Archive | March 2014

That Felt Great!

Wool is not always my favorite fiber: it can be itchy and scratchy, especially against my sensitive skin. But one thing I do love is how it felts! I’ve made a few small felted purses in the past and just love seeing the transformation from the loose, floppy, shapeless piece of knitting into a firm, sturdy piece of felted fabric. I also love that it negates the need for sewing in a lining. I recently found a few books showing felted purses accented with novelty fibers, like fur or eyelash or pompoms, and I liked the contrasting textures. I’d picked up some more books at that huge estate sale, and in one I found my perfect pattern: this adorable Vintage Bubble Bag. And after I got my new shelves set up, and my yarn all organized, I could see that I finally some good possibilities to work with.

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I started with the pinky-purple Cascade 220 because I had two full skeins of it, and I quickly matched it with the multicolor novelty yarn. I knew I didn’t have enough of the Cascade for the bubble bag, so I was toying with the idea of a contrasting band around the top edge. I liked this dark teal Lamb’s Pride, and it matched the teal in the novelty yarn, but I thought it would be too stark a contrast between the pink and the teal. I picked up a different skein of the Lamb’s Pride, a lovely shade called Supreme Purple, and as soon as I set the three together, I knew it was the right combination. I cast on right away, and since I was using two strands and bigger needles, I had the body of the bag done quickly.

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As it laid there, I wasn’t sure I’d done the right thing. It was bigger than I expected, and I wished I’d switched to the purple as soon as I ran out of the novelty yarn. But it was so close to being done, and I figured the felting and shaping process would change it quite a bit anyway. So I knitted the endless 40″ of I-cord for the handles, stitched them on, and the bag was ready for felting.

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In the past, felting had gone quickly and smoothly. Two cycles in the washer with a towel or a pair of jeans, and bam, it was felted. Not this time. The first cycle did nothing, and my washer complained that the load was too small. I added a couple of towels and tried again. The pinky section started felting, but the purple band and handles still had complete stitch definition. I was already using hot water so I had no idea what I could do differently. I tried one more cycle but saw little improvement. It was going to be hand felting for me. I talked to my SIL, consulted my knitting books, and filled up the sink with hot hot water.

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I stirred and rubbed with the spoon, I beat it with the spoon. I rubbed the bag together with my hands, focusing on the purple band that refused to felt. Finally I picked it up, squeezed out some of the excess water, and started throwing it into the other sink. I really heaved it, feeling the sink shudder slightly with the force. I beat the bag against the side of the sink. At one point, I confess I even took it outside and slapped it against the side of the house. Then I did it all again. In a way, it was good therapy, allowing me to vent my frustration at the silly thing for not wanting to felt. Eventually, it got close enough that I was happy, though the purple band never felted completely. I didn’t have anything perfect to shape it with, so I just lined with a plastic bag and stuffed it full of newspaper, adjusting it until the was the shape I wanted, and I left it out to dry.

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By mid-afternoon the next day, I moved it to the sunny windowsill and flipped it to allow the bottom to dry.

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Finally, after almost two full days of drying, the bag was done! I’m so happy with how it turned out. It feels wonderfully Springy to me, and the little bits of blue and teal just pop out of the wool. It’s about 10″ tall and 12″ wide, so it’s great for either a large purse or a good project bag. I added it to my For Sale items on my Facebook page and my Etsy shop, though I’d be happy to carry it myself…especially with my cute little Junie Balloonie flower added!

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Those are just “girl” books, he says

A few days ago I was at Barnes & Noble with my teenage daughter and one of her friends. They had just come from seeing “Divergent” and we met up with the other girl’s parents at the bookstore. We’re all readers, so the conversation veered from the Divergent series to other books. The friend (we’ll call her Tris for this story) brought up a book she wanted to read, the second in a series. Her mom said, “Oh yeah, I remember you telling me about that book.” Her dad glanced at the jacket art featuring stylized colorful swirls and sneered…and Tris put the book back.

The conversation moved to the Hunger Games series, which most of us had read and loved. Tris’s dad then said, with disdain in his voice, “Those books were girl books. They were too much about relationships. The parts about politics were interesting, but there wasn’t enough of that.”

Wow. Now, to be fair, I don’t remember whether he said he read the whole series or just the first one. (Though also to be fair, I’m not sure if that matters. How can you judge what you have not read?) I do remember there being quite a bit about the political issues in the series as a whole. I also remember the love relationship angle being only one small part of a much larger story. But despite the fact that he is overlooking so much meaning in the series, there is more at play that is disturbing to me.

Girls aren’t allowed to be interested in politics? Or is it that he thinks girls aren’t smart enough to understand politics? Tell that to Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Angela Merkel or Condoleeza Rice or Margaret Thatcher or…the list is too long. Does he realize that with his attitude, and his comments, he runs the risk of limiting his daughter? She’s smart, inquisitive, clever, funny–she can probably succeed in any field…unless she starts to believe that only certain things are acceptable for girls.

For that matter, boys have to be interested in politics? They’re not allowed to explore relationships in their reading? Huh. From what I remember of teenage (and young adult, and some adult) boys, their thoughts are consumed much more by relationships than politics. Being a teenager is a hard thing to go through, and I believe that reading about similar people and experiences can truly help a person cope with their struggles. What’s the good in removing that tool from an entire gender?

This wasn’t my first uncomfortable run-in with this guy. A few months ago, I was picking my daughter up from Tris’s house. My daughter and I both crochet and knit, and we were talking about teaching Tris how to do it. The dad scoffed at us, prompting Tris to point out that he used to crochet. “Yeah, I learned how once but then I figured out that it was stupid. Boys don’t crochet.” My 10-year-old son was with me, a boy who was actually learning to crochet. I spoke up and said that actually, they do, that one in particular is quite well-known (Hello there Crochet Dude Drew Emborsky) and he interrupted, “Oh, yeah, okay, one guy, sure.”

It’s truly infuriating. Thankfully, both my kids are enlightened enough that they realize the ludicrousness of what this guy says. I talked to my son about boys crocheting afterward, that actually a lot of guys do crochet and knit (like the fabulous Mad Man Knitting), and he casually said, “Oh yeah, I know.” Likewise, I talked to my daughter after the book incident. I asked her if she likes Tris’s dad, and she said, “Yeah, he’s really nice!” I murmured noncommittally and said I thought what he was saying about “girl books” was actually really sexist. She replied, “Well, yeah,” as if I was telling her something completely obvious…which I was, and I was glad that she recognized that.

I know there’s little I can do to combat attitudes like his. I wish I was better in the moment, to challenge him when he spouts idiocies like those, though it would probably do no good seeing as how I’m “just a girl”. So I’m doing what I can by teaching my kids to embrace what they love, regardless of stereotypes. Don’t close yourself off from creating wondrous things because one person says you can’t. I’m teaching them to respect others in the same way. Be open to what they’re doing, because you might learn something fantastic from them. Even though it’s true that we’re boys and girls, we’re all people. We all have thoughts and emotions and feelings and interests and passions. Life is so much more joyous when you have the freedom to embrace those things that make you who you are, as well as those things that connect you to others.

Where does all the yarn come from?

Today is a busy day so my time is limited, but I was enthused by my local paper this morning and had to share. There was a lovely long feature article about a local fiber artist, Jamie Root, who raises her own sheep for the wool. The article talks a bit about how she readies it for use and turns it into yarn, and then where she takes it. I met Jamie last year at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival and spent quite a bit of time talking to her as she showed me a bit of the process. As a newbie yarner, I was fascinated, and she was so friendly and welcoming. Most of my yarn time is spent on the latter end of the process: buying and using the already-dyed, wound yarns. I’m just now starting to realize how much more there is to the craft–or do I mean art? That’s another discussion for another day! Click here to read the article.

It’s all Twitter’s Fault

I resisted Twitter for a very long time. I couldn’t see the appeal. I did sign up once and immediately some strange guy wanted to follow me, and that creeped me out. But I kept seeing links with fun tweets, and my husband would sit there and read Twitter and laugh and laugh. Finally, it got to be too much. Fine. I’ll join Twitter, dang it.

Well, hey, did you know there are a bunch of yarn people all over the world on Twitter? I found more everywhere I looked, and they were saying and doing really cool things! Then people started commenting on my tweets, and I discovered you could interact with people! Truly a whole new world, to find all those like-minded people.

But it got even better, because I started following other cool people. I’m a reader and a writer, so I found a lot of awesome authors on Twitter and found out most of them are just real people! Sarah Dessen is one of my favorites because she’s very down to earth and funny. I told a few of the authors when I read and loved their books, and got an immediate response. I got brave enough to start commenting on their tweets, and it was such a thrill when they replied. Think how much cooler it was when a few authors I really admire started following me (ME!) on Twitter! (Thanks, Katherine Center and Elin Hilderbrand and Nanny Diaries girls McLaughlin Kraus, you all rock.)

Twitter was my gateway drug, because next was my Facebook business page for bonnyknits which let me find some customers for my yarn treasures. I went from there to Etsy, and though it’s still a trial effort, I’ve enjoyed it. Somehow from there I ended up with this blog, and between all the social media sites, I’ve connected with so many talented, smart, funny, clever people in so many different fields. I can feed all my different interests and not feel like I have to fit into one specific category.

Sometimes a hobby can make you feel isolated, if those around you just don’t understand, and you can’t find your “people”. I’ve found my people online, and I love it. Now if only I could tear myself away from the fun of it all to get back to my knitting.

Happiness is contagious. How many people can you infect?

if you’ve read my previous posts, you know I had a wonderful weekend devoted to yarn and crafting. The resulting energy, as well as all my purchases, encouraged me to reorganize my craft room. I packed up my scrapbooking supplies into the large closet, which let me eliminate one of my folding tables to make room for two shelving units. I was able to take all my stash yarn out of plastic tubs and get it out where I can see it and touch it. I grouped it together by fiber for the most part, though there are a couple of project bags and a “shawl yarn” area.

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The remaining table is my main workspace for when I’m planning projects, packing orders, editing manuscripts, or even working on my own writing. I’ve got my scanner and printer handy, and my head is nearby for when I need to take some photos.

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Here’s my little desk area that houses my laptop, pen collection and gigantic Edward puzzle. Yes, I’m an unapologetic Twilight fan. I hope you’ll respect me anyway. If it helps, next to it is a signed letter from Dean Koontz.

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Finally, I was able to bring up all my yarny books and get them together in one bookcase. Next to them are the tins holding all my buttons, so I can match buttons to yarns. I used some black modular shelving to hold random crafty supplies and my current inventory of finished items.

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I had it set up by Sunday evening, and I was just puttering around in it. It’s a happy room. It’s a welcoming room full of color and imagination. The funny thing is that over an hour or so, my husband and both kids ended up in here with me. No real reason. At first they were just admiring the changes, but then they stayed, and just hung out with me. And the next morning, I was in here working on my computer, and my son wandered in after he got up. He sat in the rolling chair and started looking at the pictures and things I’ve got in here, and he was content to sit quietly in here with me until he got hungry enough for breakfast.

Apparently I have become the peacekeeper. By that, I don’t mean I mediate fights, though of course I do. I mean that I have an abundance of inner peace right now, and I think they’re hoping to absorb some of it. I’m profoundly grateful for the way we have our life set up right now. I’m grateful that I have the time and resources to practice the things that bring me joy. And if I can share my joy with them by sharing my happy craft space, I’m delighted.

 

Stash-mania

That’s it, I don’t need to buy any new yarn for…at least a couple of months! I thought yesterday’s spree at the LYS closeout was good, but today was even better: I went to the estate sale of a hardcore crafter. Based on her house, I don’t think there was a craft she didn’t do. It was awesome. Get this: Her entire finished basement was given over to yarn. There were 6′ tall shelving units lining one side, and tables on the other, covered with plastic tubs full of yarn.

The best part was that it was GOOD yarn. This wasn’t cheap acrylic, or even nice acrylic. This was merino, cotton, alpaca, silk. There was hand-dyed and hand-painted wool. There was Noro and Blue Sky Alpaca and Louisa Harding and Nashua and Tahki and Koigu and Rowan and Classic Elite. There was a ton of Lamb’s Pride which isn’t soft but is fabulous for felting. There was a whole section of novelty yarns that were unusual fabrics and textures. It was sorted by fiber so if you were picky about your yarn, you could just visit “your” section. Of course I had to trawl through the whole darn place. I tell you, it was the closest thing to heaven I’ve experienced…and it was all $2 per ball/skein. I can’t possibly list all the delightful yarns I got, but I’ll show you my favorites.

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This is Blue Sky Alpaca & Silk, a sport weight that’s as light as a feather in my hand. It’s only 140 yards but it should make a graceful lacy scarf for the spring.

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This is the only skein of Malabrigo (For $2!!!) that I found. It’s an old one called Violetas. It’s kettle dyed and 215 yards, and it will make something gorgeous for me. A hat? A cowl? What do you think?

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This was really what made the whole trip worthwhile, and I’m sorry I don’t have a better picture to show it off: this is Classic Elite Inca Alpaca…and there were TEN SKEINS of it! It’s a periwinkle blue, and since alpaca is my favorite yarn in the whole world, I was over the moon and made sure to snatch it all up before anyone else could get any. I now have over 1000 yards of it, and it’s going to be my first knitted cardigan, I believe.

That’s not all, oh no, that’s not all. Did I mention she had a room lined with shelving? Well, now I have some of it, which means I was able to liberate my beautiful stash from the plastic tubs and get it out where I can see it and touch it every day.

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Isn’t it wonderful? I’m so very happy with my craft room right now, and if I weren’t so tired from that last two days, I’d start knitting up a storm. As it is, though, I think I must unwind with a glass of wine…and dream of all the knitting I can start tomorrow.

 

 

Alpaca, merino and silk, oh my!

Today was a craftful day. My husband has been working a lot lately, so he arranged to take the day off, and we used the time to drive up to Weston, MO. Sadly, one of my LYSs is closing soon, so of course I had to take advantage of the sale. And it was a great excuse to visit Weston. It’s a cute little town with about three blocks of unusual, unique, and locally owned shops. There are several quaint gift shops, but also antique shops, a hardware store, an Irish-themed store, an architectural salvage barn, a liquor market, and a jewelry store with a lovely resident dog. Plus it has the Weston Cafe, which we love. It’s not fancy: the chairs are lightweight black metal with the barest padding, the tables aren’t exactly level and covered with plain oilcloth. But the food is good and the service is better. We’ve gone with the kids to Weston maybe once every three months or so. But today our favorite waitress greeted us by asking where the kids were, and she even remembered my regular order. It was a refreshing change from the sterile anonymity of a bigger city.

But anyway, that wasn’t my main goal. My main goal was the yarn. Actually, my main goal was to pick up a mannequin head the owner was holding for me. I’m newer to the knitting business and I’ve found that things photograph and sell better if they’re displayed well. So now I’m the proud owner of a head.

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I love that her neck is long and she’s got a hint of shoulder–I’ll be able to display cowls and scarves on her too!

I really wasn’t going to buy much yarn. (I’ll pause here for fellow yarn enthusiasts to stop laughing.) Seriously, I’d already ordered some from her website, and of course I didn’t *need* more yarn. But she had alpaca for 40% off! Gorgeous baby alpaca. No, I don’t know what it’s going to be. But it’s alpaca. It doesn’t matter.

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Then I touched some Cascade superwash by accident, and was surprised by how soft it was. There were some great colors too. I grabbed three colors, trying to decide between them, and realized how well they went together. I picked a gray for a neutral and I think they’ll become a nifty striped bag.

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I found some splurges too. This sweet green is a mix of mohair, wool and silk so it has a fuzzy halo and a soft touch.

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The colors of this yarn caught me. I loved the deep tones, and when I touched it and felt the silk/merino blend, I was a goner. They’re actually a bit darker than they look in the pictures; they’re Magenta and Teal.

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This last one might be my favorite. It was a lucky find, the last skein in the store, and it happened to be in the 60% off basket. It’s a cashmere/silk blend and it feels as luxurious as you’re imagining. I had no silk before today, and certainly no cashmere, so this skein thrilled me.

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My arms were full, and by then I was waiting by the counter, trying to get out of there before finding more. It didn’t work. Right next to me were two skeins of Cascade Magnum, a fabulous super bulky yarn. One was red and one was this dark, vivid blue, almost a purple blue. Maybe indigo? Not sure. In any case, at 40% off it was coming home with me too.

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You’d think that was enough, but I managed to throw in a pattern book, a couple of bamboo crochet hooks and a packet of cute green buttons before all was said and done. Thank goodness my husband is a crafter too (he plays with wood and tools and makes beautiful furniture, check out his blog here) so he understood the importance of getting high-quality supplies at more-than-reasonable prices. In fact, I would have bought much less if he hadn’t encouraged me to stock up. But I’m tickled with the additions to my stash, and now I’m off to knit!