Sunday, February 7, 2016

cozy and cuffed

I love handwarmers. They might be one of my favorite things to knit, simply because they're easy, a great use of a single skein of yarn, and they're very wearable. Karen Everitt's Cozy Cuffed Mitts pattern is a great go-to, especially for handspun. Whip up a pair in a few days as a gift or for yourself when the weather gets cold. It's easy to adjust for lighter or heavier yarns, too - I'm planning a pair for my boyfriend that use a slightly larger needle size and thicker yarn.

I finished this pair back in September using some yarn I'd spun from a Hello Yarn shop colorway, Impish. On Falkland wool, I decided to do a little more research about this fiber and found out some fun facts for you from my copy of the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:
"The term Falkland refers to wool grown on the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, but there isn't a Falkland breed of sheep. The Falkland Islands are home to a significant number of Polworths (an Australian breed developed from a mix of 75% Merino and 25% Lincoln) and a fair number of purebred Merinos. There's also a strong history of Corriedales in the islands, as well as some Romney in the background.
There are no known sheep diseases on the islands, so the living animals don't go through the chemical dipping that occurs in other areas of the world to control pests. Also, due to the cost of importing chemical fertilizers and herbicides, Falkland farmers never turned to the use of these additives; thus their wool meets organic standards."
This text can be found on page 16 of the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook.
Falkland wool has long been one of my favorites for projects, so it's interesting to find out that it's not really a specific breed at all, which makes a lot of sense. Sometimes I get Falkland that feels soft and dense like Polworth, while other times I get a slightly lighter batch that feels more like Merino. I would say that this particular batch is on the Polworth side, and it sure knits up beautifully into handwarmers!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Will-Ewe Farm Yarn 100% Cormo

This past year, I attended my first trip to Rhinebeck, NY for the annual Duchess County Sheep & Wool festival. Affectionately called simply "Rhinebeck" by the thousands of attendees, I think that my favorite part about this show as it's laid back, simply sheepy nature. For those of you who don't actively work in the industry, shows like Stitches, VKLive, and TNNA are big 'working' shows for those of us who do. You arrive, you're 'on' all the time -- you might see friends or people that you admire, but usually they're exhausted too and can't really chill out and be themselves. We get to knit, sometimes in the evenings spend time with each other and chat (the TNNA Hilton lobby comes to mind), but usually even those more laid-back moments of shows are still work in the form of connecting, talking about upcoming projects, and exchanging business cards and phone numbers.

Rhinebeck has a totally different vibe.  First, most people aren't staying in hotels, which really changes the game. If you go to Rhinebeck, chances are that you and a few knitterly friends or acquaintances will go in on a cottage rental together. This fosters a sense of community and sanctuary with your housemates. You stay up late in the evening drinking wine and talking about things that are exciting and interesting to you, but they're low-pressure nights. Early in the morning, you pick a breakfast spot together or, if you're lucky enough to have French or French-Canadians under your roof, you get to enjoy utterly delicious homemade crepes! During the day you might split up and explore the different offerings of the event, but sometimes you stick together and just leisurely wind through various barns, inhaling the scent of sheep and hay and wool. Sometimes, you veer off and tag along with another friend or their group of friends and stand in line for 30 minutes for the best donuts you've ever had in your life, too. (I suppose for those of you who man booths, the experience is a bit different!)

I went to Rhinebeck not really knowing what to expect, and came out feeling like I had spent a weekend at a knitter's version of the spa. Surrounded by good company, sheep, beautiful textiles and amazing food, it was a rejuvenating experience. What better way to remember that experience than to pick up a single skein of some of the most Rhinebeck reminiscent wool you can find? On the second or third night of my Rhinebeck journey, I got to spend an illuminating hour with Amy Christoffers, who is currently the design director at Berroco, among a million other amazing accomplishments. I had never had a chance to really talk to Amy before (she is seriously one of the most interesting people on the planet -- so insightful.) I couldn't help but notice the sheepy, squishable yarn she was using at that moment, either. She told me about where she found it (in which barn, around what booth area) and I set out to find it the very next day.

