Monday, June 29, 2015

Take 5: Speed Spinning with Alexis of #TeamLouet & Cob Cottage Craft

Welcome back to another guest post from the Take 5 Blog Series! Today's blogger is the top spinner for #TeamLouet for the past 2 years of Spinzilla; last year, she was among the overall Top 5 spinners for the entire event, clocking in at 26,384 yards! She definitely played a huge role in our team's third place finish last year, and I consider Alexis to be our not-so-secret weapon. I asked her to share some of her tips for spinning at maximum speed with my blog readers this week. Enjoy!

If you’re thinking ahead, July's Tour de Fleece can be a great warm up for Spinzilla, a time to try new techniques and fibres and maybe even time yourself to discover how to maximize yardage in your available spinning time. Of course there are other times one might give a thought to speedy spinning…...winter fast approaching, dire need of a new sweater? Or perhaps a sheep to shawl competition (I’ve never participated in one but I would love to)?  Fibre stash threatening to take over your house (this might be happening here)? Must spin faster!

Here are my top 5 tips for making the most yarn out of your spinning time:

1. Consider the sheep: While we all love merino, fine wools require many more twists per inch than other wools. The general rule is that there is a correlation between crimps per inch and ideal twist per inch. The romney fleece in my stash has less than 12 per inch while merino can have more than 30. More twists take more treadles and more time no matter how fast you can draft. This can be a great time to experiment with rare breeds. Down breeds lend themselves well to woolen style spinning. Romney has a reputation for being a fast spinning fibre. Longwools can make wonderful yarns with loads of drape, shine and few twists per inch. Now is a great time to experiment; Spinzilla is a great way to spin yourself a sweater quantity. What wool will you choose?
2. Preparation: Rolags and batts lend themselves well to woolen spinning creating a soft and airy yarn. Top or sliver spins best with short draw creating worsted style yarns. What style of fibre preparation is fastest for you? Experiment! I find that batts and rolags of wool are my fastest fibres. A friend finds cotton punis a speedy spin. With practice, I might agree with her but I’m a beginner where cotton is concerned.
3. Drafting technique: A good long-draw draft with fibre prepared for woolen style makes the yarn just fly off your fingertips. Try this with Romney in a roving or carded preparation; with practice it will feel like magic!

4. Ratios: How fast is your wheel? While you can treadle faster, it’s hard to keep up a high cadence and harder on your body. Spinning should be relaxing. A wheel with high speed ratios can vastly speed up your production.
5. All the other stuff: This includes the time you spend plying and winding off. What speeds up efficiency? I love giant bobbins for plying and the resulting giant skeins of yarn. The other stuff also includes ways to make more time for spinning. Clutter tolerance is crucial. The less time you spend cleaning, the more time for spinning. Remember, think of all the piles of wool as decor!

Alexis of  lives on a small island in the Salish sea and endeavors to spin as fast as she collects wool. Other wooly endeavors include spinning for Team Louet North America in Spinzilla and sample knitting for Louet and Asa Tricosa among others. She loves to write about all things fibre.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fiber Friday: Mountain Colors BFL

