Monday, December 16, 2013

Troll Mittens

Some people make new year resolutions -- I have a tendency to make end-of-year resolutions, too, and this year is no exception. My goal over the next two weeks is to get as many projects done and off the needles as possible! I want to head into 2014 with a clean knitting slate, open for the projects that I'm ready to start.

One project on my list was a pair of mittens. I have several mittens on the needles, but none on my hands -- until last week, when I finished a simple set out of this Hello Yarn handspun. The colorway, which is on Polworth, was called 'Troll'. I spun it as a navajo-plied, dk-weight yarn. I feel like this old picture really doesn't do the range of color justice. The yarn goes from a sort of cornflower blue to a very dark burgundy purple, with a full range of golden yellow and wine in between.

The mittens are pretty basic, not necessarily a pattern at all -- I just cast on 44 stitches, go around in k2, p2 ribbing for as long as I'd like the cuff, then knit for 2" before putting 12 stitches on a holder and knitting the rest of the mitten from there up. I go back and do the thumbs after I close the tops of the mittens up. I don't know how much simpler it could get! 

Unfortunately, despite being lovely, these are not very warm for the weather here in Iowa. I'll have to knit a liner for them or double them up with another pair. Oh well! At least they're finished, right?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Feeling Knitterly

Today, I am really feeling a need to get back to basics. Big, chunky yarn, big, chunky needles. Straights, wooden ones that are vintage and don't have a size marked on them (I think they're 13's.)

Blue Sky Alpaca cotton and Noro Nobori, which is, sadly, discontinued. I'm just going to knit it up into a marled, chunky cowl. There's snow outside and there is just something comforting about bright colors today.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Color Mixing

I love experimenting with color in handspinning. After giving a spinning lesson this weekend to a new spinner, I felt inspired to play around with my wheel again. So I tackled a combo with some Hello Yarn Flotsam and Hello Yarn Ships, Whales, and Icebergs.



I think my favorite part of the whole process is always the plying. I was wearing a teal colored skirt while I spun the Flotsam (the pinky-purple-green one), and it seemed to really make the corals and pinks pop. So I thought that maybe I should ply it with some teals and greens. As you can see, it really paid off! One of the skeins will be mine to keep, and the other will go up in my mom's shop with a big 'shipment' this January. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bumblebee Baby

I spun this yarn forever ago -- I think I always planned on it being a baby sweater, but I never really had a reason to knit one. I have a lot of friends having babies or getting ready to start families, so I decided just to jump in and finally get to it.

I also have been thinking a lot about knitting through current stash. As I said in a previous post, I'm not a huge yarn buyer. I buy yarn that I know is going to turn into something particular or that I have an idea for. But lately I've been looking on yarn I bought for patterns and re-thinking what I meant to make, or deciding that something just won't work out the way I wanted.

Do you ever find that the stash 'enhancement' that you purchased so long ago doesn't appeal to you anymore? I have tried destashes on Ravelry but I never seem to get rid of that much yarn, and I feel guilty destashing anything that was given to me by a company or as a sample. It doesn't feel right to make money off it, really.

I've decided that I'm going to start some stash gifts. I have a lot of people in my life who have asked me to knit for them. Maybe at one point or other, they asked for something specific. Usually I have said no, because I don't have the time, or I didn't want to look for yarn, or I just didn't want the obligation. I've decided to approach it from a new angle. Instead of someone asking me to knit for them, I am just going to start making things. Things maybe that I wouldn't wear, or the color isn't quite right, or that aren't my 'style', but might be someone else's, and will certainly be enjoyable to knit up and wait for the right person to come along.

Starting with this baby sweater. Aren't the bee buttons cute?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Man Paws

I've been a bit swamped with work, but in my small amount of 'free' time I've been finished up projects like crazy. One of these was a pair of new handwarmers for someone this holiday season. I used the Man Paws pattern, which is great for handspun yarns as well as commercial ones. Oddly enough, this yarn is almost a combination of the two. It looks like handspun, since both of the singles are painted differently, but is actually a commercial yarn that was sent to me by Feederbrook Farms. The yarn is called Common Ground Entropy, and is a dk weight BFL wool. It's spun for a beaded, very round look that knits up into a delightfully squishy fabric.

Right after my boyfriend saw these handwarmers, he wanted a pair too! Luckily, the yardage is also great, at 260 yards per skein. I don't think too many stores are carrying this brand yet, but it also comes in coordinating solid shades. I have a skein of a really pretty rich brown at home that will probably be made into a baby sweater of some sort (I keep preparing for babies that are sure to start arriving next year, I feel like so many of my friends have had 'announcements'!) Speaking of which, I have a baby sweater to show you tomorrow!

In addition to Yarnbox and Knit-Purl, I am also working part-time for Zen Yarn Garden. It's going to be a lot of fun to work with this great company, and even though I'm only doing social media, it's been really lovely getting to know Roxanne and more about the dyeing process (and boy, do they do a lot of dyeing! Check out their Facebook.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Florcitas Cowl

When I was in Uruguay, Joji gave me the most wonderful little present -- two skeins of yarn from the yarn store where she works in Buenos Aires. The store, Milana Hilados, produces a lot of their own yarns, many of which are handspun.

