Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rosie in Yak

Every dog needs an $80 baby yak down, cabled sweater. Right?

Yes I know - I've gone over the deep end. But really I couldn't help it! We're traveling up to New Hampshire to visit the family for the holidays and it's COLD up there! After not living in the great Northeast for going on 10 years (has it really been that long?!) I have lost my New England heartiness to harsh weather. And my little poor yorkie is even worse than me in the cold. AND (!) I was scheduled to teach my cabled dog sweater class at WoolWinders Yarn Shop, so why not make her a special sweater for the trip.

So yes, the pattern is nice. It's my revamp of my basic dog sweater. Actually I've blogged about this cabled pattern before so I won't talk too much about it here. Instead I want to focus on this yarn.

Oh this lovely, lovely yarn.

Yak down is one of those luxury fibers that everyone is curious about but not many get the chance to play with. Lucky for me, WoolWinders recently started selling Reywa Fibers Embrace (100% Tibetan Yak Down).

So why is yak so exceptional? The qualities of yak fibers are unique because the undercoat (or down) is made up of fibers from around 14-22 microns and approximately 1-inch long. It is comparable to the softness of cashmere but because of the small fiber size, actually warmer than merino wool (some say 10-15% warmer!). Another aspect of the fiber is that there are tiny ringlets (also known as crimp) which gives a fabric knit or woven in spun yak down nice loft, warmth and softness. The scales of the fiber are in a unique wavey mosaic pattern which results in a smooth fiber that doesn't itch. And a big bonus is that there is no lanolin in yak. So the fiber is easy to clean and is hypoallergenic. Not to mention the natural breathability of the fiber allows garments to remain warm even when wet and can help the individual wearing it regulate temperature (warm or cool).

With all of these wonderful qualities, why don't we use more of this amazing animal fiber?! Well yak down is actually quite rare.


The average yak produces only about a kilogram of fiber annually. And that includes the long guard hairs in addition to the down. Pair that with the fact that yaks tend to be found in more remote regions of the world (side note: there are some breeding ranches... but those are far and few between). Thus... you have an expensive (but rightfully so) fiber!

The yarn I used here was from Reywa Fibers. 'Reywa' means hope in Tibetan. The yarns from this company comes directly from the Tibetan Plateau and is made by the nomads of the region. Profits go directly back to the Tibetan communities. Actually Reywa Fibers have invested a lot back into the community and if you have a chance, read about it here.

So after all of that... am I mad about my $80 dog sweater? Nope. Not at all. Actually I held the yarn double, so really I probably could have created this sweater with 1 or 1.5 skeins but I wanted a heavy winter sweater for her. And with that she got:

She's not happy now but next week when we get up to New Hampshire, guess who is going to love this thick, warm, beautiful sweater?! 

Happy Holidays and keep warm (and go get some yak!).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Funky Chunky Cowl Time

Oh it's that most wonderful time of the year -- chunky wools and other bits of knitterly goodness! And if you are going to go bulky, super chunky why not add some funky?!

Yes it's time for last minute gifts and us crafters know how much time it takes to make our loved ones gifts. But of course arm knitting is super fast and fun. I'll be teaching a class on how to arm knit a scarf or cowl this Saturday at WoolWinders Yarn Shop!

And of course, it was about a year ago when I took this deep-dive into teaching knitting. And it all started with arm knitting and this little news segment: 

Making Hats, Scarves Or Mittens? Try Arm Knitting « CBS Minnesota

Stay warm!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pretty Basic but Really Pretty

DrChopSuey really does knit! I've been a little busy with that whole work thing. I have a couple 1/2-completed posts (including one on my Amsterdam fiber buys) but for now I have a number of projects completed and ready for blog posting!

Back in April I went on a trip and started this shawl. 7+ hours on the plane meant I almost finished it! However, when I got home I looked at it and noticed it was a mess. I knit the first stitch rather than slipping, and I used size 7 needles so the stitches/fabric were really big and loose.

So... I ripped it all out.

A couple months later I picked it up again, this time with size 6 needles and decided to change up the pattern. And now, I must say, I'm very happy with the results!

Yarn: Pagewood Farms Denali, Hand-dyed Sock Yarn, in colorway Fuchsia Fizz
Needles: US size 6
Started: April 26, 2014 (and ripped out May 10th)
Finished: October 22, 2014

This was a perfect travel knit. On the plane, bus, metro, car... I knit this project all the time! Because the pattern repeats were so easy to memorize I could easily throw this into my purse/bag and pull it out even if I only had 5 minutes of knitting time. Easy enough to ball up and throw back into the purse when done (or at my metro stop).

I did change the pattern a bit. Instead of a garter stitch shawl, I opted for a different sort of texture shawl. I alternated between garter and stockinette stitch on the pattern repeats. In other words, I started the first pattern repeat in garter (knit on both sides) as the pattern calls. But on the second pattern repeat I switched to stockinette stitch (knit on one side, purl on the other). And I did ssk for my decrease on the purl side. Actually I only did this because of the way I knit. Because I'm a combination knitter (western knits and eastern purls) it was easier (and faster) to maintain the K2tog on the stockinette section. This made my decreases on the garter sections slant to the right and on the stockinette section slant to the left. So... if you are a "regular" western European or American knitter, K2tog on the garter section and ssk on the stockinette section.

As for the yarn... me like! This sock yarn is typical of what I like to knit with (for socks), 80% merino wool and 20% nylon blend. But the hand-dyed yarn was just too pretty for socks! I really like the variegated light and dark pinks of the yarn. Yes I know, this made the texture of the garter vs stockinette stitch not as apparent from afar. But I can tell by feel - and that's what I wanted. This hank of yarn was an awesome bang for the buck! At 450 yards per hank, I still have some leftover for another small project. I purchased the yarn during one of my travels to the pacific northwest a couple years ago so it reminds me of visiting and spending time with my friends out there. Always a nice added bonus to projects that become wardrobe staples.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fun Stripes

A couple of months ago the yarn shop I work at started carrying self-striping yarn. The morning Amy, the owner, pulled the yarn out of the shipment boxes was unreal. The customers (and, ahem, some of the staff) were RUNNING to the boxes and grabbing the hanks before we could put price labels on them! It was the first time in recent history that we've carried striping yarn and let's just say everyone was a little excited.

I purchased a couple of skeins myself (no surprise). And really I could justify these purchases because recently I noticed my hand-knit socks supply has been dwindling. A couple of pair have holes or are about to have holes - and I'm not really into darning my socks. I take the Yarn Harlot's approach to darning socks (see passage from The Secret Life of a Knitter). So it's time to go on a sock knitting binge (yay!!). I cast-on and have been using the short bouts of commuting time (on the bus and/or metro) to knit on the sock. And here is the first completed sock:

Pattern: How I Make My Socks by Susan B. Andersen
Started: September 7, 2014
Finished: October 16, 2014

Because it's been so long since I've knit socks from the cuff down I forgot how much I hate the regular long-tail cast on for socks. If I knit anymore cuff-down I'll need to remember to use a more stretchy cast-on method. And for some reason my first sock was super loose, I think I had an issue with my tension. Very odd. The second sock fits well. These were initially for my mom but the second sock won't fit her so these are now for me. (oops!).

As for the sock yarn... it is nice. At 80% merino + 20% nylon blend, it's my favorite type of sock yarn. The fact that it stripes is just super fun. Sure I could have done something more interesting for a pattern but I have a couple students wanting to try socks for the first time and because it's been so long since I've knit plain-vanilla socks I figured I should have a go and practice. Besides, the simple sock really does make great metro knitting - easy to stop and pick up at anytime.

Watch for more socks in the next couple of months!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Doggie Safety Coat

NOTE: I should be back from my trip by now but I'm not sure about jet lag. So this is another post from October that I've prepped for delivery!

My husband and I love hiking, especially with our crazy little pups! Many people think it's a joke that we take out little yorkie out hiking trails but let me tell you - this little porky yorkie can HIKE! In fact, we have to carry the larger bischon, Boe, more frequently than we have to carry Rosie.

One thing that I've found is that Rosie blends in with the trail, especially during autumn. 
Okay Rosie is wearing a jacket here but you can get the idea that she blends in really well with the trail. 

Her natural cameo can be an issue when we let her off leash (just us trying to keep and eye on her) and when other people or dogs don't see the little peanut. To make her seen by all I decided to knit a bright colored coat. I took my basic dog coat recipe that I've blogged about previously (here and here and here) and used some neon yarn and made her a safety coat! 

