Saturday, 31 January 2015

Going Cold Sheep

Ah, who am I kidding? I could never go cold sheep. The reason I am writing about going cold sheep (or cold sheeping) is that this is a term I only just learned about this year. For those of you who are as unfamiliar with it as I was until just a few weeks ago, going cold sheep means not buying any wool anymore. It's similar to going cold turkey, only in a woolly context. 

"Cold Sheeping"

For a compulsive yarn buyer, the challenge to buy NO yarn at all, rather than trying to become all reasonable about the yarn buying thing, which the knitter has probably long-since proved he or she can't do anyway. Similar to "going cold-turkey" when trying to quit smoking, but makes more sense as what does turkey have to do with smoking OR knitting, unless one smokes the actual turkey, but I think that's a different kind of smoking....... (Source: A Little Yarn on the Side)

I am not entirely sure how I feel about the term itself. On the one hand I like the clever way in which an existing phrase has been adapted to fit into the world of wool, but on the other knowing the original term relates to coming off drugs is very unpleasant. In any case, it is a phrase I am unlikely to use anyway because, to be honest, why would I want to stop buying wool? I do have enough in my stash, but that's not stopping me.

How about you? Are you going "cold sheep" for a while? Would you?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Multipom: A Different Kind of Pompom Maker

When you think of pompom makers, you probably imagine the round plastic ones around whose arms you wind your yarn until they are full. For a long time, these were the only ones I knew. For Christmas last year I was given a completely different type of pompom maker that I had never seen before: the Multipom. It allows you to make several pompoms in one go in any size you want. All you do is wind yarn around two sides of the metal frame and tie off sections of yarn. 

The Multipom came with a little cotton bag for storage, and a booklet with detailed instructions and ideas. it takes a little bit of practice to know how much yarn to wind round the frame and you will most likely need to trim the pompoms a little bit, but this is a quick and easy way to make a lot of them in one go. I know this pompom maker will come in handy when I knit hats for The Big Knit again this year. 

Have you come across any unusual pompom makers? I am curious to see if there is more out there that isn't as well known. Or have you even got a Multipom of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Countess Ablaze: Frenzy

It is only the beginning of the year and I have already ordered more yarn than in the last half of 2014! This time, I just had to do it. The first time I came across Countess Ablaze was when she had an Etsy shop which she has closed in favour of her own web shop. Back then, the yarn that caught my eye was a hank of Frenzy, a single-ply fingering yarn in wonderful colours. I could not buy it at the time and it has taken me years to finally do it. But here it is now, and I bought not only one, but two hanks so I can knit something beautiful with it. The yarn is much too pretty for socks and as it is single-ply, I suspect it may not be durable enough for them. I imagine this yarn will turn into a shawl of some kind - as if I didn't have enough already.

I do like a nice merino yarn and the fact that this one is superwash is an added bonus. I look forward to seeing how the colours show in knitting. They are very harmonious in the hanks and I just love them as they are. Before I saw Frenzy, I didn't expect to like dark yarns, especially those with a lot of grey in them, but I was wrong. It is the grey that makes the other colours stand out even more. It makes for a neutral background that shows off all other colours, and at the same time the grey itself has depth to it thanks to the way it has been spun and how it takes the dye.

It is hard to believe that the yarn consists only of merino. I keep  thinking there is silk in it because of the sheen and softness of it. Also, the grey reminds me of Fyberspates Scrumptious in the slate colourway that I used for my Stockholm scarf. I hope frenzy won't pill like crazy as singles are wont to do. I can imagine the fabric becoming even softer with wear and it should have good drape too.

This was my second purchase from Countess Ablaze and I have loved every yarn I have bought. If you haven't tried her yarn yet, I can definitely recommend it. Her colourways are not always to my taste, but there are some real gems there even for someone as picky as me. When you see something you like, it is best to grab it right then before it sells out. It's happened a few times that I wanted to buy Frenzy and it just wasn't in stock for some time, which is why I am so glad I got my hands on it now.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Free Knitting Pattern: Sleepy Bunny Softie

Freebie time! I thought you deserved a free knitting pattern for reading along, so I designed this little Sleepy Bunny. He (or she) is the perfect toy for little ones, but I am not going to judge you if you keep one for yourself.

Bunny is about 25 cm (just under 10 inches) tall when measured without the ears, so that is a pretty decent size. Go on, knit your own bunny now!


3.5 mm straight needles
50g DK yarn of your choice (I used acrylic, but cotton would look great)
Scrap yarn for facial features
Toy stuffing
Tapestry needle


CO: cast on
BO: bind off
sts: stitches
k: knit
p: purl
k2tog: knit two stitches together
p2tog: purl two stitches together
ssk: slip two stitches as if to knit and knit them together
ssp: slip two stitches as if to knit and purl them together
R: round

Body (make 2):

CO 18 sts
The body is knitted for 34 rows in moss stitch as follows:
R1: *k1, p1*
R2: *p1, k1*

Knit the face  in stocking stitch for 10 rows, ending on a wrong side, then start decreasing:
*R1: ssk, k to last 2 sts, k2tog
R2: p all*
Repeat from * to * until only 2 sts are left. K2tog, cut yarn and pull through to fasten.

Ears (make 2):

CO 8 sts
*R1: p2, k to last 2 sts, p2
R2: p all*
Repeat from * to * for 2 inches. End on wrong side.
R1: p2tog, k to last 2 sts, ssp
R2: p2, p to last 2 sts, p2
R3: p2, k to last 2 sts, p2
R4: p2tog, p2, ssp
R5: p4
R6: p2tog, ssp
R7: p2
R8: p2tog
Cut yarn and pull through to fasten.

Assembling and finishing:

Embroider the face with scrap yarn, making a Y shape for the nose and half-circles for the eyes.
Sew in the threads of the body and ears.
Sew the two pieces of the body together, leaving the bottom open. Stuff the bunny with toy stuffing and sew closed the bottom seam.
Attach the ears to the top of the head.

Now you have your very own sleepy bunny!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

KnitPro Karbonz Review

There was a great buzz among knitters I know when KnitPro launched their new Karbonz knitting needles. Everyone who bought them loved them and the hype grew. Soon after the initial buzz, there seemed to be a 50/50 split between those who loved these needles and those who disliked them.

First impressions

Looking at images, I wasn't impressed by the look, I have to admit. Black needles? Hm, no. From a practical point of view, I wondered if the construction would hinder my knitting: Karbonz have a brass tip, carbon fibre middle, and a brass end, I figured knitting would feel different depending on where on the needle your stitches were. Due to this, I waited a long time to buy them.

In the end, I did go for the interchangeable needle tips to expand my existing collection. The needles arrived and felt good in my hand. They are quite smooth, light, and the joins between carbon fibre and metal is noticeable, but not too much. They are also very light, but I couldn't tell if they really had any give in them as KnitPro claims. I am inclined to say no, at least for knitting purposes it seems to make no difference.

Putting them to the test

When knitting with my Karbonz, I did feel the difference in materials along the needles' three sections, which I really did not enjoy. I like my stitches to slip easily and quickly along the needle, which is what happens at the brass tips, only to be held up along the carbon fibre part of the needles.  That was a little frustrating, though not unexpected.

I think the hype surrounding these needles is down to the carbon fibre used to make them. How cool is it to be able to say your knitting needles are made from the same material as air planes and NASA spaceships? Sadly, I think they are seriously overrated. The material also makes the Karbonz quite a bit more expensive than KnitPro's Nova range or even their wooden needles.

Having four different kinds of KnitPro knitting needles in my collection now, I would rate them as follows:

1. Nova
2. Rosewood Cubics
3. Symfonie
4. Karbonz

2 and 3 are nearly interchangeable. I liked the grippiness of the Cubics, but I use them carefully as I hear they are prone to breaking. Symfonie have been my favourites for a long time, but have been surpassed by the Nova range now as I begin to favour their sturdiness and easy gliding of stitches.

The pros and cons

Despite my personal dislike of my Karbonz, I see how they could be a good alternative for knitters who like the feel of wooden needles, but keep breaking them. Karbonz are similarly 'warm' and also have better grip than needles made from metal. You don't have to worry about breaking them if you are a tight knitter or dropping and stepping on them accidentally. They'll be fine. I did hear of knitters who had the tips fall off they're needles, but KnitPro is very good about exchanging them for you. 

All in all, my experience with Karbonz boils down to this:

  • Lightweight 
  • Brass needle tips make knitting into stitches easy and quick

  • The change between materials isn't always smooth enough 
  • The different materials make for jarring knitting
  • Overhyped material
  • Pricy
  • Boring black with no colour choices


The verdict

That said, this list is very subjective, of course, because I have certain preferences that you may not share. I know I like colourful needles, for instance, or ideally even a choice of colours. I like the needles to be of the same material all over (and certainly not made of plastic). I like my stitches to glide quickly and easily along my needles even though that increases the risk of slipped stitches sometimes. Price isn't a great concern, usually, as I will be happy to save up for a good set as long as they are worth it. 

So before buying Karbonz, I would suggest looking at what is important to you when you knit. These may be just the needles you want, or they may not.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

2014 Hand-spinning Round-up

Last year marked my first participation in the Tour de Fleece, a spinning event that takes place every year alongside the Tour de France. I joined a team that was all about a leisurely spinning experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My only goal was to use up some of my stash, especially some older (and at times mysterious) fibre.

Five of the seven finished yarns are actually from this one month of furious spinning. I have not included the three fibre samples I also spun, and I must mention that I started on some soybean fibre that was just impossible. I soon gave up and passed it on to a spinner who will be more successful, I hope. I suspect soy is better used as a blending fibre instead of being spun on its own.

The two Malabrigo yarns were the only other spinning projects for the rest of the year and this sounds like very little. However, they turned out beautifully and have been knitted up already.

So, what were my spinning achievements in 2014?

  • I took part in the Tour de Fleece for the first time
  • I finally used up older fibre from my stash
  • I only bought two new lots of fibre, one of which I spun up right away
  • three of the fibres were new to me (milk protein, soybean and Jacob) and a fourth was a mystery
  • my plying has improved considerably as seen in my Malabrigo yarns
  • it was the first time I spun yarn of a specific weight for specific projects
  • I spun punis for the first time (and did not enjoy it)
  • I finally splurged on a tiny Turkish spindle that I use for short periods of relaxed knitting

I have two unfinished spinning projects on my spindles: I am a slow spindle spinner so these fibres may have to wait a long time to get done at last. There's the baby camel and silk sliver parked on my supported spindle, and then the Australian merino on my little Turkish. While I hope I can include them in next year's round-up, you just never know.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 Knitting Project Round-up

(Image from my Ravelry project page)

Looking back on 2014, the year does not seem as productive as I expected at first glance. Still, I did finish 12 projects, some of which were long-time WIPs. The first project I finished was, in fact, a three-year-old Seascape shawl knitted with Rowan Kid Silk Haze. I also worked on projects that remain WIPs, and I started a large shawl I nearly finished by the end of the year.

So what were my knitting achievements in the past year?

  • I finished a WIP of three years and it is stunning
  • I did one test knit for a fellow designer
  • I discovered a new and interesting sock construction
  •  the pair of socks I had to reknit not just once, but twice eventually won prizes in two competitions
  • I broke my own record of 88 little hats for The Big Knit by knitting and crocheting 105
  • I picked up a shawl I left unfinished for nearly a year because the last pattern repeat was wrong and finished it within 10 minutes, which includes figuring out my place in the pattern
  • just in time for the cold season, I knitted a hat and cowl from my own handspun yarn
  • against my better judgement, I knitted toys ... and mostly liked it

Now, that doesn't sound bad at all! Are you happy with what you have achieved in 2014? Do you have any goals for the New Year?