July 15, 2018

Spinning Kainuu Grey

Handspun Kainuu Grey
Kainuu Grey Long Draw

The fiber purchase at the Jyväskylä Knit Festival foretold a return to the spinning wheel. After I'd become the owner of some new spinning fiber, I kept itching to spin again. However, I had to wait to get back home from a road trip, on which I did not bring a spinning wheel (or a sewing machine), unfortunately.

I first started spinning yarn almost exactly three years ago. An owner of an Ashford Joy 2, I'd never taken a class on spinning, but learned from books and videos on my own. A year later I took my first (and so far only) spinning class at the Jyväskylä Knit Festival. Around that time I sold my first wheel and replaced it with a Schacht Matchless, soon followed by a Hansen miniSpinner. However, I never really got the hang of either of the new wheels, and so so far my best spinning has come out of the Ashford Joy three years ago. Then I abandoned spinning altogether for almost two years, occasionally feeling a tinge of guilt over the unused Matchless sitting in the corner of the living room.

Yesterday I dug up the Hansen miniSpinner and refreshed my short draw skills. I'd never excelled at it in the first place, and the long break had not improved my spinning for sure. But I did manage to come up with something at least resembling yarn using some Kainuu Grey roving, which was relatively easy to handle. But then I got curious how difficult exactly it would be to spin long draw instead. I first practiced on some spare fiber, and it seemed manageable. Then I started a proper project with the other batch of Kainuu Grey roving I had, which turned out to be slightly trickier to spin evenly, I think due to the slight stickiness of the fiber (it has some lanolin in it). However, it did not feel harder than the short draw, at least, so I kept going. I'm now about a half-way through spinning the single, which I will probably chain-ply, just like the first one. I used the Matchless for the plying of the short draw single, because I couldn't easily get things right to ply on the miniSpinner. Both the long and short draw singles are somewhat uneven, but I'm relatively satisfied with the results so far considering it's my first spinning after a long break.

July 8, 2018

Day 4 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4

On the last day of the festival the only activity left for me was visiting Titityy, the yarn shop that organized the event. Their new, bigger premises are so lovely! Both the athmosphere and yarn selection are wonderful. There was so much I could have brought home with me, but I limited my stash additions to various sock yarns (for "testing") and some Icelandic wool.

Overall, the festival was very well organized and offered a lot. So many interesting classes, plus knitting related social activities. The market place offered various opportunities to leave with a lighter wallet and an expanded stash. I hope there's going to be a festival again next year!

July 7, 2018

Day 3 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3

Day 3 of the festival consisted of some market place shopping and one workshop. Back when I signed up for Nathan Taylor's double-knitting workshop, I'd never heard of him before, and while I'd heard of double-knitting, knowing the technique existed was the extent of my knowledge. I was interested in learning a new technique, and that's exactly what the workshop provided. Nathan's enthusiasm was quite infectious, and helped with the learning curve associated with new techniques. I know the very basics of double-knitting now, though I got only halfway through my workshop swatch. I will definitely have to give this some more time and effort to get fluent in it. If we compare it to learning a new language, I'm barely able to say "How are you?" and "My name is Helena" at this point.

Today I also returned to the festival market place to check out the booths I didn't get to yesterday, and return to the Isokummun lammastila booth to get some Kainuu Grey spinning fiber. I've been wanting to get back to spinning for a while now, and I think this wool will help with that. I've never spun this fiber before, but it seems like something easy enough that it should gently ease me back into the spinning groove again. The only yarn I've bought from an actual festival booth is the Primrose Yarn Ultimate Sock in the form of a delicious fade combo. I'm looking for a new go-to sock yarn; while there is nothing wrong with Wollmeise Twin, I feel like moving onto something softer and fluffier for a change.

Day 2 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2

The second day of Jyväskylä Knit Festival was quite busy on my part. It was the first day of the festival that the market place was open, and naturally it required an appropriate inspection! I took part in the knit parade for the first time, which was fun. Managed to knit and walk at the same time without tripping!

Right after the parade I took part in a yarn dyeing class by Julie and Jean-Francois Asselin, which was very hands on! Some of the other students were already so skilled that they came up with nothing but gorgeous colors skein after another (including that multicolored yarn in the pot). For me it was more of a learning from my mistakes experience. My main dye job, two 100 gram skeins of sock yarn, was an attempt at my dream green, a dark, saturated color. I'm pretty satisfied with the result, even though both skeins have a large dark blot that was not really intended to be there. However, I'm happy enough with it that I might turn the skeins into a large shawl. I definitely recommend Julie's and Jeff's class if you have any interest in hand dyeing yarn and have a chance to take part in one. They work hard to give you a great experience!

