Quite recently I stumbled upon a blog by a wonderful writer, Nadia. It is an Irish craft and garden blog, but I feel it really touches on much more than that brief description implies. While the blog includes much by way of fiber craft and gardening, it also provides a heartfelt outlet for the voice of a woman, mother, wife and dedicated writer. Nadia's posts are very moving and speak to me on a personal level, which is why I enjoy reading them so much. I am a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, as is she, but this does not define all of me...this is just a part of me. I have dreams and ambitions that I try to squeeze in between potty training, trying to teach my sons to be gentlemen, and weird gloopy messes on the couch. Nadia gives me strength when I am feeling slightly defeated and cries out to me that I am not alone. In a way, I find myself feeling as though I am part of a crafting, fiber-loving, sci-fi enthusiastic sisterhood when I read the words put down by this blogger.
I am writing this as a blog review, but I would be remiss not to include the other ventures Nadia includes on her website. Nadia also produces quality, interesting podcasts (I've listened to a few and have loved each one) as well as engaging social media posts. She has committed herself to being a full-time freelance blogger, so I feel the content is only going to grow in the coming months. Her beautiful photography is also worth checking out, both on Instagram and on her blog. Her garden is really an inspiration.
She is the full package, ladies and gentlemen...her website has a little something for everyone. I would highly recommend checking out her website and joining in her conversation. Even if you don't find fiber as exciting or gardening as consuming, she offers something more. She writes about life, which we are all currently involved in, so take a peak at her perspective. It is well worth it.
Local Yarn Shoppe Review
I just returned from a visit to my parents. It was long overdue but I was very nervous to make the trip with my two toddlers. An eleven hour drive with nothing but you, a one-year old, a three-year old and the open road can be quite scary. My husband and I had kept planning to arrange a time when he could get off work to come with me, but unexpected and unavoidable things kept cropping up, so I put my big-girl panties on, loaded up the car, and ventured forth solo. Now that it is all done and I have made it back home, I feel quite proud of myself. High five to me. It was a lovely visit, too. My kids got to meet their great grandmother, their great great aunt and spend lots of fun time with their grandparents. Family is a very special thing.
However, a visit is not a visit without scoping out a local yarn store. And the Saturday after I arrived at my parents' house was World Wide Knit in Public day, so there was a ready reason to convince my entire family to pile in the car in search of yarn. (My dad was not thrilled, but he lucked out and found a new guitar store. So really, everyone was a winner here.) I did a search on the internet and found Bella Filati was not far off, so it was there that we went. And I am so glad we did. That yarn store is so happily situated it is almost unreal. The street where Bella Filati find its home is filled with the cutest local shops you've ever seen. In truth, it was all luxury shopping, but it was all very special. It is not every day you can find a place that has a local book store, local yarn shop, local ice cream parlor, local furniture gallery, local music store...the list goes on. In the age of big box stores and the internet, it was quite refreshing. And that was just the knitting store's location; the store itself was lovely, too.
The inside of the store was well-organized and spacious. I have commented before that I enjoy a snug knitting shop, but this store clearly was organized with the social aspects of knitting in mind. The proprietor of the shop hosts multiple social knitting groups a week, offers knitting tutorials and private lessons and also hosts classes from visiting designers. It is important she have space for people to sit and work. There was a ton of natural light pouring into the store, too, which made choosing yarn colors that much better because you could really see.
Another thing I liked about the store was that for every sample that was on display, the owner of the shoppe made the yarn that was used in a well-organized display where you could easily find nice color combinations and alternatives to the pattern. There was not a huge selection of yarn considering the size of the store, but all the yarn that was available was very nice and of high quality. The prices were very reasonable, too.
Bottom Line: This store is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The shop owner was very knowledgeable and had a very pleasant disposition. The store was bright, clean, and cheerful. Perhaps most importantly, the yarn was lovely.
Available from various retailers for approx. $15.00 a skein.
This is a single-ply, bulky weight yarn good for needle sizes US 10-11 or 6-8 mm.
