Monday, December 23, 2019

2019, I Won't Miss You!

I'm guessing I'm not alone in this sentiment; seems like it's been a rough year for a lot of people I know. On a personal level, this year just flat-out sucked. Obviously, I lost my mojo for regular blogging, but beyond that I lost my last remaining grandparent at the end of the summer, followed by my beloved cat Tilly, one week before my birthday.

Can you even remember back to January of this year when I boldly declared my 2019 Make Nine? I nearly forgot, til I saw someone post an update of their progress on I went back to my original post and realized I only made 2 of the 9 projects I'd planned. Oops.

It was just that kind of year. I ended up finishing more things that I thought I would overall - I'd set my Ravelry challenge to 30 FO's for 2019 after making only 40 of 50 in 2018. Ironically, I surpassed 30 projects by early fall of this year, so I reset the goal to 40, and am currently at 44 projects for this year (hopefully I can eke out 1 or 2 more before 2020 arrives).

I have mixed feelings about the new year and new decade to come. I hope 2020 is better than 2019, both for myself and the rest of the world, which currently still seems to be in dumpster fire mode.

At this point, I doubt there will be any hard and fast resolutions for 2020, at least when it comes to crafting. But I will try to blog a little more frequently (and try to be less of a sad sack), even if it's just to share what I've been making. If you are still interested in keeping up with me, you can subscribe here to have new posts emailed to you.

Also, I am having a little sale in my Etsy shop this week, everything is 20% off, no coupon code needed. If you had your eye on some yarns or even ready-made items, now it the time to buy (plus all US orders ship free). The only catch is that everything will ship out on 12/28 once I'm back home.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday (whatever you celebrate), and a joyous new year!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Memoriam: Yarn Inspector Tilly

On Sunday, November 10 we said goodbye to one of our cats, Tilly. She was 17 years old and from the same litter as our other cat, Robin. We got them when we were living in Portland, OR, and they've been through a lot ever since then, moving from Portland to Kansas City for a brief stop before moving to Chicago 14 years ago.

If you follow me on Instagram, you were frequently treated to Tilly's antics - she was always in the thick of things, and had the energy of a kitten until fairly recently, when old age must have finally caught up. Ironically, she was shy around strangers and would almost always hide when people came over to our house. Working from home, I appreciated having another critter to talk to throughout the day (she was VERY talkative!).

We had a Saturday morning ritual: she would snuggle in the spot between me and the arm of the couch, and I would knit, drink tea, watch anime, and pet her every now and again as we both eased into the day. Tilly was my chief yarn and fiber inspector, and she was always nearby to supervise, no matter what I happened to be doing. Consequently I have a ton of photos of her with fiber, yarn and WIPs. I can't think of a better way to honor the memory of one of my best furry friends than sharing some of the highlights from her many years of service as the resident yarn (and fiber) inspector.

She appreciated brioche knitting...

...and had a clear preference for cashmere.

She was also a fan of crochet!

I can haz this So Faded shawl?

Hand dyed yarn = sweet kitty dreams

All about the crocheted ottoman.

I never got a chance to finish her favorite toy - she helped herself from the WIP pile.
Clearly this handwoven scarf is the proper place to play with it!

Just helping this scarf dry faster....
When your cat is the same size as your yarn....

Spent 2 years knitting a cat regrets.

She loved to knead freshly-carded batts.

Yet another knitted pillow claimed for Tilly. This one's out of handspun yarn!

Is this comfortable?

"Helping" during the Tour de Fleece.

Keeping those batts safe.

Were you trying to weave?

Saturday morning yawnzzz
Sometimes she would reach out and touch my hand while I was knitting.
It was a very cute/effective way to get me to pet her!
In her final days, she liked to lay my desk, so I made a little bed where she could hang out and nap if she wanted to.
She spent a lot of time up here and got lots of pets.

