The Mittens Won, Hands Down

I really do love my twined sock but I think I might have been knitting it a bit too tight, because when I switched projects – to the second of my aunt’s mittens, by the way – my hands felt almost noodle-y. The baby alpaca yarn that I’m using is so much softer than the Mora wool (which is what the sock is knit from), and even though I’m using smaller needles – size 0 instead of size 3 – the stitches are nice and relaxed.

The second sock will get finished. Soon. I promise. But not for another two snowflakes. Oh yeah, and two thumbs. I have to remember to knit the thumbs.


Mine, all mine (for now, anyway)

Ok, so I got distracted from knitting the second pair of sock summit socks after the first one was done

In Season by Melissa Morgan-Oakes, from the 2009 RSC

because I finally finished spinning all the yarn I need for the mittens I’m making. First to be knit is the pink (which you’ve seen before) and white (which totally hurt to spin after using the lovely stuff I’d dyed – soooo boring! and which you’ve not seen because it was too dull to photograph).

Oh yeah, I made that…

I’m not using a pattern for these so much as I’m referring to several for guidance and inspiration, and using Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” for the colorwork patterns.

By the way, the several I’m using for reference include:

  • “Bird in Hand” by Kate Gilbert – to figure out about how deep the turned cuff should be (btw, on size 0 needles, I knit 6 rows before and after the turning row)
  • Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis – to estimate how many stitches to cast on using size 0 needles (I used 72 )
  • “Andalus Mittens” by Heather Desserud, plus the two above, to figure out roughly how many stitches wide to make the thumb gusset (I tried the mitten on at 17, but it seemed a little tight. I’m going to go up to 19 to accommodate the padding caused by the floats)
Here they are so far.
I’ve been winging it a bit with these, picking out the stitch patterns as I need them. I really like the pattern on the back of the hand, although it’s hard to see in these photos because I’m only halfway through the first repeat and the fabric is curling onto itself. The thumb gusset and thumb itself are being designed on the fly as well…for every stitch/row I add, I put a couple more dots on my paper.
These are, in my opinion, the coolest mittens ever, because I dyed the wool (er, baby alpaca), I spun the wool, and I knit the wool. Plus, I’ve been doing TONS of math to try to make these work out; not good or correct math, but I’m trying (yesterday I tried to fit a four stitch pattern into 70 stitches evenly not once, not twice, but three times. In case you think you should give this a go, don’t bother – it doesn’t work).
I also finally finished spinning the yarn for the second pair of mittens (fingerless mitts, actually). This was exciting because I needed brown yarn, and wasn’t having any luck creating brown. After several tries, however, I got this:
Yeah, I made these too.

Not too shabby

This evening I got  home well before my husband, Max, and Penny, and I used my time alone to finish spinning the pink/purple baby alpaca. Just as I let go of the end of the top and let the last of it wind on to my spindle, they pulled into the driveway, and I set my wheel aside, vowing to let the freshly spun stuff rest at least overnight, and probably until tomorrow afternoon before plying it. But then Penny went to bed without much fuss, and Max was in the bathtub, and even though I do have two pair of socks just waiting to be finished, that alpaca was calling to me…

“Ply me! Ply me!”

Seriously. How could I resist a pleading alpaca?

It seemed to take forever to ply, but I think I was going a little slower than usual, because I actually need this yarn to turn out well. According to my count (and my husband’s faulty memory) I think I have about 232 yards here of (approximately) fingering weight yarn. This is the most even and fine yarn I’ve spun to date, and I’m pretty darn impressed.

It took nearly as long to wind it off the spindle and onto my niddy-noddy, and when I was done, I found my self very carefully, very slowly securing the hank with figure-8 ties. Because as soon as  it was tied up, I’d have to take it off the niddy-noddy, and only then would I know if I’d plied it well, or over- or under-plied it; if there were spots where I’d spun it too tightly, resulting in little curlicues that didn’t ply at all.

Then, the moment of truth.

232 yards of Baby Alpaca

Tomorrow, we’re going on an adventure, which is the rationalization I used to justify plying this tonight. I’ll have plenty of time to knit in the car, and there’s no way to fit my wheel into the car. Hopefully my next post will include pictures of at least one pair of completed socks.

That didn’t last long.

Ok, so I wrote my resolutions out on Thursday, and yesterday I screwed up one of them… I didn’t write my 200 words.

I thought, as I put that promise to myself out there so the Universe would know my intentions, that 200 words seemed pretty wimpy. After all, when I glanced down at the word count that my blog editor so kindly provides, the resolution post was more than 300 words, and it just kind of appeared. Certainly I could write a paltry 200 words a day.

Or not. Yesterday I thought about what I wanted to write all day long, but I never got to my computer. I picked up my iPad several times, but Max nabbed it every time. A similar thing happened when I sat down to my regular computer. Not even my phone was safe. By the time I finally had a chance to sit down and write, it was 1:00 am. I’d already missed my goal.

And so, I went to bed, vowing that I’d make up for my slackiness today. Well, let me tell you, that hasn’t worked out so well. It’s already 10:25, and I’m just sitting down to write. I knit on a cable-y hat throughout the day (just so you don’t think I was just lounging around in my PJs), but missed the first set of decreases and didn’t go back to correct my oversite, so now I’m praying that I can make it look not stupid. I’ll let you know how that works out. This is my all time favorite hat pattern, and I’ve knit it five or six times, which makes me feel like even more of a dolt for missing those decreases.

Habitat Hat by Brooklyn Tweed, knit with Cascade 220. I used needles one size bigger, and knit twice as much “brim” because this hat is for a young man with an unusually large head (or so I’ve been told)

Since I wasn’t writing yesterday, I had lots of time to spin (because Max didn’t want to use my wheel; he did, however, figure out that by dropping a toy car on the yarn as it was winding on to the spool he could make me stop and turn my face really red).

This is actually coming along quite nicely, and if I can keep up with my goal of spinning for a while each day, I might even get – dare I say it? – proficient, perhaps even good, at spinning. Ah, I can dream, can’t I?

Today, I played cars with Max. And even though I don’t think we played by the standard rules, we had a great time: he sat in the middle of the living room, and I sat at one end with all of the cars, and I pushed them towards him with great force and in rapid succession. He tried to keep them from getting to the other end of the room. It was noisy and funny and I had a great time. I assume he enjoyed it too, because he let me continue flinging cars across the floor for quite a while.

And now, my word count claims that I have 523 words, plus two photos, which according to Helena brings my total to 2532. I think that more than makes up for yesterday.

Catching up

Wow. Sorry about the long stretch of <insert crickets chirping here>. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and when I get to that point, I tend to sort of shut down and not really do anything. Well, anything except knitting. And working. And “mom-ing”.

And I think I’m ready to stop wallowing in… well, I don’t really know what to call it. “Funk” implies that I haven’t been showering. “Self-pity,” although a common thing to wallow in, isn’t what I’m dealing with. I think I’ll go with “nit-picky-life-crap”. That pretty much sums it up. There are a bunch of little things, none of which will take more than ten minutes or so to resolve, that I’ve just been putting off. I’ve got a list started, and I’m ready to start crossing things off of it.

Starting with this. A blog entry! I have actually done quite a lot of knitting in the last few weeks. Just after the new year I (re)started the Alpaka Tunic for Jojo (there were just too many mistakes to continue on with my initial attempt – this one is going MUCH better!), and as of today I’ve finished both sleeves, the back, and 1/3 of the front.  I’d take a picture of it to show you, but right now it just looks like a gloopy ball of black alpaca lace. See?

Alpaka Tunic, in Alpaca with a Twist

I was getting a little antsy, as I’ve found my ideal project takes about two weeks to finish. This sweater is quickly progressing (counting my false start) into its third week. So I took a little break over to weekend to make something for Max.

Child’s Placket Neck Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts

I knit it using Cascade 220 and size 8 needles (rather than the size 7 called for in the pattern). I used EXACTLY two skeins – one of each color – and it fits Max with a little room to grow. It’s quite a toasty sweater. I know this because, after he’d been wearing it for a while, I picked him up and could feel the warm air come whooshing out from the neck. I’ll get a picture of it laid flat later, because by the time he went to bed last night, I was too pooped to take any more photos.

Wow. I feel so much better now that I’ve written this post. Item number 1 has been checked off my list.

Now for the other 200 things I need to do…

Hooooooray for Friday!

It’s 8:30, and although I’ve been up for several hours, I’m still in my jammies. This is partially because none of the places I need to go today are open yet, and mostly because my hair is being so evil I can’t imagine actually going anywhere.

So instead, I’ve been taking glamour shots of my yarn & knitting. My artistic director is Max. He was jumping on the bed (where I normally take my pictures) in order to encourage me to take advantage of the much better light  (and the cleared-off table) in the kitchen. I whipped the boy up some pancakes and raspberry jam, and Bob’s your uncle, here I am.

First up, I plied the singles I showed you in Monday’s post and this is what I got:

And here is the recently spun skein along side the one I spun right after I received my wheel, with some baby alpaca on top for decoration.

And finally, I have for you the Willoughby Scarf, posing seductively in the big red bowl (this bowl has a story; anyone wanna hear it?).

I love this scarf. The bobbles are a little frustrating (I’m beginning to have strong negative feelings for rows 5 and 7), but there are only three per pattern repeat, so I just suck it up when I get to them. They’re not hard… I think the issue I have is with turning my work back and forth in the middle of a row. In this photo, I’ve finished 18 pattern repeats, and the scarf is a little more than two feet in length. I’m only half way thru the second ball of yarn, and I’ve allocated 3 balls to each half. I’m going to finish this ball, then switch to the other side (where the blue yarn is now; this scarf is knit from the middle) and do two balls of yarn. Once I reach that point, I’ll measure and decide how to proceed.

On Making Yarn

Saturday I went to visit the lovely Lila in San Marcos for a spinning lesson. When I called her initially to arrange the lesson, I couldn’t help but think she sounded just like Double-G (that’s Great-Grandma – my grandmother, my mom’s mom), and wondered what she would look like.

Well, she looks just like Double-G. Short and grandma-shaped, with white hair, the only real difference I noticed was that Lila is slightly deaf (Double-G may be slightly deaf too, but I don’t remember). She was very lovely, and after correcting some of my form issues, and showing me how to check my spinning & plying as I go along, proclaimed that I didn’t need further lessons, but I did need to work on my patience.

Just before I left, she showed me some yarns which she’d dyed with plant material: eucalyptus bark, olive tree leaves, black walnut shells… I don’t know if I’m ready to get into the dye pot just yet, but I’m sure it’s coming soon.

Yesterday, in an effort to improve my patience, I spun about 52 yards of baby alpaca. I don’t have it here with me right now, but as soon as I get home, I’ll post the details.


It took me a while, but here are pictures of the wool I spun with Lila

and this is the baby alpaca that I spun when I got home

and finally, here is some of that lovely batt from Grafton Fibers.