WIPWed 105: Monster of a Week

Today, I bought three different cards at the same time: one ‘sorry for your loss’, one ‘get well’, and one ‘happy wedding’ — all for immediate members of our family. To say this week has been a bit of a monster would be an understatement. The Fiasco’s mom is getting re-married this weekend, which will be a nice celebration of hope and happiness. My own mom is currently in the hospital, she underwent major reconstruction surgery to repair damage that was done to her implants from radiation treatment for breast cancer. It was a 10 hour surgery and she’s due to be in the hospital for another few days. She’s recovering quite well but it will be a few months before she’s all healed.

And the saddest event of the week is that the Fiasco’s dear Nana, who is probably his favorite person in the world, passed away.

She was truly one of the kindest, sweetest souls I knew. I’m sad that I only got to know her for the last 6 years, but I’m grateful that she treated me as if I were her own granddaughter nearly from the start, and that she had such a big impact on her warm, loving grandson. She lived a full life and had many wonderful stories to tell about it. She will be sorely missed. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.


Stray Cat Socks yarn, colorway Are We There Yet?

Thankfully, she was sick for only a short time. When we found out her kidneys were failing and there was nothing that could be done, I impulse-bought some cheerful sock yarn because I knew I’d want something beautiful to work on while I thought of her life and mourned her death. That’s probably a strange concept to muggles, but as fellow knitters, I’m sure you can understand. (The pattern is a modified Geek Socks by Wei Leong of Kiwiyarns Knits and it’s perfect for self-striping yarn.)

Monday began this year’s Spinzilla: a Monster of a Spinning Week. I was hesitant to participate as this week is going to be insane and emotional and I knew I would have very limited free time, but then I realized that taking time out to spin might be just the thing to do. Spinning is calming, meditative, and something that can restore my energy in the midst of what will be a crazy time. So I spun the last of the Polwarth sock yarn I had begun during Amy King’s sock yarn spinning class, and I started in on a big bag of Louet’s commercially-dyed Merino/silk blend that I had received as a prize last year. I wanted to keep the spinning simple and easy, not worry about color management or technique, and the black felt fitting while the silk adds some tactile and visual interest. I’m planning to make a fingering-weight 2-ply for a shawl.

I signed up too late for the Louet team but joined the MadWool team instead, which is a great little shop in Connecticut that I’ve visited a few times, most recently when I was hunting for a spinning wheel. I feel a little bad that I won’t be contributing significant amounts of yardage to the team total, but there’s a lot happening right now and I’m choosing to use Spinzilla as a coping mechanism rather than an added stress, so I’ll just have to do my best.

As for reading, Last Night on Twisted River by John Irving has utterly bored me. It seemed to combine bits and pieces from some of his other books while not making the characters very sympathetic or interesting. Plus, he killed off three important people in the first 100 pages, which seemed a bit excessive. Perhaps I’ll finish it later, but in the meantime I got distracted by another book: Fat Girl by Judith Moore. This one fascinated me, but was horrifically depressing. It’s a memoire about growing up as an obese child in a dysfunctional family. I think it paints an accurate picture of the kinds of negative self-talk and extreme stress and childhood trauma that results from the way people treat overweight kids, but it really just made me want to reach into the past and give that little girl a hug, tell her she is loved, and she is enough just as she is. It has taken me 30 years to get to that point with myself, though, and it’s a difficult thing for a child to learn when they are taught the opposite by family members and society in general. It was not a happy book but it was well-written and I loved the tone.

Unabashedly sassy excerpt from the intro.

I hope you all are doing well and I apologize in advance if my posting will be irregular in the coming weeks. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide

That is admittedly a really dramatic title for a post that is a straightforward progress update: I’ve reached the part of my Rhinebeck sweater where I divide the back of the cardigan from the fronts for the armholes!

Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide | Woolen Diversions


I was super excited about reaching this point since it meant the waist decreases were over and it felt like something exciting would happen… but after decreasing at each edge for a few rows, this part is basically just going to involve 10 more inches of the same fabric I was already knitting.

Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide | Woolen Diversions

Armhole decreases.

I modified the pattern slightly so that there are 98 sts in the back and 56 sts in each front (instead of 100 and 55) because I liked the way the decreases lined up with the patterning better. What I’m finding really interesting about sweater knitting is that yes, it can be complicated to choose a size and make alterations, but once you do that it’s no more complicated (or less repetitive) than a basic scarf for much of the knitting time. There are certainly fiddly bits but they are few and far between and for the most part, sweater fabric is pretty mindless to produce. Who knew? Andi of Untangling Knots has a couple of great posts about knitting sweaters here and here that I think are helpful for newbies.

In other news, I made some more soap! This is a slightly different variation on the aloe vera and goat milk Ocean Mist soap that I had my shop previously, as I tried a new pouring/swirling technique (read: the temperatures didn’t work out as I had expected so I improvised) and I rather like how the soap came out. The fragrance is a great blend of Sea Moss (floral, clean, gentle) and Down by the Bay (bright, astringent, salty) that I think is really refreshing in the shower and is apparently unisex, as the Fiasco has already claimed one as his own. I also restocked several bars of Lavender-scented sheep-shaped goat milk soap, if you were waiting on those.

I’m working on my prep plan for the Indie Untangled trunk show in less than 3 weeks (THREE WEEKS OMG) and I’m trying to decide which lotion bar or sheep-shaped soaps scents I need to have in stock. Are any of my lovely readers planning to go to the show? Any special requests of scents you’d like me to be sure to bring? I hope I get to meet some of you in person! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook, if you want to share with your friends.

And man, less than three weeks? I better keep knitting!

Five Things Friday – Again

I don’t know if I’m going to keep writing these random list type posts on a weekly basis, but seeing as I have so much to say and no time lately in which to organize my thoughts, you’re getting them all at once, sporadically arranged. :) And I began this post at 11:34 pm, so let’s see if we can publish while it’s still Friday, shall we?

1- I’ve acquired some gorgeous yarn lately. I’ve had my eye on Stray Cat Socks Etsy shop for some time now, but always talked msyelf out of placing an order due to shipping from New Zealand. However, I saw these gorgeous socks on a day when I really needed a pick-me-up, so I caved and ordered the same rainbow colorway (Are We There Yet) and another skein to keep it company on its long voyage (Monavale Rose). Could this packaging be ANY CUTER?!?!

2- I may have also picked up a skein of yarn from a Ravelry destash recently, too. Let’s ignore the fact that Rhinebeck (a.k.a. yarn mecca) is merely weeks away, ok? I couldn’t help myself! It’s a one-of-a-kind, mill end skein of of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight in  blue-green speckled colorway that I instantly fell in love with. (Also, notice that strange reversed logo? Weird!) It looks like it might have been a precursor of one of their new colorways, A Speck of Autumn. It’s destined to be a Sockhead Hat, I think.

Five Things Friday - Again | Woolen Diversions

This was clearly made for me.

3- I had a rather hellish couple of weeks at work (deadlines, no time, etc.) but I managed to escape early this afternoon and stole a couple of hours of daytime(!) weekday(!) knitting at a little bay beach nearby. (My Rhinebeck Sweater ain’t gonna knit itself, amIright?!)

Not gonna lie: it was pretty glorious.

I have the hardest time relaxing, sometimes. I was there for maybe an hour and a half in between errands and appointments and I felt like I should’ve been doing something (anything!) else the entire time. Relaxing during daylight hours seemed criminal, somehow. Sad, right? I’m working on it.

4- I just shrink-wrapped 80 bars of sheep-shaped goat milk soap for a special order, and I feel like some kind of heat gun kung-fu master. You’ll have to take my word on this if you’ve never tried it, but shrink-wrapping stuff is weirdly satisfying.

So many sheep soaps!

