31 August 2012

August Winner!

Okay, our winner for August is:
Comment #28, Hallie! Congrats!

Tomorrow, I'll post the September giveaway, which should be exciting! Tune back in!


28 August 2012

Favorite types of yarn

There was a post on Ravelry awhile back about favorite yarn weight... That one's easy, for me: DK. DK (Double Knit) yarn is between sport and worsted weights, and it's thicker than sock (fingering) yarn. For reference, if I hold two strands of sock yarn, I get what is approximately a worsted weight. I like DK because I can sub it for anything from a fingering weight to a worsted and get nice results. That may sound crazy, but it always seems to work out in gauge for me.

That is a dk-weight shawl, made from Tosh Merino dk. The pattern called for lace, but a hard blocking left me with a scarfy shawl that had more substance than a lace would give me. And, if I'm being wholly honest, I tend to like the colorways in dk yarns better than others.

But I wasn't planning on talking weight, anyway. I wanted to talk about structure. And I'm going to use the lovely yarns from Little Red Bicycle to illustrate.

Okay, so there are so many ways to make yarn. There are single ply yarns, which are just spun fiber. They're kind of fuzzy and tend to pill more than their plied counterparts. Here's a single:

2-ply yarns are like singles, except they're half as thick, and two of them are twisted together. A lot of lace yarns are 2-ply, but sock yarns can be, too:

Here's a 3-ply, which adds another ply to the mix. It looks twistier, doesn't it?:

There's a 3-ply technique called Navajo plying, which takes one long single and spins it in such a way that it actually creates three plies as you spin it, which is kind of neat! Here's an example from Eleven Hills on Etsy:

There are a ton of other plying/spinning methods to create yarn, too. Boucle, for example, is made by using two different tensions on singles. So you get loopy bits all of the yarn. My favorite type of ply, though, is a braided ply, like Cascade Eco Cloud:
Can you see the difference here? It's like a bajillion little chains make up the yarn. I find it's wonderfully stretchy and mooshy, and you can knit up something bulky that doesn't weight too much, because the yarn isn't solid... All those teensy gaps act like air pockets when knitted up. It's not as robust as a super twisty yarn, and it doesn't shed or pill as much as a single-ply yarn.

One of my favorite pairs of socks were knitted from a braided cashmere yarn, and I was too much of a beginner to realize how incredible it was... The ball band is long lost, and I wish I could figure out what the brand was! I wouldn't call braided yarns rare, but the few you see are generally pretty plain. I'd love to see an indie dyer experimenting with them, though!

Tell me your favorites, or help me solve my mystery yarn! It's definitely a high percentage of cashmere, and that's just about all I know.


(I'll be picking a giveaway winner soon!)

24 August 2012

FO: Baby Tesla

I couldn't blog at all about my most recent FO, but now that it has been properly gifted, I can show you:
I have three lousy photos of the thing, because I didn't have time to take real photos before it went out the door, but seeing as it's just a simple baby sweater, I find the photos do it justice.

It's a simple raglan cardigan done in Wollmeise sock yarn. The colorway is Chim Chim Chimney, which I had left over from this project:

The image at top is more accurate to the color. I did the raglan increase, and knitted the front button band in garter stitch, which you can't see here. The back band is picked up and knitted on in normal ribbing, but I really liked the texture of the garter on the front.

I did little embroidered stars on it, which remind me a little of the sweater in the movie Coraline:

The embroidery wasn't easy to get right... I wanted it to look hand drawn/ scribbly, like the kinds of stars I drew as a kid. I tried all kinds of embroidery stitches and settled on a backstitch, which is super plain but I figured it'd be easy to pick out/remove if mom and dad don't like it.

The mom of the recipient has been looking at "science-y" middle names for her baby, so I thought the stars would fit in well. Maybe he'll be an astrophysicist some day!

I suggested she consider Tesla for a middle name, because he was a science badass and, obviously, because his name sounds super cool. Don't mess with Tesla!

- YX

23 August 2012

One of the best knits

Imagine my horror the other night when I showed this to my husband:
And he had no idea why I was so excited. Apparently, he never read Calvin and Hobbes as a child. It was my absolute favorite comic growing up. The artwork was stellar:
The stories and jokes were fresh and hilarious. Calvin had so many little worlds conjured up... You couldn't help but fall in love with Calvin's huge personality and his equally-entertaining sidekick, a stuffed tiger named Hobbes.

