Friday, February 27, 2015

February Goals Revisited

28 Zoom Loom Squares!
Now I just have to find a project for them...
With February coming to a close tomorrow, I wanted to spend today taking stock on this month's goals:
  • Weave one Zoom Loom square each day this month to build up a nice stash for making some projects from Margaret Stump's Pin Loom Weaving book. Completed! I took the liberty of weaving my final two squares ahead of time so that I have all 28 to photograph & share today. 
  • Complete the Foliage Cowl for the Holla Knits KAL which starts today. Completed! This project was knit in under a week, and I blogged about it here.
  • Complete my Curls KAL project (currently in progress). Not even close! 
  • Finish 2 baby sweaters this month (one which is already in progress and one which is needle adjacent). Halfway There: the sweater-in-progress from the beginning of the month is complete, but I haven't even started the needle adjacent sweater due to some design deadlines which popped up earlier this month. 
  • Finish my Block Island Pullover by the end of this month. Nope! Still working on those sleeves....
  • Complete one spinning project from start to finish. Completed! I spun through the 4oz of HANDSPIN fiber and blogged about it here.
  • Release a new pattern. Completed! The Sweetest Baby Hat was officially released on Friday, February 6.
February Fail: Still on the Needles!
All in all, not too bad considering I gained two unexpected design jobs about a week into February which are both due at the end of March, causing me to re-prioritize my WIPs. I plan to spend this weekend working primarily on those designs in order to free up some knitting time for March. In fact, I'll be sharing my March goals next Monday here on the blog. See you then, and have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Slim Pickings

Since two of my WIPS are top secret, today is going to be a very short post! I did manage to add a few more rounds to the first sleeve on my Block Island Pullover:
Sadly, I didn't work very much on my Caesious Shawl in the last week, so my only other shareable project is my scrap yarn blanket - look at how much it's grown since last week!
When I'm ready to start a new section of squares, I've taken to laying it all out beforehand to see how everything looks together, then taking a reference shot to work from.

How's that for short, sweet & to the point?! See you back here on Friday, when I evaluate my February Goals!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Yarn Enabling: Manos Alegria

Ever since Alegria was introduced from Manos del Uruguay, it's been on my must-knit list. It wasn't until just this month that the perfect opportunity presented itself: I'm working on a new design for an upcoming Holla Knits collection!
I've enjoyed working with the other Manos yarns I've tried, and the fun colorways combined with a lovely base of superwash merino & polyamide made requesting Alegria for my design absolutely irresistible. Each yarn comes from a co-op in Uruguay and is certified Fair Trade, which means that your yarn purchase supports the livelihood of rural women, providing them with fair pay, good working conditions, health insurance, and more (you can read more here on the Fairmount Fibers blog).

Each yarn is signed by the artisan, telling you the name of the person who made your yarn and which co-op it came from:
I can't wait to share my design with you when it comes out later this year. In the mean time, make sure that Alegria is on your to-do list for 2015!

Friday, February 20, 2015

FO Friday: MCN Baby Sweater

I finished the all-in-one-piece baby sweater I've been knitting!  I used the Classic Cashmere Sweater pattern from Erika Knight's Simple Knits for Cherished Babies; but instead of closing the back with a ribbon, I made a small tab with a crochet chain and sewed on this adorable button which was gifted by my pal Lauren.
It's for a very special baby who surprised her parents by making her appearance two months early - while her Mom was visiting family and friends in New Mexico! Luckily, baby is doing well and getting stronger every day, and both parents are able to stay in New Mexico while she does so. There is a GoFundMe set up to help them cover all of the expenses associated with their extended stay away from their home, for those of you who are wondering about such things.
Getting back to the sweater....I wanted to knit with the most luxurious yarn possible so that she has something nice and soft to wear when she was ready to graduate to actual clothing. I chose a hand-dyed MCN yarn from Zen Yarn Garden in a special colorway that's dyed exclusively for A Good Yarn Sarasota, Frilly Fiji - I like to think of it as a more sophisticated girl baby color option.
Since I was already mailing the sweater, I decided to also include the samples for my Sweetest Baby Hat & Socks so that she could be head to toe in luxurious hand knits!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WIPs, Secrets & Startitis

Though the Caesious KAL is over(ish), I'm still plugging away at mine since I pretty much only work on it outside of the house - it's great for riding the CTA and taking to knit night! There really isn't much of a difference since last week, so I thought I'd go with a more interesting photo this week just to spice things up.

Over the weekend, I started the first sleeve on my Block Island Pullover - although I didn't make it far:

Both of these are slow going, though, because I have to spend most of my crafting time working on two new top-secret designs! Well, I am allowed to share some sneak peeks here and there...for instance, this beautiful and colorful skein of yarn came into my life recently, and it is going to become something fun!

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't totally distract myself by starting an new project which will likely take years to complete. Seriously, what was I thinking when I decided to start a worsted weight mitered square blanket with scrap yarn this weekend?! The good news is, I'm kind of obsessed with working on it....and the bad news is, I'm kind of obsessed with working on it. I clearly will need to set some ground rules with this project (i.e., I can only work on it when I've completed X number of hours on my other designs and WIPs, and I'm not allowed to knit more than a square each day). I'm also still kinda sorta keeping up with the whole zoom loom square-a-day challenge, so I suppose you can say that I am square obsessed of late.

How do you avoid startitis?

Monday, February 16, 2015

February Spinning Project: Hand-Dyed HANDSPIN

After much debate, I decided to chain-ply the single I spun recently from the 50/50 merino & alpaca roving I dyed with easter egg dyes. The fiber is a new offering from Blue Sky Alpacas, and it was a dream to spin - light, lofty, and very little veggie matter or guard hairs to slow me down. Before I knew it, I had filled my bobbin with a single and had to decide what to do next! In the end, I decided on a springy 3-ply:
I spun the single on my Louet Victoria (and unfortunately didn't make not of my ratios - oops!), and then I chain plied on my Ladybug with my Bulky plyer.
The finished skein is 4.2 oz (118g) and has about 78 yards of chunky weight yarn; now I just have to find the perfect project for it!

Friday, February 13, 2015

FO Friday: Foliage Cowl

I finished my Foliage Cowl last Friday night, talk about speedy - it only took four days from start to finish! This project was super-easy and the epitome of instant-gratification. It's also a stellar example of the importance of blocking a finished project. Here is Exhibit A, my unblocked cowl:

...and now, Exhibit B, post-blocking: 

I think the lace looks especially nice:

I haven't had a chance to get any modeled shots since sunny days are hard to come by right now, but trust me, it's a nice chunky knit to snuggle up in this winter! 

There are lots of great prizes up for grabs during the Holla Knits KAL, and there is plenty of time to join in the fun! The KAL runs through May 1, 2015, so grab some yarn and start your favorite Holla Knits design so you can win free patterns and maybe even some awesome goodies, too!

Also, Craftsy is having a Valentine's sale this weekend, so if there were any classes you had your eye on, now is the time to buy! Click here to check out Craftsy's Sweetest Valentine’s Sale - Up to 50% Off Knitting & Crocheting Classes. Sale ends Monday, Feb. 16 at Midnight MDT. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Is this thing on?

Over the weekend, I finished the front piece of my Block Island pullover - I am now just two sleeves away from a finished sweater! 
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to starting one of those sleeves, because most of my crafting time has been spent swatching for some upcoming designs. I did manage to squeeze in a little spinning time over the weekend, since I couldn't resist diving into the merino/alpaca fiber I'd recently dyed. This single spun like a dream, there was hardly any vege matter or guard hairs to slow me down. I'm now debating whether or not I want to N-ply it, or split it between two bobbins for a 2-ply. The fiber is HANDSPIN, which is new from Blue Sky Alapcas. It's definitely worth checking out! 
I did make a little bit of progress on my Caesious, though it's probably hard to tell at this point: 

That pretty much wraps it up for WIPs this week - thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dyeing Notebook: Using Easter Egg Dyes

It's been a while since I've broken out the easter egg dyes, but when a lovely box of alpaca/merino blend spinning fiber arrive on my doorstep a few Fridays ago, I knew how I was going to spend the upcoming weekend.

I should probably say this now: if you are into precision and repeatable results, this may not be the instructional post that you are looking for! When I dyed yarn for Lorna's Laces, precision and repeatability was the name of the game (and rightfully so!); now that I am dyeing for fun in the comfort of my house, I really enjoy experimenting to see what results I get, even if I can never replicate them again. I strongly encourage you to try the "fun" and "unscientific" approach to dyeing as a stepping stone to the more technical aspects.

There can be a lot of costly supplies to get started dyeing, whether you choose to try natural dyeing or use commercially-made chemical dyes; however, an easter egg dye kit is cheap and easy to, and I consider it a low-risk way to see if you like dyeing. Besides being affordable, the dyes are all food-safe and non-toxic, so you don't have to sacrifice some of your kitchen supplies to the cause (yet!) or worry about safety measures when handling powder dyes or mordants.

If you're ready to jump in to have fun experimenting with Easter Egg Dyes, here are the cliff's notes to my process:

1 Easter Egg Dye Kit (I used Paas)
Plastic cups
Distilled White Vinegar
Glass baking dish(es), preferably clear**
Yarn* or Fiber!

1. Prep the dye: I followed the instructions on the package to get the dye ready; since I wanted bold colors, I threw a color tab into a cup with 3T of vinegar. When the tabs were done fizzing, I added water to each cup (and here's where I get loosey-goosey: no measuring! I just eyeballed everything and moved on with my life).

2. Prep the fiber: I filled a small tub with lukewarm water and a couple of glugs of vinegar and soaked the fiber for about 10-15 minutes. Though it's not absolutely necessary to dampen your fiber (or yarn, if that's what you're dyeing) before applying the dye, I does help the dye soak through more thoroughly - which is especially helpful when you are dyeing some very fluffing spinning fiber.

