Spiraling Notions


Socks Socks Socks

Big surprise, I’m knitting socks. ’Tis the season I guess. I started getting the itch in October and it has not let up yet. Looking at the dates this sock binge seems to be annual at this time. I have knit about 20 socks since my first sock.

Only the most recent fit properly...

This makes me then think about what the problem is. What is the problem? The problem is that I do not know how to measure my foot properly to make the sock work for me. So, like any other yarn enthusiast, I went on a book buying spree.

I have at this point 10+ books on socks. Really, I do. Most of them are just patterns though and this has started to bother me.

Even the one with the good information on construction and different types of construction goes into a talk about how IMPORTANT it is to measure your feet properly and then ignores the details on how to best measure and what the ratios should be. It is only through my own trial and error that I have actually been able to figure most of this out.

This last book I bought, again talks about how important good fit and proper measurements are but then excludes the proper measurements or how they relate to the construction of the sock, and this source touts its encyclopedic nature. It would be like a historical record of the US that completely ignores the New England area of the country, or explaining our government without mentioning the Senate. How can all these books ignore this?

Thing is I still don’t know where to get the information I need. I have begun to experiment, of course, but in the face of the many hundred years or so in which humans have been knitting it seems ridiculous that no one source can explain the details - especially books written on sock design, construction and fit. But they all have pages worth of information on how to knit as though this is your first knitting book...

At 20 hours a pair and 15,000 stitches a sock the least I can do to start with is have all the information I need on how to measure my fucking foot properly.


Citron & Other Thoughts

I decided to make a citron with handspun. I decided on some bfl i bought on sale. It is not my favorite color scheme but I thought I needed to branch out a little and try more things. It is part of my new years resolutions - take more risks - because I generally stick with the same thing. I am spinning this as a thread and then will make a 2-ply or navajo ply with the results.

I like that I am evolving. I had all these preconceptions about what I wanted to do and be when spinning, I approached the whole thing with an attitude or principle of what I expected it to be and it is turning out to be nothing what I intended. This is not a bad thing, just a different thing, and maybe a way to help take risks too. A dare to change and accept the change as a positive movement, then forgive myself for not “sticking” to my original ideas of the whole concept. It should bring me peace - not agitate me or make my life more complicated.

So I guess the long and short of it is that I am going to spin some super freaking thin yarn for this citron and knit something. AWESOME. Then make a citron for me or anyone in the house who cares to wear it. I think for me it is about the spinning and knitting and becoming less and less about the finished object. I do not even care sometimes if it gets to be something other than yarn.

Although I have some new projects in mind that are extremely personal in nature and a bit painful. I am hoping that the act of making them into yarn will bring some catharsis to the situation. Now that I have found a way to make “art” yarn it seems to lend itself to these ideas. It is funny - I have an old journal that I used to write in periodically and decided that it would be re-dubbed the Yarn Diary. I have had so many ideas since I shifted from pencils, paint and pastel it is hard to keep them all organized. The artist block that has been plaguing my existence for the past 10 years seems to have cleared up now that I have shifted to a new medium.

To come:

Wolves in the Basement
Reds, browns, doll parts and possibly locks. This one is gonna be nasty. I need to find dolls that are the right size... any suggestions?

Hijacking Innocence
This one is pretty allegorical, although they all are really. This one is silk and linen spun fine with rusted steel wool throughout. I am also adding spindle spun silk hankies - with neps and slubs throughout. I am intending this to be a three ply yarn - at the moment.

Flowers in Her Hair
A project based on various brown tones and my own hair. I have a shetland moorit, brown bfl and my own luscious curls to play with. I had about 6 inches of my hair cut for it. Although it is cliché there is a hat that comes to mind.

I have a lot of work to do.


Best Yarn Tool Ever

This is the greatest yarn tool ever.

I have started using my kids Bilibo constantly. In fact I use it so much I had to buy another one. The bowl is fantastic for keeping yarns in place and there are two holes that are great for plying. You can use it upside down or right side up and then throw everything in it and move to another room...

I am constantly using this thing...

Sock Fatigue...

I have run into a problem.

The sock obsession is spilling into other socks before I finish the pair. I have 5 different socks on needles right now and two finished single socks... Oh what to do. There are not enough hours in the day for me to finish all the knitting and spinning I want to do.

BUT I have started spinning... yep... sock yarn. I have some superwash, without special goat nylon and also a regular Blue Faced skein which will probably shrink in the wash. I am not sure what pattern to use with the BFL. Since the BFL is variegated, I do not want the pattern or color to wash out because of the other. But I have about 400 yards so that should be okay for 1 pair... if I get around to the second sock that is.

Here it is:


Start to Finish

I have become fascinated by spinning. I spin all the time, everywhere I go, all day long. I have blocks of 10 minutes? perfect for a half of an arms length of fiber. Waiting for the kids at the doctor? Thats two arm lengths. Waiting for the rice to cook... not sure... lets find out.

There is something that is a little primordial about spinning. Since ancient fiber arts were made of, well, fiber they biodegraded and there are no accurate hypothesis on when spinning and weaving fibers actually began. The last estimate on spun fibers that I read about was in SpinOff, I think, found in a paleolithic cave. So for some reason spinning yarn makes me feel a connection to this human history and our development throughout ages. Before humans developed written language they were spinning and weaving. And, no, I am not normally a history buff. There is something about this that grabs me though. This simple act of taking fluff from a plant or taking hair from an animal and twisting it to make string - to then make any of hundreds of possibilities. This is something that is still the foundation of our daily lives even if we do not recognize it. For example... take that t-shirt and stretch it a bit... it is knit. For real and for true, knit... and those commercial socks... knit. Your dishtowels... knit... blankets sheets - knit or woven... the scale of these mass produced items has changed over time and the personal element has been removed, replaced with massive machines and electrical engines but the process, the underlying process is the same. That simply fascinates me.

I have become very fond of something I have heard referred to as "barber pole" yarns. I wanted to experiment with this style and went out and bought some Louet Northern Lights fibers in sharp contrasting colors to try and achieve this effect. I got the Picasso colorway.

I spun this thicker than I have been, mainly to prove to myself that I can still do it. I have read that many people who begin to spin finer yarns have a problem spinning thicker yarns. I wanted to retrain myself for thick before my muscle memories decided I could only work with thin... It was a pretty good experiment all things considered - and it was a lot harder to spin thick. However - since it was very thin top, not quite a pencil roving, but it was easier to spin because i did not need to pre-draft. i kept the diameter of the drafting about half the size of the actual roving. I think it made a big difference, having the roving so close to the size of the yarn I wanted to produce.

Once I finished two spindles full I joined them and set the twist. I have read that you are supposed to set the twist after you ply - but last time I ply'd the yarn got tangled and I had to throw away half of the skein. So, experimenting... I "baked" in the twist. I then plied the yarn, I think it may have been slightly damp when I worked with it. I am not sure if this did or will cause problems. I made a center pull ball on my ball winder and worked from both ends to ply.

After I plied the yarn I set the twist a second time and hung it to dry. Then I finished spinning more of the fiber and repeated the process for setting, plying, and setting the remaining fibers as well. I just knotted the two lengths together and wound it on my niddy noddy to make the skein. I also beat it against the wall a few times from both ends of the skein. I have read in several places that this helps distribute the twist evenly through the fibers. Well see...

I am really proud of this one. It actually looks the way I wanted and seems to be fairly consistent. I achieved what I set out to do with a little planning and it looks pretty good. I just have to figure out what to make with it!

UPDATE 05.18.2010:
I have decided on the Buttonhead hat by Lee Meredith. This is a really cool hat and can be done in a number of ways. She designed it using her own handspun yarns so I think it also lends itself well to a homespun look and feel.

Working with the yarn I realize that it has a bit too much twist. This seems to be pretty standard for me at this stage. I am not sure it will effect the finished project though - because there is a swirling pattern that starts in the center of the hat and moves outward. The push of the twist may be offset buy this spiral in the hat. Or at least that is what I am hoping. Next time I have been told I need to whack the yarn - a lot - to help distribute the twist.

I am almost finished with Buttonhead. So far the over twist does not seem to be an issue. With my Orange Marmalade the entire cowl has a noticeable shift. I love it anyway... but I was hoping to minimize that in this one. It does not seem to be a problem so far.

UPDATE: 05.22.10:
FINISHED... It is finished and the twist seems fine! Maybe I got away with it this time. Next time, thwacking will ensue. I wore it all day today. It feels good. Not itchy or anything. I even got a few compliments.


They're Here...

This is the first pair of socks I have knitted... They are going to suck, I know this, and then I will want to knit them again. You need to screw what I said before about knitting... I have become addicted to knitting, crochet and spinning... yes spinning. I have decided these socks are the coolest thing since sliced bread - and that is really popular.

I hope they fit. I bought a pair of sock stretchers and an addi turbo circular needle @ 36" so I could do the magic circle knitting. The problem was that there were gaps all over where the "seems" were. It was also a bit unwieldy with the cable all over the place - but I cannot imagine double points would make it any better. I decided, in the end, on a 9" bamboo circular - I figured if it sucks I am out 10$ if not... I have found a really useful tool. And it works like a charm. The knit is smoother - no gapping and it is easier to manage the two yarns. I am really pleased with it. These needles are so small I did not even think I would be able to hold them properly. Once the hand learns it seems to just become automatic.

Anyway... Like anyone is reading or cares...

I postponed the invader socks a bit... I decided that It might be a good idea to know HOW to knit a sock before trying a fun pattern. I got the book Toe up Socks... and didnt understand any of it. Then I got the Joy of Sox and that was a bit better. I figured out short rows with youtube and made myself some bright orange/mango worsted weight socks from Caron Simply Soft... he he he... They are horrible, and I love them. Now back to the invasion.


I decided to try my hand at knitting... I am not sure how I feel about it... It seems so much more complicated than crochet and you need so many more tools. But the best patterns and designs seem to be for knit. I am going to learn both and play around as much as I can.

The thing that really got me interested was a comment in one of the crochet books I have (Crochet in Plain English). The author explains that yarn crafters make jokes about wanting to crochet in the beginning of a project because it goes so much faster but once it is done they wish it was knit because it was lighter... apparently you use 1/3 more yarn per project with crochet. So for an economic reason really.

I made a trip to the Wooly Lamb and I got 2 skeins of Plymouth Yarn, Encore Colorspun (Green Mix) and a set of #9 Brittany needles and the Knit Book. I am starting just the same as crochet with just the basics, away I go...

I wish someone, in all the material I have watched and read so far, talked about making the first two rows of a knit project. These two rows seem to be the hardest and all examples I have seen are with 10-15 rows already on the needles. That is very hard for a beginner... because the first 5 rows are the hardest.

Update 1.20.10:
I think I just do not like knitting. It is not enjoyable for me. Holding the needles is difficult and my natural inclination to work left handed is rendered impossible since no one else does. Instructions are infuriating and the end result looks nothing like the pattern. When I began to crochet a few rows into a project and I was on my way to making a decent product... One dropped stitch and you are pulling out rows... and all the instructions act like you already know what you are doing... like i would need them if i did! Ugh.

Update 5.10.10:
Everything above this is a lie... well not all of it... but I have knitted everything I can in the past few months. My hands are tired. Hats, Scarves, Sweater, Socks, Random dishcloths are everywhere in the house...

Kvetch About Instruction Books

I am just starting out... I began crochet in October of 2009 and knitting about a week ago. I have not even finished, well I just finished one knit item. But In my quest for knowledge about my new found obsessions I have come across a huge number of books which make no sense at all...

Explain to me why a book with advanced patterns would list beginner instructions on how to make a slip knot? And this new book I bought, with a DVD and everything has instructions again... on how to cast on, knit and bind off on standard needles but not how to continue around properly on circular needles. Seriously? If I needed step-by-step instructions on how to read a yarn label and which side of the needle is used for knitting don't you think you could have included some useful information like:

Hey... knitting on circular needles is just like knitting on standard needles, you just keep going around... or knitting with circular needles is a little different than regular needles... here is how you do it. I mean it is an instruction book after all, right?

No matter how many times I read the instructions they never actually seem to reflect the images and charts shown on the page. Many of them do not even address real problems with the patterns, like gaps and seems.

You are either an expert or a novice and there seems to be no middle ground here. As an advanced beginner it is really frustrating to move past this stage. Obviously I am going to make mistakes and will need to figure out my own rhythm but some common issues or even realistic direction would be nice. Why do I need to reinvent the wheel?

Maybe these people should have novices actually read the book after is it written to make sure that it is actually something someone can do without prior knowledge. I bought one book on amigurumi and emailed the author about something, I got a response saying I should find an instructional book instead... however the first pages were dedicated, again, to the slip knot, single crochet and other basics that if you did not know already you would never be able to do anything in the book... so make up your mind people: you are teaching people from the ground up or you are going to stop wasting 1-2 chapters of my $30.00-$40.00 (fully illustrated, in color) book to basics which people already know or should put down your book if they do not.

Surprise Order from the Sheep Shed

So very cool.

I got a surprise order from the Sheep Shed Studio today. Which is fantastic because I have had a really rotten day. Here it is:

I really had fun with the superwash wool from the last order. This order will probably be just as fun. There are something called soppers in this order. I learned these are to "sop" up any remaining dye in the dye bath so it does not go to waste. I do not know what fibers are in it other than wool and mohair (I am going on texture). I have some bamboo from a prior order from the Yarn Tree, which I hate spinning... so I decided to blend it. 

Today I will be spinning my first ever rolags:

I am thinking it will be fun.

UPDATE 6.10.10:
So I spend the day yesterday making rolags and spinning this soppers mixture of fibers. As far as I can tell there is wool, superwash wool and mohair in the soppers mix an then I added the bamboo I blended on a whim. I had experimented with a flax/wool blend and thought that the wool really added to the ease of spinning the fibers because of the tooth in the staple. Since bamboo is so slippery I thought the wool would help with it as well. I layered the bamboo on both sides of the carders and then loaded up the wools/mohair on top. Wala...

Course I have no idea what the hell to do with it... or anything else I have spun... and I am so fond of my singles... that may be problematic for certain projects. I have no idea what this will look like once it is finished and fulled but I think it will be cool to work with. 

UPDATE 6.12.10:
Finished my project... Since I knew this pastel medley was definitely for my daughter I decided that she needed a Buttonhead hat of her own. I love this hat pattern and I have made 5 of them to date... Gotta stop at some point... when? Beats me.

Here is the end results using the yarn. I wound up plying it as a 4 ply yarn in the end. Although I am not sure if it worked out well or not. It felt more like I just held the 4 strands together as opposed to actually getting a 4 ply yarn with proper twist. The end result still looks pretty good, as far as I'm concerned.

Its being blocked today (6.17.10) and hopefully we can gets some interesting buttons to fit the character of the hat. 

Northern Lights... the Sequel.

I love this fiber. It is fun to spin, easy to spin and makes fun color combinations. I had been eyeing this 'Toffee' color for a while and decided for my first purchase I would go with the 'Picasso' because I thought it would offer more of a contrast... then I went and bought more... more... more...

I made a Buttonhead hat out of the first batch using the Picasso and Linda from Pleasant Run Peddlers like it so much I offered to make one for the shop. So I spun a similar weight using the first batch to help gauge my results. The final result is a 2 ply fingering or sport weight yarn, I think.

This colorway makes really soft blends and contrast to the final yarn. I really like it. The best way to see the color in the yarn (and with the Picasso) is to put it in the sunlight. It is amazing the difference between inside lighting and sunlight.

UPDATE 6.18.10:
I finished the hat. I am soaking and blocking it now. I am happier with this one that the last 3... it is probably just practice at this point. I used a small gauge, size US6 needles, and went with the Beret style this time. 

I also didn't "finish" my yarn before I started knitting. I have heard people say that you can use pencil roving to knit with by itself - you just have to be careful - so I though why not try setting the twist and fulling the yarn after the project it done? It might add something interesting to the project or not make a difference at all. 

I also tend to over twist, still!!!, almost everything I spin and I thought if I left in the yarns natural tendency to untwist it might relax a little while I was knitting and I would not have a project that slants. This yarn is also a 2 ply which helps remove some of the twist too. The hank did not double over on itself after I took it from the niddy noddy this time - so I think this one has got the right amount.