Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Are You On A First Name Basis With Your Yarn?

Being a handspinner has its perks: you can create the exact yarn you want in terms of fiber content, color, and structure, provided you have the proper skill and materials. If you don't spin, you have to rely on the yarns you find in shops and at fiber festivals, which means that you can't always get your hands on a specific fiber, especially if it happens to be rare. The good news is that yarn producers are starting to get hip to the whole breed-specific thing, and now there are all kinds of unusual yarns and blends available to folks who might otherwise not encounter them outside of a fiber festival.

Over the years I've enjoyed exploring specific breeds of sheep, from Polwarth to Gotland and all points in between. Last year, I purchased some Shetland batts at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival from Whispering Pines, a small farm in Wisconsin that raises registered Shetland Sheep.


My fiber came with a photo of their sheep and some stats on the specific one who donated their fleece to my project. Her name is Mustang Sally, and she was born on April 18, 2014; I happened to purchase her 2016 fleece, which had a staple length of 85mm (which is approx. 3.3 inches). That's on the longer side for this particular breed of sheep, which averages a staple length of 2-4.5 inches. I still struggle with super short-stapled fibers, so this ended up being the perfect length for me, and the fiber was downy soft - no hint of the hairy undercoat whatsoever!

I felt drawn to this particular breed of sheep after watching a very small and plucky shetland refuse to budge when its handler was trying to lead it out of the stalls to show during a competition at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool festival. It was hilarious!

Shetland Sheep @ The Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival (where it's much warmer!)

These tiny little sheep are hardy, sassy and clearly have some grit - they'd have to, considering their native land is at a similar latitude to Fairbanks, Alaska. The Shetland Isles are even further than the Hebrides and Scotland! Hundreds of islands make up the Shetland isles, and only 15 are inhabited by humans. Only shetland sheep and ponies are brave and hardy enough to inhabit many more of those islands under subarctic conditions.

After washing my finished 2-ply yarn, it because even sproingier and softer than when it had come off the wheel - now I just have to decide what to make with it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

How To Fix Live Mistakes & Dropped Stitches in A Knitting Project

There's no worse feeling than looking down at your work and noticing a mistake several rows back, or - worse yet - a dropped stitch! When I was newer to knitting, this usually meant that I had to rip back several hours or ever days of work; sometimes, I would even restart the whole project from scratch. I wish I had known back then just how easy it is to fix this type of mistake without all of that frogging.

The simplest mistake to fix is a dropped stitch in stockinette. While knitting on my So Faded sweater recently, I noticed that I'd managed to drop a stitch and not notice it for several rounds. Here's what it looked like by the time I noticed the problem:


Notice that there is a removable stitch marker in the dropped stitch - this is to prevent it from dropping down any further until I could fix it, as I noticed this mistake while knitting on the go. It's always a good idea to have a few removable stitch markers in your purse or project bag for just such an occasion!


I prefer to use a crochet hook similar in size to my working needle to fix dropped stitches because all you have to do is put the hook through the live stitch from front to back, and then pull the next row of yarn through the live stitch with the hook from back to front. Repeat until you are back to where you started!


Of course, if you managed to knit several rounds without the dropped stitch, that means you will need to do some finagling to work the dropped stitch all the way back to where you're currently knitting. The good news is that any wonky stitches will probably block out just fine.

Not long ago, I Instagrammed a photo of a project I was performing surgery on to fix a dropped stitch in garter:


A lot of folks commented that they'd never thought to use T-pins to secure each row of yarn. To be perfectly honest, it had never occurred to me until this particular project, and it happened out of necessity: I kept picking up the wrong strand of yarn as I recreated the knits and purls for the garter pattern. It was really frustrating, and then I remembered this technique that a lot of lace knitters swear by. It's great for non-lace projects too because there's no need to rip back several inches of work! With just a bit of patience and a few handy tools, you can fix just about any mistake.

You'll need:
  • crochet hook
  • t-pins
  • blocking mat
  • extra needle or cable needle


First, figure out which column of stitches needs to be fixed. It may be one, two, or more. In the swatch here, I need to add two purl stitches where the arrow is pointing:

missing purls

You'll want to work from the right side of the fabric, as it's easier to read your stitches. Mark the stitches 1 row below the one you need to fix with a removable stitch marker (this is to prevent dropping down too many rows).


Now, slowly unravel each row one by one, taking the strands of yarn and pinning them as far away from your working stitches as possible; make sure to leave enough space for all of the rows you'll need to fix so that it is easier to rework them row-by-row for the next step.


Once you reach the stitch that needs to be fixed, remove the stitch marker and put it on your crochet hook. Now it's time to work your way back up!

If you are trying to make a knit stitch, make sure that the strand of yarn for the next row is behind the live stitch. Insert your crochet hook from front to back and pull the strand of yarn for the next row through like so:

stockinette dropped stitch

If you are trying to make a purl stitch, bring the strand of yarn for the next row in front of the live stitch. Insert your crochet hook from back to front and pull the strand of yarn for the next row through like so:

purl dropped stitch

Keep going until you have worked all the way back up!


