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!

A dress form!

I’m really excited about my new dress form. It arrived early this week and I set it up immediately. It’s from The Shop Company. I wanted one that was fairly size specific and closest to my measurements, so I chose one of the pinnable professional forms. They also have some great dress forms that aren’t as heavy duty, but would serve well as a model for hand knits. I’ve wanted a dress form for a long time to shoot pics of finished shawls or in-progress sweaters because sometimes that’s much easier than trying to take pics of myself with a tripod and timer, or waiting for a time when Matt and I are both available, Z is otherwise occupied, and the light is also good.pensacola

I love the slightly industrial look of it. It’s hanging out in my living room right now, and I think I will just keep it there, changing out the hand knits once in awhile. This one has removable magnetic shoulders, so it’s easy to slip the garments over the top. I’m excited to use it to visualize sweaters-in-progress because I can pin the pieces directly into the form.pensacola-2

Right now it’s modeling what I’ve done so far on the Pensacola Sweater, the project I’m working on for the Orkney to Omaha historical knitting project. I’m really loving this sweater so far. I don’t think I’ll be writing up this pattern, but I will try to provide enough notes on Ravelry by the time I finish, that someone could replicate what I’m doing, or customize it to their measurements. If you want to check out the Pensacola Sweater original pattern for yourself, you can check out the link from knitbyahenshop (sorry, I don’t know your first name!). She commented on my last post with a link to all of the patterns in that booklet. Thank you!


This is customized for an actress in the film Tell Them of Us. She has 33-25-41 measurements, which are a bit smaller than the form on the bust and waist, but this still provides a good approximation of how it might look on her. This form arrived just in time for this project! The yarn is Blacker Classic Lleyn Wool. It’s a DK tweed yarn with some BFL. The color is slate. It’s a wee bit scratchy, but shows off the texture of the stitches so well, and I think it will look lovely on the redheaded actress that will be wearing it. pensacola-4

This is a bit of a tangent, but I was surprised by some sizing information on these dress forms vs. those of many clothing labels. When I chose the dress form size, I picked the form that fit most of my measurements, but I considered the bust to be most important out of these for accurate sweater knitting. Granted, I am still about 15 baby-related pounds away from this being totally accurate for my body, but this provides some extra incentive to get going. I learned some interesting things about vanity sizing with this form. Pre-baby, I could wear many things in a size 4 or 6 with these measurements (35 full bust-27 waist-37 hips). I thought of myself as about a size 4 or 6 since those fit most of the times in stores. I was a little shocked that these measurements were an 8 on the dress forms, but I know my waist was never smaller than a 27 and I wanted an accurate bust measurement for sure. Just out of curiosity, I tried some of my old sizes on the form. They all fit perfectly, even a size 2 dress from Banana Republic. Talk about some vanity sizing! This is more evidence that it’s best to just forget about the label and go with what fits. I’ve definitely been guilty of being hung up on sizes before.

I’m really excited to try to figure out the sleeve and neck area on this sweater next! More progress shots will come soon.


Your purl side is showing

I lost it a little bit on Monday night when I realized that my biggest secret project (Ravelry members only link since the recipient isn’t a Raveler) looked too small. I swatched, and even blocked my swatch, but it was nagging at me. When I measured the center panel it was 9 inches, rather than the 11 the pattern said it should be. There’s no way that was going to block out that much wider without some serious yarn stretching. So…I ripped it all out. I had about 7 inches of the back done. It was painful. Nothing to do but cast on again with bigger needles. Sigh.

Toddler socks? Love them. I forget how quickly they go, and I didn’t have any stitch markers on hand at work on break when I got to the heels. Turns out that paperclips are great substitutes. Heel turns also happen in about 5 seconds on these. This is my pattern, using Madelinetosh sock in Turtle. I could never find the right adult-size stitch count socks to avoid massive pooling in this colorway, but they seem to be working well on the 1-3yr version here. I’m not sure whether I’ll use this yarn all the way up the cuff, or switch to some leftover Colinette Jitterbug in Velvet Oliveturtle

I just finished the chapter in Clara Parkes’ book The Yarn Whisperer, called “Public/Private.” I love all of her metaphors for how elements of knitting apply to other parts of life. Her writing is incredibly clever. If you’re considering some non-fiction and you’re a knitter, this book will probably be dear to your heart. I know this is a book I will re-read many times over the years. In this particular chapter, she connects “right side” and “wrong side” of knitting to our public versus private selves. She discusses how we all possibly show much more of our private selves through self-revelation online. One of my favorite lines from this chapter is, “It’s getting hard to tell if we’re viewing someone’s smooth stockinette facade, a genuinely vulnerable bumpy backside, or a new kind of reverse-stockinette-stitch fabric that’s a highly edited, fictionalized version of our true selves.” It’s something to ponder. In most of the blogs I read regularly, the content is mostly about a specific topic: knitting, or food, or sewing, etc. People don’t get hugely personal that often, but there are always touches about their lives. Most balance this very well.

Occasionally I come across posts or reveals in my Facebook feed (much more often there) that are so passive aggressive or painful, seemingly aimed at someone that should just know who they are. I never know exactly how to respond, but I usually just ignore things like this and move on. These things seem to qualify as the “genuinely vulnerable bumpy backside,” but the communication is so indirect I don’t know how it can be effective. Sometimes we come across as completely polished and perfect, showing our reverse-stockinette selves that are highly honed. I think I’m guilty of this at times, not showing knitting until I can get the perfect picture for the blog or having to re-take pics because I don’t like the way I look. I’ve also deleted some old old posts on this blog that I felt were too highly personal (my purl side was definitely showing) or could be frowned upon professionally. Don’t worry, they weren’t knitting-related anyway. In a time when potential employers demand Facebook passwords, what we put online about ourselves deserves scrutiny. It’s hard to find this balance. I have to think about being myself, while also considering how future employers or clients might view me if they stumble across my blog. Our notions of privacy shrink daily as we highly customize our lives, but I’ll never try to go off the grid like Ron Swanson.

Long post! Phew! Last day of my 30% off sock sale using the code SOCKTOBER. Happy Socktober!