Archives for category: reviews

–Colette, in one of her apparently few quotable quotes not involving cats

I got my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook the other day and it’s LOOOOOOVE. What a gorgeous book. One of my first sewing books was Built By Wendy’s Sew U, and I learned a lot from it, but this book, while somewhat similar in general contents and approach, is about a thousand times better suited to me in both the aesthetic and the sloper measurements. (I haven’t made a garment from either book yet, so I can’t speak to actual fit!)

I’ve been idly checking in on the posts on Colette Patterns’ blog every so often, and decided at some point that I’d add this book to my next Amazon order, but I hadn’t looked through it all until the book actually arrived in the mail. It includes five patterns, all very pretty and very, very girly.

I found the Pastille Dress on the cover somewhat uninspiring–the cover photo is possibly the worst one in the book. The dress is fitted very closely, but somehow between the cut and the color, the model just looks like she’s wearing a fleshy Spanx tube rather than a dress. This version is way cuter–check out the belted, cardi’d picture down at the bottom of the post. I like the knife pleats across the hem of the skirt, but I’m wary of the cut-on sleeves–seems like it could be very difficult to get the fit right.

This blog post covers the Taffy blouse and Meringue skirt. I’d totally make and wear the scallop-hemmed Meringue skirt. The Taffy blouse, on the other hand, is probably the pattern in here I’d be least likely to make–it’s lovely on the model, but those sleeves are really pretty enormous if you look at them, so it would probably be better in theory than practice, unless you have a very narrow torso or are really proud of your shoulders and just want to show them off to everyone.

This post has pictures of the Truffle and Licorice dresses. TO DIE FOR. Truffle is a simple sleeveless A-line with a gorgeous front drape across the skirt, and Licorice has a big draped collar and big, poofy elbow-length sleeves. (Eat your heart out, Anne Shirley!)

I have been surfing around to find finished versions of these, and unfortunately haven’t found a ton, but here are a couple of cute versions:

Truffle in black brocade
Licorice with sassy belt
Licorice, described as “the dress that almost broke me”

The measurements for these patterns are interesting. To compare with some other pattern companies and ready-to-wear: I normally wear a size 6 or 8 in RTW. Going just by bust-waist-hip, I’m close to a Burda size 40 across the board,  just a little smaller in the bust depending on whether I’m inhaling or not. Looking at the measurements for Vogue patterns, my waist is a little bigger and my bust a little smaller than the size 14, but again, pretty close measurements across the board. According to the Colette measurement chart, though, I’m probably a size 4 by bust, size 6 by waist, and size… uh… smaller than a size ZERO by hip measurement. Since none of these patterns are very fitted in the hips, I won’t worry about it too much, but it’s interesting to see such a huge variation from the Burda and the Big Three slopers. I’ve read that Colette patterns are drafted for a C-cup bust, so I’m guessing the size 6 is going to be closer to the right size for my frame–I’ll probably start from there and see if it works out.

The real draw for me was the patterns, but the book has a lot of other good info, including making a personalized croquis, assessing fit (how to read all the random wrinkles your muslin makes across your body when it doesn’t fit!), making bias tape, and how to do a number of standard adjustments like full or small bust adjustments, sway back, or adjusting for small or large waists. It also covers a lot of the basic information about sewing, like grain lines, pattern layouts, fabric types, and finishing seams–I have a lot of other books with this info, so I skimmed over it, but it looks like a solid summary. Since a single Colette dress pattern goes for $18 by itself, this book is a bargain at $18.99 on Amazon even if you only like one of the patterns, and a positive steal if you like more than one pattern or would find the sewing information useful.

Next step: stop talking about/accumulating Colette patterns, start making more of them. I think I’ll start with either the Meringue skirt or the Truffle dress.

