Happily Handspun

I’m pretty sure I think/say this every time I finish a skein of yarn, but this one might just be my prettiest handspun yet.

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This gorgeous thing is the finished product of my brief drum carding experiment. I blended about 5 oz of undyed baby alpaca fiber with about 2 oz of blue/green silk and a sprinkling of firestar. I carded each little batt twice and the spinning was delightfully fluffy and easy.

IMG_6397I absolutely adore the way the little pops of color from the silk shine through the soft, white base of the alpaca. The carding blended the fibers enough so that the yarn has a bit of a heathered look from afar, but up close you see all of the variation. Guys, it’s seriously pretty. I almost can’t stand it.

IMG_6426I even broke out my yarn balance to try to take some more accurate measurements of this skein and my last skein of handspun (pictured above). To use a yarn balance, you cut a length of yarn about 2 feet long (possibly longer if it’s a thin yarn) and let it hang from the arm of the balance. Then you remove the yarn, snip little bits off the end, and replace it until the arm no longer slams down as soon as weight is added. On my balance, the arm didn’t exactly move into a balanced position at any point, I kind of had to help it along. I figured that if it didn’t slam down immediately and if I was able to lift it back up again while the weight of the yarn was on it, then that was balanced enough.

IMG_6427Once you have your balanced length, you measure it. In the photo above, the top strand measured 12.0 inches and the bottom measured 9.0. You then multiply the length of yarn (including any decimal places) by 100 to calculate that the grist of the top yarn is 1200 yards per pound and the bottom (alpaca/silk) is 900 yards per pound. This means that if I had spun up a full pound of fiber, I would have had 900 yards of yarn at this yarn’s thickness. What’s interesting is that I measured 344 yards for this yarn on my niddy noddy before washing. The ball of yarn weighs 175 grams, or 0.386 pounds. When you multiply 0.386 pounds by 900 yards/pound, you get about 347 yards, which is very close to what I had measured on my niddy noddy, so that’s a nice check!

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There’s a helpful chart in this blog post that compares yarn weight to wraps per inch and yarn grist. The grist for the alpaca/silk, and the fact that I measured about 12 wraps per inch, puts it in the DK/light worsted weight range according to that chart and one I have from a Spin-Off magazine. There was a handy article in KnittySpin recently that was all about measuring your yarn, if you’d like to read about this topic further.

This skein makes the 3rd finished of 12 planned spinning projects in 2014 for my Spin the Bin challenge. Not too shabby for April! I am pretty sure it needs to become a Morning Surf Scarf. What do you think?

IS #69: Indie Untangled

Have you guys heard about Indie Untangled?

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Screenshot of the homepage.

It’s a gorgeously-presented blog/marketplace hybrid where you can discover all sorts of independent dyers, makers, and creators related in some way to yarn and/or knitting. In its own words: “ is the portal for discovering artisan yarns, fiber, notions and accessories. Be the first to know what’s new and in stock from your favorite fiber artists.” I came across it on the Knitty blog and was instantly in love with the idea. When I checked out the list of vendors in the marketplace, I was even more excited and had to try to get involved!

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My little shop, listed amongst so many lovely ones!

Lisa, who runs the website, was very welcoming and helped me get my vendor blog post in quickly and smoothly. I am so excited to be a part of this site! It’s really neat to get to read about the motivations and methods behind the making of some really gorgeous products, including yarn, fiber, bags, accessories, gifts, and notions. And it’s helpful to have shop updates and sales announced from a variety of sources all in one place. It should, perhaps, be named the Indie Enabler.

Countess Ablaze BFL/silk/firestar.

What’s pretty neat is I already had yarn and fiber stashed from a few of the vendors! Above is some BFL/silk/firestar that I had received for Christmas from Countess Ablaze. She has some really fun dark-and-moody colorways as well as bright multis in her shop right now.

Kettle Yarn Co. Westminster, colorway Florence.

This skein of Kettle Yarn Co. Westminster (50% silk, 50% camel) might be the prettiest skein in my entire stash (and that’s saying something). I forget exactly how I stumbled across Linda’s shop but when I did I couldn’t resist this skein as a ‘congrats for submitting your journal article’ prize to myself back in October. :) It’s all wound up and waiting to be made into a scarf in the near future.

Pigeonroof Studios BFL, colorway Filligree

And let’s not forget Pigeonroof Studios, whose fiber I just discovered during last quarter’s Completely Twisted and Arbitrary group spin-along and turned into this pretty handspun. Checking out Krista’s site, she also has some gorgeous mini-skeins and really interesting yarn dyed in her ‘glow‘ series.

Dirty Water Dyeworks BFL

Last but not least is this braid of fiber I acquired 2 years ago from Dirty Water Dyeworks at the CT Sheep and Wool Festival, which became this pretty green handspun. I recently saw Stephanie’s gorgeous yarns at the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl and had an extremely difficult time restraining myself from buying an armful. I had already spent well beyond my budget by the time I saw her lovelies, unfortunately. However, I know she’ll be at the RI Sheep and Fiber Festival next month and I expect my willpower won’t hold up well there.

I’m excited to get to know the rest of the dyers and makers involved, too! There are all sorts of sales and giveaways happening to celebrate the launch of the site. I recommend you sign up for the newsletter if you’d like to be kept in the loop. You can also join the Ravelry group, where more details will be posted as well. I hope you check out the site, I (obviously) think it’s a really cool idea!

What’s been inspiring you, lately? Link along in the comments and let us know!

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WIPWed #54: Sweet Sheep, Open for Business!

FINALLY, after months of preparation, my Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe is now open for business!

grandopeningYou might remember from a while back my request for lotion bar testers. Well, with their helpful feedback, I’ve finally perfected my custom combination of beeswax, mango butter, cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, meadowfoam oil, vitamin E oil, and lanolin! I think it now has just the right consistency and moisturizing effect that I wanted out of a solid bar. It is truly a lotion bar made by a knitter, for knitters (and anyone else who wants nice, soft hands). I currently have 10 different scented lotion bar options, 2 unscented options, and 1 custom order option available in the shop. Custom orders will take a couple of weeks to produce before I can ship out as I’m currently waiting on more supplies to arrive. The shop is certainly a work-in-progress as there are several scents I’m planning to add (lemon cake! green tea! cinnamon chai!) as well as sample sized bars and lip balms when I get the packaging for those little guys sorted out. I just didn’t want to wait any longer!

My favorite scent at the moment is Turkish Mocha:

turkishmocha1Does that not look delightful? It’s a warm, spiced scent of coffee and cinnamon with chocolate-y undertones from the non-deoderized cocoa butter used for these bars.

Although a close second is Spring Meadow:

springmeadow1It’s a completely different kind of fragrance: a sweet, light floral that smells exactly like a field of flowers blooming in the sun. For all of the non-chocolate-y bars I used deodorized cocoa butter so the fragrance wouldn’t be compromised by the natural scent of the butter.

As a special thank you to all of my blog readers, I’m offering a 10% discount with the coupon code BLOGLOVE. The code is good through the end of April. Just add what you’d like to the cart, enter the code in the appropriate place, and it should automatically deduct! Please let me know if you encounter any problems or see anything on the site that’s confusing or unclear as this is my first Etsy rodeo and there could’ve been some fumbles during setup. Now, back to knitting…

Kelp-y Kelpie:

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Brooklyn Tweed Loft, colorway Sweatshirt. Click for project page.

After a few weeks of avoiding working on this due to a dislike of the metal needles I was using, I’m happy to report that after switching to the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz needles that I’m testing out for an upcoming review, my progress became quite speedy and comfortable! I hesitated to switch because I thought that such a grippy yarn like the woolen-spun Loft would work best on metal needles, but the stitches slide along just fine on the Karbonz and I’m thinking the metal tips probably help things go smoothly. Huzzah for progress!

Blue Loasa:

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BMFA Socks that Rock Mediumweight, colorway Blue Moonstone. Click for project page.

Despite all the preparation going on, I’ve made some decent progress on my Loasa lateritia sock. I zoomed through the lace cuff (which doesn’t look like much in the photo above since it is inside out) and am now about ready to start the heel. I’m really loving this color, Blue Moonstone, right now. It feels so bright and cheery for spring!

That’s it from me this week. Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

Yarn Crawl Haul

This past weekend was the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl and while I could only stop at 3 stores and the culmination festival at Mount Hope Farm, I still somehow managed to make off with a respectable haul (imagine that).

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The aforementioned haul.

I was so overcome by the lovely little project bags sold by Dancing Threads RI that I couldn’t decide between the zippered pouch or the drawstring bag… so I bought both (woops). It couldn’t be helped. The fabrics were essentially made for me and I’m always short a project bag or two. I have a sock in the zippered pouch already. I feel like they could each be just an inch taller in size but overall I love them. I especially like that the drawstring on the bag is a nice solid canvas rope and not a dinky ribbon that my cats will chew through the second I turn my back (ooooh, Darwin).

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Cashmere and possum and silk, oh my!

