Friday, May 29, 2015

FO Friday: Hats, Part I

I'm on my way to Columbus, OH for the TNNA trade show today! I can't wait to share all of the cool stuff I see at the show next when I get back next week. In the mean time, I have been amassing a lovely selection of hats to send to my Aunt who is about to begin chemo soon (and I have a few more hats-in-progress which I'll be sharing as they're completed).
The first new hat I've finished was one I worked on during my trip to Minneapolis using a super-special skein of yarn I'd been saving from the Sweet Georgia sock club, a tencel/merino blend in the Bubble Bath colorway:
The pattern is Allyson Dykhuizen's Lake Ontario hat from the Summer issue of Knitscene, and I think the business of the colorway doesn't do justice to the chevron knit-and-purl patterning of the hat, though hopefully this closeup at least gives you a hint of what's going on, pattern-wise:
The next hat I cast on was an old favorite - the Topiary Beanie from Weekend Hats using two skeins of Canopy Fingering. Of all the hat patterns I have knit myself over the years, this is the one I wear the most throughout the year (I used TML for mine), and though the lace chart is a little fussy, it was worth knitting again for someone who I imagine will love it as much as I do.
I think why I like this so much is the ruching on the back, which makes it easy to wear, slouchy-style:
Though this isn't one of my projects, I wanted to give a shout-out to my upstairs neighbor Lauren, who thoughtfully donated this hat to the cause (click here for yarn and pattern info on Ravelry):
I think my Aunt should be set for fashionable headwear by the time I am ready to send all of my completed hats her way. That pretty much does it for this week - thanks for joining me! I have a special post planned for this coming Monday, and I'll also be sharing some TNNA highlights next week. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Winner + WIP Wednesday

Happy WIP Wednesday! I'm starting today off in the most fun way possible - announcing the winner of the Manos Alegria giveaway for the Holla Knits blog tour! The lucky person is lindaran; I will be in touch with you to arrange for the delivery of your prize. Thanks so much to everyone who entered this contest!

And now, onto the WIPs - I only have a few still on the needles after a pretty productive 3-day weekend! I finished and blocked the top yoke of the Lake Michigan Tee, then seamed and picked up for the body to knit in the Knight colorway of Skein Top Draw Socks. It's kind of at an awkward-to-photograph stage at the moment:
I made a little bit of progress on the destash Rikke hat, though it's probably not very interesting to look at. It is, however, very soft, and I think my aunt will look good in it!
I also started working on the stitch pattern section of the Bowdoin Hat from Holla Knits, which I am knitting with a skein of Sincere Sheep Tenacious Sock in the incredibly vibrant Vit C colorway. This project is pretty timely because there is a giveaway happening on the designer's blog this week, giving you a chance to win a copy of the Bowdoin Hat pattern, a skein of KnitPicks Stroll Fingering, and a mini bento bag project carrier! Click here to check out the giveaway, and be sure to share it with a friend!
That's it for me as I prepare to head to Columbus this weekend for the TNNA trade show, but I'll be back here on Friday to share which projects I have recently finished!

Monday, May 25, 2015

PSST: Free Pass to Creativebug - Pass it on!

I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but I really haven't been promoting the affiliate programs I'm signed up for lately, and that is mostly because I feel like the main site I am an affiliate for, Craftsy, is everywhere - and people are a little fatigued with the 24/4 promotion. Also, I'm guessing most of you have probably hit a wall for how many classes you can sign up for and only watch half of, which is pretty much where I'm at right now! I hope you don't mistake this for me knocking Craftsy - I still very much love the website and do refer back to the many classes I've taken quite a bit. However, I do have a fair number of classes I've purchased and have get to find the time to watch, and that's kind of a bummer. I keep telling myself - SOMEDAY! - but then that day never comes.

Having said that, I simply couldn't say no to a full free month of Creativebug. This weekend only, they are generously offering myself and all of you dear readers a Creative Pass: free access to Creativebug until June 30, no credit card required, PLUS one free class to keep forever!

To redeem, just click the banner below and enter promo code SUMMER2015! Be sure to share this link and code with whoever you like, too!

Creativity is Contagious - 1 month free

I've already signed up for my free pass and have been exploring their knitting classes; from my quick survey, it looks like they have shorter, more specific tutorials or classes centered around a single project, so you can expect to invest less time in each Creativebug class than you might with Craftsy, whose classes can sometimes exceed 6 hours total!

I hope you have a great holiday and enjoy this little freebie!

Friday, May 22, 2015

FO Friday: So Much Spinning!

