Thursday, June 30, 2011

Getting ready for the Tour

That's right. I'm doing the Tour de Fleece this year! Can you tell I'm excited? Life got in the way the last couple of years but this year I'm really going to do it. My realistic goal: spin every day of the Tour (7/2 through 7/24, with resting days on 7/11 and 7/18). My completely delusional goal: spin all of this

30.5 ounces of assorted lovelies from Briar Rose Fibers, a birthday present from my mom (thanks, mom!).

That breaks down into 11.5 ounces of Polwarth,

9 ounces of BFL,

6.5 ounces of Wensleydale,

and 3.5 ounces of cormo.

That's doable, right?

And I don't just want to spin. I'm also looking forward to learning more about these different fibers and the sheep they come from. To help with that, I got this with my latest Amazon order

What an amazing resource! Take a look at the entry on Finnsheep:

Breed info; a description of the fleece; and tips for spinning, knitting, and weaving. Plus samples of the fiber spun, knitted, and woven. This book is worth its weight in gold (and a steal at the $23 or so it costs on Amazon).

Don't think I've neglected my knitting needles in my excitement for the Tour. Rock Island continues to grow.

It's the perfect project for this week. We're doing sleep training with Ms. Tadpole and sometimes all I can do is work the simple garter stitch of this shawl. On the plus side, I have some extra time to knit. I may actually finish this one soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And the winners are . . .

Sandra, alltheshinythings, and Tara (courtesy of Ladies, please email me at tinksandfrogs AT gmail DOT com with your mailing addresses so I can put your yarn in the mail this week.

And just to make it worth your while for stopping by, how about a little more yarn pr0n?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Best yarn yet

Wow, I knew my last post was a hot topic but I was blown away by the number of responses. Thank you! It was really nice to hear all of your different ideas (and to get confirmation that I shouldn't be expected to provide the sort of assistance that some knitters have asked for). If you want to add your 2 cents to the discussion, and get a chance to win some yarn, you still have until Monday.

Moving along . . . you're probably here to see that yarn I promised.

Let's see, I started with this

which became this

and this

that in turn became this

That's 444 yards of 2-ply worsted spun BFL/silk from the Portland Fiber Gallery (Etsy shop). What weight? Umm, I forgot to check that - I was too busy fondling the skein.

It's about this thick

So what do I do with it? Besides fondle it and admire it as it sits in my knitting basket, of course. It should be a wrap of some sort with a simple yet interesting texture that keeps my interest while knitting but lets the yarn do the talking. Something with the feel of Terra, but not Terra. I want something new.

Pattern suggestions? I'm all ears!

And while you're thinking about it, how about a little bit of Tadpole/yarn love?

She thinks the skein is pretty nifty, too. And the yarn . . . it's not felted yet.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A rant, a question, and a yarn giveaway

Quick Note: My efforts to work through my yarn stash haven't been nearly as successful as I'd hoped (it's amazing how much less knitting one can do when parenting a small person all day long). So it's time for a change of plan. This will be the first of several posts where if you leave a comment, you get entered into a drawing to receive some yarn from my stash. I'll be opening up comments to everyone, not just those with google/livejournal/etc. accounts. I hope we can get a great discussion going (and work down my stash!).

Today I want to talk about something that I've been thinking about a lot lately: pattern support.

Back in November I published my first pattern and since then I've been really flattered by the support, praise, and encouragement I've received both here on the blog but also on ravelry. I truly enjoyed coming up with the design. Knitting it a couple of times and having friends jump on the scarflet bandwagon was a blast. And then I got to have the fun of turning my thoughts and ideas into a printable document that anyone could use.

I put this pattern out for free. I didn't (and still don't) think that what I had done was different enough from what was already available to warrant charging someone money for it. I also didn't want to deal with the hassle of setting up a system of payment, figuring out about taxes, and dealing with the other business aspects of knitwear design. This is something I do for fun; it's not my job. And I wanted to contribute something to the knitting community that has been very good to me and has helped me grow.

However, publishing that pattern came with something that I really haven't enjoyed and didn't expect. I have received a number of requests from knitters asking for help with the pattern. For the most part, these requests have pinpointed a specific section of the pattern causing difficulty. But some of them were general cries for help where I couldn't even tell what the problem was, never mind begin to think of how to fix it.

I like to think that I am a nice person. I genuinely like to help people when I can. And I really like to encourage people in a craft that I enjoy quite a bit. For all of these reasons, I answer each and every request for pattern support that I receive.

But here's the problem: all of these request for pattern support could have been answered succinctly in one of two ways.

  1. Read the pattern (again).
  2. Count your stitches (again).
While I've been tempted to say this, I haven't. And instead I prepared a thoughtful response that usually involved just repeating what I had written in the pattern. I might rephrase something slightly but that's it.

All of this involves time, quite a bit of time. And time is not something that I have a lot of these days. I am the mother of a three-and-a-half month old daughter. This is a 24/7 job. In a few months, I go back to my "real" job where I will be working 60-hour weeks if not more. And I will still be the mother of an infant daughter. All of this means that I want to spend as much time with her (and my husband) as I can while also recognizing that I am an adult who uses real words in full sentences and has interests other than all things baby.

If someone genuinely thinks that there is a mistake in the pattern, I want to know about it so that I can fix the problem and issue a correction that everyone can use. But I don't want to spend what little bit of free time that I have gently urging someone to reread the pattern because I have already answered her question halfway down page three.

I accept that the knitting community has come to expect, and paid designers have come to provide, a fair amount of pattern support. But I can't do this. 

There are plenty of resources out there if you have difficulty understanding a pattern. You could call a knitter friend for help. You could look on ravelry forums to see if someone else had encountered a similar problem or could help you better understand the directions. And if that didn't work, you could go to a help session at a LYS, pay the money for an hour with the on-site expert, and seek advice there. 

I am working on a baby sweater design at the moment and I would love to share it with you. I think it's going to be a really great solution to the problem of figuring out how to make a sweater to fit a baby you haven't met yet (and to make that sweater last longer than two weeks). But for all of the reasons I've laid out above I can't keep answering questions asking for help with the pattern.

So here's my question: How can I contribute patterns to the knitting community while making clear that I can't and won't provide the sort of pattern support that many knitters have come to expect?

How would you feel if a free pattern came with a disclaimer telling you that the designer would not answer questions asking for help understanding the pattern?

Would you still want to use the pattern or would this put you off? More importantly, would you think to yourself "if I ask really nicely, perhaps she'll make an exception just for me"?

Would it help if I had an FAQ page on the blog where I answered common questions or provided clarification if people had questions?

Would it be better if I skipped the disclaimer on the pattern and instead went with a generic response to requests for help, saying that I don't provide pattern support?

Thanks for reading. I know this is quite a bit longer than my usual posts and not the rosy picture of knitting motherhood that you normally get here. But this issue is very important to me and I wanted to take a break from the usual content and talk about it. And I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and responses. 

As an extra thank you to everyone who participates in the discussion, I'm giving away three skeins of Woolen Rabbit Essence in the oakmoss colorway.

How does this work? Just leave a comment letting me know what you think and I'll enter you into a drawing (random number generator) to receive one of the three skeins. Any comment whenever? No. Leave the comment by noon central time on Monday, June 27. I'll post the three winners on Tuesday, June 28, and ask them to tell me their mailing addresses so I can send off the skeins.

Next time: the best skein I have ever spun. Seriously.

Monday, June 13, 2011


My birthday rolled around about a week and a half ago (it was a multiple of 3 and that's all I'm saying) and I finally gave in and did something I've been dreaming about for a couple of years now.

That's right. I bought a Matchless and I am in love. I first spun on one of these a few years ago when Mr. Tinks and Frogs and I had the opportunity to go to TNNA. That wheel was perfectly balanced and spun like a dream. About a year and a half later I was in the market for a new wheel and we went out to the spinning store about an hour and a half outside the city to see about bringing one home.

