Dienstag, 23. März 2010
Sonntag, 21. März 2010
Look, flowers are making an appearance in our little garden.
Freitag, 19. März 2010
Shawl in progress. Stitch number is slowly decreasing.
It might not always seem that way if my recent blog posts are anything to go by but I've indeed been knitting away on all kinds of things and managed to complete a few of them. My latest infatuation has been a shawl pattern from the book "Knitted Lace of Estonia" - Miralda's Triangular Shawl. It's one of those bottom-up constructions that has you cast-on a bazillion stitches that are gradually decreased on the course of your knitting to form a triangle in the end. Not my preferred shawl construction but this one looked so pretty, with the diamonds and the nupps, I knew I would succumb one of these days. It finally happened when I took a closer look at this pretty dark blue lace yarn that had found its way into my stash not so long ago. A nice 2-ply yarn with a bit of a rustic charm to it. I knew it would work fantastic with the lace pattern. Only problem was I had only 600 meters whereas the pattern asked for 750 meters of yarn. Mhm, bummer. But I'm not easily deterred. A closer look in Ravelry showed lots of projects in similar yarns with similar yardages and needle size combinations that had gotten away with 400 to 500 meters of yarn. Still not totally convinced but I cast on anyway. No risk. no fun.
Miralda's Triangular Shawl
All worked out in the end. This shawl has been knitted in record time because the ever decreasing rows have been a real motivation. The pattern was well written and I loved knitting with this rustic wool yarn. Instantly went and ordered a few more colors. The shawl itself turned out lovely, too. It's just the right size between scarf and shawl. Wasn't sure about the nupps at first but like the overall look of lace, nupps and solid areas.
Nupps in the diamond patterns
What's a nupp, you might ask?! Well, it's those special kind of bobble Estionian lace knitting is well known for. On a right side row you increase 5, 7 or even 9 stitches from just one single stitch just to purl all those stitches back together in the following row. It's kinda tedious at first but once you've gotten into the rhythm of things it get easier. The nupps give a nice, three-dimensional effect and sometimes even look like little pearls worked into your knitting. Strange but neat.
Pattern: Miralda's Triangular Shawl by Nancy Bush from Knitted Lace of Estonia
Material: 1 skein of Filcolana New Zealand Lammeuld, 100% wool, 600 meters/100 grams
Needles: 4 mm
Finished Size: 160 cm wide, 80 cm deep
There's been a few other projects that got completed in the last weeks, like my first pair of Socks out of Wollmeise Twin yarn for example. They belong to the best husband of all now and I'm really curious about how well the yarn will stand up to wear. My last Wollmeise socks were still out of 100% superwash and they were worn through in record time. The Twin yarn consists of 20% nylon so it's supposed to wear better. Yeah, well, seeing is believing.
Wollmeise Socks, colorway 'Tant Grön ...'
Pattern: Earl Grey by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Yarn: 2/3rds of a Wollmeise Twin skein, 80% Merino/20% Nylon, 466 meters/150 grams; color 'We're different Tant Grön...'
Needles: 2.5 mm
Size: EUR 41/42
And then there is this small shawl knitted from only one 50 grams skein of Malabrigo Lace yarn in the funky and intense 'Gernanio' colorway.
Birch Leaf Shawl in the sideways version
Pattern: Birch Leaf Shawl sideways, my own pattern
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace Merino, 100% Merino, 400 meters/50 grams, color 'Geranio'
Needles: 4 mm
Size: 140 cm wide
And knitting continues, of course. I'm bit on a shawl binge right now so there is already the next one on the needles. It's Evelyn A. Clarks Prairie Rose Lace Shawl from The Knitter's Book of Wool.
Prairie Rose Lace Shawl in progress
Samstag, 6. März 2010
Spring is slowly making an appearance in our neck of the woods. Very slowly indeed. After a few days of sunny weather and 8°C we're back in the below zero region but thankfully no more snow on the ground. Still a bit of snow in the air and the occasional sleet shower though. Somehow winter doesn't want to let go this year.
Bizarre ice formations while the snow has been slowly melting
This is what our lawn looked like a week ago. Now the snow is entirely gone.
And we're finally having some sun to brighten the mood
Meanwhile I've discovered Russian Lace Spindles and I've been practicing support spinning for the past month or so. They are a curious thing, these support spindles. Traditionally they were used to spin very fine, short fibers like goat down for example. While in other regions spindles like these were used as hand spindles without a special support device in Russia's Orenburg region they were used with support bowls.
Walnut Support Spindle by Lisa Chan/Gripping Yarn with ceramic support bowl. Fiber: Cashmere/Merino blend.
Spinning on a supported spindle requires mastery of the long draw technique. Which essentially means one hand twirls the spindle and the other hand lightly grips the fiber supply and gradually draws back from the spindle thus creating a thread. Long draw can also be used on a wheel or a suspended spindle. But this long draw and I we've never gotten along all that well in the past. Somehow it goes against the control freak in me. I've always ended up with lumpy, uneven singles that lost it's integrity halfway through the spinning process. Which was fine by me. I could always use short draw and end up with a lovely, even yarn. I've never had the patience to try long enough to maybe get better at it. But with support spindles there is no excuse. No way around learning long draw. So that's what I did. I sat back on the sofa, spinning bowl in my lap and started to practice long draw.
Front: Russian style spindle from The Spanish Peacock with some unknown blue wool roving. Back: Spindle from Lisa Chan/Gripping Yarn with some CVM roving.
The thing with long draw is: You gotta let go. No gripping the fiber supply too tightly. No anxious concentration on making your yarn. I tend to cramp up and try too hard to force my will onto the fiber. This won't work for support spindling. Just let go and let the spindle and fiber do their thing. So far I still have to constantly remind myself to ease up and let go. But sitting reclined in your favourite lounge chair or comfy sofa helps a lot in this regard.
Support spinning is fun. It's kind of addictive and a lot more relaxing and slow going than any other spinning method I've tried so far. But a little tuft of fiber will probably get you the most spinning fun you've ever had. And today there are a few very talented wood workers who make such lovely tools, you will be hard pressed to choose because they are all so pretty.
Russian Spindle by Ed Tabachek, Cherry
Lisa Chan from The Gripping Yarn - Lisa's signature are spindles that are slightly more rounded and bit curvier than the classical Russian style spindle. I love her work. The Walnut spindle I got from her feels gorgeous and is an absolute delight to work with. She does mostly custom orders and will gladly try to accommodate individual wishes for a particular wood or weight. Lisa is super nice to work with.
The Spanish Peacock - Mike's spindles come closer to the look of those traditional Russian spindles. Clean, hard lines and a super polished surface as well as beautiful exotic woods are characteristic for his work. So far I've got two of his Russian spindles and they are wonderful spinners.
Ed Tabachek - Ed's spindles have been available longest from all spindle makers I know. I think his work has done the most for bringing support spinning back into the spinning community. His spindles are available in two sizes, the smaller for spinning and the larger ones for plying in the Russian/Orenburg way. As far as I know his spindles are available through certain dealers only. My Tabachek is a large plying spindle that I got from The Wheel Thing. It can be uses as any other support spindle though and is not restricted to plying.
Tom Forrester - Tom's spindles have been around for a while now. I haven't encountered his Russian spindles all that often though. Gemini Fibers lists Russian spindles as part of his spindle repertoire. They very much look like the traditional Russian spindles.
Grizzly Mountain Arts - I've come across this very talented maker of needle and fiber arts tools only recently via Ravelry and Etsy. His work is equisite and his spindles are very much sought after. If you see a spindle appear in his Etsy shop you can be sure it will gone in the blink of an eye. I placed a custom order for a Tibetan spindle with him and was not disappointed in the least. So I guess if you want to have one of Dave's spindles for your collection placing a custom order is the way to go.
Very distinctive shape of a Grizzly Mountain Arts Tibetan spindle
My favourite videos on support spinning
Annotation: Nannette's note in the comments reminded me of one spindle maker that I had forgotten in my little article. She is right of course. A Spinner's Lair can be found on Etsy and their speciality is using reclaimed woods and give them a second life as fiber arts tools. They make different kinds of support spindles, matching bowls and regular drop spindles, too.
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