My recent guest post on the Woolery blog (click here if you missed it!) was all I needed to get excited about spinning again, apparently. Last weekend, I finished the spinning project which I had started in April: some very vibrant dyed BFL top which I had actually purchased from the Woolery earlier this year (the colorway is called Poppies in Oz, which is pretty fitting!).
If you are familiar with spinning BFL, you will be a little surprised with this fiber because it's not quite as silky as most commercially-available BFL tops. Instead, it feels quite sturdy, and that's because this particular fiber comes from New Zealand Blue-Faced Leicester sheep, whose fleece clocks in at the higher end of the micron count (remember, the lower the number, the softer the fiber!). Just because it's not silky-soft doesn't mean this fiber doesn't have a place in your spinning or knitting routine - in fact, I have big plans for the resulting skein of handspun, but I'm getting ahead of myself. 

As I was saying, Rosie's BFL Top is a nice workhorse fiber, and it's an excellent deal at the moment ($10 for 8oz!). The dyed colors are bright and lustrous, and it's a pretty easy spin. I have about 100 yards of a very sturdy 2-ply bulky weight yarn which I spun from just one 8oz package of fiber. 
Once my in-progress spinning project was complete, I couldn't resist tackling the Jacob fiber I'd just dyed for my guest post. This is some of the fiber which I won during Spinzilla last year, but you can get it from the Woolery here and here if you'd like to give it a try. This Jacob sliver is part of the Canterbury Prize Group from Louet, which is a group of carefully selected fibers selected with care in cooperation with growers in New Zealand, England, and throughout the globe. Each package includes a certificate which shares details about the growers and fiber.
The Jacob sliver took dye beautifully, and I was excited to give it a spin. My original plan was to divide the top into two halves and spin singles to ply together, but then I thought it might be more of a challenge to divide it into thirds and spin thinner singles than I typically attempt. It was a little tricky at first, but eventually I got the hang of it.
The fiber drafted easily, and I did a fairly decent job of matching up all three plies in terms of color placement. I really like the barber-pole effect of one ply for each color transition.
The result is about 110 yards of a colorful 3-ply; the yarn is definitely a bulky weight, with a WPI of 6. I decided to wind it into a cake so that the gradient effect was more evident:
Thanks for joining me this week - have a safe & happy holiday weekend! Also, don't forget to enter my Manos Alegria giveaway which ends next Wednesday!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Holla Knits Blog Tour & Giveaway

As I mentioned on Monday, I made my Holla Knits debut earlier this week with my SpringTastic Socks. This ankle-length sock combines easy eyelet lace with cables to create a fun-to-knit sock that is also quite fast - all the better so you can wear them right away!

It's shown above in Manos del Uruguay Alegria, which is a hand-dyed superwash merino sock yarn from the Manos Co-ops. I chose this yarn specifically because I have been wanting to try it ever since it came out, and besides all of the pretty color combinations to choose from, the yarn also has an interesting story: it's Fair Trade! Each yarn is signed by the artisan who dyed it, and it also tells you which co-op made your yarn. The coloway shown above is Periquito, and it's even more vibrant in real life! You can view all of the colorways here on the Fairmount Fibers website (they distribute the yarn in North America and provided yarn support for this design).

Every Manos yarn I've tried has been amazing to work with, and Alegria is no exception - I'll definitely be working with it again soon! You can read my Alegria yarn review here for more info on this totally knit-worthy yarn. 

The Spring-Tastic Socks also look pretty awesome in a semi-solid yarn, too, don't you think? They're shown above in Knit Picks Stroll Fingering Tonal yarn in the Poppy Field colorway. Stroll Fingering is a really great yarn for budget-conscious knitters, and I love the shaded solid colorways which they now offer. Best of all, you can purchase the entire Holla Knits eMag (as well as single patterns) through the KnitPicks website!

I am so excited to see everyone's SpringTastic sock projects, and if this will be your first time knitting socks, I highly recommend purchasing the entire issue of Holla Knits so that you can also read my sock-knitting primer for beginners! In this article, I explain all of the terminology associated with sock-knitting, plus I give an overview of the various types of constructions and where you can make adjustments to fit your exact foot measurements as you knit.

One more thing about the SpringTastic Socks: they would be perfect for the Knitting Sarah Summer Sock KAL, for those of you looking for a KAL to further enable your sock knitting (plus, there are PRIZES!). In fact, I'll probably be casting on a pair for this KAL very soon!

