Friday, August 28, 2015

FO Friday: Pint-Size Pullover + Midwestern Knits Trunk Show

This year, the only holiday gifts I plan to knit are for the wee little ones in my life, and today's project definitely fits that bill. It's knit with Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn using a new pattern they just released, the Pint-Sized Pullover by Sarah Smuland.
When I saw this pattern, I immediately starting thinking about the two skeins of Sweater I already had in my stash to make a colorblock variation of this pattern. This is a nice, basic pattern to have in your arsenal because you can knit it as-is, or get a bit creative by adding stripes or colorwork. It knits up quickly and there are three size options (I knit the 4-8 months size). As you can see below, I also modified this pattern to include a button closure instead of the twist ties because I found the perfect little button to use in my stash:
I should also mention that there is a bonus pattern for a fingering weight hat included with this pattern, which I have yet to knit, but it should be great for destashing!

In other news, I dropped by the Midwestern Knits Trunk Show last night at Knit.1 here in Chicago! My designer friends Allyson Dykhuizen and Carina Spencer launched this Kickstarter project a year ago, and it's super exciting to see everything come to fruition. I instagrammed this photo of Allyson and Carina giving their new book a look-see with Leah Coccari-Swift (who will soon be starting a kickstater project with Teresa Gregorio called Great Northern) and local yarn dyer Julie from Happy-Go-Lucky Yarn.
While I was there, I picked up the print copy of the book which was part of my backer reward!
Spoiler alert: I'll be leading a KAL for one of the many awesome projects in this book, the Sweater of Broad Shoulders! We'll be kicking things off next month, but you can join the conversation here on Ravelry as we discuss yarn choices and all that good stuff. Thanks for stopping by - have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Whittling Down

After finishing my Delta Hat KAL project last week, I somehow resisted the urge to start any new projects over the weekend. I'm surprised too! I think I made the most progress on my Argent curl, which is soooooo close to being done! 
I also put in some time working on my yak sweater from Knitscene - I am so excited to wear this in the fall. Of course, it's pretty bunchy and scrunchy at the moment, but I think it's starting to look more sweater-like these days:
Probably the most neglected project is the Leonarda Wrap, but even that got a little love at my knitting group over the weekend. There is even noticeable progress since last week, since I have finished the garter section and moved on to the elongated garter section, though it is still at that hard-to-photograph stage I love so much: 
That's pretty much it for this week - short and sweet! I'm looking forward to sharing some of my recently-finished projects for babies for this week's FO Friday post - see you then!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Winner + My New Obsession: Louet Blending Board

First off, congratulations to LuckyPenny, who is the winner of this month's giveaway! I'll contact you to arrange for the delivery of your prize which was generously donated by the folks at VK Live Chicago - free marketplace admission and 2 free classes this October!

Speaking of October events, now is probably a good time to say: Spinzilla is coming! Team member registration will open on September 1 (we'd love to have you on Team Louet!) and I am already starting to plan my strategy for this weeklong event. Enter my new favorite fiber prep tool: the Louet Blending Board. I've been coveting this board which debuted late last year (or maybe it was at the beginning of this year?), but they have been a little hard to come by because they are so popular! Finally my patience paid off and I was happily surprised last week to see a Louet box on my doorstep. I opened up the box, watched a couple of YouTube videos about blending boards, and I was off!
My fiber stash is pretty meager these days, and most of what I have is earmarked for specific projects. It was actually a challenge to find some blend-able fibers to use while I get the hang of the whole deal, but I found a few colors of dyed merino that I thought would play well together and began to make some rolags. I think each rolag has gotten a little nicer as I've kept going, but on the whole there was a pretty short learning curve.
Tilly's just making sure everything meets her standards.
I became so obsessed with making rolags that I began to search Etsy for some blendable fibers (I may or may not have placed a few orders, too). "Blending fiber" is now at the top of my shopping list for Wisconsin Sheep & Wool, too. I'm hoping that I can get some fleece or some other interesting add-ins for my fiber blending pursuits. This has caused a chain reaction, as I now realize that I need to do some major reorganization of my fiber stash: the modest bin into which I've stuffed most of my spinning fiber will no longer do. I think I will have to add two more bins to my craft room: one specifically for blending fibers and another one to keep all of my prepped fibers safe until it's time to spin them.
I can't stop making rolags!
If you've been curious about blending boards, I highly recommend tracking one down (you can probably ask your Louet retailer to put one on order for you!). But I must warn you - it's not only fun, it's also addictive!

