Fun Studio Updates

I occasionally get in moods where I want to switch up my studio. The truth is, I’m not an overly organized person, and when I’m working, I’m very messy. I have books and yarn and supplies out everywhere, not to mention notebooks and sketchbooks because I take extensive notes about everything I do when I’m writing patterns. It doesn’t bother me when I’m working, but when I stop and look around me, I get the urge to reorganize and clear the decks. I love those magazine photos of artists’ studios in which there are pretty displays of markers and pencils, stacks of neatly folded and color-coordinated fabrics, and shelves of yarn that look as beautiful as a yarn store. A girl can dream, yes?

My problem, which is a problem for many others too, is that I don’t have dedicated studio space. I work in my living room, which must be shared with the whole family. So when I buy things for my “studio”, I have to be mindful that they are fun for me, but still suitable for a living room. If you are looking for some fun little updates, check out this site and do a search for one or all of these terms: yarn, crochet, knitting and have fun choosing. You can thank me later. :)


Set-In Sleeve Tips

I am currently designing a sweater/coat, meaning it’s a cardigan shape, but I wanted extra ease so I could throw it over jeans and a top like a jacket. It has been a very long, involved project because it involves color charts which I developed completely from scratch based on my inspiration photos. (More on all that later.) As you can imagine, I’m feeling lots of project fatigue at this point

As usual, the sleeves are the last part to be done. Unfortunately, I completed one entire sleeve only to realize upon bindoff that there was no way it would ever fit into the armhole. My efforts to incorporate added ease resulted in it being entirely too large altogether. But since failure is the opportunity to learn, I took the opportunity to evaluate what I missed in my calculations. Happily, I now have a much more promising-looking sleeve in the works. Below are my top three important factors to consider when you’re doing set-in sleeves – whether you’re adjusting an existing pattern or designing your own.

  1. Sleeve Length – you need to know the measurements from where you want the sleeve to end to where you want it to stop under the arm, as well as all the way to where it will be stitched at the shoulder. Of course, if you’re making a garment, you should swatch anyway, but this is extremely important for sleeves! Also, after you knit the swatch, WASH IT! Let it dry, and recheck your gauge. I made another sweater in which my gauge was consistent and accurate, but when I blocked the sweater, the sleeves ended up way too long because the fabric stretched by several inches.
  2. Cap Length – This length is calculated on a number of measurements, but it’s vital that you are accurate! (See Shirley Paden’s book to get in-depth information on calculations.) Essentially, the cap is what will extend past the under arm and cover the appropriate section of your upper arm and shoulder. It should be a curved, bell-shape and must fit the armhole of the main body of the sweater.
  3. Match Bindoffs - For a set-in sleeve to fit perfectly into the armhole, you need to match the armhole bindoffs. This is easily done, as you can simply refer back to what you did at the armhole bindoffs of the front and back of the sweater.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to making sleeves, but if you are having trouble with set-in sleeves, perhaps a check of these three things will help you sort out your problem. I’m always happy if I can help someone avoid the same mistakes I made!


Reading Material

Reading-Material

In keeping with flu season, I am sick, and today is the fifth day I have a fever and pretty much have to stay in bed. I know it really is time to rest in bed when I’m too sick to even crochet or knit, as there is usually never a day that goes by I don’t pick up a project to work on. However, no matter how sick I am, I can’t sleep round the clock, so for me, reading is the next best thing. Here is my reading list, all of which is light reading, easily picked up again if you doze off in the middle. Take care of yourselves, and if you’re not sick, I think you will enjoy these anyway! Happy, and I hope, healthy reading!

Tory Burch: In Color – Lots and lots of gorgeous photos and color inspiration. Bonus for sick people – not a whole lot of reading, but beautiful browsing!

The Gentle Art of Domesticity – One of my absolute favorite books ever! Read a chapter, read it cover to cover, or again, just browse all the beautiful photography! The best word I can think of to describe this book is “soothing”.

The Knitter’s Life List – This book could also be interesting for crocheters – alot of the ideas about exploring the world of fiber apply to crochet as well. When you’re out of commission in bed, this book will help you dream up new projects to start when you are back on your feet.

Pom Pom Quarterly – I have my boss to thank for introducing me to this lovely little British publication. It covers knitting, crocheting, as well as a variety of related interests, and is a magazine I always look forward to receiving and reading from cover to cover.

 


Alpaca Culture

I have liked Alpaca Culture for some time on Facebook. They have kept my newsfeed supplied with some of the most beautiful and adorable photos of alpacas I’ve ever seen. It always brightens up my day to see one of their photos in the midst of memes and ads. If like me, you have a romantic notion (most likely perpetuated by the likes of Rachel Herron’s romance novels) of what it’s like to run an alpaca farm, you will want to browse their site before jumping into it. And if you choose to read the magazine, well, hopefully the realities are not too far off from the romance! Enjoy!


The Year of the Sheep

Since I am in habit of attending church, I’m pretty sure I qualify as being a religious person. However, I am by no means superstitious, and yet, my heart did a little song and dance when I saw this article posted on Facebook by Vogue Knitting. Aside from the fact it is the Year of the Sheep and Japan is making postage stamps for it, how COOL AND FUN is it that the series, when finished, will show a completed scarf?! (Just so you all know, I searched for where you can buy these, and I didn’t have luck finding anything, or I would have posted the link.)

I hope as you ring in 2015, your heart is singing and dancing also. Better yet, let the rest of you move in time with your heart! I wish you all the best in the year to come, and thank you for supporting me in 2014.

P.S. – to all my non-crafty friends, is there any better year to start?? :)


A Special Inspiration

My grandmother lived to be 99. She wasn’t any “health nut”, but she did watch her diet and took daily walks. She lived independently all the way up until the last one or two years before she died. If you want to be healthy, there’s no getting around the whole “watch your diet!” advice. However, I do love the fact that this lady, who already has my grandmother beat by 5 years, prefers knitting to exercise. It makes me feel much less ashamed that I do too! And such a generous soul! I’m sharing it because I hope like me, you’ll find it to be a lovely, inspiring thing to read first thing on a stressful Monday morning.


Why Is Yarn So Expensive in a Yarn Store?

When people come in our store, I can always tell the ones who shop in chain/discount stores by the way they pick up a ball of yarn, look at the price, and immediately put it down again in shock. I truly hope they never visit one of the shops in Beverly Hills that only sell fine cashmere or they might actually faint. Our shop sells a variety of fibers, at a variety of prices, but like any yarn shop, and even online retailers, our yarn is still priced above what you pay at Michaels or JoAnn Fabrics. Sometimes people are so rude I just want to tell them to stop being so cheap, but alot of the time, it seems like they simply don’t understand why it costs more than what they’re used to. I hope the following list helps in understanding what you’re paying for, regardless of what your budget is.

  1. The majority of yarn shops (at least all the ones I’m familiar with) carry mostly natural fibers, while the chain stores are generally filled with acrylic and other synthetics. And, if you really want to research it, take a look at the prices in your favorite chain store – the natural fiber yarns they do carry cost more than the synthetics, right? Natural fibers are a little like diamonds – they’re a commodity, and there is not a way to industrialize the process. Animals only grow hair/fur so fast, and when a commodity is in limited supply, the value of it, relatively speaking, goes up.
  2. Animals (or plants) growing the fiber is only the beginning. There is so much more in the process before it arrives at your local yarn shop! The beautiful part of the fiber/handcrafting industry is that it is filled with small business, traditions that have lasted for centuries, and personal touches. However, in business terms, the more steps and handling a product needs before it goes to market, the more costs associated with getting it there. There is a local dyer who sells in our shop, and aside from doing all the dyeing herself, she also rewinds all the skeins. That’s so many more hours of work than producing synthetics in a factory! Another company stopped re-skeining their yarn after the dye process just to cut out an extra step to keep the costs lower for the consumer. However, no matter how much these small businesses try to be efficient and keep costs low, the reality is that it’s impossible for them to sell their products at the same price as a $5 ball of mass-produced synthetic yarn.
  3. It’s cliche, yes, but you do get what you pay for. When it comes to making clothes, socks, and other wearables, it is extremely important to consider fiber content. Until I started crocheting and knitting, I was completely ignorant of fiber qualities, as I suspect many people are. For example, did you know wool will keep you warm even if it gets wet? There’s a reason that Scandinavia has such a time-honored tradition of wool sweaters! Alpaca is even more warm than wool, and also has the property of providing warmth when wet. This article covers all the great reasons wool is a great buy. Bamboo is also environmentally friendly and has antibacterial properties. On the other hand, I don’t hear very many positive things about acrylic other than how well it holds up to abuse. This is not to insult fans of acrylic, and I use it to make blankets because it stands up so well to the washer and dryer (I’ll pass on handwashing a huge blanket!). However, crafters should be aware that there are major differences in fibers, and if you want all the perks the natural fibers have to offer, then that’s what you should invest in.
  4. Sometimes, the problem isn’t price – it is that some people really are just too cheap. Once I became a knitter and crocheter, I started paying attention to what stores were selling. For instance, all the cheap knitwear you can buy at Target, Walmart, etc. is all acrylic. When you move up to  Macy’s or Nordstrom, for example, the price goes up, but you start seeing fiber blends, like 10% wool, 90% acrylic. If you want a sweater made of completely natural fibers, you have to go to a high-end retailer like Saks or Neiman Marcus, where of course, you pay top dollar. The amount of money you have to spend at one of those stores for a good quality sweater makes the cost of the yarn at your local yarn shop look like a steal! People who complain and act rude about the price of yarn that was produced by hand and is pure, top-quality fiber need to rethink their expectations. No one in their right mind would expect to walk into Saks and buy a sweater for the same price they’d pay at Walmart.
  5. And now, a note about customer service. I would be retiring on my own private island if I had a dollar for every time someone came in the shop with their cheap yarn from somewhere else, wanting me to teach them what to do with it. As long as the shop isn’t busy, I’m happy to help someone, even if they didn’t buy their yarn with us. But I do wonder why it is that people don’t go back to where they bought their stuff if they have questions about it. The only conclusion I’ve been able to draw is that they can’t find the help they need at the chain stores.While no one can be expected to be a walking encyclopedia of every single yarn ever in existence, generally, yarn shop employees are very knowledgeable about the yarns they carry. We are VERY supportive and happy to provide top-quality customer service to people who shop with us. However, if you do all your shopping at a chain store, you don’t have the right to expect yarn shop employees to go out of their way to solve your customer service issues. Even a chain store can’t stay in business if people only come in to get free tutoring, and they certainly aren’t going to provide customer service for someone else’s product! If you are truly interested in the fiber arts and want to be educated, you can’t put a price on buying your supplies at a place where you can always go back in and get support when you need it.

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