30 April 2012

Wholehearted Shawl KAL

The wonderful Evelyn of Project: Stash recently started a KAL featuring the Wholehearted Shawl pattern.  The KAL ends at the end of May, and until then the proceeds from the pattern sales will be donated to the author's daughter who is rebuilding after a horrible house fire.  

Evelyn kindly donated the pattern to me and I had the perfect yarn for it, so of course I had to join my first ever KAL.  It is really neat to think that there are a bunch of other knitters out there working on the same project! 

This is a very simple, but a seriously fun pattern to knit.  It is perfect for me right now because I can knit it without having to really pay attention.  I also think that I will very likely wear it frequently (well, when it gets cool outside again...)

I'm also really enjoying working with the yarn, Araucania Itata Multy, which I have raved about extensively in the past.  Lucky me having two colors that work so well together stashed away!

If you are looking for a quick, fun project, I would highly recommend this pattern, then you could also join me for the KAL!

I'm making great progress on this and should be able to easily make the deadline if I don't get too sidetracked in the meantime. 

29 April 2012

Day 7: Crafting Balance (3KCBWDAY7)

I can hardly believe that this is the last post of the week!  This has been such a great experience and I want to thank everyone who visited me and especially to those of you who took the time to comment.  I have found so many new blogs to follow and gotten to know some great new people, so I would certainly call this week a success!

and moving on....

I'm certainly a knitter, not a crocheter.  I don't have anything against crochet, it's just that I've always struggled with learning it (year and a half later, still can't figure out the granny square).  I definitely learn the best from other people, I learned to knit from my mother and I learned to spin from a teacher at Webs.

So, at this point crochet simply serves as a useful tool I use while steeking or as a part of a cast on or a cast off.  However, after reading a great crochet series by Fig (figknits) a few weeks ago, my desire to learn has come back and learning to crochet is certainly on my list of things to do this summer.

Speaking of steeking, that is definitely an adventure I want to have again in the near future:

I do however, certainly struggle with balancing spinning and knitting, and always have project going for each.  Lucky for me, spinning yields yarn to knit with!

I definitely have some of those days where I only have a short amount of free time and I really want to work on that sweater, but I also really want to spin some more of that fluffy merino!  If only I had more hours in a day.

Speaking of spinning and knitting, I certainly have some catching up to do and some fun things to show you in the upcoming days!

This post is written for Day 7 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi. To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

28 April 2012

Day 6: Improving Your Skill Set (3KCBWDAY6)

This post happens to be right down my alley! I'm definitely one of those people who believes that you can never know everything there is to know about a particular subject. You can always improve, always innovate, and always combine one area of knowledge with another for interesting results. So, I'm definitely always trying to learn more about the fiber arts.

That drive to learn more was definitely what made me want to learn how to spin, it was just a natural progression from knitting.

In fact, in an effort to improve our skill sets, Lisa and I each made a list Fiber Goals for 2012 back in January.  I suppose it has been a while since I have posted about them, so here is an update (for more information, see the Fiber Goals for 2012 tab above).  Bold type indicates a goal in progress.

- 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 (Mr. Engineering is working to help me design an e-spinner)
- 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 three knitting/dyeing/spinning tutorials for blog

I've been moving a little slowly on these goals lately, but this summer I'll have a lot more time to focus on them.  I even have a list in the works for next year, which includes learning how to crochet.  I know that lists don't work for everyone, but they certainly help me to get things done!

Do you have any knitting/crochet/spinning resolutions?

This post is written for Day 6 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi. To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

27 April 2012

Day 5 - Something a Bit Different (3KCBWDAY5)

Lately I've been really interested in the creative process (that's what happens when you take an engineering class), and one of the tools I've been learning to work with is mind mapping.  It is a really useful skill to help structure ideas or brainstorm. 

Lately I've also been stuck on the idea of why do I create?  I've always been interested in learning new things, but up until now, I had never really developed a creative skill.  So, there must be a reason for why I have continued not only to knit, but to learn new skills related to knitting. 

Eager to practice my new mind mapping skill, I decided to explore why it is that I feel the need to create.  Why is it that producing handmade objects has become a priority in my life?

Obviously, this is a difficult question to answer, but the fiber arts continue to have such a positive effect on my life and I'm glad that I stuck with it and continued to explore. 

This post is written for Day 5 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi. To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

26 April 2012

Day 4 - A Knitter For All Seasons (3KCBWDAY4)

I had to think about this prompt for a long time, because I simply didn't have an answer to it. Basically, I had never really thought about it before.

I've always been the kind of knitter who just picks out a project simply because I like it.
For example, hats.  I love knitting hats, but I very rarely like to actually wear them.

I also love knitting sweaters no matter how warm it is!  Also, note that these pictures were taken last year when I was apparently going through an awkward photo phase.

I do, however, get very excited for new spring and summer knits, as I mentioned in this past post.

I suppose that I tend to spin more in spring and summer, but I'm not sure if that has any actual relation to the seasons.  These two lovelies were finished last summer!

So, no.  No trends to see here people!  I'm just a crazy knitter without a method to my madness.  If I like it, I knit it.  Plain and simple!

This post is written for Day 4 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi. To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

25 April 2012

Day 3 - Your Knitting or Crochet Hero (3KCBWDAY3)

I had a really difficult time with this prompt because there are so many people in the fiber crafts community who inspire me every day, especially many of you who blog.  If I were to mention everyone who is a fiber craft hero of mine, this would be a huge post!

I have met so many amazing people by being a part of this community of people from Ravelry who blog.  I'm so inspired by every single one of blogs that I follow and I'm glad that you all work so hard to share your amazing work via blog.  I truly look forward to getting to know you all better, and please continue producing such wonderful posts, I'll certainly continue to read them!

There are a few bloggers who I have been getting to know for several months now and who have really inspired me in my own fiber and blogging adventures.  I really hope that you will get a chance to get to know them too:

Lisa from Wicked Artsy: I met Lisa through the Ravelry board, Random Acts of Kindness and we have been pen pals for a year now.  She is a knitter and spinner just like me and produces creative fiber projects while being a full time student.  I cannot even begin to say how amazing Lisa is, she is a budding artist, dedicated volunteer (some of you may have even contributed to her work for Relay For Life by buying her handmade stitch markers), and an amazing friend.

Andi from My Sister's Knitter: I've also been following Andi's blog for several months.  Andi is a enormously kind knitter with amazing taste in yarn (seriously, check out her blog).  She is also a wonderful photographer, every project update is a treat, especially when combined with the colors of yarn she picks out for her projects.

Sara from A Year at the Wheel: I've been following Sara ever since she started her blog in January and am pretty much convenced that we are the same person considering we like the same TV shows, video games, and so on.  Sara is a very talented spinner and also knits.  She somehow finds the time to update daily and it is such a treat to see what projects she is working on each day.

Evelyn from Project: Stash: Last but certainly not least, Evelyn is a constant inspiration to me, and is also incredibly kind (she is currently hosting a KAL for a great cause).  Her blog is mostly focused on her beautiful knitting projects and frequent pictures of yarn from her stash.  I would jump at the chance to go yarn shopping with her because she has such an eye for matching yarn with the perfect pattern and has great taste in color.

Also, to make up for a largely picture-less post, I want to share my progress on my scrap blanket.  It continues to grow dramatically every day even when I only have a few minutes to work on it each day and I feel so productive using up all of my scraps!

Here are the scraps I have left to knit up, I've still got a ways to go:

This post is written for Day 3 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi. To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

24 April 2012

Day 2: Photography Challenge Day (3KCBWDAY2)

I have really enjoyed planning for this particular post, it is definitely a great exercise in creativity and I came up with so many ideas (some of which I am definitely going to come back to when I have a better space to take photos in!).

Being an organization and productivity junkie, I began to pair the planning of this post with being able to cross something off my to-do list.  I have been meaning to wind my stash into nice, stackable cakes for a while now in order to make more room on my bookcase.

So, I thought I would show off my stash (plus three skeins of my handspun) in my favorite curve:

Now my arm aches from winding, but the next time I'm itching to start working on a new project, I'll be ready to go!

Also, my stash looks wonderful neatly ordered on my bookcase shelf now:

This post is written for Day 2 of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week 2012 hosted by Eskimimi.        To find other posts like this one, check out the website or click here for a complete listing.

23 April 2012

Day 1: Color Lovers (3KCBWDAY1)

Today is the first day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012!  This is going to be such an exciting week, and I cannot wait to meet new bloggers and get to know my blogging friends a little bit better!

I love working with color, which is part of the reason why I love knitting, and spinning in particular.  There are so many amazing colors available between yarn companies and indie dyers.  Essentially the possibilities for yarn and the projects which can come from yarn are endless, isn't that fantastic? 

Whenever possible, I like to dye my own fiber to spin, because it gives me full control over the product.  I always seem to start a dyeing project by finding inspiration from somewhere and doing a color study in one of my journals.  I usually start by trying to replicate the color study in my journal, but usually I get a little derailed (what would happen if I added a touch of this color?) 

I love the idea of combining colors in combinations that you don't often see together while I dye:

I also love combining colors together in crazy combinations while spinning just to see the interesting results that can come from it:

I'm also really interested in all the possible (often vibrant) color combinations you can get from interesting dye sources.

Such as food dyes from the grocery store: 

Or from plants, such as tea leaves:

I also love combining color while knitting in colorwork projects, because such rich patterns can be produced this way:

In honor of this post, I actually pulled out all of my hand knit socks that I didn't gift, which I think really speaks to my taste in color (as well as my apparent love for socks):

I can certainly say without a doubt that color is one of the most enjoyable parts of knitting and spinning.  

18 April 2012

Work-in-progress Wednesday - #5

I've been pretty busy between classes, finishing my thesis (why is proofreading so much more difficult than writing the thing in the first place?), and preparing for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012, which starts next week!

But, I've still been working along on my huge pile of WIPs, all the while wondering how this situation got so out of control with socks, three sweaters, the scrap blanket, and some sort of spinning project of course.

Good news on the scrap blanket front, I'm slowly but surely wrangling my huge pile of scraps:

I'm very glad that I have a project that is totally mindless, with just stockinette stitch all the way around and adding a new color every once in a while.  But this project is also now too big for me to carry around now which means I won't be able to work on it as much.

I've also been finishing up this alpaca that I mentioned a little while ago.  I'm almost done with the plying stage and it is looking amazing!

As I have mentioned, I am drowning in WIPs right the moment, but that certainly won't stop me from starting a new one as a part of my first ever KAL, which the lovely Evelyn from Project: Stash is holding.  The shawl pattern is amazingly beautiful and the pattern is also being sold for a good cause, for more information please check out Evelyn's post.

I think I may have settled on the yarn that I will use, some prettiness that has been hiding out in my stash for a while now.  More on that later...

I hope that you are all having a great Wednesday and I hope that you also join in with WIP Wednesday with Tami's Amis.

16 April 2012

Lovely New Socks.

I have definitely been breaking my "only three projects at a time" rule lately.  I'm not sure why, but I have not had the attention span for the three half-finished sweaters hiding out in my closet and when I got some new yarn at Webs last week, I couldn't help it, I had to cast on for a new pair of socks.

Isn't it pretty? This is Lang Yarns Jawoll Magic Degrade, a 75% superwash wool, 25 nylon blend, fingering weight.  It is a lot like some of the other Lang Yarns products I have tried in the past, it is a little scratchy, the weight is a little funky, and the colors are simply delicious!  It will become more evident as I continue to knit up the socks and post more pictures, but this yarn has amazing long color repeats, and unlike in Noro yarns, all the colors actually match well.  This is actually how I've always imagined Knit Picks Chroma to be like (but perhaps Chroma is softer).

I picked out the pattern Tadpoles by Jenna Swanson, which is uncharacteristic for me because the pattern is a top-down construction.  But we all have to mix it up every once in a while to keep things exciting, right?

14 April 2012

Knitting and TV, pretend productivity.

I spend more time than I care to admit watching TV or movies while knitting or spinning.  I'd be willing to bet that most knitters and crocheters do this.  To me, this is one of the best ways of unwinding at the end of a tiring day because I am able to relax and escape into a story while still feeling productive because I'm working on one of my projects.

Now, I have many shows that I really enjoy (even more movies, but that is for another post entirely), so I decided to share just a few that I have been revisiting recently in no particular order:
1. Twin Peaks: A drama/murder mystery by David Lynch. I'm not sure how to describe this show adequately, it has such an amazing aesthetic and some of the best characters ever (a lady with a talking log and pure evil named Bob to name two).  It is definitely one of my favorite shows of all time.

2. Downton Abbey: This show is wildly popular right now, and for good reason.  If you want non-stop drama and according to this trailer, a lot of people falling down, then this is the show for you.  Beautifully shot and with a plot line with so much drama that it is hard to keep it all straight, I certainly cannot wait for the next installment.

3. Arrested Development: Another difficult one to describe, but probably one of the funniest shows ever, it was certainly too funny for Fox.  It is one of those shows that you can't just start watching in the middle because all of the jokes for the series sort of build up over time.  Tobias is definitely one of the best characters with some of the best lines.

4. The Mighty Boosh: Another hilarious show and completely unlike anything else I have ever seen (closest thing I can think of is Flight of the Conchords).  A couple of years ago the Old Gregg scene was fairly popular.

5. Veronica Mars: I really don't think that this show was as popular as it should have been.  Kristen Bell really shined and made this show what it was.  Definitely more than just a teen drama.

6. Spaced: If you have ever seen the movies Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead then you will love this one.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are hilarious together and this show is no exception.

7. Top Gear: Mr. Engineering loves cars, he's worked at BMW and of course loves Top Gear.  I also really enjoy it, there is a reason why this is one of the most popular shows in the world.  Even if you aren't into cars, you will likely enjoy some aspect of this show.

Anyways, this is a small selection of shows that I love to knit to. Which shows do you enjoy?

12 April 2012

Scrap Solutions

A few months ago, I started working on a knitted, patchwork blanket as a way of using up my huge bag of scraps left over from old projects.

I wasn't following any sort of pattern, I just knitted up a bunch of seed stitch squares in vaguely similar sizes.  Eventually, I got tired of knitting them and also realized the vast amount of seaming that was going to have to take place later on.

So, I stuffed everything back into the bag and tried to ignore the problem.

Look at them all, silently judging (this is only a small percentage of the population):

So, I started clicking around on one of my favorite Ravelry boards, Scrap Happy! and eventually came up with an idea for a blanket that would not involve seaming and would allow me to knit it in the round.

May I present the start of quite possibly the ugliest blanket to ever exist:

It will be crazy (possibly even wacky), but it is already so much more fun to knit and much more efficient than the last idea.  Basically I'm just knitting in the round, increasing evenly by four stitches every round.  I'm also having fun revisiting some yarns that I had used on past projects (Love: Berroco Palace and Knit Picks Andean Silk, Hate: Berroco Lustra).

This is definitely giving me the boost I need right now by allowing me to use up scraps, knit mindlessly, and to take a break from some projects that are really annoying me right now.

How do you use up your scraps? Or do you not have any? (I'm not sure how that is possible, but someone once told me that she never has any yarn left over from past projects).

09 April 2012

Busy, but still spinning away.

For some reason I thought that the end of college would be a gentle winding down to the end.  It is actually going to be a wild dash to the end.  Everyday I have been stretched for time and I was really starting to feel worn down and off balance.  I think that we all forget how important it is to stay centered and relaxed sometimes.  So, this weekend I took some time to breathe and relax, and it quickly became the most productive weekend I've had in a while.

Pumpkin's tips for staying centered in life:
- Stay hydrated. Your brain and body work so much better when you drink your 8 glasses a day.  I find it easy to do this when drinking some calming Earl Gray, especially since it gives off such a lovely smell.
- Have a kind friend who bakes you cookies. Lisa has started a tradition of baking me cookies when I get really stressed out.  Yeah, I know, she is awesome.
- Take slow, aimless walks. I always take my camera with me for these because I never know what I might find, butterflies, rainbows, the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen.  It is also fun to just see where you end up, not walking with any particular goal in mind.  Just wander.
- Journal. I love to journal, and I fill them with photographs, memories, triumphs, and challenges.  When I feel stressed I logically map out the stressors and the cure for those stressors, mind mapping is perfect for this.  I always end every entry with a success for the day.
- Keep your microbes happy.  My current area of study is the microbiome, the microbes that live on and inside you.  We all know that they protect you from getting sick and help break down your food.  However, scientists have recently discovered that your gut microbiome may also be responsible for helping you to moderate stress and can improve your mood.  So, be sure to eat yogurt or take probiotic supplements.
- Sleep. Well, we all know that sleep is important, we die without it.  But we all need to be reminded of this every once in a while.

I haven't been knitting a whole lot lately and I blame Sara for sending me the most amazing fiber ever.  All knitting time has now become spinning time since she sent me this wonderful alpaca as the winner of her latest giveaway.

In case it is not obvious from the picture, this stuff is as fluffy as clouds should be and in the most beautiful berry color.  Darn you, Sara, this stuff is addictive!  Seriously though, that woman has the best taste in fiber ever, if you want to see gorgeous handspun, check out her blog.

Have any tips on how you maintain balance and sanity in your world?  Please drop me a line, I would love to hear your suggestions!

I hope everyone is having a happy Monday!

07 April 2012

QR Code Tutorial

By popular request, I'm very excited to show you all my method of organizing using QR codes.  It is really simple and, seriously, so much fun!  Well, fun for me, the nerdy scientist.

Step 1 - Generate your QR code:

I'm sure that there are numerous places on the internet where you can generate the codes, but I'm fond of the Kaywa QR code generator because it is free and not cluttered.  It appears as though you can program these to either give you text (my method) or link to the Ravelry stash page where you might have information about the yarn stored.

I just typed in the text I wanted to be stored in the code, just some general information about the handspun that I might want to remember.

So, then the program generates the code, which I then saved to my computer and then printed (I tried to print them pretty small so that they would fit onto tags.

This time I made little tags out of some old flashcards:

Step 2: Read your code:

In order to scan these codes, you will most likely have to download some kind of QR reader program.  Androids might have it preloaded, but I'm not sure, someone please let me know if you find out.  For the iPhone, you have to download one.  I have Scan for iOS, which is free.

So, then you read the code and it will display the text you programmed in:

I'm having a lot of fun labeling my handspun stash, it was starting to get out of control and needed some taming. 

I hope that was enough information for you to be able to make your own QR codes!

***A few months after I first wrote this post, Sava from Sava Stitch made this idea her own by securing the tags in a much more efficient way.

05 April 2012

Organizing Stash!

For a while now I have been struggling to come up with a good system of organizing my unlabeled stash yarns, especially for handspun.  I do keep my Ravelry page fairly up to date, but I really wanted a simple, but fun system for tagging my handspun.

This is what I came up with:

I'm sure many of you have seen QR codes before, they are easy to generate and people often use them to link to websites from advertisements.  Basically, the image stores information kind of like a barcode, which can be scanned using a smartphone camera. 

Me being the nerdy person I am, decided that this would be an awesome method of tagging my handspun!  So, if I quickly want to remind myself of the fiber content or yardage of a particular skein of handspun, all I have to do is quickly scan the code with my phone.

Some of you might be asking, why not just make cute little handwritten tags?  To which I respond, this is way more fun and I like the neatness of having everything barcoded like this. 

I've just started figuring out how I want the tags to look.  If I like the system enough, I might also tag some stashed skeins for which I have lost the packaging. Also, next batch I print are going to be smaller.  I'm also planning to use these to label my boxes when I move next month!

Do you have any awesome organization tools that you love?

Also, I wanted to thank all of you who kindly sympathized with me on the subject of part of Tuesday's post. To be honest, I'm still pretty shocked.

03 April 2012

Spinning from a Silk Hankie

I've finished some more amazingly beautiful handspun this week!

As you may know, I have been working on learning how to spin from a silk hankie, which is one of my Fiber Goals for 2012.  It has been a really fun experience and I would certainly do it again just for the feel of the silk against my fingers (so soft!).  Pure silk really does have it's own special texture.

- Spun: April 2, 2012.
- Fiber: 100% silk
- Spindle: Schacht 3" Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.)
- Other: single ply, 77 yards, thick and thin

I'm so excited to see how it knits up.  I'm not sure exactly what I will do with it yet, but I'm thinking about knitting it up as a square for my scrap blanket because it just seems to fit there.

*** Warning, personal rant up ahead, feel free to skip:
I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate place for such a rant; however, considering it is my personal blog and I have to get this off my chest, here goes.

I attend Smith College, a historically all women's college.  I would like to think that our college is known for being a very open and caring environment, as well as for producing strong, intelligent women.  However, today we were told that two anonymous notes containing strong racist and homophobic sentiments had been slipped under students doors.  Frankly I don't think that there is any reason to do such a horrible thing and it makes me deeply sad.

As a scientist, I'm well aware that as of now, there is no genetic basis for the existence of race.  I'm also a secular humanist, in this case meaning that I believe that we are all responsible for treating each other with respect and compassion simply because we are all human beings

Not everyone may agree with me on everything, but my question is: why can't we all just get along

I like how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it best: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood".

Anyways, apologize for the rant, I'm just deeply shocked by the fact that such a thing happened within my community and I'm not sure what to do or what to think.  I suppose I'm glad that as a community on Ravelry, that we are for the most part (at least in my experience) very supportive and caring regardless of our differences. 

01 April 2012

Springtime Socks

I finally finished a pair of socks I have been working on since the beginning of the semester!  They feature a flowery motif, which certainly makes them spring time socks!

The pattern is Tiptoe Through the Tulips socks, by one of my favorite designers, Wendy Johnson.  As far as I know most of her sock patterns are toe up like this one.  I know that not everyone will agree, but I vastly prefer toe up designs to top down designs, I find them to be more efficient and more fun to knit.

These are the first socks I've ever knit with such intensive cabling, which was fun for about half of the sock and then slowly became more tedious.  But now that they are finished I don't regret it in the least bit because the design is so pretty.

The yarn was nice to work with, it was Shibui Knits sock.  Now it wasn't my favorite merino sock yarn ever, but I don't have any complaints either, it certainly made for a pretty pair of socks!

Also, for some reason the color of the yarn doesn't photograph well, it is more of a wasabi color rather than what is pictured here.

It feels so good to finally have a finished project to show off!