New Additions

I’ve been trying to be pretty controlled with my yarn & fiber stash enhancement lately as I think a lot of us have been. I’m not sure who coined the term ‘slow stashing’ officially (I do know Clara Parkes has written about it), but I think it’s a concept to which we all subscribe to varying degrees at one point or another. To not give up yarn altogether, but to be mindful of the skeins we have and to strive to add just the really special ones to our stash. With that in mind (and because show & tell is fun), I thought I’d share a few very special items that have been introduced to my stash lately.

As a blogger who has the good fortune of working with items for review as well as occasionally getting to host giveaways and offer discount codes to readers, I try to skip entering any yarn and fiber giveaways or contests just because it usually feels weird to do so. About a month ago, though, when Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns posted a giveaway up on Instagram to celebrate and promote their new Party of Five Mini-Skein Sets

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Photo from Sweet Georgia Yarns Instagram feed — You can follow them at @sweetgeorgia

I broke my rules and entered. Partly because I really loved the neutral set and partly because the other set instantly made me think of Lolly of the LollyKnits blog. To enter you just had to like the photo, follow the feed, and tag a friend. I did these things, tagged Lolly, and that was that.

And then we won.

And then Lolly put it in my hands to choose who got which set and it was terrifying. I didn’t want to be selfish and just pick the one I wanted without consideration for my co-winner, so true to form I contemplated sending a crazy email to the effect of ‘no you choose,’ but I was pretty sure that would not be helpful. So — also true to form — I agonized over it for a few hours and then just went with that initial instinct. To my delight, it turns out ‘Snapdragon’ is the one she wanted anyways! And thus ‘Rusted’ arrived on my doorstep…

IMG_9099All packaged up with a little badge and a bright pink bow.

I had to share the packaging, but let me take those out of the plastic for you…

IMG_9100GORGEOUS.

I am pretty sure I will use one of the free patterns available from Sweet Georgia with these mini-skein sets in mind, like the Reverb Shawl or EVO Socks. It’ll have to wait a bit as I have a few things already on my agenda for the next couple months, but as with all my yarn I’ll find a way to work it into the line-up.

In less exciting acquisition methods (but not less exciting in fibery goodness), I recently received some fiber from Northbound Knitting. I am trying out the Classic Semi-Solid Fiber Club…

IMG_9098…which this month is Grey Shetland Combed Top in the Electro colorway.

I’m also trying the Luxury Gradient Fiber Club…IMG_9101… which this month was Grey Shetland/Silk Combed Top in the Dubstep colorway.

I’m kind of stocking-up for the Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla this year as I think I should actually be home for both and am seriously considering treating myself to taking part in both for the first time ever. I also know that summer is my favorite time to spin, so it never hurt to have pretty fiber at my fingertips.

And last, but certainly not least, during a sale a few weeks ago I picked up a skein of Wanderer Sock…

IMG_9096… in the Grasshopper colorway from The Little Mount Yarn Co.  I follow this little shop on Instagram and I think it’s great fun.

Speaking of fun & yarn acquisitions, I’ve been debating driving over to Cream City Yarn with the kiddos on Saturday, May 2nd as the shop is hosting its 4th birthday party. I have the feeling it’ll be a last minute decision based on how ambitious we are about being out and about on Saturday morning as it’s been a busy week already here, but it’s sure to be a fun day at this cozy little shop complete with “new products, raffles, give-aways, cake and so much more!” If you have the time, definitely pop over and maybe pick up a special skein or two for your needles or to enhance your stash!

It All Comes Together in the End

My friend Sue is one of the very few people with whom I actually get to sit and knit. She’s just a very good friend who has very patiently opened her home to me even through this past fall when my schedule was insanely erratic and constantly changed at the last minute. She was the first person to encourage me to do the Socks with Sarah KAL and is just the sweetest, kindest, most supportive friend out there. She truly does knit a whole lot and loves doing it, so I wanted to find a special skein for her for a holiday gift. She loves green, so I sifted through all my favorite hand-dyers for the perfect skein of green yarn. There are certainly no shortage of beautiful green yarns, but for whatever reason none of them were it. Sue is a very well-versed knitter and has tried a lot of yarns, so I was looking for something she couldn’t just run down to the LYS for or order with a couple clicks of a mouse.

Just when I started to lose hope and was beginning to think about what other avenues I could possibly pursue for a gift, I remembered this was in my stash…

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Photo courtesy of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber.

One 4oz braid of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Merino/SW Merino/Silk in the Ponderosa colorway. Ironically, I had actually bought this with a different friend in mind, but as soon as it crossed my thoughts I knew it had to be reassigned. As this epiphany came just before Thanksgiving, I pulled the braid from my stash and left it out so that I could get going on it as soon as I returned.

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a flurry of insane cleaning when I arrived home, but by Saturday afternoon I broke open my braid. I split it up into 3 equal parts because I thought a nice round 3ply would be ideal. Each of the 3 parts I then broke up uniquely to blend the colors as much as possible. Personally, I find handspun 3ply yarns to knit up a bit closer to commercial yarns and thus can knit up a little more predictably. You must sacrifice some of the yardage you’d get with a 2ply, but they definitely knit up into a more even fabric. So off I went…

ponderosaI cruised along in order to spin & ply the entire project within about 24hours, so I could get it washed, set, and drying in time to gift on Wednesday. It was a faster pace than I’m used to, but I managed it. And sure enough, it was hanging to dry by Sunday night. I’ve discovered that since I don’t have the outdoor option for drying in the winter that if I hang my handspun above one of my furnace vents I can dry it quite quickly — the one in the bathroom above which hangs a convenient towel bar serves very nicely. The skein was dry by Monday evening.

And the results…

pondoNot the most even yarn I’ve spun — I probably could have dealt with a few of the slubs a bit better and of course the slickness of the silk makes it harder for a relative newbie like me to get my singles just so, but all in all, I think it turned out very nicely. And most importantly, it was just what I was hoping for for Sue.

Now once I had it skeined, I noted that I had about 185yards of roughly fingering weight yarn. That is kind of limiting as far as pattern options go, so I wanted to give a compatible pattern along with the yarn to make it easier to use. I searched all over Ravelry for a pattern that would work. I started with my favorite designers, dog-earring a few options before sifting through more broad Ravelry searches to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. What I finally ended up getting was Arcus by Lisa Mutch of Northbound Knitting. A pretty little cowl requiring 130 – 330yds of fingering weight yarn and knit in a super chillaxed garter stitched variation, this fit the bill perfectly.

pondopatternI purchased a copy for myself (because I have more than a few skeins that would work great with this), printed it, and put it in a sheet protector. Once I actually gave the gift, I purchased a gift copy for Sue so she could have it in her Ravelry library and reprint as she wanted. Whether this yarn works with the pattern and is to Sue’s liking remains to be seen and, really, I’m fine either way. I just wanted to include an option, you know? And it made a nice little package, the yarn & pattern, so I was very happy with how it all came together in the end. I hope Sue is, too!

It’s worth mentioning that Lisa Mutch is running a Buy 2, Get 1 Free Sale in her Ravelry pattern store for the month of December. She has nearly 80 patterns available and I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity, elegance, and modernity of her designs. If you were interested in trying her work out, now’s a great time to pick-up a couple patterns. No coupon code is necessary, the 3rd pattern will automatically be deducted in your cart.

Also, for those who are ogling the fiber, remember we have just a couple weeks left to take advantage of the Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Socks with Sarah discount. Use the  SOCKSWITHSARAH  discount code at checkout to receive 15% off your yarn & fiber order.

A Small Token

One of my most regrettable traits is that I am a terrible gift giver. I am a sharp contrast to my husband who is incredible at selecting gifts. He’s one of those people who knows exactly what you would use and love before you do and he orchestrates gift timetables to perfection. While I’ve picked up a few tricks throughout the years – like bookmarking gift ideas as people mention them during the year enabling me to pull those options up when the critical time approaches – I have to say I’m still not great at it. Birthdays always sneak up on me and I find myself forking out the extra $15 for express shipping more often than not. It’s so embarrassing.

Now hand-in-hand with my lack of foresight and planning for gifts, I am pretty bad at remembering actual birth dates and then placing them in — you know — the timeline of reality.  I used to be amazing at this — there was a time when I organized birthday and anniversary gifts for everyone in my husband’s and my family, but as we all got older and had kids and life became more chaotic, I started settling for being happy I didn’t miss my own kids’ birthdays.

I have some pretty amazing friends though and there are a couple out there that unfailingly remember all the birthdays in my house and somehow manage to give the most thoughtful gifts. It’s so humbling and so touching because I know just how hard this can be. One such friend, Jennifer, in addition to her constant thoughtfulness is just in general an awesome human being. We met through knitting, but she actually works at our beloved Horicon Marsh caring for and educating others about this natural wonder. There are so many things I admire about this woman that I seriously don’t know where to begin. She is the sweetest & toughest lady I know. She is a goof and a total bad-ass. Our whole family just adores her.

With this in mind, it was important to me that I find a suitably spectacular birthday gift. As I picked up a skein of yarn & some coffee for her in Door County over the summer as a thank you for some garden planning help, it crossed my mind that I really should knit something for her for her birthday. As knitters we all love yarn and always appreciate a beautiful skein, but this woman works so hard and is always on the go with her family that I thought as much as she loves to knit, she might just like to be spoiled with a hand knit that is ready to wear. Her birthday is in October, but breaking my habit of poor planning I started looking for just that perfect pattern and yarn. In August.

While lurking on the Northbound Knitting site, I happened up this photo…

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Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

It was a little more modern than I was looking for, but this was the big, cozy feel was exactly ‘it’.

I continued on through the other photos…

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Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

And the idea really started to take shape…

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Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

Clinquant was so versatile.

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Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

Yes, Clinquant was ‘it’. I love that it is a big and squishy shawl, but can still be worn as a big scarf or like a triangular shawl.

Having settled on the pattern, I started looking into yarn. Rather than roll the dice on the results, I started looking at the colorways and bases offered by Lisa Mutch of Northbound Knitting — the fab designer who also happens to be an equally talented indie dyer. I have to say that the brand new website Lisa recently launched makes browsing her colorways & bases really simple — shopping is easy, too, when she has updates (maybe a little too easy for this lady!). Anyways, I knew I wanted to stick with the luxurious Merino/Silk DK base used in the sample, but I needed a more earthy colorway. I saw ‘Driftwood’…

D R I F T W O O D
Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

And I knew I had found the ‘it’ colorway for this project. It is a perfect blend of rich brown and steely grey. Since this was not in the shop at the time, I emailed Lisa about a custom order and she responded promptly with a time frame for when I could expect the yarn to be ready to ship. I have to say, it was so easy to place a custom order with her and the turnaround time was much quicker than I expected. I had my yarn by the end of August.

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My skeins sat for a couple of weeks while I wrapped up other projects and when I cast-on I realized that I had a little under two weeks to get the project done, including blocking & drying time. It was plenty of time, but a shame to rush a project with such lovely yarn.I enjoy all my knitting, but this project was definitely special — partly because the yarn was just so incredibly luxurious and partly because, you know, it’s different when you are knitting for someone else, someone really important to you & your family.

It wasn’t without a stumble — you can read all about my minor/major whoopsie in pattern reading here — but the finished project did not suffer.

wraptureI pulled out one of my jasmine scented Eucalan samples for wet blocking and went about the business of attempting to block this large shawl. It was not the simplest task as I had no where near a large enough space and it was a particularly cloudy & rainy stretch of time, but I did what I could and was greatly aided by a fantastic new set of tools…

knit blockersMy Knitter’s Pride Knit Blockers. Suffice to say they are AMAZING and have forever revolutionized blocking for me (I’ll give you a more complete review of them in the coming weeks) and they greatly helped me speed up the blocking of this shawl to work within my small window of sunshine.

toe2The blocking wasn’t perfect just because of those space and time restraints I had, but the shawl…

IMG_6585Well, I’m really just so smitten with the results.

IMG_6570I can only hope that it lives up to the how awesome the recipient is. I can easily admit that I am a little jealous — in my opinion, it’s really a luxurious, beautiful shawl. And I won’t lie, I visit the Northbound Knitting website every couple days to stare at the Chanterelle colorway…

C H A N T E R E L L E
Photo used with permission of L. Mutch of Northbound Knitting

And I daydream about a Clinquant of my own knit in it. For now though, I’m so very happy to have given this gift. My hope is simple: that Jennifer likes it. I’m not sure that it’s the perfect gift — I never am with giving, but I’m hopeful that it is used and loved and a small token to show how much my family & I appreciate our remarkable friend.

I encourage you to follow Northbound Knitting & the beautiful design work & hand-dyeing of Lisa Mutch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join the Northbound Knitting Group and check out the library of designs on Ravelry, and definitely take some time to browse her new website!

Many thanks to Lisa Mutch of Northbound Knitting for permission to use her photos.

For more information on my Clinquant, please feel free to check my Ravelry project page here.

The Sun Will Most Likely Still Rise

I’ve been clicking away on Clinquant by Lisa Mutch in the beautiful Northbound Knitting Merino/Silk DK in the Driftwood colorway. I’ve been lurking around the designs of Lisa Mutch for a few years now and earlier this year when I discovered she is a dyer, too, I started all-out fan-girling on her (Sorry, Lisa). In any case, I saw Clinquant and had to knit it.

IMG_6481Big and squishy and cozy and in the slatey blue-grey-brown of Diftwood, it is one of the most enjoyable shawls I’ve ever knit. I have flown through two-thirds of this project in near record time just because the yarn is so beautiful to handle and the knitting is just so incredibly relaxing. I was leery of the ‘ol garter stitch shawl scenario because usually I get bored, but I must say I am completely sold on this pattern. It is a joy. Pure and simple.

There is always a hitch though, isn’t there? Last night as I clicked away at the campfire…

IMG_6495I couldn’t help but notice that the openwork row just didn’t look quite right. I kept going for 10rows — until the next openwork section was due to begin. Then I counted my stitches. And my stitch count was way off. And when I say ‘way off’ I mean way off. Like twice as many stitches as I was supposed to have off.

Whoops.

It turned out that where the instruction read ‘dropping all yarnovers from previous row’… well, I had only dropped one of each of the two yarnovers.

Whoops.

Out the extra zillion stitches came and I clumsily rewrapped my yarn onto the ball.

Something weird happened though that I barely noticed at the time: I didn’t really care. I mean I cared that I made a mistake and I knew I had to go back and fix it, but it didn’t bother me. Would I have been happier if I didn’t have to rip that whole section out? Well, yes, but I was pretty at peace with the error. After all, it was 100% my fault and there really wasn’t anything I could do except fix it. Getting cranky wouldn’t help at all, so without a word or sigh I had ripped back and gotten right back to it. And I didn’t really think twice about it.

This morning my son started a new novel study — My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and while reading the first couple chapters & clicking away on my Clinquant, I neared the spot from which I had turned back in my knitting last night and came across this sentence that describes how the protagonist feels after a particularly rough night camping alone with no fire & an empty belly in the forest,

“Fortunately, the sun has a glorious habit of rising every morning.”

And this single sentence brought the reaction I’d had to the mistake I’d made the night before into a new light. Hand-in-hand with the new & improved more peaceful knitting philosophy I spoke about in my last post, apparently goes this very accepting view of when things go wrong. I remember when these setbacks would really get to me and make me so distraught. Now though, doing what I love at my own pace, it’s not really that big of a deal. It’s just part of the process now and then. The yarn is still beautiful. The pattern is still lovely. No amount of frustration will change the fact that I made a mistake. I will either fix it or I won’t. And the sun will most likely still rise in the morning.

So here I am about 16 hours after I ripped a zillion stitches out… IMG_6496And this project is still beautiful — even better now that I’ve fixed the error. As predicted, the yarn is still divine, the pattern is still a load of fun, and the sun rose this morning. And now it’s Friday afternoon and school is over and I think it’s time for a little more knitting. Hopefully it will be mistake-free, but if it isn’t… well, that’s ok, too. I’ll love those stitches all the same.