Treat Yourself to Love + Leche!

Well, my friends, it has been 10 days since I sat down to write here. Honestly, it feels like it’s been 10 days since I sat down. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve been on a warpath to clean and organize and declutter our home in anticipation of our upcoming move. I’m happy to report that the list of things to do before our things are actually physically moved out of the house is pretty manageable at this time and I’m feeling pretty good about that. As you can guess, there will be another laundry list to take on once our things are moved out, but that’s just going to be what it’s going to be.

In the mean time, I have a small problem: my hands are a disaster. Imagine cleaning and packing almost non-stop for two weeks — wash water and boxes and then boxes and wash water. And then in the evenings when worn out from the day, I’d pick up my knitting project and knit a bit. And then consider that we’re just coming out of a very dry time of year here. My hands are ripped up. Thankfully, before this all started I was offered the chance to review Love + Leche lotion bars. It’s not my first time, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about how awesome they are and boy am I happy I took them up on it this time!

There are a lot of reasons I love Love + Leche products, but one big one is their mission, how they produce their products, and how they conduct their business.

At Love+Leche we let Mother Nature guide our way in producing the raw ingredients for our luscious soap and lotion bars. The golden beeswax, and organic calendula flowers are harvested by our beekeeper and farmer friends here in Northern New Mexico. Our lotions are hand-poured into artisan bars designed by a local sculptor and inspired by our Santa Fe life. We scent our products using only natural essential oils.

I mean, does it get more idyllic?!

For this review, Love + Leche provided their newest mold designed just with fiber artists in mind: the Sweet Sheep Lotion Bar.

It arrives in the classic Love + Leche tin and as you can see I selected the lemongrass scent. It is wonderfully refreshing! It does come in your choice of six different scents — lavender, lavender-mint, lavender-rosemary, citrus-rose, lemongrass, and unscented. In my experience they are all lovely!

The Sweet Sheep is the perfect gift for the special fiber artist in your life…

Even if that fiber artist is you! No, especially if that fiber artist is you! As you could probably guess, mine will be with me everywhere I go as I valiantly try to save my hands from the assault of dry winter air, the toils of moving, and the respite I take in my knitting. Even after 2 weeks of extreme wear & tear, after just a couple days of using this bar consistently, I observed a noticeable difference in how my hands felt and looked. It’s simply an essential tool in my toolkit.

If you can believe it, there’s more. The folks at Love + Leche are awesome — have I mentioned that? I’ve been back and forth with them regarding my last review and they are just the kindest people. As a blogger and also as a consumer, it’s important to me that the products and companies I promote have good customer service and genuinely care about their customers. The Love + Leche team does. As an added bonus to my review packet this time around, I got a special little extra…

A sample of this classic bee design lotion bar in the lavender-rosemary scent. It would not surprise me to know that they dropped this, my favorite scent, in the package for me. As you can tell from the rips in the packaging, I tore into this one IMMEDIATELY with zero regard for the photography that would have to take place. What can I say? It’s good stuff!

I’m not the only one who is going to enjoy this little something extra. I have a coupon code to share with all of you! Buy one lotion bar in a tin (min $14) and you can get a free mini balm sample, too ($4 value) — just use the promo code: knittingsarah17  when you checkout. This offer expires May 1st, 2017, so you have a little time stock up. You certainly will love having one or two of these lovely lotion bars in your tool kit. Keep in mind these are also great for gardeners and as Mother’s Day gifts. Whether you’re treating your friends, family, or yourself — I hope you’ll take advantage of the chance to try these wonderful lotion bars — your hands will thank you!

Many thanks to Love + Leche for providing me with these review products, the coupon code for readers, and their general awesomeness.

For more on Love + Leche, please check out their story here and check out their full line of products on their website here.

You can also follow them on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

In Review: Knitter’s Pride Royale Needle Set

I’ve tried my share of interchangeable needle sets and yet I am always excited to try a new set. I just love how each different kind of needle has a unique feel in my hands as well as different lengths, tips, etc. And while it’s true that any type of knitting needles will get the job done, I find it pretty awesome that we have so many options from which to choose and narrow down our own personal preferences.

