2015 already?

I guess it’s been a little longer than I thought since I wrote last. Let’s just say that 2014 was a bit of a whirlwind and leave it at that? Summary – I made a bunch of stuff, Team PI is awesome, Nerd Wars ended (forever…I know! It’s super sad.), I went to Rhinebeck for the first time (it was GREAT), met up with people from Team PI for real (also GREAT), made more stuff, and bought a TON of yarn.

Now that’s out of the way….2015! Goals, plans, stash!

2015-new-year-card-with-red-sheep-685x780

Nerd Wars may be gone, but Team PI lives on. There are other games, but none of them have really attracted my interest. To be honest, I was really slacking on the amount of time I was able to dedicate to challenge projects and I think I may have wound up leaving the game at some point anyway. BUT we still have our team…which is great. I really do enjoy spending internet time with these people. Why am I talking about this? Stash Down 2015.

One of our very smart team members brought up the idea of doing a team Stash Down for this year and boy do I need it! One of the by products of learning new knitting skills and having a little extra money is that I seem to have acquired quite a lot of yarn. It’s not the room-fulls that some people have, but it is starting to exceed the space I have to store it for sure. Plus, it’s full on sweater quantities in some cases. Oh & I still have a megaton of cotton yarn because I never did complete Project Use Up All The Cotton.

2015 Knitting & Stash Goals

  • Knit up the items which I specifically purchased yarn for. Things like my Owl Sweater that I’ve been wanting to make for over a year. I’ve put them all at the top of my Ravelry queue and I’m going to stubbornly resist starting other things until I get through these 5 or 6 projects. (Only exception is baby gifts. New babies don’t care about my stash goals and need hats regardless.)
  • Finish the projects that have been in the works for a super long time. There are 3 of them: 1) Raven socks. 2) Trillian shawl. 3) Linen stitch scarf.
  • FINALLY use up all of the cotton. I still have quite a lot sitting in a bin just waiting for me to do something with it. I think it’s time to get moving there.
  • No yarn buying except for baby gifts (if the yarn I need isn’t already in the stash) and if I go to any festivals like Rhinebeck.

Right now, I’m happy with those goals. If I can accomplish those, I’ll have brought the stash under control and made some really nice things in the process. (And made lots of room for more yarn!)

These are a few of my favorite things

Nope…no raindrops or whiskers, just knitting stuff.

I’m sure like anyone else with a hobby, there are a few particular tools in my knitting bag that I don’t think I could live without (including a couple recent additions).

Knit Counter App

I used to use a little red clicker to keep track of my rows. And I nearly throttled my husband’s best friend when he saw it on a table and just started clicking away because it was there. A much better solution came along for me after I got my iPhone. The Knit Counter App. This is, by far, my favorite app and the one I use the most (aside from The Weather Channel). It’s a pretty bit step up from my little red clicker.

I really love that you can track multiple projects at the same time. Another nice feature is that you can automatically count repeats of a pattern. I haven’t used it yet, but you can even track stitch markers.

Interchangeable circular knitting needles

I’ve talked about these before. My interchangeable circulars are Knit Picks Options in Harmony Wood. I have them in nearly every frequently used size and even have a couple doubles so that I can keep multiple projects on the needles at the same time. I don’t use regular straight needles anymore.

I prefer using these to straight primarily because the weight of a project distributes a little more evenly between my hands as I move back & forth. As for knitting in the round, I like the Options cables because they are very flexible and don’t have a memory (i.e. when they are wound up for storage you can still pull them out straight and they won’t spring right back).

Tiny “fix-it” crochet hook keychain thingy (Emergency Fix Keychain)

This thing is awesome! For a LONG time I used a small crochet hook to fix my dropped stitches, but about 6 months ago I bought this little keychain crochet hook “fixer” as an impulse addition to one of my orders (yes Knit Picks again). I heart this tiny keychain. I don’t think there are really any major pluses to using this as opposed to a regular crochet hook, I just love how cute and little it is and how nicely it fits in my accessory pouch.

Swift & Ball-winder

Another pretty recent addition to my “bag of tricks,” I have no idea how I managed without for such a long time. Actually I do know…I just avoided buying really nice yarn that had to be wound up. Well, no more. Yes, I will still be a frequent shopper of the craft stores and online places that sell less expensive, pre-wound yarn, but now I can go to the nice yarn stores and easily use my purchases. Yay!

PS – Trust me, Knit Picks still has no idea who I am and they have given me nothing. I just happen to enjoy their stuff and spend WAY too much money on their site. Oh, also Apple and the maker of the Knit Counter App have never heard of me.

Stuff I’ve learned, the “philosophical” edition

I decided to start knitting back in (*ahem*) 2004 after we got a cat.  I know that seems counterintuitive…typically yarn + cat = what are you thinking woman?  However, up to that point my main crafting hobby was cross-stitching and there were WAY too many pieces of embroidery floss and other scraps of things going on with that for it to be safe to do around a still-curious 9-month old kitten.  Knitting was far more self-contained and easy to keep track of.

So, what have I learned since then?

Well, #1 is that knitting with a cat around isn’t as hard as you might think, at least not for me. Mine is more interested in sitting next to me while I’m knitting than trying to get into the yarn (though she’ll poke at it sometimes). The bigger issue is that my mother is TERRIBLY allergic to my cat so anything I make for her has to be thoroughly cleaned before gifting (not that I make her things often see #4).

#2 – It is impossible for me to be stressed about anything in life while knitting. There is a fundamentally relaxing aspect to the repetitive nature of knitting – knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl – that makes it terribly difficult to focus on anything besides the task at hand. And although I might occasionally get frustrated with the object I am making, I wind up feeling as though all of the other stressors have melted away.

#3 – Practice makes better. Okay, this isn’t one I learned just from knitting, but the sentiment is just as valid. It easily took me a year to complete my first real knitting project. Before that I had made various squares of things – this was before I discovered Ravelry and the wonderful dishcloth patterns I could have been trying – but had never completed an actual “project.” I set my sights on making a bag from a pattern book I had fallen in love with. The pattern itself wasn’t hard at all…essentially a long rectangle in stockinette stitch. However, I wasn’t very good at making sure all of my rows had the correct amount of stitches at that point so it came out a little crooked. BUT, I had finally finished it and that’s what matters. Eventually I found ways to train myself to not lose count (think stitch markers every 10 or 20 stitches) and after a while I found I didn’t need those “tricks” anymore. Now, I can even finish a pair of mittens or a hat in less than a week.

#4 – No matter how much love and care you put into creating something, some people just will not appreciate the gift. This was a hard one for me for a long time. I was so proud of myself for learning a new skill and for being the only one in my family to be able to do it. (I come from a family of crafty people…sewing, cross-stitching, crocheting – but no knitters.) Over the last few years I’ve made things for many members of my family and almost everyone has really enjoyed and appreciated what I’ve made. Others…eh, not so much. My mom appreciates the thought & skill, but won’t use anything I’ve made – it’s always “too itchy” (wool or wool-esque) or “too hot” (a hat). My husband just doesn’t wear hats or scarves or gloves. So I do my best to make things for people who I know will appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating a hand-knitted item and for anyone else…ah well, they can have gift cards (just kidding…mostly).

#5 – Pace yourself. Sometimes I’ll get on a full-blown knitting kick where I work on project after project without stopping in between. Some people can pull this off without repercussion. I am not one of those people. After a couple weeks of “intensive” knitting, I have to step back. My hand/wrist is usually the first indicator. It starts aching and my fingers start to feel uncomfortable. Then my brain starts to go. I start making stupid mistakes and wind up having to go back and fix the same row 3 or 4 times. This is when it’s time to walk away for a couple days. I think this happens with a lot of hobbies (and even some jobs)…sometimes you can only push yourself so long.

#6 – Find someone to play with. There are a lot of knitters out there and what seems like a solitary hobby isn’t really one at all. Quite a few people join groups that meet to chat & knit together on a regular basis. I would love to find a time and place for this, but it hasn’t been in the cards for me at this point. However, I have found my Nerd Wars friends on Ravelry and it’s been great. There are so many people on different skill and talent levels that it’s given me a chance to learn a lot and, more importantly, the courage to branch out and try to techniques and skills.

It may sound silly, but I think I’ve learned a lot about myself through my knitting hobby. I’m not always a “stick with it” kind of person – I frustrate easily. But you can’t just wear one mitten, so stick with with, I must. Besides, there’s just so much pretty yarn out there that is asking to be knit into fun things.

Monster Chunks, here I come!

Losing my ambition

I was going good for a while there, but I’ve had a bit of a slow-down in my knitting ambition.  Long story short, I don’t have to get my projects done for my friend’s shower.  Nothing bad happened!  Don’t worry.  But suffice it to say, I have a while to get my projects done now.

But now that I don’t have that deadline, I feel a little “blah” about the whole thing.  I still want to get them done, I’m just not as excited about them right now.

Meh.

I’ll get back to my knitting soon.  I guess I just needed a break.

Knitting needles – it’s a personal choice

When I first decided to take up knitting the one thing I was a little overwhelmed and intimidated by was the amount of needle sizes and types to choose from.  On top of that, I was totally freaked out by the potential cost of my new pursuit.  So, I took the suggestion of the internets and went with one set of needles – a 10.5.  I chose a pretty purple acrylic set,  got one of the cheapest worsted weight yarns I could find, and set out to pursue my new hobby.

Holy crap!!  It was awful.  I think it took me two days to figure out how to cast on.  And when I finally started to knit, it was nearly impossible for me to keep the yarn on the needles.

Over time I’ve learned what works best for me and what I like using the most.  I say what works for me because it’s really all a matter of personal preference.  Some people love their acrylic needles, some people change depending on the type of yarn they use…all of the options exist for a reason.  Here’s what I like and why:

  1. Wood and Bamboo.  I’ve learned that acrylic and aluminum are way too slippery for my taste.  Wood and bamboo have a little bit of texture to them that allows the yarn to “grip” a little and not slip off so easily.
  2. Circular needles are your friend!  I was SO intimidated by using circular needles that I wasted a fairly large sum of money buying nearly every size of straight needles.  Ooops.  Circular needles can be used as straight needles or for circular projects.  I don’t think I’ve used a straight needle in three years.
  3. Interchangeable circulars are the way to go.  This was an excellent investment and is a great way to get the most for your money.  Personally, I use Knit Picks Harmony Wood interchangeables.  I have nearly every size they carry at this point and the set comes with two sizes of cables which are great for medium and large size projects.  As I said before, you can use them as circular or straight needles – which I love.
  4. Small circular projects require double-pointed needles.  Another thing I was terrified of.  Here’s what I learned pretty quickly.  As much as I love wood for my circular needles, I need the flexibility of bamboo for double-pointed knitting.  I bought one set of wood DPNs and they tore my fingers up.  My only exception to this are my sock needles (the teeny tiny sizes)…those I have in wood.
  5. Small circumference fixed circulars.  I’ve just started knitting with these recently and I am in love.  For a long time I just couldn’t see the point of them.  If you have something small and circular to knit, just use the DPNs…which is what I’ve been doing for a couple years now.  However, making hats for my daughter has changed my mind.  DPNs are great, but the because there is no “needle change” on the small circumference circulars you don’t get the weird little line/gap running up the sides of your hats like you do with the DPNs.  I’ve bought them in two sizes so far…4 and 7 (from Knit Picks and in wood, but you probably already guessed that).  The total size is 16″ and the needles themselves are smaller than your average needle to allow the most flexibility in the round itself.

Side note – I know I mentioned Knit Picks like a thousand times.  I don’t receive anything from them for free and I highly doubt I ever will, although if I ever do I will be sure to let you know (and I just provide the links so you can see what I’m talking about).  Honestly I just find their products nice to use and easy to order.  I don’t have a local yarn store super close to me & there are only so many needle choices available at the big craft stores (you know who I’m talking about…A.C. Moore, Michael’s, et al).

    Hat thoughts

    My next project is going to be a hat for the baby. I’m torn between two patterns from my favorite baby hat book, Itty Bitty Hats. (Seriously if you like making simple, adorable baby/kid hats, you need to get this book.) There’s the Bunny Hat & the Marley Hat…both are cute. I’m leaning towards the Bunny Hat, but that means I need to go out and buy a yarn for it. I don’t have anything in the stash that I like for it. (I’m sure my husband will be thrilled with me bringing home more yarn.) The Marley is adorable and I think I have some yarns I would like for it, but I’m not entirely feeling that one right now.

    Hmmm…which to choose?

    A mind is a dangerous thing

    I have an idea brewing.  It’s been bopping around my head for a little while, but I’m actually starting to seriously consider opening an Etsy store.  Now that  I do have time to dedicate to projects, I’m thinking that I could put my creative energies to use making some things that I think other people might like and use.

    A couple years ago I made myself a laptop cozy for work and quite a few people commented about how they would love to have something like that.  And I found some pretty, but inexepensive pink-themed yarn that would be nice to make into “Breast Cancer Awareness” projects.  So I’m thinking of combining the two for my next project or two and making those the first couple objects in my Etsy store.  In fact, making several different kinds of ‘awareness-themed’ objects might be a good start for a store overall.

    The other items I’m thinking about are Binky clips and Cup/Toy straps.  I found some really cute ribbon versions in stores that I bought for the Little One, but buying them pained me because I knew I could make knitted ones that would be just as adorable.

    Potential drawbacks – I am not in any way an expert knitter and it’s possible that I’m going to get requests that are FAR beyond my capabilities.  To mitigate this, I can probably limit myself to pre-made objects for a while as I learn some new techniques.  Also, I would need to make sure I actually have enough things to sell.  I wouldn’t want to wind up with 2 things and a bunch of requests.  That’s probably not a very profitable way to start a store.

    Hmmm…things to think about.