Tag Archives: alpaca

Vogue Knitting Live, Day 1

Yesterday, Vogue Knitting Live 2013 opened in New York.  If you’re in the New York area this weekend, you should stop by!  Here’s a quick wrap up of some of what I’ve seen so far.

Gallery

The gallery exhibits were being set up in the morning, and I had a chance to photograph most of them before it got too crowded.  Here are some of the highlights.  (And speaking of highlights, keep in mind that these photos were taken in dimly lit hotel corridors.)

Colorful Stitches had an awesome array of knit food displayed like a picnic table.  This bowl of cereal with a strawberry was my favorite!

Alyssa Ettinger is a ceramic artist with a studio in my native Brooklyn.  I love the soothing pastels of her work.

Rhonda Fargnoli‘s continuing education students at the Rhode Island School of Design created some beautiful designs with mill ends from Koigu.

I got to meet Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land fame.  I’ve been an admirer of Anna’s work since I first saw it at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in 2011.  We’ll both be at the 9th Annual Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival in March.  (I’m teaching and she’s exhibiting.)

Adrian Kershaw is a crocheter and knitter working with upcycled VHS tapes as yarn.  Because her work is black and the lighting was so dim, the pictures don’t really convey the projects.  They’re pretty cool!

Carol MacDonald is a printmaker who makes prints, cards, and tags using her images from her knitting.

Edwina Sutherland is a fiber artist working primarily with needlefelting.  She shared her secret for successfully transporting her projects for display with me – wrap them in quilt batting.

And last – but certainly not least – was the crochet artist, Jo Hamilton.  I’ve seen her crochet portraits online and was really looking forward to seeing them in real life.  They are much cooler in person because there is much more texture and subtle color variations than a photo can convey.

Interview Teaser

I met with Danielle Chalson from Makewise Designs for a quick interview after lunch.   Until I publish it, I’ll just share this picture of Danielle’s enthusiastic smile.

Send your happy thoughts her way. She'll be working at the String booth at the Marketplace tomorrow!

The Marketplace

Apparently I wasn't the only one trying to get into the Marketplace when it opened.

With over 70 vendors, the Vogue Knitting Marketplace alone could take up many blog posts.  So I’ll just concentrate on the colleagues I visited and my purchases.

Kollabora's booth during set up.

I stopped by Kollabora‘s booth a few times to say hi and to see my samples on display.  Here’s a sneak peak of two of my upcoming crochet designs that they are debuting at Vogue Knitting Live.  (The patterns aren’t available yet.)

It was also cool to see two of my other designs featured in their ad in the program.

The patterns for the Givin’ Me Fever Pom Pom Hat (knit) and the Chevron Shell Cowl (crochet) are available as free downloads.

I also took a picture of their schedule so I can remember to stop by their events. With a program this packed, every reminder helps!

Then I got the chance to meet Shannon Okey (a.k.a. Knitgrrl) in person.  I have a pattern in one of the upcoming Cooperative Press Fresh Designs: Crochet books so we chatted about that briefly.  I somehow forgot to take a picture of Shannon, but here is a picture of the Cooperative Press booth :).I had a chance to check out Dishcloth Diva by Deb Buckingham in person.  It looked just as scrumptious as I thought it would!  (And I love that I can feel glamorous about making dishcloths!)

You may remember from Vogue Knitting Live last year that my first purchase was at the Kinokuniya booth.  Well, ever since I bought this awesome Japanese knitting stitch guide from Knitty City in the fall, I’ve realized that I don’t know nearly as much about knitting stitch symbols as I do about crochet stitch symbols, and I’ve been thinking about buying Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols.

A taste of the crochet selection at the Kinokuniya booth.

And then I saw the North Light Fibers booth.  I was drawn in because their tagline is “Block Island made,” and MC used to vacation in Block Island as a kid.  In addition to great natural fiber yarns, they sell these cozy alpaca socks.

After that, I saw a local vendor, the Long Island Livestock Company.

This chair from the Long Island Livestock Company booth is made from three spinning wheels from the 1930s.

I had a great chat with the owner and her husband, and I was drawn to their natural care products.

So what did I end up buying?

I bought a pair of cozy alpaca socks for MC, a book for me, and some handmade soap and lip butter from a local company.

You’re probably saying, “What?? No yarn??”  You know I’ve been working on stashbusting for the past 13 months.  I’m not sure if I’ll buy yarn at Vogue Knitting Live, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t on the first day.  I wanted the chance to look at everything and sleep on any potential yarn purchases…  Let’s see how I hold up today!

Interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Karia (also known as KoutureCrochet on Ravelry).  As a Brooklyn native, I’m always excited to meet crocheters in my home borough online – somehow, it often seems easier than meeting them in real life!  Karia is organizing an interesting Kickstarter project and also co-owns an Etsy shop.  You can also find Kouture Crochet online on Facebook.


