Join us for a Fiber Journey in 2017!

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools

We just wanted to take a moment to remind you all that signups are still open for our next round of Bare Naked Knitspot Club. If you’ve never participated in one of our clubs before, I’d like to tell you how different they are from your standard yarn club:

LIMITED SHIPMENTS

We know that a lot of you are pretty serious about your knitting. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been knitting for years, a yarn club is a big commitment, especially when it extends over a whole year. With Bare Naked Knitspot, we prepare four carefully curated shipments of high quality, unusual fiber that you might not experience outside the club. It’s not a major stash enhancement or a renewing subscription. You pay once, and then we send yarn with patterns designed to show it off at its best. It’s that easy!

EXTRAS WITH VALUE

Some clubs like to send little trinkets or snacks along with your yarn. Others send needles. We love all of these ideas, but when we pulled together as a team and decided on the goodies for this club, we wanted to send along things that you could actually use again, and again, and again. Our extras for this round of Bare Naked Knitspot are thoughtfully selected especially for this club, which means they’re more likely to be something you’re interested in getting (and keeping) well beyond the last shipment.

NATURAL SELECTION

We have two main club types: Natural and Dyed. The names of these clubs change around a bit – Pairings, Fall in Full Color, and Envy are good examples of our color clubs, where you get a range of different dyed yarns, while Bare Naked Knitspot clubs will always feature yarns in their natural tones. In BNK, we often enjoy custom yarns in exotic fibers, spun by our partner mills or suppliers exclusively for the club. And when we develop a new yarn to add to our established lines, BNK clubbies usually get to see it first. We think that some variety is pretty great, but this also allows you to pick and choose which club cycles interest you most.

MORE THAN JUST PATTERNS

Each shipment, we update your club eBook with the latest installment. These chapters don’t just include patterns, but also tips, tricks, and interesting information and thoughts from our suppliers and from founder/creative director Anne Hanson. Anne has designed hundreds of patterns and puts a lot of thought into each and every one we send out with our club. She personally writes and researches the e-book topics so that you get the best information, straight from her, to make the most of each yarn we send.

COMMUNITY

You aren’t just one monthly member of a huge club with us – you’re part of a group of people who are passionate about great yarn and fiber. Our Ravelry group is extremely active and fun, and many members come back again and again because they make life long friends in our clubs. Our active moderators are members too, and we constantly seek feedback and thoughts from our participants about what they would like to see in upcoming cycles.

Knitspot clubs are so much more than just a standard yarn club! We hope that you’ll join us with our latest fiber exploration cycle, Bare Naked Knitspot 2017, because we have so many beautiful things in store for you. Give us a chance to show you how great yarn clubs can really be!

Yarn Close Up: Kent

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, projects, yarn and dyeing

Around this time of year, I find myself reaching towards the DK and Worsted weight yarns more than any other. While I enjoy lighter weight yarns year round (and you know that Anne does), I think that there’s something about the chilly weather hitting the Northern Hemisphere that makes me want to knit with something warm, wooly, and a little bit thick. During a recent visit to the Bare Naked Wools headquarters in Canton, OH, I found myself being drawn to Kent, which luckily happens to come in both of these weights. There’s something about the way this yarn is plied that just keeps me enthralled, and today, I’m going to explore the why of it a little more.

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ANATOMY OF A YARN

Kent’s worsted and dk structures are more or less the same. The fiber is a blend of 60% Merino wool and 40% Romney. You might know about Merino – most knitters do – but Romney is often mistakenly classified as a ‘rug wool’ or sadly labeled as ‘scratchy’. It’s true that some Romney wools are scratchy, but not the one in this blend. I honestly couldn’t have told you it was Romney from first touch. Did you know that when Romney wools are dyed, they lose some of their inherent softness? Even high quality Romney feels like a totally different fiber when it’s been dyed by the best of the best. You really haven’t experienced this wool until you’ve felt it in a near-natural state (like Kent!).

The yardage is great on this yarn – 220 yards on the Worsted, and 300 yards for our DK. One of the things we always like to stress to anyone buying Bare Naked Wools is that our yardage often stretches a bit further than your average skein, given that each of the yarns can be knit at many different gauges. You could try the worsted in an aran weight gauge, for instance, or bring the DK down for an incredibly lofty Sport weight feel. That’s why we show a wider range of needle recommendations, too. (8 – 10 US needle for the worsted, and anywhere from a 3 – 7 for the DK!)

Kent is a two ply, and one of the squishiest two plies I’ve ever used — the plies nestle up against each other and when the swatch (or garment) is washed, fill up the empty space in a beautiful way. Because Romney is a longwool, it adds luster and shine to the supremely soft Merino, and adds a bit of drape to the finished fabric.

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SWATCHING

Like all Bare Naked Wools, our Kent benefits from a nice long soak in warm (or hot) water with a bit of wool wash (read how to make your own here.) Wool goes through a lot before it gets to you, and while we skip many portions of that process in favor of a more natural texture in our yarns, each skein has still sat on mill floors, been through spinning machines that likely deposited a bit of oil onto the yarn, and has been handled, then stored in plastic bags until it was shipped to you. It’s not that the skeins are dirty, in the same way that you aren’t necessarily dirty after a long trip, but don’t you — and your yarn — deserve a bit of freshening up time before you’re ready to be judged by someone new?

Anne recommends waiting until your hot water is completely cool before taking your swatches out of the bath, and then letting them soak again for a similar amount of time (no swishing needed) if your first bath is at all cloudy or tinted. After they’re removed, roll them out in a clean towel and squish some of the excess water from them, then vigorously ‘pop’ the swatch from all directions to really help those fibers bloom. Ever wonder why so many top-tier designers like to knit sweaters in pieces? It allows this type of movement of washed garments in a manageable way before they’re pinned out to dry in the correct measurements. I found that my swatches for Bloch Ness ended up telling me I needed to go down another needle size — something I never would have known without this crucial step.

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PROJECT PROPOSALS

Swatches completed, my first cast on for 2017 will be Anne’s Bloch Ness sweater. I’m knitting a size up to give myself a roomy, oversized fit. We’ll be recommending some of our favorite Kent patterns on social media this week, so be sure to follow along on our Facebook page or Instagram. The newest Ensemble, due to be released later this month, will also feature a few patterns in this deliciously springy wool.

In the meantime, if you’re searching your Ravelry queues for a new project, we can’t recommend Kent enough for anything that has a massive quantity of stockinette or knit-purl textured stitches or could use a bit of spring. While this yarn does do well with cables, lace, and everything in between, I’ve personally found that one of my favorite applications is mindless knitting – the pleasure of feeling this yarn between your fingers is enough to make any project more interesting.

Now excuse me, I have a sweater to knit!

Countdown to Ensemble!

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools

Every new year needs new patterns, inspiration, and ideas, and at Knitspot, we’re sure to provide them. We have planned so much for you this year, starting with a very exciting launch: Ensemble 2017 will come out this month. Ensemble, for those of you who are newer followers, is a collection of individual patterns from amazing designers, all knit in beautiful Bare Naked Wools yarns. This year, we’re launching some of the patterns with the main group, and then adding a bonus pattern (or two) along the way.

We thought it might be even more fun to lead up to the launch with some little hints and sneak peeks at our Lookbook, probably one of our favorite parts of each Ensemble cycle. The Lookbook showcases the patterns so that you can flip through and decide what you’d like to cast on first (the best part of knitting outside of wearing a finished project!)

Keep an eye on this space, but also on our Facebook, Ravelry, and Instagram presences so that you’ll get to view all these surprises as they pop up throughout the next few weeks.

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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 . . .