Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Curls 3 Review & Giveaway

Hunter Hammersen does it again! In Curls 3, you'll find 11 new designs that were created specifically for speckled and gradient yarns. Of course, they can also be knit with any other type of yarn you desire - and just as in the first two Curls books (Curls and Curls 2), you also aren't limited by yarn weight, because each design can be knit at any gauge.

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Each shawl is knit with the same formula, which is described in depth in the Anatomy of a Curl section at the start of the book. Once you are familiar with the basic setup, you can easily follow the  color coded charts and schematics as you knit your chosen pattern (all of which are explained clearly in this section of the book). If you's someone who likes to modify patterns here and there, make sure not to skip this section!

Also worth a read is the section on Speckles and Gradients, which is also found at the start of the book. Hunter clearly defines each type of yarn and shares a lot of great tips for choosing and working with these beautiful and tempting colors, which can sometimes be a challenge once you start to knit with them.

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The patterns are grouped by the type of yarn they were designed for, beginning with speckles (the first four designs) and then continuing with single-skein gradients (the next 2) and multi-skein gradients (the final 5) - but that is only a guideline, and substitutions are strongly encouraged!

I took that note to heart when deciding to cast on for the cover project with a single-skein gradient of Lhasa Wilderness yarn (a test dye lot from ModeKnit Yarn) and paired it with an undyed skein of the same yarn base. Cacoxenite is actually written for a multi-skein gradient set, but as you can see, the pattern works just as beautifully with a single-skein gradient:

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Hunter was sweet enough to send me an extra copy of this book, so I'll be giving it away with some lovely hand-dyed yarn today over on my Instagram feed - click here to make sure you follow me so you don't miss my post!


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Weekender Sweater in Brown Sheep Prairie Spun DK

Last winter, I reviewed Prairie Spun DK from Brown Sheep, which at the time was a new yarn in their lineup. I enjoyed using it so much, that I ended up purchasing a sweater quantity from Webs during their year-end sale, not knowing which pattern I would use it for. I kept this yarn squirreled away while mulling over my options and changing my mind more than a few times.

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Eventually, I realized that the perfect pattern had been under my nose the whole time: Andrea Mowry's Weekender Sweater! Of course, that didn't mean I started it right away, but then the stars aligned yet again when the Corner of Knit & Tea blog/podcast announced a Brown Sheep Sweater-Along that began on September 1 of this year. I knit my swatch in August and was ready to cast on once the calendar turned to September.

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Then I got a secret sample knitting commission and had a few other distractions pop up, and didn't get to work on this sweater as much as I thought. By the time November rolled around, it seemed like the November 30 end date would not be realistic for finishing this project, because I'm a really slow sweater knitter.

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And I probably would STILL be knitting this sweater if I hadn't taken some time off last month for my birthday and Thanksgiving, which I used effectively to zoom through Sleeve Island. I even knit my sleeves one a time, which is something I haven't done in years because I tend to get Second Sleeve Syndrome. Unfortunately, I've found that magic loop knitting (which is how I usually knit two sleeves at a time) really aggravates my arm/wrist/hand issues, so I thought I'd go back to one-at-a-time sleeves on DPNs to see if that allowed me to work pain-free....and naturally it did, so that means no more two-at-a-time sleeves for me.

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The sleeves turned out a bit long - I probably could have started the ribbing sooner than specified in the pattern, but I don't think that's enough of an issue to warrant ripping things back and reknitting the cuffs. Also, I've been wearing the sweater non-stop since I finished it, so I don't think I could bear to take it out of the rotation for a cuff fix! This is definitely going to be a sweater I wear a lot - the boxy shape is cozy (even if it does make me look a bit wide) and the yarn is warm, soft and sturdy. I'm so happy I finished this project relatively quickly so that I can enjoy it all winter long!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Knitting With Sock Blanks

In all of my 10+ years of knitting, would you believe that I have never tried a sock blank?! I've admired them on Instagram and at fiber shows but have never actually used one until I was sent a very lovely and luxurious blank to try out from Zen Yarn Garden.

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Part of a Zulily event, these blanks were produced in limited quantities and I'm not sure if the exact blank I used is currently available. They're approximately 400 yards of a 90% superfine superwash merino blended with 10% nylon, and the colorway I received was Midnight Stroll. BUT the good news is that Zen Yarn Garden is offering a new kind of sock blank in their online store right now, called Luxe Blanx, and they're a blend of merino, cashmere and silk (oh my!) and have a whopping 750 yards per blank.

Before I talk about the pattern I knit and how much I loved the yarn, let's have a quick conversation about what a sock blank is and how to use it. A sock blank refers to a piece of fabric that has been knitted up (usually by machine) prior to the dyeing process. This allows dye to be applied to the yarn in a different way than in a skein form, and also creates a different type of patterning when knitting or crocheting with the dyed blank. A lot of dyers treat sock blanks as a canvas, where they write out words or draw pictures which then knit up in an interesting way. I really liked the painterly approach that Zen Yarn Garden brought to the sock blank I used to create a pretty gradient.

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You have a a few options for working from a sock blank. Some folks prefer to wind the blank into a skein so that they can wash and try it to remove the kinks (since it arrives knit up, the yarn will look a bit like ramen noodles as you unravel it), and then wind it into a center-pull ball once it's dry. This step obviously takes the most time, but it can be worth the effort.

A less time-consuming option is to wind the blank into a center-pull ball which you knit from; this won't solve the issue of ramen noodle yarn, but it will make your project a little bit more portable.

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Or, if you are extremely impatient like me, you can just start unraveling your blank to knit directly from it! Sure, I was worried that using ramen noodle yarn would result in wonky stitches or uneven gauge, but for the pattern I chose (the Itty Bitty Picoty Shawlette, available for free with newsletter signup here), this wasn't an issue at all. Garter stitch is very forgiving, as was the soft and squishy yarn. A quick wet block worked out pretty much any kinked stitches, if any, and the shawlette grew to a very lovely size as a result.

I honestly didn't know what I was missing out on all these years....needless to say, I would definitely knit from a sock blank again!

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Knitting With Sock Blanks