Monday, October 27, 2014

Factors in Choosing Yarn

I buy a LOT of yarn, and much of it isn't purchased with a specific use in mind.  Here are some of the factors I use in deciding what I buy.


QueerJoe's Yarn Buying Factors

  1. Color - I try to stick with deep, saturated, smokey, broody colors.  Even vibrant jewel tones can fit into this category if the colors are rich and deep enough.
  2. Tactile Pleasure - The yarn has to have a pleasurable feel.  Soft, silky and drapey or ruddy, coarse and satisfying.  I just need to know that I will enjoy knitting with it.
  3. Fiber Content - Mostly, I go toward lamb's wool.  It's generally got more loft and has a structure to it.  Silk and alpaca are more drapey and create a less structured garment or fabric.  I tend to keep away from cotton or other plan fibers unless they're blended with something else.  Even acrylics can have a nice effect on plant-based fibers.
  4. Company - Unless I have some specific project in mind, I will always try to buy from independent yarn producers/dyers.  I love yarns like Cascade or Dale of Norway, but I can find them readily any time I need them.  I would much prefer to support smaller businesses trying to make their way in the world of yarn.

Recent Favorite Yarn Company

MJ Yarns by Jonathan Berner has recently caught my attention.


His colorways first caught my eye.  They have the rich, deep colors I love (and which mix well with the rest of my stash).

I also like his choice in base yarns.  Two in particular held a lot of interest...his Opulent Fingering weight in Merino (80%), Cashmere (10%) and Nylon (10%) and also his Light Fingering Weight in Corriedale (75%) and Nylon (25%) sounds like an ideal sock yarn.

I opted to start out with his Opulent Fingering Weight for my latest scarf project.  I'm always looking for stitch patterns that will blend two colorways of variegated yarn in an interesting way, and I like how my latest one came out with two yarns in MJ Yarns Opulent Fingering Weight.



Current Knitting

Finished up a scarf using the two MJ Yarns, and it allows me to review the yarns, and how they work when they're knit up.


Here's how I rate the yarn in various areas:

Durability - Very high.  This pattern is knitted lace or lace knitting...whichever one requires that you do increases and decreases on both sides of the fabric.  I had to rip it out and re-cast-on the entire project about 12 times.  I was also able to machine wash this particular scarf with no ill effects.

Uniformity - Very high.  MJ yarns gets a very high quality base yarn for this particular fiber

Color/Dyeing - High.  At first glance, I thought some of the colors intermixed to give the individual yarns a slightly muddy look, especially in the purplish colorway.  But the colors maintain distinct differences once knit up, and Jonathan's sense of colors is really quite fine.

Put-Up - Very High.  100 grams, 416 yards, spun with a medium twist and twisted into a hank that didn't tangle at all when I wound either of them into cakes, and not one knot in either of the two hanks.

Retail Availability - Good.  Not currently available in any of my local yarn stores, but readily available via the web at one of my favorite Rocky Mountain area yarns stores, Gypsy Wools.

Tactile Pleasure - Very High.  The merino, cashmere aspect make this yarn lofty, warm and soft.  It was a pleasure to knit with, even doing wrist-twisting stitches like purling to back of loop.  The resulting fabric has a wonderful drape, an no itchiness factor at all when worn directly near the face.





I plan on ordering some Simple Sock yarn from Gypsy Wools to see how I enjoy knitting MJ Yarns up into socks...I think the Corriedale/Nylon blend will be a perfect sock yarn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CSI - Knit Fabric Division

One of my knitting-related Facebook groups has been trying to investigate, or reverse-engineer a cowl that one of the members likes.



Don't Be Distracted

If you look closely at the fabric, it appears to be some combination of stockinette, reverse stockinette and garter stitch....perhaps some of the stockinette is really 1x1 ribbing...hard to tell.

At first I thought it might be a brioche stitch.



While I love the fabric that this created (and will probably use it in a future design), it didn't replicate the cowl (at all!).

Then I thought, perhaps it was really double-knitting and garter rib.


This seemed closer to me, but wasn't right...it was a rather thick and rigid fabric, unlike the seeming drapiness of the cowl.

Then I thought I'd do a slip stitch stockinette interspersed with a garter band.


I still don't think this is correct, but it's the closest I've been able to get using a basic worsted weight wool.

Current Knitting

I'm testing-knitting a new yarn with a possible new scarf design.  


I'm loving the yarn, and I think once blocked, the scarf (and associated stitch pattern) will look great.

I'll write a bit more about both the scarf and the yarn in my next blog entry.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

I Hate Fall

To be clear, I hate that Fall represents both the end of Summer and the harbinger of Winter.  If there were a word stronger than "hate" I'd gladly use it associated with Winter.


Some Things About Fall I Like

Despite all its negative aspects, there are a few things about Fall that I enjoy.

First, are the sheep and wool festivals.  I usually go to two each Fall, the NJ Sheep Breeders Association and the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival.  I've blogged about both and I love them

Second, are the apples.


We have amazingly good orchards within 5 minutes drive of where I live and Thaddeus just picked up two baskets of apples.  The ones above are probably my favorites in this area...they are Honey Crisps.  He also got a mix of two apples he'll use in making his famous apple pie.

Third, and finally, I love the mushrooms that come out at this time of year in our area.


Really, there is only one mushroom I care about in the Fall, and that's Maitake mushroom (or Hen of the Woods, or the Latin, Grifola Frondosa).  These mushrooms grow like a big head of cauliflower at the base of large oak trees (sometimes on dead oaks too).  The mushroom tastes a lot like your standard white cap mushroom, but it's got a woodsy taste and it is also a very firm mushroom that doesn't wilt when you sauté it. 

Current Knitting

I had the opportunity to visit Thaddeus' Aunt Dorothy last week and deliver the sweater to her.


She was thrilled and I was mostly pleased.  I know the photo isn't the best, but I was lucky to get any photographic proof at all.  The fit was really surprisingly good.  The length was just what I was hoping for, and the waist and bust were pretty much perfect.  I would have narrowed the shoulders a bit more, but the shaping/sloping helped with that anyway.

I'm so glad I didn't go with buttons, as her arthritis doesn't allow her to do buttons any longer...the snaps might be a bit of a challenge, so perhaps I should have gone with a zipper.

Mostly, I'm happy that she's happy and it was great seeing this amazing woman.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Memory Lane

As I near the 12th blogiversary of QueerJoe, I was very grateful to hear the Benjamin Levisay podcast interview of Franklin Habit.  He reminded me of the Fresh Air for Franklin Fund we put together to give Franklin his formal introduction into the fiber community.  His "coming out" if you will.





2005 Didn't Seem That Long Ago...

...Until now.  Listening to the Fiber Hooligan podcast, it seems like ages ago that we coerced Franklin to come to the East Coast and let him be gracious enough to show him off like he was the latest Apple device.  Turns out he had a lot more fun "apps" than any iPhone ever did.

So glad to relive the memories.

If you listen to the podcast, he talks about the inspiration for his first cartoon that ended up getting him published with his great little book It Itches!  The group that gathered for dinner at a restaurant in Woodstock, NY after Rhinebeck that year, were lucky enough to get a preview of this publication.  He showed us his sketchbook and got his first encouragement to try and get it published.

One other Franklin tidbit is that I had the opportunity to take his Photographing your Fiber workshop a few years ago.  I hope he will appreciate the casual staging of my next photograph (okay, so I just threw it on a heap and photographed it...I'm no Franklin Habit or Alexis Xenakis)/

Current Knitting

Making intermittent progress on almost all of my works in progress.


The back of the Tilt cardigan still hasn't reached the armpit.  I've done no additional work on the second sleeve of the Racing Stripes pullover.  I've added a few rows to the Spiked Crochet afghan and just have the ribbing left on the both socks on my current pair.

Did you ever notice how much time as a knitter that you spend winding balls of yarn and untangling messes?  Amazing I get any knitting done at all sometimes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Power of Connecting

In recent years, the most profound times of growth and satisfaction in my life have been the times where I've been able to connect at a very meaningful level with people.


Plus, I get to wake up on Saturday morning and open my door to this:



The trees had just started to change color, but Autumn wasn't in full bloom yet.  Weather was gorgeous.  I forgot the memory card for my camera (again!) so, I only took these two photos on my iPhone.

Connection Batteries Recharged!

This past weekend I went up to the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival (SAFF), which has turned out to be my very favorite type of these events for a number of reasons.

First of all, it's smaller than Maryland Sheep & Wool and Rhinebeck...quite a bit smaller.  But it's also MUCH less crowded than either of them as well.  The smaller size provides ample time to speak with most of the vendors, shop in a leisurely way for fiber, and not wait in ridiculous lines for food.  I have a feeling, this event will start to outgrow itself within a few years.

It's bigger than the NJ Sheep Breeders Festival. I love the NJ event, because its 10 minutes from my house, but the small size of the event doesn't allow it to have the same range of independent dyers and interesting vendors as some of the larger events.  SAFF has a wider variety of excellent vendors and I always end up finding items that I can't find at my local yarn store.

But more importantly than the size of the event, is the fact that SAFF takes place in the same town where the annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is held, and I get the chance to spend a night at Easton Mountain when I go to SAFF.  We always get at least a couple of the guys from the retreat attending SAFF and this year was no exception.

I got to see Aaron and his brother Steven and Steven's son Darius (not a knitter yet).  Also, I got to see Steve, Dave, Kirk and his husband, Matt.  And Rob and I spent a great night at Easton Mountain before the event and hung out on Saturday at the event.  I also got a chance to meet and chat with a blog reader, Jeff who was a delight as well.

SAFF

In addition to the knitter-men I communed with, I also found two new vendors to me, who I needed to by yarn from:

I couldn't have been more thrilled with some of the colorways in Pat's yarns, so I bought three hanks to make two pairs of socks.


I'll use the orange as the contrasting toes and heels yarn and to extend the amount of yarn in the green colorway to make a decent size man's sock.

Michael was a delight...and his yarn was beautiful as well (and rather inexpensive, I thought).  I bought a sweater's worth of worsted weight yarn in two colors that have inspired me lately when I've seen them mixed.


His mill is about 2.5 hours drive from Easton Mountain, but I would love to drive out there before the retreat to get a tour of it.