Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Unless you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, in which case Happy Thursday.  Now if you'll excuse me, family has descended upon my house, and for some reason we spent most of our day at Ikea.  Sleep is required.  XD

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rip it, rip it...

I have done quite a lot of frogging today.  Thank heaven it was frogging crochet, because it's so much easier to do a partial frog in crochet than in knit, and if I had had to do the part before my mistake, I would have been really skeeved off.  But anyway.  Frogging, unfortunately, is an essential part of my design process.  I'm sure not everybody does this.  But for me, usually... I make a sketch.  I make a swatch or two.  Do some math.  Then I get started with the yarn.

This part rarely goes as well as the swatches and math suggest it will.  Stitch a little.  Doesn't look the way I think it ought to.  Rip rip rip.  Now things don't quite come together the way they're supposed to.  Rip rip rip.  Successful for a bit.  Then I measure things.  Things always go south when I measure things the first time.  Rip rip.  Then with any luck I'm past the gusset/yoke/insane part because I seem to always insist on one piece design.

But you know, ripping isn't always a bad thing.  Every iteration is better.  And yarn, if nothing else, is very forgiving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My favorite thing about crochet... that you can use very fine yarn, and still have a project finished this century.  Case in point: I am currently crocheting a sweater in fingering weight.  If I tried to do that in knitting, I don't think I would ever finish.  Maybe there are people out there for whom knitting is faster.  But I don't think I've ever met one.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Turns out I'm bad at November.

The idea, I think, was to plan to get something done, then do it.  But things keep coming up.  Also, I am easily distracted.  Instead of working on my sweater design, I have finished my pair of mittens, sewn a dress for myself (it doesn't fit right), made up a crap ton of invoices, begun figuring out about selling hard copies of my patterns, (gasp, pant), and, FINALLY, started a swatch for my sweater.  Sort of.  I mean, it's only two rows long, and I haven't started any of the stitch patterns I need to test.  Also, my husband's family will be staying with us for Thanksgiving, so I have to get ready for that.

So, short version: November seems to be kicking my butt, rather than the other way around.  Boo.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November is for getting stuff done.

You'be probably heard of all the Na(something something)Mo things.  Knit a sweater, write a blog, write a novel, the whole point is to get stuff done in November.  Lots and lots of stuff.  Personally, I'm going to take a  cue from both NaKniSweMo and NaBloPoMo and work on a sweater design and talk to y'all about it here on my blog.  With any luck at all I will also get my camera and my computer back on speaking terms, and thus be able to show you lots of pictures of work-in-progress sweater.  Although it is a crochet sweater.  Cut me some slack, I'm designing the darn thing, if I had to knit it too I would never get it done this month.  Crochet = much faster.  I hope.  Did I mention it's in fingering weight?
I'm liking it so far anyway, even though it is still just yarn.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lovely, lovely socks...

I know I've been quiet awhile... but, I have a new sock pattern to show for it, at least.  My Branches and Blooms socks are a fun combination of cables and lace, for a sock that has some substance as well as being lacy.  Plus, they're the polar opposite of boring.  :)  On Ravelry for $1.99.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Progress report: WIP down!

So, I'm trying to cut back on the number of WIPs that are floating around my house.  If you remember my post about how I was drowning in them last month, you should note that after that post I actually found MORE WIPs floating around my room.  Apparently I have more project bags than I thought I did, which is turning out to be a problem.  Also a problem: not putting projects on my Ravelry page right away, which allows me to forget all about them.

But anyway, I am proud to note that I have finished not one, but TWO sweaters this week, and a pair of socks last week.  This means I still have four WIPs in various states of hibernation/doneness, but hey.  Three less than I had before.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have broomstick crochet/lace knitting/fair isle knitting to do.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Full of sweaters...

I have two sweaters on needles currently.  One for me, one for my husband.  The husband sweater was originally going to be a surprise (Facebook and Twitter peeps, this was the secret sweater), but I gave up so he knows about it now.  The me sweater is out of the yarn I got in exchange for the rabbit angora sweater I made, then realized I was allergic to.

The husband sweater has been in the works for quite some time now.  I started the me sweater about two weeks ago.

Guess which one looks like it's going to be finished first.  XD

Monday, September 19, 2011

The best sweater I've ever made...

...and I designed it!

You don’t need to knit to create a beautiful cabled pullover! This boatneck sweater has simple waist shaping to hug your curves, gorgeous cables, and (because it is crochet!) works up in a snap. Constructed in one piece from the top down.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things I've Learned as a Designer

I haven't been doing this very long, but have already learned some significant (and mostly painful) lessons, which I thought I would share for everyone's edification.  Or for everyone to laugh at me.  You know, whatever.  So, in whatever order they occurred to me:
  1. When you're making a sample, count the stitches.  This is particularly useful in the joining row and the smallest/largest diameter of any shaping.  It is really, REALLY hard to count those stitches once the sample is done.
  2. Unless your stitch pattern is specifically designed to take advantage of pattered yarn, get a solid (or semi solid, at most).  Even tonal yarns can pool unexpectedly.
  3. Save your ball bands, especially on big projects.  By the time you're done, you may or may not remember how many you had to start with.
  4. Don't try to design something using a technique you're not super familiar with.  It doesn't matter if you can do the math and design aspects if the stitching makes you want to scream.
  5. The job is a lot of fun... unless you over schedule yourself.  Have fun!  :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy International Crochet Day!

I didn't find out about this until last night!  And isn't Crochet Month in March?  Hooray for crochet love!  At any rate, I'm celebrating by putting some finishing touches on an awesome sauce crochet sweater pattern.  And look, I have a teaser photo:

Yup, cables!  Hopefully I will have a pattern and more awesome pictures for y'all within the week! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Woe are my wrists!

So, remember when I jacked up my arm?  Well, it turns out that I don't just have a weather vane knee any more... I have a season-vane wrist.  Yes I just made up a word.  Basically, I'm getting pain now that we're making the transition to fall weather.  It's not enough to stop me, but that might be a problem in and of itself.  If I over do it, I'll just make things worse.  Other things that irritate my poor joints are typing, playing video games (especially the Wii), and pretty much any other fine motor activity.  I am clearly doomed.  Also, need to locate my wrist braces.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Allergies Blow

So, my last pregnancy completely changed my immune system.  Things that I am now quite violently allergic to now that I wasn't until the minute my sweet baby was born include such diverse items as avocados, pistachios, and rabbit angora.

