Spinning Soothes the Soul.

Hello lovelies!

As you may or may not know, I’m currently in the thick of things, applying for PhD programs. It’s dreadful! The actual programs themselves are exciting and fun and challenging, and I know that clinical psychology is exactly what I want to be doing. No issues there!

The problem is that the process itself is dreadfully stressful. It’s quite writing-heavy, and that means that I can endlessly obsess over phrasing and whether or not I sound good enough on paper etc. etc. It’s horrid, because it’s not as though there’s anything I can do about it at this point. I’ve worked hard for several years in order to get myself into the best position possible now, and I think that my efforts have been largely successful. However, the many variables of the situation that are NOT under my control are understandably stressing me out.

So I’ve started scheduling little breaks for myself as sanity checks. When I feel myself getting too wound up about things, I go to the spinning wheel. Even though I’m only spinning in little bites while I listen to music (Fleetwood Mac seems to be exceptionally helpful in calming my mind. Side note: my dad was on one of their albums playing saxophone as part of the USC marching band. Is that cool or what??) anyway, even though I’m only spinning in little bits, for 5-10 minutes at a time, this is SERIOUSLY adding up. I’m currently spinning yarn for a pair of mittens and a cute beret, (patterns already picked out, I just need the handspun!) in a pink Polwarth/silk from Three Waters Farm and some plain Polwarth from PortFiber (which is even semi-local, up in Maine!) You’ve all heard me rave about Three Waters Farm before. Her color sensibilities are just lovely, and I especially like her tonal colorways, which spin up without too much contrast but with subtle shading throughout. I have finished the roving from there, which is shades of pink with a few pops of dark red and white for a little more variation. I love the yarn, but you don’t get to see it yet because it’s still drying. PortFiber is equally scrumptious, though different. The dyed wool is beautiful, but the shop has a lot of “naked” (or undyed, if you’re being less silly) fibers in a variety of gorgeous natural colors. I ordered some Polwarth from her because I decided that my pink TWF roving needed to be part of a hat/mitten set. Polwarth is naturally a bright, snowy white and soft as all get out, but this stuff is just pure spinning heaven. It feels like a puffy little cloud. The prep is so perfect that it actually seems to spin itself. It drafts smoothly and beautifully and somehow as it flows through my hands I feel my worries melt away. I think it’s the lovely rhythm of the spinning, combined with working with such lovely stuff that helps my stress just disappear. I tend to oscillate between knitting and spinning, but when the going really gets tough, and I need a hobby that will calm a troubled mind and help me relax? It’s spinning all the way.

This is also a PSA, letting everyone know that updates will be spotty at best until I break the back of this application beast. That may happen this weekend, I’m going to just hunker down and see what I can accomplish.

I’ll leave you with a few progress shots of the pink TWF Polwarth/silk, (which I lazily and shamelessly jacked from my Instagram) and a question. Is it completely weird that I’m excited about the subtle sheen in this from the silk? I keep thinking about how there will be a slight textural contrast and how the difference between the completely matte white Polwarth and the slightly shiny pink Polwarth/silk will make PERFECT mittens. I also think that the little pops of red will make this set match my red coat, and I am convinced that the whole outfit with a beret nestled fetchingly over my blonde curls and handknit mittens peeking out from the sleeves will make me look absolutely SMASHING. Of course, that’s my fantasy life, and the likelihood that these mittens and hat will even be done while it’s still coat weather is extremely small. However, a girl can dream of chicness.

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In Pursuit of Perfection.

Guys, I absolutely adored my Rhinebeck sweater. Loved it to bits, and I thought it looked great on me. However, it did have one teeeeensy problem. It was too short.

Not in the crop top kind of way (thankfully) but just slightly shy of the length that makes me comfortable. I like my sweaters really long and cozy, so I decided that I needed to go back and add some length. The sweater was beautiful and it deserved it! So I went back and knit ribbing until it felt like my brain was melting and coming out of my ears, but finally, look!

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I’m in love. Now if it would just finish drying! I’m sure the rain and dampness isn’t helping there..

Rhinebeck Recap!

It was awesome and I got treats! I saw a few people I knew, but not as many as I would’ve liked. I’ll leave you with all the photos I took that day, and a promise to get proper sweater photos eventually :P

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And one picture of the treats I got. Both are yummy Cormo, a fiber I haven’t tried yet.

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So, Rhinebeck!

Guys, I think I’m going!

I’m probably going on Sunday though, because I’ve got this awesome sweater to wear, and Saturday is going to be super warm. I want to wear my thick, lovely wool sweater or I’ll just be devastated, because it is so amazingly rad. I’ve totally picked out my outfit, and a 70 degree day just isn’t going to cut it.

If I get my act together before going, I’m going to try to do a photo series called “Sweater Selfies.” The deal is, I bring a tiny dry erase board and a marker, you find me, you write the name of your blog or Instagram or whatever on the board, and we take a selfie together to show off our knitwear. I may resort to making insane faces. It could be a good time. I then Instagram the whole thing with the hashtag #RhinebeckSweaterSelfies. Ya dig? Who thinks this idea is crazy? I think that it’ll be fun.

For those of you who are going to try to find me on Sunday, I look like this:

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At least, I do on a good hair day. See y’all soon!!!

A Yarn Miracle.

Blog friends, I have experienced something new and totally awesome. Something that has never happened to me before. Something so major, that the karmic backlash is going to be completely epic, and I don’t even CARE. (Actually, I like to think that  I’m a super nice person who tries to send out nothing but good vibes and happiness into the world, and when something like this happens, it’s like a nice pat on the back from the universe for not being a jerk, because lots of people are TOTALLY JERKS. But I digress.) Guys, I have experienced a real, no-foolin’, honest-to-god yarn MIRACLE.

“How?” you ask. “How could an event involving normal yarn be something that could be considered to be a miracle? Please enlighten me Lolly, because I am confused.”

First of all, you’re working with an incorrect assumption. It was not in the least normal yarn. It was my one of a kind, unique in the universe handspun, spun from fiber that was also one of a kind, and totally non-repeatable. This wool was totally gorgeous and awesome and special and there was absolutely no way to get more. It’s like something that a hipster dreamed up when they were thinking of how to be cooler than their friends (I may not be done making fun of hipsters.) But actually I should go back even further and tell you about the sweater. I already told you about my plans for this sweater in a past blog post, but having all the materials there and ready to go was too much. I had a pretty light grey yarn as the setting for the blue handspun, (Ella Rae Classic Heathers if you care) and I was completely wild to see how they looked together. I snapped and started the sweater.

Before I knew it, the yarn for the yoke was wound and ready to go. 10.14.14.1

Lovely gradient, isn’t it? I also had two matching mini skeins with the exact same gradient for the cuffs on the sleeves, but more on them later. Before you could even blink, I had most of a yoke! Knitting with this stuff is incredibly addictive, because the colors layer on top of each other in the most completely charming ways.

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I knit away happily, slapping in a bit of simple colorwork when I deemed it the right time, generally following the guidelines that I had made up beforehand, but for the most part making it up as I went. (That’s why it’s a top down sweater, so I could wing it like that. I’m not completely insane. I’ve been trying it on as I progress.) I separated for the sleeves, and in a brief moment of clarity (I do occasionally have them) I realized that if I did the sleeves first, I could use all the remaining yarn on the body. I like my sweaters to be nice and long, so had I started with the body I would be worried about running out of yarn on the sleeves if I made the body as long as I wanted. This way I could finish the sleeves and then knit until there was no more yarn. (Turns out, in mockery of my magnificent plan, I’m going to have at least a full ball of yarn extra. Take heed my friends. If you plan awesomely, the Knitting Goddess will give you tons of extra yarn as a joke at your expense. If you don’t plan well enough, she will smack you down with the pain of being impaled on thousands of tiny sock needles, and you will run out of discontinued yarn with three completely essential rows to go. Tangling with her is a no-win scenario.)

