Pounds of ‘paca

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I recently took advantage of a VERY good deal through Alpaca Direct and ordered myself up some beautiful 100% alpaca fiber, 12 oz of dark brown (Sarah) and one pound of soft white (Victoria). Oh, and a pound each of Merino / Bamboo blend and Polworth / Tussah blend, ya know, for good measure. The blends will be dyed eventually and put up for sale in my shop, but the pure Alpaca fiber I plan on spinning as is.

This is by far the largest amount of one type of wool I have ever set my mind to spinning. I hope to produce a pretty hefty amount of yardage from them, but since I’ve never spun more than about 8 oz of wool into one set of yarns, there’s a lot to be thinking about.

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One is that my drive band was in a truly deplorable state and I had to change it for the first time since I got my wheel about a year ago. I should have changed it before now. I have shameful upkeep habits.

Another is that I’m sure my hyperactive brain will get bored very quickly and I’ll have to take a large amount of breaks from the project. And the longer you spend in between spinning sessions, the more your muscle memory fades and the harder it is to find the sweet spot where you are spinning consistently NOT ONLY within your current ply, but from skein to skein as well.

I found that out first hand with my most recently finished set of handspuns, where there was about a month-long gap between the last skein and the first two. The last, though appreciably close in size and look, just doesn’t FEEL exactly the same. Since this is a novelty set that includes size differences on purpose anyway, that’s not a problem.

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The fluffiness differential isn’t obvious. But I know it lurks.

Overall, exacting consistency is really not tantamount to handspinning success. If you wanted perfection in a yarn, you’d buy expensive commercially produced yarns. I like my handspun, even when consistency is the goal, to LOOK like it was the loving work of someone’s hands and heart. It’s the little imperfections that make it unique and beautiful (just so for people). But because I have spun little else besides art yarns since I got my jumbo bobbin and flyer kit, I have to adjust a little so that I’m at least not spinning all wacky on purpose.

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The alpaca fiber itself is lovely combed top, thinner than the commercial roving I typically get and less densely packed as well, which makes it just perfect for what I’m doing with it. And HOO BOY is it soft, and fairly heavy as well! Normally I draft on the wheel with some sort of bastard combination of short forward draw and long draw (if that even exists?) – I just sort of go by what works. With this roving, I find my motions trending a lot heavier toward simple long draw, and only using short forward drafting if I get to a clumpy patch.

For the record, long draw is a method of drafting that uses the twist of the fiber and the tension of the wheel to pull out the fibers into a ply. Your active hand holds the fibers, and pulls the wool backward away from the wheel as you treadle, so that the twist and the tension draw out a yarn. Craftsy has a good overview of this technique here. And here’s a good video, since explaining it in words is basically useless if you’re not an experienced spinner.

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It’s really high time I got a niddy noddy that is more photogenic.

Long draw isn’t the most consistent method of drafting, but it works well for this fiber and I’ve been producing something that is sort of consistently inconsistent, which mostly evens out when plied. Plus, it’s FASTER. Which I will take considering the amount of fiber I’m trying to get spun for this batch.

One of my favorite spinning bloggers, Ask the Bellwether, has some tips for spinning consistent yarn.

One other thing that I would like to note is that this would be an ideal time for me to already have hand carders (or preferably a drum carder, but I am sooooo close to running out of space for my hobby equipment as it is!). The 100% alpaca is lovely, but the density of the fiber make it a good candidate for spinning from rolags or batts rather than from the commercially carded roving – ya know, because carding again would fluff the fiber more and more air would get trapped inside during spinning making the final product loftier. *sigh* Oh well. Someday I will have an actual studio, in which all the wonders of the fiber world will easily and comfortably fit.

Haha, just kidding. I would find a way to fill that, too.

-MF

Pre-Camping PSA

I’ve been busy busy busy around here doing homework (bleh) and housework (meh) but also hook work (yay)! The start of the fall semester takes me a few weeks to get into some sort of stride, but I’m almost there. Of course, the regularly scheduled program is getting interrupted so I can hike my happy ass out to the woods for fall festival.

