Saturday, 29 April 2017

Socks from Handspun

So, having produced some skeins of yarn on my spindles and wheel, I've recently got round to knitting with them, rather than putting them in a bag and adding them to my stash!

First off, was the spindle-spun grey/burgundy/lime green yarn which was the first I made on my drop spindle:

There's nothing particularly exciting about them.  Each strand of yarn was quite thin, so they look a bit tweedy.  What you can't see is that, at the cuff of one of them, the knitting gets much bulkier (and is therefore a bit wider than the other one), because that's the bit of grey yarn I spun first and it's lumpier than the rest!  No-one will see the cuff under my trousers though, so I'm not going to worry about it.

I finished the next pair of socks yesterday.  I'd like to say these were a labour of love but, if I'm being honest, it was more a case of "you're going to be socks if it bloody well kills me".

Several posts ago, when I did my February spinning round-up, I talked about this yarn and how I was disappointed with it.  It's Teeswater, which is a long-wool breed of sheep (in dog terms, think of Afghan Hound rather than Poodle).  I decided to go ahead and knit socks with it, but because I had less than 200m of yarn, I used a part-ball of dark green Colinette Jitterbug I had for the toes, heel and cuffs, otherwise I'd only be able to make ankle-length/tennis-style socks.

I haven't taken photos, but believe me, once I'd done the toe in the Jitterbug and was a few rounds into the foot, it felt like I was knitting with string.  It was horrible; even more horrible than I thought it would be.  So, I sighed a bit, put the knitting aside and had a think.  I decided to unply the yarn a bit, to make it less twisty and twine-like and then see how that went.  As my wheel was busy, I did the un-plying on my spindle (that's 3 or so hours I won't get back!) then re-skeined the yarn, washed it again and left it to dry.

I'd only ripped back to where I'd joined the handspun yarn after knitting the toe, so I was saved having to re-knit 20 or so rounds and the less twisty yarn did feel softer to knit, so I was much happier.  Then I noticed the colour transitions were rather block-like.  By this point, I was beyond caring, so just carried on regardless and this is what the finished socks look like;

I know you're going to be very kind and say they look nice and it 's an achievement to have produced the yarn at all, but they're definitely a bit funny-looking and not something you'd want to visibly wear, so please don't think I'll be offended if you give me an honest opinion (and there's always the danger that if you're too nice, I might offer to send them to you!!!!!).

I'm half-hoping they'll fall apart during the first wear, or will felt horribly within a few weeks.

What's the betting they'll wear like iron and won't felt, break or anything else that happens to hand-knit socks and I'll be stuck with them for ages and ages?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Comfortable Feet

I don't know about you, but I hate having cold feet, which is why I like wearing hand-knitted socks so much (I can't remember the last time I wore shop-bought socks, to be honest; it's definitely been at least three years).  I especially dislike having cold feet when I take Jess for her walks around our area.

When Jess and are out walking, I usually wear wellies or in the summer, Croc-like clogs.  As part of where we usually walk is on the common ground behind our housing estate, I need footwear that's waterproof and (because *some* dog-walkers aren't very conscientious in their dog-walking duties) that can be hosed down if the need arises.  I don't find full-length wellies to be overly comfortable so, when my in-laws asked if there was anything I'd particularly like them to buy me as a Christmas present, I said I'd like some ankle-length wellies, preferably some snazzy, patterned ones.  Being a good son and spouse, hubby looked online for his mother and on Christmas Day, I unwrapped a box and in it was these:

You can imagine how pleased I was to receive them; they were just what I wanted.

I happily wore them, feeling ridiculously happy when I caught sight of them when I looked down and saw them sticking out from the bottom of my jeans.

However..... there was a catch and it's a catch that I've often found with other pairs of wellies I've owned.

Before too long, the thin fabric on the top of the insoles (which was bright pink) started to come away from the thin foam bottom layer and every time I took my feet out of the boots, the insole started to come out as well, and started to get wrinkled, needing to be flattened out and put back in place before I could wear them again.

So, I looked online for replacement insoles but a. they were quite expensive and b. the ones I found looked as though I'd have the same problem with them.  I then remembered that I'd been able to buy replacement sheepskin insoles for the suede Ugg-type boots hubby had bought me years ago from New Zealand, so I looked online to see if I could buy something similar.  Blimey, those had gone up in price since the last time I bought some and I couldn't justify the cost.

It was then that I had a brainwave!  I have a large stash of yarn and I knew I had a random 100g skein of some Rowan chunky-weight yarn in a mid grey that I had no plans for (I think someone gave it to me).  So, out came a large crochet hook and I crocheted up a rectangle of fabric.

