Friday, October 30, 2015

FO Friday: Fiber Story

It's been over two months since I cast on for the Leonarda Wrap with the gorgeous skeins of One Silky Merino I bought at the Fiber Story booth at Stitches Midwest. Despite having successfully knit this project before, I ran into some issues as I neared the home stretch which had nothing to do with the pattern and everything to do with my inability to follow it correctly. Eventually, things righted themselves, and I managed to finish and block my project to perfection!
I absolutely loved this yarn, so I was a bit disappointed to find very little info about it on Ravelry or the internet at large - it's almost like they're trying to keep it a secret! Given the scarcity, I'm pretty happy I indulged in a few skeins when I saw it at Stitches. I only wish I hadn't misplaced the label and could tell you the name of this colorway!
Pattern: Leonarda by Laura Chau - includes instructions for rectangular wrap shown here, plus two sizes of a triangular shawl.
Yarn: Fiber Story One Silky

I also re-drew a winner for my WEEKEND/Knitter's Pride needle giveaway - congratulations amchart! I will contact you on Ravelry to arrange for the delivery of your prize.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Slow is the Name of the Game

I've been working on all of my WIPs pretty diligently since last week, but it really doesn't seem like much has been accomplished. There is, however, measurable progress - for instance, I am just 3 inches away from finishing my yak cardi sleeves and joining them to the body of the sweater for the yoke.

I've almost finished the left side of the Broad Shoulders sweater (more on that here), and my Miya shawl continues to grow.
My entrelac cowl has definitely grown since last week - I am just zooming along on each wedge section. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a really great on-the-go knitting project, which is why I've made so much progress. It also got an awesome new home in the form of a project bag made for me by Kemper of the Junkyarn Podcast. Thanks, Kemper!
Lastly, I've added a few more dino parts to the mix, though I'm not sure I'm going to finish by the end of the month for the Toy KAL I was kinda sorta but not really participating in.
However, I did manage to finally ply all of my Spinzilla singles, which had been eluding me since the close of Spinzilla (which ended on October 11, mind you). You'd think finding out that my team had won the event would have been a great motivator, but alas, I found myself procrastinating this task more and more. On Monday I decided to bite the bullet and just make myself ply one project, which thankfully gave way to another and then another. By the end of last night, all of my singles were plied, save the gradient I'd spun from a batt which  I decided to keep as-is rather than n-plying it.

Clockwise from top left: HandSpin Handspun, Everything Luxe, Alpaca, Etc. & Sweetness.

That's pretty much it for this week, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Broad Shoulders MWKKAL: Checking In

It's been about 5 weeks since the Broad Shoulders Midwestern Knits KAL started, and I am nowhere near where I thought I'd be! My proposed "schedule" which I drafted at the start of the KAL was this:

  • September Goal: Work body up to Central Chicago section (that’s four stitch pattern sections spread over 2.5 weeks - I think we can probably get further than that with any luck!) 
  • October Goal: Finish body and work sleeve 1. 
  • November Goal: Work sleeve 2 & buttonband.

Since the KAL actually ends on December 14, that allows two weeks for catching up...and I am clearly going to need it! By the end of September, I'd barely gotten through the first two stitch patterns. September turned out to be the busiest month ever - both in terms of work and general life stuff. By the time I had a chance to sit down and knit at the end of the day, my brain was fried, and I had a hard time handling anything other than stockinette stitch. In fact, when I did attempt to knit on this sweater, I found I would make stupid mistakes which then had to be ripped out later - through no fault of the pattern, which is actually really fun & easy to knit.

Over the weekend, I did manage to get a lot done on the left front (and I think this photo is a little truer to the yarn color):

In the mean time, my fellow KAL-ers have been making some excellent progress - and one has already finished their sweater! Raveler CurrentlyPurring gets bonus points for finishing her sweater just in time for Rhinebeck:
I'm excited to see everyone else's sweaters shape up as we move into the second half of the KAL. If you are a super-speed knitter (or just able to follow directions better than I can), there's still time to join in - there are some great prizes up for grabs!

