Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Basmati Rice

It’s time to highlight another of my favorite Sweet Sheep lotion bar scents in a featured fragrance post. This time, I’d like to gush about the mysterious and alluring Basmati Rice.

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice lotion bar by Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

When I first came across this fragrance oil on Brambleberry, I didn’t know what to make of it. I believe my first thought was “Rice? Really?” but I was hooked by their description of it as “a mix of fruity florals and cedarwood” and became quite curious. I’m glad I gave it a try because it’s become one of my favorite scents.

Why I love it: This fragrance is the perfect representation of what I think of when I hear the word ‘exotic’. It somehow combines floral top notes with fruity middle notes over a wonderfully creamy, vanilla-y, woodsy base. That sounds like an impossible mix of just too many things, but I promise, it works. Subtly sweet and gently perfumed, it manages to captivate without overwhelming.

What it pairs well with: I include Basmati Rice in the Exotica gift/sample set, along with Down by the Bay (a bright, tangy, earthy scent) and Sandalwood Vanilla (another woodsy/vanilla/floral favorite). If you were interested in building your own custom mix pack, I think it would mix quite well with more complex foodie scents like Turkish Mocha (mmmmm chocolatey/coffee goodness) and Cinnamon Chai (spicy & sweet forever).

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe survey

Take a survey, get a coupon, enter to win a prize!

While we’re on the topic of Sweet Sheep, I’d like to do a little market research about other body care products (besides lotion bars and lip balms) you’d like to see in the shop. I’m working on producing a variety of things, and in truth, I have so many ideas that I’m not sure where to start! Since it would not be cost effective to make all the things at once I’d love some input into the kinds of products and scents you’d most like offered in the near future. Please follow this link to take a 10 question survey about Sweet Sheep. I’ll send a coupon code to everyone who participates, and by April 5th I’ll draw 10 names from the participants to receive a free, sample size lotion bar. Thank you in advance for your help, and please spread the word!

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WIPWed #77: Counting Down!

The holidays are creeping ever closer, aren’t they? Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate it, and there’s only just about a week left until Christmas! Even though I’m not knitting many presents this year, I was still up into the wee hours putting together gifts.

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Photo project!

With all the digital photography these days, I forget how much I like to play around with actual printed photos. Back in high school, I worked in a CVS photo lab and made piles and piles of carefully curated albums of my friends and family. While digital photos are fun in their own right, I don’t get the same pleasure from scrolling on a screen as I do from flipping through a book. (Although I have been known to spend an ungodly amount of hours putting together digital photo albums. Blurb is awesome for that, btw.) While making some wedding photo collages, I was reminded that I should print pictures more often… you know, when I have spare time (hah!). Onto the WIPs!

Overdyed Cypress:

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Motoring along on my vest. Click for project page.

I found some time to work on my Cypress vest again! I have revised my original goal (finishing by the end of November) to finishing by my birthday, near the end of January. I’m determined to wear a handknit garment when I turn 30. I think I can do it!

Big Purple Cowl:

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Malabrigo Mecha, colorway Whales Road. No project page as of yet.

After several days of waffling over a few bulky cowl patterns for my fashionable, pre-teen Christmas giftee, I started a completely different one than the others I had listed: Millwater. I really adore this pattern, and have knit it before, but I think it might be better suited to thinner yarns like the DK for which it was written. It’s simple enough that it should work in any yarn, but the scale of things gets thrown off with bigger yarn and needles. For instance, in the bit I started above, I modified the garter stitch counts and changed the cable from 24 stitches of *k2,p2* rib to 16 stitches of *k1,p1* rib to make it less gigantic. While that’s fine, I’m feeling like it’s missing a bit of oomph and the garter is a little denser and less smooth than I think this yarn wants to be. Back to the drawing board…

Petrol BFL:

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Countess Ablaze BFL/firestar/silk in Petrol.

