Lake County Fair 2014 – Part 2

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Since my last post was mostly about my entries in this year’s Lake County Fair, I wanted to run a second post and show you some of my favorite things on display in the Arts building that were entered by other people.  The quilts are always amazing to see.  My two favorites happened to have the same subject matter:  cats.

I love the colors in this one:

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I would totally display it in my house.

 

I love the whimsy of this one:

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Speaking of cats, I also admired this bag that was entered in the sewing division:

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This was one of my favorite baby blanket entries:

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I love to see the knit and crochet pot holders.  The entries this year were so cute!!!  Unfortunately they weren’t displayed very well, so it was tough to get good photos:

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The first place winner is all of the way on the bottom right of the photo above.  Only a corner of it can be seen, but it is a really nicely done sunflower and I love it.  Next to it, partly covered by that red ribbon, is a mug of hot cocoa.  I think the pom-pom marshmallows is such a cute idea. 

 

This winter bird was one of my favorites:

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I’m pretty sure it was cross stitch.  It took a second place ribbon.

 

Here was a crocheted afghan with little dogs on it:

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I also love the purple and green one hanging to the left of it.  It reminds me of cabbages growing in a garden.

 

This knit baby sweater and hat was really well done.  It took first place:

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And here’s a children’s sweater with little sheep on it that earned a second place ribbon:

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Aside from the crafts, I also enjoy seeing the antiques on display at the fair.  They are shown on the third floor of the arts building, so I always walk through to see what people have entered.  I keep saying that one of these years I will enter some of my antique sock stretcher/dryer collection.  One of these years…

Since I obviously enjoy fairs and ribbons, I thought it was so fun that some people entered their antique Lake County Fair ribbons:

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How neat to see these old ribbons from years passed.  These are from 1958, and this person won a ribbon for his/her ribbon collection!

 

This person had so many ribbons that he/she had a flag or a banner made out of them (seen here folded up in the display case):

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What a neat idea!

As much as I enjoyed this year’s fairs, I am glad that the fair season has come to a close.  I am always so tired and “all faired out” by the end of August.  I’m looking forward to next year’s fairs (and hopefully next year I’ll be a bit more prepared than I was this year), but now I’m ready for pumpkins and cider and fall leaves. 

~Happy knitting!

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Lake County Fair 2014 – Part 1

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Ok, I’m all set and ready to post about the Lake County Fair this year!  Here it goes!

The fair was hopping again this year.  I could not believe how many people were present on exhibitor’s night!  It felt like more than usual as we all packed into the Arts building to see if we had won. I was literally shoulder to shoulder with other participants for most of the evening.

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As always, there were so many wonderful crafts on display.  Quilts and afghans lined all of the walls, and every display case was packed.

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A sample of the knit and crocheted toys on display.

A sample of the knit and crocheted toys on display.

 

Some of the crocheted shawls.

Some of the crocheted shawls.

 

I had seven entries in the fair this year, and I ribboned in four.  My Radiating Star Blanket, my On The Road Shawl, and my Linen Stitch Scarf did not place.

There were SO MANY knit shawl entries this year, and they were all so great!  Go knitters!  Clearly, I need to amp up my game for next year if I plan to enter a shawl.

So many knit shawls!

So many knit shawls!  This is only a sampling of the competition.  I wish they were displayed open so that all of the detail could be appreciated.

I did well in hats this year. 

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Both my crochet and knit hats can be seen in the case behind me: crochet hat on the stand to the left and knit hat in the front right.

I earned a first place (blue) ribbon in a rather large category of knit hats.

My lace, knit Heart Hat earned a first place ribbon and my Broken Seed Stitch Socks earned third.

My lace, knit Heart Hat earned a first place ribbon and my Broken Seed Stitch Socks earned third.

 

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My only crochet entry this year was this Tapestry Crochet Heart Hat, and it took second place in another rather large category.  I was pleased!

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I earned a third place ribbon in socks.  I entered my Broken Seed Stitch Socks that I knit in cotton/bamboo.

The winners!

The winners!  My entry is on the far left (white ribbon).

More beautiful sock entries.

More beautiful sock entries.

My Fisherman’s mittens took second place (red ribbon) to a pair of white, lace gloves.

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My entry can be seen on the right of the photo. The white gloves that took first place also won the Sweepstakes Rosette for the whole knitting division (seen on the left of the photo).

 

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Knit and crochet glove and mitten entries.

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As always, I had a great time this year.  Stay tuned for yet another post about more great crafts on exhibit at the fair.  There were so many wonderful things!

~Happy crafting!

 

Knit One…. Crochet Two…

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Since I haven’t been posting as much as I would like lately, I thought I would share what is currently on my needles….. and what was recently on my hook!

Last year, I decided to enter not only some knitting, but also a crocheted item into the county fairs.  I couldn’t find any fair-worthy pot holder patterns for my entry this year (but I think I found a pattern for NEXT year), so I decided I would crochet a hat instead.

I chose this:

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It is a tapestry crochet pattern.  Tapestry crochet is sort of like stranded colorwork in knitting, except with single crochet stitches.  The resulting fabric is really thick because you carry all of the yarn strands within the stitches of your work.  For this reason, it is often used for elaborately patterned baskets. 

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I chose some worsted weight wool yarn for the project in colors I thought would work well together.  All of the yarn was from my existing yarn stash.

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My hat about half way done. You can see why this technique is often used for patterned baskets.

I should have chosen a sport weight yarn, and dropped down a few hook sizes because my hat came out way too big to be a pull-on cap as the pattern intended.  In order to shrink the hat, I soaked it and ran it through the dryer, which did help to some degree.

 

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Since the hat could still work as a ‘slouch’ style hat, I added a really large pom pom to the top to weigh the hat down and make it slouch better when worn.

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I entered the hat into the Lake County Fair this year, and despite its challenges, it scored a second place ribbon.  I was excited and happy to have ribboned.

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The red hat in the front right corner of the case behind me in the photo (below) was my knit hat entry which actually won a blue ribbon this year.  I love fair season.  My items are still on display at Lake County Fair at the time of this post, but up next for me will be the Will County Fair. 

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Since I have no socks to enter in that fair this year, I picked up my only half completed Snowflower socks that I started making for my cousin Sharon a year and a half ago.  I thought I could finish the second sock, enter them into the fair, and then finally send them to Sharon, who lives in Canada, when the fairs are all done.

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So far so good on that plan.  The second sock is currently in the Soak wash in preparation for blocking, and I expect to have the pair ready in time for the fair in another week.

~Happy knitting!

Spiral Lace Lap Blanket

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From June to July, I knit another Radiating Star Blanket.  This one is a lap blanket version for my own use at home.  If you remember, the first one was a baby blanket that I knit for a cousin’s first child, and it can be seen by clicking HERE.

I knew I wanted to make another one of these blankets because I am in love with the pattern, and I enjoyed knitting it the first time.  I wanted my blanked in chunky weight, washable wool, but I was worried about cost, so I did some bargain hunting and came up with this:

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It is Ella rae classic superwash wool: a 100% washable wool.  I loved the color, and the price was right, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong. 

As it turns out, in wool, as in many other things, you do get what you pay for.  Once I got started on my blanket, I noted that my yarn was full of knots and strings – not just a few, but enough that it was beginning to make me worry that it would affect the quality of my work.  Once I became frustrated with the issue, I hopped on Ravelry to see if other knitters had anything to say about the yarn. 

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As it turns out, I should have checked ahead of time.  There were lists of complaints, most having to do with major color bleeding when items are soaked for blocking.  There were so many painful stories of entire sweaters being carefully knitted in combinations of strategically selected colors, only to have the colors disastrously bleed into one another when the items were soaked for blocking.  Just the thought of such a scenario terrifies me.

Apparently the yarn also grows significantly after soaking, rendering the final dimensions of many a knitter’s project not what was initially intended.  Given all of this information, I considered myself lucky to be knitting an afghan (rather than a garment) in only one colorway.  Knots started to seem like not such a bad problem to have.

Since I already purchased the yarn for the project, I went ahead and used it to knit the blanket.  While working, I stored the project in one of these nice, deep, plastic bins that I found at the ‘dollar store’.  That’s right:  only a dollar for some good, square baskets in which to keep my projects organized.  Joy!  I love these things.

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I decided to get this project done by July because I was planning this summer’s fair entries.  I thought the pattern was ‘fair-worthy’, as I like to say, and if my blanket turned out as planned, I felt I had a good shot at a ribbon. 

Here is the blanket early on.  It is knit on large, circular needles, and it goes through an awkward stage where it looks like an over-sized tam.

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Here is the finished blanket all pinned out on the rug after steam blocking before the fair.

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Even though it was knit from washable wool, the yarn still joined reasonably well via felted joins.  That discovery made dealing with all of those knots a bit easier.  I cut them all and was able to seamlessly join the yarn for a nice, smooth finish. 

The pattern designer has actually posted additional instructions for continuing the blanket to make it larger.  I wish I had noticed that before I bound off my blanket.  I ended up with two balls of yarn left over, and I had expected the finished blanket to be a bit bigger.  It would have been great to have extended it a touch more.

In any case, I did enter it in this year’s Lake County Fair (it didn’t ribbon…), and I know I will get lots of use out of it around the house this fall and winter.

In other news, I am hoping to make it out to Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg IL tomorrow.  I actually missed Stitches last year, and I was really disappointed when I did.  It will be nice to see all of the new products available, and I am always happy to be around yarn!

~Happy knitting!

FO: Handspun Beaded Bella Cowl

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I finished knitting my On the Road shawl last night.  I have been on the last lace section for over a week.  Toward the end, each row was approaching 400 stitches, so each row took me around a half hour to knit.  I think it took me longer to finish that last little section than it did to knit the rest of the entire shawl.  It didn’t help that I was often fatigued in the evenings by the time I got to work on it.  Being aware of that problem, I made it a point to pick it up in the daytime this past weekend, and I must say that I made much more headway.

Depending on how the beginning of my day goes today, I may be weaving in ends and blocking the cowl tonight.  Wool has been taking several days to dry (after blocking) with this weather here lately, so it will be a few days before I can get some fully finished, blocked pictures of it.

In May, I knit a cowl with my MoonBound fibers handspun wool.  I had 180 yards of the yarn, so a cowl seemed like a good option.  I also considered mittens, but I think that a cowl was the right choice.

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I was a little stressed about choosing the right pattern to show off the thick and thin qualities of the yarn.  I didn’t want to hide it with a fancy pattern.  On the flip-side, the yarn was undyed, natural wool, and a plain pattern with such wool could result in a really unimpressive (boring!) finished object.

Hmmm.  What’s a girl to do with her handspun?

I considered trying my hand at dying.  I was going to use coffee, which I think may have had a pretty result.  I decided against it, though, because I was kind of in love with the fleece colored yarn.

I considered choosing a complimentary yarn to accent it in a pattern.  This might have worked too, but since this was my first hank of handspun, it was a big deal in my head, and I wanted the yarn to be the star of the finished object.  I also wanted to use every last bit of the yarn.

After much consideration (about two days’ worth), I decided that the Bella Cowl was just the right combination of simple and some lace, and would be a pattern versatile enough that I could adjust it for my special circumstance.

While deciding all of this, I kept eying some tubes of beads that I had purchased years ago, on clearance at a craft store.  One of the tubes contained small, iridescent beads in natural colors that complemented the natural merino of my handspun so nicely.  Beading the cowl could be a great way to add color and interest without taking focus away from the yarn.  It was decided!

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Now the problem was that these beads were small for such a mostly DKish weight, thick and thin yarn.  I would have to pre-string the beads on the yarn in order to use them in the pattern.  My goal was to add them to the lace rows.  This was going to difficult, and I considered many other ways of applying the beads to the lace rows before finally deciding to break the yarn (I know, gasp!) at the beginning of each lace row, apply all of the beads needed for that row (this was not easily done, and required a size 12 —  that’s 1 mm folks — crochet hook to force the beads onto short lengths of the yarn) and then graft the yarn back together using a felted join in order to continue the pattern. 

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Yes, this was a lot of work, but it was satisfying work since I knew exactly what I wanted, and I was determined to make it happen.

Unfortunately, my 1 mm crochet hook was a casualty by the end of this project.

Unfortunately, my 1 mm crochet hook was a casualty by the end of this project.  (Note the bend.)

Luckily, the wool grafted really, really well, so I was able to join the ends of the yarn back together fairly easily after my struggle to get the beads strung. 

I knitted an adjusted version of the pattern, and I had to rip out and reknit the last two sections more than once to make sure that I could finish the pattern repeat I was on without running out of yarn.  Here is the amount of yarn I had left once I finished binding off:

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I am super pleased with the size of the cowl.  It can be doubled around the neck, or worn long like a scarf.  I think the beads are just enough without taking over the design. 

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I was really surprised by the affect of the twist in the yarn on the resulting knitted fabric.  It tended to make the fabric sort of seize up, making it a little stiff, with the texture of a scrubby sponge.  I kept moving up and up and up in needle size until I found a gauge that allowed this gorgeous stuff to drape.  I started with something like a size 7, and ended up using a size 9 and knitting as loosely as I possibly could.  I really wanted a 10, but I didn’t have a circular in the length I needed on hand.  

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I’m glad I spent the time experimenting with this yarn for this cowl.  I think it will be a well-used accessory this fall/winter, and that’s what I was going for.  I wanted it to be something that I would have many occasions to wear and enjoy.

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Now off to block a shawl…

~Happy knitting!

Now Selling on Etsy!

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As mentioned in the previous few posts, Kristenisms now also has an Etsy shop!  I was hoping to post an official announcement once I had the shop set up exactly how I want it to be, but alas, things are moving along SLOWLY, and I thought it best just to make it officially known now.

If you click on this badge, it will take you right to my shop:

 

My goal is to sell my knit and crocheted items (and some sewing) exclusively at the shop, but I have some vintage collectibles for sale there currently as well.  For anyone who has given setting up shop on Etsy a shot, you know that generating traffic and getting noticed is not an easy feat, and it seems, for now, that I get more visitors viewing the collectibles than anything else.  I’m hoping a few sales there will help gain my shop some credibility for shoppers who are nervous about buying from a brand new seller.  And then maybe my hand knits will start to sell.

I am having fun with the shop so far, and I haven’t had any trouble stocking it.  This past weekend, I made the cutest, felted wool bowls!  I’m in love with them!!!

 

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I listed two today, and I have more that are still drying on blockers.  I plan to post about how I make them eventually.  Notice the awesome, vintage, metal, distressed button?  Embellishing the bowls has given me an excuse to dip into my vintage and antique button collection.  I have so many ideas!

So anyhow, wish me luck with my Etsy endeavors! 

I promise to post about last year’s county fair exploits soon!  I really mean it…  I did sort through the photos after my last post in preparation to write all about it.  Meanwhile, I need to get planning for this year’s fair entries.  I can’t believe it’s almost May!

~Happy knitting!