Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Challenge Accepted! 2018 Ravelry Project Challenge

Has anyone noticed this little badge in the top right corner of your Ravelry notebook?

From what I can gather, this is an informal, self-guided challenge to make a specific number of projects within the calendar year. There doesn't appear to be any official Ravelry group or thread associated with accountability or sharing progress, though I've noticed some groups dedicated to destashing or other KALs have picked up on it and are using the feature in conjunction with their event. There is also a discussion thread here in For The Love of Ravelry where people can ask questions about how everything works.

Joining is pretty easy: after you click on the badge, all you have to do is enter a number and click "sign me up!"


I've never really thought about how many projects I want to make in a year, so I set an arbitrary goal of 50 - I honestly have no idea if that is a reasonable or unreasonable goal, but it does look like you can adjust it at any point if you wish, and any project that has a finish date in 2018 (even if it was started in 2017) counts toward your goal.

What's fun is that you can also earmark queued projects for this challenge by setting a due date for any time in 2018:


I have been working on paring down my queue to things I think I might actually make (you know, someday) and have started adding in some arbitrary due dates so that I can focus my efforts for this year. Here's what projects I already have the yarn for and have designated for this challenge so far:

Will you be setting a goal for finished projects in 2018?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring Cleaning & Letting Go of the Yarn Stash

Do you ever feel like you might have too much yarn?

Most of us joke that there's no such thing as too much yarn, but on the other side of that coin is Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy (SABLE). It might be early for me, but I already have fears of SABLE, and to be perfectly honest, it makes me sad to look at so many beautiful skeins of yarn going unused, trapped in a storage bin. Perhaps I shouldn't have purchased the clear variety, or stacked them in my office so that I have a near-constant guilt trip as I work, but nevertheless, my stash is starting to bum me out.

It's all filled with yarn....and there are more bins not pictured! Eep!
Don't get me wrong - I've stashdived plenty for projects in recent years (Find your Fade and So Faded, I'm looking at you especially). The problem is that those efforts are a mere drop in the bucket. Yarn keeps showing up on my doorstep to distract me from my best intentions.

Now, let's add in one more factor: I'm a handspinner, and I spin yarn faster than I knit/crochet/weave with it. That is an unfortunate but undeniable fact.

So, on the average day, I feel as though I might die underneath a mountain of yarn. That may sound glorious or even romantic, but I assure you that the reality is far from it. I carry guilt for all of this yarn that hasn't realized its full potential because I simply don't have enough hours in the day (plus I'm very easily distracted).

This post on the Interweave blog pretty much encompasses my fiber-related existential crisis. Though I spent quite a bit of time in the "depression" stage, I think I have finally moved into acceptance, and with that, I have begun the slow process of rehoming these skeins of yarn which - quite honestly - deserve better than being stored in an airtight bin for eternity (click here to see all of the yarns which are patiently waiting for their forever homes. I'd love nothing more than to send a few skeins your way.)

A sampling of the yarns I've listed for destash. Think you can put a few to good use?
Yarn isn't my only weakness, however. I have an insane amount of knitting needles, crochet hooks, and project bags as well - probably more than any singular human should own. And until fairly recently, my knitting needles were a horrifically disorganized mess. This adorable sheep bin became a dumping ground for everything I'd used in a project and was too lazy to put back in its proper place:

Yup, that's another bin of yarn!
I should have take the "before" photo of the mess of needles, hooks, and interchangeable cords and tips, because it was a doozy. I'm not sure if I was too embarrassed or if I just forgot, but it conveniently slipped my mind before embarking on The Great Needle Reorganization of 2018. The good news is that I had plenty of cases to corral the mess, but there were two instances where I was at a loss for how to restore order: first, with my collection of DPNs, and second, with the variety of interchangeable cords that I've amassed.

So many needles - and what to do with those cords?!
The first challenge ended up being an easy fix - I treated myself to a Della Q DPN Roll-Up, and now all of my DPNs have a lovely little place to call home:

Loving this needle roll-up from Della Q - everything has a place now! 
The cord situation is still unresolved, however. For now, they remain a mess of spaghetti in the storage bin, although they're at least confined to just one corner. I'm really not sure how to restore order with them - does anyone have any clever solutions for this problem?

