A tale of two shawls

I’ve been busy busy with writing things (my very first book comes out in just over two weeks!) but have managed to finish two more projects. I get cold easily so I’m a big fan of wraps and scarves and shawls and am trying to bolster my supply.

Firstly…a small shawl…The Age of Brass and Steam shawl out of lovely soft PearTree supersoft merino. This is gorgeous snuggled around your neck. It’s about 150cm at its widest point and 54cm deep.

Blocking

Finished

The second shawl is a bit bigger. Probably about five years ago, my sil gave me a lovely smallish shawl that I use as a writing shawl. I always liked the pattern (Landscape Shawl by Evelyn Clark) so when I came across it at Bendigo last year, I bought it. And realised that you could make bigger versions. Marry that with said sil also having some gorgous deep oceany blue green 10 ply for sale at the time and a project was born. I didn’t get around to starting it until this year though but now it’s done! It’s about 170 cm wide by 93 deep, so quite a bit bigger. And that’s without being the full pattern as I didn’t have quite enough yarn. Nor have I blocked it terribly hard. It will be an extra snuggly shawl for writing or sitting on the couch in winter.

Unblocked

Blocking

Close up

Both of these were relatively speedy projects. The grey shawl, I knitted half of jetlagged on our day of waiting for our onwards flight to NY in LA and probably could’ve knitted the rest in another day or so if I’d had another marathon session. I did an extra repeat, so mine is bigger than the pattern. The Landscape shawl takes a little bit more concentration for the changing sections but grows fast once you get the hang of it.

Now I just need yarn to arrive to my next two projects. I’m doing a Knit along with a couple of fantasy loving friends for the Dragon Wing Shawl from Knitty (waiting for a skein of Dream in Colour Baby in Bermuda Teal) and I also signed up for the Knitspot Fall in Full Color club as I’ve always liked Anne’s patterns and thought this would be a good way to ensure I make some of them. I did the pattern only option due to budget. The first pattern is a laceweight pattern but because I’m doing the shawl in a lace/light fingering, I decided to do it in 4ply, so I’m waiting on some more Dye My Pretties yarn from Stranded in Oz. I’m sure I said after Bendigo, no more yarn buying for awhile. Hopefully the next few Knitspot patterns can be accommodated out of stash! I’m still working on a pair of socks and a cabled scarf too…oh and another lace shawl. Need a clone army to get more knitting time!

Spinning around

And hello, I have remembered my craft blog. Or really, I hadn’t forgotten it, I’ve just been kind of stupidly busy. Busy to the point of not even knitting for the last two or so weeks! Though that needs to change as I am making two things for other people and the probably want them before the searing heat of summer.

But I haven’t completely abandoned my crafty endeavours…I’ve been trying something new! And we can once again blame Melissa aka the sil. Last year when I went to Bendigo for the first time, I spent a lot of time watching Melissa spin on a drop spindle and her friend Anne spin on a very cute spinning wheel (I think it’s an Ashford Kiwi or perhaps a Joy). Now both Melissa and Anne are great spinners and spin teeny tiny fine yarn seemingly effortlessly and part of the back of my brain went “hah, that looks interesting” and another part went “Mel!! You do not need another hobby. Back away now”. That part is bossy and won but I did have the odd conversation with Melissa about drop spindles.

(And I must confess I tried it out a little at Bendigo but really hadn’t grasped the concept at all and was not what you would call an instant spindling genius…or anything other than total spindling klutz, really.)

This, for those of you who have never seen one (and I hadn’t before I met Melissa) is a drop spindle (or several).

This eventually led to her sending me a cd drop spindle, which is a quick home made spindle (if you google there are many instructions on how to make these).

Then I looked at the cd drop spindle, thought “Mel!! You do not need another hobby.” And safely tuckedit away in one of the yarn stash boxes for “one day.” Though I did keep hearing the odd reference and thinking about the idea from time to time. As writer brains intrigued by things tend to do (sigh, writer brains have distinct magpie qualities….probably essential food for making stuff up but still, sometimes annoying).

Then I went to Bendigo this year. And again, there was Melissa spindling and Anne spinning and my friend Jo who came along thought it looked intriguing too and while I resisted buying anything at Bendigo, not too long after I gave in and, playing on the benefits of having a yarny enabler for a sil, asked Melissa if she had any cheapy fibre lying around that I could have to try (and she being extra awesome, sent me some). I also was looking at books (because being a true Virgo, one must!! research before trying something and remembered that I’d heard Elizabeth Bear talking about reading a book called Respect the Spindle on her blog), so checked that out, and found out that Abby Franquemont also had a few spindling demos on youTube etc, so I ordered the book and then, having learned that I am somewhat visual when it comes to handcraft, also ordered her DVD.

The book finally arrived about two weeks ago and last weekend I finally picked up the spindle (after more reading and watching of YouTube videos) and the fibre and gave it ago.

Hmmm.

My first attempt looked more like rope. Yes, really. Here’s the evidence….

Told you I was not an instant spindling genius. But I did scratch my head and figure out that maybe I was using too much fibre at once, so I divided my roving (I think it’s roving…I’m still not sure what you call all the different fibres) into thinner strips on Day 2 and tried again.

Not quite rope. But definitely on the chunkier end of yarn….

