Monday, September 30, 2013

Captain's Blog: One Week Til Spinzilla!

By now, if you're participating in next week's Spinzilla event, you already know what team you're on. Whether you're joining me on Team Louet or competing on any other the other many teams, here are some quick tips to help you get ready for a monster of a spinning week!

1. Clear those bobbins! If you're going to be spinning up your fiber stash, be sure to have plenty of empty bobbins to get the job done.

2. Perform routine maintenance. Check your spinning wheel's manual to make sure your wheel is in peak performing form. If you are using a Louet wheel, there is a handy online support center where you can troubleshoot various issues and download PDF versions of wheel manuals.

3. Wax on! Put the perfect finishing touch on your wheel with a nice coat of wheel wax to clean and condition the wood and any leather parts, too. I'm a fan of the wonderful-smelling herbal organic wax from Heavenly Spinning.

4. Take inventory of your fiber stash. Now is a great time to plan which fibers you'd like to spin up, how you'd like to ply them, and what weights or other techniques you'd like to use throughout the week. Again, this is a good time to take into account how many bobbins you'll have at your disposal so that you can maximize your spinning/plying time for maximum output!

5. Figure out your Method for Measuring Yarn. If you're new to spinning, you might not have a preferred method of measuring the yarns you spin. Here are a few suggestions from the Spinzilla FAQ:
My Spinzilla to-do list!
  • Wind onto a skien winder or swift where you know the circumference and count turns
  • Use a niddy noddy
  • Use a yardage counter
  • Using a McMorran yarn balance, or the new Yarn to Yards balance
  • If you don't want to take your yarn off your bobbins, weigh your bobbins before you spin, then weight them after and use a balance to calculate yardage.
If you are planning to ply your yarn during the course of the event, remember that you'll need to submit your yardage in singles. We recommend measuring your plied yarn, then multiplying the yardage by the number of plies (chain ply counts as 3-ply).

We'll begin spinning at midnight EST on Monday, October 7. For more details on how to submit your finished yarn and yardage, check out the Spinzilla FAQ or the Spinzilla Ravelry group.  

Happy spinning!

Friday, September 27, 2013

FO & Fiber Friday: Handspun Hats & Hand-Dyed Fiber!

Before I left on my surprise trip to Kansas City last weekend, I whipped up a few quick hats with my handspun yarn. The bin is overflowing, and with Spinzilla just over a week away, I've got to make some room for all of the new yarns I'll be spinning during the event!

The darker hat is some pretty merino fiber I purchased at The Yarn Barn of Kansas and spun into a bulky weight 2-ply; it's a charcoal grey with bright pops of fiber combed throughout. I didn't use a pattern, but just cast on some stitches to knit a ribbed border, then worked in stockinette the rest of the way.

The brown hat is a 2-ply spun from some natural brown BFL and a hand-dyed BFL roving I purchased at the Renegade Craft Fair a few years ago. I used the Svalbard hat pattern from Kelbourne Woolens, which lent itself to handspun surprisingly well!

While I was in Kansas City last weekend, I dropped by one of my favorite area yarn stores, The Studio. There wasn't anything I needed in particular, but it's always fun to visit. I ended up purchasing this braid of locally-dyed roving from Jwrayco; it's a Columbia/Rambouillet cross, which sounded pretty interesting to me! I'm pretty sure this will be in the Spinzilla spinning queue.
Finally, I have some exciting news on the Shalloboi/Field of Flowers 7" Single Series front: our next single in the series arrived earlier this week! This was originally supposed to be the first single, but some stuff happened (i.e. the original pressing plant decided to take our deposit and not produce the single, something they did to a ton of bands before someone finally posted a PSA around the interwebs that they had closed up shop and we no longer pressing records, all the while accepting deposits).
We'd already started production on the second single (which ended up being released first...could this be more confusing?!) with a different plant that we ended up liking, so decided to give the cursed first single another go with them. Thankfully, we had better luck this time! They were running a randomly-colored vinyl special, so each single is completely unique - some are blue, some are green, some are an army green/brown color, and some are swirled versions of these colors. They're quite pretty! Tyler had already hand-silkscreened the covers in anticipation of their arrival, so they are ready to go and already listed for sale on our website. You can also listen to when you visit our site, if that's the kind of thing you're into.

Thanks for stopping by this week - for more FO Friday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis blog!

Have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Secrets & Sweaters

Last night I got back home to Chicago after spending the weekend in Kansas City. I'd found a last-minute Megabus fare and surprised my mom for her birthday, which was on Monday of this week. The trip was about 10 hours each way, and I'm sure you can take a wild guess as to how I spent most of that time! I packed one WIP and yarn/patterns for two other projects; I returned home with two FO's and one brand-new WIP! 

I can't give out too many details of this current WIP since it's a holiday gift, but I don't have anything else to share this week, so here goes: this mystery project is being knit with some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Satsuma....and that is pretty much all I can say on the subject. 

Starting next week, I will happen to have a shareable WIP, since I'll be casting on for the 30-Day Sweater Challenge KAL beginning on October 1. I hope you'll join me, because it will be a really fun event that will involve a TON of great prizes, not to mention the fact that you'll have an awesome and wearable sweater at the end of it! If you click here to download the free sweater-planning guide, you'll get everything you need to plan your sweater from start to finish, from choosing your yarn to gauging, taking measurements, and more.  It also includes some handy tips for successful sweater-making from folks in the industry....including yours truly!
Hey, that's me!

Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, September 23, 2013

See It Swatched #1: Anzula Cloud

Welcome to the first installment to what I hope is a regular feature here on this blog - See it Swatched. My goal is to try out new yarns (and sometimes revisit old favorites), sharing my thoughts and feedback as well as showing what each yarn looks knitted, crocheted, and woven; since I'm not a weaver, I'll be using my Schacht Zoom Loom for the woven swatch. I admit that I am not a very enthusiastic swatcher, so I thought that this would be a good way for me to make friends with the swatching process and maybe even learn a few things along the way. I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for this new feature so that I can refine the concept for future posts! 

Anzula Cloud

A few years ago, a friend gifted me a skein of Anzula Cloud. It was beautiful in the skein, but that was nothing compared to the experience of knitting with it, much less wearing the finished garment! I ended up using it for the second Stephen West Mystery KAL, Rockefeller. I paired it with some Malabrigo Sock that I had in my stash, which proved to be a winning combination. The resulting shawl is incredibly soft, yet it hasn't pilled despite being one of my go-to shawls. I was impressed at the crisp stitch definition for the colorwork and eyelets. Talk about a team player - this yarn plays well with others. 

Fast-forward to the June TNNA show this year, where I found myself gushing in the Anzula booth as I squished many a yarn skein. They kindly allowed me to take a skein home, and after much debate, I chose a skein of Cloud in Seaside. I didn't yet know that I would be using it to make several swatches in addition to the design I'll be making, but either way, I don't have to worry much about running out of yarn - each skein boasts a whopping 575 yards. 
I started by casting on for a knit swatch using some US#1 Karbonz fixed circular needles. After working in stockinette for a bit, I began to get bored and decided to pull out a stitch dictionary to spice things up. There was a lotus blossom lace pattern I've been eyeing from The Stitch Collection that was absolutely begging to be knit in Cloud. Again, don't let the softness of the skein fool you: your lace project will look stunning in this yarn. Even as I was knitting it, I had to stop to admire the lovely stitch definition - and then I blocked it and was even more in love!
Next, I decided to try my hand at a crochet swatch. I'm still pretty new to the world of crocheting, and since re-learning via a Craftsy class, I've mostly used my skills to make amigurumi critters and little else. It's been years since I've attempted a granny square, though that is how I originally learned to crochet (never mind the fact that I promptly forgot!). I happened to be leafing through one of my vintage crochet pattern booklets and saw a granny square diagram that I thought I could handle and grabbed a size G aluminum crochet hook. I was a little worried that this would be way too big since the yarn is so fine, but it ended up being absolutely perfect. 

I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed crocheting with this yarn - and again, the stitches all looked so well-defined, only to be helped along by a nice blocking in Eucalan. I haven't published any crochet designs (yet), but I may have to do so soon - with such excellent yardage, Cloud is the perfect choice for crocheters who would like to add a little luxury to their routine. 
Finally, I broke out my Zoom Loom to whip up a quick woven sample. Since the other two swatches showed hints of subtle color variation, I thought for sure this would be the case for the woven swatch, but Cloud surprised me yet again: the color variations appear to blend in to create a nearly uniform-colored woven swatch. If I look closely enough, I can begin to see hints of variances, but the overall effect is surprisingly consistent. Of course, a small 4" woven square will behave much differently that a larger woven piece, but I still think it's an interesting phenomenon, especially alongside its knit and crochet cohorts. 

The Stats:

Fiber Content: 80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon
Yardage: 575 yards
Weight:  Light Fingering/3-ply
Recommended Needle Size: US#1-US#4

Click here to visit the Anzula Yarn website

Friday, September 20, 2013

FO & Fiber Friday

Hooray, the Mountain Moss shawl is finally done - happy FO Friday indeed! Yesterday I removed all of the pins and wove in the ends; after a rainy start to the day, the sun came out and I was able to get a few shots of my pretty new shawl. I love it!
Pattern: Mountain Moss Shawl by Beth Kling from the Summer 2013 issue of Pom Pom Quarterly
Yarn: The Wool Dispensary Deadly Restorative in Vortex
Shawl Pin: Knitter's Pride Exotica Series - "Dittany" style
Needles: Knitter's Pride Karbonz Interchangeables

I've got more handspun goodness to share today, but this time it's a double whammy: hand-dyed skeins of handspun yarn!
Last weekend, my pal Lauren and I embarked on some natural dyeing adventures using some sumac and marigolds Lauren had collected for the purposes of our experiments. I had some navajo plied Finn skeins and a couple of 2-ply Polwarth skeins ready to dye. First, I soaked them in water to prepare for their mordant bath. After mordanting on Saturday, we spent Sunday dyeing them in pots on my back porch. On Monday morning, we removed them from the dye and hung them to dry!
I may overdye one of the lighter Polwarth skeins with some coffee, but on the whole, I am very pleased with how they turned out!

Also, don't forget to check out the Craftsy September Sale for up to 75% off of online classes, yarn, fabric, and other awesome crafting supplies. You can see some of my top picks here and here, or click here to explore on your own.

Thanks for stopping by this week - for more FO Friday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis blog!

Have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WIP Wednesday

Happy WIP Wednesday! I had quite the productive weekend - first, I finished the front piece for my Emmanuelle sweater. It's now blocking on my massage table in the craft room, though I probably won't get a chance to sit down and seam until next week.
I also finished the Mountain Moss Shawl from Pom Pom Quarterly - it's just about dry, so I'm hoping to get a few photos snapped in time for FO Friday! 
Don't you love my lace-blocking setup? I actually do have blocking mats, but I kind of prefer the CB2 box for some reason. 

Finally, I decided to bust out the Nova Cubics interchangeable tips to knit a few handspun hats - if I'm going to be spinning a bunch of yarn during Spinzilla, I'd better make some room in my overflowing handspun bin! Here's the hat I currently have in progress - the yarn is some merino I spun up earlier this year; it's a very dark grey with little bits of color here and there. I bought the fiber several years ago at The Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS.
Speaking of Spinzilla, we've just introduced some really awesome new prizes which members of Team Louet will be eligible for, including a Fiber Prize pack valued at $400! Click here to read all about it on the Louet blog. I look forward to spinning with you next month! 

Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Using Hand-Dyed Yarns

In today's post, I'll be talking about how to successfully knit (or crochet!) with hand-dyed and variegated yarns! 

Each skein of hand-dyed yarn is unique and often has subtle variations that might not be evident in the skein til you begin to knit with it. Shaded solids are often the easiest to manage when knitting a larger project, while variegated yarns behave differently depending on the dye process. 
A selection of hand-dyed yarns.
A general rule of thumb for hand-dyed yarns is to alternate skeins of yarn every couple of rows to minimize differences within the dye lot. Yes, I know it sounds fussy, but trust me - it works and it's worth the extra effort! Alternating skeins tricks the eye to blend the colors of each row, which makes it the knitted piece appear more uniform. Not only is this a handy trick when knitting with skeins from the same dye lot, it also works if you are knitting with skeins from different dye lots! Don't believe me? Let's see some examples to illustrate these points.

First, we have a hat that was knit with two different dye lots of the same color of yarn. At the time, I didn't even notice because they looked the same side-by-side in the skein. In fact, the subtle difference wasn't evident until I washed and blocked the hat - suddenly, a noticeable color change was evident, you can tell that the top of the hat is ever-so-slightly lighter than the bottom of the hat.
In this next exampleI used 3 unmatched dye lots of Sincere Sheep Tenacious sock, alternating skeins every couple of rows. Would you know that to look at it? No way, thanks to the magic of alternating skeins! 
Here's another sweater I knit using two different dye lots of Malabrigo Rios. Instead of alternating dye lots every couple of rows, I decided to try a "cheat": I would knit with a single skein of yarn til I was down to the last 50 or so yards, then I would introduce the second dye lot yarn into the mix by alternating rows til the first skein ran out. Again, can you spot the differences in the dye lots in the finished garment? Nope! 
In this third example, I was knitting a striped sweater using some stash yarn when I ran out of one of the colors. Naturally, the colorway I needed was tough to track down - after numerous google searches, I finally found one skein for sale in a fellow Raveler's stash. When it arrived, it was wildly different from what I'd been using, and I debated for a bit on whether or not I should rip back and alternate skeins or simply make the dye lot difference a "design feature." In the end, design feature won out. From far away, it isn't noticeable, but up close, you can definitely see the difference in shades! 
It's important to note that, even  within the dye lot, hand-dyed yarns can vary quite a bit. To illustrate the point, here are the two skeins of yarn I'll be using for my sweater in October; I dyed them back when I worked at Lorna's Laces, so I know that they were in the exact same dye bath and even cooked in the same pot...yet notice that one skein is definitely darker than the other (no, it's not a trick of the light!). Obviously, I'll be alternating skeins throughout my sweater! 
Finally, let's take a moment to consider variegated yarns. As I mentioned earlier, some variegated yarns are dyed in such a way to minimize pooling (you can see examples of pooling here - the good, bad, and the unfortunate). Other skeins of yarn have more regularly-repeated colors and often result in a pattern emerging - again, you might want to visit the link in the previous paragraph for more examples or click here to join the Pooled Knits group on Ravelry. 
Pooling examples: Looks fine for socks, but I'm not so sure
I'd like this in a sweater!
Recently there was a fantastic article in Twist Collective talking about how to use these repeating colors to achieve some pretty stunning patterns on purpose. For many projects, planned pooling can be a fun way to use include several colors in your projects without having a lot of ends to weave in at the end, but for an adult-sized sweater, the end result might be a little too busy (though, of course, it's all a matter of taste!) While many colorways look gorgeous in the skein, but it's important to realize that they aren't suited to all projects. 

Using hand-dyed yarns can make your next project extra-special, whether you're knitting a sweater, socks, or anything in between. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Craftsy September Sale!

It's been a while since I shared my latest Craftsy crush - regrettably, I've been too busy to sit down and watch any of the 10+ fabulous classes for which I'm registered. It's nice to know, however, that they're there for whenever I do have time: I have lifetime, unlimited access and can watch from any device with an internet connection. 
Craftsy is kicking off a weeklong Saleabration today, offering up to 75% off online classes, fabric and yarn! Woo hoo! 
If you're wondering what classes to sign up for, you can click here to read some of my Craftsy Class Reviews. There are so many interesting classes (and yarns!) on sale, that I'll be sharing a few of my latest Craftsy crushes throughout the week!

Today's theme is skillbuilding classes for knitters of all persuasions!


These are just a few classes that have caught my eye, click here to view all sale classes - 41 knitting classes are on sale this week!


It's a great time to stock your stash for holiday gift-making - below are just a few of my favorites, click here to view all sale yarns

Friday, September 13, 2013

FO Friday: Handspun Edition

It's pretty tough to resist a big bag of newly-purchased fibers, but I made myself finish the project I'd been working on in preparation for Spinzilla (clearing out leftover singles from bobbins) before allowing myself to start a new spinning project. I had various odds and sods which became four mini skeinlets, all of which I'm sure will make cute little critters at some point:
I spent a very lovely Sunday afternoon spinning on my back porch with Lauren, each of us using one of the fibers we'd purchased the day before in Wisconsin. I spun these three singles from the Sunrise and Salsa Falkland roving I'd purchased at the Hearthside Fibers Booth. The fiber was delightful to spin, very easy and lofty and I loved how the colors spun up in a single.
On Tuesday night, I plied them together:
Now I just have to find the perfect project for my pretty new yarn!

Thanks for stopping by this week - for more FO Friday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis blog

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Present & Future

I finally have an exciting update on my Emmanuelle Sweater: I've started the Chevrons on the front piece! Woo hoo!
So far, so good; I'm hoping the other colors I have planned will play well with everything else. With any luck, I can get this final piece knitted by the end of next week, which means I am on track for finishing this by the end of the month (I hope I didn't just jinx myself there). This would mean that it'll be one of the fastest adult-sized sweaters I've knit to date.

I've also made some major progress on the Mountain Moss lace edging and it should be finished by the end of this coming weekend, too - which means I can start something new! I still have plenty of gift projects to knock out between now and December, so I'll be less stressed once I can finish this 'selfish' project and get back to gift knitting/crocheting.
Of course, life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches into the best-laid plans, doesn't it? First, I'll be participating in the Yarn Nation 30-Day Sweater Challenge during the month of October (more on that next week). It's not an ideal month to knit another sweater for myself from start to finish, but I just couldn't pass it up!

Secondly, I'll be leading a Sock Knit-A-Long with the Baah Yarn Knitters group, also during the month of October. You can click here to join in the fun - I'll be knitting my newly-updated Scallop Rib Sock pattern with Baah La Jolla in California Poppy; all are welcome to join, whether you use Baah yarn or not (but it really will look prettier in Baah)!

Thirdly, I received the news yesterday that my grandfather in Kansas City has pancreatic cancer. When he was given the news, his response to the doctor was this: "Well, it's been a good run." That's actually not a surprising reaction for those who know him (and it's kind of funny, too). However, I know it was a huge blow to my mother (his daughter), as it was to his other children, us grandchildren - and, most importantly, it will be a huge shock to my grandmother (his wife). Since I am the closest of the relatives who haven't remained in Kansas City, I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot more time there in the months to come.

Sorry for ending on a sad note! On the positive side, it's times like these that I am extra thankful I have crafty things to keep my hands busy.

Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival + Spinzilla Update

On Saturday, I headed up to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival with my pal Lauren and my husband Tyler (who was our official photographer - you can see all of his photos here!). This is my second time attending, and it's always worth the drive up north.

It was fairly hot for most of the day, but that didn't seem to deter anyone.
There was a pretty good crowd on Saturday!
There was plenty of temptation - so much wool to squish!
I'm in heaven!
Amazingly, enough, I managed to only come home with spinning fiber. With SOAR next month and VK Live in November, I've got to pace myself!

I think I did a pretty good job. My first purchase was 8 oz. of undyed Organic Polwarth from Gale's Art (click here to view her Etsy shop) which I might try dyeing as roving before I spin it up:

After surveying both vendor buildings, I decided to head back to the Hearthside Fibers booth (click here to view their Etsy shop), which had some lovely breed-specific yarns and fibers - but what really caught my eye was the show special for 10% off 3 or more braids of dyed roving! I purchased three Falkland braids, the first two which I'll be plying together.
Left: Salsa
Right: Sunrise
This third braid will ply nicely with a tonal blue braid of Falkland roving I'd purchased from an etsy dyer called Pumpkinhaus a few years ago:
Outside braid: Hearthside Falkland roving in Ghost Story;
inside braid: Pumpkinhouse Falkland roving in Cloudy Night.

Of course, we were mainly there for the sheep. Oh, the sheep! We visited the pens of the sheep who were being shown...

The Hall of Breeds.....

The newborn lambs...

And, finally, we watched the sheep shearing demonstration, which I'd missed the previous year. I'm so glad I made a point to check it out, because it was really fantastic and informative!

You can view more of Tyler's photo from the sheep shearing demonstration here.

We also had to make a stop to pick up some tasty New Glarus beer - no trip to Wisconsin would be complete without a beer run!

Spinzilla Update

We're still recruiting for Team Louet! Based on feedback we've received, we've made to a few changes to our team requirements: there are none! Other than knowing how to spin, which is pretty much the only thing that is an absolute must, we're opening the doors to anyone who wants to join Team Louet. Don't have a Louet spindle or wheel? Don't have any Louet fibers in your stash? Not a problem - use what you have and you might even win some fiber along the way!

We'll be randomly selecting one lucky team member to win a half pound of carded alpaca later this month. 

Again, registration is $10 and all proceeds benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program to foster the spinners of tomorrow!