Monday, March 30, 2015

March Goals / April Goals

Another month has flown by! Since April is looking to be as action-packed as March (if not more so), I thought I'd be efficient by evaluating my progress on this month's goals and also sharing my plans for the month ahead on today's post. First, let's check in to see how I did this past month!

MARCH GOALS:

1. Launch an awesome new blog feature to keep things interesting while I work on some projects which I can't share publicly (more on that later this month). Launched! You can see the first two posts in this feature here, and I have more exciting guests planned for April!
2. Finish 2 new designs and one top-secret project by the March 26 deadlines. Over the weekend, I made a knitting schedule of where I should be at certain times this month for each project, and it's totally doable to have them done in time if I stick with it! Completed ahead of schedule...I can't wait to share these projects with you once they are made public.
3. Finish my Caesius CurlsKAL project (for realsies). Completed & blogged here.
4. Complete 8 more squares (2 each week) on my scrap yarn blanket (but only if I meet my design knitting goals first, of course. Success - in fact, I added a whopping 21 new squares this month.
5. The long shot: finish my Block Island Pullover! Done, and I'll be blogging about it this Friday!
Tempting Cloudlover Spinning Fiber!

Wow, a 100% success rate for March's goals?! I guess that makes up for February, where I fell short on several of my to-do list items. Perhaps I was overly ambitious in February - or, conversely, too conservative for March. For April, I will once again go out on a limb and shoot for a more ambitious set of goals. 

APRIL GOALS:

1. Project Gnome Diplomacy: I want to make 6 gnomes total to donate to the cause (3 are already completed). 
2. Spinning Project: I'd like to spin a couple of my Cloudlover Fiber club braids, and I also have a Turkish spindle that I've been meaning to try out for about a month now. 
3. Small projects! Before I start my next sweater, I want to finish lots of smaller projects which have been tempting me the last few months. I have a backlog of FreshStitches Kit Club shipments, and there are lots of other toys in my Ravelry queue which I'm dying to make. 
4. Finish & release a new design in Baah Yarn which I am currently working on.
5. Swatch for my next sweater.
6. Learn Tunisian Crochet & start this project finally! I signed up for a class at YarnCon, so I am really excited to finally check this off of my list.
7. Complete 12 squares (3 each week) on my scrap yarn blanket. I'm sure I'll knit many more than 12 during the month of April, but since I have such a lengthy to-do list already, I don't want to stress myself out about this! I think adding 3 each week is enough of a challenge without being too overwhelming alongside everything else.

Friday, March 27, 2015

FO Friday: Handspun Caesious

My first Curl was finished at the beginning of the month! I started Caesious way back in January for the informal KAL in Hunter Hammersen's Ravelry group. Things kept popping up to distract me from working on it, but at last I got back on task and finished it up.
The stitch pattern was easy to memorize and perfect for my variegated handspun yarn, spun from Malabrigo Nube.

It's squishy and soft and fun to wear; I'm thinking of adding a button so that I can take advantage of the openwork stitch pattern which can serve as de facto buttonholes.
I love that I was able to use up pretty much all of my yarn (I had a small amount left over which I used to wrap a birthday present); that's the beauty of the patterns from Curls - you just knit until you run out of yarn!

I definitely plan to knit more patterns from this book! If you missed my review, click here to check it out.

Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Let there be Gnomes!

The Countdown to YarnCon Gnome Gnitalong is in full swing here on Ravelry! Now that I have finished both of my secret knitting projects which are due this month, I am free to break out the DPNs and have myself a Gnome Party!
I am using leftover bits of worsted weight yarn and my new favorite DPNs from Knitter's Pride, Marblz, to knit slightly-less-tiny versions of Anna Hrachovec's Tiny Gnome pattern. My goal is to make a gnome rainbow to send to Seoul, and they are so fast to knit that I'm already off to a good start.

If you want to join in the fun, the Tiny Gnome pattern is available in a few places: Anna's book, Teeny Tiny MochiMochi; the Tiny Gnome Kit; and the Tiny Things Collection 3 which you can purchase for $3 off the regular price now through April 15, 2015 - just enter GNOMEDIPLOMACY at checkout.

I'm really excited to contribute a few gnomes to this project, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Plus, I'll be entered into a prize drawing for each Gnome I donate to the cause at YarnCon!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Take 5 with Knitting Sarah!

