Business Casual + Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber

It can be  tricky to find just the right pattern for a special skein of hand-painted yarn. As I recently discovered, Business Casual by Tanis LaVallee is a pattern that can work with almost any such skein — there are close to 800 examples on Ravelry that can attest to that. Mine was the absolutely amazing North by Northwest colorway from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber in a 75/25  SW BFL/Nylon blend and I could not be any happier with the combination in the finished results.

nxnw legI love how this pattern allows for little punches of color to shine — I think this is the secret as to how the pattern looks so good in so many different colorways, from solids to hand-paints.

nxnw footsIt’s true that you do need to measure carefully for both size and gauge as these socks don’t stretch as much as your average stockinette or ribbed socks. If you do so, however, you should have no problems. The pattern is very well written and easy to follow — just be sure you keep close track of which round you are working (as evidenced by my own ridiculous personal problems that I shared in this post).

nxnw heelsThe yarn — like all the yarn & fiber I’ve used from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber is just beyond beautiful. These socks are just a muted bold palette that is as unique as it is classic. They will go with almost everything in my closet. Aren’t these socks just gorgeous?!

In fact, I was so impressed with the last couple skeins I’ve gotten from Cloudlover that when it came time to renew my fiber club membership I decided to give the fiber + sock club or Half & Half Club a try. So each month, April through June I will get 4oz of fiber & a skein of sock yarn. If I haven’t mentioned it in so many words, Cloudlover is how I’ve become hooked on fiber & yarn clubs. I just love the surprise colorways and I have been so pleased with the quality and variety the clubs offer. I also adore that there are five different clubs to choose from, so you can find one that’s right for your own crafting needs (and budget).

For April, I received this shipment…

20140513-110408.jpgI haven’t yet decided what to spin or knit with these goodies, but they are beautiful & I will surely get working on them soon!

There are a number of sock yarns still with sale prices on if you have a hankering to try this lovely shop out. Cloudlover is also a proud sponsor of Socks with Sarah and has contributed 2 skeins to the May Challenge pool of prizes (if you haven’t entered yet, you should!). And I promise that you there is more on the way from this fave shop throughout the course of Socks with Sarah — so stay tuned!

For now though, just one more photo of the fab socks of the day…

NXNWOh yes, they are pretty perfect! Love the pattern. Love the socks. Love, love, love!

For more info on this project, please visit my Ravelry project page here.

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.

A ‘Surprise’ Long Weekend

One day a week I volunteer in my daughter’s class. I go in at lunch time & help open milk cartons, distribute ketchup, and help peel bananas — whatever tasks little hands find troublesome. From there this time of year I zip coats & tuck snowpants around boots and help get all those mittens and hats and scarves in place for recess. The rest of the afternoon I get to read or do math one-on-one or in small groups  and then help when the class is all together for small groups of math. This 2 or 3hours is one of the highlights of my week. I feel pretty fortunate that I get this opportunity to see my girl in her element and to get to know her classmates and teachers.

Yesterday when I walked into the lunch room I was a little early, so one of the teachers and I were chatting and she asked, “So do you have anything planned for your day off tomorrow?” I stared blankly. “Is there no school tomorrow?” I asked. She chuckled. Yes, apparently despite the calendar on our fridge that has NO SCHOOL emblazoned in all caps on February 28th, I had completely spaced on this fact. I have to admit that I’m a little spoiled — my kids, especially my son is pretty on top of his school schedule particularly when it comes to long weekends. I also can see the school parking lot from my house, so even if I completely miss the boat and my boy forgets to remind me if I look out the window at 8am and the parking lot is empty I know to double-check the calendar.

So what are we going to do with our long weekend? Well, we are ‘enjoying’ another round of seriously cold weather. It’s funny how just 2 or 3 months ago a wind chill of -8F might have kept us home, but no longer. My husband and I actually had this exchange this morning:

“Hey, is it cold out there this morning?”

“Nah, it’s only -2F.”

And we both burst out laughing and continued to discuss plans for Sunday as it is supposed to be sort of ‘warm’ at 11F.

So the next couple days with consist of some errands, of course, and trying to keep two active kiddos from going bananas when playing outside is a little tough — even if we brave the cold temps, the snow is basically a sheet of hard ice and not exactly super fun to play in. We’ll do a library run. A trip to the post office. Perhaps some time swimming — we are lucky we have a great pool very close to home and the kids love swimming. A healthy installment of Just Dance is guaranteed — my daughter is in love with it and thus we are all getting down with our favorite Disney songs these days. Legos will surely be involved (they are the ‘it’ toys in our house right now). Cleaning. Putting clean laundry away & ironing (I think if I write it there is a better chance I might actually do it…).

Speaking a laundry and knitting (perhaps my least & most favorite tasks in life), about a week and a half ago I got a note that the samples from my teaching days were boxed upand ready for me to pick up, so I popped down and picked up a box and a shopping bag full of my handknits.20140228-102704.jpgSome — like my O W L S sweater and Classic Raglan Sweater — I was really, really, really excited to have back. This freezing winter really beckons for cozy wool sweaters. The rest have been really fun to look through. Many I had almost forgotten I knit — I was usually was so excited to get them to the shop that I didn’t document anything.  They typically went from my needles to the bath to the shop.  After a year or two on and off display, everything needs a good washing and then I’ll have to decide if I want to take photos and post them up or just wear them. I think they’d be fun to share here as a little walk down memory lane. I suppose we shall see how ambitious I’m feeling when the time comes. For now, I probably should not get ahead of myself and I’d better just focus on the washing. It’s not what I’d call fun, but washing handknits is much better than the normal laundry. That’s something anyway!

Of course, along with errands and playing and exercise and cleaning, I will sneak in some knitting.20140228-102625.jpgI finished up my Snowfling Mitt from Tanis Fiber Arts — including the second thumb which is not present here. From here I’m on to the lining…

20140228-102640.jpgHonestly, the lining is what sold me on this kit — a perfect pale gold accent on this gorgeous mittens. And said gold is a cashmere blend. Yum. I hope the lining knits up quickly, but I’m pretty sure my needles can’t move fast enough for my greedy, freezing hands.

I’m also slowly moving along a few stitches a day at my latest Socks with Sarah KAL sock…

20140228-103609.jpgOf course these basic sport weight socks are knitting up quickly especially considering how little time I am putting in on them right now.  I am happy to be staying with the little bit of sock knitting every day that is the theme of the knitalong and that continues to feel really good. For as simple as these socks are, I’m actually really excited for them as I actually adore basic sport weight socks for around the house.

I am, however, already looking ahead to my next pair of socks… it’ll most likely be the kit in this bag…20140228-104335.jpgFirst Footing by Kate Davies. Oooh, they will be good!

It might just be me, but the longer the weekend the faster it seems to go. Time to get to it — even the laundry — before it’s over!

Happy weekend to you & yours!

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.

Forty Bags of Popcorn & Sweet Surprises

What was I up to last night?  Oh, I was popping popcorn.

20140214-091955.jpgForty bags of popcorn for Valentine’s Day treats for both my kids’ class parties. I usually make up for my lack of cutesy class treats with extra frosting on the cupcakes, but we’ve been trying to eat healthier at our house lately and I thought it important to stay true to the habit. So I popped forty bags worth of popcorn. To try to keep it fun, I hid one Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each bag. I told the kids to tell their friends that there is a special surprise in each bag. I am delighted to report they are more excited for this party favor than the mounds of frosting that eclipsed the cupcakes I’ve made previously. Talk about a coup!

In addition to colossal heaps of popcorn, this week’s free time has been focused mostly on writing an article that is due shortly. It’s a multi-day process for me — write, revise, revise, revise. It’s such a welcome challenge, a process I actually really enjoy.  In addition to writing and popcorn, it’s been a real hodge-podge of happenings.

I had noticed a friend from the blog posted up her snow dyed yarn on the Today on *your* needles… thread on Ravelry and as I had one bare skein in storage I decided to give it a go with the kids. We called it a ‘yarn experiment’ — I let the kids pick the Kool-Aide, scoop the snow, and apply the ‘dye.’

20140214-104555.jpgI have never dyed anything before and didn’t really expect much beyond the excitement of the kids’ enthusiasm of which there was tons.

I am calling it a semi-success…

20140214-092146.jpgI can only speculate, but I think my snow melted too slowly, so the dye ended up applied very unevenly. Ultimately I ended up giving the yarn a dunk & quick soak in the melted snow just to give it a little… something.

20140214-092132.jpgThere are a couple spots I’m not wild about, but for the most part I kind of like the light grey-blue hues with purple-y undertones. Most importantly though, I love that my kids love it. That’s the yarn they dyed and they think it’s so cool. At the end of the day, I’m happy with that no matter what the yarn looks like.

It even inspired my 6year old to pick her needles back up. Without me knowing, she got her Annie & the Swiss Cheese Scarf book and the bag of knitting I put together for her a while back and she started working on it. There were some serious frustrations followed by…

20140214-092056.jpgReal. Live. Little Girl. Stitches.

Little girl & I are very tickled by this. She wants to set up a knitting date for us. Granted I would be perfectly happy if my kids never wanted to knit a stitch, but that being said I’m not sure it gets much better than this moment.

In smaller news, I finally got some buttons for my Tallin

20140214-092116.jpgNothing fancy, but they match and that’s really all I needed.

I’m also hoping to get back to this gorgeous spinning project…

20140214-092027.jpgThe beautiful Wensleydale.

And in a moment of excitement I pre-washed this amazing yarn from the Snowfling Mitts kit from Tanis Fiber Arts….

20140214-092012.jpgI have such a weak spot for colorwork and apparently an even weaker spot for the lovely yarns of Tanis Fiber Arts. My poor wallet. My fortunate hands.

I also wound this fab skein…

20140214-092208.jpgThis will be my next pair of socks — Dyeabolical Strong Arm Skinny in the Flowershop Inferno colorway. I think they are going to make a beautiful pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks. This has been such a popular pattern in the Socks with Sarah KAL that I just have to give it a try.

First though, I’ll have to finish up these beauties…

20140214-092157.jpgCustom Toe-Up Socks in Sheepish Yarn Co‘s BFL Sock in the Cedarburg Winery colorway. Sheepish Yarn Co is a brand new dye house from the Milwaukee area and can be purchased through the lovely Cream City Yarn’s online shop. I’m just loving working with this beautiful yarn and the vibrant magenta has been perfect for getting me in the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week.

Magenta socks, project planning, yarn experiments, writing, and forty bags of popcorn with a hidden kiss inside. This life, it’s never dull. It’s never what I expect. But it’s always full of sweet surprises.