Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Knit-a-longs (Clue 1 and 2)

As I mentioned in my post about knit-a-longs, the Rose City Yarn Crawl runs both a knit and crochet a long in the month leading up to the yarn crawl. It’s a real treat seeing people wear their creations out on the crawl, and I wanted to be one of those gals sporting a new finished object on the crawl this year.

I decided that enough of my yarn was unpacked that I should be able to find some stuff out of my stash. This is actually hard, since I mostly buy yarn for specific projects and this is my first cowl, so I haven’t really shopped with that in mind. Since it’s Presidents day down here in the US, I’ll show you the red-white-and-blue yarns that became my short list before I decided on my two required colours:

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Knit-a-Long

Okay, so it’s actually blue-white-red like the French flag, but I am Canadian after all! This is KnitPicks Diadem yarn, bought during the big yarn sale in November two years ago on spec, because it sounded lovely and I wanted to try it. It’s a super fluffy alpaca-silk single ply that *feels* like heaven, but it’s kind of hard to work with because it sheds fluff, splits, and the fluff felts into little loops around the yarn that I have to cut off pretty frequently plus it sometimes loops around to make knots. And it’s hard to photograph because of the halo of fluff.

I was initially pretty disappointed by the yarn, but as I’ve gotten used to it, the luxurious feel balances out the finicky nature of the yarn. This is going to be one luxurious cowl, although I’m going to have to work for it!

I really wanted to do red & silver but once I saw the first clue, I decided silver & blue would suit it better:

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Knit-a-Long

Clue 1 is supposed to remind you of bike treads. I think it does!

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 1 detail

The whole pattern is written like a story about a bike ride, with twists and turns. Clue 2 involves some scenery and then some winding roads.

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 2 detail

It was at this point that realized that I’d somehow chosen my high school colours, silver and blue, because it reminded me of an old high school shirt when I started to get into the “scenery” part. Oh well, they’re great colours even if it is a bit funny.

Now let’s zoom out and see clue 1 and most of clue 2. I needed to take the picture while I still had nice light and figured you’ll see the last part next time. Clue 3 has been out since Wednesday so I’m a bit behind!

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 1 & 2

That… does not look like a cowl at all, to be honest. What a strange beast! I look forwards to seeing how this construction is going to work in the end.

Overall, the story of this cowl kind of makes it fun, and I’m loving how it feels even if the knitting process can be a tad annoying thanks to finicky yarn. I do think I’m done with mystery knits for a while after this, though… after seeing how beautiful other people’s cowls look with colour two as a variegated, I have a deeper understanding of how much I like selecting colours with advance knowledge of how they’re going to work together. But I did choose something high-contrast which looks pretty good, so I can’t be too sad!

Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags, November 2015

I finally sat down and made a decision about what to make with my Beanie Bags yarn. So freeing!

First, let’s look at the package. The mailing envelope contained a single bag filled with stuff:
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The packaged contained 4 balls of yarn in the same shade of grey (although the light catches them differently in the photo below, they’re clearly the same shade in person), a plastic yarn needle, and a packet of soak fabric wash.
Jimmy Beans Beanie Bag, November 2015

Here it is all together with the card and packaged-by note so you can see the other side of the bag, which is fun too:
Jimmy Beans Beanie Bag, November 2015

Very cute! You can read about the yarns on the Jimmy Beans Wool website. The “learn a thing about yarn” theme here is blending. I’m familiar with doing custom yarns in this way since here in Portland we have Yarnia, an entire store dedicated to custom yarn blends. I visited Yarnia as a stop on the Rose City Yarn Crawl and while I wasn’t willing to wait for winding something custom, I was impressed by the huge selection of options.

As I said in my previous post, it took me a while to sit down and decide what to do with these yarns, since there were a bunch of possible combinations. I finally settled on a pair of two-yarn blends.

Shibui Pebble and Cima

I just want you all to admire how black and white the yarn ball photos look. I had a momentary freak-out when they downloaded from the camera because I thought something had gone wrong and I was getting a greyscale photo instead of the original, but no, I just took very monochrome pictures.

