Noro Mitts

Heaven. Soft, fluffy heaven.

Noro Silk Garden Yarn in color 359
Noro Silk Garden Yarn in color 359

That’s the only way I can describe the Silk Garden Yarn from Noro. It really is a shame you can’t reach through the computer screen & touch these lovelies.

It was so hard narrowing down the gratuitous yarn photos to just these two.
It was so hard narrowing down the gratuitous yarn photos to just these two.

The colors are gorgeous. Whitish gray, light charcoal gray, a touch of brown, green & a hint of gold.
Noro Mitts

I made the pattern myself & will hopefully get around one day to translating my notes into a free pattern.

See the thumb shaping?
See the thumb shaping?

My hands have been uncommonly cold this winter & I felt it was about time for a new pair of fingerless mitts to wear at work- my last having been nice, but not nearly as warm as these. So I dove into using my one skein of luscious Noro & was pleasantly surprised to find I had a little left over.

They turned out to be just a little too thick & long for fast typing, but they're sooooo soft & luxurious feeling. It would be impossible to not wear them anyway.

They turned out to be just a tad too thick & long for fast typing, but they feel sooooo soft & luxurious. It would be impossible to not wear them anyway.At Foster Beach

I hear tell there’s some Noro Silk Garden sock yarn too. One of these days it will be mine! MINE!!!


Stitches, a Sewing Podcast – Steam episode 1.1

I’m as excited as if I had received free vintage fabric! But I haven’t.

The thing that’s got me dancing around the house is a podcast. I’m starting one!
Stitches, a sewing podcast - Steam episode 1.1
Stitches in a podcast for people who love to sew, with a tiny bit of knitting thrown in. It’s for people who have an interest in fashion & an addiction to fibers- as in fabric, yarn, wool, cotton, linen.  And yes, I too am surprised that a few searches turned up no other programs named ‘Stitches’.

Stitches isn’t like your usual crafting podcast. I won’t be talking about the projects on my sewing table or knitting needles. Instead, we’ll have conversations about sewing related themes.  And episodes won’t be a half an hour long or more. We don’t always have time to listen to such long podcasts- especially not when there are new episodes of Downton Abbey to watch! Instead, monthly topics will be broken into a few 5-10 minute long episodes.

Our first theme is steam & I really hope you enjoy it. Down below you’ll find some podcast notes for an easy reference to the tips I talked about- or for if you’re at work & can’t listen.

*update- I just realized that some people might have problems loading the podcast widget thingie. If so, just refresh your page or click here to listen to my podcast on PodOmatic.

  • Steam is made up of excited water molecules that relax your fabric & make it more pliable.
  • It can help smooth out you fabric or warp it out of shape.
  • Torquing happens when fabric is warped out of shape during manufacturing, but you can also do it at home.
  • Pants pockets can warp out of shape with use. To help reinforce them make stay tape by cutting a strip of muslin the width of your seam allowance & steam it a lot as you pull it out from under your iron at an angle. This will torque the fabric into a curve that should match the curve of your pants pockets.
  • Steam especially relaxes & shrinks wool.
  • To unkink yarn after it’s been knit or crocheted with, steam it. Don’t iron it. It will relax before your eyes like magic. Watch this video from the awesome TECHknitting blog to see how quickly it happens.  
  • To keep wool fabric from stretching as it hung off my ironing board I tried ironing on top of a wooden table with a mattress pad covering the table to protect it from the iron. I didn’t realize the bottom of the mattress pad was made with interfacing & not fabric. After I was done bits of interfacing were stuck in the wood grain of the table, but only in blotches where I had steamed. Water wouldn’t get it off so I scratched it off with my finger nails. I scratched little butterflies into the interfacing marks.
  • Next time I will make my ironing board the same height as my table so that as I’m ironing I can move the finished parts to the table so they don’t stretch out of shape.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.

Episode two of Stitches will talk more about interfacing, steam shrinking wool, steam related sewing gadgets & listener tips.

A HUGE humongous thanks to my boyfriend Quincy. He spent tons of time sampling the introduction music (while I lounged in bed knitting) & editing the final podcast. And re-editing as I kept re-recording. Thanks Q!

And thanks to everyone who took the time to listen. I’d love to hear any feedback, good or bad. Do you like the topic & format? What themes would you like to hear about next month?

The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.
The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.

My First Weaving Project, My First Project of the New Year

Merry Fiberful X-Mas to me! One of the highlights of my Christmas was getting a rigid heddle loom. And I was so taken with my new loom I finished my first project on New Year's Day.

My first woven scarf, pre-washed & pre-trimmed. When changing colors your yarn ends just hang out until the end, when you snip them off with scissors.

I did a teensy bit of weaving in college- a rectangle big enough to be a placemat (I don't use placemats), so I'm not counting it as a project. Besides, that was a floor loom. This is a rigid heddle loom.

