Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New WIPs, Old WIPs!

I've gotten several projects off the needles recently, which means - yay! - I get to start new projects. This week, I cast on for the Chibi Maruko cowl by Mari Chiba using the skein of Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone DK that I got at TNNA earlier this month.
Of course, I still have ALL THE SOCKS on the needles and am trying to work on them a little bit as I am able (the arm issue is still a thing, though not as bad as it was previously). And I recently realized that I am VERY close to the finish line for my Cozy Memories Blanket - it's amazing what you can accomplish if you actually work on a project regularly. I know, I know. This could have been finished months ago, but instead I set it aside and ignored it for reasons unknown.
Anyway, now that I can see the finish line, I am super-motivated to get this off the needles. I am now a mere 9 squares away from being done! And side note, I am so glad that I spent an afternoon weaving in ends a while back, because now I just have a few rows' worth of ends to weave in, instead of the entire blanket.

Here's hoping for a productive holiday weekend. See you back here for FO Friday!

Monday, June 27, 2016

It's almost Tour de Fleece Time!

It's come to my attention that I once again have too much spinning fiber (ie, all of it does not fit in the very large 60-gallon bin I have earmarked for it). Thank goodness the Tour de Fleece is almost here - it's a great reason for me to dust off my spinning wheel. It's been a month or two since I last finished a spinning project; with all of the travel and weird arm issues, spinning was something that just fell by the wayside.

Usually I spin rogue for the TDF, but one of my podcaster friends (who also was on my Spinzilla team last fall), Laura from the Corner of Knit and Tea, is hosting a TDF team this year. There aren't a huge amount of rules to be a part of the team, so of course I joined up - here is the deal with Team CKT:

This year, the Tour de Fleece starts on Saturday July 2 and runs until Sunday July 24th, 2016.
Guidelines (NOT RULES):
  • Spin every day the Tour rides, if possible. Saturday July 2 through Sunday July 24th. Days of rest: Monday, July 11th and Tuesday, July 19th. (Just like the actual tour.)
  • Spin something challenging on the challenge days (usually the toughest high mountain stage: this year, it’s Stage 8, on Saturday, July 9th, when they will climb 4 mountains, including the 2115m high Col du Tourmalet, and Stage 15, on Sunday, July 17th, when they take on the Grand Columbier!
  • Share pictures and chat through the tour - it’s more fun if we can see what everyone is spinning and cheer each other on.
  • In order to be eligible for prizes you must be a member of this group.
  • You can spin any fiber on any spinning device (wheel or spindle or charka or or or…)
  • You can join as many teams as you want.
You can find the group thread here on Ravelry! Also, I made some graphics for my teammates to use, so if you'll be spinning with us, please do feel free to grab a Team CKT badge to use as a Ravatar, on your blog, or on social media - click here to view the dropbox folder.

So, my goals are to spin through all of the fiber that doesn't fit in my fiber bin, which currently is this:
Obviously, I want to find a way to spin pain-free, as my most active arm in spinning is also the one which I have the issues with (oh yay!). So it'll probably be slow going - thank goodness this isn't Spinzilla, right?

Are you doing the Tour de Fleece this year? 

Friday, June 24, 2016

FO Friday: Naturally Nazareth Hat

This week's FO is a hat I finished right before I left for TNNA in a new yarn from Kraemer Yarns called Naturally Nazareth. It's spun here in the US from domestically grown wool, a trend I'm glad to see taking hold in the yarn world. I met (and, full disclosure, work with) the folks at Kraemer Yarns at TNNA, and I really love their story
Anyway, I knit the Astrid hat by Jen Lucas from her new book, Cozy Destash Knits (click here if you missed my recent review). It was a nice, satisfying project that looks more complicated than it was - the pattern stitch was really easy to memorize. 
It was also really fun to work with a color that is way outside my usual fare of neutrals, blues and greens. This color is called Twilight and it's got some subtle heathery depth to it - so pretty!
I'm pretty sure that Naturally Nazareth will be arriving in yarn stores soon, but if you are dying to get your hands on some skeins NOW, you can contact them directly or check out their Shopatron store to get hooked up.

