March 2013

Ron in the hat I knit for him

Ron in the hat I knit for him (and isn’t he cute?)

Ron and I finally got around to celebrating our anniversary the weekend before last, and I knit a simple hat for his gift, but it’s something that’s filled with a lot of meaning for me. Long story short, I was at Stitches West during our anniversary. Ron is so awesome and so completely understands my obsession that he was totally cool with me missing our anniversary, even though I felt a little bad about it. So, with scheduling and other stuff, we couldn’t find the time until just this past weekend.

Honestly, I think we needed to go out and celebrate, because it’s been a rough couple of weeks for us. Ron got in a really bad car accident about two weeks ago. Don’t worry, he’s fine, but we are so very, very lucky. But it’s those kinds of things that make you really consider how much the people in your life mean. And Ron means a lot to me. I trust him implicitly. He is a constant source of love and support for me. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel better when I’m sad and hurting. I’m a lucky girl to have him in my life.

Honestly, Ron is so very, very knitworthy that I’m a little ashamed that this anniversary hat is only the second knitted item I’ve ever made him. I’ve knit him a hat before, but it was a double knit hat in heavy worsted yarn, so it was a little too warm to be truly useful. We live in Southern California, so it’s not terribly cold out most of the time. He deserves so much more knitted stuff, because he is so awesome and supportive and kind and generous. He’s exactly the kind of person who deserves my handknits.

So I searched around Ravelry for a pattern. I’ve found that when knitting for men, it’s best to keep the patterning simple, so I chose this pattern: The Man Hat. It’s a simple garter rib hat and I finished it pretty easily.

I did have to do some messing with the gauge. The pattern called for a bulky weight yarn, and the yarn I wanted to use (Skacel Divine) was more of a light worsted or a dk yarn. Plus, it was really drapey, so I ended up going down to size 4 needles and casting on a bunch more stitches than called for in the pattern and doing extra decreases at the crown. Simple patterns like this are pretty easy to modify. If you’re new to changing gauges and doing math as a knitter, I recommend starting with a pattern like this, where the math isn’t too difficult and the patterning and shaping is easy.

Bay Arcade Neon Sign in Balboa

This is the sign of the arcade where we spent the afternoon

And yes, our anniversary was wonderful. We went down to the Balboa Fun Zone and rode the Ferris Wheel and played games in silly run down arcades. We bought Pixie Sticks and plastic dinosaurs with our ticket winnings from Skee Ball, because we are awesome. Then we ate seafood at The Cannery, which is a restaurant I just love. And Ron helped me take some pictures of some of the really cool old signs in the neighborhood. He’s a much better photographer than I am, and he’s really patient with me when he teaches me.

I feel so glad to be able create for people I love, even if it’s just knitting a simple hat for them. It’s my way of saying “I love you. I think you are worth my time and my effort. I’m glad you’re in my life.” Sometimes saying those words feels inadequate or difficult. For me, knitting is sometimes the best way I can express it.

Craftcation Goal Board

I have more than one goal on this board.

I just returned from the absolutely amazing Craftcation Conference, a conference geared towards owners of small craft businesses. It’s really amazing and inspiring. I went last year and it was fantastic, and this year was even better. The conference is full of the most inspiring, genuine, and generous people who are so willing to share their expertise. The teachers are fantastic, but I also learned so much just from getting to talk to other attendees.

I sometimes get really shy about networking and talking about what I do and what I want to do. Last year, I think I had a lot of trouble networking. I came out of Craftcation feeling really energized, but not really focused, and without anyone to reach out to for help. This year, however, I really pushed myself, and consequently, I got so much more out of it! I learned so much, both about running a craft business and crafting in general.

1. I learned how to make a needle-felted sheep. I remembered that I really like needle-felting, and I should do it more.

A needle-felted sheep from Craftcation

Cuteness abounded in the needle-felting class with Angharad Jones.

2. I learned how to sew a polka dot clutch bag, with a lining and a zipper!

Polka Dot Clutch Bag from Craftcation

I love this aesthetic. Thanks, Mimi G!

3. I learned that I can’t sew jersey. Yet. (That was a challenging class for me. I’m now determined to work on it.)

This was supposed to be a shirt

Despite the best efforts of Nicole Blum and helpers from Bernina, I could not get the hang of this.

4. In that same disastrous sewing class, I learned that rotary cutters are sharp! (No picture here, because you don’t really want to see my cut, right? But don’t worry, there’s no permanent damage.)

5. I learned that thyme is actually an excellent flavoring in ice cream.

Eggs and Thyme really do make good ice cream!  I promise.  Craftcation taught me so!

Ingredients from my ice cream class with Nicole Stevenson and Seth Stanton.

6. I learned so much about SEO, wordpress, branding, pattern-writing, next business steps to take, and publishing, you would not believe it. I attended several classes about running a craft business, and they were great. I feel much more focused and less stupid than last year.

