Friday, January 29, 2010

What the fiber?

I've been thinking about and shopping for yarn for the last two weeks. It's tough to shop in craft stores lately, because my little boy is usually with me and he really loves them. I made the mistake ONCE of putting him down in JoAnn's while I tried to grab something from a tall shelf. Of course he took off for the Frames and All Things Delicate, so I pulled out my mommy voice and told him to come back. He just stood there smiling... until I picked him up and then he made sure that I (and everyone else there) knew that he really wanted to go frame shopping, and mommy was being unreasonable. I've tried to go back a few times since, but the boy is too bright for me - he remembers things. I'm not sure what it is in his mind he thinks he needs a frame for - perhaps he wants to decorate his room with original photography....

Anyway. I'm trying to find a yarn for this sweater project I'm working on (the Lion Brand KAL). It calls for Fisherman's Wool, which looks good and seems very quaint and folksy. I dig it. Really. But wool is always so scratchy, and my skin can be sensitive to things like that. So I thought about doing an acrylic, but I really have never liked the feeling of most matte-finished acrylics at ALL - they just feel so cheap and yucky. The Simply Soft is one of my favorite yarns, but it really just seems too "sheeny" (might have just made that up). I definitely wanted something more natural looking, with natural fibers.

I thought about cotton. The Lion Cotton was OK looking but a little too... dishtowelly. Yeah, that's right. So I got myself pretty hooked on the idea of using Lion Cotton-Ease. It's 50% cotton / 50% acrylic, another one of my favorite yarns and it feels totally YUMMY.

Problem #1 Cotton Ease is expensive - about $6 for 3.5 oz AND I was gonna need about 6 or 7 skeins of this stuff.

Problem #2 Can't seem to match dye lots, especially with the amount of yarn I need to buy.

Problem #3 The color I really had my heart set on was Hazelnut, which of course they don't carry anywhere in Chico.

 Soooo... after a week of thinking and debating and trying to shop for yarn while the baby fussed, and sifting through yarns that were too yucky, too sheeny, or too dishtowelly... guess what? I finally deceided just to get the Fisherman's Wool, which was the yarn the pattern originally called for in the first place. HA! Oh the vanity!

I chose this wool because (A) it comes in nice large balls of 8 oz. (B) the less I have to purchase, the easier it is to use coupons and match dye lots, (C) it's a nice natural fiber that I'm hoping will make the cables in the sweater really come through, and (D) the clencher was when I found it in Nature's Brown, which is a beautiful color that I hadn't seen anywhere else.
I ended up paying about $10 for $18 worth of yarn (coupons), which is way better than $42 for cotton-ease. YAY! They only had two in stock, so I still have one more ball to buy. I can already tell it's going to be a lovely yarn to work with...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Recycled yarns (Have I heard that story before?)

My mom taught me from a very young age to separate my recycling from the trash. And being eco-conscious is something that I've proudly carried over to my own household as an adult. Besides the typical recycling bin and being conscious of my carbon footprint, I'm always looking for ways to (a) use something more than once, (b) repair it so I don't have to throw it away or (c) use scraps from one thing for something else. I usually count myself fairly resourceful and clever if I can succeed at any of these. =0)

Several examples of (a) are so ingrained in my everyday routine, I really don't even think about it anymore. But the other day I was wondering what people would think of me if they saw my funny little habits. For instance, although I tend to wipe my son's mouth and hands with a wet wipe after meals, which isn't the most eco-friendly, I also sometimes save the gently-used wipe to be used again at the next meal. I also have a funny habit of cutting things in half so they go twice as far. I cut my cotton balls in half, my dryer sheets, and even after buying the "select-a-size" paper towels, which are already half the size of a regular ones, I rip those in half to make them even smaller. I try not to use any more than I need.

Of course ideally I wouldn't be using these products so much at all. That's been sort of a resolution for me this year - I'm going to look into those reusable dryer ball softeners and I also try to remind myself to use a dishtowel or sponge instead of a paper towel. Honestly, I think it's just the Germ-a-phobe in me that is so attracted to wet wipes. The idea of What might be living on that sponge or dishtowel after a day's use really creeps me out - so that might be a hard one to break... =]

Anyway, all this is coming to a point... really. In light of habit (c) above, I was very excited to do some research today on eco-friendly recycled yarns for use in my merchandise. So far, I've only found Eco-Ways at my local JoAnn's, which I have used in several of my newborn hats.

