July stash explosion, courtesy of Robyn Chachula

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been really trying to reduce my yarn stash this year.  But, you also know that I find giveaways very hard to resist – and I’m kinda lucky.

So when I saw this giveaway on Robyn Chachula‘s blog, I had to enter.  In my defense, it wasn’t clear exactly how much yarn would be in each of the five goodie bags Robyn was assembling.  Even after winning, I was blissfully ignorant for the next few days.

And then, this arrived.

That’s a mighty big box you got there.

And when I opened it, this is what I saw.

The Mother Lode.

I may have lost consciousness for a few seconds.  But then I came to and took some more pictures.  Here’s what I found inside the box:

Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk (one skein of Quartz) – I haven’t used this yarn before, but I’m a fan of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton, and Spud & Chloe Sweater is one of my favorite yarns.

Cascade 220 Superwash (one skein of Cordovan) –  Cascade 220 Superwash is one of my favorite yarns for gifts.   I’m hoping to make this skein  into a hat in time for the winter holidays.

Classic Elite Provence (one skein of Gimlet Green) – This looks like it will be a really lush, mercerized cotton.  I don’t have a project in mind for this yet.

Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection Rosebud from Universal Yarn (one skein of Clover) – To me, this skein has my mom written all over it.  I think it may end up as a gift for her eventually.

Filatura di Crosa Tempo from Tahki Stacy Charles (one skein of Mood Indigo) – I really love the colors on this one.  Now to find the perfect project for it…

Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance (one mini skein of Sencha) – I love that this worker owned cooperative sources all of its yarn in the US.  I’m a sucker for alpaca, and this mini skein is just enough for me to swatch with before choosing a great project.

Lion Brand LB Collection Cotton Bamboo (one skein of Magnolia) – I actually have another skein of this yarn in my stash that I bought at Lion Brand Yarn Studio.  The colors would work nicely together.

Red Heart Boutique Eclipse (one skein of Sunset) – I’ve been having a lot of fun with self-striping yarns lately.

Sirdar Click Dk (one skein of Tarn) – This reminds me of a discontinued yarn I worked with about ten years ago – it has a similarly subtle color and soft feel.

Zealana Kia Ora Kiwi (one skein of Aurora Pink) – I’m so intrigued by the possom in this yarn!  Zealana is having a big design contest right now – perhaps this will get my ideas flowing?

Besides the ten (!) skeins of yarn, there were some other goodies in the box.

A signed copy of Robyn’s Baby Blueprint Crochet: Irresistible Projects for Little Ones – Looks like I’ll have plenty of ideas for the next time one of my friends or colleagues is pregnant.

A super cute Craftsy needle measure and gauge ruler – I used this to check gauge on my sock project.

A Crochet Dude crochet hook –  I love Boye hooks, so I’m looking forward to using this one on my next project.

A notions case –  I’ve been using this to store all the goodies for the socks I’m making for the Ravellenic Games.  It is the only one I have long enough to fit the size 1 double pointed needle I’ll be using as a cable needle.

A circular Susan Bates Velocity knitting needle – This looks like just the right size for subway knitting.

 

Thanks, Robyn, for sharing all of these wonderful goodies with me!  It certainly didn’t help with my stashbusting efforts, but I’m thrilled nonetheless.

FO Friday: We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post

Last week, I had a technical problem on my blog and I didn’t get to share two finished projects that I’m pretty excited about.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m the sponsor for Crochetlist‘s June charity challenge.  I’m organizing a collection of pet blankets that will be donated to Bideawee for Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat month.  I’ve sponsored charity challenges on Crochetlist in the past, but this time I wanted to do something extra.  So back in April, I started swatching.  A lot.  My idea was to release an e-book including 30 crochet stitch patterns that work especially well for pet blankets.  (Just in case someone was moved to make one blanket each day during the month.)

Twenty-one wonderful Ravelers tested these patterns during April and May, and I was able to self-publish 30 Purrfect Stitches for Pet Blankets on time.  I’m donating all of the profits (excluding the fees from Craftsy, Etsy, PayPal, and/or Ravelry) to Bideawee, and I’m happy to report that I’ve already raised more than I expected in the first week.  The e-book includes 20 crochet and 10 Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, which can, of course, be used for other types of projects.  If you like crochet stitch guides or are passionate about treating animals humanely, please check it out!

A selection of stitches included in 30 Purrfect Stitches for Pet Blankets.

My other finished project was actually a restart of the cabled knit hat I started designing in March during Knit and Crochet Design Week.

The original.

I wasn’t satisfied with the decreases on this version, so I decided to restart the design by making another version as an eventual holiday gift for my friend, JP, as part of my Holiday Stashdown Challenge.