Notes from Craftcation

I took these notes in one of Sé Reed’s classes. I also got lots more great information in classes and panels with Tiffany Han, Steph Calvert, Melanie Falick, Kari Chapin, Kayte Terry, Lisa Tauber, Megan Anderson (Radmegan), Rosalie Gale, Cathy Callahan, Anne Kuo Likito, and Sarah James.

7. I learned that a run on the beach is a really awesome end to the day.

The view at Craftcation is amazing!

This was my view like all the time!

8. I learned that embracing my weird is the best way to be happy. People think I’m funny and smart and that I have good ideas, just the way I am. Right now. This is really hard for me, because I have spent so much time around toxic, toxic people who delighted in being awful to me. In fact part of the reason I started this blog was to help me remember what I love and what makes me happy.

I’m so very, very excited about the coming year. Things are afoot. I know what makes me happy and now I just need to pursue it with all of my heart. But I’m going to set aside a portion of time every day to work on my craft, my business, and what makes me happy.

And, to be honest, you should to. What makes you happy? What do you wish you had more time for? Will you commit to spending some time being happy, doing what you love, every day? Tell me in the comments!

This is a catch-all post, wherein I will (finally!) tie up all the Liebster Award loose ends and share some good news.

So it took a couple of weeks, but I finally have my Liebster nominees! They are just a sampling of the small blogs I read, but all three of them are bloggers I appreciate and enjoy immensely. Go check them out!

In no particular order, I nominate

1. Jasmin of Better Than Yarn
2. Meg of Knit+Frills+Food=Love
3. Caitlin of All She Wants to Do Is Knit

Each blogger must post 11 random facts about themselves, nominate three to five other non-mainstream blogs that they appreciate, and they must respond to the following eleven questions (I use must here loosely. They must if they want to play and keep the recognition chain going):

1. What is your absolute favorite thing you’ve ever created?
2. Chocolate or vanilla?
3. Describe your ideal day.
4. What inspires you most?
5. How do you de-stress?
6. If you could give advice to yourself ten years ago, what would you say?
7. Which weight of yarn is your favorite?
8. What do you wish you could do that you currently can’t do?
9. What are your top five favorite movies?
10. What is your favorite kind of cake?
11. If you had to commit to one knitwear designer and could only knit his or her patterns for the rest of your life (no patterns designed by anyone else, EVER), which one would you pick?

And now, to finish up my Liebster experience, here are eleven random facts about me:

1. I love the ocean. If given my choice, I will never live more than an hour away from the ocean.
2. I always thought I hated running until I learned how to breathe properly. I learned to use my singer training to breathe when I run, and I’m a little ashamed that it took me nearly thirty years of life to figure it out.
3. Speaking of thirty, I am alternately kind of freaking out about and completely apathetic about my upcoming thirtieth birthday.
4. I really, really, really miss being in school. I particularly miss literature classes; I love reading books and discussing them.
5. I don’t wear jewelry or makeup, except my teeny nose stud. (I do wear makeup on stage).
6. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
7. I want to dye my hair pink or black and cherry red. Alas, my job precludes me having cool hair.
8. When I was eleven, I first read the book Contact and it had an inordinate influence on me. I still dream about going back to school to study astronomy. I have a biochemistry degree, so it’s not like it’s a huge career change. I had a subscription to Odyssey Magazine and an itty bitty telescope, that’s how much I loved space back then.
9. Sometimes I really miss the 90’s. I relive them by wearing skirts with Doc Martens.
10. I make awesome polenta. (Also, apparently Firefox spell check does not recognize “polenta” as a word).
11. I love good world building in a video game or science fiction/fantasy series. I will forgive a lot of issues with gameplay, plotting, or characterization if things are taking place in a world that I find fascinating. (I’m a geek and I won’t apologize.)

And finally, a quick tidbit of good news. My Celestarium was chosen to be featured in the Twist Collective March 2013 Newsletter. (Mine is number one in the collage of pictures). It makes me feel really good to be appreciated.

Okay, the marketplace at Stitches West is just as crazy and overwhelming as everyone says. There were fourteen aisles of booths, crammed full of yarns and fibers and notions and project bags. I worked very hard and stayed on budget, but I still got some lovely stuff. And a list of other places to look at later when I have more need for yarn. I recommend that you check out any and all of these yarns that I list here, because they are all totally gorgeous.

Lambie Toes: I’ll Be in My Bunk by Dizzy Blonde Yarns

I got some of this lovely sock yarn by Dizzy Blonde Yarns. It’s 75%/25% Superwash Merino/Nylon Blend. The colorway is “I’ll Be in My Bunk” (so yes, it is inspired by Firefly. I also got one of Laura’s patterns, Zoe, a headband and mitts, also inspired by Firefly. The yarn is quite springy and pretty and I’m a big fan. I think I may have found my yarn to make one of the patterns from my February Cookie A Yarn Club Shipment.

Taffy in Colorways Cotton Candy (pink) and Icing (blue) by Delicious Yarns

Delicious Yarns (which had an adorable booth set up like a bakery) had lovely yarns. I got two skeins of Taffy (their fingering weight). It’s 100% superwash merino. It’s a rather loosely spun two-ply, so I’ll probably use it for shawls instead of socks.

Cashmere in Winter White from Stitchsisterz

Stitchsisterz had 1000 yard balls of 100% cashmere laceweight for $25, which is a steal. I have to find the perfect shawl pattern for it.

Floating in Cafe Au Lait (cream) and Transnation Fury (coral) and Romi Hill project bag from A Verb for Keeping Warm

I bought the kit for the Romi Hill Mystery Shawl from A Verb For Keeping Warm. The yarn is Floating, an Alpaca/Silk/Cashmere blend in Fingering Weight. The kit also came with a project bag, the first clue for the shawl, and one of Romi’s shawl pins. I have been wanting some of this yarn for a while and I really, really like it. And I love Romi’s shawl designs, so I’m really excited to do this.

Aspen Sock in Morning Tea (left) and Twinkle Sock in North Sea (right)

I got some sock yarns from Western Sky Knits. The Aspen Sock is an 80/20 Superwash Merino/Nylon blend and the Twinkle is Superwash Merino, Nylon, and Stellina (so it sparkles!).

Skinny Bugga! in Pink Cardium

I finally got some Skinny Bugga! from Cephalopod Yarns. I’ve heard so much about this yarn, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get some. I’m really excited to be able to work with it. It’s a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend. I had trouble choosing my yarn at their booth because they had so many wonderful colors (this was actually a theme at more than one booth I visit).

Socks that Rock Lightweight in Freudian Slip

I was able to get another yarn I’ve heard a lot about, Socks that Rock from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I got the colorway Freudian Slip. The yarn is 100% Superwash Merino.

Ballerina Laceweight in the Plum Pudding Colorway from Fiesta Yarns

Fiesta Yarns was selling some of their yarns for a large discount, so I picked up a skein of the Ballerina laceweight. It’s an alpaca/tencel blend. It’s just lovely.

Yarn Place Gentle Lace Yarn

I got some Gentle laceweight (a merino/cashmere blend) and the pattern to make Lyra from The Yarn Place. I’ve been wanting to make a Niebling pattern for a while, so I was really glad to get the pattern and yarn for this one.

Bridge of Roses Kit from Knitter’s Brewing Company. (Sockaholic Sock Yarn in Tip Jar and mini skeins in pink and green)

Knitter’s Brewing Company had kits to make the Bridge of Roses socks, so I picked up one of those. They’re such cute socks, and I’m a sucker for complicated socks. Even though no one ever sees them, it just makes me happy to know they’re on my feet.

Valley Yarns Northampton Sport in Dark Green Heather

There was an amazing deal on Valley Yarns Northampton Sport at the Webs Booth. I was able to get an entire sweater’s worth of yarn for less than fifty dollars. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a Gnarled Oak Cardigan.


Mini Mochi in Babyface colorway

I got a Zauberball and some Mini Mochi from the Yarn Barn of Kansas. They were really nice there; even though they were really busy, they held some books for me (I also picked up a copy of Heirloom Knitting Little Red in the City) and answered all my questions.

In addition to all the places I bought yarn from, I made a list of other companies I loved, that I will definitely buy from in the future: Miss Babs, Anzula Yarns, Oink Pigments, Wild Orchid Fiber Arts, RedFish DyeWorks, Becoming Art Yarns, Neighborhood Fiber Company, Lisa Souza, Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, and Faerie Mountain Fibers. And honestly, I’m probably forgetting some, because the Stitches Marketplace is so huge and everyone in it is so wonderful. The vendors I listed are just the ones that stuck in my head amidst all of the beauty.

If you ever can get to a Stitches event, I really recommend it. I already covered how amazing my classes were, but even without going to classes, the ten or fifteen dollars to get into the marketplace is worth it. I got exposed to all kinds of yarns I’d never seen before. Even the ones I didn’t buy really inspired me, and I have a lot of ideas for new projects.

You know when you go on vacation and you come back to work and you have so much work to do that you almost regret going on vacation? That’s kind of been my week, which is why I’m only just getting to this update now. Except that, no matter how hard it was to play catch up at work, I don’t regret going to Stitches West one bit. It was amazing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long entry.

