Hat Mania

I don’t know if it’s the weather or the appeal of the simple, easy, quick project, or just necessity born of the fact that I have successfully lost or at least misplaced a number of hats by this time of year, but this time of winter I tend to go into a hat mania.

Just before Christmas, I shared my finished Rikke Hat. I’ve been wearing it a ton, so I was aptly inspired to finish up my Acai Hat. I wound the yarn at the same time as the yarn for the Rikke Hat. It’s handspun Three Waters Farm Superwash Targhee in the Put Off My Blues colorway.

 

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It’s a beautiful colorway that makes me super happy, but the way I spun it really made for a busy fabric. I start with a stockinette stitch hat pattern, but I was not a fan of it so I opted to switch gears and find a pattern that is more textural.

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I’m really happy with how the Acai Hat worked with it and it proved a great project to work on with the puppy in the house. Interesting to occupy my mind that was tired after chasing the pup all day, but easy enough that I could still knit it on auto-pilot to an extent.

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It’s quite different from the hats I usually knit and that’s exactly why I like it!

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I think the texture compliments the busy colors nicely.

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And I have just enough slouch in it for the relaxed look that I love.

It won’t shock you to know that I’ve got 2 more skeins of yarn sitting on my desk, all wound and ready to become hats. Let the hat mania continue! You can’t have too many hats during winter in Wisconsin, can you?!

 

 

Knit From Your Knitting, Part 2

About this time last year I was knitting my first ever socks from a sock blank. As I clicked away, Mr. Knitting Sarah looked across the room at me and then stared at my knitting.

“Are you knitting… from your knitting?”

Knitting from the sock blank, of course, that’s exactly what I was doing. I cam to realize that knitting from sock blanks definitely agrees with me. There’s something about being able to look at the upcoming color changes and say, “Oh, I will keep going until I get to the next bit of red,” or “I can’t wait to see how that dot of green knits into this fabric.” They are really great fun and a welcome change from my usual center-pull balls of yarn.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine gave me an awesome Andre Sue Knits sock blank (I’d give you the link, but I believe she’s ended her sock blank painting business). I cannot believe it, but I did not take a before picture! That’s not true… I took the picture, I just can’t find the picture. And I’ve searched everywhere it should be. [Insert huge eyeroll here.] In any case, if you tilt your head and use your imagination a little, the fabric in the back of this photo with the sheep — that’s the blank.

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I believe I received them in June and started knitting on them shortly after that. They’ve been my on-again-off-again knitting project ever since… until a couple of weeks ago when — after finishing my Tecumseh sweater — I found myself gloriously in-between big projects.

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Ta-da!

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Obviously, these are fraternal twins, not identical. I never mind that at all, but my apologies to those whose skin I just made crawl. Just take a deep breath or stop reading because there’s one more photo to go here.

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I really love the colors and the fit is superb. I didn’t take too many photos of these because I’ve actually worn and washed them a couple times!

It’s funny. I was recently considering switching to Fish Lips Kiss heels as my go-to heel. I’ve been using the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Basic Sock pattern with its heel flap & gusset method for about a decade now and I really like it. And I know it really well. But I have a couple pair of Fish Lips Kiss heeled socks that have a pretty phenomenal fit. This pair of socks sends that plan into total limbo because the fit is just fantastic. I will have to do some pondering before I get to the heel on my next pair of socks!

Skill Building for Spinners

This year I’m very excited to be taking part in and helping to lead the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder Spin-along. Each month we’ll be focused on a different skill, providing helpful links, q & a, encouragement, and troubleshooting along the way. Not only is this an awesome way to spin some of my beautiful Three Waters Farm fibers, it’s also a fantastic way to really spend some time spinning intentionally, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of my spinning and becoming a better spinner.

Most spinners you talk to will say their #1 goal is to spin a yarn that it could be mistaken for mill spun, or at least something that looks like the control involved could not possibly have been executed by human hands. I’ve got opinions on that as an ultimate goal and how to define a good handspun yarn, but those are for another day. Today I want to start to talk a little bit about how we make that could-be-mistaken-for-millspun yarn.

Consistency, you see, is really the cornerstone of spinning, but contrary to what you might believe that’s not just because it enables you create that elusive mill spun look. Consistency is an indicator of something bigger. The fact that you can spin those nice, even, regular yarns means you have the ability to control the yarn you’re making — you understand the drafting process, how much twist you are adding, and all that good stuff and you can churn out the yarn you want, when you want it.

Most people start by getting really good at one type of yarn and that’s the perfect place to start. Once you learn how to spin a consistent yarn, though, it’s not a huge leap to move on to spinning consistent yarns are varying weights and styles on demand. With practice, you’ll find you have control of the mechanics involved and that you can create any yarn — from something that looks like that mill spun skein to the craziest art yarn you can imagine to the perfect little sock yarn you’ve ever laid your hands on.

That’s kind of a big deal.

And that’s why I’m so super excited that this month in the Skill Builder SAL we’ll be exploring Spinning Consistent Yarns.

As a moderator in the group, I’m very happy to share that I’ll be spinning the featured TWF Calendar Colorway each month, based off the beautiful TWF 2019 Calendar.  Participants are welcome to order the featured colorway for themselves or spin any TWF colorway of their choosing.  It’s going to be a blast!

This month’s colorway is Frosted Daybreak on the Merino/Bamboo/Tussah Silk base.

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Confession: I actually have a sweater quantity of this colorway in my stash. It’s pretty freaking awesome and I can’t wait to get going on this!

But I digress.

Today I prepped my fiber. Something that really helps to get a consistent yarn while you spin is fiber prep. Even with a beautiful bag of fiber that is like butter right out of the bag like this, it’s usually a good idea to prepare the fiber before you spin.

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Different dyers dye different ways, but most Three Waters Farm fibers arrive dyed with three repeats across the entire length of the fiber. Now, I’m aiming to spin a 2-ply and I want to split the fiber down the middle lengthwise to have 3 nice long color treats in my yarn. Some spinners are superheroes and have no trouble just picking it up, splitting it, and making two even halves.

I am not that spinner.

I do this instead. First, I break the three repeats.

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And then, always starting in the middle of each repeat, I split each of the three strips lengthwise.

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Why start striping in the middle? Someone along the way gave me that tip and I find it really does work magic and makes it much easier to get even strips.

Now, if I wanted to make the strips smaller here, I could keep splitting. Splitting further can make it easier to spin lighter weight yarns. It just gets you that much closer to your finished yarn and gives you less margin for error as you draft. I’ve split my fiber into as small as 1-2gram strips at times and it’s true – it certainly does help you to reach a lighter weight yarn. Especially for new spinners interested in honing lighter consistent yarns, this is definitely a tip I would recommend.

I tend to be a spinner who splits for color, not to help me achieve a certain yarn weight. I spin across the top of my fiber regardless of the weight of yarn largely because I have never been particularly patient with my prep and I also tend to like larger color repeats. That’s just me.

I could split the colorways even further for color effects like to do something fractal-y — it’s really totally personal preference and what you want the yarn to be. I just want to spin these 6 strips, one after another. 3 on one bobbin, 3 on another. You know why? Because there is nothing scarier to me than trying to match up colors as I ply and I wanted to reach beyond my own comfort zone for this spin. I’m a believer that it’s these little experiments, the subtle forays into the “scary” makes me a better spinner. As long as my spinning is consistent and my fiber is split accurately, theoretically they should match up well. We shall see!

In any case, having broken my fiber up, I wrapped each strip into an easier to store nest (all starting with the same color, of course, because that’s how I intend to spin them) and then weighed each of them. If you don’t have a kitchen scale you can use for fiber prep, I highly recommend getting one. It’s one of my favorite tools! This one a friend got me and it has it’s own bowl that’s perfect for weighing fiber.

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When I weighed each, I found that I had 4 that were 19 grams, 1 that was 22, and one that was 16. It made sense because one I managed to split while splitting it (if that makes sense!) and I could tell right away my split was wonky. I took a stab at pulling 3 grams off of the 22 gram piece and managed to nail it. I matched the colors up to the light strip and wrapped them into a nest as one.

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All ready to spin now!

I haven’t yet decided how heavy I want to make this yarn, I’m going to mull that over while I work on a knitting cast-on. I’ll report back soon on it though!

Only So Many Days

Happy New Year! 

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to start today. The truth is that between the normal hectic holidays stuff and the addition of Bear to our family, New Year’s kind of snuck up on us and I was even more thankful than I usually am to spend a quiet night at home.

Bear, in case you were wondering, is doing very well.

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He is a very happy pup who loves to be outside. In fact, when he figured out that he could ring the bell on the door or cry a little at it to go out and that we’d praise him for it, well, he was pretty sure he had hit the new home jackpot. It really didn’t matter that we put the bell there with a certain purpose in mind. He is definitely a pretty smart dog and has selective hearing/learning skills when he wants! We’ll leave out the parts where he routinely trips over his own feet and somersaults or accidentally face-plants instead of making it up that one small step and just stick with the idea that he is pretty smart. In any case, he has really settled in to rhythm of our family in the two weeks since we brought him home.

We’ve been doing our best to teach him manners, something for which Moose has been a huge help…

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I’ve never had two dogs at the same time before and it’s amazing to watch Moose teach Bear. If Bear gets caught chewing on something he shouldn’t and we redirect him, Moose will run over, toy in mouth, and drop it on Bear as if to say, “Here, chew on this instead. This thing is ok.” If Bear doesn’t take the hint, he picks it up and drops it on him again. And again. Until the pup gets it. He’s been teaching him to play chase nicely as well as where the perimeter of the yard is. I didn’t think I could love Moose more, but I do. I am totally humbled by his kind, thoughtful, patient soul.

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He is also getting lots of one-on-one love, of course, because no one deserves it more.

We’re also learning all the things that make Bear happy…

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Like chewing sticks on our balcony. He LOVES the cold and LOVES chewing sticks, but occasionally I need to do things like laundry or clip Moose’s nails (that was today’s challenge!), so he gets to go in his “puppy playpen.” He thinks it’s just the bee’s knees and doesn’t even realize that he’s letting us get actual things done.

As you can plainly see, most of my thoughts are on random dog training things or what the latest adorable thing the dogs are doing or — you know — how I’m dying because Bear is sleeping sooooo sweetly with his paws in the air, making little “sleep woofs.” Yeah… it’s kind of all dogs all the time right now. As it should be though. As Mr. Knitting Sarah says, there are only so many days in your life you get to spend with puppies and they are all special. Almost all other plans have flown the coop.

I’d hoped to have my bobbins empty and new yarns to share today. Instead, I have a bin of full bobbins…

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There are actually two more full bobbins than this which I set over by my wheel in a moment of wishful thinking where I thought I’d blow through 2 plying projects last night.

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I got through one… almost.

I also made a bit of progress on my Kickapoo Socks

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I am totally in love with this yarn. I wanted to get through the ribbing last night and I managed to do just that.

It’s the new year, though, and I do want to set some goals for myself. I’m a habitual goal-setter, before finishing one project I like to have the next set up, so I’m continually setting new goals, always. I do find the new year, with its clean calendar, is a fun time to set some new ones though, you know?

After years of setting fiber arts goals of all sorts and sizes, I’ve decided not to set any specific project goals for this year. I’m at a place in life where I need flexibility and my hobby needs to respond to whatever else is happening in life. I want my goals to reflect that, to be more general, more organizational, and more about setting priorities than checking boxes on particulars. Maybe it’ll prove too nebulous, or maybe it’ll be just the right fit… we will see!

So here, in no particular order are some of my 2019 fiber arts goals:

  1. Participate in the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder SAL this year
  2. Spin 15 a day with my friends in the Friends of Knitting Sarah Group
  3. Continue to improve how I evaluate and talk about my spinning so I can help others to become better spinners (this folds into #1)
  4. Do a better job of keeping  Ravelry project pages for my knitting & spinning projects
  5. Knit some of my stash’s sweater quantities, preferably into sweaters
  6. Find a way to revive my sock knitting
  7. Tag my handspun yarn as I finish it
  8. Make notes for future blog post ideas to make sitting down to write more efficient
  9. Figure out my loom warping situation and do some weaving
  10. Set-up a yarn winding station somewhere in the house that I can leave up

That all seems reasonable, right?

What are your fiber arts goals this year? 

(Oh, and one more gratuitous Bear photo, because you only get so many days with a puppy!)

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In Review: Brown Sheep Company Burly Spun

About a decade ago, my husband, myself, and our infant son took a road trip from our home in Wisconsin out to Colorado. It’s true that many people look at Nebraska — and all the Great Plains states — as somewhere to drive through in order to get somewhere else. That’s just too bad because Nebraska is gorgeous country. Those long views and big sky of the plains states complete with the stunning rolling hills as you move further west have captivated our hearts as much as (or maybe even more!) any mountain range or ocean view. There is something about standing in a sea of grasslands that is… it feels like the essence of freedom.

As I was a new but already avid knitter, I was excited at the prospect of checking out a Brown Sheep Company, a source for American wool. You have to remember, this was before other big name American wool yarn purveyors that we are familiar with today even existed. Back in the early 2000s, the family owned and operated Brown Sheep Company had been making yarn for 20 years and really was the source for American wool yarn for knitters and crocheters. Going to Mitchell to visit the Brown Sheep Company was like a pilgrimage for me. My husband, who is a native of Nebraska, was more than happy to travel the full length of the corn-husker state in order to visit the far western reaches and the home of the Brown Sheep Company.  We were both pretty pleased with the details of this trip, indeed!

The timing of our visit — not to mention the fact that we had along a baby and a dog — made it impractical to do a mill tour, but I did get to visit the outlet shop. Let me tell you — oh, how I would LOVE to go back now knowing so much more than I did back then! In any case, I’d been thinking about that trip out to Western Nebraska recently, so when I received an email inviting me to review their Burly Spun yarn, I jumped. What a great way to reconnect with not just the memories, but also this fantastic yarn!

Burly Spun is a single-ply yarn, spun from 100% USA wool and is available in 31 solid colors as well as 8 hand painted colorways. Brown Sheep Company buys the majority of their wool directly from the growers and employs sustainable practices, too, so you can feel pretty darn good about the wool they produce. I selected a skein of the colorway named Strawberry Patch and Brown Sheep Company generously sent it my way. I knew my daughter was in need of some mittens and this yarn and its super bulky status was just the ticket. As warm as it is fast to knit, Burly Spun is pretty darn phenomenal for mittens to keep our northern tier fingers warm.

I’d originally planned to get them done earlier this month, but all the obligations of December got the better of me. Thankfully I knew once I sat down to it, they would be done in the blink of an eye. Two night ago I cast-on mittens using this Classic Cabled Hat & Mittens pattern on Ravelry.

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I started them around 4pm and knit on them throughout the evening. Even with a stop for dinner and multiple trips to chase the new puppy around the backyard, I was done before bedtime. When they call this yarn the “Fastest in the West,” they are not kidding!

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Didn’t they turn out great?!

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They are bright and soft and oh-so-cozy!

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Burly Spun is wonderful for mittens as it keeps your hands warm and dry. Normally I’m wary of knitting a cabled pattern in a handpainted yarn, but I think because of the size of the stitches (13 stitches and 18 rows over 4″ on size 10.5 needles) it just works super well. I got both mittens out of a bit less than 1 skein of yarn — enough that there was no yarn chicken, but not so much that I feel like any bit was wasted. And they might just be the prettiest mittens I’ve made yet!

