2014 Crocheter’s Gift Guide: Handmade Crochet-Friendly Stitch Markers

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitch markers

It’s that time of year when we all start thinking about gifts for others – and for ourselves – so I’m sharing a series of gift guides for crocheters. Yesterday, I shared 10 yarn clubs and community supported agriculture projects that are accepting new members/shareholders for 2015. Today I’m sharing a roundup of 11 handmade crochet stitch markers.

These are all stitch markers I found while browsing on Etsy. Each one has a locking/opening closure (often using a lobster claw fixture) that makes it crochet-friendly. I use stitch markers all the time to keep track of right and wrong side, to note the beginning or end of a round when crocheting in unjoined spirals, or to keep track of row counts.

Stitch markers are a great gift because there are so many different types that you can choose something very suited to the recipient, and they are relatively inexpensive when compared to other gifts for crocheters.

Images are copyright the respective shop owners. Prices are listed in US dollars.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

The Color of Dreams BoutiqueGranny Square stitch markers

This is a set of 4 stitch markers using polymer clay beads that look just like granny squares! Price: $10. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

Haberdash-a-dooMade with Love stitch markers

This set of 6 non-nickle heart-shaped stitch markers include a keyhole opening and the phrase “made with love.” Price: $8.04. Ships from UK.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

AbsoKnittingLutely: Macaron stitch markers

This set of 5 hand-sculpted stitch markers are the perfect no calorie substitute for tasty macarfons! Price: $12.89. Ships from UK.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

FC Whimsey: Film-inspired stitch markers

This set of 6 polymer clay stitch markers are modeled after one of my favorite film series and make a perfect gift for the special sci fi nerd in your life. Price: $15.99. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

Crafty Cat Knitty bits: Round flower crochet stitch markers

A set of 10 polymer clay stitch markers with a floral theme. Price: $14.49. Ships from UK.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet StitchmarkersKnit Cubby: Kokeshi Doll stitch markers

This set of 5 stitch markers is graphically designed and then finished with a waterproof finish. Price: $14.99. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

The Clay Sheep: Pastel Sheep Stitch Markers

This set of 6 polymer clay stitch markers would make your favorite wool-lover very happy. Price: $24. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

My Polar Projects: Letter Stitch Markers

When you love the alphabet (or want to spell your best friend’s name or favorite crochet stitch), try this set of 6 metal stitch markers. Price: $18. (Additional letters are $3/each.) Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

Little Knitty Bird: Grandmother’s Lavender Stitch Markers

This set of 5 stitch markers are made from plastic and metal beads and have a classic look. Price: $10. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

Teri Loves: Miniature Cassette Stitch Marker and Counter

This retro mini cassette stitch marker and row/stitch counter makes a great gift for your favorite audiophile. Price: $6.95. Ships from US.

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheters Gift Guide - Handmade Crochet Stitchmarkers

Snarky Llama Creations: Pinups Stitch markers

This set of 9 stitch plastic stitch markers include vintage-style pin-up images. These are a bit more risqué than the others, but are undoubtable a perfect gift for someone on your list! Price: $10.99. Ships from US.

NaBloPoMo
I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

Strings attached

Earlier this year, my mother had a business opportunity to travel to New Zealand. My sister had just recently finished law school and was able to go with her. They asked what I would like them to bring me back, and naturally, I said yarn.

Side note: You know you’re a yarn addict when every country is reduced in your mind to its capabilities as a fiber producer. (On a more serious note, apparently declines in wool demand are causing problems for New Zealand’s sheep farmers, according to this recent New York Times article.)

When they returned from the trip, I was presented with exciting yarns in brands I had never heard of before.

Countrywide Opals yarn on Underground Crafter blog.
They brought me 8 skeins (4 in each color) in Countrywide Opals, a DK acrylic yarn.
Naturally Loyal yarn on Underground Crafter blog.
And, they brought me 3 skeins of Naturally Loyal, a machine washable DK wool yarn.

But, here’s where things get tricky. As soon as I opened up the Loyal, my sister said it was intended was for a scarf. For her.

Somehow, my request for an extra special gift – a unique/inaccessible (to the American market) yarn from the world’s third largest wool-producing country – turned into a job.

If you’ve ever made crocheted gifts, you know what I’m talking about here. Because you love to crochet, anyone and everyone feels entitled to ask for (or, rather, demand) handmade gifts from you. As if that weren’t enough, the gifts have to be customized to their needs.

I’ve made many crocheted gifts for my younger sister before. You may remember this double bed sized granny square blanket, in the colors of the New Orleans Saints, which she asked for as a housewarming gift when she went off to law school.

Double Irish chain granny square blanket on Underground Crafter blog
It’s the Geaux Saints blanket!

It took five months to finish. I’m assuming its still in use, since I recently got a text message asking about washing instructions.

And, speaking of text messages, I started receiving them sporadically after I was gifted the yarn. Most messages would start with “I’m sure you haven’t started the scarf yet but…” and end with a picture of something she did or didn’t want included in this famous scarf I would be making for her from my “gift.”

Although this could have turned into an opportunity to talk to my sister about entitlement, assumptions, and gracious gift giving, it didn’t. I decided to actually take this beautiful yarn from a land I’m unlikely to ever visit and convert it into a scarf for her.

However, none of her pictures were suitable. You see, as a non-crocheter/knitter, my sister has really no idea what can be made from 3 skeins of yarn totaling less than 350 yards, especially when she wanted me to hold two strands together for a tweedy look.

