Roving and Lace rib cardigan

Two weekends ago I purchased some roving. I have not been an active spinner lately and I already have plenty to spin (especially at my current rate), but I had to buy more because … uh … it was there …

I kept eyeing some targhee and M repeatedly told me I needed it (the picture doesn’t capture the colors as well as I would like). I resisted (I should just learn resistance is futile when surrounded by fibers) but didn’t buy it until I saw the lovely socks the vendor had made using similar targhee. I don’t think she did the dyeing but I could be wrong. If she didn’t do the dyeing, I’m not sure who did it. I also can’t remember R’s store name, but I do know she isn’t too far from M.

The other thing I purchased was a 60% bombyx silk-40% merino blend, dyed by the owner of Lone Tree Wools. I have no purpose for this, but it may become a small shawl. I think I chose this particular item from BS because it is very non-orange and very non-cotton. I did a little spinning on it right away. I did a fair bit more Thursday after I finished the 2nd sleeve (I had been able to knit most of the day at a work function but was a bit tired both of knitting and the orange, which was still swimming in front of my eyes a bit too much on Friday).

The rest of the sweater is moving along slowly. The weather has been beautiful so there has been gardening to do and walks to take. Also, I am modifying my pattern because my large gauge swatch (i.e. sleeve) showed I had a different gauge and I was happy with the hand of the fabric. I also am knitting the fronts and back all together so I don’t have side seams. This meant I needed to figure out how many stitches I needed for the pattern, a multiple of 4. I cast on 200, did the ribbing and started the pattern. Then I realized the pattern is a multiple of 4 + 2, so I needed to rip it back out and cast on 202 stitches. I am now back through the ribbing and into the pattern. It isn’t very interesting to look at yet, so I won’t bother to post a picture.

Review: Yarnplay

Yarnplay 9781581808414 by Lisa Shobhana Mason is an attractive book. I really like the use of color in the pictures and objects. However, there are actually few things I would consider making. I think just have a different esthetic than Mason. For example, sleeves that go over the palm would drive me batty. I know Mason is not the only person to show sleeves of this sort, so I think it is actually fashionable right now, but I have never let fashion get in my way.

The book seems to be quite popular and you can see images people have posted of various designs here.

I like the hemp washcloths, both because using hemp makes sense and because I would not have thought of putting the orange and silver together (p.25) (specifically pumpkin and classic hemp from Hemp for Knitting, All hemp 6).

The Georgetown runner looks nice but does not interest me at all, I think because I think it would be better woven, but again, that is just me. I do not know if this is a sign that I believe multiple techniques should be employed to make the various objects in our life and you should use the most effective one for a given object, or if it means I am locked in traditional ways of thinking about things. It probably means a bit of both.

I like the playful colors in the Mod on mod afghan, but I know I would never make it (probably not even in different colors). Maybe I can blame my current attraction to pink and orange on spring.

I like Tami (ribbed scarf and hat). The pattern is very simple and it shows off the yarn (Filatura di Crosa 127 Print) very well. This mostly gives me ideas for dyeing, but I may come back to the book for the simple structure of the scarf and hat.

My favorite item, and the thing I am most likely to make, is Lorelei (tank top). It is knit sideways below the bust and in a standard manner above.

The same technique is use on Poppy, the v-neck pullover on the cover. This is also quite nice, as long as the arms are shortened.

Finally, Baby A (hat and cardigan) looks easy and nice and is worth keeping in mind for future gift giving. I think the blue (midnight 133) and orange (ginger 154) in a simple design are what really attract me. I do wonder if the yarn (Rowan felted tweed) will be practical for a child since it is made of Merino wool (50%), Alpaca (25%), and Viscose/rayon (25%)

Rating: 3.1

Review: The Twisted sisters sock workbook

I have checked out a copy of The Twisted sisters sock workbook 9781931499163 by Lynne Vogel from the library. I think I like this book enough that I should add it to me desiderata list. It has a lot of information for dyeing fiber and spinning the multi-colored rovings, which is useful for me but not so much for you. Since my contributions on this blog are really a way for me to tell JQ and SS (and DJ) about things I think you’d be interested in, I won’t give additional description to these facets.

