I Knew I Was Having a Slow Year….

I really had no idea how little I had accomplished from a crafting standpoint until, on a whim, I looked at my FOs for the year.

Considering I have, for the past several years, completed in the neighbourhood of 25 knitted projects over the span of the year, I’d say calling this one slow is a massive understatement.

I have, to date in 2015, completed exactly five projects.  This is unheard of.  I should be at a minimum of 14 by now, if I were on track for a “usual” year.  And in fact, two of these five are not even officially in the FO list because they have not been blocked and photographed.

Now, in my defence, there are other things I have been doing from a creative point of view.

I am in the midst of a sooper seekrit project that I cannot talk about for another while yet.

I have taken up hand dyeing and have dyed up about 20 skeins (plus a single braid of fibre) this summer…plus I have more undyed yarn winging its way to me as we speak.

I have done some spinning (although no plying and as such have also added almost no spinning FOs to my list, either!).  This is a lovely indigodragonfly braid I started for Tour de Fleece (don’t even get me started on how badly I did in keeping up with TdF this year!  Downright embarrassing…)

I took a sewing class, although, if I am honest I haven’t done a whole lot of that either.

And I sure as heck haven’t been blogging!

I wonder where my year has gone….?  Looks like I am going to have to get a severe case of finish-itis if I am going to make any progress this year at all.

The other option, I suppose, is to stop forcing it and just craft when I feel like it.  That’s a valid lifestyle choice, right?

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Caught the spinning bug

Two years ago, when I started spindle spinning, I signed on for Tour de Fleece, a Ravelry event that takes place during Tour de France where we spin the same days that the riders do.  I got through a 50g merino sliver in the first three days, and started on a 115g braid of Mixed BFL from Two If By Hand in an interesting pink and gold colourway called “Blooming Bougainvilla”.

 

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I got 9 or 10 days into TdF and fell off the wheel, so to speak, with about a third of the braid on my spindle.

My Houndesign spindle...as pretty as the fibre!

My Houndesign spindle…as pretty as the fibre!

And so it has sat in my crafting cupboard for the past two years.  With my renewed interest in my wheel, I decided I’d probably never finish this on a spindle.  But why couldn’t I finish the braid, but on my wheel?  Since there’s only a third on the spindle, if I spun the other two thirds on the wheel, the amounts would be uneven and make for weird and awkward plying.  So what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you…she spends an entire episode (and then some) of Scandal winding the spun yarn off her spindle onto her wheel, then attaching some new fibre to it and continuing the effort.

And off we go!

And off we go, albeit a little blurry!

The yarn is significantly thicker than my current spinning so it will be a task to keep it that way.  And if I choose to chain ply, that resultant yarn is going to be quite thick.

Here’s the most interesting part…looks like I spin in the opposite direction on my wheel than I do on a spindle.  With the spindle, I push off the inside of my left leg, this causing the spindle to go counter-clockwise, resulting in an “S” twist.  With the wheel, I default to pushing the wheel clock-wise, resulting in a “Z” twist.  So for the next few days, I have to remember to spin my wheel as though I were plying, instead of my usual way.

But at least a two year old spinning project will get finished.

What old projects have you resurrected because you got tired of knowing they were just sitting there?

World’s Craftiest Weekend

It’s always fun and relaxing to spend the majority of the weekend crafting, but those full weekends come along far less often than I might like.  Getting to spend half that weekend with like-minded friends?  That happens even less often again.

Saturday saw all sorts of fun things, including spinning, knitting, weaving and dyeing.

Weaving…where shall I start?  First off, I blame Shireen, The Enabler.  She has been posting some of the most beautiful FO shots since acquiring her 20″ Ashford Knitters Loom about a month ago, and she has been regaling me with tales of how quickly these lovely items are going from skeins to wearable items.  I have a rather substantial number of single skeins of sock yarn and Kim at indigodragonfly has also been telling me for a long time that a great way to use some of these up is to get a loom, but I wasn’t sure weaving would be my thing.

Then, Shireen brought the loom over on Saturday and let me weave some of her leader, so as not to spoil her actual project.  I have to say that while I am sure that producing really nice clean looking edges and such takes some practice, the motions of weaving in and of itself really is pretty easy and the little bit I did led me to believe it could almost be as “zen” an activity as spinning.  (Disclaimer: I may be somewhat delusional!)

She has enabled me into looking seriously at acquiring a loom…so much so that I got a line on a second hand one by posting on Ravelry to see if someone had one to destash.  I will know more next weekend.

Shireen showed up at my place like she was moving in…there was the aforementioned loom, and wonderful Indian food, and decadent chocolate birthday cake for Leslie, but she also brought with her an entire set up for dyeing yarn.  I had a skein of yarn that I got in a swap that I was very unhappy with and I decided to overdye it to see if I could improve it.  I won’t mention the dyer name because it’s irrelevant and seems kinda uncool.  As it was, it took me a while to reconcile myself to doing it as it feels rather like defacing someone else’s art, but I digress.

The photo made it look pretty nice, if not insanely bright.  It was at least enticing enough to make me want to claim it in a Ravelry swap.

Original Skein

Original Skein

What was not clear in this photo was that the yellow-y lime sections had navy blue “smudged” over them, almost like the navy bled and stuck to the lime, rendering it sort of “dirty looking”.  I figured that perhaps overdyeing the skein with some blue might render the lime colour a darker green and I was right.  I kettle dyed the skein in a Crock Pot, using Jacquard acid dyes in a mixture of Sapphire and Turquoise (I didn’t bother to measure as I knew it wasn’t a recipe I’d ever need again).  I let it simmer away until the entire dye bath was exhausted, and hung it to dry.  Sunday morning, this was the result.

The "After" Shot

The “After” Shot

I still don’t love it, per se…but I sure like it a whole lot better.  Perhaps I’ll knit socks out of it, and then if I don’t love the colourway knit up, I’ll overdye the socks to make them even more green.  We shall see.

 

My Return to Spinning

Aside

One of my fibre goals for this year was to spin more.  Spinning always seems to take a back seat to knitting for me, and even more so recently because I had deadline projects where spinning always has less of a sense of urgency.

When I finally did manage to pick up spinning again recently after a several month long hiatus, I got quite discouraged as I was finding I was encountering some difficulties that I hadn’t previously.  I had started using some Schoppel Wolle pencil roving that was a gift from my mother in law for Christmas, thinking this would help me get back into the swing of things after such a long break…I mean, predrafted fibre…what could possibly go wrong?  Instead my yarn was dissolving in my hands any time I pulled on it at all, but it didn’t seem woefully underspun.

Time to call in the expert!  Leslie Ordal, my first-spinning-class-teacher-turned-friend, offered to come take a look, and Shireen thought this would be a great chance to come learn how to spin on a wheel.  So the three of us convened at my place on Saturday, with Shireen and me ready to absorb the knowledge imparted by the pro.  This was the inaugural use of my new WooLee Winder (more on this miraculous device at another time!), so I put on an empty bobbin and spun up some new fibre, using some bits and bobs samples I had lying about.  I showed Leslie what I had been doing and she decreed that overall, I was doing fine and that while I should probably be putting a little more twist into it, she could not see what was causing the issue.  And this new yarn wasn’t falling apart.  So I showed her the bobbin with the pencil roving and she immediately knew what had been going wrong.  The fibre had tweed-y slubs in it, so when I was spinning, most of the yarn was spun with enough twist, but the slubby parts, because they were thicker, not so much.  Those were the parts that were falling apart.

Once I switched to something with a more consistent texture, I got this:

Random Halloween-themed fibre spin

Random Halloween-themed fibre spin

Not bad at all, considering I hadn’t spun in ages.

Once I got the hang of it, I broke out a braid of superwash merino and decided to try that.  So far I have turned this:

pink_mediumInto this:

Handpainted Merino

Handpainted Merino

I spent about an hour last night spinning away in front of the Penguins/Rangers game and I am planning to set aside some time each day to try and move my spinning forward.

It’s Nice to Have Goals

So on New Year’s Eve, I took a quick look at what I did in 2013, and mentioned there were some things I’d like to do in 2014.  I cannot say I actually set goals, because they were all pretty darned vague, and I would like to have something to work towards.

“I am planning to start spinning again in January and am considering saving up for a Woolee Winder to make my spinning that much easier”.  I will spin 5 times a week for the year; I am never going to get any good at this if I do it in constant fits and starts.  If I do keep to this, and I think it will improve my spinning, I will get a Woolee Winder in the spring.

“I have nine WIPs and four projects in “hibernation”, so I do need to get back at some of those.”  I will cut that number in half by January 1st, 2015 and have no more than 7 WIPS/hibernating projects at that time, whether I finish the ones I have on needles or frog them.

“I am also planning to knit from stash a bit more.  I added quite a bit towards the end of the year, factoring in several yarn-y gifts, and I have some great plans for some of those skeins.”  For every two skeins I move into “All Used Up”, I can add one more to stash.  (This will be by far my most challenging goal, to be certain, as I am completely given to fits of “ooh shiny”!)

“My last goal of the year…to at least start, if not complete, my first sweater.  I have two sweater quantities, a coupon for Custom Fit (kindly given to me by my friend, Jenn) and measurements taken for me by Kim.  All I need to do now is do some new swatches and I’ll be ready to go.”  This goal was nice and specific.

And there was one I forgot.  My dear friend Val has sent me three separate stashes of light fingering weight handspun over the past year…all gorgeous and all deserving of being knit into something awesome.  I have queued two of them and I will knit at least one of these projects this year.

So, goals for 2014…there they are.  I am not going to set goals of how many yards to knit or pounds of fibre to spin, mostly because I don’t want either of those activities to become a chore, and I fear that for me, goals that specific might make them so.

Let’s see how far I get with these 🙂