Friday, December 12, 2014


Yay!  My Amber sweater is finally finished!  My husband took a day off from work on my birthday this week so I could have a little time to myself while he took care of Sam, and it was just what I needed to complete my sweater.  I added sleeves as this is Minnesota and we need sleeves here no matter how cute the pattern is as a vest.  Overall, I am pleased with how it turned out and it's feels pretty comfy too.  The best part was that when I gave it a bath before blocking more indigo dye came out in the water.  So hopefully I won't have blue dye rubbing off on my arms and neck as I did on my hands while knitting.  It feels great to get another WIP off the needles.  Of course, you'd think this would translate into my wanting to finish another WIP, but you would be mistaken.  It makes me want to reward myself by casting on a new sweater! Oh, knitting logic is hard to follow isn't it?

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fresh Off the Wheel - Sunshine on a Cloudly Day

I'm not really a big fan of yellow, but when I saw this plant dyed yellow batt called "Daffodil" in Judy's shop I felt compelled to purchase it.  Something about it really called out to me and I think it was that it reminds me so much of the warm bright sun of summer which I sorely miss at this time of year.  It also reminded me of this post I read a while ago on Tonya's blog about how there are so many plants which give us yellow dye and her thoughts that maybe wearing yellow sweaters would help us think of the warm months to come.  Well, I really liked that thought of wearing yellow to cheer oneself through the darker months here in the north, thus for a change this yarn is intended for me and not my shop.

Now, I only had a few ounces of the yellow wool so I needed to ply it with something else to make a good sized skein.  I've been wanting an angora hat for a while and found I still had some angora/wool roving that could flesh out the yellow nicely.  The angora is a soft dove gray which got me thinking about how the roving looked like a fluffy gray cloud waiting to be spun as it sat pooled at my feet.  Then I thought what a nice juxtaposition of clouds, which are the mainstay of winter, and sunshine, the mainstay of summer.  Needless to say I'm happy with my lumpy, fluffy, squishy "Sunshine on a Cloudy Day" skein of yarn.  Oh, in case you were wondering it came out to be 250 yards of DK/worsted weight.  I've already begun knitting this hat making just a few modifications, but more on that in another post. 

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Touch of Indigo

I'm chugging right along on my Amber sweater - it's body is all sewn up, ends woven in, and the cowl neck close to done.  Now, I have to say I am not a natural at knitting lace and even though this project is pretty simple it made my head hurt.  Seaming up of the lace fabric at the shoulders was fudged at best.  I'm happy the cowl, when completed, will cover most of that seam up.  It's not a knit while you watch a movie kind of project.  More of a "wake up super early before your child wakes up" kind of knit.  Well, at least for me.

In my last post I believe I told you I dyed the yarn for this sweater myself with natural indigo dye.  It was my first time using indigo and I accidentally made it too concentrated (which I discovered afterwards of course.)  All the yarn had to be washed many, many times with a cleanser that helps removes any excess dye for the water to run clear.  Most of the yarn from this dyeing batch I have been able to use without issue, but this particular yarn still has excess dye that rubs off on my hands.  This is called "crocking" and could happen indefinitely if I dyed it incorrectly, but I'm hoping this isn't the case since most of the yarn was fine.  So, Amber's success is a bit risky as I made no swatch, then made modifications to the pattern, I'm not too comfortable knitting lace and indigo dyed yarn that could continue crocking.  Wow, I'm living on the edge - a knitter's edge.  I do wonder why I've taken such a risk with my precious knitting time.  My only conclusion is I simply didn't want to give up on this yarn's ability to be something wonderful.  Routing for the underdog again. 

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fuzzy Weather Equals Fuzzy Sweater

Daylight savings time occurred this past weekend which for me means the dark days of Autumn have begun.  While I love the sunny colorful part of Fall, this time after all the leaves have fallen and the days turn gray and fuzzy is my least favorite time of year.  It's the waiting for Winter to come and blanket us with snow and cold that's hard for me.  Once Winter hits I'm fine again and just tuck in drinking tea, knitting, reading and sitting back to enjoy the inward season.  So, with what I call "fuzzy" weather (you know that dark, drizzly, hazy kind of day) comes knitting and what better to knit than a fuzzy sweater.  

That's right, I'm back to knitting Amber by Lisa Richardson in Cascade Ecological Bulky Wool (that I dyed naturally with indigo) and Aloft super kid mohair yarn from Knit Picks (which gives the sweater it's fuzzy look.)  I love how the very bright mohair yarn gives the more muted indigo a spark of color without being too overt (it is laceweight against bulky yarn after all.)  The body is done and I'm beginning to knit back and forth instead of in the round to split the front from the back (which also gives me two armholes.)  The pattern is not too hard, but I have been relying heavily on notes of other Raveler's to get the fit I want.  I'm gambling a bit too not having made a swatch (I know. You 'd think I'd learn by now after all these years of knitting to make a swatch, but they drive me crazy) on how much the lace will stretch out, but I'm optimistic as it's meant to be loose and has no shaping.  Hopefully I'll finish it in a few weeks if not sooner.

Since this post is linking with Yarn Along I need to share with you my current reading book.  It's Slowspoke - A Unicyclist's Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller.  It was recommended by this blogger whom I read regularly.  Well, I'm only 70 pages in, and I'm hooked.  It's a memoir but somehow it feels larger than a story of just one man.  He goes back and forth in his narrative from his childhood and youth, to his long distance unicycle trip, to the present and while this could be confusing, instead it flows as naturally as your thoughts flow from one to another.  Really beautiful writing.  

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along and Tami for WIP Wednesday.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fresh off the Wheel and Socks

My spinning wheel is getting some good use this month as once again I come to you with a finished skein of yarn.  I have been trying to do two posts a month (not a very lofty goal), but I'm still making it by the skin of my teeth this October.  Back to the yarn, it's two ply with one being 100% alpaca top (oh this is softness itself I tell you) from Alma Park and the second is a mix of domestic sheep's wool (from the US), merino and silk from Mamajudes.  The grey of the alpaca blends in so well with the soft indigo dyed blues.  The touches of lime green make a fun pop of color without being garish.  Like my last yarn this one also spun up to a DK weight of 303 yards!  I do love my jumbo flyer for my spinning wheel as it really lets me get a lot of yardage in one skein.  Makes finding projects to knit with it so easy.  You can check out this yarn in my shop here.

The one knitting project that I always have on the needles (and in my purse) is socks.  This pair is knit with Knit Picks Felici yarn in the Marsh colorway.  I did a simple 3/1 rib as I like the grip it gives your leg and it's not too distracting for the self striping yarn.  The colors are beautiful, the yarn soft and the fit is just right but...I have nothing the goes with them in my wardrobe.  It's another case of the color overpowering my otherwise rational mind which happens way too often - especially around drab and dreary February.  I'm just one of those matchy-matchy people (notice in the last photos how the stripes are matching up on the toes?  Yup, that's a matchy-matchy kind of thing.)  My guess is they are destined to be a gift for my mother whose feet are about the same size as mine.  I'll let her find something to match with them. 

Joining in late with Ginny for Yarn Along, Linda for  Creative Friday and Fibre Arts Friday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fresh Off the Wheel - Rainbow Gradient

My focus has changed some since I last wrote in this space.  During the previous month my world was all about making toys for selling in my shop as well as at a few holiday fairs.  Then while knitting a gnome mama doll I suddenly stopped mid stitch and realized that toy making is usually fun for me, but at that moment it was anything but fun. It felt like a chore; something to cross off a list and not in a good way.  Usually at this time of year I really get into making lists of what to make, ordering yarn and knitting, knitting, knitting lots of toys.  This year it wasn't jibbing for some reason so I decided to stop knitting toys right then and there and take a break to spin some roving into yarn.  My husband was thrilled with the idea of no holiday fairs by the way.  As he is my support for caring for our son, dog and house before (I always seem to need more knitting time) and during these fairs it can a lot of stress for him too.  This year I will only sell toys in my shop on Etsy and hope my inventory can keep up with sales.  It's a big relief.

Spinning is a great relaxer for me.  If I go too long I can tense up and get sore muscles, but usually it really sets me in a good mood both body and soul.  Compound that with rainbows and you 've got a heck of a Ann feel good combo going on.  The rainbow wool is a blend of domestic (to the US) sheep's wool and is plant dyed by Judy at Mamajudes and the undyed brown Jacob sheep's wool comes from Almapark also on Etsy.  The yarn came out to a DK weight with a whooping 328 yards!  It will make a long rainbow gradient from red to purple and I'm really hoping whoever buys it will send me a picture of their completed project.  You can see the yarn's listing here.  

In the last photo is a view of my new yarn labels designed by my fabulously talented friend and graphic designer Emily.  She made them as stickers for me to attach to whatever paper I like to create the label; since my skeins very in thickness it's great to have the flexibility this allows.  I'm also exited to use them to seal wrapping tissue on gifts - oh the versatility!  As you can see I'm still working on my photo taking and they still look a bit dark, but I don't seem to have a good location in my house for picture taking.  Where do you take your photos of your creations?

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Knitted Gnome Family Pattern

I have been busy knitting toys in hopes of a good Holiday Season of sales here at Simply Playing.  Along with knitting toys I developed a pattern (last year actually, but finally written out) that I'm hoping to launch in the next month or two.  It's of a gnome mama with her baby and child.  Some will be in the store soon sold as mama with her baby in a sling and then the child will be sold separately.  Being new to pattern writing I am looking for a few test knitter's to test it out before it's made public.  If you are interested in being a test knitter please email me at ann"at" simplyplaying"dot"net.  

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fresh Off the Wheel - Speckled Chickens?

It's getting close to the Holiday Season of Craft Fairs for me and my knitted toy business Simply Playing so, personal knitting has slowed, if not stopped completely, while toy making goes into full swing.  Thus today's post on my latest "Fresh Off the Wheel" yarn is not intended for a hat or mittens as is my usual, but instead is for chickens - knitted toy chickens.  It is rather silly to spend all the time I do spinning yarn (I am a slow spinner) to knit a simple little toy, but I really love the results which oddly I came across by accident.  

You see I purchased this black lama roving from Friends in Fiber thinking I would ply it as a single strand to ply with a rainbow ply to sell in my shop.  Well, it kept breaking and getting away from me as I was trying to spin it being too slippery for my inexperienced hands I believe.  To solve this problem I thought I'd card it with another wool fiber to give it a bit more "grab" so the fiber would stick together and let me draft with better ease. White merino was what I had on hand and using it with the lama fiber did make drafting easier, but I had no idea what to make with the yarn it until it occurred to me that it kind of looked like a black and white speckled chicken.  

One of the venues in whose Holiday Fair I participate in is Dodge Nature Preschool.  They have an interesting feature to their classrooms - live chickens.  Yes, they have live chickens that the preschoolers get to help care for and play alongside with - it's a very wonderful school.  Needless to say I sold out of my chickens at last year's fair.  As I'm hoping to participate again this year I thought I'd make more varieties and quantities of knitted chickens.  And now I have a speckled black and white variety to add to the mix.  What colors do you associate with chickens?

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cold Sheep and Stash Update - August


Wow, the summer has flown by me this year!  It's hard to believe it's the end of August and the weather is already cooler.  It wasn't cool on the day I modeled the above shawlettes though; it was muggy and hot!  It made for a speedy 5 minute photo shoot before "the boys" (my husband and son) went to play some tennis at our park across the street.  My son Sam was trying to distract me while Dan was snapping pics, but I think the photos came out alright despite Sam's best efforts.   The first shawlette (not quite a scarf but not big enough to be a true shawl) was a kit that I won from Luna Grey Fiber Arts.  Yes, I won something!  And a wonderful something at that!  I was so excited to win the lovely skein of sport weight yarn  from Luna Grey along with the White Dwarf pattern by Amy Miller.  What  do you think?  The color is similar to one in the Pendulum shawl (also designed by Amy Miller) I finished last month, but being a solid color I'm sure I'll get more wear out of it.  It's asymmetrical which I'm not usually drawn to, but I'm quite pleased with the result.  The second shawlette is a pattern by Ysolda Teague called Marin done in Three Irish Girls Kells Sport yarn in their Solar Flare colorway.  I loved this pattern with it's scalloped edge and center triangle (achieved with short rows), but was pretty nervous while knitting it that it was not going to turn out right.  When I did finish it was small, very small, hardly enough length to wrap around my neck.  But once it took a bath and was stretched and pinned out to dry it shaped right up to my expectations.  While not looking too happy in the picture, I am thrilled with the end product and know I will wear it lots this Fall and Winter.  Though, safe to say I won't be knitting many shawls/shawlettes in the future as my drawer is now quite full with wonderful choices of what to wear.

August is also the month of my son's birthday, so even though I had hopes of completing more projects it wasn't meant to be.  And when you can't finish a project what should you do?  Well knitter logic says "Start more projects!"  Crazy, I know, but that's just what I did.  First up is yet another pair of Taylor's Orange Toe Up Socks, and this time I actually did use a different color for the toe, heel and cuff.  The blue is some Yarn Love sport weight yarn that I over dyed with indigo (I guess you could say I didn't just "love" it - haha.  Sorry I couldn't resist,) while the orange is leftovers from Marin.  They are going along fine, but I'm a little bored so...

Yes, I started another project.  This pattern is a free one from Rowan and it needs concentration which is nice when your other project is simple but boring.  I used more yarn from my indigo dyed yarn stash (Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool which is a bulky weight) for this project along with some yarn I did buy (I know I am so failing at this Cold Sheep thing) from  Knit Picks called "Aloft" which is a lace weight mohair silk blend.  The Aloft really is the key to making this a soft fluffy sweater and is a MUCH cheaper version to buy than the recommended Rowan's Kidsilk.  What do you think about buying yarn to use yarn I already have - is it a good thing?  My team says Yes!

Last up, is what is going to be a very long term project (think years here) - a Sock Yarn Blanket.  Yup, you heard me right I am going to knit a blanket out of thin sock yarn on teeny tiny needles.  To give you an idea each of those squares is a mere 2 inches in diameter.  Uh huh, it's going to take an awful lot of squares to make even a throw sized blanket.  The idea behind the pattern is to use up leftover sock yarn which is a great idea for me as I always have left over sock yarn sitting around looking at me wondering why I don't knit with it (well maybe not that last bit.)  And, if you've read any of my posts before you know I love, love, love to use up every bit of yarn.  I adore scrappy projects, but I also adore balance of color, so get ready, yes, I bought a couple of skeins of sock yarn in oranges to balance out all the blue sock yarn I will be using.  Again, it's buying yarn to use yarn I already have, which is a bit of a slippery slope I'm finding out.  

Well, my going Cold Sheep lasted a whole 50 days before being reset yet again and is now standing at a mere 13 days.  Oddly enough, I think I'll make it through to the holidays without buying anything else as it's the busy season for my knitted toy business Simply Playing plus I already have all the yarn I need for my holiday gifts. Hmm...this was yet another long post so I think I'll try for a least two posts next month.  A girl can dream can't she?

Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday and Tami for WIP Wednesdays (but on a Friday)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cold Sheep and Stash Update - July


July has been a great month for finishing WIPs that have been laying around looking at me longingly through their Ziploc plastic bags.  Maybe it's because it's been a cooler summer here in Minnesota that I have felt like doing so much knitting.   Or maybe, it's simply the "high" of finishing one project has just been carrying me to finish more and more projects.  Either way I'm pleasantly pleased!

I finished my teal Pendulum shawl from this Spring, my Color Affection shawl from last Fall, and my 10 Stitch Blanket from the previous Summer!  Also completed are 2 more of these lovely coasters in blue and brown fuzzy alpaca yarn.  With so much yarn leftover from this project I decided to make 3 matching trivets to coordinate with the coasters.  You know how I love using up all my yarn!

Speaking of yarn, I went through my stash yet again and sold everything that I didn't just love, love, love on Craigslist.  So, my load is getting lighter literally and figuratively.  Now I just have a cardigan and a vest on the needles as well as the afore mentioned trivets, 8 patterns in my Ravelry queue with yarn in hand, and probably still too many skeins of sock yarn (but everyone could use some more socks right?)  I really feel in control of my stash again instead of my stash controlling me.  It amazes me how "good" things, like knitting or other hobbies, can turn into burdens if not kept in check.  Purchasing yarn only takes a few moments where as knitting said yarn can take a very long time; as can be seen by the projects I just finished.  Ah well,live and learn as they say.

I have been good about going "Cold Sheep" this month and haven't bought any yarn which puts my day total at 35 days.  Since I only seem to post once a month this Summer I guess I'll see you at the end of August.  Have a good month everyone! 

Joining in with Tami for Finished Object Friday and Linda for Creative Friday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cold Sheep and Stash Update - June

Well, it's the end of the month and time for a Cold Sheep and Stash update.  It was a busy knitting month for me with a Father's Day and a graduation gift to knit.  Knitting with deadlines is both easy and hard I find.  Easy as you know what to knit, but hard as you have no choice as to what to knit.  I got a little cocky and after finishing Dan's Alberta Vest for Father's Day I rewarded myself by finishing two nearly completed pairs of socks (you might remember the blue pair from this post and the rainbow pair you can find here,) spinning up some roving and knitting a 3rd pair of socks for myself along with another Grrlfriend Market Bag for my friend Christmas gifts.  This cockiness made completing the graduation gift for my eldest niece, a superman themed hat and scarf, come down to the wire of my frantically finishing the night before the party.  So frantic that I forgot to take a photo of them - whoops! This was WAY to close for my comfort level.

I also made the decision this month to sell my undyed yarn from my stash as dyeing, while fun, has more of a learning curve than I have patience for at this time in my life.  Also, it completely takes over our tiny kitchen, which makes making meals and getting snacks quite difficult.  They all went to Judy of Mamajudes on Etsy who dyes all my yarn for my toy shop Simple Playing. So, 9 skeins of undyed yarn are gone, 2 sock WIPs are completed, 1 vest WIP is completed, 1 roving is spun and knit and 1 skein of my indigo dyed yarn is gone.  Pretty good for one month don't you think?  I've also decided to sell some more yarn, skeins that I don't just love that feel more burdensome than exciting to knit.  Retaking my stash photos to reflect all these changes I believe is in order, as being able see all my yarn at once is helpful in choosing what to knit next.

On the Cold Sheep front I went 136 days, before I made a purchase of some lovely wool/silk yarn to make this summer top.  I caved due to a huge amount of stress that's currently happening in my life.  You see my mother, who lives with us, is moving out and it isn't under the best of circumstances.  It's a really stressful and emotional time for me and when I feel this way I either eat or buy yarn/fiber online.  So, while I'm disappointed that the Cold Sheep process has been reset, I don't feel guilty or bad about it as it is pretty understandable, at least too me.  I will start Cold Sheeping afresh and my new total is 4 days :)

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.