The folks at Fairmount Fibers have generously donated a skein of Alegria in the winner's choice of in-stock colors for one lucky blog reader! We'll also throw in a PDF of the SpringTastic socks pattern so that you are ready to knit yourself a pair right away. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post sharing your favorite pattern from the new Holla Knits collection. Be sure to also mention your email address or Ravelry ID so that we can contact you in case you win!

I'll randomly select one winning comment to announce on my blog next Wednesday, May 27. Good luck! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Hats, Hats, Hats!

My knitting has taken a little detour recently: I can't stop making hats! Just before I left for Minneapolis, I received the news that my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. It was a shock to the family, but the prognosis is very good. Hopefully it's not too much of an invasion of her privacy to say that the tumor itself was already successfully removed, but she does have to undergo chemo as a precautionary measure.

After getting over my initial surprise, my next thought was: she's going to need HATS. Lots of hats! Someone in my knitting group mentioned that people undergoing chemo have a tendency to get hot easily, which is something that hadn't occurred to me. But as I was digging through all of my finished hats which are looking for good homes, it seemed like most of them would be too warm, not only given the circumstances but also for the summer months ahead. Luckily, I have a ton of sock yarn in my stash and there is no shortage of great lightweight hat designs in fingering weight yarn!

I picked out one of my all-time hat patterns, the Topiary Beanie from Weekend Hats, to knit with two skeins of Canopy Fingering. This is among my favorite yarns from the Fibre Company, and I think it will be soft and comforting for my aunt to wear.
However, I needed a travel-friendly project and decided to cast on for a Rikke Hat, also in Canopy Fingering yarn, though I plan to do some purl round stripes with some Skein Merino Cashmere just to mix things up a bit (though the effect is a bit more subtle than I thought it would be).
I probably should just focus on these two hats (not to mention the sweater I have in progress, but I'm getting ahead of myself) - but then the new issue of Holla Knits came out on Monday and I had to start a Bowdoin Hat with some Sincere Sheep Tenacious Sock that has been lurking in my stash. I cannot emphasize had to enough in that previous sentence.
I would feel more guilty about my recent bout of startitis, but they are of course for a good cause, which is reason enough to cast on with reckless abandon. Also, I have made some pretty awesome progress on my Lake Michigan Tee, and I am quite confident that I'll be ready to start the body of the sweater by the end of the upcoming holiday weekend, which means it will be an idea project to take to TNNA at the end of this month.
That's it for WIPs this week, but don't wander too far away - tomorrow I'll be sharing a special post with another awesome yarn giveaway that you won't want to miss!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Winner + Holla Knits Launches Today!

First, congratulations to Hipknitizer, who won the Patons Superfine Merino giveaway on this blog! I will get in touch with you to arrange for the delivery of your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway this month!
Next, on to the exciting news: first, I am one of tomorrow's speakers at the Windy City Knitting Guild monthly meeting. May is the annual needle and yarn tasting, so I will be talking about Knitter's Pride products while folks give them a test drive. The meeting is free and open to non-members, FYI. It's held every third Tuesday of the month at the Sulzer Library at 6:45 pm.

Second, the new issue of Holla Knits launches today, and I am excited to be a part of it! The Holla Knits Warm Weather Accessories issue has many firsts: it's the first time a sock design has been included in the collection, and guess what? It's by yours truly, and it's my Holla Knits Debut!

This is also the first time that articles have been included in an issue of Holla Knits, and I have contributed a piece introducing the basics of sock knitting for newbies.

I also was reminded that all Holla Knits patterns are distributed through the KnitPicks IDP program, so this is also my IDP debut!

I'll be sharing more about my design and article later this week as part of the Holla Knits blog tour. Be sure to check out all of these dates for giveaways, tutorials, and more!

Holla Knits Blog Tour
May 18: Holla Knits Warm Weather Accessories Issue Launch
May 19: The Sweatshop of Love / Knitted Bliss - pattern giveaway, issue giveaway
May 20: Ruby Submarine - fringe tutorial
May 21: Handmade by Stefanie - pattern and yarn giveaway

May 26: Doog Knits - kit giveaway
May 28: Canary Knits - issue giveaway
May 29: Laura Reinbach - pattern giveaway

June 1: Gynx Yarns Podcast - pattern and yarn giveaway
June 2: Ruby Submarine - issue giveaway
June 4: Rock and Purl - giveaway

June 8: Handmade by Stefanie - Take 5
June 9: Hands Occupied - issue giveaway

Friday, May 15, 2015

FO Friday: By Request

Those of you who know me well are quite used to the fact that I rarely take requests. More specifically, I don't knit for hire in the sense that I will make you a sweater or (insert any handmade item here) for any sum of money. As most of you can probably commiserate, this policy is in place simply because I don't have enough hours in the day - I barely get enough time to make/design all of the things I want as it is!