One of the yarns Joji gave me was a skein of Florcitas. This yarn is a thick and thin, super-bulky single, and it worked up quickly into a cowl that has a mix of dropped stitches and single knit rows. I moved each 'flower' down the strand as I worked to try and space them towards the bottom of the cowl.

I actually finished this piece back in May, but this is the first time I have worn it, so I had my mom take some pictures of me at the shop this afternoon! I love how Anthropologie-esque the final project ended up being, and it is oh-so-cozy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


At TNNA last summer, I got to experience the 'other side' -- the angle where instead of being the one bringing things to the show to sell, you're the one buying for an end customer. While I personally found this angle more stressful than working in a booth, it was also a lot of fun to be able to see what everyone was offering and choose what was going to come to our shop.

One of the yarns that really stuck out to us was Titus, which is produced in Leeds by Baa Ram Ewe, and which we currently carry in our yarn store, The Sheep's Stockings. This yarn really spoke to me as a spinner because it was a mixture of some more unusual wools than what we typically see. With a blend of 50% Wensleydale, 30% UK Alpaca and 20% BFL, this yarn has a lot of interesting qualities.

Wensleydale is well known for its sheen and drape. It has mixed love among spinners because the long staple fibers also mean that it can go from being smooth to being coarse very quickly in the wrong hands. It is never really a 'next to skin' soft fiber for me, personally -- I find it a bit itchy. I do love how it takes color, though, and have a little in my personal spinning stash that I someday will make into a pair of lined mittens or a scarf that will go over, not under, garments.

Alpaca is, of course, a fiber that most people have dealt with before. While it isn't specified on the label which type of alpaca (huacaya or suri) was used, I think it's pretty safe to assume that huacaya, being the more common of the two, is likely. This lends the yarn a softness that I normally don't attribute to Wensleydale, along with a slight halo that makes your final garments very light and fluffy. I love how it almost extends the glow of the wool's color.

Blue Faced Leicester, or BFL, is a very common fiber and a favorite among spinners. Soft, fluffy, bouncy and shiny, it takes color well and spins up easily. I am almost sure that this inclusion, combined with the alpaca, is what renders the Titus softness.

Since these three are combined, the final yarn is next-to-skin soft and also has all of the qualities that make people love Wensleydale and Alpaca. Drape, intense color, and sheen create a yarn that could be good for any range of items. I personally made one of the patterns recommended (the Whitlam Cowl), but I could also see this yarn being quite excellent for garments. I for one would love to see an expanded color range next year, perhaps including a lighter gray or mustard yellow. I could very easily imagine this yarn becoming a cozy cardigan that I could reach for most mornings!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning some projects

I have been really good about finishing projects lately. My handwarmers for Knit Purl are done -- I'm weaving in the ends and mailing them out tomorrow. I am almost done with two new design prototypes (one for my mom's shop, one for Yarnbox), and I am 3/4 of the way through a commissioned spinning project. In the meantime, there have been so many work projects, and I'm feeling very organized in that area, too. Winter has a way of rejuvenating those of us who knit and crochet. I think it has to do with the idea that there is cold weather ahead, and we need to be prepared for it. Perhaps it's also because we find ourselves indoors a bit more, sitting idly in front of fireplace or television, and we pick up projects that have been on hold.

Of course, I still have a few projects to finish, but I'm already looking ahead to my next ones. I ordered some yarn from the store (I am totally smitten with it, I'll be sure to post when it arrives) for some sweaters -- I've been trying to focus on making things that are very wardrobe-worthy and functional, rather than just a lovely color or a cool new pattern. I want things I can wear and be cozy in, too. I need a simple, plain cardigan, and some tunic pullovers.

I love the collections from Shibui because they are the perfect combination of simplicity and style. Currently on my radar are Trapezoid, a sort of asymmetrical cardigan ; and Veer, a lengthy, tunic-style pullover.

I've been thinking of color combinations for these sweaters lately. What do you think of these?

Trapezoid requires an aran weight body, knit in luxurious Merino Alpaca. This is one of my favorite bases because the yarn is so round, but it knits up so quickly, and is unbelievably soft. It seems to be everyone at the company's favorite, too. The sleeves are knit in a fingering weight -- I will probably knit in Cima double stranded, since the colors are similar to the Merino Alpaca. I know it's boring, but I'm thinking of knitting it in Ivory, so it will go with everything.

The other sweater is Veer, which is from the most recent Form collection. It's double stranded in Silk Cloud and Cima (yes, I know these will be weensy teensy stitches!) I'm thinking of working it up in Clay, because I am absolutely smitten with this color.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Weekend at the shop

Due to a pretty hectic in-week schedule, I work at my mom's shop, The Sheep's Stockings, mostly on the weekends. Sometimes I'll pop in for an evening class, but I am generally at the store Fridays and Saturdays. These are often our busiest days, but occasionally they're as quiet as the others... where are all the knitters lately? At least when there aren't any customers, you can get a little knitting done!

I thought it might be fun to share some photos of the shop with you today. It's really quite a cozy little place. Right when you come in the door you can see the very large selection of Malabrigo. We carry all sorts of bases, and Malabrigo even sends us some colorways that you can't get anywhere else.

Turn around and you'll face down the long part of the shop. I love the flow here -- we have a lot of yarn in the front and middle and a pretty good sized class space in the back (with a little tea-room behind the wooden divider screen!)

