Monthly Archives: September 2011

Instant gratification knitting

Today is my niece Jenny’s first birthday! Happy birthday Jenny! How time flies.

I allowed myself a week and a half off from knitting on my current City and Guilds project (a large circular lace shawl) to whip her up a birthday cardi and two matching hats.

The cardi is the Seamless Infant Kimono by Carina Spencer, and I used Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino wool) in Sunshine, with Bok Choy edging. I used 5mm needles for the main body and 4mm for the edgings. I made the 12 – 18 month size, with the tapered sleeve option, and am hoping it will fit her at some point when the weather is suitable for it!

I had some yarn left over after the cardi and so decided to knit a pair of hats to go with the cardi, one in each of the colours.

I used the Elfin pattern by Woolly Wormhead for both hats. It is a lovely elastic pattern so hopefully should fit for a while. I used 5mm needles and made the large size for both hats.

I experimented with different invisible cast ons for both hats. The one on the green hat came out a bit frilly, it is almost like a picot edge. It is quite pretty, but I think for most things I prefer the version on the yellow hat.

I posted them last week but they haven’t arrived yet, hopefully they will turn up soon.

It has been very nice to do a bit of knitting which actually grows as you watch it (it grows even faster if you are actually knitting while you are watching – ha ha). The City and Guilds project is in lace weight yarn on 3mm needles, at something like 4 rows to the centimetre, and at its worst had more than a thousand stitches on each round. I would knit and knit and knit and knit, and it would look exactly the same. I am onto the edging now (128 pattern repeats, more than 2000 rows, but at least each row is relatively short), and although there is a lot of it I can now actually see measurable progress. It’s a good job it is nice yarn and an enjoyable pattern 🙂

The other excitement round here this week (apart from us actually finished boarding the loft – hooray!) has been the arrival of some lovely fibre from World of Wool. I had a play with their new custom blend tool to make this 75% merino, 25% silk blend:

Yum yum! I have a kilo, and am planning a jumper, though that is about as detailed as my plans have got so far. I am really looking forward to spinning it, and knitting with it, and am very pleased with how the colours have come out. There are actually three different shades of green of merino in there, and I love the way they work together.

I also bought some dyed blueface leicester fibre.

300g of purple, and 100g each of royal blue and black. I am planning to blend these together somehow – I’m a little vague on the details at the moment, I think I will have to do some experimenting, and then make the Lanesplitter skirt, I think I will probably spin a 3ply rather than a 2ply to try and make it a bit more hard-wearing.

They were having a special offer at the time so I also got a hessian shopping bag, and a bag of all sorts of little bits of interesting looking fibre with my order.

Back to the shawl now, the end is nearly in sight!

Improving my spinning

Back in May I went on a workshop on Improving Your Spinning with Jan Blight at her house in Basingstoke. Last year I went on her beginner spinning workshop and enjoyed it, and had been looking forward to attending the improver one to learn more.

We started off with finding out a bit more about our wheels, what kind of drive (single or double) system, and tensioning system everyone had, and what ratios were available. I think everyone had different wheels, it was really interesting to be able to see the differences and learn more about the different wheels.

Then after a bit of warm up on fibre we were already spinning, Jan gave our some bluefaced leicester tops, and we spun a semi-worsted yarn. This is semi-worsted because although we were using worsted style spinning, for it to be proper worsted yarn the fibre would have had to be hand combed with all the fibres going in the same direction (so all the tips pointing one way, and all the butts pointing the other). When fibre is commercially prepared like this top is the fibres are all aligned but some might be 180° out with the others. My spinning was not too bad, but I’m afraid I rather underplied this one, more haste, less speed.

For our second sample we were concentrating on getting our hands in time with our feet. This is a great aid to more consistent yarn, if you move your hands at the same time as your feet, and for the same distance each time then you will get the same amount of twist entered into each section of your fibre. So the idea was to draft forward for say 1 inch as you treadled once, then smooth back an inch when you treadled the next time. So each inch of yarn would contain the amount of twist entered from two depressions of your treadles. Luckily I do this fairly automatically, though it was useful to practice keeping more in time, sometimes if I am tired my hands run away from my feet. Again I underplied this one, though it wasn’t as bad as the first.

We stopped for a packed lunch in the garden, it was a lovely sunny day, and I actually had to sit in the shade! And Jan treated us to home made cake – yum!

Then after lunch Jan gave us some organic merino top, very lovely soft fibre, and we had a go at spinning thicker and semi-woollen. For a true woollen yarn you need to hand card your fibre. I had a go at some spinning over the fold, and some a kind of medium-draw. I think I need to practice this! It was fun, but rather lumpy. I would also love to be able to long-draw properly – Jan mentioned that she might hopefully be running a workshop on this later in the year so I shall keep an eye out. I had sorted my plying problem out by this time, patience and less hurrying was the key, so this is a much better finished yarn.

Then to round off the day Jan gave us some merino crossed with dorset horn crossed with lincoln fleece that she had washed, and we had a go at flick carding. We spun this worsted, then the first sample was spiral plied, and the second was just a straight 2ply. Although this was washed I found it rather sticky to spin, and sticky to knit too, it feels better now I have washed it. I think I am just very picky about having no lanolin left in the fibre at all, although I know a lot of people like to leave a bit there when they are spinning.

Here are my skeins of yarn, from left to right as I spun them (and described them above):

And here they are knitted up, but not washed. From the bottom in the order of spinning:

And here is the knitted sample after washing:

It was a really interesting workshop and I learned a lot. It has also been useful to go from fibre, to singles, to finished yarn and then knitted piece and assess how it looks at each stage. I want to make sure that I am making yarn I enjoy knitting with. The difficulty is that I also like to spin a large enough amount so I know I will have enough to knit a complete item, which inevitably takes me a while, so the feedback from knitting my own yarn takes a long time. It was very useful to spin and knit small samples and get pretty instant feedback (well a couple of months seems fairly instant to me!) so I can adjust my spinning to create the yarn I like to knit, even if the samples aren’t going towards a finished garment. I am looking forward to doing some more practicing on my own to try and improve my consistency, and improve my woollen spinning.