Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finally...FO's!

Roman Candle Socks
After a month of traveling (Kansas City, Orlando & Phoenix), I am ready to stash my suitcase in the back of the closet and stay close to home.  Leaving town three times in the span of a month is just too much for me!  Each trip was fun in its own way, but I'm looking forward to getting back to a more 'normal' routine - which involves lots of cat snuggles (of course!) and - lucky for your - more frequent blog updates!

The name of the game this month has been SIMPLE....with SELFISH following closely behind.  Exhibit A: I finally finished the malabrigo socks I started last October!  I'm not sure when the pattern is coming out - it was a test knit for an upcoming design from Two Sticks and a Sheep - but whenever it does, you'll be able to purchase it with the rest of the Fireworks and Folly eBook patterns.  Fun fact: Botticelli is the first skein of Malabrigo sock I ever purchased - I think I bought it at the first Stitches Midwest I attended!

Robin loves it, despite its flaws.
Speaking of projects I started in October of last year, this Travel Shawl from Knitting 24/7 has finally been put to rest.  There were many trials during the knitting of this project - for some reason, I just couldn't stop screwing it up.  More than a few times, I discovered dropped stitches several rounds after the fact - never a fun thing to try to repair!  Yet, I pressed on.  I have to say, the end results are surprising - I thought I'd be able to spot my mistakes much more readily, but on the whole they are masked by the pattern itself as well as the yarn.  I did discover one final dropped stitch after blocking which has been somewhat clumsily repaired.  It truly did earn the title "Shawl of Doom" - besides all of these technical issues, I also ran out of yarn (which I expected to happen) and had to pinch-hit with a contrast-color for the border.  I'm not sure the silvery color I used would have been my first choice, but I was shopping from my stash and it was one of the better options I had on hand.  All in all,  I'm glad I finished it, though I don't think I'll be attempting another shawl on this scale anytime in the forseeable future.

I'll try to post a better photo soon, but this one I took right after finishing the bind off that I swear isn't posed is too adorable and must be shared with the world.  Both Robin and Tilly enjoy a good hand-knit....sometimes, a little too much!
The Age of Brass & Steam...

Finally, the handspun that has been calling to me for several months now has transformed into a triangle shawl - namely, The Age Of Brass & Steam, which has been in my queue for several months now.  I cast on for this fast-knitting shawl the night we got home from Orlando; five days later, I bound off just as the plane touched down in Phoenix.  It's been keeping me warm for these last bitter days of January ever since.  I have lots of yarn left over, too - I think a nice, warm hat is in the works.

...see also: cat blanket. This scarf is Tilly-approved.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Pattern: Slouchy Chevrons

This is a fast-knitting vintage-inspired chevron beret that showcases the subtle variations in hand-dyed yarn.  It also looks great in multi-colored and self-striping yarn!



Sizes:  Adult Small (Adult Large)



Finished brim circumference:  To fit 19” (21”)



Materials: 

200 yds dk-weight yarn

1 US Size 5 - 16” circular needle

1 US size 7 - 16” circular needle

1 set US size 7 DPN’s


Shown in:  Three Irish Girls Elenya Alpacain Zephyr


Saturday, January 28, 2012

TNNA! (Part 2) - A few favorite things

There were tons of new and exciting yarns, colorways and other products to drool over at the show.  I can't possibly mention them all in a single post, but here are my top 5 picks:

Hendreary Hat
1.  Mountain Colors Cross-Country Mitten Kits  - be on the lookout for these kits, which feature several different types of Mountain Colors yarns to make adorable fair-isle mittens!

2.  Lavishea Lotion Bars - one of my favorite finds from the Columbus show, they've got four new scents that are soon to be in stores! Check back, I'll be posting a review and sneak peek on one of these scents soon!

3.  Two new Ysolda books?!  How does she do it?  Whimsical Little Knits 3 has lots of adorable projects I'm dying to make - the Hendreary Hat and Narwhal Mittens, in particular.  Saturday Treat is a lovely collection - though I'm not 100% sold on the photo styling (Ysolda is pretty without lots of makeup!), the patterns are gorgeous and I've already cast on for a Pear Drop Shawl (after swearing off lace forevermore...but that's an entirely different blog post).

Olivewood Roving by Manos
4.  Baah! Hand-Dyed yarns - I was first introduced to this indie dyer through Gayla at Doodlebug Yarns.  Getting to touch the yarns and see the gorgeous, vibrant colorways in person completely hooked me, though.  There are many new colorways to look forward too, and before I left the show, Mira Gifted me a skein I'd been admiring all weekend - you can bet there is a new pattern in the works! (P.S. Don't forget to use the coupon code in the sidebar for $5 off your Doodlebug Yarns order)

5.  Manos Roving - I am dying to get my hands on the new roving from Manos! To start, they have 6 colors which coordinate with their existing colorways.  They're even prettier in person, I can assure you.  I've got my eye on Bramble and Olivewood...and perhaps it's the shove I need to finish the spinning project currently languishing on my wheel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TNNA! (Part 1)

Snow is less fun if you have to fly.
I just got back to Chicago after a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix, drawing this crazy month of traveling to a close - Kansas City, Orlando, and finally, the TNNA show in Phoenix....I couldn't be more relieved to retire my suitcase to the back of the closet for a while!  Leaving town was a bit of a nail-biter, being that there was a winter storm advisory in Chicago (and elsewhere, for that matter) all day long.  I consider myself lucky that I was only delayed an hour, considering how many flights were canceled that day.  Another perk: I cleared security in less than five minutes (that's even with a pat-down because I didn't want to do those creepy body-scanner cancer machines)!  I don't think I've ever seen the security line as empty as it was last Friday. 

While I didn't get to see much of Phoenix, I had a really fantastic time.  Being able to meet many of the people I've been corresponding with via e-mail and twitter face-to-face was invaluable, not to mention fun!  I'm not sure if I can summarize the last two days in a singular post, so much has happened.  If I leave anyone or anything out, I apologize - hopefully I can post a part 2 (and perhaps even a part 3!) in the near future.

Hello Phoenix!
Overall, the show seemed quieter than the one in Columbus last June.  It was kind of nice, because I felt as though I could spend more time checking out everyone's wares and chatting with them.  I saw many things that I'm looking forward to purchasing in the future, which I'll share at a later date.  Naturally, there were lots of great show giveaways that I somehow managed to wedge into my modestly-sized carry-on suitcase - they'll be mentioned in greater detail later on in the form of product reviews, WIPs and FOs.

Baah! yarns
I wish I'd taken a photo of the somewhat goofy "corral" area that featured a 7-foot-tall (my rough estimation) cowboy boot, fake cacti, and rustic barrels and picnic tables.  Not that it wasn't appropriate, given the setting, but I think the giant cowboy boot is where they lost me.  I did, however, get a photo of one of my new favorite indie dyers, Baah! yarns.  I'll be writing more about them because I have a GORGEOUS skein of sock yarn that will soon become a new design.  Many thanks to Mira and her friendly helper bees for gifting me some awesome yarn and allowing me to photograph their booth!

Can I keep it??
I also met Anne Kuo Lukito of Crafty Diversions, who couldn't be nicer - she let me try on the Lakedale Cardigan!  It was pretty tough to take it off, since it fit me like a glove... not to mention the Manos Silk Blend was soft & warm.  Thanks to Anne for letting me share her photo on this blog!

Speaking of not wanting to return a booth model, one of my clients lent me a gorgeous broomstick-style lace wrap on Saturday night.  It was a gorgeous silver-and-black color and soooo soft (knit out of Lana Grossa Lace Lux - the first project shown in the youtube video when you follow the link).  I had the hardest time letting go of it the next day!  Even though I've sworn off laceweight, I might have to make an exception for this yarn.  

A very popular cat amongst the TNNA attendees!
I was also thrilled to chat with Stefanie Japel at the Craftsy booth, because I wanted to thank her in person for tweeting about my Button Bunnies pattern recently.  I was also excited to learn more about the latest developments on the Craftsy site, namely the PDF pattern sales capability.  I'm in the process of adding my back catalog there before it all goes live in February! 

Meeting up with the fabulous Marly Bird, host of the Yarn Thing podcast, prolific designer, and all-around awesome person was another highlight for this weekend.  I'm really obsessed with more than a few of her designs, and her podcast is what convinced me to add The Knitter's Book of Socks to my knitting library. 

The other benefit of attending this show was meeting many of my clients face-to-face for the first time - and seeing others who I've met in the past few months again.  It was great to get feedback and brainstorm some truly exciting things for the months to come.  Sorry for the teaser, but I'm just too excited not to mention that!

Stay tuned for more TNNA show updates - I'm working on my list of top picks, plus I've got photos of all my goodies to show off.  You might also get to see some FO photos and WIPs sometime soon - you wouldn't know it to read this blog lately, but I've been knitting up a storm!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Free Pattern: Keyhole Scarf

If you're new to knitting (or feeling a little rusty as you return to crafting), my free Keyhole Scarf Pattern is a great project to get you started.  Rav user jowet recently knitted this project as part of her return to knitting and said, "looking at the ravelry projects here, i saw several lovely knitting projects that i wished i could do, but the only knitting i remembered were the words “knit” and “purl” - i’d even forgotten how to actually do them. so for 2012, my first new year’s resolution was to learn to knit. i bought a learn-to-knit kit at mary maxim, and while waiting for it in the mail, i practiced knit and purl (via you tube knitting videos) using … chopsticks! by the time i got my kit, i was all set -- and here’s my very first knitted project :-) thanks for your lovely pattern, stefanie!"

I couldn't be more thrilled to enable someone to carry out their new year's resolution...much less, have my project be their first FO of 2012.  There is no greater flattery!  

The BFL Forever Keyhole Scarf pattern is available as a free Ravelry download - it's perfect for handspun or your favorite commercially-available bulky yarn!  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Greetings from Florida

Taking a long weekend in Florida before the craziness of the TNNA Winter Show next weekend in Phoenix!

(and yes, I am re-knitting the Botanical Cowl with Canopy Fingering from The Fibre Company!)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blog Changes!

You may have noticed a few graphics appearing in my blog's sidebar.  I wanted to take just a few minutes to explain them a little better!

 
Recent Doodlebug Order!
First off, here's a coupon code for $5 off your order from the Doodlebug Yarn online shop - they've got a great selection of hand-dyed luxury yarns such as Malabrigo, MadelineTosh, and Skein, to name a few!  They also stock Lavishea lotion bars (one of my current obsessions), hiya-hiya needles and accessories, Soak products (I do love Cucumber Heel), Knit Picks needles, etc.  Full disclosure: they're my client!  However, I'm also a customer and can attest to the fact that their shipping rates and inexpensive (not to mention totally fair), every order I've placed has arrived quickly, heaven help me, they take PAYPAL (designer friends, be warned!!), and everything I've purchased has thrilled me to no end.  Let's take the example of my cursed Botanical Cowl.  I managed to twist the cast on TWICE, yet finish the project only to unravel it completely and start again.  The Fibre Company Canopy Fingering I purchased from Doodlebug has held up beautifully to being frogged and re-knit.  It's good stuff.

One more note about the coupon code above: besides saving $5 off your order, you're helping me to earn free yarn.  It's groovy for me, it's groovy for you, it's even groovy for the folks at Doodlebug

Item #2 on our agenda today:


Just added this recently so that those of you who feel the need have a safe/fast/easy way to toss a little yarn money my way.  I don't think there's too much more I need to say on that subject, but it there if you ever feel the need!

Follow Me on Pinterest


One more thing: I've finally started pinning!  Come join the fun - but I should warn you, it's pretty addictive!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Jet Set Life is Not For Me

Who?
I think January will be a quiet month for me, blog-wise, because it's certainly a crazy month in terms of everything else!  We just got back from a short trip down to Kansas City to celebrate Fake Christmas with our families - we always take Amtrak down there and I used my 7 hours both ways effectively - I finished my last xmas gift (an owl), started and finished a scarf for Tyler's grandma, and re-started the Botanical Cowl, this time with much more success (bonus: I'm halfway done!).  My dad and mother-in-law both liked their monsters, and even though my grandmother's socks turned out larger than expected and proved difficult to photograph because of their so-dark-they-look-black green color, I think they worked out just fine.  The bath scrubbies were an unexpected hit, and the finger puppets turned out well, too!  Somehow, it all came together - but don't ask me how, because I really don't know.
Monster the First (pattern by Rebecca Danger)

Back to what makes this month crazy - though we just arrived back in Chicago yesterday, we leave this coming Thursday for Florida.  Anyone who knows Tyler or myself fairly well knows that we aren't exactly warm weather people, and we're definitely not the type to head to Florida in the wintertime (or any time of year, for that matter).  However, it's his grandmother's 90th birthday and the entire family is heading to Florida to celebrate.  The last time we saw his grandma was at our wedding in 2005 (she quit traveling shortly thereafter).  So we're looking forward to this trip and very glad to have the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with the entire family. 
Monster the Second

We get back in town the following Monday.  Four days later, I fly to Phoenix for TNNA.  Should I even bother to unpack?! 

As you can imagine, I'm having some major panic attacks - how am I going to get everything done?  Normal work, preparation for the show (at least my new business cards have already arrived, hooray!),  maintaining a degree of sanity?  To be honest, I have no idea - but if this blog gets real quiet, you'll know why. 

I have made a Plan similar to the one I made a few weeks back for all of my last-minute xmas knitting.  I think it can be done!  To my Chicago friends, I'll be seeing you in February, because leaving the house means sacrificing productivity.  To my internet friends, I'll try to check in from time to time this month...expect mega-updates, new patterns, and who knows what else in February!

Silly Finger Puppets

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolve to Make Fewer Resolutions

Happy New Year!  Here's hoping 2012 is filled with considerably less turmoil than 2011.  Tyler and I both changed jobs, me for the better and him for about the same old BS, just with better pay and ruder customers.  We've been struggling to get back on our feet after both of us began last year being underemployed (he kept getting his hours cut by the evil boss at his former place of employment, my massage business died off once Massage Envy moved into the Gold Coast). We lost a friend because of a ridiculous misunderstanding.  My grandfather was diagnosed with dementia and has been rapidly declining ever since.   

On the plus side, Robin continues to hold steady and remain healthy; we're staying healthy, too, as are most of our family members (the exception being my grandfather).  Our apartment still rocks, and the friends who have stuck with us this year are super-awesome.  All good things to focus on. 

I still feel compelled to make some resolutions - there's something about the beginning of January that compels me to make ridiculous declarations!  Without further ado...


2012, I have you in my sights: 


1.  Take better care of myself.  This means - going to the doctor & dentist, remembering to take my vitamins, eating healthier, etc.

Entrelac Socks
by Eunny Jang
2.  Destash.  I'm still all about trying to use up what I have. This year I discovered how much amazing yarn and fiber has been hiding in my stash, which only strengthens my resolve to shop at the little yarn store in the back of my house!

3.  Adventures in Crock Pot Cooking.  I want to try as many new crock pot recipes as possible next year! 


4.  Learn Entrelac.  Still want to learn, I just need to find the time - a precious resource these days!

5.  Get my financial life in order.  We're still recovering from some economic hardships suffered last summer, but I'm optimistic 2012 is the year I can start to get back on my feet.

It's time to see how I did with last year's resolutions....

1.  Learn entrelac! I had the best of intentions, but that's just going to have to wait til 2012.

2.  Get my teeth cleaned.  Sorry to report I failed on this too - had neither the time nor money (nor the ability to get over my fear of the dentist).  I'm doing well, so far.

3.  Get a physical.   Also Fail.  I couldn't be more proud of myself!

Successful Socks!
4.  Start working through the design to-do list in earnest....because it keeps getting longer.  Ticked a couple of things off the list, but sadly, there is still a LOT I'd like to publish, with no time to do so in the forseeable future. 

5.  Knit Tyler a sweater.  Done!  Finally, a resolution I actually followed through on!

 6.  Master colorwork knitting.  Also done!  I successfully made a hat and a pair of socks that are able to fit on the intended wearer.  Score!

7.  As always - destash, destash, destash.Done with flying colors.  I've knit so many projects from my stash this year (38 projects tagged "destash11 in my Ravelry notebook), and I've also managed to sell off a lot of my stash as well.

OK, I didn't do so hot with the resolutions last year - 3 out of 7 is pretty terrible.  Clearly, the answer is to resolve to make fewer resolutions, right?  Either that or aim a little lower, which I think I've done this year (note the vagueness of Resolution #1 - it could mean a lot of things, right!  I'll be thrilled if I just get the occasional mani/pedi and regular haircut this year, to be honest!).