Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (and a Hat)

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is easily one of my favorite annual events. I love visiting the fairgrounds and seeing all the different breeds of sheep (and alpaca, bunnies, and occasional goat).

And the lambs — these are such beautiful babies.

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I also enjoyed these two rams, who appeared to have fought all the way to the fair grounds and were stoically avoiding looking at each other (I probably shouldn’t anthropomorphize the sheep, but it’s really hard not to when they’re incredibly cute).

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I think this is the first year I actually didn’t buy anything at the Festival (other than lunch!) The Charm City Yarn Crawl was just a few weeks ago so between recently buying yarn and not having anything really grab my attention, I decided to not buy any yarn.

I did pick up a couple of cards and information about some of the vendors. I’m particularly intrigued by the Bare Naked Wools yarns. I like the idea of small batches of single-breed yarn made in the region around the business based in Canton, OH.

Even though I didn’t acquire any new yarns for my stash, I did finish a hat. I finished the lighter gray with variegated yarn in the picture below a couple of weeks and finished the gray on gray hat the night before the festival.

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I think I finally perfected the crown. It’s not a complicated pattern by any means, but it did take three tries to work through how frequently to decrease and how to work the decreases while maintaining the colorwork. I think I’ll do a full post before releasing the pattern in a week or two on the challenges with decreasing and making sure the color pattern looked good over the entire crown.

Until then, Happy Knitting!

 

Spring in the City: Sailing, Tulips, & Yarn

Spring is slowly coming to Baltimore.

As I’m writing this, I can practically feel the rain rolling in and the temperature dropping again. We’ve had a true spring this year, complete with wild temperature fluctuations and plenty of rain.

shakedown sailDespite the frequent rain, we’ve been lucky to have sunny weekends so we could get in some of my favorite Spring-In-Baltimore activities.

One of the best things about spring is that it brings the beginning of sailing season to Baltimore. We were able to do a shakedown sail on a gorgeous Saturday two weeks ago.

We sailed out of the Downtown Sailing Center to Nick’s at White Rock Marina and back.

Spending 8 hours on a boat is incredibly relaxing after the busyness of a normal week. And spring sailing really is the best; the weather is incredibly conducive to getting an incredible sail in.

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This season is also awesome because it’s tulip season. I love tulips and there are a ton of gardens and parks that create gorgeous tulip displays in Baltimore.

The most well-known tulip display is Sherwood Gardens. The tulips at Sherwood Garden peak a few weeks before the tulips in our garden so we visit Sherwood earlier in April and then wait for ours to finish growing.

And if you’re looking to collect some tulip bulbs to plant in your own garden, Sherwood Gardens hosts an annual dig the Saturday before Memorial Day ( I think they ask 30 cents per bulb – bring your own spade)

 

And of course, spring and April mean it’s time for the Charm City Yarn Crawl. I really enjoy this and visited a couple of new stores this year. It’s not like I need an excuse to visit local yarn stores and buy yarn, but I certainly don’t mind having the excuse of a yarn crawl (the 20% discount doesn’t hurt either!)

I did buy a couple of non-local yarns, including some gorgeous Rowan Softyak DK from Woolworks. But the majority of what I selected was locally dyed. Baltimore is lucky to have some amazing talent both in the City and around the region, including my favorite – Neighborhood Fiber Co.

I visited Neighborhood Fiber Co.’s new studio store. I believe the store is technically in the Seton Hill neighborhood, but it’s the 700 block of N. Eutaw Street, which I think may be considered part of Mount Vernon. Regardless of which neighborhood Neighborhood Fiber is  actually located in, I did buy some yarn. I purchased a skein of Studio Worsted yarn in the Thomas Circle colorway. It’s a luscious gray yarn and each skein is a whopping 8 oz (4oo yards).

I visited a total six stores including the new-to-me Cloverhill Yarn Shop in Catonsville. Cloverhill is a completely lovely yarn shop with a great layout and a really great selection of yarn. It also just felt incredibly welcoming so I’m glad I visited as part of the yarn crawl, and will definitely return.

