Behind the Wool

By Behind the Wool

About this podcast   English    United States

Technically, we knit.
June 11, 2018
From KrazyKatKnitter: “I’d like to hear about blending fibers to make a specific yarn. So, how and why would you blend wool with alpaca and if you are spinning your own yarn how would you add nylon or silk to your yarn.” Blending fibers gives you the “best of both worlds” so to speak. If you’d like to try custom blended fibers, check out World of Wool – – where you can create custom fiber blends. If you’d like to blend your own fibers, you can buy the different types separately from many retailers, and blend with hand cards, a hackle, a drum carder, or combs. There are many ways to DIY blending tools, such as the hair pick hackle that Sarah mentions – From debirose2: “I would like to hear more about the qualities of different yarns to consider when you’re choosing yarn for your project. You talked about the qualities of different fibers but i would like more specific information. Such as, choosing 100% merino fingering vs 80/20 blend that would work for socks. What will the difference be? And what is the downside of super wash?” “And to further expand on my previous question for a future episode – i would love to know more about the characteristics of knitting with yarns from these different breeds.” There are so many different sheep breeds, and they have so many different qualities, that we actually recommend you pick up the wonderful Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, which details individual breeds, their fiber properties, and what their fleece is traditionally used for. Merino is popular because it’s soft and widely available. What makes it soft, however, makes it more delicate. It’s a shorter-staple wool, meaning it’s more likely to pill and less likely to be durable over time. The addition of nylon adds strength to a softer fiber because it has a greater/higher tensile strength than the wool. Generally a wool/nylon blend will last longer than a 100% wool yarn. Superwash is great for easy care, but it does have its downsides. For one thing, its production is often damaging to the environment. Also, the lack of scales on the wool that you get as a result means that your item is more likely to sag or droop because those scales are what helps the yarn and fabric to maintain its shape. From Misspammurphy: “I am curious how much fiber you would need to buy so you could spin a sweater? How much yarn can you get from one braid? I know that if depends on what weight you want the yarn to be and how many plys, but there must be some kind of a guide.” Simple (sort of) answer: It depends! On so many factors, too. Breed of wool Fiber prep Spinning method (woolen uses less than worsted) Thickness of yarn/number of plies Size of the person/size being made Keep in mind that if spinning worsted or semiworsted, handspun is often denser than commercial yarn. Make sure you have enough — always better to have extra than not enough Please continue to ask questions in the Ravelry group!   
May 31, 2018
*Start with full disclosure: We are both designers and have patterns for sale on Ravelry. We are not doing this episode as a way to plug our patterns but rather as a way to share our knowledge. There are two main routes for publishing knit and crochet patterns: self-publishing or publishing through a third-party publisher (print/online magazine, book, yarn company, etc.) With self-publishing, the designer has control over the yarn choice, the photography, the layout, the price, and so forth. But the designer also has to cover all the costs. The benefit is that the designer gets all the proceeds from sales. With third-party publishers, a lot of the costs (and non-design work) are taken care of, but designers are typically paid either a flat fee or a royalty and there’s usually an exclusivity period during which time only the publisher can sell the pattern. The upside is that if the pattern is a bomb, at least the designer has made the fee from the publisher for the initial rights. These fees tend to go up the longer the exclusivity period. Sometimes there’s an option for royalties after the exclusivity period has ended. Step 1: Sketching and Swatching Regardless of the publishing method, all designs start with an idea, and the designer usually develops that idea by sketching and swatching to play with shape, construction, stitch pattern, and yarn choice. Designers may use resources like stitch dictionaries or charting software to play with color, pattern, texture, etc. Swatching is done at this stage primarily to test out ideas and see them in yarn rather than to determine gauge, though it may also be used as a tool to determine the best yarn for the job (weight, construction, fiber content, etc.). Step 1A: Submission (for third-party publishers) If the designer wishes to publish the pattern with a third party, at this point they will create a submission for the third party. Publishers often post calls for submissions online and create mood boards for themes or inspiration. A