Wheels Up in Five

What you see below is, roughly and as explained to a three year old, our road itinerary for our trip. Lord willing, our plane takes off at 1:30 tomorrow.

Stops will include Ottawa, central Maryland, Columbia SC, Tallahassee and Jacksonville FL, and Rhode Island. If we haven’t already made plans to see you, will we be passing your way?

What you see above is all the crafting I am bringing on this trip. In the two failed vacuum seal bags is about 9 oz of wool. My plan is to spin it all on two spindles.

This is the Turtlemade spindle Rachel sent me; it’s a 3D printed Turkish spindle, and weighs 35 grams. I’ve been practicing with it and found it perfect for getting back in the groove of spindling after 7 or so years of not touching a drop spindle. It takes forever to wind pretty turtles, but it’s so adorable, how can you not wind pretty turtles?!

The other new spindle is buried in a suitcase right now, and I’ll talk more about it later, but suffice it to say it’s a very long, heavy top whorl spindle at 65 grams. I’m guessing I’ll be using it for plying.

In the vacuum bags pictured on the suitcase, the top one is an amalgam project I’ll have to introduce later. I’ve long been planning it as my Tour de Fleece spin. The centre bag is what you see directly above: the latest Wool N Spinning / Crafty Jaks breed and color study. It’s a wild riot of color on targhee, and I love it. I caved and decided to bring it when I realized the plan I’d settled on was something I could do on spindles.

It seems a little crazy to think I can spin all that in one trip. But then it is nine weeks away. I can probably do an ounce a week. Even if I do get derailed by the stash in Mums basement, which I have plans about as well.

My goal for Tour de Fleece is simple: spin at all every day. I have no time goals, not even fifteen minutes; I just want to be spinning every day, even if it’s only a few yards. This will be challenge enough, since not only will we be traveling, by TdF encompassed the two-week four-stop tour of the southeast that we have planned for mid-July. I’m not holding my breath, but just having goals makes me feel hopeful.

Back to the suitcase picture. The red bag, out of which you see two yarn cakes peeking, is the one knitting project I’m bringing along. It’s a fingering weight yoke sweater that I cast on right after baby was born.

It’s an amalgam of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s original fair isle yoke sweater, documented in The Opinionated Knitter and other volumes, and I will cardiganize it and decorate the yoke with patterning from Susan Pandorf’s “Rohan” cape. It had been growing steadily when discussions of sweater fit started cropping up in the Wool N Spinning community, leading me to buy one of Amy Herzogs books.

I tried her whole experiment of taking pictures of myself and drawing lines on it, and it was fascinating. You may think that this was not, perhaps, the best idea to do this immediately postpartum. But it was a good opportunity to get to know my body again, and with my little girls helping me take pictures, to practice unflinching, no-exceptions body positivity. If I make a sweater that’s a bit big on me in a year, all the better.

It is no mean feat to reconcile the systems of two designers who have each, in different ways, mastered the art of sweater knitting. Especially when one doesn’t have gobs of experience with either. EZs designs are of a particular time and style, and Herzog focuses on contemporary fitted designs (in this book, all pieced bottom up sweaters with set in sleeves). But when you come down to it, it’s all math, and in the end all I’m really doing is adding some waist shaping to the basic cardigan. I put more shaping in the back than front, based on the pictures; we’ll see if it works out or looks ridiculous.

It’s been the perfect mindless knitting for when I’m too tired to do anything else (read: most of the time). We’ve also been watching a bit of Star Trek: Discovery with a friend, and the blue spinning demands too much concentration to enjoy it. As a result, I find myself a good nine inches into the thing.

It’s be fun if I could start working on the yoke while I’m at Mums house. If I have to, I may provisionally cast on sleeve stitches, knit the yoke first, then knit the sleeves down later. I don’t see why I shouldn’t when there’s no patterning.

Well, that’s all for now. I don’t know how many of you read this blog for the fiber content anymore, but whether you are a wool-associated person or not, I hope your summer is off to a lovely start. And I hope I get to see lots of you on our travels.

Blue Period

All’s been quiet on the crafting front lately. Baby decided to grow out of her lovely habit of falling asleep with her daddy in the evenings, and often enough we just want to go to bed early anyway.

Very lately, we’ve been in vacation prep mode. In forty-two hours, it’s wheels up on the Osborn travel wagon. Before we go, I wanted to post a wee update on what I have been working on… and for some reason, it’s all been blue.

Out for a walk on Knit-in-Public Day. The weather turned a couple of weeks ago, so we have been out a good bit.

I decided in May that I wanted to knit my friend a pair of socks for her birthday. I had left myself over a month of lead time, and I used to knit socks in a month all the time, so I figured it’d work out. A week went by, I had cast on… another week, and I had to rip out the cuff and redo… another week, and I had started the patterning… Then she announced her party was a week before her actual birthday. Oops. I worked on the socks incessently and got one done for the party. I cast on the other and had it done for her actual birthday, so all in all, it’s as good as if I’d planned it.

The pattern is from Nancy Bush (who else?) and her book Knitting Vintage Socks. I believe it’s called “Child’s French Sock.” No, I’m not embarking on another knit-through, but I did turn to that book first. These grabbed my fancy with the pretty lace business up the sides, and the in-between knit-purl stitch is apparently called “diaper stitch.” I was tickled, since my friend and I have a thing for cloth diapers.

I think my favorite part of the pattern is the way the uneven ribbed cuff swoops into the top of the lace pattern.

The other bit of blue is the lovely batt I opened for the first month of my birthday fibre club. When I was finished the socks I gave myself permission to really start.

Part of the appeal of Loop! bullseye batts is, I think, that you can pull from the centre. But I’d heard through the grapevine that they can be a little compacted. So I was neither surprised nor disappointed when pulling from the centre resulted in a bunch of messy breakage.

I decided to wind the whole thing off into bumps, very carefully keeping the strip of roving flat and fluffy, and breaking at the end of each repeat. I wanted to rearrange the order a bit anyway, and I got the intriguing experience of peeling back the layers of the batt. 

As you can see, two of the bumps are identical, and the other two are a little smaller. There are four repeat of dark to light, but the first one starts a little late and the last one and a little early. I am going to spin the bumps into pairs, the two smaller ones, and the two larger ones, reversing the order of the second of each pair. Each half will be wound into a separate centre pull ball and plied against itself. This should make two skeins of two ply gradient, the smaller one matched up a little bit more unevenly. I hope you followed that!

The spinning it’s self is proving challenging. The fiber is truly a roving (see below). I am trying to spin it short forward – it honestly didn’t occur to me to do anything else. I don’t know that I would want to use my fledgeling woolen drafting skills on such a precious, and besides I am spinning with baby on my chest most of the time, which does not lend itself to large movements. But this fiber does not want to become an even worsted yarn. Fair enough; it wasn’t made to.

I’m aiming for around the 28 wpi mark on my control card, though I’m more often hitting the 32, with plenty of thicker and thinner bits. I’m letting the thicker bits sort of swallow up the occasional nupp or clump of what must be silk or cashmere (this is a merino/silk/cashmere blend) and not stressing it too much. I find that what feels uneven in the drafting looks nicer on the bobbin, even better in the plied yarn, and just fine in the knitting.

The colors are really pretty wonderful. Three shades of blue, carded together over long heathery transitions into a nice gradient. I’ve been inspired by this picture, taken by an Iqaluit photographer named Tristan Omik, with its many brilliant shades of blue. Many people think my home is monochromatic; it’s not, but it does take eyes to see how.

Anyway, this project will have to sit on the wheel while I’m gone for nine weeks. I’m being bad and forgoing the control card, so I hope this page and the yarn’s ravelry entry will enable me to pick it back up on our return.

Blue. I rarely pick it up; the warmer colors draw me in more. But it’s so wearable and calming, and I don’t mind a little calm right now!

