Monday, June 15, 2015

May Classic Musings: Ancient Arts 3-Ply Fingering Sock

This year one of our main goals for Yarnbox was improving the subscriber experience. While we know that deep down, most of our subscribers are in it for the yarn more than patterns, we had be inundated with requests since day one about featuring patterns designed in the yarn, specifically for the weight included.

One of the main challenges this presented surfaced when we decided to do double-weight boxes -- specifically, when a box featured more than one weight and was sorted by member preferences. For these boxes, a little extra planning is required on my end to make everything run smoothly. We need four patterns: two for knitting, and two for crochet. Luckily, sometimes the yarn company steps up and lends a hand, as was the case for the 2015 May Classic shipment, featuring Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts.
This box was photographed with two different colorways, but members received matching skeins in their boxes this month.
Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts is run by Caroline and Dan Sommerfeld, who absolutely share our passion for this industry and beautifully executed yarns. By using small mills and unusual fiber blends, they've created yarns that feature both beautiful dyeing and wonderful textures.

Ancient Arts believes in a no-nonsense, easy-access approach to naming their fibers, so the yarns we featured were named simply Merino Nylon Bamboo Fingering and Merino Nylon Bamboo DK, respectively. As you can probably guess, these yarns featured a unique blend of Merino wool, Bamboo for shine, and Nylon for some added stretch and durability. This particular blend makes the fingering weight exceptional for lighter-weather socks, or either base ideal for warmer-climate accessories.
The full suite of patterns offered gave Yarnbox Classic members lots of projects to choose from. For the DK weight yarn, a pattern from Caroline herself was featured for our knitters.

The Honeycomb Mobius Cowl, a cozy ring of fabric, challenged our knitting members to try a new technique and purposefully twist their cast-on rows to achieve the mobius effect.

Members who preferred to crochet with their shipment of DK weight Merino Nylon Bamboo could access the sexy, bohemian Miranda Vest from designer Carolyn Carleton at Living Skies Crochet.

For the photoshoot, I paired the vest with a simple black jersey dress and a belt, but I've seen people around Nashville area wearing similar pieces with cutoff jeans and casual tank tops for a more 'festival' look I love equally as much! Some members working on this vest found that it was necessary to block carefully to get the best shape.

Those who got the Merino Nylon Bamboo Fingering weight had equally beautiful options to choose from! Designer April Garwood created the beautiful Tide Wrap, shown in name-appropriate colorway Under the Sea, a bright blue that made every crochet stitch glow. Button choice was a popular Yarnbox group discussion, with many members sharing their selections on the board and asking for feedback. 

The knit piece was a lovely shawl designed by Linda Browning. Linda's Yarnbox design coincided with her daughter Stephanie's departure from home to go to ballet school, and she wanted to celebrate that relationship through the Pas de Chale wrap, a piece designed to simulate the beauty of the ballet movement of the same name. One of the most special aspects about Linda's design is that she put together a Youtube video featuring her daughter dancing, with the wrap! Check it out here:

Monday, June 1, 2015

May Socks Musings: Celestial Strings Shuffle Sock

I love May. After living in the Midwest for 9 years, May has become my seasonal turning point, at which winter is truly over and spring can begin. I know that for some other areas of the country (like Tennessee, where I'm living now), spring begins a lot earlier, but snow can show up in Chicago, Iowa, and Minnesota well into April and even early May, discouraging our thoughts of summer swimming and vacations.

Often, my knitting schedule around this time of year is full of finishing larger projects I started earlier in the winter. One of my favorite things about our Yarnbox Socks subscription is that it reminds me (and other members) that sometimes a small, purposeful project is all you need to get your crafting mojo back. For those of you who live in warmer climates, Socks is a little dose of yarn once a month that allows you to build a great stash of winter essentials, while not being burdened by a larger project as the weather heats up. 

May's Socks box featured Celestial Strings, a smaller dyer out of California. Angela Rick offers up unique, often limited-edition skeins on her Facebook and through her Etsy store. One of the challenges we face when working with small batch dyers is dyelot consistency, but the benefit of Socks is that each and every skein has a unique voice within the shipment. Some variation isn't a bad thing (unlike Classic, where it's good to have dyelots that allow for sweaters and larger projects, should a member fall in love with them.) For Angela, Socks was really the perfect box! Her unique approach to dyeing colorways inspired by the universe, galaxies, planets and star systems seemed like a great fit, and it was fun watching her develop some new and slightly altered colorways just for us (some of these are now available in her online Etsy store.) 

The base, Shuffle Sock, is your standard superwash and nylon. However, Angela does some sort of magic to each and every skein that creates a softness that is truly cashmere-worthy. With plenty of yardage to work with, eager Yarnbox members snatched up each and every skein available and placed orders with Angela throughout the month to get more. One of my favorite colorways has to be Stardust, a rich cerulean blue fading into purples and turquoise. Our designer Stephanie Voyer used this colorway in her pattern for the month, Celestial Socks

This sock pattern is absolutely on my top-ten-sock-patterns list. I have lots of sock yarn in stash that would be worthy of some chevron striping.

In Shuffle Sock, Angela's dyeing techniques shine for this pattern, resulting in skinny striping and attractive speckle pooling. I love how smooth these socks are in person -- the seams shouldn't bother even the most delicate of princess feet. The only recommendation I have is that you use a very stretchy bind-off. 

These socks are toe-up, but don't let that scare you off if you've never tried it before. A good sock knitter should be versed in both toe-up and top-down socks! If you've been hesitating to try a new technique, give it a shot with these simple socks. You won't regret the results!

If you're a hand-spinner (like me) you're probably already eyeing some fingering-weight wools that would do really well with the mitered structure and shaping. Even if you don't spin, but have a collection of one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed sock yarns, you'll feel comfortable diving into stash for some of the wilder ones and helping tone them down (or highlight them more beautifully) with this great pattern.