What’s In Your Sock Drawer?

I open my sock drawer the other day.


Yikes! I’m almost out of socks!

Oh, no! It’s almost empty!

But the laundry basket is full.


The capacity of the laundry basket is one-and-a-half bushels.

Here’s what 1.5 bushels of dirty hand knit socks look like dumped on the floor.


I don’t know why I dumped the socks from the laundry basket onto the floor.

Time to load them into the washing machine…


I like to wait till I have a full load before I wash my socks.

and start the wash cycle.


Yes, my washing machine had a wool cycle. It’s from New Zealand. :-)

When the spin cycle is complete, it’s off to my high-tech sock drying apparatus.


I could not have fit one more sock on the rack.

The socks are all dry now and back at home in my sock drawer.


The drawer is filled to the brim.

In case you are curious, this is how high the stack of socks in the lower right of the drawer is.


There are seven pairs in this stack.

So, what’s in your sock drawer? I hope it’s not store-bought socks. :-(

Fractal And Friends

I’ve written often on these pages about Ravelry and the wonderful community of knitters, crocheters, and spinners that has developed there. I belong to a number of spinning groups, and I have found that the members are knowledgeable, generous with their time, and eager to share their experience and advise those of us who are newer to spinning.

One of my spinning groups is Schacht Spinners, which is devoted to folks who spin or want to spin on Schacht wheels. One of the forum moderators started a “monthly” challenge (which sometimes runs more than one month) to encourage us to try different spinning techniques. It’s all very informal; you can participate or not, and you can go at your own pace. No pressure, just an opportunity to learn something new with the support of other spinners.

The current challenge is to do a fractal spin. I’ve done fractal spins before, but I’ve never done one with a gradient yarn. So, with my Schacht Ladybug set up in double drive using the highest ratio on the fast pulley––

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

I thought this beautiful braid from Friends in Fibers in the Cranberry Bog Gradient colorway would be perfect for a gradient fractal spin.

I wanted to try to make a self-striping, lace weight, 2-ply yarn in which the color changes got farther and farther apart. I want to knit a triangular shawl in which the width of the stripes remains about the same from beginning to end. I want the color repeats to be shorter at the beginning of the shawl and get longer as the number of stitches increases.

I would never have thought to try this if I hadn’t joined this group and this challenge. But one of the participants posted a link to this blog post, which led to this blog post, which led me to say, I want to do this!

The first half is nearing completion.

The first bobbin of singles is nearly finished. I can hardly wait to start the second bobbin. I will be spinning the remaining strips end to end, keeping the colors in the same order (green to dark pink), starting with the thinnest strip and ending with the thickest. And I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the yarn turns out the way I envision it. But if it doesn’t, not to worry. It will be beautiful regardless. When you start with lovely fiber that has been beautifully dyed, it is almost impossible to mess it up. :-)

Fiesta Time!

Finally, finally, I’m posting pictures of my finished Fiesta Paisley Lace Shawl. Well, mostly finished. I still haven’t woven in the ends.

It looks pretty draped over the chair.


Let’s get in a little closer.


It’s pretty on the floor, too.

Did you notice? No, you aren’t seeing things. The shawl is blocked as a rectangle, not a square. That’s because I’m an old lady with arthritis who can no longer crawl around on the floor. I had to arrange the blocking squares on the double bed in the spare room.

It’s good to have a feline helper. Siobhan thinks I knit everything just for her.


My shawl was knitted to a generous size, and in order to make it square, it would have had to be wider than the bed. So it ended up being longer than it is wide. But it still looks pretty good as a rectangle.

Did you notice the bottom edge? Take a closer look. Can you see it? Here’s a picture of the top edge for comparison.

The top edge of the shawl while it is blocking

If you still don’t see it, count the paisleys on the bottom edge, then on the top edge. Notice that some are facing right, and some are facing left. Do you see it now? Yep, that’s right. On the bottom edge, I have 8 right-facing paisleys and 6 left-facing paisleys instead of 7 of each. ::sigh::  As Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, it’s always something.

Bonus picture! Here’s a corner close-up shot.

The day after I washed it and pinned it out on the blocking board, my back decided to play tricks on me, and I was laid up for quite a few days. So Fiesta spent a lot of time on the blocking board and was definitely thoroughly dry when she was unpinned. I’m glad we didn’t need to use the guest bed for anyone but the kitty.

So Much To Learn (Plus A Finished Object)

A little while ago, I was telling yinz about spinning in double drive on my new spinning wheel, an Ashford Traveller. I mentioned that I love spinning in DD on it when using the regular flyer, but that I had all kinds of trouble when I tried DD using the high-speed flyer. I chalked it up to operator error/inexperience.