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I was interested to see today that Knit Picks is continuing their expansion into the cult classic yarns market with a knockoff of Rowan Kidsilk Haze called Aloft. $6.99 for a 25 g skein–about half the price of Kidsilk Crack. I wonder how it compares with Elann’s longtime contender, Silken Kydd? Or Artfibers Tsuki? Or Shibui Silk Cloud? (oops–edited table to add Lion Brand Silk Mohair, which I’d forgotten)

All pre-packaged yarns weigh 25g Rowan Kidsilk Haze Elann Silken Kydd Knit Picks Aloft Artfibers Tsuki Shibui Silk Cloud LB Silk Mohair
Mohair/silk ratio 70/30 70/30 75/25 60/40 60/40 70/30
Yardage 229 yds 232 yds 246 yds n/a, sold by the yard 330 yds 231 yds
Super kid mohair specified in fiber content? Y Y N Y Y Y
Suggested gauge 18-24 sts/4” 18-24 sts/4” Not specified 22 sts/4” 20 sts/4” 17 sts/4”
Suggested needles US 3-8 US 2-6 Not specified US 6 US 7 US 8
Colors 31 currently listed 7 currently in stock 15 currently listed 19 currently listed 13 currently listed 6 currently listed
Price $14.95 $6.50 $6.99 n/a, sold by the yard $17.00 $8.00
Price per yard 6.5 cents 2.8 cents 2.8 cents 4 cents undyed, 5 cents dyed 5.2 cents 3.5 cents

Thoughts:

  • KSH has the best color selection but is also crazy expensive (in case you hadn’t noticed).
  • Tsuki has a more limited color range, but is also the only one that offers hand-dyed multicolors
  • Tsuki and Silk Cloud have the highest silk content, Aloft has the lowest
  • Silk Cloud is sold in the highest-yardage putup
  • I don’t think the suggested gauge or needles are significant–I’m sure these are all interchangeable
  • I’m not sure if the lack of “super kid” designation on Aloft was intentional. Maybe it’s scratchier than the others?
  • Silken Kydd is the cheapest per skein
  • However, Silken Kydd and Aloft are the same price per yard
  • Knit Picks offers free shipping for orders over $50, and shipping is pretty darn cheap even when you have to pay for it, so once you factor that in, it’s probably the cheapest choice by far… on the other hand, Shibui and KSH are sold through retailers instead of direct to consumer, so you have a better chance of finding random sales or discount codes than with the other yarns
  • Silk Cloud seems the most expensive but is actually quite a bit cheaper than KSH once you look at the yardage

EDIT: Feb 22, KP confirmed that Aloft also uses super kid mohair!

Here are some projects I’ve made with

Honestly, though, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of them unless I had them side by side.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a whole project with Silk Cloud, Lion Brand Silk Mohair, or, obviously, Aloft.

Next I hope Knit Picks comes out with a knockoff of Rowan Calmer!

Edited for full, FCC-compliant disclosure: after I wrote this post, the folks at Knit Picks kindly sent me 3 skeins of green Aloft yarn for free! (I didn’t know they were going to do that when I wrote it.)

The new Twist Collective is up! I think general consensus on Ravelry is that this is a great issue, and I thoroughly agree. Even the patterns I wasn’t that drawn to, or that I don’t think would work for me personally, are nice in their own way–interesting knitterly details, no craziness like knitted hot pants.

Thoughts:

