Sunday, December 31, 2017


And a helpful knitting cat.

The knitting is a Pine Forest Baby Blanket, for my SO's daughter and hubby who are adopting an infant in February. The cat is Beau, the Feline Destroyer of all Things Nice. At least he did not do any damage here.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The last swatch (for now)

It took me some research to understand what "twill" is when it comes to handweaving. Basically, you are creating staggered floats across the fabric, with the back being the reverse of the front. If using a rigid heddle loom, this is more easily accomplished using two (or more) heddles. Since I am swatching on a swatch maker, I did it by hand, which helped me understand just what twill is.

The warp is in light gray, the weft in dark gray, both are Cascade 220. If I understand the nomenclature correctly, this would be a 3/1 twill: over three threads, under one, repeat. On the front, the light gray barely shows.

The back is dramatically different. This is a good example of how swatching can help determine the results. If I had thought of it, I could have done a variety of twills in the swatch - 1/1, 2/1, 3/1, 4/1 - to see how the two colors work together.

When weaving in ends, I was careful enough that they don't show... much. The hemstitching really shows on the back, of course. That would be something to keep in mind when working something reversible.

Now that I have my four swatches completed, I'm eager to hear the guild presentation and see what other examples there are. Swatching has also taught me that I don't need to always be creating a finished object to enjoy weaving - or knitting, for that matter.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Swatch #3

Here is the third swatch, in checks, in preparation of the next weaving guild meeting. The colors are what I might call wine and rose, in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK. The selvages look better; I just carried the yarns up one side.

I still haven't marked any vertical lines on the swatch maker. However, I am getting better at warping through the holes. My method involves wrapping the yarn around two chairs as I go, to keep the yarn from snarling. Kind of annoying but effective.

I'm still color-challenged, but I am working on it. Converting a color photo to black and white helps determine contrast. I think these two colors are okay in that department despite being in the same hue family.

One more swatch to go, in twill. That will be a bit challenging on the swatch maker, but doable. I'm getting more comfortable with hemstitching.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Another homework swatch

My goal is to complete four swatches before the next weavers guild meeting, plus do xmas. This is swatch number two, a log cabin pattern, in dark brown and tan. If you ignore the selvages, it turned out okay.

The pulling in of the selvages is a common problem when weaving by hand. I think adding some more lines to the swatch maker should help, two vertical ones where the selvages should be.

My SO found this design so dramatic that he wants a log cabin scarf in the same colors. I will hemstitch it, like I did here, but not do the lattice fringe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Big hat for a big head

My goal in knitting this watch cap was to end up with a hat long enough to fold up a lot (if that makes any sense). I wanted the brim to look fat and to cover my ears and keep them warm. I got that, and more.

Pattern: Watch Cap, by Judith Durant
Yarn: my homespun, from Butterball
Needles: US8 and US7
Modifications: Knit first 3" with US8, switched to US7 for the rest; deeper than called for

The hat stretched out a bit from the blocking, so now it is too deep. I can barely keep it above my eyes. So I may remove an inch or so from the crown, sometime.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Self-imposed homework on a swatch maker

I belong to the Fort Wayne Spinning Guild, which has been an enlightening and inspiring experience. Such a welcoming, talented, and encouraging group! At each meeting, when business is taken care of and show-and-tell is over, there is a program. This year, several of the programs are about color.

I swear I must be missing some cones and rods in my eyeballs because I find myself color-challenged. I can't tell the difference between navy and black unless they are side by side. When choosing colors to knit or weave, I tend to go for tried-and-true basics like red-black-gray or primary colors, or I let the yarn manufacturer decide for me (e.g. self-striping sock yarn). When I knit my SO a vest of many colors, I let him do the picking AND the ordering of the thirteen colors.

The last meeting's program was on color theory for weaving, and it was very helpful. Sara is our current president and a college professor and now a blogger. She presented a mini-lecture on color theory which helped my left brain understand, or at least begin to.

The next guild program is the first of three on color and weave, with 2-color examples on a 4 harness loom. Everyone in the guild uses harness looms for most if not all of their weaving. I am the lone holdout, not because I am anti-harness but because I like my rigid heddle looms and pin looms and toy looms. Someday I may graduate to a harness loom, but for right now, I am happy with what I have.

I am also one of the newest weavers in the guild, and one of the most distracted. I don't always have weaving to share at show-and-tell because there is knitting and spinning and dyeing to do, too. The examples for the next presentation are going to be in log cabin, straight twill, hounds tooth, and checks. I decided in order to get the most out of the program, I should work up some examples of each of these design patterns.

Not wanting to create anything big, I turned to my Swatch Maker 3-in-1 Weaving Loom. I have not used this nifty little device much, so creating some samples on it kills two birds with one stone.

Already I have an idea for an improvement to this device. The weft is "beat" with a comb or fork, so getting a straight line is not easy. After creating one swatch, I penciled in lines to help me get a straight weft in the future. I would also recommend they replace their needles with ones with curved points.

For a hounds tooth pattern, the warp consists of two threads of one color, then two threads of another, repeated across the board. Likewise, the weft is two picks of one color followed by two picks of the other color. The weaving action then creates the design. Simple, no?

I've tried hounds tooth before, with unsatisfactory results because I beat the weft too hard, squishing the pattern. This time I made sure to not repeat the same mistake. I also hemstitched, something I think almost every woven object needs, and tried something a little different for the fringe. Besides being a tidy little example for show-and-tell, this can then be used as a mug rug. Weaving is so practical!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A spinning experiement

Recently I purchased some dyed roving in what we will call turquoise and chartreuse. I had seen these colors together elsewhere and wanted to spin them together. My idea was to spin singles in each color, then a single with both colors combined, ending with a three-ply yarn.

I was somewhat disappointed in the quality of the yarn. It felt overly processed and stiff, and it was not much fun to spin. Looking back, I should have teased the fibers apart before spinning, to see if I could get them to draft better into the twist.

To blend the two colors, I used my blending board, layering one color, then the other, then rolling them together to create a rolag.

If I were to do this again (and I just might!), I would take the rolag and reblend it, as the colors were not actually mixed. The resulting single was mostly one color or the other or the two "barber poled" around each other. Not exactly what I was aiming for.

My spinning wheel has two spindles on it, but for a three-ply, I needed a lazy kate. I don't currently have one, so I rigged one up with US8 knitting needles and a shoe box. This worked fine, although a little drag on the bobbins would have been helpful.

I like the colors, but the result was not quite what I was aiming for. I like the bulky three-ply yarn, but there isn't enough to do anything with it. These are both good excuses to get more roving and give it another whirl. Right?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And there were bunnies, too!

Last Saturday I attended a workshop on how to spin angora. For those of you who don't know, angora does NOT come from angora goats - that's mohair. Angora fiber comes from angora rabbits. According to the instructor, Peggy Coffey, angora is nine times warmer than wool, which is one reason few garments are made exclusively from angora.

Another reason not to use 100% angora is the fiber does not have scales like wool. It is slippery and needs a LOT of twist to hold together. Mixing angora with wool helps alleviate both the issue of the fiber being too warm and too slick.

Some breeds of angora rabbits are sheared or clipped, but the ones Peggy brought are plucked. Several times a year, they "blow" their coats, which means they start to shed heavily. That is when it is time to harvest the fur.

We sampled fur from different breeds of angora rabbits and in different blends. I'm not sure yet how I feel about spinning angora. The tight twist gets kinky very easily. Also, the yarn has a "halo" - hairs that stick out. Although very soft, this halo can also tickle.

My primary reason for attending this workshop was to learn what to do with the sheddings from Hip Hop, an angora-minilop mix rabbit I owned many years ago. Peggy suggested I sandwich the angora between layers of mohair on my blending board since my angora has a rather short staple.

The workshop was held at MoonTree Studios. This was my first visit to this venue, which is a bit off the beaten track. While I was there, about six inches of snow fell, with more coming down as I was leaving. Fortunately, I was able to make it to US30 without trouble and eastward there was less snow even though driving conditions deteriorated periodically. There was so much slush on the front of my car, some of the driver assist technology didn't work. So much for self-driving cars in an Indiana winter!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

One pair of xmas socks

In (some) previous years, I have knit xmas socks for those near and dear to me. Not this year, as I find myself distracted by multiple fiber projects - dyeing, weaving, spinning, etc. However, my son relayed a request from his SO for a pair. I complied.

Pattern: Sock Recipe by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, short-row heel courtesy of Short-Row Toe and Heel Basic Socks by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Austermann Step, colorway 23, Simply Sock Yarn in black for toes, heels, and cuffs
Needles: US1
Modifications: Besides the short-row heel (to maintain the striping), I rounded the toe by decreasing every other round until 40 stitches remained, then decreased every round until 28 stitches remained

This colorway looked better in the skein than it does knitted, IMO. It's also not very festive. The wide stripes worked out for the length, though.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Still a little tight

As a palate cleanser, I decided to spin the alpaca/merino blend I purchased from the Natural Fiber and Yarn Co. Mindful of the shorter staple, I carefully used the inch-worm method of spinning in hopes of improving the consistency of my spinning. Still not there, but getting closer.

After a previous episode of plying, where I tried to ply from a too large center-pull ball, I had the sense to divide this roving into two parts by weight and to spin each on a separate bobbin. But then I tried to ply it all onto one bobbin. It didn't quite work out.

I told myself I could use the mini skein for swatching, but it is pretty messed up. There is always something new to learn, but sometimes I get tired of these learning experiences.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Angry yarn

I specifically purchased some Cormo top with a plan to spin it worsted, to see how it compared with roving spun worsted. This was the yarn on my wheel when I went to a spin-in. Someone at the spin-in took it upon themselves to tell me what I was doing wrong. And then this person commandeered my wheel to show me the right way to do it. The problem was, she was spinning woolen instead of worsted.

I said something to that affect, but it fell on deaf ears. Which resulted on her advice falling on my deaf ears. Later, when I thought about what she said, I actually found it helpful. However, it took a while for me to not get angry all over again every time I sat down at the wheel because my inner child was whining, She ruined my experiment! Consequently, I spun the Cormo too tightly, then plied it too tightly.

One may not be able to tell from this photo the result of this tight spinning, but one can feel it when one touches the yarn. It feels textured. Nubby. Tense.

My first inclination is to swear to NEVER, EVER spin in public again. At least, not until I am a better spinner. But my better self knows a more mature reaction is to remain open to learning from others, regardless of the situation and the outcome. Besides learning what to do, sometimes one learns what NOT to do.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I started watching Shetland, a British TV series that takes place in the Shetland Islands (duh). I'm not sure which I like better, the accents or the knitwear.

Classic ribbed turtleneck pullover.

Shawl collar, drop sleeve cardigan.

Crew neck, raglan sleeve pullover. With cables!

I'm a little confused about what may be called a "jumper" or "Gansey" or "Guernsey" in the UK. No matter, I like all these sweaters. The show is pretty good, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Absorba the Great (sort of)

I got this idea to weave a bathroom rug out of super bulky yarn from here. JoAnn had some super bulky yarn on clearance, so it seemed ordained that I would try this out. Well, after warping, I was not excited by the weaving.

I also wanted thicker material than this was turning out to be. Mason Dixon Knitting to the rescue! Unfortunately, this is one rug that looks better in real life than it does in a photo.

Pattern: Absorba, the Great Bathmat
Yarn: Big Twist Yarns Natural Blend Ombres, colorway 11001 (black and white and grays)
Needles: US17
Final size: 31" x 22"
Modifications: Different yarn, different needles, held two strands instead of three, fewer "logs", picked up more stitches

Knitting super bulky yarn doubled was really hard on my hands (and arms and shoulders), but thankfully it didn't take long. The rug is about a half inch thick and squooshy under foot. Mostly acrylic with some wool, we shall see how absorbent the yarn is.

Now I'm wondering what to do with the warped bit. Maybe unweave the weft and replace it with a contrasting color, like pink or yellow? Stick with super bulky or try something thinner? Hmmm.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Where do you keep your hand knits?

Besides the fiber arts studio conundrum, I also have an issue with managing all my hand knits. A friend suggested rugged antique-ish ladders for blankets. I found some at a new local consignment shop, Rekindle.

I don't like to hang scarves because they tend to stretch. But folded and hung, again on an old ladder, works just fine. (Hats and handwear go into some baskets.)

My wool socks get washed but once a year, just before I put them away for the season. The rest of the time they air out on a drying rack in my bedroom. This takes up a bit of room, but is doable.

But SWEATERS. My hand knit sweaters are too bulky for drawers and too heavy for hangers. During the off season, they rest in a big plastic tub in my closet. But I can't figure out how to manage them during sweater-wearing season besides draping them over a rocking chair in my bedroom.

How do you manage your hand knits?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Make no mistake - I still knit

Most of my recent posts have not been about knitting. Should I change the name of the blog? Or does the banner picture say it all?

After a summer (and part of autumn) hiatus, I am knitting again, this time with my own homespun. I knit something up with my first ever homespun, but it was basically what we politely refer to as "art yarn" - big and fat but not on purpose (sort of like my body). Now my homespun is more like worsted, but not consistently so.

Since the diameter of the singles was so erratic, determining WPI (wraps per inch) seemed useless. So I knit up a couple of swatches, one on US7 and one on US8 needles. (And just for fun, I threw them into the walnut husk dye bath.)

Yep, I would call this worsted, or close enough. And I think the Lincoln wool took the dye well. But not as well as what I think is Cascade 220, which I finished the bind off with on one swatch.

Then, since my oatmeal scarf disappeared one day last winter, I decided to knit myself another oatmeal scarf.

Pattern: Easy Mistake-Rib Scarf in Three Weights, more or less
Yarn: homespun Lincoln 2-ply, undyed
Needles: US8
Modifications: not really, other than I slip the first stitch knitwise on each row

The uneven spinning gives this scarf a "rustic" look. For length, I aim for a scarf that is as long as the wearer is tall. Even though the yarn was a bit coarse, the scarf did stretch a bit when soaked and blocked.

Besides this scarf, I have a hat in the same homespun in progress, plus a pair of socks to gift (currently turning heels), and a rug on US17 needles, for my bathroom. So, yes, I still knit.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Do you have a fiber arts studio?

While I was dyeing with walnut husks last week, I found myself wishing I had a second kitchen. My microwave is over the stove, so the tall dye pots get in the way of my nuking a cup of coffee. I don't cover all surfaces with plastic wrap like some dye books recommend, but I do try to keep food prep and dye prep separate. Then there are the multiple trips to the utility sink in the laundry room and to the dye cupboards in the garage. It's just annoying.

I decided what I needed to do was SELL my house and BUY a duplex. I could live in one unit while the second one became a multi-room FIBER ARTS STUDIO. Oh, I had it all planned out in my head. Reality is most of the duplexes in this city are in sketchy neighborhoods and/or are smack dab up against their neighbors and/or if in decent shape and in a decent neighborhood and have a bit of yard, get snatched up immediately. I found one I considered move-in ready, and within one day it was off the market.

Other than that SECOND KITCHEN, my house actually has as much square footage as that duplex I coveted. I just need to rearrange and reorganize. Using one of the spare bedrooms as a fiber arts studio has not been working out. It is just too small. And yarn keeps tumbling out of the closet. And roving has to be stored in the closet of the other spare bedroom, where the dresser and the bookcase hold more fiber stuff. Even my diningroom has become unusable as a place to dine because of the inkle loom and sewing machine. Using my entire house as a fiber arts studio is not working out.

With the help of my SO, some rearranging and reorganizing went on the other day, in an attempt to turn the spare bedrooms back into bedrooms and to make the den into a studio. Or at least half of the den, as that is also where the TV is. There is still fiber in the bedroom closets and dresser and bookcase, but much of the rest of my accouterments are now in the den. And there is room to spare, even enough floor space for yoga.

I did winnow out some books. And it would be best if I let a few pieces of furniture find their way to new owners. And the inkle loom is still on the diningroom table. I have yet to actually do any fiber arting in the studio, to see how functional it is. But as long as Beau the Feline Destroyer of All Things Nice doesn't wreak havoc out there, I think this may work out. Fingers crossed.

SO my question to you is, Do you have a fiber arts studio? How do you keep your fiber things organized? Do tell!

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Walnut husk dyeing

I think my eyes must be missing some rods and cones, as most of this yarn just looks BROWN to me. My artistic daughter, on the other hand, picks out yellows and greens as well as various shades of brown. She obviously does not get her talent from me!

Walnut husk dye bath

Creating a dye bath from walnut husks is relatively easy. First, soak a bunch of unhulled walnuts in water, for as long as you like. Some sources say an hour, some say a day, some say a week, some say until you get around to dyeing with them. The longer they set, the funkier the smell, but it, and the mold, do not matter.

Initial dip

When you are ready to dye, simmer the nuts for an hour. Then add yarn, mordanted or unmordanted, and simmer for an hour. Then let sit overnight.


If you want, repeat the dye process. Apply modifiers. Rinse. Hang to dry.

First samples

I worked with 16 one-ounce yarn samples of Lambs Price worsted. Each one was treated differently. Half were mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, half were not. Half the mordanted and half the unmordanted went through the dye bath once, the rest went twice. Some were not modified, some were modified in vinegar, some in an iron afterbath, some in liquid from wood ash.

Litmus paper test

Because previous attempts to modify dyed yarn did not seem to do anything, I tested the pH of the modifiers with litmus, to make sure they were really acid, neutral, and alkaline. (My dad was a chemist - can you tell?)

Dyed yarn does not match colors in book

The yarn colors are supposed to match those four on the left in the picture above. To my untrained eye, they are not even close. Am I doing something wrong? Or is the book (Wild Colors) lying or are its examples supposed to be for illustrative purposes only?

Alum & cream of tartar mordant
One dye bath
Modifiers: none, acid, iron, alkaline

No mordant
Two dye baths
Modifiers: none, acid, iron, alkaline

Alum & cream of tartar mordant
Two dye baths
Modifiers: none, acid, iron, alkaline

No mordant
One dye bath
Modifiers: none, acid, iron, alkaline

One dye bath

Two dye baths

Altogether now

Even though I enjoy the process, it is a lot of work to go through to get such similar shades of brown, me thinks. What think you?