So there are two patterns for Hobbes that I love. The one pictured above is the My Free Hobbes pattern by Ann Stiver-Balla, which is just fabulous and so accurate to Hobbes in toy form, which is how everyone except Calvin perceived him:
And there's this knitting pattern, which shows Hobbes in the form the reader (and Calvin) are more used to:
This is the Tall Tiger pattern by BrowneyedBabs. Although I like the aesthetic of the first pattern more, this one is definitely the character we all know and love. Extra mega bonus points to the designer for his lovely, expressive face and great tutorials on her blog. Plus, it's knitting, whereas the first is crochet, so my sad lack of skills make the determination, there.

It's funny to me, because I'm not usually big on knitted toys. In all honesty, it's because I just don't want to figure out where to keep them afterward. I do suggest that you try making toys if you haven't already, because you learn so many new tools, innovative ways to make shapes, and you can experiment with colorwork without worrying about the wearability of messing it up. Also, if I'm being entirely honest, there's nothing quite like making something and having it come 'alive' in front of you. I love my sweaters, but they are not little beings to me.

Not going to lie- I'm already scouting yarn for this. I'll want an acrylic for washability, for sure. Anyone have a suggestion? And what are your favorite toy patterns? Childhood comics?

- YX

(Just a few more days on August's giveaway!)

20 August 2012

Where WERE you?!

Okay, okay, I dropped the ball, and didn't update for, like, EVER last week. But in my defense, I closed on a house, had a root canal, and had a pretty brutal fall (onto my heavy, solid, metal SEWING MACHINE), so my Wednesday to Friday was just wrecked.

Also, I haven't done anything on my current WIP, Jaina, so there's nothing to report there. I HAVE been working on a little design on the side, and hopefully that should be ready to show by the end of this week or early next week. Free pattern, whaaat?!

In other news, remember this?

I got a very nice comment from the designer on the FO post, which was awesome. I love seeing reactions from designers, both here and on Rav. If I ever publish designs there, I'll probably freak out any time someone knits one.

Okay, so now we're updated. Good for us. Hey, let me show you something:

THIS is a terrible image of some yarn I own. It's Jacques Cartier's Heavenly Alpaca, which is a Golden Crown Suri fiber. There are two kinds of alpacas, right? The first type, huacayas, are kind of your typical foofy llama dudes. My Jaina is made from huacaya fiber. Suris, aside from being the progeny of famous celebrity exes, are the alpacas that look like they have dreads. Here is a photo I shamelessly borrowed from the internets:
Hey there, little dude. I shall call you Fernando.

So although huacayas look foofy and soft, suris are actually softer, because the locks are silky. In fact, what you're seeing are gorgeous curls, not matted clumps, although it's hard to tell in photos. The alpaca wrangler cuts off those locks, they're cleaned, processed, and spun in some really nice fiber.

The yarn I showed above is made by Jacques Cartier, a company that is generally known for their qiviut. In fact, I made two shawls from that company's qiviut. Here's one:

The thing is, it's SO expensive. It's like $75 for one little weinery ball, which barely made the FO above. I mean, I got the yarn as a gift, and it's not the kind of thing I can go willy-nilly purchasing.

But the Cartier suri is less than 1/3 of the price. At my LYS, the same weinery little ball is $22.50. Okay, let's be honest: It's still expensive. I can buy some nice merino cobweb for a fraction of the cost, yeah yeah yeah. But the suri is beautiful. It's going to make an incredible gift, and the silkiness actually makes it seem a little more luxe than the qiviut, which is a little fuzzy.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is, maybe you can't (or don't want to) afford the qiviut right away, but here's something I would consider to be a reasonable substitute without breaking the bank, robbing your family members, or needing a government bailout.

Anyone have experience with it?
- YX

14 August 2012

Knitting in Public

Every week, I meet up with my knitting group. There are nine of us, and we vary in age, background, beliefs... pretty much any possible way you can differ. They're some of my most favorite people to hang out with. Our location changes, and we rarely talk about actual knitting, but we meet up and let our fingers do the crafting while we share histories, stresses, excitment, and TONS of laughing.

I could brag on my knit group for an entire post, but one of the best unintended consequences of being in the group is we knit in public, but no one bugs us about it. Maybe it's intimidating to approach a group, or we just give off a hostile vibe. (Ha!)

That seems like an odd thing to be thankful for, but it's frustrating to be out somewhere, probably a doctor's office or airport terminal or some other horrifically boring wait-cage, and have someone sidle up to you with pity and "helpful words of encouragement," like:

"Did you know you can buy those things pre-made? Hurr Hurr"
No, friendly stranger, I had no idea. Pre-made socks and sweaters? I do declare. Now I'll have all this free time to navel-gaze or flip through a five-month-old, greasy copy of Reader's Digest. Thank you for your thoughtful insight!
Here's the thing... I know I can buy a sweater for much cheaper than I bought this one. I also know that it may have synthetic content, making it machine washable. I know that I can buy fifteen of them from fifteen stores in fifteen days and still not finish my one handknit one. But you know what? I decided to make this one with my hands. It fits me perfectly, since I adjusted the stitch count to compensate for my proportions. I picked out the color I really wanted that no one seems to carry right now, and I spent my nights knitting it in front of the tv-- feeling much less guilty because I was actually accomplishing something. And that's valuable to me. It's valuable in the same way that building a house or rebuilding a car is valuable on a personal level. So go buy your own sweater at Wal-Store, Jack.

"Gosh, I just don't know how you find the time to do that. I'm so busy, I just couldn't even finish something!"
Wow, this is like a condescending hat trick! I must be bored, lazy, and less interesting than you!
Or I'm doing it in the 45 minutes that I've been sitting here waiting on the doctor (and how are those docs allowed to DO that, anyway?). I've been knitting while I watch tv or read a book or sit in the car on the way to work. I've knitted on planes or in line at the DMV. I don't mark off hours on my daily planner to sit down and work in an uninterrupted manner. It meshes with my life. It's portable. Portable enough that I'm going to get up and walk over here now, kbai.

"What are you, like 60 years old?!"
No, really. I have actually had a total stranger say that to me. One with a soul patch.
First off, if I haven't made it abundantly clear with the Golden Girls references, I see no issue with being compared to, like, a 60-year-old. You can be active, interesting, and share a condo in Florida with your three best girlfriends and go out all the time. Seems to me that 60-year-olds are just 20-year-olds with no jobs and retirement funds. Sign me up.

Secondly, it's apparent that people of many ages knit. See, I can prove this because I am knitting and I am in my 20's. Children can knit. Get this: men can knit, too! You could be making use of your hands for something other than a tired Trent Reznor impersonation by learning a skill!

I love interactions where people are genuinely interested. I'll always answer if someone wants to know what I'm making, or what craft I'm doing ("Are you sewing something?"). I'll point them toward resources if they say they always wanted to learn, or I'll say thank you if I get a compliment. Those folks are awesome.

So there you have it. Be nice, or face the wrath of Blanche!
- YX

(Win some patterns!)

09 August 2012

WIP: Jaina

I have gotten so much done on my Jaina, guys! Look!
What's that you say? You have no idea what that is? It's not even discernible as a knitted object?

You're RIGHT! Man, this yarn is so freaking dark. It's undyed! It's still this dark! Dark like the night! Dark like my soulll! I mean, I haven't really worked with black yarn, aside from my Star Crossed Beanie, which was a great product, but cabling was very difficult due to my inability to accurately detect errors:

The end result was a disaster (more on that another day), but with this sweater, I seem to be doing well. Heck, it's mostly stockinette stitch. Boring. Simple. The details on the pockets are what make it interesting. Unfortunately, they're not super clear, either:
The fuzziness of the yarn is pretty well eating them, and the slight rolling of the pocket edge isn't helping. I'm holding the pocket to the lining with a single stitch marker to keep it from drooping and pulling on the fabric as I knit.

It's a little disappointing to feel like black yarn has thwarted me again, but I'm happy with the fabric. And did I mention that I'm not even finished with the second skein yet? My concerns about running out of yarn may be entirely unfounded.

I'm working on waist decreases now, and I'll be zooming onward toward the sleeves! Stupid sleeves. I'll trade someone- you do my sleeves, and I'll wind and untangle anything you can throw at me. Deal?



(Get some patterns!)

07 August 2012

What is a healthy stash?

There are tons of threads on Ravelry that allow posters to show off their yarn stashes. To the uninitiated, knitting is much like any hobby. Take origami, for instance:
In order to make origami, you have to have paper. Paper is sold in packs. Lots of different patterns and textures of origami paper are available. Therefore, if one wants to make an origami magic unicorn, one will buy a pack of magic paper and make the unicorn. Once the unicorn's done, there is still a packet of paper (-1) left over.

Yarn is similar. A pattern calls for 1300 yards, but the skeins are 400 yards each, so instead of 4, you buy 5. But then, you knit below gauge and only use 4. But then, you keep the 5th ball instead of returning it because hey, some day it might get a hole and need to be patched, or perhaps this yarn might make a nice matching hat, since sweaters with matching hats are totally chic:

If I go into a yarn store, I don't always have a project in mind, either. Maybe there's a sale, or I'm in for a new needle and something pretty catches my eye. I might start going through possible projects for the skein, trying to sniff out the potential. I bring home the new yarn and plop it in a box, hoping to use it on my next project. Thus, stash is created.

Stash levels vary from knitter to knitter. There are people who just buy what they need, return what they don't use, and donate any fractional amounts to thrift shops. There are people with a teeny little bag by the couch. There's me, with two unfilled boxes arranged in colors and neutrals:

And so on, and so on... until we reach professional yarn stashing levels. Mochimochiland did a blog post about a huge yarn stash that is as big (or bigger) than some yarn stores:

Which leads me to wonder: what's the "healthy" limit? Is there a point where you run out of time to knit all of the yarn you own (we call this SABLE: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy)? Is it really so bad to have a ton of materials for a hobby? It's just yarn, right?

Depending on the amount of space one has, and the tolerance of roommates or family members, that amount could vary substantially. For me, I find myself getting a little depressed when my stash fills up my two little boxes. I look in there, remember all the potential I'd given to those purchases, and start to feel hopeless to achieve the goals. If I'm planning a big project, though, I generally DO buy new yarn for it (something that befits the pattern), so the majority of my stash is comprised of single balls that are completely unrelated. Looks like tons of accessories are in my future...

How about you? What's your stash like, and what's "too much"?
- YX

06 August 2012

Trend: Chevrons

I love chevrons. There's something about them that seems nautical and summery. Stripes of any nature make my hands get grabby, so (naturally) I've been queuing the hell out of anything that even closely resembles them.

Have you ever noticed that someone will come out with a technique or motif, and suddenly, you're awash in buckets of patterns utilizing that same concept? The Kate Davie's Owls Sweater is a great example...

Luckily, someone decided it was time to create colorblocked chevrons using increase and decrease techniques instead of the standard staggering colorwork. I'm queuing them about as quickly as they're coming out.

Zigzag Tunic, Iryna Klionava:
BEAUTIFUL for summer. So cute with jeans or shorts. I love the sidways construction on this, which makes it so interesting, visually.

Missoni-Inspired Chevron blanket, Tangled Yarns:
Some day, I will ABSOLUTELY make this. Obsessed with how gorgeous it is.

Chevron Sleeveless top, Debbie Bliss:
Great for scraps!

Lucky no. 7, Jenny Faifel:
When I saw the black and white version in a pattern search: "OOH OOH OOH I NEED IT"... I have  no self control, obviously.

Striped Chevron Baby Blanket, Jenny DoomCrafter:

I love how chic this is-- it reminds me a bit of Charlie Brown's famous tee shirt, and the colors could be swapped out to match a nursery. What a trendy little baby gift that definitely transcends any "home made" judgement.

Oh chevrons... Marry me. You are sassy and geometric and just the right amount of plain for bright colors.

Okay, people, show me MORE! in the comments.
- YX

(Enter to win)

03 August 2012

And so it begins...

So remember all those discussions about what I was going to do with the black alpaca yarn? Well, despite the multiple options I'd looked at, when it finally came time to cast on for the project, I ended up with something completely different.

Something like this:

This is Jaina, a sweater by Thayer Preece that was featured in Twist Collective's Winter 2011 issue. It's gorgeous but simple, which is what I need for such a dark yarn. But there are some really lovely details:

They pretty little decorative stitches will get lost in the yarn, but upon closer inspection, they'll create a nice texture. Love the back, too:
Love it.

Now the problem is, I've started knitting. I have two pocket linings and the beginning of the bottom of the sweater. And although I have a ton of this yarn, I'm petrified that I'm going to run out.

With about 3" of sweater completed, I'm looking at the yarn thinking, "I won't be able to do it"... If one ball of yarn is netting me two measly pockets and 3" of knitting, how can I possibly make a whole sweater with the remaining 7 balls? 2 of them will be used for sleeves, which leaves me with 5 for the rest of the body! It seems like too little! Since I got this yarn at an alpaca farm near my parents' house, I'm concerned that I won't be able to get more of it when needed. What if the specific alpaca ended up with male pattern baldness? What if he's trying out a new punk hairdo? I can't imagine frogging the whole thing.

Or I'm paranoid. Knitting DK on size 5 needles is maddening at best-- I miss my comfortable 7's! Someone please tell me I'm not alone, here...


01 August 2012

August giveaway

Hello, giveaway fans!

For the month of August, I'm doing something a little different-- I'm using traditional ads on my blog, although right now it's just a white box! It should populate in a few days.

I'll still be offering a giveaway, though! So this month, it's the Knitting To Go deck!

This is a deck of 25 cards that each feature a cute knitting pattern, from booties and toys all the way up to full-scale adult sweaters. The patterns are in the beginner to intermediate level of difficulty, and come in a cute little box that could easily fit in a knitting bag.

Here are some examples of patterns inside:

For more, check out the full list here.

To enter, just leave a comment with contact info and your favorite pattern from the deck! I'm not asking you to click the ads or anything- unless you're actually interested in the featured product. I'll pick a winner on the last day of August!

Good luck!
- YX