sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Monday, August 31, 2009

spinning mohair from attenuated locks

I recently swapped with Adrianne for 3 oz of unwashed, very fine first clip kid mohair fleece on the Spin or Dye swap board on Ravelry. I really am not interested in buying a whole mohair fleece, but it was too pretty to pass up and just enough to do a good sample with.

photo © 2009 Adrianne L. Shtop -- washed kid mohair fleece

I decided I wanted it to be VERY halo-y, and also not retain any of the curlylocks look once spun... so spun it from the lock. Instead of spinning over the fold, I attenuated the entire lock prior to spinning.

I started with an intact lock-- I scoured this partial fleece myself and maintained lock formation by washing in tuille.


Starting at the middle of the lock, I gently opened it up by teasing it open and separating the individual fibers apart but just enough, not to make the lock fall apart.


Aside from the other reasons for spinning the mohair this way, the other plus to attenuating the whole lock prior to spinning was that I was able to detect and shake out the small amounts of dandruff hidden in the fibers. It's a small amount, and not a dealbreaker for mohair, but still not something I wanted in the final yarn.

(look closely around the shorn end)

After loosening the entire lock up, I went back and separated the fibers even more. Starting from one end...


...and working to the other.


The small lock creates quite a long length of fiber. I made several of these long attenuated lengths, lined them up and started spinning.


My idea in spinning the kid mohair was to have as many ends (tip, shorn) sticking out from the single as possible. Initially I was going to do this by spinning from the fold, so that the middlemost section of the individual fibers would be the ones caught up in the twist and allowing the opposite ends to stick out... but I tend to grasp folded locks a bit tightly when spinning and wanted them to be as lofty and not-smoothed-down as possible (plus there was the scurf thing... ew ;))

So I took the lengths of attenuated locks, as if they were a commercially prepared long length of top/roving I was spinning from the tip of and feeding directly into the orifice-- but it was the middlemost part of the locks getting the bulk of twist and not the aligned ones of a top. This way both tip and butt end of the locks were free to be free... and I was able to loosen up quite a bit in my grip compared to my spinning from the fold (letting those ends halo even more).


You can get a sense of the amount of halo the single produced this way... I placed a white card on the mother of all to show you.

(still can spot a bit of scurf that shook out in plying)

As much as I wanted a halo-y yarn, I didn't want a 100% mohair one. So I dug out this precious bit of tussah silk, handpainted by String Theory Fiber Art, and spun two bobbins' worth of silk singles to ply the mohair with.

"kalapana," 2 oz tussah silk by

I spun the silk at a high twist (17.5:1) and the mohair at a lower one (9:1) to allow for more halo and a look that the silk was "holding" the mohair together, and plied with an even lower ratio (6:1) so I can knit something with drape and on big needles and not worry about it being too round for lace.

The halo is definitely there...


...and so is the yardage.

750yds, 105 grams 3 ply silk/kid mohair

Very, very soft and warm, and makes me appreciate mohair all the more. Probably not a whole fleece's worth... but maybe I'll change that tune when I knit this up into something simple for me. So many intentions...

Thursday, August 27, 2009


My mom grew up poor, raised by a stepfamily who really couldn't give any shakes for her or my blood uncle. Consequently, she had to procure what I consider necessities for herself starting at a too-young age-- clothing, shoes, books, toiletries. There's a story my sister and I were told from that time... how mom worked and saved an entire summer for a snow white sweater for the coming school year, and how someone else in the household bundled it into the wash, ruining it before it was ever worn.

I can't say I really understand, sis and I were raised wanting nothing til the end. I can understand the resonance of destruction of work though, in a small way... cos mom keeps felting the hats I make her. Now they don't take me a summer and aren't even something I consider work and to be really honest I don't see them as 'same'... but as much as I love her am constantly amazed at how nonchalantly she tells me that she has another hat for my son since she's passed one of my handknits thru the wash and it won't fit her anymore.

I should have started ages ago but it's superwash all the time for mom now. She had a birthday and I promised to replace all the hats she's felted this year (3? 4?), starting with the now-felted Malabrigo Koolhaas.