The shop had a Matchless set up but it was definitely a floor sample and something was off since it was awkward to spin. My disappointment with the wheel itself combined with some less than stellar customer service (I've gotten the impression that I'm about a generation too young to be taken seriously at this particular establishment) sent us away empty handed. You probably know that burning hole in your wallet when you're all set to make a big purchase and it just doesn't pan out. Well, this particular burning hole turned into several skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca from my LYS that became this. So it wasn't all bad.

Fast forward to this spring when I finally decided it was time to start looking for a new wheel again. I was going back and forth between the Schacht and a Lendrum wheel and read just about every review I could get my hands on. We thought about heading off to the spinning shop so I could try a Lendrum but a certain someone's extra-long morning nap (not to mention the fact that we also wanted to go out for a birthday brunch) got in the way of that plan. I was actually rather pleased with this since I was hesitant to spend so much money at a shop where I never really felt welcome. After researching the wheels a bit more, I settled on the Matchless and went hunting for a good deal online. I had a great experience purchasing from the Copper Moose in Vermont and would highly recommend them if you're looking for spinning equipment.

Enough with the chatter. I'll bet you're really interested in what I'm actually doing with the wheel, not how I got it. My sister sent me a beautiful braid of BFL/silk top that seemed like the perfect fiber to use when breaking in the wheel.

Gorgeous, isn't it? That's 5.8 ounces in the colorway Wood Gnomes from the Portland (Maine) Fiber Gallery and Weaving Studio. You can see their fiber here. Shoot, I really shouldn't have clicked on that link. Stash diet, stash diet, stash diet.

I know I need a little distraction right now before I remember that I've got my credit card number memorized. So here is what the fiber looks like spun up:

This wheel just spins like a dream. It's amazing what a difference there is when comparing it to my first wheel (a very solid Ashford Traveller). When I sit down and start spinning, I feel like the wheel will help me make whatever yarn I want and that's a lovely thing.

Tadpole even likes it, too.

Thank goodness she's not big enough yet to want her own time on the wheel. And no, I'm not actually spinning there. We're just petting the fiber. But we all agree that that wheel is a great addition to the household.

And there will be more fiber pr0n coming up, too. My mother sent me a spectacular selection of fibers from Briar Rose that I'm planning on spinning for the Tour de Fleece. I've got to start training!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fits and spurts

An amazing thing happened this morning. I got up, showered, made breakfast, cleaned up breakfast, made a cup of tea, and got to start drinking the tea all before a certain someone woke up. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. And then I remembered - blog! So I checked in on the sleeping tadpole and fished out my camera to snap some WIP shots. Of course, once she woke up she stayed awake for over two and a half hours (a very long time in Tadpole-land) so I'm just now sitting down to type.

Can you tell this one is a sweater? Would it help if I said it was a cardigan? And you'll never guess what stitch pattern I decided to use.

One of these days I may actually be able to get an accurate photo of the color of this yarn. It's a lovely deep purple that just doesn't play well with my camera. The first pic is closer to the real thing.

But what about the clever bits of this design? No, it's not just that I'm using the stitch pattern from my favorite socks. My plan is to make a one-size-fits-most baby sweater. Or a fits-for-longer-than-three-weeks baby sweater. When I was pregnant, I had the toughest time figuring out what to knit for Tadpole because I had no idea what size to make. Or how quickly she would grow (very!).

This particular stitch pattern is great because it is incredibly elastic and looks interesting and attractive no matter how it is stretched. I pulled out my gauge swatch (aka that sock I finished a little while ago) and crunched the numbers so that the un-stretched fabric would fit Tadpole now-ish and the stretched fabric would fit her once she's in 6-12 month sized clothing with a bit of room to spare. My plan is to make the body and sleeves on the longer side to really allow for growth and a range of body shapes and sizes.

And that's not all I've done this week.

Not that you can tell from the picture, but I am two rows into the lace section on Rock Island. How did I manage to get this much knitting done?

Well, this helped.

My assistant wasn't too interested in the knitting.