A Guest Post for Louet North America & Purl and Loop

Hey, hey, hello, I’m back today to share another guest post!

When Louet North America noticed that I had shared a few photos of my daughter’s Purl & Loop Wee Weaver, they asked if I’d be interested in writing up a blog post for them on this sweet little tool. Of course I said YES! They sent me some of their lovely Gems Worsted yarn and I got to creating some little samples.

To read my thoughts on the Wee Weaver and see the fun little projects I made (they would make great gifts!), pop on over the Louet North America blog right here. I hope you enjoy it!

coaster-wipMany thanks to Louet North America for the yarn to create these projects and for inviting me to write this post for their blog!

Busy as a Bee

As spring slowly starts to wake-up here, we’re treated too all the glorious signs of spring. My spinning wheel overlooks our Nanking cherry bushes which have bloomed and I’m lucky in that as I spin I get to watch bees as they float from flower to flower. I can’t help but relate to the bees. As the days grow in length, the sun climbs higher in the sky, and the temperatures warm up I’m invigorated and am compelled to flit about, making plans, and trying to make the most of each sunny afternoon. In bursts I’ve started cleaning up the yard and making plans for some improvements. The cleaning products have been inventories and lists for a nice thorough spring clean for the house have been drawn up. I’ve put off mowing the lawn, but that will have to be addressed sooner than later, too.

And then there’s the arena that is my craft. True to form, I’m busy as a bee in that department, too. Let’s start with knitting, shall we?

img_2971My beautiful Veleta top just needs to be seamed. From Louet’s wonderful Spring Collection, this is knit in Louet’s Euroflax Sport. Since machine washing drastically softens the linen, I ran this through my washer on the delicate cycle before pinning it out to dry on the blocking matts. It’s well on it’s way to being soft as butter. I’m hoping to steal an hour or so to sew it up this weekend.

img_2964And I’m past the gusset shaping of my second handspun sock. This has been my during school/at the playground/in the car project, so I haven’t been moving too too quickly on it, but I’m getting there. It’s such a fun knit for me as I watch my handspun labors take shape that I’m honestly in no rush to finish this project.

img_2969And then I have this project waiting in the wings. I had hoped to knit up a sweater with my giant 1100 yard fingering weight skein of handspun from last month for the Laura Aylor SAL + KAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group, but I’ve accepted that time is not on my side at the moment. The pattern was a little more complex than was realistic for the spring and summer for me so as I’m desperate to participate, I started thinking about what else I could make. After my daughter stole my fingerless mitts on one of our last hikes, I found the adorable Spiced Cocoa mitts and this yarn that I spun a couple months ago. If I make the small, they’ll be a little big for her, but since she’s growing like a weed that’s probably for the best. She’s OKed the project (it’s important to get permission with an 8-year-old diva), so all that’s left to do is wind the yarn and get started.

In my spinning world, I got some very exciting news this week. Akerworks is developing a new Flat Pack Lazy Kate and I was chosen to be one of the testers for it! I invested in some Akerworks Flat Pack Bobbins when my hubby got me the travel bag for my wheel and I’ve been really, really impressed with the quality as well as how much room they save me so when I saw this Kate in the works I jumped on that sign-up sheet & crossed my fingers and toes. They said they are making them to order right now, but that I should see it sometime in the next couple weeks. I’ll be focusing my review and thoughts in the testing thread while I put it through its paces, but rest assured that a full review will be available in due time.

As you can imagine, while I wait for the Kate to arrive I’m on a mission to spin singles for plying!

img_2967I’ve already got this March Top of the Month Club “Spring Spirit” from Three Waters Farm all set for its Navajo plying.

img_2968And yesterday I wrapped up my singles for the January Top of the Month Club (which I put off forever) “Birds in Holly” — it’s destined for a simple 2-ply.

img_2966And I immediately started in on my April Top of the Month Club “Storm Cloud Over Flowers” — this is the first month I had the Silk Club and I’m loving it. I tempted fate a little by pulling out my Very Fast Flyer for this spin. I’ve been what feels like a little slow on the learning curve for this flyer and while this spin definitely has parts that could be more perfect (that aren’t in this photo), the over-twisting issues I had last time and the feeling that I was either a) just holding on for dear life or b) fighting against the wheel — those feelings are all but gone. Not totally, but for the most part I started to feel the right balance and rhythm  with this flyer and that… well, it felt really good. I’ve also been using my little Akerworks Hedgehog Threader as I find it a little easier to use than the Lendrum issued one. Plus, it’s a hedgehog.

img_2965I did a little work on my spindle project today, too. If I hadn’t mentioned it, I picked up these rolag/punis from Naturally Knitty last summer. I love the colors! I’m still pretty slow with my spindles, but I’m certainly practicing!

