Monday, December 11, 2017

Oops, Enabling

Over the last few weeks, a lot of knitting-related goodies have "accidentally" found their way into my house.

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First, I treated myself to a wrist ruler bracelet from I Love Handles after finding a 10% coupon code here. It's already come in handy when knitting while out and about!

When I dug my Arwen Cardigan out of storage a few weeks ago, I realized that it could probably benefit from some sort of closure. Once upon a time, I'd sewn on a very tiny and ineffective hook and eye closure; it has since fallen off, and I will just be honest with you here: I'm too lazy to sew it back on. I've tried using shawl pins to keep it closed, and while they're effective, they look a little strange. Then I spotted this post on Instagram from one of my favorite bloggers, Miso Crafty Knits, where she used this closure from JUL on a sweater, and before I knew it, I'd ordered one for myself (act surprised, it's also black).

What appeals to me is that it's removable, so I could use it on a variety of sweaters, and even some shawls or other handmade pieces. I found a coupon code for this one as well (VERVE to get 10% off through the end of this year), and the shipping was pretty darn fast. I think it would work for the new sweater project I just started, too.

This might only be tangentially knitting-related, but seeing as I put all of my enamel pins on one of my favorite project bags, I am lumping it in with everything else: I bought a grey kitty wearing a scarf from Teeturtle's Cyber Monday sale (along with a reversible octopus, which I am pretty sure is the greatest thing ever, though it is definitely not knitting related). The one I got is now sold out, but they do have other fun options available, all of which are on sale.

And finally, over the weekend, I stopped by Firefly Fiber Arts here in town to see if the backordered color of Woolfolk Luft I am looking for was back in stock yet. It wasn't....but I still bought yarn. Of COURSE I bought yarn! I have a million unused skeins of yarn at home, but that didn't stop me from buying something shiny and new. I think we all have this problem, so I feel like this is a safe place to make an admission of guilt (or my lack thereof). I've been admiring all of the hand-dyed yarns from Why Knot ever since discovering them at YarnCon a few years back, and I finally treated myself to a skein of Smitten, a 70/30 blend of Finn (wool) and Alpaca that is raised, processed and dyed in
Michigan. Tough to resist, can you blame me?! At first I gravitated towards the green (act surprised), but then this pretty garnet color skein caught my eye. I have absolutely no idea what I'll make with it but I'm sure I will think of something.

A lot of these items would make great gifts for yarn lovers, but if you still need more ideas, check out this blog post.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Three Sweaters?!

...Don't worry, one of them is a baby sweater, I haven't lost my mind completely!

It all started innocently enough: after finishing a few hat projects, I wanted to start something new with one of the many sweater quantities that have been lurking in my stash for too long. Never mind that I am still working on my So Faded sweater! Originally, I was going to make a beautiful cabled cardigan with some Berroco Vintage Chunky I'd bought from Webs many moons ago, but I had issues getting gauge. It's been in time out til I had the gumption to knit a gauge swatch yet again, but I just don't think such a complicated sweater is in my future. Simple, soothing knits are way more my speed these days, since I generally don't have much brain power left at the end of the day when I sit down to knit. There is also the issue of arm/hand pain, which has been recurring over the past few years - the last few cabled projects I've worked on haven't been pain-free, and they were just hats. I just can't imagine trying to get through an entire cabled sweater.

So I went back to Ravelry and did a quick search for a more suitable sweater pattern, and came across Veera Välimäki's Sticks and Steel. Now that looks like a sweater I could knit in a reasonable amount of time! I also like the very forgiving shape and style, I'm all about the oversized drapey sweater these days. Over the weekend, I knit my swatch, and once it dries, I can use my new favorite tool from Knitter's Pride to count those stitches (seriously, how cute are these - and the window measures 4" exactly! Genius!).

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Then the need arose for a project that could travel outside of the house, and I decided to start a cute baby sweater since I have a friend who is expecting soon. I justified this quite easily since I was at a funky place with my Purlbreak, the So Faded is definitely an at-home project at this point, and my gauge swatch was already knit. I can justify just about anything, especially when it comes to starting new projects.

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As noted above, a small bit of progress has been made on my So Faded sleeves. It's still completely awkward to photograph since I'm doing 2-at-a-time, but here is my best attempt:

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And now that my other WIPs are off the needles, I have been spending more time on my Zen Yarn Garden Purlbreak - last night I added the second color!

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I don't have any FO's to share this Friday, but I should have some other fun stuff to share with you next week. See you then! 

Friday, December 1, 2017

FO Friday: Maize Hat in Prairie Spun DK Yarn

When I first started knitting, yarns from Brown Sheep were my first experience of non-big box retail yarns. Well-made, affordable, and available in a huge range of colors, their yarn is just as appealing me to now as it was 10+ years ago. I knit the Arwen cardigan back in 2007 in one of their now-discontinued yarns, Prairie Silk, and it is probably the best-wearing yarn I've ever used for a sweater (it still has yet to pill). So of course I jumped at a chance to try out their newest yarn, Prairie Spun DK.