For those of you unfamiliar with weaving terms, a little primer. Warp threads are those that run parallel to the selvedge. Weft threads run parallel to the crosswise grain. When weaving you set up all your warp threads & weave your weft threads through them. Warp threads have to be tight enough to make the weaving process easier. Since weft threads aren't under much pressure, I believe this is why there's usually more stretch along the crosswise grain. Also, because you're not making loops & knots in your fabric, weaving is incredibly fast & uses shockingly little yarn compared to knitting or crocheting. Well, inexperienced weaver that I am feels like less yarn is used. Most everyone says weaving takes up a lot of yarn.

My new Beka rigid heddle loom, pre-warped with test strip in progress

Anyway, my loom came pre-warped, which meant I got to play with it fresh out of the box. It was really nice because I felt free to make all sorts of mistakes & not get attached to the couple inch wide strip of fabric I was making.

Gadzooks! How uneven, which is why I decided this would be my test strip.

I finished my test strip just a day or two after X-Mas, then immediately started my first real project, a scarf. To be honest I really didn't know if I was making it for myself or my boyfriend. Awhile ago I knit him a scarf & he lost it when we moved this fall. I hate knitting scarves. They go on forever. But woven scarves, my friends, are quick little beasts. Besides, I was hearing many complaints about how much he missed his old scarf. And he was the one who bought the loom for me. But wouldn't you know? I found the scarf buried in his closet soon after finishing the new scarf!

Tada! A new scarf!

Alright, it would have been a lightening quick project if I had had my warp set up properly, but for the first few feet it was much too loose & unevenly so. Finally, I got things sorted out & the weaving flew by a lot faster. But, the early uneven tension caused some ripples in the final product. The learning curve on getting your warp right is probably a lot quicker on fancier looms because they're designed to make it more even. I tell you this in case you're interested in getting a loom yourself. I highly recommend it! More on that later.

My goal was to entirely use up some of my stash yarn. Well, I hadn't calculated the yardage for my warp because I like winging things when I'm first learning. And the method for warping your loom I learned in the Craftsy Rigid Heddle Weaving course didn't work perfectly for this loom. So I really did have to wing it (I step on directions! I dig my heel into them & spit! Yeah I know, I'm like the stereotypical guy who won't ask for directions when he's lost. I probably should have done more than skimmed the included instructions).

Here you can see how bubbly & uneven things were pre-washing.

Big shocker! My scarf came out short. I should have known it would. My stash busting scarf left me with bits of stash instead of projects worth. Ah well. I'm sure they'll be easily used in future weaving projects. And the scarf is around 53″ long. That's just long enough to tie around your neck, but not long enough to do a nice double wrapping. When I was done weaving I soaked the scarf in warm water, kind of like you're supposed to do with a knitting project. Instead of blocking it though (drying it flat in the desired shape) I let it hang by the parts that were most uneven & bubbly. This helped straighten things out a lot, although it's not perfect.

The weft is a beautiful mix of bright burgundy wool/alpaca, variegated red & fuschia wool, and heathered dark burgundy wool. Brown wool yarn makes up the warp. Actually, the color combo would go perfectly with my favorite coat…

In fact, when my boyfriend saw me trying on the scarf with my burgundy coat he said my cheeks puffed up. Apparently that means I'm pleased with what I see. So if I weave him another scarf he'll let me keep this one. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of giving it to him? It is sooo warm though…

If you don't care about looms then stop reading, but if you're interested or would like to buy one yourself, read on.

My new toy is a Beka 10″ loom, which is actually designed for children. But all the reviews said good things about it & many of the reviewers were adults who had bought it for themselves. And people, it costs about half as much as the same size looms from other companies. Q bought it for me from the Woolery & I'd really recommend them. I think we purchased it on the Friday before X-Mas & it arrived that Monday, X-Mas eve. We picked the cheapest, normal shipping option too! So check out the Woolery. They have the lowest price on it to boot. And no, they're not paying me or plying me with free fiber to say this.

Like I said, it's a child's loom, so it's not as slick as the popular Cricket rigid heddle loom. This means that instead of winding your warp & finished weaving around a fancy roller, you manually unwrap the warp from a block of wood & slide your weaving through some wooden sticks. Not difficult, just not as smooth. Remember what i said earlier about tension problems? This block & the lack of rollers can make things uneven. But, I actually like the super simplistic design because it would be so easy to replicate if I wanted to make a loom myself (I have grand plans of one day learning more than really basic wood working so I can build myself furniture & spinning wheels, yes, multiple spinning wheels, & bookshelves, lots of bookshelves). Now go buy a loom so I'm not the only beginner lurking about this corner of the internet! I want to see your pretty projects!

Contemplative Q


Spinning, a renewed obsession

Over the past three days I spent about 14+ hours relearning how to spin yarn. An obsession, no?

Close up of the small practice skein I made before dipping into the nice fiber.

During college I took a felting class in which we got to visit a sheep farm & had a spontaneous drop spindle demonstration. Then we went to a hardware store & made our own out of dowel rods & CDs. But I never really took to it. Then I took a spinning class with real spinning wheels. At the end of the class I tried to make my own wheel out of PVC pipes & a slightly bent bicycle wheel. It didn’t go well.

