Monday, June 27, 2016

Yarn giveaway! {Closed}

Recently when sorting through my yarn stash, I realized that these yarns don't really appeal to me much anymore. So I decided to pass them along to someone who'd be more likely to knit them into beautiful projects. :) Today I'm giving away six skeins of yarn to one winner:

-Two skeins of Cascade 220 Sport. That's the purple yarn, and at 164 yards each, that's 328 yards of sportweight, 100% wool yarn.

-Three skeins of Cascade 220 Fingering. That's the teal yarn, and yes, it's a much richer teal/turquoise than it appears in the picture! A total of 819 yards of fingering weight, 100% wool.

-A ball of Lion Brand Sock-Ease, enough to make a pair of socks. It's 438 yards of fingering weight yarn in a 75% wool and 25% nylon blend.

To be entered into the giveaway, just leave a comment telling me what's your favorite sort of project to knit: socks, sweaters, shawls, etc. I'll randomly pick a winner in about a week.
{Note: Being temporarily out of work and therefore low on cash, I can only ship to US addresses for this giveaway. Sorry!}


Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner is commenter number 16: Liz Whittaker. Congratulations!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Knitting: Elder Tree shawl.'s my first lace shawl! I've knitted projects with a bit of lace in them (like my Nurmilintu shawl last summer), but never an entirely lace shawl. And even now it might be cheating for me to say that, because this one is made from worsted weight yarn, not fine yarn.

This is the Elder Tree Shawl. I've had my eye on the pattern forever, and knitting it was such a pleasant experience. The charts were so simple to read and very addicting...I tried to always complete one full repeat of the chart every time I worked on it. I did somewhere between 8 and 10 repeats of the second chart.

The yarn is KnitPicks' Wool of the Andes Tweed in the dill heather colorway: the exact same yarn I used for my favorite sweater. But I had bought this yarn for this shawl long before I ever thought about knitting a sweater from it. :) It's a nice, olive-y shade of green, though it looks a bit dull in the photos compared to the greenery in the background, ha. I only used about 3.5 amazes me that with lace knitting, you can get such a big shawl out of a small amount of yarn!

I'm really happy with this shawl! Honestly, it might be one of my favorite things I've knitted, mostly because of how pretty the leaf motif is. It's one of those projects that looks much more impressive and difficult than it really is. :) I can definitely see myself knitting this pattern again!

Ravelry project page.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reading list: the English countryside.

Ever since I finished reading this book last month, I've been obsessed with the idea of the English countryside  (again). I just want to rewatch Cranford and Lark Rise to Candleford and Poldark and all of those wonderful BBC mini-series that are full of gorgeous scenery. Then this week I discovered the Penguin English Journeys collection. (How beautiful are they??) To distract myself from buying any of them, I looked through my bookshelves and found some books that make me think of rural England. Hopefully I can read some of these soon! (With one exception, I haven't yet read these books, so I might be mistaken about where a couple of them are set.)
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. I read this years ago, and it's the only of Austen's novels that I've only read once. So it's long overdue a reread!
Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, by Linda Lear. Beatrix Potter was such a talented, fascinating person. I checked this book out from the library once but hardly got the chance to start it before it had to be returned. Now I own a copy, but it's a chunky book with fine print and therefore a bit intimidating.
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, by Sarah E. Ladd. I loved the first two books in this series, so I'm not sure why I haven't read this one yet.
Nooks & Crannies, by Jessica Lawson. This children's story takes place on an English estate, and the main character has a pet mouse named Pemberley (aka, Mr. Darcy's house).
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. I've seen the film adaptation and don't remember loving it, but maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that sort of humor. I've heard good things about the book.
Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin. Another biography that I started once but never finished.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. The summary of this book mentions a pond and a farmhouse, so I'm assuming it's set in the countryside. :)
Tess of the D'urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. Yes, I've heard many things about the depressing-ness of this book, but I really loved Far From the Madding Crowd. I want to read more Thomas Hardly and this is the only other of his books I own.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. I've seen multiple adaptations of this one so I know the story, but I haven't yet read the book.
Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson. This is one of my favorite BBC shows, so of course I want to read the book (or books, because this is a bind-up of three) that it's based on.
Any recommendations for books set in the English countryside?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: I'm still reading All Roads Lead to Austen, by Amy Elizabeth Smith, and enjoying it very much! It's making me want to reread Austen. :)

Knitting: I feel like I'm in between "real" projects right now. I'm working on a pair of socks, but I've also become a little obsessed with knitting on my sock yarn scrap blanket again (after months of not picking it up). It has grown to a decent width by this point, which is very encouraging!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sewing: my ideal dress.

I've always had this idea in my head of "the perfect dress": fitted bodice, full skirt, made from cotton. No facings or collars or anything fiddly, and a good fit so I can move around without constantly adjusting something. Basic and simple (plus pockets!). I've sewn dresses in the past that I like and wear, but I've also sewn a lot of awful ones. I really needed summer dresses, so a couple of months ago I decided to finally figure out a dress that I would love.

It's been years since I wore anything sleeveless. I'm not crazy about sleeveless because I'm sort of self-conscious about my upper arms. (I have a whole post about self-esteem and sewing your own clothes that I've been trying to write since the fall. Maybe someday?) I try to stay out of the sun, but I always end up with a farmer's tan (so please excuse the blindingly pale arms in the photos above). Finally I realized that I couldn't get the fitted bodice that I wanted unless I left off the sleeves. And it actually works well because it's cooler during the summer, plus easier to wear under a sweater during the winter.

The bodice is from Simplicity 2444. Straight out of the envelope, it fit reasonably well. (I did go down one or two sizes automatically, because of the huge amount of ease that these patterns tend to include.) But I didn't like the skirt from that pattern. It has a seam in the front and pleats, and pleats are very unflattering on me...all of that excess fabric at the waist. So I substituted my favorite skirt pattern, McCall's M5431.

I made a muslin and ended up having to make quite a few little adjustments to get the fit right. I don't really enjoy that part of the process because it's trial and error, and I'm never sure if I'm doing things correctly. I took out about an inch at the shoulder seams and took in a lot at the side seams. I had trouble with gaping at the neck (apparently a common problem with this pattern), so I removed wedges of fabric from the neckline at the front and the back, using this information. I also narrowed the skirt pattern by a small amount, to make the waistline match up with the bodice waistline.

I lined the bodice (again, helpful info from the same blog), though it's not originally lined in the pattern. It's probably been at least 5 years since I've lined the bodice in a dress, and since I was going by my own cobbled-together instructions, I kept making dumb mistakes that resulted in a lot of seam ripping.

My first attempt (after the muslin) was the black and white polka dot one. (The fabric is cotton from Joann's.) I was very happy with it, except there was still too much gaping at the neck, so I added darts to the back neckline and then wedged out more from the pattern piece. Somehow the bodice edges were off by about 1/2 inch at the top (which I managed to mostly hide by sewing in a hook and eye), and this has to be the sloppiest zipper I've ever put in. But thankfully, most of those flaws aren't noticeable when I'm wearing it.

The second dress came together much more neatly. The fabric is once again, cotton from Joann's. (You can't tell but it's tiny metallic gold triangles on a navy background. I really like it!) The neckline gaping was fixed in the front, but I still need to take more from the back. But, final tweaks aside, this is basically my ideal dress! I'm very happy that I finally have a dress pattern that I love. Now I just need to make a couple more!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spinning: merino handspun.

Just some yarn I finished recently. The fiber was 4 ounces of hand dyed Merino that I bought at the fiber festival last year. Merino always spins up into a soft, squishy yarn, and this was no exception.

I got about 128 yards of heavy worsted yarn. I took a few quick pictures of it after it was dry, intending on taking better ones when I listed it on Etsy. But someone ended up buying this skein at a spinning demonstration I did over the weekend, so it never made it to the shop! (Not complaining about that, though. I don't sell yarn incredibly often, so it makes me happy when I do.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: All Roads Lead to Austen, by Amy Elizabeth Smith. I picked up this book in Goodwill years ago. Since I'm a Jane Austen fan who also loves to read travel memoirs, it seems like something that I would enjoy. And I hope to, though I'm not even a chapter in, so I don't have an opinion on it yet!

Knitting: I just finished my first lace shawl. At the moment it still looks like an indistinguishable pile of knitting, as lace will until it's blocked. I am really excited about blocking it! (Words that rarely come out of my mouth.) And then I get to decide what to cast on next.