I can be a bit stubborn persistent when I get something in my head, and I really, really wanted to remedy my inability to spin in double drive using the high-speed flyer. So after I finished up this project–

Lovely BFL pin-drafted roving from Sunset Fibers

The roving unwound for dividing in half

After dividing the roving in half lengthwise, I had two bumps to spin. I spun one bump as is; the other I divided in half lengthwise again and spun it onto one bobbin end to end.

I spun the roving in double drive using the regular flyer.

I plied the singles from the two bumps together to get this gorgeous, 2-ply, lace weight BFL yarn.

I decided to give the high-speed whorl another whirl in double drive. (Did you see what I did there?) So I removed the regular flyer and put on the high-speed flyer. But this time, instead of using the shorter and thinner drive band I had used before when I tried the fast flyer, I just used the regular drive band.

I had to tilt the MOA a lot to get the band tensioned properly, and I was worried this would cause a problem.

The mother of all is tilted pretty far to the right, looking from behind the wheel.

You can see how far up the tensioning screw is.

But then I started spinning a braid of superfine Merino top that I bought from Spinneretta’s Studio,

Lovely superfine Merino wool from Spinneretta’s Studio in a colorway called Bloody Broomstick

and–OH MY! It was heaven. There is a bit of vibration in the maidens with the MOA tilted back so far, but it’s not enough to be annoying. And it’s nothing compared to the vibration I get with the bulky flyer on my Lendrum.

This is the thinnest and most consistent yarn I have ever spun, and it’s effortless.

The first bobbin. Note that I’m using the larger pulley. I was afraid to try the smaller pulley because I don’t know how far I can tilt the MOA before I start having serious problems.

Can you see how thin these singles are? Pretty much sewing thread.

Of course, I’m only on the first of four bobbins I plan to spin and ply to make a 4-ply yarn destined to become fingerless mitts, and the spinning gremlins might show up at any time, but so far, so good.

There’s always something new to learn in the art (and science) of spinning, and I’m learning something new with every project I start. And I don’t know what I would do without the community of spinners and knitters on Ravelry and in the blogosphere. The are the most helpful and generous folks on the face of the Earth.

Don’t forget to check out Tami’s FO Friday to see what other fiber artists are up to.


No Magic Yet

The knitting is done.

The Fiesta Paisley Lace Shawl knitted but unblocked.


A close up view of the border and edging. The edging wants to curl under, but once the magic happens, it will lie flat.

The magic will follow, as soon as another project vacates my blocking squares. :-)


During the Winter Olympics, I knitted an Age of Steam and Brass Kerchief from a lovely gradient handspun yarn. When I started the project, I didn’t realize it would be such a fast knit, so I found myself needing to start another project. Good sense would have led me to knitting a pair of fingerless mitts or finishing a sock I already have OTN, but no one ever accused me of using good sense.

Instead, I decided to knit a lace shawl. I need another lace shawl like I need a hole in my head, but there’s little I love in my knitting life than knitting a lace shawl. And I knew just the pattern. Way back when, in the Spring of 2005, I set aside this issue of Interweave Knits because I wanted to knit this darling little shawl designed by Evelyn A. Clark. It’s called the Paisley Lace Shawl, and it has a border of paisley lace. I love paisley. I love lace. I love this shawl pattern.

Evelyn A. Clark’s Paisley Lace Shawl

So I dug around in my yarn closet and found some lovely Knit Picks Gloss lace weight in a beautiful brownish-red called Fiesta. Gloss is a heavy lace weight yarn in a wool/silk blend, so it is soft and it drapes beautifully. And the silk gives it just a hint of sheen. I had four 440-yard skeins, and the shawl calls for 1,125 yards of Zephyr, another beautiful wool/silk lace yarn, so I knew I would have plenty of yarn.

I cast on using 4 mm needles and went to town. The shawl pattern calls for it to be knitted in garter stitch, but I don’t like lace knitted in garter stitch unless the yarn is very fine. Gloss is a pretty heavy lace weight, so I decided to knit the shawl in stocking stitch. That was my first pattern modification.

My second modification was to make the shawl bigger. The center of the shawl is knitted in a simple eyelet pattern that is easy to memorize and quick to knit. But the finished shawl is rather small. I wanted a larger shawl, so I did a little math and knitted three more repeats of the eyelet chart. I knew I had plenty of yarn, so I didn’t hesitate to knit the shawl bigger. And three more repeats gave me the proper number of stitches to add one more repeat of each paisley pattern in the border. The only fudging I had to do was add one extra stitch at both the beginning and end of the paisley border pattern. I could have decreased two stitches when knitting the last round of eyelet border to make the stitch count identical to the chart, but I just remembered to knit 3 instead of 2 at the beginning and end of each quarter.

Anyway, in no time I had finished the center of the shawl. The pattern was totally autopilot knitting and perfect for TV knitting. I dove right into knitting the paisley border, and while the pattern is a little too complex to be totally memorized, it was pretty simple to knit. I just had to refer to the chart briefly at the beginning of each round to make sure I knew what I was doing for that round.

