Friday, January 27, 2012

Box of Happiness

Yesterday I posted a very long-winded post about using a $50 Knitpicks gift card. Well that post took me a while to write. Long enough in fact that I placed the order last Friday, the 20th, and well my package was delivered on Wednesday the 25th! Ok, so I suppose its not just that my blog writing and posting is slow but also that Knitpicks is super fast - hooray for that.

Here is my box off happiness:

Thanks to the holiday generosity of my Aunt and Uncle it cost me $1.13. That rocks. The split ring stitch markers there were a $2 addition that got me the free shipping. And really one can never have enough stitch markers, right?

This book and skeins are destined to be Christmas presents for next year. I am all kinds of ahead of's pretty doubtful that the trend will continue. I spent a bit of time paging through the book and read most of the intro. I am way more excited than I even realized I would be. The history that Nancy Bush includes has just completely drawn me in and makes me so much more excited for the patterns and techniques. And now I'm even second guessing my original pattern choice. There is a good possibility that I'll choose two different patterns. But then I would have to decide who gets what and well how on earth could I manage to decide? Maybe I'll gift them but say they should share :-)

And well the yarn of course. Oh my is this wonderful yarn. It was hard to capture the colors, but then even in real life colors will change depending on the light. In person they are much darker but still have a beautiful sheen. The alpaca is super amazing soft and lends a very light halo. And holy moly is the stuff thin. I thought that my cone from colourmart was particularly thin, but this Alpaca Cloud is only maybe a hair thicker. It's hard to believe that I'll be able to knit up a whole scarf from skeins that really are quite petite. But that's the magic of lightweight yarn and lace patterns I suppose. I suspect that the hardest part of working with these yarns is going to be not plastering these projects all over the place and spoiling the surprise for my giftees.

Lastly we have my wonderful happy-inducing splurge on self yarn. Yup, it's colorful. But I knew that, what most took me by surprise was how amazing soft this yarn is. I think during the ordering process I was do distracted obsessing about which color(s) to choose that I lost sight of fiber content. Luckily early on in the process I had narrowed in on the 25% alpaca in the Imagination sock yarn. It is soft and squishy and colorful and as such quite wonderful. I immediately (well after the photo-shoot and eating dinner) had to wind one of the skeins into a ball and start working up a little swatch. As I suspected the project is going to be quite super saturated. And the stretches of color are all shorter than might be my ideal, but I am still going to love this project.

And rather off topic, but many many thanks to all who commented and encouraged me last week. On a wave of enthusiasm from your input one of my goals this week is to finish processing the rest of the fiber to prepare for the marled yarn with Max fiber.

Thanks for visiting! Be sure and check out the rest of the Fiber Arts Friday blogs.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What to get

For Christmas my Aunt and Uncle gave me a $50 Gift Certificate to Knitpicks. It turns out that my Aunt asked my Mother what I wanted. And Mother, having found and read by blog had seen the wishlist I posted about when I was plugging the Knitpicks contest. But anyways it is totally like an amazing awesome gift and I have been thinking about it since the evening I received the code in my inbox.

My first solid plan was to buy the yarn to knit up these amazing Penguin Socks. These suckers are actually what first drew me to knitpicks. It was a few years ago and for some reason my parents had received a knitpicks catalog in the mail. I think it had these super cute guys on the cover, or maybe they just decided to keep it and give it to me when I came home/visited. They had a whole little kit you could buy of the yarns needed for the project if memory serves. I drooled over everything but at the time sock knitting still seemed way out of my league, plus I'm totally cheap. So I just tucked it away in my memory. And at some point along the line when I was on ravelry I found it and added it to my (large) project queue to make sure I would remember it. This winter I actually came *this* close to offering these socks as a gift to my friends, but the weird IOU-ness of having custom socks when I didn't know the recipient (we were doing a Pollyanna) made me decide against the idea in the end. However before it was rejected I had already purchased the book. So now all I needed was the yarn. I spent a good bit of time debating over which yarn/colors to choose. Palette had more colors available but I liked that the Stroll Sock Yarn was super-wash and so I added the yarns to my online shopping cart.

In browsing I had completely fallen in love with pretty much all of the luxury yarns Knitpicks carries: Alpaca, Angora, Cashmere, no matter the flavor if it sounds soft I will drool over it. I wasn't quite sure what to make however. But then I feel in love with a beautiful delicate lace pattern on ravelry that I thought would be perfect for my Mother and or Aunt. Now over the holiday's I learned that they've both read the blog so I don't want to spoil the surprise but I found a perfect lace alpaca blend that seemed just divine. Plus I was being super good and thinking about and planning to start my Christmas knitting super early.

Knitpicks has free shipping at $50 so, of course, I must hit something just above that value. My cart needed more stuff.

After seeing it on someone else's blog I had absolutely fallen in love with the Peerie Flooers Hat. And having somewhat recently become comfortable (and dare I say good) at stranded knitting I thought it would be a super fun project. Plus I had some left over palette finger colors from the tiny Christmas ornament knitting I had been doing. So I set about choosing the other colors I needed for the project. But in doing so I was perusing all of the other projects on Ravelry and completely fell in love with the idea of using a different color palate. So I went about drooling over all of those possibilities and spent lots of time excruciating (did you know that excrutiated is not a word? well at least not one I can manage to spell. weird) over finding the perfect colors. As much as I love online shopping this is where it really let me down. There was really no way to know how perfectly the colors would work together firstly because my monitor could be showing something different and then secondly because it's yarn and the dye lot could be different.

In the midst of all that color planning I realized that since the pattern I needed for the lace alpaca scarves was from a book, Knitted Lace of Estonia, so well maybe I could use a Barnes & Noble gift certificate (also a gift) to purchase that. They had the book but before I ordered I realized that so did Knitpicks! Plus the Knitpicks version included a DVD and was a few dollars cheaper.

Well adding that to my shopping cart just messed up my whole plan entirely. After much deliberation I realized that I just wasn't nearly so enthralled with knitting the Penguin socks as I had once been. Many other projects seemed more appealing. So out of the cart they came.

And then to really shake things up instead of Peerie Flooers I had the brilliant (crazy) idea to make a different hat from the same designer. Originally made from all different shades of sheep I could blend up my own shades of alpaca! And possibly even come up with my own alpaca charts. Crazy, but awesome. And it requires no more purchasing. Out of the cart came all of the yarns for the hat.

Now I was left with another $20 burning a hole in my pocket. So I ended up thinking about more of my linen stitch scarves. On numerous occasions I had contemplated how some of their sock yarns would look knit up in one of those marvelously colored scarves. But I was already planning two spinning project ideas to be knit up in the same pattern so it seemed like over kill.

But the more I thought about it the more I convinced myself that it was ok. This was my Christmas Present after all. Why not go ahead and splurge (ok ignore the fact that all of this is splurging really) and just do whatever I want. After a good bit more excruciating over color options I settled upon the crazy wild and bright Over the Rainbow which was in a luscious sounding 50% Merino Wool 25% Superfine Alpaca, 25% Nylon blend. The colors are super wild and I'm worried that the whole scarf will just be too super saturated and not look that great. But then when its cold and I'm bundling up in a scarf I really will need something bright and festive to warm me inside and out. So it'll be good.

All very very good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekly Goals, 1/23

Having taken a bunch of "down-time" around Christmas I've started to actually miss all of my assigned tasks that were ever-present this fall/early spring. I am the type of person who is most fulfilled when I can see results and accomplish things. But at the same time I don't want to completely overwhelm myself. So I think I'm going to try and set myself 5 objectives for each week. The number may ebb or flow depending on the projects, my time, and deadlines but it seems like 5 should be a reasonable accomplishment with out being overbearing. Plus there's always sure to be side projects that maybe I'll count towards bonus points :-)

1. Finish 1.5 Special Olympics scarves - I've established a deadline for my knitting group of February 7th (our first February meeting) and I'll want to get them all out in the mail ASAP after that. When I last checked I think I had 1.5 or so balls of each color remaining and I want to use the stuff up!

2. Prep all fiber for Marled Yarn - All of the encouraging comments on Friday helped solidify my love of the project and even gave me enough faith to go ahead with the colors as is. There is actually not that much prep that needs to be done. I finished flicking out the last of the colored locks yesterday and started washing up already pulled Max roving. So I just need to finish washing the Max (and flick and hackle more if needed) and then use the hackle to pull the colored locks into roving as well.

3. Knit 2nd "Quick and Easy" Sock - These suckers really are super quick and super easy, got the idea/pattern from the Yarn Harlot, but I'm not very happy with the fit of #1 so I've been slow to knit #2. There's really no reason that I actually need to force this project except to say that it's done and make my piece with it all.

It's the knitting that goes on and on and on and on...
4. Sew convertible wallet to tote bag - I made a bunch of these around Christmas. It was pretty crazy challenging (the highlight was literally pinning the thing to my finger) but I loved the product so much that I managed to suffer through 5. They were all given as gifts however which means that when my co-worker thinks she has someone who would like to buy some I need to make myself a sample to show off.

5. Finish flower chart repeats on shawl - Well, actually, only if there are less than 2 repeats to go. This thing is epic at this point and it takes like an hour to complete a front row (maybe 30 for purling down the back). But I would really love to see this sucker finished by March maybe?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Marled Yarn

All four colors after some prep (flicking).
Way back in September I purchased a pile of raw dyed alpaca from Alpacas of York at Knitters Day Out. I purchased without intention just because I loved the colors, and the price was good. But I really like to have fiber/yarn with intention so I quickly, I think I was still at KDO, came up with the perfect idea for the fiber.

The doomed swatch. I had already started frogging when I
remembered to take a picture.
I wanted to spin it up so that each of the 4 colors was still distinct but knit it up into a linen stitch scarf where all of the colors would blend together (like the Koigu Linen Stitch Scarves on Ravelry). I even went so far as to spin and knit up a swatch. Two swatches actually as sometime late fall or early winter I made some adjustments and spin and half knit myself up a second swatch.

Now coming off of the holiday maddness I am thinking about the project again. So I, finally, finished swatch #2. I was happy with it and weighed it to see approximately what gauge I was getting vs. the amount of fiber. DOOM. My not terribly large swatch was nearly half an ounce and I only have around 5 ounces of fiber. The maths would not work.

So I spent a few days rather sadly contemplating the state of things and unsure of quite what to do. And then at some point it came to me....a while back I remembered reading an article about creating marled yarns as a way to stretch dyed roving on the knitty blog. Perfect!

Now in the blog she talks a good bit about which color to choose. Being as I don't have that much of a fiber stash I just went with my good ol' Max fiber which is virtually never-ending around here. Plus the chocolate brown worked well with the rich muted colors.

Marled Yarn, pre-wash.
Unwilling to sacrifice any more of the fiber to swatching I rather crazily managed to un-spin the last swatch back into a single. I then re-spun the single to make sure the twist was still ok. This resulted in some rather funky yarn but for testing purposes I decided that was acceptable. Once I had enough Max spun up I plied the two together.

Almost all of my crafting these days is done at night while it is dark out by the lamps of my living room. In that relatively poor light I was rather worried about the yarn. Everything just seemed overly dark and muddied together, except of course the yellow which was high contrast. But I finished up the sample washed it and hung it to dry over night. [I've taken to hanging/laying things out over the top of the furnace in the basement, best drying method ever.]

The next morning I found that I was much happier with the yarn in the daylight. I had to be out of the office over lunch to sell tickets and whenever those days come I like to take a good craft project. My swatch was perfect for this. So over the next two days I knit up the new swatch in between selling tickets and answering questions.

Swatch - take 3.
I really am surprised how much I love the next fabric. The way the colors pop on the solid brown background just seems like such fun. Although I'm a bit worried that some of the colors, especially the green, fade into the brown a bit too much.

Now, as I finish prepping the rest of the fiber, I'm a bit on the fence. I could run with the "Max Brown" color for the entire scarf. I'm pretty sure I would love it. But I could also try spinning up some of the Fawn fleece that I have (Lance), rip out, un-spin (again), and re-spin with the alternate color. It's a tricky choice...

I'll probably go ahead and continue the ridiculousness and try me some Lance sampling just to be sure. Boy am I crazy sometimes....

Thanks for visiting! Be sure and check out the rest of the Fiber Arts Friday blogs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


What feels now like ages ago, October maybe, I had my friend, C, over to visit on a weekend. She was getting married on New Years and when we stopped by Jo-Ann's she mentioned the possibility of sewing a wedding veil. Apparently the suckers sell for a couple hundred bucks.

Being the knowledgeable crafter that I can pretend to be I stated that sometimes fabric costs are just ridiculous, but suggested we look into it. So we found a pattern that was, thank-goodness, on sale. (Seriously why do they price patterns so high and then have the rotating sales available constantly, anyone who knows what they are about just waits for the brand they're looking for to be on sale.) And then we investigated the fabrics.

Embellishing the test veil.
C found this beautiful tulle with detailed lace and beading on it. It too could be yours for only $25 (ish) a yard. And at 4 yards needed for the veil holy-moly that's a bit of a gamble for a project where success was not guaranteed. Then it occurred to me that we could just buy the cheap tulle at $3 (ish) a yard and practice! We proceeded to do just that.

At home I couldn't believe how easy it was. The most involved step was cutting out the giant swath of tulle with rounded edges (admittedly a good bit of time was saved in our test as we just left the edges raw). From there you baste a line across the top and then gather it all up into just a few inches. Secure the gather, attach some kind of fastener, and Huston we had a veil.

A bit later we went back to Jo-Ann's and C purchased the fancy fabric and left it in my care to be transformed.

Now of course things couldn't continue to be so easy. The 'good-fabric' had a nice lace/bead trim edging on each side of the fabric. Obviously this worked wonderfully for the hem on the bottom of the veil. The tricky bit is the fact that at its edges the fabric curves gently upward and only ends at the top of the veil.

Pinning the trimmed edging along the curve.
So to make things nice first, using the pattern, cut of the top un-used portion of fabric. Then I set about very carefully cutting along the scalloped lace edge, following a particular strand of thread/beads. There was only a bit of length left as it stretched past the curves on the left and right hand corners so I also cut off the same strip from the unused 'top' portion of the original fabric panel.

A close up of how the cut piece was moved.
I then carefully pinned the cut bit of lace along the curve of the pattern all the way up to the top, Being careful to overlap the top and bottom pieces to follow the scallop curve. And after pinning it was on to sewing. Using a matching thread I basically couched the edge of the lace piece to the full panel. If you're not familiar with embroidery that is simply bringing the thread up on one side of the piece you are attaching and immediately down on the other side. It forms a little loop over top of it. I wanted it to be secure so I tried to do this at least every quarter inch. The beads, small and long, made for good targets and were secured on both sides.

It certainly wasn't difficult or incredibly painstaking, but it wasn't very fast either. So after a couple of evenings of work the sucker wasn't going anywhere.

Super-super carefully I cut the fabric panel following just to the outside of my hand stitched line. I needed to hide the edge but certainly didn't want anything coming loose.

It is not easy to get like 4 feet of this stuff gathered into like 7 inches.
Then it was, finally, time for some machine sewing. Once again it was a simple baste across the top. Except complicated a bit by beads and embroidery getting in the way. I quickly learned that removing any beads in the path of the machine feet was a very smart plan. The heavier tulle plus embroidery and beads was rather heavier that the original tulle experiment. So it was rather more difficult to get everything gathered up in just a few inches. That was some fun pinning.

But I persisted. And while it may not have been the best sewing as the machine struggled with the density of it all, in the end I had a beautiful veil.

And C, of course, was a beautiful bride!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crafted in 2011

So I'm a good bit behind, but the holidays managed to knock me out rather well and I'm still only just recovering but I still wanted to take at least a bit of a look back on 2011.

Now I don't want to sound too conceited but I made a lot of awesome things last year. Hooray for Ravelry keeping tabs on all of the craftiness (although there are probably non yarn crafts that are missed). Not sure if this is a good or bad thing but I'm pretty proud of myself looking back on it all:

I started the year knitting a hat for myself from some special hand-spun fiber. It was my self indulgent project after holiday that was filled with crafting for others. The knitting came out well but it didn't quite fit, and I never managed to take a picture. I really ought to rectify that.

Probably at the same time I was working on three scarves for the Special Olympics Project (awesome) that I never photographed before mailing. Oops.

Soon it was February and I was feeling the weight of the dreary cold yuckiness that is winter. So I decided to run with the project I had seen from Alice at Futurecraftgirl. My colorful and much loved hex tote was born.

Next I wanted to once again attempt socks. I decided that two at a time would be a much smarter idea to avoid the dreaded second sock syndrome. Unfortunately I ended up really not caring much for the color and the fit wasn't particular good. Plus these suckers took forever. Oops.

Participating once again in iHanna's postcard swap I needed a way to top the previous years amazing knitting post cards. So I opted for crochet post cards :-) Well plus a bit of painting cutting gluing sewing and taping.

I was still on a bit of a color phase so when I bought a spiffy phone it certainly needed a colorful spiffy phone case.

Being fascinated by the idea of using reclaimed yarn I ended up purchasing 5 or so sweaters from the thrift store. This pink yarn was sheep with some angora and I wanted to try my hand at knitting a full adult sweater from it. It took a while but things went really well. I love the pattern but the arm holes really are way too huge on me, live and learn once again. Also I probably should have taken a photo after attaching both sleeves.
By late spring early summer I had been bitten quite hard by the spinning bug (in preparation for the TDF) but I still wanted to have some kind of awesome knitting in process. So I made another attempt at socks. These suckers were once again ungodly slow. I think I only just finished in November. Plus the toes are really funky, the heels a bit odd (I think I lost count) and the amazing owls on the top of the socks make them way too tight. Actually I have in mind to rip back the owls and add in some increases before the owls this time. Ideally after this I'll actually wear them.
The years Pierre De Resistance however is easily this sweater. First I prepped Max's raw fiber. Then during the TDF I spun over a mile of laceweight yarn on my spindles. And after all that work the actual knitting wasn't even terribly daunting. I loves it.
It was off to the races when I decided to start crafting items to sell at the museum's Christmas Market. These little ornaments actually sold a few even. And really they were so cute and the tiny socks quickly became a favorite item of mine to knit.
These little critters were just so stinking cute I couldn't help but love them. Except that while the pattern was absolutely well written I still didn't enjoy the knitting. In the end while expected to do the best these little guys did not sell well at all. But they still made great gifts for a number of my friends and family.
The idea to recreate my hex totebag, except simpler, was actually the first idea of selling things. Working with lots of colors is always fun.
I fell headfirst into the awesome that is knitting with super-bulky yarn. I could churn out a whole scarf in what felt like no time flat.
I am constantly sharing my projects with my coworkers. And when one of them brought in a knitted headband from super-bulky yarn (commercially knit) I couldn't help but do some legwork and come up with a pattern that helped me create what was virtually an exact copy. Plus it was still a fast knit - one night wonders.
A friend requested hats to be donated to go to kids with cancer. First I churned out this pretty although maybe not my most favorite hat.
Then it was back to the super bulky for some quick and easy hats that are awesomely warm and squishy.
Bran needed a hat for a Christmas present as well and the love affair with super bulky continued. He is becoming quite good at appreciating the things I make him, even if he'll never pick it up again - haha.
While home for the holiday's I knew I'd be seeing the friend who got me started with spinning and alpacas. She has 5 pet alpacas and loaded me up with like 15 pounds of raw alpaca 3 years ago which was when I learned to spin. I still have yet to work through all of that fiber, although I am finally starting to make a dent. But anyways I do try to make at least one gift for her each year to repay her generosity. This little guy was surprisingly quick and easy. And un-surprisingly amazingly cute and awesome. He totally needs his own blog post.

Ok so I do believe it is safe to say that my crafting output absolutely explodes in the fall/early winter. Kinda should have known that already...

Also in 2011 we have a few projects that didn't quite make it onto the Finished Object list, but have enough progress that I think they deserve shout-outs as well.

The newly learned skill of 2011 was definately stranded colorwork. These mittens currently stand at one finished and the second still only needs the decreasing top and thumb (so about where this picture is at). The yarn is super super soft alpaca purchased at Knitters Day Out 2010 from Dunn Spun Alpacas. I am super anxious for these guys to be finished.
I discovered the wonder that is amazing yarns and very good prices. I couldn't resist ordering a sample card and managed to justify buying a cone of yarn at the same time. It's this crazy thin laceweight cashmere blend and I have like a zillion yards. So I decided to attempt my first shawl. Despite being a simple pattern (so far) this is not simple knitting. It requires gobs of attention and as it grows each row is taking longer and longer. But I'm pretty determined so I'll finish it in 2012 and it'll be amazing!

Here's to continued crafting awesomeness in 2012!!!

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