The handspinning obsession continues! I was recently sent 4oz of BFL spinning fiber from Mountain Colors to try out, and as soon as it arrived I couldn't wait to give it a spin - I don't think it lasted more than a few days in the house before I started to play with it.
This is the Sun River colorway, which is described on the website as "bright violet and red-orange blended with deep burgundy and wine." Definitely an apt description! The 100% Blue Faced Leicester top is available in 28 hand-dyed colorways total (click here to see all of the Mountain Colors yarn and fiber offerings; about midway down the page, you can see info about their spinning fiber and available colorway). At first touch, I would have classified this BFL to be in the middle range of general BFL softness; after spinning it, however, I would definitely move the needle towards the softer end of the spectrum, however. It DEFINITELY became softer as I spun with it!
I decided to predraft my fiber and divide it evenly(ish) into two-oz increments so that I could spin two singles and then ply them together.
They drafted easily as I spun, with very few guard hairs, vege matter or nepps to slow me down. I used the highest speed ratio (1:13) to spin both singles with a Z-twist (clockwise) on my Louet Victoria wheel. When I plied them together, I used the 1:8.5 ratio and a S-twist (counterclockwise).
I'm pretty pleased with the results, which may be among the thinnest handspun plied yarns I've achieved to date! The final skein weights in at approximately 170 yards of a DK weight (11 wpi).
I decided that it would absolutely perfect for a new free pattern I spied on Ravelry which uses handspun yarn of a similar weight, the Reeds and Rushes Cowl by Benjamin Krudgwig....and I've already cast on!
I opted to use a provisional cast on so that I can smoothly graft all of the stitches together, and I also went up a needle size since my yarn is just a touch (or should I say, wrap) heavier than the yarn specified in the design. I've only worked through one pattern repeat, but I like how it's working up so far.

Ready to give this Mountain Colors 100% BFL Spinning Fiber a try? Ask for it at your LYS or click here to find your nearest Mountain Colors Retailer.

You may like to know: I received this product in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Obsessed with Handspun

Last Friday, after a very long week, I decided to take the afternoon off of reorganize my handspun yarn and fiber stash?! Indeed, that is what I ended up doing, and I discovered that I have accumulated SO MUCH handspun yarn that it no longer fit in the medium sized bin I've been using the past several years....and it was time to graduate to a much larger 66 qt. container. Naturally, this new container is now completely filled, as is the medium sized bin which formerly housed my handspun yarn and now kinda sorta but not really holds all of my spinning fiber stash:
As you saw last week, I was already inspired to start making projects with handspun yarn, and this little exercise has only reinforced everything! On Saturday, I decided that I needed to make a baby sweater with some delightfully squishy handspun polwarth yarn I'd also dyed myself (because just knitting a baby gift with normal yarn is no longer enough).
I have a couple of old standby baby sweaters I like to knit, and this time around, I went with the Baby Sweater Buffet by Allyson Dykhuizen, and I'm alternating skeins to help downplay any differences between the skeins. So far I love how it's knitting up!
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Winner + Mini Skein Sale

Congrats to sisterrobinson, you are the lucky winner! I will contact you on Ravelry to arrange for the delivery of your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered this month's giveaway; if you didn't win, I encourage you to visit the ModeKnit Yarns website and give their yarns a try!

Also, I'm having a luxury sock yarn mini skein grab bag sale in my Etsy shop, this week only! Enter HBSBLOG at checkout to get $3 off your order now through Midnight CDT on Friday, June 26. All US orders ship free via USPS First Class!

I've added some pretty stellar yarns to the already-awesome lineup. There are hand-dyed yarns such Anzula, Leading Men Fiber Arts, and Manos del Uruguay plus other high-quality yarns such as Spud & Chloe Fine, Louet Gems Fingering, and more - and if you are looking for particular colors (or have other reasonable requests), I am happy to do what I can to put together a grab bag you'll love.

You can see a full list of yarns & get more info about what each 10-skein grab bag contains here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 19, 2015

FO Friday: Lake Michigan Tee from Summer 2015 Knitscene

Hello there, new sweater!
I've kind of been holding out on you: this project has technically been finished since June 10, but I didn't get a chance to block it out til last weekend, and I really didn't want to share it until I had some awesome photos of a totally washed-and-blocked sweater to share!

If you've been following my progress, you may already know that I started this project back in April, when I found the perfect skein of hand-dyed grey yarn at the Leading Men Fiber Arts booth at YarnCon. I used the mondo skein Soliloquy in London Fog ( a BFL sock yarn) to knit the yoke of the sweater, and it enabled me to destash two more skeins of yarn from the coffers: Top Draw Socks from Skein Yarn (Knight, the variegated colorway which comprises most of the sweater body) and a skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock I dyed with my own personal color I call Inky.

The Lake Michigan Tee is part of Allyson Dykhuizen's collection in the Summer 2015 issue of Knitscene (available online via the Interweave Store), and it was a really cool sweater construction I've never done before. I'm usually kind of wary of these things, because I find most crazy constructions don't fit me as well as the more traditional approaches. However, I was rewarded for taking the chance this time around!

The hardest part of the sweater (for me) was knitting the patterned yoke; perhaps I had so many issues because I was also trying to watch my favorite anime series and reading subtitles while knitting a charted knit/purl chevron pattern? It's possible!
Once the yoke was complete, it was smooth sailing: I picked up some stitches to form the body of the sweater, and knit miles of stockinette til I ran out of yarn. The bulk of this section was completed on the bus to and from TNNA, and it was the perfect project to take on the road since I could pick it up and set it back down quickly. I didn't knit a whole lot during the trade show (I was in meetings for 11 hours both days!), but when I was able to sneak in a few stitches, it was nice to not have to worry about messing it up and having to frog it later.
There weren't a lot of ends to weave in, and blocking was super easy and I am totally in love with how this turned out!
In other news: last call for my gradient sock yarn giveaway, I'll be announcing the winner this coming Monday! Click here for your chance to win!

Have a fun and crafty weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Back to Small Things!

Now that I have a long-term project off the needles, I'm excited to work on some smaller projects which are a little more instant-gratification! This week, I'm working on a trio of Tiny Hedgehogs from the kit I bought at Windy Knitty a while back (you can also buy one here on the Mochimochiland website).
I also am working on some crocheted baby converse booties for the next wave of kiddos who will be arriving later this year. I'm not sure I'm totally sold on this particular pattern (it's available for free on Ravelry, and you KNOW how I feel about free patterns!), but I'll see it through to the end. Who knows, maybe it'll all come together and look awesome!
And then, late Monday night, after a very eventful evening of monsoon-like rain, flooding, tornado sirens, and a Blackhawks Stanley Cup win, I decided to start some Pookies with little bits of leftover handspun one does!
Those are all of my WIPs for now - don't forget to check out my gradient sock yarn giveaway that's happening this week, I'll be announcing the winner next Monday!

Click here for your chance to win this 50g skein!
Thanks for joining me this week!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review & Giveaway: ModeKnit ModeWerk Flow Yarn

In the first of many reviews and giveaways made possible by my TNNA Marly Bird Designer Dinner swag bag, I'm pleased to share a review of a new-to-me yarn that I have been seeing around Ravelry and instagram: hand-dyed yarn from Annie Modesitt. It seems like the current trend for designers is to branch out into other related avenues such as stitch markers, project bags, and, of course....yarn!

ModeKnit Yarn is hand-dyed in Minnesota in shaded solids, variegated colorways, and the ever-popular gradients, which are new this season. They offer four different yarn blends and three different yarn weights (lace, fingering and worsted), and the color options are always changing (you can view more info about the yarn bases and colors here on the ModeKnit website).

I received two sample skeins of ModeWerk Flow (they use the word "Flow" to indicate gradient colorways in yarn, and I think they are available across several bases within the brand), which is a machine washable 100% merino yarn available in both fingering and worsted weights. Both of these sample skeins were fingering weight, and the 50g ball contains a generous 185 yards; full-sized fingering weight skeins of ModeWerk weight in at 100g and 386 yards. I decided to use one of them to knit a baby hat and give the other one away to a lucky blog reader - more on that in a sec!
The colorway I chose to knit with (shown below) is called Tequila Mockingbird, and it's a very pretty and vibrant gradient which reminds me a bit of sherbet ice cream. If you know me well, you know that pink is absolutely my least favorite color, but it was nice to step outside of my norm and knit with something that I wouldn't typically choose on my own.

