November 2010 Archives

All Treats, No Tricks this Halloween

Over the summer, John and I had many discussions about our things owning us rather than us owning our things.  I'm not sure why, but we both tend to descend into pack rat mode without much provocation.  Sometimes I think it's because we both grew up having to earn everything we got, so when we attach value to something, it's hard to just let it go without knowing that we'll get some of it's value back (John) or that someone will get some use out of it's remaining value (me).  Since Ms. Z became a part of our lives, the time we had to find ways to sell off old stuff, use it or give it away seems to have disappeared, so much has accumulated.  We've been giving our things a good hard look and trying to put together a plan to get rid of some of it so that it will be easier to do some minor remodeling in the spring.

My big (self-assigned) task is to examine my craft supplies and try to be honest about what I'm really using and what I am holding onto for either sentimental reasons.  Craft supplies, of course, includes yarn.  Don't get me wrong, I love my yarn and it's a constant source of inspiration, but I'm only willing to give up so much of my home to yarn, especially if I'm just looking at it and not knitting, crocheting, weaving or doing some other kind of crafting with it. 

So I made a some decisions/resolutions for the fall:

  1. To create a list of all my unfinished projects and to make a commitment to completing these projects before acquiring new yarn or material to start new ones.
  2. To limit my stash expansion to yarn that will be used immediately, might truly never be found again or is a special souvenir from a trip
  3. To shop the stash whenever possible, and to consider designing my own garments or modifying existing patterns to use stash yarn.
All in all, I've been pretty good since September about limiting stash expansion.  I've stepped back from some of the yarn and fiber subscriptions that I would love to continue.  I've started all my recent sock projects from stash yarn.  And I've created a "To Do" list for all my current projects, prioritized them, and have made a mental commitment to getting to the point where I only have a few projects going at any one time.  As much as I like to start things, I find that having too many projects in process sometimes makes it hard for me to get anything done because I just flip flop aimlessly between them. 

That said, it hasn't been a stash expansion-free Fall so far.  I had a couple of "clubs" that just wrapped up, and I allowed myself to remember our trip to NYC with some fiber souvenirs. 

20101107_SweetGeorgiaFiberC.jpgThese are the September and October installments from my Sweet Georgia fiber club sub.  The September fiber (in the back) is washable Blue Faced Leicester in the colorway "Heavy Traffic".  The October fiber (in the front) is called Panda (a blend of superwash merino, bamboo and nylon) in the colorway "Brocade".  The Panda is stunning both in hand and in color and I can't wait to try spinning sock yarn out of it.

20101107_TractorCormo.jpgThis lovely bundle is 1800 yards of worsted weight 100% cormo yarn in the colorway "Tractor" from my Juniper Moon Farms CSA share.  It just arrived on Friday.  I don't have any immediate plans for it, but I am mulling the idea of Momma and Daughter sweaters since 1800 yards should be enough for an adult woman's and child's sweater.  The farm blog for Juniper Moon is one of my regular reads.  I really love hearing about what goes on with Susan Gibbs and her farm, and feel like it was a privilege to be able to help support the farm by purchasing my share this year.  I hope to do it again in the future sometime.

20101107_KoiguMori.jpg It would have been easy to spend my whole trip to New York City trolling yarn stores, but decided to limit my stop to just two.  The first was Purl Soho.  It's more than a little amazing how much color in yarn, thread, felt and fabric is packed into that little store.  They had a large selection of Koigu Mori (a silk blend KPPPM) on 40% off sale, so I decided that I would finally make the Chevron Scarf out of Joelle Hoverson's (the store's founder) Last-Minute Knitted Gifts using these bright, happy colors.  I love silk-blend yarns and there's really not enough orange in my wardrobe, so these yarns will definitely be inspiration for clearing out some of my current projects so that I can get started.

20101107_HabuTexturedYarns.jpgMy second (and final) fiber destination in NYC was Habu Textiles.  The "showroom" is a surprisingly small room tucked away in a high rise in the garment district (at least I think that is where it is... forgive me if I've bungled the geography).  I could have spent a great deal of time here, and significantly more money than I did, but I decided to stay away from their pre-packaged kits and design a simple woven scarf kit of my own from their mill ends collections.  I loved rummaging through the three large baskets on the floor that contained random collections of different types of Habu yarns.  After picking two bags that I thought had a lot of different textures, but had compatible color palettes (and reminded me of fall colors in NYC) for the weft of the scarf, I selected the cone of silk yarn in the middle to be the weft.  I planned for a plain weave scarf about 8" wide by 60" long with a sett of 14 - 18 epi.  The weft yarns will be used randomly as my mood takes me. 

All of these lovelies will be waiting until I start to complete some of the 20 or so projects on my to do list... I've decided to try to keep myself to one weaving, quilting and spinning project at a time.


Current Weaving

In my last post, I mentioned that I was seeking out unfinished projects and creating a list so that I could focus on getting some of my works in progress to be finished projects.  I think I've rounded up all the weaving projects, so I'm starting with those.

I've got three projects in my weaving queue:

  • The big purple blanket(s) project (top left): the fabric is woven, but the ends need woven in and the fabric needs to be washed, cut in half and seamed appropriately into two blankets
  • The "Piping Hot" pillow project (top right): the main fabric for the pillows is woven, but I still need to create the piping, find pillow forms of the right size and put the project together
  • Log Cabin Handtowels for my powder room (center, on loom): this is a straightforward project to weave as long as I can and then separate into towels of reasonable size to be used in my powder room. 
The hand towels will most likely be the first project completed - the weaving is easy and fast given that I'm using worsted weight cotton. 

