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Monday? MONDAY?

Yeah, definitely Monday. I can’t wake up yet it seems, and I clearly need to refill my coffee.

The coffee’s on the right, next to the chocolate-covered strawberries Chad made me yesterday (that’s right, I’m keeping him, no you can’t have him, don’t even think it, I’m a dangerous woman, make your own strawberries). As for the coffee, it’s strong, diluted only with heavy cream. And yeah, I definitely am going to need more of it today. I’m not sure I support this earlier daylight savings time thing — actually I think daylight savings time is silly in general — and I swear that as I age (yeah yeah, just stick me in a rocking chair on the front porch with my knitting and a cane to shake at the passing kids, already) even small time changes have a bigger impact on me than they used to. All the more when it’s back to waking up in the dark. I hate waking up in the dark. It’s uncivilized.

That said, changes in the schedule for daylight savings time being hyped as the new Y2K with respect to information technology bemuses me at best, and causes eyerolling. Please.

But indeed, coffee. It’s going to take coffee for me to get everything done today that I’ve got on my list of bright ideas. I’ve got boxes to pack and a subsequent post office run and sundry other errands while I’m at it. I have at least 4 loads of laundry to get done, and the inevitable folding-and-putting-away backlog from last week as it is. I’ve got to edit photos for my cabled yarn tutorial and finish that up, I’ve got a plying video I want to make while I have some thinner yarn ready to ply, I need to do some more batts, I’ve got batts from last week I need to get listed for sale, vis:

I’ve got a fearsome backlog of email and comments that I actually need and want to respond to, a handfull of balls to wind for my personal projects, I need to make Gert a chart of that edging for the Falling Leaves Isosceles, I want to chart my changes on the elaborated print o’ the wave, if I’m smart I’ll chart some of that other improvised shawl I’ve back burnered till I finish some other things, and I’d really like to do some straightening in the yarn room, plus I need to do drum carder cleaning and maintenance… okay, we’ve exceeded the scope of today again. I think we did that a while ago. I think I say “we” here in hopes of cloning myself with the power of words alone. Hasn’t worked yet.

On the sad side of things, as of yesterday I’ve survived three whole entire years as a fatherless child. The second week in March is always hard for me, ever since the year he died; but at least now that the date is past, I won’t be thinking about how it’s coming up. I think the world changes forever when a parent dies; I’m no stranger to death and loss and all that sort of thing, but man. As Hope said, it doesn’t really get any easier, just familiar. So it’s good to have chocolate-covered strawberries, and plenty of good, strong coffee with heavy cream. In fact, let’s see that again just for good measure:

Yep, still looks good.

I did stretch out the rassafrackn pink scarf on the floor last night to see how big it is now, and how many more repeats I really need, and if I want to put an edging on it. Here’s the montage of progress from a couple of days ago:

Did I really think it was long enough? Or needed an edging? Well, in all honesty, no. But this scarf — well, there’s a reason it’s not done. That reason is, I chose everything about it for the sake of it being travel knitting, an in-the-car project, a memorizable and straightforward pattern that’s easy to read, easy to remember, and not horrific to execute, but using small yarn and therefore also not hard to take with me places. And then I didn’t finish it on a trip, with the net result that I’ve been stuck with a travel knitting project to do while not traveling; and that bores me.

I clocked it last night; 2 rows, a down-and-back, takes me 3.5-5 minutes. So it’s about 90 minutes for a 35-row repeat, so for around 12 repeats or thereabouts, it’s a mere 18-20 hours of knitting total… but I’ve been at it since September, because I put this thing down and stop working on it so often, since it’s travel knitting and boring the crap out of me if I do it while I’m not also otherwise engaged. And what happens then is that I start thinking, “I wonder what mad flight of fancy and departure from plan I could throw into the mix now to spice this up a little.”

The truth of the matter is none. The right thing to do with the project is knit till I’m out of yarn and the project is completed as per plan. I simply keep losing focus on this project. Which is why it must be completed.

Once it’s done, too, I think I’m also going to wash my two main winter scarfy objects that I actually wear, the Creme de Menthe one and the purple mohair/silk triangle. They’ve both been worn all winter and are in need of washing and re-blocking. And probably new and better pictures. With warming weather, perhaps some outdoor good-light pictures may be forthcoming.

Yesterday, a total of 8 out of 30 bulbs that my son planted last fall could be seen to be sprouting! Surely that’s a sign of spring, along with warmer weather which I’m sure can’t possibly really be here to stay. But I’ve got no real gut sense of winter here; certainly it’s been milder so far than anywhere else I’ve lived that had winter, despite being a record-setter on occasion. It’s a mystery. But soon! Soon, there’ll be lilacs, and that I await eagerly. Lilacs don’t really grow particularly well to the West of the Mississippi, apparently, which means I had none in California; and for many years before that, my urban Chicago lifestyle didn’t feature much in the way of lilacs either. But yet in my childhood and teens, lilacs were the surest sign of true spring and they’re my favourite flower. It’s been seventeen years since I really had lilacs.

Of course, I mentioned my lilac anticipation to my mother yesterday, and she gently reminded me that lilacs may not bloom the first year after you plant them. Damned ethnobotanists with their knowing stuff about plants! “Even if ours don’t,” I argued, “there’ll be lilacs here in Ohio.”

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Falling Leaves Isosceles Scarf

Blocking has been completed for the Falling Leaves Isosceles Scarf. Like several other projects I’ve had taking up needle space and whatnot of late, this too is a Giant Swatch, which also had a learning goal, that of thinking through some things about triangular shaping.

Goal 1: Swatch hand-dyed merino/silk and merino laceweight millspun yarn.

To this end, I threw the short skeins that were left over after putting up yarn for dyeing, into the dyeing mix, using low water immersion and getting a variegated autumnlike effect with an overall brown colour containing flashes of bright red and turquoise shades. I had about 100 yards of the merino/silk, and 150 yards of the merino.

The center, with the falling leaves, is merino/silk, and the outside border with the improvised diamonds, is merino.

So, it takes about 250 yards to make a triangle kerchief.

The big challenge in this one for me was working the border in the round, trying to neatly make both 45-degree and 90-degree mitered corners. All in all, it was a success, and the next thing I do that with, I’ll actually feel confident while I’m doing it that I’ll get the shape I’m after.

The center was worked point-up, with increases at either side, 2 every right-side row, just inside a garter stitch border that was there for the sake of expediency. Then, I picked up stitches all the way around. I turned a stock mitered 90-degree corner at the bottom point, increasing on either side of the centerline stitch there, every other row; and on the other corners, I increased that way every single row.

And here it is hanging in the window to let light shine through. It’s very very light; probably under an ounce.

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I’ve decided I’m going on a March Finish-A-Thon. That’s where you take all the stuff you have sitting around taking up needles, hooks, bobbins and other tools, with balls of yarn hanging out of it, wadded up in piles, stuffed in bags, and whatnot, and finish as much as you can. I’m including drafts in this! My folders of drafts are starting to pile up as well.

Last night, I finished my woeful little Falling Leaves Isosceles, another in the line of big swatches. The purpose of this one was to take a look at how some of the handpainted laceweight millspun I’ve done lately works up, plus to see if I remembered enough trigonometry to actually execute both 90-degree and 45-degree mitered corners. I remembered the math, but was stumped on the execution until I talked the problem over with my father-in-law, who pointed out I had it backwards and what I was thinking would work for decreasing, not increasing.

No pictures yet, save for this sad little in-progress shot, in which it looks like mud on some circs:

That’s the big problem with lace projects — the in-progress shots just all look godawful.

All in all, this one came out to be an isosceles triangle, even unblocked, and I think it’ll block out to a nice scarf or kerchief size, which in fact I need to go be doing right now so that I can leave it blocking while I’m off at the dentist. Yes, the dentist! Back I go. Hopefully this time it’ll only be fillings, but I’m a bit worried about one of ’em and half afraid I haven’t gotten to have the old, old filling replaced in time to avoid another root canal and crown scenario. But geeze I hope I have. All in all I hope to be done with the so-regular dental visits come June or July when my dental implant saga is finally over. I’ve always known that dental woes were a price I’d pay for my storied childhood and flawed brushing habits in early adulthood, but somehow I never expected the bill to come due and payable in full with terms of net 30 days, you know? Still, again I remind myself that if I lived in the third world, or many parts of the first world at that, I’d be outright missing plenty of teeth by now, and there wouldn’t be any of this 6 month long getting an implant process and I’d wish madly for root canals.

Anyway, yes, so I must block that triangle and see what it does. Continuing with Finish-A-Thon March, here’s what will be going to the dentist with me today:

It’s a little scarf in an elaborated Print o’ the Wave. Incidentally, is it obvious to anybody else yet that I haven’t unpacked most of my books since the move, and the only lace book I seem to be able to find is Sharon Miller’s? I’m doing stuff that is in her book, that I have memorized, or which I’m making up. I’ve got to solve the fiber book storage problem and really unpack them. Perhaps as part of Finish-A-Thon March I’ll try to do that.

Anyway, I started this sucker in September to take on a trip, since it’s a memorizable and easy to read pattern whose only tricky points are the fudging at the edges plus not spacing the turnarounds. And what with being worked back and forth across only 60 or 70 stitches or whatever it is, it feels like it’s working up insanely fast after the stuff done in the round and point-up triangles and all that sort of thing. The yarn is Belisa Cashmere that I picked up at Stitches West in 2006, and really liked (as far as I ever like millspun knitting yarn at any rate) despite its pinkness. In fact, this yarn marked the start of my resolution to come to peace with pink.

Although I really liked this yarn, it was actually a painful process finding a lace pattern that didn’t look like utter garbage with the way the colour variegation tended to pool. I think I tried four others before settling on this one with its sort of tiger-striping pooling effect.

I did not finish it on that trip in September, as it happens. I did very little with it on the trip, in fact. And it’s not hard enough to be engaging when I sit down to work on it, so even though it’s fast, I’ve been being pretty lazy about it, and here we are in March and I’ve done like 5 repeats. I need at least 12, then maybe some small edging. So off to the dentist with me it shall go.

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Desert Flower Shawl

Huzzah, I have actually Finished A Project(tm). Its primary purpose was to show what one could do with a few of my Luxury Batts, spinning them in different ways. So here we go:

Phase 1: Fiber

40% camel down, 40% mixed silks, 20% superfine merino, with firestar added after that to give it a bit of sparkle. I pulled 2 batts out of the to-be-sold pile, and spun them up preserving the colour separations: the sandstone yellow, the painted desert pink, and then the surprising lavender. I put each batt onto one bobbin, and then plied those together into…

Phase 2: Yarn

2-ply fingering weight or so, and it looks like I recorded neither the weight nor the yardage in my little notebook! It was two batts, so probably the original skein was around 3 ounces or a little over.

Phase 3: Start Knitting

I started with some size 3 US straight knitting needles, and a small rectangular center made up of three Shetland-style lozenges worked in garter stitch, from charts in Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting book. With the three lozenges done working back and forth, I switched to double pointed needles and picked up stitches around the three other sides. I put a zig-zag around the lozenges, still garter, then switched to doing it stockinette for some cats-paws (again from Sharon Miller’s book). After three rounds of cats-paws, I stuck in a round of ferny trees, again from the same book. Once it got too big for the dpns, I switched to a circular needle and placed stitch markers at each mitered corner.

By this time, I was into the last colour of the yarn, the lavender, which meant I’d used up two thirds of it, and it was just not going to be enough to make it remotely shawl-like — in itself not a huge problem since the objective was basically “giant swatch” — but there was’n’t going to be enough of the lavender to complete what I’d figured on putting at the outside, another round of lozenges, and cast off.

Phase 4: Spin More Yarn

What with running out of yarn, I had three possible options, all of which involved pillaging the sale inventory further.

  • Spin another long-length colour shifting yarn with only one repeat of each colour?
  • Spin just some more lavender?
  • Mix things up, and spin some heathered yarn to demonstrate an entirely separate option for spinning these 3-coloured batts?

I decided the third option was the most principled solution, and grabbed a third batt for this purpose, producing the following results:

Phase 5: Knit Till You Run Out Of Yarn

As I’d anticipated, I ran out of the first skein about halfway through the final pattern round in the lozenge border. I added in the second skein, and proceeded. Upon completing the lozenges, I started a batch of improvised diamonds, and upon completing those, threw in a zig-zag to go around the outside, leaving eyelets at regular intervals from the tips of the diamonds, to use for blocking purposes (I’m lazy).

I bound off with a simple crochet cast off that’s essentially the same as the decrease cast-off, and pretty stretchy (I used an H hook to do it, which is the counterpart to a size 8 US needle). That brought us here:

Ah yes, that always disappointing and somewhat horrifying moment when you’re done with a lace knitting project, and it’s a) far smaller than you thought, even knowing it would be smaller than you thought, and b) ghastly-looking in its unblocked state. What makes it even worse, of course, is something Sara Lamb talked about in January in Anatomy of a Project — The Letdown. You’re done, now what? It’s over. Except of course for…

Phase 6: Blocking

Here it is, pinned out on a large “bath sheet” (aka a big towel) on the floor of the master bedroom closet so the door could be closed and keep cats away. Why yes, that is a box of mothballs in the upper right hand corner, you’ll find things of that nature pretty much anywhere dark that I ever leave anything like a textile. But I digress.

I told myself I was going to pin it out and see if what I really needed to do was spin more and add length, so I didn’t get too worried about precision pinning it out. But then I looked at it, said, “Well, that’s the size of a typical bath towel or a little larger, so, fine, so be it. I don’t really need to drag this out any longer.” Could that be impending The Letdown talking? Maybe. Or maybe it’s simple acceptance of the fact that this was never meant to be a masterpiece, only a giant swatch. I closed the closet door and walked away.

I did not look at how there were 9 lozenges on one long side, and 8 on the other. No, I did not. I’d known I was off, and told myself to charge ahead anyway, as it’s a Giant Swatch, and not A Great Undertaking.

Phase 7: The End

Later that afternoon, I opened the closet door to see what had become of the thing. It was fully dry, and when I unpinned it, it didn’t totally collapse back into the fugly nightmare it had been the night before, freshly released from the giant circular needle. I quite liked the loftiness of the fabric. It was, however, a bit small, and the longer long side didn’t keep its pointiness as much as I might have liked; but it looks more or less in square. Er, rectangle.

Well… so that’s what one can do with a few of my Luxury Batts. Mission accomplished, Giant Swatch completed, and I’ll leave it be.

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A Few Random Bits of Productivity

I’ve been felled by a cold. A stupid, nasty cold. It’s been hitting me fairly hard, and upon reflection, I think part of the reason why is that it’s the first real cold since the massive amount of dental work, and my left ear has sounded different ever since the wisdom teeth came out.

So I haven’t gotten a lot done lately. I did spin up some too-small-for-sale batt remnants into heavy laceweight yarn, though:

ABALONE: superwash merino, Falkland, camel down, tussah silk, bombyx silk, camel noil. 2-ply, 220 yards, heavy laceweight.

If I weren’t feeling sorry for myself about the cold still, I’d actually measure it for weight and wpi too. By “heavy laceweight,” I mean that eyeballing it, it’s on the “few wpi” end of laceweight, rather than the “really stupid insane fine” end of the scale. You know, “knit with size 2 needles” kind of small, rather than “knit with needles you can’t see” kind of small. Saved from “stupid fine” by the magic of Falkland’s poof.

WOOD NYMPH: 2-ply lace to fingering weight; 270 yards. Superwash merino, Blue Faced Leicester, Tussah Silk, Firestar.

I can’t get the photos of this one to stop trending to too blue. It’s the lighting and the weather and all that crap. Bring on April. February lasted too long. Let’s have March move at normal speeds, mmmmkay?

And I did get a bit of knitting done. I finally finished (by which I mean, used up all the yarn allocated for the project) the Desert Flower Shawl, which had better block out to much more massive than its unblocked state (I mean, it will, but I mean a lot bigger, please, so I don’t have to spin more of the heather and make it even bigger, though I’ll make it longer if I absolutely must).

In all its unblocked, flash-photo glory, on the media room carpet where I flung it last night upon finishing a crochet cast off that’s essentially the same as the decrease cast off:

Now I just have to come up with a block me huge! plan.

What I’ve actually been enjoying knitting — and it’s made the Desert Flower Shawl, which was knit on size 3 US needles, seem like the big needle project — is this improvised lace triangle piece of whatever it ends up being:

It started out like this, but then…

…that just looked like crap, plus I had two fudged places that were glaring at me and would have been annoying to fix, so I just ripped the one night’s knitting and started over. Two more evenings into it, we now have…

…which is composed of several q’enkos (zig-zags), which get bigger by one stitch per one going into the center; these are delimited by eyelet-based straight lines. But at a certain point, the thing was really shaping itself more diamondlike than I wanted, so I decided to split the outermost q’enkos off towards the sides, and shove a few cheap loraypus in there and plan on blocking the finished thing such that the q’enkos turn and start going straight up the centerline in the middle.

This does still leave me with shaping quandaries as I attempt to play with bias but keep a flat (or close enough to flat to be blockable to flat) piece overall, that is more or less triangular. And through which the colour changes in the yarn move in somewhat varied ways so as to cause hapless yarn dorks like me to stare at it and think “Huh, so that’s a row, and that’s a row, and huh, that sure does bias funny…”

This is using up this yarn here, but shows poorly in the photos due to the flash; the skein photo is accurate, while the in-progress carpet blocking (thanks June for the term, which I’m going to lemming onto from here on out) shots are definitely off for colour, and will long-term really only serve for a reference on progress.

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Some Recent Spinnings…

February has been an incredibly long month. I know, it’s not even over! But yet, it’s lasted a good 8 years. It has only been, for instance, about 5 weeks since I had my wisdom teeth out, and 6 weeks since the dental implant went in; yet those seem like they were years ago.

And I feel as if I’ve gotten nothing done. So I’m posting a little light yarn porn.

Cashmere/Tussah Silk 2-Ply, 670 yards (640 m), ~2 oz (56 g); 5,425 ypp; 45 wpi

Merino/Tussah Silk 2-ply, 765 yards and 1 ounce; appx 6100 ypp

2-ply Optim, 400 yards / 1 ounce; 6400 ypp, 52 wpi

See that bobbin? That bobbin is smoked. The bushing on the grooved end is just worn to uselessness. I need a new bushing. This bobbin’s benched for being a whiny, clattery, noisy poorly-behaved bobbin that’s annoying me with its constant yammering. Grrr.

Edited to add: The bobbin in question is a Majacraft lace bobbin, and it’s got a lot of miles on it; I mean if you were to unwind the yarn spun on it — assuming you had it all on a bobbin to do this — it’d probably cross the Atlantic. Not counting anything I’ve plied on it. And I’ll note Majacraft has plainly seen me coming; the bushings are replaceable.

2-ply merino/tencel, 650 yards, 2 ounces / 5200 ypp

This one I’ve actually wound onto a pirn, and…

I guess I’m going to do some lace knitting with it. But I decided to use the size 0 circulars because I have the longest ones of those, and because my size 000 circular needle is hiding, and because my size 0000 needles are double points, and besides, if I’m going to knit anything that size I think I’d better do it outside in the summer in full daylight, or something.

And of course, what’s the net result of all this? A big pile (okay, not so big, but lots of yards) of yarn so fine I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, because with the space-dyeing and whatnot it’s not really what I like to weave with in general. I guess I’ll knit and crochet lace. Fine. I’m sure I’ll think of something. It was all comfort spinning anyway.

The other net result is I’m crabby at all my wheels for being too slow, and too noisy when up to maximum speed.

Well, I guess there’s one more net result, and that is that I think I could really enjoy weaving with merino/tencel, and maybe with Optim, and these could definitely be spun with relative ease, on a wheel, to a grist I’d like to weave with. So that’s something.

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Autoknitter Socks, and Some Productivity, and Milestones

Well, yesterday I turned 35, which seems somehow implausible, but there it is. It was a very pleasant birthday.

I seamed toes of a few autoknitter socks, and tried some to-be-seamed ones on after that to see if I really felt like grafting the toes, or if I would rather rip and reknit them. This, too, allowed me to determine what I really want to be spinning for in yarn for the sock machine. It can handle a wide variety of things; but I’d like to get some socks I’m really going to wear. To that end, I have some issues to resolve, and these can be handled in various ways including yarn customization.

Sock #1: Austermann Marina. This was a discontinued superwash merino yarn I bought a bunch of on sale some time ago. Very soft, very springy. Makes a great sock on this machine, as it turns out, but there are issues with the toe on this one — too much fabric. I could see about shortening the foot portion of the sock, and simply blocking… but with it being superwash, and as springy as it is, a better solution would be to figure out how to narrow the tow and round it a little more.

I actually really like this sock, and will seam up the mate to it, and they’ll be wearable. Using the different colour yarn for heel and toe made it easy to see where I wanted to graft and various other things about the sock structure.

Sock #2: handspun falkland/silk 2-ply. Sigh. This yarn will make fabulous socks, but I was way too loose. So I’m going to seam up the other one and try to shrink ’em and felt ’em a bit.

Sock #3: handpainted laceweight merino/silk 2-ply (commercial, handpainted by me). Think Jaggerspun Zephyr, if you’re familiar. This one I tried on before seaming, having really high hopes for it. And this pair, this pair is the winner. I will definitely wear these socks.

So for me, right now, the easy way out is to spin a nice 5000-6000 ypp wool blend yarn, and crank the socks out fairly tight, to roughly the formula I used on the third pair of socks in this photo. That determination being made, I went up to the yarn room and grabbed some ball of orange merino-tencel top I had picked up somewhere…

and get started spinning some singles for a 3-ply sock yarn…

Should be nice and toasty. And I’ll keep practicing and thinking about how to make good socks with, you know, not laceweight type yarn.

Oh, this morning I was charmed by Edward opting to wear his favourite shirt to school. It’s a shirt I made him last year, so I took a few pictures quick before he outgrows it.

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Productivity Report, 3 Jan 2007

  • Uploaded photos, cropped, edited, updated blog, 1 hour.
  • Made list of drafts to write in January, roughed out outlines for three of them; 90 minutes.
  • Cleaned the drum carder. Medium cleaning, not a super-deep clean, but beyond just cleaning the drums. 30 minutes.
  • Did 2 blends to use up bombyx silk seconds (the top got ratty in the dyeing process). Documented blending of varying-staple-length fibers for future article on the subject. Put up these two blends in smaller twists. About 4 hours.
    Superfine merino, camel down, and bombyx silk blend
  • Packed and shipped 3 boxes, made post office run; 40 minutes.
  • Spun and plied 95-yard 3-ply sample skein for Jade Sweater; skeined it and washed it; 90 minutes. To be swatched in the coming week or so, so that the rest of the yarn can be spun. Documented process in digital photos.
    Sample Yarn for Jade Sweater
  • Knit a while on the back of the Purple Slate Sweater, finishing waist shaping and reaching about an inch shy of the start of the armscye. About 3 hours.
    Back of the sweater, 3 Jan 2007

Total time for 3 Jan 2007: about 12 hours if you count the evening’s knitting and spinning, 7.5 hours if you don’t.

My personal rating of the day’s productivity: low to medium, still not back in the swing of things.

My son came home from school with a piece he’d written in class that day, which read as follows:

My favorite holiday memory was when I recived my 3-D puzzle Globe. I gave my family more time together, because my mom is busy “comanding” her buisness (frankamont fibers) and my buisness.

I was really charmed by this one (and patted myself and his dad on the back mentally, for giving him the shorter of our two last names instead of the impossible-to-spell one). He went with me on the post office run, and was a huge help at the supermarket afterwards. I suspect I’ll be thinking of myself as “commanding” my business from here on out, and grinning. As to commanding the manchild’s business, make no mistake — my better half does more than his fair share of that.

The two main blends I did, a pink one and a purple one, are impossible to photograph well without sunlight. Grrr. I really want some real sunlight! I know, I know, wrong time of year, and really what I should be seeking out is a solution to the lighting problem in general. Flash photos, and bulb-lit photos, of anything with a lot of silk in it, just come out awful.

Purple Slate Yarn
The Purple Slate Sweater is working up nice and quick, which was the point of the “big needle” project (supposing you figure US 6 /4mm needles are big) and gauge seems to be spot on; but I’m a little concerned I may run shorter of yarn than I really want. So I drafted an alternative version of the pattern as well, this one featuring a low scoop neck and sleeves closer to half-sleeve than 3/4. I really will be annoyed if I run short; the old pattern I’d drafted and lost, I was pretty confident about. I’ll take stock when I’m done with the back, as it being a raglan that’ll be something like 3/8 of the yarn needed, depending on how long I make the sleeves… if I’m going to run short at that point, I’ll have to change it to a short sleeve, which I’d rather not do, or come up with a way to work in a complementary, but different, yarn (since the 846 yards of this one is all there is or can be).

I’m still undecided about the pattern to decorate the raglan lines — well, other than being certain it’ll have nothing to do with cables, since I’m concerned about my yarn quantity!

As for the sample yarn, I’d purchased a pound and a half, maybe 2 pounds, of a 90’s grade green merino top a while ago, with intent to spin myself a sweater yarn from it, but it’s been sitting unspun for at least a year. Maybe two. And about 18 months ago I’d picked up 8 ounces of a sort of clovery merino-tencel. Sometime last, oh, February or so, the thought had occurred to me that those two would potentially complement each other nicely and it would let me work the merino/tencel into another sweater, since I was liking it as an element in the Purple Slate yarn. So I dug the two out and set to sampling.

Green superfine merino, bluer merino/tencel

Originally I’d been thinking 2 plies of the merino, one ply of the merino/tencel, but then I felt like that would just sort of overwhelm the merino tencel entirely, give no real variegation or interest to the yarn other than the minimal marled effect, and so maybe instead, I might do a single that went back and forth between being merino and merino/tencel, a single of merino, and a single of merino/tencel. That’s what I sampled for last night, and while it looks pretty in the skein, I don’t know — it might still overwhelm the sheen from the merino/tencel blend, and it’s hard to say. It’ll have to be swatched. And I may have spun the sample skein too fine, as usual. It’s finer than the Purple Slate yarn. I don’t know that I have any great inclination to knit a biggish sweater from yarn that fine, but it remains to be seen how the swatching goes. It’s entirely possible I’ll end up saying, nope, just spin up the merino, and the merino/tencel separately, they don’t really work together all that amazingly well. I do want a whole sweater from merino/tencel 3-ply. I have made that decision. Not this clovery colour though. Something else. I’ll have to shop for it.

Well, I’m off to the post office — I happen to know there’s a pair of exciting boxes waiting there for me to pick up! They’ll contain my new (to me) fully restored circular sock machine! And that will doubtless consume my entire day.

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Productivity Report, 2 Jan 2007

  • Spun on spindle while waiting at the periodontist; about 20-30 minutes in the waiting room. I could have spun a lot more but I had no idea I was going to wind up just sitting and waiting as much as I did once I was actually in the chair, so my bag with my spinning was all the way across the room and I was stuck reading magazines.
  • Packed and shipped 5 boxes of stuff sold over the weekend.
  • Put up about 3 pounds of handpainted and hand-dyed bombyx silk in one-ounce lots from a dye day in December; about 40 minutes. Still to go: 2-3 pounds of tussah silk. Then both piles need to be tagged and inventoried and photographed, then those photos cropped and put online; probably this evening I’ll do the tussah and maybe the tagging. Then if it’s sunny in the morning, find a good spot with good light to take photos. My office works well for this in the mornings, though this time of year, good natural light is just horribly hard to find.
  • 45 minutes, about half a repeat, on the cashmere scarf; but then I decided I just really needed to give myself a break from small and fiddly and do something with needles that exceed the 3mm range.
  • Came to grips with the fact that I’d lost the pattern I wrote for a 900-yard pullover, and ripped the completed back so that it could have a new shot in a new pattern. About 15 minutes.
  • Roughed in a new pullover pattern; about 45 minutes
  • Started on the back, finishing the ribbing and a few inches other than that; about 3 hours.
    One evening's knitting on the Purple Slate Sweater
  • First set of test photos for “how to knit on” taken.

During the day, I typically engage in strictly work productivity, while evenings allow for personal non-work fiber stuff. It’s always a challenge to balance various types of productivity, too: there’s packing, shipping, inventory management, supply chain management (hah! that really means, “Crap, I’m almost out of silk again, I’d better buy some before I really am”), pricing, marketing, writing ad copy, dealing with correspondence… and that could be a whole job all by itself, if I let it! But there’s also dyeing, blending, spinning, testing patterns, and product development

December was a horror for me in terms of getting anything done, since I spent half of it Vicodined to the gills due to the aforementioned dental purgatory, which at least is winding down now. My third grader goes back to school tomorrow and between that and being done with the worst of the dental stuff, work productivity should start coming back to the levels I’d managed to settle on in October and November, which were solid levels of production in my opinion. I’ll definitely lose a few days to this whole periodontal surgery thing, but hopefully nothing like December.

I did manage to get a fair amount of writing done in December, which was a big missing piece that needed to be fit into my overall fiber work life; I’m not going to write December off as having been totally unproductive! My half-hitch article (which was written and finished in November) went online in Spindlicity, and I finished up my article about spindle plying on the go, which should be making its appearance soon in another fine online publication. I’m trying to set a goal for myself of getting at least one draft per week for fiber articles of various types; this obviously doesn’t mean all of those will be publication-grade, but I need to bring some focus and discipline to my fiber writing (a purpose this blog is intended to work towards as well).

For January, leaving aside sick days, I’m figuring on something like this for a division of work:

  • Production: 12-24 hours
  • Operations: 10-12 hours
  • Development: 12-20 hours

Total work hours in a typical week: 32 – 56.

Production is things like dyeing silk, or producing yarn and fiber for sale.

Operations is stuff like packing, shipping, inventory, accounting, routine correspondence.

Development is writing, patterns, product testing, market research, and some correspondence.

Both production and development have strong risks of slopping over into my personal life; in some cases this is acceptable and in other cases, it’s not — but that’s a whole new range of stuff to talk about, best left for another day. For now, suffice it to say I’m figuring a slack week is 30-some-odd hours of work, a busy week maybe as much as 60; with average weeks somewhere in the “around 40 work hours” range. The big tricky issue for me, really, is how to limit time and be focused; I have a tendency to just work nonstop, whatever I’m doing, and that’s what needs controlling most in my life.

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Fiber Work List, 1 Jan 2007

  • Got bio and ad to Fiber Femmes, just in time I think!
  • Wound balls:
    • Peach Fuzz
    • Desert Flower Heather
    • Pink Sock
    • Orange Bulky 3-Ply

    …spent 20 minutes doing so, wow!

  • Spun 420 yards falkland/bombyx blend into yarn for felting. 50 minutes, plus 10 to skein and throw in the finishing wash.
  • Most of the rest of the day knitting away on the Desert Flower shawl… like 8 hours, which seems to add up to about 16 rounds. The thing must be bigger than I think it is.

By the time evening rolled around, I was starting to get curious about whether or not I must just be slowing way, way down on the Desert Flower shawl; sometimes that’ll happen to me as I get into the final laps of a lengthy project — not always due to perception, I mean sometimes I really DO slow down. So I counted stitches for a short side and a long side, and concluded that right then, each round on the rectangle was 440 stitches; and every other round, it increases by 8. Then I timed myself knitting a round: 25 minutes.

I reflected on the slowness as I continued, determined to make it to a point where I was going to be working on the final pattern round or, if I opted to extend the particular one I was in, I could refer to the knitted portion rather than a chart, if I needed to check myself. That way, I figured, I could take the thing with me to 2007’s first installment in Abby’s Ongoing Dental Purgatory.

Two major things occurred to me. First, I’d opted for this particular portion of the shawl to be a garter-stitch based Shetland lace pattern with patterning every row, which because I’m working in the round, also requires some fancy footwork to seamlessly hide the turns required because the particular pattern, I know from experience, doesn’t lay right if you don’t really do it turning the piece. With patterning that involves eyelets and careful decreases and that sort of thing on every single row, you also end up with annoyances like the sequence below, contrast enhanced in hopes of making it visible:

Clear as mud? Okay, let’s say you do a yarn over increase on row 247,000 (can you tell I feel like this project has been going on forever?) If row 247,001 were one of those “row 2 and all WS rows: purl” type rows, the appropriate leg of the YO would be sitting where you can easily pick it up purlwise, you’d just purl in that yarn over and then by the time you get to row 247,002 where you have to do a decrease right next to the eyelet a row back, the stitches are lined up in such a manner that they’re fairly easy to slip your working needle in and execute whatever stitch is required.

But, with row 247,001 being a knit row including pattern, by the time that you get to the spot where you’ve got to do a decrease next to a YO, especially if you have lots and lots of stitches on the needles and keep sliding them around a circular, sometimes that yarn over will try to lay across one or more of the stitches next to it in a most annoying fashion. It’s then necessary to separate them a bit so you can get the needle into the correct stitch without snagging that YO and screwing up your eyelet. I wind up doing this by tugging a bit on the knit fabric below the culprit stitches, which makes things pop back into line. But, in this particular pattern, there are so many k2togs right next to a leggy yarn over, my thumb was growing exhausted from constantly having to do what’s shown in the second photo above, to get to the third photo. And that sort of tired thumb situation takes a toll on my left wrist too.

Ergonomically, projects which are all knit rows drive me nuts. I opted to finish only one repeat of that particular pattern, then move to a pattern that isn’t close-worked for the remainder of the shawl, so as to have some merciful, hand-easing rows of 500+ purls. Which seriously are much much faster; I timed myself for a straight purl row once I finished that pattern repeat, and though that row was at least 32 stitches longer and I was more tired, it took only 16 minutes.

The second thing that occurred to me is that it’s harder for me to read the fabric on close-worked patterns (where there’s pattern to be done every row instead of every other row), meaning I have to spend more time counting, checking things carefully, and so forth — whereas with patterns containing an every-other-row-is-plain element (whether in garter or stockinette) I can easily read the knitted fabric as I go and know what has to happen.

Well, time’s running out and I must be off to the dentist. Productivity so far today: none.