Archive for the ‘Yarn’ Category

Fall KAL Reboot

September 3, 2012

So when I was thinking of doing a KAL I forgot two important things. One, in places that are not here, it’s been kinda hot. Like, living on the surface of the sun hot, apparently. And while it’s been warm here, it really hasn’t been hot and I’ve never much felt deterred from knitting this summer. I don’t blame people in hotter climes for being adverse to setting a hefty pile of wool onto their laps in the midst of a day that calls more for lemonade than hats and I certainly don’t blame them for not thinking of joining a knit along when it’s hot out!

Two, I wanted the KAL to keep me in touch while I’m back at school, but I hadn’t yet started and didn’t have an idea of exactly how my time would be spent. I HAVE started now, and I have a better idea of how my time will be used.

With all that in mind, I’d like to start over with the knit along idea. I’d still like to have one! And I’d still like for everyone to participate. But I’m going to make this easier on all of us by moving the start date a little later, extending the time period (including the time period to use the discount code), and offering some fun prizes from my stash as well as some pattern prizes.

The knitting itself will take place in the month of October from the 1st to Halloween, so a great time to get started on holiday gift knitting. And anyone who finishes a project and posts a picture in the finished projects thread will be eligible for a random drawing for any one of the prizes listed below. I dug through my stash and found some real beauties! I can barely bear to give them up, but really, what’s knitting without sharing? To join in, post in this thread in my Ravelry group!

Now: prizes!

Garden Series

First off, I have this half skein of Creating from A Verb for Keeping Warm. It’s a gorgeous warm caramel yellow, dyed by Adrienne at Verb using a natural plant dye made from Maroon Coreopsis. It’s part of the limited edition Garden Series, and I fell in love with it at first site. The half skein is enough to make a pair of mitts, which is what I’d planned on doing with it!


Next, I have a kit for Dorothy. It’s in Knit Picks Imagination in Castle Walls and Ruby Slippers, which is enough to make a shawl the opposite of mine (grey on a red field rather than red on a grey field), but I will order a second skein of Ruby Slippers so that you can choose to go either way with the pattern!

Chronos 1

Here is the skein that it’s breaking my heart to give up, but really, the joy of BFL/Silk is meant to be shared. I have a skein of Orange Flower BFL/Silk Lace in Chronos. It’s a glorious grey brown skein with the shine and softness of BFL/Silk and it’s just amazing. I sincerely hate to give it up, but I wanted to offer something truly special for this knitalong and this is it. Orange Flower’s always been hard to get and now it may be discontinued at the end of the year, so this is a great opportunity to get a really rare skein of yarn. This skein would be fabulous with any of my shawl patterns, or heck, someone else’s shawl pattern!

Finally, patterns! I will give away two copies of Jolie with Pointy Sticks. The small patterns are great for gifts and a lot of fun to knit!

I hope you’ll join me and I look forward to autumn!

Summertime and the livin’ is woolly

July 9, 2012

Ice cream yarn

I don’t really have anything to share right now, so enjoy this photo of Nora eating yarn ice cream that she dyed herself. The flavor is Raspberry Sunset, she says!

Wovember 2nd – Merino

November 2, 2011

What’s Wovember? Look here.

By far the most common knitting wool in use today, merino was not always so accessible. Sheep originate from Asia Minor and parts of Europe, but the ancient Phoenicians, in their role as importers and exporters, introduced them to the North African region, and from there they were imported to Spain, Wikipedia suggests as late as the 12th century. Compare this to England, where sheep were introduced by Neolithic settlers around 4000 B.C.E.

Superwash merino dyed by Sundara Yarns

Spain made up for lost time, though, by breeding a fine wool sheep. The Spanish imported English sheep to improve the quality of their stock and between the 12th and 16th centuries they became major wool exporters. The new breed, Merino, had a small body and soft, fine wool with a short staple. The flocks were owned primarily by powerful land owners in Castile who formed a guild known as Honrado Concejo de la Mesta. They formed agreements to allow the nomadic sheep right of way along Cañadas Reales (drover’s roads) still legally protected for sheep to this day, though the laws are no longer strictly followed. Some of the older cañadas may be neolithic in origin, following the paths laid out by migratory herd animals. Sheep can graze in areas too unstable for arable farming, so the sheep moved freely through the no man’s land between Islamic and Christian Spain, moving with the seasons, and making the members of the Mesta, who included many Spanish nobles and Church officials, rich. Members of the Mesta were exempted from military service. Exportation of their precious Merino sheep was punishable by death. Their power and wealth grew and wool money financed much of the Castilian economy. With only Spain and England as the only European wool exporters, it seemed like the wealth was only going to continue growing.

