The Spindle And The Wheel

Sunday, I was cleaning up all the browser tabs I’d left open from the past week. Most of them were longer articles I wanted to read, not skim, and videos that actually seemed worth watching. One of those unwatched videos was a 10 minute talk by Clive Thompson, The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes The Way You Think. He details the differences in how handwriting and typing affect your brain and why each is suited to different tasks, say note taking vs writing an article. It’s worth a watch. Near the end of the speech, around 9:25, Thompson says, “There was no individual tool that is perfect for any situation. What we really need is a lot of different cognitive tools in our tool kit. We need to be able to move back and forth between one mode to another…”

A week before watching said video, I felt the urge to spin. Not on my wheel, but on my turkish spindle which is a bit of a change. Since I got the Sidekick in September 2013, I have spun zilch on any of my spindles. Zero, nada, zip. Why the sudden change of heart? One of my spoils from Stitches West was 0.7 ounces of roving from Wonderland Dyeworks. The fiber was soft with beautiful color, and I wanted to enjoy spinning it for more than an a tv episode. So, out came the spindle instead of the wheel. This afternoon, I finally finished the single. Tomorrow, I’m plying back on itself with a spindle of course.

Looking at this single after taking such a long break from spindle spinning, I am very sure of one thing: the yarn I make with a spindle is entirely different from the yarn I make on a wheel. My spindle spun yarns are much the same, smooth and shiny, while my wheel-spun yarns are hairier and lacking the same luster. This all comes down to drafting. The only drafting method I’ve used with the spindle is the inch-worm forward draft because it’s only one that kept the spindle in the air. It isn’t called a drop spindle for nothing. The wheel let me try other drafting methods until I settled on a hybrid long-draw as my default. Just like in writing, in spinning there is “no individual tool that is perfect for any situation.” Sure, the wheel allows me to spin lots of different yarns - bulky or fingering, dense or airy, smooth or haloed - but I haven’t been able to replicate the yarn I spindle spin. To be fair, this is probably more my doing than the wheel’s. 

The reactions I get from both tools are fundamentally different. When working with a spindle, there’s an immediate knowledge of whether or not there’s enough twist. With the suspended spindle, either the single holds together or the fibers pull apart and the spindle hits the floor. There’s not much warning. Sometimes though, as the fibers slip, enough twist builds up in the thinned section to keep the spindle in the air. I’ll take it. Spinning at a wheel, the single is pulled away from me instead of towards my feet which makes the question of twist a little harder to answer. I’ve spun plenty of yardage that had enough twist to make it onto the bobbin but too little to actually hold together. Some of my most frustrating spinning moments have been pulling a single off the bobbin only to have it to fall apart over and over again as I’m feeding it though the orifice.

I once read a blog comment but where writer said they couldn’t wait to upgrade to a wheel from a spindle so that they could be a “real” spinner. With all the tutorials and articles focusing on wheels over spindles, I can understand where they’re coming from. Still, don’t discount the spindle. It’s been a valid tool for millennia, and it’s not going away any time soon. Just like the pencil and the keyboard are suited to different tasks, so are the spindle and the wheel. Being able to use move between them and use both, will allow us to do so much more than we could with just one.  

The 5 Reasons I Went To Stitches West

I got up bright and early Friday morning to go to Stitches West. I was wearing one of my favorite knitting cat shirts and a small matching scarf of my own making. In my backpack, I had knitting for the round trip train ride, extra shopping bags, a snack, and all my usual purse accoutrements. So, was it worth the almost 4 hours I spent on Caltrain and the Santa Clara VTA getting there and back? Yes. Absolutely, positively yes. Will I be going again next year? Definitely.

Stitches West is a like a yarn shop combined with a spinning shop, both of which are on steroids. This was the second time that I’d been to a Stitches event, the other being Stitches South, and both times were enjoyable. What’s more, these two events make me want to go to other festivals because they give me an idea of just how much amazing fiber goodness is out there. Here are the 5 reasons I went and why I try to go to other fiber festivals. 

All the yarn and fiber you could want. Even knowing what to expect, I was still completely overwhelmed when I walked through the doors. There was yarn to my left and yarn to my right. It came in every color of the rainbow and any weight you could want. I didn’t know where to start so I just walked the aisles trying to keep my mouth from falling open. I went with the intent of restocking my stash of spinning fiber and was completely spoiled for choice. A sweater’s worth of wool from Miss Babs, a brand new tote bag, and buttons came home with me too.

It’s easy to find new yarns and dyers. Once I had my wits back, I was able to start picking out individual booths that interested me. Many of these dyers I might never have found if I only had the internet to rely on, such as Wonderland Dyeworks. The second I walked by her booth I knew I couldn’t leave without some of that delicious fiber.

You can touch everything. Seriously, you are encouraged to feel yarn and fiber to gauge it’s softness and quality. There’s different breeds of wool, alpaca, llama, silk, and various plant fibers to get your hands on. 

