Monday, April 26, 2010

Sadness and Alpacas

It has been a long, tiring weekend here in Wisconsin. The roommate of a good friend of me and my husband passed away very suddenly this past week at the age of 25. Husband and I have spent a lot of time at the hospital and with our friend this weekend, culminating in a memorial service for Mike on Sunday at the Chemistry Department where we all work. The whole thing has been a shock, and I'm sure that any thoughts and prayers directed at Mike's family, friends and coworkers would be greatly appreciated.

I was lucky to get out away from everything for a little while and meet up with some Ravelry friends at the Midwest Alpaca Festival. I mean, how can such cute animals not induce a smile?

I think these alpaca thought that I was weird for taking a photo of them, those silly alpacas.

The friends who went to the festival with me are all from the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup group on Ravelry. I'm still amazed at how my internet friends are slowly transitioning to be real life friends. One of our group was actually demoing that day and gave lessons to my two friends who have never used a spinning wheel before. We all went home with a piece of handspun to show off--mine coming from a few minutes test driving a very nice Lendrum wheel.

While it was great to see the alpacas and learn to spin, the group really went to see the vendors! Since it was an alpaca festival, I scored some beautiful chocolate brown roving from an alpaca named Mojo. I also bought 2 ounces of camel fiber at a great price to see how it spins up, as well as 8 ounces of this wonderfully tweedy red roving. And since I picked up a new drive band (and a spare) at the festival, I am all set to get spinning!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bulky Context

I mentioned previously that there might be a heavy-weight version of my pattern Context in the near future, and here it is! I swear that this is the last time you will see this pattern on my blog because, frankly, I'm a little tired of knitting it. But it was totally worth knitting the pattern one more time to get this squish-able, love-able, cuddle-able version. Is it bad to say that I prefer Context in bulky yarn instead of the fingering weight yarn that I called for in my own pattern?

This particular bulky yarn is a thick-and-thin handspun made from kettled-dyed roving. I only worked rows 1-60, or one repeat of charts A-C, but the finally scarf is still large enough to wrap around my neck twice and knot in front (I hid the knot underneath the front section in the photo above). If it wasn't apparent from my description above, I just love this version of my scarf!

So I'm definitely encouraging people to play around with my pattern. Just be sure to send me a photo of the results (brineydeepdesigns_at_gmail_dot_com)!

In completely unrelated news, I am so proud to say that my fellow Ravenclaws in the Harry Potter Knit Crochet House Cup named me a Mad Scientist! (The periodic table of cupcakes might have had something to do with it.) Considering the 100+ Ravenclaws this term and the fact that the other winner built her own spinning wheel out of PVC pipe(!), I'm just pleased as punch. Sign-ups are going on now for the next term and I'm looking forward to all of the crazy 'experiments' that are sure to come!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fractal Spinning

Ever since January when I dusted off my spinning wheel, I've been producing 1 or 2 skeins of yarn per month. As a relatively new spinner, I focused a lot on technique--mainly spinning thin, non-lumpy singles. Spinning almost 800 yards of lace weight alpaca for the Ravelympics really helped me improve in this area.

With my general technique under control, I've been focusing on a new area--color. One way I've challenged myself in this area is to buy rovings with a range or combination of colors aren't in my typical color palette. In addition to all of the beauty inherent in these handdyed rovings, the fiber preparation and the method of plying can have a huge effect on color variations in the final product. For the two skeins shown here, I prepped and spun using a technique called fractal spinning.

Generally, fractal spinning refers to a 2-ply yarn where one of the plies has one long repeat of the color sequence while the other ply has several shorter color repeats. This is achieved by splitting the roving in half along its length and spinning the first ply from one portion. The second half of the roving is then split along its length 4 to 8 more times; these small portions are then spun one after another while maintaining the same color ordering. The two singles are then plied together, giving a balance of slow and fast color variation in the final skein.

It is hard to gauge exactly how my fractal spun yarn will look in the final knitted object by just looking at photos of the skeins. But the long color sections in the first roving will certainly produce more distinct stripes than from the short color sections in the second roving. I'm actually quite curious to see if the fractal spinning with be apparent in the skein below or if the color will just look well varied. Only one way to find out!

And if you are curious to know, the first roving/skein is superwash BFL in the 'Ooh-La-La-Tropi-Cal' colorway (February club fiber) from Spunky Eclectic. The second roving/skein is BFL swirl in the 'Athena' colorway from Sheepish Creations. I can't wait to see how they both look knit up!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Context Scarf

My latest free pattern is now available!

The Context Scarf is a study on texture, countering the delicate nature of lace with chunky garter stitch, which plays against a smooth feminine ruffle (optional). All of these elements add up to something that you’ll want to wrap around your neck to keep you warm!

The pattern is written in two sizes, but can easily be adjusted by adding more chart repeats or working the pattern in a different weight of yarn. As written for fingering weight yarn, the large (shown in grey) is just big enough to wrap around your neck twice and knot in front—a very stylish way to keep the chill out.

Pattern Requirements:
200-400 yards of fingering weight yarn
(This is a great pattern to try out some handdyed sock yarn from Etsy)
Size US #5/3.75 mm needles

Finished Measurements:
Height: 9 [11.5] inches (plus 1.5 inches with optional ruffle)
Width: 32.5 [41] inches (plus 3 inches with optional ruffle)

22 st x 20 rows = 4 inches in garter stitch

This pattern is for an intermediate knitter who is comfortable working with charts.

You can download the pattern as a free pdf on Ravelry, as well as find more information there. Or you can download it directly using this link.

Happy knitting!