In September, I picked up this amazing 4 ounce polwarth top from Kate at woolgatherings at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. I loved everything about it, and I knew it needed to be spun and quickly, so less than two weeks later I had this yarn:
450 yards of fingering weight three-ply, I kept staring at it longingly while I waited to be able to cast on with it. And then, less than 11 days later, I had a finished pair of moderately tall socks:
Since then, I've fielded some questions about the technicalities of how I managed to get them to be as close to identical as they are so I thought I'd do a little write up and break down all the pieces of how I got from fiber to socks.
First, the fiber had a lot to do with it. The way many woolgatherings tops are dyed, the colors transition gradually between each other, and there are big chunks of each color. Starting with a top dyed in this nature makes a world of difference in getting a yarn that knits the way mine did.
Splitting. I split the top vertically. This meant I had two tops of roughly the same diameter (I didn't check this but I got lucky and each half of my top was half of the total weight of the fiber.) These two halves weren't perfectly identical because, as with anything hand-made, the dye wasn't 100% even across the top.
Spinning. I spin everything on my Kromski Sonata. For spinning the single, I used my standard flyer and a 4 ounce (standard Kromski) bobbin. I took the first half of the top and spun it from one end to the other. No fluffing, no pre-drafting, just straight from the end of the top. When I got the single spun from the first half of the top I grabbed a small tuft of some obnoxiously orange fiber and spun it in to mark the middle. Then I spun the second half of the top, making sure I started with the same end of the fiber I'd started with for the first half. At that point I had one bobbin of finely spun singles with a bright orange blip in the middle.
Plying. I wanted a squishy, round 3-ply yarn and I wanted to keep the colors distinct so I opted for a navajo/chain ply. I made sure that my middle divider was its own distinct little section (so I could cut it out after I wound the yarn) and plied it all onto one bobbin. After spinning I skeined it up, washed and whacked it as I normally would. For plying I switched flyers and used my jumbo flyer. It has the benefit of having an 8 ounce bobbin so I don't ever have to worry about whether or not 4 ounces will fit on one bobbin.
Knitting. I didn't do anything really specific with the knitting to make the colors work out. I did cut off about 1 yard of yarn before I started the second sock, but that's all the monkeying I did with the yarn itself. I used a generic toe-up method for knitting the socks, with a flap and gusset heel. I incorporated some increases into the top of the sock, where I started the ribbing. That should help them to stay up well and keep them from cutting off the circulation in my calves.
So, the reality is that I got pretty lucky that my splitting worked out so perfectly, that my spinning gave me only about a 2-3 yard difference between the two halves of the fiber and that they match up closely enough that they look so similar. If you look closely, you can see that one sock has longer runs in the first set of colors and then shorter runs in the middle, and that the final set of colors was pretty close to equal, although more intense on one sock than the other. That's due to slight offsets in the colors across the top. I wish I'd thought to take photos of the top after I split it, but I really was flying by the seat of my pants so I didn't even think about it.
For more technical details about the knitting of the socks, see my project on Ravelry. Click any of the photos in this post to see them on flickr, where you can see larger versions.
This holiday season has been a tough one for me, but I've been working hard to find joy alongside my sadness. Happy holidays to everyone, may your days be filled with as much joy, peace and love as can be packed into them!
It's been a hard year, but I'm thankful for:
There's a million more things to be thankful for, and I assure you that I'm likely thankful for them all. Even with the sorrow, it's a good life that I have.
And now a little Thanksgiving story. The last time my immediate family was all together on Thanksgiving was in 1998, when my sisters and I were 15, 17 and 19 (before I went to college too far away to come home for a long weekend). After my parents divorced, we would have an early dinner with my mom, drive over to my dad's house and have a second full dinner around 6 or 7. This Thanksgiving, we were all sitting around the table and out of nowhere, my younger sister bursts out with "And that's why I wear sweatpants!!" Or at least that's what the rest of us heard. To this day, she swears that what she really said was "Guess why I wear sweatpants?" The four of us ended up laughing until our bellies hurt.
I hope everyone who reads this has a fabulous Thanksgiving, if you celebrate, and a wonderful Thursday if you don't!
