You Know You Knit Too Much When…

School page curtesy of The Dancing Queen (who knows me pretty well). 

Process

Spinning from commercial top that has been hand dyed is so very fun, but I was really excited last week when I was handed a bag of raw alpaca! You can’t just throw this on the wheel, but going through all the steps to get it spinnable was an exciting new adventure that I have been wanting to take.

Here is the filthy, matted alpaca right out of the plastic grocery bag –

The Fraggle was very excited about helping me load it into a mesh bag for washing.

Now, I have been told that you don’t have to wash alpaca, but this stuff is filthy – even dirtier than I at first suspected, as you will soon see.

Pressing it into the soapy water.

And leaving it to soak. I did squish it around gently a little bit because my mesh bag is only mesh on one side and that was impeding the water movement.

Once I was ready to rinse, I took it out of the bag so that I could be sure to get the soap out. It was pretty matted together and I only lost the tiniest bit of fiber in the water. The rinse water looked pretty clear at this point, so I laid it out to dry.

Pictured is half of the four ounces. I did it in two batches.

After a very long wait it was ready to card. I know, I know. Alpaca should be combed. But I have carders, so that is what I used. If you want me to do it right, send me a pair of combs.

During the carding process, my lap got so very dirty! All of the vegetable matter and dirt that didn’t get washed out just fell into my lap. I was very glad that I had washed it at this point, even if I didn’t do a thorough job. I can’t imagine how dirty I would have gotten if I had just spun it dirty. Look at that!

Kind of gross, right? I had to go bathe when I was done!

Even now, as I am spinning it, I am picking out bits of grass and stickers and dirt is falling on the floor.

I am disappointed in the quality of this fiber. I don’t know what alpaca is supposed to look like, but I doubt that a good batch has this much guard hair or short unusable bits. I understand the dirt and VM, I am not really talking about that. Is there anybody out there that can educate me? I know that when you buy a wool fleece it comes in one, sheep shaped piece, right? I expected alpaca to as well, but what I got seemed more like the sweepings from a barber shop floor. It was free, and I won’t complain. It is also a great experience and I still have high hopes for the yarn (2 ply laceweight alpaca? Oh, yeah.).

As I spin and knit this fiber up, I am sure that I will have more to say about this experience. So far, however, I think I prefer getting the pretty commercial top all prepared, dyed, and ready to spin.

Making Repairs

It takes a little longer for the cool weather to hit us here in Central California. I jealously watch as all my bloggy friends from around the country pull out their handknits and sport gorgeous sweaters, hats, and mittens in late September while I am still sweating my summer away. I yearn for Autumn’s chill long into the month of October as the sun still beats down upon me. But, now, finally, at last! The cooler weather arrived! It is only 79 degrees here this day! Out come all the gorgeous woolens! The handknit masterpieces of last winter and even winters before.

Alas, some things did not fare well over the summer. Remember this Wispy?


Oh, shoot! I knit this when I was cameraless, and all I have is this awful photo booth picture. Sorry!

Anywho – I wore that thing to death last winter, even though I have reservations about it’s flattering shape (or lack therof). I love this little shrug. It is absolutely delicious! Apparently the moths agree.

That is one shoulder. This is the other (the faint of heart should look away) –

I apologize for the ghastly imagery.

Imagine how my heart sank at the sight! I think I may have shed a tear or two (or three or four). There were also a few tiny holes along the ribbed edge.

It was quite a shock, and somewhat puzzling, too. This sweater was packed away in a box of woolen wonderfuls, yet it is the only item that shows moth damage. I guess they just love the Malabrigo (who can blame them, really?). There are a couple of sweaters that I would have just tossed out -it would have hurt a little, sure, but I don’t love everything that I have ever knit, not really (don’t tell that grey sweater, it would break her heart, but she really is quite expendable). But, this was one of the favorites, the one that my kids will think of when they remember me at my funeral – “I miss Mama already! She always wore that unflattering pink shrug, remember? She was so crazy about that bright, ugly thing!”

