Making a beeline to nowhere

A confession. I've never believed until now that a small change in needle size could make a noticeable difference to the finished garment size.

One of the reasons I'm so slow at knitting anything is that I try and fit too much into my life. Another is that I make stupid mistakes.

The first thing I did wrong was not knitting a swatch. By the time I'd started knitting the foot, it was obviously way too big.

The pattern says 2.5mm needles, I used 2.75mm because they were the closest I had. I would have said that if anything I have too much tension. 1/4 mm sounds like nothing to me, but the socks (which should have come out at a ladies' size 5) would have fitted a yeti.

Thinking about it, 1/4mm is nothing, but when multiplied by 60 stitches, that makes 15mm, which is something.

I could have started again with the right size needles, but instead just pulled back into the increases and started the foot with fewer stitches. I decided that I could adjust the pattern as I went along for my new number of stitches.

What I have now is the right size, but also a right mess. The pattern's too complicated to 'lose' 8 stitches on every round and I've got into a muddle with that. I also find that I've unwittingly lost two stitches somewhere. This sock is going nowhere.

On a positive note, I've found that knitting with singles is a joy. No noticeable bias. It's a bit less consistent than plied yarn would be, but I'm sure you'll agree it looks fine when knitted. In fact I'm really chuffed with the way the whole thing looks. That thought will keep me going as I buy a set of smaller needles and knit that swatch!

Third one! Tiffany Poinsettia classic drop spindle

This is the third Tiffany design I've tried on a bottom-whorl drop spindle. The poinsettia Tiffany lamp is beautiful, perhaps associated with Christmas, when the 'flower' blooms (not really a flower but leaves that turn bright red).

Photo of clematis and peony in a previous post. I may try them in the shop this weekend to see whether there's any interest. I'll also try to make a video to capture the colours spinning around!

Power scour test - update

Thanks to everyone who's taken an interest in this, particularly to Sophie for prompting me to update. It's good to know that people are interested in this.

It's obviously all dry now, and bagged up. (Using the bags that charities put through your letter box to collect your textiles - they're perfect - just the right size and have vent holes.)

The bags are labeled, but without looking at which was which, I've just stuck my face into each for a good sniff and put my hands in for a good rummage.

I can't really spot any difference. There's still a slight hint of lanolin in both, but that's normal for me - I've only ever washed once before rinsing, and so that's what I've done here.

The next step is to drum card it all and see whether there's any difference there, but (bad timing) my drum carder is out on loan for another couple of weeks.

I think as I've got the time, I'll give it a second wash which might make any differences more obvious.

The wisdom of swatching

Aaargh. I"ve come to the foot on the first sock and it's obviously way too big. Once again I learn why it's important to knit a swatch and check the guage!

I toyed briefly with the idea of carrying on and seeing whether I could lose some in the blocking, but I don't think that'll happen. I've got to start again on smaller needles / fewer stitches.

At least I know that knitting with handspun singles (see previous posts) is a joy - as you can see it looks good. Inconsistencies are a bit more obvious, but it looks pretty neat and there's no hint of a problem from biasing.

Another Tiffany decorated spindle

Jewellery firm Tiffany and Co are often thought to be responsible for Tiffany lamps. This isn't quite true but there is a family connection; Charles Lewis Tiffany co-founded the Broadway store, and his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany is the notable and innovative glassmaker.

One of my favourite Tiffany designs is the peony. It's a very complex flower, ideal for working in stained glass as part of a large lamp, but too detailed for me to add three or four as I did with my Clematis spindle earlier in the week. As I drew out the design, I hit on the idea of using a single flower with its centre in the middle of the spindle. Does the design work?

I'm frustrated by my old camera, but here's the best picture I've been able to take tonight of the first toe of my hungry bees socks, knitted using cammomile-dyed corriedale singles. It's too early to tell whether bias is going to be a problem, but the twist set well and it really doesn't feel 'charged' with twist now. It's not broken yet, despite being a bit thin in places. I'm quite proud of that big cake, wound by hand using a nostepinne.

knitting with single-ply handspun?