I’ve also got more than a couple sewing projects that I need to get working on, but let’s not dive down that rabbit hole just now. For now, the sun is shining & warm and this bee’s got some work to do.

One of Those Weeks

Hiya, my friends! I feel a little bit like this is the first time I’ve really sat down in a week.

[Insert deep breath here]

You see, once a year my husband attends a conference for work that takes place at an indoor waterpark and it just so happens that his company is very awesome about allowing families to tag along. As you can imagine, there are a lot of happy kids when conference time rolls around. Our kids, who are used to camping, inclement weather, and the occasional basic hotel, view those couple days at the waterpark/resort as amazingly extravagant. They talk about it constantly and plan out the order in which they’ll visit the attractions weeks in advance. I’m not really a waterpark enthusiast, but as a mum I really appreciate that we can go as I’m not sure we would if not for this opportunity and it’s such a fun time for the kids.

 While I love swimming, I pretty much get motion sick just looking at a swing set let alone riding in a raft down a twisty-turny water slide, so I mostly observe and keep an eye on the kids. Both are strong swimmers, but I stay poolside and keep watch. Of course it isn’t lost on me that this is excellent knitting time for someone who sports the moniker ‘Knitting Sarah’. Since the waterpark is warm and I needed something simple that would allow me to keep an eye on the kiddos, just before we left I chose to cast-on and begin work on my Veleta from Louet’s Spring Collection 2016 which happens to be in the best fiber for warm temps — linen!

img_2571Yes! Another chance to work with the fantastic Euroflax Sport — oh, how I love this yarn! And this pattern is fantastic in that it’s largely stockinette with just a little lacey border and both front and back are worked identically. Simple knitting and a lovely addition to my wardrobe — just perfect!

After an entire day at the waterpark both kids were exhausted in the very best way…

img_2588This one looked like this well into the morning, easily 2 hours beyond her normal waking hour. Knowing they were tuckered, we switched gears on day two to a somewhat low-key indoor amusement park. Despite sleeping in and having a slow morning, both kids kind of walked around like little zombies and, of course, refused to admit they were tired. So I let them move at their pace and I kept knitting.

img_2590When it came time to pick up Mr. Knitting Sarah at the end of his meetings, I’d knocked out a little over 10inches of the front of my Veleta — not too shabby! Thanks to down time during school and a couple movies over the last few evenings, I’m getting tantalizingly close to the lace portion of this side. Knowing I’m close to a change in my knitting is always such good motivation for me.

As for spinning, with my wheel back in good working order I did not waste any time finishing the singles for my combo spin. And then, because I simply couldn’t resist and I had a couple hours into which I could sneak some spinning after school and while I continued to make my way through the laundry, I got a little start on my March Top of the Month from Three Waters Farm.

img_2595This is ‘Spring Spirit’ on a 100% Falkland base. I’m trying out a new-to-me method of dividing up the colors for this spin. A very talented spinner in the TWF Ravelry group made the most incredible boomerang last month and I just had to try her method. First, I divided my braid into its three color repeats. Then, the first repeat I split in half, the second in thirds, and the third in sixths. And then I’ll n-ply it so that you kind of have accelerating stripes. I’m not sure I’ll knit it into a boomerang — I have some other ideas I might light to try, but we’ll see how it turns out.

In between my swimming, zombie indoor amusement parking, knitting, spinning, and Mount Laundry tackling, we also made a day’s detour up to my parents house to recover Moose who’d spent a few days at Club Grandma & Grandpa.

img_2560He’s still sleeping off the excitement.