Needless to say, I'll be looking for ways to use up the stash that remains and have started by collecting possible knit and crochet patterns for mini skeins and leftover yarn here on Pinterest. If you liked this post, I'd love it if you pin the graphic below on Pinterest!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Off the Needles: Slable Hat in Smitten

A few months ago when I was visiting one of my LYSes (Firefly Fiber Arts), I couldn't resist picking up a skein of Smitten from Why Knot Fibers. The rich red of the Red Spire totally drew me in, and once I felt the lovely squish of Finn wool and Alpaca fibers, I knew it would be coming home with me!


This skein of yarn has a pretty interesting story, too: the fibers were all raised, processed and dyed in Michigan. I'm guessing most of you are well-versed in the ways of alpaca fibers, but perhaps Finn fiber is new to you. Finnsheep (or Finn for short) are an ancient breed from Scandinavia, known for their soft & durable fleece that also feels a bit silky. These qualities really shine through in the yarn - Smitten is 70% Finn & 30% Alpaca - and since alpaca fiber is fairly similar, it's a great matchup overall.

Why Knot take this yarn for a spin?
Sometimes, choosing a pattern for such a special skein of yarn can be tough. I struggled with indecision for a bit, but then a friend of mine was wearing a lovely red Slable Hat (pattern by Woolly Wormhead) when she stopped by my house one afternoon. Not only had that pattern been in my queue for a while, I'd already purchased it and holy cow it was perfect for this yarn! I'd been planning to use a different skein of yarn from my stash but never cast on because it just looked too fussy and complicated. My friend assured me that was not the case, and I'm glad I listened to her.


The key for me was to place stitch markers in between each repeat of the pattern across the round - that way, if I got lost, I discovered it before getting to the end of the round and having to rip alllll the way back. The seed stitch was really easy to keep track of, so I was able to just follow the charted cable pattern (the seed stitch sections are only given in the written instructions, FYI). At first, I had a notion that I would add in a pattern repeat to make a slouchier version, but once I tried on the hat at the point where I would either start the crown decreases or continue on for another repeat, I decided that it was the perfect amount of slouch for me.

And let's take a moment to admire the stitch definition for both the textured panels and cables:


I'm really pleased with how this hat turned out, it's going to be my new lightweight everyday hat to conceal bad hair days (shhh don't tell!) and keep me warm indoors. I'm excited to try more yarns from Why Knot Fibers, too - I've always admired their yarns since discovering them at YarnCon a few years ago, and it looks like they'll be there again this year. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Most Addictive Hat KAL

A few weeks ago, I shared my my new hat pattern, A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat, here on this blog. It's gotten such a great reception (yay!) that I've teamed up with the folks at Bijou Basin Branch to bring you a fun KAL for this project kit! If you were thinking about making this hat but haven't gotten the kit just yet, now is the perfect time, because there is a pretty sweet grand prize drawing for everyone who posts a photo of their finished hat in this Ravelry thread!


You can snag your discounted project kit here; I'll also be knitting along because I didn't get to keep the samples pictured in the photos. Here are the colors I'll be making mine in, Scarlet and Natural Brown:


I can't wait to see what everyone else chooses for their project! Besides joining the conversation here on Ravelry, you can also share your photos on Instagram using #bijoubasinranch in your post.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Purlbreak Shawl in Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering Yarn

I've been working on this project since the middle of November, and it feels good to finally have it off the needles: presenting my finished Purlbreak shawl!

Obviously, I'm thrilled to have this off the needles.
I knit this project with 3 skeins of yarn that I was sent for review: Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering, a blend of 90% superfine/superwash merino and 10% nylon which is milled in Italy and hand-dyed in Canada (I love knowing where my yarn comes from!). This is a super-squishy yarn that feels soft to the touch, but has enough twist to it that it's not splitty, and I doubt it will pill much with time. It withstood ripping back to fix mistakes and dropped stitches, as well as plenty of abuse from being stuffed in my bag for knitting at the tap room.

Hello, lovelies!

It was a total delight to work with, and choosing 3 coordinating colors was super-easy because of how they are grouped as part of the Magic Dye Pot Series: each group has a letter (A through F) and then the colors within that group have a number (1-6). For example, A goes as follows: A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, & A6 - that means that all of these colors are meant to go with each other. I chose 2 (dark blue/black), 4 (medium green/brown variegated) and 6 (light speckles) from the A-series.

The requisite "action" shot.
Unintentionally, I ended up with a finished shawl that looks fairly similarly to what's pictured in the pattern, despite the fact that the pattern is written for a main color (A), and then 3 contrast colors (a light, a medium and a dark - all referred to as B in the pattern). Here is how I modified it to be knitted using just 3 colors/skeins of yarn total:

Section 1 - No changes, used darkest color for A and light speckle for B.
Section 2 - Stripes: Worked 20 repeats of Rows 3-6, then 1 repeat of Rows 3 & 4 using darkest color for A throughout and light speckle for color B for the first 12 contrast stripes, then switched to medium variegated for color B to finish out the repeats.
Section 3 - Worked Rows 1-4 three times with medium variegated for color B, then alternated light speckle and medium variegated every two rows for two repeats of Rows 1-4, and finished with 3 repeats of Rows 104 with light speckle.
Bind off per instructions (the pattern doesn't provide stitch counts at this point, but I counted 667 stitches before working the bind off).

Check out that wingspan!
With hand-dyed yarns, it's always a gamble pairing very dark colors with very light skeins, and that mostly-undyed white speckle was particularly at risk for having its neighboring colors bleed into it while wet blocking. I'm pleased to report that none of the colors ran after a cold soak, as you can see by the crystal-clear water once the shawl was removed:

I am extremely impressed with the quality of the yarn plus beautiful colors, all wrapped up in a superwash yarn - I would definitely reach for this again!

It's so easy to wear, too!
Pattern: Purlbreak by Stephen West
Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering (Yardage: 400 yards/per 100g skein; 90% Superwash Superfine Merino, 10% Nylon).

You may like to know: I was gifted 3 skeins of yarn in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Survey Says...

Way back at the start of the year, I announced a few changes to the blog, notably that I'll only be posting once per week on Wednesdays. I also shared a link to a survey so that I could work on writing posts that are of more interest to my readers, and I have finally had a chance to sift through the results!

2018 Reader Survey Results

First, thank you to the 36 kind people who took the time to respond to my survey. I got a lot of great answers, and hope to address as many of your questions and suggestions as I can in the year to come (Also, I sent a little thank-you gift to everyone who participated, so be sure to check your inbox today!).

As far as blog post topics go, it looks like I'll be mixing in more tutorials and free patterns with my finished project posts, as they were the top 3 most voted-for topics:

Type of Posts

I'm not statistician, but it seems like there was a fairly even distribution of answers, so I'll definitely be mixing in other themes and topics whenever I'm able. I did get two write-in answers for this question; one which was very flattering and said they wanted to see more of everything because they love my blog (full disclosure - this was from a knitting friend of mine), and another suggestion which intrigues me greatly: Not only tutorials but maybe work arounds--a different stitch or something for the truly terrifying short rows with no holes!

I'm definitely keeping that one in mind as I start to plan out more posts. Thank you for the suggestion!

Knitting won hands-down when I asked what craft people wanted to see more of this year. I suppose that makes sense, since I started as a knitter writing about my projects, and then started exploring more crafts as the years went on. What's interesting to me is that all of the other crafts I listed have about the same number of votes, so I'm going to interpret that to mean that I should more or less keep doing what I'm doing, since knitting is still my main craft (at least, that's how I see it!).


The remaining questions were all set up to be open-ended, which I now realize was not the best choice since it meant I had to compile my own results and make my own fancy charts, rather than having Google do it for me. Live and learn! That's ok, I drank a strong pot of tea while I tallied things up, old school-style, and it ended up being kind of fun.

Here are the most-requested projects by type:

As you can see, shawls were #1; Garments/Sweaters, Socks, and "All the things" were pretty much tied for second place. I did get some other notable write-ins for quick knits, one-skein projects, plus size cardigans, stuffed animals, holiday decor, and home decor. There was also an amusing typo requesting more "cows' - at least, I assume that was intended to be cowls. But just in case....

You want it, you got it!
For those of you who voted for shawls, sweaters, or accessories, you are in luck, because that's pretty much what I plan to make this year. I may come up short in the sock knitting department, however, but it's not because I don't enjoy knitting socks. I would actually LOVE to knit more socks, but they hurt my hands too much, not matter what I try! I've been working on a pair since last fall and I am not even to the heels, I can only get a couple of rounds in before I have to put them back down and it's really quite depressing. Believe you me, if I find a magic bullet to make sock knitting pain-free, I'll be knitting a ton (and sharing my secret sauce for overcoming pain while knitting, of course). But I digress...

When asked what techniques or skills readers wanted to learn in 2018, there was a huge variation in responses, so I compiled this chart of anything that received 2 or more votes:


Brioche was a strong first place, so you can bet that I'll be working on some posts for those of you curious about this technique, both the single-color and 2-color variety! I've also been meaning to do more with colorwork, so I am glad to see that everyone's willing to come along on that ride.

There were many other interesting suggestions that are worthy of honorable mention, and I have added them on my list of blog topics. Included in that list is how to adjust patterns for fit, new stitches, phone apps for knitting and crafts, and some crochet topics (learning to crochet and crochet cables).


There was one request for learning to knit toe-up socks, and as you have probably guessed by now, that is unlikely to happen given my hand issues along with the fact that I've tried it several times and have finally come to the conclusion that I dislike knitting toe-up socks. However, I hope that doesn't dissuade anyone since it really makes more sense, especially if you want to use up the entire skein of sock yarn.  I can, however, refer you to two excellent books which helped me knit several pairs of toe-up socks successfully - Socks from the Toe Up and Toe Up Socks for Everybody, both by Wendy D. Johnson.

I also received a request for "how to sleep soundly" which I assume was a joke, but just for grins I'm going to share what's been working for me since I've been sleeping abnormally well lately. I attribute most of this to my FitBit obsession - the visualizations of my sleep cycle are pretty fascinating, and compiling the data for how long I sleep (and how much time I am awake or restless) has helped me to pick up on patterns and realize that I only need between 7-8 hours of reasonably restful sleep to feel good. Strangely enough, this has also helped me worry less about whether or not I am getting enough sleep, since I can see for myself when I check the app. Other things that generally work for me: I have a fairly strict 4 PM cutoff for caffeinated beverages, reading before bed helps me shut off the part of my brain that wants to obsess about a million stupid things, and if I'm tossing a turning too much, the ability to move to a second location (our guest room) helps immensely in getting to sleep. When all else fails, I swear by Bach Rescue Remedy - I prefer the spray, but they have a lot of options depending on your preference.

Have you tried counting sheep?

For the last question, I got a couple of interesting responses, including a few requests regarding formatting issues that I'll try to fix, but quite honestly I'm not sure if I have the technical chops (so if you are the person who has display issues in Netvibes, or the other person who wants to see my full post in your feed reader....I'll see what I can do!).

In summation: thank you for taking the time to fill out my survey and giving me some really great ideas for future posts that I don't think I would have come up with on my own. And if you're just finding this blog now, feel free to leave your suggestions/wish list for blog posts you'd like to see here in 2018 in the comments!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat Pattern

It's been hard keeping this one under wraps, but I'm pleased to announce that my newest hat pattern is now available at Say hello to A Most Addictive Slipped Stitch Hat


Project kits for this pattern are available here; choose your favorite colors of Himalayan Trail yarn to create a hat that is uniquely you!


A simple slipped-stitch pattern creates a fun visual element to this slouchy hat that's interesting to knit. The stitch pattern is easy to memorize, making it great for knit nights or on-the-go knitting.

The pattern includes instructions for two variations of ribbing to start off your pattern - you can either knit the Corrugated Rib stitch as shown in the sample, or keep things simple with a stretchy K2, P2 rib. I also collaborated with the folks at Bijou Basin Ranch to share even more ideas for customizing your hat here on their blog.

If you can knit stripes, you can make this hat!


Click here to get your project kit, and be sure to follow me on Instagram & share your project with the #bijoubasinranch hashtag!

UPDATE: There is a KAL happening now through March 31, 2018 here on Ravelry (click to find out how you can join in the fun and be entered in the grand prize drawing). 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Creativation 2018

Earlier this month, I flew to Phoenix for a new-to-me trade show called Creativation. It's similar to the TNNA trade shows I've attended in years past in that it's specific to the crafts industry, but the similarities pretty much stop there. Creativation is much wider in its scope to include painting, beading, paper craft, edible arts, as well as yarn craft (and I think I saw some felt/fiber craft for good measure, too!). For me, it was heaven, because I've done pretty much every craft at some point in my life, and it was interesting to see how they have evolved since then.

Creativation 2018
Let's just say I hit my step goal every day at the show!

Creativation 2018
Yup, a legit bus route!

The show floor is massive (enough to have its own bus route!!), and many of the booths were quite elaborate. It reminded me a lot of H+H Cologne in that regard, along with the cool gathering places and lounges throughout the show floor.

Creativation 2018
Love this balloon display in the 3M booth.
Creativation 2018
The prize-winning Sizzix booth
Creativation 2018
Don't you want to hang out here?
Creativation 2018
Or here?
Creativation 2018
Or here?? (You can paint rocks!!)

What struck me most was the amount of cross-pollination I saw - a knitted cake, cute alpaca and llama displays, and pom poms everywhere.

Creativation 2018
Pom Poms in the Crate Paper Booth

Creativation 2018
Also in the Crate Paper booth - they get me!

Creativation 2018
Knitted Cake in the Satin Ice booth

Creativation 2018
These were pretty cool, I wish I had written down the name of this booth (oops!)
Most of the yarn brands at the show were those you would see at a big-box craft retailer - Lion Brand, Red Heart, etc. - but there were some exhibitors such as Hoooked (who make recycled cotton and t-shirt yarns) and Zen Yarn Garden (a hand dyer you are probably quite familiar with!) who represented the indie niche of the yarn world.

Creativation 2018
Lion Brand Booth

Creativation 2018
Zen Yarn Garden
Creativation 2018
Amigurumi in the Hoooked booth

My company, Stitchcraft Marketing, had a booth where I was dispensing advice all weekend long:

Creativation 2018
Sure, take the photo on the day you're too lazy to wash your hair....
I did manage to escape from time to time to explore the show floor to take in all of the interesting eye candy. I think a lot of knitters and crocheters are starting to explore other crafts (myself included) and I think it's something that the yarn industry should probably embrace, as one type of creativity fuels another, and yarn lovers have that DIY spirit - they just enjoy making stuff, and it's more fun to find a Pinterest tutorial than to head to the store and buy a new vase.

Plus, the craft supplies available now are SO much cooler than I remember them being! There are a ton of inks, paints, and varnishes that do the most amazing things (and I believe that I saw mess-free glitter in the Plaid Craft booth, if that's something you're into).

Creativation 2018
Glitter Unicorns in the Plaid Crafts booth
I also discovered a very cool product called The Holster that I doubt I would have found at any of the other craft shows I attend - it's a silicone container that you can attach anywhere, and I have a feeling I'll be buying a ton in the future because I love the sample I was given at the show (it's holding my scrub brush in the kitchen sink).

Creativation 2018
Make-and-takes, small projects you can do in a booth and then take home with you, are very popular at Creativation. My favorite day was on Sunday, when I happened upon the Llama party in the Fuji Film booth, which a coworker had spotted on Instagram prior to the show and alerted me to. Now my cute little llama is sitting on my desk and I just love him!

Creativation 2018
Apparently this is called "assemblage," for anyone keeping track.

No matter what show I go to, apparently stuff is going to come home with me. I was trying really hard NOT to bring anything home, but there were several very nice people who insisted on gifting me samples and I just couldn't say no. I'm excited to try out the t-shirt yarn (most likely in some weaving projects!), and the washi tapes are already in use. I'll be saving the printed duct tape for shipping Christmas presents this year (so much more festive than regular packing tape!!) and as previously noted, the Holster is already in use. I may even dust off my apron and try my hand at some fancy cupcakes with the fondant sample from Satin Ice. 

Creativation 2018

I would love to return to this show, it was super fun and very inspiring. Although Creativation is closed to the public, they did announce a new show for this fall that anyone can attend called In The MKNG. If you live in the northeast, it might be worth checking out!