Summer Spin 2015

Along with the Summer Sock Knitalong (which I am insanely excited for now that we’ve had a special IG sneak peak of the yarn being dyed), my other summer goal is spin a little every day. In winter I’m usually cold enough that nine times out of ten I’d rather be wrapped up burrito style in a at least two blankets than sitting at my wheel, but in summer I just love to spin. I finally managed to eek out a small space in our living room where I can keep my wheel. It’s such a huge difference to have a spot where I can literally just sit down and spin any time rather than always pulling my wheel and all its accoutrements out of storage every time I want to make yarn. I also just adore spinning on my back porch — fresh air, the kids playing, the birds singing, and my wheel just spinning away enclosed in the lush green that is a summery backyard is pretty close to bliss in my book.

I was going to wait a bit to get started, but I was anxious to see the yarn I would get from the Spun Right Round batts I was blending together.

I started with these 3 batts…

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From left to right, 3oz of Boom Bam, 4.5oz of Tiger Brats, and 2.5oz of Pip. After a little trial and error, I started to marl the colors together by blending two strips of different colored fiber together — like these pairs…

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I just spun these multi-colored sets right together. Since there is a wide range of colors in these batts, I thought this marling would be the best recipe for success in getting it to work as a whole.

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The singles looked promising and the finished yarn…

IMG_9347Just. So. Fun. It reminds me of an Indian sari and it’s going to make a pretty gorgeous shawl one of these days. This skeins is just shy of 600yards, probably a sport/DK weight although I haven’t checked yet. I’m too ecstatic with how it looks to get into the technical stuff just yet. I will definitely be playing with batts more often though!

It just so happened that this weekend I was doing a bit of spring cleaning and since my wheel was empty I decided to pull out four braids of fiber so they’d be visible & easily accessible. With the wheel right there, I figured fiber where I could see it would help a lot as I try to keep up with my spinning everyday goal. These are the four braids I chose…

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As you can see, I have some pretty gorgeous braids in at my fingertips. My fiber stash is pretty deep at this point and my goal is really to spin a fair bit of it up over the coming months. These braids seemed like a pretty solid place to start — they are excellent motivation, no doubt about that!

From here, I simply had to start another spinning project, so I grabbed my braid of Dyeabolical BFL/Silk blend in the Gasoline Rainbow colorway.

IMG_8656-0One thing led to another and…

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Those singles were finished. I broke this braid into a standard fractal spin and will make a simple 2-ply out of it. I blame the beautiful colors and the pure delight that is spinning this BFL/silk base for how quickly I spun these bobbins.

Since I figured I should let these singles rest before plying, I thought I’d go ahead and start my next project.

IMG_7579I picked up this braid of Sweet Georgia polwarth + silk in the Stormchaser colorway for my birthday at the end of last year from Yarns by Design. I wanted a to see what a really blended yarn would look like with this, so I divided the braid into fourths lengthwise and then divided these fourths into about 12″ pieces. Much like the batts, I’m spinning together 2pieces at a time for maximum blending.

IMG_9352I’m very excited to see how this one turns out, too!

It may not technically be summer yet, but my Summer Spin 2015 is off to a great start. Of course, I’ll be sharing my spinning adventures here in my ‘Today on my wheel’ segments as well as regular FO posts, but you can also get the latest via Instagram where I’ll be tagging my spins with the hashtag #summerspin2015. Fellow spinners, feel free to spin along and tag away, too! I’d love to see what you’re up to, too! Remember the Tour de Fleece starts in just over a month… it’s probably time to start training, right?!

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!

Birthday or No Birthday

My birthday has always been a weird thing for me. Falling between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a time when everyone is always very busy. As a kid, it always felt rough because it was easily overlooked. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve grown to understand my introverted ways, I find it somewhat of a blessing. Aging under the radar isn’t the worst thing, after all. The last few years I’ve asked to just not celebrate or to make it a quiet homebody kind of day. Each year though, my husband insists that we make it a special day “because it’s important to the kids,” so I reluctantly agree.

This year, I awoke to my son whispering loudly to my husband, “DON’T LET MOM COME IN THE KITCHEN!” To which my husband (jokingly) whispered super loudly, “OK!” He brought me a cup of coffee and I read for a bit while I sipped. About 15minutes later my son bounded in and handed me this…

 IMG_7565On the front is a Queztalcoatlus because he knows it’s my favorite dinosaur. This boy is the sweetest ever.

It so happened that my husband had a very brief work obligation in the Green Bay area, so we agreed to make a day of it there. The kids and I went to a big bookstore while my husband did his thing. I have definitely not been reading as many books the last few years, sticking mostly to shorter articles and blogs. I have really struggled to find things that grab & hold my attention. My husband very adeptly found this title for me for Christmas…

IMG_7576It’s completely up my alley — bizarre & random hypothetical situations answered seriously with real science. Awesome.

Add my birthday selection…

IMG_7577And I feel as though I can start off 2015 with my nose back in a book. I’m really not usually a huge reader of philosophical titles — I took one class in college and did not fair all that well, but this one hooked me so I’m excited to give it a try.

From the bookstore, we met my mom and went for a nice long hike in the sunny 16ºF air through the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. I should probably share that I’d have photos of the sanctuary and restaurant to follow for you, but the cold killed my phone about 20minutes into our hike and it took a  long time to charge back up. So we’ll have to do with words today. In any case, we all love seeing the animals at the sanctuary — there are foxes, bobcats, wolves, ravens, coyotes, deer, and lots of birds. They actually do a lot of rescue & rehab work at the sanctuary, so it’s a great place for the kids to experience. As usual my husband got the wolf pack to howl for us which is incredible every single time. To be within 20feet of a howling wolf pack is just spectacular and humbling. My husband explained very seriously that they were singing Happy Birthday to me. Of course, our daughter kept trying to howl along, but she’s a mini-person with a high pitched voice, so the wolf pack isn’t a great fit. My husband encouraged her to try her howling with the coyote. He readily joined in, much to all of our delight.

With our toes and finger and noses chilled to the bone, we headed to a special lunch at the Titletown Brewing Company where I enjoyed some of their handcrafted beer (I’m not much of a beer drinker, but when in Rome…) which was delicious along side my pan-seared salmon. The restaurant is actually in an old train station, so it has a very authentic old-school feel to it. To the delight of the kids, a train even passed right by us during our meal. Needless to say, it was a hit all around.

Thankfully, I do have something else to show you as my phone finally had enough time to charge…

IMG_7569On the way home, we had just enough time to make a quick stop at a new-to-me LYS. Yarns By Design is about an hour from my house, but the stars just hadn’t aligned to let me visit previously. I pop in their booth every year at the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and am always delighted to see their offerings and chat about their latest additions. It’s one of those perfect little shops with creaky floors, passionate & friendly staff, and lots of options from which to choose. I especially love that they have a good selection of really nice spinning fiber including some of those same breed specific wools from Louet that I spun last summer as well as the beautiful colors of Sweet Georgia Yarns. Showing heroic restraint in the presence of so many good choices, I only brought this beauty home with me…

IMG_7579Polwarth + Tussah silk in the Stormchaser colorway. Wonderfully “me” and a perfect birthday surprise.

We finished the day with a little key lime pie with cherry topping. I didn’t know, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve tried key lime pie with cherry topping. Yum.

Where I would have been happy to let this birthday pass by, I’m so glad that I didn’t. I’m thankful that I got to hear the howling wolves. That I got to see my little girl sing with a coyote. That I tried that handcrafted honey ale with my pan-seared salmon. That I got to stop at a new-to-me  lys. Most of all though, I’m so thankful for yet another spectacular day with my wonderful little family. I was reminded that celebrating these days is important. It’s not just because it’s a big deal to the kids. Birthday or no birthday, it’s because all our days are worth celebrating. Birthdays are just an excuse to be ever so slightly more indulgent.

Beautiful Jeck

Way back in February one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa at MisoCraftyKnits, posted about her latest in-progress socks, Jeck. Part of the appeal was the beautiful yarn, but part of it was the recommendation of the relatively easy, but interesting stitch pattern. Jeck was officially on my mind.  When I saw her finished socks up on Instagram, I became just totally enamored with the stitch pattern. I instantly had the inclination to knit up a pair of solid red socks with the pattern. At the time we had just finalized our South Dakota plans and I was placing an order with Sweet Georgia Yarns for a skein of BFL Sock in the Magpie colorway, so I threw in a skein of CashLuxe Fine in China Doll for good measure. The yarn arrived, it was gorgeous and amazing and, of course,  as life goes I stashed it. I had other things going on with my needles and it was just going to have to wait a bit.

And then a few months passed.

As the South Dakota trip neared, it was clear that my China Doll Jeck socks were not going to happen anytime soon and yet I still really wanted to knit the pattern. I opted to amend my plans just a little and work on Jeck with my skein of Magpie.

20140808-165934-61174472.jpgOf course, knitting time was limited on the vacation and the actual magpies I hoped to see were nowhere to be seen. Life goes on though, right?  I just kept knitting away and just shy of a month after starting, I wrapped the project up.

leg As expected, the stitch pattern was really easy & fun and I think it looks really beautiful. I did slightly alter the heel — instead of a stockinette heel flap, I made a slipped stitch one. Same stitch counts, everything else is the same, just a slip 1, knit 1 on the right side of the heel flap.

toeThe toes, well, I sort of followed the directions there. It seems a lot of people have just gone with a plain old standard toe on these. I thought I’d give the pattern instructions a try, but then totally misread them and instead of staying in the pattern I ended up breaking up the purl columns into a garter situation. I thought about going back and fixing it on the first one, but opted against it. While I probably wouldn’t repeat the boo-boo, I also think it looks just fine, so I left it and made sock #2 match. Why not?

whole sockOverall, I think these socks turned out just beautifully. Of course, I love the rich, moody color of Sweet Georgia Yarns’ Magpie and I found the BFL Sock to a very no-nonsense sock yarn. Soft and almost silky feeling, it doesn’t have a ton of bounce, but you can just tell the BFL will wear well. The fit of the pattern is a bit more snug than your average pattern thanks to the slipped stitches, but they are very comfy.

Another pair of socks in the books for the Socks with Sarah KAL — these are number 16 for the year for me!  I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed I’d knit up this many pairs. But it’s true, my sock drawer is filling up. And as the weather is starting to cool down a bit, I’m getting pretty excited to start wearing all these beautiful socks!

For more information about this project, you can see my Ravelry project page here.

 

Works in Progress

A couple days ago on my hubby’s day off, we took the family on a little hike. It’s the time of year when this can either be brilliant or a disaster, largely depending on the absence or presence of mosquitoes or particularly determined flies. We chose a little trail we discovered this spring during migration and hiked the length of it nearly bug-free. 20140809-075152-28312739.jpgWe’ve had a cool summer and everything is exceptionally green. The trail was a bit muddy, so we were able to find and follow some deer tracks. We didn’t see them, but where the tracks stopped we could heard them crashing in the brush.

20140809-075150-28310346.jpgAnd of course there are the brilliant colors of flowers, too. In flowers and in the yellow warblers, cedar waxwings, robins, and one of my favorites — the catbird — that foraged around us.  The best, however, was hearing a yellow-billed cuckoo deep in the wood. We never got eyes on him, but his song was unmistakeable. Sometimes I think I remember ‘that time I heard the yellow-billed cuckoo’ almost more clearly than ‘that time I saw the yellow-billed cuckoo’. There is an intimacy in knowing a bird’s call, I think. It’s more than just searching for the movement of a bird and catching it in your binoculars, it’s about building a true familiarity that is a constant work in progress

20140809-075151-28311551.jpgThese little flowers reminded me of lace — they always do — so I had to snap a photo. I love seeing knitting inspiration in nature.

I started a new autumn sweater this week that is in my eye also inspired by nature, Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston.

20140808-165806-61086598.jpgThe stitch pattern is like a collection of little ripples. I can’t say how enjoyable this knit is — these little twists require no cable needle and the 12 row repeat is very easy to learn. It is actually much simpler than I anticipated which is wonderful for this time of year.  For yarn, I’m using the Green Mountain Spinnery Weekend Wool. This wool is 100% sourced from farms in New England & across the US and the colorway — Blue Jay — is the most spectacular rustic steel-blue with a hint of charcoal. I’m hoping to get this sweater finished by the time the WI Sheep & Wool Festival rolls around again in early September — I am optimistic and already have buttons on the way. I think the only real obstacle will be yardage. I actually bought this yarn to knit up a Cape Cod sweater, so according to the Little Wave pattern I’m about 50yards short. I decided 1) many patterns give you a 10% margin of error in yarn requirements and 2) I have no problem getting & using a different dye lot for – let’s say — the collar and button band should that be necessary.

Of course, also on my needles are some socks.

20140808-165934-61174472.jpgI showed you this photo yesterday and now I have about an inch to go to the heel flap. This is the pair of  Jeck by Regina Satta in Sweet Georgia Yarns BFL Sock in the Magpie colorway that I started on vacation last month. Having started Socks with Sarah blowing through a pair of sock per week, the 3weeks I’ve been working on these seems like forever. I remind myself though — and my fellow Socks with Sarah knitters, too — that this KAL isn’t about speed or about knitting only socks all the time, it’s about making sock knitting a part of your routine, your life. Splitting these socks with my sweater and a spinning project has actually been pretty refreshing. I’ve been on a good roll of working one project in the morning when I wake up through my first cup of coffee and then the other in the evening before bed.

I’m finding that as always the end of summer is a whirlwind of activity — from trying to get out and enjoy the green on the trails to stocking up on school supplies to mowing the lawn that just doesn’t want to turn brown and die this August to playing “Delia-ball” with my daughter. I’m also going to make time to enjoy clicking away on my fiber-y projects in the fresh air. I can already feel the hint of autumn in the air (just a hint — it’s a work in progress, too) and while there’s simply no better time to be outside listening for cuckoos and yellow warblers, there’s also no better time to be working on a new fall sweater and cozy pair of socks. Just as I’m ecstatic to be on the dark green trail listening and watching for wildlife, when October rolls around I’ll be pretty glad I stole a few moments for that sweater and pair of socks. So many works in progress; I’m going to enjoy them all.