Monday, September 14, 2009

Evidence of yarn crazies

So the Lion Brand and WEBS catalogs both came on the same day a few days ago. I've been trying to get myself re-motivated to do yarn stuff, but so far it really hasn't worked. The WEBS catalog is the closest I've come, though. Dudes, that cover sweater?

I adore that sweater. If I wasn't fully aware that it would take the entire rest of my life to make at my knitting speed, and if I had that kind of money to spend on a sweater I'd never finish, I would be all over that. Love it! Go WEBS! Now I'm starting to feel the beginnings of the fall yarniness stirring. The more I look at it, the more I think maybe I'd finish it and I'll never know unless I try... It has been a long time since I've bought any yarn. Really, you could say I've been saving up all summer for this sweater, ha ha.

After I finished the WEBS catalog, I started looking through Lion Brand. Now, a lot of people scorn Lion Brand, and their catalog is mostly the same stuff every time (or so it seems to me), but this time they had a new section about crafts you can do with yarn even if you can't knit or crochet. They had a few cheesy projects, including clothes hanger cozies and a vase made by gluing yarn to an empty milk carton, but then, alone on its own page with no explanation or other information, was this.

I stared at it for about five seconds, then burst out laughing. Ok, folks, if something like this starts sprouting in my house, please stage an intervention and hire a cleaning crew! I guess what makes it so funny to me is that I really like it. It has the cottage garden charm. And I can totally imagine how it came about. Woman knitting in corner, glances over and notices moss starting to grow on the other chair. Hm, she thinks. I better take care of that... after I finish this row. Well, maybe just two more rows. In the next scene, the afghan she's working on is longer, and so is her hair. Grass and dandelions have started sprouting from the chair. Next scene, her hair is almost to the floor and some little weeds are growing around the chair legs. Next scene her hair hangs past the floor and has turned gray, she's telling herself she'll clean after she finishes the edging on this thing, and the climbing roses are blooming on the chair. This crazy yarn sprout garden chair is a cautionary tale for us all. But then, who needs to go outside when apparently the outdoors will come to us if we just knit long enough?

Monday, August 10, 2009

travellin' yarn

I do complain, but life is actually very good. For example, I went to Pennsylvania to visit my family, and came back with this:

Oh yeah, and let's not forget this:

(It's not as dangerous as it looks--that's merino and tencel, not mohair, so it's very soft. If I ever took pictures in the daylight, you'd see.)

It ended up being a pretty hardcore trip. I was driving my Miata (mountain roads!! It would have been a crime to leave it home!), and that's not a car with a lot of cargo room. My spinning wheel barely fit in the trunk, with my teeny laptop crammed in the teeny remaining space, clothes in a backpack on the passenger's floor, and snacks in easy reach on the passenger's seat. Luckily I don't have a passenger.

Dudes, let me tell you, that trip was made for the Miata. When I did it last winter in a rented Kia, it did nothing for me. But this time, I had a blast. Even though it took 12 hours and I arrived in the middle of the night and I accidentally bought myself 24 extra miles by getting back on the highway in the wrong direction after a gas stop (duh! south is not how to get to Pennsylvania from Alabama!), when I arrived, I basically bounced out of the car and, with a rebel yell, cried "more more more!"

It really was a great trip. I got to see lots of people I hadn't seen in forever, and I got a lot of spinning time. In the first picture above, the blue yarn is from a Little Barn dyed then combed blend. Love it! The other is from something I bought from Yarn Expressions, but unfortunately exactly what is lost in the sands of time. It's color combination I never would have done myself, which was exactly what I was looking for when I bought it. It's fuchsia, olive, and tan. It's really cool, but it is surprisingly felted. Not impossible to work with, but not easy, either, especially in all that PA humidity. (It rained almost the whole week I was there.) Also, when I started spinning it, I decided to split it lengthwise and try to do a two-ply where the colors match up, at least mostly. Well, a lot's happened since then, and I really don't remember what I could have been smoking when I divided it, because the first "half" was about 2/3 of a bobbin, and the second "half" was a full bobbin plus a pile of wool still unspun. I ended up with a whole bunch of barber pole, which is pretty but the opposite of what I was going for. I haven't decided yet whether to attempt to make at least some of it match up. (Heroic Andean plying to get the current remaining singles into a two-ply, and then re-attempt the split trick on the rest? Navajo the singles and split/two-ply the rest? Give up and let the yarny chips fall where they may?)

