Saturday, December 29, 2012

IS#4: For Your Spinning Library

Though it's late in the day, I'm still feeling inspired-- this week about books. There is almost nothing I like better than diving into a brand new book, especially if it's a book that's going to teach me cool things.

The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin
If you only every purchase one book about spinning or about fiber in general, please let it be this one. I was utterly surprised to find that the entire first half of the book is solely about the nature of fibers. I was familiar with much of the material (thank you, Knitter's Book of Yarn!) but the way Judith presents it is fantastic, it's a very clear, concise crash-course in fiber characteristics and how they affect finished yarn. And although I knew the basics already, it was chock full of great stuff I hadn't known. For instance, the viscose method for making cellulose fiber from plant material, called viscose or rayon, involves a ton of nasty chemicals while another cellulose fiber called lyocell, marketed as Tencel or Seacell, is produced using a much more eco-friendly method. I know which one I'd rather use! Also, the book has flow charts and diagrams and lists of fiber characteristics that appeal to my scientist's heart. I know I'll be referring to it often during my spinning career. Here's a decent review with some more pictures, if you're interested.

As for spinning instruction, the book gives a quick background on fiber preparation (combing and carding) and while it assumes you know the basics about how loose fiber turns into yarn, it does give a great summary of the differences between worsted and woolen drafting and spinning and how the two styles differ. There's a great chapter on diameter control and a whole bunch of information on plying and how to create different novelty yarns, which I didn't think I'd ever use but now it's got me wanting to try to make a chained yarn and see what happens! The DVD it came with started with plying, which is fine but I could've used more information on drafting in general. However, the DVD did teach me one important thing:

See how the ends of those two bobbins are different sizes? Well, the driveband of my wheel attaches directly to the bobbins, so the size of the bobbin affects how quickly it turns and how much twist is added to my yarn. If drafting and treadling speeds are held constant, a larger bobbin end will result in a thicker yarn with lower twist while a smaller bobbin end will result in thinner yarn with higher twist. I did not even realize the bobbins were different sizes nor did I think that they would affect the yarn I produced until I watched Judith's segment on diameter control and looked at the bobbins side by side. It did explain why I had so much trouble keeping the yarn size consistent on one of the bobbins, though.

There are definitely some underspun sections in the resulting 2-ply, but I love it all the same. Plus, this yarn went from fiber to finished in exactly 4 days, which is pretty exciting! Does anybody else have tips or good resources about using wheels to produce particular kinds or sizes of yarn? Wheels are every so much more mysterious than spindles and I'm wondering how many more 'duh!' moments I should expect during this learning process...

What's been inspiring you lately? Link your blog below and let us know!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Finished-Object-Friday #6

Welcome to FO Friday, the final holiday gift edition! These were the last two stragglers of holiday presents that I finished just in time to gift by Christmas. (Sorry, Mom, I promise you'll get your cuffs soon!)

Super Quick Hat:
Cascade 220 Superwash
I know this hat doesn't look finished, but it is. I cast this on Christmas Eve night and finished it in the car on the way from Long Island to Connecticut on Christmas Day, whew! I actually wove in the ends just before walking in the door. Thankfully, it was a quick knit: worsted weight yarn held double on size 10 needles. I did a basic 3x3 waffle knit pattern, one of my favorites for hats, with a few stripes thrown in because I was running out of yarn. Easy peasy!

Beach-y Beribboned:
Cephalopod Yarns Traveller, colorway San Francisco Bay
After knitting three pairs of my Beribboned Wrists pattern over the last couple of months, I just realized I was adding a couple of extra rounds in between the yarnover rounds that the ribbons go through, woops! No wonder they were coming out so long... but that's ok. I knit them for tall, thin teenagers who can pull off fingerless mitts that lace nearly all the way up their forearms, see:

Why is she hiding her beautiful face?!
Gorgeous! Here's another great picture of happy knitwear recipients:

I love my little cousins. :) They really adore getting handmade gifts and it just warms my knitterly heart to no end. Now that the holidays are over, all of my knitting attention will be given to a couple of design deadlines I need to finish up. Then Mom's cuffs. THEN THINGS FOR ME. (If I can drag myself away from my new wheel, that is...)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Hangover

Anybody else feel like curling up into a little ball and hiding somewhere dark, warm, and quiet for 24 hours straight after the holidays? I usually do. I had a wonderful holiday and enjoyed our whirlwind Christmas visits (3 families across 3 states in 12 hours!) but I am very glad to be home. I missed my kitties and my cozy knitting chair and most of all, I was super excited to get started playing with all this:

Wonderful new spinning things!

The Fiasco masterfully putting together my new Babe spinning wheel.

It was nice and simple.

One bobbin even came loaded with pre-spun leader yarn!

We had it up and spinning in no time.

The spinning involved some failed attempts and false starts, of course, but wasn't too bad.

I also learned to properly card some nice, fluffy rolags.

The kitties were pretty impressed (maybe not).
My generous and wonderful parents gave me a Babe Production Double Treadle spinning wheel for Christmas and I love it already! It's not much too look at but there are plenty of good reasons to love it, and for a first wheel I think it can't be beat for simplicity and ease of use. I'm not very mechanically inclined and am weirdly intimidated by moving parts so a wheel made of a simple wheelchair rim and PVC pipe is a less scary way for me to ease into 'machine' spinning. And since various family members have gifted me so much roving and top that my fiber stash doubled in a single day, I'm sure I'll get plenty familiar with the wheel as I try to spin my way through it all (more about the fiber to come).

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! I'm going to go back to hibernating now, with my Fiasco, a movie, and my wheel spinning away.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Finished-Object-Friday #5

Warning to family members: this post will involve photos of some of your holiday gifts, so you might want to look away!

There's nothing like the week before the holidays, I feel like such a knitting champ as I finish project after project. It's the closest thing we get to a rush, I think, as knitters... next to maybe that feeling when you drop a whole bunch of money on yarn at once (though that's less of a rush and more of a queasy feeling). Onto the FO's!

BMFA Socks that Rock Mediumweight, colorway Aubergenious
I finished my Uproar cuffs, designed by Hunter Hammerson! This was a fun little pattern, which I will definitely be knitting again, especially since they take practically no yarn to make. These are not for me, if they were I probably would've knit a couple extra repeats to get a better fit, but I think they'll fit the recipient just fine.

Santa's Syrinx:
Malabrigo Yarn Rasta, colorway Ravelry Red
This quick-as-lightning cowl is my Syrinx Shells pattern, this time knit in a solid colorway. I had to fight a very strong urge to buy great big green buttons for this... it would've been overly festive, methinks. The solid colorway and black buttons really class it up, too. You can close this cowl a few different ways (like with ribbon or toggles) and this time I chose to attach the buttons on the far side like so:

This way it will snug up closely to the recipients neck when buttoned across through the yarnover holes. Alternatively, if you have more yarn you can just keep knitting and knitting to make a thick, cozy scarf, like Anne Weaver is doing with hers, check it out!.

Rustic Elegance:
Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Worsted, one of a kind colorway
This is the Hasselnusse cowl pattern by Anne Hanson that I raved about in my Inspiration Saturday post. I loved everything about this pattern, it is such an appealing design and I think I found the perfect buttons to compliment the look of the pattern and the yarn (if I do say so myself...). The yarn is fantastic, too. Zen Yarn Garden is a new-to-me indie dyeing company that I first encountered at Stitches East. The yarn pictured is a worsted weight Merino wool/cashmere/nylon blend that is really wonderful and their colors are gorgeous. I'm kicking myself for not buying the second skein of this colorway that I saw at the show, especially since the cowl used just over half the skein. I feel like I have a lot of yarn left but not quite enough to do much with. Oh well! It was perfect for this cowl.

Ever More Ribbons:
Malabrigo Yarn Rios, colorway Azules
Here's another pair of my Beribboned Wrists finished! I intended this pattern to be for wristwarmers, but a knitter requested thumbs added to turn them into fingerless mitts and I'm glad I included the option. I love wearing them as wristwarmers but I know plenty of people prefer the fingerless mitt style and I think they work great as both. If you're thinking of making a pair, feel free to join the KAL, there's still time to enter to win the prize!

Be sure to check out more FO Friday projects below. That's all from me for now, as I've got cookies to bake and bags to pack and gifts to wrap... To all those who celebrate, have a great holiday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Work-In-Progress Wednesday #17

Happy Wednesday-before-Christmas, everybody! It's getting close... Thankfully, both of the cowls I wrote about last WIP Wednesday are finished now (you'll see them on Friday!) and I am moving right along on holiday knits. I finished up a secret design, too, which is good since I have two more of those I need to bust out by January. (Incidentally, if you are interested in test knitting a cowl made from two colorways of worsted or aran weight yarn and can probably get it done in a couple of weeks, please e-mail me at shoelaceswitcher at gmail dot com. I might be able to provide some yarn.) But anywhow, onto this week's WIPs!

BMFA Socks that Rock Mediumweight, colorway Aubergenious
This is the Uproar buttoned cuff pattern by Hunter Hammerson. She knit her version with worsted weight yarn on size 1 needles, and I have no idea how she did that! She must have fingers of steel. I went with sport weight yarn on size 2 needles for mine and I think they are plenty dense enough. This picture is a fun illustration of the magic of blocking, too. Now I just have to block the bottom cuff, weave in ends, and add buttons! I love these for three reasons: 1) relatively quick to make, 2) simple enough but still interesting and pretty, and 3) only took 24 grams of yarn ( less than 60 yards) so they are  perfect for using up the leftovers from socks (which this yarn was). They're also a little addicting... I'm plotting more of these.

Beach-y Beribboned:
Cephalopod Yarns Traveller, colorway San Francisco Bay
This is yet another pair of my Beribboned Wrists pattern. I've had lots of requests for a pair of these and they really do make great gifts: simple to make, pretty to wear. I've been hosting a Beribboned KAL on Ravelry that has been somewhat disappointingly quiet, but if you feel the urge to whip up a pair (or a Beribboned Hat), there's still time to join! The end date is 12/31/12, at which point I will draw from among the participants for a winner of a $20 gift certificate to either Cephalopod Yarns or The Verdant Gryphon. So far only one person besides myself has finished a pair, so I'd say your odds of winning would be pretty darn good! If you join the KAL, create a project page, and finish at least one mitt you will be entered in the drawing. Come play! :)

And be sure to check out other lovely WIPs this Wednesday!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

IS#3: Holiday Cheer

This Inspiration Saturday post is coming to you a bit later in the day due an enjoyable company holiday party that went pretty late last night. To continue with the holiday theme, I thought I'd post some really neat yarn-related wreaths I've been seeing around the internet (thank you, Pinterest).

Style 1: Embellished, yarn-wrapped tubes
Image from Design Apothecary blog, wreaths sold on Etsy (follow links in blog).
This style of wreath seems to be the simplest to make. From what I understand, you purchase a wreath-shaped bit of styrofoam and wrap yarn around it until it's completely covered. Then you embellish it with festive things that you either purchase or create, like pom-poms or felt flowers. I'm particularly in love with #2 above. I like the effect of that teal yarn over the white. You can get even more creative with the wrapping part, like this one:
Image from Homemaking Honey blog.
I adore the felted diamonds, such a great argyle effect!

Style 2: Yarn balls and ornaments
Image from Recaptured Charm, with a tutorial!
This style seems like it involves more supplies and might take a bit more time, each of those yarn balls consists of yarn wrapped around a styrofoam ball and then glued into place on a wire wreath form, but it creates such a wonderful Christmas-y effect that it just might be worth the effort.

Style #3: Handknit holiday wreath:
Image from True Brit Knits blog.
This is the Hampstead Wreath, which is a pattern being offered for charity to help CityMeals NY with Hurricane Sandy relief (until 1/1/13). There are some really great ones on Ravelry to check out. The body of the wreath is knit and sewn together over foam pipe lagging, then pom-pomed like crazy. It's knit with super bulky yarn so I bet it's a pretty quick project.

To see more wreaths, this Pinterest poster has a whole boatload of yarn wreaths on her board for all sorts of holidays. Also, this blog has a few I really like posted. Finally, the Mommy Loves Coffee blog has a good tutorial showing the materials she used to make her yarn wreath, including a pom-pom tutorial.

What's been inspiring you lately? Link your blog below to join in and share!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Work-In-Progress Wednesday #16

I'll have you all know that I sacrificed watching one final episode of Merlin on Netflix before bed in order to squeak in a last minute WIP Wednesday post (you should feel special, Merlin is a really great show)! Don't thank me, though, because this means you get terribly lit nighttime photos of WIPs instead of pretty pictures. Can't have it all, I suppose... I've been quite busy in general with big deadlines at work and finally finishing unpacking from the move, but I have still been knitting as the holidays continue to approach, whether I'm busy or not, and gifts need to be made. Here are the goodies I've been focused on this week.

Santa's Syrinx:
Malabrigo Yarn Rasta, colorway Ravelry Red
As the holidays get closer and closer, my gift list tends to evolve. Projects involving more than 300 yards of yarn are slashed from the list, hat and mitt sets are demoted to just hats or just mitts, long scarves become neckwarmers, some are cut altogether. It's just how these things go. That's why I love my Syrinx Shells cowl pattern for gifts: 90 yards of super bulky yarn, size 15 needles, a couple of buttons, and a few hours of some pretty nifty knitting later and HEY! LOOK! instant cowl. What you see above took 2 episodes of Merlin, including winding the yarn. I love progress!

Rustic Elegance:
Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Worsted, one of a kind colorway
I could no longer resist casting on the Hasselnusse cowl pattern by Anne Hanson that I raved about in my most recent Inspiration Saturday post, so there you have it. It's a quick little knit comprised almost entirely of a lacey leaf edging with stitches picked up all around it in garter. All I have left to do is the buttonhole band... and to hunt down some buttons. I had a different gift planned for this yarn but I'm hoping that the recipient will love the cowl, instead. The yarn was too perfect for the pattern (better pics soon, I promise) and I couldn't stop picturing the finished object, thus it had to happen.

Festooned Joy:
BMFA Socks that Rock Lightweight, colorway Comfort and Joy
I am still madly in love with this sock edging (a modified version of Joy by Karen Alfke) and I work on the sock here and there as my selfish holiday knit. I am a big supporter of soothing, comforting, selfish knits during the holiday season to maintain an inkling of sanity (hence the birth of my Ribby Holiday Socks pattern). This one is fitting the bill nicely and the colors are so perfectly festive that I'm instantly cheered up when I work on it, too.

Well folks, I hope you had a wonderful Wednesday. This time next week I'm hoping to have most of my holiday knits wrapped up. How are you doing on yours?

Monday, December 10, 2012


Let me start this post off by saying this: I love the design of the finished cowl you are about to see and I do not at all blame the designer or the design for the tiny issues I have with my cowl. That said, I finished a gorgeous cowl and I'm not sure if it's practical for how I wanted to wear it, and therein lays my knitterly dilemma.

BMFA De-Vine, colorway Smokey Mountain Morn
This was the result of Star Athena's Mystery Cowl KAL, the pattern for which has since been named Sartorial Cowl. I think the pattern is a great match for this yarn, which grew a bit and relaxed nicely into the textured stitches after blocking. I still adore the yarn, its multiple plies gives it this great density and slickness. However, that density adds to part of my issue with the cowl: its heaviness and its length. There's really only one way to wear it:

And when worn this way, it's kind of like a 290 gram (10.2 oz) necklace. This sucker is HEAVY. This is mostly due to the bulky yarn, but the silvery metal buttons I bought for it don't help with the weight, either (although they matched so well). I have to sort of flop it over on itself like that in order for it to feel warm at all because it's far too large to be snug up to the neck:

And just a touch too short to be wrapped around twice:

I, quite frankly, don't know what to do! At this point, I'm really wishing I had  knit the small size, which would've been snugger around the neck but would've left me with a bunch of leftover yarn (mine was medium and large would've taken two skeins). I had wanted this cowl to be sort of an indoor cowl. My neck is always chilly at work and I wanted a little something to wear that wasn't really bulky and also wasn't a full-on scarf. I'm tempted to frog it and start over because the yarn is just too fantastic not to get worn, but it probably wouldn't get re-knit for months. I'm giving it a test drive at work today to see how it goes. What would you do?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

IS #3: Gettin' Edgy

Welcome to another Inspiration Saturday post! Last week I was all about chunky lace, large motifs, big details. Today, I'd like to talk about the little things, namely: edgings.

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Comfort and Joy
I am completely and utterly charmed by the i-cord edging on this sock, a modified version of Joy by A. Karen Alfke, one of the patterns from the 2011 Rockin' Sock Club. I changed the ribbing pattern on this sock but the edging!-- the edging, I adore. It's a little bit frilly, a little bit silly, and totally makes this festive sock extra wonderful. Sometimes, it's the smallest detail that makes an otherwise plain or simple knit extraordinary.

Here's another example, which you've seen here before:
The Sanguine Gryphon Codex, colorways Lionness of Brittany and On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl
The pattern is Regina by Carina Spencer. The way the brim is knit in the opposite direction from the rest of the hat is so fantastic, and the flare is feminine yet not overmuch. It adds a lot of interest to an otherwise plain hat and I think it's a brilliant design which I really enjoyed knitting.

And the piece de resistance:
Photo from Ravelry pattern page.
This is Hasselnusse by Anne Hanson. It is a gorgeous little cowl design comprised almost entirely of interesting edgings. The leafy hem edging is knit first and then stitches are picked up all around it to make a button band. It's clever and looks like a quick, satisfying knit. I bought the pattern almost at first sight, I could not resist. I look forward to knitting this and finding the perfect buttons to finish the whole thing off someday. (Buttons, another small yet crucial detail... it's all in the details!)

These are the things that have got me going this week! If you'd like to share something you've seen/found/done that's inspired you lately, please link along below. I'd love to read it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We All Get These Urges

The move over the weekend was a success, due entirely to my dear Fiasco who is a complete weirdo and absolutely loves packing all of our earthly possessions into boxes and then packing those boxes into trucks and then unpacking them, etc-- and I'm not being sarcastic at all. He actually loves it. I, on the other hand, hate being so unsettled. I hate not knowing where my things are and am prone to unflattering hissy-fits when I can't find some very particular thing exactly when I want it. This wonderfully stressful time has coincided with a time at work When All The Things Are Due, so knitting has been so, so scarce. I'm inches away from finishing three different projects and not having time to just sit down and focus on them is driving me a little bit bonkers. I have observed two standard responses to this dearth of knitting time, I either:

1) spend money on yarn (because if you can't knit it, buy it?)
or, when I'm particularly broke, I
2) spend hours dreaming about all the things I wish I were knitting.

Option 2 inevitably leads to an urge to cast on everything ever but in particular, at this very moment, I'm really craving some socks. I haven't knitted on any socks in so long. I (as usual) have many pairs in progress but at the moment they're all in stages that require concentration and what I really need is a pair of nice, simple, festive, knit-in-my-sleep (or on a 2-hour conference call at work) pair of socks.

BMFA Socks that Rock Lightweight, colorway Comfort and Joy
This is the November 2011 kit from the BMFA Rockin' Sock Club and casting this baby on is going to be my reward for unpacking some boxes tonight. I think this cheerful pair might be just the motivation I need (and let's just not say anything about all the gift knitting I still have to do, mmmkay?).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

IS #2: Chunky Lace

It's time for another Inspiration Saturday post! This week I'm all about chunky lace. Specifically, I've recently become enamored with the Cedar Grove Shawl design by Judy Marples over at Purl Bumps.

Photo from Ravelry pattern page.
Isn't it gorgeous?! I love so many of Judy's designs but haven't had the chance to knit any of them yet. I plan to remedy that first with this shawl, followed by her Harmony shawl design at some point. This shawl will be my Selfish Birthday Shawl. At the end of January, after all the holiday knitting is over and my most pressing design deadlines have passed, I will be knitting this for me. And I will be using the fabulous BMFA DeVine yarn that I've been blabbing about because I must have an excuse to stash more of that stuff, ASAP! Judy uses Cascade Eco for her shawl, which I have yet to try, but it certainly looks lovely here. It is a bulky yarn but the shawl is knit at a gauge that I think would work well for heavy worsted or aran weights, too, like Malabrigo Twist or Cephalopod Yarns Beastie.

Another chunky lace shawl that's been on my radar for a while is Ovate by Tori Gurbisz of Lachesis and Co.
Photo from Ravelry pattern page.
This shawl is knit with either one or two skeins of Malabrigo Rasta, the same yarn I used for my Syrinx Shells cowl design. While you could theoretically use any super bulky merino wool for such designs, I think it truly is the yarn that makes them great. Rasta is fantastic and fairly unique in its awesomeness. I have two skeins in a lovely deep gray waiting to become this shawl someday... and the best part about chunky lace shawls, besides being cozy and beautiful? They're done in a flash. They make great projects if you haven't knit many shawls and are scared to commit to a finer gauge one, or if you're just plain impatient!

Do you have any favorite chunky lace patterns to share, shawl-like in nature or otherwise? Please share in the comments, or feel free to create your own Inspiration Saturday post and link it along below!