Spinning Tuesday: Annis is Finished!

Don’t faint, but I’ve finished something else.

My handspun Annis:

Annis in the snow

I started spinning for this January 1 and have the shawl blocked and finished February 1. I still can’t believe that I worked on a project from start to finish, until it was done. No sidetracks (well, not many), no timeouts.

Handspun from Southern Cross Fibre

I spun yarn that was almost DK, so the shawl is larger than the original, but that’s what I wanted.

The spectacular thing about spinning your own yarn is that you can make exactly what you want, by blending color and fibers, and by the way you spin your yarn.

Annis swooping

I wanted my version of Annis to be a littler larger, so I made my yarn a little fatter. I wanted my Annis to be lighter rather than drapier, so I did two things: I spun my yarn woolen, letting in as much air as fiber to make a lofty yarn and I piled it to be just balanced, if not a little under plied, to cut down on the density of the finished yarn.

Now I love nupps

I am absolutely transfixed by the magic of spinning yarns, by how many different yarns I could make just altering spin and ply, and by how it makes my knitting come alive.

Knitting Monday: What’s On Our Needles and a Giveaway!

It’s Jillian and I’m on a finishing kick.

Monkey see, monkey do

I finally finished my Monkey socks. My first pair of sock knit two at a time on two circular needles. I love the technique, a little fiddly at first, but then smooth sailing.

I’m really hoping it will help me knit more socks because I have a chronic case of single sock syndrome.

I’m going to try a pair of toe up socks next. I would love pattern recommendations for a first time toe up sock knitter.

I used Dream in Color Smooshy in Chinatown Apple. The sock blockers up there are from Signature Needle Arts. Yes, the magical needle people.

We have a giveaway today!

One lucky blog commenter will win:

The stylin' LJ Kaelms bag by Jordana Paige

A LJ Kaelms bag by Jordana Paige in your choice of color.

Here’s how to win: leave a comment to this post by Wednesday, February 2, at midnight eastern time, and you could win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a  skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Prize value: $89.00.

Good luck and good knitting!

Obsession: affordable online eyeglasses

Are you a lucky single-vision eyeglass wearer with a reasonably simple prescription? The online eyeglass world is your oyster. You can get complete pairs of glasses for $10 and up at all of the websites I link to in this article. 

One of the cutest websites I’ve seen is Warby Parker. Everything is $95, all included, AND they give a pair to charity when you buy a pair. They don’t do progressives, though.

Most everyone over a certain age [cough40cough] knows that your eyesight is one of the first things to be affected. I was always farsighted — I needed glasses to work on computers from age 23. Nowadays, because I need help with both distance and close-up vision, I’m stuck in progressives.

these buggers take some getting used to.

Progressives are no-line bifocals. Eyeglasses with three different areas of focus, gently blended so you can’t see the changes as a line on the lens. And they’re expensive.

I have found that, since I’m wearing my glasses all the time now, having sunglasses built in is essential, so I add photochromic Transitions that darken when I’m outside. That’s at least another $100-150. My last prescription glasses cost $600. We’re not talking about Prada frames here, either. No-name vaguely attractive frames. Most of the cost was the lenses.

I found out about ordering eyeglasses online from this blog, several years ago. Since then, I’ve ordered 4 pair for myself and the hub. Because they are C.H.E.A.P. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

my new dedicated computer glasses, with spring hinge and nose pads for comfies (these were perfect!)

Two pair from Zenni Optical were the best of all my purchases. The frames are made in China and I believe that’s where the lenses and assembly happen as well. Progressives without Transitions cost $50. The frames are the ones I’m wearing in my Twitter pic up on the left there. Heavy, but cute enough. Eye Buy Direct was okay, but mostly what was available for months were ugly frames large enough to accommodate a progressive prescription [you need 27-29mm-tall lenses at minimum, from these online shops]. I hate them, but they work. Hub’s glasses have scratched much more easily than usual [he is admittedly tough on his eyewear], but they haven’t broken. I guess that’s something.

my new everyday glasses, with spring hinges (see note below...these ended up being too large and were returned at no cost to me)

None of these cheap glasses had the area of vision that the in-person optical stores can provide. But to save $500, I sucked it up.

I went back to my Optometrist last week and found my Rx had changed again, and this time, I was determined to do it affordably but smartly. I went to some optical shops in town, and found nothing I liked. Or if I liked it, it was exhorbitantly priced…$500 for frames? Really? So I returned to my online searching.

Hoping for the possibility of a brand-name frame, I ended up at Clearly Contacts, which does sell eyeglasses. All their frames were $38, on sale, and their  progressive lenses were much more affordable than anywhere else. I scored two pair — one progressive/transitions, and one single vision for computer use — for $198, all in. They also have a return guarantee, which I’ll gladly take. Not all online companies do.

Here are my tips for finding the best fitting, best looking eyeglasses possible:
– find out what shapes fit your face best. don’t just pick them because they’re cute on the screen. places like EyeBuy and ClearlyContacts have a try-on tool. use it. I did, and found that the frames I’d thought I was going to choose were way too small for my face, BEFORE I ordered them. [follow-up note: the tool isn’t error free. use the next tip as your ultimate guideline…]
measure your favorite current glasses and match the new frames to those measurements. it’s easy to buy something too wide for your face, or too narrow, without having hard numbers to refer to
– look for extras like spring hinges and adjustable nose pads for comfort
– some sites include the weight of the frame. when you can’t try it on in person, it’s good to know how heavy it is before you buy it. use your current frame as reference and weigh it to know what feels okay on your face
– some sites make their money with what they call extras: UV protection, anti-glare and anti-scratch. try to find a site that doesn’t gouge for these necessities.

I wish I could afford to go to my local optician to buy my glasses, but I just can’t. It’s nice that I now have some reasonably affordable online alternatives.

Follow up [March 12/11]: Of the two pairs ordered from Clearly Contacts, my dedicated computer glasses were absolutely perfect right out of the box. The other pair was much too large for my face and went back — Clearly Contacts paid for the return shipping, btw. An order mixup [their error] meant the subsequent replacements came with the wrong pd. Again, they paid for shipping BOTH WAYS and are fixing the error at no cost to me.

After having dealt with Eye Buy Direct, Zenni Optical and now Clearly Contacts, the only one I’d recommend is Clearly Contacts [a Canadian Company; the US equivalent is Coastal Contacts], and they’re the only company I’ll use from now on. The quality of their lenses is much higher than either of the other two companies I’ve tried, especially the progressives. They also offer brand-name frames that feel more solid and durable, and are more comfortable to wear. And their customer service is polite and efficient. Yup, you can consider this an unsolicited endorsement.

WWW: Heartbreaking loss; more on the Wall Street yarnbomber; helmet liners

Kelly C, comment number 821 is our winner for the Silk Road Socks book giveaway.

Didn’t win and still want to knit those amazing socks?  You can buy your copy here. You can look at all the patterns on the book’s Ravelry page. Looking the Silk Road Socks KAL?

Hoping for a happy ending.

Mary Scott Huff, a knitter, designer, author and teacher based in Oregon had more than her knitting needles stolen from her car: a collection of 17 very valuable, important and beautiful samples were stolen from her car outside her house last week. She has written a heartbreaking and wonderful open letter to the thief on her blog. If you’re in the Portland area, keep an eye out for her sweaters…there are peeks of them on her blog.

It’s still not knitting, but here’s a profile of Olek, the artist responsible for the yarnbombing of the Wall Street bull last month.

A nice TV news item about the store Tangle, in Grand Junction, Colorado, running a program to encourage knitters to make and donate helmet liners for soldiers overseas. (As a sidenote, the journalist’s attempts to come up with synonyms for “knitting” aren’t always accurate, but are sort of sweet.)

Doubly comforting - soup and knitting!

A slide show on the Guardian of knitted home decor items, including what is possibly the greatest lampshade in the history of the world.

Following up on a story from last year, Special Olympics Maine reports that they have received donations of hundreds of scarves from generous knitters for their upcoming winter games. The Special Olympics organizations host many events across the US every year, and they collect scarves to give to participants as mementos and thank you gifts.

And then there’s this: a cat shrug.

Spinning: Annis and Nupp Knitting

I’m not quite done knitting Annis, but it’s still gorgeous, even unblocked:

Nupp rhymes with stoop not shtupp.

I almost didn’t choose Annis to knit because it has nupps. I have issues with nupps; I love how they look and hate to knit them and this patterns has 7-stitch nupps.

So I went trolling the wonderful world of the web and found an amazing technique by Myra Wood. She calls it Easy Peasy Nupp, In fact,it’s so easy it saved this pattern for me, and tranformed my thinking about knitting nupps. No lie!

Brilliant isn’t it? I like it because it’s easy, but also because you can choose the size of nupp you want. I’m a girl who likes a big nupp, so I used a bigger hook than my knitting needle. It worked beautifully.

Next week I’ll show you finished and blocked Annis in all her handspun glory.

Meanwhile try out that nupp technique already!

Knitting Mondays: What’s On Our Needles

Cheerful and warming.

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s cold where I am.

To combat the cold, I am knitting mittens; but not any old mittens – Fair Isle mittens. Stranded colorwork makes the warmest mittens, as all those strands in the back form an extra layer, providing terrific insulation.

I didn’t really have a design in mind when I started, I just knew I needed the strands for warmth. (This may be the first time I’ve designed something considering the wrong side first.) I grabbed three colors of wool, cracked open my favorite Fair Isle books, picked a few stitch patterns and did a bit of quick charting. Presto: a warm and wonderful Fair Isle sampler, with that much-needed layer of insulation.