Today is National Bundt Day. Stacie pinned The Food Librarian's celebration of the bundt cake recently and since I love a bundt cake (delicious cake, little to no frosting, perfect for unfancy days without a lot of fuss), I decided I need to join in.
I baked the blueberry lemon bundt from martha stewart and it's delicious, although the lemon flavor is perhaps a little more subtle than I'd like. I suppose I could solve that with a lemon glaze or by adding more zest or some lemon extract though.
Today would have been my father's 58th birthday. Instead, he is gone and I am still desperately trying to piece back together my absolutely shattered heart. It seems fitting that I share my inadequate eulogy for my father here today. I'm going to be spending the day with my husband, celebrating my father with a cake I baked for him on birthdays past--a chocolate cake with cherry pie filling and whipped cream. I can't say for sure that it was his favorite, but it was the cake he asked me for when he asked me to make him a cake. I'd also like to ask you to take a moment to remember to tell people that you love them because life is frequently unfairly short and you just cannot can't on getting another chance.
Larry Donaghy b. August 13, 1953 d. January 28, 2011
It's virtually impossible to sum up in a few short paragraphs all that my father was. He was 5'10", bald and bearded and heavily muscled in a way that only comes from manual labor. He had an insatiable desire for knowledge, a ridiculous love of practical jokes and an amazingly tender heart towards children and animals. He loved beer, Hawaiian shirts, jigsaw puzzles and mystery novels. He lived very simply and was generous almost to a fault. He hated to throw anything away if there was any chance that it might be used again in any way. He was also one of the most important people in my life; one of the guideposts by which I defined myself. Without him, I am missing a rudder.
My father had large, square hands. They were always calloused from working in the fields because he frequently eschewed the many pairs of gloves he owned. A normal day in my childhood could find him operating a sawmill, chopping wood, making hay, milking goats or doing any one of a million other farm chores. Most people would have called him a man's man, tough on the outside. What most people didn't know was the inside his heart melted for his three little girls and it was not uncommon to see him with his beard or what little hair he had held back by plastic barrettes, braided into many tiny braids or otherwise decked out sparkly little girl accessories. He loved to tease and torment us; he would shake his wet beard over us after a shower or throw his stinky socks at us at the end of the day. One day when a friend was over, he was expounding on the joys of being an adult as he passed around that evening's dessert--swiss cake rolls or some other Little Debbie snack cakes--and without warning he reached out and BANG! slammed his hand down on the friend's cake, telling her he could do that because he was an adult, and that was what made being an adult great. He did also swap her mangled cake for his.
My father sang to us a great deal. While he did not sing outside the house and I can't recall the way it sounded when he sang now, I know he sang a lot. The song I most remember him singing to me was You Are My Sunshine, which has always made me cry. He would wake us up on summer mornings by bellowing "Rise and shine and give God your glory glory", his rich, round voice refusing to allow us to remain sleeping. He sang songs while we worked, teaching us to use them to work on the same rhythm. Frequently sung songs also included Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side and Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle With You. He was a terrible dancer, but he did a great deal of that around the house too, doing what we all affectionately called "the white man shuffle." He loved the song The Safety Dance, and when we played it at my wedding, he made a point of telling me--as he grinned--that he was so glad I'd played "his song." He loved The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Lou Reed, The Byrds, Flat and Scruggs, Arlo Guthrie and loved rock, old country, bluegrass and jazz in general.
My father was not always the most patient of men. Sometimes we argued and sometimes we yelled. I did inherit my stubborn nature from him, so it's only natural that we butted heads every now and then. The greatest gift he ever gave me was that I have always known that my father was behind me, proud of me and ready to catch me if I fell. Even as he kept his worries and sadnesses from us, he was free with his love, hugging and telling us he loved us as frequently as he could. A phone call to him could stretch for hours. The last thing he said to me was "I love you" and as I struggle through my life without him, I can think of no better gift he could have given me.
Happy birthday Daddy. I love you more than words can say, and for you, one last time, The Safety Dance.
excerpted and adapted from a post at Letters to my Father