I'm not sure if the Will-Ewe Farm Yarn I found is exactly the same 100% Cormo wool that Amy recommended, but it certainly felt and looked the same to me! I picked up the last skein and happily took it home, knowing that when I made something with the generous 250 yards of wool, it would be special and remind me of Rhinebeck. I was right. I swatched it up on size US 7 and US 9 needles and settled on the 9 to give the stitches a bit of room. I would compare the hand of this yarn a bit to squishing one of those Jet Puff marshmallows -- it needs some space for fluffiness!

After very little thought, I cast on for a simple 2x2 ribbed hat. I don't wear a lot of hats, but this particular natural color of heathery gray seemed like a very versatile hat to reach for whenever we have a chilly day. I've already worn it twice and plan on wearing it to tomorrow's Super Bowl Sunday event, too (I'm taking 7-layer dip, like a true Midwesterner. Well, I suppose it would be more Midwestern of me to take something like Tater Tot Casserole, but one has to draw the line somewhere.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

welcome, 2016!

My "Best Nine" from Instagram is a good look at the last half of the year - blue hair, handspinning, Rhinebeck and yoga.

It's been awhile since I had a moment to write here. The latter half of 2015 was truly a whirlwind for me, with a ton of new developments, some happy, some sad. I'll give you the footnotes:

In May, I moved from Iowa to Murfreesboro, TN. We moved again in October into the city of Nashville (West Nashville area, for those who know the area) and Andrew and I are loving every minute of exploring such a fun and vibrant place to live!

In September, I quit my three-year job at Yarnbox. This was a really hard decision. When you work for a company for a long time and put everything you have into it, leaving isn't something that you take lightly. The company and I were looking in different directions for growth and change, and that usually means that it's time for someone to move on. I was ready to stop being an independent contractor and put down some roots! This meant looking for a job that provided benefits and paid my taxes. Because, seriously, doing your own taxes really stinks!

Shortly afterwards, I got news that a book proposal I had submitted had been accepted. This is a beyond exciting development and I will be writing a knitting book over the next year for publication sometime in 2017. We're aiming for Fall, but we'll see how the timeline changes as it goes along! I have worked on several books, as well you all know, but this is the first one that I get to put my name on the front cover of, so I am pretty thrilled.

I went to Rhinebeck for the first time. It was magical. I meant to write about it, but now I worry that it's been too long and nobody will want to read my ultra-belated Rhinebeck musings. I'm going again next year, it is my new must-attend event for knitting goodness and rejuvenation.

I started a new job! I'll be announcing more about this really soon -- I want to tell you all about it in full -- but it's a lot of fun and surprisingly non-yarn-related. This gives me the time that I need to focus on the book and also work on personal knitting projects. For such a long time, it's seemed like my personal knitting time has been non-existent, so it's exciting to have that back.

Andrew graduated from college. This is a huge development in our lives and called for a lot of celebrating with his family and friends. He has a degree in Computer Science and is now working full time for a multi-national company with a home office here in the city. We're looking towards some big future stuff now that college is out of the way and we can save money and plan.

All in all, I feel that most of the changes and choices were the right ones, and I'm looking forward to 2016 and all of the new things it will bring!

In 2016, I'd like to embrace a beautiful thought set forth by scrapbooker Ali Edwards called One Little Word. While I didn't buy her lovely kit (see one of the goals below), I have decided that my word for the year is going to be discipline. I know it's not a particularly magical or thrilling word, but discipline is the ability to choose between what you want and what you need. It is restraint, self control, and motivation. All of my resolutions this year are based on this word:

Resolution 1: Pay down debt
Last year, I paid off two credit cards and some medical bills. It felt really good. For the first time in my life (I'm going to get really honest here with you guys), I felt like I was able to make all my bills on time, in full, and raise my credit score by 300 points. I know many people in this world have financial issues -- my problems are not unique here and I am trying to keep that in mind as I move forward. This year, I want to put my mind towards keeping my credit score up and paying off more of my student debt, with the goal of paying off ALL my student debt in the next 5 years. This is a huge undertaking and a very scary one, but I know that if I commit myself to making it happen, I will be able to breathe so much easier headed into my future!

Resolution 2: Live with less
I am not good at being a minimalist. I'm trying to embrace this fact about myself -- I will probably never be the person with an all-linen, fully-versatile wardrobe. I can go a whole week only wearing a single color, but often that color is black, and I have cats. I can't restrain myself to 'sensible' knitted pieces, and I like picking up lots of different interests -- knitting, spinning, crochet, quilting, garment sewing, cooking, scrapbooking, video games and embroidery, to name a few. This means that my little 700 square foot apartment sometimes feels very crowded. I have elected to give myself the year to work my way through as much of my craft stash as is possible with the goal of consolidating it down into a smaller storage area for next year. I think I can do it!

