Sunday, May 3, 2015

FO Friday: Toys, Toys, Toys!

I've been making some random toys lately and haven't gotten around to sharing them on the blog, so today's post is a hodgepodge of some toys that you might have already seen if you follow me on Instagram. After making my contributions to the #ProjectGnomeDiplomacy, I decided to keep with the tiny theme and made a wee little sheep with a tiny alpaca for a buddy:

Keeping in the theme, I also crocheted this tiny snowman, which was a past FreshStitches kit club shipment that has been sitting in my WIP basket for several months.

After so much tiny, it was time to make something big. Like, REALLY big. This gorgeous gradient handspun yarn was calling to me, and since I'm in the midst of an all-gray WIP situation, I found myself craving a splash of color. I found the biggest hook I had lying around (size L, I believe) and made a Crocheted Button Bunny, which is a free pattern of mine which appeared on the Knitter's Pride Blog.

OMG, this guy is so squishy and fun! Here he is with my other recent toy projects for scale:

Kind of an unlikely crew, but somehow they all get along!

Have a fun & crafty weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2015

FO Friday: Fingerless Mitts from Bijou Basin Ranch

I finally got a chance to block and photograph the fingerless mitts I knit in Bijou Bliss yarn! Even though it's still pretty cold around these parts, there are some signs of spring to liven up my FO photos this week.
These two skeins of yarn have been in my stash for at least a couple of years - I distinctly remember getting at least one of them at the first VK Live here in Chicago. Recently, the hand-dyed colors have been discontinued, but you can still get this yarn in natural cream and natural brown - perfect for at-home dyeing experiments, if you ask me!
The pattern is from the Rocky Mountain Collection by Marly Bird: the Long's Peak 3-in-1 Mittens are fun and easy to customize to suit your taste, since the pattern includes instructions for 3 different options. Since my home office is pretty chilly, I opted to make some fingerless mitts that would allow me to type unfettered. As a bonus, I now have plenty of leftover yarn to add to my cozy memories blanket!

Forever Linked Hat & Mitts
As it turns out, this week's project is pretty timely, because the maker of both the yarn and pattern, Bijou Basin Ranch, is holding a fundraiser to send help to Nepal to help victims of the recent earthquake. As their website explains, they have a working relationship with many yak ranchers in the reason, which is why they feel compelled to lend a hand. All net profits from the sale of these products will be donated to AmeriCares, which is on the scene to provide medicine, medical treatment, and other support to victims of the earthquake.

One of the products which will help raise funds is the Forever Linked Hat and Mitts, designed by yours truly. I hope you'll consider sharing this page or making a purchase to help the cause. If you are wanting to learn more about how you can help people in Nepal, this blog post on Woolen Diversions does a great job of explaining some more of your options.

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Grey vs. Color

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

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Take 5: Procrasti-knitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

FO Friday: Newborn Vertebrae Cardigan

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

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

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

Tell much grey is too much?

Monday, April 20, 2015

OMG, Yarncon!

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

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