Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Gale's Art BFL Spinning

Well, I'm finally back from lurgy hell. I can't believe how long I've been sick. I think I had two/three different cold viruses back to back. I haven't felt so "sick" in ages. I have said this before, I'm sure, but I'm pitiful when I have a cold. I just couldn't think straight and didn't feel like doing much knitting and several days I didn't pick up any craft whatsoever, which is a sign that I'm properly sick. So I haven't actually produced much over the last few weeks, but spinning was something I could just about manage, because it was brainless.

I picked up some fibre that I've had for a little while, bought in November 2013, it was some BFL from Gale's Art. I'd heard about Gale's Art on a few podcasts but it was The Fat Squirrel Speaks that really sold me on how lovely it was, so I caved and had a look at the ETSY store. The colours are amazing and Amy Beth raved about how amazing the fibre prep is. As soon as I visited the store I saw this particular fibre and knew I had to have it.

Gales Art

The colourway is Proud Peacock and it was dyed on 115g/4oz of Blue Faced Leicester Top. It was as bouncy as it looks. I bought this colourway as it was due to be discontinued in 2014 and the colours made me so happy I knew I would be disappointed to miss out on buying it.

The fibre was dyed in repeated blocks of colour and I decided I wanted to keep those repeats to make stripes. I thought about doing chain plying but decided that I wanted to try making stripes in a different way. I knew I wanted to spin a nice loose and soft single to keep the bounce from the top, so I thought it would be better to create a 2-ply yarn. I laid the fibre out and could see the colour repeated evenly four times through the top which seemed a useful thing to me. I split the fibre into 4 sections across the top, rather than through the length of the top. It was just easier to do it that way, especially as the sections were dyed so uniformly. I then spun each section worsted style, ensuring whilst spinning that the single remained quite lofty. I used my Enid Ashcroft Ebony and Bocote Tibetan spindle to spin this (and yes it is another new spindle, I can't resist her updates!). I then spun two plies together, ensuring the colour repeats lined up. It resulted in a very fat cop!

I just managed to squeeze each "skein" on the cop to produce two skeins of yarn with pretty evenly matched repeats. I was really pleased how quickly this project spun up, it took 2 weeks from start to finish, whilst I had the lurgy. I was also very surprised how the well the stripes lined up. It goes to show how accurate the dying throughout the length of top had been. There are just a few sections of barber poling but that actually adds to the yarn and makes it look more hand spun. If I'm going to all the effort of spinning my yarn I want it to look like I have!

I always tie my skeins together as I wind it round the niddy noddy as it makes it easier to handle when I soak and finish it, and when I calculate length I treat it as one skein. I soaked the finished yarn and squeezed all the excess water out using a new purchase, a Highlander Microfibre Bath Towel. It dries really quickly and absorbs as much water as a heavy bath towel. It is more compact which means I can really squeeze it without having to take my socks off to stand on it, which is what I used to do. It is also less fuzzy so it doesn't pull at the fibres of what I'm blocking as much as a regular towel. Once the skein was less wet I snapped it a couple of times and left it hanging to dry.

The resulting yarn is exactly what I wanted. It is light and airy, but it is smooth and strong. I have 221m of a DK weight yarn, and I'm really pleased with that yardage. It's pretty balanced too.

Gales Art 03

You can see in the above photo how some of the yarn is slightly barber poled at the transitions between the colours, but I like it. I think without those sections the stripes would be almost too uniform.  I'm pretty pleased with the consistency of the spinning and the plying, though of course it's not perfect and there are some areas where there are thinner and thicker sections, but they mainly even out.

Gales Art 02

I would happily buy fibre from Gale's Art again. Her colour sense is very compatible with my own aesthetic tastes, as well as having beautiful prep. The colours in this yarn make me so happy. They feel very Spring like.

Gales Art 01

I've been searching for something to knit, with this yarn, as I want to cast it on straight away. I thought about doing mitts but then I remembered the Cattywampus Hat by Elizabeth Green Musselman of Dark Matter Knits (a great video podcast, by the way). The hat is knit sideways on the bias and has an interesting texture. I think it would really show off this yarn well. I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to knit, but would love any suggestions for a great DK weight pattern that shows off stripes!

I'm so happy with this project and I feel like I'm finally "getting it" with spinning. It feels like my muscle memory is embedded at last!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

STSAL2014 - Update 4

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I am so pleased to be able to share my finished object photos with you today. I was desperate for my yarn to dry so I could post this on my usual update day, and thankfully we have had a few warmer days, so fortune has smiled on me today and I can present to you, a completed skein of yarn!

Malachite Punis 12

Plying this yarn was a bit more tricky than I thought it would be. I started by plying directly from the 3 plying balls, holding each ply between different fingers.  The plies started twisting up on themselves as it was really difficult to maintain tension with such fine plies.  I ended up with lots of little twists sticking out from the yarn. I tried to catch them all, and ease them straight, but one snuck through.

Malachite Punis 09

I'm pretty sure I can tuck it away when knitting. After trying to stop these little twists occurring, for a long time without much progress, I decided I needed to take the three plies and make a single plying ball.  After doing that, the plying went much more quickly and smoothly.

Malachite Punis 08

The yarn feels quite bouncy, which I expected because the spinning was done long draw and there were three plies. It does feel a little crunchy, but I think that is because the yarn is tightly spun and tightly plied. However, I think when it's knit up and then soaked and blocked, it will soften a lot more, in the same way the Corriedale I spun did.

Malachite Punis 10

The tight spinning and plying has led to the meterage of this yarn not being great, despite it being a 3-ply/Light Fingering weight. It only measures 267 m/292 yds, which I hope will be enough to knit some mitts. I don't think it would be suitable for a cowl, because it is a little crunchy, but I think the tight yarn will make it pretty robust despite the very soft yak and merino, which will make it suitable for being on my hands rather than my neck.

Malachite Punis 13

I've had a look at some of the mitts patterns on Ravelry that would use my yarn and there are a couple I like, namely Isabel by Sarah Punderson, Garden of Eden Reversible Fingerless Gloves by Anastasia Blaes and Golden Rod Reversible Fingerless Gloves by the same designer. I really like the idea of having a nice stitch pattern on the mitts, but I also like the idea of the mitts being a little longer, as I will probably wear these while riding my mobility scooter.  What I might do is take the idea of a nice interesting stitch pattern with the shape of the Isabel mitts and add a fold over section at my fingers, so I can extend the mitts for riding the scooter, or fold them back for normal wear. I've got a feeling this may be another design challenge for myself, I do love using my stitch dictionaries!

I am enjoying the SAL so much as everyone is chatting on the Ravelry boards and the finished objects are now starting to appear thick and fast. It's been so inspiring seeing what other people are working with and producing, and I'm getting lots of ideas for knitting with handspun. Even if you aren't joining in with the SAL, I highly recommend you check out some of the finished objects because they are lovely. Who knows, you might catch the spinning bug!

If you are joining in with the SAL, please add a link to any blog posts you have written in the comments section.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Ridgeland Shawl

This week I want to share with you my Big Winter Shawl v3. I call it that because it seems that every Winter I get the urge to knit a big colourful woolly shawl to wear. This is the fourth time I've attempted it, but the third time I've succeeded. Previous editions are a a striped More Than a Triangle Shawl, the never finished Modern Quilt Wrap (which I will finish one day) and a big orange and grey version of Pterotactyl. This year's version is the Ridgeland Shawl by Marc Smollin, who also designed Pterotactyl.

Ridgeland 06

This gigantic shawl was cast on in October and it ground to a halt during the stranded section. I did not enjoy this section of the shawl, I'll explain more in a minute.  The shawl was designed using Holst Garn Supersoft 100% Uld and I decided to use that yarn as it was one I hadn't tried before, and I'm always on the lookout for nice and woolly yarn. I managed to find it at one my favourite online shops, Tangled Yarn. I think what swung the yarn choice for me was I had a voucher to use for this shop, so it seemed a good idea to use it to get my shawl yarn from there, especially as I couldn't seem to find it elsewhere.

The colours I chose were Aquamarine,Graphite and Mariner. The yarn is made of 2 loosely spun plies of wool, which feel thin because of the oils that coat the fibres. Once the yarn is washed, the oils are removed and the yarn blooms.  If I was to make this shawl again, I would choose colours with a wider difference in colour values than the Mariner and Graphite had.  It's hard to judge values properly using a website. Those colours blended a bit too closely for my liking, though I still love the colours.

The shawl is an unusual shape. From the centre point to the right hand tip it measures 32" (0.81m), but from the centre point to the left hand tip it measures 56" (1.42m), which gives a total wingspan of 82" or 6'10" (2.08m) and the depth of the shawl is 33" (0.84m).  The size of the shawl is what attracted me to it in the first place but if I'd thought before I started, I would have swapped the sides of the shawl over as I prefer to have the right side longer on asymmetrical shawls. My shawl is also larger than the pattern states. I should have reduced my needle size, as I usually knit looser, but I didn't swatch, because I never do for shawls, and I didn't think. The result of this larger gauge is a more airy shawl, which is probably better for warmer weather but not as snuggly as my Pterotactyl, which is knit in Kauni, a sport weight yarn.

Ridgeland 08

The enormous wingspan of this shawl meant I had to fold it in half to block it. When folding I didn't take into account the curved nature of the centre line of the shawl, which means I have a fold line in the shawl that is distinctly visible. I may have to steam it out.  This curved centre line means, despite blocking the top of the shawl perpendicular to that line, the left hand side of the shawl curves up. This makes it a little hard to wrap around without displaying the wrong side of the knitted fabric.

Ridgeland 04

You can see how the top wants to fall forward.  I'm also not happy about the way the back looks, because the stranded part of the shawl doesn't look "right" to me. The black dashes don't seem to sit in the right places, which I'm sure is down to me having an off stitch count, rather than the pattern.

Ridgeland 03

As I said earlier, I did not enjoy the stranded part of this shawl. I wasn't expecting to hate it, because I like stranded knitting. What I didn't take into account was how long these rows were going to be and how annoying it is to k3 in one colour and then p3 in the other colour. This stitch pattern is what is carried out on the wrong side rows and it drove me mad for some reason.  The reason this shawl took so long was my lack of desire to finish the stranded section.  It sat half done for months. In the end I had to make myself do it by rewarding myself for finishing a repeat, and only then allowing myself to work on another project for a day or so. I don't often have to force myself to knit, but I was determined not to be beaten by one section of the shawl.

Ridgeland 05

Over all, I am using this shawl a lot for round the house. I think it is a good weight for this time of year, and it does wrap me up nicely because of it's size. It also matches the colours in my lounge nicely, so it's pretty draped over the sofa.  I probably won't wear it out and about because of the little niggles that would drive me crazy out in public. To be honest, I have more than enough shawls that I adore to wear out in public. This will make a very nice "sofa shawl", but I won't be making it again, despite having lots of the yarn left over.

As it's a Friday, I will be linking this post up to Tami's Ami's & Other Creations. To see other finished objects, click on the button.

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