Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Grey vs. Color

I'm still continuing with my all-grey, all-the-time theme for WIPs this week. Actually, that sock I posted about last week looks exactly the same, as it's sat in my bag untouched in favor of my other projects for the time being. I took my Tunisian scarf to knit with some friends at the coffee shop, where it was suggested that I could turn it into a nice buttony cowl instead. I've never had much attention span for scarves, so this is a pretty good solution to the issue of boredom I'm experiencing now that I feel reasonably proficient with the techniques, but I still haven't made a final call on scarf vs. cowl.

The big news is that I cast on for the Lake Michigan Tee after finishing and blocking the swatch last week! I'm not very far along, but I'm excited to see how this shapes up, especially once I start adding the other yarns for my pseudo-ombre effect.
I've been wanting to start a new project using non-grey yarn, but have been hemming and hawing as to what that might be, especially since I'll be traveling some during the month of May and want to make sure I have plenty of projects I can work on in transit. So, I decided to break out my spinning wheel and spin up the brightest fiber I have currently in my stash: 8 oz of New Zealand BFL in a colorway called "Poppies in Oz." I'll be talking more about this spinning fiber later, as it's VERY different than the BFL you are probably used to. I purchased it a few months back from the Woolery, where it is currently on sale for a pretty sweet deal, which is what prompted me to give it a try in the first place.  I just filled my bobbin with the first 4 oz. of the fiber, and am hoping to get the second single spun up this weekend - and maybe even plied!
Also, if you're just joining me this week, there is an awesome guest post by Alicia Morandi of Woolen Diversions sharing her favorite ways to procrasti-knit - click here to check it out!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Take 5: Procrasti-knitting

Welcome back to another episode of the Take 5 blog series! This week, Alicia Morandi of Woolen Diversions and The Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe, who is an avid knitter and spinner who calls Rhode Island home. Today, she shares her top five methods of procrast-knitting while still actually doing things which relate to the craft. Click here to get caught up past Take 5 blog posts; I'll let Alicia take it from here: 

When I first heard the term 'procrasti-knitting', I figured it referred to all of the times that we knit instead of doing something else we ought to be doing. Then I realized that, due to a combination of Type A neuroses, day job, knitting blog, and lotion business, that definition would encompass pretty much every time I sat down to knit at home. There seem to be countless tasks I ought to be doing besides playing with yarn, but listing off 5 things like laundry, dishes, and account balancing would make for a rather mundane blog post. Instead, I've decided to describe 5 things that I (and hopefully many other knitters?) do instead of actually working on their WIPs -- a different take on 'procrasti-knitting'.

1) Ravelry pattern searching
I doubt there are any internet-savvy knitters who have never once gotten lost in the glorious pattern archives of Ravelry. I have spent countless hours admiring other people's designs, modifications, and yarn choices. In fact, I often consult Ravelry projects to discover what other people have used a particular yarn for before I plan my own project. There's amazing inspiration to be had, and the forums are fascinating places to spend your potential knitting hours, as well.

2) Online yarn shopping
What do you do when you've had kind of a bad day, need a break at work, or are waiting somewhere without your knitting? I, for one, often shop for yarn. The Loopy Ewe, Eat. Sleep. Knit., The Verdant Gryphon, Blue Moon Fiber Arts... their brightly colored sites cheer my right up. Not to mention the glorious rabbit-hole of hand-dyed yarns on Etsy or the Indie Untangled Marketplace... hang on, I need to go lock up my wallet.

3) Problem project abandoning
I consider myself something of a work-in-progress expert, in that I'm really quite skilled at convincing myself to go ahead and start something new. I hear the siren song of startitis and find a way to rationalize it with ease: I need a simple project for meetings, something to knit while reading,  something interesting for TV knitting, or I want a new lace shawl, I dropped a stitch so I should start something new until I have time to fix it, I need to concentrate to turn that heel so I'll just start a new sock for this trip... etc. etc. etc. Starting a new project before finishing a perfectly good one in progress is probably the ultimate form of procrasti-knitting and boy, am I good at it.