Friday, October 23, 2015

FO Friday: Weekend!

As I've mentioned before, my friend Jen Geigley recently released an awesome book of patterns called WEEKEND: Simple, Modern Knits. You can read more about it here on my official review - and guess what? I'm reopening the giveaway, because the person whose name I drew never claimed their prize! So click here to find out how you can win a copy of this awesome book, plus a Knitter's Pride Nova Platina chunky interchangeable needle set.
Last weekend, Jen was actually here in Chicago for a trunk show and book signing at Nina! I was so glad I could stop by to say hello to Jen, as well as many of my other knitting friends who also happened to be there, too. After the trunk show, I grabbed a drink at Bangers and Lace with Jen and Heidi from Hands Occupied - guess whose beer is at the dark end of that spectrum!
Since there is a KAL happening all month long for WEEKEND, I figured I should probably start another project from the book to work on while I was out and about - so I grabbed some handspun yarn and cast on for the Little Earthquakes cowl on Saturday afternoon. By Sunday morning, I had a finished cowl - talk about instant gratification!
This particular handspun yarn was something I made using all of the leftover singles I'd accrued, mixed with a deep purple-black base single. It was one of those experiments I figured wouldn't work, which then turned out to be pretty stunning (shows what I know!). The simple design was perfect for this kind of variegated/tweedy yarn, and the resulting cowl is so incredibly squishy, I kind of want to keep it (alas, I am putting it in the holiday gift bin).
In fact, at the start of the month, I knit another Sliver hat for the KAL using - you guessed it! - still more handspun yarn from my stash.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that most of the things i knit are on fingering, sport or worsted yarn. Big, chunky knits are not well-trod territory for me, but I am totally a fan of how fast and fun each project from WEEKEND has been. In fact, I am currently hatching a crazy scheme to spin enough chunky weight yarn to knit the Undone sweater out of Swalesdale top from Louet. It might have to be one of my 2016 craft resolutions!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Let There Be Color

I'm still chugging away on my two grey sweaters: over the weekend, I separated for the armholes and began working the left front on my Broad Shoulders KAL sweater!
And knitting sleeves two-at-a-time for my Pennant Cardi has proven to be an excellent bar knitting project. I'm usually a homebody, but lately I've found myself out and about way more than usual, and so I've managed to make a lot of progress since last week - it's probably hard to tell, but the sleeves are about elbow length now!
I've started the second section of the Miya Shawl for the KAL that's happening here on Ravelry, and I have to say I am loving the yarn. Would you believe this is my first-ever 100% cashmere yarn I've ever knit with?
But the biggest news is that I have started two NON-GREY projects (yes, all caps is very necessary there) since last week! First, I dusted off my crochet hook and started working on one of my recent FreshStitches Kit Club shipments: a yellow brontosaurus! I've only made 4 of his legs so far, but I am pretty thrilled to be crocheting again, it's been quite a while since my last crocheted project.
The other project is the project kit from Skeino which I was recently sent to try out, the Aloha Hat & Scarf. The kit itself is pretty affordable ($29.95 for the pattern and yarn), which includes a two-in-one pattern to knit an entrelac cowl which can be converted into a hat, plus a skein of variegated 100% Superwash Corriedale sock yarn (shown here in Hapuna - wow, look at those vibrant colors!). When it arrived, I knew it was the perfect project to break my all-grey streak, and I am pretty excited to revisit the entrelac knitting technique which I learned so long ago via a Craftsy class.
Entrelac is one of those techniques which looks really complicated, but actually it's quite easy to master! I cast on for this project on Sunday afternoon and have become a bit addicted to adding just one more wedge. Once I finish knitting this project, I'll share some of my favorite tips and tutorials for anyone who is interested in giving entrelac a try, too!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

OMG: We Won!

Today's a special blog post, just so I can do a bit of bragging: my Spinzilla team won the Golden Niddy Noddy! I couldn't be more proud of Team Louet North America. What a tremendous group of spinners!

