Spinning Season has started!

It was a quiet spinners’ meet yesterday but it made me thrive. I sat with friends all day and spun my little heart out. Came home and spun some more. Can’t wait to finish this post so I can get back to the wheel. Spin Season has started!

Yesterday we sat together and spun and chatted about wool and fleeces and wheels and ratios. We did have to shut up for a whole 23 minutes to get through the official bit. But that didn’t keep us from spinning:

The rest of the day was spend sitting around in little groups, spinning and chatting. Hauling the weel between groups because you want to talk to this friend and that one. I had a great day!

I was spinning my mystical green sparkly batt that looked like this:

It was the price I got for Tour de Fleece last Summer, made by Cjadam. Every participant in the Dutch Karma Swap Group provided a price and we all got to choose something. I jumped towards Cjadams’ offer like it was silk (which it was).
A lovely, rich, soft batt with colours that have made me happy every time I did a little over the last few months.

I hadn’t expected to finishing the batt right there at the meeting, its yarn is so thin and made with no haste at all. But finish I did. I found myself at a spinners’ meet with an empty bobbin!
Luckily there were some people who brought wool for us to buy:


In the morning I bought a lovely hand carved shawl pin, from oak wood, at Wolop, the market stall at the top picture. It was the first purchase of my day and supposed to be my only one. I had resolved not to buy any spinning fibre that day or any day of this year, to be honest. Because our bedroom is still filled to the ceiling with fleeces and rovings.
We are still sleeping in the low attic because the cabin no longer has a master bedroom. It has a living room, a wool room, a bathroom and an attic.
So no wool for me. I had even waded into the woolroom that very morning, to cement my resolve.

Lovely shawl pin!

But as the day wore on my resolutions wore down. There was such quality for sale! And by then I’d run out of green batt. So really, buying new spinning fibre was a sensible thing to do.
So here are the three vendors that caught my eye and my money: Wolgelukkig; Purewol and Wolop for a second time.

First up: Wolgelukkig.
A great new company specializing in Shetland spinning fibres. Their name means “overjoyed” with a wordplay on “wool”. The actual Dutch word for “overjoyed” is “dolgelukkig”. They do not have a website yet and this was their first market but you can email them at their companyname @ziggo.nl. I expect to see them at future spinners’ markets such as the LSD and Dag van de Wol.

It’s run by two ladies from the south of the Netherlands, spinners themselves, who have procured the sole rights to sell Shetland spinning fibre from the company Jamieson & Smith in this country.
That’s a well known company for Shetland yarns. They are competing with another well known Shetland yarn company called Jamieson’s. Don’t get the two confused. I’m not familiar with their differences but I’m sure there are.

Jamieson & Smith also produces spinning fibre and here it was for sale. In five of those fleece colours typical for the Shetland sheep. There are eleven colours total which also can have different shades within them.
The eleven official colours are light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), and dark brown.

I’ve got no idea which exactly these ones are but they combine excellent:

Aha, the website of Jamieson & Smith gives the answer: “Colours available are White, Mid Grey, Moorit (Mid Brown) and Black (Chocolate).”

The roving is well carded and surprisingly soft.
I bought one of their shop launch offers: 50 grams of each colour and an additional 50 grams of the excellent softest white. All in a neat paper bag:

The extra soft white is not in this picture. It was in a separate plastic bag and they explained that usually they’d never sell wool in plastic – mark of a good wool company because in plastic wool starts to sweat and felt – but for this offer they had no choice because the coloured fibres would stick to the white otherwise. It was their first market stall ever and they just hadn’t found the time to go and get smaller paper bags. Would I please take it out of the plastic as soon as I got home?
So I put it in my tin.

Happy floof:

This white is weird! It is indeed ridiculously soft. Soft to skin, soft to baby skin. Butterflies will slip on this.
But the micron gauge is 26, they explained. Which is high. A micron of 18 is buttery soft and not that common. Usually premium Merino. A micronage of 11 is non-attainable and would make butterflies weep.

So a micron of 26 means it’s a coarser wool. Good for rugs and legwarmers worn over trousers.
Except this wool isn’t. This is soft soft wool. I’d take this for 18 micron or even less.

