All The (Pretty) Things

I’m taking a page from Truly Myrtle‘s book and sharing a few sort-of-random things this Friday evening.

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Dyeing!

Dyeing has been on my mind lately. (Also probably Truly Myrtle’s fault!) I have several skeins of the above lovely, naturally grey/brown yak/silk fiber that I plan to use in a Salted pullover. However, I’m not a fan of uniform colors in my knitting and I love the speckled look of the plain stockinette sections of the sweater sample, so I thought I’d dye one skein and see if I could achieve a similarly subtle variegation. I took a stab with a depth of shade of 0.25 of Turquoise and I submerged the yarn in the dyepot all twisted up in the hank, as shown above, with the idea that the twisted bits would act as a resist and prevent the dye from completely penetrating the whole skein. It’s simmering as I write and I keep peeking in the pot, but I don’t think my plan is working. It’s looking pretty saturated and dark and the dye bath is not exhausting… sigh. I suppose that’s why we practice!

All The (Dyeable) Things | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, colorway Aurora Borealis

My next Grand Plan is to overdye two skeins of BMFA Twisted. It feels blasphemous to overdye Tina’s gorgeous handiwork, especially since I do really love the color, but my stash lacks sweater quantities of yarn, and two skeins of this is just enough to make a Cypress vest/pullover in my size:

Cypress vest by Jared Flood. Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood. Click for pattern page.

The issue is that I just can’t see myself wearing such a multicolored garment. I have some Silver Grey dye that I think will darken the colors up just enough to make them cohesive enough for a garment, while preserving some variegation. (If anybody has some tips on how best to go about achieving this goal, I’m all ears!) I’m not sure what’s gotten hold of me lately but I want a sweater, and I want it now, so Cypress it is.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Sweet, sweet Darwin.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Stoic Calypso.

I’ve been continuing to practice with my new camera. I love it. I’ve taken a truly absurd number of cat photos over the last few days. Oh well! I suppose I’m just another stereotype after all.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Forthcoming fall scents!

I’ve been a busy bee preparing fall fragrances for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. Some of them should go up this weekend after our farmer’s market tomorrow. If you live in or near Rhode Island, come visit the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market in Bristol, we’ll be there from 9am – 1pm (on Saturday 9/20)!

And now for the most random of the things I wanted to share this evening: as you may or may not know, I’ve been a big fan of Jason Mraz’s music for over a decade (yikes). Much of my down time during 2003 was spent watching ad nauseum when I should’ve been sleeping grainy video clips of his small time performances in a coffeehouse in California. His voice and musical style are just… incomparable. There’s nothing quite like his mysic: a little bit of twang, a little bit of soul, a little bit of 70’s rock, a little bit of cheesiness, a ton of lyrical wordplay, and a whole lot of talent.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

That fuzzy man on stage is Mr. Jason Mraz.

When a friend from grad school had an extra ticket to a show I hadn’t even known was happening I jumped all over the chance to see my long-time-love. He has a new album out that he wrote with an all-girl folk band, Raining Jane. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the band change at first but after seeing the show, I love it. He said about the collaboration that he had needed a change, he was dealing with some writer’s block and he would’ve put out a record either way but that he’s so grateful they agreed to work with him because they were what he needed to produce music that “filled his heart”. It’s interesting to think of artists we admire dealing with creative burnout. If you have Amazon Prime, there are several of Jason’s albums available for free download. His newest one, Yes!, is the one with Raining Jane and it is worth every penny of the $6.99 that Amazon is currently charging. Below you’ll find a ‘short film’ which is essentially 3 continuous music videos in one. They perfectly represent the dreamy quality of this new album, and I’ve never seen someone make a whole mini movie out of their videos before. Check it out!

While I’m super excited about the new direction his music is taking, I’ll always love him best when it’s just him and his guitar. But I suppose that’s enough fangirlin’ for one night. I could go on, but I’ll spare you (unless you want more info, just let me know). Plus, I’ve got a few hours worth of Jason to watch and a dyepot to check up on. Happy Friday!

