Archive for the “handspun” Category

I've been holding off on knitting my handspun socks for a while, because I want to bring them to New York for Thanksgiving. They're all stockinette with the exception of the heel and cuff, which means I will barely have to think about working on them while I'm visiting with the family. And besides, if I'm going to show off my knitting, I might as well show off my yarn-spinning skills while I'm at it! No one else in the family (besides Mom) knits, that I know of. Perhaps they will think I'm a little strange for futzing with yarn and needles during our visit, but I'm okay with that.

I don't have a recent picture, but the first sock is completed and the second sock is just past the toe increases. I have plenty of foot to knit, and I doubt that I'll have enough time to get up to the heel turn. Knitting goes a lot more slowly when there are twenty people to talk with at the same time, but that's all right. I just need something to do with my hands so I don't fidget too much.

One problem with having so many projects going on at the same time is that it seems as if I will never finish any of them. I know that it will feel that way for a while, and then I will suddenly have several finished projects all at once, which will feel pretty awesome indeed. I'm making progress, slowly but surely, five rows here and five rows there.

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I haven't knit much in the past couple of weeks. There always seems to be something else to do, people visiting, places to go.

Half of the blues and greens Falkland is spun into singles that should ply into a striping heavy fingering weight yarn, and I've split the other half to be the same. I took a pair of pliers to my spinning wheel to open up the eyehooks just enough to let me switch the brake band around so that it will work better for plying. I can't believe I didn't think of that before watching the New Voyager video that recommended it - of course a spring-tensioned brake won't work if the bobbin is turning towards the spring!

My friend for whom I'm making Napramach asked me again about it last night. I haven't touched it in weeks, but now I'm reminded that I need to get back to it. It takes a lot of concentration and unbroken blocks of time, which seem to be in short supply lately.

I cast on for the second handspun BFL sock, and am through the toe increases and into the foot. It will probably be my Thanksgiving knitting, as it's stockinette all the way up. That makes it perfect for knitting while talking.

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I did not go to Rhinebeck this past weekend, and it's probably just as well. I heard that it was cold and rainy. Perhaps next year!

Instead, I spent the weekend in Boston with a couple of friends who indulged my strange hobby and waited patiently while I visited Newbury Yarns and Windsor Button, petted all the yarns, and purchased nothing. There were a couple of sock yarns at Windsor Button that almost came home with me, but in the end I decided that nothing really had to.

I did get to work on my handspun sock for a while in the airport. A woman across from me at the gate watched curiously for a minute or two, then asked, "Excuse me, but... what is that called, that you're doing?"

"Knitting," I said. "I am knitting a sock, even if it doesn't look like much yet. This will be the toe." I showed her the barest beginnings of sock.

She nodded. "Nih-ting," she said, trying the word on for size as if she'd never encountered it before. "Nih-ting. You don't see too many people doing that anymore!"

"No," I agreed, and went back to it.

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The "Starry Night" yarn is plied, but not yet washed (and I've no picture yet, either). Of course one bobbin ran out sooner than the other; I looked up a tutorial on Andean plying and gave it a try. What a neat trick that is! I ended up with 138 yards of worsted-to-bulkyish weight yarn from four ounces of fiber, and nothing left over! As soon as I'd skeined the yarn, I ran to show Pirate-Husband. "Look," I laughed, "I've spun Chanukah yarn!" Blue and blue, bits of white and yellow and silver sparkle, it really does remind me quite a bit of Chanukah. Pirate-Husband agreed and asked me if this was going to be the first yarn listed in the Etsy shop.

I keep saying I want to sell handspun yarns, but now that it's come down to it, I find that I'm a little more hesitant than I'd planned to be. I get attached to the yarns I spin! And will people really want to buy them? Can I spin enough yarn well and fast enough to stock an Etsy shop? Will spinning start to feel like a chore instead of a favored hobby?

I thought about all of those things last night as I cast on for the second of the handspun socks. I made it through the toe increases before I went to bed, and now it's boring ol' stockinette from here to the heel. This is going to accompany me on the airplane tomorrow; stockinette in the round is perfect airport and airplane knitting.

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The first of the handspun socks is complete!

This yarn is not nearly as stretchy as some of the commercial yarns I've worked with. As a result, I almost had a heart attack when I tried to put the finished sock on... and could barely get it over my heel. After a lot of panicked tugging, everything slid into place. Whew! Once it was on, it fit all right. Two or four more stitches might not have been terrible in the heel and leg. I'm sure the socks will stretch out a bit as I wear them, just like the last pair that I thought was too tight.

I'm really glad that I put the extra four stitches into the heel, or it might not fit over my instep at all! This is something I'll have to keep in mind when knitting socks in the future.

There's 5 grams of yarn left over, which I'm going to hang on to in case I ever need to darn a hole. Not that I've ever darned a sock before, but there's something pretty special about the first socks from my own handspun yarn.

Pictures soon!

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The first of the handspun socks should be done in the next day or so! I have half an inch more stockinette to knit, then two inches of ribbing. I am so excited to try this sock on and see how well it fits! The down side to knitting a toe-up sock is that after the heel, it's impossible to try on without putting all the stitches onto waste thread. The needles just don't give enough room to get the sock on.

Now that the first sock is almost done, I'm starting to have those little niggling apprehensions. What if it doesn't fit? What if the socks fit, but they felt in my shoes the first time I wear them? What if they wear fine, but they're accidentally washed? What if they don't last very long?

I am a worry-wart, but I am doing my best to conquer that tendency. It doesn't do me any good - the socks will be just fine, they will fit fine, they will wear fine if not as long as socks knit from yarn with some nylon content, and no one will accidentally wash them.

And they will be awesome. Absolutely amazingly fantastically handspun awesome.

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Handspun Sock, past the heelOver the weekend I turned the heel on the handspun sock, using a short row heel with 50% plus four stitches, two from each side. I am curious to see how well it will fit! I am keen on toe-up socks for a couple of reasons: one, that it's almost impossible to run out of yarn before having something that could be called a completed sock, and two, the math for a short row heel makes sense to me where the math for the heel turn in a flap-and-gusset does not.

In a flap-and-gusset heel for a top-down sock, you have to start by knowing how many stitches are going to be on each side of the heel turn. Every time I try to make it up as I go, I end up with an uneven number of stitches. Fourteen on the left, perhaps, ten in the middle, only twelve on the right - whoops, went too far, rip it back and start over. How do you know how many stitches to work? Is there a simple formula to which someone can direct me, so that if I'm ever knitting patternless (or making up my own) I can just turn a heel without thinking too hard about it?

In a short row heel, you take 50-60% of your stitches. Divide that number by three. Knit to the end, wrap and turn. Purl back, wrap and turn. Do that until one third of the stitches are wrapped and on the right, one third are wrapped and on the left, and one third are unworked in the center - then start working your way back up. Your sides are always even. (These instructions won't make sense unless you've done a short-row heel already. Wendy Johnson explains it wonderfully in her "Generic Toe-Up Sock Pattern", which is what I'm using.) As long as you pick up your wraps, the short-row heel comes out well every time.

I picked up two stitches in each corner of the heel turn to avoid gaps and holes, and had to fudge the decreases to try to make it work. Now that I've taken an objective look at it in the daylight, meh! it's a sock! No one will know if I don't point out the stitches to them! They'll just say "ooh a sock" and I'll say "Yes, I knit it from yarn I spun," and the fudged stitch or two won't really matter at all. Besides, it goes on my foot. Who's going to look so closely at my foot? (And really, it doesn't look so bad at all.)

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A note: the full-size pictures are lots clearer than the thumbnails. Click to see!

BFL Handspun SockI hadn't gotten very far when I realized that without ribbing, the sock was going to be way too large at 72 stitches, so I horrified my onlookers by blithely tearing out the work I'd done and beginning again. Fortunately I got it right the second time, and now I'm knitting my standard 16-loop, 64-stitch toe up sock. I tried to explain by saying that I hated doing gauge swatches and that instead I just knit the toe as a swatch; if it fits then it fits, and if not then I can tear it out and try again. Better to start over than to have a beautiful sock that's too large for my foot, right?

BFL Handspun SockThe socks are warm and soft so far. Even the spots where the yarn was a little overtwisted seem to be all right. I hope they wear well and don't felt too badly on my feet!

I really enjoyed having so much free time to just sit, knit, and socialize with people I only get to see once or twice a year. While there's no way I could ever meet a "52 pair plunge", in which really fast knitters manage to churn out a pair a week for a full year, I could definitely knit a pair in a month if I really put my mind (and all my free time) to it. But then, I've got other things to work on as well, and knitting so constantly on top of 40 hours a week at a computer would probably destroy my arms. Still, I admire anyone who can stick to it!

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FreckleFaceFibers BFL Fingering WeightDuring my brief hiatus from vacation, I cast on for a plain toe-up sock with my handspun BFL yarn. Mostly for my own reference, but just in case any of you are interested, I started with a figure-eight cast on that had twenty loops, and knit each side twice before starting M1 increases every other round. After a few rounds I tightened up the toe and took a preliminary measurement of ten stitches to the inch on size 0 needles, which is exactly what I'd been aiming for.

This is the first time I'm knitting anything larger than a little swatch with my own handspun yarn, and I am loving every stitch. The fabric is knitting up to have a nice softness and feel; Pirate-Husband said that it felt as if it had some silk content in it. I am really looking forward to seeing how the colors show. At ten stitches to the inch, I am knitting a 72-stitch sock. The benefit to knitting toe-up is that the toe is the gauge swatch; I just keep trying it on and increasing until it's the right size! I'll do a short-row heel, probably over 60% of the stitches, and keep on knitting plain all the way up to a ribbed cuff.

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I don't know why this is, but it's true: lots of new and new-ish spinners have never knit with their handspun yarn. Oh, maybe a gauge swatch, a little test here and there, but never an actual finished object.

Janis and I learned to spin at exactly the same time, at the 2007 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Two years have gone by and neither of us has ever knit with our own handspun! How crazy is that? So we've committed to each starting a sock with our own yarn. I'll be using the BFL, and knitting toe-up and plain stockinette. I haven't yet swatched, but the yarn is fine enough that I might have to go down to size 0 needles, and I want to get as much sock as possible from this yarn.

Trekking Ribbed Sock, pic 2Just to hedge my vacation-knitting bets, I'm also going to bring a ball of Trekking XXL with me. I have been wanting to knit a pair of "Brother's Socks" for myself in my own size, so that I can write up the pattern in two sizes and get it published already. I just need to work out the heel and toe numbers; the rest is almost exactly the same. Conveniently, I already know what gauge I get with Trekking; a horrifyingly small 45 stitches to four inches. I'll be using the yarn that didn't work out for my previous attempt at ribbed socks. Now I know I need many, many more stitches than what I cast on last time!

Ellen's Halfpint Farm Yarn, Very GreenI briefly considered bringing the green yarn and chart for the "Verdant" socks that I began in the class I took with Cookie A. last year, but I think those may take too much concentration to be vacation socks. I still need to come up with a ribbing that flows into the pattern, and the charted lace takes all of my brain-power... which is in short supply in the heat of the day.

Anyway, I'll only be gone for nine days! As much as I think I'm going to sit around knitting, I'm not very quick at it. Not to mention all the spinning I'll have with me. I think I'll be able to keep myself occupied with two socks and a half-ton of fiber.

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