I am this close to finishing the singles for this spin. I cannot wait for it to be over. While the Babe is a perfectly serviceable wheel, after spinning on my new Lendrum it just feels clunky and somewhat coarse, instead of smooth and relaxing. Nearly there, though, nearly there. That bit of fiber is all I have left, and the plying should go quickly enough.

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Review & Giveaway!

 

Finally, check out the Knitting Sarah blog for a wonderful review of my Sweet Sheep lotion bars. Sarah is hosting a giveaway you can enter through the comments (winner will be picked on Monday) and there’s a special coupon code for readers of her blog! Thanks for the lovely review, Sarah!

P.S. This is my 500th blog post! That sounds insane! Apparently, I’m quite verbose. Thanks for reading, friends!

Name This Scent! Vote

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with name ideas for this lovely, sweet, spruce-y, holiday lotion bar scent:

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We had some really, really great ones! The random number generator chose comment number 2, so congrats nerdinthebrain! Once this fragrance has a name, I’ll stick a label on a bar and send it your way. Now, I narrowed down the names to TEN choices based on logistics (had to fit on the label!) and some subjective opinion. 🙂 Please vote for the one you like best, and tell your friends! Whomever supplied the winning name in the first place, will receive a lotion bar and lip balm of their choice. Voting will close this Thursday, and winner will be announced Friday.

Which name do you think best fits the holiday scent depicted in the photo above?

I’m excited to see which name wins, and thanks to everyone who made suggestions, it was tough to narrow it down!

In related news, I’ve added some of the new winter scents up on Sweet Sheep! Hover over the photos below to see their names.

New scents means some of last season’s are now on sale for 20% off. And while we’re at it, I should let you know that the last day to place ready-made orders before Christmas is Friday, Dec. 19th, I’ll be traveling on the 20th and will ship before I leave. The last day to order custom items (like our custom gift sets!) will be Friday, Dec. 12th. Shipping will be delayed starting Dec. 20th and will resume again on Dec. 29th.

Well, all of that pretty much took up my entire weekend. How was yours?

Name This Scent! Contest

I’ve come to realize that some of my Sweet Sheep lotion bar fragrances are more challenging to name than others. An example of an easy one is Kumquat.

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

Kumquat!

This bar smells exactly like how biting into a kumquat tastes: bright, fresh, juicy, tropical, citrus. If you’ve never eaten a kumquat, by the way, I recommend that you do so as soon as possible. It’s the only citrus fruit with an edible rind. The rind is thin and very sweet which plays nicely off the sour pulp of the fruit. Anyway, back to the problem at hand: other scents are harder to capture in a name.

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

Down by the Bay

For example, the above photo represents the bar I call Down by the Bay. The fragrance oil that gives its scent was named Tobacco & Bay Leaf by the supplier. I did not think that name evoked the right emotions for the way the lotion bars smelled. To me, the scent is herbal and tangy, citrus-y and a little salty. It reminds me of bright beach days and sweeping expanses of sea. ‘Down by the Bay’ seemed to fit much better.

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

The scent that needs a name!

Now, for the current dilemma! I’m having the hardest time coming up with a good name for a new holiday fragrance depicted above. I think the photo captures the essence of the fragrance well enough, but a good name is eluding me. The scent has a base of spruce, is clearly a holiday/Christmas tree kind of scent, with an almost candy- or berry-like sweetness to it. It evokes a sense of merriment and cheer, cold days and warm nights. It’s woodsy without being completely herbal, and sweet without being overwhelmingly sugar-y or fruity. When I smell it I think about opening up boxes full of Christmas decorations, but something like “Old Tinsel & Ornaments” just didn’t seem right… ha.

Here’s where you come in!

If you’d like to play along, please suggest a name you think best represents the holiday scent in the third photo. Post your suggestion either in the comments below or on Sweet Sheep’s facebook page. I realize the difficulty in naming a scent you haven’t smelled but brainstorming is fun and winning stuff is even more fun, so why not give it a try? Every person who suggests a name by 11:59 pm (EST) on Sunday 12/7 will be entered for a chance to win one lotion bar of this fragrance. On Monday I’ll compile a list of my favorite suggestions and open it up to a vote on the blog. If a name you suggested wins the poll (voting will end next Thursday), you’ll receive a lotion bar and lip balm of your choice! (If more than one person suggests the same name, then I’ll use a random number generator to determine who wins.)

So how about it, want to play along?

Blue Sky Alpacas Extra Review & Giveaway

As I hinted earlier in the week, today I have an extra special FO to talk about! I’m happy to be part of the Blue Sky Alpacas blog tour for their new yarn, Extra, and its accompanying set of patterns: the Destination Collection.

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Photo copyright Blue Sky Alpacas.

Extra is an Aran weight 2-ply yarn with a nice, tight twist. It comes in generous 218 yard skeins and somehow manages to feel both lofty and deliciously dense at the same time, likely due to the fiber blend. It’s composed of 50% baby alpaca/50% Merino wool, which makes it 100% Fiasco-approved.

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Only the finest baby alpaca for my fella!

The Destination Pattern Collection was designed specifically to highlight Extra and was “inspired by hometowns, far-away places and everywhere in between”. I chose to knit the Tokyo Tower Bandana designed by Olga Buraya-Kafelian. It’s an interesting cowl/shawlette hybrid, similar to Carina Spencer’s Zuzu’s Petals (which we know I love), but with an entirely different construction.

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Photo copyright Blue Sky Alpacas.

I was completely surprised by the layout of the pattern, I had never seen a pattern set up like a fold-out map before. I’ll admit that at first I was dubious (It’s so big! How am I supposed to read anything?!) but by the end of the project I loved how the layout folded up rather conveniently so only certain parts of the pattern were showing, and there’s no denying its visual charm.

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Public domain photo.

As the name suggests, the lace on the bandana was meant to emulate the Tokyo Tower (pictured above). Truthfully, the lace detail is a bit minimalist for my taste. I’m much more of an ornate-leaves-and-flowers type of gal and less of a stark-urban-jungle dweller. It does, however, capture the vibe of the real life tower pretty well.

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The view from the back.

The cowl begins in the round from the top with a simple garter stitch hem. It then transitions to a plain stockinette section with some increases down either side of the center back. After some time, a garter section is knit and then bound off. The rest of the bandana is then knit flat with decreases on either side forming the long triangle until the final stitch is closed off at the point.

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My finished cowl.

I generally dislike following patterns with written-only instructions, I always end up wishing for a chart or for a more efficient use of stitch markers since I hate counting stitches on every row. Despite that, this was an enjoyable knit and fairly flew off my needles because the yarn was amazing to work with! It snagged a bit from time to time on my pointy needles but it was generally sleek, smooth, soft, and delightful to touch. It worked up into an incredibly even fabric that blocked very well.

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The cowl, worn.

When I first finished it I was a little bit worried about how long the point seemed, but after a full couple of days of wearing it, it doesn’t seem overly long after all. I found the bandana looks best if the point is angled off to the side, rather than straight down, which is also how I wear my shawls most of the time. I really like this accessory and will get a lot of wear out of it this winter for sure, especially since the yarn is so luscious! I am often quite sensitive to the prickly guard hairs in alpaca, but there are hardly any in this yarn, it’s just all soft, buttery goodness. To hear a bit about Extra from the folks at Blue Sky Alpacas themselves, check out the video they made:

Now, how would you like to win a skein of Extra in the same blue shown above, with your own copy of the Tokyo Tower Bandana pattern, and a cute little Pretty Cheep Project Bag (not pictured)? This is my first time using Rafflecopter but you should be able to

click this link to enter the giveaway

and follow the steps to leave a comment and follow me on Twitter, share a Tweet, or like my blog page on Facebook for additional entries. (If for some reason the link doesn’t work, just leave a comment below and I’ll enter you manually.) The giveaway is open to all (US & International) and ends at 11:59 pm on Thursday, October 2. I will choose and announce the winner next Friday. Thanks for playing along, and thanks so much to the folks at Blue Sky Alpacas for the lovely yarn, pattern, and prize!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand last but not last, please check out the rest of the blog tour! A different pattern and color yarn will be highlighted at each stop, with a chance to win prizes at each!

