Or two, actually. Tax refunds are a beautiful, wondrous thing. Sure, you could be boring and dull and pay bills or put it into savings, or whatever. Or you could buy two spinning wheels.

Yes, you read that right. Two spinning wheels. I now own three spinning wheels. I had been meaning to own two, using my tax return to buy a modern wheel, but then a nice little electric Clemes and Clemes came up on a Ravelry equipment destash board and let’s just say I lack anything close to impulse control. So I snagged it.

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And I completely adore it. I love it. I brought it home, set it up, and spun 100 yards of a two ply in a couple hours. I’m talking divided, spun, wound off the bobbin (cause it only has the one), plied, skeined, and dunked it in the bath, all in a couple of hours. OMG FAST. This is the yarn in question:

shetland handspun

The fiber was sent along with the wheel, courtesy of the person who sold it to me. It was Shetland roving, from her own sheep, I gather. It was true roving, not top, so I played a little with long draw. It didn’t puff up in the wash like I’m told long draw spinning does, so it was to limited success. I suspect part of the problem was too much plying twist and part of the problem was trying too hard to control things instead of letting them be.

The weekend after bringing home Cecile, which is what I’ve decided to call the e-spinner, I went to Uniquities, my LYS, for a spinning open house and to try out some wheels. I test drove a Majacraft Pioneer, a Kromski Fantasia and a Minstrel, and a Schacht Ladybug.

I brought home the Ladybug:

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I am completely in love with the Ladybug, y’all. It’s so quiet and the treadling is so smooth and it doesn’t wobble or shake or fall apart. It has a proper brake band and I can adjust the tension. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t currently have a name besides “the Ladybug”, but I’m sure it’ll tell me what it wants to be called at some point.

My first skein on this lovely wheel was a second attempt at long draw, to much more success this time:

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The fiber was targhee/alpaca/mohair/glitz from what is rapidly becoming my favorite fiber company, Avalon Springs. The prep is just so lovely, perfect for woolen spinning, no predrafting required. Love. I got about 155 yards of around a dk/worsted weight. Very lofty, very puffy. Still not quite the yardage I would expect from woolen spinning and four ounces, but I completely adore the resulting skein. It’s pretty soft too.

Needless to say, between the two wheels, I’ll be spinning up a storm.

2014 is turning into a banner year for non-shark mittens. I’m sure that will change as the weather warms up, but for now, here’s another pair of mittens, named with a rather unoriginal pun. Whee!

Pattern: My own, made up as I went
Yarn: Corgi Hill Farm handspun, merino and silk
Needles: US 1/2.25mm Addi Sock Rockets

The patterning for these mittens was the result of wanting some sort of cable pattern to add interest and not wanting to do any purling whatsoever. Result: cables in the middle of some stockinette. It worked out exactly as intended. The cable is pretty simple too, which helped. I think it does a good job of showing off AnnaMarie’s super lovely handspun, which was sort of the goal.

I actually might do this same pattern again for me, which is something I don’t usually do. It’s only sort of a pattern–I mean, they’re mittens, and I do need some more mittens. They’re mostly plain mittens, with some cables for interest. So it’s not really like knitting a pattern over again. Plus also, I might actually write these up. The ones I make for myself will have a totally different gauge, but I think the pattern might be nice for something akin to Knitty’s Knitty Spin patterns–ie, intended specifically for hand spun. I might make mine in the brown yarn from the fleece. But with a lining, since that handspun is a bit rough. At a tight enough gauge, though, they’ll be practically water proof.

Anyway (which is a word I use ENTIRELY too often, I realize. I got shut down in the middle of a presentation in kindergarten for overuse of the word, which should give you some idea of how often I use it; anyway–), the mittens came out super pretty, and the pattern did exactly what it was supposed to do. Yay.

This one is crochet! And it’s for meeeeeeee or maybe that nebulous gift bin I keep talking about since it sort of makes me look huge on top. Anyway.

Pattern: Cold Shoulders from the Stitch ‘N Bitch crochet book
Yarn: Trendsetter Repunzel, four skeins
Hook: I/5.5 and K/6.5, the former for the yoke and the latter for the shells
Mods: I did some extra shell rows and some extra collar rows. I also omitted the pompoms.

According to the Ravelry stash entry, I bought the yarn for this in October 2012. I got it at Tuesday Morning shortly after I moved up to DC. The intent, I think, was to make a sweater or a tutu, but I don’t think I would have had enough for that, even on huge needles, so capelet it is. I love a good capelet. I wear my Red Riding Hood capelet all the time and I keep meaning to make another similar one, perhaps sans hood. I’m not sure how keen I am on this one (the mohair halo makes me look huge and it’s not the softest yarn ever). Right now it’s keeping Elizabeth warm, which is a fine place for it to stay until I figure out if I want to keep it or not. It looks excellent on Elizabeth, as everything does, and decidedly less so on me. Hrmph.

I did really like making it though. Crochet was the first craft I learned, the thing that started this whole crazy rabbit hole to several looms, a soon-to-be tax-refund-funded new spinning wheel, and literally thousands of dollars spent on yarn, and I don’t do it nearly enough. Mostly because I generally prefer knitting, as I don’t have to look at it to do it, unlike crochet, where if I don’t look, I end up poking the hook somewhere weird and not the next stitch, but still. There are some applications where crochet really shines, and I should seek out more of them. (For one thing, crochet is excellent for quickly working through what some (not me) would argue is a slightly ridiculous yarn stash).

Crochet was my entry to crafts, and it will always be my first love. Maybe not my truest, but always my longest. Maybe I’ll start another granny square blanket. I do love a good granny square.

Mittens, generally speaking, are a pretty quick project, even in fingering weight yarn. Especially when you have super tiny hands, like apparently I do. The mittens I’m about to show you, however, are not a quick project. I mean, if you look at the dates on its Ravelry page, you might think, “Hey! They only took you like a week! That’s fast!” And if I only had the time to knit in the evening or was working on a bunch of different projects, you might be right. But there are several days in there where I spent ALL DAY (like, eight hours) working on these buggers. So in actual number of hours, they took FOREVER for mittens.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re completely adorable, and I love the finished object (though sadly, they’re not for me). But do you see those quills? Each of those quills has about nine stitches in it. Nine fiddly stitches. And they cover the back of the hand.

Pattern: Hedgehog Mitts
Yarn: Recycled wool/acrylic/alpaca
Needles: US 4/3.5mm
Mods: They’re mittens, so you know I mostly just did my own thing and threw in the stitch pattern

Like I said, I love how they came out, and I think they’re really cute. There are several patters out there for Hedgie mittens, and to be perfectly honest, I think I’d recommend you try a different one. This one was pretty hard to follow. For one thing, the directions are written in paragraphs instead of line by line, like most knitting paragraphs, so it’s hard to find your place. For another, there are no finished measurements, so there’s no way to tell how big the sizes are until you’re halfway through knitting them. I wasn’t about to swatch a quill pattern, so I cast on the adult small/child large (it’s the same size, which is another problem), and hoped for the best. I wasn’t sure how the quills would react (I thought they might pull in a bit), but they ended up being a bit large. I decreased a bit and knit a longer cuff to compensate, but that was a step I wouldn’t have had to take if there had been finished dimensions.

See, I think I’ve probably knit about 200 pairs of mittens, fingerless mitts, and gloves over my knitting career. (Most of them were sharks.) I’m pretty familiar with the measurements I need to make them fit given a particular size of hand. I’m also pretty familiar with my gauge in various yarn weights as related to hand size. So I have no idea what my stitch or row gauge is for a dk yarn on size four needles, but I know that I need to cast on 40 stitches and increase two stitches every three rounds until I get 15 stitches for the thumb in order to get mitts that fit my hands. I can compensate for different sizes in a pattern based on my gauge and the given dimensions. I only cast on 40 stitches for my Northanger Abbey mittens because that’s how many I need for dk yarn and size four needles, even though the pattern said to cast on like 56 or something ridiculous (and the finished dimensions listed in the pattern supported my idea that they would come out WAY too big; I usually cast on 36 for mittens in the yarn and needle size called for in pattern). I’ve gotten very good at modifying mitten patterns to fit my little hands.

All that to say: I really need finished dimensions on patterns so I can modify. I’m not about to swatch to get the gauge you think I should; I much prefer to use my gauge modify on the fly. It’s a system that has served me well for many, many knitting projects. But I guess if you take the time to swatch and like math, you could probably figure out the estimated finished dimensions of a pattern based on cast on numbers and gauge. I don’t do math though, so that’s not for me.

Anyway, have some more pictures:

I did some spinning! One of the earliest fiber purchases I ever made was for some multicolored merino top from Ashland Bay that I ordered from WEBS. I started spinning the summer after my freshman year of college, and I bought it not long after that, so I’ve probably had it for about four years. Which isn’t very long for some people, but by some people’s accounts, I’m still a “new spinner”. I started spinning it relatively soon after I got it and finished (plied, washed, and thwacked) about an ounce, but I got bored with it (spinning one color, or mostly one color, for a while on a spindle is pretty boring). It’s much faster on a wheel, though, so I picked it back up at the beginning of the month.

Here’s what the fiber looked like when I bought it:

And here’s what it looks like now:

I sort of attempted to spin semi-woolen, to mediocre success. It would have been impossible since this was definitely top and thus all the fibers were going the same way, but when I started spinning it, I did something weird to the fiber. Instead of being in a long chunk like most top, I guess I had pulled off chunks, layered them, and pulled them apart. Several times. The result of which is that I had a bag full of fluffy chunks and clouds. That made it a lot easier to practice woolen spinning and long draw.

I decided to thread ply this skein, mostly because I didn’t bother to divide the fiber before spinning, so I just put it all on one bobbin. Plying it on itself would have involved winding off the single and dividing it. I didn’t want to do that (lazy, not that in love with the fiber anyway), so I looked in my to-be-unravelled thrift store sweater stash, and found something that would work. It’s a lace weight 85/15 merino/cashmere from a seriously gigantic skirt.

I like how the finished yarn came out, although it’s super uneven cause I wasn’t paying that much attention to the spinning. It varies between heavy lace and sport, but that’s okay. It gives it character, and I like a bit of character in my handspun. I didn’t mind thread plying, although it probably would have been easier if A, the thread and single were less prone to breakage and B, I didn’t have to unravel the thread ply from the sweater at the same time as I was attempting an even ply. I used a super tiny amount of the skirt yarn (barely a dent in one of four huge sweater-sized panels), and my yardage for about 3 ounces of fiber was only about 300 yards, but the fiber’s out of my stash and I justified the huge skirt purchase (it was pretty cheap, but it’s always nice when I actually use one of my thrift purchases for something other than the joy of unraveling).

Oh, and as for the title: So I’m participating in this giant challenge thing on Ravelry called Nerd Wars. Basically, you join a team, and then there are challenges in five categories. You knit, crochet, spin, or weave something before the deadline (each round is a month) that fits in to the category, and there are extra points for tying your project back to your team. The team I joined is Stargate Command, so all of my projects have to relate to Stargate (which, as you know, I am totally and utterly obsessed with). I submitted this yarn for one of the challenges, and my team tie in was that the yarn resembles the ribs/supports on a Wraith ship from Stargate Atlantis. Thus the name. Nerd Wars tournaments are three months long, with three month-long rounds. So I expect you’ll be hearing more about my Stargate tie ins.

Sooo since it’s been a little while, here’s a brief update for those wondering how Katsu went: We got a foot of snow Wednesday night, and it was COMPLETELY TERRIBLE. I had to dig my car out, and neither Joe nor I owns a snow shovel, so that was a mess. I had to use a plastic bowl. At least until one of my (super nice neighbors) lent me their shovel. Ugh. I did make it to Katsu on time though. I had a ton of fun, although some sleep/health issues prevented me from staying as long as I might have liked. But I didn’t get stranded, so that was good. I once again failed to take any pictures because I’m terrible like that, but one of these days, I’ll show off the parts of one of the cosplays I put together.

Today though, there’s a shawl. A big-ass shawl as part of my ongoing swap with AnnaMarie. Ravelry tells me I actually finished this shawl on February 2, almost a month ago. Needless to say, I’m a bit behind in my posting. Anyway.

Pattern: A Sensible Shawl from the fall 2012 Jane Austen Knits
Yarn: JulieSpins MCN 180 Aran, two skeins in Silver Sugarplum, two in Silver Cherry Blossom, and one in Cinder.
Needles: US 8/5mm
Mods: None, knit as written

Let me tell y’all, when I say I used five skeins of yarn, I mean I used EVERY INCH of five skeins of yarn. It took some careful finagling, but it worked out perfectly. The shawl is knit sideways, end to end, so I had to find the middle of the grey skein, knit the increases exactly to that point, and then begin decreases. It was a little hairy, especially at the end, when I mysteriously ran out of yarn and had to rip back a couple of inches at the cast on icord and tab and knit the beginning and the end simultaneously to get enough length. It was a process.