Fresh Air! Campfire Food! Vending! Potentially Getting Lyme Disease!

All this, and more. So, if you have questions or comments please be patient with me as I may not be able to answer them until after 9/19.  Hope the weather is lovely for you wherever you hail from, and enjoy your weekend!

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-MF

 

Toboggan-itis

Even though it’s still basically a big humid griddle outside, there have been murmurs abound containing dangerous and possibly spiced autumn themes. Which means the time for SQUISHY BULKY COZY AMAZINGNESS is approaching!

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With this in mind, I got busy with my 6.00 mm hook and whipped up a bunch of these faux fur pompom beanies from my Gnome Toboggan crochet pattern, and gave the pattern itself an update. Oh yeah! And I put it on sale through Ravelry, where you can get it for $2 OFF until September 14. Yay! Just plop it in your cart and the discount will be taken at checkout.

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This pattern can be made with about 250-300 yards of any bulky weight yarn, and has a soft stretchy knit-look texture. That’s thanks to the post stitches, for which there is a photo tutorial and step-by-step instruction section in case you aren’t familiar with them.

I made a couple cosmetic changes to the PDF file, including switching to the two-column layout for easier reading on mobile devices.  Try it out! Getcha some squishy hats goin’ on!

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To reiterate: Yay!

-MF

Mandatory Summer Wrap-Up

This summer has been super busy but hugely rewarding, filled with family, friends, and outdoor adventurings. Like at Clifty Falls!

And playing with yarn… tons of that.

It’s been a little quiet on the blog the past few weeks as I’ve focused my attention on wrapping up in-progress projects, some old and some new, in preparation for starting my fall semester at IU. Allow me to make this up to you with pretty pictures! Here are some of the things I’ve been working on and dreaming up over the summer break.

Be prepared for vaguely categorized rambling.

Lotus Mandala Duster:

I was just insanely gratified to see the response this design got! I love being a part of the online crafting community, and seeing others create versions of my designs is one of my very favorite things about designing. Check out the project gallery on Ravelry to see some of the pretties being made from this pattern!

Though the pattern isn’t as proofed as I’d like, I am going to continue improving it as long as I keep making the dusters themselves. Next one I promise I will figure out an estimate of how much yarn it actually takes:/

The free pattern can be found here.

All three of these are also for sale in my Etsy Shop!

I’ve been fretting over the closure of this garment design, because I really didn’t think that buttons had the right aesthetic and I don’t personally enjoy using shawl pins (they’re pretty, I just end up losing things that aren’t attached to me). But with the Janis duster I cooked up a pretty good solution: four braided string ties on each side, mounted from the inside on a length of reinforcing slip stitching somewhere around Rnd 32.

If it managed to keep this large size duster on my shoulders, it will surely work for a size that actually fits my body! And, speaking of large sizes, I am still toying with figuring out a good strategy for increasing the size of the duster. I think a good guideline is to move the armholes further inward the larger you make it, but if you’re interested please see the full discussion in the comments section of the original post.

Handspun Art Yarns:

Since I got a jumbo bobbin kit for my Ashford Traveler, spinning art yarns has proven to be incredibly addictive, and I find myself dreaming up yarn weirdness and scrolling through pictures of art yarn on Pinterest endlessly. Here’s a few weird ones I’ve done recently:

Check out this great weaving from the Etsy shop Loom and Thistle, featuring one of my art yarns:

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As far as stitching goes, I normally see art yarns being utilized by knitters. I’m not sure exactly why I don’t see crocheters use them as much, but I think part of the issue is that art yarns are usually lumpy and easier to utilize in a knit stitch than a crochet stitch. Since crochet is my main squeeze, I’m working on a pattern for crocheters that utilizes art yarn! Who knows, I may even come up with a few😉

Pattern Updates & New Patterns

I admit that I had entered the summer with a laundry list of patterns to complete, and only about half of them got done. One or two of them were scrapped – perhaps to appear at a later date, perhaps to appear never, who knows? I try not to force anything and only work on what is really inspiring me.

