Ketchup

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Oh I have so much to catch up on! I’ve finished a lot of stuff since I last posted here.

Let’s start with the above shawl. Done! What a project – from the dyeing to fiber blending to spinning then knitting. It was a 6 month labor of love.  The end result is really lovely but I was very glad to be finished with it.  I was tired of looking at those colors every day for so long.

Then I made a hat for a precocious 5 year old.  This was a quick and easy off the top of my head knit using Wolmeise in color Red Hot Chili.  Perfect.

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Then I made a baby blanket and romper that I had to get done before we went to the Netherlands so we could give it to the new parents-to-be. They are scuba divers so I thought the sea turtle was better than a teddy bear.

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And THEN I made a sweater for myself.  I decided I had so much yarn in stash that I had to start knitting sweaters – maybe even a sweater a month! If you are going to make such a bold statement like that it’s best to start with a sure success, which meant knitting with bulky yarn to get it done quickly.  I really love this sweater and wore it almost every day during our vacation and even the past few cold days here in SoCal.  It’s knit with Cascade Eco+ Wool which is a lot softer than I imagined it would be.  The patten is from Vogue Knitting Fall 1994.  Some things just don’t go out of style.

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And of course I had to knit a couple of gifts for my friends who I miss so much.  It was so great to see them, even if just for a short evening.

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Last but not least, I finally finished these socks.  I started them in February 2017! OMG what a bad case of second-sock-syndrome.  I only really finished the second one because it was the only plane knitting project I had going on to take with me.  I worked on it a lot during our layover in Toronto on the way back from Amsterdam, and also on the plane until they turned the lights out.  I do have a light with me, but I always feel a bit guilty turning on lights on a flight when so many are trying to sleep or watch movies.  I am pretty good at knitting without looking, but with this patterning on the legs I didn’t trust myself to do it.  But they are DONE and I love them!

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PHEW! That’s a lot of knitting.  But there is also spinning!  I just finished spinning 108 grams of 2-ply lace weight, gradient from dark turquoise to light green, BFL/silk.  This is a gift for a friend who has given me many hours of podcasting joy.

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Lastly, I’m almost finished with a worsted weight lace cardigan for myself, but I don’t have a good photo of it yet.  I hope to have it done this weekend.

My next projects will be hats for charity.  I’m going to make hats for the Camp fire victims and most likely take them up to Chico at Christmas time.  I’ll keep you posted.

And that is my project catch up post for today.

I have been seriously considering starting a second blog, that is not at all fiber or knitting related.  Since moving from the Netherlands to the US I have a lot of stuff in my head that needs to get out into words and into the world.  I am afraid of alienating any blog readers I might still have, or would attract, who are only interested in the crafting posts.  What if I had buttons at the top that said “click here for only craft related topics” and “click here for NON-craft topics” and “click here to see everything”.  That seems easier than creating a whole new blog.  Stay tuned.

Gradient in Lace

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I’ve made good progress on my Evenstar shawl in the past week.  I had a lot of hanging around time last weekend and also a lot of sitting in the car while DB drove knitting time (yes, you read that correctly, DB is driving!) If you’ve been following along on Ravelry or FB you might be thinking “Hey, you were going to make Briarcrest with that hand dyed, gradient blended, hand spun yarn! What gives?” And you would be right.

I haven’t even finished spinning all the yarn for this project.  I still have the solid light blue to finish up.  I’ve got one bobbin done and I’m half way through the second bobbin of singles and I’m trying with all my might to keep up the enthusiasm to finish it off.  I’m just so ready to be finished with this spinning project!  And at the same time I’m super excited about knitting the shawl, so you know where I’m spending my time.

I ended up with 104g and 636 meters in skein 1, and 95g and 595 meters in skein 2. That’s already going to make a huge shawl.  When I thought about wearing a huge triangular shawl, I just didn’t see it making me happy.  If I have that much gradient yarn to use up I’d much rather put it to good use in a square or circular shawl.  And Evenstar has been on my radar for AGES.  It was time to cast on.

You can see more photos of the yarn on my Briarcrest hand spun Ravelry project page.

I WILL make Briarcrest, which is really a perfect shawl for hand spun yarn.  But I will make it with some Shetland gradient that I spun as a fractal.

I’m such a nerd that I’ve made a spreadsheet to track progress of the shawl to see how I’m doing against a KAL deadline. Yes, another deadline project.  I swore I wouldn’t do these anymore for a while, but this one is fun and with fun people and it’s very relaxed with a long 3 months to get it done.  This is the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL (all info here). You cast on the first day of Summer and must be finished by the first day of Fall.  That’s in order to be in the drawing for prizes. But I’m really going with the attitude that I will do my best against the deadline and that’s all the pressure I’m putting on myself.  So far I’m ahead of schedule according to the spreadsheet calculations!

I’ve calculated the total number of stitches in the shawl, how many stitches I’ve done so far and what % that is, compared to the number of days in the KAL and the number of days into it we are now.  And the % of yarn I’ve used up.  This is almost as much fun as the knitting itself.

In other news, two weeks ago I painted my little Electric Eel Wheel Mini.  I used chalk board paint and then found some chalk markers to write on it.  I really love the idea of writing on the bobbins what I’m spinning. Not that I would forget.  Probably.

The bright green makes me happy.  What makes you happy?

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Summertime

Summer in the “Inland Empire” (just what makes this area an “Empire” escapes me) arrives with a sudden pop of heat leaving me uneasy for the dreaded July and August temps.  Not to mention – what is a wool addict supposed to do in such weather?

Thanks to a lovely friend and fellow Californian, who sent me this yarn, I have started a lightweight t-shirt knit, using Holst Garn “Coast” which is a blend of 55% wool and 45% cotton. It’s also very fine and light which is perfect for our weather. I’m making “Confetti” but highly modified. I’m making the neck smaller so it doesn’t fall off my shoulders so much, making some different colored stripes, and I moved the beginning of the round from the front to the BACK of the sweater, which is where any self respecting round should begin and end. Plus I’ll be making short sleeves instead of 3/4 long. The yarn is lovely to work with. So lovely in fact that I actually bought a stash of it!

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I went to the Holst Garn web site and found that there was a sale going on plus thanks to  another friend I learned that the shipping from Denmark is not so expensive and it’s very fast. Which was all absolutely true. I now have enough for 2 more sweaters and maybe a little more. Yay! It felt so good to buy yarn! I haven’t bought yarn in the last 6 months, which is very long for a knitter, even a knitter with a big stash already. Everyone needs a little retail therapy in the way of stash enhancement now and then.

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In other fiber news, today was the monthly “Spin Inland” meet up at the LYS in Redlands. One of my fellow spinners said she was going home at 2 to wash some raw fleece. That sounded like a grand idea.  I’ve been storing a Polwarth fleece that I bought from a farm in England about 3 years ago and it’s about time I washed it.  It’s a lamb fleece, first shearing, and the staple length is not terribly long.  Maybe 4″ in some places, but mostly about 3″.  I’ll have to put it through the drum carder, even though it is super soft and fine and normally I’d want to comb it, but it’s just too short for that. I can’t wait to give it a try and see what kind of spinnable fiber I get from it. What you see here in the tub is just over 300g/10oz.  I’ve got about 4 times that much in total so it will take a few weekends to get it all washed and dried. I’m weighing everything at every step along the way just to see how much I lose from raw to washed to carded to spun yarn. You know how much I like data.

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I soaked it in a tub of soapy water for 45 minutes, then soaked in plain hot water for 10 and then laid it outside to dry still in the garment bags.  Maybe I’ll have time tomorrow to do another batch. I’ll keep posting photos along the way so you can see the results.

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And now I think it’s time for a late afternoon cocktail and some outside knitting – hmmm – is that a bad combination?

Do it for Love

IMG_3367 2I have finished a sweater that is not a sample! It’s just for ME, which makes a change from nearly all the projects I’ve worked on in the past TEN YEARS. First, about this sweater, then more about MUST MAKE projects.

This little gem of a sweater is made with Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in color Stormborn. I bought it during my LYS’s Holiday Party this year. I fell in love at first sight. The pattern is Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, which has been in my queue list for years. I’m wearing it with a fantastic dress from Uniqlo, my favorite clothing shop. My gauge was different from the pattern so I made the 42″ pattern size to end up with a sweater of 40″ around. I also did a 1-1 rib for the collar instead of just stockinette stitch because I didn’t want it to roll. Lastly, I used needles 1 size smaller for the last 1″ if the sleeve ribbing, which just seemed neater. It’s really the perfect summer sweater. I could use another one in a less warm yarn, like a wool/cotton blend or cotton/silk blend.

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I made this sweater to go specifically with this dress to wear specifically to a wedding at the end of June. While it is not a sample for my shop, it WAS deadline knitting, and had a purpose and date stamp on it. So, while it is just for ME, it did have a bit of stress built in to the project just because of the deadline.

In the past week I’ve been thinking about my next knitting project, with a particular KAL in mind (the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL) and I realized that here again I’m getting ready to sign up for a deadline project. But what struck me most is that I have been so focused on making projects to use for shop samples, and event deadlines, that I no longer know how to pick something JUST FOR FUN. I have a house full of beautiful yarn and still I just kept turning things over in my head and couldn’t get excited about anything.

Looking back, since opening my first web shop in April 2010 (which I closed due to work changes) and then starting to dye fiber and selling it in November 2015, nearly everything I’ve made has been for a sample of some sort.  And that doesn’t count the patterns that I started writing in 2008 and needed samples for. Or projects for gifts.

Since July 2008, when I wrote my first little pattern, I’ve finished 145 knitted items and 15 official spinning projects (as opposed to small spinning samples – again with the samples!).  Out of all those projects, the ones that were not for samples, or gifts, but were just FOR FUN FOR ME number 36.  That’s 22.5% of projects, for myself without strings attached.

And like the nerd that I am, it’s probably seeing this in black and white, as a hard number, that makes me say “oh that explains why I feel the need to stop with the web shop and dyeing business”.  It’s also that I don’t have the energy to work full time AND try to keep up a dyeing business, but when I see this written out I realize too that it’s because I’ve spent YEARS doing what I love for reasons other than love.  I need to find the love again.

It’s no wonder I don’t know how to get excited about a project just for me, just for fun, just for the love.  In fact, the project I’ve chosen to start for the KAL that begins on June 21 is actually a SAMPLE for a shop I’m going to CLOSE.  But I am still going to finish spinning the yarn and knit the shawl that my talented friend Christopher designed for Ply magazine (Briarcrest Shawl), because it’s lovely, because I’m almost finished spinning the yarn, and because I said I would. And it won’t be because it was supposed to be a shop sample, but because I love the colors and really want to make it.

And after that I want to spin some yarn for gifts for friends, which is also for love and all the best reasons.

And I will cast on a new knitting project just for me, just for fun, without a deadline or obligation. I wonder what that will be like!

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My patterns, hat, cowl, mittens, are up! They are published at Twist Collective and didn’t Twist do a great job with photos!?

photo: ©Crissy Jarvis
photo: ©Crissy Jarvis

All the details are there in the pattern page, so I won’t repeat it here.

Just today I finished a cowl in some hand dyed and hand spun yarn. The fiber is Blend A, soon to be available in the new web shop.

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Of course since it’s Brioche, it’s reversible.

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I wore it this afternoon, when it was ALMOST snowing outside, but inside this cowl it was fuzzy and warm and cozy!

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.

Fall Weather and Summer Knits

Fall has arrived in NL.  The only way you’d know this is because leaves are falling and the days are shorter.  You wouldn’t know it by the actual weather – it’s been strangely warm and sunny.  We went to the beach yesterday and had lunch in the sun.  We spent this morning gardening – planting bulbs for next year.

There is still knitting and spinning going on, even if the blog has been sorely neglected. Is anyone out there still reading?  Today I finished Hitofude.  The Japanese word means something like “in one motion” and if you had a long enough yarn you could make this sweater from beginning to end without breaking threads.  It’s a strange and interesting construction that defies understanding before you knit it.  Just trust the instructions and do it.  This is the result.

It will be perfect for summer.  Bad timing on my part.  But it will also be perfect for those business trips to Thailand where the airconditioned offices are too cold.

I’m also spinning these days.  I’ve spun up and Navajo plied some yarn (my first 3 ply ever and first N-ply!!) but I don’t have photos yet.  The yarn is drying and I’ll take photos later this week.

I’m spinning some lace weight singles! Wow! Lace! I’m pretty proud of myself.  This is only my 4th “bump”, “skein”, whatever you want to call it 120 grams worth of singles.  I think I’m going to 2 ply it and use it for a lace shawl. It’s 50/50 merino/silk.

I only have this much more to go and all 120g will be spun up and ready to ply.  I split the bump in half by weight and spun each half on separate bobbins.

I’m working on this on my friend’s Matchless wheel.  More news about wheels soon!