It’s Monday – We Need a Giveaway!

When I woke up this Monday morning and looked out the window I saw 2 inches of snow, in April.

I decided right then the Knittyblog world needs a giveaway.

What goodness do we have for you today?

Springy! Gabriola Green

1 skein of Indigo Moon Ultimate Sock Yarn

75% superwash wool and 25% nylon
color: Gabriola Green
28sts-32rows/4″ on US 3 (2.25-3.25mm)

Can’t wait to see if you’re the lucky winner and want yarn right now? Trish Moon has given us a special discount to share with you: 10% off through April 30, 2011, if you mention KnittyBlog when you place your order.

Here’s how to win: leave a comment to this post by Wednesday, April 20th at midnight eastern time, and you could win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a terrifically difficult [cough] skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Good luck and happy spring knitting!

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Obsession Thursday: Audio Books

I listen to a lot of audio books. I still love being read to. I listen when I knit and spin —  it helps to focus me on my work. I listen when I do laundry or clean the house – it’s my version of Calgon, Take Me Away. I listen when I can’t sleep or wake up restless;  it’s a great way to have company at 3 am.

I know a lot of other knitters and spinners listen to audio books too, so Amy and I decided to share what we’re listening to and like. Every few weeks one of us will post our thoughts on an audio book or two.

A story set in early New York

Clara and Mr Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, $45

Clara Driscoll heads up the women’s department at Tiffany and Co., she is a talented artist and a champion of her staff. She’s also the person who came up with the idea for the iconic Tiffany leaded lampshades. She spends most of her working life striving and growing in her artistic expression while fighting for the right to be recognized as a designer. She has a close circle of Bohemian friends at the boarding house where she lives who support her in her creative and political endeavors, and she in theirs. For me, Clara’s story was interesting particularly the passages about  her design process, but especially fascinating was the story of the unfolding history of New York and women in the workplace and the turn of the century.

Actress Kimberly Farr portraying Clara and her circle of acquaintances and co-workers with a deft hand. She reads Clara in a flatish Midwestern accent, slow and steady, while her cadre of immigrant co-workers get accents soft and believable.  This book doesn’t feel performed. Every time I started up the story again it felt like picking up the phone to a good friend, familiar and comforting.

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Spinning Tuesday: Wow, that’s a lot of fiber to spin

I gathered together most of the fibers I want to spin for my Deb Robson Top Fibers project and well

A whole lot of fiber and my two liferafts, Deb's book and DVD set

that’s a lot of fiber. I was feeling a bit panicky as I lay it all on the floor to shoot a picture, but as a started really touching the fibers, and yes smelling them, I got excited all over again. That’s a big pile of learning.

I got the raw fibers on both lists (just one selection where there were multiples) from The Spinning Loft and the prepped fibers from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. I feel it’s important to spin some of both, fiber that I prep myself always spins just a little smoother for me than commercially prepped fiber.

Thanks to the wonderfully generous folks at Interweave, Storey Publishing and The Spinning Loft we’ll have few prizes as I spin along. Not saying what just yet, but  I will say they are mmmmm,mmm, good.

If you missed the initial Deb Robson Top Fibers lists they are in this post.

I’m thinking about starting a Knittyspin Ravelry group, so we can have a spot to chat about this project and other spinny things. What do you think, would you stop by and chat?


One of Galia's lovely spindles

In our new issue of Knitty I reviewed a spindle by Galia. She dropped me a note yesterday to let me know she has a fresh batch of spindles in her shop, and a discount code on her Facebook page.

Next week you’ll see the first yarns from my Deb Robson Top Fibers project!

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Spinning Tuesday: Inspired by Deborah Robson

I have been inspired by Deborah Robson.

First, I took a Rare Breeds class from her at The Spinning Loft.

Then, I watched her DVD set Handspinning Rare Wools.


38 rare and endangered sheep

Then, I read an advance of her soon to be published book with Carol Ekarius, The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn.

Official publication date is June 1, 2011

With every encounter, in person or virtually, I was uplifted and nearly overwhelmed by her expertise and passion for her subject, particularly rare and endangered sheep.

I became inspired, obsessed really, with the idea of spinning a wider variety of fiber. Exposing my spinning and brain to breeds beyond BFL and Merino.

Then I tried not to freak out.

There was so much I didn’t know, where should I start- the book has 200 fibers to spin, the DVD set 38 rare and endangered breeds of sheep? What was I really going to spin? And where would I find the fiber?

So I did what any 21st century fan girl would do – I emailed Deb. I asked the expert how to narrow down the enormous list of fibers to a manageable list. She helped me out. I have lists. I’ll share them in a second.

Then I had to find the fiber. There are two women I know, both owners of spinning shops who feel as strongly about the survival and variety of sheep breeds and animals fibers as Deb. Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft and Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. I contacted them about fiber. For each fiber listed below I am getting raw and prepped fiber too, when it’s available.

I asked Deb to give me a  list, up to ten fibers that every spinner should try to spin. She asked, “just animal fiber or rare breed wools?” I said yes. She graciously sent two lists. Here’s what she sent, and what I’m going to spin over the next 10 weeks:

Deborah Robson’s Must-Spin Lists 2011

Animal fibers that every spinner should know and try:

  1. wool, one of the following: Cotswold, Lincoln, Leicester Longwool
  2. wool, one of the following: Shropshire, Southdown, Oxford
  3. wool, Merino
  4. mohair, adult
  5. mohair, kid
  6. alpaca, huacaya (most is huacaya)
  7. angora rabbit
  8. cashmere
  9. qiviut

Rare and endangered wools

  1. Black Welsh
  2. Clun Forest
  3. Navajo Churro
  4. American Tunis
  5. American Jacob
  6. Southdown
  7. Romeldale/CVM
  8. Cotswold
  9. Lincoln or Leicester Longwool*
  10. Wensleydale or Teeswater*

*These are not totally interchangeable, but giving alternatives means that it’ll be more possible to locate supplies.

I’m ready to spin outside of my comfort zone, and to learn about new fibers. I have my fiber and I have my lists. I have Deb’s book and DVDs to keep me from getting lost.

Who wants to spin along on my fiber adventure?

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Spinning Tuesday: More Marled Swatches

Last week I got my spin on with multi colored fibers plied with naturals, creating a variety of marled yarns. This week I knit them. Come take a peek:

First up Spunky Eclectic colorway Diesel. Here are the yarns:

Diesel with naturals

And the swatches:

Spunky Eclectic Diesel swatches

I love all four of these – each natural brings out something different in the original fiber. I would be happy spinning and knitting a whole sweater out of any one of them. Yum.

Now Fiberstory. The yarns:

Fiber Story skeins

The swatches:

Fiberstory swatches

I feel exactly the opposite about these swatches. None of them do it for me, the yarns didn’t either. I think the brown is ok, but the rest seem to take away from the original colorway.

Last we have Abstract Fibers. The yarns:

Abstract Fibers plied with naturals

The swaches:

Abstract Fiber swatches

I like the two darker swatches here. The lighter swatches are too contrasty for me. I especially like the mid brown (upper right), all of the colors in the original colorway get highlighted, while in the dark brown only the green really shows.

Fun isn’t it?

What’s next? Before I start playing with mixing 2 or more variegated colorways, I want to show you a type of marling I’ve always liked.

Texture. Up until now I haven’t said what types of fibers I’ve been using because I wanted to focus on blending colored fibers with natural colored fibers. But what about the same colorway but different fiber types? I love that type of blending.

Here’s what I’ll be working with from cjkoho Designs:

cjkoho Designs colorway: Henry


cjkoho Designs oranges and gold

Left to right: Merino/tencel, silk, Merino and BFL.

Tune in next week for the fun.


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Spinning Tuesday: More marling with color and naturals

I couldn’t keep my mind and hands off of the marling this week. I doubled the number of naturals tried, I couldn’t help myself. That means this week we have yarn to look at; swatches will come next week.

I spun the other three fibers with four different naturals, instead of just the two I used for Briar Rose. Let’s see what they look like

First up Abstract Fibers. Here it is nestled in the circle of fiber.

Abstract Fiber

That green is fantastic but will it contrast too much?

Abstract Fibers plied with naturals

As plies I used (from left) oatmeal, light/dark brown stripe, middle brown and dark brown. I really love how it looks with the dark brown and light/dark stripe in the skein.

Now to Spunky Eclectic this color is called Diesel

Spunky Eclectic

I don’t want to stop with this color way. I used the same four naturals on the brown side, but I still want to try black gray and white with it. I loved them all.

Diesel with naturals

I predict they will all look great as knitted swatches.

Now Fiber Story.

Fiber Story

I’m not sure I have the right colors of naturals for this one.

Fiber Story skeins

I used the same four naturals as the others: oatmeal, light/dark brown stripe, middle brown and dark brown. To me they are all missing warmth. I wish I had some honey colored alpaca to ply with it.

Next week we’ll see how they look swatched.

For those of you who asked to see the Briar Rose fiber plied and swatched with the dark brown.

Briar Rose and dark brown

I couldn’t resist. I like it very much as yarn, but not as a swatch.




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Spinning Tuesday: Making your fiber go farther by marling on purpose

I’m still thinking about marling, but now I’m marling for a purpose.

More often than not I buy my fiber in 4oz increments, especially when I don’t know what I’ll make with it. Then comes the time when I pull it out to spin a 2-ply with it, and I want more yardage than 4 oz can get me.

What’s a spinner to do? This spinner stretches fiber by marling on purpose.

When I have fiber that has  colors I love, I marl with a natural color, it makes a variation on the colorway.

When I have I fiber whose color combo no longer makes me sing, I marl with a second color or colorway to create a new visually complex colorway. I love playing with both of these techniques, they are full of surprises.

Today I’m playing with making a two ply yarn using a natural color fiber as one ply to make a variegated top or roving go farther yardage-wise.

I pulled a variety fibers I have that: I like the colorway, I wish I had more, and I want to make a two ply yarn out of.

Remember that plying with another color, even a natural will make a variation on the original colorway. If you are in big love with a colorway and don’t want to change it one little bit – this is not the playtime experiment for that fiber.

Why didn't I buy more?

There’s some Briar Rose, Spunky Eclectic, Abstract Fiber and Fiber Story, all I think are gorgeous.

I also pulled undyed fiber in a variety of colors


Pretty, pretty fiber flower


I’m going to start with the Briar Rose fiber. How do I choose which natural would work with it?


Compare and contrast

I compare them visually. What do I think would blend best with the colors in the Briar Rose? I keep in mind that the bigger the contrast between the Briar Rose and the natural I choose makes the type of candy cane marled yarn that I don’t like. I like my marl more blended.

If I’m having trouble choosing, or am just too giddy with possibilities I take a picture and look at the choices in black and white.


This is what Michigan looks like in the winter

For me it’s easier to see what is closer to matching my dyed fiber when I take the color away. For me it’s the middle brown on the right (about 3:00, if the wheel of fiber was a clock), and an oatmeal brown (about 11:00). I’m curious about the striped roving (1:00) but not enough to sample.


Two browns to sample

There is no right or wrong choice, it all about what you like. The possibilities are endless and limited only by how much you are willing to sample.


Mid-brown and oatmeal, can you tell which one I didn't like?

Here are the yarns that came from the middle brown and the oatmeal plied with the Briar Rose. I didn’t like the look of the oatmeal when I was plying, my brain started yelling, ‘barber pole, barber pole”, so I stopped.

But when I knit the lighter sample


yummy oatmeal

I liked it quite a bit.

Here’s the darker which I like too.


This is the yarn equivalent of drinking stout

But when I put them together, there was a clear winner for me.


Which wins for you?

I love the darker version, but I like the lighter swatch so much more than I liked the yarn.

I love how the original colorway is in there, close but not exactly, more like kissing cousins.

This makes me want to try more combinations, especially ones that I’m not quite sure of. I’ll be working with the other brighter colors next, seeing what happens when they are plied with natural colors.

If you’re going to try this at home remember to go with your instinct, try at least two naturals with your variegated fiber, and maybe a third that you are sure won’t work. Just see what happens, you’ll be surprised, I always am and that’s exactly what keeps me playing with fiber.

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Monday Knitting: What’s on our needles, plus a winner!

Winner winner chicken dinner! [snicker] Who was the lucky winner of Friday’s huge contest? Lynne, who wrote, “I just gave my friend the book titled The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman. This book was a well written mystery, involving greek mythology, classic literature and art. My friend loved it! (I did too, of course.) Would highly recommend.” Congrats to Lynne, and thanks again to everyone who participated last week!

it's growing! how many scoops is this?

Amy‘s just finished Annette, and is really happy with it. It was a long slog that started on a whim last August, when — somehow — she cast on the wrong size, two sizes too large. Not noticing this until she got near the sleeve section [aka 2/3 finished], she ripped it with the encouragement of her fellow knitters at The Purple Purl and re-cast on right then for the correct size. It was a demoralizing turn, and after chugging away on it blindly for as long as she could stand it, she put it aside for a few months.