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Kouture Crochet (KC): I started crocheting as a teen. My sister was in high school taking an art class where she was learning to crochet. As any self respecting younger sister, I wanted to do what my big sister was doing.  So with the help of my mother, my sister taught me how to crochet. I crocheted all through high school, college and beyond. I learned to knit years later after graduating college. These two art forms quickly become a big part of who I am and how i relax, how I watch tv and why I love audio books.

A unisex black alpaca scarf by Kouture Crochet. (Click photo to link to Etsy shop.)

UC: What inspired you to start selling your creations on Etsy?
KC: I started selling on Etsy because I was going broke making scarves and gifts for friends and family! Selling on Etsy was a way to continue to craft without losing money. I quickly realized I wanted to make this into a career. I’ve been selling on Etsy since March 2011, and I hope to be selling my crafts for a long time to come.

Knit skinny tie made with handdyed yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Tell us about your Handspun Single Sheep Breeds Yarn Kickstarter project and your inspiration for developing it.

KC: For my shop on Etsy and for my personal projects, I used only natural fibers. One thing I found is that the selection of high quality 100% natural yarns is limited and often extremely expensive. I was able to find easy accessible camel and alpaca yarns through some luck and research. Wool yarns was more difficult. It felt like I had one option: merino. I love working with merino but I wanted to try something different.

When I started trying to find wool from other sheep breeds I was completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of breeds and countless varieties. Purchasing finished yarns from more than one or two breeds was just not in my budget. In the end, I taught myself to spin yarn on a drop spindle in order to be able to try different breeds and varieties. I was lucky enough to be able to make my own yarns and learn to spin on a drop spindle, but most people don’t have the time or patience to learn to make their own yarns. There is a such a need for single breed yarns and it seemed to me like the market was not filling that need.

The best way to know “what is what” is to feel the yarn and work with it. However, there are hundreds of breeds and thousands of varieties. One skein of single breed yarn can be anywhere from $15 – $70. I had been a backer of many Kickstarter projects, and Kickstarter was a perfect format for this kind of idea. The project took months to research and price even though the goal was simple: affordable, an easy to understand way to try different single breed yarns. I have narrowed down the list to just 26 breeds. They vary wildly in softness, crimp, coarseness, strength and even the natural colors the fibers come in. I don’t cut corners in quality, but by offering samples of one ounce mini skeins its possible to offer many breeds for an affordable price.

Few, if any, local yarn shops will have more than 5 breeds of yarn to try, let alone 26! As a lover of natural fibers, it is great to be able to feel and sample a yarn in your hand. My hope is there are just a few people like me who wanted to try these fibers and yarns. Crafters who love natural yarns will be able to do so at a very reasonable price. I also hope that people who think wool is that “itchy, expensive stuff” will also give it a try.  (UC comment: This is really a great project!  If you’d like to contribute, check out Kouture Crochet’s Kickstarter page here.)

Handdyed merino yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?

KC: I’m new to Ravelry, but I love having such a large and active community of crafters.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Karia!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Maru Minetto from Marumin Crochet

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today is the last interview in my Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 series.  (For those who don’t know, Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 and ends on October 15.)  I’m happy to interview Maru Minetto, the Peruvian blogger and crochet designer behind Marumin Crochet.  Maru can also be found on Ravelry as marumin and on her designer page.

Maru Minetto.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?

Maru: My grandma did the most beautiful crochet work.  She taught me the basics as a teenager, but I wasn’t any good at it.  I had difficulty holding the crochet correctly and ended up  very frustrated with my uneven results.  I tried it again several years later, before the birth of my son… I bought a few magazines and started crocheting with much better results, so I started to crochet for gifts and charities.

 

UC: You seem to enjoy making projects for babies and children.  What is it about these types of projects that you love?

Maru: I went back to crocheting because I wanted my children to have crocheted items like the ones my grandma used to make for us, (not that I could really do more than bibs and blankets), but that was what drew me back to crocheting.  Caps, booties and sweaters soon followed.

Baby projects are finished up fast, and don’t take up a lot of material.  Babies and children are a great inspiration and they can wear anything from vintage classic to colorful  modern edge items and always look cute.

Even when my kids are all grown up now, there’s always need for baby items for gift giving and especially to be donated to hospitals and children in need and I find it very rewarding to be able to give something done with my own hands.

 

Maru Minetto's White Baby Bolero pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Maru: I think basically the need to experiment, create and have fun.  I started by following patterns written by other designers (and I still do crochet items by other designers), but sometimes I have a specific idea and no pattern to follow, so I simply start crocheting and creating a pattern of my own.

 

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Peru.

Maru: As you may know, Perú is well known for its fine Alpaca wool and the excellent craftmanship of our native people.  (UC comment: This is definitely true.  I work with Galler Yarns, and they import several luscious Peruvian alpaca yarns!)  In native communities they learn to spin, knit and/or crochet as children. Several years ago it was also common for schools to teach the basics of knitting and crochet.

There is no rivalry between knitting and crochet that I know of, but knitting is more widely spread as it is almost always related to clothing items as opposed to crochet that is viewed more as a decorative labor (tablecloths, doilies, dishcloths, afghans, etc).

