Soft or Scratchy?

I am highly amused by the different ways with which the Fiasco and I perceive fiber.

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Brooklyn Tweed Quarry in Moonstone

I recently acquired a skein of the relatively new BT Quarry so I could re-knit my failed Fidra hat attempt. This yarn is bulky weight but light-as-air, more like pencil roving than yarn since it contains very little twist and can be pulled apart with ease. I’m completely loving its airiness and am enjoying my re-knit so far.

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Fidra hat in progress.

My husband, on the other hand, took one touch and declared it “scratchy”. He says the same thing about my Kelp-y Kelpie shawl, knit with BT Loft. Clearly, the Fiasco is not a fan of Targhee-Columbia woolen-spun wool. What my fingers feel as fluffy, air-filled fuzziness, his feel as prickly, un-smooth scratchiness. It’s fascinating. (To be fair, he said the same thing about a superfine Merino wool yarn once, and declares that only the finest baby alpaca is suitable for his skin, so… grain of salt?)

Have you worked with Brooklyn Tweed yarns before? Do you like their ‘rustic’ hand?

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Some Pretty Things

My drafts folder tells me I began this post 11 days ago, which is a good indication of how much I’ve been meaning to blog lately but have not been able to. That said, some work deadlines should be calming down soon and life should be returning to a less hectic level (fingers crossed). On my last post, Audry asked me how I’ve been keeping up with things lately and I must admit, my wonderful talented dedicated selfless husband is the only thing that got me through the weekend. He set up for our Sweet Sheep show so I could sleep, he made lotions and lip balms like a madman Saturday night so we’d have more stock for the next day, and he was an ever-charming salesman when I didn’t have the energy to be on my feet. Basically, he’s the best partner I could have ever hoped for and Knitting Weekend event at Slater Mill was a success for us, largely because of him. 🙂 And, if you’ve been waiting for any re-stocks, we’ve got lots of new goodies (including sheep-shaped soaps) up in the shop.

The marketplace was filled with all sorts of pretty things but I came home with just two items, from a couple of my favorite local vendors.

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Knitting weekend stash enhancement.

I am absolutely terrible at resisting any of Chrystee’s beautiful colorways (Play at Life Fiber Arts), so whenever we’re at a show together I usually have to come home with something. This time I justified my purchase as a sweater for the Hatchling. I think this rainbow set will make a fun gender-neutral striped Babycakes cardi, perhaps with a white or dark green yarn for the trim. And then, of course, I had to get the cutest buttons I’ve ever seen for the baby sweater: tiny turtles from Katy at Katrinkles. Purchase justified.

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Tanis Fiber Arts gift bundle.

While I’m sharing pretty things, here is some of the yarn I received as gifts over the holidays. Above is Raindrops gift bundle from Tanis Fiber Arts. I’ve admired Tanis’ blog and yarns for a long time, but had not yet stashed any so I’m particularly excited to work with this yarn. It’s a lovely skein of 75% Merino, 25% silk fingering weight yarn in pretty pastel purples and blues. I also really love the bag and have hung up the calendar in my office (which my coworker accurately described as ‘yarn porn’).

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts stash enhancement.

And it wouldn’t be the holiday season without a healthy dose of pretty things from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. On the left is a skein of BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight in the special Rhinebeck 2015 colorway that I wasn’t able to snag at the festival itself. The middle skeins are BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight in Golly, a rich, deep red. The skein on the right is some of the new Single Silky Targhee in Fir-Ever-Green. I have a general idea of what these skeins will become (socks for me, socks for Fiasco, hat for me or sweater for baby, shawl of some sort) but no concrete plans yet.

Has your stash been growing or shrinking since the holidays?

Review: Ancient Arts Fibres Big Squeeze

I have a soft spot in my heart for bulky weight yarn, and this beauty is officially one of my new favorites.

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The yarn is a brand new bulky weight superwash Merino from Ancient Arts Fibres. Each skein consists of about 130 yards of 2-ply superwash Merino wool, hand dyed in Canada. I was originally planning to make some mittens, but at the last minute switched to a lacey winter hat, instead.

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The pattern is Galicia, designed by Trelly Hernández. The lace isn’t charted, which is why I only rated the pattern 4 stars (plus it only comes in one size), but it makes a really lovely hat, and the decreases are nice and neat.

The yarn is squishy with a middle amount of twist (not too much, not too little) and I had no problems with splitting. It performed really well in the lace and holds the shape of the blocked hat nicely. After the holidays, I’ll probably buy myself another skein to make those mittens I had originally planned to mitt, as I bet the yarn would make some delightfully squishy cables. I had a peach-sized ball of yarn left over from this hat. My favorite part about it, surprisingly, is the hot pink color. I am not generally a pink-loving person, but this particular shade coordinates nicely with the accents on my coat.