Rest in peace my sweet little Tillygirl - and thanks for all the memories. We miss you!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Recently(ish) Off The Needles

Since my last post about WIPs/FOs back in September, I've finished a surprising amount of projects (at least, for me - I'm a really slow knitter!). I know it's not a Wednesday when I would usually share a blog post, but I just couldn't wait any longer to show off these finished projects!

Purl Thief Shawl by Kalurah Hudson
This is my freshest FO, and it's been a bit of a slow burner: I started this shawl on the Amtrak train down to Kansas City at the end of August, and it's been my "on the go" project ever since. Considering I don't leave the house a whole lot, that means I've bene working on it off and on ever since casting on, so finishing it is a huge win! The yarn is a gradient yarn cake from Zen Yarn Garden that I picked up at Stitches Midwest earlier this year, and I basically just knit the pattern repeats til I ran out of yarn! It's a really simple pattern, but I still managed to mess it up time and time again, necessitating a bit of frogging (for me, it seems like the simplest patterns are really the hardest sometimes). Overall, it was a soothing project and I'm happy with how it turned out.

Wraptitude Shawl by Megan Williams
Here's another slow-burning shawl knit with green yarn....I started this project at the beginning of June but didn't finish it til the middle of September for a variety of reasons - first and foremost, I lost at yarn chicken, and had to order another skein from Knit Circus before I could finish. Secondly, it quickly became a stay-at-home project, so it didn't get worked on as much as other projects I had on the needles. The "styling loop" intrigues me and I find that the easiest way to use it if slipping one arm through the loop to secure one end of the shawl, and then wrapping the other end around my shoulders as you can see in the photo above. I'm not sure that I would knit another shawl with this styling feature, but it's an interesting concept and I'm glad I gave it a try.

Scrappy Pillow for the Scrappy Pillow Make-Along
This was a fun way to use up leftover bits of sock yarn, including some of the minis that I also sell here on Etsy. Our couch is in danger of being overrun with handknit/crocheted/woven pillows, so this one may ultimately find a new home. There is also a crocheted version included in the same pattern that I'll have to make at some point!

Triangle Puff Hat by Cynthia Shavers in Miss Babs Yowza
Look, something that isn't green!! I test crocheted this hat and it was my first time using Yowza. The yarn is fabulous, and even stood up to repeated frogging. I loved how the colorway worked up, and the stitch pattern was easy to master & memorize. There is also a matching cowl for those who dare, and you can make the set with just 1 skein because Yowza (as the name would imply) has a  lot of yardage.

July Hat by Courtney Kelley
I needed a travel project and wanted to destash some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride that was lurking in my stash, and I love all of the free patterns that Kelbourne Woolens has been releasing as part of their ongoing Year of Hats series. I'm planning to donate this somewhere, either to an organization like Wool Aid or someplace that is collecting warm items for refugees coming to the US who aren't used to super-cold winters. Or, I might keep it for next year's #hatnothate campaign, since they just announced they'll be doing it again....

Thermal Hat by Me
This is the yarn (and faux fur rabbit pom) I bought from Yarn Social when I was in Kansas City for my grandfather's funeral. I couldn't find a pattern that spoke to me, so I just grabbed a stitch dictionary and chose something that I thought would work with the variegated yarn, a simple thermal stitch. I still have about a half a skein left, so I might find a darker contrast yarn to knit a two-color hat that might look better on my head - as much as I love how this turned out, I truly can't wear anything with yellow (especially of the highlighter variety) so close to my face. Oops!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pain Free Knitting with CBD

In our obsessive zeal to knit all the things, many of us knitters (or crocheters, or weavers!) may be forgoing self-care in favor of more crafting time. It's tempting, but when you get to the point that you absolutely cannot do the thing you love because it's so painful, it's the worst! Believe me, I know....I've been knitting for over 10 years, and there have been times when aches and pains have kept me away from my yarn and needles for days at a time.

Getting back to a place where you can knit pain-free is a process, and it requires more than just one quick fix. But the impact that CBD has made in my pain management routine has been huge - it's a real game changer. So today I want to share a little bit about how and why I use CBD, with the hope that this helps someone else going through similar issues.

First, a common sense warning: always know what you're taking and do your own research. If you have serious medical conditions or take RX meds, ask your doctor to make sure that CBD won't negatively interact with them. The only contraindication I've heard about with CBD is meds that have the "grapefruit warning" - but again, do your own recon. I'm not a doctor!

What is CBD?

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's start with the basics: CBD stands for cannabidial, which is a derived from cannabis but not psychoative. There are many forms including topical creams and ointments, oils, gummies, etc. It can pretty much be infused into anything - I had a really delicious CBD Kombucha at a coffee shop earlier this year!

If you live in a state with legalized marijuana, some CBD products may have a small amount of THC in them (so be sure to read the labels!). That tiny amount of THC acts as an activation switch for the CBD, and for most people, it won't have any psychoactive effects. If marijuana isn't legal in your state, then the CBD products you can buy will be THC-free. I've used both and I can attest that both are equally effective (and that tiny amount of THC has little to no psychoactive effect, unless you're reeeeaalllly sensitive).

CBD is fairly new, but you can find a lot of interesting articles about it on the internet. Here are a few that helped me during my research phase:

Why CBD?

For a brief couple of years, I was a licensed massage therapist (LMT), and that training has come in handy in creating my own treatment plan to manage pain. My favorite recommendations to clients were stretching, icing and/or contrast therapy, and a homeopathic anti-inflammatory remedy called Arnica. Arnica can be applied topically or taken orally, and I've done lots of experiments on myself to test its magical powers, including taking arnica pills prior to a long tattoo session to prevent pain and bruising (it totally worked for me!).

When I first started hearing about CBD, I was curious because it sounded very similar to Arnica, but with even more health benefits. It's used to manage pain, anxiety, depression, and a host of other health conditions. CBD was one of those things that I happened upon at just the right time - I was experiencing some fairly intense insomnia at the time. I took a chance and gave it a try - the resulting nights of good sleep were enough to convince me. From there, I figured I had nothing to lose in establishing a CBD routine that focused on pain management.

My CBD Routine

My preferred brand of non-THC CBD is*...aka, the same CBD that Lil' Bub uses. Hey, if it's good enough for Bub, it's good enough for me! I use two products from CBD MD: a topical cream and CBD gummies.

Topical Cream
When you first start using a topical, it's important to use it consistently so that the CBD can build up in your system. I've heard that using at least once per day for the first 10 days is best; after that, you can switch to an as-needed basis. You can also apply CBD cream more than once a day, and at first, there were days I was using it 3x day. The Recover cream from CBD MD has lots of beneficial ingredients (like Arnica!) which complement the CBD.

Now that I've been using it for several months, I just apply it 1x per day (before I go to bed), and sometimes I feel so good all day long that I forget it entirely!

CBD Gummies
I've been taking an average of 1 gummy per day, although there have been times I've taken two (one in the morning and one at night) if I was particularly stressed. This is basically to decrease all inflammation in my body, and the bonus is that it's helped with my anxiety exponentially. I use the lowest does for now (10mg per gummy), with the idea that I can always bump up if I need to.

CBD and Pets

We've been giving Robin (our Kidney Cat) CBD for several months now because he's been having mobility issues in the last year. We give him the CBD pet oil twice a day and he has been able to move around a lot better because he's not in so much pain.

To be honest, he's not really a fan of liquid meds in general, and he resisted at first. But now that we've been doing it for a while, he's more or less going along with know, as much as a cat ever does that!

Beyond CBD

As I said earlier, CBD is just one piece of the pain management puzzle - there is no magical one-and-done cure. During my own road to recovery, I've had to accept that I can't knit as fast as I used to, as much as I used to, or as long as I used to. And over the years I've picked up new hobbies like weaving, crochet and cross-stitch, which use my hands (and body) in different ways than knitting does. Think of other crafts like cross-training!

