Friday, November 8, 2019

Recently(ish) Off The Needles

Since my last post about WIPs/FOs back in September, I've finished a surprising amount of projects (at least, for me - I'm a really slow knitter!). I know it's not a Wednesday when I would usually share a blog post, but I just couldn't wait any longer to show off these finished projects!


Purl Thief Shawl by Kalurah Hudson
This is my freshest FO, and it's been a bit of a slow burner: I started this shawl on the Amtrak train down to Kansas City at the end of August, and it's been my "on the go" project ever since. Considering I don't leave the house a whole lot, that means I've bene working on it off and on ever since casting on, so finishing it is a huge win! The yarn is a gradient yarn cake from Zen Yarn Garden that I picked up at Stitches Midwest earlier this year, and I basically just knit the pattern repeats til I ran out of yarn! It's a really simple pattern, but I still managed to mess it up time and time again, necessitating a bit of frogging (for me, it seems like the simplest patterns are really the hardest sometimes). Overall, it was a soothing project and I'm happy with how it turned out.

Wraptitude Shawl by Megan Williams
Here's another slow-burning shawl knit with green yarn....I started this project at the beginning of June but didn't finish it til the middle of September for a variety of reasons - first and foremost, I lost at yarn chicken, and had to order another skein from Knit Circus before I could finish. Secondly, it quickly became a stay-at-home project, so it didn't get worked on as much as other projects I had on the needles. The "styling loop" intrigues me and I find that the easiest way to use it if slipping one arm through the loop to secure one end of the shawl, and then wrapping the other end around my shoulders as you can see in the photo above. I'm not sure that I would knit another shawl with this styling feature, but it's an interesting concept and I'm glad I gave it a try.


Scrappy Pillow for the Scrappy Pillow Make-Along
This was a fun way to use up leftover bits of sock yarn, including some of the minis that I also sell here on Etsy. Our couch is in danger of being overrun with handknit/crocheted/woven pillows, so this one may ultimately find a new home. There is also a crocheted version included in the same pattern that I'll have to make at some point!


Triangle Puff Hat by Cynthia Shavers in Miss Babs Yowza
Look, something that isn't green!! I test crocheted this hat and it was my first time using Yowza. The yarn is fabulous, and even stood up to repeated frogging. I loved how the colorway worked up, and the stitch pattern was easy to master & memorize. There is also a matching cowl for those who dare, and you can make the set with just 1 skein because Yowza (as the name would imply) has a  lot of yardage.


July Hat by Courtney Kelley
I needed a travel project and wanted to destash some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride that was lurking in my stash, and I love all of the free patterns that Kelbourne Woolens has been releasing as part of their ongoing Year of Hats series. I'm planning to donate this somewhere, either to an organization like Wool Aid or someplace that is collecting warm items for refugees coming to the US who aren't used to super-cold winters. Or, I might keep it for next year's #hatnothate campaign, since they just announced they'll be doing it again....


Thermal Hat by Me
This is the yarn (and faux fur rabbit pom) I bought from Yarn Social when I was in Kansas City for my grandfather's funeral. I couldn't find a pattern that spoke to me, so I just grabbed a stitch dictionary and chose something that I thought would work with the variegated yarn, a simple thermal stitch. I still have about a half a skein left, so I might find a darker contrast yarn to knit a two-color hat that might look better on my head - as much as I love how this turned out, I truly can't wear anything with yellow (especially of the highlighter variety) so close to my face. Oops!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pain Free Knitting with CBD

In our obsessive zeal to knit all the things, many of us knitters (or crocheters, or weavers!) may be forgoing self-care in favor of more crafting time. It's tempting, but when you get to the point that you absolutely cannot do the thing you love because it's so painful, it's the worst! Believe me, I know....I've been knitting for over 10 years, and there have been times when aches and pains have kept me away from my yarn and needles for days at a time.

Getting back to a place where you can knit pain-free is a process, and it requires more than just one quick fix. But the impact that CBD has made in my pain management routine has been huge - it's a real game changer. So today I want to share a little bit about how and why I use CBD, with the hope that this helps someone else going through similar issues.

