SlipPIPpers

That’s a hiccup slipper, a slipPIPper. Say it out loud, go ahead. Are you giggling yet? Hrm. Maybe I need to lay off the mimosas when I’m knitting. Might lead to a few less hiccups in my slippers anyway. Don’t look at the pattern stitch too closely.

SlipPIPpers

Anywho…

I’ve been playing around with the Must-Try Stitch Sampler Slippers from the Summer 2013 Creative Knitting and I LOVE them as a Christmas present. Why?

  • Super easy and fast!
  • The principle works with just about any stitch you want to mess with.
  • Hello, sexy use of i-cord!

This is also one pattern I like acrylic for (my favorite is Caron’s Simply Soft) because it wears pretty well and doesn’t tend to pill as badly with multiple washings and abusive use, which is what I need in a slipper. Two strands held together in a light worsted makes a pretty sturdy fabric and, of course, acrylic is cheap enough that I can afford to make these for ALL THE PEOPLE.

Regarding the i-cord, I can’t stress enough how I love this. I hate doing i-cord that I then have to go back and attach. It’s boring and stupid. I LOVE magical i-cord that gets worked into the edge of something as you go, making it look all purty.

I’m going to make the next pair up using the Bee Stitch, which I think will make them thick and fluffy. I haven’t done the gauge or the decreases for the toe, but here’s the stitch with the i-cord.

Cast on a multiple of 2 + 7 stitches.

  • Row 1 & 3: k to last 3 stitches, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front
  • Row 2: k4, *k1b, k1, repeat from * to last 3, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front
  • Row 4: k5, k1b, *k1, k1b, repeat from * to last 3, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front

k1b means knit 1 below. The link for the Bee Stitch above has a video demonstrating the technique if you’re not familiar with it.

Until Eternity: Back

The nice thing about designing a bolero is that waist shaping is essentially a non-issue, which means that the back only has to deal with armhole and neck shaping. Huzzah! Don’t ask me how to decide where armhole shaping needs to start…I completely failed that challenge and had to get creative with my sleeve design (explanation to come).

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Armhole Decreases

Best advice I can offer on armhole shaping is: (1) you need it and (2) when you figure out where it needs to start, the math for the decreases goes like this…

[Width of back before decreases – Width of back after decreases] / stitch gauge = Number of stitches that need to decrease

[Overall height of back – Height of back from beginning of decreases] / row gauge = Number of rows over which decreases will be worked

Armholes are usually started by binding off the first inch or so of stitches, so subtract one inch worth of stitches and one row from the two numbers above and then divide the rows by the stitches. This will tell you how often you need to decrease. For example:

60 row / 20 stitches = 1 stitch every 3rd row

Because you want to decrease evenly on both sides, you multiple this by 2, so what you end up doing is decreasing 1 stitch on each side ever 6th row.

Neck Decreases

The back on this sweater is meant to meet the front of the sweater in a nice seam across the top of the shoulders. Think of your neck as a tree in the middle of a road. The back of your sweater is going to come up around half of it. You need to measure the circumference of your neck and dust of pi to figure out how to work the neck properly.

When to bind off across the center:

[Height of the back to shoulder seam] – [radius of neck] = How many inches before the top you need to set up for the neck straps

Math tip: C/2π = radius

How much to bind off across the center:

[Diameter of neck] * [stitch gauge] = how many stitches across the neck you need to bind off

Math tip: C/π = radius

Unless you are severely lop-sided, leave an even number of stitches on each side of the sweater. Leave the stitches on one side on a stitch holder, finish the strap on the side you end your binding off on, break the yarn, then finish the strap on the side on a stitch holder.

Cast On

If you haven’t done a provisional cast-on before, don’t be daunted. It’s super easy. Here, see?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j904tmdt6iU&w=560&h=315]

Chart

The lace chart is inspire by a Celtic eternity knot, though the back doesn’t really capture the interweaving that makes me love the motif so much. Here are some instructions I put together for a cabled eternity knot ages ago–I’d love to see someone do this sweater in a lace/cable combo, but the lace chart is only going to be available in the paid pattern or to anyone on my email list when I publish the pattern.

Hint, hint: Sign up for my enewsletter! (Guaranteed awesome and non-spammy.)

To Design a Sweater

I just finished my very first sweater design. It’s not perfect, but it fits (more or less), and boy howdy, did I ever learn a lot in the process!