Across from this wall we have even more yarn, and a Ravelry station set up. See the sheep? They're our 'mascots' and all have names reminding you of wool breeds: Cora (short for Corriedale), Delaney, Romney and more.

Keep going back and you'll find our cozy little corner, and perhaps me knitting in one of the chairs near our faux-woodstove. If you're ever in town on a weekend, come join me!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Knitting for Knit Purl

I don't talk about my work a ton on here. I really should, because its mostly knitting related. But it really doesn't feel as interesting as it seems like it would -- I sit at a computer all day, answering emails, designing graphics, writing blog posts and occasionally working on a knitting project.

One of my job titles is 'Freelance Copy Writer' at Knit Purl. Knit Purl is this beautiful yarn store in Portland, Oregon. They really have a vision of what an artisanal craft knitting can be. And I agree with them -- a lot of us work very hard to create objects and garments that show our skills and craftsmanship. We should celebrate that more as knitters by choosing the best quality materials for our work, and appreciating the time we're putting into each and every stitch.

Right now, I'm working on a little sample knit that will be photographed for an upcoming Knit Purl e-card (this is their newsletter, you should totally subscribe if you want to see what I'm up to!) The sample is from a Ravelry pattern, the Featherweight Cashmere Fingerless Gloves by Taiga Hilliard. They're pretty simple, just knit in laceweight with some twisted ribbing details. The yarn here is what's really special. I get to knit these in Shibui Pebble, which is this really neat little yarn. It's tweedy, and the texture of the strand feels a bit like raw silk -- but knit up, the cashmere and merino content really take hold and create these smooth, soft, and delicate stitches.

At least it's working up fast -- since it's due next week back in Portland! Do you have any projects you're working on for someone else? Holiday knitting, perhaps?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Too hip to be square

I am slowly teaching myself to crochet. A large part of my progress was hindered by the fact that, being self-taught, I had thought that a single crochet was actually what is, in the US, referred to as a slip stitch in crochet. In the UK I think things are different, and so perhaps that was the origin of my confusion, but now that I have it sorted out (after a few extremely tight projects), I am chugging merrily along.

Crochet for me is something that I reach for when I just want to be mindlessly doing nothing in front of the television, or while waiting in a doctor's office, especially with my current project -- a granny square blanket. To try and bring a bit of finesse to this blanket, and perhaps increase it's useability, I am making it in a simple palette of gray and white.

My motif is based loosely on this lovely Swiss cross style afghan from the blog Muita Ihania. While hers is a very beautiful riot of color, mine is going to take a more graphic approach and mimic the type of quilt featured on A Merry Mishap's bedroom tour. I love the simple black and white and thought by stash diving I could kill two birds with a single hook, so to speak -- when it's finished I'll have the graphic throw I've been craving and a cozy new afghan.

Originally featured on A Merry Mishap - click through

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sock hop

I've been kind of obsessed with knitting socks lately. Maybe it's because the Iowa weather is starting to cool off drastically -- we've had highs in the 50's lately and lows in the 20's. Or perhaps it's just because winter is approaching, my big projects seem too big (I have a few sweaters that desperately need sleeves), and I just want something small to work on while watching television.

I recently added another book to my sock book collection, Rachel Coopey's CoopKnits Socks. I met Rachel at TNNA this past June, and was really impressed by the socks that she's been designing. I'm telling you, this girl is up there with Cookie A. in sock design prowess. Not to mention, she's British and adorable. And she has lavender hair!

The book is great and completes my current 'trifecta' of sock books, including Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Socks and the Interweave Knits Favorite Socks book. I have decided that three books about socks are more than enough socks to knit, and so I am concentrating on knitting mostly socks from these books, although a Ravelry pattern may slip in from time to time.

My current projects are Dawlish, from CoopKnits, and Hickory, from Knitter's BoS. I've been working on Hickory for awhile, and have one sock down and the other on the needles. The yarn I'm using is a custom dyed order from No Two Snowflakes, and it's a soft cream with touches of taupe and peach.

For Dawlish, I am using the neon-bright, Lemon-Lime, Candy Skein 'Yummy' fingering that was sent to me for Yarnbox. We ended up going with her newer sock base, 'Savory', but I still have this skein and another in a pink and blue Bubblegum colorway that will make for fantastic socks. This yarn is pretty twisty when you get going, but the multiple ply and slightly overspun twist should help the socks hold up over time. The cables on this sock are a breeze! I feel like I nearly have them memorized, and the charts are very easy to follow. I did add some arch shaping to the bottom of the socks to accommodate for my high arches. Otherwise I would have had a baggy foot section (and that is just not acceptable!)

I've also been stashing a bit of sock yarn -- next in line after one of these pairs are finished is this Spun Right Round sock yarn, in colorway Goldfish. I love how it even has koi-like speckles mixed in with the hot pink, orange, and cream! I plan on using this yarn to make Darjeeling, a Cat Bordhi sock from the Clara Parkes book that seems to work well with more variegated yarns. It also has a tab toe, which will be new construction for me. I'm very excited!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fiber fanatic

I mentioned in my last post that I am a lucky member of the Hello Yarn Fiber Club. If you are a spinner, you probably know about Adrian's amazing dyed fibers, and how hard they are to get ahold of. I have been a member of the fiber club for almost a year now, but before that I was on the waiting list to get into the club for almost three years.

It was actually a good thing that I had to wait, since when I signed up for the waiting list, I didn't even know how to spin! I taught myself on a drop spindle, then switched to an Ashford Traditional, then purchased a used Kromski Mazurka, on which I currently spin. During that time, I spent a lot of time learning from the amazing Hello Yarn group on Ravelry. This group of people is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about spinning. They can also be amazingly generous, and I was even able to try some Hello Yarn fibers while waiting for my club invitation, by closely monitoring the destash thread.

I was doing some stash inventory recently and took photos of all of my current, unspun, Hello Yarn fibers, and thought I could share here.

1. HY Insect Wings, 2. HY Head Trip, 3. HY Trodden,
 4. HY Spirograph 5. HY Scorch, 6. HY Denizen,
 7. HY Verdant, 8. HY Backwards, 9. HY Ships, Whales & Icebergs,
 10. HY Night Gathers, 11. HY Dormant, 12. HY Dark & Stormy

As you can see, Adrian's work is special because each and every colorway is like a painting. I suppose that's a big reason I love it so much.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tips for smaller stashing

I have to admit that I am not much of a collector. As a child and teenager I did have a brief stint where I collected frog things -- frog necklaces, frog paperweights, frog plushes. But I grew out of it when I realized that when you collect something just for the sake of collecting it, you end up with a lot of junk. It also has a particularly odd side effect. When people find out that you're collecting a particular thing, you just seem to end up with a lot of it, whether or not it's to your personal taste.

As an adult, I prefer clean, neat spaces with minimal tchotchkes. Too many knick-knacks and my mind feels just as cluttered as the shelves I'm looking at. And don't even get me started on the dusting. I quickly put away my collection of frogs when I realized how long it took to dust each and every piece on cleaning day. (Although I can't help but wonder what the Goodwill in my town looked like, all covered in frog paraphernalia after I donated!)

It seems contradictory to be a knitter and a non-collector. As knitters, we often accumulate a stash of yarn that sits on shelves, fills up baskets and totes, and in some cases, even rooms. But do we need to? I personally have a few rules about how (and when) I buy yarn, and it has helped me keep a relatively small stash. This has especially come in handy when moving, especially during the packing and unpacking phases. While I know that everyone has their particular reasons for buying yarn and fiber, I thought I might share a few of my own.

Always have a project in mind. 

I very rarely buy yarn without a project in mind. Whether it's very specific, with a pattern I have been wanting to make awhile, or slightly vague like 'socks', I always know what I want to make with the yarn.

Don't be afraid of a single skein. 

One of the interesting things about working for Yarnbox is that I get to hear a lot of what other knitters like, or don't like, about each shipment. One of my personal favorite puzzlements is one of the most common. If we send out a collection of skeins and they are different colors, inevitably I will get an email in my inbox asking what that person is 'supposed' to do with a single skein of yarn. It always baffles me. Sometimes, a single skein is the best way to satisfy your yarn craving with minimal cost. You can make so many things -- a pair of socks, a hat, mittens, a cowl, handwarmers! Never, ever be afraid of a single skein. This is also a great way to 'taste' yarns that are from new companies and dyers without making a huge space or monetary commitment.

Sweater lots cost more than money. 

I love knitting sweaters. I would, in fact, consider myself a 'garment knitter', even though I really haven't knit that many garments yet. But if there's one thing I am careful about doing, it's buying sweater lots. Sweater lots cost you threefold -- money, time, and space. When buying for a sweater, I carefully try and consider all of the options. Do I think I have more than two existing outfits that will match the finished garment? Does the color integrate into my wardrobe? Does the finished garment match my personal style? I have to admit that I have a few garments that I loved making and loved the yarn for, but I wear less than I should because they don't really fit the rest of my clothes. This is yet another reason that you should have a project in mind!

Free yarn is never a good idea.

Okay, look -- I'm not talking about the skein you've had on your Etsy wishlist that someone gets you for your birthday. I'm talking about the giant bag of yarn that your best friend brings to your house a month after her aunt who knits dies. You know this bag. Every knitter knows this bag. It is always a giant trash bag, or a big rubbermaid tote, full of who-knows-what. Feel free to go through it. Feel free to pull out a few choice skeins (seriously, just a few). But never -- and I repeat, never -- volunteer to take all of it off her hands. Go through it while she's there. Put what you don't want back in the bin, and send it home with her to be donated. I never volunteer to donate it myself because I know it won't happen. I'll tell myself that I can make a blanket with all that acrylic, or that I'll teach local school children how to knit, or that it will be great to give to someone else who knits. But it won't happen. It will sit in my basement/attic/bedroom/car until the end of time, and eventually I will be moving, and frustrated, and I will have to deal with it in a hectic moment.

Limit your club memberships. 

If you like surprises in the mail (and who doesn't), a fiber or yarn club sometimes seems like heaven on earth. You sign up, you get something great in the mail that someone else picks out for you, like a present, and you add it to your stash. But clubs are dangerous! This is why I have a rule -- I am only a member of one type of club at a time. For me, my 'yarn club' is Yarnbox. Obviously this is a bit of a cop out, since I get the boxes for free and I am part of selling them, but that's my restriction on yarn clubs. I am also a member of the Hello Yarn Fiber Club, and that is my 'fiber club'. If you are a member of any club, you know that the yarn adds up fast. More than one club, and you're getting so much in the mail that it's hard to appreciate each surprise for what it is.

