Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stitches Midwest - report from the trenches!

I made it out to Schaumburg for Stitches this weekend with my buddies Lauren and Sam and my new friend Kim.  None of us could say we were in need of more yarn, but that's never stopped us before!  I was also excited to meet some of my clients in person for the first time.  I'm not sure if I mentioned this before (I try not to blog too much about work as a general rule), but I've been working with The Wool Wide Web as a yarn- & fiber-specific marketing consultant.  Obviously, being the crazy yarn lady that I am, there will be a little overlap here and there, but my plan is still to write about the things I like because I like them while I'm 'off the clock' and leave the blogging for dollars for another time/place/blogger.

Around this time last year, I was still working as an LMT in a local salon/spa, and therefore didn't have much flexibility when it came to attending weekend events - hence, I didn't get to go to Stitches last fall.  I'm not typically into crowds, but going to Stitches is fun in that overwhelming-dose-of-fiber-sort-of-way.  It might have been my imagination, but it did seem a little smaller this year - however, there was a really good collection of vendors at the Market.  Quality over quantity is always better in my book.

Charlemont in Dusk
Our first stop was the Webs booth, since we'd heard that they were discounting yarn even more so that they wouldn't have to deal with shipping boxes back East in the wake of Irene.  I picked up some pretty grey kettle-dyed sock yarn (Charlemont) -  not that I have time to use it any time soon, but I'm pretty excited to give this superwash merino/mulberry silk/polyamide yarn a whirl.  I also grabbed a new catalog to thumb through!

Bijou Basin Ranch
We wandered around aimlessly for a while.  I spent a lot of time ogling some Blue Moon Socks that Rock in The Fold's booth - the one pair of socks I've made with this yarn have really stood the test of time, so one day I'd like to pick up a few more skeins (however, that was not this day).  I spent some time chatting with the nice folks at the Bijou Basin Ranch booth (full disclosure: I work with them) and knitted with some cloud-like quiviut yarn at the yarn tasting table (also got to meet Marley Bird and Kristin Omdahl - super nice ladies!).  I squished way more yak yarn than anyone should be allowed to squish, too - will definitely make it a goal to invest in some of that  in the near future!  I had to take a photo of Kate Oates' adorable Diplodocus Sweater.  Is it wrong to want to make an adult version for myself?

Celtic sock in Bamboo (top)
and Aquarius (bottom)
I also talked shop with Liz from MacKintosh Yarns and ended up bringing home some lovely skeins of Celtic Sock - I'm not sure what they want to be quite yet, but you can probably expect some new sock patterns to start popping up as soon as I get my holiday gift knitting under control.  The fluorescent green skein is sitting on my kitchen table, beckoning me to give in to my startitis...I must remain strong in my resolve.

We also scored some free sock yarn from the Skacel booth just for signing up for their E-Newsletter.  As someone who likes to enter contests and get free stuff, that was right up my alley.  I've heard about the sock yarn with aloe and jojoba in it (Austermann Step) and had always been curious to give it a try, so that was too perfect an opportunity to pass up! 

Austermann Step
After collecting way more yarn that I was intending to add to my stash, I decided it was in my best interest to spend my remaining cash on a project bag.  A lot of mine are looking quite sad - the Pretty Cheep ones are barely surviving me and starting to look a bit like swiss cheese from needles poking through, for example!  There were lots of cool ones to choose from, and I ended up going back to the Erin Lane booth to get a large green and blue project bag.  Apparently these bags stay shut really well and are heavily lined so needles don't poke through - we'll see if it can endure my worst!  It does look like it's really well-made, and it's in my favorite colors, so I'm sure it'll be one of my favorite project bags (second only to my Pirate Monkey bag from Slipped Stitch Studios, most likely!)

Invincible Project Bag?
I wish  I had been able to take more photos at the show - unfortunately, I was quite discombobulated on Sunday morning due to an unfortunate tea incident (I spilled a cup of black tea all over my comic book collection - chaos ensued shortly thereafter) and I left my cell phone plugged into the charger - ah yes, that old trick!  Of course I remembered as soon as we got on the highway. Of course.  My cell phone is also my camera, so I ended up using a friend's iPhone for a little bit, mainly to take a few shots of the Bijou Basin Ranch booth (I wish I'd taken more - it looked fantastic!).  We did get a chance to pose with this crazy yarnmobile - apparently it was made by the same people who did the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile - so said the folks in the Flying Fingers booth!  I can only imagine what a sight it would be to see on the must get really terrible gas mileage, though (these are the things my brain comes up with, when left to its own devices).

All in all, it was a fun show to kick off the fall crafting season - I'm looking forward to Renegade Craft Fair in a few weeks and Yarn Con near the end of September!  I also just found out I get to join some friends tomorrow to head up to a county fair in Wisconsin!  Believe it or not, I've lived in Chicago for six years  now and I've never visited Wisconsin (only drove through it once, which I don't count).  I've also lived in the midwest for most of my life (excepting the 3 years we spend in Portland, OR) and never been to a state or county fair.  Needless to say, I'm pretty excited for tomorrow!

You can bet I'll remember my camera this time.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

What can you do with just one button?

I've got some really amazing buttons in my stash and often lamented to myself, if only they had a matching mate!  Here are my three favorite uses for forlorn yet fancy buttons:

1.  Find that perfect one-button project that needs something special to make it stand out.  I recently knit a cozy for my smartphone using some handspun I found in my stash (in the festivus colorway, no less!), and went scavenging through my button bins to find the perfect finishing button. 

Tea Leaves
2.  Have a show-stopping 'accent' button at the top of the sweater, and similarly-colored buttons that match each other for the rest of the buttonholes.  This is my new favorite trick, one I employed to great effect on my Tea Leaves Cardigan

3.  Let go of the notion that all your notions must all look alike and button your sweater with a hodgepodge of mismatched buttons!  I got this idea from a sweater model in Ysolda Teague's TNNA booth in Columbus - it was such a cute idea, I intend to try it out for myself sometime soon!

Shameless self-promotion:  If you'd like to try this at home (and I recommend that you do!) I've got all kinds of one-of-a-kind buttons in my etsy shop - all of my hand-picked grab bags feature an assortment of vintage buttons, and I make a point to ensure there are several sets of matching buttons mingling with their mismatched milieu. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Westknits KAL: Clue #4 (the end is near)

Early Monday morning, clue #4 arrived in my inbox, and of course I downloaded and printed it out as soon as I woke up!  I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this final clue so I could guesstimate whether or not I had enough yarn for a larger size.

On the plus side, if I only have enough yarn to make the smallest size, I can get to working on Clue #4 right away and, barring some unforseen circumstance (as they would say on Seinfeld), finish my project by the end of the month.  While I would really like to have a big 'ol scarfy-shawl to wrap up in this fall, I don't relish the fact that I would have to return to Clue #3 and do even MORE knitting before I can move on to the last clue.  It's a necessary evil, I suppose! 

It would also increase the probability that I would not finish this project in time (i.e. by the end of August).  I can accept that - I have no illusions that I'd win a prize in the midst of this KAL, though I certainly wouldn't protest if that were to happen.  But in light of all the knitting I need to get done from now til christmas, it's in my best interest to get this off the needles sooner rather than later....because it's just too distracting!

I haven't made much progress since Monday morning, sadly - I still have about 10 rows of knitting to go before I even get to Clue #4.  Here's hoping by the end of the weekend, I'll have something more exciting to report!

You can view a spoiler photo here! (I've reached the bunchy-and-tough-to-photograph stage of shawl knitting - that was bound to happen eventually, right?  I'll take that as a good sign!) 

Monday, August 22, 2011

When life gives you a giant box of's time to redecorate.

Perhaps it's a symptom of working from home, but lately I've been getting more and more into the notion of home decorating.  I'm sure most interior decorators would still cringe at my lack of a cohesive anything in my environs (eclectic would be a really nice way of saying that most of our furnishings were bought off of craigslist or swiped from an alley), but I'm beginning to take an interest in how everything is looking at the home base these days.

I recently inherited a treasure trove of vintage finds from my great-grandparents....glassware and linens aplenty!  Actually, there's so much, I'm selling some of it off in my etsy shop - it's kind of hard to let it all go, to be honest, but there's no way I can store all of it in our house.  I've had to be choosy in what I keep for myself, and the rest is up for grabs, bit by bit.

Table runners were apparently big for my great-grandparents.  There are some really amazing embroidered ones, though I must admit, my taste gravitates more towards the plainer ones.  They're perfect for covering our record storage cabinets and proving to be the perfect complement to the vintage teapots and other glassware I've collected over the years.  I wish I were more into flowery pink things, because this table runner really is exquisitely done!  I'm just not a pink-flower-lace-doily kind of lady...which is great news to anyone who is, I suppose!

I also recently acquired an armoire...and while it wasn't found in an alley, I did manage to snag it for free by the side of the road.  I was walking with my yarn guru, Lauren, and we spotted it on the way to the farmer's market one Sunday.  Long story short - she ended up convincing her family to help me transport it back to the apartment and move it into my yarn room!  Let me tell you, it took some doing...and needless to say, if we ever move out of this place, the apartment will come with a free armoire.

It's funny, because when I was a kid, I always wanted an armoire.  I have no idea why, actually, but now that I have one, I can understand the obsession.  Armoires are awesome!  During my recent spate of cleaning (which I have dubbed the 'Great Reorganization'), I decided to use said armoire for linen storage - what a great place to put all my massage sheets, extraneous pillow cases (the only bed linens to survive years of storage for my great-grandparents, apparently), blanket collection, extra pillows and other assorted linens.

My next project will be to set up a bona fide home office - I predict an ikea run in the not-so-distant future!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WestKnits KAL: Clue #3

I finished Clue #3....sort of.  I'm waiting for the next clue to come out before I commit to a size, so I've  currently worked to the smallest size of Clue #3.  The main concern, of course, is running out of yarn - I have plenty of the silver and multi colors, but I'm using leftovers for the navy.  I did happen to find ANOTHER leftover ball of navy in my stash - which gives me hope that I could at least make the medium size....but I would sure hate to run out and have to rip back.  

I'm really liking how my shawl is turning out - click here to see a spoiler photo!

Meanwhile, check out everyone else's KAL progress.  The WestKnits group is hoppin' - though I'm really scratching my head at the number of 'disagrees' pretty much every entry has received.  Really?  Is their color or yarn choice really that disagreeable?!  On the plus side, the 'loves' far outnumber the 'disagrees,' so I suppose I shouldn't worry.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WIP Wednesday - All About the Westknits

This mystery KAL has triggered a major case of startitis! I'm fighting the urge to start two more sock projects - I'd like to finish my Wool Dispensary sock design first (I just cast on for sock #2)....and besides that, it's really better if I limit myself to one sock project at a time.

Daybreak: Not at its most photogenic stage
I'm not sure if the following logic is actually logical, but instead of starting a monster or sock, I ended up starting a Daybreak Shawl.  I've been wanting to knit one for so long now, it just seemed like I should use the momentum of this KAL to check that off my knitting bucket list.  Does it help my case if I say I'm using sport-weight yarn?  No?  Well, I had to try.

I cast on last Thursday - much like the addictive Pogona Shawl, it's flying off the needles! I really love the Knit Picks Simply Cotton yarn - it comes in a beautiful palette of colors and is easy to knit with - not something you can say of most cotton yarns, which tend to be difficult to wrangle.

