Monday, January 31, 2011

Tips for untangling

Awhile back I was gifted some yarn.  Well, sort of.  I was given the yarn because the owner of said yarn got sick and tired of trying to untangle it after its accident with the ball winder.  I however find untangling kind of relaxing, and so thought I would put together a few tips for an enjoyable experience.
  • The first thing you should do is see if your tangle separates easily into smaller tangles.  Like this:
 You can see the main chunk of tangle, a smaller loop, a middle tangle, and the ball I'm winding onto.  I had actually been working on it for a little while in this picture.  But still, makes it so it doesn't look so bad.
  • If you have any bits that aren't really tangled (like the loop of yarn in the lower left of my picture), put something heavy on them so they don't run away from you.  The last thing you want to do is make more tangles!
  • Don't pass the yarn through itself unless you REALLY have to.  A lot of yarn tangles are just loops caught on each other, not knots... but when you pass the end through you can make knots.
  • Don't be afraid to start working from the other end, once you find it.
Go from whichever end is easiest!  If you end up with two little balls like I did... just wind the smaller one onto the larger once.  And that is the story of how I got 437 yards of free baby alpaca lace weight yarn.  :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My kids at the yarn store...

If I am allowed to say so myself, I have three fantastic little girls.  Case in point - taking them to a yarn store.
My oldest saved up her quarters to buy this ball of yarn.  She found it in the yarn store, begged and pleaded, and when mommy said she had to use her own money, she DID.  The girl appreciates yarn!  Then there's this one:
Have some YARN, Mommy!
 She is so quiet at the yarn store she goes nearly unnoticed as she carefully picks up the yarn, smells it, then puts it back.  Why does she smell it?  "It smells like YARN, Mommy!"  Her favorite?  Malabrigo Worsted.  Especially if it's orange.  The littlest miss isn't allowed to touch the yarn yet, because it always goes right into her mouth.

She clearly appreciates our efforts, though.  And hey, she only puts her FAVORITE things in her mouth, right?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holly Berry Gloves

Squeaking out under the wire for this month is my Holly Berry Gloves!  The cables are done in the tops of the stitches, rather than the posts, for a fun texture.  With the buttoned, ribbed wrist band, these are a real eye catcher.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gratuitous stash flash

While I'm talking about All For Love of Yarn, I just had to pull out my stash of Angela-dyed fingering weight.  Mmmm.
Clockwise from the top, those are her Nogi, Soleful, Resplendence, and Opulence bases.  You've also seen her Lublu base... it's what I'm using for my erstwhile crochet socks.
Wait, why am I talking about this again?  Um... Opulence has cashmere in it?  Weekly theme?  I suppose I just felt the need to take pictures of pretty yarn.  I don't do that very often, as it cuts into the time I could be knitting/crocheting the pretty yarn.  But sometimes it's fun.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hand-dyed cashmere, even

Also, red is my FAVORITE color.
The second review in my cashmere series is a real treat... Sumptuosity Lace by All For Love of Yarn.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It is 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, and 10% cashmere, and hoo nelly, do I love this yarn.  It is a very fine lace weight - there are 1300 yards in 3 oz - and so you need to be careful not to work it at too loose a gauge.  That being said, most lace patterns it's not overwhelmingly important exactly how big the finished object is, so that's easy to work around.  It is a two ply, but I haven't been having issues with splittiness like I do with a lot of two ply lace.

As for texture... I cannot stop patting this yarn.  It is beautifully soft and smooth.  It is also, however, extremely slippery.  One of my attempted swatches, I did on nickle plated needles (it was the only US4 I had!), and let me just say that it was a good thing the kids were already in bed.  My husband now jokes that I only swear when I'm in labor, and when I'm knitting lace.  It behaved itself quite well on my Harmony wood needles, however, so it's just an issue of the right needle for the right yarn.  On the note of swatches, this yarn really doesn't like to be frogged.  That fine baby alpaca halo just grabs.  That's a good thing tho if you happen to drop a stitch - if you catch it right away, it doesn't seem to run too far, which makes for much easier fixes.

Angela's yarns all have fabulous color.  The high silk content of this yarn in particular means it just DRINKS dye... the color is rich and saturated and glossy.  The kettle dye is very subtle, just enough to add some depth to the color, without distracting from the pretty stitch work at all.  It does have some halo to it, but not much.  A suggestion of a halo, perhaps.  In short?  I very much recommend this yarn.  It's absolutely delightful.

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, January 21, 2011

Mmmm, cashmere...

I have two yarn reviews for you in the next week, and both have on thing in common... CASHMERE! Cashmere, the god of fibers! Well, I've got a personal soft spot for silk, but come on... cashmere!

Today's review is on Knitpicks Capra. It is 85% merino, 15% cashmere and all soft and fluffy. It just feels luxurious... and at a very reasonable price, to boot! It is round, plied, and oh yeah, did I mention fluffy? It is listed as a DK weight but because of the poof factor, I find it works better when worked at a worsted gauge. I haven't had any problems with splittiness, and it does ok with frogging.

