Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Weaving Wednesday: Project Planning Hits & Misses (PLUS: Cats!!)

Sometimes, when you plan a project, it goes horribly wrong. For example, I was really excited to weave with some yarn I've been given at the Creativation trade show at the start of this year; my plan was to make a soft and squishy bath mat using some recycled organic cotton yarn as the warp and t-shirt yarn as the weft. However, my plans quickly fell apart when I started warping my loom and discovered that I had completely miscalculated the amount of yardage I would need for this project. I ran out of yarn pretty quickly, and discovered that it was nearly impossible to purchase this yarn online, either from a yarn store OR via someone's destash on Ravelry.

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It would have been such an awesome project...
The problem with running out of yarn mid-warp is that you can't really take it off the loom and re-use it for something else. Once it's on, it's on, because it's such a pain to get off that you're better off just cutting your losses, quite literally. The thought of wasting such a lovely yarn that had been gifted to me was something I didn't think I could live with, so I left everything intact on my loom for several weeks while I racked my brain for something else it could be used for. There it sat, mocking me every time I glanced over at my loom (which is quite frequently because it's in the same room as my office!). And I absolutely could NOT think of another project that would be suitable for it.

I was just about ready to give up and cut it off of my loom when I spotted something on Instagram  that inspired me to try making it into a wall hanging. One Saturday afternoon, I grabbed a bunch of different leftover bits of yarn and some pieces of fiber and spent a few hours weaving away randomly, with no plan whatsoever....which is probably evident when you look at it!

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Reclaimed Wall Hanging

For a first attempt, it's not bad, and I think it looks nice in our living room. Robin seems to like it, and curiously neither of the cats have discovered how fun it is to play with the fringe.....yet.

After making this project, I have a new appreciation for what goes into those trendy wall hangings I keep seeing everywhere - they look like they would be SO easy to do, right? I can tell you, there is a lot of skill involved and planning involved to create a truly great composition. Flying by the seat of my pants wasn't the best approach; I would definitely be more methodical and perhaps sketch something out ahead of time if I ever attempted another wall hanging project.

However, the real objective in finding a use for this warp was to get it off the loom so that I could start a new project that I had very much been planning: a version of the Color-Play Plaid Scarf from Liz Gipson's Weaving Made Easy using 3 skeins of Organic Rambouillet/Mohair single ply yarn from Shepherd's Lamb. I made a few modifications for the amount of yardage I had on hand and my preference to make the blue color dominant; I also wove a longer scarf, because I like to be able to wrap it around my neck a few times.

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This project wove up really quickly, I think it took about 2 weeks from start to finish. The draft pattern was easy to memorize, and it made the weaving process fun and engaging. I could add 2 weft sequence in less than 10 minutes!

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Shepherd's Plaid Scarf

I love how this scarf turned out, and although I am not really a plaid-wearing person, I definitely enjoyed the weaving process and am looking forward to playing around with more plaid projects soon.

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Since I can't stop making crazy faces....

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...Tyler had to take over modeling duties.
Tilly enjoyed laying on it while it was drying (weavers have the same #catladyproblems as knitters!), so I'm sure I can find someone who would love to wear this scarf!

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As soon as the plaid scarf came off the loom, I was rarin' to start another multi-color project. I found two skeins of Lhasa Wilderness in my stash that I think will be fun to stripe with:

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I have worked out my warp sequence, but still need to decide on the weft. I figure I'll play it by ear so that I can see what looks best as I start to weave. I'll be posting progress shots on Instagram if you are interested in following along!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Knitting Pattern: Canyon Steps Cowl

I'm so excited to finally share this pattern with you! I've been working on it for a while because I am a Very Slow Knitter these days, plus my design process seems to involve a lot more frogging and reknitting these days. At any rate, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the Canyon Steps Cowl!

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A series of triangular motifs grow larger in this fun-to-knit cowl using one skein of Gobi, a luxurious blend of baby camel and mulberry silk. The cowl begins with a wide rib edging followed by 3 sections using charted and written instructions and finishes with a wide rib edging and a stretchy bind off. If you can knit and purl, you can make this project!

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Project Kit Contains:
  • 1 skein - Bijou Spun “Gobi" (35/65 Baby Camel /Mulberry Silk) in the color of your choice. 
  • 1 copy of the Canyon Steps Cowl pattern by yours truly
  • 1 3.4 oz bottle of Allure Fine Fiber wash in your choice of fragrance 
  •  1 three pack of custom, hand-made stitch markers from Purrfectly Catchy Designs
Project kits for the Canyon Steps Cowl are available here and include free shipping to US addresses; if you already have a skein of Gobi fingering in your stash, you can purchase individual copies of the pattern here.

