WIPWed #103: It Has Begun

This August might go down in my personal history as the Busiest of All Time. Between trips, conferences, work deadlines, Sweet Sheep orders, and now my old car breaking down (again), schedule coordination has become a delicate and barely-balanced art form around here. I might manage to get through it all intact, but things will be a little touch-and-go, especially since I feel like summer is speeding by before I’ve even had a chance to enjoy it! But enough whining, onto some knitting.

Berrylicious Socks:

WIPWed #103: It Has Begun | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Berrylicious. Click for project page.

Since these socks are so darn simple, they’ve been progressing at a rapid clip. That strange stripe of pooling in the middle of the leg is because my dear kitty Darwin took it upon himself to chomp through my yarn, so the color progression got out of whack when I spliced it back together. It gives the sock some extra personality, I guess?

Black Tea Hat:

This hat is finished (yay!) but you won’t see it until Friday as it is currently blocking and awaiting photos. 🙂

Grimm Green Stout:

WIPWed #103: It Has Begun | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, colorway Grimm’s Green. Click for project page.

Ooooooooh yes, folks, IT HAS BEGUN! You’re looking at two pocket liners and and 249 stitches of 1×1 ribbing for the bottom hem of my Rhinebeck sweater. The ribbing is progressing at a glacial pace, but I’m hoping the whole thing picks up a bit when the main stitch pattern starts or else I’m never going to make it. (Courage!)

Spinning:

A few weeks ago, I stress-impulse-purchased a gorgeous Galaxy batt from Yarnshine, on Etsy. The batt contains “celestial Bombyx Silk and Silk Noil blended into malachite and agean Bamboo, teal Soffsilk (mulberry silk), Black BFL, and Black Merino all accented by gorgeous, silvery Yak/Silk top” which was just plain irresistible to me, and it’s so lovely in person. Denise uses the same eco-conscious packaging that I do (yay!) and she included a little rolag that I happily spun up into a chain-plied sample. I haven’t washed the sample yet so it will probably plump up a bit more, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll do a 2-ply or 3-ply for the final yarn. I’d love to use the yarn for something like a Hitchhiker or Libby’s new Industry shawl. How would you spin it?

Sweet Sheep:

soaps

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe handmade soap

If you’ve been looking for some handmade soap, I’ve recently added a bunch to the shop! There are sheep-shaped goat milk soaps available in Chipotle Caramel, Lavender, and Lemon Cake, as well as layered whipped goat milk and honey soap in Coconut Lime and Orange Cream, and a fun Tropical Surprise soap scented with French Mango that contains embedded pieces of the Coconut Lime soap.

As for reading, I’ve been steadily working my way through the Tiffany Aching YA Discworld sub-series written by Terry Pratchett. I’m now on the last one, I Shall Wear Midnight, and I have to say, his YA books are just as genius as his ‘adult’ ones, perhaps even moreso because he translates really complex ‘grownup’ world concerns with a certain simple elegance that I really appreciate. I’m so sorry he’s gone, but I’m so happy his words will always be around. They’re a wonderful legacy to his incredible brain.

Hope your weeks are going well! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

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In Five Days Flat

Who would’ve thought that I could transform a braid of fiber into a finished skein of yarn in just five days flat? I’m sure many others have spun greater yardage in shorter timeframes, but I think this might be a record for me. Thanks, Tour de Fleece!

Falkland Dusky Greens:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun Falkland wool 3-ply, click for Rav page.

This Falkland wool from Three Waters Farm was an absolute dream to spin. I split the braid into three pieces cross-wise, and then split each third lengthwise to spin. I noticed during plying that often 2 of the 3 plies would be the same color, which mixed all of the colors up fairly evenly throughout. It helps that the colorway was tonal to begin with, but I really love the way the colors played out. I was aiming for a weight similar to the first Falkland I spun and more-or-less achieved it by referencing the single and ply-back sample I had preserved in my hand-dandy spinning notebook.

In Five Days Flat

Previous vs. current handspun Falkland skeins

The finished skein weighs 112 g and contains roughly 140 yards of worsted-aran weight yarn. (Well, it’s 140 yards measured after washing, but it was about 180 yards wrapped around the skein winder.) It’s approx. 600-700 ypp and 10-12 wpi and should coordinate nicely with the undyed Falkland (10 wpi, 600 – 900 ypp). I am not quite sure what I want to make with it, but it fluffed up so beautifully after a wash that I want to make sure whatever pattern I choose makes use of it’s bounce-tastic nature.

Eggplant in Ashes BFL/Silk Singles:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun BFL/silk singles, click for Rav page.

I also finally got my Bee Mice Elf BFL/silk singles yarn off the bobbins, soaked, and dried. They are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I’m not sure if they’ll knit up on the bias or not, but I’m willing to give it a try (you know, whenever I have time for more WIPs, that is). I ended up with approx. 700 yards of fingering-sport weight yarn (18 wpi, 1500 ypp). That deep purple bled A LOT with washing, but the finished yarn is really gorgeous. It’s all slinky and silky and delightful to touch.

So thank you, Tour de Fleece, for helping me spin up 8 more oz of yarn than I would’ve this month (so far). I’m happy to add these pretties to my stash! Onto the next spin…

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet

As you might recall, on Wednesday I mentioned that I came home to a giant box of fiber-y goodies from Louet*. Want to hear more about that? Of course you do!

Woolen Diversions

Thanks, Louet!

Louet is putting together super cool, heavily-discounted fiber bundles to help us all prepare our stashes for Spinzilla, the week-long spinning marathon that happens in October. There will be a different fiber pack each month leading up to the event. The May pack contains $160 worth of yummy fibers to play with, and retails for less than half that price. After sampling some of the fibers included in the pack, I can’t deny that it is an absolute steal.

The fiber pack contains 4 bundles of 2 oz each Dyed Merino Top (in Champagne, Dusty Rose, Lupine Lavender, and Tawny Gold), 4 oz of Angora/Lambswool Top, 100 gr of Eri (a.k.a. Peace) Silk,  8 oz of Light Romney Sliver, 8 oz of Dark Romney Sliver, and 8 oz of SWTC Dyed Karaoke (50% soysilk / 50% wool). I wanted to write my review before May was over so I’ve only had time to dabble in half of these fibers thus far, but here we go.

Eri Silk:

I practically attacked this lovely bundle of silk as soon as I had it out of the bag. It’s a beautiful, natural champagne/honey color, a nice light tan. It feels incredible. Since it comes from silkworms that spin open-ended cocoons, the silk is not reeled off in one continuous piece. This makes the fiber a bit fluffier and less sleek than typical mulberry silk (and the critters get to live!), but I like this quality as it makes the silk easier to draft and spin.

Review: Spinzilla May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Eri Silk sample skein

I spun a small amount (7 g) with short forward draw (worsted) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 38.3 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of silk up (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 618 yards of laceweight yarn (2,481 ypp, 24 wpi). I love this little skein and think that the rest of this silk will make an elegant shawl.

Angora/Lambswool:

The next fiber that my fingers couldn’t resist was the 50/50 blend of angora (from bunnies!) and lambswool. This fiber comes undyed in 2 oz bags (2 bags included in fiber pack). As you can imagine, it’s wonderfully fluffy stuff. I tried spinning this worsted but had a bit of trouble (it’s not my favorite drafting style) so I switched to my old standby, spinning from the fold. This allowed me greater control over the short, sleek angora fibers while introducing a nice bit of air into the single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Angora/Lambswool sample skein

I spun a bit up (11 g) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 20.7 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of fiber (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 214 yards of sport/DK weight yarn (856 ypp, 14 wpi). The yarn in this wee skein is thicker and fluffier than the silk but still has a lovely density from the angora and a nice bit of bounce. I imagine any knit fabric will develop an enticing halo over time. The angora and wool fibers were well blended and only a few times did I find myself at the end of my handful of fiber with just bits of angora left loose in my hand.

Carding Dyed Merino Top:

For my last sample skein, I experimented with hand carding the 4 colors of dyed Merino wool top I had received. I carded 4 rolags of each color blend and spun them in the following sequence: champagne alone, champagne/rose, rose alone, rose/lavender, lavender alone, lavender/gold, gold alone, gold/champagne. Since I was spinning from rolags, I used a supported long draw technique to create a woolen-spun single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Dyed Merino Top sample skein

I switched back to the regular flyer and spun 38 g of wool into a single that I then chain plied (10:1 ratio) into a 3-ply yarn. If I continue spinning all 8 oz of wool in this manner, I will ended up with 455 yards of DK/light worsted weight yarn (910 ypp, 11 wpi). I found the wool top easy to card and spin. I did not notice any compacted areas that can sometimes result from the dyeing process and the colors were consistent throughout the top.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

My pretties!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be done with one of these fiber packs. Things I’d still like to try:

  • blending the Eri silk with the dyed Merino top in rolags
  • plying one single of silk with one multicolored single spun from the dyed Merino
  • plying light grey and dark grey Romney singles together for a subtle marled yarn
  • spinning a bulky singles yarn from the variegated soysilk/wool fiber.

In summary, these fiber packs are an instant stash, and a great way to explore different fiber types in a low-risk way. For instance, I’m not in love with the feel of the soysilk/wool blend (even though I adore the color!) and I’m glad I found that out through the discounted fiber pack before purchasing it on its own for a project. Louet’s fibers are well-prepared, easy to work with, reasonably-priced, and offered in relatively large amounts (usually 8 oz at a time) that allow for experimentation and sampling without sacrificing project yardage, which I really appreciate. I’ve had my eye on some of their more ‘exotic’ fibers for a while (yak, anyone? How about camel/silk?) and the fiber pack they’ve put together for June looks intriguing, too!

Have you experimented with any new fibers lately? What have you been itching to try?

*Disclaimer: This fiber pack was sent to me from Louet for review. All opinions are my own and reflect my true impressions, I only support businesses whose products I truly love!

WIPWed #93: Campfire Knitting

I am (reluctantly) back from my camping trip, it was such a lovely time. We didn’t go far, and we weren’t gone for long, but something about spending the entire day outside and sleeping with just a thin nylon wall between you and the night feels wonderful. It was a tad chilly the first couple of nights, but the sun was warm during the day and we got plenty of hiking, biking, and campfire relaxing in.

My favorite way to knit.

I brought three projects with me (of course) but the only one I worked on was my Camelot Monkey sock. I had the wild idea that I’d have so much leisure time I would totally finish the entire pair… which did not happen. I did make my way back through the leg and heel that I had to frog last week, but it turns out that roasting marshmallows and reading to toddlers is way more fun than knitting (*gasp*). Plus, it gets dark early outdoors which doesn’t jive well with my nighttime knitting habits.

However, that kind of project monogamy is coming to a close. I returned home to a giant box of goodies from Louet, including a Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack and a lovely skein of laceweight Colinton mohair yarn (both of which you’ll hear more about soon). I eagerly ripped into the sample fibers and have begun playing with the irresistible Eri silk. So soft! So shiny! It’s also known as ‘peace silk’ because the silk worms are allowed to emerge from their cocoons before the silk is harvested, which does not allow for the silk to be reeled off in a single strand, but does allow the little insect to live.

I strangely didn’t read a thing while camping (I read nearly constantly at home) but I did finish that Mama, PhD book I was reading last week. I am now working my way through a couple of issues of Ply magazine that have been patiently waiting their turn.

Hope you all had lovely weekends and are halfway through a decent week! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

On Competition and Community

I hope you all had a lovely weekend! The Fiasco and I were quite busy, we vended at the wonderful Mount Hope Farmers Market, attended the culmination event of the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, and went on our first bicycle ride of the season (pro tip: bike paths near the bay are bloody freezing in April winds). There were many, may wonderful moments but there was one unfortunate interaction that put an unpleasant cast over things.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Rockin’ my new sweater at the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market.

There is a regular market vendor who sells cold process soap and salt scrubs, etc. As we usually do at these events, the Fiasco and I made the rounds introducing ourselves and checking out everybody’s wares. We try to buy a little something from each vendor (which gets us into trouble at the baked good stalls!) or at the very least admire their work. My love of handmade soap is well-established and I was hoping to buy a new bar from this seller. There was a band playing right near her table so I had a hard time hearing her but during the course of what I thought was polite conversation about her soap scents, the word “competition” made it through the background noise and I realized that something was wrong. I had taken one of her cards so I could add her to my Etsy favorites and promote her as a local artisan, in response to which she said something along the lines of “It’s really frustrating that you’re taking one of my cards when you clearly have no intention of buying my products, you’re the competition.” And then she stormed off to complain to the market manager.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Photo via xoginalove.tumblr.com, snagged from Buzzfeed (click for link).

I was floored, to say the least. Stunned, upset, and somehow embarassed, like I imagine most people would feel when treated with unexpected hostility. The Fiasco and I just kept making wounded-sad-puppy-dog-eyes at each other and we were outright bummed in the slow-burning-rage kind of way. I found out later that this particular seller is “sensitive” about competition because she apparently had a bad experience with someone swiping her ideas, her logo, etc. But still, I don’t think that excuses her behavior and it was completely jarring in a creative community where (in my experience) people are usually overwhelmingly supportive of one another. And we weren’t even selling the same items! Even if I had brought soap with me, we make entirely different kinds of soap (hers from raw oils that undergo the saponification process, mine from pre-made soap bases to which I add color, scent, and fun shapes/structure). Did I freak out about another vendor selling lip balms? No, hers were highlighting beeswax from a local honey farm, mine featured lanolin. There is room in the world for multiple types of body care products. Thankfully, the rest of the vendors were wonderfully warm and inviting and we were mostly able to shake off that ugly nastiness by the end of the day.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Great Rhody Yarn Crawl haul.

The Great Rhody Yarn Crawl celebration the next day went a great way towards restoring my faith in the creative community. I met up with my friends in the Rhode Island Spinner’s Guild and spent a pleasant afternoon spinning and shopping in good company. I’ve spent many years as something of a nomad, living in different states for just 1 – 3 years at a time. We’re on our third year here in Rhode Island and the fiber community is one of the reasons why I could envision calling this place home in the long term. Most people are so kind and generous with their knowledge, and I love walking into a marketplace and knowing half the vendors by name. The delectable yarn above is from Dirty Water DyeWorks (Lillian superwash Merino fingering base in March Sky, Pumice, and Topaz) and Play at Life Fiber Arts (Skinny Scrumpet MCN fingering base in Cinnamon Jelly) and they helped brighten the weekend considerably. Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Tammy of Life and Yarn and Yarn and Life in person! She came by to say hello and it was so lovely to put a face to her blog. She has a great run-down of info on Connecticut yarn shops (and elsewhere), too.

A Playful Day

I appear to have inadvertently blogged along this week’s Love Your Blog challenge theme of “Ugly”, so I’m linking up with everyone over at A Playful Day. While not directly blog-related, I think the idea of jealousy in the handmade marketplace is equally relevant and something that doesn’t get acknowledged very often. Perhaps I’m just being naive to not have expected encountering such hostility myself. What are your thoughts on competition in creative communities? Have your experiences leaned one way or another?

She Lives!

It was touch-and-go for a while there (not really, mind you, I’m exaggerating for effect) but I think I might just live. Basically, as soon as my back stopped feeling like there was a hot poker between my ribs, I was plagued by the worst sore throat I’ve had in years. This was followed by a sinus infection of epic proportions, which conveniently (SARCASM!) coincided with a road trip to help my mom recover from a surgery over the long weekend.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

Nest Superwash Merino, colorway Magrat.

I returned home snot-nosed, hoarse-voiced, congested, and emotionally drained… and proceeded to not sleep at all, for an entire night. I laid there staring up at the ceiling straight through to the dawn. I managed to sleep for a few hours this morning, however, and have begun to feel somewhat more human. My mom is recovering well, and despite all that it was a nice visit home, so things are looking up. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of nice fiber-y packages waiting in the mail when I returned, either. (If you don’t wish to be spoiled for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club colorway, look away now!)

Pictured above is the one precious bump of Nest Superwash Merino fiber in the Magrat colorway that I managed to grab for the Discworld Mega-SAL being held on Ravelry. I intend to begin spinning it just as soon as I can finish my Malabrigo Nube spin. And pictured below might just be my favorite skein of sock yarn… possibly ever.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

The colorway for the March shipment of the RSC is soooooooooooooo up my alley, I adore it. I love the minty aqua, the gentle gray, the streaks of white. Those soft, soothing, breath-of-fresh-air hues are just what I’m craving at the moment. I don’t love either of the patterns that came with this shipment, however, so I’m on the hunt for the perfect pattern for this skein. It has a rather short, stripey color sequence that is prone to pooling, so the pattern will need some bold lines and/or good overall texture to show up well. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 ideas:

  1. Quartzonite by Rose Hiver – An all-over textured lace that angles the fabric in different ways, which would make thin stripes look all cool and wavy.
  2. Louche by Hunter Hammersen – Twisted stitched interspersed with wide swaths of stockinette that should hold up nicely to variegation.
  3. Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee – A nice texture/cable combo with strong vertical lines that should show up well through striping or pooling.
  4. Leyburn Socks by MintyFresh – Slipped stitches create a fun effect in variegated yarns and since someone is already making a pair, I know it’ll look pretty good.

Which would you make?

P.S. I wanted to say a general THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the product survey for Sweet Sheep! I received 91 responses and some really great feedback, I’m looking forward to many happy hours of analyzing and scheming. The winners of the giveaway have all been notified by e-mail (check your inboxes) but I’ll also say congrats here to Valerie, Victoria, Lisa, Sweta, Stephanie, Annie, Shelley, Erica, Christina, and Kathy! Your input is much appreciated. And to everyone who participated, please remember that your coupon codes are valid through the end of May!

Spinzilla Year 2!

Spinzilla has been on my mental to-do list for months, but even though I knew it was coming, I am feeling woefully underprepared. I didn’t finish clearing my bobbins, my spindles are all busy, and  I didn’t begin thinking about what I wanted to spin until… last night. A late night plying session helped the situation out some, but my bobbins are still far more occupied than I would’ve liked at this point. The two on the right will likely stay that way (I want to preserve the color progression I’m spinning), but the two in the middle I can clear with my Bobbins Up storage bobbins.

Woolen Diversions

Unfortunately occupied bobbins.

Last year, I spun 11 oz of fiber into 1,270 yards of singles. I’m sure 11 oz seems like nothing to the people who spin up pounds and pounds on a regular basis, but that was the most I’d ever spun in one week and I’m looking forward to attempting to surpass that amount. Hopefully I won’t hold back #TeamLouet too badly, the team did extremely well last year with more than one member spinning over 11,000 yards of yarn! (Yeah, 10 x what I did. Yikes!) But this is neither the time nor the place to feel intimidated. IT’S SPINZILLA TIME! So here’s my (rather hasty) plan of attack.

Since I’m spinning for #TeamLouet, I figured this would be a great time to work through some of the awesome Canterbury Prize Wools fiber that Louet sent me a while ago.

Woolen Diversions

Lovely longwools from Louet.

If you remember back in April, I reviewed their Perendale fiber. It was an airy, carded longwool that spun up easily. Thankfully, I have 4 oz left, plus 16 oz of Shetland sliver and 16 oz of Jacob sliver to work through! Carded preparations and longwool fibers are great choices for speedy spinning, so I’m hopeful that spinning these fibers will help my yardage out.

And just in case 36 oz of wool isn’t enough (ha!) I have some additional options stashed that I think will be nice and speedy (and a good bit more colorful):

Woolen Diversions

BFL, Wensleydale, llama, and batts!

Pictured above are 21 additional oz of fiber (clockwise from back left): llama down (5 oz), BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club BFL (5 oz), Bee Mice Elf Wensleydale (4 oz), Countess Ablaze BFL (3.5 oz), and Inglenook Fibers batts (3.5 oz). With the exception of the llama and the batts, all are longwools and are likely to draft easily and quickly. I’m thinking of using the batts on one of my supported spindles so that I can keep spinning on nights when I want to curl up on the couch instead of sit at the wheel, or if I need to try to spin in the car. And the llama I threw in there because alpaca usually goes quickly for me, and they should be similar enough (plus it’s one of my long-ignored Spin The Bin goals).

Are you participating in #Spinzilla? Do you tend to set yourself lofty goals that you have no hope of achieving? How do you motivate yourself for challenges? If you haven’t already read the Spinzilla blog tour, check it out, there are some great tips in those posts!