Look what we spotted when we left the house on Saturday:

Do you see them there? The snow hadn’t been melted for more than 24 hours before the crocuses started to push up through the ground. We still have about 6 inches of snow over most of the yard, but it’s been warm this week and it’s melting fast. In the sunnier spot we even have a (small) patch of bare ground. And as far as those crocuses are concerned, it is spring.

There hasn’t been much progress on anything this week. On the second day of break, I got felled by a cold. It’s not even a bad one, but I’ve been so tired from work lately that it didn’t take much to land me in bed all week. The timing was perfect (in that I don’t have to work while I’m sick), but it also means that none of my grand plans for break have come to be.

I did get those braids carded into batts, which now need to be blended. It occurred to me, though, that the accent colors didn’t need to be carded, so I went ahead and got started with those:

Since Saturday when I took that picture, I’ve also added one small skein (75 yards) of the dark purple and need to ply a small skein of the light. Those will also be accent colors, and then the rest of the purple will be blended together to make the yarn for the sweater body.

This project has been kicking around in my brain for quite a while. I dyed these colors for the Greencastle show, back in 2012.

As soon as I saw them together, I realized that they would be perfect for crocuses.

It’s taken me two years to figure out how I could possibly wear those colors. I think I’ve got it now. But will it be ready for crocus time?

I’m always surprised when people comment on how much I get done. I never feel like I’m getting anything accomplished (particularly not when I compare where I am now to what I used to do). And yet, I do manage to make steady progress, often by taking baby steps.

For instance, last Sunday I managed to get these out of the closet:

They have been sitting on my desk for a week, and I finally managed to take a picture of them this afternoon.

On Thursday, I pulled out my drum carder, and left it sitting in the middle of my office floor. It is still sitting there, waiting for me to do something with it. This is part of the plan; it bothers me to have things out of order, so things that are “out” and in the way get higher priority. It also overcomes the inertia barrier for days where a two-step project feels like too big a deal.

Last weekend, I put my wheel squarely in front of my usual chair, with a bobbin loaded up and ready to go. Between Friday night and this afternoon, I have managed to ply off 850 yards of 2-ply fingering weight from 8 oz of fiber that I found hidden in the stash.

I’ve been working on this spinning for a month or so, and it just hasn’t been getting anywhere. I needed to clear out the wheel to make space for the sweater, so I’ve put an extra push on to get this done. And now, I have two squishy skeins of very dark red/burgundy yarn. (No, I have no idea what it will become, but I love the color.)

That is all the crafting that I have done this week, but it’s getting me closer to a place where I can just pick things up and go when I have the time and the energy to invest. And I guess that’s the trick; always leaving things in a state that I can make 15 minutes of progress when I have a few minutes here or there. When I don’t manage to have something at the ready (as is the case now with my knitting), then nothing gets done. But if  I can keep it moving ahead one little step at a time, it’s amazing how fast all those little steps add up.

Next week is spring break, so this project will probably get a big boost of effort for a few days, at least. Once it’s on the needles, I’ll find time to knit. Only time will tell if I’ll get anywhere before we run out of snow!

This has been a slow week in terms of knitting. We’re deep into the crunch of the midsemester, and if something isn’t already set up and planned, then it doesn’t happen. I thought I had a good mindless project ready to go, but realized a few hours in that it just wasn’t going to do what I want. And so, this was a no-knitting week.

I did get a little spinning done yesterday, on some Rambouillet top that I found in the latest stash toss. It’s not quite to the plying point yet, but it’s closer than it was. Two bobbins isn’t too much to fill. I’m hoping for a new skein of yarn next week, at least.

Other than that, it’s been quiet around here. The recent burst of projects seems to have slowed, though I’m not sure it’s stopped. Spring break is only a couple of weeks away, so I’ll have some time to breathe and get back on my knitting feet.

