Interweave Earth Day Sale

The Interweave Store has sales pretty often, and when there's a good one I always like to grab a few things off my wishlist.

I already bought a few videos last week which I've been working through, but this sale was much too good to pass up -- 30% off digital products (Ebooks, patterns, etc), $2.99 magazines, and - this is what got me - $5.99 videos!

Nearly all their video downloads are included, including the HD versions which are usually a few dollars more than the regular ones. If your computer and internet connection are good, I really recommend the HD as it makes things much clearer - however I will warn you that they are big downloads, and slower computers might have trouble playing the large files.

I can already recommend videos like Margaret Stove's Spinning for Lace, Abby Franquemont's Drafting The Long and the Short of It, and for wool addicts such as myself, Three Bags Full and Handspinning Rare Wools (both are really a treat!). Now I look forward to watching Spinning Gossamer Threads and From Wool to Waulking.

Some of these videos retail for $30 or more, so I would grab the bargain while you can! :)
I really appreciate techniques videos as a visual learner, particularly for spinning. Interweave have a wide selection of videos for knitting, spinning, and weaving (among others!), most of which are very good!


Proud as a Peacock (of my sewing attempts)

Peacock fabric and ribbons preparing to sew
While I'm a knitter and a spinner, I don't consider myself generally 'crafty'. However, I have been wanting to learn some basic stitching, mostly because I'd also like to get into weaving a little bit (have to use up all that handspun somehow, right?). When I heard about Hillary's Country Crafts Competition, I couldn't resist the lovely fabric with a large peacock print to try and make something special out of it.

Knitting and spinning hand-sewn bags

fabric covered cardboard drop spindle tube
I got an idea to make a coordinated set of bags I could use for my favorite crafts. I really wanted to take advantage of the large peacock motifs, so I planned out carefully where I would cut my pieces out.

The first thing that occurred to me to make was a sleeve for my spindle tube -- I have this thick cardboard tube, originally meant to protect wine bottles, which is big enough to hold any of my spindles and plenty of fiber to boot. Any time I travel with my spindle, I take it with me in this sturdy case. It's incredibly practical, but pretty? Not so much. A cover for the tube would be simple enough to construct, and make my spindle tube truly unique.

As an added special touch, I took a little bit of silk combed top, grabbed my spindle, and spun up some thread thin and smooth, worsted-style. Silk is one of my favorite fibers to spin, but in knitting its uses are limited to drapey objects such as shawls. As thread, it's smooth and shiny and lovely to work with.
(Excuse the weird picture; in lieu of a spool I wrapped it around a pen ;)

Handspun silk thread on drop spindle

Actually sewing up the sleeve was quite simple. I took the raw meter of fabric...
Hillary's peacock bird fabric
...cut out a section with a nice peacock motif on it, and sewed up my tube inside-out. I folded down the top lip of the fabric, sewing it down with my decorative silk thread.

After that, all that was left to do was close up the bottom, which I did a bit... 'creatively', I think! But it's secure and effective, so that's what matters right?
Spindle tube sleeve bottom

After finishing the spindle case I had plenty of fabric left, and I can never have enough project bags, so:
Handmade project bag with ribbon trim

I'm really pleased with this bag: it is big enough to hold any small/medium-sized project, like a hat, pair of socks, or shawl - or three or four 100g skeins of yarn. The fabric is reasonably heavy, and the bag isn't going to get the rough wear that a handbag would for instance, so I didn't worry about a lining.
The construction is dead simple: one long rectangle making the front, bottom, and back, and two side pieces. The sides are triangular, so the bottom is wider than the top, meaning it stands up pretty well on its own, and closes with a button and some matching ribbon.

Handmade knitting project bag

Finally, I also fashioned a matching notions pouch to go with the bag. I included a bit of the same ribbon in the side seams, like piping, and I think it's a really cute effect.
Hand sewn pouch bag
Handmade pouch with ribbon piping detail
This bag's the ideal size for little bits and pieces - a needle gauge, a pen, some pattern notes, and scissors for instance.

I can see myself getting a lot of use out of these bags I've fashioned - and I get a little thrill out of the fact I made them myself. I definitely have a lot to learn about sewing still - but I've had fun diving in so far! Thanks to Hillarys for letting me play around with the pretty fabric.


London Fun

Last weekend I met up in London with some delightful people from the Tiny Owl Knits group on Ravelry. We had a blast, wandering around the city getting up to mischief with a tiny viking.

I also have just realised that I never blogged about when I went on the Great London Yarn Crawl last fall! So, let's kill two birds with one stone, and show off all the great fibery goodies I've gotten from London in the past few months :)

London yarn crawl haul malabrigo
The yarn crawl was an amazing experience, not only because I got to visit a bunch of new-to-me yarn shops, but also spending a day with some very fun knitters and crocheters.

I got a little something from each of the shops, but managed to come home with only one skein of yarn (some Malabrigo sock from Nest) - at the other shops I picked up notions and bits & pieces, including some Lego stitch markers from Prick Your Finger and some much-needed darning thread from Loop. There were also loads of goodies provided by generous sponsors in our goodie bag :3 I can't wait for the second yarn crawl later this year!

Returning to the present... Last week's TOK adventure reminded me of the crawl because I ran into a few of my fellow yarn-crawlers, and we visited two of the shops that my group had crawled: Loop, and Nest.

Loop Islington Wollmeise yarn haul Stromboli and shawl pin
Loop in Islington is the London yarn shop that I have visited most often: it's easy to get to, the staff are friendly, and they have a beautiful selection of yarns. Loop is one of just a few stockists of Wollmeise, brightly coloured German yarn in generously-sized skeins. I picked up a skein of Twin (wool/nylon) in Stromboli, a cheerful mix of bright blue, green, and a touch of brown. I have a specific project in mind for it, but it's a secret for now :)
I also got a beautiful wooden shawl pin and a set of Addi circular needles - flexible cables, sharp tips, and smooth nickel-plated finish - what are marketed as "sock rockets" in the US. The tips are respectably pointy, though not as lethal as my HiyaHiya sharps. Time will tell whether these become my new favorite needles.

After Loop and a pub lunch, we visited Nest, which I might go so far as to call my favorite London yarn shop. It's small but manages to pack in a wide range of yarns and notions, and the atmosphere is very inviting. The only downside is it's a bit difficult to get to, tucked away in Crouch End. However, it is well worth the journey!
Yarn haul Nest London Malabrigo Sock Archangel
This time around at Nest I picked up another beautiful skein of Malabrigo Sock (likely to become a shawl), in the devastatingly beautiful colorway Archangel - a gorgeous layered blend of red, orange, and purple. I also got some clear snaps for cardigans, some KnitPro cables, more darning thread (can never have too much, nor in too many colors), and a sweet bluebird tin to keep it in.

After Nest, we still had some time before shops started closing, so we headed off on foot towards the Handweaver's Studio in Seven Sisters. I had never visited this shop before, but wow, am I glad I had the opportunity! When you first step into the shop, you are surrounded by bags overflowing with combed top, in all manner of colors and fibers. There's an extensive selection of spinner, weaving, and textile-related books on the shelves, and that is before you even reach the shelf upon shelf upon shelf of coned yarn of just about any sort you can imagine, and a few you couldn't (paper? glow in the dark? rubber jelly cord?).
Margaret Stove merino handspinning book from Handweaver's Studio and Gallery
I could have spent hours wandering around, and certainly hundreds of pounds, but seeing as my yarn budget was running low I left the shop with just one precious book - Margaret Stove's book on spinning merino - which is out of print and which I've been wanting for quite some time.

I returned home on the train, exhausted but very satisfied - with my purchases, with my experience being in London again, and with spending time with some lovely Ravelers.


2013, the Knitblog in Review

2013 was an interesting year for me - plenty of good, plenty of bad, and I certainly can't say it was boring. My job and other things have kept me from knitting as much this year as I have in years past, but looking back I am actually surprised at how much I accomplished.

If I had to reduce my 2013 to one thing, fiber-wise, it would be fleece. My very first FO post of the year was knit from yarn spun & processed from raw fleece (that Calorimetry remains my constant companion this winter, too). My fiber storage quickly filled up with gorgeous fleece over the course of the year - especially as I learned the versatility that some fibers offer. I even fell in love with some wool I never thought I would.

I delved further into spinning this year, enhancing my experience with many new tools - a niddy noddy for skeining, a set of Valkyrie combs which I adore, a book charkha and, most notably, my first full-size spinning wheel.

In knitting, I began to further explore colorwork - knitting beautiful Bunty Mitts and some wibbly socks, casting on the engaging Leighton House handwarmers, and knitting a sweater with a touch of stranding (and a matching hat!). I think my favorite FO of this year though, and also the very last, was a handspun scarf I knit for my sister out of natural Shetland lambswool.

Stitching in the Stacks library knitting book cover
My designs were published in two books, Stitching in the Stacks and American Sock Knitting, which was really a thrill. I also had a lot of fun writing up an interactive gift-knitting guide for time-strapped knitters.

Plenty of interesting things happened this year. A robot came to visit Knit Night. I wound the biggest center-pull ball, like, ever. I also foraged some wool from some very unusual sheep.
Ravelry came out with some awesome spinning features and Etsy finally added instant downloads.

Finally... Last year I published a post on my knitting resolutions for the year. How did I do...?

Knit at least one FO from stash, per month: I knit 6 FOs from stash, out of 14 total FOs for the year. So, I didn't meet this goal. I wasn't expecting the massive mojo loss I've had lately which has led to fewer FOs overall. I also have 3 WIPs that I have started from stash yarn, which would bring me up to 9 projects if I finish them.
Stashdown: My original goal was to reduce my Ravelry stash to 134 stashed yarns - I met this goal! Just barely - I have 132 yarns in my Ravelry stash. I also participated in a stashdown this year, resolving to knit more than I bought - I met this goal too! By my calculations, I bought 6300 yards of yarn (whoa) and I knit 6400 yards. A net loss, but a rather small one :\ I'll be continuing the stashdown into this year.
Queue-down: I am an obsessive queue-er, so I wanted to reduce the number of patterns in my queue. My original goal was to knit 12 FOs, reducing the queue to 333 (see above, unfortunately that failed). However I also had a goal to reduce my queue by deleting patterns I no longer wanted to knit, or moving them to favs. I did meet that goal - my queue currently stands at 265 patterns, or 9 pages :)
Personal sock club (6 pairs): I finished two pairs of socks, cast on two more, and finished one pair that wasn't part of the sock club. Failed.
Hexipuffs: Big fail. I think I only knit about a dozen or two hexis this year. However, I am getting close to a finished quilt...

Hm, 2 out of 5 ain't bad, right? ;)