Wednesday, January 8, 2020

New Favorite Knitting Tools

Confession time: I have a fondness for clever gadgets, especially when they relate to crafting. And let's not even talk about the ridiculous amounts of needles, hooks, and other tools I have....because today I'm going to share a few of the latest knitting tools I've tried out recently!

A few months back, I spotted something intriguing in the Indie Untangled newsletter called End Minders. They are colorful little pieces of 3D printed PLA (it's a plant-based non-toxic material that looks like plastic) in the shape of bunnies, and the idea is that you could wrap your yarn ends around them so that they don't get tangled with your working yarn in a project. They were invented by Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations, and when I explored her shop a little more I noticed that she had some in the shape of sheep. Of course I had to give them a try!

I have used them on pretty much every project ever since. They really do keep my cast on yarn out of the way, plus they look super cute! In fact, I like them so much that I bought a few more sets for some of my knitting friends.

Another current obsession is progress keepers, which are essentially a removable stitch marker that you can use a couple of ways: first, as the name would imply, you can clip it onto a row of your knitting or crochet project so that you can see how much you've worked since the marker was attached. That's a nice function for anyone that needs a little self-gratification on a never-ending project, but also handy for any time you need to measure from a point that isn't your cast-on edge. My other favorite use is to clip one onto the right side of the fabric so that I don't get RS/WS confusion (that happens to me way too often).

A lot of progress keepers are made with fun charms, and I recently discovered that it's super easy to make your own with just a few basic jewelry making supplies! I made some holiday themed progress keepers to give as gifts over the holidays:

Of course, I kept the snowflake for myself!

When it comes to knitting needles, I'm a sucker for interchangeable sets, and Santa was very good to me this year - a SmartStix Holiday Gift Set was under my tree! If you haven't seen these needles before, they have one-inch markings on both the needle itself, as well as the cords. This allows you to measure your progress on the fly, sans tape measure, but it also can be used to gauge WPI of a mystery yarn (just wrap it around the needle over a 1-inch marking and count the wraps). I wasn't sure how much I would need to use the needles to as a measuring tape in my day-to-day life, but it turns out that I have been saved by it on more than one occasion.

Now, the needles are already pretty cool, but the packaging is also worthy of note! The needle tips come in a soft velvet roll, which is nestled inside a really cool little case that's made with faux vegan leather and ethically sourced wood. There is a matching zipper pouch for the cords and accessories, and an attachable strap if you'd like to wear it as a purse. Personally, I think it's fun to use it as a little toolkit, and at the moment I'm keeping my WIP in it (at least, until it's too big to fit inside - I'm knitting a sweater!).

Last but not least, I was gifted a custom-made needle organization case over the holidays, and it's pretty darn spectacular. I wish I remembered who made it (oops), but isn't it cool? The fabric has all of my favorite things on it (cats, tea, knitting) and it has my Etsy Shop/Blog Name on the front:

Then it opens to reveal all sort of compartments for needles and notions, including a folding case that is removable:

I've chosen to store some of my interchangeable tips inside of the folding case, which I think might be intended for DPNs. But since I really like my Della Q DPN Roll, I thought I would try storing some interchangeable tips in it, and it seems to work just fine for this purpose!

Did you get any fun crafting tools for the holidays? I'd love to hear suggestions for gadgets I should try out!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Only Handmade Gift I Made for Christmas

When I first started knitting, I made everyone in my family scarves for Christmas one year - that would be between 10-12 scarves by my count. Each one had a different stitch pattern, some of which were beyond my skill level at the time, but somehow I got them done in time. I definitely sweated it, but managed to meet the deadline with minimal drama, if memory serves.

Over the years, I have knit a lot of gifts for people, but the numbers have been steadily declining for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's stressful to do! Besides worrying about making the deadline, you also have to worry about it fitting, or being something that they'll end up liking/using. I've found that my idea of what people will like and enjoy can differ from reality, so I've taken to offering up a bin of finished handknits and letting folks take what they want. Their selections almost always surprise me.

So, fast forward to this year. I wasn't planning to make any gifts, but then The Madalorian came out, introducing an adorable character that looks like a baby Yoda. Naturally, several knit and crochet patterns to make The Child followed suit, and I couldn't resist this one for a Baby Yoda-inspired ornament to put in Tyler's stocking. It turned out a little bigger than I was imagining (and I even used worsted weight yarn instead of the bulky weight the pattern calls for), but it turned out well and was simple enough to whip up in a few afternoons while Tyler was away at work.

He loved it - it even might have been his favorite gift this year!