Thursday, March 27, 2014

sniffles

I have a cold today, or rather, this week. At first I thought maybe I just had seasonal allergies, but I really need to stop believing that I would suddenly develop seasonal allergies, especially since I have never had them before in my life. But no, it's definitely a cold -- congestion and sinus headaches and difficulty sleeping are all hallmarks of this stunning specimen.


Luckily, working from home means that I won't lose any hours (even if I decide to work from bed.) And there's always plenty of knitting to do. I added the second color to my Malabrigo wrap. This thing is going to be so snuggly and wonderful to wear when it's finished, but for now I'm enjoying the simplicity of seed stitch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

circus ring




I threw some fiber on the wheel this week -- this one will go to the yarn shop to be sold. It's Hello Yarn fiber  (big surprise there, I know) in colorway Circus Circus. This is an older fiber, I wasn't able to date it, but it is BFL, which means it's spinning along quickly! Chunky or heavy worsted weight two-ply is the goal.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ramble on

It's been a busy week, but I thought I would take a second and show you one of my (many) knitting projects in progress. I'm currently knitting The Purl Bee's Stitch Block Cowl. Incidentally, I'm actually taking a technique class on this cowl called 'Into The Row Below' at The Sheep's Stockings, so I am making slower progress while taking my time to learn each technique.



I have my second class tonight to cover the second block in the stitch pattern, but here is what I have so far, in Rambler Stitch. Honestly, I like the yarn (Spud & Chloe Sweater) and pattern so much I could probably just keep knitting in Rambler Stitch forever! Do you have any stitches you feel that way about?

Monday, March 24, 2014

stitch kit

Do any of you keep a sort of knitter's emergency kit in your project bags? When I'm home, mine lives in my desk drawer. I use a Namaste Buddy Case -- the lid and base are magnetic, so it's easy to keep things organized.



My kit includes a pair of sharp Stork scissors, a bit of waste yarn on a plastic embroidery bobbin, a tapestry needle, and a set of stitch markers I store on a giant safety pin. The safety pin can double as a stitch older, in a pinch! What's in your knit kit?


Friday, March 21, 2014

darn it

I remember the first time I knit socks. I used Dream in Color Smooshy, in a fun colorway called Strange Harvest. I spent a lot of time on the socks, so I was really disappointed when almost 3 months later they had a hole in the heel. Holes in socks are nothing new to me -- I wear out holes in the heels of all my socks fairly quickly, and it's always the place that goes first. If I ignore the heel hole for long enough, sometimes I'll get one in the toe -- but that's rare.

When I saw the hole in those socks, it made me so frustrated, because I didn't know that I could darn socks. I threw them out, even though I think at the time I even had some extra yarn left over! To think -- I could have darned them and would possibly still be wearing them today!


Awhile afterwards , I knit some socks with some handspun merino. I was a much better knitter, the yarn was a bit sturdier (navajo ply, for anyone interested in spinning notes), and the socks held up for a whopping 3 years. So when I got a hole in the heel, I wasn't surprised, but I also wasn't disappointed -- because now I know how to darn socks.


The first step for me was to get a darning egg. Luckily, I have a great antique store right around the corner from my house, and was able to find a beautiful egg there for only $4! They also had a baby egg, which I suppose is for darning even smaller socks. I would love to someday get a darning mushroom as well. Mine is wooden and was probably hand-turned at some point. I really love finding knitting things at antique stores, don't you?



To use the darning egg, you put it inside the sock and fill out the hole with the smooth, round portion of the bottom of the egg. I have it pictured here on the inside, right-side out, but when you darn you'll turn the whole sock inside out to get going. You can see where the sock has come apart - lots of little holes and stringy bits might be in the way, so you'll want to clear some of those out. No worries -- we're going to make it all better.


