Saturday, May 30, 2015

Richter Stockings for the W's

When my almost-sister got married last fall, she gained a husband and two kids (who are absolutely adorable!)  This is the only event (save triplets) that would cause me to need to knit three Richter Family Christmas Stockings all at once!

With a November Wedding, I knew that I couldn't possibly finish three stockings for Christmas 2014, instead I have the mother/grandmother-in-law the charts for the holidays.  I figured that if I started these three stockings in January, that maybe I could finish them all by May.  (I'm assuming I might take some breaks between each stocking.)  I've optimistically scheduled this post for May 30, 2015.  Wish me luck!

We had a Christmas event with the family, and I was able to snap some pics of Laura's stocking.  This was good in case it was colored slightly different from her brother's.  Turns out it is the same, so i can follow the pattern as I originally wrote it.

I knit these stockings out of Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn in Grass (green), Red and White.  I used size 3 (3.25 mm) knitting needles for this project.  For a second I couldn't find my size 3 needles and I almost panicked!  (Turns out they are just shorter than my other needles.  Phew!)  16 g of the grass colored yarn was from an older dye lot, but I don't think it will make a huge difference in these stockings.  Plus, I will need multiple ball for the intarsia anyway.

I decided to knit Sophie's stocking first.  Her brother's lettering had to be shorter since his name has a lot of letters, and since I haven't knit one of these in over a year I wanted to get back in the groove.  I could have started with Jason, but I want his kids to know that they are part of the family, and he won't feel left out if his is saved till last.

Sophie's chart with the un-updated seven.  
I rotated the charts 180 degrees when it was time to knit them, since you start knitting from the top of the chart.  I just like how they look right side up, which is why I decided to share them this way.

I realized when I was almost done with the bottom of the trees that one was slightly off position.  1 stitch off to be exact.  I think that Sophie will forgive me, don't you?

At first I had designed Jason's 4 in the continuous/enclosed numeral.  I then realized that I had pictures of the 4's from Laura's stocking so I could use this to make them match.  *Phew!*  I caught this before I started knitting. I also wasn't thrilled with the way I did the seven on Sophie's stocking, so I added a duplicate stitch to the upper corner and updated Jason's chart.

It is nice to knit one of my own designs again, especially when I notice some errors in the instructions!

I finished knitting Sophie's stocking in 5 days.  At least I finished through the grafting of the toe. I decided to hold of on weaving in my loose ends and stitching up the back, not because I was procrastinating (okay maybe a little) but so I could compare the inside to the next two stockings as I was knitting.  Some of the intarsia is easier if you float the colored yarn to the right spot before you start (like on the Santa), and being able to look at the inside of Sophie's stocking will help me keep track of where I am as I'm knitting her brother's.

I've mentioned this already, but Nathanial's stocking is going to be slightly different than the other three Richter stockings I've finished knitting.  His name has so many letters that I had to change the big block 10 row high letters to thinner, 8 row high letters.  7 Would have been a slightly easier height to chart out, but I wanted to maintain as much as the original character of the stocking as I could.  Don't worry, Nathaniel, I think your name is awesome!

I finished Nathaniel's name while watching the Superbowl.  He is a HUGE Patriots fan, so hopefully this will bring us some luck.  TOUCHDOWN right when I'm typing this sentence.  Wahoo!!

I worked on Nathaniel's stocking over a couple of weeks.  I had some trips and even another knitting project to do around the beginning of February.  I am now 2/3 done with the stockings and know that I will have plenty of yarn to finish up with.  I have even taken care to make sure that I'm working from 3 balls of red and 2 balls of green (I always have plenty of white WOTA in the house) so I will not have to wind out additional balls for the intarsia work.  

Now it is time to start Jason's!  I think I've got the hang of it by now, right?  I may not knit it straight through, but at least I'll get a good start so I'll be done by Christmas 2015.  (Which isn't putting that much pressure on me because it is only February!)  

Before I knew it, the end of March was approaching.  I had completed all of the colorwork of Jason's stocking and just had to do the green foot and toe.  After that, there is only finishing to complete.  I ALSO now know that there is ONE MORE STOCKING I will have to create next year!!  Wahoo!!  

All three stockings are complete, which means that it is time to do a lot of finishing.  I saved ALL of the loose ends for the end plus I have to stitch up the open sides.   A little blocking will go a long way for finishing these stockings.  I didn't bother pinning, I only soaked them in water and stretched them gently into shape.  

In total, these three stockings consumed 25 g white (55 yards) and 96 g each of red and green yarn (211 yards each color).  The trio is perfect to welcome the new additions to the family! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Attempting to Create a Panda PomPom

I was looking through Chiyo915's PomPom All Stars and I saw a cute little panda bear.  What is crazy is that the ears of this panda are longer than the rest of the pompom.  I wanted to try to recreate this myself, which would be a bit of a challenge since there was no diagram.  Let's see if I can make my own type of diagram.  I was successful with the pompom watermelon, after all.  How hard could this be?

I sketched something out, and well, I'll give it a shot.  I wrapped around 9-12 wraps for each color section.


And then it was time to cut open the pompom:

So there is definitely a face here, but I don't think that the density of the fibers is enough to create the image that I wanted to make.  Maybe I should have also started the nose lower on the face.

after some trimming the pompom is complete.  So what do you think?  Do you see a panda bear here?


I attempted to make another panda, lowering the nose and adding more yarn in general.  I'm not sure if I made the pompom denser.  With this low level of detail maybe I should have used the smaller pompommaker that I have, or have used thicker  yarn.  The shapes I tried to make aren't super obvious, but you can sort of manipulate the ears and nose into the shape you want.

In the end, they're pretty cute but I'm not sure if I would see a panda if I weren't the creator.  Let's see what Keith has to say on the matter.

I posted the picture of the pompoms on the ChemKnits Facebook Page to see what my followers felt they could be.  Enough people guessed Panda that I'm feeling much more confident.  Now I will just have to think about what I could possibly use these pompoms for.  I don't want to have them on the top of a hat because in addition to being upside down some of the details might get lost.  How would you use these fun pompoms?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Arm Knit Cowl

Brrrrr!  It has been so cold in Evanston this winter (January) that I wanted to make myself a wonderful chunky cowl.  And I wanted it fast.  Time to make another arm knit cowl in under an hour!

I purchased some really cool chunky yarn when I was in Chile a few years ago.  The yarn is Rueca Reginella and is 100% Chilean wool.  It is a thick and thin yarn that almost looks like it is handspun.  Of course, I have not been able to achieve anything this chunky from my own spinning endeavors!  There is no yardage information, probably because of the variable thickness of the yarn, but I decided to give the arm knit cowl a shot and see how big it ends up.  I can always unravel and make something else, right?

There should be enough for this project, since wrapping the skeins around my neck looked super cute, right?

I approximated a yardage by counting how the wraps of yarn.  Each 4 ft skein has 22 wraps, 88 feet = ~29 yards of yarn.  They weigh 97 and 96 g.  Since the ends are tied together on the skeins, I think that the yardage is actually more consistent than the weight.

Rather than wind these into balls first, I decided to just knit directly from my yarn swift.

I cast on 10 sts and started knitting.  I knit a few rows and realized that while stunning, there was NO WAY this was going to be long enough for a cowl.  10 stitches was WAY over 12" wide, and it didn't stretch lengthwise too much.  I was under 50% done with the yarn, but I decided to stop and start over with 5 sts to get something I could wrap around my neck more than once.

I knit until I ran out of yarn.  Well, Along with taking some funny pictures along the way.  Seriously, there was only like 3 - 1" sections left over.  Now this is a stash busting project!

The whole cowl is maybe 6 feet long, but ti depends on how it stretches.  It EASILY fits around my neck 3 times, but also looks cute at 2x.

I love this cowl because it keeps the integrity of the yarn.  It is so warm and chunky and so easy to toss on as I'm running out the door.  

Have you tried arm knitting yet?  What are you waiting for?!?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spinning "Butterfly Effect"; a 4-ply cabled yarn

Into the Whirled's October 2014 colorway "Butterfly Effect" is Superwash Merino in oranges and blues.  It is making me think of my BIL's wedding, although the colors are a bit more muted.


I decided to pull out my copy of The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs: Techniques for Creating 80 Yarns for this spinning project.  I want to try something new, but what should I try?  It would be fun to spin beads into my project, and I also really like the look of wrapped singles, but I don't have any silk thread (yet... I'll have to order some once we move!)  I think I'm going to go for a simpler "advanced" spin and try a cabled yarn.  This is essentially a 4 ply yarn created from two 2-plies.

This project will start with me spinning in the S direction, counterclockwise, and plying for the first time in the Z direction. This is the opposite of how I normally do this.  I'm working on my smallest whirl (8:1) to get a thin single.  I just ordered smaller whorls but I'm going to have to wait for those to arrive and I want to finish one more yarn before February ends.

Smaller whorls will give the wheel a higher ratio.  On the smallest whorl the wheel came with (8:1), I get 8 twist in the yarn per revolution of the wheel.  This is great for beginners because the twist travels into the yarn slowly, but it can be harder to spin thinner yarns without treadling your feet much faster.  

I could start out by dividing the yarn into 4 equal parts and making singles etc... but instead I'm going to divide the yarn in half and make one bobbins of Z 2-ply yarn.  I'm then going to create a center pull ball and make the cabled yarn from this.

