Showing posts with label yarn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yarn. Show all posts

New creativity!

I just want to spend my day making stuff!

I love creating! New yarns, new fabrics, new designs - if it's makeable without requiring a whole manufacturing plant on stand-by then I probably want to try it; at least once.

I've been enjoying new color dyes and new (to me) methods of hand painting. Twisting, turning, and coiling the fiber prior to dyeing is way more fun than I thought it would be. Initially, I wanted to experiment with more organic and less structured but I'm finding that waiting for the 'big reveal' is as much fun as waiting for Christmas morning present exchange. (I'm just a big kid when it comes to anticipation participation)

New items in the store! 

I've begun adding new items to the store in addition to new yarn colorways and handspuns.  Occasionally I take a quick break from yarn making and look for other creative projects.  My latest extracurricular project is designing fabric and sewing up yarn totes. I'm absolutely hooked! You can expect more project yarn totes and more designs in the future.

Tis the season for RSI's

Chances are you're probably in that holiday craft twilight time - the mad dash to get all those projects finished that you have in mind for your handmade gifting this season. I feel your pain, I have a list myself. I am also fortunate in that I get to knit and crochet as a source of income - so that's a lot of time spent with my hands and wrists in repetitive motion which could lead to repetitive stress injury or RSI. Even without the worry of RSI's, working long hours on knit or crochet projects can make for some pretty sore and tired hands, aching shoulders and a complaining spine.

So what can you do to reduce pain and fatigue while you craft?

Use proper body mechanics

I know I've spent some time on my nice comfy couch with feet propped up and needles in hand, in front of my favorite show only to be terribly disappointed when I can't move without pain just 30 minutes later. How is it I can spend hours in my craft room and barely tolerate the comfort of my red cushy leather couch? It all boils down to proper body mechanics.

Keeping your spine in proper alignment will help reduce pain and fatigue. Your grandmother was right - sit up straight. We all have three natural curves in our spine: the cervical (neck), the thoracic (upper back) and the lumbar (lower back). Proper alignment of the spine means keeping these natural curves lifted, not collapsed or held. Picture your spine as a gentle S curve, with each vertebrae stacked gently on top of each other. When you sit, you should feel your ears balanced over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your spine lifted. If you have a chair with a lumbar support, make sure it is in the proper position and uncross those legs! Crossing your legs while you are seated will cause the spine to twist in an unnatural position which will lead to an aching back and shoulders. Speaking of legs, make sure your chair is at the proper height for you. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle - no dangling feet and no knees pointing up. When seated, you should be able to have both feet comfortably on the ground while maintaining that 90 degree angle. I personally don't use a chair with a back. My favorite crafting chair so far is a padded storage stool. It's the right height, it's comfy and it serves a purpose (it holds my spinning fiber). I make it a point to sit up into proper spine alignment while I work but when I notice I'm starting to slouch I move on to the next point.

Take frequent breaks

It's important to take frequent breaks. If you notice yourself slouching or your shoulders are starting to squeeze in on your neck then it's time to move around. Get up, do a few squats, or a few lunges. Gently stretch your fingers back, give yourself a mini hand massage, lift your hands up to the sky and stretch out your spine. Do anything that will gently stretch those muscles and joints and get the blood moving.

I save my dusting and vacuuming for some of my "break" times. And fortunately with two large breed dogs that like to shed a lot, it's a daily break time opportunity.

De-stress your workspace

The quickest way to sit in a hunched or stiff position is to have a stressful workspace. Try not to have too many projects out at once, especially if you're planning on them all going out the door at once! This is a visual cue of a pile of work that needs to be done. Pull out one project at a time, work on it for a while then put it away before pulling out your next work in progress. This will keep your workspace de-cluttered and will help you remain calm. Stress? What stress, I'm almost finished with this and I see nothing else that needs to be done right now. That's my yarn zen mantra - it's a little simplistic but it works.

I hope you get to enjoy your crafting as much as I enjoy mine.

~Happy Crafting!~

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and can not diagnose or treat any condition. The advice given here is my personal opinion for my situation. If you are having difficulty, please consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What's trending for Fall?

As a crafter you are also part fashionista so it helps to keep up on the latest trends. We have some amazing colors and textures coming up for the Fall/Winter 2016 season.

Some colors to keep your eye on:

New hand dyed colors for the shop!
Colors for the Fall/Winter season range anywhere from the traditional deep pumpkin and mulled wine to soft prism kissed pinks, purples and blues. And the yarns are just as wonderful. Soft worsted and woolens, shiny silks and fingering, beaded lace weights - it's all beautiful.

I just finished dyeing up two new colorways for the store and of course it had to be Poe inspired - my little nod to the Halloween season.

Annabel Lee is a beautiful wool and tussah silk blend, hand dyed in soft shades of silver that blend into cool blue and purple before transitioning into a soft pink. Edgar is 100% polwarth  in shades of rose, purple, and steel grey handpainted on a creamy background. Both are wonderfully soft and ready for your needles.

Accessories as always will run the gamut from hat to fingerless gloves. The wonderful thing about accessory patterns it that they are usually quick so it is possible to punch out at 5 on a Friday and have a neat new hat or cowl by 8 AM come Monday morning. The other thing that's great about accessories is that you can splurge on a slightly more expensive yarn - always a fun thing to do.

Dropping Daisies Crochet Scarf

Adirondack Knit Hat
A few quick accessory patterns for you to try:

Adirondack Hat (Free through the end of September!)

Dropping Daisies Scarf

Fearcorbda Capelet

Yarn never gets boring

Ebb & Flow knit lace scarf pattern by Color Energy Designs
Finally getting organized!
This post contains ad links

There are so many things I enjoy about knitting - the patterns, the shapes, the history, the yarn, the community. And it never gets boring which is a huge bonus for me. I know it seems like I get bored for the amount of WIPS I currently have but the truth is I get so excited when a new yarn or a new pattern crosses my sights that I have to stop what I'm doing and cast on right that second. I do cycle back around to those less sparkly projects....eventually.

Right now I'm enjoying a Craftsy class (Lace Shawl Design with Miriam Felton) and you know what that means - more projects! And with any luck, more patterns for my Etsy Shop. Right now I'm midway through a simple lace design scarf project. Ebb & Flow is knitting up in a nice rustic wool yarn in burnt orange. It's going to be perfect for the autumn.

As I'm taking the course I can't help but look through my handspun yarns. The worsted weights are nice but I'm still trying to decide how to incorporate some negative space in future knit pieces. There's so many stitches, so many yarns and just plain not enough hours in the day. But that doesn't stop me from absolutely filling as many minutes as I can with yarn. And you know what? I'm never bored. :)

Spinzilla 2015!

Handspun yarn by Color Energy Designs
Spinzilla 2015 - already planning for 2016!
This year I finally joined the Spinzilla event as a rogue spinner. For those that don't know, it's an annual global event to see how much yarn you can spin in one week. I thought about it in previous years but never did it - always with the excuse "I'm not good enough" or "I'll wait until I'm good enough". But then I read one of those meme's: if you wait until you're enough, you will never get started. So, with that thought in mind I signed up. I'm so glad I did.

I had set a goal of spinning a mile, I fell short at 1720 yards but I learned so much and the spinning exercise was worth it. The first thing I learned? I did not prepare nearly enough rolags for spinning. What seems like a mountain of fluffy, prepared wool is deceptive. The mountain disappeared quickly. But this did lead me to my second challenge: respinning my first ever spinning attempt into something nice.

Handspun yarn
Angry caterpillars!
The respinning adventure! To be honest, if I hadn't stopped to do the respin I would have been able to meet my goal but then I wouldn't be looking at a nice hank of burgundy BFL right now. Priorities? My first attempt was terrible! I gripped the fiber too tightly, my rhythm on the wheel was akin to Steve Martin's in The Jerk and the result was a ferocious row of evil caterpillars. I left it hanging in my craft room as a reminder of how spinning should not look. But midway through Spinzilla I decided to see if I could save that beautifully dyed fiber.
Saving the BFL

The 'unspin'
Handspun yarn
The 'respin'
As difficult as my first spin was, unspinning it proved to be just as difficult. At first I tried to unspin it on the wheel - I don't recommend it. The poorly spun fiber was already unfriendly and it definitely did not like being twisted in the opposite direction running along the flyer hooks. Then I decided to use the drop spindle - much better. All I really had to do was let the spindle hang in mid-air and let gravity do its work. It was time consuming but after a few hours, I had all 180 yards unspun and waiting to be fluffed, drafted and respun. I did save a bit of that first attempt though - it's always good to have a visual reference for progress.