It's also perfect for next to the skin wear - I'm designing a cowl of it. It is also incredibly warm, so great for winter gear. Seriously, I put the cowl over my neck, didn't even button it, and my first thought was "wow, I'm warmer than I was a second ago." Really snuggly. Because it is so round, it also shows complicated stitching really well.

All around, this is really nice yarn, for a good price. As with anything Knitpicks, are there better cashmere blends out there? Yeah, probably. But they're freaking expensive. This is an excellent "workhorse luxury" sort of yarn. Seriously, I want to make the whole WORLD hats out of this stuff, because it is so great to work with and so great to wear. My ONLY complaint is that I wish it came in more colors. The palette is overwhelmingly bright. But as it's a fairly new addition to the KP line, I'm sure there's more to come.

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, January 19, 2011

Getting organized, I am doing it

Behold my new organizational device!  It's not a file cabinet, but a Sterlite seven drawer tower.  The bottom drawer is reserved for WIPs that I want to keep at my desk, the top drawer is for tools (hooks, needles and so on), and the rest is for design work!  I am however having a hard time deciding how to subdivide it.  Finished/unfinished?  Large projects/small projects?  I just don't know!  But my desk is looking a lot better than it was before.  I'm actually going to have space for some books, which I've sorely missed since our big move this summer.  Also with luck the big sort will mean getting rid of a few things.  I do tend to be a packrat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mmm, lanolin

If you are a cloth diaper mama, you will probably have at least heard of lanolizing.  It is the process by which lanolin is reapplied to a knitted or crocheted item (having been washed off in the scouring stage, before the wool was even yarn).  It's usually done to wool diaper covers to improve their waterproof properties, and to keep them from getting stinky (the ammonia in urine reacts with the lanolin to make soap!).  But I must tell you, lanolin rich wool gear is not just for cloth diaper bottoms!  A lanolized hat will repel water.  Lanolized mittens will keep the snow out better.  Lanolin is, all around, great stuff!

So for those of you who don't know, here's the process:  First you put a small amount of HOT water into your basin (don't use your sink, the lanolin can clog up your pipes).  Mix in about an inch of lanolin, depending how many woolies you need to do.  You can find 100% lanolin with breastfeeding supplies at most stores.  Just get whatever's cheap - brand makes a difference to nursing moms, but for our purposes, as long as it's 100% it'll work fine.  Once the lanolin is melted into the water (this will take some stirring), mix in a bit of your favorite wool wash or baby shampoo.  Slowly add cool water until your water is just lukewarm.  Slowly submerge your finished item into the water.  As the water continues to cool, the lanolin will adhere to the wool (as well as the inside of the basin, frankly).  I usually let mine soak for about half an hour.  Squeeze out the excess water and dry flat as usual.  Ta-dah!  Lanolized, water resistant winter gear.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


First place winners, who get a copy of the pattern:
Sara  and  Sarah!

Grand prize winner, who gets the yarn and the pattern:

Winners were selected by assigning each comment a number in post order, than drawing for the winner with  Thanks for playing, and thanks for your advice!  Winners have until next Saturday to contact me with their address so I can send them their prize.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Design break

Due to poor planning on my part, I am taking a forced break from actively designing anything.  (Altho I do still have one pattern in testing.)  That is not necessarily a problem, because all of a sudden, it has gotten COLD.  Bitterly cold.  Mazillions of snow cold.  They don't plow our street cold.  Which, of course, means everybody needs warm woolies.  Only to have me realize that my kids are distinctly lacking in what I consider proper winter wear.  Which means that I had to turn these out in a day:
Of course, they turned out too big in spite of my best efforts, but hey, that just means they'll fit next year, too.  And then this hat out over a weekend:
 And this, my friends, is why I need a stash.  Stash wool has rescued my children from certain chilliness!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The swatches, they LIE!

Just about every garment pattern out there says in no uncertain terms that you really, REALLY ought to swatch, to make sure that your FO turns out the right size.  This is all well and good.  I highly recommend swatching, for what it's worth.  But the problem is, sometimes swatches lie.  When I was pregnant with my youngest, I made myself a lovely cardigan.  One of those open front ones, so my belly could stick out the front while I was pregnant, and once I was done I could still wear it if I wanted to.  It came out just a teeny bit on the small side, but that was ok, because I swatched and knew it would grow a little bit when I washed it.  And grow it did.  The first FIVE times I washed it.  Now it is too big.  This is something of a moot point really, as it has angora in it and I seem to have developed a post pregnancy angora allergy... but maybe I could have worn it over a long sleeve shirt!  It is PRETTY!  So I suppose the point of this post is to whine.  The problem is probably that the extra weight of an entire wet sweater can sometimes stretch yarn further than it would have without the extra pull.  But it still makes me sad for my pretty blue too big sweater.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Years Resolutions

This isn't something I normally do.  It is more my style to set goals one at a time, as the need arises.  However, I'm increasingly seeing the appeal of having a day (or two... I might do this again for my birthday) where you sit down and figure out where you want to be the next time that day rolls around, just to have a day to do it on.  So, here are my goals for this year, in no particular order.
  1. Release a new pattern every month, on average.  Creativity (and scheduling) tend to ebb and flow for me, so it's unreasonable I think to hold myself to one. every. month.  I may have none one month, and two the next, say.
  2. Organize my work space.  I've talked about this before, right now my desk is a disaster area.  I'm going to put together an organizational system for myself and actually USE it.
  3. Pay attention to my own needs, specifically in the form of remembering to take the time to exercise.  I have yoga videos now, that helps, right?  The ideal is to either walk my eldest to school and back OR do a yoga video EVERY day.
  4. Take one day a week off from work crafting.  Also from editing, if I can help it.  The last thing I need is to burn myself out... plus, I do occasionally want to work up somebody else's pattern!
Do you make resolutions?  I've noticed the "get organized" thing is a pretty common theme among my friends, at least.  In a year, we'll have to see how I did!

Friday, January 7, 2011

In search of the perfect hook...

I admit it.  I've become something of a hook snob.  I discovered this working on my sock.  I was just incredibly frustrated, and couldn't figure out why.  Then I took a closer look.  I was not using an inline hook.  It was one of those Boye style hooks.  Teh horrors!  Thus began my search.  First I went to the yarn store by my mom's house (as I was down there for Christmas anyway).  They had it, but only in Brittany Birch.  For a 3.5mm, I don't trust myself not to break it.  Then behind the Clover Soft Touches I saw them... Susan Bates Quicksilver.  My favorite hook.  They only had 3.75mm.  ARGH!  So the next day I was on a quest.  Inline, 3.5mm, preferably metal.  I called four yarn stores.  Two didn't have any at all.  One was closed until after the fourth (and I wanted it NOW).  Finally I called the Twisted Knit.  They have Brittany Rosewoods, which is a harder wood, so less prone to breakage.  Maybe, just maybe.  They also offered to order me an Addi hook.  I'm not sure what kind of head they have tho, and that's the important part... it must be an inline head!

Then I stopped by Joanns and found the right size in Susan Bates Silvalume.  For two dollars.  Yeah, it's a funny kind of snob I've become.  I'll probably still order some Quicksilvers from the Colorado Springs yarn store tho.  Just, you know, later.  When I'm in less of an "instant gratification" sort of mood.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Yes, I got a Nook for Christmas.  Second hand off of Craigslist, so I could even afford the 3G version!  The reasons I wanted one were fairly simple:
  • Nooks have the eInk display.
  • I can put pdfs in it.
The beauty of the eInk display is how incredibly easy to read it is.  I mean, when you read off a computer screen, it stresses out your eyes much more rapidly than reading a printed page.  The eInk, as far as these eyes are concerned, is just like a printed page.  The downside is that eInk doesn't have a very fast refresh rate -- it takes a second for the page to actually turn after you press the page turn button.  It is however fast enough not to get in the way of normal reading.  Browsing the internet on the thing is an interesting experience, but that's not what I bought it for anyway.

And, you know, I can put pdfs in it for convenient reading on the go.  PDFs like patterns.  Yes, I will no longer have to go down into the man-cave that is our unfinished basement to use the printer when I want a pattern for on the go.  No more frozen toes!  No more emailing files to myself to pull them up on the downstairs computer!  The only problem is that you can't (as far as I can figure) download files directly onto the Nook, except that you do it through your computer.  So, I plug the Nook into my USB port, and download the file directly to the Nook.  Requires forethought, but means I don't have to try to browse the internet on the Nook.  Fair trade.

(Also, remember to enter my contest!  I'm excited, these are fun.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Knitpicks IDP!

I've got my first IDP pattern all published and live!  In celebration, I've decided to do a CONTEST!  For the winning, to the grand prize winner, the two skeins of Knitpicks Stroll in Granny Smith pictured at right and a copy of my Galaxy Socks pattern.  For two runners up, a copy of the pattern.  There are three ways to enter:
  1. Comment on this post, telling me what you most look for in an indie pattern.  There are a majillion free patterns out there.  What makes you want to buy one?
  2. Tweet about this contest or follow me on Twitter (@marudesigns).  Come back here and comment to this post telling me you've done so.
  3. Like me on Facebook, or if you already like me, write something on my wall.  Come back here and comment to this post telling me you've done so.
So, up to three entries per person!  The winners will be chosen by random number generator on  January 15.  Winners will then have one week to contact me.  If I don't hear back, I'll pick somebody else.

Fine print: anybody is welcome to enter, but I can only afford to ship to North American addresses.  Thanks for understanding!