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Happy New Year!!!!

What did you put on your needles on January 1? I cast on a few things, but I started one very special project. It’s very meaningful to me because it uses two skeins of my handspun, one that shows how the fiber won, and one that shows that I learned a lesson from the first mistake. Appropriate for the New Year, right?

IMG_9797When I first started spinning, this is what I envisioned: Pick out beautiful fiber from a top producer, spin it better than any machine could, and knit it into a garment that I would either wear forever or gift, beribboned and opened to lots of Oooos and Aaaahs.

THEY say that to be an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours. (Malcolm Gladwell? Although it seems the 10k hours concept has been around a long time).

Having started spinning in earnest (OK, in a panic since I had signed up for a seminar with Maggie Casey at Maryland Sheep and Wool and didn’t want to appear like I knew nothing) in April, I am very far away from expert.

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Imagine, as a beginner spinner, encountering cormo combed top for the first time. It’s like ice cream, vanilla and chocolate. Combed to perfection, there it sat in beautiful coiled loops at the Roclans Farm booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool. I had just taken my first spinning seminar.

It really looks like it would be easy to spin. I mean, it’s practically spun! This was the state of my brain as I purchased my fluff from Kate.

I had big plans. So, when I started spinning the brown beauty, I wasn’t really held back by the fact that the singles would sort of pull apart relatively easily (first warning sign). I chalked it up to being a beginner, and mindful of the “one big mistake beginner spinners make is over twisting” lesson that I was taught, I spun lots of it. Over 3,000 yards of singles, to be precise. I plied it, the yarn looked OK. Maybe a bit uneven, but charmingly so. I was optimistic.

Then, it went though a soak. And the fibers went…..BOOOOOINNNNNG!!!!! I now had 1500 yards of loosely spun, loosely plied yarn. This was a total rookie mistake. Cormo has a tight crimp and once soaking took some of the spinning twist out of the yarn and “livened up” the crimp in the fiber, it became very obvious that I should have spun this fiber with a lot more twist.

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It wasn’t many weeks after this incident that I learned that cormo isn’t exactly a beginner’s fiber. I think one should try as many things as possible, and don’t let things intimidate. Perhaps not 1.500 yards worth though!

The imperfect spinning on my yarn did nothing to prevent me from knitting this yarn up, and I modified the original pattern to make sure that the delicate lace was framed in solid garter — I did not want too many areas on this shawl where the integrity of the shawl was dependent on too many single stranded sections on this garment. The resulting shawl is soft, bouncy, yummy, and warm. The shawl is a modified version of Gudrun Johnston’s Flukra.

IMG_9086I was a little wiser by the time I recovered from my less than perfect first cormo spin. I decided to make a 3-ply sport weight yarn, worsted spun of course from the white top. By this time, I had purchased a flyer for my wheel with higher ratios — so it was easier to make sure I was introducing more twist into the singles. I let it rest a few days, and made sure that when I was tying off the skein to leave plenty of room for the fiber to expand.

This end product definitely looks better, and I’m happy with this yarn:

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I knew right away that I wanted to use the white and the brown together in a project, and as I saw many beautiful versions roll off my knitting group members’ needles, I knew that I wanted to make a Brooklet by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. I wanted the solid portion to be nice and cushy, while I wanted the lace layer to be properly blocked.

It’s a long cowl, which I can wear as a single, double or a triple loop. I’m sure I will get a lot of wear out of it!

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Me!

I love light weight sweaters that I can wear all year long. (Hmm. Maybe this is why I love shawls so much) Knitting sweaters out of laceweight? Outside of some periods in my life when I weirdly rationalized that knitting complex cabled sweaters out of laceweight was economical from a yarn $ used/time metric, (logically, it makes sense. But we all know that these projects are very likely to end up in the UFO pile), I haven’t ventured into laceweight sweater crafting in quite some time.

Well. I’ve finished a laceweight sweater. It is out of Wollmeise Lacegarn, so it is a heavy lace (and some may say it’s really fingering), but it is laceweight nonetheless.

The sweater is Laar, by Gudrun Johnston.

I love Gudrun Johnston’s designs because there seems to always be an element of the classic Shetland in her designs. I’ve written about Flukra, which may be the single most worn shawl in my wardrobe (I really need to knit another), and I have been swatching for Audrey In Unst for months now. (OT, but should I knit it in DK or fingering? That is the question.)

I have been staring at Laar for about a year. The one thing that held me back was that I was convinced that this sweater was way too girly for me. It’s got an empire waist, pleats at the waist, picot edging, a lace bodice….all kinds of girly.

But I decided a bit of girly would be good in my wardrobe, but since I am no longer a young girly, I decided to modify it a bit. (OK, maybe a lot.)

  1. Decreased the pleating at the waist. I wasn’t sure if a baby-doll shape would look good on me, so I wanted the sweater to have more of an A-line silhouette. This had one very positive effect of decreasing the amount of stockinette fabric I had to knit.
  2. Increased the garter edging after the picot. I thought that this would take the emphasis off the picots as it became a smaller part of the overall edging. This also let me raise the neckline a bit, and also gave me a bit more stable edging to help the fabric from curling up at the bottom.
  3. Increased the length of the stockinette portion of the sweater. I’ve noticed that Gudrun seems to like cropped sweaters. I have a longer torso, so I wanted to make sure that the sweater came to slightly below my hip bone.
  4. Increased the twisted rib in between the stockinette and the lace portions of the sweater. I just thought this looked better 🙂
  5. Increased the lace panel portion of the sweater in order to make a deeper armhole. I think the style of this sweater was for the sleeves to be very fitted. I do not like being constricted in the underarm area, nor do I like tight sleeves. So while I kept the construction of the short rowed sleeve cap, I made the sleeves a lot more relaxed. I am actually quite picky about this and have a tendency, if I am to rip back a sweater to redo something about it, to make sure the sleeves fit properly.
  6. Picot bind-off on the buttonhole panel. I just thought it was strange that this was the only edge that was showing on the sweater without a picot edging.

I have yet to road test this sweater, but I think I like my new girly addition to my wardrobe!!