Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's from Oregon!

After college, I moved out to Portland, Oregon with my boyfriend (also known as my now-husband, Tyler).  We lived there for three years, and while most of our time there was pretty difficult in the monetary/job sense, there were some really great things that imprinted on us - such as the importance of buying local.

At the best of times, Portland has a tight job market, and we moved there right as the economy started to tank (well, one of the many times, I suppose...but you get the idea).  We did somehow find jobs - not the greatest jobs, mind you, but jobs that paid money in exchange for us getting out of bed each day.  There were periods of unemployment for both of us and we were even on food stamps at one point....ironically, that was the best we'd ever eaten.  That's pretty much the Portland experience, I suppose.

But the emphasis on locally-produced foods, goods and services was an ethos that really grabbed us and stuck.  It hit the food world long before making waves in the world of yarn, but it's gaining steam and I can't help but wonder if it's driven by the harsh realities of our economy - much like when I lived in Portland.  Those living in the Pacific Northwest knew long before the rest of us that, in order to survive, they needed to be choosy with how they spent their hard-earned money, and that it was best to pump it back into the local economy.  We're finally catching up to them, I guess you could say. 

I've lived in Chicago for nearly 7 years now, but I still love to buy things that were made in Oregon.  Perhaps it's a bit of nostalgia, or maybe it's because my sister and her family are still there and this is my way of supporting them, albeit indirectly.  Or maybe it's just that there's some really interesting, unique things happening in that remote part of the country, and even though I don't live there any more, I still want to support it.

I should probably get to the point:  I'm a little obsessed with Imperial Stock Ranch.  I discovered their pencil roving a few years ago at Nina, and I'm finally getting around to spinning with it! I'm thinking the finished product will want to be a chunky cowl...time will tell.

I was fortunate to have spent some time chatting with Jeanne at the TNNA trade show in Columbus last summer, and not only are they environmentally-minded producers of sustainable yarn, they're nice people, too!  I can't wait to get my mitts on more pencil roving....and I'm definitely going to give The Wool Dispensary's Imperial Poison a try:  Imperial Stock Ranch yarn hand-dyed right here in Chicago!  Being a fan of Tanis Gray's recent book Knit Local, which profiles many homegrown producers of yarn (and of course, includes lots of fun new patterns, too), it's been fun exploring yarns that come from my home turf.  While I'll always love a good German sock yarn or an interesting import from England or New Zealand (or anywhere that makes yarn, really), it feels really good to support American-made yarns and fibers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

FO Friday

These socks have actually been done for a while - but I never got around to posting about them!  The yarn is some Trekking XXL I got in a yarn swap, and I used the stitch pattern from Judy Sumner's Kyoto legwarmer design from Knitted Socks East & West (if you're wondering how I adapted it for a fingering-weight yarn, I cast on 70 sts on US #1 needles, then used half of the stitches for the heel flap).  I think they turned out pretty well - the stitch pattern kept me interested in knitting them, but it's not too busy for the patterned yarn.

I made this hat in a couple of days, but still haven't found the time (!) to sew some cute buttons on the band.  I've determined that I need more hats in my winter arsenal, and when the Spring 2012 issue of Knitscene came out, I knew I'd have to make the adorably stripey East Falls Hat

I'm not typically one to knit the pattern in the specified yarn, much less the colors used in the model.  However, I've been dying to try Acadia from The Fibre Company for quite some time, and there just happened to be a sale at Nina over the weekend.   Since the stars aligned, I figured I should go for it and I picked up two skeins, casting on almost immediately as soon as I got home.  By the end of the next day, I had a (mostly) finished hat! I probably have enough left over to make an inverse version of this hat, too (I used Asparagus (MC) and Blue Heron (CC)).

I've seen some people complain about the slubby texture of this yarn on Ravelry, but for me, it's part of its charm.  The merino/alpaca/silk blend is super soft and perfect for striping.

Don't forget - if you click the links above to purchase Acadia online from Doodlebug Yarn, you can get $5 off your order by entering coupon code "HBSblog" - woo hoo!

Finally, I have finished my first crochet swatch.  All told, it's not too shabby - my favorite part is where you can tell everything clicks and I "get it" - i.e. there are no more unintentional decreases!  I used some leftover worsted-weight yarn I had on hand from Squoosh Fiber Arts (a day-glo orange color called Mr. Tangerine Man).  Next up: Double crochet! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

3 is the Number of Counting

I've decided that 3 is the ideal number of WIPs for me.  I'm not sure how I arrived at this conclusion, but at any rate, this is the number I will try to stick to in hopes of staving off unchecked startitis.
It seems like a long time since I've shared an actual knitting project - in progress or otherwise - so here's the lowdown on what's on the needles right now:

Project the First:
It's a secret!  This is a new design I've been thinking about (and quite possibly talking/blogging about, too) for quite some time.  I think I knit the prototype a year or two ago, and I am just not getting down to the business of deciphering my notes and putting them into something that resembles a knittable pattern.  This project is exciting for two reasons:  1) it's the first project I've cast on using my brand new Knitter's Pride needles!  2) I'm finally knitting with the two gorgeous skeins of Quince & Co. Chicadee Tyler got me for christmas (in *cough* 2010). 

Project the Second: 
Birthday hat!  I couldn't stand it any longer - the beautiful skein of Skein Tyler gifted me in November just has to be knitted up!  I've had my eye on the Pebbled Beanie from Weekend Hats, and it's knitting up beautifully.  Unfortunately, this isn't going to be a weekend hat for me.  I'm not sure who would be able to knit this pattern in just a few days' time, but I am not that person.  I'm bogged down by the tiny needles and the way they kick up my knitter's thumb; unfortunately, the pattern stitch is also a little slow (it's knit inside-out, which involves a lot of purling on top of a knitting-into-each-stitch-twice design feature), although I will say that it's easy to memorize.  All in all, this hat - whenever I finish it - will be gorgeous.  It's the perfect project for this colorway, and I know that I'll wear it all the time in all its cashmerino-y goodness. 

Project the Third:  
A sweater for me!  I blogged about this in December, and it's finally happening!  I cast on for the Abalone Cardigan using some Malabrigo Silky in Matisse Blue.  Man, it's a vibrant colorway!  Considering I mostly wear black, brown and gray in my day-to-day life (you know, when I actually get out of my pajamas), I find myself wondering if this is the right choice for a sweater for me.  I think it will be pretty, though, and I could probably stand to inject a little color into my wardrobe.  Perhaps it will be finished in time for the June TNNA show! The pattern is for a super-tiny-size, so I'll be doing some modifications that I'll try to post for future knitters to use as reference. 

It Doesn't Count if it's Not Knitting?
What you see pictured to the right is a rather pathetic first attempt at a gauge swatch; I am determined to re-learn crochet via Vicki Howell's Crochet Lab Craftsy Course.  Besides trying once more to master crochet so I can make adorable amigurumi toys, I'm also excited about trying out my brand-new ergonomic Knitter's Pride crochet hooks (sorry for the blatant product placement there, but I love trying anything labeled "ergonomic," apparently).  We'll see if it sticks this time!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Knitterly Perks

Those of you who regularly read this blog also know me in real life (is that a crazy assumption to make?), so you are aware that I work with various knitting- and yarn-related companies as part of my job (in addition to being a crazy yarn lady in my spare time).  In a nutshell, I help people create & implement their marketing strategy in the realm of social media - I work from home and I can safely say it's the best. job. ever.

I also have the best clients.  This isn't a news flash, but the knitting world is filled with (mostly) awesome people, and lucky me, I get to work with the awesomest of the awesomest.  

Sorry for gushing - I hope I didn't just send anyone into a nauseous tailspin - but it's been a while since I had the kind of job I loved doing every flipping day.  Which brings me to reason #547 why this job rocks:  yes, there are perks.  Besides all of the fun and freebies of the trade show, my clients have been showing me the love these past few months.  In most cases, I was already a fan long before getting to work with these fine people, but working more closely with them has solidified my brand loyalty for sure.  And let me tell you, this job is MUCH easier to do when you love the products and people you're promoting.

So yes, I get a paycheck every month because of my work purveyors of my drug of choice - but if I didn't think their products were top-notch and something I'd be using anyway, no matter what industry I was working in, they wouldn't be mentioned here.  I was raised with the adage "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Before I digress entirely, here are some of my recent prized gifts, in no particular order: 

Eucalan Goodies!
Fancy German sock yarn from Gayla at Doodlebug Yarn (these will become a pair of Wedge Socks in the very near future!):
VK Live! project bag & yak yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch:

Knitter's Pride needles & crochet hooks (Dreamz sock set, Cubics DPNs, and ergonomic crochet hooks!):
It's not a bad life, eh?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Lavishea Lotion Bars

Lavishea Lemongrass - my new fave!
I'm a bit of a germaphobe, and in my previous line of work (back when I was a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist), I washed my hands 2,000 times per day on top of my usual routine.  Needless to say, I'm always in need of a Few Good Hand Lotions.

One of my favorites is  product I came across at the TNNA Columbus show last year - Lavishea Lotion Bars.  I gave the Lavender a try at the booth and subsequently became obsessed with this product.  Upon arriving home in Chicago, I trotted down to my LYS and picked up my first Lavender bar - by far, my favorite scent.

First off, what I love about these bars is that the TSA won't take them away.  Now that I'm starting to do more traveling each year, this is huge!  I always hate having to give up my hand sanitizer and lotion when I fly.  While you can purchase hand sanitizer at any of the shops once you get in the gate, finding an adequate hand lotion is a taller order, so avoiding the issue entirely by packing my carry-on with one of these babies is the perfect solution!

Citrus Basil - might have to give
this a try next!
The ingredients are another point in their favor: fair trade shea butter & soy are the primary components - the bars just melt into your skin as you rub them on your hands (or anywhere else you need some TLC), giving you non-greasy moisture for hours!  They're also gluten free, for those of you with that sensitivity.  My top two fragrances (Lavender and Lemongrass) just happen to be formulated with essential oils, too - the remaining 7 aromas use "skin-safe fragrances," with an unscented bar rounding out the mix.

I had the pleasure of spending some time talking gushing to Nancy at the Lavishea booth about my love of her company's products, and received the greatest prize of all: a Lemongrass lotion bar to take home!  Lately, I am obsessed with citrus fragrances, especially those in the lemon family.  This bar is very strong at first, and has a spicy citrus aroma that actually dissipates fairly quickly once you put it on (so it's not overpowering).  According to the website, lemongrass "revitalizes the senses....[and] helps with focus and concentration."  Sign me up!  That's just what I need these days - I think Lemongrass will be the official scent of my home office.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Quick Shawl FO

I never thought I'd use the words "fast," "easy" or "laceweight" all in the same sentence, but believe me when I tell you that the Pear Drop shawl from Ysolda's new book Saturday Treat really is a fast & easy laceweight shawl!  I made the smaller version using a skein of Malabrigo Lace I had in my stash (colorway: Ibiza) - and had plenty leftover. I don't think I've ever knit a laceweight anything in under a month, but this project took just over 2 weeks to complete - a record for me, most definitely.

I enjoyed this project so much, it's almost made me reconsider my ban on purchasing laceweight yarn.  Almost!

Click here to view more photos in my Ravelry Notebook.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Start Every Day With Spinning

The proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Yet again, I found myself opening my box of spinning fiber and being amazed at what an incredible selection I had tucked away.  It's almost criminal to let it all remain unspun, but I never seem to find (or make) time to spin these days.  The thing about being self-employed when you're a workaholic is....you're a terrible boss.  I typically give myself one day off a week (which is when I get caught up on chores, write my personal blog posts, work on new designs....are you getting the picture?).  During the course of the work-week, I have a choice for my evening hours of free time: knit or spin?  The answer, invariably, is knit

Which is why my spinning wheel has been silent for months now, halfway through the project I was so excited about...last year

Over the weekend, I dusted off the wheel and made a decent amount of progress on the never-ending spinning project.  Now, I know this isn't a terribly novel idea - I'm certainly not the first to have this revelation - but the thought did occur to me that if I began every day with spinning, even if it's just five or ten minutes, I might actually finish more than one spinning project in a calendar year.  It's insanity, I know, but I'm willing to give it a try.  Hopefully I'll stick with it, too.  Because if you knew all of the things hiding out in my fiber bin, you'd come over to my house and chain me to that wheel for the next four months. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Namaste Mini Messenger

Image © Namaste
Ever since the Columbus Trade Show last year, I've been coveting the Namaste Mini Messenger bag.  A gift from my in-laws, this is my first Namaste bag (unless you count the magnetized notions case), and I am completely in love with it!  I have traveled so much in the last month, and I'm not sure what I would have done without this roomy bag.  Everything I need while on-the-go fits perfectly: knitting projects (yes, plural! Not many bags can fit multiple knitting projects comfortably), tablet, cell phone, keys, a magazine or book, my work files, my business card/CTA card holder, lots of pens, and of course various lip balms and other random stuff I feel compelled to lug around, despite rarely using during the course of a day. 

