A Few of My Favorite Things

Who needs Coach when you can carry a bag that was designed to carry yarn?!

Who needs Coach when you can carry a bag that was designed to carry yarn?!

I love it when people give you something that has special meaning, but can be incorporated into your daily living. Apparently, I’ve been knitting and crocheting just long enough to have developed a reputation with my family and friends. Lately, come every birthday or holiday, a new crafty-related item appears somewhere in our house. These are my top three favorites – deserving of their priority because I use them ALL the time.

First is my Namaste Poppins bag. This was meant to be my master project bag, I swear. But it’s turned into the handbag I carry everywhere, all the time, and just happen to throw projects and notions into when I need to transport them with me. I can’t count the number of compliments I’ve received on this bag, and take it from me, raspberry is the new black. Somehow, magically, this bag just goes with everything! For those of you who may not like the fact it’s $89, let me wish you the best of luck in finding a Dooney & Bourke bag for anywhere near that cost!

The first knitting-related item my husband gave me

The first knitting-related item my husband gave me

I will be so heartbroken if anything happens to this mug! It was a very thoughtful gift from my husband a few Christmas’s ago, and the only days I’m not drinking my morning coffee out of it are the days it’s sitting in the sink waiting to be washed. He gave it to me right around the time it became apparent that knitting was not a passing hobby, and our house would be keeping a yarn stash on a permanent basis.

Look closely!

Look closely!

The most recent yarn-y related gift – earrings for my birthday. These earrings have received so many compliments, and I wear them all the time. I like them better than studs, but they’re small and tasteful enough they go with everything, and if I fall asleep in them, they’re not bothering me all night long. My husband said they weren’t expensive, but they are precious to me because I thought it was such a thoughtful gift.

If you have favorite craft-related items you use in your daily life, I would love to see.


Crafty Bombings

Over the weekend, I was working on a design and hitting a creative block. After ripping it out for about the tenth time and changing stitch patterns multiple times, I decided it was time to take a break. As I was doing research, I kept coming across all kinds of beautiful yarn bombings. There are the standard cozies on a light pole of course, but I love it when the artists and craftspeople execute a concept so artfully and beautifully and completely that it takes your breath away and kind of makes you not care too much about whether it was actually legal. I hope you will enjoy these!

It doesn’t always have to be yarn!

If you’re going to yarn bomb a tree, do it right!

There’s a piano, and then there’s the Piano Dentelle!

A little something special for Star Wars fans.

MUST SCROLL DOWN. The Helsinki, Finland stairs are worth seeing, but so is everything else you’re scrolling through!

And in honor of my home city Pittsburgh


Gifts to Make

I like to do a little holiday crafting for my closest loved ones. I learned the hard way to be selective so I don’t overwhelm myself and turn something that should be fun and loving into added holiday stress. I’ve moved away from seeing how many gifts I can crank out toward picking one or two stunning projects to give to the most special people in my life. But however you like to plan out your gifting, a word to the wise: START NOW!

Aside from the giving, the most fun part (in my opinion) is figuring out what to make! So for all of you who support me and read my blog, here is my little holiday gift to you! A list of the coolest patterns I’ve been bookmarking all year! I hope you enjoy browsing the list, and if you make any of these, please share your photos of the finished pieces because I would love to see!

  1. Being the art lover that I am, and Op Art being one of my favorite movements, this blanket speaks to me even though I don’t currently have anyone to make a baby blanket for! But I’m thinking it could also be a pretty awesome throw. Check out the pattern on Ravelry to see what other people came up with in color combos!
  2. This sweater is something a teenager with a forward fashion sense would enjoy. Big prints and images on sweaters and sweatshirts are very popular, so if you are looking for something for the hard-to-please teen category, this is definitely NOT grandma’s knitting!
  3. A classic go-to gift, fingerless mitts with a twist!
  4. Socks are so much work, but such a lovely gift for someone truly dear to you who is worth all the knitting time! For an extra-special pair for your extra-special someone, I recommend anything from Ravelry’s Tour De Sock, but I especially love Fields of Flowers.
  5. Technically, Minion things would be listed as children’s gifts, but I know plenty of adults who would enjoy having these too. Crocheted items usually work up quickly, so if you need a gift in a hurry, or a fun gag gift for a white elephant party, Minions are a fun option.
  6. I’ve never done Tunisian entrelac, so I have no idea how complicated (or not) this project would be, but it is so fantastic, I had to include it! Plus, I would love to learn how to do this, so I consider it a gift to myself AND the person who gets the FO. However, just given the size, I would recommend starting this gift this year in preparation for gifting next year.
  7. A tote is always useful! I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t have a use for this bag!
  8. Shawls are always a lovely gift, and this designer has a beautiful variety.
  9. And last, but not least, the classic holiday gift: a scarf. But not just any scarf – why do boring rib when you could explore the magic of illusion knitting?

I hope you enjoy the ideas I found. I tried to link to the original source of each pattern, but if you would like to see color ideas or projects other people have completed, these can all be looked up on Ravelry. Happy holiday gifting!


Crocheters’ Turn

When I decided to do this post, I wasn’t entirely sure of who I wanted to list aside from the big names of Lily Chin and Doris Chan. But the more I dug around looking for what’s new and cool in the crochet world, the more fun I had finding all the designers who are doing exciting stuff with it!

Even though I have not yet made patterns from these designers, I was very happy to find this list!

Pattern by DarnCat Crochet

Pattern by DarnCat Crochet

There’s nothing cuter than crocheted animals, and having done animals and toys both in knitting and crochet, take it from me: crocheting them is alot more fun, and SOOOO much quicker! The nature of crochet is that the fabric you’re stitching is thicker, which lends itself nicely to creating fabric for an animal or toy which will be stuffed. I made the bunny above several years ago, and couldn’t find much from this artist to share, so I recommend Joyce Overheul’s designs at Flying DutchmanDesigns as an excellent alternative.

Laura Lynn Hanks' Chromium Star

Laura Lynn Hanks’ Chromium Star

Props to any designer who can come up with a pattern that becomes this popular, looks this cool, and is so easy to do! Considering that I had to clear my entire living room floor just to be able to spread this throw out in all its glory for this shot, it didn’t take me long at all to crochet this huge piece. And when I went to her blog, I found a wealth of talent! Visit when you have time to read and browse!

Another designer whose patterns I’m excited to try is Heidi Bears, designer of the adorable Happypotamus and numerous other equally adorable and gorgeous animals. Her stuff is so adorable and beautiful I don’t even want to have it open on my computer screen when my daughter is around until I’m ready to make it, because I know my little girl will drive me crazy begging for it. And to be honest, I sort of just want to make one for myself!

Not to be forgotten, there is also Tunisian crochet, which I have only sampled, and would love to continue exploring. Sharon Silverman is an excellent writer and designer of Tunisian.

Sasha Kagan is a knitwear designer who took the time to explore crochet and write an extremely inspirational book. I love the fact that such an accomplished knitwear designer took time out to explore crochet and elevate it to an art form. I would encourage any crocheter in need of inspiration to read her book, as it is truly one of the best out there.

There is a whole other world of crochet that fascinates me that originates in Japan. It is hard for Americans to know how to work these patterns unless they’ve been taught to simply read the charts visually. But the designer Kazuko Ryokai is the author of Crochet With Color, and gives us an excellent (and fun!) place to start.

I hope you enjoy what I came up with! Please share your favorites with me, as I am always happy to add to my list.


Perfect Match

A beautiful display of umbrellas.

A beautiful display of umbrellas.

Yes this is Asian yarn, although it is Japanese, not Chinese, like the photo that inspired the pairing.

Yes this is Asian yarn, although it is Japanese, not Chinese, like the photo that inspired the pairing.

I just finished a big project for a friend over the weekend, plus a sock. My reward to myself was to go through my yarn, magazines, photos, etc., and find inspiration for a new design. I didn’t have to look very long or hard before I realized that I just posted LA County Fair inspiration a few days ago, and have yarn that relates perfectly to one of my favorite photos from the fair. What better day to begin work on a new design project than Monday!

By the way, if you find yourself in the same position of finishing up projects and not quite sure what to work on next, I highly recommend taking a few hours to pull out your stash, look at photos or magazines, and see if you find yourself making a match you might not have thought of otherwise! Just make sure you are in a relaxed state of mind and give yourself a little time to play. Have fun!


Why We Do

Much has been written about how to answer the common non-crafter question: why do you bother taking all that time to knit or crochet when you can buy a scarf (or whatever it is) for much cheaper at (insert chain store)? The Yarn Harlot always has hilarious answers for these sorts of questions, but I came up with my own list of reasons the other day when I was madly trying to finish a gift for someone and asking myself the same things! Of course, the answer to these sorts of questions is always personal and individual, but if you need a quick comeback for someone, here’s a potential list to pick from.

1. Learning to knit and crochet teaches you not only the skill, but also appreciation for an art form. It’s like taking ballet or music lessons – you never truly appreciate the talent and beauty of the masters until you’ve experienced first hand the effort it takes to get there.

2. There is a huge trend toward artisan and handcrafts, and in my opinion, this is because the general public is sick and tired of the Walmart mentality of “Buy 20 because it’s cheap!” In our hearts, all human beings are individuals, and we appreciate individuality. Knitters and crocheters just have already known for a long time what the rest of the world is starting to figure out! And when you make a gift for someone, you certainly don’t have to worry they’ll receive 10 more of the same.

3. The biggest reason (for me at least) to take the time to make things by hand is because it is the ONLY time to sit down and breathe. I learned right after my dad died very suddenly, and I don’t know how I would have recovered if I hadn’t been able to turn to crocheting and knitting. I couldn’t focus on reading a book, had no interest in anything on TV because I felt like the world didn’t understand my grief, and I couldn’t sleep. When I learned to crochet, I could sit down for an hour or two and have my mind completely focused on what I was doing. I was creatively involved, my hands were busy, and at the end of a project, I had something useful (even if not beautiful, since I was still learning!). Thankfully, I can now remember my dad without feeling all that grief and pain, but crocheting and knitting are still what help me manage stress and those times in life I feel overwhelmed with too much to do. Even half an hour of working on a project makes me feel calmer and more focused.

4. Working with yarn teaches you so much besides just working the hook or needles. When I used to go shopping and buy clothes, I never paid any attention to fiber content. I never knew anything about it, and didn’t realize I needed to know! Now that I’ve learned so much about different fibers, their properties in terms of how they react to heat, water, etc., I’m so much smarter about what clothing I buy! Knitters and crocheters learn all the nuances of their materials hands-on, which is usually the most thorough way to learn anything.

5. And finally, when asked why you bother to craft, there is the old standby question of WHY NOT? If you’re going to sit down and watch TV, why not have a project in hand? Anytime in life you have a chance to learn something new or do something creative, why not?


A Solution to a Common Problem

I LOVE these ideas for what to do with yarn scraps! Most of the time, I throw mine away, but I always hate doing it. It goes back to that whole, I-Hate-being-wasteful thing. Check out a tutorial, save your scraps and share your photos if you like. I’m going to have to find a special spot to start saving my scraps from now on. :)


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