Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Can We Take A Soft 5?

This has been the craziest summer I can remember - for what is supposed to be the "slow" season in the yarn industry, I have certainly been running around like a crazy person! So you would think that only writing one blog post per week (rather than the 3 I had been doing prior to this year) would not be a huge deal, and yet...sometimes, it can be surprisingly difficult to find the time!

Don't worry, this blog isn't going to go away, this is just my way of saying that I need a week off to rest, regroup, and get ready for the "busy" season.


via GIPHY

Speaking of which, I do have some new patterns coming out soon and a new knitting tutorial in the works (yay!) that I absolutely can't wait to share with you, so please do check back soon...or follow me on bloglovin so you don't miss my next post!

XO,

Stefanie

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review: Appalachian Baby Organic Cotton Yarn

I was recently given the chance to try a 3-pack organic cotton yarn set from Appalachian Baby Design; I chose the "Woodland" color set of Silver, Doe and Natural to knit a modified version of the Hill and Holler Baby Cardigan.

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It's been a while since I've knit with cotton yarn, mostly because some of the other brands I've tried have been stiff and really hard on my hands. I've found that the better quality of yarn, the easier it is to work with, and this yarn was nice and supple, as you would expect from an organically-produced yarn.

But that's not the only reason you can feel good about using this yarn: the folks at Appalachian Baby Designs work with small-scale U.S. sustainable family-owned cotton farms, sheep ranches and family-owned mills to produce each ball of yarn. They know the producer’s name and farm for each bale of cotton that they purchase, and the fibers are certified organic under the US Department of Agriculture National Organic program.

That's pretty impressive when you consider the fact that  organic cotton represents only 1% of the global cotton production, which means that conventionally-grown cotton is the norm. Unfortunately, conventionally-grown cotton  is extremely hard on the environment, employing tons of pesticides, herbicides, miticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. (You can learn more about their organic cotton here).

Getting back to my project, I wanted to knit a two-color baby sweater and decided to make the smallest size of the Hill and Holler Baby Cardigan. I ended up using up every bit of the main color of yarn (Natural), making just a few modifications along the way such as using the contrast color for the sleeve cuffs and shawl collar, and shortening the sleeves a bit overall. I think the resulting sweater is adorable, and the short sleeves kind of work (babies do have short, chubby arms after all!). I was also pretty thrilled to find the perfect buttons in my stash to put the finishing touch on this project.

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I didn't have a chance to wash the sweater just yet, but I love the fact that this yarn is both machine washable and dryable - and I am sure that whomever I gift this to will feel the same way!

Click here to check out the Appalachian Baby Designs Site - they also have some adorable project kits and other fun patterns for these extra-special yarns!

You may like to know: I was provided free product in exchange for this blog post. All opinions & ideas are my own!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Finished Sweater Alert: Comfort Fade Cardi

I'm so excited to share my finished Comfort Fade Cardi this week! I this projectstarted way back in March, and I'm honestly not sure which took longer - my stay on sleeve island, knitting the shawl collar, or weaving in the ends. All of them seemed to take a really long time, but I can finally call this project done and I absolutely LOVE it!

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I used Lhasa Wilderness yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch, which is a blend of 75% yak down and 25% bamboo. It's silky-soft, and other projects I have knit with this yarn have yet to pill. The bamboo fibers are really breathable, so it's both lightweight and cool to wear in warmer temperatures, but when it gets colder you are still nice and warm thanks to the yak down, which is super-insulating. It's the best of both worlds!

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If I could knit this sweater over again, I think I would have added a few more stitches to the sleeves. Mine are a bit snug, and while I wouldn't describe them as being too small, I find I prefer a half-inch or even an inch of ease these days. Hopefully they will stretch out a bit with wear. All but one of the colors are OOAK test dyes, but you can see their current palette of hand-dyed options here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Off The Needles: Canyon Steps Cowl

Last week, the Canyon Steps Cowl KAL came to an end, and I just barely finished my project in time!

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This is my second time knitting this pattern because it's my own design for Bijou Basin Ranch, and the first one I made is now a display piece in their booth! This time around, I chose the Aasgard colorway from their collection of Valkyrie-inspired colorways (or Thor, if you'd rather!) that are dye on Gobi fingering yarn. Baby camel and silk is soooo divine (how could it not be?!), and I love the way the hand-dyed colors shimmer on this blend.

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The variegated color kind of hides the stitch pattern, but it's so darn pretty that I don't mind if the pattern gets a bit upstaged by the yarn color. It was still fun to knit and I'm super excited to keep this one for myself! Even though the KAL is over, you can still get project kits here if you are so inclined. I'd love to see your project if you do, so make sure to share it on Instagram with the #bijoubasinranch hashtag!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tour De Fleece Recap: Crawling Across The Finish Line

In previous years, I have dutifully spun every day of the Tour de Fleece - even on rest days, even when traveling. There is something programmed deep within me that makes me want to check all those boxes off of my list, even if there isn't an actual end goal or anything at stake. I just have to do it because I can (and, you know, it's fun)!

This year was a little different. I started out strong, spinning every day for the first two weeks...and then on Saturday the 21st, things just ground to a halt! I spent all day working on this blog tutorial, and planned to spin in the evening but then my husband texted to say that a customer gave him free tickets to Pitchfork that night...so I met up with him to see The War on Drugs play their set, have a few beers, and be reminded of why I never leave the house (actually, it was fun, but people, y'know?).

I also had some swatches for new designs that needed to be finished by the end of last weekend, so that comprised all of my Sunday, and by Monday I was fighting the recurring hand/arm issues I get from overuse, so...no spinning. It wasn't til Thursday of last week til I dared to sit back down at my wheel for a bit of spinning.

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All that to say that I spent the first week spinning the top two projects to completion, and the remainder of the event struggling to finish both of the bobbins spun from the most luscious moorit shetland fiber that I bought last fall at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool festival (I can't wait to ply it!).

It was actually a bit freeing to let myself not do something 100%, is that weird?!

Speaking of not doing things, I have decided not to reprise my role as the Captain for Team Louet for Spinzilla this year. I loved our team of awesome spinners over the years, Dave at Louet was a fabulous, generous host, and winning it all two years in a row was extremely gratifying.

However, it has always been a struggle to find time to participate, especially since I physically can't spin for very long without hurting myself. Also, October is typically a very busy month for me in terms of workload, so I always felt guilty that I wasn't a bigger help to the team (also, I was never able to crack 4,000 yards, which was kind of frustrating). It seems silly to feel stressed about an event that was supposed to be fun, but I have definitely felt that way in recent years.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that last year's event was under the new management at TNNA, rather than the original organizers of the event. This was painfully obvious to me and countless other spinners (just check out this Ravelry thread - yikes), as there was a lot of disorganization (and perhaps even some all-out mismanagement) that really left a bad taste in my mouth. I had many team members privately tell me that they would not be returning in 2018 for a variety of reasons (not all related to the afore-mentioned issues with last year's event), and I had already been pondering the same thing. Supposedly a new team is in charge of the event this year, and I wish them well - but I think I'll be sitting this one out.