When I started out, I really only used bamboo or birch needles. And then I slowly started to switch over to metal & shortly after I made the leap into interchangeables. For any knitter that knits regularly and uses circular needles regularly, an interchangeable set is a great idea. For new knitters, needles are a constant expense that can really start to add up when you realize that there aren’t just a lot of sizes, but a lot of lengths of needles, too — and each pattern you create may call for any combination of those two. Interchangeable sets automatically give you a wide range of those options and that can save you money in the long run not to mention headaches in trying to remember which needles you’ve got as you select your next project.

As I said, the options available when selecting interchangeable sets are pretty wide ranging. You can get bamboo, metal, metal tips with carbon fiber shafts, brass plated with chrome — there really is ample opportunity to find exactly the right needle for you. The new Knitter’s Pride Royale Special Interchangeable Needle Set is indeed a special set. This set of needles combines birch shafts with metal tips that are very similar to (if not the same as) their cousins, the rightfully lauded Karbonz needles.

img_4486You can see those tips right here in a project I was working over the weekend. I’m a big fan of these tips — they are a good balance of sharp, but not so sharp you split your yarn as you knit. The birch shafts are a little more substantial than the Karbonz and even though they are perfectly smooth and painted with lovely colors, you can feel that hint of wood grain. As someone who started with wooden needles and moved into metal, this is a detail I really love.

img_4484As I mentioned, they are painted in some really lovely, subdued hues (pardon the size 6s that are missing — they were in my project!).

img_4483And let’s not forget their adorable case.

Now the “special” part of the Royale Special Interchangeable Needle Set is that the needles are just 4″ long. Unlike the regular interchangeable set, this one is designed specifically to let you create 16″ needles. If you knits hats this is essential, so that’s a big deal! This set comes with needles sizes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 and two 16″ cables. Because the sets with longer shafts are not capable of the 16″ set-up, they come with a bigger selection of cables — it’s a simple trade-off. I’ve found, though, that my Karbonz cables work just fine with this set of Royale needles, but as I’m a little low on 24″ & 32″ cables for these sets (let’s not talk about what might be hibernating with projects), so there’s a good chance that at some point I’ll pop over & pick up some extra cables. They are really not expensive (at the time of this post they are listed at $2.50/cable) and there’s the added bonus that Knitter’s Pride is now color-coding their cables which will make them extra easy to sort and use.

You know, I’ve been using Knitter’s Pride interchangeable sets for a few years now and while I have other brand sets at my disposal, I definitely find myself reaching for my Knitter’s Pride sets more and more often. They’ve become a brand that I know & trust, one that lasts and really is a great value. The addition of this Royale set is really such a treat. In fact…

img_4518I’ve had them less than two weeks and they are already in their second project. With the options I have here, that little fact proves this review is definitely a rave!

In Review: KPC Yarns

You know me, I like to try new things. When I was asked if I wanted to a sample box from KPC, I was intrigued. I’d never heard of this company and hadn’t tried any new yarn in a while. Besides, a little yarn tasting at my kitchen table would surely be a fun way to experiment, too.

I went about a little research on KPC, of course, so I’d know the story behind this yarn. With roots that date back 70 years ago to Shanghai, KPC has been supplying luxury garment manufacturers with merino, cotton, and cashmere, for generations. Still in the same family, KPC — or Knit Purl Crochet —  launched their hand knit yarns in 2014 and is now based out of Hong Kong.

My sample box was elegant and simple on the outside, but…

img_4253Well, it held a lot of goodies!

img_4254It contained literature as well also garter swatches for all 13 different yarns and sample balls of each yarn for me to try. So fun, right?!

And try those bits and bobs I did!

img_4267Admittedly not a super neat extravaganza here at my kitchen table, I thoroughly enjoyed trying out the four unique lines & their different bases.

My favorite by far was the Gossyp Chunky. Gossyp is 100% organic cotton.

img_4287I really loved the stitch definition and for a multi-plied cotton I had no issue with splitting the yarn as I knit.

img_4288It’s available in 3 weights,  DK, a 4-ply fingering, and, of course, the chunky.

The other stand-out in my eyes was the heavier weights of Novomerino — the aran & chunky especially.

img_4289The Novomerino is a super soft ultrafine merino sourced from Australia and the heavier weights have a high twist that makes for a very bouncy fabric that I really love. It’s also available in a 4-ply and DK weight.

