Friday, 29 January 2010

A-Z Challenge!

My 12 Sweater Challenge is going really well. Almost too well. It's the end of January and I'm nearly done with sweater #6. At this rate, I will have to buy more yarn before the end of the year....gah! I credit project monogamy for this progress.

An idea hit me. I'm the kind of person who will see a pattern that I want to make and then run out and buy the perfect yarn for it. Meanwhile, I discount the fact that I have a stash of perfectly good yarn at home that would work just fine. It's the thrill of the chase.

I'm going to continue with my sweater project. It's going really well and motivating me to burn through stash like crazy. However, I am going to challenge myself with a new game as well. One that might ensure I have less stash in the end. I will attempt to methodically go through my stash alphabetically and choose a project for each yarn. This is a good alternative to choosing a yarn for each project I want to do. Thanks to the stash organizational skills that Ravelry has given us, I have a pretty good idea that I have too much yarn just lying around.

Here are my self-imposed rules to the Alphabet Stash Challenge:
1. Spinning stash doesn't count. A lot of my listed stash is stuff that will be carded and blended into something else. Lots of times, this resulting product gets sold. I'll deal with my spinning stash on my own terms.
2. Handspun does count. I've got lots of odd and sample skeins that need to go.
3. Sweater projects are exempt from the Alphabet Stash Rule. I've got a pretty good idea that I won't be wanting to knit a C for Camel sweater when the thermometer says I should be knitting an L for Linen sweater.
4. Anything that I skip because I can't be inspired for a project will be given away.
5. Weaving projects count.
6. I think I should have a rule here about not adding to my stash. Sadly, MDSW is coming up. I can not make such ridiculous promises.
7. Ravelympics project is exempt.
8. Matching sets? Am I still thinking I might make myself one?

I have to dig through my stash over the weekend and find anything hiding that I've forgotten to add to my list or anything that gets tossed before I start. Squeee!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

FO- Winter Romance

It's the time of year where I get a wee bit stir crazy. That winter doldrum sets in and I start dressing more for comfort than style. I dream of the day where I won't need the soft gurgling of a humidifier to lull me to sleep, and hat hair would be optional.

I had 12 skeins of a discontinued color of Noro Silk Garden in my stash, waiting for a little inspiration.

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I loved these colors together- royal blue, turquoise, peach and a deep purple balanced nicely with more neutral browns and grays. The whole effect reminds me of a cold winter dusk turning into a long dark night.

Try as I might, I couldn't find a pattern that I felt was right for this yarn. There are tons of patterns out there that utilize this kind of yarn, but I found a great deal of them unflattering or awkward. I wanted something a little sexy and, above all, flattering. Something this colorful needs a simple design but I wanted to make the stripes work with my shape.

So I sat down with a tape measure, graph paper and a calculator, knitted up a gauge swatch and started to design my own.

The end result:

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I did not want horizontal stripes around my mid-section. No matter how much time I spend at the gym, I can not banish the feeling that my Buddha belly is here to stay. I can't help it. I love my carbs. On the other hand, I really don't mind appearing bustier than I actually am, so I was pretty okay with the idea of horizontal stripes across the boobs.

I started out by knitting a panel, grafted it into a tube and then picked up stitches along the top. I then did bust shaping- I found this guide to be most helpful when it came to placement. I also wanted to show a bit of skin, so I made a deep V-neck at the same time I started the raglan shaping. The sleeves are fitted until the wrist, where I increased them to a bit of a flare. I finished it by picking up stitches along the bottom and the sleeves for a couple rows of purl, and a row of single crochet along the neck. I have to go back and fix the top edge of the collar as it likes to fold down.

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It fits me perfectly.

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It's graceful, romantic and warm. Exactly what I want to wear this time of year to get me out of my winter funk.

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I'm in the camp of "math is hard, it hurts by brain". Once I got over that fear, I found it really simple to figure out how to do the math on a sweater. Since the math was applied and not abstract I could get my head around it.

The specs: I used all of 9 skeins of Silk Garden- 1098 yards- on a size 7 needle. I went down to a size 6 on the trim. It took me a hair over two weeks from start to finish. I started out using EZ's percentage system but once I figured out how the game was played, I went along with my gut and invented my system based on my personal measurements. I tried it on quite a bit as I went to figure out how far I wanted the raglan decreases to go. That helped me make little tweaks for a better fit.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Gussied-up Chapeau

Remember the Chapeau Mariner? I finished it last November. I threw on a satin ribbon that I had lying around in my stash and wore it for a bit.

I realized last week that my hat needs a face-lift. It's super cute, but I just wasn't wearing it that often. Beverley Trimmings to the rescue. Beverley is a glorious mess of a's piled to the ceiling with buttons and fabric and notions. It's hard to browse, but it's good if you know exactly what you want or have the patience to go on a treasure hunt, you are usually rewarded.

I got lucky and found this cute vintagey button. I grabbed it and then fought my way over to the wall of ribbon to find something that matches. Five minutes with a needle and thread and VOILA!

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I think it makes the hat. I've been wearing it constantly since I made the change.

Monday, 25 January 2010


I recently took a class on wet felting. It's really super simple, and it has a lot of room for creativity. All you need is bubble wrap, soap and water, mosquito net, a rolling pin and wool. The only real problem is that it makes a mess- soap and water and slippery goop everywhere- so it might be a good outdoor picnic table project. I plan on getting one of those table cloths made out of plastic for my dining room table. You do need a pretty big surface area to do this (keep in mind anything you make will lose 30% of its length), and that's the only one I've got big enough.

Here's one of my FOs:

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It's about 2 oz of handpainted corriedale roving. I laid it out in a loose, wavy grid on my bubble wrap. After the felting process, it actually becomes fabric, so it's much stronger than it looks.

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It's really light and airy though. I did a few other pieces and experimented with density and color, but this is the one I like best.

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It's also an excellent way to use up odd bits of roving. You don't need that much to begin with, but I made an interesting piece using bits of neps for texture.

I love the looks of a felted scarf, but if you sew, you can actually make garments out of your wet felt.

I found this basic guide online, but it's pretty dry...I'll plan on doing a photo tutorial soon.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

FO- Belle Cardigan

This might have been the fastest thing I've ever knit. I cast on sometime on a Friday morning and I was wearing it Saturday afternoon.

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It's the Belle Cardigan from Interweave Knits Fall 2007. While not the most wearable garment, I'm happy with how it came out with some modifications.

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Most Wenlan Chia patterns are notorious for their lack of pattern editing, mistakes and miserably vague instructions- they just don't seem like a real knitter sat down and worked things out. This one made much more sense...I'm thinking that the editors at Interweave went to work on it. The instructions were clear and concise.

I made the 29.5 inch size. That seems impossibly tiny, but this does stretch quite a bit and the two halves don't meet in the middle. It's meant to be a bit curve-hugging.

Some mods: The entire thing is written in reverse stockinette stitch (purl-side showing). I think that adds bulk, and I don't personally need that, so I reversed the whole garment. I also left the patch pockets out...I don't need more super-bulk yarn at the point of my waist where I need less bulk. Besides, I loathe useless pockets. The sleeves are supposed to be big and blousey. I just went down to the instructions for the small size to make them more fitted- yarn this chunky doesn't flow and drape, so the blousey looks more like arm-fat underhang. The only other thing I wish I would have done is to knit the sleeves in the round. The seams are grand-canyon big.

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It fits kind of weird in the end...I keep trying to push my boobs down so they are covered by the edge of the cardi. It seems a bit odd to have something on that isn't covering you boobs. It will be a nice cover-up for a dress or a plain tight-fighting top. Since it's merino, there's no itch so it's comfortable on bare arms. I did have a rather epic struggle trying to put a coat over this- the sleeves ended up riding all the way up to my armpits and with the overcoat on, it looked like I was about to go out and play football.

The specs: I used all of 4 skeins (348 yards) of Rowan Big Wool in charcoal, which is too bad because I was trying to use up the 5 skeins that I owned. The body was knit on size US 17 needles, and the ribbing was done on US 15.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Shop Update and some Self-Serving Charity

I'm doing a really big upload today to my Etsy Store today.

Lots of spindles in this update. I've been really busy lately, so when I have a few hours to sit down and make these, I tend to make a lot all at once.

The humanitarian in me has decided to donate 25% of all profits from now until February 1 to Doctors Without Borders. This includes spindles, handpainted roving, batts and yarn. I call this self-serving charity- you can buy yourself pretty things and feel good knowing that your money is going to a good cause. Etsy doesn't seem to have a charity function set up, so I'll be doing one big donation at the end of the month.

Monday, 18 January 2010

FO- Avast

I think I've made it clear how much I love knitting men's sweaters (well, one man in particular anyway). Endless fields of mindless and comforting stockinette stitch, round and round for miles. It's the only project I can take with me to the movie theater and knit for hours in the dark and not have to worry about a pattern or a dropped stitch.

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The Avast was no exception. It had a finicky little cable band at the bottom, stitches were picked up along the long edge of it, and the rest went on and on forever. The actual knitting portion of this only took me a couple weeks, but it did take forever to finish. There was a hem that went around all the edges that had to be sewn up. I ended up not liking the hemmed sleeves, so I ripped them out and did a few inches of ribbing instead. I had to go out and buy a zipper, and then sew the said zipper in. The bottom puckered in too much, so I took out the last row and did a stretchy bind off instead. This helped, but I still would like to try and stretch the bottom out a bit more to make it fit better...the cabled band isn't nearly as horizontally stretchy as the rest of the sweater so it doesn't want to stay stretched out. More blocking should fix the problem.

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Now that I'm looking at it, one sleeve seems a bit short. That will get a good medieval blocking as well.

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I also want to re-block the collar. It got a bit smooshed and now it's doing a wavy thing. I might tear open the seam and put some of those plastic collar tabs in there to help with the shape.

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I made the 44" size, so there is about 2 inches of ease to the garment. I used Valley Yarns Northhamptons- this is my go-to 100% wool workhorse yarn. It wears really nicely, it's reasonably soft and it's fairly inexpensive- it's $5 for 247 yards. I used about 1850 yards total for this. It's a warm, masculine, wearable sweater.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

FO- $5 February Lady

This has been in the finished pile for a while...we had a break in the freezing cold weather and got a sunny warm-ish day today. Perfect for getting out for a leisurely walk and enjoying the day instead of rushing from place to place buried in a pile of knitwear accessories. A little vitamin D does wonders.

Anyway, here is my February Lady beginnings:

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This was some Suss Alpaca that I bought for $1 a skein when she closed her NY shop. Not horribly exciting.

Last year, I got into natural dyes. It was a perfect opportunity to turn blah into something truly special:

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I used alum mordant and some madder root to get a deep peachy pink. I loved it. Natural dyeing takes a long time- I usually end up taking up the better part of a weekend with it- but you can't beat the colors you get.

And voila! My own February Lady Sweater:

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It wasn't the most exciting thing to knit, but it takes up very little yarn and will zoom along pretty quickly. For a sweater with no shaping, it fits surprisingly well. To ensure a good fit, I did two things: went down a needle size once I got gauge and stretched the lace pattern out a bit any time I needed to measure the garment. Anything you make with 100% alpaca yarn will grow and stretch out like crazy, and lace will also block out bigger than what you might expect. Pre-blocking, it looked tiny...I actually had someone ask me if I was making a child's sweater. Once it had a bath and a block, it fell exactly where I wanted it.

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I actually made a mistake in the lace pattern at one point but decided to keep helped give the illusion that it had waist shaping. Horray!

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The buttons were salvaged off an old tweed riding jacket.

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I think it's one of those sweaters that will get a ton of use- it looks cute with a dress or a skirt and would easily work well with jeans as well.

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The best part is that I only used a hair over 4 skeins...meaning this cost me $5 to knit, plus the $4 I spent in dye. I'm not usually a budget-minded knitter, but that's pretty sweet.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Winter Romance

This is the start of my Noro sweater:

I'm aiming for a graceful, form-fitting and flattering silhouette. I've finished the torso and I'm now debating what kind of boob-shaping I need to do. I'm leaning towards bust darts (ahem, my inclination is leaning, not my actual boobs) but I am also considering short row shaping.

So my Noro sweater has a friend (project monogamy is such a bore). I've also cast on for the Opulent Raglan by Wendy Bernard:

It's from the Fall 2008 KnitScene. It's a simple fitted top-down raglan with a pretty cable detail. It's exactly what I love to knit- lots of mindless stockinette stitch with a punchy little pay-attention detail.

I'm using some Elsebeth Laavold Silky Wool that was in my stash in the Gooseberry colorway. It drapes beautifully and has a nice crisp silk definition, and it softens up nicely once washed (ha! I actually washed my swatch and figured this out).

Here's the sweater so far:

I love top-down raglans because you can just string them up on some spare yarn (or really long circ needles) and try it on as you go. It really helps banish the "will-it-fit?" jitters and allows you to tweak as you go to fit your body.

I'm looking forward to this weekend...after which I should have a good amount of new spindles made and posted on the Etsy site, and (weather permitting) well-lit pictures of the pile of FOs I have sitting around in my dark living room.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I went ahead and grudgingly frogged the Wilson hat:

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It would be a lovely hat, really. Just not in a dark charcoal color. It makes the tiny cables too hard to see, and infuriatingly easy to lose your (my) place in the pattern. I tore it out and the yarn will be repurposed for something less cabley. I'm happy that I decided on this sooner rather than this a sign of knitter maturity?

It seems like a side effect of making all these sweaters is that I'm going to end up with an extraordinary amount of single skeins and odd balls of yarn. I predict once I'm over the sweater making phase, I'll be making lots of hats and small lace projects to burn up all the odds and ends.

I have a few FOs sitting in a pile, waiting for the final touches of buttons and zippers. I haven't had the time to go to the local trimmings store yet, but I'm hoping to make a trip this weekend.

Also, I've started getting into wet-felting. Pictures and a blurb about that coming soon.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Shop Update!

I just updated my Etsy shop with a few goodies...

Some English Dorset top in "Lime Margarita". Dorset is downy wool breed with a 3-4" staple and medium coarse fleece. It's very lofty.

I 've been on a bottom-whorl spindle kick lately. It takes some getting used to, but I'm really loving the technique.

Ugh! I have such a hard time getting good photos in this dreadful winter light. I tried to set up a light box but I have those special eco lightbulbs, and they just aren't bright enough. Guess I'll have to go pick up some planet-destroying regular bulbs.

Also, a few top-whorl spindles are newly listed:


Faux Turquoise

I'll have more spindles up very soon.

Friday, 8 January 2010


I finished the FLS sweater! I'll have pictures once I've blocked it and sewn the buttons on. It was a fast knit, but I got bored with it really quickly. I'm happy with how it came out though.

Aside from that, I've been really scattered with my projects. I'll sit down and start to spin for a few minutes. Suddenly, I'll spy my combs sitting on the table, and then I'll be off to comb some fleece. Oooh, and what's that over there? I should really not neglect my weaving.

I don't exactly have a lot of free nights at home, so any time I do have there, I get a little overwhelmed with all the stuff I could be doing. This leads to pretty much nothing getting done, or at least I don't feel the sense of accomplishment if I would just focus on one project.

I did cast on for not one, but TWO more sweaters. One is the Belle Cardigan from Interweave Fall 2007.

It's cute, but I know how "chunky is as chunky does". This might not be terribly flattering in the end. However, it will use up my stash of ropey Rowan Big Wool that I've had lying around for years and years. It's actually making me sneeze as I knit along because the yarn is a little dusty.

The second sweater is one I'm excited for. In a flurry of creativity brought on by frustration, I started designing my own sweater using some Noro Silk Garden. I really love Silk Garden. I've made a giant Clapotis and the Sunrise Circle Jacket from it in the past.

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I love the colors and the long stripes, but I was having a hard time finding another flattering pattern using the yarn. I had a few patterns that I almost liked, but I was worried about them being unflattering or a little too hippie-dippy looking.

I got out the graph paper and a calculator and started swatching and sampling. Then I washed and blocked my samples- this yarn tends to grow quite a bit once it is washed, so it's a good idea to make a big swatch and wash it before you take measurements.

I have a few shapes sketched out and all my measurements worked in. I'm hoping to have some time this weekend to really get cooking on this.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


If there are Zombies lurking about, don't be afraid- just take out your wool combs.

These stunning two-pitch mini combs are from PJ Handcrafts. They make quick work of turning long-locked fleece into smooth, even roving. They are the perfect size for me- not so big and heavy where I need to be drinking a protein shake twice a day in order to work them, but still big enough to get a satisfying amount of roving off them.

I'm using them on a white BFL fleece. Blue Face locks are tight ringlets, which are next to impossible to card, but a breeze to comb. There are also a lot of second cuts in this fleece, and this helps weed them out nicely. It also lets most of the VM caught up in the ringlets to drop right out, saving you from having to go after them with tweezers and a magnifying glass.

Good times.


I finished spinning and plying my Zombies while slurping from a bowl of delicious brains. Totally appropriate.

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It was a 4oz bump of Falkland from the August Spunky Club that I spun up and then Navajo plied in short chains to preserve the colors.

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I ended up with 300 yards of heavy worsted weight. I haven't given it a relaxing bubble bath yet to set the twist, so it looks a bit wonky and uneven. Hopefully it won't bleed har har.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

I welcomed the cold this year with open, albeit well-bundled, arms. It's the only excuse I have to motivate myself to stay inside, not get frostbite, and make a dent in my Romeny fleece from Rhinebeck.

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It was the first really nice fleece that I got my hands on at the mad rush of the fleece sale. It's a silver-gray color and super clean. It has the big, open crimp typical of romney, but it's so soft. I always thought of Romney as a long-stapled, coarse easy-to-spin beginner's wool, but some of the fleeces I saw and touched at the sale have convinced me otherwise.

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I can't find the farm tag, but I remember it came from a farm in Maine that doesn't have a website.

I flicked each lock open and ran it through the drum carder, and carded the resulting batt three times.

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It was a lot of work, but in the end, i had a basket full of this:

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I spun up some samples before I settled on a 3-ply. I'm getting about 13 wpi.

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Which, incidentally , is a good weight to try for the Oatmeal Cardigan from the Winter Spin-Off:

Fleece to Sweater projects are real time commitments, but they are a perfect long winter project. I'm having so much fun spinning this, I'm really looking forward to the next day where it's too cold and snowy to deal with going outside (unless it means going outside will get me some cantonese noodle soup).

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Etsy Update!

Happy New Year!

I just added a whole lot of new batts to the Etsy store:

Bramble, a soft and lofty blend of Alpaca, Silk, Bamboo and Corriedale

Celery, which is an ethereal blend of Merino, BFL, icicle, bamboo and Corriedale.

I will also have some more spindles listed soon. Happy Spinning!