I don't want to ruin the surprise of the Earth & Sky Mystery KAL for you - but if you'd like to see my progress photos, click the links below to see what I've been up to.  I have to say, I had a hard time picturing where we were headed when I finished the first clue, but now that more progress has been made I'm loving how this is knitting up! 

Week #1
Week #2 - full view
Week # 2 - close-up

Besides loving the pattern (and finally making friends with intarsia), I am quite happy with my color choices and placement - total dumb luck that I got it right on the first try.  It was really fun to dig through my sock yarn bin to destash for this project.  I'd forgotten how much amazing sock yarn I have; I really need to start cracking the whip to knit through more of it.  I have a few more shawl patterns I'm really dying to make: Leethal's Betiko, Chadwick by Mr. West (I was intimidated by the colorwork on this one - won't be an issue now!) and a stripey version of Breean Miller's Scalloped Shawl from Malabrigo Book 3 are all at the top of my list!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Linens, Doilies, and the Big Button Booty

I've been updating my etsy shop again!  I recently scored a big box of vintage linens from my great grandparents.  I'm slowly going through it to see what I absolutely must hang on to, but there's so much! I can't possibly store it all, much less use it in this lifetime.  I'd rather these pieces found a loving home, so I'm listing them in my etsy shop under a new section called 'vintage finds.'

Above are some examples of what you might encounter in 'vintage finds' - and once they're gone, they're gone! 

I've also been culling my personal button stash to bring my fellow crafters some fun little grab bags.  These mostly-vintage buttons are looking for a good home, and unlike other grab bags, I've made sure that there are plenty of matching buttons to offset the oddballs and one-of-a-kinds. 

I've assembled these Big Button Booty Grab Bags by color family or attribute and bundled them into a cute plastic sandwich bag with a pirate ship on it.  Who doesn't love anything with a pirate ship on it?  I mean, really! 

Almost all of the grab bags are five bucks (a few are four!) and if you mention that you read about Found Buttons or the Big Button Booty Grab Bags on my blog when you check out, I'll throw in some fun extras.  It's just the way I roll.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Westknits Earth & Sky KAL - Day 1!

What?  August is here already?  I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle...minus the laziness and beard worthy of ZZ Top.  I have no idea where the summer went, but being a lover of all things woolen, I start preparing for fall right about now - which is what makes the first-ever Westknits KAL so perfectly timed! 

If you're a little late to the party, here are the details:

Stephen West, knitwear-designing powerhouse, has created another exciting shawl pattern and is releasing it in the form of weekly clues sent to everyone who has purchased the Ravelry download (it should also be noted that anyone who purchases the download during the month of August will get the pattern for $4, and once the KAL is over the pattern will be $6!).  Today the first clue was released and hundreds (thousands?) of Westknits fans are casting on.

Me?  I'm not much of a joiner - I've done a few non-mystery KALs with mixed results in terms of my actual participation/finishing within the constraints of the KAL rules.  The one mystery KAL I participated in a few years back, I ended up not finishing because I just wasn't into the pattern.  However, I think Mr. West is a pretty safe bet, and I'm willing to give this whole Mystery KAL thing another crack!

Bonus:  great way to destash - here I've selected three skeins from my sock yarn bin.  The silvery color is from The Cocoa Beach Yarn Company - it's not terribly soft yarn, but it is a superwash wool/nylon blend and I do like the silvery-grey color (it's apparently some special Harry Potter color - but I wouldn't know, being that I'm one of 20 people in the world who hasn't read the books or seen the movies).  The other two are from my days at Lorna's Laces - the multicolor is one of the color options I created for Jimmy Beans Wool many moons ago (they eventually went for a different version which became January 2008 Ice Storm) and I'm sure you recognize good 'ol 24ns Navy - that's nearly half a skein leftover from a previous project!

Can't wait to see how this turns out - rest assured, I will keep you posted!