Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Did I Ever Tell You the Story of the Three Legged Sheep?

True confession: I can only remember the punchline of two jokes. So here I'll share one joke, lifted from a joke website, with minor alterations to suit the story of last weekend's knitting exercise...

A traveling salesman trying to make a buck was driving through the plains of Nebraska when he decided to stop at a farmhouse coming up on his left. As he was walking up the driveway toward the front door of the house, a sheep with three legs caught his eye. It was just hobbling through the grass.
When the farmer answered the door and asked what he was selling, the salesman first asked about the three legged sheep.

"That sheep is the most amazing sheep in the land, son," the farmer said.

"Last year, our house caught fire when we were all asleep and that sheep ran in and woke us all up one by one and saved our lives!"

The salesman was surprised. "That is one special sheep," he said.

The farmer replied, "That's not all. Last summer, that sheep jumped into the pond and dragged my drowning son to safety. He would have died!"

The salesman was in disbelief as to how incredible this sheep was. "One question: why does he have three legs; is it from the fire?" he asked.

"No son, ya see, a sheep like that you just don't eat all at once."


So a couple of weeks ago, I was trolling around the internet and came across Honeoye Craft Labs on facebook. And I noticed they were selling kits to make sheep hats. Hats for people, with sheep knit on the hats, not hats for sheep. (I feel bad that I feel the need to clarify on that point, but I've heard about people knitting outfits for assorted endangered animals, so figured I must.)

And then I saw they were selling these bendy double pointed needles, called Neko curved dpns, and I watched a video about how to use them and thought maybe they could solve my problem with dpns. My problem with dpns is that I always look like I'm in a wrestling match at the end of my hat and mitts projects, with needles flying all over the place, and a certain amount of mumbling and ill-will.

So my husband took me for a field trip (I grew up in Honeoye, and it's only 20 minutes from where I live), and we picked up the yarn, a free pattern called BAA-BLE Hat by Donna Smith, and the bendy needles. And since I've never done multi-color yarn knitting, I hired Liz, who owns Honeoye Craft Labs, to teach me how to follow that pattern.  

Here's my first sheep hat. For a first time using multiple colors of yarn, I think I did pretty well. I'll admit, we got to a point pretty early on where it became clear that one of my sheep was missing a leg. Liz gave advice about how one might deal with that problem, but it seemed to me that a one legged sheep was sort of a badge of honor in the world of learning to knit. So I decided to let him soldier on as is. All the sheep ended up with faces in the right places, so I am pretty tickled.

My one legged sheep hat
I decided to make another sheep hat, with these adjustments:

1. The hat came out a little tight around the area with the sheep, so I'm going to try perfecting my stranded knitting skills. I also forgot to bring all my needles with me for my lesson, and the pattern said to switch from size 4s to size 4.5s, so I ended up knitting with size 4s for the whole thing. Also, I'm a tight knitter, so these sheep were pretty well destined to be dancing in a tight conga line.

2. I like a bigger brim, so I made my next one longer.

3. While I am not normally a hat pompom person, Liz made a pretty good case for buying a pompom maker.

4. I wanted to try a night sky at the top of the hat, so I bought a skein of dark blue yarn from Liz. The pattern called for four different colors of a yarn called Ella rae Classic Sport, a 100% wool yarn that cost $4.50/ball. It looks like I can get at least 2 hats out of the yarn that I originally bought, probably more with the dark blue, since you don't use much of the brown. I love the colors of the Ella rae - there's lots of variety, but the colors are just a bit muted, so they seemed more natural looking.

Here's the second hat, and a matching cowl:

As for the bendy Neko needles, I found that they work particularly nicely on thumbs for my mitts. I felt like I was able to finish more quickly, and that I had more control. I recommend them. They were $9.95 for a set of three - I took a look on ebay, and they were much more expensive there.

These are the mitts that I made with my bendy needles. I handspun this yarn, made with 50% white angora, 50% black alpaca, blended on my Patrick Green electric drum carder and spun up on drop spindles. Thanks to the bunny, these will be particularly snuggly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Watercolour Painting with Wool by Renata Kraus

oooooooh! I've just received this fantastic book in the mail. It is by Renata Kraus, and she explains in lovely detail and with lovely pictures how she makes her wool "painted" artwork.

I can't wait to try out the techniques. Renata is a true welt felting artist. I highly recommend this book. I love the chapter at the end where Renata shows children's wet felting examples. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Man Candy, or the Candy Man?

For our anniversary a couple of weeks ago, I decided I would make my man a hat. So I made him a hat. Because of my deep love for him, I even did that careful knitter thing where I knit up a swatch to ensure that the yarn and needles were the right size.

I finished the hat in the wee hours of the morning with two days to spare. I put it on my head, because waking your husband up at 3am so he can try on a hat does not go over well over here, and I have to say, it was a dandy hat.

The next morning, he tried it on. And, sadly, it turned out that there is more to knitting a swatch than what I did. It seems my sweet husband's head is bigger than mine. Quite a bit so.

Little sigh.

So, I got out the yarn and knit a second hat. I added more stitches. And I knit an extra six inches for the brim. Another wee hours of the morning exercise. And he put this one on, and it was not bad. I suspect that if I had knit an extra 10 inches for the brim, it would be even better. But still, he's a handsome man and he looks quite marvelous.

So I made him a matching cowl.

Cleaning Lady looked at it and thought it would be too poofy, but my man can carry off just about any look.

So today we were going to go for a walk in the rain, and I suggested we get Boy to take our picture. There was a little contention over Dear Husband's choice of accessories. Boy argued that we are quite thoroughly an embarrassment. Dear Husband says everything coordinates. You'll have to judge.

The yarn for the hats and Dear Husband's cowl came from Sew Green, a charity in the 19th Ward in Rochester that teaches people to knit and sew, and sells donated supplies. This yarn is from Lang Yarns and is called Jawoll Magic. It is 6 ply superwash, 75% virgin wool, 25% nylon. It was dreamy to knit with. I got 3 great big skeins for $13.50 each. I have one skein left. I'm going to make a cowl for me out of it. I followed my favorite pattern for our cowls, from the sourcherries website. My cowl is from a different yarn, a gorgeous turquoise-y blue green-y Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran yarn, 55% merino wool, 35% microfiber, 10% cashmere. I picked up 10 50g balls at SewGreen for a mere $6 each.

The mitts are for Nanny Holly. I just finished them last weekend. I made the cuffs extra long so they could roll up and provide a little extra wrist warmth. Then I tacked the cuffs so they would stay in place. These are to go with a hat that I made Holly from Knit Picks City Tweed DK, in the color Morning Glory, This is a DK weight yarn that is 55% Merino Wool, 25% Superfine Alpaca, 20% Donegal Tweed. There were 10 balls of this, also purchased at Sew Green, for $25. I've made two hats out of it so far, and expect to use up more of the yarn by making cowls and matching mitts.

Here's Nanny Holly with her hat. The coordinating cowl is from handspun that I made a while back, filled with angora and silk and alpaca. I made it extra long so it could be wrapped three times around the neck. Nanny Holly is almost ready to head out in a snowstorm. Her baby is sporting a cowl as well, though I held onto that because I imagine a cowl would at worst be a choking hazard, if not the ultimate drool cloth.

All our hats are from a pattern called Bronze Age Hat Free Knitted Pattern. I love this hat pattern. It is very comfortable.