Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Autumn Inspiration: New Yarn, New Colors, & A New Project Kit!

When the air turns crisp, it's time to dive headfirst into creating warm and snuggly accessories and garments. Yak fiber is always an excellent choice because it's as warm and soft as cashmere - plus, it's hypoallergenic. Our newest yarn base, Himalayan Summit, is a luxurious 50/50 blend of Tibetan Yak and Superfine Merino in a fingering weight, and we have so many great colors to choose from for your next project.

The Autumn Spices palette is inspired by the exotic flavors of the season, and we'll be debuting a new addition to this collection at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival This weekend! Here is a sneak peek - can you guess the name?


This mystery color joins our palette of 7 semi-solid and 2 variegated colorways, all of which are perfect for mixing and matching, or for use on their own:

Top Row Above, L-R: Pumpkin Spice, Poppy Seed, Cajun Spice, Cinnamon.
Bottom Row Above, L-R: Oregano, Curry, Turmeric, Juniper Berry, and Barberry.

If you prefer something a little more colorful, try one of these vibrant colorways from Modeknit Yarns:
Above, L-R: Crab Nebula, Old Fashion Villain, and Dragonfly Inn.

The best part about introducing a new yarn to our lineup is finding the perfect patterns to let them shine. We're pleased to debut this exclusive new cowl design from Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter:


The Eyelet of the Tiger Cowl is a lacy cowl that uses the entire skein as you knit a succession of stitch patterns. It would look just as lovely in a semi-solid color as it does shown here in Old Fashion Villain! Each kit includes a skein of Himalayan Summit in the color of your choice, a print copy of the pattern, a BBR Project bag, and a 3-pack of custom made stitch markers from Purrfectly Catchy Designs.


Individual copies of this pattern are also available here; be sure to add this project to your Ravelry notebook or queue.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Refresh Your Knits for Fall With Allure: Free Handwashing Tutorial

After being safely packed away for the season, it's time to start bringing out your handmade garments and accessories from storage. Even if you washed them prior to stowing away, chances are that your hand-knit or -crocheted items could use a little freshening up. They may be a bit rumpled or wrinkled, but it's easy to make them look just like new with a quick hand wash!


Our own Eileen Koop is a household product chemist by trade, and was formerly the head of R&D for the company that produced Oxi-Clean. Drawing on these many years of experience, she created Allure Fine Fiber Wash, a no-rinse, no-residue soap that is tailor-made for exotic fibers such as yak, silk, cashmere, musk ox, paco-vicuña, and more. 

Many of the wool washes you are accustomed to contain harsh chemicals to strip away dirt and make fiber brittle, and others contain natural solvents that many people find irritating to the skin. There are also several products which contain lanolin, a naturally occurring wax on sheep wool - but if you’re cleaning a fine piece of handwork that has no wool in it, why would you want to introduce lanolin to a fiber that has never had it to begin with? 

Allure is Eileen's solution to this problem: it is uniquely formulated to handle the cleaning challenges of these exotic fibers and the garments made from them. It also does double duty, as it can clean and soften non-luxury fibers, which means you just need one fiber wash to clean all of your projects! 

Choose between our Prairie Breeze or Woodland Mist scents for a spa-like experience, or opt for our Fragrance Free version, which we recommend for those with scent sensitivities, then follow these easy steps:

1. Gather your supplies. In addition to Allure, you'll need a few fluffy towels and a small basin (you could also opt to use a sink or bathtub, or place several handmade items into a top-loading washing machine if you are able to bypass the agitation cycle and use only the spin cycle). Other items that are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary: blocking mats and T-pins or wires.

2. Test for color fastness. If you are washing several projects, make sure that you have tested for color fastness. Dark colors and jewel tones are especially prone to running, although it can happen to any dyed fiber - better to be safe than sorry! Click here for tips on checking for color fastness.

