Making sense of variegated yarn

Making sense of variegated yarn
Standard

I have a problem.

Every time I walk into a yarn store I become enamored with hand-painted yarn. My pupils dilate, I grab a skein and cuddle it to my face, naming it Fluffy and promising to bring it home to be made into something amazingly beautiful.

I have done this many times… my yarn stash is full of skeins like this beauty:

Manos del Uruguay - Alegria

Manos del Uruguay, Alegria in Agave colorway

I bought this Manos del Uruguay skein while in Alaska (read about our Alaskan adventures on Off to Earth) because it reminded me of the aurora.

Whenever I get settled in at home after buying such a skein, I log into Ravelry and check out what’s been made with the yarn.

And I’m almost always disappointed.

Manos del Uruguay Alegria shawl

A pattern featuring the Manos del Uruguay Alegria yarn. I know some people love the way this coloring looks, but I can’t stand it. 

The way these beautiful skeins knit up into a barfy, disorganized mess makes me want to cry. In my head, I always imagine a finished knit that gradually fades from one color to another, like the skein, even though I know it won’t happen! What I’m really looking for is a gradient yarn, like these, but I keep buying variegated yarns instead.

If you’re like me, then perhaps you’ll find this Ravelry bundle of knitting patterns for variegated yarns to be helpful! I’ve found a few things seem to make variegated yarns look a bit more organized:

A small number of rows in the variegated yarn color separated by a solid color. The separation of color lets your eyes make sense of the color changes in small sections, giving a sense of organization. Each bubble in the sock below is kind of like a tiny window.

Sunnydayknitter's Stained Glass Bubble Socks

Sunnydayknitter’s Stained Glass Bubble Socks

Patterns to try for this effect:

Tall or dropped stitches. Taller stitches seem to give the colors some room to breath and the color changes don’t seem as abrupt. I didn’t see any examples, but I imagine treble stitch crochet would look pretty awesome as well.

Frazzledknitter's Drop Stitch Scarf

Frazzledknitter’s Drop Stitch Scarf

Patterns to try for this effect:

Linen stitch. The exact opposite of long/dropped stitches, the way colors mesh in a tight linen stitch seems more pleasing than stockinette / garter stitch.

Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern

Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern

Patterns to try for this effect:

Plan the pooling of your colors to create a pattern. I’ve thought about tackling the task of planned pooling for a while now. Planned pooling allows you to create a pattern using a variegated yarn using a bit of math. I’m not sure I’m totally up for all of the planning this entails since I usually like to wing it, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Color pooling on knit shawl

Really cool pooling occurring on this shawl made by Karla Stuebing

Learn about The Art and Science of Planned Pooling by Karla Stuebing.

Do you have any go-to patterns for variegated yarn?

30MinKnits Challenge

#30MinKnits Challenge
Standard

I’m challenging you all to knit for 30 minutes-a-day for 30 days!

Wait, why…?

I think many of us knitters, fast or slow, have gone through patches of knit-neglect. Our UFOs (unfinished objects) start piling up in a corner. We look back at the past few weeks and realize we haven’t knit at all or have only knit a couple of times and, with regret, we exclaim,

“If only I’d just knit for a few minutes every day, I’d be done with that project already!”

I want to gift myself with 30 minutes a day of knitting so I can…

  • Start and finish that second sock
  • Finish that beautiful red shawl I’ll never wear
  • Finish the shirtie I really want to wear
  • Finish the annual temperature scarf I started… in 2013

And I want you to gift 30 minutes to yourself as well! If you have unfinished knits or haven’t picked up your needles for a while, join me!

How the heck am I going to find 30 minutes?

  • If you’re a morning person, set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual for 30 days, grab your cup of coffee (or tea!), settle in somewhere comfy and knit.
  • Knit between bites during lunch!
  • Knit at stoplights on your way to work. (Okay, that might be dangerous…)
  • Watching TV? Multitask and knit!
  • When you find yourself mindlessly surfing Facebook, Reddit, Ravelry, or anything else on the internet, put down your phone and pick up your needles.
  • Be mindful of your time – are you doing something you’ll regret not having done tomorrow? If not, knit!
  • Knit on the toilet…? (We’re heading into creepy territory.)
  • Knit in bed, right before you go to sleep because you almost forgot you were doing the 30MinKnits challenge!

Alright, I’m in. What are the rules?

