Monday, June 30, 2014

3 Uses for Leftover Singles + Gleener Cleaner Winner

As I prepare for the Tour de Fleece (which starts this Saturday, eek!), I'm focusing on clearing out my bobbins and figuring out which fibers I want to use from my stash, which got me thinking about what to do with leftover singles. After a while, most handspinners have a lot of leftover bits and bobs of single-ply yarn leftover from past projects, and I have made it my mission to find ways to give them new life so they don't have to sit on storage bobbin for eternity.

If you've been saving those singles (or just want to find some creative uses for the next time you have leftover handspun), here are three of my favorite ways to put those singles to good use!

1. Practice a new technique: there are a lot of techniques you can test out which might be less intimidating on the smaller scale of a leftover single - chain plying, felted singles, or experimenting with unbalanced plies all come to mind. Not only that, but using leftover yarn that otherwise would have collected dust on a storage bobbin really takes the pressure off if things take an unfortunate turn!

Here's what I did with some leftover singles from a recent spinning project:

2. Experiment with unlikely color and/or fiber combinations: I like to choose two or three random singles to see what happens - the results are often a good way! The skein below is one such recent experiment:

3. Leftover singles make pretty gift wrap: I've been known to tie boxes and bags with leftover bits of handspun to give it an extra-personal touch. You can even get creative by braiding a few singles together, making pom poms, or wrapping a gift box like so:
Gift wrap idea from Two Shades of Pink.
And now the moment's you've all been waiting for - the winner of my Gleener Cleaner Giveaway! The Random Number Generator has chosen Stefanie Gladden as our winner, congratulations! I have contacted Stefanie to arrange for the delivery of her brand-new Gleener Cleaner. Thanks very much to everyone who entered the giveaway and helped spread the word!

Friday, June 27, 2014

FO Friday: Colorwork Mitts Are Done!

I confess, weaving in the ends on a finished project is one of those tasks I tend to procrastinate. It seems like I have to get in the exact right mood, and to do so, I need to spend about a week psyching myself up for a session of finishing work.
What's strange is that I kind of enjoy it....once I finally get started, that is! So why do I always put it off the next time I have a project with a lot of ends to weave in?! I really don't know! 
At any rate, I have totally finished and blocked my Faux Fair Isle Mittens, which were a class project from Marly Bird's excellent Mittens & Gloves Galore Craftsy class (click here for my review and 50% off your class signup!). I absolutely LOVE how these turned out! 
I ended up stash-diving to use a skein of Lorna's Laces sock yarn I'd custom dyed as the main color (the top and bottom skein pictured above), then various leftover bits of sock yarn to simulate the long color repeats of the yarn that was specified in the pattern (Mini Mochi from Crystal Palace). While that created a lot more ends to weave in, the end result is pretty stunning, I think! 
The contrasting yarns and colors are, from top to bottom on the mitten: hand-dyed MCN gifted to me by a friend (I believe she sold some skeins under the name Black Toad Dyeworks), Louet Gems Fingering in Sunset, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Island Blue, Baah La Jolla in Tequila Lime, and Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Lemon Curd.

Don't forget to enter my Gleener Cleaner Giveaway - I'll be announcing the winner this coming Monday, June 30!

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Knitting with Handspun

Late last week, I couldn't resist casting on for a project with one of my newest skeins of handspun yarn: after much deliberation, I decided to make a simple kerchief-style scarf using a pattern recipe from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts:

I've been making a concerted effort to make projects from my extensive library of knit/crochet/craft books, and this is one which I bought pretty early on in my days of knitting and have always loved.

Lately, I've discovered that many of the patterns from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts are perfect for handspun yarns because they are simple, easy-to-customize, and great for variegated colorways. I expect that this is one book I'll be revisiting much more often.

My super-secret knitting projects (yes, plural!) are going quite well and I absolutely cannot WAIT to show them to you!

Also, if you missed Monday's post, I am giving you a chance to win the best fiber-care tool I've come across ever, a Gleener Cleaner! Click here for more details on how to enter!
Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Giveaway Alert: Win a Gleener Cleaner of Your Very Own!

Earlier this month, I test-drove a product I discovered at TNNA, the Gleener Cleaner. Billed as "the ultimate fuzz remover," this two-in-one product not only removes unsightly pills from virtually any fabric, it also has the most effective brush for removing lint, pet hair and spinning fluff I've ever used - click here to view my blog review & case studies!

As I prepare for the tour de fleece, the Gleener has become an essential tool to keep near my spinning wheel. Just look at how amazing it is at removing fluff & stuff from a heavy-duty spinning session (bonus: my cat Tilly makes her requisite videobomb appearance):

On today's post, I'm giving you a chance to win a Gleener Cleaner of your very own! Use the form below to subscribe to my e-newsletter as your entry (if you're already a subscriber, just enter the email address you subscribed with); there are also plenty of ways to gain bonus entries via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

The winner will receive their choice of Gleener colors: Slate Blue, Burnt Orange or Taupe. Please note, this contest is only open to the US & Canada.

The folks at Gleener Cleaner have generously donated this prize for you, my awesome readers; please show them how much you appreciate it by liking them on Facebook, following them on TwitterPinterest or Instagram, and subscribing to their YouTube channel!

I'll choose one lucky winnerto announce on Monday, June 30 - good luck!

Friday, June 20, 2014

FO Friday: Return to Knit & Crochet!

At last, I have some FO's I can share with the world! First, I knit a modified version of the Monster Tissue Cozy from Rebecca Danger's Knit a Monster Nurseryfor Father's Day:
I love how he turned out! I used Cascade 220 for the main color and some leftover oddballs for the ears, legs and features. I also decided to crochet my eyes instead of knitting an eye patch and using safety eyes.

Next, I finished my FreshStitches kit club project, Sprocket the Robot! Mine turned out a bit sillier than the pattern photo, due mostly in part to my inability to count and follow the directions properly. I also decided to switch the head with the body in favor of having a smaller head:
I like this squishy version, however, and I have lots of beads left over if I decide to make him a friend (but, you know, actually pay attention and follow the pattern this time).

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WIP Progress + Secret Knitting

Over the weekend, I joined the sleeves of the baby sweater to the yoke and am coming down the home stretch on this project!

I'm using yarn that I dyed myself and the Seed Stitch Yoke Cardigan from 60 Quick Baby Knits.

I haven't made much progress on my chevron yak socks, unfortunately:

What's been diverting my attention, you ask? The two S's: Spinning and Secret Knitting!

Over the weekend, I finished spinning these BFL singles (two from Cloudlover and one from Miss Babs)...

...and plied them together into two beautifully squishy skeins:

I also started working on another top-secret project which I can't show you just yet, but I can tell you that I'm using SilverSpun yarn from the Feel Good Yarn Company, a surprisingly stretchy blend of cotton and pure silver!

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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: Abuelita Merino Spinning Fiber + Tutorial

A few months ago at TNNA, I had the pleasure of chatting with the folks from Abuelita Yarns, a yarn company located in Uruguay. They have a lovely range of hand-dyed 100% merino and merino-blend yarns, and I was attracted to their booth by the beautiful braids of merino they had on display. They kindly allowed me to take a few home to spin up and write about on my blog.

Something I discovered by visiting their website is their commitment to use fiber from happy sheep -by this I mean healthy, well-cared for sheep. Abuelita has even obtained a certificate of non-mulesing, a hotly disputed practice which will turn up some pretty grotesque descriptions and photos if you choose to google it. They also pledge to protect the environment in Uruguay through various conservation efforts which you can read about in greater detail here on their website. Sustainability and social responsibility is something that is important to many of us in the fiber community, so I hope that the folks at Abuelita will share more details about their efforts with us in the future!

My two braids of Merino Top from Abuelita Yarns

As the focus shift more and more towards breed-specific fibers in the handspinning world, it seems that lovely merinos get lost in the shuffle; for me personally, it's been quite some time since I worked with this fiber, and it was nice to rediscover the incredibly softness. After working on some long-term spinning projects which were rewarding but a little on the fussy side, it was nice to sit down and just SPIN. I did very little prep on this fiber (it didn't need it), I just predrafted each roving into 4 long strips and went for it. It was a fast, fun spinning experience!

Spinning In Progress!

I've found that even some of the best quality roving can have a lot of nepps, kemp, and vegetable matter; it's just the nature of the beast. However, both braids of Abuelita's merino were incredibly clean, and I hardly had to stop to pick any of these items out while I spun. I'm not sure of the micron count on this fiber, but I can assure you that it is extremely soft. While most roving is sold in 4 oz. braids, the Merino Top from Abuelita is sold by length and net weight (40 yards, 3.5 oz/100g.).

The resulting skeins are beyond soft and squishy, and I can't wait to knit with them! I have approximately 95 yards of the grey 2-ply and 100 yards of the green 2-ply, and I think they will become a colorwork hat in the near future.

Finished skeins of handspun yarn from Abuelita Merino Top.

I also saved my leftover singles and decided to try something I've been reading about called felted singles. This is something that has popped up in more than one publication I've been reading, so I have been dying to give it a try and thought I would share my process and results in this YouTube tutorial:

This technique is actually used more for a woolen-spun yarn since those singles are often quite lofty and in need of more "oomph" to avoid breakage when knitting with them, but it can of course be used of any single-ply yarn. Not only does it add strength, but it decreases the amount of pilling you'll experience later down the road. For a short-staple fiber such as Merino, I could see this being a boon to the finished yarn - with softness often comes pills!

Obviously, if you are spinning with a superwash fiber, this technique wouldn't be effective, and not all breeds of sheep fibers felt in the same manner, so you can really explore the felting qualities of each breed if you are so inclined. Merino fiber is great for felting due to the short fiber staple, but I would love to hear about your experiments with various fibers, too!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fiber Friday

This week has been all about the spinning - at least, more so than usual. First, I finally got the bulky flyer for my Ladybug wheel that I've been wanting and was able to ply the 3 singles of Nerd Girl BFL together into one mega-skein!
That was pretty exciting on its own, but the next big news item is the Louet Victoria spinning wheel (the one I borrowed last year for the Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla, in fact) which arrived on my doorstep on Wednesday. My craft room will be its forever home; it's official, I now own 2 awesome spinning wheels!
With it came some lovely spinning fibers, too: Cheviot and Jacob, which I have been dying to try ever since reading the rave reviews over on the Knitting Sarah blog, and more pretty Northern Lights Wool Top in Icy Winter, which you may remember from my spinning experiment last month in which I compared various fiber samples spun from both rolags and straight from the top.
I'm trying to save these fibers for either the Tour de Fleece or Spinzilla (which is why I didn't even open the bags to photograph them!), but that didn't stop me from starting a spinning project on my new wheel with some of the Cloudlover fiber I bought at YarnCon:
I think I'll be spinning rogue yet again for the Tour de Fleece, unless anyone can recommend a good team that I should join. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!

Have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Is June National Startitis Month?

It seems like I'm not the only one suffering from Startitis this month! I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I suppose it's nice to be in good company. Over the weekend, I started a new spinning project which has been on my mental to-do list for a little while now:
After first hearing about opposing-ply yarns on the We Are Yarn podcast, I've been wanting to try this technique to spin a sport-weight(ish) yarn to knit myself a pair of socks. A few months ago, I ordered 8 oz. of Superwash BFL from Nerd Girl Yarns in the #hashtag colorway, and I knew immediately that this was the fiber I should use for this project! Last night, I finished the third single, and tonight I hope to ply all 3 together...and I am already planning my next spinning project, too!

I also started a baby sweater from 60 Quick Baby Knitsin some superwash yarn I'd custom dyed back when I worked at Lorna's Laces. It's not super-exciting to look at just yet, but I think it's going to make an adorable sweater for our friends who are expecting later this summer!
I also conquered my startitis! I cast on for chevron yak sock #2, though I haven't knit on them a whole lot since casting on. Look at what a tangly mess they are right now!
I probably spent the most crafting time working on my second Faux Fair Isle Mitten:
Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Spinning Inspiration

It may be counterintuitive, but there is something about summer that makes me want to spin more! My fiber stash is overflowing, and everywhere I look, I find amazing spinning inspiration. Some of my favorite bloggers have been enabling sharing their spinning projects; the latest examples would be this comparison of Top & Sliver on the Knitting Sarah blog and some absolutely gorgeous spindles and fibers on the Woolen Diversions blog.

Not only that, but we're entering the final month of Spinning Spring Training over in the Louet Ravelry Group, the Tour de Fleece will be happening in July, and my fiber stash is overflowing with my latest acquisitions from YarnCon and TNNA. Conditions are just right for a Summer of Spinning!
Spinning in progress: Merino top from Abuelita Yarns.
I've been spinning for about 4 years now, but I still feel like I have much to learn. I have subscriptions to both Spin-Off and Ply Magazine, and I find I am constantly referring back to them in the course of my spinning. Recently, I treated myself to a copy of the The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs, and while I haven't had much time to explore it just yet, I can already tell that it is going to be a valuable resource in the future. My favorite feature of this book is that it comes with a set of reference cards to keep by your wheel!
Stash Enhancement: Just one of the fibers I bought from the Yarnhollow Etsy Shop.
Over the weekend, I ended up ordering more spinning fiber via Yarnhollow's Etsy Shop. Why? I couldn't pass up her June special: 40% off all orders with coupon code JUNE40! Since I've already fallen down the stash-enhancement rabbit hole, I thought I'd share it with you, too!

Incidentally, if you'd like to join us for Spinning Spring Training this month, here are the suggested challenges (but all are welcome, so feel free to spin your wooly fiber stash if you so choose)!

I'd love to hear about your favorite spinning resources or other inspirations, please feel free to share them in the comments!

Friday, June 6, 2014

FO-ish Friday

I don't technically have an FO to share today, but last week I crocheted this basket and now it is for sale in my Etsy shop!

I've found that crocheting baskets is a fun way to stay busy when I don't feel like concentrating on a crazy chart or complicated project; it's also great for destashing! I'll definitely be making more crocheted baskets in the future (and will try to explore some new color territory since my first two have all been in the brown/blue category).

Next week should be a much more interesting FO Friday, I promise! In the mean time, have a fun & crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WIP Wednesday: SQUIRREL!

Lately, I seem to be easily distracted, or perhaps I'm suffering from Second Everything Syndrome? Either way, I have managed to avoid casting on for Chevron Yak Sock #2 since finishing the first one last week. Not only that, over the weekend I finished the first Faux Fair Isle Mitt (minus the thumb), but I still haven't started mitt #2. I know...I'm the worst!
So what have I been doing instead? Well, I started crocheting this robot from the FreshStitches kit club:
I had to rip out my work on this robot head a few times since I apparently couldn't count the correct number of stitches, so it's been kind of slow going. But I am super excited to have a cute robot sometime soon!

I also realized I needed to cast on for a Father's day gift, since that's just around the corner. I'm pretty sure that my dad doesn't read my blog, so I can tell you what this amorphous blog of knitting actually is:
It's a modified version of Rebecca Danger's Monster Tissue Cozy, since I know he likes to use the rectangular tissue boxes in his car!

Last but not least, I have been working on some top-secret projects as well! I can't share the details with you just yet, but here is a teaser photo to tide you over:
Thanks for joining me this week! For more WIP Wednesday inspiration, visit the Tami's Amis Blog!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gleener Cleaner: Review and Case Studies

I have been wanting to get my hands on a Gleener Cleaner for a few years now, but somehow never got around to it. Last month at the TNNA trade show, I stopped by their booth for a demo and was totally in awe of what I saw: it was even more amazing that I'd been expecting! I asked them if they were interested in having me review the Gleener Cleaner on my blog, and they generously offered to ship one to me after the show. Of COURSE I took them up on that!

It arrived shortly thereafter, and I have been testing it out on every available surface ever since. To sum it up: I'm in love. I've used a sweater shaver, sweater stone, and a D-Fuzz-It, which are all adequate tools at removing pills in their own right. However, the Gleener Cleaner has them beat on so many levels:
  • the 2-in-1 product includes the best lint brush I've ever used. 
  • the 3 interchangeable edges have you covered for just about any fabric - wool, synthetics and blends.
  • the ergonomic handle is easy to hold and makes removing pills a breeze.
  • there are no batteries required! 
I have seriously never used a product that was as simple and effective as this one at removing pills. It is well worth the $19.99 retail, and it has now become an essential part of my life! Seeing is believing, however, so below are my case studies to demonstrate the full range of what this handy little tool is capable of. Enjoy!

Case Study #1: Three moderately pilly sweaters.
Most of my hand-knit sweaters have withstood the test of time with just a few pills, but before I pack them away for the season, I like to wash them in Eucalan and remove any pills which may have formed over the winter. 
I used Edge #2 for Everyday Pilling to make these sweaters look good as new. Look at how much fuzz I removed from each one!

Case Study #2: The ridiculously pilly sweater. 
This is one of my favorite sweaters, but its also also has the distinction of being the pilliest sweater in existence. 
It may be hard to see here, but trust me...this sweater is MEGA-pilly!
I used Edge #1 for Heavy-Duty Fuzz Balls to give this sweater a complete facelift: 
A vast improvement.
Seriously, check out how much fuzz I removed from just this one sweater!
Case Study #3: The vintage sweater in need of TLC.
This used to be one of my favorite sweaters, and I don't think I have ever de-pilled it since purchasing it used more than ten years ago. 

I used Edge #3 for Delicate Fibers to remove the most unslightly pills in the "rub" zone:

Case Study #4: The well-worn socks.
Hand-knit socks pose a bit of a challenge with the Gleener due to the shape. For the best results, the fabric needs to be pulled taut on a flat surface (they recommend an ironing board); this makes things such as toes and heels a bit difficult to Gleen, though it can be done. Witness these very well-worn (and well-loved) socks: pill city, population my feet!
First, I tried to Gleen them while on the sock blockers, but quickly abandoned that approach in favor of the ironing table. I started with Edge #1 for Heavy-Duty Fuzz Balls to get the most unsightly of the pills, then went back over the heel and sole with Edge #2 for Everyday Pilling. The results are pretty great, although I think this is one case where I would use my electric fuzz shaver to finish the job, since I can do that while the socks are on my feet and really get all of those curves and angles.

Case Study #5: The surprisingly pilly couch. 
Our couch has served us well, but I have always been disappointed with how many unsightly pills collect on the upholstery - clearly, their testers were not knitters! 

I used Edge #1 for Heavy-Duty Fuzz Balls to remove the unsightly pills along with the layer of cat hair I didn't realize was there. Now it looks brand-new! 

Case Study #6: The cat hangout. 
After the stunning results with the couch, I got bold and decided to really put the lint brush tool to the test! This is the scratching post/cat condo next to my desk, which is always covered in fuzz and fur:
Look at how much nicer it looks post-Gleener...yes, that is the same exact surface as before!

Case Study #7: Help! I'm covered in spinning fiber!
Another problem I constantly have is being covered in spinning fiber after a session at my wheel. This is particularly a problem with certain skirts in my wardrobe - a few seem to be made of velcro or tape, judging by how much lint and fiber they attract on any given day. Again, the lint brush magically removes every single bit of unsightly fiber and lint. It's amazing!
Case Study #8: Gleener Clean-Up.
After a heavy-duty session of Gleening, your work area will probably look something like this:

However, it's easy to clean up if you just flip the Gleener around to the lint brush - just a few quick strokes and your ironing board is good as new.

Convinced you can't live without it? That's what I thought! Click here to purchase a Gleener Cleaner of your very own on Amazon.