The big problem with this (other than no more quacamole) is that while I was pregnant I made myself a most lovely sweater with a rabbit angora yarn, which you can see at right.  Doris freaking Chan even commented on my Ravelry project page.  I was able to wear it maybe six times before I had the baby.  Afterwards, I kind of figured it was just too hot to wear it.  Rabbit angora is after all one of the warmest fibers.  But even in the depths of Colorado winter, while I still loved the sweater, it made me want to tear the skin off of my arms.

I have fortunately been able to trade my lovely sweater for yarn to make a new sweater (thanks, Sarah!).  I wonder, sometimes, which of us came out ahead on that one... but not very often, because I'm busy trying to decide which pattern to make with the pretty, pretty yarn.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why I Quilt

I've noticed something about quilting in the last couple of days.  It is, more than anything else, a craft of precision.  When the pattern says cut a two and seven eighths by seventeen and a quarter strip, three by seventeen and a quarter just won't work.  That eighth of an inch will throw you off.  In a way, it scratches the same itch that knit and crochet do.  Yarn is of course dramatically more forgiving than fabric... but it's still the same concept.  You take tiny, precise pieces and put them together into something new.

On the other hand, the nature of the difficulty levels are very different.  In yarn work, difficult things are generally complicated.  You k3togtbl and have to keep track of intricate lace or cable patterns, or do fancy shaping.  In quilting, on the other hand, the hard parts are so basic.  For example, sewing a scant quarter inch seam.  I still have not figured out what this is supposed to look like, because I am still working on just plain ol' sewing in a straight line for more than about three inches.  Or cutting a square to be exactly three inches on a side.  Simpler patterns are of course more forgiving of error than more complicated ones, and there are still advanced (and HARD!) techniques, like piecing curves, but for the most part the things that get screwed up on quilts are very simple.  But oh, so tricky to do just right.

But you know what?  Then I remembered how hard it was to maintain even tension when I first started to crochet.  And I realized that I just enjoy learning something new.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am flying to Texas in the morning!

So if you don't hear from me in the next week or so, I probably haven't died, I'm just up to my eyeballs in family reunion.  ;)  For any who may be wondering, I decided to bring a very basic star stitch scarf (crochet) and a sock (knit) to work on while in flight.  The TSA website insists I can have my knitting needles, and I made sure to only bring wood ones, so I should be safe.  But nervous.  The project on metal needles is in my checked luggage, and if it gets lost I am going to be PISSED.

...I'll have to let you know how all this goes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yarn on a Plane

I'm worried.  We're going to be flying to Texas this week to visit family, and I have no idea what I'm really going to be able to take on the plane.  I know that the official TSA rules are readily available online, but the fact of the matter is, any overzealous gate agent can decide that those rules don't apply today, and sorry you are not allowed to have that thank you very much.  On the other hand, it's a freaking long flight.  Plus waiting in the airport.

So, I have a plan.  Sorta.  Basically, I figure that a crochet hook, as long as it's not too small, looks less threatening than knitting needles... in addition, it's cheaper to replace if it ends up in the garbage at the gate.  We'll see how well it works.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The first week of school, it has eaten me.

Yup, been quiet around here for longer than I like to let it be.  Behind the scenes however, it has been a madhouse.  A madhouse I tell you!

First of all, I'm still trying to catch up from when I was sick.  Fortunately, I only have on pattern to go from that time.  Unfortunately, I have had to find a new tech editor (if you're out there, hi new tech editor!), which always makes me nervous.  Also, I have a sample I'm supposed to have done by mid November.  In laceweight.  That is lace.

That was nothing new, but the first week of school is.  The big one is starting kindergarten, and the middle one is starting preschool.  This means that the week leading up to this week was full of orientations, paperwork, evaluations, and doctor appointments.  I wish I had done more of this during the summer, but I didn't receive any of the paperwork until about a week and a half ago, so that wasn't exactly possible.

So, if you could give me a week or so, I'll get back to my usual fibery extravaganza.  In the mean time, I will continue to update my facebook and twitter feeds.  I definitely have time for 144 characters.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dyeing with the Kids

We had loads of fun this week.  I decided it was finally time to try dying unspun fiber.  I waited until the littlest one's nap time, and got a pound of Navajo churro fleece to soaking in my big pot.  I wrapped the wool together like a package with a piece of scrap yarn, hoping to make it easier to manage.  It really didn't.  So I got it out and put in the rack from my boiling water canner (it has handles!).  That helped a lot.
Next we got the wool out and let the excess water drain off.  I should have done a better job on this step, but the kids were SO EXCITED to start with the colors!

The big one was in charge of the blue, I was in charge of the green, and the little one was in charge of the yellow.  Each color was three packs of sugar free Kool Aid.  I am very glad right now that I use only food dyes, because at one point or another both kids decided to taste the dye stock.  To add to the fun and excitement, we used a nasal aspirator (I couldn't find the turkey baster) to spray the dye onto the wool.
Yes, the rack is sitting in my wok in that picture.  It was just the right size, and I needed something to catch run off!  Then into the pot it went to heat set.
It simmered and simmered until all the dye was sucked up into the wool.  Now, there's one thing about this wool that I didn't mention before -- I used a cold water scour on it, so the lanolin was still in.  Navajo churro sheep don't produce a lot of lanolin, but this means that the more lanolin any given part of the fleece had in it, the less dye it took up.  I'm hoping to get a cool heathered yarn when I card it all together and spin it.
Loads of fun and excitement for all ages!  And now I have green wool.  And a rusty canning rack.  It turns out that the thing wasn't meant to withstand as much acid as I just put it through.  But hey, next time, I'll rinse it better.  We still had a great time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Fun New Toy, the Trindle

Those of you who were following me during the Tour de Fleece know that my favorite spindle biffed it.  Just dropped it one too many times.  I guess that's why it's called a drop spindle.  So I decided it was time to upgrade.  Also, to not make a spindle right now, because I don't have the time or energy to mess with it.

As I was approaching buying a spindle, I encountered one problem over and over again -- short spindle shafts.  Making my own spindles led me to do some pretty intense experimentation, and what I found out is that I like spindles with insanely long shafts.  My old favorite, in fact, had a thirteen inch shaft.  Which I now realize is insane.  I had a hard time finding spindles with shafts over nine inches that weren't boat anchors!

