Friday, November 21, 2014

FO Friday: Polar Bear

After a chilly week here in Chicago, today's FO project seems more than appropriate: a polar bear!

I was hoping to be able to photograph him in some actual snow, but it seems like other parts of the country are getting ALL OF THE SNOW while Chicago is merely being teased with flurries. Therefore, I took matters into my own hands and used some natural-colored spinning fiber (Louet's Jacob sliver, to be exact) to manufacture a wintry scene of my own!


I used the Hot Chocolate Run Polar Bear pattern from WEBS; all proceeds from the sale of this pattern benefit Safe Passage, and last month they hosted a KAL which shares some handy tips for knitting and assembling your bear.

The pattern calls for bulky weight yarn, but I opted to make a smaller version with Valley Yarns Stockbridge yarn as the MC and some leftover stash yarn for the contrasting colors. Isn't he adorable?

In other news: it's last call for 25% off  my eligible patterns for this year's Indie Design Giftalong event! The coupon code expires at midnight tonight, so be sure to make your pattern purchases before then! 

Form + Function Socks
Berlin Cowl
Thanks for stopping by - have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WIPs, KALs & GALs

It's that time of year when I can't share all of my WIPs publicly - thank goodness I have two KALs I'm participating in to keep things interesting! Over the weekend, I finished the knitting portion for my Polar Hat, which is part of the Bulky Knit Hats KAL:


As you can see, I have no cut out many pieces of fringe (over 100!) which are to be affixed to the brim of the hat, and I've also made a ginormous pom pom which will grace the top of said hat! This might be a project I save for this coming weekend; I kind of like to do tasks such as this all in one sitting, which I know isn't possible during the work week.

My other project is for the WEBS' Snow Family KAL, which I am not doing a great job of keeping up with, truth be told! You can click here to read about Week 3 on the WEBS blog; so far, all I have finished is one small tree and the body of a Snow Person (with half of a hat in progress):


Also, the window for snagging patterns for 25% off closes this week if you're planning to participate in this year's Indie Design Giftalong event! Click here to view all of my own eligible patterns (below are just a few of my top picks!) - you can find more participating designers and other useful info here on Ravelry.

Also, while I'm sharing GAL news, be sure to visit the Knit/Wit blog, where I am interviewed on today's post. I got to know Sarah as we corresponded via email, and she is also participating in the GAL. Click here to check out her awesome designs on Ravelry!

Button Bunnies

Scalloped Rib Socks

Like the Tides Cowl



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Etsy Early Bird Sale

For those of you who hexipuff, Zoom Loom, or are otherwise addicted to Sock Yarn Mini Skeins: I'm having a Black Friday early bird sale in my Etsy shop! Click here to snag your grab bags - limited quantity are available! Don't forget to enter the coupon code below when you check out for a 15% discount.


Here are just a few awesome patterns which are great for sock yarn miniskeins:

All orders ship FREE to US addresses (no coupon code needed) and include fun extras, too! If you have any special requests with regards to colors in your grab bag, just be sure to enter them when you check out and I'll do what I can to honor them! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blocking Handmade Gifts

Now that the Gift-along is in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to focus on the subject of finishing those holiday projects with ease: td to me, that means mostly translates to all things blocking-related! .There are a lot of great blocking tutorials out there, and I don't plan to spend too much time on such well-covered territory. Instead, I'll be sharing some of my favorite tools, tips and tricks for finishing my holiday projects with ease in the hopes that others find at least some of this information helpful!

The first question I always ask myself is: to block or not to block? Usually, the answer is yes, and my personal default is wet blocking. It's a simple way to make projects look polished - you can fix wonky stitches and pretty much stretch your piece to whatever dimensions you like (within reason). Pretty much any stitch pattern (and even stockinette) is guaranteed to look infinitely nicer with the magic of blocking. Witness this before and after with my first Pins and Needles Challenge mini-sweater:
Before: Bunchy & Kinda Misshapen

After: Nice, Neat & Sweater-y!
If you are new to the concept of wet blocking, it's really just a fancy way to say you immerse your finished article in a water with a gentle detergent of some sort, then lay it flat to dry (side note: there are a few other types of blocking you may wish to explore, explained in more detail here).

I like to use a no-rinse formula, since it saves both time and water. I know some folks say they just use dish soap or hair conditioner (I assume because it's a bit cheaper), but it can take a lot of effort to rinse all of that out of the finished garment - to me, it's just not worth saving a few pennies. Another benefit of using a detergent made specifically for wool and other luxury fibers is that they don't contain harsh bleaches or other chemicals which are damaging to fibers. Translation: your hand-made projects can be enjoyed for years to come!
Lately, my favorite detergent is a new fiber wash called Allure. I was recently sent a Sample Pack which allowed me to test drive all three scents: Woodland Mist, Prairie Breeze, and Unscented. If you have never wet blocked before, there are some easy-to-follow instructions here on the Allure website to get you started - just follow the instructions for hand washing.