I think this teaches me that micron measures the thickness of solitary strands. And while usually thinner strands mean softer wool, in this case it does not. This is next to skin soft.
(Mind, the five colours of “regular” Shetland they offer are next to skin soft too.)

Another thing I got at Wolgelukkig was this Wool to Project parcel: 20 grams of Shetland in one of the five colours complete with spinning instructions and a pattern to make from it.
This is the wool I threw on the wheel right away and it spun so easily.
This Jamieson & Smith spinning fibre really is wonderful.

I spun up one half of the fibre right there. Finished it right as we were to be sweeped from the room. Literally: I was paddling away like mad while the janitor was slowly approaching with the broom. Made it!

As soon as I’m done posting this I want to start the second half. Ply tomorrow, soak it and perhaps cast on tomorrow evening?
It’s like I have no other woolly things going on at the moment…

The second company that was new to me is Purewol.nl. This is the company of an actual shepherd from the north of the Netherlands, from Drenthe.
He’s a young professional who shears and skirts his fleeces solely based on preserving the quality of a fleece. Not shearing on straw. Not stuffing a fleece in a plastic bag. Not putting in all the bad parts of a fleece and all the poo bits and still asking top dollar. His website is outstanding. Go have a look, for the great photography alone.

For here we’ll have to do with my not-so-great photography of the tester baskets, you’re allowed to just feel and judge for yourself. In the front wool from lambs, in the back wool from ewes:

After talking to him and seeing the fleeces for myself I’m now convinced he’s a pioneer when it comes to offering reliable quality in fleeces. I had had this feeling when I encountered his website last Summer but I didn’t know the guy and it all looked too good to be true. Now I know it is that good.

The only other vendors I personally know/trust to work at this level are Betty Stikkers, a national Fleece Judge I watched at work two years ago, and Marian Burke from Alpaca Milestones (a species I do not spin, alas).
But then, I don’t know all the fleece sellers in the country off course.
And I wouldn’t judge a farmer who knows nothing of spinning and just brings his fleeces to the Countryfair, in a plastic bag, to cater to my needs.
Although nowadays they tend to insist it’s good for spinning and ask top dollar. I’m not shy in judging them if they do.
But what a delight when people specialize and offer quality to spinners!

I fell for a Blue Texel lamb. A light grey one. A whole kilo. That’s a jumper in the make right there.
A very fine fleece indeed:

Smells like sheep! Can’t wait to wash it. I plan to just wash it and keep the locks in formation. Then I only tease apart the tips, perhaps with the aid of a dog comb, and spin it like it is.
(As soon as I spun up that Shetland)(And knit my Deco Cardi)(And my Brioche shawl)(and another thing or two)

Lastly I rounded back towards Wolop and ran away cackling with this lovely green thing:

It’s three different sheep breeds, all dyed together. There’s a sturdy shiny breed, Wensleydale. A soft breed, Dutch sheep. And a semi sturdy breed with a long staple, Bleu Faced Leicester.

You spin each breed separately and in the end you ply the three together. Then you have sock yarn.
I’ve done this before, spin for socks from different breeds, from another vendor. I’d love to have green hand spun hand dyed socks from this.

Now I want to show you the skirt I sewed last week, while I was frustrated by the Deco Cardi repeating itself and the broken needles and the bad weather. I specifically sewed it to match this shirt, that was plant printed by Sinterklaas. My friend who made it was at the meet yesterday and I wanted to honour her by wearing it:

Isn’t it great? The shirt was eco printed with eucalyptus leaves and she left it somewhere (in the ground presumably?) for three months or something. Or was it three weeks? Anyway, not long enough for the fabric to deteriorate but long enough for the plants to release their colour.
We both got many compliments and I didn’t trip over my skirt.

So now I’m off to spin some more Shetland.
Here are the green singles from yesterday that I’ve already plied this morning:

(I cannot get the colour right on this one, it truly is mystical green!)

It came to 260 meters lace weight out of a lovely batt weighing 50 grams.
Tomorrow I’m making soup so there’ll be warm water at the end of the day to soak some skeins in. This one and hopefully that Shetland too. Bye.