Today, I was pleased to learn about Lion Recycled Cotton which is made from cotton fabric pieces that would otherwise be discarded when fabric is cut to produce tee-shirts. Brilliant! I love that somebody saw little scraps of cotton going into the trash and thought to themselves "how can we use this?" When most people just see rubbish, someone here saw potential! Red Heart also has a similar item on the market.

Of course there are also plenty of crafty people on Etsy who are actually making recycled yarn themselves by either unraveling old second hand sweaters or even spinning their own reused fibers into a "new" yarn! The ladder is very intriguing to me, but I admit I don't know very much about it. I suppose the former is perfectly feasible for me to do for myself. I'm just kind of apprehensive about destroying a perfectly good sweater to use the yarn for something else (i.e. a sweater). That doesn't seem to have the same impact as redeeming something that was actually going to be thrown away...

Therefore, the yarn I think I might be most excited about is Simply Soft Eco by Caron. Even though it is only 20% recycled material (as opposed to 30% in the EcoWays or about 75% in the recycled cottons), I like the fact that it is Post-Consumer - made from recycled, cleaned and processed plastic bottles. How cool is that?

So I'm looking forward to trying these new yarns out. And I encourage all my knitting and crocheting friends to do the same. I've heard mostly good reviews - some people say you can't tell the difference in texture. Some people say (about the recycled cotton) that it might feel even softer than the virgin fiber cotton!

I believe a trip to the yarn store is in order...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where did she go??

Well, I know it's been awhile! It seems to me that somewhere along the way, I promised to blog more often. Why did I promise me that? I knew the minute i made that promise I wasn't going to keep it.

But the holidays were quite a whirlwind - besides being The Usual Busy trying to find gifts and making travel plans, I also finished a last minute quilt for my mom, and decided somewhere in there that I wanted to get in touch with my "roots" by studying Swedish Christmas traditions. That was kind of a joke. Oh yeah, and I filled about 15 orders on my Etsy page! Lots of Sock Monkeys. =)

The Swedish thing was a joke because I didn't really think of it until a week before Christmas. That's really not enough time to create straw ornaments or find a good gingerbread recipe and about three weeks too late to observe Advent (which is kind of a big deal there I guess). It was frustrating trying to find an authentic Swedish recipe for anything, and if I did, it was in Swedish! I think you lose something in the translation, and of course they use things there that we don't really have here. Lucky for me, a friend on Facebook 'fessed up to being Swedish herself. She kind of took me under her wing a bit, emailed me some of her family recipes and told me alot of ingredients that you usually wouldn't find in the states can be purchased at IKEA. Ikea!! Why didn't I think of that?? I love that place. We take special trips to Sacramento sometimes, just to go to Ikea! Brilliant.

With the holidays upon me, I was not driving to Ikea. But my friend was sweet enough to stop by my house on the morning of Christmas Eve, just to give me a box of Pearl Sugar and one of Swedish Vanilla. Mmmmm. My mouth is watering all over the keyboard just thinking of it.

All that to say: in an effort to squeeze tradition into a ridiculously busy holiday, I have a distinct memory of sitting with my son on the floor of our kitchen on Christmas morning, eating Risgrynsgrot (Rice Pudding) which I had made quite at the last minute, even as Joel was packing our car for a 3 hour drive to my mom's house. We certainly didn't have time to sit around the table and make it A Thing, but I'm proud of myself for making it happen at all.

Here is the recipe if anyone is interested:

3/4c long grain rice
1 1/2c water
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2c milk
1 piece whole cinnamon
Bring rice, water and salt to a boil. Stir, cover, and boil for about 10 minutes over low heat. Add milk and cinnamon and simmer for 30-40 minutes more, until it is nice and thick and the ricec is soft.
I definitely add a little sugar to it. Other toppings options include butter, ground cinnamon, or a little extra milk.
It's a Christmas Eve tradition all over Sweden. They like to put one whole almond in the pot, and whoever finds the almond in their bowl will have good luck next year... or get married... or win a special prize (whichever you prefer). =>

Well, I'm off for now. I have SO many ideas for the Etsy shop, it really isn't funny. New designs are on the horizon! For some reason (probably the fact that I can't say no), I've also signed myself up for this knit-a-long. It's a sweater with a weird name. I like to call it the Crazy Difficult Cable sweater that Charity will weep over.

One last note, if you haven't already, please visit this Etsy shop: 100% of the proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders for Haitian Relief. I donated my Sleek Black ipod Cozy for the cause. <3
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