Yardage= 130 yds (119 m)
100% Merino Superwash Wool
I feel like I'm gravitating toward single-ply yarns lately. They are just so delicious and squishy and, I feel, really show off the fiber from which they are created to great effect. One such example of my single-ply obsession is the Malabrigo Mecha bulky weight yarn. My mother-in-law recently came for a visit, and while casually perusing the numerous knitting magazines I had about the house, she found a cowl she really liked. She did not ask directly, but she sort of implied she would enjoy owning said cowl. What a perfect present, then! I love knitting, she loves cowls...it's a match made in heaven.
The pattern, which I promise I will share when it's done, or at least more done than it is now, called for two contrasting colors in a bulky yarn. I stumbled upon the Malabrigo at my local yarn shop and thought it was the perfect fit. I've begun knitting the cowl, and it already feels really warm and, as I mentioned before, squishy. Yay! It's exactly what I wanted for the project. I have wound all my yarn and started my cowl with about 4 inches knit (it is knit in rows and joined at the end) and I have not had any problems with breakage or tangles. And have I mentioned how soft it is? Oh my goodness, I just want to curl up in my tiny bit of cowl. The yarn itself also has a variation in its thickness, but never gets too thin or chunks out too far.
Mecha is one of 18 different yarn types offered by Malabrigo and at last count had over 40 colorways available. (Malabrigo boasts over 300 different colors throughout all their yarns, and if you are at all familiar with the company, you must know they are ALL gorgeous.) One of the things I love most about Malabrigo yarns are their colors. They are hand-dyed, so there is natural variation in all of the skeins, which is part of the charm. The good people at Malabrigo have really done a wonderful job capturing inspiration in the form of yarn. The vibrancy of their colors is really something else. If you cannot get to a store to check out their yarns in person, I would highly recommend at least checking out their website to see their lovely color palette. They two colors I have featured on this page are "natural" and "teal feather."
The company is based in Uruguay, starting as a small kitchen operation and now operating a mill in Parque Tecnológico Industrial del Cerro, a Technology and Industry Park in Montevideo, Uruguay with a brand new mill in Peru. They have made upgrades to their equipment to try to reduce their ecological footprint and are advocates of sustainability. Their wool comes from free-range sheep that are "herded by actual old-style shepherds." They are focused on the humane treatment of their sheep and providing a quality, responsibly sourced product.
Bottom Line: Malabrigo Mecha is a wonderful bulky yarn to work with. It comes in rich, vibrant colors (as well as natural) and is a high quality single-ply. I have used Malabrigo yarns in the past and have never had a bad experience. By all accounts, Malabrigo is doing their part to be a responsible source of fiber. While it is perhaps a little expensive, it is worth the money for those special projects. It will be a delight to knit with and the project will look beautiful when it's finished.
Lamb's Pride Superwash yarn is a line available from Brown Sheep Company. As far as I know, they only distribute wholesale, but many local yarn shops and a ton of online retailers carry this "Made in the USA" brand. I purchased my stash from my local shoppe. Lambs Pride has particular appeal for me because it is all natural and extremely affordable when compared to other wools carried in house at the yarn store. Each skien is less than $5.00. You can't beat that. Especially if you're whipping up something as a practice run on a design or need the nice finish of a real wool but not the high price of the more luxury end yarns.
I did some reading about the Brown Sheep company, it is a family owned business that started over 100 years ago. The mill is located in Nebraska and has been passed down generations as it matured and grew into what it is today. The company is interested in sustainability and green processing methods even while they grow and expand to over 1000 colors and multiple lines of yarn. It seems to be a responsible company that is succeeding while living out a real American dream type story. It was very inspirational learning about the company and makes me feel good to support them.
I have used the Lamb's Pride on a number of projects, including a set of gloves and hat I knit for my sister this past Christmas as well as a shawl I currently have on needles. The yarn produces very nice stitch definition but is a little stiff and a bit scratchy. It definitely feels like what most non-knitters imagine when you utter the word "wool." However, it does ease up in the scratchiness after you wet block a project, as I learned with my sister's gift. There are an absolute ton of colors to choose from and they have done a nice job making colors that look nice together. (Especially when you choose one of their yarns that has different colors spun together. "Mountain Peak" is one I have featured here.) I have not had any issues with the colors running, staining my wooden needles or washing out. I bet, and I haven't tried so I can't say for sure, this yarn would be great for any kind of color work. This superwash wool is available in fingering, sport, worsted and chunky...so if you can dream it, you can knit it with this yarn.