At Eneri Knits I purchased a new purple Knit Kit (the measuring tape on my old one recently bit the dust) and an exquisitely tiny and luxurious ball of Zealana Air laceweight. I’d been intrigued since I read about the yarn in one of Clara Parkes’ reviews. I’ve been wanting to make the Yarn Harlot’s Pretty Thing cowl for a while and this itty bitty skein of luxury yarn will be just the right match.

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Branching out into more plant-based fibers. Here – linen.

At The Mermaid’s Purl I snagged a couple of skeins Shibui Linen yarn. It’s a fingering weight, chain construction yarn that should be interesting to knit with (to say the least). I might go back and get another white or exchange the green for the white as I’m not quite sure what I want to make with this yarn yet, but I know I’d like a summery little scarf/shawl of some kind. I’m considering the two-color slipped-stitch shawl Bryum, but I think I’ll need another skein for decent yardage. We’ll see!

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Ahhhhh, pretty pretty Anzula.

Turns out that deciding to visit Love 2 Knit at the last minute was an excellent idea, since in addition to taking part in the crawl they were also having an Anzula Yarns trunk show! There were so many lovely skeins there, guys. SO MANY. All luxurious, all wonderful. It was ridiculously difficult to choose just one, but I managed. I decided to take home Oasis, a 70%/30% DK-weight blend of silk and camel. It is delightful and I’m already eying up the Amalthea pattern for it.

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Shiny!

My favorite part of the yarn crawl weekend is the culmination festival at Mount Hope Farm. There’s a big barn full of local-ish vendors (half of which I know by sight if not by name now from the RI guilds!), people everywhere sitting around knitting and spinning, a food truck, and usually some fiber animals lurking about. One of the vendors I can never resist purchasing from is Christee of Play At Life Fiber Arts. Her gradient colorways are just SO FUN, I love them. In fact, I had to click away from her Etsy shop quickly before I bought something else (oh boy). Pictured above is a super shiny blend of 50% superwash Merino wool and 50% Tencel. Should be a fun and slippery spin!

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Big box of Louet fiber.

And if all that yarn-y gluttony wasn’t enough, tonight I came home to a big ol’ box full of Louet fiber — FOUR POUNDS worth! There’s some gorgeous merino/silk top as well as some of their breed-specific Canterbury Prize wools including Jacob, Shetland, and Perendale (which I’m especially excited to work with because I’ve never even heard of that breed). I am going to have a lot of fun playing with these different fibers, keep an eye out for reviews! I plan to start spinning one of these breeds for the April Spring Training challenge… but how to choose?!

Hope you had a woolly and wonderful weekend, too!

IS #68: Ode to My Field Pants

I have these pants, see. I’ve had them for a full decade and there are more fond memories tied up in them than any other piece of clothing I own… but I think that today was their last outing.

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Trusty old field pants.

They’re just cheap, lightweight nylon pants from Old Navy but they’ve been everywhere with me. They’ve been coated in mud from the cypress swamps of South Carolina.

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First fieldwork, circa 2005.

They were the most comfortable pants to wear over my knee brace when I tore my ACL and had surgery in my last year at Cornell.

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Rockin’ out, circa 2007.

They accompanied me on my move to Florida where I made new friends and explored new ecosystems.

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My friend Candace and me in some palmetto scrub, circa 2008.

I basically lived in them underneath my waders for two straight summers while I surveyed the beaches of Connecticut for spawning horseshoe crabs. The first of those summers is when I met and fell in love with my Fiasco.

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This shot was totally posed, btw. Either 2009 or 2010.

Basically, these pants and I have been through a lot together. Every field class in college, every summer spent outdoors, every hike, boat ride, and camping trip… they were there. They were stretchy enough to see me through a pretty wide range of sizes but now, this year — I’ve lost so much weight that I just can’t wear them anymore.

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Baggy, baggy pants.

I’m nearly 70 pounds down and the only thing holding those suckers up is a cloth belt through three belt loops. They’re done and while I know that’s a really good thing, I’m still a little sad. I’m happy that our last outing involved a nice walk on a beautiful day and a siting of some harbor seals sunning themselves on rocks in Narragansett Bay.

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That blob is a harbor seal on a rock.

And now it’s time to find new pants worthy of more adventures.

Do you have a particular piece of clothing (handmade or otherwise) that’s worth more to you than the sum of its parts? What’s been inspiring you lately? Leave a comment and share with us!

