Hello, Dookie!

Dookie (the alpaca fleece mentioned in my January goals) has been a part of my life for a while now.  Dookie is an alpaca, whose fleece came to live with me when Geodyne moved back to her antipodeal home.  This is about 600g of wonderful, dark, bitter-chocolate coloured raw alpaca blanket; most of it is great quality, and really soft:

dookie_raw

For a long time, Dookie’s fleece lived in a corner of the hallway.  In November, I suddenly realised that I had no spinning project on my wheel, and my last visit to Rampton Spinners (as a regular, anyway) was the next day.  What to spin?!

Dookie to the rescue.  One of the delightful things about alpaca fleece is that it has no lanolin; no grease.  I’m not a fan of spinning in the grease, so alpaca is a win because I don’t have to wash it first.  Definitely a bonus when I need to have a project on the wheel the next day.

I’m using this as an opportunity to practise hand carding.  This fleece is consistently high enough quality that I can just grab a handful, card it into rolags, and spin from there.

dookie_rolags

I’m planning a lovely, soft, squishy three-ply yarn, possibly for use in a cabled sweater.  Though I am aware that a cabled alpaca sweater may yet be a recipe for hyperthermia; all plans are always subject to change.  So far, I have two bobbins full of singles (you can see the natural colour variation clearly in this shot); no plied yarn at all, and there is still a lot of fleece to go:

dookie_singles

Dookie is is also a very mucky alpaca.  They usually are; there might not be any grease, but there is always plenty of dust.  If I spend an evening working with Dookie, I inevitably end up with black bogeys the next day (didn’t you want to know that!!), and spinning makes my fingers (and wheel) dirty indeed:

spinningFingers

Last Friday, I spent the evening carding rolags while watching telly on my laptop.  The next day, I spent some time using the laptop for monthly budget activities – only to find that my fingers suddenly looked like this:

typingfingers

I’m thinking a need a cover for my laptop.

Blocking party

When I moved up to Scarborough, I realised I had a couple of languishing lace projects.  Not waiting to be knit – waiting to be blocked!  Then I knit the 2010 Advent Scarf in December, so I started 2013 with three nearly-finished scarves and shawls.

The oldest was Brandywine, which I mentioned briefly here.  Knit in a much thicker yarn than the pattern called for, I realised I was going to run short for a sensible size shawl, so I started adding short-rows to the garter stitch body.  You can see the effect in the blocking shot:

brandywine_blocking

This is a heavy, snuggly shawl, and has already seen quite a bit of use.  A side-effect of the shape is that it wraps around your neck beautifully, although I do find I need a shawl pin to keep it in place.  Otherwise, its own weight tends to drag it off my shoulders if I lean forwards!

brandywine_worn

Next up, On the Wings of a Dove!

dove_2

This is a self-designed shawl, intended to showcase my own Bunnylace yarn – which I think it does very nicely!  I’d originally intended to write up the pattern, but there are a few design flaws that make it rather not-ideal in this incarnation, so it would need some thinking and a test knit if I was going to release it.  Plus, of course, I’m not currently trading, so it seems silly to release a pattern for a totally custom, unavailable yarn.

dove_1

I haven’t worn it yet; it’s big and a bit too dramatic for the office!  Besides, I’m enjoying it as an ornament in my work room…

Finally, the advent shawl.

advent1

Crikey, I don’t think I’ve even mentioned this on the blog before.  I packaged this up as a ‘new house’ project; I love Advent, and I wanted something that was light on packing, long on involvement, so that whatever happened with the unpacking, I’d have some knitting to do.

advent2

I loved working on this a little every day (well, most days).  The variety of lace patterns gives the scarf a sampler-like feel, and I got to play with some lace stitches that I’ve never used before.  Because several different designers were involved, it was also interesting to see the different ways the designers dealt with some of the recurring issues when designing lace stitches.  I started it on December 1, and finished it on December 31, so I didn’t quite finish it during Advent, but close enough for me!

advent3

The yarn is Sparkleduck’s merino/tencel laceweight, and the pattern is the 2010 Advent scarf.  I picked the pattern after seeing many finished projects that I liked; I have decided I don’t like the risk of a mystery-pattern KAL!

advent4

I actually ran out of blocking wires at this point, so the ends of the scarf are blocked using knitting needles as a substitute.  I think this is the first time in years I’ve used straight needles (other than DPNs).

It’s New Sweater Day!!

I can’t remember when I last had a New Sweater Day (Ravelry says April 2011.  Wow! And before that?  April 2010!!).  Clearly, I haven’t been finishing anything like enough sweaters for myself in recent times.

main

This, I hope, is the start of the end of that trend.    It is also the first large project I’ve taken from fleece to FO. Two fleeces actually: the really short bits from a very soft, very dark alpaca fleece (you can see it before blending here), and the random sheep’s wool that long time readers may remember was left out over an entire winter for a ‘pre-wash soak’.  By the time I rescued it, it was green in places, and smelly, and became known as ‘the pond scum wool’.  A second wash sorted that easily, though it did require picking afterwards.  I prepped this stuff for spinning in the Tour de Fleece 2011, and though I don’t remember how much I spun during the tour, I finished it in October that year.  The yarn singles were spun supported longdraw from drumcarded batts, and plied hard-ish relative to the singles twist.

closeup

I really like the fabric I’ve made: it is light and warm and tweedy, and shows up the cables acceptably well, though obviously not as well as a completely solid coloured yarn would. With the very, very short alpaca fibres in it, it will be interesting to see how well it wears.