Knitting Sarah
A few weeks ago, I introduced the Take 5 series, which is where I ask fiber-loving folks to share top five lists on a variety of topics (click here to get caught up). This week, I asked one of my favorite midwestern bloggers, Knitting Sarah, to share a list which could stop cold sheepers in their tracks...or, at the very least, make those of us with lesser resolve feel better about our frequent bouts of stash enhancement. Presenting....

Knitting Sarah’s Top 5 Excuses to Buy More Yarn


  1. Yarn doesn’t go bad. As long as it’s stored properly, yarn will happily sit in your stash for years waiting for you to find just the right pattern and moment to knit it (trust me, I’ve personally tested that theory). So really, why not add to it?
  2. Incentive. Sometimes we all need an extra push to finish up a certain work in progress. I find that the promise of new yarn on the way or new yarn upon completion of said WIP often helps me cross the finish line. I think it’s totally rational that I’ve come to consider the prospect of new yarn as a finishing tool.
  3. Souvenir, v. to remember. The verb ‘souvenir’ in French means, ‘to remember’ and what better way to remember a vacation or a special occasion or, you know, the fourth Monday in March than a nice sweater quantity of yarn?
  4. Matchers. Ironically, sometimes the only way to use my stash yarn is to add to it. Those single skeins often need new beautiful partners and I simply can’t stashbust effectively without adding new skeins to the fold.
  5. TEOTWAWKI*. It’s important that we as knitters are prepared for all possible scenarios, such as a disruption in yarn supply. Whether it’s due to a coronal mass ejection shutting down the power grid or it’s Sunday and your LYS is closed, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be ready.
In case you were worried, I’m pretty sure that #5 has you covered no matter what kind of stash enhancement you’re after, so go ahead and give those pretty new skeins a home!

Sarah also sent over this handy flow chart from amusingyarns.com which she frequently refers back to when the temptation to buy more yarn arises.

Be sure to check out the Knitting Sarah blog for more great ways to enhance your stash!

*TEOTWAWKI = The End Of The World As We Know It - for anyone who was wondering!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Winner + Celery Slouch Hat

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Stripey Fine Giveaway! The lucky winner is PamfromNOLA. I will get in touch with you to arrange for the delivery of the prize - congratulations!
Today, I have a quick FO to share with you: my project for the Celery Slouch KAL, which is happening now through April 30 here in the Blue Sky Alpacas Ravelry group. There is a pretty awesome prize up for grabs, and all you have to do is knit this simple slouchy hat in any Blue Sky Alpacas yarn! Also, you get multiple drawing entries the more hats you knit & share in the group, which is a pretty sweet deal. 
It was the perfect conversation knitting project, and I ended up stashing it in my bag so that I could knit a few rounds wherever I happened to be - on the bus, at the salon, or at a party. The yarn is really soft, and it blocked out beautifully over a plate. I'm planning to donate it to charity, but it was fun to wear it for the photo shoot!
Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Return to Block Island

I had quite the productive weekend, wherein I finished 2 out of 3 secret projects (and the third is now in the final stages of done-ness)! That meant I had plenty of time to to spend on my other WIPs and March Goals. My first order of business was finishing my Celery Slouch KAL project (more on that this Friday), deciding on a spinning project for March (more on that....eventually), and dusting off my Block Island Pullover, which has been rather lonely in the knitting basket of late. 


On Monday night, I finished the first sleeve, and instead of diving into sleeve #2 right away, I decided to take some time to weave in all of the many ends hiding on the inside of the sweater. It's not terribly exciting stuff, but I'll be glad I did it later on. Probably. 


I also added several squares to my destash memory blanket...in fact, I've already exceeded my modest goal of adding 2 squares each week (for a total of 8)! I'm getting totally addicted to picking out new colors and yarns for each new square, and it's a great project to grab when I'm waiting for the cats to eat their food or sneak in a few rows while dinner is cooking.


That's about it for this week - also, don't forget to enter my giveaway for your chance to win a skein of Stripey Fine sock yarn from Spud & Chloe! Click here for contest details; I'll be announcing the winner this Friday, March 20! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yarn Enabling: Himalayan Trail from Bijou Basin Ranch

Last month, I shared a new-to-me yarn which I'm using for an design appearing in an upcoming Holla Knits collection. Today, I want to share a not-so-new-to-me yarn which has long been on my list of favorites, Himalayan Trail.

I first used this yarn in 2012, when I knit a scarf which I gave to a friend for Christmas that year. I immediately fell in love with the fluffy softness! At the time, this yarn was only available in two color options, Natural Brown and Natural Cream.
Dun Bonnet, just one of 24 color options from the Outlandish collection.
A little over a year ago, Bijou Basin Ranch introduced the Outlandish series of colorways which are inspired by the Outlander series. I admit, I haven't read the books, nor have I watched the TV show (which is just about to make its return to Starz) - but I am most definitely a sucker for beautiful semi-solid hand-dyed yarn! Last fall, I designed a hat and fingerless mitt pattern using Himalayan Trail, and I am just finishing up a brand-new design which will be released next month as an exclusive kit at bijoubasinranch.com.

Why do I love this yarn so much? For starters, I love the fiber content: a luxurious blend of 75% yak and 25% merino. The resulting 2-ply yarn is lofty, without being too loose or too overspun:
It also has excellent stitch definition, lending itself to a variety of stitch patterns, though I'm partial to cables:
...and it even looks great when you weave with it on the Zoom Loom:
I haven't tried crocheting with Himalayan Trail, but the resulting knitted fabric is super-soft without feeling fragile. Not only that, but the scarf I knit for myself last fall has yet to pill, and I've worn it quite a bit this winter.
Bonus: you can probably find a colorway which matches your favorite teacup!
The price tag might seem a little cost-prohibitive for a larger project such as a sweater, but it's a worthy splurge, and there are plenty of projects you can make with just 2-3 skeins. You can either purchase skeins individually or choose from a variety of discounted project kits (including mine!) featuring this yarn.

Happy Knitting!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stripey Fine Review & Giveaway

Today I have a special treat to share: an exciting new yarn from Spud & Chloë called Stripey Fine! It's a fingering weight blend of 80% superwash wool and 20% silk, which is a blend I don't think I've ever come across in a sock yarn (with the exception being Fine, the solid-colored predecessor to Stripey Fine). This gives it a bit of a sheen to the yarn itself, and I'm willing to be that the addition of silk gives it added strength while reducing the likelihood of pills. The yarn feels very similar to a sweater I made several years ago which was also a similar blend of wool and silk (which is now discontinued); that sweater has yet to pill or show signs of wear.
Stripey Fine comes in seven variegated colorways, shown above clockwise, beginning at the top: Blueberry Cheesecake #7863, Tootie Fruitie #7860, Grape Freeze #7864, Cherry Sundae #7866, Neopolitan #7862, Orange Cream #7865, and Mint Chip #7861 in the center. Each colorway knits up in what I would describe as a space-dyed effect; another fun feature of this yarn is that each variegated colorway is comprised of colors from the solid-colored Fine palette. They can be mixed and matched for stripes and colorwork to create even more exciting effects!   
As a participant in the Stripey Fine Blog Tour, I was given a skein of Blueberry Cheesecake #7863 to make myself a pair of the Stripey Wristlets by Sarah Smuland, which is the first design to be released featuring this yarn. The mitts practically flew off my needles, and proved to be the perfect project for on-the-go knitting. I still have about a half-skein of the yarn left over and could easily knit another pair to give as a gift.
For those who dare, the Stripey Wristlets pattern is available for only $1.50 on Ravelry (that's 50% off!) when you enter STRIPEY at checkout - click here to purchase your PDF copy today! Note: this coupon code is good through March 21, 2015, after which the regular pattern price is only $3.
Win This Prize!
Here's where things get really fun: the folks at Spud & Chloë have generously donated a skein of Stripey Fine and a copy of the Stripey Wristlets pattern for me to give away as a prize to one lucky blog reader! To be eligible, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me which of the seven Stripey Fine colorways is your favorite. Be sure to also mention your Ravelry ID or email address so that I can contact you if you win.

If you would like a bonus entry, please like my Facebook Page or follow me on Instagram, then leave another comment telling me you did so - just be sure to mention your Facebook or Instagram name so that I can verify everything!

While you're at it, you should definitely join the Spud & Chloë Ravelry group or follow them on your social media channel of choice: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

I will randomly-select one lucky winner to be announced next Friday, March 20 here on this blog. Good luck! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spin-Off Spring 2015: So Much Inspiration!

I'm always eager to receive the next issue of Spin-Off in the mail, but the Spring 2015 issue which just arrived at my house is quite possibly the best I've ever read. It's bursting with interesting products and cool ideas to try, and I absolutely love the emphasis on putting your handspun stash to good use.

Jillian Moreno's article on combining your onesie fiber braids to create interesting marled effects in your finished handspun yarn is one I know I'll be referring back to quite a bit; I also loved Dagmar Klos' article on overdyeing stash yarns using natural dyes to transform seemingly clash-y skeins of yarn into a harmonious palette. Other article topics include features on Shetland Wool Week (which took place last fall), a spinners' trip to Ireland, a tutorial on creating batts with leftover fleece and fiber in your stash, creating a rug hooking project with your handspun stash yarn, and more.

The projects focus mainly on using up your handspun yarn stash, and I am pretty sure I'll be casting on for a Stashbuster Afghan just as soon as I wrap up my March deadline projects. The piece on creating garments using a variety of fiber braids is truly inspiring, as is the "Adventures in Fleece" feature which includes instructions to crochet squares to create your very own breed sampler afghan.

If you still need convincing that this issue needs to be a part of your spinning reference library, then I will have to point to Leslie Ordal's "Save Our Stash" article, which has photos of those dreaded yarn-eating pests and includes tips on how to prevent infestations as well as what to do should the unthinkable occur. Hopefully, I'll never have to refer back to this particular article, but I'm glad to have it at the ready just in case.

You can purchase print copies of the Spring 2015 issue of Spin-Off here in the Interweave store; digital versions are also available here.


You may like to know: I am a subscriber to Spin-Off magazine and was not asked to write this review, nor was I compensated in any way for it. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Introducing the Take 5 Blog Series: Mari Knits

I really like to make lists, and I've always enjoyed reading top 5 (or 10) lists in magazines, blogs, etc. One Friday afternoon not so long ago, I was wrestling with how to keep posting fresh and interesting content on my blog as I took on more and more work which had to remain top-secret. Since I my day job at Stitchcraft Marketing has put me in touch with a lot of awesome bloggers, designers and other industry folks, it seemed like a natural progression to spotlight these folks on my own knitting blog.

Then I dreamed up the perfect twist: invite each person to share a Top 5 List which somehow relates to the fiber arts. Here's the catch: every Take 5 list will be totally different than the next! Each person who agrees to participate in the series is given a list of 20+ topics to choose from; once they select from the list, that option goes away for any future participant.

We'll be covering all sorts of ground - from funny to educational and all points in between. I don't plan on editing or censoring anyone's answers for the purposes of this blog, even if it conflicts with my own beliefs; I think it's interesting to hear from people who have a different perspective than my own. Even if they don't win me over to their way of thinking, I think it's important to consider all sides of an issue (no matter how big or small); I hope my dear readers will keep an open mind for these posts, too!

It seemed appropriate to kick off this series with my friend and colleague Mari Chiba, since she helped me brainstorm many of the topics for this project when I Skyped her one Friday afternoon to tell her my idea. Mari and I have worked together at Stitchcraft for several years now, and outside of that she is a prolific designer whose work has appeared in Twist Collective, Knitscene, Clotheshorse, and Knitty (among others), plus she also self-publishes patterns such as the Laurelai Cardigan, shown at right.

She's a fun and funny person to hang out with, in person as well as via Skype, and I'm so glad she agreed to be the first person to take part in my little experiment.

Without further ado, I present to you....

Mari Chiba's Top 5 Instagram Pet Peeves!

1. Screenshots. Any and all of them, but this winter has really seen an unfortunate increase in weather app screenshots which have essentially turned Instagram into the Weather Channel. Note from Stefanie: our shared frustration resulted in my creating this meme to commemorate the occasion:
2. Photos of your feet. GROSS.
3. Photos of your food. Trust me, it only looks good to the person who's about to eat it - to the rest of us, it's not very appetizing. AT. ALL.
4. Any photo taken with the flash. 
5. When you invade my feed with the same photo over and over. Either get one good shot, or learn how to sort through the many photos you took to post only the best one.

We both have a shared experience of spending WAY too much time on social media channels (as in, at least 8 hours each day), and that has caused us to commiserate about some of our biggest pet peeves via Skype many times over, but perhaps Grumpy Cat says it best (or at least, most succinctly):
To be totally honest, the above list is pretty similar to a blog post I have drafted called "the grumpy person's guide to social media" which I never got around to publishing. I'm sure that everyone has their own list of pet peeves when it comes to Instagram or other photo-sharing sites. I'd love to hear what you'd put on your own top 5 list of photo-sharing no-no's in the comments!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Project Gnome Diplomacy


Living in Chicago, I am quite spoiled for awesome fiber-related events in my neck of the woods. However, YarnCon is hand-down my fave: it kicks off the fiber show season every April and attracts some really amazing indie dyers and makers.


I'm thrilled to help spread the word about an exciting KAL called Project Gnome Diplomacy, which is a gnometastic partnership with the folks who put on YarnCon & Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land!


I can't think of a better way to count down the days til YarnCon (which takes place on April 18-19, 2015) than by helping Anna collect all of the tiny gnomes she'll need to complete her upcoming art installation is Seoul, South Korea.

Here are the details:


Mochimochi Land is going to Korea in May, and we want YOUR tiny gnomes to be our ambassadors! In the spirit of craft and community, these gnomes will be unique creations gathered together in a delightfully diverse group of beards and hats for the public to see and be inspired by. They will be part of an art project for a Mochimochi Land show (running late May to late June) at Everyday Mooonday, a gallery in Seoul dedicated to character art.


Why gnomes? Gnomes are big players in Mochimochi Land—some even say that they’re the glue that holds Mochimochi Land together. And while gnomes are familiar characters to us in the West, they’re relatively unknown in Asia, so we want to introduce the idea of the gnome, which to us represents tradition, playfulness, and magic.. (Just like knitting!)


How you can participate:


Spread The Word!


Please Gnote: Your Gnome will not be returned to you, so be sure you have said a proper goodbye before sending him on his journey!


Gnome-approved patterns:


Prizes! There are prizes!


  • Each Gnome mailed to the address above will be entered in a grand prize drawing for a “box of fun” from Seoul! (Please enclose your email address to be entered.)
  • Each Gnome turned into the Gnome Creation Station at YarnCon will entitle its maker to a raffle ticket for the fabulous prize drawings which will be happening at YarnCon!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A New WIP

After seeing my list of March goals which I posted on Monday, it may seem strange that I have a new WIP - perhaps even insane! Luckily, it's a quick project which I can wok on outside of the house, which comes in handy since the designs-in-progress are very much stay-at-home projects at this point.

Clearly, I can justify just about anything!

I heard about the Spring KAL happening in the Blue Sky Alpacas Ravelry group which was announced last week, and you know how I can't resist a KAL...especially when there is a totally awesome prize up for grabs. Over the weekend, I wound off my yarn (3 skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas sport in the color used for the pattern, Celery) and I cast on Sunday night...after I'd safely reached my design knitting goals for the day, of course!

The Celery Slouch KAL comes along at just the perfect time for me, as my knitting group is collecting hats for women who are currently battling cancer. I have a modest pile of hats ready to donate, and this one will be a nice addition to round out the mix.
The current pile of hats to be donated.
If you live in Chicago and would also like to donate some hats to help Cancer patients, a local podcaster pal of mine recently kicked off a KAL which you can find out about more here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Goals

Admittedly low-tech, but I think this will keep me on task.
1. Launch an awesome new blog feature to keep things interesting while I work on some projects which I can't share publicly (more on that later this month).
2. Finish 2 new designs and one top-secret project by the March 26 deadlines. Over the weekend, I made a knitting schedule of where I should be at certain times this month for each project, and it's totally doable to have them done in time if I stick with it!
3. Finish my Caesius CurlsKAL project (for real this time).
4. Complete 8 more squares (2 each week) on my scrap yarn blanket (but only if I meet my design knitting goals first, of course.
5. The long shot: finish my Block Island Pullover!

I have a feeling #2 is going to keep me quite busy all month long, and I think it'll be quite a challenge to complete #3 and #5 by March 31, but who knows - once everything is safely turned in, perhaps I'll have a finishing bonanza at the end of the month.
Goal #4: Adding 2 squares to my scrap yarn blanket each week!
Speaking of keeping things interesting on this blog, I will be sharing a lot of different posts than I normally write, and I hope you'll hang with me - who knows, maybe we'll both enjoy the new direction! I can tell you that I have a few reviews and even a giveaway planned, I'll be sharing some local Chicago events and KALS (though I don't see why folks outside of the area can't also join in!), a few tips and tricks, and I'll even be starting a new series which I hope everyone is as excited about as I am.

If you are moved to share your feedback along the way, I'll be interested to hear what you think - even if I don't respond to your comment (sorry!), I do read each and every one and I appreciate it when folks take the time to share them!