30 December 2011

Fiber Goals for 2012

My good friend Lisa (check her blog out at Wicked Artsy) recently suggested that we both write a list of knitting goals for the upcoming year and then we could both support each other in our goals.  Of course, I thought that was a fantastic idea and then took my sweet time composing a list.  This was partly because I have been terribly busy and partly because I feel that there is so much to learn that writing a list that isn't a mile long is rather daunting.

However, I finally sat myself down and completed a list that includes not only knitting resolutions, but also spinning and dyeing resolutions as well!


- Knit a pair of CookieA socks

- Complete a colorwork sweater

- Complete an entrelac project

- Knit a tea pot cosy

- Conquer fear of short rows

- Knit a decent looking toy

- Try knitting with a new type of fiber

- Finish a spin-to-knit project


- Buy or make a wheel

- Learn to spin on a different type of spindle

- Learn to Navajo ply

- Learn to spin attractive relaxed singles

- Master spinning with a silk hankie

- Spin a new type of fiber


- Learn to shear a sheep

- Dye fiber/yarn with tea

- Design a pattern and publish

- Make knitting/dyeing/spinning tutorials for blog

I found that making a list of everything I really wanted to learn and achieve this upcoming year really inspired me.  However, if I get half of them completed by the end of the year I'll call it a success.

Are you planning on composing a list of your own?  I would love to hear about it!

16 December 2011

Spinning Alpaca

I have still been overburdened with end of semester work lately, but I'm almost done and have so much planned for my month-long break.  I plan on spinning like crazy, dyeing some fiber and yarn for upcoming projects, and finishing some knitting projects I've promised to friends and family.  It will be so wonderful to have some time to slow down and focus on my fiber art for a while without the stress of the lab and classes consuming my time.

Although I find myself horribly busy during the school year, sometimes a certain yarn or fiber comes along that really inspires me and makes me so excited that I find myself sneaking away from my obligations to work on it for a little while every chance I get.  When my awesome friend Lisa sent me some amazing fiber for my birthday, I was so inspired that I very quickly managed to spin it into some lovely handspun.

Natural Alpaca
Spun: December 2011
Roving: 100% undyed alpaca (Alpacas in Wildcat Hollow)
Color: Light brown
Spindle: Schacht 3" Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.)
2 ply, ~196.0 yards, 14 WPI (Fingering)

I really love how it came out and I am itching to knit it up into something soft and cozy although I'm not sure what it should be yet.

Have you ever experienced this kind of creative push?

03 December 2011

Fair Isle Hat - Perfect Success

I've been a little slow with the crafting lately, actually my entire life has been on hold for the last week and a half due to a truly nasty cold.  It's funny how you can have so much free time while you are sick, but you oftentimes cannot do anything beyond what is absolutely necessary.

However, I somehow managed to finish this fabulous Fair Isle hat!

Now, this is an accomplishment for me, because this is the first colorwork project I have attempted since the great "colorwork baby sweater of doom" debacle (we don't speak of it).  This project started because I suddenly had this strong urge to knit something with Berroco Ultra Alpaca after reading a post by one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Evelyn over at Project: Stash.  She has been working on the most beautiful cardigan in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light.  

I happened to have some Berroco Ultra Alpaca (the worsted version) left over from another colorwork project and wanted to use some of it up.  I almost instantly decided on the pattern Opus Spicatum because it seemed doable and looks really adorable.  I half expected for this project to go horribly wrong as well, but behold my success!

It also knit up very quickly and was surprisingly satisfying to work on.  I can certainly see why people get hooked on these kinds of projects.  After the success of this one, I hope to have more patience and courage to try another in the future. 

20 November 2011

Infinity Cowl Forever

This month has been packed with lengthy assignments, 7-8 hour lab days, and PhD level graduate school applications, but somehow I've been able to find some time to knit.

Considering how busy I've been I actually finished this infinity scarf fairly quickly!  I think it's because I knit when I'm super stressed.

I also must apologize for my crazy photos right now.  I cannot figure out the best light conditions in this dorm room and often don't have the time to mess with it a whole lot.  I also really need a better lens.

I'm not only excited by how wonderful this scarf looks, but by the fact that I was able to use up some yarn that I didn't really like that has been sitting around for a while.

The yarn is Berroco Peruvia in the most beautiful green color.  It is a single ply, worsted weight, 100% Peruvian Highland Wool, which means that it is a little scratchy but very warm.  I tried to knit up two projects in this yarn before now and I really didn't like knitting with it at the time and it also didn't look great with those particular patterns.  My big problems were that it was single ply and curled up on itself, was splitty, and was scratchy.

