fallingbooks: piles of books and yarn (fallingbooks)
2010-12-01 09:23 pm
Entry tags:

Needled

I don't know about you, but I'm a picky knitter. As the budget allows, I favor natural fibers over man-made, saturated colors over pastels, multi-ply over single ply, local and indie over commercial. I've got it pretty sorted as to what I look for in a yarn, and I have my favorites. Where I'm having issues these days is in the area of needles.

(In an ideal world, I would have an endless supply of brightly colored vintage Bakelite or Lucite needles at my disposal, in all sorts of shapes, sizes and configurations. I like the translucent ones best, but I once had a pair of opaque tealy-turquoise ones I loved and miss terribly. Plastics are my all time favorite. Slick, but not slippery. Pointy, but not painfully so. Clicky, but quiet. Flexible. Warm. Colorful. I tend to horde them, snatching up everything I can afford when I find them at flea markets or tag sales, but they're still a somewhat limited commodity.)

At the moment I'm trying to find the perfect DPNs for socks. I DO have plastics that would suit - I favor 2.25mm needles - but I clutch my needles so tightly when I'm knitting socks that it's inevitable that they snap. I mean, when I was using bamboo, I would destroy at least one needle per sock and put a permanent curve into the rest of them. They ended up being a very costly option, seeing as I pretty much needed to buy a new set every other pair of socks to compensate for the damaged needles. I've avoided wooden needles for pretty much the same reason. (Plus, they're even more expensive.)

Right now I'm using Kollage squares because they look nifty and I don't seem to bend them quite as badly. I'm not sure if it's the square shape, or the materials they're made of, but I'm three pairs in on these needles and they're all still relatively straight. They'd be perfect except for the fact that the copper-colored coating wears off the tips with the first sock you make. I've used multiple sizes and they all do this to some degree. Another small annoyance is that the etched brand and size information the side of the needle (which is a neat idea, total props for the concept,) tends to create drag on your yarn. I do love the squareness of the needles, though, and my hands don't tire as quickly using them, so they may be on to something with all this ergonomicness they've got going on. In general, I'm pretty happy, and the price point is reasonable (around $12ish for a set of five 6" size 1s.)

A couple high-end knitting needles brands have popped up in the last year adding to the array of sock needles available. I think by now most people who tend to spend their time perusing Vogue Knitting and Ravelry have probably heard of Signature - pretty silver and jewel-toned needles that come in multiple lengths, points, and configurations. People who've gotten their hands on their beauties rave about them like they're a religious experience, emphasizing the smoothness of the knit and the pointiness of the needles. Me, I find myself going "Ooh, that green is so pretty. So. Pretty." (I'm kinda shallow like that.)

Blackthornes appear to be a relatively new brand, but seem to be gaining a following. They're a carbon fiber needle that seems to promise everything my plastics would - warmth, flexibility, and slickness without the fear of snappage. They're definitely appealing to me in a way that the metal needles can't.

Unfortunately what's less appealing about the both of them is their price. Both companies run in the $40 range for a set of DPNs. I am not saying that this isn't a fair price for artisan materials, which I think these are. What I am saying is that I have a lot of trouble plunking down that kind of money, sight unseen, return policy or no, for something I myself haven't handled and may not figure out the durability of until I'm on my second pair of socks three months down the line. I mean, how quickly do the ends blunt? If I toss them in my bag, will they get all nicked up? (Note: Kollages hold up pretty well to the purse test unless they get really up close and personal with your keys in a tight pocket. Alas, my poor little size 0s, I knew you well.) Are they going to be crescent-shaped after the toe of my first sock? It's one thing if I can get 10+ pairs of socks off of a set before I decide they need to be retired, it's another if it's two pairs.

