Holiday Stashdown Challenge – Week 12

(Join along with me any time if you need a head start or moral support for your holiday crafting.  You can read more details here.)

Just a quick update this week since I was working late last night and I’m rushing off to work now.  I started another ribbed beanie for my other male cousin using stash yarn.

I’m using the same design I used for this beanie since these hats will go to two brothers.  I *think* I’ve decided which one is for which brother, but I reserve the right to change my mind once it’s finished :).  I’m using two strands of Moda Dea Tweedle Dee that I bought at Smiley’s Yarns about two years ago.  It’s kind of interesting because it is a self-striping yarn, but since I’m pulling from two ends of the skein, the yarn patterning isn’t very predictable (to me, at least).

Please feel free to share your progress or link up to your blog post in the comments!

If you need some inspiration for a Holiday Stashdown Challenge post for next week, here’s the prompt for Tuesday, 8/7:  The summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner.  Does anticipation for the change in season help or hinder your progress towards your Holiday Stashdown Challenge goals?  As always, feel free to write a post that isn’t restricted by this prompt but relates to your own personal Holiday Stashdown Challenge journey.

Year of Projects, Year 2: Ravellenics and Unveiling the Motif

This week I made progress towards two of my most challenging YOP goals.

My sister and I were able to decide on a motif for my mom’s milestone birthday blanket.

(Ignore the fold. It got a bit rumpled in my bag.)

We both had a really hard time choosing a motif, so I made a hybrid.  My hybrid pattern uses the center and final row from Afghan #9 by Valerie Vandergriff with the cluster-y inner border from Crown Jewels by Melinda Miller.

You can see how the first Afghan #9 and Crown Jewels motif patterns relate to the final motif.

I picked the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash, and my sister picked the color, Banana Cream.

Photo from Cascade Yarns website.

I special ordered a whole bunch of it from my LYS, Knitty City.  I know that the top of the bedspread will be in this color and with this pattern, but I’m still deciding on whether the side drops will be in the same color and pattern.  I’m going to wait until the 42 squares I need are finished and joined before even thinking about borders :).

And now we interrupt this blog post with a customer service rant.  You may remember that Knitty City is my favorite NYC yarn shop.  I have five stories from this week to demonstrate why!  My week started out on a high note – I was able to easily put in my special yarn order to Knitty City via email, and I received all responses via email in a timely fashion.  This shows that the folks at Knitty City are not only responsive but also that they understand that if you send an email, you would likely prefer an email (not phone) response.

I spent most of the week in training for the Ravellenic Games, and I wanted to get a set of size 1 40″ circular needles in case I wasn’t able to get gauge with the needles I had at home.  I had four bad customer service experiences at four different Manhattan yarn shops while trying to get a set of needles!

With size 2 needles, I was at 7.5 stitches per inch, and I was hoping for 8.
  1. I stopped at a new-to-me LYS after work on Tuesday.  I arrived in the store to see three women knitting away feverishly in complete, perhaps tension-filled, silence.  One looked up and said to let her know if I needed any help.  The shelves were a mess and only partially full, and with all three women sitting on the same side of the table, it wasn’t easy to get access to the patterns located behind them.  (I wasn’t looking for patterns, but you get my point.)  There were very few notions in stock, but I decided to pick up some needle point protectors anyway.  (Side note: I come from a family of entrepreneurs and run a small business myself, so I really try to support small businesses when possible.)  It was only at this point that I realized that all three women actually worked there.  When I mentioned I was looking for a specific needle size, no one offered to order it for me.
  2. After work on Wednesday, I decided to stop by a different LYS that usually has a broad selection of needle sizes.  I didn’t see any 40″ circulars in the display, so I asked if they had size 1 in stock.  After being asked about what type of needle I wanted (wood, metal, etc.), they realized they didn’t have any size 1 needles anyway.  Again, no one asked if I would like them to order it for me and by now I was getting really down.
  3. I called a third LYS in another neighborhood and they told me they did have size 1 needles in stock.  Unfortunately, due to commuting times, I wasn’t able to get there before closing.  I decided to stop by the next day (Thursday), and went by about 25 minutes before their listed closing time.  The shop was closed with the gate pulled down.  And, of course, there was no sign indicating they had closed early.
  4. On Thursday morning, I had also emailed a fourth shop to see if they had size 1 needles in stock.  After receiving no response by Friday morning, I stopped by this shop after running errands.  The clerk asked, “Didn’t you call yesterday?” to which I responded that I had sent an email.  Even though she knew someone was looking for this particular size, the woman didn’t know if the needles were in stock.  So I waited while she looked through several disorganized piles of needles before determining there weren’t any in stock.  Again, no one asked if I would like to order this size.  And, about two hours after I got home, they left a voice mail in response to my email saying the needles weren’t in stock.

After all of this, I figured size 1 needles must be extremely rare.  With only the slightest of hope, I dropped by Knitty City on the way home.  Not only was I treated warmly, but there were FOUR different brands of size 1 40″ needles for me to choose from.  I guess the moral of the story is just go to Knitty City every time and don’t even bother with the other places!

And now back to my YOP post :).  I did end up needing the size 1 needles to get gauge.  I finally chose the Graphic pattern from Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  My thought process went this way: according to The Knitter’s Book of Socks, I should have at least 10% negative ease for the circumference of my sock.  After convincing MC to measure our feet based on the chart in The Sock Knitter’s Handbook, this pattern seemed to be the right size.  And, with my brand new needles, I was able to get the right gauge!

Unfortunately, my first several attempts at making this sock were disastrous.  Let’s just say the combination of poor lighting in my apartment, the small needle size, and my lack of familiarity with knitting socks led to a few issues.  Yesterday I restarted and things seem to be going much better now (perhaps because I have knit this very same section four times already?).

Not much to show for several hours of knitting...
...but at least it looks like a toe!

I’m not too confident that I’ll finish this pair before the end of the Ravellenic Games, but I really hope I do.  Because I have the feeling that if I don’t, these will sit as a WIP until the 2014 Ravellenic Games.

I also forgot to declare how many motifs I wanted to make for the Games, so I couldn’t participate in the Modular Relay :(.  Instead, I dug out stash wool that is over 1 year old, and decided to make more squares for the felted wool blanket I’m making for myself as part of the stashbusting event.  I finished these three yesterday.

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

FO Friday: Panda for my cousin

I’ve had my eye on the Lala the Panda pattern since I interviewed Stacey Trock as part of the Crocheted Softies blog tour back in December.

Stacey's version of Lala the Panda. Photo (c) Martingale Publishing.

I wanted to make a relatively gender-neutral toy for my little nephew as part of my Holiday Stashdown Challenge.  His parents are a bit old school, so I didn’t want to offend their delicate sensibilities by making a toy that might be seen as “too girly.”  I thought Lala would be perfect.

I’m very happy with how the eyes came out.  MC always frets about how I get to the end of an amigurumi project and suddenly start rushing through the assembly.  I think eyes that are askew can be cute, but he disagrees.  I decided to take his opinion into account for this project, and after several retries, I’m glad the eyes were even.  (Yes, he did take out his laser level just to be sure.)

As for the mouth…  Well, let’s just say my opinions about things being a little askew prevailed in this matter.

I think the panda came out a bit rough and tumble, which is perfect for a 4 year old with parents with traditional views on gender roles.  If he was any cuter, there might be trouble.

It feels great to have 5 holiday gifts already made at this point in the year, and I used about 210 yards of stash yarn on this project (yay!).

You can find the details on my Ravelry project page.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

In training!

My main focus this week has been preparing for the Ravellenic Games, which kick off on Friday during the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.

My personal Herculean effort will be to knit my first pair of socks.  I decided to use a pattern from Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  I’m far more comfortable with circular needles than with DPNs.  I think it is generally best to tackle one learning task at a time – this exercise should be about sock structures, shaping, and fit, not about learning to use a different type of needles.  For the same reason, I decided to use a skein of medium weight yarn instead of sock yarn.  When I was attempting to make a gauge swatch with sock yarn, I realized that my dexterity with thin yarn knitting is nearly non-existent.  (Apparently, summer crocheting with thread is not a transferable skill!)

This is a lovely skein of Malabrigo Rios in Primavera, purchased at Knitty City last fall.  This is one of those yarns that looks totally different wound.  I actually love it, though I confess that if I saw it wound in the store, I probably wouldn’t have bought it since the colors are a bit out of my comfort zone.  I chose this yarn for my socks two reasons.  While deciding on my sock pattern, I was skimming through The Knitter’s Book of SocksClara Parkes‘s first “beginner friendly” pattern is made with Malabrigo Rios.  Then I started poking around in Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks and found a few patterns using a heavier weight yarn. Given my clumsiness with thin yarn knitting and the fact that I had a skein in my stash just waiting for a project, it seemed like a wise choice.   I wasn’t sure if one skein would be enough for a pair, though, and I have a good amount of the Glazed Carrot left over from my hat.  Since these are toe up socks, I could always end with orange cuffs if necessary, right?

The famous Glazed Carrot skein.

It’s a bit hard to tell from these pictures, but there is a common orange color in both yarns.

Since this is such a big challenge, I’ve been making those real gauge swatches that are spoken about in books, not the fake ones I generally make :).

Isn't she pretty?

I’m still fiddling around with needle sizes, but I should have a solid idea of pattern and needle by Friday (I hope).

I also plan to declare a goal for the Modular Relay, but I’m not sure which of the three motif projects I’m currently working on (yikes!) would be the best candidate for this.  I’ll have to decide first before saying how many motifs I plan to make.

As for reading, I’m currently about one-third into How To Love Your Job Or Find A New Oneby Joanna Penn.  I love her blog, The Creative Penn, and she recently offered her readers the opportunity to get a review copy of the revised edition of this book.  So far, I’m finding it really well written (no surprise, after reading her blog) and filled with actionable advice.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I get further into it.   I’ve put down  The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories by H.G. Wells for the moment.

Is anyone else making socks or modular items for the Ravellenic Games?  We can cheer each other on!

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

Holiday Stashdown Challenge – Week 11

(Join along with me any time if you need a head start or moral support for your holiday crafting.  You can read more details here.)

This weekend I reviewed my handmade holiday gift list and my stashdown progress to date.  While I’m proud of my accomplishments so far (more on that later), I decided to trim my list just a bit.  This is mostly because my mom is celebrating a milestone birthday in February, and I will be making her a bedspread for that event.  To avoid becoming overwhelmed, I’m readjusting my priorities.

The New List

These are the people I’m still planning to crochet or knit for this year.

1) My dad’s partner – I am still planning to make a cabled hat.

2) My grandpa – I need 12 more hexagon motifs to make his holiday stocking.

3 – 5 ) My grandma, my Aunt I, and my cousin MS – These ladies will most likely be getting scarves.  Confession: I might even gift them some pattern samples rather than making a new scarf.  I have a few appearing in upcoming publications that should be returning home soon.

6) My Uncle M – A hat or a scarf.

7) Cousin – Both male cousins will get a hat.  One is already finished.

8) JS, my crafting buddy – I already made a scarf for OB, my other crafty pal.  The three of us usually go out to celebrate the holidays as a group, so they will both get handmade gifts.

9) My sister – I’m not quite sure what to make her, but something small and foot-related is the most likely candidate.

10) My mom – I will make my mom something smallish for the holidays since I’m working on such a large gift for her birthday and I just gave her a shawl for Mother’s Day.

11) MC, my special guy, will likely end up with yet another black or charcoal grey hat with a nondescript pattern.  (He actually wears the hats I make him, as long as they meet his selection criteria.)


The Finished List! (~697 yds from stash)

I’ve already finished five projects, and that feels very good!

1) Cabled hat for Dad – Cascade 220 Superwash (from stash) ~220 yds – A Hat Fit for a Fella pattern by Shana Kreikemeier

2) Cabled hat for JP – Malabrigo Rios (from stash) ~145 yds – my own design

3) Bruges lace scarf for OB – madelinetosh tosh sport (purchased at Knitty City for this project) – 270 yds – Sparkling Wave Scarf pattern by Tatyana Mirer

4) Ribbed beanie for a male cousin (MR or PR) – Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick and Moda Dea Tweedle Dee (from stash) – 122 yds – my own design

5) Stuffed toy for little cousin, CJCaron One Pound in black and white (from stash) – 210 yds - Lala the Panda by Stacey Trock

Just a little sneak peek of my latest finished object...

The Maybe List

I will feel pretty awesome if I get to the folks on this list, but I’m not going to worry about it too much.  These are listed in order of priority.

  1. CG, my BFF from high school
  2. JM, another BFF from high school
  3. My cat
  4. Aunt K and Uncle T
  5. RP, colleague and work buddy for the last four years
  6. CA, my other colleague and work buddy for the last four years
  7. Mom’s dog
  8. Dad’s cat

I’m really glad I started this challenge because I can see real progress in my stash, and I feel much calmer about the holidays.

Did you end up trimming or altering your list?  Please feel free to share your progress or link up to your blog post in the comments!

If you need some inspiration for a Holiday Stashdown Challenge post for next week, here’s the prompt for Tuesday, 7/31: Have you been inspired by all of the “Christmas in July” marketing campaigns, or has it hindered your progress? If you’ve found new patterns or new yarn information, has it caused you to change your list?  As always, feel free to write a post that isn’t restricted by this prompt but relates to your own personal Holiday Stashdown Challenge journey.

Book review: Meet Me At Mike’s Crafty Journal by Pip Lincolne

If you’re looking for the right journal for yourself or another crafty journaler in your life, you may want to check out Meet Me At Mike’s Crafty Journal by Pip Lincolne.  I recently received a review copy from the Independent Publishers Group.

Pip Lincolne is an Australian crafter, blogger, writer, and former shopkeeper at Meet Me at Mike’s.  This is just the type of fun journal you would expect from another crafter.  The journal opens with a welcoming note from Pip, and then jumps right into the first project: beginner instructions for a granny square.  The instructions are written very conversationally, and you have the feeling that you’re sitting next to Pip on a couch while she’s talking you through your first granny.  (The instructions use Australian/UK terminology.)   The book also includes instructions for three other projects: a felt brooch by Anna Laura Blandford, an amigurumi panda crochet pattern by Jess McCaughey (Teddy Bear’s Wednesday), and a recipe for pink lamingtons.  The projects are geared towards a beginner, because while the journal is set up for a crafter, it doesn’t assume you have knowledge of any particular craft.  In the back of the book, there are cute illustrated instructions for basic embroidery, crochet, and knitting stitches.

The book also includes about 150 pages of journal paper, organized into sections with lined paper, pattern making paper, graph paper, and grid paper.

The pages have cute edgings which appear hand drawn, as well as occasional photographs of crafty supplies like buttons, or suggestions like “make greeting cards!”

This would definitely be a fun book to use for keeping track of your creative ideas or for a “regular” journal as well.

The journal ends with a list of crafty website and other “ace places to visit” on the web for creative inspiration and tutorials.  In the back, there is a pocket called Bits and Bobs which includes a poster-sized foldout printed on sturdy paper.  One side is basically a poster of the various illustrations and photographs included in the journal.  The other side, called the Organise My Life Chart, includes sections for important things to do, things to make, books to read, movies to see, places to go, and recipes to try.

Overall, this is a really fun journal for any crafter who likes to have a book for writing down notes, ideas, and sketches.  The range of paper types and the elastic closure make it especially helpful.  The hard cover binding makes it durable enough to survive journeys to your craft group or guild meetings, and, for those of you who need a big visual “to do” list, the Organise My Life Chart would be a big help.

Year of Projects, Year 2: Decisions

This week,  I auditioned six more motifs for my mom’s milestone birthday blanket.  I made each sample with stash yarn, and I’m happy to report that I’m almost to the bottom of one of my plastic yarn tubs!

This is my version of Duckbill Dalliance by Margaret MacInnis.  I like this motif a lot, but I don’t think I will be using it for my mom’s bedspread.

I found this great motif, M-6, in a vintage crochet book I have, Crochet and Creative Design by Annette Feldman.  I bought this book after interviewing Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence.  I made my version in a self-striping yarn.  I love it, but it is definitely too openwork for a full bedspread.

Then I moved on to Afghan #9 by Valerie Vandergriff from Contest Favorites Afghan Squares. Because I plan to donate this square to charity, I made it 12″ so my version includes a few extra rounds.  This motif is definitely in the running for my mom’s bedspread.

And finally, I had to try out the Monet Pineapple, one of my all-time favorite motifs.  This was designed by Janie Herrin and appears in 100 Afghans to Knit & Crochet.  I also added a few rounds to my version.  This brings my charity square total up to 14 out of my YOP2 goal of 52!

At this point, I was ready to make a decision.  (Ok, I wasn’t actually ready to make the decision, but I was ready to stop making more samples!)  But then, I got an email from my sister.  You see, I had sent her the link to the Pinterest board of patterns I set up a few weeks ago, and she just got around to reading it this week.  Naturally, she thought two patterns that I hadn’t even tried yet were the perfect choices for my mom’s bedspread, so I made samples of those, too!

This is the Lacy Square Motif by Crochet Atelier.  (Side note: This is the first time I followed an entire pattern on my Kindle Fire.  It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be, and I saved some printer ink and recycled paper!)  If I were to use this motif, I would adjust the center part of the pattern so that the circle and the petals were a bit smaller – I suspect that my chains are much larger than those of the designer.

This is the Super Cable Aran Spiral Bedspread by Flora Yang.  This pattern might also need a little adjustment if I were to use it for the final project.

My plan now is to send pictures of all the possible motifs to my sister for a final decision.  Then I will purchase the yarn and get started.

And that brings me to my next set of decisions.  You may recall that one of my YOP2 goals is to participate in the 2012 Ravellenic Games.  The kick off is the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time.  There are a few things that I need to do before then:

  • Choose a sock pattern.  My main goal is to complete my first pair of knit socks during the Ravellenic Games.  I think I’ll be using the Austermann Step Sock yarn I received in the July Goodie Box Swap.  These will be entered in the sock put event.

    The yarn, along with DPNs and patterns that were included in the swap.
  • Make (at least one) gauge swatch.  I want to make sure I have the right needles available before casting on Friday.
  • Decide if I’ll be entering the modular relay.  If so, I’ll need to decide whether I’ll be competing with charity squares or motifs for my mom’s bedspread or motifs for a scrap blanket for me.  (That’s right, I want to make even more blankets!)  I will need to declare a number of motifs, which will naturally be based on the project I’m working on for this competition.
  • Choose a team (or teams).  This has been the toughest part for me.  Normally, I would enter a crochet-focused team, like Team Crochet, but that seems strange if my main project is knitting.  (Although, apparently, I can enter more than one team.)  If anyone reading is also participating in the Ravellenic Games, do you have any team suggestions for me?
Suddenly, I’m feeling very tired ;).  I may also try and make another stash yarn hat to cross-compete in the Hat Dash, Holiday Hurdles, and Synchronized Stash Busting events.  I can just decide to do this as I go along, so there is no stress about this possibility.  I should hopefully have some great updates for next week’s post!
For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-Long on Ravelry.

Winner: Crochet Scarves by Sharon Silverman

According to, the winner of Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques by Sharon Silverman, courtesy of Stackpole Books, is number 7…


Congratulations to Claudia, and thanks to everyone who entered.  You can check out my interview with Sharon and my book review here.

FO Friday: Ribbed Beanie

I got a lot of knitting done during jury duty this week.  (No, I wasn’t on a trial, just sitting in an air conditioned waiting room for a while and then the last juror in the selection room for a longer while so it was obvious I wasn’t ever going to get questioned.)

I finished up this beanie for my cousin for Christmas.  I’m happy to report that I’ve already finished four winter holiday gifts as part of my Holiday Stashdown Challenge.  Yay!

This was a quick knit on size 15 needles.

I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick for the cuff…

… and two strands of Moda Dea Tweedle Dee for the rest of the hat.  This is a great stash buster.  I used a simple 3 by 3 ribbing throughout.  I plan to make something similar for my other cousin (his brother) in a different colorway.  You can see my Ravelry project page here.  I tried it on MC to verify that it would fit a grown man, but I wasn’t able to lure him out into the blazing sun to model for a finished picture.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

Book review: Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor

There are a lot of great things going for Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods; Find the perfect start and finish for every knitting project by Leslie Ann Bestor.   This book is all about edges – it includes 33 techniques for casting on and 21 methods for binding off.  When I first heard about it a few months ago, I asked the nice people at Storey Publishing for a review copy, which they were kind enough to send along.

The concept is that this book can serve as a one-stop resource for finding the perfect cast on and/or bind off for your project.  The design of the book – small enough to be portable and including a spiral binding so you can lay it flat while reading and knitting – actually helps to advance that concept.  The front and back inside cover include handy lists of different types of cast ons and bind offs so you can quickly find a technique to match your project.  To further assist you, the cast on and bind off methods are listed in sections.  For cast ons, the sections are Basic, Stretchy, Decorative, Circular, Double-Sided, Multicolor, Provisional, Tubular, and Mobius, and for bind offs, the sections are Basic, Stretchy, Decorative, and Sewn.  There is also a detailed index.

Each cast on or bind off method includes a list of common alternate names, a brief introduction, a picture of the front, back, and top/bottom of the method, a list of characteristics (e.g., “Firm edge that does not stretch”) and a list of project types that the method is good for.  Each method is then described in step-by-step photographs with brief accompanying text.  Some of the methods include extra tips in a side box called Getting It Right.

If you have a vague awareness of different cast on and bind off methods, I think this is the perfect guide to jog your memory and also to remind (or inform) you which projects you might want to match to a particular technique.  I’m not as convinced that the average knitter could learn to master these methods from the pictures and text alone.  For example, while the pictures do show step-by-step action, there are no illustrative graphics (such as arrows) which might indicate how the needles, fingers, and/or yarn got from one position to the next.  Similarly, the text is rather brief because it is assumed that the pictures are “doing the talking.”

As a one-stop resource guide, the book doesn’t quite hit the mark.  However, it is a great little book that can definitely serve as a reminder about a technique you may not be very familiar with.  It would be much better to have this book and supplement it with a YouTube video about a particular method than to try and do a Google search for random cast on or bind off methods that might be suited to a particular project type.  In fact, the resources section in the back includes some great links to videos demonstrating some of the techniques in the book.

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars for an intermediate knitter.  If you like to start and end projects on the go (especially when you may not have internet access), this book is especially great because of the portable, lay flat design.

I’m keeping my review copy because I think it will be a great resource to share with my knitting classes.  But if you follow along with the Cast On, Bind Off blog tour through July 30, you’ll have a chance to win your own copy of the book in each post.