Thursday, July 31, 2008

Virtual wool

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a story about yarn. They gave us that "tease" at the beginning of the hour, and I had to listen through business and money related stories on gasoline prices, food prices, mortgage prices, and the stock market...and then finally, the piece on what's really important...yarn. If you want to listen (or read), here it is:


They consider several causes. First, that knitting is going out of fashion. What? I don't THINK so. Just look at Ravelry. I'm not going to even entertain this notion. Yes, the trend began rising in 2001 after you-know-what and peaked in 2005 (maybe because of Katrina and the charity mentality aftermath?) So every trend waxes and wanes. I think knitting is on a slow and steady rise.

Second, more knitters are going to the Internet. Umm, yeah I can see this. It's easier, saves gas, there are mad sales, there's more stock at your fingertips, and then you forget that it's coming and you have a little gift one day all of a sudden in the mail.

The downsides? You don't get it right away. I used to go to Knit and Stitch = Bliss a lot and would always see afellow shoppers at the nearby Starbucks minutes later, often starting new projects. Second, you can't feel the yarn, which is SOO important to me. I've heard it's a good idea to put it on your cheek to see if it will make a nice fuzzy non-itchy scarf. On the other hand, if you already know that you love the yarn and/or brand, you'll know you are getting a good yarn even if the picture doesn't make it look appealing (sorry, knitpicks, but I don't think your pics are good representations of your quality yarn. I bought some based only on your good reputation and love it).

I also think a disadvantage is not having the helpful staff there to answer questions. So many new knitters depend on them to help them learn what yarn is all about. I unfortunately didn't have a good experience on my first LYS. I'm not here to name names because it's been said that there is a certain compatibility between knitter and yarn store (which is a little exclusive I think), but others have described that they felt as if they were "intruding on a private party" which described my feeling aptly. In the recent past, however, I found an LYS (A Tangled Skein). The new knitter loves the yarn store because it's a haven where questions can be answered and a place where muggles (thank you SPM) don't look at you funny when you yell at a half-made sock and throw it across the room/metro car.

I think the ease and accessibility of the Internet is a major reason why people turn to it for yarn. One of the business strategies is to have an online yarn store as well as a brick-and-mortar store. They interviewed Jimmy Beans Wool. Webs also comes to mind.

But I think that yarn stores aren't becoming as sparse as the story stated. As long as they have a good business plan that puts its customers and future customers first, and listens to their needs, then they will be in high demand. But I'm not a businesswoman, just a lowly knitter.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yoga Mat & Strap Bag

So my best friend Ali asked for a yoga mat for her birthday (which is today). I of course, needed to find something to make to go along with it. I had some simple ideas for the bag, including a scrapped idea for the "om" symbol/word in purl bumps. What I was really stumped on was how to make the strap. All of the straps I have made for purses, etc. have been too stretchy. Then this lightbulb appeared over my head. Yoga uses a strap. Hmm... And you know how I love reusing. So presenting, the Yoga Mat & Strap Bag.
It uses your yoga strap as the bag strap, but not permanently, so you can take it off as needed and use it.

I also am writing this pattern to help those novice knitters who want to dabble in the make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach. It's not scary, I swear!

Materials I used:

2 entire balls Sugar n Cream, one solid and one variegated.
1/4 of another SnC ball
2 D-rings that fit the width. I used 1.5" ones, but if I make another, I'll choose 2" ones to be more accommodating for the strap.
Size 7 Circular needles at least as long at the width of the bag (I combined lengths of denise needles)
Size 7 DPN's
Yarn Needle

Gauge doesn't really matter since you will be customizing it, but mine was: 17.5 sts and 25 rows: 4" in stst

CO the width of your mat. You cannot just rely on the length of the cast-on since the stitched are slanted, and then straighten out and become wider after the first row, so you will have to work a few rows to find out the actual width. This is the guess-and-check portion. I casted on 110.
Knit is stst until the length of the piece matches the circumference. Add a few rows if you want it looser. Make sure to slip the first stitch of every row (put it on the working needle without knitting it). This will help you later.

I switched between solid and variegated every two rows, but you can do whatever! Experiment!

Then bind-off loosely and seam the cast-on edge to the bind-off edge. You can either do it using the Invisible Seam (thank you Anne Modesitt), or a three-needle bind-off (see the video at the bottom of this KnittingHelp page)

Now you have a tube!

The bottom will be a hat decrease.
Pick up stitches on the edge using the dpn's (tip: if one of your side edges is tighter than the other, use that for the bottom, since you won't have to try to stuff the yoga mat through it). Anyway, I picked up 40 sts. Make sure you pick a number to pick up that can easily be divided into a number between 5 and 8. Knit the first round. On the next round, decrease every * stitch. For example, if you picked up 40 stiches, you would decrease every 8th stitch by knitting the 7th and 8th stitches together.
Decrease every other round until you have less than 10 stitches left. Break the yarn, thread it through the yarn needle, and slip it into these last stitches. Pull tight and knot, and then weave in the ends. While you have the needle out, you might as well weave in the other ends. I usually find that if I set that needle down, I will never weave ini those damn ends.
Ok, so for the top, you will pick up the same number of stitches you did for the bottom. Knit for two rounds, then make little eyelet holes evenly spaced out. I did a hole every 5th stitch like so:
Knit 3, yarn over, K2tog. And repeat until you are at the end. By number was divisible by 5, so make sure you pick an easily divisible number. Then knit three more rows and bind off LOOSELY. You will after all be stuffing the may through here.

For the drawstring I just braided three strands of the same yarn and then wove them through the eyelets.

Attaching of the D-rings:
simply whip stitch them more securely than you think it needs (it will stretch when you sling the bag on your shoulder) on the top and bottom of the bag. See last two pictures. I would do more whip stitches than I've done in this picture, though. Weave in ends.

Then thread your yoga strap in and tighten. You're set!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Proud to be an american...sort of

Well, last Saturday was a typical American afternoon. Going to several large chain stores in shopping centers in the suburbs--going in just to do something--and coming home with several large (plastic) bags full of crap I don't need, and spending money I shouldn't have spent. Hey, at least it wasn't put on credit cards. But on the other hand, the stuff I bought was so cool! When I went to Micheal's, I was immediately immersed in an end display of merchandise brought to us by the publishers of Generation T. If you haven't realized the wonders that are this book, I will tell you know now. It centers around just about my favorite craft at the moment: repurposing. T-shirts is what this book is focused on. I have 2 other books about this, but I like that this book doesn't just "give you a fish." It teaches you how to redesign t-shirts by offering a design suggestion and then alternatives so that you can really get into the mindset of creating your own masterpieces. Plus, it stresses our need to reuse, and it offers more than just skimpy shirts, but also stuff for guys and accessories too. Yes, some of the designs are simply turning t-shirts into their former being--jersey fabric--that you can creatively sew into anything you want if you are inclined in sewing clothing on the fly (see Heidi). I tend to gravitate more to the designs that take advantage of the fact that it is in a t-shirt shape already. Anyway, regardless, I love this book.
I picked up some decals and stuff that are meant to be used in this process. The pack in the lower left has a "running with scissors" patch that I thought my brother would like, and the other packs have recycling-themed patches and iron-ons. And you know that after I had all of these in hand, I was at the mercy of American retail. I just "had" to get the book. No, but seriously people, I am the worst at being swayed by advertisements. I have literally watched a commercial on tv at home, seen a product I like, and then have gotten up and left the house after the commercial ended to buy it. And this is why it took 2 days for me to move my American shitload of crap to another apartment in the same complex. Grr... I now have Niecy Nash in my head (from Clean House) while I'm shopping, asking me if I "really need that." I think this is why I was such a good salesperson at Bath and Body Works; because I really believed that everyone needed 16 lotions because they "are only $5!!" Ok, sorry. Just had to vent.

So here are my creations:

a wrap shirt that uses the former front as the back

a bias-cut
a tie-back

a scoop neck
and this one that fit really well except for that it was too short, so I plan on sewing this failed bottom piece of a shirt on to the bottom. Haven't gotten around to sewing it yet.

I also have been collecting/hoarding bottle caps since we moved in. Yeah, ok, we drink a lot of beer. Hey, we also had a party with lots of guys who could hold their alcohol. I don't know what I'm going to make with them yet, of course.

I also picked up cupcake liners in three sizes and pipe cleaners at Michael's to try my hand at some flowers.

