Polar Prep

For a lot of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota residents last winter was a test of patience, stamina, and good old fashioned Midwestern stubbornness. The term ‘polar vortex’ was born and those who experienced it firsthand grew a new layer of already frostbitten skin. Throughout the summer I’ve run into people already complaining about the potential cold of the coming winter and they’ve run away from me in shock and horror when I respond with “I actually really enjoyed the cold last winter.”

Strangers don’t know the context of my liking of the cold weather and generally if you aren’t complaining about the weather in the Midwest you are seen as inhuman. Of course negative thirty degree temperatures are awful and undesirable but those days also gave me a few weeks of excuses for why I would rather stay home knitting and drinking coffee from the comfort of my bed.

IMG_20140906_191720Through these last couple of months of summer I have been prepping for the coming winter by both making garments to be worn in the event of a polar vortex sequel and building a stockpile of supplies to keep me entertained.

This extra wooly vest is made from my souvenir yarn from my trip abroad to Ireland. It is from Kerry Woolen Mills and is delightfully rustic and insulating. The flecks of blue and red tweed against the base purple color add warmth in a visual sense while those colors are complimented by rich leather buttons. The pattern ofIMG_20140822_165835 the garment itself is one I made up as I went along, my first wearable personal design of something other than an accessory. I love its simplicity because it lets the yarn take center stage and as a souvenir piece it personifies my trip to Ireland. I cannot wait to don it over a flannel button up this winter and have already picked out the outfit I will wear with it on the first really cold day of the year.

Apparently I am in a purple groove these days as my three most current projects deal with the entire purple spectrum. I am nearly halfway through with Hillary Smith Callis‘ design Hawkes. It is a youthful pullover with tons of IMG_20140906_155033texture. I’m using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca so the resulting piece will be beyond just warm. This is a really simple pattern and the broken rib texture is a test of my patience at this point but with four inches of the body left to go I think I can make it to the end of the piece. Plus, I know the work and slight tedium of one by one rib stitch rows over about 180 stitches will be worth it once it is blocked, dried, and tried on.

I have a few more sweaters for myself in the works, a sweater for my boyfriend and socks and hats for us both yet to make this winter. I don’t know if I could squeeze all that making into the coming season unless there is to be another month of paralyzing chilliness so bring on Polar Vortex Two, because I have work to do.

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.

The Downsides of Being a Prolific Creator

I spend a lot of my time immersed in yarn-related projects. A ridiculous amount of time actually. That time is spent designing, sketching, choosing color schemes, finding inspiration via Pinterest and Ravelry, and then actually knitting and crocheting my pieces. All of this time spent has paid off in terms of full notebooks and overflowing storage tubs full of completed articles. Currently I am sitting on a collection of four afghans, three pairs of mittens, one earwrap, seven hats, and six cowls/scarves. This my friends is too much stuff.

Two pairs of adult sized mittens and one pair of medium child sized mittens.

Two pairs of adult sized mittens and one pair of medium child sized mittens.

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Seven slouchy hats made from wool, alpaca, recycled acrylic, and acrylic. One ear wrap crafted from a silky bamboo/acrylic blend.

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Two baby afghans, one child sized afghan and one couch sized afghan.

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Four single wrap cowls, one double wrap cowl and one granny shawl scarf.

These items that continue to crowd my work space are those that could not be gifted to anyone or sold in my Etsy store. Now that I am approaching summertime I am scrambling to find appropriate storage for them all. I’d much rather use the space they are taking up to store new supplies instead.

Afghan Addiction

Crocheting afghans is one of my favorite things to do. I love the process as it is both intensive and relaxing. It is also incredible to see something that began as an idea form in your hands into reality.

DSCN0301Yesterday I completed a hexagon afghan that I started in mid-January. The multi-colored hexagons were made from scrap yarn that I have been hoarding throughout my crafting career. I love that all color families are present in this afghan.

Each hexagon is bordered with two rows of double crochet and are then joined in a raised join with single crochet.

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I used a classic granny hexagon motif pattern. You can find many adaptations of the granny hexagon on Ravelry.

It measures out to be approximately 40″ by 56′” making it the perfect size for a living room throw or a child’s blanket.

 

DSCN0343I can’t wait to have a better photo shoot with this one and get it listed in my Etsy store.

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.