Monday, March 3, 2014

One Foxy Baby

Even for those of us who don't consider ourselves baby people, the "baby as woodland creature" look holds a certain ridiculous, adorable appeal.  So my Ravelry library has been filling up with hats that mimic deer, bears & other interesting creatures.  I just happened to have all the yarn I needed for this fox hat in my stash so it was the perfect hat to start with.

The orange yarn is called Polly Wana Cracker & for the life of me, I can not find a single piece of info about it anywhere online.  My mom found it at a craft fair in upstate NY & gave it to me for Xmas a few years ago.  It's a very loosely-spun, two-ply, thick-&-thin wool that's barely a step away from the roving it came from (including the bits of vegetable matter that appear in most roving!).  It was very quick & easy to knit with as well as super-squishy, but like all low-twist yarns, it pulled apart with very little effort.  Luckily, I never had any trouble with it breaking on me but I never had to reach for my scissors when I wanted to cut it.

The ear tips & inner ears were made with some black Bernat Satin & un-dyed camel wool by Snow Leopard Trust.  The camel wool was surprisingly soft & lustrous, though it does contain some guard hairs.  It knit up into an extremely dense, warm fabric that would make a glorious neck accessory or pair of gloves.

Aside from knitting animal-inspired accessories, I've been feeling the urge to spin lately & knitting with the Polly Wana Cracker yarn gave me the idea to try spinning a fat, lofty yarn. Little did I know how much easier said than done that is! I'd purchased some Gotland wool roving at last year's VKL Seattle (happening again in just a few weeks!) so I pulled that out & started experimenting with it. It had been months since I'd spun anything on my wheel so I looked at this as playtime, with little investment in the finished product. I didn't pre-draft the fiber & in some sections, I didn't draft it at all, choosing instead to spin the roving exactly as it had been carded. And while I was initially turned off by how fat those sections looked on the wheel, that's where I came closest to achieving the bulky, lofty single I'd had in mind. What I wound up with is a very rustic, fuzzy, thick & thin, two-ply worsted or bulky-weight yarn. Since spinning this was a refresher for me, I can't really compare elements like staple length to other wool breeds but I did come across some sections of the roving that were so matted that it was impossible to draft them. Many of those sections simply got ripped out and discarded. This yarn is not my favorite that I've ever spun but it was a worthwhile experience. I have some KnitPicks Wool of the Andes roving that I hope to spin into cleaner lofty singles so I ordered (& received today) Maggie Casey's Spinning Big & Lofty Yarns DVD to help me prepare.

While the product may not have been what I'd had in mind, the process of spinning on my wheel again was so much fun that I pulled out some alpaca pencil roving I got a few years back from Dan's dad & started spinning that again.  When I first received this roving, I used it to practice on my spindle & when I got my wheel, I used it to practice on that too.  When comparing the yarn from both sources, I realized that I had spun the singles on my spindle with a Z twist & the singles on my wheel with an S twist.  Since I plan to finish this on my wheel, the majority of the yarn will have an S twist. I have two balls of Z twist singles that I'll just ply together & see what effect they have when knitted with the rest of the yarn. After working with the Gotland roving, I'm finding it easy to draft a consistent single with this beautifully smooth alpaca.  In the past, I've had issues with alpaca singles breaking but I'm not having that problem this time so maybe I've gotten used to working with the fiber.  When I have some of it plied up, I'll share the photos, probably along with some other small, animal-shaped, knitted accessory.  :) 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Breaking the Silence

After four months of silence, you might imagine that I have piles & piles of knitting to blog about.  As it turns out, I have two FO's, one project in hibernation & a pretty damn good excuse for all this inactivity.  First, the FO's.

Over the last few years, the holidays have been getting progressively crazier & more last-minute, partially because of our extensive travel schedule (our families are in 3 different parts of NY & I try to hit them all each year) & partially because there is always a flurry of work in December & I hate to miss out on a single day of it.  Due to this, last year I didn't knit any gifts at all & this year I only knitted one.  While I started it pretty late in the game & it required learning a new skill, luckily it was still straightforward enough to be done with a few days to spare.

As soon as I saw the Incognito Cowl, I knew it was perfect for one of Dan's sisters.  I already had the dark purple yarn (Cascade Eco+) & the black yarn (Bernat Satin Solids) in my stash so I just had to buy a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in Wisteria for the body.  The mustache is done using duplicate stitch, which I'd never done before, but I found it very easy & I'm happy with the results.  The background color shows through in a few places but for the most part, I think it looks good.  I even lost the chart for the mustache during the trip but since I had already done one half of it, it was easy enough to refer to the completed half, rather than the chart, when doing the second half.   

After returning to Seattle, I cast on the Aviatrix hat, using the skein of Simplicity HiKoo that I won at the Skacel 25th Anniversary party last year.  I've loved this hat since I first saw it, long before I had any need or desire to knit it.  I don't particularly care for most baby items but this one always seemed unique & sophisticated.  As it turns out, it was also a really fun knit with an interesting & unexpected construction.  It knit up really quickly, even in a DK weight yarn, which was so nice after the endless saga of the Buttony Sweater (more on that shortly).  My only complaint is that the yarn has a lot of plies, which made it split quite often during knitting.  I often found myself having to go back & reunite errant plies with their rightful stitches, which got a little annoying.  Overall though, it was worth it since I love the hat.  Despite the minor frustration, I would knit with this yarn again if I had the chance. 

I still need to attach the button to this hat but I have a little time before anyone will need to wear it so I think I'm going to let that be one of my Madrona purchases.  Just 3 more weeks till Madrona! But who's counting?

You'll probably find me knitting a lot more baby items over the next few months, since Dan & I are expecting a kid in April.  Like I said, I don't like a ton of baby knits but there are a few that I'm looking forward to casting on (Gramps cardigan!!!)  And the instant gratification of baby knitting plus the ability to use yarn that I only have 2-3 skeins of is an added bonus.

The only downside is that I finished the damn Buttony Sweater just in time to not even remotely fit into it anymore.  I have high hopes that it'll eventually fit me, as it seemed to be fitting well when it was in progress, but it'll definitely be a few months.  For now, it's going into hibernation since quite frankly, I'm sick of it!  Assuming that it fits, I love the way it looks & hope to get a lot of wear out of it, but right now I'm looking forward to not looking at it for a little while.  Hopefully I'll be newly motivated to weave in the ends, sew on some buttons (which I also need to buy) & block it by the time it comes out of hibernation.  Till then, I'll be indulging in a few more quick knits for myself & my new little buddy!