Deco Cardi, hopscotching along

This is where I left you last week:

Ready to knit the edge. Ready to finish the bodice.
Looking closely you can see I was midway giving the stems a treatment, to make them stand out more. I dropped a stitch on either side of a stem and let it ravel up all the way to the diamond. With a crochet hook I then picked it up purlwise:

This works, the stems look beautiful. This is better than knitting the purl stitches while knitting the rows because I have such a loose gauge. It would not have looked tidy. It would not emphasize the stems.

But these stems… they look different from the edge they are about to become…

The knot columns in the border get slipped every other row. This elongates the stitches a bit. And helps against curling.
I had forgotten to slip the stitches of the stems every other row. It would show if I did on the border.

I tried whether it was possible to rectify it with my crochet hook:

It was not. The stem on the right looks awful.

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrip

snif

A day later I reknit it all, slipping stitches in the stems. Making it look good!
At the end of the day I brought in the crochet hook again, adding column of p-stitches.

I finished the purl columns the next morning.
Now it was a home stretch!
Just knit that edge! Enjoy early Spring Sunshine! Have a piece of chocolate! Giggle at your new handbag!

Right. Knit the edge. Bound off. Body finished. Booyah.

Or not to booyah….

I bound of on the Right side. While I’ve clearly written in my notes that I should bind off on the Wrong Side, because Jenny’s amazingly stretchy bind off has a beautiful edge. On the other side:

By that time the chocolate had gone. The Spring Sun had gone. And I wanted to knit Brioche very much. Broke my Brioche needle. Broke another Brioche needle.
Decided I needed to learn to make custard pudding, from scratch, urgently.

Since then I’ve eaten custard. I have unpicked the bind off and have bound off from the right Wrong side and finished the body.
I’ve picked up stitches for the sleeve and I’ve knit all the way down to the cuff, incorporating clever diamonds and trying hard to understand the numbers.
I was knitting the cuff when I decided to try it on one more time, for length.
It was too tight. My nemesis had struck again, Too Tight Sleeve Man.
I don’t understand because I tried that sleeve on and on and on while I was knitting it. It does tense up a bit the diamonds, with the cable stitch. But I didn’t think it’d spread to the rest of the sleeve…. to the already knitted and fitting comfortably sleeve.

The whole sleeve had to be ripped back and knit again, with more forgiving numbers. Which I “mathed” with great difficulty because the old noodle stil isn’t functioning properly. But I got it done and decided to decrease two stitches every 5th or 6th row. It was then I checked what I had written about sleeves in the white February Sweater, knitted with the same yarn and the same needle. Just to be sure.
It’s written there clear as day: start with 54 stitches, decrease 2 every 6th row. Those are the correct numbers. Why did I not check this project for notes?? I had! I had read this words, recently! Clearly my brain cannot be trusted. Not yet. I was ready to break some more needles, on purpose this time.

Instead I’ve resolved to knitting an existing pattern after these two. No more trying to do this thinking stuff myself, trying to be smart. Just get yarn, get needles and follow a pattern, row by row. There are some good patterns out there, all I need to do is get a gauge.
My other nemesis…. gauge.

In the mean time I’ve knitted on the new sleeve for a bit. But it’s raining outside, there’s no chocolate in the house and my enthousiasme for this cardi is seriously tempered. I estimate I have now knitted this cardi twice already, in hours and stitches. And I’m still one sleeve and a half and a collar short. And I didn’t even put in pockets.

Today I haven’t knit a stitch.
Instead I’ve finished sewing a skirt I want to wear tomorrow. Tomorrow is Annual Meeting of the National Spinner’s Foundation. Initially I wasn’t going to go because I still need to rest so much but this week I was so fed up with stupid knitting/stupid me that I decided to go and have some fun tomorrow. You remember last year, with the little knitted sheep? Tomorrow I’m going to spin. And wear my new skirt.