There’s a sweater idea tickling away at the back of my mind, but it has to be spun first. I pulled the main color of fiber out of the stash yesterday. I just need to spend some quality time with the drum carder, and I’ll have another spinning project to go. I’d like this to be a spring sweater, but spring is coming up fast. We had another ten inches of snow on Tuesday this week, but this weekend we’ve lost almost as much to the first big spring melt. I’ve been measuring the progress by the fence rails in the front yard; the snow was up to the second rail at its highest, but there’s only a foot or so left. The water has been running like rivers off the roof and even the big icicles are gone. The bumps in the back yard are starting to take on the shape of a garden again, though it’s still too early to see the actual beds.

But soon. Winter is putting up a good fight, but spring is coming. The sun comes back a little more each day, and the songbirds are coming north from their winter retreat. There’s probably another month of winter left, maybe a little more. That’s plenty of time to spin and knit a sweater, don’t you think?

I have no idea what I’m going to do with the current proliferation of hats, but there’s another one for the collection this week:

This one is knit from the yarn I showed in the last post; two different colorways of Gina from Plymouth Yarn Co. I used one skein as the foreground and one as the background, and knit a simple diamond colorwork motif, incorporating increases into the design so that the diamonds got bigger as I went. (In my head, I’m calling this one the Diamond Tesselations hat.) It was really fun to knit through the different colors as they came off the skein, and I like how the slowly changing colors add interest to the overall design. That really bright orange-pink band is one of my favorites, though I think it did need another strong color stripe to balance it visually (I had the yarn, but the hat didn’t need more length). This project really satisfied the craving for color that comes with a long winter, and I have only a tiny ball of the bright pink left.

Sadly, the Mushishi project needs yet another redesign. I like the reversible cables with this yarn, but I started to get uneasy about my yarn supply after just a few inches. Both cables and ribbing eat a lot of yardage, and the two together have outdone my single skein. After knitting about 5 inches of the scarf, I weighed the amount remaining and calculated how much length I could expect to get from what I have. It came out to about 30 inches, which isn’t enough for the scarf that I want.  So, it’s back to the drawing board on that one (again).

I did notice that the way the cables pull in tends to make the fabric fold in half; wouldn’t that be an interesting way to shape and add structure to a shawl collar? Something to tuck into my back pocket for a future design, maybe.

In the meantime, I think I need to go poke around in the stash again to see what else might be begging to end up on the needles.

My pursuit of small things continues, and this week stars some yarn that has been sitting in the stash since 2009. It’s a merino-silk top that I bought at the Weaving Works in Seattle and hand-spindled in Germany. I’ve been wanting to knit something lacy with it and have swatched several times, but nothing has quite worked out. This time, I wasn’t putting it away unknit. I’ve had success with hats lately and I’ve seen a few welted designs that I like, so I cast on and gave that a try.

I threw in some beads to keep things interesting (and because I appear to have developed an uncharacteristic and slightly disturbing desire for bling lately). When the hat was done, I still had almost half of the yarn left. I was determined that it wasn’t going back in the stash, so I cast on for a (very short) companion scarf . To keep it wearable, I decided to use a keyhole design so that it would stay in place. One of the women in my knitting group has a garter stitch scarf that uses short rows to make a flare at the ends, and I thought that might work well here. Mix that in with the welting and the beads, and voila. A new scarf is born.

This is the before-blocking shot; I’m expecting that the flare will open up a bit when blocked, but I hope it doesn’t lose the corrugated feel in the welting. I love the beehive look of the hat. I just looked back at my original post about this yarn, and it turns out that it has wanted to be a hat all along, and that lace was just an idea that I tried to impose on it. Took me 5 years to come around, but I think we’ve managed to find something that works pretty well.

The next yarn is chosen and swatched, but I have yet to cast on. This is a skein of Mushishi from Plymouth Yarns that I bought at Steven Be’s yarn store the first time that I met Ellen. I was in Minneapolis for a conference, and we stole away for dinner and a mini yarn crawl while I was in town.

This yarn has also been swatched and re-stashed several times. It’s a singles yarn with kind of a tweedy feel from the white silk noil spun in here and there. I love the feel of it, but the tweediness and the dark color combined mean that it doesn’t play well with most textured stitch patterns. It’s a pretty generous skein, so I should have enough for a wide scarf, and I want something reversible that won’t curl. It’s hard to see in the swatch, but right now I’m leaning toward an allover reversible cables design. Which brings me to today.

I prefer to cable with a cable needle. I don’t do cables very often (I overindulged on an ill-fated afghan project in Seattle and haven’t gone back since). I appear to have misplaced the smaller of my two cable needles and I needed to find another. This gave me an excuse to check out a new LYS suggested by my knitting group, so this morning we headed up to Coveted Yarn in Gloucester. They have a really wide selection, with everything from the solid standbys to the most adventurous novelty yarns. It was a fun stop in, and I spent quite a while browsing, thinking about colorwork. I’ve had an itch for fairisle lately, and have several ideas simmering away on the back burner. None of them match the yarns that I have in my stash, so I’ve been leaving them on the back burner for now, but I decided that I could probably get away with a small new yarn purchase today.

In addition to wanting to knit colorwork, I think I have also been suffering from an accute case of winter. The brighter the yarn, the more it appealed. These are a little outside of my usual color range, but they sure fit the bill for bright and cheerful colors!

I’m thinking that I’ll probably knit the two yarns together in an all-over colorwork pattern. I have always loved the Kauni colorwork designs (go do a search on Ravelry…some of them will take your breath away).  This yarn has a nice long color repeat and I’m hoping that it might give a similar effect in a small item like a hat or a cowl.

While we were in the shop, the owner was telling someone that they are planning to start offering classes. Branden piped up and said he thought that I should teach, and they suggested that I send them an email. So, I’m considering the possibility. I don’t think of myself as a knitting teacher, but it could be fun to try. So tell me: what class would you love to take from me?

The nice thing about small projects is how quickly they fly off the needles. I finished the colorwork hat last weekend. It’s a semi-slouchy hat, with lots of room to keep the warm air in, and hopefully that extra space will also reduce hat-head. The pattern was completely unplanned; I cast on with 6 stitches and went from there, changing the colorwork pattern as the mood hit me. I stuck with fairly simple, geometric designs rather than traditional colorwork patterns, but there weren’t really any rules.

It looks absolutely gigantic when it’s laid out, but it slouches nicely when worn.

I have said before that I am really not a hat person, but this one seems to work.  Much to my surprise, the slouchy style seems to agree with me. (I think Ellen suggested such a thing quite some time ago, and she was definitely right!)

I’m not sure that I’m going to become a frequent wearer of hats, but it’s nice to know that there’s one I can stand to put on when the weather drops into the negative digits.

Of course, the speedy end of the hat project meant that I had to find new knitting that much sooner. I cast on for about 4 different projects this week, but nothing really clicked. One by one, they were all frogged and returned to the stash. As I was rummaging around for something else to try, I ran across my “weave knitting” swatches from a couple of years ago. Looking back at the original post, I realized that I never put up a picture that shows the stitch pattern very well. I started out the series with a variation on linen stitch; just a simple knit-slip stitch pattern that looks a lot like plain weave.

Then I played around with two colors to see what that would do to the (same stitch) pattern. These are the front and back of the two-color fabric.

That was kind of fun, so I tried another variation as well:

This one looks almost the same on the front and back. It’s not quite reversible, but almost.

Then I put all of the floats on the other side of the fabric, leaving a smooth knit fabric on the front and purl bumps and slip-floats in the back. I think this pair is interesting because the only difference between the swatches is which color is in the foreground and which is in the background:

Then, I played around with longer floats to make a knitted twill:

I think that there’s a lot more to be explored in these stitch patterns, but I need to sit down and figure out a charting and classification method that will help me design new possibilities. (I also need to find the enthusiasm to knit more foot-wide swatches…) I do want to get back to them someday, but for now they’re hibernating in the stash. Seeing them again got me thinking about how the stitch patterns might work in a more complicated colorway, though. Some more rummaging turned up a singleton skein of handspun yarn that I’d spun from the fiber inspired by our trip to Campobello Island a couple of summers ago. I pulled out the skein, crossed my fingers, and cast on. I didn’t have much yarn but I wanted a fairly wide fabric, so I cast on enough stitches to get about a foot of width and hoped that I’d get enough length to do something with the fabric when I was done. And then, I knit. Here’s the front of the fabric:

And here’s the back:

Subtly different, but close enough to be reversible. I love how the colors blend together. (This is the same stitch pattern as the light green and tan at the end of the “plain weave” swatches above.) I didn’t get much length, but I got just enough for a wide cowl when the two ends were seamed together. I didn’t think to snap a photo before I seamed it up, but here’s one half of the color stripes.

