Yarn Crush review and a giveaway!

I’ve tried several monthly subscription boxes, but never a yarn-related one. Last month the folks at Yarn Crush asked if I would review one of their subscription boxes and I jumped at the chance.yarn crushYarn Crush focuses on using yarn from indie dyers and they pair them with patterns that would go beautifully with the yarn. I think this is a gorgeous pairing in December’s box. yarn crush-2The yarn is from Yarn Indulgences and it’s a Zed Luxe Sock base in the color Paisley. The fiber content is 70% Merino Wool, 20% Cashmere, and 10% Nylon. It seems to feel very similar to one of my favorite sock yarns, Anzula Squishy, with a bit more cashmere. I want to bathe in this yarn. Is that possible?

The clutch pattern is adorable and this kit includes all of the necessary elements, save a little bit of fabric to line the clutch if desired. As much as I do think the pattern is adorable, I probably won’t be pairing this yarn with it because I love the yarn too much and want to wear it next to my skin. This yarn will likely become a small shawl or a most treasured pair of socks. I can’t wait to knit with it! yarn crush-3

As for the pattern, I do think I might attempt it at some point, but I’m not much of a clutch carrying gal, so this might take me some time to get to. I think the stitch pattern on the design would be beautiful on a pair of socks. Zooey immediately fell in love with the idea of a little purse with crystals on it, so perhaps she will be the future owner.

If you want to learn more about Yarn Crush, check out their site or their Ravelry group to see some of the things people have made with their lovely pairings. You can choose monthly or bimonthly plans ranging from 3-12 month commitments. Each month includes 100g of indie dyed yarn, coordinating patterns, and extra goodies. If you’re a yarn lover that adores surprises in the mail, this might be just the thing for you.

So, do you want to try a box of your own?! Just comment below and tell what you would most love to see in a yarn subscription box. I’ll keep comments open until Monday February 8th at 5pm and then I’ll choose a winner with a random number generator.


Laundry experiments

This is a long post about my laundry experiments with some wool wash. If you want lots of details about washing wool, read on friend. If you just want a brief synopsis, scroll to the verdict at end.wool wash

The very friendly and kind folks at Unicorn Fibre sent me some different laundry washes to try. By they way, I am never paid for my reviews but those requesting reviews do often provide me with samples to try. In this case I was calling to see if I could get a sample of their Beyond Clean that was reviewed on The Knitmore Girls Podcast. Jasmin from that podcast has raved about Beyond Clean a few times for her kiddo knits. I really wanted to try it and called because my internet connection was stalling out and I couldn’t finish obtaining the sample online. I spoke to Melanie about getting a sample and she very kindly offered to send me a sample of Beyond Clean, Beyond Fibre Wash, and Beyond Soft. She didn’t know I had a blog when she offered that and I said that I would review them on my blog as a thank you if she liked.

As soon as I got home from work on the day they arrived I was eager to experiment. I took out some knits that had a lot of old grubbiness, socks that had about a decade of dirt stains on the bottom, and baby and toddler knits that are almost always dirtier by nature to use with Beyond Clean. My usual method is to fill up my washing machine with warm or hot water and wool wash, then submerge my items and let them soak for about 30 minutes. I did that in this case, using hot water. If you use this method be sure to wait until the water is full before adding your knits. You don’t want to risk felting with running water that might agitate non-superwash items. This fiber wash needs to be rinsed so I waited until the knits had cooled and used cool water to rinse. If you move knits from hot to cold or vice versa, the shock can felt items. There were many items with lots of gunk, so I took some of them and did a second wash in a large bowl for comparison. In this case I washed a single sock from a pair and some of Charlotte’s pajamas and another baby sweater a second time. The second washing definitely helped some of the things with older stains and Charlotte’s pajamas that get funky around the collar from drool and general baby gunk. The knits felt a bit squeaky after this wash, because Beyond Clean removes their lanolin. I noticed improvement in the very old gunk more with a second wash, as you might guess, but it wasn’t a miracle cure for old stains. On one of Zooey’s dresses that had some mystery stains, those came out in the first wash with no issue.

Stains beaten by Beyond Clean with no issue.

Stains beaten by Beyond Clean with no issue.

Charlotte’s drooly grubby collar on her pajamas was much improved.

Pre washed grubby collar.

Pre washed grubby collar.

Collar much less grubby on the following day.

Collar much less grubby on the following day.

Dirty socks.

Dirty socks.

