Monday, March 31, 2008

More Knitting Goodness and Some Cuteness to Boot

In my last post, I shared with you the overwhelming cuteness of the baby bunnies living in my backyard. To continue that theme, here's a project by Debbie that not only shows off her lovely knitting work, but also provides another dose of overwhelming cuteness in the form of her model:

Debbie knit this hat, along with a pair of matching mittens, using FF Heavy Worsted Merino Wool in the Antique Rose colorway:

The pattern is of Debbie's own design. Isn't it great?! You can pop over to Ravelry and find her as "DebbieO" to see more of her work. And when I say more, I mean MORE! Debbie has an amazing number of projects in Ravelry that run the full spectrum of types. The number of intricate cabled sweaters alone is rather staggering. Have a look for yourself. I kid you not!

Next up are these socks knit by Linda Jo using FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Sublime colorway:

Although at first glance these are a simple and straightforward pair of socks, Linda Jo used a few interesting sock techniques including a Twisted German caston, an Eye of Partridge Heel, and added reinforcement thread in the heel and toe.

Beautiful socks! But we still need to add that shot of cuteness to keep with the theme today, so here you go:

You can see more of Linda Jo's work on her blog and also on Ravelry as "BeadKnitter."

A big Thank You to Debbie and Linda Jo for sharing their work!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How's a Girl Supposed to Get Any Work Done?

How on earth am I supposed to get any work done when I can't tear myself away from this incredible cuteness?

Yep. Baby bunnies!

It wasn't long after we moved into this house a few months back that we came home one evening to find a rabbit sitting in our front yard. There seem to be two or three around the neighborhood, which seemed odd at first since we live in the knot of suburbia. Then a neighbor told us that someone moved out of their home a few months ago and apparently released their pet rabbits. Aside from the fact that releasing your pets into a suburban neighborhood is just plain lousy, the rabbits are very cool to have around. Of course, some of the neighbors who have gardens are not so thrilled, but for me and my husband it's always a kick to see the rabbits hanging around in our yard from time to time.

A few days ago, I went out in the backyard and found the happy surprise of baby bunnies! One of the neighborhood rabbits chose the covered area for wood storage in our backyard to have her wee ones. There are a total of five of them and the appear to be a few weeks old. They're just big enough now to poke out from their hidden little home and venture to the front of the wood shed thingamajig. They don't venture more than a few inches on to the grass, but they're getting bolder each day.

My husband and I know nothing about rabbits, but they appear to be healthy and, of course, they are so amazingly cute that I can hardly stay out of the backyard for more than an hour at a stretch! It does seem that their mother has left them on their own though. We've seen her around a bit in the yard over the past few days, but nowhere near where the babies are. We're making sure they have food and water nearby and having great fun trying to get them used to us. We've even managed to get close enough to feed them an occasional long stalk of grass by hand, although even the slightest sudden movement sends them scurrying back inside.

Too cute!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oh My My

A week or two back I shared with you photos of socks I knit with the new Merino/Tencel Sock Yarn that I'm planning to add to my FF line. I've worn them a few times now and put them through several washes, all with good results.

In the meantime, I've had some testing assistance from Kris, who recently finished up her own pair of socks with the yarn. She sent me a comprehensive review (huge Thank You for that!) and shared her photos with me.

Now hold on to your hats! The socks that Kris knit put my plain ol' vanilla rib and stockinet socks with this yarn to shame.

Aren't they glorious?!

Kris used the Nutkin pattern on size US 1.5 needles. This pattern has a cable-like look, but without the chore of actual cables.

Here's a close up of the stitchwork. You can really see the lovely sheen of the yarn:

Kris reported a knitting experience much in line with what I found. The yarn is lovely to work with and really beautiful with its silky sheen (the words "seriously magnificent were used ... oh my!). The only drawback of note is the yarn's tendency to kink up after frogging, although Kris did find that when she left the yarn until the next day after frogging it had relaxed again quite a bit. She also noted that the yarn does have a tendency to become a bit splitty after tinking, but not enough to create problems. The bottom line review is overwhelmingly positive.

With my wash and wear testing well underway and yielding very positive results, I'm about ready to move forward with a sizable order to get the ball rolling.

I do have several more skeins already dyed up, so perhaps I'll have a little blog contest to give a little sneak peek. Hmmm. Long time no contest! Perhaps next week. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love the Browns!

You all probably know from looking at my shop that I love to dye in shades of brown. Today's project posts are a treat for me, with three projects to share all in various browns.

First up, here is a shawl knit by Hazel using FF Sportweight Cashmere in the Exotic Wood colorway:

It's the Flower Basket Shawl by Evelyn Clark from the Fall 2004 issue of Interweave Knits.

Didn't Hazel do a lovely job?! Here's another shot of her daughter modeling:

You can see more of Hazel's work on Ravelry. She's KnitandRead.

Next up are two pair of socks knit by Marjorie. The first are knit with FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Sublime colorway. The pattern is the Wavy Socks from the Knitter's Book of Yarn. Gorgeous!

Marjorie also knit a pair with the same yarn in the Multifarious colorway. You can find more of Marjorie's work also on Ravelry. She's mmarker.

These are from the rpm pattern by Aija Goto. The pattern is available as a free download on Ravelry. (If the designer's name sounds familiar to you, that's because it's the same "Aija" of the beloved SockPr0n blog and the maker of the wonderful knitterly things over at Zero on Etsy.)

Beautiful knitting by both Marjorie and Hazel! Thank you so much for sharing your work.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Hands that Make the Blockers

Many of you know about the Aromatic Cedar Sock Blockers that I carry in my shop, but did you know that my husband, Bruce, makes those? I thought I'd share with you today the hands that make the blockers.
Here they are:

Oops. Yes, that's right. The hands are out of commission for a while. Actually, just the left hand, but when it comes to woodworking that's enough to put the set out of action.

Ever since my husband I have been together I've occasionally mentioned that I would like someday for him to teach me a bit about woodworking. He's all too eager to do so, but I always back off when push comes to shove. All of those power tools whirring and cutting and spinning and slicing scare the pants off of me. I am, I must admit, a bit of a klutz and I don't think it would be a wise thing to put more than a cordless drill in my hands (even that could be a stretch).

Each time I express my hesitancy about the use of tools, Bruce scoffs and explains that with proper safety precautions, there is no danger.

Now, at this point you're probably expecting a story about a power tool mishap leading to the hand-out-of-commission. But no. No power tools involved here. It was a simple putty knife. Bruce was prying apart two small pieces of wood using the putty knife and when they gave way under the pressure, his right hand with the putty knife slipped downward into the palm of his left hand beneath. All of this took place while I stood by watching and chit chatting away.

He muttered an expletive or two, took a look at the cut, and informed me that he would need a couple of stitches. He was entirely calm about the whole thing and even had the presence of mind to hold his hand carefully out of my view. Although there wasn't actually much blood, he knows me well enough to know that even a few drops might be enough for me to pass out cold. (I kid you not. I am ridiculously and unbelievably squeamish.)

As we sat in the emergency room waiting for Bruce's turn to be stitched up, he noticed that his pinky was sticking straight out and that he could not move or feel it. That's when he realized that perhaps this was more than a little cut requiring a stitch or two.

Turns out he sliced clean through the tendon in his palm. They stitched him up temporarily and scheduled him for surgery for a few days later, but by the next morning he had lost all feeling and movement in three fingers and his entire palm was going dead as well. After a call to the doctor, back to the hospital we went and just an hour or two later he was in surgery.

The surgery seems to have gone well and he does have feeling and a bit of movement back in his fingers, but unfortunately the recovery process will take a while. He'll be in the splint for at least 4 weeks and perhaps as long as 8 weeks. There will also be a few visits a week to a hand therapist.

Bruce is entirely his usual cheerful self and seemingly unaffected by the whole thing. ("What are you gonna do? It happened," is about all he has to say, with a casual shrug of the shoulders.) He will, however, be bored to tears these next few weeks. He works in a clean room and so there is no way for him to go to work. To enter the clean room, he must be fully covered from head to toe with only his eyes peeping out. The clean room is ten thousand times cleaner in terms of particle count than an operating room and thus he must wear a full "bunny suit" including gloves. The gloves can't be worn over this splint and even if they could, the doctors won't have him moving around that much. He has to keep his wrist bent and pretty much immobile or he risks tearing the tendon again. (And yes, they really do call it a bunny suit. If you're interested in odd things like this, here's some info on the bunny suit. Bruce has to go through this process of suiting up each time he enters the workplace.)

