Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FO: My First Handspun Sweater--and a free pattern!

Pattern: My own. See below for your very own copy. It is done in allover 4x2 ribbing, with waist shaping, fitted, set-in sleeves and a stand-up split collar. The ribbing makes it quite stretchy, so it clings to the body lightly. A little steam blocking would give it a looser fit, if that's your preference.

Yarn: My own handspun. About 680 grams (about 850 yards) of heavy worsted weight wool (16 stitches and 22 rows to four inches). I spun it from three undyed shades of BFL, alternating colors while spinning and plying to create heathered stripes.

Size: In stockinette, this would be a 37" finished chest. The actual measurements depend on how much you stretch the ribbing. I left it unblocked for a fitted look. (My actual chest measurement is 34".) This size would probably be comfortable for a 32"-36" chest.

Free Pattern

The pattern is quite simple. I'm making it available here because it is a nice, basic shape that is endlessly versatile, depending on yarn and variations on the theme. Any heavy worsted weight yarn will work fine. Because of the ribbing, the pattern is very forgiving if your sizing is not perfect. (This does not mean you can ignore gauge. Do not mock the knitting goddess.)

A note on sleeve construction:
I knitted the sleeves top-down, starting with the sleeve cap. I did this so that I could make the sleeves exactly the right length. When I was nearly done with the first sleeve, I sewed it into the sweater, sewed the sleeve seam to nearly where I had stopped working, and sewed up the side seam, then tried it on. I then continued knitting the sleeve until it was the right length for me, bound off, and finished sewing up the sleeve seam. I made the second sleeve to match. You can use this method, or follow the generic measurements given in the pattern (which are not the same as my measurements. I am very tall and have very long arms. If you usually add or subtract length, do so! Same goes for the body length).

Work all increases/decreases one stitch in from the edge. Increases on the body are worked as M1 (pick up the bar between two stitches and knit through the back loop to twist the stitch closed). Note that the increases on the sleeve cap are worked by casting on stitches at the end of each row, so that the new stitches are knitted or purled at the beginning of the next row. This is to maintain the ribbing pattern without disruption while the cap is shaped. Decreases are all paired at opposite ends of the same row as ssk/k2tog.

Sizes: 37" (42.5", 49") finished chest to fit up to 36" (42", 48") chest measurement.

Yarn: About 850 (1100, 1250) yards of any heavy worsted weight yarn.

Gauge: 16 stitches and 22 rows to 4 inches on size 9 needles, or size needed to get gauge. (The body and sleeves can be worked on straight or circular needles. The collar requires a circular needle.)

CO 74 (86, 98) stitches.
Set up row (WS): *k2, p4* repeat across row, ending with k2.
Work as established in ribbing until work measures 4 (4.25, 4.5)", ending with a WS row.

Waist Shaping:
Next row: Decrease 1 st. each end of row this row and every fourth row three more times (66, 78, 90 stitches on needle).
Work one inch even, ending with WS row.
Next row: Increase 1 st. each end of row this row and every fourth row three more times (74, 86, 98 stitches on needle).
Work until piece measures 14 (14.5, 15) inches or desired length, ending with WS row.

Shape Armhole:
BO 4 (4, 5) sts. at the beginning of the next 2 rows (66, 78, 88 sts. on needle).
BO 3 sts. at the beginning of the following 2 rows (60, 72, 82 sts. on needle).
Decrease one stitch each end of the next 3 (4, 5) RS rows (54, 64, 72 sts. on needle).
Work until armholes measure 4 (5, 5.5)".

Shape Neck:
Work across 27 (32, 36) stitches to center of piece and divide for split collar. Work each side separately until armholes measure 7.5 (8.25, 9.5)", ending with WS row.
Next row: Working each side separately, BO 7 (7, 8) sts. at each neck edge (20, 25, 28 sts. remain each side).
BO (0, 3, 3) sts. each neck edge. (20, 22, 25 sts. remain each side).
BO 2 sts. each neck edge twice (once, once) (16, 20, 23 sts. remain each side).
Dec. 1 st. each neck edge twice (three times, three times). (14, 17, 20 sts. remain each side).
Work even until armholes measure 8.5 (9.25, 10.5)". Place shoulder stitches on holders or scrap yarn for three-needle bind-off.

Work as for front, leaving out neck shaping and working until armholes measure 8.5 (9.25, 10.5)".
Using three-needle bind-off, join at shoulders to front (14, 17, 20 sts. for each shoulder). Place remaining (26, 30, 32) stitches on holder or scrap yarn for collar.

(Remember, these instruction are for working sleeves top-down.)
CO 14 (16, 18) sts.

Size 37 only
Set-up row (WS): k2, p4, k2, p4, k2, cast on 4 sts. (18 sts. on needle).
Next row: Work in 4x2 ribbing to end of row, being sure to work new stitches in pattern. CO 4 sts. at end of row (22 sts. on needle).
Next row: Work in pattern to end of row. CO 1 st. at end of row.
Continue to work in pattern. CO 1 st. at the end of each row 27 more times, keeping new stitches in pattern (50 sts. on needle).
CO 3 sts. end of next two rows (56 sts. on needle).
CO 4 sts. end of next two rows (64 sts. on needle).

Work 10 rows even, ending with a WS row.

Next row (RS): Dec. 1 st. each end of this and every following sixth row until 38 sts. remain on needle. Work to desired length, or about 18" from underarm. BO all sts. loosely.

Size 42.5 only:
Set-up Row (WS): p1, k2, p4, k2, p4, k2, p1, cast on 4 sts. (20 sts. on needle).
Next row (RS): Work in 4x2 ribbing to end of row, being sure to work new stitches in pattern. CO 4 sts. at end of row (24 sts. on needle).
Continue working in pattern and CO 2 sts. at end of next four rows (32 sts. on needle).
Continue to work in pattern and CO 1 st. at end of each row 16 times (48 sts. on needle).
Work three rows even.
Continue to work in pattern and CO 1 st. at end of next 10 rows (58 sts. on needle).
CO 3 sts. at end of next 4 rows (70 sts. on needle).

Work 10 rows even, ending with a WS row.

Next row (RS): Decrease one stitch each end of this and every fourth RS row 9 times. Then decrease one stitch each end of every sixth RS row 7 times. (40 sts. remain on needle.)
Work to desired length, or about 18.5" from underarm. BO all sts. loosely.

Size 49 only:
CO 18 sts.
Set-up Row (WS): p2, k2, p4, k2, p4, k2, p2, CO 4 sts.
Next row (RS): Work in 4x2 ribbing to end of row, being sure to work new stitches in pattern. CO 4 sts. at end of row (26 sts. on needle).
Continue working in pattern, and CO 3 sts. at end of next 4 rows (38 sts. on needle).
Continue working in pattern and CO 1 st. at end of next 8 rows (46 sts. on needle).
*Work two rows even. CO 1 st. at end of next two rows.* Repeat these four rows twice more (52 sts. on needle).
Continue working in pattern and CO 1 st. at end of next 10 rows (62 sts. on needle).

CO 3 sts. at end of next two rows (68 sts. on needle).
CO 5 sts. at end of next two rows (78 sts. on needle).

Work 10 rows even, ending with a WS row.

Next row (RS): Decrease one stitch each end of this and every fourth RS row 10 times. Then decrease one stitch each end of every sixth RS row 7 times. (44 sts. remain on needle.)
Work to desired length, or about 19" from underarm. BO all sts. loosely.

Finishing: If you have not already done so, sew sleeves into body. Sew side seams.
Collar: With RS facing and using circular needle, pick up and knit 16 (19, 21) sts. along right side of front neck. Work across 26 (30, 32) center sts. Pick up and knit 16 (19, 21) sts. along left side of front. (58, 68, 74 sts. on needle).
Next row (WS): Work in 4x2 ribbing to match up with live stitches on back neck.
Work as established until collar measures about 3", or desired length. BO all sts. loosely.

If I've written the pattern correctly, you should have a finished sweater. Weave in the ends and block, if desired. If you do happen to use this pattern, I'd love to see the finished product. If you run into any errors, please let me know and I'll correct them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

50 Years Young

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just a Quick Note...

...to let you know we are okay. Thank you all for your thoughts and concern. It has been a very difficult week for us and for the rest of our city. Our evacuation order has been lifted and the neighborhood has returned home. We are now busy trying to clean up monstrous amounts of very fine, sticky ash that coats everything like so much filthy, black baby powder. I don't mind at all, since the fact that I am cleaning my house, yard, driveway, and car means that I still have a house, yard, driveway, and car to clean, unlike many people in San Diego. But man, I am tired.