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

WIP Wednesday: From the Stretch

I've been pretty monogamous with my WIPs this past week, especially since I flew down to Kansas City last Friday for a Royals baseball game. I know, I know....two baseball games in two different cities in one week? I must be insane. But my in-laws scored diamond club tickets for when Tyler was visiting to go to Boulevardia, and there was one for the taking if I could just hop a flight down...which is exactly what I did, and it was totally worth it! 
It was insanely hot, but they trounced the Tigers and we still had way too much fun. Also, there were fireworks!
It would have been nice to stay the weekend, but since I'd been at the trade show the previous weekend, I thought it would be better to just do Friday/Saturday so that I could have some unwind time on Sunday. The upside of doing so much travel this year is that it stresses me out way less, and I'm feeling pretty at home at O'Hare. Anyway, I'm digressing, but the main point is that my primary trip project was, yet again, the Three Color Cashmere Cowl. I'm getting close to the finish line!
Also nearing the finish line is the handspun Grivola Shawl. Just before I went to KC, I passed the halfway point, and since returning to Chicago, it's been flying! 
I did pull a sock project out of hibernation to see how things went with the arm. The pain pretty much disappears when I travel, i.e. I am not typing on my computer for 8+ hours. So I guess I need find a good voice dictation thing, or some way to get work done that doesn't cause me pain. Anyway, back to the sock - I successfully completed two repeats of the pattern on the instep, albeit slooooooowly. It's better than I've been able to do, so I'll take it!
Thanks for joining me this week! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

TNNA Recap + DC Sightseeing!

I was pretty excited when I heard that this year's Summer TNNA show was in DC. I've never been there, so it seemed like the perfect way to see a bit of the Capitol, which otherwise I probably wouldn't visit because I have so many cities and countries higher on the list. I earmarked Monday afternoon/evening for sightseeing and booked a flight out the next day. But before I get to all that - I should probably talk about the show! 
This is my 6th (or maybe 7th?) TNNA, so it was pretty much what I anticipated. Friday opened with the fashion show, and if that is any indication of what's to come this fall, you better start knitting a giant gray poncho NOW. Seriously, there were a lot of flowy, oversized garments walking the runway! Most of Saturday and Sunday was spent walking the show floor when I wasn't in meetings. Here are just a few of my favorite things which I remembered to photograph (there are so many more I totally forgot to snap photos in, oops!).
A new linen blend yarn from Manos.
Adorable mugs from Stuff You Love
All of the hand-dyed yarn from Ancient Arts.
Adorable knitted sheep from Kraemer Yarns.
Everything in the Red Gate Stitchery booth was incredibly cute.
I had a few more client meetings on Monday morning, then was free as a bird to sightsee. Of course, I was pretty tired at this point and nearly napped away the afternoon til it was time to meet my friend Allyson (of Holla Knits and Sweatshop of Love fame) to go to the Nationals game. Somehow, I made myself head out into the oppressive heat to walk around for several hours. I went through Chinatown...
Then walked by several Smithsonian museums to arrive at the Washington Monument. All of the flags were at half mast due to the recent tragedy in Orlando; it was a sad but striking image.

At this point I was pretty tired, but I knew I should keep going. I continued to the next site, the World War II Memorial, which is just before the reflecting pool. 

And then walked up the nightmare of steps to see Mr. Lincoln. It was fun to play "count the selfies" while taking it all in.
I lingered a bit to enjoy the shade, took a moment to enjoy the reflection of the Washinton monument in the reflecting pool, then pressed on to the Vietnam War Memorial. 
This one had lots of mementos for loved ones, and I overheard a lot of folks talking about when they or their loved ones served.

After that was a long, sweaty walk to swing by the White House. Everyone says it's quite small, and guess what? They're right! Also, I love taking photos of other people taking photos....this lady's pose is classic.

From there, it was a 20 minute walk back to the hotel down New York Street. I'm not terrible with directions, but I do appreciate having Siri navigate me when I'm in unfamiliar territory. DC was actually pretty easy to get around in, and I even successfully used their mass transit to get to and from the airport and the ball game. Speaking of which, I got back to the hotel with just barely enough time to take a quick shower to freshen up and get out to Nationals park.

Turns out that Allyson had a friend with season tickets who couldn't make the game, so he gave them both to us! Score! We met up at this cool outdoor bar that was basically a parking lot with old train cars stacked up as walls. There were food and beer vendors, some games and a live band playing terrible covers. We had a hard time taking a decent selfie to commemorate the experience, but you get the idea. 
We could walk to the stadium from there (we basically just had to cross a street) and then we took in the game! The last baseball game I went to was Royals at White Sox earlier this year, and man, are Sox fans blasé. It was night and day - Nats fans are really into it, much like Royals fans, so it was a really fun game to watch. 
I flew home the next day feeling really relaxed, which I don't think has ever happened after a trade show. Perhaps I should make a point to do a little sightseeing more often!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Trade Show Knitting & Stash Enhancement

Since last week, I've made progress on my two main WIPs AND started a new design!

I didn't take the handspun Grivola shawl on my recent trip to DC, but it's grown considerably since I started it last week because of the big  'ol yarn and needles. 

The 3 Color (possibly not) Cashmere Cowl turned out to be the perfect travel and trade show project. When I arrived back home yesterday, I was ready to add the third color!
I did start a new design while in DC, but didn't get very far along, so I can show you a sneak peek. Here's hoping that it will be done soon so that I can get it released for your knitting pleasure, because the Lhasa Wilderness is perfect for summertime projects. 
One of my TNNA goals was to avoid temptation and bring home as little yarn and other swag as possible, and I'm proud to say that for once I succeeded! Here is my modest haul - I am most excited about the green skein of ------ yarn from Baa Ram Ewe, but I've been wanting to knit with their yarn for quite some time now. 
Since I have a lot of catching up to do, I'm pretty sure that my next blog post won't be till Monday, when I share my TNNA recap and some photos I took on Monday afternoon when I actually got to sightsee a little - a true rarity when attending a trade show, at least for me. I'm so glad I allowed for some time to play tourist; I doubt I'll make it back to DC any time soon, so I wanted to be sure to catch a few of the highlights! At any rate, I'll share more next week, see you then!

Friday, June 10, 2016

FO Friday: Merope Mitts

At the beginning of this week, I reviewed the book Cozy Stash-Busting Knits by Jen Lucas (click here if you missed it). This is my first finished project from the book! I knit the Merope Mitts using a skein of Powder River yarn from Mountain Meadow Wool, which is a natural-colored yarn that has a unique fiber content: 63% mountain merino™, 25% alpaca and 12% black rambouillet.
I love a good marled yarn, and this one was soft and easy to work with. It produced a nice, squishy fabric that blocked out beautifully:
I'm pretty sure that these mitts will be hard-wearing, which is always a bonus. As for the pattern, it was easy to follow, and the resulting mitts fit perfectly (sorry, I didn't have time to get a modeled shot before heading to TNNA this weekend). If I can bear to part with them, these mitts will make a great gift for the holidays!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Still No Socks

The hand/arm issues have gotten better, but I am still unable to knit more than a few rounds on a sock every couple days. At this rate, the three socks I have in progress will be finished by.....2018?!?! Hopefully patience will win out and I can get back to sock knitting in some capacity by mid-to-late summer. That was a pretty depressing sentence to type just now, but I would rather work within my limits and focus on really fixing the issue for the long term, rather than trying to find a short-term quick fix. In the mean time, I am allowing myself to start new projects, so long as they can contribute variation in yarn weight/needle size/project type, giving me options to choose from when I am able to knit.

With that in mind, I decided to start a Grivola shawl with this mondo skein of handspun Coopworth in a natural dark chocolate brown that is already giving me fits to photograph.
I am nearly finished with the Astrid Hat in Naturally Nazareth yarn (if you missed my review of the book which this pattern appears in earlier this week, click here to check it out!); it's been a little slow going because I have to take a lot of breaks since the gauge is a little tight (worsted weight yarn on US 6 needles).
I've been focusing most of my knitting efforts on my 3-Color Cashmere Cowl, which is a pretty good project for on-the-go knitting, and it's pretty gentle on my hands, too (DK weight on US 6 needles). On Monday night we saw Blonde Redhead play a free concert in Millennium Park and I took it along; it will also be my travel project for TNNA in DC this weekend.
I have a million projects on deck for once I get back from TNNA, and I'm sure I will come home with more yarn and pattern ideas aplenty. This Friday, I'll be sharing my finished Merope mitts; you can also keep up with me on Instagram if you want to see what's happening at TNNA in real time (otherwise, you'll have to wait for my event recap after I get back).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: Cozy Stash-Busting Knits

I was excited to review Jen Lucas' latest book of accessory patterns, and who can resist a collection that's engineered for stash-busting? Most knitters have a considerable amount of stash, and if you're like me, the thought of how to put those pretty skeins of yarn to good use is often on your mind....until you see something shiny and new!

Cozy Stash-Busting Knits is the perfect way to refocus those efforts - after all, once you knit down your stash, you can buy more yarn guilt-free, right? The patterns are arranged from front to back by yarn weight, and range from DK to Bulky, so it makes stash -diving all the more easy. While some of the projects require multiple skeins of yarn, there are also just as many that you can knit with just those oddball skeins lurking in your stash. You also have the option of knitting any of the patterns in different weights of yarn (there are tips included to help you do so successfully). If you are looking to destash sock yarn in particular, you could totally substitute that in for many of these patterns; I also I recommend checking out Jen's previous book, Sock Yarn Accessories, which I reviewed here

What I like about the designs in this book - and honestly, Jen's designs overall - is that they are all simple but interesting to knit. Each has an interesting stitch pattern or other design elements that are  easy to pick up and memorize; someone in my knitting group decreed this "comfort knitting," which I think is the perfect way to describe these patterns. Nothing is going to be so crazy complicated that tears would be involved! 

When I took this book to my knitting group, it caused quite a stir. Every single person agreed that they would knit at least 5 patterns from the book, which makes it worth adding to their knitting library. I absolutely couldn't resist casting on for a few projects immediately once this book arrived! First, I started a pair of Merope Mitts in some Powder River yarn from Mountain Meadow Wool (I'll be sharing my FO photos of these on Friday of this week!): 
Next, I cast on for the Astrid Hat using a spring-y skein of a new yarn from Kraemer Yarns, Naturally Nazareth
I have already planned my next project from this book, which will be the Grivola Shawl using some of my hanspun yarn, which brings me to my next point: a lot of these patterns would be perfect for handspun yarn! After participating in Spinzilla for the last three years, plus the occasional Tour de Fleece, I find that my handspun yarn bin overfloweth. I am really excited to start stash-busting in the handspun arena, too. 
Grivola Shawl by Jen Lucas
There are seven shawl patterns total in the book, and to be totally honest, I kind of want to knit them all! I also realized that they could just as easily be knit from multiple colors of yarn if you truly wanted to stash bust. With all of the colorblock and gradient projects popping up on Ravelry, I think it's pretty easy to get inspired to give this a try, and a top-down shawl really lends itself well to this type of modification. 
Garnett Shawl by Jen Lucas
I"m still very much into knitting hats and cowls, and there are 3 of each to keep me going this summer; if scarves are your jam, there are two to choose from, too. I'm not big on rectangular scarves these days, but the next time Tyler needs a new scarf, I will probably give one of these a try - Crawford looks particularly intriguing since its knit on the bias. 
Lacon by Jen Lucas
Rounding out the mix are a couple of cute headbands, two fingerless mitts, and two super-fun mittens designs. 
Flanner by Jen Lucas
I'm really glad to have this book on my shelf (and many thanks to Jen for sending it my way for review). It's filled with excellent projects that will make great gifts for the holidays, and I know I will enjoy knitting them along the way. 

