Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 Summary and 2022 Plans


2021 began with quite a few socks. These are Thriambus by Rich Ensor. I started them back in 2018. The yarn is Miss Babs in the Maryland Sheep and Wool colorway from 2016, the first year I ever attended MDS&W.  The pattern is not symmetrical on a given sock. I chose to follow the directions to make two socks which are mirrors of each other, rather than being identical. On each foot, there are two bands of the twisted stitch pattern repeat--one full and one half repeat. The split occurs at the gusset. 
Picture of two socks knit from Thriambus pattern by Rich Ensor

The instructions are quite clear in how to set up each foot and I had no trouble following it. Fortunately when I set these socks down for extended periods of time, I did so at points where I didn't have to struggle to figure out what I was doing. I also managed to mark the pattern with notes on which row I split for the heel and stopped for the toe shaping. Otherwise, I'd have had to spend considerable time comparing the charts to my knitting before proceeding. More likely I'd have done some basic perusal, decided on a course of action that was likely to be close enough, and proceeded. For socks, I am completely ok with having fraternal twins. I also acknowledge that few people are likely to be studying my feet long enough or closely enough to notice whether or not the patterns between left and right are identical. 

The second pair of well-aged socks are these February Lady Socks that were started in February 2018. It would have been amusing to finish them in February of this year, but that didn’t come to pass. These socks  traveled with me to three continents in 2018. I like the easy-to-memorize stitch pattern and the subtle variegation in the yarn.

These cheery Halloween socks are from a Twitter-based KAL led by Kate Atherley. I didn’t finish on time with the KAL, but I was only a few months late. The yarn is some well-aged Vesper sock yarn by Knitterly Things. The colorway is Whiskey in the Jar. I needed some happy Halloween socks at the time the pattern came out. These fit the bill perfectly. They do not, however, quite fit my feet. They’re a bit large and floppy. I will likely rip them out and re-do them with 1-2 fewer repeats.

I call these my Easter Egg socks. The yarn is the first skein of Fully Spun that I bought at my local fiber festival in Virginia. It reminded me of the Easter eggs we dyed as kids. I used a plain K1, P1 rib pattern to allow the color transitions to show through. I like that they are fraternal twins. I also like that I’ve got a decent amount of leftover yarn. I have a couple more skeins of this yarn in different colors so perhaps a Fully Spun odd ball project is in my future.

This pair replaces a pair I wore out. Same colorway (Jungle Stripe) from Lorna’s Laces but in a different sock yarn. I like this yarn a lot less than the original wool/nylon blend. This blend doesn’t spring back nearly as nicely as the old socks, which surprised me since the hand of the fabric was good. I don’t know if it is worth the effort of re-knitting them on a smaller needle. 

Another pair of simple ribbed socks in autumn colors. My basic beaded rib pattern except I inadvertently included an extra repeat, so they’re a bit too big and will need to be frogged. I should have tried on the first one before knitting the second one and I should have looked up the stitch count on the previous pairs using this yarn and pattern instead of assuming I’d remembered it correctly. I really like the color though and Mountain Colors Weaver’s Wool wears very well. 

The big non-sock project for the year was Kate Atherley’s Everyday Desk Shawl. (Now part of a collection of Everyday Shawl patterns.)  It took 2 skeins of Berocco Ultra Alpaca so it is soft and warm. I wear it almost daily at my desk, which is exactly what I intended when I knit it and what Kate intended when she designed it. Definitely a win. I might knit another one and if I do, I’ll make it 1-2 skeins larger for extra snuggly warmth.

All told, I completed 11 projects, containing 2881 yards of yarn, in 2021. In 2022, I’d like to finish some of the already started sock projects and at least one adult sweater (also already started).

I also took several online knitting and spinning classes. I like the ability to take courses from instructors from whom I might otherwise never be able to take a course due to travel costs or time. In 2022, I will continue taking online fiber arts classes and keep building my skills. I’m also going to study Kate Atherley’s Custom Socks book so that I can fine tune my sock fitting. 

Friday, January 01, 2021

2020 Wrap up and 2021 Plans

The recap 

I met my 2020 goal of completing 12 knitting projects, most of which were also started in 2020. This effort used up about 3850 yards of yarn. Among the projects completed were a beaded lace shawl, a lovely Papillon shawl, a test knit hat for Woolly Wormhead, several pairs of mittens, and a couple of dishcloths. It really makes a difference to stay focused on just one or two things at a time if you are aiming to complete things. Some of this dedication to a handful of projects was driven by being isolated away from my stash and WIPs bin for 8 months of the year, but it was nice to see solid progress being made. Whether this impacts how I do things in future years will remain to be seen.

I did manage to demonstrate to myself that I can successfully do 2-handed colorwork and that my color selection skills are actually pretty decent. 


My pandemic yarn purchases greatly exceeded the yardage knit, thanks to a couple of one of a kind yarn sets from madelinetosh and the desire to keep some of my favorite dyers in business despite the cancelling of fiber festivals. I’m ok with having my stash grow, given those circumstances.

There were only 4 spinning projects completed, generating 723 yards of finished 2-ply yarns.  This relative lack of productivity was partly due to being several time zones away from my spinning wheels. I picked up a drop spindle and an Electric Eel Nano, as well as a beautiful gray Coopworth fleece from Hidden Valley Farm, but didn’t get in much spinning while away from home.  

This purple/gray skein is from a Polwarth roving picked up at MD Sheep and Wool in 2019.

My last spinning project of the year was a quick spin of the Romney roving I’ve been chipping away at for the past couple of years. This particular skein is a bit lighter in grist than the previous ones, so may end up as hats rather than being added to the pillowcase of aran weight yarn that is intended for a gansey.

I did get a reasonable amount of the Coopworth washed and the locks teased open. I started to comb some of it and will card the combing waste. When I purchased the fleece, I was thinking I’d spin myself a sweater. On the Nano, it wants to spin fairly fine, so this may end up being a fingering to sport weight sweater. Or I may end up with a whole lot of laceweight if it keeps going finer. Either way, I’ll end up with some beautiful yarn.

For 2021

I’m not sure how to set this year’s goal. I have my DRAGON to complete and it takes up nearly all of my knitting and spinning time. I’ve also agreed to knit the edging of a Queen Susan shawl for a friend who can’t knit any more. These two things have deadlines, so take precedence over anything else. I’ll likely knit a new sweater for Ezra next fall as I expect he’ll outgrow the 2019-2020 sweater fairly soon. Four year olds are known for that sort of behavior. The collection of dishcloths also needs refreshing and I’ve got a handful of sock projects in various degrees of completion. 

What I propose is this: 

  • Finish the DRAGON and the Queen Susan edging
  • Knit at least 3 dishcloths
  • Finish 4 socks
  • Spin 2 skeins of yarn
with the caveat that only the first bullet is a “must do.” Any other accomplishment is a bonus.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

On Dragons and Other Projects

Last September,  I leapt off the cliff of the epic project and started a Williamson Stole. The Harry Potter Knit-Crochet House Cup has begun a new large project class that enables participants to take a whole year to finish a project, with milestone points awarded each term. This is called a DRAGON or Dangerously Radical Ambitious Gauge of Nerve. I'll be knitting up miles of lace weight yarn on tiny needles. My rough calculations indicate that I need to knit at least 5 rows per day. I'm horrifically behind already since I didn't actually get beyond the cast-on until the 2nd month. I ended up missing the first deadline. I’m not keeping up with the 5 rows a day for the current deadline either, but I’m not yet willing to give up entirely. Perhaps a long weekend of knitting will be just the thing to usher in the new year. 

The first border

Monday, November 04, 2019

Branching Out

Over the past year, I've noticed that long bouts of knitting can leave joints in my hands aching the next day. When I first noticed it, I thought it was because I had been driving toward finishing an adult-sized pullover in a rather short amount of time so I could wear it. Not only did I make my hands hurt, I also gave myself elbow tendinitis. I ended up not knitting at all for about six weeks to let things settle back down and heal.

In the last week or so, I have started having left hand pain, even when just knitting for an hour a day. Previously the hand pain had been primarily in my right hand. I suspect part of the left hand issue is due to propping my head on my hand while sitting at the computer or in meetings.

It occurs to me that I may be approaching the end of my knitting habit. It looks like I'll have to limit my knitting time to perhaps a couple hours a day, with generous breaks every 30-60 minutes. This means that my current list of works in progress will now take even longer to complete and that list of potential future projects, which was already impossibly long, is even moreso. It seems unlikely that I will be able to knit up my yarn stash and possibly not spin up my fiber stash. I think I'm ok with that.

What I don't know is what I'll do with my time. What other activity/activities will I take up instead? Would taking up cross-stitch again give me something to occupy my hands without aggravating them? What about drawing? I need to do something creative that generates something. Typing up a book or essays might do it, though it would be more satisfying if it was a physical object.

Naturally, I am coming up with all sorts of projects I want to knit now that I should meter my time.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Test Knitting

Several weeks ago, I noticed a test knitter request go out from Les Tricoteurs Volants, a yarn shop in Paris that I had visited a couple years ago. The sweater is a striped raglan cardigan with long sleeves, knit at 21 stitches and 28 rows per 4 inches.

By fluke I was able to purchase the same yarn used in the sample (different colors). I elected to knit my sweater in yellow and green. It reminds me of lemon-lime and early fall colors as the green starts to fade.

I intended to knit the XL, but the designer convinced me that it would have too much ease and likely look sloppy. I've gotten most of the body knit and when I ran out of one of the colors of yarn, I switched to knitting a sleeve in order to test the sleeve instructions. So far I haven't had any difficulty with the pattern. I look forward to getting it finished soon and wearing it. I'm even planning to knit another one, perhaps using Miss Babs Yowza. I'm curious how it would look in variegated and solid yarn combos.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Spinning vs. Knitting

This year I have been spinning a heck of a lot more than I have been knitting. As of early August, I have knit approximately 411 yards of yarn into completed projects. These have been small projects, like dish cloths, a hat, and a produce bag.

However, I've spun 5165 yards of singles, producing 2940 yards of finished yarn. I can spin a lot faster than I can knit. This is not helping me reduce my yarn stash at all.

I'm also working to finish sweater quantities from two of the batches of roving from Spinderella.
One is an Aran weight 2-ply from a Romney fleece. The fleece was one of the first that I bought off the internet. I got it from some 4-H kids, if I recall correctly.  The yarn is a light to medium gray color. I think it will make a nice shawl collared cardigan, perhaps with some cables in the body.
The second batch is a DK weight spun from the fleece of a Shetland sheep named Jocko. This was a Fleece Fair purchase. I spun up a sample skein and have decided to keep on making a DK weight, 2-ply yarn.

I did a couple of smaller spinning jobs to break up the monotony of the larger projects. I took my jar of fiber odds and ends, plus some commercially prepared wool, and made a nice batt that is predominantly a medium gray with bits of color streaking through it. It produced 64 yards of 2-ply worsted weight. It might make nice stripes in a hat. Or I can save it until I make the next spinning waste yarn.

The other small project was spinning a 4 ounce batch of yellow merino-nylon top from Hedgehog Fibers. It was on the sale table at Fibre Space last year and the colors (yellow with brown and magenta) reminded me a bit of Halloween. Spun up, it has retained an autumnal feel. Yellow leaves, red apples, gray rains. I have just over 500 yards of a light fingering. I could try to make socks with it but am not confident that it is spun or plied tightly enough to wear well. Instead I will look for a shawl or stole pattern. Perhaps I will find a mostly solid coordinating yarn. The dark brown shetland might make a suitable companion if I spin it to match. I'll have to swatch. The dark color might overpower the yellow blend.

I have also done a bit of additional spinning on two long neglected projects. One is dark chocolate brown Shetland that has been spun into a DK to worsted weight 2-ply yarn. This is a fleece I also picked up at the Fleece Fair. It's a fairly small batch of roving, only weighing 32 ounces. I spun most of it on my Ashford Traveller. The last skein was plied on my e-spinner. For consistency, I'll keep spinning it on my Traveller. I have a decent collection of skeins, most of which are of unknown length.

There is also a seemingly never-ending supply of Merino roving from the Amana Woolen Mill. I have, over the years, spun a sizeable quantity of a light worsted yarn. I should probably figure out how much yardage of it I actually have, then figured out if I want to just spin more of the same yarn or work to produce something different. I could use it to practice my ultra-fine spinning. It could make some lovely fine lace weight.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Roundup

I seem to have hit my knitting stride this year and finished 27 projects. I attribute this to an effort to replenish my dish cloth stash and to the desire to keep current in the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup, which requires turning in at least 9 finished items per year.

I knit 12 dishcloths, 3 pairs of socks, 1 hat, 2 kids sweaters, 2 stuffed animals, 2 shawls,  2 pair fingerless mitts, 1 produce bag, 1 door hanger, and one adult cardigan. I had initially set 10 items as my goal and then had to increase that several times as I exceeded the goal. I may end up finishing an additional adult pullover by midnight on New Year's Eve.

Overall, I knit approximately 6948 yards (not counting the 2nd adult sweater) while purchasing 8465 yards of new yarn, for a net gain of 1517 yards of commercially produced yarn.

2018 was a big spinning year for me. I put my e-spinner to good use. I made a total of 2582 yards of finished yarn. All but 194 yards of this was 2 ply yarn. (not counting the green lace weight finished on 12/30). (Update: the new lace weight added up to 592 yards, bringing the total to 3,174 yards spun in 2018.) I primarily spun wool, but there was also some silk hankie and some hemp roving in the mix. It was my first concerted effort at spinning silk hankies. I separated out the layers, then poked a hole in each and drafted into pencil roving. I knew that little drafting would happen while spinning, so tried to get the roving to a thickness that would yield the yarn thickness I wanted. Drafting the silk was hard on the hands, but the end result was beautifully soft and shiny. I was surprised that the overall color ended up being orange. The hankie was more acid yellow/green/pink.