Fiber has it's own rules.

For me at least, buying fiber is a little different than buying yarn. First, it isn't already useable in the knitting sense, and it is eternally malleable. So having a project in mind, though handy, is sometimes a little pointless (unless you buy a sweater lot of fiber, in which case you are obviously making a sweater, so please evaluate the third bullet point.) Fiber is one of the few things that I buy because it makes me feel good. If the color, texture, dyer, and fiber all match up into a merry little object of joy, and I have the extra cash in my pocket, I'll purchase. That's why I also try to stick with just a few specific dyers that I love and trust when buying fiber. I know the prep will be right, I know the colors will be true to the pictures, and I know that it will be a pleasant experience during the spinning phase. To keep my spinning stash small, I limit myself space-wise. If the rubbermaid tub is full, no more fiber gets purchased. I am only a member of one club (see bullet point five), and this keeps things small too.

Don't be afraid to re-gift.

Okay, so giving yarn away that you bought as a gift for yourself isn't exactly the same as re-gifting yarn that someone else got you, but it's a great idea. If you have a friend who is a knitter or crocheter, and you're unsure of what to get them for a holiday or birthday gift, go stash diving! If you love it, chances are they will too. Just make sure that whatever you give has been stored well and is still in pristine condition when you wrap it up and hand it over.

Nothing is too precious.

Yarn is, above all, meant to be used. Even if you searched high and low for that Wollmeise, or you scored a bump of sought-after Hello Yarn in a destash, don't put it on a pedestal. Think of the perfect project for that fiber, and get to it! You'll be happier wearing it than petting it, I promise.

Inventory often. 

Go through your stash from time to time (I like to do this every other year) and take photos. Update your Ravelry entries. Make a pile of yarns that you think would make great gift items and assign them patterns. Make another pile of yarns that you think you won't use or that aren't your 'style' anymore, and gift them or make a quick buck destashing. It's like spring cleaning, and it will help keep the yarn you do love in perfect condition, help you root out any potential issues (like the dreaded 'M' word), and re-invigorate your creativity.

Happy stashing! If you have any other tips that you like, please feel free to share them in the comments!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A little here and there

I feel like I've been swamped. Real life, work, finances, more work -- all of it is getting in my way of posting to the blog! But I have been knitting, and have even finished a few objects, so I'll try to get them up here when and where I can.

For now, settle for these adorable baby things I made for my sister's friend's shower! It's just a standby baby pattern for the booties (Saartje's Bootees) and an ad-lib for the hat. The yarn is Wool Candy Fondant Merino DK, which is sadly discontinued (the whole Wool Candy brand is). It was very squishy and delicious and has awesome kettle-dyed colors - this colorway is Cordial.

I have some pretty big goals for the blog this year. I'm saving up for a new camera, which should mean more picture taking, and subsequently more posting. I want to show you guys more of the behind-the-scenes for the work I've been doing at Yarnbox, and also at Knit Purl. And I want to start designing again too -- I hope some of you will stick around to read!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Endless stitches

I've been working on things, of course. I feel like I have so many projects on the needles right  now that my head might explode. I went through the knitting basket the other day and discovered a whole bunch of things I had forgotten about. It's times like these that I spend the afternoon just ripping out projects I know I'll never complete and turning them back into yarn on the shelf.

Right now I'm sort of obsessed with this 'Mountain of Light' shawl. It's squishy garter stitch in Skein's Top Draw Sock, in the colorway 'Fig'. My friend Patricia sent me some and it's absolutely fantastic yarn - it looks like it will be variegated but really knits up into these mottled color transitions. I paired it with Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Lace on the edge - to be honest this feels more like a fingering weight yarn which makes the 720 yards per skein even more impressive. The shawl is lovely and I hope it will be fairly large when I finally finish. It certainly feels that way.

I have a bit of start-itis at the moment but I'm trying to stave it off and turn it into energy for finishing projects.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From my favorites...

Queue or favorites? On Ravelry, I feel like there are so many people who put new patterns in their queue, but to me, the queue is for things that I mean to make and already have yarn, and the favorites button is more for keeping track of possible future projects. So my favorites is very full. So full, in fact, that I have around 2,286 favorite things, and about 1,571 of those things are patterns. I keep organized by assigning tags to everything - a tag for type of project (shawl, socks, sweater), some tags for construction (pullover or cardigan) and a tag for the weight of the yarn (dk, fingering, worsted). Then I can just use a pattern search within my own favorites and find everything I need!

I decided that it might be fun to share some of my favorite patterns right now here on the blog. I go through phases, like most knitters, so my favorites change up and sometimes I re-discover pieces that I forgot I'd favorited ages ago. For fall, here are a few things I'm hoping to make - maybe you'll add them to your favorites (or queue) as well?

