Confession Tuesday : My kingdom for a ball winder!

Posted on

Fellow crafters, today I have a confession to make : I do not own a ball winder. Yea, shame on me. I really wish I did own one, things would be so much easier, but I just never bought one. For me, starting every project requires hours of preparation; winding every ball by hand, untangling knots and fighting off playful cats, and sometimes it also comes the occasional tears of rage when things are not going my way. Yea.

I really didn’t mind it so much at first, because I thought : “Not every yarn that is sold out there needs to be winded, so why should I make a fuss about having to wind a few balls by hand here and there?” But as time passed, I slowly started to realize that most of my favorite yarns did not come in center pull balls, and that my handspun yarn needs to be rolled in a skein or a ball after coming off the wheel. So why do I not have a ball winder and a swift, really?

The reason I’m talking to you guys about this is because I just recently came to a halt in my Hollywell Cardigan as I finished the first pink skein, and I had to wind the second skein into a ball before I could resume knitting. As I was patiently winding it, I looked over at my project and realized that in a very short while, I would also have to start the stripes – so I would have to put down the needles again, and wind 2 other skeins by hand. I’m usually not much of a complainer, but I must say that at that point, realizing this made me a little upset. But since today is another day, let’s just try to focus on something fun (!) instead, and let me show you the progress I’ve made on my cardigan so far :

auth.aspxThe pockets are attached, and I’m almost done with the waist decreases, so things are really moving along at a good pace! I should already be done with the waist decreases, but I decided to give this cardigan a little bit more waist shaping than it originally had, since I’m (somewhat of) a curvy kind of Gal. I’m about a medium size overall, but I have rather large hips and a (somewhat) thin waist, so every sweater generally requires slight modifications to fit my unusual silhouette. I started it off with 248 stitches at the bottom, which was in-between size M and L, and I plan on decreasing until I reach 204 stitches, which is a little over size S. Then, I plan on increase stitches at the same rate, and finish the pattern following size M instructions. Even though I made so much progress on it, I still feel the fabric is very loose and uneven, so I really hope it’ll turn out OK after a good wash. It should, since the swatch turned out just fine after a run in the washer & dryer, but I’m still worried. Just have to wait it out, I guess.

On another note, I was blessed with very good news last week, as I got a message from krumel, the (amazingly!) nice Raveler who gave some of her time earlier this summer to test-knit my very first sweater pattern, the Summer Sea Stripes Sweater. She told me she just finished it and showed me a few pictures, and I must say I am simply AMAZED that someone could make something so beautiful with a pattern I wrote! Even her photos are a lot more professional than mine, I feel so ashamed of myself! -_-‘

The one on the left is my prototype, and the one on the right is the one krumel made following the pattern I wrote :

Fotor0817232424Since it is my first pattern, I have a lot of adjustments to make before I can really publish it, but things are definitely moving forward! Following krumel’s comments and suggestions, I’ll fix my pattern in the next few weeks, then get version 2 tested sometime in September and (if everything goes according to plan), I should be able to release it on Ravelry around the end of September or mid-October. Yay! 🙂

I’m not sure if it’s normal to be so thrilled about something so trivial; I have never published a pattern of my own so I don’t really know how but I feel so very excited! Any experienced pattern designers out there? How did it feel to publish your first design?

So that’s all for today folks, my rant’s over!

Hope you all enjoy your craft time, and the rest of your summer 🙂

Advertisements

Organization is key!

Posted on Updated on

Since I came back from vacation, I have been contemplating the fact that my stash’s storage method and organization system wasn’t living up to my expectations, and I felt like it really needed to be updated. I must admit to you guys that up until a few days ago, my “storage” mostly consisted of a few cardboard boxes, divided and taped together in an eclectic arrangement of size, shape and color. And to make things even worse, the skeins on the bottom were always full of hair because my cats kept rubbing themselves on it. Yea. So after quite some thought, I decided to clean out the basement, and see if I could find something in there that could be used as a compact yarn storage for my living room. Surprisingly enough, I did find something, and something I was not expecting! My epic search in the depths of the basement allowed me to discover two forgotten plastic storage units, with 3 drawers each, that would be able to contain most of my yarn and keep it clean and hair free. Awesome!!!

So that same evening, I cleaned and dried the two storage units, lint rolled my yarn and neatly put each skein away by color in my new yarn storage area. And guess what ? I LOVE IT!!

20140805_215309250_iOS

On a different note, I observed recently that – maybe because of the weather? – craft projects seem to progress a lot slower for me in the summer. So to give myself a little boost of motivation I decided to take part in another KAL, which is great since I had such a good time on my first KAL earlier this summer with Nice And Knit. The one I just signed up for this time is Very Shannon’s Summer Sweater KAL; the CO was on July 30th and FO will be on September 24th. Basically any kind of sweater or top is accepted for this KAL, so I decided to challenge myself into making something I have never done before : a cardigan. I chose the Hollywell Cardigan, from Megan Goodacre, and I’ll knit it in Cascade Heritage yarn in a mix of grays and pink.

hollywell3It’s really exciting because it’s like a triple challenge for me: it’ll be my first cardigan, my first project with pockets, and my first sweater with a hood – weehee!! Since it’s summer and all I don’t have much progress to show as of now, but I have at least completed the pocket linings, and started the main body. I’ll try to make it longer that the pattern calls for because I like longer tops, so the ribbed bottom edge is going to be 4″ wide instead of the 2″ required in the pattern.

20140805_163203829_iOSI’m really excited about this project even though I have had some doubts about it at the beginning – I couldn’t figure out which color I wanted where, and I was worried 3.75mm neddles might be a little too big, but after examining my swatch and pondering over it for some time, I think it’ll be just fine the way I originally planned it, so I’ll stick with the plan and see how it goes! I settled for a pink bottom, light gray stripes and charcoal shoulders and hood, and I simply cannot wait to see how it’ll turn out! But since the ribbing is taking forever, I  guess it’ll take a while 😉

So since I have so little progress to show and so much more to do, I’m going to go back to my needles now and get cracking on my project so I can have something to show you (for real!) next time.

Enjoy your craft time guys! 🙂

A Crafter’s Guilt (And the Superwoman Syndrome)

Posted on

I am in pain. I have been in pain for the last few days, just a severe, agonizing sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. No idea where it came from, it’s just there. Is it a strain because of the long drive during vacation? Or did I pull a muscle? Maybe I pinched a nerve? Or was it a wrong move I made? Whatever it may be, I just couldn’t work on  anything in the past few days, so no spinning, no knitting, no nothing. Ok, maybe I did (a little). But no real progress here for sure. I couldn’t even finish the Tour de Fleece!

So today, since I don’t have anything craft-related to share with you guys, I will be talking about a very different topic; something I find a little bit more important and certainly a lot more personal : the overpowering, omnipresent, socially-created “Superwoman Syndrome”. We all know that in today’s lifestyle, a lot of women feel pressured to perform and achieve in a lot of different aspects of their lives. To name only a few, they feel like they have to be career-driven and professionally successful, need to workout and take care of themselves, they are expected to keep their house clean, get married, be good home makers as well as a perfect mom, they should have healthy and creative hobbies, they have to volunteer and get involved in their community, etc.

What the “Superwoman” does is to set herself (and the people around her) standards that are unnaturally high, standards that are way beyond reach or reason. And then, they tend to strain themselves compulsively toward these impossible goals. Inevitably, at the end of the road, when they realize they simply can’t achieve all those goals to perfection, they break down, cry and feel guilty, worthless and sorry about themselves.

It is a feeling that is very hard to fight or to ward off; I know it because I am sometimes guilty of it myself. See, “guilty”. That word again. Just like we weren’t allowed to show any weaknesses.Truth is, life is not perfect. And we should not expect ourselves to be either. But in our results-oriented society, we have learned to measure our self-worth entirely in terms of productivity and tangible accomplishments.

As I explained earlier, I have been totally floored by very intense neck pains in the past few days.  I knew I just had to rest and wait it off, but I felt so guilty not to be working on anything! – My apartment is getting messier and messier by the minute, and I’m not making progress on any of my WIPs! And if I don’t work on anything, I would be a worthless crafter, right? And I wouldn’t have anything to share on my blog, what an excuse of a blogger would I be? And that is when it struck me… I’m in pain because I’m stressed out. Why am I stressed out, I wonder? Maybe I’m stressed out about work, or maybe it’s my messy apartment. But I can’t be stressed out about fiber arts… right? That’s my hobby, that’s what I do to relax. Crafting, blogging, I do all those things as a hobby, so why would I care if I’m productive or not? But you know what? Even without noticing it, in today’s society, we are pressured to “have fun”. We are expected to use our free time “efficiently” and to “have a good time”. In other words, I’m putting pressure on myself to be productive in everything I tackle – be it work, housekeeping, hobbies, or anything else. And in my eyes, everything has to be done perfectly, and in a timely manner How ridiculous is that?

So today, to fight off all this unhealthy pressure that’s been piling up on me and to share something more meaningful with all of you, I decided to not blog about crafts. I’m blogging about myself, and I’m going to say what I want to say.

I am me. I’m not perfect. I am enthusiastic in everything I do, but everything certainly isn’t perfect, or productive. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I’m tired, and sometimes I just need time for myself to relax and unwind. And it’s OK.

Busy like a bee!

Posted on

The Tour de Fleece is almost over, and although I could not entirely reach all my goals, I’m pretty satisfied by the overall progress I made during the Tour. I spun about 20 ounces of fiber, making total of 6 skeins of yarn ( – ok, 5 if we don’t count the one I made the day before the Tour started – yea, you can call me a cheater 😉 ). It was a very pink Tour for me, but I’m happy with it since I didn’t have a lot of pink, salmon or coral yarn in my stash, so I feel it’ll be a good addition.

 

Fotor0723201631

My original goals were to :

1) Spin finer and more consistent singles

I can say for sure that I totally achieved that first goal, since I am now able to spin yarn about fingering size. Yay! My singles are getting finer and finer, and more and more consistent, and I like it! I think I’m still over-spinning sometimes, but I’m half doing it on purpose, since I like knitting with a yarn that has a good consistent twist.

2) Learn Navajo plying

I made a few attempts at navajo plying – they were not all successful. But even if the results are not perfect, I think I’m slowly beginning to learn how to do it. My arms are starting to remember the motions, and I’m slowly making progress. I spun very little yarn using the navajo ply – less than 100 yards of it – because I still have to go at it really really slow to not mess it up. But so far, I’ve noticed that – contrarily to a 2 ply yarn – it works a lot better with very low twist singles. I guess that makes it a partially achieved goad, so it’s not so bad!

3) Learn how to spin cotton

Spinning cotton is HARD!!! I tried… I really did. But the staple is so short, and it requires so much spin that it’s all really hard to control. I think I’ll have to get a lot more practice before I can actually make yarn out of cotton, for sure. I’ll just keep practicing, and maybe it’ll become a goal again for next year. Wish me luck!

Next on the list for me : I’ll use one of those scrumptious handspun skeins I worked so hard to make! Ok, I admit – I still have 2 ounces of blue and 2 ounces of yellow to spin, but I plan on using those with my No, I’m not Swedish handspun yarn to make this really nice chevrons cowl by Star Athena. I think the colors are just perfect for it, and I am so excited to cast it on!

After that (or not – because sometimes, I get very excited and end up starting too many projects at once :P), I also have another fun sweater idea that I’ll try to put on paper. What I have in mind is a lacy-back, short sleeve sweater in a lace weight yarn, featuring the basic english mesh lace I used on this scarf. I’m thinking of using my yellow Toil and Trouble Merino Silk Lace and mix it with the gray alpaca lace yarn I have in stash. What do you think of this combination?

Fotor0723195349

On the menu for the next few months, I think I’ll also order some more of the green variegated Ashland Bay Merino/Silk fiber I used to spin my Delmar yarn. I really loved spinning this fiber, and it is just so soft it makes me want to wrap myself in it. So my plan is to order 8 or 12 more ounces of it to make about 800 to 1000 yards of scrumptious, sweater-worthy yarn. I’m so excited!

As you can see, I’m keeping myself pretty busy Crafties, and I hope you are too! Show me some of your current projects, I’d be really glad to see what other creative crafters are up to.

Until then, enjoy your craft time 🙂

Because everything is nicer on vacation.

Posted on

So here I am, at my future in-law’s house, taking it easy for a week on vacation. Sweet! Since it took us a good 13 hours to get here on Saturday, I’ve had a chance on the way to pick up my needles, and finish my sweater for the Nice&Knit summer sweater knit along (#NKKAL). I’m definitely very happy about how it turned out!!

http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/sb
http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/sb

The TDF has been going pretty good so far, I have been able to spin a brand new skein of yarn last week, full of colors. I used a combination of yellow and blue corriedale fiber, and although it didn’t turn out as soft as I would have expected, I’m definitely happy about the color scheme. And the best of it all is that with this skein, I was able to achieve one of my TDF goals, which was to spin a finer yarn! This one is about fingering size and is mostly constant, it’ll definitely be a charm to knit!

Fotor071072048
http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/nins

The only down side about this yarn is that I think I put too much spin in it when I plied, and the finished skein turned out much more twisted than I would’ve wanted it to be when I got it off the wheel -_-‘ Even the cat was making fun of me!! I had to let it soak for a long time to let the twist set, and stretched it out real good as it was drying. Oh well.

10527062_10152237491787475_1401975636_o_medium2

I still have 2 ounces of blue and 2 ounces of yellow that I’ll spin as solid colors, and I’ll combine the 3 skeins to knit the  Comptown Races Cowl with it. Isn’t going to look amazing?? I cannot wait to start it! So since my fiber stash has been shinking considerably, last Thursday I decided to stash up again on fiber, and I went for the first time to a little shop located in Nicolet, Québec called the Julie Factrie. I really liked the place, and thought it was cute and quaint (and full of my favorites!). The shop owner, Julie, is a real fiber artist, and it was a pleasure to chat with her for a little while. I left with mostly solid colors this time, and I’m really looking forward to spinning those into wonderful and colorful skeins.

10552113_10152239161272475_2132118162_o

The heat of the moment! (and TDF?)

Posted on

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 🙂

Fotor070870331

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 🙂

What’s cookin’

Posted on

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!