I’m using the park and draft method as recommended all over the place for beginning and over the first few days, started to understand how the twist travels (which was the bit I didn’t really ever get in Bendigo the first time…logical brain though it should go down towards the spindle but it runs up towards the unspun fibre) but drafting the fibre to feed to the twist was a struggle (drafting is essentially pulling the fibres out thinly before they’re twisted…the thinner the draft, the finer the yarn). So I watched a few more YouTube things and found one that helped a bit and the yarn was getting a little bit more consistent (I also decided that perhaps I needed another spindle and went and ordered a Greensleeves Bare Bones – that’s the other thing about spindling…there are many, many, many pretty spindles out there).

But I kept persevering with the CD spindle (a little bit each day as it’s one of those skills that relies on your muscles getting the hang of it, rather than your brain..like riding a bike). Yesterday Abby’s DVD arrived (as did the new spindle) which looks like this:

(Pretty. I do love beautiful simple wooden things). Perhaps I was a Shaker in a past life. Or more likely, it’s the inheritance of my wood carving Nana.

But apart from trying it out very quickly yesterday with some of the test fibre it arrived with, I knew I had to stick with the CD for a bit longer. Last night I was still having drafting issues. I’ve watched Melissa and Anne and people on the internet and the fibre just seems to slide out effortlessly. I felt like I was wresting and tugging and pulling far too hard and while I had some thin yarn moments, those were kind of flukes. Tonight though, I popped in my DVD and watched the first two segments and, lo there was a lightbulb moment! Which boils down to I was holding my hands too close together (if your hands are closer together than the length of the staple (hairs) of the fibre, it won’t won’t want to pull apart). So then I tried again.

Yay, something finally looking like decent width yarn:

Though it’s still kind of inconsistent and a long way from being the gorgeous stuff M & A produce, at least I’m making progress. Though now I really also want to try a wheel because the arm doing most of the work with a drop spindle is my dodgy shoulder arm so I think a wheel might ultimately be more Mel-friendly. But in the meantime, I shall keep playing (and hopefully get to meet up with some nice Melbourne ravelry gals to practice/be taught a big more (given Melissa is inconveniently interstate!) with the spindles. (The fibre I’m using is Bendigo Readyspin in Damson).

And try not to buy too many. Cos they’re pretty. You can make them out of all sorts of things. Look:

One of Melissa’s gem spindles (yes, she makes them!)…more here. (Have I mentioned I also like gemstones? That’s my grandad’s influence!)

Another Greensleeves (I think this is an Ethan Jakob)…man, I love polished wood things.

This bit of gorgeousness is a Golding spindle.

Golding make GORGEOUS spindles. I may have a slight case of Goldings spindle lust just because they’re so damn pretty. Plus I hear they’re pretty good. And yes, spindle lust has commenced and this is why I did not need another hobby! And don’t get me started on buying fibre!

Golding also make what might be the world’s most beautiful spinning wheels…I mean, check this out:

Or this:

Seriously, those are art (they will customise them for you). Of course, they’re not cheap so I will have to admire from afar until I win the lotto but really. I just have it in the house to gaze at. See, this is where letting yarny enablers lead you down the garden path gets you. Eyeing off $5000 spinning wheels or even just trying to figure out where in my house I can fit a normal wheel. And more stash boxes for fibre. Oh dear.

Preparing

Sorry for the radio silence, I have been uncrafty Mel for a bit while I wrestled with the book and got back into the day job swing of things. But tomorrow I’m off to Brunswick to do a bag class with Nicole Mallalieu (yay!), so have been doing some homework….

Hopefully by the end of tomorrow I’ll have two new bags to show off. Then I have make-up bags to make (sorry, Ms R but I swear they’re next on the list), a quilt to bind (now that it’s turned warmer, I might even be able to use it as my summer quilt if I get organised), socks to knit and a Babette blanket to start as a summer crochet project (in the vain hope that I’ll do all the squares and be able to sew it together when it starts turning cold next year). And I still have yet to make one of the Creepy Cute Ami’s who re-ignited my knitting/crochet yen earlier this year. Plus I’ve signed up to do a Sashiko embroidery class next month at Kimono House. Who knows what that’ll lead to.

Up or down

One of my works in progress is learning to knit socks. (Yes, weird urge but follow the creative urges etc etc).

My first pair was made toe up on two circular needles. My second pair is in progress. It’s toe up on one circular (magic loop). Traditionally socks were knit cuff down on four double pointed needles. DPN’s just seemed like an invitation for me to drop stitches like a lunatic and possibly stab myself in the process. And toe up seemed logical (plus you get to avoid the dreaded heel flap/turn/pick up/gusset process that made my eyes cross when I looked at cuff down patterns).

But the other day I thought “I should try cuff down just to see”. (I think the sil was feeding me knitting germs with the food in Adelaide). I hadn’t gone completely insane, so I decided to do a little cuff down sock (the Class sock from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks).

I’ve finished it now and can I just say I am VERY glad I started with toe-up. Cuff down is fiddly (of course, your mileage may vary and I accept it might be easier on a full size sock) and some of the instructions almost melted my brain. (I think I need to get the sil to demo some of it to me). But I did it. Turned a heel, picked up stitches, grafted a toe.

Here’s the wonky proof (sue me, I couldn’t be bothered knitting all the bits full length when I was interested in the how rather than the end result). Also, apologies for the slightly dark photo.

I doubt I’ll be knitting many cuff down socks but hey, at least I know how.