Tag Archives: yarn

An important lesson in yarn types and gauge

And a new project! This weekend I cast on for my Fair Isle PANTS! A pattern I’ve been eyeing for ages…

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(Photo © Holla Knits)

The pattern calls for Knitpicks Swish Worsted. A worsted weight yarn sold in put-ups of 110yds per 50gm. I’ve worked with Swish (I even have some leftovers in my stash.) It’s a lovely, soft superwash yarn. And I totally see the sense in making leggings out of superwash yarn.

But I’m not always the most sensible knitter. Also, I decided THIS was the project I’d be shopping for at Rhinebeck. You may remember I picked up a sweater quantity’s of Harrisville WATERshed. Check out the details, watershed is also worsted weight, also put up in hanks of 110yds per 50gm. I felt brilliant. I spent a lot of time comparing colors in person in their booth, and picked four colors I absolutely love and was sure would play well together.

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Yesterday I did my usual (foolish) first step and skipped the gauge swatch so I could just cast on already! Nevermind that these leggings are knit top-down and the first step is to cast on 172 stitches.

I worked most of the waistband while ignoring that silly little voice that said something looked too big. When I finally got out my measuring tape I was getting a very obvious 18sts to 4 inches on the SMALLER needle size. The important note here is that the pattern gauge is 22sts per 4 inches on the *larger* needle size. How could my gauge be so far off? Let’s look at both yarns side-by-side.

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Well there’s your problem, right there. Swish is a worsted-spun, smooth, machine washable merino worsted weight. It prefers to knit up densely. Watershed is a woolen-spun, airy, nubby, hand-wash wool. If I’d taken two seconds to look at the yarn label on Watershed I’d have noticed the recommended gauge is 4.5sts/in on 6-8 needles. AKA exactly the gauge I’m getting on the needles called for by the pattern.

SO.

Tonight I guess I’ll knit an actual gauge swatch. I need to check my row gauge carefully because apparently I’m gonna be doing some math to figure out which size of this pattern I really should knit. My other option would be to go down a couple needle sizes and try to get gauge with Watershed, but I think that’ll compress the airy, soft nature of the yarn in a way I just can’t accept.

This. This is why I never end up following patterns as written…

Rhinebeck Recap

The NY Sheep and Wool festival this year was pretty much perfect. Every year people discuss the weather, the crowds, the animals, and of course the yarn. This year everything was superb.

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We were very near the front of the line at the 4H gate, it was a chilly saturday morning and if you don’t like lines this early arrival is not for you. But if you bring some knitting, some coffee, and the expectation that the strangers around you are just friends you haven’t met yet – then the Rhinebeck morning line is really not so bad.

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The animals are predictably adorable. Someday I want an angora bunny who will just sit in my arms and nap. The ones at the festival that patiently let 10,000 people pet them are such good sports. These goats were equally unfazed by the crowds.

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My favorite part of the festival are the people (don’t get me wrong, I love yarn too). My friend Amy finally finished her Boyden sweater. Also pictured: me and Susie Allen, both of us in sweater dresses from the All Aboard! collection. I love meeting old friends, making new ones, and I LOVE seeing all the sweaters, and being able to complement on just about anything anyone is wearing, knowing there’s a good chance it’s hand-made.

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And yarn. There’s always so much good yarn. I got a sweater quantity of WATERshed from Harrisville, except I’m not planning a sweater. Instead I’m going to knit some fair isle pants! Also pictured, the purple yarn is for a sweater for Windsor, sock yarn for myself (I’m thinking color work for those tiny skeins!) and for Neil (good ol’ brown.) In the non-yarn category I got aprons for myself and Windsor (the pink one has a lady-knight on it!) A lovely basket (which is supposed to be for yarn, but I’ve caught both cats sleeping in it already.) Not pictured: a sheepy mug, hand cream, soap, cheese, and blackberry marinade. Yum.

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I forgot to tell you something

I had a very important post that I meant to write up last Friday. It was also kinda time sensitive. But then Windsor was home sick and had a dentist appointment and and and…

I was at Rhinebeck with my new book last weekend.

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I hope if you were there too you were able to come see me. And a huge thanks to everyone who did. The wonderful knitters who showed up excited to see my book and meet me help me to remember why I do all this work. I would create these things for myself anyway. But being able to share them with you makes the hard work of writing out patterns worthwhile.

You may ask what else I did at Rhinebeck, but I had a case of camnesia so I don’t have much to show. It was a quick down-and-back trip, I was only there for Saturday, and I was in the booth for half of it.

I did get to the Ravelry meet up, but I completely missed the Peace Fleece meetup… I saw some of the barns in their entirety but I missed all the animals (those barns were crowded Saturday afternoon!) I did but some lovely yarn, of course: 

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The green is 100% targhee from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, The dark reddish purple is Periwinkle Sheep’s merino aran in the “any port in a storm” colorway (YUM). The multi is a fingering weight yarn from Gale’s Art with yummy nubs that are actually colors that match the yarn itself (otherwise I hate nubs and generally avoid them…) Also pictures are my newest project bag and a pair of Jennie the Potter earrings.

For those of you who couldn’t make the festival Cooperative Press will be adding the ebook to Ravelry as soon as Shannon is back in the office, or at least someplace with decent Internet…

Then I drove home. And it was a pretty pretty snowstorm that greeted me:

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Hawthorne

A couple of weeks ago I got an exciting package from the folks at Knitpicks. They sent me a couple of preview skeins of their Hawthorne yarn, fingering kettle dyed and the new sport weight.

I think I’m an excellent knitter to review these yarns, mostly because they’re exactly the sort of yarn I love. First let’s talk about how they feel in the hand. These are not merino yarns, the labels say these are “fine highland wool” and I’d agree with that assessment. These yarns are softer than your basic wools (softer, for example, than wool of the andes or cascade 220) but I can tell just from the feel that they’re going to be hard wearing. Both the fingering and sport weight are 20% polyamide (that’s a type of man made fiber) which again will make these excellent sock yarns.

hawthorne sport

Next, look at the twist. These are highly twisted yarns (although not over-spun, or anything negative like that.) Both weights are made of two plies twisted back upon each other to make sproingy, cushy yarns. One of the biggest problems I had with the Stroll yarns (I used stroll sport in my Foote Brook socks) was that the plies tended to split while knitting. I don’t think I’ll have this problem with these yarns.

hawthorne kettle

Finally the colors. I’m holding Compass kettle dyed fingering and Vancouver in the multi sport yarn. Compass is a lovely golden yellow, gorgeously saturated. While Vancouver combines teals, greens, and purples in a single variegated skein. I also love that the kettle dyed yarns are made up in colors that will coordiate with the multi dyed colorways.

How will they knit up? I wish I could tell you. I took them both too my knitter’s retreat weekend, and didn’t get around to knitting either. Turns out there are only so many hours in a day. But I will get back to you and let you know once I give them a try!

(Please note that I did receive these skeins free for review purposes. However my opinions are my own, I won’t review something I don’t truly enjoy and think that you will like.)

book work

I wrapped up a vest for the book last weekend! This is a design that I’ve been needing to publish for a long, long time. It has trees on it, trees made out of cables. They’re gorgeous and came out exactly as I pictured them:

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but sadly I can only show you the wrong side for now…

And with that I realized I need more yarn. One of the wonderful things about working with Cooperative Press on this book is the fact that we can do our own photography. And that means we can capture the seasons and settings of Vermont in every photo shoot. This just wouldn’t be possible with a traditional publishing model. Taking a whole year to generate the content of the book would be frowned on, and holding 16 individual photo shoots instead of one or two comprehensive ones just isn’t possible with a normal book budget (think of the professional photographer fees!)

Since I’m working on the designs a season or two at a time I’ve been collecting the yarns at the same rate. This isn’t a scattered approach but rather a thoughtful one. I knew all my designs in advance, and I knew what sorts of yarns I’d need for each. Working one season at a time allows me time to reflect on how each is a cohesive unit as well as how they fit together into a whole collection. I’ve set a steady, measured pace for my work and it allows me time to search out folks like Imperial Yarn.

(c) Imperial Yarn

Imperial Yarn Columbia is the featured yarn in the vest above, and oh man do I love it. The yarn has many of the features I love in a rustic farm yarn, it’s sproingy, bouncy, it has lovely texture (this is the two ply) although their 3 ply looks like it would give a much smoother fabric with excellent stitch definition. But wool from the columbia sheep they’re raising is miles softer than other farm yarns. It’s no merino, but this columbia yarn is softer than that well loved workhorse Cascade 220 – and for me that makes this yarn soft enough for next to skin wear! (Your mileage may vary.)

If you look at the story behind Imperial Stock Ranch you will quickly figure out another reason I’m so happy to use their yarn. They’re American made. They’re preserving the historical buildings on the ranch. They’re working with sustainable agricultural practices to preserve the wildlife and ecosystem. And they’re not just making yarn, Imperial Stock Ranch is diversified. They raise beef and lamb as well as fiber and preservation. If you’ve been around here awhile you’ll know this is important to me too. I don’t think it’s wise to ignore that farm animals are also food animals or we become too detached from our roots. Agriculture is meant to be a full circle process, from garden to compost, from life to death, and pretending you can have milk without cows or wool without regular breeding programs is foolishly short sighted.

I can tell you this: I will be using their yarn again!

Webs!

I was in NH helping my mom sort and clean last weekend. We made really good progress and finished up all our goals before noon.

We looked at each other and I asked “now what?”
Mom responded, “Want to go to Webs*?”

She may not knit, but my mom knows exactly what I like. And I LOVE giant yarn stores! She drove and I knit while we chatted all the way there. It’s a fairly industrial looking area (and yes, the Blue ATM in their directions actually is a good landmark…)

Webs was everything I’d hoped it would be. Just the store front is big enough we actually lost each other among the shelves. I do not kid, I was browsing the yarn went I got a text message from Mom saying she’d lost me… Then we went back into the warehouse

Webs of course

So. Much. Yarn.

I was there for some very specific yarn, Valley DK for a second pair of Play Time mittens. Overall I was very restrained. I picked up some purple __ that my mom adored because she needs a new hat. The only thing going directly into stash are the 3 skeins of Hempathy in a dusky rose color. I’ve wanted this yarn every time I see it in person. I think I got enough for a summer top of some kind.

modest stash acquisition

Purple, more purple, white, and dusty pink. The color scheme here seems to have overloaded my camera a bit…

Webs, America’s yarn store- in case you’re reading this blog just for the chicken posts…

promoting farm yarns

Kim Goodling e-mailed me asking if we could help her out a little. She says:

I am trying to raise money to convert our little milkhouse that is in the driveway to a small yarn shop selling yarn from local farms and to provide a meeting place for local knitters and shepherds to come together. Thanks!!

So please could you help her out? All you need to do is GO HERE and click the “vote” button. You don’t have to register, you don’t have to fill out any forms, just vote! And if you really love farm yarns, vote every day :-)

You all know how much I love farm yarns. They’re unique, created with care that can’t be duplicated. Dedicated farmers care for the animals, harvest the fiber, create the blends, and bring us knitters truly special yarns.

I’ve worked with Kim of Grand View Farm to create patterns that show off her unique farm yarns to their best advantage. (Sheep Herder’s hat, Grand View Gansey, and now my November Guest cowl)

If Kim is able to convert the little milk house she’ll use the space not just for her own yarns, but as a place for other farms to sell their yarns too. The little house will become a space for fiber artists to gather, and a place to educate new knitters on the wonderful yarns, sustainable practices that are behind our favorite farm yarns.

Merino Sport

I’d like to take a moment and talk about my favorite one of Periwinkle Sheep’s yarns – that would be her Merino Sport.

This yarn is wonderful. It’s sproingy, it’s soft, it’s amazingly durable for a 100% superwash merino. Heck, it’s durable compared to blended merinos too!

Periwinkle merino sport
(yes, I balanced yarn in a tree for this picture. Got a problem with that?)

The trick is in the plies. This yarn is made up of many tightly plied strands. And when I unwound the yarn I found that each strand is actually two strands plied together as well!

All these plies easily combat the problems that can crop up with merino in general and superwash in particular. Merino has a short staple length and is a small micron fiber. These are the things which make it soft. But these exact same features make it pill easily*.

The plies made up of plies keep the merino under control. It’s less free to move about and thus less free to create pills.

The plies have other features too! They make the yarn bouncy and stretchy. This is key for a superwash yarn because the process of keeping wool from felting usually removes its natural bounciness. The plies add the bounce back into the yarn. But don’t let me mislead you, there’s nothing over-wound about this yarn. It doesn’t want to untwist as you knit with it and there’s no bias to the plain stockinette fabric. This is a well balanced yarn. Because of the plies and the balance this yarn has a gorgeous stitch definition which works beautifully with twisted rib, and I’m sure it’d show off cables just as well.

lime sorbet cuff and hem detail

But so far I’ve just talked about the base yarn (which is amazing, did I mention that?) The base yarn would mean little if it weren’t for Karin’s ability to apply dyes. I fall in love with every color she makes. Pictured we have Craving, Chai, and Avocado. But seriously? I bought her Sophisticated colorway at Rhinebeck two weeks ago and I have Suits Him upstairs in my stash from a previous festival. Those first three may be design leftovers** but clearly I have a thing for her color ways.

Periwinkle merino sport closeup

The trick is she takes gorgeous colors and adds subtle variation. The yarns are solid enough to work with intricate patterning, but varied enough to be fascinating in plain stockinette. I don’t know how she manages this balancing act, but I love it!

So check out her colorways. If you see something on Ravelry that’s not in her store I’d recommend getting in touch with her. I know she’s dying yarn in her kitchen and while she can’t keep a lot in stock Karin would be happy to dye a color or a yardage for your next project!

*If you’ve ever knit with a single ply merino you know EXACTLY what I mean. That stuff pills if you look at it wrong.
**I’m sure you’ve all seen those disclaimers that say “this product was provided for review purposes.” I think in this case I should specify that “half these products were provided” since I paid for several of these skeins myself!

Rhinebeck stash acquisition

It’s that time of year when I have to bring things with me to work if I want daylight pictures. So I can finally show you what I added to my stash last weekend!

Fiber:

Ustler fiber

My plan was to buy fiber because I don’t need more yarn right now. Um yeah. I got just these two batts. But they’re very nice batts! Both came from the Ustler county spinning group (gild? something) and my plan is to spin them woolen and ply them together. My woolen spinning needs the practice.

Long stripe lace yarn:

freia lace

This was a total impulse purchase. I don’t even knit that many shawls. But look at the colors! So pretty! I couldn’t resist.

Sock yarns:

cosmic STR

They don’t count as stash, right? The red is STR mediumweight, I’ve never used it before and I’m excited to try. The grayish-purple with green is Cosmic Fibers Andromeda. I got it at the holidome the night before the festival even started.

More sock yarn:

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These don’t count as sock yarn stash, because I’m planning on making a sweater out of them. The plum is Periwinkle Sheep’s wink yarn. The green is Silver Moon Farm’s superwash merino. I’d like to make Moore with them. I’m not sure where I think I’ll find the time though.

purse handle

My final purchase was another spur of the moment. I was in the Homestead Heirlooms both full of gorgeous leather purse handles. I figured they’d be expensive, and when they weren’t I decided I might get one. Then I found the ones with sunflowers and I KNEW IT WAS MEANT TO BE.

So, um, yeah. That was slightly more yarn than I’d intended to buy. But I stuck to my budget exactly so it’s probably fine. I’m sure I’ll knit it all eventually, right?

Rhinebeck Recap

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This was possibly the most beautiful Rhinebeck yet (it’s only my 3rd). Blue skies and white puffy clouds greeted us Saturday morning- which was a welcome change from the sheeting rain we drove down in on Friday*.

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The crowds on Saturday got intense at times but the fairgrounds are big enough that it’s always possible to find a quiet corner where we could sit, knit, and watch the sweaters go by (and the alpacas and llamas.)

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We got there first thing that morning and were at the front of the line. My friends Amy and Dana love Cephalopod yarns so we headed there first before the booth got too crazy.

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I love the Ravelry meet up. It’s a break from all the shopping to actually hang out and talk with other knitters. I met Ann who chose Boyden for he Rhinebeck sweater. She totally made the whole weekend for me! And I visited with some fellow designers (Triona from Triona Designs and Danielle from Makewise Designs pictured)

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(That thing with the cable I’m wearing? It’s a sneak peak. But I can say I think you should go pre-order your very own copy of What Else Would Madame Defarge Knit. Do it now.)

I didn’t mean to buy a lot of yarn, I swear… But ended up coming home with 2 skeins of sock yarn for socks. Another 1400 yds in two colors for a sweater. Some lace weight and some fiber. I thought I was being good and not buying a spindle. But I think next time I’ll just get one. They take up less space!

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(why yes, these are ALL crappy cell phone pictures. Some more crappy than others)

Possibly my favorite purchase is the pottery though. I LOVE my new casserole dish with the goats on it!

* Sheeting rain, 5 accidents, and a 24 mile detour in Albany where they’d closed 87 entirely…