4) Festival visiting
How many hours have you spent petting sheep, watching searing demonstrations, taking classes, and strolling past booth after booth of tempting vendors? Those are hours you could have spent knitting! Perhaps you brought your knitting with you but I never accomplish as much as I think I will on such trips. However, I don't regret a single fiber festival as there is nothing more exciting than being surrounded by a community of like-minded folks who are just as excited about fiber as you are.

5) Weaving, spinning, dyeing, oh my!
Indubitably, many knitters will at some point dive head-first into another fiber-y craft. Handspinning stole my heart a couple of years ago and I find I love the process of creating yarn just as much as using it. Both activities fill different roles in my crafting life, with spinning being more meditative and process-driven and knitting being more involved and product-driven. Even when not actually knitting, many knitters just cannot keep away from yarn.

So there's my revised definition of 'procrasti-knitting': any way in which one engages with yarn that is not the actual act of knitting. I'm a proud procrasti-knitter, are you?

Friday, April 24, 2015

FO Friday: Newborn Vertebrae Cardigan

Now that it's been gifted, I can share this FO here on my blog! I recently knit the Newborn Vertebrae cardigan for a family member who's expecting a baby later this spring. The pattern is available for free on here Ravelry, and I have seen so many cute projects posted on Instagram, Ravelry and blogs in my reader that I couldn't resist making one of my own.
I used a beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn from Anzula, a fingering weight blend of Seacell and merino called Sebastian. The colorway, Curry, is the most gorgeous color of yellow I've ever seen - and perfect for a unisex baby project!
While I think the resulting garment is cute (and the folks I gifted it to certainly loved it), I can't say I was totally in love with the pattern. For whatever reason, I seemed to be cursed from the start - I keep messing up the decreases as I knit and had to rip back a few times. I also am not totally sold on the frontless cardigan for a baby - or for anyone, for that matter! I did add about 6 stitches to both sides to try to add a little more fabric to the front, but even that doesn't seem like enough to me.

I think I'm just done with free patterns, because it seems like you get what you pay for. And I'm not saying this is a badly-written pattern, though there were a few things which I thought could have been better worded here and there. As far as free patterns go, this is probably one of the better ones out there - in general, the ones I've come across have been rather atrocious. While I'm speaking in generalities, it seems like most free patterns do lack a certain completeness that prevents them from being truly great patterns, and I can understand the why behind it: who in their right mind would want to invest a great deal of time and effort into something which doesn't give them a return on that investment?
The subject of free patterns is a pretty heated one, especially amongst the designer community on Ravelry. I can totally understand the arguments on both sides, but as a crafter I can tell you that my preference is now to purchase a pattern from someone I know and trust to have accurate, complete patterns. There is nothing more disappointing that purchasing a pattern that is poorly written and maybe even unknittable - that's for sure, and free patterns can be a great way to sample a designer's work to see if their style of pattern-writing works for you. And there are definitely some well-written free patterns out there (Stacey Trock, I'm looking at you!), but I would rather rather purchase a pattern and support knitwear and crochet designers and give them a reason to design more of their time, money and effort into their work. To me, it's worth the risk that I might, from time to time, purchase a disappointing pattern, but to be honest, I haven't had that experience in quite a while.

But enough of my rambling - I'd love to hear your thoughts on free vs. paid patterns in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WIP Wednesday: New Yarn = New Projects (the monochrome edition)

It was impossible to resist casting on with the lovely (and grey!) skeins of yarn from my YarnCon stash enhancement experience. Thank goodness I'd gotten so many projects off the needles beforehand so that I could indulge in startitis without guilt!

On Sunday night, I immediately began making a simple Tunisian crochet scarf using my newfound skills and the two skeins of Bijou Basin Ranch sport weight yarn which came home with me: it was impossible to resist this incredibly squishy 100% yak yarn. I thought it would be fun to alternate between navy and grey as I practiced the Tunisian knit stitch and the Tunisian purl stitch - the result is an interesting effect! The only thing I'm not super-thrilled with is how loosely I began the scarf, but luckily that can be easily fixed by adding fringe to either end when it's all said and done.
I also started a swatch for the Lake Michigan Tee from the new Knitscene, using the mondo skein of BFL sock from Leading Men Fiber Arts which I bought for the express purposes of this design.
I'll be pairing it wish some skeins from my stash to create a colorblock/semi-ombre effect as I knit this pattern from top to bottom:
I should probably also mention the simple sock I started last week which will serve as my on-the-go knitting project for the foreseeable future, even though it's not entered in my Ravelry notebook just yet. I'm just doing a simple broken rib pattern and will probably use the OMG heel since it's so easy and fast; I'm using a skein of Cascade Heritage sock yarn which I was gifted for Christmas last year.
And that's pretty much it, except for the cozy memories blanket, which I continue to work on each week (I just don't think it's interesting to post a photo of it each week since the process is so glacial). Here's hoping I can add a little color into the mix for next week, otherwise I think we'll all get rather tired of the monochrome thing I've got going for my current WIPs!