I think what I'm hoping is that the Blackthornes turn up at a local festival or shop so I can manhandle them myself. I worry about how they'll handle more than than the Signatures (a metal needle is a metal needle, allowing for some variation in slickness, tensile strength, length, and pointiness,) because I'm not clear on exactly how they'll feel in my hands, and it seems, based on the discussions in the Ravelry Blackthorne group, that they're still working out some of their growing pains with regard to needle development. Maybe if they make it to Rhinebeck next year and I get to play with a set for a bit, I'll be persuaded to part with some of my fiber funds. I think I'd like to give them some time to settle into a groove before I get serious about them as a possibility. Also, they don't have the 2.25mm size yet. It limits the temptation.

The green Signatures, though... Christmas is coming, right?
fallingbooks: (yarn)
2010-06-15 12:24 am

Sweater Update! (And other random stuff.)

I am cruising along nicely and having finished the bust decreases, I slipped it off the needles and tried it on (no pictures because I lowered the neckline to make it a better layering piece for the fall and I don't really feel the need to flash the Internet,) and I am 1.) in love, and 2.) still basking in that OMG IT'S A SWEATER euphoria. Brace yourselves, I think it's going to go on for a while yet. I seriously added at least 20 sweater patterns to my queue. I'll try to get a picture of it again towards the end of the week.

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I went through my yarn bin this afternoon and pulled out a bunch off odds and ends - single skeins that I ought without a plan, multiple skeins where I've decided that the original plan sucks, and am destashing them. They're up on Ravelry with pics, if anyone is interested in taking a look. I need to clean house and this has the added benefit of putting a couple bucks into the new computer jar.

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In case it's not evident, I like Ravelry quite a bit. I'm not a huge chatter on the boards, although I belong to a zillion groups, but I really think that their project, stash and pattern management tools are excellent. The project pages keep me honest with what's on the needles and what I'm ignoring, the stash pages help me keep track of what I actually have (both in that I don't buy unnecessary dupes and also that I actually have enough yarn in my stash to pull off a particular pattern,) and the pattern pages help me keep tabs on patterns I actually want to make. It really is an invaluable resource for me. I'd be quite lost with out it.

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I am test driving some Knitpicks zephyr interchangeables. I think I like them, although I don't know they're any less 'clicky' than my metal Addis are.

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Rubenesque ladies! The current issue of Verena has some very nice sweaters in it in our sizes.(Ignore all of the eye-searingly bright sweaters with (imho) alarming colorwork. It's like dayglo hell in there.) It's well worth the price of picking up a paper copy if a few of them catch your eye. I probably will end up making at least a couple of the non-ribby ones.
fallingbooks: piles of books and yarn (fallingbooks)
2010-05-27 06:49 pm

I think I'm over the club thing.

I belong to a couple of yarn/fiber clubs. The idea being that you pay a set amount (I prefer the monthly pay-as-you-go ones, but most of them tend to be lump sum payments for spans of anywhere from three months to a year,) and you get a surprise package of yarn/fiber and accessories that are valued at x percent of your payment. Right now I'm in two sock yarn clubs and a fiber club.

I think they are in concept great things. Good for stash building, wonderful monthly surprises (if you don't know what you signed up for,) usually a decent bang for your buck, but they're also something of an 'I have money to burn' or 'I am extreeeeeeeeemely flexible about my knitting' kind of luxury. I don't know that I fall quite in either category at the moment.

For example, I love that my fiber club uses all kinds of different wools to send things out on. I probably wouldn't have tried Shetland as readily and I quite love it thanks to the club. But I don't know if I've just hit a bum run or what, but the last 3 our of four shipments just have not appealed to me. They were on fibers I already know (and have too much of) or they were colors that were decidedly not me, or both. I think that's a sign I need to drop that club, at least for the time being. I'm also getting a little control freak about my spinning and have very decided ideas about what I want to spend my time creating right now.

One sock club ends this month so while it's been fun, I'm glad I don't have to worry about re-upping. The other sock club I quite like as there's always at least two color options to pick from and the bases are delightful, except it's a little expensive because we get a pattern every month for socks. They're LOVELY patterns. Very intricate, very pretty. HOWEVER. I am pretty sure, based on my socky experiences, that they're are not going to fit my feet as written, and the really figural ones will not be (easily) adaptable. I'm not sure what I want to do about this one. There are sister clubs I can slip into to get the same colorways, but they're not quite the same with regard to yarn bases. I'm still mulling it over. I've only recently join and am still trying out their different bases, so I may hang in a little while longer before making any major moves. The club colors have been delightful the last few months, and I can always use the patterns for socks for other people.

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I'm currently in a knitting phase at the moment with a couple shawls, a pair of socks, and a sweater on the needles at the moment. I'll post up pictures and pattern links when I get a bit further along.
fallingbooks: piles of books and yarn (fallingbooks)
2010-02-19 07:12 pm

Accessible vs. Affordable

So Red Heart is working with Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'n Bitch fame to create a new series of decent, critter-and-plant-based yards. So far there are three in the Stitch Nation line: Full 'O Sheep is a worsted, singly ply Peruvian wool, Alpaca Love is a worsted, multi-ply alpaca/wool blend, and Bamboo Ewe is a worsted, multi-ply wool/bamboo blend. I'm not sure how processed the bamboo is in the latter because there are a couple ways to do it, one retaining more bamboo-iness and the other not so much. They're brightly colored, have a decent handfeel (for the most part, I'm not wildly in love with Alpaca Love,) are readily available at larger JoAnn's, and (this is the big selling point) are under $5 a pop. "Affordable, premium yarns!" I've seen people trumpet. What a wonder!

Except, I kind of wonder if they're really that much more affordable. I picked a handful of standard workhorse yarns off of Webs, figured out the cost per yard (from their non-sale prices) for them, and compared them to the Full O' Sheep yarn.

I would like to note that this is not exhaustive, just things that I like and use as my basic everyday yarns, and that I'm not going near the more trendy and luxe stuff like Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, or Lorna's Laces. (This is not a knock on them - I love my LL swirl dk mittens! - but they're definitely not what I, a knitter on a budget, would consider for anything but special projects.)

So how did things shake out?

Breakdowns:

Single Ply
Stitch Nation Full O' Sheep: $5.00/155yds = $0.032/yd
Brown Sheep Lambs Pride: $7.90/190yd = $0.042/yd
Berroco Peruvia: $8.00/174yd = $0.045/yd

Multi Ply
Cascade 220: $7.00/220yd = $0.031/yd
Ella Rae Classic: $6.50/219yd = $0.030/yd
Knitpicks* Wool of the Andes: $2.19/110yd =$0.020/yd

*Knitpicks is available only at Knitpicks.com

It's basically a penny difference per yard either way. Peruvia is probably the closest equivalent, being both Peruvian wool and single ply, and the most expensive in comparison, but it's still not a ridiculous jump in price. I'll agree that every penny matters in these financially questionable times, particularly when you're working on a large project, but I think that the 'affordable' line is a bit overhyped. If you're really constrained that tightly by your budget, you'd be best served hands down looking at Knitpicks's Wool of the Andes, multi-plied-ness be damned.

I think where the Stitch Nation yarns really win out is in the area of accessibility. Nice, saturated color, wool yarn right there where anyone can get to it, touch it, squeeze it, and fall in love with it. That's fantastic for people who don't have a LYS nearby or are put off by ordering yarns online because they're not sure what they're getting into. And kudos for getting alpaca and plant-blend yarns in the broader knitter consciousness. I've certainly never seen the like before at JoAnn's. I hope they're embraced and that Red Heart takes heart (har har) from this and releases yarns of varying weight in this line. Sock, lace, dk, bulky. There's so much out there for people to explore once they're aware of the possibilities.

But I also hope that knitters who are wowed and amazed and fall in love with a better yarn than they're used to continue to explore and visit their LYS, or Webs, or Knitpicks and try some other new things. Because price isn't that insurmountable a barrier.
fallingbooks: (Default)
2009-06-21 02:28 pm

BLOCKPARTY!

Maggie said I could hotlink!

I am slightly behind as this is the last day of the block party, but hell. Better late than never, y/y? :)

I'm out in front with my knitting, proudly and noisily working on the Tempting sweater from the spring 2004 issue of Knitty. It's an easy pattern, but I like to snark while I knit and generally talk to myself quite a bit.

This is where I sing a song of love for Knitty.

Knitty is an online fiber arts magazine that quite frankly rocks my socks off. Every new quarter bring a new bundle of joy with articles and reviews about knitting and spinning tools and techniques and more new free patterns than you could hope to shake your needle roll at. And before you roll your eyes and make some sort of crack about getting what you pay for, consider this: I have yet to make anything from a Knitty pattern that has been a dud, and have very rarely heard complaints from my nutty knitting peers.

A sampling of awesome:

- Stuffed Crab (I know several people who need this)
- Shipwreck Shawl (I'm still working up my courage - that's a LOT of lace and beading)
- Miittens (I have these up on needles now. You too can make your small child look like s/he stepped out of a video game!)
- Interlocking leaves socks (gorgeous lace toe-up socks)
- Amelia cardigan (because I always need another one, you probably do too.)

And hell, I'll put my money where my mouth is. I'll send the first three people to reply a pair of Dashing fingerless gloves.

So c'mon and drag your lawn chair over here with me and we'll sit and knit and trade patterns and horror stories, drinking some of the spiked punch while we watch the festivities wind down. It'll be fun.

Other people on the block: Miss Mags is laying down tunes and Ames is bringing out the trays of cookies.
fallingbooks: (yarn)
2009-06-12 09:45 pm

A brief update.

Focus, Sarah! Focus!

I'm going to miss the Thatcher Park Sheep and Wool tomorrow in favor of doing other more necessary things, but that's probably a good thing as I'm already living in fear of Rhinebeck.

Tomorrow is World Wide Knit in Public day, so if you knit go out and sit on your front stoop with a WIP. Be proud of your knitting-nerdness! :)

I have started the ubiquitous February Lady sweater. I've never made a sweater before, much less one with buttonholes. I sense a disaster in the making. Hopefully it'll at least be entertaining. (I haven't frogged it yet!)

All of the pretty yarns I like at Webs that are on sale are freaking DK. Do I have any patterns in my queue that call for DK-weight yarn? Of course not. Worsted all the way!

I am coveting Schaefer Susan in Lillian Gilbraith like wo. (Yes, I still say that.) I need two skeins of it for the shawl I want to make, I just can't bring myself to fork over that much money for two skeins of yarn, you know? Even if it is economically equivalent to most other indie dyers and totally worth it. (Of course, my ongoing wibbling over the Margaret Meade, Beatrix Potter (which I KNOW I've seen in person, is white/green/aqua,) and Mary Leakey colorways does not help clarify things. ML would probably get the most use/enjoyment, but my literary roots crave Gilbreths.)

Booklist migrating here shortly. I find that by spending all my time knitting, I barely get any reading done. I need more hands.

Also - why the frelling hell is Illyana both a teenager and not dead? I mean, I get that it's Marvel - no one stays dead forever - but I'm just confused. Does this mean we're going to get Doug back, too?
fallingbooks: (Default)
2009-05-08 08:54 pm

I need to work on getting some icons.

So what has Sarah been up to lately?

Mostly knitting gloves.

See?

Mass quantity of gloves

Paste-y Sarah shows off her gloves

Gifts for folks. Easy and brainless to make while nifty warm, although I'm starting to burn out a bit.

Once I finish these up, I'm going to make some socks and a sweater. I'm sure you'll hear more about that in a week or so.

In other news, I got new furniture.

New Living Room Set

The cats, as you can see, approve.