The FO came out really nice though. The yarn is SUPER squishy and dense and soft, so that helps. Plus it’s HUGE. It’s basically a blanket, which made it nice and toasty warm to knit on. Let’s be real–I’m not going to knit another one, probably. But I WANT ONE. Which means I might knit something similar. In a less nice yarn, probably, because my budget is such that lovely JulieSpins MCN is SO WAY OUT OF IT, but I do have some nice stuff.

I have something like six FOs to show off in the next couple of weeks. One of these days I swear I’ll catch up and post something other than a constant FO train. I promise. Well, I promise to try at any rate.

I made some mittens! Because apparently mittens (sharks or otherwise) is like 90% of what I knit. These are for AnnaMarie, as part of the ongoing swap saga.

Pattern: Northanger Abbey from the Fall 2012 Jane Austen Knits
Yarn: Fleece Artist Merino 3/6, about half a skein in Capri
Needles: US 4/3.5mm
Mods: I went down in needle and yarn size since that’s what I had, and I basically just threw the chart onto my usual plain mitten pattern.

I actually bought the magazine this pattern is in–the physical pattern, ordered from Interweave. It was on sale for like $4, so obviously a bargain, but then shipping was like $6. FOR A MAGAZINE, UGH. I bought it anyway, since the digital download is like $15, so even with the shipping, the magazine was cheaper. And for two patterns I was DEFINITELY going to knit (this one, and a shawl I’ll show you next time), it was still worth it.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take pictures of your own hands? Anyway, the mittens were super easy to make, and I think they came out pretty cute. And they were super fast (I mean, they’re mittens). I think I might knit some for myself–in the same yarn even, maybe, since I have a skein I got in payment for knitting the mittens.

I just love the way this yarn knit up. There’s a great depth of color, and the finished mittens are soft and pretty squishy. It’s a nice, round yarn, and I’m looking forward to working with it again.

In life news: This post was scheduled on Monday, so I don’t know what the weather’s doing. I’m still hoping for no snow. Fingers crossed, people.

I have a camera card and card reader again, so I can get back to taking pictures of my FOs. My mother came to visit this past weekend and brought a few things, including a new card for my camera since she had a spare. On Sunday morning, I drove to Walmart and bought a new card reader. Now, when I moved and during the ensuing week of unpacking, I searched EVERYWHERE for my card and reader. Looking for that motivated me to empty out more than a few bags and boxes and put stuff away, I’ll tell you that. I looked, Joe looked. It was looked for. So it’s not like I gave it up for lost lightly. Keep that in mind when I say that literally THE MINUTE I brought the new card reader in to my apartment, I reached in to my purse and pulled out THE ONE I’D LOST. I swear it was not there before. I took everything out of my purse and it was not in there. The moment I replaced it, there it is. Ugh.

So the new card reader is going back to Walmart, and I finally got some pictures of this yarn I finished on January 28th.

The fiber is BFL from Dancing Leaf Farms, which I purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool last year. It used to look like this:

The yarn is spun entirely on Alexandra, and I’m pretty chuffed with it. It’s pretty soft too. Spinning on the wheel is interesting because I can spin the flyer/wheel/whatever at a constant rate–it won’t slow down unless I stop treadling. When I spin on a spindle, I have to do all the actually spinning of the spindle at the beginning and then hurry up and draft as much out as I can (or want to depending on the method) before the spinning slows down. This usually results in way over spun yarn, since I spin the spindle as hard and fast as I can in the beginning so I don’t have to stop halfway through an armslength of drafting to spin it again. It’s a lot easier to spin softer yarn on a wheel because you’re not constantly racing against the “clock” of the spin slow down.

This yarn is about a sport weight, around 244 yards. I was hoping for a bit more (quite a bit more, actually, around 350) as I was spinning the singles quite fine, but it’s navajo plied, and that ate a lot of yardage. Plus near the end of the singles, it felt like they were taking FOREVER and I wanted to get to plying already, so they came out a little thicker than at the beginning of the bobbin.

Plying went pretty quickly once I figured out what I was doing. I’ve chain plied on a spindle and I’ve chain plied from a sweater piece to both a ball and a skein winder, both of which call for fairly similar motions since you’re not adding twist at the same time you’re chaining. On a wheel, the twist is going in at the same time as you’re making your chains, so you have to hold your hands completely differently. Once I figured this out (thanks to Leslie of The Knit Girllls’s YouTube video showing how to chain ply), it was a breeze. I think I’ll be chain plying more things on the wheel since I absolutely love how it looks.

Now for some life news: Katsucon is this weekend in National Harbor, and I will be attending. Hopefully. Well, almost certainly, since tickets were like $65, and that’s too much money to just eat. Anyway, the reason for the hopefully is that my neck of the woods is supposed to get hit with a shit ton of snow this weekend. Like a foot. Yeah. This cannot happen. I have Plans and Things To Do (Things for which I will be doing some madcap sewing this evening), and I do not want to drive to National Harbor in the snow. In good weather and traffic, that’s half an hour, but in bad weather? Nope. Worst case scenario (barring my injury or death) is I drive there in the morning, it snows in the afternoon/evening, and I’m stuck there overnight without a hotel room and have to sleep on a couch in the Gaylord lobby with no extra clothes or a shower.

So do me a favor and pray to whatever deity you believe in (or, if your deity of choice is science like mine, to the inherent inaccuracy in meteorology) that there’s no snow. Or at least only a little bit that doesn’t make 495 impassable.

Good news: I am all moved into my new place! (More about that on the bottom.) Bad news: It’s a gigantic mess still. Good news: IT’S MINE ALL MINE (well, also Joe’s since he lives there too). Bad news: My camera sd card and card reader appear to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Good news: I took these pictures of this sweater before I moved.

Pattern: Shalom Cardigan
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden (about 3/4 of a skein) and recycled wool
Needles: US 9/5.5mm I think
Mods: Long sleeves, different color yoke and bottom band, different CO and sleeve numbers… I used the pattern as a guideline, basically.

Once again, I’m playing along with IntSweMoDo, wherein I try to knit 12 sweaters in a year (because definitely I need 12 more sweaters, but shhh). For those following along at home, this is my first sweater of 2014. It was cast on in the tail end of 2013 (December 30, according to Ravelry), but mostly I knit it in January of 2014.

The pictures aren’t modeled because it’s BLOODY COLD OUTSIDE. It fits a little differently on me since I’ve yet to adjust Elizabeth to my current office-job-having bad-food-eating not-exercise-doing weight, but you get the idea. It’s actually still pretty baggy on me, which was sort of the idea anyway, so it works. Unless I shuffle the neckline around, the end of the yoke tends to hit at the nipple line, so that’s a problem, but I can deal with it.

All in all, I’m pretty chuffed with it, and I’ve been wearing it quite a lot since I bound it off.

Now, more about the apartment: My stuff is all moved in and it’s even mostly organized, but there are still a bunch of bags and boxes of stuff that need to be put away. And a bunch of stuff I have to get that I didn’t know I was going to have to get (mostly because the thought never occurred, not that I thought the apartment would have them) like clothes hangers and cleaning solutions. I had to run out early on Sunday morning to buy a shower curtain cause I forgot that I would need one.

I fully intend to snap some pictures of my crafting corner once I get it all set up. I need to get at least one more bookshelf for yarn storage, but my mother has an extra one she might bring up this weekend. It’s a work in progress and there’s a ton of stuff left to do, but things are moving along. And most importantly I HAVE MY OWN KITCHEN. Excite.

HATS ARE SO FAST YOU GUYS. I probably whipped this up in a couple of hours:

Pattern: My own, which I’ll be publishing at some point hopefully
Yarn: Recycled tripled wool
Needles: US 8 16″ KP circular

Hats are so fast. They are even faster if you don’t cast on 20 more stitches and get all the way to the beginning of the decreases before realizing that’s not going to fit any head ever, including Andre the Giant, thus doing an amount of unnecessary knitting that would probably make another whole hat and a half.

Even with the ripping and reknitting, it still came out a little big. That actually works in my favor though, since the hat is for my brother, whose head is a big bigger than mine. It is a nice little beanie though. I wouldn’t wear it since I don’t really wear beanies (I prefer ear flaps or bonnets because they cover my ears properly), but it’s cute.

The goal is to write up the pattern as part of a collaboration that I don’t want to talk too much about yet (counting ones chickens and so forth). I might do a whole set (hat, cowl, mittens) since the amount of stitches I cast on originally would be a great width for a cowl, which I discovered after taking the needle out. It’s been ages since I’ve actually published a design, even though I make up patterns fairly regularly. So that’s happening.

Briefly in life news: Move is happening tomorrow! I’m ready in no way other than emotionally, but EXCITE.

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