Tell much grey is too much?

Monday, April 20, 2015

OMG, Yarncon!

I spent the entire weekend at YarnCon here in Chicago - man, I sure could use a weekend to recover from my weekend! Tiredness aside, it was totally worth making the trip down to the West Loop three days in a row (I helped out on set-up day last Friday and all weekend long in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth). I met some folks I've previously only known via Instagram or Ravelry (i.e. one of the most recent Take 5 bloggers, Lucia Pane), saw many knitting friends, and came home with some awesome goodies.
This year's event was even bigger than last year - the entire marketplace was full of every imaginable yarn and fiber, not to mention the project bags and other related accessories.
On Saturday, I came home with a mondo skein (as in, 600+ yards) of BFL sock yarn from Leading Men Fiber Arts:
Some gorgeous spinning fiber from Yarn Hollow and CJ Koho (the concept behind this is really cool, so I'll be sure to talk about that more in a future post):
And these awesome buttons from Balwen Woodworks. Fun fact: the set of 3 buttons is made from upcycled hammer handles!
For the first time, I signed up for a class: yesterday morning, I learned Tunisian Crochet from a local teacher, Kathy Kelly. In an hour and a half, I learned pretty much all of the basics and made this swatch:
I was totally psyched to come home and give my new-found skills a try, and immediately wound off two of the four skeins I came home with on Sunday - a navy and grey skein of 100% yak sport weight yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch. Also pictured below are the mondo skeins of grey Targhee worsted weight yarn from Cyborg's Craft Room which I'll be using to knit a sweater from the upcoming Midwestern Knits book:
Speaking of Midwestern Knits, there was a trunk show on Sunday at YarnCon which featured many of the samples from the books (it'll be out in August). I'd better work on clearing my queue this summer, because it turns out that there are a lot of patterns I want to make from this collection! Here's Allyson and Laura at the table where they took preorders and sold their super-cute tote bags:
There was also a Gnome Creation Station where you could knit, crochet, and/or donate your gnomes for Anna Hrachovec's Project Gnome Diplomacy (incidentally, you can still donate gnomes by mailing them to the address listed here):

I think that's the fastest a weekend has ever flown by, and if I didn't have a big ol' pile of yarn and fiber to comfort me, I'd be incredibly bummed right now. I'm already counting down the months, weeks and days til YarnCon 2016!

Friday, April 17, 2015

FO Friday: Small Striped Socks + YarnCon

Last weekend, I finished the self-striping OMG Heel socks which I started near the end of March. They would have been done much quicker if I hadn't gotten distracted by gnomes and lots of other projects, of course, but that's just how things go around here!
I love how they turned out, and as luck would have it, the self-striping pattern even matches up pretty well. The yarn is hand-dyed by me on the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock base, which is a superwash merino/nylon sock yarn. I made it many years ago when I still worked there, as evinced by the 225-yard skeins (they've since changed the put-up to be around 440 yards per skein, I believe).

I made the smallest size of the OMG heel socks, which means that some lucky kiddo in my life will be getting a new pair of socks at some point! I had plenty of yarn left over, too - I didn't even touch the second skein!
If you follow me on Instagram, you might want to check your feed, because I plan on giving the leftover skein away to one lucky person in my quest to reach 1,000 followers, so I'll be posting details sometime today!

