Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fun

There aren't many FO's I can share with you these days, so I'd like to share something cool from my crafty friend Lauren, who recently used my Whale Chart for an unexpected endeavor...I would like to present to my dear readers the first-ever "put a whale on it" fuse bead ornament!

It probably won't surprise you to learn that I succumbed to a few Black Friday/Cyber Monday yarn sales. Even if you only read this blog occasionally, I'm sure you've figured out by now that I am incredibly weak-willed when it comes to all things yarn and fiber.

At any rate, my first order showed up earlier this week - another skein of Tundra in Scotia Sea (I want to make the Arctic Circle cowl to coordinate with my mittens!) and the last skein of Swan's Island Organic worsted in the limited-edition colorway, Sugar Maple. I can't wait to knit with it - the color is even prettier in person and it's very soft!

I was also thrilled to finally get my hot little hands on Rebecca Danger's new book, Knit a Monster Nursery. My preorder finally arrived yesterday afternoon, hooray! As though I didn't have enough problems with startitis...

If you were hoping to see some lovely FO's today, hop on over to the Tami's Amis blog. There are plenty of bloggers who will be able to deliver the goods!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Kickstarter Update and Decoy Knitting!

I  know it's not knitting-related, but I'd like to update everyone on my band's Kickstarter project which is coming down to the wire - as I write this, we have 51 hours to reach our funding goal (we're just $243 away).

You can get the details on my initial blog post or even on our Kickstarter project page, but the long and short of it is that we wanted to do a series of 7" vinyl singles with really cool hand-drawn art. Each single will feature cover art by a different artist (my husband Tyler, a few of our friends, and me) and, let's face it, vinyl is just awesome. We'll also be offering MP3 versions of the songs for our fans that don't own record players (or just want to listen to them on their iPod).

The songs are already recorded, mixed and mastered - we just need to raise the funds to press them to vinyl and release them! Click here to make your pledge if you need some new music to knit to, especially if you need to find that transcendental zone when you have miles and miles of stockinette ahead of you. Even $5 or $10 will get us that much closer to our goal, and you'll be a part of Shalloboi history!

Ok, thanks for letting me share my non-knitting WIP - now it's back to all things yarny!

I've made a lot of progress on the Openwork Dolman I posted about the last time I wrote about my band's Kickstarter progress, so it seems fitting to share the latest WIP photo with you today:

I'd say I'm about halfway done with the first piece; I just finished binding off the sleeves and I've settled into a very nice rhythm with the purse stitch pattern (and I'm actually enjoying knitting with laceweight yarn, if you can believe it). I doubt I'll have this done in time for me to wear for the holidays, though!

I also started a pair of mittens for myself over the holiday weekend - all part of my plan to have a few projects that I can still post about on my blog while super-sneaky holiday knitting and crocheting is happening behind the scenes. I bought the Svalbard pattern (Kelbourne Woolens had a half-off Thanksgiving pattern sale!) and used the two skeins of Tundra I ordered a few months ago from Doodlebug Yarn. Naturally, I couldn't find the correct size of DPN required, so I decided to go for the gusto and knit them two-at-a-time on magic loop. I'm not very far along, as the only time I get to work on them is when I'm feeding the cats, but I am really excited about them - Tundra is just heavenly. I have such a yarn crush on The Fibre Company! I've tried several of their yarns this year and have pretty much fallen in love with all of them. Also, it's the perfect project to use my grommet-y Yarn Pop tote that I bought at VK Live!

For more WIP fun, visit the Tami's Amis blog!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Craftsy Class Review! Crochet: Beyond Rectangles

I was excited to sign up for Crochet: Beyond Rectangles with Linda Permann so that I could build upon my crochet skills gleaned from Vicki Howell's Crochet Lab and Stacey Trock's Woodland Animals. Now that I've become comfortable with the basics, I'm ready to take things to the next level. Crochet: Beyond Rectangles uses an easy-to-make baby sweater to help students learn how to shape, sew, and read patterns and crochet charts. All of these skills apply to any garment, but the smaller scale of a baby sweater is the perfect way to move beyond scarves and other beginner-type projects without becoming overwhelmed.

