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, September 28, 2005

A Mystery (Shawl)

I still do not have the button in the side bar that actually takes you to the group, but if anyone is in the mood for a knit along, there is a mystery shawl 2 at yahoogroups that I have decided to join. I found the first shawl knit along too late, but am right at the beginning of this one. So far the only thing in the files is a test pattern for swatching. A new set of directions will be posted each Friday for five weeks. The shawl is a triangle, lacy and needs an advanced knitting skill level.

I splurged (and buying yarn is truly a splurge for a spinner) and ordered Elann's alpaca/silk lace yarn. I ordered it on Sunday and it arrived today! Three day delivery. I ordered enough for two projects, a plum color and a raspberry color. I am off to swatch tonight, waiting for Friday's first posting of directions.


A Cotton wedding shower

machine knit cotton afghan Posted by Picasa

I am still in my very basic mode with my knitting machine. It is an older machine, all manual selection for any patterning, no fancy multiple color work possible. I still enjoy working with it though, and when it was announced that our Sunday knitting group was going to give my daughter a 'cotton' wedding shower, I went through the stash of coned yarn I bought long ago at R&M yarns to find cottons of a complatable color scheme with the plan to make her a cotton afghan.

I only had the basic design concept of wide strips of color when I started. Every part of the afghan had something to teach me! Even though I did swatches of each color, measured before and after washing and drying, my biggest problem was the fact that the lengths of strips did not come out even lengths, in spite of calculating how many rows per inch I needed and then how many inches. So after the strips were done, and all attached lengthwise, I had lots of fiddly bits to do, to make one section longer (putting the stitches back on a knitting needle and knitting by had until I had the right length) or shortening (undoing the cast off and raveling back to the right length) Add to that the fact that the whole afghan was definately stretchy, it was work to try and get it nice and evenly crocheted together.

The dark green was a 100% multi-ply cotton. It knitted like a dream on my standard machine, with tension set on the loose side. The brown and white tweedy strips was a cotton/rayon twist yarn and gave me lots of problems, the loose twist and slubbiness of the yarn makes it not really a machine knitting yarn. I made it through the two strips, but will not use that cone of yarn on the machine, only for hand knitting. Funny, I did not really have any problems with it when I swatched, but there's lots more knitting to be done for the long strips than that 6 by 6 swatch. I held my breath as I knit each row, and fussed though several disasters (one time a slub made the yarn break and the knitting fell off the machine, and I had to reset each stitch back on the needles). I was glad to get the second strip done, and made the design so I would not have to make any more! The small gold strips are a cotton chenille, a lovely soft yarn, that knit surprisingly well at a loose tension on my machine. And felted up into a nice fabric after washing and drying. Oh and yes, chenille does 'worm'. I honestly had never worked with chenille before, and finally saw exactly what that means. In the lovely fabric, every now and then, there is a big loop sitting on top of the fabric. I suppose it could make a difference in some projects, but I honestly was so pleased with the fabric and color, that I barely saw the worming.

But once completed, I was very pleased with the afghan. I will not probably make another one soon, the finishing time was much longer than the actual knitting time. But finish work is sort of like child birth, easily forgotten once it is past, and I may get the bug again to try and knit another one.

And finally, since it was a cotton shower, the hostess made a 'cotton' wedding cake. Nothing useful about it, just very clever and well appreciated and well worth sharing.

cotton cake Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

State Fair skeins 2005

After a day's worth of frustration with my dial up and this blogging and picture software, I think I finally have everything together in one blog entry.

Here finally are the pictures of the five skeins I did for this year's state fair. There were probably anywhere from four to eight skeins in most categories entered, and the judging was tough, based on the comments written on my skeins from the judge. I was glad to see the forty or so skeins this year, and keep encouraging other spinners in my area to enter, I want this category to stay active at our fair. They have also changed many of the categories, another good thing. When I started entering skeins about four years ago, most categories were based on yarns spun from the Lincoln fiber! That happens because anyone can support a category at the state fair, simply by paying the premiums for that category, and most of the spinning categories were being supported by a Lincoln breeder. The support has been picked up now mostly by the local spinning guilds and so their categories have broadened.

I STILL find the designer category to be the most challenging. That's good, because I would not continue to enter if there were no challenges. I must admit I thought I had a first place winner this year, with my Jacob self striping, navaho plied yarn, but was beaten by a blended yarn. The year I entered a blended yarn, I was beaten by a uniquely plied yarn. And these were judged by the same judge, so I still can not figure out exactly what in the judge's mind makes a designer yarn. I know what it means in my mind, a yarn that is specifically spun with a final knitted or woven design in mind.

What did I learn from this year's judging of my skeins? First and foremost, that I am not paying attention to small details while spinning. I am not being a perfectionist when I spin. It easy to overlook the need for every twist to be the same, every ply to be even. The final handspun skein always looks wonderful to me, because it is so unique. It is exactly that uniqueness that I strive for in handspun. However, that attitude does not win first place ribbons, and this year's lesson is that if I want to enter skeins in a competition, they have to be as perfect as possible, not unique. I feel I am a good spinner, but not by a long shot a consistent spinner, and that is what wins the first place. I can understand how a judge has to use consistancy as a standard, because every skein is lovely, soft, unique.

I learned alot about a judge's job and attitude this year by being the scribe for the quilt judge. That meant I sat at a table behind the judge and wrote down every comment made about each and every quilt. There are almost 30 different quilting categories at our fair, and often dozens of entries in each category. That adds up to almost a 10 hour day for a judge to look at and comment on each one. And what I learned as I wrote and listened was that a judge has to be completely ignore the 'WOW' factor of a quilt laying in front of them and fall back on the technical skills that created that quilt. Is the border straight, are the pieces well fitted, is the handquilting even? Often I would see a quilt spread out and think, 'Oh my that is just perfect' and then have to write as the judge spoke, that those technical skills I just mentioned were lacking.

So what I have been trying to say in those two wordy paragraphs is that no matter what is being judged, it finally comes down to the technical skills involved in making that item. And that is the lesson I will take to next years entries. I have many second place wins this year instead of firsts, because my plying was slightly overdone, my singles not exactly even, and worse of all, I did not tie the skeins with the same yarn as the skein. I did on a few, but not all, and it's those little details I will have to remember for next year.

Oh, you wanted pictures! OK here they are.

Jacob self striping designer yarn Posted by Picasa

For this designer yarn, I used part of the Jacob fleece I purchased this spring at Greencastle. I took solid areas of four different colors from the fleece and washed them. I combed each color separately to make top in four different colors. I then divided the top into color roations based mostly on weight. I spun these color rotations in order making one long single with long stripes of color. Then I navaho plied that single, keeping the colors matching, so I ended up with stripes of color. The swatch next to the skein knitted off from the resulting yarn, I did not change yarns to get the effect. It is a self striping yarn.

Spindle Spun Rambouilett Posted by Picasa

This category called for an all wool plied handspun yarn. I started with a raw Rambouillet fleece and pulled the finest fibers to wash. This was combed to make top. I drop spindle spun the top, and then plied the yarn on my Roberta. This is a wonderful yarn, I will have to make myself something special with it sometime, I have no plans to let this yarn out of my sight.

Dyed merino and angora skein Posted by Picasa

This category called for a blended yarn of at least 50% wool. I did this skein from one of the rovings I make to sell. The blend is 70% white merino and 30% dyed angora, in this skein the angora is a very pale turquoise color. The yarn is a bulky weight, I think it would make a wonderful hat for a toddler.

Yarn spun from Jacob locks Posted by Picasa

This category called for any natural colored wool. This is also a skein from the Jacob fleece I bought this spring. For this skein I took locks of wide variation in colors, washed them to keep the locks intact, and then combed them with a metal tooth dog comb, again keeping the lock intact. Then I just grab a lock at random and spun the lock until it was gone. I made no attempt to color match anything, and did a normal plying of two singles. There is no swatch with this entry, but I know it will knit up into a lovely tweed. There are two washed and combed locks beside the skein to show how they look right before spinning. The prep to do this is tedious, but I love spinning locks. Somehow the lock just magically and completely disappears into the yarn, unlike other forms of prep that can have so much waste.

Merino skein Posted by Picasa

And finally the last category is the obligatory merino skein. I have such a love/hate feeling for merino. Yes, it is next to the skin soft, and I love the yarn for that reason. But try as I may, I can not get a lace weight merino yarn and I hate a fiber that won't do what I want. Merino have a mind of it's own, and will poof out three times its WPI when washed. I tried not washing this skein before entering it, but the judge caught that . Well, the category did not _say_ the yarn had to be washed and some of the categories did require a washed skein. To spin this yarn I used 100's merino roving on my Ashford traditional with a lace flyer. If I spin merino on anything else, and wash it, it will be the width of a pencil. At least on my lace flyer I have the chance of getting a sport weight once it is washed. I don't think there is any way to win a first in this category other than practice, practice and more practice. At least I will have lots of merino yarn for shawls!

Thanks for your interest (since you got this far). I love sharing what I learn each time I enter a competition.