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Spinning Tuesdays: Merino and Clun Forest

This week’s entries in my spin along with Deb Robson’s lists are Merino and Clun Forest. I know that Merino isn’t next on the spinning list, but I’m waiting for some Southdown (yay!) so I skipped ahead.

Merino has a reputation among spinners. They either  love it or don’t. I will admit to loving it, and also admit that Merino is the Diva of fibers, touchy and can be difficult to work with, but it completely worth it.

Merino: clean and dirty fiber, worsted and woolen spun yarn and swatches

My merino was gooey and sticky, with little to no VM. It took 3 good soaks with Power Scour to get it spinnably clean. Even in it’s prewashed state it was soft and just got softer as I worked.

Cushy, cushy worsted and woolen

I will not lie, it was hard for me to spin. The worsted yarn I combed and spun in a class with Anne Field this past weekend. We learned about spinning to the crimp, and with this Merino that was fine and highly twisted. The woolen yarn I hand carded and spun in a style I like to call lumpy longdraw. I couldn’t get either yarn consistent, but I don’t mind. I know Merino takes patience and practice. It needs both high twist and a light hand. Both of my swatches were buttery soft, but I know the woolen yarn, used in a garment would pill like crazy. I’m willing to spend time working on my Merino skills, I think the fiber and resulting yarn is beautiful.

Commercially prepped Merino top is a much easier spin, but never as soft.

Two fun facts about Merino from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Most Merinos are white because of the amount of fiber needed to dye for the fashion industry.
  2. Merino fleeces can weigh up to 40 pounds

 

Next up Clun Forest:

Clun Forest: clean and dirty fiber, woolen and worsted-ish yarn

A springy fiber, easy to spin into an elastic, but soft yarn. The dirty fiber above took only one go round with Power Scour to go from dingy beige to nearly sparkly white. The washed fiber was softer than I expected, somewhere between Corriedale and BFL.

Springy and soft semi worsted and woolen yarn

I hand carded the fiber and spun half woolen and half worsted. I wish I had given the fiber a few more passes with my cards or just used my drum carder, there were a few lumps and bumps in my yarn that were from just sheer laziness in my prep. Both yarns were elastic and soft, I was surprised a little by both. The semi worsted stayed softer than I expected, and would be pretty hard wearing; I’d love to have socks knit from it. The woolen yarn really bloomed and became lofty when I steamed it, just asking to be knit into a cardigan.

Two fun facts about Clun Forest from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Current North American Clun Forest herds are all descended from a herd brought in North America in the 1970s
  2. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists Clun Forest as a recovering breed.

When I finished working with the Clun Forest I immediately started looking for a Clun Forest fleece. I think I better get better organized about storing and processing fleeces since I doubt this will be the last breed I need more of.

Thanks to Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft for providing the fibers for this week.

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WWW: Every day is Sweater Day; Fundraiser for MSF; Grannies for Hire

At Knitty we celebrate every day!

This Thursday, February 17th, has been designated National Sweater Day in Canada. This initiative of the World Wildlife Fund is designed to help the environment by encouraging Canadians to put on a sweater and turn their furnaces down.


Our very own Franklin participated in a radio show on NPR about the resurgence of knitting. Listen to a wonderful wide-ranging discussion here. There’s also some great historical knitting images and posters on the site, here. “Remember Pearl Harbor, purl harder!”


Pennies Per Hour of Pleasure, also known as P/hop, is a knitting fundraiser for Doctors without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (UK site, North American site). P/hop was launched a few years ago by an indie dyer in the UK, Natalie Fergie. To date it has raised over £23,000 in the UK and $4,000 from North American knitters. Designers have donated a whole range of wonderful patterns which are free to download, in exchange for a donation to p/hop according to the amount of pleasure it gives. Money is also raised via yarn swaps, raffles and other knitting related events.


Fascinating news of a different way to gather silk, without harming the silkworm, pioneered by designer Elsbeth Joy Nielsen.



On the topic of silk, the owners of beloved Treenway Silks have announced their plans to sell their business so that they may retire. The business is going strong, and they are keen to find a buyer. This is an amazing opportunity!


