Down The Road & Back Again

The Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group selected the Down The Road and Back Again Shawl as the second annual knitalong this fall. I need to give a great big shout-out to my two amazing moderators and everyone over there. They keeps things so fun and inspiring and wonderful even when I drop in and out of the conversation and for that I am just so happy and thankful. I’m always humbled that this incredible group meets up under a banner I created and have made it their own. I could sing their praises all day long, but they would probably be happier if I’d just get on with it and share my project today!

Unlike last year, when I had to restart the group KAL no fewer than three times because the first 2 yarn combinations just didn’t fit, this year I got it on the first try. Sure I had a half dozen options pulled out of my stash, but when it came time to cast-on I kind of had a pretty good feeling where it was going to work.

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I mean, how could I not fall instantly in love with this?

And unlike last year, I just couldn’t put it down…

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Anywhere I went!

It took me about a month from start to finish.

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And then about 6 weeks to get it washed and photographed. Seriously?! Am I the only one with this lag time problem? I need to work on that!

In any case, today I have some FO photos (finally) and I’m just so pleased to share them!

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It’s cold where I’m from, so this is likely how I’ll be styling this shawl most days. But I think you need to open it up to really appreciate it…

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From the details…

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To the shawl set wide open…

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I’m just extremely happy with how it turned out.

The tonal was a gift from a dear friend and is String Theory Caper Sock in the Dark and Stormy colorway. And the contrast color is my own handspun, a 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk fiber in the Merry Poppies colorway from Three Waters Farm.  It was actually the first yarn I spun on my Jensen Tina 2 when I got it earlier this year and it’s just a simple 2-ply fingering weight. The two yarns went together beautifully.

There you have it! Another year of the annual Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group KAL is in the books for me! Who else is already looking forward to next year?!

All The Grey Fiber

My daughter gently nudged me awake last night at 2am to inform me she’d just been sick.  As these things go, she did an admirable job of mostly getting to the bathroom “in time” so that the clean-up was minimal. When things settled down and I’d taken her temperature and assessed that there really wasn’t anything more to do for her right then, I tucked her back into bed and she slowly started to dose back to sleep. It took me far too long to settle back down after all the hub-bub, so I watched some reruns of the Great British Baking Show until I dosed off, mentally noted that I definitely needed to attempt to bake a Prinsesstarta and a Povitica (because of course a relatively novice baker should take on these incredibly complex recipes…) and maybe learn to make donuts from scratch, too.

When morning rolled around I awoke startled, sensing instantly that it was late and that I had an odd hankering for fresh baked pastry. 7am?! I’d slept over an hour later than normal! And while my girl had stoically already gotten up and showered, she was clearly still under the weather. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s a stomach bug or a migraine or both, but suffice to say I tucked her back into bed, made sure she had fluids, and she’s stayed there all day dosing and watching a little TV.  She’s got that classic tired-eyes look that kids get when they are under the weather, so it looks like she needs it!

I’ve tried to make the most of this surprise sick day. In between my regular checks on my girl and knocking out a bit of school with my son, I have been tackling the to-do list. Having picked up extra school hours yesterday with the plan that we’d go light on schoolwork Friday to make room for household tasks, I’d planned on getting to it all tomorrow, but sometimes you just have to roll with the hand life deals you. My boy & I agreed to flip-flop the plans for today and tomorrow. My mother & father-in-law will be visiting next week and I’m using their visit as an excuse to do some fall cleaning, to get things nice and tidy and fresh before it’s time to button up the house for winter. Rumor has it we’ll have our first night dipping into the 30s tomorrow night, so it’s high time we got ready for it! So along with a few errands, today belonged to cleaning.

I’m happy to report that at this point I feel comfortably ahead of schedule. There are a few more items I may or may not get to, but I’m well aware and grounded in the knowledge that they are in the “want to” not “need to” category, so we will see how everyone is feeling tomorrow. With family that we don’t get to visit with much headed this way, healthy kids are the most important goal right now!