I've also embraced stretching and taking more breaks: no more hours-long knitting sessions where I am stitching every second without coming up for air. Interestingly enough, strength training and working out in general have made a huge impact in how my hand/wrist/arms feel while knitting, and I can only surmise that building strength and stamina in general has a trickle-down effect to my knitting.

Of course, what works for me might not work for you, but hopefully this gives you some ideas to try should you ever find yourself in a place where crafting is causing you pain.

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* in no way sponsored or solicited this post, I just really love their products. Of course, if they want to sponsor me, I'm totally open to that! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

When you go yarn shopping, have you ever noticed that there are different shapes and sizes for the skeins of yarn on the shelf? Yarn for knitting or crocheting is most commonly sold in three different forms: balls, skeins, and hanks.
photo of a skein and a ball of yarn

As the name would imply, balls are a nice, round shape, and you can begin working with the yarn directly from them. Similarly, skeins also come ready to knit (or crochet); the yarn in a skein is more loosely wrapped than a ball, to create a more oblong shape.

Hanks of yarn are wound into a large circle and then twisted; these yarns need to be wound into a ball before use.
hanks of yarn for knitting or crochet
Left: mini skeins from October House Fiber Arts; Right: Katahdin from Miss Babs

There are three ways to wind hanks of yarn into cakes which can be used for knitting or crocheting, and I'll give you an overview of each one on today's post!

To get started, open the hank and remove any ties that might be securing the skein (these are often on hand-dyed yarns to prevent the skeins from becoming tangled messes during the dye process):

you will need to cut the ties off of hanked yarn

Winding Yarn by Hand

If you don’t have any equipment handy, don’t fear! You can use the back of a chair or have a friend hold the skein for you like so (I've even used my own two feet in a pinch!):

image of man holding a hank of yarn ready to be wound for knitting

I start by wrapping the yarn around my fingers:

yarn wrapped around fingers

Once I have a good base, I remove the yarn from my fingers and start wrapping the yarn around at different angles to create a round ball to work from. It ends up looking like this:

a ball of yarn wound by hand

Pros: Good way to get to know your yarn.
Cons: Takes a long time, can't make a center-pull ball (or at least, I haven't figured out how to!).

Winding Yarn with a Nostepinne

A Nostepinne is one of the original ways to wind a ball of yarn, and there are many interesting (not to mention affordable) nostepinnes you can buy - here, I'm using one from Knitter’s Pride. There's a little bit of learning curve with this tool, but it does produce a much nicer-looking yarn cake than winding yarn by hand. Plus, it's also portable - you can easily stash it in your knitting bag or suitcase so that you're ready for any yarn-winding emergency.

Again, you'll want to use a yarn swift or have a friend hold the skein while you wind the yarn. I like to keep things simple by holding one yarn end against the nostepinne, then wrapping the yarn around a few times to secure it like so:

winding yarn on a nostepinne

Then, I start winding the yarn from the bottom left corner to the top right corner (you can also do the reverse if it's easier for you) while slowly rotating the nostepinne AT THE SAME TIME. This allows the wraps of yarn to build up evenly to create that yarn cake shape we all know and love! I'm still getting the hang of it, but here's my finished cake:

ball of yarn on a nostepinne

Pros: Portable, good way to get to know your yarn, relatively inexpensive equipment investment, center-pull balls of yarn are possible.
Cons: Requires some practice, takes a long time.

Winding Yarn with a Swift & Ball Winder

My personal favorite way to wind yarn is using a swift and ball winder. While it does require a bit of an investment, the time you save is priceless in my opinion! Not only that, but you don't have to depend on the availability of a patient human to wind the yarn, plus you can also make picture-perfect cakes every time.

There are two keys to successful winding:
1. Making sure there's enough space between your swift at the ball winder.
2. Not winding too fast.

Here's a good video to walk you through the steps in greater detail:

A few years ago I upgraded from a plastic/metal yarn winder a swift (similar to what you see in the video above) to a swift and ball winder from Knitters' Pride. According to the website, the ball winder can hold up to 1 pound of yarn, which I admit - I was a bit skeptical about. But when I needed to wind the ginormous skein of Miss Babs Katahdin that I bought at Stitches midwest earlier this month, I decided to put it to the ultimate test.

yarn on a swift for winding

The skein isn't quite one pound (it's just over 14 oz.) - but it's a whopping 1402 yards of fingering weight yarn. That's no joke...I mean, check out this huge yarn cake:

cake of yarn on a ball winder

Pros: Fastest option, produces beautiful center-pull cakes, easy to learn.
Cons: Requires a sizable up-front investment in equipment, not as portable as other options.

Do you have a favorite way to wind your yarn hanks? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

When You Just Need Simple Knits....

Sorry for the radio silence, I ended up taking an unexpected 11-day trip back to Kansas City earlier this month and I just didn't feel like blogging. So I didn't. And to be completely honest, as this dumpster fire of a year rolls on, I find myself less and less motivated to maintain my blog and social media presence (such as it is) in favor of spending more time doing things IRL. I'm hoping to find something of a balance this fall since I do still enjoy writing and sharing the crafty things I'm learning and doing here, and I assume that someone somewhere likes to read about it. At least I hope so!

With that in mind, I thought a good first step would be to get back to blogging every Wednesday(ish), starting with a recap of what I've been working on lately.

The key word is simple knits. To wit: I just finished a Boxy Worsted pullover in Malabrigo Twist - miles and miles of stockinette stitch on pitch black yarn. Impossible to photograph, but something I predict I'll wear a lot this fall and winter.
Right before my trip, I decided to start a baby sweater to match a pair of socks I'd knit for a client tutorial about a year ago - I'd even printed out the pattern and kept the socks and unused yarn together for the occasion. I finished it while I was in Kansas City, and promptly wove in the ends and blocked it once I got back to Chicago. The pattern is the free Flax pattern by Tin Can Knits, and I used 2 skeins of Hikoo Kenzie in Bayberry that I'd bought at Windy Knitty right before they closed.
Another project I started before my trip and finished before I got back was this super simple cowl using the Gradient Quartet I got from Zen Yarn Garden at Stitches Midwest. I made up the pattern and am thinking of releasing it as a free pattern if you sign up for my newsletter- any interest? Y/N?
My only other recent finish is actually a crochet project, I used the cone of Hoooked Zpagetti t-shirt yarn I got at Creativation 2 years ago do whip up a bath mat in single crochet. Originally I was going to weave it as part of my #2019MakeNine, but I've pretty much abandoned all of my ambitions for that for a variety of reasons (most notably, lack of motivation....yet another theme, I suppose).
Currently, I have a very simple shawl on the needles - I'm using the Purl Thief pattern and a cake of gradient yarn from Zen Yarn Garden (also obtained at Stitches Midwest back in August).
I had to put my Making Connections Wrap in hibernation for a bit because I ran out of yarn (oops), and the skein I ordered didn't arrive before I had to head out of town. Now that I'm back, I've been knitting like mad to finally finish this project, because I'm really excited to give this whole "styling loop" concept a try.
I also started another hat project using a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in my stash, just because. The pattern is free from Kelbourne Woolens as part of their ongoing Year of Hats series (this is the July pattern).
Last but not least, I started a very-not-simple knit, which I hope I can finish in a reasonable amount of time because I want to live in this sweater once winter is here. The pattern is Sempervirens and I'm using the mondo skein of Miss Babs Katahdin (100% BFL wool in a fingering weight) that I got at Stitches. I'm not very far along - I've only knit the collar and then picked up to work the body and knit a few rows. Still trying to get the hang of the pattern in terms of which chart is worked between which markers, but I think that I'll (eventually) get in the rhythm of it and things will start moving along at a less glacial pace. At least, I hope so!
I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to this fall, and getting back into the swing of things in general. Don't forget, you can sign up to receive emails whenever I post a new blog entry - just  use the form on the top right sidebar!