Now, something that I've been in the habit of doing for my most recent socks is that before I start, I wind enough yarn to fill up an embroidery bobbin onto a plastic bobbin. I keep all these little bobbins in a pretty bumblebee bag that Annie sent me, for just the purpose of darning socks. I know that someday, my socks will have holes, and I would prefer the yarns to match. However, for this pair of socks, I didn't keep any of the yarn (I even had left overs! I'm not sure where they went.) So I decided to use a bit of yarn that was close in color to the area with the hole, by Holiday Yarns. They gave out little mini-skeins of some of their colorways and bases at TNNA last year, and I picked up a few. Their Flock Sock is sturdy, smooth, and great for darning! This colorway is called Andromeda's Big Sister.  I wound some off onto a bobbin card and put the rest into the scrap bucket. I fully intend to use this bright, happy blue in some striped socks someday!



To get going, you will want a pair of scissors, your darning yarn, and a tapestry needle. This was my first time darning socks so please refer to the text and not just the pictures -- I made a little bit of a mistake, which may come back to haunt me in another year. But I'll live with it!


The first step is to create a base for what is essentially a woven darn. There are a few different methods for darning, but I decided to try the woven darning method this time around. Using a zig-zag pattern, weave above and to the sides of your hole to help stabilize it. Don't forget -- your darning egg is in there the whole time, helping keep this section round. This isn't like sewing, it's like weaving. We aren't shutting any holes just yet!


After you've got a good weaving base, start going the other way. This is where I made a mistake. I followed darning instructions for woven fabrics instead of knitted ones. In a knitted darn, you'll need to go diagonally against the woven base, to allow for extra stretch. I went horizontally, as you can see. I don't think it will be a horrible thing, in the long run, since my hole is fairly small.


When you've created a nice solid woven fabric, and you don't see through it at all, you're done! Weave in any of your ends securely since they could bug you if they're loose about in the sock. Then, turn the whole thing right-side out to view your darned patch.


It might not be the prettiest darning job in the world, but for a first time out, not too bad! And now I know that when I pull out a sock and it has a hole, I can darn it, not just say "Darn it!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

new camera

Something very exciting came in the mail today....



My first DSLR! This is a Canon Rebel T3i, and I am really looking forward to learning how to use it. There just comes a time when my little point-and-shoot Canon A590 IS just doesn't seem to cut it. I have signed up for the Mastering your DSLR course through A Beautiful Mess and I'm trying to concentrate on work the rest of the day instead of learning all the details of this new tool. But it's really hard!


Luckily, it will help with my work in the long run, since it will allow me to take higher quality photos with more variety, make video (yay, more Yarnbox reveal videos), and a whole bunch of other fun things! Of course, I'll still carry my point and shoot along for all sorts of other things! 

Do you have a DSLR? What kind? What tools and extras do you recommend I invest in first? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

daily dose of fiber

I was so busy this weekend prepping for my tax meeting on Monday -- I'm sure a lot of you can sympathize! One thing I hate about taxes is that when you're self-employed, you get screwed pretty royally -- I always end up owing the government instead of getting money back, and this year is no different. Luckily, I have a great accountant who is helping me make sure it doesn't happen again next year (or as close as we can get, anyway!)


Because it was such a bummer of a day, I couldn't have been happier to get a little bit of colorful, squishy, fluffy fiber in the mail. I managed by some miracle to score not one, but four bumps of amazing Hello Yarn fiber in the most recent update. I'm excited not just because the fiber is delicious, but also because this is going to be one of my last yarn or fiber purchases for awhile -- I am going on a self-imposed yarn diet so that I can save up money for a few trips this summer, pay off some personal debts (taxes too) and work some of my stash down to make sure it's not unmoveably large in the future.

Let me introduce you to some of these pretty fibers. Adrian is great about naming them all sorts of delightful names, too.

Stilt Walkers, on Rambouillet wool

The Old Heave Ho on Falkland wool

Dragon Business on Rambouillet wool

Colliding Galaxies on Organic Polworth wool

Now, the only question left is -- which one do I spin first?!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

far away friends

One of my favorite parts about working for Yarnbox is that I get to connect with some pretty amazing and exciting companies and the people running them, on a daily basis. Sometimes, those relationships are all business -- but other times, they develop into working friendships, and then real friendships.

When we featured Annie Yarn back in September 2013, I knew I loved the yarn -- and I was so excited to have such a great dyer involved. I spent a lot of time chatting with Annie about all sorts of colors, and projects, and ideas. She and I ended up getting to know each other pretty well and have done a few exchanges. Recently, we shipped out some yarn in February 2014 from Phydeaux. Annie got a great color, but she wanted another one to design something in, and I happened to have some here, so I sent it to her. She put together a little gift box for me in exchange.

Something you need to know about Annie is that she really puts her heart and soul into her products and her swaps -- I am so spoiled right now, and so lucky to have a friend who knows me so well!

Annie started her box to me with this cute little wash-tape embellished card that directed me through the various packages in the box. There were three tissue-paper packages -- blue, pink, and green -- with a specific order in which to open them.


First was the blue package -- this one was expected, since I was trading Annie yarn for yarn. One hank was a skein of her Annie Sock in Moonlight. This is one of my favorite bases and one of Annie's most popular colors -- for good reason. It's the most perfect silvery gray. With it was a hank of a custom colorway that has a future use (you'll see!)

Top to bottom: Annie Sock in "Hannahbelle", Annie Madison Worsted in "Skyland" and Annie Sock in "Moonlight"
Then was the pink tissue paper package -- which contained a pretty little project bag, filled to the brim with goodies and a custom-dyed color just for me on Annie Sock, which Annie named Hannahbelle -- how cool is that?! The colorway matches the colors in the project bag, too.



The project bag had a bunch of goodies in it, as did the green package, which had this awesome spoon-style tea diffuser. I don't know how Annie knows I could have used one of these -- she might be a mind reader. Which explains why her yarn business is so successful!


The goodies included the tea diffuser, an Eos lip balm, a Jo's Dark Chocolate Sea-Salt Graham cracker, and some Earl Greyer loose leaf tea (yum!) It also included these pretty little stitch markers, which Annie makes herself. They're perfect for socks and match my custom colorway:


I love getting things in the mail, don't you? Annie's package went out today and should arrive next Thursday -- we'll have to keep an eye on her blog!

Friday, March 14, 2014

so fresh, so clean

I can't be the only one getting excited about Spring. Living in the Midwest, sometimes I feel like just saying the word is like daring it not to happen -- it's not totally unheard of for us to have snow in April here. But I'm throwing caution to the wind, a little, with this post. I'm just too excited about spring, and wanted to share some spring knits and projects I'm planning to get started.

Do you remember my winter mood board? I made one for spring, too:



I am pretty thoroughly fascinated by a mix of floral prints and extremely minimalistic garments in various colors this spring. I have never been a huge fan of white, but I did purchase my first pair of white jeans, ever. I'm looking forward to wearing them. Note that I've pulled in some of the winter colors -- nude, various shades of green, black and that sort of smudged, gray blue are all present here too.

I am a knitter who really enjoys knitting year-round, and I like to have a few garments for early spring that will still keep me comfortable. I'm loving the crop-top trend this year, but only in smooth, tailored varieties -- nobody needs to be looking like they popped out of She's All That circa 1999. I love the idea of modifying the curved hem idea a bit with a longer sweater shape like this Lila pullover from Carrie Bostick Hoge:

Ravelry pattern link here: Lila

I think I would knit it up maybe in a lighter weight yarn, maybe Shibui Staccato. Or I could use some of the linen I have in my stash, but I worry that the drape might go a bit overboard and obscure the hemline. I would love to wear this piece over floaty dresses so that the gathered fabric at the bottom would ruffle out from the hem.

In Iowa, it's pretty necessary to keep a few cozy sweaters around well into spring, so I'm going to be working on this Earl pattern. I taught a class on brioche knitting last year and really had a lot of fun with it -- the fabric is so squishy! I am going to make this in Annie Yarn's "Robin's Egg" colorway -- the yarn is gorgeous and something I already have in stash (it's from Yarnbox!)