Also, people seem to find it easier to knit than to crochet and it is way easier to find information and patterns  related to knitting than to crochet.

Maru Minetto's My Lavender Sachet pattern.

 

UC: Your blog is bilingual.  Tell us about your decision to blog in both English and Spanish.  What do you see as the benefits and the challenges of writing a bilingual blog?

Maru: I decided upon a bilingual blog as a means to reach more people, and make it easier for my followers.  I find that built in translators do not do a good job and the “translations” are almost always “confusing” to say the least.  Crochet has its very own “language” and common dictionaries/translators do not have the correct equivalents for crocheting terms.

Blogging in two languages just takes up a little more time.

 

Maru Minetto's Cute Baby Sweater pattern.

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English crochet blogs or websites to share?

Maru: There are several blogs I follow.  There are lots and lots of creative and caring people in the crochet community who love to share their knowledge of crochet.

But my all time favorite crochet blogs  are in Portuguese:

Thanks so much for stopping by Maru, and sharing your thoughts and links with us!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Crocheted Softies Blog Tour, Day 6

I’m stoked to be part of Stacey Trock’s blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World today.  I am interviewing Stacey, reviewing her new book, and hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of the book, courtesy of Martingale & Company, so read on for more details!

The Interview

Stacey Trock is the mind behind FreshStitches, and is known for her crocheted, amigurumi animal designs, which are available for download on her website, on her Ravelry designer page, and in her Etsy shop.  (Stacey also sells her finished critters in her Etsy shop, in case you don’t crochet, as well as kits for her most popular patterns.)  You can also find Stacey online on Facebook and Twitter.  The pictures of Stacey’s work are used with her permission.

Stacey with one of her creations.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Stacey: I started crocheting when I was a little girl… my mom taught me.  I don’t really remember learning, but I remember there was a time when I could only crochet a chain… and I spend a fair amount of time making a VERY long chain!

Wally the Koi Fish.

UC: What was your original inspiration to start making amigurumi, and what led you to start designing your own amigurumi patterns?

Stacey: I call it my ‘quarter life crisis’… I finished school and knew I didn’t want to work in an office. I though to myself, ‘what would I do if I could do ANYTHING?’… and I knew that I loved crocheting! I’ve also always loved stuffed animals (and had previously sewn a few of them), so it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I put all of my energy towards designing a collection of amigurumi and getting a website up and running, and I’ve never looked back!  (UC comment: I had a quarter-life crisis, too, but I didn’t do anything as cool as Stacey during mine!)

Kieran the Beaver.

UC: I love that many (most?) of your designs are larger than the typical wee Lilliputian scale of amigurumi patterns and are more “kid friendly.”  Can you tell me more about that?

Stacey: I think the size of my amigurumi reflects my love of stuffed animals.  I think they’re so cute and cuddly… and it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I crochet, sew, or knit them.  I happen to think crocheting makes the nicest fabric for stuffed animals (as compared to knitting), but my love is the animal itself.  So, it seemed pretty natural for me to focus on the larger size animals.  Most of my stuffed animals are about 8″ tall when completed… and of course, they could be made larger or smaller by using thicker or thinner yarn.

I do realize, though, that lots of folks love making the smaller amigurumi, and I’ve recently released a line of tiny amigurumi.  It’s important for me to design animals that people love… so if there’s lots of people who love the smaller animals, I want to do that, too!  My true love is still the big guys, though :)

Ro the Tiny Monster is one of Stacey's tiny amigurumi patterns.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Stacey: I’m like a sponge… I suck inspiration up from all over! I look at lots of drawings and cartoons (and Clip Art)… I love seeing how other artists conceptualize animals and break them down into basic shapes and components.  I also love all things cute: Japanese stationary, children’s toys, jewelry with animals on it… you name it, I’m inspired!

Oddly enough, I’m not terrifically inspired by actual animals.  (That sounds really lame when I say it aloud!) I’m an animal-lover, but I don’t draw inspiration for my stuffed animal designs from the actual animals themselves :).

Slithers the Snake, from Crocheted Softies, which can double as a scarf.

UC: Most people associate amigurumi and crocheted toys with acrylic yarn, but in Crocheted Softies, you’ve managed to create an entire book of patterns using eco-friendly yarns.  Tell me about your decision to do this.  What was your design and yarn selection process for this book?

Stacey: I’m really passionate about using quality yarn.  And, by quality yarn, I don’t mean ‘yarn sold in a fancy yarn store over big box stores.’  I’ve found scratchy, icky yarn in LYSs (local yarn stores), and some quite pleasant yarns sold by the major yarn manufacturers. What I mean is yarn that is pleasant to work with and that will help you make a quality product that you can be proud of.

For me, crocheting is a tactile process: the yarn runs through your fingers as you hold it… and when you make a stuffed animal, you’re making something that will probably be snuggled up against your child’s face. Why would you want to use a yarn that you’re not totally in love with?