The crazy merino/tencel in the second picture is a Fire Lizard reject--I dyed a pair of the same thing in my Love colorway, and this one ended up getting overprocessed. It appeared to be quite felted, so I declared it defective and claimed it for my own. To my surprise, though, it's been spinning like a dream. Not sure what's up with that, but I'll take it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

they say it makes you stronger


I apologize for the blog silence all this time, especially right after declaring a contest/giveaway! What timing. I've been having some rough times, which I'm not going to talk about because this blog is about adventures with yarn, not woe is me. But everything has basically been a seemingly impossible mess, only obviously it is possible because here I am.

So, without further ado, the winner of the green Phat Fiber mix yarn is l33t_dreams. Congratulations, l33t!

I'm also happy to announce that I have my new studio set up, or at least semi set up. Well, ok, it's a disaster. But I managed to dye some yarn, and that is anything but a disaster.

It started out as autumn woods, but due to some unusual circumstances, it came out much more purpley and sun-dappled than any other autumn woods I've ever dyed. Rest assured, it's still fully set, colorfast, and light fast as always, but this batch is so much more beautiful than usual and probably impossible to duplicate. What a comeback! Every time I walk past it, I just have to stare at it and take in all the nuances. Well, and then I fondle it. I am a yarn maniac, after all. If you want some, you'll find it on Fire Lizard Studios as Autumn Woods 2009 Special Edition.

Also, I just found out Phat Fiber was giving away a skein of my yarn. We're too late to win it (drat! look how great it looks! Even I want to win it!), but I wanted to give a shoutout to them anyway. The Phat Fiber Sampler is a super cool thing run by really nice people. Look for Fire Lizard Studios yarn, or maybe even spinning fiber, in September's box.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

spinnin' some phat green yarn--want some?

I took all of the fiber samples from the March Phat Fiber Sampler box and spun up some mixed yarn.

It contains:
  • Suffolk/Hampshire cross wool, organic and gently treated, from Extreme Spinning. This is the downy breed wool that can be washed without superwash treatment. It was a different spinning experience--the fibers are interconnected and pretty grippy, as I expected. The closest thing in my experience is shetland, but it really wasn't like that either. Not like spinning the carded fiber I've gotten, not like spinning the combed fiber I've gotten, really not like anything else. It was pleasant to spin. I'm a person who likes things to behave as I expect; I imagine the more I worked with this wool and got used to it, the more I'd like it. Even for a first try, it was an enjoyable spin.

  • South African Fine Wool from Vines. This is the one that came in a braid of various shades of green. The preparation is a combed top, which is very much what I'm used to working with. This wool was very soft and easy to spin. I clicked with it immediately.

  • Unspecified wool from a small batt from Tracy Rios. This was also very nice wool to work with. It had a bonus hidden inside: although all you could see from the outside is an olive green, inside there were some streaks of maroon, which really provide an intoxicating blast of contrast. What a great surprise!

  • A blend of BFL, mohair, and silk from Liberty Fibers. This one did not make it into my Phat Fiber Sample box posts (here and here if you somehow missed them) because I could not get it to photograph for anything. But it was a tempting little batt in their Tartan colorway: mostly blue, with some green, and little neps of chartreuse silk. This was very fun to spin--I was utterly fixated on the neps. It would be fun to spin a whole yarn of this.

    (The nickel is there for scale.)

    It came to roughly 104 yards--not bad!

    All right, I'm pretty newly back into spinning, so this yarn is decent beginner handspun, but not super consistent. I would use it, but somehow these greens are just not speaking to me, so I have a better idea. In celebration of this being my 199th blog post, if anyone would like it, leave a comment with a happy thought and a way to contact you (ex. email address, ravelry ID) and I will send it to you. If more than one person comments by Saturday (3/28) at 9 am, I'll choose a winner by random number selection.
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    a little detour

    Spring is really taking hold around here--some of the trees have switched over from flowers to leaves, and others are all a-bloom. I decided to go for a walk on Rainbow Mountain.

    I like going there for its magical quality. It's a pretty short trail, but it's steep enough to provide a challenge if that's what you're looking for. (If not, just mess around a lot and take pictures, like I did.)

    What gets me about this place is all the rocks and how varied they are in one small area.

    Wile E. Coyote, don't play near that rock!

    What the...? How many times do I have to tell you?! Now look what you've done!

    There were a lot of flowers out--lots of little violets along the side of the trail, and some really nice pink tree flowers. I attempted lots of arty shots--even a spider web!--but alas, none of them came out usable. That's when I miss my real camera.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    more Phat treats

    Oh, I'm Phat all right. Here are more highlights of this month's Phat Fiber Sampler box.

    Here is a very elegant little Celtic stitch marker from Black Tie Fiber Arts.

    Isn't it pretty?

    Next up, we have some intriguing wool from eXtreme Spinning.

    (That's a puff almost the size of my fist on a very large card, not a teeny tiny puff on a business card, like it looks like in the picture!) This wool is special in that it is machine washable, despite not having gone through the chemical superwash process, which strips the scales off the wool to keep it from felting. Instead, this wool is naturally washable due to the breed of sheep, apparently. The explanation card doesn't make it 100% clear, but this wool is organic and untouched by nasty chemicals (dyed with Greener Shades dyes). The fiber feels spongy, not super soft like BFL but not as scratchy as shetland. It feels like it will be grippy like shetland--fun for spinning.

    Now, here is the treat that really knocked my socks off.

    It's a shawl pin from Dawning Dreams. I've been wanting a shawl pin for a long time but never saw one that quite struck my fancy, except this gorgeous one that was encrusted with polished stones and way too heavy for the sort of open work shawls I tend to make. But this will be perfect! It's light weight, simple, elegant.

    Here's another fave:

    It's Curvy from Knit it up! in colorway Cordelia {jewel of the sea}. It's a very lofty thick and thin yarn. I recognize this base; I love it.

    I was also lucky enough to score more Wooly Hands handspun!

    I just love her yarn. It's very soft, textural, and lofty. I'm trying to quit petting it so I don't felt it before I have a chance to make anything out of it!

    Another very practical treat from Ruddawg:

    A Knitting in Progress bag. I usually use plastic gallon baggies for this purpose--this very nice, lined draw-string bag puts them to a hundred kinds of shame. The only question is, which project gets first dibs? The boring scarf? The bamboo top that was hoping to be finished in time to wear last summer? The Mrs. Dalloway cuffs that are waiting to be started?

    And last but not least, from Jags:

    This yarn positively glows amidst all the green!

    Oh, there is one more that would not photograph for anything but was one of my favorites. It's super luminous green bamboo yarn from Oriri Draco Design. It's this one on her site, but it's more electric lime in person. It is gorgeous and sure to have incredible drape.

    That's all the phat treats for now; can't wait for next month! Oh, next month--that reminds me, it's time to get my samples ready! Doesn't it seem like it was last month about two minutes ago?

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    a red-letter day in yarnland

    It's sunny and warm. I have the day off. And yesterday, my Phat Fiber Sampler box and Yarn Market News arrived! It's like winning the yarn lottery.

    There is too much great stuff in here to do all in one post. First, the bis--hey, who ate the biscotti before I could take a picture?! (That would be me. Sorry.) Ok, help me out here: imagine biscotti. They're dotted with little green pistachios, dipped in white chocolate, and sprinkled with a dusting of more nut bits. I must admit I wasn't expecting much--my only other experience with biscotti was a very dry, disappointing, dusty creation, edible only when dipped in a beverage of some sort. But these were truly fabulous--light, sweet, and moist enough to stand on their own. They were made by Matilda Chiapparelli's Italian Cookies.

    Aside from the biscotti, one of my favorite things in this month's box is this super adorable stitch marker.

    Don't you just want to squeal and pinch its little cheeks? So cute! It's from Yarndemon Designs. I've heard that some people are wearing these as charms on necklaces, bracelets, cell phones, etc. I may do that. What fun to go around with this little sheepie all day!

