Wool And The Gang Lovisa Mitts

Wool & The Gang Mitts

About a million years ago, Wool And The Gang, a London-based yarn and knitwear company, contacted me about trying out some of their yarn. Yum! Yes, please! But as you know, I’ve been through a pretty crummy time over the last few months, and the timing of the yarn arriving to me was the worst you could possibly imagine. I decided what I wanted to knit almost immediately, but I just wasn’t able to get my mind properly into a knitting pattern.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

Until one day a few weeks ago when I picked up my half-heartedly begun pair of Lovisa Armwarmers, sorted out some minor sizing issues I hadn’t had the brain power to deal with, and knocked them out in a couple of days. Suddenly, the time for comfort knitting had arrived – I’ve done and planned more projects in the last few weeks than I have in a year. Knitting has always been my comfort craft, but distraction crafts have been better for me this year. I’m really glad knitting is back for me now, I missed it.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

So anyway. Wool And The Gang were kind enough to send me out two colors (Snow White and Space Black) of their Sugar Baby Alpaca, so that I could give it a go with some colorwork knitting. You know how I love colorwork, don’t you? I’m always on the lookout for yarns that knit colorwork well but give a drapey, snuggly fabric. Colorwork can often be more pretty, less cuddly, on account of the rustic yarns traditionally used. A sportweight baby alpaca seemed like a perfect one to try out.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

Full disclosure and all: you know Wool And The Gang sent me this yarn for free, to review, and I promise I’d tell you if I hated it – scout’s honor. But oh the yummy! The Sugar Baby Alpaca knit like butter, such a pleasure to play with, and made such a delicious soft fabric. I used 4mm needles for these Lovisa Mitts (pattern by Sarah Pope, available free on Ravelry), which have been in my queue foreeeeeever, and added an extra 4-stitch repeat to make them slouchier on my sadly not-thin arms. Alpaca is so perfect for something slouchy like this, it just sits on my wrists like a scrumptious alpaca puddle. NOM.

Wool & The Gang Mitts

I added these cutesy-pie vintage buttons (eep, tiny hearts!) and I love these mitts to pieces! (They look perfect with my new winter coat too, as an added bonus.) I’m really in love with the yarn – thanks so much for letting me try it out, Wool And The Gang! – and I already have a possible pattern idea for it. I haven’t written a knitting pattern in ages, but there’s something a-brewin’ in my head!

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Fibre-East Loots!

Fibre-East 2013 Loots

I don’t know if any of you readers are UK fiber*-lovers and might have visited Fibre-East this year, but myself and a couple of friends from my knitting group did and found some lovely treats to take home with us! I have a considerable yarn stash that I will never, ever finish knitting, so I was allowed just one thing, yarn-wise. And it had to be for one of two projects I had written down that I had no suitable stash for. I was a good girl, and it was surprisingly fun to hunt the one perfect skein to come home with me.

My one skein is pure silk, laceweight, from Luxury Yarns, in a color as close to the dress Marilyn Monroe wears in “How To Marry A Millionaire” as I think I’m ever going to find. I’ve been trying for a yarn in that Marilyn color for a long time – I even tried to dye it myself, twice! This yarn is intended for Cloud Illusions by Boo Knits, which I’ll be knit-along-ing with Karen sometime soon!

Also pictured are my two embroidery treats: hand-dyed cotton floss by Oliver Twists, who make the most beautiful colors there ever were. I wanted these flosses last year, and waited a whole year to have another chance at them! The crewel wool is from The Mulberry Dyer, all hand-dyed with natural plant dyes. They have such a gorgeous depth of color! These little bundles are meant for future lyric embroideries, after I finish the Eels lyrics.

So, a big success, I would say! Did you go to Fibre-East this year? What did you think of the new venue? I have to admit, I was disappointed – with stands scattered all over the school like that, it didn’t have the same cohesive feel, as an event, as it did in previous years. We had a lovely time though – there’s nothing like a building full of wool fumes to make a pack of knitters jolly!

* Yes, I am American and I spell it ‘fiber’. But ‘Fibre-East’ is a proper noun and it feels wrong to spell it differently. Such is the confusingly-spelled life of an expat, sigh!

FO: Zilver

Zilver FO

Blocked, and ready for … well, the long-awaited emergence of Spring. Ah well, I’ve never really one to be practical about knitting timing. I usually just knit what I feel like when I feel like it, and then wear them when I get around to it. What are you gonna do? The heart wants what it wants.

This project was exactly what I was looking for when I cast on last week – it came from my drawer of quick, no-stress projects and it did its job beautifully. The pattern is Zilver by Lisa Mutch – I really can’t recommend it enough! It’s the perfect balance of mindless and clever, which I totally think is the secret to the best knitting patterns. I suspect that most knitting is done in search of that balance – wanting to achieve the knitting calm with enough interest to keep the knitter entertained or learning something new. And that’s also the secret, I think, to the most wearable handknits – something fairly simple, but with a touch of unique detail.

Zilver FO

I knit the first two-thirds of this shawl in a day, then the last sections over about two evenings. My single problem with the project was in my yarn choice: I decided to use my own hand-dyed yarn (a fingering weight alpaca / merino blend dyed specifically for a project that didn’t work out) and only remembered that its yardage was quite short when I’d already gotten too far to turn back. Knitter’s denial made me think I might make it to the end anyway; of course, I did not. I had to skip the last stockinette section, so my shawl is smaller, and I used a similar sock yarn to do the last two rows and bind off. If you look closely, the substitute yarn is thinner and a different gray, but I really doubt it will be noticeable when I wear it.

Zilver FO

I also bound off too tightly (rookie mistake, I really do know better!) and had a tricky time with blocking, but whatever. I was determined not to let this project get stressy in any way so I just rolled with it and, whaddya know?, it worked out fine. It’s pretty and drapey and snuggle-licious, and that’s what’s really important in life, right?

Zilver FO

Tour de Fleece 2012 wrap-up

Tour de Fleece 2012 Total Output

So the Tour de Fleece is over, and I had an awesome time! I regret just a little tiny bit that I chose a challenge that made for such difficult spinning – picking new-to-me fibers meant feeling like a beginner again, frustrated stress and all. Next year I’ll probably do something more project-related: spin enough for a cardigan, or spin the yarn for specific projects, etc. I do usually tend to pick my wool in combination with a project before spinning, so I don’t end up with an awkward yarn I can’t find a use for, and I think that will make for more relaxing spinning.

But I had a great time with the tour anyway – I’m so so so glad I did it! I learned new things, I made some really cool new friends, I re-enjoyed spinning in general. It was lovely, and I think it will help me keep spinning as part of my regular crafty activities again, for a while at least. It’s usually the thing I don’t end up with any time for, and a low priority because I have so much yarn I want to knit anyway, spinning more doesn’t seem that important. But I had such a good time, I’m already craving more time at the wheel!

My last yarn for the tour was that beautiful bamboo that I was so afraid of, but it turned out to be a joy to spin. I will definitely keep my eye out for more bamboo to spin eventually. Not all at the intimidating challenge I thought it was going to be. My only (minor) complaint is with the dyer (not mentioning any names, and I don’t think she sells anymore anyway) — the colors are gorgeous, the quality of the dye job is perfect, but this dyer did have a tendency to pick colors that will muddy when blended, and then place them far to close too each other. So the first bobbin is absolutely stunning – long stretches of aqua and sea greens interrupted by soft coppers (the left bobbin).

Tour de Fleece - last day

But the second bobbin happened to mix the colors much more, and did get ugly in a few spots when the aqua and reds mixed unpleasantly. So I’ve decided to keep them as singles – this way, I can pull out any really muddy colors as I knit if it’s a problem, and this also gives me the option to use just that first bobbin on its own if I don’t like how the second knits up. These singles seem to be about a laceweight (I’m letting them rest on the bobbins for a while before skeining and measuring) so I’m sure 50g would be enough for a little project if I wanted to split the two bobbins. I was afraid that plying them with further mix the colors too much – I’d rather leave them this way and at least come out with 50g that I love, rather than 100g that isn’t quite right.

Tour de Fleece - Day 20

As for my other two finished yarns: The alpaca (orange, in the photo at the top of this post) turned out to be about 225m of sportweight yarn, the silk (blue) is 330m of as-yet unmeasured weight. I have decided to go ahead and spin the other 50g in a matching skein – I think. But I will take my time prepping the hankies and not let my hands be destroyed by it again! The practice mini-skein there, alpaca, isn’t as soft as I’d have liked, but I think it might work nicely for a pair of simple striped or colorworked mitts. I’m going to stashdive for something that would work in combination with it.

So next up: the Ravellenic Games! I have a specific plan for this, but I’ll tell you more about that on Friday before the Opening Ceremony Cast-on. I’m really really excited to take part and hope it’s just half as awesome as the Tour de Fleece!

Fibre-East 2012 breakdown

Woohoo, Fibre-East was SO. AWESOME! The Knitters and I had a wonderful time, got lucky with a one-day let-up in the constant rain (this photo makes the sky look ominous and it was getting a little cloudy right as we were getting ready leave, but the rest of the day was lovely), and went home with some beautiful yarny / woolly treats!

My savings jar worked out better than I could’ve imagined:

Which was just the change, there was also some cash stuffed in there and some I had set aside too, so I ended up with about £110 – I never, ever expected the change to be so much though, I will totally do this for events like this from now on! I didn’t notice the little wee bits of money going in there, so I got to enjoy a totally guilt-free shopping spree. Last year I focused on undyed wools and yarns because I had a much smaller spending budget. This year, my jar let me buy a few luxury treats as well.

Fibre-East Loots - dyed

There’s some dyed Wensleydale from the amazing Yarnscape, a big beautiful vampy batt from Boo’s Attic (no website that I know of, which is maybe just as well because I’d never leave it), and a deliciously hot pink Merino / Seacell (a blend I’ve never tried before) from Fluff ‘n’ Stuff (which was the hardest choice ever, I really could’ve spent my whole budget there in about 15 minutes and gone home totally happy).

The Skein Queen yarn is stunning, intended for a Winter Sparkles Shawl. That pattern has been in my queue for-ev-er and I finally found the perfect dreamy yarn for it. The gold is from Oliver Twists (who doesn’t have a website, which is both a shame and maybe lucky, because they had some of the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen!) – laceweight silk, totally for no reason other than being beautiful like liquid gold. I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, though I have no specific plan for it.

Fibre-East Loots - undyed

As for undyed treats, I did pretty well there too. I was surprised not to find more stalls with unusual breeds; I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but that was something I was hoping to find. There were some, definitely, especially in more raw forms, but I was hoping to find more processed wool of new-to-me breeds. I did get some Masham and some Swaledale, neither of which I’ve tried before. These are supposed to be on the less-soft side, but I thought they felt lovely. A little rustic, sure, this isn’t the finest merino, but I actually like a more woolly wool. Those came from Adelaide Walker, where I also got a little bundle of BFL / silk blend – my favorite wool in the world, mixed with silk?! No brainer. Actually, my only regret of the day was not getting more of these small bags from Adelaide Walker, just to try different wools, but honestly, I probably won’t even get to spin all this before Fibre-East 2013 anyway! The bag of fluff is angora straight from the bunny, kind of stinky in a nice animal sort of way (my dog can’t stop obsessing over it), though lovely and soft. The skein is sparkle sock from DT Crafts, which I plan to dye a deep-dark-midnight-blue.

Better get to work, eh? Oh, but wait – first, admire the face on this guy, who really, really wanted to come home with me:

(Anyone know what kind of breed he is? Just curious!)

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