Cleaner socks, but no miraculous recovery.

Cleaner socks, but no miraculous recovery.

For this second wash I added Beyond Soft to see how they felt after adding the softener rinse. I had a decent comparison because one half of these sock pairs only had a single wash and no softener. Beyond Soft definitely gave the wool a softer hand and took out the squeaky feel I was experiencing after using Beyond Clean alone. I think this will be excellent to use on Zooey’s Bitty Breezy when it’s done since that is knit out of more durable Regia sock yarn that’s not butter soft. On some socks with a cashmere blend or merino only, I can really feel a difference in the softness.

I also wanted to compare the Beyond Fibre Wash to my usual choice, Eucalan. I didn’t feel like doing an entire load of knits again, nor did I have the drying space. I happened to have two swatches in Shelter for a Rift sweater for Matt that I had just finished and needed to block. I put one in Eucalan and one in Beyond Fibre Wash. The Beyond Fibre Wash does need to be rinsed while Eucalan does not. Eucalan has lanolin in the wash, while Beyond Fibre Wash removes lanolin. The difference here is largely a matter of personal preference. Some people are very sensitive to lanolin, while others are not. I quite like the feel of lanolin in my wool. To me it feels like the wool is wearing some lotion and feels protective. My mom felt the swatches and had the opposite reaction. She found the one washed with Beyond Fibre Wash to be softer and fluffier. I think for regular knits I will stick to the Eucalan for a couple of reasons. In my house, laziness wins often. Since Eucalan doesn’t require rinsing it’s less work and saves some water. I didn’t give Beyond Fibre Wash a test with other fibers. I may try it someday for my summer linens to see how it performs since those definitely don’t need lanolin.

Unicorn Fibre has some very helpful washing guides on their site. Their washes aren’t just for knits. They can be used with general laundry and items like cloth diapers as well for those that prefer gentle ingredients. I’m interested to see how it works in a normal load of kid laundry.

The verdict: I think Beyond Clean does excellent work on recent stains. It was unrealistic to expect it to take all the sole dirt out of nearly decade old socks because several of those have been washed and dried many, many times. Heated drying can set stains permanently, so some of those were hopeless causes, but there was some improvement anyway. I think this would be great regular use with kid knits that get messy since it performed well at taking out those stains with no issue. I won’t likely be using Beyond Fibre Wash for my wool items, since I don’t like to have to rinse those and I like them to keep their lanolin. I think it will probably be great for other non-wool knits like my summer tops. Beyond Soft gave the knits I used it with a much softer hand. I can’t speak to the dirt repelling action or static resistance that it promises because I haven’t road tested those knits yet. I think if you’re using Beyond Clean and want them to have a softer feel at the end, Beyond Soft is a great finish for them.

Correction: After corresponding with Melanie again I learned that Beyond Fibre Wash does not remove lanolin.

Product review: A tiny dancer

The folks at Mochimochi Land recently sent me a Tiny Ballerina Kit to review. The product is available for $12 and comes with the pattern and enough yarn to make three wee ballerinas. ballet-4In theory, this is fun and adorable. In reality, I am all thumbs when working with DPNs and it was not much fun for me. The pattern is well written and easy to follow. As long as you’re familiar with the techniques used it isn’t difficult to execute. But, boy was it fiddly. balletI am not in the practice of making inch and a half high ballerinas. If you are the kind of person that loves itty bitty details and miniature things, this is the pattern for you. I am not this person. ballet-3While the kit and pattern are more than adequate to make this project, I just couldn’t bring myself to make more than one ballerina. I fumbled through one ballerina over several lunch breaks at work, since the kit is practically pocket sized you could take it anywhere. Overall it took me about 2.5-3 hours to make one ballerina with all the details and even mostly just sticking all the loose ends in the middle to add to the stuffing. ballet-2This will soon be in the hands of Zooey, who is sure to love and treasure this tiny dancer, but I just can’t bring myself to make another two of them.

Overall, I probably won’t make another ballerina or dive into the world of miniature knits further. I’ve learned that it’s just not my thing. It doesn’t mean it’s not your thing. If you love tiny details and tiny projects, give it a go!

A Review of American Spun: 20 Classic Projects Exploring Homegrown Yarn

The wonderful folks at One Peace Books sent me a copy of American Spun: 20 Classic Project Exploring Homegrown Yarn to review a little while ago, and I’ve finally had some time to peruse this copy. The book is written by Anna Sudo and it retails for $19.95. book review-2

Overall this book is very elegant. The aim is to highlight American yarn manufacturers, fifteen in all, with patterns created with those yarns in mind. I was especially curious to learn more about Brooklyn Tweed, Jill Draper Makes Stuff, Spincycle Yarns, and Pigeon Roof Studios. There is a short biography about each yarn manufacturer including what might inspire their process and yarn making. One of my favorite features of the book was the list of abbreviations available printed on the inside of the front cover. I haven’t seen that in a knitting book before, but it I can see myself flipping easily to it in the middle of a pattern, rather than flipping through pages that would take me away from my place in the pattern.

The pattern photographs have an element of the aspirational lifestyle feel with plenty of detailed shots of the beautiful projects. I loved many of these projects. Gannett is a lovely little pair of fingerless mitts that I could see myself making and loving with good tweedy texture. Though I’m not into head scarves very often, there is something very appealing about Colden. The cabling highlights the texture of the yarn very well and I’m especially fond of the way it looks with the tied end worn under the hair. Harriman is a hat with gorgeous embroidered details, but I don’t know if I would ever go to the trouble do actually do that kind of embroidery. Vallecito is a classic-looking men’s pullover with simple details that I could see many men wearing without objection, especially those that get fussy about details. Coeur d’Alene has fantasticly beautiful cabling details on the yoke of the pullover and I adore the color of the sample. Those five patterns were my favorite in the book.

There were several other patterns that were just a maybe for me, or were similar to things I’ve seen before and have disregarded. I won’t name names, but aside from those five listed above I would be unlikely to make any of the other patterns, unless I dived into a Ravelry wormhole of knitted examples and saw something really inspiring. I can’t see myself ever knitting Minnewaska with size 50 needles, though it is gorgeous and I know Matt has been lusting after some similar bulkier-than-you’ve-ever-seen-before blankets on Etsy that go for about $600-800, so I guess it’s nice to have a pattern for one on hand just in case. Also, I would have loved to see a sock pattern in the midst, rather than slipper socks. That being said, liking five patterns in a $20 book would probably be enough for me to buy it, and I think it’s definitely worth exploring. This is a book I would be more likely to buy for the information about the yarns as well. I love a knitting book that I can pick up and read too.

The whole vibe of the book made me want to be sitting by a fire with some wooden needles and something tweedy between my fingers. I’d give it a B+ overall. I love the theme and the content about the different yarns. I makes me more likely to seek out some of those yarns, by knowing more about them. I would likely make a few of the patterns, but as with most pattern books I own, this one might end up being something I flip through just because it’s lovely.

Wovember yarn tasting

Earlier this month some lovely folks at Blacker Yarns sent me some yarns to try in celebration of Wovember. I wanted to swatch these and post sooner, but I got caught up in my NaKniSweMo sweater goals and then the holiday. I finally got a chance to swatch the yarns this weekend, so I thought I would share my thoughts. This was a fun yarn tasting because I had never heard of or worked with some of these types of breeds. Most of these are wooly wools. I’m used to lots of merino or many times I just don’t know what type of wool is in the yarn. These were pretty specific and were often pure blends. blacker yarnsThis first tan one was Pure North Ronaldsay. It’s an Aran weight and the color is natural. The label also says it’s woollen spun. As a non-spinner I don’t know the difference between woollen and worsted spun, but it’s nice that the info is provided. This one had great stitch definition and felt like it would make a fabulous winter sweater or outer garment. It’s not super soft, so it might require a layer underneath. I loved the natural heathered look of the yarn and the thick wooly feel while I knit it. blacker yarns-3This turquoise yarn (color=Over-Dyed Turquoise) is a Pure Shetland and is also woollen spun. It’s definitely softer than the Pure North Ronaldsay. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear this next to the skin. It’s about the same level of softness and weight as Rowan Felted Tweed if you’re familiar with that yarn. I loved this color so much. There is a slight heathering to this yarn as well, and this picture doesn’t do that justice. It has a subtle grey mixed in with the gorgeous turquoise. I knit this swatch on a 3 mm needle. I’d call it a DK or sport weight yarn. It seems like it would be fantastic for a fair isle project, and I might mix it with the next yarn and do just that. blacker yarns-6This is Pure Dark Wensleydale, a DK weight yarn in a natural color that is worsted spun. It has a bit more sheen than the previous two yarns. It’s got a bit more of a wild feeling. Something about the feel and texture reminds me of mohair a bit. This yarn seems like it would have wonderful drape for a garment. I could see myself making a Breezy Cardigan out of this because I think the drape would be elegant for those oversized blanket-like sweater fronts.blacker yarns-2This is Pure Bluefaced Leicester. Again, the color is natural, and this one is called a 4 ply, but I’d call it a fingering weight probably. This one was the softest of the bunch and had a lovely bit of a halo in the swatch. This one feels soft enough for baby garments or anything really. I love it and I want much much more of it. This one was worsted spun. I have only worked with BFLs for socks (as far as I know), but I would love to use this for larger garments.

blacker yarns-4The yarn above is a Pure Gotland, a woollen spun DK in the color Over-Dyed Plum. This one is not one I would wear next to the skin, but it seems like it would be great as an outer layer or cardigan. It has a lovely bit of sheen and excellent stitch definition. Honestly, this one wasn’t my favorite, partly due to the lack of softness and I’m also not a huge fan of the color. The swatch on a 3 mm needle did have a nice solid feel, and later I realized the needle suggestion for this weight was 4 mm, so it might feel very different on a larger needle.

blacker yarns-5The final yarn is a blend of Hebridean wool with Mohair. It’s a 4 ply, woollen spun in Over-Dyed Olive Green. It has a nice sheen in the swatch. Mohairs make me itch a little bit, so I think that was affecting my judgement of the softness, but it is a gorgeous yarn nevertheless. This would be another excellent candidate for fair isle projects.

Thank you to to the folks at Blacker Yarns for letting me try out these lovely breeds of wool. They have a wonderful selection of wools and I was really excited to try yarn from some breeds I’d never learned about before.


Sweaters in the summer

finished coda-2I’m pretty thrilled with my SSKAL 2014 project, Coda.  The sweater is a lovely Brooklyn Tweed pattern, by the talented Olga Buraya-Kefelian.  The yarn is Cascade 220 (one of my all time favorite workhorse wool yarns) in Summer Sky, an apt name for a summer sweater project. It’s been crazy stinkin’ hot here in Arkansas, but surprisingly the weather was in the low to mid 60’s for part of the day yesterday and today, and I got to actually wear this for a few hours yesterday.  Amazingly good timing to finish. finished coda-3I adore this pattern.  It has impeccable little details, like tubular cast ons and bind offs that make it look really polished.  It’s reversible, which is very cool.

finished coda-4I sort of wish I had made the smaller size, at least somehow in the top piece, because the yoked side (with the curved arch) seems to have more material than necessary at the top and can look a bit balloonish if I don’t keep my shoulders back. finished codaMaybe I can just think of it as extra incentive to work on my posture.  This was a very fun and engaging knit.  I’d put it at a 3.5 out of 5 skill-level wise.  There are lots of areas of stockinette where you can tune out and relax a bit, but the cables pull you back in and keep you on your toes, as well as the raglan and yoke shaping for the top piece.  Luckily, the pattern included row by row instructions for some of the trickier parts, so you can follow along with a row counter easily.  finished coda-5I can’t wait for more chilly weather to wear this!

Yarn tasting

Recently the folks at Wool and the Gang asked me if I wanted to try some yarn and blog about it.  I happily accepted the offer.  I hadn’t heard of the company yet, but they sell clothing too and if you find an item you like you have the option to buy or knit it on the knitted items.  Pretty cool concept.  The Amelie dress was my favorite.  I think they’ll eventually have to change the “1 size fits most” size option for these to succeed, but I like what they’re aspiring to do.

The yarn came a couple of weeks ago, and though I haven’t knitted with it yet since I’m in the middle of several sweaters, I thought I’d show what came.watg-4I picked out some Shiny Happy Cotton, which came in several colors I couldn’t resist.  This one is called Spearmint.watgThey also sent me some gorgeous rosewood needles and a cute stitch marker with their logo.watg-3Each skein is 155 yards, so I think 2 will be plenty to make Z a little top if I make it soon.  They classify the yarn as bulky, but it looks more like worsted to me, so I’ll see what it looks like on a 7 or 8.  The company has lots of cool recycled t-shirt yarns made from factory leftovers too.  I think the Mixtape Yarn or Jersey be Good would make really fun scarves with their super bright colors and soft materials.  I’ll have to keep those in mind for the future.

I’ll keep you posted when I get this yarn to the needles.  I can’t wait!