Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Great Free Face Mask Experiment [FREE PRINTABLE]

In early December, I was out for a run in my neighborhood and noticed that one of my neighbors had placed some carefully wrapped gifts on top of their recycling and garbage bins with a thank-you note for the collectors. It inspired me to find some way to thank the essential workers I lean on the most - our various delivery drivers . Even before the pandemic, I was a heavy user of Amazon prime and virtually every means of home delivery. Now, it's not uncommon for us to get multiple packages via multiple carriers in a single day, not to mention I've ordered quite a bit of furniture for home delivery since our move.

At the end of last year, I started to build up a stash of face masks, so it only seemed natural to start giving them to those who could probably use them the most.

So I made a sign, grabbed a long ribbon and some binder clips, and attached individually-bagged face masks like so:

Not soon after, my Imperfect Foods delivery driver took a TMNT face mask, and I did a little happy dance thinking, "ok, this is gonna catch on!!" But people were shy at first, and nothing happened for several days after the first mask was claimed. So I swapped out some of the masks, hoping that the regular delivery folks would see that there were now different one there and realize that there was no catch....but just to be safe, I also wrote "They really are FREE!" in large print. 

Once that happened, masks have been claimed left and right! Occasionally I get to interact with the delivery person and they are always super I encourage them to take more. :-) I've actually worked through most of the stash I had stored up and have gotten back to a more regular mask-sewing regimen. I'm also getting REALLY close to the 400-mask milestone!

Now that the holidays are over, I decided to change up the sign to make it a little clearer that these masks are free to ANYONE who needs them:

If you've been sewing lots of face masks and have a surplus like I do, or just want to let the essential workers who deliver everything you need to stay at home know that you appreciate them, feel free to give this a try! If you don't want to make your own sign, feel free to use mine: click here for a free PDF download when you sign up to get new blog posts delivered via email. 

Free Face Mask Printable Sign

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sock Pals Update!

Last week was the big Sock Pal reveal via Zoom, where I got to unwrap the sock knitted for me by my mystery sock pal and "meet" them face to face! I'm so pleased with my new pair of socks:

Little Boxes Socks for me!

I'm pretty amazed that both were nearly identical to each other - I was fully prepared for some differences in pooling and size, which is totally fine as long as they are still wearable. So to get a second sock that looks like I knit it myself is really the icing on the proverbial cake. Honestly, I can't tell which one I knit and which one my sock pal made!

During the reveal party, we also got to vote on the next set of patterns for Sock Pals 2.0, and got to hear about the exclusive sock colors that are in the works. I will definitely be signing up for another round of Sock Pals from Knit 1 Chicago, and there will only be a limited number of spots (20, to be exact) - so make sure you keep your eye on their website and Instagram account to find out when the next round of signups are open!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Virtual VK Live

This past weekend, I did my first-ever virtual knitting show! It probably sounds weird, but I shied away from virtual shows last year because the thought of spending my free time on Zoom felt a little too much like work. I'm not sure why it's different now that I've changed jobs, because I still work from home and do a ton of meetings virtually, but for some reason, it does seem different. The human brain is weird, what can I say?! 

I went to the first and second VK Live events in Chicago (which ended up being the only ones, LOL) and always had a really great time, although I never signed up for a class. So when Faina Gobestein posted on Instagram that she was teaching a class on fixing brioche mistakes, I signed up - and that is one superpower I would very much like to have in my knitting toolkit! 

When I signed up for the class, they offered me an upgrade to a "Superpass" for a few extra dollars, so I figured why not? It ended up being kind of a dud since I only dropped in on a few demos on the first day, but I did get to "see" a few of my former clients give presentations, which was nice. The one thing I was really interested to see was the Superpass demo of Pattern Genius, which is a new knitwear design app by knitCompanion. To say it really is genius is no exaggeration - it looks way more intuitive than any other app I've used before (and I've used quite a few). If I ever get back to designing for realsies, I will definitely take Pattern Genius for a test drive.

There were a fair number of "free" events which came with the class fee, although I really didn't take advantage of that aspect of the show. But I will say that being able to view the schedule and navigate to where you want to be was super easy. They also got major points for emailing me a reminder about my class 30 minutes before the start - in fact, this as an issue I had with a sewing class I signed up for last fall; somehow, I'd gotten my wires crossed and had written it on my calendar for the day after it actually took place. Not only that, it was a total scavenger hunt to find where to access the class I thought I was supposed to be taking - there were no emails with links or steps to follow to log in, and nothing even close to a schedule or when I was trying to log in to take that class I thought I was supposed to be in (even something that said when it took place, i.e. that I missed it, would have been appreciated!). To top it all off, it took over a week for them to upload the video replay of the class. On the whole, it was not a great experience...which is a long-winded way of saying how much I appreciated the user-friendliness of my Virtual VK Live experience. 

I was absolutely not disappointed with my virtual classroom experience - in fact, it might have been slightly better than in-person because Faina had an overhead camera where she could show what she was talking about in great detail so everyone could see. It was fantastic! I learned so much and had several "aha" moments throughout the 2-hour class. - there are a lot of things I will be referring back to later on. Although I have successfully knit several brioche projects, I was really clueless about what to do when things went wrong. Quite honestly, if I spotted a mistake several rows or rounds back, I would either have to rip the whole thing out and start again, or live with it. Neither of those are very good options, are they?

Now, I feel like I have a much better understanding of the structure of brioche, and how to go about tinking back and fixing things when they go south. Faina also showed how she adds life lines to her brioche projects (which also works for any other kind of knitting project, of course) and it was a real game-changer for me. 

I'm so glad that I signed up for this class, and I would definitely do another Virtual VK Live, now that I know what to expect. If there are any other virtual yarn shows that should be on my radar for 2021, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Starting 2021 Off With a Quilt Project

A new year is always a good time to jump into something brand-new with both feet. After hitting the 300-mask milestone last fall, I've continued to sew face masks for anyone who needs them, but I have slowed down production from the frenzy I had earlier in the pandemic. Of course, I still have lots of fabric, and now that I'm nearly to my one-month anniversary of working at my new job, I've been feeling the urge to give quilting a try. 

So when I came across this free tutorial for a quilt-as-you-go hexagon quilt, I figured it was worth a shot. What better way to use up all of my leftover bits of face mask fabric than sewing my very own quarantine quilt? 

supplies to sew a hexagon quilt

So, I bought a hexagon template set and some precut hexagon batting and some neutral gray fabric to use as the backing fabric...and now I'm totally obsessed with making these fun little hexagons! The process of cutting out the shapes and then pinning them together is incredibly satisfying. And then when you press down the edges to (hopefully) get a mitered's like magic! 

If any knitters reading this post happen to remember the Beekeeper's Quilt Craze from about 5 or 10 years ago (yikes!), then you kinda know what I'm talking about. It's just so fun to use up all of those leftover bits you didn't think you would ever find a use for! 

In addition to the face mask/quarantine sewing fabric quilt, I'm planning to also make hexies with my leftover holiday fabric, which I can then turn into a tree skirt for next year! While I love my kitchy sequined felt tree skirt inherited from my great grandparents, it's pretty delicate and I'm not sure that it can survive too many more years of service. 

I still haven't decided if I'll try sewing all of the finished hexagons together by hand, or by machine. For now, I'm just going to make as many as I can, and watch them pile up in the project bin. 

Don't worry - I'm still knitting and doing other yarny things, but it's been nice to have something new and exciting in the mix to give my hands a break from knitting. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

(Still) Making Stuff - 2020 Retrospective

Although this dusty blog would suggest otherwise, I am still making stuff (and things)! My output has slowed considerably this year, especially when it comes to knitting projects. Sewing face masks has become one of my top weekend activities, and I've also been doing a lot more cross stitch this year after getting obsessed with The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's postage stamp series. Over the spring and summer, I ended up stitching the Pinata Party, Winter Wonderland and Snow Much Fun at the North Pole.! Fun fact: all 3 pieces were stitched on aida fabric that I dyed myself.  

Currently, I'm working on Satsuma Street's Pretty Little Chicago to commemorate the 15 years we spent living in the Windy City. 

Not all of my FO's from this year are what I would call notable, though - I won't bore you with photos of every single thing here, but you can check my Ravelry notebook if you're curious. I knit a lot of very plain hats this year, many with handspun, and virtually all of them for the donation bin. Hats have become my favorite way to destash those oddball skeins - in fact, that's how I finally used up one of the yarns from the deepest, dark corners of my stash. In fact, it's been in there so long that the company (Windy Valley Muskox) is no longer in business - I got it in their Stitches Midwest booth all the way back in 2012. 

One of my favorite knits of 2020 is one I didn't get to keep - the Aspen Mantle by Jenny Williams, which was a sample for Knit Picks. However, loved wearing the sample so much that I decided to reassign some green skeins of yak yarn I'd been saving for a sweater to make a green poncho for myself

Last week I finished knitting through the first skein of yarn, which means that I probably won't be finished til next spring if I continue at this pace. And to be honest, I'm fine with that - I'm trying to focus more on enjoying what I'm making instead of rushing towards the finish line. And while I might make less in the months and years to come, I want to make sure that it's stuff I'll actually love to even if that means frogging a sweater that just needs two sleeves (which is something I did earlier this year), so be it. There's no point if it's never going to be used. 

Another favorite project was the Dumpster Fire ornament by Kino Knits. What better way to commemorate this crap year?! Plus, I was able to use yarns entirely from my stash - always a bonus. Since I didn't like how my duplicate stitch was looking, I decided to buy some number charms on Etsy, which allowed me to  pay homage to the last 2 crappy years. Two, two mints in one. 

But here's something unexpected: after months (or even years) of avoiding sock knitting due to issues with my hands and wrist, I was able to finish a long-hibernating pair of socks AND knitted a brand-new pair of socks PLUS both of my single socks for the Knit 1 Sock Club. For me, that's a historic amount of sockage! 

I also knit a really pretty cowlette (Rochambeau by Carina Spencer) with a skein of yarn I bought at the last in-person Stitches Midwest in 2019.

Earlier this month, I found some beaded ornament kits from Solid Oak which I never put together. I decided to take a crack at these candy canes because they looked a lot easier than the wreaths. The candy canes were really easy to do, and fun - maybe I will work up the courage to make the wreaths over the holiday break!

For 2021, I'd like to be better about blogging regularly...although I still recommend signing up to get new posts delivered via email just in case I'm not 100% back to a regular Wednesday post schedule. I'll also be  exploring more non-knitting territory (latch hooking, baking, and maybe even my first-ever quilt project?!?), but of course I'll keep knitting. In fact, I even have a few new knitting designs in the works for 2021. Onward to a new and hopefully less crappy year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Happy Holidays!

I'm dubbing this year's celebration Maskmas, which was the theme of our holiday card:

Our plan it to be extremely choosy and careful with how we celebrate the holidays outside of our own home - restricting ourselves to very small groups (i.e. immediate family only) for limited amounts of time indoors, while wearing face masks, of course. Speaking of face masks, I passed the 300-mask milestone not too long ago! My 299th and 300th masks were Christmas Yoda masks for my nephews in Portland: 

And if you don't follow me on Instagram, you might have missed the biggest news to close out this year (for me, anyway): I got a new job! After spending the past decade at Stitchcraft Marketing, I felt like it was time for a change. Leaving my colleagues and clients (most of whom were truly great friends, too) was the hardest part, but now that I've got a few weeks at Missouri Star under my belt, I can say with 100% certainty that it was the right move. I'm learning a lot about SEO and I also get to concentrate on some very exciting projects without the distraction of social media and a million other random things that I have to juggle. 

This year was a dumpster fire for sure - I think we all feel that way - but Tyler and I were fortunate to have at least a few good things come out of it. We were able to bump up our move plans and just rip that bandage right off (it needed to happen, I was majorly dragging my feet), we both got new jobs, and we are both ready for 2021 to be the most boring year ever. Who's with us?!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Introducing: The Designer Subscription Box from Knit1!

Although Sock Pals signups have closed, you can still treat yourself to something yarny from Knit 1! I'm so pleased to be one of 4 designers in the inaugural subscription box for 2021, which you can pre-order here! Not only will you save $20 just for signing up early, you'll also get a surprise BONUS box of goodies during the year. Oh joy! 

There will be 4 boxes which will be mailed (or available for in-store pickup) in January, April, July & October 2021. Each one will include exclusive knitting patterns, supplies (including Knit 1 yarn) for the exclusive project, plus fun notions. If you live in Chicago, you can pick up in-store, and if you aren't local you have the option to get each one delivered right to your doorstep. There will be an option to order individual boxes when they come out, if you don't want to commit to a full year's subscription...but if you buy the full year right now during the pre-sale, you'll get some nice extras and perks

Each designer gets to pick a charity to spotlight, and proceeds from sales of the box will be donated to that charity. For October, I'll be designing a sock pattern to honor the memory of my cousin Collin, who took his life in March of this year. I've chosen the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a non-profit which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, meaning that they are super-transparent about how the money they raise is spent, with the majority of funds going towards programming (82.3%, to be exact). Not only do they fund research, education and advocacy in order to understand and prevent suicide, they also have campaigns to help at-risk people as well as those impacted by suicide.  

I hope you'll check out the other fabulous designers who will be contributing to the 2021 series, and maybe even subscribe! Click here to learn more on the Knit 1 Chicago website.