Thursday, August 19, 2010

Etsy Corner: Soap That Makes Scents

Today on Etsy Corner, I not only have a review of a store, Soap That Makes Scents, but an interview with the owner, Karina!

When you become a regular on Etsy, whether browsing every day or tending your own shop, you do tend to accumulate a lot of 'favourites'. I myself will generally click "add item/seller to favourites" whenever I want to keep tabs on a store that caught my eye, either through random browsing or from a featured item in the daily Etsy Finds newsletter. I will come back to a lot of these faves, but only a few will truly stick, as I suspect is the norm for most shoppers. Karina's store was the ninth that I favourited, and unlike a lot of other favourites whose stores have languished, hers has continued to grow. That growth invites me back consistently to see what's new and keeps her a top favourite!

Karina originally hails from Toronto, Canada, but now lives in New York with her family. Her store first came to my attention around October 2009, when I was searching for solid perfume. I tried a perfume and a lipbalm, and when I came back for more perfume I decided to try out a soap as well. That soap was the holiday-limited-edition Mulled Apple Cider, a thoroughly lovely concoction that smelled as delicious as it sounds! I was hooked on her soaps and unique scent blends from that day on.

At the time I started following her store, she was selling bar soap, whipped body souffle, lip balm, and solid perfume. Since then the solid perfume has been discontinued (a lovely product that is sadly misunderstood in these modern times!), but the rest of the line has continued to blossom, and in March of this year she was featured in the Etsy "Quit Your Day Job" series.

In the last few months, I have acquired seven bars of her soap and am saving a couple for later - but it's hard to keep them aside when the scent quality and lather is this good! (They are also vegan, which makes them ideal for gift-giving to everyone on your holiday lists - and priced very reasonably - what's not to love?)

Japanese Peppermint SoapTo that end, I can personally attest that the Japanese Peppermint, Coconut Cream, Orange Dreamsicle, Teatree & Lemongrass, and Tomboy soaps are of wonderful quality (I am yet to actually use the regular Lemongrass and East Meets West, but they sit on my desk and I'll admit to taking occasional sniff-breaks just to enjoy the fresh scents!). They make excellent hand-wash soaps in the bathroom and lather up to a gorgeous, shaving-cream consistency on a bath-pouf in the shower. The scents are fresh and invigorating; the Japanese Peppermint, for example, is sweet and brisk, not overpowering as some peppermint blends can be. The Coconut Cream smells so much like a freshly-cracked coconut - and takes me back to summer holidays where just such a thing was an occasional treat - that it's mind-blowing! Tomboy is a blend of "bergamot, hawthorne, honeysuckle, nutmeg, sandalwood, violet, cedar, tonka bean and patchouli that's brightened with "feminine" notes of tangerine, mandarin and grapefruit" - you might think that all of these things can't possibly go together, and yet, it's a perfect match. I like it so much I can't keep it for once-a-day use, it's in my downstairs bathroom for hand-washing so I can enjoy it as much as I can!

Though I've only tried one flavour of lipbalm - grapefruit, yum! - I must mention that they are of a soft, smooth consistency and feel wonderful on the lips, not waxy or hard to get to the melting-point like some mass-produced Tomboy soapbalms.

And now without further ado, the interview! My thanks to Karina for giving insight into her creative process and how she runs her business :)


1) Describe the first soap you ever made. (Did you have a steep learning curve? What kind of soap did you want to make when you tried your hand at it?)

The first soap I ever made was Sandalwood Rose. It had come out well, but I didn't know that when I blended the colors used (purple and red) that I'd used bleeding colorants as opposed to what happened in about a day was my soap bars going from lovely red/purple swirls to a murky brown. There can be so much to remember about soapmaking...the properties of essential oils, the "right" measurements of oils and butters and additives to add, recipes, how to properly layer colors, etc. Soapmaking is definitely a science.

2) What inspires your scent blends?

Life does. Scents invoke memories and feelings. Fresh lemon makes us feel invigorated and refreshed...the smell of spice or cinnamon reminds us of the warm comforts of home or how we used to bake with our grandmother. Inhale the scent of my Orange Dreamsicle soap and it can take you back to your childhood. Fragrances mean so much---and can symbolize a specific time or emotion. That's what we try to do---we want to bring a slice of life into every single bar.

3) When you have a spare moment to relax, between business and family, what do you like to do? (I personally find myself mixing knitting with every other waking moment!)

I love to bake. Honestly, I think it's a crossover from soapmaking to cooking. The same principles apply--following a recipe, blending different ingredients and tastes together, creating something with my own two hands, and then handing it over to someone else who'll hopefully enjoy it as much as I do.

4) What's a typical business day for you?

•I wake up around 6:30 a.m. with my 4-year-old patting me on the cheek saying "It's morning time." My husband's already left for work, so while Isabella's eating breakfast I quickly boot up the computer to check for emails, answer any Convos, and relist items sold the night prior.

•Most mornings involve a trip to the post office and when we come back it's full business mode. I must admit I do utilize a bit of child labor once in a while — Isabella enjoys unpacking supplies and gets quite excited every time she sees a UPS truck pull up outside our home.

•While she has lunch or plays with her toys, most of the "behind the scenes" work gets done — labels are printed and then hand-stamped or hand-colored, invoices are written up (to this day I still hand write invoices, I think it adds a nice touch to the handmade shopping experience), thank you cards written out, and I'm constantly checking the computer for any new Convos or sales to keep on top of things.

•The bulk of soapmaking gets done either during her naptime (at least on the days I'm lucky enough for her to settle down for one) or when she's gone to bed, which is around 8:30 p.m.

•I normally go to bed around midnight after soapmaking — wrapping and labeling the bars/body souffle jars/lip balms are easily done in front of the television so I can still catch my favorite shows.

It's a busy day---and can get even more hectic if we're planning on doing a show that weekend, or making soap to donate to a charity. Our daughter is starting Pre-Kindergarten this year, so that's a good thing for her and for me.

5) You're on a desert island. You can take one movie, one CD, one book, one kind of beverage, and a supply of one of your soaps. What do you choose?

Oooh--I like this question! Let's see...

Movie: I'm not much into movies--I'm the type who waits until everything comes out on DVD before seeing it...and even then it's still several months (sometimes more than a year!) before I'll get around to actually watching it. I have become hooked to buying DVD series of past telelvision I'd have to say that I'd take my entire series of Stargae Sg-1...I love Richard Dean Anderson!

CD: Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi.

Beverage: As long as I have at least one bottle of Coke, I'm good.

Soap: Now this is a tough one because I love them all and have many favorites. If I had to choose, I'd go with my Sangria bar, which I think would fit in with the whole Tropical-Island-Castaway theme. :)


Once again, folks, that's Karina of Soap That Makes Scents (and her Facebook fan page!). Do check out her wonderful store (did I also mention quite reasonable shipping?) and treat yourself to some luxury soaps today! [The soaps pictured are: Japanese Peppermint and Tomboy.]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hats, Hats, and More Hats

When I was a kid, I remember reading "Caps for Sale" in school. I think what I liked most about it was how the man in the story wore all of those hats on his head and they didn't fall off. It must have made an impression because last winter I was wearing three hats at once on any given day! (A wool beanie cap underneath, then an acrylic earflap hat, and finally, a bulky-weight acrylic beanie which has since found its way into my husband's hat collection - apparently, totally by accident, I knit a hat that fits his noggin perfectly and happened to be in a colour he really liked. I can't make these things happen on purpose, it seems.)