The pattern used is 5th Avenue Infinity Scarf by Margaux Hufnagel and I must say that it is the perfect pattern for this yarn.  I don't think that I will ever knit a straight scarf ever again because I love the infinity scarf concept so much better.  You can also see from the picture below that this scarf really needs a serious blocking.

Is there anything more wonderful than finishing a scarf right when it starts to get really cold outside?

07 November 2011

Finally a FO!

November is always one of those crazy months that flies by all too quickly.  Classes really pick up and Thanksgiving is near the end, which means flying home commercially (the horror!).  This November also got off to a strange, particularly rushed and stressful start due to the power outage that brought Massachusetts down last weekend.

So, November is particularly difficult for my knitting ethic.  However, once it started getting cold out, I decided that I needed some new fingerless gloves.  Even better, I wanted to actually use some of my handspun for them!  Two days later I was able to proudly wear these!

I improvised these fingerless gloves in a basic ribbing pattern, which worked really well with some bulky wool handspun I finished a few weeks ago. 

This is the first spin-to-knit project that I have ever actually liked as a finished product.  I've already gotten several compliments on them and I only finished them hours ago!

I'm also one of those crazy people that once I finish a project I HAVE to wear it as soon as I can (sometimes I don't even weave in the ends before I wear it because I'm so excited!).  I do block my projects eventually, but not until I take exhaustive photos and dance around with glee.  Today was certainly one of those occasions.

17 October 2011

The project that dragged on and on and on...

It is finally complete and I'm very surprised to say that I love, love, love it.  I proudly wear many of my knit creations (those that I don't end up spontaneously gifting to people), but this particular project feels like one of those favorite outfit additions that will always live on in my closet.

The reason this took so ridiculously long to complete is because I have this irrational hatred for projects with mostly garter stitch.  I need a stitch pattern to keep things interesting or it will always be the project I put aside. Also, this pattern features ribbing (shudder).  But the pattern Mara by MadelineTosh, is wonderfully simple and makes for a lovable finished product.

I've talked about the yarn here before, Tosca Light (Lang Yarns).  It was another reason why I had some trouble with this project.  The colorway is so beautiful that I have yet to take a photograph that can show the colors properly.  However, it is partially acrylic, which I don't enjoy knitting with most of the time.

Hooray for FO!

02 October 2011

Great Balls of Fiber

I had a difficult time last week  and so I did what I do any time I'm frazzled and in need of a mini vacation.  I went to Webs to stroke all the fiber I could get my hands on (if you have ever been to Webs then you know that is a lot of fiber).

I have come to realize that I have now graduated from moderately obsessed with fiber arts to really obsessed because I'm now buying fiber in the form of huge balls, as you can see below.

For reference, the purple ball (of lovely, lovely silk and merino) is about the size of my head.  The brown ball of Jacob wool is certainly larger than my head.  I'm excited to use these materials to craft truly handcrafted gifts for people I care about, but at the same time I cannot believe that people used to use similar materials to spin the yarn to make clothes with.  Between me and my spindle,  it's going to take forever just for a simple project.

This fiber is all destined to become Christmas presents for some lucky individuals, who lucky for me likely don't read my blog.

Thus begins my first spin to knit adventure!

29 September 2011

Summer socks in Fall

I finished this lovely pair of socks at the wrong time.  I not only finished them the week when New England is forecast to get rain, rain, and more rain (that is why the pictures look sad, not enough natural sunlight), but also as summer ends and fall begins (summer pattern and summer yarn).  Despite that, I'm more than happy with how they turned out.

This yarn was another of my Webs super sale finds and it was a great buy.  My first thought was to use it to make baby clothes because of the colors.

Summer Sox by Classic Elite Yarns
Fingering weight
175 yards for 50 grams
40% cotton, 40% superwash merino, and 20% nylon.

One thing I would like to point out is...look at that unintentional striping!  Personally don't have the patience to work at making my socks stripe in exactly the same way (I salute those that do).  So when these socks turned out looking very similar rather than vaguely similar I was thrilled!

These were knitted two at a time from the toe up using the Diagonal Lace Socks pattern by Wendy Johnson.  I was one of those people who really struggled to learn the toe up sock method, I would find beginner's level patterns and even those didn't make sense to me.  I was limited to top down socks for a while, until I grabbed one of Wendy Johnson's books.  Now I vastly prefer knitting toe up socks and I always recommend her books to people trying to learn the technique.

20 September 2011

Drowning in Scraps!

Yesterday I was sorting through this sack I have hidden in a corner of my dorm room.  Mentally I refer to this as the "scrap sack" where I put all of my half used skeins and such that I swear I'm going to use one day.  As I dug through this bag, it became apparent that I never actually use them for anything.  About a year ago I donated a bunch of scraps to a "how to knit" night some friends and I hosted, but since then it has become a problem.  I've been thinking of ways to use these scraps that aren't useless and there are some options such as scrap socks or the ever popular Beekeepers Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits.

I started thinking about it, this is not revolutionary or anything it has been done before I'm sure, and I came up with this:

I-cord bracelets.  They look really different and are really quick and easy to make.  It is also a good way of practicing the I-cord which can be a really useful knitting technique to know (such as the I-cord bind on).  My favorite tutorial on how to do the stitch is this one here from Stitch Diva.

The green one was made with some of my earlier handspun and this is a fun way of showcasing it.  My favorite fiber is alpaca and this might sound kind of strange, but sometimes I just want to feel some alpaca.  Well that certainly is easier when I can wear it (the brown one).

I could have stitched the ends together, but I like being able to quickly adjust the size, especially if I want to randomly give one to someone who likes them, so I chose not to.

So, this is one of the ways I can enjoyed using up small scraps of yarn and practiced my i-cord at the same time.  Enjoy!

17 September 2011

Have you ever knitted with a rainbow? - Speaking of Yarn: Araucania Itata Multy

Me neither, but this yarn is about as close as I will ever get.

This is a yarn from a company that I personally don't like because of their quality issues, but this one is pretty much their masterpiece.

Itata Multy by Araucania in colorway 1010.
Fingering weight
430 yards, 100 grams.
70% Wool, 15% Bamboo, 15% Silk

I bought this yarn a few years ago.  I was drawn to it initially because of the colorways (I ended up with six different skeins) and because Webs was having a super sale on it.  This is actually my third pair of socks with this yarn and each time I have been impressed by the vibrant colors and how they added to the beauty of the end product.

The yarn is fairly stretchy and does not have the dye colorfastness problems (dye coming off on every surface it touches) that I have found in other Araucania products I have tried in the past.  The resulting socks are pretty comfy, although they make a better spring/summer sock because of the fiber content.  I must agree that the resulting fabric is a little scratchy as many Ravelers have mentioned, although I did not have the splitting problems that other people have complained about.

For more specifics on the pattern used for these socks please see the project page.

So, overall I would say that this yarn has the types of colors that I adore without the sorts of problems  one sees from Noro.  I have made some of my most beautiful socks with this lovely yarn.

15 September 2011

Spinning, I love it.

I have a close friend who is always pushing me to be better in all areas of my life, but especially in my fiber work.  She challenges me to try positive, new things and I always seem to end up a better person by the end.  I think that we all need more people like that in our lives.  Anyways, recently she made me realize that I never dye and spin fiber in a solid (ish) color.  Armed with my trusty spindle, I set to work and finished this project that I am lovingly calling Lee's Dungarees:

-- Spun: September 2011
-- Roving: 100% BFL Wool (The Woolery)
-- Colors: Self-dyed with Jacquard Acid Dyes
-- Spindle: Schacht 3" Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.)
-- 2 ply, ~110 yards, 8 oz., 9 WPI (Worsted (4))

This turned at fairly well and hopefully it will be met with approval. (There! I did it! Hooray!)

01 September 2011

Spinning with self dyed fiber is a marvelous thing.

Here is my latest spinning creation.  I've been a little slow with my spinning and knitting lately because I have been enjoying the last week of summer vacation before I start the second to last semester of my undergraduate career (!). Somehow I still managed to finish spinning up some lovely BFL.

  • Spun August 2011 
  • Fiber: 100% BFL Wool (The Woolery)
  • Colors: Self-dyed with Jacquard Acid Dyes
  • Spindle: Schacht 3" Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.) 
  • 2 Skeins, each: 2 ply, ~50.4 yards, 4 oz., 11 WPI (DK (3))

I somehow managed to dye and then spin this fiber into two separate dye lots.  I'm thinking that maybe I added more vinegar to one of my stock dyes, but I'm not sure. They both look great though and I think that they will make a wonderful knitted project for someone on Ravelry's RAK board. 

01 August 2011

Dyeing in the Intense Heat

The weather here in Kansas has been almost unbearable.  It has been a least 100 degrees almost every single day of July and we haven't had rain in my area since the 3rd of July.  So, I have been having a difficult time finding inspiration because everything outside has been brown and dead.
What did I decide to do? Dye roving! I ordered some superwash merino, which after some trouble I ended up being able to wangle into several braids for storage.  Despite the uncooperative nature of the fiber, I'm pretty happy with the product.

My mother declared this colorway "crazy", but I rather like it.

12 July 2011

Finally Spinning with Silk Merino

I finally got my hands on a silk merino blend of fiber to spin with.  So far I am loving every second of it even though I only have time to spin about 10 minutes every other day.  I dyed the fiber myself with decent results, it isn't my favorite attempt at dyeing but it isn't bad either.  It is a little too light because I dyed with egg dye tablets.  I'm also a little suspicious of the brown...

 I also quickly mastered the two main methods of braiding fiber.  I'm on the go a lot and free fiber is often a recipe for disaster.  Regular braiding is nice, but doesn't work if you want to keep most of it in the braid.  The chain braiding method is way more practical for me and it still looks great.

05 July 2011

In the Middle of Nowhere

I'm currently visiting my parents in the middle of nowhere.  Because it is very difficult to get internet here I will not get to post very frequently; however, I'm getting a lot of serious dyeing done!

27 June 2011

I'm now an "All-Powerful Reeling Machine"!

I finally broke down this weekend and purchased a ball winder and a swift.  Now I'm really not sure how I lived without these essential tools!  Webs was selling the really high quality ones from Japan as a combo for less.  They wouldn't let me use my student discount, but too bad.  At least now my spinning experience will get much, much easier.

I absolutely love the retro packaging.  It's like the product is saying: "My quality hasn't changed as long as this packaging has. I'll likely outlive you".  The box also features the word "handy", so it must be good.  But having said that, the instructions that came with the swift were the best:
Look at her!  Wind that yarn, girl! 

So, that picture pretty much sums me up now.  Although I could never even aspire to have awesome hair like that.

Now I must refrain from turning all my skeins into neatly stacked cakes....

25 June 2011

Bluefaced Leicester Wool

Current spinning project!  Now I know that all the hype surrounding Bluefaced Leicester wool is completely justified.  This lovely fiber is from the wonderful woman behind Into The Whirled.  I was really lucky to get to actually meet her at the Mass. Sheep and Woolcraft fair last month.  Her colorways are to die for and her fiber is a really high quality.
When I'm finished with this I know that I will fall in love with it.

22 June 2011

Ultimate knitting in public

I aspire to master the art of knitting in line at amusement parks. Someday. 

Alas, I left my knitting in the car that day...

21 June 2011

Crazy Fiber

This stuff was a little weird to spin with because it has so many different fibers! It was excellent practice for spinning worsted (even though I didn't quite get there this time).

  • Spun June 2011
  • Roving: Unknown mix of Merino, Tencel, Sea Cell, Milk Fiber, Corn Silk (Fibers 4 Ewe)
  • Colors: Blue, Purple, and Green.
  • Spindle: Schacht 3” Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.)
  • 2 ply, ~85 yards, ~2.0 Ounces, 12 WPI (Sport)

16 June 2011

The "I cannot believe I made this" moment in spinning.

I finished this yarn last month and was surprised at how nice it turned out.  It almost looks like something machine made!  Now I truly know why spinning is addictive (and dangerous).  Before I know it I will have accumulated dozens of spindles and spent way too much money on fiber (oh wait...already done that).  However resource consuming spinning gets, at least I know that I can make a truly beautiful product.
  • Spun May 2011
  • Roving: 100% Merino (Galloping Jester)
  • Colors: blue and dark purple
  • Spindle: Schacht 4” Hi-Lo drop spindle (3 oz.)
  • 2 ply, ~300 yards, 14 WPI (Fingering (2))

    15 June 2011

    Beautiful handspun Corriedale

    * Spun June 2011
    * Roving: 100% Corriedale (Super-fabulous Mill Ends)
    * Colors: Rainbow and black
    * Spindle: Schacht 4” Hi-Lo drop spindle (3 oz.)
    * 2 ply, ~220 yards, ~4.0 Ounces, 12 WPI (Sport)

    Note: Even with my fancy new camera I failed at showing the beautiful colors of this yarn. They are truly spectacular. I really loved working with the Corriedale. It was very soft and so easy to draft compared to many of the other fibers I have tried.

    14 June 2011

    When life gets busy...spin/knit even more!

    My life has been very hectic with some projects coming close to a deadline at work and studying like crazy for the GRE.  Despite all that I have found little pockets of time to work on my spinning and knitting projects.  One such project that I am having fun with right now is this spinning project:
    I bought this lovely fiber at the Mass. Sheep and Woolcraft Fair last month.  I was drawn in by it's interesting fiber content and bought a small amount (2 oz.) to give it a try.  The label says that it is an unknown blend of merino, tencel, sea cell, milk fiber, and corn silk.  It is very soft and has an interesting texture that I cannot put into words.  I'm attempting a worsted weight because it seems like the only weight that I can achieve right now is fingering.

    12 June 2011

    Speaking of Yarn: Tosca Light (Lang Yarns)

    I try to only have three unfinished (knitting) projects sitting around at any given time.  I'm aware that this is a highly ambitious goal, but for the most part it suits me well.  If one project gets too annoying or tiring, I have another to move onto in the meantime.  I feel sorry for one such project because I cannot seem to get going on it despite the beautiful yarn I am using.
    I bought this yarn quite a while ago at a LYS because I fell in love with the colors.  They are so beautiful just to look at!  In a shawl they would be divine, so that is what I did.  The yarn is Tosca Light (Lang Yarns) and the fiber content is 55% wool and 45% acrylic.  Acrylic content is usually enough to put me off a yarn...but the colors!  It is a little scratchy and icky to knit with (again, my personal preference is no acrylics), but it isn't too terrible.  Another note about this yarn is that although it is labeled as a worsted, it is very much a DK weight.

    Shawls frustrate me because they start off so little and the rows go by so quickly.  But then before I know it, it starts taking longer and longer to do just one row.  Eventually all that patience pays off and I have a shawl!  I just have to push myself to get it done, lucky for me Fall is a little ways off.

    09 June 2011

    Stockinette stitch of doom

    I love knitting sweaters.  They always come out very attractively for all my efforts and nothing is better than the squeals of appreciation when people find out that I knitted them myself.  However, in many cases, sweaters require row after row of stockinette stitch.  By the time I finally get to an increase or decrease row, I am ecstatic because I can finally do something else!  Sleeves are the worst, they go on for forever and then when I finish one the momentary feeling of triumph is squashed by the nasty realization that I must then complete the second one.  This is much more bearable during the school year when I can just knit mindlessly through lecture.  In the summer the rows drag slowly by.

    One thing that makes this sweater manageable is the yarn I chose for it.  Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold.  I was able to get enough for the sweater at Web's recent anniversary sale and chose the most lovely earthy colorway for it.
    The stitch definition is lovely (I'll attempt to take a picture of a swatch at some point) and it creates a very solid fabric.  The yarn is 45% wool, 35% silk, and 20% nylon, which should make for a very comfortable and sturdy garment.  I pretty much expected to enjoy this yarn because I have knitted with other yarns from Elsebeth Lavold, including Hempathy (from which I made one of my favorite projects Buttercup by designer Heidi Kirrmaier).  So far I haven't had any problems with the yarn, which makes it a good one in my book.

    I'm going to try so hard not to lose momentum on this project because it will make a perfect summer lab sweater.

    08 June 2011

    Not the beginning, but the middle of a journey.

    I am hoping that this will become a space where I can display my fiber creations as I produce them.  I do diligently care for my Ravelry page (and keep a Tumblr blog); however, I now feel the need for a more expansive record in the form of a more traditional blog.

    A little about myself:
          I have been knitting for a little more than 5 years, but only in the last two years have I actually gotten seriously into the process.  The discovery of Ravelry was a huge part of that growth.  So, I always recommend that aspiring knitters get involved with the amazing people there.
         Last January I took a class to learn how to spin yarn using a drop spindle and was instantly hooked.  One aspect that made it so satisfying was the rapid improvement that I found myself making almost instantly.  By my third try I had something that I didn't mind knitting with.  I continue to get better and better at spinning every time I try.
         In March I dyed my first two skeins with Jacquard Acid Dyes and loved it.  I have had to put that hobby aside due to lack of space and facilities to continue, but I hope to dye more in the near future.

    As of now that is where I stand.  I hope to continue to develop my skills and possibly even branch out into a small business in the future.  Someday I hope to design patterns of my own in an attempt to give back to a community that has given so much to me.  Lets continue to grow together.

    - Pumpkin