Much to the dismay of all my knuckles (which are rebelling, either due to July's heat and humidity, or to the annoyance of holding my hands in a particular position for too long) I've been spinning daily for the Tour de Fleece, and I'm up to three bobbins of singles!

An almost-full bobbin of fine brown single-ply yarn, still on the spinning wheel.

Some parts of the fibre are drafting a lot easier than others. Even though the sheep had been coated, the fleece didn't have zero vegetable matter in it. And it's very fine. Sometimes I have to stop to pick out a nep or a bit of straw, but for the most part it's going well.

I'm definitely leveling up my long-draw skills with this spinning project! Hopefully enough to make a lofty, airy three-ply yarn instead of a heavy, dense one. There's definitely enough fibre here to spin enough for a sweater (I have over two pounds of it) but I have yet more carded fleece in lighter colours that I may add to the project as a contrast colour. That will depend on what I want to knit, which I haven't quite decided yet. Of course.

While the Tour de France may have been postponed, I've been getting out for bike rides anyway. My goal is to ride at least 100 miles this month, which seems like a lot but really isn't. The real challenge is the hot and humid weather, not the biking!

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Over a decade ago, I excitedly bought a skein of Kureyon sock yarn and cast on for a stupid idea: I split the yarn in half, wound each half into a cake, and tried to knit from both ends of the ball at the same time, alternating every five rows.

A ball of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn in purples and greens.

I'd made a stripey striped scarf out of regular Kureyon yarn and loved it, and wanted to keep going with that theme.

A stripy scarf in progress, with four skeins of gradient yarn in every colour sitting on top of it.

Unfortunately, the sock yarn wasn't nearly as much fun to knit with as the thicker Kureyon was, and I got 1.3 socks into the project before putting it aside. (I noted at the time, "I hate this yarn and I am really glad I didn’t buy any more of it. The colors are wonderful. I love the striping effect. I can’t stand knitting it." Plus, flipping the ball of yarn over every five rounds was a tangly pain in the neck.

This year I decided that I was finally going to finish that pair of socks. I took them out - still on my trusty old bamboo needles! - and added a stripe here, a stripe there, hating the yarn just as much, loving the first sock just as much. It would be worth pushing through, I told myself. I tried on the first sock and it fit perfectly! So I counted its stripes and knit the same number of stripes on the second sock.

One of the reasons that I hated the yarn in the first place was that it was so inconsistent in its thickness. You can kind of see on the first sock how much thicker it was getting at the ribbing, but I didn't notice because that made it conveniently a little larger around my calf. But then when I started the toe on the second sock, it was with that thicker part of the yarn... and it just got more and more so as I went. Which I didn't realize until I tried them on, and then took a picture of one on top of the other.

Two stripey socks, one of them finished, one of them almost finished and still on the needles.

Heck.

The second sock is bigger in every way. It's wider, taller, thicker... I haven't even knit the ribbing for the cuff, and already the leg is longer than the first sock. With the same number of stripes. And while it's possible that my gauge has changed over the last decade, I knit the start of this sock right after I finished the first one. So that's not even an excuse.

Maybe I'll just put this yarn away for another decade.

Two differently sized striped socks.

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The "Breathe and Hope" shawl caught my eye, and not just because everyone else is knitting it - I love the alternating directions of the stripes, the texture of the pattern, and the option to make the stripes subtle or striking, depending on the yarn. I chose a skein of Cascade Heritage in Navy to be the solid background to a skein of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 in Maltese, which is a lovely deep colourway of variegated blues and greens. It's enough contrast to show, but not so much that the finished shawl will be dizzyingly stripy (I hope).

The first few sections went really quickly, of course, since the rows are so short. I've just finished one of the vertical stripe sections and am working on one of the k1b sections. Each one of those is just a little bit different, so the texture changes up each time. I think that's a nifty design feature - it wasn't one that I was expecting from photos of the pattern. The boomerang shape, which is causing the tail of the shawl to curl around itself, is also pretty cool. I'm excited to see how it blocks out and how it looks when I'm wearing it!

