Monday, November 27, 2017

To Give & Get: Holiday Gift Ideas for Yarn and Fiber Lovers

If you're reading this, that means you survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday - congratulations! The holiday season is officially in high gear, and if you are still working on making your wish list or need some ideas for your yarn-loving friends, this post is for you!

Enamel Pins
The enamel pin craze has not died down, I am still seeing so many fun and adorable designs everywhere I look! They're great for adorning project bags and decorating lapels alike, and there are lots of fun fiber-themed pins that would make great stocking stuffers or affordable gifts for your knitting group. I'm partial to these enamel pins from Bijou Basin Ranch, which make me smile every time I spot them on my project bag:


Cross Stitch Ornaments
There's no such thing as too many ornaments, and I've become obsessed with wooden cross stitch blanks - they're so easy, even I can do them (and I have zero experience with cross stitch anything). I love the charming Stitchable Sweater and Stitchable Mitten ornaments from Katrinkles (and she has the cutest buttons ever, too!), and have also been purchasing blanks via Amazon and Etsy. Even if you don't want to stitch them up, someone crafty would probably enjoy the opportunity to create their own ornament!


Yarn vs. Gift Certificates 
We all love yarn. Of course, if you're not a knitter/crocheter/user of yarn, purchasing yarn for someone else can be quite intimidating. While there are technically no wrong answers when it comes to yarn (except for maybe Red Heart, but that's all a matter of taste), I recommend going the gift certificate route instead of trying to guess what someone might like. Sure, we'll probably find a use for it...eventually....but most of us have a sizable stash of yarn as it is, and there is a huge spectrum of personal preferences among knitters and crocheters. This is just the tip of the iceberg on what could easily be a 20-page thesis, so just believe me when I tell you that a gift certificate will delight and enthrall (especially if you manage to find out their favorite yarn shop!!).

Project Kits
There is one loophole to the previous statement: if you know for sure the specific types of projects someone likes to make, project kits make a great gift. A few weeks ago, I reviewed an adorable amigurumi crochet kit from Global Backyard industries that would be perfect for beginning or intermediate crocheters. If you can indulge a little shameless self-promotion, I have a one-skein knitted cowl kit available here from Bijou Basin Ranch which would be good for folks who like to knit accessories. A lot of yarn shops will offer project kits for popular patterns, or you can check out Kitterly, a website that is devoted almost entirely to project kits. Monthly clubs are another option, as most of them include patterns with the yarn and other goodies (Knitcrate and Yarnbox are some of the popular ones in the knitting world, and I think they both offer crochet options, too).

Everything-you-need Ruby Crochet Kit
EoT 4
Eyelet of the Tiger Knitted Cowl Kit

The Splurge: Ball Winder and Swift
I recently was gifted this ball winder and swift from Knitter's Pride and it is seriously the best thing ever. Winding yarn has never been more fun and easy, and I love that it can even handle the ginormous balls of handspun yarn that most regular ball winders can't accommodate.


While there are still plenty more ideas for gift-giving this holiday season, I hope this gets you started in the right direction. Feel free to leave your favorite gift ideas or what's on your wish list in the comments!

If you like this post (or just want someone specific to find it later, hint hint), pin it!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Cast-On Party

It's been a while since I've shared a WIP Wednesday post, mostly because I don't want to make you guys look at the same projects over and over again (to be honest, I was kind of getting sick of them myself!!). The socks continue to plod along, and my So Faded is now at an impossible-to-photograph stage because I am knitting sleeves two-at-a-time (while they are attached to the body of the sweater, no less!). But I finally have two new projects to share with you this week, both of which are with yarns I'll be reviewing in greater detail soon.

The first is a hat knit with Filatura Di Crosa Samarcanda yarn - I'm knitting Angela Tong's Hishigata Hat pattern:


My other new WIP is a Purlbreak shawl that I'll be knitting with 3 colors of Superfine Fingering from Zen Yarn Garden:


I'm pretty excited to have some fresh new projects on the needles for the holiday weekend. I'll be taking this Friday off, but will have a fun Holiday Gift Guide to share with you next Monday. For those celebrating, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Knitting With Handspun

Confession time: I've been spinning yarn faster than I can knit with it (and let's not even talk about yarn purchases), so it's always exciting when I can find a good project to pair with handspun yarn.