The kiddos and I also made a trip to a friend’s house who recently acquired a spinning wheel and needed a little help troubleshooting her process. I haven’t done much hands-on spinning with others, but I’m very eager to lend a hand when I can. It was — I think — a very productive day. We were able to take my dear friend through her paces and iron out the places she was having some problems. And — most excitingly — we managed to take two skeins of yarn she’d made that she didn’t think could be saved, add a little twist, and make some honest-to-goodness lovely yarn out of them. I’m absurdly excited to be able to tag along with her on her journey as she learns to spin. I truly enjoy the whole process of seeing a crafter’s evolution. It’s something I really miss about teaching craft and it’s an absolute honor and treat to be able to play even a little part in my friend’s journey.

And today, Sunday, I will boldly attempt to take a few deep breaths and get back on track with our normal routine. Tidying and laundry and exercise and healthy eating are all on my to-do list today. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll squeeze in a little time for some spinning, too…


The ATX Linen Tote & Louet’s Euroflax Sport

I have a habit of saving my favorite things and not using them. My husband actually had to have a small intervention with me because he would buy my favorite foods and I would save them until they expired. The same is sometimes true of yarn and although I’ve gotten much better about knitting and spinning my favorites first, old habits die hard.

I’ve long admired Louet’s Euroflax Sport. When I first started knitting I was totally smitten with this yarn, but in my newbie knitter mind it was on a pedestal — very fancy and something to look forward to using when I was more skilled. I would go into shops and touch this gorgeous wet spun linen and I would longingly think, “Someday.” At long last, that day finally came at the end of May when along with the June Spinzilla Pack (if you haven’t yet, you can read my review of the pack here) I received a couple skeins of Euroflax Sport and a new exclusive pattern from the awesome folks at Louet. Finally, this yarn was in my hands and I had to knit it right away. No excuses!

The ATX Linen Tote by Staci Perry of   v e r y p i n k  is as complete as they come when it comes to patterns. Clearly written and with a five-part video tutorial, this pattern is very accessible to knitters of almost any skill level. I found it a fun and easy summer knit and did the bulk of this project in the car to and from our exciting family vacation to Minnesota.

As you can see, car knitting…

IMG_9730And I finished up while relaxing at home…

IMG_9737As I said, the perfect summer knitting. Simple, but fun. Stripes are always fun, aren’t they? Especially when they are as cool as this!

I loved working with the Euroflax Sport. I’d say it was worth the wait, but really the sentiment I wish to convey is that I shouldn’t have waited this long to knit with it. It’s a very high quality linen and knits up like one. There was no splitting, even with the lace tips I used which  is pretty awesome. The most spectacular thing about this yarn, however, is when you wash it. I machine washed the bag on gentle and even ran it through the dryer on low or air fluff which in and of itself is wonderful in its magnificent low-maintence way. When it came out of the wash, though, oh my! How soft! It washes up beautifully — I am so impressed!

My bag was knit using the Burgundy and Sunset colorways, the latter being a new color this year.

ATXtoteReally, could it be any more summery?

atx detaThe stripes were SO fun — I love the progression from dark to light.

atx fullI shortened the strap just a bit because I plan to carry it over the shoulder instead of cross-body as the pattern shows. I also did a single crochet edge as suggested in the pattern notes. It gives the linen a very nice finished edge and I’d highly recommend that finishing touch. You can see my pattern notes on Ravelry here for the details.

All in all, I’m of the opinion that this ATX Tote is pretty much the ultimate in cute, grab a book and some knitting park/beach bag. If you’re dying to cast on, this pattern is currently only available with the purchase of the yarn. The great news is that with the purchase of 2 skeins of Euroflax Sport online from Louet you can just use the coupon code VPEUROFLAX when you checkout and you’ll get the pattern… for free! The pattern is also available from preferred Louet dealers listed on the pattern’s Ravelry page.

If this bag isn’t your cup of tea, I’d still like to suggest that you don’t wait too long to try out this fabulous linen. It would make a fantastic garment or shawl — in fact, Louet came out with a lovely collection this spring which is full of great ways to use this awesome yarn. Whatever you do, don’t put off trying Euroflax Sport too long. Trust me, you’ll regret it!

