Back again: Holiday Knitting

how to, what we doSasha TorresComment

Hi Everyone! Danielle, here, to talk about holiday knitting with Sheepspot yarn. 

Every year I tell myself not to take on so many projects for the holiday season, and every year I ignore my own advice. I really think there’s nothing better than a handmade gift, especially a hand knit one that someone made with you in mind. It’s also often something that you couldn’t get anywhere else, making it even more special. That’s why I choose to make a majority of the gifts that I give each year. In addition to gifts, I also make a few items for the annual charity silent auction at the YMCA, and I take on a few commissions from friends and colleagues. When I add it all up, it’s a LOT of knitting – which means I start planning now, and I’ll start knitting by the end of this month.
A large part of being prepared to make all of these things on a deadline is being organized ahead of time with yarns and patterns that I’m going to use for each project. This usually begins with a trip to my LYS and a search through Ravelry. If I can’t find what I need on Ravelry, then I have time to come up with a pattern. If I can’t find the right yarn at my LYS, or not enough of the colour I need, I have lots of time to order some online. One handy aspect of planning ahead is that you’re forced to think about how much yardage you need, which means you won’t have a scare a week before your deadline when you run out of yarn.
If you don’t have knit-worthy people in your life to give gifts to, the winter holidays are a great time of year to donate handmade items to charities, shelters, and hospitals. A lot of silent auctions happen in the winter, and they’re always looking for donations.
As you can see above, my list is small right now, but it will likely double (or even triple) in size within the next two months. Being organized this far in advance makes last-minute additions less stressful and more manageable.
P.S. This month’s challenge in the Sheepspot Community Facebook Group is to get going on your holiday gifts! There will be a free PDF download available in the group to help you plan your gift knits.
Happy knitting!

A new yarn

behind the scenesSasha TorresComment

Sheepspot has a new yarn in the works: CVM! CVM sheep are a colored strain of a rare American fine-wool breed, the Romeldale, which was developed early in the 20th century from Romney rams and Rambouillet ewes. Romeldales are white. CVMs came along in the 1960s, when shepherd Glen Eidman was surprised to find that one of his Romeldales had given birth to a multicolored ewe lamb. Two years later, a ram lamb with the same coloring was born. Eidman bred the two colored sheep and discovered that their offspring were also colored. He continued to select for fleece quality and color, calling the results by the romantic name "California Variegated Mutant." 

There are so few CVMs that the Livestock Conservancy considers them "critically" endangered, meaning that there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and that their estimated global population is fewer than two thousand animals. As a handspinner, I've long loved CVM wool, so imagine my delight when I was contacted by a CVM shepherd in (where else?) California who was willing to sell me her entire clip! And what was more, she was willing to sort said clip by color! 

The wool went from California to Wisconsin, where it was spun into a gorgeous, bouncy two-ply woolen yarn at Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill in the three natural colors above. The whole process, from buying the wool to receiving the yarn, took over a year. And, I'm happy to say this yarn was worth the wait. 

As soon as the yarn arrived I sent samples to some of my absolutely favorite knitwear designers in hopes that they might be inspired to design sweater patterns just for this beautiful yarn. They were, and they are. But I couldn't wait. I cast on Carrie Bostick Hoge's Lila sweater (the top-down version) right away. Lila is simple and elegant and suits the yarn perfectly. But I know Lila won't be the only sweater I knit in this yarn. 

Look for Sheepspot's CVM DK in the fall, as patterns designed just for it become available. 

If you'd like more information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Your tablet as a knitting tool

how toSasha TorresComment
My iPad with a current WIP in  Rambouillet Sport

My iPad with a current WIP in Rambouillet Sport

In the last installment of this series on knitting tools (I talk about needles here, needle storage here, and my knitting tool kit here), I'm going to talk about how I use my iPad to store my knitting patterns

First, though, a couple of you contacted me about the fact that I omitted stitch markers from my tool kit. Since I don't use stitch markers for every project, and I'm a little maniacal about keeping my knitting bag as lightweight as possible, I keep my stitch markers in a separate pouch. I'm considering revising this policy, though, after getting this impassioned (and informative) communiqué from Carolyn:

In every one of my knitting bags: at least half a dozen locking stitch markers - an absolute necessity!  For so much more than just when the pattern calls for one.  For securing a dropped stitch while you go find your crochet hook to repair it, for marking increases or decreases or any thing else that you need to keep track of but might be hard to spot, for marking a starting point for when the pattern says "continue in pattern for X inches"; lots and lots of uses!

Yes! The dropped stitch thing! Brilliant! Locking stitch markers going into tool kit!

Now, about that iPad . . . 

In the past ten years I've done my best to eliminate as much paper from my life as possible. This includes paper knitting patterns. At this point I pretty much only buy patterns as PDFs. I keep these in a folder on Dropbox (my cloud storage, so I know it's safe and I can access it from anywhere), organized into subfolders by type of projects (hats, cowls, pullovers, cardigans, etc.) Then I use a fabulous program for the iPad called GoodReader that easily syncs with the Dropbox folder and allows me to annotate PDFs to my heart's content—in order to, for example, highlight the size I'm knitting, or to underline all those tricky spots that say "and at the same time . . . "

If I want to keep a pattern that I've found in a book or a magazine that I own, I make a copy, scan it to PDF with my small desktop scanner (most copy shops will scan things for you if you don't have a scanner), and then recycle the copy and, with rare exceptions, pass the book or magazine on to a friend. Then I put the digital copy into the appropriate folder in Dropbox, sync the folder with GoodReader, and voilà! All my knitting patterns on my iPad, conveniently accessible wherever I go. And no paper clutter!

I love knowing that no matter where I am, I can access any pattern I have, which means that if I have a bout of startitis while traveling (which, weirdly, happens more often than you might think), I'm ready. 

How do you wrangle your knitting patterns?

If you'd like more information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

How to deal with needle overload

how toSasha TorresComment
Needle storage should be pretty!

Needle storage should be pretty!

Last week I shared all the details about my needle stash. This week I want to share the tools I use to create order from what could be a chaos of circulars, interchangeable tips, and cords. First up: the interchangeables:

I use these lovely interchangeable cases from pokdej on etsy. I have two of the extra large ones, one for my Knit Picks sets and one for my DyakCraft ones. Because I have a lot of the Knit Picks cables, I also had pokdej make a custom case for those as well. Her work is absolutely lovely; these are well-made, sturdy bags, and she uses lovely modern fabrics. You can choose already-made cases or choose your fabrics and zipper colors and she'll make a custom one just for you. And she's fast. I highly recommend her shop.

For the fixed-length circulars, I use a somewhat less elegant but sturdy solution, the Namaste Double-Wide Circular Case:

Yes, it lists to the side a bit, and yes, I did have to create all those labels myself, but I can find what I need quickly, and that's the point, right?

Next week, I'll show you what's in the tool kit that I keep in my knitting bag at all times.

How do you store your needles?

If you'd like more information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Do You Have a Needle Stash?

how to, behind the scenesSasha TorresComment
My straight needles. I don't knit with them, but I love to include them in product photos.

My straight needles. I don't knit with them, but I love to include them in product photos.

This is the first post in a series on knitting tools. Today: needles!

I knit everything on circular needles (I even use the magic loop method for socks); I find it's more comfortable for my wrists. When I started knitting seriously in 2009, I had some needles, mostly bamboo, that I had collected over the years. Even that small collection of needles presented a storage problem, though, and I could never remember which needles I had when I was shopping for a project. I quickly decided to get an interchangeable needle set, because I wanted to know that I had at least one of every possible size of circular needle. That way I was prepared for any project.

I had also learned that I like a long, pointy tip to my needles (oh, how my knitting life improved when I learned this crucial fact about myself!), so I decided on a set from Knit Picks. I know that folks have very strong feelings, pro and con, about these needles, but they've worked well for me. I haven't had a lot of quality issues with them (I broke one once, and Knit Picks cheerfully replaced it), and, though there are things I don't like about them (like the fact that you need a paper clip to secure the joins between the needles and the cords, and the fact that you can't tell what size they are without a needle sizer), I've used them for lots of projects and I'm pretty satisfied. I have both the wooden and metal sets, though I rarely used the metal ones; they're too slippery for me.

Later, when DyakCraft was making interchangeable needle sets in wood (which, alas, they no longer do) I got one of those as well. I always have at least five things on the needles (really, that's a very conservative estimate), so I was constantly running out of the sizes I use the most. Therefore I "needed" the DyakCrafts. Obviously! They are wonderful, wonderful needles. They have beautifully tapered tips, joins that secure without any tools, and very nice, flexible cords. I wish I had bought another set while I could. If you like metal, their needles are absolutely worth checking out.

Truth be told, though, I sometimes am too lazy to deal with the putting together the tips and the joins, finding a paper clip, etc. When I have start-itis I want to get going, like, yesterday. So over the years I've collected a good range of fixed circulars, usually with 24" or 32" cords. Some of these are Signatures, which are super-spendy, but which have the best cords and the smoothest joins in the biz, IMHO. The rest are from DyakCraft. 

Those are the needles I knit with, which may leave you wondering about the ones in the photo above. Those are the various vintage needles I've collected to use in Sheepspot product photos. I love them, and I'm always on the lookout for more. 

Next week I'll tell you about the organizing solutions I've come up with keeping my needles safe and accessible.

What needles do you use?

If you'd like more information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color resources for knitters and spinners

what we do, maker's momentAlicia de los ReyesComment

Now that we've covered the basics of color theory, here are some helpful online classes and video downloads to help you dive deeper into using color in your knitting or spinning, some from Craftsy and some from Interweave.*


Want to learn more about combining colors in your knitting? I absolutely loved A Practical Approach to Color for Knitters by Franklin Habit! Franklin is a really gifted teacher—smart, thoughtful, and encouraging. The information he provides is top-notch, his swatches illustrate his points brilliantly, and I loved the stories of his color-deprived childhood. Do check this one out.

I also really liked Anne Berk's Simply Stunning Colorwork, because most of the techniques she teaches use only one color per row, which is perfect for the limited-bandwidth knitting I'm doing these days. This class made me want to knit lots and lots of striped things.


Spinning Dyed Fibers with Felicia Lo was one of the first online classes on color for spinners. Felicia (the owner of Sweet Georgia Yarns) leads students through an exhaustive discussion of how different spinning techniques affect the look of yarns made from hand-dyed fibers. This is an early Craftsy class, and in some ways it shows (the class is quite a bit longer than it needs to be, IMHO), but there are some gems here if you're willing to invest the time. Plus, you get to watch Felicia spin some truly stunning yarns. 

You'll also want to check out two DVDs on color by Judith MacKenzie: The Spinner's Guide to Color Theory: Mastering Color Without Dyeing, in which she teaches viewers how to blend already-dyed fibers to produce just the hues, tints, tones and shades they want, and The Spinner's Color Toolbox, in which she uses dyed fibers to make a stunning variety of textured yarns. In addition to being an amazing spinning teacher, Judith is also a very gifted dyer and colorist. I got about a zillion ideas for spinning projects from these classes.

I've mentioned (and linked to) Jillian Moreno's two DVDs on color before, and not just because I love her. I think they are both great—clear, succinct, and loaded with samples and swatches: 12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top and 12 (Plus!) Ways to Spin Batts.

Last but certainly not least, there's Color Works for Spinners by Deb Menz. Deb is the author of the ultimate book on spinning color, Color in Spinning, and I'm partial to anything she does, because I took my first dyeing class with her. She is a precise, patient dyer and a wonderful teacher. 

*A quick note: some of these are affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and end up purchasing a class, I get a small kickback. I love Craftsy; their classes are well-shot, well put-together, and cover a whole range of topics that crafters can't necessarily find locally. Interweave's video products have in my view been much more uneven, so rest assured that if I recommend something, I've seen it and liked it. 

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!