You know what inspires me? Amazing women of all types feeling confident and beautiful.

Which is why putting out the Sol Halter top in a larger size was really important to me, and why I spent so much time trying to make it the best it could be. Hopefully I accomplished that! My friend Danielle, show modeling above, seemed to enjoy it anyway🙂

 

I also spent some time updating older patterns, including the Woodsman’s Wife Ruana and the Filigree Lace Cap.

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Lainy Clayton modeling in the new Filigree Lace Cap pattern

After getting some better equipment and taking a wild ride on the learning curve, I decided some of my older patterns needed makeovers. Perfectionism is a cruel mistress. I squeezed as many makeovers in as I could, but there are still a few more to go… in between cooking up new stuff, like the Freewheelin’ Poncho…

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… which I hadn’t even planned for but just sort of came out anyway.

Pixie Pocket Skirts

Amidst all the pre-planning and pattern writing, it’s really nice to pause and make something off the top of your head. These Pixie Pocket costume belts are my take on a funky festival-centric crochet item that I’d been planning to try for, I dunno, years.  The awesome thing about these is that they are so whimsical and fantastical that they really lend to using freeform techniques and making it up as you go along.

 

More info on these can be found in my Etsy Shop where they are for sale, including a bit about the materials I’ve been using – I especially love the look of the ones that include the tattered fabric skirt fringe. Also with those I get to rip stuff,which is hugely satisfying.

Even though these are freeform-ish, I’ve been toying the the idea of doing a sort of tutorial-style guide with mix-and-match options. At some point. Maybe. What do you think?

I messed about with the fun effects for this photo of me modeling the “Titania” belt. Am I slightly embarrassed to post this? Absolutely. Am I going to show you anyway? Yep.

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Mandala Top Sweater

After the Lotus Duster, adding sleeves to stuff has sort of been my jam. One of the last things I’ve been finishing up recently has been these experimental Mandala Pullovers, using the Mandala Top pattern as a base. It’s looking pretty likely that this will end up as a paid pattern eventually, but I think I’ll change it up a little bit more first. A different mandala in the center, maybe? We’ll see!

Being the sneaky sneak that I am, I haven’t really touched on the big fall design that is definitely, without a doubt on its way to being completed for release. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water are great, but I prefer the element of Surprise.

For the record, I would like to say that the crochet/knit/fiber creative community is fabulous, and thank you everyone who has supported my stuff and commented and shared my work (or just lurked!). I freaking love you guys.

-MF

 

 

Freewheelin’ Poncho Pattern

I hadn’t planned on releasing this as part of my fall patterns – in fact I had no idea I was going to design this at all until inspiration struck unexpectedly one lazy afternoon. Instead of doggedly persisting in whatever I was working on at the time, I dropped everything and followed my instinct, and I’m glad I did.

The Freewheelin’ Poncho is available for 5.50 USD in my Etsy Shop and Ravelry Pattern Store, as usual.  BUT WAIT, there’s more! Now through August 22 I have a Buy 2 Patterns, Get the 3rd Free sale through Ravelry, no coupon code needed! Just put everything you want in your cart and the discount will be taken at checkout.

The Freewheelin’ Poncho is probably one of my favorites so far because it is relatively quick AND it’s easy AND it looks damn good. But that’s just my humble opinion, maybe you’d like to see for yourself?

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A versatile wrap that works up quickly using a 9.00 mm hook, the Freewheelin’ Poncho features an alluring keyhole collar and a thick fringe at the edges while the lightweight mesh fabric flows and drapes to show off the person underneath.

Inspired by both retro and modern styles, this is a fashionable but easy level pattern for free spirits of all walks.

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Yarn Weight required: #4 Worsted Weight
Hook size: 9.00 mm
Skill Level: Easy
Pattern written in US crochet terminology

Even though this pattern is written for worsted weight, it looks great in bulky weight as well!

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Confession: I can strum a G chord… and that’s about it.

-MF

Big Dumb Cowl

I’ve noticed some industrious crafters in the Facebook crochet groups I follow have begun their holiday gift crocheting already – props to you guys because I usually don’t think about that until about November, and consequently never finish things in time!

Fortunately I picked up some super bulky yarn on clearance recently, which is great for whipping up a project at lightning speed, especially when you are working with a big booty hook and a simple design. Working with these parameters, I designed the Big Dumb Cowl as a free crochet pattern made with gifters in mind – and here it is!

It’s not actually dumb, I promise. It’s also not really that big. Maybe I should rename it.

Big Dumb Cowl

A simple chunky cowl worked short or tall and topped at both ends with picot stitches. Features sc, hdc, and dc worked in the round to eliminate icky row join seams. Instructions for the tall version appear in italics where differing.

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Short version, finished

Materials:

Bernat Wool-Up Bulky (#6 Super Bulky, 170 g, 121 yds) – 1,2 skeins

OR

120-240 yds any Super Bulky yarn

11.5 hook

Stitch markers

Tapestry Needle

2-Ch-Picot Foundation Chain: (Ch 4, sl st in the back of the 3rd ch from the hook) 20 times. – 40 ch sts with 20 picots. Join with a sl st to make a ring, making sure not to twist your chain. You will work the next round into the back of the chain stitches.

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Rnd 1: Sc in the same st as sl st join. 1 sc in ea of the next 4 sts. 1 hdc in ea of the next 40 sts. Insert stitch marker in the last hdc made – this marked stitch is now considered the end of your round. Make sure to move it every time you finish a round so you don’t lose your place! The first 5 sc sts are there so that you can start working in continuous rounds without an abrupt height change.

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After the completion of Rnd 1 (shown here without picots for clarity)

Rnd 2: 1 dc in ea of the next 40 sts.

Short Cowl: Rnds 3-7: Rpt Rnd 2.

Tall Cowl: Rnds 3-12: Rpt Rnd 2.

Rnd 8/13: 1 hdc in ea of the next 35 sts. 1 sc in ea of the next 5 (10) sts. Place marker in last sc made.

Rnd 9/14: (1 sc in the next st, 1 sc with 2-ch picot in the next st) 20 times. Join with a sl st to the first sc of the rnd.

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Above is an illustration of my ch-2 picot method, which finishes the picot by inserting hook into the FLO and the side loop of the sc st, and then working a sl stitch. I think it looks neater than the traditional picot technique.

Cut yarn and tie off, weave in ends.

Here’s what the tall version looks like (scrunched down of course).

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Ahhhh! Somebody stop me!

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I made all of those yesterday! Speaking of working up quickly, I have more bulky & super bulky patterns for the lover of all things cozy:
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Boho Fringe Poncho 

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Gnome Toboggan

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Woodsman’s Wife Ruana

What with all these great-looking fall patterns, perhaps you’d like to follow me on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new designs and deals? There might even be a sale going on right now, you know…

-MF

 

Plus Size Sol Halter Top Pattern

Woohoo! After a long ride on the struggle bus, I have finalized the design for the Plus Size version of the Sol Halter Top and made the PDF available for purchase. I’m pretty pleased with the end result, and even more stoked on these beautiful photos I got of one of my best friends modeling it. She’s a badass🙂

You can get it in my Etsy Shop or my Ravelry Pattern Store for 5.50 USD.

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This hot little halter top goes anywhere from beach to festivals to yoga class! The top is designed for coverage and comfort while still feeling free to be your awesome, sexy self.

The Sol Halter top is designed for a comfortable, supportive fit that still looks fashionable with any outfit. Looks awesome layered with flowing see-through blouses, denim shorts, or long tiered skirts for a cool bohemian style.

This is the Plus Size version of the original pattern, designed to fit cup sizes D to DD, with an adjustable band length of 48-50 inches total length but adjusts down as low as 34-35″ (also easy to make longer!).

Pattern includes detailed, step-by-step directions with stitch counts and tutorial photos.

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Model: Danielle West

-MF