5- And last but not least, I’m vending at the Fiber Twist & Bead Bash themed weekend of the Coventry Regional Farmer’s Market in Connecticut THIS SUNDAY, Sept. 27th, from 11am – 2pm. Come say hello! The Fiasco and I used to live down the street from it and went as often as we could, it’s a great market. I heard rumors that this might be its last year, which is super sad, but I’m honored to be able to vend there one last time.

And that’s all I got! Looks like I missed Friday by about 15 minutes… oh well. :) Have a great weekend!

Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love

The Squam Art Fair was lots of fun last weekend, although it went by way too quickly! Look how cute our sheep soaps were in their display:

Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love | Woolen Diversions

The sweetest, soapiest flock.

I wasn’t totally sure it would make financial sense for Sweet Sheep to go to Squam since it was a short show that involved a 6 hour round-trip drive, a pricey vendor fee, and paying for accommodations. But the Fiasco and I figured ‘what the hell!’ and we made a little weekend of it. Right after we set up our booth, a very nice woman came up to us and said something along the lines of “I’m not sure where you came from but it was probably a long trip. Take a moment, go down by the lake, catch your breath, find your center” and my immediate thought was OMG CAN I PLEASE LIVE HERE FOREVER?

Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love | Woolen Diversions


That moment by the lake was lovely, and I wish I had more of it. Things were pretty lovely inside the vending space, as well. Funnily enough, there were not one but two other vendors there from Rhode Island, both members of the Rhode Island Spinners Guild: Katy, who makes great buttons, gauges, and other knitterly accessories for Katrinkles, and Allison, who owns Shetland sheep and sells fiber and knitting kits for Frogmore Farm.

All the vendors present were selling unique and beautiful things. There were some great upcycled fabric items, fun twisted pottery, beautiful photography, and incredibly gorgeous bags by Lisa of Red Staggerwing (I couldn’t resist taking home a wristlet).

But the best part of the weekend, for me, was getting our tired-and-achey selves up the side of a small mountain for a gorgeous view across the Squam lake region.

I wish there had been ever-so-much-more of that, but alas, we had to return home. Now I am up to my elbows in work deadlines (oh joy) as well as soap deadlines, as I’m in the midst of filling a few large orders. I am looking forward to someday being able to sleep again. Maybe this weekend?

Finally, I’m happy to announce that if you live near Santa Clarita, CA you can shop for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe products IN PERSON at Creative Ewe yarn shop! Christian, the new owner of the shop, is super enthusiastic and was wonderful to work with, I’m willing to bet that great things are in store for the shop! If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out.

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Pumpkin Spice

It’s that time of year again, folks! I think autumn must be one of a knitter’s favorite seasons, the renewed crisp in the air and the need for woollen goodness can really inspire yarn-y creativity. I’m not ashamed to say that I look forward to fall and all of its spice-filled goodness, and while I’ll surely miss the sun-drenched days of summer, I’m thrilled to bring my Pumpkin Spice lotion bar back for the season.

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Pumpkin Spice | Woolen Diversions

Pumpkin Spice lotion bar

Why I love it: The Pumpkin Spice fragrance is warm and comforting, with layers of cinnamon and nutmeg spices over a sweet, fresh, pumpkin base. Confession time: I used my Pumpkin Spice sample size bar year-round. It lived at my desk in my office and I just finished the final bits of it last month. This fragrance brings me joy at any time of the year!

What it pairs well with: It’s the first of the autumn scents that I’ve reintroduced so the others aren’t out yet, but typically I include Pumpkin Spice in a sample set with Frosted Cranberry (tart, sweet, juicy) and Apple Butter (sweet, spicy, autumnal). If you wanted to maximize cinnamon goodness, I’d recommend Cinnamon Chai, and if you wanted to pair it with another baked sweet scent, I’d recommend Lemon Cake. Keep an eye out for some Pumpkin Spice-scented soap in the future, too!

Don’t forget, Sweet Sheep will be vending at the Squam Art Fair tomorrow, Sat. Sept. 19th, 7:30 – 10 pm in Holderness, NH. Hope to see you there!

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn

Since the Rhinebeck Sweater is still in the same state it was on Monday, I’ll chat a bit about the other crafty thing occupying my attention right now: handspun sock yarn.

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

My view at Slater Mill.

Over the weekend, I took a sock yarn spinning class at Slater Mill with the Rhode Island Spinners Guild. The focus of the class was to experiment with different amounts of twist and plying structures to discover your personal ideal sock yarn. Amy King (of Spunky Eclectic) gave us lots of fibers to play with in class (green = Polwarth wool, gold = Falkland wool, handpainted autumn tones = Corriedale wool) as well as some samples to experiment with on our own (red = Wensleydale wool, white = generic wool roving, purple = Panda blend (superwash Merino, bamboo, nylon)).

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Spunky Eclectic fiber samples

We discussed three key things to think about when spinning your own sock yarn:

  1. what kinds of fibers make a good sock yarn, considering aspects like elasticity (different high-crimp wools), warmth (silk, camelids, luxury fibers), and strength (silk, nylon, bamboo, longwools),
  2. what types of prep are best for sock yarns (combed prep, worsted spinning), and
  3. most importantly, the amount of twist needed in the the singles and in the ply to make a yarn that is springy and strong while still feeling soft and comfortable.
Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Plyback samples.

We did a whole lot of spinning. I am not accustomed to spinning for 6 hours straight, so that was definitely an endurance run for me! We practiced making low twist singles that barely held together and very energized singles, and measured the twist per inch for each. For the first ‘typical’ 2-ply sock yarn, we spun our singles with an amount of twist somewhere between the low and energized samples we made. Then, during the plying step, we plied the singles as if we had spun them with the energized amount of twists per inch. So if our energized sample was 20 tpi, then our plied yarn measured 10 tpi (tpi in singles / # of plies). We also navajo-plied those same singles, and since that yarn had 3 plies, the plying tpi was proportionally lower (20 tpi / 3 plies = approx. 7 tpi).

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Polwarth sock yarn samples, 2-ply and n-ply.

If you’re confused about all of this, don’t feel bad, I think many people in class were lost. It was advertised as an intermediate class but you could be spinning for years and never get so technical about your yarns as to actually the measure the twists per inch. I think some of these concepts could have been explained a little more thoroughly, the only reason I understood the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ behind a lot of the instructions is because I’ve read up on all of this stuff before. That said, it was really beneficial to go through the steps of the exercise with some guidance.

The second half of the class focused on making opposing ply yarns, which are basically yarns where one or more of the singles is spun in the same direction as the plying twist, instead of the opposite direction as usual. Opposing ply yarns have a lot of extra energy that contributes to strength and elasticity, which can be really beneficial in sock yarns. I admit, however, that I am not a fan of these samples. It could perhaps be the fiber (I don’t love Corriedale) but even while swatching, I didn’t enjoy these yarns. They are crazy strong, though, I tried breaking the thread with my hands and nearly cut myself! For opposing ply yarns we plied everything in the S direction and made a 2-ply (gold = low twist S single, multi = high twist Z single) and a couple of 3-plies (2 gold + 1 multi, and 1 gold + 2 multi). I liked the 3-ply with two high twist Z singles and one low twist S single the best, likely because the amount of opposing ply in this yarn is quite low since the S single was low twist to begin with, so it feels the most ‘normal’.

Exploring Handspun Sock Yarn | Woolen Diversions

Opposing ply 2-ply, 3-ply, and ‘normal’ 2-ply.

I’ve swatched the n-ply Polwarth (not pictured, I forgot it!), 2-ply opposing ply yarn, and the 3-ply opposing ply yarn that I liked best (I didn’t bother with the other one) and then began to actually knit a little baby sock out of the 2-ply Polwarth that we first made. I really like the way this yarn came out. Polwarth is such a  springy, fluffy fiber to begin with, and with the extra ply twist the final yarn plumps up in such a satisfying way while still remaining soft. My 2-ply is a thicker sport-weight yarn, but it’s making a nice little sock and I’ve already got the rest of the sample fiber on the bobbin to spin more.

