Veleta

Way back in March, I received some lovely yarn in the mail and an equally pretty pattern.

img_2464Louet’s pattern collections always contain such pretty ideas and their 2016 Spring Collection is no exception. Designed by the fantastic Susanna IC, Veleta is a simple sleeveless top knit in Louet’s wonderful Euroflax Sport.

Both the front & back of this pattern are worked identically and it’s really an excellent ‘autopilot’ knit.

img_2590I did a very large portion of this knitting while supervising my kiddos during our little waterpark adventure in March.

img_2778The non-waterpark portions of this knit were mostly just little breaks here and there throughout my day.

Before I get to the FO, I want to talk just a bit about my experience knitting with linen. One question I heard a number of times from other knitters during the course of knitting this project was concerning their stitches being too uneven when working in linen. It’s totally understandable because wool has that natural spring and energy. Stitches kind of just even themselves out a fair bit while we knit with wool. Linen is different. Linen really doesn’t have that spring and your stitches will sometimes kind of look wonky and you may be compelled to try to even things out ‘manually.’ I’m here to say that barring major, major discrepancies you really don’t need to do so.

Note my somewhat uneven stitches while knitting.

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And my nice even stitches after it’s been through the wash.

stitch detailI did nothing beyond run it through the delicate cycle in my washing machine & lay it flat to dry and my stitches looks nice and neat now.

Another question I got was how to handle the actual knitting with linen. Without the bounce and elasticity of wool, it can be easy to tax your hands when knitting with linen. I’m here to say, just relax. Relax your wrists & your hands and embrace the character of this wonderul yarn. It’ll be a joy when you do!

OK, I digress. On to the FO!

img_2971I really enjoyed the simple lace edge as much (or more) than the stockinette sections. Alas, I have a lot of pictures that look like this — my beautiful top folded and draping beautifully. I’ve had it finished for a couple weeks now, but couldn’t bring myself to model it in the chilly weather we’ve been having. Finally, yesterday I had my chance. I cornered my son and got those proper FO photos.

outtakeJust kidding! In case it isn’t obvious, this is an outtake. I discovered on this ‘photo shoot’ that if I make a lot of funny faces and do a bunch of weird poses that it makes my son laugh. Thank goodness for digital photography.

side view on 2Oh hey! Now I don’t look like I’m in pain. Isn’t the top cute?

front onI love it, I really do!

flatIt’s just such a simple, pretty piece to throw on over a camisole.

edge detailAnd again, I just love this detail.

I’ve machine washed it twice now and it’s nice and soft and drapey and it will only continue to become more soft and drapey with each wash.  I do so love Euroflax Sport — it’s great to work with & seriously washes up so nicely. And now I’ve got this fabulous top in a super comfy yarn to layer with this summer. Veleta is truly a little piece of summery perfection!

That Silver Lining

There’s a delicate dance for all of us who rely on natural light for photographs. For small projects like socks or handspun skeins of yarn I can get a decent photo in almost any weather, but sweaters and larger shawls are more complicated. For me, if I want to get a picture of the whole project that requires larger than about a 2’x2′ space, I need decent weather so I can snap the photo outside. This April in Wisconsin has involved a lot of snow and rain and raining ice and sleet, often in quick succession. It usually does, but ideally there’s a bit more sunshine in between so I can sneak outside to snap some quick photos. I bring this up because I’ve got a sweater & a shawl all ready to share with you and I’m waiting, ever so impatiently, for a break in the weather. Soon, my friends, soon.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a WIP update because I’ve been attempting to lurch forward a bit in what I’m working on.

I’m ecstatic to report that last night I wrapped up my Three Waters Farm March Top of the Month Club braid.

img_2786Named “Spring Spirit” this certainly is made up of many of the colors I see out my window (although it’s missing the white snow — lol!). I see irises and green grass and the tulips leaves and the first crocuses of the year. I did some playing with the length of color repeats on this spin & plan to n-ply it. If I get the yardage I need, I’m thinking this will be earmarked for a Quaker Lines shawl. With just 4oz and making a 3-ply, I’m not confident I’ll have the yardage though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Because I like to be ready to hop right into my next spin, before finishing it up I managed to prep my January Top of the Month Club braids, also from Three Waters Farm.

img_2776I’ve been aiming to stay up to date with my club subscription and so far this is the only one I haven’t spun. You know me, I’m not big on loose ends, so to ease my own mind I really had to make this spin happen. There’s an extremely talented spinner named Karen in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group who is famous for her gorgeous barberpoley skeins and a while back she was kind enough to share how she preps her yarn for maximum barberpoles. I was really indecisive about how to handle this gorgeous colorway, named “Birds in Holly”, so to end my own over-thinking I decided to try my hand at her technique. To see why I’m interested in trying Karen’s technique, please check out her handspun in her Etsy shop. In addition to her handspun yarn, she also has some cute stitch markers and select spinning tools for sale.

This morning after my morning yoga I got right to this new project.

img_2787I’d considered spinning it a little heavier and this Rambouillet is definitely going to be a bit more substantial than the Falkland of ‘Spring Spirit’, but this weight feels right to me so I’m just going with it. I adore the colors already.

In my knitting, I’ve forbidden myself from starting any of the FOUR projects I’m itching to cast-on until I finish my Veleta top from the new Louet Spring Collection. Both sides are knitted identically and I’m a little over halfway through the big stockinette block of the second side.

img_2778So motivated, I even made myself an Americano yesterday after lunch for a little extra boost. As I knew I would, I’m really enjoying knitting with Louet’s Euroflax Sport. I chose to knit this top in Heron Grey with the bottom lace accent in Cream. It has a very old world feel to it that I truly adore.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been plugging away at my spindle spinning project.

img_2788I’m definitely still learning how to use this tool efficiently, but I’m very happy to be making progress on this previously stalled out fiber. I’ve been aiming to spin up between 1/2 of a rolag and one full one each day and that seems to be do-able for me.

As I continue to wait for the weather to behave so I can share those FOs, I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with my WIPs as I always do. I suppose the silver lining of the uncooperative weather is that we tend to stay a little closer to home, so I have a tiny bit more time with my knitting & spinning. As I watch the fine snow that is falling outside change to rain and then to ice pellets and then back to snow, I’m going to just keep telling myself to think of that silver lining. Yes, I’m just going to knit & spin my way to more agreeable weather.

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…

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Empty Bobbins & Fresh Yarn

After my wheel, probably the best investment I’ve made in spinning was acquiring extra bobbins. I got my wheel in October of 2011 and when my birthday rolled around that December, I used birthday monies to stock up on bobbins.

bobbinsAs you can see, I have a small fleet! It may look like overkill and honestly it may be, but I do have what I think is a really good reason for having this many bobbins. My Lendrum DT has a plying head & flyer that I really like using — you guessed it — to ply. I like the speed of this flyer and I love the fact that the jumbo bobbins easily hold most of the skeins I spin. The thing is, most of my singles that I wish to ply are spun with the regular or fast flyer which requires the regular head. Have I lost you yet with all these heads and flyers and what not?

What I’m getting at here is that when I go to ply I’m changing out the head on my spinning wheel. It’s no big deal as it’s really a simple procedure and the ability to make this change is a big reason I bought my wheel, but having extra bobbins means I can spin a lot more singles before I switch things out to plying mode. This gives my singles time to rest in between plying without forcing me to press pause on my spinning and it also alleviates some wear & tear on my wheel with switching those heads. In practice what this means is that with my 7 regular bobbins I can spin at least 3-4 projects that each involve 4-8oz singles (the bulk of what I do these days). Likewise, then I can ply all those projects in a row, too, although with only two jumbo bobbins I do have to pause to skein my yarn every 2 projects. I am usually too excited to check out the final yarns after they’re plied, so as yet I haven’t felt the need to pick up more than 2 jumbo bobbins. Someday, I probably will. In any case, in addition to being a bit more efficient and easier on my wheel, I think this process allows me to create better yarn because I’m not constantly switching gears between singles and plying.

Knowing all this, as you can imagine a big part of my Tour de Fleece prep involves clearing off my bobbins so that I am all set for a fresh start come Saturday. Of course, this has resulted in some finished yarn — hooray!

The first yarn I will share is spun from fiber I purchased for my birthday last year, Sweet Georgia Polwarth + Silk in the Stormchaser colorway.

IMG_7579I wanted to blend all those white patches in as best as I could, so I broke this braid up into a lot of pieces to spin the singles…

IMG_9494And then I n-plied.

IMG_9829I know I sacrifice a lot of yardage for the n-ply, but I really love how a good 3-ply is a nice round yarn and when the colors are already broken up, there is minimal pooling.

The resulting yarn is about 260yards of sport/DK weight yarn.

sgstormchaserI adore the colors.

sgstormchaserdetThe plying isn’t my best work, but without a doubt it’ll knit up nicely. I’m going to be trying to knit up my handspun a bit more in the coming months (hopefully), so I’ll be on the lookout for a nice cowl or shawlette to knit this skein into.

My second finished skein you’ll probably be familiar with as it’s my most recent spin.

IMG_9746My daughter picked out this 8oz blend of  Fuschia 80/20 merino/silk from Louet on the way home from vacation and not only requested liked the fiber, but asked if she could knit the yarn I spin with it. There was a zero percent chance that I could say no to that… even if it meant spinning 8oz of hot pink.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really pretty and fiber was really a joy to spin, but holy cow…

IMG_9819that was a lot of pink.

This skein I also n-plied.

IMG_9834Partly because I was on a roll, partly because I thought a round, bouncy yarn would be more fun for my daughter to knit.

I have to admit that the finished skein is pretty much the closest my handspinning has come to looking like a commercial skein.

louet hot pinkIt turned out to be about 320yards of roughly worsted weight yarn.

louet hot pink detAnd it just turned out so well. I’m really proud of this one and ridiculously impressed with myself. My daughter is very excited about it, too. I am, however, playing the mean mom card in that she has to finish her current knitting project (at cowl for my mom) before she can start using this yarn.

Along with some fantastic fresh yarns, I’ve also reached my pre-Tour de Fleece empty bobbin goal. Tomorrow I’ll get my nerd on and share the tools I’ve gathered in preparation for the big event as well as the first fibers I plan to spin. Oh, the possibilities that lie ahead!

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!

On the Line

Most of what I write about my family life is focused on the places we go — the hikes we take, the trips on which we embark, and the events we seek out. Truth be told, so much of my life happens in our teeny, tiny house and in our rather unspectacular yard. Being on the go as much as we are in the summer, we discovered early on in our home ownership that the big garden we’d dreamed of was pretty impractical for our lifestyle. We’ve converted most of our tiny lot to perennial berry bushes, an epic raspberry patch, and a few wildflowers or native cuttings that friends or neighbors needed to unload.

This year the kids and I attempted to start seeds and grow a few things to have a tiny container garden. Things were going rather well until the local chipmunk population decided to dig up every single vegetable plant we planted and replace them with sunflower seeds save for 3 kale plants. I was frustrated, but accepting of the situation until the chipmunks decided to start climbing in our siding. This is where I draw the line and knew we could no longer be neighbors.

They did, however, leave our nasturtiums alone…

IMG_9800Which just started blooming yesterday. With the chipmunk threat no longer an issue I’m tempted to get a few little herb plants for fresh and for drying for winter use. A dear friend often gifts us little jars of her dried herbs in the fall and  I learned to really appreciate that dash of dried parsley in our winter meals. We shall see what I can find.

It is also the time of year when I hang clothes out on our line.

FullSizeRenderWe joke that our house looks like some sort of tenement situation when I hang clothes out, but to me it’s tradition — something my mom always did in the spring & summer & fall. And aside from the outward appearance, it’s warm & breezy and hanging clothes out to dry is kind to the environment not to mention saves us some money in electricity as well as keeps the house cooler. It’s a win all around in my opinion.

The kids and I also spend a lot of time at home and — like I said — the yard is far from tidy and perfect, but it is a happy place.

IMG_9789This weekend I broke out a new slip n’slide for the kids and while they played, I spun.

IMG_9791And spun and spun the endless bag of pink merino/silk that my daughter requested I spin so she can knit it.

I also knit a bit, finishing up a shawl that is blocking and then using up the remainder of my SilverSpun Summer Sock Club yarn…

IMG_9780-0I had exactly 200yards remaining, so I thought in addition to the shorties I’ve already finished (and will share soon!), a pair of Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Turkish Bed Socks would be a great way to use up the rest.

I finished up the first sock last night…

IMG_9795And as planned I should have just enough to finish the second sock without it being too much of a nail-biter.

It was such a treat to spend some quiet, relaxing time at home over the weekend after our over-exciting vacation and then all the hospital/doctor/me-as-nurse happenings of last week. It’s such a relief that the only thing on the line here right now is laundry. I’m oh so thankful to have everyone on the road to recovery, to have had some time to play and relax in our unspectacular yard, and for all the million little things that are our everyday life and home.