herringweave cardigan

Posted on 14 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing

it’s finally time for our 2017 ensemble look book rollout; do you love it??

from the response we’ve gotten so far, it seems that you do and that makes me glad. rolling out a new collection (plus club packages and more) means that i don’t get to spend as much time here on the blog as i’d like; i’ve been looking forward to a chance to chat.

yesterday we got to present the beautiful volta shawl design, knit in our cabécou sport by the incredibly talented and popular susanna IC, who i have just loved working with (and there are more BNWs designs from her to come; SO exciting!). and we have so many other designers to present whose work i admire.

but back to me, haha.

today, i get to tell you that one of my own designs is now available for purchase—the herrigweave cardigan, knit in our kent DK yarn in the driftwood shade (kits available here).

while i’m not privy to the processes that our other designers use, one thing i enjoy about my own process is having all of you to talk to when i get hung up on decisions. you are the best sounding board i know. even when i think i know the answer, i can ask what you think and you’ll tell me your honest opinion right away. most often it confirms the direction i already thought i’d be taking, but sometimes it surprises me. sometimes a surprise changes my viewpoint and other times, it doesn’t. but the interchange is so interesting and i love you for engaging with me while i bring designs to fruition.

i remember getting to the end of the first front shoulder and wondering if all that cable detail was just too much. but you loved it, so that helped me step back and realize i was just spending too much time close up to it. also, the proportion will change across the size range so it’s important that it still has impact as it does.

and i always like to bring you in on the button decisions because that’s what we do! choosing buttons is important and we have so many beautiful options in natural bone, horn, and shell available in our online store. we can even help you find a good match for your yarn if you drop us a note.

this view makes me appreciate the drama of the whole neckline and shoulder; it was a very popular shot on instagram when i ran it there, letting me know i had done the right thing to keep all those cables.

they are rich and eyecatching AND they serve to stabilize the sweater in all the right places so it keeps its shape beautifully—important if you wear your sweaters a LOT, like i do. i always marvel too at how much mileage i get from my skeins of bare naked wools—they go on and on; a sweater like this with generous length takes only about four skeins. click here to check out our kits.

after our big photo shoot weekend in early december, styled by our awesome new media and program director, hannah, i was finally free to wear this cardigan. just in time for the cold weather, too!

while i have knit many times with our kent DK yarn, most of those knits are shop samples and i still did not have a sweater of my own in it to wear—so this was it.

the verdict?

O.M.G. i had no idea. this yarn, spun from long, lustrous romney wool and soft, springy merino, is one that i characterize in my mind as “sturdy”, but i can’t say enough how it is also soft and airy—so much so, that what appears here to be a thick sweater is actually light and flexible. all that air of course translates to a cozy feel when i’m inside it; i love getting that warmth without the weight.

i’ve been wearing this cardigan several times a week since december; it’s become a workhorse garment in just a short time. in fact, i would love another one, maybe a size bigger and longer to wrap up in and layer over other things. ask anyone who works here and they might even say they get a little tired of seeing it. hmm, better get that second one on the needles soon . . .

if i do another i might go with the confection sport yarn for my second version; that’s another yarn that’s not represented in my sweater drawer. now to decide which shade; what do you think?

in a few days we’ll be looking at this design again, this time in the pullover version that i knit for david, which is included in the cardigan pattern (and a vest!). i’m hoping that just maybe, i can sweet-talk him into pulling it on and modeling it for us. we’ll see how that goes, haha.

fresh start

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, food and garden

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look at the lustrous coat on this beautiful greyaface dartmoor ewe. one of the pleasures of being a knitter in our time is having access to a wider range of fiber quality than ever before. once you’ve knit with a unique yarn that’s fulfilling to hold in your hands and make stitches with, you know the feeling of wanting to take extra special care of it over the life of your garment or accessory.

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fresh, clean handknit fabric should feel airy, fluffy, and have a fibery halo that sparkles as it catches the light. if your wool soap leave the fabric dull and heavy looking, you might be interested in making your own. DIY wool soap is easy to make, difficult to screw up, and has the added bonus of costing far less than commercial preparations. it also allows you control what goes into the mix, great for those with allergies or a preference for vegan products.

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i made my first batch of wool soap and blogged about it eighteen months ago, when i found myself low on soap and strapped for time to order the large quantity i needed. i used the recipe that i saw most frequently around the internet, one that has withstood the test of time and is still a classic. it appears on many websites and you can make it in full dilution or as a concentrate; the recipe is easily divided or multiplied. (one reason you might want to make a concentrate is to extend the shelf life if you don’t go through wool wash all that quickly).

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this recipe combines grated soap or boxed soap flakes, water, and denatured alcohol (mentholated spirits) with some essential oil to scent and act as an insect deterrent.

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my results were good and the soap worked well; i could not have been happier with the washed fabric! and it was seriously less expensive than any commercial wool soap i had considered—important because we wash a LOT of woolens around here, especially when it’s time to wash all the shop samples.

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one reason my wool soap was so kind to the fabrics is almost accidental—i used an old bar of homemade olive oil soap to make my wool wash and olive oil (castile) soap is extra conditioning—just what’s needed for wool.

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i did find i wanted to change a couple of things the next time i made mine, though. first, i did not care for the smell of the denatured alcohol. while almost all of it dissipated after 24 hours of standing, i just wasn’t a fan of that smell; it didn’t sit right with me.

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also, because castile soap is so rich, it doesn’t suds much at all. i could live with that part, but i was curious to see if i could change it any—like a kid with bubble bath, i love me some nice rich lather to squish through my fabrics. a wonderful reader who makes solid soaps gave me some tips and some leads about where to look next for ideas in creating the liquid soap recipe i wanted.

since then i’ve done more reading and research and have found lots of great information about liquid soap (here, i would like to recommend tracy’s blog, oh, the things we’ll make; she demystifies liquid soap making in a practical way that is really easy to understand and follow). making a wool soap without any alcohol is totally doable—not only that, it can be very, very simple and still save tons of money. and if you are willing to spend just a wee bit more time (not work!), you can make LOTS of rich, conditioning liquid soap at a very low cost that will serve multiple purposes around your home.

the last time i washed and blocked a few things, i noticed that our soap supply was getting very low, so this past week i prepared for the new year by making a fresh batch using my newest information; i thought it would be fun to update you on my latest recipe, which begins with liquid castile soap instead of the grated soap. one thing i learned while researching is that if you start with liquid soap, you will not need the alcohol to keep your dilution emulsified.

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you can buy pure castile soap already diluted the full amount needed, and also in concentrated dilutions. i found this concentrated, semi-solid soap paste on sale last year at bramble berry, where you can also purchase a variety of other supplies. this two-pound jar will eventually make eight to ten pounds of soap; when i saw it i thought that this form would be easiest to store. it didn’t sound like it was difficult to dilute so i decided to try it.

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straight out of the jar, it has the consistency of dried-out jello—leathery and kind of waxy. this paste does not dissolve instantly, so if you decide to go this route, be aware that it takes up to a couple of days to dissolve the paste. which is what i didn’t quite realize when i bought it. but once i read a little bit about using it, i was relieved that all it requires is a bit more time.

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a couple of days before soap-making day, i warmed up enough water in a pot to make a two-to-one solution. i dropped spoonfuls of my castile paste in the warm water, placed the lid on, and then let it sit. since i had never done this before i was curious, so i went back every hour or so to give it a stir, watching it turn from hard paste to soft, then more like a gel, the lumps getting smaller and more spread out over the afternoon. by evening it was nearly dissolved and by the next morning, i had soapy syrup of even solution (no lumps). i let it sit an additional day because i hadn’t planned to use it so soon.

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another thing i learned in my research is that coconut oil soap has great cleaning power and is a good sudser. be sure to buy one that is made only with coconut oil, so that you know what you’re working with (water, KOH or lye, and citric acid are normal soap ingredients).

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if you combine liquid castile soap with liquid coconut soap, you have a great all-around soap for a variety of purposes. i decided i wanted to use them together for my wool soap and to try a hand soap as well.

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as a little “extra” for the wool soap, i dissolved about a tablespoon of lanolin in hot water, then diluted that with the water i planned to add.

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lanolin is very milky when it dissolves, but it will eventually clear. i left that to fully dissolve while i made the hand soap.

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a fully diluted soap has four parts water to one part solid soap or soap paste. my 2:1 solution (three quarts) was much more than i was going to need for this batch, so i portioned off a quart to store away for future use (see—my next batch is halfway done!). i still had two quarts left that could dilute up to four; i planned to fully dilute the portion i would use for hand soap and only half dilute the portion for the wool soap, to make that a little more concentrated.

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once your soap is liquid, the rest is easy. if you are starting with liquid soap, you can jump in here! i gathered all my ingredients (sorry i took out the alcohol and photographed it but didn’t use it).

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i suddenly realized i was still going to end up with a LOT of liquid soap, so i ran around digging up bottles to use. luckily, david had the foresight to keep the last few bottles of wool soap he’d emptied and i found his stash on a basement shelf.

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haha, scrubbing off the old labels took more time than making the soap!

the dilution is really a matter of taste. you can read more about this on the blog i mentioned above, but the author makes a good point—most people are pretty habitual about the amount of soap they use, whether it is concentrated or not. i tend to use a full pump of hand soap to wash my hands, so it does not need to be very concentrated. when i wash woolens, however, i tend to go with a “capful”, no matter how many i’m washing; i have to remind myself that a bigger load requires more. so in that case, a concentrate works best.

a fully diluted soap is a pretty thin liquid, but don’t be fooled that it won’t have cleaning power. cleaning power is not related to viscosity—think of how thin commercial household cleaners are. but if you enjoy a thicker liquid hand soap, you can achieve that by adding certain essential oils or a salt solution; the soap queen blog has a great tutorial for this.

i just realized that i’m making this seem really complicated by telling you all kinds of information that i learned, but really, making a liquid cool  or hand soap is really REALLY easy, i swear!

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after diluting one-third of my remaining castile fully, i added some coconut oil soap and i was done. a good proportion is 70/30 castile to coconut. since some essential oils fade over time and i like variety, i decided to add scent only to the amount i planned to use right away. the two bottles i was putting on the shelf remain unscented until further notice.

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i also tested the hand soap in a foaming dispenser and it gave me a nice thick, rich foam, not that kind that’s all air.

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next i finished mixing the wool soap concentrate, then tested to see if my dilution was to my liking and if using the coconut soap gave me the lather i wanted. i dissolved a teaspoon or so in a couple of gallons of water (my “capful”). SCORE! it’s nice.

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half an hour later, still pretty sudsy; i’m sold. i will test it on some fabric in the next couple of days, when my next project comes off the needles.

i went ahead and scented the wool soaps once i bottled them because we use those regularly and in winter, we use a good amount. also, we need to wash all those shop samples again, so we’re going to be going through a bottle or two pretty soon.

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the solution will be milky for a while until it settles—the more diluted or warm it is, the more clear it will become; concentrates can cloud up when stored in a cold area. i left the bottle sitting open for a couple of hours to cool and they all cleared nicely.

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a light layer of essential oil and suds was still floating on top, but a quick shake disperse that. and i bet if i look again it might even be gone by now.

to use your soap, just add a teaspoon or two to a basin of water for hand washing and maybe one-eighth of a cup (two tablespoons) to each machine load. it’s good to experiment with a few hand washables in a basin to start; if the water is sudsy and feels slightly slick, that’s enough soap. if it feels quite slimy, you’ve added too much. i also recommend using a splash of white vinegar in the rinse water to completely clean the fabric of residue (from soap, dirt, or minerals in hard water) and to balance the pH of your fabric.

all in all, for about $20, i ended up with five big 16-ounce bottles of wool soap and three 8-ounce bottles of hand soap PLUS enough castile dilution to make another batch of the same size. if i purchased a diluted castile soap, i’d get four bottles for about $30—still a big savings. the main thing for me is getting a conditioning formula that leaves my woolens soft, fluffy, and gleaming with life—plus, i can share it with friends. and don’t forget, i also still have half a container of castile paste left . . .

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i better get knitting to use up all that soap . . .

barely civilized

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing

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as we prepare the last installment of the über-fun pairings club—and we are totally going to do another round of this one in the future—we are hard at work planning our next fiber journey, venturing into the fiber wilds with the bare naked knitspot 2017 club as your guide.

after skipping a year, the BNK is back by popular demand—it’s the club most-requested  by previous participants. i am SO excited about the menu we’ve got lined up for our fourth iteration of BNK, which is obviously a favorite; we are going around the world to places we’ve not traveled before and “tasting” new fibers in each one.

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HA! none of them are shown here, but the range of colors in this photo tells a story of sophistication—there is SO much color and texture and luxury to be experienced along the way; are you ready?

we’ll be working with suppliers new to us as well as offering some selections from our own bare naked wools—but i am thrilled to tell you that as of this writing, every single one of our club picks will be custom spun in unique blends just for us—you’ll need to join the club to get them first. between now and the time we begin shipping in mid-february, you can let your mind run wild with possibilities.

for this series, we are focusing on lace shawls and scarves, also a favorite of clubbies (as well as many knitters who are not yet clubbies, but hopefully planning to be). we’ll do easy lace and some that is more challenging (that’s why being part of the club is so great—a support system), a variety of constructions, and we’ll work with all yarn weights, but none so fine that you can’t manage. i’m very excited about this design challenge and about knitting the projects myself!

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this is going to be fun. but don’t take my word for it—visit our swinging ravelry clubhouse, where our warm and friendly group will surround you with assurance—as well and fun and games. also check out the club web page where david explains everything you need to know about joining up. if you still have questions, email us ANY time and someone will help you out.

color, color everywhere

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing, food and garden

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did you have a good holiday weekend? ours was deliciously quiet and relaxing—just me and mister knitspot alone in our home for a couple of days while everyone else was off. perfect!

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my last post was kind of full, so i didn’t mention a craft project i did during the week before christmas—making a little something nice to add to gifts that we were sending out . . . lotion bars.

lotion bars are a solid form of hand and body cream that have a little more staying power, which i really need in winter; in fact, i use them nearly year-round now because in summer my hands work hard in the garden and kitchen. i rub the solid bar over my hands even after using other hand cream and i’m good for hours. they also work wonders for my nails.

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i made some last year too and was pleased, but have been thinking ever since about ways i wanted to improve the basic recipe i used then, so this was my chance. on monday last week i gathered up supplies and got started.

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first, i thought it would be prettier and smarter to add some inclusions in every bar to be able to identify the “flavor” of each, so i prepped my molds with rosemary leaves, lavender flowers, and orange zest. these will fall out as the bar is used, but they do look nice.

i also used a different mold so that i could package them easily and inexpensively (boxes to hold the other shapes i have are pretty pricey). these are tiny cupcake or candy molds that are about 1.5 inches in diameter. they come in a box of 36 that works well for a full batch of bars.

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while i was prepping the molds, the lotion ingredients were warming and melting in a water bath over a very low flame (double boiler also works well). you need to use containers that you won’t use for food purposes later, so a retired pan, some jars, or an old measuring cup are fine.

this year i changed the basic recipe i linked to above to make a softer,  more emollient bar. i reduced the wax to about one-fourth instead of one-third, then increased the oil and butter. i also added the vitamin E oil that is optional; i think that’s what makes it so good for nails.

you can use any butters or oils that are sold for this purpose. i used hemp and coconut oil along with mango, shea, and avocado butter for a rich bar. i did use some beeswax, but also candelilla wax, which gives them a nice slip and is vegan.

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once the ingredients were melted, i added essential oils for fragrance (i really love nice smelling hand stuff! but you don’t need to add anything; they will still smell good). here is another place where i changed what i did last year. i was more careful and built my scents up so that from one batch i made four different combinations.

i started with a simple combo of citrus and bergamot, poured a few of those, then added lavender, then rosemary, then the final addition was sandalwood, pine, vetiver, and clove for a woodsy mix that is my personal favorite (but doesn’t appeal to everyone, haha). by the way, any of these combinations are terrific for removing food odors from your hands if you work a lot in the kitchen.

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this size bar fits perfectly into a small solo “ketchup” cup—i love that! the container is sturdy enough to last the life of the bar; the lids snap on tightly so i think they will survive pretty well inside a purse, and afterward, it’s recyclable. plus—super cheap; love that even more, since i can put my resources into the best quality ingredients, instead of the containers.

i’m getting good feedback on these bars from the friends i’ve given them to; i want to make another batch for another round of gifts, but i’ll wait to get barb’s honest review tomorrow at knit night. she’ll tell me for sure if i need to change anything.

later this week, i’ll be making a batch of wool soap—also something i did last year with great results. i’m going to tweak that recipe a bit too and have already started working with some of the ingredients. more on that another day.

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red scarf fundraiser is moving along, thanks to all of you generous knitters who are responding with such kindness. we are sold out on festivus 3.0, but our supply of snow flies scarf/cowl patterns is infinite and we still have plenty of kit options in natural shades of kent DK. if you are curious about what they look like knitted up, please visit our red scarf KAL to see some finished samples in natural shades as well as red.

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i’m going to give you a peek at one beautiful example—this wrap that cherie knit in the white sand color of kent DK. it took about two and a half skeins; it makes a luxuriant scarf or a handy wrap that’s a good size to wear while working. i think it could be stunning with some long, knotted fringe on the ends, if you are so inclined (and a good way to use remainders).

i will get a total from doug on thursday and post that on friday. i think we’ve made some progress, but for sure we’re not to our goal yet—still a ways to go, but i have confidence we will do it!

if you still have a gift to give, consider making a donation in someone else’s name or gifting along the pattern to another knitter—we are also grateful for every mention of this effort on your other social media outlets, thank you SO, so much!