Friday Finds, Jan. 29, 2016

Valentine’s Day is at our throats around the corner.  There’s a lot of marketing effort to get you to part with cash to show your loved one how much they mean to you.  Is it necessary to spend money on a “hallmark holiday” like Valentine’s Day?  I’d rather have the cash.

Having trouble coming up with ideas that won’t break the bank but will make your beloved feel special?  I present here an assortment of inexpensive gift ideas and ways to make your day special.

I really love this little book.

what I love about you a to z

Lauren at The Thinking Closet wrote “Thinking Outside The Gift Box”.  She’s clearly a gifting genius.  This looks like fun to make and it will awaken a lot of gratitude for your beloved.  I predict some great conversations as you look through it with your darling.

Smart folks avoid restaurants on Valentine’s Day.  Who needs the crowds and expense, right?  Cooking at home can be romantic too.  Chloe at Her Campus has some clever ideas for heart shaped food.  Pizza hearts, anyone?  Surprise your sweetie or cook together, whichever you enjoy more.  Both can be very romantic.  Kisses while cooking?  Yes, please.

Mini-Heart-Pizzas

If you must go out on Valentine’s Day, go out for lunch instead of dinner. It’s likely to be cheaper and maybe even less crowded.  Or go to an upscale place and have dessert and coffee, and skip the expensive meal.

How about making a playlist for your sweetie?  You can make a romantic playlist, dance music, music for running, or music for whatever hobby you enjoy together.

My favorite Valentine’s Day idea is a quiet walk holding hands – just the two of you.  It’s great for your body and relationship, and it’s free.  Sounds like the ideal “gift” to me.

I’d love to hear your ideas on inexpensive gifts for your sweetie in the comments.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

Fun With Spinning Batts

I have been experimenting with creating  batts on my new drum carder.  I haven’t made an ugly one yet, I actually don’t think it’s possible.


IMG_5699 IMG_5704 IMG_5715  Here are some yarns I’ve recently spun from my batts.  The top and bottom were done on a hand spindle, the middle one on my wheel.

IMG_5678 IMG_5711 IMG_5740

A few tips to get started:

Let the batt be the yarn it wants to be.  Don’t get hung up on spinning a super thin, super smooth yarn.  This is the time for having fun with the chunky, highly textured art yarn you’ve been wanting to create.

My favorite easy and quick method for spinning a batt on a hand spindle is to tear it in strips, predraft the strips, roll them into balls, and then spin them one by one.  Depending on the batt you can break off where needed to blend a different color or fiber into the yarn.  If desired, you can pull out little sections while predrafting and put them aside to add at strategic points.

Check out this guest post from Carla Hansen, she’s an expert spinner with lots of in depth advice on different techniques.  Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.  Just begin!

If you’ve always wanted to play with spinning batts, but didn’t really know how to get started, or if you’ve tried them in the past and didn’t love the yarn you got, I urge you to try now.  Here’s a link to the batts in my etsy store, but there are many beautiful batts available all over Etsy.  Pick one and get started.  Have fun and be open to the beautiful, unique results!

Friday Finds, Jan. 22, 2016

This edition of Friday Finds focuses on YouTube videos for spinners.

First up is a video from Ashley Martineau at How To Spin Yarn on spinning paper yarn.

Grace Shalom Hopkins shows a method of spinning a miniature art yarn from a batt.  Sure to give you lots of ideas for all those batts you lust for!

Finally, we have a great episode from the Wool Wench on spinning cloud coils.

These three wonderful videos will definitely give you new ideas about how to use your stash.  Get spinning!

I’m going to produce some knitting and spinning videos in the spring.  I’d love your comment below to tell me which subjects you’d like to see covered.

Here’s a new handspun I recently finished.

IMG_5619

I will probably knit this fabulous yarn into a headband.

 

 

Spinning And Dyeing Yarn – A Book Review

I ran across this wonderful book by Ashley Martineau at my local library.

spinning and dyeing yarn

I love it and think it’s a must for all beginning spinners. My five top reasons are:

  1. Great instruction on building your own fiber equipment, including a spinning wheel, drying rack, kick spindle (must try!),  and a niddy noddy. She even shows how to build a sturdy lightbox that will store things waiting to be photographed. Lots of fun for the do it yourself crowd, and you won’t need to invest much money until you know you really enjoy spinning.
  2. Directions on spinning fabric.  I want to try that, I have lots of fat quarters and bits of quilting fabric piled up with no particular plan for their use.
  3. Information on core spinning, including on a hand spindle!  I highly recommend starting to spin on a hand spindle.  The portability is wonderful and its so inexpensive to get going.
  4. Clear directions on washing wool.  I want to buy a fleece (or two) this year and process it myself, just for the fun of it.  I’ve been hesitating because I was intimidated about washing it.  Will I felt it?  Will I get it clean enough? How do I even begin?  These clear instructions make it look pretty straight forward.
  5. The inspiration factor – there are dozens of pictures of gorgeous fibers.  Yarns, roving, batts, it’s all here.  If these colors and textures don’t make you want to immediately begin nuzzling your fiber, maybe you aren’t quite as crazy in love with fiber as I am.

Five stars for this book.  Its perfect for beginners and a great resource for those looking to up their game and try new techniques.  Clear instructions, excellent pictures and even a section on going pro make this a winner.  This one deserves a spot in your fiber library.

This post’s fiber picture is something new.  We’ve recently begun making spinning batts.  Here’s a lovely one, its now available in my Etsy shop.

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Friday Finds Jan. 15, 2016

TED has published a list of the most popular talks of 2015.  My favorite is number three on drug addiction and how everything we think we know about it is wrong.  What’s yours?

Did you know the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has an exhibition of knitted plants that are scientifically accurate?

brooklyn botanic garden

There’s a short article in the Wall Street Journal about the exhibit and the artist who created most of it.  She’s a self taught knitter, which is kind of amazing.

If you are a chicken keeper you may worry about your darlings out there in the cold, it is January, after all.  Maybe you’ve thought about knitting them each a sweater, but thought that would be a bit silly.  Well, in my relentless pursuit of knowledge, I’ve run across a pattern for a chicken sweater.  Pictures first!

chicken sweaters

The pattern can be found here.

And that does it for this week.  You must admit I outdid myself with the chicken sweaters…

For you fiber lovers, a picture of a new handspun bulky yarn that recently went into the Etsy store.

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Speckled Yarn Tutorial

I’ve been in love with speckled yarns for a long time.

IMG_5452I was determined to create my own, but could not find a tutorial anywhere. I experimented for a while. I tried spraying dye, putting it on with tiny spoons and syringes. These techniques got beautiful, but not speckled, yarns. Finally, I found the trick!

The key is salt!  Yes, salt.  Strangely simple, freely available and inexpensive to boot.

IMG_5461

Here’s how I do it, step by step

  1. Soak the yarn in a combo of cool water and a bit of vinegar. You can use citric acid if you like, I prefer vinegar. It’s available everywhere and there’s no shipping charge to pay on it.
  2. Spin the yarn in the washer to get as much water out as possible. Speckles are smaller and more distinct the drier the fiber is. If you want bigger blobs of color, leave it a bit wetter.  Or spray it after you apply the dye.
  3. Lay out the yarn on some plastic wrap or in the pan you use to apply dye. I go both ways, but for this usually just go right to plastic wrap as there isn’t much liquid to contain.
  4. Here’s the fun part – Using acid dye mixed with salt in a salt shaker, sprinkle the desired colors over the yarn.  Move yarn around and turn over to spread color.
  5. Wrap up and heat as usual. I use a small microwave for 5 minutes, let cool at least 5 minutes, then 5 more minutes heating.
  6. Leave it alone until it is completely cool. This is key!  Messing with it while hot just leads to felted yarn and dye running down the drain.  I usually wait until the next morning. If I do it early in the day, I may unwrap late that same day.
  7. Rinse in cool water until it runs clear. Turquoise may never run completely clear, that’s just the nature of that particular dye molecule.
  8. Spin in the washer again to remove excess water and hang to dry. I always spin because I am impatient to see the final result.  Let dry completely.  I put in a small, warm bathroom on a drying rack.
  9. Twist up and pat yourself on the back at the beauty you’ve created.
I sprayed this yarn with water after applying dye,
I sprayed this yarn with a bit of water after applying dye.

More Tips

  • Buy sets of shakers at your local dollar store. Mine had plastic shakers that are perfect. Avoid metal topped shakers, they will corrode, plastic will last a long time!
  • Less is more with dye. Use plenty of salt and less dye in the beginning so you have good control of how much dye you apply.
  • Less is sometimes more with color. A lot of white showing makes the speckles stand out brilliantly.
  • Try a color that you don’t love. An “ugly” color can be just the thing to really add kick.
  • Try using creamy or even gray yarns to get softer effects.
  • Dye the skein, or just part of the skein first, then apply speckles.
  • Let yourself go. Don’t worry about the result. Try closing your eyes and picking out three shakers. Have fun!

You can see more speckled yarns in my Etsy store and on my Instagram page. I hope they inspire you to create something beautiful!

Friday Finds Jan. 8, 2016

Today’s finds are focused on helping entrepreneurs use Instagram for marketing.

Confused about hashtags on Instagram?   This post is titled Instagram Hashtags For Bloggers That Will Triple Likes.  Sounds like it might be overselling things, right?  If you read it, you’ll find tags that work for any product or service you can imagine.  The writer suggest what type of photos work for each hashtag.  It’s worth experimenting with, at best you get your brand in front of new people.  At worst, you spent a few minutes reading this and trying it with no results.

I have tried some of the hashtags that I thought would be good for my highly textured and colorful products, and I notice I get some artists and other creative types coming to check out my Instagram page.

Instagram Power by Jason Miles is fascinating.  There is so much here I am going through it really slowly with my Instagram page open while I read.  I suspect I’ll be reading it more than once!

instagrampower

Jason has also written Pinstagram Power, which I read a while back.  That’s definitely worth taking a look at too.

Instagram is all about the photos.  Here are some great tips from people who take glorious shots.  I especially like the tip about selfies!

Here’s a fiber picture for those who love them.

A new handspun yarn coming to the Etsy shop soon.

 

Your First Entrelac

Would you love to knit a beautiful entrelac project like this?

first entrelac
My first entrelac project, knit in Noro Kochoran.

After completing 20 entrelacs I consider myself quite experienced. Many knitters have told me they would love to try it, but thinks it’s too difficult.  It’s not!  Really.  Here are some tips to make your first entrelac a success.

Pattern Choice

I always use the same pattern, if I want a bigger or smaller entrelac I change the number of stitches I cast on. My go-to pattern is The Basic Entrelac Scarf by Lisa Shroyer.  Find it on Ravelry here.  You’ll notice the shawl pictured above is featured on this pattern page.

The stitches are cast on in groups of 8, sometimes I’ve cast on as few as 16. The usual number is 24.  Right now I’m working on a huge custom wrap for which I cast on 48 stitches.  This project is is using 6 balls of Noro Nadeshiko, which is discontinued.

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The Giant

Start with 16 or 24 stitches on your first project.

Just follow the pattern, it’s very clear and well written. If you have any trouble understanding it, here is a tutorial on YouTube.

Yarn Selection

I recommend using bulky yarn for your first entrelac. You’ll see quick progress and the heavy yarn will make your stitches easy to see if you need to tink (unknit) something. It also makes it much easier to see what you’re doing when you pick up stitches to create the new blocks.

To get an entrelac with solidly colored blocks you’ll need a yarn with a long color change. My favorites include a lot of Noro yarns. I’ve used Kochoran, Nideshiko and Transitions. These are all discontinued. Many Noro yarns would work.

entrelac_in_transitions_medium
Noro Transitions

Once you get comfortable with picking up stitches (or if you have some experience with this) try a worsted weight yarn.

taos entrelac
Crystal Palace Taos, worsted weight yarn

 

bright entrelac
Knit One, Crochet Too Paint Box, worsted

If you like striped blocks like this, try a hand dyed or commercial yarn with a short color repeat.

hand dyed yarn entrelac
Hand Dyed Yarn with short color repeats

Neutrals can be beautiful too!

entrelac latte ecoduo
Cascade Eco Duo (which is one of my very favorite yarns!)

Other Tips

When completing a row, spread out the project and make sure the edges are even. It’s easy to forget or add an extra a side triangle and once you continue there is no way to correct without ripping back to that point. Best to examine each row and avoid any anguish when you discover something awry rows later.

I like to use circular needles, it keeps the edges from slipping off best, but I use circulars for everything.

Picking up stitches intimidates a lot of knitters. I was nervous about it in the beginning. The important thing to remember – it’s easy to rip them out and begin again. Entrelac is the perfect way to get really good at picking up stitches, both knitwise and purlwise. You will be an expert after your first project and never hesitate again.

If you aren’t sure exactly how to pick up and knit, check out this YouTube video on picking up knitwise.  This is focused on socks, but the principle is the same, and the stitches are very visible in this video.

Picking up purlwise is shown in this short video.  This is going to feel very awkward at first!  Keep at it and it will become easy.  Remember, practice is the way to learn anything.

The little holes at some intersections of blocks are normal. Using a slightly fuzzy yarn will help hide them. This is a perfect excuse to use a yarn with a bit of angora, again Noro is a great choice for this.

View your first entrelac as practice. Focus on learning the skills you may not be comfortable with when you begin. Don’t worry about the result. The wonderful thing about knitting is that it’s easy to tear it all out and begin again. Entrelac’s block by block construction makes it especially easy to tear out a block and correct something you don’t like.

See all my entrelac projects (and everything else I’ve knit) on my Ravelry project page. Friend me!

Good luck with your first entrelac project. I’d love to see what you create.

Friday Finds, Jan. 1, 2016

Wow, it’s 2016 already!  That was a quick year.  Here are some things I want to learn more about or try for myself in the New Year.

crochet pillow cases

I am in love with these gorgeous pillowcases and finally found a great tutorial.  The series extends  over several weeks, and covers creating the pillowcase and adding the edging.  You could start with a purchased pillow case if you want to get right to the edging.

Here is the foundation for the edge.  The actual crochet edging is the next post.

I would love to put pretty edges on white pillow cases.  Perhaps my lovely sister will do it for me.  Linda, are you reading this?

I’ve been abusing my hands, wrists and elbows lately by knitting a big entrelac project and spinning yarn.  I tend to grip everything quite tightly in my quest for control, so I get very sore.  This is very common among knitters, crocheters, spinners, painters, anyone who does a lot of hand work.  Some of you will be happy to find this great site full of Finger Yoga. Click on poses and explore!  Very simple stuff and your hands and arms will thank you.

Would you like to live in a house like this?

shipping container house

Yes, please!  Can you believe it’s created from a used shipping container?  Apparently there are heaps of these just rusting away on the east coast.  Wouldn’t it be great if these could be repurposed into inexpensive housing for retirees, young people just starting out, or people who’ve been affected by natural disasters?

Here is a Buzzfeed blog post about shipping container homes that shows how fabulous they can be.  I dream of creating one for myself someday.

And a fiber picture to inspire your creativity.

yarns to willow mist aug 16 2013
Just a bunch of hand spun and hand dyed yarn I made.