Independent’s Celebration – Malabrigo

It’s time for the next featured company for our Independent’s Celebration!

This week’s featured company is Malabrigo!

I first discovered Malabrigo several years ago, before Alpaca Direct opened here.  I was still pretty new to quality wools and luxury yarns at the time, having spent most of my knitting life getting cheap acrylic from big box stores.  By this time there was one local yarn store (LYS) in the area, and a new one was opening.  My mom (who is also a knitter) and I went to check it out.  Now, as I’m sure you know, when visiting an LYS you must go around and pet all the yarns that strike your fancy.

We came upon a stack of what would turn out to be Malabrigo Lace.  I instantly fell in love.  I think it was the softest yarn I had ever touched up to then, and it’s still in the top five.  The softness combined with the rich colors keep it in my list of favorite yarns.

My mom bought a hank and knitted me an Estonian lace scarf with it for Christmas.  I still wear that scarf all these years later.

Hats made from Malabrigo Twist and Malabrigo Merino Worsted.

Malabrigo is a family owned company based in Uruguay.  They started in a kitchen in 2005 with small batches of hand dyed yarns.  They slowly grew and now distribute their yarns worldwide.  They have added new yarn lines to their original Malabrigo Merino Worsted and Malabrigo Lace over the years, and long ago outgrew their first kitchen workshop.

They have maintained their commitment to producing one of a kind colorways and high quality hand dyed yarns.  Their commitment extends to using local (to them) wool producers, and all of their yarns are made with wool from Uruguayan farms who allow their sheep to range freely and care for them in humane ways.  For their yarns that use other fibers, they source their silk and alpaca from farms that show the same commitment to their animals and the environment as the Uruguayan sheep farms.

Their environmental commitment extends beyond their yarn sources to their manufacturing.  Their superwash process now meets Oeko-Tex standards, which means the yarns are free from harmful agents like formaldehyde, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals.  Since I often recommend Malabrigo yarns for baby things, knowing this makes them an even better choice in my opinion.  They also use solar energy to heat the water used in their dyeing process.

 

At Alpaca Direct we carry Malabrigo Rios, Arroyo, Chunky, Finito, Lace, Worsted, Rasta, Silkpaca, Silky Merino, Sock, and Twist.

Malabrigo Rios Purpuras

Malabrigo Rios is a worsted weight superwash yarn.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 210 yards.  It is a 4-ply yarn, making it great for sweaters, hats, scarves, and baby things.

Malabrigo Arroyo Indiecita

Malabrigo Arroyo is a sport weight superwash yarn.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 335 yards.  Like Rios, it is a 4-ply yarn, so it is great for lighter weight garments and accessories.

Malabrigo Chunky Ravelry Red

Malabrigo Chunky is a bulky weight yarn.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 104 yards.  The bulky weight makes it great for quick knits and warm, thick sweaters, scarves, and hats.

Malabrigo Finito Arco Iris

Malabrigo Finito is a fingering weight yarn.  It comes in 50 gram hanks of 200 yards, with five hanks per dye lot.  It is a plied yarn suitable for fine gauge garments and accessories.

Malabrigo Lace Baby Merino Whales Road

Malabrigo Lace is a lace weight yarn made from super soft baby Merino.  It comes in 50 gram hanks of 470 yards.  It is a single ply and makes beautiful lace scarves, stoles, and shawls.

Malabrigo Merino Worsted Polvoriento

Malabrigo Merino Worsted is a worsted weight yarn of super soft Merino.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 205 yards.  It is a single, and is great for accessories that don’t see hard wear.

Malabrigo Rasta Baya Electrica

Malabrigo Rasta is a super bulky yarn.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 90 yards.  It is a soft, slightly felted single ply, making it great for quick knits and accessories.

Malabrigo Silkpaca Archangel

Malabrigo Silkpaca is a lace weight yarn spun from a 70/30 alpaca/silk blend.  It comes in 50 gram hanks of 420 yards.  It makes beautiful lace shawls, scarves, and stoles.

Malabrigo Silky Merino Mares

Malabrigo Silky Merino is a DK weight yarn spun from a 50/50 silk/baby Merino blend.  It is a single ply that comes in 50 gram hanks of 150 yards.  It is great for lightweight but warm accessories.

Malabrigo Sock Ivy

Malabrigo Sock is a fingering weight yarn made from 100% superwash Merino.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 440 yards.  It is great for socks as well as other lightweight garments, accessories, and baby things.

Malabrigo Twist Stonechat

Malabrigo Twist is an Aran weight yarn made from 100% Merino wool.  It comes in 100 gram hanks of 150 yards.  It is a plied yarn, making it great for sweaters, hats, and other accessories.

All Malabrigo yarns (except Silkpaca) feature the same super soft Merino wool for which Malabrigo is known.  All yarns come in the full spectrum of colorways offered by Malabrigo.  They are hand dyed in small batches of rich jewel tones and one of a kind colorways.

Malabrigo Nube Lavanda

In addition to the lines of Malabrigo yarns, we also carry Malabrigo Nube, Malabrigo’s line of spinning fiber.  Using the same super soft Merino as the yarns, these braids are hand dyed in the same colorways, too.  Hand spinners will enjoy the rich colors as well as the soft Merino wool while creating their own unique yarns.

All Malabrigo yarns are on sale July 24 – July 30.

 

Check back next week to see our next featured independent – Palouse Yarn Company!

 

Independent’s Celebration – Sweet Georgia Yarns

It’s time for the next featured company for our Independent’s Celebration!

This week’s featured company is SweetGeorgia Yarns!

Since the shop got reorganized a few weeks ago, the SweetGeorgia Yarns display has been calling my name.  The jewel tone colors always catch my eye first.  And their hanks of sock yarn are big and squooshy, drawing me in and inviting petting.

So far none of them have jumped in my bag and come home with me.  With two little kids at home, I don’t get a lot of knitting done and I have a sizable stash, including lots of sock yarn.  But they look so pretty and feel so nice, I’m not sure my resistance will be able to last much longer.  Especially since sock yarn doesn’t count as stash.  (Remember?  We talked about that earlier this year.)

SweetGeorgia Yarns is a Vancouver based company that Felicia Lo started in 2005.  It began life as an Etsy shop with three hanks of yarn.  Over the course of the next year, Felicia expanded SweetGeorgia Yarns, and began distributing in shops and online to knitters worldwide.

They produce a wide variety of hand dyed yarns and fibers in unique colorways and rich solids.  Their yarns and fibers are dyed in batches of four to twelve hanks.  They focus on using luxury fibers, including merino, cashmere, and silk, and creating colors that inspire and engage knitters and spinners.

At Alpaca Direct we carry SweetGeorgia Yarns Merino Silk Lace and Tough Love Sock.

Merino Silk Lace Glacier.

Merino Silk Lace is a 50/50 blend of merino and silk.  This is a is a slightly heavier lace weight 2 ply yarn.  The silk adds a shimmer to the finished yarn that will make your lace projects extra special.  If you’re wanting to knit a beautiful lace shawl or stole to dress up your wardrobe, this is the perfect yarn for the project. It comes in big 100 gram hanks of 765 yards.

Tough Love Sock Raspberry

Tough Love Sock is an 80/20 superwash merino nylon blend.  This yarn is soft and squooshy.  Knit at a tight gauge, it makes long lasting socks.  But, like all sock yarns, you can use it for a wide variety of other projects.  Soft enough for next to skin wear, you can use it for shawls and scarves, mittens and gloves, and even things for a baby.  The superwash merino means it can be machine washed, which is ideal for socks and baby things.  It comes in big 115 gram hanks of 425 yards, meaning you only need one hank for a pair of socks.  If you have small feet or knit ankle socks you might even be able to get two pairs.  Or you could knit a pair of socks and a pair of fingerless mitts.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

All SweetGeorgia Yarns are on sale July 17 – July 23.

Check back next week to see our next featured independent – Malabrigo!

 

Independent’s Celebration – Zen Yarn Garden

 

This month we’re celebrating our independent yarn companies as part of our Independent’s Celebration in honor of Independence Day.  We love getting to support independent companies and enjoy the beautiful yarns they produce!

This week’s featured company is Zen Yarn Garden.

If you haven’t seen their yarns in person, you need to.  Their yarns are soft and beautiful with gorgeous colors.  The care they take with their dying is evident in every skein.  When I’m in the shop, I like to just go drool over the Zen Yarn Garden displays.  It’s the perfect yarn for petting and drooling over.  Don’t worry, though.  I’m careful not to get any drool on the yarn.

Zen Yarn Garden is a small company based out of Ontario, Canada.  It is owned and run by Neville and Roxanne Yeun.  They dye hand picked luxury yarn bases that are spun in Canada.

Neville Yeun

Neville is the Lead Dyer, Production Manager, and Color Chemist.  He’s the one to thank for the wonderful depth of color, consistency, and variety in the Zen Yarn Garden lines.  He is in charge of the process that creates the beautiful tonal solids and the playful one-of-a-kind colorways.

Roxanne Yeun

Roxanne is the Creative Director.  She directs the growth of the company and keeps her finger on the pulse of the trends in the marketplace.  She is always on the lookout for new products and design collaborations to keep their customers happy and interested.

At Alpaca Direct we carry Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 and Serenity Glitter Sock.

Serenity 20 is a fingering weight yarn made of 70% superwash merino and 30% cashmere.  This luxury yarn is great for socks, scarves, lightweight sweaters, or any next-to-skin project.  The beautiful colorways and rich tonal solids will provide hours of joy on the needles and off.

Zen Yarn Garden has even made a Coeur d’Alene colorway exclusively for us at Alpaca Direct!

Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 Coeur d’Alene colorway

Serenity Glitter Sock is a fingering weight yarn made of 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% metallic nylon.  It features the same depth of color as Serenity 20 in its own range of distinct colorways.  The metallic nylon adds a hint of sparkle that beautifully complements the natural sheen of the yarn.

All Zen Yarn Gardens yarns will be on sale from July 10, 2015 to July 16, 2015.

Come back next week to see our next featured independent Sweet Georgia Yarns!

Top 6 Reasons You Should Start Spinning On A Drop Spindle

You’ve seen beautiful handspun yarns.  You’ve lusted after the staggering variety of fibers and colors available to spinners.  You’ve gone to a local spin in or fiber fest and drooled over the fibers, longing to join in with the other spinners.

Spiinning on a Drop Spindle
Shooting Star Yarn Hand Painted Merino Top Huckleberry

But, you ask, isn’t spinning expensive?  Spinning wheels are big and cost a lot of money.  Your house is already overrun by yarn.  How can you justify adding spinning to your list of fiber obsessions…I mean, hobbies?

You know you want to, though.  You just can’t help yourself.

The good news is that spinning doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby to start.  A few ounces of top and a drop spindle are all you need, along with someone to show you how to do it.

Top 6 Reasons to Start Spinning On A Drop Spindle

Spinning on a drop spindle
Tiger Mountain Spindle
  1. Easy way to start spinning.  A spindle is essentially just a circular weight on a stick.  To start spinning, all you need is fiber, and a way to insert twist into the fiber.  A spindle is a very simple tool for doing just that.  You spin the spindle with your hand, and it inserts twist into the fiber connected to it.  There’s very little to it, and that allows you to focus on getting good at drafting the fiber, rather than concerning yourself with tension and treadling and orofices and bobbins.
  2. Easy to control.  Because a spindle is a tool, rather than a machine, it is easy to control how much twist is inserted into the fiber.  It’s quick and easy to start and stop.  A spinning wheel is a machine.  There’s more interference between you and the fiber when you use a machine (even a non-electric one), and more things that can break.
  3. Low cost investment to start.  Spindles can be really inexpensive and still high quality.  You can get a good spindle for around $20 or a kit complete with fiber for $40. It is certainly possible to spend a lot more money on spindles and fiber, but the point is that you don’t have to do that at any point in your spinning career.  You can get a spindle and spin the fluff from your aspirin bottle and be happy.  Probably you’ll want something nicer to spin, though.
  4. Portable.  Spindle spinning is extremely portable.  In some ways its even more portable than knitting.  It’s easy to stuff a wad of fiber and your spindle in your bag to take with you.  To keep it organized, you can keep it all in a Ziplock or splurge on something a little more fancy.  But, you don’t need as many notions or accessories as you do with knitting, and it’s much more difficult to lose a spindle than a knitting needle or crochet hook.
  5. You get to play with a greater variety of fibers.  If you knit or crochet, you’ve probably used wool, alpaca, cotton, and maybe another luxury fiber or two like silk or cashmere.  As a spinner, you get Corriedale, Polwarth, Merino, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL), Targhee, Shetland, Icelandic, Coopworth, and Babydoll Southdown.  And those are just the wool varieties I’ve pulled off the top of my head.  You also get to choose from Suri or Hucaya alpaca and luxury blends with things like baby camel and cashmere.  There’s milk fiber, corn fiber, bamboo viscose, Angelina fiber to add sparkle, and silk.  The possibilities are mind boggling.
  6. You get to make your own yarn.  Probably the best reason to start spinning is that you get to make your own yarn.  Imagine how cool it will feel when someone compliments your hat or fingerless mitts or sweater, and you can tell them that you knit it from yarn you spun yourself.  Plus, you’ll be invaluable in a zombie apocalypse.

Ready to start spinning?  Our next Beginning Spinning class is July 20, 1:00-3:00 pm.  Call the store to sign up and reserve your spot!

Already a spinner and want to make more spinning friends?  Come to our Open Spinning group the second Friday of every month at noon.

Do you spin?  Do you want to spin?  Tell us about your spinning in the comments!

May Knit (and Crochet) Alongs

May Crochet Along

This summer we’ll be hosting several knit alongs and crochet alongs in the shop.  These are fun group classes that are free to join!  All you have to buy is your yarn.

If you’re not local, you can participate virtually as well.  We’ll be posting pictures of everyone’s creations as they are finished and submitted.  I’ll start a thread in our Ravelry group where everyone can post their finished projects for the various knit alongs throughout the summer.

The first one is actually a Crochet Along.  We’ll be making the Angel Wings Pinafore in the shop on May 13 and 20 using Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton.

Crochet along
Angel Wings Pinafore shop sample.

The Angel Wings Pinafore is a sweet little dress for the new little girl in your life.  The pattern comes in newborn and 3 month sizes, and is an intermediate pattern.  It’s a great pattern for both the experienced crocheter and the confident beginner who is ready to expand their skills.  Baby things are great for first garments, because they’re small and much quicker than making a full sized adult sweater.  If you don’t know anyone having a little girl right now, you can always make it and save it as a gift for someone in the future.

May Knit Along

knit along
Image from official pattern page.
Crochet along
Store sample of Bishi

We’ll also be working on Bishi.  It’s a quick knit, and would be a great first project for knitting in the round.  It’s useful for anyone who likes to carry a water bottle, but without the bulk of carrying a bag or purse.  The Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton is a great choice for the water bottle holder, too, because of cotton’s low elasticity.

These are just the first two in our summer of knit and crochet alongs.  We hope you’ll join us in some fun projects.  They’re small and won’t make you too hot during the summer months.

Recent FOs

We have an active knitting group in our shop that meets on Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons.  We always like when people get to show off the things we’ve seen them working on.  Here are a few recent finished projects from our group!