3. Fill your basin with tepid water, and add 1-2 capfuls of Allure per gallon.

4. Add your items and submerge totally. Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes.

5. Remove and gently squeeze water out - do not twist or wring. Lay item flat on a dry towel, then roll the towel up to remove excess water.

6. Lay flat to dry. You may wish to use blocking wires or T-pins to secure the shape of your garment; T-pins can assist in securing features such as scallops, lace loops, or picot edges, while wires can make maintaining a straight edge quick and easy. When pinning out a project, start by outlining the main shape before you pin any of the details (such as scallops or picots).

7. Remember to Rotate. If you are blocking a project that has a three-dimensional shape (for instance, a hat or cowl), remember to "rotate" the hat so that it doesn't dry with two pronounced creases on either side! Essentially, this means that you will rearrange the hat so that the creases created when lying flat are not in the same place each time. How often you do this will depend on how quickly your piece dries, but a good rule of thumb is to repeat this process at least 2-3 times in the first 24-48 hours.

8. Wear and enjoy! 

We hope you found this tutorial helpful - if you liked this post, pin it!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Substituting Yarn: The Wonder Woman Wrap in Shangri-La Yarn

The popularity of the Wonder Woman movie inspired one of this summer's most ubiquitous patterns: the Wonder Woman Wrap by Carrissa Browning, available for free on Ravelry. To create the Wonder Woman logo in shawl form, this clever design uses short row shaping rather than intarsia. We recently commissioned a sample for our booth, and it will make its debut this September 8-10 at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival.

The Wonder Woman Wrap, knit with our Shangri-La lace weight yarn.

The pattern is written for fingering weight yarn, but our Shangri-La yak & silk lace weight was just too perfect for this project: strength and beauty, just like Diana herself! 

When substituting any yarn into a pattern, it's important to make a gauge swatch first - in the case of this project, you will want to try a couple of different needle sizes to determine your overall gauge, and also to see which sort of fabric you produce with those sizes. Don't forget to wash your swatch in Allure, allowing it to dry before you measure your gauge.



The pattern is written for US 4 needles, so our sample knitter started there, getting 26 stitches in 4" of garter stitch, or 6.5 SPI (Stitches Per Inch, calculated by dividing the total number of stitches in your 4" swatch by 4 - this will come in handy later!).

The next gauge swatch was knit on US 3 needles, where our sample knitter got 23 stitches in 4" of garter stitch, or 5.75 SPI.

Here's where a bit of personal preference and just a little bit of math come into play: first, decide which swatch you like best. Do you prefer a closer knit fabric? Using larger needles with a lace weight yarn produces an airier fabric, so that needs to be taken into account when choosing your needle size for this project.


You may also calculate the finished wingspan of the shawl using the stitches per inch (SPI) from your gauge swatches to decide on what needle size to use. The pattern is written for two sizes using fingering weight yarn on US 4 needles, producing a finished wingspan of 60 inches for the smaller size and 86 inches for the larger size.

Here's how to calculate your finished shawl size based on your gauge swatch: take the final number of stitches for the top border before bind off (256 for the smaller size and 376 stitches for the larger size) and divide that by your SPI. Here are the finished sizes for both of our sample gauge swatches:

Small - 256 stsLarge - 376 sts
US 4 (6.5 SPI)39.3857.85
US 3 (5.75 SPI)44.5265.22

Based on the above chart, our sample knitter chose to use US 3 needles to make our sample shawl, and the resulting piece ended up being a little larger than projected based on the gauge swatch - after a good wet blocking in Allure, this shawl measured 76" inches wide!

Why the huge difference between the projected wingspan of 65.22 inches and the actual measurement of 76'? Quite simply, a smaller swatch won't behave the same way as your larger finished piece in the blocking process - there is a lot more weight to your shawl than the simple 4" square you knit for the swatch. Additionally, this shawl could be re-blocked to increase the height, which would bring the finished wingspan closer to what was projected. The blocking process allows for quite a bit of reshaping (hence, many patterns include "block to measurements" in their instructions).