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy

While the blog’s been a little quiet lately, I’ve been quite busy with Sweet Sheep shows, work, and grownup things like buying a new car (since ours was totaled) and official name changes (since the Fiasco and I got married and are combining our last names into one). In the midst of all the Important Things To Do, I’ve been riding a wave of creativity that has had my head going in a million directions at once: swatching! designing! new lotion scents! new product lines! dyeing! sweater-cast-on-ing! and last but not least, photography!

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Meet my new toy! Canon Rebel T3i

You might have noticed that the quality of photos on the blog has dropped since August, due to my Canon point-and-shoot dying a slow and agonizing death all summer that ended unfortunately while we were away in Costa Rica. Since good photos are such an integral part of blogging, designing, and selling products online, I figured it was finally time to spend the extra money and invest in a for-serious SLR camera.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Darwin, looking sulky.

I’ve spent spare moments over the last couple of weeks doing some research and trying to figure out what I wanted in a camera, whether used or new was a better deal, and just what all those abbreviations and numbers really meant (still working on that bit).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

The tip of Calypso’s nose.

I found Audry’s knitwear photography blog series to be extremely helpful in providing some context and examples for what all the numbers mean and what a good camera is. I also read lots (and lots) of CNET reviews and spent far too much time on tech sites like bhphotovideo.com and Adorama.com, where I ultimately placed my order. Adorama had a great deal on what is essentially the entry level version of the higher quality camera that Audry uses, that also included a bag, an extra battery, a remote trigger, a basic 18 – 55 mm lens, a lens filter, screen protector, SD card, and a couple other things I can’t remember at the moment.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

My crazy-eyed-super-psyched face.

Basically, it was a new-hobby-in-a-box for cheaper than I could put together buying a used camera and the lens and accessories separately. To top it off, it arrived in 2 days, yay instant gratification! I’m really looking forward to getting to know all the ins and outs of this whole thing. I’ve loved photography forever (my first job was working in the photo lab at CVS) and have always wanted to improve my skills. Photography is one of my favorite art forms and I can’t wait to see what I can create with a decent piece of equipment!

Anyway, I’ve also been knitting (cue crappy photos again).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

BMFA De-Vine in Pond Scum. Click for project page.

I randomly decided to revive my hibernating Cedar Grove Shawl. It’s dropped down into the 50s and 60s here so it’s about that time where I’m too cold in short sleeves but not yet ready to commit to wearing jackets again. That’s when a big bulky shawl comes in handy as outerwear. I’m about 60% done with this and just broke into the second skein.

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller in Hobart, IN. Click for project page.

I’ve also finally started my Honey Cowl. I’m a few more inches in than this now and it’s going quite swimmingly. The slipped stitch pattern is a real comfort to work, especially in a fun rainbow-y yarn. I’ve used the same stitch on a design in the works (sneak peak below) and plan to incorporate it into some socks, as well.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Oh, the gorgeous up-close rainbow.

What have you been working on lately? Any new hobbies vying for your attention? Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis!

FOFri #32: Finally, Some Yarn!

I recently realized that I had not really sat down to spin at my wheel all summer long. All summer! I was busy playing with new spindles (and planning a wedding and starting a business and whatnot) but still, my last full skein of handspun was finished way back in April, and that was unacceptable. So I finished some yarn.

FOFri #32: Finally, Some Yarn! | Woolen Diversions

Some yarn! Click for handspun page.

This fiber was 4 oz of luscious BFL (truly one of my favorite spins) dyed in a gorgeous Teal Tonal colorway by Three Waters Farm. I spun it in what appears to be my default wheel spin: from the fold, counterclockwise (S twist), all in one single that was then chain-plied clockwise (Z twist).

FOFri #32: Finally, Some Yarn! | Woolen Diversions

Dusky, dusky teal.