First, a common sense warning: always know what you're taking and do your own research. If you have serious medical conditions or take RX meds, ask your doctor to make sure that CBD won't negatively interact with them. The only contraindication I've heard about with CBD is meds that have the "grapefruit warning" - but again, do your own recon. I'm not a doctor!

What is CBD?

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's start with the basics: CBD stands for cannabidial, which is a derived from cannabis but not psychoative. There are many forms including topical creams and ointments, oils, gummies, etc. It can pretty much be infused into anything - I had a really delicious CBD Kombucha at a coffee shop earlier this year!

If you live in a state with legalized marijuana, some CBD products may have a small amount of THC in them (so be sure to read the labels!). That tiny amount of THC acts as an activation switch for the CBD, and for most people, it won't have any psychoactive effects. If marijuana isn't legal in your state, then the CBD products you can buy will be THC-free. I've used both and I can attest that both are equally effective (and that tiny amount of THC has little to no psychoactive effect, unless you're reeeeaalllly sensitive).

CBD is fairly new, but you can find a lot of interesting articles about it on the internet. Here are a few that helped me during my research phase:


Why CBD?

For a brief couple of years, I was a licensed massage therapist (LMT), and that training has come in handy in creating my own treatment plan to manage pain. My favorite recommendations to clients were stretching, icing and/or contrast therapy, and a homeopathic anti-inflammatory remedy called Arnica. Arnica can be applied topically or taken orally, and I've done lots of experiments on myself to test its magical powers, including taking arnica pills prior to a long tattoo session to prevent pain and bruising (it totally worked for me!).

When I first started hearing about CBD, I was curious because it sounded very similar to Arnica, but with even more health benefits. It's used to manage pain, anxiety, depression, and a host of other health conditions. CBD was one of those things that I happened upon at just the right time - I was experiencing some fairly intense insomnia at the time. I took a chance and gave it a try - the resulting nights of good sleep were enough to convince me. From there, I figured I had nothing to lose in establishing a CBD routine that focused on pain management.

My CBD Routine


My preferred brand of non-THC CBD is cbdmd.com*...aka, the same CBD that Lil' Bub uses. Hey, if it's good enough for Bub, it's good enough for me! I use two products from CBD MD: a topical cream and CBD gummies.

Topical Cream
When you first start using a topical, it's important to use it consistently so that the CBD can build up in your system. I've heard that using at least once per day for the first 10 days is best; after that, you can switch to an as-needed basis. You can also apply CBD cream more than once a day, and at first, there were days I was using it 3x day. The Recover cream from CBD MD has lots of beneficial ingredients (like Arnica!) which complement the CBD.

Now that I've been using it for several months, I just apply it 1x per day (before I go to bed), and sometimes I feel so good all day long that I forget it entirely!

CBD Gummies
I've been taking an average of 1 gummy per day, although there have been times I've taken two (one in the morning and one at night) if I was particularly stressed. This is basically to decrease all inflammation in my body, and the bonus is that it's helped with my anxiety exponentially. I use the lowest does for now (10mg per gummy), with the idea that I can always bump up if I need to.

CBD and Pets

We've been giving Robin (our Kidney Cat) CBD for several months now because he's been having mobility issues in the last year. We give him the CBD pet oil twice a day and he has been able to move around a lot better because he's not in so much pain.

To be honest, he's not really a fan of liquid meds in general, and he resisted at first. But now that we've been doing it for a while, he's more or less going along with it....you know, as much as a cat ever does that!

Beyond CBD

As I said earlier, CBD is just one piece of the pain management puzzle - there is no magical one-and-done cure. During my own road to recovery, I've had to accept that I can't knit as fast as I used to, as much as I used to, or as long as I used to. And over the years I've picked up new hobbies like weaving, crochet and cross-stitch, which use my hands (and body) in different ways than knitting does. Think of other crafts like cross-training!

