Saturday, December 31, 2011

Baltimore 'Stache Bash

Recently, I came across a Raveler who used my Mustachio Nosewarmer pattern to create a clever Mustache for the Baltimore 'Stache Bash, a mock beauty pageant celebrating the brave men who have spent a month growing mustaches and raising money for Baltimore City Schools!

KaceyJH oh-so-cleverly knit the mustache & used the i-cord ties to affix said mustache to her face, no nosewarmer needed!  Looks like some mustachey fun to me - be sure to check out more photos by photographer Margaret Hart by clicking here and here
Photos by Margaret Hart, used with permission. 

Oh yeah, before I forget....happy new year, everyone!  Here's hoping 2012 is a good year for all. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: Why You Need Another Sock Book

Consider this an addendum to my preview last month - now that I've had more time to absorb Clara Parkes' latest effort, I have much more to say on the subject!

I still maintain that no matter how many sock books you have on your shelf (I clock in at about 13), you need to buy The Knitter's Book of Socks, too.   First off - awesome patterns.  There are several socks I'll be making out of this book - and at this point of my sock-making life, I feel as though that's saying something.  As I mentioned before, I've picked up many of the new sock books, flipped through them, and determined I could live without them on my shelf (no, I'm not naming names!).  The patterns were fine, but nothing earth-shattering - I felt as though I could approximate them via the many other titles in my collection.  The layouts were, on the whole, well-done, but graphic design is not enough.  The Knitter's Book of Socks surpasses its contemporaries in one important area: the "informational section" at the front of the book.

You know what I'm talking about - it's that section that publishers always feel the need to include, and most 'experienced' knitters flip through.  Typically, it's a version of Knitting 101, which is probably better left to a Knitting 101 book, but that's just my own personal opinion.

Kensington Socks by Nancy Bush
Photo © Alexandra Grablewski
Definitely make a point to read the front of this book, because it will completely revolutionize the way you think about sock yarn and sock knitting!  As I read each section, I found myself nodding along or having a recollection of a pair of socks I'd previously knit, blissfully unaware of how such things as fiber content and stitch pattern would directly affect the end product - be it in terms of abrasion, moisture management, or just plain fit.  It's true, I simply relied on trial and error...and wondered why I had so much 'error'! 

This informed approach to choosing your yarn to suit the pattern and vice versa is akin to how you would decide to choose an appliance or car:  you wouldn't just choose the color you liked and leave the rest to chance, would you?  If you're going to invest your valuable time and money, wouldn't you prefer to get the best end-product possible?  With Parkes' thoughtful instruction, that's more than possible.  It's guaranteed!

P.S. I was also won over by Clara's appearance on the Yarn Thing Podcast!  Click here to listen to the archived episode.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas isn't over

At least, not for us.  We are heading down to Kansas City next week to celebrate with our families, since Tyler couldn't get time off over any of the three holidays this year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.  That's the way it goes in the hospitality industry. 

We had a nice, quiet Christmas yesterday - curiously, they gave him yesterday off (of course, we didn't find out about it til 2 days prior, but I'll take what I can get)!  We made pancakes in the morning, opened presents and stockings, and spent the rest of the day eating food, drinking beer, and watching DVDs.  Works for me! 

We also had a great Christmas Eve with our friends & landlords who invited us upstairs for a pizza party.  Tyler got off work in time to join us for board games and present-opening, and we managed to squeeze in the traditional Christmas Eve Ritter Family Stocking Shopping that evening! 

There are only two projects I can share with you so far - for Lauren, I knit a monster using my handspun (Harold the Houseplant Monster from Rebecca Danger's Big Book of Monsters):

For Tyler, I knit this awesome Pac-Man hat with leftover yarn from his sweater (free pattern available here):

I hope all of you had a great holiday, whatever you celebrate!  Here's hoping 2012 is kinder to us all. 


Friday, December 23, 2011

When Good Projects Go Bad

The Rule of Threes paid me a visit recently.  The mildest case involved a monster do-over caused by a simple miscalculation of yardage while using leftover skeins from my stash.  Not the end of the world, admittedly, but I did find myself frogging an entire monster body on Tuesday night - not how I'd hoped to spend the evening!

I also recently knit the Brier Toque (from Weekend Knits) with a gorgeous skein of Neighborhood Fiber Company Watershed Sock yarn that I bought at Article Pract several years ago on our west coast 'tour.'  The colorway is Glover Park, and I've been saving it for a special occasion.  The hat started out well enough, but after a while my bamboo needles (and fingers!) started to turn a deep forest green.  Uh oh.  Yet I pressed onward!

Once the hat was done, I tossed it in a nice bath of a bit of Eucalan and some cool water.  And the water turned green.  So I put it in another bath.  And another!  By the time the fourth bath rolled around, I was getting a little desperate, so I added a ton of vinegar.  Still green, but at least not as bad as before...
Third Rinse:  Not as bad....

...time to proceed to Step 2, the 'white glove test.'  Sadly, this project did not pass: observe the bright blue spots on what was once a very clean, white towel:


So, that happened.

My third failed project involves some beautiful yarn and a fantastic pattern...unfortunately, I royally screwed it up from the get-go.

I should preface this story by saying that I've never, in the eight-or-so years I've been knitting, made a mobius project - on purpose or otherwise.  I suppose I've been lucky that I've never accidentally twisted a cast-on when joining in the round, despite the countless socks, sweaters, etc. I've made that way. 

Guess I had some time to make up for, because I managed to twist the cast-on for my Botanical Cowl not once, but twiceTWICE!  Once, I could live with, but twice, not so much. 

So you'd think I'd rip it back and start again as soon as I noticed the problem, an inch or so into my work, right?  Nope.  I convinced myself it would be fun to do an accidental mobius.  I'd like to say I was blissfully unaware of how much I messed up, but perhaps it was denial - or laziness!  I kept thinking of all those cast-on stitches.  I didn't want to rip back and cast on 200+ stitches again, no way!

Ok, except for I worked to completion on this thing, and the end result is something I'm most likely going to rip out completely and knit again. 

That's just crazy.

But the yarn (Canopy Fingering in Sarsparilla from The Fibre Company) is gorgeous and soft and wonderful.  It doesn't want to live its life as a crappy twisty cowl, destined to become a cat bed in the bin of forlorn hand-knits.  It wants to keep me warm this winter and not be covered in cat fur.

So it's a lesson for the ages:  If you think something is wrong, don't ignore it - rip it out and start again (or at least work back to the place where you think you made a mistake)!  Continuing to work on a project in hopes that it will magically fix itself by the time you bind off is a waste of your time (not that you need me to tell you that - I only wished I'd told myself!). 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Magic of Malabrigo

Alcaucil Sock: Tough to Photograph!
Since successfully destashing a good 75% (possibly more!) of my Malabrigo collection for Stockpile in October, it seems as thought just as much has found its way back into my life.  Not that I'm complaining....there are far worse problems than having luscious skeins show up on your doorstep!

I was randomly selected to win this skein of sock in one of my favorite colors, #805 Alcaucil - apparently, I properly tagged and classified all of my Stockpile projects.  At last, my anal-retentiveness and ability to follow directions have been rewarded!

I've got big plans for this yarn - I think it wants to be the model for the Heliotrope Stockings when I re-release this pattern in January...which reminds me:  if you want to knit this pattern in the next couple of months, I recommend you purchase it from The Sanguine Gryphon this week.  They are in the process of winding down operations, and  come Dec. 24th (or thereabouts), this pattern will be out of print until I can reformat & re-knit a model in yarn that is actually available - my estimated release date is mid-January.  Consider this your warning!

My Secret Santa from the Sweatshop of Love holiday party gifted me these lovely skeins of Worsted in #98 Tuareg and #507 Pigeon, and I'm pretty certain I'll be using them to make Here and There, an adorably stripey cabled hat by Veera Välimäki.  It's a rare day when I decide to knit a pattern in the same colors as the model shown, but there's something about this color combo that really grabs me.   

Above: Malabrigo Worsted
Middle: Here and There Hat
Below: Malabrigo Silky
Finally, my pal Sam destashed three skeins of Silky in #415 Matisse Blue.  They're destined to become a cute little cardigan....eventually!  I still have miles to go with my holiday knitting and quite the post-holiday queue to contend with.  It never hurts to be prepared, though....and I just happened to find this adorable free pattern from Hedgehog Fibres that will fit the bill nicely....

Abalone Cardigan from Hedgehog Fibres

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fastest Toy in the Midwest

Mercourier has whipped up another adorable Button Bunny - this medium-size bunny only took a day from start to finish! If you're having any last-minute gifting emergencies, the fastest toy in the midwest is just what you need (and it's not too late to get 20% off your pattern purchase - just enter "GiftCute" at checkout!)

Pattern:  Button Bunnies
Yarn: The Wool Dispensary Greater Poison in Aerial Ballet (MC) and Georgia Building Castles (CC)

Hello there.

Friday, December 16, 2011

We have our winners!

First off, thanks to everyone who entered my contest and checked out my blog.  I enjoyed reading all of your comments and stoking my own startitis (meanwhile, I keep adding to my holiday gift knitting list - what is wrong with me?!?!).

Our two Bonfire Fingerless Gloves pattern winners are:

Carmen said...
I intend to finish a short-sleeved sweater I started for myself a couple of years ago. If I start in Jan, maybe I'll have it done by summer!
Julie H. Rose said...
I plan on making myself a make-it-up-as-I-go-along fine gauge shawl, BUT as I got a big gift certificate for my LYS recently, I'm thinking I just might make a fair isle sweater. Unfortunately, I keep thinking about the unfinished projects in a certain closet. . .maybe it's time to finish them? On the other hand, I could rip 'em all out. . .
And of course, the moment you've all been waiting for - our grand prize winner of 1 lovely skein of sock yarn from Kitchen Sink Dyeworks & a Bonfire Fingerless Gloves pattern is:
Gracey is not my name.... said...Well if I win, I'll be making those bonfire mitts...if not well I have some lovely skeins that I have just wound and I'm waiting for them to speak to me...

Congratulations to our three lucky winners - if you can email your shipping info to me at: honeybee21(at)juno(dot)com, I will get your prizes out to you as soon as I can! 

If you'd still like to get your mitts on these mitts, I'm offering 20% off ALL pattern purchases from my Ravelry shop throughout the month of December - just enter 'GiftCute' at checkout to save big on fun new patterns for the new year (click here to start shopping)!

Thanks again to everyone who visited my blog this week and entered my contest - I hope you'll come back to see what's new sometime soon! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goodbye, Hexipuff + A Contest!

Sock Yarn Mini-Skeins: Mysteries & Mayhem
Two blog posts in one day?! WHAT??  This news flash just couldn't wait til tomorrow: I've marked down the last 5 sets of miniskeins in my shop - each one is ten bucks a pop, get 'em while they're hot!  

Click here to start shoppin'!

I'm not sure if I'll be doing more miniskein sets in the new year - while it was fun and thoroughly addictive - almost addictive as hexipuffing is! -  I think 2012 is going to be incredibly busy in other aspects of my life, and I don't want to let my faithful hexipuffers down with spotty customer service.

At any rate:  once these sets are gone, they're GONE.  I'll be using the same shop address to destash extraneous craft supplies for the remainder of this year - yarn, buttons, beads, etc.  So please bookmark it and check back, or follow me on Twitter - the best way to get shop updates & tomfoolery. 

On a slightly unrelated note, I've been orchestrating so many contests and giveaways for my clients this month that I want in on the fun!  Leave a comment on this post telling me the first project you intend to make for yourself in the new year!  On Friday, I'll randomly select 3 people to win a hard copy of my Bonfire Fingerless Mitts 1 of the 3 selected will also receive a skein of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks Sock Yarn - this amazing hand-dyer recently closed up shop in pursuit of other knitterly arenas.  If you missed out on her huge sale last month, now is your chance to snap up a skein of lovely, lovely yarn, all for the price of a comment!
Kitchen Sink Dyeworks' Merino Fine Sock Yarn in 'Eric'

Gift Cute

Mr. Nubbins by Mercourier
I don't want to stress you out by saying how many sleeps we have til xmas or anything, but it's go time!  I'm all about fast gifts I can make in a day (or two), and in the spirit of panicked last-minute knitting projects, I'm offering 20% off ALL of my patterns - just enter "GiftCute" at checkout!

Then get ready to Gift Cute for real - because it's Mr. Nubbins to the rescue!  He and his counterpart, Lady Nubbins, are knit out of big 'ol bulky wool and fly off those US#13 needles.

Button Bunnies
I made all three Button Bunnies in a weekend's time, and you can make the whole trio or just knit one up for gifting purposes.  They're sure to delight no matter what! 

Alien Hand Puppets are an adorable quick gift for young nieces and nephews.  If you make some out of cotton or bamboo and embroider eyes instead of using safety eyes, they'll double as fun washcloths for bathtime!

Alien Hand Puppet
Then again, this might be the time of year when you throw up your hands, run out to buy a skein or two of yarn, and send someone the pattern with instructions to make it yourself!  It's not a bad impulse...unless they don't know how to knit.  Then you've just created more work for yourself! 

Whatever you decide, I've got you covered - click here to start shopping and don't forget to enter "GiftCute" for your discount!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Knit Local: Extended Review (Blogger's Remix)

I wrote a longer review for this book once I got to spend more time with it - for those of you who don't receive the Windy City Knitting Guild Newsletter, here is the full version: 

Dreaming of Spring Mittens by Elli Stubenrauch
Yarn: Mountain Meadow Wool Candy
Image © Sixth&Spring/Tanis Gray
Interlocking Rings Cowl by Danielle Romanetti
Yarn: Alpacas of Windswept Farm 100% Alpaca
Image © Copyright by Sixth&Spring/Tanis Gray

Knit Local by Tanis Gray

Tanis Gray's tome about American-based yarn purveyors is nothing short of remarkable.  There are lots of companies you know and love - Brown Sheep, Brooklyn Tweed, and Quince & Co., for example - and several that are new to the scene that may have escaped your notice til now.  The book's introduction sets the tone and has plenty of food for thought in its two pages.  The remainder of the book is comprised of profiles for each yarn company grouped by region and including patterns using that company's yarn.

Throughout the book, Gray tells the stories behind the yarn and explores what it means to be 'sustainable' - though this term clearly means different things to different people, time and time again the focus remains on the impact on the environment, animals and people involved in the finished product.  Consider this book a jumping-off point as you start to think about your crafting materials in a whole new light.  It's a fantastic way to get to acquainted with new yarns from your own backyard, which means there is an added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint (ie, not having to ship a large quantity of yarn halfway across the world) and supporting the local economy.  Besides that, you'll be treated to many new and exciting companies to seek out, and you'll find out some interesting tidbits along the way.  For example, I had no idea that Kraemer Yarns was a 100-year-old company run by a single family in Pennsylvania, nor was I aware that Stonehedge Fiber Mill developed their own line of yarn production equipment, which they sell to other companies as well as use themselves. 

Once you finish reading this book (and knit some of the lovely patterns, too!), you'll be itching to explore your yarn world - to get you started, Gray provides a list of additional companies to check out at the end of each section. I did find it curious that Lorna's Laces wasn't featured anywhere in the book, especially considering their neighbors Dream in Color and Misti Alpaca were both mentioned.  Then again, the point of this book is to offer a taste of the tantalizing yarns that have been hiding in plain sight all this time, encouraging the reader to explore, ask questions at their LYS, and be mindful when purchasing their next skein of yarn.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christkindlmarket + Renegade Craftiness

Yes, the panic is beginning to set matter how early you begin your holiday crafting (and I usually start mine in the summertime!), it simply can't be avoided.  It's crunch time, and besides having a ton of gift knitting to finish, one more pattern to put out (ha, ha!), holiday shopping to do, and of course, the work that pays the bills, I find myself coming up short in the "time" department.  Plus, there's just so many fun things to do this time of year - the Christkindlmarket, about 3,000 craft shows, and holiday parties!  I'm only going to one holiday party this year (when you telecommute, there's not such thing as a holiday staff party - unless it's via Skype!), but we are playing two shows that will be vaguely holiday-ish, in that we'll play a few of our Christmas Songs....though they don't really sound Christmassy.  But never mind any rate, so I'm filing them under "holiday party." 

Chicago peeps, hope to see you at Martyrs' next Wednesday, December 13!  Shalloboi are back to playing as a bring your ear protection.  And your knitting!

Speaking of the Christkindlmarket and craft fairs (a few of my favorite things), I attended both last weekend when my pal Julie came up to visit.  The Renegade Handmade holiday fair was PACKED.  Holy cow, I have never been in such a mass of humanity!  There were lots of great vendors, but it was pretty tough to score some table time with most of them, unfortunately.  I was able to make it past the crowds to buy soap from one of my faves, Briggs & Featherbelle.  Their soaps smell so delicious! I couldn't get anywhere close to Worker B, though.  Maybe next time! 

I also found a few interesting vedors I'd never seen before - I bought this squirrel ornament from owl+mouse.  Coincidentally enough, they're from my hometown, Kansas City!  I was also admiring the adorable handbags from Suspiro - if only I'd had a little more wiggle room in my holiday budget this year!  It was also great to see some old friends (Dan Grzeca, Jay Ryan via the Flinchy booth).

Mr. Nubbins wanted to tag along at the Christkindlmarket on Sunday....unfortunately, he's not used to the high alcohol content of the Glühwein. Apparently no one told him those boots aren't for walking!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Malabrigo Trunk Show @ Sister Arts

I've just received word from Donna at Sister Arts that the Malabrigo trunk show has landed!  

I'm so thrilled to be taking part in their upcoming knit night event this Thursday, December 8 from 7-10pm.  I'll be bringing lots of fun models (from Book 3 and otherwise) for you to check out.  The Stuffed Ostrich Toy, Kitchy Pleated Bag, and Quick Draw Socks will all be there in person along with the many other fantastic patterns by fellow contributors Stephen West, Julie Weisenberger, Kristen Rengren, Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark and Bree Miller. 

As an added bonus, you'll enjoy 15% off your total purchase of any in-stock yarn & copy of Book 3.   Click here for more details on the Sister Arts website. 

Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Love for Minneapolis

The theme of today is Minneapolis.  Why, you ask?
Button Bunnies!

Reason #1:  The Button Bunny Kits I made in conjunction with The Wool Dispensary will be at the Sweatshop of Love booth at this weekend's No Coast Craft Fair!

Reason #2:  Earlier this week, I was the guest blogger/resident indie rock nerd on the Vegan Craftastic blog!  Click here to check out this fantastic Minneapolitan's blog (is that the proper term for a person who resides in Minneapolis?).  She has invited various guest bloggers to share their top picks for holiday gifting this year.  If you're scratching your head wondering what to get that hard-to-buy person in your family, let one of the many gift guides on the Vegan Craftastic blog point you in the right direction!
Everything you need, just add stuffing!

I've only been to Minneapolis a handful of times, and it's a lovely city (though unfortunately, we've never had much luck playing shows there for whatever reason - but that's a different blog post for a different day!).  For those of you who get to attend this week's awesome-sounding craft fair, please be sure to tell Alysson (at the Sweatshop of Love booth) that she's super-rad for playing hostess to these mischief-makers!

Twin Cities Headband from
The Sweatshop of Love

In fact, if you happen to say "Alysson Rocks" as you purchase a button bunny kit from her, she'll take $5 off the purchase price!  Why?  Because she rocks, obviously!  This secret password only works for the Button Bunny Kits, but don't let that keep you from checking out her huge selection of super-cute patterns, kits and read-made knits while you're at her booth!

While I'm at it, how 'bout a nice coupon code for those of you who can't make it to No Coast?  Enter "NoCoast4Me" here for $2 off your purchase of a Button Bunny PDF pattern from now til midnight this Sunday, December 4.  ETA: I Just found out that The Wool Dispensary is offering 20% off online purchases of Greater Poison with code "bunniesgonewild"!
Cable Change Purses from
The Sweatshop of Love

And, just in case you missed it before, each kit contains enough yarn (MC & CC) to make 1 each of all three bunny sizes, 3 pair safety eyes, 3 fun buttons, hard copy of pattern with PDF download code (and you'll be able to add it to your Ravelry bookshelf & receive updates, too!). All you need to add is the stuffing!

P.S. The Button Bunnies were also recently mentioned on the Doodlebug Yarns blog - click here to check it out, there is also a contest to win some oh-so-amazing yarn from The Fibre Company!

P.P.S. They will soon be available for purchase online through the Wool Dispensary website!