I used one of the Heirloom Hats for Newborns patterns from Purl Soho, which are available for free here on their site, and my trusty Knitter's Pride Dreamz DPNs. I enjoyed working with this yarn - though the two plies are a little on the loose side, I didn't find the yarn to be splitty as I worked. It felt good in my hands and gave my stockinetee nice, crisp stitch defnitition. I think it would be awesome with cables and textured stitches.
Even prior to blocking, the stitches looked nice and even despite having been in a cake for at least a few weeks. Even though the label said machine wash/air dry, I still washed this hat by hand, as I tend to do with all of my projects knit with superwash yarns. There weren't any "surprises" after blocking (i.e. the hat didn't grow several sizes in the process), and the slight halo I detected as I laid it flat to dry quickly disappeared as the moisture left the hat.
Giveaway Time! 
Now for the fun part: one of my lucky readers gets to try this yarn out to see for themselves! I'm giving away this 50g sample ball of ModeWerk Flow in a red-to-pink gradient; there is enough yardage to complete a small project such as a baby hat, or you can use it for  sock yarn blanket squares, hexipuffs, or to weave zoom loom squares.

To be eligible, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me which hand-dyed colorway is your favorite. Be sure to also mention your Ravelry ID or email address so that I can contact you if you win. If you would like a bonus entry, please like my Facebook Page or follow me on Instagram or Twitter, then leave another comment telling me you did so - just be sure to mention your Facebook or Instagram name so that I can verify everything (if you already follow me on these channels, just let me know in the comments for your bonus entry, too)!

I will randomly-select one lucky winner to be announced next Monday, June 22 here on this blog. Good luck!

Friday, June 12, 2015

FO Friday: Hats, Part 2 + WWKIP & The Podcast You Should Be Watching

The stack of hats has grown over the last few weeks, and it couldn't be better timing - my aunt is about to begin her chemotherapy. I have already mailed the hats to their destination, and I hope that when they arrive, they cheer her up a bit, despite the circumstances.

The modified Rikke Hat in Canopy Fingering and Skein Cashmerino turned out quite nicely:

I also finished a super-bright Bowdoin Hat from the new issue of Holla Knits using a skein of Sincere Sheep Tenacious Sock in Vit C. I only wish I had gotten a better image of the finished hat, because it looked really great - but this is the best one I snapped before sending it off to its new home:

Also, for any Chicagoans who might be reading this, my pal Heidi from the Hands Occupied blog is hosting a WWKIP day meetup tomorrow - click here for details. It would be great to see you there! 

You should also probably check out the new video podcast Heidi has started with Allyson Dykhuizen of Sweatshop of Love and Leah Coccari-Swift of Ruby Submarine. Yarn Talk is a short and snappy look at what's trending in the world of yarn; click here to subscribe to their YouTube channel so you don't miss an episode! Their most recent one about the TNNA Trade Show is embedded below. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Closing In

Over the weekend, I knit through the entire skein of Top Draw Socks for the body of my Lake Michigan Tee and made the switch to the final color: a one-of-a-kind colorway I made up when I was working at Lorna's Laces which I dubbed inky. I'm working on the final step - the chevron-stitch border - and should have this off the needles by the end of this week, with any luck!

I also started a few new projects since last week: first, I cast on for a simple baby hat using some yarn from my Marly Bird Designer Dinner Swag Bag (more on that later):

And then I broke out the crochet hook and started this tiny fish, which is the most recent shipment from the FreshStitches kit club:

That pretty much covers my WIPs for this week, but I look forward to starting a few more new projects once the Lake Michigan Tee is officially off the needles!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Take 5: Allyson Dykhuizen's Favorite Summer Knitting Trends

Welcome back to the Take 5 Blog Series, where I ask my fellow designer, bloggers and other fiber folks to share their top five lists - completely unfiltered! Today, the editor of Holla Knits (and blogger/designer extraordinaire) Allyson Dykhuizen shares some of her favorite knitting trends for this summer. This post is also part of the Holla Knits Blog Tour which kicked off last month and lasts through June 9th. I hope this inspires you to keep knitting all summer long, and don't forget to click here to get caught up on past Take 5 blog posts!

Summer knitting is upon us, and while some knitters abandon their needles for lighter, more summery crafts, I reach for my needles even more during summer! There are so many fun trends that pop up in summer that I can’t wait to make a knit version of.

So when Stefanie asked me to write about some knitting trends I love, I thought I’d write about what I’m excited about this summer, and share my styling tips, as well as some great knit versions of these styles. Fashion forward summer knits? Let’s do this!

  1. Crop Tops

When you think crop top, you might think about something like this:
photo source:

But it really doesn’t have to be that way! Crop top doesn’t have to mean showing more skin if you don’t want it to.

I love this colorwork pullover by Sarah Hurwitz that just came out in the Knitscene Summer 2015. Here it’s styled over a tank and with high waisted pants. How cute would that be over a button down with a skirt?
photo source:

If you’ve got a button down shirt in your closet, you can throw any accidentally too short or on purpose short sweater on over that!

Crop tops also go great with skirts and dresses! You’ve already got full coverage, so throw over your favorite crop top over a maxi dress in the summer or even for more warmth in the winter.

And if you want to show a little skin but not TOO much skin, you can go a little cropped with the high low hem trend - cropped in the front but long in the back. Here this fun tee from Alexandra Tavel, the High Tide Low Tide Tee, and it’s is styled over a bikini top, but any tank or tee would also work underneath.

  1. Mesh

Just like the crop top, mesh knits get ignored because they take a bit more styling, but if you get a couple of the right basics these are easy to wear as well! You can follow the same rules of the crop top - throw them over a button down, over a dress, or show a little skin by wearing them over a bikini top or small tee.

Again from the latest Knitscene, Emily Ringelman’s Ouverte Tee is an all over mesh and styled over a sports bra with a lot of coverage for a sporty but super cute feel.

Emma Welford’s Just Beachy from the 2013 Spring/Summer Holla Knits collection uses a cabled panel in the front and back to give a little more coverage, with mesh panels on the sides. Styled here with a full skirt and matching tank, the mesh and cropped knit tee totally works!

  1. Kimono Cardigans

Kimono style cardigans are everywhere this summer. You’ll see the big floral print light fabric kimono cardigans styled as jackets, like this.

But they’re also starting to pop up as beautiful knit cardigans as well!
photo source:

Liv by Michele Wang for BT Winter 2013 has large open fronts and oversized sleeves, which is all it takes to make a kimono style cardigan! A perfect jacket for a cool summer evening that you can take with you into fall, or keep at your desk with the AC is kicking.

Another beautiful version of a kimono cardigan comes from Carrie Bostick Hoge. Liv was part of Carrie’s Madder Anthology 2 that came out in January.

These knit kimono cardigans will keep you much warmer than their light fabric counterparts, and are the cardigan shape you’ll be seeing this fall.

  1. Bandana Cowls

The look and feel of a triangular shawl with the ease of a cowl, the bandana cowl is popping up everywhere!

As usual, Purl Soho was ahead of it’s time with this simple cozy stockinette stitch bandana cowl, released in late 2011. Simple and classic, this no fuss shape could also work for the man in your life - OR just knit yourself one in every color.

And if you’re looking for something for summer, this polkadot eyelet cowl by *ahem* ME! is in cotton and a great summer accessory.

  1. Knit Picks Comfy Worsted

Speaking of cotton yarn, I absolutely love Knit Picks Comfy worsted for all your crop tops, mesh tees and tanks, kimono cardigans, and bandana cowls.
photo source:

Soft and light with a ton of great colors and impossibly affordable, Comfy Worsted is my go-to quick knit cotton yarn. The Knit Picks Comfy line comes in Fingering as well, if you need something thinner, and is just as soft and light.

So go forth and knit for summer! A huge thank you to Stefanie for asking me to be a part of her fun Take 5 series. I had a great time putting this together!