Documented Failure

I am afraid of failure. Terrified actually. I also abhor the possibility of other people knowing about my failures. But I think it is time to confront this fear and show off my most recent disappointment.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

Behold the yellow merino of my nightmares.

So. I began spinning this four ounce bump on my trusty drop spindle. The first half went well, fantastic even. The first two ounces yielded nearly 300 yards of mixed fingering and lace weight yarn. While I spun this first half I noticed that yes merino needs a higher spin and tended to react better when I moved through the process as quickly as possible.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

Then came the second half of the bump. For some reason I couldn’t keep the spin fast enough, the fiber was constantly breaking, the plying process resulted in tons of little twisted bobbles that I cannot get rid of, and the fiber continued to break as I plied so I ended up with a multitude of tiny overhand knots holding the fragile fibers together. There are a few stretches of unmarred yards of usable yarn but I am so angry at the sight of all of those little knots that this skein may be going directly into the garbage can.

Here are some more up close shots of the disappointment skein.

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Now what to do with 300 yards of nice yellow yarn and 300 yards of garbage yarn?

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Knitting and Stitching Show Highlights

Over the summer I started researching fiber related fun things to see and do while in Ireland and I found the Knitting and Stitching show. I have literally been looking forward to this crafty festival since July and it did not disappoint.

DSCN0737My day began at six in the morning so I could catch the seven thirty bus from Galway to Dublin and arrive in the city by eleven. After I made it to Dublin I caught a cab to RDS and ended up having a fabulous conversation with the driver. I told him where I was heading and he replied, “Ah, you’re going for the wool then yeah? My mother used to own a wool shop when I was a kid.” I had hit the cab driver jackpot so we spent the fifteen minute drive chatting about knitterly goodness and the amazing things his mother used to make for him and his brother when they were children.

DSCN0733When I arrived to the show I was blown away by the number of vendors and the number of people already packed into the building. I have only been to one other knit festival, the Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago which is wonderful but doesn’t hold a candle to the Knitting and Stitching show in the sheer number or booths.

 

DSCN0743I spent the first hour examining all the galleries and chatting with the artists who made the exhibits possible. One woman had just finished an arts degree in a design school and had spun paper maps into yarn on her drop spindle and then hand wove the yarn into small sculptural pieces and wall hangings. Another woman had a lovely display of pieces made from fabric that she designed herself. Her website is www.subadesigns.com. Seeing all of these amazing textile related art pieces has made me really consider a degree in textiles and design.

 

DSCN0766Once I had finished gawking at all the artwork it was time to shop and by that time the entire building was packed. It took ages to walk anywhere and I was constantly hitting someone with my backpack (sorry to anyone I may have injured along the way). My two favorite booths were Coolree, a hand dyed luxury wool company from Wexford Ireland and Oliver Twists, a hand dyed wool and silk fiber company from the UK. I spent a lot of time petting all of the things in these two booths and would have stayed all day if my wallet would have let me. Unfortunately I didn’t purchase anything from Coolree because it was sadly out of my college student price range but I plan on buying from them in the future. I did buy DSCN0769two 50 gram bundles of BFL fiber from Oliver Twists and a couple of bits of their dyed silk. I’ve never spun any silk before and the silk bits were .18 cents per gram so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it.

I had an amazing time taking everything in at the show and can’t wait for my next opportunity to attend another fiber arts filled festival. For now I’m going to enjoy my new fiber and new batch of crafty inspiration.

Bass Ranch Wool

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The front of the skein.

Recently a family friend gifted me a lovely hand dyed skein of luxury yarn. This yarn hails from Fishtail, MT from the Muddy Lamb Studio. It is 209 yards of merino wool that has been plied with a strand of silk. The colorway is called Muddy Sky and the main color is a light teal with a chocolate accent.

Thanks to the silk and the top quality Merino wool this yarn is so soft to the touch. I have no idea of what it wants to be yet but I have been searching through my Ravelry favorites for something suitable.

The back side of the skein.

The back side of the skein.

In between hunting for a pattern I have been researching the production line of this yarn and what I have found is really pleasing to a wanna-be-eco-conscious crafter. The wool used in all of the Muddy Lamb Studio yarns are produced at Bass Ranch in Montana. Carol Bass owns both the studio and the ranch. The ranch is home to over a hundred sheep and a few llamas and goats.

The fiber produced on the ranch is then sent to two mills that pride themselves in producing fine quality processed fiber with an emphasis on sustainability. These two mills are Mountain Meadow Wool Mill and Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool. Mountain Meadow Wool prides itself in using “citrus based detergents; recycling our wash water and using natural dyes.” The Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company’s mill is solar powered and refuses to use chemical based detergents when washing raw fleece. Both mills produce their own high quality lines of fiber products that are worth taking a look at.

I’m happy to be supporting small companies doing the right thing by knitting with this thoughtfully produced yarn. I plan on purchasing from the Muddy Lamb Studio and directly from the mills very soon for myself.

In Defense of Red Heart

red heartRed Heart yarn has a questionable reputation among the new wave generation of knitters, crocheters, and fiber enthusiasts. Red Heart products are known as low quality, extremely low price, and are often only thought of as ‘practice yarn’ for children and those new to their chosen yarn craft. Though these claims are true in some respects about the Classic, and Super Saver lines of yarn, they do not extend to their other product lines.

Red Heart has recently made a very obvious effort to catch up with the knitting community as it shifts and changes from prolific grandmothers looking for a good value to calculated artists looking for quality. With approximately 40 different lines of yarn now, Red Heart is able to offer their basic yarns in hundreds of colors as well as newer innovations that allow creators more variety.

My two personal favorite yarn collections offered by Red Heart are relatively new to their lines called Eco Ways and Debbie Stoller. The Eco Ways group is made of three differentRH Eco yarns, the Bamboo Wool blend made of 55% bamboo and 45% wool, the Eco-Cotton blend made of 75% recycled cotton and 25% acrylic, and Eco-Ways made of 70% acrylic and 30% recycled polyester. These eco-friendly yarns use environmentally conscious fibers and print all of their labels on recycled paper. This sort of sustainable thinking is necessary in any setting and being able to maintain it when crafting is a huge bonus. All three of these yarns are very soft and easy to work with. They also all come in a very unique variety of colors that are specific to the dye-ability of each of the fibers used.

RH debbieThe Debbie Stoller collection is composed of four types of yarn that are all centered around the inclusion of natural fibers. These four yarns are Alpaca Love made of 80% wool and 20% alpaca, Bamboo Ewe made of 55% bamboo and 45% wool, Full O’ Sheep made of 100% wool, and Washable Ewe made of 100% superwash wool. Of course, in true Red Heart fashion all four of these types of yarn are offered in a huge variety of colors with a focus on bright jewel tones.

These yarns can be bought in most chain craft stores as well, so there is no need to hunt online for a mass distributor. Red Heart has made quality craft materials accessible to everyone with the introduction of the Eco Ways and Debbie Stoller collections thanks to their always low prices.

Which Red Heart products have you tried and liked/hated? Let me know in a comment so we can compare notes.

Brown Sheep and Lamb’s Pride

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The Brown Sheep Company as we currently know it is located in Mitchell, Nebraska and was founded in 1980. This company was born from the remains of the owners’ Grandfather’s previous sheep and wool business. Currently the Brown Sheep hosts a wool mill that cranks out thirteen different lines of yarn that all come in a multitude of colors that will surely satisfy any designer. These yarns are made predominantly from natural fibers  such as wool, cotton, and mohair. Brown Sheep proudly places a Made in the USA label on all of their products as they do all of the processing  within the country. Brown Sheep has updated their system in 2010 in order to make the wool refining and dyeing process more eco-friendly. Since this update the company has been able to recycle 70-90% of their waste water that would have been discarded with the previous system. Brown Sheep is a forward thinking fiber company that has taken the well being of the ecosystem into consideration as they think about the future impacts of their business.

My favorite yarn from the Brown Sheep Company is the most basic and most versatile of the bunch. It is Lamb’s Pride, a blend of two natural fibers, 85% wool and 15% mohair. The small amount of mohair gives the otherwise stiff wool a bit of flexibility and softness thatlambs pride would not be present if the yarn was 100% wool. The mohair also gives your worked piece a slight fuzz halo that unites different stitches  together to create a cohesive piece of knitting. Lamb’s Pride comes in 97 different colors, including solid, heathered and variegated varieties, and comes in a worsted weight and a bulky weight. This variety allows a designer to experience an overwhelming amount of opportunities. This yarn’s value is uncontested by any other Made in the USA wool blends as it comes in skeins of 190 yards for only nine dollars. Lamb’s Pride is a knitter’s yarn basket staple and if you haven’t tried this yarn yet, I highly suggest that you pick up a few skeins as soon as possible. Visit the Brown Sheep Company online to find a retailer near you and to explore the many other lines of yarn they offer.

Let me know what your favorite Brown Sheep Company product is and what projects you have used it for in the comments section. I will be sure to check out any recommendations from my fellow fiber enthusiasts.