The general mood of these pieces would be moody and textural. I am really into making things in odd colors this season, and even know some of the yarns I want to use (as shown):

I am kind of obsessed with the beautiful simplicity of Purl Bee patterns lately, that's why there are two pictured - the top left corner is a pair of Cuffed Handwarmers, featuring Purl Soho's new in-house yarn, which is a worsted weight, in a lovely ice blue. I picked up a similar color in a dk-weight Pear Tree yarn a few years ago at Loopville in Knoxville, Tennessee, and have been meaning to make something like this since then - it was happy coincidence that the pattern exists now and I can modify it slightly to work for my lighter weight yarn (the fluffy innard yarn of mine will be the ever-reliable Rowan Kidsilk Haze).

Directly under is a gorgeous scarf made of Habu - what else could give so much structure and drape simultaneously? I decided to go just with the drape part for this lovely Kristen Johnstone pattern, and will be using a prized skein of Plucky Knitter Lace in the colorway Narragansett Gray. I'm very excited about it, as this is my first 'Plucky', and it is such a beautiful base of camel, merino, and silk, with a most fabulous sheen. I got it in the mail today and will have pictures of it tomorrow (along with another prized mail arrival!)

Rotating around to the top right corner, this poorly-photographed (not my problem, you can thank the original company, Plumo Limited) hat is a manufactured beanie. I love the thick and thin texture and am going to try and replicate it for an upcoming pattern release (this will be a freebie!) I can't wait to get going on it - but my color palette is going to be very different. I'm thinking Malabrigo Aquarella in Palmar with a Blue Sky Cotton 'Cumin' brim is going to be just perfect!

Last but not least, this lovely cowl is the new Ombre Cowl pattern from the Purl Bee. I fell in love with this the minute I saw it on their blog and I'm looking to recreate the effect with some varying Shibui Knits yarns. I just can't decide on a color sequence! I love the original grays but I am thinking something softer and perhaps a bit more coral - maybe the colorways Poppy, Clay, and Nude - with Nude being at the bottom - would be flattering? What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Do you ever just feel like you aren't using your knitting skills to their fullest? I have been knitting for 17+ years and often feel like I am not challenging myself with my choices anymore, unless I knit lace, which is generally frustrating for me. I realized the other day that I have a checklist of personal knits that I want to complete and work towards - I want to knit a Norah Gaughan pattern. I want to knit a sweater for my dad, and one for my mother. I want to bulk up my collection of mittens, especially colorwork ones. I want to complete more blankets.

When we go to TNNA as a shop, my mom and I tend to make most of our decisions about what to order together, with one exception. Each of us has a small budget with which to invest in a yarn that we believe is truly exceptional - something that we really feel strongly about selling to our customers. I picked a rambouillet, two-ply by Knitted Wit - Welterweight Rambouillet. The yarn really spoke to me as a spinner, since rambouillet is one of my favorite fibers and creates a soft, bouncy yarn and fabric. I picked a bunch of bright colors for the shop and they arrived a couple of weeks ago, at which point I cast on for one of the first projects on my 'knitterly challenge list' - a Norah Gaughan sweater from Volume 9 called 'Parlan'.

Knitted Wit Welterweight Rambo in the shop!

I'm only one repeat in and it has it's challenging moments, but honestly, I'm quite happy with my progress, the yarn and the pattern. It's about knitting while thinking critically, it's about counting and spacing and using my skills - cabling without a cable needle, reading charts, etc. And it feels great.

Side note - I can't believe that so many people have viewed and pinned and shared my Custom Sock Knitting Chart! I am in progress getting some posters made so that if you want one we can have them for purchase! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Custom sock knitting chart

I worked up this little chart over the week for a seminar I'm teaching at the shop, and thought I should share. There are so many techniques for sock knitting, I just wanted to get them all organized into one place. I was really inspired by this great Ravelry collection of heels, which also has been making the Pinterest circuit, but I've made the additions of toes, and made the chart so you can follow which 'direction' you're making your socks (with cast ons and bind offs).

I have found a really deep love of knitting socks and all through September we're focusing on socks in the shop - we're calling it 'Socktember' - the chart is to make into a poster that will help guide us through our custom sock-knitting seminar. Other events for the month include the launch of an in-shop contest, and a Magic Loop, Two-at-a-Time sock class! It's going to be absolutely fantastic.

Below the chart is a full list of each of the techniques mentioned, with links (or links to books) where they are mentioned. The only thing I expect you to know yourself is how to increase and decrease to 'shape' the legs and arches of your socks (and the chart gives you a little guidance on the latter.) Have fun making your own custom socks! I will take a photo of the poster after I have it printed, too.

Socktember Chart

I have tried to cite the original sources or at least find really good sources for these materials - however, if the source material is a book, the individual technique is also found online by using Google!

Judy's Magic Cast On (originally featured in Knitty)
Figure 8 Cast On (video with Marlene Dysert)
Short Row Toe (featured in Knitty)
Easy Toe (featured in Knitty)

Jeny's Super Stretchy Cast On (video with Jeny Staiman)
1 x 1 Tubular Cast On (with Ysolda)
Twisted Long-Tail Cast On (video with Knit Purl Hunter)

Gibson Heel (Judy Gibson's pattern 'You're Putting Me On')
Toe-Up Dutch Heel (Denise Powell online lessons)
Toe-Up Round Heel (Alice Bell free tutorial)
Welsh Heel (from Nancy Bush's 'Folk Socks')
Band Heel (a simple, generic approach on Criminy Jickets)
Common Flap Heel (used in pretty much every sock pattern ever)
Afterthought Heel (from The Yarn Harlot, originally from E. Zimmermann)
Short Row Heel (there are many, but Cosmicpluto's is a favorite)
Sweet Tomato Heel (video with Cat Bordhi)
Hourglass Heel (Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook)

Heel-Out Socks (there are a few diff. methods. I love this Hat Heel sock from Knitty!)

