Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Reader Survey

In 2018, you'll see some changes on this blog, and one of them is that I'll only be publishing 1 blog per week on average (the plan is to share a new post each Wednesday, if you're wondering - you can follow me on Bloglovin so you don't miss out!). I want to focus on quality, not quantity of posts, and I'm also hoping this new schedule will give me a little more time to craft each week.

I've never done a reader survey, but now seems like a good time to give it a try. Rather than guessing about the kinds of posts you find interesting and/or valuable, I created a quick little survey for you to take. I would be super grateful if you could take a few moments to fill it out!

I'll be sharing the results of the survey sometime next month, and of course you will see some of those results inform future posts. Also, since I won't be blogging as frequently, I'll be sharing more of what I'm working on over on Instagram - click here to follow me so you don't miss out!

Thanks again for taking my survey. Let's make 2018 the craftiest year yet!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Year of Weaving: Learning by Doing

At the start of 2017, I purchased a rigid heddle loom, determined to learn how to weave. Like any craft, the basics are fairly easy, but there is always much to learn and improve no matter your skill level, especially if you want to move beyond the basics. After a year of mostly-consistent weaving, I would label myself as a novice at best, and as I started looking at all of my weaving projects from 2017, I realized that each one taught me something valuable that I can take into Year Two of weaving. I hope other beginning weavers find this helpful, too - maybe it can shorten the learning curve for you just a bit!

first project

Project #2: Destash Scarf
I may have gone overboard with planning this project to make up for not planning the other one - I very painstakingly went through my bits and bobs of leftover worsted weight yarn to select the perfect gradients of blue and green with some black and grey for good measure. Unfortunately, I didn't take fiber content into consideration when planning my warp yarn, which resulted in some crazy tension issues (some of my warp yarns were extremely springy while others were quite the opposite). So, the next time I do a multicolored warp, you can bet it will be with yarns that are either the same brand or at least have similar fiber content. I also got overzealous with winding a succession of yarn colors onto my stick shuttle, which wasn't always an issue, but there were a few times I didn't like how the current selection wove up, which meant that I had to wind off the unused yarn and find something to sub in on the fly. I also made this scarf a tad narrower than I would have liked, but on the plus side, it does photograph well.


Project #3: Sample Scarf for Bijou Basin Ranch
Since this was going to be a display piece and I had absolutely NO confidence in my skills, I became obsessed with perfect selvedges for this project. I think that it mostly paid off, too, and the person I wove this scarf for was quite pleased. Basically the lesson here was to go slow and don't tug too much on your weft yarn if you want really pretty edges. I also used a more slippery yarn than I was used to (a yak and bamboo blend yarn), which had a small bit of learning curve - so I actually wove a small sample swatch to help me get the hang of it while also practicing my selvedges. I highly recommend weaving a sample for any new-to-you yarn or fiber! 


Project #4: Another Destash Scarf
The reason I wanted to take up weaving was to blast through my ginormous yarn stash, so warping for another anything-goes destash scarf seemed like a good idea. This time, I decided to do a single color navy warp, which almost worked until I ran out of yarn. I ended up adding a few slots of black warp to either end, which resulted in an uncentered project on my loom, but otherwise was fine because it was at least the same brand and fiber content (see, learning!!) I wanted more of a Saori vibe for the weft, so I sorted through my stash and pulled out any blue or purple bit of yarn that I thought would look good together, and then I just pulled things at random to wind on my shuttle and weave with. I also experimented with adding in bits of fiber here and there, which I think had a pretty cool effect.


Project #5: Handspun Wrap
Yet again, I got ambitious and decided to make a wrap that was the full width of my loom using only handspun yarn for both the warp and the weft. While some people may caution against warping with handspun, I took care to choose a durable yarn that stood up to the process beautifully (hooray) - my only mistake was using up EVERY SINGLE SLOT on my heddle. Perhaps a more experienced weaver can do this and make it work, but I quickly ran into tension issues because the kraft paper I used to separate the warp kept crinkling up while I was winding everything onto the beam...which brings me to the most important lesson of all: always, always, ALWAYS have someone help you wind your warp onto the back beam! Trying to do it yourself it bananas, and results in totally wonky tension. Ask me how I know!


Project #6: Oh Look, Another Scarf
After making it through the wrap project, I returned to the safety of a scarf project. For this one, I used some black Berroco Vintage for the warp and then a huge skein of handspun yarn for the weft. To be honest, I think this might be the only project that went exactly as planned with no surprises, although I do wish I had made it just a touch longer and a bit narrower. Also, at this point I apparently stopped entering my projects into Ravelry, which is super-annoying now because WHERE ON EARTH ARE MY NOTES?! Oh yeah, there's another good lesson - take good notes, and put them somewhere that is easily discovered later on. 


Project #7: Half of a Pillow
Over the summer, I had knit the front half of a pillow with some hand-dyed yarn and just couldn't bring myself to knit the other piece, so I decided to see if I could weave a piece that was roughly the same size to finish the project. I think I succeeded, although the pillow is still yet unassembled because I need to learn how to manage all the warp ends before removing the header.


Project #8: Magic Ball Scarf
This was a special assignment under the auspices of reviewing a yarn which contained several types of yarn (and even some ribbon), all in the same ball. I was given a sparkly chainette yarn to warp with that I was worried would be difficult to work with, but it ended up being totally awesome. On top of that, I got to see how a lot different kinds of yarn with varying textures wove up, which yielded some pleasant surprises: the mohair was lovely, and I ended up liking the section woven with a novelty yarn the best (!!). I also got to see how ribbon looks when used as the weft, which I had been curious about (spoiler alert, it's kind of cool!).


Project 9: Look Familiar?
I had so much yarn left over from the Handspun Wrap that I decided to guessed it....another scarf! I bet you didn't see that coming!This project made me feel like I was starting to know what I was doing, and the lesson for me was that perhaps I should branch out.


Project 10: Weaving with Cotton
Taking the last lesson to heart, I warped for what I hope will become a washcloth or towel with some organic cotton yarn. I'm very close to finishing, but the craziness of the holidays has significantly reduced my weaving time. However, I bet I could be finished if I would JUST WEAVE - because it truly is SO FAST. I can weave a couple of inches in just 10 minutes, which is probably all I need to get this project off the loom. So, in 2018, remember: make time to weave every day....even if it's just 10 minutes. 

I'll definitely be weaving (and learning!) more in 2018 and look forward to sharing my adventures with you. If you found this post helpful, I'd love it if you would share it on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Fiber Friday: I Got a Drum Carder!

It finally happened: I got a drum carder! I haven't had much time to play with it since it arrived on my doorstep, but I did get it all set up last weekend and ran a little bit of fiber through to test the waters.


I got a Strauch Petite, which is the perfect size for a small table if you are short on space. It came with some very thorough instructions, but I was glad to check out these YouTube videos to get me started since I am not always mechanically inclined. But, I was able to get it set up and operational on my own, and I processed a little bit of Perendale fiber just to test the waters.


Over the holiday break, I plan to play more with it and actually blend things (now that's a concept). Thank goodness I have lots of blend-able bits and bobs in my fiber stash!


I hope you have (or have had) a fabulous holiday; I'll be taking a little blog break next week to rest, rejuvenate, and celebrate the holidays with my family. I'll be back the first Wednesday of the new year (aka January 3) with a special post about my first year of weaving. See you then!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

WIP Wednesday: All the Sweaters

I'm working on few secret projects right now, so besides the Purlbreak that's in progress for an upcoming review, the only other active WIPs on the needles are sweaters!

I'm about ready to bind off the body Gift Wrap Baby Sweater:


I'm inching ever closer on the sleeves for my So Faded Sweater, although it probably doesn't look too different from last week. I am still holding out hope that I could finish it in time to wear it on (or reasonably near) Christmas, though.


I've only worked a few rows on Sticks + Steel; once I'm able to focus more time on this, it should be a pretty fast project (though my track record with bulky weight sweaters isn't much better than lighter weight ones, I suppose....).


I haven't worked much on my Purlbreak shawl, but that's another project I intend to focus on over the holiday break once the So Faded sweater is done.


And that's it! I do have a fun new toy to share with you Friday - see you then!

Friday, December 15, 2017

FO Friday: Samarcanda Hishigata Hat

I finished another hat! I was 3 skeins of Filatura di Crosa Samarcanda yarn to review, and decided they would be perfect for a fast-knitting hat. It's a well-known fact that I can't resist a green yarn, and I love the tweediness of the fiber blend (33% Kid Mohair, 18% Polyamide, 17% Wool and 2% Acrylic). Before I dive a little deeper into this interesting yarn, I just want to mention the pattern that I chose, the Hishigata Hat by Angela Tong. I knit a Hishigata hat with some handspun yarn (also green) about a year ago and have been meaning to knit another one ever since. Once the yarn arrived, it seemed like the perfect fit - sometimes the stars just align that way!


I've always seen yarns from Filatura di Crosa, but I have not actually worked with any of them (full disclosure, think I may have a cone of laceweight somewhere in my stash). I've always been curious about their yarns, which are all milled in Italy. In fact, they are not just made in Italy - they are made in a specific town in Italy that is known for its high-quality textiles (more on that here).

This yarn has a lot going on - the mohair gives it halo (but it's not itchy, at least not in my opinion; I realize the subject of yarn itchiness is entirely subjective!), and if you examine the plies a little more closely, it seems like 3 of them are a blend of the natural fibers (or perhaps a blend of the mohair, wool and acrylic?) while the fourth is actually a flat tape that I think might be the polyamide. I did my best to capture this here:


Each ball has about 93 yards, and I used up nearly all 3 skeins to make this hat. I might try to make a pom pom topper with the bit that I have left, but I'm not totally sure it will be enough - pom poms generally require quite a bit of yarn! I'm not sure if you can really see the twisted stitches in the cable pattern; it seems like the halo obscures them a bit. The ribbing and diamond motifs look pretty good, though, and the yarn wasn't the least bit splitty to work with. This is always important when you are knitting cables (especially without a cable needle) and twisted stitched!


I could see this yarn being an excellent choice for a simple ribbed or garter accessory, or perhaps even a fast-knitting sweater. There are 9 colors to choose from, and it's a bulky weight yarn which makes it perfect for last-minute gift projects! I recently shared two free patterns to knit or crochet mason jar cozies using Samarcanda; each ball can make at least 2 cozies (possibly 3, but I can't guarantee it),  so you can knock out a few nice gifts with just a ball or two of yarn!

You may like to know: I was given this yarn in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Oops, Enabling

Over the last few weeks, a lot of knitting-related goodies have "accidentally" found their way into my house.


First, I treated myself to a wrist ruler bracelet from I Love Handles after finding a 10% coupon code here. It's already come in handy when knitting while out and about!

When I dug my Arwen Cardigan out of storage a few weeks ago, I realized that it could probably benefit from some sort of closure. Once upon a time, I'd sewn on a very tiny and ineffective hook and eye closure; it has since fallen off, and I will just be honest with you here: I'm too lazy to sew it back on. I've tried using shawl pins to keep it closed, and while they're effective, they look a little strange. Then I spotted this post on Instagram from one of my favorite bloggers, Miso Crafty Knits, where she used this closure from JUL on a sweater, and before I knew it, I'd ordered one for myself (act surprised, it's also black).

What appeals to me is that it's removable, so I could use it on a variety of sweaters, and even some shawls or other handmade pieces. I found a coupon code for this one as well (VERVE to get 10% off through the end of this year), and the shipping was pretty darn fast. I think it would work for the new sweater project I just started, too.

This might only be tangentially knitting-related, but seeing as I put all of my enamel pins on one of my favorite project bags, I am lumping it in with everything else: I bought a grey kitty wearing a scarf from Teeturtle's Cyber Monday sale (along with a reversible octopus, which I am pretty sure is the greatest thing ever, though it is definitely not knitting related). The one I got is now sold out, but they do have other fun options available, all of which are on sale.

And finally, over the weekend, I stopped by Firefly Fiber Arts here in town to see if the backordered color of Woolfolk Luft I am looking for was back in stock yet. It wasn't....but I still bought yarn. Of COURSE I bought yarn! I have a million unused skeins of yarn at home, but that didn't stop me from buying something shiny and new. I think we all have this problem, so I feel like this is a safe place to make an admission of guilt (or my lack thereof). I've been admiring all of the hand-dyed yarns from Why Knot ever since discovering them at YarnCon a few years back, and I finally treated myself to a skein of Smitten, a 70/30 blend of Finn (wool) and Alpaca that is raised, processed and dyed in
Michigan. Tough to resist, can you blame me?! At first I gravitated towards the green (act surprised), but then this pretty garnet color skein caught my eye. I have absolutely no idea what I'll make with it but I'm sure I will think of something.

A lot of these items would make great gifts for yarn lovers, but if you still need more ideas, check out this blog post.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Three Sweaters?!

...Don't worry, one of them is a baby sweater, I haven't lost my mind completely!

It all started innocently enough: after finishing a few hat projects, I wanted to start something new with one of the many sweater quantities that have been lurking in my stash for too long. Never mind that I am still working on my So Faded sweater! Originally, I was going to make a beautiful cabled cardigan with some Berroco Vintage Chunky I'd bought from Webs many moons ago, but I had issues getting gauge. It's been in time out til I had the gumption to knit a gauge swatch yet again, but I just don't think such a complicated sweater is in my future. Simple, soothing knits are way more my speed these days, since I generally don't have much brain power left at the end of the day when I sit down to knit. There is also the issue of arm/hand pain, which has been recurring over the past few years - the last few cabled projects I've worked on haven't been pain-free, and they were just hats. I just can't imagine trying to get through an entire cabled sweater.

So I went back to Ravelry and did a quick search for a more suitable sweater pattern, and came across Veera Välimäki's Sticks and Steel. Now that looks like a sweater I could knit in a reasonable amount of time! I also like the very forgiving shape and style, I'm all about the oversized drapey sweater these days. Over the weekend, I knit my swatch, and once it dries, I can use my new favorite tool from Knitter's Pride to count those stitches (seriously, how cute are these - and the window measures 4" exactly! Genius!).


Then the need arose for a project that could travel outside of the house, and I decided to start a cute baby sweater since I have a friend who is expecting soon. I justified this quite easily since I was at a funky place with my Purlbreak, the So Faded is definitely an at-home project at this point, and my gauge swatch was already knit. I can justify just about anything, especially when it comes to starting new projects.


As noted above, a small bit of progress has been made on my So Faded sleeves. It's still completely awkward to photograph since I'm doing 2-at-a-time, but here is my best attempt:


And now that my other WIPs are off the needles, I have been spending more time on my Zen Yarn Garden Purlbreak - last night I added the second color!


I don't have any FO's to share this Friday, but I should have some other fun stuff to share with you next week. See you then!