Friday, November 27, 2015

Tales of my stash: variegated yarns

I used to have a weakness for beautiful variegated yarns !!!! They look gorgeous in a hank and promise a range of equally amazing finished products! When I started knitting again after my long 10 year hiatus, I was obsessed with Three Irish Girls Yarns!! I loved how Sharon McMahon, the former owner, used to blog about her colorways, her knitting life (I really miss her blog Yarnista) and everything in between.
As a result, most of my stash is composed of Three Irish Girls yarns and it took me a while to try other dyers.

 How do I use these beautiful variegated yarns?

Truth #1: As much I hate to admit, it can be tricky to find the right project because of pooling!
 A dear friend makes socks especially plain stockinette and experiment with different heels. I opt for textured cowls with lots of ridges.
Pattern: Caring Cowl by Alexis Winslow
Yarn: Three Irish Girls Springvale DK "Forest Primeval"

Pattern: Creel by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Three Irish Girls Wexford "You are my sunshine"

Small shawls with stripes or using a solid contrast color is another good choice! In fact, Carrie from IrishGirlieKnits has designed several shawls to maximize that combination of variegated and solid yarns.

Truth # 2:  You can never go wrong with baby items!
I looooove knitting baby items!  It is the perfect space for me to experiment with new techniques without feeling overwhelmed or use up that skein of variegated yarn.

My first to go pattern is "Virgil" by Sorren Kerr! A simple tee that allows the yarn to speak for itself!

Yarn: Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock "Amazonia"

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock that Rock Lightweight "Christmas Balls"

My second to go pattern is the Spiral Blanket of Awesome by Sharon McMahon. I have made at least 8 of them and I plan to make more! It is perfect to variegated yarns!!

Yarn: Yarn Love Amy March DK "Oh Happy Day"

and my new experiment is a baby sack. 

Pattern: Barrel O' Monkey by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Yarn Love Amy March Worsted "Sunshowers"

 I am not sure if these are useful as you can't leave a baby in there without supervision. Maybe as a prop for the newborn baby pictures? Even though I had fun knitting it, I will frog it in the next weeks or so for a new Blanket of Awesome!

Truth #3:  Tastes and color sense change over time! This past year, I am more drawn to solid colors with subtle variations and less variegated yarns.I am also making less shawls,less cowls and more garments. I plan to use up most of my variegated and/or acquire more solids as I explore the world of solids and semi-solids yarns.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not so much of a sock knitter

I recently came to the realization that I am not so much of a sock knitter and I am okay with it! In my weekly knitting group, two friends always have socks on their needles. I love admiring their socks, seeing their love for self-striping yarn and hearing about their growing sock drawer.
I want a sock drawer too!! But without putting in the work..... :)

The truth is knitting socks is a bit stressful for me because....of my gauge!
My first pair of socks was meant for Gargamel's feet!!!

I used DK weight, yarn without nylon and size 6 needles...Yes...The results were a disaster: TOO BIG!!!! I still insisted on wearing them after all the hard work!! I had to walk carefully so that I won't fall and trip. Then it became too complicated so I wore them only to go to bed to keep my feet warm in the winter. By week 3, they both had a hole..I .still wore them  inside of course...then as the hole grew bigger, I got angry and threw them away!

My second pair...was my watermelon socks. I ordered the yarn with friends, we started it during the summer and I had to redo it twice because my gauge kept changing. In the winter, I would put it away and start again in the summer. It took me more than a year....close to two to be honest before I finished them. I was so proud of myself! I do love them and wore them A LOT!  Yes, wore in the past because they needed to be replaced as I kept wearing them over and over.

The third pair is the one I did this summer for Camp Loopy. It is Helen Socks by Anne Hanson using SweetGeorgia Yarns tough love "Sitka". I even stepped up my game and bought sock blockers!

In preparation for winter, I decided to knit another pair so that I can alternate socks.
I am knitting Longjohn socks by Anne Hanson using Three Irish Girls Adorn sock "Mardi Gras"
 Through sock knitting, I've learned that
a) I am really a loose knitter and need to use size 0 or even 00 needles
b) The stitch count should be between 46-48. Beyond that, they will be too big for me.
c) I love how Anne Hanson offers XXS size which is the one I usually do
d) I love sock yarn but for blankets, shawls, everything but socks....
e) Knitting socks make me feel connected to the tradition of knitting socks for warmth or the"Knit your Bit compaign"
f) My favorite method: using dpns and one at a time..and intense moments of concentration to do the Kitchener stitch
g) I am a BLANKET knitter!!!

I love my sock blanket and I am doing everything to have it finished by 2016!!
It is so colorful, cheerful and makes my heart flutter :)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Thoult shall not wait

This year, I found myself spinning the oldest fibers in my stash unintentionally. When I learned to spin, I used to be in A Verb for Keeping Warm fiber club then left it because I was intimidated by the exotic blends we received. I didn't think I was a good enough spinner to appreciate them and wanted to wait, improve and spin the remaining fiber I had from them. 3 years later, I  revisited the fibers and realized that I didn't spin it any differently than I would have!! As always these fibers were such a pleasure to spin !!!

A Verb for Keeping Warm: "Transition" : 100% organic polwatch (2oz), 100% chocolate alpaca (1/2 oz)

A Verb for Keeping Warm "Transition" 50% Camel, 50% Silk.

Contemplative after Stitches-Midwest

I attended Stitches-Midwest yesterday for the first time ever!
To my surprise, I have been quite contemplative today, reading back notes that I took from the years I used to attend the Makeup Show in New York.

I used to have a beauty blog that I loved updating and all of the sudden it took a life of its own in ways I never expected! It opened up opportunities for friendship, expanded my makeup knowledge and I also met people in the industry whom I admire. Attending Stitches-Midwest brought back these memories, my  bittersweet decision to stop beauty blogging and even the purpose of this blog as currently I don't even know where it is heading.
A common denominator in these two shows was meeting CEO of the companies, the person behind the brands, interacting with them and getting to know their stories. Since the Makeup Show is for pros only and press, there is also a plethora of seminars, workshops and everybody is in networking mode!!

To come back to Stitches-Midwest, I was surprised to see old reflexes in action. As a blogger, I wrote about new brands that debuted at the Makeup Show, did short interviews, attended panels and did a report on new trends, colors, techniques, etc..Of course, I took LOTS of pictures!

Sadly this post doesn't have any of that but below are some jumbled thoughts about my impressions:

-There are truly so many dyers out there and there will be many more in the future. While some carried solids, semi-solids, variegated, others mostly did stripes, stripes with gradients etc..

-Knitting as a lifestyle! From bowls, bags (lots of bags), needle accessories, sock blockers, stitch markers to mugs, soaps, massage oils, heating pads, notebooks, sets of cards, etc.

-Spinning with blends outside of your usual merino: blends that include camel, silk, llama, other exotic fibers etc...

-Subscription boxes! That reminded me of the Birchbox where one receives generous sample sizes of brands to try without breaking the bank.

-Meet the sheep...well not literally but a few vendors focused on artisanal undyed yarn, the process, from sheep to yarn. The consumer knows where the base came from.

-Bags....lots of bags!

-Collaboration: some vendors carried beads or products made by cooperative of women in African countries.

In a nutshell, attending Stitches-Midwest made me realize that the knitting industry and by extension fiber arts is just going to keep booming and expanding in exciting ways!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Forever green

Forever green is the name of a MAC eye pencil that made me reconsider my ban on the color green in my wardrobe.  For years, I never felt comfortable wearing  green because it reminded me of military uniforms. My parents, siblings and I left Burundi in 1992 a year before the civil war started. Without going into too many details, it was just  very hard and overwhelming for me to wear anything green as I automatically associated it with military uniforms.  

Then one day, I was at the MAC counter and saw the "forever green" eye pencil.

It was so beautiful and a little bit goes a long way!!!
Little by little, I acquired more green eyeshadows and pencils  ... yes, I have a makeup stash too ....
 Makeup helped me feel comfortable wearing more green! For instance, I am not a jewelry person at all yet I couldn't resist buying these earrings from SheaButter Cottage.

The big moment for me came in a scarf that I purchased at Logan Airport back in 2004! It was sooo bright and so green!!!!
day trip in Chicago, Spring 2010, Millennium park

Since then, I embrace more green a little bit more in my stash and knitting....
Some of my favorite greens in my stash...
From top clockwise: Tanis Fiber Arts "lemongrass", Knitting Notions Classic Merino "Clover", Malabrigo Sock" Lettuce", Manos Rittenhouse" Citric"
From top clockwise, Yarn Love "Fresh Celery", Malabrigo Rios" Fresco y seco", Three Irish Girls, Yarn Hollow Superior "white pine", Tanis Fiber Arts "Sprout"  

And recently finished objects in green:

Tabata Mitts designed by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Mrs Crosby Hat Box "forest hideaway" 

And a shawl "Simplest shawl" also designed by Anne Hanson using Yarn Love Charlotte Bronte fingering in "green with envy" !!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tales of my yarn stash

The oldest yarn in my stash...


I bought these three skeins back in 1998 or 1999 in Senegal when a new "mercerie" opened. A "mercerie" was the place where you could buy sewing notions, fabric, buttons and they had a very small section of "fil pour tricot", "laine"  ie "thread for knitting", "yarn".

I loved going to that "mercerie" to admire the yarns and fabric! That same year, I was reading Au bonheur des dames by Emile Zola   which has lengthy descriptions of the fabric section of a department store!
Most of these "fils" were imported from France and the ones I could afford were local but still a bit pricey for a high school student. Having a yarn stash was not an option because I could only buy yarn for a specific project and didn't waste an inch of it!

As we moved every 5 years, we learned from a very young age that accumulating stuff was not an option because we had to move eventually and couldn't bring everything. Each one of us was allowed a specific weight and mine was quickly used up with my books and  letters.

 After high school, I didn't knit/crochet for almost ten years. These skeins served as quiet reminders that eventually I would....

 4 years ago, I walked into my local yarn store. The summer has just begun and I had finally completed and passed  my qualifying exams.I remember seeing these two skeins out of silk and merino from Malabrigo...the same colors as the ones I had...but they were so soft and felt amazing on my hands!!!
It was the beginning of my new beloved yarn stash!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I just want to spin

Finally Spring is here! No more gliding  driving in the snowy roads of Indiana!

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend in regards to spinning: techniques, type of drafting, ply and ability to replicate commercial yarns. As I listened in awe at her ability to grow as a spinner, I realized that on my end, I just want to spin!
When I first learned, I thought my ultimate goal would be to replicate commercial yarn but I never went beyond my thick and thin!

I am currently spinning the colorway "Marju" on Falkand fiber from SweetGeorgia Yarns and following the same process as always:mix colors, oops...had to add fiber quickly, a bump..etc..

I could spin thinner and actually I am trying to be a little bit more attentive as I am currently  obsessed with handspun mittens! There is something so magical about them...

Mittens made with FatCatKnits Targhee Combed top "Pepperspark and Hungry Horace"

Maybe it is the fact that they are mismatched...the colors changes...the bumps....the warmth...

I think I also love spinning without a plan because it is a way for me to appreciate the present and be grounded in the moment. For each yard of handspun yarn that I create, I won't be able to replicate it again if I have the same braid....
I did take classes to learn how to replicate commercial yarn and I got lost with the whole wpi, calculations etc.... It took the joy out of spinning for me...oh yes and counting the number of treadles, the twist.... etc...I truly admire those who have the discipline to do so.
Right now, I just want to spin....mix colors and go with the flow :)

Yarn Love Audrey Hepburn "Hidden Treasure"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Housewarming gifts

Knitting helped me keep my sanity while I was out of the country to renew travel documents and visit family. I wasn't able to even start the doily I really wanted to make but I finished three lovely projects.
A blanket....."Caravan" by Anne Hanson in beautiful Malabrigo Rios "Teal Feather"

I also made two pillowcases and even bought the pillows at Jo-Ann to make sure that everything matches. Let's just say they took up a lot of space in my suitcase but it was so worth it! :)

A reversible pillowcase in Tunisian crochet using Malabrigo Rios "Solis" and "Indiecita".

My favorite project....I really had a hard time giving it away...this crocheted pillowcase using mini-skeins from Yarn Love Juliet.
I also used Malabrigo Rios Sunset for the cover and the enclosures.