The other big news is that it's finally time for YarnCon! This is my favorite fiber show in the Chicago area, and I'll be working in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth all day tomorrow and part of Sunday if you want to come by to say hello. I'll be sure to take lots of photos and share the highlights with you sometime next week, too.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Something Blissful

I finished a lot of projects over the weekend (which I'll be blogging about eventually, of course), and I find myself with only one new project on the needles: on Monday night, I cast on for the Long's Peak 3-in-1 Mitts by Marly Bird, which have been in my queue since the Rocky Mountain Collection came out in 2013.

I've been saving two skeins of Bijou Bliss yarn for the occasion - one in a lovely grass green, and then a deep blue-green which was a limited-edition color. I've made several projects with this yarn (a 50/50 blend of yak and cormo wool), and it's always a delight to work with. The hand-dyed colorways have since been discontinued, but you can still snag skeins in natural cream and natural brown if you are so inclined!

I am still working on my cozy memories blanket, but I imagine folks are tired of seeing the same progress photo again and again since it's such a slow burner of a project. However, I do have one more update for this week: after selling out of sock yarn miniskein in my Etsy shop a few weeks ago, I have at last restocked! There are some really great hand-dyed and luxury yarn possibilities, and several of the colorways I have are limited edition, one-of-a-kind, or from now-defunct hand dyers.

I have a new lower price for grab bags and offer free first class shipping to all US addresses. Also, I am totally happy to fulfill reasonable-ish requests with regards to the content of your grab bag. 

Click here to get your mini skein fix!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Take 5: Top 5 Fiber Events with Nutmeg Knitter

Welcome back to another episode of the Take 5 blog series! This week, we are joined by one of my colleagues and virtual knitting friends, Rebecca Huben of! Rebecca is a prolific knitter (and crocheter and spinnner) who wears many hats: in addition to working with me at Stitchcraft Marketing, Rebecca is a full-time Mom, a test knitter/sample knitter, and she blogs even more than I do! Click here to get caught up past Take 5 blog posts; I hope you enjoy today's post which is full of great ways to make fiber friends and engage in our wonderful community! 

Hi there, I’m Becca! I blog from Connecticut, the Nutmeg state, which is how I picked my blog / Ravelry / all over social media name: Nutmegknitter. Here are my top 5 events or classes:
  1. Your Local Yarn Festival! For me, this means the bigger New York Sheep and Wool Festival (aka Rhinebeck) and the smaller CT Sheep and Wool Festival. A yarn festival has a feel similar to a country fair – there are food vendors and animals, and YARN. This is a great opportunity to wear a shawl or sweater or something you have made to show it off, the other festival-goers are truly interested! Simply walking around and seeing what others are wearing or have made is a great way to rejuvenate your creative mojo. Plus, it can be proof to your family that there are other people out there just as into yarn as you are – or even more so! My knitting group likes to make unique hats each year so we can find each other in the crowd.
  2. Yarn Crawls! A yarn crawl is an event where you go from shop to yarn shop, easy enough. Sometimes the shops coordinate for deals and specials for a particular weekend. Here in New England I’ve participated in the I-91 Shop Hop and the North Shore Yarn Crawl just outside of Boston. I have also gotten together with friends and we do our own yarn crawl, just checking out a series of shops in one afternoon.
  3. Rebecca recommends sporting this sweatshirt at your next fibery event!
  4. Photography Class! You can’t wear all the items you make all the time, so you should document them! If you are going to blog, update your Ravelry notebook, or just share it to Facebook, it is worth the time and effort to take a decent picture of the object in which you put your time and effort. I highly recommend Gale Zucker’s Photography for Knitters or Crafters workshop. If you can’t make it to a workshop, there is also a great Craftsy class with Caro Sheridan called Shoot It! that will also help you take better photos to showcase your work.
  5. Knitting Retreats! A weekend away surrounded by knitters is a very nice way to spend your time and I wish I could attend more of them. Similar to a yarn festival, there is a lot of inspiration and creativity, but in a much more intimate setting. The atmosphere is low key and social. I attended the Knitter’s Review Retreat in 2010 and was able to take a workshop with Ann Budd, was told a bedtime story by Cat Bordhi, and attended “yarn church” with Clara Parkes.
  6. Your Local SnB / Knit-Night! If it’s once a month, or once a week, at a shop or at a restaurant, meeting up with other knitters and crocheters is an easy way to share your love of all things yarn. In my knitting group we cheer each other on, help with mistakes or advise on button choices, make fun of silly things in the knitting magazines (Why is that model holding a stick?!), and have informal swaps when someone clears out their stash!