Ravelry link here: Earl

What about you? Do you spend some time thinking about spring knits, or are you a seasonal knitter? If you're seasonal, what do you do instead of knitting in the spring?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

golden flicker



I finally finished my combo-spin of Hello Yarn "Tiny Flicker" and Hello Yarn "Denizen" -- the result is a pair of slightly overplied, golden skeins! I think they're a little heavier than fingering weight. I didn't actually wash and whack these skeins yet, which is why they look a bit warbly and loopy. Don't worry, they'll straighten out after a bath -- I just didn't want to wait to share!



One will go to live at the shop and the other will stay in my stash, for, you guessed it -- socks! I am so predictable, I know. I promise whatever goes on the wheel next won't be for socks!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

lupo

photo property of Lalylala
I am not a very strong crocheter, but I can't resist the call of these adorable creatures from Lalylala's pattern collection! I have long wanted to make a few of them, but could never think of a good 'reason' to have any about -- until Lupo. Lupo is a little wolf masquerading as a lamb, but you'd never know -- his face is very un-wolf-like. I adore the idea of having a little Lupo-lamb sitting in my studio. 


I picked up some yarn from Knit Picks, Palette, to make him -- heathered gray and charcoal gray -- and can't wait to get started. Although, I must admit, with my limited crochet skills I'm a bit nervous! I will certainly practice first!

Maybe after Lupo I might tackle one of the others. Check out her website and tell me what you'd make!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

needle set review

It's time! SO many of you wrote me that you really wanted me to do a comparison post of my three interchangeable needle sets, and here it is!

First, I'd like to say that I bought each of these sets with my own money -- none of them were a gift from the companies that make them, and an experiences I have had with the companies as far as customer service, etc., was just the same experience they would give any other customer.

The three sets that I have to compare are the Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz interchangeable set ($100 retail), the Knit Picks Caspian interchangeable set ($59.99 retail), and Hiya Hiya's original stainless steel interchangeable set ($79.90, now comes with a different color case.) Something important to note is that the original Knit Picks sets were made by Knitter's Pride, but are now made by a different company in China. Therefore, Hiya Hiya & Knit Picks sets are made in China, while Knitter's Pride sets are made in India.



Storage

Each of the three companies has taken a different approach to the method of storing and packaging their needles.

The Hiya Hiya case is fabric -- printed silk and black canvas, with a few zipper pockets for minimal storage of the needles. Each needle has a slot, with the smallest needle offered in my set being a US 2. This is one of the smallest available sizes for needles. The set that I have goes up to a US 8. The cords come in individual baggies, marked with the length. However, after having a set for the year, I find that I never use these baggies and never seem to know what the length of my cords are. Other, more organized individuals probably don't have this issue! The needle set did not originally come with the adjustment pads (for screwing in the cords tighter), but I was able to get them at a show from Hiya Hiya.

The Knit Picks case is malleable plastic. The set goes from size US 4 to size US 11. The front part of the case holds all of your needles in individual slots, whereas the back of the case has two snap-closure pockets that hold your cords & tools (keys, stoppers.) This set includes all of the individual pieces you need, plus a few replacements in case you lose the tightening keys.

The Knitter's Pride case is extra-fancy, because this is considered a deluxe product from Knitter's Pride. It is a faux-leather bound box that has a sort of brushed lining. The top tray holds all of the needles in individual elastic bands. Lift the top tray to discover a bottom compartment that holds all of your cords, tools, and accessories, plus a bonus gift and a rose-scented sachet. This set goes from size US 4 to US 11.

Of the three, I believe the Knitter's Pride case is my favorite, since I can store it in my studio. If I was looking for portability, I believe I would pick the Knit Picks' case, since the Hiya Hiya needles, which are super smooth, tend to slide out of their holders.


Points

Of the three, the Knit Picks needles have the pointiest tips, as you can see from the photo above. The Knitter's Pride are in a close second and the Hiyas are third and most blunt. I like a variety of tips for a variety of projects, so this is great for me -- but if you prefer a certain type of tip, I'd consider the differences.


