Friday, May 27, 2016

FO Friday: Ewe Ewe Yadda Yadda

When I became a Patternworks affiliate not too long ago (click here if you missed the announcement), I was offered a chance to receive a free product to review. Since they carry a lot of things I already love & use, I wanted to choose something that was totally new to me. I decided to give Ewe Ewe's Wooly Worsted a try because it's one of those yarns I've always meant to try knitting with, but just never got around to it.
I remember spotting this yarn several years ago at my first TNNA, which I believe was also theirs as well. At the time, they had just 1 weight of yarn in a pretty palette of about 8 or so colors. Now they have expanded to include a host of other colors in both worsted & sport weights.
The Wooly Worsted Color Wheel, courtesy of eweewe.com.
Wooly Worsted in a machine washable 100% merino yarn that is spun in Italy, and it's got plenty of squish.  I was surprised to discover that this was a 3-ply yarn (I thought for sure it'd be 4-ply!); it's got plenty of twist to make a sturdy yarn without sacrificing softness. It held up to frogging and wasn't splitty as I knit with it.
Speaking of knitting with this yarn, I decided to make an alternate version of the Yadda Yadda Cowl, which is a fully customizable knitting pattern of my own design. I know, I know - shameless self promotion, but I honestly wanted to try making a different version of this cowl just fun the fun of it.

Now is a great time to talk about the magic of blocking (and one of my favorite blocking tools, too) - look at how funky my unblocked FO looks:
Here's that same FO, blocked and laid flat to dry using a couple of short blocking wires and Knitter's Pride Knit Blockers:
See how those wires are bent in the back?
This was their final project before being retired.
And here is the finished cowl! I used 2 skeins of Wooly Worsted to knit the smaller version of the afore-mentioned Yadda Yadda Cowl; I thought for sure I would have to break into the third safety skein! Since I cast on half the number of stitches for the larger version, I decided to knit more pattern repeats of Chart D, which I knit for both stitch pattern sections - 4 repeats total. This allowed me to block the cowl out a little more lengthwise to really elongate those chevrons. Check out that lovely stitch definition!
Ewe Ewe Wooly Worsted and So Sporty are available here at Patternworks.com. I was given this yarn for free in exchange for a review, but opinions are my own and I would never endorse something that I don't truly enjoy using.

P.S. I just got a hot tip about a Memorial Day Sale they'll be having for one day only this coming Monday! On Monday, May 30th, you can get 15% off your order + Free Standard Shipping when you spend just $50. Offer Valid 5/30/16 only with Offer Code PWSAVE15

Click here to save 15% on Memorial Day at Patternworks with Offer Code PWSAVE15

This blog post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Fun with Stashbusting

The arm is ever-so-slowly getting better, but I am still working with limited time that can be spent knitting on any given day. I am trying to chip away at the various sock projects I have going, but since I can only spend about 30 minutes working on a sock project each day, that makes for some glacial progress. I did manage to hit a milestone on Tyler's Royals Socks, however - I put in the bright green waste yarn for the afterthought heel.
Last weekend, I also finished some non-sock projects, which I decided was a great opportunity to cast on for some DK and worsted-weight projects. The first is using this skein of Powder River yarn from Mountain Meadow Wool; I cast on for the Merope Mitts using my favorite DPNs, Marblz.
Next, I started an Astrid Hat with a skein of a new yarn called Naturally Nazareth, which will be debuting at TNNA next month from Kraemer Yarns. I'll be sharing more about this yarn once I finish this hat, but for now, I can tell you that I am really enjoying working with it!
In case you're wondering, I was recently sent a copy of the book which contains both of these patterns, Cozy Stash-Busting Knits by Jen Lucas. It was tough to resist immediate stash-busting, as you can see! I'll be sharing a more official review of this book soon, but I can tell you that I'm already enjoying this book and have added many of its patterns to my Ravelry queue!

