Tag Archives: wool

Yarn Spotlight: Mad Tosh Farm Twist

I just got my hands on 8 big ol’ skeins of one of the newest yarns from Madeline Tosh, one of my favorite dyers.

And, I gotta say, I think it’s just delightful.

Farm Twist is a 2-ply, worsted-weight, merino wool that’s thick, squishy and super cozy.  (Right now I’m knitting it up into this cool garter-stitch chevron pattern on big US8s.  It’s unbelievably squishy, and I can already tell that it will have a great drape once my piece gets long enough.) 

IMG_1343Essentially, Farm Twist is a 2 ply version of Tosh Merino Light, which is one of my other favorite yarns.  Tosh Merino Light is, of course, fantastic, but it can have some problems with pilling, and while it creates a lovely, drapey fabric, it has very little spring (which makes it great for shawls, but not great for garments.  By plying two strands of TML to make this yarn, MadTosh can fix both of those “problems.”  Plying makes a stronger, springier yarn, not to mention bumping it up to a nice worsted weight, making Farm Twist perfect for cozy sweaters and warm blankets.

And, of course, it comes in all the luscious hand-dyed MadTosh colors you could want.  I love this colorway- Thunderstorm.  It’s a slightly variegated/tonal black/gray with undertones of navy blue.  It’s moody and masculine and changes color with the light.  It’s a subtle neutral, but more interesting than a solid black or gray would be.IMG_1332

I’m really pleased with this yarn (sure I’m only halfway through my first skein, but when you know, you know)!

Have you tried any new yarns lately?  What has been exciting you?

Wearable Art

We had friends visiting over the weekend (Hi friends!), and we dragged them all over Seattle.  We had lunch at Pike Place, we explored local parks, and ate and drank our way across the city.

And we visited the EMP, a weird pop-culture museum in the shadow of the Space Needle.  It’s full of movie and music memorabilia.  It’s an odd collection, but a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon.  (Want to see Princess Buttercup’s gowns from The Princess Bride?  A collection of phasers from Star Trek?  Nirvana’s old set lists?  Then the EMP is the place for you.)

This summer, the EMP is hosting a traveling show of “clothes” from the World of WearableArt Awards Show.   This show/competition is apparently held every fall in New Zealand, and now I need to visit New Zealand.

The “clothes” are only clothes in the sense that you could put a person inside of them.  They’re really wearable sculptures made out of plastic, leather, metal, wood and every other imaginable material.  They’re truly stunning.  If you ever get a chance to see the exhibition, definitely take advantage.  It’s really amazing.

One piee particularly piqued my interest, and (surprise, surprise), it featured wool.WP_20160711_16_20_21_ProThis is “Totally Sheepish”, by Sarah Peacock (whose website I couldn’t find, so if you can find more information about her, I’d love to see it.)

OK, it’s a little weird, but look at the craftsmanship!  Most of the wool for this piece was harvested from the artist’s pet sheep, High Jump, and processed by hand.  Some was spun into yarn, which was then knit and crocheted.  The teardrops were wet felted, and the corrugated pieces woven around the waist were hot-molded (a process that I don’t know much about).WP_20160711_16_19_50_ProCan you imagine all the work that must have gone into making this thing?!  It must have taken months and months, maybe even years.

Be sure to check out the WOW website, or just Google the World of WearableArt to see the amazing creations.  And if you happen to be in New Zeland in October, go to the show and tell me all about it!

Pattern: Snoqualmie Cowl

New pattern day!  I’m excited about this one. (Though, I suppose I’m always excited about a new pattern.)

It’s a super simple cabled cowl in the most luxurious yarn have left in your stash.  (I don’t know about you, but I have a bunch of little balls of bulky wool and alpaca that I can’t bring myself to throw away.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACovered in tons of simple cables, the Snoqualmie Cowl looks way more complicated than it is.  It’s a great way to practice cable knitting and play with colors.  And because it’s knit in super-thick yarn on great big needles, it works up in about fifteen minutes (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it does go really fast)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you want to give this cowl a shot, grab a copy of the free pattern here:

Snoqualmie Cowl

Spin, spin, spin

Last weekend, we went on a lovely little weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula, and on the way back we stopped in Port Gamble for lunch.  Port Gamble is a rediculously pictureesque little vilage.  Built on rolling green hills that lead down to the water, all the old-fashioned houses are painted bright colors with white trim.  There is a fantastic little cafe where we stopped for lunch, a quilt store, and two fiber stores!  (I know- heaven!)

After lunch, my mother-in-law and I stopped into The Artful Ewe, one of the yarn stores- and it was like stepping into some sort of yarn-themed Harry Potter story.  The tiny store was made housed in an old house, and literally ever surface was full of wool!  The floor was strewn with giant baskets full of fleeces, tables were overflowing with yarn, and the walls were decked with racks and racks of hand-dyed roving.  There was even a tree in the middle of the room, hung with skeins of wool in every color of the rainbow! I should have taken a picture- but I was too distracted.