Kitchner Stitch (make it easier with Jenny's Easy Graft!)
Jeny's Super Stretchy Bind Off (from Knitty)
EZ's Sewn Bind Off (Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann)

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I haven't been writing, in case you hadn't noticed.

A lot has changed since that beach post below. My relationship of two years ended. I moved home to Iowa. Yarnbox has gotten busier - I am working in my mom's store now, too. And still unpacking.

I am still here but I am just getting everything together again so I can start blogging. I want to write more about my job(s) on here, share more about what I am doing and why and projects. I do miss it! I just have so much on my plate.

So, forgive me for a little while. When I come back I will come back with a lot of fun new posts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Back from the beach

I think I mentioned it, but from the 1st - 8th of this month I was at the beach! I went with my boyfriend's family down to Greyton Beach in Florida. It was lovely, but I honestly am pretty glad to be home, since I tend to be a bit of a workaholic and having too much free time just made me feel a little depressed.

Of course, I powered through all my emails within three hours, so now I'm puttering about, packing, and planning new projects. Planning my move back to Iowa (in July) and upcoming trip to TNNA in Columbus, Ohio. I have been slowly getting interested in designing again, so expect to see some work on here in the near future reflecting that!

Also -- I got a bit further on both the lace project and the socks, but I messed up the lace and now I don't remember what row I was on, so unless I can decipher it, I'll be ripping back to the lifeline again. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dwelling on socks

My other socks are still in progress, but I seem to have socks on the brain recently and couldn't help starting a pair with my Cave Dwellings HY spin. I went and had lunch with Jennifer at Panera a few days ago, and we chatted about the yarn, and it just made me want to come home and get crackin'! It's hard to find anything to keep you busy this close to vacation (well, besides the things that you need to be doing, like cleaning your apartment and packing), and we leave on Friday, so I wanted a project that I could bring along.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see surf and sunshine and sand -- I haven't been to the ocean in well over 7 years now, and it means the world to me to spend some time fully relaxing. I won't be bringing a computer and there's no television in the house we're renting, so it should be a fully tech-free vacation. I will, however, take a camera so that I can tell you all about it when I return!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Yarn appreciation, part 2

Y.A.P. Greens

Green is probably the color I have the most of in my stash, at least right now. It has been my 'favorite color' since I was very young, although I don't consider any color truly a favorite anymore. I love them all! Pictured here is a very special skein of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in 'Sap'. I picked it up during a business trip at Loop in Philadelphia. Next to it is some Spud & Chloe Fine in Glow Worm from my mom's shop, The Sheep's Stockings. The two skeins that come next are both No Two Snowflakes yarn - one lace, the other 100% cashmere in 'Spritely'. Following up is a gorgeous true green skein of Alisha Goes Around, and some more Malabrigo Worsted in Forest.

Y.A.P. Blues

I grew up not really having any affinity towards blue. My grandmother, supposedly, did not like blue at all, and had not a drop of it in her house. As I have grown older I've fallen in love with it, especially deep purple blues, robin egg blues, and pale, wispy blues. Two skeins of Rauma Finull-garn are first, and are really part of a set of 4 colors I pulled to do colorwork with. To design colorwork with. I need to get going on that idea. Next to it is a skein of Pear Tree Yarns 4-ply in Robin's Egg, although in my opinion this color is more like the inside of the shell than the outside. Some Blue Sky Alpaca in Sky, and some special and unusual yarn that was a gift from Joji, who works at Milana Hilados, a really cool yarn store in Argentina. In the back is some Madelinetosh DK in Ink, I believe. Although to be honest I am not 100% sure of the colorway.

Y.A.P. Purples

I have never been much of a purple person, so I honestly have no 'true purple' anywhere in my stash. All the purples I own are slightly off kilter, I prefer them to have a little red or a little too much blue, or be faded, as you can see. A skein of Skein Yarn's Top Draw Sock in Fig is a prized gift from my friend Patricia, and next to it is some Light Brown Hare sock I bought long ago on Etsy. An exciting test skein of Shibui Cima in Ultraviolet, a color that came out new this year, and some Darn Good Yarn recycled silk in a most arresting shade of blue violet. A skein of Malabrigo Twist sits beside it, but this skein is from back when Twist was first coming out, and was still called Gusanito. The colorway was never released (too close to Malabrigo's ever-famous purple mystery colorway) -- the color is called Anil. In the very back is yet more Malabrigo Worsted, this time in a re-worked colorway, Alpine Pearl - now with more teal blue and variegation!

Y.A.P. Browns

I don't think I could complete my Yarn Appreciation Post without a look at browns and neutrals. I have a soft spot for brown. I think it's underrated as a color to wear -- it's flattering on a variety of skin tones and looks lovely paired with most colors. It reminds me of warmth almost instantly when seeing it. In front is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in 'Fig', getting cozy next to Malabrigo Arroyo in 'Coffee Toffee'. A skein fo Quince & Co. Tern sits happily alone in 'Gingerbread', although it has a matching skein in a lighter brown to make Adrian's Flocked Mittens (although I am not sure what color I shall use for the dots!) A skein of Madelinetosh Sock in Golden Hickory, and a single skein from a sweater-lot of Malabrigo Worsted in Rich Chocolate, destined to become a Vaila, although many attempts have been made. (I am determined to make this sweater!) 

