Thursday, March 28, 2013

Yarn Review: Casablanca

Casablanca in 02 Denim

Rating: ***** 4.5 stars  (out of 5)
Cascade Yarns Casablanca
Fiber Content: 62% Wool / 22% Silk / 16% Mohair
Weight: Worsted weight
Yardage: 220 yards
Grams: 100 gram hank
Care: Hand Wash, Dry flat
Knitting Gauge: 4.5 sts = 1"
Recommended Needle Size: US 8 needles (5mm)
Current Number of Colors (March 2013): 15
Price (from $17.00

Description from (Webs): Cascade Casablanca is a striking blend of warm wool, nubby silk, and lofty mohair. This one ply worsted weight yarn comes in a range of stunning self-striping color combinations, from pastel rainbow to muted neutrals. Casablanca is light and soft, with a slight tweedy texture from the silk and a halo effect from the mohair. Garments made from Casablanca will be warm and lightweight, with unique texture and out of this world color! Made in China. 

Casablanca Yarn Review
First Impressions: This yarn really appealed to me as soon as I opened the package. The color and texture combined pulled me right in. I received 3 skeins of yarn on the same day and Casablanca was the one I wound right away. It has a rugged rustic look to it from the nubby tweed texture and single ply construction. Yarns like this always get to me.

Mainstreet Cowl in Casablanca #02 Denim
Knitting with Casablanca: The description from Webs is right on point. The cowl I made in this yarn is nice and warm, but still very light (despite being stranded colorwork). I can imagine a pullover in Casablanca feeling wonderful to wear. (Great, now I'm going to be obsessed with looking at all the colors and imagining a cozy sweater!)

This yarn gets points for being tangle free and knot free.

All in all I loved knitting with this yarn. I hit one snag (discussed below), but it didn't put me off. I wish I knew in advance, but live and learn. And that's why reviews are helpful.

Cons: I had one problem with the yarn, which I am completely willing to overlook and wouldn't keep me from using the yarn again. However, before beginning to work with this yarn you should know that it's pretty delicate despite it's hardy appearance (remember, it is a single ply). I pulled the yarn apart without much effort at all. It was one piece and then it was two. When it happened I was completely startled. I'd decided to tie a square knot at the beginning of round 2 of my cowl to keep the ends together. I was pretty sure I hand't inadvertently exerted superhuman strength, so I tried gently pulling at another piece of yarn. Sure enough it pulled apart. I tried spit splicing it, but that didn't work very well.

Winding the yarn (using swift and ball winder) didn't give me any problem with tearing.

Stitch Definition & Pattern Selection: If you're looking for a yarn to produce crisp clean cables or defined texture and lace stitches than this isn't your yarn. If you like a worn in, comfortable, pretty, but not so crisp yarn then you'll love Casablanca. It's all about pairing the yarn with the right project. The nubby texture of the yarn itself makes it look gorgeous in simple stitches like stockinette (regular or reverse), garter, and ribbing. Choose patterns that let the yarn shine. Pieces that rely on simple stitches with innovative or classic shaping would be good candidates.

Recommend Casablanca to a Friend? Yes. For the right project I think this is a very lovely yarn to work with. And I gotta say, 11 out of the 15 available colorways appeal to me. That's pretty impressive.

Try Casablanca with my free Mainstreet Cowl pattern! Cowl uses one skein (220 yards).

*The yarn in this review was received complimentary from the manufacturer for test knitting & designing purposes. Reviewer was not otherwise paid, contracted, or obligated to review the yarn or product in this review. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What's on my Needles: 3/27/13

This has been a very productive knitting week! Things have flown on and off my needles. It's a good feeling.

Right now I have one active project on my needles with plans of casting on another some time today. The WIP is a baby vest (my design) in Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima Paints. The color is Turquoise Mix.

I only have one skein of the yarn, so I needed a small project. It's 100% cotton, though, which meant my typical choices were out. (Those choices being hat or fingerless mitts.) I'm not exactly an expert at baby knitting, but I figured 220 yards should be enough for a newborn–3 month stockinette baby vest. I did a search on Ravelry for baby vest and sweater patterns using yarn of similar weight and yardage and it looked possible.

Baby clothes aren't something I need at the moment, but I'm at "that age" where all my friends are starting to pop out kids, so it might turn into a gift. If not, then it'll get stashed away until I need it at some point. I consider the turquoise gender neutral. I think most people's first thought would be boy, but turquoise/blues are my favorite and I wear them all the time, so if I had a girl I'd definitely put her in this vest. But then I hate pink. And pastels. Ugh. Never ever would I make my child something in those shades.

Two other projects went on and off my needles this week. The first was a cowl, also knit using a Cascade yarn. I haven't named this design yet. I really should get on that because I'm putting the pattern out tomorrow as a freebie to accompany the review of the yarn I used. Hmmm... Gotta get my thinking cap on.

The yarn is Cascade Yarns Casablanca. Color is Denim Mix. Casablanca is a wool/silk/mohair blend. I really enjoyed playing with the color transitions. The cowl was completed with just one skein. I just wound it into two 50 gram balls and worked with the two halves to get the colorwork pattern. The colors on the two halves weren't always easy to distinguish from each other, but I kind of like the fade effect that gave the pattern.

Stay tuned to the blog tomorrow for more about the yarn and a link to the pattern.

The other project I finished was a hat. It's the final design for the heavy section of the Pick Your Poison collection. I worked the hat in my Beats non-superwash yarn in the Lady Grey colorway. I kind of had the design in mind before I decided what color I would use. Since the collection focuses on patterns for hand dyed yarns I didn't want to just dye a solid. (There was already one semi solid in the heavy section and I thought that was enough.) The Lady Grey color is pale with low enough contrast that I felt confident it would work with a lace or cable pattern, and I think it did. The color, inspired in part by the tea blend, is a very pale grey with light yellow and lilac.

This pattern will [hopefully] be out on Friday. If I can't manage to get it up then it'll have to wait until the following Friday. This weekend is going to be packed full of non-knitting events. I have a wedding to attend, then there's Easter and family lunch and dinner, and then it's my Dad's birthday. All fun stuff, but not things that leave extra time for knitting.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Modern Sophisticate

Several months ago I had a new collection released in conjunction with Knit Picks. The deal is that it remains exclusively sold through the Knit Picks site for 6 months before the designs may be purchased directly from me (it's a standard setup). So that time has come! All 6 designs and the eBook are now available directly from me via my website or Ravelry.

Modern Sophisticate
Individually the patterns are $4.99 each. Purchased together you'll get all 6 designs for $9.99.

This shawl is knit using aran weight yarn for a pretty piece tat knits up relatively quickly. The pattern calls for Knit Picks Andes del Campo yarn. If you'd rather go the hand dyed yarn route I'm offering it as a kit with 3 skeins of yarn dyed in the colorway of your choice. You can go with 3 skeins of 100% superwash merino or for a little more luxury you can get 3 skeins of a 55% BFL/45% Baby Alpaca blend yarn. (Both are aran weight.)

View the Kit Pages:
Superwash merino kit: $60.00
BFL/Baby Alpaca kit: $70.00

This simple scarf is worked entirely in garter stitch once you get past the shell edging. It is slightly wider in the center as a shawl would be, but overall it's not wide enough to really be consider a shawl. One end has an opening to tuck the other through to keep the scarf securely on your neck.

The photos show this design knit in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Gypsy. It would also work nicely with some Dye-A-Tonic yarn.

Graham Pattern Page

This design also uses the Knit Picks Andes del Campo yarn. The photo shows the straight beanie version, but the pattern also includes instructions for a slouchier hat.

Hanya Pattern Page

You can tell from this photo, but the cardigan is shaped with lace inserts on each side that widen as you approach the hips. It's a simple wearable sweater that knits up nicely in Knit Picks Gloss DK yarn. Color shown is Fedora.

Twyla Pattern Page

These long fingerless mitts feel amazing to wear knit in Knit Picks Andean Treasure, a sport weight 100% Baby Alpaca yarn. The design is simple. Mostly stockinette with a small texture insert on the top of the hand and arm.

Yvonne Pattern Page

Last, but not least, there is the Isadora pullover. I love this sweater and I wish I had time to knit one in my size! It's knit in Knit Picks Capretta yarn.

Isadora Pattern Page

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Knit Picks Pendleton Case Vs. Della Q Interchangeable Needle Case

Last week I reviewed Della Q's interchangeable needle case. A few days ago I received the Pendleton interchangeable needle case from Knit Picks. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two cases this week.

Knit Picks Pendleton Needle Case Vs. Della Q Needle Case
I really like both the Della Q and Pendleton needle cases. Each have their own set of pros and cons.
First let's take a look at the Pendleton.

Pendleton Needle Case
Product Description: Clean, classic and unquestionably sound, as only a Pendleton can be. Designed especially for Knit Picks, this case is a soft and secure home for DPNs, crochet hooks and other small tools. With a 100% wool exterior in timeless solid hues, this case is gorgeously in it for the long haul. The inside panel features 10 slots per side, which can fit needles and hooks that are 5" in length or shorter. Measures 6" x 8" when closed.

Technically this case isn't specific to interchangeable needles and you can tell. The needle slots on the inside aren't numbered and once you get to size 13 only one needle tip fits in a slot, so one set takes up two spaces in the case.

Pendleton Pros

  • Clean sophisticated look
  • Good price
  • Easy access to needles
  • Convenient size for storage and travel
  • Extra pockets for cables, needle sizer, and other accessories

Pendleton Cons

  • Unmarked pockets
  • No large needle slots
  • Dark interior

Della Q Interchangeable Needle Case
Product Description: This wallet size case is perfect to store your Knit Picks, Addi Clicks or any other interchangeable set. It might even be smaller than your wallet for those of you who feel the need to keep every receipt. You have a case already? Where are you storing those extra tips we know you bought? There is space in this case. The case folds in quarters and ties securely. A zip pocket on the side stores your connectors or tools.

For a detailed review of this product see THIS POST.

Della Q Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Well made
  • Organized pockets
  • Numbered needle slots

Della Q Cons

  • Clumsy Closure (tying bows can be a pain)

The Verdict
For me I like the Pendleton as an every day case despite the lack of markers and larger slots. I very rarely use a needle larger than a size 9, so I can fit 2 sets of my most used needle tips comfortably in this case. It also fits my gauge/needle sizer tool, end caps, point protectors, lots of cables, and slip'n'snip scissors.

The Della Q is a better option of you want to keep a complete set of interchangeable needles with you including the larger sizes. This case has needle tip slots that will accommodate up to US 17.

Last week when I received the Della Q case I was ecstatic with it. I still am really. It's a very pretty little case. However, after a week of using it I got tired of the tie closure. I open my needle case A LOT, this week especially since I was swatching for a new collection, and untying and retying the case closed was getting annoying. When the Pendleton case came my first thought was that it was so plain Jane next to the Della Q case. My next thought was how much easier it was to constantly open and close it with the zippers.

Both cases appear to be made well. Time will be the true test. I've only had the Della Q case for about 2 weeks and the Pendleton for 2 days. In my hands the Della Q will probably withstand the test of time better than the Pendleton. Not because it's necessarily a better case, but because I'll treat it better because it's so pretty. Since the Pendleton is plain and looks tougher it'll probably get tossed around a good deal more.

Both cases are a good size for throwing in my knitting bag.

The Pendleton is a little cheaper than the Della Q case. A Pendleton will run you $28.00 and the standard Della Q is $34.00 (a Della Q double case is $42.00).

If I were buying a needle case as a gift I would go with the Della Q. It's prettier and I think it makes a more impressive gift. The Pendleton is something I would buy for myself if I were feeling practical.

What Should You Buy?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Think of how often the case will leave the house. Often? Will it get tossed around a lot? Go Pendleton.
Will you be opening the case often (I sometimes open my case several times an hour)? No? Are you good with Bows? Go Della Q.
Are you practical? Go Pendleton.
Do you like pretty things? Go Della Q.
Have two interchangeable sets in a full range (up to US 17)? Go with the Della Q double case.
Mostly use smaller needle tips (size 9 and smaller)? Go Pendleton.

*The products in this review were received complimentary from the manufacturers for review. Reviewer was not otherwise paid, contracted, or obligated to review the yarn or product in this review. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's on My Needles: 3/20/13

Spud & Chloe Sweater
Today this post should be retitled "What I Wish Was on my Needles." It was a really good mail day here. I got so much fun new yarn to play with! I now have:

(All the yarn will be showing up in my review posts over the next several weeks as I swatch and work out designs.)

When all the yarn came I was moments away from leaving for band practice. All I had time for was a quick photo and burying my face in the yarn, because breathing in the new yarn fumes was critical. As soon as I got home I took the time to properly pet and admire the new skeins. I'm really looking forward to knitting with all the yarn, but I'm very curious about the Blue Sky Alpaca Metalico. It's a 50% baby alpaca / 50% mulberry silk blend and it looks like it's going to be very soft and buttery to work with. I tend to be a real 100% merino kinda gal, so we'll see how I feel about the alpaca/silk blend.

Since merino is my thing, I already know I'm going to love knitting the Spud & Chloe Fine and Sweater. It's soft and pretty and so versatile. The Fine is going to become a shawl and the Sweater (shown above right) will be a cowl.

I have some projects that need to get finished before I can allow myself to play with the new yarns. Oh deadlines. At least all my current WIPs need to be done in the next 2 weeks. Then I can get busy playing with the yarn for my Fall collection, which includes the Spud & Chloe and Blue Sky Alpaca yarns.

So what exactly is on my needles? A whole lotta stuff you can't know about! I've been busy the past week working on design submission swatches. These have to remain hush hush until the designs [hopefully] get accepted and published next Fall/Winter.

Since I can't show you progress photos, I leave you with a picture of yummy yarn as a peace offering. Blue Sky Alpaca Metalico.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Favorite Things: Homemade Almond Milk

Recently I decided to experiment with a raw foods diet. In my search for recipes I kept coming across references to almond milk, butter, pulp, and meal. After seeing it so many times I decided the milk was something I needed to try. I searched for instructions online and found a lot of people talking about how messy and tedious the process was. They were using a blender and nut milk bag to get the milk. The blending part looked easy enough, it was the last step of straining through the nut milk bag that seemed fussy. I don't have a nut milk bag and I didn't really want to go find one, but we do have a juicer!

The whole purpose of the nut milk bag is to strain the crushed almonds out from the liquid. You have to squeeze the pulp by hand and just get as much as you can out. A juicer does the same thing, only better and with less effort on my part. So I followed the instructions up to the point of straining and then simply put the mixture through the juicer. It works fabulously. I get around 5.5 cups of almond milk from 1.25 cups almonds + 4.5 cups water.

It turns out that almond milk is easy to make and incredibly tasty. If you're interested in making some, I wrote out a step by step guide: Making Almond Milk.

I've never had store bought almond milk, but I imagine it's not nearly as good as the homemade kind. The milk is good by itself, but my truly favorite thing is to blend 8 ounces with half a frozen banana. Delicious! It's great for breakfast or for dessert. And another plus is almond milk is much lower in calories than regular milk. The nutritional information for packaged almond milk has the calories generally ranging from 40–60 calories per cup. Unfortunately, although almonds are high in protein almond milk is not. From what I've seen 2 grams of protein per cups seems to be the average.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Della Q Interchangeable Needle Case

A couple weeks ago I waxed poetic about how much I love my interchangeable needles (Knit Picks Harmony Options). Something that they lack, which I didn't focus on, is a nice case to store and carry them. They come in this clear plastic zippered case. Honestly I hadn't really given it much thought. That's how they came, so that's how I carried them around. I kind of figured interchangeable meant bulky. This does not have to be! Maybe you're a little more brilliant and already new that. If not, then let me enlighten you.

I've always admired the Della Q accessories my fellow knitting group members had. I'd seen the DPN roll and the straight needle cases. Both were nice, but I didn't have a use for either since DPNs and straight needles aren't something I use very often. What I didn't realize was that Della Q also offers circular and interchangeable needle cases. Definitely something I can lust after.

The Fabric – Limited Edition Print
Brown Sugar Spice
I give thumbs up to the current limited edition fabric Della has available on her site right now (shown in my photos). It's a very large floral pattern. Florals can go either way with me. Sometimes I like them, but often they're too dainty or too "old" for me. This pattern I really like. It's bold, cheerful, but not too loud. When I saw the photos on the website I thought the background was black and I didn't think I was going to like how it looked. However, when it arrived I realized it was actually a very dark brown with a dark brown interior. (Had I not overlooked the "brown sugar spice" under the color heading I would have known this in advance.) This one small detail completely made me do a 360 on my opinion of the fabric. Dark brown mellows the pink, orange, and green in the floral and, for me, takes it from gaudy to pretty.

A wide array of cases are available in the limited print. There's a pouch, interchangeable case, circular case, crochet roll, travel wallet, dpn roll, and combo case. If you're interested in this fabric, act fast! The current stock is all there will be. Once it's sold out it's gone for good.

The Specs
  • 15 numbered pockets for tips (US Numbers: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, 10.75, 11, 13, 15, 17 / Metric Numbers: 2.75, 3.25, 3.5, 3.75, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12)
  • 5 unnumbered needle pockets
  • 4 unnumbered pockets for cords
  • 1 zippered pocket for connectors and tools
  • Measurements: Closed: 4" w x 7.25" h Open: 15" x 7.25"
  • Material: Cotton
Wallet size case will fit Knit Picks Options, Addi Clicks, or any other interchangeable needle set.

Pros and Cons
Cons: I had one problem with this case, and it's a really dumb problem. It's too small for me. I have the standard interchangeable case ($34), which holds one complete set of needle tips in US sizes 2 to 17. Being a designer I like to have at least 2 full sets with me at all times. There's a very simple solution to this. I need the double interchangeable case ($42)! It fits two complete sets of needles. Problem solved. I see a double case in my future. And probably a matching circular needle case as well. And that's the only thing I can think of as a "con" for this product. Not too shabby, right?

Numbered needle pockets!
Pros: I love the look and feel of this case. It's obviously a quality item. The material is sturdy, but not too stiff. And the needle pockets! They have numbered tabs on them so I don't have to pull out my needle sizer every time I grab new needles. (I took a sharpie to my last case and scribbled the numbers on because the unmarked slots were driving me nuts.) The number tabs might be my favorite feature of this case.

When the case is closed the needle tips are in no danger of falling out. There's a flap on top that flips down to cover them before you fold the case and this effectively keeps everything in place.

I really love how much easier this case fits into my knitting bag than the original plastic zip case my Knit Picks Harmony needles came in.

As soon as I have the funds I plan on buying one of these cases in the double size. That would be a yes, I would recommend this needle case. If you're in the market for a pretty way to store your interchangeables (or any other needles for that matter) I'd recommend a Della Q case. It would also make a great gift.

*The product in this review was received complimentary from the manufacturer for review. Reviewer was not otherwise paid, contracted, or obligated to review the yarn or product in this review. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's on my Needles: 3/13/13

Lots of swatches. That's what's on my needles.
I have swatches going for my own collections and for designs I'm working on for some companies. There are some fun designs in a bunch of fun yarns scheduled for release next Fall. It will be a good season at Fiddle Knits. I'm getting to work with yarns and companies that are new to me, which thrills me to no end. For example, Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpaca, and O-Wool will be making appearances in the color knitting collection I've mentioned in past posts. I really need to come up with a catchy name for that collection. . . It's not stranded/fairisle knitting. It'll be stripes and blocks of color. Simple shapes worked in different directions. I think it will be lots of fun. Most of the designs will be unisex as well. I plan on getting some guys in on the modeling action. Of course, Annalee will also be showing her face.

Anyway, back to what's on my needles.
I did have one shawl started, but pulled it out a few minutes ago to redo it with some minor changes. No worries, though. It was only about 20 rows long and it's a top down shawl, so the stitches lost weren't that many. It was, however, the third or fourth time this design got pulled out. (All around the same spot.) I just keep thinking of things I want to add or change. I'm hoping that as soon as I finish this post I'll get it started once more and that one will be the keeper.

This particular design is destined for the next Tolkien influenced collection I'm doing. Instead of The Hobbit, all these designs are drawing inspiration from The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the Lord of the Rings books. This shawl is being worked in one skein of Polka in the Romance colorway. It's top down and will be written and charted. I'm still deciding on names for the design and have been tossing around Heart of the Company as a possibility. It's kind of a long name though. Generally one or two word names are the best, but I want to get across the inspiration and can't simply use names that belong to Tolkien like Aragorn or Arwen and whatnot. I know one shawl will be called River Daughter (for Goldberry), but that's a totally different design.

My Minerva shawl is off my needles and blocked. I can't remember if I've already mentioned that or not. I've cast on for another that I plan on knitting along with the KAL group as the clues come out. We'll see how that goes. I never seem to have much luck actually participating with the knitting in my own KALs. I end up being the last to finish. Of course, since I was also the first I guess it evens out.
For my second shawl I chose a semi solid gray, "Gandalf", and some shiny red beads. The beads on my last shawl blended in. This time around I wanted them to really pop. I figured since the yarn was a solid color why not add a little pizazz with the beads, right?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Favorite Things: Graph Paper

Yes, graph paper. I'm showing my inner dork.

Saturday night Chris and I went to Staples because I really needed paper to print some charts I'm working on for the Minerva KAL. I also wanted to check for some graph paper. I've been creating all my charts in the computer program Knit Visualizer. It's a good program, easy to use and all that, but it's hard to create a shawl from the start with charts just on the computer screen. At least I think so. You can't see the entire pattern on the screen and it gets frustrating to move back and forth and click to add or erase (lots of erasing) during the initial planning process. My thought was that with graph paper I could see the whole design in front of me (even if it might mean taping multiple sheets of paper together).

So I found my graph paper, 10 stitches per inch, and bought a new pack of mechanical pencils. I was like a kid in a candy store looking at the pens and pencils. Oh my! So many colorful choices. I spent all day yesterday laying on the floor with my new paper, pencils, and my old handy stitch dictionaries. It was a great Sunday. And can I tell you how much nicer it is to hand write the chart and see it all right there? Of course, whenever I made a mistake and needed to erase something my first thought was "Command Z" and my next thought was "damn, can't do that."

I will still need to move the chart over to Knit Visualizer in order to publish the design, but I think it will be easier. Now I'll actually know how many rows and columns I need before I create the document so I won't need to add them one row/column at a time.

So yes, graph paper has made it to my list of favorite things. And if admitting it makes me a dork, well, I already was anyway.

And now I'm going to make some more charts. (When I will find the time to knit them all is another story.)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Little Luxury

How the heck is it already March?! My Mom always said time would start flying by as I got older. I didn't believe it then, but I sure do now! Ok, enough of that.

Since it's March it means that the 3rd and final shipment of this year's Custom Color Yarn Club is being dyed. And with the end of one subscription phase a new one will begin. The next 3-month segment will begin in April. This time I'm trying something new. There will be the standard 3-month club that I've been offering, but there will now also be a luxury edition. I'm really excited about this option because it means I'll be getting to play with some more expensive fibers that I don't normally carry in the shop. For instance, I just got a shipment of yarn that's 55% Bluefaced Leicester and 45% baby alpaca. Lovely. And it dyes nicely too. I like the soft halo around the yarn. Some other blends that will be showing up in the luxury edition are:
  • [70% Baby Alpaca / 20% Silk / 10% Cashmere; 437 yds; 100g] 
  • [70% SW Bluefaced Leicester / 20% Silk / 10% Cashmere; 438 yds; 100g] 
  • [55% SW Bluefaced Leicester / 45% silk; 438 yards; 100g] 
  • [80% SW Merino / 20% Silk; 600 yds; 150g] 
  • [80% SW Merino/ 10% Cashmere/ 10% Nylon; 400 yds/100g]
You can probably tell from the yardage amounts on the listed yarn blends that the luxury edition is also going to be a sock/fingering weight club. [For now] I only do the yarn clubs in sock/fingering because it's easy to find projects for a single skein of special yarn in this weight. 

The standard edition club has a few of my "normal" yarns in it. Normal doesn't mean boring, though. I really love the yarns I carry. Polka has been my favorite and I use it for shawls pretty often. (A look through my shawls page will prove it!) I've also recently rediscovered Dye-A-Tonic, my "classic" sock yarn, a 75/25 blend of superwash merino and nylon.

Here's my intro spiel on the club:
Ever wanted to try creating your own colorways? Here's your chance! On the first of the month I'll send you a list of 10 different dye colors and let you know which yarn will be hitting the dye pot. You may pick as few or as many of the dyes that you want to use. I'll then combine the colors you selected (in the arrangement and dye method of my choice) into your very own custom yarn color! At any point you may also choose to have your skein dyed in any of my standard colorways.

A standard club subscription is $60 + shipping (3 custom dyed skeins)
A luxury club subscription is $130 + shipping (3 luxury blend custom dyed skeins)

You can find all the information on both of the custom club editions on my website.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review: Reversible Knitting

Title: Reversible Knitting: 50 Brand-New, Groundbreaking Stitch Patterns
Author: Lynne Barr
Pages: 192

Amazon Book Description: Most of the stitch dictionaries on knitters’ shelves are remixes of familiar stitch patterns already published elsewhere. Not so for Lynne Barr’s groundbreaking book Reversible Knitting. Not only is every one of the 50 stitch patterns completely new and never before seen, but each is also reversible—for a total of 100 different looks!
Reversible stitch patterns can be used to create projects where either side can be worn facing outward, or where two sides of the piece are visible simultaneously (such as a scarf or a garment with collar or cuffs that that can be worn up or down). In addition to stitch patterns, the book features 20 such projects—from accessories like scarves, hats, and socks to sweaters and dresses—designed by the author and by 12 top knitwear designers including STC authors VĂ©ronik Avery, Norah Gaughan, and Teva Durham. Rounding out the book are in-depth instructions for the specialized techniques required for reversilbe work.

My First Impression: That sounds interesting.
I didn't buy this book nor was it given to me by the author or book company. This one landed in my hands when a librarian at the local library decided to clean out the knitting book shelf. My Mom called me up and told me it had been dropped off for me. I thought it sounded pretty interesting from just the title. I tend to knit a lot of cowls, shawls, and scarves. All things that could benefit from some nice, new reversible stitch patterns.

Impression When I Held the Book: It's a nice looking book. It's a hefty hard cover. The photos are clear. The color palette is pretty muted, which I like. A quick flip through showed clean swatches on crisp plain backgrounds that made the stitches easy to see.

Getting More In Depth: I thought I was really going to like this book. I really wanted to like this book. It's ok, but not really my style. The stitches and designs are kind of bizarre. There's a few I'd maybe try. In reality, though, I probably never will.

The stitch patterns are all by the author, Lynne Barr. In the last chapter, Reversible Designs, she has other well know designers contribute patterns. You'll find patterns by Norah Gaughan, Lily Chin, Teva Durham, Cat Bordhi, and Wenlan Chia.

Chapter by Chapter
1) Faux Crochet: This chapter has 9 stitch patterns inspired by crochet. The author definitely did what she set out to do. The pattern definitely have that crochet vibe, but they look a lot harder to accomplish than the same look in crochet. If you can't crochet, but like the look of it then you might find the stitches  more appealing. I can crochet and would much prefer to do that than try and maneuver my knitting needles this way.

2) Rows Within Rows: Another 9 stitch patterns. I like the look of a few of these. The Deconstructed Stockinette pattern looks pretty cool. I have no idea what I'd use it for, and looking at the instructions I doubt I'd think about it too long. It's only a 2 row pattern repeat, but each row is a paragraph long! Also, I don't really feel like this stitch is reversible. The front, knit, side looks cool. The purl side has some ragged edges.

3) Openwork: Again I like 1 out of the 9 stitch patterns. This one, Garter Lace Waves, I might really try. It would make a nice simple stole or scarf. So far it's the only page with a post it on it to remind me to look again.
Even though this chapter only has one stitch I would seriously consider knitting at present it does have a few more nice ones. I think it's safe to say it's my favorite chapter.

4) Divide & Combine: One word: Weird. I like the backside of most of these better than the front. They're very busy, some have types of cables, some are tucked,

5) Picked Up: Garter Triangles and Drop Loop Circles are pretty interesting. Garter Triangles would make a nice stole since it truly is reversible. (Good ol' garter!) A few of these patterns have you picking up stitches to embellish the front side of the fabric. That's too decorative for me. The Circles pattern is cute and clever. It might be fun to use in something for children. I don't mind picking up stitches, but if you're not a fan then skip this chapter.

6) Double Knit: This chapter has some nice looking classy stitch patterns. I might have named it as my favorite section is I liked color knitting more, but I don't. If you like working with color you'll want to check out this chapter. Unfortunately it doesn't have as many stitches as other chapters (just 5 stitches).

7) Reversible Designs: These are a few cute and clever designs. There are also some wildly odd and, in my opinion, completely unwearable ones. If you're on Ravelry I suggest going to the book page and taking a look through the patterns.

Final Verdict: Get it from the library before you commit to buying it. If you love funky patterns and stitches that challenge you and make you work then you might really enjoy it. If you like simple classic looks than you're probably not going to get much from this book.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Favorite Things: Fresh Fruit Juice

About 2 weeks ago Chris and I decided we were going to spring for a juicer. We'd been tossing around the idea of getting one for a while now, and Chris had accumulated some Amazon gift cards over the past year and they were calling out to be put ti good use. Chris did all the research on what type of juicer to get. I spent my time looking for tasty sounding juice recipes.

The juicer Chris settled on was the Omega VRT 350HD, a powerful low speed model. There's something about low speed juicers keeping more of the nutrients in the juice. I think. I know he told me all about it, but that kind of thing goes in one ear, rattles around for a while, and then goes out the other a few days later. Regardless of the reasons why we got it, I'm glad we did. It works well. I've juiced greens like kale, spinach, swiss chard, and dandelion greens, pineapple (with the core), citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime), melons (no rind), cucumber, carrots, beets, ginger, pear, cabbage, apple, grapes, plums, guava (that was weird), and kiwi. We've also done coconut milk a few times. That process involves using the blender and juicer (see bottom of post).

I love being able to make fresh fruit juice for breakfast. One of my favorites is a blend of grapefruit, orange, cucumber, and dandelion greens. Chris thinks it's nasty, but I like it. (He doesn't like graefruit in general, though.) My recipe:

1 large ruby red grapefruit, peeled & sliced
1 navel orange, peeled & sliced
1 handful dandelion greens, chopped
1/3 large cucumber, peeled & sliced

The past two days I've made pineapple juice blends. Yesterday it was pineapple/orange. Today I did pineapple/grapefruit.

Pineapple Orange
1/4 fresh pineapple, rind removed, chunked. No need to remove the core.
1 orange, peeled
Makes about 8 ounces

Pineapple Grapefruit

1/4 fresh pineapple, rind removed, chunked. No need to remove the core.
1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled
Makes about 12 ounces

For an afternoon drink I've discovered kiwi, kale, celery. 2 kiwi, 2 large kale leaves, 2 celery stalks. 2, 2, 2! It makes a nice green drink. The kiwi is pretty strong, so mostly you taste that and not the veggies.

And for the coconut milk, which I would never make on my own. Chris does the whole process. Straight coconut milk is too rich for me to have more than 4 ounces of. Mix a little with some pineapple chunks in the blender. Mmmmmm.... Or blend with a banana. Tasty dairy free smoothie that you have to work really hard for. By the time you sit down to enjoy it you totally deserve it.

Coconut Milk
Freeze the coconut for about a half hour.
Use a corkscrew to drill a hole in the "eyes" at one end and drain the water into a blender.
Crack open the coconut shell (tapping around the circumference with the back of a knife, or take a hammer to it. Just get that hairy brown shell off)
Break the meat up into smallish chunks (nothing bigger than 2").
Put the meat in the blender with the coconut water.
Blend together.
Put the whole mix through the juicer.
What comes out the juice spout is the milk.
The pulp is pretty dry and can be saved for baking.
Any stuff that gets stuck on the inside is coconut butter which can also be used for baking.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Planning KALS: Opinions Please!

Some of you may know about the Minerva KAL and running low on available yarn (Soli fingering weight). I've learned that I can give yarn estimates to the mill and order larger quantities of my base yarns just for me to have ready at certain times that align with the knit-alongs I'm hosting.
So, what I want your opinion on is this: timing. The Minerva KAL covers the month of May. At what point after that would you start considering ordering yarn for another KAL? This is nothing I’m going to hold you to and you don’t need to join another KAL of mine. It’s just so I can get a feel for when I should start reserving yarn for and when to open orders to the public. If you finish one KAL in the end of May would you consider another starting, say, August 1? With yarn orders opening in June? Or would you want more time, like yarn orders opening in August and cast on in October/November?
I actually wouldn’t mind doing 2 more KALS before the end of the year. I was thinking of making the Summer one a free pattern using a skein of my lace weight yarn for a nice breezy Summer knit. And then another using DK weight and working in some cables (paid pattern) would be a Fall cast on.
I’m one of those people that’s never really satisfied unless I’m busy lol So doing 2 KALs is awesome for me, but I don’t want to overload you guys!
Whatcha think? Give me an idea of what you next optimal cast on date would be. (Even if you're not participating in Minerva. Just pretend you are and finished it the last weekend in May.)

And one more thing, On the lace weight: 80/20 SW merino/silk or 80/20 SW merino/Bamboo? Which would find more appealing?