Mini Aran Complete

I finished Owen’s mini Aran sweater a little over a month ago, but never got around to doing an FO post on it until now. Here it is:

The pattern is Baby Poonam, a free Berroco pattern. In the original pattern, the cables just sort of end after reaching their point of maximum horizontal travel. Maybe it’s not clear what I mean by this, but if you compare the photos above to those on the pattern page, I think you’ll see.  Looking at that pattern, it seemed to me that the eye sort of fills in the rest of the cable after it ends in the pattern. I like cables and saw no reason to have them end in empty space, so I just filled them in. I knit this in the 6 month size with Cascade 220 Superwash on circular US4′s and 6′s. Owen will be 8 months old in 5 days!  Hopefully it will fit him for the rest of sweater weather season this year.


  

Kick Spindle

Later this month I’m teaching a two week introduction to spinning course. Here is one of the spinning tools I’ve built recently, a kick spindle.

As a starting point for my design I read this post by Layne Brosius, a.k.a. AFrayedKnotter. My kick spindle is pretty similar to hers. There are two major differences. The first is that I used a 1″ thick piece of poplar with feet, as you can see in the pictures. The weight of the flywheel (a furniture bun foot from Lowe’s) seems to give the device sufficient inertia both to spin for a while and to not slide across the floor during use.  I’ve only used the kick spindle on carpeting and outdoor cement, but I think if I put some rubber feet on the bottom it would stay in place on wood or tile, too.

The second significant change I made is in the bearing design. Most kick spindles I’ve seen use roller bearings, like you’d find in a roller skate. That would make the spindle turn longer between kicks, but nice bearings are expensive (especially if I’m looking to build ten of these in a class), and I don’t really mind kicking in a rhythm, since I’m used to treadling on a wheel anyway. Instead of a $4 skate bearing, I came up with something that costs a dime, namely an actual dime:

I drilled into the base at a 45° angle with a ¾” spade bit then super glued a dime onto the floor of the angled hole. I put a divot in the dime with a 1/16″ metal bit.

In the divot rests the sharpened metal point of the spindle. To point the spindle end, I nailed a small finishing nail into the center of the 1/2″ dowel that I used for the spindle (I used 1/2″ dowel because I have a 1/2″ in drill bit but not a 3/8″ one. If I had the 3/8″ bit, I’d probably go with the 3/8″ dowel).  Next I sharpened the end of the spindle by cutting away excess wood with a knife. This leaves the small nail head sticking out the end like a pencil lead. I sharpened the head with a file:

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the sharpness of the tip. (but yes, that is a dvd of Flash Dance behind my hand. I’m a spinning maniac, maniac, and I’m spinning like I’ve never done before…) The spindle will go through twelve to twenty rotations per kick:

I spun a few ounces of wool from rolags in a hotel room while watching Elf over thanksgiving weekend.  The kick spindle works pretty well.It fits in car much more easily than a spinning wheel–with a convertible car seat in the back of my Corolla, there’s no way my Saxony wheel would fit anywhere in the car anymore. It’s fairly lightweight, but heavy enough to stay in place. It isn’t as portable as a drop spindle, but the winding on procedure is a bit more efficient. Also I’m still not very good at long draws on a drop spindle, but it’s easy to spin short or long draw on the kick spindle. The kick spindle can  accommodate a very large cop of yarn, So I can spin more yarn before winding balls for plying. Winding directly off the kick spindle is also very easy.  Total cost for the whole thing was about $12. If you wanted something a bit more aesthetic, you could use a plaque with a routed edge for the base and stain the whole thing.

  

Sunrise Banjo Mitts

I’ve maybe never mentioned on the blog that Beth’s parents are both ministers—well, her father’s a retired minister, and her mother is retiring this month. They are both ordained, and met in seminary. For the past couple of years we and they have all played guitar and banjo for the Easter sunrise service at her mom’s church in Connecticut. The sunrise service takes place out at the end of an inevitably mist covered peninsula on the coast.  In theory, the sun would rise behind us during the service. In practice the mist persisted all the way through. I think the same thing happened last year actually…

Let me tell you, when you wake up at 5 in the morning in April, trod out to the end of an Ocean-misty peninsula, and then clamp your fingers down on five or six steel strings, your hands will get numb. On top of that, my glasses always fog up. It’s kind of amazing that we can play at all. Last Wednesday evening I remembered hand-numbing discomfort from last year. I didn’t have any stashed yarn and I wanted to knit up some fingerless mitts for Sunday morning. So I sat down at the wheel, and carded, spun, and plied about three ounces of wool. I think it’s Romney, but I don’t know. It’s a big random looking sack o’ wool. Then on Saturday I knit these hand-warming accoutrements:

Saturday evening Beth was all, “I can’t believe your’re putting cables on those. You need them tomorrow morning, and we have to get up at FIVE!”

“You gotta go cabled, or go home,” I replied. (Note: I’m making Beth sound more naggy than in reality, just for comic effect; she kindly knit the last three rows and did the bind-off for me while I was taking a shower).

My fingers still got stiff and numb while playing, but I was much more comfortable than I’d have been without these. I knit them two-at-a-time on a 36″ circular US5. The yarn is slightly thinner than worsted, but heavier than what I’d call sportweight. Fleece to bound-off in under 72 hours; they still have a slight sheep-in-the-field aroma. Manly. Total mass for the pair: 1.5 oz.

  

Malabrigo Loafers

I just finished knitting these Malabrigo Loafers by Julie Weisenberger last week. They took me two evening sittings. I think I’ll be making several gift pairs next year. The pattern called for Malabrigo worsted, holding two strands together for both the soles and the uppers. I substituted some tougher seeming, undyed,  local handspun wool (produced by the Baa Baa Sisterhood) for the soles. This may have been unnecessary—I never had any difficulty breaking worsted weight wool yarn by hand until I met Malabrigo. It actually has pretty high tensile strength despite feeling so soft. I don’t know whether tensile strength correlates well with resistance to abrasion.

Durability aside, I think the baa baa sisterhood wool gives me better traction than Malabrigo might. The soles are knit in garter stitch, so they have some texture to them. They don’t feel too slippery to me, but my office is carpeted as is our whole apartment other than the kitchen. So I probably won’t feel the need to add any non-skid devices to the soles for some time. Last week I had to shuffle some cars around in the snow and ended up parked with my driver’s side door right next to a two and a half foot snow bank. I trudged through it and up the icy driveway in these. Not only did I not slip, but my socked feet were still warm and dry! Wool possesses many amazing material properties: high tensile strength, good insulation, and even water repulsion.

Prior to the addition of the penny slot bands, the slippers looked like this:

If you make the penny bands, be sure to tack down the stitches on either side of the penny slit, or the penny will just roll around inside the sewn-on band.

Each loafer upper is knit on two circular needles in such a way that the stitches of the right half  and the stitches of the left half always remain on their own dedicated needle. I felt like I had a lot of needle ends and yarn strands sticking out while I was working; I used two center pull balls, one for each strand. However, I wouldn’t try making these any way other than with the two circs. It makes it easy to maintain the symmetry of the slipper. The pattern called for size 10 needles for the large size, but I had to use 7′s to get gauge, and the slippers fit my mens-size-10 feet just right.

  

Cardigan Finished

A Happy New Year to All! Over the holidays, I finished the Rogers-esque cardigan. All that remains is to get the buttons and sew them on.

Stats:

Pattern: Rogers-esque Cardigan Jacket by Mary Townsend; Yarn: about 6.5 skeins of Harrisville Orchid with Cashmere (70% wool, 25% mohair, 5% cashmere; 100 grams/240 yards per skein); Color: Golden Curry; Needles: US #5 for body, US #3 for ribbing.

I made the 36″ chest size, which amounts to a little more than 1″ of negative chest ease for me. (I learned some fashiony terms in making this project; “ease” is the difference between the circumference of the sweater and the circumference of the body, measured at the same point, in this case the chest. If the difference is negative, it’s called negative ease, and means the sweater will have to stretch a little to fit the wearer).

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way the cardigan turned out, but I wish the sleeves were a little less bunchy. I think they look a little too baggy to go along with the “vintage” fit that I wanted for this sweater. The problem seems to be more that they are too long than that they are too baggy. Shorter sleeves would bunch less. If I’m feeling brave I might rip out the cuffs and re-knit  the ends of the sleeves about an inch shorter. Have any of you ever done this?

Here are the parts after steam blocking, but before assembly. Blocking rocks. I just blasted lots of steam into the parts with an iron then let them dry on the rug. The stitches magically  evened themselves out. I might block again after putting the buttons on. I’ll have to see how the cardigan fits when buttoned before I decide about that.

  

One Sleeve To Go

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. I couldn’t find my camera for the last few weeks. I eventually realized that maybe I left it on a bus. I took the bus back from the airport in Boston after a recent trip to Chicago for a plasma physics conference. I called the bus company yesterday, and found out I was right. They’ve had the camera behind the counter at the bus station all this time. Hooray for not losing the camera forever! Here are a few pictures of Chicago that I downloaded from the camera on the way home before forgetting it on the bus:

I saw ‘Cloudgate’ or ‘The Bean’, a sculpture by Anish Kapoor in Millenium Park, just a few blocks from my hotel. I’d seen pictures of the bean before, but I had no idea how big it was. You can easily walk under it. The vaulted, mirrored ‘ceiling’ is actually pretty high underneath. This picture is a composite of three exposures, each taken 2 stops apart.

The hotel was also close to the Wrigley building, which is indeed named for the chewing gum company.

I have finished up one sleeve on my orange Rogers-esque cardigan, but haven’t been to the bus station get to get the camera, so here is very low quality picture taken with the tiny built-in iSight camera in my laptop. Sleeves account for a much larger fraction of the surface area of a sweater than I’d thought about. I’ll mass the sleeves and other parts and report on the percentages accounted for by each part before I finish it up. I’ll also post better pics after blocking, seaming, and getting my Canon back:

What kind of buttons do you think would look best on this sweater?

  

Rogers-esqe Cardigan Progress

I’ve fallen behind in my series of planned Ireland vacation posts, but I’ll finish them up one of these days. In the meantime, I’ve been making surprisingly (to me anyway) rapid progress on my “Rogers-esque” golden curry cardigan. I swatched for the sweater on my birthday (August 28th). I had finished the back and half of the front by October 4th:

The most interesting thing about this pattern is the way the collar band goes together. Notice how it sticks up above the left front half? There will be an analogous tab on the right half of the front, and the ends of the two tabs will be grafted at the center-back of the neck to make for a seamless band.

I had the unexpected experience of seeing one of Mr. Rogers’ actual cardigans two weeks ago when I was walking through the Pittsburgh airport!

Here are some detail shots of the collar and pockets:

Do you think this sweater was hand knit?  The sleeves feature some ribs along the outside of the arm, which I think look kind of cool as they reach the raglan seam at the shoulder. For your sight singing pleasure, here’s a little ditty of a well known Mr. Rogers jingle that he included in his autograph:

This actual Rogers cardigan was a little bit tighter gauge than mine (but only a little), but I think that the slightly uneven texture of the Harrisville Orchid yarn is pretty similar to the texture of the genuine Rogers.  I’m glad that I am doing buttons (which I haven’t chosen yet) rather than a zipper, but I’m kind of jealous of the slit pockets that Fred had on his sweater.

Last night I finished the second half of the front, and there was much rejoicing by the feline contingent in our apartment.

Cats love wool for some reason; they love to walk on it, knead it, smell it, bury their faces in it. It’s pretty funny to watch, especially if you’re wearing the wool at the time. Unless I’m really slow, the sleeves may be done before we even get any snow.