Knitting content will resume shortly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Local News Release:


1:43 p.m. - Some Rancho Penasquitos residents can return home. You can return home if you live in the following areas: North of SR-56, south of Rancho Bernardo Road, west of Interstate 15 and east Rancho Santa Fe Farms, according to Monica Munoz with the SDPD.

We seem to be out of danger. Thank God.

Knitting While Rome Burns

One thing about being trapped in the house for days on end, watching fires burning all around on the news and waiting to evacuate--you have lots of time on your hands and lots of nervous energy to use up.

You'll have to excuse the quality of these pictures. With the smoke in the air, outside pictures are impossible.


This is Cobblestone (sort of), by Jared of Brooklyn Tweed, from the Fall 2007 Interweave Knits. I couldn't actually use his pattern, since it is only sized for men and this is for my skinny ten-year old, and since I used dk weight yarn instead of worsted weight. I did follow his basic design, though.

My son loves this sweater. He thinks it looks like chain mail. I'm am very "eh" about it. For one thing, I really don't like one of the design features I did include from the original pattern, short rows at the bottom of the yoke. I've never done a yoke style sweater before and thought there must be some reason for them, so I put them in. I suspect the reason may be to accommodate men's wider shoulders. But since my ten-year-old is built like a stick figure, the result is more of a puffy-sleeved look. If I had it to do over, I would definitely leave out those short rows. The other thing I don't care for is the way the increase rows are done. On a raglan style sweater, the increases are all done along the raglan, which creates a single, angled line of decreases. In this style, the decrease rounds happen every few inches, as an entire round of k1, k2tog, which creates noticeable lumps in those rounds (see the above picture). This is exacerbated by the smooth, cotton yarn I used, and I really don't like it. My son does, though, and that's what counts.


This is the progress on My First Handspun Sweater. (This is what I've been working on while watching the fires for the past two days. You see what I mean about nervous energy.) I spun this yarn from three different shades of undyed BFL, which I spun and plied alternately to create what I hoped would be randomly sized heathered stripes. I think it worked pretty well. I am especially proud of how well-matched the colors are on the front and back--no thanks to my spinning, but rather to careful cutting and color changing on the back to match the front. I could not exorcise my compulsive demons long enough to let the colors happen naturally. Any guesses as to how many ends I'm going to have to weave in on the back?

Third, and finally:

This is my current new love: 680 yards of alpaca/silk in about a fingering to sport weight, which I spun myself! I was going for lace weight, but apparently my spinning skills were not up to the task. The plan is to make a shawl for myself to wear to my friend's wedding--the wedding of Icarus notoriety. I am a bridesmaid, and a little embarrassed about it. Don't get me wrong: I am absolutely honored to stand up for my friend at this very important moment in her life. But at 38, with two kids of my own, I feel a little silly carrying flowers and trying to look virginal. Maybe they could rename the office. I don't think I would feel nearly as silly if they called us "the honorguard" or "support staff" or "moral support" or something. I probably need a bit more yarn than this for a shawl, but I still have plenty of fiber left, so that won't be a problem. At the moment, though, my spinning wheel is packed in the car, along with the "good" yarn from the stash and all of our other essential and prized possessions. Yes, people, I am evacuating my yarn. I'm sure none of you have a problem with that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Worse Still

Thank you all for your good wishes and concern. My family and I are fine. Although we have been under a mandatory evacuation order since Monday morning, our neighborhood is not currently threatened, and we are all sitting tight for the time being. Many of our friends and family have not been so lucky and are waiting in evacuation centers for news about their homes.

I don't know whether you can tell, but the evacuation area that I showed you yesterday was that little section west of Highway 15, north of Highway 56, and south of that yellow section on the left. As you can see, it is much larger today, covering several hundred square miles. (I live just south of the burn area, just west of Highway 15, and north of Highway 56, just to the left of "Poway" on the map. The fire is probably three miles north of us.) And this is only one of at least five fires burning in San Diego.

This is another one. As you can probably tell, it also covers hundreds of square miles. There are three or four other major fires burning in the county as well.