Handspun yarn
Much better!

 My surprise of the week was the 'crazy' skein. I took all the odd bits from the previous plied skeins and put them all together. I love the end result, in fact it's probably my favorite skein from the week. The mix of colors has me rethinking the way I plan out my colors for future yarns. I plan to play around with some more 'crazy' skein ideas.

The week was a huge success for me, not because I think I'm a great spinner....yet, but because I gave myself the opportunity to experiment and to grow as a spinner. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you challenge yourself - true for spinning, true for every day life.

Handspun yarn
The 'crazy' skein <3
If you'd like to see what Spinzilla is all about, please visit Fair warning though: once you get the spinning bug, it's hard to get rid of (but really why would you want to?).

The only thing better than surrounding yourself with yarn is surrounding yourself with yarn you've dyed and spun.

Where you spend your money matters

The Holiday season will soon be upon us so it’s a good idea to start your craft projects soon. Chances are you’re the crafty type who enjoys making a heartfelt gift for the special people in your life. And if you’re not particularly crafty then you probably either know someone who is or have local crafty people that operate a small business. Where you spend your money matters. If you are crafty, why not buy your yarns from your local yarn store or a local dyer and spinner (if not local, consider someone in your home state). Or if you make your own yarn, consider buying your spinning supplies from the market down the street. I know, why highlight what would seem to be the competition? Because small businesses matter and in the spirit of small business camaraderie I’ve spent some time searching online for local businesses (by state) you should consider patronizing for your holiday shopping needs. (NOTE: None of the businesses listed paid for advertising - I used a search engine and included the sites that appear to be in business at this time. I’ve also included notes for any business I have personally shopped).

Beesy Bee Fibers (Great fibers & great service!)

Treenway Silks (Excellent customer service & fun fibers!)

Yarns to Inspire

Gnome Acres

Indie String
New Hampshire

Yarn and Fiber
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

Spinning Bunny (I love their fibers!)
North Carolina

Black Mountain Yarn Shop
North Dakota

Prairie Yarns

Yarn Wench
Rhode Island

The Mermaid's Purl
South Carolina
South Dakota

Athena Fibers

W.C. Mercantile (I bought some beautiful silk hankies from this store - great service!)

Knit or Dye

Spincycle Yarns
West Virginia

Finding the right size yarn

Fingering weight, hand dyed yarn from Color Energy Designs
Fingering weight, hand dyed yarn from Color Energy Designs
Finding the right yarn for your next project can be tricky; especially if you've decided that you want to use a yarn that's different from the one listed in your chosen project. Much of the yarn industry is standardized in terms of labelling but every once in a while you come across an absolutely stunning yarn without all the easy markings. In that case, you can use the wraps per inch (WPI) method to determine the yarn weight. To get the yarn WPI, wrap the yarn around a pencil and count the amount of times you can wrap the yarn in an inch. Take care not to wrap tightly or stretch the yarn while wrapping. In a yarn store without a measuring tape? No worries. The distance between the end of your thumb and the knuckle is approximately an inch.

Once you've determined your WPI, use the chart below to view your yarn weight and type. Then let the crafting begin!

Yarn Type
Common Uses/Qualities
Doilies, fine lace, airy shawls. Beautiful drape; blocking is usually key for getting that desired effect.
Socks, shawls, kerchiefs, fingerless gloves. On smaller needles, provides solid texture. On larger needles, nice fluid drape.
Baby clothing, lightweight sweaters, and various lightweight accessories.
Baby clothing, lightweight sweaters, accessories, blankets/afghans, heavier socks.
Mittens, sweaters, scarves and hats. Blankets/afghans.
Aran is similar to worsted. Blankets, winter accessories, fall & winter sweaters.
Heavy sweaters, blankets, hats, cowls. Usually knits up quickly (depending on the project).
Super Bulky
5 to 6
Yarn rugs, heavy sweaters, thick blankets. Depending on the project, a very quick knit.

Fiber fanatics rarely come up for air

Has it really been weeks since my last post? And did I really miss a couple of Monday sweet tooth challenges? I would feel bad but I do have a really good reason...well, okay excuse....well, an answer. I'm blaming it on a now dwindling yarn stash, the neighborhood annual street fair and the autumn edition of Crochet! magazine.

This year was the 5th annual Delaware Ave Street Fair and the perfect opportunity to get some feedback on my work. The trouble with selling online is the lack of personal interaction and the inability to gauge customer reaction. I did manage a few sales but the focus of the street fair was yard sales and entertainment, not crafts and as many of you know, handcrafted items do not come with yard sale pricing. I don't consider the day a loss though because I had great feedback, gave out every business card I had and had an opportunity to see what customers really like (and what they really don't). I do confess though, I did cringe every time I heard the comment "oh crochet, my granny used to do that". I'm not at granny status or mindset yet - not that there's anything wrong with that, but the word granny conjures an image I'm just not comfortable with.

I was relatively on task until I saw that my Nook had downloaded some more issues and Crochet was among them. I settled in with my coffee and within an hour I had started the Carmine Cropped Cardi project. I was doomed and extremely narrow minded in my view of the world. If it wasn't related to yarn, single or double crochet then it didn't exist. The picture in the magazine was a deep blue button down cardigan with a ribbed waistband. I was almost finished with the top when I decided I wanted to change the front of the cardigan. The yarn I used just seemed too pretty for buttons and bands so I excluded them.

The next project was the Cascading Leaves bag and once again I was hooking my heart out. I was in love with the design but the bag in the picture was a solid green. I'm not a big fan of the color green so I opted for a tweedy cotton blend instead. I also love lots of color variation so instead of sticking with one color throughout I raided the stash yarn barrel and got to work. I finally came up for air after a week (or so) and set the Nook aside for a couple of days. Has the sun always been this bright?

I know I'm in trouble though because I just looked at my Nook library and I'm remembering that I may have overlooked some previous issues....

Happy crafting!


Announcing new Youtube channel!

"You need to start a Youtube channel". My sister has been after me for ages to start one to share some "how-to" crafting techniques. I didn't really mind the thought of one except for the whole being on camera thing. I am probably the first human in history to have the most documented cases of 'non-photogenicus'. (Well maybe not the most documented - thanks to the delete function on every digital camera device. And yes, it is the first feature I figure out on ANY device especially if it's not mine)
But still I kept thinking about it. I'd like to be able to pass some information on to my sisters, children and nieces and nephews. I just don't want the whole world to be able to SEE me while I'm doing it. And then yesterday my cousin posted a pic for crochet directions along with a question. I tried to answer it but I really couldn't get my point across. (Sunday morning, limited coffee) My answer was to prop my smartphone up on my coffee mug, grab a ball of yarn, a hook and push record while making up a sample. Quick upload and it was on Youtube.
The one thing I noticed immediately? Nobody can see me - it's all yarn, hook and hands. THAT'S not bad at all and it was so painless I decided to make some more. Soon after the first video, I noticed another crochet pattern/chart request for information posting and made another video. I can't lie - I was in craft nerd heaven. Let me know if you would like to see a demonstration for a pattern/chart question by sending an email or posting in the comments section.

The Color Cure for the Winter Blues

Recently I have been from one extreme to the other - painting, knitting, spinning, dyeing, wire-wrapping - I'm suffering from a lack of focus. At least I felt that way until I started looking at my individual projects: coral baby booties, lime-green snuggly socks, turquoise mesh bag, copper and brass pretty dangly things (to name a few).
I'm not suffering from a lack of focus - I'm suffering from the end of Winter lack of color! And today I found the cure. While adding an item to my Etsy store, I happened to see a blip on the side of the screen about creating a Treasury. Treasury? I clicked - it sounded...different. It's a bit like Pinterest but all in one neat little package on the same site.
Etsy said I could pick 16 items for my treasury and at first I thought it would be impossible to fill those 4 by 4 squares but then I went on my color clicking mission. I highly recommend the exercise at least once - you won't believe how much fun it is and it won't cost a thing - unless that vintage frame and boho bag just can't be turned down. (You're going to shop - why not support an Indy?)

Wool...the Winter Blues Cure!

I'll admit it...I am not a fan of winter and the recent polar vortex did not improve my view of the season. Luckily, I am a yarn enthusiast (or addict - you say pool, I say pond - either would be nice). I like to focus on something colorful, soft and warm instead of the white, cold, frozen water piling up outside.

The nasty weather does have one upside - it gives me the opportunity to work on some wool spinning technique and what better way to learn than to sit right down, pull up some YouTube and get to work.

I found the Namaste Farms YouTube channel and within minutes of watching "Preparing your yarn after spinning" I discovered what I had been doing wrong. You can read it in a book but there's nothing like watching the process. I quickly watched a few more of the videos and discovered not only where my technique needed work but WHY my yarn didn't look as nice as I wanted it to.

Handspun wool © 2014 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk
The photo above shows my spinning progression from left to right. The first two are excellent examples of over-spinning, gripping the wool too tight at times, pushing the wool at the wheel, not finishing the wool properly and not keeping a nice and steady rhythm. The greenish one (2nd in from the right) my technique was a little better - however, the wool was very difficult to work with. I purchased the wool at a bargain price and at the time of my purchase I thought I had gotten the 'best deal ever'. What I got was wool that was partially felted and fibers in every direction possible. Still, it was a lesson on what to look for when buying wool, keeping the hands in proper position and finishing technique. The far right skein is my first alpaca spin and my first dye project. You can see that the technique has improved - the strand is more uniform throughout. I dyed the finished skein using turmeric and used alum as the mordant. I found some of the information on the HGTV Gardens site.

Winter blah's - I don't think so. I have an app for's called wool, wheel and YouTube. Happy spinning!

© 2014 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is absolutely, without a doubt, the best time of year for the crafty person.Well in my humble opinion anyway. I love stretching those creative muscles, learning new techniques and the holidays always give me the perfect excuse. (Like I need one)

I was poking around the library and found Leslie Stanfield's 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet. Heaven in a book.
Excellent library find!
After flipping through the book I knew I needed to break out the stash basket, needles, hooks and get down to business.
Practice flowers in progress

Lucky me, I just happened to have some florist styrofoam in my craft room. It's amazing the things I find in there. I'm pretty sure I purchased that piece on sale about five years ago with no particular project in mind. That's how I fill my craft room - clearance racks and sales. I let the items that surround me spark creativity.
The flower patterns in the book are easy to follow. The pictures are amazing. There are even a few embellishment projects (which I may use later). Instead I decided my table could use a holiday centerpiece complete with a snowman. The centerpiece is a combination of knit, crochet and needle felting.
I'm pretty sure this is one book I'll add to my library - the project possibilities are endless and who doesn't like flowers all year long.
Merry Christmas!
© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Adirondack Hat - My Mountain Design contest submission

Recently, I opened a Vogue Knitting email to read about the My Mountain design contest and they were giving away balls of Schachenmayr yarn. Giving it away and all I had to do was ask? I clicked on the email link and had a design forming in my head before I was even aware of conscious thought. The pattern below was my submission.  I hadn't previously tried the yarn but I am a huge fan of it now. If you haven't tried it - you need to. It's soft and bulky and warm and just everything you would want for a winter hat. Visit the Schachenmayr web site for yarn information and free patterns! (

Adirondack Hat/Cowl

2 skeins Schachenmayr Boston Style
Size 8 circular needle (16")
Size 7 DPN

K = knit
P = purl
K2T = knit 2 together
YO = yarn over
PM = place marker

Cast on 56 stitches using the long tail method.

Set up row: PM; join and knit each stitch around, being careful not to twist row.

Row 1:  *K1, P1; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 2:  K all stitches.

Repeat rows until piece measures 8", ending with Row 1 of pattern.

Next row: *K2T, yo, K4. Repeat from * to last 6 stitches. K6.
Next row:  K all stitches.
Next 2 rows: repeat Rows 1 and 2.
Bind off loosely.

Using the double point needles knit a 3 stitch I-cord 22" in length. Lace through openings at top of hat/cowl. Make pom-poms or tassels for the each end of the cord.

To wear as a cowl, simply slip it over your head. As a hat, pull the cord tight and tie it up.

© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Not enough hours in a day!

Knitty City on 79th
Berroco Swing Shawl
I can't believe how much time has passed since my last post! But not to worry, I have filled my time by moving to a new city (Albany NY is amazing), recent trip to NYC (inspirational visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art & Knitty City on 79th) and of course with yarn of every size, color and texture. I even added to the stash while at Knitty City - wonderful Berroco yarns in cotton and linen. Which of course prompted another project - the Swing Shawl pattern on the Berroco website is perfect for the textures and colors I chose.

The Schackenmayr has arrived!
Recently, I opened a Vogue Knitting email to read about the My Mountain design contest and they were giving away balls of Schackenmayr yarn. Giving it away and all I had to do was ask? I clicked on the email link and had a design forming in my head before I was even aware of conscious thought. That's how it is for a fiber enthusiast. (We are also known affectionately as yarn junkies). We operate by instinct; the yarn speaks to us - we don't see the fluffy, soft ball of yarn. We see all the possibilities that it will become. For us there is no such thing as too much yarn - only undiscovered projects. Right now I have a room full of undiscovered projects and am happily collecting more.

Spinning Day

    Today was a spinning day. I like listening to the steady whirring of the wheel, the feel of soft wool running through my fingers and having absolutely no thoughts rushing through my head. It is, for me, as close to meditation as I can possibly get.
    My first attempts were less than zen for me. My feet treadled faster than my hands were prepared for leading to lots of broken strands and the constant rejoining left big, ugly slubs. It was a frustration! But, I was determined not to quit.
    Little by little, I have been improving. I'm not at lace weight...yet! And I may never achieve that quality but that's not why I do it anyway. I spin for the quietness of thought and for the love of fiber.

Here are a few of the businesses I have purchased my roving from, the customer service at each has been stellar!

Maine Woods Yarn & Fiber - 

Susan's Spinning Bunny -

Knitting, Etc. Ithaca -


Today was a work in progress day.  I'll admit it - I have a problem. I am a yarnie, I can't help myself. Every color, every fiber, every texture is my favorite as soon as I see it, touch it, hold it. I have bags, boxes and baskets in various rooms of my house all waiting for my next "must-do" project. And I have multiple "must-do's" in various stages of completion, all strategically placed so that anytime, anywhere I do have something to work on. So I guess everyday is a work in progress day.

Anytime I go shopping (which isn't very often) I am compelled to visit a fiber store. My internal GPS can find one wherever I go - it's a skill. And luckily, I haven't yet reached hoarder stage so I needn't worry about an intervention.....yet! But I do have my enablers. Recently a friend tagged me in her FB post; I clicked the notification and suddenly on my screen was a beautiful picture of shelves stuffed with yarn. I must talk a lot about yarn.

Today's projects were a set of wool socks and the Indian Cross-Stitch scarf. What are you working on?

Cable cuff toe-up wool socks

Indian cross-stitch scarf
This is a simple toe-up pattern made with Cascade Yarn 220 Heather. I started with 12 cast on size 5 DPN. The first row is knit in front of stitch on Needle 1, knit in back of same stitch with Needle 2 (do this for each stitch). At the end of the row you'll have 24 stitches to be divided evenly between your double point needles. (I am positively addicted to making my own socks now - all it took was wearing that first pair & I was hooked!)

I saw this stitch as part of a sweater pattern and had to try it. Do a search for indian cross-stitch. It's lots of fun and it adds a lot of drape to your completed fabric.

© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk