A Few 2020 Gift Suggestions

A typical morning – a little cuddle with the kitty, a little reading, a whole lot of coffee (not pictured)! ūüôā

I haven’t done a gift guide in quite a long time, as I don’t like to make suggestions unless I personally use the items and love them. This is not a super long list, but I love all these things and I think they would be helpful and enjoyable gifts for any maker in your life. If you are having trouble finding ideas, I hope this will help. Enjoy!

My favorite read this year was this book! It is not a dry, boring history book. It is colorful with all kinds of fun trivia such as the samurai being credited as the first knitters in Japan. Aside from being fun to read cover to cover, it is also a great reference tool. If you find yourself feeling bored with knitting sometimes (as we all do), I dare you to page through the book and not find something new you feel inspired to try!

These stitch markers are the best. When I worked at the yarn shop, my boss gave us all a set as a holiday gift one year, and they are still my favorites!

Not going to lie, I did not technically NEED new crochet hooks. I have all the old traditional thin metal ones in multiples, and how many times does one need to replace indestructible crochet hooks?! But…these come in such a pretty rainbow of colors (my initial reason for buying them) and I realized when I started using them they are much more comfortable to work with (the reason that I don’t use my old ones anymore). So I guess I did need them – for ergonomics’ sake??

In another life, I was a Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes all rolled into one. As a kid, I used to read every mystery book I could get my hands on, and I may or may not have destroyed some wallpaper in my parents’ bedroom trying to unscrew a panel that I just KNEW led to a secret passageway. (I did get that panel off, without proper tools no less, but sadly, it was just plumbing to their master bath and no secret stairs in sight!) Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was feeling nostalgic and decided to read Hound of the Baskervilles. I hadn’t read it in so long it was like reading it for the first time again, and this time it appealed to the maker in me that loves to curl up with a handmade blanket, a warm drink, and a good book – especially one with descriptions about English manors and cold, gloomy moors. Alot of makers love Jane Austen, and I do too, but I included this volume on MY list because I think Sherlock Holmes deserves our attention too. ūüėČ

As I recently posted on my Instagram, I am learning to spin. It has been hard to find a book that would walk me through getting started – alot of spinning books on the market assume that you already know the basics. The other issue is that they assume you have a wheel, which as you probably already know, is a huge investment. At some point I may decide to get a wheel, but I am very happy right now with just this book, the fiber from my own sheep, and my little basic spindle. If you have ever admired those beautiful fiber braids at the yarn festivals and wanted to give spinning a try without spending alot of money, this book will show you how to get started and make the most of your spindle.

I am hesitant to include a yarn in any gift guide, because how can one choose from the endless variety of beautiful yarns available?! Yarn needs to be chosen based on the needs of a project. That said, I couldn’t resist including Chroma Twist on this list because it comes in such fun colorways, and is so soft and enjoyable to work with, AND it is so reasonably priced! You could gift a few skeins of this yarn to any maker in your life and they would not have trouble finding a fun project for it. You may also want to browse on Knitpicks, as they have alot of reasonably priced pattern kits, as well as many good gift ideas.

I hope this helped you if you were coming up short on ideas for some people in your life. Or if you are wondering what to put on your own wish list. ūüėČ I’d LOVE it if you dropped a comment if you have more good gift ideas. I miss being part of a knitting and crocheting group, because other makers always give me the best tips! Happy shopping friends!


A California Touch of Irish

Spring color palette, as purchased at Stitches West.
Spring color palette, as purchased at Stitches West.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! I am not Irish and do not particularly celebrate. I’m much more likely to spend my day cooking ropa vieja, platanos fritos, and rice and beans than corned beef and cabbage. But I realized as I was organizing my yarn purchases from Stitches West that the miniscule Irish blood in me must have been in full force that weekend.

This is on the drive to Silicon Valley, but it is how I imagine Ireland.
This is on the drive to Silicon Valley, but it is how I imagine Ireland.

California has been in a very serious drought for quite some time now, and in another few months, there won’t be green anywhere except for well-watered yards. But in driving to Silicon Valley, we passed scenery that made me feel as though I was driving through the Irish countryside. And although green is not usually the color I gravitate towards, I somehow managed to come home with a spring palette of deep oceanic green with a touch of melon.

A Verb for Keeping Warm

There was a booth at Stitches I came and went from and then dreamed about in my sleep. The colors and textures of their yarns spoke to me, which by the way, is the best time to buy things. If the yarn speaks to you that much, you will love it and use it forever! Their site is equally lovely, and I may just end up buying some more yarn on there when I’m done with my Stitches goodies. Enjoy!

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. ūüôā

Black Bunny Fun

Stories of people who tire of their high pressure jobs and leave to go start a farm or retire to some creative utopia seem to resonate with lots of people. There are numerous books written around this theme which become bestsellers. I admit, when I used to work in corporate America, I dreamed about it too. I’m much happier with my job now, but I still enjoy reading about people who make a big change and meet with success. Bonus points when it involves the fiber industry! Black Bunny Fibers has such a backstory, plus just plain great product! I hope you enjoy browsing around on her site and blog as much as I did. I plan to go back from time to time, and do some shopping when I finally allow myself to start buying yarn again.

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.

Collecting…and Being a Collector

My ever growing Lorna's Laces collection
My ever growing Lorna’s Laces collection

A week or two ago, I realized as I was sorting through my yarn stash, that I have always been a collector. The object of my collections¬†has changed over the years, but I’ve never lost my tendency to collect. I suspect this is an issue for most knitters and crocheters, as well as craftspeople in general. Our tendency to collect yarns and notions is necessary, at least in part, because our materials and inspirations are central to our work. Just as fine artists need to have their materials and inspirations on hand, so do we. Grocery lists are very cut and dry, but I’ve found shopping for materials to do creative work is different. If you see yarn that speaks to you, you MUST buy it when you see it, and in enough quantity to complete whatever you’re making with it, as you might not be able to match¬†the dye lot¬†later if you run out.

Necessity aside, I realized I do just like to collect. I like having complete series of things, or for instance, as with Lorna’s Laces, I like seeing the collection together. She does such gorgeous colors, I don’t want to miss any. Of course, this is the downside of collecting, and if you’re not careful, you will start feeling like a hoarder, even if your friends are gracious enough not to accuse you of being one. Since this is an issue for most of us creative sorts, I decided to put together a little list of things to consider¬†when it comes to collecting. This list is based on what I’ve learned over the years in trying to manage my collecting tendencies.

Know What’s Special

My first collection¬†started when I was 8 or 9 and became¬†fascinated with stamps. I had a few penpals in different countries. We exchanged letters regularly, and the stamps from their countries fascinated me because they were so different from ours. It started small enough, but when my dad told people¬†in our church what I was doing, the next thing I knew, my bedroom had an avalanche of stamps from kind, well-meaning people who just wanted to encourage a little kid. I started soaking them all off the envelopes and putting them into books. I gave up about 1/10 of the way through however, when I realized I had about 500 of the same, exact, US Flag stamp. And all these stamps didn’t excite me! I didn’t realize what made me quit at the time, but now I do: I didn’t want a collection of stamps. I wanted a collection of UNIQUE stamps that were all different and inspiring! The truth about collecting is that it’s very easy to get a huge collection, but it’s not so easy to build a collection that excites and inspires you every time you look at it.

Curate, Curate, Curate

Knowing what’s special leads to the very important skill of curation. My next phase of collecting was with fashion magazines. Honestly, I still struggle with this one. I love to read them, and I love having some sitting around the house to page through when I need a break or inspiration.¬†However, before I had my kids, I didn’t realize how out of control my habit of keeping all the old issues was until we had to convert my studio/office into a nursery. Let’s just say the 6-foot high piles of fashion magazines had to go, and it was the family joke for a long time. Aside from a few particularly memorable issues, I didn’t miss most of them, and I learned lesson number two about collecting: to have a good collection, you MUST curate! I have put this into full practice when I’m buying yarn. ¬†For instance, I really love Lorna’s Laces, and I buy alot of her stuff. However, I do NOT buy everything of hers, even if it’s limited edition. I only buy the colors that I fall completely in love with. Whatever you add to a collection, make sure it is something you really love, and if something no longer excites you, don’t be afraid to eliminate it, even if it “belongs”.

Ask Yourself What You Want

A collection is supposed to be a grouping of items around a theme that you find particularly interesting or inspiring. It is meant to be something you use, and more importantly, enjoy. It should not take more money than you can afford or stress you out. Another of my collections started when I was in high school and got obsessed with a few celebrities. I bought every magazine with their photo (bonus if it was on the front cover!), poster, and any other items I could find. And then I started getting stressed. I was living at home, and really, how many huge posters can a girl put up in her bedroom? It frustrated me to have all these things and then not be able to use them. When I got older and wiser, I realized that I was collecting all these images because I had¬†a fantasy of what the celebrities’ lives were like, and I wasn’t very fulfilled in my own life at the time. If you find that your collection is stressing you out or frustrating you, reevaluate what you’re expecting from it, especially if it’s something that’s taking up alot of space and money.

Don’t Be Afraid to Edit

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to be wasteful, and throwing things away makes me feel wasteful. However, a truly great collection only stays that way if you keep it that way. When something is no longer useful or no longer inspires you, then it no longer belongs in your collection. Don’t be afraid to edit. You can always donate things you don’t want, or if you have friends with similar interests, do some swapping. Most collectors do trading with each other, and this is a great way to avoid feeling wasteful but still keep yourself surrounded only by things that truly inspire. However, as in the case of my magazines, sometimes you really do need to just throw things out. You will be glad you did!

And one last thing: when you are truly passionate about what it is you’re collecting, you don’t need to worry about time. You can build it very slowly and carefully, and will probably enjoy the process much more than say, having an avalanche in your living room overnight! ¬†Whatever it is, however long it takes, enjoy the process!

I Love Yarn Day

Closeup of the Bubbles
Closeup of the Bubbles

In honor of I Love Yarn Day (which is everyday in my house, by the way), here are some photos of my most recent yarn love affair. The pattern is Kieran Foley’s Camino Bubbles, done in Lang Yarns‘ Jawoll Magic. I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with your favorite things, including yarn!

Camino Bubbles by Kieran Foley
Camino Bubbles by Kieran Foley

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?