Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Purlbreak Shawl in Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering Yarn

I've been working on this project since the middle of November, and it feels good to finally have it off the needles: presenting my finished Purlbreak shawl!

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Obviously, I'm thrilled to have this off the needles.
I knit this project with 3 skeins of yarn that I was sent for review: Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering, a blend of 90% superfine/superwash merino and 10% nylon which is milled in Italy and hand-dyed in Canada (I love knowing where my yarn comes from!). This is a super-squishy yarn that feels soft to the touch, but has enough twist to it that it's not splitty, and I doubt it will pill much with time. It withstood ripping back to fix mistakes and dropped stitches, as well as plenty of abuse from being stuffed in my bag for knitting at the tap room.

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Hello, lovelies!

It was a total delight to work with, and choosing 3 coordinating colors was super-easy because of how they are grouped as part of the Magic Dye Pot Series: each group has a letter (A through F) and then the colors within that group have a number (1-6). For example, A goes as follows: A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, & A6 - that means that all of these colors are meant to go with each other. I chose 2 (dark blue/black), 4 (medium green/brown variegated) and 6 (light speckles) from the A-series.

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The requisite "action" shot.
Unintentionally, I ended up with a finished shawl that looks fairly similarly to what's pictured in the pattern, despite the fact that the pattern is written for a main color (A), and then 3 contrast colors (a light, a medium and a dark - all referred to as B in the pattern). Here is how I modified it to be knitted using just 3 colors/skeins of yarn total:

Section 1 - No changes, used darkest color for A and light speckle for B.
Section 2 - Stripes: Worked 20 repeats of Rows 3-6, then 1 repeat of Rows 3 & 4 using darkest color for A throughout and light speckle for color B for the first 12 contrast stripes, then switched to medium variegated for color B to finish out the repeats.
Section 3 - Worked Rows 1-4 three times with medium variegated for color B, then alternated light speckle and medium variegated every two rows for two repeats of Rows 1-4, and finished with 3 repeats of Rows 104 with light speckle.
Bind off per instructions (the pattern doesn't provide stitch counts at this point, but I counted 667 stitches before working the bind off).

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Check out that wingspan!
With hand-dyed yarns, it's always a gamble pairing very dark colors with very light skeins, and that mostly-undyed white speckle was particularly at risk for having its neighboring colors bleed into it while wet blocking. I'm pleased to report that none of the colors ran after a cold soak, as you can see by the crystal-clear water once the shawl was removed:

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I am extremely impressed with the quality of the yarn plus beautiful colors, all wrapped up in a superwash yarn - I would definitely reach for this again!

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It's so easy to wear, too!
Pattern: Purlbreak by Stephen West
Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering (Yardage: 400 yards/per 100g skein; 90% Superwash Superfine Merino, 10% Nylon).

You may like to know: I was gifted 3 skeins of yarn in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Survey Says...

Way back at the start of the year, I announced a few changes to the blog, notably that I'll only be posting once per week on Wednesdays. I also shared a link to a survey so that I could work on writing posts that are of more interest to my readers, and I have finally had a chance to sift through the results!

2018 Reader Survey Results

First, thank you to the 36 kind people who took the time to respond to my survey. I got a lot of great answers, and hope to address as many of your questions and suggestions as I can in the year to come (Also, I sent a little thank-you gift to everyone who participated, so be sure to check your inbox today!).

As far as blog post topics go, it looks like I'll be mixing in more tutorials and free patterns with my finished project posts, as they were the top 3 most voted-for topics:

Type of Posts

I'm not statistician, but it seems like there was a fairly even distribution of answers, so I'll definitely be mixing in other themes and topics whenever I'm able. I did get two write-in answers for this question; one which was very flattering and said they wanted to see more of everything because they love my blog (full disclosure - this was from a knitting friend of mine), and another suggestion which intrigues me greatly: Not only tutorials but maybe work arounds--a different stitch or something for the truly terrifying stitches....like short rows with no holes!

I'm definitely keeping that one in mind as I start to plan out more posts. Thank you for the suggestion!

Knitting won hands-down when I asked what craft people wanted to see more of this year. I suppose that makes sense, since I started as a knitter writing about my projects, and then started exploring more crafts as the years went on. What's interesting to me is that all of the other crafts I listed have about the same number of votes, so I'm going to interpret that to mean that I should more or less keep doing what I'm doing, since knitting is still my main craft (at least, that's how I see it!).

2018crafts

The remaining questions were all set up to be open-ended, which I now realize was not the best choice since it meant I had to compile my own results and make my own fancy charts, rather than having Google do it for me. Live and learn! That's ok, I drank a strong pot of tea while I tallied things up, old school-style, and it ended up being kind of fun.

Here are the most-requested projects by type:
Projects(main)

As you can see, shawls were #1; Garments/Sweaters, Socks, and "All the things" were pretty much tied for second place. I did get some other notable write-ins for quick knits, one-skein projects, plus size cardigans, stuffed animals, holiday decor, and home decor. There was also an amusing typo requesting more "cows' - at least, I assume that was intended to be cowls. But just in case....

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You want it, you got it!
For those of you who voted for shawls, sweaters, or accessories, you are in luck, because that's pretty much what I plan to make this year. I may come up short in the sock knitting department, however, but it's not because I don't enjoy knitting socks. I would actually LOVE to knit more socks, but they hurt my hands too much, not matter what I try! I've been working on a pair since last fall and I am not even to the heels, I can only get a couple of rounds in before I have to put them back down and it's really quite depressing. Believe you me, if I find a magic bullet to make sock knitting pain-free, I'll be knitting a ton (and sharing my secret sauce for overcoming pain while knitting, of course). But I digress...

When asked what techniques or skills readers wanted to learn in 2018, there was a huge variation in responses, so I compiled this chart of anything that received 2 or more votes:

techniques

Brioche was a strong first place, so you can bet that I'll be working on some posts for those of you curious about this technique, both the single-color and 2-color variety! I've also been meaning to do more with colorwork, so I am glad to see that everyone's willing to come along on that ride.

There were many other interesting suggestions that are worthy of honorable mention, and I have added them on my list of blog topics. Included in that list is how to adjust patterns for fit, new stitches, phone apps for knitting and crafts, and some crochet topics (learning to crochet and crochet cables).

ToeUpSocks

There was one request for learning to knit toe-up socks, and as you have probably guessed by now, that is unlikely to happen given my hand issues along with the fact that I've tried it several times and have finally come to the conclusion that I dislike knitting toe-up socks. However, I hope that doesn't dissuade anyone since it really makes more sense, especially if you want to use up the entire skein of sock yarn.  I can, however, refer you to two excellent books which helped me knit several pairs of toe-up socks successfully - Socks from the Toe Up and Toe Up Socks for Everybody, both by Wendy D. Johnson.

I also received a request for "how to sleep soundly" which I assume was a joke, but just for grins I'm going to share what's been working for me since I've been sleeping abnormally well lately. I attribute most of this to my FitBit obsession - the visualizations of my sleep cycle are pretty fascinating, and compiling the data for how long I sleep (and how much time I am awake or restless) has helped me to pick up on patterns and realize that I only need between 7-8 hours of reasonably restful sleep to feel good. Strangely enough, this has also helped me worry less about whether or not I am getting enough sleep, since I can see for myself when I check the app. Other things that generally work for me: I have a fairly strict 4 PM cutoff for caffeinated beverages, reading before bed helps me shut off the part of my brain that wants to obsess about a million stupid things, and if I'm tossing a turning too much, the ability to move to a second location (our guest room) helps immensely in getting to sleep. When all else fails, I swear by Bach Rescue Remedy - I prefer the spray, but they have a lot of options depending on your preference.

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Have you tried counting sheep?

For the last question, I got a couple of interesting responses, including a few requests regarding formatting issues that I'll try to fix, but quite honestly I'm not sure if I have the technical chops (so if you are the person who has display issues in Netvibes, or the other person who wants to see my full post in your feed reader....I'll see what I can do!).

In summation: thank you for taking the time to fill out my survey and giving me some really great ideas for future posts that I don't think I would have come up with on my own. And if you're just finding this blog now, feel free to leave your suggestions/wish list for blog posts you'd like to see here in 2018 in the comments!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat Pattern

It's been hard keeping this one under wraps, but I'm pleased to announce that my newest hat pattern is now available at Bijoubasinranch.com. Say hello to A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat

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Project kits for this pattern are available here; choose your favorite colors of Himalayan Trail yarn to create a hat that is uniquely you!

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A simple slipped-stitch pattern creates a fun visual element to this slouchy hat that's interesting to knit. The stitch pattern is easy to memorize, making it great for knit nights or on-the-go knitting.


The pattern includes instructions for two variations of ribbing to start off your pattern - you can either knit the Corrugated Rib stitch as shown in the sample, or keep things simple with a stretchy K2, P2 rib. I also collaborated with the folks at Bijou Basin Ranch to share even more ideas for customizing your hat here on their blog.

If you can knit stripes, you can make this hat!

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Click here to get your project kit, and be sure to follow me on Instagram & share your project with the #bijoubasinranch hashtag!

UPDATE: There is a KAL happening now through March 31, 2018 here on Ravelry (click to find out how you can join in the fun and be entered in the grand prize drawing). 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Creativation 2018

Earlier this month, I flew to Phoenix for a new-to-me trade show called Creativation. It's similar to the TNNA trade shows I've attended in years past in that it's specific to the crafts industry, but the similarities pretty much stop there. Creativation is much wider in its scope to include painting, beading, paper craft, edible arts, as well as yarn craft (and I think I saw some felt/fiber craft for good measure, too!). For me, it was heaven, because I've done pretty much every craft at some point in my life, and it was interesting to see how they have evolved since then.

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Let's just say I hit my step goal every day at the show!

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Yup, a legit bus route!

The show floor is massive (enough to have its own bus route!!), and many of the booths were quite elaborate. It reminded me a lot of H+H Cologne in that regard, along with the cool gathering places and lounges throughout the show floor.

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Love this balloon display in the 3M booth.
 
Creativation 2018
The prize-winning Sizzix booth
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Don't you want to hang out here?
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Or here?
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Or here?? (You can paint rocks!!)

What struck me most was the amount of cross-pollination I saw - a knitted cake, cute alpaca and llama displays, and pom poms everywhere.

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Pom Poms in the Crate Paper Booth

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Also in the Crate Paper booth - they get me!

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Knitted Cake in the Satin Ice booth

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These were pretty cool, I wish I had written down the name of this booth (oops!)
Most of the yarn brands at the show were those you would see at a big-box craft retailer - Lion Brand, Red Heart, etc. - but there were some exhibitors such as Hoooked (who make recycled cotton and t-shirt yarns) and Zen Yarn Garden (a hand dyer you are probably quite familiar with!) who represented the indie niche of the yarn world.

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Lion Brand Booth

Creativation 2018
Zen Yarn Garden
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Amigurumi in the Hoooked booth

My company, Stitchcraft Marketing, had a booth where I was dispensing advice all weekend long:

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Sure, take the photo on the day you're too lazy to wash your hair....
I did manage to escape from time to time to explore the show floor to take in all of the interesting eye candy. I think a lot of knitters and crocheters are starting to explore other crafts (myself included) and I think it's something that the yarn industry should probably embrace, as one type of creativity fuels another, and yarn lovers have that DIY spirit - they just enjoy making stuff, and it's more fun to find a Pinterest tutorial than to head to the store and buy a new vase.

Plus, the craft supplies available now are SO much cooler than I remember them being! There are a ton of inks, paints, and varnishes that do the most amazing things (and I believe that I saw mess-free glitter in the Plaid Craft booth, if that's something you're into).

Creativation 2018
Glitter Unicorns in the Plaid Crafts booth
I also discovered a very cool product called The Holster that I doubt I would have found at any of the other craft shows I attend - it's a silicone container that you can attach anywhere, and I have a feeling I'll be buying a ton in the future because I love the sample I was given at the show (it's holding my scrub brush in the kitchen sink).

Creativation 2018
Make-and-takes, small projects you can do in a booth and then take home with you, are very popular at Creativation. My favorite day was on Sunday, when I happened upon the Llama party in the Fuji Film booth, which a coworker had spotted on Instagram prior to the show and alerted me to. Now my cute little llama is sitting on my desk and I just love him!

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Apparently this is called "assemblage," for anyone keeping track.

No matter what show I go to, apparently stuff is going to come home with me. I was trying really hard NOT to bring anything home, but there were several very nice people who insisted on gifting me samples and I just couldn't say no. I'm excited to try out the t-shirt yarn (most likely in some weaving projects!), and the washi tapes are already in use. I'll be saving the printed duct tape for shipping Christmas presents this year (so much more festive than regular packing tape!!) and as previously noted, the Holster is already in use. I may even dust off my apron and try my hand at some fancy cupcakes with the fondant sample from Satin Ice. 


Creativation 2018

I would love to return to this show, it was super fun and very inspiring. Although Creativation is closed to the public, they did announce a new show for this fall that anyone can attend called In The MKNG. If you live in the northeast, it might be worth checking out!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

So Faded Sweater

There's nothing like starting off the new year with a beautiful handknit sweater that actually fits you! I finished my So Faded sweater on New Year's Eve and couldn't stop myself from running outside to take triumphant FO photos, despite the frigid temperatures. I won't lie, it was cold, but at least I had a lovely new sweater to keep me warm!

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I was able to destash a few skeins of yarn that had been lurking in my stash, and I dyed two more skeins of fingering weight yarn (which had also been taking up real estate in my stash) to work into the fade. I started with a skein of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks Luxe Merino Fine, which I had been hoarding for years since KSD closed its doors. I can't remember the name of the colorway, but it's the grey yarn you see at the top, and I used up nearly every little bit.

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The next color was a skein of Kraemer Yarns Beth (a blend of alpaca, merino and silk) that I dyed for this project, followed by a skein of yarn I'd received from a swap, Anacostia Fingering from The Knitting Boutique in a colorway I believe may be called Shipyard. I finished with another yarn which I dyed specifically for this project: a skein of Louet Gems Fingering (a 100% superwash merino).

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The only modification I made to the pattern was omitting a the collar; I was going to do a few rounds of single crochet, but in the end, I decided I liked it as-is, so I'm calling it done!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018: Year of Sweater Knitting

I haven't made many (or any) resolutions for 2018, but there is something I want to do more of: sweater knitting....for ME! Last year, I was a lot choosier with my knitting projects due to a busier work schedule and the addition of several new crafts which reduced my amount of knitting time. Additionally, there are some projects that I simply can't knit (or have to knit slooooowly) thanks to ongoing issues with my hands and arms. I have a ton of hats and cowls and unfortunately socks are on "knit sparingly" list, it finally dawned on me that I should focus on making myself a wardrobe of sweaters that match my existing wardrobe of mostly black and grey clothes AND actually fit me.

The two sweaters I knit last year, the Rockling Cardigan and the So Faded Sweater (which I'll be sharing on a later post), made my realize how much I like to knit and wear the sweaters I make provided they actually fit me. And that is the hard part, because I have to do something a lot of us struggle with: accept my current body weight/shape and knit patterns which flatter it. That means that not every sweater pattern that I see and fall in love with will be one that I make, and I'm finally ok with that I've accepted that I can't knit a sweater for the size I wish I was or aspire to be. It also helps that I now have a better idea of what looks good on me, what my actual measurements are and how much ease I like (spoiler alert: quite a bit).

I got a head start by casting on for Sticks and Steel by Veera Välimäki with some skeins of Berroco Vintage Chunky that I originally purchased for an intricately cabled sweater that I could never get gauge on (also, let's face it - I don't have the brain space for something so complext these days). It's coming along well, I tried it on after taking off for the sleeves and I think it's going to be a perfect fit!

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Of course, I have many other sweaters in the queue that I am dying to make. I went a little crazy at the start of this year and purchased two sweater quantities from Webs with a gift certificate I got for Christmas; the first is 9 skeins of Malabrigo Twist in Black, which I intend to pair up with some skeins of Rios in Glazed Carrot to make From Another Place by Leah Coccari-Swift.

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I
also purchased 5 skeins of Brown Sheep Prairie Spun DK to join the half-skein I have remaining from the Maize Hat, and I'm planning to make the Cormac Sweater by Leah H. Thibault.

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I was gifted these tantalizing skeins of Bijou Basin Ranch Lhasa Wilderness in some OOAK (one-of-a-kind) hand-dyed colors and I am 99.9% sure that they are going to become a Comfort Fade Cardi by Drea Renee Knits:

ComfortFade

I've been hoarding four skeins of Knit Picks Diadem in Emerald; while that might not seem like sweater quantity, each skein has generous yardage and I have enough to make a Hitofude Cardigan by Hiroko Fukatsu in my size with about 10 yards to spare (I should probably get a safety skein, though, just in case....yarn chicken is never a good situation when knitting sweaters!!).

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I was also gifted this assortment of Harrisville Flywheel and have been thinking about knitting the Bethany Wrap by Amy Miller.

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Lastly, I had started what appears to be a children's sweater (but was actually supposed to be a sweater for me) with some Fibre Company Canopy Fingering. I'll probably frog this project and I'm not sure what sweater pattern I'll use for it, or if I will end up knitting a sweater with it since it really doesn't fit my color scheme these days. But here is the photo for posterity - if anything, it can be a reminder to avoid aspirational/delusional sweater knitting!

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I think a lot of knitters have decided to knit more sweaters this year, so I am looking forward to seeing what other people are making, too. I also came across a year-long Selfish Craft-along happening in The Corner of Knit and Tea Ravelry group which might be a good source of support and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Reader Survey

In 2018, you'll see some changes on this blog, and one of them is that I'll only be publishing 1 blog per week on average (the plan is to share a new post each Wednesday, if you're wondering - you can follow me on Bloglovin so you don't miss out!). I want to focus on quality, not quantity of posts, and I'm also hoping this new schedule will give me a little more time to craft each week.

I've never done a reader survey, but now seems like a good time to give it a try. Rather than guessing about the kinds of posts you find interesting and/or valuable, I created a quick little survey for you to take. I would be super grateful if you could take a few moments to fill it out!


I'll be sharing the results of the survey sometime next month, and of course you will see some of those results inform future posts. Also, since I won't be blogging as frequently, I'll be sharing more of what I'm working on over on Instagram - click here to follow me so you don't miss out!

Thanks again for taking my survey. Let's make 2018 the craftiest year yet!