submission sent in response to such a call contains a swatch/photo of a swatch, a detailed description of the item with a sketch (if necessary), desired yarn specifications, and a bio or link to the designer’s full portfolio. Most submissions are sent via e-mail, though some publications still prefer a hard copy with a physical swatch to see and feel. If the submission is accepted, the designer will sign a contract with the publisher that details the terms (payment, exclusivity period, etc.) and is given a deadline for sending in the sample and the completed pattern. Step 2: Making the Sample and Writing the Pattern If the designer is publishing with a third party, in most cases the publisher will provide the yarn that the designer is used to make the sample. While the designer may have specified a particular yarn in their submission, it’s rare that they will receive that exact yarn (unless, of course, the publisher is a yarn company). The yarn used for the samples for patterns in magazines often comes from advertisers. If the designer is self-publishing, they either need to buy the yarn for the sample or ask a yarn company or indie dyer for yarn support. Yarn support is yarn that is provided by the yarn company/dyer for free in return for the designer using the yarn in their sample and naming the yarn in the pattern. It’s a great way to collaborate with indie dyers and to do some cross-promotion. Not all designers go through the process in the same way; some write the pattern and then make the sample, some make the sample and write up the pattern afterwards, and some some do the sample making and pattern writing concurrently. If the pattern in question is a sized garment, there is often grading to do. Grading is the process of doing the math to make the pattern work for several different sizes. Although the pattern may be graded to multiple sizes, typically the designer only makes one sample in one size. Designers who are particularly prolific often don’t have time to knit or crochet their own samples and will employ a sample knitter/crocheter. The designer will write the full pattern and then send it and the yarn to make the sample off to the sample knitter/crocheter (who will be compensated for their time). If the design is being published by a third party, the sample and pattern are sent off to the publisher at this point. Step 3: Photography and Layout Once the designer has finished the pattern and the sample, the next step is to create the physical pattern. In addition to the instructions, that means taking photos of the sample and creating charts or diagrams and then putting all the elements together in a layout. Photography might be done by the designer or a friend/family member of the designer, or the designer might hire a professional photographer. Similarly, the designer might be the model (if a model is needed) or may hire a model or use a friend or family member. Charts (for things like colorwork, cables, and lace) can be created using a number of computer programs. There are some charting programs available for free, but the more powerful ones typically require a purchase or fee to use them. Likewise, layout can be done with free open-source software or professional design software, and the more powerful programs are the ones that cost money. Third-party publishers take care of both photography and layout. Step 4: Tech Editing and Testing A technical editor reviews the pattern prior to publishing to make sure it’s correct and clear. This goes beyond editing the pattern for grammar, punctuation, and usage; tech editors also check that all the numbers are correct, that the numbers match the measurements given, that charts and written instructions match, etc. Tech editors charge by the hour, and their fees range ($10-$50/hr.). The more complicated the pattern is, the longer it will take to edit. Some designers will use more than one tech editor, particularly if the pattern is a complicated garment design in many sizes. Testing is optional but something that many designers do when self-publishing. Having testers or preview knitters/crocheters make the pattern before it’s published gives the designer an idea of what kind of support questions they might expect, especially if the testers/previewers have varying levels of experience. Having a pattern tested prior to release also ensures that there will be projects up on Ravelry other than the designers’ when the pattern is published. Third-party publishers will handle the tech editing and usually have the designer review a layout of the pattern just prior to its publishing date. Typically there isn’t time to test these patterns, but if designers choose to do it, in most cases the testing has to be secret (pictures have to stay offline prior to publishing). Step 5: Publishing   Costs associated with self-publishing: Materials: yarn (if not getting yarn support), hooks/needles, notions, embellishments Production materials: charting software, layout software Photography (if paying a photographer and/or model) Tech editing Time!