I’ve always used high-quality yarn in my designs, but I thought that writing this book was the perfect opportunity to spread the word about fantastic Earth-friendly yarns… because you’re right, most people pick up a skein of acrylic yarn to make amigurumi.  For me, Earth-friendliness is about being aware of where your yarn comes from and it’s environmental impact.  I know that not everyone will pick up a skein of organic cotton to make your next animal. But, it’s important to me that people realize that when they’re crocheting, they’re creating a lovely little piece of artwork… and maybe they’ll think about using materials that are worthy of the love and energy they pour into the piece.

About my design process… for a couple of animals, I picked pairings that seemed perfect and hilarious: there’s a panda made from bamboo, an alpaca from alpaca and a kiwi from a New Zealand yarn.  For the remainder of the animals, I searched around for yarns that had the texture that would be right for the animals, and came in a colorway that would work.  There’s so many lovely yarns to choose from!

Shewwin the Alpaca, from Crocheted Softies, made in yummy, undyed Cascade Eco Alpaca.

UC: Does your background working in a yarn shop (Knit New Haven) influence your design process?  If so, how?

Stacey: It doesn’t directly influence my designs, but working in a yarn store influences me tremendously in my yarn-life.  I’m lucky enough to see all of the yarns that are coming into the shop on a regular basis, and hear customers’ reactions to them.  I also benefit tremendously from helping customers with their knitting/crocheting problems… I think I’ve gotten a really good sense of what people find difficult/easy about crocheting and pattern-reading.  Since I learned to crochet when I was so young, I don’t remember learning… so hearing the experiences of others who are learning helps me design patterns in a way that’s accessible for the largest number of crocheters.

Courtney the Owl in an Egg can hatch right before your eyes.

UC: Do you have any favorite craft/crochet/creativity blogs or websites to share?

Stacey: Oh my gosh… there’s too many!
I think Delicious Crochet, MochiMochi Land, and MyGurumi are some of the most clever animal designers on the block! I love seeing what new designs they come up with and I just think they’re some genius ladies!

As for blogs, I’ll share a few that are on my reader (which are only a couple from the oodles of amazing inspirational folks out there!):

And, I always happen across lots of inspiring things on Ravelry, Pinterest, Craftsy and Twitter.  So much great stuff going on!

Kai the Kiwi, from Crocheted Softies, in a merino/possum (!) blend.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Stacey: Oooh… that’s a very tricky question because I’m actually quite a minimalist about owning books :). I just bought Craft Activism, which is a totally awesome book about how people use all sorts of different crafts (including crochet) as forms of activism. And, I’m in love with Vanna’s Afghans A to Z for sentimental reasons… it was my first crochet book, and I’ve made a number of afghans from it! (UC comment: I once had a well loved copy of Vanna’s Favorite Gift Afghans, but I sold it online to pay some overdue bills during my quarter-life crisis!)

My other favorite books are knitting ones… I’m too multi-crafting to stick to just crochet books!

Lala the Panda, from Crocheted Softies, made with a bamboo/merino wool blend.

UC: What’s next for you?

Stacey: Oooh… I don’t know! I’m absolutely in love with what I do, so I’m totally going to stick with it… and I’m contemplating about how I’d like to branch out.

This January, I’m going to be teaching a couple of online amigurumi classes for Craftsy, which I’m super-excited about. I’m also going to be adding more tiny amigurumi designs to my site over the next year (and, of course, lots of new big ones!), as well as expanding the number of patterns I offer as kits… they’ve been popular!

I sometimes think about designing knitted animals… but I’ll have to see if that’s in the cards! I’m excited to see where FreshStitches will be this time next year :).

Thanks, Stacey, for stopping by for an interview today, and for signing the giveaway copy!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more chances to win a copy of Crocheted Softies!

Book Review


I confess that I was really looking forward to receiving my review copy of Crocheted Softies from Martingale & Company for several weeks before it arrived.  I really like the look of Stacey’s work, and especially enjoy the larger sizes of most of her amigurumi patterns.  I grew up receiving awesome crocheted bears from my grandmother, years before I ever heard the term amigurumi.  These bears were some of my favorite playthings as a kid, and I love how Stacey merges the coziness of an old fashioned teddy bear with a contemporary look.  I was also really intrigued by the the book’s concept of making amigurumi with earth-friendly yarns.  In my mind, amigurumi has always been associated with acrylic yarn, but in the past year, I’ve been looking at my yarn stash and trying to replace my petroleum based yarns with natural fibers.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love this book, and definitely will recommend it far and wide.  The book starts with several concise but detailed sections: Getting Started, Crochet Stitches, and Additional Techniques.  Stacey’s writing style is really conversational, and she gives some wonderful tips on substituting yarns, informal gauge, assembly and stuffing, and caring for your softies.  She also provides patterns for “basic animal shapes” which are used throughout the book.  Once you are familiar with the basic head, for example, you can use it to make many of the softies.