The pattern is Drops 114-8, the long sleeved version, though I had to rework it for the gauge I got with my handspun yarn – both stitch and row gauge were off. I also modified the neckline cable to be only the first two rows of diamonds instead of four, as I really wanted a neckline detail rather than a large chest-medallion.

I also lengthened both the body and the sleeves, as I am tall with long arms.

The sleeve caps on this pattern are wide and shallow (check out the blocking photo below to see what I mean), and I thought I’d made a mistake reworking the pattern, but it seems to be just the way they are. Anyway, they work, so fear not!

blocking

I am really very pleased with this sweater, but it’s not perfect. The neckline is a bit higher than I was intending (must have had a math-fail there when re-working the cable), though it still works well, and the sleeves are shorter (optimism and long arms). I feel like it would look better with a bit more positive ease, but then I’ve gained some weight since I cast on for this in September! We will see what I can do about that this year…

Bandananananana

(With a nod to Nanny Ogg, who “knew how to start spelling ‘banana’, but didn’t know how you stopped.” – Terry  Pratchett, Witches Abroad)

I’ve been just a little bit in love with the Bandana Cowl pattern for quite a while – stylish, snuggly, no ends to flap around and get in the way (unlike a scarf).  However, I don’t have too many chunky yarns in the stash, and I’m trying to work my way through what I have.  And anyway, my Wolfram cowl, which is heavy DK/light aran weight, is plenty warm enough for even the cold, snowy weather we’re having at the moment.  Since ‘what I have’ includes a lot – a lot of fingering/sock weight yarns, I decided to re-work the pattern (which is available for free!) for sock yarn.

This yarn is the Rincewind colourway (see, it all ties back to Terry Pratchett!) from the Twisted Disc yarn club.  It’s a similar composition to my own Footsie, which I know reacts very well to finishing the tumble-dryer, coming out softer and fluffier, just right for a cowl.  (Note: I’d not tumble-dry socks or anything fitted made with Footsie, but I’ve experimented with the tumble dryer for finishing fabric woven with it, and the transformation is wonderful). Besides, doesn’t a washable cowl sound like a really good idea?
I love some of the colours in here – though I find the black (actually, I think it’s very dark navy blue) to be a bit jarring along with the softer washes of everything else.

I’m actually nearly finished with the knitting now – only a few more rows and the top border to knit.  I *think* it’s going to take slightly less than 50g of the yarn, which is great news in a way – and a shame in another, as I’m going to have to find something else to do with the remainder.

The garter border is flipping up something *crazy* right now.  I think it’s a combination of the natural transition between garter stitch and stockinette, aided and abetted by the sharp decreases that make the point at the front, and the extra tension from the many, many picked up wraps that make the ends of the short rows, running along the transition.  It will be interesting to see if the top border flips as badly (no short rows at the top!)

If this is a success, I will ask the original designer’s permission to write up the pattern and distribute it (for free, of course, since the original is free). The world has a lot of deep-winter cowls, and I think it could use a few lighter, wash-and-wear ones for those transitional  seasons – or even wearing indoors in the chillier times.

January Goals

Just a quick post – late, but better than never.  This is my goals list for January, starting to look more ‘challenging’ than not…

  • sewing: finish voile skirt?
  • weaving: cotton yardage??
  • spinning: alpaca fleece project
  • spinning: Corriedale on Turkish spindle
  • knitting: finish handspn sweater
  • knitting: Experimental fingering weight bandana-cowl
  • Crochet: 2 afghan squares
  • 1,000 metre stash gone!

Sigma13

I’m a member of the Stash Knit Down group on Ravelry: an amazing group of knitters, crocheters and other kinds of stash-aholics, and there has been much excitement around 2013 since, ooooh, probably the middle of November.  (New Year!!  Clean slate!  Resolutions!  Goals!!!).  The board is *nuts* right now, as everyone piles in with the joy of This Year, I’ll Get It Right.

Anyway, there are oodles of challenges, and any number of goal-setting opportunities.  One of my favourites (partly because it was my idea, but only partly) is the Sigma13 challenge, named for the fact that you are summing from 13 to 1, like the 12 days of Christmas, but woolier.  This is a year-long challenge, and my list is designed to allow overlap between categories:

  •  13 sewing projects
  • 12 lengths of yardage (weaving)
  • 11 spinning projects
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 9 deep-stash items (pre-2012 yarn/fibre)
  • 8 sweaters/cardis
  • 7 things from handspun
  • 6 gifts for others
  • 5 laaa-cy shawls!
  • 4 vests for work
  • 3 challenge techniques
  • 2 cozy blankets
  • 1 10,000 metre stash down!

Any bets on how much of this I’ll manage to get done in the next 12 months??

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