I woke up at early o’clock on Wednesday morning and drove up to my parents’ house. They live about roughly two hours away from Santa Clara, so I thought it would be nice to see them (and my adorable little nephew) for a day. The drive up got a little scary, as I encountered snow. It was dark and windy and I drove over a mountain in a snowstorm, in a car that does not have snow tires. They actually closed the pass about a half hour after I got on it, so I was lucky to make it over. It was a long, slow crawl up the mountain, and we were frequently stopped completely. (That’s how I got this picture).

This is not a common sight where I live.

After that, it was smooth driving, and I had a lovely, quiet day at home with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters and my adorable little nephew.

Thursday morning, I again woke up early, had breakfast with my parents and drove to Stitches West. I was really excited. I checked in and took my first class, which was about creating bust darts with short rows, with Lily Chin. My mind was completely blown. She gave us really accessible math to figure out when to do darts and how much of a dart to do. It was amazing, and I am so excited to make a sweater that will fit like a dream. Also, Lily Chin is a kick and a half. She’s funny, gives a ton of information, but makes everything so understandable. I definitely recommend taking a class with her.

The other great thing about that class was I got to meet Jasmin and Gigi of the Knitmore Girls Podcast and Miss Kalendar of the Brass Needles Podcast. I am a huge fan of both of these podcasts, and it was really lovely to get to meet all of them. And Jasmin’s little girl is just as adorable in person as in her photos.

After class on Thursday was the Market preview. As this was my first time at Stitches West, I had heard about the Market, but never seen it. Everything everyone said was true–it’s amazing and huge and overwhelming. I had serious sensory overload. But boy did I find some lovely, lovely things. I could have easily spent five times what I spent, but I’m proud that I stayed on budget all weekend. (Of course I wrote down all sorts of other places to check out later, even if I hadn’t bought their stuff. Which just means I’ll spend more money on yarn later.) Then I went home and collapsed, exhausted.

Friday morning I had a class on Techniques for Beautifully Finished Sweaters. It was an all right class, but a lot of it was things I already knew how to do. I think I misunderstood what the class was when I registered. I would definitely recommend it to someone who did not know how to do tubular cast on and cast off or duplicate stitch, but I really didn’t learn much new. I really should have read the catalog more carefully. The teacher was good and the information was solid, it was just not new to me. I hung around the marketplace a bit after that, but then I went back to my hotel room to decompress for the rest of the day. I was getting some serious sensory overload happening and I just needed to settle.

Friday night I headed out for the pajama party. It was a lot of fun, with games and food and prizes. I hung out with Laura of Dizzy Blonde Yarns, and she and I may have cooked up some great mischief. More on that later. I also won two prizes–a skein of some lovely soft Cascade Pacific Yarn and a hat pattern for participating in hangman, and a skein of gorgeous lace yarn from Shaky K Fibers in a stunning bright blue. I won that one for getting up and singing a knitting parody song, which I made up on the fly. (This was a weekend of forcing myself out of my comfort zone–between that and actually talking to people I met, I think I did a good job).

The spoils of the night!

Saturday I had two classes. In the morning I learned how to line knit items with silk lining fabric. The class was not with Jean Frost of lined knit jacket fame, but was instead with someone who had test knit for her book, Gwen Bortner. We learned the lining techniques that Jean Frost uses, and made a lined glasses case. So theoretically, I now know how to line a jacket. But it would take about a million years, because my hand-sewing leaves much be desired. I’m still really excited about the whole thing, and definitely ready to play around with the technique to get better.

The inside of my glasses case. Proof that I need to work on my hand sewing.

In the afternoon, I learned how to play with traveling stitches with Cookie A. I love Cookie A’s patterns so much and I’ve knit several of her socks. It was really great to have her break down the math and charting behind designing ribs and cables that travel (as opposed to just being a vertical column). It also helps because I have a design I’ve been kicking around in my brain and her techniques might just make it work.

That evening, I decided to take myself out to dinner, instead of just eating the fruits and veggies I had in my hotel room. I wore my Celestarium shawl (I’d been wearing my knitwear all week because that’s what you do at Stitches), and went out to a restaurant. As I was leaving, some women ran after me to ask about my shawl. It turned out that one of them was the designer, Audry Nicklin. She took a picture of me and posted it in her blog. We had a really nice chat about designing and photography, and it was so great to meet her.

Sunday morning, I bid Stitches West a bittersweet goodbye. First I had a class on sweater finishing with Leslye Solomon (the link is to her store), which was fantastic. I feel a lot more confident in my seaming, which is part of knitting I’ve never enjoyed or felt particularly good at. Then I hung around the marketplace and waited for them to do the grand prize drawing. I didn’t win, which was too bad, because I really could have had some fun with $750 cash in the marketplace. Oh well. Then it was a long and exhausting drive home. I got home exhausted, overwhelmed, my brain crammed full of knitting knowledge, and ready to do it again next year!

Stay tuned for the obligatory this-is-the-amazing-yarn-I-bought post and my much delayed Liebster Award nominations (finally!).