It’s That Time of the Month

No, not that time, but the apparently once-a-month occurrence of my carving out a minute or two to blog. Honestly, it’s not even a lack of time, but a sheer lack of energy. If I do get time when I’m not working or chasing my little speed-demon crawler or doing things around the house, I just want to collapse and veg out. I don’t always have enough spoons to be organized and creative and interesting. But enough apologizing! Lack of spoons has not meant a lack of yarn in my life, so let me tell you about it.

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Verdant Gryphon goodies

A couple of blog posts ago, I yammered on about Verdant Gryphon closing down. While it’s true that Gryphon herself has left VG, it appears that VG is in fact actually still producing yarn, despite word-on-the-street (a.k.a. Ravelry) being that they were not going to be doing so. Before I knew that, I made one last-ditch acquisition of my two favorite bases: Zaftig (grey, worsted weight MCN) in November Moonlight and Codex (black/green/blue, light worsted BFL/silk) in Verdant Love. For the sake of my wallet, I’m going to just go ahead and pretend like they really did shut down because I could spend entire paychecks on this stuff…

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VG Zaftig in Burying Beetle, click for project page

Guess how many years I’ve been hoarding that lovely little number in my stash? FIVE. FIVE FLIPPIN’ YEARS. I acquired it in 2012, so excited to use it, but it was too pretty, I was too indecisive, and there it sat. I finally found the perfect pattern for it, though: Sky Boat Cowl designed by Judy Marples. The cowl has so much wonderful texture, plays really well with the variegated colorway, and should be just long enough with the two skeins that I have. This I know because another cowl I knit from two skeins of Zaftig is one of my all-time favorites to wear. I’ve been monogamous to this cowl and haven’t knit anything else since I started it about 3 weeks ago. (The photo above is misleading, as I’m over halfway done now.) I’ve been working on it while I’ve thrown myself into the second season of Outlander on DVD, so it’s really felt like the perfect thing to knit lately  (the cowl was inspired by the poem adapted in the theme song to the show, as Judy blogs about here). I could watch that show and dream about a completely romanticized historical Scotland forever. Except I’d miss spending time with this toothy guy:

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❤  ❤  ❤

In some Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe news, a happy customer and fellow knit-blogger has featured my products in the ‘Monday Makers’ post on her blog, as one of a few excellent gift ideas for Mother’s Day. Check it out if you can. Thanks for the love, Jeannie!

Review: Myra Cowl and Colinton Australia Lace from Louet

A few weeks ago, Louet sent me a gorgeous skein of Colinton Australia Lace yarn to knit up the Myra cowl pattern by Trudy Van Stralen for review. The Myra cowl pattern is part of a special collection of patterns to highlight Louet’s new partnership with Colinton Australia yarns.

Review | Woolen Diversions

Colinton Lace and Myra cowl from Louet

As soon as the yarn arrived, I was eager to cast on. The colorway I received, Dove, is a gorgeous, pale pink that looked both delicate and sophistacted. Colinton Lace is a 2-ply laceweight mohair yarn with 225 yards in each 50 g skein. Most mohair yarns I’ve worked with are brushed for a halo or plied with silk or linen, but this yarn is pure kid mohair and it is more sleek than it is fuzzy. I adore the shine and hand of this yarn and think it looks and feels a lot like silk. This means it has a lovely drape and very little elasticity.

Blocking.

Blocking.

I thought the pattern, a simple lace cowl worked flat and then joined on the short ends, was well-suited for the yarn. The stitch pattern is a garter-based lace that easy to work and really opens up nicely with blocking. I did have a few mishaps with dropped stitches during the course of the project, which was due partially to the slipperiness of the yarn, but would have been easy to avoid with a different needle choice (grippy bamboo or carbon fiber would do the trick). I recommend adding a lifeline every few repeats, just in case.

The pattern is not charted, only written out, but the lace pattern is simple enough that a chart isn’t strictly necessary. I had no problems with the pattern until I reached the finishing instructions, which were a little confusing. The pattern includes a diagram of the three-needle bind off on a separate page, but then switches to a description of kitchener stitch (or grafting) for closing the cowl without fully explaining the three-needle bind off in the finishing section, which threw me off at first. Update: It turns out that I was working from an older version of the pattern! The newer version has a nicer layout that includes a chart and makes it clear that you have the option of finishing with either a 3-needle bind-off or grafting. I decided to go with the three-needle bind off using a needle a couple sizes bigger so the bind off would be loose. When you use this technique, you usually want to begin with the right sides facing each other so that your seam is on the inside or wrong side of the cowl. However, since the garter-stitch lace pattern is fully reversible, the distinction doesn’t matter so much for this cowl.

Since I wanted my cowl to be a bit wider and shorter than the one pictured in the pattern, I cast on 45 stitches for 2.5 repeats (instead of 2 repeats as written). This blocked out to about 41″ circumference and 12″ wide, which I’m really happy with. It’s not long enough to double up but it’s the perfect length to wear as a pretty, lightweight accessory. It’s delightfully warm for its lightness and the yarn really shines. The fabric developed a slight halo with wearing and shed a little bit on the dark shirt I wore it with the first day, but not enough to bother me. My Fiasco found it itchy, but he is very sensitive to prickle and has been known to say “I think Merino is kind of scratchy” so that’s how low his tolerance is.

In conclusion, the Myra cowl is a pretty accessory and would make a good beginner lace project due to its simple geometric stitch pattern, and I absolutely love the yarn. I really didn’t think I liked mohair all that much until I tried this yarn, but I would use it for another lace accessory in a heartbeat.

GIVEAWAY: I’d like to give my copy of the Myra cowl pattern away email a copy of the updated Myra cowl pattern to someone who would like it! Leave a comment on this post and let me know what other pattern from the Louet Colinton Collection you would like to make. Share this post on facebook or twitter for an extra entry (leave a comment letting me know you did!) and make sure you leave your e-mail so I can contact you. I’ll draw a winner next Monday, 7/6!

WIPWed #97: Monogamy Makes For Boring Blogging

I have been motoring along on the same two knitting projects, which means my WIPWed post looks nearly the same as last week’s, just with a few more inches of knitting on each thing. This is great for progress, but pretty boring for blogging. Here’s an update anyway!

My Favorite Socks Ever:

WIPWed #97: Monogamy Makes For Boring Blogging | Woolen Diversions

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

Still in love with this colorway and enjoying this pattern, still my favorite socks! I’m crossing my fingers that I can finish them this week and — get this — I even have plans to knit ANOTHER PAIR of this SAME PATTERN (that never happens). That’s how much I love it, guys.

Colinton Cowl:

WIPWed #97: Monogamy Makes For Boring Blogging | Woolen Diversions

Colinton Australia laceweight mohair, colorway Dove. Click for project page.

My laceweight mohair cowl is growing, growing, growing but as you can see, we had a little mishap. Mohair fibers are more slippery and less elastic than wool, so it’s pretty easy to drop stitches (especially if you’re all wrapped up in a particularly thrilling episode of The Vampire Diaries while you’re trying to knit). When I knit with this yarn again (and that’s definitely when, not if, because it’s lovely) I’ll likely use bamboo or carbon fiber needles, which are both a little more grabby than my wooden ones to help prevent the dropping from happening in the first place. The cowl and I need to have a careful tinking back date soon.

Eggplant in Ashes Singles:

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BeeMiceElf BFL/silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes. Click for handspun page.

Remember the 2-ply vs. singles sampling I did a few weeks ago? I’ve decided to give the singles yarn a try. I’ve nearly finished the first of two braids of this gorgeous BFL/silk fiber from BeeMiceElf, when it’s done I’ll finish the yarn and knit a mini version of the bias stripe wrap to see how I like it. If it works, great! I’ll finish spinning the rest of the yarn and plan to knit that scarf. If I don’t like it, I can always spin the rest of the yarn up and then ply the two singles together for a 2-ply instead (I think/hope).

That’s all for me this week! I am sort of in between books at the moment (I know, gasp!) and have been working my way through the latest issue of Ply magazine instead. Not sure what I’ll dive into next. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic

Dear socks, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Your slipped stitches gracefully pop out of a field of blues and greys. Your simple pattern brings me joy and you’ve grown so much in only days. What more could I ask for? When you’re finished, you will amaze.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic | Woolen Diversions

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

I call that Ode to My Favorite Socks Ever because hot damn, I love these socks. The yarn is from the March kit of the Rockin’ Sock Club and I’m so glad I traded my May skein for another of this colorway because I could knit with this and only this for the rest of my life and not be sad. That aqua is just the right aqua and that grey is just the right grey and I love how it all looks mixed together with white. It took a little trial and error to find a pattern that looked good with the pooling inherent in hand-dyed yarn of short color repeats, but the stitch pattern in Dalekanium did the trick. I am really just using the stitch pattern, knitting my sock top-down with whatever heel and toe I choose. (That free pattern is very similar to the paid Atlantic Current pattern, as well.) The slipped stitches are simple yet effective and I am really loving this knit.

Colinton Cowl:

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic | Woolen Diversions

Colinton Australia Lace, colorway Dove. Click for project page.

I’m also madly in love with my mohair laceweight Myra cowl. The mistake I wrote about last week wasn’t too difficult to fix, it actually wasn’t a dropped stitch but a completely wrong row so a little careful tinking got me back on track with minimal fuss. The fabric this yarn is making doesn’t look like much (yet) but it feels absolutely incredible. I think sometimes mohair gets a bad rap and this yarn in particular feels very much like silk. I’m loving it.

I’m also loving the project bag I keep my cowl in. A friend of mine from the spinner’s guild made it for me and I absolutely adore it. She said it was very simple to make, just a couple of squares sewn together cleverly, but I love how it opens up  nice and wide and fits my straight needles easily. Thanks again, Christine!

Finally, I’m totally loving the show I’m watching while I knit my cowl: The Vampire Diaries. The Fiasco can make fun of me all he wants for watching a show about teenage supernaturals (When do shows about high school kids get old, really? Shouldn’t they be old already? High school wasn’t that exciting!) but that man is one sexy vampire and I can watch him all night long. Ahem. Sorry. I just… sigh.

Reading:

I finished Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety and think that it was a really insightful, important read. Yes, a little depressing, but not in the “this can never be fixed!” way, more in the “why do people allow themselves to get bogged down like this?” way. Have hope! Keep trying! Sign petitions! Write your lawmaker! Don’t lose sight of what’s right! I think it was overall a hopeful book, although it’s full of depressing facts and history. Books that open one’s eyes to ‘why’ and ‘how’ of certain realities of society are really important, even if they aren’t an answer in and of themselves.

I came across a blog post with an excerpt from Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute Of It by Andrea Buchanan. (There’s also a whole Literary Mama blog I just discovered, too. Good break time reading!) The book is a collection of heartfelt/humorous/smart essays written throughout the first 3 years of the author’s daughter’s life. It sets out to chronicle her reaction to motherhood and compares it to culture shock. I thought it was really well done and read the thing in 3 days. Worth it!

Have you read any good books lately? I think it might be time for me to take a break from the motherhood-related books and read something a bit more light-hearted and fictional.

Linking with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

 

Finally, Some Light

Despite all the snow on the ground, I can feel the winter starting to fade. Birds are singing in the morning, the temps are forecast to be above freezing this week, and the sun is a welcome friend returned. Not only for its warmth, but for its light… because I can finally take some decent FO pictures. (Priorities!)

Finally, Some Light | Woolen Diversions

Deep Dark Stellaria, click for project page.

When I first finished knitting the Stellaria shawl, designed by Susanna IC, I was a little bit dismayed. I had modified the shawl to be deeper/taller (by leaving fewer stitches between short row wraps) but I had not fully appreciated how long this sucker was. It’s a really big shawl, and I was concerned about its wearability.

