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 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.

FOLLOW-UP POST here.

Knit.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. My weekend was filled with family, friends, and of course, working on projects. It was rainy and chilly, and after being in such a serious drought for so long, my fellow Californians will appreciate how nice it was to be cozy inside while knitting and listening to the rain. In the course of doing some more browsing through my crafty magazines, I came across this pattern and wanted to share. I also browsed the designer’s site, the name of which makes me wish I knew the designer personally, as we would likely have lots beyond knitting to bond over. I’m glad I explored, as the site offers color inspirations and makes me want to come back for more.

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 Crafter’s Luxury

sock knitting
The basics – cuff down and toe up.

As I’ve mentioned before, my foray into yarny adventures began with crochet. After I crocheted for awhile, I realized how different knitting and crocheting are, and that each lends itself better to certain things. My original reason for wanting to learn to knit was so I could make socks. People do crochet socks, but all the ones I saw my friends making were knit, and I wanted to be able to do that too!

Sock knitting has been a difficult thing for me, for whatever reason. DPN’s do take some getting used to, and then there’s the heel turn, and getting the darn things to fit on my extra long feet! However, I will say, despite the struggles I’ve had, I still think a handmade pair of socks, even those like mine above, which don’t have any fancy pattern, are a crafter’s well-earned luxury. Most of the socks you buy at chain stores may be cheap, but they’re not made from superwash merino or alpaca and cashmere, and let’s be honest, they just don’t look half as cool! Most people would abhor the idea of spending $25+ on a single pair of socks (the going rate for a skein of fine sock yarn), and to make them means you’re completing practically as many stitches as you would if you made a sweater. However, I figure it’s a small price to pay for a really special luxury!

toe-up sock knitting
Toe-Up – given a choice, I do like toe-up better than cuff-down.

If you are new to sock knitting, I recommend that you find a very simple pattern to follow, or begin with Silver’s Sock Class. You can always use a variegated or self striping yarn as I did to give basic Stockinette interest. My first ever pair was done cuff down. I then decided I wanted to try toe-up, which is the second pair I just finished. There are many books on sock knitting, but when I’m learning something new, I like to stick to the basics for awhile. Now that I’ve tried the basic techniques and managed to finish two pairs, I’m ready to try a pair with a little more pattern. If you are struggling to make it through the second sock, I encourage you to push through to the finish, because you will be rewarded when you slip them on your feet!

Chunky Polka Dots

elizabeth kay booth polka dot scarf
Polka Dot Scarf

Not too long ago, I posted a holiday gift guide of sorts. Please allow me to respectfully add one more item of my own design to the list. This scarf, which was claimed by my daughter about 5 minutes after I started working on it, is super fast, even though it involves intarsia, and is the perfect gift for a young girl. My daughter is 9, and it is hard to find patterns for kids that age. Most of the books only take kids’ sizes up through 6 or 7, and even stores seem to skip age 9. Style-wise, kids, especially girls, that age are at a difficult stage. They’re done with the Disney princesses, but not quite ready for all the stuff targeted at teenagers.

My daughter went to a birthday party a few months back and came home with a polka-dotted gift bag. The bag sat around our house staring at me for a few weeks before I finally threw it out. But when our shop got a shipment of Zumie, I had a jolt of inspiration. Polka dots and chunky knit seem to fit the bill for 9 year-old girliness crossed with a move toward growing up. You can have your own fun picking out the colors, as I did, or you can ask your little lady what her favorite colors are.

Aside from my new free pattern, I offer one more little goodie. I have, up until now, been posting all my patterns on Ravelry, as it is the only place I’m able to process transactions on patterns for purchase. Other freebies, such as the Doubles Remix cowl have simply been blog posts. I thought it would be helpful for everyone if all my patterns were in one place. Starting with this new pattern, plus all others, you may now visit the newly created Patterns page. For now, all of my for-sale patterns are on the main page, and the free patterns are separated into the dropdown. As I continue to design and add patterns, I will do my best to keep it easy for you to find what you want. For instance, once I add a few more crochet patterns, there will be another dropdown for those. In the meantime, I hope this new page makes it easier to find things. Enjoy browsing my little portfolio of designs, and I hope, enjoy crafting them! Many thanks to all of you who read my blog, make my designs, and support me as a designer! Please share your photos of finished objects on Ravelry with me, because I would love to see!

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!