Avoiding knitting today I made my second batch of custard and turned it into chipolata pudding, which is a Dutch sweet treat having nothing to do with sausages:

This is not a picture of my pudding, this is from wikipedia. Mine didn’t last long enough for pictures. But it was good! With half a litre of whipped cream. And “bitterkoekjes” and tangerine and ananas. yumyum
Here’s a recipe based on custard.
I better start knitting again soon otherwise I’ll need to adjust the size I knit and sew.

Progress on Spring Brioche shawl.

I finished the long strip of light green. I used about 95 grams of the Wollmeise (which is a 150 grams skein). Its dimensions are 90 cm x 13 cm but it stretches to much more than that.

Now I’ve started attaching a two colour brioche strip on the top. It was VERY fiddly to get it started. But I’m on the way now.



Over the moon

Yesterday there was a solar eclipse over the north of Europe. The 20th of March is also the anniversary of our wedding and we embraced the chance to celebrate the two events.

Solar Eclipse Fest Food For Two:

Solar eclipse food! 20 maart 2015

There’s dark tea and coffee. Sunny eggs. Dark spheres of mini Bossche Bollen filled with light whipped cream. The moon is made of cheese so that’s what’s on the round balls of bread.
I sprinkled cinneamon moonshadows on rice pudding and slices of apple that had a real star in the centre.
And some square chocolatier bonbons on a square plate to emphasize the roundness of the other things. Dark chocolates and two almo(o)nd hazelnut pralinés.
And two yellow round paper lanterns (made from cloth)
(I forgot to put the vase of Ranonculus there, some big round yellow balls of flowers.)

Planning this and setting this up made me giggle. I was giggling when I took these pictures.

Then it really got (a little bit) dark and the lights automatically switched on. Party!

Solar eclipse food! 20 maart 2015

We wore our weeding rings for the occasion, we sat down opposite each other and had ourselves a lovely brunch.

We didn’t get to see the eclipse because there was a thick fog over the country. But it did get dark, just like it was evening. Only occurring much faster. Weird experience.

Later that day I got a lot of knitting done on the Deco Cardi and felt like a million bucks:

Progress on Deco Cardi: a better diamond

I redesigned the way the diamonds stack together:

There’s a purl in there and the dominant line doesn’t cross over to the diamond below. In the next stack the other line will be dominant so as to alternate in each individual diamond.
It kind of works. It’s a bit hard to see by now because I’ve frogged this piece for 15 times now and the yarn at the purl stitch is getting a bit fuzzy. Fuzzy yarns conceal things.
But I’m ok with this, I’m working downwards now, I want to get this cardi in progress.

The hip increases have already been put in. I’m back at the total stitch count of 108 stitches now, the same that will go into the lower border.
I’ve also started two other stacks of diamonds. They will be two diamonds high. The one in the picture will be four high.

I’ve spend some days grubling about. (to gruble = Norwegian for pondering and I personally insert some muttering as well)
Because I was rather dumb when I positioned that first stack of diamonds. Its centre stitch is in line with the border I want to knit, it is at stitch number 39. Which is actually number 41 once the hip increases are in place. The border is *1k,3p* with extra k at the end. (and two edge stitches which I forgot and have to fudge once I approach the border.

But as I want the diamonds at the bottom in a particular rhythm of high and low diamonds I needed this stack to be anywhere but #41. At the moment it forces one side to have a high diamond and the other half a low one.
The two sides of the front panels will never mirror each other when it’s at #41. I tried and sketched and thought about other sizes diamonds and magically increasing some parts and end up with 112 stitches or even 120, just to make things work.

I could bore you with the mathematics but the summary is that I did it wrong and it’s never going to be right.
I don’t understand, I spend hours designing it and counting out stitches in the first place. How can I’ve made this mistake?

In terms of solving this mistake I spend the last few days trying to make the numbers work nonetheless, but they won’t. Along the way I’ve given up on putting a pocket in there. That would require my last brain cell to overheat, I’m sure.
I seriously contemplated frogging it all and starting all over, placing the first diamond at a more appropriate number.
But having knit that part sixteen times already and having no guarantee my head will be good this time I decided against frogging. There we are. My left front panel won’t match my right and that’s the end of it. If the cardigan-police comes by and dares to comment I’ll refer them to my off-kilter Minty handspun Wintertrui 2014. It’s a design feature, darling!

