay now HERE is the original idea of what I was aiming for. (I had to hold it stretched because since I started the increases so late, it won't lay this way naturally.

As for the stitch pattern itself? I really love it! Here are some shots of its construction that show off NovaMade's design. And, of course, that neat bind-off that Jenny showed me.

Here's a shot of the increases I added. As mentioned, I picked the slanted part rather than the straight stitching part of the pattern. I have a feeling that turned out to have been the right choice.

And here's what it looks like overall when it's first being started. I'm only including this WIP photo because it just looks like it could spark the imagination of more experienced knitters... for something. The main imagination it sparks for me is back in grammar school we starched things with a strong sugar-water solution. Since this looks like a Queen's Crown AND all that sugar would surely attract bees, it made me think if you were to make a crown and starch it that way, you'd have to name it the Queen Bee crown.

So hopefully it'll lie right under jackets as is, in which case I'll give up the original plan to have it spread out because that many increases would once again be total guesswork.

Now back to that hat shown below, and trying to make it look less like a fancy toilet paper roll cover.

Monday, March 2, 2009

2nd Hat, 3rd Spin (Will partially frog, but learning!)

Hats go fast once you know what you're doing. (I say that on blind faith because I don't yet.) The way the swatch from this spin knitted up though, I figured I'd get this same distinct striping on the hat, but that was a different part of the spin, it's less distinct on the hat.

First, here's the swatch, it's a BIG swatch, knitted on 10.5, 11 and 13 needles, a couple inches each. So is this kickass yarn or what!! The fiber I spun it from is Printemps colorway, hand-dyed by Erica (Squoosh is her store name on Etsy). LOVE that colorway!!

Okay, as for the hat. Bear in mind that I'm not going off a pattern with my hats, but from a general design-your-own guide that touts it's for "knitting any hat, any yarn, any size needles." Since this guide prescribes knitting from the top down, you really can design and size it as you go. That really appealed to me.

It would help to know what I'm doing, but I don't have the experience for that yet, so I've become very much at peace with serious swatch knitting AND with frogging.

Anyway, the general instructions say that for a pullover Beanie, stop the increases that happen in the top circle at about 5-10% less than your head size. For a Pillbox design, make the circle the same size as your head measurement. And for a Tam a/k/a Beret, make your top circle 2-4 inches bigger.

Beyond that, you're on your own. I'd ORIGINALLY planned on a beret for this spin because that would show off the yarn variations best. However, after 40 Ravelry pattern search pages of "beret," only one looked like I'd like it, and there was no pattern. The rest all hugged around people's foreheads with no hair able to be showing (NOT a look I can wear!) I got the feeling that all berets are going to do that though, so figured, "Pfffffft. Abandon the whole beret idea."

So not knowing which of the other two I'd want to make, I tried to straddle the middle of the two remaining suggested circumferences (beanie calling for 20" and the pillbox calling for 22"). I settled at 21" in hopes of ending up with a "convertible" hat that I could wear as a beanie OR as a pillbox.

First, here's the hat modeled on a 21" tube-shaped bowl. It's to show the 3 rows of garter stitching I threw in after I stopped the increase circle. (This was meant to be a design element if worn as a beanie AND to enhance the pillbox effect if worn as a pillbox hat).

But Voila! I now know how to make a toilet paper roll cover!!

Okay, so here it is as a pillbox hat, with a cuff.

Another Pillbox shot...

And if it gets pulled a LITTLE downward more, it would be a semi-pillbox.

Now for what it would look like with that garter stitch "design element" left in if pulled down more and worn as a beanie...

Another shot...

And a shot that shows the 3 rows of garter stitch (which I'm not yet sure about at all)...

So if I keep this design, I'm going to frog UP TO the decrease row and remove half the decreases because the hat's just a TAD snugger than I like.

I'm also considering two other changes. One is ADDING a single row of garter between the 2" of stockinette and where the ribbing starts. (This "design your own" idea is both a good and a bad thing. Good once you know what you're doing, but frog-prone if you don't. Like me.) The other possibility is to frog all the way up to the 3 rows and just remove them.

I'm waiting for Jenny to get back from their kickass sounding vacation in California to give me her opinion on several questionable elements, which opinions are almost always right. Meanwhile, though, any modifications whatsoever will get parked until I spin the rest of this fiber and make sure I have enough yarn for a cowl because I'm thinking the cowl Peggy found takes priority. If it needs enough yarn so all I can get for a hat is the barest minimum beanie with no cuff, then I'm willing. I want the cowl.

Peggy is a fierce researcher, and she went on a hunt for cowls, I think just because we were emailing about them and they seem like a super neat thing, except so many of them look like the neck pieces of moon walking astronauts! She landed on a blog where not only did she find some neat cowls, but the one that really caught my eye was this woman's own design, and she was nice enough to post her pattern! The one Peggy favors is much more plain, but it very well might be the best one for this yarn, because anything that'll show off its natural variations... that's ideal.

I'm now test-knitting the cowl I liked with a skein of cheapo Walmart acrylic. (Very harsh color changes but at least it shows the general idea.) I'm hoping that the softer color changes in my spin will look better in this design, but it sure is smacking of a pattern that lends itself to a solid color yarn (sob, sob, sob).