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Plus, it’s so bright and cheery, how can you not love it? All around, I’d give the yarn 5 stars, well worth a try and reasonably priced at $23/skein for some decent quick gift-knitting.

I’m signing off for the holidays, hope all who celebrate have a merry time!

WIPWed #110: A WIP-to-Be

I was not able to take pictures of my current WIPs this week, which is really fine because they look exactly the same as last week. I did, however, snap a quick pic of some new yarn that arrived that I’m absolutely itching to cast on.

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Ancient Arts Big Squeeze, colorway Cherry Blossom

The yarn is a brand new bulky weight superwash Merino from Ancient Arts Fibres. They’ve kindly sent me the yarn to review and I’m super excited to work with it. I love chunky weight yarns, and this one manages to be both thick AND lofty. Big Squeeze is a totally appropriate name. I can’t wait to wind this sucker up this evening and bring it with me on my holiday travels.

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Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

My first thought was that I’d like to knit a bulky weight hat, like Mint Schnappes by Thea Colman. There’s something so satisfying about hat knitting, and the bright color would be a nice cheerful way to top off my ‘winter look’ (= ‘I’m cold’).

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Photo copyright Trelly Hernandez. Click for pattern page.

Another lace-involved bulky weight hat I really like is Galicia by Trelly Hernández. The lace is simple but charming in its geometric shape. I really like it.

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Photo copyright TinCanKnits. Click for pattern page.

However, a few chilly mornings in a row have reminded me that winter is coming and I freaking hate cold fingers. I have one pair of quick, bulky weight mittens that I knit three years ago, but I feel like it’s time for an update and I adored the cable on the Antler Mittens when I knit my dad’s Antler Hat, so this one might be the winner. It’s written for aran weight yarn, but it’s on the same size needles that I knit my last bulky pair, so I think I can work out some size finagling.

What would you knit with about 130 yards of super-squishy bulky weight wool?

As for reading, I’m now listening to The Shoemaker’s Wife and after a slow-ish start, I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the Lord John Gray sub-series from Outlander, because you can never get too much of reading about scandalous Scotsmen.

To all who are traveling for Thanksgiving, safe travels and happy holiday!

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

 

Farmfest and Follies

First, a bit of news: Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe will be vending at Mount Hope Farm’s Farmfest event TOMORROW, Saturday 10/31 from 9am – 2pm in Bristol, RI. It’s a beautiful site with lots of harvest and Halloween fun planned, come say hi! Now, onto the follies.

Farmfest and Folly| Woolen Diversions

A gradient emergency!

This morning, I very nearly ripped my Norby & Pease hat back to the brim, despite being close to done. I had 5 shades of gradient yarn to use and 5 garter ridges to knit before beginning crown decreases, except I had miscounted and thought there were only 4 garter ridges, and started the gradient in the brim. I KNOW, TOTALLY DUMB, RIGHT?! In this case, I could either: 1) do one fewer pattern repeat and have a shorter hat, 2) rip back to the brim and leave that part solid, or 3) as my friend Katy so helpfully suggested, use a bit of the yarn I just bought at Rhinebeck which very nearly matches what would be the next shade in the gradient. KATY, YOU ARE A GENIUS.

I think I’ll try the hat on later and see if I can deal with it shorter, and if not, I’ll probably use a bit of the O-wool shown to fill in the last color. Or, I might just repeat the final gradient color throughout the crown shaping. WHAT WOULD YOU GUYS DO? #overthinkingthis

Bye, bye, Babe.

In other news, there’s a very good chance we’ll be moving to a smaller apartment in the near future, so a massive destash is in order. One thing I’m letting go of is my first wheel, the Babe Double Treadle Production. I’ve had it since 2012, it’s a great starter wheel and its Irish tension makes it good for plying. It’s also very lightweight and travels well because it is made of PVC. It retails for $320, I’m asking $225 or best offer. In addition to the wheel, check out my Ravelry trade page for lots of lovely yarns. I literally exported my yarn stash to a spreadsheet and ruthlessly went through highlighting items for destash: anything without a concrete plan or an unhealthy level of emotional attachment had to go.

Farmfest and Folly | Woolen Diversions

It’s a sunbeam party.

The kitties approve of my destash plan. Less yarn in the house means more room for lounging.

Happy weekend!

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!

FOFri #40: Malabrigo Nube Chain-Py Yarn

We’re going to go ahead and forget the fact that I was aiming to finish this skein for Malabrigo March because it’s finally done now (yay!) and it’s lovely (double yay!).

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MalMarch Nube, click for handspun page.