I would love to see some other knitters do a Yarn Appreciation Post! It was so fun to get into my stash and really LOOK for special skeins in each spectrum.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Yarn appreciation post

Twinkiechan, the queen of all bubbly, kawaii and candy-coated crochet, recently posted a 'Y.A.P. - yarn appreciation post' on her blog and I just loved the idea! It's so fun to go stash diving and find out what colors you're drawn to in each family, and talk about the qualities of the yarn that made you buy it. I have a relatively small stash, compared to many knitters, but I pick everything in there really carefully. As a result, I love everything in my stash, and know that it will all happily become projects someday.

I sort of decided to do my Y.A.P. posts in stages -- I have a total of 8 photos so I am splitting them into groups of 4, so I don't totally overwhelm all of you. The other 8 will go up tomorrow.

Y.A.P. Reds

My taste in reds tends to run one way or the other. I either love deep, rich, cherry-toned yarns, or bright, cheery, vermillions that have a good dose of orange in them. I think this comes from loving painting so much -- Alzarin Crimson and Napthol Red are my 'go to' colors for mixing reds. I suppose some part of me adores them in their truest forms, too. Shown here are Blue Sky Alpacas' Worsted Cotton in the colorway 'Ladybug', Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Lace in 2095, Wool Candy DK in Cerises, and Malabrigo Rios in Cumparsita. I of course adore BSA cottons, but I haven't quite managed to start any projects in this color yet. I think some part of me harbors the desire to make baby things out of this yarn, and I don't know too many babies, so that could be part of the delay. The laceweight Plymouth is going to become a lining for my Squirrel Sampler Mittens, which are still slowly progressing along (or rather, just sitting in the wip basket, to be honest.) The Wool Candy was used as a border on a scarf for Andrew last year as a Christmas project -- I suppose it should eventually become some handwarmers or perhaps a hat. I have 3 or 4 skeins left in the Cumparsita. I used to have a full lot but sent some off as a prize for a giveaway last year. I think the remaining skeins will become an Abalone.


I don't buy a lot of pink. I really should, because I love it, but it's just not that often that a pink really catches my eye. Usually if it does, it's a super-hot pink color, like Madelinetosh Pop Rocks (which I am working on Thayer with). I prefer my pinks to be very true, bright pinks with purple undertones. Maybe a tiny touch of orange. Pictured here are Malabrigo Worsted in 'Molly', Noro Nobori, which is sadly discontinued (I love this base and was very sorry to see it go), Fable Fibers in 'Chloe' -- this is a really happy, bouncy yarn -- and KPPM in some unknown mauve color that will eventually become colorwork mittens or socks.

Y.A.P. Oranges

I honestly don't have that much orange in my stash either. It's not that I don't like it as a color, but I just generally tend to lean towards more brown than orange, so most of the orange tones are really browns. I have one skein of true-orange -- the Shepherd's Wool (by Stonehenge Fiber Mill) is really fantastic. This base, which is a dk superwash, is one of the softest and best behaved yarns that I've worked with. I would probably knit anything and everything out of this yarn as my 'workhorse' yarn if I had to. Next to it is a special skein from Lush Mommy on Etsy, my mom got this for me as a present last year, and it will become socks, for certain. Next to it is Alisha Goes Around, picked up at my first TNNA trip, and this yarn is really fantastic. I think the colorway name was 'Pecan Pie', which happens to be a favorite dessert. This base also has a slight sparkle to it, which I love. Again, this will become socks. The skein next to these is from Skein, on the Top Draw Sock base called 'Rusty Rock'. I was gifted this skein from a dear friend, Patricia, who thought that I should try some Skein. I haven't made them yet, but you only get 2 guesses to figure out what project this yarn will be.


And, finally, the last color group of today - yellow! I adore yellow, from bright and sunny all the way to mustard, and right now my stash is leaning heavily in the mustard direction. The bright and sunny skein on the end is from a Yarnbox dyer. Have you ever seen a happier color? I submit that the answer is no, you haven't! The little skein is Malabrigo Finito, made from the most soft wool in all of Uruguay, and possibly the world. The colorway is Mostaza, and I have two skeins, but I can't seem to locate the issue of Vogue Knitting with Jared Flood's Druid Mittens pattern, which is what these skeins are destined to be. Another skein of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton lurks next to it, in the fantastic 'Cumin' colorway. I would seriously wear a hundred garments this color, I truly adore it. BSA does a great job with their dyes. The one next to it I have no name and no brand for. It was a sample someone sent me at Premier, trying to get us to carry their yarn as a base, that just wasn't going to work out -- it made no sense for the company to hire another mill to make yarns for us when we were connected to another mill. I got to take it home so I could swatch it, which is why it has no labels. The skein in the way back is Malabrigo Aquarella in Palmar, and it was the first skein I ever bought from someone's Ravelry stash. Someday it will become a truly fantastic hat. This year, I think!

Stay tuned for the cooler half of the rainbow tomorrow!