Keeping Things Sweet

Halloween is here, which means the rest of the holidays are not far behind. To celebrate the start of the holiday season of thankfulness, I’ve decided that every Sweet Sheep order placed during the month of November with a subtotal greater than $10.00 will receive a free sample-sized lotion bar as a gift!

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Free sample-sized lotion bar with every order over $10.00!

This is just one way for me to say a heartfelt THANK YOU for being a customer! I will send a scent at random but if you have allergies or know that you ‘hate fruit scents’ or something like that, feel free to indicate that in an order note and I will try to accommodate you. The sample will be a fun way to try a new scent, or share it with a friend to spread the sheep-y goodness! Since the gift-giving season is nearly upon us, I’d appreciate as much exposure as we can muster: follow Sweet Sheep on facebook, sign up for the newsletter, and tell your friends! Everyone should have a handmade holiday, yes?

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Homemade pepita brittle.

I hope you’re all having a lovely Halloween! I’m usually a bit of a Halloween humbug since I hate dressing up and really can’t afford to eat candy (physically speaking), but I’m trying to get in the spirit a bit this year. I woke up about 2 hours earlier than I had intended and couldn’t fall back asleep so I figured, what the hell, let’s make candy.

I followed Smitten Kitchen’s pepita brittle recipe and it was super easy! I had never made candy before and wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, but it tastes fine so no harm done. The transformation from sugar, (an alarming amount of) butter, water, and corn syrup to finished candy was interesting to watch. There was a lot of foaming involved, and the addition of baking soda and salt caused more. I kept waiting for it to turn a deep brown color like in the blog photos but once it began sticking to my spatula like taffy I figured it was time to mix in the pumpkin seeds and spread it out to cool. The resulting candy is VERY buttery tasting, which surprised me, but is also delicious, so yay for that.

What’s the most recent new thing you’ve tried, just for the heck of it? How do you celebrate Halloween?

WIPWed #71: Instant Gratification

As a knitter, you wouldn’t think that I’d have a deep love of instant gratification, since knitting is probably one of the slowest ways to create something. Yet, I do. I can only stay project-monogamous for so long before my fingers get itchy for something new and quick. Especially when lovelies like these arrive:

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The Verdant Gryphon Zaftig, colorways Russian Sage and Kiss of Cabernet

As I mentioned on Saturday, The Verdant Gryphon brought back my beloved Zaftig yarn (worsted weight MCN blend) and I just could not resist. Skeins were acquired, and swatches were  nearly immediately made.

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Swatches!

The top swatch was made with size 7 needles because I could not find the size 6 needles the pattern called for and of course, my gauge was too large. I finally did find my size 6 needles and made a second (slightly less enthusiastic) swatch, which was close enough! (Pattern called for 5 sts/inch, I achieved 5.25 sts/inch.)

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The beginnings of a Lucy Hat. Click for project page.

Hats are my absolute favorite instant gratification project, and normally around this time of the year I’m knitting hats like crazy for gifts. However, this one’s for me, and it’s going to be awesome.

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SG Codex, colorway Lioness of Brittany. Click for project page.

The project I’ve been (mostly) monogamous with is my Sweet November shawl knit with luscious, silky Codex. I know I’m going to love this thing like crazy when I’m done, it’s just not particularly engaging to knit anymore since it’s quite simple and repetitive. But that ball is shrinking quickly, so an FO should be in my future soon enough!

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Inglenook Batts. Click for handspun project page.

I took a little spinning break after Spinzilla, but have since picked up my supported spindle project here and there. I’m still enjoying this spin. The singles are so colorful and such a crazy mix of fibers that I’m really looking forward to seeing what it will look like plied!

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Spindle storage.

Over in the Spindlemania group there has been some discussion about how people store their spindles. The above photo illustrates my little spindle corner in the living room. If you look closely, you’ll spot two Turkish spindles on top of the tallest bookcase (one of the few spots in the house that Darwin can’t terrorize). Hanging on the wall are two colorful bags that each contain a top whorl spindle (my Golding and my Kundert) with their fiber. The small hanging bag holds fiber for one of my support spindling projects. Below the bags are my two support spindles and one additional top whorl stuck in a vase with glass beads to hold them upright. For traveling, my Jenkins Aegean and my larger Capar Turkish spindles each fit well within my Dakine school supply case (with shafts removed and with plenty of fiber).

How do you store or travel with your spindles? What do you do when the urge for instant gratification strikes?

IS #79: Worsted Weight Wonders

It has been quite a while since my last Inspiration Saturday post, but it’s also been some time since I’ve had a chance to really sink my teeth into a pattern search. Many of these posts are born of a burning need to find just the right pattern for just the right yarn and lately I haven’t had any pattern-matching conundrums. However, I’ve just discovered that The Verdant Gryphon has brought back one of my favorite yarn bases (Zaftig Bugga, a worsted weight MCN blend) and well, I had to know how many skeins to buy for my next project, didn’t I? Let the luxurious, worsted-weight-accessory-pattern curating commence!

The Millwater cowl by Beth Kling is one I’ve had queued for Zaftig for quite some time.

Copyright Beth Kling. Click for pattern page.

I knit this pattern out of Malabrigo Twist a while back and really enjoyed it. The knitting is simple and soothing, just garter stitch with a ribbed cable that is knit flat and then seamed. I think the finished piece is striking and versatile and looks lovely in semi-solids and variegated yarns.

Another simple-but-striking cabled pattern is the Tidal Flats hat by Melissa Thomson.

Copyright Alexa Ludeman. Click for pattern page.

This hat is part of the Cascadia collection, which contains many lovely accessory and sweater patterns. This hat would work best in a semi-solid, so as not to obscure all that smooth reverse stockinette.

I’ve been enamored with this Bosc scarf by Robin Ulrich for ages:

Copyright Robin Ulrich. Click for pattern page.

It’s just so dang elegant, and knit in worsted weight it would be cozy, beautiful, and fairly quick to knit.

This Fission mitts by Annika Barranti would be quite cushy in Zaftig.

Copyright Vivian Aubrey. Click for pattern page.

I love the laced-up i-cord details, the cables, and the twisted stitches. You need a yarn with good stitch definition to really make these pop. The style is a little bit similar to my Berriboned Wrists pattern (lacing-wise, anyway):

Copyright Alicia Morandi. Click for pattern page.

The wristwarmers were initially designed with Zaftig, and are quite cozy as all get-out in the heavier weight yarn. (I’m wearing them as I type, in fact!)

To up the elegance ante, we have the Juneberry Shawl designed by Jared Flood.

Copyright Brooklyn Tweed. Click for pattern page.

I’ve adored this shawl for quite some time, but have been having internal debates over whether I want to knit it out of Zaftig or something a bit drapier with some silk content, like Codex or Mondegreen.

Lastly, and the pattern I will most likely knit first, is the Lucy Hat by Carina Spencer.

Copyright Knitscene. Click for pattern page.

I think the plump, tightly-twisted texture of Zaftig will lend great stability to this striking, structured cloche. I love the stitch definition in the photo, the possibility of amazing color combination, and that jaunty flipped brim. This hat needs to be rocked so hard, and I plan to rock it well.

Have you been inspired by anything in particular lately? What’s your favorite use for worsted weight yarn? Let us know in the comments below!

IS

WIPWed #70: Schemes and Plans

I’m going to formally declare something that you may have already picked up on by my lack of speaking about it: I’m not knitting any Christmas gifts this year. *gasp!* *Shock and awe!* I know. I always knit gifts, many gifts, usually almost a dozen (or at least it feels like it) small knit gifts for everyone in my family. But I’ve decided to sit this year out because time has just gone too. dang. fast.

I finished last year’s final holiday gift in February. In March, I hurt my wrist and was unable to knit much until May. May – July, I was mostly consumed with wedding knitting and wedding-related tasks. I’ve only completed six non-wedding projects (SIX!) since finishing holiday knitting from last time… one cowl, one pair of socks, and four hats. Because of that dismal finishing rate, I just don’t have it in me to jump into a bunch more gift knitting right now. I’ve got about a zillion shawls and socks on the go that I’d like to actually wear sometime soon thankyouverymuch. And then there are the sweaters I’d like to knit myself, too. Thus, I’m declaring the holiday season of 2014 a bust, and making the knitting all about me me me.

I like a little structure to my knitting, though, so I’ll be coming up with a concrete plan of attack in the next few weeks. For now, I’m just grabbing the nearest UFO (unfinished object) and picking away at it until I can call it done. This week’s victim choice, was my Sweet Codex Shawl.

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SG Codex, colorway Lioness of Brittany

I’ve just finished the first skein and have moved on to the second, so I’m a bit more than halfway done with this shawl (which involves a significant fringe). While the yarn and pattern are lovely, it’s a little monotonous to work. This is definitely a ‘product knitting’ project for me, since I know I will wear the hell out of the finished piece but I am not particularly in love with the process right now.

It made good plane knitting, though, on my trip over the weekend. I flew out to California for a lovely wedding where I got to hang out with a bunch of my college friends in the woods for a few days. It was pretty great and I can officially say that I’ve seen and hugged a redwood. (Hover over the photos in the gallery below to see their caption and click to enbiggen.)

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend/week as well! What have you decided to do about the holidays? Are you knitting lots of gifts, some gifts, or no gifts?

Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show

While I’m filled with an epic sadness that I will not be at Rhinebeck (my friends keep insisting on planning their weddings in October!) I’m super excited that a sample of my Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe products will be there.

Woolen DiversionsIf you’re lucky enough to be going this year, check out the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show tonight from 5 pm – 7 pm at The Garden Plaza Hotel in Kingston, NY. A whole slew of awesome vendors will be there and I hear there will be giveaway prizes, as well. Get your Rhinebeck splurging started early with the likes of Canon Hand Dyes, June Pryce Fiber Arts, That Clever Clementine, Skeinny Dipping, and Knitspot’s Bare Naked Wools (to name just a few).

