Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Feet

I made these socks using the pattern from our 2nd Ram Club shipment. The pattern is called Harbour Tweed and was designed by Charles Voth (aka StitchStud on Ravelry). The socks were originally designed for men, but I just used the smallest size to fit my foot. I made a slight pattern modification by carrying the really cool woven slipped pattern and tuck stitch down the heel flap of my socks.

Charles is a wonderful designer and comes out with some very innovative ideas. If you would like to see more of his work, you are welcome to join one of our clubs, as he is also designing socks for our second Ram Series and one of the secret projects for The Six Kingdoms.

The Harbour Tweed pattern is not available to the public yet, but worked as a great showcase for the Christmas Gradiance color way. That color way can be used with most any sock pattern if you use the Gradiance tips for socks.

Knitting with a Holiday inspired color way helped make me feel very festive and my socks will get a lot of use over the next few weeks :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Patterns!

This sweet pattern makes me think of that classic Christmas song--- "a beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland..."

The Victorian Cowl and Beanie pattern will keep you and loved ones snuggly warm this winter--- in style! Each piece takes one skein of any of our DK weight yarns; we recommend House Blend for its soft alpaca halo and silky

And, because a set this cute just calls for matching socks, we are also introducing the Victorian Lace Socks pattern! This pattern is written for both fingering weight and sport weight yarn so you can use any of our sock yarns. I knit my pair out of Luxe in the Hope colorway.

Hard Times

One of our favorite small businesses-- a little tea shop called Felicitea-- is on the verge of going out of business. Summer lives in Charlotte, NC which has been hit very hard by the problems that the banking world has been experiencing lately. So if you've been craving some great, hand blended loose tea, I encourage you to go ahead and place an order. She's even got some really cute gift sets that would make wonderful holiday gifts. I just ordered one myself!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Creation of a Pattern

Normally we don't talk about our upcoming patterns until we are ready to publish them so it probably seems like they just spring out of nowhere. But really, a lot of hard work goes into every one of the patterns we sell. The original creative idea is just the start and is, in my opinion, one of the easiest parts. Then the designer has to figure out how to turn that idea into something real. Often math, geometry, sketches and planning are involved. And plenty of swatches. Then, in my opinion, the hardest part. Trying to get it all down on paper (or on digital "paper") so that another person can reproduce it. What makes sense in the designer's mind doesn't necessarily make sense to anyone else. Its hard to anticipate the questions that future users of the pattern will have, and the different ways that they can interpret the same directions.

Once the designer is comfortable with the instructions, the pattern and yarn are sent out to a test knitter who works through the pattern, highlighting mistakes, marking confusing language and noting where further explanation would be helpful. Even when the designer has gone over the pattern again and again, test knitters always pick up more things. And sometimes they don't. Sometimes we'll have a pattern tested several times and no one- not the designer, nor the test knitters nor us--will notice a mistake until we've published it and get an email from a customer. Sometimes after the test knitting there are major changes needed, so the designer has to go back to the beginning. Usually, though, the pattern just needs a few minor changes. Then we take the photos of the finished items, neaten up the type and formatting, and, ta-da, a new pattern is created. Often the process takes several months to complete.

Because its so time intensive, and because there is so much great talent out there, most of our patterns are created by independent designers. But occasionally Kelly and I like to stretch our creative muscles by designing patterns ourselves. Lately I've gotten this bug and I've got two designs in the works. One is a cabled toboggan (beanie) hat inspired by my brother. Its got broad black and red stripes- his favorite colors- ribbing at the bottom and "those twisty things" going up the sides-- but nothing too girly, of course. Super Wool is the best choice for that project-- its warm, soft and easy to care for. Winters here in North Carolina aren't so cold that you need a really thick hat, just enough to keep the wind off your skin, so DK weight is perfect.

My second project is a top-down triangular shawl using Sashimi. Sashimi is a great yarn but we rarely get orders for it. I think thats a real shame because its probably the softest yarn that we sell (except maybe for Singularity in Silk). Sashimi is a bamboo/merino blend and that bamboo is an amazing fiber. Its sooo soft and has the neatest sheen. Its not shiny like tencel, its a softer sheen than that. And even though its a very soft and fluffy yarn, its got enough twist to it that it will show off a stitch pattern pretty well, especially if its knit at a loose gauge. Though I call the shawl triangular, its not a true triangle. The ends curve around and will be very long and thin so that it can be wrapped around the torso and tied at the back. I've found that I really enjoy wearing shawls in that manner because it leaves my arms free to do other things and I don't have to fuss with keeping my shawl on and drapped correctly. Though I've only got about 1/6 of it done, so far, you can see the shape in the photo to the left. The stitch pattern is a simple lace stitch from Barbara Walker's First Treasury of Knitting Patterns. The thing that is going to make this shawl really special is that its written for use with our Gradiance color collection. Its hard to tell in the photos because so far I've knit through one of the 6 skeins I'll be using and just started on the 2nd. But if you look closely you'll see how it changes from purple to blue near the bottom. Eventually it will change from blue to green, then to brown and finally to golden ochre on the very edge of the shawl. The colorway is called Insecta and is inspired by the metallic colors found on the bodies of many beetles. I wanted to use deep, rich colors but not just your tradtional jewel tones. I guess I've been thinking too much about our 6 Kingdoms club because insects immediatelly sprung to mind! I'll keep you updated on my progress; since this shawl is knit out of DK weight yarn its moving along pretty quickly. So hopefully I'll have some more interesting photos soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Yarn Ideas

Recently, Kelly and I have been talking about adding a new yarn (or two) to our collection. We both feel strongly about the importance of treating our environment well. In our personal lives we recycle and compost and avoid wasteful purchasing. I dream about one day having solar panels (somehow I doubt my apartment manager would agree to that, though). And we try to make The Unique Sheep as eco-friendly as possible, too. Most of our yarns are milled in the US, which makes us feel more comfortable about labor rights issues, keeps our money in the country and cuts down on transportation (i.e. using less gas). We reuse the water we pre-soak our yarn in for dyeing (halving the amount of water required in the dyeing process). Our skein winders are human-powered, not electric. And we feel very comfortable with the eco-impact of our dyes-- very little excess dye gets dumped down the drains, especially with our wool yarns. BUT, our yarns themselves are not organic. The superwashing process uses chemicals that makes it impossible (to my knowledge) to have a superwash yarn that is organic. And superwash yarns are very popular, for good reason- they are easier to care for than regular wool.  So this brings us back to the idea of new yarns. The yarns we are considering are all organic wool in worsted, sport and fingering weight. We can add all three, or just one or two. These yarns would all need to be handwashed, of course, but could also be used for felting. When we have a new yarn milled for us we have to commit to a LOT of yarn, so its a big decision for us to make. And thats why I'm letting you know what we are thinking about. Is this something that you'd be interested in? To make room, we are also thinking of getting rid of our Leili yarn. We love Leili, but it just doesn't seem to be selling as well as the other yarns. 

So what do you think? 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tinsel Toes Holiday Sale

With the holidays coming up we've decided to put Tinsel Toes on sale for 10% off. We think that Tinsel Toes is a great yarn for holiday projects because its shiny and elegant, and it has a festive name. Enjoy!  

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shawl Pins and Mini Sock Blockers back in stock!

After almost completely selling out at SAFF, more shawl pins and mini sock blocker key chains have arrived!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sheepy Washcloth

Our Sheepy Washcloth pattern is now for sale! This pattern was originally created for our Seven Deadly S(p)ins club. We keep our club patterns exclusive for 6 months, but those 6 months have passed so now the pattern is available for anyone who wants it! We recommend knitting it in our Pima Petite-- 100% pima cotton and perfect for all your cotton projects from washcloths to baby items to saucy summer tops!