Drum carding

I seem to have accumulated quite a few bags of fleece (how does that happen by itself?)

I like doing things by hand the long way - I love knitting by hand (especially outside on a gorgeous day like today) and using a drop spindle. All the same, I had become quite excited by the prospect of using this to deal with all the fleece I have:

In no time (well, a couple of hours) it had turned this pillowcase of jacob cross fleece :

into this:

Did I enjoy it? YEAH! Turn a handle and raw fleece becomes sliver. Well, there's a bit more to it than that. You're supposed to tease out your locks and separate the tips. I like to use a pet comb rather than a flick carder, and found it difficult not to do too much. I had to keep reminding myself that the drum carder was going to do the hard work for me.

You have to take the fibre off the drum, split it lengthways and put each half through again, and then repeat if necessary.

I did find that the more preparation you do, the better the finished result is, and that a bit more work with the comb saves one pass through the drum carder.

Finally you take the fibre off the drum, roll it lengthways and stretch it out to make sliver. Is it cheating to make it this much easier? I don't know, but I guess no more so than using a spinning wheel.

practice makes perfect

The yarn from my wheel is becoming more consistent now, and is taking less time. These two skeins (nearly 100g) took just a few hours. They're to be the main part of the socks I started yesterday.

I'm calling this colour combination 'sunset hug'. I spun 50g of plain black single and 50g of changing colour (a couple of yards of each colour in turn). Then plied the two together. it's all dyed merino, worsted spun.

purls on her toes

In order to keep this pair a little more symmetrical than the last pair, I'm knitting the toes and heels in plain black. The first toe is cast onto my first set of KnitPro Nova needles.

First impressions are that they look stunning - my photography doesn't do them justice. They are heavier than I expected, which gives them a nice positive feel. The Symfonie wooden needles are said to feel comfortable and warm, and I so did wonder whether the metal needles would feel cold. Yes, they are when you first pick them up, but they soon warm to hand temperature and stay warm as you're working. The polished finish really does allow the stitches to slip nicely. I love them.

I also love the beautiful yarn bowls Sculptrix has sent me (one is pictured in an earlier post). She has also turned some wooden nostepinnes, and has tried some ceramic ones; most are partially-glazed terracotta. One, however, features a nude figure. it's vaguely remeniscent of some of her recent work, but the hair and big nose does make me suspicious that it's modelled on me! I'm not sure how serious she is with this one, but what do you think of it? Let me know.

Cold feet?

Like some sales offices, perhaps Ravelry should have some kind of virtual bell that we can ring when we've cast off, so that everyone can give us a virtual cheer. I love casting on, but love casting off even more, especially when I'm as happy with the finished project as I am now with my sunset socks.

They look more 'odd' than I expected, but I don't mind. I love the Ginkgo pattern, I love the feel of the merino on my feet and I love the colours.

What's next? I've already started spinning the wool for the next pair, which will be a birthday present.

I particularly like what's happened when black has come together with black and other colours in the plying, like this part at the top of the second sock. I'm taking this idea and running with it for the next pair.

Drop-spindle drop-in

It was a really nice weekend, catching up with friends and family, making new friends and meeting some Alby Crafts folk that I haven't seen for a very long time (Yes, it is nearly ten years since I closed my shop there).

The craft centre had a special craft weekend complete with other activities such as face-painting, bee talk and falconry demonstration. I had no hesitation in agreeing to go along and spend the afternoon spinning. Rather than take a wheel I decided to hold a 'drop-spindle drop-in' and allow people to have a go. It was a first for me and I enjoyed it; particularly the enthusiasm of some young people. Two young girls showed me what determination and perseverance really look like!

While I was in Norfolk, I got on with some knitting too - the second sunset sock has nearly grown as far as the heel, and I'm very comfortable with this pattern now.

Putting the right foot forward

I'm only half-way through knitting the pair of sunset socks, so what better time to start the next project?

It's not unreasonable to start this next project asap, because it's going to be a special birthday present for a special person. (The birthday isn't far away in terms of my knitting speed.) There's no danger that the sunset socks will be forgotten, because putting that first one on felt so good!

There was an effect I noticed and liked while spinning the sunset socks; when black became flecked with a changing colour. So here's the dyed merino weighed out for the next pair.

I'll spin one bobbin entirely in black, and another in alternating colour. For reasons of rapidly approaching birthday, I'm returning to the wheel. Having done quite a lot on the drop spindle recently, I'm surprised at how much quicker it all happens on a spinning wheel. In an hour or so I've done the first 20g.

Feets don't fail me now

The first of the sunset socks is finished. And yeah, as soon as I'd finished casting off the last stitch of course I put it straight on. It feels lovely.

I'm really happy with everything, except for the big area of blue near the toe. I love the general flecked effect and the way the colours have mixed together. There are some other smaller areas of solid colour which I do like.

I put the pattern to one side when I got to the heel and used the short-row heel technique I like, but probably made the heel a bit pointy.

I've never found a way to cast off ribbing which is very elastic. This pattern recommends the tubular cast off, which I've not seen before, and works a treat! It's really stretchy, and lets the ribbing do its stretchy grippy job properly. It looks tricky to start with, but once you've done a few stitches and get familiar with it, it's very quick. One word of warning - when you cut the yarn to thread your darning needle, you'll need more of a tail than you think! I only just had enough.

Here's a confession - I've never blocked anything before - perhaps it's impatience, but I usually just put things straight on. Because of the lace pattern I'm going to do it properly. Below you can see my new sock blockers home-made from wire coathangers.

Something's afoot

Not being the fastest knitter in the world, I was apprehensive about the small needles and fine yarn, but progress so far has been remarkably quick.

I'm really enjoying knitting the pattern but I'm learning to concentrate harder; a couple of lapses meant suddenly finding too many stitches on a needle and some choice language. I think my eye has a habit of skipping to the wrong row on the pattern, so I'm developing my own system of pencil marks to help me keep on track. This pattern / colours seems to be very forgiving of the odd wrong stitch or two. It's all very useful experience for swallowtail shawl, which I will pull right out and start again.

I was bothered by the concentration of blue just after the start, but when you leave something to random chance, I guess you have to accept some pooling of colour.

Sunset socks cast-on

As I was spinning the singles I was trying to imagine the finished yarn if navajo plied and if two-plied. Would two-plying mix the colours up too much?

Having decided to try a sample of both methods, I immedately loved the effect I got from two-plying and just carried on. (It's a really dull day today, and so even with flash the colours don't look as vibrant in these snaps as they do in real life.)

The plied yarn contains every permutation of these colours; blue with red, red with orange, orange with yellow, and so on. Sometimes contrasting colours lie together, sometimes complimentary and occasionally a colour matches up with itself giving a yard or two of strong blue, orange or black. It was really exciting, and I saw colour combinations that I wanted to develop in another project.

Spinning the yarn has taken many, many hours. More hours than it would have taken me on the wheel, but I enjoy using the drop spindle, particularly my Turkish spindle, and so used it for the singles and the plying.

I would usually make a skein and set the twist at this point, but it was well-balanced and I wasn't convinced it was absolutely necessary.

So I started knitting my Toe-Up Ginko Socks. I managed to allay my impatience long enough to bother to knit the swatch. Despite not being able to find a pair of 2.75mm dpns as called for in the pattern and using the smallest set I have (3.25mm), the swatch came out spot-on, which is a very rare occurrence. I'm taking that as a good omen! I'm using needles that were my grandmother's and so I hope she knows what I'm up to and is pleased.

I had found with Lolita Legs that the magic figure-of-8 cast-on worked so well that I'm using it here, rather than the short-row toe described in the pattern.