Koolhaas hat by Jared Flood
Started and finished: two days in August
Elann Superwash Worsted in Espresso, 1.5 skeins
US 7, 16" Addi Natura

At least I really enjoy knitting Koolhaas. I know that it fits lots of heads (it fits my son's in width but not depth, I'm going to make him one with only 3 repeats and it'll be perfect if a little loose), is easy to read when knitting away from the pattern, and is interesting to knit. I don't know if she'll get 4 Koolhaas hats in different colors... maybe :)

She was kind enough to model the wrap I wove for my sister (ages ago!) who shares a birthday month with mom...

Warp: Tactile Fiber Arts Superwash Merino/tencel sock yarn, "orchid"
Weft: Hand Jive Knits Nature's Palette superwash merino sock yarn, "odd duck 5"
woven on my Schacht Flip

The colors look as if they were made for one another, even from different dyers. I sought out machine washable for sis as well-- I wanted her to be able to use this as a nursing wrap if she wanted and know all too well how those can get messy. My Malabrigo Clapotis I used for a nursing coverup had to be washed much more than any other handknit I've made save socks :)

I also dig that both warp and weft are naturally dyed-- I have no idea if it will appeal to sis but it sure does to me.



So does the sheen of the tencel... I usually don't like tencel blends in sock yarns, too shiny and drape-y for my taste. Here as weft though it's really interesting against the more matte merino warp, and gives it a nice fall when worn. The wrap's one of those things you hope gets worn outside in daylight, but we don't have much control over these things once out of our possession... and I'm starting to accept that.

I double-threaded the warp edges...

(lower left corner)

...two strands on the beginning and end. I don't know if it makes it more stable, but at least it can't hurt :)

I also used simple overhand knots on the edging, but only 2 strands instead of my usual four.


I had planned to use one of the MANY beautiful warp edgings from Interweave's Compendium of Finishing Techniques, but decided against it since this was a gift and may have been too much for my non-knitting, non-weaving sister (who actually is always quite appreciative of fiber gifts, but there can be a taste/technique disconnect between fiber and non-fiber people...) I like how small the two-strand knots are, and the contrast between the color of pure warp fringe against the woven fabric.

One surprise was how little weft I used... I used the entire skein of Tactile's sw merino/tencel (412 yards) but only 222 (of 370) yards of Nature's Palette superwash merino.


No matter, the 40 grams will make a sweet cap for baby or maybe a tiny pair of socks for my bigfoot boy.

I also don't know quite what this will spin into, probably something for the holidays for sis since the colors match her wrap so well.

Tactile Fiber Arts Luxury Fiber Club, July 2009
15.5 micron merino, 2 oz
featured dye: logwood purple

I was lucky enough along with Adrienne to win a 3-month subscription to Tactile's fiber club thru PhatFiber (yes, that little box that causes so much fiber furor!) So nice! What to make is the question though-- socal's not really wrap yourself in wool weather. Maybe incorporate the leftover Nature's Palette in as well...

Oy! Am I talking about holiday knitting already?! :)

Til then, at least after weds. Miss you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grafton Fibers Colorways Fiber Batt Club

I've been holding out on you.

I've been saving all of these lovely, amazing, beautiful batts for myself. They were too precious to even share pictures of, meant more than any photographs I could take. I have a down day and literally reach for one to hold and pet, take deep breaths of and into my happy place. The colors and the softness and the potential of each to be something great helps me pick up and go on.

Grafton Fibers, Colorways Fiber Club March 2009

You think I'm joking, to carry on about simple fiber like this. I'm not. I own many dictionaries but will never have the words, even though sometimes like tonite I just feel like trying.

I look at each, at the individual project patterns and notes Linda creates for every shipment, and lose myself in what I could make with them. She gives you a knitting project, a crochet, a felt, a DIY loom one and you believe in yourself, in your potential and what you incite.

"I can do this."

Grafton Fibers, Colorways Fiber Club June 2009

All at once within that last dimension; the initial loving gift, the fiber here and waiting, what it will finally end up as.

I've been holding out all over... I can't bear to spin them. Time's changed me from a simple yarn collector to a fiber one, each a souvenir of more than the gift. More than the anticipation outside the mailbox every month for the physical reminder, more than what was ever intended.

I can't imagine them not living in the perfect square boxes every month. I can't imagine moving forward.

Grafton Fibers, Colorways Fiber Club April 2009

That's not true. I can imagine a lot of things.

I can see an epic afghan, big enough for even a broken bed. I can see twelve yokes of twelve cardigans, bright collars solitarily worn on a black background. I can see sets of hats and mittens, waiting at the inner door for a family to choose from before venturing into the cold. I can see wee baby sweaters and booties, imaginary little ones swimming in and growing into rolled up wool sleeves.

And I can see them sitting forever stacked neatly in the closet, pretending they're holding the white boxes together from the inside. Meltaway-center Atlases, brightly festooned.

Grafton Fibers, Colorways Fiber Club July 2009

Colorful dreams nonetheless... Willy Wonka styles. (Wilder's of course.) Or Kurosawa's, I'm not picky.

Aside from the fact there's always a pattern included with the supersoft, ultrasmooth batts (and putting aside the nonfading limerence they stoke in me for, what surprises me most is that I love each batt every month. I love that they always work. I play enough thought experiments getting lost in each to be able to see how each would spin and work up, even if I can't get past the daydreaming phase.

Doesn't mean I don't have favorites...

Grafton Fibers, Colorways Fiber Club May 2009

Inextricably linked purple, yours and mine. You'll always be my favorite.

Thank you, each month over. And twice for this.

Grafton Fibers, Swan spindle in "Winter Sky"

We should spin sometime.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monterey wool auction 2009

So now that I know you're reading, how to start?

The obvious... yesterday I attended the Monterey Wool Auction with Heather and Ayse. I really shouldn't have gone... I have several (seriously, several) fleeces I've purchased here at home in the past months, and even though I already dedicated a whole month to washing many, I still have more unscoured wool than I can reasonably handle scouring before the year is over. But really, after seeing all of the fleeces being judged and then all lined up in the lovely sun, who can blame me?


I blame myself. I know what I'm doing. :)

It always is a good time though, and I really really enjoy the setting-- so many spinners and fiber artists with their own criteria and sense of the perfect fleece, live bidding, the thrill of the hunt. Bumping into long losts. Even when not bidding I would get caught up in the back and forth, trying to guess where the bidding would end up at. Compared to last year, this year had many more high bids-- my $29/lb win for Henna last year was eclipsed several times over, with a $30 and a $32/lb bid for 2 of Sue Reuser's cormos (and a $28/lb for Kathy Varian's cormo as well). I love the breed-- long and soft... and I do love being able to positively support shepherds raising local sheep that grow excellent fleeces. My bids weren't as extravagant this time, even though I did manage to wrestle the Champion Market (white) Wool fleece I had been obsessing over since my trip with Heather to the judging...


...from "Chloe" the sheep :) I had a BLAST dyeing the white merino locks for my etsy shop and plan on dyeing many more... the the bright white of Chloe is just inspiring to me. She was also significantly less greasy to the touch than many of the other cormos there, so I'm guessing the fleece will be more productive in terms of weight/lanolin loss than others (we'll see if I'm right when I wash her up.)

One last peek at the crimp to come...


I also was the high bidder for her flockmate, "Hollyberry," a true mutt (cormo/corrie dad and corrie/romney x finn/dorset/targhee mom... sounds like me and mine :)) with a 5" staple and a nice bold medium crimp. I'm thinking it will be a good match for Ysolda's new Vine Yoke cardigan? I saw the new twist collective before going to the auction and immediately thought the color was spot on to the sample.


I didn't notice "Hollyberry" at the judging (she did not place highly in her category, solid other than black, 3/8 blood combing 56s-58s)... but her color glowed in the sun as I blushed, pretending to take a second look at fleeces recovering from the surprise. She imprinted on me while we talked, my souvenir of your words and the day.

I always enjoy the "surprise" of banded/multicolored staples once washed and combed... will it be greybrown or browngrey? Purple?


Aside from Chloe, I only had one other YES PLEASE! fleece on my judging notes-- a heavy steel grey corriexrambo from Nancy Burns at Marble Peaks Ranch. She is the shepherd who raised Kali, the true black I purchased last year at the auction and featured in my English combs post. Nancy raises true black to fading grey corriedale and corriedale x rambouillet crosses that have excellent crimp and retain that lock formation I love. This year her black-black fleece won the Champion Natural Colored category, beating out Sue Reuser's cormo. I passed on the grey since it was on Jasmin's bidding list (save me if I came up against her bidding card ;))... and because I've already reserved a grey from Nancy for 2010.

I usually write to the shepherds after buying their fleeces from shows-- they usually appreciate reactions to the day (they don't know how well their fleeces place, what judges had to say about them, etc.) and the more I talk to them, the more I feel like I want to buy from them directly as opposed to at auction. I know Nancy via email and we'd been talking about me buying a 2010 fleece-- so I was able to secure one and didn't feel pressured to bid. (Goodness knows I didn't need to bring another home RIGHT AWAY.) Merry Meadows said the same when I wrote to them, reminding me their fleeces are generally priced at $16/lb (I paid over that for both) and to contact them when I want more. On the flip side, I know that shepherds send their best to auction since they will receive the highest price the market will bear (as well as a coveted ribbon with premium monies), while only paying the entry fee ($2 + 4.5% of sales price) and shipping there... as someone who truly wants to support their industry I want to contribute to getting the best prices for their fleeces so they continue to offer them.

So of course I'll go again, how else will I see you and flirt with such loves?


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

summer fruit


Still stroking my love affair with dyeing superwash merino :) I'll have all 10 for sale in my shop tomorrow at noon pacstandard ($15/4 oz each). As always, if you see an individual one on my flickr stream before then you want me to reserve, just let me know.

Til then! If you can't wait, I've listed 2 separate batches of merino fleece that I scoured AND dyed in lock formation... perfect for starting your fiber prep adventures with :)



Thursday, August 06, 2009

koigu is king (and a shipping sale)

In honor of all those lucky souls cavorting at Sock Summit this weekend, proof I do still knit socks :)

Pomatomus by Cookie A
Koigu Painter's Palette Merino, p338
US 1, 2.25mm dpns
Started: January 2009 (!?)
Finished: July 2009

Even after all this time, my all time favorite pattern (excluding PGR's basic toe up recipe) remains Pomatomus. I think this is my fifth or sixth time knitting it and I still can't get enough. Looks good in color blocks, in variegated, in handspun... and now in koigu.

Seriously, I've been hoarding Koigu for years and I don't know why I don't knit with it more often. Maie Landra (eta:) and Rhichard/Koigu Boy are magicians with color harmonies and non-pooling colors that set any design off. I don't think any design would look bad in this incredible orange, but Pomatomus just sings in it.


I do have a few favorite patterns in Sock Innovation bookmarked with yarn all picked out... but overcoming Pomatomus' tower is going to be tough :)

Koigu does make everything easier though, new to me things...


Looks like a simple stockinette sock, eh?

Basic Shaped Arch Socks by Marlowe Crawford
Koigu Painter's Palette Merino, p7140D
US 2, 9" KA circular
Started and finished July 2009

Marlowe's written a fun, fitted pattern from the top down in her Shaped Arch socks. They also work as advertised; the shaping is not just a design detail but truly hugs the arch of the foot for a nice snug fit when wearing that doesn't bag or shift after a few hours of wear. I do love the lines of it though, and how the instep shift echoes the simple wedge toe decreases.

I also love how yarn movement looks in these, and moreso in the perfect purple koigu...