So that was the first thing that drew me to the trindle -- trindle shafts are ten and a half inches long.  The second thing was how customizable they are.  The arms of the trindle stick into a neoprene hub, and since neoprene is so grippy, you don't need to use any glue.  Thus, the arms (which are sold separately from the shaft) are interchangeable, as well as very reasonably priced.  For fifteen dollars, you get a new set of arms and a functionally new spindle!

I was sold right there, however, there's one more thing that I discovered once my trindle arrived -- trindles are freaking fast.  This is definitely a production spindle!  Because it is so extremely rim weighted, it spins forever at high speeds.  I'm not the fastest drafter ever, and I can finger flick my trindle and have it still spinning when it hits the ground.  That being said, a trindle might not be the best first spindle ever because of this.  If you don't draft fast enough, all kinds of wacky things happen, as that spin energy has to go somewhere.

I'm also waiting to see how much fiber I can cram on there.  Because there is no whorl, you can't make a cone shaped cop, you have to make a football shaped cop.  Not what I'm used to.  That being said, it's doing pretty well so far, so I'm hopeful.  I doubt I can cram two ounces onto it like I could the old favorite, but it should be pretty good!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fiber Thoughts: Rayon

Rayon from sugar cane.
This post will contain information on all kinds of rayon -- bamboo, sugar cane, the regular wood pulp kind.  I can hear a few of you out there saying "ka-whaa? bamboo is rayon?!"  I feel relatively certain of this because of how frequently I see threads on yarn and fabric forums announcing the "secret" of bamboo fiber.  Yes, that silky soft stuff is, in fact, rayon made from bamboo.  There is a non-rayon bamboo fiber out there, however it is more like flax, and doesn't really resemble the more common rayon from bamboo at all.

So, what is rayon?  Rayon is a manufactured fiber made from cellulose.  You can make rayon from just about any plant source, but there are three that I've seen.  The regular old standard rayon that has been around forever is made from wood pulp.  Rayon made from bamboo has been enjoying significant popularity due to it's purported environmental friendliness and antibacterial properties.  I have recently found several yarns made from rayon made from sugar cane, as well.  "Bamboo viscose" and "sugar cane viscose" mean the same as rayon.

All rayon has some properties in common.  It is a smooth, silky fiber.  Rayon has excellent drape, but not so much memory, so it works extremely well for lace applications.  It is also extremely durable, so it works well as a substitute for silk in blends that need that soft silky sheen, but also need to be easier to wash than silk.  Rayon is also (surprisingly) highly absorbent.

The main differences in the rayon types are, quite frankly, questionable.  Bamboo rayon in particular is touted for being environmentally friendly, and it is indeed more environmentally friendly than regular rayon, as bamboo can be grown very quickly with little or no pesticide or fertilizer use.  However, the chemicals used to process the bamboo into rayon are pretty toxic, and the process requires large amounts of water and energy, so it really isn't the Gift to Gaia that it's occasionally billed as.  Bamboo rayon is also claimed to have antibacterial properties.  While bamboo, the plant, is indeed naturally antibacterial, the amount of processing involved in making rayon makes it fairly unlikely that those properties make it to the final fiber.  It is possible, however I have searched extensively for the supposed study showing that bamboo rayon is antimicrobial, and have not been able to find it anywhere.  The best I can come up with are references to a Japanese study... however, the study itself does not seem to be available anywhere.  And I can read and search in Japanese.  Given that the majority of bamboo fabrics are made in China, I deeply suspect that the study is the invention of a manufacturing company.  I could of course be wrong, and if you know of a reference, please point me at it!

So, is there any difference between the types of rayon?  I like to think there is.  It feels to me that bamboo rayon and sugar cane rayon are smoother and more silk-like than wood pulp rayon.  Sugar cane rayon, in particular, has a delightful sheen to it.  This may, however, merely be a manufacturing difference, and not a material difference.  So seriously?  Know the basic properties of rayon, then use your own fingers and eyes to pick an individual yarn.  That will probably serve you better than knowing the plant source of the fiber.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Moonshine

I am a yarn and fiber nerd.  I freely admit it.  So when I saw the interesting construction of Moonshine, I had to give it a try.  Moonshine is 73% nylon, 10% kid mohair, 9% wool, and 8% metallic, however the different fibers aren't simply blended together.  The yarn is two plies, one of which is actually a knit tube.  This ply is smooth and shiny, and contains most or all of the nylon and all of the metallic fibers.  The second ply is much thinner, and a blend of most or all of the wool and all of the kid mohair.  This leads the yarn to be smooth to the touch, yet have the fuzzy halo of kid mohair.  It's very soft, and the little glitzy bits of metallic fiber are a fun compliment, rather than an unnecessary distraction as metallic fiber often is.  The color repeats are quite short, which means less chances for unpleasant pooling.

The one downside I can find to this yarn is that, like all mohair yarns, it is incredibly difficult to frog.  Seriously, that halo is like freaking glue once a stitch is formed. But that's the way all yarns with halo are, so if you want halo, you're just going to have to be darn sure what you're doing with it before you start.  My advice is to get an extra ball for swatching, because you're going to want to do as little frogging as possible.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Drowning in WIPs

I just thought I would post this, so you can all laugh at me.  I am up to my eyeballs.  First, there is the sweater of doom:

It is actually mostly done, but I still have to grade the pattern, which is pretty much the bane of my existance right now.  Then there's the sock design for Knit Picks:

A series of embarrassing math errors happened in this one.  The math errors are fixed, but with all the frogging I had to do, I feel like I wasted a lot of time.  Then there's the couch quilt:

This one is completely done, except that I don't have any batting, and no money to buy batting until next week at the earliest.  I even made the binding strip.  There is literally nothing more I can do on this until I manage to aquire some batting.  So of course I started another quilt:

This is square one of thirty six for a bed quilt for me.  I have a long way to go.  And of course there's my knitting in the car project:

A pair of plain jane two at a time socks.  I don't get how two at a time is faster than one at a time.  I'm pretty sure that I, at least, am slower this way.  So yes, doomed.  Up to my eyeballs.  Also, my thumb still hurts from when I sliced it making dinner the other day.  Go, me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Panda Cotton

In all honesty, I think I like every Crystal Palace Yarns yarn I've tried.  Panda Cotton is no exception.  It is a fingering weight 59% bamboo, 25% cotton, 16% elastic nylon plied yarn.  I think it's an excellent choice for wool-free socks -- it is soft and springy and durable.  I freely admit that my Panda Cotton socks aren't very old, but they seem to be showing wear at a rate comparable to any of my wool socks.  It also comes in 50 g (as opposed to 100 g) balls, which I think is a perk.  The smaller put up makes it easier to get exactly how much you need if you are doing a larger project, yet isn't so small that it causes problems in smaller projects.  The yardage is pretty good at 182 per ball.  This is slightly less than most comparable wool yarns, however I've found this to be pretty standard.  Cotton just weighs more per yard than wool does, as far as I can tell.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Susan Bates Quicksilver crochet hooks

These are my very favorite crochet hooks.  Made out of a special heat treated aluminum, they are smooth and light weight.  The most important thing to me, though, is the head -- these, like most Susan Bates hooks, have an inline head.  The head is slightly shallower than most Susan Bates hooks, however they still have that nice sharp edge so I find that it took some getting used to, but is not a problem.