For all of you spinners out there, I'll be sharing some more detailed tutorials with my new blending board between now and Spinzilla; I'll also be talking about my Spinzilla plans in greater detail next month!

Friday, August 21, 2015

FO Friday: Delta Hat KAL

I have a new hat, fresh off the needles! This is my project for the Delta Hat KAL that's happening over in the Hands Occupied Ravelry group through the end of this month:
I used Himalayan Trail, one of my favorite Bijou Basin Ranch yarns (and also the yarn which the pattern happens to call for). The color I chose is Continental Blue - a nice, rich navy (and hey, it's not green!). I did add in a few extra rounds of the garter brim because I was a little worried that the hat might be a bit shallow for my head - and I had a nice little bit of yarn left over at the end, so I probably could have added in a few more if I cared to. Also, I went up a needle size because I am apparently a tight knitter these days!
You'll notice I have some pretty spiffy buttons - they are made from salvaged tool handles, so each set of buttons is unique! Full disclosure: they are made by my friend Lindy, the talented woodworker behind Balwen Woodworks (you can find out more about this Chicago-based company here).

Anyway, when I saw these buttons at YarnCon earlier this spring, I had to have them - even though I had no project in mind. When I came across the Delta Hat pattern by Heidi Gustad and saw that it used the same buttons, I was pretty excited to put them to good use. I really can't think of a more stunning combination: luxury yarn and cool buttons. This jaunty little hat will be nice to wear in the fall!
It's not too late to join the KAL - find out more about prizes and how you can snag your yarn, pattern, and some killer buttons here on the Hands Occupied blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Progess Has Been Made

I think I've finally stopped starting all of the things and have moved on to phase II, wherein I try not to neglect any of the projects currently on the needles. Ahem.

After fixing a silly mistake on my Leonarda Wrap, it's seen some nice progress; in fact, I just finished the easy peasy garter and am ready to start the next phase, elongated garter:
Over the weekend, I also made some progress on my Delta Hat for the KAL...but that wasn't after having to frog back a bit when I realized I had somehow gotten a bit off in the stitch pattern. Luckily, a few well-placed stitch markers were all it took to get me back on track:
And I finally knit enough on my Argent curl to start seeing a hint of color change!
After knitting a few swatches, I was able to start my Pennant Cardi last Thursday, and I've made some slow and steady progress on the ribbing:
My destash mitered square blanket even saw some action - in fact, Tilly helped me pick out the colors for the next few squares. How nice of her to help!
Also, if you missed Monday's blog post, be sure to check out my giveaway for FREE marketplace admission and two FREE classes at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago this October!

Monday, August 17, 2015

VK Live Chicago Giveaway!

Mochimochiland art installation from VK Live 2013
(image by me)
Vogue Knitting Live is returning to Chicago October 2-4, 2015! It will be in the centrally-located Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, which is a gorgeous historic building. Locals will be able to get to the venue quite easily, and if you're traveling from out of town, you can just hop on the train to get downtown from the airport.