The book then introduces 18 softies, sorted by region.  Most of the critters are made with one skein of yarn in the main color and then smaller bits of other colors.  Stacey uses safety eyes throughout the book, but provides you with a quick technique for making crocheted eyes so you can easily substitute if your softie is for a baby or toddler (or you just plain don’t like safety eyes).  She uses an interesting range of fibers and her premise is that if you are using only one skein, you can try out some yarns you may not be as familiar with, like soy, corn, or recycled silk, without much of an investment.  All of the projects are super cute and would make great gifts, but I do have a few favorites: Stretch the Giraffe, Lala the Panda, Salty the Crocodile, Milton the Slowpoke Snail, Mr. Crabby, and Sherwin the Alpaca.

I think the book is great for a crochet newbie because it explains things like yarn substitution in a really friendly way, but it’s also wonderful for a more advanced crocheter because it encourages you to move outside of your comfort zone by trying new yarns and experimenting with pattern modifications.  (At the same time, you could make these patterns with your standard favorite yarns also.)  Like all Martingale & Company books, it has a really clean and eye pleasing layout.

Just so I don’t sound like a groupie, I’ll balance my review a bit. Crocheted Softies doesn’t pretend to teach you everything you need to know in order to crochet, though it does have written explanations and illustrations of the basic stitches.  Therefore, it will probably be too challenging for someone who has never crocheted before.  It doesn’t include international stitch symbols, which is ok by me since the patterns are really straightforward, but I know some people prefer to have both abbreviations and stitch symbols. (The book uses U.S. crochet abbreviations, by the way.)   The book obviously doesn’t include a range of project types, and only focuses on softies (though there is a variety of shapes and animal/space creature types).

If I wasn’t buried under a mountain of holiday crafting and design deadlines, I would absolutely be making MC his very own Mr. Crabby right now (not because he’s cranky, but because he’s a Cancer).  I think it will be on my Valentine’s Day gift list instead.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars as a fun project book that shares some helpful techniques and skills for making amigurumi.

Giveaway

I’m so excited that Martingale & Company provided two copies of the book, so I actually get to keep mine while still offering a giveaway to my readers!  This giveaway is open to international readers.

You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, December 16, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

Interview with Candice Miller from All Things Fiber Camp

Today I’m interviewing Candice Miller, who, along with Scott Miller, is the co-owner of All Things Fiber Camp.

All Things Fiber Camp is an all-inclusive fiber vacation.  The spring camp is scheduled for May 13 – 18, 2012 at Ramapo for Children in Rhinebeck, NY.   I’ll be one of the instructors and I hope to meet some of you there!

Candice and Scott are also co-owners of Creekside Acres Fiber Farm.  They have been involved in the fiber industry since 2006 when they purchased their first alpacas.  Since then they have expanded with a llama and a small herd of pygora goats.  Candice is a novice fiber artist and an avid fiber and farming enthusiast.  Candice and Scott’s family consists of three children, four dogs, two cats, a lizard, and a few happy goldfish.

Scott and Candice Miller. (Fellow Star Wars fans, I see.)

Underground Crafter (UC): What inspired you to start All Things Fiber Camp?

Candice: Our pygora goats actually!  I know it sounds crazy but our fiber animals really inspired All Things Fiber Camp!  We have a small fiber herd of pygora goats, a few alpacas, and a llama.  We love the fiber animals, along with the fiber industry, and wanted to grow with it, so we spent a long time brainstorming.  We live on a small farm and we didn’t really want to grow our herd to a commercial size because we really enjoy having a close relationship with each animal.  We know each of them well since we spend time socializing and handling them.  We really enjoy them as part of our family. I am also a very novice fiber artist and really enjoy learning as much as I can about the different arts.

Since my family LOVES traveling and vacationing, we thought it would be really fun to enjoy the fiber arts, learn, and keep our fiber herd small by putting together a really fun, laid back event like All Things Fiber Camp!

Wicket, one of the pygora goats, with Scott.

UC: What are some of the other activities taking place at the camp besides fiber related classes?

Candice: Well, first there are SO MANY fiber arts classes being offered that people won’t be able to get to all of them in just one camp.  We wanted to have a variety of fiber arts classes but felt that there needed to be other fiber-related activities to break things up a bit.  With that in mind, we have scheduled times for Llama Treks and guided hikes, assisted boating, folk dancing, yoga, and tai chi. There will also be a small herd of fiber animals for campers to get up close and personal with.  Campers can feed, pet, or just hang out with the fiber animals any time they want.  There will also be light evening activities, fiber-related demonstrations, and even a marketplace day for campers to shop.  There is something for everyone from 7:30am to 9:00pm!

Don't you want to hang out with this cutie?

UC: What are your personal favorite fiber crafts?  How did you get started with these crafts?