In fact, at least 500,000 people have now been evacuated. More than 1000 homes and hundreds of commercial buildings have been lost in San Diego, and more are going up in smoke all the time. Every hotel room in San Diego county is full, and evacuees are now being evicted from hotel rooms to make way for thousands of people who are supposed to be arriving today and tomorrow for a medical convention in San Diego. (If you are one of them, please stay home. You don't want to be here right now.) While there are many official evacuation sites, several of these have been evacuated, and at least one is currently threatened by a raging fire and cannot be evacuated. That center has been covered in flame retardant and the evacuees will weather the fire there. Spontaneous evacuation sites have sprung up at Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers) and at Mission Bay, with thousands of people taking refuge at those sites with horses, dogs, and assorted other animals. The Del Mar Fairgrounds have been opened to the public and their horses.

The evacuation has been remarkably smooth and orderly, especially considering that San Diego has no experience in mass evacuations. People who have not been displaced have turned out in droves to volunteer at evacuation centers and to drop off water, food, clothing, tents, blankets, and supplies for the evacuees. There has not been a single report of public disorder or criminal activity at any of the evacuation sites, official or unofficial. And in all this chaos, only two people have lost their lives so far.

We are grateful that there have been so few injuries and so little loss of life, although our thoughts are with those injured and with their families. Please continue to send your good thoughts and prayers for our city.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not Good

See all the little flames? That's where I live. And see this?

I live in that red area. The evacuation area. That is to say, I live there with my husband, two kids, two large dogs, a tortoise, a snake, and a gecko. We are all packed and ready to go, but since none of the fires seem to be very near us, the evacuation centers keep evacuating, and there is still an open route out of here, we are sitting tight for the time being.

This is what we call "fire season" in Southern California. Every year in October, we start getting antsy about fire. Summers here are dry. No rain at all. And in the past couple of years, we've had only 3 inches of rain the entire year, which is even less than our usual 9 inches per year. After the long, dry summer, all the vegetation is as dry as tinder. And then in October, the Santa Ana winds kick in. These are high, hot, dry winds blowing off the desert from east to west, the opposite of our usual on-shore flow. The high winds tend to blow down power lines, which spark fires, which are whipped into an inferno and spread quickly by the hot, dry winds.

Four years ago, we had huge fire storms, this same week in October. The whole city was choked under a blanket of dark smoke, the schools were closed, and we were all trapped inside for a week. Whole neighborhoods burned down, and the mountains outside San Diego were just devastated. My best friend, who is a fire chief in the mountains, lost her home, and nearly her life, fighting the fires. Many homes still have not been rebuilt.

This time around is reportedly even worse. There are more fires. The winds are higher. The vegetation is drier. And none of the air tankers can take off because of the winds. There is no containment of any of the fires, and several neighborhoods near us are burning. When we went to bed last night, the largest of the fires was more than thirty miles away. Now it is less than five, and moving quickly. Over 100,000 acres have burned and 250,000 have been evacuated.

If anyone has a direct line to the powers that be, could you put in a good word for San Diego, please?

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Missing: one camera. Old digital. Takes mediocre photos and has no interesting or useful features. No reward offered, but if you find it, I will take it off your hands before it frustrates you into buying a new one.

I intended to show you pictures of my latest FO, but alas, the black hole is now fighting dirty. It seems to have swallowed my crummy old digital camera, which I have been using since my newer digital camera died in Jamaica in July. Perhaps in recompense, it has disgorged the missing music book--days after I replaced it with a new one, which cannot be returned. It showed up in the back of the closet, where my son insists he never put it, and anyway, he looked for it there and didn't find it. This might be because he didn't have his missing glasses, which a neighbor found in her garage, where he is certain he did not leave them. My other son's missing math book turned up, so I am told, in the backyard of a classmate, whose house he has never visited. I think the black hole may in fact be a wormhole, since it appears to be transporting objects to places they have allegedly never been before. Further evidence of this is the multiple unmatched socks that have appeared in my house, but do not belong to any member of my family, and several boy scout badges, which is odd, since my boys have never been boy scouts.

Somewhere in the Himalayas, I'm sure my old camera has mysteriously appeared on someone's hearth and is even now being treated as an inscrutable god with miraculous powers. Either that, or one of the kids left it in someone's backyard.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Last Laugh

I got an email from the bride today. The bride for whom I made Icarus as a wedding shawl. A wedding shawl that was intended as a gift for the bridal shower on October 27. The bridal shower whose scheduled date was the deadline that has had me knitting like a lunatic for the past month. Still with me?

So, today I got an email from the bride. Thanks for all your support...blah, blah, blah...black shoes...blah, blah, blah..."And before you all count on the party Oct. 27, I just heard today that it's now been changed to Dec. 1."


