Monday, July 24, 2006

What the hell is that?

As those of you who visit here regularly know, I finished my KWC project a couple of weeks ago and haven’t mentioned anything since then about what I have on the sticks at the moment. Sadly, that’s because my sticks have mostly been bare ever since.

I’ve resolved that now with another pair of socks that I began recently. I know, I know … I said I was going to take on more challenging projects to stretch my knitting ability and yet here I am making another pair of socks. But I have a good excuse! I have not yet knit socks with my own Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Sock Yarn that I added to my line recently. I knit a few sample swatches to get a feel for the yarn, but I think it’s quite imperative that I actually knit a pair of socks with it!

Let me begin by saying that I LOVE this yarn! It’s very soft and just the weight I like for a sock yarn. It’s a bit lighter than some sock yarns, but that makes it perfect in my book both for knitting very practical and highly wearable socks and also for lace knitting as well. It’s not nearly so thin as a true laceweight yarn, but it’s lightweight enough that it would make a nice quicker-knit and less frustrating substitute if one is so inclined.

And so here is a picture of Sock Number One in progress. And don’t say “What the hell is that?!?” It’s a sock I tell you!

Now, I know this doesn’t look much like a sock, but I swear to you it is indeed a sock and it shall fit! I decided to make full-blown knee-socks this time. This yarn has such wonderful yardage (550 yards to a 4-ounce skein) that I think I may be able to get a full pair of knee-socks out of just one skein. Once I had this thought in mind, I simply had to test it. Of course, if I were wiser I would have knit the socks toe-up so that I could switch to a shorter leg if I find that there is not in fact enough yarn in one skein for a knee-sock, but I’m a creature of habit and didn’t give it a thought when I began and now it’s simply too late to turn back.

So that explains the very long length of the leg, but what about the ridiculously narrow girth, you ask? Well, that’s just an illusion. The sock is knit in a ribbed pattern all the way down the leg and it’s very, very stretchy. I’ve stretched it out with my hand and pulled it up my leg over the widest portion of my calf and it does fit. And no, I do not have tiny little legs.

Of course, the sock in progress does look a bit bizarre. I took it with me to work on during hubby’s softball game last week and his teammates had great fun at my poor sock’s expense. There were lots of crude comments about the “banana hammock” I was knitting. The team’s coach implied that it was a gift for him (his tone, needless to say, was both proud and self-congratulatory!). Boys will be boys, I suppose.

The colorway I’m using is called Deepest Forest. I truly love it! You can’t see it at all in the terrible photo above, but below is a closeup that allows you to see the colors a bit better. There are varied shades of Forest Green, touched with lighter green that gives a bit of a sense that light is dancing on the surface of the knitted fabric. If you look carefully, you will also see that it’s not just forest green, but also a deep shade of charcoal that’s almost black. Overall, the color distinctions are subtle, yet still richly varied in their own quiet way.

Alright. That’s enough rambling about a half a sock. Back to knitting!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Navajo it is! And Store News

Thank you all so much for the suggestions for a name for the new colorway from my last post. All of your suggestions were great! In fact, they've got me thinking of lots of possible new colorways.

For the new colorway I've decided to go with "Navajo," suggested by Stacey. As a small thank you, Stacey will receive a free skein of the new Navajo Merino Wool Sock Yarn. (No, this wasn't a naming "contest" ... I just seem to have some type of disease that causes me to wantonly give yarn away!)

Now on to some store news ...

First, I want to let you all know that I added a few of the new Superwash Merino Sock Yarn colorways to my eBay store. More of the new colorways are drying in my workshop and will be added soon. These yarns were previously only listed at auction, as I was testing the waters with this new addition to my product line. It's a hit and so I'm now building inventory and adding it to the "Buy It Now" items available in my eBay store.

I also want to let my blog readers know in advance that I will soon be raising my prices just a wee bit. I am still 100% dedicated to offering quality yarns at far more reasonable prices than one finds in a retail shop! The price increases will be very minimal, but are unfortunately necessary. I was overly-ambitious in my low pricing when I began Fearless Fibers about six months ago and have been contemplating a small price increase ever since. Now, eBay has raised their fees to sellers for the second time during this six month period that I've been selling and so I've finally made the decision that I must proceed with this small increase on some items. (Note that the price of the new superwash sock yarn will not change, nor will my pricing on cashmere.)

I will be taking a few days off in early August to attend a family wedding and when I return the price increases will take effect. I wanted to let all of my blog readers know about this in advance so that if you've been planning on any particular purchase you will have the choice to proceed before the price increases take effect. Again, I want to stress that the increases will be small and I absolutely intend to keep my pricing as attractive as possible over the longhaul.

Thank you all again for your great suggestions on the name for the new colorway.

Until next time ... Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hemorrhoid Yarn, Get Your Hemorrhoid Yarn!

I occasionally experience a form of writer’s block when coming up with names for new colorways. Sometimes my colorways are named very specifically and with zero nuance and creativity: “Shades of Teal” for example. The name just says it all. Other times, the name of a colorway may be based more on a general feeling that the colorway evokes: “Marrakesh” for example. For me, the name evokes images of an exotic land, aromatic spices, rich and earthy colors tinged with golden hues.

Right now, I’m experiencing writer’s block on a new colorway. I recently created a rainbow-dyed colorway called Brick House, which is on superwash merino sock yarn. I now have a new colorway on merino sock yarn (not superwash) and alpaca/wool yarn. The problem is that this new colorway also has a certain “brick” feel to it. It’s quite different from the Brick House colorway though, in that this new colorway leans much more toward pinkish tones of brick, paired with shades of gentle mocha. The Brick House colorway is more of a deep brick blend, leaning toward burnt orange and umber shades of brick. I definitely don’t want to use the term “brick” again in the name of the new colorway, as the two are so very different! But what to call it?

I turned to my husband for ideas. His response: Hemorrhoid!

His suggestion does not mean that this colorway is ugly, nor does it mean that it evokes images of dilated veins and swollen tissue. And I swear to you – it definitely does not evoke images of an anus! Dear hubby’s suggestion doesn’t mean anything of the sort. No, his suggestion was more akin to the type of response you might receive from a 3-year-old if you asked him to name his new kitten. “Poopyhead,” he cries in his loudest 3-year old voice! Yep. That’s my husband. A 200-pound 3-year-old.

But alas, now that he has said it, every time I look at this yarn all I can think of is HEMORRHOID. Sigh. A tiny little part of me actually wants to call it Hemorrhoid, but I shall resist that temptation.

Perhaps someone has an idea to share? And please don’t say Poopyhead!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Some Cool Things to Check Out

It's been a few days since I've blogged and I feel that I owe you something in return for hanging in there and waiting for a new post! And so today, I'm going to share a few cool links with you that you may not have seen yet. Here goes:

Sock calculator: This is a very cool tool where you can enter the gauge for the yarn you plan to use for sock knitting and enter the dimensions of the foot and the sock leg, and the calculator will tell you how many stitches should be cast on and also the approximate yardage you will need. There are also a number of other handy knitting calculators at this site.

Lace Knitting Exhibition: If you need an excuse to visit NY (as if anyone needs an excuse to visit THE city!), this is certainly one! It's still one year away - beginning in July 2007 - but oh my, what fun! It's a Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting Exhibition at the Museum of Arts & Design. Start planning your trip now!!

Wikipedia Knitting: Many of you have probably explored Wikipedia, but have you ever thought to look at the Knitting section? It's suprisingly useful, with clear yet detailed explanations of variations knitting terminology and techniques.

Incredible needles: OK, these knitting needles are ridiculously expensive when viewed purely in terms of a functional object. But that's because they are about much more than function. The link is to the DPN page of needles. There are other needles there as well, but if you scroll down the DPN page, you will eventually come to a section that says "Notice." There you will find info on a swap opportunity - a pair of hand knit socks for a set of these DPNs. Not the best deal for the sock knitter, but if you love to knit socks anyway and have already given everyone you know 19 pair, well then this might be for you.

That's it from me today. I need to get down into my workshop. Remember the new Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Sock Yarn I told you about? Well, it's been selling like crazy, so much so that I'm almost out already. I had ordered a larger quantity almost immediately when I saw how popular it was. That order arrived a couple of days ago and so I've been knee-deep in dyeing ever since!

Have a fab day!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

KWC and More Bargains!

OK. I promised you a picture of my complete Knitting World Cup project, so here goes. Unfortunately, try as I might, I couldn’t get a good picture, so pardon the poor quality of the photo.

Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out. As mentioned previously, it’s more of a shoulder wrap or stole than a shawl as I had originally intended. I knew that would be the case very early into it, but being a complete lunatic I couldn’t stand the thought of frogging it, starting over, and potentially missing the KWC deadline.

Now the only question is: What the hell am I going to do with this thing?

A soft, delicate, lovely lace cashmere shoulder wrap/stole/shawl? Obviously, I won’t wear it while I’m busy in my dye workshop. I must wear it out, of course! Yes, that’s it, OUT. Hmmm … Shall I wear it when I go bowling? Or perhaps when I go to my husband’s softball games? Maybe for a trip to Costco? Or better yet, the supermarket since then I can go in the evening, as it really does beg to be worn as “evening wear.”

Sigh. I guess I don’t have a lace-cashmere-wrap-life! Maybe I’ll tuck it away and give it to my sister for Christmas. She works for a real estate developer and has five kids, but hey, at least she heads into the city at least once a year or so to catch a Broadway show or something of that sort. And she’s a redhead, so the spring green color would be lovely on her.

Now on to yarn bargain talk! I have one more round of 99 cent starting price auctions on eBay this week and they are DOOSIES! This may be my last batch for a while, so get ‘em while you can. I was really pleased to see a couple of blog readers pick up super bargains last round and here’s another chance for y’all. (Did I suddenly turn Southern? What the heck happened there?!?)

You can click on the photos below to directly access the auctions, but these are so juicy that I feel compelled to tell you a little more about them.

The first two below are Large Loopy Mohair Boucle. They are super soft and silky and so much fun to knit with! You can knit with it alone on big ‘ol needles (there I go again, turning Southern) or combine with another yarn to add texture and visual interest. I also like to use this yarn to add interesting touches to felted projects. The yarn will felt, but still retains a lot of nice texture so it makes for interesting trim or embellishment in felted projects. Anyhow, this type of yarn is quite expensive in retail shops but for some reason does not move very well on eBay. I have A LOT of this yarn, still in its undyed state (and also a smaller version of Loopy Mohair Boucle). I’ll likely dive into dyeing more of it as we move into Fall, but I thought I’d unload a few of these last orphan skeins. Because I haven’t seen much interest in this kind of yarn on eBay, I think these auctions may go off for a ridiculously low price. I don’t care much, as it’s just a couple of skeins and I need to get rid of these orphans that are taking up space, but someone is going to get a heck of a deal on some very nice, fun yarn.

As to the other auctions, the third one below is a 50/50 blend of merino and silk. I don’t carry this yarn as part of my usual Fearless Fibers “line.” I had a few skeins leftover from my own personal stash and dyed them in my popular Peppermint Pink colorway. I don’t carry this yarn as a usual staple as it’s killer expensive. Retail for this skein would likely reach $40, which is quite high for a 3.5 ounce skein. Another great opportunity for a bargain!

The last two are superwash merino that borders between a sock and sport weight. You can make a pair of women’s ankle socks out of one skein or a hat or something of that sort. These are just a couple of orphans left sitting lonely on the shelf. The colors are wonderfully bright and clear.

That's it for the bargain review. Have at it, gang! Until next time, Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And the winner is …

The time has arrived to announce the winner of the “how many stitches in the shawl” contest! I also promised you a good, long post today with answers to all of your questions about the shawl. But first … drum roll please …

Congratulations to Heide for her winning entry! Several entrants were surprisingly close with their guesses, but Heide wins the prize with her guess of 256,000 stitches. That’s pretty darn close to the actual number of stitches – 250,512. Congratulations to Heide who will receive her choice of Fearless Fibers Merino Yarn.

And now, on to answer the questions you had about the shawl:

Q. Is it crazier that I asked you to guess how many stitches are in the shawl or is crazier that I counted them?
A. It’s crazier that I asked you to guess. Since this is a mitered square shawl, it was actually pretty quick and easy to calculate the stitches. I just calculated how many stitches in a square and how many in a triangle, counted the squares and triangles, did a quick bit of multiplication and addition and that was that.

Q. Where does the pattern come from?
A. It is from Vivian Hoxbro’s book, Domino Knitting. The pattern as written calls for a heavier weight yarn, but I chose to use a finer gauge yarn as I was fearful that with such a large shawl the weight of the material would cause it to stretch out of shape and I wanted to ensure a sturdy knit. My shawl is knit on US #2 needles (eek!).

Q. What type of yarn is it?
A. The yarn is a blend of merino wool and tencel. I won’t mention the brand, however, as I am no longer a fan of this label. It’s a small company that grew quickly and their quality suffered. They seem to be improving now, but I personally can’t bring myself to buy from them anymore after having several very bad experiences. Fortunately, the yarn for this shawl was fine. The only problem with this yarn was one of my own making. I should not have chosen this colorway, as I really don’t care for it very much. I was so anxious to begin this shawl and so certain that this was the type of yarn that I wanted to use that I settled for this colorway since it was the only one in my LYS with enough quantity for the shawl. (Warning to other impatient and half brain-dead knitters like me: When you undertake a project this large, time-consuming and costly, do NOT settle! Duh. Lesson learned.)

Q. How long did it take to knit?
A. My best estimate is a cajillion hours. This was actually my sabbatical project a couple of years ago, when I was still in the corporate workforce and had the wonderful benefit of a two-month paid sabbatical after reaching seven years of service with the company. Most folks use their sabbatical time travel the world, do meaningful volunteer work, etc., but I chose to see what life would be like if I had a paycheck but no job. I just lived. I knit. I cooked. I read a bit. I took walks. It was absolute heaven.

Several folks also mentioned an interest in mitered square (or “Domino” or modular) knitting. If you haven’t tried this before, I highly recommend it! The small book by Vivian Hoxbro called Domino Knitting is a good place to start with the basics, but there are lots of other more in-depth books available as well.

For those not familiar with mitered squares, the concept is simple: You begin with an odd number of stitches. Your cast-on stitches will become two sides of the square you will complete. By decreasing by two stitches in the center using the slip one, K2TOG, PSSO method on the center three stitches of the row, you will slowly build a square. Since the decreases are in the center of the row, the work will turn on itself so to speak, drawing up the two halves of your original cast on to form two sides of a square. You will finally get to the point where only one stitch remains and it will be the top of a completed triangle (square on its side). As you knit the square, you use a selvage stitch at each end so that you will have a nice clean daisy chain along the sides to pick up stitches as you proceed.

As you continue, you actually knit the squares together rather than later seaming them together. You do this by beginning with the single stitch remaining from the square just completed and then picking up stitches along one edge of the square. You will end up with ½ minus 1 the number of stitches you had in your square to start with. When you reach that point, you proceed with a knitted cast on to reach the total number of stitches to begin a new square and then you simply proceed as you did with the first square. You can use this basic technique with a bit of variation to create triangles, rectangles and more complex shapes.

