Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Passing on the Stash Gene

My daughter claims I intended this all along, but really I am innocent!

Until two years ago, she really did not have any interest in anything needlework related. She enjoyed the bunnies being part of my life, could fondle fiber when she visited me (except for turning up her nose at wool) and was not against accepting anything I would knit for her. Then two years ago, she saw silk fiber for the first time, and that got her hooked.

So for Christmas that year, I bought her a drop spindle and silk roving. In no time at all, she was spinning. It coincided with a dyeing project of silk hankies, and she found out she liked them even more than the roving.

Then about 10 months later, I started hearing her ask, just what should I do with this yarn that I am making (heeheehee) She snagged some of my crochet cotton and a hook and asked to be taught how to crochet, because in her words, it was only one needle to deal with not four (DPN)

She picked that up with practice, and tried her own thread, learning the hard way that one should not try and crochet with freshly spun singles :) For Christmas that year, I got her a set of crochet hooks, and a book of stitches and patterns.

In December I made a trip to Threadbear Fibers, and took her along. She was properly impressed by all the wonderful yarns, and easily let me buy her a book on crochet socks. She got the Cascade Fixation yarn for her first pair, and I can proudly say, showed off her first completed sock at spinning group last night.

Yes you can make very nice socks with crochet. They fit her wonderfully, because crocheted socks are not attached to any needles, and she just continually tried them on and made adjustments as she worked on them. It almost tempts me to give up my DPN's.

What is making me smile to myself the most these days though, is all of her enthusing over different yarns she is seeing online, or in yarn stores. She has purchased several different types of cotton, with intention of making more socks. When she was telling me this over the phone one day, I just had to crow, "you've gotten stash!"

And to top it all off, she is now studying my knitting patterns. She looks all the same as when as a three year old she was studying books to try and fathom reading. Next Christmas, I just bet, it will be a set of DPN's.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Baffling Brioche Stitch

I have been knitting for over 40 years now, and I am still humbled by how little I know about the craft.

This challenge of the last few days all started by an SOS from a blogger friend (www.riverrim.blogspot.com) She was trying to make the Brioche Gaiter in the Fall 2003 Interweave Knits.

At first I thought her questions were about how to do a yarn over as the first stitch of a row. Very good question actually, it is not all that easy to do until you find a way to hold the needles and wrap the yarn over the right hand needle, in one smooth motion.

Then I get some more questions from her, and I decided I best get the pattern for the gaiter out and try this myself, to just see what was going on. I have about six rows done and I am still perplexed myself.

I have the actual brioche stitch figured out, thanks to two of my knitting books. The absolute best description of how to do the stitch was in Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns. Her verbal explanation was limited and only slightly helpful, but a clear picture of just where the yarn was traveling while doing the stitch, helped me finally figure out how to knit it.

***actually quoting the book now, thank you Mary Thomas***

The success of any Brioche Pattern depends on the correct order in which the stitch and Over (K2tog) are knitted (or purled together) "Over, S1, K2tog" The Over passes in front of the slipped stitch and then over the needle. In the next row the 2 stitches which are knitted together are the over and the slipped stitch. The Over at the beginning of the row is made as before a Knit Decrease, as the intervening Slip stitch is a (sic) auxiliary Motif, so it is slipped purlwise according to Pattern Principle. The pattern consists of these 3 units which are repeated in every row, so the fabric is alike on both sides.

***end quote***

She then goes on to say that there is always a prep row, which is the back side, and consists of casting on a number of stitches divisable by 2 and then first row: *Yarn forward, S1 (purlwise), K1* repeat between *'s until end.

Her second row is *Over, S1 (purlwise), K2 tog * repeat until end.

She then states that you repeat this second row until the desired length.

Her picture of the finished fabric looks exactly like the gaiter knitted and photographed in Interweave Knits. It looks like a ribbing but is not.

Here are the problems I am still experiencing with both her pattern and Interweave Knits.

1) Mary Thomas states that you repeat row two endless for the length. This row has you always slipping the stitch purlwise. However she has charted the pattern also, and in her charting, one row is shown slipping the stitch purlwise and the next row shows it being slipped knitwise.

2)Mary Thomas's pattern is using straight needles and knitting back and forth with a front and back side. The Interweave Knit pattern is on circulars. Yet their pattern calls for two rows, one with a P2tog and one with a K2tog. Their pattern slips everything purlwise, but alternates the 2tog stitches.

So I am at the point now, I am going to undo what I have knitted so far, because it is very clear that what I am getting does not look like ribbing. It does not look like either the finished fabric in Mary Thomas's book, or the gaiter in Interweave Knits.

Here is how I actually move the yarn while doing the 3 stitch steps of the Brioche stitch: (you have just knit a stitch and the yarn is in the back) Bring yarn forward put right hand needle under next stitch on left hand needle as if to purl, slip that stitch to right hand needle, put right hand needle tip in next two stitches on left hand needle as if to knit, and knit these together. This knit together, will take the yarn that has been in the front,over the slipped stitch on the right hand needle, causint a yarn over. The yarn ends up in the back.

Unfortuanately just repeating the above, does not put the K2tog stitch in line to be the slipped stitch on the next row, as Mary Thomas says it should. And just repeating the above row in an endless loop around the circular needle, does not seem to be giving me the ribbing look.

So now I am out of time and have to leave for work. The challenge will have to wait until tonight. I plan to rip all I have messed with so far, and start again, following Interweave Knits pattern exactly. I did check their website and no errata is listed for this pattern, so I am expecting that now that I have actually figured out the yarn over part of this stitch, I can get it to work.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

A Minor Victory over Machine

I have a new sewing machine. Actually I have had it for a year now, but the only major sewing project I have done since getting it, was a Ren Fair outfit, and all that took was lots of straight seam sewing. The machine is a wonderful do everything type, and I am sure it was very bored just sewing seams.

However, my hubby's job is now requiring him to have his name embroidered over the pocket of his shirts. And he asked if I would do it for him. I could have done it in a flash on the older model, I knew it very well, but with the new one I was feeling a bit intimidated.

So I spent the afternoon of my day off sewing samples. Sample sewing, for machine embroidery makes alot of sense to me. It's just like swatching a yarn, only even more so. I will blithely take needles and yarn and start a knitting project without swatching. About 50 % of the time, it works just right and I am just that much ahead. The only 50% gets undone and reswatched. But I would never take a finished item like a shirt and hope to get a name embroidered just right on the first try. There's no way to rip it out and start over. I was right in my judgement too, after looking at the six different attempts.

The first thing I tried was the preprogrammed lettering in the machine, not the specialized cards, but the machine itself. It looked pretty rough. Each letter would be made of about four sets of parallel stitches. Sort of like this llll--llll except put more levels in the center bar, and you had the letter H. I showed it to hubby crossing my fingers he'd say that was just fine, but no luck, he said, where's all those lovely letters you used for the Christmas decorations two years ago? I could have said, in the old machine, but he knows better.

So I worked more samples, pulling fonts from the cards that go into the machine. One would be too big, one way to small. And I had two lines to balance, his name and the company's name. By 5 pm I had what I knew would be the best possibilities of my limited selections, and had even figured out how to save the sequence, and find it again!

The next day when I went to finally sew it on the shirts, I ran into another problem. I knew it was to be on the pocket closest to the left arm. If I hooped that up, all of the shirt was then in between the hoop and the sewing machine and the hoop could not be attached. I called hubby saying 'are you sure it has to be that pocket' He suggested inverting the design completely, so the shirt could be inverted, and then all of the fabric would be going to my left and out of the way. Ah bless his little engineering heart, that was the perfect solution. I had two shirts done in about 40 minutes.

I wouldn't say it was a fun project, but the time did pass quickly as I was learning. And I came out of the project with a fondness for the new machine, and much more willing to tackle a bigger sewing project. This blog has just expanded the term 'fiber' once more into the sewing world.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Well, it finally happened

A 100% wool skein ruined by some critters munching.

I had planned to join the yahoogroups shawlknitters, knit along on the Estonian Garden shawl. They started sometime last week, but I had to order the pattern, and had knew I had a lace weight merino skein in my stash.

I got the pattern, read it over, and was ready to cast on in this morning's peace and quiet. So I got the skein, and started to wind it off. Hit a break after about a yard, didn't think anything about it, until I hit about another six breaks, same lengths. The skein itself looked fine, but give the slightest pull at that one spot and the yarn just floats apart.

This is not handspun, it was commercial yarn. And I will take the blame for the loss. Usually I am very very careful with the 100% wool yarn, handspun or commercial, zipping them up in tight bags with sachets. But this skein got put in an extra knitting bag, with another pattern, when I bought it last spring. I had intended to start the shawl, then the bag got pushed in the closet. And became lunch for some wayfaring critter.

No sign of moth at all, no sign of anything, but it has to be what happened. I am just sick at heart about losing that skein of yarn. When I bought the kit, the pattern and yarn together seemed like a great deal. Now what I have is just a very expensive pattern.

So I am back to square one about the knit along. I really wanted to knit it from homespun but didn't feel I had the time to spin for it and start along with everyone else. If I had started spinning two weeks ago, I just may have had the yarn done! Still trying to decide what to do.


Monday, January 12, 2004

A New Look and A New Name

I got brave and changed the template for my blog, and I think I like it! I wanted the ring links at the top, and was able to figure out where to put that code, and have the template not change. I like the bigger font, and I think I am OK with the green color. It would probably not be my first choice, but it is easy on the eyes.

I should say a thank you to Cyndy, another blogger I read (riverrim.blogspot.com) for giving me the encouragement to do this.

Since I use the freeware version of Blogger, I will never be rid of that ad bar on the top, so just ignore it, or do like I do, enjoy the randomness of the ads that show up there, as the daily giggle.

As far as the name change, I found the spot to make this change while messing around in the blog edit area. It is ridiculously easy to do. I have never liked the name 'a better fiber blog'. It was all chance that named it anyway. When I broke the first one beyond repair and just started a second blog, and was asked for it's name, I of course was thinking they wanted something like a file name, something I would recognize later. So I wrote 'a better fiber blog' And then there is was, for all the world to see :) I didn't change it, thinking that would affect the ring codes, but I am wiser now, and know better. So the blog is now Yarnspinners Tales, since yarnspinner is sometimes a screen name I use.

I do not really understand HTML, but I am at least recognizing important bits, it's like being in a foriegn country and finally understanding their word for potty, I can't speak it, but at least I know where to go.


Saturday, January 10, 2004

Wonderful roving

I received a big box from the post office yesterday, and it contained the roving from a corriedale fleece I had sent for processing. I opened it to find two bags full of white, soft roving.

Here is a picture of the roving, and a lock of the original fleece. The difference is amazing. And this can be my personal and very big endorsement for the processor that did the fleece for me. It was done by woolynob fiber mill in Indiana (woolynobfibrmill@aol.com) It is a beautiful roving, white and not a bit of vm. I know selecting a good fleece has a big part to do with it also, I consider myself just plain lucky in that, since I often have limited selection and price range.


Here's some details on the fleece. I bought it at a fiber fair in Yellowsprings Ohio, in Sept. from a local breeder, Robert Milliken. The fleece was listed as 9.5 lbs and I paid $14. for it. I wrote about buying this fleece in a Sept 27th post. I skirted off some to keep to wash as locks and spin fine, and some that was a bit felted, that I didn't want included in the processing. When it was weighed in, there was 6.25 lbs of raw fleece. I have roughly measured the roving at around 4.5 lbs. It's hard to weigh those big balls of roving at this stage, I will weigh the yarn later.

So now I have lots of white to spin. I want to make sock yarn, at least to start with, and then dye the yarn. It is going to be easy spinning.

I am very tempted to say that I will never hand wash fleece again, after recieving such wonderful results. However, I have to compromise for now, and say that I will wash what is here at home now, and send any new fleeces I buy, straight to the processor.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

Here is the picture of the scarf I made my daughter out of recycled silk yarn.


It takes a minute to load, but once it is completely loaded you can really see the shine from the silk yarn. This yarn is made by a company called Mango Moon and the color is listed as Jewel-Earth. The tag says the yarn supports the women of Nepal with better living conditions, education, and health care. Their web site is listed as www.mangomoonknits.com. Supposedly they use the loom waste from weaving silk saris.

As far as current projects, I am working on knitting toe up socks for a friend out of handspun CVM wool. I made the sock part a natural color, and have spun a yarn from the same roving dyed teal. I washed that yarn last night, and the color was still running from the yarn. I was surprised because I did not get color on my hands while I was spinning. So the yarn had to get several washes and many rinses, and it finally seemed rinsed of the extra dye.

I tried something else I had read with this yarn. After I finished with the rinses, I wrapped the yarn in saran wrap, and microwaved it for a minute. The idea is that this heat will set the twist better than just hot water wash. I am hoping too that the last blast of heat will set the color better.

So when that yarn dries I will start on the cuff of the sock.

I have been knitting with the bamboo doubled pointed needles for these socks, and now I know why everyone likes them. It has been a very pleasant experience to knit with them. I am using size fives because this handspun yarn is bulkier than regular sock yarn, it is more like worsted weight. But the sock is coming out nice and plump and will be the wear around the house and keep her feet warm type of sock I wanted for my friend.