In any case, I have made what does not look like a lot of progress on the craft side of things, but in reality it’s kind of a big deal, not to mention no small miracle that I got to it. Some weeks you celebrate the small stuff, right?! Prepare to be slightly underwhelmed!

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This is wholly not glamorous, but I prepped all the grey merino + silk fiber. And by all the grey merino + silk fiber, I mean I had 16oz from one dyelot and 12oz from another and rather than try to figure out how to hold some of it back and still get a good blend between the two lots, I just prepped all the grey merino + silk fiber. Blending and floofing and creating about a zillion little nests of ready-to-spin grey fiber. It took me about 3 days worth of free time and I have no good place to store it without squishing it, but that is the main color of my sweater spin and it’s ready to go! And that is something to celebrate! I’m unsure if I’ll start it now or wait for Spinzilla which is coming up the first week of October, but honestly right now I’m just happy it’s ready!

The other main project I’ve been working on is my current addiction…

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I just cannot put this beauty down! It’s my Down The Road and Back Again Shawl and it’s so fun and easy to knit.

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I’m really mesmerized by how the handspun is knitting up with this lovely commercial yarn. I’m about 10grams — you gauge where to turn by weight — from the point where you switch to the center section. I may try to push through that so I’m comfortably into the decrease section when our guests arrive. Since I’m unexpectedly ahead in cleaning tasks at this point, perhaps I’ll get right to that!

Helping to propel me along the way in all tasks both crafty and on the cleaning front, I’ve been attempting to learn to love audiobooks. I’ve always been a hard copy kind of lady when it comes to books, but because of how my life is structured with school, chores, and craft that all seem to require my hands, I thought I would try to learn to love audiobooks. I’ve never been a huge fan because my mind has always tended to wander, but I am giving it the ol’ college try. So far, so good. I don’t think audiobooks will ever overtake my love of a good hard copy, but it’s nice to be able to “read” while I’m cleaning or cooking or baking (ahem… fancy cakes and breads…) or spinning or knitting.

It is time for me to go and check on my girl and flip some laundry and after that, I think I may have earned some time with my latest book and knitting. Hopefully I will cruise toward that turning point on my shawl and maybe get through to the end of my book. After my tumultuous night last night and all the work around the house today, I’m guessing I may hit the hay early tonight!

Storm’s End, The Mini Skein Set

Yesterday I shared my adventure with Three Waters Farm’s Storm’s End Self-Striping sock yarn. Today I get to share my fun with the Mini Skein Set version.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

As you can see, this set consists of two grey-violet tonals (on the far left here), a dark due and medium hue. The other 4 mini-skeins are spaced dyed with muliple colors at play — purples, blues, greens & yellows, and a kind of coral-y orange & yellow. Each mini-skein is 92 yards making the total set a whooping 552 yards. You might be thinking, “That’s a lot of yardage!” I’m thinking, “That makes for a lot of options!”

There are no shortage of mini-skein patterns out there for which this set would be perfect. After all, mini-skein sets have been popular for long enough that loads of people have developed patterns for them. This set being made from a Merino + Nylon 75/25 base making it a great fit for just about any project your heart desires. Personally, I had a vision early on that I simply had to pursue: stripey socks.

Now it’s true that when I was deciding what to do with these minis, I had just made a sock with the Storm’s End Self-Striping skein, but I had a vision for these. I saw this oe-Up Mini-Skein Striped Socks pattern on Ravelry — another free pattern, by the way — and I had to make a pair, but with my own twist, of course. I read through it and then opted to actually follow the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Simple Toe-Up Socks pattern just because they are about the same and I knew the Churchmouse pattern was easy to follow and fit well for me.