This project-based class features 12 video lessons in all. I found the pattern reading section to be quite helpful, as it covered written instructions, abbreviations, stitch diagrams and how to use schematics. For those that are new to the world of yarn, the lesson on choosing yarn and gauge swatching will help you on your way - not only will Linda give you the scoop on the various yarn weights, she'll also show you each type of yarn up-close and personal. My ears certainly perked up once she began to talk about gauge, so if you feel compelled to skip the beginning part of the lesson which reviews the various types of yarn, be sure you don't miss out on the second half. I guarantee you'll learn something new!

The bonus crochet refresher clocks in at just under 40 minutes and covers everything you'll need to brush up on to successfully make this project: how to hold your yarn and hook, chaining, single and double crochet, half double crochet, and finally, working in the round.

Once you've made all of your preparations, it's time to get hooking. The next four lessons will walk students through each piece, covering essential topics such as starting a foundation chain, working evenly while stitching, increasing, decreasing and how to create a neat fabric edge by using a linked stitch as you work. She also demonstrates how to weave in the yarn ends as you join a new ball of yarn, which is a nifty time-saving trick!

In the three remaining lessons, Linda demonstrates how to block each piece to make seaming a breeze later on. Students will also learn her technique to weave in yarn ends invisibly, which is something I've been struggling with in my finished crochet projects. The sewing section was another lesson I paid particular attention to, as I always feel like my finishing skills are lacking. Linda makes everything look so easy, so I'm looking forward to finishing my project and applying what I've learned while viewing this lesson! The course ends with a lesson on edgings and buttons, followed immediately by a short bonus lesson showing how to use surface slipstitch to personalize your project.

Throughout each video lesson, Linda is knowledgeable and engaging, sharing interesting facts, sage advice, personal stories and other helpful tidbits. In addition to the comprehensive video lessons, you'll also have access to the course materials, which are basically the cliff's notes you'll need to jog your memory if you're working on your project while on-the-go. As always, the Craftsy platform provides students with 24/7 access to the video lessons, the ability to interact with the instructor and fellow students by posting questions along the way, and bookmarking information you want to access easily later on with video notes. This is my favorite way to learn at my own pace with one-on-one instruction that is comprehensive, well-edited and the next best thing to taking a class in person!

Ready to take your crochet skills to the next level? Click here to sign up for Crochet: Beyond Rectangles with Linda Permann!

You should also check out Linda's Blog, which is full of awesome crochet inspiration!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Holiday Time!

Christmas is my husband's favorite time of year. Though I've always enjoyed the holidays, too, I find that I look forward to the festivities even more now that I'm with someone who is so enthusiastic about the holiday season. In recent years, we've cultivated a few traditions as the nature of our holiday celebration has evolved: first, we started to have an actual* christmas tree ever since we moved into an apartment that's big enough to accommodate such a thing. We also like to get an advent calendar of some sort - the cheapie 99-cent calendars from Trader Joe's have fit the bill in years past, but this year, we have a really cool advent candle that I got on clearance last year. Finally, I knit all of us stockings last year since it was the first time we'd be spending the holiday proper in Chicago, and we upheld the Ritter tradition of shopping for stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve.

The most important tradition, however, is heading downtown for the Christkindlmarket. Usually we make a point to go at least once or twice between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but last year, we took to going every week...a tradition we intend to enforce this year as well! 

What's not to love? Hot spiced wine that you drink from a boot, tasty bavarian pretzels, and plenty of holiday cheer...

ETA: I should probably remind you that it's the last day of the Craftsy Holiday Sale! There are awesome yarn deals and all Craftsy classes are $19.99 or less...but only til midnight tonight!

*actually, we have to have an artificial tree, since I'm allergic to pine.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Darnathon Update + Craftsy Sale!

Today's FO Friday will be a little different, since I technically don't have any FO's to show off! I do, however, have a newly-restored Featherweight Cardigan. I knit this sweater all the way back in 2009 (it doesn't seem like it was that long ago!) and in the last year or so, noticed a few small holes in the sweater sleeves. I set it aside for repairs, and, know what happened!

Meanwhile, I plan on avoiding the insanity of Black Friday like the plague today. I'm sure I'm not the only on who rather be knitting! I'm more of a Cyber Monday person myself, as I prefer to do nearly all of my shopping (no matter what day it is) from the comfort of my own home while wearing pajamas.

Fellow pajama shoppers, you are in luck! From 11/23-11/26, Craftsy is running its Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale and all classes are being offered at $19.99 or less! I have to say, I'm a serial class-taker at Craftsy. Just this year alone, I have expanded my skill-set in so many ways by taking these well-done, informative my pajamas! Now is a great time to get a jump on your crafty new year's resolutions. Once you sign up, you have lifetime access, so even though you might be too busy to start a class right now, you'll be mighty glad you signed up for them come January. Besides knitting and crochet class offerings, there are plenty of interesting options in sewing, paper crafts, jewelry-making, food craft and more (view all Craftsy classes here).

My own personal kryptonite, of course, are the ever-changing Craftsy yarn deals - and now there are tons of other goodies such as books and kitsClick here to be tempted by their Thanksgiving Sale!
While I'm sharing enabling, I should probably mention that one of my favorite online yarn shops (who also happens to be a client, full disclosure!) is having a big 'ol sale through November 26! Doodlebug Yarn is my source for Malabrigo, The Fibre Company, Swan's Island and lots of cool indie dyers, too. Click here to explore, because everything is on sale (and there are some killer closeouts, too). I caved and bought another skein of Tundra and snapped up the last skein of the Swan's Island limited-edition colorway (Sugar Maple) in worsted weight. I realize that I have very little self-control when it comes to yarn...but there are worse things I could be spending my money on, right?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday & Happy Turkey Day!

I can only share a few of my WIPs today, as we're rolling into that time of year when secrecy is of the utmost importance. As far as projects I am at liberty to talk about goes....I haven't gotten much work done on my Shangri-La top, so I'm not sure it's worth a photo update. However, I have become addicted to making Grandma Trees for my holiday decor this year - they are so quick to crochet! I made five on my birthday and have been whipping up more whenever I have a few free moments. I am also making progress on the Fresh Stitches Archer Mystery CAL, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone who is just now joining the party - so click here to view my progress shots on Ravelry!

I have come across some fairly hilarious turkey-themed patterns of late - so I thought I'd do something a little different today and share some of my favorites:

Wishing my US friends a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow - here's hoping your holiday is relaxing, fun and safe!

Monday, November 19, 2012

DIY Trunk Show & Birthday Spoils

I guess I forgot to mention, but last Friday was my birthday. I wasn't really planning much, except to take the day off of work and hang out with my husband. It's not that I hate my birthday (though the last two have been pretty crappy - in 2011, I was super sick and in 2010, I was sick and had to learn how to sub-q my newly-diagnosed kidney cat at the vet. Very fun!), but I just don't get excited for each one the way I used to. I've been working a lot of extra hours this month, so I mainly just wanted to knit a bunch, drink a few beers, and get a mani/pedi.

On Friday morning, we honored a newly-minted birthday tradition by heading to Hot Doug's. Our strategy is to arrive at Hot Doug's shortly after they open so we don't have to wait in line too long (my fellow Chicagoans know what I'm talking about - by midday the line is around the building and the wait time can be 45 minutes to an hour. AND IT'S WORTH IT!). I'm sure you're wondering why a vegetarian would love a place whose slogan is "There are no two better words in the English language than 'encased meats, my friend," but I have to say, they make a mean veggie dog and delicious fries.

I spent the afternoon knitting on the pedicure chair, then headed home to open presents and hang out with Tyler. I got some awesome stuff - here's a few of the knitterly bits: yarn, a YarnPop! project bag (oops, not pictured - already in use!), and hand-knit Malabrigo Arroyo cowl, and several new books to have fun with - Deborah Newton's Finishing School, Carol Feller's Contemporary Irish Knits, and Tanis Gray's Capitol Knits! My husband also tracked down the three Holly Golightly records that I'd missed out on in recent years, so now I have music to listen to while I knit!
My birthday also continued into the weekend, as another tradition Tyler and I have is to buy tickets for a show that always falls fortuitously close to one of our birthdays or anniversary. On Saturday night, two bands I've really been digging (Radar Eyes and The Fresh and Onlys) were playing at my favorite Chicago venue, Lincoln Hall. It turned out to be a pretty good show, though there wasn't a very good turnout, which meant that they kept the balcony closed all night. Our strategy is usually to arrive early so we can snag some seats on the balcony, allowing us to enjoy the show from a comfy spot with a great view all night long. This is the first time that strategy backfired!

Earlier in the day on Saturday, I went to the DIY Trunk Show, which I didn't get to attend last year since I was under the weather. I'm glad I went - there was a nice selection of vendors and it was great to see my pal Sam selling her beautiful yarns from The Wool Dispensary. I found a super-cool stocking stuffer for Tyler that I'll have to share once the holidays are over, but other than that, I didn't make any purchases (I've gotten enough treats this month!). I did snag several business cards so I can shop online at a later date, however.

All in all, it was a pretty good birthday - certainly better than the last two, though that isn't saying much. I'm looking forward to the holiday season and seeing what 2013 has in store for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Woodland Animals: Bear and Baby-Safe Eyes

Today's FO Friday is a continuation of my first review for the Woodland Animals class on Craftsy, but it's also an FO Friday post! Two, two mints in one!

The next project from Stacey Trock's Woodland Animals class, the Amigurumi Teddy Bear uses the same techniques we learned in the first lessons, but includes a larger emphasis on seaming due to its many pieces. This lesson probably could have been shorter (its just under an hour), but it's worth watching all the way through as Stacey reviews the skills learned from making the bird. Stacey's running commentary also makes it worthwhile - it's sort of like sitting down to a stitch n' bitch session with her! However, if you are feeling confident in your crochet skills (or just pressed for time because you have a BEAR EMERGENCY), you can probably go it alone and make all of your pieces, skipping the first 30 or so minutes of this lesson and getting right to the good stuff: bear assembly.

Again, I've made countless knitted stuffed animals, but I still took away many good ideas from watching Stacey put together the bear. Besides the logistics of how to position limbs and features, she also demonstrates the many different ways you could arrange these elements to create a different style of bear. Since this is the first gift for my nephew who's due in the new year, I wanted to be sure it was 100% baby-proof, so I skipped ahead to the bonus lesson on crocheting your own baby-safe eyes. This handy lesson is also good if you find yourself with nary a safety eye at hand!

Finally, I love the way she encourages her students to think outside the box. Now that I've completed several lessons in this course, I feel as though I can make any amigurumi my heart desires - no more hesitation, I'll just grab my hook and go crazy!

You can sign up for this super-awesome workshop on Craftsy by clicking here. I hope you'll join me in the classroom!

As always, if you're looking for more FO Friday inspiration, jump over to the Tami's Amis blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Pattern: Lettuce Lattice Baby Blanket

I have five - FIVE! - babies to knit for in 2013, so I wanted a blanket that was pretty but not too difficult to make. I've been working extra-long hours at my day job, so by the time I settle down to knit for a few hours at night, most of my brainwaves are spent. Using knits and purls to create a textured lattice-like pattern, the Lettuce Lattice Baby Blanket was born. Sorry for the terrible pun - it's been a long week (and it's only Wednesday)!

At any rate, my new baby blanket pattern is perfect for swaddling newborns, makes a fantastic receiving blanket, and is sure to be a great companion blankie during the toddler years. Knit with superwash yarn, parents will appreciate this thoughtful and easy-care gift. The PDF pattern includes stitch chart and instructions on working with hand-dyed yarns. You'll also get a chance to master the crochet cast-on method (one of my favorites!) - click here to view a video tutorial on YouTube to see just how easy this technique is. 

You'll just 3 skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Lettuce to create this memorable baby gift - don't forget to enter "HBSBLOG" at checkout to save $5 off your yarn purchase at

Please note: Blanket is shown with the Mr. Nubbins toy pattern, available for purchase separately here.

Also, I have some exciting news (that is not at all related to baby knitting)! Tomorrow I'll be a guest blogger on one of my favorite knitting blogs, Threadpanda! Amy is kind enough to host me as I share my favorite last-minute projects to knit and crochet for this holiday season. So if you're starting to panic, help is on the way via the Threadpanda blog! You should also check out her regular posts - I'm a fan of her Friday Finds; she's responsible for many recent additions to my queue with this weekly feature.  

Looking for a little WIP Wednesday inspiration? Hop over to the Tami's Amis Blog for all the blogginess you can handle!

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Craftsy Class: Broomstick Lace

Here's a new Craftsy class that has piqued my curiousity: Beyond Basic Broomstick Lace with Jennifer Hansen. The broomstick lace technique uses a knitting needle and a crochet hook to create lacy, airy stitches, creating beautiful fabrics and edgings quickly. This makes it an easy-to-learn technique for knitters and crocheters alike, though knitters will benefit from knowing the basics of crochet to make a smooth transition.

You may recognize Jennifer from Stitch Diva Studios; in this new class, she covers the history of broomstick lace (also called 'jiffy lace'), which dates back to the 1800s. Beginning with the fundamentals, Jennifer allows students to get comfortable using the needle and crochet hook together before kicking it up a notch with more advanced instruction.

In this class, you'll begin with a broomstick lace eyeglasses case and graduate to a broomstick lace cardigan. Jennifer will show you how to work broomstick lace short rows and in the round, how to avoid and correct mistakes, how to add broomstick lace edgings to any fiber art project, and how to wash and block broomstick lace using both traditional and modern techniques.

You'll be creating gorgeous garments in no time flat with Jennifer's expert guidance!


Friday, November 9, 2012

FO Friday!

I have a few projects that I've been meaning to share, but just haven't gotten around to posting due to all the fun and excitement of VK Live. First, I finished my Gradient Serendipity Scarf in Himalayan Trail, a heavenly blend of merino and yak:

I also crocheted some slippers that actually fit me! Holy crapazoids! I used the skein of Manos Wool Clasica in Forest Floor that I snagged via Craftsy deals a while back and paired it with some Berocco Peruvia that was lurking in my stash (sale alert! Craftsy is having a pre-Black Friday sale this week which includes some amazing deals on Manos yarn!). The pattern is available for free here on Craftsy and is super easy to whip up quick. Tilly approves of these slippers immensely - she kept rubbing her face on them like a weirdo. This was the best photo I could get of both her and the slippers!

I finally finished re-knitting the toes on Tyler's Cure nerd socks. Now that they're washed and blocked, they're ready for yet another Chicago winter:

Last but not least, I'd like to veer off-topic and share some news about one of my best little buddies, Robin. Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of his diagnosis of Feline Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). He had his six-month checkup at the vet on election day and passed with flying colors - our vet is very pleased with his numbers. They are holding steady, having only crept up a tiny bit since his last checkup six months ago (the low end of what's considered 'high', if that makes any sense!). I'm so happy to know that his disease hasn't advanced to the next stage, and thankful that we'll still have more months and maybe even years to spend with our furry friend.
Robin circa 2010, sporting a shaved armband upon his release from kitty hospital where he had his kidneys flushed after his first crash and initial diagnosis.
Robin today: snuggling monsters! 
Tilly got some not-so-great news from the vet - Ms. Pudgy Cat needs to go on a diet! While she is healthy with properly-functioning organs, she has continued to gain weight, weighing nearly the same as Robin (who is much bigger than her). She's starting to get a little arthritis in her hips, so losing weight would really help manage that. It's time to start counting calories for our dear Ms. Tilly!
Does that mean I still get treats?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WIP Wednesday!

There's not very many WIPs I can share on this blog as we come down to the wire for holiday gift knitting. Perhaps that was the reasoning behind starting this mesh top for myself using the Shangri-La I scored at VK Live? That, and I have no self-control. How many times have I sworn off laceweight at this point in my knitting life? Too many to count, I'm sure. Yet I'm still optimistic that this laceweight top will succeed. Stranger things have happened, I guess!

Yarn: Shangri-La (50% yak, 50% silk)
Pattern: Filtes Shetland Openwork Dolman by Michelle Porter

And now for something a little different, though it is a project that is very near and dear to my heart! A few readers may already know that I'm in a band with my husband called shalloboi. Just last week, our Kickstarter project was approved, so I thought I'd share our musical work in progress on this blog, as it's something we've been working on for quite some time now. I know there are lots of knitters who also love music out there, so I hope you don't mind if I share this with you!

field of flowers vol. 1 by shalloboi
First and foremost, my husband Tyler and I are total vinyl nerds. My office is filled with our record collection, in fact. Though we've released seven albums as a band, only one is a full-length LP, mostly due to the costs associated with pressing vinyl as well as the length of our songs.

Long story short, this is a project to release a series of 7" singles on vinyl, something we never thought possible (see above: cost and song length!). In 2010, we recorded a series of songs that, much to our surprise, were short enough to fit on a 7" single. The tracks are already recorded, mixed and mastered - now we just need to come up with the money to put them out according to our artistic vision: four 7" vinyl singles, each with original handcrafted artwork.

I hope you'll take the time to click here to check out our Kickstarter project. You can also listen to some of our music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp if you're curious to hear what we sound like! Even if you can't contribute monetarily, sharing our project with your music-loving friends will help us towards our goal, and we'd be most appreciative of your help. You can like our brand-new Facebook fan page for project updates, too!

One final question before I sign off today - are there any yarn or fiber-related rewards that you'd like to see on our project page? If there's anything I can do to sweeten the deal (within reason), I'd love to hear your feedback!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fresh Stitches: Craftsy Class Review + Mystery CAL!

Craftsy Class Review

A while back, I signed up for Stacey Trock's Amigurumi: Woodland Animals class on Craftsy. After having so much fun crocheting Jack the Tiny Pumpkin last month, I decided it was finally time to get started on this class!

This past Saturday, I watched lessons 1-4; since each subsequent lesson focuses on a specific project to built crochet and amigurumi skills, I'll be posting mini-reviews of each one as I complete them.

After watching the intro, I was totally psyched to get going on my amigurumi adventure. Stacey is so enthusiastic and really makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. Each project is designed to help build the skills needed to create whatever amigurumi your heart desires. I'm so excited to fine-tune my crochet skills and learn nifty tips and tricks along the way.

While it probably would help to have a solid basic crochet foundation to work from (see: Crochet Lab with Vicki Howell), Stacey does give you a primer in lesson 2 if this is your first time wielding a hook. Once she covers the basics - chaining, single crochet, increasing and decreasing - she goes over the skills required to create the first and most basic project, the blue bird. The real gold is the amigurumi-specific techniques, especially when it comes to getting started. Stacey shows you both the 'sloppy slip knot' and the magic ring methods to get started without leaving a big ol' hole in your work; with the few amigurumis I've attempted up until this point, I just accepted that hole as a given and used my yarn tail to close it up....but trust me, it doesn't look as nice as using these techniques!

Also covered in the second lesson is the difference between crocheting through both loops of the chain (as 'normal' crocheting is done) and crocheting through the back loop of the chain (which is typically done in amigurumi to create a more substantial fabric). As if that weren't enough, she demonstrates a simple way to change colors cleanly, something I'd come across in my remedial crochet adventures but hadn't taken the time to master.

Birdie in progress!
Ok, now it's bird time! Lesson 3 (Making the Bird) clocks in at a whopping 45 minutes. This is one of the great things about the Craftsy platform: you can move at your own pace. If you are really, truly beginning, you'll want to watch every second of this lesson, because Stacey will take you through the pattern line by line. If you're starting to get your sea legs like I am, you can skip around a bit - for instance, I bypassed the short section explaining the different types of stitch markers and went straight to the part about finding the beginning of the round, which I found incredibly helpful.

By the time I'd finished the beak and wings, I'd totally mastered the sloppy slip knot, figuring out where the beginning of each round was, and increasing and decreasing like a champ. Both of my wings matched each other, too - no accidental increases or decreases. Score!

All done! 
Even though I have my own system for counting as I crochet, I did indulge a bit as she counted through each increase and decrease round, and I was glad I did, because she would often interperse these sections with mini lessons on how to look at your work and identify where your increases or decreases are or how find your place if you get interrupted or lose track of counting.

Finally, the finishing tips for attaching various pieces were also of help. I'm no stranger to making stuffed critters, but I always like to hear how other people approach assembling them because I often pick up a helpful tip along the way!

I started my birdie on Saturday afternoon and finished the weekend with an adorable feathery friend. Click here to sign up for Woodland Animals and start your own amigurumi adventure!

Fresh Stitches Mystery CAL

I decided to try my first-ever mystery CAL this month and signed up for the Fresh Stitches Archer Amigurumi Mystery CAL. The first clue comes out on November 15, but I'm all ready to go with my yarn and newfound amigurumi/crochet skills. I'm looking forward to seeing what it is!

Friday, November 2, 2012

VK Live Chicago!

Marketplace Entrance
I had a blast last weekend at VK Live! Chicago. I spent most of my time as a helper bee in the Bijou Basin Ranch Booth, though I also had plenty of time to chat with many of my other yarny friends. I loved the venue - the Palmer House Hilton is a really stunning location. The marketplace vendors were divided between two ballrooms on two different levels; I really liked the intimacy the smaller spaces provided. It was so much more manageable than walking into a giant convention center and being overwhelmed by row after row of vendors!

For a first-time event, I think it went pretty well. I heard rumblings of various issues that displeased both vendors and attendees, but I also heard just as many (if not more) positive remarks. Throughout the weekend, I saw Vogue staffers running around like crazy - they were getting things done!

Palmer House Hilton

There were some really gorgeous booths - for the most part, the marketplace floor had the feel of a boutique, which I'm assuming is what they were going for! Many of the local yarn shops were in attendance; Nina in particular had a well-decorated booth. Another one of my favorites was the Long Island Livestock Company - it was exquisite! I took a photo of the attention-getting alpaca chair they had on display and ended up buying some of their lanolin lip balm to try out. They did have some really lovely yarn and fiber that was tempting me, but once you see the stash of yarn that came home with me, you'll understood why I held back.

There were just a few vendors that seemed out of place, namely the Woolstock Yarn Shop. If you've ever been to Stitches, they're the booth that is always mobbed because they have crazy deals on bags on yarn; but it works a lot better on the convention-center scale for some reason. I don't mean to give them a hard time - after all, it's no secret that I'm a deal hound, so I'm not opposed to the bargain basement approach of the Woolstock folk in theory. For some reason, I do find their booth intimidating - elbowing people for cheap yarn is not my idea of a good time, plus you have to have a staff person dig through the bins for you, which also isn't my style.

At any rate, I thought it was really jarring to walk past so many thoughtfully-decorated and downright fancy booths and then see a bare-bones stall with bins of bagged yarn being devoured by the yarn-crazed masses. It certainly pulled me out of my pretty-yarn spell for a bit, anyway!

The preview night on Friday was quite busy and gave us high hopes for the weekend. For the most part, I think it delivered - Saturday went by in a flash with a steady stream of attendees. I did find some time to hop over to the Green Mountain Spinnery booth while Ysolda Teague was there signing books, however. She was good enough to let me snap a few photos for Facebook and instagram purposes!

Over in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth, Marly Bird's newest design (the red lacy vest in the foreground at right) proved to be the showstopper. We sold out of nearly every color of the yarn used, Seraphim, by midday on Saturday - only a dozen or so balls of hunter green remained. Meanwhile, I spent any time not helping customers making mental notes of projects I'd like to make with Bijou Spun yarns. I ended up trying on a few of the display garments, which only made things worse in the self-enabling department (yes, I still maintain that that is a thing).

I was surprised that the yarn tasting area wasn't busier - then again, I was hanging out there late in the day on Saturday. At any rate, there was lots of Zealana yarn to try out, including their brand-new laceweight, AIR. My favorite needle-makers (they're also my client, so I recognize that I might be a little bit biased!), Knitter's Pride, provided the needles for both the yarn tasting lounge and the Windy City Knitting Guild booth. I hope everyone enjoyed giving them a test-drive!

On Sunday morning, I made a second sweep of the Marketplace and bought some yarn from the Grinning Gargoyle. I have been admiring their yarns for quite some time and decided it was time to finally snag myself a skein! I chose a really lovely toffee-colored Merino/Silk skein of sock yarn. Now I just have to find the perfect pattern - perhaps it would like to be the main color for a Leftie shawl?

I also got to check out some of the art they had on display - knitted presidents, needle-felted dinosaurs, and pieces knit with analog tape. Very cool stuff! I also ran into the dollmaker who won the Doll Street Dreamers contest that Eucalan (full disclosure, another one of my clients) sponsored earlier this year - she had her inventive dolls on display in the gallery. The world of crafts is always smaller than I think!

Sunday was much quieter - with the threat Sandy was posing to travel, many people chose to leave early in hopes of actually making it home. Even some of my clients who were traveling west had flight delays courtesy of the hurricane. It sounds like people have been able to make it home safely, albeit a bit later than they might have anticipated.

And now for the moment of truth....what else found its way home with me? After spending a day and a half eying the Yarn Pop! skull and crossbones Totable, I ended up buying the second to last a Gadgety project bag in the dandelion print. That was my big splurge of the weekend! I did resist the urge to get a sweater's worth of sock yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery, but instead came home with a gorgeous blue-green skein of Meadow which I hope will become Thelonius socks someday soon.

My Bijou Basin Ranch haul is quite the embarrassment of riches - it didn't seem like it at the time, but apparently I had worked up quite a nice yarn-buying budget. I started with enough 100% Yak Sport Weight to make my favorite sweater design from their line, the Shawl Cardigan. Then I picked up four balls of Roslyn to make Marly Bird's Breezy Bolero. A skein of Tibetan Dream sock yarn may or may not have jumped into my shopping bag, followed closely by a few skeins of Bijou Bliss that will want to become a stripy scarf or cowl. Finally, two gleaming skeins of Shangri-La, a yak/silk laceweight yarn, insisted on coming home with me, much to my surprise - laceweight and I are not friends!

Thanks to all of the Vogue staffers and volunteers who made this weekend awesome. It was so much less stressful relying on mass transit to get to and fro, plus the convenient location allowed me to attend all three days. Believe it or not, it was actually necessary to do so because it takes me a while to process so much yarny goodness all in one spot. I really hope that they bring VK Live back to downtown Chicago again next year, because I had a fantastic time!