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The only thing that bums me out is that I didn’t get enough to make the matching hat! I suppose with so many pretty colors, maybe I should get enough to make a set for myself in addition to the matching hat for my girl!

I want to thank Brown Sheep Company for providing this yarn and the opportunity to review their beautiful yarn. I truly hope one day that I’ll make it back their way again, but whether I do or not, this certainly will not be the last Brown Sheep Company yarn I work with!

 

The World Falls Away

It feels like I have barely stopped moving since Tuesday evening when we brought our little Bear home. All the things happening outside of my home have fallen away as I focus on trying to find the right balance and rhythm to everyday life again. The fact that holidays are approaching in mere days is inconceivable.

I’m woefully behind in all previous planning as I work on savoring these puppy days. On Wednesday Bear became aware of what a leash is and we learned that one of the best ways to teach him is to have Moose lead the way. Now being on a leash is almost entirely about keeping up with his big brother! On Thursday, he discovered pine cones and had his first bath. On Friday, he found out he could play with sticks. Today he learned how much fun a tennis ball can be and went for a walk on his first trail hike and I am still picking the little burs out of his long coat.

As I tried to explain to my mom on the phone, having a 7 week old puppy in the house is kind of like having a toddler and an infant rolled into one. The sweet trust and innocence makes your heart melt over and over again, but there is also that unstoppable curiosity. And it is so much fun to watch him learn about the world, especially how much he looks to Moose for guidance and how Moose tries to teach the little dude. This, you see, is how you help make dinner…

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And this is how you look super pathetic and tiny when Mom is making dinner…

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And this is  how you sleep in Mom & Dad’s bed…

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Yes, since we expect Bear to be over 100lbs and Moose is 90lbs, this will eventually be a space issue, but for now it brings Bear much security and us some much needed rest. We will cross the space issue bridge when the time comes.

Aside from all-things-dog, very little has been happening. We did our best to finish up some pre-holiday school goals. A friend came over and we decorated Christmas cookies. That was chaos one step from mayhem, but so much fun. I finished knitting a hat…

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This is a Rikke Hat (a free Ravelry download) and knit in my handspun yarn from Three Water’s Farm’s August installment of their Top of the Month Club.

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I am very happy with the yarn — it just knit up so nicely!

I was curious about how the brim would be in garter with a smaller needle, but without ribbing and I’m happy to report the fit is great.

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Obviously I made the slouchy version — I just find it’s easier with my longer hair knowing I get a messy bun in there if I need to. I have enough yarn on there to put a pom on, but I don’t think I’m going to bother. I like it as is.

With supervision, I also started another hat…

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I tried Judy Marples’ Knit Night Hat originally, but wasn’t a fan of how it was knitting up in the yarn, so I went searching and found Clare Devine’s Acai hat pattern. It’s a much better fit for the yarn!

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It has a 2 round repeat which is about as good as it gets when you are picking it up and setting it down constantly.

I also started a pair of socks in this Kickapoo Sock Yarn that was a gift from a good friend…

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The colorway is called Blue Heron and it’s one of the prettiest colorways and nicest sock yarns I’ve knit. Obviously I’m not super far, but it’s a start! And sharing the beginning here has reminded me that I finished a pair of socks a couple weeks ago! I’ve worn them a couple times, but I will try to snap some photographs after the holiday.

Speaking of which, if I don’t get a chance to log on and write before next week, I want to wish you all a very heartfelt Happy Holidays! Whatever holidays you celebrate, may they warm your heart, bring a smile to your face. When all is said and done, may you rest as soundly and contentedly as a 7 week old puppy after his first trail hike. And maybe even allow yourself let the rest of the world fall away for a little while to enjoy the simple, fleeting pleasures that make up this life.

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From all of mine, to you and yours — Happy Holidays!!!