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. 🙂

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.

 

Merry Christmas!

Gingerbread

My apologies for not posting on my usual schedule. Like everyone, I get a bit swamped by the end of December. I am very grateful for all of you who follow me and take interest in my work. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and I wish you all the best in the new year! Thanks for being here.

Everyone has their special ways of celebrating, so for fun, I wanted to share some of mine.

FOOD

  • Over the weekend, I baked cookies with my kids and a few of their friends. I find that once we get through the last school week before Christmas, I am anxious to simply be at home. But there is no time to lounge, so baking with the kids is a good way to feel more relaxed and festive while still getting something off my to-do list. Our favorites are gingerbread, peanut kisses (peanut butter cookies with a Hershey’s kiss in the middle), and the traditional sugar cookie cutouts.
  • My absolute favorite treat, which admittedly is sentimental because it was also my dad’s, is lefse with butter and sugar. It is a Norwegian food, and although we are not Scandinavian, it somehow became a tradition in our family over the holidays. My dad grew up in North Dakota and always talked about eating lefse in the winter and seeing the aurora borealis. Los Angeles is of course much too far south to ever see the northern lights, but I still love my lefse!
  • On the other end of the cuisine spectrum, I usually make our favorite Venezuelan meal. It’s beans and rice, which is simple enough, but the main course is a delicious shredded chicken which is not so simple. It’s not necessarily a holiday meal in Venezuela, but it’s become a holiday tradition for me because most of the time, I don’t spend that many hours preparing a meal.

CELEBRATING

  • For me, the holidays would not be complete without going to church Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. My kids are usually in a program, and we all get dressed up and take family photos.
  • We open our gifts on Christmas morning. All of us make a list of things we want around Thanksgiving time so we have time to shop, but my husband and I also try to be imaginative and have a few things under the tree that the other is not expecting.
  • Of course, the holidays are also not complete without people to celebrate with, so we have dinner and a gift exchange with our dearest friends on Christmas evening.

RELAXATION

  • Between Christmas and New Year’s, we usually behave a bit like hermits. Los Angeles is warm enough we can enjoy being outdoors, so we usually have an evening in our backyard around the firepit. It’s nice to just sit with a drink and periodically throw pine cones on the fire.
  • Of course, I spend time working on a project. At this point (hopefully!) I’m all done with holiday knitting, so it’s a fun time for me to pick something new to work on for myself.
  • This year, we are hoping to go up into the mountains for a day or two. My kids have been begging to see snow, and it’s the perfect time to change our scenery for a few days.

I would love to know, what do you do to celebrate and make the holidays special? Please share your fun with me on here or Facebook, because I’d love to hear!

A Little Birdie Told Me…

…about these really beautiful yarn bowls that make me want to have way more than one and use them for way more than just yarn. I don’t have any yarn bowls, and I never even thought I needed them, but these are changing my mind. I share with you all because you might want to add these to your holiday wish lists! Browsing this site also makes me imagine a utopia in Maine in which there are sheep wandering around, a fireplace, cable-knit sweaters, and all the knitting time I could ever hope for. One can dream…

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.

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.

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. 🙂

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.

Stories of Yarn Store Etiquette

Those of you who’ve read my blog for any length of time know I work parttime at my favorite yarn shop. I love it and feel privileged to be part of it. However, like any retail job, there is the downside of dealing with rude people. Yarn shops have their own special set of etiquette questions, so in most cases, I like to think people may do something rude without intending to. In the interest of helping to clear up questions about what’s appropriate, I thought I’d share some of my experiences and what those of us who work in shops would consider good etiquette.

But first, allow me to dispel what I call the Friday Night Knitting Club myth. A yarn store, while indeed a wonderful place, does not have magical potion hiding in the corners to guarantee that you will find the social life of your dreams, become best friends with everyone who walks in and receive solutions to all of life’s problems. There is indeed much evidence to support what all of us crafters already know, which is that knitting and/or crocheting do HELP us deal with life. But people need to keep their expectations reasonable, and understand that the general rules of how to build good friendships still apply.

One weekday afternoon when I was working, someone whom I’ve never seen came in and was not happy the shop was so quiet. She wanted to knit with a group and left a bit huffily when I couldn’t guarantee she’d have company for the afternoon. I’m sorry if she was having a lonely day, but did she really think it was my job to provide her a social gathering? I made polite conversation, but that wasn’t enough, which begs the question of what she was looking for. Whatever it was, I don’t think it was anything we as a yarn shop could have provided. I’m not criticizing anyone looking to build friendship around a common interest, but people do need to get over the fantasy that they can just walk into a yarn store and order up a best friend.

Along the same lines, it should also be noted that customers should not treat yarn store staff as their personal (free!) psychologists. I’m shocked at some of the things people expect me to listen to for hours at a time, and to be honest, I find it disrespectful. I’m not trained to help someone solve their family issues, medical issues or whatever the case might be. My job is to help people  find the right yarn for a project, to answer questions about the yarns WE CARRY (more on that in a moment), and to offer knitting and crocheting assistance. In fact, most of us live to help people, and because we love our craft so much, we enjoy teaching and sharing it. But just as in any industry, we are instantly turned off when people have unreasonable expectations or are just plain rude.

And now, the list of etiquette questions that I’ve noticed keep popping up and my thoughts on how to answer them. Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst examples of rudeness that stick in my mind, so I apologize in advance if any snark comes into play here. Please just take it as what NOT to do if you would like to build good relationships at your local yarn shop.

Can I sit and knit in the store, even if I don’t buy yarn?

Every shop owner has the right to make their own rules about this, so you may receive varying replies. At our shop, the short answer to the question is yes. The long answer is, even though my boss cultivates a friendly, open atmosphere and generally does not mind, there are a few caveats. The bottom line is that yarn stores are businesses. Because we have to compete with all the discount stores, plus huge online retailers who can afford to sell the same yarns for a few pennies less, it is a hard business. If you plan to hang out in a shop all the time, or to ask for lots of help, then you should also be buying yarn there. A shop cannot stay open if people don’t support it. Also, if you want to sit and knit for a few hours (or all day), please don’t torture the staff. Sitting there ALL DAY LONG talking nonstop makes it hard for me to do my job. As mentioned above, staff is not there to be someone’s best friend/significant other/psychologist/therapist. Which brings me to a question I just heard the other day and hear pretty much every day in some form…

Do you help people with their knitting? I didn’t buy my yarn here, but I ran into a problem and can’t figure it out. (There’s about a 100 ways to ask this question, and I’ve heard them all.)

I have all kinds of stories about this question. There was the lady who came in with a cheap ball of specialty yarn from Michaels who wanted me to help her figure out how to use it. On a VERY BUSY day. In this situation, let’s be honest. Either Michaels does not offer support, or she knew what top quality help is but was just too cheap to pay for it. I had to send her home to look at Youtube videos because: a) it was a busy day, and b) I don’t work for Michaels or buy my yarn there, so if they’re offering a specialty item, no, I don’t know how to use it.

Aside from situations like this, the answer is yes, we help people all the time, and usually, we LOVE doing it! Just be aware that even if you buy yarn at a shop, you still need to respect the difference between asking for help and taking advantage. Here is asking for help: A customer who buys yarn with us came in the other day for more assistance on a pattern she’s had lots of trouble with. She was very apologetic for coming in again, and I helped her. I told her not to feel bad about asking, and I meant it. We are very happy to help out with things like this, and especially if you bought yarn with us, we will not begrudge you the time if you’re really struggling. We all have been there before ourselves, and the knitting community exists to help each other grow and learn. I never feel taken advantage of when I know someone supports our store and is in genuine need of help and willing to learn.

But, so we understand what it means to take advantage, consider Exhibit A: The customer who asked me to untangle a big mess she’d made out of her ball. And Exhibit B: Another customer who expected me to sit there and do 3 hours of ripping out. Both of these illustrate what it means to take advantage, because both customers were asking me to do something they were perfectly capable of but just didn’t feel like doing. Sorry friends, but dealing with tangled yarn or ripping out because you made a mistake are YOUR responsibility, not the yarn store’s. There is no “expert” trick to untangling yarn, and even if it’s not a busy day, it’s still not my job to clean up someone’s mess. As for ripping out, I am happy to teach customers how to do it, since fixing mistakes is part of becoming a better knitter/crocheter. But customers need to be willing to learn to fix their mistakes because unless they’re paying the yarn store to do it, it is their responsibility. It’s not fun to fix mistakes or to deal with tangles, but neither takes any special skill, and neither is the responsibility of yarn store staff. Speaking of messes…

Can I bring in food, drinks, snacks…?

Short answer, at least in our case, is yes, but DON’T LEAVE A MESS. That is all.

Where is Employee A, when will she be in, why wasn’t she here when I came in, and all similar questions.

There was a lady who got mad because I didn’t know what one of the other staff members did over the weekend. She wanted to know why I wasn’t there certain times of the week, and why the other employee wasn’t there. She got very unpleasant when I told her I have kids and can’t just sit in the shop knitting all the time. (Trust me, I WISH that were possible sometimes!) And then I realized, I don’t need to explain to any customer why I’m there one day and not the next! I’m not sure why she felt entitled to information, but the etiquette here is the same as everywhere else. The yarn community is friendly and warm, which is one of the greatest things about it. But personal privacy and safety still apply, and friendliness should not be confused with expecting someone to be on call.

May I use the ballwinder and swift to wind my yarn if I didn’t buy it here?

This is another question each shop owner will answer differently. My boss is not overly strict about this, and as long as we’re not busy, I’m usually happy to do someone a favor. But a customer that receives this sort of favor should be respectful that it IS a favor. Ballwinders and swifts are expensive and they do wear out. The best etiquette tip I can give in this instance is to just always be mindful that the only time you’re ENTITLED to use a store’s equipment is when you spent money in the store.

Good etiquette really just equals being polite and considerate. I tried to answer questions here that are specific to yarn shops, and I hope this post clears up some of the confusion about what is appropriate.