Some of the reworked stitches may look a little wonky, but a good wet blocking almost always fixes that.

I hope this tutorial helps you avoid unnecessary frogging in your projects - and if you found it helpful, please do share it with a friend!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fall Sample Sale!

Decluttering my office and craft room is an ongoing quest of mine. Earlier in the year, my focus was destashing yarn (both handspun and otherwise) to avoid overwhelming SABLE anxiety. Many skeins have found lovely forever homes already, although there are still some good things up for grabs on my Ravelry destash page and also in my Etsy shop if you are so inclined.

Once the Great Yarn Destash of 2018 was under way, I turned my attention to all of the finished items I never wear of use. I have piles and piles of them - it's madness! So I set up a shop on a new Etsy competitor site called Aftcra where I could host my first-ever sample sale.
Everyone on my newsletter list got first pick, but there's still plenty of good things up for grabs. There are hats, scarves, fingerless gloves, cowls, toys, bags and more, and everything is basically priced at the cost of the yarn so you really can't find a better deal. Also, everything ships FREE to US addresses!

Click here to shop my fall sample sale.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What I'm Working On

The last two weeks have been a little crazy, and I'm glad to get back to my regular Wednesday posting schedule. Since it's been a while since I've shared any WIPs on this blog, I thought I would share everything I'm working on now that all of the secret knitting projects for designs in progress have been published (I blogged about the 3 newest designs here if you missed it).

To kick off September, I started a Weekender Sweater for this knit-along using Prairie Spun DK from Brown Sheep. And because I like to live dangerously, I used my shiny new Ginger interchangeables from Knitter's Pride (which arrived just in time for the KAL start date) instead of the needles I swatched with. Considering the sweater is to be work with plenty of ease, I'm willing to take the risk. So far, it's looking great and is the perfect, soothing knit.


Also in the same roomy knitting basket is another project using Brown Sheep yarn! I'm knitting the Color Block Cowl pattern, which is available for free on the Purl Soho blog, and I'm using 3 skeins of their new superwash yarn Stratosphere, which they sent me for review. So far I am loving the yarn, but I'm not completely enamored with the pattern I chose, so it's been slow going. I do think the end result will be worth it, however, so I have decided to press on!


I'm still working on my second So Faded sweater. It's become my on-the-go knitting project, which means it doesn't see very much action because I really haven't been going out too much. I am closing in on the body, though it feels like I'll never get to where I add the fourth color. ..the closer I get, the further away it feels!


Would you believe that I have never worked from a sock blank before? It's true. I've always been intrigued by sock blanks, but it wasn't until recently that I got the opportunity to give one a try from Zen Yarn Garden. There are several options for how to work from one, but I decided to just go for it and am knitting straight from the blank. I thought it might make for a lumpy bumpy project since the yarn looks an awful lot like ramen noodles, but the yarn is so soft that it's knitting up beautifully. You would never know that I didn't first wind it off and/or wash the yarn first! I'm knitting this shawl pattern which you can get for free when signing up for the Zen Yarn Garden newsletter.


I also joined the Scintillation Tiny Star KAL, which  is happening here on Ravelry. Even though I already have plenty of projects on the needles, I thought it would be a fun way to use up some leftover bits and bobs of yarn while also test driving my new Ginger DPNs (more on this nifty needle set later....I think they may be my new favorite DPNs!). If you've never knit a Hunter Hammersen pattern, this would be a great introduction I think - she is so thorough and makes sure to really explain things, while still leaving things open-ended so that you have a lot of options for customizing your project. For example, the Scintillation pattern is 18 pages long! It includes lots of tips and photos to help you knit the project, all I had to do to supplement was refresh my memory on the Figure 8 cast on. Since the pattern was so long, I decided to just print the page that had the charts for the cast on number I was planning to make, and then kept it loaded on my iPad to refer to any other instructions as I knit. So far that seems to be working pretty well. I finished knitting one side of the star and just need to move the held stitches (that you can't see in the photo below, but they are on the orange cord) over to DPNs to knit the second side of the star:


Also, I haven't blogged much about my newfound interest in cross stitch, but if you follow me on Pinterest or Instagram you may notice that I am posting more things about this craft! Right now I am working on my biggest/most ambitious project to date using this pattern from The Witchy Stitcher on Etsy. As you can see, I'm going a bit off book and adding in some other colors; in addition to purple and black I plan on using grey and perhaps some sparkly or glow-in-the-dark floss. Over the weekend, I had to rip out almost all of the purple flower because I had made several mistakes. Man, ripping out cross stitch is way more annoying that ripping out a knitting project, if anyone was wondering. I was glad that I finally found where my seam ripper was hiding to speed things up a bit.


I think this might be the most WIPs I've had in progress in quite a long while, and that doesn't even count the two sock projects I have in hibernation. Next week, I plan to share a tutorial on fixing mistakes in your knitting, so I hope you'll come back to check it out!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Knitting Patterns for Mini Skeins of Yarn

I am always on the hunt for ways to use up those mini skeins of yarn that I can never resist - so it's no wonder that my latest designs were inspired by (and created especially for) minis! The nice thing about patterns which use mini skeins of yarn is that the frequent color switches keep me from getting bored while knitting, plus it's a great way to use up leftover bits of yarn if you don't have any mini skeins on hand! After finding a lovely skein of navy blue yarn I'd dyed by hand last fall, I was inspired to pair it with some bright sock yarn colors to create the Mini Brights Slouchy Hat.

You'll need 150 yards of sport weight yarn (or you can sub in fingering weight yarn if you'd rather) and five 10-yard mini skeins of sock yarn to knit this colorful hat in either size. If you love the colors shown here, I've created a neon bright mini-skein yarn pack featuring all 5 colors used in the hat here in my Etsy shop for just $12.50 - you'll also receive a free PDF download of this pattern with your purchase (the code will arrive in your yarn pack!). Or, you can purchase the Mini Brights Slouchy Hat pattern PDF here on Ravelry.

As luck would have it, I was recently asked to create 2 new design for the new sport weight Lhasa Wilderness mini skein sets from Bijou Basin Ranch. Each set features 4 hand-dyed colorways that coordinate with one another, making it fun to mix and match however you like.


The Danke Striped Shawl uses 2 sets to create a fun, easy-to-knit striped shawl pattern that is big enough to wrap around your shoulders. The instructions include how to knit the striping sequence shown here, but you can also create your own striping sequence to knit this full-size triangular shawl!


The Mahalo Mosaic Cowl may look like complicated colorwork, but the magic is in the slipped stitches! If you can knit stripes, you can create this squishy, wearable accessory. You could also try knitting it with just two full-size skeins of Lhasa Wilderness if you'd rather!

Looking for more mini skein pattern inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board here - and if you like these patterns, don't forget to share this post on Pinterest using the graphic below!


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Can We Take A Soft 5?

This has been the craziest summer I can remember - for what is supposed to be the "slow" season in the yarn industry, I have certainly been running around like a crazy person! So you would think that only writing one blog post per week (rather than the 3 I had been doing prior to this year) would not be a huge deal, and yet...sometimes, it can be surprisingly difficult to find the time!

Don't worry, this blog isn't going to go away, this is just my way of saying that I need a week off to rest, regroup, and get ready for the "busy" season.


Speaking of which, I do have some new patterns coming out soon and a new knitting tutorial in the works (yay!) that I absolutely can't wait to share with you, so please do check back soon...or follow me on bloglovin so you don't miss my next post!



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review: Appalachian Baby Organic Cotton Yarn

I was recently given the chance to try a 3-pack organic cotton yarn set from Appalachian Baby Design; I chose the "Woodland" color set of Silver, Doe and Natural to knit a modified version of the Hill and Holler Baby Cardigan.


It's been a while since I've knit with cotton yarn, mostly because some of the other brands I've tried have been stiff and really hard on my hands. I've found that the better quality of yarn, the easier it is to work with, and this yarn was nice and supple, as you would expect from an organically-produced yarn.

But that's not the only reason you can feel good about using this yarn: the folks at Appalachian Baby Designs work with small-scale U.S. sustainable family-owned cotton farms, sheep ranches and family-owned mills to produce each ball of yarn. They know the producer’s name and farm for each bale of cotton that they purchase, and the fibers are certified organic under the US Department of Agriculture National Organic program.

That's pretty impressive when you consider the fact that  organic cotton represents only 1% of the global cotton production, which means that conventionally-grown cotton is the norm. Unfortunately, conventionally-grown cotton  is extremely hard on the environment, employing tons of pesticides, herbicides, miticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. (You can learn more about their organic cotton here).

Getting back to my project, I wanted to knit a two-color baby sweater and decided to make the smallest size of the Hill and Holler Baby Cardigan. I ended up using up every bit of the main color of yarn (Natural), making just a few modifications along the way such as using the contrast color for the sleeve cuffs and shawl collar, and shortening the sleeves a bit overall. I think the resulting sweater is adorable, and the short sleeves kind of work (babies do have short, chubby arms after all!). I was also pretty thrilled to find the perfect buttons in my stash to put the finishing touch on this project.


I didn't have a chance to wash the sweater just yet, but I love the fact that this yarn is both machine washable and dryable - and I am sure that whomever I gift this to will feel the same way!

Click here to check out the Appalachian Baby Designs Site - they also have some adorable project kits and other fun patterns for these extra-special yarns!

You may like to know: I was provided free product in exchange for this blog post. All opinions & ideas are my own!