Friday, January 30, 2015

Distractions - Blanket Knitting


The double knit mittens I'm making have my fingers cramping (my needles are very pointy too leaving my finger tip sore from pushing the stitches off - angora yarn can be "sticky") so I started looking about for a distraction.  Well, knitting distraction that is, as there is plenty of housework needing to be done I'm just not of a mind to do it.  But, being productive is important to me, which had me turning to my WIPs hoping for something simple and a bit mindless.  This blanket fit the bill even though it's technically not a WIP, as it was finished and has been in use for some months, but I decided a few weeks back that it was too small at only 45 inches square (it doesn't really wrap around the body enough when cuddling on the couch).  

I began searching for some yarn on Ravelry looking through people's stashes of Lorna's Laces Shepard Worsted and Green Line Worsted, as those were the yarns I used previously, to see what was available in the sell or trade category.  This is a good way to find great yarn at discounted prices.  Although, really this blanket is not an economical project even having purchased all the yarn in this manner.  The afghan was knit using 8 1/2 - 225 yard skeins and now I'm looking to add 6 more - yikes!  Tallying up the cost officially is something I'm not ready to face up to, but in for a penny in for a pound and I might as well end up with a blanket in a size I'll regularly use.  See, I never really thought this project through and I think that's the problem.  It began with a lone skein of worsted weight yarn along with a bad case of "start-i-tist" (you know when you want to start a casting on a million knitting projects at once?  Oh yeah, it's a disease all right which comes and goes like the common cold, but leaves a devastating wake of partially knit projects behind) and thought "Hmm an afghan knit with only ten stitches - that sounds like fun."

Back to searching for those 6 more skeins of yarn.  I found 2 skeins of a Navy Blue which I loved, and I thought would make at least one ring around but I still needed even more yarn to get the 60 inches square blanket I desired.  As luck would have it I found 4 skeins of the exact same yarn, same colorway (Lorna's Laces Shepard Worsted in Edgewater) that I began with in the blanket's center.  Yay!  It will now look like I planned the colors out instead of buying random yarn as I went along.  The messages were sent, money changed hands and in a manner of days 6 skeins of yarn arrived in the mail  - easy peasey!

The navy ring was completed yesterday and I'm hoping by next week I'll finish the last 2 multicolored rings.  Then the blanket will be complete and the distraction will have passed and maybe, just maybe I'll get back to those mittens. 

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday and Andrea for Fibre Arts Friday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Double Knit Mittens


First attempt.

Second attempt.

 Here you can see the inner and outer layers of the mitten.

I was flailing around a bit this weekend trying to figure out where to put my knitting energy when, while cleaning up, I found the above lone failed mitten.  Perfect small project to crank out to completion, or so I thought.  The first attempt was a fail because I made them too big and my brilliant idea for making them double layered with an angora liner (ooo bunny warmth!) was poorly thought out.  I started with a provisional cast on thinking I would simply undo those stitches and begin a second mitten that would mirror the first.  This is the same method I used when I sewed a pair of double layer mittens out of felted sweaters a few years back.  But, after trying the idea out the cuff got too bulky and stretched out funny on the folded edge where the two layers met.  So, I frogged back and did a stretchy cast off on the cuff with a new plan of picking up stitches on the inside above the cuff to knit the second layer.  Well, that idea also crashed and burned leaving me with a too big single layer mitten - exactly what I didn't want.

In come Ravelry to the rescue!  I knit double knit coasters a while back and the thought occurred that I could use the same construction method to make the mittens.  I love that Raverly has such great search options and I could choose to search this specific construction method, as well as what I wanted to knit.  Most of the patterns that appeared in my search had two color patterns which looked awesome (I love this one), but weren't a good fit for the handspun yarn I was using (You may recognize it as leftovers from that yellow hat.  That's right I'm making a matchy-matchy set - yay!)  Then I ran across this pattern, which was a simple single color on the outer layer with a liner - perfect!  It's more of a recipe than a pattern per se, but still really easy to follow.  Now I'm finally on the right track, a slooowww track, but the right one.  You see you knit the one row in the outer color and then work back around in the opposite direction in the liner color.  It has no formal gusset for the thumb.  Instead you knit in a scrap piece of yarn which you will undo after you complete the body of the mitten, picking up the now "live" stitches to knit the thumb in the round just as you did before.  The only tricky thing is to remember to make a right AND left mitten as this style makes the mittens hand specific. 

I wish you could feel through the internet how squishy soft these are, but alas you'll just have to trust me the resulting fabric is fabulous!  The only downside to this project is that I cannot just crank them out like I was hoping for, but the end product will be just what I want and that's what matters most. 

Joining in with Rachel for Yarn Fanatic Party, Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fresh Off the Wheel - I've Got the Blues

 

Lately, I've been at my spinning wheel finishing up projects like trying to complete my yarns before the plys sit around for too long and lose their energy.  The above fiber is from The Painted Tiger and is New England Wool Top dyed in beautiful shades of blue.  Navy blue is my favorite color, besides orange that is, and I love finding it in yarns and fiber as I know it will go with all the clothes I own.  I also purchased this fiber for it's "type' which is really a region and not a specific sheep, basically a representative of American sheep in the Eastern United States.  It's not super soft, but is rumored to be hard wearing which suited my needs for luscious blue socks.  Now, I am still pretty new to spinning (as can be seen in the tangled mass of plys plied in the wrong direction in the photos above) and I realized I should have given this yarn more twist to make it stronger and more durable.  Thus, I am a little forlorn to have gone to so much effort for socks which might not last as long as I want (which is forever of course.)  The yarn turned out to be a bit thicker than planned which pushed me to use US size 3 needles instead of the US size 1s I would normally choose for socks.  They were knit from a general gusseted heel toe up sock pattern from Wendy Johnson's book Socks from the Toe Up.  Honestly, I have yet to knit any complicated sock patterns as the yarn always seems pretty enough in a simple ribbed pattern.  Which is your "go to"sock pattern?

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday and Amanda for Fibre Arts Friday.
representative of American sheep in the Eastern United States - See more at: http://www.thepaintedtiger.com/category_69/New-England-Wool-Top.htm#sthash.GZdPT2AY.dpuf
representative of American sheep in the Eastern United States - See more at: http://www.thepaintedtiger.com/category_69/New-England-Wool-Top.htm#sthash.GZdPT2AY.dpuf

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Pattern - Wee Bunny Rabbits


I'm excited to share with you a new knitting pattern I wrote for a sweet stuffed bunny toy.  It's called Wee Bunny Rabbits and will be available for sale in a few weeks (in time for your Easter knitting perhaps?)  You may remember this post I wrote about searching for the perfect bunny knitting pattern, and at the time it was just what I wanted, but now I think I have an even better one.  This time around I wanted more prominent legs with a body shape that was more true to life.  It is a pattern for an intermediate knitter as it is knit on double pointed needles and has lots of short rows, but I think the end results are well worth the effort.  You can see more photos and read about them here.

I am knitting them using Angora Garden lovely angora yarns in Winter White, Cocoa Bean and Winter Gray colors.  There will also be a softer gray and light fawn available after I receive my new yarn in the post (don't you just love getting yarn in the mail?  It's my favorite!)  The bunnies have the same handspun 100% angora pom pom tails as my older version did and oh are they soft!  Along with releasing the pattern I hope to release some kits for these delightful animals that would include angora yarn, wool stuffing, pom pom tail and embroidery floss.  All you would need to provide are double pointed needles, scissors, a yarn darning needle and an embroidery needle.  You'll be able to request what color bunny as well as the eye and nose color.  What do you think?  I've always wanted to make kits for my shop and if these do well I'll try assembling kits for my Gnome Family, Teether and Rattles

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.

Friday, January 16, 2015

His and Hers Finergerless Mitts


These mitts might look a bit boring after the last pairs I knit, but they will match all my clothes and sometimes you need something that will do just that.  The yarn is my own handspun using the same merino fiber from Ashland that I used in the aforementioned mitts.  It's colored a rich navy blue, called "Midnight", and was originally part of my first plan to spin scrappy yarn.  But that idea went horribly wrong producing yarn that was too ugly to even photograph (really you have to trust me here it was UGLY.)  I'm afraid I was rather wasteful too and threw the yarn in the garbage can.  I hardly ever do that so I'm trying not to feel overly guilty about it. 

Well, after that crash and burn I decided to just ply the navy blue fiber with itself for an everyday pair of mitts for myself.  I picked out this pattern on Ravelry which was free (as I'm still trying to cut down on my hobby  spending) as well as having a nice nubby texture pattern I thought the single colored yarn would show off well.  My only modifications were to go down to a US size 4 needle (I like my mitts snug) and add a couple of pattern repeats to make them the length I wanted.  They came out just as I anticipated, which is a win in my book.

What made them even more winning was my son Sam's admiration of them and his request for a pair for himself.  A couple of years back, when he was 6, Sam put the kibosh down on my knitting anything for him much to my dismay.  I mean really what knitter doesn't want to knit for their children?  So, I was over the moon with his request and quickly whipped out a pair for him using the leftover yarn from mine.  They are a little funky as I only glanced at the pattern thus missing some key points, but of course that's what happens when you relax and get cocky.  You can see my notes on them here.  Sam still thought they were great and put them right on and began making punching jabs in the air such as a Boxer would do.  This made me laugh because I thought of the mitts as keeping his sweet hands warm and he thought super action hero costume.  My son is such a boy.  Ah, I love him.

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday and Andrea for Fibre Arts Friday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Finished Object - That Yellow Hat

My son Sam "modeling" for me and sharing his blueberry stained mouth and tongue.

It occurred to me I never showed you pictures of my finished yellow handspun hat.  My first photos of the hat that I shot in December were deemed too serious by a friend of mine so retook them today.  Since it's subzero Fahrenheit here on this January day I only opened the front door for a mere moment to get some natural light, but did not open the storm door or step outside - brrr!  This way I can show you the Honey Cowl I knit to match the hat, and even though it's far brighter and overtakes the hat a bit I'm very happy with the pair.  Now all I need to knit are some matching mittens!  I'd like to make them lined or double knit with the same angora yarn I lined the brim of the hat with for extra warmth.  Any pattern ideas or suggestions? 

The hat pattern I used was called Michele and can be found here.  I started with a provisional cast on knit using the angora yarn for the inner lining and when it was long enough to cover my whole ear I switched to the handspun yarn, knit and one row then purled the next row so the brim would fold easily.  After the lining and the outer sections matched in length, I undid my provisional cast on placing the now "live" stitches on another circular knitting needle and knit the two sections together.  Then I simply followed the pattern as written for the subtle slip stitch rib design.  I'm very pleased overall and most importantly this hat is super warm!  Angora is considered about seven times as warm as wool due to the hollow core of the fiber.  This local Minnesota business makes wonderful angora yarn which I use to knit my stuffed bunny toys.  She also has angora/wool roving which I used as one of the plies in the handspun yarn.  One of these days I will get my own angora rabbits, ah the waiting.  

I hope all of your in the northern climes are staying warm!

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm and Craft On.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Fun Experiment






It all started with my seeing this yarn from Folktale on Etsy; I instantly fell in love with the "scrappy" nature of the skein and the "pops" of color.  Color, if you're in a cold climate like here in MN, is hard to come by during the dark winter months and I simply crave it on a truly physical level.  Thus, I thought I'd try my hand at spinning some of my own scrappy yarn with lots of colors to fed my need.  Friends in Fiber's shop carries  Ashland Bay merino wool in a plethora of colors, which are also pretty inexpensive, but the quantities were much too big if I wanted to purchase all the colors I desired.  So, I inquired if they would sell me just 1/2 ounces of each of the 28 colors I wanted and they happily agreed much to my satisfaction.  Really they are lovely ladies and I have been so happy with all of my purchases from them, they have unparallelled  customer service skills.  You should give their shop a try.

Well, the fun began when all the colors arrived in the mail and I began sorting them out and matching them up.  In my first attempts I tried for a random look, but I wasn't really liking how my colors got muddied and diminished in brightness.  Which brought me to the colorway you see above that has more of a gradient/rainbow effect (Me liking rainbows - shocking I know.)  The colors stayed bright and flowed nicely into one another just as I wanted.  I used 16 colors total per pair of mitts and with 14 ounces of wool I got almost 7 fingerless mitts (I'm missing just 2 colors for the last pair.)  They are all listed here in my shop for you to peruse.  

I focused mainly on the colors I like blues, greens, yellows, oranges and browns, but if they sell well I'm going to try my hand at mixing in some reds, pinks, purples and greys.  You would think it would get boring to make the same mitts over and over again, but the color changes really make it so fun for me and the surprise of how it all turns out upon completion is wonderful.  

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday and Andrea for Fibre Arts Friday.