A classroom in 1950s UK.

The Daily Mail in the UK reports on a trend we love: knitting making a return to the classroom. Worth Primary in Kent has introduced knitting throughout the curriculum: in math classes, in history classes, and as a lunchtime club. It’s turning out to be popular with students, and teachers report very positive results.


Residents of the tri-state area should make sure that the Northern New Jersey Yarn Crawl is on their calendars for this weekend. I can’t think of a better way to spend a late-winter weekend.

And if you’re on the other side of continent, the Portland Oregon Yarn Crawl is scheduled for the weekend of March 4-6th.


Let a Granny help you use up your stash

And if you find yourself with too much yarn (!) and not enough time to knit, consider hiring Grannies Inc, an organization of knitters in the UK who will take your custom design and knit it to your specifications.

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Valentine’s Day Ninja Bonus Contest!

Ooh, we’ve got a doozy for you today, knitters.

Are you sitting down?

this is the large set, sizes US9-15

At right, you see the lovely HiyaHiya Interchangeable Needle set in sizes US 9-15. There’s another set available in sizes US 2-8. So what’s the prize? What could you win?

BOTH sets! No, really! I know!

Here’s what HiyaHiya say about their needles:
“HiyaHiya Steel Interchangeable Needles feature keyless screw-on connections and swivel cables.

Our 5″ small set includes 7 sets of tips in sizes from 2-8US (2.75-5mm). Our large set includes 6 sets of tips in sizes from 9-15US (5.5-10mm).

Each set includes a practical and portable brocade case, needle tips and 4 cables (to make 18, 26, 34 and 42 inch needles). Assorted fabrics.  Tip length is approximately 5 inches.”

How do you win? Simple as pie. Leave a comment to this post by Tuesday, Feb 15th at midnight eastern time, and you’re eligible to win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Prize value: $160.00

Good luck and good knitting!

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Mattress Stitch

I love me a good seam.

A lot of knitters tell me that they tend to avoid projects that require seaming because they lack confidence in their finishing techniques.

Now, there is a lot of good stuff you can knit that requires only minimal finishing work – scarves, mittens, socks, lace, for example – but by mastering proper seaming you can open up a whole new world of amazing projects.

Garments, of course, but also pieced blankets like the amazing Lizard Ridge, and outfits for your dolls, and toys.

It’s not at all difficult, but the technique doesn’t seem to be well known.

Theresa has an excellent series of articles in Knitty on various finishing techniques.

Finishing is one of the most popular classes I teach. I taught a weekend’s worth recently at Shall We Knit, a lovely little shop in New Hamburg, Ontario.

I demo all the seaming techniques, and always begin with the same one: mattress stitch. Mattress stitch is used to seam together the sides of pieces – side and sleeve seams in a garment, for example.

And the response to my demo is always the same: a gasp.

Mattress stitch creates an amazing invisible seam and it never fails to impress.

How cool is that?

More amazing, even, is how easy it is to do. Try it! You’ll knock your own socks off, I promise!

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WWW: New Cookie A. Book & Giveaway!

We’re thrilled to hear of the release of friend of Knitty’s Cookie A. new’s book, Knit.Sock.Love.

Indeed we do!

Full of her wonderful and creative work, Knit.Sock.Love contains 19 patterns, 7 of them entirely new.  A PDF version is available now, and the book physical book can be preordered, from Cookie’s site above.

Marilinda: lovely.

German stockings: hot.

And, as I’m sure you’re hoping, our next ninja-bonus giveaway is a whole bunch of sock knitting love in the form of Cookie A’s brand new book Knit.Sock.Love  and a pairs’ worth of Shepherd Sock yarn from the wonderful people at Lorna’s Laces to make the socks Stalagmite from the book, a prize package valued at $49.95 USD.

Stalagmite: typical Cookie fabulousness.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Cookie’s new book, first as a PDF download and then as a hold-in-your-hands-type book, when they become available later this month.

Want to win? Leave a comment to this post by midnight eastern time today Wednesday November 3rd. We’ll pick one winner, ask them a skill-testing question, and if they get it right, announce them as the lucky winner on our Knitty Friday post.

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WWW: Thinking Pink

Flamingo Stripe

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month in the US, and Lorna’s Laces reminds us that 20% of the proceeds of the sale of their Flamingo Stripe colorway of Shepherd Sock are donated – year round – to Breast Cancer research.


If you’re a survivor, or you are knitting for one, you may find yourself in need of Beryl’s Tit Bits. The Tit Bits website provides links to other resources and information.


Knitty’s Fall 2004 was a Special Edition for Breast Cancer Awareness with patterns to comfort and support sufferers and survivors, and to provide discussion fodder.


Classic Elite Yarns has provided a pattern for a Breast Cancer Awareness scarf.


Denise offers a set of pink interchangeable needles, with $5 of each sale going to Breast Cancer charities. If you’ve already got a set of their needles, buy yourself some pink cords – $1 of that sale is donated, too.

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Post from on the road

Lynne does an awesome job of jigsawing 5 grown women's baggage post trade show

Amy  here. I stole Jillian’s password. Don’t tell her.

My bags are in this Ford Flex somewhere, and right now, I’m in a Panera near Toledo, Ohio, using their lovely free wifi to let you know that TNNA was great and we have so much new stuff to share with you for the upcoming First Fall issue.  There were more new products than I remember seeing in a long while, and a yarn I fell in love with that will be making a featured appearance here in a future issue of Knitty.

But even before the issue comes out, we’ll share some  of what we saw. This week.

Stay tuned.

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You canna escape the math.

So yesterday’s glib I don’t need no stinkin math post wasn’t entirely sincere. I knew I’d gotten pretty far without any significant math. But I also knew there was no way I could accurately place the sleeve openings without pulling out the calculator.

Backstory: I hit my math wall in the middle of grade 10. I just stopped understanding the concepts in any way that would allow me to get even a passing grade. Word problems tie up my brain so that it cannot function at all. And math wasn’t important enough for me to get a tutor. I just wanted it to go away, so my parents [uncharacteristcally] let me drop the class.

Thankfully, I seem to have retained enough of the basics to get me through the knitting stuff I need to work out. Like these blasted sleeves. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I took the original stitch count from the one-size pattern. Then I started randomly multiplying it by 1.something until I got a number that was very close to my actual stitch count. It turned out to be 1.27, I believe. I’ve already blocked it out — math is traumatic for me.

Then I multiplied each unit [front, sleeve, back, sleeve, front] by this number until I had what looked like workable numbers. Then I added up all the numbers and they DID match my stitch count. I was feeling rather clever by this point.

I went ahead with these numbers, and then, as I have been doing all along, pulled the work off the needles and onto spare yarn to see how it would fit and — like the original, found the sleeve opening went much too far into the back for my taste. With Lise’s help at The Purple Purl last night, we pinned where we thought the sleeves should start opening and closing, and then I counted how many stitches to move about. After that, I had to recalculate the number of stitches to cast on at the underarms [using my stitch gauge and the desired width of the sweater at the chest, minus the actual stitches left on the needle after all that binding off for sleeves]. Rip and reknit 4 rows…no biggie. I have one more try-on to do to make sure it’s a good fit, and then I’m going to motor on until I hit the hem.

All of this is to say that if you’re lucky enough to be able to visualize what changes need to be made and do the math before you cast on, good for you. But if not, and you want to wing it [ish], you can make it work. But there is never any escape from the math.

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100% knitting content. Don’t faint.

my Shalom in progress

my Shalom in progress. yarn: Classic Elite Sprout

So hopefully you’ve all seen the latest issue of Knitty. On the cover is a gorgeous sweater in a really neat yarn. But it’s probably not the best choice for the deeply boob-endowed such as myself.

But I still love the yarn. It’s a bulky lightweight cotton [not a common thing to find]. Since before the Knitting Olympics [which I miss so much and cannot wait another 4 years for it to happen again!], I’d wanted to knit Shalom. Thanks to the goodness which is Ravelry for bringing it to my attention. I’d missed it in 2008 when the designer put it up for free on her blog.

It’s an awesome one-size pattern, and if it weren’t a top-down raglan, I don’t think I’d have taken it on. But it is, so I did.

