beginning again, with wool

SCF Shetland handspun

I let most of February (and March, and April) get away from me, although not without good reason. C and I got married at the end of February, and the past three months have been a pretty busy stretch of planning things-doing things-being exhausted-getting a cold-recovering-doing more things.

One of my goals for 2016 was to be better about documenting my making with photos, and I think I’m succeeding there – my Ravelry projects and stash are much more up to date, and I’m instagramming my sewing makes more often. Now, my goal is to start sharing them in this space. I have a lot of projects with stories that want to get told.

This first post is about spinning – something that got away from me a bit in February. I ended up knitting a sweater to wear at my wedding. This was a really great choice in that I got a product I’m really proud of, and it turned out exactly the way I’d hoped. This was a stressful choice because I had to knit only this one, somewhat-fussy thing, for the better part of two months.

By the beginning of March, I was craving easy. Garter stitch. Plain spinning with no planning or expectation. You know the stuff. By the middle of the month, I was in the mood for some instant-gratification spinning, and I’d been staring at a particular bump of dyed Shetland, received as a gift from a spinner pal.

Handspun SCF Shetland  

 My planning and colour-handling-fussing was pretty minimal, which I think worked out wonderfully. The fiber was dyed in such a way that it repeated itself, which meant splitting it in half width-wise left me with two sections of fiber dyed the same. I split these into four, and spun onto two bobbins for a 2-ply yarn that would hopefully have lined up colours. 

I was able to knock the singles out over the course of a few days, and plied loosely to see if I could improve my put-up.

Handspun Shetland

I ended up with about 265 yd in a 108g skein. This is absolutely enough for a hat or pair of mittens, but I really wanted this to be a shawl. Maybe in garter stitch. There’s a theme, here.

I thought about combining it with something else I’d already spun, but I had two issues. First of all, the colours – this yarn is beautiful but also extremely punchy, and hard to match with the rest of my handspun stash. Secondly, I get kind of precious about combining like wool breeds when I spin – the idea of knitting Shetland with something like merino or alpaca makes me feel weird, and I’d rather not if I can avoid it.

Then, I remembered that I had a small bump of undyed grey Shetland lurking in my stash (from Hopeful Shetlands, a farm in Ontario. I think I remember buying it at the Woodstock festival?). I decided to try spinning it up to match my first skein, so that I could pair them together.

Recently Added-281

The second skein isn’t an exact match for the first. It’s around 218yd in an 87g skein, which is slightly thinner. However: it’s close enough, and it’s also so pretty that I could die. Like, will you look at that halo, it’s so magical. This is a true worsted yarn (from roving, spun long-draw), whereas I suspect the dyed shetland is on top. There were definitely more nepps in the fibre and it took a bit more focus to spin it evenly, but the poof is bananas.

I also think there was a bit of lanolin left in the fleece during processing, possibly for ease of spinning. There was a noticeable change in texture after I gave this skein a bath, and I ended up with a lovely, fluffy hand to the finished yarn.

Recently Added-280

Recently Added-279

I’m pairing these two lovelies in another Driftwood shawl, but doing some fussy things with stripes to use both skeins up fully. I wear my original constantly, and I’m excited to have a slightly-heavier handspun version for colder days.

if you can’t beat them

I’ve always been a brick-and-mortar shop sort of person, if given the option. This is especially true for me when it comes to shopping for things like yarn and fabric.

Out West, I’ve been doing my best to find local crafty shops. Obviously, different stores are different, but I’ve had some successes and difficulties finding places with a similar ‘feel’ and stock as the shops back east.

This is, I think, especially true for quilting fabric. There are lots of great options, and the options that do exist are huge, and have a grand selection in terms of sheer quantity of fabric and notions and machines. This is great on a lot of fronts – when I was ready to upgrade my machine, I was able to find the one I wanted in store, and one of the shops near me has an excellent selection of flannel for pyjamas, which is pretty important. But these stores and I, we definitely disagree when it comes to taste in printed quilting cottons.

Granted, I was a little spoiled, living so close to amazing shops like Needlework and The Workroom, but the stores out here are just – different. A lot of the fancy ‘modern’ fabric lines and designers I’ve grown fond of just aren’t stocked out here.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t options, by any means. But the prints available tend to run towards a certain aesthetic that’s either quite traditional (lots of floral reproductions and batiks) or quite – novelty-ish. Possibly arranged by theme (Star Wars, boats, cowboys, space). But nothing quite gets me like the food fabric. Oh my god, the food fabric. You’ve seen it – that bolt that’s printed with photorealistic illustrations of potatoes, or beer cans, or halved avocados. There is so much of this, and it’s definitely not my jam.

HHFFSBS

I was lamenting this on Twitter last weekend with Austen, who also had a fairly recent move from the big city to the land of novelty fabric, and she suggested an alternative. Rather than fight the novelty food fabrics, we should embrace them, with a swap. The Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric Stowe Bag Swap.

We chatted back and forth for a bit, and set out some ground rules:

1) Each swap participant must sew one Stowe bag, in the small size.

2) Each bag needs to use at least two different food fabrics. Artist’s choice as to whether these two fabrics depict foods that are palatable together, either visually or gustatorially.

3) Bags go in the mail by Feb 15th.

I’ve already picked out my Foods Of Choice, and I kind of can’t wait to turn them into something ridiculous.

Would you like to play, too? Does your local quilt shop also have an Aisle Of Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric? (Or do we perhaps share the same local quilt shop?) We’d love it if you joined us. If you’re planning to swap with people you know and like (?), feel free to post on social media with the hashtag #HHFFSBS.

re-entry and some imitation/flattery

Steam off the river

So it’s been a while: it’s the middle of January, and the last time I posted was Augustish. I could talk a lot about why I didn’t post (the end of the year was busy, I guess?), but I don’t know how useful that would be. It’s been a while, is all.

One of the things I learned from not blogging for so long, though, was that I miss it. I didn’t think it was that important to me to have photos of all of my projects, or to have my Ravelry page up to date, but as it turns out: it is. I’ve noticed a change in how I feel about creating, and how I feel about what I’ve made, when I don’t have a visual record to go back to. There’s something really satisfying about it – as a made thing in and of itself, I guess – and I find it helps me a lot when life gets busy.

When things are hectic, or when I’m travelling too much to have time for some of my less portable work like spinning and sewing, one of my instinctive thoughts is that I’m not making enough. Sometimes this is true, sometimes this isn’t. But having that record to go back to, being able to remind myself that yes, I made that thing and that after things settle down, I’ll have space to make more things, is actually really helpful.

So one of my goals in 2016 is to start afresh, to get back to my camera and sharing what I make. Let’s skip the year-in-review post. 2015 was big – in a lot of really great ways, but also in a lot of ways that were a lot of work. I’m looking forward to using 2016 to get my feet back under me and renew some habits that got interrupted over the past few months.

So.

I made a quilt top.

Cheerios quilt top

Cheerios quilt top

This is Cheerio from Thimble Blossoms. I started it around Christmas time, after being inspired by Nettie’s beautiful version at A Quilt Is Nice. I didn’t set out to copy her quilt, per se, but I really liked her take on it – lots of brights and lots of contrast. It made me take a look at that pattern in a new way, and appreciate how I could use it to make a quilt that suited me.

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a quilt pattern that’s a bit more complicated than my usual (read: not another Donuts quilt), but straightforward enough that the block construction is still intuitive to me. This pattern ticked all the right boxes, and was also a great opportunity to make a dent in my fat quarter stash.

I had to buy fabric for the background – I don’t stash large quantities of neutrals unless I’ve got a clear plan for them – but all of the other fabrics in the quilt are from stash. It’s mostly Natural History fabrics (I got a fat quarter set for my birthday last year), with a few simlarly-themed fabrics mixed in. I decided to add in some “rules” for colour mixing, which helped me keep things cohesive. I split everything into “light” and “dark” piles by value, and tried to use “light” fabrics for the cheerio sides and “dark” fabrics for the squares. I also made an effort not to repeat any fabric pairings, so that each block is unique.

Cheerios quilt top

I’m planning to quilt this myself, which is kind of an exciting plan. (This is made possible by the fact that I did two things this summer: bought a new sewing machine, and learned to use the walking foot and machine quilt.) I’m a bit nervous, as this is the biggest quilt top I’ve ever made at 66″ by 77″, but I think I can manage it.

So: hello, 2016. I’ve been making things. I’m excited to share them with you this year.