And, since she’s now living in Houston, I had a hard time understanding why she might need a double stranded scarf. (Apparently, years of living in the harsh climes of New York City has made me a bit biased about what constitutes “winter.”)

So, I decided to create something different. I’m calling it Tweedy Pineapples for now.

Tweedy Pineapples scarf project on Underground Crafter.

It measures about 5″ x 40″ long off the hooks, but I’m sure things may change once I add the border and block it.

Tweedy Pineapples scarf project on Underground Crafter.

Even before blocking, you can see the little pineapples doing their thing.

By the way, I really liked the yarn. Too bad there’s barely enough left to make anything for myself. On the plus side, this makes the second Christmas gift I’ve finished so far. And I still have the Opals to try out.

NaBloPoMo

I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

Interview with Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm

While at Vogue Knitting Live in January, I was introduced to a local, New York State Capital region yarn vendor, Yellowfarm.  The Yellowfarm booth had an interesting display featuring “long locks” art yarns.  The display really highlighted the beautiful fiber from Yellowfarm’s longwool Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep.

Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

Today, I’m interviewing Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm.  You can find Yellowfarm on their website, Etsy, and Facebook.  All farm pictures are (c) Yellowfarm and are used with permission.

 

Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.
Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started with yarn crafts?

Virginia: I started knitting as a child.  My mother and grandmother both knit, and of course I wanted to be just like them. I was never a very good knitter, but always enjoyed the process. Later on I learned to crochet, but just the basics. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really delved into fiber arts.

I love to knit, and somehow seem to go through periods of no knitting, and then I reacquaint myself with my needles, and really enjoy remembering how much I love the process. Right now I am playing with some Wensleydale lace weight yarn and working on a lace shawl. I have done some weaving on a triangle loom, but never attempted the real thing with all its intricacies. That is something that I have on my list of things I want to spend some time learning.

I also find freeform crochet extremely appealing, and hope to be able to concentrate on learning more crochet stitches and techniques to perhaps enable me to play with that too!

Yellowfarm sheep closeup

UC: Tell us about how you became involved with Yellowfarm.

Virginia: Well, our two girls were grown and we decided to look around to see if we could find an older property that would offer us the country lifestyle we have always yearned for.  We saw this farm and fell in love with it.  It has served us well so far. Both our mothers came here to live out their last years on the farm and now we have two granddaughters that relish coming to visit the farm.

Yellowfarm double sheep closeup

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm.  Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working (the good and the bad)?

Virginia: My husband grew up in the Bronx, and I grew up outside of New York City.  My first career was riding and teaching hunter seat equitation, show hunters and jumpers. I have worked on farms and managed stables just about all of my life, but never owned one.

A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

You are absolutely right about the plusses and the minuses involved. Once you involve yourself with keeping animals on your property, you assume a responsibility that must never fail. No days off, no skipping work, or heading off on a spur of the moment whim. There are animals that need you to feed, water, check for any health issues, administer medications, treat wounds, give shots, or call a vet if the situation warrants. Not to mention the physical necessities of farm life: the fences that need fixing, the fields that need tending, manure that needs spreading. There is ALWAYS a list of things that you just can’t quite finish that are waiting for you to do.

The flip side is that you get to watch lambs being born and help them to stand and nurse for the first time, see stars that you didn’t know were there, and appreciate the seasons with the amazing changes they bring to the farm.

Yellowfarm Stanley

 

UC: Yellowfarm raises American Wensleydale and Teeswater luster longwool sheep. Can you tell us a bit about the yarn properties from each of these animals?

Virginia: The Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep produce long lustrous ringlets of fiber. The breeds are quite similar and stem from the same long wool lines as the Lester Longwool and Cotswold breeds. What distinguishes their fiber is the silky handle, the intense sheen and the fabulous curl. We are breeding both as we have yet to discern which fiber is superior. If processed in a traditional way, the fiber results in a strong, silky yarn. Worsted yarns have an incredible drape, and a bit of a halo. Hand spinners adore these fleeces as they can be used to create amazing textured art yarns. The longer locks from animals allowed to grow for a longer period are perfect for tailspining. The integrity of the lock is incredibly unique.

Yellowfarm Gunner closeup

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your “yarn locks” art yarn. Can you tell us about the difference between your standard and art yarn?  What are the processes they go through?

Virginia: More traditional yarns start with raw fiber that is then washed, picked (fluffed to open the locks and allow vegetable matter to drop out), carded (or combed), and spun by hand (or commercially at a mill) into strands which are then plied together to form various weights of yarns. This is what you are used to seeing as a skein of yarn. In this form of processing the fibers have been made smooth, and lie next to each other forming a uniform strand.

Yellowfarm locks closeup

Art yarns and textured yarns are hand spun yarns. They allow the spinner to create unique and individual yarns with all varieties of textures and colors using an array of techniques. The yarn may be spun directly from the lock of wool in a way that retains the characteristics of those amazing fibers. It also can be lightly carded with a wide range of add ins that give special texture and glitz to the finished yarn. Each skein is completely individual and a reflection of the spinners imagination and spinning prowess.  A work of art.

From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.
From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: Where else can people buy your yarns and meet with Yellowfarm?

Virginia: I sell online via Etsy, but to be truthful, don’t get a chance to update very often. We are highlighting the luster long wool sheep, the Teeswater in particular, at STITCHES East this fall. NYS Sheep and Wool is the granddaddy of fiber festivals in the East. We bring sheep to show there, and are unable to also man a booth. We always welcome people to come up to the sheep barn and say hello, and see where their fiber comes from!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Virginia!

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!