I opted to work these socks 2-at-a-time because I wanted to really use up colors without worrying about running out for the second sock. Of course, 552 yards is a lot of yarn for a pair of socks for most people.  If I had to do it over again, I would work them one at a time and I would carry the yarn up as I went to minimize the ends I had to weave in. As it was though, I was in a rush and working 2-at-a-time magic loop, pulling yarn from both ends of my mini center-pull balls. I made it this way through exactly one color change with 4 live ends. I won’t mince words, it was really not enjoyable. I just started cutting long ends to eventually weave in as I went and — sure, there were a lot of ends when I’d finished, but I got them all woven in during a movie one night. Worth it to spare myself all the winding around of everything I’d originally tried! And most importantly, it really allowed me to enjoy the knitting.

When I started knitting, I decided to designate all the purples as one half of the stripes — this included the two tonals and the purple space dyed skein. The other half of the stripes would be the coral-yellow, green-yellow, and blues space dyed skeins. The goal was to alternate into stripes and change the colors at varying intervals. I’ll try to walk you through with images here…

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I started the toe with the dark tonal and worked with it until I finished all the toe increases. Then I added the green-yellow skein and started working in 4-row intervals. After 2 repeats with the dark tonal, I switch to the light tonal and continued on with the green-yellow skein.

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Continuing to alternate between tonal and space dyed skeins, I went until I had 5 repeats of the green-yellow and I switch that out with the coral-orange-yellow skein.

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And after 8 repeats of the medium tonal, I switched it out for the purple space dyed skein. And after 8 repeats with the coral-orange-yellow space dyed skein, I switch it with the blue space dyed skein and finished out the sock alternating that with the purple space dyed skein. It sounds complicated, but it really wasn’t. I was just kind of eyeballing it as I went and it was loads of fun.

When it was time to place the afterthought heel rip cord, I did just that. I worked an inch or so past it and then grabbed some DPNs and put in the afterthought heels right away. The plan was to use the dark tonal for the heels (so they’d match the toes) and then use whatever I had left for the ribbing, so getting those heels in was important.

img_6792They fit like a glove and while I could have made knee socks if I had really wanted to, I really kind of liked how they fit and looked when I made it to about 7.5 inches. I put a generous inch of ribbing on, half of which was that dark tonal and then finished them off withe Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.

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I adore the results. Plain and simple.

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I like the matching toes and heels.

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I love the slightly irregular cadence of the color changes.

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I even think my jogless jog turned out pretty ok. This is amazing especially considering 1) that I kept forgetting to do it and 2) it can be tricky tensioning it right when you’re also changing yarns. Alas, I think they turned out lovely and I am just beyond tickled with the finished socks.

Now, as I said, these mini-skeins could be used for almost anything. They are super, super versatile. The set is available by pre-order through July 23rd via the Three Waters Farm Etsy shop. Three Waters Farm focuses on hand dyeing spinning fibers, so this is a pretty special event for them and a really awesome opportunity for fiber artists who would like to enjoy the TWF color touch, but don’t spin. The Mini-Skein set would be an excellent introduction — of that, I’m absolutely certain!

 

A Tenacious Swoop

 I shared a sneak peek of my Swoop shawl on October 1st.

swoop-detAnd now, over a month later I finally have proper FO photos.

Before I share them, though, I should tell you a little about this project. I think the idea for this project was born almost a year ago when Rachel from Dyeabolical shared a picture on social media of a shawl she was knitting using two of her colorways, Lucy and Fuchsia So Bright. I have a lot of yarn (understatement of the century…) so these days I try really hard to not impulse buy more of it. This combination blew me away though — it was something about the cheeriness of the bright colors and how the two colorways played so well together. I ordered a skein of each in the Tenacious Sock base and went about looking for a pattern.

I had previously knitted Romi Hill’s Artesian in a Dyeabolical yarn, so Romi Hill came to mind and it’s within her pattern library that I found the pattern, Swoop. Two colors, about the right amount of yardage — yes indeed, this was it. I think I made the selection in maybe January… and then the project sat until September. Whoops! Alas, I got to it and it was a totally delightful, super fun knit. I loved everything about it. The squishy garter stitch, the little pops of lace — it was just a great project in both colors and design.

whole-shawlAnd the resulting finished shawl is just totally and completely fantastic.

laceworkI really, truly adore the color combination.

edgingI think the reverse stockinette i-cord bind-off is just divine. I kind of hated it at first, but now that it’s done I am completely smitten with the look and stretchy-ness of it.

onThe size is great, too. I believe I ended up shorting the shawl by one lace repeat just because I was running out of yarn. Would it be nice if it was bigger? Yes. Is it still a pretty fantastic size? Also, yes. It’s a really comfy & cozy size for sure. I’m also a pretty big fan of the fact that you can pretty much wear this shawl reversibly, a fact I discovered when I went to edit this photo and realized I had the wrong side facing out (*facepalm*).

All in all, I would highly recommend this pattern & yarn combination. It’s bright and vibrant and just a really fun knit. I think the best part is that I’ll have this big squishy, cozy vibrant shawl to chase the chill away this winter. It will be put to good use!

Reinvent + Antarktis

Quite a while ago I received this beautiful skein of yarn for review.

img_2346Ancient Arts YarnsReinvent is such a unique yarn. Made from reclaimed fibers, it’s a blend of 49% wool / 34% mohair / 11% nylon / 4% acrylic / 2% silk. In my hands, it felt very much like a BFL blend and while I briefly considered using it to make socks, eventually I landed on a shawl. To be exact, I chose Antarktis by Janina Kallio.

img_2444As soon as I started to knit it, the true beauty of the subtle variations in this purple — named ‘Kismet’ — came into full view.

img_2542-1Antarktis is a very fun, well-written pattern, but with as busy as my February and March wound up being, it took me a little longer than normal to knit it up. To be sure I didn’t accidentally add or subtract repeats, I used a row counter and took notes which I am not always so great at. So while I actually loved the knitting a great deal, I had to pick and choose when I pulled it out. I didn’t mind letting this knit last. The yarn was a joy to work with and the pattern — as I said — was great fun.

As is often the case in projects with openwork, the true fabulous-ness of the project came into full view during blocking. I will do almost anything to avoid using blocking wires because the patience to set them is something I tend to lack, but I would definitely recommend them for best results here. It’s so worth the time. Blocking wires in combination with Knitter’s Pride Knit Blockers are ideal. Why am I making a fuss about it? Because the results are so worth it.

flatThis photo gives you an idea of the shape and shows you how beautifully the Reinvent holds that blocked shape. It’s phenomenal.

Now take a closer look with me.

det2And you can start to see that subtle color variation in the purple show through (don’t mind the white specs — it was snowing).

OK, now a little closer.

detAgain, pardon the white dots — if I had waited for a clear day with no snow or wind you might not see this until June. Look at how lovely the stitch definition & how rich the colors. It’s perfect.

Blocked out it’s a really lovely size overall, too.

onI love it wrapped around my neck. Note the snow pelting my right side in the photo some flakes leaving streaks as they flew, the 30mph wind blowing in my hair and the shawl. I don’t think it matters though. Antarktis still looks graceful and lovely even in the inclement weather. I think it does ‘windswept’ oh so well.

While I can’t rave enough about Antarktis, I have to say that Ancient Arts Yarns’ Reinvent really exceeded my expectations. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in knitting up a shawl. It’d be an especially good fit for shawls with lace elements as its really proven to be wonderful at holding its blocked shape and really showcasing openwork. With loads of colors to choose from, Reinvent should definitely be on all our short lists for shawl knitting this spring & summer.

Balwen Woodworks Review & *GIVEAWAY*

One of the best aspects of doing what I do here with my blog is that I get the chance to work with some really talented people who make some incredibly beautiful things and I get to share their work with you, my readers. A couple months ago I was introduced to a new shop, Balwen Woodworks. I was told that the shop was specializing in some really amazing buttons, closures, and shawl pins and that I should check it out.

The slogan, “new life for materials with a story to tell” immediately caught my attention as did the truly unique items in the shop.  This ruler closure, created using vintage folding rulers, touched my heart and brought back a wave of nostalgia.

IMG_9850Some of my favorite memories of my childhood were those days when my mom sent me to go hang out with my dad in the garage, where his tools were kept. He’d work on whatever woodworking project or repair he was in the middle of, never far from one of these folding rulers, and I’d hammer nails into a 2×4, pull them out, and then hammer them in again.  I think I’ll always associate these rulers with those summer days, so it’s pretty cool to me that Lindy Sinclair, the woman behind Balwen Woodworks, found a way to bring them new life as a beautiful closure. Obviously, when I had the opportunity to showcase her beautiful creations here on the blog, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve never actually met Lindy in person, but I can tell you that from our correspondence in setting up this review & giveaway (yes, I said review and giveaway) that she is as awesome as a person in general as she is talented in her work. From the start, she was easy and fun to work with and did a fabulous job of not only suggesting a tie-in with an indie designer, but she found said great designer. That’s on top of her top-notch craftsmanship and incredibly creative & professionally made items. When I see someone that committed, the least I can do is rise to their level. I offered to knit a sample to showcase both artists.

Jen Lucas DesignsGradient: A Shawl Collection contains six very lovely designs. Meant to be used with gradient yarns, this collection of shawls boasts a very innovative style that I loved right away. Having no gradient yarns in my stash, I opted to go a slightly different way with my selected pattern, Bandwagon. With feedback from both Lindy & Jen, I settled on a skein of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber merino/nylon in the Mr Bates colorway.

IMG_9428The pattern was great summer knitting — well written, not too complicated, but still interesting. I really had fun with it!

bandwagondetIt definitely takes asymmetrical to a whole new level and I love every minute of it.

Now, we’d discussed me using a ruler closure to go with this shawl, but as I knit I saw that the yarn had these gorgeous little pops of a slate-y blue…

bandwagon2And I had this feeling that one of the Balwen Woodworks Denim Jewel Closures would be perfect.

balwen claspThese closures are insanely cool. They are hard and have a really unique texture — if I didn’t know better I’d think they were made from some sort of treated wood. But they aren’t. They are made from recycled blue jeans! To read the ingenious process that goes into making these crazy beautiful closures, you can check out this new blog post in which Lindy shares her process in words and photos. It is so cool!

In any case, Lindy graciously agreed and I’m so glad she did because check out the finished project…

full sideThe closure fits perfectly with this shawl, if I do say so myself. I’m not usually one to be great at using shawl pins and closures, but this project has completely converted me. I truly love how it all comes together so nicely!

Now we have two special treats for you today.

First, hop over to the Balwen Woodworks website and sign up for the mailing list (click the orange ‘sign me up’ button in the lower right hand corner of the homepage and follow the prompts to enter your info). Anyone who does so by July 8th will get a special coupon code for 10% off their next purchase which will be valid through August 31, 2015. You’ll get the code when you confirm your email.

Second, one lucky reader will receive one of the fabulous Balwen Woodworks Denim Jewel Closures…

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A copy of the Gradient: A Shawl Collection e-book from Jen Lucas Designs.

To enter, you will need to go peruse the Balwen Woodworks website and share in the comments below your favorite piece and why you love it. One entry per person please!

Entries will be accepted through 11:59am CST July 8th, 2015 and the winner will be announced later that day.

Enjoy & best of lucky to each of you!

Many thanks to Lindy Sinclair & Jen Lucas for making this giveaway possible!

For those interested, you can also find Balwen Woodworks on:

Facebook and Instagram

Jen Lucas Designs can also be found on:

Facebook and Instagram