But the head not working has me rather annoyed. It’s a real nuisance when you unexpectedly encounter bad mental capabilities.
I guess I better get used to it because it’ll probably progress with age. And I better be on alert whenever I’m under stress or relapse in ME because that’s when the head goes too. I’m still muttering a bit, all this reknitting and redesigning has cost me so much knitting time.

While grubling and grumbling and getting my head to work I did get a lot done on the Spring Brioche shawl though. Because once the thinking is out of the way the actual knitting is smooth sailing. Especially in quality yarns.

Final studies for Spring Brioche Shawl and cast on.

Last weekend, as I was running out the door to go to that cat/wool party, I grabbed my silly little suitcase:

It looks terribly childish, especially next to the red Deer&Doe dress I was wearing, but I realized at the very last second that it contained what I wanted to study in the two hour train trip:

My swatch for the Spring Brioche Shawl! The one I’ve been harping on about for months now.

Luckily, one of my knitter friends travelled on the same train as I and she agreed to sit next to all my childishness and we had a little study group going on. Showing and explaining my swatches made it easy to see what I like and what not. Even though my swatches always look messy and unorganized my friend could see every little change and its significance. A knitter friend is a wonderful gift! She advised me to stick to what I like and not try to force things that do not work.
When I got of the train I was ready for the final stretch.

So last Wednesday I put my suitcase on the table and made a thorough study of all the Brioche colour work that I would actually consider for this shawl:

(I once read this marvellous insult: “I neither have the time nor the crayons to explain it to you.” This is pretty much how I feel treated when the cat “helps” me like this. She has no regard for my work. Nor for my crayons.)

A clear plan emerged. The shawl is going to start out with a wide strip that’s knitted sideways. It will feature diamond shapes through travelling stitches all in one colour. At the top it will have two coloured brioche in stockinette stitch stripes (they are so neat!). Later on stitches will be picked up at one long side for a neck detail in the dark colour and at the other long side for an interesting edge in two colours. (We’re thinking stockinette stitched stripes again because they are so crisp but we have to consider curling too.)
I started the final swatch:

It’s at the bottom of the picture. The light green part has diamond shaped details by ways of travelling stitches. This was going to be the Art Deco part of the shawl, after all.
The two coloured part has stockinette stripes in it.

At the top is the long thin part you’ve seen before, in which I studied various two colour brioche combinations and searched for the right needle size.

But the travelling stitches… they don’t look nice. In fact they look horrible.
I played around a bit more, trying various variables, to get them better. I failed.
But now I don’t think it’s possible to make angular lines with travelling stitches on brioche, at all. They are all more flowing and round than angular. (And I cannot get the travelling stitches to be consistent in tension anyway).

On Ravelry this is the only project I’ve found that looks decently angular and is in travelling stitches, and with all the reclining on the couch I’ve been doing I think I’ve seen every brioche/fishermen’s rib project out there.

Celtish by Joshua Carlson a.k.a. The Bearded Knitter
Wonderful scarf and a free pattern too! But still quite flowy, more “Celtic” than “Art Deco”.

So I switched tactics. Travelling stitches were out. All those beautiful shawls that had inspired me to start this project had to be put out of my mind. I had to go another way. Fly free, mind, fly free.

One avenue that Brioche offers is to use the characteristic striped texture it possesses to make diamond shapes. Make lines with increases and decreases. Use lines to define shapes.
I studied a few examples on Ravelry. The best one is Windmolen jacket by Nancy Merchant:

But I didn’t have the book with me in the city so I couldn’t study it in detail. I tried a bit on my own in the swatch but I quickly saw I couldn’t make it work.

Another thing in the swatch that bugged me was the amount of stripes going on at the left. I don’t need 7 dark stripes. I’m reluctant towards stripes to begin with.
So I bound off a few of the stripes, to see how 5 dark stripes would look. Better. Much better. Pretty soon I bound off all of them, so I could focus on the light green part and study shaping through increasing and decreasing.

That was disastrous. Conclusion: I can’t make diamond shapes that way. And I don’t want to wait till the weekend to study Windmolen Jacket. And this is just another swatch.

So I changed course once more and “settled” for just textured stripes to hint at Art Deco. No diamond shapes this time. Only stripes. And not coloured stripes either, no, just the stripey texture Brioche has all on its own. Especially knit on a small needle and in good round yarn (hello Wollmeise) it can look very crisp.
Design plan: monocoloured stripes and a few multicoloured details…

Looking once more at the Brioche patterns I favourited on Ravelry and the sketches I made on my notepad I decided upon three stitch combinations I wanted to use in this sideways panel:

  1. a small band of two coloured stockinette stripes. Only 5 dark ones. (remember edge stitch)
  2. a slightly wider band with dark leaflike shapes on light background, all done with increases and decreases
  3. a wide band in only light green that has stripes feathering out. (remember edge stitch)

On paper I sketched the final decisions, determined that the increases would make a nice beginning and decided on the final number for cast on.
Then I ripped out all the swatches I’d made. Wound the yarn into balls again and casted on for the real thing:

Beginning of my shawl.

That’s the solid part on the right, with the increases fanning out and the yarn ends laying in the way. In the middle is the colour work, there are already two dark leaves finished and I already messed up how decreases must be done (change around the colour sequence to avoid light green lines in a dark green detail) and the leaves sport between them a rather pronounced light green column of burp-stitches. At the left is the stockinette stitch stripe part. There are 5 dark stripes there and only in the last 4 rows I realized that one light green column ought to be burps not knits.

This is as far as I got with this version of Spring Brioche Shawl.

Apart from the faults I mentioned above the main problem is the combination of a solid part with a two coloured part. Because of how Brioche works I had to work the solid part twice as many times as the coloured part. In between I had to twirl the yarns around each other to anchor the light part to the other part. And I had to push stitches around on needles all the time to work one part on one colour while the other colour was waiting half way the needle. It was driving me nuts. But I was probably willing to put up with it, even as the shawl would grow much wider, if the bridge between the two coloured and mono coloured part hadn’t looked so awful. It looks like I knotted each row together. While wearing mittens. Thrummed mittens.

 Family Thrummed Mittens by Catherine Vardy

I put it in its suitcase for the night.

The next day I looked at it with fresh eyes. And I knew what had to be done: the solid colour has to be worked separate from the two coloured part. This means working a wide sideways strip in one colour, then pick up stitches at the long side and then work a second, two coloured, strip alongside it. This strip will have the “leaves” and the five (or three?) dark green bands.
(Adding a sideways knitted strip to any piece of knitwear is usually a thing I avoid but in this case it’s really the best thing to do.)
After that pick up stitches once again for neck detail and edging all around.

So here we are. Spring Brioche Shawl has started! This is two days of knitting:

A sideways knit band of Brioche increasing. Brioche is so stripey already that it doesn’t need anything else, less is indeed more. The top side is smaller than the bottom side. But overall it’s not deep/high at all, not even 15 cm. This doesn’t feel wide enough but I don’t know how Wollmeise brioche will behave when finished. Will it stretch? Will it bounce back?

Needles are small: 2 mm. The yarn is Wollmeise Twin which is a tightly spun, round yarn, and the colourway is Zarte Knopse. To be combined with Spinaci.

I really like how crisp the brioche looks on 2 mm needles! I like the feel of the fabric. For now it’s very bouncy. I already suspect I won’t have enough yarn for the shawl I have planned, this is knitting up yarn so fast. But I won’t mind buying more. It’s a good thing this is a repeatable colourway. But will a 600 grams shawl be usable?

When I’m buying more, I wouldn’t mind buying some extra for a pullover in Wollmeise Brioche either, mind. Probably in Lace since that’s a little bit smaller in gauge. The ease would be amazing. A fitted look without the need for not-breathing. Excellent.

But that’s for later, today I’m knitting my brioche shawl and as we’re travelling between city and cabin a few times I’m working from a little suitcase. I feel so organized!

(Suitcases also works to keep the yarn snobby cat Poekie out of my project)