If you’re in need of warmth, we’ve got a couple of Fair Isle designs in the new! Winter issue – these should get you started:

Chrysanthemums and Shetlander.

... and beautiful!

Ninja-bonus giveaway!

Silk Road Socks by Hunter Hammersen

It’s been a few weeks since our last knitting contest. Let’s remedy that right now!

This time, the prize is a copy of the brand-new book, Silk Road Socks, by Hunter Hammersen. [Winner’s choice of print or digital version.] You can peek inside at all the sock patterns on the book’s Ravelry page. The Knitalong has already started, and you’ll find it here.

Here’s how to win: leave a comment to this post by Monday, January 24, at midnight eastern time, and you could win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a  skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Prize value: 26.95 print, 16.95 digital.

Can’t wait? Don’t blame you. You can buy your copy here.

WWW: Yarnbombers Needed in Scotland, Grand Theft Needle & Hot Knits!

Wow. Just wow.

The Knitted Bliss blog brings to our attention an absolutely stunning modification of a Knitty pattern: a shrug inspired by the Pomatomus socks. Bravo Jen!

The first Vogue Knitting Live event takes place this weekend in New York City. It promises to be a fun weekend of shopping, classes and socializing.

Organizers of the annual Leith Festival in Scotland are seeking contributions from knitters with the aim of “dressing” the woodland area where the festival is held.

A enterprising 14-year old 8th grader in Wisconsin is knitting her way to Europe: she’s selling hats and scarves at a local arts marketplace to raise the funds for an educational trip this summer. You go, girl!

Awesome: a knitting chart generator developed as a demonstration application of the Mathematica mathematical programming language.

Ms. Zappa

For your calendar: Diva Zappa, daughter of late musician Frank, has an exhibition of knitted works at the Maison Bertaux Gallery in Soho, London, running February 4 to June 1st.

And in other news, a Cincinnati man was recently arrested for stealing knitting needles from a car.

Spinning: The Woolen and the Worsted

This past Saturday my spinning group took a field trip to The Spinning Loft.

One of our group of our group is in the market for a new wheel, so we piled 6 spinning women into an SUV big enough to hold 4 Schacht Matchlesses in the way back. We may have sung the Partridge Family theme.

Surprisingly, our wheel shopper isn't buying a Matchless.

While our wheel shopping spin sister tried wheels the rest of us shopped and spun.

I feel deeply in love with this Yarn Hollow roving, 50% Cormo/50% Alpaca.

You cannot deny my love.

My question to the room was – how would you spin it, woolen or worsted?

The room answered, annoyingly, with another question, “What will you make with it?”. I have no idea. I’ve just hit first base with this fiber, I’m not ready to commit.

So I sampled. Yes, you heard me right, I did what the books and teachers all recommend, sampled. They are very wee samples, but samples all the same.

Boy are they different:

Woolen on the left; worsted on the right.

The samples were spun from a short length of fiber that I split vertically, so I was working with the same colors on both. They are both soft, but the woolen spun on the left is lofty and puffy, and softer than the worsted spun. It brings out the best qualities of the Cormo. The worsted spun is smoother, shiny and has a heavier, drapey hand. The colors are darker. It looks and feels more like the alpaca part of the fiber equation.

I like them both, and of course, the wee samples raised more questions, among them: What type of stitches would I use, both lace and texture would look crispy and shiny-fabulous in the worsted. But the woolen would give them a soft almost blurry look.

I decided to spin the fiber woolen. I like the soft look right now and I can spin woolen much faster than worsted. I also decided that I will sample more often.

Our wheel shopping spin sister decided on Majacraft Suzie.

WWW: Wool for winter; end of an era; giant birthday cardi.

Crafting a recovery: a wonderful piece in the New York Times. Ready a hanky.

A giant cardigan to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Cardigan, in Wales.

Also in the UK, a great story about a new-generation company helping to bring the British wool industry back!

Want to bring us home?

If you’d like to create your own little wool industry, consider the contest from Juniper Farms. Enter to win a flock of sheep. Really!

The Globe and Mail suggests that sweaters might be just thing to keep us Canadians warm through this cold winter… Seriously, some excellent sweater fashion eye-candy, a sensible video on how to care for wool fabrics, and a fun bonus demonstration from a stylist on how to wear scarves like a red-carpet queen.

So sorry to see you go!

We spotted an announcement from Mags Kandis on her blog about the end of Mission Falls yarns and patterns. We’ll miss the Mission Falls yarn and Mags’ charming designs for it very much. Mags has colorful new things in the works, the blog hints. We’ll be looking forward to seeing them!

A nice piece about graffiti knitters in New Zealand.

Image courtesy Sandra Dea/Toronto Star.

A knitting club started by an art teacher at a high school in Toronto has attracted participation from both boys and girls, and is bringing together students from all backgrounds in a very multicultural neighborhood.