Tripping at the Finish Line

As I’ve had less time in general over the past several years to make and do, a surprising theme has slowly emerged: being more careful and intentionally slow about how I do things. It seems ironic to me that when I had more time, I would move faster, cranking through projects and ideas without stopping very long to consider how well they were done or what I could learn from them. It’s not that I wouldn’t reflect on my projects, but the point seemed to be getting through them and on to the next one, rather than considering whether I had made something useful, or whether I had made it well.

This is demonstrated in the fact that I would never reknit things. It was almost a point of pride. Once I was done a thing, it was done. I’d rather throw a thing I’d spent hours making in the back of a closet and never use it than take the time to alter it. Kinda silly when it’s put like that, don’t you think?

My return to spinning over the last year and a half has been a means of developing more focused intentionality, and the spin I just completed is an example of that. Back when I started the project last May, I documented how I chose a knitting project, prepped half my fiber, and sampled very carefully. That in itself was a change of pace for me.

Part of that initial prep. I changed my mind on color arrangement after this, but you can see some of what I mean by gradient-by-value.

Starting a big spin two weeks before vacation was a silly idea, but I didn’t care. It was also a big break from the goals I set for last year; spinning such a large quantity of light fingering weight yarn was guaranteed to become a slog. That’s why this took so long to complete; I was right about my goals! Still, I got through almost a quarter of the spin before vacation. Then that bobbin sat on a shelf for many months afterwards, accusing me while I got on with faster, more thrilling spins.

I can see it glaring at me. Maybe it’s the influence of those lexicons behind them.

I came back to it after my first big sweater spin. That big project was a huge accomplishment, and the spin 15 a day habit had convinced me it was possible to finish this hibernating project. At that point, my careful sampling came through for me. I was able to replicate my singles pretty exactly by following the movements I had recorded. The sample hung from my wheel for motivation, and I checked that plyback sample faithfully every time I sat down to work.

My trusty sample card and sample, which followed me through this project.

I did make one big change to my plan. I had laid out a very subtle gradient-by-value. Meaning, I tore up the braid into all its constituent colors, then arranged them to have more of the darker colors at one end of the single, and more of the lighter colors at the other end. But the colors were still scrambled within each single, so the effect would be very vague.

I decided I wanted my gradient to be clearer. So one of the plies – the one I’d already prepped – would be the scrambled gradient, while the other I separated into all its colors and spun them from darkest value to lightest.

One of about a million bobbin shots I inflicted on Instagram.

I only had three bobbins available, and for some reason I’ve gotten really sick of winding singles into cakes on my ball winder. So to avoid really stuffing the singles on those bobbins, I did the spin in halves. I spun up half of each single and plied it, making careful note of my plying statistics, and finished it before starting the second half of the spin.

I thought it would be disheartening to work this way, and was worried about contracting some kind of “second skein syndrome”, a spinners equivalent of what sometimes happens with knitters and socks. But in fact it was highly motivating, seeing that beautiful yarn I had made. It helped, too, that I started spinning the rest of the singles right away.

I finished the third bobbin and started the fourth before baby was born. Thanks to Jared spending many cozy evenings with his daughter, the second bobbin was done and the yarn plied while it was yet May.

Plying done! … but not looking quite right.

While I was plying, though, something didn’t look quite right. The yarn was looking underplied on the bobbin, even though I was plying exactly the same as I had the other (12″ per draft, remeasured with a ruler each time I sat down, 6 treadles per draft, on the 11.5:1 whorl). I also noticed that the screw to tilt-tension my drive-band was getting awfully low.

I measured after spinning, and sure enough, the twist was less: averaging 5 or 6 tpi instead of 7 or 8. My hemp twine drive band, which was getting old and I had meant to replace, was slipping. Not enough that I noticed – I can usually hear serious slippage – but enough to affect the yarn.

You can tell they’re not quite the same.

Is there anything worse when you think you’re almost done a huge project, to find out you’re not quite done? It’s a lot worse with a sweater somehow, when you have to alter or undo seams. At least with spinning you don’t really have to disassemble anything. Still, it’s hard to swallow.

I had a similar problem with my big red sweater quantity spin, which is why I didn’t blog about it. It looked underplied to me at the end, though my peers weren’t sure they agreed. Before putting such a large quantity (1400 yards) back through the wheel, I want to be sure it’s necessary. To determine that, I should really knit up a wearable swatch like a wrister and see how it wears. I realized I wasn’t ready for that step, so I called the yarn finished and put it away, to deal with the wear question when I’m ready to knit with it next.

Hey, a sweater quantity! Kind of a big deal.

With this spin, however, wear was not the issue; the problem was getting two halves of a gradient to match! There was no question about it. Time for a trip back through the wheel.

Somehow it made it easier to use the swift to both hold the yarn as I fed it back through the wheel, and to wind it back into a skein at the end. My shoulder has been giving me trouble as I get used to babywearing again, and using the niddy noddy was like torture.

Here’s where it was helpful that the yarn was a gradient. I measured different areas of the skein and discovered that the parts I had plied first had the most twist, meaning the slippage had gotten worse as I went. I knew I had to add an average of 1.5 tpi in twist. I set my wheel to 6:1 (fixing the drive band first). For the first part of the skein I drafted about 12″ per treadle (adding .5 tpi). As I got into less twisted sections I drafted less, more like 6″ to 3″ (adding 1-2 tpi). I just eyeballed the yarn, adding more or less twist depending on how it looked, working my way toward only drafting 3″ for the last portion.

I’ve arranged the skeins so you can kind of see how the gradient will work out.

After finishing the yarn again, this time it looked perfect. I stumbled at the finish line, but got across. There are parallels for me in cooking, where small efforts of mindful attention – which do not come naturally to me – make a huge difference in the final product.

I just love the final yarn. Overall I got 1130 yards, which at 7.3 oz makes a grist of 2476 ypp. That’s within shooting distance of my sample grist of 2882 ypp, measured as accurately as possible for me. (As in I enlisted the help of my friend the pharmacist and her uber-accurate scale.)

The reason the yardage isn’t what I hoped is that the braid, labeled as 8 oz, was closer to 7.6. I weighed after I started prepping and was quite disappointed, considering what the thing had cost. I’ll be checking weights from now on with commercial fiber. I’m guessing that’s within some kind of industry standard limit, or maybe it’s just a difference in humidity (Blue Moon Fiber Arts is in the PNW and I live in a literal frozen desert). But when planning for a specific project, such a difference could have consequences. Thankfully, my pattern is knit in such a way that it gets bigger until the halfway point, then gets smaller, so I can just make the halfway point of the project when I’m half out of yarn.

There’s always more to learn, and even when the result is this good, the mistakes are usually the most interesting part! Still, I’m thankful to learn a wee bit about finishing well.

Finding Time in Special Seasons

I’m very interested in time and efficiency in crafting, and on other small scales. Overall in life I’m not very efficient, but for example, I’ve come up with a focused way to get the dishes done very quickly, and I can produce a sermon or paper very quickly (it won’t necessarily be good, but it will exist). I wrote a long time ago about different kinds of time and the different kinds of knitting that suit them. (Can’t find this post for the life of me. Argh!) These days I’m less of a multi-project knitter than I am a multi-crafter, and I now find I am thinking in seasons.

It may be a trend (I am never the sort of person who will know about trends), but I’m certainly seeing lots of people on Instagram and ravelry who are identifying less as knitters in an isolated sense, but more as crafters or makers. There are LOTS of knitters, but also lots of people who do more than knit. I’m surprised to find myself one of them. I always thought of myself as a knitter who spins. Now with the addition of sewing and more intense interest in spinning, I find I have one project going in each rather than several knitting projects.

Because different crafts are so – well – different from each other, they demand different kinds of time much more than different kinds of knitting projects do. Sewing goes very quickly compared to knitting, but it fits much better into a few large chunks of time rather than many small ones. Knitting still thrives on its flexibility- the ability to pick it up and work on it immediately, put it down after even a short time and be productive, and its portability. Knitting was made for found time.

Spinning is somewhere in between. It doesn’t take much to get going, but I find I like to have at least fifteen minutes at the wheel to feel like it was worth my time. I like to get into a headspace with spinning, and three minutes is just disappointing.

I’ve seen other crafters talk about how their crafting changes with the seasons. Rachel says she spins on her spindles all summer since she’s outside watching the kids play, and spins on her wheels the rest of the time. A different Rachel said she knits and spins more in the summer and sews in the winter.

Kids, too, are a season. The entire portion of life with small children in one’s house is a season, and within that, there are seasons as each child goes in and out of transitions, needing more attention or independence.

Wonderbaby!

The “fourth trimester”, the first three months of a baby’s life, is a very special and challenging season. I am at present halfway through it. It’s going well; baby is growing and thriving and has no unusual problems. I have nothing to complain about and so much to be thankful for. But it’s also very hard, and I have to be careful to take care of myself, so that this season can be as enjoyable as possible for all involved. So I ask myself questions about how I spend my time this season, and how I can fit in a little bit of the crafting and reading that feeds my soul in a way that fits a special season.

I’ve been spinning differently since baby was born. I waxed lyrical about how great #spin15aday was working for me before baby. But after baby, that is not so much the case.

See, here’s how my fifteen minutes of spinning actually worked: I didn’t really have just 15 minutes; most days I had up to two hours of kid-free time. Most of that time was spent doing chores or cooking, but since I had such a good chunk, I felt fine about taking fifteen minutes of that time to spin, and usually another 15 to read the Bible.

Latest big spin, finally finished on Friday, primarily finished via fifteen minutes a day, until the last quarter which was finished thanks to Daddy and the Moby D. More on this spin anon.

Now I don’t have the two hours. All I have is found time, and that is how I’m doing the necessary things: squeezing cooking and dishes and cleaning into the fifteen minutes here and there that I can put the baby down and she’s not screaming. I can get longer chunks of time by wrapping the baby, but there’s only so much my body can take of that.

What has been working is knitting. I can pick up my knitting and do a few rows (do a few lines? Oh dear) without worrying that the baby will wake up; she can wake up if she wants to. I can knit with the baby wrapped for a short time. I’ve started a sock, which is easier on my arms than a sweater.

(Sewing, I don’t have to tell you, is Right Out for a while. I’m hoping to get back to my kamiik in the fall.)

Being so slowed down, I’ve been enjoying the process more than ever. I see the individual stitches. I appreciate the feel of the yarn. I’m not knitting for deadlines or speed; I’m just knitting for a deep breath, for a prayer, for a reminder that I don’t have to always be worrying about the next thing.

Spinning has been made possible in larger chunks by my husband. I do all the night parenting and he does a larger chunk of taking care of the older girls, so he doesn’t get a lot of baby time. So after the bigs are in bed, on nights that he’s home, he wraps the baby. He bounces her to sleep on our big exercise ball, we put on some Star Trek, and I get a solid hour or two to spin. It’s much more satisfying that way, and if I get even two of those nights in a week, I’m making just as much progress as I would be with fifteen minutes a day.

What I’m still working on is Bible reading. Journaling is next to impossible (aside from this which I do on my phone when I’m pinned for a nap), but getting Gods word into me needs to be a higher priority. I let go of reading a large commentary, thinking I’d read one on my kindle and have it for vacation. But I don’t always have my kindle on me, and I’m just not disciplined enough on my phone to use it for devotions. This might be one of those times when it doesn’t matter if it’s consistent, or if I’m working through a study: I’ve just got to do it, even if it’s different every day. Or maybe even do morning prayer in a short form way I can memorize. Hm. I’m going to keep thinking about this; let me know if this is interesting to you, and if it is I’ll let you know how it goes.

How do you make sure you feed your soul during intense/busy/blessed/complicated seasons? Have you found your crafting changing with the year? What are you struggling to make time for?

WnS Color and Breed Study Winter 2017-18:

I am on a roll with the blogging at the moment. I’ve discovered that while it takes two hands to knit, and a whole body to spin, thanks to mobile technology, it only takes one hand to blog. It’s nice to have a creative outlet – I find post-baby is a time with lots of swirling thoughts, and it’s lovely to catch up on expressing them.

Speaking of catching up, today I finally want to record my results from the Wool n’ Spinning color and breed study from Oct. 2017-March 2018. I took these pictures nearly two months ago, but finally made a few minutes to get them off my DSLR so I could share them with you.

The color subject was combination drafting/spinning, and the fibre was Finn wool. I’ve not blogged about it at all, but I discussed my spinning process in the ravelry group here. In this post I’ll focus on the finished products, both yarn and knitting.

Background: Katrina dyed three quite different colorways, and I ordered the package with two ounces each.

As I watched others spin their fiber, I was most interested in the samples which compared combination plying and combination drafting. [For the uninitiated: in a combo spin, the different plies (strands) are each a different colorway. In a combo draft, each of the plies is made from all three colorways held together.] I wanted a closer look. To learn a little more, I added another variable: whether the top was stripped very thin or not.

This looks like a hot mess, but it is in fact a Plan. I planned four samples, and spun them in ascending order of difficulty:

1. Combo ply, stripped thin (1/16 top)

2. Combo ply, stripped thick (1/4)

3. Combo draft, stripped thin (1/16)

4. Combo draft, stripped thick (1/4)

In all cases, each strip was the entire length of the top.

I’ll use these numbers to refer to the samples throughout; hopefully that’s clear enough.

Here are the finished samples in that order:

I knit them up into the Escarpment Cowl. It’s a similar sillouette to a plain triangle shawl, which starts small at the top, and grows with decreases at the centre and sides/back. I interspersed my bands of handspun with some sock yarn in garter stitch, so I could have clear borders between the different samples.

Samples were knit top down: #2, #3, #4, and #1.

#1: Combo Ply w/ Thin Strips

For #1, I spun thin strips, three colors to three bobbins, and plied them together. I should say this was all worsted draft at 11.5:1; I put all the really nitty details on the project page. It made a fabulously bouncy three ply. No two sections of the yarn are the same. It’s so fun to see all the colors play together differently.

This was the bottom band of the triangle shape, so even though it had the most yardage, it was the thinnest band. I’ve here put two parts of it together so you can see a bigger area of fabric.

A frequent comment about combo plied yarns, and an issue for combo spinning in general, is that they stripe. In this case, having three plies and three colors involved made some difference, and stripping the top quite thin made the stripes as thin as possible. Of course they are even thinner here because I put them at the bottom of my triangle shape. If you want to combo ply and want to minimize striping, I think this is the way to manage it. And striping is an issue with any wildly multicoloured handpainted top, I should think, even when only one colorway is involved. It’s not at all necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider when you’re designing your yarn.

#2: Combo Ply w/ Thick Strips

#2 used thicker strips of fiber the same way. You can see that this resulted in longer runs of color in each ply, meaning very noticeable striping in the finished knit.

This sample was a bit of an oops technically: because of my own user error, the singles ended up rather thicker but I put in the same amount of twist, which meant they were overtwisted. The yarn didn’t spring back and bounce when plied, but stayed very ropey. Still, that was a good mistake to make in a way, to see how a fiber acts with too much twist.

Also, the overtwist made plying very unmanageable, resulting in a lower twist angle than I had intended. It made for a good illustration of how twist angle can change color: lower ply angle = bigger dots of color.

I decided to exaggerate the striping of sample #2 by putting it at the top of the triangle. It’s really very complex and beautiful with the colors shifting through each other at different rates (the color runs in the different colorways were all different lengths).

At the same time, the overtwist made the stitches very jagged. As a fabric, it’s thick, pebbly, and almost stiff. I knit it down on smaller needles than it wanted, because I wanted it go cohere with the rest of the samples, which were a fair bit thinner. Really what I should have done is put this sample at the bottom and knit it on larger needles, letting it flare a bit. But then it also would have been a very thin stripe. Oh well!

In this picture you can see how different the two combo ply fabrics are:

#3: Combo Draft w/ Thin Strips

#3 changed things up dramatically: I held three thin strips together for each single. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, since the strips were thin. The singles were so beautiful and interesting to spin. There was striping in the singles themselves, and I think the next step in this exploration would have been to chain ply singles like these.

Interesting that there are stripes in this finished section. Or is it pooling? I did spin all three plies exactly the same – three strips going together on three bobbins – so it could be an accident of alignment? That would be odd. It’s hard to tell what’s going on.

Still, I think it’s gorgeous. The dots of color are so much smaller than in the combo spins that it’s close to optical blending. Even the stripes look like clouds of separate, deeply complex shades moving past each other.

#4 Combo Draft w/ Thick Strips

This was the most difficult spin, because I was trying to manage three wide strips held together for drafting. I managed it by predrafting them together, but this was not easy either. At this point, I had spun the same singles enough that I was able to achieve a surprising amount of consistency (for me), and I did that by just accepting that when one of the strips took over for a while, that’s what it had to do. So you can pretty much tell that the individual plies have larger chunks of single colors, while other parts are more blended. All in all, it made for an even more complex yarn. Maybe because of those irregularities, it’s the one knitted sample in which I can’t really detect any striping at all.

Still, it’s very very similar to #3. I’m not sure any improvement in #4 is worth the additional hassle of spinning that way.

#3 above, #4 below. You can see that #3 is more blended; #4 has larger dots of color where one colorway frequently took over in one ply.

The Escarpment Cowl itself, into which I knit these samples, is a free pattern that makes a great canvas for handspun. The original is quite a bit smaller, but it’s top down, so you can use up all your yarn, and you can really use any weight of yarn. As you can see from my picture up above, it’s basically a big ol’ triangle. It’s actually an identical shape to those 70’s ponchos that had a comeback maybe 10 years ago. Those were formed by casting on a circle, then had two mitered increase points at the front and back. (By contrast, a top-down raglan sweater yoke has four mitred increase points.) The Escarpment Cowl ends up in that same shape, but because of how it’s constructed, the neck hole is shifted back. So, logically, if you had a lot more yarn and just kept knitting and knitting at this, it would become a front-heavy poncho. This is getting close.

I made the neck hole too big, and putting the thickest yarn/fabric portion at the top creates an odd structured effect. I am accepting it as it is, though. I like the extra color interest near my face. This is an indoor garment for me, so I don’t need it to sit higher in order to be really warm around my neck.

Stretched out to it’s full almost-poncho-ness

I’m finding this a surprisingly wearable garment for me. It provides the extra warmth of a shawl without constantly falling off me. (I just can’t figure out how people who run after kids all day wear shawls. If you have any tips, please lay them on me.) This doesn’t fall off, and it’s actually proved to be a handy sort of modesty-cover when nursing with v-neck or crossover shirts. I pull those shirts down to nurse baby, and while this doesn’t exactly cover, it does let us do what we need to without exposing my entire decoletage. (Not that I’m suggesting you should nurse with a cover if that’s not your bag. I don’t use a cover per se, but I do dress strategically when I go out so that I am covered an amount that I feel comfortable with.)

I learned so much from this study. I made some beautiful yarns with a lot of nuance that I would use differently in different instances. Katrina made three colorways that were very different, but were cohesive enough that it would have been almost impossible to make them look bad together. I learned about speckle-dyed tops and those with white space, and how they make for delicious surprises. I learned so much about twist, and about how different dots of color might make very different looks in a fabric. And I learned that combo drafting is not so scary; I could totally spin a sweater quantity holding two or three thin strips together.

Thank you Rachel and Katrina for a memorable and helpful study!

Weight

My baby is one month old today.

One of my favorite things about newborns is the way you can snuggle with them while they sleep. This phase is always over too soon, so I’m purposely prolonging it with D. She just rests on my chest, head on my sternum.

Fully asleep, the weight of her is astounding. Just over nine pounds of warm, breathing human, perfectly still and completely alive.

This is the weight of glory.* An embodied soul. Completely a person as much as any adult, in a tiny package. All her heartbreaks, all the ways we’ll love her and fail her, all the trials and chances that will make her character amazing, those things are all before her. But she’s still completely herself.

People, I think, do not so much develop as they are revealed. Technically, one would think she hasn’t become anything yet, that her decisions and circumstances will shape her in ways that haven’t yet been decided. That’s true enough. But when I look back at baby pictures of my other kids, and compare them to what they are like now… everything that they are now, seems to already be contained in that baby. It just hasn’t been revealed yet.

I don’t mean that in a deterministic way. I just mean that, based on my limited observation, people seem to have eternity built into them. Whatever she becomes, she already is now; we just don’t know it yet. Already it seems like we were always a family of five, we just hadn’t met everyone yet.

Maybe it’s a paradox. Maybe it’s nonsense. For today I’ll keep my little human on my heart, and let the weight of her personhood pass straight through my sternum and store it up in my heart. I hope that store of glory helps me do my part to be the answer to my biggest prayer for my people, which is that they will know they are loved.

Happy month-birthday, little D!

Butterfly hat from Katrina at Crafty Jaks Boutique.

*The phrase “Weight of Glory” comes from a sermon by C. S. Lewis. It can be found in this anthology of the same name, and is in every way worth your time.

Birthday by Post

Yesterday I got a special box in the mail. My birthday was April 6th, but the box was not at all late.

Back when I wrote about my stash, I realized that I was getting the most use and creative mileage out of the stash I didn’t choose. I tend to buy for myself projects so big that they loom, and then I don’t get around to starting them for a ghastly long time. But the random yarn – usually the old castoffs of friends with good taste – those get used. When I’m shopping my stash for a project that fits my life now, I don’t pick up an idea I had years ago; I come up with something new with yarn or fiber that’s just kicking around.

After writing about that, I began to see a certain practical appeal about fiber clubs. A small amount of fiber, chosen by someone whose tastes I trust, arriving regularly, unmarried to some grand scheme. A sort of scheduled injection of creative freedom between one’s regularly scheduled major spins.

This came up in discussion with Mum when she asked what I wanted for my birthday. The idea evolved between us that, for a birthday present, she would get me the Mum’s Fiber Club. She went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival and picked me a year’s worth of spinning surprises. It feels as if I got to go to the festival vicariously, and Mum supported a variety of different artists this way. It seems to have turned into a very generous present!

Martha’s purple hat was not part of the package; I guess I was too excited to notice it had jumped into the picture.

I’m unreasonably excited about this. She spaced it out very sensibly considering my current limitations. Basically, what you’re looking at is a year’s worth of inspiration.

Care to see the first installment? Of course you do.

Ooooh dear. It has been on my spinning “bucket list” for a while to try a Loop batt, and this is a really nice one. 50% merino, 25% cashmere, 25% silk. I don’t think I’ve ever spun cashmere before.

I count three distinct shades of blue, and four repeats of color. Lots of interesting options for color management, though I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be spun from the centre.

Thank you Mom. Here’s to play.

I promise, this will be my last post about gifts and acquisitions for a while. Also yesterday, the next Color Studies for Wool n’ Spinning was announced, and I put my order in for that as well – I couldn’t help it; I got the fibre kit and the battlings. That’s probably all my new fibre for the year in one day! I had to breathe into a paper bag a bit; too much excitement for me.

Suddenly I am spinning away on my merino/yak with more motivation than ever. Only 1/8 of that spin left, but more on that another time.