We'll be announcing a KAL for this pattern soon over in the Bijou Basin Ranch Fan Club on Ravelry, I hope you will join us!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Enamel Pin Obsession

Over a year after I initially dipped my toe into the enamel pin collecting waters and the obsession has not died down - in fact, I think it has grown stronger! To wit: my most recent acquisition of several cute pins from The Clever Clove which arrived over the holiday weekend:

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This purchase was a direct result of following The Clever Clove on Instagram (and maybe having a few beers that night!), because everything she posts makes me say "I have to have that!"...don't say I didn't warn you.

My pin collection has grown so much that it can no longer be jammed onto one project bag. I'm thinking about grouping them by the above themes to put on my two most-used bags from the rotation (both of my Yarn Pop dandelion bags), and then finding some new canvas bags that are sturdy enough to support the heaviness of enamel pins. It seems like most folks love the Fringe Field Bag for this purpose, and I do have my eye on a grey one, but the $65 price tag is giving me pause. If anyone has a more moderately priced bag that is similar they can recommend, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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You can find links to most of the pins in my collection (plus a few more!) here on my Enamel Pin Pinterest board.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

4 Chart Reading Hacks for Knitters

What if there were some easy hacks to make knitting from charts easier, faster and more enjoyable? It's not too good to be true - there are plenty of simple tricks you can use when working from charts. I use each of these tips myself (sometimes all at the time!) and I'm sure that one, some or all will work for you, too.

Hack #1: Blow It Up!
For years, I would struggle through a tiny chart with tiny symbols that made my eyes crossed. Then one day, I realized that I could just MAKE IT BIGGER. Whoa. Mind blown.

Back in the day, this meant a trip to the local copy shop, but now that I have a printer/scanner at home, it is really easy to enlarge charts as needed. Plus, it is a lot easier to adjust the way a PDF will print out, so you can also enlarge the page containing the chart in question, subject to the capabilities of your printer and level of techno-savvy, of course.

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A color-coded cabled chart and highlighter tape!
Hack #2: Color Inside the Lines....and Out Of Them. 
The pattern you are working from doesn't need to be a pristine document worthy of the Smithsonian - so don't be afraid to write on it. Here are some things that I will do to a chart to make it easier to read:
  • Number the rows. Honestly, I don't know why any chart wouldn't have numbered rows, but it's been known to happen. 
  • Draw "reminder" arrows. Most of the projects I make are knit in the round, so when I am working a charted pattern flat, it is very easy to forget that wrong side rows are worked left to right (instead of right to left). So, I will draw a tiny arrow on the left hand side of EACH wrong side row to give me a visual reminder to START THERE!
  • Color coding is your friend. If there are a lot of symbols to keep track of - particularly, a lot of cables - color coding is your friend. Grab markers, highlighters, or colored pencils, and start by filling in the chart key to assign your colors. Then, carefully go through the chart to fill in each symbol with the corresponding color. As you work more and more repeats of the chart, you should be able to move faster because your mind will remember which color belongs to which stitch, eliminating the need to keep referring back to the key! 
Hack #3: Sometimes, you gotta chart the chart.
Unfortunately, not every designer uses the standards created by the Craft Yarn Council, and the result can sometimes be a Very Weird Chart Symbol. You have probably encountered one or two in a pattern: they often appear as strange squiggles that probably indicate a stitch that you are familiar with, but it's just so darn inscrutable and forgettable that it trips you up EVERY TIME. 

Perhaps the pattern you working from is full of them - that can be a real headache! 

This is when having some sort of charting software at your disposal can be really handy, because you can just create your own version of the chart using symbols that you can actually understand and remember. The only downside is that it will take a bit of time and cost some money, since most free versions of charting software are either limited in their scope or for the length of time you can use them - but I assure you, it will be worth it in the end, because you will finish your project faster, with minimal hair-pulling. 

For the price, I really like Intwined Pattern Studio. I have used it for many years and found it reasonably easy to both learn and use. 

I recently purchased Stitch Mastery based on countless recommendations from designers I work with, but I am having a really tough time making friends with it. I am not certain I can wholeheartedly recommend it thus far (but that is probably another topic for another day), and every time I try to use it, I find myself wishing I had tried the free version first before jumping in with both feet. 

I have never tried Chart Minder, but I'm probably going to test it out soon because it's free and it does so much more than just knitting patterns - you can also chart crochet and cross stitch patterns! 