I forgot how much I like to pick up and twist the stitches of a heel flap, and how I like to imagine a pattern in another yarn even before the current one's finished (can you imagine how a self striping yarn would move on the foot in a fun way in this pattern)? I'm cheating a bit... I've already started another shaped arch pair in some Dyeabolical Yarns handspun merino and they do look super awesome :)

Further awesome and further new...

knitting the heel flap on 9" circular

I used a 9" KA circular needle to knit these instead of my default dpns. I have magic looped, knit on two circs, but always return to my double pointed needles for socks. They just *feel* like you're knitting circularly, celebrating the spiral... not the back and forth, turn and turn back of circular knitting. I do love circs for some sock things, colorwork is nice with only two angles to manipulate floats over instead of three or four, but otherwise I'm a socks on dpns girl.

All that said, these are pretty cool! They take some getting used to-- I made myself stick to using them even though I wanted to quit during the first few inches. The needles are SUPER short, 2", and since I usually use the inside of my palm to manipulate needles (dpns and circs) it meant I had to learn to use my fingertips to knit. These KA needle tips are very light though, and pivot within the cable joins, so learning was not too difficult. I did need to pay attention and not push the working needle down so hard and so often, I ended up with a sore spot on my left pointer finger after several hours of eyesfree knitting at the fleece judging.

That is really the plus tho-- I already can easily knit without looking at my hands, but always have to at least unconsciously glance downwards when switching to a new dpn or circular needle. With these you're continually knitting in that spiral, no need to look down at ALL. I was also able to do all of the knitting (minus the toe) on these-- including knit the heel flap and pick up and twist sts from its edge. I did have to use some stitch markers to mark where the dpns would be, but for me that's not a big deal :)

So much so I decided it's time to restock my knitting stitch marker etsy store as well.

smooth lava rock stone knitting stitch markers by zeromarkers

I've got over sixty sets to list (!!) -- so all orders from my shop of two or more marker sets will ship for free *worldwide* thru the month of August!

A Verb for Keeping Warm also has zero stitch markers (and copies of the Shaped Arch sock pattern) for sale at their Sock Summit booth this weekend (booth #503). Happy sock knitting everyone!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

handspun ishbel

Ishbel from Ysolda Teague
handspun merino/silk, fiber dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm-- "sunny side up"
US 4 Addi, 24"
spun and knit sometime in May, June 2009

I started this blog originally to share photos and knitting projects with a single person, a non-knitter too far from me who indulged my itch to share the minutia of my life and obsession with sock knitting and yarn. For sometimes better and often worse, it has slowly changed to a true fiber journal. Unable to bring myself to write for several months has left me with lots of little and big projects that I feel strange writing about since they're not contemporaneous (the difference a day makes...), but I do want to record them because -- well, sometimes like Ishbel they're beautiful. Sometimes they're painful and sometimes they're just cigars.

My bumbling way of saying a few posts are going to be old-for-me projects over the coming weeks :)

This one started with a beautiful, single 2 oz bump of 50/50 merino-silk in "sunny side up" I picked up from the Workshop... Kristine only had one left, and being one of those transitory "limited edition" colors I had to have it, even if it was a much smaller amount than I'd normally be comfortable buying.


I always think in 4 oz quantities, assuming that I could never get anything out of 2. Surprise surprise...


I was able to get Ishbel out of one! One ounce. The scarf weighs 28 grams, and I'm left with another 28g of handspun for...? Something. There's magic in it, I'm sure. No magic left in me, no mods other than using a US 4 needle as opposed to the pattern's US 6 just because I wanted a denser stst and a smaller scarf.

I know everyone's knit one (I got my idea from hearing Nicole talk about it on Stash and Burn), and it is adorable! The reason I really like it? Wearing Ishbel makes me feel like some sort of knitting cowboy, sporting a handknit bandana.


So of course I popped back into the workshop and bought a few new 2 oz quantities...

Verb merino/silk in "indigo blue day"

Verb yak/silk in "crocodile tears" (?)

I had planned on making a few more triangle shaped scarves with these, but I'm toying with the idea of opening up my notebooks and spinning/pattern writing for Verb's "smitten mitten" pattern contest instead. My son's starting kindergarten in less than a month, and I've been kicking about the idea of starting to publish knitting patterns again in the time he'll be away from me. As always, we'll see :)

Miss you.

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon

I Took The Handmade Pledge!