The thing I really like about these hooks is the finish.  It feels almost powdery in the hands, and is very smooth for speedy hooking.  It isn't, however, TOO slippery -- I'm happy working with these hooks on everything from grippy wool to slickery bamboo.

The one issue I have with them is how easy it is to damage that finish.  That being said, I have kids who like to do thinks like repeatedly drop my hooks on the concrete to make them go "p-ting-ting!"  So my experience with that may be skewed.  But my kids aren't allowed to touch these hooks.  They are my favorite.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So my daughter wants to learn to weave...

... so I need you weavers to level with me.  What am I getting myself into?  She tried a floor loom at Estes Park, and a rigid heddle loom at the county fair.  A floor loom is out of the question.  No space and no money.  A rigid heddle loom, though, seems to my innocent self doable.  It doesn't take up much space.  Apparently if you use two heddles you can make it work like a four shaft loom, so it's fairly versatile.  Seems like a good idea.

Or is it?  I mean, you go through yarn really fast when you weave, right?  That probably means the kid will end up with her own yarn stash.  Or I will at least end up buying lots more yarn.  And then there's the question of what to do with the random strips she makes.  We only need so many scarves and pot holders.

And what happens if I get into it?  I already have a very doom-y number of projects lying around my house at various levels of completion.  And my stash occasionally begins to frighten me.  Or maybe I can let her use up the less loved portions of my stash.  There we have it!  This is not just an education project, or a keep the big kid from scaling the house project, but a stash reduction project.  She likes weird acrylic yarn.  Heck, she likes ALL yarn.  This definitely has some possibilities.

Yeah, she's probably getting a little loom for her birthday.  Gotta start 'em young and all that.  And she can operate a loom by herself, unlike knitting, crochet, and knitting looms.  Because mommy already has too much yarning to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Broomstick crochet is making me mad.

Super duper slow progress, but progress none the less.
But it's not the pattern's fault, or the technique's fault.  It is entirely my own dang impatient self's fault.  First of all, none of the stores around here carry knitting needles big enough, so I had to make a makeshift tool out of a dowel.  I sanded it carefully and rubbed it with oil.  It is still way too grippy, even for my very slippery bamboo blend yarn.  So that's frustration number one.  Frustration number two: the loop row is SO FREAKING SLOW.  I'm sure it's a matter of practice.  I'm sure I will get faster.  But right now it's slow and I'm frustrated!  My other issue with it is if I screw up either the loop row or the crochet row, I have to rip out back to the beginning of the loop row.  I can't get the loops back onto the stick to save my life.  Sigh.  The result is so pretty!  I guess I need a break from it.  Maybe I'll work on those colorwork mittens that have been sitting untouched on my desk for so long.

And this is how I ended up with so many random WIPs lying around the house.  And to think, I WIPed down once already this year.  I'm doomed, but in a fun way.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crochet Cables, the Tutorial!

Way back at the dawn of time (well, in January, but that feels like forever ago), I promised y'all a crochet cables tutorial.  I can finally knock that one off of the list of resolutions -- I have a lovely article in the premier issue of Crochetvolution in which I hope all cable questions will be answered.  It's titled "Crochet Cables -- Oh, Yes I Can!" and is available right now.  I hope you like it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Pattern in Tangled

I have a new pattern out in the Sock Summit issue of Tangled... Spandau Ballet!  These socks are a combination of a comfy knit sole, a cool crochet instep and cuff, and a knit ribbed cuff for support.  Currently available from the Tangled website for $6.00.

And guess what else!  I have a COUPON!  From today through August 14, use the code "SOCKSUMMIT11" to get a dollar off any pattern in the current Tangled issue, including mine.

Remember too, I'm still having a sale on all the patterns in my Ravelry store -- 10% off.  No coupon code on that one, the discount will automatically be taken off at checkout.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Tour de Fleece is over...

... and I survived!  So to celebrate, I'm having a sale over at my Ravelry store... 10% off any patterns bought through Ravelry.

So, how did I do on my spinning goals, you may ask.  Well, I finished the CVM roving, which turned out very nicely.  I worked on the silk thread, until I discovered a spot where the roving (neatly wrapped around a pencil) had become one with itself, so I gave up.  I spun my suri alpaca to a very fine lace weight on my favorite spindle, but broke the spindle (it has been dropped one too many times!).  I did not, however, finish the baby alpaca fleece.  This is entirely due to how thin I'm spinning it -- it two plies to a heavy lace weight!  I have finished 1310 yards, and have a bobbin and a half of finished singles, which I think is pretty darn good.  Hopefully I will be able to keep my spinning mojo going and finish it soon!

Did you spin for the Tour?  I'd love to hear about how you did.  I'm already excited for next year!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thinking about spinning...

Once upon a time, not too long ago in fact in the cosmic order of things, all women spun.  The spinning wheel is actually a relatively new invention... before that women spun on spindles of various shapes and sizes.  Before that, women spun on rocks, or simply by rolling fiber along their thighs.  The reason so many had to spin was because hand spinning takes a LONG TIME to do... especially if you are spinning fine, high twist yarn/thread for weaving, which was the primary means of converting thread into fabric.  In the last several weeks, I have been doing a LOT of spinning.  But when I pick up a my spindle, or sit down at my wheel, sometimes I wonder... what would those women think of me today?  I don't have to spin.  I actually have no particular reason to do it at all, except that I enjoy it.

Would they like my appreciation for their craft?

Would they think I am wasting my time?

I don't know.  But for me, my hand work builds an appreciation for their lives.  A link between me, and my ancestors who spun, knit, and wove every stitch their families wore.  Not because they wanted to, but because if they didn't, no one else would.  And in my heart of hearts, I think that's why I enjoy spinning so much.  I feel it as a connection to my grandmothers' grandmothers, back to the dawn of time.  Would they think I'm an idiot?  Maybe.  But I think they were pretty awesome.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's the Tour de FLEECE!