But, as Stephanie Purl-McPhee says, swatching is still important to your process because it gives you a hint about what might happen in your knitting. In this case, it will help you make an educated guess on what needle size to use for your chosen yarn!

No yarn chicken here!

You needn't worry about running out of yarn if you were able to achieve a similar gauge to the above, because our sample used only 1 skein of each color (and our sample knitter had plenty left over, as you can see above!). Knitters desiring a denser fabric can try working with two strands of yarn held double; this will only require two skeins of Shangri-La per color.

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Shangri-La Wonder Woman Shawl
Finished Size: 76" wingspan, 13" height
Needles: US 3 Fixed Circular
Yarn: Shangri-La 50% Tibetan Yak/50% Mulberry Silk, 400 yards in 2 oz. -1 skein Ruby and 1 skein Gold (sample knitter had .8oz Ruby and .7oz Gold remaining).
Pattern: Knit Wonder Woman Wrap by Carissa Browning




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Yes, You Can Weave With Yak! 3 Tips for Weaving with Luxury Yarns

Working with yak and other luxury yarns is a must for any handweaver's bucket list, but some weavers might be nervous about working with these precious fibers. The weaving process involves a considerable amount of tension and friction, and if your yarn isn't up to those challenges, your beautiful project can quickly become a disaster.

Here are 3 tips to help you weave with confidence using your favorite yak and other luxury yarns!

Tension Matters

Especially for luxury fibers, minimizing friction is the name of the game when planning your weaving project. A rigid heddle loom has only one point of friction since the heddle is also the reed, whereas a harness loom has separate heddles and a reed, which creates two points of friction. Additionally, a rigid heddle isn't tensioned as high, so fibers that would normally snap on a harness loom stand a better chance.

Fiber Considerations

Short-stapled luxury fibers such as yak or cashmere are wonderful to use as weft yarns, but for a warp yarn, you'll want to have another strong fiber such as silk, nylon, or bamboo blended in. Our two sample scarves which will be on display this weekend at the Intermountain Weavers Conference were woven with two of our yarns which fit this bill perfectly:

2/2 Houndstooth in Mice and Men and Charcoal, woven by Jonathan at MJ Yarns

Plain Weave in Joseph, woven by Handmade by Stefanie

Thoughts on Yardage

For any weaving project, there will be loom waste (the yarn that is unweavable at the beginning and end of a project). It's unavoidable! While the amount of unweavable yarn depends on the type and model of loom you have as well as your method for tying on the warp, a rigid heddle typically has lest waste than a harness loom. If you're looking to maximize all of that precious yarn, a rigid heddle is an excellent choice!

If you are wondering how much yarn you'll need to complete a specific project, there are some excellent tips from the Handweavers Guild of America to help you calculate the amount of yarn you'll need, found here. We also have some tips for beginning weavers found here in our blog archive!


We're pretty excited to attend our first-ever Intermountain Weavers Conference this weekend (July 27-30) in Durango, CO! We are going to bring the yarns best suited for weaving: Tibetan Dream, Lhasa Wilderness, & Shangri-La (you're going to LOVE this 50/50 blend of yak and silk!); we'll have skeins in every color in these blends along with select colors (and possibly some other exciting blends) on cones. See you there!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Win a new Baby Got Yak pin!

If you like yak yarn and you cannot lie, our newest enamel pin is just for you! Baby Got Yak is the second pin in our ongoing series of custom-made, exclusive pins. Pin it to your lapel, backpack or project bag to declare your love for all things yak to the world!


We're also giving away a Baby Got Yak enamel pin to 5 lucky newsletter subscribers - click here to enter! (Hint: If you already get our emails, you are automatically entered in our drawing BUT you can also enter your subscribed email to unlock bonus entries if you wish!)

Click here to enter our Baby Got Yak pin giveaway.
We will randomly select our winners to announce in our newsletter and social media channels on Monday, July 31. Good luck!


Be sure to share photos of your BBR Baby Got Yak pin with us on social media using the #BijouBasinRanch hashtag in your post!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Knitspiration: Light & Lovely Warm-Weather Projects

Lightweight, breathable yarns are the key to knitting through the summer months, and our yak/bamboo blend Lhasa Wilderness is a customer favorite when the temperature rises.

What makes this yarn such a great choice for warm weather? The addition of bamboo not only adds strength to the yarn, but breathability, too, thanks to microscopic holes in the cell structure of bamboo fibers which provide rapid absorption and evaporation of moisture.

Bamboo is also naturally antibacterial, a property that is sustained even after washing (in The Knitter's Book Of Yarn by Clara Parkes, bamboo fiber is said to retain its antibacterial properties through 50 washes of a garment).

When we were developing our summer palette for the Master Color Series, it seemed only natural to use Lhasa Wilderness as the base. Series 3 - Summer's Here features 6 bright & refreshing colors for summer, and we've created two must-make project kits for sophisticated sleeveless tops to keep you cool all season long:


Our newest kit is the Summers Here Striped Tank, a figure-flattering sleeveless top that's knit seamlessly in the round from the bottom up. Our sample is shown in Raspberry, Pineapple and Lime - click here to get your discounted kit!


The BBR Chevron Tank is knit in the round from the bottom up, shown here in Pineapple, Orange and Strawberry - discounted kits are available here!

Rainy days and air conditioning sometimes call for a knitted cowl to ward off unexpected summer chills. Here are a two lovely new designs from Andi Javori which use 1-2 skeins of Lhasa Wilderness yarn:


The Alora Cowl pairs a semi-solid (shown here in Blueberry) with a variegated color way (shown here in Joseph) to create a pretty oversized accessory. 


The Eton Cowl (shown here in Soft Pink) features textured stitches accented with glass beads; if you've been wanting to try knitting with beads, this is a great beginner project! 

We'd love to see what's on your needles this summer, be sure to share with us here in our Ravelry group or on Instagram using #bijoubasinranch in your post. Happy knitting!

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

6 Tips for Making an Adorable Knitted Teddy Bear

July 10 is Teddy Bear Picnic Day, and what better way to celebrate than with an adorable toy bear? For our newest project kit, we've chosen our super-soft yak and merino blend yarn to create a snuggly friend using a quick & easy knit pattern by Frankie Brown.

Each kit includes a pattern, 1 skein of Himalayan Trail yarn in Natural Brown, poly-fil stuffing, and a small amount of black yarn to embroider the features - click here to get yours!

At the request of the designer, Bijou Basin Ranch will be making a donation to her favorite charity, the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, for the use of her pattern.

Here are some tips to make knitting and assembling your bear even easier:

1. Knit arms and legs in the round on double pointed needles (DPNs). Although the pattern is written for each piece to be knit flat and then seamed, you can save some time by casting on the called-for number of stitches for the arms and legs and working stockinette stitch in the round as indicated. The decrease instructions will still work perfectly fine, provided you remember to knit instead of purling in between decrease rounds. When you cut the yarn, you can thread through the remaining stitches and fasten off - no seaming required!

Note: Body and ears should still be worked flat as stated in the pattern.

2. Leave long yarn tails at the start and finish of each piece as you knit. These can be used to seam and attach pieces as you assemble the bear, which means that you'll have fewer ends to deal with in come finishing time.


3. Wash each piece before assembly. This will allow the yarn to fluff up a bit and fix any funky stitches or lumps and bumps that may have happened while knitting. We recommend hand washing with Allure and gently laying each piece on a dry towel and rolling it up to gently remove excess water.

4. Master Invisible Seaming. The pattern includes instructions and photos to help you seam your bear, but you can also check out this YouTube tutorial to demonstrate the technique. Below, we've used a contrasting color of yarn to show how the back of our sample bear was seamed by picking up the "ladders" of each edge stitch to create an invisible seam.


Pick up each "ladder and pull yarn through...
Zig zag back and forth...
Pull seaming yarn gently & voila! You have an invisible seam!
5. Experiment with placement. Attaching the ears, arms and legs will take a little bit of patience to make sure they are exactly where you want them. Try working in pairs and attaching them only partially to make sure that you like the placement before seaming the rest of the way and hiding your ends.
These ears are partially attached and
can be easily repositioned if desired.
6. Weaving in ends vs. hiding ends. Unlike other projects, yarn ends can be "hidden" by using your darning needle to pull the end indie and then poking it back through the right side of the fabric, then pulling the end slightly taut (away from the toy) and trimming it closely to the fabric. When you let go, that last little bit of yarn will disappear into the toy and be secured by the fiberfill stuffing.

You'll have a beary special friend to spend your summer with in no time flat! Click here to get your BBR teddy bear project kit, and don't forget to share your finished bears with us here in our Ravelry group.

Bonus: Share your finished bear with us on Instagram using #bijoubasinranchbear in your post and we'll send you a coupon code for 20% off your next order!

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Friday, May 26, 2017

3 Tips for New Weavers

We've enlisted blogger and new weaver Stefaniegrr of Handmade by Stefanie to work on a special project to display in our booth at the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, CO this July 27-30, 2017. Today, she gives an overview on weaving for beginners and some of her tips for successfully completing this project.

Handweaving is having a moment, and it seems like many of my fellow yarn lovers are dipping their toes into this craft. Instagram is filled with beautiful handwoven projects, and there are also some great new books and magazines full of interesting projects to make, even on little looms. Weaving is fast and fun, but best of all, it eats up stash so you can make room for more yarn!

IMG_3022

Most of us probably think of those large, complicated-looking floor looms when the word "weaving" comes up. I admit, that's what first sprang to mind for me, too. However, there are many types of looms available for today's weaver: pin looms, rigid heddle looms, floor looms, jack looms, lap looms & tapestry looms, just to name a few. A pin loom or a rigid heddle loom are fairly affordable and easy to use, so they are great "starter" options for new weavers.

After using a pin loom here and there, I finally took the plunge and ordered a rigid heddle loom at the start of the year - learning how to weave was one of my New Year's resolutions for 2017, so I am very new to the craft. While I can't profess to be an expert just yet, I have picked up some tips worth sharing with my fellow newbie weavers.

1. Weave a sample! Similar to swatching when knitting or crocheting, this is an important step to ensure that your finished project is the correct dimensions. If you are working with a new yarn, this is a great way to get to know it in the context of a weaving project - in this case, the slippery nature of Lhasa Wilderness (a yak and bamboo blend) required a small adjustment when weaving, since it doesn't have as much "grab" as a wool yarn does.

Sample weaving also allowed me to practice making neat selvedges (edges), which can be challenging for new weavers (and even experienced ones!). When you look at my sample swatch, you can see the point where I finally got the hang of working with the Lhasa Wilderness yarn - suddenly, the selvedges look much nicer!

Eureka

2. Don't fear the math. Figuring out how much warp and weft yarn looks harder than it is, and it's easy to be intimidated by the math involved in starting a new project. Here's a quick walkthrough of how I calculated my yardage for this project:

Start by deciding what you want your finished length and width to be.

Finished Width of Project: 8 inches
Finished Project Length: 68 inches (not including fringe)

Once you set these targets, the rest is easy!

First, to determine the total width of your project on the loom - the finished piece will draw in (also known as shrinkage) once you begin weaving, so the width of your warp will be wider than your finished project width. You can either consult your swatch to figure out the percent of shrinkage, or use the standard 10% if you are ok with an element of surprise in your finished piece.

Total Width on Loom: 9 inches

Next, you'll need to account for both shrinkage and loom waste when calculating your warp length. For rigid heddle looms, it seems like adding 10% for shrinkage and 18" for loom waste is pretty standard, but this may differ depending on what type of loom you have or your own personal preference. I used these standard numbers to determine my warp length:

Warp Length: 93 inches, or 2.58 yards (click here for a free inches to yards conversion calculator)

The above number is for just one length of warp from end to end, so you'll need to do one last bit of math to figure out your total warp length. Grab a tape measure and count how many slots and holes are in 9" to determine your number of warp ends. In this case, that number was 90 (45 slots and 45 holes);.

You'll multiply the number of warp ends (90) by the length of your warp (2.58 yards) to get your total warp length.

Total Warp Length:  90 x 2.58 yards = 232 yards

Your weft will require approximately 2/3 as much as your warp, but I like to make sure I have a little extra yardage just in case. Either way, two skeins of Lhasa Wilderness yarn (shown here in Joseph) is more than enough to weave this scarf.

IMG_3663

3. Finishing Hacks That Save Time. I think for a lot of crafters, the finishing steps can be real bugaboos - ask any knitter and most will agree that they dislike weaving in the ends on a multicolor project! The complexity of your project will play a role in how much finishing you'll need to do, but there are a few basic steps that most weaving projects require such as securing the warp ends, weaving in weft ends and, of course, blocking!

The first step to finishing is to remove the header, which is the yarn you weave at the start and finish to separate the warp (at the start) and secure your woven fabric. Below, the dark purple yarn is the header yarn:

Removing the header is a lot of like carefully frogging a knitted or crocheted project - you just go slowly and unravel row by row to avoid unfortunate mishaps. I made sure to do this on a flat surface so I could also use gentle pressure from my left hand to secure the woven fabric while unraveling the last few rows of the header. 

Once the header is removed, it's time to tie your fringe. Here's where keeping notes comes in handy - if you know that you have 90 warp ends, you can easily determine how many ends to tie together to make equal fringe knots (in this case, you could use 5 ends per knot for a total of 18 knots). 


I recently invested in a rotary cutter for trimming my fringe, and wow - is it efficient! You'll need a metal edge to guide your rotary blade, along with a cutting mat  (in a pinch, I have used a cutting board from my kitchen and it's worked beautifully). Simply measure how long you want your fringe to be, place your metal edge parallel to the edge of your weaving, and roll your rotary cutter along to make perfect fringe! 

Finally, you can use a blunt-tip tapestry needle to weave in any ends of yarn (unless you've "hidden" them as you went along); I prefer to wash my finished piece before I trim the yarn ends down so that they can settle into the fabric and are less likely to pop back out. Hand washing in Allure Fiber Wash is a great way to care for your woven scarf, since it doesn't require rinsing, plus is smells great! 

Keep these tips handy by sharing on Pinterest - pin the graphic below!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thank Heaven It's Summer: Master Color Series 3

Sunny days and warm weather doesn't have to mean a vacation from knitting or crocheting. We've created a new palette of refreshing colors inspired by the colors of summer: think cool, fruity treats like sherbet, Italian ice, sorbet, or ice cream!

These scrumptious colors are our latest installment in the BBR Master Color Series, dyed exclusively for us by MJ Yarns. For this season's palette, we chose Lhasa Wilderness, our sport weight blend of yak and bamboo: shimmery, light, and oh-so-soft, it's the perfect choice for warm-weather projects.
The breathable bamboo fibers are also naturally anti-bacterial, and they're blended to perfection with our soft, hypo-allergenic yak fiber in this popular yarn base. With generous yardage (250 yards per skein!), you can easily make a lacy shawl or a textured stitch cowl with just 1 skein.
Beat the summer heat with our new project kit, the Chevron Tank. Shown here in Pineapple, Orange and Strawberry, this on-trend top will keep you cool while looking cool. There are so many possibilities for mixing and matching with this fun project - you could even pair our newest Master Color Series palette with some of our other hand-dyed colors if you dare.

Each kit includes a print copy of the pattern, your choice of yarn colors, a BBR project bag, samples of Allure Fiber Wash, and a custom-made stitch marker from Purrfectly Catchy Designs, and is available for a special discount.

Click here to purchase the Chevron Tank Kit.

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