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Design: The Inverness Shrug

At last, one of the "secret knitting" projects I've been working on recently can be shared with the rest of the world! I am super-excited to share my newest design: the Inverness Shrug.
It's knit in one of my favorite yarn bases from Bijou Basin Ranch, Himalayan Trail (for more about why I love this yarn, click here!). I was asked to design this shrug to be part of their Outlander-inspired pattern collection, and when I think of time-traveling historical romances, apparently I think "textured cables" (confession time: I haven't read the books or watched the TV show...but I've read the cliff's notes). I just couldn't get them out of my mind as I knit swatch after swatch to find the perfect stitch pattern for this shrug.
Though I have many designs in my back catalog, this is my first-ever garment. I was actually kind of nervous about it, even though a shrug is basically like dipping your toe in the garment pool, right?! Still, the challenge of grading the pattern for a variety of sizes (seven, to be exact) was both interesting and terrifying at once. SO. MUCH. MATH. Not only that, but I was a bit of a nervous nelly throughout the whole process and kept checking and re-checking my numbers over and over again. It was bordering on OCD!
Once the shrug was done, I was so relieved - especially when I went to try it on and IT FIT! Well, it was a little big on me, but it fits the model in the first photo perfectly, which was the plan all along, so I am counting this as a win!
It's currently available at as an exclusive project kit (bonus: you'll save over 15%!),  and it will be available for individual PDF purchase soon.

These kits will also be available in the Bijou Basin Ranch booth at YarnCon here in Chicago next weekend (April 18-19, 2015), and I'll be helping out in the booth for most of the time, so come by and say hello!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

WIPs, FOs & HOs

Since finishing my Block Island Sweater, I've been all about working on smaller instant-gratification projects: for instance, over the weekend, I finished my Gnome Rainbow for #ProjectGnomeDiplomacy:
This got me excited about knitting tiny things - I purchased the new Tiny Alpaca pattern from Mochimochiland along with the Tiny Sheep pattern so that I could make some friends for my gnomes. I plan on knitting some of these fun little guys over the upcoming weekend!

I was inspired to start a crochet Platypus when I randomly thought about the Easter Platypus from Invader Zim (click here to see what I'm talking about) - I think he's going to be so cute! I'm just using random destash yarn:
I've also been working on my self-striping socks from last week - here is my HO (half-finished object):
And lastly, I've been working on finishing up the newborn vertebrae I started last month:
I'm not totally in love with this particular pattern, but I think the finished sweater will still be a really nice baby gift! Now if I can just stop getting distracted with all of my random tiny knitting projects.....

Monday, April 6, 2015

Take 5: Notions & Knitting Tools with Lucia Pane

Welcome back to another episode of the Take 5 blog series! This week, we have a special treat - a double-header by a fellow Chicagoan, Lucia Pane! She also shared her favorite knitting-related meme, which seems to be an unspoken tradition for Take 5 guest posters. Click here to get caught up past Take 5 blog posts; I'll let Lucia introduce herself in her own words: 

Aloha, my name is Lucia and I am originally from Hawaii but now I live in the Chicago area. I host the Knitted Paradise video podcast and I’m the owner/designer/creator behind Pearl of the Pacific. Here is my list of top 5 notions that I keep in my kit at all times and my list of top 5 knitting tools that turned me from a casual to a serious knitter.

Top 5 Notions:

  1. Yarn needle and threader. For weaving in all the ends and my new favorite, the invisible ribbed bind-off. The needle threader I have is designed specifically for yarn (it’s one solid piece with large holes) which is more durable than the ones designed for thread. It’s a huge time saver and makes threading a needle much less frustrating.
  2. Stitch markers. I always keep a couple locking stitch markers in my kit along with a set of nice ones that match the bag or project. I like things that match.
  3. Crochet hook. For picking up dropped stitches, fixing mistakes, and such.
  4. Foldable scissors. Compact and allowed on a plane, need I say more.
  5. Tape measure. Can be used to measure length and also as a row counter, essential in all my sock project bags.
Top 5 Knitting Tools: 