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Brites in Neon Yellow
Started: September 14, 2014
Finished: September 15, 2014

Sure I used acrylic yarn - but hey it's cheap and I don't care if it gets filthy and destroyed while out hiking. It does the job! And you can see that Boe Bear doesn't blend as well with the soundings. We'll see come winter in the snow :) 

And finally - a couple of photos from our last outing:

Here we are on a quick photo op next to a cool looking tree roots:
Rosie stands out a bit :)
Family Selfie!
And finally - a reminder of why my husband is awesome. I fell in love all over again when the hubs looked this tree and said "Go ahead take a picture - I know you are looking at it and thinking about knitting a 'twisting' pattern." Clearly I have him trained! He's not using the proper term (cabled dude, not twisting!). But seriously, that is why I love this man, he totally knows me because it's true, when I saw this tree and instantly wanted to cast-on a cabled sweater! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Travelling Shawl Post

As a treat I have a post ready to launch while I'm on my work trip -- An update on the Travelling Woman Shawl I completed with my class!

A while back I blogged about my shawl class at WoolWinders. I decided to knit along with my class and this was the result:

Pattern: Travelling Woman by Liz Abinante
Yarn: Rowan Fine Art in colorway Elm 

Although a little pricey - this yarn is fabulous! It's a blend of 45% Wool, 25% Nylon, 20% Mohair and 10% Silk. And it knits easily and blocks wonderfully. Really a great yarn for lacy shawls.

Because I've completed this pattern so many times (and this will be my last time ever) I decided to go all out and make this one bigger than my previous attempts. I ended up completing Chart A 4.5 times... why only 4.5 and not the complete 5? Oh because I ran out of yarn and had to rip back. Good thing this was a class I was teaching about lifelines (teaching makes me have better habits than I would do for my "normal" knits)! Luckily I was able to easily rip back to a spot that made it easy to pick up stitches and continue with the pattern.

It's pretty - I'm happy. On to the next knit....

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Travel Projects

It's time again... I'm prepping for a work trip! This time I'm heading to Amsterdam for a week-long business meeting and conference. Last time I traveled I reminded everyone about using Ravelry to find LYS's (or to remind myself of that niffty function!).

And sure enough - I will have a couple of yarn shops around me in Amsterdam!

There are so many to choose from! I am pretty booked up with meetings so I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to visit one this time. It'll depend on time availability and location but I do hope I get to visit one in particular. This past week I came across this tweet:

That would be THE Stephen West (oooh I'm SUCH a fangirl!), partnering with Penelope Craft which is now Penelope + Stephen, Yarn and Craft Boutique! Fingers crossed I can visit any of the wonderful shops, and double crossed it's this one!

Aside from locating shops to visit while on a trip. What about patterns? Last trip to Copenhagen I found a knitwear designer based out of Denmark, purchased a pattern and bought yarn at one of the Copenhagen shops specifically for that pattern. It's my Copenhagen knit! (Have I CO the project yet... no, but that's a separate issue!).

So what I wanted to focus on this time was reminding everyone (but mostly myself) of some of the advanced features available for Ravelry pattern searching. As a librarian I LOVE using these filters to hone in on specific aspects of patterns. And when I'm going to travel to another country I like to find patterns from designers from that country. So for example:

Step 1: Go to the Patterns Tab and Click on the Advanced Search

Step 2: Start Applying Filters! Here I've picked Knitting and Has Photo

Step 3: Scroll all the way to the bottom. In the 'More Search Options' widget find the Designer Country option.... 

Step 4: Find the Country (or more) that you want. You can use the Or, And, Not for Boolean searching. Here I want to hone in on Dutch knitwear designers. 

And Wa-La! I have 38 pages of projects to drool over! Of course if I wanted to apply more filters I could (for example if I wanted to find a shawl pattern, or a project that calls for a certain yarn weight). But that give a basic idea of how I find patterns for designers from countries I visit. It gives a little extra something special when I go to knit the project. And it gives me something specific to shop for at these yarn shops (although... I can't say that is ALL I purchase - I think I purchase the yarn for the project ON TOP OF "souvenir yarn"!!). 

What project will I pick? Not sure yet. What projects am I bringing on the trip? Not sure yet. I'm a little busy with getting ready for the work aspect of the trip. But I still have some time to figure that stuff out...  I don't leave until Friday. So until then... happy travels and happy knitting!