Here Comes the Sun

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

After stressing myself out over a contest project, which I finished just in time, but can’t show you yet, I jumped right in to finish some long waiting WIPs.

The vest on the left was 99% finished for so long!  All I had to do was weave in the ends and block it and it was done.  The one on the right has been finished for over a year but I never posted anything about it.  I was always planning to write up the pattern for these vests.  Left is a size L and right is a size S.  What I like about the pattern is that the size differences are in the size of the leaves.  The neckline and armholes areshaped along the leaf decreases, in the same manner, no matter the size.

I decided that the design is not so special, and I’d probably spend a lot of time writing it up, and no one would publish or buy it.  I am wearing the yellow one.  My niece is wearing another size S version in a light brown, and this green one is destined for my friend N’s wardrobe.

For all of them I used Madelinetosh Vintage, a worsted weight yarn.  Above you see colors Terrarium and Edison Bulb.

Luckily today the sun came out in the afternoon so I could quickly take these photos.  Thanks to DB for holding the pole. :-)

I also did some spinning this morning.  In my jammies.

Free For All

On January 1, 2015, the EU in its infinite wisdom enacted the VATMOSS ruling which is intended to force companies such as Amazon and Apple to pay taxes on sales of electronically downloaded products.  Unfortunately, this far reaching tax law also affects individuals selling knitting patterns online.  Even more crazy, this law affects sales to individuals living in the EU, even if said knitting pattern designer lives and works in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.  If you thought the U.S. was an overbearing bully of a country, well, the EU as a group of countries has just joined that club.

Over on Ravelry, Casey and team have been working around the clock to come up with a solution for all the thousands of pattern sales that take place via their site.  No, Ravelry is not selling the patterns.  They are only the vehicle which allows hundreds of independent people to sell their work.  If you want all the details about how Ravelry has come up with a (hopefully temporary) solution, please go here.

What is completely insane about this situation is that there is no threshold for small independent sellers, like me.  I read a lot about the situation in the UK, mainly because it’s so much easier to read about this subject in English, but also because there seems to be much more of an uproar in the UK about this.  The Dutch press, and people, seem much quieter about it.  But anyway, in the UK there is talk of convincing the government that there should be a threshold under which you are exempt form this nonsense.  Currently, in the Netherlands, the threshold is zero.  ZERO.  Sell a digital pattern for 1 euro and you are subject to this tax burden.  And it’s not so much the burden of paying the taxes – I’m fine to pay tax on what is owed – but the administrative burden is just awesome.

We are now required to 1) charge VAT according to the tax rate in the country of the buyer of our patterns; 2) provide at least TWO forms of proof of the residence of said buyer!; 3) file tax returns in those EU countries.  And this is true even if you live in Australia or Canada or Botswana and sell digital products to people in all 28 member countries for 1 euro a pop.

Some designers on Ravelry have gone with the solution to sell via LoveKnitting, a site in the UK that will handle this VAT mess for you.  But after a 6 month grace period, this will cost you .20p per item plus 20% of the sales price.  Plus you have to pay PayPal fees.  Plus take the VAT of an average of 20% off the top.  Pattern sales are hard enough to come by and this will mean that the price of a $5 pattern bought from an American designer jumps to $6.05 for me, and said designer will get $5 less 20% less 20p less PayPal fees.

Some designers have decided to stop selling to customers in Europe.  This makes me incredibly sad.  In the happy knitting world we have been open to everyone everywhere and via Ravelry we shared our craft and our lives (via images and forums) across all borders.  Now, thanks to the EU bureaucrats, we are separated, segregated, different.  Not to mention how angry I will be when I see a lovely pattern on Ravelry and try to buy it, only to find myself locked out because of this ruling.

Some designers have decided to set all their patterns to FREE on Ravelry.  The gorgeous patterns of Julia Mueller are now all free.

I decided to do the same.  After all, my pattern sales have been almost nothing the past years.  I sell, on average, a pattern a month.  That’s it.  So, on January 1, I set them all to FREE.  And as of this morning, 2 January, 2015, over 2,000 copies of my patterns have been downloaded.  This morning I have 3 patterns on the Hot Right Now page in the pattern search on Ravelry.

While I love the fact that people are discovering my patterns, I have real mixed feelings about how this has happened.  This tells me a few things, that frankly, I think Ysolda has already known and talked about on her blog before.  First, most people think that knitting patterns should be free and aren’t willing to pay for them.  Most people think that your time, as a designer, is worth nothing.  And that they deserve to get stuff for free.

Second, people will download free patterns just to have them.  They will most likely never use them or knit them.  But since they are free, they will download them and store them on their hard drive with no intention of ever bringing them to life, which, frankly, I don’t like at all.  If you are going to the trouble of downloading them, then make them.  I spent hours working on these patterns because I wanted to see them made and enjoyed and USED!  This irks me more than point one about expecting to get them for free!