I had a ton of Swalesdale wool fiber that I'd hoped to turn into a sweater, but I changed my mind when I started spinning it because it seemed a little too scratchy for next-to-skin wear (plus, it had a ton of kemp and VM). It does, however, make a fabulous knitted pillow, and I thought the natural and the hand dyed green yarn would look great in my living room as an oversized pillow. I used US 17 needles and cast on 40 stitches, knitting each row for a simple garter stitch to make each piece, which I then crocheted together - so easy! I was able to buy a pillow insert on Amazon for less than $10, making this a pretty affordable project.


When I spotted this free pattern from Manos del Uruguay, I wanted to knit it in the called-for yarn (Serpentina), but couldn't get my hands on a skein. Then I remembered the yarn I'd spun with some beautiful Manos Merino and decided to cast on with it instead. This was a super-easy and fast knit, I think I finished this cowl in just a couple of days! 


While I love finding projects for my handspun, I have also decided to sell some skeins in my Etsy shop (click here if you want to see what's currently available, and be sure to check back - I'll be adding more soon). Since I can't possibly use all of this yarn myself, I love the idea of each skein finding a loving home where it can be used. If you buy a skein, let me know what you make with it on Instagram by tagging me (@stefaniegrrr) in your post!

Friday, November 17, 2017

FO Friday: Shepherd's Lamb Hat

As a handspinner, I really love trying new-to-me breeds of sheep (not to mention other interesting or exotic fibers), but non-spinners don't have nearly the range of options available to them in ready-to-use yarn form. While this has improved over the years since I started knitting, yarns spun from breed-specific wools are still not the norm, especially at your LYS; they're more easily found at fiber festivals or through creative Googling.

I was excited when I heard about Shepherd's Lamb, a family owned ranch in New Mexico. Over the years, they have grown their flock to 1000 ewes whose fleeces are used to make beautiful wool blankets, pelts and knitworthy yarns (you can read more about their story here - it's worth checking out!).


In particular, their Rambouillet yarn caught my attention. I've worked with this breed of wool before and have enjoyed it, but I don't think I've ever used a Rambouillet yarn or fiber that I knew exactly where it had been sourced. Besides the sheep being organically raised, the yarn is milled in the US and it's dyed locally using natural dye methods which minimize the amount of yarn used in the process. Very cool! I chose the Indigo/Cochineal colorway just to break out of my usual blue/green/grey color rut, and after much debate I finally decided to knit a hat pattern from the Knitted Cable Sourcebook.

I absolutely loved how the yarn knit up in these stitch patterns, but I do wish I had listened to the little voice in my head when I was casting on and thinking "gosh, this is a lot of stitches for a hat worked on US 4 needles!" What do you know, it WAS a lot of stitches for a hat worked on US 4 needles, and I probably could have eliminated one of the panel repeats (which was 51 stitches wide, incidentally), or at least found a way to shorten it up. Also, US 4 needles felt a little too small for a DK yarn, and if I could do it over again, I would have chosen a project worked on a slightly larger needle (although I suppose a tight-knit gauge is extra warm!). Just look at those lovely textured stitches:


The finished hat ended up being larger than I was expecting (about 24" circumference, though I probably shouldn't have been surprised as previously noted) that is a bit bucket-shaped. This project quickly escalated into a game of yarn chicken as I knit: after doing some emergency decreases, I only had a yard or two left of yarn! If it hadn't been such a labor of love to work three different charted patterns, I probably would have just frogged it all back to reknit from scratch, but I just couldn't bear the thought of undoing all of that hard work, especially since I was intending to give the hat away in the end. It's only a little big on me, and I have a fairly small head for an adult human - so I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to find a knitworthy head to wear this hat proudly.


If you love wool yarns and are curious to explore the wonderful world of sheep breeds, I heartily recommend checking out the Rambouillet yarn from Shepherd's Lamb! They offer free shipping to US addresses, and quite honestly, I think their prices are a steal, especially when you consider that they're organic, naturally-dyed yarns that are 100% made in the USA. I also noticed over on Instagram that they're including free mini skeins with all orders over $50 placed this month, so that's another reason to give them a try!

You may like to know: I purchased this yarn and was not asked to write a review on my blog. I do have a working relationship with this company via my day job, but all opinions shared here are my own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Ruby Cactus Amigurumi Crochet Project Kit

It's been a while since I've shared a crochet project, so I couldn't resist this adorable cactus kit from Global Backyard Industries. They sent me 1 kit of my choosing (there are two cactus styles, Ruby and Charley) in exchange for my honest review. I've never been great at keeping plants alive myself, and a certain grey cat has a propensity to eat anything green and vaguely plant-like that comes into the house. So a plant that I can't kill and the cat (probably) won't try to eat is something I can really get excited about!
Image via Global Backyard Industries website

What impressed me the most when I received my Ruby kit was that it truly did include everything you needed, right down to the poly-fil stuffing.While I appreciate a good scavenger hunt, realizing you need a straw or don't have the right crochet hook can really be a momentum killer. They also source materials and supplies from American sources whenever possible, which is pretty cool (the company itself is run by a husband and wife team and based in Seattle).

Kit contents
As you know, I'm still very much a beginning crocheter. This kit was right at my skill level, as it didn't require much more than simple stitches (single crochet, chain stitch, slip stitch, and a singe crochet decrease). Some of the pattern instructions and terminology took some getting used to because I am still learning how to read crochet patterns in general (side note - I find there is way more variation in terms and how things are written in crochet patterns vs. knitting patterns. Is it just me?!). For this kit, most of my problems cam from overthinking, but luckily there is a YouTube video link included with the instructions. When I got stuck, it helped me decipher a few instructions that I wasn't 100% confident on.

Each piece before assembly
It was the perfect weekend project: I made all of the pieces on Saturday afternoon, then assembled them all in under an hour on Sunday. I did take a few liberties when creating my cactus (it's how I roll), and I think I may have overstuffed the pot, but overall I think it turned out well. And it looks great on display in my knitting library, doesn't it?



With the holidays just around the corner, this is a great idea for the intrepid crafter on your list. Each kit is just $29.099, and can purchase them through the Global Backyard Industries website; they also have some very cool coloring books and other craft supplies that are worth checking out!

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

FO Friday: Faux Fur Pom Hat

Last month, I finally stopped by Firefly Fiber Arts, a new (ish?) LYS here in Chicago. I ended up purchasing a skein of Woolfolk Luft, an interesting yarn consisting of extremely soft, fluffy merino fiber blown into a tube of mesh cotton. I've never knit with anything like it, and I thought it would make the perfect hat to match my new winter coat. After spending hours on Ravelry, I finally decided to make the Take Away hat by Nancy Eiseman; I just wanted something simple to let the unique structure of the yarn take center stage.


I knew it would be cutting it close in terms of yardage for the size I wanted to make, but figured it was worth the risk. In the end, it became pretty clear that I would run out of yarn if I followed the instructions for my size as written, so I ended up knitting til my hat measured 8 inches from the CO edge, and then did 3 rounds of quick decreases to get down to 10 stitches, which I then pulled close with the remaining yarn. I realize that this totally deviates from the intention of the original pattern, but sometimes you have to just work with what you've got, right?!


I really liked working with this yarn, but frogging it was a little dicey (it's amazing how many times I screwed up the very simple stitch pattern). The fluffiness of the merino inside the mesh meant that the stitches sometimes stuck together, which actually was pretty helpful when it came to avoiding ripping back too many stitches, but the flip side of that was the merino also started coming out of the mesh a bit. In light of that, I am very curious to see how this yarn stands up to daily use, but that remains to be seen! 


For some reason, I really wanted to add a faux fur pompon at the top (mostly because I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn left over to make a matching pompon?!), and I fortuitously remembered that the Loopy Ewe started carrying some faux fur pompons recently. I ended up ordering two since I had to pay for shipping, so now I have a bright turquoise blue pompon in need of a matching project. One thing I'm wondering is whether or not I can hand wash this hat now that I've attached the pompon - there were no care instructions included in the packaging, nor were there instructions on how to attach it to your project (I just guessed...). The product listing on the Loopy Ewe website says it's machine washable, so I assume I'm ok to hand wash it as well. I've never used a pompon like this, but I've seen several at various shows I've gone to, and this one is of really good quality, especially for the price (just under $8). I would definitely buy more, should I decide that I need more funny faux fur pompons in my life!


Thanks for stopping by - have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WIP Wednesday: New Stuff!

