Monthly Archives: April 2008

Yummy!

When I first saw Yummy by Universal Yarns it was on a hank with a test label that had no specifics about the yarn itself that is, no info on yardage, fiber content or gauge.  But I fell in love anyway. Yummy - Double Chocolate & Plum  I liked the tight spin of the yarn, the deep jewel tones of the colors, and the subtle silky sheen.

Yummy comes in big 4 ounce hanks (approx. 130 grams), with 370 yards per hank, which is more than enough for an average size pair of adult socks.  Yummy - A Classic This beautiful yarn is hand-dyed – label reads ‘pot dyed’ – by Turkish artisans and has beautiful color quality and depth.  And, a must for me when it comes to sock yarn, it is machine washable.  Please don’t let all this sock yarn talk limit you, Yummy would also work great for any lace weight project that can be worked with a hand-dyed multi color yarn.

Of course, every good new yarn deserves a good review and this is why we called Samantha, our no-nonsense reviewer and this what she had to say:

My first impression looking at the Yummy was all about the colors. Yummy - A Summer day in Istanbul  Rich and vibrant, the whole skein is saturated with colors ranging from a warm plum through a bright pink to a spicy coral.  The yarn made me want to pick it up and start knitting with it, just to see how it would come out.  I also noticed that Yummy was smooth, silky smooth with a tight twist and none of the beaded effect that some sock yarns have.  There’s no halo or fuzziness to this yarn, although in some lights it does appear to have a subtle sheen (EDITOR’S NOTE  – actual skeins received does have a very slight fuzz/halo).  The sample skein had no content listed, but it feels like a high quality merino.

I like socks that are woven fairly tightly, so I swatched it with a size one needle.  I used a set of double point needles with Canadian sizing, so it was actually a 1.25mm set.  I got 7.5 stitches and 10 rows to the inch and liked the smooth, polished look of it.  However, even by my standards this was not comfortable going and I switched to a 1.50 set of needles for the socks (there is no American equivalent, they are both loosely referred to as a size 1).  On these, I got 8 stitches and 12 rows to the inch.

Since my double point needles are quite pointy, I was amazed and delighted to find that this yarn doesn’t split at all.  I knit an entire sock without ever splitting a stitch, even when I was watching TV and not looking at my knitting.  It’s the tight twist that does it and boy, does it make a difference.  The finished product is smooth and with superb stitch definition.  Even my husband (a non-knitter), looked at the swatch and was impressed.  He couldn’t quite say why but finally said that it looked clean and sharp,” which it did.  Cables worked in this yarn would pop , as would any stitch pattern.  The downside of this, of course, is that any mistakes are instantly obvious – no fudging with this yarn.

Yummy stands up quite well to washing and blocking.  I used cold water and a mild soap to wash my sock, then rolled the pieces up in a white towel and gently pushed out the water before laying it out and nudging into shape.  Yummy Test Sock The yarn didn’t seem to get any softer, but it was soft to start with.  In truth, it didn’t really change at all – a plus if, like me, you don’t want to guess at how the final product will look.

The only negative I found with this yarn was while I was grafting the toes.  The tight twist on this yarn makes it tend to twist back on itself.  This isn’t much of a problem while knitting, but it created some problems on a darning needle.  I would definitely knit with Yummy again and I am anxious to see the rest of the available colorways.  I can already picture a sock with cable rib and little cables running down the sides… .

PS. I know, I could not do 10 posts in 10 days – major burn out as I have tons of new stuff that I have to photograph and share with you, which made the 10 for 10 deal impossible.  Sorry. :(

A Proper Tea

I used to drink much more coffee than tea, which ended in a very abrupt manner approximately 6 months ago.  It has been a very harsh transition – I would rather give up chocolate and sweets of all kind than my coffee but I am dealing with it.  It is the worst when DH makes a full pot of coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the smell hits me.  The feeling is very much like seeing an intense high school crush that you ache after, who does not even know that you exist.  It hurts so.

Part of my coping mechanism includes drinking copious amounts of tea, decaf tea (hark, the heavens are laughing at me…I, who used to take Louisiana Hot Sauce on my Cheerios during my pregnancies).  If you had to venture into the dark side of sans-caffeine you too know that not every caffeine free tea is palatable but there are exceptions.

One of my top choices is Rooibos tea.  I used to drink this tea during my pregnancies and after but not this much.  Rooibos is Afrikaans for ‘Red Bush’ and it is a member of the legume family of plants.  It grows exclusively in the Cedarber Mountains and around Clanwilliam in South Africa (I had to look it up as I did not know where that was, oh the shame).  To make the tea the leaves of the Rooibos bush are harvested, bruised, finely chopped, moistened and fermented in mounds.  The resulting ‘leaves’ look nothing like the tea leaves that one would expect.  They are deep cinnamon bark red and look like the small candy pellets that one would sprinkle on cookies – you know the kind I mean – sort of like tubular beads. Rooibos Tea Leaves

The tea brews a deep red and tastes very clean and very mild.  For a tea that is not naturally caffeinated (it does not have to go through a process do become decaf), it is simply good.  In addition, the more I drink the tea the more I like the taste so, it grows on one.  For the lack of a better analogy, the tea tastes mildly like honey with a hint of milk or hazelnuts; it is hard to describe a taste this unique. 

The super mild taste of this tea makes it ideal for combinations with other herbs or flavor enhancers.  This is why I go with Red Bush Chai, it is basically Rooibos leaves blended with spices. My Favorite Rooibos brand  The brand I use is called The Tao of Tea and comes in cute tin cans that have a resistance sealed top, which keeps the tea fresh and later when empty makes for good tea storage (or darning needles if you have little ones as I do). A cute tea tin  In addition, this brand is fully organic – if you care about that sort of thing – and for all that you get 4 ounces of tea that brews approximately 60 cups.  I get mine from my grocery store that has a decent tea selection and good periodic tea sales. :)

The Red Bush Chai adds cinnamon, spearmint, cloves and cardamom into the Rooibos leaves, which makes for a slightly spicy tea with a sweet aroma.  You can see all that in this photo.  Red Bush Chai  I would almost call this a perfect tea for desert as it complements non-chocolate sweets very well.  I don’t add any milk to my tea as I consider such an act scandalous but I know that my friends do and they think this enhances the taste of their Rooibos Chai very much.  I add some sugar and drink it just like that.

One final note about Rooibos, this tea contains Aspalathin, a flavonoid present in medicinal herbs used to treat skin and circulatory disorders.  It is also known to contain traces of zinc, calcium, iron and manganese, which all help boost the immune system.  In short, it is reputed to be good for you especially if you would like to drink something that is good for your immune system, helps your digestion and helps keep your skin healthy.  You can read more about the specifics here.

OK, now more fun facts.  If one would like to have proper tea one must have a proper tea pot and the most perfect cup, with the acknowledgement that nothing about this tea, my cup or pot is ‘proper.’

My tea pot is an old Bodum all glass, which allows me to see the change in the color of my tea while brewing and know when it is ready. My tea pot  This probably makes me qualify as an A type personality but I feel every tea must have the perfect cup and therefore, this cup makes me happy.  It has a granite-like shell with cherry blossoms etched deeply into it. I love this cup  It also has a thin lip, which is great for drinking tea.  Of course, one must not forget the fact that the water has to be boiled to brew the tea, for that I use this 60’s (or is its 70’s), pyrex pot I got from a church fair. My pot

This was last night’s tea.  I also baked some ginger cookies to have as a treat, which goes great with my Red Bush Chai. My Rooibos cup  Pieces of my rather bland – decaf – life shared with you – hope you enjoyed reading it. :)

PS. Are you counting with me?  Post #3.

Good things & One Good Woman

Thank you so much for your recommendations for a charity, one that I could donate the sample kids’ garments we had.  I ended up filling two boxes that weighed approximately 40 pounds, all brand new clothing items for kids and a few for grown ups.  I went with The Baby Boutique; it seemed like the best fit.  This lovely charity provides goods for homeless kids and I could not be touched more.  They were very responsive and returned my call within 30 minutes and the thought of a sweet little thing wearing something that I can provide made my heart warm.

For the remainder of the year I will be in search of new and gently used kid’s garments.  I also plan to knit as many hats, scarves, and cardigans as I can.  I hope to have another couple of boxes for the Baby Boutique later this year.  What they do touches my heart.

Now on to that one good woman.  One of my beautiful customers, Suzanne, emailed me unexpectedly and asked if I would like a free pattern for a yarn of ours, Little Knits Indie II, a scrumptious cashmere silk blend (sorry cannot help myself – I love this yarn).  She wanted absolutely nothing for her pattern! Erika - A Pattern for Knitters Without Borders  And, she agreed with my proposal when I asked her for the pattern and a charity of her choice. 

Let me explain – all proceeds from Suzanne’s pattern Erika will go to Knitters Without Borders to benefit Doctor’s Without Borders.  In addition, I/Little Knits will match the purchase price 100% and donate that amount to the same charity.  We will keep a monthly tally posted on the website and donate every month.  I think this would be great don’t you?  Thank you Suzanne!  Erika - A Pattern for Knitters Without Borders

If you have a pattern that uses one of our yarns and would like to share it in a similar fashion for a charity of your choice please let me know with an email.  I would be more than happy to list your pattern on our website and match the purchase price as I did for Suzanne’s pattern.

PS. Are you guys counting?  Post #2. :)

New Yarns…is Spring Here Yet?

I have been super quiet I know. But, I have so much that must be written that I plan to post everyday for the next 10 days! That is my challenge (well, that and a few other things including getting in shape to run a long race early next year). Will you count with me? Here is post #1.

Quick note, Seattle needs a notice that it is April 15th! We still have cold weather, rain, wind and the weather guy is calling for snow later this week. Someone please notify the weather channel, we need some warm weather here. I will even take 50 degrees and up, I would not mind some serious sunshine either. To be fair, we did have a great Saturday but it was as though someone was teasing us…it was here and then it was gone. Sunday we were back to the same routine. Bet my tulips wish they could go back in.

Just in case you did not notice, we have a new yarn line in at the store, Universal Yarns. We tried to pick a few of their many yarn lines that would be interesting for us all. One of their yarns, Classic Worsted Tapestry, has been up at our webstore for a while as quite a few of our friends and customers requested it and we like this self-patterning worsted weight yarn that comes in big 100 gram skeins. Dizzy – I am sure most of you know who she is :) – has made socks with Classic Worsted Tapestry (as with quite a few of our customers), and she is now working on a top. This is a machine washable yarn that is soft and not itchy next to skin so it is also great for kids garments and accessories.

Classic Worsted Tapestry

Another new yarn from Universal Yarn is Poems. It is their take on Noro Kureyon. The yarn has approximately the same gauge but it is significantly softer and the colors are more subtle. I decided I would try this yarn especially given its price and the fact that it has a much softer hand than Kureyon. And then I requested one of my favorite yarn reviewers, Samantha, to take a skein home and to let me know her thoughts and this is what she said (thank you Samantha!):

Universal Yarns Poems

Universal Yarns Poems

I’ll admit, it wasn’t love at first sight. Not that I disliked it but, at first glance, the ball of Universal Yarns’ Poems in shades of brown seemed somewhat unassuming.

I remained unimpressed until I swatched it (4 1/2 stitches and 6 rows to the inch in stockinette on size 8 needles), but then oh my. I was absolutely captivated by the incredible softness, as well as the absolutely stunning shifts of color. Soft almond blending into the cocoa, espresso, and palest honey. The subtle blending from shade to shade, each one warmer and richer than the last. I was hooked.

I was also struck by how the movement of color reminded me a bit of some of Noro’s colorways. I dug around in my stash and produced a single skein of Kureyon and sure enough,the yarns had a lot in common. The balls were wound almost the same, as well as having the same yardage (~109 yards), same composition (100% wool), same recommended needle size (7 – 9), and even the same style of ball band. And, of course, long, gently shifting color runs. For fun, I decided to make a pair of fingerless mitts, one in each yarn, and see how they compared (I used the Dashing pattern from Knitty at www.knitty.com, in the smaller size. Gloves Made with Poems & Kureyon The pattern is knit on size 7 needles, so my gauge changed: 5 1/2 stitches and 7 rows to the inch in k4 p1 rib with the Wisdom; 5 stitches and 7 rows to the inch with the Noro). Here’s what I found out:

The immediate and most obvious difference is the softness. Poems is significantly softer than the Noro. It feels gentler on the hands while knitting, and the finished glove didn’t scratch or itch, even on the tender skin of the inside wrist. The Noro definitely felt rougher, and a bit scratchy on that same wrist area. Both yarns are thick-and-thin yarns, but there are differences there, too. Poems has subtler shifts in thickness, and they are less frequent. The thick areas are much less so than with the Noro, which frequently thickens so much that the yarn feels unspun and these areas show up obviously in the finished work, creating a rustic feel. Poems never gets this thick and the finished work is smooth without obvious texture changes.

Another difference between the two is the absence of vegetation and knots. If you’ve worked with Noro yarns, then you’ve almost certainly had the experience of pulling tiny bits of what appear to be dried grass out of the yarn, as well as areas that have broken and been re-knotted (not always at the right place in the colorway). Not so with Poems – I knitted almost the entire ball and found not a single foreign item or knot in it.

Poems seems to have a very slight halo to it, reminiscent of yarns like Lamb’s Pride or Mountain Creek , but less dramatic. Since it has no mohair, this is a bit of a surprise, but it adds to the softness and I didn’t find it to be a negative. This quality would tend to make it unsuitable for intricate cable work; however, for the large, simple cables of the mitt, it was perfect and showed off the detail just fine. The Noro lacks this fuzziness but the extremes of texture make it just as unsuitable for really fine cabling.

Overall, Poems is more pliable, drapes more nicely (at least when knit to this gauge) and knits up far more smoothly and evenly than the Noro. Researching colors, I found that it does have fewer colorways and the ones they have, while quite lovely, tend to be a bit less adventurous,none of the vivid and improbable combinations so familiar to Noro fans.

If you prefer a wilder knitting experience,extremes of texture, dramatic colors, a raw feeling to the fiber,you will likely be happiest with the Noro and find the Poems to be a bit tame. If, like me, you love the color gradations of Kureyon but prefer a softer yarn and smoother-looking product (with no plant life), Poems is the perfect solution,definitely a welcome addition to the stash.