And here’s the other half, along with the photo that inspired the colorway.

I like to think that this might bring a little bit of summer into the winter, though I can’t say it worked when we went outside to take a photo. (This is my “did you take the picture? I’m cold!” face.) Still, it’s thick and warm, and can tuck into my coat and cover the lower part of my face, even when it’s folded in half.

For a small and unplanned project, I’m calling that a win.

And now, I am facing empty needles once again. I think that one of my “failures” from last week might have iterated into a successful project this morning, though. Time will tell, but at least it’s enough of an idea to give me something cast on.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been slowly working away at stash conversion over the past few years; transforming fiber into yarn, yarn into projects, and adding less and less back into the stash. I shop for yarn at fiber festivals, but I can’t think when I last purchased any online, and I haven’t really established a new LYS since the move. I do feel kind of badly about not supporting local business, but I do go to local shops first when I need something, and right now I don’t need more yarn. I’ve tried to keep my purchases reasonable at festivals, and have done pretty well at reducing stash growth. This is especially important lately, because my knitting output has slowed significantly since I started teaching.

Lately, some of the bins had started to look a little empty, and others seemed to be overfull. It had been a while since I did a stash toss, and I was having trouble finding things when I wanted them. I was also feeling low on inspiration, and needed to spend some quality time with the fiber. So, just before the end of break, I made an unholy mess of my office for a few days and completely resorted the stash.

The clear bins are all of my knitting yarn. There are also two bins of woven fabric and loom waste, and one of tools like spindles and hand cards. There are lots of lone skeins leftover from bigger projects, and quite a few solo skeins purchased for small projects I later abandoned. The things that filter to the bottom of the stash are almost always the small projects, it seems. I do have quite a bit of Cascade 220, but other than that there are only two yarns with enough to knit a sweater in there. One of those is the three-ply yarn I spun up from shop leftovers earlier this year.

One ply is teal, another is lime green, and the third is olive. I had my doubts about the olive from the beginning, and thought that I really wanted more of a deep spruce green for the third ply, but I wanted to work with what I had on hand, and I didn’t want to turn a simple spinning project into a dyeing project that would languish for weeks. I thought the olive would blend in when the yarn was plied and knit, but I don’t really like the color of the final fabric. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it, but it just doesn’t speak to me, somehow. I think this one probably will turn into a dye project after all. I’d need to do some testing, but I’m thinking that I’ll probably end up oberdyeing it with a complimentary color to unite those hues a bit more.

After all of the reorganizing, I ended up with five empty bins, and many of the full ones have room to spare. This feels like quite a lot of progress, considering how little knitting I have been doing of late. Still, it’s good to know that things are going in the right direction, albeit slowly. (It’s also good to know that there might be some room in the stash for a few of the irresistibles next time around. But only in sweater quantities, since that’s apparently all I use.)

The weaving stash is still in growth mode, though I am nearing a stable state and trying very hard to reduce new acquisitions there, too. I have a nice rainbow of cones on the shelf, as well as a couple of bins of cones that need to be protected (wools, etc). I’m hoping that the new color gamps will help to inspire many more projects now that I have a strong base palette to work from.

The spinning stash grew unexpectedly a year or so ago when all of my shop inventory became part of my personal stash, but I’ve been working my way steadily through that and am beginning to see reductions there, too.

There are another two bins of undyed shop fiber in the back there, on hold for when I eventually find my way back to the dye studio (soon, I hope, soon…), and there are a couple of bags of washed fleece in the top of the closet awaiting their turn, too.

One of the front bins is all bits and bobs waiting to be blended into batts or felted. I have a huge range of colors in there, and am thinking that there will be some fun spinning to be had in 2014. There is also fiber set aside in the shop leftovers for a couple of larger projects. I need to get busy soon, spinning my way to a new sweater.

In the meantime, I am out of knitting projects again. I don’t know how this is possible with so much yarn, but somehow my brain just can’t get over the hump of figuring out what to do with it sometimes. So, in the spirit of just getting started, I cast on 6 stitches and started a hat. I’ve had 4 balls of Rowan Felted Tweed in the stash since the very early days; I know I bought it at the Weaving Works in Seattle, so it has been at least 5 years, and probably longer. I’ve pulled it out here and there for a couple of projects, but they’ve just never taken off. This time, I think it might stick:

I was in the mood for some colorwork; simple stockinette with a simple pattern to keep things interesting. I’m designing this one completely on the needles, one color motif at at time. I have no idea what I’m going to do next, until I get to the transition and find out. It’s been fun watching each unrelated pattern take its place in the whole, and I’m really liking how it is coming out. This one step at a time approach is reflective of a lot of things in my life right now, and I can only hope that I end up liking the results of those as much as I do the hat!

I’m also spinning up this fiber that I discovered while tossing the spinning stash. There were 8 oz of it, so I must have dyed it for myself, but I have no memory of it now. It was probably something I dyed to use up leftovers just before we moved, and then never got back to after the interruption. Fortunately, my taste in color hasn’t changed, and I was thrilled to find it waiting for me in the stash. Doesn’t it match my office chair well?

I’m almost halfway through the 8 ounces, spinning fairly fine for a 2 ply fingering weight yarn. I’m not sure yet what it will be, but at least it will be one step closer to useful.

I posted a few weeks ago that I don’t have a lot of knitting intentions for this year, except simply to knit more. I think this is a good start, even if most of the yarn needs to be spun before it can be knit! I’m also finding myself leaning heavily toward colorwork, so maybe there’s some of that in the cards as well. In the meantime, I need to start dreaming up another project so that it’s ready to go when I run out of hat!

I pulled a rainbow off my loom this weekend:

The two basic color gamps are done. One is woven in plain weave, and one in twill. Here’s the plain weave version:

And the twill:

It’s kind of fun to compare the two pieces, because you can really see how weave structure changes color dynamics in the finished piece. It’s not as obvious on the screen as it is in person, but the warp stripes (horizontal in the pictures above) are much stronger than the weft stripes in the plain weave version. The twill gamp has much more defined vertical stripes. The plain weave has a beautiful iridescence to it that I couldn’t quite capture with my camera this time (I’ll try again once it’s wet finished – the weaver’s equivalent of blocking), but it’s the glow of the dark purple section in the twill gamp that really caught my eye. It looks like sunset, especially when viewed at an angle.

You can really see the difference in how the colors play together as you get closer to the fabric (again, plain weave on top, twill on the bottom).

(You can’t really see all of the little color squares in the zoomed out pictures above, but the whole fabric is made up of 1 to 1 1/4″ squares of different colors crossing. For each stripe that you see in the warp, there is another of the same color in the weft, so that I have a sampler that mixes all of the colors in my stash…a practical reference piece as well as a decorative one.)

I finished the ends of both samplers last night, so they’re all ready for a vigorous washing to settle the threads into place, and then I need to figure out how I want to mount them for display. I also need to figure out how I want to weave the rest of the warp.

I immediately gravitated toward the twill sampler when I took the cloth off the loom, but I was surprised to notice that the fabric really felt like it should be two separate pieces; the primary rainbow stripes on one side, and the darker purples and browns on the other. I had more similar colors in the purples/brown section, and I really like the more subtle gradient that the closer shades produced. I spent quite a long time walking around the office looking at the pieces from different angles, and I think I want to split the warp into two separate projects rather than finishing it in a single run. This is kind of a pain in the neck, since it means that I need to take all of it off of the loom, chain one of the halves for storage, and then re-thread the one I want to use.

I’m a little disappointed about splitting the warp, since one of the things that I liked best about this project was the width. It feels better as separate pieces, though, so split it will probably be. I suppose I could add in extra threads on the re-warping to make the piece wider again, but I’m not too excited about that option.

I feel like the primary colors section needs something different to make it work as a fabric instead of a sampler, but I’m not sure yet what that might be. Black stripes to offset the colors, perhaps? That would be even less fun than adding extra width at the edges, but sometimes the finished object is worth the price. I think I have between 3 and 4 yards of useful warp left on the loom, so it’s enough to be worth doing well.

For now, the project is waiting. I want to wet finish the gamps first to see how they look when everything has settled into place, and then hopefully the decisions will be clear. There must be something that will make those primary colors dance…

At the beginning of every year, I try to stop and take stock of the projects I’ve done and I make a list of the things I’d like to try in the coming months.

This year, I have no list. There are no long lines of projects waiting, no techniques dying to be explored. This year, my goal is simply this: to knit.

2013 has been a long and difficult year, with old health problems cropping up in new ways and lots of challenges at work. Most nights, I am simply too tired to knit even plain stockinette.

I swatched for a sweater just before Thanksgiving. The stitch pattern was chosen, I knew which needle size I wanted, and all I had to do was cast on at the neck. Somehow, even casting on for a simple raglan was too much to think about.

Instead, I knit a hat. Since the hat was the only project I had on the needles and I didn’t have the brainpower to come up with another, I stretched the knitting out over several weeks, a row here and a row there. I finished it while we were visiting with friends a couple of days after Christmas, which left my needles empty.

In the lull between the holidays and heading back into preparations for the new semester, I picked up that swatch again. It took about 10 minutes to cast on, and about 5 days to knit the sweater.

The yarn is Briggs and Little Heritage, the yarn I picked up this past summer when I was on PEI. It’s a heavy weight, 2-ply wool, spun in a small woolen mill in New Brunswick and lightly heathered. The main body color is called Seafoam, and there are 4 other accent colors, too (I seem to have lost the labels for most of them, but one is green heather and one is natural white. Looking at their color card, I think the others must be fern and light blue or peacock).

The knitting was fast, at about 4 sts/in on a size 5 needle. I switched up to a size 6 for the shoulder color pattern, since it’s a slip stitch pattern and I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t pull in. The narrower bands near the cuff and hem use 2 of the more subtle accent colors to help balance the visual weight of the yoke.

Yesterday, I found the perfect buttons in my button box:

And with that, the first sweater of the new year is done.

(Of course, now I need to come up with a new project to cast on…)

I’m still recovering from a solid week of holiday visiting, so this post will be short on words. (I seem to have run out.) I did want to get the Christmas crafting up before the end of the year, though, and that’s coming soon!

I don’t usually do much holiday crafting, since deadline crafting combined with the end of a semester is usually a really bad idea. This year there were a few projects tucked under the tree, though.

The bunny did end up with a dress (though, sadly, not a tutu).

She also got new ears, which were much floppier and more rabbit-like than the first ones. I’m much happier with the new set, though I bet my niece would have been happy with either. I sent Branden off on a last-minute trip to the fabric store looking for supplies, and he picked out the fabric and accents for the dress all on his own. Didn’t he do a good job? (You know you have a well-trained husband when he can be trusted to pick out fabric for you…)

My sister got a Tardis scarf:

She’s a big fan of Dr. Who and made a request. I had plans for a different way of making the squares, and switched to waffle weave at the last minute.  Turns out that it makes a great Tardis. Who knew?

I absolutely loved the fabric on this one. It was thick and squishy, and there will definitely be more waffle weave on my loom. Hopefully very soon.

My other sister scored a couple of skeins of handspun (about 450 yards in total). She’s been toying with knitting lately, and so I thought it was a good time to encourage that activity with some special supplies.

A couple of holiday scarves also made it off the loom, just in time for wrapping.

The color isn’t quite right here, but the bright, holiday red wasn’t playing nice with the camera. Both were woven from the same warp (red 10/2 bamboo at 30 epi), and had different wefts. The one on the left was plainweave with kind of a blue violet color for my aunt, and the one on the right was more of a deep plum in a point twill, which I kept for myself. This picture does a much better job of showing off the color:

Together with my first Briar Rose sweater, it made the perfect Christmas outfit.

And there you have it. An unusually crafty holiday for me, and a fun one. Maybe if I start planning now, I’ll be able to do it all again next year.

So that’s it for my Christmas crafting. Hope you all had a good holiday!

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