Bottom Line: This is a solid workhorse of a yarn. It is a good quality yarn for an affordable price from a responsible, family-owned company. I look forward to sampling some of their other yarns available.
I am working on a cardigan for my husband, and I was delighted to see the pattern called for size 8 double pointed needles. I, in fact, did not own any size 8 dpns and was happy to have an excuse to finally buy a new set. I was mostly excited because I have been wanting to try square knitting needles for quite some time. However, when I have a set of very serviceable needles in the required size already in my collection (that just happen to be round and not square), it's hard to justify going out and buying more. This cardigan solved my problem. Yay!
So, with great anticipation, 17.5" of the body worked and permission to move on to the sleeve, I pulled out my brand new 8" Foursquare Majestic Wood double pointed needles from KnitPicks. I figure, double points were a good way to really test these needles out, too...take them for an in-the-round spin, so to speak.
First, let's talk about their appearance. I am a huge fan of wood needles, always have been. KnitPicks has some particularly beautiful needles in a variety of woods and finishes. The Foursquare needles are the laminated birch wood in the "majestic" colorway, meaning they have a nice combination of blues, purples and greens. These needles have what I would call a "high gloss" finish, which surprised me, but I will get back to that in a moment. As the name implies, the needles are square, having four flat sides with slightly rounded edges. They come to a nice, rounded point (on both ends, in the case of the double pointed needles). They are the same size as their rounded counterparts, meaning you can use the same hole in a gauge to see what size needle you are dealing with.
*Side note: Luckily my stitch matched my gauge from the round needles I worked with throughout the rest of the sweater. KnitPicks does encourage you to check, however, as some people's stitch size is different when they switch from the round to the square needles.
Now that the appearance is taken care of, let's talk mechanics. As I mentioned, these needles are very glossy. I was worried, especially working in the round, that this would lead to stitches easily falling off. However, those crafty designers at KnitPicks know what they are doing. I guess it's the perfect blend of gloss and edge, my stitches slide off easily when I want them, but stay put when I don't. I found these needles to work very well with my tweed wool in my current project, making every stitch feel consistent and smooth. I like that the needles are offered in a variety of lengths (4, 5, 6, 8"); I personally like working with the longer 8" for worsted weight yarns. These 8" needles are available in sizes 4-11. However, I did see that sizes 0-3 (with the more precise metric sizes included) were also available in the 4-6" lengths.
Bottom Line: If you are looking to try something new, I would recommend getting a pair of these needles. Especially if you enjoy wood needles. I am sure they are not for everyone (as is the case with all needles) but I really have enjoyed knitting with them. I get consistent stitches and the motion of knitting is very comfortable. The needles fit well in my fingers and the flat sides might actually help with my grip. And of course these needles look beautiful, too, with their swirls of greens and blues acting as eye candy as you knit. For such an affordable price, these are great needles. I plan on buying more.
****Since first posting this, Yarnbox has gone out of business! I must say, I was saddened by the news. They changed ownership and I think a series of unfortunate events led the company to go under within a year. While Yarnbox is no longer around, there are other subscription yarn boxes. I think the general idea of this review would stand true for many of these subscription boxes, because really, who doesn't love getting yarn in the mail?
My husband is addicted to subscription boxes. Fortunately, he never has more than one going at a time, but he has tried a great many of them. Some of them have been comic book themed, others sent a tie or pair of socks, and others still sent personal grooming products. It's like receiving a present every month, even if you are the one paying for it. I see the joy these boxes bring to my husband each month (even when he doesn't care for the contents, he just likes getting them) but have never thought to find one for myself.