I'm still torn about the big purple blankets.  After weaving this huge length of cloth, I love the look of it when it is all laid out.  Some of the pooling creates infinity-sign like motifs that I like that will be severed in half if I make two blankets.  That said, it's really too long to be of practical use at that width.   The real issue here with finishing is just that I am lazy and not excited about dealing with the ends.

The pillows have been lingering for a while now because after weaving the fabric I have to also weave the piping and then sew things up.  I don't mind the sewing, but I admit that I don't always like my sewing skills, so I've been procrastinating.

My goal is to get to the point where I've only got one weaving project at any given time.  I have multiple looms... but not enough space to really keep them both set up and active.  Since I've got that great yarn from Habu, and there was a neat double weave scarf project with embroidery thread in the most recent Handwoven that I want to tackle, I'm feeling motivated than in the past to wrap these up so that I can tackle one of those.

Spinning and Quilting

I've been much more modest with my spinning and quilting starts.  Amazingly enough, I have just one of each type of project in process.  I'm currently spinning up a batch of Fiber Optic Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving.  The roving is a blend of Merino and Nylon and I think the colorway is "Black Coffee".  It's a beautiful mix of browns and reminds me not only of swirling coffee with a little cream here and there, but also tree bark from an old and experienced tree. 

I hope you don't mind if I briefly divert your attention from the fiber to the little red scale that was helping me weigh it out.  It's an EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale that I was asked to take out for a spin* and see if I thought it would be a helpful tool for knitters and spinners. 

Previously, I'd been using an Ikea scale, and I found it a little flaky, and this scale showed up at just the right time.  It's a very simple scale -- it tares, has an auto shutoff and does measurements in both English and Metric units.  The fact that it can handle up to 11 lbs means that you can actually use a substantial "weighing boat" to hold whatever you're weighing -- something I find handy when I'm dealing with a large volume of fiber. You can switch back and forth between English and Metric with a touch of a button (handy for those of us trying to remember how many grams in an ounce or vice versa) and it can provide 4 units -- lbs, kgs, oz and g -- nice for when you have large amounts of fiber or yarn to deal with!  I found that it did a good job from a consistency in measurement of the same items and that it measured stably, even though it is a fairly light weight device. In short, for the money, it turns out to be a very nice little scale. A nice stocking stuffer for the knitter or spinner on your holiday shopping list!

20101121_CoffeeOnBobbin.jpgI used it to help me make sure I had equal amounts of roving for each of the 2 plies I plan to spin for this yarn.  I've got the first bobbin finished and I've just barely started the second.  I'm hoping to try the finished product out in a pair of socks.  Since the coloring is subtle, I think it would be a nice yarn for a pair with a simple pattern or texture once it's plied up.

20101121_CurrentQuilting.jpgMy current quilting project is my Lincoln Park Patchwork quilt in red/orange and blue/green batiks.  This project is destined to be a twin-sized quilt that I will gift to my lovely little girl when she gets her first "big girl" bed.  It's an easy project from a construction stand point, but I've stalled on it because it's actually quite hard to sew whenever the kid is awake.  Ms. Z is fascinated by my sewing machine.  This is a good thing, because I hope to share my crafty mojo with her someday.  It's also a bad thing because sewing machines are dangerous to curious little fingers and I don't want her to get hurt on it by accident or to try to start turning it on by herself.  She's getting bigger, though, and that move from toddler bed to twin bed isn't going to be long in coming, so I'm hoping this winter to put in some quality time on this.  I love the bright colors, and I know that they're going to be great therapy when the dead of winter hits.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I was provided the scale for free to review and also selected the color on my own.

Making Progress: Finished Francie Socks

Pattern: Francie from Bowerbird Knits
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, Some Summer Sky

I won't dwell too long on how long this pair of socks has been lingering with the first sock completed and the second sock awaiting arrival.  I finished the first one in October, 2008.  Cast on for the second right away.  I think I got thrown off track when a number of my 100% merino socks started to show wear so quickly after their first outings and I got discouraged about finishing this pair because it didn't seem like they would last long enough to be worth the effort.  I still have reservations, but I'll be making an effort to be gentle with this pair.

20101129_FranciePatternDeta.jpgMy tardiness might also have had to do with the fact that the socks were both top down and flap heel -- both of which feel a bit alien to me and so take extra effort to push through.  The finished product is lovely, though.  The pattern is meant to evoke tree bark and organic lines, and the Dream in Color Smooshy was the kind of yarn you just don't want to stop knitting with.

20101129_FrancieSole.jpgThe Francie pattern also features very unique instep shaping.  The socks are very dramatic looking from the bottom and make you want to take them out walking on a sandy beach just so that you can see what kind of imprint they would leave. 

The fit on the socks is nice and snug -- just what you would expect from a sock that is fundamentally K2P2 rib.  If you were looking for an interesting gift sock and had somewhat indeterminate measurements, these socks would fill the bill (a note: they are a little homely when not worn because of the ribbing pulling in).  The pattern is well written and provides both written instructions and charts that are easy to follow.  The author suggests that it is for the adventurous, but I'd suggest it really just requires careful reading and following of instructions.

Another mark ticked off my knitting to do/get finished list!  Always a bonus when it means new warms socks in my drawer as the weather gets colder.


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