Sunday, December 12, 2010

Exploring Houndstooth Patterns

Houndstooth is generally woven as two colors in a twill pattern, alternating groups of 4 threads of each color, creating sort of color drag across the fabric rather than discrete checks. In plain weave, which is the easiest and most typically used texture when weaving with a rigid heddle loom, you can make some thing very similar looking by using just a 2x2 check. Here are two scarves woven in just such a way. For my fellow crafters, I've included some commentary on the yarns used. Both were woven with a 10 dent heddle.

First - Gray Area Houndstooth
55% Bamboo, 35% Wool, 10% Angora

Fabric is fabulously dense yet drapes luxuriously, and displays a slight aura from the Angora. It feels absolutely divine in hand.

The yarn used here was Paton's Angora Bamboo. The yarn sheds a bit in handling, but not excessively so - it does have some angora in it, after all - and otherwise has a nice solid feel. It is ‘toothsome’, like al dente spaghetti, if you’ll forgive the comparison. However, of the 4 balls used, 2 had splices in the form of enormous knots, which would have had to be cut out even in knitting they were so bloated.

It did not fuzz out as much as I expected with the angora, I suppose the bamboo keeps it in line mostly. Yarn held together nicely during washing, displaying no fraying, so the fringe was left loose.

Second - Dreamsicle Houndstooth
50% Silk, 25% Cotton, 25% Rayon

Please forgive my camera, it thinks this is far more toward red than it is in person. Actual color is closer to the color of a clementine's peel, perhaps a hint darker.

The fabric has a comforting weight and smells pleasant due to the natural fragrance of silk. The yarns are neither soft nor scratchy nor slick. The feel is more..."rustic". It was woven with the idea of a solid but not overly insulating spring scarf, but may also be at home as a table runner.

The yarns are slightly different in grist as well as texture, making the orange squares stand out a bit. It turned out very well. It was a delight to weave, both for the textural and color interest, and also for that lovely smell of silk.

The yarns used were Svale Dale of Norway/Dalegarn (white) and Shibu Ella Rae (orange). I have knitted with the Dale of Norway, and it is of very 'splitty' cabled construction with very little give. It has poor twist and is rather stringy, in fact. Weaving with it is fine, but due to the structure, or lack thereof, the fringe had to be twisted to prevent unraveling.

By contrast, Ella Rae has nice construction, with a puffy rustic feel, and a lovely natural fragrance as it is 90% silk. I suspect it would be nice to knit with, though I have not tried. Loose ends unravel only slightly after washing.

I very much liked weaving the 2x2 structure with the differently textured yarns, and would highly recommend trying it to all my weaving friends. It makes for a very interesting fabric.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finished: Silken Tulips

Although this has been off the loom for a while, I often procrastinate finishing details like washing/blocking and neatening fringe. This particular scarf, first posted about here, came off the loom November 6th. Somewhere along the way, I washed it, but only applied finishing details (trimming and twisting the fringe) this weekend. Now that it is completed, I'm able to realize how much I like it. In the beginning, I was on the fence, because the white wool/silk warp wasn't really what I had in mind. I wanted something darker, more mysterious. What I got was very Spring-like. But it works very well.

The fabric is light, despite the long length, with lovely drape and a soft, pleasing hand. The plump twisted fringe is delightful. But what really makes it is that wonderful painted warp look. I even love the way the fringe is differently colored.

Overall, the fabric is approximately 58% Merino, 30% Tencel, 12% Silk, and it might show out better if I were to press it, but I really hate pressing things for one, and for another, if it doesn’t sell at my show this week I think I might just keep it. So… no sense in tarting it up more than necessary. :P

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What to do with your swatches

We all know we're supposed to knit a swatch (and wash it) before starting a project, especially big ones. Whether we do or do not actually follow this protocol is another matter. Shown here is a swatch of alpaca in the lace style before and after washing. It was not stretched or blocked, just washed and laid out flat to dry. This was my test for the Memories of Ukraine tunic sweater found in The Natural Knitter (good book, by the way, excellent photography). Notice the difference in the fabric. I'll admit, I don't always swatch when working with a bounce-tastic wool, but with alpaca it is a must.