However, for Christmas, my lovely parents got me the perfect gift. It was very generous, as well. They gifted me with a subscription to Yarnbox Luxe. This is a quarterly subscription box with high-end yarns. I believe this subscription is sold out for the year, but their other subscription options are not. The first box, which arrived a few days before Christmas (and I am not going to lie, I peeked) contained three cones of fine Habu textiles. (If you've never heard of Habu, I've linked their name to their site...they have some remarkable fibers.) One is a blend of silk and stainless steel. How cool is that? That box also included beads, a beading needle, a beading crochet hook and a pattern code for either a knit of crochet shawl.
The box that this monthly subscription arrives in has a warning on the side. It reads; "Caution!! Yarn inside. May cause extreme happiness." In my case, that has been very true. My second box arrived this past week and contained three skeins from Artyarns. These skeins were artfully wound into what appeared to be a single hank (but don't worry, the three skeins are easily separated). My tummy filled with those happy butterflies when I opened the box. I can't wait to see what comes in June.
And that brings me to my conclusion about Yarnbox- it's wonderful. I cannot make it out to my local yarn store as often as I would like, and many of the fibers that come in this box are not ones I would splurge on for myself. But they are, hands down, so beautiful and a very special addition to my yarn stash. I've had countless hours of fun just dreaming of exactly what I am going to create from my new yarn. And who doesn't like getting a package in the mail? It's a surprise in each box, too, which is fun. Now, if you're not one for complete surprises, you can tailor the box to your personal tastes a little. You can choose color families and also list colors you would never like.
My one complaint, and it is a tiny one, is that I do not love the patterns that come with these super high-end yarns. To me, they are sort of "nothing special" patterns for such special yarns. However, this is just my personal opinion, it would be impossible for the good people at Yarnbox to pick a design that everyone loves. What they do is pick a nice pattern that suites the yarn, offering a pattern for the knitter and the crocheter. And really, this isn't a problem...I just thought it was worth mentioning. I like the freedom of choosing or designing something myself, anyway.
To be completely fair, this luxe line from Yarnbox is not something I would have purchased for myself. It is a little too expensive. But it made such a wonderful and special gift. I am likely going to try out their sock box and see what that has to offer. My birthday is coming up and I have put it on the list. I am tempted to try out another of the yarn subscription companies, and probably will one day, but since I've had such a nice experience with Yarnbox, I've decided to stick with them.
Bottom Line: I really have loved both of my Yarnbox boxes. The price tag is steep for the luxe line, but technically you do get the yarn for a discount...it's just not yarn an average knitter would buy for themselves. But if you can spare the funds, have a birthday coming up, or know someone who wants to spend some money on you, it is a delightful treat. The more economically priced box from Yarnbox is the classic, which is about $40.00 a month and can be cancelled at any time. Cheaper still, and probably loads of fun, is the sock box. This box is an affordable $20.00 a month plus shipping and can also be cancelled at any time. Subscription boxes are convenient and fun, it is so nice to have one tailored to a knitter (or crocheter).
Blog written by
If you are an avid reader of knitting blogs, you likely have already come across Stephanie Peal-McPhee's "Yarn Harlot." If you are a casual blog peruser, it is possible you might not have come across this wonderful site. Ms. Pearl-McPhee, perhaps, has been a pioneer in knit blogging- her blog started in 2004. That is a beautiful thing. In 2004, smart phones were not in every person's pocket and some people still used dial up. Do you remember that horrible noise as your computer connected itself to the world wide web? Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is that this blog has stood the test of time. Thirteen years is a long time to keep knitters engaged, and I think this blog has done a wonderful job engaging..the awards it has received are just proof in the pudding.
This is not a "how-to" blog, per se. The posts I have read are more about Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's knitting life, which I hazard to say is a large chunk of her life. The posts chronicle her projects and adventures. With that said, there is a ton of invaluable information in her posts. First, you must consider, these posts are written by an expert in the craft. Just by writing about what she is doing, she imparts knitting knowledge on her readers. Learning her process, her style, her mistakes, etc. can only serve to make you, the reader, a better knitter. Second, she has built quite a following- deservedly so- so each post has quite a few comments. If a particular post has caught your interest, it is worthwhile to read the comments, too. She encourages discussion and responds accordingly. It is in these comments that you can find new ideas or perhaps answers to some questions.
Bottom Line: Overall, the website is a no fuss blog. Reading her blog makes me feel like my blog is too convoluted, but alas, we cannot all be the Yarn Harlot. Us lesser bloggers must fill the bottom rungs of the knitting ladder, and that's okay. Her posts are witty, interesting and informative. This is a woman who knows what she is doing. It is my humble opinion that if you read knitting blogs, this one should be at the top of your list.
Knit Picks Preciosa Tonal Yarn
Available from KnitPicks
100% Merino Wool Worsted Weight
$11.99 100g Hank
featured in Pokeberry
I had the thought yesterday that perhaps it would be helpful for me to review more of the yarns I used in my projects. Especially with yarns that are predominately available through online retailers, it's sometimes hard to know what to expect. Today, I'm working on a hat using KnitPicks Preciosa tonal yarn in pokeberry. It is a vivid pink color. On my computer, it looks a little more purple than it is in real life- in real life it is PINK. Like in-your-face pink. But that's okay because that is what I wanted. I read up on this squishy worsted weight yarn, and apparently it was a reserve yarn that was so popular, KnitPicks added it to their permanent collection. There are 16 colors available that include jewel tones as well as black, brown and grey.
The yarn is a single-ply merino wool. What this means is that there is only one strand in the yarn. In contrast, something that is two-ply (or greater) would have two strands of fiber wound together to make the yarn. There is something very special about single-ply yarns. I feel they really allow the fiber to show its natural texture; it reminds me of roving, in a way. This particular single-ply yarn is very squishy and soft, too, which makes it perfect for things like hats or scarves but can also be used for larger projects like sweaters to great effect. In my experience, single-ply yarns can be a little temperamental, I sometimes have trouble with inconsistent thickness and breaking. However, Preciosa seems to be very even and strong; I have not had any trouble with breaks.
This is a tonal yarn, so the color is variegated as you move through the hank. I have noticed a little pooling and striping, which sometimes frustrates knitters. It is not a hand-dyed yarn, so there is some uniformity expected in the yarn's tonal shifts. I read some other reviews of this yarn that proclaimed it to be self striping, but I have not had quite that severe an experience. I only mention this so you can plan your project accordingly. If your last wish is for pooling or subtle striping, this is not your yarn. The color range within the hank is very nice, not creating too drastic a shift in hue. In my pokeberry, the color shifted from the dark bubble gum color to the lighter candy pink, but the two extremes are not drastically different from one another, allowing you to create a unified looking project. I am including a photograph of a swatch done in a 2x2 rib followed be a stockinette stitch so that hopefully you can see the stitch definition (which I think is quite lovely) and the color shifts. You can see some of the striping that occurred in the stockinette stitch and the pooling that happened in the ribbing. This, I think, is just a natural part of using variegated yarn, though.
Bottom Line: I really like this worsted weight single-ply. It is very soft, feels good while you are knitting it, and is very affordably priced. The tonal shifts are not crazy, put there can be some pooling or striping in your project. The colors available are vibrant and fun, it is a yarn that will make you smile.
********Update! This Software is no longer supported or available for purchase.***************
Intwined Pattern Studio is a fantastic, affordably priced pattern design software for fiber artists. The software retail price is $44.00 but is often available on sale on KnitPicks for a discounted price. The makers of the software also support a group on Ravelry for Intwined users.
*This is not a tutorial on how to use Intwined Pattern Studio, I just want to highlight some of its awesome features.
I know there are many different software options available out there for people who would like to design fiber art. However, if you are like me, and you are new to design or perhaps just working on a limited budget, it is hard to justify spending big bucks on software. It is possible to use a program like Excel to make your charts and patterns, I know because I've done it. I must say, though, that having a program with a stitch library and easy to use chart features makes a HUGE difference. And that, my friend, is the beautiful thing about Intwined. Intwined is low fuss yet still a powerful tool for knitters, crocheters, cross stitch, and weavers alike. If you cross genres with your fiber art, this is a great program because you can design for any of your interests in the same program. Right now, I will focus on knitting, but keep in mind these features can be applied to any fiber craft.
When you open the intwined software and go to make a new pattern, you are given a window to type in the name of your project what size chart you would like as well as the focus of fiber art (knit, crochet, cross stitch, etc.). As you can see from the screenshot below, the interface is clean and easy to use with helful icons.
Once you have your chart open, you can have a lot of fun. There are options to chart out color work as well as an extensive stitch library. One of the cool features of this software is that you can create your own icon and stitch if, for whatever reason, they do not have what you are looking for. For knitters, you can chart flat or in the round and they also have a lace option. Very cool. In the screenshot below where you can see that as you create a chart the written directions are tracked underneath. And this neat little feature works both ways, you can write your instructions and the chart updates to reflect your written work, too. You can also simultaneously work on a pattern document for your charted pattern.
The program helfully keeps track of the stitches you use and the colors, so it saves you considerabe time when drafting your chart. There are also more advanced features that allow you to copy and mirror parts of your pattern. Of course there are options to add or delete rows, as well.
Intwined uses vector graphics, so you can resize your images to your hearts content and never have to worry about pixelation. The charts also save in a format that allows them to be opened on any computer and be used as graphics in places outside the Intwined environment. That means the graphics you make for your patterns can be used on your blog, in your pattern, in a book, in a magazine...you get the idea.
Bottom Line: If you have $44.00 to spare and you are a fiber enthusiast, I would highly recommend getting this software. Even if you are not designing patterns, this software has applications as an excellent place to store notes and charts of things you are working on that you may want to reference later. It seems like a great tool to have in your arsenal with the potential to be extremely helpful to your craft.
by Hunter Hammersen
Available from Pantsville Press for $21.95
(Both a digital and physical copy are available.)
Curls is a book of 14 patterns. These patterns are for what the author has named "curls," as their unique construction gives them an interesting curved shape. The truly awesome thing about the designs in this book is that it allows you, the knitter, to use any yarn at any gauge for a project of any size. Take a moment to let the sink in...the stash busting possibilities alone are breathtaking. The end project can be as tiny as a cuff, grow larger into a cowl or scarf, or be as large as a full blown shawl. The freedom makes these delightful to knit, as you can knit the same pattern more than once and still be creative. That is my biggest problem with socks...I knit the first sock and it's exciting, I knit the second sock and I'm bored.
I purchased my copy of this book at my local yarn shop. There was a trunk show to accompany the book, so I was able to see the finished products of many of the curls in this book as well as the second volume. It really was amazing to see the affects of all the different yarn choices right there in person. And you know what, none of them looked bad. Of course there are a few patterns that stand out as my favorites, but I am confident any of these patterns would make me happy. I will not divulge any of the secrets of curl making here, you should buy the book for that, but I will say that Hammersen did an excellent job explaining how to create these flexible, versatile delights. There are detailed, color coded charts that show you exactly how to increase the blocks of lace that create the curl as well as a whole section with helpful hints and tips for a successful project.
The beautiful shape really does lend itself well to any body type and can be worn in such a variety of ways with a natural looking drape. Just imagine coupling a curl with a shawl pin or adding some decorative clasps and you would have an absolutely stunning gift. I have one of these curls on needles now, I am working it in a solid color, but I imagine it could be very fun to play with tonals or even use more than one color. Even better, these patterns can be the savior of that lonely ball of yarn you just had to buy that is patiently waiting for you at the back of your stash. And that leads me to my bottom line...
Bottom Line: This book is worth the money if you enjoy making shawls, scarves or cowls. The wonderful thing about each design is that its inherent versatility means you can use the pattern over and over and get vastly different (yet still beautiful and satisfying) results. Having seen many of these curls completed in the trunk show, I can attest to their lovely shape and appealing drape first hand. This was an imaginative idea that is fun in its simplicity and flexibility. You can have a single skein you need to use up, or you can have three skeins you want to apply to this endeavor, the freedom to stop when you need to and knit the gauge that you want is very nice.