In Review: Louet’s June Spinzilla Fiber Pack

I’ve kind of been power stashing fiber over the last year or so. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as I realize I should be working on draining my yarn & fiber stashes these days, but being relatively new to spinning I’ve never had a very deep stash. I knew that timing looked very good for my being able to participate in both the Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla this year though and somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind it made perfect sense to stockpile fiber for those events as well as just the general daily spinning I’m shooting for this summer. Summer is my very favorite time to spin, especially early in the morning watching the birds out our front window or in the late afternoon on the back porch, so my ‘summer spin 2015’ challenge to spin everyday during the summer was a fun, enjoyable little personal challenge to take on and further justified the stash enhancement of late.

As you can imagine with this mindset, when I was asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one of Louet’s Spinzilla Fiber Packs I jumped at the chance. Partly driven by that ‘need’ to further enhance my fiber stash, but even moreso I enthusiastically agreed because the folks at Louet North America always put together great packages. They have excellent base fibers and they have a real knack for creating mixed packs that are full of a great mix of both fibers I’m familiar with and some that are new to me.

The box that contained the June Fiber Pack arrived when I wasn’t at home, but I was so excited to see what was inside that I asked my hubby to text photos of the contents. No really, I did that and he totally humored me (he really loves me, obviously). I could not believe it the bounty!

IMG_9470It was close to 3lbs of a really amazing assortment of fiber (for non-spinners, this makes quite of bit of yarn)!

Specifically, the June Spinzilla Fiber Pack contained:

  • 1/2 lb of Dyed Merino/Silk Top
  • 4 x 2oz of Dyed Merino Top
  • 2oz of Baby Llama Top
  • 100 gr of Red Eri Silk
  • 1/2 lb of White Tencel Top
  • 1/2 lb of Wool/Mohair Top
  • 1/2 lb of Dyed Karaoke

I knew there was no way I’d get through it all in a single month, so I picked three to spin up and review for you here.

IMG_9501My first choice was the half pound of Dyed Karaoke. This is a fiber I normally would not choose. I tend to stick specifically to animal fibers — maybe with a little bamboo or tencel or nylon mixed in here and there, but this is 50% wool / 50% soysilk. One touch and I could tell it was very different than that which I’m familiar. The best was to describe it is that to me it felt both tacky & slippery at the same time. I was a bit challenged in finding a comfortable method of drafting, but I did a bit of research and opted to try spinning from the fold and it worked like a charm.IMG_9502I also opted to spin the singles heavier than I usually do which was an added challenge, but it went pretty smoothly.

The finished skein is 150yards of bulky weight yarn…

louet soysilk det And I’m  very pleased with how it turned out.

louet soysilkConsidering it was a new-to-me fiber blend, new-to-me drafting technique, and not my comfort zone of thin singles, I’m kind of wowed by how it turned out. I think this fiber blend would also make a great lightweight yarn for shawls, but it definitely will work great for a chunky cowl, too.

Second, I thought I’d try my hand at the Baby Llama top.

Apparently Super Dehaired Llama from Louet is where all the fluff is at!
#louet #junespinzillapack #spinstagram #igspinners #handspinning

 Words cannot convey how lofty and fluffy this fiber is. Having just learned the whole spinning from the fold thing, with this relatively short staple length I opted to use my newest skill again and it made this spin just completely delightful.
Plying from a center pull ball for the first time. So far, so good! #todayonmywheel #plying #spinstagram #spinnersofinstagram #igspinners

 I decided to try out another new-to-me technique for plying — plying from a center-pull ball. It wasn’t bad and with a smallish amount of yarn to work with I appreciated the lack of waste this method provides, but overall I’m not yet ready to give up my tensioned lazy kate. Nonetheless it worked just fine and the finished yarn is about 120 yards of sport/DK weight yarn.

louet llama fullIt reminds me a whole lot of alpaca.

llama fullAnd I totally am head-over-heels in love with this little skein. In fact, I would spin this fiber again in a heartbeat.
My third choice was the light green 1/2 pound of 50/50 merino/silk.

