Sunday, 13 February 2011

I just couldn't help myself...

You know how it is, you buy some lovely yarn, put it on top of the wardrobe determined not to touch it for a while, and then.... My excuse is my Mum bought a skein of yarn in Manchester and wanted me to wind it into a ball for her, so while I had the yarn winder out, it was a shame not to get a skein of the Araucania Ranco Multy out, just to see, you understand. Before I knew it I had cast on for a new cardi.

The photo doesn't do it justice, it's a lovely mottled blue and pink. I'm using Design 07 from Noro Catwalk Two by Jenny Watson; it's the fourth garment I've knitted from that book, and there are more that I intend to use eventually. The lace pattern is simple but I do have a habit of forgetting to pass over slip stitches occasionally, having to correct them on the way back on the purl row, which is really stupid. I'm a little over half way to the armholes now.

I'm also making an effort to get on with my Sanquhar gloves, Prince of Wales pattern. I only do a little each day; knitting on 1.5mm needles is tiring and when I get into the pattern properly it takes a lot of concentration. How anybody could have ever knit these commercially I really don't know. Anyway, I've finished the wrist ribbing, done two rows of brown and am ready to do the spot banding on the wrist now. There's no desperate rush for these - it will be next winter before it's cold enough to wear them.

I'm also making an effort to get on with spinning the sack of fleece which currently resides in the hall, taking up space! As you can see from the photo, this fleece is nice and clean, with only some of the tips a bit dirty - I've seen far worse fleeces. It's a Texel/Gritstone cross, from a small farmer up the hill from my house. The sheep are well fed and cared for, and it shows in the quality of this fleece.
I'm spinning it in the grease, as I prefer to, so the colour of the yarn varies slightly in this photo, but I wash the skeins once I have enough to put them in the washing machine (30 degree wool wash). The fleece has a nice crimp and spins easily, plying well too.

I also have half an alpaca fleece from the same farmer and I've been much exercised about what to do with it. I spun my last brown alpaca whole and made a cardigan with it. But there are limitations to alpaca - it can stretch and doesn't have the same memory as wool, so the cardigan I made is short with short sleeves to reduce the weight. I therefore thought I would mix the alpaca with some blue faced leicester, which is a fibre of a similar thickness; this should create a nice light yarn which also has some spring in it.
But how to do it? Carding the BFL was a nightmare as it is in tight curls which don't let go easily. Then a flash of inspiration - the dog comb. Actually I use this comb on my long haired cat, who also has fine fur, so why not use it to comb out the alpaca and the BFL? I had a go and you can see the results: above left to right is uncombed alpaca, alpaca after combing, the dog comb itself, uncombed BFL and combed BFL. For the alpaca, the combing helps to remove vegetable matter which is always a problem with these beasties. For the BFL, the wide teeth of the comb separate the fibres well, and finishing with the fine side of the comb results in a nice fluffy ball. While I have combed this fibre, I intend to spin it woollen style, not worsted, so I'm mixing the two fibres together and then finishing off with a light carding to create a rolag for spinning. Problem solved, now just need to get on and do it!

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