Single ply merino, dyed by Malabrigo Yarns.

Habsburg Spain, however, had become overdependent on the wool money of Castile. The Mesta’s power was too great, the sheep too cossetted. The powerful Mesta began to ignore the cañadas, allowing their sheep to trample farmland without fear of repercussion. The land of Castile became barren. Crops failed, and grain had to be brought in from outside the region at great expense. The price of food staples skyrocketed. The economy was in trouble for other reasons as well. Near constant wars fought largely on credit had brought Spain into difficult straits at a time when it was still recovering from plagues and famines of the previous centuries.

In the 18th century, Spain relaxed its hold on the merino and began exporting small numbers of live sheep to other countries. The first major exportation, though, would come in 1765, when a large number of sheep from the Royal Escurial flock were sent to Saxony. In 1786, King Louis XVI purchased more than three hundred Spanish Merinos, the foundation of what would become the Rambouillet breed, which would in turn be the basis for the Australian Merino. Merinos have served as the basis and backbone for many sheep breeds around the world since they became available as breeding stock. The world at large gained access to the Merino sheep after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, during which time many flocks were killed or destroyed by the invading army.

Undyed Rambouillet yarn, from The Sincere Sheep.

Today, the sheep that once was a protected state valuable is now the most common in the world. Almost all finewool breeds today are at least in part Merino. There are worries that a preference for merino wool may be endangering some of the more rough coated sheep, as the fall prices of wool in favor of synthetic fabrics have made the wool industry a costly and losing business proposition for many sheep producers.

Extreme close up of superwash merino yarn, dyed by Little Red Bicycle.

(Note: Most information in the above post was obtained through specific web searches for information. I did try to find more than one source for much of the above, but there may be inaccuracies. Please let me know if I’m wrong in any specifics.)

How’s it holding up, part the second

September 21, 2011

Yesterday I posted about the wear and tear on five sweaters, and today I have five more to talk about. All of the sweaters today have actually held up very well, so hooray for that! No more disasters like my poor Yoke Sweater.

Francis Revisited

Francis Revisited was an impulse cast on knit between other projects last winter. I used Cascade 220 at a very loose gauge, and that loose gauge means it probably won’t hold up as well as it would at a tighter one. However, Cascade is a workhorse yarn, and while the sweater pills a bit, it’s still in excellent condition. I tried to get a picture of the pilling, but it’s so minor that I don’t think it really shows in the photograph. My favorite thing about this sweater is the color and that has not faded or changed in any way. It’s hardy and has softened with wear. There’s a reason Cascade is such a popular yarn, and that’s the winning combination of a low price, wide selection of colors, and a hardwearing yarn. (My daughter has a toy cat I knit her in Cascade 220. It shows almost no wear on the yarn despite the fact that she drags it around with her. The stuffing’s shifted, but the yarn itself remains sturdy.) You can find fancier or softer yarns, yes, but for the money, Cascade 220 delivers exactly what it promises.

Flutter Sleeve Sunniva

I made two versions of my sweater Sunniva, and this yellow one was the first and the last. First because I started it first, but I had to rip it when some aspects went very wrong, and I put off starting over until after I’d finished the purple version. This version of Sunniva is knit in Malabrigo Sock. It’s shown pretty much no wear, and has held up very well, with a lovely drape, a lovely color, and a very soft hand. My only complaint is my own fault: as you can see, this sweater is embarrassingly uneven in terms of my stitches. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that it was knit and then ripped, but some of it is likely my own knitting. I’m not sure how that happened, as I think my knitting is usually pretty even, but multiple blockings have not made the stitches lie flat. At a distance, this is not very visible, but it bugs me every time I look at it closely. I have not had this issue with Malabrigo Sock past or since. I don’t know how Malabrigo managed to make a sock yarn that is almost as soft as their one ply and still have it be sturdy enough for garment knitting, but they have. This is a great yarn and I love this shade of yellow.

Long Sleeve Sunniva

This version of Sunniva is knit in Orange Flower BFL 4 ply, which is unfortunately very very hard to get these days. Orange Flower updates sell out in like five minutes flat, and that is not an exaggeration. However, if you can manage to snag some of it, do, because this sweater, which I wore pretty much constantly last fall and winter, looks brand new still. BFL is amazing. I wear this sweater against my skin. It does not itch, and there is no major pilling. The photograph is of a high stress area under my arm. (I put a false seam on this version of the sweater, which is not included in the final pattern.) Although I wore this sweater all the freaking time, and although my arm rubs that area a good deal, there is no real wear on it. It is soft, warm, breathable, and beautiful. I want to knit all my sweaters in BFL.


Atalanta is a younger sweater than many of the ones already discussed, but it’s still worth talking about because of how well the yarn’s holding up so far. Atalanta is knit in Knit Picks Shine Worsted. I was a bit wary of cotton and cotton blends. So many of them are hard on the hands, and then the growth rate after knitting can be immense. Soft cottons sometimes flake or become shoddy very quickly, like dishcloth yarn. Shine is a cotton/Modal blend, and it seems to avoid cotton’s sins. I think it looks great, and it has not stretched, faded, flaked, or shown any of the unpleasant qualities that I think sometimes crop up with plant fiber yarns. This is a very soft yarn, but it’s not a shoddy one, and the price is fantastic. This sweater has gone through the wash a number of times, and I don’t think it shows.

The Ever Popular Drops Sweater

I saved the Drops Sweater for last because it’s probably my most worn of all of them. I knit this in 2008 when everyone and her mother was making one of these. It’s an easy, fast, free pattern from Drops, and it doesn’t have an actual name. I knit mine in Rowan Scottish Tweed Chunky that my husband gave me as a gift. Scottish Tweed Chunky is not a soft yarn, but oh does it wear. And wear. And wear. I am constantly in this sweater from the moment it gets cool in autumn until winter is well over and we’re out of the spring chills. Yes, it has pilled a little, but considering how often I wear it, hardly at all. It is hardly different than the day I finished knitting it, and that includes the fact that our now deceased rat Daisy once took a small bite out of it. I darned it with a little leftover yarn, and the thick, tweedy texture of the yarn makes it next to impossible to see where unless you are looking for it. This yarn is impervious. Rowan has of course discontinued its Scottish Tweed line, because Rowan is constantly discontinuing its various tweed lines and replacing them with something new. I suspect that the current Felted Tweed Chunky, while not of the same composition, would be a similarly hard wearing and long lasting yarn. I do love the sport/DK Felted Tweed, and Chunky is the same stuff writ large. Rowan yarns are not cheap in the U.S., but I think they can be a very worthwhile purchase for a quality product. Just don’t get the RYC stuff!

How’s it holding up?

September 20, 2011

First off, I did an interview with the incredibly gracious Lumia of Worsted Knitt, so if you’d like to read it, head on over and check it out!

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages: take out old projects that I’ve worn many times and check in with how the yarn is holding up. My initial reaction to a yarn is often enthusiastic. I choose yarns because I like them, and I usually like working with the yarns I chose, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right yarn for a given project, or even that it’s a great yarn. I’m going to pull out some of my most worn sweaters and let you know how they’re doing. I have taken photos of high stress areas on each sweater, but sometimes a photo alone doesn’t convey what is right or wrong with a given yarn for a given project.

I’m going to start with the bad news here.

Joelle’s Favorite Yoke Sweater

Oh my gosh you guys. This is my Joelle’s Favorite Yoke Sweater, which I made back in 2008. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy. I loved this sweater so much when I made it, but it has not worn well at all. Part of this is probably not the fault of the yarn – the sweater was accidentally put through the washer and dryer a couple of different times, and although the yarn is superwash merino, this is really not the best way to treat it. However, I don’t think all of this can be blamed on the washer. The yarn under my arms felted and stretched and wore very poorly. The whole sweater has almost a crispy crunchy feel to it. I have a scarf knit in Smooshy that has worn much better with hand washing and less friction, but I never wear this sweater now because it’s plain uncomfortable. It also looks kind of icky because of the fabric’s stiffness. I do not think I will use Smooshy for a garment again because of the way it’s worn in high friction areas.