I really like how this version came out.

My friend is really an “orange person,” so I think she will love it.

It was unseasonably warm (over 90 degrees) on the day I modeled this hat..

The pattern is just finishing up testing, and it will be included in a charity calendar.  It’s the first knitting pattern I’ve written, and I’m excited that my debut is supporting a great cause.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

Vacation yarn haul and LYS review: Philadelphia, PA


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Last week, I took my dream vacation and spent a few days at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA.  The main purpose of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the silence, (wait, what is this?  some kind of retro pop music playlist??), spend some time outdoors, and live an unscheduled life, and what’s more relaxing than a trip to the yarn shop?

I’ve been on a pretty severe yarn diet since December, so I planned to splurge during my trip.  On Tuesday, I decided to spend the day in Philadelphia visiting yarn shops.  I gave myself a budget of $25 per shop.  Since I wanted to spend time outside, I actually walked from shop to shop and back to the train station (about 5 miles, according to Google Maps, plus the mile to and from the train station in Wallingford).  It was one of those days when it alternates between pouring rain and sweltering heat, so I thank all of the shops I visited for allowing my presumably stinky self inside!

How did I develop my list?  First, I stopped by the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters group on Ravelry and looked at their list of Crochet-Friendly LYSs.  Though I now knit also, I want to spend my money where crocheters are respected and appreciated!  Then I got directions from Google Maps and wrote them down on a piece of paper.  (Then, I got lost and ended up using the Hop Stop app on my phone, which actually seemed to provide more concise routes.)

Stop 1: Rosie’s Yarn Cellar

 

Rosie’s Yarn Cellar is a small, quiet shop that’s down a short flight of steps.  The staff are very friendly and helpful, but in a quiet way.  There is a store dog (a pug, if memory serves), who makes some very cute little sounds while trying to kill his toy duck.

The store has a great selection for a shop of its size and a broad range of prices.  I saw yarns for $5 as well as yarns for $30.  The prices seemed the least expensive of all the shops I visited, and were certainly lower than NYC prices.

It took me a while to figure out how this store got its crochet-friendly reputation, but it does have an entire shelf of crochet books, and crochet hooks behind the counter.  I was super amazed that knitting needles are out on display for you to browse and right next to the door.  (You can tell you’re not in New York City!)

My favorite feature of this shop is the little signs by each yarn that tell you the details you would find on the label (e.g., fiber content, suggested gauge and needle size, brand name) as well as the price.  This made for much easier browsing.  For people who like to buy patterns in the shop, there had tons of binders listed by project type.

It was great to see yarns that I haven’t found locally like Araucania, Bijou Basin Ranch, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, and O-Wool.  In the end, I decided on a skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino that was on sale.

The colorway is 126.

I still haven’t decided if I think it is more black or more blue.  I hope it will one day work itself into a project for me – perhaps a pair of socks?  (Sock people, tell me now if this is a good choice or if I should move on to another project idea!)  I’m still dreaming about that Mountain Meadow Wool Mill yarn, but I didn’t want to go over budget by getting two skeins.

I was somewhat bewildered by this sign in the window.

Where do they fit the classes???

Stop 2: Sophie’s Yarns

I decided that my next stop should be furthest from the station and that I would work my way back.  I guess I should have done more research, because after a very long walk, I discovered this shop was closed.  I was surprised because usually Yelp seems to be updated when a shop shuts down, but it was still listed.

Stop 3: Nangellini Gallery

After briefly mumbling to myself, I continued on my journey and went to Nangellini Gallery.

This shop  is in an artsy looking area and has a very funky vibe to it.  When you enter, the first room is more of a gallery space with freeform, funky, artsy wearable projects on display.  I’m embarrassed to say that I had a great picture of this room, but I accidentally saved over it.  (D’oh!)  You can find hooks and needles on a display rack on this floor as well as some notions like shawl pins and stitch markers.

On the upstairs level, you can find yarn as well as some spinning supplies like drop spindles and batts.  The yarn selection completely fits the vibe of the store, and there is a lot of novelty and highly textured yarn, as well as chunky, multicolor yarn.  There is a very small collection of crochet books, but it includes some freeform books that really fit into the store’s theme.  There’s also a section of crochet cotton.

I don’t use novelty yarn or very bulky yarns too often, so for a while I was debating whether I should buy anything.  And then I saw this.

Of course!

I ended up with a skein of Nancy’s Hair by No Two Snowflakes.  I confess I picked it because it was superwash merino and had the most yardage of anything in the local section.

They asked me if I wanted it wound, and I said why not! (I then realized that the folks at Rosie’s Yarn Cellar didn’t ask, but I couldn’t imagine where they would fit a winder anyway.)

