Friday, July 3, 2015

FO Friday: Handspun Pookies & My First Knitscene Article!

I realized I never shared my finished handspun pookies on my blog - oops!
This pattern is so fun and quick to knit - and it's perfect for handspun yarn! I plan on making more of these cute little guys throughout the summer.

My other FO is kind of a big one: my first-ever Knitscene article! I've been keeping this under my hat for quite some time and am SO excited that I can finally let the cat out of the bag (pun intended - sorry!).
Look for my designer profile of Mari Chiba Luke in the 10th anniversary issue of Knitscene, along with some really awesome patterns that are a must-knit for fall...I'm having a hard time deciding which one should jump to the top of my queue first, though I think the Pennant Cardi might be THE ONE.
If you aren't already a subscriber, you can look for it at your LYS or purchase a copy of the magazine in the Interweave store. Bonus: this weekend, they're having a Fourth of July tent sale and you can save and additional 10% Off with Offer Code FIREWORK10! This coupon expires on 7/6, so don't wait too long!

Have a safe & happy Fourth of July weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Goals / July Goals

It's that magical time again, when I evaluate the previous months' goals and set some new ones for the month ahead. The last couple of months, I haven't done so well with staying on track, but I think I fared a little better for June, hooray!
Michigan Tee: Done!


1. Finish my Lake Michigan Tee - DONE! Finally! I blogged about it here
2. Spinning Project: Some of the fibers I've recently stashed are calling to me! I actually finished two handspinning projects last month, a 4oz braid of fiber from the Cloudlover Fiber Club and 4oz of BFL from Mountain Colors.
3. Finish & release a new design in Baah Yarn. Wah designs in progress (yes, plural) have fallen by the wayside in the wake of increased work duties and responsibilities. This continues to be my white whale!
4. Knit swatches for a few designs that have been percolating in my head for way too long. I have been swatching and sketching! My ideas far outpace my available hours for completing them, regrettably. 
5. Finish one more hat for my aunt (already in progress). Finished & blogged here!
6. Figure out what to do with my practice Tunisian crochet scarf since I have kind of lost interest in it. Maybe it wants to be a cowl? It's still in time out. 
7. Complete 12 squares (3 each week) on my scrap yarn blanket. Success! I have added a whopping 17 squares to this bad boy. It's now 43" x 43"!
The scrap yarn blanket  continues to grow.

Five out of seven is pretty good, especially considering that last month I only completed one of the goals I'd set (well, technically 1.5, but that's not really much better, is it?). I do think that I'm going to set some different goals for July since I am kind of getting stressed about things in general - and isn't knitting supposed to be a fun stress reliever?!?! From now til the end of the year, things are going to be very busy for me, both in my work and personal life. I find I am getting stressed when I focus on finishing a set number of things (and then feel doubly stressed when I fall short of the mark). I would love to do ALL OF THE THINGS - who wouldn't? - but it's just not reasonable to expect myself to be superhuman.

So, with that in mind, here are my July Goals:

1. Spin with Team Cloudlover for the Tour de Fleece. I was contemplating not spinning at all, but then I was invited to join this team and realized that I have a LOT of Cloudlover fiber in my stash. Plus, the focus isn't on cranking out lots of yardage - it's just spinning every day the tour rides. Even if that's just 5 minutes, I think I can handle that. Spinning is very relaxing for me, so maybe it will be a nice stress reliever in the midst of all the craziness! I have a few braids of fiber earmarked for Tour de Fleece which I hope I can spun through all of the way!

2. Spend a few hours each weekend working on design ideas - sketching, swatching, or pattern writing, it doesn't matter as long as I'm doing SOMETHING. It's really easy to avoid working on these when I'm focused solely on getting a finished pattern out of it, but if I can just allow myself to experiment without a lot of pressure, I might end up meeting that goal regardless.

3. Try to make some more of the small projects which have been in my queue for a while to clear the way for larger ones (ie SWEATERS) later this summer. This means: baby projects, toys, and the like! Anything that can be finished in under a week, more or less.

4. Destash! If I'm going to start a better be with stash yarn and/or handspun. I've got mountains of yarn already, there is no excuse to buy more this month (but of course, I'll probably find one). 

5. Continue to add to the scrap yarn blanket. Rather than setting a number of squares to knit for July, I'd like to focus on weaving in all of the many ends which are currently on this WIP and then adding some new squares as I have time - no pressure!

And that's really it. I know I'm stacking the deck for success on this one, but I think I will be more productive when I'm not worried so much about finishing huge amounts of projects just for the sake of saving face when it comes time to blog about them (also, apparently that isn't enough of a motivator for me...!). 

May your July be full of stress-free crafting and spinning, too! 

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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Also, I am trying something new as an affiliate blog for Interweave - let me know what you think about their Summer Tent Sale that's happening right now (you can click over via the above banner)! If you come across some awesome deals, I'd like to know so that I can continue to share other specials and updates with you via this program. Or, if you would rather pass on future updates, let me know, too - and I can take that into account when deciding whether or not to stick with it.

Thanks so much!

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!