The big challenge came when it was time to bind off the shawl, and this is where I made the third modification. In the pattern, a simple picot bind off is used. I did this bind off once on another shawl and I hated it. I really dislike doing it, and I really dislike the way it looks. If I had been running short of yarn, I would have done a crochet-loop bind off.

But I still had one full skein and about a third of another skein left, so I decided to do a knitted-on edging. I cobbled together an edging that had the eyelet chart pattern in it, but after knitting it on one quarter of the shawl, I didn’t like the way it looked. The place where the edging stitches were joined with the border stitches really stood out like a sore thumb, and the eyelets seemed out of place, even though the entire center of the shawl has the same eyelets.

So I ripped it out and went back to the drawing board. I poured though various books and finally decided on one of my go-to edgings, Ocean Waves. I think the curvy bits reflect the curves of the paisley pattern. And the place where the edge stitches connect with the border stitches blends in much better than the first pattern I tried.

My enlarged version of the Paisley Lace Shawl with a knitted-on edging on the first quarter

I have one quarter completed and have a pretty good start on the second quarter. I haven’t gotten enough of the edging done to be able to do a dry-stretch of the shawl, but I think it’s going to look pretty darned good, don’t you?

A close-up shot of the corner

Cloud Dust

I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out the various features of my new Ashford Traveller spinning wheel. It is a double drive wheel which can also be used in single drive, both flyer lead, aka Scotch tension, and bobbin lead, aka Irish tension. If you are interested in the differences between double drive, bobbin lead, and flyer lead, click here and page down to the heading “Types of Flyers – Single drive versus double drive wheels” for a pretty good explanation. Or watch this video.

Anyway, when I first got the Travvy, I did some spinning in double drive, and it turned out very well. I was surprised by how easy it is to treadle a spinning wheel in double drive. I thought it might be just the Travvy, but then I set up my Ladybug in double drive and, lo and behold! the treadling was amazingly light. And the light, steady uptake really suits the thin and highly twisted singles I prefer when I spin.

I’m definitely a double drive convert, but that doesn’t mean I have abandoned Scotch tension. I love spinning in Scotch tension. I love the control I have over the take-up by just making minute adjustments to the brake band. And when I am plying yarn, I sometimes want a stronger take up than I can get with double drive. And I have to say that while spinning in double drive on my Ashford Traveller is a dream when I am using the regular flyer, when I tried the fast flyer in double drive, it was very fiddly. I’d be spinning along just find, then suddenly there would be absolutely no take up, then there would be, then there wouldn’t be. I had to keep readjusting the tensioning knob and I just couldn’t find the sweet spot where the take up was constant. No doubt it is due to operator error. My drive band was obviously slipping too much at times, and not enough at other times, and I need to experiment with different drive band materials to find what works best with the fast flyer.

But in the meantime, I decided to try the fast flyer in Scotch tension. I’ll say right off the bat that I am not in love with the Scotch tension set up on the Ashford. The brake band is nylon fishing line and the tensioning is done with two springs. The fishing line is a bit stiff and doesn’t wrap around the wooden tensioning knob as easily or evenly as string would, so it takes a lot of fiddling to get everything the way I like it.

I tried using some crochet cotton in place of the fishing line, but even thin, smooth mercerized cotton created too much drag on the bobbin pulley. So I put the fishing line back on.

There’s always a bit of a learning curve with a new wheel, and with experience, I am beginning to get the feel of the Scotch tension on this new wheel. I had this lovely fiber

Superwash BFL/Nylon in Cloud Dust from Spinneretta’s Studio

which I will admit was an impulse purchase. But I thought it would make a lovely 3-ply sock yarn since it is superwash wool blended with Nylon. I undid the braid and divided it lengthwise into equal 3 strips. I just eyeballed it when I was doing the dividing, then I weighed each strip on my kitchen scale. They were surprising close in weight, but I did have to take a small amount off one of the strips and divide it among the other two to get 3 bumps of equal weight. I then spun each bump onto a separate bobbin on the Traveller using the smaller pulley on fast flyer and Scotch tension. I wanted the singles to be fine enough that plying 3 of them together would result in a finger weight yarn, and I wanted to put a lot of twist into both the singles and the plied yarn so that it would wear well.

I plied the 3 bobbins of singles together with the same set up as I used for spinning the singles except I used the larger pulley,

Cloud Dust 3-ply on the bobbin

and I ended up with this lovely skein of sock yarn. The Ashford fast flyer works perfectly in Scotch tension, and with a little trial and error, I’m certain I’ll get it to work well in double drive.

A skein of handspun sock yarn

Now to choose a pattern. I might just go with my stand-by favorite, shadow rib.


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