My standard practice is to wet block anything that can be worn - sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, etc. The only projects I don't tend to block is finished knit or crocheted toys, although there have been times when I've felt the need to wash individual pieces of the toy prior to assembly.
If you've been shopping around for a wool wash, you've probably noticed that there are a lot of scented options out there. When I block items for myself, I absolutely love to use a scented wash; there's something about it that just feels luxurious. Usually, the scent doesn't linger (at least, in an overpowering way), but I still sometime worry about using scented wool wash when I'm making gifts.

If that seems like a strange thing to say, allow me to explain: it seems like a lot of men I know are particular about the kind of scents they like, if they like them at all. In my family, I have many guys who fit this description, and my husband is especially not a fan of anything overly fragranced. Also, with synthetic fragrances being added to so many products these days, it seems like more and more people are becoming hyper-sensitive to scents: sometimes, even a faint whiff can be enough to set them off. Just to be on the safe side, I've been using a fragrance-free wash for my gift projects this year.

For those of you who are curious about Allure, here are my impressions for each of the three scents from the sample pack I received:

Woodland Mist: If you are in the market for a good unisex/guy scent, this is a great option. It reminds me of good men's cologne - light & fresh with a hint of spice. It's a little woody, and the more I sniff it, the more I keep thinking of the word "mossy," which I think might be on account of the notes of spices and vanilla mentioned in the product description. 

Prairie Breeze: This definitely smells more floral to me, but in a really good, musky way. Reading the description on the website, I can see why I like it: it's got all of my favorite scents! Bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, and sandalwood are just a few of the notes; I hate to show a bias here, but this is hand's-down my favorite of the three!

Fragrance Free: Unsurprisingly, this has virtually no scent. As in: there has been no fragrance added to mask the natural aroma of the product itself (honestly, you'd be surprised just how often fragrance is added to a supposedly unscented product - it boggles the mind!). If I was pressed to describe it in some way, the best I could come up with would be clean.

Image from allurewash.com
I hope you'll join me next Monday for part two in this series, where I'll share some of my time-saving tips to make sure your projects are dry in plenty of time for gifting (especially if you need to allow extra time for shipping)! In between now and then, I hope you'll also drop by for WIP Wednesday and FO Friday. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 14, 2014

FO Friday & Gift-along Kickoff

Last weekend, I finished this adorable Flamingo from the FreshStitches Kit Club! Isn't he cute? You'd never know that winter has arrived here in Chicago - I managed to find the one part of our back yarn that hasn't yet died for the season!


I also finally found a frame for my Excelsior, which was my TSOLKAL project. Now it's hanging in my craft room, where it coordinates with the curtains almost perfectly. I think it needs a few friends, but that will have to wait til I'm done with my holiday gift-making, of course.


Speaking of holiday gift-making....the Indie Design Gift-along is here! Click here for all the details over on Ravelry, but in a nutshell, the GAL (as it's commonly referred to) is a great way to support indie designers while also saving money on your pattern purchase and having opportunities to win some amazing prizes!

Participating designers will be offering selected designs for 25% off with the coupon code GIFTALONG2014. Look for the Gift-along2014 bundle on the designer page to see which patterns qualify for a discount, then find a KAL or CAL for your chance to win prizes!


As you may have guessed, I am participating this year - click here to see all of my eligible patterns! You can click here to redeem the GIFTALONG2014 coupon code for your purchase.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Holiday Madness

I went a little crazy over the last week and have been indulging my startitis. It didn't seem like I was starting that many projects at the time....until I began to list them out! Over the weekend, I started a worsted-weight version of the Hot Chocolate Run Polar Bear, which is turning out to be quite plump (I may have gotten a little overzealous with the stuffing):
I also started a tree for the Snow Family & Evergreens KAL which is happening right now on the WEBS blog:
It would seem as though not much progress has occurred with my fingering-weight baby sweater, but that's only because I ended up frogging all of my work so that I could restart, making a smaller size so that I didn't have to worry about ending out of yarn. Oh, and then I promptly ignored this project in favor of starting new ones - as one does.
Case in point: just this morning I cast on for a mini sweater for the Pins and Needles Challenge using some destash yarn (click here for more details on Monday's post):
...and that's to say nothing about the project I'm prepared to start, once the KAL begins this coming Saturday (more on that here):
On the plus side, I'm finally introducing a few non-green projects to the mix. Baby steps!

Feel like enabling me a little more? Leave a comment telling me what's on your needles!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Take the Pins & Needles Challenge!

This year, the folks at Save the Children are challenging folks to Make the World a Better Place with a Sweater on December 12, which is also known as National Sweater Day! Non-knitters are encouraged to wear their most festive holiday sweater and donate $5 to Save the Children on Dec. 12, but knitterly folks have a special challenge for this year: to knit a sweater for someone special between November 12 & December 12, which Save the Children has dubbed the Pins and Needles Challenge.

Don't worry - it doesn't have to be a full-sized sweater! Save the Children and Vogue Knitting have provided two free knitting patterns for miniature sweaters for those of you who are pressed for time:




I myself plan to knit a few mini-sweaters using the free Sweater Garland pattern above - I think they'll make great ornaments to give as gifts this year! I'll be casting on this Wednesday, November 12, and I hope you'll join me; click here for more information on the Save the Children website!

ETA: One lucky participant will win a $50 Gift Certificate to WEBS