Easter Rowan

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As you may remember this is my year of Rowan, where I am primarily knitting with Rowan yarns or Rowan patterns.  When I came across this pattern a few months back I knew I wanted to make it, but of course use a Rowan yarn. IMG_3977

I have enjoyed getting to know a lot of the Rowan yarns over these past few months, and at this point I would have to say Rowan Felted Tweed DK is my favorite. I love the texture of the wool/ alpaca/viscose blend and the colors are just beautiful. Also the yardage is just wonderful 191 for a 50 gram ball. It’s an easy yarn to work with and because of it been mostly a wool alpaca blend joining a new ball is a breeze with the spit method.

Now you might be asking yourself “what the heck is the spit method?”  It is a great way to join yarns together without having to weave in ends or knots.  It’s very simple, but let me warn you that it only works on an animal fibered yarn that is NOT a superwash. So in other words it will felt. Felted Tweed fall into this category, so of course this is the method of joining a new yarn that I used.

How I do this method is first get both ends of the yarn. The end of the ball you are working with and the beginning of the new ball. I like to untwist the plies of each end, but you really don’t have to.  Then lay the ends on top of each other and moisten with your spit. I know it sounds weird but it really does need to be your (or somebody’s) spit. There is something in the enzymes that causes this to work.  Next rub the wet ends together in your hands until the ends have felted together and joined.  Now you are ready to continue knitting.  Of course this works well for crochet too.

Now back to the sweater.

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I found the pattern on Ravelry and it’s called the Rose Bramble and it can be found in issue 61 of the Knitter, which is a UK knitting magazine; this particular issue has some great patterns that I think will come up later.  It calls for a DK weight yarn so I just knew Felted Tweed would work great.

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I found the cables and lace pattern to be not very difficult to master and fun to knit.  I did look at some of the finished pieces on Ravelry and found a few knitters had a bit of a problem with the collar. When I got to that point I did end up redoing it three times until I found a solution that finally worked for my broad shoulder.  I also decided that I wasn’t super thrilled with the cast on edge so I ended up with making a couple of changes to the pattern.

First I cast on with a provisional cast on with the idea to come back and do a bit of a ribbing. Which I did. I wasn’t sure if I would do a 3×3 or a 2x 2. In the end the 2×2 looked the best. The edging was about 2 inches.

Second when I got to the collar, I did 15 rows of 3×3 , then I decreases to a 2 x 2 rib, by (K 1, K2tog, P1, P2tog)  I then did a total of 10 rows of the 2×2 rib. Next I decrease to a 1×1 rib, by (K2tog, P2tog); I did 5 total rows of the 1 x1 ribbing.

I took some advice from other knitters and decided to bind off with a 3 stitch I cord bind off.  How that’s done, is when you are ready to bind off cast on 2 stitches. K 2, K2tog in the back loops, by k2tog in the back you are taking one stitch of the edge off the needles. Place the just worked stitches back on the left needle and repeat until all stitches have been worked. I do like the clean edge this bind off gives.IMG_4250

I had 5 balls of Felted tweed in color 161 Avocado, which is a really cool yellow green.  I think works perfect for an Easter and spring sweater. Here in Idaho Easter can be really cool this time of year, so I think the added warmth of the wool and alpaca will work well for this time of year and the short sleeves with help it to be no too warm.

I was really hoping to find a nice skirt to match with the yarn but so far I haven’t been able to find a nice floral (that I like) so what I might end up doing is wearing a cream colored broom skirt that I have and an elegant bamboo shawl that I wove a few years back.

All in all I love how this project turned out and I am looking forward to many years of wear.

Be on the lookout for my next Rowan project. I will tell you that it will involve Summerspun and one of my favorite styles of patterns.  I am also planning on participating in Rowan’s first CAL (crochet along), which starts next week and I will be using summerlite in a blues color scheme. So plan to come back and see how my progress goes.

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Welcome Spring!

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I know in many parts of the US there are people wondering when spring will arrive. In a good news band news kind of way in Idaho we had spring in January. This really has been a crazy winter, here my crocus have already bloomed and died away and my herb garden looks like its mid June.  Never the less it’s great to see spring. One of the great things about living in Idaho is we do have all four seasons even if they aren’t always aligned with the calendar.

So in honor of the first day of spring my latest punch needle embroidery celebrates just that.  The pattern is an older Lizzy Kate that I found on eBay. One of the problems (sort of) with punch needle is you work on the wrong side. So if you are like me and don’t always look at your work on the front you might just miss a mistake.   Which is what happened in this piece. Although I’m not sure it’s really a mistake more of a design feature.

On the punch needle that I use (CTR) there are little beads that allow you to adjust the size of your loop. Well as it turned out one of beads came off after I had completed the back ground and a few of the highlights. Which has caused the carrot, tulip, bee, and butterfly to look more 3D than the patterned called for.

I’m not sure I would call it a mistake but a bit of an enhancement.  Never the less it is a great pattern to welcome spring.

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Sun Flowers for a Sunny day OK in hopes of a sunny day

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I love living in Idaho. I have been here since the mid 80’s and there are parts I love and then there are some not so much. I really don’t enjoy  the foggy days we get in the winter, they can last for weeks, so any day we get to see the sun in January and February its a great day. All Idaho’s come out of their homes like moles and enjoy the sun. It doesn’t matter that it might be 20 degrees it’s still the sun and worth taking a look at.

So on those gloomy winter days I like to work on something cheery. This little punch needle project fits the bill, not to mention it’s a great reminder to pray and we can all do that more   How can you not look at these sunflowers and not smile. Yes readers Spring is coming. I’m not sure when but its coming so take a few minutes to look at the winter sky and smile. If it’s like here you might have to Google a picture of the sun but do it. I promise it will make you smile.

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Punch Needle Embroidery -how to get started

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I have always enjoyed the look of vintage embroidery and I have a rather large collection of iron on transfers that date back to the 40’s however I have a big problem. I have an allergy to steel needles. So even though I know how to do all sorts of needle work, I can no longer work on any type of needle work for any period of time without suffering for it. Yes that does apply to knitting needles, however there are wood and bamboo and even nylon knitting needles that I can use.  And yes I still do wool appliqué and at this point I suffer for it, but that’s another story for another day.

On a side note I prefer to use nylon knitting needles, but they are no longer being made so I buy any I can find in thrift stores or antique stores.

When I was a teenager I came across the art of punch needle embroidery. Back in the 80’s it became popular and lots of patterns, supplies and ideas came out. However I was a broke high school and college student and couldn’t afford to invest into a new hobby. Then marriage and kids came and I kind of forgot about it.

At least that was until last fall. A friend of mine had recently moved into my area and opened her fiber shop. So as any good fiber fanatic I set up a Spin in day to visit the shop and of course do a little bit of shopping. In her store she had a few kits of punch needle. Her kits were ones I had never seen before. Instead of campy animals she had primitive art designs. Which totally caught my eye.  So I asked her if she would be willing to set up a class for our little group. As it turned out there were a few interested but as it turned out just two of us came to the class. We both ended up hooked! I had finally found a  style of embroidery that I can do without totally trashing my fingers and hands. So like all my hobbies I jumped over the edge of just about obsession.

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If you have never seen or done punch needle embroidery let me introduce you to it. First it’s very easy to learn. I would say it will take you all of about 10 minutes to learn. No really. Think of it as coloring with thread. Now when it comes to the tools you will need there are some that you can’t go cheap on.

The Punch Needle

First you will need a punch needle. I have to confess I have only tried two styles and found one I like and have just stayed with it.

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The first style I tried was the Boye three in one kit. I first thought well this would be great I can get all three sizes of punches in one kit. However once I started working with it I found the needle would slide inside the handle and then it wouldn’t work properly.

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So when I went to my class my friend had the CTR Russian punch. On first glance it looks really small and hard to hold. The neat thing with this design it’s the size of a pencil, so if it’s small size is a problem for you, a pencil grip will fit on it and help ease any finger pain. Although I don’t have a problem with it. The added bonus is the handle is made with a non steel metal so I can work with it just fine. It also has a neat silver stripe on the front to let you know that you are punching in the right direction, which for punch embroidery is important.

There are several other styles of punches but I have not worked with any of them so I can’t recommend them. I will say that the Ultra punch is the number one that is purchased by others however I have found one I like and I don’t see the need to invest in any other styles at this time.

Hoops or Frames

The next thing that is important to have is either a frame or hoop to place you work in. The most important thing to know about punching is to make sure your fabric is drum tight which makes punching so much easier and less work.   I have several Morgan hoops and I really like them. They are a bit pricey then the ones you will find in most craft stores.  But let me tell you they are worth every penny. They also have sets that have stands and I think they are worth the cost.  What makes them so different is they have a groove that locks the fabric in place and in all the projects I have made so far I have never had the fabric loosen. Which again is important to success.

There are also frames that have a tack strip around the top to help hold the fabric in place. I hear good things about them but because I have the hoops and am happy with them I again don’t see the need to buy one.

Fabric

The next thing is the fabric, whether you by a kit or make a design of your own you really need to use what’s called weavers cloth. It’s a 55% polyester and 45% cotton plain weave fabric. It looks like regular muslin but because of the polyester cotton blend it works perfect for punching and makes it a breeze to work with. Some kits I have come across use what’s called punch needle fabric and it’s not the same as the weaver’s cloth. Weaver’s cloth is an even weave that when you punch it doesn’t break the fibers so it’s stays together and makes punching more enjoyable, whereas the punch fabric is a more open weave and I find it harder to work with. If you are in the US or have a fabric store close by you can buy the fabric by the yarn in several different colors. Regular price at Joann fabric is just 9.99 a yard with will make quite a few projects depending on size. Also they have sales all the time and you can find it for half price.

These are the three most important supplies that will make punch needle an enjoyable new hobby.

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Threads

There are other things to think about. One important one being what threads to use. There are cotton, wool and acrylic threads that will work wonderfully. I use DMC floss.  I can use it as the 6 strand, or 3 or single strand depending on my project. If you are like me I have tons of it around the house that I can use up. Also I like it because there are so many different shades to work with and I can also blend colors by separating the strands.

Other supplies

I have a few other tools that I really like for punch embroidery. One that is really helpful is a pair of bent scissors. It really helps when trimming ends of threads.

I also use a very fine tip Sharpie pen to trace all my patterns. One thing to keep in mind is your designs are backwards on the hoop. While you are punching you are working on the back side so all your designs will be reverse which for the most part doesn’t matter until you add letters or words.

Also you should get some kind of box to keep all your supplies in one place. To thread your punch you use a very small threader that is really thin and very easy to lose so I keep them on a magnetic strip in a plastic box.

 

If you are at all interested in pursuing this as a new hobby I can’t recommend it enough. It really is fun and portable and the results can be just wonderful. I would suggest doing a bit of Google and YouTube searching for how to’s and supplies, there are all kinds of great ideas out there and lots a great hints tips and how’s that you will be punching before you know it.

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I love – hate patterns (project) of the month

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 Are you like me? You come across some neat craft project that is a make a part each month for a few months or even for a whole year, and are like me, you just have to sign up and get started.  Well this year I have started three of them (so far), even as I am finishing up one I started last year that I didn’t get finished. Oh well what can I say I just love making stuff.

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This year I am working along with a group to use up stash yarn and make a pair of sock each month. I am also making wool appliqué ornanment each month and lastly I came across a quilt block a month through Buttermilk Basin designs. Now here is the crazy part. I don’t quilt. I really don’t want to quilt so why in the heck would I start the quilt block of the month? Because it’s cute, right! It’s got a sheep on it and everything.

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Because I really don’t have an interest in making a quilt I decided that I would make each block into a mini wall hanging.  Which means I needed some type of hanger. Which was a good thing as I asked my hubby who likes to blacksmith as his hobby to see if he could make up some kind of hanger for me.

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I am so please with what he came up with from my simple pencil drawing.

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Now you might remember back a few days ago I talked about punch needle embroidery and why I can’t do traditional embroidery anymore.  I have an allergy to steel. I can’t use steel needles because they will cause my fingers to split and bleed if I touch them for any amount of time. And let’s face it who what to work on a project for just 15 minutes or so. Yes I don’t use steel knitting needles either. Luckily there are several types of needles being made today, wood bamboo to just name a few. I however really like working with vintage Boye or Susan Bates nylon needles if I can find them.

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So you might be asking yourself if you have this allergy why are you making wool appliqué items. Well I have found out that if I use vintage English embroidery needles they don’t seem to hurt my fingers as much. So I can usually get a small project completed before my fingers really start to hurt, thus why all my wool projects are small ones.  I also wait at least a week between projects to help my fingers heal up. I think I would pay for it if I worked on wool appliqué every day. Which does work well for these once a month projects

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Fine Art is fine sock yarn

 

 

I have a bit of a confession to make……

 

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I love socks! For as long as I can remember I have loved socks, the crazier the better. As a matter of fact I usually wear socks and not shoes any chance I get.  I still have a pair that I was given when I was in high school because they looked like they have hamburgers on them.

When I became a knitter one of the first things I learned to make was socks. And that was what they call, the beginning of a sock love affair that I don’t see ending anytime soon.  Once the summer temps break I break out my socks and wear them until it gets to hot to have anything on my feet.

When it comes to knitting socks I like lace, texture, color and even plain vanilla. The great thing about knitting socks is they’re a small-ish project that doesn’t take a long term commitment.  So if you feel like knitting something Fair Isle a sock won’t take forever to complete. Or if you want to learn lace knitting a sock is a great place to start.

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Thankfully there are some very good books and tons of free patterns out there so the investment for patterns can be very reasonable, which in turn allows for your money to go to buying really good sock yarn. Which I totally recommend, why spend all that time on knitting a sock with cheap yarn that will wear out after just a few wearings?  I recently bought some sock yarn from eBay that was from China and I think I wore them for all of three times before the bottom of the foot wore a huge hole in them. So some times you really do get what you pay for.

Now when it comes to darning socks I hold to the school of thought that says don’t do it.  I know some sock yarns can be very expensive and we all want to get as much use as we can out of our socks. But I figure if I can get a year or so of wear out of a pair then I am happy and I have recouped my investment. After all if they wear out I can always make more, which in my eyes is a win win.

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Because I am a sock knitter, finding a new sock yarn is always a treat. This past summer I came across Rowan’s Fine Art sock yarn. All I can say is; it really is a treat to knit with.  I have a couple of skeins of this 45% wool,20% Mohair,20% silk and 25% Polyamide (or nylon)yarn, so as this is my year of Rowan I thought I would break out a skein and see how it works up.

The first skein I chose was Elm color number 309. The skein comes in a very generous 437 yards so there is plenty for the average to maybe even a bit on the larger size foot. Luckily I have small feet so I will be able to get a regular pair and probably a short pair too.  Because this is a cream to light brown tonal color way I decided that a lace pattern would work perfect for this yarn. I also think a cable pattern would work just as well.  For the pattern I chose a free one from Ravelry called the February Ladies sock.

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/yarnsnthreads/february-lady-sock

I have knit this February Ladies sweater a few years back and loved the look of it so I thought the socks would work up great as well. I am really pleased with the pattern and the yarn. I found the pattern to be easy to follow and a joy to knit. The lace pattern helps keep in interesting even on the second sock. So no second sock syndrome here.

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Now for the yarn, I have used blends before, I would have to say most of my sock yarns are blends but this is the first wool mohair blend I have worked with.  Like I have said before Rowan seems to like to use mohair as a blend in a lot of their yarns and I am beginning to see why. I like the feel, not to stiff or scratchy yet tighly spun for long wear. I am sure the mohair will add strength and longevity to my socks. Only time will tell that. I also really like the subtle color change in this color way. I wouldn’t normally think to buy a cream to light brown color but I will say it turned out just great for this pattern.

I am already plotting my next pair of socks with Fine Art, so stay tuned.

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Rowan and Crochet?

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When you think about working with Rowan your first thought might be as mine was. What are we going to knit today?  Well today I am going to talk about my new favorite yarn and crochet?

 

This past week I received my issue of Rowan Magazine 57 and in this issue there are some really nice summer tops that are knit but there is also two lace crochet tops that I do plan to make later this year.  So it got me to thinking that it has been a long time sense I have crocheted. So I looked a bit through Ravelry and the Rowan love forum I came across this pattern, and thought I would give it a go.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cardiff-cowl

 

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So it on to my favorite yarn (at the moment) Rowan Felted Tweed DK. I have fallen in love with this yarn.  Felted tweed comes in lots of very nice colors and there are still some past shades available if you look for them. This is a slightly felted yarn so it’s already really soft.  It’s made up of 50% Merino wool, 25% Alpaca and 25% Viscose. It’s on the lighter side of DK weight and after making this cowl it still is my favorite yarn. I just love the texture, feel and color effect it produces.

 

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The pattern was a breeze to crochet. Because Felted Tweed is a bit on the lighter side I decided to crochet with a small hook, so a G or 6, and start by chaining 124 instead of the 84 that the pattern called for. I think it worked out nicely and will be fun to wear.

By the way I used a discontinued color of Damask, which is a blue-ish purple.

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