Category Archives: Yarn

Spring Trip to NYC

While I don’t normally head into New York City on a chilly day in early spring, I found myself having to do so for a job interview. After my interview was done I took advantage of already being in “the city” and got some shopping in that of course included yarn!

First, I went to Tinsel Trading Company. I discovered Tinsel Trading Company years ago at a fly tying show. I actually wrote about the company in a earlier blog post. The antique French tinsel they sell is perfect for not just fiber arts, but fly tying as well. It is a charming little store full of vintage ribbon, tinsel and other unique items. They are in the process of looking for a new store location from their small space on Lexington Avenue. I hope they find a new location. It would be a shame to lose such a unique shop that has been around for close to a decade.

String YarnsAfter finishing up my shopping, I had to, of course, find a yarn shop nearby. So I hoofed it uptown about 10 blocks to String, a great little place. There is something always so inviting about independent yarn shops. I don’t know if it is the space, the lovely yarns you just don’t find in the “big box” stores, or the great staff, but I just love going to them.yarn

Their yarn options were just amazing! Of course it took me a bit to settle down and focus. The staff was incredibly nice. We chatted about the different yarns and about attending Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. I picked out a few nice yarns and they made them into sparkle yarncenter-pull balls for me. I then headed downtown to meet some friends for dinner, which was a lot of fun. After that, I headed back to the ferry to make my way home.

Once the weather is a little warmer, I’ll head back into the city and go downtown to visit more shops, but for now, this was a great unexpected visit!

Rose’s New Sister – Wee Peggy

Recently, I headed to The Spinnery for a class about how to make slubs, think and thin singles, and coils. It was a great class.

Wee Peggy at The Spinnery
Wee Peggy at The Spinnery

While chatting with my fellow classmates, the discussion turned to different types of wheels. I mentioned how I would love one day own a Wee Peggy. Well, after the class was over and I was waiting for my turn to pay, I of course, wandered the shop to check out all the fibery goodness. And what do my eyes see before me? A Wee Peggy! I asked if I could give it a try and Betty said “of course.”

Well, the downside to my attempted spinning? I was so hungry I couldn’t focus. My head hurt and my hands were shaking. I put the wheel back and went to eat.

On the ride home, all I could think of was that beautiful wheel. When I signed on that night, I sent Betty an email and told her I was interested in talking to her about it. She helped me negotiate a price and I told her I would be in on the weekend to give it a try.

It looked like I went there in the nick of time! Someone was in her shop that morning asking about it. Betty let her know that someone was coming in to give it a try and that it didn’t work out she would let her know.

My first bit of spinning on the Wee Peggy,
My first bit of spinning on the Wee Peggy,

I arrive with my wonderful husband to give it a try. Betty had set up the wheel and a chair for me. First, she demonstrated how to spin on it as well as how it differs from my beautiful Rose. Wow is it different! Unlike my Rose that has a lot of metal, the Wee Peggy is all wood and a small piece of leather to help the treadle move. It took a little practice to get used to it. This is a single-treadle and focuses more and heel and the middle of the foot, while my Rose is a double-treadle and focuses on the toe.

The Wee Peggy has a long and fabled

Peggy in the back of the truck on the way home.
Peggy in the back of the truck on the way home.

history and is considered an incredibly collectible wheel. Designed by John Rappard in New Zealand, the Wee Peggy was made from Southern Beech, a lightweight but strong and easily worked wood. I rarely see them come up for sale. So I knew I had a unique opportunity in front of me.

So the end result? I love her! My husband carefully packed her into

the back seat of his pickup. She came home with us. She is now in our living room next to Rose. I gave her a spin yesterday morning using some Frenchtown-area Mohair. It was great.

I still need some practice on the treadling, but I know we will soon work together as well as I do with my Rose.

So Rose has a sister now – and her name is Peggy.

Now sisters - Peggy and Rose.
Now sisters – Peggy and Rose.

 

Thick, Thin, Slubs, and Coils: Yarn Spinning at The Spinnery

Today was a wonderful day. I had the opportunity to head to The Spinnery in Frenchtown, New Jersey for a class about how to spin thick/thin yarn (known as slubs) and coils. I wanted to take this class the last time it was offered, but I was still doing battle with my ankle after surgery. Well now my ankle was amicable and ready for class!

Frenchtown
On the way to Frenchtown.

My day started with a lovely ride to Frenchtown. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it. Once you are off the highway, you are surrounded by historical homes, open fields, and preserved farmland. Today was the perfect day for this ride. Roof open, windows down, Billy Joel on the radio. Just wonderful.

Rebecca Dioda
Master Spinner, Rebecca Dioda and our class.

The class was taught by master spinning teacher Rebecca Dioda of Simpatico Fiber Collective. She made the day fun and informative by giving an explanation, then demonstrating, then helping each member of our intimate group get started. We started by unplying a base (yes, sounds uncounter-intuitive, stay with me). Then we started with our main fiber, making thick and thin “slubs.” She made it look so easy! Then we all started giving it a try. Well, lets just say the easy chatter became serious concentration. As we progressed, we all seemed to improve.

slubbed yarn
My attempt at thick and thin slubs.

What I really found funny as I was working to master this I thought back to when I first started to spin. Initially, I was very good at spinning…rope. Then I improved to thick and thin. Then I learned to spin more even yarn. Now that I need to spin thick and thin yarn like I did in the beginning, I found it very challenging. Go figure.

So it was time to start to ply our base and

Coiled yarn
Rebecca makes coils look so easy!

our slubbed yarn together. Plying has never come easy to me, so I was definitely thinking about multiple techniques simultaneously.

Of course I forgot my lazy kate. Luckily Betty, owner of The Spinnery, came to my rescue and had one I could use. Rebecca taught us the importance of “vrooom!” in our spinning when preparing for a coil. She made the entire process a lot of fun!

So I went to work. I quickly determined I needed at least one more hand. My lovely Majacraft Rose was not in the mood to ply without issue. She is currently in a time out so she can think about her cranky

coiled yarn
Starting to get the hang of coils.

behavior. Hold core in one direction. Hold yarn at a 90-degree angle. Spin in the opposite direction of the yarn. Pinch. Roll. Push. Pinch. Spin more. Vroom! Don’t let the yarn wind before they should connect. Oh my! Like I said. Lots to think about.

After some mumbling to myself, and encouragement from Rebecca, I started to get some decent-looking coils.

I still have a lot to do to become

coiled yarn
My finished coiled yarn.

more comfortable with my coils. But I definitely felt like I understood the process by the time I left. Of course I can never leave The Spinnery without picking up a few things. So what did I get? More fiber and core to practice!

After class I took a little time for a late lunch, pick up a few treats, and then the ride home. It was a wonderful day and I can’t wait to try again!

2016 Crochet Wish List

So I love making wish lists related to my love of fiber arts. Since this is National Crochet Month, I figure this is the perfect time to share my wish list for 2016. This list is focused on just crochet as opposed to my greater love of fiber arts in general.

The Hay Farmer’s Wife: Of course my list will have to include a few crochet hooks. This hook artist is relatively new to Etsy. The Hay Farmer’s Wife makes crochet hooks from branches pruned from her apple orchard. I love the rustic look and that they come from a fourth generation apple orchard.

Celtic Swan: This hook as been on my list for awhile now and some Celtic Swan Forgeday I will break down and purchase one. The Celtic Swan makes hand-forged silver hooks that are simply stunning. Some day I will break down and purchase one.

Batsford Book of Crochet: This is a classic crochet book with a focus on free form. This book can be hard to find and occasionally quite expensive. I just found a copy and ordered it this morning, so while I “technically” own it, I felt like I should still include it on my list.

Hook Holder: So once you have all these wonderful crochet hooks, you need to have something to show them all off. Rparishwoodworks makes beautiful hook holders.

Walnut & Cherry Hook: Of course, I have another crochet hook want. QuinnHandMade offers a beautiful hook that shows off the beauty of natural wood.

Buffalo Wool CompanyBuffalo Wool: One of the most amazing fibers is bison. And the Buffalo Wool Company provides some of the best bison yarn available. I have felt it in person at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival and it truly lives up to expectations!

Qiviut Yarn: Another truly decadent yarn is made from Qiviut. What is qiviut yarn you might ask? It is the undercoat of the muskox and is eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere. Extremely rare, Qiviut is hypoallergenic and will not shrink. There are several different brands and I honestly can’t recommend one as my favorite brand has been discontinued. But it is definitely worth the hunt!

I hope this gets your create crochet juices flowing. What is on your crochet must-have list?

Knitting with Your Mobile: The Best Apps for Knitters

So I am a little behind on my blog posts lately. There’s been a lot going on here in New Jersey with LOTS of fiber arts activities! I wanted to share this great blog post that was submitted to me. I hope you all enjoy it!

Knitting AppsTechnology has done wonders for the modern-day knitter. Where in the past you had to scour and pore over old knitting books for your patterns or ask your knitting circle for ideas and help, we now have the convenience of the internet and hundreds of thousands of websites dedicated to knitting, and now you can even use your phone as a tool to help you knit.

The company behind gaming website Spin Genie, observed that “There were an estimated 1 billion Smartphone users at the end of 2012, representing 17% of total mobile users”. Because of this, app developers have made everything you could ever need, and there’s truly an app for every niche now. The knitting community has also come together to produce quality apps for every knitter’s needs. If you’re interested in using your smartphone as a tool for knitting, check out these three apps:

1. Knitting Patterns Database
Knitting Patterns Database (KPD) is a great app that does just what it advertises – it gives users easy access to thousands of knitting patterns. But that’s not all. Providing “the functionality of over 20 knitting apps all in one place”, the app also catalogs the patterns and allows users to search based on Gender, Garment Type, Yarn Type, Yarn Weight/Length, Needles, Gauge, Rating, Notes. You can even catalog your own yarn stash to keep things organize.

2. knitCompanion
Perhaps the closest we will ever get to an iKnit app, knitCompanion arranges and combines knitting patterns, keys, charts, and written instructions into one easy-to-navigate piece. There are also row markers and row-based reminders, audible reminders, counters, stitch markers and more. Sure, the app looks a little drabby, but it more than makes up for that with functionality.

3. Ravelry Mobile
While not an app per se, the mobile version of Ravelry is a sight to behold. If you’re already a user of the website, you can log into it using your mobile phone, and the website that’s been optimized for smaller screens and slower internet connections has just about all the functionality of its full-sized counterpart. Right now you can upload and download pattern PDFs, upload photos of projects, look at your queue, search for yarn stores, and browse and reply to threads in the forum.

Do you know of any other apps that help satisfy your knitting needs?

National Crochet Month Book Review: Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop

National Crochet Month Blog TourI would first like to welcome all the readers who are following the blog tour for National Crochet Month. I want to say a special “thank you” to the team at Crochetville for doing all the heavy lifting to get this together. They have a great site and I hope you check it out. For all the tour happenings, you can check out this link: http://crochetville.com/category/events/.

I am lucky enough to receive a large number of books to review. I get to see the latest and greatest in crochet, spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, and more. I love the opportunity to tell you about what is coming out, provide some feedback, and hopefully, help you make a decision as to whether or not the book is a good fit for you. My favorite part, however, is that I give the books away to my readership! I thought another book review and giveaway would be a great way to celebrate my day on the National Crochet Month Blog Tour. Today’s book review: The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop: Essential Techniques for Becoming a More Versatile, Adventurous Crocheter.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Dora Ohrenstein is the founder and editor of the online magazine Crochet Insider. She creates beautiful crochet designs for all levels, so no matter if you are a beginner or an expert, she can help you create beautiful pieces you will be proud to show off and give as gifts.

Her book takes you from the very beginning with understanding your yarn. She reviews yarn weight, fiber type, yarn twist type, and how different yarns behave in different ways. I absolutely love the first section of this book! It is definitely packed with information you may not even consider when heading out to make a yarn purchase.
She next moves on to hooks, holding your hook and work, and has an important section on “hand health.” As someone who has wrist issues, I especially appreciate that section.

She then moves on to the important foundations for building your crochet skills. She also covers different problems you typically encounter, regardless of your skill level. For example, I absolutely hate joining/changing yarns. She has a section to help! She also has a section on the all-important, and often frustrating, shaping of a garment.

She then begins to move into amazing swatches of different stitch patterns. Each swatch has bold photos that are nice and close up so you can see each step clearly. The directions are very well written and also come with a diagram of the stitch pattern. Diagrams are another great way to understand the different stitch patterns and the two together prove to be a great skill builder!

After all the great stitch patterns, you move on to the all-important skill of finishing. From different seam options, to edges, to blocking, you will be confident in the skills you are building with Dora’s help.
The book closes with some great patterns. I have always been partial to cowls, so I especially liked her Marguerite Cowl.

From cover to cover this is a great book. I was so happy to have a chance to check this out and share my thoughts with you. And of course, now is the really special part. You can win this book!
As always, the rules are simple…

1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick all four winners on March 19th. Good luck and thank you for joining me on National Crochet Month’s Blog Tour!

Book Review: The Knowledgeable Knitter

So I realized this week I am very delinquent in two things – blog posts and book reviews. Well, here is the beginning of getting back on track.

Anyone who knows me is keenly aware that my knitting skills are greatly lacking. However, I really enjoyed reviewing Margaret Radcliffe’s book The Knowledgeable Knitter: Understand the Inner Workings of Knitting and Make Every Project a Success. No matter the level of a knitter, you will learn a lot from this book.

Margaret begins with understanding both a written pattern and a schematic. Her book then moves into measurements, yarn selection, fixing mistakes, and even adapting a pattern to meet your specific wants and needs. The big beautiful photos really show the details of each technique. If my basic knitting skills were a little better, I am confident this book would give me a greater opportunity for project success.

Chapter seven, Putting It All Together, makes sure that all your hard work on each individual piece will turn into a finished project that will be a work of art!

Margaret answers every “why” and “how do I” knitting question that you may ever have. I promise you, you will have a great level of confidence in your knitting after reading this book.

My only complaint is my usual – lack of a spiral binding so the book can lay flat. However, it isn’t quite as important in this book since  I consider it more of a “reading” book than a “pattern” book. Regardless of the binding, it is a book worthy of reaching into your pocket to make a purchase.

But you may not have to make a purchase! I have not one, but TWO copies to give away! As usual, the rules are simple:

1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick two winners!

I’ll pull the winners on Friday, February 6th. Good luck!

Book Review: The Spinner’s Book of Fleece

Back in 2006 a discussion group I belonged to decided to do a fiber study. Each member picked a type of fiber, researched it, purchased raw fiber, cleaned it, spun it, and then plied it. We then sent everything to one person who had the dubious job of assembling all this information into binders and mailing them to each person. It was a great exercise and I know we all learned a lot.

2006-breed-study-open-binder
The Coopworth pages from our fiber study in 2006.

Fast forward to 2014.

There is now a great book available that covers what we did and a lot more. The Spinner’s Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose
is an amazing book that I am enjoying reading. It is written in a conversational tone so it is an easy read. It goes beyond a straightforward explanation of the different breeds and talks about how to pick a fleece, how to protect your fiber, and different ways of spinning your fiber for projects. It also talks about different spinning equipment and even how to maintain your wheel.

Author Beth Smith breaks down the different fibers into four simple groups: fine, long, down, and multicoat. She also has a “miscellaneous” category. She then goes into all the approaches you can take when spinning your fiber into yarn. She talks about drafting, using a lazy Kate, how to clean your fiber, and carding, to name a few techniques.

What I think I like best about this book is how well Beth breaks everything down into easy-to-understand bits of info. Even if you don’t spin, you will find this book helpful with your weaving, crochet, and knitting projects as she covers fiber information for each art form! I definitely see myself reading this book cover-to-cover.

And as always, you can win this copy!
Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on October 2nd. Trust me when I tell you, you definitely want to be in this giveaway. Good luck!

What to do with cotton yarn

I absolutely LOVE cotton yarn. There are more colors available than every before, it feels softer than ever before, and is a great value. I will admit, however, I do struggle from time to time with ideas for cotton.

There are plenty of bath scrubbies and dish cloth patterns available – regular favorites for this type of yarn – but beyond that, I really have a hard time finding something to use the yarn that I love. I’ll make scrunchies out of anything, including cotton; but what else?

CottonSlippers1Well, I’m starting to do a hard search for patterns that work well with cotton. Last week I made these really cute slippers!

My next cotton projects will be this really nice coffee cozy and this cute mug cozy. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a tad of a coffee problem. And because I am an angler, I have to make these adorable little puffer fish!

What do you make with cotton yarn? I would love to hear your thoughts?

 

My 2014 Fiber Plans

So as the calendar turns, we all look to make resolutions and plans for the upcoming year. Many have the usual plans – get in shape, lose weight, and spend more time with family to name a few. Well, I make a fiber resolution list as well. Here are my plans…

First, I really want to spend more time learning to weave. I started taking a great class on Craftsy, but as usual, other issues got in the way. I hope to spend time learning and improving my weaving skills. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy, it is definitely worth it. And they have plenty of free classes! I would also love to pick up a Zoom Loom and give that a try!

Next, I want to make another pair of socks. I made a pair awhile ago and I am not going to lie, it was tough. But I am determined to give it another try. There are so many great patterns out there, I am truly inspired!

A year or so ago I did an interpretation of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass windows. I would like to do more interpretations of other works of art. I think that will require some visits to some of the great museums in NYC. I know – it will be a tough assignment, but I will take it on.

I want to create more patterns. I have been sketching out some great ideas, but need to put hook to yarn and get them going and sent to publishers for consideration. I plan also to self publish a few! Along similar lines, I really want to write more articles. I felt very lucky to have a few pieces published in the magazine Inside Crochet in 2013. I am hoping for continued success in 2014.

Following along with artistic crochet, I would love to try to do some artistic felting. There is a great book I have been drooling over The Art of Felt: Inspirational Designs, Textures, and Surfaces
for awhile and I would love to give the techniques in the book a try.

I would like to give knitting another try. Years ago (and I mean years) I made a hat and scarf and that was it. I would like to see if I can get a little better at it. Another skill I would like to work on improving is hairpin lace. Jennifer Hansen of Stitch Diva Studios offers great instruction both on her site and Craftsy.

Finally, I want to work on my spinning skills. Just like my weaving, my spinning fell to the wayside in 2013. I really want to get started again. The classes offered by both Craftsy and the Journey to the Golden Fleece can certainly provide some great inspiration!

Well, that’s it. It is an ambitious list, but I hope to achieve all of it. What about you? I would love to hear about your fiber resolutions for 2014!