A closeup view of the green and blue stripes in the shawl. Horizontal stripe sections alternate with vertical.

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It's time. It's finally time to spin Fleece Four-Twelve, the one that Carrie and I bought at MDSW a few years ago. I was going to wait until the start of the Tour de Fleece on the 27th, but why wait to begin such an exciting project?

I spun up a quick sample, aiming for a DK-weight three-ply yarn, and I think that's what I've come up with. With my sample yarn washed and dried, I measured 11 wraps per inch and then knit a stockinette swatch on US 6 (4mm) needles, which got me 19 stitches/4 inches before washing. And then I ripped that out so that I could try some cables. Here's a picture of the swatch just off the needles, along with some of the carded fleece...

A cabled swatch knitted from brown yarn with a chunk of carded fleece.

...and here's what it looks like after it's been washed and blocked.

A knitted swatch with cables is pinned onto a green towel.

The fleece is quite crimpy and springy, so I'm trying to spin it long-draw to maintain its bounce and light weight. I don't want this to be a heavy, dense yarn at all. After washing, the swatch is rustic but almost soft enough to wear it next to my skin. Fortunately that's not my plan for it - I want to knit a cabled cardigan to wear when I go snowboarding! I haven't picked a pattern yet, but I think I have plenty of time to think about it.

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I finished knitting and blocked the Sizzle Pop shawl - what a difference! That's a 12" ruler for scale in the before-and-after photos, and wow, look how much it grew! The shawl drapes beautifully now. It's soft and squishy and relatively lightweight for its size, and I absolutely love it.

The Sizzle Pop shawl before and after blocking, with a 12" ruler for scale. It is much larger after blocking.

I only made one small change to the pattern, and that was to knit an extra repeat - I had enough extra yarn, and I was concerned that the finished shawl would be a little on the small side. It is not, now. :)

The pattern was well-written and fun to knit! It went faster than I was expecting, except for the parts where I got distracted and made mistakes. In most cases I wasn't going to be able to just drop down and fix the error (yay, brioche?) so I had to un-knit, which takes for-freaking-ever (yay, brioche?) but was totally worth doing as I wouldn't have been able to live with the errors.

My version of Sizzle Pop used a skein of Malabrigo Sock in 120 Lotus, and a skein of Sheep's Clothing Yarn Co. Fable Fingering in Nebula Speckle. There's a little bit of each one left over, but not a lot. Not only do the yarns coordinate perfectly with each other, but they also go well with my hair - right down to the little pop of blue.

Pirate modeling the Sizzle Pop Shawl

This will definitely not be the last brioche project, or the last shawl, that I'm going to knit. It was so much fun to work on, and the results are spectacular. I have so much fingering weight yarn in my stash, my sock drawer is already overflowing, but my shawl-and-wrap shelf still has plenty of space left for more projects. The next one I'm working on is Casapinka's "Breathe and Hope" pattern, which is two-colour but not brioche. I'm making good progress on it, and will have pictures to share soon!

Closeup of the Sizzle Pop shawl, showing the brioche stitch pattern.

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Northern Virginia is starting to open up again, and I guess that means I might have to leave the house... so out came the sewing machine, and I made a couple of masks for Michael and me. The fabric is leftovers from the curtains we made when we first bought the house! I used this tutorial and found it pretty easy to follow. First I made Michael's mask, then adjusted the pattern to better fit my face, and made one for myself.

Pirate models a mask sewn from a cute flowery fabric.

The mask would fit even better with a nose wire, so I went in search of pipe cleaners in my big box of art supplies. I didn't find any, but I did find this vintage knitting nancy in a bag of mixed threads, along with a small booklet on how to knit. It suggests holding the right needle as one would hold a pencil, which seems very awkward to me - I wonder how many people failed to learn from these instructions!

A vintage white cord-knitting device with six small nails on top and a bit of cord emerging from the bottom sits next to vintage "how to knit" instructions.

And... grandma has received her long-distance surprise hug! It fits her perfectly (I mean, it's a blanket/wrap, of course it does, but still--)

Pirate's grandma models her new teal and brown wrap.

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It came up in conversation with my mom that my grandma is cold all the time. So I decided to crank out a wrap on the machine, using yarn that I already had in my stash, and send her a surprise bit of warmth in the mail. The first attempt was less than successful, but the second attempt worked out just fine!

A teal and brown knit wrap displayed on a purple bedspread.

For this wrap, I used Loops & Threads Impeccable in the "Tropical Storm" colourway (originally purchased to crochet a blanket, but... no). I cast on 110 stitches, which is the full width of the machine, and knit for about 400 rows, putting a hem at the top and bottom. For the sides, to try to prevent curling, I did a three-stitch bias border - moving stitches 2, 3, and 4 out to needles 1, 2, and 3, and then picking up a stitch for the now-empty needle 4. It helped, but not really enough. I think for something this wide, a more significant border might be required. Ultimately I crocheted it down with slip stitches to make kind of a rolled hem up the sides, and I think that looks rather nice. It doesn't completely eliminate the curl, but it helps.

Closeup of the detail of the edge seam of a teal and brown knit wrap.

I have a bunch of this yarn in my stash, but it seemed like none of it was the same dye lot, so I didn't bother trying to match up the colour progressions. Some of the plances where I changed skeins are kind of jarring to the way the argyle was playing out, but I think it will be just fine. I'm going to fold this up as small as possible, wedge it into a flat rate box, and mail it off. Hopefully this will help Grandma stay warm - at the very least, I'm sure she'll think of it like wearing a hug from me. :)

A teal and brown knit wrap draped artfully on an oversized, overstuffed chair.

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While my sock drawer will never truly be full (it will just expand to be two drawers, haha!) I thought perhaps I might use some of my sock yarn to knit a shawl instead. I wanted something quick, easy, and relatively simple, and chose Multnomah - a pattern that I've had in my mental queue for about a decade. I love the waves of feather and fan for the edging, and the idea of a nice mindless garter stitch centre of the shawl was appealing.

I finished it in a week, using about 75 grams of Cascade Heritage Paints in the Olympic Forest colourway... which I've had in my stash for, um, a while. I bought it because it matched my eyes, and then could never decide what to do with it. I think it makes a really good Multnomah shawl! (Oh, and I dyed my hair fun colours. What better time than now?)

Pirate modeling the shawl

I would definitely knit this pattern again, but I'd do it a little differently next time. For starters, this isn't really a shawl, it's a shawlette. So if I knit it again, I'll make the garter section a little bigger before starting the feather and fan border... and then perhaps I'll do more repeats of the edging as well.

As the pattern is written, when you're knitting the edging, you still maintain the garter stitch pattern in the central triangle and the corners of the shawl. If I knit it again, I would switch that out for the knits and purls of the feather and fan pattern to keep the texture of it all the way around the border.

Pretty sure I need advice about how to wear mini-shawls.

Pirate modeling the shawl.

Here's a better view of the whole thing, which shows off the pattern and that garter stitch triangle in the centre that I don't quite understand. Overall, I really like the result, I'm glad I knit it, and I'd totally do it again, maybe in handspun next time! Now, back to some of the more complex pieces that I'd started... like that brioche shawl I think I remember starting... ;)

The shawl displayed on a gray carpet.

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It's another rainy day here in northern Virginia, and possibly the last day that it will be cool enough for handknit socks, so I'm taking advantage of the weather to wear my new pink knee socks!

Pirate is modeling knee-high stripy pink socks.

This yarn (ONline Supersocke 100 Sierra Effekt, colourway 584 Pinks) came from someone at knit night who was destashing. She had four 100g balls of it, and tried to convince me to take them all, but I thought two would be more than enough for a pair of knee socks. I used just about 160 grams of yarn for both, so there's enough left over in case I want to make matching pink armwarmers.

To avoid second sock syndrome, I knit the socks in parallel, rather than sequentially. It feels like they went much faster that way! The pair took two and a half months from start to finish, which is a good pace for me - especially for knee socks! I started the first one while we watched the Super Bowl, and the second one on a train ride, and then I swapped off working on them to keep them fairly even with each other. This came in handy when I was doing the increases and ribbing, as I could be sure to start at exactly the same point in the striping sequence.

Pirate is modeling knee-high stripy pink socks.

I began with a figure-eight cast on and increased to 64 stitches. As I worked my way up the foot, I started thinking about what heel to use - and then I remembered! I'd bought the instructions for the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and hadn't tried it yet! So I made my foot template, found my ankle bone, followed along with the photo tutorial, and voila! Well-fitting socks. (It's pretty difficult to take pictures of one's own feet.)

When I had knit as far as my calf muscle, I started to do some math for the increases. I measured my leg at 9" from the floor, then 10", 11", and so on, and multiplied the measurement by my stitches per inch gauge. Ultimately I increased four stitches every other round until I had 96 stitches on the needles. When I got past the widest part of my calf, I switched to a 2x2 ribbing and kept going that way until the socks were tall enough.

Pirate is modeling knee-high stripy pink socks.

In other news, I have my first baby pepper! As soon as it stops raining, I can move these plants (there are twenty of them) to their summer home of three-gallon pots on the back deck. I hadn't planned for twenty pepper plants, but here they are, and so now I'm planning for lots of pepper jam, salsa, hot sauce, relish, chili powder, pickled peppers...

A baby pepper, not yet an inch long, grows from one of many plants in red solo cups.

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I like to buy souvenir sock yarn when I travel, especially if I can find something from a local dyer. This year's yarn, which I got at Wasatch & Wool - a nifty little shop in Park City - is Salta Fingering from Yarnaceous Fibers. The colourway is "My Dinosaur Ate Your Unicorn," and it's beautifully dyed in shades of a mountain sunset. I love it. I don't yet know what I'm going to knit with it, but I absolutely love it. I bet those colours pool in the most fantastic ways if the pattern is right. Since the care label says to hand wash, I think I won't be making socks with this yarn...

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

But before I let myself knit this year's souvenir yarn, I want to use some from a previous year! I got this skein of Malabrigo Sock in "Lotus" when we went to California in 2017, and paired it with some Fable Fingering from Sheep's Clothing Yarn Co in the "Nebula Speckle" colourway. It's a perfect match.

Two skeins of sock yarn - one dark purple with a tinge of cyan, the other mostly white with purple/blue/pink speckles

After Michael made his scarf and matching hat, I started to consider the possibility of a making brioche scarf or shawl for myself, but in a lighter weight yarn than he chose. After a lot of riffling through the Ravelry pattern library, I eventually settled on Sizzle Pop as a good challenging first brioche pattern to try. I've done swatches of brioche before, but never a whole project.

Over the weekend I cast on and started knitting. Of course, a triangular shawl which starts at the tip goes quickly at the beginning! I was able to get through the setup rows and then two pattern repeats already. The speckle yarn combined with the tonal purple is just *chef's kiss* perfect. (And it hides a mistake that I made early on that I decided that I wasn't going back to correct.) Hopefully I don't lose all interest in the project when the rows get long. At least only 1/4 of the rows have patterning that requires me to follow along with the chart! That makes it seem like it goes fast. On the other hand, I keep spreading it out to look at it, which takes up some time. Less admiring, Pirate! More knitting, less looking!

Two repeats of the Sizzle Pop shawl in progress.

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