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!