But once you're done with a project and you no longer need the reference or extra yarn, what do you do with that swatch? More solid swatches are often used as coasters in our house. You could also turn them into squishy blocks for toddlers, or felt them and sew a bunch together for a bag or trivet, or sew up a single felted swatch with some stuffing and catnip for your felines.

Or you could just make a sweet pink-cape-of-doom for your freezer bat.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joyce Jr

This baby blanket was finished and gifted this week, after what felt like forever knitting it. In reality, I finished it in about a month. But I was eager to be done with it because although the finished product looks awesome, it wasn't exceptionally entertaining to knit being garter stitch and simple black and white color. It also turned out rather enormous, and had I actually been paying attention I would have skipped the last two bands of color. But I just followed the pattern blindly.

The pattern is OpArt, published in Knitty, modifying only the increase method to knitting up from the bar between stitches. We chose to do the black and white version because the recipient is not interested in pink. Also black and white have the advantage of being the first colors babies can differentiate, meaning this blanket may offer hours of entertainment for the little one.

As it is knit in acrylic for easy care and hard wearing durability, I chose not to attempt blocking it into a square. Acrylic doesn't take well to what would be required for that and the house would end up smelling like burnt plastic. Besides, I like the curly-Q edges.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sweet Peas and Celestial Alpaca

Due to procrastination, the following two shawls have been completed and off the needles for some time, but I only just this weekend washed, blocked, and photographed them.

The first is a Citron, modified for length to accommodate not-quite-enough yarn, knit with Knit Picks Gossamer, which is lace weight merino that has been discontinued. Its a nice, squishy yarn, and this particular pattern is just the sort of thing that's great for a high-contrast multicolor yarn. Too much structural detail can get lost in the activity of the colors, but this pattern seems to work it. I've shown here the yarn for comparison and a clip of the finished shawlette. Size of the finished object is smallish, but enough to use as a colorful scarf.

Also blocked today was my take on the Celestial Trio pattern, using a boutique DK Alpaca yarn I purchased several years back at the first MD Sheep and Wool Festival I attended. - Totally worth attending, by the way, biggest festival of its kind I hear, with attendance in the 10's of thousands.

Both patterns are based on pi shawl shaping, and both are well written and easy to knit. The pi shawl style I believe was first introduced to knitting literature by Elizabeth Zimmerman in Knitting Around. This is a highly recommended book, as are all of EZ's books, by many knitters. She is well known for her preference to teach knitters to knit and think on their feet, rather than regurgitate pattern directions (not that there's anything wrong with that, it just limits you a bit). She's also rather entertaining.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weaving Drama

I recently started a new project on my rigid heddle loom. Actually, I warped it several weeks ago, then drama and procrastination ensued.

The photo above gives a serviceable view of the warp colors, which is a hand dyed sock yarn (50% Merino wool, 50% Tencel) from Spinning Bunny. I've had this a while, I'm not sure what the colorway was or if she still makes it, but it is pretty close at least to the description of butterfly bush. Also I tossed in a few stands of some blue leftover from a lace project. Working very carefully, I direct warped the loom across my living room pulling and tugging mercilessly on the yarn to keep the color changes relatively even to form a 'painted warp' look.

This photo was thrown in because of a recent discussion about using folded paper, paper towels or toilet paper instead of waste yarn to even out the warp and get the project started. Paper products are easier to get out later than scrap yarn, and they don't tend to leave presents behind (waste yarn likes to leave things like bright red acrylic fuzz). Paper products => better house-trained.

Anyway, back to the drama. The loom was warped through a 10-dent heddle and I began weaving with a dark blue Merino/Nylon yarn from Knit Picks. I wanted it to be dark and mysterious looking with glossy color changes. Instead I discovered the warp was spaced too far apart and it was totally dominated by the weft. I backed up the weaving and removed all the dark blue weft, then untied the warp and switched the heddle to 12-dent and retied the warp. Then I was grouchy, so there it sat for several weeks.

In the mean time, though I got several small shawls knit. Details on those after I actually wash and block them.

Finally today I came back to it and decided I spent all that time warping, I had to do something. Plus, its backing up my progress with my weaving plans, and sadly, being disillusioned with a particular project doesn't justify buying a new loom.

So, I dug out a skein of fingerling weight Merino/Silk (70%/20%, Knit Picks) and got moving. I had time to get about a foot woven, and I think it will work out ok. It does of course lighten the overall impression of the colors, but it will be a nice Spring shade scarf when its done, and I'm sure to find someone who will love it.

Interestingly, I realized while taking pictures that the colors of this are quite close to an orchid in my collection that recently bloomed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Overheard at the festival...

Someone commented to me that they considered knitting from their stash as "free knitting". After thinking a moment, I realized I pretty much think of it that way too. Just consider that sense of unique accomplishment you get when you knit with a yarn you purchased over a year ago. You consider yourself frugal, efficient, etc. You didn't buy anything for this project! You "used up" something you already had. The fact that this means you bought the yarn purely for the sake of buying yarn never enters into the equation. Nope. That fact just doesn't exist.

And that is what a multifaceted hobby is all about.

Aren't you glad I explained that to you?
You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bound Weaving at the Fall Fiber Festival

This past Saturday, Sister II and I enjoyed the lovely weather by visiting the Fall Fiber Festival & Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials in Montpelier Station, VA. As usual at any fiber festival, there was lots of lovely things to pet and drool over.

This year, we met the wonderful ladies from Fox Mountain Weaving Studio of Free Union, VA, who had on display some interesting items created in the bound weaving technique. As a shiny new weaver myself, I was very intrigued. They were quite happy to chat with me about technique, looms, and reference books, and were very lively and informative. I'm filled with new ideas and schemes now.

The following are photos of their weaving, though the last image is not of the bound weaving technique.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rabbit care: Recycling assistant

More photos of Rosalind, who has the biggest character of the bunnies in our house. Occasionally I give her a used box to "play with" (i.e. destroy). Those of you with cats and children already know boxes are awesome. Apparently bunnies know this too. Roz will dig at it, chew on it, move it, flip it over, and hide in it. Just before I took this photo she was completely in it, with only her periscope like ears peeking out. But also like cats, bunnies know when you're going for the camera.

This isn't just a funny post, though. Activity and entertainment is important for the health and happiness of bunnies, just as it is for any pet. Boxes are cheap or free and can provide hours of fun until they're destroyed, at which time the remnants can be swept into the compost pile or sent to the recycling bin. I generally remove all tape and labels, then fold one end of the box in the overlapping style and drop it in the cage. And of course, don't use any box that may have contained hazardous materials.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Available Babydoll Southdown fleeces

For sale, several Babydoll Southdown fleeces in the grease, in natural shades of pale gray to charcoal with sunkissed, oatmeal-colored tips. This is still rather a rare breed, though I believe as of this year they have been removed from the rare breed 'endangered/watch' list.

For your spinning or felting pleasure, Babydoll fleece has a excellent spiraling crimp that gives that characteristic bounce to Babydoll wool. This is a fluffy and delightful wool with maximum springiness, any way you spin it it will have more stretch and snap back action than the average fleece.

Like many fine wools, this fleece is on the short side, averaging 2-3 inch staple length. But be not afraid! Due to the excellent spiraling curl, it holds together just enough to be easy to control. Another spinner who bought one of our fleeces commented that it made a lovely, bouncy yarn. This is the type of fleece that will give you “comfort yarn”.

Babydoll facts: Samples of Babydoll fleece were tested and found to be 19 to 22 microns. The Babydoll's fleece also has more barbs per inch then any other wool types, making it an ideal blend with either Angora rabbit or Angora goat. This is a miniature breed of sheep, standing typically 24 inches at the shoulder. They are adorable and typically friendly for sheep, and suitable for smaller acreage. They are making a comeback as pets and for small spinner’s flocks. These fleeces are from Sweetwater Farm in Hampstead, MD. You may also remember photos from shearing day. Please note sheep are not coated and may contain some VM.

Prices below are for fleece only, shipping from 21788, USA via USPS will also be added. To request a fleece, I can be contacted through Ravelry (username SapphireChild) or by leaving a comment on this post with email address attached (comments to this post will be delivered to my inbox but not published, so your email address will not be shown online).

Star, fleece weight 3lbs, 7oz, $40
Great color and texture, has a bit more VM than most, much of which should shake out or fall out during processing, but price is reduced to compensate anyway. NOW LISTED ON ETSY

Bacardi, fleece weight 4lbs, 1oz, $58
Staples have consistent color and quality. Slightly more open crimp than typical, but always an enjoyable fleece. ***SOLD***

Sadie, fleece weight 3lbs, 6oz, $48
Wonderful colors from oatmeal cookie to milk chocolate to granite, fantastic texture, delightful. ***SOLD***

Sophie, fleece weight 3lbs, $35
Color: palest vapor gray with short staple to medium-dark gray with longer staple. Price reflects variable staple length. ***SOLD***

Lizzie, fleece weight 2lbs, 2oz, $25
Very short (~1"), very dense and crimpy. NOW LISTED ON ETSY

Monday, August 23, 2010

Neverending Shearing Cycles and Snappy Mitts

This is the fleece on our young doe Empire's Rosalind, litter-mate to Walter, who is called Sherman by his new owners, I believe. Both born on New Year's Eve 2009. You may also remember Ros' evil conference with Chutlulu. :)

The fiber on these babies has turned out wonderful. At clipping time, she had 4 inches of densely packed, lusciously soft bright white wool. (Ignoring the bits of hay she manages to get in there...)

Its impossible to get a good photo of her, seems she's always moving. Below you see her after part one of a three part haircut. Pretty funny looking, yes?

I find it is easier to trim in stages because it is a time consuming process. They get restless. So any shearing is done in 2-4 stages over a couple days. It might be easier if I were to actually invest in clipper, but I'm still doing this with a pair of ordinary scissors. For those of you who have never done this: The back is easy, the stomach and legs can be a fight. Invite a friend for backup.

And I've also added a photo of my Endpaper Mitts, made while at ASM conference in San Diego and on the flight. Great travel project.

The swatch for the project was also knit in pattern in the round. It was finished off with ribbing on both sides, and my sister now uses it as an extra snappy coffee sweater. No one else at Starbucks has a better dressed latte.

I found that my gauge was off, and rather than bother to try to fix it with a different set of needles, which would likely have required purchasing something smaller than sz1 for ribbing, I proceeded with the needles I had but altered the chart to remove stitches - 48 sts were cast on. A single seam st is used along the thumb, and the color pattern repeat is continuous between.

I used Knit Pick's Palette from my stash for this and it performed very well. The project uses hardly any yarn, however, so if you have partial balls of palette, you can probably make a pair of mitts. Admittedly, I made my mitts a little shorter than the pattern called for, but for reference total finished weight is 28g. So the pattern uses an estimated 15g of main color and 13g of contrasting color. Go forth, young knitters, and bust your stash.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Meet Marcus

Hi Folks,
Meet Marcus. He's a relatively new addition to our family. I can't decide what color he is, but his breeder called him a chocolate marten. Marten is not a phenotype you usually see in angoras, to the best of my knowledge, but Marcus is not of completely angora parentage. Somewhere 4 or more generations back there was an actual silver marten, a non-wool color breed. Marcus has the correct markings on his face, so he could indeed carry the marten genetics. Its just that, combined with the long angora coat which stretches out the color as it grows, its hard to tell for sure.

Regardless, though, he is a very attractive bunny with soft, cottony wool, and excellent house bunny manners.

Monday, May 31, 2010

How To: Reinforced Buttonholes in Knitting

I came across a very nicely done video today by Eunny Jang of Interweave fame. It describes an alternative single row buttonhole method that produces a strong, symmetrical buttonhole for your cardigans. I think many of you will find it useful. Have a peek:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rabbit care: The 4-Leaf Clover diet

Finding 4 leaf clovers is one of the things I have a freakish talent for. This bouquet of 15 was picked in about 5 or 6 minutes just after I put one of the bunnies out in their mini-grazing area. And yes, all of them are 4-leaf, but no, this isn't a sign of nuclear waste in my pasture. These were distributed among the bunnies here on the farm that weren't going to get to graze that day.

Rabbits are grazers. As such, they're designed to eat a lot of foliage. Yes, they also like fruit, grain, & veggies, but the overwhelming majority of their diet in nature would generally consist of grasses and foliage. Just read the label on your rabbit feed - what's the first ingredient? Usually alfalfa or similar.

So when the weather is mild, setup a pen in a nice shaded area with clover and tasty looking grasses and weeds, and turn your bunny out for some grazing time. If you haven't been giving your bunn stuff from the yard already, limit the first time out to 15 min or so (longer if they're investigating rather than grazing). First time out, if your bunn is a house bunn, you might also want to keep them in their cage for 12-24 hrs after, just in case they get a bit of loose stool. This is a normal reaction to a sudden introduction of large amounts of fresh, juicy food when they're used to eating hay, generally a result of the natural intestinal flora not being in quite the optimal balance for this food. You can make successive visits longer and eliminate the cage confinement as their intestinal flora adjust to the change in diet.

Just remember to keep watch over your fuzzy friend for their safety and protect them from the heat. They'll enjoy the change of pace and fresh yummy food, and you'll enjoy watching their joy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cthulhu attends conference with Evil Bunneh

Cthulhu discusses tactics with Evil Red-Eye Bunneh at a recent conference. Evil Red-Eye Bunneh, who is well known for her work in eating Arthur's Knights during the Holy Grail Quest, is currently available for contract work. She specializes in gnawing. Cthulhu, easily recognizable from his squiddy head, is currently on assignment at our San Francisco office.
Full story at 11.

Ok, the bunny is actually not Evil at all. This is Empire's Rosalind, also known as GirliQ, after her first shearing. She is the critter we kept from the New Year's Eve 2009 litter. She has fantastic wool with excellent density, and enough personality for two rabbits. She recently proved to be an escape artist, managing to pop open her door at around 5AM I think. I'm sure she had to have been loose for at least an hour before she ran into the bedroom and spooked the cats, causing me to actually wake up fully. We do frequently let her out to run around the house, but 5AM? Not the best time for that. I'm more careful about fully latching her door now. Fortunately she is litter trained.

The Cthulhu amigurumi was a gift custom crochet for a friend. I used what I consider to be a 'standard amigurumi body shaping', and crochetted-on (crochet-on??) squiddy facial tentacles, angry eyebrows, and horns, adding two-hole button eyes, and wings that are essentially identical to the feet of my angry duckling pattern. His new owner found him very funny, and has since graciously employed him for the purpose of terrorizing glamazons.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Babydoll Shearing Day, 2010

Yesterday was the big shearing day for the Babydoll Southdown flock at Sweetwater Farm. Babydolls are still a rare breed, an old world variant of the modern Southdown stock. They are compact, standing only 24 inches at the shoulder, and come in a range of colors from white to black. The fleece is fine and extremely bouncy due to the tight spiralling crimp, lending an unparalleled stretch and memory to the yarns spun from this fiber. As a breed, they're gaining popularity as pets, spinners flock candidates, 4H projects, and weed control minions in places like wineries looking to minimize chemical applications.

The fleeces are always enjoyable, but this year they seemed exceptionally soft and yummy. It will be a delight to spin these up! this year I plan to try blending the Babydoll wool with some of our own Angora.

Above is a 'before picture'. Below are action shots and 'after' pictures.

Our esteemed shearer getting ready to start sheep #6. I think that was Dani, but its hard to tell from this angle. He starts with trimming hooves, then proceeds to shearing starting carefully around the head and neck, then proceeding to belly, sides and back. Sheep are supported against his legs, putting them in a more workable position while keeping them secure and calm. This a very physical technique, but generally yields very good results safely.

As the shearing progresses the ewe is moved around for better access to other parts. After the fleece is off, I take it aside to the skirting table to remove belly wool and tags, leaving only the best stuff.

Three of the ladies having a graze after their eventful day - Libby (black), Molly (silver), and Daisy (white).

One of the lambs re-discovers mom. The lambs kick up quite a fuss during shearing day, almost as if they're not initially sure which ewe is their mother without her fleece.

I will be working on taking photos and listing fleeces over the next few weeks. Right now we have roving listed. If you're looking for a particular shade of fleece or large quantity, feel free to email me or contact me through Etsy.