After the class I had to hurry a bit to make it to the Laine cruise, which was the main social event of this festival. On the 3-hour cuise there was socializing, eating and drinking. The highlight was Jonna from Laine magazine interviewing several designers or other prominents members of the knitting community. Hearing their thoughts was interesting and inspiring!

July 5, 2018

Day 1 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1

I've been looking forward to the Jyväskylä Knit Festival for months, and now it's finally here (and I'm there)! On the first day I took part both in Isabell Kraemer's Top Down Sweater Knitting and Nancy Marchant's Tuck Into Your Own Brioche Cowl.

I've taken part in sweater related knitting classes before by other designers, and you learn something useful and interesting from everyone. I enjoy hearing what experts have to say on a subject, even though I've been knitting for about 20 years. I have relatively little experience in sweater knitting, and not all of it good, mostly due to fit issues.  This time I learned useful stuff particularly about the yoke construction. It helps in understanding why things happen in written patterns, and how to modify them for your own purposes.

At Nancy's Tuck Stitch class I felt like I was learning something elemental. While I'm familiar with brioche, I have very little experience with other tuck stitches. Tuck stitches seem to go particularly well cowls, as was the theme of the class, since they look interesting on the wrong side, as well. I'm totally inspired to knit a tuck stitch cowl now! I've been wanting to knit a cowl for a while now, just waiting for the right pattern. I actually already bought Nancy's Tuck Stitches book a while ago.  Probably the best thing I get out of knitting classes is inspiration!

July 4, 2018

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

Yay, the colossal undertaking of the, umm, Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket is finished! Even if my life feels a bit aimless without this project to work on anymore, I'm very happy that it's finally done. The blanket, modified for a smaller gauge from Stephen West's Garter Squish pattern, was knit with three or four strands at the same time throughout, which resulted in an impressive length of 11 km of yarn used. It weighs 2.4 kg, so moving or folding it is a bit of an exercise. Knit with 6 mm needles and at a gauge of about 15 stitches/ 10 cm, I cast on 220 stitches. The finished measurements are roughly 170 x 145 cm, but I'd take those with a grain of salt, because it's so heavy and stretchy that you can pretty much mold it to match whatever measurements you want to achieve. In any case, it's big enough for me to nap under it!

I think the biggest challenge for me was to get a pleasing marled effect. At first I thought that, knitting with four strands, I can freely switch one strand at any time and not worry about a smooth transition, but it turns out that if the contrast between the old and the new strand is big enough, there is going to be a noticeable, abrupt change, regardless of the three other strands staying the same. I think I got better at the marling near the end. This project was a quite educational in knitting with strands of different color.

July 2, 2018

Everyday Fashion Sewing

Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts

For the past few days I've been totally obsessed with sewing! I'm starting to enjoy the actual process of sewing more, even though the finished product is still the main thing about it. I bought a book called Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter because for a while now I've had the idea that I would like to sew myself some practical and nice looking everyday clothes. That was one of the reasons I originally bought my sewing machine and serger about 1½ years ago, but back then my sewing experiments didn't amount to anything I would wear in public, and I didn't use any actual sewing patterns, either. During the long hiatus I'd forgotten most of the rudimentary sewing skills I used to have, but after making a couple of project bags I had refreshed my memory enough that I knew how to operate my sewing machine again.

I'm very happy with my sewing machine, a Bernina 330, that I bought from a local shop (warmly recommended for my Finnish readers). It sews like a dream, working through four layers of heavy denim like it's no big deal. I also love some of the handy features like the needle up or down option. It has a ton of stitch patterns, even if 95% of the time I'm really using the basic straight stitch. For edge finishing I mostly use my serger, a Singer Heavy Duty 14HD854, so I don't even have a lot of use for the zigzag stitch on the sewing machine most of the time. The serger is also highly recommended, even thought I have nothing to compare to since it's the only serger I've ever operated in my life. It's simple to use, reliable and sturdy. There is something about using machines that I really love, as a contrast to the hand-powered knitting.

The shirt pattern is called Esme and it has several variations, two of them shown here. The only modification I made was to shorten the 3/4 sleeves a little to compensate for my short limbs. The skirt pattern is called Tedra, and while I love the basic shape of the pattern, the details left room for improvement. I did not like the original finishing touches, or the lack of them, and particularly the black version of the skirt has several modifications which are not apparent to the outside. For example I changed the way the waistband is lined. I will probably be using this skirt pattern again, but with my own modifications. With both the shirts and the skirts it was a constant learning curve to me, since I'm very much a beginner when it comes to sewing. I'm learning how the type of fabric has a huge effect on how the piece of clothing turns out. I've also learned that I really like working with denim!

I have a lot of ideas what I want to sew next, but I think I need to get back to knitting to touch base with my signature craft.