Thursday, December 28, 2006

Drumroll Please!

Before I give you the exciting news that warrants the drumroll, let me first take a moment to answer Nicole's question posed in her Comments a few posts ago. Nicole asked: "In the photo of all the yarn in the ziplock bags, what is the gorgeous yarn in the top left corner? The orange one? Yowsa!" The yarn is my Sportweight Superwash Merino Wool in October. You may be familiar with the October colorway on Fearless Fibers Mohair/Wool. Note that the colors are quite different on superwash merino. I probably should have named them differently to avoid confusion.

And now, on to the "Drumroll Please" news!!

For some time now I've been yearning to add a full worsted weight classic merino wool yarn to my line. The only other worsted weight I carry is Mohair/Wool and I really wanted to fill the gap with a nice merino. This turned out to be more difficult than it sounds. I know that I can never be all things to all yarnies and so I've taken a very specific approach to the items I carry. The theme is simple: top quality, traditional/staple fibers in a beautiful array of colors at prices that are a value to the customer. Not so difficult right? I should be able to easily add a worsted weight merino.

Well, it turned out to be a bit of chore. I sampled quite a lot of worsted weight merinos and what I found were that those that met my quality criteria were overpriced and those that were within the price range that I could live with (on YOUR behalf, of course!) did not meet my quality standards. I fretted. I shook my head a bit. I looked at another. And another. And another. I fretted some more and sighed mournfully from time to time.

Just when I had pretty much given up hope, a miracle fell from the sky into my lap! I am so excited to announce that I now have a lovely, soft, quality classic merino in a worsted weight. I cannot describe to you how much I love this yarn. It knits up at around four stitches an inch on US#9's and I can just imagine how lovely it will be for sweaters, scarves, hats ... you name it! AND .... the price is right! The yarn comes in 4-ounce skeins of approximately 140 yards each and my price to you will be $14.50 per skein. Although 140 yards sounds relatively small, remember that this is a full worsted weight and so it goes a long way. That 140 yards is a quarter pound of yarn. Of course, I haven't yet knit a sweater with it, but I approximate that six skeins will make a classic fit women's size medium sweater.

Since I have no way of knowing how this yarn will go over with customers, I'm starting small with just five colorways. Three are ready now and listed in my Etsy shop just this morning! Two more colorways are drying in my workshop and will be added in a few days. Without further ado, here are the three already listed.

First, there's Butterscotch Twist. If this colorway looks familiar to you, that's because it is the same colorway that I'm using for the "thingamajig" that I'm making and posted about previously. The thingamjig is with Alpaca/Wool, but the colorway is available only on the new Worsted Weight Classic Merino.

Next is By the Hearth. There's nothing fire-like about this colorway, but looking at it gives me that warm, comforting feeling that I get when perched on the hearth in front of a fire on a cold winter's night.

And finally, there's Lavender Romance. I'm really itching to make a sweater with this one. I love the gentle lavender tones, tinged with bluish and greenish grays. The colorway has a romantic feel without going to far and reaching the realm of the sappy or vapid.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the new yarn and colorways, and I look forward to sharing the other two with you soon.

Next up in the additions to my line will be a new laceweight. Right now the only laceweight I carry is cashmere. Although you just can't beat cashmere, I would like to add another true laceweight to the line. It will likely be a classic merino, but I'm also considering perhaps going with an alpaca. If you're a fan of laceweights, don't get too excited yet. It's going to be a while before I'll be adding this to my line, but it will be coming in the future. I'll keep you posted!

Everyone have a smashing day!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Well, it is Monday after all ...

Despite the fact that today is Christmas and most of you have other things on your plates taking precedence over knitting and yarn, it is still Monday and that means customer project photos!

First, I have this lovely sock by Lynne. The pattern is "Country Girl Socks" from
Heartstrings Fiber Arts Jackie E-S Sock Collections. Lynne used Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Citrus colorway. The photo is not as true to the color as Lynne would have liked, but regardless of the accuracy of the color in the photo there's no question that the sock is just smashing! Great pattern and great knitting job by Lynne!

Next we have a lace scarf that Debbie recently completed. According to Debbie, she isn't an experienced lace knitter, but you'd never know it by looking at her work! This is the "Feather and Fan" scarf (also available in "shawl" version in the pattern) by Anne of
Knitspot. You can also visit Debbie's blog for lots of other knitting and yarn fun!

Debbie was kind enough to provide photos both pre-blocking and post-blocking, which is always a kick to see with lace. The transformation of lace knitting from it's unblocked to blocked state is nothing short of magical!

Here is Debbie's scarf before blocking.

She used Fearless Fibers
Sportweight Cashmere in the Midnight Rendezvous colorway for this scarf. As you'll see in this photo of the finished scarf after blocking, you don't have to use a traditional laceweight yarn to get fabulous results with lace knitting!

And finally, here's a closeup to show off that lovely lace detail. Kudos to Debbie for a terrific job!

Thank you again to all of you who have shared your photos and please do keep them coming! I've caught up with the backlog of photos now and am all clear for new ones this coming Monday.

Before I sign off for today, I want to wish all of you a wonderful, peaceful and joyous holiday!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sneak Preview

A couple of posts ago, Katinka asked whether she had spyed a couple of new colorways in my Etsy shop recently. The answer is Yes! I recently created two new colorways on Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn. Only two skeins of each of the new colorways were available for sale, as I thought I'd test the waters before investing too much time and energy. The new colorways sold right away and I also received a few special requests for more and so it's official -- there will be more of these new colorways available soon!

I'm going to share a sneak preview with you here today, but be forewarned that these two new colorways are not yet relisted in my store. I'll have more available in a week or two and will be sure to let you all know when they're listed, but for now I thought you might enjoy a sneak preview.

The first is called Chocolate Pink Cherry. This colorway is in response to a number of requests I've received for a pink and brown sock yarn. It took me a while to come up with this one, since I really wanted a "rainbow-dyed" colorway rather than a handpainted colorway. The handpainted colorways have regular repeats of colors and so they pattern, pool and stripe in a variety of ways depending on the pattern and the hand of the knitter. I do adore handpainted yarns, but for the pink and brown scheme I thought a rainbow-dye would be intriguing. Rainbow dyes are entirely random and result in a mosaic of color when knit or crocheted. I had in mind that the pink and brown would have more subtlety and elegance in a rainbow-dye, but that was no easy task! With colors as disparate as pink and brown it took a bit of creativity to come up with a blend that showed off the colors and variety nicely but still blended harmoniously.

The result is Chocolate Pink Cherry! Unfortunately, it's not the most photogenic of colorways, but trust me when I tell you that it's really very pretty indeed. When I have a new batch completed I'll do my best to get a better photo, but for now this one will have to do.

The second new colorway is a handpaint called Exuberant ... and exbuerant it is! If you haven't noticed yet, I have a penchant for oranges, rusts, umber, tangerine, and every other variation of orange imaginable. I particularly like this colorway because it combines two themes that aren't often seen together -- brilliant eye-popping color and warm tones.

As always, keep your eyes open for more colorways coming soon. I just can't stop myself from adding new ones all the time. It's just too much fun!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

See Deb Knit. Knit, Deb, Knit!

I sometimes feel as though I don't knit at all these days. It can be torturous at times to be surrounded by so much yarn and to have no time to knit. My fingers itch to sink into the yarn all around me!

NO! Don't look, I tell myself. Keep your eyes away from the walls. You know the walls are lined with shelves full of yarn everywhere you look.

Keep your eyes down. Look at the floor as you walk through this area! Oops ... that won't work either!

Just squint your eyes and get out of the room! Oops, what was that you glimpsed out of the corner of your eye?

Quick. Escape. Duck into the dining room for a moment before you succumb to the desire to knit instead of finishing the dye run you had planned this afternoon!

But no. The dining room just weakens my resolve as I see all the neat little packages waiting to go to their new homes in the morning. It doesn't matter that I can't see inside the packages. I know what's in them!

Then I remind myself that even though it sometimes feels as though I have no time for knitting, I do indeed find the time somehow. I even have some knitting progress photos to share today!

First, here's the shawl I started a couple of weeks ago.

I finished the first repeat of the 96-row pattern and now have it committed to memory and can move forward quickly from here.

Gotcha! Kidding, of course. I most certainly have not committed it to memory, nor will I ever. The center motif pattern is 81 stitches by 96 rows. It's not a difficult pattern at all, but keeping my place on the chart is a bit challenging. I know I make it more difficult on myself by using the tiny chart in the book rather than getting a copy enlarged, and also by sitting in an armchair with the pattern book resting on the arm and watching television while I knit.

I had a hard time getting a good photo for you, but here's another shot where you can see a little more of the pattern detail.

I also started a new project. This one is knit with my Fearless Fibers DK Alpaca/Wool Yarn. The colorway is not part of my line, but you'll hear more about that in a future post (teaser). The colors are not accurate in this photo, but the weather is gloomy today and there's no hope for a natural light photo, so this will have to do.

(And yes, those are the tips of my feet appropriately clad in handknit socks that you see at the bottom of the photo.)

What is this going to be, you ask? Haha! I'm not telling you! Actually, I can't really tell you since I'm not sure what one would call it. It's going to be a thingamajig. That's the best I can do.

Hmmmm ... All this talk of knitting ... I think I'll go sit in my favorite armchair and click the sticks for a while.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fabulous Fair Isle!

For today's Monday customer project photos, I have another group of fabulous Fair Isle scarves that Sandy created with her magical knitting machine! These are made with Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn.

First, we have these darling rabbits on a background of the Mermaid colorway. I just love these rabbits so much that when I received the picture, I couldn't stop opening the photo to take one more look!

Next, there are Watermelon fish swimming across a sea in Shades of Teal. Aren't they just a hoot?! Love them!

Finally, Sandy whipped up these two floral creations. The flowers on the left are made with Sunburst with leaves of Kildare and Lime Kiwi. The background shades from the Bouquet colorway to the Sky and Clouds colorway. The flowers in the photo on the right are made with Gentle Peach with Lime Kiwi leaves and a Sublime background. Wow!

As if these gorgeous scarves aren't enough, Sandy is now beginning to work on lace knitting. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what she comes up with! Beautiful work, Sandy! And thank you so much for sharing the photos.

Everyone else ... keep the photos coming! It doesn't matter whether you're knitting your very first scarf or a complex and intricate lace design. I love to see them all!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Unanswerable Questions

How can I have what must be 100 sets of needles yet never have the size/length required for the project I have in mind?

How can I lose needles so frequently? Do they escape, like socks from a dryer? When I set my knitting bag down do they slowly make their way out of the bag, creeping along inch-worm style? Where do they go? Are they living a happy life, wild and carefree?

How can I – after a couple of decades of knitting – still get twenty stitches into the first row of a new project with a longtail cast-on before realizing that I’m knitting with the tail end of the yarn?

Why do I still periodically finish the cuff and leg of a sock and begin short row heel shaping before knitting the heel flap?

Why do I knit sweaters for my husband even though I know he wears T-shirts year round and is usually still too warm?

Why do I repeatedly insist on straying from a pattern I love only to follow a well-worn path to knitting despair?

Why is no amount of yarn ever enough?

Hmmm ………..

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Eyeful of Lace

For today's Monday customer project feature I have not one but FOUR lace projects to share with you. I didn't plan for this to be a lace feature day, but apparently the knitters' collective conscious was at work and I was the happy recipient of a lovely group of project photos with a lace theme.

From Theresa, we have the Swallowtail Shawl designed by Evelyn A. Clark, published in Interweave Knits Fall 2006 issue. Theresa used Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Sock Yarn in Marrakesh. Isn't is just lovely?! This is one of the projects that inspired me to get started on my own lace shawl using my Superwash Sock Yarn. Well done, Theresa! To learn more about this project and share in lots more knitting fun, take a little side trip over to visit
Theresa's blog.

Next we have another wonderful crocheted shoulder wrap shawl by the prolific Elisa. This one is made with Fearless Fibers DK Alpaca/Wool in Pumpkin Spice. She completed this lovely shawl in what seemed like the blink of an eye! It felt as though I shipped her yarn to her, had a cup of coffee, and found the photo of the completed project waiting in my inbox. Wow! It certainly doesn't look like a quick crochet! For all the fun details and lots more crochet goodness, take a gander at
Elisa's blog.

Next up is Micki's mini
Clapotis shawl from Knitty made with Fearless Fibers DK Alpaca/Wool in Navajo. Micki has lots more great photos on her blog, so click on over for a peek! I'm amazed at how many folks have told me they've made the Clapotis shawl from one of my Fearless Fibers Yarns. I guess this is a popular pattern and if Micki's fabulous finished product is any measure, I can certainly see why!

Finally, I can't resist a bit of a rerun to close the day's cavalcade of lace. I previously featured Anne of
Knitspot's Obstacles shawl in Fearless Fibers sportweight cashmere (Sedona colorway). When I last featured this project it was yet to be blocked. Now that it's completely done, I couldn't resist giving you another look, as it's just too good not to see again! Anne also now has the pattern for this shawl added to her catalogue and available for purchase.

How's that for an eyeful of lace?! Fantastic work by all! Thank you so much for sharing your projects. It's an amazing kick for me to see these. A friend recently asked me whether I miss my old corporate job at all, particularly the satisfaction of the accolades that came with it. The answer was simple: No way! Seeing the amazing things all of you are creating with my yarns brings me more satisfaction and joy than any corporate kudos ever could. I am eternally thankful to all of you for sharing your work with me. Keep those pictures coming!

Now everyone go have a great day!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

One Off The Sticks, One On The Sticks

Believe it or not, I have some knitting progress to share with you today! I have one small project ready to come off the sticks and another large one just on the sticks.

Coming off the sticks, as soon as I take a few minutes to kitchener up the toe and weave in the ends, is pair #4 of socks for my mother's Christmas box of goodies. These socks - made with my Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in Shades of Teal - are about as simple as a pair of socks can be, but still pretty and made by the hands of her darling and incredibly thoughtful youngest daughter.

I had planned on making six pair as part of my mother's Christmas gift, but I fear it will only be four. I'll add some other fun items to the box and perhaps another small knit item to round it out. Hmmmmm ... I know I have a little pile of scarves that I made earlier this year for just such a desperate moment. Perhaps I can find one there.

Hold on while I go look.

Okay. This is weird. It will also give you an idea of just how much knitting and yarn I have in my home! First of all, for the life of me I can't find my scarf stash. I know there are quite a few here somewhere, but I can't find them! What I did, however, find is a pair of socks I had entirely forgotten I made! They were tucked away in a box which is also full of yarn that I completely forgot about. I'll have to dig through that soon and see what little gems are waiting for me there. But for now, I'm just thrilled to pieces to be able to report that I will have five pair of socks for my mother!

The pair I just discovered are short ankle socks, which works out perfectly since my mother prefers ankle socks anyway. Add this pair to the four I had and ... voila, we have five! Here is the new addition:

Yes, I know, they are downright garish, but hey ... they're ready to go!

I also decided it was high time that I start a new project larger than a pair of socks! A couple of months ago I mentioned having purchased Meg Swanson's A Gathering of Lace. I pulled it out on Monday and set about picking a project. The choice was obvious. I selected the Faux Russian Stole. There are many beautiful items in this book and lots of the patterns look like fun and a good challenge to knit, but for me personally, the Faux Russian Stole is clearly the one that I can see myself wearing more than any other.

One of the reasons I chose a lace shawl as my next project is that I've had quite a number of customers mention that they are using my Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn for lace shawls. (Teaser: I have a photo of a completed lace shawl with this yarn for next Monday's "customer project" moment.) Since I've only used this yarn for socks so far myself, I thought it would be a good idea to get a sense of how it knits for lace. It's a lightweight sock yarn -- 2-ply fingering weight at 550 yards to 4 ounces. The pattern calls for a "jumperweight" yarn at 150 yards to an ounce (that is 600 yards to 4 ounces), so it's a pretty close match.

I cast on Monday night and have already finished the bottom edge, completed a few rows of garter division and the first few rows of the center motif.

The shawl is started by first knitting the bottom border, short end to short end, and then picking up and knitting stitches across the straight edge of the border and around the provisional cast-on edge.

After a bit of swatching and playing with needle sizes I settled on a size 4, although the pattern calls for a 6. This shawl uses a garter stitch ground, which I like very much but only on the smaller needles. The garter ground is very appealing to me since it creates a garment that has less of a "right side" and "wrong side" look to it than a shawl knit on a stockinet ground. The only problem for me was that with the larger needles, the garter portions looked a bit too gossamer for my taste. It appeared sloppy more than lacey. I think that's just the nature of garter stitch, as I've never had that sense with the appearance of loosely knit stockinet areas in a lace shawl. So anyway, I settled on a size 4 needle, knowing that this would likely shrink the shawl from a real shawl into more of a shoulder wrap or stole, but that's fine for me.

It will be a while before the pattern really emerges and before I begin to get a sense of the drape of the knit, but here's a close up photo so you can see a bit of detail.

I really love the colors of this yarn. This is something I dyed specifically for my own use. It has some similarity to the Brick House colorway, but it skews more toward an orangy shade of burnt umber rather than the brick red/brown of the Brick House. (I'm a fiend for burnt umber, rusty orange, and the like!)

Alright. Enough chit-chat. Time to get back to work!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday Photo Time!

For today's Monday "Customer Project Photos" I have a wonderful array of photos to share with you, provided by Sandy.

Sandy has recently taken up machine knitting and has quickly progressed from the basics on to doing more advanced fairisle colorwork. As someone who owns a knitting machine myself, I can tell you that there's nothing easy about machine knitting! My machine serves mostly as an interesting modern sculpture in my knitting studio, since I have never really been able to master the thing (understatement of the year!).

All of the photos you see below were made with
Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Sock Yarn. The patterned scarves were knit double-wide and then seamed, so that the stranded colors on the reverse side are hidden and the pattern shows on both sides. I'll start with two close-up photos so you can see the intricate details.

This scarf was made using the Lilac and Sunshine colorways. Sandy reports that she loves the Fearless Fibers yarns in fairisle patterns because each color shades the pattern in its own way.

This next one is made with the Midnight Passion and Raspberry colorways, one of Sandy's favorite combinations.

In this group photo taken from a greater distance, the individual colorwork can't really be seen, but it gives you an idea of the amazing array and depth of Sandy's work. In this photo, the ones on the right were knit with an antique sock machine, using a single colorway. The ones on the left were knit with a standard gauge machine using two colors.

I won't even tell you how quickly Sandy moved from learning the basics to doing more complex colorwork, nor how quickly she completed all of these wonderful projects. If I told you that, you might all run out to buy a knitting machine and I must forewarn you, as mentioned previously, it's not as easy as you might think!

Each machine has its own idiosyncrasies and they can be quite temperamental. The machine also is not a magical tool that does everything for you. It forms the individual stitches for you and can be quite a time saver in that regard, but it requires quite a bit of manual manipulation, particularly as you move into garment creation where shaping is required. Increases, decreases and such all require manual work with tiny little tools. The smallest bend in a needle - barely perceptible by the human eye and seemingly impossible to find as the source of the missed stitches plaguing you - can send you into a fit of frustration, moving on to cursing and tears. OK. Perhaps it can't do that to you, but it sure can do it to me! Kudos to Sandy for learning so much so quickly and conquering the beast! It almost makes me want to dust off my machine and take another crack at it. Almost ...

Great job, Sandy! Thank you so much for sharing your work.

And to all the rest of you, keep those Fearless Fibers project photos coming!

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Am a Knitter

I am a knitter. I have earned the title not through any great talent or expertise, but through my love and passion for knitting. My work dyeing yarn is merely an extension of my love of knitting and fiber.

Now as a knitter, I admit that I am prone to certain behavior that may seem odd to those who know nothing of the obsession. I was at Nordstrom’s Rack recently and came across a table of sweaters. One in particular caught my eye, as I didn’t recognize the textured stitch. It was a finely knit sweater and so to examine the stitches more closely was no easy task. I’m right on the cusp of needing bifocals and have found over the past six months that seeing anything small requires me to hold the item so close to my eyes that I might as well just rest it on the bridge of my nose! I thought nothing of doing this right there in the middle of the store, because I am a knitter and needed to know what type of stitch it was.

The trendy looking girl in her early twenties who was browsing the opposite end of the table of sweaters from me didn’t seem to think my behavior was so rational. She gave me a look of disdain and condescension that no girl in her twenties should ever give to a woman in her forties, regardless of whether that older woman appears to be burying her face in a sweater. Perhaps she thought I was attempting to surreptitiously wipe my nose with the garment?

The other night, at my weekly bowling league during the 15 minutes or so before start time when folks are milling about, I noticed a fellow bowler sitting at a table intently focused on knitting what appeared to be a simple scarf. Being a knitter I had no choice but to approach her, despite the fact that we had never before exchanged a word. You know the drill, right? I walked right up to her and asked her what she was working on. It was obvious that she was new to knitting by the way she held the needles and slowly wrapped the yarn tightly around the needle and carefully pulled each stitch through.

I was polite. I smiled. I took an interest in her work. She was rude. She frowned. She took no interest in meeting a fellow knitter.

This gal will never be a knitter. She’s a fantastic bowler, carrying an average around 200. She’s young and has attitude to spare (no bowling pun intended, but feel free to wince nonetheless). Her response to my friendly approach seemed to come from a bowling place rather than a knitting place. I could see the thoughts behind her cold, mean eyes. She was wondering how this 40-something woman who struggles to hit the pocket consistently and is known to miss easy spares could dare to speak to her! I think it took every ounce of restraint she had to remember that one should be at least reasonably cordial to others within the league. I believe she wanted to tell me to get the hell away from her and not dare speak to her again until I brought my average up by at least 25 pins.

I just continued talking a bit about knitting while I internally boiled at the lack of respect this gal was showing toward a far more experienced knitter. And then the devil took hold of me. I reached out and touched the end of the ugly green acrylic scarf she was knitting and – before departing abruptly to return to my bowling teammates - said something along the lines of: “Well, have fun with your knitting. Just keep practicing and your stitches will eventually look more even and neat. You won’t always feel so slow and awkward. If you really enjoy it, maybe you can even treat yourself to some decent yarn.”
Of course, I said this with a smile and even added a bit of extra sugar to my tone.

Yes, I thought I had cut her down to size with my wicked tongue-lashing. But alas, my cutting words were lost on her. She just looked relieved that I was walking away before any of the other twenty-something-year-old, 200+ average bowling gals in the league saw her in conversation with a middle-aged woman who throws a pathetic 12-pound ball!

Nope. This gal will never be a knitter.

Over the summer, at one of my husband’s softball games, I had a similar encounter. Well actually, not similar at all, but it started off about the same. I spotted a young gal in her twenties watching the game from behind the opposing team’s dugout, knitting a scarf with some type of hideous neon-colored eyelash yarn, intently focused on each and every stitch. Just as with the bowling incident, I got up from where I sat and approached her.

At the time when I spotted this gal, my knitting was still in my knitting bag and I was thumbing through a book of Fair Isle patterns. When I got up and walked over to this gal, I still had the book in my hand, with my fingers marking the spot where I’d left off. As I went through the drill of introducing myself and starting a conversation about knitting, this young gal’s eye caught the book in my hand. When I saw her looking at it inquisitively, I held it out to her and said something about how it was a book of charted color patterns. On the cover of the book was a photo of a beautiful, intricately patterned Fair Isle sweater. The young woman reached out tentatively and barely touched the cover of the book, the tips of her fingers grazing the shiny surface. She looked at me wide-eyed and slightly awestruck and asked, “Can you do that?”

That young woman at the softball game will be a knitter some day. The gal at the bowling alley, well, she’ll never be a knitter and she’ll likely always be a …. Oops. I won’t say it. No need to be nasty.

Happy Knitting all!