To reblog from our team sponsor's post announcing our team's stats:
  • 24 of 25 registered spinners reported yardage & will be receiving our Team Thank-you gift valued at $100! We’ll be creating a special fiber pack for our hard-working spinners which includes two 1/2 lb. bags of Merino Silk, a 1/2 lb. bag of Dyed Merino and a Lavishea Spinzilla lotion bar!
  • 21 of 25 registered spinners are in the Monster Mile Club! This means that they will receive an additional gift from us (their choice of in-stock fibers valued at $100)!
  • Eight of our spinners reported 5-digit yardage!
  • As a team, we spun a total of 271,607 yards – that’s just over 154 miles, or the equivalent of 5.8 marathons!
We’ve far surpassed our team total from last year (156,853) as well as the winning team total of 171,493, and we couldn’t have done it without each and every one of our fantastic spinners. We’d like to give an extra-special mention to our top 3 spinners who reported the most yardage for our team at the close of Spinzilla:
  • Tracy Hammond: 48,028 yards
  • Monica Bittner: 40,765 yards
  • Alexis Borsboom: 31,158 yards
I mean REALLY. Holy cow. The output of not just our team, but everyone who competed this year is just jaw-dropping. I am already counting down the days til Spinzilla 2016 - and I plan to take some time off for next year's event so that I can really up my ante and break 5k, which has always been my secret Spinzilla goal. Being at the very low end of the spectrum, yardage-wise, on my team has definitely inspired me to set more challenging goals for next year's event! See you then!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Sock Yarn Accessories by Jen Lucas

Recently, local(ish) designer Jen Lucas messaged me to ask if I'd like to review her newest book, Sock-Yarn Accessories. As you know, I am not one to turn down such an enticing offer, and within the week, a copy had arrived on my doorstep!

Most of us probably have quite a bit of sock yarn already in our stashes - it's always a good choice for impulse buying, since you know you'll use it eventually....and I know that a lot of folks don't even count sock yarn towards stash! This book is the perfect way to put some of those skeins to work: there are 20 patterns in all ranging from scarves, shawls, socks, cowls, hats, mitts, and even a market bag - and they ALL use fingering weight yarn!

I am really excited to shop from my stash and cast on for a few new projects this fall, especially since there are several quick-to-knit designs that would also make great holiday gifts. For those of you who are really ambitious, there are even four matched sets within the book for that knit-worthy someone on your gift knitting list.
Crossing Paths Hat and Mittens
There's something for everyone here: textured stitches, colorwork, cables, and lace. Another nice feature is that each pattern is ranked by difficulty, making it easy to choose a project that's suited to your skill level or current preference, and many of the patterns are also geared towards helping knitters learn new skills along the way.
Larkspur Cowl
It may seem like a slim book, but they've packed plenty of information into it, besides the patterns: there is a section on choosing the right yarn for the project, plus photo tutorials for special techniques used throughout the book - and, of course, the usual list of abbreviations, yarn resources, etc. that you would expect to find as well.
Paragon Scarf
So many of these patterns have gone into my queue; I'm looking forward to sharing my WIPs with you from this well-done collection of patterns!
Fergus Socks
Click here to view the Ravelry pattern page, which includes links to purchase both hard copy and PDF ebook versions of Sock-Yarn Accessories!

Images from Sock-Yarn Accessories, Martingale, 2015; Photos by Brent Kane.

Friday, October 16, 2015

FO Friday: Spinzilla 2015

I really don't recommend traveling during Spinzilla. While I somehow managed to crack 3,000 yards, I didn't exceed last year's total by any stretch of the imagination. As I mentioned prior to the start of the event, I opted to ply very few of my singles during the course of the event, mostly because I wouldn't have access to two wheels whilst traveling.

I'm not sure I would employ that strategy again, but it did have its pluses and minuses, and my idae for winding singles off into center-pull balls so that I could free up bobbins worked our marginally well, though you probably noticed in the photo above that some of those balls are a bit messy. This weekend, I plan to start plying some of these singles once I decide on how I'd like to approach that - so I'll be sharing more details of those skeins as I finish them (or at the very least, on Instagram and/or my Ravelry handspun stash page).

