Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life's Too Short for Bad Needles

Ok, this isn't a review, exactly.

But, I've been digging through the bottom of my knitting bag, and I found this sad little set of #1 double-points.

They are odd little plastic-covered metal needles. I never really loved them (I got them in a big batch of needles on eBay), and now the tips are even splitting!

So, what should I buy for sock knitting? Should I use Addi? I love metal, so I'm curious to try aluminum in the 6-inch length, but I want your advice!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Show and Tell: Jenn Weidner's Latest Art Yarn Project

Jenn Weidner of J. Rae Fashion wrote in again to tell us about her latest super-fun art yarn project. 

“I crocheted 120 circles and 70 leaves in 2 patterns, but 4 sizes. I used 2 circle techniques, and 2 leaf styles in 4 different sizes.

The shawl is based off of a Prudence Mapstone pattern that I changed to fit my needs. I saw the pattern and loved it, but I made more variety in my piece and just used her pattern as a guide. She used 1 circle, and 1 leaf pattern, with no negative space.

The project is very portable as all pieces are individually knit and crocheted and then sewn together at the end.

I used art yarn for the circles and leaves, but you need a natural fiber for the final attachments. I chose to whip stitch my piece together in the end. The natural fiber will retain its shape, and it's not slippery like art yarns can be.

Yarns I used:
Yarn Bee - riot eyelash (imperial), aurora (wood glow), haute fur (abyss)
Feza - mesmerize, alp dazzle
King Cole - romana chunky
For Stitching:
Be Sweet - skinny wool (charcoal)
Fibra Natura - flax (purple)

I used a piece of my kid’s easel paper and cut it to my desired dimensions. I took my leaves and circles and moved them around until I had the shape and used all of my pieces. I wanted a thick and thin pattern, but you could easily create a uniform piece too!

Needles and hooks varied according to yarn recommendations. The variety adds to the overall piece and its better to have it for this piece. Also, mistakes are great. You can't see them so no need to worry!

I left negative space in my piece and mixed up yarns and sizes to create variety!"


What a fun project, Jenn! Thanks for sharing again!

Want to share your story? Email me at jessie at stevenbe dot com.

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Show and Tell: Cathy's Art Yarn Cowl

Cathy Cole of Chicago wrote in about her art yarn cowl.

"I bought the fantastic handspun yarn that was pink and black, it had be hives and rabbit hair puffs, black and pink and white wool. I got it in October at the Vouge knitting market and I used #19 needles because I knit tight. Because I had so much handspun I decided to do 4 rows of it at the bottom before casting off still using knit one row purl the next. After casting off I still had yarn so I made some fabulous tassels that add a bit of Cathy to it. I love tassels! Just thought I would show you the final result in the art yarn cowl pattern."

Thanks Cathy! It is such a great use of handspun.

Want to share your story? Email me at jessie at stevenbe dot com.

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

For Your Review: Spinning An Art Batt

I recently picked up this 2.4-oz art batt at StevenBe. It reminded me of a seashell, with copper, blues, greens, and even some white and dark navy mixed in.

There is more than one way to spin a batt, but I decided I wanted to work this one up in what are sometimes called "fauxlags." I started by unrolling the batt and fluffing it up a little.

Then, I used a ruler to hold down one end of the batt and tore off a strip, across the width of the batt.

I took this strip and rolled it up so that the fibers ran perpendicular to the length of the roll. 

I repeated this process until the whole batt was in these mini rolls. Then, I long-draw spun them on my wheel. It was fun to watch the colors and fibers progress. 

Once I had the singles spun, I couldn't decide what to do with them, so I pulled off a length to see what a 2-ply would look like. 

I like it. It's a light worsted weight. 

But, I wanted to see what else this batt could do. I made a small sample skein (5 yards worth), tied it up, and washed it in hot, then cold water, to see if it would full or felt up into a fluffy, stable single yarn. I dried it, unweighted, because I wanted to be sure it would be balanced.

This is before washing.
This is after washing.

Once dry, I knit up a swatch with the sample. I used #5 needles and worked in all stockinette stitch.

The swatch is nice and stable, and doesn't bias in either direction, so I know that felting the singles made the yarn balanced enough not to twist the knit fabric. 

I love it, and keeping the yarn as a single also maximizes the yardage I'll get out of this cute little batt.

Now, off to Ravelry to look for a project...

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Show and Tell - University of Minnesota Socks

Cheryl Hamm wrote in to share her awesome, University of Minnesota-inspired socks and a hat Steven designed for her.

This is what she had to say:

"Steven, I purchased this yarn from your store a couple weeks ago which one of the knitters on your staff suggested and knitted the socks for my granddaughter's team mate that she plays hockey with on the Rochester John Marshall team.  She had her friend's name as her Secret Santa.  My granddaughter, Blair asked me to knit the socks in maroon and gold as her team mate will be playing softball next year at the University of Minnesota.

I also last year knit my granddaughter, Blair a slouch hat in black and red that you designed for me and it turned out so cute with a big red flower on the side of the hat.  Blair wears it before all her hockey games and one of the coaches (a young woman) just loves it and some of her teammates asked Blair if I would knit them a hat.  I don't believe I will do that as that hat was quite an undertaking for me with the backwards braid, but it was your idea to alternate the colors in black and red and everyone loved it!

The socks are much easier for me and I love to knit socks."

Thanks, Cheryl! They are lovely and filled with team spirit!

Want to share your story? Email me at jessie at stevenbe dot com.

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

For Your Review: Janetbasket Eco Bag

Like a lot of fiberistas, I try to start the new year by being a little more organized. One of the ways I'm doing that this year is with a brand new bag.

My new Janetbasket Eco Bag is my favorite knitting bag, ever!

I love the color. I'm always so happy when a knitting bag doesn't really look like a knitting bag.

It's huge without being bulky, and it has an internal frame so that it doesn't collapse. It's definitely large enough to wrangle even a large sweater or baby blanket project.

There are also a ton of internal pockets, which is great. I love to tuck my keys, phone and wallet into one side pocket and stuff general knitting gear into the other pockets. A huge pocket on the side is large enough to hold a full-sized notebook. It's all in nylon, so it will look great for years to come. 

One other thing makes this bag extra-awesome: there are two different ways to zip it. With the full zipper, the bag closes into a kind of triangle. But, if you need more room, you can zip it using the top tabs, and it allows the bag to be nice and wide, all of the way to the top. 

How are you getting organized for 2013?

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Show and Tell: Candy Apple Socks

Eliza (ariaknits on Ravelry) made a pair of awesome Candy Apple Socks from 1 skein of chocolate candy apple-colored Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock. She used the Harvest Dew pattern by Rose Hiver.

She had this to say about them:

My favorite part of knitting this was the slip stitch pattern. It’s simple enough to memorize but still kept my interest.

Advice: I think this is a great pattern to use for variegated yarns it broke up pooling nicely and gave me a finished pair of socks I am really happy with.

Thanks, Eliza! They look so comfy and warm. Photos are from Eliza's Ravelry page, and are used with her permission.

Want to share your story? Email me at jessie at stevenbe dot com.

Want to buy something you read about here? Call us! 612-259-7525.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

For Your Review: Ashland Bay Merino Top

Ashland Bay is a company that not a lot of knitters, spinners and other fiberistas have heard of, because they only sell wholesale, but they should know about it, because their fibers are, put simply, delicious.

I'm planning on working through some Ashland Bay products in the new few weeks and letting you know how they work for me.

I learned to spin almost a year ago and I consider myself an advanced beginner. I sometimes trip over my own feet, but I try to be open to trying different fibers. Your mileage may vary and I would be thrilled to hear any new tips or tricks from the more experienced spinners out there.

I was lucky enough to receive a brand-new Schacht Ladybug wheel just before Christmas. I'm still learning how to use it best. I learned to spin on a used Ashford Kiwi. The Ladybug takes less work to use than the Kiwi, so I'm a recovering leadfoot.

Primarily, I'm a knitter, so I'm looking to produce yarns that will last, but I don't need the extraordinary strength or durability that a weaver might need for a warp yarn. A nice hand and soft feel are also important to me. I mostly spin just for its own sake, then wait until the right knitting project comes along for the yarn I have made.

My first foray into Ashland Bay fibers is with some lovely 100% Merino combed top. Out of the nearly 70 colors they offer, I chose a vibrant red.

At 21.5 microns, this is one of the softest wools I've ever touched. Since the fiber was combed, I wanted to make a smooth, two-ply yarn using a short forward draw.

These are some singles, ready to ply.

I tested small amounts of fiber by spinning on each of the fours sets of whorls made for my Ladybug. I plied each sample, washed it in cold water, spun the water out using the spin cycle on my washing machine, snapped the skein to set the twist, and hung them to dry, unweighted.

One note about color. Because the red was so intense, I was sure it would bleed a little in the wash. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't AT ALL. It's a great sign of a high-quality product. 

I have read that Merino spins best when it is spun very thin. To be honest, I did get the most consistent yarn when I used the smallest possible pulley on my wheel. However, I enjoyed spinning it just a little thicker, so I ended up spinning the majority of my singles on the 12.5 ratio and plied them on the 10.5 ratio.

The top was very easy to draft out, with absolutely no vegetable matter or other "stuff" in the fiber. In the entire 8 oz. braid, I only found 5 neps, or little bits of folded-up fibers. That's pretty amazing, since Merino has a tendency to form neps easily.

My finished yarn is soft and has a lovely drape. I think it would make an excellent hat (or maybe part of set of Christmas stockings for next year!) It is about 16 wraps per inch, so it would work well on #4 or #5 needles. The yarn’s diameter didn’t change when I washed it.

This fiber rewards the patient spinner with a beautiful final product. Try it out at a moment when the house is empty and you just want to daydream as you spin.