Nothing to See Here

Thanks for all your well-wishes regarding my back pain! I have to say, I’m highly amused that so many of you thought I was referring to my knitting when I said I ‘popped a rib’. I’m less amused that after working several inches of tubular bind off on the neckline of my Cypress vest, I realized I did, indeed, mess it up: I dropped a stitch. It’s one stitch, and it will be on the back side of the neckline fabric, but it will be right in front of the sweater, so I’m currently debating the horrendous idea of untinking several inches of tubular bind off (which involves undoing kitchener stitch and catching slipped stitches in the right order) with the merits of just leaving it be and sewing it down later.

Then, when I went to work on my MalMarch Sundry shawl, I realized that I had made a mistake in the slipped garter stitch several rows back, so tinking or laddering down will need to happen there, as well.

Finally, I have not yet tried to spin my MalMarch Nube project as the long draw motions would likely irritate my back. I saw an osteopath yesteday, and while he didn’t want to listen to me about the previous treatment I’d received for the problem and he did an awful lot of mansplaining, whatever trigger point therapy and back-cracking he did must have helped because the pain is about 80% better. (Yay!) Instead, I am now entertaining a wicked sore throat that makes me sound like an elderly, life-long smoker. It’s herbal tea and honey and gargling with salt water all day for me.

So there went the last few days of March and with them went any chance of finishing up either of my Malabrigo March goals or one more First Quarter project. I just can’t win this week. I’ll leave you with this photo of Calypso, which purrrfectly captures how I feel.

A strange mix of stoic and defeated.

April happens to be my least favorite month (I’m always so stressed in April, I have no idea why) but I’m determined to remain hopeful that things will look up soon!

Halted

After the previous post featuring my latest FO* and summarizing my First Quarter Plan progress, I was committed to finishing up my Cypress vest before the end of March, and was all set to do so… until I lifted my arms overhead to fold a blanket and my rib popped out of place.

Halted | Woolen Diversions

Close but no cigar… yet.

That sounds far more gruesome than it actually is, but the pain is highly inconvenient. It’s a pretty common occurrence since the lower ribs are flexible (in order to expand and contract with breath) and sometimes the ligaments holding the ribs in place get loose or what have you and POP — one gets out of place. A couple of years ago I had a back spasm for about a week, which is the first time this particular spot gave me trouble, and it popped out again back in November, as well.  Sharp pain, discomfort sitting and standing, no lifting possible, and difficulty breathing are the oh-so-fun things I got to experience all day yesterday instead of quality knitting time.

Halted | Woolen Diversions

Wee sleeves!

Before that point, however, I had managed to knit both wee sleeves and finish them  with a tubular bind off. This was my first time doing a tubular bind off and boy was it fiddly but I kind of enjoyed it as I have a strange affection for kitchener stitch. It also looks nice and neat. I have just about an inch of knitting left on the neckline before the bindoff and then this vest will be done, done, done. Since my rib/back is currently in the ‘dull ache’ vs the ‘sharp pain’ stage of things, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get to it sooner than later.

One thing I did manage to do this weekend is update some out of stock Sweet Sheep lotion bar scents, including Crisp Pear, Lemon Cake, Turkish Mocha, Sweet Almond, Champagne Fizz, and Honey Beeswax (a spring-time favorite!).

*The socks, btw, do actually fit the Fiasco. His words: “They fit like a glove made for Tyrion Lannister” which means either they’re made of gold, or they’re a tad too snug. But no matter, he’s still wearing them!

FOFri #38: Bitter Relief

I am filled with a lot of words about these socks, but very few of them are fit for typing. They were, to put it mildly, a major pain in the tuckus.

FOFri#38: Relief | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight, colorway Tea & Alchemy. Click for project page.

I began them in October as a sneaky Christmas present for the Fiasco. Since they were sneaky, they were difficult to find time to work on, but I managed to finish the first sock by the holiday despite my too-late realization that the needles I was using really hurt my hands. When he tried that sock on, it just barely fit. I mean, it was a struggle. The square needles I had used combined with slipped stitch patterning tightened up my gauge enough that these seriously lacked stretch. He insisted I knit the second one rather than frog and re-knit, and I think I dragged my feet a little because I was so unhappy with the fit.

FOFri #38: Relief | Woolen Diversions

JUST ENOUGH YARN.

Then… the toes. OH the toes. Since this was my own design, it was particularly unhelpful that I had lost my notes. I found some note I had made somewhere, tried it, AND RAN OUT OF YARN. I joined some green yarn I had amidst mumbles of “he’ll just have to deal with a mismatched toe” and finished up. Turns out, the toe was way longer than the toe on the first sock. I ripped back and re-knit with some other notes I found. Ran out of yarn again, rejoined the yarn, knit nearly to the end… and nope, still too long. Then it sat in time out. Finally, I threw caution to the wind and made it up as I went along and ended up with a toe that pretty much matches and (thankfully) didn’t need me to join new yarn in, I had just enough left for the kitchener stitch at the end. So while I’m happy these are finished, I’m not so sure they’ll fit well and I generally am not feeling much love for them. I had intended to write them up as a pattern but that would involve re-knitting them (and taking better notes, obviously) and I just don’t think I love them enough for all that.

Since it’s basically the end of March, now is a good a time as any to review my ridiculously ambitious First Quarter plans. Here’s what I had intended to focus on between January and now, with % complete and new things I had not intended to do marked with asterisks (***):

New Projects:

Sock WIPs:

Other WIPs:

So for those keep tracking, of 5 new projects I had intended to work on, I abandoned 2, never started 1, and made some progress on the other 2. I also began 5 different projects, finishing 2 of them. It appears that this whole ‘predict what I’ll want to knit over the next 3 months’ thing doesn’t work so well for me. As for WIPs, between socks and ‘other’, I had intended to focus on 7 projects, and I finished 2 of them and nearly finished a third. Perhaps I can try to bust out my Cypress vest before the month is up since this rainy, dismal spring weather is perfect for vest-wearing.

I believe my goals for the next quarter will need to be less… stringent, less planned. Perhaps instead of choosing particular projects, I’ll say “1 socks, 1 shawl, 1 garment” or “2 WIPs and 3 new” or “this yarn and 2 other WIPs” something like that. This will take some thinking.

How do you focus your crafting? Do you try to make a plan, or do you just go with what you feel like doing?

WIPWed #85: Days Go By

I’m having one of those weeks that is just racing right by me. Perhaps it’s because the Fiasco and I have been devouring Game of Thrones on DVD (being a season behind is always so painful) and I’ve simultaneously been devouring Outlander books at an alarming rate any free second I get. (What the heck am I going to do when those are over?! * cue panic *) Throughout all this voracious fiction consumption, I’ve been knitting a bit and spinning a bit, too.

MalMarch Sundry:

WIPWed #85: Days Go By | Woolen Diversions

Malabrigo Dos, colorways Turquesa and Indigo. Click for project page.

I’ve been uncharacteristically monogamous with my one-and-only Malabrigo March knitting project, and if we’re being totally honest, it’s starting to get to me. The yarn is an unquestionable delight and the slipped garter stitch pattern is fun… but it’s still just garter stitch, and alternating colors every couple of rows is always a pain in the ass for me. Plus, those rows are getting long, and the length of time to the end of the month is growing short. I have little confidence that I will finish by the 31st, I’m probably about 50% right now.

MalMarch Nube Cable:

IMG_2665

Malabrigo Nube (Merino wool), colorway Persia. Click for handspun page.

If I do say so myself, the single that I’m spinning longdraw from my hand-carded rolags is looking fine, isn’t it? It’s so fluffy! That’s just 1 oz of fiber but it nearly fills the bobbin. I’ve carded up the next ounce and think the spinning will go relatively quickly once I just sit down with it. I’m planning to ply this as a cabled yarn, where you make 2 sets of 2-ply yarns with extra twist, and then ply them together in the opposite direction. It should be fun. And I’m planning a ‘how to card wool’ photo tutorial, once I get the photos properly organized.

Spindle Experiment:

I needed a bit of a break from all that blue so I revisited the spindle experiment I’ve been casually working on with some merino/silk fiber from Louet North America. I’m having lots of fun seeing the different characteristics of the ‘default’ 2-ply yarns I produce on each tool. More details when I finish, I still have a few I want to do.

That about sums up all my making this week. In other news, I’ve had over 80 people respond to my Sweet Sheep Product Survey and am getting some great ideas and inspiration for future products! Here’s a plot of scent preferences from the data as it stood a few days ago:

Data!

I’m fascinated about people’s scent preferences. I really had no idea that ‘fresh’ scents were so popular, and I’ve frankly been a little surprised at how well things like Spearmint and Green Tea sell because I prefer sweet and spicy scents, myself. I’m also a little surprised that woodsy scents are showing up as least preferred, as Sandalwood Vanilla has been one of my most consistent sellers. In truth, though, I doubt there’s a statistical difference between most of the categories, but I haven’t done an analysis. What do you prefer?

Linking up for Yarnalong.

IS #88: Ways with Wool and Words

I could easily count a dozen people in the virtual knitting world who have had an impact on my love of this thing that we do with some string and a couple of sticks, but amongst the top 5 would certainly be Clara Parkes. In fact, I’ve already written about her for Inspiration Saturday a couple of years ago, when I went into detail about The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Here’s what I wrote, then:

All of the mildly obsessive, detail-oriented patterns of questioning that make me a good scientist were being applied to my knitting and I couldn’t find answers anywhere, until I read Clara’s books. She is a thorough, concise, and engaging writer, and she gets into the knitty gritty details in a way that makes you want to know them all. Her website features weekly reviews of different brands of yarn, tools, and other books that I love reading because I trust her. If I’m about to try a new kind of yarn, I usually check to see if she’s reviewed it first, just to better know what I’m getting myself into.

In addition to yarn, she reviews knit-related events and this week’s newsletter about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival was chock full of inspiration. I’m not going to reiterate the whole thing here, so do check out the newsletter, but below are a few vendors I’ve suddenly become quite interested in (be warned: Clara Parkes’ writing is the epitome of ‘enabling’).

Yarn Undyed USA:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright YarnUndyed USA. Click for website.

I’ve linked to the USA website in the photo above, but here’s the UK website of the this UK-based company. Their name sums up what they sell: undyed yarn, usually in bunches of 5 skeins, for professional hand-dyers or amateur dabblers. The UK site has a wider range of yarns and fibers available, but the aran-weight BFL wool (pictured above), the alpaca/silk blends, and the 100% yak yarns have also caught my eye.

Eden Cottage Yarns:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright Eden Cottage Yarns. Click for website.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has been flooding Instagram lately with photos of her booth set up and show prep, but with such gorgeous, pastel shades of hand-dyed yarn, I didn’t mind. Her colorways have a wonderfully gentle, peaceful quality about them and I look forward to trying her yarns at some point, particularly the DK weight superwash Polwarth base, Oakworth (pictured above in the Robin’s Egg colorway).

Laura’s Loom:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

The photo gallery of handwoven pieces on Laura’s site is incredibly inspirational, even for someone who does not weave. She weaves and sells a variety of products, from scarves to blankets and housewares, and she sells the locally-sourced yarn that she weaves with, as well. The care with which she sources her wool, produces her yarn, and creates her fabric is evident in her item descriptions, and I really admire that. One of these throws (pictured above) must be mine someday! And I’m pretty sure I could gaze at her landscape gallery for hours.

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

Knockando Woolmill:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Knockando Woolmill. Click for website.

Given my total immersion into the Outlander books lately, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with every tartan product on the Knockando Woolmill’s site. Plus, the colors! Glorious colors! As Clara wrote in her newsletter, the mill has been operating since 1784 and has a fascinating history. If I ever make it to Scotland, I’ll be sure to try to work in a visit. In the meantime, I’m doing my best not to purchase that scarf pictured above before I even finish this post.

Feel free to blame Clara Parkes for any impulse buys, that’s what I intend to do! What’s been inspiring you lately?

IS

The Right Tools

Recently, Sarah of the Knitting Sarah blog wrote all about some glorious new tools she had acquired (and I now have major swift envy). The sentiments in that post must have stuck in my head because when I was getting fed up trying to card wool at the last guild needing, and realized that it was so much easier to do on the hand carders the teacher lent me, I caved and bought myself a pair of carders I knew I would like better.

The Right Tools | Woolen Diversions

Strauch wool carders from The Woolery. Click for product page.

I had a hard time justifying the purchase at first because they cost more than the pair I already owned — and I already owned a pair. But I bought my first pair on a whim, with no knowledge of what I needed or would like. Now I realize that I needed lighter weight, curved cards for my weak wrists, and a higher density of teeth (112 dpi) for smoother carding of fine fibers. And in about 10 minutes flat, I filled up a shoebox with happy, fluffy rolags that I can’t wait to spin.

The Right Tools | Woolen Diversions

Happy rolags! (Distantly related to Bob Ross’s happy trees.)

I’d been avoiding carding wool for months but now that I have tools that I like, it’s a pleasure and not a chore. For my hands, the Strauch wool cards were the way to go. For someone else, the pair I had might work just fine, so I’m putting them up for sale. These carders came from Paradise Fibers and retail for $66.95. They are the regular size (8″ x 3.25″) and they have a 72 dpi cloth, best for medium and longwools. They’re quite well reviewed on the website, they were just too heavy and flat-backed for me. Happy to sell for $50, which includes US shipping (which will likely be around $13 for priority flat-rate at this size/weight), or best offer.

The Right Tools | Woolen Diversions

For sale! E-mail alicia@woolendiversions.com with interest.

I will be listing these on Ravelry as well, email alicia at woolendiversions dot com if interested.

Have you had a tool-related ‘aha!’ moment?

Sweet Sheep’s First Soap!

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely already had some glimpses into my recent soap-making experiment.

Sweet Sheep's First Soap! | Woolen Diversions

Whipped soap!

I had a ton of fun playing around with a few high quality melt and pour bases, and created a perfectly delightful batch of soap that I think you’ll love.

This first batch is composed of a green-tinted aloe vera gel base and topped with a soft, creamy layer of whipped goat milk soap, all finished off with a sprinkling of fine jojoba beads. The bright, herbal, Green Tea fragrance of the base mixes beautifully with the softly sweet, citrus scent of Lemongrass essential oil in the topping. Whipped goat milk soap has a light, spongy texture and creates a lovely lather. It will dissolve more quickly than the aloe vera base, allowing the Green Tea scent to emerge from the more dominant Lemongrass over time. The color and scents are perfect for spring (and incidentally, St. Patrick’s Day)! As a bonus, this first batch is offered at a discount, as I plan to make my bars a little bigger in the future, so snag them while you can!