3. Apply the dye: I use two glass baking dishes with my Easter egg dyeing experiments - they are easy to clean and can even be put through the dishwasher. There are a number of ways you can apply the dye, but in this case, I just poured each color over the fiber and gently squished it through, then carefully turned over the fiber and repeated the process.
4. Set the dye: about 2 minutes before I was ready to set the dye, I turned on my oven to 275 degrees F (I don't have a microwave, but if you do, some folks use a quick zap in the microwave to set the dye). I put the dishes containing my fiber in the oven to preheat along with it, so as to not shock the fiber. To be honest, I couldn't remember how long I baked it the last time I dyed, so I thought I would play it safe and set the timer for 20 minutes. When it went off, I checked my fiber and decided that it needed more time - it was warm but not hot, and it didn't appear as though the dye had exhausted yet**. I set the timer for another 20 minutes and that seemed to do the trick. Since it's pretty cold here and my kitchen is a bit drafty, I decided to turn off the over but leave the dishes of fiber in it so that they could cool down a bit (again, I didn't want to shock the fiber by pulling it out of a 250-degree oven into a 68-degree house).

5. Time to dry: once it's cool enough to handle, gently remove the yarn or fiber and squeeze out excess liquid over the sink. Find a good place to hang it up to dry where it will be away from sunlight and curious pets or children.

Finished fiber is ready to spin!

I hope this helps you get started on your own dyeing journey, and I'd love to see your results!

*If you're dyeing yarn, be sure to add some ties around the skeins to keep them neat and tidy throughout the process.
**You can tell that your dye has exhausted when the liquid in the container is clear - that's why I like to use a clear glass baking dish!

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Pattern: Sweetest Baby Hat

I'm excited to introduce the Sweetest Baby Hat, which I designed to match the Sweetest Baby Socks - together, they make a totally sweet baby gift!
This adorable hat is nice and stretchy to accommodate fast-growing noggins. It uses the same stitch motif as the Sweetest Baby Socks; both can be knit with just one 50g skein of fingering weight yarn to create a lovely duo that’s great for gifting!
The patterns are sold separately for $4 each, but if you purchase them together in my Ravelry store, you will automatically get $2 off. Also, if you have already purchased the Sweetest Baby Socks pattern, you will automatically get the $2 discount when purchasing the Sweetest Baby Hat.
They are shown here in A Good Yarn Fingering in the Jewels of Autumn colorway; it's a specialty base available at which is available in a variety of semi-solid and variegated hand-dyed colorways. I highly recommend giving this yarn a try: it's a luxurious blend of Merino, Cashmere and Seacell that's totally delightful to knit with!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winner + WIP Wednesday

First off, I'd like to announce the winner of my giveaway! Congrats to komclaughlin, I will contact you to find out where to mail your copy of Curls by Hunter Hammersen. Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway; I hope you'll continue to read my blog, because I have more fun things planned for this year (and yes, even some more giveaways).

And now, on to the WIPs....I started one new project this week, the Foliage Cowl by Patty Nance, which I cast on for the Holla Knits KAL. I'm using two skeins of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky in Blackberry, which I won during a Holla Knits subscriber giveaway last year.
I'm still making progress on the Block Island Pullover - I finished the back on Monday night and am now working on the front:
I haven't been working on my handspun Caesious as much, but I think it's still grown since this time last week:
Perhaps the most exciting progress to report is the near-completion of the MCN baby sweater in Frilly Fiji, a custom colorway of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 that's available at A Good Yarn Sarasota. This weekend, I expect I'll be seaming, blocking, and searching for the perfect button to close the back!
Thanks for stopping by, I have an extra-special post planned for FO Friday this week - so I hope to meet you back here!

Monday, February 2, 2015

February Goals

Instead of making sweeping resolutions of all of 2015 which I will probably forget about by the spring, I have decided to set monthly goals for the sake of manageablility. I know there are several bloggers who have been using this idea to great effect (though can I pull any of those names out of the air right now as I type?! No! If you can recall the names of these blogs, please feel free to name-check and post links in the comments!), so I don't think I'm really introducing a novel concept per se. However, it's already February and I haven't mentioned anything about my 2015 crafting goals yet, with the exception of talking about a monthly spinning project here. For shame!

In addition to a monthly spinning project, I want to could get through my design backlog and publish something new at least every other month. Originally, I wanted to shoot for every month, but I know that's just not practical for me, especially when designing is still very much a side gig.

My crafting goals specific to February include:
  • Weave one Zoom Loom square each day this month to build up a nice stash for making some projects from Margaret Stump's Pin Loom Weaving book.
  • Complete the Foliage Cowl for the Holla Knits KAL which starts today. 
  • Complete my Curls KAL project (currently in progress).
  • Finish 2 baby sweaters this month (one which is already in progress and one which is needle adjacent)
  • Finish my Block Island Pullover by the end of this month. 
  • Complete one spinning project from start to finish. 
  • Release a new pattern.