However, when your young nephew mentions (well in advance of his birthday, might I add) that he'd really love a hand-knit Pikachu, exceptions must be made!

I used a free pattern which I designed several years ago when his older brother requested the same - back then, I didn't know how to crochet, and those were the only patterns I'd come across on Ravelry, so I decided to come up with my own knit version. It's knit with Shine Worsted from KnitPicks, which is an incredibly soft blend of pima cotton and modal. I loved the yarn, but it probably wasn't the best choice for this particular project because I had some issues with wonky stitches due to the unfortunate combination of this yarn with acrylic needles. I don't recommend that pairing for non-stretchy yarns with very little memory: wool is so, SO much more forgiving than cotton, acrylics and other synthetic fibers, and I would have done better to have either used a wool yarn with the acrylic needles, or used slick metal needles with the cotton/modal yarn.

All in all, he turned out well and the birthday boy was pleased. I'm counting this as a win!

Don't forget to enter my Superfine Merino Yarn giveaway which ends this Monday! Be sure to also check out my Sock Yarn Mini Skein Grab Bag sale over in my Etsy shop - there are just a few left, and the sale ends this Sunday, May 17!

Thanks for stopping by, have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Travel Diary Edition

Last weekend, Tyler and I took a little road trip to Minneapolis for what was essentially a craft beer tour of the city. So! Much! Beer! I'm certainly not complaining, as it was all quite fantastic, but wow! I think we were both surprised by just how awesome the craft beer scene is in the Twin Cities.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen some of these photos, but I have tried to find some additional pictures which I haven't posted yet to mix things up. I suppose I should start with the beer since there wasn't quite as much knitting that took place on vacation as I would have liked (but as you will see, there was some here and there!).

Surly Beer was the overwhelming theme of the trip - it was everywhere, and it was delicious! We found a really good place called Nighthawks Diner near our AirBnB which ended up being brand new (as in, it had just opened the week we arrived!), and they had a lot of great beers on tap.

We even spent our last day at the brand-new multi-million-dollar Surly Tap Room, which was incredible. I don't think I have ever seen a tap room that huge before in my life, and as you can see, it was jumping on a Saturday afternoon!

It wasn't all Surly beer, however - if you follow me on Instagram or Untappd, you probably saw the full extent of the local craft brews we tried, which I won't be posting here for brevity's sake. We did take another cool beerscursion to Northbound Brewpub, where I had my first-ever beer flight which had a sample of every single beer they brewed! We each chose one to have as a pint with lunch, and then took home a mini-growler of our mutual favorite which had way too high of an ABV (nearly 10%) for day drinking.

When we weren't eating food or drinking beer (which, let's face it, was most of the trip), we were exploring the city. We went to several coffee shops, a couple of record stores, and I even found a craft store called Digs, which was near where we were staying.

There were lots more tourist spots I wanted to hit, but the few we made it to happened to be Minnehaha Falls:

Believe it or not, Tyler actually wanted to go to the Mall of America, so we went and gawked at the insanity of Nickelodeon World: well as the Lego Store:

I spotted quite a bit of yarnbombing around town courtesy of someone who calls themselves Knitteapolis. I saw way more pieces than I took photos of, but they were fun to spot as we walked around!

My only regret was that I wish I had squeezed in more knitting time overall, but the 14 hour drive round trip did allow me to make some good progress on my Lake Michigan Tee:

Plus I nearly finished a fingering weight hat which I cast on at the start of the trip:

We made a few stops on the way to and from Minneapolis to pick up some bottles of New Glarus beer. It's available only in Wisconsin, and has a cultlike status here in Chicago. The Serendipity was particularly tough to track down - we've been looking for it for over a year, in fact. When we finally found some at a gas station in western Wisconsin, we nearly cried because it was 11:15 am on a Sunday morning, and they don't sell alcohol until noon. NOOO!

As you can see below, this story has a happy ending - after making 3 more stops later in the day, we finally snagged a few bottles of the elusive Serendipity. I'm pleased to say it was worth the effort, too.

That's pretty much it for vacation and knitting photos, thanks for bearing with me! Don't forget to check out my Etsy sale on Luxury Sock Yarn Mini Skein Grab Bags - they're going fast! Be sure to also enter for your chance to win a Cleckheaton Superfine Merino hat kit, which ends on Monday, May 18!

Thanks for joining me this week!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Etsy Mini Skein Sale!

Head's up - this week only, I have a killer deal on luxury sock yarn mini skein grab bags in my Etsy shop: over 100g of fingering weight yarn for only $15! If you live in the US, that includes postage, and it's not much more to ship to Canada.

Many of the yarns and colors are unique, hard-to-find, one-of-a-kind, exclusive, get the idea! Also, if you have a reasonable request (i.e. colors you love, colors you hate, no variegated colors, etc.), I am totally happy to honor that as I pack up your skeins.

Oh, and I have a habit of including fun freebies with each order!

Convinced? Click here to snag yours, there are only a limited quantity up for grabs! When they're gone, they'd gone!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Australian Superfine Merino Yarn Review & Giveaway

After more than ten years of knitting, I can still have new experiences - even with well-covered territory such as merino yarn! This recent merino experience actually took me by surprise: I've spun with it, I've dyed it, I've knit with it, and I've even crocheted with it...I was pretty sure I knew all there was to know about merino!

Turns out, there are four different classifications of merino fiber, sorted by micron count range. At the bottom of the spectrum is Strong Merino, which ranges from 26-22.9 microns; above that is Fine Merino, which ranges from 20.1-23 microns; next up is Extra Fine Merino, which ranges from 20-15.6 microns; and at the very top of the heap is Superfine Merino Wool, with a micron range of 18.5-15.6. If you're into numbers and wondering how these four classes stack up against other fibers you may be familiar with, here are a few for comparison's sake: BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester) has a micron range of 24-28, Cashmere goat down has a range of 14-19 microns, and Angora down has a micron range of 8-15 microns.

Merino Ram - image © Cleckheaton
Just in case you glazed over with all those numbers being thrown your way, I'll summarize: superfine merino wool is really, really soft. As the name would imply, Australian Superfine Merino yarn is made and grown in Australia. It is created with a special partnership with Australian wool growers, who employ sustainable grazing programs to raise their flocks of carefully selected merino sheep. The result is a superfine fiber whose micron count is within range of cashmere.

At this point, you might be worried that this yarn feels delicate or would have a tendency to pill, but here's where things get interesting: the yarn has a very crisp feel to it, with a great deal of twist which gives a bouncy, almost elastic feel, both to the yarn itself and the resulting fabric. If you untwist the yarn a bit, you'll discover that it is created from several two-ply singles which are extremely thin - almost threadlike. Plied together, the yarn feels quite strong, and I am quite convinced that it will not pill very much due to the high twist.
You would think that a highly twisted yarn would feel heavy or inelastic, but as previously stated, that's not the case at all. For my project, I knit the Two Colour Beanie (sans pom pom at the top), a free pattern available here on the Cleckheaton website. The resulting hat is soft, stretchy, squishy and airy. Yes, four adjectives were necessary just then! 
The yarn has rather nice stitch definition in stockinette and a basic rib, and I think it would be an excellent option for colorwork, especially since they offer such a nice spectrum of color options. I'd love to see how it knits up into a more complex stitch pattern, perhaps even some cables. 
As for the other specs, the yarn is a DK weight which comes in a range of 30 colors; each ball is 130m, which is approximately 142 yards. It's also really thoughtfully packaged: the label is on very heavy card stock , and it includes a fabric label which you can use for your finished garment. Additionally, there are a ton of great patterns designed especially for the yarn - everything from accessories to garments for babies, kids and adults. 
It's definitely worth checking out for yourself, and you can order this yarn here in the Cleckheaton online store. One note: the store is located in Australia, so your order will be shipping from there and the prices are in Australian currency (here is a handy converter from AUD to USD). Last I checked, the conversion rate was definitely in our favor - one ball of yarn was approximately $7.75 USD. 

Giveaway Time! 

The folks at Patons have donated a Two Colour Beanie project kit (which includes two skein of yarn, a pattern, and a project bag) for one lucky blog reader to win this month! To be eligible, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you'd like to give this yarn a try. Be sure to also mention your Ravelry ID or email address so that I can contact you if you win.

If you would like a bonus entry, please like my Facebook Page or follow me on Instagram, then leave another comment on this blog post telling me you did so - just be sure to mention your Facebook or Instagram name so that I can verify everything!

I also recommend following Cleckheaton on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

I will randomly-select one lucky winner to be announced next Monday, May 18 here on this blog. Good luck!