Candice: This is always the hardest question for any fiber artist!  I think my heart is really in spinning.  Mostly because I love the idea of processing a fleece from one of my own animals to a finished product! It has some kind of special meaning once it is completed.  And, I have so much of my own fleece – I feel obligated to use it!  I am a very novice knitter and have tried some felting but really my favorite is spinning my fleeces into yarn.  I have enjoyed all of it and I am willing and eager to learn more!  (UC comment: If you’re a spinner, check out the Community Supported Agriculture shares from Creekside Acres.  The shares are available as raw fiber, roving, or yarn.  Or learn to spin at All Things Fiber Camp!)

Heather Love will be teaching spinning on a wheel.

 

UC: You’ve had the opportunity to visit many fiber festivals and shows to promote All Things Fiber Camp.  Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Candice: We have visited a lot of festivals and we love all of them!  They all have so many great things to offer.  We are partial to the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival because we have been exhibiting our animals their since we started with fiber animals.  At the NYS Sheep and Wool we love the Llama Parades and Leaping Llama Contest.  Of course, we participate in those activities, but I think even the Festival goers love them.

We love the diversity of all the shows we have attended and the great people we meet while we are there.  We have been all over, from Michigan to North Carolina and back up to Massachusetts, visiting festivals.

Elizabeth Buchtman will be teaching wet felting at All Things Fiber Camp.

UC: Tell us a little about the buddy specials for people who register before the end of the year. Do you offer gift certificates or is there another way of paying for gift registrations?

Candice: Right now, we have some really great specials running!  The  Buddy Special gives you a discount based on the idea that the more people you sign up with, the cheaper your camp fee is!  If you sign up with one person, you will receive 25% off, sign up with 5 people you will get 50% off, and if you sign up with a group of 10 you will get 100% off your tuition – FREE!!

We are also running a Holiday Special that began on 12/1/11.  The Holiday Countdown Special started on 12/1/11 with 25% off.  As the days get closer to Christmas, the percentage will go down 1% per day.  Both the Holiday Countdown Special and The Early Bird Special will expire this month!

We do offer Gift Certificates and can make them in any amount.  People can pay for all or part of a camp tuition for their loved one.  The first 15 Gift Certificates will also be accompanied with a special gift from Creekside Acres Fiber Farm!

UC: Is there a way for people to keep up to date on what is going on leading up to All Things Fiber Camp?

Candice: Yes!  We are on Facebook and Ravelry and we have a website and an email group at Google Groups!  People can friend us on Facebook by friending AllThings Fiber.  We also have a weekly blog and email featuring some part of camp.

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk about All Things Fiber Camp, Candice!

 

Lazy weekend with a side of yarn haul

This is my first uninterrupted long weekend in quite a while (since I usually teach on Saturdays).  I successfully avoided the Black Friday madness yesterday by staying home most of the day crocheting, inventing new turkey leftover dishes, and making the best batch of brownies ever.

These look like standard brownies, but deep inside, amazing flavors await.

MC and I have been avoiding high fructose corn syrup for some time now, which is actually kind of hard to do in a regular grocery store.  I decided to pick up all of my chocolate in the fancy organic part of Fairway to be on the safe side.  (Side note: It later turned out that good ole Nestle Toll House chips do not have high fructose corn syrup anyway!)  I was working with the banana brownie recipe from my all time favorite brownie cookbook, The Ultimate Brownie Book: Thousands of Ways to Make America’s Favorite Treat, including Blondies, Frostings, and Doctored Brownie Mixes by Bruce Weinstein.  I used Sunspire unsweetened baking chocolate and peanut butter chips along with some Endangered Species Chocolate dark chocolate, and an extra banana.  The brownies were so rich, we could only eat a few.  I’ll probably freeze most of the batch for later.  Yum!

I’ve been planning all week to do some local shopping today for Small Business Saturday.  It’s a sad fact that most of my favorite local stores closed in the last few years, so there are few options left.  Naturally, I took this opportunity to visit my two LYS.  I don’t actually need any yarn, but I went with two specific holiday projects in mind.

A collage of The Yarn Company signage.

I stopped at The Yarn Company first (review here).  I did see some lovely yarn, especially some undyed alpaca that is exclusive to their shop.  Nothing was suitable for my projects though (or my limited budget), so I left without buying anything.

Do you think they want us to notice there's a sale?

Though I’ve been avoiding the holiday shopping fervor, I did stop briefly into the Laytner’s Linen and Home adjacent to The Yarn Company.  I’m working on several free patterns in collaboration with Galler Yarns and I picked up a pillow form for one of the samples.

My next stop was my favorite LYS, Knitty City (reviewed here).

A collage of Knitty City signage.

It was fairly crowded, but I did manage to find yarn suitable for my holiday projects.  I bought one skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in 817…

I hope I have time to turn this skein into a hat before Christmas!

…and three skeins of Sandnes Garn Mandarin Petit in 4418.

This may work itself into a Valentine's Day gift since I have so many holiday projects and other looming deadlines.

I haven’t used this brand before, but the color was really red, which is exactly what I was looking for today.

One the way home, I stopped by the Greenflea, which is now open on Saturday for the holiday season.

This is one of those really hit or miss markets, where you might find a treasure but you are more likely to find vendors reading newspapers and tables stacked with random junk.  Today was a miss.

When I got home, there was an email in my inbox from American Express. My purchase at Knitty City qualified for the $25 credit for Small Business Saturday, so that was pretty sweet.

How’s your weekend going?

Reminders:

Looking for some great holiday gifts?  Check out my handmade holiday gift guides: Handmade Gifts to MakeHandmade Gifts to Buy, and Great Gifts for Yarncrafters.

There’s still time to enter my giveaway for 60 More Quick Knits in this blog post through November 28.

All items (including crochet patterns, finished objects, Tunisian crochet hooks, and yarn) in my Etsy shop and Ravelry shop will be 25% off through 11/28 as part of my Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sale.  I’m also offering these additional discounts for my blog readers:

  • $2 off with a minimum $10 purchase on Ravelry using coupon code BLOG1111 (through 12/31/11) and
  • $2 off with a minimum $10 purchase on Etsy (refunded after purchase) if you write BLOG1111 in the notes to seller.  Please note that patterns purchased on Etsy can be emailed or sent to your Ravelry pattern library.

F.O. Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website.  The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).

My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot.  I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.

My Favorite Yarns

My current favorites are Cascade Eco Duo, Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, Dream in Color Classy, Patons Classic Wool, and Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Top (from left to right): Eco Duo, Alpaca Love. Bottom (from left to right): Classy, Classic Wool (ombre) with Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool (solid), Sweater.

Cascade Eco Duo

Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City.  As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%).  Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled.  The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with.  There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors.  The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.

Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love

This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend.  I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness.  It comes in some very fun coordinated colors.  This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!).  The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range.  I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).

Dream in Color Classy

Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City.  This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post).  Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S.  The colors are variegated and are really fabulous.  The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions.  At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!

Patons Classic Wool

Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn.  It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres.  (A few colors are also available as tweeds.)  The  solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced.  It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either.  It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split.  The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.

Spud and Chloe Sweater

Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most.  It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton.  I also found it at Knitty City :) about a year ago.  I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted.  I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted.  The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet.  I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012.  I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).

You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn!  You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers.  I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too.  But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn.  I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore.  This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious.  On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s  not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.

Charity Crafting

One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting.  I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).

I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally.  Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations.  I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.

Snuggles Project sites:

  • ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys.  Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
  • Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center.  These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
  • S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding.  Email the organization at savepetNY@aol.com to arrange pick up.

Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital.  Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations.  They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).

For those of you who live in the U.S. outside of New York, some great organizations you might consider donating to are one of the organizations listed on the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website (Oglala Sioux Tribe families and elders), Knit Your Bit through the National WW II Museum (scarves for veterans) and  The Red Scarf Project through Foster Care to Success (scarves for foster care students in college).  Internationally, you can find a participating animal shelter/pet rescue organization that accepts handmade donations through the Snuggles Project.  Of course, this is just a small sampling of organizations, and there are many more out there!

Finished Objects


Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.

Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).
Two scarves, a hat, and mittens for toddlers via Knits for Infants. I have two other hats in the works, too.
This is a close up of my snuggle for Bideawee. I plan to make a few more using scrap yarn (I doubt the doggies are too concerned about the colors).

My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals.  I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.

For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!

A Final Word on Awesome Yarn

A few weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Danielle at A Stash Addicts Ramblings for my choice of sock yarn from her Jane & Michael Etsy shop.  This lovely skein arrived yesterday, just in time for I Love Yarn Day!

The colorway is called Emerald Forest.

 

(On a side note, I remember being totally confused by The Emerald Forest as a kid, since I was, of course, way too young to have any real sense of what the film was about!)

There's a good chance that this may eventually transform itself into a gift for my mom.

Thanks, Danielle!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Reminders:

  • You have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, October 19 to enter the giveaway for Val Pierce‘s Knitted Mug Hugs (Twenty to Make) by visiting this post.
  • If you want to learn to crochet or improve your skills, you can still join in on my Crochet 101 crochet-a-long.  For details, read this post.

 

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival 2011

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can find my first three posts on Tunisian crochet here, here, and here.)

On Saturday, I taught Introduction to Tunisian Crochet at my very first fiber conference, the 17th Annual Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival at the Fairgrounds in Hemlock, NY.  I had such a great time at the Festival – even though I couldn’t stay for the whole event :( – and would definitely recommend it to anyone for next year!

My dirty little secret (to those from the rest of the universe that isn’t New York City) is that I can’t drive.  Yes, I took a few weeks of Driver’s Ed in high school but never finished the class.  Thus far, I’ve only lived in cities where driving isn’t required (New York for about 92% of my life, with a year after college in Washington, D.C., and a few years in San Francisco as a pre-schooler).  My lack of driving hasn’t impaired me in my hometown, but it has limited my vacation options and has made me dependent on others when traveling – and, of course, it has kept me living in major urban areas.  (Driving lessons are on my to do/bucket list, by the way.)

