Monday, 21 July 2014

Tour de Fleece 2014 - Skein 1

You know how when I went on holiday in June, I wrote blog posts in advance so you wouldn't even notice I was gone? Well I should have done the same for the last week. I didn't think I needed to, because I wasn't going anywhere. However, as it turns out when my Other Half is on holiday and we don't plan to go anywhere, I still don't blog! After having such a lovely time in Suffolk, we decided that this week at home could be much more fun if we actually went somewhere! So we went places we wouldn't normally go to and I got as tired and sore as if we had gone on an actual holiday. But it was worth it because we had a lovely time. He's got another week's stay at home holiday planned for August. I need to plan in advance for that one so I can have at least one blog post scheduled for the week he is at home! I'm pretty sure none of you mind when I don't post for 10 days, but it does get me behind in my crafting updates!

One of my main occupations of the last 10 days has been my spinning for the Tour de Fleece 2014. If you've never heard of this marvellous event, you weren't reading my blog this time last year! Essentially, it's an event for spinners to follow along with the Tour de France and challenge themselves to try and push themselves a little further than they would usually go. It's our small tribute to the incredible feats of the cyclists in the Tour de France. This year I decided I wanted to make sock yarn, that I could actually be made into socks. I chose some fibre from Hilltop Cloud, that was designed to make good sock yarn, 70% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and 30% nylon. It was dyed in the Hipster Rainbow colour and I was really hopeful that with my Spanish Peacock Tibetan spindle I could achieve sock weight in a three ply without too many problems.

As the nylon content is 30% I was surprised that I couldn't really feel it in the fibre. I think it was slightly more sticky than it would be spin to BFL alone, but it was still really smooth. I'm not surprised as all of Katie's fibre is beautifully prepared for spinners.

With such a jumble of colours, I knew that unless I wanted to spend a very long time sorting fibre I would just spin a mixed variegated yarn. I decided to make it easier on myself and spent some time making little strips of pre-drafted fibre into small nests, before weighing out three separate bags of the nests to form equal amounts for each ply. I tried to make the colour distribution as even as possible.

Pre-Drafted Nests

I then proceeded to spin up three singles and wind them into three plying balls over the course of the week.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 02

I loved spinning this fibre, as the colours were like jewels and the pre-drafted nests made the process much quicker than if it had been spun from the end of the braid. The singles were worsted spun, in what, if it were spun on a wheel, would be a short forward draw. I put quite a lot of twist into the singles as I wanted the yarn to be for knitting socks, so I wanted the yarn to have no chance of fibre escaping to pill!

When I had three plying balls I wound them into one large plying ball by winding all three singles together onto the ball. I then plyed the singles, again adding a decent amount of twist. This means that the fibre is dense, but I think very sturdy, and balanced.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 03

I really love how the finished skein looks. I think it will knit into really lovely socks, provided I have enough meterage.  I only managed to spin this 120g braid into 272m, and whilst it is a heavy sock weight yarn, I'm not sure if I'll have enough to knit my usual 5" leg and 2" cuff. The last socks I knit used 317m, but the ones before that only used 249m, so I could be ok, especially if I do a shorter leg. I shall have to swatch and see what gauge I get.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 04

I was a bit scared that my tight spinning was going to make the yarn too dense and that the socks would probably stand up on their own, but I think there is enough softness in it, from the BFL, to make the socks ok to wear.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 05

I think knitting with this yarn will be a real pleasure and an education. I love the subtle shifting of the colours through the yarn and I think it will knit up to create a lovely effect.

I'm itching to wind this into a cake of yarn and start knitting straight away, but as I already have two pairs of socks on my needles already, I think this will have to wait until I've finished at least one pair! Spinning the yarn has excited me about knitting lots of handspun socks, but I think I should wait until I've finished the first pair before I decide to carry on with that excitement! I might find I need to put less twist in next time!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Socks Off The Needles Means More Socks Go On The Needles

You won't be surprised to hear that the socks I started knitting on holiday are now finished. You won't be surprised, because of the picture I showed you of the socks being nearly finished! Well, now they are finished and I have pictures to prove it.