At first I thought the shawl would only look ‘appropriate’ worn with a fancy dress to a winter wedding or gothic gala of some sort. But after a few weeks of wearing it as depicted in the second photo above, I’ve decided it works. It’s a bit larger than other shawls I wear kerchief-style, but the layers of garter and lace wrapped the neck around make for a nice cascading effect (plus, they’re super warm). I won’t be wearing this shawl much into the spring, but for the winter, its coziness is much appreciated.

Finally, Some Light | Woolen Diversions

Garnet Tonic cowl. Click for project page.

After my quick blocking of this Tonic Water cowl, designed by Thea Coleman, I decided that it definitely needed another repeat. I was tempted to leave it be, but the extra repeat was totally necessary.

With 8 repeats, the cowl falls to a nice length worn open, and just barely fits comfortably doubled up since it’s such a wide piece of knitting. I love that contrasting stripe (and the way it coordinates with my Lucy hat!) more than I can say, but it gave me the devil of a time. When I first saw the design, I thought Thea had done something really clever with beginning and ending the cowl in the contrast color and invisibly joining in garter stitch somehow. Instead, the directions were much simpler, and just involved adding the contrast color at the end and seaming the edges together using the main color. Since I dislike seaming and was feeling lazy, I decided to finagle a different way to close the cowl. I spent an entire hour messing around with it, trying and abandoning ideas like knitting the edges together or doing a three needle bind-off. Eventually, I settled on doing a garter-based kitchener stitch using the contrast color. You can see the contrast color poking through a little on one side of the join, but trust me, it’s much better than it was. And truthfully, I’m so in love with this cowl that it doesn’t even matter.

Finally, Some Light | Woolen Diversions

The Verdant Gryphon Zaftig, colorway Winter Slant of Light

While I’m thrilled about spring, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this winter colorway from The Verdant Gryphon. Blues! Greens! Greys! All of my favorite things! And since I love my newly finished cowl in the same worsted weight MCN base so much, I think these skeins are destined to become a cowl, as well. Now to find the perfect pattern…

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe on Etsy

New lip balm flavor: French Macaron!

Spring scents are popping up over at Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe, too! I’ve just added a brand new lip balm flavor, French Macaron. It’s delightfully sweet, sophisticated, and indulgent. I’ve also restocked a good number of my other lip balm flavors that had sold out (Toasted Coconut, Lavender, Lemon Lime, Winter Clementine, and Vanilla Mint) and added Spring Meadow and Sea Moss lotion bars back into the rotation.

What would you knit with just under 400 yards of dense and colorful worsted weight yarn? Is spring popping up in your part of the world?

FOFri #37: All the Fluffy

The first project I spun on my Lendrum wheel was a full pound of undyed Falkland, spun up into a respectably squishy 3-ply with oodles of yardage. This second finished yarn? Totally different.

FOFri #37: All the Fluffy | Woolen Diversions

Thick-and-Thin Masham. Click for handspun page.

The fiber for this skein was the April 2014 shipment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club: 8 oz of Masham wool in the Indigo Dreams colorway. I first started spinning this on a spindle but wasn’t loving it, so I decided to give the bulky flyer of my wheel a try. I was spinning up thick singles for a while, but then I was inspired to give thick-and-thin art yarn spinning a shot.

I’m really glad I did, and I’m thrilled that I have a wheel that allows me to spin such vastly different yarns with ease. I spun until I got tired of the process and called it done. The skein is about 3.3 oz and 214 yards of bulky-to-sport weight yarn. I was pleasantly surprised by how evenly distributed the bulky bits seemed while I was winding this skein up. I finished it by plunging the singles into hot and cold water 3 times, and thwacking thoroughly. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well balanced the skein was after finishing. Singles yarns can easily contain too much twist without the plying stage to balance things out but this skein is just fine. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with it yet, but the finished yarn is much fluffier than I expected it to be, and I think a little loosely-knit cowl or kerchief will do quite nicely. And bonus, I still have lots of fiber and some bulky singles left to use in future art yarn explorations.

FOFri #37: All the Fluffy | Woolen Diversions

Garnet Tonic cowl. Click for project page.

I might just be done with my Garnet Tonic cowl, as well. The pattern said to knit to 48″ before adding the contrast color stripe and binding off/seaming. My cowl measured 44″ unblocked after I had just broken into the third skein and finished the 7th repeat. Since I have a tendency to overestimate cowl length, and since it is already feeling pretty heavy (2 skeins of dense yarn gobbled up), I decided to put my stitches on a lifeline and block it out now to see how big it really is before finishing. On the blocking boards it measures 14″ across and 48″ in length. Once dry I’ll try it on and see if I want to add an 8th repeat or not. Have you ever blocked a project before it’s finished to figure out proper size/length?

WIPWed #83: All About the Art

For a while, I was like “Art yarn? But… why? What can you do with it?” And while I have yet to answer the second part of that question, I think I’ve finally understood the why.

I’ve been reading Jacey Boggs’ excellent book, Spin Art, and I’ve finally understood that people spin art yarn because it’s fun, beautiful, and offers endless opportunities for experimentation and discovery. Jacey is an incredible spinner and provides clear instructions and gorgeously inspirational photos, to boot. There’s also a DVD that I have yet to watch, but I’m already brimming with ideas for the techniques I’d like to try. My only wish is that she would have included photos of swatches knit with her lovely yarns, but perhaps she’s leaving that as incentive for us curious spinners to try things out for ourselves.

WIPWed #83: All About the Art | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club Masham wool, colorway Indigo Dreams. Click for handspun page.

I am currently giving what seemed to be the most straightforward technique, thick-and-thin spinning, a try. I am spinning on the second whorl of my bulky flyer. This wool is easy to draft and it’s going pretty well but this certainly won’t be my prettiest yarn ever. I’m planning to keep this yarn as a singles, although there are additional art yarns one could create by plying or corespinning with it. Since I’m just dipping my toe in, though, I’m keeping it simple for now, and just enjoying the process.

Did you hear that? Little miss goal-oriented product-coveter is just enjoying the process. I swear, spinning has changed me. I don’t even care if I ever knit with this stuff, I just had to make it.

The Fiasco came across an interesting video about art yesterday. (Note: the guy in it is not an actual professor, he ‘teaches’ for a website that calls itself a university, but is not, and he only has a BA, not a MFA or PhD. So its legitimacy is suspect, but I’m sharing it anyway.) It features an artist who is criticizing modern art for it lack of skill, expertise, meaning, and style. It’s an interesting perspective and raises a series of questions: Does art have to be “good” to be art? Does it have to be “beautiful”? Who determines the standards? I am not versed in art history at all but I’ve often wandered the halls of modern art museums wondering why a blank canvas with one red stripe across it can be called “art” and feeling unsure as to what the point really is in pieces like that. What do you think?

As for other works-in-progress, here’s what I’ve been doing this week.

Garnet Tonic:

WIPWed #83: All About the Art | Woolen Diversions

VG Zaftig, colorway Kiss of Cabernet. Click for project page.

My Tonic Water cowl is coming along nicely. I’m 6 repeats in and have just about 1/8 of the 2nd skein left to work. It’s getting close to cowl-sized, but I’m thinking I’ll need to break into the 3rd skein soon.

Alchemy:

WIPWed #83: All About the Art | Woolen Diversions

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

Even though I gave in to my impulses and cast on a shawl for Malabrigo March, I have not completely forsaken my other knits. My dear Fiasco has been waiting patiently for this second sock and I’ve now safely turned the heel and am cruising down the foot. Soon, soon.

MalMarch Sundry:

WIPWed #83: All About the Art | Woolen Diversions

Malabrigo Yarns Dos, colorway Turquesa. Click for project page.

And about that Sundry shawl that I impulsively cast on for Malabrigo March? I regret nothing. Dos is such a delight to work with and I needed a little bit more garter stitch in my life. The swoop-y shape the shawl is forming is pretty fun, too.

Linking up with Small Things and Gracey’s Goodies this week. Yay for WIPs!