Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Finished Sweater Alert: Comfort Fade Cardi

I'm so excited to share my finished Comfort Fade Cardi this week! I this projectstarted way back in March, and I'm honestly not sure which took longer - my stay on sleeve island, knitting the shawl collar, or weaving in the ends. All of them seemed to take a really long time, but I can finally call this project done and I absolutely LOVE it!

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I used Lhasa Wilderness yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch, which is a blend of 75% yak down and 25% bamboo. It's silky-soft, and other projects I have knit with this yarn have yet to pill. The bamboo fibers are really breathable, so it's both lightweight and cool to wear in warmer temperatures, but when it gets colder you are still nice and warm thanks to the yak down, which is super-insulating. It's the best of both worlds!

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If I could knit this sweater over again, I think I would have added a few more stitches to the sleeves. Mine are a bit snug, and while I wouldn't describe them as being too small, I find I prefer a half-inch or even an inch of ease these days. Hopefully they will stretch out a bit with wear. All but one of the colors are OOAK test dyes, but you can see their current palette of hand-dyed options here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Off The Needles: Canyon Steps Cowl

Last week, the Canyon Steps Cowl KAL came to an end, and I just barely finished my project in time!

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This is my second time knitting this pattern because it's my own design for Bijou Basin Ranch, and the first one I made is now a display piece in their booth! This time around, I chose the Aasgard colorway from their collection of Valkyrie-inspired colorways (or Thor, if you'd rather!) that are dye on Gobi fingering yarn. Baby camel and silk is soooo divine (how could it not be?!), and I love the way the hand-dyed colors shimmer on this blend.

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The variegated color kind of hides the stitch pattern, but it's so darn pretty that I don't mind if the pattern gets a bit upstaged by the yarn color. It was still fun to knit and I'm super excited to keep this one for myself! Even though the KAL is over, you can still get project kits here if you are so inclined. I'd love to see your project if you do, so make sure to share it on Instagram with the #bijoubasinranch hashtag!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tour De Fleece Recap: Crawling Across The Finish Line

In previous years, I have dutifully spun every day of the Tour de Fleece - even on rest days, even when traveling. There is something programmed deep within me that makes me want to check all those boxes off of my list, even if there isn't an actual end goal or anything at stake. I just have to do it because I can (and, you know, it's fun)!

This year was a little different. I started out strong, spinning every day for the first two weeks...and then on Saturday the 21st, things just ground to a halt! I spent all day working on this blog tutorial, and planned to spin in the evening but then my husband texted to say that a customer gave him free tickets to Pitchfork that night...so I met up with him to see The War on Drugs play their set, have a few beers, and be reminded of why I never leave the house (actually, it was fun, but people, y'know?).

I also had some swatches for new designs that needed to be finished by the end of last weekend, so that comprised all of my Sunday, and by Monday I was fighting the recurring hand/arm issues I get from overuse, so...no spinning. It wasn't til Thursday of last week til I dared to sit back down at my wheel for a bit of spinning.

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All that to say that I spent the first week spinning the top two projects to completion, and the remainder of the event struggling to finish both of the bobbins spun from the most luscious moorit shetland fiber that I bought last fall at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool festival (I can't wait to ply it!).

It was actually a bit freeing to let myself not do something 100%, is that weird?!

Speaking of not doing things, I have decided not to reprise my role as the Captain for Team Louet for Spinzilla this year. I loved our team of awesome spinners over the years, Dave at Louet was a fabulous, generous host, and winning it all two years in a row was extremely gratifying.

However, it has always been a struggle to find time to participate, especially since I physically can't spin for very long without hurting myself. Also, October is typically a very busy month for me in terms of workload, so I always felt guilty that I wasn't a bigger help to the team (also, I was never able to crack 4,000 yards, which was kind of frustrating). It seems silly to feel stressed about an event that was supposed to be fun, but I have definitely felt that way in recent years.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that last year's event was under the new management at TNNA, rather than the original organizers of the event. This was painfully obvious to me and countless other spinners (just check out this Ravelry thread - yikes), as there was a lot of disorganization (and perhaps even some all-out mismanagement) that really left a bad taste in my mouth. I had many team members privately tell me that they would not be returning in 2018 for a variety of reasons (not all related to the afore-mentioned issues with last year's event), and I had already been pondering the same thing. Supposedly a new team is in charge of the event this year, and I wish them well - but I think I'll be sitting this one out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Christmas in July: DIY Needle Felted Ornaments with Kraemer Mauch Roving

A few years ago, I spotted some cute needle felted ornaments on Pinterest that were made using cookie cutters to create the shapes. How clever is that?! Ever since, I have been thinking about giving it a try myself, and finally decided to take a stab at it for my Christmas in July theme. Pun very much intended - please feel free to roll your eyes accordingly!

It had been so long since I last attempted a needle felting project that I couldn't find any of my supplies, so I ended up buying this affordable little kit on Amazon that has everything I need and then some! Then I dug out my cookie cutter collection (make sure they are the kind that are open on the top and bottom) and grabbed some wool roving from Kraemer Yarns for an afternoon of stabby fun.

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First, if you are new to needle felting, here are the basics: you are using a special kind of needle that has bumps on it to repeatedly stab the wool fiber, causing the scales on the wool fibers to begin fusing together. So, it's important that you are not using any wool fiber labeled superwash, as those scales will have been removed to prevent felting! You can use other types of fiber so long as they have felting properties, but typically wool fibers are used for needle felting projects. The needles are super duper sharp, so make sure that you are careful and you may even want to verify that you're up-to-date on your Tetanus shots. The kit I purchased includes some finger protectors that are a little awkward to use, but definitely worth trying out.

I chose Mauch Chunky Roving for this project because I'd heard that this fiber was great for felting projects. Another plus is that it's made from 100% US-grown wool that is processed at their mill in Nazareth, PA and comes in a huge palette of colors - 56 in all! Here are the ornaments I made one rainy Saturday afternoon; the star is made with Strawberry Mauch Roving and the tree is made with Vibrant Green Mauch roving, both from Kraemer Yarns:

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To make the ornaments, I started by placing a small amount of fiber inside of a cookie cutter placed on top of the felting surface. Chaos is encouraged here, by which I mean you should lay the fibers down in various directions to aid the felting process. If the fibers are placed in an orderly fashion going in the same direction, you'll spend way more time and energy felting them.

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Now for the fun part: start stabbing! I like to start with the outline of the shape and work my way inwards, but there really is no WRONG way to stab fiber repeatedly. Needle felting is fun, easy and therapeutic that way!

Make sure that you frequently flip the fiber you are felting over so that it doesn't get stuck to the felting surface. The nice thing about using this type of cookie cutter is that you just have to flip the whole kit & caboodle over, then push the fiber down to lay flush with the surface before you start stabbing once more. You can also add more bits of fiber as you see fit to make sure that the felted piece is nice and even.

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Then keep stabbing....and stabbing....and stabbing some more.

At some point, you might think you are close to done, and you will remove the felt shape to most likely discover that YOU ARE NOT!

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Place it back in the cookie cutter and start stabbing some more. You'll get there soon!

You'll know you're done when it becomes difficult to pierce the felt with your needle. Once that happens, remove it and use a darning needle to run some scrap yarn or thin twine through the top as a hanger. You may wish to trim any "fuzzy" edges to give a more crisp appearance, and you can even embellish the piece with beads, sequins or smaller bits of wool if you're feeling fancy.

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


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Christmas in July: Knit & Crochet Ornament Pattern Round-Up

Knitting or crocheting ornaments is a fun way to use up leftover yarn while adding a handmade touch to your holiday decorations. They also make great gifts and look adorable on top of a prettily wrapped package in place of a bow.

Here are some of my favorite knit and crochet patterns I've used over the years, plus a few new ones to try out!

Images via sources below.

Knitted Ornaments

Top Left: Holiday Cheer Ornaments (free) by Kate Gagnon Osborn - these fun ornaments are designed for fingering weight yarn, perfect for mini skeins!

Top Right: Knit Candy Cane Ornament (free) by Heidi Gustad - you can't have Christmas without candy canes!!

Middle: Snowball Buddies ($6) by Susan Claudino - a few years ago, I made several of these and they were so darn cute! Most of them were given away as gifts, so I might dig out this pattern and knit a few more for 2018.

Bottom: Mochimochi Snowmen and Teeny Tiny Santas ($3) by Anna Hrachovec - I've always been a fan of Mochimochiland patterns, and these tiny toys make great ornaments if you just add a little hanger at the top! Somehow I missed the Teeny Tiny Nutcrackers ($5) pattern from a few years back, so those have been added to my queue for this year! 

Crocheted Ornaments

Top: Crochet Bell and Crochet Christmas Tree (both free) by Heidi Gustad - these are in my queue for this year, I am particularly excited to find my seed bead stash to use up for the Christmas trees!

Middle: Christmas Bauble (free) by Carmen Heffernan - this pattern is also in my queue, I might try to adapt it for using with some styrofoam balls that I have in my craft stash.

Bottom: Grandma Trees and Grandma Twinkle (both free) by Michelle Kludas - both of these patterns are super easy for beginning crocheters, and totally addictive to make!


In search of more ornament pattern inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board here for all kind of fun crafts to make your tree merry!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Easy DIY: Beaded Vintage Snowflake Ornament Kits from Solid Oak Inc.

I was really excited to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new as part of my "Christmas in July" theme this month. The kind folks at Solid Oak Inc offered me a chance to review one of their Nostalgic Christmas beaded crystal ornament kits I couldn't resist. My tree is already full of ornaments I've inherited or been gifted from other family members and friends,  so these pretty crystal beaded ornaments will fit right in I think!

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I was super impressed with this compact little kit, which includes everything needed to create three gorgeous vintage-style ornaments - just add a pair of round nose pliers (I found mine on Amazon for less than ten bucks). 

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The instructions had some fabulous tips for newbies like me; for example, it recommended sorting the beads and laying them out in order on a towel or beading mat to prevent them from rolling away. That may seem obvious, but I was totally ready to start beading on my kitchen table without a second thought of WHAT IF THEY ROLLED AWAY. 

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What a relief to avoid a beading mishap right out of the gate! Also worthy of note, they do include extras of each bead type, which came in handy because I ended up dropping a few even with the towel in place, and I also managed to crush part of a crystal bead when I got a bit overzealous with a metal loop (more on that in a sec).

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It was extremely easy to follow the step by step instructions to make each ornament. The only thing I was worried about creating the loop at the end, as the instructions noted that it will take "some hand strength" to do so. If you know me even a little, you know that I am not known for hand or upper arm strength, but the good news is that I found a way to create the loops, even if they don't look exactly like the picture (if I can do it, so can you!). 

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My hand was a teensy bit sore after the session was over, so I would probably invest in nicer pliers with a more cushiony handle if I were to make more kits (and I would definitely like to!).

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Best of all, it took me a sum total of 1 hour from start to finish to make all 3 ornaments, and that was even with taking lots of notes and photos for this blog post! To be perfectly honest, when I sat down to make this kit, I planned to just do one and then save the others for another day....but it was just so fun that I couldn't stop!

I was beyond impressed with the quality of this kit, and could totally see myself making more ornaments to give as gifts - each kit retails for just $9.99, making it an affordable stocking stuffer, secret Santa, or guild gift. Solid Oak has a lot of other interesting kits, charms, and jewelry making supplies available here in their online store, and lots of fun tutorial ideas here on their blog.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sneak Peek: Christmas in July!

Happy Fourth of July! Since it's a holiday here in the states, I'll make today's entry short and sweet: for the entire month of July, I will be sharing some fun holiday craft projects that ANYONE can do (seriously!). They will be fun, easy, and affordable ways to make holiday decor for yourself or to give as gifts. Here's a little sneak peek:

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Don't worry, there will also be some fiber-related projects, although I have to say that working with beads was incredibly fun, I might have a new obsession!

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