  • Cityscape is probably my favorite from the whole issue. Simple idea but so cute and wearable, because the city pattern is small and subtle and in a traditional yoked sweater shape.
  • Red Oak is my second favorite. Beautiful, but more dramatic (so a bit less versatile) than Cityscape. I might watch this to see what pops up on Ravelry… I loved Sylvi so much when it first came out, but I saw a lot of people on Ravelry looking like wizards when all was said and done and they had this giant flowery knitted cloak coat with a big hood thrown on over their jeans. I would worry that Red Oak might have the same tendency to look a bit costume-y. I also am not crazy about the way the front panel edge kind of pulls in a bit below the toggles; it’s natural for reverse stockinette, but if I made this, maybe I could line the front oak panel with fabric to help prevent that.
  • Hawthorne is maybe my favorite of Susanna IC’s signature long triangle scarf/shawls that I’ve seen so far. The triple berry edging thing is so pretty.
  • Stratocumulus is intriguing. The unmodeled sweater looks like some kind of weird art project but it folds into such a graceful shape on the model. This is another one where I’d like to see some other guinea pigs on Ravelry make this before committing to it myself; I’d worry that the big folds of extra fabric around the shoulders would read more like Jabba the Hutt than airy cloud on me.
  • Anthera is a pretty set. The cowl looks the same (except unshaped) as the free pattern Vent d’est, vent d’ouest.
  • I love Kiloran but would probably never knit it. In the fantasy world where I did, I would probably do away with the front buttons; that is a lot of buttons for one dress, and I think the lace detail is nice enough without it.
  • Coventry is one of those sweaters I don’t think I’d make, but can appreciate–look at how interesting that attached scarf collar thing is.
  • I love Metro–simple, wearable, chic. Sometimes knitters get ahead of themselves with knitterly but sort of weird-looking sweaters (e.g. something like Coventry)–by contrast, I think this is a cardigan non-knitters would be instantly attracted to.
  • I like Hazelwood but it might be too boxy of a silhouette for me to pull off, I’d end up looking either dumpy or Starfleet, depending on how much ease there was. I also feel like there’s potential for looking like the Michelin Man with the ribbing interrupted into bands on the sleeves like that… I feel like they are just waiting to puff up when you bend your arms. Maybe better to keep the ribbing as a single long line from shoulder to wrist.

So yeah. Twist! And last but not least, the knitted Spanish human hair underpants are one of the most repulsive knitted things I’ve ever seen. Sorry, High Art. It reminds me of David Sedaris’s story about his druggie/artist years, described in Me Talk Pretty One Day:

Hoping to get me off her back, my dealer introduced me to half a dozen hyperactive brainiacs who shared my
taste for amphetamines and love of the word manifesto. Here, finally, was my group. The first meeting was
tense, but I broke the ice by laying out a few lines of crystal and commenting on my host’s refreshing lack of
furniture. His living room contained nothing but an enormous nest made of human hair. It seemed that he
drove twice a week to all the local beauty parlors and barbershops, collecting their sweepings and arranging
them, strand by strand, as carefully as a wren.

“I’ve been building this nest for, oh, about six months now,” he said. “Go ahead, have a seat.”

Other group members stored their bodily fluids in baby-food jars or wrote cryptic messages on packaged skirt
steaks. Their artworks were known as “pieces,” a phrase I enthusiastically embraced. “Nice piece,” I’d say. In
my eagerness to please, I accidentally complimented chipped baseboards and sacks of laundry waiting to be
taken to the cleaners. Anything might be a piece if you looked at it hard enough. High on crystal, the gang and
I would tool down the beltway admiring the traffic cones and bright yellow speed bumps. The art world was
our conceptual oyster, and we ate it raw.

The new knitty is up! While this warrants some general excitement in and of itself, I’m feeling lukewarm about this particular issue.

My faves:

Mythos and Purlieu are OK, but I can’t really get too worked up about either of them. I like the novelty yarns used in Purlieu.

Victoria and Iced feel like almost the same sweater to me, and it’s a sweater that conjures up either old pipe-smoking men or sturdy farm women in waders in my mind. I’m not big on the boxy cardigan silhouette + shawl (or shawl-ish) collar.

I admit this issue has a lot of clever little projects for handspun, and maybe I’ll be more excited when I see a few versions of, say, Purlieu or Jewels worked up in unique handspun yarns…

The new Twist Collective was posted recently. As usual, it felt like a big treat to leaf through it, but at the end of the day there was nothing that felt like a must-knit or even a must-queue for me. I liked:

  • Wallflower, which is gorgeous but the hell if I’m ever going to make stranded fingering-weight socks on size 0 needles and pay $6 for the privilege
  • Timpani, which reminds me of Rebel but more wearable,
  • Celandine, with its beautiful yoke/shoulder details. I would probably wear it if someone gave it to me, but I can’t see myself ever getting excited enough about it to knit it.
  • A lot of the shawls in the Arabesque section seem like they would be really beautiful, but I hit lace shawl overload after a certain point and they all started looking the same.

Did you see the women/men comparison chart? I was following a vitriolic thread in a feminist group on Rav about how sexist and unfunny this was, with a series of angry letters written to Twist Collective about how they were boycotting them due to this story, but I lost interest when someone from Twist came into the thread and explained that one of their other stories had fallen through last-minute and they were offered this book excerpt to fill the hole by one of their sponsors. How rational–how boring!