I think it turned out ok. I will probably now bury the supplies in my craft boxes and find them in a year and say, "Oh yeah. I remember impulsively buying this a year ago."

So it's now the weekend again and I can't decide whether to craft, read, or clean...

I will now go to do one of those things.

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reinforcing the hoarding behavior...

Hi! So this week has been a low-key crafting week. Some old business: I looked on the wall and realized that I hadn't shared this project with you yet. I had been inspired by a wallpaper I saw online of these abstract queen anne's lace. I had one of those moments where old craft supplies that you have been saving for the right project and new craft supplies that you should throw away but can't come together in a craftravaganza. I was painting the walls of our apartment and had some extra paint left over. Then I looked over at two stretched canvases I'd been hoarding. After painting the background and flower stems monochromatically, I put on contrasting buttons for the buds with a hot glue gun. I think it turned out great! I made two and put them on either side of a doorway.So back to this week. Yesterday I went to American Apparel with my new income and bought this skirt I wanted to buy many weeks ago when I was poor. I got a two for one: the actual skirt, and the skirt as a pattern. I plan to lay it across some fabric (at a bias of course since there is no hem) and cut & sew away! I'm still trying to figure out the elastic waist. Maybe I'll do a drawstring instead.
This week I've also been working on Elisa's Nest Tote by the purl bee by doing the attached i-cord straps,
those socks for Amy (she wants knitted socks but doesn't want to knit them),
and a baby kimono from this Lion Brand crochet kit I got on sale for only $8 from Border's. Granted, it included less-than-desirable yarn and 5 plastic crochet hooks, but also 50 project cards of varying degrees of difficulty.
I had another "aha! my hoarding paid off!!" moment today when I found this clipboard at work that was covered in teenage-boy permanent marker graffiti. The back was even worse, with one of my kids' names plastered all over. I thought I'd modge-podge it, and then remembered these silver stickers I've been hoarding. They are from by Bath&BodyWorks days. We had used them to seal this one brand's shopping bags, but my boss who was trash-happy decided we didn't need them anymore, so I of course swiped them before they were chucked since I can't see perfectly good raw found objects just be wasted.I did a straight-across design on the front

Layered to hide the spaces.
And concentric circles on the back, layered like crackers on a cheese plate.
I also layered them double to eliminate the spaces.Then I just trimmed the edges off.
Piece o' cake!

I might mo-po it since the surface might not be good for writing, but we'll see. I was also thinking about a duct tape border since it's silver too.

Man my hands look just like my mom's here.

Happy crafting!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

...auf wiedersehen, goonight

On Wednesday we went for our last craftnite. Amy's house was gutted and the contents en route to Alaska, so we were at her neighbor's house. It was beautiful. Just my style. Lived in, yet colorful. Diverse furniture. There were lots of places to sit, which was inviting. Full of interesting things. Lots of love.

Selma treated us to some piano and Jay was just cute as a button as we all took turns trying to get him to stay in bed.
We snacked on tartlets and chocolate covered cheesecake bites.We ended the craftnite tradition how we began it: with a truly green craft. After days and days of packing boxes, Amy had tons of empty packing tape tubes. She thought it'd be cool to make a holder for her drop spindle.

Step 1: Measure to see how tall you want it. You can use it to store anything really--knitting needles, crochet hooks, writing/drawing stuff, etc.Step 2: Tape rolls together with packing tape
Step 3: The bottom. We cut a piece of corrugated cardboard into a circle and taped it.
Step 4: For the lid, Heidi and I were on the same page: she cut one of the rolls widthwise
and then inserted a little strip of cardboard into the opening.

This made a roll that was just wide enough for a lid.
Then they taped another cardboard circle onto this top, just as they did for the bottom.
In the meantime I was trying to make a thick disk for the top by cutting another tape roll into strips lengthwise, stripping the layers to make it thinner, and then spiraling them. I sort of gave up, but came out with this cute puck-looking thing that Amy ended up attaching to the lid, maybe as a handle to help take the top off?

What else than roving to put at the bottom to protect the end of the drop spindle?

Then we spent the rest of the night just knitting/crocheting, talking/gossiping.
We do plan on continuing craftnite at our place, but maybe on Sundays instead of in the middle of the week. We'll have to see...

We will still definitely be missing Amy's presence.