And though I feel the need to carry half of my house around, this bag remains lightweight and easy on my shoulders and back.  The strap is comfortable and doesn't cut into my shoulder, a complaint I have for several other bags I own.  It also fits easily under an airline seat, making it an ideal carry-on.  The only drawback I'm finding is that sometimes the hardware is difficult to get open, but I think that's something I'm going to have to get used to and might have more to do with me than it! Those that know me well can attest that I'm not always mechanically inclined.

One more thing that I love about this bag is that it's cruelty-free - though I'm not a vegan, I'd rather avoid leather products when I can.  I like the bright lime green color & the inner lining is nice and soft.  We'll see if it can survive me - already, I'm putting it through its paces and so far, so good!

Click here to purchase a Namaste Mini Messenger bag of your very own on Amazon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the Needles

Finishing so many projects not only feels good, but gives me permission to start new ones - perhaps the best part about knitting.  There's really nothing like starting a new project - even though I try to keep my startitis in check these days, I really love the feeling of casting on for something new that excites me.

Here's what's currently on the needles:

1.  Super secret sparkly cowl!  I can't show you the particulars, but I'm working on a new sparkly cowl design using The Wool Dispensary's Useful Irradiant. 
2. Socks!  I started these while in Phoenix, and over this past weekend I finished the first sock and started #2!  The pattern is based on Judy Sumner's Kyoto Socks from Knitted Socks East and West (I'm just using the chart, since the pattern is for a different weight of yarn).  I got this yarn (Trekking XXL) at the Sweatshop of Love Holiday Party/yarn swap last December!
3.  Laceweight Shawl! Wait a second....after that last lacy shawl debaucle, wasn't I swearing off such projects?  Yeah, that lasted long.  The thing is, I've been wanting to use these two pretty skeins of Malabrigo Laceweight in Ibiza that have been in my stash for a few years....and I couldn't resist the Pear Drop pattern from Ysolda's Saturday Treat.  This past weekend I finished the lace border and picked up for the body of the shawl.  It's at that tough-to-photograph stage, but it's going to be gorgeous!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Welcome back, Heliotrope!

Out of print for just over a month, the Heliotrope Stockings are back on the scene.  This pattern is updated with the most recent errata (though I've preserved the errata link for anyone who purchased earlier versions of this pattern from The Sanguine Gryphon).  I've also updated the yarn information to reflect the two new yarn companies created by the dissolution of The Sanguine Gryphon, and included instructions to make a regular rib cuff as well as the original ruffled cuff.  Enjoy!

Pattern:  Heliotrope Stockings
Suggested Yarns:

Friday, February 3, 2012

TNNA! (Part 3) - Oh, the swag!

No one can deny it - one of the great things about TNNA is getting free stuff.  We all love free stuff, right?  (And for the record, I never expect to get free stuff - but it certainly is nice!)  This is only my second show, but I managed to score some really fantastic finds that I look forward to sharing with you in greater detail soon.  For now, let's soak it all in...
Fiber samples!  This year we welcomed Spinners & Weavers to the organization.  Consequently, there were lots of gorgeous fibers to lust after.
Camel and silk roving....now I just have to finish what's currently on my wheel!
Samples from Unicorn Fibre Wash - I've heard great things about their Power Scour, and I'm excited to try it out!
Books!  So many books!  Seamless Crochet by Kristin Omdahl, Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits 2, and both of the new Ysolda books, Whimsical Little Knits 3 and Saturday Treat. Oh, squee!
Let's not forget the yarn (Robin's favorite)!  At left are new offerings from Berroco; on the right is the pretty skein of Merino Sock from Baah!  I was also thankful for the Namaste tote - how else would I have gotten everything home?!

ETA: This photo nearly escaped mention:
Magazines, Lorna Miser's new book Cable Ready, a Lemongrass Lavishea bar, and some Knitter's Pride Needles!