The next sweater on our tour of ugg is my O W L S sweater. The pattern itself is one of my favorites, and I will surely remake this sweater one day. However I am very, very disappointed in my yarn choice, which was RYC Soft Tweed, now discontinued. I don’t really know the intricacies of Rowan’s decision to have a separate line under the RYC label, but so far my impression has been that RYC yarns don’t hold up as well as traditional Rowan label yarns. Soft Tweed was a wool, rayon, silk, and nylon yarn that was spun in a soft, puffy multi ply that looked like a single ply. It felt heavenly when first knit up, very warm and light. It had an unfortunate tendency to grow when worn, and this had done that – a sweater that was skin tight when first knit has gradually loosened over time and become baggier. But that’s not my main complaint. The yarn itself went from being soft and puffy to dry and sort of shoddy in look and feel. High stress areas on the garment became pilly, which I don’t always object to much, but in this case, they felt first pilly and then noticeably thinner than other parts of the sweater. The whole thing now feels cheap and unattractive instead of luxurious and soft.

Maude Louise

Maude Louise II was made from another discontinued RYC yarn, Soft Lux, a blend of merino, nylon, angora, and a metallic sparkly thread. This yarn has held up considerably better than the Soft Tweed, but still has not held up quite as well as I’d hope, particularly in high friction areas like under the arms and against the sides of the sweater. It has loosened over time so that ribbed areas are now quite baggy, and the elbows have stretched out a little. It is still soft and while I think it looks less lovely than it did when I first finished it, I can and do wear it. I would use a stronger wearing yarn, though, were I to make it a third time. (I don’t foresee a third time coming up, but if it did, I think I’d pick a strong pure wool.)

McQueen Knockoff

I know this sweater looks pilly, and it is, but the news here is mostly good. This is my McQueen Knockoff, knit in Knit Picks Andean Treasure. Andean Treasure is a pure baby alpaca that comes in beautiful heathered shades and at Knit Picks’ typical excellent prices. I wear this sweater a lot in the winter, and it is crazy warm and pretty. It does pill, yes, but the sweater itself has remained structurally intact despite frequent wearings, and the yarn has gotten softer with the wearing. I do have to depill high stress areas of the sweater, and the yarn has settled a bit around the cables, making them oddly smooth, but I love this sweater so much, and I think Andean Treasure is a really nice sweater yarn. If you don’t mind going over your sweater with a sweater stone every so often, this yarn is a great choice for a late fall/winter sweater.


Liesel was my first knit of 2010, a birthday present to myself knit out of Sundara Aran Silky Merino, one of the most expensive yarns I’d ever purchased at that point. I was very very pleased with how it looked and knit up, and overall, I am still just as pleased. I think ASM has just enough twist to the single ply to make it stronger than a one ply merino/silk blend might usually be. It has fuzzed and softened with wear, but has not worn out. Part of this is that I wear it fairly rarely, and when I do, I am very careful of the yarn. The colorway, Arabian Nights, is one of my favorites and I want it to last. It is not the strongest yarn out there, but I think it’s a good choice for Liesel, a cardigan that I wear in the spring and late autumn when the weather is sort of undecided, and that dresses up a tank top beautifully. Another reason to combine this yarn and pattern is that Liesel takes very very little yarn to knit, making it a perfect showcase for expensive yarns you might not usually buy.

I have five more sweaters that I took out, so I’ll continue this soon!


Relief – win yarn and patterns

April 25, 2011

After the terrible earthquake hit Japan in March, relief efforts were almost instantaneous. The recovery process will be long and hard, though, and money will be needed continually for those relief efforts, long after the earthquake is gone from the news entirely. As always after a disaster, money is what is most needed. Donation of goods is costly and complicated and can hinder relief from going where it is needed, however good the intentions. Some knitwear designers have designed patterns, the income from which will go to charities doing work in Japan, and I may do something of the sort myself in the future, but for now, I’d like to hold a raffle to raise money for recovery efforts.