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First, if you aren't familiar with Brown Sheep, they are a family owned and operated mill located in Mitchell, Nebraska that focuses on sustainably-produced wool and wool blend yarns. They source their fleece and fibers from US sources whenever possible, buying the majority of their wool directly from US growers; breeds include Corriedale, Rambouillet, and Columbian. You can find out more about them here on their website.

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I knit the child-sized version of the Maize Hat using the Lost Lake and Gray Owl colors, and because I have a teeny tiny head, it kinda sorta fit on me, at least well enough to get the above modeled shot. I'd recommend this pattern to adventurous beginners or intermediate knitters who are looking for a simple stranded colorwork project. The pattern is easy to follow and included a chart for the colorwork portion. The yarn has a nice twist to it, so I suspect it will lend itself well to textured stitches, cables, and perhaps even lace, in addition to being a nice choice for colorwork. Each skein has plenty of yardage (approx. 256 yards), so I have plenty left over of each color to play around with. I'm even thinking of starting a weaving project with it!

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Pattern: Maize Hat by Jesie Ostermiller

Prairie Spun DK Yarn Specs: 100% U.S. wool (3-ply yarn); Approximately 256 yards per skein 9100 gram twisted hank). Hand wash & lay flat to dry.


You may like to know: I was given this yarn and pattern for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 27, 2017

To Give & Get: Holiday Gift Ideas for Yarn and Fiber Lovers

If you're reading this, that means you survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday - congratulations! The holiday season is officially in high gear, and if you are still working on making your wish list or need some ideas for your yarn-loving friends, this post is for you!

Enamel Pins
The enamel pin craze has not died down, I am still seeing so many fun and adorable designs everywhere I look! They're great for adorning project bags and decorating lapels alike, and there are lots of fun fiber-themed pins that would make great stocking stuffers or affordable gifts for your knitting group. I'm partial to these enamel pins from Bijou Basin Ranch, which make me smile every time I spot them on my project bag:

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Cross Stitch Ornaments
There's no such thing as too many ornaments, and I've become obsessed with wooden cross stitch blanks - they're so easy, even I can do them (and I have zero experience with cross stitch anything). I love the charming Stitchable Sweater and Stitchable Mitten ornaments from Katrinkles (and she has the cutest buttons ever, too!), and have also been purchasing blanks via Amazon and Etsy. Even if you don't want to stitch them up, someone crafty would probably enjoy the opportunity to create their own ornament!

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Yarn vs. Gift Certificates 
We all love yarn. Of course, if you're not a knitter/crocheter/user of yarn, purchasing yarn for someone else can be quite intimidating. While there are technically no wrong answers when it comes to yarn (except for maybe Red Heart, but that's all a matter of taste), I recommend going the gift certificate route instead of trying to guess what someone might like. Sure, we'll probably find a use for it...eventually....but most of us have a sizable stash of yarn as it is, and there is a huge spectrum of personal preferences among knitters and crocheters. This is just the tip of the iceberg on what could easily be a 20-page thesis, so just believe me when I tell you that a gift certificate will delight and enthrall (especially if you manage to find out their favorite yarn shop!!).

Project Kits
There is one loophole to the previous statement: if you know for sure the specific types of projects someone likes to make, project kits make a great gift. A few weeks ago, I reviewed an adorable amigurumi crochet kit from Global Backyard industries that would be perfect for beginning or intermediate crocheters. If you can indulge a little shameless self-promotion, I have a one-skein knitted cowl kit available here from Bijou Basin Ranch which would be good for folks who like to knit accessories. A lot of yarn shops will offer project kits for popular patterns, or you can check out Kitterly, a website that is devoted almost entirely to project kits. Monthly clubs are another option, as most of them include patterns with the yarn and other goodies (Knitcrate and Yarnbox are some of the popular ones in the knitting world, and I think they both offer crochet options, too).

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Everything-you-need Ruby Crochet Kit
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Eyelet of the Tiger Knitted Cowl Kit

The Splurge: Ball Winder and Swift
I recently was gifted this ball winder and swift from Knitter's Pride and it is seriously the best thing ever. Winding yarn has never been more fun and easy, and I love that it can even handle the ginormous balls of handspun yarn that most regular ball winders can't accommodate.

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While there are still plenty more ideas for gift-giving this holiday season, I hope this gets you started in the right direction. Feel free to leave your favorite gift ideas or what's on your wish list in the comments!

If you like this post (or just want someone specific to find it later, hint hint), pin it!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Cast-On Party

It's been a while since I've shared a WIP Wednesday post, mostly because I don't want to make you guys look at the same projects over and over again (to be honest, I was kind of getting sick of them myself!!). The socks continue to plod along, and my So Faded is now at an impossible-to-photograph stage because I am knitting sleeves two-at-a-time (while they are attached to the body of the sweater, no less!). But I finally have two new projects to share with you this week, both of which are with yarns I'll be reviewing in greater detail soon.

The first is a hat knit with Filatura Di Crosa Samarcanda yarn - I'm knitting Angela Tong's Hishigata Hat pattern:

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My other new WIP is a Purlbreak shawl that I'll be knitting with 3 colors of Superfine Fingering from Zen Yarn Garden:

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I'm pretty excited to have some fresh new projects on the needles for the holiday weekend. I'll be taking this Friday off, but will have a fun Holiday Gift Guide to share with you next Monday. For those celebrating, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Knitting With Handspun

Confession time: I've been spinning yarn faster than I can knit with it (and let's not even talk about yarn purchases), so it's always exciting when I can find a good project to pair with handspun yarn.

I had a ton of Swalesdale wool fiber that I'd hoped to turn into a sweater, but I changed my mind when I started spinning it because it seemed a little too scratchy for next-to-skin wear (plus, it had a ton of kemp and VM). It does, however, make a fabulous knitted pillow, and I thought the natural and the hand dyed green yarn would look great in my living room as an oversized pillow. I used US 17 needles and cast on 40 stitches, knitting each row for a simple garter stitch to make each piece, which I then crocheted together - so easy! I was able to buy a pillow insert on Amazon for less than $10, making this a pretty affordable project.

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When I spotted this free pattern from Manos del Uruguay, I wanted to knit it in the called-for yarn (Serpentina), but couldn't get my hands on a skein. Then I remembered the yarn I'd spun with some beautiful Manos Merino and decided to cast on with it instead. This was a super-easy and fast knit, I think I finished this cowl in just a couple of days! 

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While I love finding projects for my handspun, I have also decided to sell some skeins in my Etsy shop (click here if you want to see what's currently available, and be sure to check back - I'll be adding more soon). Since I can't possibly use all of this yarn myself, I love the idea of each skein finding a loving home where it can be used. If you buy a skein, let me know what you make with it on Instagram by tagging me (@stefaniegrrr) in your post!

Friday, November 17, 2017

FO Friday: Shepherd's Lamb Hat

As a handspinner, I really love trying new-to-me breeds of sheep (not to mention other interesting or exotic fibers), but non-spinners don't have nearly the range of options available to them in ready-to-use yarn form. While this has improved over the years since I started knitting, yarns spun from breed-specific wools are still not the norm, especially at your LYS; they're more easily found at fiber festivals or through creative Googling.

I was excited when I heard about Shepherd's Lamb, a family owned ranch in New Mexico. Over the years, they have grown their flock to 1000 ewes whose fleeces are used to make beautiful wool blankets, pelts and knitworthy yarns (you can read more about their story here - it's worth checking out!).

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In particular, their Rambouillet yarn caught my attention. I've worked with this breed of wool before and have enjoyed it, but I don't think I've ever used a Rambouillet yarn or fiber that I knew exactly where it had been sourced. Besides the sheep being organically raised, the yarn is milled in the US and it's dyed locally using natural dye methods which minimize the amount of yarn used in the process. Very cool! I chose the Indigo/Cochineal colorway just to break out of my usual blue/green/grey color rut, and after much debate I finally decided to knit a hat pattern from the Knitted Cable Sourcebook.

I absolutely loved how the yarn knit up in these stitch patterns, but I do wish I had listened to the little voice in my head when I was casting on and thinking "gosh, this is a lot of stitches for a hat worked on US 4 needles!" What do you know, it WAS a lot of stitches for a hat worked on US 4 needles, and I probably could have eliminated one of the panel repeats (which was 51 stitches wide, incidentally), or at least found a way to shorten it up. Also, US 4 needles felt a little too small for a DK yarn, and if I could do it over again, I would have chosen a project worked on a slightly larger needle (although I suppose a tight-knit gauge is extra warm!). Just look at those lovely textured stitches:

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The finished hat ended up being larger than I was expecting (about 24" circumference, though I probably shouldn't have been surprised as previously noted) that is a bit bucket-shaped. This project quickly escalated into a game of yarn chicken as I knit: after doing some emergency decreases, I only had a yard or two left of yarn! If it hadn't been such a labor of love to work three different charted patterns, I probably would have just frogged it all back to reknit from scratch, but I just couldn't bear the thought of undoing all of that hard work, especially since I was intending to give the hat away in the end. It's only a little big on me, and I have a fairly small head for an adult human - so I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to find a knitworthy head to wear this hat proudly.

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If you love wool yarns and are curious to explore the wonderful world of sheep breeds, I heartily recommend checking out the Rambouillet yarn from Shepherd's Lamb! They offer free shipping to US addresses, and quite honestly, I think their prices are a steal, especially when you consider that they're organic, naturally-dyed yarns that are 100% made in the USA. I also noticed over on Instagram that they're including free mini skeins with all orders over $50 placed this month, so that's another reason to give them a try!

You may like to know: I purchased this yarn and was not asked to write a review on my blog. I do have a working relationship with this company via my day job, but all opinions shared here are my own.