Woolen DiversionsI’ve sent up a selection of 10 different lotion bar fragrances (including autumn scents like Frosted Cranberry), 5 lip balm flavors, and 3 different gift sets (the All Natural set that Hunter reviewed, Fall Favorites, and Coffeehouse Specials). I hope some of you can stop by and sniff/sample in person!

And one last thing: I finally got around to setting up an e-newsletter for Sweet Sheep. If you sign up, you’ll receive a coupon code for my shop as a thank you (sometime next week)!

I’m bummed that I won’t be there to say hello and enjoy the festival, but I can’t be too sad that I’m heading off to California to celebrate the marriage of some dear friends! (Even though I can barely fit it in my carry-on, my new camera is packed and ready to take epic photographs of redwood trees, wooohooooo! I am ridiculously excited to see some big trees. BIG TREES!!!)

Have an excellent weekend, wherever you’re spending it. :)

WIPWed #69: Post-Spinzilla 2014

The weekend was a whirlwind of preparing lotions for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show (this Friday! Go to it!) and sneaking in one final spin for #Spinzilla. My final yardage was (drumroll please….):

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Woohoo!

I did not quite meet my (random) goal of spinning twice the weight I spun last year (22 oz… I spun up about 17 oz) but I’m really excited that I spun up over a mile (1 mile = 1,760 yards) of yarn in one week!

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3-ply Louet Jacob

I spoke about the Perendale (2-ply, 176 yards, 528 towards Spinzilla) last week and the Inglenook batts on my spindle last Friday (11 g spun at 3000 yards per pound = 73 yards for Spinzilla). Above you see my finished 3-ply Louet Jacob skein that come sin at 8 oz and 120 yards (480 for Spinzilla). I’ll write more about this skein in a future post when I do a review of the fiber.

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Bee Mice Elf Green Gradient 2-ply

Of everything I spun last week, this gorgeous gradient skein is the most happy-making for me. If you spin and are unfamiliar with Bee Mice Elf, you should get to know her stuff quick, because you are missing out on some amazing colorways! (Laurs also writes great “Mixed Up Mondays” posts where she talks about dyeing particular colors, like Tiffany Blue.) Anyway, this braid had all my colors (lime green through baby blue to teal and forest green) and was on Wensleydale fiber, which I hadn’t spun in any great amount before, so I had to have it. Guys, I love Wensleydale.

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Photo from winddanceranch.com

And not just because the sheep look like adorable muppets! The fiber is an extremely silky and lustrous longwool that is very easy to spin. It drafts beautifully and creates a really drapey finished yarn. That skein (236 yards, 708 for Spinzilla) is going to become some sort of lacy scarf or cowl, I’m thinking. I split it in two and spun each half in order, which meant during plying I had to break out some sections from one single or the other that did not match up correctly, so I had some leftover bits (10 g at 2600 yards per pound = 57 yards), but overall I’m super happy with this yarn.

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Silky Pond Clapotis, click for project page.

After all that spinning, I was inspired to start a project with a skein of handspun I’ve been itching to knit for some time now. I swatched for a drop stitch scarf but hated it and realized the yarn would shine better in a smooth stockinette fabric. I might be the last knitter on earth to start a Clapotis, but here it is!
What have you all been up to this week? Do you have a favorite pattern for handspun?

FOFri #33: Need An Extra Foot?

Somehow, even though I knit and blocked and measured a gauge swatch, and calculated an approximate length I wanted my cowl to be and cast on the appropriate number of stitches, I ended up with a cowl nearly a foot longer than I had intended.

Pre-work, dusty mirror selfie is all you get.

It’s a wee bit large: 63″ circumference, 8″ tall. I don’t hate it, though I’ll never wear it long like that. I’m currently wearing it doubled up around my neck and it has a comfortably loose drape. I can also wear it tripled for increased warmth.

My ‘almost being choked by knitwear’ face.

My blocked swatch had a gauge of 5.5 sts/inch, so I cast on 285 sts to arrive at hopeful finished length of 52″. My swatch was small, which might have had something to do with it, and while I did knit it in the round, I did so on bamboo DPNs, rather than on the KnitPicks harmony wood circulars I ended up using for the cowl. I suppose those changes could have resulted in a project gauge of 4.5 sts/inch (285 sts / 63 inches). Let this be a lesson in the dramatic difference one stitch per inch can make!

Inglenook Fibers batt spinning.

I am still spinning for #Spinzilla, but sadly had no time at the wheel last night. I’ve been piling up the singles on my Russian spindle, though! All of that is the result of just one of the eight little batt poofs (batt balls? batt sections? batt muffins?) from Inglenook. I’ve yet to spin a large project on my supported spindles, so far I’ve only just sampled and then andean plied the yarn off the spindle into a 2-ply. Does anyone have tips for singles management when you only have one supported spindle? How to you spin and organize your singles for plying for an entire project?¬† I need to figure something out, since promptly after shooting that photo, Darwin ran off with my spindle and tragically separated the cop from its rightful place on the shaft (bad kitty!). The single appears to have maintained its shape so I’m hoping it won’t be a total mess to wind up later.

What was your worst ever gauge miscalculation fail?