And so, the hands that make the sock blockers are out of commission for a while. There are plenty of blockers remaining in stock though. He was on a bit of a blocker-making frenzy over the past few weeks, so we've got a nice supply. In fact, I have one single pair of very special blockers:

These are Women's Size Medium but they are knee-high rather than the usual calf-high size. Bruce made a couple of sets of these knee-high blockers as a special order and while he was at it he made a spare set just to be safe. They are a full 16 inches from heel to top, so can be used to block knee socks. I haven't listed these in my shop yet and only have one single set, so if anyone is interested in them, just pop me an e-mail and let me know and I can set up a reserved listing for you. They are a bit pricier at $33 and the shipping (U.S. only) is also rather high at $12, since they are quite a bit larger and heavier in this knee-high size.

That's about all the news for today. I'm busy dyeing, doing a bit of knitting, and catering to my one-handed husband's needs ;)

Great day to all!

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's That Time Again

The weeks keep flying by and here we are again facing another Monday. As always, I'll start the week off on the right foot with a lovely project to share with you. The "right foot" is an appropriate term, as the project for today is a sock project.

Mary knit this gorgeous pair of socks with FF Classic Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Hendrix colorway.

The pattern is Cable Sweat Socks by Claire Ottman from a Spinoff Magazine publication called "Socks." Here's a closeup of Mary's beautiful cabled stitchwork:

I absolutely LOVE these socks! I tend to stay away from cables with socks, as I just don't have the time or patience for that level of detail on socks these days, but when I see such a beautiful pair as these it gets my fingers itching to make a pair myself!

A big Thank You to Mary for sharing her lovely work and helping to start this week off on happy foot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Long Time No Socks

As I set about knitting a pair of socks as part of my testing process for the new merino/tencel sock yarn that I'm considering adding to my line, I realized that it's been ages and ages since I've knit a pair. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed knitting these socks after such a long sock-hiatus.

As much as I would have liked to try a new and interesting pattern, I was mostly interested in getting these done quickly, so I knit the most basic sock with a simple 2X2 rib and a stockinette foot. Nothing fancy, but still a pleasure to knit. Here's one sitting happily on one of the Aromatic Cedar Sock Blockers that my husband makes for my shop.

I really enjoyed working with this yarn. At first, it feels a bit foreign after working almost exclusively with pure animal fibers for quite some time. The tencel doesn't have the spring and memory of wool, so it feels a bit different when knitting. It only took a few minutes before it felt completely natural though. For me, it was a most satisfying knit. The yarn has a good deal of sheen but it's not at all too slippery; it glides effortlessly over the needles without going too far into a zone of slipperiness.

The knit fabric is firm, but soft. The stitch definition is good, although not quite as crisp as with superwash merino.

None of these photos are great (pardon the flash - bad light yet again today here in Oregon), but the closeup above best captures the true color and sheen of the yarn.

Now it's on to wash and wear testing. I'll start today with the first wear, which will be a good test since it's bowling night. If the socks are comfortable while bowling that's a pretty good indication.

I'll also need to knit up some of the leftovers to serve as a comparison for color after the socks have been through several washes.

In the meantime, I also have two kind knitting souls who are knitting up socks of their own with this yarn, so I'll have some outside input.

That's about all the big knitting news for today. I have also made some progress on the red cashmere sweater, but there's nothing new about it and so not photo worthy. Some of you may recall that I had to frog the front of it a couple of weeks ago. I've got that started up again and am about half way done with it, so perhaps if I can keep up the progress I'll be able to move on to the sleeves in a week or so.

Back to work for me. Have a lovely day!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Abundance to Start the Week

For today's project features, I have a bit of an abundance of riches with three projects to share with you!

First up is a pair of socks knit by Rachel using FF Classic Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Wisteria colorway. (Sorry folks . . . this is an older colorway that's no longer available.) Rachel used the Smokin' Sock pattern by Anne Hanson.

The next project is a Chevron scarf that was also knit by Rachel and also uses FF Classic Merino Wool Sock Yarn. I can't name the colorways for you, as these were purchased by Rachel all the way back in June 2006 and my memory doesn't work quite that well on a Monday morning!

Such lovely work by Rachel! You can see lots more of Rachel's knitting over at her blog.

The next project I have to show you today is a child's sweater. This was both designed and knit by Celia.

The semi-solid turquoise side is the FF yarn (Classic Merino Sock, I think?). The geometric pattern switches gears on the reverse side, creating more visual interest.

Darling, isn't it?!

A big Thank You to Rachel and Celia for sharing their work and helping to start us off on a happy foot this Monday morning. All of these cheerful colors have me thinking that perhaps Spring really is coming!

Great day to all!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Testing the Waters
Thank you to everyone who participated in my "new sock yarn" poll! I received 139 responses, as well as many comments and e-mails. Very helpful to know what you are all thinking and I really appreciate the time you took to give your input.

I'm still not 100% firm on my decision for the new sock yarn, but I'm marching forward at the moment on dye experimentation, test knitting, and wash and wear testing on the Merino/Tencel blend. This is the yarn that most interests me and was also the one you voted for most. It got 43% of the votes. The wool/nylon blend was second with 31% and the midweight 100% merino was last with 25%.

Other yarns in my line are mostly ones that I had worked with quite extensively long before I ever started up Fearless Fibers, so I had most of the knowledge I needed to make a decision about adding those yarns to my line before I began. The Merino/Tencel is new for me (in terms of dyeing, that is), so this selection process is a bit different.

I purchased several pounds of the undyed Merino/Tencel so I have plenty to play with and test. Dyeing this yarn is a bit different because the merino is a protein fiber, but tencel is technically cellulose (although it doesn't behave entirely like many other cellulose fibers such as cotton). The process and chemicals used to dye and set protein fibers differ from celloluse and so there are some interesting challenges in finding a process that works well with this blend. That's about all I'll say about the dye process. If I go any further into how I'm approaching this issue, I might have to silence all of you (protecting "trade secrets" and all of that ... haha!).

Here is my first fully dry sample skein. The picture is pretty awful, but I don't much want to wait on this post for the lighting to cooperate better. I can see that it's going to be a bit of a chore to get decent photos. The yarn has a lovely sheen, but in the photo the sheen seems to be catching the light and showing up as though the yarn is speckled with white spots, which it is not.

Next step is for me to knit a pair of socks with this. I don't want to go the simple route and just use a swatch for wash testing, because I think wear testing is really important too. I'll knit a pair of socks and wear them and wash them over and over and over to get a good sense of how they hold up both in terms of the durability as well as the color.

Don't anybody get too excited yet about the new yarn. It will be quite some time before I'm ready to proceed with this (or another yarn if I choose to go in another direction). Although I'm having great fun experimenting with this new yarn and would love to drop everything else and motor forward with it, I have plenty of other things that must get done and so the process will move forward slowly. I'll keep you posted.

Everyone have a great day!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Perfect Timing

For today's customer project feature, I have a pair of fabulous Monkey Socks to share with you. They were knit by Chelsea and the timing couldn't be better. Chelsea used FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Sloth colorway. Sloth was, of course, one of the colorways from my Seven Deadly Sins Sock Yarn Club last year.

I say that the timing is perfect because today I am introducing the Sloth colorway in my Etsy shop, along with the newest addition to the "Virtues" yarns: Disipline. But before we get to that, let's go back to Chelsea's gorgeous socks! Aren't these the cutest shoes ever for showing off handknit socks (click the photo to get a larger view).

Many thanks to Chelsea for sharing her work (and her great timing)! To learn more about Chelsea's knitting endeavors, take a trip over to her blog.

Usually I keep my Monday posts strictly to the project features, but since I'm introducing new things today I'm going to break my rule and share a bit of that with you.

As mentioned, in addition to Sloth I am also introducing Discipline today:

Dark blue is sometimes considered the symbolic color for discipline, but of course my own discipline is not so great and so I strayed from a literal "dark blue" and instead went with a mix of brighter shades of varied blues.

In addition to the Sloth and Discipline yarns, I've also added three brand-spankin' new colorways to my sock yarn line. They are Auburn and Amber, Contemplation, and Exaltation, all now available (while the initial quantities last) in my Etsy shop. Here's one to give you a taste. This is Contemplation:

How's that for a great way to start off the week? Everyone have a lovely day!