May 4, 2018
We’re doing things a little differently this time, and interviewing some lovely people. Amy Manko and ScooterPie the Shepherd Guy are the owners of The Ross Farm and The Ross Farm Fibers Mercantile, which can be found at 78 N Main Street in beautiful Washington, PA. Amy and Scott raise nine different breeds of rare and heritage breed sheep on their farm, which they farm for their fleece. Amy has been running the farm since 1993, and the farm has been in her family for five generations, and her son will be the sixth generation. In addition to running the farm, Amy also writes articles for Knit Edge and Ply, and teaches at various fiber festivals. We found out that Amy is working with Deb Robson and a host of other big name crafters to create a fundraising project to fund Colonial Williamsburg’s rare breed program, the SVF Foundation, and the Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Amy also runs the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat, which is currently open for registration! This retreat takes place every November, and is a great fun time. Amy and Scooter go to tons of fiber festivals throughout the year, including Maryland Sheep & Wool and Rhinebeck. These adventures are the source of the stories on their podcast, Transient Wool Merchants. Amy and Scott are Schacht dealers, and Scott runs a really amazing Instagram, @ScooterPieTheShepherdGuy. The Ross Farm will be donating a Shetland to the Youth Conservationist Program, which gives a rare breed yearling ewe to kids who have shown an interest in raising rare breeds. The sheep will be presented on Sunday at Maryland Sheep & Wool. In the UK, they have the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
April 17, 2018
Apologies in advance for a few audio glitches – we’re trying to figure out how to fix those in the future! Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Craft: an activity involving skill in making things by hand. Craft is generally a skill that can be learned with practice, and produces items that can be duplicated. Art is generally considered to come from some innate talent within the artist – as Sarah says, hard work alone won’t make you a talented painter. Some interesting artists who blur the lines between art and craft are Stephen West (a knitwear designer) and Andy Warhol (a pop artist). The scene that Sarah and I mentioned from The Devil Wears Prada (which is an excellent movie, go watch it!) can be watched on YouTube: This is a really interesting website about the history of different quilt patterns: The quilt makers that Sarah couldn’t think of were from Gee’s Bend: The mitten thing that Sarah mentioned was from Estonia and is described in Nancy Bush’s book Folk Knitting in Estonia, which can be found online here: Apparently brides were expected to have many, many fancy pairs knit and in their hope chests before they got married, and they would then present them as gifts to the wedding party and guests at the wedding. Here’s the article that Sarah talked about regarding the NHS and knitting (it’s not officially an NHS policy, but a recommendation to the NHS): Craftivism: is a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity, or third-wave feminism, that is centered on practices of craft – or what can traditionally be referred to as “domestic arts”. To read more about craftivism, visit or check it out on Wikipedia:
April 2, 2018
The different fiber types, and how to care for them: Acrylics and man-made fibers Can be tossed into the washer and dryer, and frequently come out better for it. The heat from the dryer can “kill” the acrylic a little, making it softer and more pliable. Once acrylic is blocked (I usually do this with a little bit of steam), it won’t lose its shape or become distorted. Because acrylic is made with colored plastic, rather than dyed, colors should not fade. Superwash wool: Ideally, superwash wool should be machine washable. I usually handwash sweaters regardless of whether they’re superwash treated, but socks and accessories go through the washer on the delicate setting. I typically lay items flat to dry, and avoid the dryer, unless I’m trying to “shrink” something a little bit. In that case, I put damp items in the dryer on low heat. Be careful when handling your larger items when they’re wet, because superwash has a tendency to grow, and items can become distorted under their own weight. Non-superwash wool: Handwash only, always! Wool will turn into felt when treated with water, heat, and agitation. Sometimes the shock of hot water on cold wool can be enough to felt it. Use lukewarm water and a gentle detergent or wool wash (I like Eucalin). Soak the item until it’s fully saturated. You can swish the water with your hands a little to loosen really dirty items. Rinse if needed, squeeze water out gently (don’t wring!), and lay flat to dry. If an item is really dirty, don’t be afraid to use hot water and do several wash/rinse cycles if necessary. If using hot water, just be gentle with the item so as not to agitate it and risk felting. Fill your basin with water and any cleanser and then gently place the item in the water. Alpaca and luxury fibers: Alpaca has a tendency to grow enormously under its own weight when wet, and doesn’t have the memory of wool to spring back into shape. For alpaca and luxury fibers, I typically spot clean with a gentle detergent, or handwash gently if needed. Keep in mind that silk loses up to 30% of its strength when wet, so when blocking silk lace, I like to pin the item out when it’s dry, then spritz with water until saturated, and leave to try. This lessens the chance that any strands will break when you stretch them for blocking. If your item was made with a yarn that is a blend of fibers, always wash according to the instructions from the most delicate fiber in the blend! Just about any hand-made item can be safely hand washed. The only thing that should probably routinely be machine washed is an item that regularly comes into contact with kitchen germs, like a dishcloth. For those type of things, you want the heat of the washer and dryer. The comforter bags that Sarah mentioned can be found here: The mesh sweater dryer that she uses can be found here: Some commercial