Knitting this way has so many advantages and is such fun! First of all, since your pieces are knit together as you go there is very little finishing work to do. It’s also very easy to set aside a piece of modular knitting and pick it up some time later without any hassle trying to figure out where you were in your pattern. You’re basically just following a chart of shapes. Modular knitting is also a delight with handpainted yarns. Since the decreases that shape the squares are in the center of the knitting, your finished squares will have multidirectional stitches: one triangular half of the square will be horizontal and the half will be vertical. This just adds to the colorful mosaic quality of handpainted yarns. Finally, there is something very satisfying about the modular knitting experience. Every knitter is familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that comes with completed a project, but there are also milestones throughout the project that give one that same sense of satisfaction. Finishing the edge ribbing on a sweater. Reaching the armhole shaping. Completing a sleeve. What I found with modular knitting is that you get a bite-size version of that feeling of satisfaction with each and every square you complete.

Now it’s time for me to go send an e-mail to Heide with the good news about the her contest win! This contest was so much fun that I’m sure I’ll do more in the future. Keep your eyes open for future fun!

In my next post, I’ll provide a picture of my completed KWC project. It’s all done now, but this is a long enough post already so I’ll save that for next time.

Thanks again to the over 40 folks who entered the contest! (That is, more than 40 people … not the people who – like me – are over 40).

Happy Knitting!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

KWC Deadline Met – Yeah!

Just a quick post today to let you all know that I’m alive and well. My apologies for the lack of meaty postings lately. When I post the contest winner on the 11th, I promise a good, long blog post with all of your shawl questions answered and other fun stuff. Be sure to get your entries in by midnight July 10th (scroll down for contest info).

I’m so happy to announce that I met the Knitting World Cup deadline by casting off on my lace cashmere shoulder wrap today. And yes, I’ve officially abandoned calling it a shawl because it is clearly way too narrow for that. Sigh. I’ll get it blocking tomorrow and will have a photo for you soon.

In the meantime, several folks have e-mailed me and asked whether the “Knitters with Mini” blogring link to the right means that I indeed drive a Mini. The answer, of course, is yes. The photo in the blogrink link is not my Mini though. Here’s a photo of my little Easter Egg Mini. And yes, that’s me, looking haggard and acting goofy behind the wheel.

Time for me to relax, watch a little TV and eat some cherries. Night all.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Contest Fun Continues … and More Bargains!

Thank you to all who have already submitted entries to the contest. There’s less than a week to go until the winner is announced, so if you haven’t submitted an entry yet, please join in the fun! Scroll down to the prior posting for information.

Many of you have e-mailed me with questions or comments about the shawl that is the subject of the contest. When I announce the winner on July 11th, I will also provide more information and answers to your questions about the shawl.

You may also recall that I informed you last week about several 99 cent starting price eBay auctions for Fearless Fibers yarns. Those auctions ended today. Several lucky bidders got a good price on quality yarn and I made some space on my crowded shelves by moving out some of the many orphan skeins that I have. It was such fun that I’m doing it again today. Three new 99 cent starting price auctions are now listed. Click on the photos below to go directly to the auctions.

Finally, a quick Knitting World Cup update: EEK!

I don’t know if I will make the July 9th finish date, which is why I say “eek!” But I’m certainly going to try and I won’t give up until the deadline has passed. I certainly won’t have the shawl blocked by then, but I would very much like to have finished the knitting and cast off by the deadline. I suppose I should stop calling it a shawl, as I fear I didn’t make it wide enough and it may be more of a shoulder wrap than a shawl! The darn thing will be finished one of these days and I’ll post a pic for you.

I’m anxious to finish the KWC project and move on to something new. I bought a pattern for a dress that I would like to make for a friend who has a toddler, but I fear that at the rate I’m knitting these days the child may be in college before the dress is ready! It’s a darling dress though and I am very tempted to get it on the sticks. You can find the pattern at
Knitspot in Anne’s pattern catalogue from a link toward the bottom right.

That’s about all for now. Knit on!