Interview with Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm

At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm.  Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth.  It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City).  I ran into her again at 2014’s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.

You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page.  You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm's Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.
Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm’s Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?

Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.
The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.

Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester.  I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm's booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.
Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014. 

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?

Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014. 

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!

By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013.  It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!

Full Moon Farm Fabulous Yarn

Interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Karia (also known as KoutureCrochet on Ravelry).  As a Brooklyn native, I’m always excited to meet crocheters in my home borough online – somehow, it often seems easier than meeting them in real life!  Karia is organizing an interesting Kickstarter project and also co-owns an Etsy shop.  You can also find Kouture Crochet online on Facebook.


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Kouture Crochet (KC): I started crocheting as a teen. My sister was in high school taking an art class where she was learning to crochet. As any self respecting younger sister, I wanted to do what my big sister was doing.  So with the help of my mother, my sister taught me how to crochet. I crocheted all through high school, college and beyond. I learned to knit years later after graduating college. These two art forms quickly become a big part of who I am and how i relax, how I watch tv and why I love audio books.

A unisex black alpaca scarf by Kouture Crochet. (Click photo to link to Etsy shop.)

UC: What inspired you to start selling your creations on Etsy?
KC: I started selling on Etsy because I was going broke making scarves and gifts for friends and family! Selling on Etsy was a way to continue to craft without losing money. I quickly realized I wanted to make this into a career. I’ve been selling on Etsy since March 2011, and I hope to be selling my crafts for a long time to come.

Knit skinny tie made with handdyed yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Tell us about your Handspun Single Sheep Breeds Yarn Kickstarter project and your inspiration for developing it.

KC: For my shop on Etsy and for my personal projects, I used only natural fibers. One thing I found is that the selection of high quality 100% natural yarns is limited and often extremely expensive. I was able to find easy accessible camel and alpaca yarns through some luck and research. Wool yarns was more difficult. It felt like I had one option: merino. I love working with merino but I wanted to try something different.

When I started trying to find wool from other sheep breeds I was completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of breeds and countless varieties. Purchasing finished yarns from more than one or two breeds was just not in my budget. In the end, I taught myself to spin yarn on a drop spindle in order to be able to try different breeds and varieties. I was lucky enough to be able to make my own yarns and learn to spin on a drop spindle, but most people don’t have the time or patience to learn to make their own yarns. There is a such a need for single breed yarns and it seemed to me like the market was not filling that need.

The best way to know “what is what” is to feel the yarn and work with it. However, there are hundreds of breeds and thousands of varieties. One skein of single breed yarn can be anywhere from $15 – $70. I had been a backer of many Kickstarter projects, and Kickstarter was a perfect format for this kind of idea. The project took months to research and price even though the goal was simple: affordable, an easy to understand way to try different single breed yarns. I have narrowed down the list to just 26 breeds. They vary wildly in softness, crimp, coarseness, strength and even the natural colors the fibers come in. I don’t cut corners in quality, but by offering samples of one ounce mini skeins its possible to offer many breeds for an affordable price.

Few, if any, local yarn shops will have more than 5 breeds of yarn to try, let alone 26! As a lover of natural fibers, it is great to be able to feel and sample a yarn in your hand. My hope is there are just a few people like me who wanted to try these fibers and yarns. Crafters who love natural yarns will be able to do so at a very reasonable price. I also hope that people who think wool is that “itchy, expensive stuff” will also give it a try.  (UC comment: This is really a great project!  If you’d like to contribute, check out Kouture Crochet’s Kickstarter page here.)

Handdyed merino yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?

KC: I’m new to Ravelry, but I love having such a large and active community of crafters.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Karia!

Vacation yarn haul and LYS review: Philadelphia, PA


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Last week, I took my dream vacation and spent a few days at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA.  The main purpose of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the silence, (wait, what is this?  some kind of retro pop music playlist??), spend some time outdoors, and live an unscheduled life, and what’s more relaxing than a trip to the yarn shop?

I’ve been on a pretty severe yarn diet since December, so I planned to splurge during my trip.  On Tuesday, I decided to spend the day in Philadelphia visiting yarn shops.  I gave myself a budget of $25 per shop.  Since I wanted to spend time outside, I actually walked from shop to shop and back to the train station (about 5 miles, according to Google Maps, plus the mile to and from the train station in Wallingford).  It was one of those days when it alternates between pouring rain and sweltering heat, so I thank all of the shops I visited for allowing my presumably stinky self inside!

How did I develop my list?  First, I stopped by the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters group on Ravelry and looked at their list of Crochet-Friendly LYSs.  Though I now knit also, I want to spend my money where crocheters are respected and appreciated!  Then I got directions from Google Maps and wrote them down on a piece of paper.  (Then, I got lost and ended up using the Hop Stop app on my phone, which actually seemed to provide more concise routes.)

Stop 1: Rosie’s Yarn Cellar

 

Rosie’s Yarn Cellar is a small, quiet shop that’s down a short flight of steps.  The staff are very friendly and helpful, but in a quiet way.  There is a store dog (a pug, if memory serves), who makes some very cute little sounds while trying to kill his toy duck.

The store has a great selection for a shop of its size and a broad range of prices.  I saw yarns for $5 as well as yarns for $30.  The prices seemed the least expensive of all the shops I visited, and were certainly lower than NYC prices.

It took me a while to figure out how this store got its crochet-friendly reputation, but it does have an entire shelf of crochet books, and crochet hooks behind the counter.  I was super amazed that knitting needles are out on display for you to browse and right next to the door.  (You can tell you’re not in New York City!)

My favorite feature of this shop is the little signs by each yarn that tell you the details you would find on the label (e.g., fiber content, suggested gauge and needle size, brand name) as well as the price.  This made for much easier browsing.  For people who like to buy patterns in the shop, there had tons of binders listed by project type.

It was great to see yarns that I haven’t found locally like Araucania, Bijou Basin Ranch, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, and O-Wool.  In the end, I decided on a skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino that was on sale.

The colorway is 126.

I still haven’t decided if I think it is more black or more blue.  I hope it will one day work itself into a project for me – perhaps a pair of socks?  (Sock people, tell me now if this is a good choice or if I should move on to another project idea!)  I’m still dreaming about that Mountain Meadow Wool Mill yarn, but I didn’t want to go over budget by getting two skeins.

I was somewhat bewildered by this sign in the window.

Where do they fit the classes???

Stop 2: Sophie’s Yarns

I decided that my next stop should be furthest from the station and that I would work my way back.  I guess I should have done more research, because after a very long walk, I discovered this shop was closed.  I was surprised because usually Yelp seems to be updated when a shop shuts down, but it was still listed.

Stop 3: Nangellini Gallery

After briefly mumbling to myself, I continued on my journey and went to Nangellini Gallery.

This shop  is in an artsy looking area and has a very funky vibe to it.  When you enter, the first room is more of a gallery space with freeform, funky, artsy wearable projects on display.  I’m embarrassed to say that I had a great picture of this room, but I accidentally saved over it.  (D’oh!)  You can find hooks and needles on a display rack on this floor as well as some notions like shawl pins and stitch markers.

On the upstairs level, you can find yarn as well as some spinning supplies like drop spindles and batts.  The yarn selection completely fits the vibe of the store, and there is a lot of novelty and highly textured yarn, as well as chunky, multicolor yarn.  There is a very small collection of crochet books, but it includes some freeform books that really fit into the store’s theme.  There’s also a section of crochet cotton.

I don’t use novelty yarn or very bulky yarns too often, so for a while I was debating whether I should buy anything.  And then I saw this.

Of course!

I ended up with a skein of Nancy’s Hair by No Two Snowflakes.  I confess I picked it because it was superwash merino and had the most yardage of anything in the local section.

They asked me if I wanted it wound, and I said why not! (I then realized that the folks at Rosie’s Yarn Cellar didn’t ask, but I couldn’t imagine where they would fit a winder anyway.)

I think this will probably end up as a gift for my best friend from high school, CG.  She is an artist and wears a lot of bold colors.  Also, she would actually find the story of how I got the yarn entertaining.  (And, she’s already on my Holiday Stashdown Challenge list.)

The staff at this shop are very friendly in a more conversational way.  While I was in the shop, an older customer came in with a wedding dress her mom had made her in acrylic yarn (insert large number of years) in the past.  Everyone oohed and aahed and I could tell you can get as much attention as you want in this shop.  There are also some comfy chairs in the gallery area.

Stop 4: Loop

Almost there!

By the time I arrived at Loop, I was tired and a bit nervous about catching the train back in time for dinner, so I didn’t browse for as long.

Loop reminded me the most of a New York City yarn shop.  It has a large table in the center (presumably for classes and hanging out) and I was familiar with more brands of yarn being sold in the shop, like Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Malabrigo, and Spud & Chloe.  It was a bit pricier than the other shops as well.

When I saw the display of Addi Swing hooks near the counter, I immediately understood why this shop was labelled crochet-friendly.  And, I gave myself permission to go $13 over budget since I only visited three (instead of four) shops.

It’s always hard to pick a hook size when you are buying just one new hook.  In the end, I decided to go with an I, which is probably what I use most often.

As for the yarn, since a lot of the brands are available at my LYS, Knitty City, I decided to get two skeins of Sheep 2 from the Sheep Shop Yarn Company (now defunct) which were on sale.

The colorway is Brown.

This should match my winter coat, so I see some winter accessories in my future!

Loop also has a rewards program and $5.95 flat rate shipping for web orders.

Do you have a favorite Philadelphia yarn shop?

Crocheted Softies Blog Tour, Day 6

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m stoked to be part of Stacey Trock’s blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World today.  I am interviewing Stacey, reviewing her new book, and hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of the book, courtesy of Martingale & Company, so read on for more details!

The Interview

Stacey Trock is the mind behind FreshStitches, and is known for her crocheted, amigurumi animal designs, which are available for download on her website, on her Ravelry designer page, and in her Etsy shop.  (Stacey also sells her finished critters in her Etsy shop, in case you don’t crochet, as well as kits for her most popular patterns.)  You can also find Stacey online on Facebook and Twitter.  The pictures of Stacey’s work are used with her permission.

Stacey with one of her creations.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Stacey: I started crocheting when I was a little girl… my mom taught me.  I don’t really remember learning, but I remember there was a time when I could only crochet a chain… and I spend a fair amount of time making a VERY long chain!

 

Wally the Koi Fish.

UC: What was your original inspiration to start making amigurumi, and what led you to start designing your own amigurumi patterns?

Stacey: I call it my ‘quarter life crisis’… I finished school and knew I didn’t want to work in an office. I though to myself, ‘what would I do if I could do ANYTHING?’… and I knew that I loved crocheting! I’ve also always loved stuffed animals (and had previously sewn a few of them), so it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I put all of my energy towards designing a collection of amigurumi and getting a website up and running, and I’ve never looked back!  (UC comment: I had a quarter-life crisis, too, but I didn’t do anything as cool as Stacey during mine!)

 

Kieran the Beaver.

UC: I love that many (most?) of your designs are larger than the typical wee Lilliputian scale of amigurumi patterns and are more “kid friendly.”  Can you tell me more about that?

Stacey: I think the size of my amigurumi reflects my love of stuffed animals.  I think they’re so cute and cuddly… and it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I crochet, sew, or knit them.  I happen to think crocheting makes the nicest fabric for stuffed animals (as compared to knitting), but my love is the animal itself.  So, it seemed pretty natural for me to focus on the larger size animals.  Most of my stuffed animals are about 8″ tall when completed… and of course, they could be made larger or smaller by using thicker or thinner yarn.

I do realize, though, that lots of folks love making the smaller amigurumi, and I’ve recently released a line of tiny amigurumi.  It’s important for me to design animals that people love… so if there’s lots of people who love the smaller animals, I want to do that, too!  My true love is still the big guys, though 🙂

 

Ro the Tiny Monster is one of Stacey’s tiny amigurumi patterns.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Stacey: I’m like a sponge… I suck inspiration up from all over! I look at lots of drawings and cartoons (and Clip Art)… I love seeing how other artists conceptualize animals and break them down into basic shapes and components.  I also love all things cute: Japanese stationary, children’s toys, jewelry with animals on it… you name it, I’m inspired!

Oddly enough, I’m not terrifically inspired by actual animals.  (That sounds really lame when I say it aloud!) I’m an animal-lover, but I don’t draw inspiration for my stuffed animal designs from the actual animals themselves :).

 

Slithers the Snake, from Crocheted Softies, which can double as a scarf.

UC: Most people associate amigurumi and crocheted toys with acrylic yarn, but in Crocheted Softies, you’ve managed to create an entire book of patterns using eco-friendly yarns.  Tell me about your decision to do this.  What was your design and yarn selection process for this book?

Stacey: I’m really passionate about using quality yarn.  And, by quality yarn, I don’t mean ‘yarn sold in a fancy yarn store over big box stores.’  I’ve found scratchy, icky yarn in LYSs (local yarn stores), and some quite pleasant yarns sold by the major yarn manufacturers. What I mean is yarn that is pleasant to work with and that will help you make a quality product that you can be proud of.

For me, crocheting is a tactile process: the yarn runs through your fingers as you hold it… and when you make a stuffed animal, you’re making something that will probably be snuggled up against your child’s face. Why would you want to use a yarn that you’re not totally in love with?

I’ve always used high-quality yarn in my designs, but I thought that writing this book was the perfect opportunity to spread the word about fantastic Earth-friendly yarns… because you’re right, most people pick up a skein of acrylic yarn to make amigurumi.  For me, Earth-friendliness is about being aware of where your yarn comes from and it’s environmental impact.  I know that not everyone will pick up a skein of organic cotton to make your next animal. But, it’s important to me that people realize that when they’re crocheting, they’re creating a lovely little piece of artwork… and maybe they’ll think about using materials that are worthy of the love and energy they pour into the piece.

About my design process… for a couple of animals, I picked pairings that seemed perfect and hilarious: there’s a panda made from bamboo, an alpaca from alpaca and a kiwi from a New Zealand yarn.  For the remainder of the animals, I searched around for yarns that had the texture that would be right for the animals, and came in a colorway that would work.  There’s so many lovely yarns to choose from!

 

Shewwin the Alpaca, from Crocheted Softies, made in yummy, undyed Cascade Eco Alpaca.

UC: Does your background working in a yarn shop (Knit New Haven) influence your design process?  If so, how?

Stacey: It doesn’t directly influence my designs, but working in a yarn store influences me tremendously in my yarn-life.  I’m lucky enough to see all of the yarns that are coming into the shop on a regular basis, and hear customers’ reactions to them.  I also benefit tremendously from helping customers with their knitting/crocheting problems… I think I’ve gotten a really good sense of what people find difficult/easy about crocheting and pattern-reading.  Since I learned to crochet when I was so young, I don’t remember learning… so hearing the experiences of others who are learning helps me design patterns in a way that’s accessible for the largest number of crocheters.

Courtney the Owl in an Egg can hatch right before your eyes.

UC: Do you have any favorite craft/crochet/creativity blogs or websites to share?

Stacey: Oh my gosh… there’s too many!
I think Delicious Crochet, MochiMochi Land, and MyGurumi are some of the most clever animal designers on the block! I love seeing what new designs they come up with and I just think they’re some genius ladies!

As for blogs, I’ll share a few that are on my reader (which are only a couple from the oodles of amazing inspirational folks out there!):

And, I always happen across lots of inspiring things on Ravelry, Pinterest, Craftsy and Twitter.  So much great stuff going on!

Kai the Kiwi, from Crocheted Softies, in a merino/possum (!) blend.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Stacey: Oooh… that’s a very tricky question because I’m actually quite a minimalist about owning books :). I just bought Craft Activism, which is a totally awesome book about how people use all sorts of different crafts (including crochet) as forms of activism. And, I’m in love with Vanna’s Afghans A to Z for sentimental reasons… it was my first crochet book, and I’ve made a number of afghans from it! (UC comment: I once had a well loved copy of Vanna’s Favorite Gift Afghans, but I sold it online to pay some overdue bills during my quarter-life crisis!)

My other favorite books are knitting ones… I’m too multi-crafting to stick to just crochet books!

Lala the Panda, from Crocheted Softies, made with a bamboo/merino wool blend.

UC: What’s next for you?

Stacey: Oooh… I don’t know! I’m absolutely in love with what I do, so I’m totally going to stick with it… and I’m contemplating about how I’d like to branch out.

This January, I’m going to be teaching a couple of online amigurumi classes for Craftsy, which I’m super-excited about. I’m also going to be adding more tiny amigurumi designs to my site over the next year (and, of course, lots of new big ones!), as well as expanding the number of patterns I offer as kits… they’ve been popular!

I sometimes think about designing knitted animals… but I’ll have to see if that’s in the cards! I’m excited to see where FreshStitches will be this time next year :).

Thanks, Stacey, for stopping by for an interview today, and for signing the giveaway copy!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more chances to win a copy of Crocheted Softies!

Book Review


I confess that I was really looking forward to receiving my review copy of Crocheted Softies from Martingale & Company for several weeks before it arrived.  I really like the look of Stacey’s work, and especially enjoy the larger sizes of most of her amigurumi patterns.  I grew up receiving awesome crocheted bears from my grandmother, years before I ever heard the term amigurumi.  These bears were some of my favorite playthings as a kid, and I love how Stacey merges the coziness of an old fashioned teddy bear with a contemporary look.  I was also really intrigued by the the book’s concept of making amigurumi with earth-friendly yarns.  In my mind, amigurumi has always been associated with acrylic yarn, but in the past year, I’ve been looking at my yarn stash and trying to replace my petroleum based yarns with natural fibers.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love this book, and definitely will recommend it far and wide.  The book starts with several concise but detailed sections: Getting Started, Crochet Stitches, and Additional Techniques.  Stacey’s writing style is really conversational, and she gives some wonderful tips on substituting yarns, informal gauge, assembly and stuffing, and caring for your softies.  She also provides patterns for “basic animal shapes” which are used throughout the book.  Once you are familiar with the basic head, for example, you can use it to make many of the softies.

The book then introduces 18 softies, sorted by region.  Most of the critters are made with one skein of yarn in the main color and then smaller bits of other colors.  Stacey uses safety eyes throughout the book, but provides you with a quick technique for making crocheted eyes so you can easily substitute if your softie is for a baby or toddler (or you just plain don’t like safety eyes).  She uses an interesting range of fibers and her premise is that if you are using only one skein, you can try out some yarns you may not be as familiar with, like soy, corn, or recycled silk, without much of an investment.  All of the projects are super cute and would make great gifts, but I do have a few favorites: Stretch the Giraffe, Lala the Panda, Salty the Crocodile, Milton the Slowpoke Snail, Mr. Crabby, and Sherwin the Alpaca.

I think the book is great for a crochet newbie because it explains things like yarn substitution in a really friendly way, but it’s also wonderful for a more advanced crocheter because it encourages you to move outside of your comfort zone by trying new yarns and experimenting with pattern modifications.  (At the same time, you could make these patterns with your standard favorite yarns also.)  Like all Martingale & Company books, it has a really clean and eye pleasing layout.

Just so I don’t sound like a groupie, I’ll balance my review a bit. Crocheted Softies doesn’t pretend to teach you everything you need to know in order to crochet, though it does have written explanations and illustrations of the basic stitches.  Therefore, it will probably be too challenging for someone who has never crocheted before.  It doesn’t include international stitch symbols, which is ok by me since the patterns are really straightforward, but I know some people prefer to have both abbreviations and stitch symbols. (The book uses U.S. crochet abbreviations, by the way.)   The book obviously doesn’t include a range of project types, and only focuses on softies (though there is a variety of shapes and animal/space creature types).

If I wasn’t buried under a mountain of holiday crafting and design deadlines, I would absolutely be making MC his very own Mr. Crabby right now (not because he’s cranky, but because he’s a Cancer).  I think it will be on my Valentine’s Day gift list instead.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars as a fun project book that shares some helpful techniques and skills for making amigurumi.

Full disclosure: Two free review copies of this book were provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

I’m so excited that Martingale & Company provided two copies of the book, so I actually get to keep mine while still offering a giveaway to my readers!  This giveaway is open to international readers.

 

F.O. Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website.  The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).

My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot.  I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.

My Favorite Yarns

My current favorites are Cascade Eco Duo, Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, Dream in Color Classy, Patons Classic Wool, and Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Top (from left to right): Eco Duo, Alpaca Love. Bottom (from left to right): Classy, Classic Wool (ombre) with Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool (solid), Sweater.

Cascade Eco Duo

Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City.  As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%).  Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled.  The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with.  There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors.  The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.

Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love

This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend.  I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness.  It comes in some very fun coordinated colors.  This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!).  The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range.  I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).

Dream in Color Classy

Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City.  This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post).  Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S.  The colors are variegated and are really fabulous.  The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions.  At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!

Patons Classic Wool

Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn.  It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres.  (A few colors are also available as tweeds.)  The  solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced.  It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either.  It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split.  The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.

Spud and Chloe Sweater

Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most.  It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton.  I also found it at Knitty City 🙂 about a year ago.  I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted.  I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted.  The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet.  I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012.  I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).

You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn!  You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers.  I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too.  But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn.  I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore.  This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious.  On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s  not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.

Charity Crafting

One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting.  I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).

I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally.  Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations.  I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.

Snuggles Project sites:

  • ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys.  Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
  • Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center.  These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
  • S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding.  Email the organization at [email protected] to arrange pick up.

Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital.  Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations.  They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).

For those of you who live in the U.S. outside of New York, some great organizations you might consider donating to are one of the organizations listed on the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website (Oglala Sioux Tribe families and elders), Knit Your Bit through the National WW II Museum (scarves for veterans) and  The Red Scarf Project through Foster Care to Success (scarves for foster care students in college).  Internationally, you can find a participating animal shelter/pet rescue organization that accepts handmade donations through the Snuggles Project.  Of course, this is just a small sampling of organizations, and there are many more out there!

Finished Objects


Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.

Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).
Two scarves, a hat, and mittens for toddlers via Knits for Infants. I have two other hats in the works, too.
This is a close up of my snuggle for Bideawee. I plan to make a few more using scrap yarn (I doubt the doggies are too concerned about the colors).

My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals.  I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.

For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!

A Final Word on Awesome Yarn

A few weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Danielle at A Stash Addicts Ramblings for my choice of sock yarn from her Jane & Michael Etsy shop.  This lovely skein arrived yesterday, just in time for I Love Yarn Day!

 

The colorway is called Emerald Forest.

 

(On a side note, I remember being totally confused by The Emerald Forest as a kid, since I was, of course, way too young to have any real sense of what the film was about!)

There’s a good chance that this may eventually transform itself into a gift for my mom.

Thanks, Danielle!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.