This is the whole 100g of corriedale that I dyed with cammomile. I think I've spun it too thick for the socks that I had in mind (it wasn't very easy to spin - being a bit felted is my excuse!!)

It looks so good unplied that I'm going to try knitting it as it is. It's exactly 20wpi in its single form, so perhaps perfect weight.

I've read a little bit about knitting singles before, and by coincidence, I've been reading Amy King's new book 'Spin Control' in which she has a whole chapter on the subject, called 'Spectacular singles'. That's given me enough confidence that I'm not doing anything too radical.

It won't be as strong as plied yarn, but the Hungry Bees socks that I have in mind won't be everyday heavy-duty socks. It might have a bias, but I've set the twist on the first skein and it doesn't seem too charged with twist now. If there is a bias, perhaps blocking will sort it out.

If anyone knows about these issues - use the comment link and let me know! I'm all fired up and keen to start knitting it, so I'll pour myself a glass of something nice and start casting on later on!

Decorated drop spindle

One of my other loves is stained glass and particularly Tiffany Lamps. The idea of decorating my spindles and wheels has been floating around in my head for a while, and this week something jogged the right synapses together in my head and I could see some of my favourite Tiffany designs spinning around on spindle whorls or spinning wheels.

Armed with an Ashford Classic spindle, my copy of 'The Lamps of Tiffany' and some patience, and this is the result! (The flowers are from Tiffany's 'Clematis' design.)

I've lots of design ideas, and I'm wondering whether I have the courage to start making permanent marks on the wheel of a new Ashford Traditional....?!

Making sheep soup

I've been in white coat and goggles this evening. OK, not really, but I have been trying my best to test Unicorn Power Scour as fairly as I can against my old standby, washing-up liquid (Ecover in my case). Power Scour claims to wash out dirt and grease more effectively, without yellowing and leaves the fibre with a clean, fresh aroma. OK....

I weighed two lots of 200g of nice greasy raw fleece as accurately as I could (one of Power Scour's claims is about yield on the grounds of reduced tangles). Each batch is to be washed in exactly the same way, the way that I normally do it:

  1. Gently lower the fleece into the hot soapy water. I've followed Power Scour's instructions to the letter, that is 5% of the weight of the fleece. That's 10g of product, which sounded a lot, but is really just a couple of squirts. (I weighed this carefully too, and used exactly the same amount of dish-washing liquid.) Leave to soak for 20mins.
  2. Carefully drain. lower into the first rinse water, which is the same temperature as the soapy water was when it was drained off.
  3. Repeat the rinse until clear. In the case of the Power Scour this was three times.
  4. Put into a pillow-case and use the washing machine's spin cycle.
  5. Allow to dry naturally.
When both are dry I plan to compare them, run both batches through the drum carder, compare them again, then spin into yarn and compare again.

The only comment I can make so far is that the Power Scour water smelled gorgeous!

The first batch (Power Scour) is done, and the second (washing-up-liquid) is brewing in the soapy water:

calming cammomile and a smooooth wheel

I really need to get a better camera. I've been spinning the corriedale that I dyed using gathered leaves and cammomile a while ago. I can't get any closer and the picture really doesn't show off that lovely colour very well.

The colour is wonderful, a pale lemon. It's proving a bit awkward to spin because I think I've felted it a little bit. With a bit of teasing and 'snapping' to separate the fibres it's working, but I'm having to be a bit heavy-handed with it to persuade those fibres to draft properly.

I'm not 100% sure what to do with it, but I have had it in mind to use this fibre to make the hungry bees socks. The colour will be perfect, but I think I'm probably spinning it a little bit thick. (Has anyone knitted with singles?)

I'm lovin' the wheel! It's a second-hand Traditional that I've bought to re-sell. It's a real joy to use - it's spinning so beautifully compared to my old 'trundler', I might keep it!