In getting ready for Fall/Winter 10/11, I am knitting hats like a fiend right now, hoping to have my Etsy store stocked with a little something for everyone. I'm trying some new stuff - stranded colourwork, which so far has been incredibly intimidating, but seems to be working out - and trying to perfect my beret ratios (increasing the stitches by half for the shaping seems to yield a nice result, but still kind of big; doubling the stitches makes for a gigantic hat that might be useful for holding a LOT of hair). After the one I'm knitting right now I'm going to try a cabled beanie, and I also have some ideas for a stylish cloche. I am so into hats! I just can't wait until it's cold enough to merit wearing them - waiting out the summer is going to be tough.

I'll be trying to round up some models soon, but for the time being I'll show the hats off on my styrofoam head. Note that the head is a bit smaller than the average human head - what looks gigantic on the model seems to actually fit real people just fine :)

Peacock coloured hearts on black background; beanie shape.

"Stained glass" (variegated yarn) hearts on black background, beanie shape.

Black kitty faces on "stained glass"/variegated yarn background, beanie shape.

My friend Carolyn modeling the kitty beanie :)

And I finished this one last night - I'm still settling on a name for the colours, probably something with "berry" in it, but it's a slouchy beret. The photo is quite blurry but my camera batteries just quit, so I'm waiting for them to recharge before I can take a new picture, I'll try to have it up by tonight!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Adventures in Lace

So, it's been a while! This seems to be my blog pattern: I am very gung-ho at the beginning of the year, and I write a lot, happily posting pictures and committing to my documentation, and then around April or May my resolve crumbles (or I simply become distracted by actual knitting) and it slows down or stops entirely. Doesn't make for a very interesting blog to follow! So I'm going to try and remedy that and shoot for at least once a week. I've got a couple of Etsy Corners coming up, too - but for now, let's talk about lace.

For the past week or so I've been endeavouring to make my own lace kerchief pattern. I found one that I love - a very simple mesh that requires no chart, just a simple memorisation; and when it's blocked it looks amazing in its simplicity - but, I want something I can call my own. Something original I wouldn't feel bad about selling in my store. (I tweaked the aforementioned pattern to fit my preferences but am still coming up against an ethical wall.) So I got out the graph paper and looked through all of my stitchionaries and settled upon a leaf lace motif. Converting it to a tip-up triangular shape was a little tricky at first, but once I could see the pattern taking shape on the paper (and could see where my increases matched my decreases) - and I had begun knitting it at least six or seven times - I found my rhythm. I used a DK weight wool, and when I blocked it I used my brand new blocking wires. What a godsend these things are - it was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to thread them through the edge of the knitting, but once I had a wire in all three edges, it took minimal pinning to keep everything in place. So much simpler than trying to get everything straight on the blocking mat with about a zillion and one pins!
Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product (minus ribbon ties). I still have a couple of things to tweak within the chart itself but I'm still sort of patting myself on the back for converting a stitch pattern I thought was nice into an actual item (now - to try and do the same with a stitch pattern for a hat... eek).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Secret Projects & Cardigans

I've definitely been more into my knitting lately - kind of hit a bump in the road there. It wasn't that I didn't want to knit; I was overwhelmed by the scope and number of projects I had to finish up. Some of them, though past their due date, are now back into the realm of winter knitting. I hope to work on them during the summer and have them finished and ready to go for the start of autumn, but I have allowed myself to let go of the pressure. Once you begin forgiving yourself for all the UFOs in your knitting basket, the stress associated with them dissolves, and it's easier to jumpstart the creative spark. It also helps to switch to incredibly low-pressure projects! I am working on one such project now - it's a secret, but I promise that all will be revealed in due time... but a small taste can be seen to your left!

As for cardigans, I've decided it's high time that I learn the art of top-down construction. I've read that it's incredibly easy, relatively speaking, and that the best part is that there's no seams, and you can try on garments as you go. SOLD! I mean, I do an ok mattress stitch now, but for me piecing an item together and sewing seams is a definite mental hurdle that can make the difference between having a cardigan a month or two from now, or five months. (I am, of course, basing this on the ONE [1] cardigan I've made, haha.) Right now I'd like to make a cropped cardigan - a little shrug-like something I can pop on over a sleeveless top while I'm knitting at night, or over a dress to ward off a chill, and the beauty of top-down construction is that you can stop it wherever you'd like: cropped, short, mid-length, hip-length, longer than that... I suppose you could even make a full-on duster if you're so inclined!

As far as patterns go, I am seriously considering Margot by Linden Heflin as a fall knit. Though I do prefer cardigans to pullovers, this one is just so pretty! For right now, I am going to trust in the brilliant Laura Chau and start out with her Easy Top-Down Raglan. I have a couple of big ol' skeins of yarn leftover from Rachel's cardigan, so I've got a place to start. Updates will, of course, be forthcoming when I begin the project! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy 100th Blog Post To Me!

And with that milestone, a bit of knitterly fluff courtesy of Bust magazine (the best mag on the "women's interest" rack, ever): This Just In, Truckers Take Up Knitting/Quilting. What a cool trend :)

Another recent fluffy fave is this clip, titled "Knitting's a Privilege", featuring comedian/journalist Mo Rocca being schooled in how cool knitting really is. I actually set my DVR for that one - thanks to a heads-up from Bust. Again!

I'll be back to post about my own knitting soon - I'm going through a knitting funk right now. It's kind of got me down. I'm still enjoying yarn and even knit a few swatches on my birthday last Saturday (we went to Tulsa mostly just to go to JoAnn's Fabric and buy some Debbie Stoller Stitch Nation yarn - and it's really good, review coming soon!), but there's this disconnect between me and my craft. I don't like it. I'm trying to conquer it... I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Goodnight internets!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FO: "Kimono Classic" by Vicki Square

...aka, Rachel's Cardigan!

The pattern can be found in Ann Budd's "Simple Style". The recommended fibre is Berocco Softwist (a blend of rayon and wool), but working with a limited budget, we decided on "I Love This Yarn" acrylic (the Hobby Lobby house brand). I worked gauge swatches in both the recommended needle size for both the yarn and the pattern (size 8), but went up to 10s to get the drape required.

Skills learned: how to pick up stitches along the vertical (for doing the sleeves), seaming (mattress stitch - which I knew how to do, I just got a smidge more practice ;) ), adjusting a pattern for the wearer's personal preference, and... though this part took me a little longer... working through my skill-blocks to actually finish the project! (See previous entry and the bit about the Procrastination Wall.)

Enough bibbling - now for pics! Excuse the shonkiness of my carpet, my overuse of flash, and overall inability to take a good candid pic!

From top to bottom: the cardigan laid out flat to see its shape; a close-up of the neckband at the top of the collar (I was especially pleased with this; sewing the neckband to the body of the cardigan didn't get tricky until the bound-off edge at the top of the back piece); and Rachel enjoying her cardi! She said that it was very snuggly and loves the feel of the finished product :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Much More Detailed Post...

...will be forthcoming, with pictures, even! But I had to put this out into the ether...


The cardigan. Eet ees feeeneeshed. Finally. Five months and five days after I began. Note that it didn't take me that long to knit the thing - I'd say at least three months were moments of self-doubt and lack of faith in my abilities causing the Procrastination Wall, every time I came to a place where I needed to acquire a new skill. But last night I finally managed to start sewing the neckband in place, and lo and behold, the darn thing worked. I'm not sure it's 100% how I'd like it to be (it's acrylic... the little things can't be blocked out. Sob), but... we'll see how the recipient feels. Hopefully she'll lurve it!

Pictures coming soon, as well as Tips for Newbs: The Beginner's Knitting Toolkit, Part II (Electric Boogaloo)!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Etsy Corner: Ruby Mountain Dyeworks

From Friday's Etsy Finds Newsletter - this one entitled "All In Stitches", about quilting/sewing crafts - I came across Ruby Mountain DyeWorks . The featured item was a quilted journal cover that utterly struck my fancy. I have been thinking of designing a similar knit item, and the concept is right up my alley - I like to have a decorated notebook, and a place to discreetly tuck a pen is a brilliant idea!

The more I looked at Karen's store, the more I loved what I saw there - the hand-dyed fabric is magnificent, the colours lush and bright, brilliantly arranged to show off the colour wheel and different sets of hues. It's an inspiration just to visit and window-shop a while! I don't sew (yet), but there is plenty there for the non-quilter, as well - premade items like bookmarks, the aforementioned journal covers, and some incredibly lovely Christmas stockings are offered for sale, too.

Do pay this lovely store a visit - you'll fall in love with the colours just as surely as I did!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Etsy Corner: Flourish Bath & Body Review

My much-anticipated perfume oil samples, purchased from Flourish Bath & Body, arrived on Saturday! As you might recall from my first excited post on this Etsy store, I chose "Woodsmoke & Vanilla", "Saltwater", and "Grapefruit Ginger" as my samples. I am not disappointed! They are amazing scents. It can be difficult to attempt scent-description, but allow me to try:

Woodsmoke & Vanilla is, as the name suggests, smoky - very much like a fireplace or a campside bonfire, yet subtle. The vanilla isn't overpowering, but complementary - as the scent wears down, more of the vanilla comes to the front, but it is soft and sweet. I applied it to the inside of my right wrist and could not stop sniffing it as the hours passed! Just ask my husband how many times I shoved my wrist at his face and exclaimed, "BABE! I smell like a BONFIRE, but PRETTIER!" (...I think he lost count.) It also smells to me of yuletide holidays - not how they actually smell, of course, but more the memory and sense of winter nights and fires and delicious things baking in the oven. I think this would smell great on either a woman or a man - it's not gendered one way or the other, it's simply delicious.

"Saltwater" is almost exactly how Brooke describes - from the item description: "But I wouldn't say it smells exactly like the ocean. (Would you even want it to? Dead fish, seaweed, and all?)" And she's right - it doesn't smell exactly like the ocean, yet it recalls it perfectly. It is slightly spicy and salty, very fresh and watery. It is a crisp, clean scent that wears beautifully. I like that there are spice notes in the fragrance - I even got a whiff of licorice in there, though that might just be my own nose. It isn't overpowering but it stays with you as you wear it. This is another one that I have been eagerly showcasing to my friends - "Seriously, smell this, it's like the beach". One friend said it reminded her of the lake she liked to visit. When I wore "Woodsmoke & Vanilla" on one wrist and "Saltwater" on the other, it smelled like a bonfire... at the beach! This is another very unisex scent. It's what dude cologne should smell like (and not like, say, Davidoff "Coolwater", which beats one over the head with imagined olfactory masculinity).

Of the three scents, I haven't really worn "Grapefruit Ginger" yet - I've been too preoccupied with these nature-inspired wonders - but I am pleased to report that it smells mouthwateringly lovely - sparkly, bright, and genuine (not sort of plastic-y, the way some fruit scents can come off). It's sweet with a delicious tang, and as my favourite grapefruit scent was discontinued (from one of those big-chain bath & body stores), I am pleased to have found a most satisfactory replacement!

Do visit Flourish Bath & Body today - don't forget, as well as perfume oil samples, you can also purchase a set of four mini-soaps to try out, too!

(And Karina, the proprietor of my other favourite bath-and-body Etsy store, Soaps that Make Scents, was featured in the Etsy "Quit Your Day Job" series today! It's a great interview, I highly recommend you check it out.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SleepKnitting Store Update!

At long last, a new item! Behold, the Laila Lite, in charcoal grey. Laila Lite is the Laila hoodie scarf, minus the hood - a little more versatile for styling with your favourite outfit. The neutral colour makes it a wonderful accessory piece for a variety of colours, patterns and clothing styles. $30.00 USD + shipping!

In non-self-promotional news, I've been working pretty steadily on my Knitter School stitch-pattern-of-the-day swatches! Perhaps not as steadily as I'd like, but I have quite a few to photograph and get posted. Will try to get some of them up this weekend :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tips for Newbs #3: The Beginner Knitter's Toolkit Part I

I was going to write about the use and relevance of stitch markers, but then I figured, what would be more helpful than an intro to stitch markers? A guide to the beginning knitter's tool kit! This is part one of an indeterminate amount of posts on the subject, so be sure to check back.

When you begin knitting, you'll find that there is a lot of accoutrement to choose from. Obviously you'll need needles and yarn to start, but then you find out that you need to keep track of about a thousand other variables: measuring your needles and gauge swatches, keeping track of stitch count when you're making something or working a particular stitch pattern, counting your rows - to name but a few! So here are a few pointers to get you started.

But first, get a beverage. This could take a moment!


Obviously! But what sort to get? Obviously, you don't want to lay out your hard-earned cash on some very fancy needles when you're just getting acquainted with the craft. What if you don't get along with knitting very well?

When I began my knitting odyssey, I bought a pair of size 10 short needles designed for children - one was red, the other blue, and they were both capped off with a very cute plastic kitty head. The purpose of different coloured needles was to help identify which side of the knitting was which while beginning, and it didn't hurt that they were very cute! The short length made it easy to work on small swatches to start with, and the diameter - 6mm - is a good, middle-of-the-road size for understanding how the needles work - not too small and not too big (I can't imagine anything more discouraging to the newbie knitter than tiny, tiny needles... it would take days to knit a decently-sized swatch!).

After that, I bought more, in various sizes - mostly large. They were colourful acrylic, some lightly coloured and see-through with glitter on the inside. I found out that a see-through needle looks very cool, but can be confusing since you can see all of your stitches from both sides (it looked like there were twice the stitches!), but a darker, more opaque colour worked fine. They do have a tendency to be squeaky and for the stitches to stick and not move freely - though I think this was partly the material, partly my tight-knitting issues at the time. Not all plastic needles are created equally - some work better for the individual knitter than others. It's a matter of personal preference - but I did find Daisy Needles to work very well as they are light-weight and smooth, and every size is a different colour, so you can tell them apart at a glance.

Wooden needles work well, too - I do recommend starting with bamboo (Clover Takumi is a great brand - lightweight and very smooth with enough traction to keep the stitches on the needle, so no worry about them slipping off), though I myself pine for a pair of rosewood needles (they look so pretty but are also sort of pricey).

