Spinning Step by Step: A drop spindle tutorial

Do you dream of learning to spin your own yarn? Of knitting socks or a shawl from lovely fibers you’ve designed and created yourself? Well, do I have a gift for you: An illustrated drop spindle tutorial!

Here’s a little taste of what’s to come… Enjoy!

Spinning Step by Step: How to use a drop spindle

Calming. Centering. Relaxing. These are just a few of the words spinners use to describe how they feel as fiber passes through their fingers, miraculously turning into yarn through the alchemy of hand spinning. Soon, you’ll enjoy the same creative sensations…AND you’ll be knitting with yarn you made yourself!

Getting Ready
Always remember: there’s a reason it’s called a “drop spindle.” That’s right: You will drop your spindle while you’re learning, and even afterward. So make sure you have a nice cup of tea (or glass of wine!) by your side, and try to be patient with yourself. Spinning is an ancient art form—you can learn the basics in a short time, yet spend years mastering the craft and creating new types of yarn.

What else do you need?

  • Your drop spindle
  • Some fiber (wool is usually easiest to learn with)
  • A comfortable, supportive chair (not a cushy one…a wooden kitchen chair will work nicely)

Click here for the full PDF version of the Drop Spindle Tutorial

NOTE: The gorgeous spindle in the tutorial was made by Jonathan Bosworth.

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A Few Things About Me…

We moved this past Sunday, to a cute little cottage in a small town near the “Quad-State Region” of Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia/Pennsylvania. It was not an easy move, but with the greatly-appreciated help of some ultra-kind friends, we’ve got our stuff in our new home and are settling in to country life (Chris has to commute to D.C. for work, though).

So now I’m recovering from exhaustion and getting my creative mojo back! Meanwhile, here’s something to pass a cloudy, chilly day (aside from unpacking boxes), which I got from Lynne

Puttin’ my feet up

A FEW THINGS ABOUT ME

Are you a yarn snob? Kind of…but not too much. I just love QUALITY, and sometimes that includes a bit of man-made something or other. Like most knitters these days, I’ll pass on the novelty yarns.

Do you spin? Crochet? Yes, I do spin. I have a Kromski Sonata, which I LOVE! Now that we’ve moved out of the city, I want to spend more time on spinning so I can sell my handspun. Crochet? I’m not a very sophisticated crocheter, but I’m handy enough with a hook :-)

How long have you been knitting? Seven years.

What other crafts do you like to do? Sketching, painting, sewing, making stitch markers and jewelry, and I want to learn how to make paper and bind books

What are your favorite yarns to knit with? Alpaca, Pear Tree Merino (soft as cashmere!), Socks That Rock (the original kind…I love the springy feel), basically anything soft and pretty

What are your favorite needles to knit with? KnitPicks traditional 32″ circulars for socks, Addi Turbos for anything else…

What’s your favorite knitting gadget? My Royal ball winder and Swedish umbrella swift

What fibers do you absolutely NOT like? Cheap acrylic that squeaks and feels like it’s leaving microscopic cuts in my fingers; those good old fuzzy novelty yarns; and linen (I tried Euroflax Sport, but it was not a fun experience…maybe I did something wrong?)

What are your favorite items to knit? Fingerless gloves; socks; interesting scarves; and I’m looking forward to making tops and sweaters when I can afford to buy that much yarn at one time!

What are you knitting right now? Two pairs of socks I’m designing, one hat I’m designing, a tea cozy, Leigh Radford’s Tube Scarf, a hand-spun shawl, and I’m almost done with a pair of “Fetching” gloves made of Pear Tree Merino

What do you think about ponchos? I don’t know if I’d wear one outside the house, but I think they’d be comfy for lounging around knitting in front of the telly!

Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Definitely circular

Are you a sock knitter? Oh, yes! I really enjoy knitting cuff down, but I’m pushing myself to add other sock-knitting techniques to my arsenal ;-)

How did you learn to knit? Wish I had a cozy story about my grandma teaching me, but honestly, I’m entirely self-taught (I originally learned with a Leisure Arts booklet, a pair of US#10 aluminum straight needles, and a skein of Pepto-Bismol pink Red Heart acrylic yarn from JoAnn Fabrics

What is–and how old is–your oldest UFO (unfinished Object)? It’s that damn Tube Scarf from AlterKnits…I mean, really! Six feet of stockinette in the round with lace-weight yarn? Yawn. But I’m determined to finish it. I keep wondering if I should put all other projects aside and just push through it, since I love the finished scarf (and so do other knitters who’ve finished theirs!)