I think this will probably end up as a gift for my best friend from high school, CG.  She is an artist and wears a lot of bold colors.  Also, she would actually find the story of how I got the yarn entertaining.  (And, she’s already on my Holiday Stashdown Challenge list.)

The staff at this shop are very friendly in a more conversational way.  While I was in the shop, an older customer came in with a wedding dress her mom had made her in acrylic yarn (insert large number of years) in the past.  Everyone oohed and aahed and I could tell you can get as much attention as you want in this shop.  There are also some comfy chairs in the gallery area.

Stop 4: Loop

Almost there!

By the time I arrived at Loop, I was tired and a bit nervous about catching the train back in time for dinner, so I didn’t browse for as long.

Loop reminded me the most of a New York City yarn shop.  It has a large table in the center (presumably for classes and hanging out) and I was familiar with more brands of yarn being sold in the shop, like Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Malabrigo, and Spud & Chloe.  It was a bit pricier than the other shops as well.

When I saw the display of Addi Swing hooks near the counter, I immediately understood why this shop was labelled crochet-friendly.  And, I gave myself permission to go $13 over budget since I only visited three (instead of four) shops.

It’s always hard to pick a hook size when you are buying just one new hook.  In the end, I decided to go with an I, which is probably what I use most often.

As for the yarn, since a lot of the brands are available at my LYS, Knitty City, I decided to get two skeins of Sheep 2 from the Sheep Shop Yarn Company (now defunct) which were on sale.

The colorway is Brown.

This should match my winter coat, so I see some winter accessories in my future!

Loop also has a rewards program and $5.95 flat rate shipping for web orders.

Do you have a favorite Philadelphia yarn shop?

Knit & Crochet Design Week, Day 1: Choose a stitch pattern and yarn

This post contains affiliate links.

(This post is part of my series for Knit and Crochet Design Week 2012.)

Designing a Simple Knit Beanie: Day 1

(Note to my readers who don’t knit: Even though my Design Week project is a knit, the steps I’ll walk through are common to knitting and crochet, and I’ll be offering up “crochet translations” throughout this series.)

Today’s Design Week theme is sketches.  I’m not much of an illustrator, in spite of the fact that my dad is a fine artist who had me drawing quite a bit as a child.  For that reason, I start very few design projects with sketching.  I usually go to my friends, the stitch guides, first.

(I have many more crochet stitch guides than knitting stitch guides.  You can read my reviews of crochet stitch guides here and here.)

The Yarn

For this project, though, I actually started out by choosing the yarn.

  • I am not sure if I will keep this hat or use it for a gift, so I looked for a machine washable yarn.  (I hate hand washing, but I’ll do it.  I’m not sure I could say the same about my unknown gift-recipient-to-be.)
  • I’m teaching my ongoing knitting class students how to design a beanie in the round using circular needles.  This hat-in-progress will be used for the next few weeks as a sample for this class.  I try not to teach too many techniques at once because people sometimes get overwhelmed.  Since this project isn’t about colorwork, I decided to pick one, solid color.
  • One of my goals is to Surmount the Stash in 2012, so I wanted a yarn from my own stash.  It was important for me not to run out of yarn during the project, so I looked for something close to a full skein.
  • Most of my students use medium weight yarns, so I wanted my yarn to be medium weight, too.

With these criteria in mind, I dug into my yarn stash and came up with this great skein of Spud and Chloe Sweater in Moonlight (7507).  (Side note: Yes, Sweater is one of my favorite yarns, and my design in the upcoming Fresh Designs in crochet (kids) book from Cooperative Press uses Sweater, too.)

Sometimes, I have a clear idea of who the finished project is for, and then I make more of an effort to pick yarn from a specific color family while keeping fiber preferences in mind.

 

The Stitch Patterns

I usually try to pick out at least three stitch patterns for a new project.  A stitch might be more fussy than what I’m looking for on a particular project, or might look weird with the yarn, or maybe is just way more attractive in the stitch guide photo than in real life!

For this project, I looked for stitches that were worked in one color and textured.

After a little browsing, I came up with three potential stitch patterns:

If my primary goal was to sell the pattern, I might also check out the pattern library on Ravelry at this point to see if there is a project of the same type (in this case, a hat) using a similar stitch pattern.  If I see something similar, I might choose a different stitch pattern to make my project more unique.

I know I’m a lazy swatcher, so I also made sure that all three stitches could be worked on the same swatch.

If you don’t have any stitch guides, you should get one.  (Ba dum dum.)  But seriously folks, there are two online resources I use like stitch guides.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my swatch.

 

To read other Day 1 posts from Knit and Crochet Design Week, visit FreshStitches.

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.