Resolution 3: Replace attitude with gratitude
Like most people, I can get pretty whiny when things aren't going my way. I always feel better after 'airing' my issues to a spouse or family member. While I don't consider myself a massive complainer, I did read a study earlier this year that talked about how gratitude -- the act of being thankful -- is the exact opposite emotion from anxiety and you cannot experience both at the same time. This year, I want to strive to be more about what wonderful things I happen than those that are not so wonderful.

Resolution 4: Document
I love scrapbooking. I love looking back at the pages of things that happened over the year and remembering them and seeing how things have changed for those close to me, how my attitude has changed or my ideas got altered throughout the year. Last year, I started a 2015 album that never really took off. This year I am going to work harder to follow Project Life more closely and document more of what happens on a day to day basis (and not just on important trips and holidays.)

Resolution 5: Develop healthy habits
I'm going to strive to write every day, cook more healthy meals, exercise more frequently, get outside more and be less glued to a screen! You only have to do something every day for 21 days for it to become a habit, so this shouldn't be as impossibly daunting as it sounds, right? I'll see what we think in February.

Do you have resolutions this year? Tell me about them!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

successful combo plying, part 1

One of the biggest joys I've found through spinning is a new way to play with color in fiber. Dyeing yarn itself can be a lot of work: you have to have all the materials, mix your dyes, apply them the way you want, then create space for rinsing, drying, etc. I prefer to leave most of this work to the pros and buy a lot of pre-dyed fiber, but I've found that I don't need to miss out on the fun of mixing colors during the spinning process if I'm willing to play with combo plies!

What is a combo ply? Combo plying is simply combining two or more non-identical colorways together into a single yarn. This is a great way to stretch single four-ounce bumps of fiber so that you have more finished yarn to work with in a project (because you can only have so many mittens and hats!) I also love combo plying because it helps increase the one-of-a-kind feeling I get from my handspun projects. It's extremely rare to have any combo ply come out identical to another, even if you're using the same fibers!

There are only a few "rules" I follow with combo-plying and most of them have to do with fiber content -- I try to mix wools with similar staple lengths as much as possible. Other than that, the sky's the limit! Hopefully by sharing how I combo ply, I can encourage more of you to try it, too. I'm going to cover a few different types of combo plies on the blog in the upcoming months: Coordinating, Contrasting, and Tonal.

This first one is a combo I would consider in the Coordinating category. I used two Hello Yarn fibers -- colorways Bracken and Gorse (Targhee) and Very Small Creatures (Portuguese Merino.) You can tell when they're side by side what parts of both fibers were speaking to each other, and I knew going in that this was going to produce a very autumnal, primarily brown, yellow, and orange yarn. When pairing fibers for combo-plying, it's good to note overall tones. If I had been hoping to highlight more of the blues and greens, or get a 'darker' feeling yarn, I would have been very disappointed after plying these! In Coordinating combo plies, I look for fibers that have many similar colors and a few 'special' colors that will help the finished yarn pop. I broke them down in this image for you:
As you can see, the top fiber and bottom fiber have brown, gray-blues, golden yellows and orange all in common. That makes them coordinate well. The pop colors in the top fiber, Bracken and Gorse, are a lighter apricot orange and a camel brown. The pop colors in the bottom fiber, Very Small Creatures, are a pale mint, deep red-orange and a more tealy blue tone. I also can see some greenish yellows in this fiber that I didn't see as much of in the Bracken and Gorse. 

The next step in any combo ply is to determine how you want to spin it! Two plies will help color differences pop, while three or more plies will help mute the differences and create a more heathered, subtle yarn with an overall tone. I settled on a two ply for this one, and spun up both of the yarns on my Woolmaker's Bliss. Given that Targhee and Portuguese Merino are both extremely puffy, fluffy fibers, I spun these sort of 'loose and dirty', in that I wasn't aiming for a very particular gauge or project. I love how when you see the two bobbins together, you can really note the differences and similarities!