Well…unpacking, laundry, and other fun awaits me.

Happy Knitting!

Frozen Peace Fleece, Anyone? (No? How about some Lorna’s Laces…)

OK, please be honest. Am I the only knitter (AKA: stasher) who takes preventative anti-moth measures?

What you’re looking at are three skeins of Peace Fleece, which I bought at Eco-Green, a local shop that specializes in organic, green, fair-trade products.

Why are they in the freezer, you ask? Well…because I’m sick. I literally dream about finding moths in my home (more of a nightmare, really). So whenever I buy yarn from a store that’s an “unknown quantity” I pop it in the freezer for a couple of days to kill any fabric bugs/eggs that might be hiding in the depths of my new wool-babies.

The red yarn and pretty needles are going to be the Knitting Needle Bag from Bag Style. You can also download the pattern free at Knitting Daily.

Here’s how the freezer trick works: You put the yarn in the freezer for 24 – 48 hours, which either kills the little buggers or puts them into dormancy. They think it’s the deep freeze of winter. Then, when you take the yarn out of the freezer, they suddenly think it’s spring! You give them 24 hours in the warmth of your kitchen, and then–this is the evil part–pop the yarn back into the freezer for a day or two. This kills the little guys who made it through the first freeze.

Three skeins of DK-weight Peace Fleece I bought at Eco-Green earlier this year…They’re going to make some hefty boot socks to keep Chris’ little piggies warm!

But I want to get back to my question: Do you ever take preventative anti-moth measures? Or do you know anyone who does? I need to know. Maybe, if I’m not alone, I won’t feel so OCD! Do you think it’s weird?

An orphan skein of Claudia’s HP, rescued from Stitch DC last spring. Too pretty to pass up, don’t you agree?

SWAP, ANYONE?

Last fall I bought five skeins of Lorna’s Laces in Gold Hill, which I thought would make a really pretty leaf-patterned autumny wrap. But they’ve sat in my stash for the past year, and I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m probably not going to use them.

Help us fulfill our destiny!

I know, I know, I could make socks with them. But I wasn’t particularly happy with the pooling in my Waving Lace socks (made with LL in Watercolors). I like how the yarn feels, and I like the solid colors, but the multicolored LL yarns aren’t my top choice.

So… If anyone would like to buy them, or swap for them, please drop me a line at knitsix@gmail.com

Happy knitting!

Waving Lace Socks, Fab Sale Yarns, a Few UFOs, and a Free Shawl Pattern

First, some Yarn Porn
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(Fleece Artist Blue-faced Leicester DK, bought from Stitches & Scones in Indianapolis)

Hi, friends and visitors! I hope you’re enjoying the first days of fall. Here in DC we’re not cooling off too much yet, but that’s OK. Winter will be here soon enough.

I’ve got sooo much to tell you today, and have been working on photos and such for a few hours. I even included a free (though VERY simple and knitting-universally known) shawl pattern at the end. If you try it, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know. OK, on to business…

WAVING LACE SOCKS

Here’s a photo of my Waving Lace socks, featuring my favorite shoes. They’re Keens’ “Calistoga” (brown), and “Barcelona” (black). Très comfortable!

I’ll definitely make another pair some day, but probably with a different colorway. (This batch pooled more than I expected.) I really did love this pattern. Easy to memorize, easy to knit, easy on the eyes, and easy on the feet. All good, since they’re for me :-)

FAB SALE YARNS

Fab yarn at cheap prices. Who could pass it up? Not this knitter!

Four skeins of Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette in Peony. Four skeins for $28… Not bad.

I knit a swatch while sitting outside of Starbucks at Dupont Circle yesterday. God, the weather has been gorgeous here! On US#3 Brittany birch needles, it knit into a crisp fabric with a promise of softness.

