Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blue Sky Alpacas Extra/Destination Collection Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Hello and welcome to the Blue Sky Alpacas blog tour for their gorgeous new yarn Extra! From the Blue Sky Alpacas website, here's a bit about the yarn and the pattern collection that was designed specifically for it:

Extra: 55% baby alpaca / 45% fine merino
A luxe mix of baby alpaca and fine Merino wool, Extra comes in generously sized hanks and a rich color palette, making it ideal for one and two skein projects. Light and lofty with a springy twist, it’s a versatile Aran weight that lends itself beautifully to a variety of knitting tensions and needle sizes.
218 Yards, 150 grams
Available in 14 gorgeous colors
The Destination Pattern Collection: Take the first step toward timeless style with our newest yarn and patterns. Inspired by hometowns, far-away places and everywhere in between, the artful accessories in the Destination Collection were created by our designers from around the globe. Choose your favorite and see where the creative road takes you. A pattern collection custom crafted to complement Extra.

I am making the North Hollow Cowl by Robin Melanson. Here's what Robin says about her inspiration for the cowl:
Practically speaking, a cowl or scarf is a Canadian necessity. It's cold and windy where I come from, but I love it and would not want to be anywhere else. There's so much to embrace- a vast wilderness that's easily accessed from just about any one of our diverse multicultural cities, a variety of seasons, and so much more. I love the landscape and how it changes form province to province . All I need is a good scarf like this one to keep our the cold. 

This color I'm using is called Cherry Blossom, and it's the loveliest shade of pinky coral. The construction of the cowl is pretty cool- you make two mirrored pieces, then join them with the 3-needle bind-off, which I love for it's tidiness and sturdiness. The cowl takes just one skein, something that we can all appreciate!

As you can see, I haven't made much progress. It's the busy season. And by that, I mean that I apparently can't read a chart and was knitting the purls in the lace panel, so I had to start over. I actually hand-wound this yarn just for the pure pleasure of it. It's so soft, and in 218 yards there was not a single imperfection. AND SO SOFT. I want to knit my life out of this yarn.

Can we talk about the actual physical pattern? The presentation is so fantastic. I grinned like a maniac while I was opening the package Blue Sky sent. I love how the pattern is folded into the perfect little envelope. Best of all- this is genius- there is a ruler printed along the bottom of the pattern. Uh, duh, why did I never think of that before? If you're like me, your tape measure is always stuck in the couch cushions, so this is so smart.

This could be yours! Think of all the things you can put in that project bag.

Want to win something in my first-ever blog giveaway? (Well, yarn giveaway. I give away patterns sometimes, but you probably knew that, being a reader and all.) Blue Sky Alpacas sent me another skein of Extra in Cherry Blossom along with a copy of the North Hollow Cowl pattern, both together in an adorable bird-printed project bag, to give away to a reader! How to win:
  • Leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday, September 24th, and I'll randomly choose a winner and announce it on Thursday the 25th! Please don't forget to include some way for me to contact you if you win- email address or Ravelry ID. 
  • For an extra chance at winning, do one of the following: add my blog to your blog reader, and/or follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Come back here and tell me that you did one or more of those, and I'll put your name in the hat another time.  

Be sure to check out the whole tour, and all of the lovely Destination patterns!
Blog tour schedule:
Week One (9/15 to 9/19): Cosmos and Cashmere
Week Two 9/22 to 9/26): Woolen Diversions
Week Three (9/29 to 10/03): Lattes and Llamas
Week Four 10/06 to 10/10): Rock + Purl
Week Five (10/13 to 10/17): HeyJenRenee
Week Six (10/20 to 10/24): Miso Crafty Knits

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to read whilst eating a sandwich.

I feel like lately on Ravelry, all I hear about is Outlander. Outlander mystery shawl KALs, Outlander-themed yarn lines, "can someone please design that knitted thing Claire wore on Outlander last night?" I was like, what the what is this Outlander thing, and when did I get so old that I have no idea what the trendy things are? I looked into it. Turns out it's a book series, and if I had to describe what it's about, I guess I'd say it's an adventure series about time travel (sort of) with a lot of violence, sex, and sometimes violent sex. I think that's a pretty decent description. So this book series is now a STARZ tv show, and I think that's when the hype started, because book #1 was published in 1992. So not a new thing.

What does this have to do with knitting, you may ask? Well, nothing yet, but I'm getting there. I wanted to read the series so that I knew what everybody was talking about, but all the physical copies at the library had about a million holds, and I didn't really want to wait for that or for a book to come in the mail, so I went the instant gratification route and bought the Kindle version. Normally, I am not a Kindle book person- I love real books. I often want to flip back and forth, but that's hard on a Kindle. I also like to know how many pages are left in the chapter, but that's not possible on my older Kindle. And there's something to be said for the feel of a real book in your hand. But the Kindle version is what I have, so I'm making it work. I often read at lunch time, and reading on the Kindle got old quickly, because it lays flat on the table, and I feel like I'm craning my neck to see it. Yes, I could hold it up with one hand, but I often need both hands to eat my lunchy lunch. I make a lot of grilled cheese.

And now the knitting comes in. I found this Kindle stand pattern on Ravlery the other day, and realized that my problems could be solved. I knitted it in some Red Heart sport-weight yarn that came from my husband's grandma's house and is so old that there's not even a listing for it on Ravelry. Only took me one evening. The knitting itself is super easy, but sewing it together took some head scratching. I think I figured it out, but the whole thing looks super goofy to me. It does hold my Kindle upright, and that's the whole point, so I think we'll call it a win.

Free pattern + stashed old yarn + just a couple hours, and I've thriftily solved my most irksome current problem. Life isn't too bad if my biggest problem is a Kindle-induced cricked neck, right? It's important to have some perspective. Also important to have a way to eat grilled cheese AND read Outlander.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Pattern: Vistoire Pullover

Hooray, a new pattern! This is quite possibly my favorite pullover that I've ever designed. When I put it on after finishing it, my husband said it was the best thing I've ever made, and you'll recall that I made him a duck hat, so that's a great compliment. (I think he might have meant the best thing I've made except for the duck hat, but I will pretend to myself what I want.)

As you know, because I talk about it all the time, we just moved to Louisiana, land of gumbo, voodoo, and vampires. The color of this pullover reminds me simultaneously of 1990s goth-vampy lipstick, Sookie Stackhouse, and old New Orleans vampires, so I definitely had to pick a name that was along those lines. The name I picked, Vistoire, is a Louisiana French Creole first name that sounds sort of mysterious and vampire-y to me. Because that's how I see Louisiana: mysterious and vampire-y. I suspect that I may have watched too much True Blood in my adult life.

The sweater! This is a top-down, totally seamless raglan. The deep scoop neckline is formed with just a few increases, then a large number of cast-on stitches. The sweater features a central cable panel and moss stitch edgings. There are fitting tips throughout the pattern to help you get the perfect sweater for your body.

I knitted the sample from quite possibly my favorite worsted: Dream in Color Classy. This yarn is, well, a dream. So soft, vibrant colors, great yardage, and probably best of all, it's super wash. If we lived somewhere cold I would have just about a million sweaters knitted from Classy.

Vistoire Details: 

XS (S, M, L, XL, 2X)
Full bust: 33 (35.25, 38, 41.25, 44, 47.5)
To fit bust sizes 34-36 (36-39, 39-42, 42-45, 45-48, 48-51)

To be worn with 2-4 inches of negative ease in the bust. 

Dream in Color Classy; [100% Merino; 250yd/229m per 113 g skein]; Color: Sundown Orchid 4 (4, 5, 5, 6, 7) skeins

US 7 and 8 29" circulars for body, US 7 and 8 dpns for sleeves

Get the pattern for $6 on Ravelry, no account needed.

I hope you love it as much as I do! Now if only some sweater weather would come our way....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Franca Slipper Socks

These are my beloved, several-year-old, worn to death Oomingmacks. I think we can all agree that they look a little bedraggled. We had a clothes-moth problem in California, and unfortunately, my ox slippers were the #1 target before I got those devilish little wool-demons under control. There are some holes in the heels, and the faces got a little eaten, too. Looks like something dripped on the right ox at some point... hmm. Then in Delaware, my brain-damaged cat decided she liked to nom on the ox hair, and so now there's a lot missing, and what's left is cat slobbery and disheveled. I've been thinking for awhile that it's time for some new slippers (even though I don't know how often I'll need them here in Louisiana, but I like having them around, just in case.) So when I was contacted recently to see if I'd like a skein of Manos del Uruguay's new yarn Franca in exchange for a review on the blog, I thought, "Perfect! New slippers!"

Franca is a super bulky, superwash, super soft and cozy single ply merino- superwash being the key term here- and it's fantastic. The squish factor is through the roof. I may or may not have just cuddled the hank for a while before I wound it up (I did.)

How gorgeous is this yarn? This colorway is called Bebe and it's soo pretty. Like if cotton candy came in purple. I also really love the way it's hanked. "Here's a big pile of thick yarn, have at it."

I will admit that I debated tossing the slipper idea and making a hat or a cowl with the yarn, but then I remembered that a) I need new slippers, b) I have approximately eleventy billion hats and cowls, and c) I live in Louisiana, and am unlikely to ever need hats and cowls again. So I stuck with the original plan and made myself some simple slipper socks. I'm very cleverly calling them slipper socks because they're way too thick to wear with shoes, but they're shaped like socks. Genius. Does this count as another pair of socks for 2014? I can't decide. But if it does, I'm at 7 pairs for this year. Hold your applause.

Super bulky yarn means super quick slipper socks, that's for sure. Once I figured out what I was doing, I made each sock during one episode of Grimm. (I am such a sucker for fairy tale TV shows.) At first I tried doing short-row heels, but that wasn't working, probably because I hate short-row heels. I had an entire sock done before I decided to rip it out and do a heel flap and gusset, and I'm so glad I did. The fit is great, and no weird short-row holes!

I must have ripped back the first cuff five times, but you couldn't even tell- the yarn looked the same. And for being a single-ply it was barely splitty at all whilst knitting- I love that! Nothing worse that knitting with a super splitty yarn and constantly fighting with it. I can see making several pairs of these as quick, last-minute Christmas gifts. Not that I'm planning on needing to make last-minute gifts, but... you know. Always good to have ideas for when the inevitable happens.

Monday, September 8, 2014

We all live in a tiny submarine

My friend is pregnant with her second baby, due in, eek, I think two weeks, and up until yesterday, I had made nothing for the baby. I made approximately eleventy billion things for baby #1 three years ago- sweaters, hats, quilts (yes, more than one, and I think as many as three?), toys, booties, everything. I was feeling increasingly guilty about my slacking on baby #2, so this weekend I got to it and made an adorable tiny submarine.

I had the yarn, needles, and pattern  in a project bag already, because I had all the best intentions of making my nephew a submarine about six months ago. You see how well that went. The pattern is "Tadpole" from the now-defunct online kid-sized knitting magazine Petite Purls. I'm still mad about that magazine. I was supposed to have two patterns in the very next issue, which was going to be fairy tale themed, and after I literally had both samples knitted, patterns written, and photographs taken for one of the samples, the editors emailed and said that they would not be continuing with the magazine, and they were sorry, but the fairy tale issue would not be published. I would have cried except that we were moving from California to Delaware in like three days, and I was so busy and already so upset that we were leaving my beloved Cali that I had no emotions left. (In case you're wondering, it was the Unicorn Hoodie and Woolbringer, and there's a knight's tunic to go with Woolbringer that I haven't done anything with yet because I need an 8-year-old boy to be the model. Haven't found one of those in my travels yet, but someday.)

Back to the submarine! I used leftover worsted wool blends to knit it, and it was pretty quick. I sort of thought it'd be bigger, but kids are little, so it will be fine. I made a couple mods to the pattern to make it better. Made a different periscope, because I think this one is cuter than the original pattern, and I knitted a propeller, because the toy looked unfinished without it.

After I made the sub, I thought, is the first kid going to be jealous that I made his brother something but not him? I didn't want to be responsible for a toddler temper tantrum, so just to be on the safe side I made Kai this alphabet set. I was dorking around on Pinterest looking at projects that use up quilting scraps and got the idea. It's just scraps of quilting fabric backed with black felt. I printed an alphabet, cut out the letters, pinned them to the fabric, sewed around the paper, cut out the letter. Easy, quick, educational, and it used scraps, which is something I need to do a better job of. My scrap bin overfloweth.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ducky Duck Ducks

Have you seen all of these two-piece-set-actular outfits popping up in the blogsphere lately? Yeah, it's a thing. Two piece, matching sets of top + bottom like this one and this one and this one. Well, I made one too, but... it's less classy. Here's my two-piece-set-actular in.... duck fabric. Also, it's definitely PJs, and not something fancy that I can wear out and about. I work from home. It's best to be realistic.

There is a method to my madness, I swear. I've been wanting to make some simple, woven tank tops for everyday wear for a while now, but haven't gotten around to it. Then I found the free (free!) Sorbetto tank top pattern from Collete Patterns, and I thought, that'll do, pig. I decided to be a grown up and actually make a muslin, and thank god I did because this would not have fit well as-is, and probably needs another muslin, just to be sure. I took out the front pleat because I'm not a pleat girl. I added two inches to each pattern piece before I cut it out, and I probably could have added a little more. This tank is short! I'm 5'8", which is decently tall, but I'm no giant. The original would have been a crop top on me. I also lowered the neckline by at least an inch, because I hate high necklines. Probably could have dropped that a little more, as well. I think it needs a sway-back adjustment. The armholes are a little tight, and I'm pretty sure the bust darts are too high, but will you look at that fabric? It's duck print. Yep. Ducks. 

I may have mentioned before my husband's deep, deep love of ducks. Ahem. He's now the Wildlife Ecology professor at LSU, so he's fulfilled his life's dream of all ducks, all the time. I had this fabric on hand because back in like 2008 or something I made his parents a quilt entirely out of duck-printed fabric (they also live and breath ducks) and somehow ended up with over a yard of this print leftover. Fast forward to today, and now it's my wearable muslin, aka my new PJs because after I made my Collete muslin, and I thought, you know what this needs? A matching pair of shorts. 

So I made a pair of City Gym Shorts, a free pattern from the Purl Bee, to go along with the top. Didn't quite have enough duck fabric for the shorts, so I used some green twill for the back and waistband. This was an easy pattern. You sew bias binding all around the bottoms before the front and back are sewn together, then overlap the two pieces and sew them together from the right side. So easy. I do prefer my shorts (and especially my lounging/jammie jam shorts) to be quite a bit shorter than this, so that's just something I'll have to do for the next pair. Wanna see a close up of the ducks? Of course you do. 


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sock Achievements

Prologue: My knitting time has been limited lately because a) we moved, and b) the sellers left this house filthy and in a considerable state of disarray. So another sock post it is, and hopefully soon I will have more knitting time and more interesting things to blog about. For now, I hope you love socks.

I finished my sixth pair of socks for 2014, which means I met my goal that I set at New Year's. I mean, I figured I would. Six pairs seems totally doable, yes? But still, I'm pretty pleased with myself. Definitely gonna bang out at least another couple of pairs yet this year, so maybe next year my goal will be 8 pairs. To be honest, though, since we moved to the tropical rainforest, I'm just not sure that my sock needs will require 8 more pairs. Or really any more pairs at all. I finished this pair last night, put them on, and immediately took them off, because at 10 o'clock at night it was still over 90 degrees outside. I keep reading about how fall has come early to other parts of the country, and how Starbucks has the pumpkin spice latte out already, and I saw Halloween candy in the supermarket, and I just think about how I had to change my outfit twice yesterday because I was too sweaty to reasonably keep wearing that shirt. I digress. It's hot here! You know that already.

I kept thinking about alligators when I was knitting these, because that's something one has to think about here in Louisiana, and also because that stitch pattern. Sort of reminds me of alligator skin, especially all bunched up on the needles. These are Petunia Dursley's Double Eyelet socks, in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I love this yarn. I will definitely order more, and by that, I mean wait until I get my once-a-quarter free shipping coupon from Jimmy Beans Wool, then get another skein and hoard it for awhile.

A lesson I learned this morning: camera lenses fog up if you take them outside when the humidity is 100%. Probably should have thought of that, but I also probably should have thought about how if I put the new socks on a bush to take their picture, I may be disturbing the bush's lizard resident, and that might be sort of startling. Lizards, humidity, no sign of fall, alligators. What are we doing? I don't know.

Plymouth Yarns Happy Feet, and it's not really that purple. More blue. Boyish, probably. 

Next pair of socks! I think I'm going to do a little Christmas knitting, because like we discussed, I have literally no need for socks in the near (and probably also the distant!) future. My family, though, they've probably already had to break out the wool sweaters and scarves and stuff, because South Dakota. Or maybe not yet. I guess it is still August.