I have time for a quick fat single, right? #todayonmywheel #louet #merinosilk #junespinzillapack
This wonderfully soft fiber I opted to spin into a bulky single.
louet 5050detSingles aren’t yet my forte, but practice does make perfect and although its a bit overspun in places, I think it’ll knit up just fine.
louet 5050 greenThis blend was simply a delight to work with. It’s very easy to draft and I found it pretty easy to control even considering I was outside my comfort zone in the heavier weight singles. I liked the blend so much that I actually bought more when I spotted it at a yarn shop while on vacation last week.
IMG_9746I can’t wait.
But I digress.
As for the rest of the June Spinzilla pack, I cannot wait to dig into the Red Eri Silk
louet silkI have never felt anything softer in my whole life. I’m a little afraid to mess it up, but even though I’m kind of intimidated by this fine, fine fiber, nothing will stop me from spinning this treasure.
I will admit, I’m not quite sure what to do with the 1/2 lb bags of tencel top and the wool/mohair top…
louet tencelmohairSo I will let those simmer for a bit while I do some further research. I’m thinking about perhaps a dyeing experiment with the wool/mohair at a later date, but I’ve got to think that through a bit more.
These four 2oz bags of merino, though…
louet merinoI think they’d be very pretty as a striped yarn. Maybe short little strips of each color. I will keep thinking about those, too.
All in all, I’ll admit that I’m once again really impressed with Louet North America for putting together such a great pack at a fantastic price — retail on these fibers alone would be close to $200 & the pack costs only $75. Great for stash & skill enhancement alike, the Spinzilla Fiber Packs — of which there will be five — are a great investment whether you plan to participate in any of the upcoming fiber events or not.
Many thanks to the kind folks at Louet North America for letting me try out this fantastic pack of fiber!


Shetland Top & Sliver: Side by Side

In my big box of goodies from Louet, I had a bag of Fine White Shetland Top and a bag of Shetland Sliver. I am the first to admit that I knew relatively little about Shetland wool — I had never spun it and had only ever knit with it for the kit I ordered from Kate Davies, the First Footing Socks. Before sitting down to my wheel, I did a little research and what I discovered is that Shetland wool is very special.

Shetland sheep have been evolving for over a thousand years on the Shetland Islands, the northernmost islands of Great Britain. Much effort has gone into and continues to go into tracing the genetic line of this sheep breed. It is a tangled web, however, with this age-old breed that has not only grown to adapt to the harsh climate where it exists (the island lie at a latitude roughly similar to that of Fairbanks, Alaska), but been bred at times for meat and at times for wool. All the genetic push & pull has created a breed that includes a lot of variation. The wool ranges from incredibly coarse to insanely fine. It even  has its own 11 color rainbow — an element that is actively being preserved today.

Being far from an expert on exactly what type of Shetland wool I had, I decided that I would do a direct comparison between the top & sliver that I had.  For both, I decided to spin a standard 3-ply, ultimately getting a chunky or bulky weight yarn.

First, the top. The fiber itself — much like the Jacob top I spun recently — was super soft.

20140529-183307-66787894.jpgIt is a bit uneven just because the finer top was slightly harder for me to regulate the weight on the singles and heavier weight yarns tend to come less naturally to me (hence the practice, practice, practice!).

20140529-183306-66786625.jpgAll in all though, it was a luscious in my hands at the wheel as it was as fiber. In its finished state, it is a soft, almost silky barely cream colored 3-play that will undoubtedly make  a beautiful little winter hat for me or my daughter. It is a relatively dense yarn, so I can tell it will be nice & warm and it’s even soft enough to be against my little girl’s skin.

The sliver… well, take a look at the difference…

shetland sliver2Can you tell that it’s just a bit more full?  Take a closer look.

shetland sliver1Can you see it? It is that sliver gift of a little extra air in those fibers. Less processing = more air = more fullness. It is deliciously squishy! Exactly like the Jacob, I also found the Shetland sliver to have those built in brakes, that naturally slower spinning speed. T sliver yarn a bit rougher to the touch that the top. While I probably wouldn’t use it as a cowl, I still find it to be quite comfortable against my skin. I  definitely look forward to knitting this up into a smart winter hat for myself.

Side by side….

20140529-190013-68413717.jpgYou can see the sliver on the right is a slightly heavier, fuller yarn. Believe it or not, I started with the same amount of fiber and finished with two 60yard skeins. It’s a spot-on comparison as to the difference between top & sliver for which I’ve learned a lot not just about handling these fibers, but also what type of yarn they are best suited for. I think I would happily stick to this bulky weight with the sliver, but might try a finer weight yarn with the top. Regardless, this adventure with Shetland has been my favourite yet. Not only is this a beautiful, fun to spin fiber — it is a fiber with endless possibilities & variations. The only question left on my mind is which color of the rainbow will be next?