Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A pair of not-so-attractive socks

I cast these socks on back in February and they became my 'upstairs' project.

The yarn's some of my handspun, from a 'bump' of a merino/bamboo blend that I bought from World of Wool.  There was nothing wrong with the fibre - it was nice to spin, but I should have thought more about how I was spinning it.  The colours have merged into a bit of a 'meurgh' heathery yarn with bits of bottle green and bright pink here and there.  That's why the yarn's become socks.

A close-up of the colours
These socks should, really have been a disaster.  The yarn's a sport-weight and I thought I'd cast on using my 2.75mm circular.  I was more than halfway up the foot of the first sock when I thought that the fabric I was knitting was looking a bit, erm, 'substantial' and so I had a closer look at the needle and saw printed on the tip 2.25mm.  Oops.  At least it explained the firm-ish fabric!  I tried them on, thinking that they'd feel too stiff and I'd have to rip back and start again, but they actually felt really comfortable and soft.  So, I carried on and today I finished them off.  Knitting sport-weight yarn on 2.25mm needles did mean that my hands began to ache after a while, which is probably why it's taken me six months to knit them (that and only doing a few rows every now and then in bed, or while waiting for DD2 to finish playing in the bath).

This does mean that I don't have any socks on my needles at all.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  I also have nothing on my spinning wheel either, so I might have a delve into my fibre stash and choose something to spin.

I also want to get on and make something from these:

There are 42 five-inch squares in this pack and I'm going to make them into a patchwork, quilted pad-type thing to go on my coffee table and protect the table from my laptop.  I think I'm going to get DD2 to help me decide which square will go where :)

Monday, 18 August 2014

From UFO to FO!

I've been good in the last few days and, as I said in my last post, I've applied myself to finishing off a couple of unfinished works in progress.

First off, was the quick job of finishing off a wash cloth.  This was made using the remains of the ball of light pink soft cotton I used when I made wash-cloths to go with bars of nice Italian soap that DD1 gave to some of her friends last Christmas.

This isn't quite square as I ran out of yarn, but it's a decent enough size for face-washing.  To make it, I chained a length to the width I wanted (usually 7" or 8" or thereabouts).  Then, I crocheted a row of Trebles (UK - US DCs), then a row of Half-Trebles (UK - US HDCs) and repeated until I ran out of yarn.  I worked each stitch between the stitched of the row below, which gives a more open look to the Trebles, which I find makes the cloth softer and also has the benefit that it dries more quickly than working the stitches into the top V of a row.

Next up was finishing off a bag.  I'd kept the various small amount of DK acrylic yarn from various blankets I've made, so started off with holding two yarns together and then joining in another yarn once one had finished (knotting them together and crocheting over the ends so there was minimal end-sewing-in to be done at the end).  Once I'd run out of leftovers, I made two magic-balls of yarn from my DK acrylic stash and just carried out, not really knowing how the colours were going to play out, but knowing it would certainly be colourful.

The pattern is the Easy Peasy Crochet bag from Laughing Purple Goldfish.  It's very simple to do.  First, you make a chain the depth you want your bag to be, then do rows of DC (UK - US SC) until the base is the width you want your bag to be.  Then, still using DC/SC, you crochet around the base of the bag and keep going round and round in a spiral until it's the height you want.  The original pattern then has you do a decorative stitch at the top and then make two handles which are sewn on afterwards.  I wanted my bag to be a hand-held one, so once the bag was the height I wanted, I worked out where the middle of each side was and then skipped 8 or 9 stitches either side and then , on the next round, crocheted the same number of stitches over the chain before going round and round for another 4 or so rows.  I finished the top of the bag with crab stitch (reverse DC/SC I think it's also known).  I started off doing the crab stitch with two strands of the same colour, but it was a bit too bulky so I undid it and started the finish again, this time using just one strand of yarn, which looked much better.

I've made a very similar bag before, but smaller in size, using various needlepoint wools I'd got left over from various projects.

I decided that I'd line this bag.  I didn't with the first one of these bags that I made and I find that if I use it as a project bag, my knitting needles stick through the crochet!

I've got a smallish stash of fabrics, so got those out and cut strips of varying widths.  Next, I reacquainted myself with my sewing machine and sewed the strips together.  After that, I ironed the sewn strips and then ironed on some Vilene interfacing so add a bit of weight to the lining.  I carefully made a base from some cardboard* and covered that with some stripy fabric, using PVA glue to attach it.  I then measured around the base (twice - to make sure I'd got it right) and then sewed up the bag lining before sewing it around the edge of the base.

One side of the lining:

Other side of the lining:

On Friday evening, I sat down and sewed the lining to the bag.  It looked a bit baggy, but I thought that might be the crochet relaxing, so I hung it up by the handles with a couple of soup tins in it.

Saturday morning, I decided I was deluding myself, so took the lining out and reattached it.  Halfway round I decided that the lining was now too short (I hadn't cut off any excessive fabric, fortunately) as the crochet was now puckering.  There may have been bad words said!!  Feeling a bit cross with myself, I decided that there was no point in cutting corners, so I put tacking stitches through the lining and crochet, starting at the base and smoothing crochet and lining upwards before I put in the next row of tacking stitches.  Once I was happy with how it looked, I pinned and tacked the top of the lining to just underneath the handles and sewed it in place with small stitches.


And this is how it looks:

I'm not sure about the inside rim of the bag though.  I might make a strip of fabric to go round, or I might buy some binding or grosgrain ribbon that's the right width ---- or I might just leave it as it is.

Overall, I'm pleased with it and think it's a nice size for a scarf project bag, possibly even a sweater.  It'll definitely fit a 100g skein of yarn, pattern and the bag I use to hold my stitch markers, tape measure, scissors, etc.

* What I didn't take into account was that using cardboard as a base (I thought I was being so clever at the time) means I won't be able to wash the bag.  If I make another one, I'll use plastic instead.

Onwards now!  I took my 'upstairs' socks with me to knitting group today and I think I've got about ten rounds of the leg and the ribbing to do on the second sock and then they'll be finished.  I also brought my black Puffin sweater downstairs yesterday and before I went to work I managed to work out where I'd got to.  My clickable row counter had got left in the bottom of another bag and must have got clicked a few times because I hadn't done as many rows as the counter was showing.  Fortunately, I realised that pretty quickly, so I'm back on track with that and even managed a couple of rounds and I think I've got about ten rounds to go before I'm at the waist.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Being Disciplined

Having flitted around with my various knitting and crochet projects over the last few months, I found that I was getting a bit irritated with all of them as, picking up something one day and something else the next, etc, was resulting in very little visible progress.  So, action was required and I decided to be more methodical and concentrate on one or two projects and Get On With Them.  Last night, I cast off the second of the red/pink pair I cast on at the end of June and this is the result:

They're a plain pair (the yarn's too variegated to warrant a pattern), made to my usual toe-up pattern and I'm pleased with them.

Next up is finishing off this bundle of soft cotton, which is a crocheted wash-cloth that I started ages and ages ago and then put in a bag and forgot (I found it a couple of days ago).  This shouldn't take long to finish:

The fabric it's on was ironed yesterday and is destined to become part of this.....

.... which is a crocheted bag.  My plan is to cut strips from the various fabrics and then sew them together until I've got a piece the circumference of the bag, strengthen it with some iron-in vilene interlining, make a base from some card (the base of the bag is a rectangle - more about the construction when I show off the finished bag), cover that in fabric and then attach the body of the lining to it.  I'll be honest and admit I haven't made a decision regarding the top of the bag where the handles are (they're the type where you skip a number of stitches, chaining over them instead and then work the same number of stitches over the chain on the next round).  I might attach a fabric strip to the top of the lining -- or I might not.

To make the lining, I'll be using my sewing machine.  My sewing machine hasn't been used in so long that I had to dust fluff off the cover, so wish me luck!  I've got out my cutting board and my rotary cutter and, with the help of hubby's spirit level I'm hoping cutting the strips (which will be various widths) will go smoothly.

Once I've finished the cloth and the bag, I'll be concentrating on my stripey scarf (which I started before Christmas!) and bringing down my black Puffin sweater as that's been languishing in a cupboard upstairs and hasn't seen any action for, well, let's just say it's been a while.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Tale of Two Handspun Yarns

or, how two braids of the same fibre can end up looking different (on purpose, I hasten to add).

After the disappointment of the last two skeins of yarn I spun, I'm feeling rather pleased with myself today.

Ages and ages ago (probably three or four years ago), I bought two braids of BFL fibre that my friend Lucy had dyed.

Rather summery, don't you think?

My first thought was to spin them as one big 200g skein of yarn.  Then I had another think and came up with a different plan.

The first braid, I spun fractcally.  That sounds rather technical and complicated, doesn't it; but it isn't.  Basically, you split the braid in half lengthways and then spin one half down the whole length of the half-braid so you get very long lengths of individual colours (or, as I did, pull of chunks of each colour and spin them - you get the same effect, but can re-distribute where each colour goes if you want).  Once you've spun all of that half of the braid onto a bobbin, you start another bobbin with the second half.  With the second half, you split the braid lengthways again, but this time, into 4, 6, 8, however many you want strips and spin each thinner strip so you get much shorter lengths of colour than on the first bobbin.  Once you've spun the second half of the braid, you ply the two bobbins of singles together and get a barber-pole striping yarn (although in places the yarn will be one colour where two colours meet).  It's a pleasing effect.  I got approx 400m of yarn from 100g of fibre, which I'm very pleased about:

Enough for a pair of socks or a decent-sized shawl/scarf

With the second braid, I divided it into two (lengthways again), but then I pulled off chunks of the fibre and put them through my drum carder to make into batts.  The first half I just put through the drum carder one time to mix up the colours a bit, but the second half of the braid I (well, we really as DD2 helped me) put through three times in total to really mix the colours so they were blended well.  Here are the two batts I ended up with (I'd already started spinning one, which is why it looks smaller than the other one):

3-times blended on left, 1-time blended on right

The two bobbins of yarn I finished up with looked like this:

Actually, that photo doesn't really show a great deal of difference in the singles on the bobbins, but there was, I promise!  Yesterday, I plyed the singles together and this morning, I wound the 2-ply yarn onto my niddy noddy (with a bit of "shush, I'm counting" when either child tried to speak to me!), tied it up so it wouldn't tangle, then soaked it, squished excess water out and hung it up on my washing line to dry (we're having glorious weather here at the moment).  This afternoon, it was dry and I brought it in to photograph it:

Approx 325 of sport-weight yarn

It's rather shrimpy or lobstery in colour and I'm very pleased with it.  I think this yarn is going to become a Norby hat (for me).

Here are the two skeins, photographed side by side:

Hmm - someone's dripped something on the hall carpet!

So, two braids the same, but two subtly different yarns.

Pleased with myself?  Yes, yes, I am :D

I've now got an empty spinning wheel and I'm trying to resist the temptation to start spinning something new until I've finished at least one of the knitting WIPs.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

F is for Failure

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself, but this next skein of handspun yarn is not at all what I was hoping for.

First off, although the bag of Wensleydale Longwool fibre said it was scoured, it was still a bit greasy with lanolin, which made it a bit slippery to spin.  Still, I persevered (I'd never spun this sheep breed before).  Each lock was between six and eight inches long, I'd estimate, so I used my flick carder to open each one up and then, one I'd got a small shoe-box full of them, I spun them.  Once I'd spun a bobbin full of the locks, I decided I'd had enough of flicking and then spinning, so wound the spun single into a ball and then plyed it using a strand from the inside of the ball with the one from the outside to make a 2-ply yarn.

Then I washed it and hung it up to dry.  Because during the washing process more of the lanolin was washed out, once it was dry, the yarn felt a bit floppy and loose and I didn't like it.  So, I wound it into another ball again and put it through my wheel again to add a bit more twist.  Then, I wound it into a skein, tied it up and then washed it again before hanging it up on the line to dry.

This time, the yarn was over-twisted, but I decided to call it a day and admit defeat.

This yarn (which is a cross between yarn and twine) definitely falls into the category of "learning curve".

I think you can see from the photo where the excessive amount of twist has made the yarn king and squiggle.

I've now bought a 100g 'bump' of ready-prepared Wensleydale, so hopefully my next effort at spinning this sheep breed will result in something a bit better as Wensleydale yarn is supposed to be soft and lustrous.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

E is for Effort

I seem to have been doing more spinning than knitting in recent weeks.

Not that the results have been pleasing.

In a package of fibre that I bought from World of Wool was this bump:

Picture taken from the World of Wool website
It doesn't look too bad like that does it.  Truth be told, when I took it out of the postal package, I did think that the colours weren't really 'me' and I decided that I must have put it in my online shopping basket and not taken it out.  Anyway, I decided that this would be my next spinning project as I've enjoyed spinning WoW's merino/silk blend rovings before.  I started merrily spinning away and then got a bit concerned as the white silky bits felt a bit rough and I had bits sticking out from the singles I was spinning.  I admit that rude words were said in exasperation and at one point I nearly pulled the whole lot off the bobbin with the intention of binning it.  I even got to the point where I thought I should send an e.mail to World of Wool to express my disappointment because all the fibre I've bought from them to date has been of excellent quality.

I did go back onto the website and had a look and then it clicked with me.  The white isn't actually silk.  It's bleached flax.  Oops.  That's why I'd put it in my shopping basket -- I've never spun flax before.  I continued spinning, pulling out and discarding the particularly rough bits of flax that I found too difficult to spin.

Once I'd finished spinning the fibre onto one bobbin, I navajo/chain plyed it into this skein of 3-ply yarn:

The blue's got a bit lost amongst the black, grey and white, but I suppose if I'm being kind to myself it's come out quite nicely heathered.  It's just not very soft (although I've read that flax/linen should soften with further washing - although with my luck, I'll probably felt the merino at the same time).

I have no idea what this is going to be.  I don't think I've got enough for a pair of socks, unless they're short ones.  Maybe some gloves or a hat?  Possibly a scarf (although it might be a bit scratchy).

Oh well, you live and learn, don't you.  I've learned that I don't like spinning flax!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

WIPS and a New Toy

I've got another pair of socks on the go.  More plain, vanilla socks as the yarn's variegated and a pattern would get lost.  I'm rather pleased with them so far:

The yarn was dyed by my friend Lucy and she called is Love Hearts.  These are simple toe-up socks to my own 'pattern' with a rounded toe and longer-than-usual gusset, just like the last couple of pairs of socks I made recently.

Another new WIP is a scarf.  The pattern's a Kate Davies one - A Hap for Harriet.  The pattern's very well written (which is usual for Kate's designs) and after a couple of pattern repeats, I didn't need to look at the instructions any more, which is all good.

It's going to take some time to knit this as it's a laceweight yarn (Posh Yarn Audrey - a cashmere/silk blend; very soft and rather lovely) on 3mm needles.  The yarn's a recent acquisition from a localish lady who is moving to a smaller house and was de-stashing some of her yarn.  I bought three other yarns from her as well - all laceweight.  Laceweight yarn's something I've always found a bit tricky to deal with, but with this pattern being so easy to follow, I think this is going to be a success.

Now to my New Toy.  It's the peg loom I said last week that I'd ordered.  It arrived this morning while I taking Jess for her morning walk, but my next-door-neighbour kindly signed for it and then knocked on my door to deliver it to me.  I'm really pleased with the loom - the ash is a lovely wood:

The 9mm pegs that came with it are wooden, but the 6mm ones are plastic, which should make them more durable (I've read on the internet about thinner wooden ones breaking easily).  I'm hoping that DD2 will enjoy using it with me - our first plan is to make a new rug for her bedroom from some of the acrylic DK yarn I've got.

I'm off to do some more spinning now.  Yesterday I finished half the braid of BFL I'm currently using so I'm now starting on the second half before I ply them together into what I hope will be some pretty yarn (it's pink, peach and yellow; very summery).  I did think about joining one of the Tour de Fleece teams on Ravelry, but decided I probably wouldn't be able to follow the rules on when to spin, so decided to give it a miss and just go at my own pace.