This skein began life as 100% Merino top from Malabrigo, colorway Persia. The fiber is gorgeously soft but often a wee bit compacted, so I chose to card my fiber into rolags and spin them with a long-draw draft for a nice fluffy single (S twist). I then filled two bobbins with 2-ply yarn (Z-twist) and ran the them through my wheel again in the same direction to add some extra twist before the last step. Finally, I plied the two 2-ply yarns together to create a 4-ply cabled yarn (S twist, click the photos below to enlarge).

Cabled yarns do interesting things with variegated colorways, and if plied tightly have lots of spring. My skein is a bit loosely plied so it’s fairly relaxed, but it’s pretty nonetheless. I ended up with 236 yards of approx. DK weight yarn (923 ypp, 12-14 wpi). It should be the perfect amount to make a nice pair of mitts for the Fiasco next fall.

Final cabled yarn

Final cabled yarn

Have you ever tried a cabled yarn? What other fancy plying techniques have you experimented with?

WIPWed #88: The Toes Are the Best Part

I love sock toes so much because they mean the end of the sock is near (when knit top-down, anyway) and that means my feet will soon have a lovely new bit of wool to wear. I love them a little bit less when I have to re-knit them over and over, but I could avoid that issue if I planned things out beforehand rather than just winging it. All that is to say, I’m nearly done with my socks!

Tropical Traveller:

WIPWed #88: The Toes Are The Best Part | Woolen Diversions

My camera did not love this colorway today.

I had intended to try out a new-to-me toe from Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture book (with measurements and everything!) but when it came to toe time, I was lazy and just started knitting. Which meant I ended up re-knitting a couple of times. In the end, I did 5 plain rows, 3x of decrease row + 2 plain rows, 5x of decrease row + 1 plain row, then a final decrease and kitchener stitch. Things would likely have been much simpler if I just followed someone else’s instructions!

MalMarch Sundry:

WIPWed #88: The Toes Are The Best Part | Woolen Diversions

Loving that houndstooth.

Since the socks were nearing a tricky bit, I picked up my easy shawl again for office/meeting knitting. I’m really digging the slipped garter stitch that’s going on here and I have plans to borrow it for a design that’s been brewing for a while. Hopefully I’ll find time to develop that past the ‘general idea’ stage sooner than later. The shawl is nearly 2/3 done, once those wee balls of yarn are finished I continue with another ball of the indigo colorway until it nearly runs out, then bind off. Getting there!

#MegaSAL Magrat:

WIPWed #88: The Toes Are The Best Part | Woolen Diversions

Blurry, unlovely photo of truly lovely spinning.

Besides my afternoon of spinning on Sunday, I haven’t picked up the spindle much this week. I’ll have to remedy that, if I ever want to finish this yarn! Plus, I went all #KonMarie on my fiber stash and was slightly horrified at seeing everything piled all together like this:

WIPWed #82: The Toes Are the Best Part | Woolen Diversions

The horror!

Yeah, that’s a lot of fiber. I will caveat that photo by saying that nearly all of the Louet North America fiber bagged int he middle was sent to me for blog review or as #Spinzilla prizes (which is incredibly generous of them!) and a good chunk of the rest of it was gifted (namely the huge balls of Romney roving in bags, the box of locks I really need to get around to washing, and several of the braids in the middle). But I can’t deny that all the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club, Three Waters Farm, Bee Mice Elf, and Sweet Georgia fiber were my fault. SORRY, NOT SORRY. It’s lovely stuff. But anyhow, I boxed up a bunch of things that no longer ‘sparked joy’ and will be sending them off to a friend in the spinner’s guild if she wants them to experiment with, as she’s a newer spinner. Then, I went all #KonMarie on my yarn stash, too.

So I’m destashing (again). You can find details on my Ravelry trade page but most things are priced at a steep discount, and if you purchase more than one listing you get an extra 10% off. To make the destashing more efficient, I’ve grouped some of the skeins together into bundles (pictured above) that are even more heavily discounted. So if you’re into laceweight, or sock yarn, or Malabrigo, or KnitPicks, or Berroco, or farm yarn — there’s a bundle for you. Either message me through Rav or send an e-mail to alicia at woolendiversions dot com.

As for this week’s reading, I’m still working my way through the #KonMarie’s Ode to Tidying and the 7th Outlander book, An Echo in the Bone. I’ve also been listening to Nation by Terry Pratchett. It’s an interesting, non-Discworld novel about an island nation that experiences a huge tidal wave and the one surviving boy who deals with the aftermath. It’s a very different style from his Discworld books, though still fantasy-like.I am enjoying the storyline and I’m seeing some hints of the ideas he developed in his The Long Earth series, as well. I’m going to need some new audiobooks to listen to soon, though. I’ve been waiting for the Divergent series to become available from the library but haven’t had luck yet. What would you recommend for listening?

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday. Also, I wanted to thank you all for your encouraging comments on my last post. It helped me process things to let off a little steam here, and I appreciate your kindly listening!

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!