Review & Giveaway: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz Interchangeable Needles

Edit: Thanks to all who entered, the giveaway is now closed!

I’ve officially become enamored with a new-to-me knitting tool: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz needles. These needles are made from carbon fiber and have slick nickel-plated brass tips.

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Oooooh, shiny.

As you may have noticed over the last few months, I’ve been slowly transitioning from the colorful Knit Picks Harmony needles I’ve used almost exclusively for the last few years to sleek, black KP Karbonz needles. It began when I realized I was mending far too many holes in my socks and needed to tighten my gauge. However, I wanted to knit with size 0 (2.0 mm) DPNs that didn’t feel like bendable, careful-or-they’ll-snap-in-half toothpicks. So I ordered some Karbonz DPNs and loved them.

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Current sock in progress. Click for project page.

And I thought — maybe the Harmony’s are NOT the be-all-end-all of knitting needles. I first learned to knit on Susan Bates metal needles but have been fiercely anti-metal since I first discovered Clover Bamboo needles way back in the day. When I found the Knit Picks Harmony wood needles it was love-at-first touch. Between the warmth of the wood and the sharp pointy tips you just don’t get with bamboo, I thought they were great. Sure, I had my share of split needle tips (can we say snags?), and needle bases that separated from their metal casings so that they had to be glued back together (boo), and cords that unscrewed while I knit (that old nightmare) — but they were what I had, and I thought they worked well enough. But when I was sent a Deluxe Interchangeable Needle set to review, I was super excited to give them a try, and I haven’t been disappointed.

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Lovely packaging.

The great thing about the Karbonz needles is that they are strong and sturdy, like metal, but warm to the touch and lightweight, like wood or bamboo. THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, GUYS. The interchangeable set comes with 9 pairs of needles (from US 2.5 – US 10), 4 cords (24″, 32″, 32″, and 40″), 8 end caps, 4 cord keys, and a set of needle size markers so if you remove your needles from your project and store it on its cord, you can remember what size you were using.

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Accessories.

I really love the pouch the needles are packaged in, and there’s a handy slot in back to hold more cords. I ESPECIALLY love that the needle size is printed both on the needle tip AND the metal base of the needle, so no more hunting around for a needle gauge to figure out what the heck size you’re using.

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Lifeline near stitchmarker indicates where I switched to Karbonz needles on my Stitch Block Cowl.

Since this set has come into my possession, I’ve been swapping out the needles previously being used in my WIPs for these new needle tips. Projects that were bothering my wrist or hands for one reason or another before, suddenly felt fine. Perhaps my hands have been extra-sensitive since my wrist injury or perhaps I just needed a change, I don’t know, but the grippiness of the carbon fiber surface combined with the slipperiness of the needle tips seems to have made my knitting proceed more smoothly. Happily, changing needle tips didn’t change my gauge mid-project. I’ve since used the Karbonz needles to swatch a variety of yarns with multiple sizes and all have felt really great.

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Swatches! Top: handspun BFL on size US 7. Bottom: Shibui Knits Linen on size US 4.

I have two minor complaints about the set:

  1. It only comes with 4 cords. I am a knitter-of-many-WIPs, and 4 just isn’t enough for me. However, one can purchase additional cords in sizes ranging from 16″ to 60″ (for less than $3!) as needed.
  2. Needle sizes do not range smaller than US 2.5 or larger than US 10. For many people and projects, this probably isn’t an issue, but I am also a knitter-of-chunky-yarns and have plenty of use for needles on the larger end of the spectrum. Their fixed circulars have a wider range on the smaller end, though, so magic loop sock knitters can get their tiny needle fix that way.
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Using a cord as a stitch holder in my Kelp-y Kelpie Shawl. Click for project page.

Overall, I really love the feel of the Karbonz needles and will likely use them for the majority of my knitting. Unlike some others, I haven’t noticed any snagging in the transitions from metal tip to carbon body, or from needle to cord. I love that the size is printed on the needle and that even the thin sock sizes feel strong and unbending, but not too inflexible. While the tips aren’t as pointy as some, they appear to be pointy enough for most purposes and I am happy that they won’t split like wooden needle tips often do. The Deluxe set retails for around $125, which is certainly pricier than wooden sets, but if you can afford it I think the carbon fiber needles have definite advantages. There are also smaller interchangeable sets available priced in the $60 – $65 range.  For more information, check out other reviews at Knitter’s Review (older but still interesting), Badfaerie Designs (from the point of view of a steel needle user), and Knit Luck (really detailed!).

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like to win a Karbonz needle prize from the good folks at Stitchcraft Marketing (exact prize to be determined), leave a comment below telling me what type of needle material you prefer and why. Each comment gains you one entry, and if you share this post via Twitter, Facebook, or on your own blog, let me know and you’ll earn extra entries. I’ll choose a winner with a random number generator on Friday, May 30th so you have until 11:59 pm Eastern time the day before to enter. Good luck, and please spread the word! (My apologies but this giveaway is only open to US residents.)

Review & Giveaway: Louet Perendale Fiber

Remember the giant box of fiber I received from Louet?

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Lots of spinning ahead of me…

Last weekend, I began working through it! I started with some Perendale fiber, since I’d never heard of the breed before. The Perendale is part of their Canterbury Prize Wools group. Here’s the website description about the group:

Working with Wadsworth Heap Ltd, a fiber supplier in New Zealand, each fleece in this line is grown with passion and great care; each is chosen with a critical eye, scoured in a modern scouring plant, and carded with pride on gentle machinery to maintain the fibre’s integrity and give spinners maximum enjoyment.

The fiber is a carded preparation (so it’s roving or sliver, where the fibers are arranged every-which-way, rather than combed top) and ships in generous 8 oz. bags. My bag contained a slip of paper describing its origin:

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Apparently, this wool is stylish!

I love that I know where this wool came from and who grew it, even though I accessed it through a major distributor. I really appreciate the respect to the wool’s origins that the Canterbury group shows. Also, you really can’t beat the price. Each half pound bag is only $16. That’s a lot of really well-prepared wool for the price!

Rather handsome devil, no? Copyright Perendale Sheep Society. Click for website.

Perendale sheep are a cross between the Romney and Cheviot breeds, developed in New Zealand. As such, they have longwool roots but fall under the ‘other sheep breeds’ category in the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook. What I find really fascinating is that I wasn’t super enthusiastic about either Romney or Cheviot when I spun them for my Spinner’s Study, but I really enjoyed spinning the Perendale fiber.

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Fluffy!

After a few minutes of attempting to spin this preparation worsted-style (short forward draw), I gave up and decided to practice my woolen-style drafting (long-draw) instead. The prep pretty much begged for woolen spinning, and it did not disappoint.

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Action shot!

I don’t usually spin this way on the wheel, but it went really smoothly once I got into a rhythm. (Oddly enough, I tend to spin semi-woolen on my spindles as I often spin combed top from the fold for easier drafting.) Woolen spinning creates lofty, springy, fuzzy yarns with lots of air trapped in the singles.

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Fuzzy!

I must have been in an adventurous mood because besides trying out new drafting techniques, I also decided to conduct a twist experiment. Yarns can have either S twist or Z twist depending on the direction in which they were spun. I’ve read that most commercial yarns are spun so that they are plied with S twist and that the action of knitting or crocheting adds or removes twist depending on whether the yarns have S or Z twist. Because my wheel feels better spinning counterclockwise (S twist), I tend to ply my yarns clockwise (because you ply for less time than you spin) producing Z twist yarns when I spin on my wheel. I decided to see if I could really tell the difference between S & Z twist yarns when spinning and knitting.