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Knitter's Pride Chart Keepers.
Hack #4: Accessorize
There are a few gadgets that are worth investing in to make working from a chart easier:

Highlighter tape. It's affordable and easy to use - one roll is around $3 and each one I've bought has lasted for a couple of years. The draw of this product is that it is reposition-able, which means that you can reuse the same strip as long as it remains sticky. I find that placing your chart in a plastic sleeve will keep the ink from transferring to the highlighter tape, which not only makes it look gross, but also causes it to lose stickiness faster.

Chart Keeper. I'm sure there are a lot of versions of this type of product, but the ones I have been using for years are by Knitter's Pride and are similar to a notebook that you can stash your pattern in. One of the surfaces is magnetic, allowing you to secure your pattern with smaller magnets, and then keep track of where you are with a long magnetic strip. It can also be propped up on a nearby table for easy reference while you work!

I actually don't use the magnetic strip that came with each of my pattern holders because I have some Adventure Time-themed strips I bought a long time ago from Slipped Stitch Studios. They were designed to clip around a sheep of paper, but I found that the darn things never stayed put, so I cut them in half to be used on the magnetic board of my chart keeper.

Another cool thing you can do is stick things like small scissors, darning needles, and even stitch markers to the super-strong magnet that is holding your pattern in place. As you can imagine, that can be quite handy!

Row Counter. Honestly, I am not opposed to just making tic marks to keep track of where I am in any given pattern. But I know that a lot of people swear by a row counter, and I have found them to be useful in certain situations. The Sirka Row Counter, in particular, is really useful if you are trying to follow several sets of instructions concurrently.

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Oh my glob! Magnetic stripes from Slipped Stitch Studios, in use on my Knitter's Pride chart keeper.

Do you have your own tips and tricks for speedy chart reading that you don't see here? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! 

Like this post? Pin it!
ChartReadingHacksForKnitters

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Things I've Learned About Drum Carding

Drum carding looks so easy: you just toss in some fiber, and out pops a perfect batt, right?


Like anything that's made by hand, it's simple....but not that simple. For me, a lot of my learning curve was due to my tendency to overthink things and try to fix things that didn't need fixing. Once I got over that, I found that any other little hiccups were solved simply by doing. Practice does make perfect, and here are some of the most important lessons I've learned along the way - may they shorten your own learning curve when you give drum carding a try!

1. Prep before you prep. 

Sounds a bit silly, right? But the denser your fleece or fiber is, the harder it will be to process in your drum carder (not to mention, harder on your drum carder). Pretty much everything I've come across cautions against feeding too much fiber into the carder; the instructions that came with my carder (a Strauch Petite) recommend teasing fleece and fiber before processing and feeding a little at a time. In The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs, Sarah Anderson suggests that the fiber on your tray should be thin enough to read a paper through - a good reference point for us visual folks.

While I haven't attempted to process a raw fleece (yet), that also has an important bit of prep involved before reaching the carding phase. Apparently, any lanolin or grease on your fleece can wreak havoc on your drum carder in a number of ways. First, if the fleece is very clumpy due to lanolin, it may damage your carder if you try to force it through. Not to mention, that lanolin will also coat the card cloth and can transfer to other fibers that you card later on. So, make sure that any fibers you plan to card are squeaky clean.

Last but not least, the carding process isn't meant to remove those bits of the outside world that you sometimes find in a fleece (known as vegetable matter, or VM for short). Sometimes, VM will fall out on its own as you card, but you should consider that a bonus.

The bottom line: Make sure your fiber is washed (if needed), and flick or tease it to open the fibers and remove VM.

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I've been flicking on a hand carder to open compressed fibers before feeding into my drum carder.
2. Slow is the way to go. 

As a beginner, you will have the overwhelming urge to crank the handle on your drum carder and let the fiber fly!

Resist that urge.

Believe me, I know how hard it is - learning to slow down has never been easy for me, either. But the slower you go, the better your end results. I promise!

On one particularly stressful day after I'd finished doing my taxes (groan), I decided to break out the drum carder, and made an awesome discovery: the more I slowed down, the easier it was to fill my drum and create beautiful batts. As an added bonus, I felt way less stressed afterwards, so if anyone is suffering from anxiety or stress, I highly recommend an afternoon of slow drum carding.

Channel your inner sloth when processing fiber.


3. Don't be afraid to experiment.

I'm not sure if anyone else has this paranoia, but I'm always worried that I'm "doing it wrong." In knitting, in spinning, in life....I fully expect someone to pop out from behind the curtain in my living room to announce that whatever I'm doing is incorrect.

However, impostor syndrome can be a huge barrier to making some pretty cool discoveries, so sometimes it's good to ignore that irrational little voice. Somewhat ironically, in my zeal to discover the "right" way to drum card, I came across a suggestion that sounded absolutely wrong - feeding the fiber in sideways - but ended up giving it a try.....but not after first thinking "that's ludicrous - every single book I own tells me to feed the fiber in lengthwise, and so does the operating manual for my drum carder!"

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Slowly feeding that fiber in sideways...

Thankfully, curiosity got the better of me, and one afternoon I used a variety of dyed tops that I flicked on a hand carder before feeding into my drum carder sideways, and the resulting batts were lovely! I'm not sure if it was because I was using a shorter stapled fiber (merino), but it seemed to pick up and transfer the fibers a little easier with this method.

There are compelling reasons to use both methods of feeding fibers into my drum carder, and I plan to use both going forward. Should anyone interrupt to tell that I'm doing it wrong, I'll be sure to have a few choice words for them!

Got any helpful fiber prep tips to share? I'd love to read them in the comments. And if you liked this post, be sure to pin the graphic below to save it for later!


Things I've Learned About Drum Carding

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Half Birthday Sale: A Gift for You!

Fun fact: my husband and I are almost exactly 6 months apart in age (my half birthday is the day before his actual birthday later this month). I thought it would be fun to celebrate both with a little sale on Ravelry and Etsy!

Ravelry Pattern Sale

Enter HALFBDAY at checkout to get 50% off all of my patterns on Ravelry - including the Conversation Socks ebook! - now through May 18.

Half Birthday Sale (1)
Click here to visit my Ravelry pattern store!

Etsy Shop Sale

On Etsy, you can choose your discount below, good towards any of my current listings for mini skeins, hand dyed yarns, and handspun yarns. Plus, all US orders (still) ship FREE!

Spend $10, get 10% off when you enter SPEND10 at checkout.

Spend $20, get 20% off when you enter SPEND20 at checkout.

Spend $30, get 30% off when you enter SPEND30 at checkout.

All offers expire at Midnight MDT on Friday, May 18.

Half Birthday Sale (2)
Click here to visit my Etsy Shop!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Winner + Frogging Failed Fo's

First off, congrats to Laura (aka skiddoo0 on Instagram), who is the winner of last week's Kraemer Yarns project kit giveaway. I'll contact you shortly to arrange the delivery of your prize. Many thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway!

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Frogging Failed FO's

Most of us have a few projects that didn't turn out as planned. Some Finished Objects (FOs) fall out of the rotation in favor of newer, more exciting projects - if you knit or crochet for long enough, it's bound to happen. But there are always those finished projects that fall short of expectations: perhaps the gauge was a bit off, the colors didn't play together as well as you'd hoped, or the yarn subbed in proved to be a poor choice, even though you were certain it was a great choice at the time.

Only recently have I been able to spot those dealbreakers which resulted in an unloved/unused FO before I reach the binding off or finishing stage; earlier in my knitting and crocheting, I would stubbornly plod ahead, certain that something magical would happen along the way to resolve whatever nagging issue had cropped up. Now, I'm more likely to tink back or totally scrap the project if enough red flags are raised (I find that putting a project in time out for a few days or ever a week or two is enough to make the call re: frog or finish).

While that's great progress, I still have a cache of finished projects hidden away because they had flaws that bugged me too much to enjoy using them. Recently, I've been slowly working on reclaiming that yarn so that it can be used in another project.

IMG_2859I won't lie: frogging back a totally finished knit takes patience - a LOT of patience. This step-by-step tutorial on the Knitted Bliss blog will help you with the process. I've been using my Knitter's Pride Ball Winder to complete the initial frogging step, after which I re-skein each reclaimed ball on my swift before washing the ramen-like yarn to relax the strands back into something knittable.


Should Your Frog or Should You FO?

A few questions I ask myself before committing to the full-on frog:
  • When was the last time I wore or used this project? 
  • What bothers me about this project, to the point that I am not enjoying it? 
  • Can this yarn withstand the abrasion of the frogging process? 
  • Will I really make something else with the reclaimed yarn? 
If I'm answering these questions honestly, it's pretty obvious what I should do. Mentally, it's a bummer to undo hours/weeks/months of work, but isn't it just as tragic to never put the resulting project to good use?

