Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Finished WIP's and Poor Little Puppy

Well, I've been a busy girl this past week. 2, yes 2 finished fiber projects, 1000 yds of handspun laceweight yarn, 12 silk scarves, hand dyed, ironed and boxed, ready to wrap for holiday gifts and I played nurse to my baby, a 10 year old Scottish Terrier who had a mass removed from his paw on last Monday.

Scottie the scottie at home after surgery

Scottie (no, I didn't name him) is doing just fine. He now has a handknit sock and boot to cover his poor little foot. The stitches come out next week but until then it needs to stay clean and dry. We won't have the pathology back for a while yet so please keep him in your prayers.

Onto more exciting things, FINISHED PROJECTS! I think I mentioned previously that I was weaving a scarf on my new rigid heddle loom. I used Emu Naturally wool for the warp and my own handspun wool/mohair for the weft. The handspun was a blend of 2 colors, one a solid turquoise and the other a turquoise/rose blend that I purchased at MDS&W '07. The yarn created subtle undulating shades against the rose colored warp. I'm really proud of this one since it is my first woven item.

handspun, handwoven scarf

I had thought to give it away but I think that it will stay with me. As this was my first attempt, there are a couple of problems with it. Next time I will loosen up my weft at the selvedges but all things considered I'm really happy with the result. I purchased the loom in an effort to use up some of my handspun faster than knitting and I certainly was able to do that. The 11" wide, 60" long scarf only took about 5 hours, including warping the loom. I have more of the handspun (I did around 24 ounces originally) and I like the colors so I'm thinking I'll do the same project again, adjusting to loosen the edge just a bit.

My second finished project is my tam using the California Red that was in my spinning guild's paperbag for this year. This one make me happy for a couple of reasons, first, it is finished and ready to display well in advance of the December guild meeting and second, I was really looking forward to creating a tam and playing with the wheel type motif on the top.

knitted tam using hand dyed, handspun yarn

The California Red is the multicolor yarn. I handpainted the fiber using acid dyes and then spun it and plyed it to create a sportweight yarn. I wasn't happy with the feel of the yarn, it is kind of rough and so I used it to create the fairisle patterning against a background of commercially milled wool and alpaca. The end result is just lovely. The colors in the handspun really look nice against the sage green of the background yarn. It fits nicely although next go around I will decrease the needle size used on my ribbed band. This was the first time I actually used a multi-colored yarn for fair isle. I ususally do it the old fashioned way and end up with 15-20 partially used skeins. I really like the results and will likely do this again in the future. I have some very suble color blends of handspun in my stash and I'm already dreaming of fair isle socks with more of a color contrast.

So, thats it for now. I'm off to begin work on my first issue of the North Country Spinners Newsletter, a job that I am taking on beginning this month. I'm also beginning to work on my 2009 festival schedule. I just learned that the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival has a waiting list so that one is out. I'm hoping to get a few shows in this spring. If anyone has any suggestions, drop me a note. Geographically, I like to limit myself to the Northeast.

That's all for now. Until the next time, Happy Knitting, Bitsy

Monday, November 10, 2008

Look what came in the mail today / thoughts on photos

Stash Enhancement...

I'm so excited! Look what came in the mail today... a huge pile of rainbow fluff, more often referred to as a batt of alpaca. This is a photo of one of the batts.

rainbow alpaca batt

A total of 4.25 pounds of rainbow, 2 pounds of white and 2.4 pounds of natural colors from Marathon Fiber Mills. Of course, I had to grab a handful and try it out right away. I spun a little sample with a drop spindle of unknown origins just to try it out. They told me that this was prime and boy were they right. nice staple length, easy to spin. I simply tore off a strip of the batt off the edge and hand pulled it into roving. I really like the results.

spindle spun rainbow alpaca yarn

When I saw this advertised, I knew that it wanted to be a sweater some day. I'm not sure if I'll use the same method when I do the sweater spinning. I may take the batt apart in layers in order to preserve cleaner color separations but I will definitely be spinning all of the colors of the rainbow into a worsted weight yarn to knit something cozy for myself.

You're never too old to learn...

I am a member of the North Country Spinners, a guild with members from Eastern PA, NJ and NY that meets monthly in Blairstown, NJ. This month, the program was "How to Photograph Your Work" with Daryl Lancaster ( If you ever have the opportunity, take a class with Daryl. She was wonderful, well prepared and knowledgeable and the advice she gave me is invaluable. I'm looking forward to an improvement in the photographs here as well as in my Etsy shop. I was so excited to give her suggestions a try that I dressed my 13 year old son up in black from head to toe and used him as a model. Although I could have had a more cooperative subject, here is one of my shawls displayed elegantly on his lithe 5'8" frame. I know that I need to improve on my background and my model could be wearing better fitting clothing but hey, its a start :)

Roses in Fall shawl

Works in Progress...

The weekend was spent playing with my new (used) rigid heddle loom. I was totally absorbed in it and I finished my very first woven scarf. I should say, I finished the weaving portion. I still need to remove the header and finish off the ends. I used a naturally dyed millspun wool for the warp and handspun wool/mohair for the weft. I'm happy with the results although I do need to loosen up a bit next time. Pictures will be posted when it is all done.

I'm still knitting along on my Wensleydale shawl but I did start another new project yesterday. Our guild's paperbag project for the year was some California Red roving. Since we display our finished projects at our December meeting, I though it was time to get going on the knitting. Earlier in the year, I handpainted the roving and spun it into a 2 ply fingering weight yarn. Last night, I finally decided what to do with it. Originally I had planned to knit a lace scarf but I really wasn't thrilled with how the yarn felt after it was finished. It took dye beautifully with deep, rich colors and spinning it was OK (a little bumpy but not too bad). When the yarn was plied and washed, it had a rough feel to it that doesn't feel good next to the skin. That killed the scarf idea since I didn't want to wear it against my neck. I though about weaving with it but if I did a scarf I would have the same issue.

Because I handpainted the roving, the colors change constantly along each ply of the yarn creating a lovely effect of colors and I want to take advantage of that. I dove into my stash (larger than most yarn stores) and came up with a lightweight yarn, 20% alpaca, 80% wool in a sage green that is an exact match for one of the colors in the handspun. With the two yarns, I swatched a fairisle pattern and was please with the results. I began work on a fairisle tam that begins with a ribbing in the sage green so that it will be soft next to the skin. The patterning will be done in the handspun using the multicolored yarn to create the illusion of many yarn colors. Photos will follow as perhaps will a matching scarf or mittens, depending on my enthusiasm level.

Well, I'm off to begin the colorwork on the tam. That should keep me happy for the evening. I like it when my knitting makes me think and because I am not taking the time to chart out the tam in advance, it will definitely keep my mind occupied throughout the evening.

Happy Knitting, Bitsy

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I finally caught up to the 21st Century!

I know, I know, I should have had a blog ages ago. I've resisted (I'm giving in and I'll soon have email on my cellphone, too). So, since this is my very first entry, I guess I should tell you all a little bit about myself.

My name is Bitsy, and I knit :)

That would probably do it for some of you but for the knitters out there, I KNIT!

I have been knitting and creating with fiber for more than 35 years. More recently, I have become a spinner and a dyer of all things fiber. To start us off, I'm including some pics of some of my more recent work. That's probably the best way to get to know me, since fiber takes up a goodly portion of my day.

Fascinating Rhythm Entrelac Shawl

I suffer from degenerative joint disease which limits my mobility severely. Fortunately, I am generally still able to knit and/or spin in my recliner and so I have become rather prolific in my work. So prolific in fact that I recently have begun marketing some of my goods. You can find them in my Etsy store, So far, no profits (I'm a loooong way from those) but at least it keeps me thinking. Perhaps this blog will help with that as well.

My designs and articles on knitting have been published in Yarn Magazine and I teach knitting and lead workshops as well when I am able. My areas of expertise range around the fiber and knitting world - felted bags, Norwegian style Ski Sweaters, two handed stranded colorwork, lace shawls (I've knit a couple dozen) and more. I dye with professional acid dyes but I like to play with natural dyes as well. In my short time spinning, I have earned 4 Blue Ribbons and 3 second places for skeins of everything from straight up wool to Llama to tencel.

handspun superwash merino self-striping sock yarn

I live in the Lehigh Valley near Allentown, PA, having moved here after 20 years in Central New Jersey with my husband and my 2 sons (yes, they moved too). I am convenient to the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas which would be nice if I had more mobility. That said, I do travel for workshops and retreats, they just require some advance planning.

"Quite a Party" handpainted roving

To keep you coming back to visit, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my current project. I began with 3 braids (4 oz each) of handpainted Wensleydale roving. By dividing the roving into smaller pieces, I spun 5 - 2 ply lace weight yarns that gradiate from Aqua to Lavander. I charted out a top down triangular lace shawl that I am currently knitting. To entice you, a picture of the 5 skeins is below. Next post, I'll have some pics of the shawl in progress and a little bit more detail. I am planning to submit this project to Spin-Off Magazine along with an article so I am carefully photographing it as I move along.

Handspun Wensleydale Lace Weight Yarn in 5 shades

Thanks for taking time to read all the way to the bottom. For those of you who did, drop me an email and I'll happily take 10% off anything in my Etsy store through December 1st. See, it does pay to stick it out and read to the end!

I'll do my best to post on a regular basis. There will be times that I am lax and times that I'm distracted (I'm picking up a new loom on Friday) but be assured that I'll always be back...eventually.

Until then, Keep Knitting, Bitsy