There’s the chance to meet your favorite designers. The night before, I printed out Dotted Rays by Stephen West and cast on so I’d have some knitting for the train. The shawl pattern is a pretty straightforward knit with an ingenious treatment for the short rows. When I walked past the Mixtape booth, I had the opportunity to tell him how much I loved the pattern which was great to do face to face. 

Inspiration is everywhere you look. If you’re in a making funk, inspiration is all around you. Maybe it comes from a particular skein of yarn in a booth. Maybe you see an amazing shawl on someone’s shoulders. Maybe a bump of fiber gives you the jumpstart to spin for a sweater. Inspiration to knit, crochet, and spin is hard to miss.

Lessons From 50 Days Of #YearOfMaking

During the last few months of 2014, I started hearing about #yearofmaking from Kim Werker. As I become familiar with the one rule behind the project - just make something everyday - I started seriously considering taking on the 365 day project. The only thing holding me back was my previous attempts at a daily projects. I’ve tried daily drawing and photography projects that topped out at 31 days but rarely kept up. 

So, why commit to 365 days of making then? Besides from reading about Kim Werker’s creative adventures, I also read about Crystal Moody’s. Her blog, documenting her daily attempts at drawing and making art, was the only one that I went back through the archives and read from the first post. Over 2014, I saw her art steadily improve and her thoughts about making art mature. I wanted to gain similar improvements for myself. I also just wanted to make stuff since I spent way too much of 2014 distracted by video games and stuff on the internet. I needed to knit, to spin, to draw, to make, and to learn again. 

On January 1st, 2015 the only rules I set for myself were to make something every day and post of a photo of to Instagram to keep myself accountable. I could make anything I wanted. On Day 1, I blocked a shawl. Day 4 saw me stacking cairns at a park in Arizona. Over the past 50 days I’ve knit socks, added inches to a cabled scarf, started doodling again, made lots of tasty food, practiced photography, and spun yarn. I haven’t missed a day so far, not even while I was sick, and it’s been an amazing part of my year.

Besides from making stuff, I also wanted to learn new things. So, what have I learned?

  • Making stuff is awesome and I rather like it. Simple? Yes, but I forgot during the funk that was 2014.

  • Accountability is key. If I wasn’t tracking my progress with Instagram and my Bullet Journal, I’m sure I would have slacked off and skipped a day here and there. Since I’m creating that record and making it public, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to be making which has been liberating instead of stifling. I’m not waiting for inspiration to find me, I’m going looking for it.

  • Variety is the spice of life. Looking through my photos, there are long streaks where I just knit on a pair of socks for a week at a time before getting bored. I don’t feel tied to any one project or craft. When I was bored of the socks, I switched over to spinning and got some lovely alpaca handspun when I finished. A few days ago, I felt like pulling out my sketchbook and doodling so that exactly what I did. Not tying myself to a specific craft is why I’m going to be able to make something 365+ days in a row. 

  • Keep learning. Once finished, that new pair of striped hand knit socks is going to be great. I’m also rather fond of the meditative process involved in knitting ribbing for that long but I’m not learning anything new. After the sock knitting excitement wore off, it felt like I was just calling it in. Tired? Don’t want to do anything? Knit on the sock, post a photo, done. Sometimes you need that but it gets boring day after day. Push yourself to try a new technique or a new skill. Doesn’t matter if that day’s making isn’t perfect. You still tried, made, and learned something new. 

  • Making is more than you do with your hands. Most of what I see when I search for the #yearofmaking and #yearofcreativehabits tags are physical items. There’s painting, knitting, soap making, scrapbooking, dinner, crochet, pottery, and the list goes on. What I don’t see are word counts for essays & stories, photography practice, or other less physical things. Are those things lacking because they’re harder to photograph? Is it because there’s a different group of people doing them? Is there a hashtag I haven’t heard about? I don’t know. What I do know is that making is an intention and a thought process. While the end result is different, whether I’m spinning alpaca or fiddling with the ISO and aperture on my camera, the creative drive is the same.

What am I going to learn in the next 50 days of #yearofmaking? No idea, but that’s what makes it exciting. 

Breed Review: Texel

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As I learn about spinning and wool, I’ll share it all with you.

I have the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild to thank for this bump of wool. At every meeting, the guild holds a raffle with items donated by members. The proceeds go to the guild and I always bought a few tickets even if it meant scrounging up a couple of quarters from the bottom of my purse. Eventually, one of those tickets won and I took home 103g of Texel with the fitting colorway name of Tequila Sunrise. With a little research on Ravelry and Google, I found out that roving was part of Southern Cross Fibre’s January 2012 fiber club. Internet, you rock.

Since learning to spin, I’ve become familiar with Merino, Bluefaced Leicester, Falkland, and Targhee but Texel was a new breed for me. At first glance, it wasn’t lustrous but had wonderful color. At first feel, it wasn’t next to the skin soft but seemed sturdy and strong. I opened up The Field Guide To Fleece to get more information. Turns out that Texel sheep are raised mostly for meat but that their wool is of good quality. The fiber insulates well, takes color easily, has strong crimp, and can vary in staple length from 3” to 6”. I can’t speak for the insulating qualities but I can definitely attest to the color and crimp. The staple length in my roving was between 3” and 4”. The authors also write that Texel is “relatively easy to spin” which I found to be the case as well.

After pulling out the chain I was able to get a good look at all the colors. The fiber was dyed randomly with no two segments of color the same length. Fractal-spinning was right out but I didn’t want to spin a 2-ply either and potentially muddy the colors. I decided a fat single would best preserve the colors and went from there.

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For easier drafting and to break up the longer color stretches, I split the fiber lengthwise down the middle. 

Split them again, but in half this time to create 4 nests of fiber. During spinning, I picked them randomly when I needed more fiber. Since I was aiming for a fat single, I used a short-forward draw and the 6.8:1 whorl ratio on my Sidekick.

I’m glad I split the fiber up because that meant I had several long gradients of color just like this. Can’t wait to see how this yarn knits up.

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While I was drafting I came across these individual hairs occasionally. They were longer and courser than the rest of the fiber and didn’t take dye at all. If I noticed them before they were drafted into the single, I pulled them out, but didn’t worry with them otherwise. 

This is what happens when you forget to switch over to a jumbo bobbin before spinning 4 oz worth of singles. Thankfully, nothing got caught up in the whorls or twisted around the flyer shaft.

Off the bobbin! Normally, if I were finishing and setting the twist as usual, this is where’d put the info about what happened after it came out of the wash; however, I’m trying something new with this skein. When I was spinning the Texel, I came across a blog post from Hedgehog Fibres that focused on fulling, aka felting, handspun singles. Those yarns looks lovely and I want to try intentionally felting my handspun for once instead of doing it by accident. More on that adventure soon.

How To Weave In Ends Without A Tapestry Needle

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There are two great reasons to learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle. One, you don’t have to stop knitting to look for that one tapestry needle which has probably wandered off already. Where do they go? Ahem. Two, you can weave in ends as you go instead of putting it off until after the bind off or, if you really loathe working them in, never doing it all. 

Learning to weave in ends without a tapestry needle can be finicky the first few times you do it, especially if you’ve never done color work, but it’s worth the effort. Not only does it save time during finishing but it’s also versatile. You can use it with stockinette, garter, and in pattern. It still works if you’re increasing and decreasing. The ends will follow the curves and angles of short rows and chevrons without creating extra bulk. While it is noticeable on the wrong side, weaving in ends sans needle is neat and tidy. Plus, it even works with slippery yarns.

Sounds pretty cool so far, right? I thought so too which was why I used this method to weave in the ends when I switched colors on the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket. The deadline for that blanket left me in a dust with half finished knitting and weaving in the ends without a needle as I went cut out one last step at the end. 

Step By Step

efore we get started, there’s one you need to know that’ll make learning this technique much easier. It might seem like you’re just knitting as usual with the new yarn but it’s actually wrapping around the tails as you move them back and forth.

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When it’s time to switch colors (or time to add another ball of yarn), work one stitch in the new color. The tail should be about 6” so you have enough yarn to hold on to.

In the opposite hand of your new yarn (if you have the dexterity to do all this with one hand, mad props), hold the tails of both colors together.

Wrap the tails around the right needle from top to bottom.

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Work the stitch normally with the new yarn. Just the new yarn will be caught in the stitch and the tails will fall to the back. This is exactly what you want.

Work the next stitch with the tails held behind the needle.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’re satisfied with how much you’ve woven in. I usually aim for 1 - 2”. Drop the tails, cut the old color, and keep on knitting with nary a tapestry needle in sight.

See how all the steps come together below.

Here’s what the woven in ends look like on the wrong side of the knitting. The tails follow the curve of the chevron with no problem and are quite secure. A quick note: I waited to cut the tails until after the blanket came out of the washer and dryer.

Tips  & Tricks

t the switch between the grey and the blue, the blue yarn isn’t evenly woven in. Since the tails are just wrapped in the working yarn, there’s no need to redo it. Just tug on the tail until it’s neatly in place.

What if the tails were woven in too tightly? As shown above on the left, the stripes will pull in and pucker at the change but it’s easy to fix. Gently pull the edge out until to loosen up the tails and straighten the edge like in the right photo. If the tails get pulled out to far, just tug them back into place.