And there was a pair of two tiny, proper, little greyhounds sitting in a wing-back chair-  one of which was wearing a string of pearls instead of a collar.  Like I said, this place was like something out of a storybook!

So, of course, I had to buy some wool.

I didn’t have a project in mind, so I first gravitated toward the big skeins of squishy hand-dyed sock yarn- always a good choice.  I had almost picked out the skein I wanted.

But, then, I saw it- a gorgeous braid of roving: soft-as-a-kitten Polwarth wool, blended with flecks of shiny, shimmering silk, and dyed in the most intense, brightest jewel tones.  Amethyst and emerald, sapphire and aquamarine.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHonestly, the picture does not do it justice (for some reason I had a crazy hard time photographing this roving-  you’ll just have to trust me- it’s absolutely divine!)

I wavered for only a minute (seeing as I’m not a big spinner) before making a beeline to the cash register.  (Stopping to pet the pups on the way, of course.)

I spent the day yesterday spinning up about a third of the wool (I’m not very fast) into a fairly even, medium-sized single.  It’s been fun to watch the different colors shift and change as they go into my spinning wheel- but maybe I’m just easily amused?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight now, I’m planning on making this wool into a worsted-ish 3-ply, but who knows how it’ll really end up.

What do you think I should knit with it?  Or should I just keep it as a pet?

Apparently It’s Leftovers Month

I feel like I’ve been talking about using up leftovers a lot lately.  I suppose, I have been trying to use up my stash before I go buy more (I’m almost out of space in my yarn bins).

And this week isn’t any different.

Over the years I’ve collected a bunch of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in a selection of natural heathered colors from off-white to dark, chocolate brown.  I’ve used this yarn in a bunch of projects- mostly blankets, and no matter how carefully I plan, I always end up with a bunch of half-skeins leftover.  I even had several half-skeins of the same colors, but different dye lots.

I had to figure out what to make with this ragtag bunch of yarn.  Anything fancy, like a sweater, was out because of the weird amounts of each color yarn.  Anything that took a lot of planning was out, too- I wasn’t in the mood to do a lot of math on this one.

So, I arranged the yarn in a gradient from lightest to darkest, dug out my crochet hooks and just started making a granny square.

And kept on going- using up one skein after another.  (The little bits leftover are going to turn into another Mother Bear– I think I have a problem.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe blanket ended up about 4 feet by 4 feet- a nice size for a lap blanket or maybe a baby blanket (though I don’t know if I’d give a baby an itchy wool, non-washable blanket).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOllie seems to like it.  He saw me taking pictures and came over to give it the official “Dog Seal of Approval.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And then he fell asleep- because he leads a very high-energy, stressful life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat have you been doing to use up your leftover skeins of yarn?

Funfetti Yarn

From time-to-time I like to stretch my fiber-arts legs and try out something other than knitting (heresy, I know!).  Sometimes, I roll out the ol’ spinning wheel and, well, take it for a spin.

This time, I impulse-purchased a big bag of bright white roving, and little tufts in a dozen bright rainbow colors.  I couldn’t tell you what kind of fiber I bought, because, well, it’s taken me more than four months to finish this skein, and any notes or labels I might have had when I purchased the wool are long gone.

I spun the roving into singles with alternating long white stripes and short-ish (about 3 feet long) sections of random color.   Then, last week, I finally plied the yarn into more than 250 yards of squishy 2-ply loveliness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, it’s not perfect…  I did my best to keep the yarn an even aran-ish weight, but with the weeks-long breaks between bouts of spinning, and my less-than-stellar spinning skills, the yarn ended up with a bit of a thick-and-thin consistency.  And my first attempt at 2-ply yarn left it with less-than-perfect evenness.  Oh well!  It gives the yarn character, right? Right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite it’s quirks, I’m happy with this yarn… now I just have to figure out what to make with it.  (Or maybe I should just keep it to look at.)

Have you ever tried spinning?  How did it turn out?

Pattern Spotlight: Baktus

I might have been late to the Hitchhiker party, but I’ve been a member of the Baktus fan club for years.

This super simple long, skinny, triangular shawl/scarf is one of my favorite patters for several reasons:

1.  Garter stitch.  Love.

2.  It’s crazy versatile.  I’ve made Baktuses (Bakti?) from everything from bulky yarn down to fingering weight yarn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3.  It looks great worked in those pretty hand-spun skeins you have in your stash that you can’t figure out what to do with (You know, the ones you couldn’t leave at the yarn store, but you have no idea what to use them for.)4357513044_2288fc815f_z[1]4.  The Baktus uses only as much yarn as you happen to have.  If you have three skeins of bulky, it’ll use that much.  If you have one skein of lace-weight, that’ll work, too.  (No weird little leftovers to fuss with!)  Actually, the pattern has you weigh your yarn at the beginning.  You begin the pattern by increasing, then when you have exactly half your yarn left, you decrease, for perfect results every time!

3592484405_e3fa9a5775_z[1]5.  The Baktus scarf is really and truly unisex, and super cool.  P1100072rav_medium2[1]6.  People have used the idea of the Baktus and came up with their own (gorgeous) versions.  Want lace?  Add cool geometric edging?  Or leaf edging?  Maybe you prefer crochet?

5717416916_2d555e0368_z[1]Baktus might be the perfect project.

Have you ever made a Baktus scarf?

Finished!

And just in time, too!

Phew!  I made it just in the nick of time!  Grandma’s sweater is done!  And it’s awesome!  (And that’s a lot of exclamation points!)

I finished the sweater with exactly 52 inches of blue yarn left.  It was a nail-biter, let me tell you.  (I’m all about reducing waste, but this was ridiculous.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut all’s well that ends well, right?  The sweater has turned out beautifully!  The Biggo yarn I used blocked up wonderfully.  And, I’m so glad I made the change from dark gray to light.  It turned out so much better than it would have otherwise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI even found the perfect buttons!  They’re bright pink, to match the snowflakes, and just a tiny bit sparkly (the photos don’t do them justice).  I drove all over Seattle looking for them, and, when I found them, I thoroughly freaked out the clerk who helped me find them by doing a little happy dance.  It was exciting, what can I say?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I just have to wait and see if it fits!  Cross your fingers for me!

Inspiration: It’s Way Too *#^@ing Cold

We are firmly in the SECOND cold snap of the winter, here in Seattle.  Seattle, where I was promised damp, cloudy, and 40s for most of the  year.  Seattle, where I moved to get away from the excessive cold of the Midwest, and the ridiculous hot of the South.  Seattle, where I expected to wear nothing but wool sweaters and flannel shirts for 90% of the year.

It is currently (at 11:30 in the morning) 27 degrees.  27!

And, there’s snow and ice all over outside.  (In November!)

It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  And I don’t like it.

All I want to do is roll myself up in a big wad of roving and go into hibernation until the temperature is back in the 40s.

Unfortunately, that’s not really approved of by society in general, so I suppose I must make do with the next closest thing.  Thrummed knitting.

Thrummed knitting involves working little tufts of roving into your knitting (traditionally mittens, but right now I would consider murder if it meant I could get my hands on a thrummed sweater).  It’s a little futzy, but not terribly so.  And, you end up with knitting that’s completely lined with glorious, fluffy wool (think of shearling, but knitted, not leather), and dotted with cute little heart-shaped stitches.  I can’t think of anything better than walking around with my hands (and feet) swaddled with woolen goodness.

Try these mittens, for some traditional thrummed action:

Yarn Harlot Thrummed Mittens by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Outside:

2895409293_91de82094a_z[1]Inside (I know, right?!):

2873388824_e07708cb94_z[1]Or, if you’re like me and have ice cubes instead of toes, these slippers would be fantastic:

Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague

cadeautje_medium2[1]Now, I’m off to go see if I can fit another sweater over the one I’m already wearing… Wish me luck!

Oh, the Humanity!

There is nothing (NOTHING) worse in a knitter’s life than pulling out a sweater, or a scarf, or even a ball of yarn and finding that THE BUGS have gotten to it. Not yarn barf, not having to rip out an entire sweater, not even carpel tunnel. Nothing.

It doesn’t happen often, but it happens once in a while. A year ago, I pulled my winter hand-knits out of storage and found a big hole in my wool coat, and a chewed-through spot in my husband’s favorite hand-spun alpaca scarf. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies to think about. Ugh.

And, last week, I was digging through my yarn stash, and found a skein of yarn with little cobwebs and eggs on it!  (Needless to say, that skein went immediately in to the trashcan.  You gotta get rid of that business stat.)

There are a couple things you can do to avoid this terrible, terrible situation. (Although, be warned, I am no Orkin Man, or even someone who’s particularly good at cleaning.) Here’s what I do to protect my yarn, fiber and finished knitting:

First, if I am going to put something in storage, I’ll put them in plastic to keep out the bugs. Big plastic storage bins are perfect for coats and sweaters, and ziplock bags work well for accessories and skeins of yarn. (I did not do this with my coat last year or that skein of burgundy wool… which was probably part of my problem.)

51erG3aACqL[1]Second, I make sure to keep my woolens out of dank, musty, moldy, or damp places in my house. If you have a newer house, or don’t live in somewhere as damp as Seattle, you probably don’t have to worry about this so much. Bugs and mold need a source of water, so if you keep your woolens dry, you prevent pests from setting up shop in their folds.

And, third, I now have cedar hangers in all of my closets. I’m 80% sure that it’s a placebo effect, but cedar has been used as a pest deterrant for hundreds of years (think about cedar chests). I don’t have a cedar chest, because all of my furniture comes from Ikea, but you can buy blocks of cedar, cedar hangers, cedar sachets and about a million other cedar-y things to hide in your closet and deter pests. (And, cedar smells good… bonus!)81866[1]What do you do to protect your handknits?