Thursday, January 31, 2013

A lesson learned...

I have been having a big urge to sew something since late last night. I was browsing different methods of quilting and decided that it looked fun. So, this afternoon I dug the bin out that now holds my needlework supplies (I know, a bin that isn't full of yarn?) and discovered that I had cut out a teddy bear to make.

Now, I already have two bears made with this pattern. My mom made one for me when I was really little out of the same fabric she used to make my nightgown. The second one I was trying to make on my own, but my mom took over the difficult parts and ended up sewing together almost the whole bear. This time I decided that I was going to do the whole thing myself and that I was going to hand sew it because I like hand sewing and I want to learn how to do it better. The only way to do that is to practice, right?

The whole thing was going well. I already had one ear sewn together and it actually held together while I was turning it right-side out (unlike my first potholder). I took a picture to show my more consistent if loose stitching when I saw it. The mistake.

Can you tell?

I'll give you a hint: the faded flower fabric showing is the wrong side of the fabric. I was supposed to be sewing it to the right side of the fabric so that it would be facing the right way when I turned it inside out.

Now I have to figure out where mom keeps her pair of seam rippers because I don't have a set myself. My lesson? Double check what way your fabric is facing before you start sewing! Triple check even in my case. At least you can try again when you are just stitching. It is only a little bit difficult to undo.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kawaii Games: Hello Kitty Cafe

Picture from the Google Play App Store
 I have been looking for some cute games for my Android Smartphone and I ran into this extremely cute Hello Kitty Cafe. This is a free game from Sanrio that can be found in the Google Play store.

In this game, Hello Kitty opens a cafe that you run. This is a standard phone game in which you earn coins and you can also earn or purchase points. The points can help you unlock special characters or equipment that can help you with satisfying your customers in the cafe. Sadly, Hello Kitty is one of the characters that does require you to have points, but Sanrio included a "Daily Reward" system that can help you earn points without purchasing them. That means that eventually you can unlock every character you could possibly want or need.

The concept is simple, you seat customers and serve them cute food, then you check them out and clean up the plate so that the next customer can have a table. It sounds like it would get boring after a while, but it is completely satisfying and even challenging because your customers can get upset and leave if you take too long. Sometimes I have successfully served a customer three or four different times only to have them get impatient and the check-out and leave, taking all of my hard earned profit for the day with them.
Picture from the Google Play App Store

Of course, what would a cafe game be without your special customers? Sometimes relatives of Hello Kitty show up to eat in your cafe. If you serve them promptly and make them happy, then they can quickly double your cash for the day. But if you don't make them happy then they can leave.

In between days, you can furnish your cafe with more waiting spaces, more tables, and you can even customize your space as you wish. You can even use your extra cash to put upgrades on your waiting area, tables, food makers, restroom, cashier and even your staff to earn more money and to make your customers less impatient. If you are lucky, you can even hire more cute employees to work with you. There is at least one character you can hire with coins, but the iconic Sanrio characters have to be hired with points.

This game is pure strategy and timing. Even when you have extra waiters, you have to time everything right or else you run the risk of losing customers for the day. This makes the game challenging and immensely satisfying to play.

For all of you sweet lolitas out there that want something adorable to play, but isn't just for little kids, then give Hello Kitty Cafe a try. It is extremely addicting, so keep an eye on your phone's battery life!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mawata Journey

I have had this project on the needles for a while now. It had been put aside to get Christmas knitting done. What exactly is this project? A pair of silk fingerless mittens knit out of a mawata (also known as a silk hankie)

I have been wanting to make a pair of these ever since I ran across this post from the Yarn Harlot. The technique seemed simple enough to do. You just pre-draft each layer of the silk hankie and then you can knit with the resulting strand. But school got in the way and I had forgotten all about them until fairly recently when KnitPicks started offering hand-dyed silk hankies and when Carin from Round the Twist started knitting a pair of her own. (Which was in 2011 but I was behind on the episodes so I watched them in 2012)

Clearly the world wanted me to knit myself a pair and I could even make them fingerless which would be much less knitting than an entire mitten. That meant that I could possibly have a pair of silk fingerless mittens in just a few short weeks. Much quicker than a pair of socks. What could go wrong?

The silk itself isn't that hard to work with. It is really cool how sheer exactly one layer of the silk hankie is and it feels like you are knitting with air.

Drafting them to the right weight is proving to be the difficult part. The first bundle I drafted way, way too thin and the second bundle I drafted too thick. I am getting about a consistent size now and I know it isn't going to be perfect. The trouble is that I am using size one needles with 16 stitches on each needle. The silk has no stretch at all which means it isn't clinging to my wrist so it looks like it is too big. The part I have knitted looks nice, but it feels baggy and I can't frog this project and re-start it because the silk clings to itself.

I am afraid my mitten won't fit and I really won't be able to tell until I get the thumb gusset done. I am also not sold on the colors anymore. They are pretty and I love how the colors are turning out, but I wish that I had chosen the color that looks like a sunset instead of this one. I'm just not sure about the project anymore. I do know that my mom has been eyeballing the mittens so maybe I should just get them done and if I don't like them ask if she can help me get another color and make another pair for myself. I guess I'll just have to keep knitting and see how they turn out.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Date Night for One

There is nothing better than knitting while curled up with a nice mug of tea, a lightweight blanket, and a movie. Especially when the movie is a feel-good movie like Julie & Julia.

I know a couple of people who hate this movie because they didn't like the way it ended. I think the ending is cute and it never fails to make me hopeful. It shows that no matter how bad your life gets, there will always be something there to make it better.

The sock that I took to my fiance's father's house finally aired out and it doesn't smell like smoke anymore, which means that I can finally knit on it again. It is the Snape's Stockings pattern by Erica Lueder. The same person who made Hermione's Everyday Socks. I was having a bit of trouble with the pattern at first because I was thinking in terms of the shapes it has instead of using the stitch count. It is much easier to memorize when you think of it as two different six stitch repeats put together to make the one twelve stitch repeat than it is to think about it in five and seven stitch repeats.

I am using one of the yarns that my brother got me for Christmas. I fell in love with how the colors looked in the ball that I didn't think about what type of yarn it was. Kroy Jacquards. Of course it is going to stripe! That is the entire purpose of the yarn.

As you can see, the pattern and the stripes aren't exactly playing well together. The texture is muddling the colors and the colors are getting in the way of the texture. If it was a multi-color instead of a striping, then it would probably look better.

But I am enjoying the pattern too much to rip it out and I am already at the heel-flap since I am only knitting two repeats on the leg. Any longer and I would have to start adding some calf shaping because of my legs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tumblr, Instagram, & All That

I think the epic spinning bug is finally winding down a little bit. I have another project on the wheel, a ball of cotton singles waiting to be plied, and a big braid of BFL waiting for my last spindle to be fixed, but it won't be the entire focus of the blog for a little while.

The blog is awesome and I feel inspired to write about fashion and knitting again, but I do want to talk about other social media for a minute.

I have found that my new phone has a high quality HD camera on it that I have been using to take most of my project pictures and other pictures for the blog. The picture quality even on the regular non-HD setting is better than on my old point-and-shoot camera that I use for my stash pictures on Ravelry, so I needed to find another way to share my pictures quickly with a bit of editing to correct for color or lighting from time to time.

Instagram has become my main method of sharing photos. It is quick and easy to use as well as being able to share a photo to Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr with just a touch of a button. You can also find other knitters using Instagram, so your daily feed can be filled with fiber-joy. I use my Instagram to follow more lolita-esque bloggers, but one of my favorite knitters that I like to follow is Jasmin (cuteknitter) from the KnitMoreGirls Podcast.

Of course, this blog is not the only type of blog available. For those who don't like the slower text-based format of blogs and who crave instant-gratification, Tumblr is probably the blogging source for them. Tumblr is fast with lots of content going on at one time consisting mainly of re-blogs and lots of pictures. I have been on Tumblr for a while now, but I have finally set up a Tumblr blog that is an homage to awesome socks called F*Yeah Handknit Socks since I still think that there is a lack of quality knitting content of Tumblr.

I also use Pinterest, which I haven't been to in a while because I have been summoning up the courage to delete all of my pins and start over keeping a better goal in mind. It is also largely photo-based, but you can organize those photos into boards and it is an interesting resource for knitters and other crafters. It is nice to keep a board for all of those random photo-tutorials that you find around Knitty and Ravelry.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Little Monster

When I first started looking into spinning a few years ago there was a lot of arguing about "art yarns". The spinning groups were basically split up into two categories: the more "traditional" spinners and the "art yarn" spinners. The more traditional spinners didn't understand the appeal of the lumpy-bumpy yarns that were made on purpose and preferred their smooth yarns. The art yarn spinners would get annoyed that their yarns were being called "beginner yarns" just because they were lumpy, bumpy, wild, and crazy.

It has toned down a lot now, but I still remember all of this going on. I didn't understand the appeal of crazy art yarns either. I thought they looked messy and the finished objects that were made out of them just looked tacky to me. But something about them made me keep them in the back of my mind.

A year ago I tried to spin some thick and thin yarn on purpose on a spindle and ply it into what is known as a coil yarn. It worked, but the thick parts were too thick and didn't hold together when I washed it. So, I decided to perfect making regular yarns that I knew I would use on a day to day basis.

Then I found the Novelty and Art Yarn Spinners group on Ravelry. It was fascinating to look at the different yarns in the group because they were made out of materials that I had never thought to use, like feathers and other scraps of yarn. I still didn't really like any of the finished objects that came out of the group because they just weren't my taste most of the time, but I loved looking at them. One of my favorite threads in the group was the thread called "Palettes: Before the Spin" which was about showing off what you were going to spin into a yarn. It was fascinating and I loved looking at the baskets full of different types of materials and fluff.

I wanted to know more, so I went onto YouTube and found fantastic videos about how to spin different types of art yarns. One of my favorites was made by a lady named Ashley Martineau and it was about how to corespin yarn. It was the first video I ran into and it quickly became one of my favorite videos. She spun everything from alpaca locks, wool roving, shiny firestar, and bamboo to things like recycled sari silk fibers, beads, and strings of sequins.

So, when I got my wheel for Christmas, I knew that I wanted to try out at least a corespun yarn. I gathered different materials including some of my wool locks, mohair locks, cotton lint, a piece of one of my batts, some small skeins of yarn that I had spun, and a couple of sample skeins of alpaca that came with two of my alpaca fiber bags. I chose a bright red crochet cotton core because I would be able to see it if anything didn't grab onto it and it was thin.

I knew the yarn was going to be lumpy and bumpy, but I didn't expect to enjoy spinning it this much. It came out wild and watching the fibers wrap around the core was fascinating. Even the cotton lint ended up spinning really nicely around the core.

I only got 14 yards out of the spinning, but that was because I was getting tired of manually wrapping the yarn I had spun around the bobbin because the orifice of my wheel was too small for the thick bits to actually go through.

This is the wildest skein of yarn that I have ever spun and it was really fun to do. I have no idea how it is going to knit up, but I am looking forward to knitting it. I think it might become a funky cowl.

I would love to do it again, but I really have to wait until I get the jumbo flyer for my wheel. The orifice is bigger and it would be easier for the thick yarn to go through. Until then, I'm just planning out different corespun yarns in my head. If you think you would like to try to spin an art yarn, but you aren't sure if you would like it then just try it out anyway. It is fun way to let yourself go and just let the fiber spin itself.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It might be a small obsession...

Sunny Day Handspun
I swear I actually do have other things to talk about other than spinning. I have a pair of socks on the needles at the moment as well as a pair of silk fingerless mittens. You think that the allure of silk would help keep me away from the wheel.

It is just so relaxing to sit down and start spinning at a wheel. The activity is both productive and infinitely lazy. The feel of the wool slipping through your fingers and twisting into fine thread is highly rewarding because it is so magical. It is amazing how it holds together once you spread out a sheet of fiber so thin that it could fall apart, but before it does the twist shoots through the fiber and, suddenly, it is thread. When you think about it, there is no surprise that the ancient people made up myths and legends about spinning.
Purple Cabbage Handspun

I finished spinning, plying, and washing the pound of yellow roving that my parents got me for Christmas. It spun up to about a heavy worsted weight to a fingering weight, so it is slightly thick and thin. The skein at the front of the picture is slightly underplied while the skein in the back of the picture is slightly overplied, but that is just the learning curve of chain-plying using my wheel.They are also the biggest skeins that I have spun to date measuring in at about 100 yards per skein.

The little fiber batt that I got with my Golding is also spun up and plied. It has been done for a while now, but I didn't get around to washing it as quickly as I thought I would. The wheel played its part in distracting me. This skein is also chain-plied and is a nice fingering weight yarn. That means a two-ply with this spindle will be the perfect lace weight yarn that I am looking for.

Of course, my wheel only sat empty for about a day because I had misplaced my orifice hook. I had sat it down on my green armchair to get it out of the way when it fell off of my wheel and underneath a treadle when I was spinning. It turns out that the mahogany finish on the handle blended in perfectly with my fuzzy leopard print blanket on my chair and Sassy, a fat tabby cat, was sitting on it.

I am attempting to spin sock yarn out of the remaining Cherry Chocolate Chip batts that I got when I received my second spindle. I would like it to be a three-ply yarn, but I only have three bobbins. That means that I could either wind a plying ball to get the three-ply or I could do another chain-ply with one massive bobbin of singles.

The downside to the chain-ply is that the yarn will come out striping in some way again because the nature of the chain-plying tends to keep colors together. But the downside of winding a three-ply plying ball is to have an unequal amount of singles on any of the three bobbins and trying to deal with making a three-ply out of the leftovers or to chain-ply the leftovers anyway. That is the only reason why I haven't done a traditional three-ply yarn yet. I am not sure how to deal with the leftovers. So, I have to think about it and decide.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sick Day

I haven't been feeling too well for the past couple of days, so I finally went to the doctor and they basically put me on a lot of medicines. Then my mom (who works at the doctor's office that I go to) ended up calling in another medicine for me to take care of my cough and to hopefully get me feeling much better. Apparently, I am a strange person so that medicine makes me really tired so I have been sleeping a lot.

I have managed to get some spinning done and I have done my first chain-ply on my spinning wheel! Plying on a wheel goes by really quickly compared to the spindle. The yarn both twists and goes onto the bobbin simultaneously. It is really awesome. Of course, I have watched some videos on chain-plying on the wheel after I got the second bobbin halfway plied, so I think the second half of the second bobbin is more tightly plied than the first bobbin. I will find out after I wash and dry the second bobbin since I just finished that one tonight and I am giving it a night to rest of the bobbin before I wind it up on my niddy-noddy.

I talked about having cotton on my Golding in my last blog post, but I really like spinning it! I hate how people say that spinning cotton is so hard when it is so easy to spin. Cotton fibers are shorter than wool fibers, but they almost want to spin themselves. It does feel really different than wool, so that is probably what scares people off.

The last thing I have been doing is watching a few videos about spinning flax into linen. It is so fascinating to watch. The best videos I have found are done by the guys at the Hermitage. If you watch the videos, then you will understand where the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale came from because it really does like you are taking straw and turning it into gold. I think it would be fun to try growing my own flax to turn it into linen, but I think I need to go shopping at their store first and get some flax to see if I even like spinning it in the first place. Then if I do I will have to convince my dad to help me make my own processing tools. The only trouble would be the hackles, but I will cross that bridge when I get there. Right now I will probably be sticking to cotton.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas Loot

I was so busy during the last few weeks of the year that I didn't really have time for blogging anything. What I did do was contract a killer headcold that turned into an ear infection that forced me to take today off. The good news is that I feel better now and hopefully I'll be able to return to life as normal tomorrow.

I got a couple of new toys for Christmas. First off, I got a gorgeous Kromski Sonata wheel and a matching spinning stool. The mahogany finish just glows and it is so much fun to spin on! To go with my wheel I got a full pound of yellow wool (of some uncertain breed, probably Corriedale) and two bags of Alpaca fiber dyed in two wonderful shades of green.

I am almost done spinning the pound of yellow. I am stuffing as much as I can on two bobbins mostly to see how much yarn I can actually put on a bobbin. The bobbin on the lazy kate on the wheel is the first bobbin I filled up. I have some more to go and I still have room on my second bobbin, so I am not worried about if it will fit or not. Of course, I have no idea how big normal bobbins are, but I have been reading that Kromski has some of the biggest standard bobbins out there.

Along with a spinning wheel from my family, I also got a 2 inch Golding Tsunami in Cherry. I have been wanting one of these spindles ever since I thought about learning how to spin. It spins like a dream and it is so light! I never thought that it would be so easy to spin consistently thin on a lighter spindle. Of course, I still love my old spindle and I will never give that up. I do still have a spinning project going on it. But this little thing is just dreamy to spin on!

I have a batch of combed cotton on my Golding right now. Yes, cotton on a drop spindle. This little speed demon makes it easy to spin fast which cotton loves. Since I found the combed cotton too sticky to work on my tahkli, I decided to try it on a drop spindle. That extra bit of stick it has lets it hold together nicely until the twist gets introduced to it.

The last big things I got were three socks worth of sock yarn, a cookie scoop, a video camera, the first season of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, the Derpy Hooves episode of MLP Friendship is Magic, and the midnight purple Nintendo 3DS with a free copy of Nintendogs + Cats.

I felt like a princess this Christmas getting spoiled like this. I haven't had that feeling in a while. Now I really need a job so that I can keep feeding my wheel and spindles fiber.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Goals

It is a brand new year again and it feels like everything is starting fresh again. I have managed to keep up with this blog without changing it for an entire year. I feel like that is an accomplishment on its own because I kept changing it every few months. Since I started on a new year resolution post last year, I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing this year.

I have decided that I am not going to set thirteen crafting goals for this year because that is just too many for me right now. Instead, I have decided to focus on six goals.

2013 Knitting & Spinning Resolutions

1. Go through my stash and donate/gift/get rid of yarn I am not madly in love with
2. Organize my spinning fiber into animal fiber and non-animal fiber groups
3. Spin the entirety of my Padame fleece and make something from the resulting yarn
4. Make a pair of socks for my mom, my dad, my brother, and my fiance
5. Make a pair of socks out of leftover sock yarn
6. Get the fiber and spin the fiber for my wedding ring shawl

Let's hope that this new year will turn out fantastic. Happy New Year!