Problem solving

If everything went smoothly it wouldn’t be much fun now would it? That’s what I’m trying to tell myself now about my sweater.

As I mentioned on Sunday things were sailing right along and I had made it all the way down to the bottom and cast off the body. On Monday evening I picked up the waiting arm stitches and started on down the left sleeve so that I could work on it over lunch at work the next day.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="299"] The picture didn't capture the difference quite so well. But trust me its there.[/caption]

It was, as such things are want to be, a bit fiddly, but it was still going well. But as I progressed I started to notice that the new knitting seemed different. This really isn’t at all surprising as often my tension will have changed as I progress through the project. And the shoulder/upper body portion has been shoved into bags/toted around and generally experienced some “stress” just by the nature of being the first part knit of a larger project. So I kept going.

And then I figured it out. The coloring was different. Not that it was a different color but the way the dye was on the yarn created a mottled/space dyed look on the body and the sleeve was nearly solid. I kept going for a bit but later verified with a second set of eyes (Bran) that it was indeed different.

The yarn that I am using for the sweater inevitably has a story behind it. When I was still running the Box Office at the symphony I discovered that one of the longtime local violists was also a knitter/spinner/crafter. We struck up a bit of a camaraderie over this shared interest and often at concerts she would stop to chat about what we were up to. One weekend out of the blue she showed up with a bag of yarn for me. I didn’t question too intently but I gathered that she had dyed the lace weight alpaca yarn for someone but the recipient wasn’t happy with either of these two resulting colors. And so the skeins had been languishing in her stash.

The sweater yarn I am using was all one big honking skein (actually I’m almost questioning this now, maybe it was two skeins). To make it easier to work with I wound off multiple smaller cakes of yarn. Apparently I didn’t pay close enough attention to notice that the first three little cakes had a much larger variation in the color than the remaining yarn which I caked later (this variation makes a ton more sense if it was indeed 2 skeins).

If I had caught the difference before starting the sweater it could have been properly handled with planned use of the different cakes. Or the easiest method is to alternate skeins each row. But here I was now with the body haven used virtually all of the first 3 cakes. I had just a tiny bit of the third cake left, now rolled up into a little ball. As I considered my options I also realized that I had knit up three separate swatches all of the mottled yarn.

So I went ahead and unraveled the sleeve to start it over again. My plan is to alternate skeins for a while down the sleeve and eventually transition into the solid yarn. It will still look different but the aim is for the difference to be more subtle.

Fingers crossed.

Tea Tuesday: Youthberry & Wild Orange Blossom

This blend of two Teavana teas, Youthberry & Wild Orange Blossom, is the "free" ounce that I picked up from my visit to Teavana. It was the sample they had set out at the front of the store so I'm guessing it is quite popular.

Looking at the dry tea it is filled with big chunks of fruit. It actually look like there are barely any tea leaves in the mix. And the chunks make it a bit tricky to scoop. It also has the most amazing flavorful scent to it. It is so strong I almost think they must do something to bump up the flavor. But I love it and it makes me crave the tea which plays well into using the tea as a special treat.

I treated it like a white tea with slightly cooler water and a short brewing time and was a bit worried because herbal fruity teas generally need a longer brewing time. But there was nothing to fear as it imparted a wonderfully fragrant and lightly fruity flavor. I haven't tried a ton of white teas but believe this mildness to be fairly typical. It also brews up to a lovely pinkish color. Quite fun.

With so many flavors I think I'd be hard pressed to pick out many single notes. The tea as a whole is a giant burst of fruityness with more subtle floral undertones. The one flavor that I can unsurprisingly pick out is that of orange. Orange isn't a flavor that I would normally crave in my tea. But with all of the other flavors around it this particular blend is quite delicious.

All in all it makes for a perfect very summery bright flavored tea. Excellent for mornings or anytime really.

Teavana Youthberry & Wild Orange Blossom:

Youthberry White Tea: "Delicate white tea gets its youthful blush from red currants, a├žai berry, hibiscus and rose petals. Candied pineapple and mango pieces mingle with Fuji and golden delicious apples in this sweetly timeless elixir. Refreshing sweet pineapple and fruity acai berry infusion with subtle floral finish. "
Wild Orange Blossom Herbal Tea: "A tribute to the plentiful citrus groves along the Indian River, this bright favorite blends orange slices and pretty rose petals. Refreshing orange infusion with light floral undertones."

One word of caution however. I happened to have a particularly kind Teavana sales person who put together this one ounce sample for me. Normally I think they would only sell a minimum quantity of 4 ounces of this blend and it would get quite pricy.

Sunday Status Report

It's been kind of a crazy week. I got home from the beach. Then went away for work. Then went away to the lake house. So in most ways I feel like I accomplished very little. But actually I did have a good bit of car time that is perfect for powering through some of the less than exciting crafting that was needed.

The sweater has a full body now! Excuse the fact that I managed to block the bottom with my hand/arm. I promise there is a bound off edge there. Next up is sleeves and a collar:

I kept going with the trindles on the pink coopworth. I wound off the cops that were pictured last week so everything here is fresh. Still a good chunk to go:

Up on my relaxing weekend I finally finished spinning up all of this blue stuff. I can't believe how full the bobbin is! No wonder it took so long. Next up is spinning all of the green to match then plying:

And while I didn't wash any more fiber I did flick open more locks. But I'm too lazy to take a picture. Plus it looks exactly the same as last weeks.

Here's to a slightly more normal next week!

MDSW: An overdue recap (part 2)

As promised here is part 2 of my MDSW visit. Part 1 was posted yesterday.

When it came time for lunch we had a plan. One of the complaints that I have heard about MDSW is the variety of food available. Most of it is typical/junky (and I mean that in a loving way, I definitely have a place for fried food in my heart and stomach) carnival type food. Plus J is a vegetarian which limits the options. Last year however we found a super excellent spot that had a few cheese vendors. One of them even had a cheese and cracker plate which we happily feasted upon. The three of us were salivating just thinking about recreating the same this year. Not to be outwitted in case things had changed I even packed my own crackers, just in case. But sure and happily enough they were there again. Some of the leftover goat cheese came home with me along with a delicious second sheepy selection.

Once back to the shopping I found all of my final purchases in the big barn. As someone who is highly appreciative of some soft fiber and constantly on the lookout for a good bargain I was super excited to find these batts of baby llama and angora. They are sure to be a dream to spin and I’m already contemplating as to what type of project I can knit that will ensure maximum enjoyment of the soft.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="331"] If nothing else they sure do look pretty. It would actually be quite fun to make a project dyed with various "shades of tea"[/caption]

Rather surprisingly in amongst the other fiber and assorted handmade goods I found a vendor selling a variety of loose leaf teas. Given my recent growing tea obsession I couldn’t help but pick out a few. I went with one very typical me fruity black tea but then tried to broaden my horizons and try other types that had names I recognized as being a more basic variety. So far I’ve tried and enjoyed the Passion Peach. The green tea I think will take a bit more time to appreciate properly. Research indicates that the Lapsang Souchong is a type of smoked tea. I’m a bit worried that the smoky-ness seems to have permeated the other selections possibly even to the detriment of the green. I have them stored separately now and am waiting to see if things change with time.

Aside from the raw fiber one of my other primary targets for the day was a shawl pin. I have found the knitting of shawls to be quite the addiction and I am also quite fond of wearing them. But for these seemly small items to cost $30+ really just blew my mind. I never found any that I deemed worthy enough.

So having been somewhat restrained in my purchases I decided to loop back and treat myself to some fun reasonably priced and super soft amazing fiber. This is 100% alpaca. I have a bit over 5.5 ounces and I can’t wait to spin it up but so far I have no idea how to spin up the fiber, particularly as it relates to the colors, or what my end knitted item will be. Probably a shawl its kinda my default anymore :-)

And that in a, rather large, nutshell was my MDSW experience. Typing all of this up has me itching to keep playing with all of the wonderful goodies!

Tea Tuesday: The Teavana Experiance

As I think I mentioned on Sunday Bran and I were just down to the beach for a long weekend. When we make this particular trek (its a 4 hour drive each way) we've found it works well if we swing by the (ginormous) King of Prussia Mall on the way home.

I have seen Teavana on many of our previous trips and always walked by. But recently as I go deeper and deeper into the tea rabbit hole I've been hearing good things about their quality.

The first two times we walked by I resisted. I hate spending money. But then, after walking across the entire mall to find the Lego store where Bran found nothing he wanted, there was another Teavana right across the way. I walked over and tried a sample. It was delicious. I grabbed the little booklet that lists all their flavors and proceeded to read while traversing back across the mall. After determining that some of the prices weren't too bad I steeled my nerves to give the store a try.

A large part of my hesitation is surely the fact that I really hate sales experiences and dealing with strangers in unfamiliar situations. I had no idea how this whole tea buying thing was supposed to go. When questioned I mumbled something about being interested in flavored white or black teas and the staff person started pulling out big tins of tea. He would open each one and more or less blow the scent of it over in my direction. It was actually quite awesome, albeit still intimidating.

In an ideal world I could probably spend quite a lot of time standing there smelling and comparing the myriad of flavors. And of course working out how to get the best bang for my buck. But instead I went with 2 great smelling choices he offered up early in the experience. They were reasonably priced although rather higher than I would normally go. I added in some basic black English Breakfast to help me hit a $25 total which would grant me a "free" ounce.

Now suddenly presented with the need to choose a free ounce I fumbled around and asked about the tea that I had initially sampled. Well turns out that was actually a blend and so not available.... Except, well his boss stepped away so if I wanted he could do it....Umm...yes please?

So in the end I walked out with a delicious smelling bag and around 6 ounces of tea. My wallet was lighter than I'd prefer but as of now I'm thinking as an occasional indulgence it might be worth it. It is a quite good sign that as I struggled to get my head back into the regular work day I fixed upon the idea that I would be able to make myself a cup of that wonderful stuff when I got home. And it was indeed a very good idea and a delightful treat this evening.

I actually intended to review my first cup of tea from this purchase made at home. But I've already rambled on quite a bit so I think I'll just go with the description of my experience. I have another long weekend coming up methinks it calls for many good cups of tea, and perhaps some reviewing.

MDSW: An overdue recap (part 1)

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="448"] The final haul.[/caption]

My day began rather ungodly early. Earlier than my normal work day. But such is the price that I am willing to pay for awesome fiberness. I had made arrangements with two fiber friends to attend together and extra awesomely share the driving. And so I picked up my friend J who is a knitter/spinner/weaver. Together we proceeded down to K’s house, just a knitter but quite awesome and she may be starting to bend to our spinning persuasions. She was kind enough to drive us down the rest of the way. Car knitting time is always fantastic. Especially in a car with fellow knitters.

We arrived just after 10 o’clock. The weather was quite beautiful. Early spring can be so tricky to anticipate so I layered up for the day with jeans a t-shirt, thin fleece, and a shawl around my neck. With the sun shining and a breeze blowing I opted to leave the fleece in the car but felt it both fun and appropriate to continue wearing the handspun handknit shawl (the knitted object/people watching at such festivals is a-mazing). All in all I was at times a bit chilly but the wardrobe decisions worked. And my sunscreen even held up all day. Yay.

Now once we actually arrived J and I were all about the fiber sale. The fiber sale in its newly established digs of a small building all to itself was chaotic awesomeness. It had been open for about 30 minutes when we entered and according to the sign in the back 100 fleeces had already been sold. Luckily for us however there were still over 500 left. Yup, 500 raw fleeces sitting all layed/piled out across lots of tables sometimes in a slightly organized fashion. I failed at properly preparing myself for what I was looking for. But I felt, and J agrees, that I had learned from my fleece purchases last year and would be able to better choose this year. Fleece prices can range from as low as $15 to upwards of $300. So with just a budget in mind it was still a reasonable starting point.

My budget was very much on the low side of things but there were definitely still plenty of options. I happened across this beautiful looking Tunis fleece. Firstly the price caught my eye. Secondly the fact that the sheep was coated suggested that I should be looking at a rather cleaner/better fleece. The staple length was on the longer side which I prefer and the dense crimp suggests good things. I started carrying it around before anyone else could scoop it up.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="370"] Look at all the pretty colors in one fleece![/caption]

I tried to convince myself to stop there. After all 4.25 pounds of fresh fleece is no small undertaking. But as J continued to hunt for her treasures I of course continued to look around. And I couldn't resist the lure of the pretty colors found in this "little" ("only" 3 pounds) Jacob fleece. As I understand it Jacob's can be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the quality of the fleece. But from what I could tell things looked pretty good. And once again the price was right. I made my purchases and escaped before the siren song of anymore fleeces pulled me in.

After that and a quick trip back to the car to store our 10+ lbs of cumulative fleece we met up with a friend of K's and wandered through a few of the barns filled with vendors. I am not a fan of crowds so unless something catches my eye I tend to move pretty quickly.

I’ve already typed a full page here so I had better split things up so as not to keep you reading forever today. Stay tuned for more (for real this time, trust me I already typed the rest up).

Sunday Status Report x2

Life got the best of me and I've fallen behind. But I am of course still crafting. Here's what I've been up to...

Two weeks ago...

I finished up this batch of hedgehogs and was able to pass them along to father (to go on sale at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center) in person when my family came up to visit for some wine touring (yum):

I also whipped up 2 more bunnies and added in a 3rd that had been languishing around the office to send off for sale:

I finished working up the samples from my new MDSW fleece purchases. I prepped and spun up a worsted and woolen sample from the Jacob and the Tunnis fleeces:

I also spent some time starting to wash up each of the fleeces. I'm kinda crazy and pick apart the fleeces and wash them to preserve the lock structure. I really ought to find a more efficient system:

My sweater is starting to look somewhat sweater like:

And I had a super crazy idea to build myself a loom from cardboard and some basic supplies. At that point most everything was conceptual and a few small scale tests:

This week...

The sweater got longer. I need to start measuring and figuring out ribbing for the edge (and then knit some sleeves, and a collar):

I've been doing lots more fleece washing. I'm focusing on the Tunnis although one batch of Jacob did sneak in. At this point I have over a pound of washed Tunnis locks. I haven't measured the Jacob. I also went for a long weekend with Bran to the beach. I packed a bit over 4 ounces of Tunnis locks which I then combed/flicked open into this bag of fluffy awesomeness. I could spin these as they are but my favorite prep is to use my hackle and draw them out into long strips of roving:

I'm starting to think about spinning and particularly trindles again. I've had this pink coopworth fiber for 4 years now and my new goal is to finally finish spinning it all up before the next TDF (July):

Some simple/fun beach/car knitting gave me another rectangle to be mounted for wall art. I actually knit this twice as the first time I cast on too many stitches so given my limited amount of yarn it was much too long and rather short. I'm strangely in love with these colors which sadly don't photograph too well. Especially in the iffy light I was using quickly tonight:

And my crazy loom project continues. I have a more or less functional prototype together. But there are still quite a few tweaks I want to work out before putting together anything final:

Next week is looking like it will be extra crazy let us hope I survive.

Sunday Status Report

As seems to be the trend I feel like I didn't accomplish all that much this week. There were even a few days where I just wasn't in that much of a crafting mood (WEIRD!). But the evidence seems to indicate differently. And that is why this weekly post is such a great thing.

Hedgehog progress hit a major roadblock when I ran out of funfur. And since I didn't actually get myself to JoAnns until just a few hours ago all we have is a belly.

The spinning project feels mostly like its been taunting me. Sitting there on the spinning wheel trying to call out to me, begging to be continued while I just ignored it. But the pictorial evidence indicates that progress was indeed made. Perhaps it was early in the week and I've since forgotten. Sadly this is possible.

My sweater was the go-to project of the week. Making it to the bottom of the armholes is always super excited. The project has an excellent blend of being extremely simple and easy to just pick up and go wherever. But it also makes a super useful and beautiful product. I was probably able to add at least a full inch thanks to a wonderful friend offering to do most of the driving down to MDSW.

Speaking of MDSW. With the 2014 event on the horizon it got me thinking about the fiber from last year that was still untouched. I spent some time with some of it including washing, prepping, spinning, dying and a bit of test knitting. I'm kind of excited to continue going with this project now except that 2014 MDSW is now in the past and the lure of new goodies is as strong as the old.

I think going and shopping at MDSW practically counts as crafting accomplishment this week. Right? This endeavor really needs a post of its own. Perhaps tomorrow if I have the time.

But as with all new toys the MDSW goodies could not be ignored and rather promptly upon returning home I started processing some of the raw fiber to see how it would behave.

Now once I hit post I'll have to decide if I will be a good person and keep going on a hedgie or if the lure and draw of the new fiber is still too much.

Fiber Fest

Coming up on this weekend (5/3-5/4) is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

I am lucky enough to be within driving distance. It takes about 2 hours of driving to make it to the fair grounds. And I am lucky enough to have some good fiber friends to join in the fun (and share the driving).

Now despite the posturing that I am putting up that makes me seem like an expert or something I’ve actually only been to MDSW twice.

My first visit was 3 years ago with a yarny friend. Highlights from that visit were getting a later than desired start which resulted in a less than ideal parking spot pretty much as far away as possible. Once we actually made it in my mind was pretty much blown by how huge the whole thing is. On that visit I came home with a few different fibers and most awesomely my first trundle.

My second visit was last year. (I would happily have gone the year I missed except I was working that weekend. It was a very sad day. Hooray for my new job with no weekends.) This time I was once again with with a fellow yarny friend. Except this friend upped the ante and joins me (proceeds me really) in the all-around fiberness. In other words she is a spinner and a weaver as well. And so with this mind we visited the “Fiber auction”. It was exceptionally overwhelming. Bags upon bags of raw fiber. All different breeds, colors, prices. Eventually though we narrowed it down and decided to split two fairly cheap fleeces. Before this visit I had also had somewhat of a crazy plan. I wanted to spin a whole bunch of different art/textured yarns. And I wanted to do so with lots of different prepared and dyed fibers. Much amazing purchasing was done far more than I would ever predict of myself. But I did stay within my budget, and I had saved up for this in particular.

This year I have been coming to terms with the fact that I really do have quite the stash. I have fiber left from both of these trips plus yarn and fiber acquired but many other means. I should probably exercise a bit more restraint.

Time is short I must start finalizing my plan of attack now!