laundry symbols: What to Use for Washing: If you’re machine washing, you can use your regular detergent, but stay clear of anything containing bleach. Wool and other animal fibers are protein fibers, and bleach will cause protein fibers to disintegrate. For hand washing, consider a wool wash like Soak, Eucalan, or Unicorn Wool Wash. Many wool washes are formulated for wool and contain lanolin. They do not need to be rinsed (though you may wish to rinse if your item is very soiled). In a pinch, you can always use shampoo — animal fibers are, after all, hair! Just be sure to rinse it out thoroughly. For wool especially, a good glug of white vinegar never hurts. Protein fibers tend to prefer an acidic environment, and it will actually help to rinse out any soap you may have used. (Sarah uses vinegar in place of fabric softener in her regular laundry, for instance.) Storage: Bugs will eat finished items just as quickly as they’ll eat yarn! I like to store everything in vinyl comforter bags, or airtight containers. What attracts bugs is body oils, so it’s a good idea to make sure your hand-made items are clean before you store them. Store items off the floor whenever possible to keep them out of the way of carpet beetles. If floor storage is your only option (such as under a bed), consider storing your items in heavy-duty plastic bins. You can buy special “sweater bags” that have space to add cedar planks. Cedar and lavender will help keep bugs away, and also keep your knits smelling nice. Cleaner’s Supply sells comforter bags that have breathable sides, which allow your items to breathe (and avoid any mildewing that you might get if there was any moisture left in them after you washed them). Ideally, I try to wash all of my sweaters at the end of the wearing season (fall, winter, and early spring), before I store them all for the summer. If you have enough items, it might be a good idea to organize them based on season, or washability.
March 16, 2018
Don’t be afraid of making sweaters! Sarah and I are here to get you squared away to make your perfect sweater, that fits you well and will last a long time. If you can read a pattern, you should try a sweater! By the way, we try to use craft-inclusive language, but know that we default to knitting a lot. If you have suggestions for how we can better include crochet or other crafts, please let us know! Step 1: Pick your pattern! Do you want a cardigan or a pullover? Would you like to work from the top down, or from the bottom up? Do you want seams for structure, or would you prefer a seamless sweater? In general, lots of tailoring and structure will be very flattering on a lot of people. Look at what you like in your wardrobe, and use that as a jumping off point to make your sweater. If you already have the yarn that you’d like to use, you can use the Ravelry search to narrow down your choices! You can filter by weight, yardage, gauge, and even look for pattern ideas made with the yarn that you have. If there’s a designer that you really like, try looking through their patterns specifically for ideas. You can also do an advanced search within a designer’s patterns. If you’re going to be combining patterns, try to make sure that they at least all use the same weight yarn, or work to the same gauge. Don’t be afraid of taking a little of this and a little of that. Step 2: Swatch and pick your size Gauge is especially important for a sweater, since you want it to fit, of course! Be sure to take note of all of the gauges listed in the pattern, since there’s often more than one. Be sure to swatch in the stitch specified in the pattern. If no pattern is specified, swatch in stockinette. Be sure to swatch in the round if the sweater is going to be worked in the round! Ease is the measurement of the garment compared to the measurement of your body. A garment that has to stretch slightly to fit your body has negative ease. A garment that is loosely fitting has positive ease. In the best case scenario, a pattern will indicate how much ease the sweater has on the model, or will include a pattern schematic. Ideally, you should have a friend help you measure yourself, or you can measure a sweater that you already have and like the fit of. Amy Herzog has amazing sweater fitting instructions. Her books are You Can Knit That, Knit Wear Love, and Knit to Flatter. She also has several Craftsy classes available! CustomFit is another Amy Herzog system. Step 3: Read the pattern No, really, read the pattern. Take note of any times that you’ll be working increases or decreases, and any needle changes. Sarah finds it helpful to highlight her pattern, and I always go through and make notes of my size numbers, and where I’m going to be making any modifications. Sarah mentioned Sirka – a row counter that lets you keep track of up to three different counts. Make sure that you have all of the notions that you might need for the pattern, especially if you’re going to be traveling with it. Nothing sucks more than being in a hotel room without a darning needle, or without a smaller needle, when all you want to do is finish! Step 4: Cast on! Make sure that you use the right needles for your gauge, at the right time. If you’re using hand-dyed or kettle dyed yarns, it’s usually a good idea to alternate skeins so that color variations aren’t as stark, and pooling isn’t as much of an issue. It’s a good idea to keep a bag of notions such as tape measure, darning needles, stitch markers, etc. handy so that you’ll have everything that you need. Step 5: Finishing If your sweater was made in pieces, it’s usually a good idea to block the pieces before seaming. It makes the edges neater, and it’s usually easier to get everything to line up properly. Keep in mind that you can use a different, sturdier yarn for seaming than you did for the knitting. For example, if you’re using a singles yarn, you might want to seam with something less delicate. A good, plied, fingering weight sock yarn in a similar color usually works well for seaming. For very fine gauge items, embroidery floss can work well for seaming. Take your time adding in the finishing touches. Buttons, zippers, and neatly sewn seams can be really eye catching and make your work look professional.