The other two lines include the Glencoul blend that is 70% merino and 30% cotton, available in a 4-ply, DK, and chunky. And a 100% Mongolian cashmere rounds out the collection with lace, 4-ply, and DK weight.

img_4286They were all very fun to play around with!

Depending on the line, these yarns are available in anywhere from 20 – 60 different colorways.

img_4255As you can imagine that gives you loads of options and room for creating just the project you’re dreaming of.

These yarns are all available to purchase direct from KPC in Hong Kong. That may sound like shipping would be an obstacle for those of us in the US or Eurozone, but I’ve been told that orders do arrive in a very timely manner. Oh, and just a helpful hint, should you find yourself perusing the site, before you get going, look in the upper right and you’ll see an “HKD” — that is a currency converter. Click on it and you can change it to your currency for accurate pricing.

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of something new today! I know I had a blast trying out these new-to-me yarns. I’ve definitely got the Gossyp Chunky on my mind for some future projects — which line most interests you?

In Review: Spinning Stupendous Singles

I’m so excited to finally be able to share this review with you! As you may know, I’m not someone who has an easy time getting away for classes & retreats and when it comes to spinning, I’ve never had any formal training. I’ve had extremely generous help from friends in real life and online which has been priceless. And then I’ve also found the little gold mine of Craftsy spinning classes. I think at this point I actually have all the spinning classes they offer except for two (and I’ll most likely get those eventually, too). As a very visual learner, they’ve proven to be so incredibly helpful both the first time I watch them through and — almost more importantly — in that I can go back and re-watch certain techniques as I experiment.

Today, I’d like to tell you specifically about my experience with my latest class, Spinning Stupendous Singles taught by Amy King (and share a discount code for the class, too!). Singles yarns are something I’ve always enjoyed knitting with, but have generally shied away from in spinning. Getting the twist just right always seemed like a feat too great (or too scary) for me. Sure, I’ve done a few and they turned out pretty well, but — I don’t know — it’s always kind of felt like I was missing something. The process was not fun for me and mostly I felt like I was just holding on for dear life and taking a huge leap of faith instead of feeling in control of what I was creating. When I got the opportunity to try Spinning Stupendous Singles, I did a different kind of jumping — the ‘yes, please!‘ variety!

As with all my Craftsy classes, I watched it all the way through once before going back and then spinning up some yarns. I went into the class thinking I’d work solely on perfecting my singles technique and ended up trying some of the fun ‘extras’, too. It’s always such a great feeling when you go further than you expect, isn’t it?

First I spun just a very basic single that’s about worsted/aran weight with some stash Rambouillet.

cloudlover single detThere’s still a smidge of over-twisting in there, but it definitely improvement over previous singles.

cloudlover singleYes, this class was definitely taking me somewhere — of that I was sure!

Next, I had a braid of superfine merino/cashmere/silk in my stash. I bought it before I knew to avoid felted braids and this one was pretty felted. Instead of fighting with it, I thought, “What if I kind of embrace the felted spots and spin a thick & thin?

green wholeAnd I adore the results!

green detailI’m fairly confident those little spots of extra twist will relax when I knit them up as the skein as a whole is very well balanced. Best of all, spinning it as a thick & thin yarn really, really made what could have been a slog of a spin with all the less than perfect spots into something actually really fun. I never would have thought of it had I not just watched this class — talk about lucky breaks!

Feeling pretty chuffed with with myself after these last two skeins I decided to get really wild and crazy and spin a two color thick & thin. Amy King spins one in the class and I was intrigued by the technique, by how easy she made it look, and by the resulting yarn.

think n think bigI used a 100% merino in a vibrant blue for the thicker spots and a merino/silk in grey for the thinner spots. It was SO FUN to spin and I seriously cannot wait to see how it knits up.

thick n thinI think the soft & smooshiness of the merino really exacerbates the awesome here. I just love it!

And then, I had some blue & grey left over. What to do with them? Around this time, I happened the mention to my dear mum that I was thinking of picking up some nylon embroidery thread to experiment with and she saved me the trip to the store & gave me some thread she no longer could use. It was perfect. So I made this…

blue sparkSpinning with a taglong thread was a technique in the class I just thought looked so fun & easy.

blue sparkle detailAnd it really was!