Anyway, the world has changed and we have to adapt and change with it.  Even Trent Reznor puts music online for free.  Some authors have offered their books for free.  And by “free” I mean given away, not pirated or stolen.  So, my patterns are free, but I’m going to try something different too, that I’ve seen on other sites such as podcast sites and others offering information and entertainment on a small scale.  I’m putting up a DONATE button.  I’m also going to add all my patterns to the blog so that you don’t have to be a member of Ravelry to see them or download them.  This might take a few days so bear with me.  I have no idea if anyone will donate a penny because they have downloaded a pattern or knitted one of my free patterns.  But I have to believe that most people play fair, even if “fair” means different things to different people.

Please continue to support small, micro businesses in this new economic world.  Whether from an Etsy shop, or Ravelry, or from their own web sites, the micro economy should not be ignored by us consumers, nor by the big heads in government who set policy we all need to follow.  Since the 1970’s I’ve seen bumper stickers and posters reading “Buy Local, Think Global”, encouraging consumers to support local businesses without forgetting that we are part of one world environmentally and economically.  This needs to be changed to “Buy Small, Think Big”.  Support the individuals who make your world more interesting and rich.  And don’t forget that rules and regulations affect us in ways that might not be obvious at first.  Think bigger than your own self interest.

A First!

Here are my new fingerless mitts that I finished last night.  I knit them with my own hand spun yarn.  This is my first finished project with yarn I made myself!

They fit snugly and are very warm.  The fiber was 50/50 merino and silk.  I cabled plied the singles (first time cable plying!) which resulted in a worsted weight yarn.

I’m pretty proud of this first project!  They aren’t perfect, but I don’t expect perfection.  I only expect warmth and a smile on my face when I look at them.  Success!

Basic Black

Today I finished my black hoodie.  The photos are not fantastic, but with this winter weather I’m not going to make a big effort to take better ones.  I have had a migraine for 3 days so I’m happy to get this far!

I wanted a simple pattern with some cables to keep the knitting from boring me to death. This is the perfect pattern for black yarn where you will hardly notice any patterning.  There’s no point spending a lot of time on fancy stitches with black yarn!

The pattern is Piscataqua from Twist Collective.  The yarn is Imperial Yarn Erin, worsted weight.  This is the same yarn that became famous when the U.S. Olympic team’s sweaters were made from it.  I really recommend it and would definitely knit with it again.  It feels like “real wool”, spun just tight enough to be soft and show stitches well.  It is not super-wash and therefore didn’t stretch all out of shape when I blocked it.  It feels great next to my skin.  In fact, after finishing it this morning I haven’t taken it off all day. The fit is perfect and I’m VERY happy with the result.

If you follow the link to the pattern you can see that I didn’t make it as shown.  Of course not. I always have to change something!  I wanted a hoodie with a zipper so I made the front bands half as wide as in the pattern and sewed in a zipper instead of buttons.  This was the first time I’ve ever put a zipper in a sweater.

Because it’s black, it’s hard to see, but above is a photo of the back side after I hand basted the zipper in place.  I did this on both sides.  Then I sewed it down, from the right side, with my sewing machine.  That is what I was scared of – sewing on knitting with my machine, but it was easy! I didn’t have any problems or snags or tearing of yarn.  It was amazingly easy.

I had some woven tape that I then sewed in to the inside, first with the machine next to the zipper teeth.  And then by hand, sewing the tape down to the picked up edge of the knitted band.

There’s only one short area on the outside, along the zipper, where the stitches go a little wonky, but since it’s solid black, it’s very forgiving and you can’t see it unless you know what to look for.

I’m quite proud of the zipper work and I will certainly use zippers more often in cardigans.  I hate how some sweaters pull at the button band and look kind of sloppy.  This is much better.

One last photo with the hood off my head.

Now, about sweater construction – I changed that from the instructions also.  I didn’t agree with the pattern design which had no seams where you need them for strength and seams where they aren’t necessary.  You were supposed to put the back neck stitches on hold and then just knit them again for the hood, leaving no strength at all at the back neck, with a heavy hood hanging from that point.  I didn’t agree with that so I bound off those back neck stitches and then picked them up for the hood, making a “seam” point with more strength.  The sleeves were knit separately and sewn in, which I liked and did.  BUT you were supposed to knit the sleeves flat and seam them.  Why? It didn’t make sense that the body of the sweater could be knit in one piece to the armholes (fronts and back in one piece) but the sleeves must be knit flat and seamed.  Silly.  So I knit the sleeves in the round to the armhole.

And those were my modifications.  Oh yes, and I made the waist just a little shorter because I’m shorter.

Overall, I love the pattern – a well fitting, cleverly designed but simple cardigan.  And the yarn is really the best of basic 100% wool that I would definitely buy again.  I already know that I’ll be living in this thing all winter.

Stash Enhancement – Hilltop Cloud

Falling down the rabbit hole that is Ravelry, I found a new source for spinning fiber, again from the UK.  Hilltop Cloud is located, more precisely, in Wales, and specializes in British breeds of wool.  I was especially excited about her gradient dyed fibers.

I saw these kits (there are TWO kits pictured above) using Welsh Black Mountain fiber mixed with silk.  The idea is that you spin up the colored fiber separately from the dark fiber and then knit them up as fair isle mittens.  She has examples on her web site.

Of course you can spin this up in a variety of ways to achieve mitten yarn.  You could split each colored braid in 2 length-wise, spin them up and 2 ply them so that you have exactly the same yarn for each mitten.  Or spin it up and chain ply it to keep the colors together.  Or fractal spin it.  So many possibilities!

But I saw this combo and immediately thought “Brioche!”.

I bought 2 kits.  My plan is to spin the colored braids from dark purple, through blue, green, yellow to red – and then add on the other braid starting from red, through yellow, etc etc so that in the end I have 2 bobbins.  Each bobbin will be identical double rainbows.  Then I will 2 ply them so that I have 100g of double rainbow yarn.

I’ll spin and ply up the dark brown to the same wpi.

Then I will knit them together into a 2-color brioche shawl.  Ta da!

I was so excited that I started on the color right away, the same night that I got the package in the post (VERY quick shipping by the way).

She also has a lot of undyed fiber in her shop and I couldn’t resist trying some from a breed of sheep I’d never heard of – Dorset Horn.  I bought 200g for 8£ total. Wow!

It’s pretty soft (not as soft as Merino, but far softer than Texel) and looks like it will be wonderful to spin.  AND it just so happens that the “Spinner’s Study” group on Ravelry has voted to study Dorset Horn in January!  Perfect!

I will certainly buy from Hilltop Cloud again.  Stay tuned for more photos of this gorgeous fiber!

Skein 5 – Pink Party!

Remember this ball of merino/nylon I bought back in September?  It’s from Fondant Fibre in the UK.

I started spinning it in September and then it got set aside while I worked on some other spinning and knitting projects.  I picked it up again 2 weeks ago and finished it off.

Here are the 2 bobbins of singles.

I had started spinning this back before I was making lace weight singles.  Coming back to it after 2 months meant that I had learned better technique in that time and wished that I had actually started this thinner.  It was not easy to match the same thickness of the single after so long and forgetting what I was doing in the first place.  This is something I need to remember for future projects, at least while I’m learning and EVERY spinning project is something completely new and different.  Finish what you start in pretty quick order or you will forget what you were doing and how the spinning felt in your hands!

Anyway, I pretty quickly finished the second half of the 120g ball.  The fiber is super soft and was prepared very well.  It really flowed through my hands like water. I wanted to keep it fairly thin so that I could maximize the yardage so I 2-plied it.  It came out like this:

Now, notice that there is no white in this skein while there was white in the fiber? Well, when I dropped the skein into hot soapy water to soak, so much dark pink dye came out that the water turned that color immediately.  I left it alone to soak until the water cooled off and then hung it to dry.  The dye colored the white fiber a light pink.  I don’t mind.  It’s still really nice and there’s less of a barber pole effect now.  But this is something I’ll keep in mind next time and I’ll also let the seller know what happened.

The resulting yarn is about a sport weight – 300 meters to 100g.  I have 116 grams (from a 120g ball of fiber).  I think I’ll make a really simple scarf out of it.  It’s so very soft and bouncy and will feel really nice next to the skin.  I have to hold myself back from casting on right NOW!  But first I have to finish some other knitting….

Close but not quite – Skeins 3 & 4

Remember this fiber I bought in September?  Merino and silk.

I spun it up into a heavier than lace single and then cable plied it and now I’m making mittens!

I’m really happy with the yarn.  It was my first time cable plying and actually this is only my 3rd skein of yarn EVER.  I worked really hard to finish spinning it before my last business trip so I could take the yarn with me as a travel project.  This is as far as I’ve gotten since other home-bound projects have taken over my time.  I expect I’ll pick them up and finish the mittens before Christmas.

Now, I had also bought the lighter colored sister of this fiber, also in September.  This..

I started spinning this in September and finished spinning the single in October.  I went for lace weight and did really well at making lace weight singles.

I decided to do a 2 ply. Here is the skein with also a tiny little bit of chain ply with the leftovers from one bobbin.

I have to say, this is not as nice as I was hoping for.  The chain plied bit I like a lot, but the 2 ply is just kind of blah.  Boring.  The colors blended together into this kind of flesh toned boring thing.  AND the ply is too loose.  The only positive thing about it is that I’ve proven that I can make lace weight yarn. :-)

I have thought a lot about what to do with this skein.  I could run it through the wheel again making a tighter ply.  I think I’d like it better then.  But that means I have to wind it either into a ball or onto a bobbin first and we’re taking 800+ meters/yards of very thin yarn. Not fun.  And that doesn’t solve the boring color.

OR I could do the above AND over dye it an interesting color.

Or I could just use it for further spinning practice by running it through the wheel again and over spinning the 2 ply a bit and then turning THAT into a 4 ply, just for practice.

OR I could just chalk it up to experience and set it aside and move on to something else fun and interesting to spin.  Life is short….