Desert Visa Socks 03

You will be bored of hearing that I used my own personal vanilla sock pattern, designed to shape each toe as a mirror image, making the right foot 1/4" longer than the left and the Fish Lips Kiss Heel thrown in for good measure. You will also probably remember that there is some calf shaping 4" after the heel is turned, which followed by working 2" of a 1x1 ribbed cuff, finished by binding off with Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

I love how brainless this plain vanilla sock pattern has become for me. The only thing I have to look up is the shaped toe, and to be honest that is almost known off by heart now, I just check to make sure. This sock pattern is perfect for my feet, ankles and legs. I don't like to mess with things that work and fit so well.

Desert Visa Socks 02

The yarn, if you can't be bothered to look at my initial post about these socks, is from Desert Vista Dyeworks, and is the Viso base, 75% merino and 25% nylon, 4 ply weight, but with a good yardage of 462yds/422m. The colourway is Peter Max. I really love this colour. It feels kind of Autumnal to me. The yarn is very squishy and soft, so the socks feel gorgeous on. If ever I get another discount code, or sale, I will get this yarn again, provided I don't have to pay the customs charges!

Of course, with my nice vanilla striped socks finished, I had to put some more socks on those sad and lonely needles. I decided to use something a little different, Superwash BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) yarn, with no nylon! It feels like a bit of a risk, but BFL is a sturdy fibre and I am not hard on my socks. It's because I don't go out very much, so the socks are really used mainly as slippers. The yarn is from The Wool Barn and is in the Goth Girl Rehab colourway. It weighs 100g and measures 400m/437yds.  I've not come across this dyer before and I can't remember how I discovered her shop. It might have been a random search for self striping sock yarn, or a recommendation from someone else's favourites. I don't know, but this yarn is very pretty.

The bag it came in is gorgeous! Look at the little sheep having it's fleece unravelled! It's a really nice touch to get a hand wound ball in a little fabric bag, that has been hand stamped.  The colours are lovely and knitting with this yarn is a lot of fun. It feels silky, but strong, and I think it's going to make great sock yarn. Even if I only have a toe, for now.

I shall pick this pair up when I need some mindless knitting. There is no hurry to get it done, but I do like to have a toe cast on, so I can just pick up the project bag and walk out of the door, knowing I have something mindless to work on. Of course, I have a lot of socks, this is the 13th pair I've cast on this year! Who knows, maybe I might be persuaded to cast on for someone else at some point, but I'm not holding my breath. You can never have too many socks, in my humble opinion, especially if they are hand knit, designed to fit perfectly and in lovely yarn!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Hand Dyed Yarn All Knit Up

Almost six months ago I dyed some yarn. It was a 4-ply/fingering weight yarn made from 2 plies of Blue Faced Leicester. It was the first yarn I had ever dyed and I didn't know what to do with it. Then I discovered a really great pattern by Susan Ashcroft, That Nice Stitch. It's a free pattern on Ravelry and it's for a cowl. The textured stitch pattern, used in the cowl, is the same as is used in Susan's g'day boomerang shawl pattern, which isn't  free.  I saw the pattern and realised it would be a perfect way of using up my first endeavour in dyeing!

That Nice Stitch 03

The stitch is interesting enough to make you think occasionally but not too difficult, which means it's perfect TV or podcast knitting.

That Nice Stitch 02

As you can see, the cowl is knit on a bias, after using a provisional cast on. Once you reach the end of your yarn, or reach your desired length, you graft the two sets of live stitches together.  I used up all 350m of the yarn I had.

I used, as always, the Wise Hilda Condensed instructions for grafting. I can never remember how to start a Kitchener! You'd think after doing them quite regularly for several years it would be embedded in the brain by now, but apparently not.

I chose to make the cowl a little wider than the pattern recommended, by casting on 60 stitches. I really liked the size of the Foolproof Cowl I knit and decided that I would try and make this cowl a similar size.

That Nice Stitch 01

My estimating stitch counts paid off and the cowl loops twice round my neck nicely without being too close to my throat. If left as a single loop it covers a lot of my upper torso, which I find nice and warming when it's slightly cool, but not cold enough to add a full shawl or cardigan.

I really couldn't be happier with the combination of pattern and yarn. I'm quite proud of myself for dyeing the yarn in the first place, but it has worked out brilliantly in this knitted form.  After knitting this fun cowl, I can imagine myself knitting the shawl version, maybe in some handspun yarn, or another hand dyed skein.

Now I've used my last skein of hand dyed yarn, surely that means I'm allowed to dye up some more, right?


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