March 2, 2018
What do you need to do before you start working on your latest project? Today we’re talking about best practices to keep your crafts tidy, and are mainly focusing on knitting, crochet, and spinning. The best way you can start any project is by picking a good pattern. Look for something well-written, easy to follow, and that produces the desired results. In the same way that you don’t want to fight against your tools and materials, it’s best to use a pattern that you won’t have to spend a large amount of time interpreting – or even rewriting. If you’re using Ravelry to look at patterns, you can look at the comments and completed projects to see if anyone had issues creating the item. Keep in mind that comments left on the pattern can be deleted by the designer, if they don’t like what the comment says. The pattern page also links to any forum posts where the pattern has been hyperlinked, which you can look at to see if there were any questions about the pattern. If you’re working from a book or magazine, be sure to check with the publisher for any errata. You can usually find links to errata on the Ravelry pattern page, or on the publisher’s website. If you’re purchasing a PDF copy, be sure that you download the latest copy of the pattern. Once you have your pattern, READ IT! If you’re working from a book or magazine, it’s a good idea to make a photocopy so that you can make notes on the pattern, or print your PDF. Highlight or circle all of your size numbers so that you don’t get them mixed up, and be sure to take note of instructions that happen “at the same time” or similar notation. [Note: I forgot to mention this in the podcast, but now is a good time to compare the measurements in the pattern to YOUR measurements, and write down where you’d like to make adjustments]. Make sure that you know what all of the symbols and abbreviations mean, and how to work those stitches. If you need to practice, you can incorporate that into your swatching. If there’s a colorwork chart and you don’t have a color printer, it’s a good idea to color in the boxes with markers or colored pencils. Your swatch is a great place to practice! Yes, it makes sure that you have the correct number of stitches to the inch, but you can also use the swatch to practice new techniques, make sure that you like the way your cast on and bind off look, and see if you need to adjust anywhere. Make sure that you have everything that you need to complete the project before you start. If you need to go yarn shopping, be sure to take your pattern with you, and know what size you’re making. The pattern should give an indication of how much yarn you’re going to need. If you’re going to use a different yarn than what the pattern calls for, I recommend looking for the recommended yarn on to make sure that you use something with similar properties as what the designer used. Sarah and I both tend to buy an extra skein of yarn for most projects. If budgets are tight, you can try to return an unused skein (it will usually need to be in the same condition that you bought it – i.e., not caked or knit with), or destash it on Ravelry. Buy needles, hooks, stitch markers, buttons, and whatever else you need, as needed. I like to keep everything together in the project bag, so that I’m sure to have the buttons with me when I’m ready to sew them on. Be sure to factor needles, notions, and anything else that you might need into your budget for the project. Swatch! Seriously, it helps so much! You want to know how your fabric is going to behave, what’s going to change when you wash it, and if anything funky is going on. [Note: Sarah would like me to mention that she does, in fact, know how to do math, and that 7×8=56, not 58] Use some tools to help you keep your place in the pattern. We like to use check marks, tally marks, and cross things out as we use them. GoodReader is an excellent PDF reader that allows you to take notes, highlight texts, and do many other things. KnitCompanion is specifically designed for reading knitting patterns and has some excellent features for keeping your place. You can be as high tech or low tech as you want!
Feb. 16, 2018 · transcript
Hi everyone! Today we’re going to be talking about socks – how to make them, and how to make them last. As a note, we’re going to focus on knitted socks. You can crochet socks, but Sarah and I don’t have enough experience with crochet to comment on those. I would guess that a lot of the same things apply though! Handknit socks are infinitely customizable, and they feel great on your feet. Wool breathes, so they’re very warm without making your feet sweaty. They also tend to be thicker than commercial made socks, to add a lot of squish. Generally, wool is going to make the best socks (with the exception of wool-free yarns made specifically for socks such as CoBaSi by HiKoo). Cotton and synthetics aren’t as warm, don’t breathe as well, and also wear out faster. Most socks are knit seamlessly in the round, with the rare exception of vintage patterns or argyle socks. You can use any method for small circumference knitting in the round – Magic Loop, DPNs, two circulars, or 9″ circulars – and you can choose to knit your socks two at a time. If you’re going to knit two at a time, I would recommend making your yarn into two balls rather than working from either end of the ball. You want to choose a yarn that’s going to knit at 8-10 stitches to the inch, which will typically be a fingering weight yarn on US0 to US2 needles. If you don’t have the stitch density of a tight gauge, they will wear out faster than you might like. Knitting a heavier weight sock can be a great way to learn about sock construction without adding in the complication of small yarns and needles. Some great beginner tutorials are Silver’s Sock Class, Tin Can Knits Rye, and Knitty’s Fuzzy Feet. Most sock yarns are fingering weight, but not all fingering weight yarns are good for socks. Most good sock yarns will be wool or a wool blend (look for about 75% wool to 25% nylon, polyamide, or silk), and roughly 400 yards to 100 grams. Keep in mind that softer yarns will wear out faster, so merino wool will generally wear faster than a longer stapled wool. The addition of nylon, silk, or mohair will add strength and durability to the finished object. When it comes to socks, superwash vs non-superwash wool comes down to some personal preference. Superwash wools are created by the addition of chemicals that either burn off the scales of the wool, or glue down the scales of the wool. It’s really difficult to figure out which kind of superwash yarn that you have, and some may eventually become felted over years of wear and use. I personally prefer superwash sock yarns because I do NOT enjoy handwashing socks! Nylon can be carried along with the knitting as you go, which also adds strength. Most people carry a nylon thread along on the heels and toes of the socks, but you can add it in wherever you need the durability. The other thing to keep in mind when choosing a sock yarn is the number of plies. In general, 3 or more plies will wear better, because if one ply wears through, there are 2 or 3 more to back it up before a hole develops! When choosing a sock yarn, try to keep a few things in mind – look for wool or a wool nylon blend, a tight twist, and 3 or more plies. Then, to maximize your success, knit them at a dense gauge. In general, socks will either be knit starting at the cuff and working down the foot, or starting at the toe and working up the leg. Both are very valid methods! We recommend making several pairs with several different techniques, to see what you like and what fits *you* well. There are lots of fans of the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, which also includes instructions for making well-fitting socks with a short row heel. Also, keep in mind that just about every sock pattern can be constructed in the way that you prefer, and you can always sub in the heel or toe that you like working with. One important aspect of fitting your socks is negative ease. That is, your sock should have to stretch slightly to fit your foot. Measure around the ball of your foot, and subtract 10% to get the width you should be knitting. There is a dreaded affliction that infects every knitter at some point in their sock knitting career – Second Sock Syndrome! Socks can be knit two at a time, usually with two circular needles or a very long circular needle and magic loop. There is also a way to double knit your socks (one inside of the other), and is generally done on DPNs. There are dozens of ways to knit sock heels! The heel flap and gusset is very common, along with short row heels, afterthought heels, and heels formed with increases and decreases (such as the heel in the Vanilla is the New Black sock). If you tend to wear your socks out at the heel, afterthought heels might be the way to go, since you can rip out and replace the heel at any time. The Smooth Operator Socks are a good introduction to afterthought heels. As an aside, if you want some cool socks with a weird construction, check out The Trolls Cauldron – they were a lot of fun! I did mention that I would link to Judy’s Magic Cast-On – it’s a great way to start toe-up socks, and a very useful cast-on in general. The books that we would recommend are Sock Architecture by Lara Neel and Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley. Thanks for listening! P.S. After recording, Sarah had a hole develop in one of her socks. Here are some pictures of before and after darning:   If you’d like to learn how to darn your socks, here is a great YouTube video.