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Winner, Winner

Congratulations to Jordyn, the winner of the Eucalan wool wash giveaway! You should be contacted shortly regarding your prize.

woolwash#We had over 40 entries in the giveaway, which is really exciting! It was fun to read everybody’s comments on the scents they like best and whether or not they’ve tried Eucalan before. And thanks to all who shared the giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or Ravelry. It earned you an extra entry and made this little blog feel quite loved. We’ll certainly be doing more giveaways soon!

In other news, I (temporarily) couldn’t find the old sock I was working on, so I started a new one:

BMFA Socks That Rock Mediumweight, colorway Blue Moonstone. Click for project page.

This is the start of Hunter Hammersen’s Loasa lateritia pattern for the Socks That Rawk! group’s 2nd quarter KAL. I’m super excited because I nominated this pattern for the KAL and it actually got chosen! It’s rare that a pattern I already wanted to knit gets picked so I’m pumped to get this one done. This pattern involves some of my favorite sock features: a little bit of simple lace at the beginning, a turned-down cuff, and then easy-peasy ribbing for the rest of the sock so it can fill two distinct roles of interesting couch knitting AND easy travel knitting throughout its lifetime. Call it a knitting-related ontogenetic niche shift, if you will. (That’s eco-dork jargon, don’t worry about it.)

Anyway, all you really need to know is that I love this colorway (which I rescued via frogging a long-abandoned sock), I’m thoroughly enjoying this pattern, and I hope that these factors combine to mean that I’ll finish the socks in record time for the KAL (which goes through June). What new project are you excited about? What are your favorite sock pattern features?

WIPWed #53: Now We’re Zooming!

I started going to physical therapy for my wrist last week and already I feel a vast improvement. I tell you, those PT people know what they are doing. I’m still not overdoing it knitting-wise, but at least I feel like I’ve made a bit of progress this week!

Stitch Block Blues:

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Quince & Co. Osprey, colorways Glacier and Peacock. Click for project page.

As you can see, my Stitch Block Cowl has been growing. This was languishing a little because all of the fancy ‘knit one into the row below’ stitches that make such a delightful, cushy fabric were killing my wrist. However, right where you see that little purple stitchmarker I changed needles from the KnitPicks Harmony I always use to a new set of Knitter’s Pride Karbonz needles that I’m trying out, and it made a world of difference. (You’ll hear more about those needles in a full review soon!) I don’t know if the carbon material gave me a better grip or if the metal tips helped manipulate the thicker stitches more smoothly but the project has been much easier to knit since I switched and there were no glaring changes in gauge, either (hence the stitch marker and lifeline, in case I needed to rip back). So yay!

Something Blue:

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Sport, colorway Ramalaba. Click for project page.

A while back, I saw a cute little linen stitch coin purse knit with silk yarn and thought it would look lovely upsized to a clutch for my wedding day. (When else would it be appropriate to carry a silk clutch, right?) However, the thought of knitting a bunch of linen stitch isn’t super appealing at the moment so I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to give my Zoom Loom skills a workout. I’m picturing weaving 6 of these little squares and sewing them in a 2×3 grid to make a bag that is approximately 8″ across the top and 6″ deep when all sewn up. Woven fabric is great for a bag since it doesn’t stretch like knitted fabric would, but I will probably still line the bag. Since I haven’t sewn anything since home ec class in middle school, this should get interesting. Luckily, I have my quilting Fiasco around if help is needed.

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The helpful man in question.

I have to say, I adore the varied and surprising skills my Fiasco possesses. This weekend we discovered that he is a genius at arranging lotion bars for product photos. Here was my attempt at making the mango-scented lotion bars look appealing:

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Hi. I’m a mango and this is my friend, lotion bar. We are appealing. You are impressed, RIGHT?! (Awkward.)

And here’s the same concept executed with infinitely more skill and patience, set up by the Fiasco:

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Ooooh yeah. It’s a mango-scented lotion bar party. Don’t you want to join in?

So yeah. He has now signed himself up to be my official product arranger and marketing consultant because the man has a gift that manifests beautifully through appealing mango placement. I was impressed (and ever so grateful). If you haven’t been following along at home, all of this is in preparation for the opening of my soon-to-be Etsy shop which will feature handmade lotion bars and lip balms containing lanolin (and yummy scents). You can read more info on the blog here or even ‘like’ the Facebook page if you’re so inclined, here. I’m hoping to open up shop by the end of this weekend with the bars I have already made, and will be adding lip balms and other scents as I obtain more supplies and create more stock. I’m getting super excited! The photoshoot made it all feel real.

Oh! If you haven’t entered already, I have a Eucalan wool wash giveaway going on that ends this week. You can enter until 11:59 Eastern time on Thursday 4/10 and I will choose and announce a winner on Friday. Good luck!

Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.