I've also embraced stretching and taking more breaks: no more hours-long knitting sessions where I am stitching every second without coming up for air. Interestingly enough, strength training and working out in general have made a huge impact in how my hand/wrist/arms feel while knitting, and I can only surmise that building strength and stamina in general has a trickle-down effect to my knitting.

Of course, what works for me might not work for you, but hopefully this gives you some ideas to try should you ever find yourself in a place where crafting is causing you pain.


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*CBDmd.com in no way sponsored or solicited this post, I just really love their products. Of course, if they want to sponsor me, I'm totally open to that! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

When you go yarn shopping, have you ever noticed that there are different shapes and sizes for the skeins of yarn on the shelf? Yarn for knitting or crocheting is most commonly sold in three different forms: balls, skeins, and hanks.
photo of a skein and a ball of yarn

As the name would imply, balls are a nice, round shape, and you can begin working with the yarn directly from them. Similarly, skeins also come ready to knit (or crochet); the yarn in a skein is more loosely wrapped than a ball, to create a more oblong shape.

Hanks of yarn are wound into a large circle and then twisted; these yarns need to be wound into a ball before use.
hanks of yarn for knitting or crochet
Left: mini skeins from October House Fiber Arts; Right: Katahdin from Miss Babs

There are three ways to wind hanks of yarn into cakes which can be used for knitting or crocheting, and I'll give you an overview of each one on today's post!

To get started, open the hank and remove any ties that might be securing the skein (these are often on hand-dyed yarns to prevent the skeins from becoming tangled messes during the dye process):

you will need to cut the ties off of hanked yarn



Winding Yarn by Hand



If you don’t have any equipment handy, don’t fear! You can use the back of a chair or have a friend hold the skein for you like so (I've even used my own two feet in a pinch!):

image of man holding a hank of yarn ready to be wound for knitting

I start by wrapping the yarn around my fingers:

yarn wrapped around fingers

Once I have a good base, I remove the yarn from my fingers and start wrapping the yarn around at different angles to create a round ball to work from. It ends up looking like this:

a ball of yarn wound by hand

Pros: Good way to get to know your yarn.
Cons: Takes a long time, can't make a center-pull ball (or at least, I haven't figured out how to!).


Winding Yarn with a Nostepinne



A Nostepinne is one of the original ways to wind a ball of yarn, and there are many interesting (not to mention affordable) nostepinnes you can buy - here, I'm using one from Knitter’s Pride. There's a little bit of learning curve with this tool, but it does produce a much nicer-looking yarn cake than winding yarn by hand. Plus, it's also portable - you can easily stash it in your knitting bag or suitcase so that you're ready for any yarn-winding emergency.

Again, you'll want to use a yarn swift or have a friend hold the skein while you wind the yarn. I like to keep things simple by holding one yarn end against the nostepinne, then wrapping the yarn around a few times to secure it like so:

winding yarn on a nostepinne

Then, I start winding the yarn from the bottom left corner to the top right corner (you can also do the reverse if it's easier for you) while slowly rotating the nostepinne AT THE SAME TIME. This allows the wraps of yarn to build up evenly to create that yarn cake shape we all know and love! I'm still getting the hang of it, but here's my finished cake:

ball of yarn on a nostepinne

Pros: Portable, good way to get to know your yarn, relatively inexpensive equipment investment, center-pull balls of yarn are possible.
Cons: Requires some practice, takes a long time.


Winding Yarn with a Swift & Ball Winder



My personal favorite way to wind yarn is using a swift and ball winder. While it does require a bit of an investment, the time you save is priceless in my opinion! Not only that, but you don't have to depend on the availability of a patient human to wind the yarn, plus you can also make picture-perfect cakes every time.

There are two keys to successful winding:
1. Making sure there's enough space between your swift at the ball winder.
2. Not winding too fast.