I suppose I should be glad she hasn't called off the wedding. Funny, I'm having a hard time finding my sense of humor today, although my appreciation for irony seems to be working overtime.

I guess Icarus gets the last laugh after all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

FO: Icarus!

Pattern: Icarus by Miriam L. Felton (Fall 2006 Interweave Knits)

Yarn: Just over two skeins Little Knits Indie II (50/50 cashmere silk) in Natural

Needles: Addi Turbo size 3

This was my first real lace project; I have certainly done lace stitches before, but this was my first project using laceweight yarn and tiny needles. Despite the many, many delays and disasters I experienced while working on this project, the final result is everything I hoped it would be. Although I know the recipient, who is not a knitter and doesn't do any sort of handwork, will have no idea what went into making this, I do think she will appreciate the gift--and I will be proud to give it. And it's ready in time for the bridal shower!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Black Hole

I now have concrete proof that black holes do exist. There is one in my house. In the past two weeks, it has swallowed: my son's music book; my husband's keys; no fewer than seven socks from different pairs; my son's glasses (same son); my son's Game Boy (different son); my son's math book (second son again), and now--here's the kicker--the row counter from--you guessed it--Icarus.

You know, the row counter that I need to tell me which row of the indecipherable lace pattern I'm currently knitting, so that I end up with pretty scallops instead of spaghetti? That row counter.

I would love to blame the minions of the house, because it goes without saying that they are careless and lose things. Also, since they are all males, they are afflicted with "man eyes," for which there is no known cure. But I--I am The Finder.

"Mom? Where's my math homework?"
"In the downstairs bathroom."

"Honey? Have you seen my cell phone?"
"Third shelf down in the garage."

"Mom? I can't find my jockstrap and cup!"
"Check my purse."

I am the mother of boys. Dignity, order, and reason have long since departed this house. But until now, I have always been able to locate missing toys, clothing, pets, electronic devices, and all the other various and sundry tangible objects that populate modern American life. Until now, I've been on one long run of success.

My run is over. I have spent more hours than I can count looking for things in the past two weeks. And I have found precisely nothing. Not one item in the above list has made its reappearance. I have searched the house, the garage, the storage room, and both cars. I have crawled under beds and into closets. I have rousted untold numbers of spiders from their hiding places. The music book, keys, socks, glasses, Game Boy, math book, and--most importantly--row counter remain in absentia. I'm throwing in the towel. I am no longer The Finder. I am retired.

Where's Mom?
Don't know. Haven't seen her.

Icarus Countdown: 5-7 rows to go (stinkin' missing row counter!); 16 days left.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I had every intention of finishing Icarus last night--or at least making a darned good run in that direction. I wound the new yarn (with only one break and a little silent cursing) and executed a masterful Russian join. But then dinner intervened, and with it, a glass of very good Zinfandel. Unfortunately, I have the alcohol tolerance of a flea. A small flea.

I had one glass and was feeling pretty good as I picked up Icarus. I finished row 16 of chart 4 and headed for row 17, and then things got a little fuzzy. I seem to recall giggling a bit as I read the directions out loud to my husband. I'm not sure why. They must have struck me as particularly amusing. I got a few stitches into row 17 before my husband appeared in front of me and, saying, "This is for your own good. Trust me," took my needles away!

Needless to say, no progress was made on Icarus last night.

I do have other knitting to show you, though. More than I should have, considering the Icarus deadline.

This is the Tilted Duster from the cover of the Fall Interweave Knits. I love this pattern. It's so unusual and structurally interesting. But to be honest, it's not a style I'm likely to wear. I don't quite get the whole winter-sweater-with-no-closures concept. So what does a clever knitter do when faced with a pattern she really wants to knit, but will never wear? She chooses a yarn from the stash that she really wants to knit, but knows she will also never wear. In this case, some Louisa Harding Kimono Angora in a color I can only describe as Tangerine Nightmare. I'm not sure what the designer was thinking with this yarn. Obviously, someone thought it was a pretty color combination--maybe a lot of people. I am not one of them. But I bought it online, based on a rather misleading picture, and on clearance, and couldn't return it. And despite the colors, it is a marvelous, supersoft angora, and I love the feel and drape.

The patten calls for a fairly chunky merino, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out in this light, airy angora. If I end up loving it, I might try overdyeing it. I can always use a dark, solid colored, drapey wrap.