After plying, you can see how the yarn overall has great orange and gold tones! Sometimes, while plying, I get worried about sections 'matching up' too closely -- where the barber poles disappear and I only get long portions of colors that blend together. Usually, if I convince myself to keep going, these don't seem as apparent in the final skein. I was surprised by how the blue tones really popped in the final yarn:

When you know that you're keeping both skeins, it can be a good idea to wind them into the hank (on the niddy-noddy) together in succession, in reverse order for how the bobbins were spun to preserve color transitions. I tie a little knot or spit-splice the ends together so that my color change at that point in my project will be fairly seamless. If you aren't keeping both skeins, and are planning on being fraternal-skein buddies with a friend, lay them beside each other and choose your favorite! Each skein is an individual with this fun way of plying!

The finished yarn is probably around 350 yards of worsted weight, and I have combined the names of both fibers, calling it Small Creatures in the Bracken

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

back to baktus

It's been awhile since I knit my first Lacy Baktus. I used only 4 oz. of handspun yarn for my original one, which I do love and still wear, but my number one complaint is that it's not quite long enough to be a great winter scarf. So, when I took 8 oz. of handspun yarn off the wheel a few weeks ago, it seemed like a great opportunity to knit up a new Baktus in time for Rhinebeck! 

The fiber used in this is, of course, Hello Yarn. This colorway, called Girlish High Spirits, was one of the purchaseable colorways at Spring Yarn School 2015. I snagged two bags and spun it up as a standard two ply for probably somewhere around 600 yards. I don't think I'll use it all for the baktus, it's definitely enough. One of the hanks is probably a bit smaller than the other, so when I wound it into a cake I tied the ends together in the middle, winding so that the smaller skein would be in the center (so first worked.) When I hit the knot, I'll know to start decreasing as that will be my 'middle marker' for the scarf. 

So far, I'm loving it and think it will look great with my Modern Wrapper (of which I still need good pictures!) 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

wild blue yonder

Today, I have a new-old project for you and a new look!

Yup, you're seeing things right -- don't adjust your monitors, because my hair is BLUE! Also, purple, teal, graphite blue, plum and hot pink! I wanted to do something new and fresh and crazy to reflect some recent life changes, so I went to my pal Michael Jay at Local Honey in Nashville and came out a few hours later with hair that makes me feel like an awesome superhero, Jem from Jem and the Holograms, an anime character and/or a magical fairy. Pick your favorite!

I took some time today to have Andrew photograph a project I've been meaning to document for awhile - the Alicia Plummer Campside Shawl. I'm not going to lie -- the charts with this shawl didn't make a lot of sense to me and were kind of frustrating at first. What I ended up doing was just figuring out the increase rate and repeat (easy peasy) and going with that. The panels turned out great and I didn't have yarn overs on top of eachother (the main concern with following the pattern verbatim.) This was a fairly quick knit, only taking a few weeks, and the yarn is what really made it happen.

I used Julie Asselin Leizu DK. Julie is a great friend, an amazing dyer, and just all around talented, fantastic person. I was lucky to meet her entirely randomly at TNNA, then got to know her as my mom's shop, The Sheep's Stockings, started stocking her yarns. This year I'll be at Rhinebeck and Julie is one of my roommates! I could not be more excited!

Leizu is a stunning yarn -- Merino and Silk with a TON of shine and a wonderful hand. It's the recommended yarn for this pattern and based on the several versions of this shawl that I've seen, I'm in love with the choice. I could definitely make a sweater out of this yarn, too (hmmm, but which one!?) I have to say that if you can get your hands on some, try it out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Awhile back, I made a gorgeous M.1 scarf in Maai, right when it came out. We used it as a shop sample for a little while before it went to its intended owner, our next-door neighbor back in Iowa. I have to say that I really missed that scarf! It was so soft and I couldn't wait to make one of my own, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to knit the same pattern twice, even though I loved the results. 

When The Purl Bee showed their Jasmine Scarf pattern I knew that it would be just as lovely in Maai, and maybe even softer than the M.1 scarf due to the fishbone-style cables and textures. I have to say, after 1.5 skeins in, that I was 100% right -- I love this scarf. The colorway is Pollen, a very pretty yellow with green undertones (the photo came out a bit more orange, which is probably closer to Shibui's new color, Brownstone, coming out this fall.)