I ended up with a roughly worsted-ish weight (sorry, I was a bad spinner and measured neither yards per pound nor wraps per inch) skein of 196 yards. I love the dusky tealness of this skein so hard and think it perfectly pairs with another skein of handspun BFL.

FOFri #32: Finally, Some Yarn! | Woolen diversions

Two skeins in love.

I think they go together rather smashingly, don’t you? My intention was for the teal to tone down the electric green a bit. I’m not sure what I’ll make with them but I’m envisioning a squishy cowl or a small, kerchief-y shawlette (suggestions welcome!).

FOFri #32: Finally, Some Yarn! | Woolen Diversions

The remaining wheel WIPs.

In light of my accomplishment (and the approaching Spinzilla week), I took a good, hard look at my remaining wheel WIPs. I have three different projects currently tying up my bobbins:

  1. Earthy Bubble Crepe: This project involves spinning two thin singles in the opposite direction from each other and a third thicker single. The thick single is then plied with one of the thin singles at twice the plying twist. The resulting 2-ply is than plied with the other thin single in the opposite direction to make a really fun crepe yarn. I am approximately 60% done with this spin, there is still some merino to spin into a fat single and much a of one braid of merino/bamboo/silk blend left for one of the thin singles (the three central bobbins in the photo above).
  2. Loop! Bumps 2-ply: This spin is fairly straightforward. I’m spinning one Loop! bump into a fine, continuous single and will spin a second similar-but-with-shorter-color-repeats Loop! bump into its own single and then will ply the two together. I’m predicting a fractal spinning type effect of the colorways combined, without having to do any of the actual splitting up. I’m only about 30% done with this spin as I still have to finish the first single (bottom right in photo).
  3. Super Silky Spring Fever: I began this spin in a fit of I-can’t-resist-the-pretty-colors-any-longer! This involves 8 oz of a gorgeous Merino/superwash Merino/tussah silk blend from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. My plan is to split it into 3 equal parts and attempt my first true 3-ply sock yarn. I’ve really only just barely begun this one (bottom left in photo).
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Miss Babs Merino/bamboo/silk in Highlands.

Considering that crepe yarn has been in progress since last October, I set straight to work on the final thin single. Yay, motivation! Let’s see how long I can ride this wave…

What have you finished this week? What’s your longest running work-in-progress (spinning or otherwise)?

IS #78: Good Clean Fun

Today’s Inspiration Saturday post veers away from the realm of yarn and knitting, and towards a newer obsession that’s been piquing my interest lately thanks to Sweet Sheep: handmade personal care products. Specifically, handmade soap.

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Champagne soap by Calise Soapworks & Such. Click for Etsy shop.

Soap is made by an interesting chemical reaction (called “saponification“) that occurs when you mix together fats/tallows/oils and lye in certain quantities. There are a few benefits to using handmade soap. Firstly, handmade soap retains all the natural glycerin that is produced during the saponification process so it is extra moisturizing.

IS #78: Good Clean Fun | Woolen Diversions

Salt soap by e.l.m tree suds. Click for Etsy shop.

Secondly, one can custom blend the types of oils used to produce specific results (such as using olive oil for a harder bar, sea salt for extra minerals, or shea butter for additional moisturizing properties). Of course this also means one can control whether they use soap made with organic ingredients or particular fragrances and colorants.

IS #78: Good Clean Fun | Woolen Diversions

Sweet Lemon Creme soap by Royalty Soaps. Click for Etsy shop.

Thirdly, they’re really beautiful! The prettiness factor can’t be ignored. You will never find a mass-produced bar of soap that looks so delicious. You likely won’t find any that feel or smell nearly as good, either.

IS #78: Good Clean Fun | Woolen Diversions

Peach Pie Soap by Toil and Trouble Bath. Click for Etsy shop.

Finally, and most importantly, I love the creative aspect of handmade soaps. Some soaps (as proven above) seem practically edible! I think there’s something really special about taking a humble and unassuming bar of soap and turning it into something delightful and extraordinary. Why not add a little whimsy to your day, amIright? Speaking of extraordinary: that pie soap was made by an 11 year old kid, and he donates half his proceeds to a supportive housing coalition! You can check out his story on the Soap Queen blog. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!

Within the last 6 months or so, I’ve gone from a plastic-poof-and-body-wash kinda gal to an artisan bar soap user, all the way. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll venture into cold process soapmaking territory quite yet (there’s a fair bit of equipment involved and lye is pretty nasty stuff to work with) but there are some amazingly creative things you can do with pre-made soap bases, which I’m hoping to explore soon. What kind of soap do you use? Had you ever thought about handmade soaps before? What’s been inspiring you, lately? Share with us and link up you post in the comments!

IS

 

WIPWed #64: De-Funking

Sometimes I find myself bogged down in the day-to-day of everything. Things become overwhelming, I start feeling impatient, and nothing I do seems to work out as planned. I don’t have any answers for how to feel better about all of that stuff, but I do know that coming home to a bunch of yarn-y goodies is a quick way to snap out of a funk.

Indie Untangled Swap | Woolen Diversions

Indie Untangled Summer of Love Swap

I participated in the Indie Untangled Summer of Love swap and my package arrived on exactly the right afternoon. My swap partner went with a beach-y theme and gave me delightfully beach-scented wax tarts and soap, beach reading material, and frozen drink mix. She also included some tasty healthy snacks and beautiful little fish box. She added some yarn from her stash as well as this gorgeous skein from Canon Hand Dyes:

Canon Hand Dyes | Woolen Diversions

Custom-dyed Canon Hand Dyes yarn!

My swap partner had Amy custom dye a skein of yarn in all of my favorite colors, and she totally nailed it! I hear this special Indie Untangled colorway will be available at the pre-Rhinebeck Trunk Show. I’m super psyched about this yarn. I’ve been wanting to try the self-striping Canon Hand Dyes yarn for a long time and have been stalking destashes to no avail. I can’t wait to knit this skein up.

BMFA RWC fiber | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club Ecru Merino/Black Tussah Silk

I had another surprise waiting for me yesterday, as well: the August shipment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club. This fiber is 80% ecru Merino / 20% black Tussah silk and it is just lovely. Tina dyed jewel tones interspersed with the naturally salt-and-pepper fiber. She named it Nanu Nanu in honor of Robin Williams. I love it. She told a story in her dyer’s notes about how her mother used to say things along the lines of “you are only as bored or as happy as you want to be” and she mentioned how spinning is her way of slowing down time and grabbing at that happiness. It was a little nugget of wisdom that I really needed to hear.

Three Waters Farm BFL | Woolen Diversions

Spinning some BFL dyed by Three Waters Farm.

So I dusted off my wheel (literally) and sat down to deliberately spin for the first time all summer. I took some of my favorite fiber and about 30 minutes to just enjoy myself. I highly recommend fiber therapy.

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Nature therapy.

I also recommend nature therapy. Over the long weekend I went camping with the Fiasco and a couple of friends and it was glorious. We unplugged from our computers and phones and just enjoyed each other’s company. We went to a Renn Faire, biked through the woods, swam in a pond, and ate s’mores to our hearts’ content. It was an excellent way to wind down the summer and it was something my soul really needed.

How do you de-funk-ify yourself, when needed?

Pura Vida! Part 2

When I last spoke about my Costa Rican honeymoon, we were preparing to leave Alajuela (in the Central Valley) and travel 4-5 hours to Cahuita, a quiet little town on the Caribbean coast. Like last time, I’ve created photo galleries so that if you hover over a picture its caption should pop up, and if you click on a picture it will take you to a large-sized version of the photo. Onwards!

Our entire first day consisted of travel, more or less. It was fascinating to watch the landscape change from mountainous and crowded to more pastoral and full of pineapple, palm, and banana plantations. We stopped at the Del Monte processing facility on our way. The workday was over so there wasn’t too much to see, but it was interesting anyway. When we finally arrived at Coral Hill Bungalows, we were thrilled. The owners were incredibly friendly and helpful, the bungalow itself was gorgeous, and it had a lovely front porch. And the fresh fruit and pastry breakfasts were delightful, I had the best croissants of my life there. I highly recommend this location if you’re planning to travel to Cahuita! We were happy that the longest stretch of our trip (4 days) was spent there. Just be sure you go to the correct Playa Negra when you’re looking for it, our driver went to the one in Puerto Viejo accidentally at first! Our first full day in Cahuita happened to be the Fiasco’s birthday, so we headed to the bus station to visit a very special place.

You know this is the only part of this post that anyone will care about: SLOTHS! We visited the Sloth Sanctuary because the man wanted to see sloths on his birthday, and see sloths we did. Apparently Buttercup has her own TV show and is kind of a big deal. Part of the tour involved a canoe ride down the river (for which the torrential rain stopped and the sun came out just in time) where we saw an abundance of wildlife: bats, lizards, birds, and of course, some rehabilitated sloths. There are two species of sloths in Costa Rica: the two-fingered sloth and the three-fingered sloth. Surprisingly little is known about their reproductive habits, for one of them we have no idea how long gestation is and cannot tell when a sloth is pregnant until a wee little sloth pops out one day. As a biologist, I find it fascinating how little is still known about basic life history of some species. (Which makes me particularly worried about the rate of extinction, the idea of losing things we have yet to discover or understand is extra horrible.) And then there were baby sloths, which are just about the cutest things ever.

We made friends with a neighborhood dog, whom we dubbed Sweetheart. He accompanied us on our walks every single time we left our bungalow, I don’t know how he found us! On our second day, we decided to make the most of the one truly sunny day of our trip and visit the Cahuita National Park for a short hike and a swim. This park is an absolute must-visit. The beginning of the trail is easy to hike, mostly a wide, flat sandy stretch. There is wildlife everywhere (more on that later) and easy access to long  stretches of unoccupied beaches. At a couple points along the trail you need to wade through a shallow river, and eventually we had to stop hiking because the trails were essentially 4″ deep in mud (yay, rainy season) and one of us had a little hissy fit about that (not naming names). But it all worked out for the best, since we spent an enjoyable afternoon rolling around in the bathwater-warm waves. As a native Long Islander, the concept of warm water at the beach is completely foreign to me! It was beautiful, though. Leafcutter ants, by the by, are some of the coolest insects ever. They actually practice agriculture! They cut leaves, carry them back to their nests, and use them as a culture to grow a very specific type of fungus that they eat for food. Seriously guys, biology is fascinating.

That’s all I have time for today, but I’ll finish summing up our time in Cahuita in the next post! What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or learned about in nature? Has anything else been inspiring you lately? Share with us!

IS

Blog Hop: Creative Process

I’ve been tagged by Lisa of Indie Untangled to take part in a Creative Blog Hop! Blog hops are a really fun way to get to know your regular reads a bit better, as well as discover some new bloggers. You can read Lisa’s post here, and I’ve also been enjoying reading a couple of the blogs before hers, like le pulle juste and Knitigating Circumstances (man, I love that name). So let’s get hopping!

What am I working on?

I feel like such a slacker since most of the other bloggers before me seem to be working on fabulous sweaters and other such ambitious projects. Me? I’ve got a hat.

It’s a little bit longer now.

And an-eventually-matching cowl. Well, we all know that’s not all I’m working on, since I’m an atrociously non-monogamous knitter and there are always more WIPs. Generally speaking, there are usually a couple of a shawls and a pair of socks in the works. That said, I do really want to knit a sweater. For the past year (just about… yikes!) I’ve been working on losing weight. I was losing at a pretty quick rate on a very restrictive diet, but the pace has slowed down and I seem to have stabilized a bit (30 – 40 lbs away from where I was aiming! sigh) and while I was waiting until I reached my goal before I invested so much time and energy into knitting a sweater, I really don’t want to wait any longer. You can find collections of DK weight patterns I’m considering for tops here and cardigans here. I will likely end up going with an Amy Herzog pattern because I admire her work and really want to give her CustomFit program a try. Her Shore Ledges pullover has been on my mind lately, too:

