Monday, August 24, 2020

Kickstarter Alert: Stashley, a place to destash yarn!

Remember Kickstarter? For a while, it was all the rage - I think I was backing several Kickstarter projects each year, nearly all of which met their funding goal and came to fruition. In fact, that's how I discovered one of my favorite Chicago breweries, Begyle - I was a Kickstarter backer!

It's been a while since I've backed a project in the fiber arts world, but Stashley recently came across my radar and they have quite a ways to go to meet their funding goal by September 6. I know first-hand just how hard it is to get a Kickstarter funded (my band did one several years ago and I swear I've never worked so hard to raise money - it was nuts!), so I thought I would help spread the word by writing a quick little blog post. Plus, I would genuinely love to use this service to reduce the crazy amount of stash that's currently taking over my craft room/office - so sharing this project isn't entirely altruistic!

You might be wondering why I don't just try to sell my unwanted yarn on Ravelry or even Etsy or eBay - been there, done that, never had much luck. While I do have some stash listed for sale on Ravelry, it's not doing much to reduce the amount of yarn overtaking my life - maaaaybe I get a random inquiry every 6-8 months, if I'm lucky. Etsy and eBay really aren't ideal venues since there are tons of other things being sold on there, plus you have to compete with yarn shops and indie dyers selling new yarn.

A few years ago, there was another yarn-specific platform for destashing yarn, but it never got traction. I can't even remember the name, but I think it was made by the same people who do KnitCrate (if you remember this site, please feel free to comment below with the name, it's driving me crazy that I can't remember!!). Anyway,  I entered about 20-30 skeins of yarn for sale, sold maybe 2 or 3, and then forgot it existed. 

Aside from getting very little return on the amount of time I've sunk into trying to destash via these platforms, the issues of payment and shipping once a sale is actually agreed-upon presents another set of hurdles. For Ravelry and that other site I whose name I can't remember, the process of collecting payment and generating a shipping label were not integrated. That means that both buyer and seller have to coordinate Paypal or whatever form of payment they agree upon. If you're dealing with Paypal, sometimes they'll let you generate and pay for a USPS label which is attached to the payment you received - but just as frequently, I've not had that option available (and I'm never sure why!), which means a trip to the post office. And if you're not dealing with Paypal, then a trip to the post office is DEFINITELY in your future.

Once you deduct the cost of shipping you might get the feeling like you're paying someone to take your yarn instead of the other way around! And while I definitely have an "everything must go" mentality after our move earlier this year, it would be great to spend less time and money throughout the process. Since Stashley is made BY yarn people FOR yarn people, there are tons of awesome features that would make all of our lives easier (just watch the video below to get an overview!). 

I would absolutely LOVE to use a service like Stashley, and I hope that we'll all get a chance to check in out in 2021 if they can meet their funding goal by September 6. Click here to check out the Stashley Kickstarter project - even if you can't afford to pledge, just sharing this link with your other yarn-loving friends would be a big help I'm sure!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Quarantine Finishes: Chicago Edition

In early March, we began sheltering in place in our apartment in Chicago, not knowing that we would be completely picking up and moving in three months' time. It's kind of insane to think that we managed to pull off an interstate move amidst the pandemic - plus I've been working full time from home the whole time. Even though I've maintained virtually the same schedule I've had for the past 8 or so years of working from home, it does seem like I've also had more time to craft. Here's how I spent my Chicago quarantine time:

First, I focused on finishing the projects which I already had on the needles prior to the quarantine:

I also knit a few hats for instant-gratification projects:

A few folks I knew needed some mask minders, so I rounded up some yarn scraps and raided my button stash to crochet a few using this free pattern:

Last but not least, I did manage to get the Helvellyn Sweater off the needles, although I'm not sure that I love how it turned out - in fact, I never took FO photos of it before packing it up for the move! At some point when it's not horrifically hot out, I'll dig it out of the storage bin and get a few photos to share. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Still Sewing Face Masks....

...Because the pandemic isn't over. Even though a lot of people seem to be bored with it. A friend of ours shared this song on Instagram recently and I think it totally sums up where we are as a country (unfortunately):

And so, I'll keep staying home, sewing masks. At the end of July, I sewed my 100th mask, and set a new goal of 200 - which I think I'll meet pretty easily, now that I have figured out an efficient system that works in our new apartment. And I keep ordering fabric because I keep finding more fun prints that I want to wear on my face.
Attention, mask-haters: it's actually kind of fun if you can express your personality with your face mask. I believe that's what's known as making lemons out of lemonade?! I mean, look at these two nerds doing a drive-thru coffee pickup:
We keep all of our clean masks hanging by the door so that we can grab & go on our way out - and then I also keep ziploc bags with clean masks in my purse and, now that we own a car again, the glove compartment of our car.
And since we have quite the mask wardrobe at this point, I have been gifting lots of masks to friends, family and essential workers in our area. I've been very fortunate to have steady employment through all of this, so donating masks to anyone who needs them is my small way of giving back.
Anyway, I hope everyone is staying healthy, staying safe, and staying home whenever possible.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Color Work Mother Bears with Brown Sheep Nature Spun Yarn

For the past 3 years, I've made it a point to knit at least a few bears for the Mother Bear Project, which is a wonderful non-profit dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children, primarily those affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of hand-knit and crocheted bears. 

They have patterns available for purchase as well as everything-you-need kits which include yarn, the pattern, and knitting needles or a crochet hook. 

For this year's batch o' bears, I decided to use one of my favorite yarn brands which I turn to time and time again - Brown Sheep. This is a brand of yarn I've been using since the early years of my knitting life. Back then, I was attracted by the affordability that didn't sacrifice quality. And there were so many colors to choose from in each yarn base! Over the years, I learned more about their story: they're a family owned company located in Western Nebraska, and have been working to improve their sustainability on a continuing basis. Plus, their yarns are made with US-sourced fibers whenever possible, and they use only natural fibers - no acrylic here! 

They were kind enough to send 4 skeins of Nature Spun worsted my way for the purposes of this review - I chose Victorian Pink, Bit of Blue, Impasse Yellow and Latte. Since I had such a nice mix of colors, I decided to put this yarn through its paces by adding color work to each bear's sweater. I've had Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting on my bookshelf for quite some time and decided to page through to find some simple motifs to use. It took a little bit of "thinking" to plug them into the existing pattern, but it was worth it - aren't they cute? 

The yarn handled both stranded color work and picking up stitches (for each arm) beautifully. And once I gave the bears a bath in some Eucalan, the yarn softened up and became super cuddly! 

I have plenty of yarn left to knit more bears - each ball has 245 yards, which goes a long way as you can imagine! Each skein is spun from 100% US grown wool and is permanently mothproofed, for anyone who is worried about moths and other pests. I've knit with so many of their yarns over the years - in fact, some of those projects are still in extremely good shape, despite their age. I have just as many projects knit with other brands of yarns which have already gotten holes or pilled horribly in much less time. Clearly, Brown Sheep knows a thing or two about making yarn that is delightful to work with and will last for the long haul.

If you want to give Nature Spun a try for your next project, they were kind enough to set up a coupon code for FREE shipping to the continental US on ANY online order! Just enter HBS2020 at checkout now through the end of August 2020.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Big Changes

It's been a while since I've blogged - almost 3 months, to be precise. Sorry for running silent, but during that time, we were in the process of relocating from Chicago to Kansas City. If you think that moving to a new state is stressful under normal conditions, then you can imagine how fun it is during a pandemic.

There were many factors that went into making this decision - which, of course, was not easy. However, COVID-19 made it pretty darn clear that we needed to be closer to our friends and family in KC. Perhaps the most undeniable sign was when a dear family member died suddenly right before the virus hit - literally right before, as in the very week before the state of Illinois began its Shelter in Place order. He was a very private person who didn't like social media, so I don't feel as though I can share the details surrounding his death, but it was not COVID-related.

I wish we were the only ones who have lost a loved one during this time, but of course, that is not the case. I defy you to find someone who has NOT been affected by this pandemic, and/or lost someone (either as a result of the virus, or an unrelated cause). All of us are in the same crappy boat of not knowing when we can honor the memory of our loved one and get closure. Plus, not being able to hug and comfort those who are grieving also sucks.

And then, when you widen the scope of all the truly messed up things that are happening right now - there is so much pain and suffering, unrest and uncertainty. 2020 is clearly the worst timeline. Something in our society is broken, and I don't think our current leadership is capable (or willing) to fix it. I don't know what else to say other than VOTE. Like your life depends on it. Because even if yours doesn't (and I find that hard to believe), so many other people's lives do.

I'm not one to lecture people about politics, or my views on it, so I'll leave it at that. For now, I'm focusing on sewing more face masks for people who need them. In fact, this week, I sewed my 100th mask, if you can believe it. My new goal is 200 face masks, which at this rate, I think is both doable and necessary. And I am still knitting, albeit not as much as before.

Just so I don't end on a totally down note...I'm happy to report that Robin, our 18-year-old special needs cat, made the trip down to KC like a champ. He's moved from Portland to KC to Chicago and back to KC again....he's one tough little dude! He currently loves to nap in a sun puddle underneath this little Ikea stool, which we've dubbed his castle.

We're still in the process of unpacking but I'm hoping to host a virtual housewarming on Instagram in the next week or so for anyone who wants to see our new place!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

I Can't Stop Cross Stitching!

I've dabbled here and there with cross stitch in recent years, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite crafts for stress relief during the pandemic. It doesn't take a ton of brain power (at least, not the projects I've been making!), and it's immensely satisfying to transform all those little x's into a pretty picture.

Before the pandemic hit, I'd already been working on a project from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery called With Love, which was a fundraiser for the Australian Bush Fires. It became one of my first shelter-in-place finishes, and after finishing it up, I was hungry for more cross stitch!
While spring cleaning, I came across a small project kit I'd forgotten about and decided to use some of my own floss, sparkly aida cloth, and a nicer frame (so, basically, just the pattern....kinda defeats the purpose of a project kit I guess!!) to stitch it up:
Then, on Star Wars Day (aka May the 4th), I couldn't resist impulse buying this adorable project kit (which also came with cool Star Wars goodies) from Spot Colors. Baby Yoda was a super quick project that only took a few days' time!
Also filed under Things I forgot I Bought But Was Happy To Rediscover When Cleaning: a 3-pack of white aida canvases! I decided to experiment with dyeing them different colors using Rit dyes and my trusty dyeing crock pot, and was pleased with the results in getting a nice light grey and sky blue:

I used one of these dyed canvases to stitch up another small project from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery - this one's called PiƱata Party!
The only downside of the pre-stretched canvas is that it gets progressively looser as you work on the surface. Even though it's just a little bit of slack, I'm hoping that's fixed once I find a frame to put on this canvas. Regardless, I still have plans for the other two and will probably start my next cross stitch project soon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Face Mask Sewing Bandwagon

Let me preface this post by saying that my sewing skills are just so-so (sew-sew?) fact, at the beginning of March a friend had sent me a link about sewing face masks and all I could think as I read it was, "never in a million years could I do that!" But now, two months into our SIP, I have a new obsession: sewing face masks for virtually everyone I know.

It started with my sister, who lives in Portland, OR, asking if I would mind trying to sew her something she could wear on site visits (she's an architect) - she'd been wearing a bandanna because they live in a hot spot and face masks are in short supply. Since I own a sewing machine, I figured it was worth a shot, even if it was a huge disaster. So I dug out my meager fabric stash, found some elastic tucked away with my other notions, and watched some the video tutorial which accompanies this free sewing pattern. Then I dusted off my sewing machine to make her a mask....and while I was at it, I figured, why not make masks for partner and kids, just in case they needed them, too? These first 4 masks weren't perfect, but they got the job done and are much appreciated by the recipients.
The first 4 masks that started my obsession.

At first I really hated the process - I was horribly inefficient with each step, which made for slow going. Thank goodness I already had a really nice rotary cutter, ruler and mat from Olfa on hand, or else I don't think I would have stuck with it! But with each mask, it got a little easier, so I decided to sew myself and my husband a few masks so that we could have spares to wear when others were being washed.

My weaving table has been converted into a mask sewing workstation!

Then I was at my local coffee shop (Backlot Coffee), which has pivoted to also provide the neighborhood with essential groceries like flour, yeast, beans, etc (it's been a lifesaver!) I noticed that some of the employees were wearing bandannas on their face, and wondered if they might like some masks with thicker material (I've been using 3 layers of quilter's cotton). So I asked the owner if I could donate some hand sewn masks, and they said that they would love some! Less than a week later, I showed up with a bunch of masks and have been delighted each time I see an employee wearing one of them when I stop in for my contactless coffee/grocery run.

Thank goodness for Backlot Coffee & Bodega!

And from there, it's snowballed. I reached out to some of my friends whom I know don't sew, I asked my sister-in-law, parents, uncle and cousin if they would like some masks, I even offered to sew my neighbor a few masks when we ran into them outside of Backlot and they were wearing bandannas on their faces. I've started buying fat quarters specifically with sewing masks in mind. To be honest, it's been really therapeutic as I sit at home, feeling helpless while the entire world is a dumpster fire. It's a small thing I can do to keep the people I care about healthy and safe. I've even come to enjoy the process and have figured out a few things that have sped up the process for me. I haven't made the move to start selling them anywhere - basically, I just have to like you enough to sew you a mask (and honestly, I don't feel like my sewing skills are good enough to charge for them).

Top to bottom: Avengers fabric ready to be pressed and pleated; stash fabric, also ready to be pressed and pleated; finished masks using Tula Pink Homemade Seed Stitch Fabric and Bali Watercolors Blacklight, both from Thimbles Quilt Shop.

As of this writing, I've made just over 50 masks and I plan to keep going til I run out of supplies or there's no longer a need! Once I cover everyone I know, I figure I can put some masks out for our delivery drivers or reach out to local organizations to see if anyone is accepting donations. Worst case scenario, I have a ridiculous wardrobe of face masks to fit any mood or occasion. After all, it's way more fun to wear a face mask when you actually like the fabric!