Every year during the Tour de France, spinners everywhere have their own event... the Tour de Fleece!  Me and the Tour have a bit of a history... the first time I tried to participate, I found out a couple days before it started that I was pregnant.  That pregnancy spinning made me nauseous.  The next year, I suddenly had to move two days before the Tour started.  But this year, so help me, THIS YEAR I will spin!  My goal, other than to be hopelessly over committed?  Finish all spinning WIPs.

First off will be this half pound of CVM roving:

Then I will finish this silk thread (probably by transferring it to my wheel, because I HATE the spindle it's currently on):

Then I will start on my uber project:

That's two and three quarters pounds of baby alpaca, which I carded myself, on HANDCARDS.  I have been working on that on and off for nearly a year!  Will I get it all spun?  No idea.  Especially given I plan on spinning it lace weight.

But seriously, get out your wheels, spindles, rocks, potatoes (hey, I've seen it done), and get spinning!  And check in with the Tour de Fleece group on Ravelry -- there are daily prize threads!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kids + Summer + Kool Aid =

YARN!  Here at Casa Driggs we have been having some fun with Kool Aid and wool.  I really enjoy dying, but not enough to buy a separate set of pots for it (check the labels of commercial dyes some time -- even the "green" ones are pretty toxic!).  So the solution is food grade wool dyeing.  Other advantage?  It won't hurt my kids if they decide to sample the dye pot.  This is our most recent creation:

That's 200 g of wool, dyed with five packets of sugar free Kool Aid (three orange, on cherry, one lemonade).  It really is great fun for everyone!  With that in mind, I have some tips:
  • A general rule of thumb for a saturated color is one packet of Kool Aid per ounce of yarn or fiber.
  • If you are kettle dying, make sure to heat until the dye bath is CLEAR -- if you're hand painting and microwaving/steaming, the run off when you're done should be clear too.
  • If you're dyeing with kids, it's extra fun to play changing colors -- when you mix the packets together, and then again as you're watching the dye bath go to clear.  This is especially fun with purple, as red dye strikes at a lower temperature than blue, so your purple water will turn blue before it goes clear.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer is for LACE!

This pattern was such a long time in the making, and I'm SO pleased with it!  Knit in All for Love of Yarn Sumptuosity Lace, this stole is feather light, but with the warmth of alpaca and silk.  Pattern includes instructions for either a knit or crochet edging.  Available on Ravelry for $6.00.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy WWKIP day!

Or is is knit in public week?  Either way, I KIP'ed at the Estes Park Wool Market on Saturday!  It was loads of fun and excitement.  The kids got to try out a floor loom (and now Elspeth wants one):

I very nearly called the judging for the grand champion white fleece (my pick got reserve).  And I did NOT buy any fleeces.  This is an accomplishment because I already have two or three of those giant sterlite bins full of washed fleeces awaiting carding and spinning, plus most of a baby alpaca fleece (THE WHOLE THING) that I am slowly, slowly carding out.  But mmmmm, were there some nice fleeces there.  So I've made a deal with myself... if I can process two fleeces before next year, I can buy one.  Think it'll work?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thoughts on shaping

So I've been mighty quiet around here lately, and it's the direct result of a pattern I'm working on (and, frankly, procrastinating working on).  The issue with it?  Shaping.  Everybody I've ever met says that it's easier to make a tailored garment in pieces, because the shaping is easier.  I question this.  It's no more difficult to make lines of increases or decreases in the round than it is flat.  What IS harder is designing shaping in the round.  My current project, I'm still working on the yoke... I have to make the armholes deep enough and the shoulders wide enough (but not too wide) at the same time, all without deforming the neckline.  Plus I want this one to be fitted.  Exciting!

Of course, when you're making something from a pattern, the designer has already figured that out for you.  What everybody else is worried about is things like waist shaping, which really isn't hard.  The key is to start your decreases two to three inches before you want the narrowest part, and decrease evenly, then increase at the same rate.  Ta-dah!  Waist shaping.  No harder in the round than in pieces, and in my opinion, better, because you can try the darn thing on as you go and make sure you decreased the right amount.

Now if only I could get to that point on this sweater.  Stupid yoke.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

So, I was knitting this sock...

A lovely sock.  A blue sock.  A sock for ME.  The thing with designing is that it really cuts into my selfish crafting time, so this was special.  It was nearly done when suddenly I realized I had an appointment in ten minutes.  No problem -- I tucked it away in it's bag, put it on the bed, and off I went.

I realized that something was slightly off when the bag was under my desk and not on the bed when I got home, but didn't think too much about it... I often put my project bags under my desk, maybe I just mis-remembered where I put it.  After dinner when I went to work on it again, though, I realized I had a problem.  The needles were gone.

Not just "pulled out of the stitches" gone.  "I can't find them anywhere" gone.  Initial inspection reveals one nearby on the floor.  Now I'm starting to panic.  I dig around under the desk and find what I'd feared -- a broken DPN.  Careful questioning however reveals that that one has been broken for some time.  Elspeth gets a chat (again) about not touching mommy's knitting stuff without permission.  This is the point where I basically gave up.  I could not find these needles ANYWHERE.

Which of course means my husband found them an hour later.  In the bath tub.  Why were they in the bath tub?  I don't even care.  I got my needles back, and the sock was saved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ah, handspun...

How many yards do I have?  Heaven only knows.
So I love spinning.  I mean, seriously, I'm one of those crazy spinners that buys raw, unwashed fleece and processes it myself, by hand.  What I have a problem with is what on earth do I do with the resultant yarn.  A lot of it is in small skeins (hey, I get distracted easily), and it's difficult to know exactly how many yards of the stuff I have.  Thus, most of my handspun has been relegated to sitting in my stash.  But, I've been thinking about it, and have some ideas to use the lovely stuff.
  • Scarves and shawls.  If it looks like you're going to run out of yarn, you can just make them smaller.
  • Hats.  Don't take much yardage.
  • For my high quantity handspun, start with a sweater vest in mind rather than a sweater.  If there's still yarn when you've got the body sewn up, do your sleeves two at a time.
So yeah, handspun!  Hopefully I'll be able to stash down a little bit with this strategy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ok, so it's not so bad once all the cutting's done

Look at that.  A quilt top.  I feel bad about my last post now, as once I had it laid out and pinned together, it really wasn't so bad (the cutting was done months ago).  Here's my other now finished sewing UFO:
See?  Can sew.  But would still rather play with yarn than fabric.  It's much more forgiving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I hate sewing!

