Monday, February 27, 2006

NCS Dye Pot Day

In August 2005 North Country Spinners had an outdoor meeting devoted to natural dyeing. The idea was to gather local flowers or plants in enough quantities to dye a good amount of wool. However, I don't think it'd be appreciated if I denuded Central Park of all of a certain plant. Not that I could. Solution: I contributed brazilwood chips -- they're natural, just not local. It was the best I could do, arriving at Sparta at 9 pm the evening before the 9:30 am meeting.

In the agreeable comapny of NCS members with their vast store of knowledge, we had a lovely day. Jean taught this city slicker how to use her outdoor stove. She'd collected goldenrod and made a dye bath. Mary Lou had collected rabbit brush and done the same. Mary brought a huge gas burner -- very handy. Jean also had an iron after bath for us to experiment with. The afghan Jean made from the wool she dyed is one of the loveliest things I've ever seen.


I am not a Magic Loop kind of a girl. Sorry, I'm just not cut out for it.

I'm trying the Magic Loop for the first time and it's taken (for ****) ever to knit this pair of socks. I'm using #0 and a k1p1 ribbing (top down). I started with 24" circs, having confused the directions for using 1 or 2 circular needles. Then, thank goodness, I learned that for 1 circ. a min. 40" circ. is recommended while for 2 circs at least 20" circs are recommended. ( Actually, for 2 circs, there is a range of recommended needle lengths and combinations.)

Magic Loop appealed to me because I tend to shed needles on the bus and because socks are my favorite commuting projects.

So, there I was, on the bus all summer and fall, straining my hands to get the 24" circ around. In the LYS in Southern Shores, NC, the yarn store salesperson and official sock afficionada revealed the secret of 40" circs for Magic Loop. With great anticipation I changed needles, hoping it would speed up the knitting to my usual pace. It has but only a little

But, the #0 and #1 Addi Turbos (here imagine Brenda's Addi whoooosh sound) do not pull smoothly through the stitches. Those are the 2 needle sizes I've tried. It takes a little finagling to getting the stitches to glide over the needle-to-cable join. Annoyingly enough, I calculate that I don't save any more time than I would switching among four needles.

Conclusion: for me (no universal claims here!!) the Magic Loop is perfect for a project with a low completion priority and where dropping/losing dp's is an issue.

Knit on!


When my kids were young, I occasionally practiced scales on tthe piano I'd bought for their lessons. Maybe it's because I'm really poor at reading music and can't easily play from sheet music but I enjoyed the mental and physical excercise of those repititions. In art classes taught by the sort of teacher who begins by encouraging the students to express themselves without giving instruction, I am not only lost and but also quite annoyed. I need the foundations of the "how-tos" , the technique particular to a craft/art and the "why" or theory of it.

This is my typical long prelude to explain why I've been enjoying spinning up small sampler bits of fiber. I've even spun little tiny bits that came with spindles and saved them. Fiber samplers help me learn the ways of different fibers and how to use tools. Luckily, I don't just dither on little bits: I'm also working on a big spinning project...or five.

What will I do with all these little skeins? It'll be fun to think about it until it's perfectly clear. Someone at North Country Spinners made a stunning baby afghan in non-pastels from the rich colors of the natural dyeing we did. There are lots and lots of uses.

Fiber, from left to right. Most were spun in the summer and fall of 2005
1. English Longwool Leicester, hand combed, worsted spun
2. Brecknock Hill Cheviot, hand carded, woolen spun
3. Polypay, woolen spun from rolags
4. Border Leicester, English combed (prepared at SOAR 10/04)
5. California Red, slubby and pretty awful. Woolen spun
6. Cotswold locks, flicked, worsted spun
7. California Red, spindle spun and plied. Slubby and not good
8. MerinoxJacob, machine carded on my Louet, (over-carded?) woolen spun
9. Wensleydale, spindled at demonstrations. Very rough
10. Ashford corriedale samples. I'll spin the tiniest amount
11. Chinese camel
12. Mystery fiber which seems to have some kind of silk
13. Lambspun, mostly wool with a tiny bit of silk. Tiny skein.

What ARE those? The Draft Dodgers...

This summer (and note the season, please) I was inspired to make draft blockers for the NJ house. I got the idea from Knit One, Felt Two. As of February 25 these are not yet in use. It's not just because I haven't schlepped out the sewing machine in New York. Nope. It's because when there finally was a windy January day AND I was actually there I discovered, to my horror, that the wind doesn't blow through just the bottom of doors. It actually blows in through every window frame, the entire perimeters of each door frame, not to mention the very [uninsulated] walls. That's a typical older house.

A felted curtain for each door and window, weighted at the bottom, would have been a better idea. So, now I have what looks like socks for giraffes, carefully felted socks for giraffes, that is. Yes, I'm sure there'll be a lot of creative and suggestive suggestions.

By the way, under the draft dodgers that's another one of my pinwheel blankets -- for our cat Bupu. Great way to use up leftovers.

Liza attends MAFA in spite of...

In July 2005 I attended Andrea's Mielke's Intermediate Spinning class at MAFA. There'd been drama associated with our going but that's another story. Andrea has a deceptively laid back style. Don't be fooled. We covered lots of material, some of which I haven't gotten to yet.

Key to Fiber above: (horizontal)

Key to Fiber above. (vertical)

See also NCS Dye Pot Day for other fibers

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mittens for Marsha 3

Inspired by Knit One, Felt Two, I decided to knit some felted mittens. Actually, the periwinkle ones were going to be for me but Marsha fell in love with the color so I felted them to be small enough for her. The dark purple pair is made with 2 skeins of "Alfa" Maskin by Sandnes Garn, a wool and mohair blend. It was soft until I felted it -- or rather, finally managed to felt them. They had to go through the wash about 4 times before getting even to this size. I had done a swatch so I was surprised. Anyway, they are roomy enough to have been designated "over-mittens".

I always make long cuffs for Marsha so that it covers and protects the scar from the surgery she had when she had a Colle's fracture of the wrist. That is the advantage of being able to knit or make things to suit ones needs.

Mittens for Marsha 2

Some lovely bulky Alpaca was in the sale bin at my [luxury] LYS. I couldn't resist. I thought I'd make thrummed mittens with it but the yarn was too bulky to strand. So, they make a toasty pair.

Mittens for Marsha 1

I started making Marsha many mittens in December of 2004 (or so). She was devastated to have lost one of a pair I'd made 2 or 3 years earlier. Pretty good in my opinion considering they were one of two pairs she wore all the time. So, along with making a replacement pair I made many others to assuage any sorrow at a possible loss. Silly kitten, you're SUPPOSED to lose your mittens! They run away with the socks. This blogger is refusing to load multiple images so I'll load them one at a time.

This is the thrummed pair with an i-cord string. I added the string because they are too thick to fit in her pockets. That way they can just hang down if she has to pull them off. These are the perfect mittens to use for shoveling on really snowy or cold days.

Pinwheel blanket

An early use of my handspun.

Retrospective: Liza Goes to SOAR in 2004

Have you ever had the experience of being the slow learner in a class? Well, I did but have absolutely no shame or regrets.

Robin Russo taught the 3 1/2 day exhaustingly intense fiber prep workshop at SOAR in October 2004. It is one of the best and most rewarding classes/courses I have ever taken. The amount of material covered was just staggering. Throughout this blog there are skeins produced either in the class or with fiber prepared in that class and spun later. See the NCS Dye Pot Day posting.

Key to the table of fibers
First group: Long skeins from left:
1. English combed Polwarth carded with purple mohair
2. Icelandic - English combed
3. Icelandic - hand combed (spun 9/05)
4. Shetland - hand combed (spun 9/05)
5. Romney -- blended on hand combs with mohair (spun 9/05)
6. Shetland - machine carded
7. Purple Romney and grey angora - machine carded to blend
8. Mystery cross with alpaca - blended with hand combs
9. Alpaca - hand combed (spun 9/05)
10. Polwarth - English combed (spun 9/05)
11. Border Leicester - hand combed (spun 9/05)
Shorter skeins
12. Icelandic - machine carded
13. Romney - spun from the lock
14. Llama - English combed with guard hair removed
15. Llama - hand combed - some guard hair remains
Top right:
16. Romney - various colors - hand combed and worsted spun
17. Lt. Blue Angora and cormo - hand combed to blend(spun 9/05)

I'd only been spinning for two years and sporadically at that. At that time I had only one spinning wheel and it lived in New Jersey where I spend all the free time I can. So, I was the typical annoying dumb girl in class. You guessed it -- my wheel squeaked. I'd been told that Louets don't need any oil so, naturally, I didn't have any. Finally one wise woman, who'd spent her career teaching high school Englih, simply walked over and oiled my infernally squawking wheel. Clara showed me how to do Andean plying. Others demonstrated carding. And, the class went on at the pace of the more advanced students so I didn't have to be worried about holding anyone back. Just in case you ever think of attending, the people at SOAR were really great. Everyone makes fiber friends and has a chance to spend time with all the faculty.

Although I really couldn't keep up with the class, it was blissful fiber overload to store away for later.

Retrospective: Liza Learns to Spin

In August of 2002 Marsha encouraged me to sign up for a beginner's spinning workshop at Peters Valley. Marianne Kirchoff taught the 3-day class in the Craft Center's Fiber Studio. We immediately began spinning at the wheel, which was quite intimidating. The second day, maybe (?) we briefly worked with the cd spindles she'd made each of us. But, even though I hadn't really gotten the hang of it, I knew I just loved the whole process.

Because we were in a fully loaded fiber studio we all had great fun plying with a huge variey of yarns and threads. Some looked pretty weird with our newbie yarn but we were undaunted. Marianne had brought a bunch of different wheels so we could try out various styles and models. I went home with my trusty Louet S10 which I keep in NJ; my Journey Wheel is in New York.

The photo is of some of the yarn I made in that workshop. The one all the way to the right is my very first spinning. I've given some away -- it was quite funky.

Retrspective Number 1: Some of Marsha's socks

With our new camera I plan to find and photograph much of what I've made that's gone out into the ether. Although I keep records of what I make I don't have many photographs.

Over the last few years I've been knitting Marsha socks. My hand knits are all she wears now. And, like The Yarn Harlot I make one heel. I loved reading what she said about using the same method each time. I really agree but felt guilty about not trying, say, the Dutch heel. But, I just love turning the heel flap, by magic, I think, into a comfy, cushiony heel. And, watching the whole mess become a sock as I pick up and work on the gussets is really cool. Yes, I know, get a life.

Anyway, here's a wheel of Marsha's socks.

Yesterday's project

This weekend I'd planned to dye some fiber for my guild's annual project. North Country Spinners is working on a color wheel for its booth at the Warren Country Fair this summer. Those who wish to participate are asked to donate 50 yds of handspun in one of the colors of the spectrum. I drew purple.

Digging through my more than ample stash I found two purple fibers. I was relieved not to have to dye inside with the poor ventilation we have in the kitchen. One fiber, in a tidy top, is variagated purple -- Ashaland's Columbia, I think -- which I cannot stand, really. It had been much too slippery for me as a beginner. Eventually I did learn to spin it very fine on my Journey Wheel. The other purple fiber is the rest of a bagful of "junk" Morgaine at Carolina Handspun gave me this summer. We'd made a pilgrimage to her hard-to-find (for a New Yorker) store in San Francisco. There I found the very hand cards I was searching for. Morgaine very generously invited me to grab as much of some purple fiber that was lying around as I wanted so I could practice carding in the hotel room. Which I did, of course. The fiber turns out not to be "junk" at all. It feels like Romney or a relative. Morgaine said she'd just thrown some stuff into a dye pot and this is what came out. Lucky me.

I'd already carded about half and was so relieved to find an equal amount. Friday I carded the rest into rolags. My goal was practice spinning the short draw. I'm weaning myself from exclusive reliance on the worsted and inchworm draws. On Saturday I spun and plied (2 ply) 76 yds on my Louet S10 (NJ wheel). I'm quite pleased with the result. It's not an elegant yarn by any means. You can see in the photo that there are only a FEW skinny and extra fat bits.

Using the long or short draws make me feel positively wild and free. You just have to give up the control needed for inchworm or worsted. The advantages, as Stephanie Gaustad and Alden Amos pointed out in a workshop last spring, is that it's much faster and makes a lofty, woolly yarn. I still need to wash the skein.

Team Wales project completed!

Here's Ed's scarf, finished on Thursday evening as I watched the skating. It's 74". KnitPicks' Silk Alpaca isn't a forgiving yarn -- it was surprisingly hard to hide the loose ends in the k1p1 patterns. I had to work very hard to make the weaving invisible.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Team Wales meets at NYC Knitting Cafe

A lovely visit with two fellow members of Team Wales, Knitting Olympics' "Jamaican Bobsledders." (The man at the back table isn't, so far as I know, a Team Member.).
D., on the left, was in town for her chorus' performance at Carnegie Hall this evening. As we chatted and became acquainted she finished the front of her Olympic Knitting Project. See the Team Wales Frappr page for her posting of the back half. J., to the right, is working on her signature modular sweater while wearing an earlier version of the same design.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How much yarn for the hat ?

I used 1 2/3 skeins of Noro Silk Garden. {A hat I made with 16 repeats took the whole two skeins.) The pattern is based on one by Plymouth Yarn. I cast on 72 sts, using a provisional cast on. Knit on the bias, I inc. at the beginning of the row and dec. at end of the same row, every other row. I alternated stockingette with reverse stockingette every four rows to match the color changes in the yarns. I've found that the edge at which I dec. was wider that the one at which I inc. When the wider edge was 1" less than my head width I ended at the end of a ribbing sequence, not bindng off. I used the kitchener stitch to graft the long edges together. The narrow end had a little less give and I made that the top of the hat.

And, thank you for the nice comments.

Half finished for Team Wales

Go, Team Wales, Go! The scarf is half finished. I knitted the swatch during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, waiting for the torch to be lit. Silly me hadn't heard about the Yarn Harlot's rule change. The swatch photo was intentionally lightened to make it easier to see the pattern stitches despite the dark yarn.

Yarn: KnitPicks Andean Silk, worsted weight, #6 needles, 60 sts. Andean Silk is loosely plied so it needs a structured sort of stitch to have any heft. (See swatch photo for the stitches I tried out.) I just didn't like the way the yarn held the k2p2 Rib or Farrow Stitch. And, the Polperro Northcott (sans mid ditch)is not reversible, desirable in a scarf. Even though k1p1 makes the narrowest fabric, it has enough give while being thick enough to make a toasty warm scarf. K1p1 really shows off the sheen of this lovely yarn, too.

My goal is a 72" scarf, attainable because of have 6 skeins which are actually knitting up at 12" each....thank goddess.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

First Post, Saturday, 2.4.06 but really Sunday very early

I'm still learning to use our new digital camera but I do have two photographs of projects I finished this weekend. I don't have a photo of the 54 yd. skein I spun and plied this afternoon. The fiber is Cotswold locks which had come in a sampler from The Bellwether. I'd flicked it, keeping the locks cut ends all in the same direction and then spun it worsted. It's quite shiny but very rough and will be good for a rug.

The hat one replaces the one I seem to have lost about 10 days ago at Weight Watchers...or the restaurant we went to afterwards. It's made with Noro Silk Garden, the same exact yarn, including dye lot, I used for the lost hat. No one better come into WW wearing the "lost" hat is all I can say. The pattern is a copy of a Plymouth Yarn pattern given to me by my NJ LYS. I made it on #7 needles and made 14, not 16 repeats of the k4p4 pattern. Actually, the missing hat was too big for me and the new one fits more like a cloche.

The square is for my knitting listserve's gift blanket for a sick member. For that I used a great old favorite from my stash which I've had for years: Edelweiss 70/30 wool/nylon, on the principle that blankets should be somewhat washable. The pattern is from's. The pattern is over 6 rows and took a little effort to learn. I worked on it at Friday's North Country Spinners monthly guild meeting.

My weekend is Friday and Saturday. And, it's actually Sunday already. Good night