You may like to know: This book was sent to me in exchange for a review; all opinions are my own. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

FO Friday: A Collection of Crochet Projects

While I was waiting for the issues with my left arm to resolve, I worked on some crochet projects which I never got around to sharing on this blog once they were finished! Here's how I kept my hands busy during the worst of my golfer's elbow flare-up, when I could barely knit a stitch:

I made this Crochet Hat with some Plymouth Yarn I had in my stash and a free pattern from Little Things Blogged. I got a little carried away with the slouchy bits, but I think it still turned out pretty well. And, of course, I topped it with the world's biggest pom pom!
It's been a while since I made any toys, so I decided to use a skein of yarn I bought at Yarn Con earlier this year to make a cute little Bunny using this pattern from FreshStitches. I don't know why, but I always have a few limbs askew on my toy projects, and even though I was trying to make things reasonably lined up, this little guy still looks like he's trying to pose like a supermodel:
I also crocheted what I thought would be a nice little storage container made from handspun (and hand-dyed!) yarn, but because I am such a loose crocheter, it ended up as a bit of a floppy mess. Even felting it didn't help snap it back into shape!
Luckily, Tilly discovered it about ten seconds after I set it out to dry, and it's been one of her favorite napping spots ever since. I'm pretty glad that someone appreciates it, because I really wasn't sure what to do with it otherwise!
That's it for this week - thanks for stopping by! I'll actually be sharing a blog post on Monday when I review a new book from Jen Lucas called Cozy Stash-Busting Knits: 22 Patterns for Hats, Scarves, Cowls & More. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Too Many WIPs!

It seems like I've worked through the worst of the arm issues. I'm not 100%, but I am much improved and able to knit a little more than before, thanks mostly to a very stylish compression sleeve I've been wearing on my forearm. It's insane to think that just one little piece of fabric could make such a difference, but ever since I gave it a try, I haven't had to ice my arm AT ALL. I'm still stretching and taking frequent breaks, but I can honestly credit the compression sleeve with the most meaningful contribution. Go figure!

So now I find myself with a LOT of WIPs on the needles - way more than I am usually comfortable with! If I include the cozy memories blanket, the grand total is 8...and I usually like to limit myself to 3 or 4 max as a general rule. Any more than that and I start to feel weirdly stressed about how many WIPs I have languishing, so I am trying to stay focused and get at least a few projects off the needles before I head to TNNA in a few weeks. I've made the most noticeable progress on the Merope Mitts - I'm about halfway through the second one!
I've also been working on the Astrid Hat that I started with some new-to-me yarn last week. It's been a little slower going because the gauge is a little tighter than the mitts project (both are worked on US 6 needles, but the mitts are DK and the hat is worsted weight).
Since tight gauge and small yarn seems to things off, I've been avoiding the three sock project WIPs, and it's honestly driving me a little crazy. If I can't ever knit socks again for realsies I will be incredibly sad. I still haven't had the courage to pick up a sock project again, even with the Magical Compression Sleeve - silly, I know! Anyway, in the interim I decided I should start another new project with some DK yarn and US 6 needles and 3 skeins of probably-not-cashmere yarn I got at TNNA about four years ago in the Lotus Yarns booth (if you're wondering, they recently had a flap about mink yarn that contained 0% mink, and I'm not terribly convinced that this 100% cashmere is for real, either). I decided to modify Joji Locatelli's 3 Color Cashmere Cowl into a DK weight project after cruising all of the finished projects on Ravelry to see how people were modifying the pattern for heavier weights of yarn. As you can see, I am not very far along, but I am hoping it will make for a good travel project next month.
That's it for this week, I hope you had a safe and happy holiday weekend. See you back here for FO Friday!