Teri finished her poncho. The yarn is Malabrigo Rios Sunset.
Angie made these heirloom baby gifts – Hearts and Bows hat in Royal Alpaca Petite and In 3’s baby sweater in Cobasi Plus.
Debbie made this hoodie for her grandson. The pattern is called Moera.
Debbie made this hoodie for her grandson. The pattern is called Moera.
Sue finished her first pair of socks in the Begin to Knit Socks class. She's only been knitting since this last fall, so this is a big accomplishment. Great job, Sue!
Sue finished her first pair of socks in the Begin to Knit Socks class. She’s only been knitting since this last fall, so this is a big accomplishment. Great job, Sue!

Want to have your finished project featured on the blog?  Email info@alpacadirect.com with pictures, the details of your project, who you are, and where you’re from.  We want our blog to feel like a virtual extension of our in shop knitting groups.  Even if you’re not local, feel free to submit your work, especially if it’s made from yarn or fiber from Alpaca Direct!

We look forward to seeing what you’ve been working on!

Seamless Sweaters vs Seamed Sweaters

Seamless top down raglan sweater.
A top down raglan with cables that I knit for myself.

Top Down Seamless Sweaters

In recent years, the top down seamless sweater has taken over the knitting world.

It’s easy to understand why.  The sweater is knit in the round in one piece.  When you’re finished knitting, all you have to do is weave in your ends and hey presto!  You’re all done!  No seaming pieces together.  No attempts at precision blocking to match the size of the pieces.  No extra ends from the seaming process.  And you can try it on as you go.

Who wouldn’t love that?

I’ve knitted a few top down seamless sweaters, and it is pretty nice to have a sweater practically finished once it’s off the needles.  It’s the ultimate in sweater knitting for the knitter in need of instant gratification.  Some knitters now refuse to knit a sweater any other way.

That’s fine, of course.  There are no knitting police.  You can knit your sweaters however you like.  But, the top down seamless sweater isn’t without its flaws.

  • Raglan sleeves aren’t flattering on everyone.  Women with a larger bust size tend to end up with lots of extra fabric around the underarms.  And sometimes you just want a different line to your garment.
  • Knitting the sleeves is annoying.  They’re knitted in the round after the body is finished.  So, you have to flip the entire sweater around when you first start the sleeves at the end of every round.  As you get further down you can let the sleeve twist and untwist it at the end of every round.  But that’s kind of annoying, too.
  • It’s not very portable by the end (unless it’s for a baby).  A sweater for a full grown adult can get unwieldy by the time you get to the sleeves.  Not that it’s absolutely not portable, but if you’re like me and you take knitting with you to pass the time if you get bored, you’ll need another small project for those situations.

Seamed Sweaters

seamless sweater
A seamed sweater with set in sleeves.

Seamed sweaters do have some distinct disadvantages as well.

  • You do have to make your pieces match, so blocking and accurate measuring are really important.
  • You have to sew the pieces together when you’re done knitting before you can wear the sweater.
  • You’ll have more ends to weave in, because you’ll have the ends from all the pieces plus the ends from the sewing.

I’ll admit that sewing pieces together isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do.  I have to be particularly motivated to do it, which means I have to really like the sweater in question.  But, there are several points that recommend the seamed sweater, despite having to do more finishing work.

  • A seamed sweater has more structure.  Seamless sweaters can grow more easily, which can be problematic with slippery fibers like cotton, alpaca, and superwash wool.  The seams provide limits and structure that help the sweater not to expand as much or as easily.
  • It’s more portable.  You can easily take a piece of a sweater with you, when taking a whole sweater would be unwieldy.
  • You have more choices for design elements.  You can easily do all the shoulder styles as well as a wider variety of choices in construction elements.
  • It’s easier to block lacy sweaters in pieces than as one large item.

Of course, there are a couple other ways of knitting a sweater: side to side and bottom up seamless (with or without steeks)  are other ways I’ve encountered.  Personally, I’m not married to any one style.  I’ve done all of them except for using steeks (I’m too chicken to take scissors to my knitting).  If I like the pattern, I’ll knit it regardless of how its constructed.

What about you?  Do you have a preference?  Do you hate seaming sweaters?  Let us know in the comments!

Idaho Spin-In 2015 Recap

Each year on the last Saturday of March the Log Cabin Spinners host an annual Spin In at the Templin’s Red Lion Inn in Post Falls, Idaho.

Spin In 2015
Our booth at the Spin In

Every year is a little different, but there’s always a marketplace and a spinning area.  We hosted a booth featuring our spinning fiber and spindles and a few other fun things like our rigid heddle looms.

It’s always fun to check out the other vendors and see what everyone is interested in.  There are always farms with their raw fleeces, people selling yarn, and of course lots and lots of fiber.  Mohair, alpaca, different types of wool – you name it, it’s probably in the marketplace.  And lots of different preps – unprepped, roving, batts, and lots of handpainted braided top.

Spin In 2015
The marketplace.

The main feature of the event is the spinning area.  One section of the conference hall is reserved for the spinners to come and spin.  There are wheel spinners and spindle spinners.  They sit in large circles and smaller groupings and spend some or all of the day spinning.  It’s a great way to meet new people, learn more about spinning, and reconnect with other spinning friends.  We got to see some beautiful spinning wheels, and some beautiful spinning.

Spin In 2015
Lots of spinners
Spin In 2015
Spinners spinning.
Spin In 2015
Small group of spinners.

I didn’t bring my spindle with me this year.  I think next year I’ll make sure to bring it along and make time to sit and spin for a while.

I did wander around the marketplace quite a bit.  I got to meet some lovely fiber producers and see some tools I’d never seen in person.  One booth had a picker, and they were using it to prep fiber on site.  A picker is used to get out most of the vegetable matter and fluff the fibers from a clean fleece.  After it goes through the picker it is ready to be combed or carded.

Spin In 2015
The picker in use.

In one of the smaller rooms they had demonstrations of different types of wheels.  They even had a great wheel, which is also known as a walking wheel.

Spin In 2015
Great wheel demonstration.

The great wheel is a type of early spinning wheel.  It’s similar to the kind of spinning wheel you see in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.  On a great wheel you turn the wheel manually, which turns the spindle. You then have to wind the spun fiber around the spindle, much like you do with hand spindles.  Modern wheels use a treadle to turn the wheel and a flyer winds the spun fiber onto a bobbin.

I always enjoy the neat things available at the Spin In.  The marketplace is a great place to find fibers that you wouldn’t normally have in person access to.  And it’s always fun to see the fiber enthusiasts in the area gathered in one place.

If you’re local, did you make it to the Spin In?  What was your favorite part?  What other fiber festivals do you like to go to?

Our March Knitting Retreat In Montana

Camp Bighorn Knitting retreat
Camp Bighorn

Every March the Open Knitting group at Alpaca Direct goes on a knitting retreat to Camp Bighorn in Plains, Montana.  It’s a beautiful retreat space and everyone always has lots of fun.

This year we’ll be hosting one in the fall as well.  Here are some photos from our latest retreat on March 12-15.

We had beautiful weather on the retreat and got to go for a hike.  The scenery at Camp Bighorn is beautiful.

hiking at the knitting retreat
Going for a hike.
views
Beautiful views

We also enjoyed some time relaxing at Quinn’s Hotsprings, which is just down the road from Camp Bighorn.

Knitting retreat cabins
The cabins.

Camp Bighorn provides comfortable cabins and good food for us so that we can relax and do what we came to do – knit!

As you should expect from a knitting retreat, we spent the majority of our time hanging out and knitting.  We stayed up late, we had lots of fun, and we can’t wait to do it again.  We hope you’ll join us next time!

Eating at the knitting retreat.
Good food!
Friends knitting
Good friends!
knitting retreat
And lots of knitting!
More knitting!

National Craft Month – CRE8TIME to Craft

March is National Craft Month.

The Craft and Hobby Association has teamed up with CRE8TIME.org this year to encourage people to make time for their crafts.

People get busy and it can be difficult to find time to do things you enjoy.  Work and family obligations often take precedence.  Making time to do something you enjoy is an important part of self-care.  It will help you recharge so you are more easily able to meet the demands of your schedule and obligations.

Here are our top suggestions for finding time for your craft:

Finding time to craft in a group.
Tuesday evening knitting group Christmas party.

 

1. Join a group.  Here at Alpaca Direct we have several groups that meet weekly.  There are Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon knitting groups as well as a monthly spinning group that meets on the first Friday of the month.  If you’re part of a group that meets regularly, and you make it a priority to attend, you’re guaranteed that you’ll have at least that amount of time on a regular basis to work on your craft.  You’ll also get the added pleasure of making new friends and getting to spend time socializing with people who have a common interest.

2. Craft while waiting for other things.  Bring along your current project to your next appointment and work on it in the waiting room.  Portable crafts like knitting, crochet, and spindle spinning are great in these situations.  Waiting for water to boil before you put pasta on?  Knit a couple of rows, or at least a few stitches.  If you keep your project with you, it’s easy to get a little bit done in these pockets of found time.  Little bits of time here and there add up, and you’ll eventually finish that project.

Finding time to craft
Knitting while I wait.

 

3.  Work on a project in front of the TV.  I think this is probably when most of us get the most work done on our current works in progress.   It’s fairly common to sit and watch TV for a while in the evenings.  This is prime time for working on your fiber crafts.  I know I do the majority of my knitting while watching TV.

4.  Put it in your calendar.  I know that may seem silly at first.  But, taking care of yourself is important.  Pursuing hobbies that you find enjoyable is part of taking care of yourself.  People schedule other hobbies – sports, fishing, camping – why not craft hobbies?  When I was in college two of my friends and I had a standing Monday knitting date in my apartment.  They’d come over and we’d watch our favorite TV show and knit or crochet, depending on our preference and current project.  It just happened one time and we enjoyed ourselves so much it turned into a weekly thing.  We all made sure not to schedule things over it if we could help it.

I always have a project that I can stuff in my bag and take with me.  I usually have several projects on the needles at one time, so I just pick whatever seems appropriate for the situation.  I work on larger projects (like my top down raglan cardigan that I’m currently knitting) at home or at knitting group.  I have a sock to stick in my bag and take with me if I get stuck waiting somewhere.

With a new baby it’s a bit trickier to find time to knit.  But I try to do at least a little every day, because it’s something I enjoy and it recharges me.

How do you find time to work on your crafts?  Let me know in the comments.

What to Knit for a New Baby

If you’ve come to the Tuesday night Open Knitting group lately, you know that I’ve been pregnant.  My baby made his appearance in the world on January 30, 2015.

James Michael
James Michael

 

This means that any time someone in the knitting group decides to knit for a baby, they ask my opinion first.

As the (apparent) resident expert in what to knit for a new baby, I thought I’d offer up my biggest suggestion and top five picks for baby knits.

Take Washing Into Consideration

Do you want to make something out of a lovely, soft merino silk blend?  Or some other luxury fiber for someone’s little tyke?

Ask yourself this: will Mom or Dad be willing to hand wash whatever you’re making?

I know that there are some yummy soft yarns out there and they seem perfect for something snuggly for a wee one.  But, remember that new parents, especially first time parents, are frazzled and probably don’t want to worry about hand washing much of anything. If it can’t be tossed in the wash with everything else, one of two things will happen. It will never get worn or it will get destroyed in the first washing.

Have a lovely soft hank of Misti Alpaca Tonos? Keep it for yourself.

You have to remember that babies cover everything in goo eventually. Between explosive poop and spit up, nothing is safe. Even things you wouldn’t think are likely to get nasty, like hats and booties, aren’t safe. If you’ve never had a baby, or it’s been a long time, you may not realize or remember the amount of effluvia that a tiny baby can produce. Let me assure you, it is astounding.

Personally, I love dressing my babies in wool. I actually use wool diaper covers, so I do a certain amount of hand washing. However, I am a knitter and used to hand washing hand knits. That said, I still prefer superwash wool for sweaters, hats, blankets, booties, and things like that. I’m willing to lay things flat to dry more than I am to hand wash, especially larger items like blankets.

Some good superwash choices are Malabrigo Rios and Cascade 220 Superwash. Sock yarns are also good if you want a finer gauge option.

For even easier care, Berocco Vintage is a great choice. It’s an acrylic/wool blend and can go in the washer and the dryer.

While that cashmere or merino/silk blend is lovely and soft, I definitely recommend keeping it for a project for yourself. You’ll know how to take care of it and it’s far less likely to get spit up or pooped on.

What to Knit for Baby?

Now that we’ve discussed yarn choices, let’s talk a little about what kinds of things to knit. Here is a short list of my favorites to knit, give, and use.

1. Baby blanket

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Snuggling with the blanket Grandma made with Malabrigo Rios.

 

This one’s pretty obvious, and it might seem a little overdone.   It’s important to take into consideration whether you think the parents are likely to appreciate a hand knit baby blanket. But, if they will, then you really can’t go wrong with a blanket. No matter where you are, a baby will need a blanket of some variety. Infants can’t regulate their body temperature very well, so it’s important to help them stay warm. New parents are often gifted blankets, but they are pretty useful, so it’s hard to have too many. Plus, you can unleash your creativity a bit with a blanket. It’s a large blank canvas, so you can play with different stitch patterns and color combinations.

2. Sweater

My daughter wearing the cabled hoodie I made her when she was a baby.

If you’ve never made a sweater before, a baby sweater is a great place to start. The construction is nearly the same, though with less shaping in general, and baby sweaters are really quick knits. Here are some of my favorite patterns:

Puerperium Cardigan

Little Luxury Kimono Sweater

Maile Sweater

Thora’s Cardigan

I’m partial to cardigans, especially with newborns and little babies. They’re a lot easier to get on and off than pullovers. Sweaters are also great for putting on a baby or child in a car seat. They’re thin and warm and won’t interfere with the functioning of the car seat. (Bulky coats and snowsuits aren’t suitable for use in car seats. They compress in a crash and can the baby can be ejected from the car seat because of the extra space created by the compressed coat.)

3. Pants

This one is a less obvious choice than some of the others. But, let me tell you, a little baby in knitted pants is undeniably adorable. When made of regular wool, these can be lanolized and used as a diaper cover (which is what I do). But, they’re great even just as pants. They, like anything else, can be made from superwash wool, cotton, acrylic, or a blend. The pattern I use the most is Braided Longies, but there are lots of cute ones available. A couple others I’ve knitted are (cargo pants pattern from Knitty) and (that other one in my queue).

4. Hats and Booties

James's booties.
James’s Gansey Booties.

No matter what time of year a baby is born, hats and booties are useful. If you live in the northern part of the country, it gets cool in the evenings even in the summer, so lightweight knitted hats and booties help then. In the southern part of the country, everything is heavily air conditioned to approximate meat locker temperatures in the summer, so hats and booties are good for babies in that climate, too. The sheer number of hat and booties patterns is rather overwhelming. Hats are a pretty easy pick, though. Find a pattern you like, or a basic recipe and play with your own stitch patterns.

Booties are a bit trickier. There are lots of cute bootie patterns, but not all of them actually stay on the baby’s feet. I’m a big fan of the Gansey Booties pattern for it’s staying on ability. Other choices that look like they’d stay put are Saartje’s Bootees, Closeknit’s Striped Baby Boots, or Blue Steps Baby Booties.

5. Toys

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Newborns don’t really need toys. But, that newborn will eventually get bigger and be more interested in something to play with. Here are some of my favorite patterns:

Knubbelchen

Gnome Baby

Braided Ball

Terragon the Gentle Dragon

Bunny Nuggets

Hopefully this gives you some good ideas to knit for the babies in your life.  And remember, babies don’t have to be dressed in pastels.  Choose colors you know the parents will like.  The baby doesn’t have an opinion yet.