Tip Length

Again, this is a category based entirely on personal preference. I, for one, can't knit with a super-short tip, so I avoid them at all costs. The Knit Picks tips are the longest, followed by Knitter's Pride (very close in length), and the Hiya's are about 1/2" shorter.



Cords

The cords on any interchangeable set, for me, are one of the most important aspects. The cords for both the Knitter's Pride and Knit Picks sets have the same attachment -- the screw in portion is on the end of the cord, you screw it into place and tighten with a tiny wire key. The Hiya Hiya set has a swivel feature for the cord and the screw placement is on the needle tip. You screw into place and tighten with soft rubber pads. In all three sets, you must tighten extra -- if you just screw in, it will come undone.

The cord for the Hiya Hiya set is the lightest weight and most flexible of the three. However, since the cord is smaller, there are some issues at joins, especially when working with delicate yarns or the smaller needle sizes. I have not had any issues with joins on either the Knit Picks or Knitter's Pride sets, not even with fuzzy, heavily-haloed, lace-weight yarns.

Quality Control / Issues

It is almost impossible to have a high-use item without any issues. All three of these companies are wonderful about standing by their product and replacing parts as needed without charge.

Knit Picks' sets are notorious for coming out of their joins -- the wooden laminate needle part comes away from the metal casing. Some folks on Ravelry have seen success with superglue or Gorilla Glue to re-join and fasten the casings and tips, while others have just returned to the company for an exchange.

Knitter's Pride sets are, perhaps, more fragile in the smaller sizes, and I have seen someone break a tip off at the join by putting too much pressure on it. If you are a tight knitter, you might consider being extra-delicate with your smaller tips, or think about getting a harder material needle (like stainless steel.)

Hiya Hiya's swivel cords routinely break away from their needle joins. I have had this happen on two separate occasions. If you mail the cord back to the company, you will be sent a replacement. Still, this is an annoying event when you are mid-sweater and suddenly you have 20 live stitches floating in space!

Final Assessment

While I will not stop using any of my sets, and I am happy with each of them as a purchase, I believe that the set I am most pleased with is my Knitter's Pride. I think it is truly worth the price I paid, and I would buy another again in a different 'base' and will extend the cord selection over time. My least favorite set at this point is the Hiya -- I find the tips a bit blunter than I care to work with, and the breaking swivel cords have been a bit frustrating over time.

I would love to hear feedback you have on the needle sets and your experiences with them in the comments!

Monday, March 10, 2014

wool arrivals

card is from Fringe Supply Co.

The newest installment of Hello Yarn's Fiber Club has arrived in my mailbox! Lately I have been really feeling neutral tones, so 'Village Smithy', February's colorway, is perfect.


In fact, it actually goes with an extra gray in Knit Picks Palette that I ordered awhile back. The color is called 'Gosling'. I'm thinking about spinning the BFL/silk blend fiber up to about the same weight as the Palette and knitting a very simple, striped stockinette cowl. It might be just the thing that I need after I finish some of these sweaters!



Sunday, March 9, 2014

ready for round two


I finished one sock in each pair I've been working on -- kitchner stitches and all. They're so different -- one pair is dark and moody, made up of simple stockinette. The other is bright, cheery, and covered in cables. 


I love opening my sock drawer and finding hand-knit socks inside. Each pair is a promise of warmer feet and toes -- something very important in Iowa, even headed into early spring. We're supposed to get 60 degree weather on Monday. I better hurry and finish, or these socks might be waiting until next fall to be worn. 

That's probably wishful thinking!

Friday, March 7, 2014

kavo



I decided to start my swatch & review process with Shibui Kavo, their newest yarn line. This yarn is a cotton core, covered in silk. It has a sort of ribbon-like structure with no stretch. When knit solo, the swatch for Kavo is a bit crunchy, slightly mold-able, and has drape. I worked the swatch on size US 5 needles and it showed off the thick and thin qualities of this yarn, which is around a lace or fingering weight on it's own.


First, the lightweight blends, worked on a US 7 needle:

Kavo + Pebble
This mix allows the shine from the Kavo to dominate in the fabric. I think in a color pairing (other than Ivory on Ivory), you would see more of Pebble's tweedy texture showing up. The cashmere content of Pebble was more prominent on the purl side, perhaps suggesting that this combo in garter stitch would highlight both yarns best. The finished weight is about a fingering weight.

Kavo + Silk Cloud
Silk Cloud always adds a halo. In this pairing, the shine from both yarns is dulled slightly by the halo from the mohair content in Silk Cloud. The finished fabric has great drape and a light hand on US 7's, and worked up at about a fingering weight. This pairing is extremely soft and I would recommend it for lightweight, summer sweaters.

Kavo + Cima
Cima is one of my favorite Shibui yarns. It works well enough with Kavo to produce a more even fabric that doesn't have thick and thin qualities and blocks out smoothly. The opacity of this pairing is stronger than the other groupings -- I would recommend this for lightweight pullovers especially.


The heavier weight blends, worked on a US 8 and then a US 9 needle:

Kavo + Staccato
This was worked on a US 8 needle. This might be my favorite of all the pairings, since both Staccato and Kavo add sheen and a silky smoothness to the finished fabric. On a US 8, each stitch was squishy and rounded. The combined weight would be a good substitute for dk.

Kavo + Baby Alpaca
I worked this on a US 8 but feel it would be better at a larger gauge to allow the Baby Alpaca room to bloom. Not a bad pairing, could be good for extremely fluid shawls or scarves. This sits nicely as a dk weight, but could easily work on US 10s for a worsted weight substitute.

Kavo + Hiechi
Crunchy and papery, an unusual feeling for a knit. The Kavo adds sheen and visual interest to the fabric without interfering with Hiechi's structure. The finished weight is around an aran or heavy worsted weight yarn. This swatch was worked on US 9's.

Kavo + Linen
Produces a sheer fabric on US 9's, very summery. The Kavo lends a bit of softness to the linen that could make it appealing for next-to-skin spring and summer garments. At a tighter gauge or in crochet, this pairing would read as a highly textured, thick fabric good for housewares.

Kavo + Merino Alpaca
Kavo mainly adds visual interest here but not much else. Worked on US 9's, Merino Alpaca does all the talking. The finished fabric could be considered an aran or even bulky weight comfortably.

Project Recommendations

I have picked three of my favorite combinations here to highlight: Kavo + Cima, Kavo + Staccato, and Kavo + Silk Cloud. These three, in my opinion, are my absolute favorites -- they combine the best way for garments that I would wear frequently.



Kavo + Cima makes such a beautiful fabric. I could see it fitting effortlessly into the Pekoe pattern by Laura Chau, which has been long on my list. I would make mine in Kavo colorway Cornflower, combined with Cima Cascade, so that it would be a lightweight sweater, but perfect for early spring over dresses.



Kavo + Staccato is probably my favorite of all the combinations. I just love the sheen of the finished fabric. I would want to knit something that I could wear all the time, fall, winter, and early spring. The finished fabric would be fairly warm and squishy -- I would choose a neutral like Ash in both bases for maximum wearability, in Ankestrick's newest pattern, Diary.



Kavo + Silk Cloud is lightweight, airy, and graceful. I'd dig into the Shibui pattern suggestions and make a Ridge, a pattern by Lydia Tsymbal, in two sizes up. Heavenly and cloud-like, wouldn't this be lovely to pull on over the weekends? Of course, I'd make this one neutral as well, perhaps in the Graphite colorway.


Have you tried any Shibui Yarns? What are your favorite combinations, or, if you haven't tried them, what's keeping you away?


Disclaimer: I do work for Shibui Knits as a part-time freelancer, and they sent me this yarn to review for free. I promise that these reviews are honest and my opinions are my own, and have in no way been influenced by the company.