This is the start of the Dickinson Pullover, also from the Fall Interweave Knits. (I really love that issue.) This one is stalled, through no fault of its own. I didn't have any yarn in the right gauge for this pattern (really!), so when I saw some Softwist Bulky in a beautiful dark red on Destash, I snapped it up. As soon as it arrived, I cast on for this. The yarn is lovely--rich and drapey with a gorgeous sheen from the rayon that is blended with the wool. But I'm just not sure I like it for this pattern. This is an oversized, weekend-type sweater, and I think it really calls for a softer, more casual yarn. I just happen to have ordered a rather large quantity of Noro Kochoran (wool and angora) in a soft grey/teal blend that I think would be ideal for this pattern. It hasn't arrived yet, but I'm thinking it might be better for this pattern than the dressier Softwist. I'm not that far into this pattern yet, so be honest: what do you think? I can always use the Softwist for a different project, after all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Mom Song

This is for all you moms--and for everyone who has one!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Back on Track

18 days. 14 rows. No problem!

And the first of the consolation yarn arrived with it. Doesn't it look like it belongs in a waffle cone with some whipped cream?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Yarn on the Hoof

Our Saturday football game was in the middle of nowhere this week. Miraculously, it was the same middle of nowhere as the sheep farm where I bought my spinning wheel in August. So, naturally, a field trip was in order!

The boys enjoyed feeding these guys dried leaves, which the goats munched down like potato chips.

I did wonder aloud what you get from this type of goat, since they're clearly not cashmere or angora goats, and I don't think the males give milk. The owner set me straight. Shhh. They don't know they're "meat goats."

Now, these are clearly wool sheep. You can tell by the neat coats that protect their fleece from dust, leaves, and, well, poo. Apparently, the coats keep them much cleaner than sheep without coats. They certainly appeared clean and well-cared-for. But they must have heard about the "meat goats," because they looked decidedly suspicious and wouldn't come any closer than this.

As for me, I proved once again that I am helplessly wanton in the face of beautiful fiber, even in the presence of witnesses.

That's a sweater's worth of merino/silk, which I've had my eye on for a while, plus a shawl's worth of alpaca/silk, which the owner of the farm shamelessly induced me to buy through the simple and expedient tactic of opening the bag and inviting me to touch the fiber. I've felt butter that's scratchier than this fiber. The only question then was whether I should buy all she had, cackling madly and repeating hoarsely "Mine, all mine!" or perhaps exercise a little self-restraint and keep the total bill down to a merely hair-raising amount, instead of an amount that would cause my very-tolerant (but still fiber-resistant) husband to balk, or make pointed comments about the difference between income and outgo. I held myself to a mere eight ounces, which, if I can master spinning lighter weight yarn, should be enough for a lovely shawl (Icarus? Who's Icarus? La, la, la--I can't hear you!). The picture does not even come close to doing justice to the exquisite colors and sheen of these fibers. I am almost afraid to attempt spinning them, for fear I'll make a hopeless mess of such artistry. But since I can hear them singing to me when I'm looking the other direction, I probably won't be able to hold out long.

Icarus Countdown: Stalled. Friday arrived as expected. My yarn, alas, did not. UPS assures me it will be delivered Monday. I'm trying to ignore the film of sweat behind my knees as my deadline looms ever nearer...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Spinning Right Along

With my Icarus disaster temporarily on the back burner, I have turned my attention to trying out the new Woolee Winder I got for my birthday.

Yessir, it's worth it. The cost of the Woolee Winder, I mean. It seems like a small change, I know--and it is--but for me, at least, the difference is remarkable. Not only do I not have to keep stopping to move the yarn along the bobbin, but for some reason, I am getting a much finer, stronger, and more even yarn. I'm not entirely clear about the details, but I think the ratios are different with the WW than with the original flyer, and for whatever reason, it's working much better for me.

There is another advantage that I hadn't considered. The bobbins for the WW are bigger than the Ashford bobbins, and seem to hold a lot more yarn. Add that to the fact that the WW winds the yarn much more tightly onto the bobbin, and we're talking a big, big difference in how many yards fit on a bobbin. What you see above is the same amount of fiber as I would usually use for an entire Ashford bobbin. My only objection to my wheel has been that I could only make skeins of about 70 yards of heavy worsted two-ply before I ran out of space on the bobbin. This makes for some pretty small skeins. With this, I think I am going to get double the yardage into each skein. And fewer skeins = fewer ends to weave in! My only (minor) issue with the WW--apart from the cost--is that it makes a slight whooshing sound. It's pretty quiet, and didn't disturb my husband, who is sensitive to such things and was watching tv in the same room, but it is there. A little oil might help.

If you already have a wheel and are considering one of these, you will have to decide for yourself if the cost is worth it (my WW and four bobbins cost $300 with shipping). If you spin a lot, and/or have been frustrated with the size of your bobbins, or with stopping to move the yarn, you might want to consider it. If you don't already have a wheel, listen up. I have seen wheels advertised as having a "sliding ring" flyer. They are more expensive than your basic Ashford, but less expensive than your basic Ashford plus a WW--and about the same price as lots of other wheels with a traditional flyer. Whether you have a wheel or not, if you know a spinner who has a WW or flyer with a sliding ring, it would definitely be worth your while to try it out. The action is slightly different than with a traditional flyer. I found it very easy to adapt to and I'm getting better results. But if you really love the way your wheel works now, you may not enjoy the change.

If you want more info about the Woolee Winder, here's the link:


WWs are available for many different models of wheel, and come finished or unfinished (so you can match the finish of your wheel, if you finished it yourself, as I did. Oh joy.) Of course it goes without saying that I have no connection whatsoever to this company, except as a customer. Just so you know.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Little Knits to the Rescue!

Immediately after my unfortunate discovery that running out of yarn for Icarus was imminent, I went online to Little Knits, which provided me with the original yarn for the project. I was relieved to see that the right color was available and immediately ordered another skein (for 14 lousy rows--I squeezed one more row out of the yarn I had left). With only three weeks left to finish, time is--shall we say--of the essence, so I added a note explaining the situation and expressing my desperation. This was after 5 pm. 45 minutes later, I checked my email and found a message from Sue, the owner of Little Knits, who has been of so much help to me in the past. She just wanted to let me know that she had already sent my order out to UPS and that I would have it no later than Friday. This was Tuesday evening, and no, I didn't pay for express shipping! As usual, Little Knits came through for me with flying colors. With a little luck and some help from UPS, I should be back on track in no time.

Thanks, Sue!

[Oh, and, um, just in case you were wondering how I dealt with the obvious emotional trauma of running out of yarn, there will be several large boxes of yarn arriving on my doorstep shortly. And maybe some books. Whoops.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It Had to Get Ugly

Oh, Knitting Goddess, sacred ruler of my world, have I done something to offend thee? Have I not swatched faithfully? Have I not given due attention to needle size and stitch gauge? And if I have not always washed my swatches, have I not offered sincere penitence when my projects instantly doubled in size upon hitting water?

Surely my attention to detail must have been pleasing in your eyes: the care with which I have formed each stitch, tinking back to fix every error, every snagged ply? Surely you have noted the tiny needles, the cobweb weight, the endless yarnovers? Surely my devo
tion to you has not gone unnoticed?

Why, oh why have you forsaken me? Are you unaware of my distress? Of my weariness? Of my impending deadline? I beg of you, oh Knitting Goddess, help me in my hour of need!

I have 15 rows left to go on Icarus and 24 days to do them. No problem, right?

Does this #$%&!*% look like enough yarn for 15 more 500+ stitch rows?!

I didn't think so.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Close Enough to Taste It

I'm talking about Icarus, of course.

I'm on row 14 of the 4th and final 24-row chart. Almost done, right? It's a cruel, cruel illusion. Although I have only 11 more rows of the chart (including row 14--I can add that high), plus five rows of edging, plus the truly frightening cast-off row, each row is now more than 500 stitches long. I know I've calculated how many hours this should take me, but I've entered some sort of time warp, and I'm not sure I can knit my way out.

So, for distraction on my actual birthday, which was Sunday, we went to the San Diego Zoo. It's one of my favorite places in the world, and I've been hundreds of times. My parents used to take us every weekend when I was a kid, and now I take my kids. A lot. See how enthusiastic they are?

Although the little one really enjoyed hugging the sheep in the petting zoo.

I did put some thought into how I could smuggle one home, but with a husband and two big dogs, the bed is already pretty crowded.

We returned home to my newly-renovated knitting spot.

Isn't it lovely? I'm really pleased with the new slipcovers, and especially with the fact that they are washable! Here's the wide view. I had to shoo the dogs off to get this shot, so look fast, before they jump back up.