31 January 2013

Spindle Love

Thanks to those of you who shared some of your own knitting adventures with me, it was fun to read about, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has had some interesting knitting adventures.

I'm not sure if I have ever talked much about the spindles I own.  It might seem strange, but I only own two spindles and I don't think that I need more.  Not only am I an enemy of clutter, but I haven't ever felt the need (desire, maybe) for another.

I currently own two Schacht brand Spindles (the 2.2 oz and the 3.0 oz), and I absolutely love them.  When I took my beginning drop spindle class at Webs, my instructor insisted that all beginners learn on the 3 oz Schacht spindle and I can definitely see her reasoning behind it (by the way, this instructor has a video on how to spin here, she is wonderful). I frequently receive questions from people who are interested in learning to spin, one being which kind of spindle is best to learn with, the larger Schacht is definitely my recommendation.

I absolutely love these spindles for several reasons:
- they are very solid: I cannot even begin to say how many times I've dropped each of them, and they don't even have a mark.
- they are very well balanced and have very simple design (I like simple/functional tools over ornate ones)
- smooth finish so fibers don't snag
- they are two spindles styles in one:

Two common spindle designs are high whorl and low whorl (many people seem to prefer one over the other), the Schacht Hi-Lo's are equipped to be either one.  High whorl is with the whorl (the disk) on top, low whorl is with the whorl on bottom.  I was taught how to spin high whorl and I prefer it.

So, why do I own two spindles for my all spinning needs?

In general, the larger the spindle the higher weight yarn you will spin with it.  So, I use my smaller, lighter spindle the most, and for spinning most singles.  I find it easier to ply with the larger, heavier spindle because it allows me better control over the twist and it has more room for storing the spun yarn.  However, when I was first learning, I found the larger spindle to be easier to work with.

I've started spinning some really lovely, soft BFL right now.  I plan on subjecting it to a dyeing experiment later once it's spun and plied.

I'm always happy to answer spinning questions and love hearing about spinning experiences, so please always feel free to contact me about anything spinning related!

Note: I have not received any compensation or request to review these products, I'm simply giving my own personal opinion on them.

28 January 2013

Well, this is embarrassing...

I'm going to share something immensely embarrassing with you all today.  I trust that you all will laugh along with me because it's pretty funny.

I've been knitting in the round the wrong way.  For years.

For a little bit of background to build suspense: 
My city does not have a yarn store, a fact that I've moaned about several times, and I really want some sort of community with other knitters and crocheters beyond Ravelry.  I have been lucky enough to meet the oh so wonderful and inspiring Liz at Carolina Knits (lets take a moment to grumble at her for getting to go to Vogue Knitting Live this weekend).  But Liz lives a little too far for weekly knit nights and she is also very busy being superwoman.

I found a few other knitters and crocheters in my area and we are slowly but surely building a knitting group.  One of those knitters (a hilarious woman who is always knitting a new pair of gorgeous socks every time I see her) asked me why I was knitting in the round like this:

With my right side on the inside of the circle...Yes, I kid you not.

I was embarrassingly indignant about this fact and suggested that she was the one in the minority, knitting away with the right side out.  Then my mind went through one of those "world views crumbling" moments as I realized, that she was right and I was very, very wrong.

I thought back on all those years of having to laboriously turn my socks in progress inside out to show a curious person the stitch pattern and how the sock was constructed.  Knitting whole sweaters inside out even.  Oh dear.

I just never thought about it, I got so used to seeing knitting that I was blind to the mistake.  This is actually a really fascinating neurological phenomenon, like how only 25% people know where the fire extinguisher in their office is located even after working there for years.

Needless to say, I now knit in the round like everyone else:

Turns out my knitting didn't spontaneously burst into flame, in fact...my laddering problem vastly improved!

So that is my hilarious knitting blunder, surely I'm in good company: have you ever made a strange or comical knitting/crochet/spinning error?

Oh and thank you for everyone's helpful suggestions for the sweater pilling problem, I had no idea such tools existed!

23 January 2013

Some days...

Some days I wish I had an extra set of arms so that I could knit while working in lab or brushing my teeth, things like that.  Despite my multitasking limitations I've still been making progress on some projects.

I'm really enjoying Winifred, on a whim I've decided to start the sleeves before finishing the rest of the body.  I don't complain when I'm actually in a mood to knit sleeves.  I don't say this often, but I can definitely imagine myself knitting another (perhaps in green?).

Now I have a question for you all: how do you clean a sweater that has some advanced pilling?

As you can hopefully see, this merino/silk blend is beginning to pill like crazy!  I really want to clean this sweater but I'm afraid of completely ruining it!  As one of my favorites, this would be a huge loss to me.  Any suggestions?

Now I must delve back in the the world of G-coupled receptors, not all of us can afford to laze around like a certain someone I know:

I really enjoyed reading comments from last post on kitchen appliances!  I definitely need a blender and Marie suggested an attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer that can work as a food processor to a certain extent.

Also, Lisa has heard me go on and on about this, but if you are looking for a good movie, you must go see Silver Linings Playbook.  I'm usually very picky when it comes to movies and dislike most fluffy romantic movies, but I would go so far as to say that this was the best film of 2012.  It was surprisingly deep and meaningful for what I lovingly labeled a "pseudo-indie" film and the emotion (excellent casting!) and subject really connected for me.

17 January 2013

Must have appliances for a small apartment

I don't always have a lot of time for it, but I love working in the kitchen.  That doesn't mean I'm a great cook (not like Evelyn and Kepenie are, wow!), but I aspire to be one.

My mother spent many years as a professional baker making everything from the perfect cinnamon rolls  to wedding cakes.  My grandmother is amazing at finding yummy and easy recipes I never would have found any other way and knows a lot of great cooking tricks she's learned over the years.  With the help of those two amazing women I moved into my first apartment well prepared to cook for myself.

I've found that are some kitchen appliances that I use very frequently because they save time and work so well.  But I also think that they are perfect for someone with a very small living space and who may not have a stove/oven.

1. An immersion blender.  This is one of my mother's favorite kitchen tools because it is so versatile and can be used in situations where a full sized blender cannot, like when you are cooking something on the stove.  We both really like the Cuisinart model because it has power, is well made, and has really useful attachements: a whisk, a small food processor, and a sharp-edged blending tool.  My mother has the cordless version and loves the portability.

I used it today to make the best hot chocolate ever (the secret is to use real chocolate rather than cocoa).

2. A toaster oven.  This has to be one of the best inventions ever and another of my mother's favorite appliances.  It is perfect for someone who doesn't have an oven because you can use it to cook or bake small amounts of things without heating up your kitchen and it doesn't take up much space.  Of course it is also a toaster.  I cannot imagine not having one of these, I use it every day.

3. A rice cooker.  I wanted a rice cooker just so I could make rice, but I had no idea that they could also be used to steam veggies to perfection if it has a steaming basket.  I cook most of my veggies this way now and it saves me a lot of time.  This would be perfect for a college student because they are very inexpensive (I've seen them for $10) and easy to use to make a healthy meal.

5. A slow cooker.  My wise grandmother insisted that I get a slow cooker because it has been an invaluable appliance for her.  Of course she was right, I use it on days where I don't have any time to cook or when preparing large quantities of beans to freeze for the upcoming week.  I absolutely love the Cuisinart model (I know...I kind of have a thing for them, maybe because they seem to last forever and have all the functions I want) because it has a large ceramic pot and it is programmable so I can come home to a warm dinner.

Do you have a certain appliance that you love and find particularly useful (or fun to use?  I know I'm eying a gourmet ice cream maker...)?  Please do tell!

***Note that I have received no compensation for this post, these aren't thorough reviews and I'm not trying to advertise for the companies.  My sole intent is to share my own experiences and opinions on cookware.

14 January 2013

Home Improvements

A little more than five months ago I moved in to my first apartment.  Having spent the last seven years in dorms, I have been completely overwhelmed by the idea that I can put nails in the walls and make other small improvements.  I know, it's something pretty mundane, but the truth is that I have been finding it challenging to make the space uniquely mine.

I decided to make some small steps at the very least to liven up the place, especially if it involves using recycled materials to do so.

Many of you probably remember this scrap blanket I finished in May in preparation for my new adult life.  I was able to use many of the worsted weight yarn scraps from the last few years of my knitting career to make this and I love how it looks on my couch.

A little while ago I found a forgotten VFR sectional in a pile of books, this is a map that pilots use to navigate according to ground landmarks.  I've always been frustrated that the FAA updates these several times a year and it is illegal to fly in the US without the newest one, so it seems like I'm having to buy a new one and throw away the old one every time I fly.  They are made out of nice paper, so I cut this one for North Carolina into circles and put them on the wall.

I finally took the time to stuff the draft blocker I made out of scraps (near the tail end of winter too...).  Now it is hopefully helping to keep the room a little warmer!  Although I may have to make one for the front door as well.

Do you have any clever ways of recycling unwanted items?