Shibui Cima and Pebble
Shibui CimaShibui Pebble

Cima is super soft, Pebble has nice texture. The combo gives you the best of both worlds! I grabbed a stitch dictionary and tried out a kind of leafy swatch. Here it is unblocked:

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

This is “lace ribbons” on page 63 of Melissa Leapman’s “The Knit Stitch Handbook” if you’re trying to duplicate it.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

The end result is soft, flexible, and has that texture. Very nice! The swatch stretches out and looks a bit more angular when blocked, but the flexibility and softness of the yarn remain.

Shibui Maai and Staccato

Maai is pretty similar to the chained alpaca yarn I used for my kitty hat (it’s Misti Tui) and my one complaint with that yarn is that it’s too soft and fuzzy show much stitch definition.

Shibui Maai and Staccato
Shibui MaaiShibui Staccato

This blend, however, is all “by our powers combined!” and it’s got reasonable stitch definition with a bit of a sheen, but it’s still soft and plush with a halo of fuzz.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

The swatch is “tumbling blocks” from page 46 of Melissa Leapman’s “The Knit Stitch Handbook.” Chosen because it’s a knit/purl only texture so there isn’t too much help if the yarn can’t carry on its own. The photo is unblocked and only one side, but it basically looks the same blocked and on the reverse side.

Conclusion

Once I got around to using it, I really loved this Beanie Bag. I got to try a new technique and honestly, once I sat down with the stitch dictionary I didn’t have any trouble figuring out what to do. Just needed to get over the hump of indecision, I guess, and decide that swatches were the plan for this bunch. I loved the Shibui yarns and could see myself buying more of any of these, and it’s nice that I can turn around and just get them from the Jimmy Beans Wool website..

I’m not sure I can see myself doing a whole lot of yarn blending in this way, mostly because I can’t see myself building up a stash with appropriately matching colours for that. It seems to me that it would make more sense to take advantage of local store Yarnia if I wanted a blend, since they have a huge range of yarns and colours right there.

But I *could* see myself going out of my way to blend a yarn that wasn’t working for me, and now I’ve got a better sense of how a couple of blends work, so I feel like I learned a useful technique. Thanks JBW!

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Astute readers may note that I’m doing the December YOTM review but still haven’t done the Beanie Bag full review. That’s because even though it’s January I still haven’t knit up anything with any of my Beanie Bag yarns. How embarrassing. Now, I could blame a busy holiday, but I the answer is much simpler than that: I don’t know what to knit. Without a recommended swatch just sitting there in the bag, and a combo of yarns to choose (remember, this was the “try two held together of different types!” package), the barrier to just sitting down and doing it is a lot harder. What needle size should I use? What should I knit? Which combo of yarns? Should I try the included headband pattern even though I barely ever wear headbands? This isn’t a “grab all the supplies and throw in purse” kind of project and apparently that’s a barrier.

This isn’t an unsolvable problem, of course, but since the idea behind doing tiny yarn samples was that I wouldn’t have a huge backlog of unused yarn, it’s a bit distressing to realise that not having swatch patterns in the bag makes such a difference. I’m approaching the end of my self-imposed “I’ll try this in 3 months and then decide” and I’m torn. I love the packages, they feel like a serious treat and I like the way each one has a theme that involves teaching you about fiber, and I like taking pictures of them, but if I’m not using them, I should probably give up and move on.

So expect some experimentation on that front soon! I’ve grabbed some stitch dictionaries and a set of interchangable needles and queued up an episode of Dr. Who, but there’s a percent chance that what you’re going to see next is a bunch of tiny octopi.

Anyhow, in the meantime, here’s the easy-to-use Yarn of the Month for December!

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

This month’s yarn was *super* posh. The black is fuzzy and soft, and the red is one of the nicest silk blends I’ve ever used. It was a huge contrast to the pleasant-but-unexciting superwash in my other yarn bag, which isn’t to say that the other was bad at all but wow did I ever want to play with these first!

The pattern

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

It’s a Santa hat! I think I might stop mentioning the patterns; I hardly ever use them.

Soavia

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Soavia
“Really soft and smooshy with a beautiful sheen”
5.5 sts/inch on US 7
65% Wool 20% Kid Mohair 15% Silk
164 yds Color: 60

This yarn is plush and soft. You can’t tell too much from the photo, but it’s got a really pleasant halo and somehow manages a teensy sheen as well in person. It would make a positively lovely scarf or cowl, or anything worn close to the skin. It’s the sort of yarn you just want to sink your fingers into.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Given the halo, it’s pretty surprising how easy this is to work with (sometimes fuzzy yarns can be pretty temperamental). The stitch pattern with the long criss-cross thing really shows off the yarn. It’s soft even knit into tiny stitches, but those long ones are especially easy on the fingers. So very soft. It makes me want to do a bigger project with fuzzy yarns, even though it’s getting warmer and warmer here.

Roslyn

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Roslyn
“Colourful and subtle and a workhorse yarn with great texture”
5.25 sts/inch on US 6
65% Wool 35% Silk
382.76 yds color: 06

This is one of the nicest silk blends I’ve ever worked with. It’s flexible, soft, and feels like it would make amazing clothes because it’s a bit lighter than many wools. It somehow feels silky without feeling too slick. The heathering and colour is fun too.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

The stitch pattern is a pretty neat cable. Although I don’t think I got the sides quite even! Yarn was very easy to work with, the slight side-to-side difference is a me problem, not a yarn problem, and it might even block out.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

I was surprised to see that this yarn’s regular price is $15/100g because it feels like a much fancier and more expensive blend. Thank you Cascade for producing such nice luxury yarns!

Summary

December’s YOTM was a real treat, even in the face of me working with the super nice yarns I was using for presents in December. I’d definitely use either of these yarns again, and Cascade at least should be a thing I can find around here so I can check out the other colours. Guess I’ll keep an eye out during the yarn crawl!

Catch a Falling Star MKAL week 2

The week 3 clue came out on Friday, so I’m a bit behind still. But Clue 2 was much easier than clue 1, at least! Here’s what clue 2 looks like for me and my dino buddy:

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 2)

Still loving that thick cuff, but not so much loving the transition at the wrist bead line — it feels and looks a bit lumpy around my wrist, and the beads make strange cool spots. Of course, this is also the part of the pattern that cramped up my hand. Bah!

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 2)

This is where the mystery is a bit of a disadvantage: if I’d seen the finished product, I might have done something about that transition line. Or maybe I just have absurdly dainty wrists? Either way, I’m not willing to rip back now, though I’m debating a little bit of elastic thread or ribbon to deal with the issue, or maybe it will block a bit flatter. I will ponder it. In the meantime, on to the next clue!

Catch a Falling Star MKAL

I did manage to cast on one of those knit-a-longs: the fingerless mitt “Catch a Falling Star” MKAL. since clue 2 has now been released (as I write this — I think clue 3 might be released by the time this posts), here’s my pictures from casting on and clue 1!

Catch a falling star MKAL

I’m using Knitpicks Capretta in the Admiral colourway. This is super lush:

Fiber Content: 80% Fine Merino Wool, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon
Weight: Fingering Weight
Knitting Gauge: 7-8 sts = 1 on #1-3 needles (2.25mm – 3.25mm)
Crochet Gauge: 21 – 32 sc = 4” on B – E hooks (2.25mm-3.5mm)
Yards: 230
Grams: 50
Put Up: ball
Care: Hand Wash/Dry Flat

I decided after taking this photo to go with the green beads, since I like how they catch the light.

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 1)

This is not an easy pattern to do: the beaded section made my hand cramp up so badly that I had to take painkillers and rest, and I haven’t had sore wrists with any regularity since high school. I had to switch needles to metal ones to handle the purl-yo-purl that makes the texture there. And you knit part of it inside out and have to do a stitch swap… it’s definitely a challenging pattern.

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 1)

But it’s so pretty! And it is super soft with the cashmere blend yarn and those plush bobble-like POP sections.

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 1)

I haven’t done the second cuff because I’m not feeling like pulling yarn out of the middle of the ball *and* I’m not feeling like cramping up my hand again, but I think I will move on to clue 2 now that I’ve documented clue 1!

Yarn of the Month Club, November 2015

Not sure what I’d say what November’s theme was, but it certainly resulted in some pretty yarns arriving on my doorstep!

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The Pattern

A drop stitch shawl. Probably won’t make it into my repertoire because there are just so many shawl patterns in the world, but who knows, maybe it’ll be perfect for some specific ball of yarn?

El Cielo by Cascades Yarns

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El Cielo by Cascades Yarns
“This warm and ethereal yarn is excellent for large lace patterns.”
4 sts/in on US 8
89% superfine alpaca 11% Nylon
579.6 yds color 04

This is so soft and light! I always love alpaca, but this turns alpaca into something like mohair, and it’s amazing. It’s also teensy-tiny if you don’t count the fluff — it took me way longer than I expected to knit that tiny swatch!

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The stitch pattern gets a bit lost in the halo of this yarn, but with a bit of light or white behind it, it becomes a subtler, fuzzier version of lacework that I quite enjoy.

20151214-IMG_9607.jpg

Artliea by Borgo De’Pazzi

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Artliea by Borgo De’Pazzi
“This superwash yarn is soft and snazzy and super fun to knit up”
3.25 sts/inch on US 11
69% superwash 30% polyamide 1% polyester
79 yds color 89

This is basically two yarns sewn together: a slow variegated superwash and a shiny metallic ribbon:
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The ribbon works really well to add a bit of sparkle. This is thick and pretty easy to work with because the two pieces are sewn together rather than just plied. My only complaint is that it isn’t quite as soft as my alpaca, but I understand that I am getting ridiculously spoiled.

Yarn of the Month Club, November 2015

I think this one would probably be a really fun treat for a new knitter, since it’s not to hard to work with and the slow colour change and sparkle ribbon really add a lot to even pretty basic stitches. Even basic garter stitch would be pretty neat because the yarn showcases the up-down of the knit stitches and the horizontal nature of the purls.

Summary

Really great yarns for November! Although I liked the Artliea I don’t see myself buying more because I’ve been doing a lot of texturework that needs solids and tonals to really shine, but I could definitely see picking it up as a gift. El Cielo is one I’ll remember as a beautiful fuzzy lace option — I’d actually love to do a sweater from this but I think I’d start with something easier for myself before I could tackle this. Maybe a huge fuzzy shawl for my grandmother, though?

Alpaca Pome Hat for Mom

This one was always intended to be a Christmas gift to my Mom, but I finished it in May. That might be the earliest I’ve ever started or finished a present.

Alpaca Hat for Mom

(whoops, sorry about the cleavage. SLR selfies are hard.)

Pattern: Pome by Agata Smektala
Yarn: I think it was Cascades Eco Alpaca or something. Super soft, pretty natural colours. My enthusiasm for the yarn might be why this got started so early!

Alpaca Hat for Mom

(No, really, SLR selfies are hard…)

Hat selfies are hard with an SLR.

Anyhow, I think the hat worked out! It’s a bit smaller than her favourite blue one, but the alpaca is definitely soft and hopefully warm enough for her daily walks. At this point, J would remind me to tell you all that alpaca is also also fire resistant. (He had an amusing chat with the alpaca rancher at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival once.)

Alpaca hat detail

I would definitely use this yarn again, and probably do the pattern again, although with so many neat cabled hat patterns out there, it’s hard to resist the lure of the new!

Why are there so many knit-a-longs starting in January?

January is apparently the month to start knit-a-longs! I guess it makes some sense, since many people are done with holiday gift knitting, and maybe have made new years craft resolutions to try new things where a KAL would be a good way to get help and tips as they go. But oh my goodness, I’ve seen so many of them that I feel rather overwhelmed. Normally I see a KAL once every few months, not a pile of them stacked into the new year! Even though I’m totally excited to try some of these, I just *barely* finished a Christmas present shawl to give it to M before I left Ottawa and I’m torn between taking time off and jumping in to these!

Here’s the three KALs that I’m seriously considering, of the very very many that I’ve seen:

2016 Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Knit Along : This is one of two mystery patterns associated with the RCYC, a big event in March where you visit some of the many yarn stores in the Portland area over the course of the weekend. This year it’s 14 stores, and that’s not even all the stores in the area! I’m tempted to do this one because it’s so neat seeing so many people making and wearing the same pattern, and I kind of want to have my own plumage for the event this year! There’s actually two Rose City Yarn Crawl mystery alongs, one for knit and one for crochet. I’m gravitating towards the knitted one because I love the description they used to help you choose your yarn. First clue comes Jan 27, so I still have some time to decide.

Catch a Falling Star MKAL: This is the January Mystery Mitt KAL for the Fingerless Glove Fanatics Group on Ravelry. I honestly don’t remember buying the pattern, so I think maybe it was free for a bit in December and I clicked the link on spec. But the designer has nice stuff and I’ve found fingerless mitts incredibly useful in the Portland weather, so I’ll probably be digging through my stash for a skein this week. First clue is already out, next due on Friday! (The Ravelry notification is the only way I remembered that I had this pattern.)

Twin Leaf Crescent KAL: This was designed by a local designer who creates beautiful patterns that are clear and easy to understand, and I’ve loved doing KALs with her in the past. The gradient kit for this is from Black Trillium, a local dyer whose yarn I’ve loved working with, and the colours are beautiful. But it’s a big shawl to add to my KAL list, overlapping directly time-wise with the RCYC cowl, and it requires a yarn purchase.

Since it seems weird to have a post on this blog without a photo, here a quick cell phone snap of what’s currently on my needles that I want to finish as well as these potential KALs:

Hobo Mitts in Progress

Hobo Mitts in Progress

This will be a set of convertible mitts for J, who says his old ones are getting pretty beat up. (I think maybe I bought them for him when we were first dating and he didn’t have enough cool-weather gear for regular visits to Ottawa?) They look super tiny on the needles, but they’re *really* stretchy and I didn’t want them to be too loose, so that’s the way they’re going to be… assuming they feel right to J when he tries them on a second time later in the process. They’ll fit more easily in a pocket this way, right?

That picture represents only a couple of days of kniting (I cast on two days ago and barely knit anything today), so they’re going fast enough that I’m hoping I’ll get these done well before the RCYC MKAL starts up! We’ll see if it gets messy when I get to the fingers!

Yarn Subscription preview, December 2015 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

Quick peek at my yarn subscriptions for December 2015:

Yarn subscriptions December 2015

On the left is Yarn of the Month Club, on the right is Jimmy Beans’ Beanie Bags.

As with last month, Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags really wins on presentation. The bag is cute and just packed with pretty cards and offers and patterns. I think they win on sheer amount of yarn this time, too! Those circular things are pom-pom makers. This wasn’t obvious to me until I read their info page, but I’m kind of excited ’cause I was just thinking that my current system of cardboard tends to make kind of messy pompoms and that I could probably do better.

This month, Yarn of the Month Club wins on having the more luxe yarn with their theme of silk/wool blends (one’s silk/wool, one’s silk/wool/mohair). As you know if you’ve read my reviews, YOTM isn’t always so fancy, so it’s a particularly nice treat this month that it’s so different from my other samples! It’s hard to tell from the photo, but these are super soft.

Excited to try both of my subscription bags, but with the holidays and my holiday knitting, it might be a little while before I get to them! Although they are small enough to fit in my suitcase…