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My primary thought, looking back on this process, is that all knitwear design boils down to basically three driving questions:

  1. What look are you going for?
  2. What body are you trying to fit?
  3. How big are your stitches?

Because I am the laziest person on God’s green earth, I am also the WORST person to take advice from on how to meticulously combine any of these. I do, however, have some thoughts that may be helpful if you’re thinking of designing a sweater yourself.

1. What look are you going for?

This was the toughest part of the design process for me. I spent hours combing through Ravelry and Patternfish looking for shapes and techniques I like. I only designed because nothing struck me as quite right, but I bookmarked many patterns that were either close or had features I liked in order to get the creative juices going. I then took to my sketchpad and started playing with lace charting.

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Eternity Lace Version 1

The first lace chart didn’t work out well, and the shape of the sweater evolved somewhat, but my sketches gave me something to consider in light of point number 2.

What body are you trying to fit?

Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English is a great book for learning sweater designs. If I were to work my way through the sweaters, I’d probably be a stronger designer for it. I lack that kind of patience, so I primarily used the book for the excellent advice on what to measure and how.

How big are your stitches?

Gauge or tension, whatever you want to call it, you CANNOT design without knowing it. I did do a full 4″ gauge swatch because I was working with new yarn and new needles. I didn’t block it, but I should have. I sure as heck didn’t try to get overly precise with my math. That’s not how I roll. You might be able to tell from the end result. 🙂

More notes to come as I work up the pattern for you! Make sure you’re on my email newsletter list if you want a free copy.

Eternity Sweater: Close to Done

I went on vacation about a month ago. My mother and I drove from Maine to West Virginia to visit my sister. I’m not sure whether I’m dragging my feet coming back from a vacation or whether it’s just overwhelming to get back into a routine after a week of doing nothing, but I can’t seem to get anything fiber-related done.

The one project I have managed to keep picking away at is a little bolero sweater that I’m in the process of designing. It’s almost done, see?!

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The front needs some clever fixing because I’m not entirely pleased with the shape, but that’s what lacy crocheted edges are for, right? Right?!?

Crochet Off Edge

Speaking of crocheted edges, how do you like the bind off on the sleeve? I found the technique in Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting. Keep an eye out for my next post, which will explain how to do it.

Dyeing Roving in the Microwave

John and I drove and hour and a half to a yard sale this weekend to buy canning jars. That may sound crazy, but including the cost of gas, we got nearly 30 glass-top, wire-closure antique jars for less than a buck a piece. We’ve been looking for them for a specific project, so it was a good find. Even better: I found about eight ounces of wool roving for two dollars. How often do you find roving so cheap that you feel comfortable trying new things that might utterly trash it?!?

I had three burning questions in mind when I pulled out my dyes yesterday:

  1. Was the roving actually wool? It smelled and felt like it, but it was stored in a box with a bunch of acrylic “mock top,” so I wasn’t entirely sure.
  2. Can I dye roving without killing its spinability? The answer is yes. You get a lot of loose fibers all over your hands in the process, but it’s probably with it because you can blend the splotchy bits as you spin to even out the color.
  3. How well does microwave dyeing work? Not too badly.

To make sure I was working with wool that would take dye and felt, I did a test run on a tiny sample using my least favorite color.  Aside from an impressive explosion of colored water in my microwave, it worked. And now my cats have a tiny orange flower to bat around the floor.

In golden yellow, with teal center
In golden yellow, with teal center

I didn’t answer the spinability question with the little test run, but that was more out of curiosity than anything. This roving is destined for a felting project, so if the answer was “no, it’s more difficult than my skill level to keep it spinable,” nothing would be lost.

The microwave dye process is pretty simple.

  1. Presoak your fiber in warm water and vinegar.
  2. Mix your dye with water and vinegar in a microwave-safe container.
  3. Add the wet wool to the dye bath and nuke for 2 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool to room temp, then check to see if the dye has been exhausted (i.e., the water runs clear because the wool has soaked up all the color).
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you get the look you want.
Wilton colors, from left to right: no-taste red, pink, kelly green, sunshine yellow, teal, violet, burgundy, and copper
Wilton colors, from left to right: no-taste red, pink, kelly green, sunshine yellow, teal, violet, burgundy, and copper

What I like about microwave dyeing:

  • It’s faster than slow cooker dyeing by HOURS.
  • It’s easier to mess around with multiple colors at the same time.
  • It left the roving spinable.

What I would change:

  • I’d try a casserole dish instead of jars to give the roving more breathing room so they could take the color more evenly, esp. complex colors like purple.
  • I would dissolve the coloring all the way in boiling water and let it cool down.
From left to right: burgundy, no-taste red, pink, copper, sunshine yellow, kelly green, teal, violet. Only the yellow did not require a second run of dye.
From left to right: burgundy, no-taste red, pink, copper, sunshine yellow, kelly green, teal, violet. Only the yellow did not require a second run of dye. The red probably could have used more.

All in all, I’d call the experiment a resounding success. Bonus? I discovered I’m married to a rainbow whisperer. John rearranged the roving into rainbow order (I had them on the rack in the order I pulled them out of the post-dye rinse) and two minutes later, this happened:

Double rainbow across the sky!
Double rainbow across the sky!

Washing Alpaca

So I washed the alpaca fleece the same way I’ve been washing wool, and it didn’t go quite as well. I think the fleece is still okay, but the locks are quite a mess.

The fleece is drying in a hammock hung from the backs of two chairs.
The fleece is drying in a hammock hung from the backs of two chairs.

I think the biggest problem is that the softer fiber clings more to the cotton pillowcase…which means I might need to reconsider what I’m using for a wash sack.

I’ve heard that lingerie bags work, but I haven’t been able to find them in the stores to get a good look at the material. Does anyone know if the fibers cling to it less than to a pillowcase?

The other option I’m considering is a mesh produce bag, but I suppose the danger there is that the mesh is too large.

Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

Fiber Frolic Finds

So I went to the Fiber Frolic in Windsor this weekend and had a delightful time. My mother and aunt came along to keep me company, and all I can say is, “Bless them.” It takes a lot of love for someone who’s not especially interested in fiber to follow a n00b fiber enthusiast around a scorching fairground in 90-degree weather.

If you’re a new spinner or fiber farmer (as I am, on both counts), get thee to a festival! I found vendors whose booths weren’t swamped at the moment to be wonderful sources on information.  To share just a smidge of what I picked up…

Fun Facts!

Pygora goats can injure each other (and their super-soft fiber!) with their horns. If you have them removed, they’re less dangerous and less aggressive. They’re also possibly the easiest fiber animal to get into after rabbits, particularly if you stick with neutered males who are neither smelly like bucks nor inclined to screaming like females in heat. It might be a while before I’m ready for goats, but many thanks to Jenny at Underhill Fibers for taking the time to chat with me.

Turkish spindles are hard to find at fairs because they’re time-consuming to make. Jim at Hatchtown Farm said the Turkish spindle process takes about three days, as opposed to the regular spindles which he can turn out a batch of in a day. Jim also said people have a tendency to buy his spindles of eBay for absurd amounts of money because they think he’s dead. He’s not dead, and he’s still making his lovely spindles, and if you keep an eye out, you might occasionally see some Turkish spindles in his online shop.

The Haul

Of course, a huge part of any fiber festival is shopping, and a review of the take must be had. One thing I did NOT (but almost did) acquire was 20 pounds of merino for $24. Fiber farmers, this is a lesson for you: between volunteers who might not know a ton about fiber farming and buyers who are willing to believe in deals that are too good to be true, your fleece might not sell for quite what you’re intending if you don’t take charge of being excruciatingly careful with your tag writing and fleece registration. Fortunately for the farmer, one of the volunteers remembered what the farmer had meant.

In spite of the fact that I didn’t quite find a steal of a deal, I did find some lovelies. This is my Jacob alpaca fleece–I’m planning on blending the colors together and carding in about 50% merino for a more durable blend that will, hopefully, give me a beautiful gray.

Jacob Alpaca fleece, divided by color before washing--to facilitate more even blending later.
Jacob Alpaca fleece, divided by color before washing–to facilitate more even blending later.

The used equipment sale was awesome, but I kept my purchases to just this copy of First Book of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzel.  I’m particularly excited to play with a technique for binding off lace she calls “crocheting off.” I’ve seen the effect before but had not understood what was going on with the fabric.

I was led to my final and most excellent purchase of the day by EyeAmElise, the GM of Nerd Wars. We connected at the Ravelry meetup and started chatting on the strength of having moved in overlapping social circles in college and she, also being a spinner, led me to Highland Handmades. They make absolutely gorgeous spindles that come with an absurdly excellent guaranty.

Highland Handmades Spindle & Roving

This spindle is solid cherry, weight 1.1 ounces, and comes with a stainless steel hook–I can only imagine how much less prone to bending this hook will be than the flimsy ones on my other spindles, but it feels solid. They also offer a great kit deal where they throw in some beautifully dyed Corredale roving for $5 when you buy a spindle. The true test will come once I start spinning, of course, but I suspect they have another customer for life.

Kidnapped by a House

My house has kidnapped me. If you don’t understand what I mean, you’ve never thought it was a good idea to buy a house that’s more than a century old. In truth, being enslaved might be a slightly more accurate description–every spare moment seems to be filled with fixing or painting or planting or building. It barely leaves enough time for knitting, let alone writing about knitting.

But! On the fiber front, I haven’t been a complete slacker. I’ve got two dragons done and have been sloooowly picking away at typing up my notes.

Seamless Dragon No. 1

This little guy is completely seamless. I will have better pictures for you with the pattern, but for now, may I just point out the cunning short-row shaping on those double-knit wings? That took me forever and a half to get right.

The pictures of dragon number 2 (who was made as a gift and has therefore already flown the coop) are trapped on one of John’s cameras, but I’ll give you pictures of him soon too.

Finally, I’ll also have an update on the rabbits soon. I’m going to meet the kits tomorrow to pick out a pair, and hopefully we’ll have the rabbitat built this weekend so we’d ready for June, when we pick the bunnies up. John’s planned the heck out of this thing, and if you all promise to be nice about his design, I might be able to talk him into sharing the Sketch-up file and materials list for the design.

Fluffy Bunnies

John and I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the largest Angora rabbit breeders and fiber producers in Maine last Saturday. Beth Acker, of Acker’s Acres, was kind enough to give us a tour of her rabbitry and share with us a wealth of information about raising angoras.

I’ve been mentally planning for raising rabbits since we bought the house, and since I started running into John’s office to show him yet another adorable bunny in The Nervous New Owner’s Guide to Angora Rabbits or another diagram from Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, he’s been softening to the idea. When I came across some information about the Maine Fiber Frolic and started drooling in excitement, he sighed and said, “Yes, I guess we can do rabbits this spring.”

Acker’s Acres is the closest angora rabbitry, and you can only imagine how thrilled I was when Beth invited us to come meet her rabbits. After half an hour or so of inspecting colors, listening to Beth’s advice, and mostly, watching the adorable bunnies hop about in their cages, John’s resignation had turned into something a bit closer to excitement.

To share forward a bit of the knowledge and excitement, here are just a few of the nifty tidbits Beth shared with us:

  • 40% angora blended with 60% wool is enough to gift a yarn the halo and softness of angora and the strength and spring of wool.
  • Angoras usually have three different coats at different stages, which you can see pretty clearly in the black rabbits.
  • Purebred German angoras only come in white, but they have the highest fiber production, so many Maine breeders cross Germans with other breeds to get the best of both color and fiber production.
  • Wood hutches are a bad idea for angoras because (a) the rabbits will chew on them and (b) the hutches will get soaked with urine, making the rabbits dirtier and their wool less viable for spinning.

John and I still have work to do to get ready for bunnies, but I’m hoping we’ll have our mini-rabbitry ready by the Fiber Frolic. Beth’s hoping to have a good number of kits ready to go shortly after the Frolic, so we’re hoping to pop down for another visit to reserve a pair when they’re old enough for their color to be showing true.

And a word to anyone else planning on stopping by the Acker’s Acres booth at one of the festivals–save lots of fiber money for Beth’s booth, because her hand-dyed colors (roving and yarn) are absolutely gorgeous and luscious to the touch.

 

Salvage Spindling

One of my favorite features of the area John and I moved to is the fabulous flea market. Yes, it is basically a big pile of other people’s rubbish piled haphazardly into a giant warehouse that is open only twice a week, and then only as the various proprietors of booths choose to attend. Total chaos. Utter madness.

I love it.

Apart from the endless parade of elephant tchotchkes and antique tea cups which I merely eye longingly for the sake of my husband’s sanity (we all have our oddities, what can I say?), the flea market is a delightful place to comb for odds and ends that might serve well for spindle whorls or shafts.

These are my most recent treasures…

Slate Disc

I have no idea how these discs ended up in the flea market or what their story is, because the owner of the booth wasn’t there. I dealt with a lovely older lady from a neighboring booth who was standing in for the owner. I also have no idea how to plane the disc to level it or how to drill a hole in it without cracking it, but for $0.50, the cost of failure is manageable.

Swizel stick spindle

This is just a simple glass drink stirring stick, I know, but I haven’t come across any with such a nice weight or point to the end. I made a bowl from polymer clay over the weekend to act as a base (glass as a drop spindle just strikes me as an ill-conceived idea), and I have hopes that this will make an adorable supported spindle. More on how it spins next week.

And just as a teaser for my spinning/knitting hybrid companions…free pattern coming soon for this lace wristaff made from leftover sock yarn.

Lace Wristaff