Then the 'fun' started.  I put the crocheted square into the washing machine and ran it through a cycle, but it didn't felt as much as I wanted it to.  So, I put it in the tumble dryer on high heat.  Still not felted enough.  Back into the washing machine, this time with some towels and through the dryer again.  Still too much stitch definition.  I filled the washing up bowl with hot water and washing-up liquid and I punished the fabric, rubbing it and scrubbing it until I was happier with it (although it was now a bit soapy) and then back into the washing machine (with more towels) for a final run and then a dry.  Hurrah!  Finally, I had felt.  A fairly hefty bit of felt.

I got a cereal box out of the recycling tub, took out one of the unsatisfactory insoles, smoothed it out on the cardboard and drew around it before cutting out the template.  Then, I took the dry rectangle of felted wool and drew around the cardboard template, turned the template upside down and drew around it a second time and cut out my new insoles:

That was a few weeks ago now, so I apologise that I'm showing you a photo of insoles that have seen my feet lots of times.

I put them into my boots before Jess and I went on our afternoon walk and, oh my goodness, what a difference.  They are *so* comfortable, as well as being warm.

They're so comfortable, in fact, that I'm thinking of making some more to go into the shoes I wear to work as my feet get pretty tired after a five-hour shift where I don't get to sit down for more than ten minutes.  Next time though, I think I'll knit the piece of fabric as I think it might felt better.

Comfy feet; there's no finer feeling!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

I have an inkling.....

... my newest crafting 'toy' is going to be fun!

You may have gathered from posts I've written that, while he complains about the amount of space my crafting paraphernalia takes up, my husband is a bit of an enabler as he keeps buying me equipment to use (spinning wheel, weaving loom and drum carder) as well as skeins of nice yarn and bags of fibre for spinning.  Well, at Christmas, the last present I was instructed to open (he wanted to keep it until last) was an Ashford Inkle Loom.  In case you don't know, inkle looms are small weaving looms, used to make straps and bands (Wikipedia entry).  The difference between this and weaving on a rigid heddle (or floor) loom is that the weft threads (the horizontal ones) are squeezed between the long, warp threads so they're invisible (or barely visible).  This creates a very firm fabric, which is what makes it good for items where you don't want any stretch (think guitar or bag strap).

I'd never even thought of buying an inkle loom and, to be honest, I was tiny bit disappointed because a. I didn't what I'd use it for and b. I was hoping for a tensioned Lazy Kate for spinning (maybe for my birthday; I'll drop strong hints!!!).  Hubby had also bought me a book of patterns to make on the inkle loom and I read through that, read lots online and - finally - got out the box and assembled the loom a couple of weeks ago.  Then I went stash-diving and pulled out some white cotton and some variegated green/yellow yarn which I was given and which I think is a wool/cotton sock yarn.

Warping for the first time (putting on the long threads) was, erm, 'interesting', not helped by DD1 deciding while I was doing it that she'd emerge from her room and come down for a chat!  I don't think it helps that I'm left-handed and the loom is right-handed biased (like many things), so winding the yarn around the pegs feels a bit awkward.  Anyway, I started weaving and soon got into a rhythm, once I'd got my head into inkle-weaving mode and beating the weft yarn down hard rather than rigid heddle-weaving mode where the warp and weft threads are both visible and lay next to each other, giving the 'over and under' appearance of the woven fabric.

This was my first band, which I finished last week:

This is the first pattern in the book that I was bought with the loom and is about 140cm long (I've no idea what I'm going to do with it!).  It didn't take long, once I got going and worked out what I was supposed to do.

So, today I went back into my stash and pulled out a ball of blue cotton, a ball of orange cotton and a ball of grey cotton/linen that I knew were in there.  I then chose another pattern from the book and warped the loom again:

You can see on the left where I've done the first few inches of weaving, including the first inch or so which is wider, before I got then tension right.  This is going to be a strap for a bag I'm planning on making from the grey/blue/rust yarn I spun on my Turkish spindle last month.  The two bits of cardboard are 'fillers' just after the start of the warp and will be taken out once the strap gets advanced around the loom (the warp is a continuous loop, so there's waste at the beginning and end - I'll take photos once I'm further on so you can see).

Here's a side shot so you can see how the warp winds around the pegs, giving lots of options for different lengths of band:

And, finally, here's a close-up of the weaving so far:

It's all good fun, but I've spent far too long looking at photos of  finished bands that people on Ravelry have made!

I have been doing some knitting, I promise, but not a great deal, although I'm hoping to have a finished object to show you in a couple of days.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Spinning Round-Up - March

It's been just over a month since I last posted.  This is because, knitting and crochet-wise, there's been very little to talk about, other than a hat.  Everything I'm making at the moment is very slow going and then there was a pair of socks that I started twice before admitting defeat - the yarn just didn't want to be socks.

Spinning though, that's been a different story.  I'm finding using my spindles so easy and convenient to pick up when I have a few minutes and even when watching television, listening to a podcast, or watching a videocast.  So.....

Finished Spins:

The fluff that I was spinning on my Turkish 3D-printed spindle is finished.  This was the fibre from a bag of lap waste from World of Wool that I suspected was the leftovers from a custom blend someone had ordered.  The first single that I spun was from - I think - the finished blend.  The second single, the colours were the same, but less blended.  The blend seems to consist of rust flax, silvery-grey flax, teal, black, grey and blue merino.  I needed a bit more fibre to make up the weight of the second single, so found a couple of bits of grey which had also been in a lap waste bag.  I pulled apart the colours of the second single, which gave a more stripey effect and then, once I'd done both, I plyed them together.  Towards the end, as the weight on the spindle got heavier and the 'turtle' ball got bigger, it was a bit heavy-going and I wondered if I should have aimed for two smaller skeins instead, but I managed.

Finished Skein

Underside of the 'turtle'

Close up
The skein is 81g in weight and 277.5m in length.  I'm planning on crocheting it into a smallish bag to use when I take Jess out for her walks, especially in the summer when I don't need to wear a coat, but need something to hold dog-walking essentials - bags, keys, phone, hand-sanitizer.

The other skein of yarn I finished spinning is the 3ply yarn using some merino I dyed using food colouring.

Two singles were spun from the dyed fibre and from the fibre I'd bought from World of Wool, I decided to use some yellow (I think it's called corn) Shetland for the third single and then I plyed them together:

89g, 376m.  I'm really pleased with the way this came out and will knit a pair of socks from it.

I was going to ply the yarn on my wheel, but thought I might be able to get the whole skein on my spindle, which I just about managed.  Again, because of the weight, the last 15g or so was hard going, so I'm not sure I'd do that again.  As you can see from the photo below, the spindle was pretty full!

Now, each third of fibre I spun was approx 36g, but I ended up with an 89g skein.  I'm not sure, but suspect, that either I spun the Shetland a tiny bit thicker than the merino, or maybe it's a property of the different sheep breed, but I had leftovers of the self-dyed merino, so I plyed those two strands together and ended up with this 18g, 123m mini-skein (waste not, want not!!).

 It's very pretty, with subtle colour changes, but I've absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with it!  Maybe I need to spin something else to a similar weight and use it for a striping scarf/shawl.  I don't know!  Ooh - a thought just popped into my head.  I could spin more of the yellow Shetland to a similar weight and stripe the two yarns together.

Spins in Progress:

My Big Spin for the year is a sweater spin.  I've got 700g of fibre in total and am (slowly) making it into batts.  I've got a sheet of paper with what I'm doing so I don't forget and am making 35g batts, each of which has 15g black Bluefaced Leicester, 10g black tussah silk, 5g black merino (I think it's merino - it didn't have a label) that has a bit of dark brown in it and 5g Black Welsh (which is actually a very dark brown).  The reason I added the dark brown bits is to break up the dyed black fibres, to give a bit of texture, otherwise it might look a bit flat.  I have a sweater in mind for this, which I'll share once I'm further into this project.

Excuse the carpet; Jess is moulting at the moment

My 3D-printed Turkish spindle is currently idle, but I've started something new on my wooden top-whorl spindle.  I bought a 100g bump of space-dyed fibre from World of Wool, just to try it out.  The colours are bright, but it's dyed in short lengths, which makes spinning each colour cleanly quite difficult.  The 'bump' is also not as wide as braids from independent dyers usually are, so my original plan on spinning this have changed a bit (more on that when it's finished) but this is progress so far.  One third has been spun and wound off the spindle into a ball (I use my ball-winder otherwise it takes ages by hand - a good half-hour):

and I've started the second third (I've split the second bit into thirds, lengthwise down the fibre):

Hopefully you can see how short the colour repeats are

That's it! 

I was going to show you the start of a pair of socks I've started using one of my handspun skeins, but I think this post is long enough already.

It's a brighter day here today than it was yesterday, DD1 is away at a music workshop until late this afternoon (DD2 and I will be going to pick her up as it's at a private school in a village 30 miles away) and I've promised DD2 we'll bake a cake today.  In fact, we're going to make the pineapple & nut bread that Thistlebear showed off on her blog a few days ago, except I'll be using gluten-free flour and dairy-free spread.  I'll snap a photo once it's made and compare hers and mine!