This project involves over-twisting the 2ply yarn.  One recommendation is to ply normally and then run this yarn back through the wheel in the same direction to add more twist.  We'll see how I do the first time around.  My yarns usually have a little more twist in them than I need.

Am I crazy?  This is MERINO!  Merino is hard to spin sometimes!!  Wish me luck.

Bundle 1 is 56 g, bundle 2 is 59 g.

I tried to start spinning a really thin single (thinner than my last one) but the staple length of merino is shorter than the Falkland, and I couldn't get enough twist into it for the yarn to be stable.  I'm therefore doing a slightly thicker single.  It is spinning and drafting SO FAST that I'm afraid I'm no putting enough twist into it... wish me luck.  (How many times am I going to ask for luck in this project?)

I am learning a lot from being part of the Into the Whirled fiber club.  I haven't spun merino for a while, but spinning it immediately after the Falkland I am amazed at how smooth the fibers are.  I tfeels so silky going through my fingers.  Even with too much twist in parts of the singles, they feel smooth and wonderful, not hard or rough.

This yarn isn't exactly balanced.  I think I'm spinning the second spindle much thinner than the first one.  I've also noticed that I have a lot less tension in the breakband to get uptake of the yarn onto the bobbin.  Maybe this is because of the counterclockwise spinning?  I have no idea, I've never spun singles this way before.  Of course, it is possible that the old break band was worn out enough to break,m so when I replaced it there is more friction.

My tiny whorls arrived!  I now have 1:10, 1:14, 1:18 and 1:20 ratios in addition to my 1:5 and 1:8.  Since I want to over ply my singles the first time around, I'm going to ply them with the 1:14 whorl.  his way I should have an easier time getting too much twist.  In the worst I'll have to spin slower where I was spinning as fast as I could on the reverse end.

With the first round of plying the colors matched well at the first, but as the plying went on I got more and more barber-poling.  This doesn't bother me, because since I am going to ply a second time from a center pull ball this should even itself out a ton.  Wahoo!  So far so good, right?  (On an aside, I broke my tailbone a bit ago so that is making the spinning much harder to do.  Oy am I in pain!  I sit forward when I spin so it is somewhat manageable, but I have to take lots of breaks.  Therefore I am giving myself a bit of leeway if I take longer to get through my Into the Whirled backlog.)

A preview of the 4 ply cabled yarn from the overtwisted 2ply
For plying step 1, I wound my 2 ply yarn into a center pull ball.  Then using the 1:8 whorl (to not overtwist the cable) I spun these Z 2plies in the S direction for my 4 ply cable yarn.  While I was at it, I also wound the left over S singles into a center pull ball.  There are a ton of pictures from this spinning project because I thought that each step was lovely.

Z 2-ply yarn
1 ply and 2 ply on bobbins
1 ply and 2 ply in center pull balls.  Each are ready for the next plying step.  
When creating the 4 ply chain, I quickly swapped to my slowest whorl (1:5).  This would allow me to ply slowly and make sure I was happy with my twist ratios.  You can really see that the fiber looks like a chain!  It is less pronounced when you're getting a barber pole of 2 plies, but when you are twisting two barber poles it looks like there is some woven fiber going on.  Pretty fun!

Spinning the 4 ply yarn
A close up of the cabled yarn.  Doesn't it almost look like a chain in some parts?

I think I may have lost some twist while winding into the center pull, but I like how the yarn is coming out, even if it really isn't a perfect cabled yarn.

I really am enjoying spinning with the faster whorls.  I think that it makes my 2 ply much more balanced and I'm really excited to try to spin lace weight and maybe even fingering weight 2 ply yarns.

1 ply - 21 dpi (fingering weight)
2 ply - 12 wpi (DK weight)
4 ply - 8-9 wpi (Worsted/Heavy worsted)

4-ply (left) and 1-ply (right)
2-ply (left) and 4-ply (right)
Two bobbins of 4-ply yarn

Large Skein - 54 wraps * 4 ft/wrap = 216 feet = 72 yards, 90 g; 8 wpi
Small Skein - 33 wraps * 2 ft/wrap = 66 feet = 22 yards, 23 g; 9 wpi

So I ended up with 94 yards total of my 4 ply cable yarn.  This means that I had 386 yards of singles!  This might just be a record for me.  I'm so excited for the improvement that I cannot wait to try out spinning thinner singles.  Yippee!

Did I already mention how I had no breaks while spinning or plying?  This is a miracle!!

  Spinning begun 2/24/15
bobbin 1 finished 2/25/15
bobbin 2 finished 2/27/15
Plying round 1 - 3/3/15
All plying finished 3/5/15