Saturday, February 09, 2008

Learning new things, finishing and starting new things

What a weekend! Well the last two weekends in fact, this weekend I attended the first of the 4 hour learn to spin workshops, and conquered my imagined fear of spinning in the grease, and last weekend I learned things about working cables that I didn't know I didn't know. On top of all that I finished Toby's Possum merino jersey with the twined hems and bands, and started a new swatch in my own hand-spun yarn.

Starting with the knitters study group last weekend, this is a lot of fun, it runs monthly on a Saturday 11-2 in a church hall. This group is a subset of the local spinners and weavers guild and was set up for those interested in learning more knitting skills. For a simple craft with sticks, yarn and the two standard options of knit and purl - well there is a whole lot of sophistication and technique out there to investigate if you feel so inclined, and those of you who know me, you will recognise this is something I'm inclined to learn about. The February and March sessions have been set aside for Cables, and within the first 5 minutes I had learned new things. 3 new things to be exact. First using cable on a cast on edge, second starting cables in a stocking stitch ground, and third growing cables out of rib. I was floored by the simplicity of the cables at a cast on edge, This workshop was inspired by an article by Mary Spanos in the Winter 99/00 Interweave knits, and Mary suggests some clever adaptations to make the cables work neatly. I particularly like casting on or working half the number of stitches required for the cable and then on the first cable row - picking up and using the purl bumps behind the first half of the cable.

And this weekend I took one step closer to feeling like a spinner, not like a beginner spinner. I had organised thru the same guild starter spinning lessons, and 6 of us of were enrolled to learn. Betty expertly took us thru oiling our wheels, knowing about fiber, where to get good fiber, and spinning from first a carded roving, then a combed top and finally locks of wool fiber. She even had a fleece there for us to clean up and divide amongst ourselves. Our home work before the next lesson 2 weeks away is to fill some bobbins and return to learn about plying. We all went home with a supermarket bag of raw fleece to trim, flick comb and spin, and a bag each of carded roving and combed top. Plenty of fiber to practice on. The four hours went all to fast, and the shared lunch was yummy.

One of my 'fears' was spinning 'in the grease' which is the term used for spinning raw wool. Not a real fear, but I imagined it to be messy and smelly, but no its not. Here are my humble beginnings, the locks, trimmed locks and a bobbin part full of singles I spun from them, Oh this makes me feel like a real spinner, knowing how to turn those sheep locks into yarn. And no - you can't have a close up till my threads are far more even, and yes it is greasy but in a nice my hands have never been so soft way.

I finished the twined neckband for the Possum merino sweater and grafted it on, one day I might work out how to cast off to match the cast on for twined knitting, but for now grafting was simpler. When I finished the body I counted the neck stitches and carefully wrote 137 in my knitting workbook, 137 stitches. So - I cast on the twined knit band using 137 stitches and worked it in the round to match the sleeve cuffs and body hem. One hundred and thirty seven stitches, I checked the stitch count on the neck band when it was long enough just to make sure and began grafting. I got to the last dpn and found 10 more stitches left on the neckband needle than on the sweater body needle, - ARrrrghhh. So I frogged the grafting, and thanked whatever knitting deity looks over me for merino possum being furry and stable to frog not slippery and likely to run when the stitches are free. After the stitches were all parked back on the needles I counted the body stitches - 127 not 137 - where on earth had I got 137 from, who knows, not me? So I worked an extra row on the neck band decreasing away the extra 10 stitches and grafting them together for the second time. Yes a better knitter would have reknit the band, or better yet have been able to count accurately to 127 without adding 10 extra imaginary stitches.

Latter that evening success, I grafted very loosely, and every 30 stitches or so, used a spare dpn to tighten up the stitches. I find this way takes a little longer but gives a nicer result than pulling firm as you graft. You can just identify the grafted row - if you really look for it in the unblocked sweater.

After a blocking and still damp - the grafted row has blended more into the knitting, and a few wash and wear cycles and it won't be noticeable at all. All I have to do now is add the 'belongs to Toby phone this number' label and its all ready to wear. The sweater is still drying on a frame, we have light rain for the first time in ages so it could take a day or so to dry. I'll try and get a photo of my Toby-Possum wearing his Possum sweater some time soon. All up it took a month and 2 days to knit.

Now the Possum merino is finished, I've made a start on a shrug for Poppy, for her 4th birthday I knit her a little Girl Friend Shrug(GFS) by Wendy from Knit and Tonic, and its lasted well. I knit a generous ribbed cuff and one and a half years latter it still fits and looks fine. That shrug is one clever and useful knit for a little girl child, the fact is has no front means it misses all the dribbles and paint splashes and so looks good much longer than a normal sweater and the other charm is that it has no right way up, so small girls can dress them selves.

So I swatched for a new shrug, using my merino 3 ply hand spun, which is knitting up much more even than I expected, but not as soft as I would like. So I will wash it and block it and see if it softens and I plan to use less twist next time I spin merino. So the swatch - inspired by the cable class I've swatched cables, but they are not right, so I'll try a rib instead. I have about 650+m I think, but I've lost my notes, and I'm not sure if thats enough or not, the pattern hints 4 x 203m. I think both skeins were over 300m and there are two skeins now dyed and wound into balls. I am also wondering about narrowing the shoulder section of the shrug for a better fit, and so using less yarn would be enough of a change to let me knit it out of the 600m I have. I plan to knit from the middle out so it might yet be a 3/4 sleeve, or a contrast rib

Take care
my students are back in a week, on the 18th, so lots to plod thru to prepare and I'm not getting to check out the blogs I follow as much as I want, but thats life. Right now its sunday late afternoon and I'm off to fix a snack for Bear and the cubs and then settle in for some spinning home work.


Knitting Linguist said...

I am getting such a vicarious thrill from seeing you knit with your own handspun! I love the color of the swatch for the shrug (what a great idea, btw -- I may have to consider that for my girls) -- it's so vibrant. And I love the collar on Toby's sweater, the whole thing turned out beautifully. Your spinning class sounds amazing, and I'm so glad to hear that spinning in the grease isn't as smelly and dirty as I'd also expected. I played around with some silk spinning today -- talk about fun! :) Good luck getting ready for your students!

grannyg said...

Well done on such a productive weekend! My hands are getting itchy for me to finish work and get back to my knitting now after reading all that inspiration.
enjoy your monday.. arrgh

KathyR said...

Sounds like your classes are very good value - I especially like the sound of the knitting one.

I'm so glad that you are enjoying spinning in the grease. It certainly doesn't have nearly the "ewww" factor which some seem to think it will. Interesting that Betty has you trimming the tips off. I normally leave them on unless they are a bit tender (likely to break off when combed). It make for a nice colour variation as they are often a little bleached from the sun.

Hilary said...

What a beautiful sweater -- and what a beautiful little boy too! It is so simple and with such lovely detail. I also love the shrug swatch color ... and now am wondering if my little one needs one of those too!

JustApril said...

I really like your swatches with the cables and different stitch combos. It all looks good, actually, the grafting the other swatches, the spinning. You accomplished lots in a short time.

Windyridge said...

Your spinning looks great! Keep up the good work. I am in a spinning rut. I have to get going.