Monday, April 30, 2007

It's That Time Again

I can't believe it's Monday again already. Time certainly has been flying these days. The good news is that Monday means it's time for more customer project photos!

First, I have this lovely shawl by Fatimah in FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in Midnight Passion. This is the Seraphim shawl pattern by MimKnits.

Here's a closeup for that must-see detail:

Lovely job, Fatimah! Thank you so much sharing your work! To learn more about Fatimah's knitting and other adventures, visit her blog.

Next up is a pair of socks by Karin knit with FF Classic Merino Wool Sock Yarn in Hush. Karin knit these socks for the Nancy Bush Vintage Sock KAL. They are the "Little Child's Sock" and they are absolutely wonderful! To learn more about Karin and her projects, pop on over to her blog.

And so another week begins. Everyone have a great one!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Crochet Memories

This morning, I awoke with a long-forgotten memory clearly in my mind. I think I must have dreamed about it, although I have no recollection of the dream.

For those of you read my blog regularly, you've probably heard me mention that I don't crochet. It's true. I don't. If you had asked me yesterday I would have told you that I've never crocheted beyond perhaps an occasional single crochet finishing touch on a knitted project. If you ask me today I will tell you that I crocheted once.

When I was around 8 or 9 years old, one of my best friends was an odd little girl named Rosanne. She was extremely intelligent and rather quiet, but also a tad eccentric. She had a habit of intentionally mispronouncing certain words. Although her reasons for doing this were not apparent, it seemed to be a form of derision. For instance, she pronounced "emotional" as "em-toy-nal." She was not an emotional sort and so I always took this as a rather condescending poke at those who were more emotional in nature.

One day, she suggested that I teach her to knit and she would teach me to crochet. The thing was, she didn't say "crochet." She pronounced it "crotch-it." Now, I knew this was another case of Rosanne choosing a pronunciation all her own and I assumed that it also meant that she had some level of disrespect for this activity called "crotch-it-ing."

For some inexplicable reason, I simply did not make the connection between knit and crochet. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Despite the fact that she was one of my best friends, I was far too proud to tell her that I did not know what "crotch-it-ing" was. Instead I simply agreed to her plan to swap our knowledge. It's a good thing that I had a pure mind at the time or I might have been nervous indeed about just what I was going to learn during this crotch-it lesson!

We planned our little learning lesson for that weekend and I showed up at her house with two pair of knitting needles and a couple of balls of cheap acrylic yarn. I taught her the basics of how to cast on and knit and purl (which was about all I knew how to do). Once she had that down and was ready to settle in to practicing her newly learned skill, it was her turn to teach me to crotch-it.

When she produced two crochet hooks, of course, the light bulb finally went off. Crochet! I was glad I hadn't asked her what on earth she meant by crotch-it-ing, as she would surely have given me a hard time for my stupidity. (Great little friend, huh?)

She taught me a bit, although I can't recall at all what it was. Perhaps the basics of single and double crochet?

After we each practiced a while, it was time to plan our first projects. Rosanne knit herself an absolutely ridiculous and entirely age-inappropriate tube top. I'm sure her mother was thrilled to see her prancing around in that!

I crocheted a hat. The yarn was a dark and bright purple acrylic. The hat itself was a normal ski hat shape at the start, but at the top, rather than finishing up decreasing the size to shape to the head, this hat continued upward in a tube of around 4 or 5 inches in length. With the rather thick, cheap acrylic yarn I used, this tubular embellishment sprouted stiffly straight up in the air. I suppose it's only appropriate that my crotch-it project sported a phallic symbol as an adornment!

To top off this purple monstrosity, I added a lavender pom pom atop the phallic tube. Oh my! What a hat!

This amazing hat was then presented to my mother as a gift. This - I learned several years later - was a mistake.

My mother wore that hat. She wore it often. She wore it with pride. She wore it not only that winter but FOR MANY winters to come. That's right. She wore that hat when I was 10 years old ... 11 years old ... 12 years old. She wore it right up to the point where my sister and I were traumatized. She wore it to the supermarket and to the Post Office. She wore it to drive us to the mall! She picked us up from school wearing the purple-phallic-symbol-pom-pom-crotch-it hat!!!

My sister and I were less than thrilled about this to say the least. Looking back at it, it makes me smile. The thing is, my mother wore that hat not for reasons that most mothers would. She did not wear it because it touched her motherly heart that her daughter had made it as a gift. No. My mother wore that hat because she liked it. She didn't care if people thought she was a nut. She liked it. It made her smile. It was fun. And, yes, her daughter did make it which was a nice little bonus, but it was not the motivation for wearing it.

My mother was already in her early 50's when I made that hat. She was long past the age when she might have cared what other people thought of how she looked (although I'm not at all certain that she ever really cared about such things). Growing up, everyone always said that I was like my father and my sister was like my mother, but when I look at myself as I am today I think I am much more like my mother.

I believe if I had a purple-phallic-symbol-pom-pom-crotch-it hat today, I would very likely wear it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

F.O. + Sale Reminder

Before I dive into pictures of my FO, a quick reminder for everyone: I'm having a sale today and tomorrow in my Fearless Fibers Etsy shop. You'll find the sale items with a listing title that begins with "Sale" and you can also browse the sale items by clicking on the store section labeled "Sale Items."

I listed the sale items earlier this morning and many have already sold, but there are still lots of great items at bargain prices available, so stop on by and have a look!

Now, on to knit talk . . .

Last week, I showed you blocking photos of the Print O' The Waves Shawl by Eunny Jang that I made for my niece to wear to her prom. As promised, I have a couple of photos to show you now of the completed, blocked shawl. Unfortunately, my husband has been working, working, working and so I was left to try to get photos on my own. The result, unfortunately, is less than terrific photos (big understatement - sigh).

Here's my attempt to get a photo with the light coming through, but as I learned, it's not a very good photography technique to hang one's arm off the edge of a balcony and then hold a camera in a shaky position somewhere that seems roughly as though it might capture a glimpse of the draped item.

I used around 2 1/2 skeins of my FF Laceweight Merino in the Hush colorway to complete the shawl.

I shipped the shawl off to my niece and asked my sister to please try to get some good prom night photos that show the shawl. If I ever receive those, I'll be able to show you some better pictures. All in all, I'm really happy with how it turned out. I just hope my niece likes it as much as I do!

Other than the ripple stitch afghan throw that I began a few weeks ago, I now have clear sticks and endless possibilities in front of me! I know I need to get a pair of socks going, since it's been a while since I've worked on socks and my hands are missing the familiar and comforting feel of going round and round on toothpick sticks. But what will my next larger project be? Hmmmmm ... such fun!

Great day to all!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fab Photos to Start the Week!

I'm starting this week on a fabulous note with two wonderful customer projects to share. First, we have this lovely scarf by Bianca. It's the "Branching Out" pattern from Knitty.

Bianca used FF Mohair/Wool DK Yarn in the In The Pink colorway. The photo above shows off the scarf wonderfully, but the colors look a little off on my monitor. You can see the true colors along with the wonderful stitch detail better in this closeup.

To learn more about Bianca and her knitting endeavors, visit her blog.

Next up, we have this amazing crocheted shawl by Elisa.

Elisa used FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Venerable colorway. Check out this closeup to really see Elisa's lovely handiwork.

And how about this dramatic angle shot? Apparently, Elisa's artistic skills extend beyond just crochet and into the realm of photography.

Learn more about Elisa and her crochet adventures in her blog.

So how are those for a couple of fabulous projects and great photos to get your week started?

Before I sign off for today, a quick note for those of you who have tried to reach my Etsy shop yesterday. My apologies! Etsy has been down for a major overhaul of their system. The site is back up this morning, but it's moving slowly at the moment. I'm sure they will have it in good working order very soon, but please accept my apologies and be patient in the meantime. I'm still planning my sale for Wednesday and Thursday this week (see post below), but if the site is not up to the task, I will delay it a bit. I don't want all you good folks frustrated while trying to snap up a bargain. Any changes to the sale plans will be posted here.

Thanks again and have a great day!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mark Your Calendars: Sale Coming!

For two days only, on Wed April 25th and Thursday April 26th, I will be having a sale in my shop on quite a number of my colder weather yarns, including mohair/wool and alpaca/wool blends. The purpose of the sale is to begin to thin out inventory to make room for some new colorways in the Fall.

This will be a great opportunity to stock up at a great price on yarn for scarves, hats, mittens, sweaters, afghans and other colder weather projects. Since this is not an “orphan skein” sale as I've had in the past, you’ll find many items on sale with plenty of stock available for a larger project if that’s what you seek.

I’ll begin putting up the sale listings on Wednesday morning, as soon as I drag myself out of bed and get some coffee in my system (probably around 7 a.m. PST).

Note also that U.S. Postal rates will increase on May 14th and so this will also be an opportunity to get in under the wire before the shipping costs in my shop will need to be amended to reflect the new postage rates.

If you’re on my mailing list, you will also receive an e-mail notice in a couple of days about this sale. If you’re not on my mailing list and want to be included so you don’t miss future news, just send me an e-mail asking to be added to the list. I will NEVER use your e-mail address for any other purpose and will NEVER sell or share the e-mail list with anyone. The e-mail list will only be used in the event that there is hot news related to Fearless Fibers to share. I do not generally use the list to distribute news more than once per month and usually much less frequently. You can be removed from the list at any time by sending me an e-mail request.

That’s all the news for today. I do have the shawl project from my last post completed, but I need to get some photos to show you. I’m really pleased with the final product and will have those photos to share with you soon.

Everyone have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tick Tock Block Block

The clock is ticking on the date for my niece's high school prom in mid-May and I'm happy to report that the shawl I've been knitting for her is just about ready to go. I got it blocking yesterday and it should be ready very soon. Yippee!

This is Eunny Jang's Print O' The Waves Shawl in my FF Laceweight Merino in the "Hush" colorway. The blocking photos aren't very good, but I'll try to get some decent shots when it's done.

Here's a closeup with the pattern detail:

Now that I've got this project done, I can start to think about what's next. I'm continuing to make slow progress on the ripple afghan/throw and will keep plugging away at that here and there for months I'm sure. The itch to get a pair of socks on the sticks is upon me, so I'll get started on those soon, but I still need to decide on what my next larger project will be. Hmmmm .... I love the planning stage, when everything is open to possibility!

That's all for today. Tune in again for news coming in a few days on an upcoming sale I'm planning. As many of you know, I only have a sale about once every three months so keep your eyes open for the upcoming post!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Check Out My Cool New Sidebar!

Just a quick note in case you're wondering about the slightly new look of my blog. I've added a little mini gallery of items from my shop to the sidebar. Just click on a photo and you'll be taken to the listing in my shop. Ain't that just the coolest?

I hope it works properly for everyone's browser. Looks fine on my end.

More knitting and fiber fun to come later this week . . .

Monday, April 16, 2007

Getta Load of This!

Today's Monday customer project is quite an eyeful of knitting goodness! Check out this amazing German Stocking by Aija.

Aija knit this using the pattern Cookie A Knitwear Designs (definitely worth a look for amazing sock patterns!) and FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Royalty colorway. Visit Aija's blog for more photos and details about this project and tons of other great knitting and fiber pursuits.

You can also browse Aija's stitch markers in her Etsy shop. There you'll find a fantastic selection of unique stitch markers. These are not the usual delicate beaded markers you see. They have a bold, earthy feel to them, and include materials not often seen in stitch markers such as obsidian stone and fossil agate. Very cool!

A big Thank You to Aija for sharing the photos of her wonderful German Stockings!

Please keep the photos of finished projects with Fearless Fibers Yarn coming. Just send me an e-mail and I'll put them in the queue for posting in a future Monday project feature.

Great day to all!

Friday, April 13, 2007

She Lives!

My apologies for the gap in time since my last post on Monday. I've been busy working while also trying to find time to ready my home for guests this weekend. There's no way to hide the evidence of a thriving yarn venture under my roof, but I feel the need to at least get everything organized and ensure there are at least some surfaces in my home that are not covered by bags of yarn, stacks of labels, or other tell-tale signs of the omnipresence of Fearless Fibers!

Despite scurrying around like a lunatic this week, I have found a bit of time for knitting as well as a couple of new colorways. I've continued working on the edging of the lace shawl for my niece's prom. I thought I'd have that done in a jiffy, but it turns out that 80+ repeats of even a brief 16-row pattern takes time and perseverance. The halfway point is finally behind me, so I'll have it finished before too long.

In the meantime, I took the plunge and began the ripple-stitch throw blanket that I'm planning on slowly knitting on and off throughout the spring and summer. Here are the colors I'm using:

The yarn is my FF Sportweight Superwash Merino dyed in semi-solid shades. I'm knitting on a US #5 needle, which is a bit larger than I usually use with this yarn. I generally recommend a #3 or 4, since a tighter, solid knit is usually better for superwash merino as it has a tendency to stretch over time due to its slippery nature. For a blanket though, a bit of stretching won't hurt and it also won't have quite as much of that stretching tendency in a blanket, where the weight of the fabric won't continually pull the fabric the way it does in a worn garment such as a sweater.

Here's the work in progress.

It doesn't look terribly appealing in the photo, but I think the final product will be very nice indeed. The work in progress isn't particularly attractive because the heavier, springy yarn bunches and puckers with the lace ripple stitch, so it's going to take a serious blocking job to flatten it out. When I pull it and stretch it flat though, it looks as though it's going to look fine in the end.

On the yarn front, I also have two new colorways in my FF Laceweight Merino to show you. The first is called Feeling Blue. It's a straightforward blend of subtly varied blues that will show off lace stitchwork nicely. Although it's a simple colorway, I like it quite well. The blue is soft and springy, yet it has a good deal more oomph than a "baby" shade of pastel blue.

The second new laceweight is a doozy! It's called Notorious and it's a fabulous blend of burnished, reddish browns and bronze.

I can't resist showing you the closeup as well, so you can see the infinitely complex, yet subtle and harmonious variation of tones.

Enough yarn talk for the moment. There are toilets that need to be scrubbed! Everyone have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Every Toe Has a Home

For today's Monday customer project, I have a pair of toe socks made by Kristen to show you. These are made with FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Kildare colorway.

Kristen designed the pattern for these socks herself, knitting them toe up with a provisional cast-on, with the toes knit the way fingers for a glove would be. She began the toes on different rows to get the right shaping for a better fit. When the toes were done, she picked up the cast on stitches and finished up the socks using the Magic Loop method. Clever girl! Aren't they a hoot?!

Kristen also has her own Etsy shop where she sells the stitch markers she makes. Her shop focuses on small and lightweight markers that can be used for sock knitting and other small-needle projects. They also come in sets of eight markers, which is quite a generous supply at a great price. Check it out!

That's all for today. Another week begins. Everyone enjoy!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Needle Talk

I'm not picky about my needles. I prefer wood, but a simple bamboo of almost any kind will do me just fine. I barely notice the difference in feel from one wooden needle to another and am pretty happy with anything I use. If I experimented with a wider variety of needles, I think I might find myself developing stronger preferences for some, but I really don't need another knitting-related obsession right now. As it is, I feel as though I buy new needles for every project, despite the fact that I have around 9 million in my possession already.

Today, I picked up a new 32-inch circular #5. I'm not entirely certain, but I think this is the size I'll need for the ripple afghan I'm planning on starting soon. The needle I selected is an addi Natura. I have a few of the addi Turbo's but I haven't seen the Natura's before. It's a lightweight bamboo, which is my preference, and it has a very pliable cord which appeals to me. I'm sure it will be fine, but perhaps I'll try to pay more attention to the needle with this project to see if I can pick up on anything noteworthy. I'm amazed at some of the needle reviews I've seen online. Unless a needle falls apart in my hands or splits and snags the yarn, I really don't have much problem with any of them.

I have, however, had a problem with this:

This is a set my husband bought for me a couple of years ago. It was such a thoughtful gift that I will always appreciate purely for just that: the thoughtfulness on my husband's part. The gift itself is a big lemon. The set has 4 circulars of different lengths along with 6 sets of sizes 5 through 10 points to interchange.

Like all interchangeable needle sets, it sounds great, right? The problem with this set, you ask? Well, I'll show you:

This happened with the first circular within days of using it for the first time. I've tried every type of glue imaginable but after any length of time knitting with the needles, the glue unseals and the damn thing comes apart again. Two of the other three circulars have also now come apart in this same way, rendering the set entirely worthless (unless of course you are seeking to use it to torture a knitter, in which case you've got yourself a winner with this set!).

I wish I could warn you about the brand, but I've long since tossed the original box it came in away and it has no labeling on it.

On the topic of needles, I also have this rather bizarre photo to show you:

This is one of my frequently used sets of sock needles. In this case, they're #2's. You'll clearly see in the photo that one of the needles is significantly bent into an arch shape. This is so strange to me. All of my sock needle sets eventually end up looking like this. The bizarre thing is that it is NOT all of the needles in one set. It is always just one. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. As we all know, the needles are cycled through the sock, each coming into play as a lefthand stitch holding needle, as well as as a righthand live needle. Why would just one of every set bend in this way? Yes, I can see one bending if I'm grasping it too firmly or holding my hand in some odd way, but why only one needle per set? It is one of the great mysteries of life that shall never be answered.

Enough needle banter for today. Time for me to get some knitting done!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sore Brain Syndrome

I’m one of those people who is always early for any appointment, whether it’s an important meeting, a dental appointment, or a just a casual lunch with a friend. If I’m just on time, I find myself apologizing for being late. My parents were the same way when I was growing up, so I suppose it’s in my genes . . . or in my upbringing at least.

Knitting against a deadline is no different for me. Although I’m in good shape on meeting my deadline to complete the Print O’ The Waves Shawl in time for my niece’s prom in May, I still feel the need to push forward quickly.

Several days ago, I completed the second side of the center motif and then grafted the two sides together. I then firmly resolved to continue to motor forward and pick up and knit the dreaded 640 stitches around the perimeter to begin the inner edging. I really dreaded this task! Picking up stitches in any great quantity is definitely not high on my list of Fun Things To Do on A Friday Night, but the thought of picking up 640 stitches was enough to set my mind to busily concocting excuses. I really should vacuum inside my car first. You know. That sort of thing. But I overcame my own excuses and stuck with the plan and dove right into the dreaded task without allowing days of procrastination to pass, serving only to increase the magnitude of the task in my mind.

It turned out not to be so bad. I picked up the 640 stitches and finished up the four rows of inner edging in short order and set my project aside with the plan of beginning the outer edge border the following evening.

That’s when the trouble began. I think perhaps I was too tired and fuzzy-headed to knit more than simple stockinet that night.

The outer edge is a 17 stitch X 16 row repeat that undulates gently in and out, as many shawl patterns do. I knit the first 8 rows without a hitch, but when I got to the 9th row I had an extra stitch. I backed up, thinking I’d inadvertently added a yarnover or missed a decrease. I knit it again, but still came up with an extra stitch. Back, back, back I go. I re-knit rows 6 through 8 just to be sure I hadn’t made an error further back than just the previous row. Nope. Still an extra stitch.

This is where the sore brain syndrome came into play. Rather than stepping back and looking closely at the pattern, I just knit it again, ripped back, and again and again, four or five times total. Not much of a testament to my brain power!

By this time, I was muttering and grumbling quite a bit. I tore back the 8 rows of the outer edging and decided to try it without joining it to the main body of the work. I thought that perhaps it was the awkwardness of completing the first few rows of edging when the edging that was joined to the main body was so narrow and flimsy compared to the fairly massive overall piece. I cast on 17 stitches and knit away. Nope. One extra stitch.

At that point, I began to get irritated with my husband. How could he just sit there quietly watching television while I was on the verge of tearing my hair out? (I don’t know what I expected him to do. Perhaps he should have quickly learned to read a knitting chart and deciphered the problem for me?)

My brain began to hurt.

I set the knitting aside and decided that I was just too tired to deal with it. When I was feeling fresh and sharp the next day, I finally came to my senses and stopped trying the same thing over and over. (Isn’t that a sign of madness? When you do the same thing over again and again and expect a different result?) In the light of the day, when I looked at the chart, I realized that perhaps it was an error in the pattern and not my faulty brain that was to blame. Unless I’ve completely lost my mind, the chart in the pattern is wrong.

Normally, I would just pop an e-mail over to the address provided at the bottom of the pattern, but I still have this nagging doubt that perhaps it is in fact a problem with me and not the pattern. Perhaps I just have a blindspot about this?

I would greatly appreciate it if someone can verify for me that I’m not missing something. The pattern is a free pattern on Eunny Jang’s site, linked in a PDF document over to the right side. The chart in question is Chart B. If you look at the chart, you’ll see that it increases one stitch every other row for the first half of the chart and it should then decrease one stitch every other row for the second half of the chart. The problem is that the decrease rows on the second part of the chart seem to be missing one decrease. When I look at the number of YO’s versus the number of decreases, I get a balanced number. No net decrease. Am I insane or is this the case?

Please, oh please, some lace-knitting, chart-loving, kind-hearted, too-much-time-your-hands soul out there take a peek for me and let me know if there is, in fact, a problem here! Either way, it’s really not such a big deal, but I would like to know whether I am just a flat-out knitiot. I will, of course, let Eunny know about it if it's an error since I'm sure she would want to correct it, but I really don't want to bother her if I'm just misinterpreting something in my addled brain.

I finally just decided to add an extra K2TOG to each row that should have a net decrease and now I’m moving along swimmingly. But I still would like to know whether I’m reading something wrong. It seems clearly off to me, but at the same time I find it difficult to imagine that nobody has pointed out this error yet. The pattern has a 2005 copyright and there’s even a gallery of photos of shawls folks have knit from the pattern. Did everyone revise Chart B as I have or am I just making some type of rookie error in reading the pattern?

After all this rambling, I wish I could reward you with lots of photos, but at this point, with the outer edge in progress and most of the main body still crowded onto a long circular needle, it’s rather difficult to get a shot that looks like anything more than this:

I can spread it out a bit and focus on one side, so you can see a bit more of how the edging is progressing. It will take some “aggressive” (that’s the word used in the pattern) blocking to transform into its final form but you can get a little of the idea of how the edge will look from this shot.

Overall, despite my sore brain, I’m now progressing well and have little fear remaining about making my deadline of completing this in plenty of time for my niece’s prom. Hallelujah!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thoroughbred Socks

For today's customer project feature I have this perfect pair of socks by Anne of KnitSpot.

Anne used FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Thoroughbred colorway, combined with her Sock Pattern to End All Sock Patterns (available through the KnitSpot product catalogue). The pattern is designed to create a custom fit and includes a worksheet for determining size based on the gauge of the yarn you are using. It's also customizable for different stitch patterns for the cuff. How handy is that? For Anne's Thoroughbred socks, she used a simple 3X3 rib and a slip-stitch heel.

A big Thank You to Anne for sharing her photo . . . and my usual Monday morning plea to everyone to keep those photos coming! Just e-mail them to me and I'll give your project its moment in the spotlight.