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!

 

In Review: Lazadas Project Caddy

I haven’t been doing as many reviews lately just because I haven’t had as much time as I once did for such things, but when I received an email offering an opportunity to review the new Lazadas Project Caddy, I was intrigued enough to make room in my schedule. I mean, a snag-free, flexible knitting bag that is sturdy enough to convert into a bowl? Yes, please! I’d like to try that out!

Normally I’m more of a natural fibers kind of gal, but one of my biggest problems, especially in summer, is that it’s far too easy to get my project bags dirty. So much of my fair weather time is spent outside and even if I’m just out on my deck spinning or knitting, let alone at a campground around the campfire, my project bags seem to be dust & dirt magnets. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and am thankful most of them are machine washable, but the idea of one that was made to handle the elements had me immediately interested.

Enter the Lazadas Project Caddy…

 

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I’ve been using it to hold my fauxlags for spinning projects lately. It’s 10″ long and 5″ deep, so it holds a lot — all 8oz of my fauxlags for this project are heaped in it in this picture, in fact! The sturdy structure of the bowl means not only can it hold what’s in the bowl, but I can stack my fiber and yarn in it as well, well beyond the top edges of the caddy — a point that is obvious from the picture! For my knititng friends, I would say I could comfortably fit 3-4 skeins of fingering weight yarn in it, less if you want to close it. Oh, yes, did I mention it closes? It’s ingenius, really. See the handle there coming off the back right side of the bowl? Well, it threads through this slot over on the other side…

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And voilà!

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My yarn bowl tucks into a neat little dumpling! Fabulous! Those little X’s on the side there? You can use them to secure your needles or keep multi-color projects from running amok. So many clever little aspects of the tool!

For those wondering, Lazadas Knitting Accessories is a family owned company based in Israel. As their name implies, they focus on knitting accessories — project caddies, stitch markers, flexible blocking wires, and — most recently — needle labels. In their description of this caddy, they deem it:

Modern materials for an ancient art in modern times.

And that’s just what they provide in all their products. A modern twist on knittig tools. The caddy is made with 100% silicon, which means it’s snag-free, so you don’t need to worry about your materials getting caught on zippers. Likewise, your needles won’t slip between the fibers, poking out of the caddy. Everything stays where it needs to be, undamaged. And for those who might be worried that a silicon bag might smell plastic-y… it doesn’t. It’s odorless. What an innovative container!

All in all, this is one functional little piece of art — a fantastic addition to my knitting & spinning toolkit if I do say so!

 

Many thanks to Lazadas Knitting Accessories from providing me with this Project Caddy for review.

The Magic in Those Woods

Yesterday we got around to taking Moose to his annual check-up. For the Moose fans out there, you’ll be happy to hear that all 84lbs of our big brown dog are healthy. He lowered his ears and put on serious puss-in-boots eyes when the vet said he wasn’t a puppy anymore, but other than that Mr Knitting Sarah said he bestowed the normal charms and kisses saved for his yearly visit. The vet said he could probably stand to lose about 4lbs, but after they discussed that he carries the extra weight mostly in his giant neck roll (I refer to it as his shawl collar) it was deemed acceptable.

The big boy is definitely exhausted from all the excitement though and is currently catching up on his lost napping time today.

In addition to Moose’s good health, the equally exciting part of the vet visit was that Mr Knitting Sarah volunteered to take Moose for me. Usually this is a duty I handle, but since the appointment wound up being on his day off and because his manly size makes it far easier for him to handle a highly excited Moose, I stayed home while Mr KS went.

This gave me just enough time to finish Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes.

The publication date says February of last year, so I’d probably been reading this book for a solid year. The truth is that I don’t get a ton of time for personal reading these days. The whole homeschool thing takes up a load of my time and I tend to be a little burned out for reading by the end of our average day. That said, Knitlandia has got a lot of cool insight into knitterly events around the world for the knitting armchair traveler in all of us. Because of my schedule, I really appreciated that each chapter stood on its own, too. In addition to the history and general feel of events themselves, Knitlandia also invites the reader to get a taste of the personalities of the who’s who in the knitting world. It’s well written and funny, a solid travel narrative.

As I read along on her travels and imagined myself at these events, I’ll admit that I found myself a little lost. Introvert that I am, I couldn’t really place myself in her shoes. As amazing as each adventure sounded, I couldn’t imagine choosing to travel far and wide for these festivals regardless of their irrefutable awesomeness. And I just could not understand where my disconnect was in it all. I mean, I am a fiber artist. I love the company of my fellow fiber artists. What was my problem? The deep waters where the Fear Of Missing Out tends to fester weren’t stirred in the least. Then I came to the final sentence:

Maybe there was some magic in those woods after all.

Now, Parkes was talking about her experience at the Squam retreat in New Hampshire which I’ve always been a little wistful about, but as I read it and closed the book, all I could think of was this…

And this…

And this…

And this…

And this…

All images from our Monday family hike just a few miles from our home. And all I kept thinking was, of course there was magic in those woods. There is magic in every woods. And again, I felt a little out of step with this story.

As I think back across Parkes’ travels though, I feel that maybe I was missing the point. Maybe to get to the root of this book, you need to look past the physical places and the knitterati involved.  Most of us will never have tea with Ysolda Teague or taste the fresh donuts at Rhinebeck, but we will all inevitably find our own knitting world to inspire us. Good knitting friends with whom we can laugh and teach and share. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a festival or two to attend or a good LYS to be active with. And if you’re like me, you inspiration may come in the form of salamander tails and shawl collared dogs and a husband who occasionally holds toads in the forest. I’m a firm believer that the magic has always been there and not just in the woods at Squam; it’s in the woods here in Wisconsin, in the people who inspire us, in the festivals and places both big and small that we visit, in our own needles and yarn. We just have to be in the frame of mind to see it and then be brave enough & strong enough to unleash the magic that has always been there.

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: 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!

In Review: Sock Architecture

 We used to dream of having a library in our home, but the fact of the matter is that there is barely enough room for us let alone our books. When we decided on our small house, we also decided to part ways with the majority of our favorite books. With a good library in town, it seemed like the fair & wise thing to do. At the time, I prided myself on just a handful of essential knitting titles. Over the last few years, however, that micro-library has swelled to what sometimes feels like a disproportionate quantity of texts that I simply can’t live without. That’s why these days I try very hard to never buy a knitting book unless there is something specific in it that I can’t get anywhere else.

When Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture became available last August, I read tons of positive reviews. I was oh so tempted to purchase this book right away, but between the limited book space issue and the self-inflicted attempts to curb some of my fiber arts spending, I held off making the purchase. I started following Neel’s Instagram account through which she often shares photos of her own sock experiments as well as reposts of socks knit by others using her book. What finally convinced me to place my order is that it became very apparent that Neel was doing extraordinary things with sock construction. As a curious knitter and someone hosting a year-long sock knitalong, it seemed necessary that I take the time to tour this book.

Photo courtesy of Lara Neel.

What arrived at my doorstep was probably the most comprehensive approach to sock knitting that I have come across. The first 50 pages are solely dedicated to understanding measurements, fabric, gauge, fit, as well as both basic toe-up and top-down construction which include cast-on, heel, toe, and bind-off options for each that are not only explained well, but laced with excellent caliber references. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting so you may want to break it up a bit, but it is extremely thorough and complete. If you had questions about to properly fit socks as well as how they knit-up, you won’t after reading and working through this section.

Now I am the first to admit that I am not a ‘numbers knitter’ — I am someone who wants to get a pattern, figure my gauge & size, and just knit. I will make mods here and there when necessary, but for the most part I would much prefer to not have to make any modifications or changes to a pattern. I was a bit concerned that Sock Architecture would be too numbers driven for me, but what I found was an excellent balance of in-depth discussion and dissection of sock construction right along side patterns that are simple to follow. Each design includes not only a straight-up pattern, but also instructions for customization. I think it’s easy to see that this has to potential to appeal to a really wide range of knitters, both those new to sock knitting as well as sock knitting veterans looking to expand their skill sets with guided customization.

As for the patterns themselves there are 10unique sock designs, but 17 actual patterns as 7 of them include versions for both toe-up and top-down construction. This, I think, is an excellent teaching tool for really getting at the heart of sock construction. It should also be noted that each of these patterns comes with calculations for 5 different sizes as well as the formulas (and information on taking accurate measurements in the introduction) necessary for customizing each individual pattern. This feature is not only an excellent teaching tool — it would be absolutely fabulous to teach a class or club with this book to explore all the different techniques, but it also makes this book very practical for knitting socks for all shapes & sizes of feet.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this book, however, is the far-reaching survey in sock construction it contains. Take my Bootstrap Socks, for instance…

SRR HEELThis is a heel that I never would have tried on my own. Who has ever heard of a Balbriggan heel anyways? Sourced from references in the late 1800s, I had serious doubts that it would be comfortable. The barely existent gusset, the shallow heel, and the seaming on the bottom (what the what?!) made these kind of an experiment and a test of the book itself in my mind. How practical were these techniques after all? I’m here to say, these are among the best fitting & most comfortable socks in my sock drawer. And you know what? After these socks, I trust Lara Neel and her designs & research. She can indeed design a pretty interesting to knit, comfortable to wear, and overall rad sock. That’s just a fact.

From covering the basics in great detail to innovating with construction in new and exciting ways based in historical technique, Sock Architecture is one knitting book that any knitter — even those with limited library space like me — would seriously benefit from adding to his/her collection. Make room on the shelf, my friends, because this one is a keeper!