Picking it up again in January, she realized she wasn’t that far from getting to the sleeves, and with a little concerted effort, it was done in a matter of weeks. Pictures to come…it still needs buttons.

Moral: sometimes the knitting needs a break. Sometimes it’s the knitter. Just don’t give up permanently unless there’s a good reason to.

The Calmer Leftovers vest [aka the ice cream sweater — see pic above left] is coming along well and underarm shaping will soon be achieved. Amy does not want to think about the weaving in of ends that will be required. There’s no spit splicing without wool, you know.

Jillian’s knitting another Thorpe hat. This time out of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Bulky, color Carrot. She says, “It’s my first time knitting with this yarn, it’s fabulously soft and squishy.  I want more. None of my local yarn shops carry it –anyone online carry it?”

Soft, squishy and carroty!

Kate‘s working on Project Black Sock:

Bad for the eyes, good for the feet.

As an inveterate sock knitter with a passion for interesting sock yarns, I have a drawer-full of bright colored, insanely striped and wildly variegated socks.

But sometimes a girl needs a pair of dark, sensible socks.

For some years, my sock drawer has been divided into two sections: handknit, and black socks. All the black socks were commercially made.

My favorite black socks are wearing out, so I’ve decided that the other side of the sock drawer should also be filled with hand-knit socks. Hence: Project Black Sock. I’ve been quietly collecting black sock yarn, and this winter I started knitting in earnest.

I’ve already got a pair in Shibui Knits sock yarn, a pair of Socks That Rock in one of the colors from the Raven clan, a pair in some mostly black tweed I found in the bargain bin at one of my LYSs, and a pair in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine (really warm and wonderful).

Up next: 3 more pairs of the Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine (because it is so warm and my feet get so very cold), a pair in Koigu, a pair in Regia, a pair in Paton’s Kroy, a pair in Briggs & Little Durasport, a pair in KnitPicks, another Socks That Rock pair, the TARDIS colorway from IndigoDragonfly, and an odd ball of a Regia grey and black variegated number that will work nicely with black heels, cuffs and toes. If a sock yarn comes in black (or very dark grey, or some interesting variegated black/grey/midnight blue mix), I want it, and I will knit a pair of socks in it.

Crazy? Maybe. Ask my optometrist in a year’s time! But by then I won’t have a single pair of machine-made socks in my drawer.

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Spinning Tuesday: Knitting Marls & Our Mitten Winner

The winner of the Shelburne Mittens kit is comment number 1125, Lisa S!

Thank you to the lovely folks at Rowan Yarn and Westminster Fibers for donating this prize.


Now for some spinning. As requested, the marled yarns knit into swatches.

First the blue and white:

3 weights of marling -yarn

3 weights of marling - knit


Like the yarn, the fatter the original yarn the marl in the knitted fabric is more pronounced.

In the finest sample it looks like flecks.


How about the blue and green yarn:

3 weights of blue/green marl

3 weights blue/green marl - knit


I wish I had spun larger samples of these, but I do like how the colors blend even more when the yarn is knit. There is striping and pooling, but it’s interesting to me.

Thank you for asking me to knit my samples, I like the marl more as knit fabric than just yarn. Time for more experiments!

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Spinning Tuesday: What I’ve noticed about marling

Barber pole, peppermint stick, marl are all used to describe a type of yarn that has two high-contrast singles plied together. It’s a type of yarn I really don’t care for.

Though I have recently made marled yarns with less contrast that I’ve really liked. I’ve also noticed the weight of the yarn makes a difference in the marling.

So I’ve been experimenting, want to see?

Lovely blue and white Romney

I started with high contrast blue and white Romney, spun and plied to three different weights: bulky, worsted and DK/fingering.

3 weights of marling

Here’s what I see, as the yarn gets thinner and the twists per inch number gets higher, the colors blend more, which I like, even at a high color contrast.

Merino dyed last summer

I tried the same experiment with some fiber I dyed last summer, that was blue, green, yellow and white – much less contrast. I spun and plied it on itself, deliberately getting it to marl.

3 weights of blue/green marl

Still stripey, but even more visually pleasant to me even at the bulky weight, because of how the colors work together.

Both colorways all weights

Here are both color/weight experiments side by side.

Now I am thinking about how to use marling to blend colors, to get certain colors to pop, and to make a deep and rich colored yarn, and about what color combination or characteristics work best at each weight.

I kind of knew this would send me into a thinking and experimenting spiral. I love that about spinning.

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