Anyway, I got distracted again! What is the deal with me? Writing ADD ahoy! Back to the story. I did one of the sleeves, using the same colorwork motif as on the yoke, just, you know, smaller. Because it was a sleeve. I started the grey portion of the other sleeve, and then, because I am smart and like to plan ahead (My mother just fell out of her chair laughing. A smart cookie I may be, but a planner I am most decidedly NOT.) I wound the ball of handspun for the other lovely matching cuff. (I was really proud of this idea, a matching handspun yoke and cuffs. Beware, pride goeth before a fall. If you think you’re super smart, the universe is about to get a big old laugh at your expense.) I tucked the ball into my makeshift project bag for the sweater, which is actually the pouch that one of my sheet sets came in. I am using that because none of my zipper bags is big enough for the sweater and all its associated accoutrements. The thing is some kind of woolly amoeba. That is actually important, because that bag buttons shut rather than zips, and is a less secure storage space for wee balls of yarn with wandering tendencies.

So there I was, one night after work, knitting away on the second sleeve, and lo and behold, it’s time to do the colorwork bit that starts the second handspun cuff! I’m excited, just so ready to get that sucker going, and I reach into the bag for my tiny ball of handspun (seriously tiny, like 40 yards), and it was GONE! (Dun dun dun…) At first, I tell myself not to panic. It probably fell out while I was working on it that evening, and I need to just relax and look around my apartment. No luck. That’s okay, I remember that the night before when I was working on it while watching TV at Greg’s house (he has a TV and I don’t, so I go over and mooch off his. Also he cooks me dinner all the time and it’s the bomb. Lest ye think I’m a total freeloader, I do way more cleaning of his house than I do of mine, because he both hates cleaning and adores having a clean house. Barter system for the win!) anyway, when I was watching TV over there, I had to dump out the project bag to get something, and it likely rolled away without me noticing. No biggie, I’ll just go over there tomorrow and retrieve it. Yeah. For now, I need to just relax and get some sleep. (you can take a guess at how well I slept, not knowing where that tiny ball of yarn was.) Some of you may be asking “But Lolly, why didn’t you just text Greg and ask him if the yarn was there?” The answer is pretty simple. I try to play it cool and act like I’m not totally obsessed with this knitting thing. It’s totally an important part of my life, but calling Greg at a time perilously close to the middle of the night and waking him up so he could search his apartment for a ball of yarn seemed a bit like overkill (and I feel like that was a solid decision for the health of our relationship.) It turned out it wasn’t there either. At that point I was feeling a little panicked. Even though I know the lady who dyes this fiber, it was a one of a kind colorway, and even if it was possibly repeatable, I wasn’t sure exactly how much fiber I had used for the rad little cuff piece. A replacement would still not be the same, and I would forever be mocked by a non-matching cuff, and it would be TERRIBLE. I decided to retrace my steps, and go everywhere that the little ball of yarn might possibly be. I was searching around the cafeteria looking like a complete crazy person, when this little old Chinese lady came over to me. She asked me what I was looking for, but the language barrier was such that we had a little trouble communicating. (Some people would be upset by this, but her English was still better than my (nonexistent) Chinese, so I figure I’m not allowed to be bummed out until I get way more educated.) Our conversation went something like this.

“What are you looking for?”

“A ball of yarn”

*blank look*

“Like string? A ball of string?”

“A bottle of WHAT?”

“No, a ball, not a bottle.” At this point I think I tried to shape it with my hands. That poor lady must have thought I was some kind of lunatic. But then I bethought myself of the great and mighty powers of the google, and I pulled up a picture of a ball of yarn to show her, figuring that it would be more effective than my attempts to explain why I was looking under all the tables. I showed her a picture of a ball of yarn, and she immediately shouted “OH!” and ran over to the windowsill where my ball of yarn was sitting innocently, for all the world like it hadn’t jumped out of my bag like a TRAITOR. The lady looked at me very sternly, and said “It was on FLOOR.” I felt ready to sink through the same floor with embarrassment, because she was gazing at me with this expression that clearly said “you can’t even keep track of a ball of string, how are you even a person who lives in the world?” However, she patted my shoulder and waved away my thanks, like she goes around fixing disasters in her spare time like it’s no big thing. I clutched my returned treasure, hardly believing that I had actually found the thing. I had truly believed that it was gone forever and made all kinds of crazy contingency plans that turned out to be totally unnecessary. Of course, having found it, I immediately smooshed it on my face and took a selfie (as one does) so all of you could share in my moment of joy.

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I promise that it’s not out of any sense of narcissism, because there is some weird grainy business going on with that picture. My face doesn’t normally look (quite) that odd. Of course, I started knitting the yarn into the sweater immediately so it didn’t have another chance to escape, and now…

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I’ve got a few more inches to add onto the bottom and some ribbing so it clings fetchingly rather than flaring out weirdly, (I have a thing about sweaters that don’t have ribbing at the bottom, and it is not a good thing. Maybe someday I’ll break out of that box, but for now I think they just look weird.) and then it’ll be done! When it is done, that thing is getting a major blocking, because the sleeves are puckering slightly. I still think that it’s within the realm of something that blocking can fix, so we’ll see!

And that’s my story! (it turned out to be much longer than I thought.) Until next time friends!

Too Many Milestones!

So yesterday was my one year anniversary at my current job. Which I totally love.

It was also my two-year blogiversary!!! I love this blog. It encourages me to be creative, and it helps me connect with other creative people. It’s also been a huge boon in my personal life, since I get to bore the muggles less with my constant knitting chatter. I put it here instead! It’s been awesome connecting with all of you, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to me. I love how blogs can be a conversation, and how they can connect you with people who share your funny little niche interests. Blogging has been uniformly awesome, and I hope to keep doing it for a long long time! Thanks for coming here to hang out for the last two years :)

-Lolly

Rhinebeck or no?

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I’m trying to decide whether or not I am going, so if you are, pipe up in the comments!

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Baby Sweaters Forever.

I know I’ve already mentioned that my aunt just presented me with a new knitwear model. (read:baby) I knitted up that lovely angora set for him, but I couldn’t keep from thinking about how it would only fit for a few months. Babies grow like weeds, and that sweater wouldn’t even fit for the whole winter! Perish the though. Baby Colson needed something else.

The thing is, I knew that I wanted a pullover, and I knew that pullovers and babies mix better once their necks become less wobbly. Despite the fact that my aunt is a champion mom, I thought it would be better to give her a sweater for next winter. I ordered some yarn from KnitPicks, and started cruising Ravelry for possibilities. Now that I knew the gender of the baby, a classic red and cream fair isle sweater seemed like just the ticket. After searching for a while, I decided that Anders was just the one.

I think the results prove my perspicacity.

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I love this little sweater. It is beautiful, warm, and classic. The snowy woods motif is utterly charming, and it will be unbelievably cute on a one year old. I actually made the two year old size, in hopes that it would fit him all next winter. The yarn was Knit Picks Swish DK, 100g undyed, and 100g of Hollyberry, which means that this beauty is also machine washable. I messed with the pattern a bit because I may be a little bit of a perfectionist. I wanted the sleeves to end in cream for symmetry’s sake, so I extended the sleeve chart and finished off with cream instead of red. I like the way it looks better. (I can’t help modifying patterns, even if they’re perfectly nice already.) I finished off the wee sweater with some buttons I snagged at my new favorite yarn store, and I think that they look perfect. (I sewed and knotted them quite securely to avoid choking hazards.)

