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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: Alot of Spinning!

Wanted: Alot of Spinning

The other day I posted on Facebook that I have done more scary mathings, and I basically have to spin a single every 3 days from now until the end of September in order to get where I need to be.  I'm at 30% of the spinning for this project--my second skein is officially finished (Skein Isisonearth weighs in at 233 yards and 5.4 ounces, which means my consistency is in the ballpark: Skein DovieJay was 220 yards and 5.2 ounces).  

And my dear friend eightlegedDJ, AKA Eight Leggy Meggy, pointed out that she reads my blog! and that as this is Alot of Spinning, maybe I just need to hire an Alot.  Apologies to Hyperbole and A Half for my inept rendering.  Hers is Alot Better (and if you haven't read her blog post, now is the time! What are you waiting for? And then go read the one about cake.  You'll be glad you did).

The Alot, after all, is better than you at everything, even spinning.

Good Mathing News

So, the really good news is, once I had washed and blocked my swatch, I discovered that the swatch tightened up just a teeny bit--and now, I have gauge!  whee!  Those sticky alpaca fibers love each other! So I won't have to do the scary going down a size thing and then end up with a sweater that fits a teenager.

Fiber Factor Awesome

I don't have a whole lot to say about progress.  I make a lot of rolags and then I spin them into yarn, and I have to do it faster.

DovieJay (aka Jennette Cross) on the other hand is having an interesting couple of weeks.  She's a contestant on The Fiber Factor.  Now, I'm not a big huge fan of reality TV shows, and I'm not a big Fashion person, so even things like Project Runway are, eh.  But The Fiber Factor is awesomely cool.  They're coming out with really nifty patterns (ask me how many I totally want to knit, like, tomorrow!) and to set these fiber artists apart from the Project Runway people--there are no freakouts, no drama. The judges are awesome fiber artists too--Stephen West and Ysolda Teague have both been on (and if I were DovieJay I would probably be putting those pieces of clothing away saying, "Ysolda touched this!" in the manner of "I'll never wash this cheek again!"

So, the current challenge is challenge 4, Express Yourself, which is a knitting machine challenge and they get to choose a solid yarn and then are sent a variegated yarn to go with it.  You can see Jennette here... again, something in Blogger detests me so I can only post a link, not the actual video, but really, even if you just watch her introducing herself, you'll enjoy it!  and poking around among the other contestants is awesome too.

Skein Isisonearth

Named for my friend Isis, former Head of my House Cup House and mother of another Boy Who Is Eleven, Skein Isisonearth is just as lovely as its predecessor and feels just as soft.  Can't wait to make a sweater from all this yarn!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: Swatchity Swatch Swatch!

Skein the First goes to the ball.

Today I balled up the first skein (aka Skein DovieJay).  I figured it would be a very good idea if I knit a swatch to make sure I can get something like gauge, in a fabric I don't hate.

So I hauled out my ball winder, because you can't knit from a skein (believe me, I've tried!).

Swatching, swatching, swatching...

Okay, I'm going to say it: swatches lie.  We all know it, we knitters.  But many of us do it without regret.  Finding out what the fabric will feel like, what needles to use, etc., is not a waste of time, even if sometimes it feels like a waste of yarn.  I've learned a lot swatching in the past.  I've learned whole stitch patterns--the swatch for Catkin had its own chart, for pete's sake.

And the NEWT does not require a swatch.  But.  I am not going to spin 1500 yards of 2-ply yarn only to find out it's not going to work at all for the sweater.  So.  I swatched.

The pattern calls for size 4 needles, so I got those.  I cast on 28 stitches (the pattern says gauge=26 sts=4 inches in stockinette, and I don't exactly ignore the rows but I don't worry too much about them either, and I've never had this backfire.  I'm probably just stupid, or lucky, or both, but after 4 years of intense knitting I'm not going to change something that's working).

The size 4 needles gave me a loose knit, soft and smooshy.  And 26 sts=5 inches.  Okay, way too loose.  So I went and got some size 3 needles, which I had decided would be as low as I'd go.

Oooh, much better.  (In the picture you see #4 needles on the bottom and #3 on the top.  Neat and clean and still supple enough to be happy.  

But now 4 inches = 24 stitches, not 26.  Dang.  Okay, so it's time to do the Mathings, precious!

The sweater size I was planning on is the 44.5" sweater.  The next size down is the 41" sweater.  The mathings I did were this:
Wow, those numbers are awesome.  Or at least, they're really close to *the same number.*  Which is a really good thing, because I *think* (and I am not really particularly good at math) that this means that if I do the 41-inch sweater with a 6 sts/inch gauge I should get a 44.5" sweater.

Somebody check that for me, please.  Math scares me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: Skein The First!


It has been pointed out to me that Bodley's Cardigan is bottom-up, not top-down as I said in yesterday's post.  It is still all one piece, though, not sewn-in sleeves like on my Faerie Ring sweater.

Catching up with myself

So at some point I'll actually be able to write about what I did today on my NEWT, not about what happened days or weeks ago.  That time is not yet come, however.

The Long Draw

I am not using a real long draw because my fibers--especially the brown ones--are just plain too short most of the time.  But usually working with rolags you get to do the long draw.  What's that, you ask? Well, let me tell you.  No, better yet, let me show you this lovely YouTube video, made by the same talented spinner whose video I showed yesterday.

See how awesome that is?  Usually when I spin I am pushing tiny bits of fiber out into the spin, and a lot of the time the resulting yarn is 'worsted' rather than 'woolen.'  For yarnies, this can be a strange concept because 'worsted' is also the name of a weight of yarn, the kind you might use for a heavy sweater or blanket.  If you go to the yarn section of your local craft store and pick up a skein of Red Heart SuperSaver Solid yarn (and then put it down quick! you do not want to be touching such icky yarn long-term), that thickness of yarn is called 'worsted-weight'.  But a worsted spin is different.  In a worsted spin, you're only pulling out a small amount of yarn at a time.  It's the way I usually spin.  

Here, I'll let the KnitGirllls show you.

There've been times I've managed a real long draw with this fiber, pulling out 4-5 inches at once (not quite what the nice lady in the video manages, sadly, but still, pretty good.  But mainly I've been spinning a sort of worsted-woolen combination, which is still squishier and softer than the worsted I usually spin.  I think the yarn is still going to be a bit itchy--I may eventually line this sweater--but the first skein came out pretty!

A skein! a skein!
And yes! I am almost caught up with myself.  I finished that first skein just two days ago, and I washed it and set the twist yesterday.  On Rav's new (still in beta test!) handspun feature you can name your skeins, so this one is named DovieJay.  The other six skeins will be named after my dorm mates in the Elder Dorm in Ravenclaw Tower.

Also, SarahtheEntwife kindly loaned me a niddy noddy, which made a big difference in relieving my frustration around skeining this sucker up.  Usually I use my swift for that--but I get so many more bits of yarn that pop back on themselves and get all curly-crazy that way than with the niddy noddy.  I'm going to have to bite the bullet and buy one.

And a lazy kate.

And at least 3 more bobbins.

I know what I'll be asking for this Christmas, I guess.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: Carding wool

The Right Tools for the Job

So, an enormous bag of Alpaca was arriving, and all I had to card with was 2x3 cat combs.  I'd already checked out cards online.  From WEBS I could get a pair of 72 pin wool cards for about $75, which isn't cheap, but still, I don't have to pay for any yarn for this project, so, over all, not too bad.  Fortunately, one of my Rav friends pointed me toward the Rolling Rolags group, which was hosting a hand card bulk purchase.  Through that offer I was able to get a pair of beautiful hand cards for just $45.  But I wasn't sure when they'd be arriving, so I emailed +Sarah Hartman who said, "Yes! I have hand cards you can borrow!" and so I drove over to Sarah's and she loaned me her wool and cotton cards to try out.

Clean? Who, me?
I researched a bit on line and discovered that, despite the dust and hay throughout my Big Bag O' Alpaca, most people don't recommend washing it first because there's no lanolin in alpaca wool, so you just prep it and card it and spin it, and then you wash it.  This is fine with me; I'm fairly lazy and it's a very big bag, and I have no place to spread out a bunch of wet wool to dry.  So I packed a starter lump of alpaca in my travel bag and headed off to my friends' peaceful island hideaway for a week.  Surrounded by knitters and children and wonderful spouses and a Very Good Aussie Shepherd Dog, I looked up YouTube videos on making rolags and waited eagerly for August 1.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...
Someone in Rolling Rolags suggested this video, which has lovely Irish music in the background and has a lovely companion video on using rolags in Woolen Long Draw spinning.  Naturally I didn't go any farther.  This is pretty thorough.

I'm posting a link because I don't think adding in the video is working.

Very early in the morning on August 1, I sat with my dear GazeboGal and discussed the right and proper wording and topic choices of my NEWT, and then I tweaked my proposal (which mostly already existed, just needing a few pictures and the all important topic choices) and, taking a deep breath, pressed "send."  I had decided on Potions, which is all about preparing and spinning the wool--1.5 pounds, just about a third of what's in the bag, and probably quite a bit less than the estimated 2.3 pounds I'll need to spin for this project if the first skein means anything.  The second subject was harder... finally I chose Muggle Studies, which has evolved over time.  It used to be 'an adult long-sleeved sweater,' but now it has to be intricate.  So I thought through, with GG's help, the things that will make this sweater challenging for me.  Most people think a top-down, seamless construction is easier, but... I have never done it this way.  Well, once, years ago... D1's Ron Weasley sweater was that way.  All my other sweaters have been knit flat and seamed.  It's harder, probably, but it's what I'm used to.  And DovieJay... that's Jennette's Ravname... has added this awesome panel to the sleeves that looks cool but isn't anything I've done before.  So, yeah.  Definitely a bit challenging.  Nothing like cleaning, prepping, carding, and spinning the wool--I've knit sweaters before, for pete's sake! but still.  Not exactly a vanilla sweater, either.

photo credit: Jennette Cross
The Waiting Game

And then I waited... but not for long.  Within a few hours I'd had my proposal accepted!

Fish out of Water.

I sat with my YouTube video on my phone, and my cards and wool around me, and I pulled all the garbage out of the wool (there are a lot of short locks among the brown, just so we're clear... I'm discarding almost as much as I'm keeping as I clean it out) and fluffed it out and spread it on the carder.  And GG's lovely wife came up to me and said, "First time carding?" and explained she could tell because usually when one of us does something with fiber we are very quick and sure in our motions... and I definitely was not.  My first set of rolags were kind of floppy.

But they spun up lovely!

And I have got better at it!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: A Sheep-to-Sweater Adventure

The Madness Begins

What strange confluence of events has inspired me to spin and knit a sweater? So many things had to drop into place for this to work out, and somehow my alpacas have neatly lined up in a row so I can make the stereotypical House Cup Ravenclaw dream come true.

OWL Mistress at Last

Twelve topics, thirteen terms.  This spring/summer I knit my Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL (and if this makes absolutely no sense to you, I'm not sure this is the venue for explaining it). This was my very last OWL, and I have now earned all 12 badges available to House Cuppers.  I can totally go back and repeat OWLs if I want to--but now that I am among the elite few (really: only 15 people have achieved this milestone thus far), a goal I have aimed at for a long time now, nothing stands between me and the four-month long NEWT.  

Except fear.

But I put that fear aside.  Never mind that this means crafting during a break month.  Never mind that this means disciplining myself to finish something more rigorous than anything I've ever done.  On the first of August from the comfort of Birch Island, I proposed my NEWT in Muggle Studies and Potions (because it's a sweater, which is Muggle Studies, and it's preparing and spinning at least 1.5 pounds of fiber, Potions).

The Call of the Wool

But I hadn't been considering such a thing before late June.  In May I finally, finally! bought my beloved spinning wheel, Athena, who is a Kromski Fantasia wheel I've stained & painted bronze and blue.  I've been having lots of fun with her, and getting better at making mostly the consistency of yarn I want. Mostly.  

And then in June a rather amazing thing happened.  My mom's friend Lynn saw a picture of some of my spinning on Facebook and said to me, "You spin? I just got a big bag of alpaca for you; I was going to have it spun up... do you just want it raw?"

Well, of course I did!  I waited rather impatiently until mid-July when I got to go to Pennsylvania and find out just what a 'big bag' looks like--and just how 'raw' it was.

Turns out a 'big bag' is a tall kitchen trash bag full of brown and white alpaca wool.

"I don't know if there's enough for a sweater there," Lynn said.  

Friends, there is over 4 pounds of fiber in that bag.  That's enough to clothe Cleveland. Or at least, Oxford.  Because that's where I'm going for the inspiration for the sweater.

Just a Little Nibble

It's been just over a year since I read A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness's wonderful romance/adventure story of a forbidden love between a vampire and a witch.  The main characters meet in Oxford's Bodleyan Library, which used to be called Bodley's Library (and vampire Matthew, who's really, really old, still calls it that in a suave way that misses being quaint because he's hot).  So as I was reading and re-reading the first two books in the series (and book three... where are you, book three?  Hurry!) I was leafing through Ravelry when I spotted something in the Enabling Banner at the bottom of the Tower page I hang out in most.

It was luscious.  It was clever.  It was, dare I say, quite sexy.  It has fun and interesting construction I can't wait to try--I'm usually a sew-the-sweater-pieces-together kind of girl, but this one's a one-piece construction, with a clever and lovely sleeve that just looks, well.  Hot.  Really hot.  And so the name caught my eye and the design caught my eye, and I clicked the link and was transported to my friend Jennette Cross's designer page.

I should have known. 

Jennette has a gift, my friends.  Her clothing is well designed, and her patterns are written both cleverly and astutely.  A knitter can learn from her patterns: new techniques, tricks to make what you already know work just a teeny bit better.  She puts things in her patterns that don't have to be there, but that make the experience of following them rather magical.  I made a pair of her SB Demands Mitts last summer, and they're beautiful and comfortable and let me get work done in my office when it's really cold (which is October-April, FTR).  And I got to watch a friend making one of her shawls, and had a chance to read her lovely advice on blocking in the pattern, packed with full-color photos that walk you through the process.  These are touches that make an excellent pattern, and I don't just say this because Jennette is a friend (though she is!).  I say it because a good pattern is worth every single dollar you pay for it, and I paid several dollars for each of her patterns because they are completely and totally worth it.  I don't always pay for patterns, but I do pay, happily, when a designer is thorough and competent.  Nothing is more frustrating than a poorly written pattern, and Jennette never gives me those!

And so on...

I have my wool! I have my pattern!  I even have a wheel, and I know how to use it... but wait! there's more!

Join me tomorrow for adventures in wool preparation.  Because I'd never carded anything more than a few bits using cat flickers before... and in fact, the 2x3" cat flickers are all I had for hand cards.