As for metal needles, the stand-by is aluminum - what my grandmother used. The surface of aluminum needles tend towards a matte finish, so stitches won't go flying off them (same with wood), but personally, I find the noise they make as they rub against each other to be most irritating! I'd use them if there were absolutely no other needles in the world, but I favour nickel-plated. They have a fairly slick surface, which is why they are known for fast-paced knitting, but this property may not work so well for the beginner knitter. If you want to give them a whirl, I suggest the KnitPicks range - they're fairly inexpensive. Unlike, say, Addi Turbos, which are ridiculously addictive but kind of pricey (but oh, so good).

Needle Sizing

Here is a handy dandy list of needle sizes - it lists the diameter in millimetres (mm), then the US needle size, then the Canadian/UK sizes for easy conversion and identification.

When you're just starting out, I recommend a range from size US 7 - US 11. Like I mentioned earlier, beginning with very small needles may be discouraging. If it takes you a couple of days to knit a swatch when you begin, what impetus is there to keep going? I began with size 10, but if you're practicing with a worsted weight yarn - which is pretty middle of the road - size 8s are the way to go, as it is the needle size most recommended for that weight. (We'll talk more about the relationship between needle size and yarn weight in an upcoming post.) As you keep knitting, you will want to branch out to other fibres, yarn weights, and needle sizes, and will add to your collection with those things in mind.

Plenty of big-box crafting stores, such as Hobby Lobby or Michael's, offer needles not just in individual pairs but in packages of several sizes. (This is an example of the acrylic needles I mentioned earlier, in a three-size pack. They are a fine way to start out and experiment with needle sizes.)

Straights vs. Circulars

A couple of the needle types that I've linked to are circular, not straight, as you might be used to seeing. Straight needles are single-length with a stopper on one end, and work well for smaller pieces of knitting, like a scarf, or the front part of a cardigan. Circulars are comprised of two needle tips, about 3 - 5" in size, joined together by a flexible plastic cord. The cord holds the majority of the stitches, and come in a range of sizes from 16" (good for hats) to 60" (good for large pieces of knitting, like large lace pieces and afghans). You can find these as "fixed" (the needle tip is permanently joined to the cord) or "interchangeable" (the needle tip screws onto the cord, so you can change out length of cord depending on the project). While you may want to begin on straights - they are fairly straightforward to use, if you'll excuse the unintentional pun - a switch to circulars is fairly natural. They have advantages - one, you can knit circularly, without having to seam up fabric. Or you can knit back and forth like normal, being able to knit longer widths without having all of your stitches squished up on a straight needle. They are also friendlier on your wrists and hands, since on a larger piece of knitting, the resultant fabric will sit in your lap or on your work surface, not putting all of the weight onto one hand or another. And a final advantage that pretty much sealed the deal for me is that you can't lose one needle when you put down your knitting! It can be economical, too, to buy a kit of interchangeable needles. It's certainly something to think about when you move from beginning to intermediate knitting.


AKA, double-pointed needles. Newbs, we will come back to this one! I remember when I began knitting, one of my knitting buddies, Sarah, mentioned "DPNs" in a chat and I was like, "whoa, whoa, back up. What?" they're one of my favourite things. But back then, the idea of having your seamless knitting hanging from three or four other needles while you worked with one? It blew my mind. It might be doing the same to you. So for now, know that they're out there - we'll get back to it!


Yarn choice is a little trickier - what you use depends on many variables and what sort of projects you're hoping to complete. When you are beginning, there is no sense in cultivating yarn snobbery! Acrylic has come a long way from the scratchy, squeaky, human-made fibre of yore. (My personal favourite is the Hobby Lobby in-house brand, "I Love This Yarn" - it is ever so soft and works very well for all sorts of projects.) It is non-allergenic and comes in a variety of colours, and it is inexpensive. I'm not going to lie to you - knitting can become a pretty expensive hobby once you get going, mostly because of fibre choice and the nature of Stash Addiction (where one cannot help but keep buying yarn for this-or-that project, or because of the "Ooh, Pretty!" factor, or any number of reasons, that turns a small collection of various yarns into a bona fide Stash). Which is why it pays to not be terribly choosy when you are beginning! When you're learning how to cast on, or how to tell knit from purl... do you really want to be wasting forty bucks worth of Mongolian cashmere? No, ma'am! You want to save better quality and luxury fibres for when you can appreciate them.

Having said that, wool can be pretty affordable if you know where to look - the aforementioned Hobby Lobby/Michael's type store does carry wool, and there's always KnitPicks. Wool has a bad reputation for being scratchy and yucky - I think many of us might carry sensation memories from woolen goods in our childhoods. I know I do! But wool is a workhorse. Small imperfections can be blocked out (yes, we'll talk about that later, too!), it has excellent stitch definition which is great for pattern work and lacy knitting, and it is very warm - it can even keep you warm when it's damp. Though it needs a little special care when washing, you can find superwash wool that can be machine-washed and is softer than regular wool (it won't felt, but that is one of its advantages).

Some folks do have wool/animal-protein fibre allergies, so if you count yourself amongst that number, I do recommend sticking to acrylic or perhaps cotton when starting out.

Thus concludes today's Tips for Newbs! In the next issue we'll discuss tools for determining gauge and needle size, the use of tapestry needles, stitch markers, and row counters. (Can you feel the excitement? Can you?!)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Etsy Corner, Sunday Edition

I've had my eye on Flourish Bath & Body for a while now. I discovered the store after I read a Featured Seller interview on the main Etsy site, and I quickly fell in love with Brooke's fresh style (the labels and packaging are simply gorgeous) and the mouthwatering array of scents on offer! I favourited items like they were going out of style, but had one main hang-up: buying scented products on the internet. So far I've had pretty good luck - I bought some solid perfume from Scents That Make Sense that I love! - but I still worry about receiving my coveted scent and finding out that it's just not me. I was thrilled this weekend to find that Flourish was offering a set-of-three 1ML vials of scent samples for $5.00 (there's a listing here, but will be inactive as soon as someone buys it)! I ordered Grapefruit Ginger, Woodsmoke & Vanilla, and Saltwater. I can't wait to try them out and will certainly review them once they arrive. Brooke also offers samples of her soap - 4 for $6.00. It's a really good deal. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Do List; Tips for Newbs #2!

Just so I can keep afoot of my own projects, here's a list of What Needs To Be Knitted, And How I Can Achieve Those Goals (Finally):

* Anna's GloveMitts
I need to take a gauge measurement of what I got knitted before we found out the resultant gloves were going to be ridiculously over-sized, recalculate the pattern based on actual measurements, and metaphorically rip the band-aid off by tearing back that knitting and starting anew. Which actually won't take that long - there's something psychological about size 1 needles and sock-weight that makes a small project loom large.

* Mel's Mittens
Need to consult my notes and figure out what I need to do next on Mitt #1. My stumbling block here is mostly the thumb, as up until now all but one of my mitt projects have been thumb-less, so the body of the thumb is the issue here. I don't want them to stick out weirdly like they were especially made to help one hitch a ride.

* Rachel's Cardigan
Finish neckband, sew neckband on, detach myself mentally from the project, fold it neatly and present it to Rachel without openly weeping.

* Gloria's Mitts
Finalise stitch-count (incorporating the cables), map out the pattern on graph paper, steel myself to do more ripping back, start anew, and knit them.

* Carolyn's Beanie
Swatch; adjust measurements from the same-styled beanie I made previously, make notes on said measurement, and knit it. Await delivery of the button she wants sewn on the side, attach it, hand over hat.