Anyway, the person who I was going to be dependent on for this trip :) had to work over the weekend.  So I had a very interesting itinerary as a result.

Here's a blurry phone cam shot of my Friday train ride.

I started out on Friday afternoon on Amtrak to Rochester.  I took a taxi to the hotel in Henrietta, which was, er, um, well let’s just say the price was right and there was free wifi :).  In the morning, I was lucky enough to picked up from the hotel by CR, another teacher on the festival committee.  She’s been working at the festival for the last 8 years, so it was great to hear about her experience with the event during the ride.  We also “talked shop” about teaching for a bit.

This is the building where I taught my class. The class areas were very spacious and we had plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

Since CR dropped me off early, I had a chance to check out the vendors and the animals before preparing for my class.  As a City Gal, seeing the goats, sheep, and alpacas who are responsible for my favorite yarns was a real treat.

Some of the yarn vendors setting up.
How cute is this alpaca?
"Are you talking to me?"
These guys didn't feel like posing. They were too busy munching.
"Look at me, I'm smiling for the camera!"
Miss Molly is a true "Chatty Cathy" but she clearly doesn't want her picture taken. This is the least blurry of the several pictures I snapped of her.
More super cute alpacas.
What do you call the black sheep of the alpaca family?

There were vendors from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania at the event, but it was great to see a local vendor, the Hemlock Hills Alpaca Farm, too.  I especially loved this sign from their booth.

Besides workshops, demonstrations, and vendors, there were also wagon rides at the Festival!

After watching the vendors set up for about 40 minutes, I went back to the 4-H Exhibit Building to set up for my class.  While cleaning off the tables and organizing the chairs into a circle, I was thinking about what I was going to buy :).  I knew that I shouldn’t go wild, but I definitely wanted to pick up a few things that I had seen during set up.  Once my workshop area was organized, I stepped back out when the vendors were officially open for business.

I should mention here that I’ve had a bit of a soap crisis in the past few years.  I used to make my own soap, which, of course, did wonders for my skin since I could formulate it exactly for me.  Unfortunately, my current kitchen layout isn’t conducive to safe soap making (especially with my cat around).  For about a year, I bought soap from Simply Sensational, which was a shop on Etsy that the owner closed for health reasons.  Then for a while I shopped at Dirty Loves Clean, but she seems to have disappeared, too.  For the last year or so, I have tried soaps from tons of online and in-person vendors and have not found the soap which really works for my skin, and I have been back to buying soap at Whole Foods.  So naturally, I was on the hunt for some soap at the Festival.

I found these three soaps - all with great scents - at the Longmeadow Farm tent.

I haven’t used them yet, but I have high hopes.  (By the way, I couldn’t find an online presence for Longmeadow Farm, except in this ad on the Creekside Fabrics website.)

I also wandered into the Bitsy Knits tent and left with some goodies.

My haul from Bitsy Knits.

I got two skeins of superwash Merino wool, the Squoosh! Superwash (in the back) and the Bitsy’s Sock (in the foreground).  Although I don’t “need” another gauge ruler/needle-hook sizer, I was very attracted to this Knit Picks View Sizer, so I decided to add it to my collection.

I was hoping that the yarn would work well with my coat.  I ended up with a Blue Chalk colored coat last year when I waited until the last minute to buy my winter coat and the color options were quite limited.  As a result, I can’t wear any of my handmade accessories that were designed when I had a black coat.  I really want to show off my stuff this winter, and I think these colors go well with my new-ish coat.

Here is the hood from my coat, along with the yarn. What do you think?

After my shopping spree, I went back to the 4-H Exhibit Building to teach my class.  I had a wonderful time, and I think my students did, too!  I’ll be teaching my Tunisian Crochet Basics class again at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival on September 30.

After I finish my online Crochet 101 class as part of the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter, you can expect to see a version of my Tunisian Crochet class online :).

Once my class was finished, I had to hurry to reach the Rochester bus depot in time.  I was picked up from the Hemlock Fairgrounds by a taxi right after class and I was whisked away to a Trailways bus.  Seven hours later, I was back in New York.

Bright lights, big city: The view of Times Square from my phone cam.

MC picked me up at Port Authority and we headed back home.  It was a lot of traveling within 36 hour period, but well worth it for the chance to see the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and to teach my Introduction to Tunisian Crochet class.

Visit When Did I Become a Knitter for more Year of Projects posts.

Reminders

  • My local Etsy team, The {NewNew}, is offering 3 September giveaways, including an in-person knitting lesson with me, or a PDF Tunisian crochet tutorial if you are too far away to meet me in person.  You can enter this giveaway through September 23rd here.
  • I’m giving away two more PDF patterns collections of the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!   This issue includes 26 crochet and knit patterns.  You can enter this giveaway through September 20 here.
  • I’m giving away a copy of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet, courtesy of Harper Design.  You can enter this giveaway through September 26 here.