Everyone Needs Some Snowflings

I live in north central Wisconsin and winters here are C O L D. We’re talking crazy subzero temps for days on end sprinkled into temps that rarely spike above freezing. We start to cool off in October or November and things kind of bottom out in December through mid-February and then slowly start to warm up into Spring. If you want to spend any time outside for these 6 months, you become an outerwear connoisseur. And that, my friend is what I am. I’m not complaining, to be sure. It definitely jives with my love of spinning and knitting wool!

Over the last few years, I’ve made Tanis Lavallee’s (Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts for those who weren’t aware) Snowfling Mitts twice. They are stranded mitts that include a lining and they are WARM. I can’t attest to what they’d be like in the far polar reaches, but where I live they are perfect. I have some nice leather and shearling mittens that are super warm, but I actually prefer my wool because it breaths better so my hands don’t overheat like they can in the leather mittens.

I decided a few weeks back to make another pair. Toward the end of last year I picked up a couple of the Tanis Fiber Arts Mitten Kits to make another pair for both myself and my daughter. The TFA yarns are dreamy to work with and I really love how well they wear. In addition to the kits, I picked up a skein of Fig & Sand in Purewash DK — I knew I wanted these to be the outer colors. When I couldn’t decide about a lining that would go well, I emailed Tanis and asked for some help. As always, she was very gracious and shared a few options she thought would work well. I picked Seabreeze from her list and added a skein of Purple Label Cashmere sock for the lining because — yeah — cashmere lining is the best.

After our very cold cabin week, I cast-on for this custom color pair.

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I do make two modifications to this pattern and both have to do with the lining. The first is that when I go to make the picot edge, I pick up my stitches and tack the cast-on row down to make the picot edge at the same time. I’m positive it doesn’t look quite as nice as if I would stitch the edge down and then pick up those stitches, but it saves a boatload of time for me, so it’s a trade-off I will happily make.

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I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure if there’s a “right” way to knit the linings. I tend to knit them inside out — you know, the way you shouldn’t knit your socks, until I get close to the final decreases…

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I don’t like knitting around the outer part of the mitt and this works fine, so I go with it. The other modification I make is that I use a kitchener stitch to finish the top of the lining. Personally, I just like how the finish feels better.

The stranded outer looked pretty rough before I blocked them and I was a little worried I’d choked on my stitches a bit too much, but after a nice soak with wool wash and a glug of vinegar to be sure no colors got any funny ideas about bleeding… I am pleased to say they are…

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Just lovely.

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I adore the subtle variations in the Fig (the purple color). I think it gives a wonderful depth and motion to the snowflakes.

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The chevron cuff … I always love that, too.

But perhaps my favorite detail is…

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The little snowflake on the thumbs.

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The palm side is not as flashy, but it has a wonderful rhythm that rounds out the mittens so nicely.

And let’s not forget…

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That pop of color!

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All in all, another raving success! These mittens just never disappoint!

The question now remains — do I use the kits I bought as I’d intended… for Ricochet Mitts? Or do I just knit two more pairs of Snowflings?! Decisions, decisions!

Snowfling Mitts, Version 2

Two years ago around this same time of year, I purchased the Snowfling Mitts kit from Tanis Fiber Arts and knit up these fantastic mittens.

snowfling mittsAnd over the last two years they have been some of my most used mittens. Made in stranded colorwork and lined with a cashmere blend, you can surely understand why — they are very warm and very soft! With all the use they are holding up remarkably well, but my darling daughter has taken a liking to them. Our daily walks began to require wheeling and dealing to see which of us would get to wear them. And if you know anything about me when it comes to sharing my knitwear, you’ll know I was often left hunting for a different pair.

As I’ve mentioned, on my little birthday getaway trip to Spin of Door County I picked up some Madelinetosh DK & Pashmina so I could set about making myself another pair. I opted to make them one of my goals for my One Plus One Plus One Project this quarter and thus gave myself both permission and incentive to get them knitted up.

img_1842-1And that’s just what I’ve done!

img_2230Of course, once I start with colorwork I can never put it down. I worked both of the outer mitts first…

img_2257And then quickly moved on to the linings.

And now they’re done!

topsideI absolutely adore the mix of different snowflakes on the top of the hand. Personally, I don’t think the light blue/grey blend of the Cloud colorway could be any more perfect.

palmAnd the simple starry design on the palm is just like a light snow. I was aiming to be just a bit more relaxed with my gauge with these than the first pair in order to make them just a smidge roomier and I’m happy to report that my plan worked out perfectly and this pair is just exactly the size I wanted. I also diverged from the pattern in that this time around I went with the designer’s original impulse and made the picot edge the darker color. I opted for the darker edge partly just to try something a little different and partly because — I’ll be honest — the black/grey won’t show the dirt & wear the way the light blue/grey would. Oh, and instead of sewing the picot edge down I picked it up and knitted it at its turning point just to avoid the sewing. It’s not and neat and tidy as a sewn picot edge, BUT it saved me some time and it really isn’t noticeable when you’re actually wearing them.

As for the lining…

peekI’m not usually one to be very creative or, you know, skilled when it comes to pairing and coordinating colors. I usually seek (a lot) of help for this task, but when I saw the “Byzantine” colorway, I knew it could be no other way for these mitts.

snowfling insideoutI can say nothing more than I whole-heartedly adore how they turned out.

As they were off the needles, I laid them next to my computer so I could admire them while I got some work done. Within moments, my daughter sauntered up to have a look. She tried them on and said,

“Mom, can I have these? I really think they fit me perfectly.”

(For the record, remember they are a little big on me and she is 8).

I replied, “Oh, but I made these for me so you could have my red ones with the white snowflakes. You know, the ones you are always borrowing because you love them so much.”

(She pauses to admire my precious mittens.)

“No, I really think I should have these new ones.”

And with that she took it off and walked away.

We haven’t revisited the topic yet. It’s anyone’s guess how it’ll go down, but I’m guessing that the most likely outcome is that we’ll negotiate into some sort of scenario in which we share the two pairs. I won’t ever complain or deny my kiddos my knitwear, but for certain special projects I think I’ll always reserve the right to make them share with me.

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The Flurry Before the Storm

We’ve been hearing about a certain storm system for a week as it’s been slowly marching across the country from California, as the air drops down from the Arctic, and more moisture is drawn up from the Gulf. As with all long-term forecasts, there are too many variables to really be able to tell yet exactly what we’re in for and where our little house is located seems to be precisely where the meteorologists are drawing the line between 6″ of snow/sleet and 12″+ of snow. As is always the case, only time will tell.

Regardless of what actually happens, this kind of system puts a buzz in the air. Getting ready for a potentially big storm is just part of living in this region of the world. Once we catch wind that something big may be headed our way, we all flit about, preparing as best we can. Stocking our shelves, running our errands, filling our gas tanks, packing emergency bags for the car, and keeping shovels & snowblowers at the ready — as with anything, the more you prepare on the front end, the easier it will be to deal with once it hits.

Beyond the practicalities, though, everyone is energized with anticipation. In our house, we check the weather reports a couple times per day. My hubby and I (mostly) playfully bicker about which weather sites are more reliable. And the kids speculate as to wheather it’ll be packing snow or fluffy snow, whether we’ll get enough to build a mega snow fort, and if the sledding hill will be faster. I made a giant batch of waffles so the kids would have an easy warm breakfast, stocked up on warm food & drink like chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate, and I baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for — I’ll be honest — no better reason than I thought they’d be a nice treat.

And, course, some of my energy was translated into my craft. I progressed into the lining portion of my Snowfling Mitts

img_2257It’s been slow-going though because I’ve been kind of distracted by my spinning.

I finished up my Three Waters Farm ‘Cool Conundrums’ singles…

img_2256It’s my first real run with my Very Fast Flyer and it’s taking some trial and error to get a good feel for it (as shown by the bursts of over-twisting). I think I’m probably going to do an n-ply, but I’m not 100% sure yet. I’m going to let them rest awhile while I consider my options.

And meanwhile I’ll be enveloped in this…

img_2246Three Waters Farm is the guest dyer for the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary Ravelry Group‘s January – March Spin-A-Long and I am excited to be joining in! This group’s SALs are a very neat concept — the dyer introduces a theme and then participants share visual media ideas to give color/illustrate the theme and for which the dyer could base some custom colorways. The dyer then selects a couple images and dyes the custom colorways. And then the group all spins them up!  You can can see the paintings and custom colorways for this installment here — I think what Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm has done is just phenomenal — so much so that I starting spinning almost as soon as the fiber hit my doorstep.

I started with “Color Music” inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s Music, Pink and Blue No.2 dyed on BFL.

img_2249And pretty quickly I knew it would be a struggle to step away.

img_2251These colors are rich and intense and just incredible.

img_2255And if that wasn’t enough, I swear the BFL is infused with some sort of magic because it is practically drafting itself. This spin is just pure joy. Pure, gorgeous joy.

Should you be so inclined, you can still pre-order any of the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary colorways in the Three Waters Farm Etsy shop. All three exclusive colorways are available on your choice of BFL or Merino/TussahSilk 80/20. I really can’t say enough great things about them!

So as we all wait for what may or may not be a Snowzilla-type storm to hit, I’ve got my flurry before the storm preparations finished. I suppose all that’s left is it stay calm, spin-away, and wait for the snow to start flying.

Righting the Ship

After a vacation, it always takes some doing to get back in that daily routine. Especially with the homeschooling aspect, the post-vacation recovery feels a little bit like righting a ship that’s listing hard to starboard. First there’s just getting the house in order & caught up with laundry and then there’s the getting the sleeping & waking schedules back on track, nudging the kiddos back up to speed in completing assignments, and just generally getting everyone back in the rhythm of our daily life. I’m happy to say that after a week and a half, we’re almost there.

For all the slow-pokedness and feet dragging, though, I will admit that I’ve managed to get a fair bit of knitting and spinning done. I finished up my vacation singles from Wolf Ridge Lamb & Wool Co.

img_2218In wanting to let them rest before plying, I had a bit of a conundrum. With new fiber on the way from Three Waters Farm for the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary SAL, should I wait for it to arrive or attempt to spin something up quickly in the interim? Figuring that the fiber — which is shipping from North Carolina — would probably be a bit delayed thanks to Snowzilla, I thought it only appropriate to spin up “Cool Conundrums,” also from Three Waters Farm.

img_2220-1I also took the opportunity to try to get to know my new Very Fast Flyer that I got for my birthday. Beyond just getting used to the speed — as the name indicates, it’s pretty fast — I wanted to get an idea for how much fiber will fit on the bobbins, if it changed how quickly I could get through a project, etc. I’m approaching the threshold where I’m not just hanging on for dear life and am actually getting a good feel for how to create with this new tool.

img_2222And for a first attempt with this flyer, I’m still hopeful that the yarn will turn out decent. I’m about three-quarters through the fiber and hope to wrap up the singles today so I can get at plying soon.

In my knitting life, I finished up my Samothrace Wings shawl…

img_2224I was working on this as part of the Three Waters Farm Susan Ashcroft SAL + KAL and was impressed that this pattern was not only memorize-able and highly addictive. I’m still waiting on my Agnes Sweater to dry (it’s being stubborn and slow) so I can block it, but I’m hopeful the proper FO pictures won’t be too far off.

I also attempted to learn how to use a pom maker…

img_2236in order to make a topper for my Timber Bay hat. I’m a little concerned the pom isn’t big enough — I had a real behemoth in my mind’s eye, I guess — but I actually ran out of yarn, so it’s going to have to do. I’ll get some photos of the finished hat soon so you can have a look.

AND, the last couple days Mr. Knitting Sarah has been deathly ill with the flu, so yesterday I spent some time just hanging out and resting with him. While relaxing, I went ahead and started my second One Plus One Plus One project — my Snowfling Mitts.

img_2230If you’ll remember, I got the yarn up at Spin of Door County for my birthday — it’s Tosh DK in Cloud and Leopard. Against pattern instructions, I went ahead and used the background color for the picot edge. I like how they look, but if I’m being honest it’s also so they don’t show dirt as much. What can I say? I’m outside a lot and I’ll be wearing these outside a lot.

In any case, as is the way with me and colorwork…

img_2234I couldn’t put them down and I finished the whole outer right mitten last night, including the thumb, before going to sleep. I have serious “can’t-put-it-down” issues with colorwork. There’s are worse things in life than not being able to set down colorwork. In any case, I’m going to whip up the left mitten and then move on to the linings.

And with that, it’s time to start our day. I’ll be making valiant efforts to stay on track, right this ship, and plow through today’s lesson plan. And I’ll probably sneak some time for a certain colorwork mitten, too.

Snowfling Mitts

It seems so appropriate that I write about my Snowfling Mitts today. Yes, today on March 12, 2014 I awoke once again to snow. Tonight promises record low temps near 0F. It isn’t unprecedented for these parts to be this cold this late in the year, but it has been a l-o-n-g winter. It’s nature though, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So…if you can’t beat ’em, make a new set of pretty mittens!

Snow now seems like an appropriate theme.

detail of snowflakeI’ve been doing a lot of contacting different shops, dyers, and yarn companies about sponsoring a couple giveaways for the Socks with Sarah KAL. Fortunately/unfortunately, there has been no avoiding some personal shopping while attempting to acquire items for this purpose. I’ll talk in more detail about in the next few days, but suffice to say Tanis Fiber Arts is one such shop. I carefully selected a couple skeins of sock yarn and as I was literally about to checkout when on a whim I clicked on the button for kits. And I saw the Snowfling Mitts kit. I had just been talking with a good friend about colorwork mittens and we had been ooohing & ahhhing over these mittens. Somehow one of these kits wound up in my cart and shortly after in my hands.snowfling mittsAnd now they are on my hands. I love that the snowflakes are a classic motif and yet presented in a modern way, just like a real snowfall.

palm side mittThe palm even side has a delicate, simple snowflake pattern.

cuff detailThe cuff has a beautiful arrow pattern and the picot edge is just a perfect touch.

 I followed the pattern exactly except for how I finished the picot edge & attached the gorgeous merino/cashmere/nylon lining…

liningRather than sewing down the picot edge & then attaching the lining, I just did it all at once — tacking down the picot edge while picking up the lining stitches. Isn’t the gold lining beautiful?

This project was two firsts for me. I had never tried a Tanis Fiber Arts pattern before. I found it very well written & easy to follow and the fit of the mitt is perfect. I am already looking ahead at using more patterns from Tanis LaVallee including but not limited to her Smokestack Socks and Business Casual Socks as well as the Fairview Scarf. And please, don’t get me thinking about the Coolbreeze Sweater Kit. I beg you.

The other first was the Tanis Fiber Arts yarn. The kit contained both Yellow Label DK weight yarn for the outer colors and Purple Label Cashmere Sock for the lining. Both were a dream to work with. I could tell from the photos that the Garnet (red) yarn in this kit would be beautiful, but the subtle depth of its rich color really was more than I even imagined. It is truly, truly beautiful.

All in all, these mitts were a joy to knit and are luxurious to wear. Thank goodness the weather has taken another turn toward wintry conditions so I can use them? Yes, that’s my sentiment. It’s March 12th, let it snow a little more. Why not? I have pretty new mittens to wear.

For my Ravelry project page for these mitts, click here.

On My Toes

We’ve all heard the old adage, ‘No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.’ In every day, thankfully non-battlefield scenarios this simply translates to the fact that even the best laid plans take unpredictable turns when they come in contact with our good old friend, reality. As the mom of two, homemaker for our house, caretaker of a Moose and a milk snake named Jack, things rarely go according to plan — there are simply too many variables on any given day. Occasionally it stresses me out, but mostly I look at it as an exercise in adaptability and I take all the twists & turns in stride. I’m the kind of person who can see the bright side of even the worst situations and for whatever fortuitous reasons things just tend to work out well. I think it’s part perspective, part hard work, maybe a dash of good karma, and a fair bit of luck.

The same can be said in my knitting & spinning life. I always have plans and lists and hopes and dreams of where I’m going here. I work hard, try to always give credit where credit is due, do what I can to be a force of positive energy in the knitting universe, and stay open to good opportunities for myself as well as inspiration for you. All this being said, a whole lot of what happens here is not exactly planned. Some days I get to help organize a special discount from a fab shop (see yesterday’s post for an example of that!), sometimes a special skein arrives in the mail, sometimes I hop over to a sponsor to check out some sock yarn for the Socks with Sarah KAL and I wind up buying a gorgeous mitten kit, and sometimes I try out a new yarn solely because it’s a deal. I’m always looking and open to what might be next and for whatever fortuitous reasons things just tend to work out well.

Earlier this week, I got this beautiful skein in the mail from Sheepish Yarn Co.

20140226-105937.jpgA skein of BFL Sock in — you guessed it — the beautiful Nuthatch. What a lovely, unexpected surprise – I can’t wait to knit it up!  Thank you, Sheepish Yarn Co!

After wrapping up my Hermione’s Everyday Socks Monday, I opted to cast-on something that isn’t a sock. Yes, it’s shocking, probably, but it was time to give another type of project a little whirl around my needles. So I pulled out my little indulgence…

20140226-105955.jpgMy Snowfling Mitts kit from Tanis Fiber Arts.

Like so many dyers & yarns this year, Tanis Fiber Arts is new-to-me thanks to the Socks with Sarah KAL. After a lovely exchange with Tanis regarding the KAL, I hopped over to the shop with the intention of picking up a skein or two of her sock yarns. I was about to click ‘checkout’ when I saw the ‘kits’ category. And somehow I wound up with this gorgeous kit in my shopping basket, too. The yarns are to-die-for and for this colorwork junky the pattern is just so much fun. Considering the winter here has no intentions of giving way to spring any time soon, I’m going to knit these with full confidence that I will get some use of them yet this year. If it isn’t going to be warm, I will at least enjoy some new mittens, darn it!

Of course, because I’ve given my word to knit socks everyday, I needed to cast-on a new pair of socks, too, so as not to skip a day. So I went with another Churchmouse Basic Sock in Online Supersocke 6ply.

20140226-111830.jpgI got this from WEBS on a pretty serious discount or closeout. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I grabbed it anyway because at $12 for 400yds of sport weight yarn destined for socks I couldn’t go wrong giving it a try. For a relatively inexpensive yarn, it’s pretty good — I can’t complain and in sport weight they are knitting up super quickly. Usually I use a 3.25mm needle for my sport weight socks, but they are currently in use on my mittens, so I am using a 3.00mm.  I think the ribbing & Old Norwegian cast-on will make them stretchy enough to fit. My back-up plan if they wind up on the small side is to give them to my son whose feet are as long, but not quite as wide as mine. Either way, they will have a home & lots of use in my house.

What will the rest of the week bring? Of course, I have a plan, a map of how I’d like it to go, but, really, who knows! Two things are certain: I’ll be kept on my toes and there will be knitting in my hands. And for whatever fortuitous reasons, things will probably work out well.