In conclusion, I’m really glad that my spinner’s guild arranged for Amy to teach us. The guidance for experimentation was really valuable and I am looking forward to spinning some more sock yarn! Now I just need to get my singles a bit thinner so I can spin a 3-ply yarn that comes out near fingering weight, as all my 3-ply samples were closer to worsted weight. Have you tried spinning your own sock yarn before? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks?

Orange Rosemary lotion bar

In preparation for Squam this weekend (squeeeeee!) I’ve been busily re-stocking the shop with some sold out lotion bar scents, including: Orange Rosemary, Lavender, Smoky Patchouli and have brought back a seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Spice. Check them out!

As for reading this week, my kindle is still dead (the horror!) but I picked up the largest John Irving book I could find and am slowly working my way through it: Last Night in Twisted River. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About that Waist

If you remember from my Five Things Friday post, I was doing just a wee bit of agonizing over how to handle the waist decreases on my Grimm Green Stout sweater. The main issue was that I was knitting at a larger stitch count for the hips, wanted to decrease a few inches for the waist, and then increase back out a smaller amount than I had decreased for the bust. In simple stockinette this would be fine, but the stitch pattern is an alternating rib/cable pattern  with strong vertical lines, so if I didn’t return to the same stitch count for the bust, the pattern would be thrown off for the rest of the sweater.


But I’m happy to report that I finagled a solution that will look just fine. Observe!

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Mmmmmmm, cable-y ribbing!

Each pattern repeat consists of 12 rows, 6 rows that read “cable column, rib column” and then 6 more that read “rib column, cable column” that alternate across the garment. (Make sense? Explaining this in words feels weird.) The pattern is written so that you decrease 4 stitches on Row 1 and Row 6 of the repeat, for a reduction of 1.6 inches in the finished fabric width-wise occurring over 2 inches of length. My stitch gauge is a little tighter than the pattern calls for and I wanted less fabric at the waist so I decreased 4 stitches on Rows 1, 5, and 9, and 2 stitches on row 11 for a total reduction of 2.6 inches over 2 inches of length. I had planned to decrease a full 16 stitches instead of 14, but I realized that I liked how the ribbing worked out at this stitch count.

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Breaking the pattern, but making it work.

Now I need to knit for 2 inches straight before increasing back out for the bust. My plan is to keep the stitches in a *p1, k1, p1* pattern around the waist decrease markers as they are now, and then only increase 4 more stitches (2 more purl stitches around each marker) for the bust, adding back 0.75 inch of fabric. So in this version of the sweater, my stitch count will fluctuate from 244 stitches (for the 46″ pattern size) in the hips, down to 230 stitches in the waist, up to 234 stitches (which corresponds to the 44″ pattern size) in the bust.

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Comparing to a store-bought sweater.

These measurements, once added to the 2.5″ that will result from the collar/buttonband, should give me a garment that allows for about 2″ of positive ease in the hips, 2.5″ in the waist, and 1″ in the bust. Should is the operative word there. The patterns is written for 5″ of ease, but I think my adjustments will be more flattering for my body shape. When I compare my knitting to a store-bought sweater of a similar style, the size looks good and the waist seems to land where I think it should, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will all work out in the end. And if anybody looks closely enough under my arms to notice the changes I’ve made in the pattern… well, I’ll just have to smack them for inappropriate personal space invasion anyway.

Squam art fair vendors

Come to Squam this Saturday!

I’m super excited that THIS SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th from 7:30pm – 10pm Sweet Sheep will be vending at the Squam Art Fair in Holderness, NH. Please come and say hello! I’ve heard so much about Squam from other knitter’s blogs that it has obtained ‘magical crafty fairyland’ status in my mind, I can’t wait to see it for myself.