Because of my recent move & glacially slow unpacking habits, a big bag of fluff has been staring at me while I sleep. During the day I’ve been reading knitting blogs that have showcased some really fabulous handspun. You see, I had to take it up again.

This time I learned to spin off of YouTube & reassembled my old spindle. The dowel rod was still there but the CDs had made it too bulky to easily store during my many moves & had been thrown out years ago. We also tossed countless things before we moved so I had to cannibalize a few CDs that had software written on them. I apologize in advance for doing this to you, but I have to make a very bad joke- iSpin on my iSpindle. We must have only kept such an old CD just so I could make a terrible joke.

DIY drop spindle with three balls of singles

Now that that’s been taken care of, I can tell you that the spinning was much easier all these years later. And I couldn’t stop. Clearly. My fiber was a lovely 6oz of naturally colored Shetland roving that came from a local fiber co-op. Grayish-brown with bits of white- it was almost as if the sheep had been like a person with graying hair.

The yarn came out like a beginner’s yarn does, too thin in some places & too thick in others. Knowing that plying would help even it out, I also decided to learn how to ply on a drop spindle, which I hadn’t done before. For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, singles are single strands of yarn which get plied (spun) together to make a stronger strand, which is what you see in the pre-made fabric & thread you use for sewing. Plying is imminently faster & easier than spinning. But because I was being a crazy person I made it much harder on myself. I would be damned if I broke my yarn- even though the singles had already been broken into three different balls of yarn. I reasoned I could ply them together & you wouldn’t be able to see where they joined. I was wrong. And by the time I got to the final ball of singles I realized the final yarn wouldn’t all fit on my ball winder. Doh! But I had been engaged in my folly for so long I figured I might as well continue. Here is what the ridiculousness looked like- a spindle so full of yarn you couldn’t even see the shaft. Yes, it was very difficult to work with & I was continually swearing.

A much too full spindle with plied yarn. You can see the CDs are coming apart, so I may have to invest in a professionally made spindle.

However, it all payed off in the end & I proudly walked about the house wearing my skein as a huge cowl until I reluctantly took it off to set it (soak in hot water to balance any excess twist that comes from my inexperienced spinning technique). Sorry for the bad cell phone/mirror photos- the boyfriend was at work.

Wearing the skein as a cowl was very enjoyable, although it looked bigger in real life.

Now what to make it into? I’m thinking a big cowl. It’s about a bulky weight of yarn, which I’ve been wanting to buy but now don’t have to. I have no idea what the yardage is & don’t have a niddy noddy to help me estimate. Any pattern suggestions?

This picture gives a better idea of how much I spun.

Stash Management

I’ve had my clothing organized for years. Look, color coordinated! Not just that, but also organized by sleeve length, with spaghetti straps first & progressing to long sleeves. OCD much? You should see my book shelves.

My closet, organized by color & garment type.

If I’ve been so well organized with my clothing, why not with my supplies? Previously, I’ve kept them in boxes. Right now I’m thinking things should be organized by color & type of fabric. Say, knits with knits, linings with linings & printed cottons with printed cottons. Ditto for yarn. Moving is the perfect time to stir things up & get organized.

What I’m afraid of is the size of my stash. Here’s the lovely (needs a bad re-paint job after moving) console/chest of drawers/not sure exactly what it’s called (which is ironic considering I minored in architecture & design history- guess I didn’t study much furniture!) thing I have to work with. In absence of a real name, my boyfriend & I have been calling it the blue thing. We similarly have a piece of furniture named the green thing.

The blue thing, which in real life is a pretty shade of teal. Soon to be the home for my fabric stash. Oh moving clutter can look so embarrassing!

I have boxes & boxes of fabric. I’ve been too chicken to count how many & have been feeding myself the excuse that it would take too long to walk through our little one bedroom apartment to figure out where they all are. I know I have at least six, varying in size from tiny to pretty large. Why is it we sometimes don’t want to admit just how bad we’ve been with how much we buy? I’ve also got a few boxes of yarn. I absolutely know that all my yarn & fabric won’t fit into that one little (actually fairly big) blue piece of furniture. So it’s going to be just for fabric. But where do I put my yarn? And what do I do with the fabric that doesn’t fit into the blue thing?

Ideas would be very welcome.

The funny thing is, while I can’t tell you how many boxes of fabric I have, I can give you a really good estimate of how many different types of fabric I have. I love Bento. It’s an app for Mac devices that lets you inventory things & do a whole bunch of other stuff. I have almost my entire fabric stash listed in there, with details on width, yardage, cost, where I bought it, projects I’m going to use it for, etc. While I might know that I have 137 different fabrics categorized in Bento (including ones that have been completely used up for prior projects), I don’t entirely know just how physically big this is. All I can see is that number, climbing steadily higher to 200. I’ve got my notions catalogued too. So you see, it’s ridiculous that I don’t have my stash physically catalogued when I already have it electronically done. With all this cataloguing I should have a been a librarian.

In case you’ve been considering stash reorganization, here are some links to great ideas other people have had.

How do you organize your stash? Care to share any tips?