So, I pulled up my big girl undies and set out to save my beloved sweaterlette. The first step is always the hardest – I cut away some of the fabric to make a neater hole to mend. I may have held my breath and said a prayer or two while I snipped away at my knitting.

Then, following my darning procedure (explained here) I patched that ugly hole, taking care to catch any live loops and working well into good fabric to prevent any dropped stitches.

It isn’t that great of a patching job, but it makes it wearable and that is enough for me. I don’t really wear it out, anyway. And since I couldn’t get a good picture, here is another bad one –

The smaller holes were much easier, just duplicate stitched over the one or two stitches that had been munched away, again catching any live stitches. I can see them, but once they pill up like the rest of the sweater, they won’t be so noticeable.

So, all is well once again, but I will definitely be rethinking my method of summer storage for my winter lovelies.

Dale & Dolly – A Wheel for Spinning Part 1

Tuesday Funnies!

“Dale and Dolly” is the collaborative work of The Bookworm and I. After I sketch out my idea in goofy little stick figures and scrawled lines of dialog, I hand it over to my twelve year old daughter who works her magic. Her attention to detail and sense of humor make this comic strip what it is and I give her all the credit for this amazing series.  

Spinning Rainbows

Draped over my shoulders right now is the most awesome thing that I have made yet. It is a rainbow of lace, spun, designed, and knit by me. I am so excited about this shawl!

It started out like this –

This is Renee’s 12 Color Rainbow on Mystic MCN Roving from Family Pendragon. Beautiful, yes? Yes.

And a very pleasurable spin it was! I separated out the colors and spun all of one color before moving to the next, being careful to blend the transitions evenly, for a gradient rainbow. The yarn is exquisite light fingering singles in a gorgeous riot of color. (Ravelry page here with notes on the spinning)

I agonized over what to knit with it. I really wanted a half-circle shawl that would accentuate the rainbow, but I couldn’t find just the right one. Then I remembered my handy Elizabeth Zimmerman book collection and inspiration just started coming in waves! I looked up the formula for her Pi Shawl and adjusted it to make a half-circle. It was laughably simple once I got going (seriously – so very simple!).

Once I got the shaping figured out, it was just a matter of choosing lace patterns to knit in the arches between the increase rows. Out came all of my lace stitch dictionaries (and quite a bit of Amazon dreaming, I admit! Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some Barbara Walker treasuries!) and I started knitting. The end result? Fabulous! (if I do say so myself) (Ravelry Project Page here)

I didn’t plan too much at once, just letting myself create over the course of the project. Each time I came to an increase row, I sought out the next lace insert, poring over my lace volumes anew.

The only thing that I really knew was that I wanted scalloped edges, so “Feather and Fan” was the obvious choice for the border.

The other goal was to knit a different stitch for each color. This worked out until the rows exceeded 300 stitches and the color repeats shortened to one inch, but by that time I was ready to start the scalloped edge anyway, so it worked out.

Among the many pleasing bits in this project is the lovely fact that the colors cooperated so well, leaving the dark purple for the bind off. I love the dark edge. Perfect.

Another thing that I love is the way that the various lace patterns work together in a pleasing way, even though I didn’t plan them. I was a little concerned that my haphazard method was going to produce something that looked, well, haphazard. On the contrary, I think it looks pretty good, and there are very few things that I would change (one of them being that I wish the orange section was less geometrical and looked more like leaves, as I imagined that it would). The yellow section is inspired by the Kai Mei socks, altered to make an all-over pattern, and the orange section I totally made up myself. For the other patterns I used Vogue Knitting Stitchionary vol 5 for guidance, but tweaking it to my liking along the way.

It is quite a thrill to start with a wad of wool and turn it into something so lovely, and even more thrilling to start with a plan and actually accomplish the goal almost perfectly.

And, though all the girls are vying for ownership, I think this one is for me.