However, close to half the book deals with knitting socks. Because Vogel is working with highly colored handspun yarn, there are a lot of tips and techniques that seem a little different from other sock books. I need to explore the techniques in more depth, rather than the fast read I gave it last month before the energized singles program. I think even a non-spinner that likes to make socks could find some interesting tips in the book. If you appreciate colorful socks or colorful yarn, there is a lot of great information in the book. If you have more interest in solid or mostly solid colored socks, especially to show off fancy patterns, this book would be of less use. I guess this is to say you both might enjoy looking at the pictures and JQ (who has knit a few socks) might be interested in reading some of it. However, I am betting that this will remain a library book for both of you and not one that you would want to own.

Rating: 4

Skein, Hank and Ball

When reading Yarnplay last night, I noticed that the author (Lisa Shobhana Mason) defined the term skein differently than I think of it (from my spinning background). Today at lunch, SS used the terms skein, hank and ball in the exactly the same way as Mason.

A hank is yarn that’s been loosely looped and then twisted and tied. It must be wound into a ball before you can knit with it. You can wind it by hand or with a swift and ball winder.
A skein of yarn is oblong in shape, and the free end is usually drawn from its center, which keeps the yarn from rolling around.
A ball of yarn is, well, a ball. It’s round, and the free end is usually on the outside, which means it will do a fair bit of rolling.

Most balls that I am familiar with are actually center pull and made with a ball winder or nostepinne, but basically I agree with the definition. I have also been seeing the term “yarn cakes” applied to the thing that comes off a ball winder.

I don’t exactly disagree with the term “hank,” but it isn’t a term I use. Instead, I call these things skeins because they are made with a skein winder (or a niddy noddy).

The OED does not give very different definitions of skein and hank. I believe the main difference is an Old French or Norse origin of the terms.

skein, n. [ad. OF. escaigne (1354 in Godefroy; mod.Picard dial. écaigne, écagne), of obscure origin. Cf. med.L. scagna (1294 in Du Cange).]
1. a. A quantity of thread or yarn, wound to a certain length upon a reel, and usually put up in a kind of loose knot. A skein of cotton consists of eighty turns of the thread upon a reel fifty-four inches in circumference.

hank, n. [Found in 14th c.; app. from Norse: cf. ON. hnk fem. (:*hanku), genit. hankar hank, coil, skein, clasp; also hanki m., the hasp or clasp of a chest; Sw. hank m., string, tie-band, rowel; Da. hank handle (as of a basket), ear of a pot.]
1. A circular coil or loop of anything flexible.
2. A skein or coil of thread, yarn, etc.; a definite length of yarn or thread in a coil. A hank of cotton yarn contains 840 yds.; of worsted yarn 560 yds. to make a ravelled hank, to entangle a skein hence fig. ‘to put anything into confusion’ (Brockett).

This definition of skein obviously doesn’t match everyone’s common usage. Perhaps this means I should avoid the word skein and use instead use the term hank.

That leaves the question of what to call an oblong machine wound length of yarn that can be pulled from the center. I don’t think it is a skein, but some people call it a skein. I call it a ball, but it isn’t exactly globular, which is the OED definition for a ball (A globular mass formed by winding thread, a clew or clue. L. glomus.) I think we need a new term for this thing.

And because I care about the historical usage of terms, here are some excerpts from an article which just adds another term (lea) to the whole hank/skein issue.

A Tale Untangled: Measuring the Fineness of Yarn
Author: Biggs, Norman
Source: Textile History, Volume 35, Number 1, May 2004, pp. 120-129(10)
DOI: 10.1179/004049604225015701

An Act of 1610 (7 James I c.7) concerning the wool trade in Essex mentions a
‘Reele Contayning Two Yards about’, and the worsted weavers of Norwich and
Norfolk gave more details in a petition, laid before the Privy Council in 1616:

a paire of iron pinnes were driven into a post at half a yearde distance, for measuring the said yearne, and . . . every rowlestaffe of yearne (as they terme it) did containe a sett number of threades . . .

From this, and other contemporary documents, such as those listed by Kerridge, we may conclude that the system was as follows. The yarn was wound around two nails fixed in a piece of wood, known as a reel-staff. The unit was called a thread, a certain number of threads forming a continuous piece was a lea (or cut), and a certain number of leas bundled together was a hank (or skein).

In 1630 the Privy Council sanctioned a settlement that specified that ‘as hath beene accustomed’ yarn should be measured by a ‘Reelstaffe being a full yard about, and conteyninge fourteen leys and every ley forty threads’. This wording almost certainly implies a thread of one yard, a lea of 40 yards and a hank of 14 x 40 =560 yards.

But the fineness of cotton yarn was important before the introduction of the machines, and John Wyatt’s investigations in London in 1739–43 provide ample evidence of this. Wyatt uses the word skein, but he remarks that ‘hank is another word for skein’. He speaks of coarse yarns at ‘12 skeins per lb’ and discovered that more was paid for yarns ‘above twenty-four’.

A few other interesting bits can be found in

British and American yarn count systems: an historical analysis by David J. Jeremy The Business History Review Vol. 45, No. 3, Autumn, 1971 pp. 336-368

It was important to know how much yarn one was buying, so some consistency was important. The reel size was variable, but it seems to be limited by what one person can easily hold, or 3 yards. The tensile strength also went into the reel size, with some weaker yarns having a smaller reel. Other factors that the effected how much yarn was wound onto a reel include the fineness, ability to count easily (larger reel so fewer revolutions) and the ability to easily measure various lengths (1/4 yard multiples). It was also important to be able to load the skein winder/reel smoothly and without distortion, about 200-300 strands depending on the thickness.


When I was very young I loved bright colors. We moved to a new house when I was two and my parents were able to get a good deal on a piece of carpeting the right size for my room in bright orange. I mean BRIGHT ORANGE. The rest of the room was of course covered in orange flowered wall paper. After we moved from that house I didn’t want anything to with orange for years. My father’s rust phase didn’t help matters.

DJ was also traumatized by that room and still hasn’t recovered. It wasn’t even her room, but during the six week remodel she needed to share my room for two years. It might not have been two years, but it was a lot longer than six weeks. DJ still cannot stand the color orange, all due to this very vibrant carpet. And the aforementioned rust phase.

The photo doesn’t really show the carpet as well as I would like, but it gives you an idea. By the way, that is Larry Lion on the bed with me. If you pulled the cord he said several different things.

I have slowly become more accepting of orange. It has eased in through warm fall colors. Bit by bit I have been able to have more orange in my life, but very bright, vibrant orange is still not a color I gravitate towards.

DJ gave me a grab bag of yarn for Christmas 2005. Some of the yarn was more “grab baggy” than others. She included 1 skein of Classic Elite Flash in Clementine, which has 3 plies of yellow, bright orange and dark orange. I was startled by it and decided she gave it to me either as a joke or as a challenge.

Somehow the yarn has grown on me and I have wound up buying enough for a sweater. I am now trying to make a sweater (my first garment ever with sleeves) before I go to conferences at the end of May. I thought it would be nice in excessive air conditioning. And perhaps help me dispel what I fear is getting to be a frumpy middle aged look. It is moving our of my normal style — M was surprised I was making anything this bright for myself and thought it must be for DJ.

So now, the race is one. I finished one sleeve this weekend and am working on sleeve two. It would go a lot faster if I didn’t keep making mistakes. The pattern is really simple, but that doesn’t stop me from doing all sorts of things wrong. At least I am now recognizing the errors a lot sooner.

Book review ratings

I was thinking we should have a rating system for the books we review. This is what I was thinking of:

5 – This book is great! I absolutely want a copy and will cry if it goes out of print before I can get it
4 – This book is really good and is definitely worth the money, but I should remember I don’t necessarily need to own EVERY knitting book I like
3 – Interesting and useful, but better for the library since my shelf space and budget are limited. Also for books that are good to read and then pass on.
2 – Not to my taste but I won’t make fun of you for having it on your shelf
1 – Shouldn’t the library be spending their money on better things?
0 – Give to Savonarola

I’m not sure I’ve run across any ones or zeros. I’m trying to keep my fives to a minimum, so hopefully this will be a bell curve

What do you think?

Obsessively yours,

Review: Needle felting

This weekend I went to a regional fiber thing with friends (M, L and JC). One of the speakers was Diane McCauley. Her work is heavily included in Indygo Junction’s Needle Felting 9781571203793, which I bought for DJ, so this will be part report on a talk I heard and part book review.

Needle felting is a process of making felt by using sharp, barbed, triangular needles to poke the fibers into another layer of fibers. You can either use a ground fabric or needle felt fiber to fiber to create a shape. You can felt fiber, yarn or fabric to fabric. Generally you want to be using a significant amount of wool, but other fibers can work. You do not want something that is very tightly woven or spun or that is already heavily felted. Needle felting involves a lot of repeated motion with your hand, so you may want to wear a wrist guard to keep it straight. I believe industrial felt is made in this manner, as opposed to welt felting. The book gives a much more complete and clear explanation of how you do this.