What I'm Frogging

Here are some of the projects that have gone on the chopping - er, frogging - block this spring:

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1. Mystery lace shawl (or blanket?) in Malabrigo Sock - this project was a series of unfortunate events, starting with the fact that I simply didn't have enough yarn to actually make the project. Also, a square shawl that is knit from the middle out is clearly not my cup of tea; quite frankly, I'm amazed that I even finished the thing. I am not totally sure when I knit this project - there is no entry for it in my Ravelry notebook - but when I found it, it had some holes in it from what I suspect were dropped stitches I never noticed. It's way too tiny to use for anything but a baby blanket, but I can't imagine anyone with a newborn who would want a kinda-wonky handwash blanket. Riiiiiiip.

2. Pioneer in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport - another project from the days in which I was a tiny twentysomething. When I came across this sweater stashed in the bottom of a drawer, it honestly looked child-sized. I can't believe I ever wore this thing and it actually fit! It's a great pattern that I would probably knit again in a size that would actually fit me (although the v-neck could be a little shallower), and I love the perfect dye lot of Pewter that I dyed myself in this yarn. Shepherd Sport is definitely worth frogging and reusing.

3. Honey Cowl in Lorna's Laces Honor - this project was made with some of the very first skeins of Honor, dyed by me in my own personal color palette back when I worked at Lorna's. Although the project turned out well and I love the yarn, I don't think I have worn it more than a handful of times since finishing it in the summer of 2011.

4. Elfe in Grinning Gargoyle Seda Sock - when I finished this five years ago (holy hot dogs!), it fit me perfectly. But as I progressed into my thirties and my metabolism took a nosedive, this sweater became a tiny, ill-fitting top. You know what really accentuates a weight gain? Vertical stripes. Again, this yarn is too pretty not to be worn, so I have reclaimed it for a TBD project.

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5. Design sample that never actually became a design in The Wool Dispensary Useful Irradiant - Honestly, I don't know why I never bothered to write up this pattern and release it, but here we are. I guess I just lost interest? The yarn is from my friend Sam's former hand-dyed yarn company, and I would much rather frog this yarn and use it for something else since I don't have any more of her yarn left in my stash.

6. Lory Shawl in Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail - I love, love, LOVE this yarn. Yak and merino is divine! It's too wonderful to sit in a bin, and that's just what this project has done ever since I finished it in Fall of 2014. The pattern was supposed to be a wrap, but because I didn't check gauge (shame on me!) and I made my welts larger than the pattern called for, my FO became a sadly narrow scarf.

Not pictured: Openwork Dolman in Bijou Basin Ranch Shangri-La - WTF was I thinking? In what scenario would I ever wear a mesh top like this? Sure, it looked cute on the stick-thin model, but in real life, I found it to be much less flattering. This yarn is serious luxury - 50/50 yak and silk - and too precious to waste. It won't be easy to frog this one since it's seamed, but if I can do so successfully, I will be very happy to reclaim this yarn and find something new to do with it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review + Giveaway: Knit for Baby Sweater from Kraemer Yarns

Baby knits are such a great instant-gratification project, and having a stash of cute baby things comes in handy when someone announces that they're expecting. I was excited to try out this project kit from Kraemer Yarns when they were looking for reviews of their new project kit offerings at patternsbykraemer.com.

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The Knit For Baby Sweater is a t-shaped simple garter stitch garment that is knit flat all in once piece and then seamed. The kit includes a printed pattern on high-quality glossy paper with full color photos, and two skeins of Tatamy DK yarn, a blend of 45% Cotton and 55% Acrylic. I chose a nice gender-neutral color, Rubber Duckie, and they sent me two project kits so that I can give one away to my blog readers - keep reading to find out how you can win this project kit!

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The pattern instructions are easy to follow and keep track of as you work - just count the purl bumps to know how many rows you've worked - and the seaming is quite easy once you're done since there are only two seams to work (each side and sleeve). When I seam garter stitch, I just connect the bumps (or smiles and umbrellas, if you'd rather) - here is a good tutorial to show you how it's done.

I did make one small modification to this sweater to fix a problem I always have when it comes to buttonholes: I single crocheted around each buttonhole with the yarn and a size C crochet hook to fix the loose stitches on each side which would otherwise catch on the button.

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Before: wonky button holes

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After: Reinforced buttonholes!
As luck would have it, I had the perfect buttons in my stash for the closure - check out these cute handmade buttons from Wildflower Button Studio. I used a little bit of white embroidery floss to sew them on before washing the sweater in some wool wash and laying flat to dry.

