Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank You!

On Monday I received a very nice package in the mail containing some wonderful fiber.  Anne, Bunnyspinner over on Ravelry, from the blog How The West Was Spun, was so incredibly generous to send me some fiber she had sitting around in her - get this - room full of fiber.  I'm still not over that.  Anyway, she has a wonderful blog that you should all check out.  I love reading it because it's like a peek into a world that is completely different than mine.  She talks about spinning and knitting, but also about her horses, for which she has recently closed (or is in the process of closing) her etsy shop so she can devote more of her time to training.  As a student musician with my nose constantly stuck in books about the history of the string quartet, or an in-depth analysis of the relation between key centers and their corresponding Affekts, it's wonderful and interesting to read about taking horses on 20 mile rides or preparing for a 50 mile trail ride/race.  Totally different life, and I am so intrigued.  She does still have some yarn posted in her etsy shop by the way, y'all should check it out.

The first bit of fiber in the package is 2 oz. of a beautiful alpaca/angora blend.  The angora is from her own bunny and the alpaca came from one of her friends out east.  This may be the softest thing I have ever felt.  Honestly, I want to use it as a pillow instead of spinning it up, or perhaps simply carry it around with me at all times in my bag so it's never more than an arm's reach away.  In reality though, I can't wait to start spinning it.

The second thing in the package was 4 oz. of gorgeous hand-dyed BFL (Anne, did you dye this yourself?)  The blues and dark greens are just perfect for me (in fact they happen to be the exact colors I'm wearing right now) and I can't wait to see what they look like all spun up.  I'm so incredibly excited about this fiber.

THANK YOU SO MUCH ANNE!!!  (And yes, that is actual shouting.  I'm hoping she can hear me all the way in New Mexico.)

Also, on a much less exciting or important note, I finished Ishbel.  I'll post more pictures and details once I have better pictures.  I'm sending it off to my little sister who turned 9 this past Sunday.  I figured she would enjoy the bright colors of it and she can use it when she and my 10-year-old niece (oh my gosh, is she turning 11 next month?!) get together and inevitably play dress up and pretend they're fairies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Unrelated To Knitting

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to pop in to let you all know that my university does this really cool thing where they stream all of the conservatory concerts online so that people off campus are still able to listen to the concerts.  If anyone is interested, though I doubt anyone is, you are able to access this through this website and you can listen to me play!  Tomorrow (Saturday) night my orchestra, along with the three choirs, are putting on a program of some of the most famous opera choruses and you are welcome to listen.  I'm sure you will recognize many of the tunes (Anvil Chorus, selections from Carmen, etc...).  The concert starts at 8pm and there is a pre-concert program beginning at 7:30 (central time.)

Next Friday I am also playing in a Wind Ensemble concert.  There are four pieces, one which features the director of percussion studies playing a piece for solo Tympani and Wind Ensemble (extremely impressive!) and a premiere of a piece composed by one of our theory/composition professors.

So, if you want something to listen to while doing your knitting or spinning over these upcoming weekends, you're welcome to tune in.  :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An FO Of A Different Kind

I finished plying the last of my yarn!

I was originally going to call this an FY (finished yarn) instead of an FO, but then I immediately thought to myself, "For Your what?" and then I couldn't think of anything yarn related for the "I", so I dropped that idea.

Anyway, the first three pictures were taken at night, so the color is pretty bad.

Here it is still on the spindle:

And pre-wash.  Look how curly it is!:


Doesn't it look intimidating from this angle?:

I don't know how much it weighs because I don't own a scale, nor do I own a niddy-noddy or skein winder, so it was a bit difficult to measure yardage as well.  I used this super inaccurate method of using my umbrella swift and attempted to size it so that one wrap all the way around was equal to 1.5 yards.  Then I wound the cake back onto the swift and then actually counted how many times the yarn wrapped all the way around it.  Not so accurate, but close enough for my needs.

If you're curious, I have an estimated yardage of 245yds, 12 wpi.  I'm not sure what any of that says about the actual weight of the yarn, but I would say it's sport/dk/light-worsted-ish (I know, super specific).

With a penny... for luck? (but really for scale):

I'm really excited to make something with this yarn.  I don't actually know what fiber it is other than "wool", but it's not the softest thing in the world.  Any ideas for what I could do with it?

I'm excited to make my next yarn even better.  This one seems a little bit, well, no, you know what?  I take that back.  I was going to say it seems insubstantial (in the sense that it lacks substance, duh) and I was going to say that maybe it has to do with the amount of twist I put in the singles and consequently the plying, but I think it has more to do with the way I was drafting.  It's not dense because my singles were somewhat airy (semi-woolen drafting).  However, does anyone know, if I were to put more twist into my singles (something that, judging by how much twist I had put in these, seems unnecessary) and then more twist in my plying, would I get a denser, sproingier yarn?  I mean, don't get me wrong, this is plenty sproingy, I was just curious.

Anyway, as there are no actual flowers here yet and thus I feel a little bit left behind with everyone else posting pictures of flowers on their blogs, I will leave you with this yarn flower:

Oh, also (I'm still here), I'm really sorry that I sucked so badly about getting back to people and replying to comments on my previous few posts.  Sometimes I just have no way of tracking you down and I'm sorry about that.  Also, Paul, I never got back to you, but I think crocheting little colorful squares to brighten up a rather dull day/season is a great idea.  However, I don't really know how to crochet beyond the basics, and to be honest, I'm having enough fun with knitting.  (Although I did crochet a little tiny owl head once, it was cute.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Progress As Growth

Just some quick proof that I actually am making progress with the Habu shawl.   I have completed 23 of the 40 repeats for the body, then I have to knit on a border.  Any guesses at how long this will take me?  Here's some help:  The first five repeats took me about five months to do.  The next 18 took me three days.  Your guess is as good as mine!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Project

Thank you all so much for you super kind words about my cardigan!  I can't tell you how happy it made me feel hearing (reading) everything you guys had to say about it.  You're all so nice!

My Spring Break sort of came and went and I didn't get much knitting done while I was at home.  This was mainly because the only project I brought home was the lace shawl for my LYS.  I was on campus for the beginning of break because I was going to go to Chicago a few days into it to see the London Symphony Orchestra (they were breathtakingly unbelievable!!!) and campus is closer to Chicago than my home is.  Anyway, with the help of Netflix and my small collection of what I call "knitting movies" (you know, the ones that go on forever and you can knit happily while watching them because you know them so well.  Pride and Prejudice, The Sound of Music, those types...), I was able to get about half of the shawl done, but I haven't looked at it since.  I'm a terrible person.

After a week at home without knitting (yes, I had the option, but I didn't do it), I really felt the urge to throw some yarn on the needles immediately when I got back.  I knew I had wanted to use this yarn for a small triangular shawl, I just couldn't decide which one.  The yarn is a hand-dyed hank of knitpicks bare sock yarn that I got as part of a yarn swap.

I finally decided on Ishbel by Ysolda Teague (it's now part of her Whimsical Little Knits Collection).  The stockinette portion allowed the hand-dyed quality of the colors to take center stage, but the lace section will still give me something interesting to do.  I'm really loving how the colors are knitting up.

The colors of this yarn are so bright, it makes me very happy.  It has been a while since I have knit with yarn with any color intensity (a grey sweater, a brown sweater, a tan shawl...), so this was very exciting for me.  I've just started the lace section and although each row gets longer, the fun of seeing what the next row will add to the pattern really makes knitting this shawl a lot of fun.  Hmmm... what to do with it when I finish?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Which I Finally Call It Finished

Well, this has certainly been what one may refer to as a "long-term" project, but it is finally done.

Pattern:  Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Roughly 7 skeins of Cascade 220, in "Brown"
Needles: US 7, circulars and DPNs (I used knit picks Harmonies)
Time to knit: Forever

Ravelry tells me that I began this sweater on June 20, which sounds about right.  I spent my summer knitting on this sweater.  I knit on it during my lunch hour when I was working with the physical plant on campus, I knit it on the plane when flying to San Diego (although it never made it to the beach), I knit it while taking the Greyhound to Minneapolis.  I knit on this sweater while carpooling to Chicago and, most importantly, I knit on it to keep me company while living on a quite desolate campus over the summer.

By the middle of August I was done with most of the knitting.  I had knit the body of the sweater, I had knit the sleeves, I had done the saddles.  All that was left to do was cut the front steek and knit on a button band and collar.  And so, being the fearful knitter that I am, I stuck the sweater into a drawer rather than cutting it open and nearly forgot about it.  It wasn't until the end of February (a full six months later!) that I was finally able to suck it up and cut the sucker open.  I steeked it while on retreat with other knitters, and therefore was able to lean on them for support (thanks guys!) and you know what?  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

I reinforced the steek using the crochet method, and then promptly ripped it out and did it again (whether I was being cautious or simply wasting time, we may never know).  I then laid the sweater on the floor and began cutting.  Strangely enough, although I was able to control my nervousness, my camera (I'm convinced) went into hysterics and gave itself a heart attack.  I, therefore, was not able to document the actual cutting (of course my camera regained consciousness after the steeking was over), but the fact that the sweater is finished proves that I did indeed do it.

Once the steek was cut (I had picked up all my stitches for the button band before I cut the steek because I had been entertaining the idea of knitting a false button band onto a "pullover" in order to both fool the viewer into thinking that I had indeed cut the steek and also to avoid the painful act of cutting one's knitting), it took me about the length of the season of "1940s House" to knit the button band.  I then promptly ripped it out when I got back home from the retreat (what is it with me promptly ripping things?) and knit it again, much more to my liking.  The first button band/collar had some strange short rows that I had added for no reason other than I thought I should and there weren't enough decreases in the collar, making it look a bit wonky.  I like the new button band much better, although the back of the collar still leaves much to be desired.

I learned so much about knitting through this sweater.  Elizabeth Zimmermann is not one to hold the knitter's hand whilst they work one of her patterns, and so I really had to be confident in my own abilities and decisions.  Before I even began knitting, I had to choose my cables, do all my swatching and cable placement for the body and arms.  I had to make sure my saddles were going to line up with the patterning (of my own choosing) and then I of course had to chart out each cable.  Being the masochist that I am, I didn't bother choosing cables with the same number of rows per repeat (I had cables with 5, 6, 8, 12, and 14 row repeats) and ended up writing out which cables would need to be crossed in every single row.  I also knit the entire sweater without a cable needle (a technique which I now think should be required of every knitter).

I often forget that this is only my second sweater, yet when I do remember, it really helps me to overlook the few odd choices I've made and I'm sure that I will learn from what I've done and be able to apply it to everything that I will do in the future.

You may notice that my buttons don't match.  (In fact, one of them isn't even a button at all, but part of an American Eagle necklace that I happily took apart).  To that I say, "pshaw!  Of course my buttons match, they're just not all the same!"