Sock Arms!

It is hard to explain how fun my job is. I mom by day and knit by night. I like to think of myself as a wooly superhero. My favorite thing about my job is collaborating with other fiber artists, particularly yarn dyers. Today I have a new pattern out that very clearly demonstrates why my job ROCKS. Meet SOCK ARMS!

This pattern has been an incredible collaboration with one of my favorite yarn dyers: Must Stash Yarn. I got hooked on her yarn during a killer KAL last year that featured Star Wars self-striping yarn. I knit a pair of 3-CPO/R2-D2 socks.

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I had the idea for the Sock Arms sweater jangling around in my head for months before I approached Stacie about it. I couldn't picture the project in anyone else's yarn, but I was nervous she might say no. I can handle no. I'm a mom. No is practically my first name: "No, Mom!" But I didn't want a no from Stacie. I really wanted this sweater to be in her yarn. Can't you see why?

Luckily, Stacie was up for an out-of-the-box sock yarn project! AAND...she had ideas of her own. Now, Stacie says that she was inspired by the incredible scrappy monster sock craze, but I think she had a different inspiration. I think she must have peered into my nerdy sock-loving, comic book-obsessed, yarny soul. She wanted to create a Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-inspired palette, using both GOOD guys and BAD guys. Seriously, this girl gets me. I did a MEGA happy dance, cracked into the yarn (which Stacie sent in a box wrapped up like Christmas), and set to work.

Mind you, I am excited about all of my projects, but sometimes, I get ridiculously excited, with emphasis on the ridiculous. I am a silly person. Goofy to my very core, so I could hardly contain my silliness once the sweaters were finished. I did a few serious photos...

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And then, Telly and I got ridiculous. We rocked our best 80's hairdos.

We put on our favorite Guardians of the Galaxy accessories.


We broke out the comic books.


We had a Good Guys vs. Bad Guys showdown (Telly is on the side of the angels, btw. Moms are always the bad guys.)


And we totally rocked that photoshoot. Awesome-mix-style!

Tour de Fleece

I have a confession to make, and it's a whopper. A few years ago (three years to be exact), I dropped A LOT of money on spinning equipment. A LOT. It was no secret, really. My husband accompanied me to Hillcreek Fiber Studio to buy my first spinning wheel (an Ashford Traditional). He kept his mouth shut when I picked out bobbins, a lazy kate, spinning books, and a hand turned niddy noddy. My family knew about my new spinning equipment. My mother-in-law even came out to admire my new girl, strapped snuggly in the back seat of the Prius, ready for the journey home. I signed up for a fiber of the month club and bought more fiber from my LYS. I was ready to spin.

And then I did something ugly. I quietly organized my spinning stuff, admired my wheel, hugged my growing collection of roving, then put everything in the closet. I was too busy. I was designing patterns AND working on my website AND chasing my toddler AND making a new baby AND AND AND... I always had excuses. Good ones, too, I thought. All the while, I was dreaming about handspun yarn but not giving my wheel nearly the attention she deserved. She came out of the closet occasionally, but not enough. My drop spindle was still getting action, but my wheel needed more love. A LOT MORE.

This year, while digging through my stash, I made a resolution. No more excuses. I WILL SPIN YARN ON MY WHEEL! And what better time to brush up on your spinning skills than Tour de Fleece?

If you do things with wool, you've probably heard of Tour de Fleece. It is a spectacularly fun online event that challenges spinners from all over the world to spin every day that the Tour de France rides. This year that means you spin every day from July 2 to July 24, with a few rest days along the way. The spin-along has a very simple concept:

Challenge yourself.
Have fun.

Spinners join teams, post progress photos, chat about fiber/yarn, compete for prizes, and spin, spin, spin. It was the perfect opportunity to open my spinning closet and dust off my investment.

I joined two wildcard teams. First, I chose Owl Cat Designs TDF because I love her designs, and she offered an extra event. As a Grand Prix challenge, participants must knit one Owl Cat design from yarn spun during TDF. For my Grand Prix challenge, I've chosen to knit the 2-Hour Mitts.

My second team (it's totally kosher to join more than one team...I checked) is Southern Cross Fibre TDF. I had one BIG reason for joining this team. My stash. I have a KILLER stash of Southern Cross Fibre from that long-ago fiber club experiment. The fiber is beautiful and I wanted to spin it. 

On July 1, I set up my spinning spot, dug through my beautiful stash, watched a few Youtube videos, and fell asleep reading The Ashford Book of Handspinning. I was nervous. This might sound silly, but I was seriously stressed about screwing up my lovely bags of fiber. What if I mangled them? Or worse, what if I could spin beautiful yarn, but I hated spinning?

Turns out, there was no reason to worry. I woke up the next morning at 4:30AM. (my baby is an early bird) and started spinning. I snapped some pictures, looked at the forums for my team (turns out, not that many people spin before 6AM), discovered the "handspun project" section of Ravelry (was that ALWAYS there?), and planned the rest of my day around spinning. Sorry, baby Dea, Mommy needs some wheel time.

In the eight days since Tour de Fleece began, I've been spinning every available moment. This is what I've accomplished so far:

This is my very first finished skein of handspun completed on my wheel! Until now, I've spun a few ugly singles, but this is the real deal. Wonky, sure. Yarn, yes! This is 126 yards of 100% Polwarth wool. It is a 2-ply called "Beyond Time" from Southern Cross Fibre. I'm pretty darned proud of it.

My next skein (oh, yes, there is more) is a sport weight beauty. 240 yards of 2-ply SW Merino called "Elixir" also from Southern Cross Fibre. 

Right now I'm working on another 2-ply yarn. This is a Blue Faced Leicester called "Marine Predator," obviously from Southern Cross Fibre. I'm especially jazzed about this yarn. I filled three extra twisty bobbins and plyed them up. This one is ready for a bath and skeining!

So far, Tour de Fleece has been exhilarating! Goodbye, guilt about expensive spinning equipment. Hello, beautiful yarn and fun spinning friends! Another unexpected bonus? There is more than one spinner living in my house!

Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival

Yesterday was an awfully good day. My hubs volunteered to watch the kiddos and I hopped in the car to check out the Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival. This was my first time attending this festival, so I didn't know what to expect. Boy, oh, boy, did I have fun!

This is a little festival with workshops, music, food and lots of friendly, furry strangers (even a bitsy, baby alpaca who, I could tell, desperately wanted to come home with me and have a snuggle).

Since my schedule is dictated by my own baby animals, I didn't get a chance to attend a workshop this year, but I plan to hit up a couple next year. I'll admit, I mainly went to shop. There were two vendor buildings and they were was packed with fiber talent. There were so many things to see (and buy). Here are just a few of my favorite booths:

I met Stephanie of Lunabud Knits. She looks like she's waving, but she's actually shooing away all the customers trying to buy that gorgeous shawl hanging behind her.

I met Meg, the owner and master yarn dyer of Twisted Fiber Art (check out her sweet dye-lady tattoo). I spent A LONG time chatting with Meg and Beth and squeezing all the yarn in their booth. Meg's yarns are color gradients that come in the most dazzling rainbows. It's incredible just how many colors were on the shelves. When I left, they probably had to wipe drool off of quite a few skeins. I also went a little camera crazy in that booth. Yarn pictures, pictures, pictures...

I chatted with Helena of Oink Pigments. She's new to the Midwest, and I'm pretty excited that she brought her yarnie self to Indiana. She dyes yarn, silk scarves and roving and, damn, her colors are vibrant! She just moved to farm country from California, so I'm going to try and get this gal to the Indy meadery this summer. Knitting and beverage: the makings of a proper Midwestern welcome.

I met up with Brenda & Heather of BaH Yarns. They have some SERIOUSLY beautiful self-striping yarns. Besides having great colors, they do something that I think is extremely thoughtful. If you look closely, you can see that they put photos with each yarn to show you how the stripes will knit up. I knit a lot of self-striping socks and I cannot express to you how incredibly useful this is! Plus, they are awesome.

The Haul

I did my best to show restraint while shopping and, considering how much I WANTED to buy, I think I did admirably. Here's my fiber festival haul:

One of the absolute BEST things about going to these little festivals is meeting the farmers and mill owners. I did some damage in the Round Barn Fiber Mill booth. This is a small mill in Durand, Illinois that was selling yarn and fiber by the ounce. Each skein listed the fiber content and most said the name of the sheep that provided the wool (my favorite was Dazzle). I cleaned out their 'odd-skein' basket and Margie was kind enough to dig out some more when I mentioned needing enough yardage for a sweater. I'm on the look out for a fleece to send their way.

I bought a skein of Arial "Newton." I only made it 6 hours before casting on a new project with this little beauty. The only reason I waited so long was because I had to do grown up things when I got home.

I bought the cutest wooden bobbins from Sistermaide. By the time I got home, I was already regretting not buying more of these. You can even use them to measure gauge (those sides are exactly 1-inch from nub to nub).

Finally, I got a skein of Oink Pigment's sock yarn in "Sunset Fiesta." I'm pretty excited about this yarn and not just because the colors scream: "Let's Party!" This is an 8-ply sock yarn. It's 90% superwash merino and 10% nylon, but it has a lovely sheen that makes it look almost like cotton. I can't wait to see how it knits up!

I had such a good time and I even beat the rain. Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival, I'll see you again next year! Until then, yarn diet (?).