* Madelyn's Cabled Beret
Swatch, figure out how many cables, make notes, knit it.

That's about all I have in personal/gift projects, though once I've figured out how I want to do the Madelyn hat, I plan to add it to the store stock, as well.

And now...

Tip #2: The Long-Tail Cast-On

The long-tail cast-on looks tricky at first - and may certainly feel awkward - but once you get the hang of it, you have a faithful stand-by for easily casting on large amounts of stitches. I confess that when I first learned it, I wasn't able to get the hang of it from diagrams or descriptions; in fact, my husband figured it out and then he showed me, and it was only with a live example that I had my light-bulb moment and everything clicked into place. KnittingHelp has a video tutorial (even better, it's the first one listed on the page, so you don't need to go searching for it!). Some more resources for learning it are:

* a precise, cleanly diagrammed PDF-format tutorial at Butler's Country Knit Shop;
* a photo tutorial at Stitch Diva Studios (using a very large needle and small yarn, which I think helps allow you to see what's going on); and
* this great article about casting on at Knitty; the long-tail tutorial is at the end, but the whole thing is definitely worth reading for a primer on casting on.

When I do it, I make a slip-knot and then cast on over two needles or on a needle one to two sizes bigger to ensure an even foundation - not too tight, and not too loose. You will also have to make sure that your "tail" - the end of the yarn not attached to the ball/skein/cake - is long enough to accomodate all of your stitches and leave six to eight inches besides, so you have enough length to weave in your end. To help figure this out, you can cast on a fraction of the stitches you'll need (say, ten), unravel that yarn to the slip-knot and measure it. You'll know how much you need for that x amount of stitches and estimate how much yarn to spool out for your cast-on. (Or, you can be like me, spool out what looks like "a bunch", cast on 75% of your total stitches, and then find out you actually need a bit more yarn. Yeah, estimation tends to get me in trouble sometimes.)

The other thing you need to know about long-tail cast on is that if you have a lot of yarn left in the tail, sometimes you might end up knitting your first row with the tail instead of the yarn in the ball. I still do this from time to time... perhaps more times than I care to admit. So to keep yourself from unknitting your first row, it helps to hold the tail end in your non-dominant hand while knitting that first row (maybe even the first couple of rows... not that I know from experience).

Join me next time on "Tips For Newbs" for an inside look at Stitch Markers: What Good Are They, Anyway? You'll find out!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Craft vs. Weekend Naps: Craft, 0, Naps, 1

This past weekend I think I fell into one of those wintry funks, a brief period in which my usual delights (knitting, brownies) cease to amuse, and naps become the most sought-after commodities one's weekend off can afford. So very little knitting occurred, but the naps were just what I needed.

There was one knit-related happening: a friend gifted me with a wonderful card case in which I can pop my ID and debit card, or, say, a whole whack of my newly minted business cards (which arrived, and I've been handing them out like whoa!). The cover of said case features this painting - saucy, no? I do appreciate a vintage pin-up and to mix that with knitting is beyond awesome!

Tonight I worked on a cabled fingerless glove-mitt-type-contraption for my BFF's mom. I don't actually have a pattern, but am instead working from a picture. So far I've managed to figure out the cables and how to space everything out evenly, but I think I didn't compensate enough for the cables in establishing a stitch count, so I'll have to start over. While that's mildly frustrating, it's certainly a learning experience, so I don't resent it! ;) I'm working with KnitPicks Merino Style in "Fog"... it is incredibly soft and lovely to work with. My new DPNs, also ordered from KnitPicks, are a joy as well - they're Takumi Velvet by Clover, and so silky smooth... they move through yarn like a hot knife through butter. It feels amazing to knit with them! As much as I love the seamless style of knitting in the round, though, I may have to contemplate knitting the mitts flat and sewing them up. I feel like I'm wrangling too much on the DPNs to have every cable and reverse Stockinette portion work like they ought to (which is to say, neatly). We'll see. I'll post pics very soon!

Kimono Sweater update: I am nearing the finish line! The ribbon is in sight! There are people chucking cups of Gatorade at me! Ok, the metaphor has obviously gone too far. In any case, all of the seams are finished now, and I'd say that I'm about a third to halfway through the neckband/placket. The challenge - after sewing the neckband on, though I'm 98% certain that I'm sure how to do that - is actually handing it over. I tried it on just to see how the silhouette translates on different body types (for reference, I am somewhat, uh, Amazonian, while the recipient is about 5'), took a look in the mirror and thought... oh. I made that. I made a sweater. Holy crap.

And you know, we didn't decide on the world's most stunning yarn. It's an easy-care acrylic. But with the right needle size, it drapes beautifully. The simple shape of the cardigan hangs nicely and it feels really comfortable. If you bunch up a handful of the knitted fabric in your hand it feels squishy and velvety and lovely. Theoretically, if I could defy science and logic and time and find an extra 10 hours in every day, I could knit one in every colour in which that yarn is made, just for swanning around in, myself. But time and space does not (unfortunately) bend to my will, so I'll settle for perhaps making one for me - just one - in about six months or so, give or take!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Etsy Corner!

I see a lot of sweet shops on Etsy - if I highlighted them all I'd need a separate blog! - but here's one I found recently: Fawn Potter. Woolens are recycled through all sorts of felting and sewing and made into adorable new objects! I am very fond of the floppy-eared bunnies and I just love the sense of whimsy... it reminds me of toys made back in the day when mass-manufacturing didn't yet exist, and her pieces have a very dreamy, vintage vibe. The artist clearly loves what she does - for example, her profile page highlights what she loves about felting.

If you're an Etsy user/browser/seller, how do you find your favourites? I always like to pay a visit to sellers that have kindly favourited my own store (which is how I found Fawn Potter), but I sometimes meander through the front page for a while seeing where I'm taken. I find that unless I have a solid search in mind I can wander from store to store, monitor-shopping for a couple of hours unchecked!

Monday, February 15, 2010

P.S.: a Ravelry note

So, I haven't been making very good use of my Ravelry account (user: sammyknits - feel free to look me up!), except to queue up endless projects that may or may not ever be made. Well, while queuing up stuff today, I found out that there is a yarn substitution tab on pretty much every high-profile pattern on the site. This is the bomb diggity! I'm always wondering how I'm going to sub in a low-cost yarn for something that may well cost me over $200.00 to create (ah, the joys of plus-size knitting), and this makes it so much easier. Thanks, Ravelry!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Organised/Self-Motivated Knitter

This is not an adequate way to describe me. I am capable of organising myself somewhat - I make great use of post-it flags in my knitting books and notebooks, I know where roughly most of my equipment is (needles, Etsy packaging goods, notions), I keep a supply of zip-loc bags for my stash and various projects. I have a desk calendar (two, actually), and a cup full of pens and highlighters. Still, though, I tend to get overwhelmed by the list of works in progress (both noted in my workbook and not). I find that when I make a to-do list for each day of the week, I will actually get three out of four projects either started or finished, so maybe that's the key for me?

