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!!!

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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

Sweater-y weather

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Hey-ho Fellow Crafties!

Today, I want to talk to you about my latest adventure : the Oh-my-god-I-want-to-knit-myself-a-sweater adventure! It started a few weeks ago; the weather has been warming up a lot here recently, and the snow is slowly melting away. It smells more and more like spring every day, and the warmer days inspired me to retire my winter coat for the season and use lighter and more colorful clothes to match the nice weather.

That said, I have been CRAVING a hand knit sweater so bad that I just couldn’t resist when I saw the most scrumptious blue balls of Bamboo Pop yarn I found as I was out shopping, so I bought 4 balls, and set off on a new adventure! Now, I must mention that I have never in my life knitted a sweater. I sew a sweater once or twice, but never have I actually knitted a piece of clothing other than a shawl, a scarf, socks or hats. I have never knitted a swatch either, because size has never really been an issue. Who cares if a scarf is 9 or 10 inches wide, really? And to top it all off, I had so many unanswered questions, like how exactly am I going to shape the shoulders? Or the neckline?

To give myself a better idea of what I was getting myself into, I first started by looking at sweater patterns, but I quickly realized it probably wouldn’t be a very good idea because I (very honestly) couldn’t visualize how it would come together. I really felt that if I just blindly followed the instructions given on a pattern, the sweater I would make wouldn’t fit as good as it should because it wouldn’t be adapted to my own body and measurements.

After coming to that conclusion, I instead decided to look for videos or tutorials on how to make your own sweater from scratch, and I found this very helpful series of videos from Knitpicks on YouTube that showed me exactly what I needed. You can find the first video of the series here.

I learned in that series of videos how to swatch, calculate my stitch counts and how to shape the sweater according to my body measurements and my knitting gauge. Strong from all this new information, I grabbed a pair of needles and my yarn and I started the project. Instead of making the sweater bottom up like they suggest in the video, I decided to adapt it to make it top down. I have never made a sweater before, so I have no idea if I have enough yarn to make a long sleeves sweater or not. By doing it top down, I can simply adjust the length of the sleeves the match the amount of yarn I have left at the end, so I figured that would be the most appropriate way to do it in my case.

Knitting a sweater is obviously a very slow process, even more so because it’s my first one and I’m not entirely sure of what I’m doing (Who am I kidding, really… I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I’m doing!). I know I made a lot of mistakes and some spots look kind of weird in my opinion, but I have learned a lot in the process, and I know for sure that my next sweater is going to be a lot better. So far it seems the general shape and the measurements are right, so whatever I did was surely not entirely wrong 😉

Wade and I are going to Cape Cod for the weekend to let off some steam and relax so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it before we leave or not, but if I can’t, I’ll make sure to update this post later to show you guys some pictures of the finished product.

On that note, that’s all for today folks, I hope you’ll all enjoy your Easter weekend and spend some quality time with your loved ones 🙂

Cheers!

Weave-a-thon

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Last December, my boyfriend and I went to Ohio to visit his family for the holidays. We had a really good time with everybody; good food, good times and good laughs, but one of the things that I was the most excited about was that I got to try my hand at weaving. I have never tried weaving before, not even once in my entire life, and although I have been sewing for 10 years, to me the art of creating your own fabric from scratch has always been cloaked in mystery.

Lucky for me, my boyfriend’s mom is a veteran weaver, and she was nice enough to spend 2 days showing me the basics of weaving. As I had absolutely no idea what I was embarking myself in, I couldn’t imagine what the finished product would look like, and chose the loom, the yarn and the pattern I was going to use a little haphazardly. Based on my future mom in law’s advice, I used a Leclerc counterbalance loom, a variegated, fuzzy purple yarn and a twill pattern.

And I set off! Little did I know though, how strenuous warping a loom is. Holy crap on a cracker! For a 12 inch wide scarf, warping the thing took an entire day! I couldn’t believe it! Ok, part of the reason why it took so long is because I’m a newbie and I had virtually no idea what I was doing, but still! I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I swore I would never touch a loom ever again. hahahaha the irony!

The second day, I started the actual weaving, and much to my surprise (after the warping hell the day before) I really enjoyed it! I weaved for 5 hours straight, and just like that, I had a brand new scarf! I just couldn’t believe how fast it goes once the loom is warped and threaded. And that is when it suddenly struck me : even though warping takes a long time, if I do it once and weave multiple projects, Oh THE POSSIBILITIES!!!

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So here starts the loom saga. I was so excited by my new discovery that as soon as I came home, I started shopping for a loom. Soon enough, I found a decently priced one, used but in good condition. A lady that lives an hour away from my place was selling it to make room for a different one. I was so excited to have found a loom so fast that my boyfriend Wade and I drove there on the weekend, and I bought it on the spot. The funny part starts as I was reaching for my purse to pay, and something suddenly struck me : the loom is a Leclerc 60″ counterbalance, and it comes with a bench; my car is a small Yaris. How am I going to bring it home? Well, if you’ve ever tried playing Tetris, I can tell you that a real life version is far more challenging (not to mention entertaining!). We spent 2 hours taking the loom apart, taking pictures and carefully labeling all the pieces, and we (somehow!) managed to fit everything into my small car (I heaved a sigh of relief).

Wade and I got home, I was still pumped and excited about my new purchase, and we took all the pieces inside. Then, I took a moment to take good look at it. The loom is home, that’s great and all, but now… We have to put it back together hahahaha. It took a good 2 hours to make sense of it all and get it together, but we finally did it! For those who are interested, here’s a “before” and “after” photo, I can tell you I have never been so proud of my construction abilities!

ImageAfter finally putting it together, I tried a few things and made a few test pieces, I understand now a lot more about weaving, fabric construction and weaving patterns, I have been experimenting a lot with different colors, different types of yarn or thread and different patterns, very much so much that it starts looking like a weave-a-thon. But I’m enjoying myself, I feel creativity flowing and ideas keep popping in my head, so much I can barely sleep at night! But I’m really proud of what I can do now, and I get the feeling it’ll only get better and better. This whole saga just really shows that starting a new craft isn’t always easy, but as long as passion is driving you, you can really make the best out of it and make your learning experience worthwhile!

On that note folks, I’m out! Enjoy your crafting time 🙂

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