I've finished my first project with my very own handspun!  Better yet, I've finished two.  First up – Pretty Thing cowl by the Yarn Harlot:


This uses the silk/merino that I spun.  This was definitely the most consistent yarn I've made to date.  It came out to a heavy fingering and I am so pleased with the finished result.  And I may even have enough for another one.  Also finished was the diagonal scarf:


This skein was not quite as consistent.  This was the last fiber I spun before I got my Woolee Winder.  Despite its inconsistency, I was amazed at how lovely it was to knit with.  Most of the lumps and bumps seem to just meld into the knitted fabric.  I think I can say I'm now addicted to knitting with my handspun.  Spinning continues on the new silk/merino that I started:


I had originally considered doing the Featherweight sweater with this, but I think it may be just a little too heavy.  If I ply it into a 2-ply fingering weight I'm pretty limited, but a 3-ply dk/sport weight gives me more options so I am planning on that at this stage.  This may take a while, though, because I'm not the speediest spinner in the world.  However, I am being monogamous at this point in the game to try and keep the consistency.  One of the patterns I'm considering is the Beech Leaf Vest by Fiddlesticks.

I have four repeats of the newest clue in Evenstar finished:


I'm not quite sure about the lines of twisted rib in the middle of a shawl.  It should be interesting to see how they are finished out.  I think I can say that this will probably be my last mystery KAL for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I find that I am not  a community knitter.  I don't really feel compelled to join in on the social aspect of it.  It might be fun to knit a project with a few close friends, but I don't particularly feel called upon to be an active part of the group.  The second thing is the errata.  Now, I know that it's probably realistic to expect errors in knitting patterns.  No one is perfect.  However, I did think that in a mystery project they would have been worked out.  In a "real" pattern you at least have the safety net of a picture, so you have a fair idea of what it's supposed to look like.  In a mystery project you are essentially flying blind.  If there's a mistake in the pattern you don't know it until it's too late.  Thankfully I've avoided having to do any major frogging, but others in the group have not been so lucky.  And unfortunately, they are the new lace knitters.  When they expressed their frustration to the group they were slammed as somehow being disloyal to the group and especially the designer.  While I have sympathy for the designer and feel that overall she has done a fine job, I think the group has been a little unfair to those expressing frustration.  All in all, too much drama for a knitting project for me!

The biggest drama I've had in my own knitting is multiple froggings on Nutkin!  I got down to the heel and decided I wanted to mirror the design, so I ripped.  Once again I got down to the heel and realized I was in a state of denial.  No way were these going to fit the intended recipient.  So I frogged again and this time did a simple basketweave stitch:


Much better!  As soon as I finish this clue on Evenstar I'll get cracking on the socks so I can gift them mid-April.  On the agenda this week is a trip to the dentist.  No, not working!  Gossip from the office has me SO thankful that I'm retired and determined never, ever to go back.  This time I will be returning (to a different office) as a patient.  I have a tooth that is really throbbing.  Realistically I can probably expect a root canal and crown in my future.  Hmm – will I need to take out a second mortgage??  I was definitely spoiled by 24 years of mostly free dental care.  Thankfully I got a good deal on plane tickets to go back home to Missouri to see the parents.  Best of all, they're coming back with me and my sister for a visit.  They've never met Mei-Mei and I'm so excited that the girls will be able to see their great-grandparents.


Our first day of spring is promising to be a wonderful one.  Temps should be in the 60's and the sun is shining!  As far as the spring flowers go, we're about a month ahead of time.  It's always interesting to note the timing of the bulbs over on the mainland.  There are fields and fields of daffodils and tulips and every year they have a Tulip Festival.  Some years they hit just the right week, but often as not, the bulbs are either too early or too late.  Last year they were too late and this year there is some concern that by the time the festival rolls around, the bulbs will be all gone.  This picture was taken about 10 years ago – we usually avoid the crowds that descend at tulip time.


I finally dived in and started knitting with my handspun.  I was a little hesitant, because once I wound the blue merino into a ball, it didn't look anywhere near as nice and even as it did on the skein.  But it's amazing how the humble little garter stitch can even out yarn:


The yarn is fingering in some places, close to worsted in others, underspun, overspun, you name it!  In some places the underspun singles broke while I was plying, but I just spit spliced and moved on.  Despite it all, I find it extremely satisfying to be knitting with yarn that  I made!  One of the reasons I gave for rejecting spinning last year (never say never!!) was that it added one more step before you could start knitting.  Now that I'm spinning, I realize that the added step is really a destination of its own.  I've been surprised at how much I love spinning for its own sake. There's something about feeling the fiber flow through your fingers and twist into yarn that is hypnotic.  In fact, I'll find that I can sit and do it for so long that I have to remind myself to get up and move a little every once in a while so I don't freeze up.

I finished a new skein this week and I am ridiculously happy with it:


This is Ashland Merino/Silk blend in the Sea Mist colorway.  It was gifted to me by Lorette before I even started spinning (an enabler if I ever met one!).  This was pure pleasure to spin.  And, it's come out so even and nice that I can really see some potential for this skein.  Right now I'm thinking of doing the Yarn Harlot's Pretty Thing cowl.  This is so soft and silky and would feel wonderful around my neck.  I loved spinning this so much, that I have ordered enough for a sweater.  I wasn't sure how much to order, so I ordered a pound.  I have a feeling that may be way, way too much, but I don't want to run out.  And, if I have some left over, I can start knitting cowls for Christmas.  Depending on gauge, I'm thinking about the Featherweight CardiganMarguerite mentioned this on her blog.  I would never have given it a second thought until I saw some of the changes that Ann had made.  Technically it calls for laceweight, but I believe I'll be able to get gauge with a fingering weight.  

Lots of things between here and there, though.  With spring comes some yard work and gardening.  Not my favorite thing to do, but we at least need to clean up the yard so we're not embarrassed when John and Lorette come to visit next month.  And, we've decided to try a small vegetable garden.  Just a trial to see if we can win out over the deer and rabbits.  I also need to finish the Auracania socks for my friend.  I went through my stash and just couldn't find anything I liked as well, so I've decided to finish them and toss them in the wash on cold water.  If they come out ok, I'll just give them to her with specific washing instructions.  Let the chips fall where they may!

Felted Feet

When we got our new front loader washer, I was pretty sure I could not felt in it.  But, according to Kathy, you can.  Unfortunately, I found that out first hand, although unintentionally.  I washed all my handknit socks, as usual, and imagine my dismay when two pair came out felted!


The ones on the right are some pretty old socks from Mountain Colors Bearfoot.  No big loss – as you can see they've faded at different rates.  From the very first washing I might add.  But the ones on the left are brand new.  This was their very first washing!  They are out of Araucania.  And I loved them!  The socks didn't even have the good grace to shrink all over, but just widthwise, so there's no use taking them down to the granddaughters.  I checked the settings on the machine and the only difference is that I usually wash on warm/cold and the setting had been changed to warm/warm.  It's hard to believe it would make that much difference.  The 8 other pair in the wash are just fine.  So, I will not be using Araucania again, despite how luscious it is.  Problem is, I already have a pair started:


These are Nutkins (and yes, I did check that they are indeed Nutkins) and were destined as a birthday gift for a friend.  However, I can not in good conscience gift socks that might shrink, so I will be looking for another yarn for her.  These were a little larger than my size, but the pattern is pretty stretchy, so I will keep them for myself and hope for the best.  That does, however, leave me with a dilemma.  I currently have four projects started.  That is pretty much my limit for "knitting peace".  Do I start a new pair for her so that I will be sure and have them for her birthday in mid-April?  Probably so.  I can put the Nutkins aside and the Evenstar shawl knitting is pretty sporadic as the clues only come out every two weeks.  I'm almost done with the clue that came out Friday:


This is a nice project, although the charts are a little odd.  Nothing an experienced lace knitter can't decipher, but I think it's got the new lace knitters' knickers in a little bit of a twist.

I've started on Ivy's Christmas sweater.  I'm very excited about it.  Abby has expressed the desire this year to be surprised, so I will not be posting progress photos.  However, if you'd like to see it, pop on over to Ravelry and check it out on my project page.  Just don't be too specific in your comments, please.  If you're not on Ravelry and want to see, leave a comment and I'll email you a photo.

I've been spending a lot of time on spinning lately and I think all the practice is beginning to pay off:


This is Ashland Bay merino, Baltic blue, two ply.  It's about 20 wpi and the most even yarn I've made so far.  I messed up on the plying of the other 1/3 of it, so it doesn't match very well, so there's a not a huge amount that's usable.  I'm hoping they'll be enough for a pair of fingerless mitts.  However, I just finished plying another batch of the same fiber in the color Riverstone (brown, with hints of blue and yellow) that came out fabulous!  It's a 3 ply and still came out to 20 wpi (about a sport weight).  There was very little waste on this and I figure I have about 450-500 yards.  I think this will be destined for a nice cowl for the Christmas box.  I'll post a picture next week.  It's currently hanging on a towel rack in the bathroom drying.

One of the things hubby told me when I retired was that I would be so busy that I would wonder when I ever had time to work.  He is so right!  It seems that my days are so full and I don't get done half the things I'd like to!  I haven't even touched my scrapbooking and there's some hand quilting that I had hoped to get accomplished.  But, I also have to keep reminding myself I don't have to get everything done the first few months.  And I'm having lots and lots of fun.  Abby and the girls came down last Monday and spent the night.  I taught Abby how to use my old Bernina and she started working on curtains for the girls.  I may have just enabled another sewer.  I certainly hope so!

One last picture.  Saturday before last I met with our quilt group at church and we worked on American Hero quilts for returning soldiers.  I started this one and brought it home to finish:


We received a really nice letter from a nurse in Baghdad.  Apparently there were enough quilts at Madigan Army Hospital that they sent some to Iraq to use for the soldiers who were transferring out from combat to the hospital in Germany.  She said the soldiers who were conscious were so touched by the fact that someone they didn't know would make a quilt for them.  And for the ones who weren't aware, the nurses said it gave them such pleasure to wrap them in a little bit of home. 

Woolee Delight

When I received my paycheck for the two weeks I worked in February, I was torn about what to do with it.  I considered a fiber spree, but fiber seems so fleeting and I really wanted something permanent to remind me of the joy of retiring for good.  After some thought I decided to use part of it to buy a Woolee Winder for my spinning wheel.  I placed the order and prepared for a wait.  According to their website, due to a fire in the workshop they were backlogged on orders.  It could take up to eight weeks to receive my order.  Imagine my delight when, only about a week later, the package arrived on my doorstep today.  Since this replaces the flyer on my wheel and since the bobbins are not interchangeable, I had to quickly finish up some Ashland Bay Merino that was in progress.  That took me a little over an hour and I was ready to install the Woolee Winder.  It was a quite simple process of loosening one maiden, removing the old flyer and snapping in the new one.  I had another 4 oz. of Ashland Bay Merino, so I sat down and started spinning.

In the immortal words of Mei-Mei, "Oh. My. Goodness!"  I don't know if it was the winder or not, but all of a sudden I was spinning singles that were exactly what I dreamed of when I started spinning!  They are fine and even and, if I am not mistaken, when 3 plied will be about a sock weight.  Woo Hoo!!!  I'm a spinner.  Here's a photo of the winder and my first singles:


I love the way it winds the yarn smoothly, with no hills and valleys.  The bobbins are also a little larger and so will hold about 1/3 more yarn.  Here is a comparison shot:


Timing is everything, however, and I will not be able to play with it this weekend.  Tomorrow I'm meeting Abby at a fabric warehouse to help her pick out some fabric for curtains for the girls' room.  She's interested in starting to sew and that will be a great first project for her.  After that I'll go home with her and my sister will pick me up later in the day.  Sunday it's the opera (Falstaff).  On Monday Abby will bring me back home and spend the night here with the girls.  So I won't get to play with my new toy, but I will get some great time with Abby, my sister and the girls, so all is well!