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to spin a wool-silk blend into a single. That always intimidated me to no end. With the confidence I’d gained through this class though, I went for it.

greyAnd I am wowed by how well it turned out. I didn’t know I had it in me!

I think it’s pretty clear to see that I really enjoyed this class and learned a ton. And there’s still a lot more for me to explore, including some more fun techniques, spinning thinner singles, and spinning singles yarns on spindles. So much spinning adventure ahead — I cannot wait!

Knowing that some of you might really enjoy this class, too, I am so pleased to be able to extend a class discount to you made possible by the generous folks at Craftsy. Now through July 13th, simply click on this link to get 50% off the cost of Spinning Stupendous Singles — this means you can take the class and have lifetime access to it for just $19.99! Whether you’re new to spinning singles or you’re looking to perfect your skills or maybe just try a few new techniques, this is a fantastic chance to really dig into singles spinning. I hope you’ll give it a whirl!

In Review: The Akerworks Flat Pack Lazy Kate

I think most folks in the spinning world are familiar with the name Akerworks for their bright colored 3-D printed flat pack bobbins and their super fun spindles.  This spring, however, they ventured into new territory — a Lazy Kate.

Officially named the Akerworks Flat Pack Lazy Kate, this item went into a testing phase during the month of May and I was lucky enough to get to be one of the testers. It’s something unique and awesome about Akerworks — they actually run product testing with their customers to fine-tune their products before they hit the market. This test is the reason I spent most of April and May spinning loads of singles on all my available bobbins and then plying them all up in different set-ups to really put the Kate through its paces. There were a lot of people who signed-up to be testers and I wanted to really do my part to give as much feedback as I could.

The testing process was a fantastic back and forth between different customers as well as with the Akerworks team. Troubleshooting, brainstorming, talking through pros and cons of the design were all part of the process. In the end, while the big picture of the Kate remained the same, there were a few minor changes that were implemented after testing. I finished the test confident that their final Kate would be a really great addition to any spinner’s tool kit and really happy and humbled that I was able to contribute to that outcome.

I was stunned and so incredibly thankful when I got an email saying I could send my Kate in to get an ‘upgrade’ to incorporate the changes made thanks to the test. I was sad to let my ‘AkerKate’ go, but I knew it would come back even better than before. So true to the Akerworks’ awesome customer service, I got it back just last week — only a little over a week after sending it in. And today, I’m going to share it with you!

caseIt arrives in this simple, smart case. It’s a slim fit, so the tabs at the top help you slide it on and off easily.

Inside, of course, is the Kate itself.

full viewIt packs totally flat, a fact that I love. The diciest part of traveling with spinning or even just having a Kate  in the house are those posts sticking up — it makes them hard to pack or store, vulnerable to being broken, and just not the best in a small house full of activity. The AkerKate, everything folds up nice and sleek, no pointy bits whatsoever.

detailTo open the Kate up, you just depress that little ‘pivot assembly’…

popLift the shaft and then close the assembly.

legs upThat’s it! Voila! A Lazy Kate capable of plying anything from a 2-ply to a 4-ply yarn using any of my bobbins.

regular bobbinsOh, and did I mention that those little do-dads nestled in the oval cut-outs are individual bobbin tensioners called, “Tension Tamers” — yeah, they are awesome (and I’m sorry they don’t show up too well here — check out the Akerworks site for better photos!). They also double as a yarn guide if you have an open shaft.

The AkerKate even handles my Jumbo/Plying bobbins…

2 bobbinsIncluding the Akerworks Super Jumbo bobbin for my Lendrum. Have I told you about them? They are huge.

bobbinsThis is the SuperJumbo Akerworks bobbin next to my Lendrum issue Jumbo bobbin. It’s bananas how big this thing is. I love it!

So why exactly was I so ecstatic when my AkerKate made its way back to my house? Well, there are a lot of reasons. I really like the feel of it — that I can individually tension my bobbins and that it feeds very smoothly. I think it’s great that it has little rubber feet on the bottom (not pictured here) that hold it in place. I like that I have 4 shafts to work with so I can configure my plying differently based on what feels best to me for each yarn. I dig that I have the option of spinning 4-ply yarns.  I LOVE that it folds down so neatly. I live in a small space and don’t have a studio or any special place for my spinning equipment. It all goes on just a couple shelves in my living room where I have kids and a dog traipsing through regularly. Having a Kate that not only can be stowed in a very small space, but that’s self-contained with no shafts sticking straight in the air is huge for me. This is true both for my house as well as traveling. Dual purposes? Perfect! This spinner is one happy camper!

As I mentioned, the Akerworks Flat Pack Lazy Kate is now available for sale on their website and actually ships free in the US. They’re estimating about a 4week turnaround time from when you order from when it arrives at your door. Personally, I think they’re worth the wait. Whether you’re looking for lazy kate to take on your travels or just a great, easy to store kate for everyday, the Akerworks Flat Pack Lazy Kate can certainly fit the bill.

In Review: della Q Travel Wallet

A little over a half dozen years ago I was starting to get serious about knitting and for Christmas in an effort to better keep track of and take care of my double pointed needles, I decided to ask for a good double-pointed needle case. Still relatively new to all things knitting and with a tight budget I really wanted to get a good quality one that would be functional, long-lasting, and — of course — pretty. I ended up asking for a della Q DPN case because I loved the classic look and rave reviews of their quality. My in-laws graciously fulfilled my wish.

Although I don’t believe the company still makes the design, I still have and use that first della Q case regularly. And I was so impressed with its quality that over the years I’ve added a Double Interchangeable Needle Case to hold my interchangeable sets as well as a Lily Solely Socks case to hold my Signature DPNs. The only one that shows the very tiniest bit of wear is the interchangeable case because I have not 2, but 3 sets of interchangeable sets in it and have used it multiple times each week for the last five years. Even being over-filled and frequently used the wear is minor — it’s really quite astounding. These cases are really well made with quality materials. Of that, I can personally attest without any doubt.

When I was asked if I’d want to review a product for della Q this spring, of course I was more than happy to try out a new product and share my experience with this company’s wonderful cases. I also took the opportunity to read a bit about the company. After all, I know they made good quality, beautiful accessories for knitters and crocheters. I know the products are developed and improved based on customer feedback and input. But what about the company itself?

Well, della Q has been in business for over a decade and is founded and run by a woman named Della. Della wears all the hats in the company, doing everything from design to marketing. For the majority of her years at the helm of della Q she’s worked with the the same supplier in Vietnam. She visits the workshop to make sure the sewists who hand sew all the della Q bags are treated well. It’s also worth noting that Della donates a portion of her profits each year go to Mekong Quilts which is an organization that trains low-income and rural Vietnamese women in the art of quilting. It’s always so heartwarming to hear that a company you love puts forth the effort to make the world a little better, don’ you think?

Knowing all this, I’d like to introduce you to the newest della Q accessory in my knitting bag: the Travel Wallet.

della closedMine is in the beautiful Ocean color — we all know I love all things blue and this fits right in with all my knitting gear.

When you flip it open, it obvious this case is very versatile.

insideYou could tuck a couple sets of needles in it for a trip along with your essential knitting tools, or you could do what I’ve done here and set up a comprehensive travel kit.

Pen side detOn this side I’ve added a cache of stitch markers to the clever snap band at the top, a highlighter and some multi-colored pens, a little notebook for notes, a kit of cable needles, and in the zippered pouch I have a tape measure, a small roll of highlighter tape, a tapestry needle, and a Handi-Tool.

scissor side detOn the other side, I have a couple large stitch holders, a crochet hook, and some scissors. You could easily tuck in a set or two of DPNs or even some interchangeable or circle needles if it better suited your projects. The fold down flap at the top insures that nothing will fall out accidentally.

All this and in a case that is quite small.

della in handThis case will easily be popped into my tote or knitting project bag whenever I’m on the go and — voila! — I’ll have everything I need at my fingertips.

pens detIt’s hard to see exactly how incredible the hand stitching is in a photograph, but trust me when I saw I can hardly believe these are hand sewn. Partly because they are so insanely sturdy and partly because the stitches are so neat and tidy & straight. This little case really is a wonder, just like the other della Q cases in my collection.

Obviously I’ve been really happy with my della Q cases and I’d venture to guess the perfect case to help you organize your needles or supplies or projects is out there. Crochet hook cases, straight knitting needles cases, interchangeable cases, circular cases, DPN cases, yarn caddies, combination cases, and project bags — there is such a great selection from della Q. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself!