06 February 2007

So where am I really blogging?

...over at Abby's Yarns!

I just keep this account around so I can comment on all the blogger folks' blogs!

01 January 2006

Creme de Menthe Sampler Scarf

Creme de Menthe Sampler Scarf

This, too, was a blending experiment, but one gone mostly right. It only went wrong a tiny bit, in that when all was said and done and I had loaded my then-new Strauch 405 "Finest" drum carder with all the cashmere, merino, and tussah silk that I'd dyed in that particular small batch, it turned out to be about two thirds as much fiber as I needed for a full batt. It would easily have been a full batt on the Ashford fine drum carder I had been borrowing, but the Strauch wanted more.

The only other thing I had handy which I could even consider putting in with cashmere and tussah silk, though, was merino -- and I only had white merino. So "What the hell," says I, and in it went. I decided to put it through only one more pass and leave in some streaky white bits, rather than blending it further and lightening the green overall. The green was already very bright and the last thing I could have countenanced would have been it turning pastel.

The Strauch fine carders, with the brush, just do an incredible job on blending things like that. I've since done lots and lots of merino/tussah/cashmere blends, and they're so much fun to spin! One interesting thing that this particular yarn really helps me to illustrate is the point I'm forever harping on, that yarn should be designed to have the qualities one wants in the finished product, rather than in the skein or on the bobbin or spindle -- and by "finished product," I mean it's been washed, blocked, and maybe even is actually in use.

When I would hand people this skein of yarn -- even sometimes to seasoned knitters -- they'd look at it briefly, and feel it, and say "Hrmmm, that's thin," and that would be that. The skein of yarn just never got the reaction I thought it should, from specific people who I thought for sure would just adore the yarn. I found this puzzling until I realized that most people are actually shopping for yarn that's already acting like you'd want the finished product to act, before you've made it. This didn't dawn on me until I realized that the people who did have a clear picture of the yarn's properties were all weavers with a lot of experience in handling lots of kinds of yarn, and who are used to thinking about a finished product differently from how today's knitters and crocheters commonly do, and who are accustomed to seeing what they're working with change while being worked.

This yarn has significantly more twist in it than is typical for commercial yarns in this thickness (I knit the scarf on US size 2 needles, which were the biggest I could get away with). In the skein, though it had been washed and hung unweighted to dry, it had a stiffer hand than most lace knitting yarns, and was very smooth-surfaced with essentially no fuzz.

However, once the scarf was complete, and I washed it and gave it a half-assed blocking and a little light steaming with an iron, the scarf became an airy, fuzzy, sinfully soft object which, when I wear it, people cannot stop commenting on. The same people who looked at, and even handled the yarn, only to shrug and say "Seems like thin yarn," had totally changed their tune!

So here's the thing: not only does this scarf have that sort of feel to it, but it's going to keep having that feel forever. It'll stand up to real world wear, to repeated washing, and it'll always be a 45-gram slice of luxurious warmth! On the other hand, a comparable millspun yarn -- assuming you could find one -- will typically have a lot less twist, and just won't wear as well. It takes experience and practice to get a feel for it, I suppose, but I always strive to teach people to look not at the yarn as it is when you pick it up, but what it'll be like once you make it into something -- and of course, if it can stand up to the process of being used. If you're knitting or crocheting, it's not as tricky -- those aren't methods of yarn use that are usually hard on yarn. But at the same time, it's not uncommon for me to hear from knitters and crocheters who expected something really different from a given yarn, and who find the finished object unsatisfying.

This scarf is long, and if you're interested in it, you'll definitely want to click on the link at the top and go check out the photo gallery (comments welcome there as well).

30 March 2005

A Little Legacy Handspun Yarn Porn

Yes, bit by bit I will be getting pictures up here, though at present I've no plans to eliminate my longstanding photo gallery. Due to diminishing net reliability for me of late, though, I want to move some of the higher traffic stuff elsewhere bit by bit, and this blog is a step in that direction.

For those not familiar with my use of "legacy" in this context, well... if you work in the computer world, eventually you run across something that someone refers to as a legacy system. What this actually means, in plain terms, is "old, and we're not really doing anything about making it newer, and maybe it's not really supported, upgrades aren't exactly planned, but yeah, we still use that... it's a legacy system!" Or maybe it's more like "Yeah... so we have this pile of old documents, we wrote 'em on a computer you can't find anymore using software that won't run on a new computer, and it's all in formats that we don't really use anymore, so um... legacy data." In other words, what I'm getting at here is that these are old pictures I've had lying around.

Without further ado, let me introduce this selection of yarn photos! At left we have a novelty yarn that I like in spite of myself, and am liable to actually produce again and do something with. The darker brown is adult camel top, and the pale tan colour is natural tussah silk. I spun this some time ago, picking up a bit of one fiber and spinning it, and then switching to the other. When I had two bobbins reasonably full enough, I plied them together, resulting in the skein at left. What you see on the right is one partial bobbin.

Next up, a 2-ply alpaca yarn spun from commercial top. It's a knitting yarn. I have dithered for some time now as to whether or not I should overdye this, or do something with it in the existing deep gray colour. There's about a sweater's worth. Of course, I'm already well stocked with alpaca sweaters, and I'm really not much of a sweater knitter... so there the yarn sits, in my stash. Mothballed, literally!

Ah yes, this fella. I named it "Zoot Suit" apparently, but I can't quite recall why. In person and up close, it does have a nifty sheen to it, and a vaguely sharkskin kind of look, so perhaps that's why. I think it was a commercial top -- there's a fine wool, merino most likely, and some nicer mohair, leading me to suspect it must have been that Ashland Bay blend. Honestly, I can't be sure. It's a huge skein, probably around a thousand yards, about 8 ounces. It is destined, perhaps, for a small sweater of some kind. Or socks. It would be a good sock yarn, but there's a lot of it.

Oh, now this guy I really liked a lot. I designed this yarn specifically for Sandy, using silver alpaca from one of her much-doted-on herd. She was kind enough to give me bags and bags of alpaca, and let me borrow her drum carder when I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to buy my own, and I felt like she deserved something really nifty made from her own beloved animals... but something she could use herself, to make what she wanted. Although I will admit I suggested a hat. So here we have it: a 3-ply yarn, 70% alpaca and 30% natural coloured tussah silk, a good 5 ounces if memory serves. Soft, shiny, strong, warm.

And last up for this entry, we have a 2-ply alpaca/coopworth blend that I spun up from a roving I bought on eBay, from Jehovah Jireh Farm, where they do some great colour work. Even though I loathe pink, and this has pink in it, I have to admit that I like it. It's a bit scratchy, so it's a likely sweater. You know, because I knit so many sweaters! Okay, so it's a stash queen. Like a garage queen, except... in my stash.

30 January 2005

Falling Leaves Shawl

Leaves and Zig-Zag Shawl

I started this project in late summer 2004, as a travel project -- there were multiple trips to the Eastern time zone, including to a memorial service for my father. With that many cross-country flights and unpredictable schedules and all, I needed something easy but not totally boring, not super heavy, not fiddly fine.

The yarn: elann.com Baby Cashmere, which is an excellent and versatile yarn, and a great value. The only thing I dislike about it is the putup -- the particular style of allegedly center-pull skeiny ball type put-up that this uses, which is not an uncommon one, I just don't like. It jumps around too much if you work from the outside, and it's totally impossible to find the center end with any degree of reliability. It smooshes down really flat, though, so if you're stuffing it in a carryon bag I guess that's something positive to be said for that putup.

Anyway, I knit the falling leaves section for rather a while, and then I had to pack up this project (along with everything else) when November and December saw us unexpectedly moving. Once moved, though, it came out almost immediately, and I finished the falling leaves section.

I felt that it needed more than that, however. I had plenty of the yarn, having bought a pile of it when it first came out -- when I know I like a yarn, it's not unusual for me to buy what should be a sweater's worth, specifically so that I have lots of flexibility to make almost anything from it. Anyway, so I decided to throw together some zig-zag end pieces to add a little interest to the shawl.

Once I had the zig-zag ends, I crocheted them onto the ends, and then set about putting a simple crochet edging on the whole thing. There are many things I edge with crochet, for various reasons. First, a nice single crochet round can solidify the structure and firm things up -- knitting can really use that. Second, unlike most knitted edgings, crochet ones are worked in the round so they radiate outward and this simplifies dealing with any gauge weirdnesses or what have you. And third, if you've got a large piece and you want to do something in the round, doing it with a crochet hook and small working sections is vastly more manageable than if you had to pick up stitches all around it to knit.

Okay, okay, and fourth: crochet's fast. So, when you're in the finishing stages of a project, you spend less time irritable about how loooooooong it takes to finish. And that lets you move right on to trying to figure out how to block the enormous object! In this case, because the shawl is probably six feet long, I ended up steaming it with an iron, in sections, laid across the ironing board.

Not long after I finished this project in early 2005, Carolina Concha from Chinchero came to visit for a little bit, and I gave her the shawl.

01 January 2004

Old Projects: 2004 Lace Knitting, Part II - Sweaters

Copper Sweater

The yarn: I had bought 8 ounces of a merino/angora/flash blend during my mad dash to learn to spin gringo knitting yarn, and then turned it into this yardage-unknown vaguely spiral yarnish yarn with a commercial gold binder. I loved the colours, thought the yarn felt great, but was not really sold on the novelty factors, despite my efforts to overcome my prejudices against novelty yarns.

The Challenge: Could I make a wearable object (for me) from roughly 8 ounces of yarn? I felt confident that I could, so I roughed out a schematic for a cropped, short-sleeved, wide-necked sweater. Then I threw the simple lace panel in the middle of the front and went to work. Once it was assembled, the neck was too wide and I had some leftover yarn, so I did a simple single crochet border around the neck to firm it up.

I really liked this sweater, but I never wore it other than for these photos, so when Margaret the wonder-realtor loved it, this too went into her gift pile. The colours really suit her wonderfully.

Green Cotton Raglan

This, too, was a "use up stashed yarn" and "incorporate lace panel" practice project. I had 800 yards of this cotton yarn, it was summertime, and so it became this freehanded raglan. I still have this one, and I even wear it sometimes.

My one irritation with it would be that I screwed up my guesswork for the waist shaping, and ended up with more of a peplum-like flare than I ideally was after. I still have it on my list to do this one again, but right. And also without the glaring mistake in the first repeat, on the left hand side as you're looking at it. This is Susanna Lewis' variant on the traditional fern lace, I believe -- 6 eyelets in the ferns.

Again, simple single crochet edges pretty much everywhere, with the major challenge being the bias in the central lace panel needing something to flatten it out a bit. When I do a new one of these, I'll probably add something to obscure the weirdness of double decreases right at the edge of the pattern, change the angle of the hip-to-waist portion of the shaping, and I'm not sure, I may put the full fern in the sleeves. But it'll stay a 3/4 sleeve raglan with waist shaping and the length'll be about the same, as well as the neckline.

Old Projects: 2004 Lace Knitting, Part I - Scarves

The Granny Smith Lace Sampler

I'd spun the yarn for this sometime in the course of my initial efforts to spin gringo-style knitting yarn, probably in the first half of 2004. It's a single-ply yarn made from a mystery wool dyed apple green, then blended with natural colour tussah silk.

At the time, I was resisting knitting projects on the whole, and doing regular battle with the Knitting Conspiracy (you know who you are), who insisted that despite my protestations, I would actually enjoy knitting lace. Not least among these conspirators was my father, whose parting shot in our lifelong game of textile-oriented "Oh yeah? But have you tried THIS?" was the gift of Susanna Lewis' book Knitting Lace.

By the middle of 2004 I wound up saying, "Oh, what the hell," and picking up some knitting needles which had come free with some discount yarn order or another, and looking through the stash for something I wanted to use up. Given that I stubbornly owned no knitting needles save for those freebies (in US sizes 11, 13, and 15 -- oh, the embarrassment!) and that I've always been a spinner who prefers to churn out fingering weight or thinner yarns, the whole situation was a bit of a challenge. I certainly didn't want to use anything good on such a project, but it also needed to be something I didn't totally despise. Even if I was going to be knitting whatever it was on the hugest knitting needles I had ever used in my entire life.

In the final analysis, the scarf came out fine once blocked, but I never really liked it enough. It felt fine, it looked fine, but it was riddled with stupid lace newbie mistakes, I was dissatisfied with the yarn on several levels, and when my wonder-realtor Margaret saw the scarf and loved it, I was thrilled -- and so it went to a good home with someone who likes it.

The Berry Patch Sampler

I think this was the second lace pattern sampler object. The yarn was a drum carder blending experiment featuring merino, tussah silk, and some random yak down. I had then proceeded to spin it fairly fine, but slubbed, and then ply it 2-ply. The resulting yarn was light, lofty, fluffy, fuzzy, and funky... and really nifty but... nothing I could see myself really having a good use for. So then I decided to see how it would take to being dyed in random colours.

Well, anyway, by that time it was pretty flagrantly a scarf yarn, so I bought some new normal-sized knitting needles and played my way through another sampler scarf. There were things about this one that I really liked, but, well, lacking the real need for a scarf, I gave this one away too, to my mother-in-law if memory serves.

Mohair/Acrylic Sampler

In this case, I'd spun this space-dyed mohair top that came from... I don't know where, and then plied it with a commercial acrylic binder, an extruded sparkly floss type thing. This was absolutely a yarn I could never imagine using for anything in real life! There's pink sparkly stuff in it, you see. That alone is a tipoff that it's not an Abby yarn, or at least, not a yarn that I can use.

So, you know, another sampler. In this case, I opted to almost halfway pay attention, and make sure I firmly grasped premises involved in balancing yarn overs and different slanting decreases and placing them here, there, or way over there.

Coincidentally, I noticed that the pink and teal were very close matches for some ribbon yarn I had in my stash for mysterious reasons. So, I killed another bird with the same stone, and threw in a little bit of the ribbon yarn.

I have absolutely no idea what ended up happening to this scarf, other than being positive I gave it away due to the princessy sparkly elements which would absolutely be too much for me to bear. Really, it was a nice-feeling flouncy pretty thing. Which is exactly why it had to go.

Feathery Scarf

Eventually, I did keep a scarf. Another blending experiment here, this was some middle grade brown merino, some so-so yak that happened to be the same colour as the merino, and some tussah silk noils. I spun it on the looser side and did up a 3-ply, and wound up with a yarn that I actually liked, but had only done a small amount of. It's really a sweater yarn, and someday I'll likely do a real batch of it and make a sweater.

I actually kept this scarf, and I even wear it from time to time. It's a good California kind of scarf, in that it's... mostly decorative, but in a pinch it can almost keep half my neck from freezing. But seriously though, I actually found that I liked this one when all was said and done. Unfortunately, I seem not to have taken a picture of it post-blocking! The 3-stitch garter stitch edge bit actually evened out pretty nicely. I've also since washed this scarf a few times, and it's held up brilliantly, softening and fluffing out, especially the silk noil bits, which initially I felt were just a little on the crunchy-feeling side.

Anyway, at this point, I had managed to use up a bunch of random yarn I'd had no idea what to do with, and get a decent handle on playing with basic lace knitting premises, and I was burnt out on scarves, but wanted more execution practice -- so for that, we'll need to move on to part II - Sweaters!