    My favorite yarn of the box is this one.

    It's 50/50 superwash merino/tencel sock yarn from Abstract Fiber, in colorway Andromeda. Doesn't it just look like spring? And I love the sheen from the tencel. This is enough to make something out of, like maybe these cuffs.

    This is a pattern from The Crochet Side, and it does call for lace weight, but crochet is easily adaptable.

    Don't worry, there are also plenty of spinning treats. Here's a fuzzy green batt from Tracy Rios. Looks like some very easy spinning.

    And here's a baby braid of South African Fine Wool from Vines in colorway Chameleon.

    It feels poofy, like it will make springy, lofty yarn. We'll see! Now that I'm spinning regularly again, I can't wait to try these out. Most of the goodies this month are green, but I did get some naturally brown raw Border Leicester/Corriedale wool from Farmgirl Chic which did not want to be photographed but which looks intriguing. I think it's time to experiment--just start spinning and ply it all together into one funky mixed sampler yarn.

    Anyway, there's a whole lot more--stay tuned! I show you the rest on Monday.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    a happy reunion

    Anastasia? Is that you? I barely recognize you after neglecting you so long!

    Anastasia is my Polish princess, a Kromski Sonata. Here's what I can't explain. I love spinning. It is my favorite thing, the one thing that never fails to make me all zen and happy. Less than a year ago, I gleefully drove the six hours to Asheville, NC, to choose her and bring her home. Furthermore, since I got back from the festival last month, all I've wanted to do is spin. So how is it that, other than packing her up and driving her to Pittsburgh and back, I've had no interaction with Anastasia since October? (To add to the irony, in my last post about spinning, I expressed a resolution to ply all of the yarn I was working on immediately so that I wouldn't have a bunch of full bobbins sitting around.)

    In any case, better late than never. Although I have been spinning on my drop spindle whenever I get the chance, my first time back at the wheel in months was still pretty awkward. I think Anastasia may be part cat: she was a little recalcitrant when I suddenly reappeared in her life and wanted to play. But she doesn't seem to be the grudge-holding sort, and within a few minutes, we were getting along famously.

    I finished up the Stargazing roving that was my treat after the festival in October.

    It's one of my hand-dyes. The wool is BFL, and it's super soft and fabulous to spin. I'm absolutely delighted with it. I had done the caramel part back in the day and then lost the end of the blue part.

    Do you see the end? Of course you don't. All the king's horses and all the king's men, scotch tape, a toothbrush, other knitters--nobody could find the end. I finally gave up and broke it to make a new end. I kept following promising bits of yarn until something crossed on top, then following the one that crossed on top, until I got to a seemingly M. C. Escher-esque infinite loop of two strands that both crossed on top of each other. I couldn't make heads or tails of that, so I broke one of those and started plying from there. I expected to run into a problem pretty soon, but instead I plied and plied, until I finally got to a point where the yarn crossed under something. I looked at the bobbin, and there was just a narrow band of yarn on top of the piece I was working from, and there on top, plain as day, was the end. So I pulled that off until I got to the other end of where I broke it, set that aside, and kept on plying. It turned out to be only a few yards, and I would have joined it onto the end, but it was really bad yarn anyway--thin parts, not enough twist. I wasn't paying attention for a while before the break that caused the lost end, apparently.

    So! I finished the blue yarn. Here's the last of it.

    It looks a little sketchy now, but I think a bath will even it out. I also finished the purple part. This roving is completely spun, I have two empty bobbins and one small alpaca surprise that was hidden under all this wool, and I'm ready to start something new. I'm so excited. Do I really have to go to work? Can't I just stay home and spin?

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    ooh, samples

    Any time yarn shows up in the mail, I'm a happy camper. Here's what came the other day.

    This is yarn from Cestari Farms, a farm and mill in Virginia. From left to right, it's Flecks, Traditional Wool, and Fine Merino, all worsted weight. Flecks is 90% Fine Merino, 10% Rayon--dyed with acid dye, the rayon will stay its present colors while the wool takes the dye, so the resulting yarn will be interestingly speckled. The Traditional Wool is from the Columbia breed. It's yellower in color than the merino, and the company spokesperson encouraged me to swatch some up and try machine washing it on cold. (They don't do superwash or carbonization processing because they believe it diminishes the integrity of the wool. Small bits of vegetable matter are present in the yarn, giving it a rustic air. They also allegedly don't use a chemical mothproofing process, but these skeins have a pretty strong moth ball odor, to the point that they're going back in the garage as soon as I finish this post. Phew!)

    I'm psyched to dye some of this yarn and see how it behaves. I definitely like to buy US-made when I can.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    I've never seen the like

    I was flipping through the latest Lion Brand catalog at breakfast this morning. Now, I know Lion Brand doesn't sell the best yarn (of course not--I do! Ha ha), but for breakfast time catalog-flipping, any yarn is good yarn, so I took what I could get. And then it looked at me with its big brown eyes and said "You ain't seen nothing yet."

    Luckily it stopped before the stuttering part of the song, but it turns out it was right. Lion Brand has a new yarn that's part of their luxury fiber collection: LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel Yarn. It's 75% wool, 25% stainless steel. I've never heard of this before. Stainless steel yarn? In some discussions about cashmere, I heard multiple people say that a fiber has to make up at least 15% of the yarn to change the feel. This is 25% stainless steel, so it's not just that there's some insignificant little tidbit of it in there to add strength or something. Is the point of it that it's like wire, so you can knit colorful chain mail more easily? Super strong rust-resistant socks that never wear out? Or is it so you can make conductive clothing that monitors people's health, like this project did? The official website offers only a hint: "unique Wool Stainless Steel yarn creates unique pieces that keep their shape." Also intriguing is their claim about the gauge for this yarn: "Variable gauge is acceptable for all knit and crochet." (It's super fine. I guess the idea is that if you knit it with bigger needles, you get a stiff lacy effect?)

    I am certainly curious. I doubt I'll be seeing this yarn in the wild any time soon--it's too esoteric for places like Michael's and Hobby Lobby, but too, well, Lion Brand for places like Yarn Expressions--so I hope somebody at least writes about it or something. I could just buy some, I guess, but I'm not $10/14 grams curious.

    ETA: A little more Google-fu has revealed some funny discussion on Instructables. No real information, though.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009


    I'm having some technical difficulties here, but I wanted to show you something that made my day. One of my customers from the festival spun up the fiber she bought, and the yarn she made is absolutely gorgeous and fascinating. She took two different colorways and plied them together--they interact in a way I never would have thought of. I could stare at it all day. Check it out: Buttercupia (scroll down--it's after the pink yarn, which also looks good enough to eat.)

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    my wild weekend

    You know how the house was all pristine and perfect? Hah!

    (Don't worry, I put it back when I was done.)

    I had to get my samples ready for the March Phat Fiber Sampler. One might argue that I could have done it in the studio, but it's cold and windowless out there, so I took over the kitchen.

    Here they are, all ready to go.

    There will also be a giveaway of a full skein (100 grams -- enough to make a pair of socks) on the Phat Fiber blog at some point, so keep an eye out.

    This is my enchanted forest colorway, and as I stood around reskeining dozens of little sample skeins, I had plenty of time to ponder how much I like how these colors interact.

    Making samples is not too exciting, but spotting them on the web later sure is!

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    knitting night

    As late as 6:00 last night, I was still vacillating about whether to go to knitting night last night. I was really tired--mounting sleep debt from all last week--but I didn't want to miss the fun.

    In the end, I went. I'm still tired of all of my current projects, but as I was walking out the door, this yarn threw itself at me.

    It's a yarn blend that I bought last year on eBay from Spin City Yarns. I don't remember any of the details except it's called Peacock and I think there's some mohair in it. I was thinking a drapey, open triangle shawl. I think that would be super cool.

    However, in the end, the call of the spinning was louder. I had the forethought to take my drop spindle with me this time. Ever since the festival, all I've wanted to do is spin.

    It seems kind of sad that in almost three hours, that's all the yarn I made, but whatever. It's pretty and shiny, and that's what I was looking for. Also, I just realized: my back didn't hurt at all by the end of the evening, whereas usually I'm in misery after sitting on those awful chairs. I may be onto something here.

    Monday, March 2, 2009


    I woke up yesterday morning, looked out the window, and saw this:

    Now, I know you folks in the north are more than sick of snow by now, but allow me to remind you: I live in Alabama! This is the only snow we've had all year and the most snow I've seen while living here. So to me, it's exciting! The only thing that would have made it even better is if it had happened this morning and everything was closed and I didn't have to go to work. But que sera sera. It was beautiful. The air even smelled like snow, which is a phenomenon I had forgotten.

    Snow on the sky light.

    Snow for the kitty cat. (She always loved to lick it up, so I brought some in for her.)

    Snow on the forsythia.

    Snow on the henbit.

    Pretty, pretty pretty.

    This being Alabama, it's good that I took the pictures first thing, because by noon it was all gone, as if it had never happened. Beauty is in the moment, but I'm happy I got to capture it for a change!

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    yarn vs. real estate: another smackdown

    For those following the saga, I still haven't sold my house. I've got a new real estate agent, and as soon as all the paperwork is done, the house will be back on the market. As everyone who has been through it knows, having a house on the market is a big pain in the butt. You're supposed to keep it pristine all the time and be perpetually on call to get out so people can see it without you being there to make them feel weird about looking in the closets. Besides that, it's a down market, and nearly every real estate agent I've talked to has led me to despair. However, I've found a gem. Her name is Christina Stolaas of Carnival Real Estate, and so far she totally rocks. Talking to her gives me hope and energy!

    Meanwhile, she's been doing some staging. She's made little changes all over the house, but these are what made me squeal with delight.

    Dudes, do you not want to come over right now for a fancy luncheon?? I've always loved the kitchen, but check out that dining room!

    For reference, left to my own devices it looks more like this:

    I'd say real estate wins this round.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    something different

    I've been feeling a little one-dimensional lately, so I've decided to try some new things. One of those is letterboxing. In letterboxing, somebody hides a box with a log book and a special stamp in it, and then publishes clues so that people can find it. When you do, you stamp the log book with your own special stamp, and you stamp your own log book with the stamp from the box. More information here if you're curious.

    Anyway, I was reading about this, and I got really psyched. It's a walk and an adventure, and if you get carried away with the stamping aspect, it's also a craft project! Of course you really don't need a special stamp for this--you could use your thumbprint if nothing else was available, and there's nothing wrong with store-bought stamps either, but reading about stamp-carving and seeing some of the incredible stamps people have created, I wanted to try it myself.

    First I spent a ton of time working on the image I wanted: a lizard sitting on a ball of yarn. That's just not available in the standard clip art, even on the web! But with some heavy Photoshopping (actually, Gimping), and then tracing when my software skills ran out, I managed to come up with this:

    Considering that I can't draw worth anything and I didn't even have any tracing paper, I was fairly impressed with the fact that it is clearly an iguana, and you can pretty much figure out that he's sitting on a ball of yarn. It could still use some refining, but it's not a bad start. (Ok, stop laughing out there.)

    But then I started thinking, wait a minute, that's pretty complicated, and the finished stamp is supposed to be small, much smaller than this, so you don't hog the whole logbook. Maybe that's not the best image for your first ever attempt at this. So I decided to go with the Fire Lizard Studios lizard instead. He's pretty simple.

    Well, this carving stuff is not as easy as it looks in the tutorial. (Duh, Cara, if they made it look hard in the tutorial, nobody would try it!) My first two attempts look like they were produced by kindergartners, and I kept accidentally amputating things when I was trying to carve out the extra stuff around the image. But the third attempt is passable.

    I'm still having a hard time getting the toes right, but these are a million times better than the first two tries. Also, I think I heard that there are blades for cutting finer lines--I think if I had one of those, maybe I could actually get it to look how I want. I wanted to give him spots on his back, too, but there was no way. I could barely get the little circle where his tail curls. I definitely want to keep playing with this, but it's not bad for a first attempt. Don't think I'll be quitting my day job any time soon, or even the yarn job. But I did get a bunch of printmaking books last time I went to the library. Onward and upward!