knitting

Confession Tuesday : My kingdom for a ball winder!

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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 🙂

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Organization is key!

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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!!

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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)

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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!

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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.

 

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!