  1. Swift. I can’t believe it took me so long to get one of these. Before, my husband would have to hold the yarn as I wound it on my ball winder. His arms were very grateful when I got the swift. I have the Mama Bear basic from the Oregon Woodworker and it has been perfect for all types and lengths of skeins.
  2. Ball winder. It’s totally worth it to invest in a good ball winder. I bought a cheap one to start out with and I definitely got what I paid for. I now have the one made by Royal and I love it. It’s super easy to clamp to my coffee or bedside table and makes beautiful cakes.
  3. Kitchen scale. Another tool that took me a while to get but is incredibly useful. I use it to wind cakes for 2-at-a-time socks that are of equal weight and also to measure how much yarn I used for a project. This is especially useful for designing so that I can give an accurate yardage needed on the pattern.
  4. Project bags. Ok, some people wouldn’t call these a tool but I see them that way. They keep each project contained and together with a notions kit and anything else I may need for the project (such as buttons or stuffing). They make my knitting portable and also safe from pets and children (well . . . mostly). My favorite are the wedge style bags because they hold a lot and the wide opening makes things easy to access.
  5. Interchangeable needle set. I purchased a set of these early in my knitting career and don’t know why everyone doesn’t have one. This is one tool I would recommend over all the others. I can take it with me on trips and it means I have all the needle sizes and all the lengths of cables. This allows me to combine the pieces in any way I need, for all sorts of projects. The cables make great stitch holders for sleeves on sweaters and it’s also super easy to change the cable length mid project if you need to. Plus, buying another cable is much cheaper than buying needles if you need a different length.

Friday, April 3, 2015

FO Friday: Block! Island! Pullover!

I'm over the moon with this week's FO: my Block Island Pullover by Allyson Dykhuizen, which I started in January of this year! The pattern is from the Fall 2014 issue of Knitscene, and when my knitting group was placing an order with Peace Fleece (hot tip: they'll give anyone wholesale pricing so long as the order is a minimum of $150), I knew this was a great opportunity to snag a sweater's worth of yarn.

I chose two colors of Peace Fleece Worsted, Patience Blue (the darker color) and Indigo Smoke. The yarn has a little bit of mohair in it, but you really wouldn't know it from coming across it randomly (unless you have an allergy of course) - it's not at all like the mohair you remember from the 80's...and that's a good thing!

I didn't totally enjoy knitting with this yarn for a couple of reasons: first, it was kind of tough to work with because it's so sturdy and strong. The benefit to that, however, is I'm sure this sweater will last forever and hardly ever pill - so sometimes, the suffering is worth it!

The second reason I didn't fall in love with this yarn as I knit with it was because there was so much vege matter in each skein. I thought it wouldn't bother me - and for a smaller project, it usually doesn't - but for a sweater project, it quickly became annoying, not to mention it really slowed me down.

The light at the end of the tunnel? I absolutely love the finished sweater. I washed it in Allure and it got about 200 times softer than it had been when I was knitting with it. And it fits great! I'm not sure that I'll ever knit another sweater with this yarn, but I definitely would use it for smaller projects (which is great news since I have a couple of skeins leftover - matching hat, perhaps?!).
Have you ever worked with Peace Fleece yarn? I'd love to hear your take on it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WIP Wednesday: All About the Simple Knits

I started out the week in a most unusual way: by attending a training seminar downtown on Monday & Tuesday. For those of you who are new to my blog, I work from home doing a variety of things related to the yarn and fiber arts industry, and anything that requires me to be awake and out of the house before 10am is generally anathema to me...but occasionally I will make an exception and get outside of my comfort zone!

Trade shows and seminars such as the one I attended definitely mean that my brain power is sapped by the end of the day (and sometimes, from the get-go - I am truly not a morning person), so I tend to favor extremely simple projects to suit the occasion. Much progress was made to my Newborn Vertebrae in Anzula's Sebastian Yarn:
I also started a pair of tiny OMG Heel Socks using some self-striping yarn I'd dyed many years ago while working at Lorna's Laces; I'm hoping that the XS size option fits one of my nephews! These are a truly quick knit - I cast on for this sock yesterday during my lunch break and I am already blazing my way towards those toe decreases.
I'd love to know what's on your needles or hook this week!