Here's a good video to walk you through the steps in greater detail:


A few years ago I upgraded from a plastic/metal yarn winder a swift (similar to what you see in the video above) to a swift and ball winder from Knitters' Pride. According to the website, the ball winder can hold up to 1 pound of yarn, which I admit - I was a bit skeptical about. But when I needed to wind the ginormous skein of Miss Babs Katahdin that I bought at Stitches midwest earlier this month, I decided to put it to the ultimate test.

yarn on a swift for winding

The skein isn't quite one pound (it's just over 14 oz.) - but it's a whopping 1402 yards of fingering weight yarn. That's no joke...I mean, check out this huge yarn cake:

cake of yarn on a ball winder

Pros: Fastest option, produces beautiful center-pull cakes, easy to learn.
Cons: Requires a sizable up-front investment in equipment, not as portable as other options.

Do you have a favorite way to wind your yarn hanks? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


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3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

When You Just Need Simple Knits....

Sorry for the radio silence, I ended up taking an unexpected 11-day trip back to Kansas City earlier this month and I just didn't feel like blogging. So I didn't. And to be completely honest, as this dumpster fire of a year rolls on, I find myself less and less motivated to maintain my blog and social media presence (such as it is) in favor of spending more time doing things IRL. I'm hoping to find something of a balance this fall since I do still enjoy writing and sharing the crafty things I'm learning and doing here, and I assume that someone somewhere likes to read about it. At least I hope so!

With that in mind, I thought a good first step would be to get back to blogging every Wednesday(ish), starting with a recap of what I've been working on lately.

The key word is simple knits. To wit: I just finished a Boxy Worsted pullover in Malabrigo Twist - miles and miles of stockinette stitch on pitch black yarn. Impossible to photograph, but something I predict I'll wear a lot this fall and winter.
Right before my trip, I decided to start a baby sweater to match a pair of socks I'd knit for a client tutorial about a year ago - I'd even printed out the pattern and kept the socks and unused yarn together for the occasion. I finished it while I was in Kansas City, and promptly wove in the ends and blocked it once I got back to Chicago. The pattern is the free Flax pattern by Tin Can Knits, and I used 2 skeins of Hikoo Kenzie in Bayberry that I'd bought at Windy Knitty right before they closed.
Another project I started before my trip and finished before I got back was this super simple cowl using the Gradient Quartet I got from Zen Yarn Garden at Stitches Midwest. I made up the pattern and am thinking of releasing it as a free pattern if you sign up for my newsletter- any interest? Y/N?
My only other recent finish is actually a crochet project, I used the cone of Hoooked Zpagetti t-shirt yarn I got at Creativation 2 years ago do whip up a bath mat in single crochet. Originally I was going to weave it as part of my #2019MakeNine, but I've pretty much abandoned all of my ambitions for that for a variety of reasons (most notably, lack of motivation....yet another theme, I suppose).
Currently, I have a very simple shawl on the needles - I'm using the Purl Thief pattern and a cake of gradient yarn from Zen Yarn Garden (also obtained at Stitches Midwest back in August).
I had to put my Making Connections Wrap in hibernation for a bit because I ran out of yarn (oops), and the skein I ordered didn't arrive before I had to head out of town. Now that I'm back, I've been knitting like mad to finally finish this project, because I'm really excited to give this whole "styling loop" concept a try.
I also started another hat project using a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in my stash, just because. The pattern is free from Kelbourne Woolens as part of their ongoing Year of Hats series (this is the July pattern).
Last but not least, I started a very-not-simple knit, which I hope I can finish in a reasonable amount of time because I want to live in this sweater once winter is here. The pattern is Sempervirens and I'm using the mondo skein of Miss Babs Katahdin (100% BFL wool in a fingering weight) that I got at Stitches. I'm not very far along - I've only knit the collar and then picked up to work the body and knit a few rows. Still trying to get the hang of the pattern in terms of which chart is worked between which markers, but I think that I'll (eventually) get in the rhythm of it and things will start moving along at a less glacial pace. At least, I hope so!
I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to this fall, and getting back into the swing of things in general. Don't forget, you can sign up to receive emails whenever I post a new blog entry - just  use the form on the top right sidebar!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Weaving Alchemy: Destash Pillow Project

Earlier in the year, I hit a bit of a slump with my weaving - things just weren't turning out the way I imagined, and I found that I was avoiding my loom as a result. This made me think about the things I like to weave, and why I took up weaving in the first place. Some of my favorite projects were simple, plainweave scarves that use up leftover bits of yarn. Light bulb!