That promise was fulfilled when I washed (in Eucalan) and blocked the swatch last night. The fabric has a rich hand, lovely drape, and a luxurious halo (almost angora-like). The teensy hint of itchiness I felt in the swatch disappeared, leaving a buttery smooth surface I can’t wait to feel against my skin.

This yarn is destined to become a pair of long, lacy gloves, like the ones in Veronik Avery’s gorgeous new book.

And another good buy: Cascade Fixation…Four balls for $8.88. Nice!

Last Monday Chris and I went up to Stitch DC at Chevy Chase Circle. Lo and behold, they were having a sale! Well, what else could I do but pick up some $4.44 Fixation? With two of the balls, I plan to make a pair of Flame Wave socks from Favorite Socks. If they feel good on my feet, not rough against my soles, then I’ll make a pair for my oh-so-tender-footed mom. Which leads me to…

A FEW UNFINISHED OBJECTS (UFOs)

Before leaving for Sacramento last month, I picked up a ball of self-patterning yarn. After all, one always needs a mindless stocking stitch sock project in one’s purse, right? The changing patterns help keep me from feeling bored and, somehow, seem to make the knitting go faster (obviously, this is all in my mind).

This is a really SOFT cotton yarn, so I decided to make these socks for my mom, since Sacramento gets so hot. And because she has ultra-sensitive little piggies, I’m making a reverse stocking stitch sole–they’ll be smooth against her skin :-)

Moment of truth:

While traveling, I used Brittany birch DPNs. But when I got home I switched back to my trusty Knit Picks circ so I could do the Magic Loop. I’m just so spoiled by this method of sock knitting…I want to enjoy DPNs more than ML, but to be honest, I just don’t.

Here, for posterity are a few more UFOs…

Chevron Scarf
This is really a WIP, not a UFO, because I’m actively working on it.

Wow. It’s really long. But it’s not a bad knit. Just one of those projects you have to keep plugging away at, sometimes enjoying it more than others. The FO will be worth it, though. I love the way it feels when I scrunch it in my hands.

Tube Shawl from AlterKnits
Oh, Tube Shawl, you are kicking my arse.

Honestly, can you imagine knitting six feet of stocking stitch on US#8 circular needles with Kidsilk Haze? Agony! But I. Will. Finish. This. Project. (Can you tell my teeth are clenching?)

It’s a lovely shawl, and I’ll enjoy it for years. But I started it in 2005, when I was still a pretty inexperienced knitter. Now I know better. I also know you can’t frog Kidsilk Haze (ask me how I know). So, onward and longward we shall go.

Grandma Six’s Hand Spun Shawl
I started this shawl about a year ago, for Chris’ grandma. She’s the greatest, and we love her to pieces. I spun half the Finn top on Karida’s Louet S10, and the other half on my Kromski Sonata (adore it!).

I’m using US#10 Addi Turbo circular needles, and knitting from the point upward. It’s an easy pattern…

Grandma Six’s Shawl
Yarn: Any kind. I spun up a worsted-weight singles for the shawl pictured above.
Gauge: Not important.
Needle: One or two sizes more than you’d usually use for the weight of yarn you chose. Experiment until you get a fabric you like, with plenty of drape.

Cast on 3 sts.
Row 1: K1, YO, K1, yo, K1.
Row 2: Purl.
Row 3: K1, YO, K to next to last st, YO, K1.
Repeat rows 2 and 3 until desired length and width.
Bind off LOOSELY.
Block as (or if!) desired.

Note: I don’t claim that I invented this pattern. It’s so simple and easy that it just kind of exists in the Collective Knitters’ Consciousness. But I did think it might be a good idea to write it down, in case you’re interested. Enjoy!

(And if you’ve received your Ravelry invitation, come see me: I’m “KnitSix.” If you haven’t, don’t worry…you will get it soon, and I think you’ll find it’s worth the wait.)

I’m back!

Alaska Airlines flew us past some monstrous mountains.

That’s Mt. Ranier. What a treat for the eyes after living in the oh-so-flat (to a Northern Californian) Mid-Atlantic region for many, many years.

Oh, yeah, and one of their pilots also saved the lives of everyone on the plane when we flew back into D.C. I’ll tell you the story soon.