How To Work Lifted Increases In Garter Stitch

This the second tutorial for the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket. The first tutorial is 5 Ways To Use Stitch Markers

Lifted increases have been my favorite way to add stitches to my knitting since I first heard about them in New Pathways For Sock Knitters. (Thank you, Cat Bordhi!) When working in stockinette, lifted increases, specifically LLinc and LRinc, are easy to work, not fiddly, and don’t create big holes or blemishes in your knitting. Over the years I’ve experimented with them in other stitche patterns and lifted increases work just as well in garter stitch as they do in stockinette. So, when I was swatching for the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket, LLinc and LRinc were the first increases I tried and they worked wonderfully. LLinc is an abbreviation for Leaning Left Increase while LRinc stands for Leaning Right Increase. Use them together and you get matched, symmetrical increases which makes my designer’s brain happy. 

I’m trying something new for this tutorial. The increases will be shown with BOTH step-by-step instructions AND a gif demonstrating the technique. Happy stitching! 

How To Work LLinc In Garter Stitch

Knit to the spot where your pattern says to increase.

Insert the left needle up into closest bump directly under the right needle.

Insert the right needle just like a regular knit stitch.

Wrap the yarn around the needle and work it the same as a regular knit stitch.

Ta-da! One new stitch on the needles.

How To Work LRinc in Garter Stitch

Knit to the spot you need to increase.

Insert the right needle up into the first garter bump directly under the left needle.

Slip the stitch onto the left needle and move the right needle behind the left. Wrap the yarn around the needle and work the stitch the same way as knitting through the back of stitch. 

Check back February 3rd for the next Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket Tutorial, Weaving In Ends As You Knit. No tapestry needle required!

5 Ways To Use Stitch Markers

Stitch markers come in lots of shapes, sizes, and materials. They can be flexible rubber rings, simple metal triangles, intricate jeweled baubles, or cute beads on wire. You can even make them on the spot from small pieces of leftover yarn, paper clips, rubber bands, or hair ties. Stitch markers can be one continuous piece or able to be opened up and “locked” on a specific stitch. These little tools can do a lot to help with your knitting even if they are easy to lose between couch cushions.

Use them to mark the Right Side of your work. When you first cast-on for a garter stitch project, it can be hard to tell the Right Side from the Wrong Side when you pick it up after a break. Take a stitch marker, different from the rest if you’re using a lot of them, and put it a stitch or two in from the starting edge of the Right Side. Pick up your needles and don’t see the marker near the tip? Then you’re on the Wrong Side of your work. 

Stitch markers can be used to mark more than just stitch repeats. On the Cuddly Chevron Blanket, I placed a marker every time I had to increase or decrease. It kept me from having to count (or miscount) every stitch and left my mind free to listen to podcasts or watch a movie while I knit. 

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Lockable stitch markers are great for tracking your progress. When you’re working on a big project and it starts to feel like a slog, start your knitting for the day by putting a locking stitch marker on a just knit stitch. When you’re done, you’ll easily see how much you’ve accomplished. This trick is great for seeing progress on sleeves, sweaters, and socks, but can be a bit discouraging if you’re knitting a blanket from the center out.  

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Stitch markers are also great for counting rows. Here’s also where locking stitch markers come in handy again. When you’re starting a new section of knitting and need to knit a certain number of rows/rounds, say for the ribbing on a pair of toe-up socks, put a locking stitch marker on the first row and count from there. You could also put a marker every 5 or 10 rows so you can see how many rows you’ve knit at a glance. 

Stitch markers are really helpful when you’re casting on a large number of stitches. I can count 20 stitches without losing my place much easier than I can count 400. So, after you cast on 20 sts, place a marker and repeat until you have the required number for your pattern. No miscounting here.

P.S. Here’s one last tip for all the hand spinners out there. Locking stitch markers make it much easier to measure the yardage of skeined handspun. 


Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket Tutorials

1. Tips for Using Stitch Markers

2. Working lifted increases in garter stitch (January 27th)

3. Weaving in ends as you go without a tapestry needle (February 3rd)

Pattern: Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket

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Early last year I found out that a good friend of mine was having her first child. Since she’s on my knit-worthy list, my mind started churning with all sorts of ideas. I considered sweaters, hats, toys, and baby tube socks. All of those things are still an option now but what what I really wanted to make was a blanket. Sure, it’s more knitting, yarn, and time than the other ideas but a blanket has staying power. It can’t be outgrown like a sweater or a hat or adorable baby tube socks. A blanket is more useful than a toy and, maybe, not as easy to misplace. Plus, if you pardon the cliche, a great way to wrap someone up in love.

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Those thoughts were the start of the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket. I swatched my way through several different and complicated ideas, none of which panned out, before coming back around to the simple chevron. Soft, cushy, colorful garter stitch chevrons, in fact. After tracking down a machine washable cotton/acrylic yarn that actually had all the colors I needed, a task that proved much harder than I thought, I cast on. Then I ripped out because I wanted the blanket to be bigger. After that, the knitting was smooth sailing. I didn’t finish the blanket in time to send it off before the kid was born but it did arrive before winter turned really cold. 

My original plan was to publish the pattern before Christmas. Obviously that didn’t happen but I’m so happy that Cuddly Chevron is the first pattern of 2015. The first of many! Another first and something I’m really excited about is that I’m going to be releasing a tutorial series detailing the techniques in this blanket! I’ve never released tutorials revolving around a specific pattern before and can’t figure out why I haven’t. The tutorials will focus on several key techniques that will help with both with the blanket and future projects. The series starts next week and will cover weaving in ends as you go (without a tapestry needle), working lifted increases in garter stitch, and uses for stitch markers. If you’re wondering how to work another technique, let me know. 

Happy Knitting! 

Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket

Simple, classic, and warm, the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket is easy to make and a great gift for any baby or yourself. Worked in garter stitch, the blanket knits up quickly to create a cushy fabric. 

Stick with three colors of worsted weight yarn, just use two, or go wild and use up all those leftover yarns in your stash.

Want to make it bigger or smaller? The pattern includes notes to help you out. 

Size: 30” x 30”

Needle: US 7 (4.5 mm) 36” circular needle

Yarn: Cascade Yarns Avalon - 2 skeins (350 yds) of each color

C1: 10 - Artisan's Gold

C2: 02 - Silver

C3: 17 - Enamel Blue

Notions: Tapestry Needle, Stitch Markers (Optional)

Check it out on Ravelry!

Tips For Flying With Your Knitting

Can your flying with your knitting and needles? Yes. Even in carry on? Yes.

In December the Bearded One and I flew to Alabama to visit family. Since I was spending 3 weeks away, you can bet I brought knitting. The problem was that I hadn’t really swatched for either of the projects I was bringing. So, I wound the yarn and threw everything I thought I’d possibly need in a bag. My supplies included 2 skeins of yarn, 3 pairs of interchangeable needles tips, cables for said tips, a needle gauge, snips, tapestry needles, a measuring tape, stitch markers, and waste yarn. The pattens came along as PDF’s on my phone. My bag wasn’t flagged or searched and went through the X-ray machine without a single beep. So, here are a few tips to make flying with your knitting easy and trouble free. 

Disclaimer: I’ve flown with my knitting and all required notions for years without trouble. I’ve gone through security at BHM, ATL, LAX, SFO, and PHX without any hassle besides from pulling off my shoes, belt and jacket; however, I can only write about my own experiences flying within the United States. I’ve never had to go through Customs or enter another country or enter the US. Follow these tips at your own discretion. 

Print out the TSA’s own page that says knitting needles are allowed in carry-on bags. In all the years and places that I’ve gone through airport security, I’ve never been questioned about my needles or knitting notions or all the yarn I’m hauling in my luggage. That said, I still print out this page from the TSA website that explicitly allows knitting needles because whether or not that make it through security is still up the individual agent.

If you’re really afraid of losing something, your favorite needles or scissors for example, don’t take it. I’ve read advice about flying with knitting that advises bringing a self-address envelope to put any offending items into. You know what I’ve never seen next to security at any airport I’ve been too - a mailbox. If you do really need to bring an something, put it in a checked bag. Don’t risk it otherwise. 

Edit your notions bag. Like to keep some lotion with your notion to smooth dry hands? It has to go in the same bag with all the rest of your liquids. Solid lotion bars seem to be okay to stay with your notions though. Keep your scissors small and under 4”, anything longer than that isn’t allowed in carry-on. Circular thread cutters or anything with a concealed, unremovable blade are right out too. I carry a small pair of HiyaHiya Kitty Snips (there’s also Puppy Snips) and they’re perfect for traveling and everyday use. 

Bring a book or something else to do as Plan B. Just because you can get your knitting on a plane doesn’t mean you’ll have the elbow room to do it. I blame the Yarn Harlot and photos of her knitting on planes for thinking I could get hours of mostly uninterrupted knitting time. If you’re like me and travel with a broad shouldered guy (or just end up sitting next to one), you’ll probably feel a little squished. When I sit down I spread my elbows out a bit to see if I have the space before I go through the effort of pulling out my knitting. I’m not flying First Class, so most of the time, I just don’t have the room to comfortably knit, and it has to wait until after I’ve reached my destination. 

What are your experiences with flying with your knitting? Share your tips and stories in the comments.

2015 is the #YearOfMaking + Resources

I started seriously thinking about what my theme/word would be in 2015 last week. I can stick to a theme/word much better than I can to individual resolutions. (Learn more about the word idea here.) A few weeks ago I was pretty sure that 2015 would be the Year of Handspun but I wanted to do more than spin yarn, fun as it is. I also want to write, draw, knit, take photographs, and whatever else comes to mind. I want to become a better photographer. I want to learn and use my hands. 

One word just didn’t seem like enough to cover all of those things. I was wrong though because the perfect word, MAKE, snuck up and smacked me upside the head. Make will let me write, draw, spin, knit, or whatever. It’ll let me do things with my hands. It will help me research and learn. It will prod me get stuff done. It’ll make me happy. Mix all of that together and MAKE is a wonderful thing.

In order to get myself making January 1st and keep on going through December 31st, I’m going to do the #yearofmaking challenge. The only rule is to make something everyday whether it’s cooking a tasty dinner or updating my site or knitting a single row on a scarf. All are perfectly valid. To keep myself accountable, I’ll be posting a photo of the day’s progress to Instagram. Please call me out if I don’t post anything! There will also be the occasional blog post and, #yearofmaking will be the first thing on my to-do list. 

Resources To Start Your Own Year Of Making

#yearofmaking didn’t come from nothing. It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for months since I came across Year of Creative Habits by Crystal Moody. Everyday she made something and everyday she posted it to her blog. I looked forward to reading about her journey and seeing her art so much that I went back to start from the very beginning. Her thoughts and questions on creativity and daily making are thought provoking and worth reading. 

Another resource that helped me make the final leap was Kim Werker’s new ebook, Year of Making. Werker recounts her own reasons for doing a Year of Making in 2014 and gives tips for starting and maintaining the making habit. Also included are several worksheets to help you figure out what your passions are, what you want to do during the year, and what you want to try. She also details an example spreadsheet to track your progress which I’ll definitely be using.

Shoot for progress, not perfection. - Elise Blaha

I also picked up this wonderful progress tracker from Elise Blaha which will give me get the pleasure of crossing out boxes and seeing a year’s worth of daily progress at a glance.

MAKE in 2015! 

My Favorite Posts of 2014

And it’s almost 2015. How did that happen? While it seems like it should only be July or August, I’m looking forward to the new year. I’ve got lots of plans and I can’t wait to get started, but first I’m going to remember all the good stuff that happened in 2014. It’s so easy to always focus on the next step that you can forget to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished. So, in no particular order, here are my favorite posts/wins from 2014.

One of my top wins is relaunching this site. I love the With Wool name, the new layout, and direction. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Rolags: A Love Story & Handcarded vs Drumcarded Rolags

In bits and pieces this year, I learned that I love making and spinning rolags. Rolling them is easy and they spin up in no time at all. Even better, the resulting handspun is fluffy, light, and warm - the perfect thing to add to my ever growing stash of handspun. Can’t wait to do more with them in 2015.

Looking back through the archives, I was able to relive a few of the past year’s adventures. There’s my first trip to San Francisco, exploring LA’s Natural History Museum, and working my way through the Scorpion Submarine. I hope I can go on as many adventures and more in the new year. 

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Another win is my surprise favorite of Tour de Fleece. On the bobbin and even plied, I just wasn’t sure about this skein. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it either. It was weird and totally different from what I usually spin, but a good soak did wonders. Glad I put in the work and followed through to the end. 

One of my favorite tutorials from this year is about how to start and keep a handspun journal. It’s a great treasure trove of information about your spinning and helps keep track of future goals. 

The Shur’tugal Socks took far too long to get off the needles. The wait was worth it because they’ve become one of my favorite pairs of hand knit socks. I’ll grab them on the rare occasion I can actually wear wool socks out of the apartment. They also made the list because I’ll really happy with the photos. Taking attractive photos of your own feet is no easy task.  

This year’s Spinzilla was a powerful win. I learned more about productive spinning, but the real lesson was that I was only spinning against myself. I don’t have to compete and constantly compare myself to others. Plus, I got 4 awesome skeins of handspun out of it.

I can’t pick a favorite post but it’s fun to look through the Wander the Web series. The photos are mini journal of my days and there’s lots of interesting links tucked away on numerous topics. If you’re wondering what happened to the new updates, the series has moved to my weekly newsletter, with a wooly bent, which you can sign up for here.

Onward to 2015!

11 Wonderful Gift Tags For Your Wonderful Hand Knits

Christmas is just 5 days away! If you’re still stitching away, I hope all your patterns are error free, you’ve got plenty of yarn, you’re binding off before 1 AM on Christmas morning. To wrap all that wonderful knitted and crafted goodness up right, here are 10 printable and DIY tags. 

And may all your gifts be met with just the right OOH’s and AAH’s!

Labels for Handmade Items from Little Monkey Crochet

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Colorful Gift and Care Tags from First Pancake Studio

Fair Isle Bookmark Tags from Eat Drink Chic

Minimalist Typographic Gift Tags from Montgomery Fest 

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12 Days of Christmas Gift Tags from Year of Creative Habits

’Tis the Season Gift Tags from Abigail Halpin

Warm Wishes Knit Tags from 100% Rain

Up for a little cross stitch? Make these cross-stitch mitten tags from Design*Sponge.

Ugly Sweater Gift Tags from Love vs. Design

Keep it simple with my own Make A Bow Gift Tags

P.S. If you don’t want to stay up till the wee hours of Christmas morning binding off, here are some IOU tags to put under the tree instead. 

The Cat And The Hat

Say hello! This vermillion kitty cat doesn’t have a name yet but he (she?) is heading to a new home for the holidays.

Will there be catnip, snuggles, and tea parties? This cat does love a good tea party.

Traveling with the vermillion cat is a matching hat. Since I knit the hat in the 18 month - 4 years size, I was able to make both from one skein of Tosh Vintage. Even had a few yards to spare. I knit the cat mostly as written with the few mods I used detailed here. The collar is garter stitch and 5 stitches wide with a yarn over buttonhole. The hardest part of the whole pattern wasn’t the knitting but embroidering the face. Ripped out the nose and the whiskers several times to create just the right expression. 

 If you’re looking for safety eyes to use on your toys and softies, I recommend 6060 on Etsy. The selection for safety eyes - cat, round, or handpainted - and safety noses is amazing. There are plenty of different sizes and colors to choose from at reasonable prices. I picked up a 12mm variety pack of 5 different colors so I could pick out the eyes that would pop best on the vermillion yarn. Plus, my order shipped quickly so I’ll definitely be ordering from that shop again. 

Cat Pattern: Greta the Captivating Cat by Rebecca Danger

Hat Pattern: Slouchy Babe Hat by me - Download it here

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage - Vermillion

Relaunch!

Good news! The radio silence is over. I’m back with a new site and a new name, With Wool. I’ve got lots of new things - patterns, reviews, tutorials, you name it - planned for 2015. One of those new things is a weekly newsletter about knitting, spinning, interesting links, and plenty of wooly goodness. Sign up below!

 
 

With the new name, I’m taking the opportunity to take this site in a slightly different direction. Don’t worry. There’s still going to be knitting, spinning, and more wool than you can shake a knitting needle (or crochet hook) at. Over the 5 years (!) I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve wanted to talk about playing and about enjoying the process of making be it wooly or not. Most importantly though, I wanted to focus on kicking the fear of failure to the curb; of making and starting something even if you don’t know how to do it perfectly the first time. I’m not sure how well that’s shown through during the past few years but it’s coming to the forefront now.  

If you follow my posts through an RSS reader, click on over on check out the new site (the feed shouldn’t be affected by the switch). Let me know what you think!

Spinzilla Eye Candy

Last year I was living in a different city and, having just gotten my Sidekick, still getting to know my wheel. Spinzilla was just a fun challenge. I had a few ounces of Perendale that I spun and chain-plied into 310 yards (there was no plying credit that year). After the competition was finished, I read about other spinner’s yardage and it was obvious that they took it far more seriously than I did. To put it mildly, my 310 yards seemed a bit lacking. Still, I was and felt like I’d leveled up a spinner anyway. Spinning 3 consistent skeins was something that I’d never accomplished before. 

This year, I started Spinzilla with a little intention, not that I got up early or anything, and set a few goals for myself. 

  • Spin (or ply) everyday.

  • Spin more yardage than I did last year and aim for at least 1 mile, 1,760 yards.

  • Not hurt myself.  During Tour de Fleece this year, I hurt my shoulder spinning long-draw, thanks to poor posture and technique. Didn’t want to repeat that.

  • Have fun. What good is a week full of spinning if it feels like a chore?

By Sunday night, I’d done all of those things even if my shoulders were a little sore. Plus, I had yarn to show for it, 933 yards - 2,533 with the plying credit - of Targhee, BFL, and Polworth. Since I was going for speed and ease of spinning, I stuck with my favorite fibers that I could spin long-draw because it’s my fastest default method. Even better, I love the resulting yarn. Why churn out the yardage if you’re not going to love it and want to use it in the end? The only exception is the neon pink single which I spun inch-worm style in hopes of a smoother finish and a little more durability.  

My numbers aren’t record breaking by any comparison but I had one other goal, to only spin against myself. It was one that I had to remind myself of every time I read a number more than twice mine. “Spinning against myself. Spinning against myself. Just spinning against myself.” A hard mantra to repeat and remember while reading other’s yardage but, at the same time, the right one for me. I’m proud of what I accomplished during Spinzilla and the yarn I made. Plus, I don’t have to recover from  sleep deprivation or aches and pains . So, there’s that.

Spinzilla 2014 Yardage Calculator

Spinzilla is going fast! The competition ends at midnight this Sunday, October 12th, just 2 days from now. Whether you’re just having fun spinning yarn or treating the challenge like a full time job, I’m sure the yardage is adding up. So we can all spend more time with our wheels and spindles and less time with paper and pencil, I made up a handy spreadsheet that does all the math for you. It even calculates the plying credit. All you need is the yardage of the finished skein or single and the number of plies. There’s room for 30 different items which should be enough for even the most dedicated spinner.

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As an example, here’s what my spreadsheet looks like. So far, I’ve spun 2 full skeins and I’m working on my third. Each skein gets a name along with it’s yardage, plies, and notes. At the bottom, the grand total is tallied and you see if you’ve joined the Monster Mile Club for spinning more than 1,760 yards. When you’re ready to submit your yardage, all your numbers are in one place and ready to go.  

Note: To have your own personal copy of this spreadsheet, please click "File" in the main menu under "Spinzilla 2014 Yardage Calculator". To use in Google Docs, click "Make a copy..." To download for use in Excel or as an Open Document, click "Download As". Thanks!

Happy Spinning and Good Luck!

Download The Spinzilla Yardage Calculator

Spinflix

Sure, there are podcasts, audiobooks, and music but, like Alex Tinsley does with knitting, I do most of my spinning by the glow of Netflix. Since we’re at the start of Spinzilla 2014, I'm taking a page from her book and offering up a few tips for making the most of your spinning entertainment. 

  • TV shows top movies. Like Alex says, you don’t have to pick something as often if you start watching a tv show with several seasons. There’s one other healthy benefit. TV shows are shorter with commercial breaks which are great reminders to take a break yourself. Stretch, get a drink, and walk around for a couple of minutes. A few moments of rest, especially during the week-long challenge of Spinzilla or any spinning marathon, will help keep you injury free and ready to spin. 

  • Go back to your old favorites. Me, I’m going to be binging on Futurama. I’ve seen every episode and know the jokes. It’ll be easy to follow along with the story and laugh while still keeping a close eye on the twist going into the single. 

  • Follow subtitles with caution. If you can read and knit stockinette at the same time, you can probably spin and follow subtitles at the same time. Just stick to techniques you’ve already got under your belt that don’t require looking down at your hands 100% of the time. I can draft long-draw and follow subtitles but I can’t keep up with subtitles and draft inch-worm. 

A few of my favorites that I'll be watching and spinning with this week:

Futurama - Knitting robots and lobster men from outer space! It’s animated sci-fi set in the year 3000 that follows the adventures of a pizza delivery boy frozen for 1,000 years.

Psych - Wasn’t fond of it at first but I was hooked after watching a few episodes. It’s funny and light-hearted with lots of great characters that solve crimes.

Warehouse 13 - Objects with special powers and the secret service agents that track them down. It can be completely off the wall but that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

Black Sheep - My one exception to the ‘TV shows top movies’ guideline. Genetically engineered sheep turn carnivorous and it’s up to a reluctant farm boy to stop them. Lots of black humor in this one.  

What do you like watching while you spin?




Tips for Making and Spinning the Most of Spinzilla

Spinzilla-2014-Dates

Spinzilla is almost here and it kicks off 6AM on October 6th. If you’re on the fence about signing up, you can do that here, October 3rd is the last day. This is the last weekend to prep so here a few last minute tips and info to help you get the most out of Spinzilla. 

How to Prep for the Monster Spinning Challenge

There’s a photo contest this year! There are catergories for Best Yarn Photo, Best Team Photo, Best Sheepzilla Photo Bomb, and Most Creative Spinning Spot. 

Gale Zucker has a few tips for taking the best photos of your handspun.

Tips on prepping your wheel for the big spin.

Beth Smith writes about how to prep fiber for the fastest spinning.

How much fiber do I need? It depends.

Empty Those Bobbins for Spinzilla

Last week I signed up for Spinzilla, a week long event with the goal to spin as much handspun yardage as possible. This year, just like last year, I’m going Rogue which means I’m not spinning with a team. It was a lot of fun in 2013 since I got to know my new wheel and level up as a spinner. Spinzilla 2014 kicks off next week on October 6th and there’s still time to sign up as a Rogue if you too want to spin all the things. The proceeds go towards TNNA’s Needle Arts Mentoring Program which teaches stitching and fiber crafts to kids and teenagers.

There are only a few days left to prep for the challenge and step one is emptying my bobbins. I only have 4 that I can use on my wheel as well as 4 storage bobbins. Pretty sure that I’m going to need every one of them. 2 of the bobbins have been holding singles since July and that’s way too long. My plan when I started spinning the singles was to make a 2-ply fingering yarn. As I worked I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to match the colors without performing a lot of surgery. The urge to easily preserve the colors won out and I chain-plied instead. My 2 singles turned into 2 matching skeins of yarn. Won’t be sure until after the skeins dry after their bath but I’m pretty sure I made the right decision. 

The only change I’d make next time would be wearing a bandaid during plying. The constant friction and tensioning made the soft single cut into my thumb. I’m keeping lotion (might not have had a problem if my skin was softer) and bandaids in my spinning kit from now on. 

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Got a couple of bobbins to empty before Spinzilla. Chain plying these beauties. 

Got a couple of bobbins to empty before Spinzilla. Chain plying these beauties. 

Inspiring, fun, thought-provoking, and crafty links to round out the week and jumpstart your brain.

Cute sticky page markers by Duncan Shotton

Simon Heijdens turned a room into a giant kaleidoscope that you can walk around in. 

Yoke in a bag kits used to be a thing.

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake - This cake intrigues me.

Love these embroidered tents and cabins by Stephanie K. Clark.

Tell the bigger story.