I only made notes in my desk calendar for Monday this week, and although I made great headway on one of the projects listed - a kimono-style cardigan from "Simple Style" by Ann Budd - I really worked on nothing else for the entire week. Not one of my stitch-patterns-of-the-day, not the kool-aid dyeing project I had on the table, not ripping back on a cowl to which I wanted to add button holes, not taking an accurate gauge measurement for Anna's glove-mitts so I can rip them back and start again. I feel so lazy, though I know that isn't entirely true! I did finish both sleeves on the cardigan (with a little help from Maggie Righetti's "Sweater Design In Plain English", I now know how to figure out the ratio for picking up stitches along a vertical - this is really the catalyst for me being able to finish the sleeves) and only have one seam left to finish - then it's the placket/belt, a closure tab, and I can pass the cardi on to its owner... I am light years from where I expected to be on the project!

I also don't give myself enough room for trying to get over injuries and sickness. I've been trying to shake a cold for a couple of weeks, and twice this week I hurt myself while rollerskating... Wednesday I foolishly put my hand out while falling, and in addition to irritating an existing injury in my tailbone, I was afraid I'd broken my hand again (the first time was the worst six weeks of my life - no knitting! At all! I developed a mad Webkinz habit. I'm suitably ashamed of myself)... but after ice, compression, and rest, I came out of it well and was knitting the next day. Today I wore wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, the whole bit during a fresh-meat roller derby practice... went down, again on my tailbone, and I've further pulled a hip muscle or five, meaning I had to rest on the couch when I got home. I'm sure better knitters than I can knit from a prone position, but I hugged up to my pillow and tried not to cry from the pain while trying to focus my attention instead on the pairs figure skating on TV.

To sum up, I need to pay attention to organising methods that work for me (using the desk calendar; keeping my desk relatively clear of WIPs, post-its), be kinder to myself when I'm recovering from injury or illness, and realise that even a little bit of knitting is better than none at all!

In happier news, I've decided on my next cardigan project - and this one will be for me! It was a tight race between Decimal, by Snowden Becker and Girl Friday by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark. Though I adore Decimal, I really want to have a nice, shawl-collared wool cardigan to get me through the rest of winter and the onset of spring, when things are still frosty, so Girl Friday won! Now I have to pick a colour of yarn. I'm looking at KnitPicks Wool of the Andes... the colours Spruce, Avocado, and Amethyst Heather have all caught my eye. I'd rather pick an actual colour than fall back on black or grey, so if you're reading this and you have any input... please feel free to comment!

Well, gotta put my heating pad back in the microwave and get going on a batch of cupcakes (not to mention finishing those seams!), so, goodnight, sweet internets.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Knitter School: Diagonal Moss Stripe and... TIPS FOR NEWBS!

Forgive the terrible photography on this one - I think it's a combination of pinning the swatch out too tightly and the glare from my desklamp, and it turned out rather crappily, not showing off the stitch pattern to the best advantage.

It seems like January, in the Vogue Knitting calendar at least, is the month of diagonals (though in the February patterns there's a rather nice Parquet pattern that also relies heavily on diagonal shapes). I have charted this one, and will have the chart up soon.

I was thinking about what, other than photographs of swatches and slightly dodgy knitting charts, I could offer the knit-o-sphere. I check in with quite a few blogs (the list is to your right) and am always struck with the marvelous quality - and sheer quantity - of WIPs and FOs cranked out by some of the internet's most talented knitters, some of whom are also published authors (the Yarn Harlot has six books, two of which are on my knitting shelf - and Cosmic Pluto has a great book on sock knitting, to name two examples). I read these blogs and I feel, still, like a brand-new knitter (even though I know that I've amassed skills and knowledge that would have struck fear into the heart of actual brand-new knitter-me, back in the day). So, not only to reflect on what I do know, but to share with newbie knitters throughout the internet, I present...

I am not, nor am I sure I will ever be, a Master Knitter. I haven't joined a guild and have yet to attend the local Stitch N' Bitch group due to work hours and social shyness. I still tear my hair out from time to time over concepts and skill-sets that I feel I should know by now. But, with a growing library of knitting books and the internet at my disposal, I have learned a few things. Some were through trial and error; some were through constant repetition. Some things, you do a couple of times and suddenly it makes sense and everything is just gravy. (Other things you can try time and time again and feel like you might end up in a padded cell because it's just not going right, ever.) Some of the tips I'll impart might sound incredibly obvious, but maybe others could be the lightbulb moment you're looking for. It's not going to be in any particular order of importance; I haven't really thought out a game plan for these posts beyond scribbling a couple of ideas in my work book. So, without further ado, Tips for Newbs #1:

Take a step back from the Fun-Fur.

Novelty yarns are seductive. They have amazing texture, a visually dynamic appearance, and seem deceptively easy to use - it's just a little eyelash fringe... what's the harm, right?

The harm is, when you're a newbie - like brand-new, a just-born knitter - sometimes you can't tell knit from purl yet. Believe me when I tell you that although cute, fluffy yarns will hide a multitude of stitch definition sins, it will make it hard to see where you've gone astray... and don't even think of picking up a dropped stitch, friend - it's not gonna happen! Going wrong when you're a brand-new knitter can be discouraging at the best of times - when it's combined with a yarn that feels like a shag carpet or a thousand lashes of glitter in it, the discouraging feelings could urge you to quit. And you don't want to quit knitting! It's awesome!

I won't tell you not to buy a novelty yarn, ever (some ribbon yarns are quite interesting and don't bring on knitterly heartbreak), or to wait until you've knit a thousand swatches in some kind of matronly, sensible yarn - I just want you to benefit from the wasted hours and regretful tears of my dalliance with fun fur when I was just a wee novice. I still have a couple balls of that bastardly eyelash crap somewhere in my stash.

I will note that, when held double with a smooth yarn, eyelash/fun fur can make an interesting trim on a hat or some other accent piece (and it will be much, much easier to see where you've gone wrong), but by and large, it's just asking for trouble (and if you're thinking of making a cardigan out of it, just go and give yourself a time-out right now... I'll be waiting for you to get back). If you've ever tried to de-tangle a ball of wool and found yourself thrashing around, wailing about the injustice of knots (ahem), it's only about a thousand times worse to try and figure out how to un-knot eyelash yarn.

Join me next time for an important lesson about long-tail cast-on!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knitter School: Diagonal Eyelet Inserts & More

I seem to be falling behind on my projected ability to catch up on my stitch-patterns-o'-the-day... but I am going to try. Oh lord, am I ever going to try. I've never attempted a project of this magnitude - and at the start, I didn't really see the magnitude. Until I realised it was a whole swatch of a new pattern every day, and I had half a month to catch up on. Make that 2/3 of a month now, plus February! I've already started on the February swatches... might be a while before I can post any, ha.

Anyway, this one is "Diagonal Eyelet Inserts"... it's not very difficult, and produces a nice effect. It makes me think of peas in a pod (especially in this colour). It might make a nice panel for the front of a cardigan, or, spaced more closely together, a nice stitch for a scarf. I didn't chart this one, but I did for the next one, "Diagonal Eyelet Mosaic", which is considerably more complicated:

It's not really that hard, but it takes some concentration. I knew that, for me, following the written instructions was going to be fruitless, so I went ahead and did a chart before I even began. I've included it at the end. There is a knit stitch on each side, with the repeats in between.

In other news, I finally registered a domain, It redirects here and makes for a much neater URL presentation on my brand-new business cards! They have been ordered, and should be delivered in the next three weeks. I can't wait! I've been writing the address for my Etsy store on slips of paper when people ask about it (I did make a flyer to put up on the pinboard at my 'day job'), but a business card is much zazzier and convenient. I'm quite excited :)

Also, I've stocked up on more Kool-Aid - and I found lemon-lime! - so expect more nerdy dyeing posts in the future!

(Click to enlarge chart, enjoy!)

Monday, February 1, 2010


So, I did a little Kool-Aid dyeing this weekend. It's been on my knitterly to-do list ever since I discovered the idea... there's even an ancient post back in the blog archives about it, in which I was ever-so gung-ho to do it, and then never actually did. I even bought some "Bare" yarn from KnitPicks for the express purpose of dyeing, and then never got around to it... until this weekend. The first thing I tried was dyeing over a colour of Lion Brand Wool-Ease - it was a lightish raspberry colour that I wasn't incredibly thrilled with. I used Berry Blue and Cherry to attempt a purple dye-bath; I didn't expect a radical change, and it wasn't - it just deepened the hue somewhat. I didn't save a snippet of the yarn pre-dye, unfortunately, so I can't really catalogue the change. Next time I do a dye-over, I'll make sure to document that!

I managed to dig up the aforementioned KnitPicks yarn from my stash (I won't disclose the incredibly embarrassing amount of hours spent detangling the one skein that I foolishly removed the ties from upon unpacking the yarn), and made an attempt at vareigated dyeing on Sunday. (I used this tutorial from Knitty; other sources of information and inspiration can be found at Streets & Yos, and Fiber Arts.) Rather than bore you with the details (though I will say that it would have been a good idea to use a syringe or turkey baster; I had neither of these so just poured the Kool-Aid on in random places), here's some pictures!

Plain wool, skeined loosely, soaking in the sink awaiting the dyeing process.

Same wool, laying out on a plastic bag (don't want to dye the countertop too!).

Skein 2; I sort of wound it into a coil and applied colour from the centre out.

Hot yarn, straight out of the microwave. There's something counter-intuitive about microwaving wool. I could smell it and even hear slight pops now and then and I was afraid I was destroying it. It turned out just fine (any fuzzing you see that looks like felting is actually a result of the manhandling given to the skein pre-dyeing while trying to get it untangled).

Skein 1, dry, pre-winding. I didn't really take a picture of it during the dye job.

Skein 2, dry. Haven't wound it yet, but will post a picture when I do. This is the one I showed above while still wet.

Skein 1, dry, wound, and pretty! I really should think of a name instead of just "skein 1". I was thinking of calling it "Fairy Vomit" (well, it's a lot of really pretty colours in incredibly random order... but it's not a very enticing name, haha).

Another view of the ball of yarn, where you can see the purples. The grape flavour Kool-Aid actually produces a range of blues and purples - it doesn't dye all one colour. I was expecting this, and looked forward to how it would turn out. :)

The beginning of a swatch in Skein 1 (aka Fairy Vomit). So pretty!

The flavours/colours I used were Grape, Cherry, Pink Lemonade, Lemonade, and Orange. The Pink Lemonade makes a very pretty, candy like pink and the Lemonade makes a very sunny yellow - I'm hoping at some stage to use various strengths of Lemonade and Orange to make my own 'brand' of yellow (variegated yellows are my white whale - I'm very particular about yellow yarn and I'm always searching for the best, sunniest, warmest hues I can find).

I also did a batch of plain red using Cherry and Pink Lemonade - the result was a vivid and slightly variegated pink, red and white yarn (even though I dyed it in a pot on the stove, there were interior sections of the skein that remained white... looks pretty neat). I haven't wound that one yet as the skein was slightly bigger and it's still a little damp, but pictures will be up soon!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Knitter School: Chevron Panels & Beyond!

I'm not quite caught up on the month's VK stitch-patterns-of-the-day, but I endeavour! I've decided to start knitting the day's pattern and then work on the back catalogue when I've got time. Here's a few of the ones I've done lately, plus a bonus chart.

First, for the 4th, "Chevron Panels". It was a little tricky at first, but by the seventh repeat I was actually able to knit the pattern without looking at the instructions (once I could tell where to knit the knits and purl the purls on the WS, it was a lot easier). I tried this one in some Nature Spun wool (colour: bamboo).

For the 5th, the pattern was "Chevron Rib" (lots of chevrons going on). This one is nice because it's effectively reversible - it's nigh impossible to tell which is the right or wrong side if you're not in the know!

And the 6th was a diagonal basketweave, which I really liked. I found the written instructions hard to follow, so after a while I did a chart for it, and it was much easier - visually - to make sense of how the pattern works. I've included another lo-fi chart (on paper, photographed instead of scanned)... chart begins on the RS with row one. Dots are purls on the RS, knits on the WS, and, as I like to do, the rest of the stitches were coloured in magenta to make for easier reading. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Knitter School: "Anemone"

The pattern for the 2nd & 3rd of January is "Anemone". While my swatch doesn't quite show off the scalloped, tentacle-y quality embodied on the calendar page, it was kind of exciting tackling something that at first seemed kind of intimidating. It requires a multiple of four stitches plus two, and it's basically four rows of garter then two rows that make up the "anemone" - k1, *k1 wrapping yarn around needle twice*, rep. to last st, k1. On the next row, you slip four stitches to the right needle, slipping off the extra wrap (it doesn't drop through the knitting, rather it makes the stitch much bigger), slip those stitches back to the left hand needle, then k4tog, and without slipping the stitches off the needle, p1, k1, p1 into those four stitches again. When all is said and done the stitch count should remain the same, but you end up with a quasi-eyelet and the wrapping effect. It's quite neat. I can't think of any practical application for it personally, but it's always nice to jump a hurdle: the fear of faffing up your knitting when you try something new, only to realise that it did, after all, work the way it was supposed to!

In other news, I've been working on another Laila scarf for the store (this one in a stony charcoal grey) and finished a version of "Miss Urchin" in cotton. Am I the only one that seems to generate mounds of fuzzies when working with cotton? It was pilling so much that I was afraid by the time I was finished there'd be no hat, only a pile of cotton fuzz. Fortunately, the hat made it through the knitting process and is ready for shipment/pick up by its new owner :)

I'm also learning some very exciting things about cables. Stay tuned for nerdy excitement!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Knitter School: Vogue Stitchionary Calendar

When the calenders went on 50%-off clearance at work, I got about three for the walls but passed over the page-a-day desk sort: I never use them as they are intended, which is to actually strip off the day past and throw it out as the week progresses. I've had the Knitting-Pattern-A-Day Calendar in the past, and while I love the idea and have made use of some patterns, this was during the dark ages when my desk was upstairs and rarely used. I'd go upstairs in October and realise my calender was still in February! So I didn't get that one this year. However, as the calendars thinned out on the shelves, I found one I hadn't noticed before: The VogueKnitting Stitch-a-Day calendar.

I don't own any Vogue Stitionaries (yet!), but - despite a lack of charting in their books - have always admired the clear layout, photos, and variety of stitch patterns they offer. I also like that they offer a Stitch of the Day on their website (link goes to their complete online stitchionary). So, with the discounted price, I bought the calendar. As I was going about my business this morning, putting the calendar up and looking through the stitches I've missed for the first 22 days of the year, I decided on a small challenge for myself. To broaden my horizons, I'm going to try knitting each day's sample pattern - to learn a new stitch, a new technique, and get out of the rut of relying on a few standard stitch patterns that are easy to memorise.

Today's stitch pattern is "Alternating Diagonals":

Since my go-to practice yarn is an acrylic (it's nice acrylic - very soft, very vibrant, but nonetheless, not wool), I had to pin it out to show the shape, but there it is. I also charted it for my own amusement (I am wont to do these things) and, lo though I tried to manipulate an image-makin' software to do my bidding, I ultimately failed... so I bring to you a digital photo of my hand-written chart. It reads right to left, and I left out the WS rows as you simply knit the knits and purl the purls. Dots on the right-side row indicate purls; I coloured in the knits with a magenta pencil to make visualisation easier for me. Enjoy the crappiness!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear CBS: Please Don't Sue Me, I'm Just A Nerd

Ok, as screen-grabs go it's pretty low-rent, but a gal does what she can with a DVR and a digital camera. This is my favourite moment from tonight's episode of "Criminal Minds" (Season 5, Episode 13: "Risky Business"). I don't know if Ms. Kirsten Vangsness actually knits, but I couldn't ask for a cooler representative for my chosen handcraft (or the handcraft that chose me). Rock the needles, Garcia!

On a side note, I wish I could pull off that super-awesome style she has. The woman is smokin' hot!

Speaking of smokin' hot acting womens, check out my brand spankin' new Etsy listing: The Laila Scarf in red, as modeled by my stylish (actor!) friend, Anna. Isn't she gorgeous?!

Ok, the lights are flickering... stupid summer-storm in the middle of JANUARY. Night, kids.

Knitting's Harshest Mistress

I am going to have this needlepointed on a cushion one day:

"Do not ever, ever, ever try to be the boss of gauge."

Because gauge will be the boss of you. Gauge is not static. It can change with the day. There's a reason that outside of the U.S., a swatch is called a "tension square". How tense or relaxed you are at any given time is going to affect how your knitting turns out. If you are, say, trying to complete a hat in a number of hours because you really need a practice run at one of your own patterns? Yeah, that might affect gauge. I can't believe how tightly that hat turned out - with super-bulky yarn on size 13s, no less! I'm almost afraid that I won't be able to replicate the relaxed, drapey feel I achieved on the last version of said hat... but I do know one thing for sure. I will definitely swatch before I cast on.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Small Steps Toward Conquering The Dithers

Per my resolution to "Stop Dithering and Knit Something", I will refer to those inspiration-zapping periods of inactivity as "The Dithers". I almost lost my entire weekend to The Dithers, having only managed half of a mitten on Saturday afternoon and nothing else for the rest of the day. I think what helped was finally getting our respective work/study places finalised: we put Nathan's desk in the corner by the kitchen, and moved mine from the second bedroom upstairs down to in front of the livingroom window. Clearing out my workspace Saturday and leaving it in a fairly organised yet still inaccessible pile would certainly have contributed to my malaise. It's hard to want to work on a project if your materials look for all the world like a yarn-festooned Jenga game.

Finally, though, I truly have a desk of my own. It's not upstairs covered in books and piles of ill-conceived yarn purchases; it's not temporary, as it was to use Nathan's desk. We both have independent places to put our stuff - his school things, my projects/books/accoutrement - and I think that small thing alone helps me concentrate and get to work, knowing I won't have to move anything to make room for his homework, or that I can leave out my notebooks and pens and even have room for a framed picture or two.

As for rescuing my weekend, since I had all of my stuff organised once more, I could spread out my books and work - finally - on retooling the shape of the hood on the Laila scarf (see here - the listing is inactive but will still give an overview). I must have wasted a month on just the hood alone; the first time I did it, I didn't have any faith in my gauge and measurements and made the hood too long, which made it do this weird pouching thing once the scarf and hood were on. This time I made a miniature version and then used gauge and conversions to make it translate to full-size. While I'm sure I'll tweak the pattern in the future, I'm much more pleased with how this one turned out! It's cosy and comfy and, with just a little more work on the edging, will look cute on anyone :)

(The above is a picture of it laid flat. The colour in the photo almost doesn't reflect the real colour of the scarf at all - it's actually a deep ruby sort of shade.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is There Such Thing As Too Many WIPs?

(WIP = work in progress, for those not in the knit-acronym know)

Though I have plenty on my to-do board (see photo at left, click to embiggen), I always have to have something new going. Sometimes a project is too big for some after-work knitting (see: Rachel's cardigan) or kind of fiddly and needs more precise measuring of a subject (see: Anna's glove-mitts), so I'll pick up something new that I know won't take very long, which is the case for Mel's mittens. Mel is my boss at my daytime job, and the lady deserves some mittens! I took a couple of measurements and a hand-outline a couple of months back, but what with Christmas and everything, it was postponed, but never forgotten. So I started those tonight. The design is a basic handwarmer with thumb (no delineated fingers, just binding off loosely at the mid-finger point) and a mitten-top... I seem to be getting a bit of mileage out of the skills learned from Andy's gloves!

I'm using a very soft, easy-care acrylic for machine washing and drying. Hope to get the first one finished tonight. Here is a picture of my lap-desk workstation. (As for the LOLmagnetz, my husband got a set of LOLcat magnetic-poetry magnets for his birthday, and the container is the perfect size for some knitting accoutrement - stitch markers, tapestry needles, safety pins, etc, etc.)

Well, onward. Let's hope I don't add another project to the queue before I get something finished that is actually on it. (Having said that, I already have plans for another houndstooth-patterened hat, another cowl, and great aspirations for my Friday trip to Hobby Lobby. The knits pile up but the dreams keep flying along.) G'night!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Well, the success is kind of speculative at this point, as I have not actually had Andy try the gloves on, but... I did it! I finished the glove-mitts for my brother-in-law! I even have pictures as proof - incredibly shaky, blurry proof!

I had to re-start the second mitten-top because I forgot that, in order for the tops to work, I would have to treat them as a mirrored pair instead of being reversible like the gloves would be without a top. I actually got in about 18 rounds of knitting before I tried it on my right hand and immediately thought to myself... "Uh oh." Luckily I was having some sort of period of clarity, and picking up the stitches on the other side of the mitt was actually fairly easy, and starting over wasn't the drama I thought it might be (or made out to be in my Facebook status message... heh).

The first mitten-top - on the left glove - was really awkward and misshapen. I attempted something like an anatomical sock-toe, trying to accommodate the shape of the hand, without really thinking about the comfort-factor of a mitten. I had also tried to look for a mitten pattern online that might be helpful, but I just couldn't find what I needed. So I took a look at one of my standard beanies, where the shaping is circular but if you lay the hat down flat it will curve at the top instead of having sharp slopes. In that fashion, I did some gauge/measurement stuff, and figured out how to do a series of decreases at the top that was more like the top of a hat, and it really seems to work. You get that nice, oval, typical-mitten shape at the top (no weird angular bits!) and it still accommodates the fingers. I did take notes at this stage, but I'm also documenting here for future reference!

Hopefully the gloves will fit and the, uh, brilliance of the mitten tops will exempt me from my Christmas-gift tardiness. A gal can dream, eh?

Having crossed this one off my list... it's on to the next round. Next up: Rachel's cardigan, Anna's glove-mitts, and a commission for Etsy as soon as the yarn comes in the mail! (P.S.: I listed two new hats on the store... Fairy Floss and Hamilton. Check 'em out! :) )

Additional pics of the gloves: one with the top pulled back, one with the top on: