Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring Time Temptations

Lynai Yarns_

For someone who's currently temporarily limited in how much they can knit in day, I sure am looking at A LOT of yarn...and patterns. I'm not sure if it's due to spring and all the talk about starting fresh and new, if it's because I've been seeing so many knitting patterns go on sale in preparation for Mad May, or if this is just a case of Starteritis nipping at my heels but something is in the air that's making me want to knit ALLLL the things. I'm going to say it's all of the above. And maybe because I've been tossing the stash and handling each and every skein of yarn that I own. 

It kind of kills me to not be able to knit as much as I want to. Or even be able to knit at the speed that I'm used to. Not that it would matter anyways since I pretty much want to wear all the things that I've been eyeing up now. Some of the items on my list are hip length cardigans, which I know would normally take me at least 3-4 weeks to knit up IF it was the only project that I was diligently working on. Times this by the three cardigans that I desperately want to be wearing now...yeah, totally not feasible or even realistic. So really it's doing me no good to wallow on my current lack of knitting and speed when such things aren't even possible to do in the first place.

Then there's Mad May. For those of you not familiar with this event, it's Ravelry's Madelinetosh Lover's group's annual celebration of all things Madelinetosh. From the yarns to all the patterns that were designed using this brand, May is the month in which everything comes up MadTosh. The weeks leading up to Mad May is dedicated to "helping" (or as I like to call it, enabling) knitters in get ready for the event: designers put out discount codes for their patterns, makers of knitting notions and bags put on sales, and handfuls of KALs get revved up.

Due to my hands and wrists I won't be participating in any KALs but I have been keeping up on the sales. Which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because patterns that I've been eyeing but putting off on purchasing are being bought. Bad because I want to knit all those patterns up right now. It's such a vicious circle.


Regardless if I can knit at fast speeds or knit along or not, I'm still pulling out yarns from the stash and pairing them up with patterns in my queue and patterns recently purchased. Most of these yarns are fingering weight but I'm hoping to try knitting them up with bigger needles and seeing if my hands are ok with that. I had tried knitting on a sock last weekend and my hands had completely protested it. Thin yarn on tiny needles is just not in the cards for me at the moment. Which is sad because the two variegated yarns in the photo at the very top of this post are pegged to become socks. Socks that I'm just dying to knit up and am wanting to see how the yarns will knit up.

The yarn in the photo above? I'm trying to decide whether I want to knit it solo into a shawl or pair it up with a darker grey and make a two-tone shawl or cowl. Due to the typical spring weather that we have here on the island (where it's super nice and warm in the sun but absolutely bone chilling cold in the shade), I've got shawls on the brain to pair up with the layers that are necessary for island living. 

MT Pashmina 4

I think I would have been content picking out a pattern from my library but then last weekend Martina Behm came out with a new, ingenious reversible cabled shawl pattern called Braidsmaid that made me drop everything. My goal was to cast on for it over the weekend but I couldn't find any yarn in my stash that was suitable - unless I broke up a sweater quantity, which we all know I hate doing. A teeny tiny part of me was tempted to run to my LYS and pick up something fitting but I punched those thoughts right in the throat and stayed away from any place that sold yarn. I am determine to shop from stash only.

After much hemming and hawing, and yeah, a realistic talk with myself, I decided to break up a small lot. I don't think it was enough to knit a garment out of it anyways...or so I tell myself. Those 2 skeins of MadTosh Pashmina you see above? I think just might be destined to grow up to become a Braidsmaid. Oh yeah.

SweetGeorgia Superwash Sock

While trying to find yarn for Braidsmaid I stumbled on so many more yarny yummies that brought to mind some other patterns that I've been meaning or wanting to knit up. Like a few beautiful hanks of Wollmeise Lace-Garn for a Hitofude Cardigan and maybe a Veronika pullover (a pattern that was brought to my attention by Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts and her gorgeous version). A couple hanks of BFL sport weight for the newly released Naima cardigan (that peak-a-boo fair isle detail inside the pockets? still my heart!), and handfuls of fingering weight skeins for shawls and a specific cowl.  

I thought I had sworn off knitting shawls for at least a year or so after last year's shawl frenzy in which I had knit four substantially sized shawls in a span of a few months for a school fundraiser and for teacher gifts, but after Braidsmaid was released I saw the other Martina Behm patterns that were in my queue and library that I still want to knit, as well as a few Melanie Berg patterns and turns out that I'm not so sick of knitting shawls after all. Especially when I keep seeing all the great colour combos that were hidden deep in my stash - like the two skeins of SweetGeorgia Yarns Superwash Sock that you see above. I've picked out pairings for numerous Endless Rainbow shawls, a Drachenfels (or two), a very typical me colour palette for a The Joker and the Thief, and an Assimilate

But then I spy the yarns that I had set aside years ago ( in 2010 and 2011...cough) for shawls that, for some weird reason, I'm too scared to cast on for but so badly want to wear. I can't even think of a single reason as to why I'm scared and whenever I go over the pattern there's nothing there that actually intimidates me. Such odd behaviour!

Because I have quite the list of knits going on, I'm thinking for my sanity's sake I should stop looking at Ravelry's patterns page. I had told myself at the beginning of the year that I need to knit through all the patterns that I have in my library rather than accumulate more, and I have been doing a great job of that...until I was able to knit again. But let's not go there. 

Am I the only one who's feeling the bite of Starteritis? Anyone else have a lengthy list of knits they want to tackle? What patterns have caught your eye lately? Wait, on second thought, don't tell me! I better go knit on a WIP before I get myself in trouble...

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's Spring Cleaning Time

Spring Flowers

Like most people at this time of year
 I tend to give the house a major spring cleaning and try to purge as much excessive stuff that I can. I go through kitchen cupboards, hallway and bedroom closets, all drawers and shelves, bookcases, and yes, even the stash. Each new season I'm always amazed as to how much crap a family of three can accumulate in a few months. I've realized that a lot of it is paper related - random bills, reports, magazines, catalogs, receipts, random shopping lists, scribbled notes on scrap paper, and the Munchkin's art and school work. Most of these things I downright don't need and/or have learned to let go. A while ago when I had actually made it to a knit night a friend gave me a fantastic idea on how to organize the Munchkin's school stuff - it involves an expanding accordion-style file folder in which each year/grade has a designated pocket. Anything you want to keep from the year must all fit into that one pocket. Imagine having your child's works of art, report cards, gold starred essays, and test papers all in one handy (and tidy) spot. Perfecto, right? My friend's mother did this for her growing up and when she left home her mother handed her the file folder case as a keepsake. So awesome.

Anyhoo, then there's the kitchen. After years and years of working in coffee shops and restaurants the Mister and I have the FIFO method permanently embedded in our brains and without thinking I automatically put "death dates" on everything that we open. The cupboard that contains our mugs and jars though...well...I've admit it before: I hoard mugs. I'm addicted and can't resist buying mugs. If it's cute, if it's a souvenir, if it's knitting related...if I like it, I'll buy it. All.of.them. I'm weak when it comes to drinkware. And mason jars. I'm pretty sure my love for mason jars is a well known fact that's been documented several times on this blog. The Mister likes to joke that our house is a mason jar reserve. It's only recently that I finally agreed to recycle all the Atlas jars that our pasta sauce comes in, since the possibility is quite high that we will be buying more of it in the future. I've also convinced the Mr that I will not buy or bring home any more jars since finding 2 flats of unopened canning jars in the pantry. I totally forgot that I had them and now they're either being used as storage for all the bulk food items that I wasn't quite sure how to organize or patiently waiting for the local strawberry season to arrive.

Even though we're only 4 months into the year I think I've been doing a darn good job at not bringing any more stuff into the house. With every item that I contemplated on buying I've asked myself whether or not if I really needed it and what would realistically happen to it once I got it home. So far this little trick has worked and I'm happy to announce that not only have I not added to the piles of stuff around here but I also haven't bought a single scrap of fabric for my personal stash (even though I've been soooo tempted!!) AND I've even refrained from buying yarn!! Ok, I did cave back in February and bought some gorgeous yarn for socks but other than that, I've stayed away from all yarny updates and websites (I've even limited my Ravelry visits, that's how serious I am!). I'm sure that not being able to knit has helped in preventing me from buying more yarn as I didn't need to add to the stash when nothing was being knit up...which brings me to the spring cleaning of the stash.

Half of my stash is stored in the Munchkin's bedroom closet (seriously, how much closet space does a 6 year old need?) and the other half is in my side of my bedroom closet. A while back the Munchkin asked me when was he going to be able to have his entire closet back. I, of course, was speechless and probably looked like a deer in headlights. I knew this day would come in which I must either downsize or find a new place for the stash. I just didn't think it would be this soon. 


I generally like to toss the stash once a season to refresh my mind of all the beauties that I have in my possession, and to make sure no bugs have decided to make a home in my precious yarn. During this time I also like to "cull the herd" a little in terms of pulling out any little cakes of leftover yarn or whatever extra skeins or balls that remain from a finished project and set them aside. Yarns that I no longer have feels for or once had a project attached to them but now don't due to a change in my style/tastes, get put aside too. This is usually a very rare occurrence but seeing how I need to reduce my belongings I gave everything a proper consideration. I'd like to say that I really did give it the old college try in attempting to downsize and while I did rustle up a small bin full of yarn I think I could have done a better job. It's just that in the back of my mind I can hear that little voice say "but it's yarn, it won't go bad...what if you need it?". You know we've all been there at least once. Don't deny!

A neighbour highly recommended to me that I read Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, to deal with the stash...and the rest of the house. She claims the book and the KonMari Method described in it were complete game changers. After lamenting to the Mister numerous times over the period of a month about my frustrations with the constant clutter (even after a few so-called purging binges) I gave in and got in line to borrow a digital copy from the library. In the meantime that small bin of yarn will either get donated or destashed (I get asked about how I go about doing this at least once a season, so here's the link to to my guide/tutorial on Destashing 101), and I'll continue to contemplate each and every skein of yarn that's in my bedroom closet until I get my hands on that book. 