11 January 2013

Belle Epoque Socks

I've finally, finally finished the socks I've been working on since October 8th, 2012 according to my record on Ravelry.  It is really strange that I have gone multiple days in a row without knitting ever since I started graduate school.  This is especially strange considering knitting was my biggest stress reliever in my undergraduate days.  So, I was even more proud of myself when they didn't look like this anymore:

The pattern is Belle Epoque by Wendy Johnson from her book Toe-Up Socks for Every Body.  I love Wendy's patterns, I learned how to knit two-at-a-time, toe-up socks from one of her books and she made it so easy with her clear instructions.  I'm not usually one for lacy things (although who doesn't enjoy decreases), but I really loved how these looked.  After struggling with the cuffs for a while I decided to go with just a plain ribbing, which I don't like quite as much.

The yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk, which is a nice merino/silk blend.  I don't like most of Cascade's yarns, they have always been a disappointment to me when compared to Berroco.  I didn't think that it was as soft as that blend should be, but I've noticed that about Cascade's competitor to Berroco Ultra Alpaca as well.  It did have a gorgeous color complimented by a slight shininess that I loved though.

I actually finished these before holidays, but couldn't find the time to photograph them.  I also couldn't stop wearing them because they take me back to my modern dance days for some reason (I want to wear a long flowy skirt with them).  So there you have it!  Another finished project!

09 January 2013

Work-in-progress Wednesday - #16

Whew, first work-in-progress wednesday in a while!  I'm so excited to share some wonderful progress with you this week!

I was able to make a little progress on Winifred during my flight home.  I'm at the slow stockinette stage right now, but I'm finding it oh so soothing to knit.  I simply cannot wait to wear this sweater!

I've been slowly amassing granny squares made out of scrap yarn.  It is so satisfying to watch the bag of leftover yarn dwindle and my pile of colorful squares grow larger!

This fiber I've been spinning has a special story, one that I will share with you sometime in the future.  Obviously I've missed spinning because this project is coming together very quickly.

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

07 January 2013

Holiday knits?

I spent the last two weeks at my childhood home in central Kansas where I spent time with my family and made some good memories.

Some highlights were my mother making Steamed Red Bean Buns (which were super yummy) and watching the full, 312 minute long version of Fanny and Alexander directed by the talented Ingmar Bergman (it was still just as profound and confusing).  I was also able to meet up with my close friend Lisa and knit with her, which is always wonderful.

My mother and I visited one of our favorite yarn shops, Oh Yarn It! in McPherson, Kansas.  In addition to having a hilarious name, it is run by a super nice woman who tries to carry mostly U.S. and local yarns.  The store is also a few shops over from a pretty, old opera house.

Uncharacteristically, I also quickly knit up some gifts for my cousin (although I didn't finish them quite in time). 

The hat is Opus Spicatum, a pattern I've knitted before and loved.  The matching gloves were to use up the leftover yarn, I now wish that I had used a pattern to knit them.  Both projects were made out of Cascade 220.  Hopefully my cousin likes them!

I also went flying with my father, which is always fun because we are both private pilots and he has some great stories.  I was able to take some gorgeous aerial photos during the flight, Kansas looks super pretty after it snows a little.

That was my vacation home, I hope you all had a memorable and relaxing break as well!

05 January 2013

A very special project

Recently I've been working on one of my goal projects for this year, one that I have been very excited to cast on for!  A little while ago, my wonderful friend Andi of My Sisters Knitter kindly gifted me a pattern that I've loved ever since I first saw it.

This is Winifred, a sweater designed by the oh so talented Sarah of Sezza Knits.  Not only is it a beautiful design, but I really like the way that the pattern is laid out.  Sarah has added suggestions and clever little guides throughout the pattern that I think might be appreciated by knitters of any level.  Bravo Sarah!

My mother was kind enough to gift me enough yarn to knit this pattern with (this is such a special sweater, right?).  This is Knit Picks Swish Worsted, which is 100% merino wool.  I absolutely love the color and I'm finding it nice to work with.

This project has been great for travel and will surely help keep boredom at bay during my long flight back to North Carolina tomorrow (a four hour layover in Atlanta, ew!).

Have you started any of your goals recently?

01 January 2013

Fiber Goals for 2013

Last year I really enjoyed the experience and challenge of working towards specific knitting and spinning goals.  I wasn't able to complete all of the goals on the list for 2012, but it was so enjoyable that I have decided to compose another list for 2013.

- Finish self-designed sweater

- Complete entrelac project

- Knit upcycled yarn

- Improve finishing skills

- Design e-spinner

- Learn to spin with supported spindle

- Learn to chain ply

- Process and spin raw mohair fiber

Planned projects:
- Gnarled Oak Cardigan
- Celestarium
- Arroyo
- Paloma Cap Sleeve Blouse
- Water and Stone
- Entrelac Hat
- Skew
- A Very Braidy Cowl
- Effortless Cardigan
- The Dude

I'm looking forward to this year and all of the yarn it will bring with it!  I wish you luck in your own resolutions and goals!