Jan. 30, 2018 · transcript
By this point, we’ve probably all realized that fiber hobbies aren’t exactly cheap. You need a certain amount of tools and materials to get started, and I for one always recommend that people work with the best tools and fiber that their budget will allow. Today we’re going to talk about all of the ways that you can get great stuff for a good price! Strap in, because this is a long episode. First of all, animal fibers tend to cost more than an acrylic or a plant-based fiber. Fine wools and breed-specific wools will tend to cost a bit more than the generic “WOOL” – because generic wool comes from a blend of bits and pieces of all sorts of fleece. Figure out which materials you like the best, and you can look for good deals within that category. Organic wools and cottons will also tend to cost a bit more than conventional materials, because of the extra considerations that go into manufacturing organics. Click this link to read the Organic Trade Association standards for labeling organic fiber products. Just about everything that we use is available in a range of prices, from low cost box store items to high cost handmade items. Hand-dyed fibers will cost more, because you’re paying for all of the labor that goes into dyeing every individual skein. If you’re working with a limited budget, you may not want to pay $20-$30 per skein for hand-dyed fibers. But, if you like the effect that hand-dyeing brings, try dyeing your own! You don’t need fancy equipment or dyes – you can dye with Kool-Aid or food coloring in your own kitchen, without any special equipment. Click this link for a great tutorial on Kool-Aid dyeing. Dyeing with food coloring is the same process, you just need to mordant your yarn with white vinegar or citric acid before you add the dye, so that the chemicals bond to the fibers. Note that these dyes work on protein fibers (wool, alpaca, silk) only. If you’re looking for lower cost spinning fiber, it might be a good time to learn how to process fleece. Because you’re investing the time needed to prep your fiber, you’ll be paying less per pound than you would buying prepped fiber. There is a tool investment cost involved, but you can often find prep tools secondhand, and some you can build yourself. There are tons of resources online for washing fleeces – find a tutorial that works for you, and go for it! It’s always good to work with a smaller amount first to make sure that your method won’t felt your whole fleece – I usually wash about a pound at a time. You can also get undyed fiber for less than you would pay for hand-dyed fibers, just like undyed yarn. Paradise Fibers, World of Wool, and Etsy are all good places to find undyed wool. Buying in bulk is also a great way to save, if you’re going to use large amounts of fiber. Paradise Fibers also frequently has great clearance sales. Blended fibers will tend to cost less than 100% wool – there are some great blended yarns that hold up well and even if there’s only a little bit of wool in the blend, you still get a lot of the desirable wool properties. There are lots of wool blends available at big box stores, and you can frequently get coupons for 50% off any item. Also consider what you’re making and who you’re making it for – a blanket that’s going to live in a dorm room might benefit from being made from 100% acrylic. Not all acrylics are equal – there are some really lovely acrylics that don’t feel squeaky, and benefit from being washable and hardwearing. Some acrylics also feel softer after washing and drying, or being steamed. There are tons of online stores that have their own house brands that tend to cost less, because there’s no middleman between you and the yarn. KnitPicks only carries their house brand, and WEBS has the Valley Yarn line. KnitPicks offers free shipping on orders over $50, and WEBS has bulk discounts where you get a certain percentage off your total order when you spend $60 or more. If you need smaller amounts, you can try to join up with crafty friends to place one big order and get the discount. LoveKnitting, Discontinued Brand Name Yarn, and various other websites often have good sales and clearance sections. You can hear about sales by signing up to receive online store newsletters. ColourMart is an animal all of its own – it’s a UK based bulk yarn discount site. You can get large amounts of luxury fibers at a huge discount. They frequently carry merino, cashmere, yak, and other luxury fibers. There are great sales and bulk discounts. The yarns are all oiled for machine knitting, so the yarns have to be washed in a degreaser (such as blue Dawn dish soap) to get the oils off. There are tutorials online for removing the oils from ColourMart yarns. If you know what yarn you’re looking for, you can look through Ravelry stashes where people may be selling yarn at a discount. You can also frequently find tools, wheels, and lots of other goodies. Click here for a list of destashing Ravelry groups that you can look through to find things for sale or trade. You don’t have to buy yarn brand new! Lots of people unravel sweaters to reclaim the yarn; you can find sweaters at thrift stores or discount stores. Pay attention to the seams on the sweaters, and pay attention to the fiber content. Click here for the tutorial that Sarah mentioned, it’s a good one! Avoid felted sweaters, because you won’t be able to unravel them. The Ravelry group UnRavelers have great resources for recycling yarns. Yard sales and estate sales can have good deals on nice yarns, and it’s a good idea to check Craigslist too. Check Facebook for crafty destash groups, or for craft groups in general – you never know when someone will be trying to get rid of things. I personally consider tools to be an investment, and recommend buying the best tools that you can afford. Sets tend to cost less than buying needles or hooks individually. I do recommend investing in a set of interchangeable needles, because you can make hundreds of combinations of needle size and length. Big box stores also carry needles, and I personally recommend the Susan Bates needles if you’re going to be shopping at box stores. Plus, you can use a coupon! (NOTE: Knitters Pride needles are not manufactured by WEBS, but they do carry the entire line of Knitters Pride needles). Investing in good tools that you love will be less expensive in the long run – or, at the very least, know that you love what you’re buying. You can frequently find used wheels and tools, and if you take good care of your tools you can often sell them for a good price. Don’t be afraid to shop around for stuff! There’s always going to be a little bit of an upfront investment when getting into a fiber hobby, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money. A note on patterns – you can find tons of free patterns on Ravelry, Knitty, and Knotions, and you can find lots of pattern books in your local library. Note that no one on Ravelry is making sure that free patterns are written well, but people can leave notes on their project page, or comment on the pattern to let other people know whether the pattern is worth making. With free patterns, you can always have a look at the pattern to make sure it’s easy for you to understand, but paid patterns aren’t always high quality and it’s not as easy to tell. Patterns with lots of project tend to be well written, and you can sort the project pages by “most helpful” to read project notes. I do believe in supporting the pattern designer, so I would recommend budgeting for the cost of the pattern when you’re budgeting for the whole project. Don’t forget about your local library!! Talk to your librarian; they are there to help you find what you’re looking for, and they’re skilled researchers. Overall, have fun with your hobby! Work with materials and tools that you enjoy, and consider them worth investing in.
Jan. 15, 2018
Happy New Year! Resolution 1: Stash Organization This is a great time to go through and “toss” your stash. Go through it and check for any mouse, moth, or other pest damage. Make sure that all of your yarn is in good shape, and if something looks like it has been messed with, isolate it until you can treat it. If you think there’s any sort of risk for moth damage, you can either freeze or bake the yarn to kill bugs. While you’re tossing the stash, now’s the time to organize and catalog your yarn. We all know that things get lost in the deep stash – but use this as an opportunity to dig out the older stuff and get excited about it again. Photograph and record all of your yarn on Ravelry, including partial skeins! Ravelry will calculate the remaining yardage for you, so long as you know what yarn it is, and you have a kitchen scale on hand. When you know what you have, it’s a lot easier to figure out what you want to do next. Figure out what you’d like to keep, what you’d like to give away or donate, and what you’d like to knit with right now. Organize in a way that makes sense to you. Sarah organizes by weight, I organize by approximate yardage or intended project. You could also organize by color, by fiber type, or anything else that speaks to you. Think about the space that you have and how best to optimize it. Comforter bags and Rubbermaid containers make great storage solutions. Resolution 2: Plan Your Projects Once you have your stash in order, it’s a great time to plan your projects for the upcoming months. I like to get my yarn, needles, notions, and pattern together in a project bag that I can grab when I’m ready to cast on something new. If you need to buy things for specific projects, you can make a list of what you need to buy (such as contrast colors, buttons, zippers, etc.) If you have all of your books and physical patterns in your Ravelry library, you can do an advanced search within your own library to find the perfect pattern for the yarn that you have and want to use. So, if you know that you need to make a baby gift or a birthday gift, you have everything ready to go! Resolution 3: Frog, Finish, or Rehome It’s time to go through the UFO pile! Find all of your unfinished objects and works-in-progress, and make a judgment about whether you’d like to finish it, frog it, or pass it along to someone new who will love it. Knitting is always reversible – try not to feel bad about remaking something that isn’t working for you. Rip it out, wash the yarn, and make yourself something that you’ll love. Does it bring you joy? If it doesn’t, now might be the time to find a new use for something. Resolution 4: Tool Organization Go through your empty project bags and other hiding places to find your needles, stitch markers, and other notions that may have been left behind and put them away! It’s much, much easier to find the things that you need when they’re put away and ready to use. If you need a better storage solution for your needles, now might be the time to get something new. There are lots of Etsy sellers and other retailers who make needle organization cases, if that’s something that appeals to you. (Note, the needle sorter that I mentioned is made by Handwork Hardware and can be found here: I don’t recommend keeping your DPNs together with rubber bands, because the rubber degrades over time and can leave a residue on your needles. What are your 2018 crafting resolutions? Share them with us here or in the Ravelry group!
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