Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Do you ever feel a need to Organize All The Things?

I am often prone to organization binges in the winter months. Being inside, actually living in your own space has a way of forcing you to notice that things are not as they should be. Craft supply storage, in particular, is a tricky topic. I have two basic desires for my supply storage: everything should have a place that a) makes sense (ie, not too big or too small, sorted in a meaningful way, etc) and b) is instantly and easily accessible when inspiration strikes or I 'need' something. Bonus points if this storage solution also looks good. Basically, I want everything at finger's reach and put away (stylishly) at the same time.

During the Christmas break I set out to tackle a few of my organizational challenges, starting (of course!) with the knitting.

Needle organization

A long time ago, in a town far far away, I knit everything on straight needles. That's how you *do* knitting, right? Not so much anymore - after graduating to 'obsessed knitter' about 3 years ago, I have gradually converted to solely using circular needles for everything. My DPN's and straights are just gathering dust at this point. Before that graduation, I made a very nice roll-up case for my straight & DPN needles. But, I soon found that trying to squeeze circulars into the same case didn't work at all. They had to be squeezed in, which bent the cables horribly out of shape, and there was no way to sensibly store interchangeable components. A better solution was in order.

So I did what any knitter would do in this situation, and turned to The Internet for inspiration. The Internet said that pocket page protectors, in the proper size, could house both circulars and interchangeables side by side in an organized little booklet. Perfect! This is what I came up with:

These are Avery 5"x8" page protectors, housed in a 1" mini binder. I found that the cardstock had to be cut slightly smaller than 5x8 to fit inside.

Each needle I currently own has a designated spot, which is fully labelled. I can add and remove needles at will and always keep things sorted by size.

Unfortunately, as I probably could have anticipated, needles (particularly the larger sizes) are thicker than paper. All of my needles can't fit in one binder, so I tied yarn through the loops of the leftovers to keep them together for now. Eventually I just need to purchase a second binder.

Bagging WIPs

As mentioned previously I have a lot of hibernating WIPs at the moment. I decided to stop fighting and accept that they are what they are, so I bagged, tagged, and tossed them all in a bin.

Now when I walk by the WIPs basket, I can be instantly chastised by the number of bags in there, and when my needles free up I can grab a bag and instantly know where to pick things up. Already this week I've pulled 2 items out of hibernation zone and moved them up to the 'currently-in-progress' basket in the living room. Progress is being made!

Stash to Ravelry

While I was on my organization kick I figured I might as well put my stash all in Ravelry. In general I try to have a pretty small stash, with projects picked out for each yarn, so I've never bothered with it before. Nowadays, though, I find myself with a lot of ends and one-offs that aren't allocated to anything. And, with hanks and balls of yarns in various stages of winding, things that *do* have a plan could still benefit from tracking.

I recently inherited my mom's old iPhone to use as an iPod Touch. (I'm still hanging on to my flip phone for actually calling people.) There are several Ravelry apps available for iDevices. The one I've found most useful so far is Yarma, which allows you to take photos with the iPhone camera, retouch them with a few Instagram-like effects, and upload to your stash or project pages. However, you can only upload photos to existing projects or stash entries. Thus, my process was not as streamlined as I'd have liked - I had to first go on my computer and make new stash entries for each yarn, and only once that was completed could I photograph them with Yarma and put them away. It was definitely faster than breaking out the real camera, though.

Here's my stash page (or at least most of it), as of this writing:

I actually have some updating to do, because of the last item I'm going to talk about...

Scrap hats

As I was uploading stash to Ravelry, inspiration struck - one of my favorite knitted creations is Andrew's winter hat, which was made with (at least) 5 different yarns, held tripled throughout.

Fast, easy, rugged, and visually interesting without a lot of work - perfect attributes for a good winter hat. To top things off, what better way to 'organize' my loose odds and ends than by using them up and turning them into useful, giftable accessories? I assembled yarn groupings and got to work:

I made 3, each in the course of about 1 day, before I finally tired of the exercise. The third one - with the blue/white/black stripes - has my very own first-homespun in it (!!!), so I'm keeping that one, but the other two I decided to gift to whoever was next in my home and in need of a hat.

Scrap hat 1 went to my niece:

and Scrap Hat 2 went to my brother-in-law:

Both of them have been wearing the hats non-stop, so I'd say they're being put to good use. And they got a pretty decent chunk of scraps OUT of my scrap bin. Win-win! Did you know that knitting could be considered cleaning? Dangerous idea, that.


It's my birthday today. My sister-in-law sent me this Amazing, Awesome video - check it out! I promise you'll be astounded. 

I updated my Blogger template. Is it better? I think it's headed in the right direction, but it's definitely not there yet. If anyone wants to design me a sweet logo I can provide knitwear, spinning supplies, sewing materials, etc for you to photograph in stunning, artistic ways...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christmas Crafting FO's: Final Edition!

Hey everyone! It's been a while...but, it is now time for the final installment of my Christmas crafting Finished Object posts. First we had jewelry-making, then knitting, and now: sewing!

Balsam Fir Sachets

From a pile of scraps...

To neatly pinked edges...

To round, softly turned corners...

To a finished sachet!

Each of the women in my family got one of these along with their Christmas gift this year, as did a few of my closest friends. Last year, I wrote out some nice little tags along with each handmade item, explaining the materials used and how to care for it. I didn't get around to doing that this year, so I'll tell their story here:

The balsam fir inside these sachets came from Mount Washington, which Andrew and I drove up on our honeymoon. It was a crazy ride - I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area, as long as you're not squeamish about steep, narrow, winding roads with insane drop-offs to the side. I am quite fortunate, because Andrew is unafraid of any of that and is a very skilled driver. It was 80* F at sea level that day (it was the end of August), and I had no idea how truly cold it would be at the top. I think it might have been 50* or something like that.

Trying not to grimace because it's COLD!

We spent some time investigating all of the buildings at the summit - there's the old original structure from the mid 1800's, newer structures built in the 1900's, a weather observatory, a giant cafeteria (serving workers, hikers, and drivers alike), and of course a gift shop. I decided to purchase a large bag of Balsam Fir (which grows on the summit) to commemorate the trip, and kept it in storage for several years before finally settling on a usage for it.

This summer, Andrew and I headed to another classic New England locale, Acadia National Park. For some reason we've yet to edit our photos from the trip and post them online - we had some spectacular weather and really enjoyed our time there. The park produces guide maps for tourists, highlighting places of note to visit. I was surprised to see a few of craft/knitting shops on their list! Andrew was very accommodating and we trekked out to see two of them. Unfortunately only 1 was open when we stopped by. I was really sad about the closed one - it was a knitting / CANDY shop, like real old-fashioned penny-candy in a jar Candy Shoppe. (The name is Bee's Inc; please do visit and let me know how it is if you're ever in the area!) We were able to stop in to a small quilting & knitting shop on the quiet side of the island. Google doesn't list it, but the name is "Quilt'n'Fabric" and it's located on Seal Cove Road in Southwest Harbor.

When I visit independent craft supply stores, I like to ask if they have anything exclusive to that location - locally dyed or spun yarn, custom fabrics, etc. The proprietor happily showed me a few things, and I settled on a yard of "Blueberries My Way Too" fabric, custom designed & printed in Maine by Jolene Harmon. Finally I had all the supplies I needed to produce something special.

Assembling these was a very simple process. I cut out rectangles of fabric and muslin, thinking that a double layer would a) preserve the whiteness of the background and b) keep the fir needles from poking out. I then folded them along one side and sewed around, leaving an opening to stuff them. A small funnel and the knitting needle in this picture were instrumental in getting the fir inside - if you attempt to make any similar sachets, I recommend leaving more than a 1" opening. I experimented with using the sewing machine to close the gap at the end, but I didn't like the result so I opted to hand-stitch instead. All in all I made 10 of these, and it only used half of my stuffing and fabric. 

Leather Needle-Book

Last but certainly not least, I made a leather monogrammed needle-book for my sister-in-law. She is a veritable cross-stitching fiend (I mean that endearingly, of course!) and does some really beautiful work. I thought she should have some beautiful tools to go with it!

I used a bit of leather leftover from my sister's moccasin-making phase, and painted a T on the front using a mixture of black fabric paint and bronze Martha Stewart glaze. It's a little sparkly, but not too shiny.

Inside, there is one piece of black wool felt, cut to be just smaller than the cover. Embroidery needles can be stored by poking them through the felt. The wool is nice and thick and grippy, so things should stay secure. I used my XActo knife to poke holes in the leather, and sewed the felt to the cover like an old-school book binding. Unfortunately it was pretty dark when I took these pictures, and my photos of the interior didn't turn out so can imagine what it looks like :-)

For the closure, I decided to try cutting a loop of leather contiguously with the back cover, just large enough to fit over the button. It looks nice and functions well, but I'm a little nervous that it will wear out in time. If it ever does, I can easily cut it off and run a loop of cording through the back cover instead. I was especially pleased with the owl button I found - I think it adds just the right touch.


That's it! I had a lot of fun this year trying to come up with some simpler homemade gifts, and I'm very happy with the outcome. It was good to have a balance between knitted, sewed, and other kinds of projects to work on throughout the fall and winter. 

Blogging thoughts

I debated apologizing for the lack of posts recently. I haven't really set a posting schedule, but I started out strong with the Wednesday and Friday posts at first, and I'm very good at pressuring myself even if there is no outward pressure to be had. At this stage, I think it's important for me to keep writing, and disregard the 'featured' days. One bad tendency I'm trying to overcome is the feeling that if I want a post to go live on Wednesday, that means I can write it on Wednesday. That just doesn't work. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to pull together a whole post, what with deciding what I want to say, getting photos arranged, pulling together links, formatting, etc, and if I really want a post to go live on a certain day, I need to treat it like an assignment and begin the work before the posting date. On the other hand, I often over-think things and make posts take longer than they need. For instance last Wednesday's post was very quick to write, and I was pretty happy with the story I was able to tell. 

This morning I woke up early, bursting with post ideas - so I took a proactive step and wrote them all down. Hopefully I can figure out some balance - this is pretty new for me, after all! If you're reading this, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you can fit in some time to craft this weekend.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WAYM Wednesday: Musings

Just a quick dispatch from me today, folks. I'm settling back into my regular work schedule after a nice break over the holidays, and remembering things like traffic, and packing lunches, and car troubles that lead to late days, meetings and the emails before and after, and the simple math that getting home at 6 with no plan for dinner and ingredients that are either frozen or nonexistent adds up to a much later evening (and less knitting time) than I desire. Time to actually plan my grocery trips again. I can't complain, though - I am employed, doing engaging work, and if a car breaks down that's ok because we have two, and tonight, while not as planned, has turned into a fine evening.

We went out to eat and had our fill of bready goodness:

Then went to the library, where I picked up my reserved copy of Clara Parkes' "The Knitter's Book of Socks", which I am now enjoying with a hot cup of tea and some knitting: 

And now I am reclaiming my evening by writing only a short post (from an iDevice, no less, since I left my laptop at work. Tonight, I am making time to relax and unwind. 

A few links for you to check out:

The Knitting Sarah is hosting a year-long sock knitting party. The goal is to fit socks into our daily knitting lives. Intriguing, but as I've yet to knit a single pair for myself I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I'll be watching with interest, though!

A lot of folks on Social Media are embarking on a Year of Making. Make something every day, post a photo. Again intriguing, but I feel like the only effect it would have on me us to force me to Instagram daily. I'm not sure if that's useful. Also, Kim Werker is cool. You should check her out. 

Happy crafting, everyone! What are you making?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas Crafting FOs, Pt 2

Hello again! As a change of pace, I'm going to share some finished objects with you on a day that is NOT Friday. I think I want to move away from doing too many day-of-the-week scheduled posts - better to write when I have something to say, and publish when its done.

On this lovely weekend, we are experiencing the lowest temperatures I've ever felt as part of the latest blizzard. It was 0* F on Thursday night. NO DEGREES. Last night (Friday), the low dipped to -1* F. I'm glad I have lots of wooly knitwear to keep me warm!

Last Friday I shared the jewelry-making Christmas crafts I gifted this year. Today, it's time to share the knits. Last year I attempted to knit something for each member of my family (counting in-laws), and closest friends. I got close but ran out of steam, so a few people got switched to sewn gifts instead to give my hands a rest. So this year, trying to keep things much lower key, I thought I'd knit just for those who didn't get something knitted last year. Now, I can be sure that all of my loved ones have a handknit of some kind to snuggle up with on cold days like these. Here they are!

Brambles Beret

Check out that stitch definition!

This is the Brambles Beret, from Knitty Deep Fall 2010 (Funny, I just realized that the first sweater I knit came from the same issue. I guess it was a good one!), knit for my lovely mother-in-law. Among other things, she is the only one on that side of the family who doesn't make fun of my knitting, at all, even in jest. Earlier in the year she had hinted that she didn't have any hats, so if I ever felt like knitting one, she would love it. I thought she was deserving of a really special hat. I hope she is able to put it to good use!

This was fun and quick to knit. I decided to splurge and bought some Malabrigo Rios (color "Bobby Blue"), and it is every bit as delicious as people say it is. The dye job is spectacular - absolutely no pooling, a true kettle-dye effect. Beautiful! The Rios base is quite squishy, as well, which made it a joy to knit with. I would LOVE to make a whole sweater out of this, but I think the price tag might kill me. If you have any accessories or baby patterns in you queue, I highly recommend this yarn. Did I mention it's machine washable?

Full details on my project page here.

Felicity Mitts take #3

There is a funny story behind these mitts. Felicity is a free pattern, and I made a pair for myself out of some Cascade Heritage Silk Paints while on a business trip (great travel knitting project). The pattern as written is lacy and feminine:

Well, I finished my pair, and wore them over to my parent's house. My brother Max (he's in high school) looked at them, asked if he could try them on, and, being a Really Cool Guy, began mocking "oooohh, so pretty!" and flouncing around the room. At least, that's what he intended to do. But once he got one on his hand, he suddenly turned serious and said "oh - these are actually really nice. These would be so useful! I like that my fingers are free and they're still warm! Could you make me some?" Total change of tune. So I took out the lace, added a colorwork pattern, and made him a pair for his birthday.

My brother loves them. Success! But then, my husband's youngest brother @theActualDaleFishman, guest blogger extraordinaire, saw these mitts, and started not-quite-hinting that he wanted some too. "Hey, Amanda, you know those gloves you made for Max...well, for Christmas...if you wanted to make me some...*wink wink*..." This started in May and continued for the whole rest of the year. Not all that subtle. So of course I had to make him some, and they were a huge hit as well. I don't think he's taken them off since Christmas.

Now the only question is, who's next?

Yak Hat

My husband has an unusual fascination with various odd and interesting creatures: blue whales, turkeys, cephalopods, llamas & alpacas... he gets the propensity for it it from his father. My father-in-law's favorite creature is the beaver: nature's engineer. To help explain the level of obsession, here's a photo of part of Al's beaver collection:

Don't forget the tastefully arranged nature scene, including a real piece of beaver-chewed wood!

Here's MMB (Micro-Muffiny Beaver) modeling my and Andrew's wedding bands, which Al made for us to match my engagement ring:

Some people like to say that they obsess over something, but these two take things seriously.

Anyway, Andrew and his dad started getting into yaks some time this year. I'm not sure where it started, but it turned into a Really Big Deal. Like, "I wonder if we could actually own a yak and keep it in our yard?" (asked in all seriousness by both of them). Apparently they make great companion animals, if you start them young. They're loyal and friendly, and can even be good with children. Plus, how cool would it be to be able to say "Yeah, I have a pet Yak"? I got to go to Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool festival this year, saw Bijou Basin Ranch - purveyors of fine Tibetan Yak products - on their vendor list, and put two and two together: I had to make my father-in-law a yak hat. So I snagged some Tibetan Dream (85% yak down, 15% nylon for strength) at the festival and got to work.

I couldn't find any good-looking hat patterns for this weight of yarn that weren't girly or weird, so I made one up. The brim is worked side-to-side in a smocked pattern, then grafted shut, and stitches are picked up from the brim to make the crown. It is pleasantly smooshy and nice and thick around the ears. The yak yarn knitted and blocked quite nicely, but the real treat was when I put it on for the first time. This stuff is WARM. It had better be, if it keeps yaks insulated against Tibetan winters!

Here's my father-in-law, braving our single-digit temperatures yesterday morning:

I laugh at the cold!

Raveled here.

Riconada Mitts

Finally, I knew I wanted to knit for my other brother-in-law, Charlie. This presented a bit of a challenge, because while he does hunt and do all sorts of outdoorsy things, he is also an accountant and a bit of a snappy dresser. I like versatility, so I wanted to find something I could make that would fit in both worlds. I also had more yak yarn left over from the hat, and wanted to use it for him. Thankfully, one of the very few patterns in the Ravelry database that actually call for Tibetan Dream was perfect for the job: the Riconada Mitts.

(Sorry the photo is so high-contrast; I'm still getting the hang of my camera & editing tools). I'm quite happy with how these turned out! They are very warm, and I think they do walk the line between classy and utilitarian/useful. The combination of yak and merino/silk is very warm, and (Bonus!) the colors make these look like Creepers from Minecraft. Win-win.

Raveled here.

Wrapping Up

Have a great weekend, everyone! That's all for today. I still have a few more Christmas FOs to post, so stay tuned, and watch out, they may not be on Fridays anymore. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking ahead: Goals for 2014

Happy New Year!

A lot of the other blogs I read have been posting year-end roundups of various sorts: top-liked instagram posts, top 5 FOs, bottom 5 FOs, how they did on last years goals, goals for the new year... Seeing as I've only been blogging for a few months, I don't have much wrapping up to do from 2013 (at least, nothing documented).

I do, however, have a set of crafting goals from 2013 that I'd like to share and build on for 2014. Last January, when I made these goals, I kept them entirely to myself. Nobody knew about them but me. That wouldn't normally be a problem, as I'm usually pretty self-motivated, but I put those goals in a place where I completely forgot about them. I barely remembered I had written them at all until mid-December. Google Drive's history feature shows that I at least looked at them in July, but that's about it. Part of that, I'm sure, is that we moved out of an apartment and into our very own house in the middle of January, 2013. Purchasing, moving into, and settling into a new house was a HUGE game changer (in a good way!). I did accomplish a few of my goals, but it was accidental.

My 2013 Crafting Goals

General goals:
  • (Lofty) Create a enough handmade items such that it is possible to wear at least 1 handmade item every day
If I were to count jewelry, I could probably do this now, but not according to the real spirit of it. Stays for 2014.
  • Craft smaller, less time consuming gifts
This one I think I achieved! 

  • Sew all fabric in stash
Not so much. Besides my Staple Dress, I barely sewed anything this year. At least I didn't *add* to the fabric stash.

  • Find some good knit fabrics ( seems like a good place to start) and sew several basic layering pieces; sleeveless tops, ss top, simple long-sleeve top.
See above.

  • Self-draft pattern for knit circle skirt dress
See above.

  • Trousers
See above. 

  • Experiment with kitchen yarn dyeing
Achieved! I dyed my first yarn, with great success, and it will be a Reef Knot tank come springtime. 
  • Knit something w/Brooklyn Tweed yarn
Not achieved. But (wink, wink), if you'd like to get me a shade card for my birthday, that would be a step in the right direction! 
  • Knit something with beads
Not achieved, carrying over for 2014.
  • Knit something in Quince&Co yarn
Not achieved. Shade cards make great gifts...
  • Knit at least 1 pair of socks for me
Not achieved, and most definitely on the list for 2014. I discovered Addi Sock Rockets this year while working on Christmas stuff (to be blogged on Friday), which might make this a more enjoyable goal to finally achieve. 
  • Knit a pair of wool legwarmers
Not achieved. Carrying over for 2014. It is absolutely pathetic that I am still wearing that $5 pair of acrylic legwarmers from 5 Below on my way in to work in the winter. Also, my lovely sister-in-law gifted me Literary Knits this year, which has the pattern for these lovelies:

Oh yes. These are SO happening this year. 
  • Knit Andrew a plain sweater, fisherman’s wool or EcoWool
Done! Still waiting to be blogged; Andrew wears and loves the sweater but runs every time I try to get a photo :-/

Crafting Goals for 2014

Including the carry-overs, and adding in a few more, here are my revised goals for 2014. 
  • Continue increasing my handmade/storebought clothing ratio.
  • Sew more this year. But, DO NOT buy any more garment fabric until I've sewed through my queue/stash.
    • Sew a button-down shirt. This would be a huge challenge for me, and I think it would in return be an excellent way to build my skills. 
  • Spin yarn suitable for knitting, and knit something wonderful out of it.
  • Build out my spinning tools with cheap DIY hacks, and share my results here on the blog. (Psst - I got started on this today! Stay tuned.)
  • Conquer my hibernating WIPs bin. I did some cleaning and organizing over the past week, and...I have a hibernation bin now. It needs to be emptied, one way or another!
  • Organize my supplies. I have my very own, dedicated craft room now. There is no reason it should be messy and disorganized. It should be beautiful, tidy, and inspiring.
  • Branch out in my yarn selection. Brooklyn Tweed, Quince & Co, Sweet Georgia, others.
  • Knit myself some socks.
  • Knit myself some legwarmers. 
Last, but not least:
  • Keep this blog alive! Starting a blog was on my undocumented bucket list for a long time, and I'm really glad I've finally started. It's been fun so far, and I think it is accomplishing one of the goals I had for it, which is to keep my organized and focused. 
Here's to a great 2014!