May 2008

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I confess I like to knit gloves the way many knitters seem to like to knit socks — they are so satisfying.

They don’t take too long, they fit in your bag, and of done right they so closely mirror the dimensions and contours of the body — three dimensionality at its finest.

Here is the beginning of my newest creation:

I love knitting gloves on two needles: it is very satisfying and there are no double pointed needles to mess with. I don’t hate dpn, but I find that straight needles are just so much easier to work with. I do think I will write the pattern for both circularly knit and flat knit versions though, so you can all decide for yourselves.

I am making them cabled as that makes them warmer (I am not sure that gloves could ever be too warm here) and hopefully look spiffy. They will also have substantial cuffs that will be able to either under or over the sleeves of your coat.

The yarn is the Instant Gratification from Brooklyn Handspun that I wrote about before.

I plan to write up the pattern in both versions and post it in the next couple months.

Within the next few days I will be posting the free pattern for the scarf I made with the Girls Throw Snow Handspun Yarn I bought from Milkyrobot a few months ago.

Here is a sneak peak:

I have finally got the flax in the ground. It’s a few days later than the middle of May, but spring was late too.

You may have divined that I have no idea what I am doing, but I have been asking around and apparently you can just prepare the dirt, sprinkle the seed, rake it a bit, and water it — who knew?

Here is the all important flax seed and some other stuff I may be able to grow.

For all that I am not supposed to anthropomorphize other living things, and plants don’t really want anything, I figure plants do want to grow and live and will do it where ever they can, so they are on my side.

Crochet me

I have joined Crochet Me, so I can attain a new level of competence and think in crochet. I realize that is akin to joining FaceBook so I can have friends, but I never said that nothing I would ever do would be ironic.

I want to be able to bring the crocheted things in my head into the world.

On Crochet Me, I am S-Sutherland; I would love to have some crochet friends.

I made these snowflakes some time ago when I was experimenting with crocheting lace, and they are certainly one of the most successful crochet projects I have done so far. Originally I intended to use them as Christmas decorations, but they are so pretty against my orange walls, that I have left them up for a year and a half.

All the patterns came from Glittering Snowflakes in Thread Crochet by Jo Ann Maxwell, published by the American School of Needlework. It doesn’t appear to be readily available, but there are other places with patterns for snowflakes.

They are wonderfully satisfying, and one can be completed in an evening. I would like to make more big ones for real Christmas or at least winter. There is something appealing in thinking of masses of yarn snow falling, which really shouldn’t need any further excuse than season or whim.

Grumble, grumble, scowl. . .

I just spent the best part of an hour ripping out the yoke of my current project, and I was so close to being done, but it wasn’t right, so now this is what I have to show for my labours:

Jess at Milkyrobot has interviewed me on her blog here: Interview: Sarah from Parallax Knitting. If you are interested in my knitting, spinning and generally fibrous life, please check it out.

This is a series of questions Jess Rollar of Milkyrobot was kind enough to answer for me about spinning and her process. You can buy Jess’ yarns and fibre from her Etsy store (also called Milkyrobot). I have bought some, and please let me say that they are as wonderful as they look in the pictures.

How did you get started spinning?

After teaching myself knitting, I became very interested in handspun yarn. I kept drooling over handspun and wondered if I could do the same. Once I got spinning I was hooked!

How long have you been spinning and how long were you doing it before you considered yourself good?

I started spinning in 2002. My mom bought me a wheel for my 21st birthday with no experience what so ever. It took me a couple tries to actually get any yarn to twist and not break. I finally mastered the skill later in the month. It was about 8 months to a year until I fell in love with my yarn. Some were kinda creepy at first and didn’t actually look like yarn!

Who taught you how to spin?

I taught myself how to spin after getting my wheel. I’ve never used a drop spindle and still haven’t. Just could never get it to work right.

What is your process?

I always start out with an image or idea before gathering my materials. I usually base my yarn and batts off of graffiti art, nature or just random objects that catch my eye. Once I have an idea of what I want to create, I gather all the fibers together and card them into a squishy batt, then spin away! Some yarns get plied and some stay single, the yarns do the talking!

What equipment do you need to create the yarns your post on your Etsy shop and blog?

The equipment I use the most would be my spinning wheel, of course, and my Ashford drum carder.

What kind of wheel do you have and what kinds have you had in the past?

I spin on a Louet S-17. This is the first and only wheel I’ve had. I do have plans to pick up an Ashford Country Spinner sometime this year.

Where do you buy your materials?

Most of my materials are bought from two local fiber shops, The Fiber Factory and Tempe Yarn and Fiber in Arizona. I get some unusual spinning fiber online or from etsy shops as well.

Do you dye your own fiber, if not, how do you get the exact colors you want?

I have dyed my own fiber in the past. I’m currently getting ready to start dyeing sock yarn soon. When I can’t find the exact colors I want, I find other materials to spin into my yarn such as sequins or random strings and things.

What do you think would be a basic start up spinning kit? Wheel? Fiber? Carders?

I always suggest starting with a Louet or Ashford wheel. I find these wheels very easy to understand and use. As for fiber, I would suggest wool or dyed roving to start with. Once your comfortable with your wheel, try adding in random fibers and see how they spin and feel. I’ve only used Ashford hand carders and drum carders and very much love them! I suggest starting with that to anyone!

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with spinning and get excited about the yarns you make and sell?

You must have lots of patience and lots of creativity! Let your fingers do the work and let the fiber do the talking. Anything can be spun even plastic spiders and feathers! Get super creative and don’t hold back.

What tips would you give to a new spinner on how to spin your batts? How do you incorporate the sequins into the spinning?

Whenever I spin my own batts or even others, I always strip the fiber into 8 pieces. Once split up, I spin each strip one after another and let the colors pop up how they please. Sometimes I even mix other fiber clumps into the spinning or solid merino strips. With the sequins, I usually just catch the tip of the sequin strand to some fiber and let the wheel pull the in, twisting the sequin strand around the roving.

How close are you to being able to support yourself on spinning?

If it wasn’t for the economy today and if I could get my yarn into a few more shops, I would most likely be able to live off my yarn and fiber sales. But in this case, maybe next year if I push myself hard enough!

This yarn is very nice to work with. It has good memory and sheen, and feels wonderfully smooth to wear.

The only problem that I found with working with it is that it is prone to splitting and is easily damaged by the needles if you are not careful. For that reason, I would suggest that this yarn is not appropriate for beginning knitters, but I would recommend it for anyone else who wants a nice light smooth fitted summer sweater.

Channel your inner Becky Sharpe — I suggest wearing it “tailored to a nicety” (read tight).

I was in the Wool Emporium ordering my spinning wheel and Glenda mentioned that some people are growing flax in Saskatchewan for fibre already, and all they do to ret it is cut it down and let it sit under the snow over the winter.

That sounds like it can be accomplished. I was a little worried about how it would work before, but laying it on the ground and letting it rot is something I think I can do.

Note: retting is when you let the stalks rot a little, so the soft part of the stem is gone, which frees the long fibres, which make up the linen.

She also says that spinning flax on a spinning wheel is easy.

and now I have put a down payment on a spinning wheel and it should be here in about ten days. I am so excited! You see, I may have put a bug in someone’s ear that what I really wanted for my birthday was money for a spinning wheel, and now I can justify it — it’s my families way to making sure I get what I want. (Thank you everyone, you know who you are)

In the meantime, I have placated myself with a drop spindle and verifying that I do really still remember how to spin.

If I were going for laughs, I would have posted a picture of me trying to operate it, as I never really perfected using a spindle, just a wheel, but if you look closely, please note that the wool on the spindle is in fact spun.

I started digging the garden today in my quest for my own home grown flax:

I am quite tired now. I have spent practically my entire adult life living in apartments and am wimpy about digging. I figure that if I dig about this much every day left this week, I will be ready to plant on the weekend.

It is not as hard as I anticipated. I grew up on glacial till, and there are more rocks in that dirt than you can shake a stick at. It might have given me a distorted view of how hard gardening is.

I plan on going to my local yarn store and looking at spinning wheels etc. on the weekend. It’s all coming together.

Okay, so I was a little disheartened about the whole Christmas present sweater fiasco. I was so demoralized about having to undo the stitching and unraveling the sleeve caps (again) that I kept procrastinating on fixing the problem. Then my mother came to visit, and she suggested just pinning the extra fabric, stitching it, the trimming it, and finishing the edges.

Now I have read about this kind of thing, and I know you can cut your knitting in this way, but I was never sufficiently frustrated to try it before (you see, I am used to my projects turning out).

The whole exercise has been a success and here is a little tutorial in case it ever happens to you:

Here is what the shoulders looked like before:

The beginning

They were in fact worse than they appear in the photo if you can credit it.

The next step was putting the sweater on inside out and pinning it where the seam should be:

After this I basted the shoulder where it seemed like it should be, I did a few iterations of trying on and fixing the seam:

After I was happy with the seam placement, I sewed another line of stitching about three quarters of a centimetre from the first one and trimmed it:

Eek, my knitting is cut. This is something I never wanted to happen:

But in the end it was all worth it, as now it is actually wearable:

So that is the last of my Christmas presents for 2007, yeah!

I have finally convinced my boyfriend to take some better pictures of me in Lyra’s coat:

It is also just warm enough to actually wear it.

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