Recent Knitting & Spinning

Not only did I cable while knitting for the first time this past week, I finished an entire 8×8″ test square. Go me! I am so proud of myself. I’ve only owned the cable needles for three years now. The square isn’t blocked yet, so it’s a bit scrunched, but you can see the owl!

I am thinking that this yarn I swatched with isn’t going to work for the blanket squares I’m knitting for my online mums group swap, though. It’s a thick and thin woollen single, which is charming, but it’s a bit wonky on gauge, and the thick and thin is making the cabled pattern look like Jack Sparrow knit it, all weavy and staggery. I finished it anyway, and I will make it into a lovely throw pillow cover I can use on the new chaise, but that’s because it will have personal meaning, being my first longdraw handspun then knit with my first attempt at cables. The colour is even complementary to the linen pillows HRH got for the chaise. I foresaw this eventuality, however, and added a couple of balls of yarn from KnitPicks to Ceri’s order this week. Although I do have some other browny-plum handspun woollen singles on the go on my secondary wheel, vaguely intended for blanket squares. I should finish a bobbin and full that yarn, then swatch it to see if it’s a bit more even. The one I’m testing now was my very first attempt at longdraw, and I know my newer woollen-spun yarn is much more uniform.

In other knitting news, I knit five washcloths in December (eep), two each for our mothers as Christmas gifts, one to include in a swap package. I got very good at them. I forgot to take pictures, though. And I feel so smug about slipping the first stitch in a row, a trick I picked up from knitting blanket squares for new babies being born in my online mums group. It makes edges so neat! I’ve started applying it to pretty much everything knitted with an edge.

It’s kind of been a big knitting year for me, actually. I became comfortable with alternating knitting and purling, and no longer have to look up how to correctly do a purl stitch every time I want to do one. I became comfortable with using DPNs, and am on the last couple of rows of ribbing on Owlet’s legwarmers that I’m using as a dry run for socks. I cabled, of course, and am becoming more proficient in following patterns. And I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of Ceri and my mums group.

I think perhaps I have not mentioned here that my mother has asked me to spin the yarn for a lovely big shawl/stole she wants to knit. The pattern calls for qiviut yarn, and the cost of the yarn required would be something astronomical like eight hundred dollars, so even buying luxury fibres like cashmere and silk and the dye to colour it is cheaper. Plus we get the fun of designing the yarn. We took ages going through all the different permutations of various luxury fibres, talking about the pros and cons and how the hypothetical yarns would behave, before she decided on two different plies of Merino/silk and cashmere/silk in very specific ratios. I ordered the fibres in the fall, and started sampling them last month.

How determined am I to make this yarn perfect? I separated out a half-ounce of each fibre to test. I split that half-ounce into quarters, two quarters of each to be dyed then test spun, and the other two quarters to be spun as-is and then dyed, to see what works best. For each fibre, I planned to try:

1. Spinning worsted from the end, without predrafting
2. Spinning worsted from the end, with predrafting
3. Spinning semi-woollen, long draw (possibly by prepping into mock rolags)
4. Spinning semi-woollen, from fold

So by this plan, I’d have to do that four times, once with each fibre undyed, then once with each fibre after dyeing. And then I’d get to ply all my samples, matching the Merino/silk with the cashmere/silk. (It is possible that I was overthinking things. I just want to make sure we do this the best possible way, because it’s such a huge project with such expensive, luxurious fibres.)

In the end, what happened was I spun the worsted without drafting it (#1) and immediately realized that predrafting it would be pointless, since it was all so smooth that it glided without needing any fluffing or prep whatsoever. And spinning woollen from mock rolags rolled from bits of the top (#3) was pretty much like spinning from the fold, as I could see the folds being pulled as I drew the fibre back, so there was no point to repeating the process. So I never even tried #2 or #4. (Why would #3 and #4 be semi-woollen? Because the fibre preparation is combed top, not jumbly roving. Even putting it up into mock rolags, it can never be classified as fully woollen. Utterly fascinating fact to perhaps 2% of you, I am sure, gentle readers.) And I’m leaning toward dyeing the fibre first, because I preferred spinning it that way (the crimp reasserts itself a bit in the dyeing process and the fibre catches better in the mock rolags), but dyeing the finished yarn may be easier. I’ll test that next.

I showed Mum my sample spools of worsted and semi-woollen singles while she was here for Christmas. She liked the sheen of the worsted singles, but she preferred the lightness of the semi-woollen singles, and correctly intuited that the worsted ones would make a heavier yarn. And since the piece is so big, she wants it to be as light as it can be so that it’s more pleasant to wear. I’m very happy with her choice, because woollen is so much quicker to spin, and I have eight ounces of stuff to spin up. I’ve plied the undyed and dyed worsted singles anyway, to see what happens, and they are super, super fine yarn, like two strands of embroidery floss twisted together. It’s impressive, but not what she needs. She gave me a sample of yarn she used for a scarf to use as a reference for the grist, and yeah, my plied worsted stuff is about half that weight. I anticipate the plied semi-woollen yarns to be much closer to what she wants.

My first dye test of the Jacquard dye in Russet as-is in a standard 1% solution was, as I suspected, too pink, despite how perfect the colour chip looks. I sat down with Mum at the computer and we adjusted the colour on a photo until it matched exactly what she wanted, so now I have a proper reference for dye tests. We’d been using the same photo from a website as reference, but my monitor displayed the colour very differently from hers, so now we’re on the same page. I’m going to start experimenting with adding touches of orange and brown to get closer to the saturated terra cotta colour she wants.

And finally, here’s a photo of the Polwarth I worked on off and on between May and August. I finally finished spinning four ounces of single. It’s resting on the bobbin now, destined to be chain-plied into fingering weight yarn.

3 thoughts on “Recent Knitting & Spinning

  1. Ceri

    Lovely! I had meant to ask you how things were going with the luxury fibre spinning and forgot. I only catch a very small bit of what you’re talking about with the spinning, but I still love reading it.

    Also, I’m glad you’re getting to enjoy knitting more – and we must talk more about this slip-the-first stitch business. I’ve heard of it before but I’m not sure in what context it’s used.

  2. Autumn Post author

    OH OH OH! It’s cool! Instead of knitting the first stitch in a row (or purling), you just slip it onto the righthand needle knitwise (or purlwise, if it should be a purl). It creates a smoother edge, great if you need to seam it, or just a tidy edge on an item with exposed sides like washcloths. Basically, it creates a chain of stitches up the edge, so you don’t get the bumps that actually working that stitch would make along the edge.


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