I admit it.  I HATE sewing.  Seaming knit or crochet projects is ok... but cutting out fabric?  Making stuff out of it?  Despise.  This annoys me intensely, as I went through a phase where I thought sewing was so cool, because you could make neat custom stuff and OMG LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY FABRIC.  I never had much time for it, so I ended up with a fairly extensive fabric stash.  Now it haunts me, because I still want the things that I intended to make... I just don't want to make them any more.  I'm also very frugal (read: I hate spending money), and so I can't seem to justify to myself buying things when I have the stuff right in front of me to just MAKE them, making the item free as far as this month's budget is concerned.  On the other hand of course I would knit and crochet all day if I could.  Why do I do this to myself?  I have no idea.  But for whatever reason the half finished sewing projects are weighing on my conscious lately, so I guess I'll fire up the ol' sewing machine, if just to make them leave me alone.  And hey, who knows... maybe I just need to do MORE sewing, and I'll learn to like it, right?

Yeah, I doubt it too.  But hey, I'll have cool stuff.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Spud and Chloe Fine

I have mixed feelings about this yarn, in all honesty.  But, the good stuff first.

It's a cable plied fingering weight yarn, 80% superwash wool and 20% silk. The yardage is generous, with each ball being 65 g instead of the more standard 50 g, with 248 yards per ball. That makes it a really good price, as well. I could knit some very tall socks with two balls of this stuff. I really like the way it works up, as well - excellent stitch definition, great colors, and a nice sheen from the silk. The cable ply means that it's going to be sturdy. In addition, this is not some softy lofty sock yarn - and that means durability! Some people might not like it because it isn't soft enough, but I like scratchy yarns, and scratchy this isn't. It's more like it's kind of hard, rather than being fluffy, and it does soften considerably with washing, especially if you treat it with conditioner or lanolin. No, I like the texture, too.

So what's my problem with it?In a word, splittiness. This is the price you pay for the durability of cable plied yarns, and is frankly exacerbated by my mirror knitting. That being said, also mitigated by my left handed crocheting. So if you're right handed, and a knitter, you probably won't mind this as much. It really isn't horribly splitty, but for something so fine gauge any splitting at all tends to drive me nutter butters.

So would I use it again? Yes. Definitely yes. But I'm going to whine about it being splitty.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com. Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New knit pattern!

Last month was wacky... but I did finish a pattern!  Sometimes as it warms up outside, it gets cold inside. A shawl is perfect to keep you warm in overly enthusiastic air conditioning, but shawl pins are fiddly and easy to loose. This lovely wrap uses small buttons to hold it in place, making it easy on, easy off for transitional weather and cold buildings. Worked from the small end, with decorative lace increases perfect for showing off self striping yarn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport

I like Cascade 220.  I like Cascade 220 Superwash.  So when I found out it comes in sport weight?  Woo!  This is a soft and fluffy plied yarn.  I find the superwash softer than the regular 220, personally.  It's very smooth, and has nice stitch definition.  The only thing I don't like about this yarn is the slightly confusing yardage - rather than being 220 yards, it is 136 yards (in a 50 g skein).  That means a lot of ends to weave in in a large project, but I think its scrummy merino softness is worth it.  It comes in a great range of colors, as well... you've virtually guaranteed to find something you like, and the price is pretty good, too.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Monday, March 21, 2011


First, I just realized that I declared six winners to my contest that was supposed to have five winners.  So... bonus winner!  Three of you left contact information, but I'm still waiting to hear from Mellissa Zeffer, craftink, and Emily.  Please email me at marusempai AT gmail DOT com, or comment on this post with contact information.

Second, my Happy NatCroMo Sale will be going on until the end of the month.  All the crochet patterns in my Ravelry store are 10% off!

Friday, March 18, 2011


And the winners of my birthday contest are:
Mellissa Zeffer

Please email me at marusempai AT gmail DOT com to claim your prize!  You may pick any one pattern from my self published line.

Didn't win?  My Happy NatCroMo sale is still going on!  All my crochet patterns are 10% off in my Ravelry store.  No code needed - the discount will automatically be deducted from your total.  Thanks for playing.  :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why so quiet?

Ok, I'll be honest.  One of the reasons I like having contests is I like to see my readership go up.  So, when people are here trying to win stuff, I try to pull out my very, very best blogging skills.  We are, however, having one heck of a time over here - family stuff, mostly.  We're fine.  We will be fine.  It all leaves, however, precious little time for blogging.  So please excuse the silence, and come back again soon.  I'll be back to normal soon.  :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Your cheat sheet to Japanese patterns

The beginning of my shawl.  Pretty!
My personal project for National Crochet Month has been to learn to read Japanese patterns.  You'd think this would be pretty easy... not only are they completely charted, but I speak fluent Japanese!  Peace of cake right?  Well, it turns out that crafting uses words I don't know, and words I thought I knew but to mean something completely different, so I thought I'd share my little key with you.  I'm working from the pattern Outing Shawl by Pierrot Yarns.
  • 約143c: any time you see this character, followed by a number, followed by a "c," it means "about (number) centimeters."
  • 110段 : this symbol, preceded by a number, is the number of rows.
  • 1模様 : these two symbols together, preceded by a number, is the number of pattern repeats.
  • 12目 : this symbol, with a number in front of it, is the number of stitches. 
 Those are the very basics.  They also combine to make some slightly more complicated directions:
  •  12目1模様 : this one is "(number) of stitches equals one repeat."  In this example, 12 stitches is one repeat.
  •  8段1模様 : this is a lot like the last one, but notice the second character is the "row" character - so, in this example, "8 rows equals one repeat."
  • 49目作る : this is where it tells you how many starting chains to make.  In this example, 49.  Note that this number does NOT include the turning chain.
Is there more to it?  Yes.  Yes there is.  That being said, with that much knowledge, and knowing the standard charting symbols, you can read and execute a Japanese pattern.  So go forth!  Expand your knowledge of crochet!  Japanese patterns can look intimidating at first, but they really are pretty manageable.  Even if you don't speak Japanese.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy birthdays CONTEST!

Tomorrow my sweet baby turns one.  In a little over a week, I turn *mumble mumble*.  And it's national crochet month still!  So I says to myself, let's have a contest!  Winners will be selected by random draw from comments on this post.  Get entries by:
  1. Just say hi!
  2. Follow this blog, and leave a second comment telling me so!
  3. Follow me on Twitter (@marudesigns) and leave a comment telling me so!
  4. Follow me on Facebook (Maru Designs) and leave a comment telling me so! 
So that's as many as four entries per person!  And what are the prizes?  Patterns!  Five randomly selected winners will get any one of my self published or Knitpicks patterns for free.  And remember, my National Crochet Month sale is still going on - all my crochet patterns are 10% off.  I'll draw the winners on March 18, my birthday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy National Crochet Month SALE!

Did you know March is National Crochet Month?  Frankly, me neither until like three weeks ago.  It is probably National (all kinds of other things) month as well, but hey... why the heck not!  Promote the heck out of that crochet goodness!

The sad part for me, however, is the things I'm allowed to talk about this month aren't crochet, but knit.  Boo!  Hopefully I'll be able to plan this a little better next year, as I'll have more forewarning.  But what I can do is make all my crochet patterns on Ravelry 10% off until the end of the month.  That includes buying my crochet patterns through the "buy it now" links here on my blog.

For my own celebration I'm putting some serious effort into more crochet cables.  The world needs more of them!  I think I'll also be making myself a crochet scarf or something - I have got to figure out how to read a Japanese chart, and a scarf should be easy enough to practice on.  And just for fun, here's a nice crochet swatch:

Set those picots free!  :D

Monday, February 28, 2011

Knitpicks Chroma, redux

So, there were a couple more things I wanted to say about Knitpicks Chroma, now that I've used it some more.  Firstly, I stand by my assertion that this yarn would suck for socks.  It felts REALLY easily, probably because it is so fuzzy.  It is also a bit thick and thin.  While these are fabulous qualities in say a scarf, they are not so great for something you want to wear inside your shoes.  Well, not the felting part, but that's at least not a liability in most accessories.  It also shares something else with Noro - knots.  My first ball had two knots and a weird slubby place.  Only one of them joined two disparate colors, however, which puts this yarn ahead of Noro in that department.  Also, there's no hay in it, and it's much less expensive than Noro.  I'd use it again!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Power to the cables!

 I just got the book Power Cables by Lily Chin, and I have to say... if you like cables, and you have any desire whatsoever in you to design, you will probably like this book.  The great thing about it is it's not just a big collection of cable charts - although it has lots of those too - she takes the time to explain how you design cables.  Her charting system is pretty clever, too.  The way it's set up, it's very easy to use her charts for either knit or crochet, as all they show is the crossings.  You can fill in any (reasonable) number you want, and use any stitch you want, and get cables that look about like the picture.  In addition, it's a very visual charting method, which is nice.  In all honesty, traditional cable charts, to me, look nothing like the cables they produce.  These charts do.  As a designer, and as somebody who just really likes cables, I'm glad I picked this book up.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My not so secret secret

So, I suppose I should just tell everybody plain-like, even tho I've never particularly kept it a secret.  It's heresy on some accounts, for sure.  Elizabeth Zimmerman spins in her grave every time I pick up my needles.  But here it is: I knit left handed.

By that I don't mean "continental," although I do that to.  What I mean is, when I knit, my stitches move from my right needle to my left needle, rather than the other way around.  The technical term for this is "mirror knitting."  Now us left-handers get a lot of flack about how knitting is a "two handed activity" and we should just learn to knit the "normal" way, because if we don't we'll "never" be able to read patterns, at least not without making "major" modifications, in effect rewriting the pattern.  We should just knit the normal direction, continental, as that puts the yarn in the left hand and is therefor "left handed."

Can you tell where I disagree?  Look, I am perfectly capable of knitting in the right handed direction.  But it's awkward and slow and I make a lot of mistakes.  Plus, if you watch me closely, you'll notice that whichever direction I'm knitting, I'm not using both hands equally.  My right hand holds the yarn.  My left hand does just about everything else.  Most right handers you'll watch are the same way, except it's their right hand doing most/all of the work.

And never read patterns?  Have to make major modifications to make patterns work?  Puh-lease!  I knit patterns as written.  Yes, left handed.  Yes, and turn out a perfectly credible finished object.  Check my Ravelry project page if you don't believe me!  I make exactly one change to patterns: where a pattern says right, I read left, and vice versa.  Given that I've been doing that my entire life on EVERYTHING, it's pretty automatic.  The only difference when I follow a written pattern?  I produce a mirror image of what a rightie would, so my cables twist the other way and so on.  Not a big deal.  What about charts?  I LOVE charts.  I just read them the direction I knit, which is great, since English is read from left to right, as well.  Really, I don't know how righties manage charts... you have to read them BACKWARDS!  And no, this doesn't make my decreases lean the wrong way.  I do it like it is in the picture, and it turns out just like it would if a rightie were doing it.

And that whole "continental = left handed" thing?  I can tell you for a fact that it is not true.  See, the part of knitting that is hard, the part that takes fine motor skills and hand eye coordination, isn't tensioning or wrapping the yarn.  It's inserting the working needle into the stitch to be worked.  When I knit left handed, my left hand (with the working needle) spears the stitch.  When I knit right handed, I sort of use my left hand to impale the stitch on the working needle.  My right hand is kind of dumb.  You would not be far off if you imagined it as one of those articulated mannequin hands that artists use.  It holds the yarn and tries not to move too much.  When I knit left handed, this is continental.  If I try to put the yarn in my left hand (as so many misguided knitting teachers advise), my whole arm rebels.  I figure that my left hand is doing EVERYTHING ELSE, so tensioning the yarn is just the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Righty has to do something, right?

But you know what?  Everybody is different.  A lot of left handed folk are perfectly content and coordinated knitting right handed, either English or continental.  That's fine!  Everybody ought to knit in the manner that makes them most happy and comfortable.  So, misguided yet helpful righties of the world, please leave my left handedness alone.  Crocheting left handed isn't a big deal.  Knitting left handed shouldn't be either.  Even though Elizabeth Zimmerman hated it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hand problems and yarnish thoughts

So, my long time readers will know that I suffer occasionally from ulnar nerve pain.  Mine is primarily brought on by over use, but I know there are lots of yarn-wielders out there for whom hand pain is a constant in their crafting lives.  I have also found that the support braces and gloves available for hand pain are often unsatisfactory - many are too stiff, offer too little support, or support in the wrong places.  So I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great to be able to make my very own support glove that was tailor made to my hand problems?  And if I made it myself, I would be able to make it pretty, or at least not butt ugly (as ALL of the commercial options are).  Which of course led me to thinking about writing patterns (because everything leads there these days).  So I ask you, fellow yarners with hand problems: what do you want in a knit or crochet crafting support glove?  Is there a commercial glove that you use?  Why do you like it, and what would you change about it?  Please tell me!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Working at home and time management

Working from home is not a new thing for me.  I've been doing freelance editing and translation for home pretty much since I graduated, so incorporating design into my home work schedule hasn't been too big of a deal.  However, there are some issues with working from home that people who have never done it don't think of.  The main issue is time management.  People tend to assume that, since you are at home, you are going to watch the kids, clean the house, AND work a full day, all at once.  Because you are at home after all, doesn't that mean you take care of the home things?

I probably don't need to tell you that this is blatantly impossible.  Full time stay at home moms with no other job have a hard time finding enough hours in the day to take care of the kids and keep the house up, because those are HARD JOBS.  They are not things that automatically take care of themselves just because you happen to be at home.  And work at home jobs aren't either.  When I have an editing job, somebody has to watch the kids so I can work... just like if I was going in to the office.  Hours I spend writing up proposals, running tests, and making samples, likewise, are hours that I can't spend mopping or doing the dishes.

Why the office-working average doesn't understand this, I will never know, however when I first started this, I did get a lot of "since you are home anyway, could you..." "your house must be so clean since you work from home," and so on.  The assumption is that if you are home all day, you must not be working!  But you have to learn to set firm boundaries (no I cannot run errands for you I have to work!) and explain, occasionally, the realities of working from home.  Another useful skill is letting things like that roll off your back.  It doesn't matter what your neighbors think of your housekeeping!

The upside to all of this (and how we make it work) -- working from home is extremely flexible.  Because you have no commute, there's no wasted time driving.  Because you make your own schedule, you can take advantage of nap time and after the kids go to bed, and do most of your work then.  "But isn't that like working two jobs?!"  you may say.  Well, yes, it is.  But so is working at an office and having a family.  It's just a different method of managing your responsibilities.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crochet socks, the finale

Ta-dah!  Finished socks!  In all honesty, I have some mixed feelings about them.  Some is from the nature of the sock, some from my execution, but all around, I'm fairly pleased with them.  They are very warm, mostly fit right, and look pretty.  In a nutshell, the things that were just me:
  • I should have used a slightly smaller hook.  Oops.
  • Despite careful measuring, I managed to make the cuff both slightly too big and shorter than I wanted.
  • I should have left a longer tail when I started - it would have made the seaming bit go much more smoothly.
  • This is actually something I did right... but crochet socks fit better with less negative ease than one would normally build into a knit sock.  Probably because the stitches are more textured, and while it is just as stretchy as my knit socks, the more you stretch any fabric the more the stitches start to feel like little pebbles in your shoe. 
The main not my fault issue with these socks is the texture of the sole.  They do not feel like knit socks!  It's rather like walking around on one of those foot massaging mats that used to be so popular.  Some people will love it, some people will hate it.  I have mixed feelings about it, and actually rather prefer them inside a shoe to just walking around in socks, and have a definitely preference for the single crochet portions (the heel and toe) over the crunch stitch portions.  Advantages?  They are extremely warm, much warmer than socks knit with similar yarn, and really not that much thicker (they are still perfectly comfortable in my sneakers).  They worked up very quickly, and that included a lot of seaming.  A crochet sock in the round would be even faster.  Crochet as usual has it for pretty but easy to do stitch patterns - I liked what the crunch stitch did with my variegated yarn, and it was pleasantly mindless.

So, in summary, I like my crochet socks.  I will probably wear them frequently.  But I haven't decided yet whether I want to do it again.  What I think I REALLY want is a way to make a sock with a knit sole but a crochet instep and cuff.  Which I will have to think really hard about.  Maybe my Ravelry-fu is lacking, but I can't find any such pattern.  Sigh.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knitpicks Chroma... I got the new yarn!

I have to be honest, I feel pretty special for actually getting  Chroma in my yarn support package.  The reason is I know several other designers who submitted proposals for Chroma that got something else, plus it is a BRAND NEW yarn line so they're probably swamped with requests for it, which leads me to believe that they're being choosy about who they actually give it to.  If you know for a fact that I'm mistaken, I suppose you can tell me, or you can just let me continue to feel special.

Anyway, Chroma is a single ply, 70% wool 30% nylon blend yarn.  It is self striping, with those long slow color transitions that are so popular right now.  Think Noro, but less rustic.  It is very soft, and so far has NO hay in it.  Maybe I'm the only one, but I find a lot of hay in Noro.  The colors are lovely and rich.  It comes in both fingering and worsted weights.  One thing I can say is even tho it's a wool nylon blend in fingering weight, I don't personally recommend it for socks.  Partially because it's my personal policy not to knit socks out of non-superwash wool, and partially because the fuzzy texture of Chroma, inside a shoe, sounds like felt and pill city to me.  It does make lovely accessories, however, and is very pleasant to work with.  It has a little bit of the thick and thin thing going, but not enough to mess with your gauge.  As with all self striping yarn, I particularly like it for things that have shaping with increases or decreases... I like how the stripes bend around the corners.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learning to cable, and a cowl

New pattern available today!  My Touch of Spice Cowl is designed to be a perfect first crochet cables project - the pattern includes a photo tutorial on how to cable, tailored to the cowl pattern, which is perfect for practice.  And such elegant results!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yup, I have been busy at that.

This week was Chinese New Year.  That means that my parents went to my dad's former coworker's Chinese New Year party, and since we live in the same state now, we got invited too.  It of course got out way too late for us to drive home (we live an hour away), so we had a slumber party at Grandma's house, followed by a day of waiting for it to stop snowing (it didn't).  Oh yeah, and my husband appears to have an ear infection.

I promise, fibery ramblings are forthcoming.  Just not right this second.  Because I'm tired now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crochet socks some more

Well, I decided I didn't like the sc ribbing after all, so I frogged and started over.  BOO.  The good news is I'm most of the way finished with the toe, and have to say that these are some ingenious socks.

They're really curly at this point, so I had to kind of pin them down to get a good picture.  But seriously, clever right?  That's the whole cuff, the top of the foot, and the first part of the bottom of the toe.  So the seams go up the sides of the foot then up the back of the cuff, where there's less pressure on them.  Neat!