Have any of you read Marie Kondo's book? If so, did the Konmari Method work for you? If not, got any tips on small space living for a self-confessed packrat?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dusting Off

Knitting - Back in the saddle

So...this has been happening these past few days. Well, just the knitting part. Not so much the extravagant donut eating. Oh, but how I wish I was eating luxurious donuts every day! But the knitting, yes!! I've been knitting!!! I'm not getting too overly excited about it though, not getting my hopes up too much - just in case those hopes get dashed and I'm back to the miserable state of not being able to knit at all. Instead I'm relishing in the fact that I can knit at all! 

I still have to take it easy and not dive back into my usual ways and lengthy knit sessions. I'm only allowing myself to knit a few rows or rounds per day for the next couple of days and building up to a few rows/rounds per sit down. And definitely stretching a lot before, after, and between!! Since taking this photo I've learned that my hands really can't handle socks or tiny needle projects just yet. I experience mild tightness and rather than trying to grin and bare it, I've decided to just concentrate on knitting with bigger needles and thicker weight my PinkSands cardigan project, which is just 2 sleeves away from being done. It's taking every fibre of my being (no pun intended!) to not just power through the sleeves and get this cardigan done already. I have to keep reminding myself that if I want to keep knitting I have to take it slow or I'll end up spending the next 3 months not being able to knit again. I seriously don't know if I can handle going that much longer without knitting!

In the meantime I've been ecstatic that I'm not feeling constant pain in my wrists any more and am SO incredibly thankful that the regular use of, and the nighttime wearing of braces has thoroughly helped in my recovery. Since wearing braces at night I've been finding that not only can I get some actual sleep but my sleep is restful and I'm not in that horrible state of being half awake, half asleep because I'm so aware of the pain in my wrists. It's totally cliché but it's amazing what a good night's sleep can do! And wow, I also cannot express just how good it feels to be able to knit again!!

I just have to remember to keep stretching...keep taking little breaks...move around, change positions. Speaking of which, maybe I should take this moment to do some stretches. And think about what I should knit next after I finish my PinkSands cardigan, now that my knitting game plan has to change to using heavier weight yarns for the next little while. Tell me, what have you been working on lately?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hooked: Giant Granny Square Blanket

Whenever I start a fibre related project (which is usually knitting) I generally don't start up a project page in my Ravelry notebook right away. I typically wait a bit until the project is fairly underway before I feel like I can commit to granting the project its own page...and yeah, admitting that the project actually exists. You see, sometimes I get bouts of Starteritis and half of the time I'm casting on ALLLLL the projects that I want now, and the rest of the time I have no idea what I'm casting on. In cases like this I find it's the survival of the fittest - the project has to have the right marriage of yarn and pattern, the pattern itself must be enjoyable, and depending on my mindset the knit needs to have a certain level of speed to it. As in if I'm looking for instant gratification the knit should practically be knitting itself up or I need to see results within the first day. Or if the project has all the above characteristics listed and just happens to be a sweater, then that project just won the game and I'm totally up for ditching the other newly started projects and spending more than a weekend working on it.

If a project wasn't started due to Starteritis I still wait just in case things don't work out. For example, I could dislike the gauge I'm getting once the fabric gets bigger than my swatch and I get a better idea of how it will really look in the end, or I could wind up not loving the pairing of yarn to pattern. Yes, I know you can delete project pages on Ravelry if things don't work out but I don't want to have to do that. I'm weird like that. So I usually wait. Sometimes though, I wait too long and end up not creating a project page at all. It's rare, but it does happen.

As was the case with this non-knitting but fibre related project. Before my wrists and hands got really bad I was digging around my stash and came across a long forgotten project bag. Inside was a crochet project (I, crochet??) that I had started many, many moons ago and had no idea why I stopped working on it, especially since the project was being worked up in one of my most favourite colour combos of all time. 

The project: a giant granny square blanket.

I'm just going to assume that I had stopped working on this project for two reasons: one, I most likely ditched it for a knitted sweater project; and two, it's crochet. Just so you know, I don't do crochet. I'm so not a crocheter. Don't take this the wrong way, I have nothing against crochet, it's just that I know nothing about crochet and it confuses me to no end. Most of the time I have no idea which stitch is which and where I should be sticking my hook into. Crocheters always make it look so incredibly easy and they whip up cowls in a blink of an eye or a blanket in a matter of a few days. But once I get my hands on a hook...a panicked frenzy ensues and nothing actually materializes or happens, unless you count the inevitable hook and ball of yarn flying across the room in sheer frustration as a form of progress.

This particular project though, I honestly cannot say much about it. I have no idea when it was started, why I thought I could do it...I don't even know what hook size I was using!! I literally left myself no notes as to what I was doing. Nothing. Zilch. The project bag contained a 20" square WIP attached to half a ball of yarn, 3 crochet hooks, and an extra ball of yarn. Since I didn't make a Ravelry page for this project I had to find alternative ways of gathering some sort of information about what was going on with this WIP. I searched my Ravelry stash page and discovered that I at least had the good sense to record the yarn and learned that I had bought 3 skeins of it at my LYS in the Spring of 2010. I have a feeling that's approximately around the time I had started this blanket. I didn't say why I had bought the yarn or what I had in mind for it, but I have a feeling that I bought it because it was pretty (I like to think I have since learned to make better and more wise yarn purchases). I searched all websites where I kept photos stored and aside from the stash photos only found the above 2 photos. That purple crochet hook that you see in the first photo? Yeah, it wasn't among the 3 hooks found in the project bag. Nice going Melissa, way to mess with yourself and practically guarantee that this blanket will never get done.

Before I forget to mention it (and before I get emails asking what it is), the yarn I'm using for this blanket is Noro Taiyo Aran. It's an interesting mix of cotton, silk, wool, and nylon that I'm not sure I would ever knit with (cotton always makes my hands hurt) but seems to be fine with crochet. I have a love/hate relationship with Noro - I absolutely love their beautiful and vibrant colourways, and while I like the idea of thick and thin yarn I'm definitely not a fan of knitting with it (I can't handle the uneven gauge). I've also been burned a few times too many in which a really thin part of the yarn (re: we're talking thinner than thread) had snapped in half on me. Then there's the whole issue with variegated colourways...if you know me or have been reading this blog for a while you'd know that I don't do variegated colours other than on my socks. I just can't handle not being in control of how the colours work up and when/where/how they will inevitably will pool or flash. Luckily a simple pattern like a granny square works magnificently with long colour repeat yarn like Noro.

My knowledge of crochet is so limited that I didn't even know what kind of stitch I was using. After perusing a few basic tutorials online and crocheting a few stitches with each of the hooks found in the project bag, I learned that I was hooking clusters of 3 double crochet stitches with a single chain between each cluster. From what I gather, I think this is typical for a granny square. Out of all the tutorials that I came across I think I found the one that I was originally following, due to the familiarity of the blog name and the instructions (it's over on Meet Me At Mike's, in case you're wondering), but I think I'll be referring to the Purl Bee's post for their version of the blanket (here, if you want to check it out) as I really like how clear their tutorials and photos are. But I think it's safe to say that what I'm doing is the most basic of basic beginner stuff and so finding help in case I screw up would b pretty easy.

I attempted to crochet a round (which took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r!!) and while I was making my way around the blanket I noticed that I had made a few mistakes. A couple of times I had made a solo double crochet stitch when it should have been a cluster, and I think I was screwing up with how I started the next round. One thing I like about crochet is that it's much easier to rip back than it is with knitting, so I ripped back to the first noted solo stitch and carried on. I really have no idea what in the world I did or what I'm doing wrong at the start/end of my rounds so I decided to leave them alone. It doesn't bug me and really, this is my first go at making a crochet blanket. I think I can give myself a break here.

The game plan, as you would've guessed based off of the title of this post, is to crochet a giant solo granny square big enough to fit on top of my king size bed. I only have 3 skeins of this Noro in my stash so most likely I'm going to have to find some more. I think my LYS no longer carries the yarn, at least I haven't seen a single skein of it in the shop, unless I'm totally blind and unaware (I wouldn't put it past me). So if anyone local has seen this yarn (in colour "1"...yeah, such a boring name for a beautiful colourway) please let me know! I think I'm going to need at least another 4-6 skeins!

Sadly I won't be able to work on this project until my wrists are better. I thought I could squeeze in some hooking here and there with my wrist splints on, but I discovered that the crochet motion is even worse for my wrists than knitting is. I also think I crochet like a freak of nature. Seriously. I look like I'm doing the chicken dance when I'm crocheting. My right arm flaps all over the place while I awkwardly try to hold onto the fabric with the left. I think I've raised a few eyebrows the last few times I've crocheted in public.

Even though I can't work on this project I thought I would blog about it anyways, cause who knows when I'll actually be able to work on it again...but when I do, I want to make sure I have some notes about it to refer to! Does anyone else do this? Start and work on projects and completely forgetting to write down anything about said project? I wonder what else I can find amongst my stash and crafting supplies? A part of me is scared to find out!  

Friday, March 6, 2015

Keeping Up With The Craftiness

I was really hoping that the next blog post I made after the woven blanket post would be about knitting because that would mean that I was actually knitting. Even if it was something super small like a few rounds or even a few stitches of a sock, just something that would indicate that I was at least knitting once again, you know? Sadly, much to my dismay, I have to report that my wrists are still out of commission. I had jumped into one of my project bags a bit too soon though and thought the 10 minutes of knitting (which was bliss) on a sock was ok and had honestly thought maybe I was good to go. Then the next morning I woke up and my wrists were burning up something fierce (which was hell) and I learned my lesson to not jump back into the saddle so soon - you'd think I would've known better by now.

So while I (impatiently) wait for my wrists to heal some more I've been delving into other areas of craftiness, like drawing (which can be awkward when wearing wrists braces), painting with acrylics, and cooking. Since both the Mister and Munchkin were sick of eating my baking I decided to give my (lack of) culinary skills a work out and try out some recipes that I've been meaning to make but never did. I'm always trying to find ways to get the Munchkin to eat more veggies (unlike most kids, he's not a smoothie in the morning type), whether it's getting him to try new-to-him veggies or sneaking it into his meals. I'm also always on the lookout for hearty soup recipes that just might have the power to change the Mister's mind about eating soup for dinner. Yes, he thinks you can't have soup for dinner...just lunch. He'll go as far as maybe soup as an appetizer but that's it. I've argued the case for stews or maybe he's just never come across a good, hearty, and filling soup. Nope. No dice. But he did consume several bowls of a vegan and dairy-free roasted cauliflower soup, and even the Munchkin enjoyed a small serving! I was so elated by this that I've made a crazy amount of soup and stocked up the freezer for future meals (in case you're wondering, I've use this Elana's Pantry recipe and please note: since the ingredient list is sparse the flavour of your stock has to be top notch).

Other crafty happenings: I made a crap-ton more dryer balls. The photo below is from my Instagram feed taken in the fall when I whipped up my first set. Since then I've been needing to make one or more balls every 3-4 weeks because one always goes missing or the Mister has told a co-worker, colleague, or friend about them and they wanted to try one out. I still can't believe that we had gone so long without trying them in our dryer before. We don't use those fabric anti-static dryer sheets because the Munchkin has super sensitive skin and I really don't like how clothes and especially towels feel after you've used them. I really do find that our laundry dries a little faster with these little balls of felted wool, but can't really say for sure if I've noticed a difference in static cling. Either way, they're more environmentally friendly than the throwaway sheets, they're fun to make, AND I've been able to use up the leftover bits of Cascade Eco Wool, Peruvia Quick, Cascade 220, and Patons Classic Wool that I always seem to have hidden in the stash somewhere.

In weaving news: I've finished weaving all the panels on my SeaGlass Blanket and now I'm waiting for my wrists to feel better before I attempt to sew the panels together. I'm super excited with how the last panel turned out and the second I cut it off the loom I had laid out all three panels on my bed to see how they looked together. It's quite obvious which panel was woven first and how off my measuring was compared to the other two but surprisingly I'm ok with the slight differences. If anything seeing the differences has inspired me to weave a plaid-like blanket next!

I'm also entertaining the idea of trying my hand at weaving with a simple frame loom but I just can't bring myself to dish out the $40-60 to buy one. So this weekend I'm thinking of stopping by a hardware store and seeing what I can rig up for a fraction of the price. But we'll see if I'll even get the chance to bring out the power tools (or even a hammer) because the Munchkin has a science experiment project that's due in two weeks that he needs to prepare and practice his speech for. I can tell you now, he's not looking forward to spending his two-week spring break working on a science project! It's a simple and fun experiment but unlike the rest of his class the Munchkin needs more time to prep, especially when it comes down to his "speech" since his speech delays forces him to work that much harder. I'm actually a little stressed out and nervous about his presentation.

Anyhoo, last week I bought myself a new set of my favourite pens (Paper Mate Flair, in case you're wondering) which has inspired me to start doodling again. Ah, nothing like brand spanking new stationary - and in rainbow formation! - to get you going!! Because of my wrists my writing has been somewhat of a mess lately (think doctors' notes!) but doodling doesn't need to be legible, so who cares? It's all good! I've forced myself to wear my wrist brace from time to time, even though it can be awkward, because the last thing I need is for doodling to unnecessarily injure my wrist even further. I've always been super private and self-conscious about my artwork and doodles, so don't expect a show-and-tell any time soon. I'm still learning to release the fear of showing others my sketchbook and have always admire those who have no qualms about it. I think I just need to grower thicker skin and because in my experience I've faced more "careless negativity" in terms of feedback. As in lots of people feel the need to put in their 2 cents without thinking it through and without realizing that their so-called harmless comment can be damaging ("this is nice but...", or "you should've done this to make it better", or "I did this ages ago!", or worse: "I saw someone do that exact thing but theirs was nicer because..."). Yeah, who needs that noise? Totally makes me shudder!

And because I know someone will want to know, the pen holder that you see on my sketchbook in the photo above was something that I had made years ago in university after spotting a graphic design student sporting one around a Chapters book store. Mine was made to fit a Moleskine notebook (hence why the elastic looks overly stretched out) that I had used as a day planner and colour-coded all my various activities. When I moved to Victoria I had ditched the pen sleeve and the whole colour-coding concept simply because my social calendar was never that active again. If it weren't for an old pen stuck to it, I would've never have found it amongst my pile of elastic while cleaning out my crafting supplies! The pen sleeve is basically a length of nylon webbing (just shy of the length or wide of a typical note or sketchbook) sewn to another length of elastic (that's about half on inch less at the ends to form a band, with a smaller width of elastic in the same length as the webbing sewn on top for the pens. I've seen beautiful variations of this idea everywhere - made out of fabric, ribbons, velcro; some had little pockets, some had slots for sticky notes. I keep meaning to expand on this but never got around to it.

These past few days my hands and wrists have been feeling a lot better but not 100% yet. I'm hesitant about diving into my knitting so I think I'll give myself at least another week before I make any attempts at picking up my knitting needles again. In the meantime I'm thoroughly enjoying the doodling, painting, and venturing into other crafty areas. Is anyone else trying their hand at a different craft? Any suggestions on what I should try next that won't be a strain on my wrists? 'Til next time...

♥ Happy Crafting!! ♥

Monday, February 16, 2015

On The Loom: SeaGlass Blanket

As my wrists take their merry little time to heal, I've had to find other ways to keep my hands busy and my creative juices flowing without adding any extra stress to what has to be the most über busy limbs on my body. Normally when I can't knit or sew I would use the time to catch up on all my computer-related and admin duties (or at least spend hours cruising Pinterest without feeling that guilty) but I'm still computer-less (yes, still. Don't even get me started on that) and so that idea is an obvious no-go. I've tried reading a few books that I've been meaning to read but never got around to because, well, knitting and I've yet to master the art of knitting and reading at the same time, I've found that I get too...fidgety after a while. Something about idle hands... I've given up on baking when I realized that both the Mister and the Munchkin don't have as much of a sweet tooth like I do, and so the only person eating all the baked goods was me. My sweet tooth says yay, but the rest of my body screams no. Righteously so too. My metabolism isn't as young as it used to be.
I mentioned in the last post or so ago that I had dug out my Knitter's Loom, which I had let sit in the living room until I could figure out what kind of project I wanted to make with it. I'm still quite the beginner when it comes to weaving (as in I know absolutely nothing), and the only projects I've ever made in the past were scarves. I didn't want to keep making scarves as there's only so many one can have in their wardrobe (especially when one has several handknit shawls too to keep in rotation). After a good long search for ideas and inspiration on the internets I finally came up with a project idea.
I'm going to weave a blanket. Yeah...
Do I know what I'm doing? No, not really.

Am I in over my head? Probably. But hey, go big or go home. Right?

I rooted around in the stash for a while and stumbled upon a bin of Cascade 220. Aside from the handful of skeins that I was collecting to eventually knit a Missoni-inspired blanket with, I have no clue as to why I have so many single skeins of this yarn. But the assortment of colours in the bin were glorious and so I spent several hours arranging and re-arranging skeins and coming up with a bunch of colour combinations. Even though I have a fair amount of skeins in various shades of pink (no surprise there!), I decided to step away from my "usual" colour palette and go with something different. Something that my whole family will like. I'll admit that the final palette had more to do with using up single skeins than anything else but it was also one that I kept coming back to. I'm going to call it "SeaGlass".

Random tidbit: I was sorting through this bin of Cascade 220 in the Munchkin's room when this colour palette came together. Yes, I have most of my stash in his closet...he's tiny...he doesn't need the entire closet...yet. I'm going to be in trouble when he gets older and bigger though. Eep! But I've looked at the photo below several times now and I've realized that this palette is actually very similar to the one that I had picked out to decorate the Munchkin's room with! Replace the grey with a dark chocolate-y brown and voilà! You've got the kiddo's bedroom colour scheme. I had to laugh when I saw that.

Anyhoo, this is the palette for the blanket:
The top row that's featuring a grey gradient will be the warp (the strands of yarn that run lengthwise and tensioned onto the loom). The bottom row of beautiful blues, green, and yellow will be the weft (the yarn that you weave through the warp and have all the fun with). The plan in my mind is to do a gradient of greys from left to right, and then a gradient of dark to lights hues from bottom to top. Because I have so much of the dark grey and the dark blue I'm thinking of making those sections bigger than the others. We'll see how well this will work out in the end.

Here's a stroke of good luck: as I scrolling around on my tablet looking for a specific note-taking app, I had accidentally clicked on the Craftsy app. I discovered that I had purchased eons ago (and had completely forgotten about, obviously) the Rigid Heddle Weaving class taught by Angela Tong that I never watched/took! Until now, that is. I watched the course in one night. I actually learned a fair amount and am especially happy that I finally know how to calculate how much yarn is needed for the warp. When I first started weaving I had searched for this info online but came across sites that assumed that you already knew a ton about weaving in general and had thrown out numbers like no tomorrow. Knowing what I know now, turns out a lot of those numbers were for floor looms and looms that involved more than one heddle. Back then most of my scarves were a guessing game as to how long they would turn out to be and were usually made to the length of however long it was from the kitchen counter to my table. Every scarf was also a game of yarn chicken as to whether or not if I had enough yarn for the warp for a width that I was satisified with, and if I was lucky or not to either have enough leftover, be able to find a second or similar skein in the stash for the weft.

Finally getting my hands on a basic formula for calculating the warp has been not only a blessing but a confidence booster. I feel like I can now look at my stash and know right then and there if I'll have enough of one yarn for a project or at least the warp. When I did the math for this blanket I found out that there was no need to use the natural cream coloured skeins as I was going to have more than enough with the greys for the warp. I can somewhat predict just how big my final project will be - and I say "somewhat predict" because I'm not sure how confident I am in my weaving math skills just yet. The Rigid Heddle Weaving class also taught me how to measure the length as I weave, knowledge that will definitely come in handy for this project!

Judging from the math and my plan outline, I will need to weave 3 separate panels to create this blanket. Although if I had a warping board I probably could have tried weaving one continuous panel rather than needing to break it up. After warping the loom up for the second panel I now know of the desire to have a warping board - the constant walking back and forth between the loom and warping peg almost killed me!

I was planning on finishing the ends with a hemstitch and a tiny fringe, but in my excitement to get going on this project I had completely forgotten all about my plan and didn't leave a long enough tail to sew in a hemstitch. I had also advanced the cloth beam enough that I wasn't sure if I could go back, loosen what I've already woven and sew in the hemstitch. So the new plan is to have a tiny braided fringe instead. Not a big deal and it won't affect the project at all, but I was pretty excited at trying my hand at hemstitching. From the very beginning when I first tried out weaving I've always wanted to try hemstitching but could never find a good enough video tutorial. Written instructions just didn't cut it for my visual learner ways and found that the photo tutorials in some weaving books weren't thorough enough to show me how the stitch worked. I'm thinking that after I finish this blanket I will have to weave a few samplers and give hemstitching a go then.

As of today I have finished two out of the three panels needed for the blanket. I was so hoping that the colours would watch up across the width of the blanket but when I laid out the two panels I noticed that the colours indeed, did not match up. I think I got a little carried away with the weaving in the first panel AND I think my number tracking was shoddy because there are a few sections that are a little longer than they should be compared to the numbers that I had calculated for what each section length is to be. Oops! I left it though. This might bug me later but I have to remind myself that this is my first time weaving something to a game plan and my first time weaving such a big project. This blanket is just one giant learning curve in which I really am learning a lot. Weaving itself is just such a soothing activity and I absolutely love watching the colours and how the weaving works up.
I'm also extremely proud of my edges and how even they look to me. I'm a little nervous about sewing the panels up but again have to remind myself that this is a learning project and doesn't have to be 100% pure perfection. Yet. I do have plans to weave another blanket but will have to double check the stash to see if I have anything that will work with my vision and if not, what I have to work with. I simply refuse to dip into or break up my sweater quantities, and will either have to double up or rent/buy a finer reed to use with my fingering weight yarns.
A teeny tiny part of me is happy that I've been forced to venture into other creative outlets other than knitting to keep the creative juices and inspiration flowing. I've been wanting to dip my toes into other artsy pursuits in order to keep the brain fresh, gain a different perspective, and get the idea machine going but you know...knitting. Not being able to knit has prevented procrastination (ok, sort of) and project abandonment (when it's not knitting because I prefer knitting over everything else). Working on a different art form has definitely made me think and see yarn in a different way. I'm still waiting for that wave of inspiration to hit, but so far I'm having fun working a totally new project and in a different craft than I'm used to. It's an added bonus that I'm getting to use up forgotten stash too. I simply can't wait to get this blanket finished!
I'm hoping to avoid having to buy yarn and would rather use stash for future projects. I'm sure I'll probably give in eventually and buy yarn as there are some weaving techniques and ideas that I want to try out, like pick up sticks and soumak, and make things like placemats and maybe cushions (I'm being so practical, I know!). Have you tried weaving before or are you a weaver? What have you made? Let's chat!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Spud & Chloë Stripey Fine :: Review & Giveaway!!

TGIF mes amis!! I know it's been a week since I last posted but what can I say, life's not so crafty when you've got tendinitis in both of your wrists. But I'm happy to report that I've started a weaving project a few days ago and it has been great fun so far. I haven't used my loom in years but I've discovered that weaving is like riding a bike: once I started the process of setting up the warp everything started to feel familiar again and everything fell into place. Even the Mister agreed, since he's usually the one that has to help me wind the warp onto the loom. For those of you who don't weave, as far as I know at least, when doing a direct warping onto a rigid heddle loom there's one person holding the free end of the warp with some tension as a second person winds the other end onto the back apron rod. Technically you can do a solo warp and I've seen video tutorials on how to do that, but I definitely haven't reached that level of weaving confidence yet! There's probably other ways to do a direct wrap but that's as far as my weaving knowledge goes.
Anyhoo, guess what? I've also been knitting these past couple of days!! Well...I've only been able to knit for a few minutes here and there but still, I'm knitting! YAY!! Even though the knitting is slow going and it's so hard to put down the needles once you get back into the groove, I really don't want to push or injure myself any further so I have to work hard to limit myself to just a few minutes of knitting at a time. To avoid putting any excessive stress on my wrists I have to refrain from working on any large and heavy projects. Obviously that means no cardigan knitting for me and only knits that can fit entirely in my hand. You know what that means, right? Socks!

Unfortunately the two pairs that I currently have on the needles are just too fiddly for my fragile wrists, so it was absolutely perfect timing when a lovely package from Spud & Chloë arrived in the post containing a skein of their new Stripey Fine fingering weight yarn and a sock pattern for little ones! Ok, I'll confess straight up that I knew that these little gems were on their way, I just didn't know that I would have a legit reason to cast on something new and that it would be within my knitting parameters! But first, let me introduce to you the newest yarn added to the Spud & Chloë line up:

Clockwise beginning at the top: Blueberry Cheesecake, Tootie Fruitie, Grape Freeze,
Cherry Sundae, Neopolitan, Orange Crush, and Mint Chip in the center
That there is the yummy Stripey Fine!! If you're familiar with Spud & Chloë yarns and have knit with their Fine yarn before, than you'll be pleased to know that Stripey Fine is made with the same base comprising of 80% superwash wool and 20% silk, and comes in seven fabulous (and deliciously named!!) colourways as pictured above. Each variegated colourway is composed from the solid-coloured Fine palette, meaning not only can you mix and match for colourwork, stripes, and whatever other effect you can think of, but you can also find the exact colour(s) needed to create a contrast in your project - like for example the toe, heel, and cuff for socks! Due to the fine gauge and the superwash capabilities, this yarn is perfect for socks, baby knits, shawls, and cowls.
The Stripey Fine Wristlets pattern is the first design to be released that features Stripey Fine but I chose the Lots O' Socks pattern so that I could knit the Munchkin a pair of socks and let him pick the colourway. Even though the pattern is written for babies and toddlers, the kiddo has teeny, tiny, skinny legs that work perfectly with the numbers in the pattern and all I have to do is knit a little extra length in the foot to fit him. As much as I would have loved to knit with the Cherry Sundae colourway (which I'm sure you all probably thought I would have picked), the kiddo's choice was this beauty of a skein, Mint Chip:
Random factoid: both mine and the Mister's favourite ice cream flavour is Mint Chocolate Chip. True story!
Anyhoo, due to my wrists I've only managed to knit half of a sock, but it was enough to at least get a feel for the yarn. I've only ever knit with Spud & Chloë Sweater yarn before knitting with the Stripey Fine so from that experience I kind of knew that I was going to be dealing with a standup, quality yarn. Sure enough, before I even cast on the sock I could already tell that this yarn was going to create knit wear that was going to last. From sight alone you can see just how wonderfully round this yarn is and that it would yield excellent stitch definition, especially in lace and texture work. Upon closer examination and a little manhandling, I discovered that the yarn is composed of three strands - each consisting of two plies - all twisted together to form a bouncy (re: so, so squishy!!) and super strong yarn. Yes, even if the Munchkin wore these socks on a daily basis I'm quite positive that he'll outgrow them before any holes could form in the heels or toes! Did I mention that Stripey Fine is also superwash and therefore machine washable? Total bonus. I can't wait to get these socks finished and onto the kiddo's feet. With these rainy, cold, and dreary days that we've been having, these Stripey Fine socks are going to be fantastic when worn with his rain boots!

I'm seriously contemplating knitting in an afterthought heel so that I can add length and replace the heel as the Munchkin grows. Even when the leftovers are all gone, I take comfort in knowing that I can always pick up a skein in one of the solids that make up this colourway (in case any one wants to know, Mint Chip consists of: #7804 Cricket, #7814 Shitake, #7806 Calypso, #7805 Anemone, and #7800 Popcorn) and replace the heel or toe as needed. Cool, right?
Now, the only thing that might be confusing to some would be the stripey reference in the yarn's name. Depending on your gauge and pattern I suppose you can produce a self-striping effect, like how it is in my sock pictured above. Please don't knit this yarn expecting a true self-striping pattern, it is a variegated. When you take a peek at all the Spud & Chloë colourways you'll see that they're all solids, Stripey Fine is the only yarn in their product lineup that isn't. I just wanted to clarify that.
So...would you like to give this yarn and pattern a try? The lovely people at Spud & Chloë gave me an extra skein of Stripey Fine and copy of Lots O' Socks to give away to one lucky reader! If you're too impatient and need to have this yarn in your hands now, good news: Stripey Fine has already made its way to a bunch of yarn shops and if your LYS carries Spud & Chloë they might have it already in stock too (and if your LYS doesn't carry Spud & Chloë there's no harm in asking them to!). And if you've been looking for a sock pattern for your wee ones, here's even better news, use the code "STRIPEY" from February 6 to the 14th (Valentine's Day!) and get 50% off the Lots O' Socks pattern!! Link for the socks here.

Ok, back to the giveaway. Once again, you can win this duo:

One lucky winner will receive:
:: 1 yummy skein of Spud & Chloë Stripey Fine in the Mint Chip colourway
:: a copy of the Lots O' Socks pattern by Colleen Powley
:: The giveaway is open to everyone!! YAY!!
:: Giveaway is open until Friday, February 13, 2015 at 11:59pm PST
:: All comments must include a valid email address or Ravelry ID so that I can contact you if you are the winner
:: Winner will be chosen via random number generator and will be contacted within 48 hours after giveaway ends
Simply leave a comment below telling me which Stripey Fine colourway is your favourite and what you would knit with it. Don't forget to also include your email or Ravelry ID with your comment!
Good luck!
A huge thank you to Spud & Chloë for inviting me to be a part of the Stripey Fine Blog Tour. Follow the Blog Tour by visiting the other stops for more giveaways, information on the other colourways in this collection, as well as more discounts for other Spud & Chloë patterns:
Week One :: Subway Knits
Week Two :: Miso Crafty Knits
Week Three :: Little Things Blogged
Week Four :: Hands Occupied
Week Five :: Candy & Bagel
Week Six :: Stockinette Zombies
Week Seven :: Handmade By Stefanie
♥ Happy Knitting! ♥
Please note: unmarked photo(s) in this post are by Spud & Chloë and are used with permission.
:: Disclaimer ::
I am not affiliated with the company mentioned in this post. I received no monetary compensation from said company for my review. I was sent a skein of yarn for review purposes and a pattern to knit the yarn with in exchange for posting the review. The opinions I've written are my own and I will not be receiving any commissions from the links provided in this post.
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