All in all, my finished total was 3209 yards, which is pretty low compared to my most impressive teammates on Team Louet North America - but it's pretty decent considering how limited my spinning time was this year!

I'm anxiously awaiting the official results which will be announced sometime this coming Monday, October 19. I think our team has a decent chance of winning, though I'd be pretty thrilled if we placed in the top 3 again this year!

Local Chicago peeps - there will be a WEEKEND trunk show and book signing at Nina in Wicker Park tomorrow! See you there!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Less Spinning, More Grey

Now that Spinzilla is done, I have a lot of singles to ply since this year's strategy did not include plying during the event (for the most part). I'll be sharing my Spinzilla results later this week, and this weekend I plan on plying some of these projects so that they are officially done.

In the mean grey knitting project streak continues. While the Leonarda shawl is officially off the needles (but still in need of a good blocking), I have replaced it with....another grey shawl. I promise that my next project will be in a non-grey yarn, but I couldn't resist this new cashmere yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch for the Miya Shawl KAL which started on Monday:
While traveling last week, I left the Broad Shoulders sweater in Chicago, but I have been working on it since arriving back in town and there has been some progress made since last week:
I did happen to take my two-at-a-time sleeves for my Pennant cardi, and made some decent progress on the trip:
Not bad, considering that much of my free time has been spend spinning, traveling, and visiting family in the last week - and, the good news is that the solution to my all-grey, all the time WIP issue arrived yesterday in the mail:
Next week, I should have an exciting new WIP featuring this yarn and pattern kit from Skeino yarn to spice things up!

Friday, October 9, 2015

FO Friday: Perspectives MKAL Reveal

Before the start of Spinzilla, I finished knitting my project for the Perspectives Mystery KAL - and now it's time to unveil the secret!
This was a fun project to knit and probably the only Mystery KAL I've participated in recently where I finished/liked the resulting project! The length of the cowl makes it really easy to wear, not to mention adds a little extra warmth.
I used a Mountain Colors Perspectives kit, which has mini-skeins of Crazyfoot sock dyed in gradients. This is my first time knitting with this yarn, which is a superwash Merino/nylon, and I would definitely make more projects with it because it's such a nice balance of softness vs. sturdiness.

You can view more MKAL projects here on Ravelry!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

WIPs & SIPs: Spinzilla Week

Spinzilla started at 12:01 AM on October 5, and I have been spinning up a storm with every free moment I get. Since the start, I have filled a total of 5 bobbins: the three at the bottom are spun from  Louet Jacob fiber, the top right was spun from some of my blending board rolags, and the top right is a braid of fiber from the Cloudlover fiber club.
I know my original plan was to wait til Spinzilla was over to ply, but that cake of singles you see in the photo above didn't go so well (the other side is NOT a pretty picture!). I decided to ply all of the Jacob singles into a 3-ply so that my Victoria bobbins could be efficiently cleared, and then I really went for broke, spinning with more blending board rolags and nearly filled a sixth bobbin!
It's safe to say that Spinzilla is off to a great start for me. Of course, I haven't found much time to knit, but I did make some progress on my WIPs over the weekend. For instance, I realized that I hadn't ripped far enough back on my Leonarda shawl....and so, I frogged it AGAIN and managed to get back to the same place I was last Wednesday, more or less. I was hoping to have this off the needles and ready to wear by the end of last weekend, but clearly it wasn't meant to be. It basically looks exactly like the photo I posted last week. Sigh.

I also made some progress on my Broad Shoulders sweater, though I am still running behind my self-created sweater schedule (oh, the irony) and most of my fellow KAL-ers (ditto). For some reason, every time I tried to work on this project last week, I kept making silly mistakes that I had to later rip back. The pattern itself isn't difficult, I just have been a little stressed and overworked, which apparently means I am unable to handle anything other than stockinette stitch.
Speaking of stockinette stitch, I did manage to hit a pretty big milestone for my Knitscene yak cardi: the body is finished and I started the sleeves! I'm doing them two-at-a-time since I tend to get second sleeve syndrome; I love that I can use the same needles for the sleeves as I was using for the body - all I had to do was remove the interchangeable tips and secure the body stitches on the cable with the end caps from my needle set (I'm using my faves, Knitter's Pride Karbonz) - then I just found another cord to use for the sleeves!
If you got the latest issue of Knitscene, you may have seen one of the first photos I ever posted of my yak cardigan:
The editor, Amy, emailed me to ask if they could run my photo in the latest issue, and of course I said yes! Besides that, there is a ton of great patterns that I'm dying to knit, and my friend Heidi of Hands Occupied is featured on the very last page, too. It's worth checking out!

Monday, October 5, 2015

All the -Alongs

Fall's arrival has given me major startitis, and in addition to the Broad Shoulders sweater KAL I'm leading now through December 13, I've been unable to resist several more -alongs which are taking place in October, such as.....

Weekend KAL
This is a freeform KAL happening now through October 30th, and participants can knit any project from Jen Geigley's Weekend for a chance to win a mystery prize (knowing Jen, it'll be totally awesome)! To me, this book is absolutely perfect for handspun yarn, and I've already picked out a few skeins from my stash to use this month. If you missed my review of this great new book, click here to get caught up. Then check out all of the KAL details here on Jen's website!  

This one's happening here in the Victorian Studio Podcast group on Ravelry, and it's another freeform KAL allowing participants to knit or crochet any toy project they like for a chance to win some great prizes! I have been accruing a backlog of toy projects I've been wanting to knit and crochet (including several past shipments of the FreshStitches Kit Club), so over the weekend, I gathered up some of the projects I hope to complete this month as part of the KAL: 

Miya Shawl KAL 
I'm joining Knitting Sarah to lead this low-pressure KAL over in the Bijou Basin Ranch Ravelry group. It starts on October 12 and runs through November 30, which is plenty of time to knit the Miya shawl - oh, and there are prizes, too! I'm pretty excited to knit with BBR's new 100% cashmere yarn, Xanadu - in fact, this is the first time I have knit with a cashmere (non-blend) yarn! The project takes just one skein and there is a coupon code for KAL participants to receive a discount on Xanadu yarn along with a free copy of the knitting pattern (click here for details in the BBR Ravelry group). 
And, of course, this is all in addition to Spinzilla, which starts TODAY! I have an ambitious pile of fiber to work through this week: tons of rolags, a few batts, and I'm also hoping to spin through a few pounds of various Louet fibers which I've earmarked for this year's event. Yes, spinning a crazy amount of yarn in a week's time (not to mention, plying them all after Spinzilla is over) simply isn't enough - I truly want to do ALL the things this month! 

Who's with me?!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Winner + FO Friday: Frog Hat

Congratulations to Jenny, you've won the WEEKEND and Knitter's Pride needle set giveaway! To claim your prize, you can email me at stefaniegr(at)stitchcraftmarketing(dot)com! Thanks to everyone who entered this contest - don't forget to follow my blog on Bloglovin so you don't miss any more chances to win awesome prizes!
This week's FO is a fun little frog hat which I knit in a new yarn from Knit Picks, Mighty Stitch. I was a little surprised with how much I liked this yarn - it's a blend of 80% acrylic and 20% wool. I sometimes find acrylic yarns really hard to deal with, especially when it comes time to weave in those pesky ends - I feel like they're always popping out! That wasn't an issue here, and I am also quite happy with the overall stitch definition. I'd definitely buy this yarn again, especially for gift projects since it's superwash, not to mention it's a really great value (208 yards for $3.49).
I used the Frog Hat pattern from Knit Simple, and while I would (and most likely will) knit it again, it wasn't the most well-written pattern I've come across. As a fairly experienced knitter, the idiosyncrasies of this pattern didn't throw me, but I feel like a newbie might be flummoxed by the vagueness of some of the instructions. I feel like the tech editor might have phoned it in on this one!

Despite my critique, I'm still very pleased with how the hat turned out and will hopefully get a chance to make a few more hats from this issue for holiday gifting!