Just a few… and I’m not going to be that picky. This challenge is a gift to you — you, the knitter, who wants to finish that UFO over there (and there, and there). Do what you can, when you can, but be nice to yourself and give yourself the time to do what you really want to do!

  • Work on whatever project you’d like for at least 30 minutes per day for 30 days in a row. That’s 30 minutes of actual knitting time, not Ravelry browsing or stash fondling to figure out what you want to knit.
  • When you want to, share your progress with everyone using the #30MinKnits hashtag on Instagram (or wherever you’d like).
  • Knit happy!

I’ll be starting this challenge on September 1st and I hope you’ll join me.

The Crochet Project: Curated beautiful, wearable crochet

The Crochet Project - Curated beautiful, wearable crochet
Standard

I heard about The Crochet Project on a recent podcast episode of A Playful Day (another interesting and fun podcast to subscribe to).

The Crochet Project is a collection of crochet patterns for wearable items that I actually want to wear. The only things I’ve crocheted are amigurumi (stuffed animals), baby hats and one scarf. I’ve never been drawn to the stiff “drape” (if you can call it that) of a crocheted garment which is why I started knitting in the first place. Knitting just looks better worn.

Joanne Scrace and Kat Goldin are hoping to bring crochet’s reputation closer to knitting’s with The Crochet Project. Every year, they create and seek out beautiful, modern crochet patterns for wearable items (hats, shawls, scarves, socks, sweaters and shirts) that are made with natural fibers (another hard-to-find aspect in Crochet Land). They collect these patterns together and release them for sale on their website.

Kate of A Playful Day has been interviewing many women makers in her podcast; Joanne and Kat were interviewed on the podcast about a month ago. If you want to hear more about The Crochet Project and their journeys in making, that podcast episode is a good place to start.

If you want to pick up your hook, I noticed their Alchemilla shawl pattern (top right of the featured image above) is available to download for free!

Have you seen any drool-worthy crocheted wearables lately?


Check out The Crochet Project

The Crochet Project Website

On Facebook

On Twitter

And Ravelry, of course

Cute Knit & Crochet Patterns on Ravelry

Cute knit and crochet patterns on Ravelry
Standard

I know, I know, it’s been over a month since I last posted and it’s especially embarrassing that although my last post was about finding my passion and hopefully getting motivated, it seems like I have nothing at all to show as far as progress of my own.

Because I have nothing to show that’s my own, I thought I’d just collect a bunch of knit and crochet patterns that tickle my fancy at the moment for your enjoyment. I hope you find these delightful and that they put a smile on your face as they do mine!

cupcake kitten hat by tiny owl knits

Cupcake Kitten Hat
by tiny owl knits

Super cute hat with a bit of colorwork and cat ears by Tiny Owl Knits, one of my favorite knit designers for all of her whimsical and woodland-y knits.

A free amigurumi pattern of the cutest flipping sheep I’ve ever seen! Momomints is a duo who design cute amigurumi patterns and polymer clay keychains. They sell a DIY amigurumi sheep kit on their Etsy shop, if you want to crochet this cutie.

Gooey Bun by Anna Hrachovec

Gooey Bun
by Anna Hrachovec

Anna Hrachovec is the designer behind Mochimochi Land, a world of knitted happiness. I came across this tiny sweet roll and couldn’t resist a squeak of delight! You can find this pattern in her latest book, Adventures in Mochimochi Land — a book of cute stories accompanied by knitted scenery and characters, along with patterns for all of those characters.

Fezzes are cool by Nyss Parkes

Fezzes are cool
by Nyss Parkes

I can’t resist a nerdy knit, especially a Doctor Who related nerdy knit. These are cute and clever!

Who wouldn’t want to prance around in these cute bunny house slippers? I bought this pattern forever ago and need to get it on my hook!

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies

(Get off my) Cloud
by Kate Davies

Kate Davies is another favorite designer of mine, she does lovely cable and colorwork and her blog always seems to be full of dreamy pictures of knits on the country side, or sea side, or garden side… Anyway, this hoodie really caught my eye when I found it because it was so cute and seems very different from Kate’s other designs. I can’t resist that cute cloud pocket!

LoveSocks by Devon Clement

LoveSocks
by Devon Clement

Sometimes it just takes one little detail to take something from ordinary to super cute. I love this sock pattern and everyone’s different versions of it on Ravelry!

What are your favorite cute knit or crochet patterns? Share them with me in the comments!

Finding my passion, what a struggle!

What the world needs is people who have come alive.
Standard

I’ve been thinking a lot about my next move. I mean, not literally, but figuratively – what is the next path I’m going to take?

My thoughts on where to go next have been all over the place in the last six months, from starting my own freelance web design business, to illustrating a children’s book, to becoming a knitwear designer, to starting a farm, to just getting a retail job to be a functioning member of society…

I’ve been searching for advice on finding and living your passion.

I’ve been reading blogs like Tara Swiger’s, where she gives advice on making your personal business as YOU as it can be by following your North Star (basically your most important value). I haven’t taken her courses, but from what I gather, you decide on a value (or a few), write it down, and make all of your decisions based on how they align with that value. I don’t have a business, but I think that concept works perfectly applied to life.

Then I found The Desire Map, a book about making goals based on how you want to feel rather than picking the goals and hoping they get you to the state of mind you want to be in. Similar to Tara Swiger’s North Star, you decide what feelings you value most, write them down so you think about them often, and make all of your decisions based on whether or not they get you closer to those feelings.

And yesterday, I found this book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion*, bought it and read the entire thing by the end of the day.

(*These are affiliate links, so I get a tiny portion of the sale if you buy the book from Amazon. Which you should, ’cause it’s awesome, but I’m just letting you know.)

This book is written by Elle Luna, an artist who decided to follow her calling to paint rather than what she (and/or others) thought she ‘Should’ do.

The gist: every day we can choose to do what we Should do (pressures from society and other people) and what we Must do (the thing that we really love to do, that we were born to do).

Out of all of the books and blogs I’ve found on the topic of finding your passion, this one has spoken to me the loudest and I think because it has no “how to make money from your passion” angle. Elle’s stance on it seems to be you either follow your passion or you don’t – it can be on the weekends, 10 minutes a day, or you can quit your day job and spend all day doing it. If it’s truly your passion, you not only won’t mind carving out 10 minutes a day for it, you won’t be able NOT to.

She covers how to get around road blocks you might think you have: money, time, space.

As well as how to become aware of what your Shoulds are, where they came from and why you think you need to do them (so you can stop being a slave to them). This is something I’ve slowly started to do on my own in the past 6 months as I’ve become aware of these things — like realizing that a functioning member of society isn’t necessarily someone who makes money, having a job in itself does not add to your own value, or that things you do outside of making money can add to the world immensely.

She also gives some tips to inspire you to figure out what your Must is, if you don’t know what it is yet.

I started setting up a little corner in my office for figuring this out. I did a few little watercolor paintings, then wrote four feelings I want to strive for (based on the Desire Map).

Watercolors on a desk

My messy desk

Wall with watercolors

Where I’ve set up my space dedicated to figuring out my Must – the tiny wall space between my closet doors

Watercolor painting

Kind & Adventurous

Watercolor paintings on a wall

Earthy & Mindful

And set up little spaces for the following things:

  • Things you loved as a kid
  • Activities that give you the chills
  • Crazy, wild fantasies & dreams
  • One day exploration activities (If you had one day to pursue an idea, project or activity, what are the first three that come to mind?)
  • Things you do when you’re procrastinating
  • Things you do just for fun
  • Sights, smells, sounds or sensations that give you butterflies in your stomach
  • New skills to acquire (she recommends one/month)

And I’ve actually heard about this one before, but she also suggests you write your own obituaries – one written based on where you’re headed now and one written based on how you want your life to go.

Then you post all of this up somewhere and start looking for the patterns. You’ll find that you gravitate toward certain activities and things, towards group activities or solitary… Maybe you tend to stay inside when you’re doing things you love or you just have to be outside to feel ‘right’. Keep opening yourself up to new things and see where they connect with what you already love. Eventually, you’ll find your Must.

If I actually figure this out, I’m sure you’ll hear about it! I have a feeling it’ll have something to do with animals and making things. You know, like a farm and yarn. :) But I’m keeping an open mind because maybe it’s painting, like I spent the morning doing:

Abstract watercolor painting

Watercolor painting of sheep

Bah-ram-ewe, sheep be cute!

If you’re still trying to figure yourself out, I suggest you give the book a read — buy it*, check it out from the library or watch the video below. I’m always hopeful that everyone will find their calling and follow it. A world full of self-realized people who do what they love seems like a world lacking in judgement and full of positivity. Strive high!


Webstock ’15: Elle Luna – The Crossroads of Should and Must from Webstock on Vimeo.

Woolful Podcast, Interviews of Inspiring People in the Fiber Industry

Knitting and coffee
Standard

I have a little time to kill before heading off to school for a workshop this morning, so I decided to knit and listen to a podcast.

In the latest Woolful podcast episode, Ashley interviewed Hanahlie Beise who followed her passion, bought some alpacas, and started a line of yarn (Hinterland).

Like I admitted before, one of my dreams is to have my own alpacas, so it was inspiring to listen to someone else’s journey into it.

If you haven’t been sucked into Woolful yet, I highly recommend subscribing. Ashley, the creator of the Woolful podcast, recently purchased land in Idaho to start her own flock of sheep and fiber mill. She started the podcast to share her journey and to collect knowledge from other people in the fiber industry (designers, shepherds, millers, fiber artists…). I have found it to be extremely inspiring, with many moments of pausing and reflecting on things that resonate with me.

If you love anything about the fiber industry, I think you’ll find the Woolful podcast to be inspiring and hopefully you’ll be hooked like I am!


Woolful Blog

Woolful on Ravelry

Trying new things: Hand spinning yarn

My first attempt at spinning yarn on a wheel
Standard

I began thinking about someday owning my own alpacas after John and I went to an alpaca farm / yarn shop while visiting my parents in Wimberley, TX. In this shop, they sold yarn spun from specific alpacas and each skein came with a little card of information about that alpaca. Yes, the yarn was lovely and soft, but it was actually those silly little cards and knowing the alpaca’s name that made me buy the yarn.

Before this, I only bought yarn based on how it felt and looked. After this, I started looking at the fiber content of the yarn I bought and I started reading books about fiber:

The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright — I own this one and love it. Each fiber discussed is accompanied by a project that works well with it and the book has gorgeous full-color photos from cover to cover.

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes — This is one of the first fiber books I checked out from the library and it is JAM PACKED with information and super cute illustrations of animals.

Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith — This one is only about sheep, but goes into great detail about many breeds of sheep and each breed is accompanied by knitted swatches of hand spun yarn made from that fleece. It’s a great way to visualize the differences between the different breeds.

*(These are affiliate links.)

I found Spinner’s Book of Fleece interesting because of the sheep and how each fleece could be so different. Spinning was on a list of things that I’d do if the opportunity ever arose but I wasn’t really looking to buy new gadgets for yet another hobby.

…And I already have enough yarn to last a lifetime.

When we helped out at Evan’s Knob Farm a couple of weeks ago, that opportunity to learn how to spin did arise. Kathy, the farm’s overlord (hehe), let me pick out some roving she had created from her flock of sheep and sat me down at her spinning wheel. That first night of spinning was a bit frustrating, but I kept at it for hours until it finally clicked.

My first attempt at spinning yarn on a wheel

My first attempt at spinning yarn on a wheel

And then I went back to it another night and finished this kinda gnarly but in its own way lovely skein of yarn.

After earning my “Hand Spinning Newbie” badge and my “Sort of Helped Shear a Sheep” badge, Kathy sent me home with a big bag of fleece!

When I got home, I ordered a drop spindle and some hand carders from The Woolery (these were a lot more pricey than I was expecting but I couldn’t find many cheaper hand carders on the web that didn’t look like someone had grabbed dog brushes and attempted to market them as hand carders).

Wool on a carder

My first time using hand carders. Look at those fluffy fibers!

The carders worked well, and I think I got the hang of carding pretty quickly. I carded 5 or 6 little batches and rolled them up into rolags.

Then I had to figure out how to use a top whorl drop spindle… Nothing that a little Googling couldn’t fix.

Hand spinning wool

Look, ma! More yarn!

I spent about two hours spinning the bits of wool that I’d carded. A little slow, but I still enjoyed it.

Yarn on a drop spindle

Two hours worth of yarn… phew!

I need to remember to put a cloth or something over my clothes the next time I spin. All of those little sheep fibers cling to my clothes!

If you’ve been into yarny crafts for a while but have never tried spinning, I’d suggest giving it a try. There’s a little learning curve but it’s no worse than the one for knitting or crocheting. Unless you buy fleece, you’ll only need a drop spindle (mine came with a niddy noddy and was less than $20 for both) and some roving to play with.

Let me know if you decide to try it! I’d love to see your first attempts!