First, I went to Sacramento and spent almost two weeks with my mom and step-dad, who were both feeling better when I left. Then I flew up to Seattle, where I spent a fun (if short) weekend with my sister, her husband, my newphew, and a handful of step-nieces and step-nephews. More on that later, too (including some photos).

And, lest you worry, I did manage to slip in a little yarn shopping and knitting along the way…

Café de Printemps


Weekend plans: Find a table in the sun with my honey, order some cool drinks, and read/write/knit to our hearts’ content.

As for MDSW: I just can’t do it. We’ve been a bit tight, money-wise, lately, and so I decided that it would make more sense to spend that money on:

(1) Our May rent (!)
(2) Beads for my stitch markers and fabric for my knitting bags (all under the Knit*Six “design label”), which Karida is going to sell on my behalf at her booth at the Knitters Connection in Columbus, OH, in June
(3) Our trip to Indy in June, for the US Formula One Grand Prix

Also, I have no shortage of yarn and fiber at home, and no projects planned for the near future for which I’m lacking supplies. Going to the festival is a lot of fun, but I’d be just too tempted to buy “stuff” – whether I actually want to/need to or not. And with our small space, there’s not much room to store more than I already have.

This was a carefully thought out decision, so I don’t feel left out or (too) disappointed. Instead, I’ll enjoy a beautiful weekend with Chris, and go to a DC United football (soccer) game on Sunday :-)

Finally, for my online knitting & blogging friends…I’m wishing you all a lovely spring/autumn weekend (depending on your hemisphere), with loads of time for repaxing with your needles.

Ode on a (Non)Grecian Yarn

Why is Louet Gems fingering weight yarn so lovely to work with?

This is Koigu KPPPM in the colourway I think of as “Orchid.” (Gorgeously hand painted on Gems fingering weight)

I love the delicate sheen, the tiny little pillows of puffy merino, the yarn’s gentle stretch and “steel magnolia” strength. I love the texture of Gems Pearl when it’s knitted up, whether in stockinette, cable, or lace. The slight pebbly nature that adds interest to anything I knit…And, of course, I love the way it takes up colour. (I’m suffering from Anglophilia today.)

Is it weird to love a yarn that much? To take it out and gaze at it because the way it’s spun makes me (oddly?) happy? Or am I not alone? Do all knitters feel that kind of passion for one yarn or another?

Neighborhood Fiber Co. uses Louet yarns, including my favorite. In fact, Karida dropped off a little cake of Brightwood the other day. Hand-painted yarn house calls…Now THAT’S luxury! I can’t wait to use it. I’ll be casting on for my chevron scarf as soon as I finish the second Orchid Sock.
Here’s my yummy little Brightwood “yarn muffin” (blue), waiting with its friends to be knit into something wonderful. (BTW: I also adore her Brookland colourway…Uh oh. I feel another purchase coming on.)

Looking at my “I-can’t-wait-to-start-these-projects” stash, I see that nearly all of my current and future projects involve Louet Gems fingering weight yarn in one way or another. Socks, of course. And the soon-to-be-mine Chevron Scarf. And the edging on Tahoe (sadly pushed aside while I complete the Orchid Socks, but I’ll be back to work on it soon!).

And Gems is not just sock yarn–it can be used for almost anything. Check out Melissa’s lovely Annabelle design (scroll down a bit, on the right-hand side). She made it in sock-weight cashmere. But wouldn’t Gems make a great substitution?

(My small collection of Claudia Hand Painted yarn, also based on Gems.)

At last year’s Maryland Meat and Wool Festival, I saw dozens of knitters crammed like sardines into the very small Koigu booth, grabbing armloads of skeins out of baskets marked “Sale.” I was shocked…

To me, some of the colours were a bit–how do I say this–garish? But my fellow fiber-holics didn’t seem to notice the colours. They just pushed, grabbed, and bought. I attributed this to the sock-knitting craze that pre-dated today’s lace knitting craze. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was the yarn itself, and the mostly-fabulous colourways were the icing on the cake…

I really would like to know what you think. Do you feel the same way? Or are you true to another? Tell me: What yarn makes YOU lapse rhapsodic?

Go ahead, I know you want to comment…and I promise not to let the cat out of the bag ;-)