Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sock 'em to me

Two tips for knitting lace socks 

Oriel lace patterned socks
As the weather warms here on the East Coast, I'm not thinking much about wool or wool socks and I must remind myself: It is exactly the time to think about them in time for the first chilly days.

I love textured patterns but it took me too long to realize my love of lace-patterned socks. The first lace socks I knit were in  the Oriel pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. From there, I was hooked.

Knitting socks is not a priority. In fact, they just barely make the list of handwork. Typically theyre m'y low-key, go-to project when I'm too tired to do much of anything else. I don't care how long it takes me to knit a pair of socks. It might be months. That's OK. 

Waving Lace patterned socks
Currently on the needles is the second of a pair in Evelyn Clark's Waving Lace pattern from Interweave Press' Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave. I love the picot cuff design on these, too.

I've learned so much about knitting socks by....knitting them, of course! Two recent ah-ah's related to my lace sock knitting are fit and blocking/drying.

Lace patterned socks to fit

Check the fit before knitting to the measured foot length. Fortunately, I checked the first sock of Oriel before finishing it off. (It is a top-down). I had knit to my tried-and-true foot measurement--like I had knit my other socks--but fortunately tried them on before finishing. I had gone too far. As lace stitches stretch much more than most other stitches (I know, I should have thought of this from the cast-on), the sock was about an inch too long. I tinked about an inch before finishing and it's a perfect fit. Good lesson. I won't forget.
Sock blockers/dryers 

Blocking/Drying hack

I'm not totally convinced a blocker is necessary for most sock knitting with today's yarns, so I've been hesitant to purchase a set. My wire frame allows socks to dry perfectly and if they also block them, it's a plus. I used two coat hangars, bending them into a general sock shape. They work perfectly. They can be hung for the socks to dry and they store equally easily.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lacey compromise

Lace shawl No. 1

About 50 more yards would have been better

I thought I had plenty, but those outside edges gobbled even more yarn that I'd estimated. About 20 rows from the planned end, I could see the yarn disappearing too quickly. I measured and estimated whether or not I'd have enough yarn.* But I was overly optimistic.

Even after cutting the number of rows I found myself facing the yarn's end about halfway through bind-off. I backed up, tinked a couple rows and bound off again. 

OK. I compromised on the bind-off, using less than I should have and getting a less-than ideal edging. After all those yarn-overs, knit-two-togethers and double decreases, there are no gorgeous points on the outer edge. A disappointment, to be sure, but if I didn't confess, it might appear that I planned it that way.

Triangular lace scarf

Working down the stash mountain

In my stash was one skein of Pepperberry lace weight cashmere yarn, which I had purchased at Vogue Knitting Live 2015. The intent was to make a smallish triangular scarf  that could be worn as an accessory at the neck. The skein  had 366 yards, which seemed enough for the small size I planned. And it certainly might have been.

However, I used this scarf to work through an evolving design idea that involved multiple pattern transitions. So it wasn't one that worked especially well with planning ahead.

Overall, I'm pleased with the result. I made copious notes so, after I organize them and incorporate my changes, I will update the pattern to make it easy to follow. Then I  want to knit the design with my single ply homespun. 

When I have something to share, you'll see it here first.

*How I estimated yarn needed for completion: 

I measured about four yards of as-yet-unknit yarn from the needles and made a small slip knot. I knit one row in pattern. Depending on how much was left of the measured yardage (or needed to be added), I added a factor of 10 percent and multiplied the result by the rows yet to knit. 
Formula: [Measured yards + 10%] x Number of rows remaining in pattern.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mud madness

Overlooking and overcoming rain, mud and soggy wool

An improvised yarn drying rack
The rain was unrelenting and, much as I like rain, it made for a rather miserable beginning to the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It made driving slow and the Mid-Atlantic region's week of rain created streaming rivulets and oozing, slimy, slippery, sludgy mud at the Howard County fair grounds.

The mucky, muddy mess at the fairgrounds was bad. The outside tent booth was swamped. Only the basics--tables, chairs and display grids could be unloaded to the tent booth on Friday with plans for a very early preparation on Sat. 

A much bigger concern was how to make the booth accessible to Sat. shoppers. The resourceful shepherds of the American Coopworth Registry's co-op bought--and spread--two bales of straw in and in front of the booth along with three rubber mats in walkways. (You can see the newly-strewn straw at early Saturday morning set-up in the photo below.)

Nearly ready for customers Saturday morning at the
American Coopworth Registry booth
Another problem awaited us. The truck cab's rear window leaked. A lot. Because the extended cab area was so tightly packed, we didn't realize the problem until almost too late. Products got wet. Mostly it was yarn and fortunately, all of it was completely salvageable. But it was just one more thing to do at the end of a tiring day.

We stayed that night at an Airbnb site that was less than wonderful, but that's another story best addressed by a proper site review.  

The next night, a most thoughtful son-in-law surprised us by booking us into a Hampton Inn. )There is nothing like a lower-end experience to add serious appreciation for a quiet room with a comfortable bed, nice bedding and a bathroom just for two.)

Focus on fiber

A highlight of the weekend was Sunday's talk by Judith MacKenzie. "The History of Wool" sounded generic but her talk certainly wasn't. Full of little-known facts (to me, anyway) that included distribution of sheep, the genetic pool of Navajo Churros, the coats of sheep, and many, many more fascinating tidbits, I find myself wishing for a book that consolidates it. I hope she has one in the works.

Q: How do you spend a weekend at a fiber festival without buying something?
A: You don't. Or at least, I can't seem to so I try to make a plan. This time--and for the first time ever--fiber for spinning was my focus. I've found spinning different wool breeds an excellent learning experience so I left home with a list of breed-specific wools I wanted to learn to spin. I came home with Polwarth, Cormo and ultra fine (18.5µ) Merino--all on my list--plus some Finnsheep that wasn't. 

Now what? I am rather often asked, 'What are you going to make?' The short answer is, 'I don't know.' The longer answer is that I have ideas--some very definite ideas, actually. My Pinelands Spring cowl was one that has been completed but there are more in the pipeline. 

But right now? I just want to sit at my wheel and spin some nice yarn.

N.B. This was Mother's Day weekend and I got the best present ever. I spent a lovely, lovely weekend with my lovely, lovely daughter. It doesn't get any better than that. Ever.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Swedish delights

An afternoon in woven wonderland

Woven blanket backed with fleeces
Becky Ashenden brought a lot of textiles to accompany her presentation at a recent meeting of the New York Guild of HandweaversHer Vävstuga Weaving School in Shelburne, Mass. is modeled after traditional Swedish weaving schools such as the Sätergläntan Institutet för Slöjd och Hantverk where she studied. 

Many were grouped by technique and were examples of projects woven in one of her many classes, such as the Drawloom Basics and Flax, Seed to Cloth groups shown below. 
Becky Ashenden with an example of her work

After providing an an introduction and overview, 
Ms. Ashenden shared techniques and textiles with the group. And everyone had a chance to touch and examine every single thing. 

Weaving everyday items dominates her weaving. What is better, she asks, than to enjoy beautiful woven textiles everyday? (I guess I hadn't really thought of it that way--and I just may change my attitude toward weaving towels.)

She shared tablecloths and towels and blankets and upholstery fabrics and rugs. And she shared the  three huge fleece and blanket rugs she had brought. Traditionally used as wraps for sleigh rides in Sweden's frigid winters, her beautifully woven blanket backs a fleece--actually, four fleeces. Spectacular!

Above, examples of class project foci. Below, two examples of woven designs