Photo copyright Amy Herzog.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think, when you get right down to it, many knitting blogs are similar. Look at the yarn! Look at this pattern! Look at what I made! Yay, knitting! And that’s great, really, because there is nothing better than creating a sense of community through shared joys. I try to dabble in a few things that I think make this space a little different: compiling resources into tutorials, conducting spinning breed studies, and doing occasional product reviews. The blog feature I am most proud of is my Inspiration Saturdays series. Every week (*ahem* mostly) I mine Ravelry for projects or patterns along a theme that I find particularly inspiring. I equate this kind of research with a literature review in the sciences (biologist to the core) and I find that the exercise really helps me articulate my thoughts about certain patterns, yarns, or project ideas and it serves as an excellent record of things I’ve loved. Plus, it’s a fabulous excuse for all the time I spend trolling around Ravelry.  I especially love when other people join in! Joanna over at The Knitlit Twit joins up nearly every week.

Besides the blog, my knitting is fairly mainstream. I see something I like, I make it. Most things I like to make involve interesting texture or lace stitches that are not too mentally taxing since the knitting needs to be suitable for car/TV/distracted/social knitting. That’s why I aim to keep all of my designs on the simpler side, pieces that are stylish and fun to work but also easy enough to not pose logistical problems (like huge charts or tricky counting) for knitters-on-the-go. Most of my designs, and my projects in general, are inspired by the yarn I have to work with. I derive a truly ridiculous amount of pleasure out of matching up a skein of yarn with its perfect pattern.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Hrmmm… I think I just answered this above, but here’s a little more truth-telling: I write what I do because I can’t not write it. Because if I don’t tell somebody about what I’m doing/making/thinking about knitting on a fairly regular basis, I get a little twitchy. And because even though I’ve already converted a handful of my friends into more hardcore knitters, there are never enough people to chat about knitting with. You’d be amazed (or maybe not) at how much there is to discuss about yarn.

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Gratuitous yarn photo! OoOoOoOooOooooo pretty.

And as for the knitting, I knit because I’ve always needed to do something with my hands. Growing up, it was plastic lanyards, embroidery floss friendship bracelets, beaded bracelets, and hemp necklaces. I’ve always been terrible at being well-and-truly-idle. My brain starts buzzing if I sit still for too long and knitting and spinning calms that shit down. So on the one hand, it’s a pure physiological/psychological need. On the other, it’s damn pretty. Add to that the fact that you get a wearable product at the end, and really, I can’t understand why anyone doesn’t knit!

How does my writing/creative process work?

As mentioned above, my designs and most of my projects are usually inspired by the yarn or colorway available to me. While I’m a non-monogamous knitter-of-projects, I am a fairly loyal yarn consumer. I find a yarn I like, and I will buy a lot of it, to use in everything. Then sometimes I get curious, and want to try a completely new-to-me yarn to see what makes it tick. I then spend the rest of my time finding the perfect project for that yarn and rejoicing in its wonderfulness. I’m always drawn to natural fibers, intriguing constructions, and vibrant colors.

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All hail the glory of this yarn pairing. Click for project page.

As for writing, I attempt to do a WIP Wednesday post most weeks, I find it helps me prioritize and keep all my projects straight. These are the easiest posts to write. My Inspiration Saturday posts take considerably more time and effort, especially if my theme is a little shaky to begin with. These posts take at least 2 hours each, often more if all the research time throughout the week gets counted. Other than that, I tend to write about whatever has me most excited at the time.

Phew! There you have it, a bit more about my process. I’d love to hear from Audry at Bear Ears, Kaiya at Winterlime Knits, and Rebecca at needle & spindle about their creative processes! (And anybody else who would like to share, too, I find this stuff fascinating.)