Wednesday, April 14, 2021

It's a Brown Sheep Mystery Knit-Along!

Brown Sheep is one of the first yarns I ever knit with, and they have always had a special place in my heart - so when they asked me to team up for a mystery knit-along, of course I said yes!

Now, I know that not everyone likes a mystery knit-along (or MKAL for short). In fact, I swore them off after being "tricked" into doing intarsia one too many times by Stephen West (said with tongue firmly in cheek). Not all mysteries are a delight to solve, but I promise this one will be. 

My goal was to create a fun-to-knit shawl with an interesting detail to finish things off. I don't want to give too many things away, but if you like slipped stitches, stripes, and bold mosaic motifs all wrapped up in a symmetrical triangular shawl, then I think you will be happy with the finished project. 

Not only that, but the pattern is available for FREE if you sign up for the Brown Sheep newsletter using this link. And if you want to buy the yarn I used for the pattern, you can pick 1 skein each of your 3 favorite colors of Prairie Spun DK yarn here or at your LYS (I used Coral Rose, Half & Half, and Damselfly, shown above from L-R). Whatever color combination you choose, just make sure there is plenty of contrast so that all of the colors pop. If you're having trouble deciding, check out these MKAL yarn kits, which ship for FREE when you shop the Brown Sheep online store!

Here are the official details:

Yarn: 3 skeins of Prairie Spun DK
Needles: US 8 circular needles, 32" or longer (the shawl is worked flat, but the longer needle will accommodate the large number of stitches) 
Gauge: 18.5 stitches & 38 rows = 4" in garter stitch 
Notions: 4 stitch markers 

There will be 4 clues in total. Participants will receive the first clue by email on April 27. The following clues will then be issued on a weekly basis every Tuesday. Remember to share pictures of your progress and the finished shawl with the hashtag #BrownSheepMKAL2021 to be eligible to win a prize!

At the end of the MKAL, 2 participants who used Prairie Spun DK for their mystery knit will be chosen to receive 4 skeins of either Cotton Fleece or Synchrony. Knitters must join Spinning Yarns, an online space where yarn lovers can share what they're making and talk about all sorts of yarny things in their forums. If you're looking for an alternative to a certain popular knitting website that is experiencing ongoing accessibility issues, Spinning Yarns is worth checking out! 

To be entered in the MKAL prize drawing, just post a photo fo your finished Prairie Spun DK shawl to the Mystery Knit-a-Long Group with the hashtag #BrownSheepMKAL2021. You are encouraged to post photos of your finished shawl with #BrownSheepMKAL2021 on Instagram and Facebook for additional entries!

Click here to sign up for the MKAL (you will also be signed up for the Brown Sheep newsletter if you are not currently a subscriber, but you can unsubscribe at any time).  I can't wait to knit along with everyone!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Cross Stitch, Reframed

At the start of this year, I managed to knock one of my favorite cross stitch pieces off the wall it was hanging on, breaking the frame. Since the glass miraculously didn't break, I was hoping to glue the broken pieces of the frame together, but unfortunately it didn't work out. 

Then I remembered the cool wooden frames from Modern Hoopla I'd spotted on Instagram, which are designed to fit a cross-stitch piece that is in a wooden hoop. I was hoping to get another black frame, but they didn't have that finish available in the styles I wanted, so I decided to buy two to see which looked best, figuring I could save the one I didn't end up using for my Pretty Little Chicago (whenever I finish it).

Option 1

Option 2

After taking a quick poll via Instagram stories, I landed on the darker finish, and it looks great - perhaps even better than the original frame job.

I will definitely be ordering from Modern Hoopla the next time I need to frame a finish cross stitch piece. You can check out their website here (FYI I was not compensated in any way for this blog post). 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

I'm A Poncho Person Now

I admit it: I used to think ponchos were stupid, and couldn't envision a single scenario in which I would spend time knitting one, much less wearing it. And I probably would have never changed that opinion if it hadn't been for a request to knit one as a sample for Knit Picks. Believe me when I tell you that the entire time I was working on it, I still had an unfavorable opinion about ponchos. But I said yes because I wanted to make a little extra money to help with the move, and it ended up being the last sample I knit before we left Chicago. 

Although this pattern is officially named  the Aspen Mantle, we all know it's really a poncho! 

So when I tried it on to snap a few FO photos before shipping it off to the catalog, something surprising happened: I enjoyed wearing it! It was an epiphany to just toss it on and have it immediately look good - all of the styling issues I have with shawls (which I love to knit) weren't even a thing. Ever so ironically, that poncho ended up being one of the hardest samples to send back.

Once the dust settled from the move, I found that I kept thinking about that poncho. Although I enjoyed knitting it the first time, the yarn I wanted to use wasn't the right weight to sub in (not to mention, I wasn't sure that I wanted to knit it all over again!).

I searched Ravelry hoping to find a similarly constructed poncho that I could make with 4 skeins of 100% yak sport weight yarn I've been hoarding from Bijou Basin Ranch. Honestly, there weren't many viable options, especially considering that I wanted to make something pretty simple that didn't require a lot of brain power. Ultimately I chose the complete opposite of that: an ultra-patterned design (Ravelry link: Marigold Poncho by Sandi Rosner) that combined various textured stitch panels with cables. It was slow going at first, but after a few repeats I started to get the hang of it. Would you believe me if I claimed that it (eventually) became easy and somewhat brainless?!

I wasn't sure if I would have enough yarn to make the collar, but decided to risk a little yarn chicken to see if I could eke it out without making any modifications. That bet paid off, and as you can see, I am pretty excited about my new poncho (my husband excels at capturing all the goofy faces I apparently need to make before we get a decent "normal" photo).

 The yak yarn is so soft and warm, and all of the stitches look a-MA-zing. I really wish this yarn was still made, because I would love to knit more things out of it. 

Click here to view more photos of this project in my Ravelry notebook!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Let's Talk About Yarn Stash, Baby!

Ah, the yarn stash. If you've stuck with knitting/yarn craft long enough, you've probably accumulated more yarn than you could ever use in this lifetime. People find out you knit and they gift you random skeins of yarn (or worse yet, random bits of mystery yarn), you buy skeins just because they're pretty, and if you happened to work in the yarn industry for 10+ years (off and on) like I did, there's also a huge amount of freebies and samples in the mix. Long story short, yarn keeps finding a way to sneak into your home and things can get out of hand quickly, even if you've taken great pains to establish some semblance of yarn order. 

Before the Big Move last summer, my yarn stash was neatly organized by yarn weight in several large 66-qt. storage bins, and nearly all of it was also photographed and accounted for on my Ravelry account. And then it quickly fell back into chaos as I tried to pare down in preparation for our move to KC. 

I donated several boxes of yarn to the Knitting Connection, a charity that makes hats, mittens and Christmas stockings for children in need. Since we were already a few months into the pandemic, I reached out to. make sure that they were still accepting donations, and they said that their local board of health had given them the green light to keep accepting donated items. I'm not sure if that has changed since then, but it sure felt good to ship several boxes of yarn their way (until I got an extra $100 surcharge bill after the fact from UPS, because apparently the shipping address they gave me was incorrect...but even with the extra shipping charges, it was worth it to re-home part of my yarn stash!). 

Then, as Moving Day approached, my focus shifted to condensing all of the remaining stash down to as few containers as possible. This is where the real anarchy ensued:  yarn weights were mixed with reckless abandon, spinning fiber became packing material for some of my favorite fiber tools (and other fragile items, for that matter), and partially used skeins were crammed in some pretty unexpected places. 

While I still have something of a craft room in our new place, we did downsize from 3BR to 2. Overall I've found the process of paring things down to the essential to be a satisfying challenge, getting my stash corralled has been tougher than I thought it would be. For the first six months we were here, yarn was spread out across several bins which were scattered in various corners of my office. Remembering which bin was stashed where was a struggle - it drove me nuts! So one quiet Friday afternoon, I decided to dive head-first into the Great Yarn Stash Reorganization. 

Basically, I just pulled every single bin out of hiding and dumped its  contents on the floor. Then the process of sorting began! For all of the partially used skeins or yarns that had somehow lost their labels, I kept a WPI gauge handy so that I could sort those properly as well. From there, it was easy - just throw the like yarn weights into the same bin and call it a day! I would like to do some additional organization within each bin of yarn weights, but for now, this works for me. Plus, All of my yarn now fits underneath the weaving/craft table for easy access!

Last year, once we'd decided that we were moving, I put a temporary freeze on buying any more yarn. It ended up being fairly easy to stick to since I have so much good stuff in my stash, including plenty of sweater quantities. I ended up shopping from my stash for most of last year, but I did give into temptation at the very end of last year during Miss Babs' annual gratitude sale - I treated myself to enough yarn to (most likely) make a Pink Velvet sweater, plus a really bright skein of Yowza in a color called Mix Tape. 

At the end of January, I treated myself to two more skeins of sock yarn from a new-to-me dyer called Old Rusted Chair. I've been following them on Instagram for a while and couldn't resist the colorway called Hipster Scum. Since I way already paying for shipping, I also threw in a skein of Panic in Detroit. Both colors are even better in person, but the names really make them! I'm thinking of using them with some other yarn from my stash to make a Simple Something sweater, or maybe a Radvent Cardigan - we'll see!

I did buy yarn from a few other places since the move, but have already used it up or am in the process of using it. Ideally, that trend will continue in 2021: buying yarn because I need it for a specific project I plan to start in the immediate future, NOT just 'cause it was pretty and I decided it needed to sit in my stash for the next 10 years. I'm sure that will still happen, but if the frequency can be decreased dramatically, I'll consider that a win. Plus, if I can keep working through the stash at my current pace, then a few "just 'cause" skeins here and there are not so concerning. 

Now that order is restored, I'd like to keep it that way....and perhaps some weekend when I need a break from knitting, I can work on the next phase: making sure all of my stash is photographed and catalogued in Ravelry! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Free Scarf Pattern: Don't Overthink It

When I began knitting this scarf last year, I had no idea what story was going to unfold. It started with some skeins of yarn that my then-client sent me for a dyeing tutorial. Mike had just purchased Nancy's Knit Knacks and Strauch Fiber Equipment, and we had all sorts of exciting things planned for the future, including new products for both brands, revamped online stores & the addition of small-batch yarn to the mix. These skeins were from the first batch of yarn that he'd sourced locally, and after dyeing one of the skeins with some Wool Tinctures from Abundant Earth, I quickly got to work on a simple two-color scarf design which we were planning to offer for free to Mike's newsletter subscribers.

Unfortunately, Mike passed away last fall before any of these plans could come to fruition. Throughout the summer, I suspected that there was something serious going on with him, but I had no idea that he was battling a particularly vicious form of cancer that ultimately claimed his life. 

I'm not sure what the future holds for Nancy's Knit Knacks, but the current website has no products in the store, which is probably not a great sign. As I was cleaning my craft room recently, I came across this scarf sample and realized that I could still make the pattern available for free, and perhaps it could be my way to honor Mike's memory. I only knew him for about a year during my time at Stitchcraft, but he was an ambitious, kind person who had a passion for all things handmade. A woodworker by trade, he began making parts for Nancy's Knit Knacks long before he purchased NKK or Strauch, and as he took on both businesses, it was clear that he was truly interested in learning all about the fiber arts world. I was absolutely gutted when I heard of his passing, especially knowing that he was a young single dad with a small daughter.

So, I'm offering this pattern for free with the hope that you'll use it to put something good out into the world. Knit it for a friend who's fighting cancer (or any other life-threatening illness), donate it to a shelter or hospice, or give the money you might have spent on a paid pattern to a charity that supports cancer research or those battling cancer. These are just a few ideas - feel free to do whatever works for you. 

Although the name seems a little lighthearted given the story behind it, I remember it made Mike smile, so I'm keeping it. If you happen to knit this scarf, make sure to tag me on Instagram @stefaniegrrr so I can check it out. And, if you like this pattern, click here to get future blog posts sent to you via email. I usually blog a couple times each month, so this is a great way to make sure you don't miss a post. 

Don’t Overthink It! Scarf

By Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter

A simple slipped-stitch pattern creates a fun visual element to this knitted scarf. Variegated and handspun yarns are especially suited to this easy-to-memorize stitch pattern, but virtually any yarn will look stunning in your favorite colors. You could also use various kinds of scrap yarn in place of Color B for a totally unique version!

Skill Level: Beginner

Sizing: 6 inches width, 68.5 inches length


  • 1 skein of thick-and-thin Handspun yarn: approx. 250 Yards, DK Weight (12-14 WPI), undyed (Color A)
  • 1 skein of thick-and-thin Handspun yarn: approx, 250 Yards, DK Weight (12-14 WPI), hand-dyed in Plum (Color B)
  • US #7 Needles
  • Darning Needle

: 18 sts and 30 rows = 4” in Slipped Stitch Stripes pattern


CO - cast on
k - knit
p - purl
rep - repeat
RS - right side
st(s) - stitch(es)
sl - slip
wyif - with yarn in front
WS - wrong side

To knit scarf:

With Color A, cast on 28 stitches with your preferred stretchy cast-on method (sample uses long-tail cast on). Work ribbing as follows:

Row 1 (RS): K3, *P2, K2, rep from * to last 5 stitches, P2, K3.
Row 2 (WS): K3, *K2, P2, rep from * to last 5 sts, K5.

Work rows 1 & 2 for 1.5 stitches.

Begin Working Slipped Stitch Stripes:
Row 3 (RS): With Color B, K3, *slip 1 wyif, k1, rep from * last 3 sts, K3.
Row 4 (WS): With Color B, K3, P to last 3 sts, K3.
Row 5 (RS): With Color A, K3, *slip 1 wyif, k1, rep from * last 3 sts, K3.
Row 6 (WS): With Color A, K3, P to last 3 sts, K3.

Work Rows 3-6 until scarf measures approximately 67 inches long from CO edge, or 1.5 inches shorter than overall desired length. End with Color B (Row 4). Break Color B.

With Color A, work ribbing:
Row 1 (RS): K3, *P2, K2, rep from * to last 5 stitches, P2, K3.
Row 2 (WS): K3, *K2, P2, rep from * to last 5 sts, K5.

Work rows 1 & 2 for 1.5 stitches. Bind off all stitches in pattern.

Weave in all ends. Hand wash in your favorite wool wash and lay flat to dry. 

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Great Free Face Mask Experiment [FREE PRINTABLE]

In early December, I was out for a run in my neighborhood and noticed that one of my neighbors had placed some carefully wrapped gifts on top of their recycling and garbage bins with a thank-you note for the collectors. It inspired me to find some way to thank the essential workers I lean on the most - our various delivery drivers . Even before the pandemic, I was a heavy user of Amazon prime and virtually every means of home delivery. Now, it's not uncommon for us to get multiple packages via multiple carriers in a single day, not to mention I've ordered quite a bit of furniture for home delivery since our move.

At the end of last year, I started to build up a stash of face masks, so it only seemed natural to start giving them to those who could probably use them the most.

So I made a sign, grabbed a long ribbon and some binder clips, and attached individually-bagged face masks like so:

Not soon after, my Imperfect Foods delivery driver took a TMNT face mask, and I did a little happy dance thinking, "ok, this is gonna catch on!!" But people were shy at first, and nothing happened for several days after the first mask was claimed. So I swapped out some of the masks, hoping that the regular delivery folks would see that there were now different one there and realize that there was no catch....but just to be safe, I also wrote "They really are FREE!" in large print. 

Once that happened, masks have been claimed left and right! Occasionally I get to interact with the delivery person and they are always super I encourage them to take more. :-) I've actually worked through most of the stash I had stored up and have gotten back to a more regular mask-sewing regimen. I'm also getting REALLY close to the 400-mask milestone!

Now that the holidays are over, I decided to change up the sign to make it a little clearer that these masks are free to ANYONE who needs them:

If you've been sewing lots of face masks and have a surplus like I do, or just want to let the essential workers who deliver everything you need to stay at home know that you appreciate them, feel free to give this a try! If you don't want to make your own sign, feel free to use mine: click here for a free PDF download when you sign up to get new blog posts delivered via email. 

Free Face Mask Printable Sign

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sock Pals Update!

Last week was the big Sock Pal reveal via Zoom, where I got to unwrap the sock knitted for me by my mystery sock pal and "meet" them face to face! I'm so pleased with my new pair of socks:

Little Boxes Socks for me!

I'm pretty amazed that both were nearly identical to each other - I was fully prepared for some differences in pooling and size, which is totally fine as long as they are still wearable. So to get a second sock that looks like I knit it myself is really the icing on the proverbial cake. Honestly, I can't tell which one I knit and which one my sock pal made!

During the reveal party, we also got to vote on the next set of patterns for Sock Pals 2.0, and got to hear about the exclusive sock colors that are in the works. I will definitely be signing up for another round of Sock Pals from Knit 1 Chicago, and there will only be a limited number of spots (20, to be exact) - so make sure you keep your eye on their website and Instagram account to find out when the next round of signups are open!