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!

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Sky Inspiration

Have you heard of the Sky Scarf pattern designed by Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs? It’s a simple but utterly charming and whimsical idea. You essentially knit a basic garter stitch scarf with alternating stripes of color that represent the way the sky looked on a particular day for a certain length of time. I love the concept, and she has an entire book of similar ‘free-form’ knitting patterns that I’ve been enjoying flipping through.

One pattern in the book I wish I had seen earlier, Bundle of Joy, is similar to the Sky Scarf. Instead of stripes on a scarf, you knit squares of a blanket for every day of your pregnancy and you end up with a lovely newborn-sized blanket for the wee one that represents the time he spent in the womb when he couldn’t see the sky for himself. HOW SWEET IS THAT, AMIRIGHT?!?! While I missed the boat on the pregnancy record, I think it could be equally sweet to make a blanket representing the first year of baby’s life, starting it near the date of his birth and giving it to him on his first birthday.

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Colorway ideas, The Loopy Ewe Solid Series

I think it would be a fun way to incorporate mindfulness into my inevitably busy and hectic days as a new parent: notice the sky and take just a few minutes to knit it. Here are some options I’m mulling over:

  1. I could knit the pattern as described, as little squares, but then I’d have to join them all later and I’m not sure I’d love that.
  2. I could weave the squares on a Zoom Loom, which would provide justification for owning a Zoom Loom, and might be faster than knitting a little square… but I’d still have to join.
  3. I could make a sky version of a Hexipuff blanket, which is rumored to have an easy joining technique, but each little puff would need to be stuffed.
  4. I could essentially just make a larger version of a sky scarf, knitting a few rows in garter stitch across a blanket-sized piece of fabric for each day.

I’m feeling partial to option 4 at the moment, especially since it would likely be easier to keep track of than individual pieces, there would be no joining at the end, and it would preserve the order of the days of the year. However, I do really love the patchwork look of the other options. What do you think would be most doable for a new mom?

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I hate edgings.

Whichever option I choose, it will not have an edging for which I need to pick up stitches, since I freaking hate doing that. I thought I was being all clever by adding a slipped stitch edging to my Newborn Vertebrae sweater, since I heard or read that it makes picking up stitches easier, but it turns out it just made my edging look floppy and messy. I picked up all the stitches around the edge of this wee sweater TWICE and it still looks like crap. Now I need to pick up stitches one in from the edging, because my slipped stitches are leaving gaping holes. Sigh. That’s what I get for trying to get fancy with things.

Five Things Friday

It’s Friday! And I’m celebrating with a list of random things I’d like to blab about.

1- Despite my best efforts at focusing on one WIP, knitting time was minimal this week and my Rotted Days shawl is still not done. However, I am loving the final purple wedge and am still excited to wrap this one up soon.

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So very purple!

2- I’m digging this new cookbook by Andi Mitchell, Eating in the Middle. She wrote an excellent book called It Was Me All Along about her struggles with weight loss and disordered eating that really resonated with me. This cookbook focuses on ‘mostly wholesome’ meals for when you are not actively dieting or indulging, just eating at a healthy maintenance level. The buttermilk dipping sauce and chicken fingers were delicious, as were the morning glory muffins, and the chia seed breakfast pudding I just devoured.  I highly recommend both her books, and her blog if you’re interested in healthful eating or weight loss mindset.

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Om nom nom.

3- I gave myself my 200th lovenox (blood thinner) injection of this pregnancy. Only about 140ish more to go before Hatchling arrives! I will spare you the photos of my black-and-blue belly but some of the bruises are really spectacular, color-wise. Thankfully, they don’t usually hurt, they’re just a bit of a nuisance.

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Emptied box #1!

4- I came across this On the Spice Market shawl using Miss Babs gradient sets and I’m totally in love. I don’t have time for a new shawl right now, and even if I did, so many of Melanie Berg’s shawls have a similar trendy/stripey vibe that I’d have a hard time actually choosing which one to knit, but this one would be near the top of my list, perhaps even in those colors. So pretty!

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Photo copyright Melanie Berg.

5- I’ve updated Sweet Sheep with some out of stock lip balms, including Spearmint and Toasted Coconut. I know Toasted Coconut has been unavailable for a while as I’ve had several requests from customers who are very big fans of it to restock! So it’s there now, just in time to take your lips on a tropical vacation this spring.

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Toasted Coconut lip balm… more om nom nom.

What random things are floating around on your mind this Friday? Have a lovely weekend!

FOFri #41 : Socks & Swatches

After a couple of busy weeks, I’ve finally had time to sit down and wrap up the toes of not one but TWO pairs of socks!

FOFri #41: Socks & Swatches | Woolen Diversions

We sort of match, and it’s adorable.

I think it’s safe to say that my sock mojo is officially back. I’ve finished 6 pairs of socks thus far this year! That’s almost a pair a month, which is way faster than my sock finishing rate of the last few years. Plus, I knit the exact same pattern, twice, simultaneously. If that’s not fortitude, I don’t know what is. It probably helps that I adore both of the colorways and the slipped stitch patterning feels like it flies by.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

These are, indeed, my favorite socks ever. The pattern is Dalekanium by Dena Stelly. In truth, I didn’t actually follow the pattern (which is toe-up). I just borrowed the stitch pattern and stuck it on my typical 64-stitch cuff-down sock and tapered away the slipped stitch patterning just before I began the toe decreases. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight (my faaaaaaaavorite) in the club colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

Stealth Socks:

And while I got brand new socks, the Fiasco did, too (so he can’t complain of neglect). His birthday socks were just about a week late, which isn’t too bad by my standards. The nice thing about his is that they went just as quickly as mine, despite his larger feet. That’s because I used BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight on size 2.75 mm needles to size up the socks instead of casting on more stitches. (Good thing he likes his socks cushy!) This is the Grimm colorway, and it’s fabulous.

Now that those socks are off the needles and I have a few trips in the near future, I’m itching to cast on some small, quick-but-interesting, portable projects. Which to me, means HATS.

FOFri #41: Socks & Swatches | Woolen Diversions

Swatches, all wet and wonky.

I’ve had two skeins of yarn begging to become hats that I want in my wardrobe like right now since mid-winter, but I just didn’t get a chance to knit them last season. Knitting them in August should give me a solid jump-start on accessories for fall, though!

Black Tea:

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

I’ve been completely in love with this slouchy Black Tea hat pattern since I handled the sample during a class with the designer, Thea Colman, at a knitting event in January. I loved the sample so much that I even hunted down the exact yarn used in the pattern through a destash because I want to replicate the look and feel of the luxurious fabric. The yarn is Bello fingering by the Plucky Knitter (55% Merino wool, 45% cashmere), held double while knitting. Once dry, the swatch will help me determine if I want to use 6’s or 7’s for the main body of the hat. While I could’ve just followed the pattern, my head is a little smaller than most and I’ve never worked with this yarn before so I wanted to get a feel for it and my gauge before I jumped right in.

Paravel Hat:

Photo copyright Megan Goodacre. Click for pattern page.

The other hat will be made with a skein of BMFA BFL Superwash in their fun Sadie Sue Tipsy colorway. The blue in that colorway is the exact same shade of blue as my jacket (and my glasses, and my lampshade, and my wristwarmers…) which makes the color-coordination-lover in me very happy. I knew it wanted to become a hat, but I was debating between the Norby and Sockhead patterns until last night, when I found Paravel (designed by Megan Goodacre) and thought that the simple texture with the interesting lace panel would work well with the specks of color and keep my interest while knitting. Plus, I love the tidy decreases at the top of the hat and appreciate that kind of attention to detail in the patterns I buy.

Photo copyright Megan Goodacre.

So that’s my trip knitting all sorted out! Two hats (and let’s be honest, probably a new pair of socks) should hold me over for a 3-day Cape Cod trip and a week-long conference, right?

(And in case you missed it, check out my Indie Business Interview on the Knitted Bliss blog! There you’ll find a coupon code for free shipping on all domestic AND international Sweet Sheep orders over $10 through August 7th.)

