Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday: One Sweater To Go

Spoiler alert for FO Friday: over the weekend, I finished my Pennant Cardi! I'm now officially down to just one (adult-sized) sweater on the needles, and my goal is the use the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to make some serious progress towards the finish line on my Broad Shoulders Cardi:
On the smaller side of things, my striped baby sweater is coming along nicely - I'm almost done with the first sleeve:
And I had been keeping up with my one-pattern-repeat-per-day quota for the Miya Shawl KAL, when I got into the zone on Monday night and worked though 4 or 5 pattern repeats....which means that I am very, VERY close to the finish line - just one more repeat to go!
Over the weekend, I did succumb to startitis, but only a little: I started crocheting a teeny tiny christmas light garland using this free pattern from Repeat Crafter Me:
I have all of the lights I need crocheted to string across my knitting library, so now I just need to finish weaving in ends and hang it up with the rest of our holiday decor...which we already put up! I have to admit, I'm a little proud of this year's decorating endeavors. Each year, I make a few more handmade items to add, and I have two more projects in mind for this year. I can't wait to share them with you once they're finished.

Hope everyone here in the US has a safe & happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sample Spinning

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but I almost never plan out my spinning projects ahead of time. I just grab some fiber and fiddle with the wheel til things feel "right" and go for it...which is great if you don't have a project in mind for the end result, but lately I have felt the urge to spin yarn for specific projects. By now, I know my wheels well enough that I have a general idea of what will work to produce the yarn I want, but I thought it was better to err on the side of caution and spin some samples to be absolutely certain.

I happened to receive a pretty handy gadget from Spinzilla (which arrived broken, regrettably, but the good news is that the most important part was still, there's always tape). Not only is this a nice tool to quickly identify the weight of any yarn, I have been using it to check my singles as I spin to make sure they are (reasonably) consistent. So, when I was spinning a sample for the yarn which ultimately was to be used for a sport weight cardigan, I made sure that my singles were a thin fingering weight (ideally, a little thinner than the line for fingering yarn on the gauge - and please pardon my chipped manicure below).
Sometimes, I take a photo of my wheel settings if I'm worried that I'll forget which ratio I was using so that I have it to refer back to later.
For my super bulky Swalesdale project (which will - eventually - become a very sturdy sweater), I'll be using my Louet Victoria wheel, which has a different build than the Ladybug above - when I remove the flyer, I don't have to also remove the drive band from the ratio settings (ie, I don't have to take a reference photo). Each Swalesdale single needs to be sport weight, which I'll then n-ply into a Bulky:

After I spun each sample, I let the singles rest, as I would if I were spinning a larger project. The next day, I plied them, then washed them in a no-rinse wool wash (Allure):
After that, it was time for the moment of truth: measuring them once again to make sure I was hitting my mark! It must have been beginner's luck, because both of my samples turned out to be exactly what I was aiming for.
I've heard that it's a good idea to take the samples and keep track of their details such as what wheel you used, how you spun them, fiber content, etc. I'm not sure if I'm ready to start a spinning sample notebook just yet, but perhaps that will be a project I embark on next year as the nature of my spinning starts to change from "just for fun" to "project based."

I'd love to hear any of your sample spinning tips in the comments!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Teeny Tiny FO Friday

Despite a 4-day weekend filled with lots and lots of crafting time last weekend, all I have to show for FO Friday is.....a tiny Bluebird of Happiness
Yup, that's it! I knit this little guy in just a few hours' time using some leftover Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted (in the Douglas Fir colorway) that was in my stash using the free Bluebird of Happiness pattern from Ravelry. I think I might add a little loop at the top so that it can be used as a tree ornament for the holidays! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday: All the Progress

You may have noticed I took Monday off from blogging (or perhaps you didn't notice at all, except for now I just drew attention to that fact). I took a four-day weekend to celebrate my "birthday staycation," which was pretty much just four days filled with doing as many craft projects as possible, mostly of the knitting variety. I probably made the most noticeable progress on my yak sweater, which is so. close. to. being. done. Please excuse the indoor photos and lighting, it has been really dark and rainy all week!
Check out that oh-so-subtle gradient yoke:
The Royals-inspired striped baby cardi with my Spinzilla prize yarn has also seen quite a bit of progress since last week:
I continued to work on my one-pattern-repeat-a-day quota for the Miya Shawl KAL, and over the weekend I passed the halfway point - just look at how loooooong and hard-to-get-in-frame it's become!
The spinning wheel also got dusted off as I embarked on a sheep to sweater project using 3 pounds of Louet Swalesdale fiber. I filled a bobbin on Monday which will be the first of many, I'm sure.
Lastly, I started a project which has nothing to do with knitting, crocheting or spinning. Several months ago, I bought a project kit to sew a cat head garland, and I decided that I would sew one each day over the course of this week so that I can assemble the whole thing over this coming weekend.
That's pretty much it for this week, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 13, 2015