Friday, May 20, 2016

FO Friday: Secret Squirrel

Today is my friend/colleague/mentor's birthday, so I can finally share this FO project! I knit Ysolda Teague's Nathaniel pattern using some of my handspun yarn from Louet's Dorper top.
The fiber itself has a in interesting story, because Dorper sheep aren't typically known for their fiber when it comes to making yarn; they are considered a "hair" breed, which means that they don't really produce wool. However, this fiber comes from a flock of Dorper that has been specially bred to create a spinnable fiber with a long staple length (you can read more about that here on Louet's blog). I'm pretty sure I spun this yarn during last year's Tour de Fleece, and I enjoyed knitting with it as much as I did spinning with it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A WIP, A Sip & An FO

It's an unusual WIP Wednesday! Though, I have many, may WIPs, most of them are still in hibernation until my arm issues resolve. So, currently I am working on crocheting a cute little bunny with some hand-dyed yarn I bought at YarnCon last month:

Since spinning is another activity I can do while waiting for my left arm to get back to normal, I decided to start spinning the two Foxy Batts I bought in the Yarn Hollow booth at Ply Away last month. Tilly is guarding my first single, and I'll be spinning another to ply with it:
I've been working on self care to get back to my regular knitting routine as soon as possible, and I'm getting closer, but I'm not there yet. Over the weekend, I was able to finish a project that's been on the needles since mid-April, the brioche cowl with 2 colors of Art Yarns Merino Cloud (you can find Artyarns yarn here at Patternworks).

What was driving me crazy about this project is that I only had a few rounds to go before binding off. Unfortunately, last week, I really couldn't knit at all; it was only after getting a massage on Friday (in addition to my many other self care initiatives) that I was able to log a few short, slow knitting sessions to get this off the needles.

Speaking of needles, I get a lot of questions about these whenever I post on Instagram - they are Marblz interchangeables from Knitter's Pride, which you can find here at Patternworks.

This blog post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Self-Care For People Who Would Rather Be Knitting Right Now

As I work through some issues that have been preventing me from knitting recently, I realized that sharing some of what's worked for me might be helpful to others. I think we've all had this issue at one point or another - and when all you want to do is knit, self care can be the one thing that you let slip (I assume I'm not the only one here....wouldn't we ALL rather be knitting?!).

Over the 10+ years I've knitted, I have occasionally experienced hand, wrist or arm pain - almost always in my left arm, despite the fact that I'm right handed...or perhaps that's the cause?! At any rate, I have learned to manage said pain pretty effectively over the years, but recently I had a huge flare-up that I think was brought on by two factors: extended working hours typing at my laptop and knitting ALL THE SOCKS.

For whatever reason, my left arm and hand grip the daylights out of a sock project. I had moved away from knitting socks as my primary project in the past few years - long enough to forget the reason why. So when my brain decided it was time to knit socks, sock and nothing but socks....my hands sure weren't up to the task! Which totally blows, because I love knitting socks. But there's something about the tiny yarn, tiny needles, and tiny circumference that makes me hang on to everything like there is no tomorrow....and after a long day of straining my hands to type emails, blogs, and the like, it's just not a good idea to spend 4+ hours knitting on projects which contribute to that strain.

So, I had to put all of those lovely sock projects on the back burner, and figure out ways to get my left arm back into action. Obviously, I still had to work, so my first task was to make the time to take frequent breaks so that I could stretch, rest, and ice my sore arm. I've been keeping a tub of ice water which I immerse myself into up past my elbow. It's not particularly enjoyable at the time, but the results are so, so worth it.
Too many sock WIPs for me....

In my past life as a massage therapist, I learned first-hand the miracle of icing. It has virtually no contraindications (unless you've had frostbite before or have an allergy to ice, which - believe it or not - is actually a thing), unlike heat which can sometimes exacerbate the problem by increasing your inflammation. Heat may feel nice, but it's not always your friend, unfortunately. If you have your heart set on heat, at least do yourself a favor and do contrast immersion therapy - and always, ALWAYS end with ice.

I'm also a big fan of arnica - it's a homeopathic remedy which can reduce swelling, inflammation, and even make your bruises heal faster. I prefer a gel that I can rub onto the affected area, but you can also use other topical forms as well as pills.

Obviously, stretching is a big one. Most of us don't have great posture while working at a desk, or even while knitting/crocheting/spinning. I certainly don't, though I aspire to. Doing stretches to counteract these postural distortions and taking time to check in with yourself can help to lessen the overall effect. Julie of the Knitted Bliss Blog recently shared a great video which covers this a little better:



The Lion Brand Blog also has a great series on Yoga for Knitters that is worth checking out - here is their most recent post on poses to reduce shoulder pain.  I've also seen great posts on the FreshStitches, We Are Knitters, and Drea Renee Knits blogs. Honestly, you could google "hand stretches for knitters" or similar phrases and come up with a treasure trove of helpful information.
For several years, I've used a compression glove on my left hand whenever I knit or type. I've tried several and the one that works best for me is from Futuro; I did recently order a Handeze therapeutic glove and it works moderately well, though I don't feel like it compresses my wrist enough since it's not adjustable (someone on Instagram said that they wear the Handeze while they sleep at night, which I've been experimenting with over the last week). Up until recently, the compression glove has meant that I could type and knit for as much as I needed to, with little to no pain. I will admit that the three I had currently in rotation were quite old and were probably a little stretched out - just in case, I bought myself a shiny new one to start out last weekend.

Last but not least, I went and got a massage - my therapist, who is awesome, worked on my left arm for 40 full minutes, and it made a huge difference. More importantly, I was not bruised or swollen at the end of the session (or even the next day), something I mention because I found that a lot of people think that a massage has to hurt - and even hurt them - in order to be effective. I can't stress this enough: NOT SO.

There is a difference between experiencing tenderness during a massage and having a "hurts so good" release. Something that is causing you pain past that will only make the problem worse in the long run, because your body will try to protect itself by armoring the harmed area. It's important to have a therapist that can communicate with you and work within those boundaries, and I am really glad that I finally found one here in Chicago (it wasn't easy, apparently I'm picky about massages?).

Another "alternative" therapy that I've had extremely good luck with is acupuncture. I am super afraid of needles, and though the concept freaks me out a little, even now, it works wonders for me - sometimes, even in just 1 session. I have walked into my acupuncturist's office in a terrible state and come out feeling brand new.

Another thing that I've found helpful is to vary the type of projects I'm working on, both in yarn weight and needle size, or even craft. Working on a variety of different projects throughout a craft session means that, ideally, I'll be moving in different ways, instead of the same way - and we all know how important it is to avoid repetitive motions for prolonged periods of time, right? Trying something new like spinning, needle felting, crochet, or sewing gives you a lot more options when you are dying to do something creative.

Obviously, what works for me might not work for you, but if you have been having pain while crafting, I hope one of these ideas helps you get back to doing what you love. And if you have something that works for you that I didn't mention here, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fiber Friday: Spin all the Things

welfordpurls
As noted on Wednesday's post, I've been having some issues with my left arm and have had to take a break from knitting (this week's posts have mostly been stumble typed with just my right hand). Thankfully, I am still able to spin without pain, and I've completed both of these projects since last Thursday.

First, I spun the braid of Merino/Bamboo I bought from October House at Ply Away last month. I did a fractal single which I then chain plied, and I don't know that I would chain ply another Merino/Bamboo single again. The resulting yarn is a little funky in places, and some of the fuzz would collect in a pill as I plied, which was a little annoying. This would have been much better suited to a two-ply - but live and learn, I guess!
Next, I tackled the three beautiful striped batts I bought from Essential Fiber at YarnCon, which was also last month. Opening the first batt was pretty exciting, it was like it went on for days!
Each batt is a mix of fibers - according to the label, "Batts definitely contain mostly wool. They may also contain alpaca, mohair, silk, and/or nylon." I think mine had a little bit of everything, and they sure were fun (and easy!) to spin - with gorgeous results! I ended up with 188 yards of a 3-ply bulky weight yarn. The stripe sequence is best seen here in the cake:
I spun three singles, one from each batt, each in the same color sequence. The way it worked out is that each batt had a little more of one color than the other two, which meant that there was a nice transition between each stripe to make things less abrupt. Now I just need to find the perfect pattern for this yarn! Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Knitting Break: Crochet to the Rescue!

There's been absolutely no progress on all of the knitting projects from last week's post - no exaggerating! As the week wore on, it became clear that the issues in my left hand and arm weren't going to resolve unless I took a little break from knitting all the socks. What really kicks things up is typing, but unfortunately I don't have the option to skip work for a week.

Of course, I still needed to amuse myself somehow...first, I tried arm knitting, which I always thought was lame. This assumption was quickly confirmed as I fussed with some very large yarn to produce a disappointingly floppy fabric. I know some people enjoy it, but it just wasn't for me - if I want to whip something up quickly, I would much rather crochet....which is what I ended up doing for most of the weekend! I completed a pretty cowl from Crochet With One Sheepish Girl using 2 skeins of my own handspun merino yarn. It's so soft and squishy....I may have to keep it for myself!
I also started another handspun cowl, this one in double crochet using some gradient Jacob fiber I dyed myself a year or two ago (you can see my guest tutorial here on the Woolery blog, in fact)....but I decided that it wasn't the right use for this yarn, since it's quite heavy and a little scratchy. Naturally, I didn't think of this til I was more than halfway done with the cowl....so it goes. So, I frogged and started making a crocheted basket instead. It should make a pretty nice ombre basket without even having to change yarn colors!
I also have been able to work on some spinning projects, which I'll be sharing on Friday. See you then!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fractal Friday

As I mentioned during my Ply Away recap, I took a class about Fractal Spinning that was taught by Jillian Moreno and have come home with toms of exciting ideas to try out. Of course, my first order of business was to knit swatches with my class samples so that I could see the finished products. Last weekend, I finished and blocked all 3 swatches using one of my favorite blocking tools from Knitter's Pride:

My first swatch is a 2-ply spun from fiber dyed in an ABCABC repeating pattern. I divided the fiber in half and spun the first ply with one of the halves as-is; the second half was divided into fourths and then spun in sequential order to preserve the color pattern.
My second swatch is a 3-ply spun from fiber dyed in a palindrome pattern. I began with splitting the fiber into thirds for each ply; the first ply was spun as-is, the second ply was spun with the fiber further divided into thirds, and the third was spun with the fiber further divided into sixths.
My third swatch was chain plied from two singles spun from a gradient fiber. I started by dividing the fiber into half and spinning the first half-as is; the second half was worked in kind of a funky way - I would divide it in half and spin the first half, then divide what remained into half to spin continually til I ran out, if that makes sense.
There are tons more sequences to try out from those above, and I am excited to experiment to see what I can come up with. My first full-size spinning project used 4 oz. of Polwarth/Silk from Huckleberry Knits (which I bought at Ply Away) to make a 2-ply. The first single was spun from half of the fiber that I spun as-is*; the second single was spun from the second half of the fiber, which I divided into thirds. Here is how the finished yarn knit up:
I have approximately 109 yards of the finished yarn left after swatching, which I think will make an excellent hat or cowl:

Believe it or not, I have never kept track of my spinning projects, unless you count Ravelry or this blog, but I think that I am going to start a spinning notebook so that I can keep better track of my spinning experiments this year. I got this cool notebook for Christmas last year, which I think will be perfect for the job!
Have you ever tried fractal spinning? What are some of your favorite ways to spin variegated hand-dyed fibers?

*I don't think it's a requirement to do that for the first single in every fractal spinning project, but I guess experimentation is the only way to find out for sure!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WIP Wednesday: The Same, But Different

It's pretty much the usual suspects this week. I've been trying to work a bit on each project on the needles so that there is somewhat visible progress; probably the most measurable progress from last week can be seen with my Ancient Arts socks, which are almost ready for the heel.
I'm still working on the gusset decreases for the Light Saber socks, but check out my new project bag that coordinates perfectly with the yarn!
The Royals socks have also seen some action; the actual team has had a bit of a losing streak on the road and I hoped that picking these socks back up would help pull them out of it....and I'm not sure I can credit knitting on these socks for making that happen, but the day after I started working on them again, they did seem to come alive again. Works for me!
Unfortunately, all of the sock projects I have on the needles (along with typing for 9 hours a day) seem to be aggravating my golfer's elbow, so I'm going to have to pace myself and maybe even hibernate a few of these projects until I can get my wrist/elbow pain under control.

The good news is that I can still work on the brioche cowl, so it should be close to coming off the needles - and I'm certainly ready to finish this up and start something new, but I just want to be sure to give it enough length so that it has a nice drape when I wear it.
That's it for this week. On Friday, I'll be sharing my fractal spinning experiments - see you then!