Planning (Way) Ahead

You know what I realized the other day? Rhinebeck is only 4 months away. FOUR MONTHS! That might sound like a whole lot of time, and not even the most dedicated knitter is wishing for fall so soon into summer, but if I want to actually finish a garment before the festival, I need to start plotting now.

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Twisted, colorway Grimm Green

I have three skeins of BMFA Twisted, about 1680 yards of worsted/aran weight wool yarn, waiting to become a sweater. This is the same yarn I used for my Overdyed Cypress vest and I know it will make a delightful garment. I’m picturing a button-up cardigan with cables or texture and a thick, cozy shawl collar. However, that vest took me 6 months start-to-finish, so I need to get crackin’ sooner than later. Here are the three patterns on my short list.

Dark & Stormy:

Photo copyright Caro Sheridan. Click for pattern page.

Thea Coleman’s Dark and Stormy cardigan has such a gorgeous cable panel on the back, doesn’t it? It also features a generous shawl collar (which you can see in other photos on the pattern page). The stockinette will likely make the knitting go a little faster. I think this is knit top down with raglan sleeve shaping. My concern is that raglan shaping might not be the most flattering for my larger bust, and I’m wary of getting creative with modifications so early in my garment-knitting career.

Chocolate Stout:

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

Another lovely pattern by Thea Coleman (that woman is a wizard with cables) is Chocolate Stout. This one looks deliciously grandpa-ish, with it  deep pockets, cuffs, and overall texture. It is knit bottom up with a drop shoulder sleeve treatment. Drop shoulders are the same as those on the vest I’ve already made and they were simple enough to work.

Little Wave:

Photo copyright Jared Flood, click for pattern page.

I’m also very much in love with the Little Wave cardi, designed by Gudrun Johnston. I really love the little zig zag/texture stitch and the garter stitch details. It has a less cushy shawl collar than I was picturing, but it still has the same spirit. This one is knit bottom up with a saddle shoulder. I have no idea what my opinion on saddle shoulders might be.

Three gorgeous sweaters with very similar looks, but different constructions. Which would you choose? Why?

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace

Even though my entire weekend was filled to the brim with knitting-related events at Slater Mill’s Knitting Weekend, I feel like I’ve hardly accomplished any knitting this week! Here are the results of my weekend knitting:

Woolen Diversions

Swatches from classes. Ignore how unappealing and unblocked they are.

The top swatch is a mini version of a Shetland-style lace shawl that we worked on during Gudrun Johnston’s Shetland lace class. I have not finished knitting on the border because my needles fell out so I decided I’d gone far enough. Besides, I’ve already knit a couple of shawls that employ a Shetland-style construction: my Aestlight shawl (designed by Gudrun) and my Rock Island shawl (designed by Jared Flood). Both involve garter stitch bodies, lace borders, and edgings knit perpendicularly to the body. It’s a fun way to make a shawl, I recommend giving it a shot! Gudrun has a new Hap shawl class up on Craftsy, too, which I bet is great (check her blog for details).

The bottom swatches show a couple of the textured cables that we talked about in Thea Colman’s Playing with Cables class. This class was super interesting as it had a roundtable discussion / workshop feel to it. She essentially explained her creative process, demonstrated how to start coming up with designs featuring cables, and how to manipulate cables in subtle ways to make them do interesting things. It was really great to get to know Thea a little bit and hear about her process. Plus, now that I’ve seen so many of her designs in person, I’m itching to knit them all.

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

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

So I started one. My original plan for this wine-red yarn was a Filemot shawl, but after I started it and messed up the stitch count in the first repeat a few times, the project quickly lost its charm. I also didn’t like the way the yarn felt in all of the twisted stitches. Instead, I cast on Thea’s Tonic Water cowl and am loving it. The lace is simple to work but complex enough to be interesting, and the yarn is creating a beautiful fabric. I’m excited to add the accent color, which will be the pale purple colorway used in my Lucy Hat. (Color coordination makes me stupidly happy, can you tell?) It’s kind of funny that the first Thea pattern I chose to knit involves no cabling at all. However, as the Fiasco noted, the lace in the pattern is essentially cable-shaped (twisting around itself), so there’s that. All in all, I’m psyched about this project. My quarterly goals are intended to fill gaps in wardrobe and/or to use up specific yarns, so swapping out a shawl for a cowl pattern is still playing by the rules in my book. (Also check out my new stitchmarker’s! They’re from Lisa’s new Etsy shop, The Knitting Artist.)

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

Instagram bobbin shot.

As for spinning, I’ve been working my way through the final few ounces of the same Falkland wool that I used for my ply experiment. I had 17 oz to begin with, and have just about 5 oz left. All that white wool is starting to feel a little endless, and I’m itching to get some color on the bobbins, but I’m persevering!

I almost forgot to show you my Knitting Weekend loot! I received two skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca (a Rhode Island company!) as a welcome gift, purchased some cute buttons and a hook gauge from a fellow Rhode Island spinner and knitter who runs the Katrinkles Etsy shop, some fun speckly yarn from Julie Asselin that I gave away in a gift swap to a very yarn-worthy friend, a lovely blue-green gradient from Play At Life Fiber Arts, and (last but not least) two gorgeous, undyed skeins of Cormo/Alpaca/Silk DK weight yarn from Foxfire Fiber & Designs. I’ve got ideas brewing for all of these new additions, but I’m really trying to stick to my goals… Sigh. Discipline is the worst!

What have you been working on this week?

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill

Just a quick post today as I was up quite late last night and ungodly early this morning, but I can’t wait to spread the word. There’s only one thing that can get me out of the house prior to 7am on a Saturday morning and that’s the prospect of sitting in a historic mill, surrounded by enthusiastic knitters, learning from talented teachers, with copious yarn fondling to follow.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Trad Arts Studio at Slater Mill!

Last night was the opening reception for the 2015 Knitting Weekend hosted at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The reception involved wine and snacks, a combined trunk show featuring designs by Thea Colman, Amy Christoffers, Ellen Mason, and Gudrun Johnston, and a wonderfully inspiring talk about Elizabeth Zimmerman and how feminism and domestic arts intertwine in Adrienne Martini‘s life (the author of Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously). Adrienne was a really entertaining and engaging speaker, if you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you should! You should also, obviously, check out the book. I read it some time ago but remember really enjoying it.

There were samples galore to admire. I fell particularly hard for a gorgeous grey lace cowl with a unique yellow garter stripe. As you know, I’m working on a cowl design myself, and I spent lots of time trying to work out how best to hide the join. In Thea Colman’s Tonic Water cowl, she simultaneously hides and highlights the join with a pop of colorful garter stitch. Genius! I suspect that cowl will hit my needles sooner than later.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Weekend Knitting e-book samples.

Best of all, some of the designers teaching this weekend paired up with some local New England yarn vendors to create a collection of really gorgeous patterns that are being sold as an e-book, the sales of which will go to support the restoration and preservation of the mill. Weekend Knitting from Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill features five accessory patterns: a cabled beanie (Sylvanus Brown Hat by Thea Colman), a rustic shawl (Wilkinson Scarf by Amy Christoffers), some cabled mitts (Bridgetruss Mitts by Alicia Plummer), a nifty hooded cowl (Blackstone River Cowl by Ellen Mason), and a simple-yet-stylish infinity scarf (Slater Mill Cowl by Bristol Ivy). The photo above doesn’t do these knits justice, be sure to check out the pattern pages, and if you like them, know that your purchase will go to support the place that is responsible for housing very active knitting and spinning guilds, as well as a variety of traditional arts programming. If I move away from Rhode Island, I think I’ll miss the mill (and the guilds) most of all.

If you live nearby, you should head on down to the mill to check out the free vendor market. The classes are full, but the market is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm and will feature lots of local artisans. It’s also a good time to take a tour of the mill, its history is quite fascinating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cool stuff to go learn.Yay, knitting weekend!

Have you taken any good classes recently? Are you involved with your local arts community somehow? What’s been inspiring you lately? Let us know in the comments!

Inspiration Saturday at Woolen Diversions