Remember the Unicorn Spit?

Six completed skeins of yarn with a bundle of unspun fibre perched on top.

I wound up one skein of it for swatching, because the Pirate Socks are still in time-out and I didn't want to disturb them. Here's where things get weird: I'm getting 10-11 wraps per inch on this yarn, so it should be a heavy DK or light worsted weight yarn. But it was a little tight to knit on size 8/5mm needles, and much more pleasant on size 9/5.5mm needles, where I'm getting four stitches to the inch, making it... heavy worsted? Aran? What even.

An in-progress knitting swatch. There is a ruler on top of the swatch with the yarn wrapped around it, showing ten wraps per inch.

The other problem is that it is TWISTY. I'm sure that I washed these skeins before I put them away, so I know the twist is supposedly set, but whooooo it's impossible to knit with as is. I had to stop every yard or so to let the work dangle and untwist the next bit of yarn. This isn't workable for a whole piece, so I'll probably end up running it through the wheel 'backwards' to untwist it a bit, and then re-soak it, and see if that helps.

"But I wanted a firm and durable and round yarn!" says past-me, the spinner who apparently overplied the heck out of this stuff. Ah well. It's still fixable.

The swatch isn't showing any bias because of all the untwisting, so at least I know that it can knit up nicely... at four stitches to the inch:

A knitted swatch of heathery green yarn with garter stitch up the sides and ribbing at the top. Eyelets in each section indicate the needle sizes that were tested: size 8 and 9.

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"So where do you keep your knitting machine?"

Well, there's this adorable little nook in the loft, between the stairs and the sliding door that leads out to the terrace. It's just big enough for the machine on its table, two bookcases, and me. This picture is from when Puppies was still in progress:

A small nook with a knitting machine, two bookcases, and a sliding glass door covered by a curtain. A stairwell is visible to the left. There is a half-wall between the stairs and the back of the knitting machine's table.

Here's a shot from a slightly different angle so you can see where the stairs are in relation to everything else. I only have the round table next to the machine because I was using the extension rails, and wanted to make sure no one accidentally walked into the one that's sticking out. It's hard to see in dim light, and the switches are on the wall next to the sliding door. Usually the table lives under the light switches, though.

A view of the knitting machine corner that shows the stairs, the half-wall behind the knitting machine table, two bookcases against the wall, and a sliding glass door covered by a curtain.

Having the shelves right next to me while I work is perfect, as I have a spot to keep all the little bits and pieces that accumulate with machine knitting: weights, transfer tools, cones of waste yarn, and so on. Plus there's room for the machine boxes and ribber across the top of the bookcases.

The table is actually a four-foot workbench that I got on sale for under $200. I love how sturdy it is! It doesn't wiggle back and forth at all while I'm knitting. On the other hand, it does take two people to move the table or adjust its height... but that seems like a small issue now that Michael's living here too.

So I guess the real question is: now that Puppies is done, what should my next machine-knitting project be? I have a dozen ideas, of course, but nothing's fully fleshed out yet. Socks? In the round, or flat? Armwarmers? Learning double bed jacquard? A shawl? More colourwork design? A sweater?!

And, of course, with what yarn?

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I bought this yarn a long time ago, knit half of it into a Jaywalker sock, realized that the sock was too small, put the whole thing in time-out for years and years, and... well, why not just re-skein it and knit some plain stockinette socks that are sure to fit? I need mindless projects for knit night, anyway.

A pair of handknit socks in stripes of pinks and grays.

As always, I try to make the stripes on my socks match up. Sometimes that's tricky when the stripes are very wide and the repeat is long, but fortunately there was enough yarn to make it work here.

Austermann Step, 64 stitches, size US 1/2.25mm needles.

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I've had the Buccaneer's Booty Socks pattern in my queue since, no joke, 2008. That is a long, long time to want to knit a pair of socks without actually knitting them. So...

The cuff of a handknit sock, with a skull-and-crossbones motif in white on a blue background. There are red and white stripes setting off the section with the skulls.

There's just one problem: The colourwork section is too tight to get over my ankle. And I've already knit down to well past the heel. (I swapped in a Sweet Tomato Heel for the short-row heel as written, but that's not relevant if I can't get the sock over my foot!)

I'm thinking I'll pick up stitches just below the skulls-and-crossbones, snip off the cuff that I knit, and work it again from the bottom up... with more stitches in the colourwork than before.

Hrmph.

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I've wanted to knit Puppies since I got the knitting machine. Last year I bought four cones of laceweight yarn for it, and promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more yarn until I'd knit the thing. So... I knit the thing.

First, I made a swatch and attempted to felt it (not entirely, just a little bit) in the washing machine. I have a front-loader, which makes it a little more tricky, but it seemed to work just fine! There's still some stitch definition, but all the floats are stuck down, which is exactly what I was trying to achieve.

A swatch of the Puppies pattern in purple-gray and white. It looks like damask wallpaper.

And then I got started knitting it on the machine.

The Puppies wrap in progress, hanging from a flatbed knitting machine, with weights hooked into the fabric. The purl side of the fabric is showing.

The wrap is knitted in three sections - first the two outside strips, and then the centre strip connects them as it's knit up. I knit strip one, and then failed to properly upload strip three to the machine... so I knit strip one twice. (Sigh.) After some time and troubleshooting, I figured it out, and knit strip three, followed by the centre piece. Each of the sides took just under an hour, including the time to upload the pattern into the machine... and the centre took more like four or five hours, because of having to hook the sides up as I went. Michael helped me arrange the side strips so that I wouldn't be hooking them up backwards or upside-down or anything silly like that - I am awful at the mental gymnastics of rotating pieces around in my head to get them aligned properly!

The two outer strips of the Puppies wrap with a yardstick for scale. They are much longer than the yardstick.

All three strips of the Puppies wrap, together and laid out on the floor. It is more than a yard wide and probable about two yards long.

Here's a closeup of a "puppy" (I think it looks more like a horse, but hey) with the fabric folded over to show the floats as well:

The Puppies wrap folded over at the bottom so that the front and back sides are visible in the same picture.

And then, with much trepidation, I tossed it into the washing machine. For the most part it fulled nicely... but there are some places that look a little holey, and I'm worried about those. I might try to spot-felt them, as well as the parts of the seam that just didn't quite felt enough. That'll be done by hand in a basin, rather than in the washing machine again.

The Puppies wrap, felted and laid out to dry on towels. It's now slightly less than a yard wide.

A closeup of one of the holes in the wrap. It's not very big, but it is obvious..

Here you can see that part of the seam felted together just fine (circled in green) but part of it really didn't (circled in orange):

Properly and improperly felted areas of the seam connecting two of the strips of knitting.

I'm not super-happy with the results of this project, but it was definitely a Learning Experience with capital letters! I've gotten a bunch of advice on how I can better felt the thing next time, if there is a next time, including a method to keep the edges from rolling up and sticking to each other in the wash (ugh, I had to unroll/unstick them all, and bent back a fingernail in the process) and how to keep the edges from ruffling. I have a bit of the yarn left... which I might use held doubled to make some colourwork armwarmers. We shall see!

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Bottom line up front: Because I know a number of people simply can't use Ravelry anymore, I'm now also selling my patterns on Payhip.

So, this thing with the Ravelry redesign. It sure is a mess, huh. From the early days of "Surprise! we redid the site! Don't you love it? ...wait, you don't love it?" to flat-out dismissing people's health issues, only allowing positive feedback on the forums (locking/archiving/hiding anything negative or questioning, and even blocking people from the main forums for continuing to ask questions), and alienating people who helped build the community from the very beginning.

I'm lucky in that I'm not one of the people who's had negative effects from the redesign. I found the original colour scheme and harsh drop shadows to be too much and stuck with Classic, but once they came out with the toned-down "Herdwick" theme I did switch over. I don't think it's great: many of the icons are meaningless; they use colours which don't match the rest of the theme; things don't line up; menus in the header open when the mouse passes over them (like when switching browser tabs) and stay open even when other elements of the page are clicked; it's just not good design.

In short, I'm grumpy about this. Really, really grumpy.

There are so many things they could have done better, and they just... didn't.

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Happy happy new year!

As usual, this tally is more for myself than anything else, but you may find it interesting as well. If you're coming from FB/Twitter/other social media, click through to see the full post:

INCOMING YARN: 14,129 yards
6 balls Loops & Threads Woolike to use for knitting machine practice (4068)
1 skein Yarnaceous Salta Fingering, souvenir yarn from Park City (437)
4 Cones of merino laceweight from Colourmart (9624) (ouch)

A skein of sock yarn in purples and a bit of orange, very sunsetty colours

OUTGOING YARN: 8,451 yards in 13 projects
Test Scarf in Dallas Colours, a learning experience with the knitting machine (2203)
Rainbow Socks, which could not be more awesome (400)
A pan protector, quick and easy crochet project (99)
Pinksplosion, knee-high stockinette socks and my first time trying the Fish Lips Kiss Heel (716)
A Multnomah Shawl(ette), because apparently accessorizing is a thing I do now (328)
I heard Grandma was cold, so I knit her a wrap with the bulky machine. (1344)
My first foray into patterned brioche with a Sizzle Pop, since accessorizing is... yeah. (899)
How 'bout another shawl? Breathe and Hope was fun to knit. (642)
And one more for good measure, the Which Way shawl. (688)
A scrappy slouchy hat with the Which Way leftovers (233)
The Sockhead Cowl used up a whole skein of Trekking XXL (459) and a matching Sockhead Hat used up another 70% of a skein (321)
I made a Polyphylla Cowl for Grandma, using my own handspun yak-silk yarn (so soft!) (120)

A closeup of the Which Scraps Hat pattern showing a black lattice over rainbow stitches

INCOMING FIBRE: 0 ounces
I bought nothing. NOTHING. I'm so proud of myself.

OUTGOING FIBRE: 16 ounces
A whole pound of Fleece Four-Twelve! Which is... not enough for the sweater I want to knit, so I'm still spinning this one. But I spun a whole pound of fleece - how cool is that?

Eight hanks of brown three-ply yarn sit on a stone countertop.

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR:
You know what they say about the best-laid plans... but I have some thoughts and WIPs. I'm still spinning the Fleece, and in my down time at work I'm also spinning some Finn/mohair batts that I've had for a very long time. My only knitting WIP is the second sock of the second pair in the Twisted Trilogy, and I did swatch for Puppies but I haven't actually cast on for it yet.

So, obviously, finishing those WIPs are first up, and then I have some design ideas, and I'd like to learn to use the machine better, and... and... and! There's always more on my list than I can manage to do in a year, but that's fine - it gives me options :)

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I finished my Sockhead Hat! It could probably be a little slouchier, but I like it just fine. I made the 152-stitch size because I was using thinner yarn and smaller needles than the pattern specified, and it fits perfectly.

Pirate models a rainbow-striped hat

The difference between the two balls of yarn, which were supposedly the same dye lot, is less stark in the finished objects than it was in the balls - but it's still quite obvious and I'm glad I didn't end up making two not-matching knee socks out of this yarn. I would have been really, really annoyed at the discrepancy.

A hat and cowl, knit in similar rainbow stripes

I used about 70% of the second ball of yarn to make the hat, so there's probably enough left for a pair of armwarmers. Another thing I love about working from home - I can set the thermostat warmer and no one laughs at me for bundling up in warm clothes at my desk!

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The absolute last thing I needed was to start a new project, except for the part where I've been having some downtime at work and there's an empty spinning wheel next to my desk. This work-from-home thing is pretty awesome. The desk that Michael and I built is nearly perfect: eight feet long, painted teal and yellow, room for my personal computer, my work computer, the letter I'm writing, and a sketchbook too. It's attached to the wall so it doesn't shake, and braced underneath so it should never bow in the middle.

Pirate's office: a long teal-painted desk on the right with several monitors and a laptop, sketchbooks, knitting projects. To the left of the desk is a window; under the window is a spinning wheel.

Anyway, I found this set of batts in my stash bins while I was moving them around. I bought the fibre in 2009 (yeah, it's been a while) as dyed locks of 25% mohair/75% Finn wool, and carded them into batts by colour so that I could spin a gradient.

A row of carded batts in a gradient from light green through purple through rusty red.

Since I have no idea what I'm eventually going to knit with this, and I'm not in any particular hurry to get the project done, I decided to aim for a light fingering weight yarn. It will take a long time to spin eight ounces of fibre this fine in just the pauses between work, but it might end up as a nice shawl if it's soft enough.

I pulled a strip off the first batt and started to spin, and... whew, the fibre is drafting nicely! It's got quite a bit of lanolin left in it, so it's a little sticky, but in a good way. In a not-slippery way. In a "this is easy to spin fine singles" way.

A very fine single, held over a penny for scale.

When I felt like I'd gotten a reasonably good consistency and thickness (thin-ness?) with the singles, I tried a three-ply plyback test - folding the single strand back on itself and twisting it up as if it were three separate strands going into one yarn. The pale green is my spinning; the bright yarn next to it is a strand of Trekking XXL, which is just slightly thinner than what I think of as "standard" sock yarn. I'm right on target.

Three-ply plyback test, next to a strand of commercial sock yarn as a comparison.

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That secret gift I mentioned in my last post is a neckwarmer/cowl for Grandma! I knit it with a yak/silk blend that I spun a couple of years ago, but didn't know what to do with it... until now. The pattern is Polyphylla, which is available for free on Ravelry.

A cowl, with a ruffled edge at the bottom, knit in handspun yarn. The colours are stripes of dark and light red, blue, and green.

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, not to mention knitting with my own handspun yarn of silky warm softness. It's well-written, though I was a little bit unsure about the instructions to shift the stitch marker for the beginning of the round. Fortunately it's so easy to see where one is in the pattern by looking at what's already been knit, so I got around the confusion easily enough. The bindoff makes a really nice edge, but as I mentioned in my previous post, uses up a lot more yarn than I expected!

The cowl used one skein of my handspun yarn, and I am absolutely loving the self-striping effect that I produced! The only thing is, I had two... and they had slightly different yardage, and I don't know if this was the 118-yard skein or the 140-yard skein. I'll have to remember to re-measure the remaining yarn before I start another project with it, just to be on the safe side.

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