I'm most looking forward to the marketplace full of yarny vendors (click here to see who will be there this year!), which has a lot to offer in addition to shopping:
  • Free fashion shows from Vogue Knitting, Koigu, Rowan, and Universal.
  • Knit art gallery featuring artists such as Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochiland and Nic White.
  • A yarn tasting lounge where you can try the latest yarns and test out Knitter's Pride needles.
  • A complimentary ball-winding station for those of you who can't wait to cast on a project with your new yarn! 
  • The relax and unwind lounge which will offer FREE hand scrubs and massages on Saturday & Sunday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm (oh yeah, sign me up!!).
On Sunday, there will also be a Hot Dog Scavenger Hunt where marketplace attendees can win prizes when they spot any of the tiny knitted hotdogs hidden throughout the marketplace floor!

Image via vogueknittinglive.com.
If that's not enough cool stuff for you, there will also be classes taught by our industry's top instructors such as Amy Singer, Nancy Bush & Franklin Habit, to name just a few!
But here's the REALLY awesome part: the folks at VK Live are giving one of my lucky readers a chance to win FREE marketplace admission and TWO FREE CLASSES at this year's event! To enter this drawing, leave a comment telling me which classes you would take if you happened to win this fabulous prize (click here to view your options). Be sure to also tell me your Ravelry ID or email address so that I can contact you if you win and also give you the codes you'll need to enter to redeem your prize.

Want an extra chance to win? Follow my blog via Bloglovin, or follow me over on Instagram - then leave a comment telling me you did so (or that you already do so)!

Many thanks to the folks at VK Live for their generous donation of this month's prize; I'll randomly select one lucky winner to announce next Monday, August 24 on this blog. Good luck!

Friday, August 14, 2015

FO Friday: Reeds and Rushes Cowl

It's been quite a while since I finished the Reeds and Rushes Cowl - as in, just over a month! I'm not sure how this slipped past the FO Friday radar, but at long last, here is one of my most recent FOs using handspun yarn:
I ended up making my cowl a little bigger than the original pattern calls for - measured flat, mine is 11.5"x7". To do this, I went up a few needle sizes and added several more pattern repeats before unzipping my provisional cast-on and grafting the cowl closed.
I really love how the stitch pattern and yarn look together, though I think that I would add more of a garter stitch border at the top and the bottom if I were to knit this design again.

The pattern is available for free here on Ravelry, and I used some of my handspun yarn which you can read more about here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Crazy with Startitis

In the last week, I've finished the 3 main projects I had on the needles, which turned out to be perfectly timed with Stitches Midwest. There's nothing like coming home from a show with a pile of new yarn and actually getting to use it right away, so I indulged in startitis and have been casting on with reckless abandon!

I got a test color in Shangri-La yarn, and I wasn't sure what to do with it since I am not normally a fan of laceweight yarn, and it also wasn't a full 200-yard skein. Then I remembered that a Hunter Hammersen Curl could be knit with any yarn weight and any yardage....and I was off! I'm knitting Argent, which is looking quite lovely in this shimmery yak/silk blend yarn:
My rainy Sunday afternoon knitting was to start the Delta Hat by Heidi Gustad for the KAL that is happening right now here on Ravelry. I chose the very-difficult-to-photograph Continental Blue colorway of Himalayan Trail yarn (which, as you know, is one of my faves - it's a blend of Merino and Yak. Yum!):
My yak obsession continues from there: over the weekend, I swatched for the Pennant Cardi from the new Knitscene. I'm using 100% yak sport weight yarn and I'll be subbing in my own handspun for the colorwork detail in the yoke. Knitting with this yarn - even just to swatch - has been incredibly enjoyable. Now I'm wondering why I didn't get with the program sooner, and I seriously want to knit all the sweaters in this delightful yarn.
As if all of this wasn't ambitious/insane enough, I also cast on for the wrap version of the Leonarda pattern (you know...the ginormous shawl I just knit) by Laura Chau...and it's the only project I have on the needles right now that doesn't include yak in its fiber content! Instead, I'm knitting with the two skeins of silk/merino yarn that I bought in the Fiber Story booth at Stitches. As soon as I picked them up, I knew I had to knit myself a wrap; I have a wedding to attend in October where I intend to wear it, which gives me a doable deadline - always a bonus.
Of course, the start of this project required casting on a LOT of stitches, so I was glad I remembered to check out this tutorial for the Infinite Long Tail Cast-On over on Laura Chau's blog. It worked perfectly for a frustration-free start (and I used my new stitch markers to keep track along the way, placing one after each set of 50 stitches cast on). Now, you wouldn't think that a rectangular wrap worked flat that begins with simple garter stitch would be easy to mess up, but clearly you are mistaken! I picked this back up last night (after another in a series of long work days) only to discover that I had done some weird twisty thing mid-row a few rows back. Long story short, frog city....but the good news is that I am now back on track.