After a complete dishtowel fail, I decided it was time to get back to destash weaving (someone on Instagram calls this weaving alchemy, which sounds way cooler). I used a skein of Berroco Vintage that was left over from one of Tyler's sweaters as a warp, and then collected several bits and bobs, mini skeins, samples, and handspun leftovers to create a long piece of fabric to sew into pillows. I tried not to overthink the color sequencing too much, but that's just kind of how I roll.

When I reached the end of the warp, I had quite a substantial piece of fabric (naturally I forgot to measure it - doh):

After giving it a nice wash, I broke out the sewing machine and sewed this pillow over the weekend:

Not that you can tell, but each time I cut into the yardage, I first used a zigzagstitch to secure the woven fabric so that it didn't fall apart before I had time to sew the pillow together:


I still have enough yardage left for at least 1-2 more pillows, I just need to buy a few more pillow forms and then find some time to break out the sewing machine once more. I see many more alchemy pillows in my future!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Finally Finished: Cheri Chevron Shawl + JUL Shawl Cuff

Although my Cheri Chevron shawl has been off the needles since mid-June, it's taken me all this time to finish weaving in the (many) ends and get some photos taken. Yes, I can be a procrastinator when it comes to finishing work!

I needed a refresher on weaving in ends on garter stitch, and found this fabulous video from Staci Perry of Very Pink Knits (she's basically my go-to any time I need  to brush up on a specific technique, because she has a video for everything). Staci makes it super easy - just look for the smiles and umbrellas and you can't go wrong!

You may recall that this is the shawl where I lost at Yarn Chicken....and then had an epic fail in my attempt to order more yarn to finish it. Oops, it happens. Anyway, I don't think it's obvious that I ended up finishing the shawl by using the variegated color the rest of the way - can YOU tell in the photos?!

View Pattern & Yarn Details here

When it comes to styling shawls, I am kind of a doofus. There's no other way to say it, I just can't seem to get the hang of styling shawls on myself. I don't think I'm the only one with this problem, I'm sure there are plenty of people who enjoy knitting/crochet shawls but then struggle with actually wearing the thing they made. I've tried all manner of shawl pins, and they do actually help, but if I don't happen to have a pin that looks good with the shawl I want to wear, then I'm back at square one.

Enter the shawl cuff - have you spotted this trend on Instagram? That's where I first became aware of this option for shawl styling, and when I was at Stitches Midwest earlier in the month, I bought one from JUL Designs to try out. My first attempt at using it looked a little funny:


But then I did a search of the #shawlcuff hashtag on Instagram and came up with a better way to use it with this project:

What I like about the shawl cuff that I bought from JUL is that it's very simple - just a good, thick strip of black leather with a snap - and it can also be worn as a bracelet or even a choker, so it's multi-use. Also, you can use it for a wider range of projects because you can wrap it around a smaller shawl multiple times, or use it on a larger shawl with more fabric by wrapping only once or twice.


I'll definitely keep working on my shawl styling skills, so if anyone has any tips or resources I should check out, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Stitches Midwest 2019

Last weekend, I made the journey out to Schaumburg to spend one day at Stitches Midwest. It's been five years since I last went, and it was interesting to note how much it had and hadn't changed in that time.

Most noticeable to me was the amount of signage stating their policy regarding a safe, inclusive environment for all, no doubt a response to the incident that happened earlier this year at Stitches West. I saw signs on display throughout the venue (not just on the show floor), and there were prominent mentions in the show book and website as well. I really wanted to go to the Diversity Panel with Creative Ceci, Louis Boria of Brooklyn Boy Knits, Michele Costa and Phyllis Bell Miller, but it was during the middle of the day on Friday and I had already committed to working on Saturday afternoon (more on why I can only do 1 day of Stitches in a bit). I'm really glad that they have taken steps to address these issues; I'm sure there is more to be done, but it's at least a step in the right direction.

Other notable changes included the addition of some sewing and quilting vendors, and my favorite part was the display of Prince-inspired quilt projects. They were fantastic! I probably took the most photos at this display than I did anywhere else that day, and I kinda wish I had taken more!






The quality of vendors was much better for this show; in 2014 there were a lot of eyebrow-raising booths (vibrating pillows (?!?!) and what seemed like 20 million aloe cream vendors, for example). This year, the emphasis was on hand-dyed yarns, but there were also some really cool accessories and jewelry.

The Forbidden Fiber Co. booth was awesome - Harry Potter nerds will recognize the flags in the background!

One thing that hasn't changed since 2014 is how sparsely attended it was, at least on the day I was there. You would think that a Saturday would be jam-packed with shoppers in the marketplace, but  that was definitely not the case. I spent four hours working in the Zen Yarn Garden booth and we only sold a handful of skeins and had less than 100 shoppers pass through in that time - not super great, in my opinion.


Wide, spacious aisles with precious few shoppers to fill them.

I can only think that the non-transit-friendly location plays a huge part in the attendance, or lack thereof. Sure, there's ample (free) parking for people with cars, and a big 'ol drop-off area for buses from nearby towns or groups, but considering how many crafters live in Chicago proper (and also the fact that most of us don't have cars), you'd think they would want to make it reasonably easy for this substantial demographic to get there. It's not a fun drive, even if you have a car. And if you don't have car access, you're probably not going to make it out there unless you're willing to chance the Metra (which didn't appear to be stopping at the station nearest to the convention center - which was 2 miles away, mind you) or put some of your yarn-buying money towards Uber/Lyft.

At any rate, I went, I squished yarn, and some even came home with me. Will I go again next year? Probably not. But I'm glad I did this year.

So without further ado, here's what I bought at the show:

My first purchase was the yarn and pattern to knit Sempervirens, a layering cardigan to add to my list of "selfish" sweaters to knit this year. It's probably going to jump the queue once I finish the sample I'm knitting on a deadline, and/or the boxy worsted that's been languishing on my needles.

The yarn is Katahdin from Miss Babs, a fingering weight 100% Blue-Faced Leicester yarn, which I'm really excited to try. In case you can't tell in the photo above, that skein is MONDO - big enough to knit an entire oversized sweater, in fact. Here it is with Tilly for scale:


Part of my show-going strategy is to do a walk-through survey of everything, where I make note of things that catch my eye and then go back to those booths later on to spend more time checking things out. One of the booths I was really smitten with was Forbidden Fiber Co., and I think I went back at least 4 or 5 times before I was able to decide on what yarn to buy. They had a lot of really gorgeous colors and bases, including a huge range of Harry Potter-inspired colorways. But in the end, I chose a skein of Babel, a fingering weight blend of Superwash Merino, Nylon and Yak, in the Gemstone Blue color from their Hidden Gemstone Collection. I have no idea what I'll make with it, but I'm sure that I'll figure it out (eventually)!

I also bought a shawl cuff from JUL Designs - this is one of those things I've been seeing everywhere on Instagram, and since I always struggle with styling shawls on myself, I wanted to give it a try. JUL's shawl cuffs are made by hand and can also be worn as a bracelet or choker.


The last bit of yarn to come home with me was from Zen Yarn Garden; I chose a Serenity Silk+ Gradient Yarn Cake and a Gradient Quartet mini skein set. I'm thinking of using them together in a project - perhaps even to knit a sweater, although I'm not 100% sure I have enough yardage. I may spend a little more time looking for project ideas for these yarns (suggestions welcome!).


And that's it! I resisted quite a bit of temptation as part of my ongoing effort to stop randomly buying yarn with no immediate plan for it (believe me, if I'd bought all of the yarn that caught my fancy, this blog post would be even longer!). It was nice to see some of my yarn friends at the show as well, and although it was a very long day (on not a lot of sleep, incidentally), I'm glad I made the effort to get out there....if any