I ended up buying two skeins of their house yarn, Tempting Ewe Yarns. The yarn line that caught my eye is called Ewe So Sparkly and the colorway is Dr. Frank N Furter. Seriously, it’s variegated grey – my favorite- and named Dr. Frank N Furter; I had to buy this yarn. The picture below is taken inside but is pretty true to the colors.

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This yarn is fingering (sock) weight. Each skein has 438 yards (100 g) and is a blend of 75/20/5 superwash merino, nylon, and sparkle. For some reason, the label saying the yarn was 5% sparkle completely cracked me up (I’m easily amused). 5% also seems like the maximum amount of sparkle I’d want a yarn to have.

I’m finishing up a couple of hats and a light spring scarf, but this is Dr. Frank N Furter yarn is likely to be the next thing I work with. I can’t wait to get it (and the other yarn from the yarn crawl) on the needles.

 

Refresh

It’s been a wild and fun year – and I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last blogged.

Not blogging doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting and creating… and thinking a lot about the benefits of blogging. I find myself missing blogging!

So I’ve done some spring cleaning and re-booting here on the blog and plan to get back into posting regularly. I think the new design is great and (knowing me) I’ll probably tweak things a bit more before I’m done.

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It’s been what feels like an incredibly long winter. Not a bad one by any means – While I miss the sunshine, I don’t mind the cold and snow/ice. And it has been so cold here in Baltimore, I’ve had to curtail Molly-the-dog’s walks which is frustrating for both of us. But we’re nearing the end of it and I’m exciting to see what Spring brings.

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I’ve been focusing on some other areas of life lately, so I hadn’t been knitting as much as I would like and haven’t posted here since last November.

But the urge to create is back. With the help of my copy of “Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book”, I swatched, did some basic sweater math, and have cast-on a sweater-vest. Over the last week, I’ve only finished the bottom edge and approximately 7″ inches of the body. The progress is slow, but it is progress. And it feels good to knit again.

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I’ve also been combing through the copies of “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns” and “A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns, the Barbara Walker books my mom and sister got me for Christmas. I’m so excited and have so many ideas! I’m going to create some new hats soon. Happy March.

Gift-A-Long 2014: Designer Interview with Zsuzsa Kiss

The 2nd annual Indie Design Gift-a-long started last Thursday, November 13th and runs until New Years. 293 designers from 21 countries have joined together to create a knit & crochet along of massive proportions! There are games, prizes, and a 8 day long 25% off select patterns. All you have to do to join is go to the Indie Design Gift-A-Long Group on Ravelry, find a participating design to knit (there are thousands to choose from!), and share your progress.

As part of the 2014 Indie Gift-A-Long, many of us with blogs are interviewing other designers to spotlight and share the amazing talent from all over the world. I’m thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to meet (across the internet) and get to know Zsuzsa Kiss, a Hungarian designer living in Switzerland. She goes by Muzsi on Ravelry and designs gorgeous patterns. Her collection includes absolutely pieces, including an array of lovely lace shawls and wraps.

(Note: the Gift-A-Long image below is courtesy of NuriaPastor and UkeeKnits; all other images copyright of Zsuzsa Kiss)

Here’s more about Zsuzsa Kiss, a.k.a Muzsi:

  • What fiber arts do you do? Dyeing, spinning, knitting, and some crocheting.
  • What fiber arts do you design for? I design knitting patterns.
  • Do you do any other arts or crafts? No, it is more than enough!
  • Where are you from? I am from Hungary originally, but moved away a few years ago.
  • Favorite part of where you are from (where you are currently)? At present I live in Switzerland, which is a beautiful country with lots of greenery and beautifully preserved old towns. I love it.
  • The quirkiest or most interesting thing about you that you want to share? I’m originally psychologist and physics teacher.

 

Fiber arts history:

  • How long have you been designing? Not long at all, I only started 2 years ago, when I no longer could keep all the ideas in my head.
  • Favorite design that you’ve ever created? It must be the Soft Rainbow Shawl. I started my business with selling yarns online. When I chose the brand name, my love of bright colors brought me to “Soft Rainbow” – soft because of yarn. When I started designing, I also began to play with colours and dyeing, and I decided to make a shawl with the name of the brand. I’m very proud of this pattern, because this was the third one, and I dyed the yarn for it too. It tells everything about me: the colors, the lace pattern, the shape of the shawl and that I love to knit with fine yarn…
  • How long have you been knitting? I learned the basics when I was 15 maybe, but then I didn’t knit for 20 years. So, to be truthful: 3 years.
  • Favorite thing to knit? Shawls, with lots of lace!

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Design and Craft Inspiration:

  • What inspires you in your designs? My crazy brain. I want to make something new every time, to create my unique twist on everything. My brain is like a boiling soup, ideas are circulate there continuously. Sometimes I can’t even sleep because of it 😀
  • Favorite yarn (type of fiber or brand): Merino wool, and I love the colors of Malabrigo yarns.
  • Favorite place to buy yarn (LYS or online). Why do you love it? Jannettes Rare Yarns  – She has a very bright range of yarns, she is very helpful, and shipping is free!

Thanks to Zsuzsa for sharing her story and inspiration! If you’d like to learn more, visit the Indie Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry.

Hello Again Fall

Ah, hello again, Fall.

I’m so happy that it’s fall again. This summer was a really moderate Baltimore summer. The temperatures were moderate, the humidity didn’t get bad, it was just sort of nice. But I’m still happy to see fall and all the things that fall brings. I guess the only difference is that unlike past years, I don’t have that fantastic sense of relief of: hey, I can knit on the porch without my wool felting!

This has been a fantastic summer. Lots of changes occurred. Some are partly to blame for not posting much on here (job changes, life changes — real life certainly has a way of keeping a person occupied and off the internet). This picture from a recent sailing excursion pretty much sums up life lately – it’s been good.

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A number of projects that were in the works for months finally wound down. I finally finished a cowl to match my Hat No. 5.

I feel like I finished this just in time – it was in the 40’s F overnight last night. The pattern is on Ravelry as a freebie.

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And I finished a scarf for a friend that I started almost exactly one year ago. It’s very simple, very gray, very warm. I used all of four skeins of Berroco Vintage (~868 yards) of color 5107 Cracked Pepper.

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I cast on 59 stitches (~9″ wide) and just knit a broken rib stitch approximately 110″. I slip stitches on my broken rib so the pattern is:

  • Row 1: *k3, sl1 wyif; repeat from * to last 3 sts; k3
  • Row 2: *k1, *sl1 wyif, k3; repeat from * to last two stitches, sl1 wyif, k1

You could knit this kind of a scarf by casting on any multiple of 4 plus 3 stitches and knitting until you run out of yarn. It’s a bit monotonous, but the finished knit is gorgeous for its simplicity and the rib gives it a plush thickness.

With that, I’m going to schedule this post to publish tomorrow morning and go sit and knit on the porch – it’s gorgeous outside and the dog and I should be sitting on the porch enjoying the evening. ~ Happy knitting.

Sherwood Hat

I finished a hat that makes me very happy…. Meet Sherwood:

Sherwood is an all-over cabled beanie knit with fingering weight yarn. It’s a pretty easy pattern to memorize and knit.

I knit two samples playing with the length and perfecting the crown shaping. The burgundy one may need to find a good home soon. But the gray one,  that hat is all mine. It’s sized perfectly for me and is knit with my favorite yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co.’s Rustic Fingering. And it’s a very appropriately named colorway. That light gray is called Charles Center.

The variegated gray is perfect and I think very reminiscent of the actual Charles Center area (it’s an area downtown, north of the Inner Harbor). Like all the rustic fingering I’ve used, it worked up like a dream. I posted a close up of this hat a  little bit ago here. The yarn is just so nice to work with and the saturated colors are beautiful.

Sherwood is available through Ravelry here.

And since Sherwood should be worn as part of a set, I’m working on a matching cowl. The cowl will be finished soon and then I’ll be all ready to not actually wear the hat or cowl for another six months or so.

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I have two skeins of another colorway, a vibrant pink called Charles Village (you can see a picture of it on the Neighborhood Fiber Co website). And having just about finished Sherwood and the Charles Center colored yarn, the Charles Village skeins are begging to be used. I’m thinking more cables!

MD Sheep and Wool

It was a questionable for a while there, but it is definitely and finally Spring in Baltimore. And Spring means the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

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I really do enjoy looking through all the animal barns and seeing the different sheep, goat, and rabbit breeds. Which, considering there’s no way I’d ever actually live on a farm, seems odd. And as much as I don’t actually want sheep, visiting them is fun (although I do kind of want a goat or two, it just seems like goats would fit into my neighborhood really well).

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And as much as I don’t actually want to own sheep, I wouldn’t mind owning all the yarn I can get my hands on. But, I have a lot of gorgeous yarn in my collection so exercised (I think) admirable self control by only buying one skein of yarn. This is a 630 yard hank of a yarn called Nona by Spirit Trail Fiberworks. It’s a blend of 50% wool, 25% silk, and 25% cashmere. The skein alone feels amazing and the samples in the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth felt amazing so I can’t wait to knit it into something.

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It was a good trip and it’s been a good spring so far. I’m excited because I have two knitting patterns in testing that are going to be released soon. They are cabled hats  knit in fingering weight yarns and I can’t wait to share them.  It may be seasonally inappropriate, but I’ve been knitting a lot of hats lately — I’m working on putting all that yarn I’ve been collecting from all those sheered sheep to good use.

Spring!

Now that three straight days of rain have passed, I think it may actually be Spring in Baltimore. I’ve finished a lot of projects the last couple of weeks and the great weather meant they could be photographed.

I finished a spring cardigan in white superwash wool for mom. It took about 8 months of infrequent progress to finish. It was not a complicated knitting project or anything, it was just time consuming and too big to carry so it had to live at home (unlike hats and socks that can live in my purse and be worked on during the day).

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And I finished a hat in Neighborhood Fiber Co’s Rustic Fingering.

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I love the texture and finish of the Rustic Fingering wool. This color is called Charles Center and is a lovely variegated gray.

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There are a couple of really good local yarn companies based in Baltimore. Neighborhood Fiber Co. is one and the hat pictured below is made with yarn from another. The green hat below is knit with Cephalopod Yarn’s Skinny Bugga. This green color is Horseshoe Crab.

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I’m going to make the two hat patterns available through Ravelry soon, but they’re still going through testing and editing. And then more hats are coming soon. And since it’s finally Spring, I can work on hats on the porch again – hooray Spring!

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And what would knitting on the porch be without the most avid of audiences:

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I’m pretty sure if Molly could talk she’d say knitting’s great and all but can I have some peanut butter now. Until next time, happy knitting.

Welcoming

Two friends recently welcomed new babies into the world. My favorite way to welcome babies is with knitting so I made each of the babies a cardigan.

First up, a navy blue cabled cardigan with little elephant buttons.

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The elephant buttons are absurdly cute. We  found them at Jo-Anns. I was going for some basic buttons, but no, there was an entire wall of animal buttons. I couldn’t pass them up.

The sweater is knit with Cascade Superwash 220 in a navy color called Midnight Heather (color 1924). The yarn is described as a worsted, but is more of a light worsted or DK. The sweater has a completely seamless construction. It’s knit from the top-down with raglan sleeves. The garter stitch button band is knit at the same time which means no picking up stitches to add the button band on after the rest of the sweater is knit (picking up stitches is one of my least favorite knitting-related things to do).

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The cardigan has simple cables on on the fronts and running down the center of the back. It’s sized for a one year old with a 20″ chest circumference and is about 11″ long. I love how easy this was to knit once I’d planned out the stitch counts. It came out just about where I expected it to (hooray for math working out!), but is just slightly narrower in the chest than I’d like.

The second baby gift is a striped cardigan. Much like the blue-cabled cardigan, it is completely seamless and knit as one piece (no picking up stitches here either). And that button wall at Jo-Ann’s again had the absolutely perfect buttons. The owls match the yarn colors pretty perfectly.

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The yarn is Jojoland Tonic in three colors: AW332, AW132, and AW316. The colors are very fall, but it’s a 12-month size so it should fit through next fall.

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Each of these sweaters was a pretty quick knit and used only ~440 yards. I’ve seen the striped one already on the little recipient and he is too cute for words; I can’t wait to see the navy one on the recipient.  Of course, finishing these knits means the weather in Baltimore will officially turn sunny and warm!