Some exciting new things have found their way to me recently, most notably a fancy new swift and ballwinder from Knitter's Pride:


I've been anxiously awaiting their arrival, as I have become increasingly frustrated with my old ball winder and swift. They've served me well these past 7 years, but especially where the swift was concerned, it was time to upgrade to something nicer (and let's not even talk about how many times this happened over the years). I ended up rearranging my office to find a space for them, and while I plan to tuck the swift underneath my weaving table when not in use, the ball winder has a permanent home on top of the record cabinet: 


The smoothness of both the swift and ball winder has made the biggest impression on me; I especially love that I can use either my right or left hand to drive the ball winder, and it takes very little effort at all. This is a very welcome change, as I've been trying to minimize any repetitive movements that can strain or cause pain in my arms and hands - every little bit helps! 


The first yarns I wound with my new goodies were for a new hat project using a new Brown Sheep yarn called Prairie Spun DK. I'm really excited to work with it, as the squishiness of the skeins have already won me over. I just started the Maize Hat and will be sharing a full review of this yarn once I've finished it! 

I have a fun FO project to share with you this Friday, so be sure to check back. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Yarn Review: Be Sweet Magic Ball

When the folks at Be Sweet yarns asked me to review Magic Ball, my immediate thought was that it would make a fabulous woven scarf! I asked if they could recommend some coordinating warp yarn as well, and they ended up sending me two skeins of Magic Ball in the Silver Lining colorway and 2 skeins of Mango Moon Yarns Di Lusso, a sparkly chainette yarn, in the Moonlight colorway.


I hand't warped with a chainette yarn before, but it ended up being a great choice! I was a little worried it would be splitty, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. The yarn is very smooth and strong thanks to the blend of 48% Silk, 45% Viscose, 4% Lamé, and 3% Nylon. Each ball has about 65 yards, so I used nearly every bit of the two balls for my warp.


Then came the fun part - weaving with the Magic Ball! I wound the first skein onto my stick shuttle and oohed and aahed over the succession of yarns, which the label describes as "a divine arrangement of hand dyed boucle and brushed mohair yarns tied with knobby, ribbon, and metallic goodies." That's a very apt description, so I won't even try to improve upon it!

Getting to the next yarn in the skein ended up being a huge motivator as I wove, and it was really fun to see how each type of yarn behaved once it was woven - there were some very pleasant surprises along the way! For example, I have always wondered how ribbon would look when woven (answer: pretty darn cool), and I really liked how the mohair played with the smooth, sparkly warp. However, this bit of yarn ended up being my favorite:


It only took one skein of Magic Ball to finish this scarf, which makes this a fairly affordable project (Di Lusso retails at $16 per skein and Magic Ball retails at $31.49, so the grand total is $63.49).


Magic Ball is a truly unique yarn with a great story, and there are some great knitting patterns using the yarn, too - I especially like this free cowl pattern. And if you'd like to add a touch of bling to your next project, be sure to check out Di Lusso!

ETA: Click here for a more in-depth discussion of how this project was woven on a rigid heddle loom! 

You may like to know: these yarns were provided free of charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

WIP Wednesday: More Pink, More Fading

Holy cow, it's November already?! It's a good thing I'm not knitting gifts for the holidays, because I would be in big trouble at this point. 2017 has been the year of selfish knitting, and I have to say - I'm not sorry.

After redoing the charts for this hat I'm knitting in Shepherd's Lamb Rambouillet, it's coming along faster (who knew that condensing 3 charts into just 1 would be such a time-saver?!), although I find I have to pace myself since I decided to knit this project at such a tight gauge (on US 4 needles). The results will be worth it, though - look those lovely textured stitches!


These socks came out of hibernation, although they are another project I have to work on in small bursts. Socks still really hurt my hands, which is a bummer because I like knitting them. I'm trying to experiment with ways to hold my hands and my knitting to minimize the strain, but so far I haven't found the magic bullet just yet.


Consequently, my So Faded Sweater has seen a lot of action because it's the one project that doesn't hurt my hands, even if I work on it for long periods of time! Also, it's just mindless stockinette, which is pretty handy for days in which my brain can't handle reading charts (let's face it, that's most days lately). I just finished binding off the body and should be starting the sleeves (hopefully 2-at-a-time) later this week!

Thanks for stopping by, I'll be sharing a yarn review and weaving project back here on Friday. See you then!