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This was my first time knitting with this particular yarn, and I'm pleased to report that it was easy on my hands as I knit - cotton and cotton blend yarns can sometimes be a problem for me. I really like the tweedy effect to add a bit of visual interest to the finished project. Each skein has plenty of yardage, and I have enough left over from the second skein to knit a matching hat (I knit the 3 month size of the sweater).

Kraemer Yarns is a family owned textile mill Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Many of their yarns and spun from wool raised in the US, and they use a range of natural fibers to create their unique blends of yarn (read more about their interesting story here). There is a nice range of knitting and crochet pattern kits available at patternsbykraemer.com, so you're sure to find something to inspire your next project!

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As promised, one lucky blog reader will win a Knit for Baby Sweater Kit of their very own! This contest is open to readers worldwide, you just have to sign up for my newsletter via the link below (or enter your email address so that I can confirm your subscription) to be entered in the drawing, and you will also unlock bonus entries. I'll randomly choose 1 lucky winner to announce next Wednesday, May 2 right here on this blog. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sock Knitting Basics & Spring-Tastic Socks Relaunch

This article and pattern originally appeared in Holla Knits, an online magazine produced by my good friend Allyson Dykhuizen. She has graciously allowed me to republish here on my blog now that Holla Knits is no more, and I am super excited to relaunch one of my favorite sock designs, the Spring-tastic Socks, which are now available here in my Ravelry store! This pattern is fun to knit and looks great in both semisolid and variegated yarn. 

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The Spring-tastic Socks are shown here in the Periquito colorway of Manos del Uruguay Alegria Sock.

Sock Knitting Basics

Sock knitting is a pretty vast subject, so this article in no way purports to cover every aspect - but it will help you to tackle your first pair of socks with confidence and give you some ideas for future sock exploration.

First things first: let’s cover the terminology. Below is the basic anatomy of a sock, which you will see referenced throughout most sock knitting patterns.

sock anatomy


Cuff:
Generally, this consists of some sort of ribbing pattern - most commonly k1, p1 or k2, p1. An elastic cast-on or bindoff is recommended. For cuff-down socks, I like the Long-Tail Cast-On (which actually goes by several names - I’ve heard it also called the Turkish cast on and the German Twist Cast-On); for toe-up socks, I prefer using the sewn bindoff.

Leg: This is the easy part, where you begin working the pattern stitch!

Heel: Traditional sock knitting consists of a flap which is worked flat (usually with a slipped stitch for added durability), then short rows to create what is called the heel turn - that’s just a fancy way of saying you’ll be changing the direction of the knitted piece. After working the heel flap and turn, you will begin working in the round once again by picking up stitches along the flat on both sides as you knit around the socks. Sometimes, this process can change where the beginning of the round falls, so be sure to pay extra attention to the instructions, which may indicate that you need to account for this. Other approaches to heel-making include the short row heel, the afterthought heel, the OMG Heel by Megan Williams, the Sweet Tomato Heel by Cat Bordhi, and the Fish Lips Kiss Heel by Sox Therapist.

Gusset: In this section, you will begin decreasing on either side of the foot. If you are working a sock on 4 DPNs, these are the stitches which are on the first and last DPNs of the round (Needles 1 and 4), which hold the heel turn and picked up stitches. They will usually be knit in stockinette stitch; if you are working on magic loop, these are placed on one half of the needle.

Instep: This indicates the top of the foot, where the pattern of the leg is often continued. If you are working on 4 DPNs, there are the stitches on the middle two DPNs (Needles 2 and 3); if you are working on magic loop, these stitches are placed on the opposite half of the needle.

Foot: This indicates the section of the foot where you will be working even in established pattern - that is, stockinette stitch on the bottom of the foot, and the pattern stitch on the top (instep).

Toe: In cuff-down socks, this is where decreases are placed to create a rounded toe and finish the sock; to close the toe securely, grafting with kitchener stitch is recommended. In toe-up socks, this is the start of the whole thing! Judy’s magic cast-on or a knitted tab toe are often how toe-up socks are started; stitches are then increased to work the foot.


More Fun Facts About Socks


Now that you have the vocabulary down, it’s time to talk a little more about the specifics. Socks can be knit toe-up, cuff-down, and even side-to-side on double-pointed needles (DPNs) or on circular needles via magic loop. Lots of folks knit their socks two-at-a-time to avoid what is commonly known as second sock syndrome. They can also be crocheted if you’re so inclined!

Sock knitting is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, and there are some very creative folks in the industry who are dreaming up new and interesting ways of exploring socks. I encourage you to try out each technique for yourself to see if it works for you!

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The Spring-tastic Socks are shown here in the Poppy Field colorway of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal.
The great thing about socks is that they are fairly easy to customize, since you can try them on as you knit. Most sock patterns are written for a given circumference (usually ranging from about 7-9 inches for an adult-sized sock), which can be confusing to beginners. In most cases, this circumference can have you covered for both the leg AND the foot, believe it or not! While there are always exceptions to the rule, the circumference of your leg is roughly the same as the circumference of your foot when measured at the arch - and since most socks are designed with negative ease, the differences between these two measurements is negligible except in the most extreme cases - and if it’s not, you can always add or remove gusset stitches to accommodate for the difference!

Besides having an incredibly useful finished product (especially if you live somewhere with a cold winter), there are lots of compelling reasons to give sock knitting a try. Socks are a portable project that’s perfect for the warmer months since you don’t have to worry about having a hot pile of wool on your lap as you work. Plus, they are affordable to make, since you generally only need a skein or two of fingering weight yarn to make a pair. Many knitters claim that sock yarn doesn’t count as stash, so if you are trying to cold sheep this year - you may have just found your loophole! Finally, they make great gifts to give to that stitch-worthy person on your list.

I hope you are inspired to give sock knitting a try. Be sure to check out my other sock patterns here on Ravelry, too!

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SockKnittingBasics

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I Went To YarnCon, And All I Got Was...

My favorite yarn/fiber event took place here in Chicago last weekend - YarnCon! I went with a friend to shop the marketplace for a few hours on Saturday afternoon and managed to make only 1 purchase: 4 skeins of gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Black Cat Fibers, which I plan to use for another So Faded Sweater:

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R-L: Vamp, Alchemy, Dirt Nap and Quarry

I don't think I've ever knit a sweater twice, but I really like how my first one turned out, and it fits me perfectly (especially now that I put a collar on it - no more Flash Dance sweater!). I still have the pattern with the numbers for my size circled, so I doubt it'll be long til I cast on....never mind that I am also currently working on a Comfort Fade cardi in some OOAK hand-dyed colors of Lhasa Wilderness. 2018 is the Year of the Sweater after all, right?!

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As you can see, the YarnCon marketplace was full of temptation - it took quite a bit of willpower not to bring everything home with me. Thankfully, my recent spring cleaning exercise is still very fresh in my mind, so I was able to avoid a lot of random yarn buying in favor of something project-specific.

Note to self: I should make a list of possible projects I want to make and the yarn I would need for it BEFORE I go to a yarn or fiber festival. For YarnCon, I had no plan, and the only reason I thought to do another So Faded sweater is because I was picking out 3 coordinating skeins of sock yarn, figuring that it would be easy to find a pattern for them after the fact. Then I realized that if I added 1 more skein, that was basically a sweater quantity...and all of the colors were so pretty that I couldn't choose just one, hence another Fade sweater is now in the works!

Randomly: For anyone who is wondering/interested, I am working on some blog posts based on the reader survey from earlier this year (remember that?), and also some new designs for spring! I'm looking forward to sharing all of that with you soon;  most of my free time has been dedicated to my destashing efforts on Ravelry and Etsy, but I do want to shift focus back to the blog this spring. Thanks for hanging with me!


Monday, April 2, 2018

Who Owns Inspiration?

I know I said that I was only going to publish posts on Wednesdays this year, but I decided to swap days this week. Over the weekend, while most folks were celebrating April Fool's Day, Easter, Passover, or something sports ball related, a bit of yarn drama was unfolding on Instagram:


Whoa, Those are some heavy accusations (you can read the full post here). Since the above post, there have been a few instagram comments on this post from the Madelinetosh feed that make similar accusations by other users - who knows how big the brouhaha will get by the time this blog goes live?!

However, who said what an who did what first really isn't my concern here (that's for the named parties above to sort out); what I really want to ask the public at large is this: who owns inspiration, especially when it's sourced from pop culture?

Whether people are inspired by a true love for the movie/comic book/what have you or just want to cash in on a trend is not mine to say, but it seems like there's been no shortage of yarns inspired by the onslaught of comic book movies that have been coming out. For example, my LYS Firefly Fiber Arts is debuting an entire series of yarn colors and patterns based on these fandoms at C2E2 this coming weekend which looks pretty cool. Another indie dyer, Nerd Girl Yarns, has a "Heroes" collection of colorways. Specific to Black Panther, if you type "Black Panther Yarn" into Etsy right now there are approximately 8 other dyers offering colorways inspired by the movie.

I do, however, understand how it feels when you have an idea that is near and dear to your heart and you feel like someone has ripped it off. Several years ago, I had a whale colorwork chart on my business cards that I was handing out at TNNA (the yarn industry trade show). Not long after that show, a yarn company I'd talked to at the show (and had given my card to) came out with a pattern that featured colorwork whales on it. I felt totally ripped off and was pretty annoyed that they didn't at least mention me as their source of their inspiration. But then I was talking to a friend who very kindly pointed out that, while they were indeed similar ideas, it's not like they had taken an exact design of mine and replicated it. I'd put a colorwork chart on my card, did I really expect people not to use it?!? Furthermore, it's not like I owned the patent on whale motifs for all of knitting - let's be real.

Sometimes, when you are very close to something, it's hard to see the bigger picture....and that picture is sometimes that your great idea isn't as original as you thought (see: all of those "Fade" patterns that knitters can't get enough of, myself included).

Lastly, I don't think I can say it better than Seth Godin did:


Sure, it can be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes the alternative is even more so.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Know Your Sheep: Navajo Churro

Not too long ago, I was sent a lovely box of yarns from Antonio and Molly Manzanares of Shepherd's Lamb, a family-owned and -operated ranch in New Mexico. They raise a flock of Rambouillet and Navajo-Churro sheep to make organic their organic yarns which are processed and spun in the USA, then hand-dyed with low impact or natural dyes on site.

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I've never worked with Navajo-Churro before, so I gravitated towards these 6 colors and decided to do a gamp-style woven scarf (for any curious non-weavers out there, here is a great definition of a gamp).

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The mix of natural/undyed yarns and naturally dyed colors was really fun to work with, and I have enough yarn left over to each one which I can use in future projects. Now that i know how each color interacts with one another, that will make choosing colors a lot easier (click here to see what colors of Navajo-Churro yarn they currently have available).

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I'm guessing that many of my readers have not worked with Navajo-Churro yarn or fiber before, or perhaps never even heard of it. While it's the oldest breed of sheep in North America, Navajo-Churro yarn and fiber isn't something you come across every day (unless you live in the southwest, I'd wager). In fact, this breed was nearly wiped out in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the US government in several attempts to control the Navajo tribe. That chapter of their history is quite sad, but the good news is that, against all of those odds, the Navajo-Churro bloodline has come back from the brink of extinction and these yarns and fibers are still used today by the Navajo people to create their traditional rugs and tapestries.

Navajo-Churro sheep grow a double-coated fleece, so there can be a lot of variation within the fibers, and some Churro I've encountered in the past has been quite coarse (mind you, that hasn't been much!). This yarn was much softer than I was expecting, though anyone who is sensitive to wool may experience a bit of the "prickle factor" when worn close to the skin. Navajo-Churro is known for being lustrous and hard-wearing, as well as incredibly insulating - I have a feeling this scarf will be an excellent choice for a blustery day when I need to double up on all of my winter woolens.

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If you've ever wondered what it's like to manage a flock or sheep and manage a working ranch, this short documentary is a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at the good work Antonio and Molly do:


I'm excited to share more projects with these lovely yarns soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Challenge Accepted! 2018 Ravelry Project Challenge

Has anyone noticed this little badge in the top right corner of your Ravelry notebook?

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From what I can gather, this is an informal, self-guided challenge to make a specific number of projects within the calendar year. There doesn't appear to be any official Ravelry group or thread associated with accountability or sharing progress, though I've noticed some groups dedicated to destashing or other KALs have picked up on it and are using the feature in conjunction with their event. There is also a discussion thread here in For The Love of Ravelry where people can ask questions about how everything works.

Joining is pretty easy: after you click on the badge, all you have to do is enter a number and click "sign me up!"

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I've never really thought about how many projects I want to make in a year, so I set an arbitrary goal of 50 - I honestly have no idea if that is a reasonable or unreasonable goal, but it does look like you can adjust it at any point if you wish, and any project that has a finish date in 2018 (even if it was started in 2017) counts toward your goal.
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What's fun is that you can also earmark queued projects for this challenge by setting a due date for any time in 2018:

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I have been working on paring down my queue to things I think I might actually make (you know, someday) and have started adding in some arbitrary due dates so that I can focus my efforts for this year. Here's what projects I already have the yarn for and have designated for this challenge so far:

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Will you be setting a goal for finished projects in 2018?