Inspired by Sockmatician's Sanquhar Scarf, but unwilling to do that much double-knitting with sock yarn, I decided to design something similar to knit on the machine. I began by using Excel as graph paper to fill in squares, which is probably not how its developers ever imagined a spreadsheet application would be used, but it works!

Then Michael helped by writing a magic spell - er, I mean, a program - that would convert the Excel spreadsheet to a bitmap, with one pixel per cell. I loaded that bitmap into the knitting machine software, transferred the pattern to the machine, and 700 or so rows later, voila! a scarf! (At least, in theory. I may have messed it up a few times and had to start over.)

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, with the wrong side showing.

I'm including my initials into the "cuff," as was traditional for mittens. I'll put them on the other end of the scarf too!

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, showing the front side.

With machine knitting, it's often easier to begin again than to try to correct errors:

Behind the knitting machine, two re-raveled balls of yarn sit and wait for another attempt.

I finished the first side of the scarf and 5/7ths of the second side, which has the colours reversed in order to mimic the double knitting look, and... ran out of yarn. So I've ordered more, and as soon as it arrives, I can finish the last 200 or so rows and then seam the two sides together. The floats will then be safely sandwiched between layers so they can't snag on anything, and the finished scarf should be thick and squishy and warm! And because it's knit from sock yarn, it will also be machine-washable.

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Some time ago, I was given multiple bags of alpaca "seconds" - fleece that couldn't be sold for a number of reasons, possibly that it's not soft enough, that it wasn't sheared well, or that the quality is really varied. The stuff I have is... all of the above! But it was free, and I'm having fun going through it to pick out the good stuff.

This bag of fibre came from an alpaca named Valdir, who is apparently part white and part tan:

I'm picking through the bag to find the best of the locks, flicking them open with my hand carder...

Neat rows of alpaca locks lie on a table next to a hand card that has some wisps of fibre stuck in its teeth.

...and putting them all in a box.

Rows of alpaca locks that have been flicked open at both ends and laid neatly into a cardboard box.

All the short cuts are going directly into the garbage, and the soft fibres that aren't in perfect lock formation will go through the drum carder to make floofy batts.

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Next up: 200g of white Southdown (from World of Wool) that is destined to be sock yarn!

Pirate's hand holds a very fine strand of single-ply white yarn next to a two-ply strand over a penny for scale.

The Corriedale singles are resting before I ply them, but this fibre has been calling to me for a while. I've heard that Southdown makes excellent yarn for socks - bouncy and resistant to felting - so here's to experimentation! I haven't decided if I want to make this a two-ply or three, yet. (Opinions? Advice? Input? It's a matter of yardage vs durability, I think?)

I've also heard that the wool from Suffolk sheep is good for socks, so I have 200g of that in a natural grey as well, and will probably spin it next...

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A friend sent me a braid of Corriedale from Into the Whirled, in one of their Firefly-themed colourways. This one is called "The Verse" and it's all sorts of colours - blues and purples, greens and yellows, oranges and tans.

Unspun fibre in vibrant yellows and tans, greens and blues and purples, is piled on top of a partially full bobbin of singles.

My original thought was to try a fractal spin with it, as that's a technique I've been curious about for a while, but then I opened up the braid and thought... you know what, I would really prefer not to mix up purples and blues with yellows and oranges. So instead, I'm spinning a medium-thick singles with the plan to chain-ply and keep the colour progression in stripes.

Considering how tight some of my other handspun is, I'm trying to keep this one a little less twisty. Hopefully that will result in a softer, more drapey yarn when I'm done.

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The second pair of socks in the Twisted Trilogy is (finally) done!

This one is knit over 72 stitches, because that's how the pattern and my gauge worked out. I'd like to try to figure out how to fit it into 64, so I can offer the pattern in two sizes, but I'm not seeing a way to do that neatly. Ah well.

Two bright blue socks stretched over blockers on a wood background. The socks have a twisted stitch ribbing pattern running all the way up the foot and leg.

Originally I'd planned the third pair to be bright green, but I think I'm going with purple instead. I've got the stitch pattern all charted out and it's ready to get started, though I should probably finish some other projects first.

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I had so much fun swatching the Unicorn Spit that I decided to wash and swatch one of the skeins of Fleece.

Well, really, it was mostly curiosity. The Unicorn Spit was so twisty and knitting up at a gauge much fatter than its WPI would have led me to guess, that I needed to know if the Fleece would do the same. So I gave a skein a bath, let it soak for half an hour, rolled it in a towel, snapped it open a few times, rolled it in another towel and thwapped it on the floor, and then hung it to dry.

It is SO BOUNCY. And again, despite the WPI, it's knitting up quite nicely on size 8/5mm needles.
(I'd originally swatched this last year on size 6/4mm needles at nearly 5 stitches to the inch, and now I'm thinking that was way too dense.) Apparently if I want yarn that's actually sport to DK-weight, I'm going to have to spin much, much finer.

I'm going to try a few more textured stitches before I wash and block this, but here's the swatch in progress:

A swatch of brown knitting with plain stockinette at the bottom and cables plus ribbing at the top.

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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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