Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Color Block Cowl in Brown Sheep Stratosphere

I was really excited to try out the new superwash yarn from Brown Sheep, Stratosphere. In fact, this yarn was sent to me near the end of the summer, and I am a bit overdue in posting my review (oops!). That's not the yarn's fault, however; I happened to bite off more than I could chew in my pattern choice, the Color Block Cowl from Purl Soho.

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It's not that the pattern was difficult to knit, but it was fussy. Each stitch pattern used the technique of knitting into the row before, which is actually quite easy to do - but again, fussy. Especially when you are working from all 3 skeins. Also, I don't know if it was just my newness to the technique or if this is typical of patterns like this, but I found that the fabric edges were a little messy looking when working with more than 1 color.

As a result, there were some days and even weeks where I just didn't feel like picking it up to work on, which made me feel a but guilty, because I loved the yarn and I knew I would love the end result....I just didn't enjoy the process of getting from point A to point B!


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Let's talk more about the yarn. Stratosphere is inspired by the Nebraska sky with its cloud-like softness and loft as well as its interesting color palette of bright solids and soft kettle-dyed color ways. It's a superwash DK weight spun with a soft, fine grade U.S. washable wool, and if washability and durability is your concern, this is the yarn for you!

And you don't have to sacrifice softness, either: while I know the softness is subjective, I was impressed with how my finished project softened up after washing. There's no hint of "prickle factor" when I loop it snugly around my neck. As you can see, the finished cowl is easy to wear and really pretty. I think the yarn is going to hold up really well and I doubt it will pill, even years from now.

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Stratosphere checks off a lot of boxes for me: Made in the USA, good quality, easy care, great color palette....I would definitely reach for this yarn again, both for myself or for a gift project.

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Click here to find your nearest Brown Sheep retailer; click here to view yarn details on the Brown Sheep website.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Hat Pattern I Never Tire of Knitting

It's not often when you find a pattern you don't mind knitting again and again (or maybe that's just me?!). But when you do, it's nice to have that old favorite ready to go whenever you need a quick gift or a soothing knit. When I originally designed A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat, it used one of my favorite yarns from Bijou Basin Ranch, Himalayan Trail. I knit both of the samples pictured in the original version of the pattern (which then went on to become display pieces in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth), plus another one I got to keep for myself.

Recently, the yarn base originally used in the pattern was discontinued, and they have sold out of nearly all remaining stock - but the good news is that project kits for this pattern are still available, because I worked with the folks at Bijou to rework the pattern to use their newest yarn, Himalayan Summit!

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This crisp fingering weight yarn is really delightful to work with, and the 50/50 yak and merino blend works well with the simple slipped stitch pattern of my original design. If you're a faster knitter than me (and let's face it, most of you probably are!!), you can whip out a hat or two to give as holiday gifts this year - one project kit will easily yield two hats. I used 1 skein each of Big Hippo and Prickly Bottom, each from their Seriously, It's in Tasmania collection of hand-dyed colors; there are many more fabulous color combinations you can pick from when purchasing your kit, too!

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You can find the pattern and project kit over on the Bijou Basin Ranch website - be sure to sign up for their newsletter because they always run fabulous holiday sales this time of year. It's also available here on Ravelry.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Valhalla Cowl in Mauch Chunky Yarn from Kraemer Yarns

After spending most of last month working on a top secret test knitting project, it feels like forever since I've gotten to share a finished knit on here. I have an uncomfortable (for me) amount of WIPs currently on the needles at the moment, and my hope is to spend November fixing that problem so that I can start some new & exciting projects over the holiday break next month.

Back in September, I was sent some yarn for review from the generous folks at Kraemer Yarns, who have provided yarn and fiber for several reviews over the past few years, such as July's needle felted ornament tutorial, the Knit for Baby sweater kit review from this past Spring, and a solar yarn dyeing tutorial from 2016.

Each time, I've been impressed with the products they send me, which are all beautifully made at their mill in Nazareth, Pennsylvania using domestically-sourced fibers. After working with the Mauch Roving for the needle felting tutorial (and also carding the leftover fiber into batts and spinning with them!), I was excited to try the yarny counterpart to the Mauch line, and the idea of an instant-gratification project was pretty irresistible.

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Mauch Chunky is a single ply using 100% domestic wool; each 100g skein has approximately 120 yards, and there are a ton of colors to choose from (I have a feeling this yarn would also take dye beautifully!). Most chunky weight yarns I've encountered usually have less than 100 yards to the skein, so at $8.50 per skein that makes Mauch Chunky a really good deal, especially for bigger projects such as sweaters or blankets! I chose 3 skeins of Blueberry Ice to make the Valhalla Cowl from Jen Geigley's book, Weekend: Simple, Modern Knits.

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The yarn is spun tightly enough that it is smooth and doesn't start felting with use, yet it is still plenty soft; I am hoping that means that it also doesn't pill much with wear, but I'll have to report back on that after wearing my finished project through the winter. There were a few kempy fibers mixed in, but they were very easy to remove as I knit. I should also mention that the resulting fabric is very soft and squishy, and because the cowl is a knitted tube that is then seamed together, it is extremely warm!

I would definitely use this yarn for another project. If you are looking for an affordable chunky yarn that's made in the USA and doesn't skimp on quality, put Mauch Chunky from Kraemer Yarns at the top of your list!

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You may like to know: I was gifted 3 skeins of yarn in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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