FO Friday: Aloha Project Kit from Skeino

I was recently sent a project kit from Skeino for review on my blog, and you have probably seen my WIP photos of the Aloha Hat & Scarf kit over on Instagram as well as here on the last couple of Wednesdays. In addition to sending me a free project kit, the Skeino folks were also kind enough to create a coupon code for my readers (found at the end of this post)!
Aloha Hat-Scarf Kit in Hapuna
I was pretty excited to give this kit a try because I don't knit many entrelac projects, so it's nice to have a reason to revisit this technique, which I learned via a Craftsy course I took 3 or 4 years ago. Since then, I've knit a handful of entrelac projects here and there, and while I don't really keep that skill set sharpened, it's pretty easy to jump back in whenever I need to. Sometimes I'll re-watch the Craftsy class videos to get a refresher, although there are some really great free tutorials online which will do the trick if you don't want to pay for a class.

Two of my favorite entrelac lessons are from (which is a video tutorial) and Crazy Aunt Purl (which is a photo tutorial). They might be great links to keep handy if you want to try knitting this kit and you are new to entrelac, but honestly, I think most adventurous knitters can get the hang of it just by following the instructions as written. I found the pattern to be much easier to follow than other entrelac patterns I've encountered - in fact, what I like so much about the Aloha pattern is that there is NO pick-up-and-purling, which is probably the trickiest part of the whole entrelac knitting experience in my opinion.
Finished cowl, pre-blocking and a little bunchy.
The yarn was also quite a treat: I really liked the corriedale sock yarn which came in the kit: it was bright and colorful, and the yarn was quite sturdy with a nice twist to prevent excessive snags and splitty plies. Entrelac involves a LOT of picked-up stitches, so using a yarn that is not prone to snagging or splitting is key to both your happiness while knitting the project, but also the finished product.
I used Knitter's Pride blocking mats, wires and Knit Blockers to block out my cowl.
As you can see, crazily-variegated skeins of yarn are great for the entrelac technique - but the magic doesn't stop there. Once you have finished knitting your project, be sure to block it out: you'll see a pretty stunning transformation!

The Aloha Hat & Scarf kit is a two-in-one accessory which can be worn either as a hat or a cowl; personally, I prefer the cowl, but you can see how this looks as a hat in the above video from the Skeino website. I wore it for the better part of yesterday and loved how the entrelac gave structure to such a lightweight cowl and kept it snugly around my neck (apologies for no modeled shots on today's blog - circumstances conspired against them this week, but I will try to share at least one this weekend over on Instagram). There are over 30 variegated colorways to choose from; I chose Hapuna (it's one of the few colorways which doesn't include pink or purple in it).
Finished, blocked & ready to wear!
Another plus for this project kit is the price point: at just $29.95 (plus shipping), it makes a great gift (either for yourself or a knitting friend), and you can save 10% on your purchase of the Aloha kit or ANY of their project kits, yarns, etc. - just enter HM-BY-STEFANIE at checkout.

Click here to see more at

Here is the fine print for the coupon code::
- valid for orders worldwide between now and December 1st, 2015
- discount is not applicable to shipping cost
- voucher can only be used once per customer
- voucher cannot be used in conjunction with any other vouchers, promotions or discounts
- this coupon code has no cash value and can only be used on
- not valid on previous purchases
- the above mentioned Terms & Conditions may be altered without any prior notice

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Under the Sweater Weather

On Monday night I started to have that feeling that I was coming down with something. Lo and behold, I got the cold that's been going around, and spent most of yesterday on the couch, attempting to accomplish some work to-do's (there are no sick days for the self-employed). I can always tell I'm not feeling well when it's even tough to knit, and I had a hard time getting through even the simplest rows on Tuesday night.

Thankfully, it was a productive weekend. I spun both gradient singles for my yak cardigan and am in the process of plying them together this week.
I also conquered the back piece of my Broad Shoulders KAL sweater; all that remains is the right front, two sleeves, and a button band - I can totally finish all that by December 13!
My Spinzilla prize was a gift certificate to Purl & Loop, and I received my order on Monday and couldn't resist casting on for a stripey baby sweater using Allyson Dykhuizen's Baby Sweater Buffet pattern: 
And I am still working on the Miya Shawl; I realized that I just had to knit one 12-row repeat each day in order to finish by November 30. I fell a bit behind at the start of the week, but plan on giving this project some extra attending this weekend, which has been decreed a 4-day Birthday Staycation. I am counting down the minutes! 
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Knitter's Bookshelf: Top 3 Tech Editing & Design Resources

Earlier this year, I took the Joeli's Kitchen tech editing course, trained under a tech editor, and edited many patterns which have come out this fall - something I never would have imagined I'd do in the course of just one year, although tech editing has always been of interest to me.

I would definitely say that I am still refining those skills, though some things are easier for me than others. Obviously, my many years of sock knitting mean that I am quite comfortable tech editing a sock pattern, as I know the basic formula for socks backwards and forwards. I've also knit so many hats, cowls, mittens, etc. that almost any accessory pattern resides well within my comfort zone. 

What's been pretty far outside of that zone is sweater patterns. I've made a fair number of sweaters in my 10+ years of knitting, but I would by no means call myself an expert - and I'm definitely not on a sock pattern level of comfort with garments. 

Most of the sweaters I've knit have been seamless top-down construction, though I have made a few seamed sweaters, too. What I found challenging about tech editing sweaters was all of the many, many different types of construction (some of which I have never come across beforehand), and trying to visualize how the written directions would translate into a finished garment. I realized quickly that I would need some really good reference books to help me work through these unusual constructions, and I have found all 3 books to be helpful, not only when tech editing, but also when designing my own patterns or knitting the patterns of others. It occurred to me that others might also find these books as helpful as I have!

This book is jam packed with exactly the kind of stuff I was in need of: formulas, worksheets, schematics - all arranged by the type of construction (or "silhouettes," as the book refers to them). The focus is entirely on garments, with sweaters covered the most in-depth, although there is also a discussion of skirts and dresses in Chapter 6. You'll be amazed at how many variations there are when it comes to shoulders, armholes, necklines, and so many other little details (or perhaps you won't be...but I sure was). 

Other topics covered include planning a design (taking measurements, understanding ease, etc.), choosing yarn and a pattern stitch and translating gauge and measurements into the final design, and finishing techniques such as blocking, seaming, creating buttonholes and adding zippers. 

As the name would imply, this is a master's course on making sweaters, and I'm so glad I invested in a copy, which was just under $20 on Amazon (though I've seen it for less than $10 during Interweave's Hurt Book sale). 

I've had this book for years - I believe I bought it way before I attempted my first handknit sweater. This book is great because it lists general sweater measurements for both child and adult sizes, which is helpful because part of the Tech Editor's job is to also determine whether or not the design's finished measurements are within the realm of reason (basically, we should take note as to whether or not something would be too big or too small for the given sizes). 

The bulk of the book is sweater recipes which can be used at any gauge. The layout of the charts always throws me off when I am getting started, and I always have to flip to the front to reread the section on how to use them. But once I get a refresher, the patterns are easy to follow. Each style of sweater also has some variations to try (the book calls them copycats) by suggesting stitch patterns to substitute in for stockinette stitch. 

There are bottom-up and top-down seamed and seamless styles to choose from; if you are looking for generic recipes for accessories, I highly recommending The Knitters' Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd, which employs the exact same approach to designs for hats, mittens, scarves and socks. Bonus: both books are spiral-bound, which I love! 

3. The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe
I just got this book as an early birthday present and was incredibly impressed with it - just by thumbing through and glancing at a few pages, I picked up a few extremely helpful knitting tips. The section which most fascinates me is the second chapter, which talks about how to plan a project. It talks about the order of construction, cast on methods, and how to plan ahead for "perfect finishing." This last item is a really, really cool section because it shows actual knit examples of everything discussed: for example, it has a comparison of 1x1 ribbing knit 3 different ways to clearly illustrate why you would prefer one method over the other two. 

Other topics covered are pattern modifications, shaping and fitting considerations and techniques, fixing mistakes, finishing techniques, borders and embellishments, and more. Everything is clearly illustrated with photos, drawings or schematics, all of which are accompanied by well worded explanations. There are case studies which cover a lot of interesting topics, my favorites being the ones which convert patterns from flat to circular and vice versa. For some of the topics - such as darts for shaping, several options are offered up for consideration, along with a discussion of why one might be advantageous over the other in a given situation. 

If I had to choose one of these books to recommend to a knitter who had absolutely no interest in design or tech editing, I would definitely tell them to check out this book. This is one of those books I'll be turning to any time I get stuck on something, because I am pretty sure that it'll give me better advice that whatever random thing comes up on Google (not that there's anything wrong with turning to the interwebs for knitting help!).