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Friday, June 10, 2016

Knitting: In Stillness sweater.

Finally. That's about all I can say for this sweater. I started knitting it on January 24th, planning on finishing it soon enough to wear before the weather got too warm. I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago. (And for the last month or so, all that was left was 6 inches of sleeve and the neckband.) This sweater was very simple and it's not that I ran into problems or didn't enjoy knitting it...I'm not sure why I just couldn't get motivated to finish it.

{Ironically, I finished it up as soon as it started getting really hot. For some weird reason, I do most of my sweater knitting during the summer. Example: my favorite sweater, from last summer. I hate hot weather, so maybe it's due to wishful thinking and anticipating fall?}

I picked out this yarn for Christmas a couple of years ago, planning on using it for this pattern (which I still want to knit eventually, but in a more neutral color). It's basic, inexpensive wool: KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, in the colorway brass heather. This is my fourth sweater from this yarn, and while it's not the best, it's a decent sweater yarn. Very inexpensive (a wool sweater for $40 or less), a bit fuzzy and rustic (so the inevitable pilling is less noticeable), and only vaguely scratchy, unless you're very sensitive. The small skeins can be a pain, but I always spit splice this yarn with sweaters so there are minimal ends to weave in.

Eventually I realized I needed a simple pullover more than a fancy cropped cardigan, so I decided to use the yarn for the In Stillness pattern. It's just a basic raglan sleeve pullover, with a bit of texture at the neck. I had to go down a needle size to (mostly) get gauge, and remembering the disaster that was my first sweater (which was also a seamless, top down, raglan sleeve pullover), I knit a size smaller than my measurements called for. Thankfully that worked out! I left out the body increases, though maybe I shouldn't have because I'm pear-shaped and the sweater is visibly snugger around my hips than it is anywhere else. I also made a few other tiny changes, which are mentioned on my project page.

The sleeves are a bit baggy below the elbow and I probably could have knitted the body an inch or so longer, but overall I'm really happy with how this sweater turned out. I know I'll wear it a lot this fall and winter.

Ravelry project page.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson. Last fall I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle and absolutely loved it, so I want to read more Shirley Jackson this year. I'm really enjoying these short stories so far, though they're not exactly what I expected. They're all interesting and intriguing (with an unsettling feeling), and I love her writing style, but most of them aren't as creepy or dark as I thought. (That's not necessarily a bad thing!)

Knitting: My first lace shawl, the Elder Tree shawl. It's worsted weight so it's moving along quickly, and despite my initial fear of lace charts, I'm actually enjoying it. It's very simple and I'm loving how the leaf designs look with this tweedy green yarn.

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Thursday, June 2, 2016

All the fiber things.

There has been a lot of making going on, and amazingly, even some completed projects! I finished my sweater and my shawl within a few days of each other, and both of those had been on the needles for months. I've also sewn a couple of dresses recently...I think I've finally figured out my ideal dress pattern. (You can see my post about the handspun shawl here. Still have to get photos of the other things. It's hard to be motivated when it's so hot outside!)

Right now I'm knitting on a pair of socks, as always. (Rule: there should always be socks in progress.) The first one is close to being done. There's also an Elder Tree shawl. I've wanted to knit this shawl for a long time, but it always looked so intimidating. I've made shawls with lace borders or accents, but never one knit entirely in lace. Thankfully, the chart for this one is incredibly easy! I love seeing the little leaf designs appear. And since it's knitted in worsted weight yarn, it's coming along quickly. I only have 3 skeins of the yarn in matching dye lots, and then I have a couple of other random dye lot skeins...I might have to use a different one for the border, but hopefully it won't matter. (If this yarn looks familiar, it's because my favorite sweater is made from it.)

I need to finish spinning the other half of that dyed Merino fiber. Because I've taken on a new spinning/fiber prep project: some raw fleece from a couple of local Gulf Coast Native lambs. I've nearly finished washing it all, and I've started hand carding it. Theoretically I love the idea of carding, but in reality it's frustrating to me. I'm not good at it, and no matter how many videos I watch or pictures I see, I feel like I'm doing something wrong. But I'll plow through it because I can't wait to see how the fiber spins up!

Speaking of lambs, a couple of them might just be finding their way to our farm soon. I won't say too much until it actually happens, but fingers crossed! :)