The heat of the moment! (and TDF?)

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Fotor0703132658These past few weeks, I have been stashing up on fiber for the Tour de Fleece, and it’s making me feel very, very good. For those who might not know what it is, the Tour de Fleece is the fiber spinner’s version of the Tour de France, the cycling competition – we spin as they spin, and we try to match the hardest parts of our challenges to  the hardest parts of the Tour. The big idea is to set yourself goals to achieve in the duration of challenge, which started this year on July 5th and will go on until July 27th. The goals you set yourself can be anything you want them to be – from learning how to spin to spinning 10 minutes every day to spinning 30 ounces of fiber. There’s a ton of groups you can join, a lot you can learn and definitely a lot of fun to have. So since I’m still relatively new to spinning, I set myself 3 very realistic goals that I think I can achieve before July 27th :

1) Spin finer and more consistent singles (ideally reaching the equivalent of a sock yarn)

2) Learn Navajo plying

3) Learn how to spin cotton

This challenge has made me very, very excited and although it started only a few days ago, I already completed 2 spinning projects; one using a 100% merino fiber and the other one using a 70/30 Merino/Silk fiber. I can definitely tell that the singles in these two projects are a lot finer and a lot more consistent than what I’ve been doing so far (the green one is about DK size), but there’s still room for improvement.

Fotor0704215622 Fotor0706155918I will be away on vacation for a good part of the TDF (we are going to Ohio July 12th through July 21st to visit my Honeybee’s family), but I will definitely keep spinning, since I decided to take my spinning wheel with me to work on my challenges on our spare time. A change in scenery is going to be very much welcomed, and my future mom-in-law is a veteran spinner, so I’m sure she’ll have a few tips and tricks to give me to help me progress on my TDF challenges. The 12 hour drive there – without air conditioning – in the summer heat is going to be dreadful, but hopefully, while we’re there we’ll be able to fill up on family time and do lots of fun things like going to the zoo, having campfires and eat marshmallows.

In the meantime, I have been trying to focus on the Nice & Knit Summer Sweater Knit Along, that I really want to finish ASAP. I originally wanted to finish it before the TDF starts, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I finished the body yesterday, so now only the sleeves are left. I think part of the reason why I haven’t finished this project sooner is because of the crazy heat wave we’ve experienced the past few days. Isn’t it hard to focus on knitting a sweater when the heat makes you feel your body’s melting on the couch? Thermometer has been marking 88°F, but with humidity it’s jumping to 99°F. Urgh! Fortunately though, we’ve had rain yesterday and today that brought around cooler temperatures – so I picked up my needles again 🙂

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On a lighter note, Saturday, I went to Artfil with a few friends for a social stitches afternoon, where we had a chance to chat and happily work on our projects or learn new crafts together. I had a lot of fun, and definitely appreciated the much needed girl-time.

So that’s all folks, enjoy your craft time 🙂

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What’s cookin’

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Yesterday was a holiday for me (June 24th is Québec’s national day), so I took advantage of the day off to make some progress on my sweater for the Nice and Knit summer sweater knit along (NKKAL). I created the pattern from scratch and named it the Sea Breeze sweater, the idea sprung up from the really beautiful Kit Camisole Cassy posted on her blog (knit the hell out), you should definitely check it out. I thought the linen stitch that was used in this pattern was so pretty that I just had to use it somehow in my summer sweater project, so I came up with a plan.  And to complement the nice stitch, I decided to use very soft summer colors; including a pale blue, baby blue, lavender and aqua. This yarn is really nice to knit with, it’s a 100% mercerized cotton from Austermann, you can buy it on Artfil’s website (you’re welcome). At this point, I have almost reached the waistline, so it’s really starting to look like something. I really can’t wait to finish it!

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/sea-breeze
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/sea-breeze

On a different topic, I also spun last week the last bit of fiber I had 😦 So no more spinning for me this week. Do not worry though, I have a (considerably large) fiber order on its way, and this one should last me for a little while. Since I have been mostly working with wool recently (BFL, Merino, Merino/Tencel, etc.), I decided to widen my horizons and (on top of the few ounces of wool I ordered) I also order different types of fiber I have never spun before. I ordered bamboo, 1lb of natural bleached cotton (so I’ll also be trying my hand at dyeing – W00t!) and an 8oz of merino/silk fiber. I simply cannot wait to get them! Weehee!

So the last thing I spun was 8oz of Malabrigo Nube 100% merino fiber, in the colorway Baya Electrica. The singles were (as a general rule) a lot finer and a lot more consistent than my previous spinning attempts, and the final result turned out to be about 1040 yards of Worsted/DK weight yarn in 2 skeins 🙂 The result blew me away, the colors just pop right up! Somehow, I noticed though that it’s a color that’s not very photogenic and the pictures really can’t compare to the real thing; but here’s one to at least give you an idea :

http://www.ravelry.com/people/saphirsteph/handspun/cheshire-cat
http://www.ravelry.com/people/saphirsteph/handspun/cheshire-cat

I affectionately name it Cheshire Cat. I think I’ll be making a sweater out of it, maybe something like the the Pull me over ? or maybe the Briar Rose Tunic ? I’m not quite sure yet. Anyways, there’s still plenty of time left to decide since I’m not even half way through my Sea Breeze Sweater, and I still only have about a third done on my Spring Leaves shawl. Plus, I might not be knitting all that much this week since I finally got my future-mom-in-law’s rhubarb pie recipe so I’ll definitely be baking that some time this week. Hmmmmm, scrumptious!

So that’s all for today folks 🙂 Enjoy your craft time!

The Spinning Dilemma

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Fotor061795220So… I bought a spinning wheel. I don’t know why, kind of a spur of the moment thing, it just kind-of-sort-of happened. It all began a few weeks ago, as I was at my friend Yana’s shop, happily chatting with an acquaintance I met there. During the conversation, I brought up the fact that I have never tried spinning, and would probably like to try it out eventually since it’s one of the few fiber crafts I have never tried before. She looked at me, and casually replied that she has tried it before but couldn’t really get into it, so now she has a spinning wheel for sale. Coincidence?

So last week, I dropped by her place to have a look at the spinning wheel and (hopefully) try it out. A friend of hers (who’s an amazing spinner) was there to show me a few of the basics, and explain to me how to work the spinning wheel. It’s an Ashford Kiwi, a very small and compact spinning wheel that looked easy enough for a beginner. Here’s a photo of the beast :

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I got there around 6 in the evening, and went through a very intense 3 hours learning session. Don’t get me wrong – I DID do my homework beforehand and looked up some videos on YouTube to give myself an idea of what it was like to spin; but SEEING a video and actually DOING the motions are two very different things! Boy, I had a good laugh. Obviously, my first try was very thick and thin, over-twisted in some spots, under-twisted in others and (as a general rule) very ugly! I was working with a pale baby blue merino top fiber,  the fibers were very long and just trying to get used to the motions, trying to  find where to place my hands and how to coordinate them with my feet was already such a big challenge that I didn’t/couldn’t really watch (or care about!) what the single I was making actually looked like, as long as I was making something! There are so many different things to focus on at the same time while spinning, I just couldn’t believe it! But all in all, I ended up having a lot of fun, and at the end of the night, I bagged all my stuff, said thanks, paid for the spinning wheel and left with it.

I took the not so fashionable baby blue merino top fiber home with me, and I started buying a few other roving here and there to build myself a little fiber stash. As I was out shopping in Stowe (VT) on Sunday, I fell in love with an amazing variegated purple Malabrigo Nube fiber, so I bought it right away – you can see what it looks like on the photo at the top – isn’t amazing?

Throughout the week, I practiced spinning very consistently for 1 hour or 2 every night with whatever I had left of the not-so-pretty baby blue merino top and a cute variegated blue/green fiber, I noticed that my results were slowly improving every time. It’s a lot for work, but somehow, after a week, i think I’m finally starting to get the hand of it. This is what I came up with, my two very first hand spun yarn skeins (yay!) :

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Majestic Landscapes (and Squam Art Fair!)

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Today I’m really excited to tell you that over the weekend, I went to my FIRST Art (yarn!) Fair; and I loved it!!! My Honeybee and I decided to go to New Hampshire to attend the Squam Art Fair, a very nice fiber fair organized on the shores of the beautiful Squam Lake… And since we knew we were going to drive through the White Mountains, we decided to leave earlier and take full advantage of the majestic views the place has to offer. On our way, we stopped at the Franconia Notch State Park, where there used to be the a rock formation at the top of a mountain that looked exactly like an old man. This distinctive feature has attracted a countless number of tourists in the last 200 years, but finally collapsed in 2003 due to natural erosion. Since then, the park has been remodeled and now presents different monuments and photographs explaining the story of the mountain.

NH MontageIt was quite interesting to see, and I must say those mountains really create a jaw dropping landscape! Honeybee and I were really impressed by the view! Although we did not have time to go hiking because we had to get to Squam Lake in time for the fair, we did thoroughly enjoy the view, and we promised ourselves to go back there some time to take advantage of the trails.

We got to Squam Lake a little early, so we stopped somewhere to eat and then drove to the venue. I was really nervous and excited since I’ve never been to an Art Fair before and I really didn’t know what to expect. The place was really nicely decorated, there was knitted pompoms in the trees, benches and rocks covered in yarn, really cool solid ice lanterns with candles in them, I just didn’t know where to look!

Fair MontageSo when I finally set foot in the place, I got really excited! There was a lot of very nice stands, with very pleasing people, presenting amazing local products from fiber, to yarn, to wooden shawl pins, to handmade baby bootsies and pattern books. I had to set myself a budget so I wouldn’t spend an entire paycheck (gotta be reasonable!), so after going around a few times, I settled for my favorite skeins of yarn :

20140609_115340872_iOSThe orange ones are 100% superwash merino fingering yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, a little company based Conway,NH that offers the most vibrant hand dyed yarn I have ever seen! You can check out their website if you’re interested at http://www.thewoolenrabbit.com/. The yellow skein is a merino-silk lace yarn from Toil and Trouble, a Massachusetts hand dyed yarn company. Although I chose a very conventional color scheme, most of their color mixes are very unique, it’s definitely worth a look! You can buy their yarn on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/ToilandTrouble or you can check out their Facebook page.

So that’s all folks, thanks for reading my rants 🙂 I’ll talk to you next time!

Tunisian Crochet Bliss

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Hey-ho Crafters!

A few months ago, I decided to add a new craft to my arsenal, it’s a craft I’ve been wanting to learn for a long time and today, I really want to take a few minutes to share with all of you the love I have for Tunisian Crochet. For those who know what it is, you already know how awesome it is, and for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me let you in on a little secret : Tunisian Crochet combines the smoothness of knitted stitches and the quickness of crochet all into one beautiful needle craft.

To put it simply, Tunisian Crochet is a needle craft based on pairs of rows worked back and forth on the same side of project (i.e. you never have to turn you project – unless required for a specific pattern); it creates a beautiful, dense but supple fabric that is perfect for warm shawls, garments, blankets or anything else that strikes your fancy. There’s also a certain number of really nice lace patterns out there that can be used for lighter garments and more delicate projects, but I haven’t tried a lot of them yet (I’m still learning after all!). As I’m still relatively new to it, I learned mostly basic stitches, and I learned most of them watching videos on YouTube. There really is a ton of them out there so you should look it up when you get a chance. To give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s a shot of a Tunisian Crochet triangular shawl I made a few months ago with a few balls of Rowan kid classic yarn. It was my first Tunisian Crochet project, and it took only 3 days to make it. Isn’t it amazing how fast it goes?

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/tunisian-triangular-shawl
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/tunisian-triangular-shawl

Since then, I’ve tried countless different stitch patterns, watched an unbelievable amount of videos and even attended a workshop, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. It really is a beautiful craft, full of possibilities, and it works so fast it will simply blow your mind. What is also really interesting about Tunisian Crochet is that it makes it easy to mix yarns and colors as well as different types of patterns like lace, ribs or eyelets. There’s a scarf I work on here and there on my lunch breaks that’s worked on a rib pattern, I call it the bubble gum scarf. The yarn I’m using is FibraNatura Sea Song cotton yarn, it’s a really fun and easy project that can be worked in those little stolen moments when you’re in the bus, in line at the bank or waiting at a doctor appointment.

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As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about my new adventures in Tunisian Crochet, and I really enjoy doing it as much as I though I would, and probably even more. All in all, I’m must say I’m really happy to have discovered a craft I will be in love with for many years to come, and I’m really glad I pushed myself through the slow process of learning something new, because I think it was all worth it in the end. Maybe next time I’ll try spinning? Who knows 😉

What about you?

What’s the last thing you invested time to learn?

SSSS : Summer Sea Stripes & Stuff

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So I made a sweater. Again. Hahahaha 🙂

I was so excited to have learned so much making my first sweater, the Feather & Fan Lace Sweater, that I wanted to apply all that newly acquired knowledge to another project right away! And I did. I present you today my second sweater, the Summer Sea Stripes! It’s not completely finished yet (I still have to make the sleeves) but I’m pretty happy about how it turned out so far!!!

Summer sea stripes

There are still a few mistakes here and there (which project is perfect, really?) but I’m much happier about the fit of this one compared to the first one I made. My first sweater was made to measurements, but realized after wearing it a few times that I did not like the fit so much as it felt kind of baggy and stretchy. To fix that problem, I decided to make my second sweater with 2 inches of negative allowance to give it a snugger fit. And it worked perfectly! It is just SOOOO comfortable and so nice! I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out!

And the colors! Oh My God, The Colors! I designed this pattern to maximize the yardage I had in both colors, but I must say it turned out way nicer than I expected! Both are 75/25 Superwash Merino & Silk sock yarns, very soft and very smooth, with a lovely drape and an exquisite sheen. The black yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk that can be purchased both on Little Knits or on Webs (you can check out the Craft Ressources page of my blog for links to both these online yarn stores. You’re welcome!), I used 1 skein of it for my sweater. The blue yarn has got to be my best discovery of the month. It’s the Squishy Sock yarn, an exclusive product made by Chroma Fiber for the Artfil Yarn Shop & Craft Café, a little yarn boutique my friend Yana recently opened in Laval, Quebec. It is 356 yards of scrumptious deliciousness, hand painted by a local artisan in Montreal. It is simply gorgeous. If you’re interested, you can find it in store at the Artfil Yarn Shop & Craft Café, or you can buy it online on their website at http://www.artfil.ca/products/chroma-squishy-sock.

I recently made a review for this yarn, if you’re interested in reading it you can find it here.

So happy stitches guys, I’ll see you next time with another project (not a sweater again, I promise!)

Cheers!

To machine wash or not to machine wash, that is the question

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Hey folks!

I hope you all had a good time over the Easter weekend, I had a MARVELOUS time in Cape Cod with my Honeybee. Since it’s only April, we could barely take our coats off, let alone swim in the ocean; but even if we couldn’t swim, we saw beautiful landscapes, cute and quaint little villages and we could walk barefoot in the sand. Isn’t bliss? If you’re interested to see the pictures, just click on the the one just below, and you’ll be redirected to the album.

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On our way back, we got stuck in traffic in Boston for 2 hours because of a accident that left a semi-truck in flames on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. I can tell you we didn’t expect that. Although it was very unfortunate, it also allowed me to put the last stitches on the sweater I couldn’t finish before we left for Cape Cod, so it made the whole process a lot more bearable 🙂

After washing it, the sweater is a perfect fit and it is SO VERY COMFORTABLE. I’m so proud!!! There are a few oopsies here and there and I’m not super satisfied with the neckline, but for a first try (and without a pattern!) I think I really came up with something good. I must say, I’m also very happy that the sweater made it fine through the washer and dryer cycle. Oh I can hear you scream from here… YES, I did put my hand knit sweater in the washer and dryer. “Why”, you say? Because… well… I’m lazy. All my clothes (and I’m weighing my words here) ALL my clothes go washer and dryer. And I know that if I make an exception and buy (or knit, or sew) a sweater that needs to be hand washed, I simply won’t wear it.

So because I know that, and because I really want to wear the things I make, I simply choose my yarn and test swatch knowing it’ll go in the washer and dryer. And it works! Look at that!

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever