Handspun Present Cowl

Once upon a time, I got a text message from a friend of mine. We live on opposite sides of the country so texting is the main way we keep in touch. Most of the time we talk knitting and yarn. She also reads this blog. After reading so many posts about my spinning and my ready-to-knit skeins of handspun, she asked if I had ever knit with any of it. A perfectly valid question. I referred her to Exhibit A, a pair of mitts knit from my first 3-ply yarn, and a shawl I was ripping out. Out of the dozens of skeins I’ve spun over the years, I’ve only knit with 2 of them. After I hit send, she threw down the gauntlet. Knit with my handspun or face the consequences. I’m not really sure what those consequences were, but I’m sure they were dire.

I choose a freshly spun skein and went looking for a pattern. I had enough yardage for a cowl and eventually picked the Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C. The cowl was a quick knit where the handspun was the star of the show. I knit it up last year but took my sweet time to block it. Still wore it though with the ends tucked out of the sight. When I flew back to Birmingham for a visit, the cowl came with me so I could prove that I actually had knit my own handspun. Consequences averted. Whew.  

When I dunked the cowl into the water, I was curious if blocking would change the gauge and drape of the piece. Before knitting, the handspun got it’s own bath to set the twist when it came off the bobbin. Would that soak be enough to prevent changes in the knitted fabric? Nope. After blocking, the stitches noticeably relaxed. The fabric had more drape and the cowl grew taller and wider. It’s still the right size to wear without collapsing so I’m happy. The moral of the story is swatching is important whether you’re working with commercial or handspun yarn.

The finished cowl is warm, comfy, and looks great with my favorite coat. It’s also good protection from all the wind whipping through my neighborhood. Now I just have to wait for the temperature to get cold enough to wear it.

Since knitting up this skein, I’ve knit one other project with handspun which I’ll be sharing soon. I also have my eye on another handspun skein that I wound but never knit. So, I’m passing the challenge on to you. Have tons of handspun that you’ve never knit with? Grab a skein and knit it up! The consequences of #handspunchallenge will be fun, wooly, and anything but dire. 

Pattern: Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C

Yarn: 2 ply handspun Malabrigo Nube - Arco Iris

Needles: US 8 (5 mm) circulars

Dates: August - September 2014

@Ravelry

How To Make A Blocking Board

What happens when you have to block your knitting (shawl, lace, mitts, color work, what have you) and are completely lacking in pin-ready space? You make your own blocking board. After finally binding off a small shawl I was ready to block it, but I’d just moved to a place without carpet. I couldn’t take over the bed or furniture either with wet garter stitch and pointy pins. Foam mats weren’t in the cards either. The good news was that moving left me with plenty of boxes that I could use instead. If you’re in a similar spot, here’s what you’ll need:

 One large cardboard box (mine was 41.5” x 27” flattened)

A towel large enough to cover the box

Packing or Mailing Tape

Scissors or Knife


Step 1: If you can still put stuff inside the box, it’s time to change that. Cut the tape holding it together and flatten out the box. 

Step 2: Tape the box’s edges together like so. The two layers of cardboard will be thick enough to support pins and stretched out knitting. 

Step 3: Wrap up the box/now board in the towel. If the towel’s bigger than the box, fold over the edges and tape them in place. 

There you have it! One DIY blocking board ready for pins and knitting. Mine seemed no worse for wear after a couple of days with a shawl and a cowl pinned to it. Can see myself getting a fair bit of use out this blocking board before I need to upgrade. 

How To Make and Spin Fauxlags

What are rolags and what are fauxlags? The answer to both of these questions is happy little burritos of fiber. They look the same, spin the same, and create the same kind of yarn - an airy woolen handspun. These preps also have added benefit of being quick to spin since the speedy long-draw or a variant is a must to easily draft them. Plus, they’re fun to to make and spin.

The giant difference between the two is how they’re made. Traditionally, rolags are made on hand cards or blending boards and rolled off into a tube. Or they can come straight off a drum carder. Fauxlags are generally made from pre-made batts, carded roving, or top. The only tool you need to make a fauxlag is a long smooth stick-like object such as a dowel, a knitting needle, or a chopstick. Fauxlags are easier to make than rolags because you don’t have to learn how to use hand cards. Plus, a simple dowel is much cheaper than a drum carder (I still want one though), a blending board, or hand cards. Making fauxlags is also an inexpensive way to see if you like working with this prep before investing in dedicated tools for rolags. 

Let’s get rolling!

To make fauxlags, you’ll need fiber - roving, top, or a batt all work - and something long and smooth to wrap it around. Dowels, knitting needles, and chopsticks all work. 

I’m using an 8” dowel and a Fantasy Batt from GwenErin Natural Fibers.

Before we get down to tearing and rolling, we’ll need to prep the fiber. If you’re working with a dense, thick batt, loosen up the fiber by pulling on the sides. We’re not trying to tear it into strips yet (unless you want to change up the colors or textures), just thin out the batt so it’s easier to work with. Fluffing up the fibers helps with roving/top too if it’s compacted or slightly felted. 

Before we start striping the batt, pull out a few strands to measure staple length. If the fiber is 3” long, you’ll want to space your hands at least that far apart. Any closer and the batt/roving won’t separate because you’re holding both ends of the staple.

Batts can be difficult to tear evenly and the dowel lets you hold the batt evenly across it’s width for a neater edge. Hold down the dowel with one hand and pull the batt into strips with the other. It’s totally okay if the strips don’t have a clean edge or come away in clumps. Before you roll, you can stretch and pull them into a uniform piece.

If you’re working with roving, you can skip the dowel for this step. Just grab the fiber between your hands and start pulling it into chunks.

This is the same piece that was torn off in the above photo. I tugged and pulled it out to even the edges and make it easier to roll. When you’re happy with the shape and distribution, put the dowel on the bottom edge. Wrap the edge around the dowel and start rolling. If you're having a hard time holding the bottom edge, you can use a second smaller dowel to hold it in place. 

After the fiber is all wrapped up, I like to roll it a few more times with a little extra pressure. Those last few rolls secure the outside edge of the strip and create a firmer fauxlag. I’m not trying to create a super dense prep - that would be hard to draft. The right amount of pressure keeps the fauxlag squishy yet firm which stops it from collapsing during spinning.

The last step is slipping the rolag off the dowel. Now repeat these steps to your heart’s content.

Here’s my finished batch. I got 9 fauxlags from this 1.1 ounce batt. The first two I made are a little thicker because I didn’t roll them as tightly - didn’t make any difference when I spun them up. 

Time to spin!

Pick an end and slowly pull it out to pre-draft the fauxlag like so. I draft just enough to join a piece to the leader or the previous fauxlag. Since the fibers are all rolled up together, long-draw is the best way to draft these beauties. 

Thanks to the magic of tripods, cameras, and video editing software, I was able to put together a video of the spinning process. I hope this helps answer any questions about how to spin fauxlags and rolags. It’s my first video tutorial so let me know what you think!

My Kitchen Table Is My Studio

Abby Glassenberg posted a photo of her work space, her kitchen table covered with legal pads and her laptop. The shot was taken at night and wasn’t styled to be “Pinterest perfect”. The first comment asked, “Where is your inspiration?” Her response and thoughts on the imagined requirement of inspiring studio space are worth a read. What stuck with me most from the entire piece was her closing statement: 

“If [you] believe you need inspiration, or a beautiful space, or just the right environment in order to make creative work, you’ll never begin.”

I often imagine my perfect studio. The room is always well lit and bright thanks to big windows with a lovely view. There are shelves and cupboards for yarn, fiber, books, and every possible tool. There’s a desk for writing/getting lost on the internet and a drawing table with a parallel bar. The remaining wall space is covered in art, including this Alpacalypse! print I’ve already squirreled away. I’ve got the space for every creative thing, both work and hobby, that I could ever want to do. 

Here’s the thing though, it’ll be years before I have anything remotely like the space in my imagination. That Alpacalypse! print is rolled up in a tube waiting for a place on an imaginary studio wall. Like Abby, I do most of my work at the kitchen table. It’s covered in yarn, notions, paper, and notebooks by the end of the day. My supplies are stashed wherever there’s room for them. As much as I want that studio because I have the far-flung idea that it’ll just make working so much easier, I don’t have the luxury of waiting. I have to make and do and challenge myself now for my own sanity. If I don’t, that far off in the future studio won’t need to exist at all. 

There's a bike in my spinning nook too.

There's a bike in my spinning nook too.

While churning out these words, some of which came easier than others, I’ve realized how silly it is to put a print away for a studio wall that hasn’t been built. I’m getting it out, putting it in a frame, and finding a spot for it now. Also, while that imagined studio would be amazing, all I really need is somewhere to keep my supplies in one easily accessible spot. Wandering the apartment and shuffling boxes to look for one specific thing is already old. I can get shelves and keep working from the kitchen table. 

What's In Your Notions Bag?

After years of knitting I’ve got my required notions down to a science so I’ll have what I need whether I’m at knit night, on a plane, or just hanging out on my couch. 

I love getting little peeks at other people’s desks and studios. A knitter’s notion bag is the same thing in a much smaller package. So, what’s in your notions bag? What are the absolutely necessary tools you use to make knitting and crochet easier? Post a photo to Instagram with the hashtag #mynotionsbag or tell me in the comments. I can’t wait to see!

Without further ado, here’s what I keep in mine.

  • About the bag itself. I used to carry around everything in a metal tin but it rusted and was hard to open. I went to Etsy when I couldn’t stand it anymore and found this great pencil case from Silke Jacobs. It’s just the right size to hold my notions while not taking up too much space in my project bags. Plus, I’ve got the room to hold interchangeable needle tips and an extra cable too when I need them.
  • A simple retractable tape measure.
  • Kitty snips! I got a pair to replace collapsable and embroidery scissors when I fly and decided to use them all the time. 
  • Tapestry needles in different sizes. I won the set of two smaller Chibi needles last year and was surprised at how nice they are. Added a larger needle as well so I can weave in ends from lace weight up to bulky.
  • Stitch markers. Lots of stitch markers. I’ve got locking stitch markers, fancy stitch markers, and plain rubber rings in the bag at all times but the selection varies with the project.
  • Needle keys and cable caps. These things are here to keep my interchangeable needles tight and happy. The key makes sure that the needle and cable aren’t going to twist apart. The caps keep my knitting on the cable when I need the needle tips for another project. 
  • Lotion and a nail file. The nail file is a recent addition to the group. After growing out my nails, I got tired of snagging them on my yarn every other stitch. It’s nice not to have to go digging to find the one file that may or may not be in my purse.  

Notes On Felting Handspun

In the weeks before I packed up and moved, I had the urge to finish up a few lingering projects. One such project was finishing a Texel single that had been hanging around the place since January. The Texel was a special skein since it was the first I’d spun of that breed (Click to read the full breed review). Because it was a first, I wanted to get the most out of the 4 oz and preserve the color which meant spinning a single. An added bonus was that I get to try an idea I got from Hedgehog Fibers, intentionally felting handspun. Why felting? Singles aren’t the strongest of yarns and felting would make the yarn more durable and pill resistant. My less technical reason was that I’d never done it before and wanted to experiment.

First thing to do was set up. I filled the sink with the hottest water I could get out of the tap, 131º F. The cooler on the left was filled with cold. Both had enough water to fully submerge and swish the yarn around. Both also had a generous helping of soap. I used unscented Eucalan because that’s what I had and didn’t want to over felt the yarn washing out dish soap. A few guides I’ve read also recommend shampoo which is probably easier to rinse out than dish soap as well.

Prep done, the skein went into the hot water bath to soak before I went to work on it.

Once I was happy with the yarn’s level of sogginess, it got a vigorous stirring. I used a straw to spare my hands and somehow managed to stay dry during the process. My kitchen started to smell like lanolin too. 

After 20-30 seconds of agitation, I plopped the skein in the cold water. Lots more squishing and swirling was had.

The yarn got another hot and cold water dunk with plenty of swirling and smooshing. After the third trip through the hot water, I decided to see how the felting was coming along. I pulled out the skein and squeezed out some of the water. The skein hung straight with few curls and looked firmer - I know, an exact description. Individual strands were sticking together but weren’t difficult to pull apart. What really convinced me to stop though was the complete lack of stretch when I snapped the skein between my hands. Before going into the water, the skein had stretch and give, but, now, there was none at all. 

The yarn got one last dunk and swirl in the cold water before I wrapped it up in a towel to squeeze out excess water. After snapping the yarn a few times more between my hands, it got several good thwacks against the kitchen floor before being hung up to dry. 

The left photo is what the yarn looked like before the snapping and thwacking. The photo on the right is after. Big difference.

One interesting thing I noticed before draining the water was the color of the two baths. The hot water in the sink barely changed color at all, but the cold water turned reddish-yellow. I’m not really sure why the different temperatures affected the dye differently. 

3 baths was just enough to lightly felt the yarn which was exactly what I wanted to happen. The thwacking did roughen up the finish a little but I like the finished texture. It’s hairy, but not too hairy, and I can pick out the kemp, AKA guard, hairs if I want too. If Texel had luster like Merino, thwacking would probably have dulled the skein but that wasn’t an issue here. 

Part of the reason I lightly felted the yarn was because I didn’t want to massively reduce its diameter. Before felting, the skein was ~12 WPI which makes it sport weight. After felting, I was surprised that the yarn was still ~12 WPI. What did change though was the yardage. The skein started with 304 yards and ended with 286. Had I kept felting, both the WPI and yardage would both have changed drastically.

I’m calling this little felting experiment a success. The process was easy and relatively fast. Felting singles is something I’m definitely going to do on a regular basis. Plus, I love everything about the finished yarn. It’s not often that I have a plan for my skeins as soon as they’re dry but this one is different. It’s going to be a pillow once I decide on a pattern. Maybe something with short rows a-la Lizard Ridge

Free Download: Handspun Texel Wallpapers

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Of all the handspun and fiber photos I've taken recently, this one has stood out the most. It makes me happy. So, I spent a few minutes in Pixelmator resizing the image to use a desktop wallpaper. While I was at it, I cropped it down to make a mobile version. Download and enjoy! You can always use a little more fiber. 

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