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Skeins 1 & 2

So I took 2 oz of fiber, split it into fourths, and spun 2 singles with S twist and 2 singles with Z twist to create 2 little 2-ply skeins: one plied Z and the other plied S. Then I got really curious and thought ‘I wonder what an opposing yarn ply would feel like?’ and spun some of those, too.

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Skeins 3 & 4

Opposing ply yarns are composed of singles that have the opposite direction of twist, plied together one way or the other. So I took 1 S and 1 Z single and plied them together in both the Z direction and S direction. Opposing ply yarns are super bouncy and elastic and I think I really like them, though I’m withholding judgement until after I finish knitting my swatches.

So yes, this is what happens when a scientist gets a new type of fiber to play with. 🙂 Stay tuned for the results and conclusions. In the meantime, LET’S HAVE A GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like to win your very own 1/2 pound bag of Louet Perendale fiber, leave a comment below telling me how you like to spin your yarns (S or Z? Clockwise, counterclockwise, unsure?). Each comment gains you one entry, and if you share this post via Twitter, Facebook, or on your own blog, let me know and you’ll earn extra entries. I’ll choose a winner with a random number generator on Friday, May 2nd so you have until 11:59 pm Eastern time the day before to enter. Good luck, and please spread the word!

Review & Giveaway: Eucalan Wrapture

I tend to be somewhat brand-loyal in my purchases (you might have picked that up from my yarn stashing habits). If I liked something that I first tried, I’ll often stick with it and not bother trying similar products by another company unless not totally satisfied… something of an ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ mentality, I guess. However, this can be limiting and prevent me from discovering new things that I might like even more than the first one I tried – enter Eucalan no-rinse wool wash.

IMG_6222I have used another wool wash for a few years now and thought it worked well enough, but it always left my hands extremely dry. My skin is very sensitive to soaps and I usually need to moisturize immediately after washing my hands because I hate that dried-out soapy feeling. This gets annoying when handwashing my woolens because my hands are in contact with the soap multiple times throughout the process — soaking, squeezing, laying out to dry. I’m really, really glad I tried Eucalan because my hands didn’t get that dried-out feeling at any point, which I suspect is due to the lanolin content (a great moisturizer and fiber conditioner – you all know how I feel about lanolin!).

IMG_6220I tested my bottle of Eucalan Wrapture by using it to finish my recent skeins of BFL handspun yarn. You only need to use 1 tsp of wool wash for every gallon of water and you can do your washing by hand or in top-loading and front-loading machines. Since this was a small bowl I used just a tiny bit. Each 3.3 oz bottle should last for at least 20 washes. The Wrapture scent is made with jasmine essential oils and has a lovely, lightl floral fragrance. I’m not usually the biggest fan of florals and I’m sensitive to strong or cloying smells so I appreciated how light and fresh this scent was. They make 4 other scents, too: Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lavender, and Unscented. Each contains essential oils which have a variety of benefits, including antiseptic properties and repelling moths and fleas. I let my skeins soak for about 20 minutes, then just squeezed out the water, rolled them in a towel, and hung them up to dry.

IMG_6227I ended up with 550 yards of 2-ply, sportweight BFL that are fluffy, bouncy, and lightly-jasmine scented. I’m in love! In addition to the scent and the lanolin content, I like that Eucalan is so eco-friendly. It contains a grand total of 8 ingredients (compared to a competitor’s 13) and is non-toxic, biodegradable, dye-free, PH neutral, phosphate-free, and packaged in recyclable materials made entirely in Canada.

And now for the giveaway!

In short: I really liked Eucalan and will switch to it for its more natural, eco-friendly, and non-drying properties. If you would like a chance to try Eucalan yourself, leave a comment below telling me which scent you might like and why. A winner will be chosen from the comments on Friday, April 11th and Stitchcraft Marketing will hook up up with your prize. We are only able to ship to a winner in the US or Canada for this giveaway. If you share or re-share this post through any social media outlet (facebook, twitter, a link on your own blog, etc.) let me know in the comment, it will earn you 2 additional entries!

(Note: I was provided with this product for review, all opinions and statements are honest and my own.)