Also, of more interest, I finally picked up a copy of the latest Knitscene, which is not actually so new, and was actually really hard to find. I had browsed through it a month or two ago when it first came back, didn’t buy it, and then when I went back to the yarn shop to get it, they said they were all sold out and it was out of print, no more copies available. I had to check a few different bookstores around here before I found it (they still have a couple of copies at the West Towne Barnes and Noble, if anyone else in Madison is looking). The Conifer Shawl , Geodesic Cardigan, and Helleborus Yoke cardigan are my favorite patterns from this issue. Also, I like the Surf Stripes raglan but look at that picture where it’s shown from the back–there’s something really weird going on with those stripes. I hope that’s not part of the pattern.

I do not understand the art direction in the “Au Printemps” story, though. It’s like the backdrop for my junior high school photos, or maybe Glamour Shots. Except with maybe even weirder fashion choices than junior high, if that’s possible. Really? What are these layers?

That is not really so bad though. Compare this: the uber-hip boutique shopbop.com did their latest photoshoot in the dilapidated and smelly Central library in downtown Madison and it epitomizes weird fashion against a weird backdrop. (At least, it’s weird for me; I park my bike right by where she’s standing with the polka dot shorts and teal satin bustier, and the table where she’s poring over a book is usually full of homeless people carrying bags full of stuff.) Check it out.

The new knitty is up!

I was so excited to see Kalani‘s design, the Know It All bag, in it. Not just because she’s my pal but because this bag is AMAZING. Computational textiles! Felting! It counts your rows and shows you the next line on the chart! I have always admired the computational textiles I’ve seen popping up now and then (oops, typed “pooping” at first) on the CRAFT magazine blog, but nothing has seemed really worth the effort until this totally functional bag.

My other favorites from the issue:
The Duck socks. So cute!

The Summit shawl. It looks mind-bending, along the lines of a Lynne Barr pattern, and I might need to make a scarf version of it soon just to understand how it’s constructed.

Emmaline. I love the silhouette, not so crazy about the lumpy-bumpy yarn it’s knit in (even if it is organic–sorry). It’s totally cute and knit on size 10.75/7.0 mm needles, though, so it seems like a nice instant gratification summer project (if one’s climate allows for wearing a chunky gauge sweater, albeit short-sleeved, in the summertime).

Petrie is lovely, though I have the feeling the shape might be better suited to sewn fabric–thinner, drapier.

Que Sera looks amazing in the photos, but I suspect this might just be my total love of the styling and photography. It probably would not be as appealing without the crazy-colored skirt and door and ukelele, but man, does it ever look great with those accessories. I probably won’t actually end up ever knitting it, unless I start a ukelele band that only plays shows in housepaint showrooms.

Gams. OK, this is not one of my favorites, but I thought I’d mention it because this is sort of the polar opposite of Que Sera. The shorts have the potential to be cute, but this photo shoot is really distracting. The first photo is like a punch in the aesthetic face after 20 minutes of browsing pretty, conventional, Anthropologie-esque knitwear photos. The hiked-up rear and camel toe in front! The Scowls! The green eyeshadow up to the eyebrows! The black socks! Wham! Pow!

You scroll down a bit for a reasonable photo of a smiling model with the shorts worn low enough to eliminate the camel toe… then BAM! Close-up of a man-butt clad in tight green knitted hot pants, with legs spread! OK, this photo shoot is probably really avant-garde and high fashion, but it doesn’t sell me on the knitting at all.

Here is how I think they could be kind of cute–knit with a bit more ease (please) and a folded waistband casing with elastic threaded in to hold them up. Knit in cream or white yarn without the contrasting edging, to evoke traditional Aran sweaters. But I could be wrong. Knitted shorts! It’s so risky.

(Speaking of risky: I went to the designer’s website and found this knitted bathing costume. Wow.)

This is the best knitty (for my tastes) that I’ve seen in a while.