My gauge is a smidge finer than what the pattern calls for, and lord knows I am not knitting the one size [the chest measurement starts with a 3. stop laughing.] in the pattern. So my scientific modifications so far are these:

– knitting on US#6 needles [the pattern calls for US#7, but the fabric would be ghastly loose], which gives me 3.42 sts to the inch

– cast on 77 sts. how did I pick that number? I guessed.

– set up the neck as prescribed, including buttonhole. set up the rib so that it looks the same as the picture.

– first set of increases done as per pattern

– second set of increases done more frequently — m1, k3

– third set of increases, ditto

At this point in the knitting, I’ve had it off the needles on waste yarn to see how it fits, and the flow from one band of ribs to the next looks good, and it appears like I’ll have enough fabric to go around my arms properly.

There’s a lot of guessing in this, and why am I telling you about my unscientific, non-mathematical approach? Because I know lots of you knit like this, and I figure you’d like to know you’re not alone. And because I may muck this up, but because of the top-down-raglanness of the pattern, it will never be beyond saving, as long as I check it on my body frequently.

So about the yarn: it’s really nice. Light as a feather, despite its bulky yarn categorization. And it’s ORGANIC, even! It’s textured, which doesn’t match the original pattern, but it’s the only yarn I could find from any company that would work to gauge. So I am embracing the bumpiness. The twisted rib is helping the yoke have the stitch definition the pattern calls for, and I am rather fond of it so far. The color is a bit sweet…something in me wants to muddy up the pastelly-ness of it. I might tea-dye a swatch when I’m done and see if that would do what I have in my head.

Once I get the sleeves [so to speak] to the right length/width and bound off, it’ll be smooth sailing to the hem. So there will be more trying on in the future.

*Spread the joy!*

Well, that was an interesting few weeks.

Technology has not been the friend of Knitty this week. The details are gory and it may not be entirely resolved, but [knock wood] the worst should be behind us. We hope. Like I say, technology is not getting invited over to dinner any time soon, no matter how much good chocolate it says it’ll bring. It couldn’t be enough.

So, you’ll likely have noticed that the blog is no longer at the old http://knitty.com/blog url. We’ve splurged and bought the blog its own domain. It’s now hosted at a different ISP than Knitty itself, so if we have troubles in future [please no no no more troubles], we’ll still be able to talk to you from here. Unfortunately, everything from the previous incarnation of this WordPress blog was lost in the mess. The old Knittyblog archives will return, though, soonish.

That’s enough kvetching for now.

Okay, so in fun news, technology and commerce were my friends in one way in the last few weeks. Those of you who have heard one of my lectures have likely seen me traveling with the big silver monolith [aka my one-and-only mac laptop, the one I build each issue of Knitty with]. It’s fabulous, but it’s pretty stupid of me to take my only computer on the road. What if something happens to it? Dropping, spilling, general klutziness?

I’ve had a bug in my ear for at least three years to get a tiny Mac netbook. Apple isn’t being helpful with that, though. I waited and waited for them to produce what me and so many computer users wanted, and the most likely candidate turned out to be the very nifty, but not what I wanted, iPad.

tiny baby Hackintosh.

So I went this route instead. I finally got the little guy in my hands just over a week ago, followed the instructions and it’s absolutely, awesomely PERFECT. I took it on my teaching trip to LA this past weekend, and it performed like a champ. Several of the students took the specs, wanting to get one for themselves. Since it’s about $200 less than the base-model iPad, who could blame them?

Really. It runs Mac OSX. We bought the OS, btw. No scoffed software involved.

Then I found this last night: the Dell Mini 10v has been discontinued. Just. I’m normally the one that finds out about these neat things after it’s too late to get them. This time, I was on the lucky side. For those who did want one, get out your Google-fu and maybe you’ll find one online, at eBay, somewhere. The talk is that there may be a future Dell Mini hardware release that will work with the Mac OS, but there are no guarantees.

BTW, because people always ask where I get the neat stuff I get, the cool Knitty skin [it’s white vinyl of some sort made by 3m] came from here. Dell is great, but no way I’m walking around advertising them. 🙂

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