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?


Among Cool Jobs

One of the things that keeps me motivated and working at the yarn shop is having random interesting people come into the shop. Last week when I was working, a fellow knitter came in to match yarn samples. Matching yarn to exact shades is no small task, and thus we had plenty of time to exchange pleasantries while he was looking through books. He is in the highly specialized business of doing replications, which I find fascinating. I’m sharing his blog with you all so you can read about his projects for yourselves. Prepare yourselves for a new twist on Dr. Who knitting, and enjoy!


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. :)


My Summer of FO’s

For you non-crafters, FO stands for Finished Object. Today is the first day of school, and in recognition of the end of summer, I would like to share all the projects I finished over the course of summer vacation. This finishing of projects I’d lost interest in required way more self-discipline than I am usually capable of, so I think it deserves recognition. And celebration, because I can finally see my coffee table again. :)

Since every crocheter and knitter I know has this problem from time to time, let me encourage you to finish up some of those things laying around! I recommend picking a set amount of time (for me it was the summer), and for that amount of time, work on only one project at a time. Focus on the one closest to completion, then move on to the next. Cut yourself off from buying yarn. Don’t start anything new. This last piece of advice was really hard for me because summer is usually a time I like to start new projects. However, it was also a good length of time to finish things because it’s long enough to see progress, but short enough I knew I could tough it out for the three months! If you set yourself up to a similar challenge, try to strike that happy balance between allowing yourself enough time to see a stack of projects through, but not such a long time you just get sick of it and give up. And when you do meet your goals, reward yourself! I hope you enjoy browsing mine!

As simple as this pattern was to knit and design, the truth is it sat around for a few years because I was intimidated by the fringe.

As simple as this pattern was to knit and design, the truth is it sat around for a few years because I was intimidated by the fringe.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by something simple. :)

My go-to outfit for work, the airport, chilly late summer nights...

My go-to outfit for work, the airport, chilly late summer nights…

This pattern is one I plan to make many times over! This one did not actually sit around for a long time, but I included it because it was something I finished early in the summer.

Bobble hats from a Noro magazine - shown with the bobbles and inside out because I liked the look of both sides!

Bobble hats from a Noro magazine – shown with the bobbles and inside out because I liked the look of both sides!

Gifts for my nieces. I don’t have a good explanation for why I started these and then took 2 years to finish them. But the fact that I went to see my family and had a deadline helped me get motivated to finish. :)

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

The only bit of design work I’ve done this summer. I started it back in March or April, and decided to push to get it done so I could give my brain a rest. :)

Stephen West's safety cowl, which was designed by the master himself for our shop as an exclusive offering in the Yarn Crawl a few years ago.

Stephen West’s safety cowl, designed by the master himself for our shop as an exclusive offering in the Yarn Crawl a few years ago.

The only reason I can think of that I let this one sit around was that other items took more priority until I decided to give this as a gift to my sister. Note to self: having a firm idea of what you want to do with an item when it’s done helps you get it done! :)

First time ever doing Tunisian crochet.

First time ever doing Tunisian crochet.

I knew from the start that I wanted to give these to my sister. She likes to decorate her kitchen seasonally, and I thought she’d enjoy these Easter egg colors during spring. I wanted to try Tunisian crochet, and decided this would be a good project because they were just flat rectangles. The problem is, to have a set, you must do FOUR.

A shawl from the Ysolda Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

A shawl from the Ysolda Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

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This was not really languishing that long, but um, I didn’t get it done by the end of the mystery KAL. I was in the middle of alot of design work at the time and so it went on the back burner. But it’s a whole lot of camel, silk, and merino to wrap myself up in when the weather gets cold. Which, to be honest, was THE best motivator to get it done before I started anything else!


In Defense of the Humble Dishcloth

I just returned from vacation with my family, and have lots to share. I love travelling, and of course, like most people, I don’t get to do nearly enough of it. The change of pace and new scenery, even in this case, when I spent time where I grew up, always inspire me and make me appreciate the value of learning. I always come home with a fresh perspective and in the mood to start new projects. Regardless of whether you are returning from a trip or simply in need of something new in your life, taking time to learn is always beneficial. Unfortunately, (and I see this in the shop ALOT with newbie crocheters and knitters), adults have a tough time accepting that learning is a process. So in honor of the gift we call learning, I’d like to share my top five parts of the process. My list is from the perspective of learning to knit and crochet, but you can apply the general ideas of the learning process to almost anything.

  1. Start with a dishcloth. I have no idea why people hate the idea of making a dishcloth, but when newbies come in the shop wanting to start their first project, they never seem to like the idea very much. If you want to crochet and knit, I’m sure it’s because you saw or heard about some of the amazing things that have already been made. But I am here to tell you: don’t start with your end goal! I learned first to crochet, then to knit, and both times, I started by making a dishcloth with the cheapest cotton I could find. In defense of the dishcloth, consider the benefits: no matter how uneven your stitches are or how ugly it turns out, you will still have a useful item. People often start with scarves, which are good because they’re flat, but really, who wants to wear a scarf that is full of mistakes? If you complete a dishcloth or two, you will have learned to tension your yarn properly, how to read your stitches, and of course, just the general technique of the craft. The other good thing about dishcloths is that they can be finished much quicker than almost anything else, which allows you to learn some of the bare basics and then move on to something more exciting.
  2. Keep your expectations reasonable and cut yourself some slack! Knitters and crocheters really need to give themselves credit for how much stuff they have to learn! We learn about fiber content, how things drape and wear with time, how to “read” our stitches, how to tension yarn, and so much more. It’s ludicrous to expect to know it all instantly. The fact of the matter is that learning is a process. It’s great to have a goal, but it’s also important to remember that it takes lots of time and practice to learn something new. This is the most major issue I see in the shop when I’m teaching people. You don’t learn to sew by starting with a couture ballgown, and beginning knitters and crocheters shouldn’t expect to go from making a scarf or dishcloth to a fitted sweater with a complicated pattern. You will get there eventually, but ease up and keep the learning curve gradual!
  3. Practice really does make perfect. People come in the shop all the time, see me working on a project they think is cool, and then seem floored when I tell them I’ve only been knitting and crocheting for about 5 years. Maybe my learning curve has been fast, maybe it hasn’t – I’m not really sure how I stack up in relation to other people’s rate of learning. But here’s my truth for everyone: I spend pretty much any chance I have knitting and crocheting. I don’t watch much TV, or if I do, it’s while I”m working on a project. I don’t have a crazy social life where I’m out on the town every weekend, and I don’t go a day without sitting down to work on a project for at least an hour. This is not to say everyone needs to make it the priority that I do, but the truth is there is no shortcut to learning something. Regardless of what it is you want to become good at, there is no substitute for practice.
  4. Understand from the start that you WILL make mistakes. No one likes doing it, but unfortunately, making mistakes is part of learning, and sometimes, ripping out is the only way to fix it so that you can be happy with the end result. I’ve gotten much more used to ripping out now that I’m a designer because alot of design is trial and error. But even if designing your own stuff is not your end game, there will still be times, especially when you’re starting out, that you need to rip back and fix things. It’s never a happy moment, so pick and choose when it’s absolutely necessary, but don’t expect to never have to do it. The bright side is that usually, when you redo the part you messed up, you figured alot out in the process, and it goes much quicker the second or third time around!
  5. Be willing to focus on the process, and push yourself to finish projects. When I started, I couldn’t wait to make gifts for loved ones, and I learned the hard way to be careful about what kinds of deadlines I put on myself. If you are in a rush to finish things and stressed out about self-inflicted deadlines, the process of making something becomes stressful instead of enjoyable. The other pitfall to watch out for is having too many unfinished projects laying around. All of us have projects that frustrated us so much that we had to put them aside for awhile. If you are that frustrated, then go ahead and put it aside. But beware of constantly starting things and not finishing them. Take it from me – too many unfinished projects laying around will cause you more stress and frustration. Even though it often feels boring by the end, it’s important to give yourself the satisfaction of finishing things, which is why, even now, I still make dishcloths when I need that feeling!

As you progress, you will realize that not knowing it all is also the beauty of it. The knowledge that there is always something more to learn is what keeps the more experienced of us coming back for more! May you always have something left to explore!


A Tasting…of Yarn

A few weekends ago, I spent a lovely afternoon at the shop participating in a yarn tasting. Of course it was fun to hang out with my fellow knitters and crocheters instead of working, but I wanted to share it with all of you because if you ever have a chance to go to one at your favorite shop, you should jump at the chance!

For anyone not familiar with what a yarn tasting is, allow me to give you the lovely details. We were tasting yarns from Kelbourne Woolens, who distribute the luscious Fibre Company line. For a minimal fee, which was applied to our purchase, we received a little drawstring bag with a generous sampling of each yarn and a pattern to knit incorporating all the tasting yarns. We even got to try Knightsbridge, which is not even listed yet on their main yarns page. Each sample was wrapped around a card that gave all the details about that particular yarn – yardage, fiber content, etc. The event was 3 hours long, which was just the right amount of time to enjoy knitting through the samples, and ponder projects in our heads…or with each other!

Yarn Tasting Kit for an afternoon of play

Yarn Tasting Kit for an afternoon of play

Aside from the pure relaxation and enjoyment of experimenting with yarn for a few hours, the top reason I would give for going to an event like this is that it’s a great way to get an overview of a line of yarns. Of course, the minute I opened up the kit, I wanted everything, but after knitting with each sample, I was able to think more clearly about what projects I might make with which yarns. I knitted with the tweedy Acadia, and decided I’d like to make a cardigan out of it. I am not usually drawn to tweedy yarns, so this is a classic example of trying something I wouldn’t have usually. I also realized that as lovely as the single ply yarns are, I could rule those out for right now because I already have so many in my stash. And when I started knitting up Tundra, I decided I absolutely MUST design myself a chunky knit dress!

Some of my fellow knitters started making projects out of the tasting samples, but I decided to spend the afternoon playing, and even though I don’t have a FO to show, I’m so glad I did! I highly encourage anyone to try a yarn tasting. If your shop doesn’t have any events like this in the works, set one up for yourself at home. Go through stash, wrap yourself off some yards of yarn, knit different stitch patterns, try new colors together, switch up needle sizes, and just play. I realized in this experience, that I almost never take the time to play with my yarn! I swatch when I’m making garments, but I rarely, if ever, just play. I left feeling relaxed and inspired, and from now on, when I finish a project, I plan to take a little time to play and experiment before starting the next.


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