My faves from this issue:

I would make Spoke if it weren’t so similar to the Sunrise Circle jacket I already have. I love that asymmetrical circular shaping–one of these days I’m going to make Norah Gaughan’s Swirl Pullover, too. Eyelets rather than stockinette, but it’s the same kind of idea.

Quadrat is gorgeous. I really want to make this, but if I do, I will also have to go buy a huge belt to go around the middle so I don’t look too boxy.

Knotty but Nice: the world can always use more cabley skullcap patterns for manly presents.

Incognito. I approve of mustachioed knitwear.

Duet. I love this! It will probably be the first thing I make from this issue. It has leaf lace! It’s a hat! And a cowl! It uses hardly any yarn! It’s convertible! And it doesn’t advertise the fact that it’s convertible!

Bitterroot. Did I mention I like leaf lace? This is beautiful, and it takes as little as 365 yards of yarn. I love the flow from stitch pattern to stitch pattern within the shawl, and the bead placement.

Citron. The ruched texture works so beautifully with the soft matte surface of the Malabrigo lace yarn. I would totally make this to wear to a holiday party if a) they weren’t apparently all happening this weekend and b) I weren’t deep in the midst of emergency Christmas knitting. I am only making a few gifts this year, but somehow the end of the year totally snuck up on me.

Speaking of which–off to work on my Ishbel! (It’s a stashbuster that’s using up some Alpaca Cloud I’ve had for ages–hurray!)

Hello! So we moved house a few weeks back. It’s been busy. It went a little something like this:

6:30 AM: at Penske, waiting for the doors to open so we can get our moving truck.

7 AM: Truck is back home and we are loading stuff. So far, so good! We’ve been (read: Rahul’s been) packing stuff for weeks in preparation, so we figure it should all go smoothly. The property management guy is supposed to come do a move-out inspection at 12:30.

9 AM: Some ratty-looking guys in a ratty-looking pickup truck come by and ask if we need any help. I feel a little creeped out and say “no.”

11 AM: “the last few things” we left unpacked (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, two cups/plates/forks) seem to have bred while we weren’t looking, and now seem to occupy a space equal to about twice the remaining space in the van. We realize there’s no way we will get the van entirely packed by 12:30, and instead focus on trying to get everything out of our house. I am kicking myself for having said no to the creepy pickup truck mover guys.

11:45 AM: house now looks like that coffee table book where people are photographed with all their possessions on the front lawn to show off the gross excesses of decadent first world living. Moving day in Madison is also called “hippie Christmas” since so many people put out freebies for the taking. Hence we also have to fend off a lot of people wandering by and asking us if they can have our stuff.

11:50 AM: OK, house is empty–time for the final vacuuming! I have almost 45 minutes, plenty of time to get the place spic and span so we can get our whole deposit back. I start in the back room and vacuum happily for about 2 minutes before the vacuum makes a roaring noise, coughs, and then just makes a sad, quiet little “vweee!” noise. When I turn the carpet brush off, it makes no noise at all, suggesting that the suction is completely broken and the “vwee!” is the sound of the carpet brush merrily pushing dust around the floor.

11:55 AM: As I hunt for the broom and dustpan, I see the property management rep coming up the front walk, weaving his way between our pillars of first world debris. “Are you ready for your moveout inspection?” I try to explain the vacuum situation while trying my best to sweep up the huge dust bunnies in the corners.

12:30 PM: Although I have taken the day off work,  I get an urgent work-related phone call while I am trying to cram a potted plant into an empty space in the car. Little do I know how many things are blowing up at work while I am absent.

12:45 PM: Everything is finally in the car and van now. We are both drenched in sweat and exhausted. We look at each other and Rahul says, “OK! Now we just have to go to the new house and reverse that entire process.”

The thought of this is absolutely soul-crushing.

1 PM: We show up at the new place. Our landlord is not here–he has asked the previous tenants to just hand us the keys. So no move-out inspection, no move-in inspection. The house reeks hugely of pot, every cabinet is still full of junk–e.g. old toothbrushes, a half tube of “Beard Lube,” an electric popcorn popper, Nilla Wafers, an embroidered bag from Guatemala–and the kitchen sink turns out to be full of bilgey gray water. When I run the garbage disposal, the water goes glooping down one side of the sink and bubbling up out of the other side like a filthy geyser, then restores 6″ of bilge water equilibrium in both sides after a few seconds.

I manage to catch up to one of the previous tenants and when I ask what’s going on with the sink, he kind of shrugs and says “I don’t know, that happened a few days ago. No, we haven’t told the landlord yet. We figured since we’re moving there was no point. Oh yeah, and there’s some trouble getting the shower to drain, too.”

I go to check out the shower. When I turn the cold water tap, it comes off in my hand.

3 PM: We are tired and moving very slowly, so the van is still pretty much full and it seems impossible that we will ever manage to get everything unloaded and the van returned in time. We decide to go on Craigslist and hire a mover.

3:30 PM: the mover shows up. A stroke of sheer luck, the first guy I called was available right away, and he charges only $15 per hour (4 hour minimum) and has worked as a professional mover for 12 years–just got laid off from his job doing corporate cross-country moves, so he’s a total pro. I will never regret spending that $60; I only regret not hiring someone to help us all day. He gets everything else moved into the house in about 2 1/2 hrs.

6 PM: All done! Now we just have a household to unpack, furniture to assemble, a bilgey sink to unclog, no cold water tap in the shower, years of accumulated garbage in the house from the previous tenants, and various other wonderful issues to deal with that we have not yet discovered. But we have moved. Victory.

The place is actually really spacious and nice aside from the maintenance issues, and we finally have an off-street parking space, so we’re pretty happy with the house so far.

So… anyway, we’ve been trying to get everything in order, and we’ve finally settled in somewhat. (We are still turning the cold water on and off with a small wrench we keep in the shower for this purpose.) But I haven’t had much time for any crafty stuff.

Knitting-wise: I am still diligently knitting away on my Tangled Yoke cardigan–the one I cast on over my July 4 vacation. I just finished the yoke and neckband and now have to pick up and knit the sleeves from the provisional cast-ons I left in place (I was impatient to get to the yoke) and do the button bands. It takes a long time to knit on size 3 needles (couldn’t get gauge on larger ones). Fortunately, I like the feel of the Felted Tweed enough that it doesn’t seem like too much of a chore, even though it’s been dragging on forever.

Next up, assuming I ever finish this cardigan, I want to make a pair of these awesome Totoro mittens. Look at the way the umbrella forms the pointy part of the fingertips! Aren’t they adorable?

Also, my knitting buddies and I have a field trip planned (tentatively, anyway) to Wisconsin Sheep and Wool this weekend. Everything seems to happen at once: in addition to WI Sheep and Wool, Stitches Midwest is this weekend, and Cat Bordhi is coming to town next week. I probably won’t have the time/energy to make it to the latter two events, sadly.

And last but not least, sewing-wise: aside from sewing up some simple bird curtains for our kitchen window, I sewed up the Sabrina Tunic, a dress pattern from indie Serendipity Studios, and reviewed the pattern for Sew, Mama, Sew! (Hello SMS readers!) You can click through for all the fun details. I have been wearing this dress a ton and the only thing I want to add is that with the extra ease I added in the back, the zipper is actually unnecessary, so I might just sew the next version up the back instead of going to the trouble of putting in the zipper.

Anyway… here’s to moving being over and done with! One last thing: I did end up kind of scoring something from Hippie Christmas. I regretfully passed up the Sex and the City book, roll of barbed wire, and box of syringes (!) our downstairs neighbors found in the basement, but in one of the cabinets full of junk, I found, and am wildly happy with, a genuine Le Creuset saucepan in a pretty shade of blue. And they all lived happily ever after, the end.

(Will report back later on Sheep and Wool and the cardigan, once it’s done.)

I think it is customary, after a long craft blog silence, to say something like “Life’s been crazy! I’ve been so busy!” or “Look at all the amazing things I’ve been making in the meantime!” but I really don’t have much of an excuse or anything super exciting to show off.

I have been sewing a bunch and have at least 3 new dresses to show off at some point, but only have photos of one of them and they all came out too ugly for me to show off here, so I will just tell you that two are from Weekend Sewing and one is a Vogue pattern. (And the photo below is not actually any of them–it’s a vintage shirt pattern that turned out HORRIBLE, giving the effect of a pregnant linebacker, so lucky the gingham was a dollar a yard and I could just scrap the project.)


I got a really exciting copy of Hansi Singh’s Amigurumi Knits–you may remember Michael Phelps from a while back, who was a Loch Ness Monster knit from a Hansigurumi pattern (included in this book, so now I own two copies of the pattern);

I’m excited about it–so many things are in my queue from this book; I want to make some crazy-ass toys for my best friend, who’s expecting a baby in June. The jackalope, octopus, hermit crab, and squid/kraken are all pretty high on the list, but I also really loved the Nessie and kind of want to make one for myself (I still have a lot of green and white yarn left). I think the book looks pretty good overall, definitely a good buy if you plan to knit up more than two of her patterns, but a few patterns in there felt like filler–the earthworm and cucumber spring to mind. I guess they’re meant to cater to beginners, so you can build your skills on a simple toy before embarking on a full-on cephalopod or preying mantis. I do still want the Horned Owl pattern, which has gotten good reviews on Ravelry but is not in the book.

I went to a Fiber Jubilee (what a hokey name, right?) in Richmond, WI, about an hour away from Madison– I went with Mary, Liz, and Liz, from my Wednesday night knitting group:

It was pretty great. We saw goats being sheared, I bought a sweater’s worth of locally grown white merino yarn (and she threw in a skein of natural gray laceweight as a bonus) for $16, and we sat on a picnic bench in the sun and ate Sloppy Joes made by the ladies of a local church.

Shearing!

The stall where I bought the merino:

Various scenes from around the farm:








I met Minou from Ambrosia and Bliss–she spotted me as I was going upstairs and we got to meet in person, so that was cool! We had corresponded on Ravelry/via blogland for a while but never actually met up.

I bought some natural-colored Corriedale there that I’ve already spun and plied into about 310 yards of worsted-weight two-ply. I only have pictures of the singles right now, but the other ply is a sort of creamy oatmeal color and it’s a really nice, squishy, bouncy marled yarn:



And I will be volunteering this Saturday from 10-12 at the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival, demoing spinning for a couple of hours, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am about going to a gigantic convention center full of alpacas. And I get to keep whatever I spin while I’m there (incentive to spin faster!)

Knitting-wise, I’m currently working on some Herringbone Mitts (warning, PDF link) for a swap. It took me weeks to get the pattern of the every-other rows so that I could do it without referring to the chart (k2 MC, k1 CC, k1 MC, k2 CC, k1 MC, k1 CC, repeat) and once I finally got it I felt really dumb and annoyed for not being able to figure out and memorize it sooner. But I am nearly at the top decreases now, and the end is in sight! I seriously don’t know how I can finish a sweater in a few days but take a month to knit a pair of mittens.

And I’m working on a shrug for my friend Casey’s wedding next month (whoa, time flies!) I hope it works out–the fabric is so delicious: one strand of Malabrigo in Stone Blue held with one strand of Kidsilk Haze in Hurricane… fluffy, smoky, tone-on-tone blue.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in craft land here. It’s finally starting to feel like spring around here! It makes me want to sew cotton dresses more than knit woolen mittens/mohair shrugs, but knitting is so much more fun and portable.

So before I go on to talk about some more spinning stuff, I’d like to ask you to take a look at my friend Fee’s new Etsy shop, saibhriot.etsy.com, to see if anything catches your eye. As she blogged about here, her husband, who is only 35 years old, recently discovered that he has a tumor in his colon and will need to have an operation very soon to have it removed. They’re still waiting to hear about whether it’s malignant, and her friends in the Bloomington knitting community are all wishing the best for them. Fee opened up her Etsy shop to raise money for medical bills, so I wanted to help spread the word… she currently has some very nice original artwork (some knitting-related!), a knitting pattern, and a handknit cowl for sale. I hope you see something in her shop you might like.

Anyway, far off in Madison, I’ve been spinning and spinning. When I went to California over the summer, my dad and stepmom and I had a really wonderful day in Point Reyes–we saw fawns and tiny songbirds in the marsh, and had the good fortune to watch a whale playing in the waves, very close by, for probably a good hour. In Point Reyes Station, we stopped in at Black Mountain Weavers, where I bought a 3 oz. bump of locally dyed mohair-wool roving. It was all kinds of colors all carded together, and I was very curious to see how it would spin up; the base color was a warm mahogany brown, but shot through with streaks of bright red and blue and yellow and purple.

As it turned out, it was fun to spin–the fibers were slightly coarse and drafted smoothly with just a little coaxing. It spun up into a really interesting tweed with a lot of visual depth. (I’m taking Abby’s definition, because she’s the expert, but it doesn’t have neps/flecks in it, so I would have called it more of a heather.) From far away, it reads as brown:


When you look a little closer, though, you can see the streaks of brighter colors in the yarn. Mohair takes dye really well, and I’m assuming the really shiny bright colors are from the mohair part of the blend:

Here’s a picture of the singles on the bobbin.

It’s about 12-13 wpi, so more or less a sport weight yarn, with a shiny, slightly fuzzy surface. I treated this as an experimental sampler, so most of this is spun worsted, short forward draw, but other parts are spun over the fold or long draw. It’s about 136 yards total. (Honestly, I don’t quite understand how people can charge so little when they sell their handspun! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it takes me hours to spin up even this much yarn, and it’s not a large amount.)

Also, I think I discovered what kind of spinning wheel I have! I bought it used at Yarns Unlimited–someone was selling a couple of old spinning wheels, but the shop owners didn’t know that much about them. A patron at the shop told me she thought it was an Ashford Wee Peggy, but I think that’s just based on the fact that it’s a castle wheel. When you look closely, it doesn’t look too much like the wheel in the photos on that page.

However, browsing through that page about New Zealand-built spinning wheels, this castle wheel, by H. H. Napier/Glenfield Industries, caught my eye. It says this type of wheel was made on Auckland’s North Shore in the 1960s. Look at this and compare the shape and placement of the mother-of-all, treadle, legs, etc., even the spokes on the wheel. Doesn’t it look just like mine? I love the fact that his initials are H. H. too.

It doesn’t help me too much with the things I was wondering about–where to get extra bobbins, for example. I have two bobbins and one of them has a pretty small whorl, so it spins at a fairly high ratio (good for finer yarns) and gets less use than the slower bobbin. I’d like at least one more larger bobbin–actually, I would really like to have at least four bobbins so I can do a three-ply easily, but judging by the paucity of information on the internet about this wheel, I don’t think I’m going to have too much luck with finding extras. I’m also mildly curious about how much my wheel is worth, in case I decide to trade it in one day for a wheel with easily available spare parts.

More stuff in my setup: You can see my orifice hook dangling from the wheel in the picture above. I use a Dritz loop turner for the purpose and I love it–it has a little latch over the hook that works perfectly for grabbing onto the leader. Also, I just put on a new drive band, made of a long strand of Plymouth Encore tied in three places. I read somewhere that jelly yarns make nice drive bands, so maybe one of these days I’ll try that out.

I own one spinning book: Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning. I also checked out the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning and Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning from the library. Of the three, I think Teach Yourself Visually is my favorite; in addition to the absolute basics about wheel and spindle spinning (like in the Maggie Casey book, which is an excellent introduction to spinning), it gets into some slightly more advanced (but still practical) information–construction of novelty yarns using different plying effects, and appropriate methods for spinning different types of fibers, like cotton, vicuna, and angora. Alden Amos is amusingly opinionated, kind of the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning, but the book gets very technical about things like mathematically figuring out slippage percentages in a double drive wheel system–not the type of information I personally was looking for, but great for a certain very select audience.

(Actually, I have a note to add: after reading some of the reviews of the Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning book, I’m starting to doubt whether it’s a good source of information. Since I haven’t compared all the different types of wheels personally, or tried the methods the author suggests for certain types of spinning, I can’t speak to those criticisms personally, but one of those negative reviewers seems pretty knowledgeable and pretty certain about what’s wrong with the book.)