Friday, November 14, 2014

New Stitchmarkers

I always try to have some small giveaways handy, and those of you who have followed my blog for a while probably already know that I make new batches of stitch markers to give away in somewhat regular intervals. Here are the new ones - I've already sewn them into paper pouches, and I even made the one snowflake paper myself :-)

I made the first batch for a crafts fair years back, and I quite liked them, so I decided to keep some of them ready to ship as little thank you's.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Harry Potter Art Yarn Advent Calendar!

I did it! I really spun a whole Harry Potter art yarn advent calendar, or more precisely, enough yardage for three of them (one of which already sold). I already wrote about the project here, and I started spinning immediately after writing the blog post. It took me over a week to finish all the 24 mini skeins of delicious Harry Potter themed art yarn, and it was so worth the time - and also a lot of fun.

I decided on spinning scenes / people / places / phrases in chronological order from the book, so the finished object will tell the story from beginning to end, starting on Privet Drive and ending with Gryffindor winning the house cup. The mini skeins are as complex as my regular skeins, and as much careful planning and working out the details (and, of course, spinning skills) went into each of them.

The calendar is already listed on Etsy - without pictures, so as not to spoil any surprises. I decided to do the revealment as a virtual advent calendar, so from December 1 to December 24 there will be a blog post each day, taking you through the story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone again, and showing off all the yarns :-)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Harry Potter Yarn Advent Calendar?!

I've been thinking a lot about offering mini skeins lately. Or maybe even smaller amounts, such as a few metres to embellish projects and gifts, for example. I often see small embellishment packs on Etsy, with four or five different yarns, a few metres each - but never handspun.
I wondered whether this would be a good thing to offer for Christmas, and I decided to try it out - but this took a whole new direction when I posted a photo of the Christmas mini batts I made for this project on Facebook: two very dear customers jumped in immediately with their own ideas, one dreaming about a mini skein Advent calendar, the other suggesting making said calendar with a Hobbit, Lord of the Rings or Doctor Who theme in mind. This really got me thinking. And planning! (Thank you so much, you two! You know who you are ;-))

If you follow my blog and shop you will have noticed that I've always been a huge fan of the Harry Potter books (though I have to admit I am more and more irritated by the gender roles lately, but I still like the books), and I think they would make a fantastic story Advent calendar. I had pieces and ideas forming in my head immediately - such as the snake in the zoo, Hagrid with his pink umbrella, "you're a wizard, Harry", potions class, "Mars is bright tonight" and lots more. I ended up having over 30 yarn ideas, only from the first book, and I could have easily written down even more, but I had to narrow them down to just 24, obviously. It will still be a huge project with 24 yarns, even though there will be only small amounts of yarn, and there is not much time left if I want to make this happen, advertise it, and ship it out in time. But I am on fire here!

My current plan is to take 24 small paper bags or something like that, write the numbers from 1 to 24 on the front, and put between 10 and 15 m of "scene art yarn" in each of them, writing the title of each yarn in the place where I fold the bag to close it. It's planned as a surprise, so there will be no photos of the yarns themselves in the listing, but I will document the yarns in case someone wants a peek to see if this is the right thing for them. I just don't want to post spoilers, so photos will be shown by request only.

So, what can you do with only 10-15 m of yarn each day? Embellishing gifts and project is one idea, but maybe it would be sad to take the yarns out of context, and don't forget that the whole amount will be at least 240 m! So what about a striped story scarf? You can knit or crochet or weave a bit every day and see it grow as Christmas approaches. You could also add some plain yarn (something neutral, like black or white maybe) and make a larger project, alternating plain yarn and art yarn, making something larger, like a shawl, maybe. A set of striped hat and wrist warmers would also be great, or a bag, or a pillow case - there are so many possibilities!
The yarns will differ from each other in texture and thickness, so they would make a very interesting project. I'm sure they could also be used for needle felting and maybe even emroidery projects, and I bet you will think of lots more to do with them!

Now excuse me, I'm off to start spinning Harry Potter scenes! ;-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Delirious Diva, Done.

After my exams last year I wrote this blog post, describing my new knitting project and the yarn I spun for it. I worked on it here and there, was distracted by renovating the house, a yarn bombing project, and work, so it took me a very, very long time to finish it. But now it's done, and I already wore it to a wedding. I also wear it regularly at home, as it's so warm and cozy.

The photos were taken after the wedding of our friends in Dublin, Ireland. By the way, should you ever need an apartment in Dublin, I highly recommend this one - it's not only pretty, cozy and located in walking distance to the city centre, but Wayne, the owner, is a fantastic host. He made sure we had a fridge full of tasty things (which I wouldn't expect when renting a holiday flat), tea, coffee, and cupboards full of supplies, he even bought us a small loaf of bread and provided fresh flowers.

But let me get back to the knitting stuff ;-) The pattern I used is Line Break by Veera Välimäki, which was well written and easy to follow once I got the hang of it. The wraps and turns were a bit difficult at first, and I think I ended up doing them differently after searching on youtube. I also made a few mistakes with the yarn overs, making them on the wrong side of the stitch marker on occasion. So it's a bit crooked, but I love it :-) There are more photos on Ravelry, if you'd like to have a look.

I'm currently knitting quite a lot after many months of not knitting at all. When I was still knitting the Diva shawl, I started on a small project of mindless knitting to carry around, a scarf for my grandmother which I called Omis Aubergine (Grandma's eggplant). It's nearly done, and I can't wait to give it to her - but as she lives 600 km away, it might be a while.

After finishing the Diva shawl, and while still knitting the scarf for my grandmother, I was already looking for something else to knit, and was very happy when I found the Sea Dragon shawl pattern. This was shortly before we went to Dublin for the wedding, and I decided to look for suitable yarn on our trip. I usually don't buy yarn (except for some colourful cotton yarn for yarn bombing projects), but I didn't feel like spinning so much of the same yarn for this, and I wanted to start knitting. This gave me the perfect opportunity to check out This is Knit in Dublin and to buy some souvenir yarn for myself ;-) (By the way: lovely shop, friendly and helpful staff!). I bought two skeins of hand dyed Vivacious 4ply by Fyberspates in wonderful greens, and a skein of Rialto 4ply by Debbie Bliss, and started knitting the very same evening. I love the Viviacious, it's beautiful and fun to knit, but I don't really like the Debbie Bliss one (too little twist, no "life"). I've made a lot of progress since then, but didn't get around to taking a new photo, so here's one from about two weeks ago:

I am halfway through the pattern now and will start the decreases as soon as I have some quiet knitting time. I've already planned the next two projects - so I can't wait to finish this one and start working on the next! It will be either Verdant, which I have already spun two skeins of yarn for, or Sorceress, which I plan to knit from a beautiful and slightly sparkly black yarn I originally spun for Wa na na na na na na na Bat Shawl! years ago. I started knitting (also years ago), made a mistake, didn't like it anymore and put it in a box - so now I figured I could use the yarn for something else. I think it's a bit too thin for the 5,5 mm needles called for in the Sorceress pattern, but as the shawl is very large and wide, maybe slightly smaller needles will also be okay to use, and I think the yarn might work after all.

I have no idea how long my knitting frenzy will last, it usually comes in phases. As winter is coming, however, and there are more knitting people in the house, I might actually finish some projects this time, without long pauses in between ;-)

What are you knitting at the moment? I'd love to chat about projects, if you'd like to leave a comment :-)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Captain Zamira Drakasha - Badass Pirate and New Art Yarn Project

I am currently listening to the audio book version of The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch (@scottlynch78 on Twitter). I stumbled upon the first of the books on Amazon years ago, put it on my wish list - mostly because I read about there being a badass woman pirate in the second book - and then kind of forgot about it. I had so much on my mind then, writing my thesis and reading only stuff I needed for that purpose.

A few months ago, a customer who has also become a friend told me she loved the books, and said I should definitely read them. By then I was already hooked on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin and didn't see myself starting another series soon. But then it came to me: I looked for the audio book, as I always need something to occupy my mind while spinning. Though I do enjoy (re)watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Buffy, and other shows, it's nice to have someone read to you now and then - and Michael Page, who reads the Gentleman Bastard series, does a fantastic job.

I have finished book 2 now, the book where the aforementioned female pirate captain comes into the story. And I am in love! She is a middle aged black woman, pirate captain, talented at sabre fighting, mother of two, and utterly fantastic. And what do I do when I am so in love with a character? Yes, exactly - I pay homage to them by spinning a yarn ;-)

Here she is, the magnificent Zamira Drakasha, Captain of the Poison Orchid!

 I decided on dark brown, reddish brown and golden brown to represent Zamira's ship and clothes, and teal and turquoise to represent the ocean. Fibres used are merino wool and bamboo.

For add-ins, I chose sabre charms for Zamira's fighting talents, yak bone skulls for the piracy, and coin charms for gained treasure. Also, I added strips of red silk, as in Zamira's universe being a pirate is referred to as sailing under the red flag, the equivalent of the Jolly Roger. The strips are spun in so the ends of them will flutter magnificently from the finished yarn.

The colours are a bit off in these pictures, as my camera has a slight problem with teals and turquoises - they always seem bluer than they actually are.

(By the way, when I googled Zamira I came upon this article, a response by author Scott Lynch to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha. As always when something is about (strong, independent, powerful) women, the "critics" (read: obnoxious dickheads) come crawling from their sorry dark holes. The response by Scott Lynch is great, though, and you don't necessarily have to know the story or the character to read it.)

If you're interested in the book series, here are the titles:
1. The Lies of Locke Lamora
2. Red Seas under Red Skies
3. The Republic of Thieves
(Four more books to come, according to Wikipedia)

Essentially, the series is about two likeable (male) con artists and their varying followers who plan schemes to get rich. They are also priests of the so called crooked warden, the nameless thirteenth, god of thieves, and as such have certain obligations which sometimes interferes with their actually getting rich. The schemes are clever and sometimes quite funny, the dialogues are fun, the writing is great... Trigger warnings should be given for a certain brutality, though in my opinion it's much less than in A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance.

Though both of the protagonsists are male and there could be more female main characters for my taste, at least in this world women are visible, and work in varying professions. There are female guard and city watch members, assassins, personal guards, alchemysts, pirates, thieves, magi... And after Zamira and her second in command in book 2, book 3 now features another two women who I hope will get more screen time (is there a word for that when I'm talking about books?), and book 1 also had a few interesting female characters, though they didn't get that much time. 
So, all in all - very enjoyable books, fun to read, and even more fun if they're read to you by Michael Page ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Are You My Mummy? - Art Yarn Challenge

*Contains slight spoilers for Doctor Who (2005 relaunch), season 1, episodes 9 and 10*

I was challenged by a dear customer to spin a very specific Doctor Who art yarn, comprising the episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" from the first season of the 2005 TV show.
The Doctor and Rose find themselves in 1941 during the London Blitz, Rose hears a child calling for his mummy and goes after him, only to be tangled up in the rope of a barrage balloon. She clings on, a Union Jack prominently on her shirt, and is rescued by Captain Jack Harkness. The child reappears again and again, wearing a gas mask, asking everyone "are you my mummy?" and shouting "muuummmy, muuuuummmmy" all over the place.
Now, I don't want to retell the whole story here - if you know it already you will understand my explanations about the add-ins, and if you don't know it I don't want to spoil it for you completely.

When my customer challenged me to spin this yarn, I was instantly excited. I searched for charms and other things to spin in, but it became clear very quickly that I would have to substitute some things, and make others myself. I chose a space rocket to represent the space ship of Captain Jack Harkness (though it looks very differently) and the barrage balloons (since the form is somewhat similar). Not a perfect substitute, but working. I couldn't find any gas mask charms small enough to fit in the orifice of my spinning wheel, so I had to figure out how to make some from polymer clay. They are a bit ugly, and also not perfect, but the best I could manage, and I think they are recognizable. I made five, as it's not only the child "wearing" a gas mask.

Now for the other charms: I found some Union Jacks way back, and used one of them in this yarn, representing Rose's shirt. I used apples and teacups for the representation of the loaded tables Nancy and the children plunder, a Big Ben charm as that is where Captain Jack Harkness parks his (invisible) space ship, a telephone charm as the empty child repeatedly calls to ask for his mummy, a clock face charm because Rose and Jack flirt in front of the Big Ben clock face, and a handmade TARDIS charm the reason of which should be obvious ;-)

I chose blue, black and grey fibres, mostly because these are the colours that come to my mind whenever I think of the episodes in question. I think it might be not exactly right, there are lots of scenes in brown and yellowish tones also (which I realized when I looked at pictures again), but it seemed the right way to go anyway, and I think these tones predominate the beginning of the episode and the scenes outside. Oh, and I added lots of sparkling copper angelina to represent the nanogenes.

 The yarn is 175 m (191 yards) and 126 g (4,44 oz)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Batwoman Returns

Three years ago I spun a beautiful Batwoman art yarn. I had read Batwoman - Elegy shortly before and was smitten with the epicness of the whole thing, and a bit in love with Batwoman herself.

Between then and now I read two more volumes of the series, and I am still smitten and in love ;-) Two more books have arrived recently and I'm waiting for a quiet moment to read them (and I also have a Batwoman wallpaper on my phone which I am very fond of). Anyway, the other I felt it was time for another yarn interpretation, and I decided not to have a look at the photos from the first yarn before getting started.

I did remember debating with myself whether to use black or red silk strips for the cape, but I didn't remember which I chose then. Batwoman's cape contains both, you see - it's red on the inside, and black on the outside. I knew I used bronze bat charms for the first version, but decided on silver ones for the new one. Overall, the new one is darker, but the red parts are more vibrant, it's a bit thinner and less heavily textured. But see for yourself:

Batwoman I

Batwoman II

The first one sold soon after being listed, so it's been gone from the shop for years, but the second one is still available (at least at this very moment ;-)).


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