Last but not least, the knitting portion is finished for this cute little top in Spud & Chloe Fine, but I have many yarn ends to weave in. I think I'll be setting this aside til I have more time for fussy finishing work over the weekend!
Thanks for stopping by this week, I hope to see you back here for FO Friday when I share a long-overdue finished project!




Monday, August 10, 2015

Mega-Enabling: Stitches Midwest Recap

Stitches booty!
The fall yarn & fiber festival season kicked off (for me, anyway) at Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg this past weekend! I only attended the marketplace on Friday this time around; usually I go out for one or both weekend days, but to be honest, one day was totally enough since I wasn't signed up for any classes or events. I know I complain about this every year, but the drive to Schaumburg from the city is NOT fun, and since I don't have a car, I have to rely on the kindness of my knitting friends to get me out there since I'm not keen to repeat last year's Metra/shuttle experience.

The marketplace seemed smaller this year, but a good mix overall (if you can excuse the three aloe/lotion vendors which were all in the same row, which seemed like an major oversight for whomever planned the vendor layout - maybe I'm the only person who notices or cares about such things?!) Anyway, there were a lot of the vendors I expected to see, and several that I was delighted to discover. The emphasis was definitely on hand-dyed and luxury yarns, it seemed; or maybe that was just because I was hoping to stock up on spinning fiber, which was only spotted in a handful of booths. I hung out for the first part of the day with my pal Lindy from Balwen Woodworks, and somehow deluded myself into thinking that I could spend all day in the vendor marketplace and not buy any yarn - pretty funny, right? 

Obviously, I didn't stand a chance, but at least my first show purchase gave me the illusion that it might be possible: this adorable sheep needle gauge from Retromantic Fripperies:
They had gorgeous displays and a very unique booth design overall that totally won me over. And all of their animal shapes were too awesome to resist; it was a tough decision between the sheep, cat and alpaca needle gauges...but in the end, the sheep won out!

My whole "no buying yarn" plan quickly went out the window, however, when several skeins found their way home with me, starting with enough 100% Yak Sport to knit the Pennant Cardi by Mari Chiba from the new Knitscene:
It's no surprise that I spent a lot of time in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth, and this time, my pal Heidi was also there to promote the Delta Hat KAL which kicked off at Stitches. Of course I couldn't resist grabbing a skein of Himalayan Trail to join in.
Another beautifully-designed booth was Fiber Story, and after making my first pass at the entire marketplace, I resolved myself to go back and buy a skein of the yarn they were debuting at the show, a single-ply merino/silk blend...
...which, as you can see, actually became two skeins. A big shawl or wrap is in my imminent future! Alas, I didn't get any shots of their booth, but you can see a nice photo here on their instagram feed

I couldn't resist buying this ridiculously bright skein of yarn in the Leading Men Fiber Arts booth to make a certain someone Christmas socks: 
And the final skein of yarn that I brought home was gifted to me by the very sweet Lynn and Sue of the Two Tangled Skeins podcast when I ran into them on the show floor! The yarn is a self-striping sock from a local-to-them hand dyer (etsy shop here). Sue also included some of her snagless stitch markers in my favorite color, and it was all wrapped in one of her cute knot project bag! I have to say, I felt pretty spoiled (oh, and be sure to check out Sue's Etsy shop here).
I was a little sad to miss out on Saturday's podcaster meetup, but I did run into Megan from the Stockinette Zombies podcast, who gifted me a fun SZ zipper pull that is now in use on my favorite cat hoody: 
There were a lot of cool things I would have liked to buy if money had been no object, and at the top of this list was the project kits for a new shawl by Sarah Abram, Polyphony, in the Leading Men Fiber Arts booth. It's such a cool design, and my new goal is to knit more rectangular wraps instead of triangular shawls, which I find difficult to wear, even though I enjoy the knitting process. 
Image © Max Evrard 2015
I think the most colorful booth at the show belonged to Lady Dye Yarns, which had skein after skein of eye-popping colors - the perfect antidote to my usually muted palette. Also, the colorways are all inspired by street art, which is pretty unique...and check out that awesome logo! I got curious and visited their website and discovered that there is even more to their yarn story. I hope I see them at soon (apparently the owner, Diane, has relatives in Chicago, so it's not too far-fetched) so that I can buy some yarn from her this time around!
I came home from the show tired, but determined to start knitting with some of my new yarn. I'll be sharing my new WIPs on Wednesday, see you then! 



Friday, August 7, 2015

FO Friday: #KPChauKAL Shawl

I'm always a fan of multitasking, so when I was asked to knit a display piece for the Bijou Basin Ranch booth using one of Laura Chau's shawl patterns, I was pretty excited to cast on as part of the #KPChauKAL that is currently happening here in the Knitter's Pride Ravelry group. Two, two mints in one!

I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be done in time for Stitches Midwest this weekend, but I bound off on Tuesday night and had it blocking the next day (it had to share the usual blocking space with some homebrewing equipment, though):
The pattern is the Leonarda Shawl, and I knit the larger size option for the triangle version (the pattern also includes instructions to knit a smaller triangle shawl as well as a rectangular wrap). Rebel that I am, I didn't gauge beforehand, which totally came back to haunt me when I was far enough in to start worrying that I might run out of yarn because I was a little off on the suggested gauge. OOPS. The good news is that I won at yarn chicken, and the finished piece looks lovely!
However, if you're planning on knitting the larger size with two skeins of Tibetan Dream yarn as I did (shown here is the limited-edition Burple colorway), you really should take the time to gauge beforehand for your own personal sanity. It's not fun to worry about running out of yarn! Turns out, I could have gone down a needle size or two - but on the plus side, the resulting shawl is nice and big and perfect for snuggling into. If only I got to keep it!
If you're heading to Stitches Midwest this weekend (or any of the upcoming shows that Bijou Basin Ranch will be attending this fall), be sure to stop by to see this bad boy in person and squish some yak yarn, too!
"Can I keep it?"

Project Details
Pattern: Leonarda Shawl by Laura Chau
Yarn: 2 skeins Tibetan Dream sock yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch - shown in Burple, a limited-edition colorway hand dyed by Miss Babs
Needles: US#6 Knitter's Pride Marblz Circular Needles (but I probably should have used US#5 for this project in hindsight)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Totally Fine + Enabling

Wow, this week has been crazy! I've been logging extra hours for my day job, then spending most of my crafting time working on the Bijou Basin Ranch Shawl like my life depended on it. I'm happy to report that it's off the needles and blocking as I type, though that also means that I've worked on very little else since last week's post. Pretty much the only project with noticeable progress is the Fine top:
I know it's not much, but at least it's starting to look more like something wearable!

The only other thing I have to share is a bit of enabling. I know that Alicia from Woolen Diversions and the Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe is a reader of my own blog (and vice versa), and I've been meaning to give her lotion bars and lip balms a try for quite some time. Well, I couldn't resist the free shipping offer for Knitted Bliss blog readers, and my order arrived over the weekend:
I ordered Chamomile Bergamot and Blackberry Sage lotion bars
& Lemon Lime and Lavender EO lip balms from Sweet Sheep!

I am loving the lip balm, which has just enough fragrance to be noticeable, but not overpowering. The consistency is perfect and not at all sticky, and it has staying power to keep your lips moisturized for an impressive amount of time. I was a little nervous to try the lotion bars, because I've had issues with getting them to melt with my body heat since my hands are usually little icebergs. I'm pleased to report that they were quite user-friendly and had a nice, non-greasy feel that allowed me to get right back to typing this post without making my keyboard all gloppy. And, as with the lip balms, there is just the right amount of fragrance added.

Alicia didn't ask me to post this review at all, and you would probably also like to know (or maybe not?) that I purchased all 4 of these products without the intention of reviewing them....but that is how much I am enjoying them!

You can check out an interview with Alicia (which includes a coupon code for free shipping on your order) here on the Knitted Bliss Blog.

Enjoy!

Monday, August 3, 2015

July Goals / August Goals

August already?! It's time to check back in on the previous months' goals and set some new ones for the month ahead. This summer has been insanely busy in ways I could (or would) have never predicted. Even with my attempt at a "stress-free" list of goals for July, I was only marginally successful in my quests...but at least I didn't stress about it, which is totally fine by me!

Well, at least I had a successful Tour de Fleece!
JULY GOALS
1. Spin with Team Cloudlover for the Tour de Fleece. 100% achieved! 

2. Spend a few hours each weekend working on design ideas. 50% achieved; the last few weeks I've been working on a project which took precedence over everything else because it's a display piece for Stitches Midwest. 

3. Try to make some more of the small projects which have been in my queue for a while. Kinda sorta....I made several small projects in July, but they weren't from patterns that have been languishing in my queue. However, they do fulfill the next goal...


4. Destash! All of the small projects from Goal #3 (baby mocs and the Adventures in Mochimochiland critters) fulfilled this requirement!

5. Continue to add to the scrap yarn blanket. I only added two squares for July. TWO. Oops!

Am I crazy, or does this whole goal-setting thing seems to serve only one purpose these days: to remind me that the best laid plans often go astray?! 

I'm a little reticent to set even more goals for August, because work and life in general are really heating up: Stitches Midwest is this coming weekend, I started two new clients for this month, we have an employee who will be going on maternity leave so I'll be taking on some extra work while she's on babycation, I'll be taking on more tech editing projects, and my in-laws are doing the whole monthlong visit thing starting mid-month. Oh, and the next Wave of Babies has commenced, so the list of baby stuff to knit continues to grow (good thing those projects are usually pretty quick!). Honestly, I think I'll be winning at life if I can come through the other side of August with my sanity intact.  

The flipside of being crazy busy is that I find that I usually get more done because I am a lot more efficient across the board: I know I don't have a single second to spare, so I make a concerted effort to maximize each one. I'm not really a procrastinator by nature, but a sense of urgency can really do wonders for kicking one's butt in gear.

So, just in case my theory is true, here are my goals for next month:

AUGUST GOALS

1. Finish the flax spinning project-in-progress on my wheel. This one's left over from the Tour de Fleece, and it took a back seat once the Tour was over and I switched gears to working on my Stitches Midwest project full-force. 

2. Release a new pattern this month. It's pretty ridiculous that I haven't self-published any new patterns in the last several months - believe me, it's not for lack of ideas!

3. Finalize my holiday knitting plans. I've actually decided to purchase most of my gifts this year because I know I simply can't make enough things for gifting purposes. However, there are a few projects I do want to make if time allows, and planning ahead right now is probably my best bet at making that happen. 

4. Start some projects with handspun yarn. I've already picked out some patterns to put my recently-finished handspun skeins to work, so it shouldn't be too much of a leap to cast on a few new projects this month! 

5. Show the scrap yarn blanket some love! I'm sure it's feeling rather neglected these days. 

I think five goals is my limit for each month going forward....so that should be enough to guide my crafting in August (I hope). Well, until the next unexpected thing pops up to distract me, that is!