The Week of Unfinished Business

As predicted, work has been increasingly crazy this month and this week in particular was a killer. It was also my dear Fiasco’s birthday, and while he sadly did not receive his birthday socks finished on time, he did receive a pretty good-looking surprise birthday pie, instead.

Birthday pie!

That pie was something of a comedy of errors. The night I planned to make it, the Fiasco was staying over his brother’s house, so I figured I’d have plenty of time to surprise him… until I was stuck finishing something at work until 9 pm. By the time I ran to the grocery store and got home, it was after 10. Then I couldn’t find the pie pan that I knew we owned (I did, eventually). Then I had to go digging through our camp box in the shed for the French press because I don’t know how to use the coffee pot we keep on the counter (whatever, I’m technology averse) and coffee is the main flavoring. And then, when I went to blend everything together, the fancy smoothie maker I own broke, so I had to transfer the sticky concoction over to a normal blender instead. Suffice it to say, I must really love that guy, because the pie wasn’t finished until the wee hours of the morning and I even cleaned up after myself in the kitchen, which is a rare enough occurrence as it is. (All of that, and the pie wasn’t that great! I thought it was too sweet and the crust stuck to the pan. Oh well, he loved it, and it was the surprise that mattered.) Now, onto the WIPWed post I never quite got to write this week…

Stealth Socks:

The Week of Unfinished Business | Woolen Diversions

BMFA STR HW, colorway Grimm. Click for project page.

These socks are a tad further along than shown here, I plan to buckle down on them this weekend and get them on the Fiasco’s feet ASAP. It should be a little easier to finish them now that I’m not trying to be sneaky about it.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

The Week of Unfinished Business | Woolen Diversions

BMFA STR LW, colorway Gran’s Kitchen. Click for project page.

As one might surmise by observing the kinky yarn, a wee bit of frogging has occurred. I undershot the toes by a few rows so rather than live with slightly-too-small socks, I decided to rip ’em back and have another go. If these are going to be my favorite, I want them to really be my favorite! I promise, though, in the near future I should have something to show other than this same sock pattern over and over again…

TdF BME Mind Bullets:

The Week of Unfinished Business | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets

Despite a lack of photographic evidence, I am still slowly working on my Tour de Fleece spindle spin. This is the second half of the first ounce, but it’s going!

TdF TWF Wensleydale:

The Week of Unfinished Business | Woolen Diversions

Three Waters Farm undyed Wensleydale

I haven’t had much time to spin since my triumphant finished skeins earlier in the week, but I did take a second to get my next (and likely last) TdF spin started. This is some undyed Wensleydale, which is a gorgeously silky longwool. I’ve spun Wensleydale before in a pretty gradient, and am aiming to make a coordinating 2-ply yarn to use in a stripey project of some kind. Check out the length of those fibers! Luscious.

And as for reading:

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Natural beauty indulgences.

I was super duper excited when my pre-ordered copy of The Natural Beauty Solution by Mary Helen Leonard arrived in the mail. Mary writes the blog for From Nature With Love, a Connecticut-based soap-making and skin care ingredient supply store that I purchase some of my Sweet Sheep raw materials from. Her recipes are interesting and informative, and the book focuses on making your own skin care products from fresh ingredients. The book is beautifully photographed, too. I likely won’t be able to adapt many of the recipes for sale since they are designed to be kept refrigerated and used within a week, but I am looking forward to experimenting with my own routine! Next, I was inspired to pick up the copy of No More Dirty Looks that’s been in the queue for a while, to learn more about exactly which components of commercial beauty products are so bad for your skin. Turns out, the answer is most of them. Guys, this book is like a ‘scared straight’ program. It’s making me want to chuck out everything I own that isn’t already all-natural, which at this point isn’t much since I buy a good proportion of whatever beauty products I don’t make myself from Lush. The number of carcinogenic and downright damaging ingredients that are in most products, along with the completely bogus industry regulation (9 ingredients are banned from use in US cosmetics… while there are over 1,000 banned in the UK) are pretty intense. It’s a really great read so far and I look forward to going into more detail as I experiment with some replacement products.

Blackberry Sage lotion bar

Blackberry Sage lotion bar

Speaking of natural body care, Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe will be vending at the Meiklem Kiln Works Arts & Wellness Fair TOMORROW, Saturday 7/25 from 10 am – 4 pm in Bozrah, CT. Come say hi, and check out our new summer fragrances, like Blackberry Sage!

Phew! When I don’t write for a while, looks like it all comes out at once. Hope you’re all having good weeks. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday, despite being a few days delayed.

In Five Days Flat

Who would’ve thought that I could transform a braid of fiber into a finished skein of yarn in just five days flat? I’m sure many others have spun greater yardage in shorter timeframes, but I think this might be a record for me. Thanks, Tour de Fleece!

Falkland Dusky Greens:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun Falkland wool 3-ply, click for Rav page.

This Falkland wool from Three Waters Farm was an absolute dream to spin. I split the braid into three pieces cross-wise, and then split each third lengthwise to spin. I noticed during plying that often 2 of the 3 plies would be the same color, which mixed all of the colors up fairly evenly throughout. It helps that the colorway was tonal to begin with, but I really love the way the colors played out. I was aiming for a weight similar to the first Falkland I spun and more-or-less achieved it by referencing the single and ply-back sample I had preserved in my hand-dandy spinning notebook.

In Five Days Flat

Previous vs. current handspun Falkland skeins

The finished skein weighs 112 g and contains roughly 140 yards of worsted-aran weight yarn. (Well, it’s 140 yards measured after washing, but it was about 180 yards wrapped around the skein winder.) It’s approx. 600-700 ypp and 10-12 wpi and should coordinate nicely with the undyed Falkland (10 wpi, 600 – 900 ypp). I am not quite sure what I want to make with it, but it fluffed up so beautifully after a wash that I want to make sure whatever pattern I choose makes use of it’s bounce-tastic nature.

Eggplant in Ashes BFL/Silk Singles:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun BFL/silk singles, click for Rav page.

I also finally got my Bee Mice Elf BFL/silk singles yarn off the bobbins, soaked, and dried. They are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I’m not sure if they’ll knit up on the bias or not, but I’m willing to give it a try (you know, whenever I have time for more WIPs, that is). I ended up with approx. 700 yards of fingering-sport weight yarn (18 wpi, 1500 ypp). That deep purple bled A LOT with washing, but the finished yarn is really gorgeous. It’s all slinky and silky and delightful to touch.

So thank you, Tour de Fleece, for helping me spin up 8 more oz of yarn than I would’ve this month (so far). I’m happy to add these pretties to my stash! Onto the next spin…

WIPWed #100: That’s a Nice Round Number

I’ve reached 100 WIP Wednesday posts, woohoo! Now, that’s not 100 weeks in a row or even 100 weeks of knitting, as there has been plenty more knitting than that, but 100 weeks of cataloging my knits in a systematic way, at least! (You can see all WIPWed posts here, if you’d like.) This week, I have spinning and socks.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

My favorite socks are currently in the toe stage of development, which means they’re almost done! I’m going to wear the bejeezus out of these things come fall. Also, I thought I should illustrate how difficult it is for me to get good blog photos sometimes; I have to fight off kitties for space and light (especially the yarn-hungry Darwin) through the entire photo-taking process.

Stealth Socks:

WIPWed #100

BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight, colorway Grimm. Click for project page.

The secret stealth socks are progressing, but not nearly fast enough. I’m on the heel flap of both but need to put some serious time into them this week.

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #100

BeeMiceElf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

Even though they are a pain in the butt to wind neatly, my favorite part of Turkish spinning is the fat little turtles of yarn you get when you take the cop off the spindle. That’s only about 0.5 oz of fiber, so I have a bit more to go *eye roll*.

TdF Dusky Greens:

WIPWed #100

Three Waters Farm Falkland, colorway Greens at Dusk. Click for handspun page.

As I am on the Three Waters Farm Tour de Fleece team, I figured it was about time I started in on some Three Waters Farm fiber. In one evening (!) I spun up 1/3 of a braid of Falkland wool in lovely green shades. I’m planning to make a 3-ply yarn to coordinate with the pound of Falkland I spun up when I first got my wheel. Now if I just had more time to spin… Work is going to be insane through the end of the month and the first couple of weeks of August will be busy with a vacation and a conference, so chances are my posts will be a bit spotty until later in August. I will do my best but if I disappear for a while, that’s why!

As for reading, I started a new book:

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Definitely worth the read.

Some of you may have already heard of the Whole30 program, and even if you have, this book is worth reading to better understand the reasons behind it. The idea of the program is to stop eating certain unhealthy foods for 30 days and see how your body feels. Then you reintroduce them and observe any changes, so that you can make well-informed decisions about your diet in the future. I love this idea. The book does a good job of summing up the very complicated and unclear science of how food interacts with your body. Admittedly, the authors overuse analogies waaaaaaaaaaay too much, but the science they describe is pretty sound and clearly explained. They define unhealthy foods as those that do one (or more) of four things: 1- have an addictive or unhealthy psychological effect, 2- unbalance your hormones, 3- disrupt your gut health, and 4- induce an immune system response. For the most part, these foods include all grains, dairy, legumes, and seed oils. It essentially encourages a Paleo-style diet of protein, veggies, and fruit. For people struggling with their health or their weight while eating what seem like healthy foods, giving this program a try might be worth it. I haven’t done it quite yet, but the diet I did last year was very much like it and since I’ve been slowly-but-surely regaining some of the weight I had lost (despite calorie-counting, yoga, weight-lifting, and walking regularly) it’s worth a try to see if it can get my metabolism-related hormones back in balance.

Also, if you’ll allow me a moment on my soapbox, I think people should read this book so that they realize that obesity is a real biological problem. It’s not just mental (put down the fork!) or about willpower (get up off the couch!), it involves overcoming real biochemical challenges (genetics, metabolism, stress, hormones, brain chemicals) as well as societal pressures (restaurants, ads, easy junk food, peers) at every turn. And for some people, it’s a lifelong freaking struggle, despite doing everything right. It’s a legitimate disease and as far as I can tell, it’s one of the few left that people feel justified in openly mocking and belittling. Next time you have unkind thoughts about a fat person, take a beat and remember that there’s a pretty good chance they’re working on it and it’s not all their fault.

Soapbox done, back to your regularly scheduled knitting! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Lavender EO

This week’s featured lotion bar fragrance is a very love it or hate it type of scent: Lavender EO. The ‘EO’ in the name indicates that the bar is scented with the botanically-derived essential oil (rather than a man-made fragrance oil). My mom is allergic to lavender, so I was never really exposed to the scent while growing up and didn’t particularly care for it. My favorite aunt, on the other hand, is a lavender junkie who hits me up for more lotion bars and lip balms every time I go back home. Now that I am constantly making lavender-scented products, it’s really grown on me. I even keep bar by my bed to put on before I go to sleep as the essential oil is known to have a soothing, calming, and restful effect (and I’ll take all the help I can get shutting off my brain at night).

Lavender EO lotion bars

Lavender EO lotion bars

Why I love it: As far as florals go, Lavender is not cloying at all. It’s more herbal and earthy than it is flowery and sweet. Its herbaceous nature is what I think turns some people off of it, but it’s also exactly what I love about it. For the record, lavender buds are edible and add a delicious spicy/floral note to tea, mixed drinks (try a lavender-infused simple syrup mixed with lemon juice and gin!), and even chocolate cookies (which I’m dying to make).

What it pairs well with: I’ve included Lavender EO in the All Natural gift set alongside Spearmint EO and Unscented Cocoa, all of which are scented with essential oils or the natural chocolate fragrance of cocoa butter. It pairs well with citrus scents (like Kumquat) or the gently floral/citrus tea scent of Chamomile Bergamot.

Summer Fields handmade soap

Summer Fields handmade soap

I’ve also embedded bits of Lavender and Vanille soap in an aloe vera gel base that I call Summer Fields. The earthy Lavender pairs well with the sweetness of the Vanilla and the freshly-mown grass scent used in the base. I’ve been showering with this soap daily and it’s like a little burst of summertime happiness every morning.

What about you, do you like Lavender? Are you in the love it or hate it camp? Do you use the essential oil for any of its therapeutic properties?

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through

Tour de Fleece is in full swing and I’m doing what I can to participate. I was away celebrating our first wedding anniversary when it began, but I did take my spindle and some fiber to at least make a start. We got back stupidly late Monday night (more like early Tuesday AM) so yesterday was all about catching up with life, but I did manage to get a couple of ounces spun up on my wheel, as well. Needless to say, my knitting progress has slowed with all this spinning going on, but I’m not complaining. Spinning is quite soothing, despite the old wrist injury that I aggravated by using the grip of death on a crazy carnival ride the Fiasco made me do. (Yeah, I blame him for my wrist pain. That’s what marriage is for!)

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

This spin is going to take a good long while, but I’m loving it. That Subterranean Woodworks Turkish spindle is one of my absolute favorites. The weight is perfect, the color makes me happy, and it’s a zippy little spinner.

TdF BFL/Silk Singles:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes. Click for handspun page.

I spun one braid of these singles before TdF began (left bobbin), but got a decent 2 oz spun last night while I watched more Vampire Diaries (still obsessed!) and made a few batches of lotion bars (Lavender EO has been restocked and a new scent, Smoky Patchouli, has been added to the shop). Fingers crossed that I can speed through the final 2 oz tonight.

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Actually using my handspun! Click for project page.

Spending 9 hours in the car over the long weekend lead me to resurrect my handspun Dotted Rays shawl. I’m at the point where the short rows take much longer to get through, so there isn’t as much flipping back and forth and I’ve settled into a nice rhythm with it. I’ve nearly finished my first skein of handspun and desperately need to switch to a larger cable so the shawl won’t look like a pile of mush in photos.

That’s all I’ve really worked on this week. I’m currently in between books right now, although I’m listening to a really good one (Birthmarked by C.M. O’Brien). It’s about a young girl who is a midwife in a post-climate-change society and there is some kind of drama starting between the ‘advanced’ people who live within the walls of the city, and everyone else on the outside. Not deep into it yet but it’s intriguing so far.

And just for fun, here are some pics from our trip to Maine:

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

(And congrats to Alexis of CobCottageCraft, the winner of the Myra cowl pattern from my review post and giveaway. Keep an eye out for my e-mail!)

TdF Already?!

Somehow, it’s July already, and Tour de Fleece is upon us. For those who aren’t familiar, Tour de Fleece is a friendly spinning event hosted on Ravelry that aims to spin every day that the Tour de France rides (July 4 – July 26th). The point is to challenge yourself, have fun, and share your spinning with others. It’s more relaxed than Spinzilla and teams are less competitive. Sarah wrote a lovely post about the Cloudlover team on her blog, which encouraged me to think about what I might like to spin. Once I saw that two of my favorite indie fiber dyers were hosting teams (and offering prizes!) I was sucked in.

First up, is the BeeMiceElf team. I am currently in the middle of a BeeMiceElf spin so joining this team makes good sense! I intend to spin up the second braid of Eggplant in Ashes (BFL/silk) into a singles yarn. Since I’ll be traveling when the tour starts, I plan to tackle that pretty hot pink/grey braid on a spindle (Mind Bullets, Merino wool). If all goes well, I’d like to get into those Space Odyssey gradient braids (superwash BFL), maybe even spin them into a 2-ply sock yarn. I’m resisting the urge to order some of the other great gradients Laurs has in her shop right now as I think I’ll have plenty to keep me busy for 3 weeks… (but it’s hard!).

The second team I’ve joined is the Three Waters Farm team because Mary Ann’s fibers are really incredible, too. I have several braids in stash to choose from but I think I’ll try tackling the braid of Greens at Dusk (Falkland wool) first and make a 3-ply yarn to coordinate with some undyed Falkland I spun earlier in the year. If I still have time (hah!) I’ll work on some undyed Wensleydale fiber, to coordinate with a BeeMiceElf Wensleydale gradient I spun during Spinzilla last year.

For those of you keeping track, I’m attempting to spin this list of fibers in 3 weeks:

  • BeeMiceElf BFL/silk – Eggplant in Ashes – singles yarn (4 oz)
  • BeeMiceElf Merino – Mind Bullets – 2 ply on spindle (4 oz)
  • BeeMiceElf superwash BFL – Space Odyssey 2 – 2-ply sock yarn (8 oz)
  • Three Waters Farm Falkland – Greens at Dusk – 3-ply worsted-ish (4 oz)
  • Three Waters Farm Wensleydale – undyed – 2-ply DK-ish (8 oz)

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA ooooooh, my “plans” crack me up, but they would put a nice dent in my fiber stash. This list is incredibly hilarious considering I work a full time job and I’ll be off camping for the first few days of the tour celebrating that this happened a year ago:

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(Can you believe it’s been a year??!?!)

Are you joining Tour de Fleece? Share your (unrealistic) plans with me, so I don’t feel so alone! :)

WIPWed #98: Stealth Socks and Sheep-Shaped Soap

There are three things I’ve confirmed recently:

  1. I really love slipped stitch sock patterns,
  2. Tina of Blue Moon Fiber Arts is the queen of teal colorways, and
  3. sheep-shaped soap is just about the cutest thing ever.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

WIPWed #98: Stealth Socks and Sheep-Shaped Soap

BMFA Socks that Rock LW, colorway Gran’s Kitchen. Click for project page.

Still rockin’ this pair of socks, and still absolutely loving them. Loving them so much, in fact, that I’ve cast on ANOTHER PAIR.

Stealth Socks:

WIPWed #98: Stealth Socks and Sheep-Shaped Soap | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock HW, colorway Grimm. Click for project page.

The pic is blurry but the colorway, Grimm, is absolutely glorious. Tina really knows her way around teals, man, and the pooling is pretty fun on this pair. These are stealth socks because I’m trying to knit them quickly (by the end of the month) and on the sneak, for a certain someone-whom-I-live-with’s birthday. (Here’s hoping his eyes just glaze over when I go on and on about socks and won’t realize these are for him.)

Sheep-Shaped Soap:

In exciting news, I’ve added some new soap to the shop that I’m absolutely in love with. Blackberry Crumble is a goat milk soap scented with blackberry, sage, and a touch of gingersnap fragrance oils that is juicy and bright. I got a little more creative with the Peaches & Cream soap, which consists of white and peach-colored layers of goat milk soap and is scented with southern peach and cream cheese frosting fragrance oils. It smells just like a sweet, decadent, summertime dessert and is finished off with a sprinkling of red and white jojoba beads on the bottom. These soaps are so cute, I honestly can’t stand it.

That’s all from me this week! As for reading, I sped through the Outlander novella “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” which gives a little insight into Roger’s parents’ past and am looking for my next read. Any suggestions? Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.