I am a little superstitious about knitting things for people. I know that there’s no scientific basis for it, but I believe that covering my family in tangible expressions of love protects them somehow. And who needs it more than tiny babies? They’re so fragile and little. But a handknit sweater is like a big warning sign to any trouble that might come their way, that this baby is loved and protected. Even though it may not actually do anything, it makes me feel better. There is a whole world out there that I can’t control, but at the very least..

I can knit, and I can keep my family warm.

One Hat, Three Ways!

Hi Friends!

I have a veritable parade of finished things to show you, but I’m going to drag it out because that’s how I roll. Besides, where’s the fun in showing it all at once?? Then I’d be out of blog material :P

Some of you may remember, if you spend much time on the blog, that I was working on a hat for my grandpa. When last you heard of it, I had spun the yarn out of some absolutely scrumptious merino/yak. I am now happy to tell you that it is all finished! Not only that, there are three different ways to wear it, with increasing levels of hipsterdom :P (I would like to take a moment and say that no matter how slouchy his hat might be, my grandpa couldn’t possibly be a hipster. I may, be, however, since not only am I wearing a slouchy hat in some of these pictures, I couldn’t corral a photographer so they are selfies.) For those of you who don’t know what a hipster is, they’re sortof hard to describe. I would say that hipsters are a group of people who try really hard to be cool while pretending that they don’t care about being cool, and they do a lot of things “ironically.” Also, they seem to be really into music, but less to actually enjoy it and more so they can brag about the obscure bands they like (thus making them seem cool.) I am making fun of them in this blog post. It’s very enjoyable.

Hat Style #1, the typical Watch Cap:

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This style says, “I don’t care about being cool, I just want to be warm.” The double layer of fabric covers the ears and much of the head, keeping the cold out. It’s super snuggly and warm! Perfect for when the wind is blowing and you still have to go outside. It’s also the cutest (on me) of all the styles I think. I will remember this for future reference.

Hat Style #2, Slightly Slouchy:

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With this style, there’s still a concession to extra warmth. The hat is still folded up slightly for ear protection, but it’s just a wee bit slouchy at the top. This style has aspirations to coolness, but there’s still an element of practicality. Of course, I’m a total dork, so even a slightly cool hat style isn’t going to do much for me :P

Hat Style #3, the Full Hipster:

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This style is absolutely hipsterrific. Totally slouchy, it knows how cool it is. This hat might look down on your taste in music and wear lots of flannel shirts. On me, it makes me look like one of the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White, but let’s try to ignore that fact.

All joking aside, I’m actually really proud of this hat. It’s warm, and soft, and totally too big for me, which is great, since my grandpa has a much bigger head than I do. I made it a little extra long because I didn’t want to waste the lovely handspun yarn that I used for it. It will be beautifully warm during colorado winters, and I don’t think that even the most sensitive skin could object to it. It makes a baby’s skin feel like sandpaper. Kittens are jealous of how soft it is. It’s also the first thing that I imagined and created practically from start to finish. I started out with an idea for fiber, and now I have a hat. It’s awesome! I love having that much artistic control over what I make. (It’s also nice when an idea actually comes to fruition the way you imagine.) Anyway, I hope that my grandpa likes the hat. My mom will be bringing it to him when she goes up to see my aunt’s new baby. Fingers crossed!

The story of how I found my Local Yarn Store.

Oh yes, knitty friends, I now have a local yarn store!

I’ve had bad luck with previous stores, with both of my two favorites closing on me in a matter of months. That was a while ago, and I haven’t had a local place to go look at stuff since. It’s probably been good for my pocketbook, but bad for creativity.

However, I should back up to how this all came about. I’m telling the story out of order and that’s bad. But first,

MOM STOP READING NOW OR ELSE.

Okay! I’m going to talk about Christmas, more specifically what I’m making for mom, and I don’t want to ruin her surprise. She actually likes my surprises so she won’t peek. (unlike SOME people.) Well, I’ve started planning Christmas presents, and I decided that mom is going to be this year’s big winner. She is very appreciative of handknits, and goes around telling anyone who will listen how clever I am and listing all the stuff I’ve made her and how it really makes holidays special to get something handmade. Of course this behavior ensures a steady stream of handknits forever, even though she lives in Texas. It’s actually quite funny, my mom is one of those people who can’t sit still. Even if she’s watching TV, she’ll fold laundry or do crunches or something. So when I’m curled up knitting, sometimes she looks at me like I’m some sort of exotic creature, because she doesn’t understand why someone would stay in one place for so long. However, we are more similar than you might think, because knitting is what I do so I can sit still. I hate sitting still and doing nothing! Knitting makes down time feel productive. It’s pretty much a win-win.

Anyway, back to my mom. I knew that I wanted her to have something really lovely for Christmas, and I was thinking a nice, light, drapey cardigan. I did some research, (read, I cruised Ravelry for HOURS) and I finally settled on the Wispy cardigan. It’s a lovely piece, and would look equally good over a top and jeans, or a pretty dress. Also, my mom is quite stylish, and it just has a sort of effortlessly chic vibe. I realized that for this pattern, I could use yarn from one of my favorite companies, MadelineTosh Yarns. Their laceweight single ply yarn Prairie had exactly the right yardage in ONE SKEIN to make this cardigan. How perfect is that? (after the holidays I will make myself five of them.) I started cruising around online looking at colors, and I was wracked with indecision. Yarn colors can look very different in person, and I wanted this to be perfect. I was also leaning towards blue (because I like blue and my mom has blue eyes) but none of them felt right. I decided that I needed to hold the yarn in my hand, and that would help me make a decision.

So I looked online, and I found a place that might have some, Stitch House in Dorchester. I decided to drop by for a look and DID THEY EVER. What a beautiful store. There was yarn, but also sewing stuff and buttons and so many kits and patterns and I loved it. The staff was pretty much perfect too. They asked me if I needed anything when I came in, but they were neither pushy nor aloof. I was told to “come in and fondle anything,” and then left alone until I needed something. (it’s hard for a yarn shop to strike the right balance for me. I can be a trifle touchy when contemplating buying something.) Eventually I did ask for their opinions, and they were perfectly nice! I picked out nine possible color choices, and the owner told me to “Bring them over to the table and don’t worry about the mess,” because the light was terrible in the corner where I was clutching skeins of lovely yarn to my chest. So I did.

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This was only a fraction of the colors they had. The staff told me how each one knit up, and I finally settled on one of them I thought would look smashing on mom. (I’ll show you which one later) I then pulled out the Fair Isle baby sweater I’m working on so I could choose buttons, and they helped me settle on a color there as well. When the owner asked me if she could touch the sweater and then flipped it inside out to check my floats (they passed muster, I’m happy to say) I felt right at home. (For the non-knitting, “Fair Isle” is when you use two colors, alternating stitches in each color based on the pattern. “Floats” refer to when you’re carrying the color you’re not using in the back of the work, and it’s bad for them to be either too tight or too loose because things look funky.) Last but not least, I mentioned that I was a spinner, and it turns out that one of the ladies who works there is also! When the owner told us to “go make out in a corner” in a mock-exasperated tone of voice, I started to giggle helplessly. This store has a cool, chill vibe, lovely stuff, and the prices aren’t totally jacked up like the store on Newbury street! (nicer staff too) They do knit night on Fridays with snacks and beer, and you better believe that I’ll be going.

But you guys really want to see what I bought, don’t you?

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Lovely, no? It’s the Wicked colorway, which from far away looks brown, but close up you see that it had purple and green undertones and is basically fabulous. It will look beautiful on my mom. The cream-colored buttons are for my current project, and the others were just irresistible. PINK HEDGEHOGS PEOPLE. I mean come on, how could I resist?

OKAY NOW NANA STOP READING.

Also, that thing you see in the background is an old-fashioned inkwell that my Nana randomly sent me because she knows how I adore such things. There’s a reason why she’s getting a shawl for Christmas.

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