How to enter:

Donate $10 or more to a charity providing on the ground relief work in Japan. I used Charity Navigator to look up organizations working in the area, and am recommending donations to Direct Relief International, which gets a very high rating on Charity Navigator. If you’d prefer to donate to another organization, such as Médecins Sans Frontières or the Red Cross, that is fine with me.

Forward a copy of your donation receipt to knittingkninja AT

For each $10 you donate, your name will be entered once into a drawing to win one of the four prizes listed below. If you donate $20, that’s two entries. $50 is five entries. I will only give one prize per winner, though, to spread out the chances of winning.

The contest ends Monday, May 9th, when I will draw four winners.


#1: Becoming Art Gaia Fingering and Clothilde (click to see larger)

Becoming Art Gaia Fingering


This package includes a copy of the Clothilde  shawl pattern and a skein of Becoming Art Gaia Fingering in the Drawn colorway. If you already have a copy of Clothilde, you can either select a different pattern or I will be happy to gift Clothilde to the knitter of your choice. You can of course use the yarn for any pattern you so desire, but there is enough in the skein to knit a Clothilde shawl. Gaia Fingering is a 100% merino yarn in a single ply. It is NOT superwash, so care must be taken when washing it to avoid felting. I found this colorway unbelievably beautiful, and I hope you do, too.

#2: madelinetosh Tosh Sport and Beetle Tracks (click to see larger)

Beetle Tracks

madelinetosh Tosh Sport

This package includes a copy of the Beetle Tracks scarf pattern and a skein of madelinetosh Tosh Sport in the Charcoal colorway. The yarn is enough to knit a Beetle Tracks scarf, though of course you can use it for any project you see fit. If you already have a copy of Beetle Tracks, you can either select a different pattern or I will be happy to gift Beetle Tracks to a knitter of your choice. The yarn in this case is rather special, as I purchased it off of the madelinetosh Etsy store, and the full proceeds were already donated to charity work in Japan. This is a great way to pass it forward. Tosh Sport is 100% superwash merino.

#3: Rocky Mountain Dyeworks Bow Falls Fingering and Rosa (click to see larger)


Bow Falls Fingering

This package includes the Rosa shawl pattern and a skein of Rocky Mountain Dyeworks Bow Falls Fingering, which is the yarn used in the original Rosa. I picked a skein in the gorgeous Strawberry Root colorway, a rich red with undertones of maroon and bright pink. If you already have a copy of Rosa, you can either select a different pattern or I will be happy to gift Rosa to a knitter of your choice. You can of course use the yarn for any project, but there is enough here to knit the Rosa shawl. Bow Falls Fingering is a 100% superwash Blue Faced Leicester yarn. I’m very fond of BFL, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

#4: Understory ebook

Understory is my new ebook of six accessory patterns knit in Malabrigo yarns. The winner will receive the ebook as well as each individual pattern PDF for Amanita Muscaria, Laetiporus, Lichen Beret, Light and Shade, Verdure, and the Woodpigeon Mitts. I had a lot of fun knitting the samples for this collection and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Here are some patterns available for sale on Ravelry that benefit charities working in Japan.

Sakaki, by Rosemary Hill

Mitered Crosses Blanket by Kay Gardiner

Comfort Slippers by Reiko Arato

Something special

November 4, 2010

My husband and I met at art school. We were both illustration majors, but his real interests lay in animation. Because of this, every so often, for holidays or birthdays, I’ve sought out unusual or inspiring animation for him. We have a couple of volumes of great Russian animation primarily from the Cold War era, and some of this animation makes great use of textiles. I’ve wanted to share these for a while, but it wasn’t until today that it hit me that someone had likely uploaded some of these shorts to YouTube. Sure enough, that proved to be the case. So here, enjoy “Ball of Wool” by Nikolai Serebryakov.

A little something

July 29, 2010

Two little somethings, really!  I have been meaning to make mitts for all my kids for ages now, but somehow it always gets put off.  Come autumn and winter, our walks to school involve nippy weather and little hands feel pinched.  Pockets help, of course, but mitts would be even better.  And of course, the poor kiddos with the knitting mother don’t have any.  I had some leftover Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! from a test knit for Westknits that I can’t yet show you, and the color is Liam’s favorite, so it seemed like fate to whip him up a pair of little mitts.

The yardage on the Bugga! must be very generous, because I still have a fair quantity left over when I’d expected to use it all up in the test knit!  It is such a pleasure to knit with this yarn.  It’s unusual for yarn this soft to feel so sturdy, and of course, the color is amazing.  This is Beyer’s Jewel Scarab, and it looks like a solid, but there are little variations in the color that are just beautiful – barely there blues and yellows that give the color depth and beauty.  I could squish these all day.  There’s a decent chance that they’ll be lost early in the school year, of course, but with so little yarn and time spent, I think it’s worth it!  Now I just need to make mitts for the other two.

On balance

July 23, 2010

It’s been a rather odd week.  Yellow Sunniva is progressing nicely, and I’m so glad of that, because I want to get the samples done and the pattern written and out for testing as quickly as possible.  I got some lovely yarns recently, many of them for the ebook samples, and they are a cheerful and pleasant sight. My kids have been a little tough, but they’re good people, and I am grateful for them.

Then, on the other hand, my body went wacky again and it’s left me a little frustrated.  I’m quite healthy for me, and we’ve been taking lovely long walks, and I’m eating well and all.  But then I had an unsettling incident in which my breathing got shallow and I felt dizzy and another more stupid incident in which I bruised my feet really well, and now my knees aren’t working properly – they’ve gotten quite swollen in back, like I’m smuggling water balloons under my skin – and it has me very cross.

I feel like my life is a set of old fashioned scales, and that the good has to be balanced with the trying.  It’s not enough to make me feel like my life is bad, but it is a little frustrating nonetheless.  I want to be more in control than I am.  Walking makes me feel healthier, so having my knees stiffen and swell is irritating.

With all of that said, enjoy some yarn pictures.  I have some very good stuff coming up that I’ll be letting you all in on soon.

OrangeFlower Twist Sock from the Beautiful Browns yarn club

madelinetosh Prairie in Palomino

madelinetosh Tosh DK in Tart

A Verb for Keeping Warm Metamorphosis in Filigree

Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! in Banana Slug


June 28, 2010

I came out of last week exhausted, but I am going into this week feeling happy and refreshed.  My tenth wedding anniversary was on the 24th, and yesterday, my husband and I finally got our big anniversary date.  (We did go out on our anniversary as well, making this an unprecedented two-dates-in-one-week extravaganza.)  I have yet to get the rather silly pictures off of Mr. Kninja’s phone, but we went to Stow Lake and rented a rowboat and had a romantic afternoon out of a Renoir painting.  It was perfect, and I feel like my soul has been refreshed – rather lavish wording for a pragmatic atheist, but it’s true nonetheless.

I’m also so so very close to finishing up the first Sunniva sample.  I’m a knitting monogamist at the moment, very unusual for me, but I feel so excited, both about finishing and about starting on a new idea, that I’m sticking to finishing Sunniva until I find out that I need to do something else.  (I have some submissions still up in the air places, so it’s possible that my monogamy will be broken by an acceptance.  I’m not counting on it, though.)

So Red-Violet Sunniva is currently one-sleeved, with most of a second sleeve done.  I expect to finish the second sleeve today and then it’s a matter of edging the neck and deciding whether to add the lace to this sample or not.  (Since the lace is optional, I’m thinking I’ll do one with and one without.)

Anyway, once the Sunnivas are done, I have had an inspiration for a small collection of accessories, and the sketching, yarn planning, and various inspiration boards have already begun.  I’m very, very excited about this idea.  Many of the projects are quite small, but I think they’re all a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get started.  I’m using the energy I have for that new project as inspiration to finish up my current project!  And I got to scout out some gorgeous yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm for one of the projects this weekend, so as soon as I have the extra cash on hand, I’ll be picking up some more lovely yarn for my future projects!  Happy happy.

I need to get together with knitting friends, something I’ve been wanting to arrange for a while yet, but while Mr. Kninja’s schedule is so wonky, it’s quite hard.  So that’s the one little thing left to wish for this week, but overall, life’s pretty darn good.