When I first saw needle felting about 9 years ago, I immediately thought of DJ because it is in effect painting with fibers. At that time she wasn’t painting and I thought this would really appeal to her. Since then she has started painting with paints, so painting with fiber may not appeal so much to her, but I still think of DJ (and also my Mom) whenver I see a program on needle felting. I have bought her needles and convinced her to buy some fibers, but am not sure she has done anything with them yet. For some reason, needle felting usually doesn’t make me think of something I want to do. I think I am not comfortable with free form artistic expression and it also can look just too crafty cute.

Diane McCauley (DM) is a seamstress, so her approach reminded me of DJ. I also kept thinking of you, JQ, during the talk with your interest in felting sweaters and piece work and embellishment. The book includes work by DM as well as others. It may be simply because her work was passed around the room yesterday, but when looking at the book I found that I wasn’t that fond of most of the work that wasn’t DM’s — it didn’t inspire me in any way. You can see some examples here. The scarf and the two in the lower left in the collage below the book cover are by DM. Also the day lily on the cover is by her.

The following are some random bits I picked up from the talk.

Some synthetics work – you just need to experiment. If something doesn’t work well, you can use needle felting to baste it down and then stitch it down more securely by hand or machine. You can use a single needle for precision when first laying something out, but when you do a broad area you will want a holder for multiple needles. You can also buy a needle felting machine (like a sewing machine, but with a bunch of needles — these are pretty cool and fast — we had one at a meeting last year).

You can take threads from fabric and incorporate them into a design. This is especially good for a seamstress with a fabric collection who does not have much knitting yarn and spinning fiber around. DM did this on her first piece, a vest made of fulled wool jersey. the fabric was moth damaged, so she threw it in the washer and then used it to make a vest and then decorated it (Tactile waves vest, p.67).

Variegated yarns can be quite interesting. DM used them on a green boiled wool jacket (from a second hand clothing store), creating flowers on a blue ground (made of roving) (Flower power jacket, p.18-19, pictured here, but it looked better inperson). Even nicer is the Lily purse (p.67) which used a thick and thin variegated yarn, fluffed open to create flowers and leaves. You may need to reblock the garment after completing as the needle felting will shrink it a little bit.

DM used needle felting to decorate handbags made of old sweaters, such as the Cast-off handbag (p.66) and the Beaded stripes purse (p.40-41). I thought JQ might enjoy doing this.

One of the purses (Four square purse, p.15-17 and back cover, and here) that we saw had a very nice spiral button on it with a complementary needle felted design. This is definitely a case of “buy the button, make the the thing,” which were M’s words of wisdom when she saw the purse.

DM talked about a technique involving felting water soluble stabilizer. I missed much of what she said but I think it would be an interesting technique with which to experiment.

Another interesting technique was to use a cookie cutter or other small tube (like a plastic bottle cover with the top cut off) as a guide to make small circles. These can be used as polka dots on something and can be attached to make your own disc fringe (as opposed to ball fringe) (Seeing spots scarf, p.37, small picture here). M convinced me that DJ needed to know about this.

The other thing I thought was pretty neat was the abstract wall hanging (Fiber explosion, p.54 and title page, bottom picture here). DM made this by felting an abstract design in a large square. She then cut it apart and rearranged it according to a specific design from a quilt book (I forget the name but if you really care I can ask M who I think recognized the book). It was assembled by butting the pieces up next to each other and then needle felting to a ground fabric. This left a narrow line where the ground fabric showed, giving it a nice grid. This is the one thing I was most interested in trying, but without a needle felting machine I think it would take too long.

I know, the last thing you need is an additional hobby, but I thought this might work well with your existing interests. Also, the equipment costs are pretty low — you should be able to find things at your local hobby store. If needle felting looks interesting to you, I encourage you to get the needles. JQ and SS, I can send you some odd bits of roving to experiment with. The basics of needle felting are pretty simple, so probably any book (and probably a lot of web sites) can give you the basics. I think the real key in buying a book would be to find one with designs that interest or even inspire you and specific techniques you would like to try. This book may or may not be the best book for you — I haven’t looked at any other books on the subject so can’t say how it compares. I think it really depends on your interests and sense of esthetics.

Rating: 3