Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So I finished round one of the gift knitting.

Koolhaas Closeup

Stitches have been cast off, ends woven in, finished pieces blocked (mostly).

Snail Cowl Closeup

Round one includes everything being given on or before the 25th, while round two includes gifts that are not being given until after the 30th. So I still have a week to finish a few more small items.

Laurel Hat Closeup

I don't have teaser photos of everything, since a few items got wrapped before I remembered to take a picture. This year I took the Handmade Challenge, and although I do not expect all my friends and family to make or buy handmade gifts for me, I did manage to make all the gifts I gave this year with one exception. The exception is still getting something handmade, just not by me. In all honesty, going completely handmade this year is the only way I have been able to afford to get a gift for everyone on my list unless I decided to shop at the dollar store.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone for the kind comments on my mitten pattern and for all the favoriting going on at Ravelry. It's nice to have a gentle entry into the world of designing, and just reminds me what a fabulous community I have found in knitters and crafters.

Another money-saving measure I put into use this year was driving home for the holidays instead of flying, which has disadvantages and advantages. In exchange for a longer time commitment you don't have to worry about bringing knitting needles through security or overpacking the yarn. After dinner tonight with my family, as a little reward to myself for finishing all the gifts, I'm going to astound them all with the spinning wheel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Um... okay, that was fast!

I wasn't expecting to be able to put this out here today, hence the cryptic ending to this morning's post. All the information I read told me that the process would take about a week. But instead, it took a few hours.

Drum roll please....
Snow Chains Mittens

I've officially added the Snow Chains Mittens to Ravelry. This represents a bit of a turning point for me as a knitter. It's the first design I truly feel able to call my own, and the first time I wrote knitting directions and explicitly asked others to critique them. I never used to think of myself as a particularly creative person, so this is a change for me. The whole process has been a huge learning experience. Apparently, I have pretty darn loose tension compared to the average knitter out there. Knitting while developing a design is worlds apart from knitting from someone else's pattern. Trying to decide whether and what to charge for my design was another struggle for me. On the one hand, I want everyone to be able to knit these mittens. On the other hand, I feel the design involved a significant effort on my part, and I believe I deserve compensation for that effort. So here's the compromise:

As my Christmas gift to all of you who read my humble little blog, I'm making the pattern available for free for the next three weeks, until January 6th. After that, I'll be offering the PDF file for sale on Ravelry. This post will still keep the link to the pattern, but if you're clicking that link after 01/06/10, it will take you to the pattern page in Ravelry instead of the pattern download. I'm also going to start a section in the sidebar for my designs. The pattern name link will take you to the pattern source, and the little project counter will take you to the pattern's Ravelry pattern page.

I hope you enjoy these mittens, and share your project with us here or on Ravelry.

9 days?!?

How in the world did it get to be that close so quickly? Thankfully, I am very nearly finished with the pre-Christmas gifts (just one more to go). That one needs to be finished before the 22nd, when I will be in close proximity to its recipient, but I also have an 8-hour car drive that I'm hoping will be enough time to power through the end of the project. I admit, I am not knitting as fast as I could be. My new toy is a bit distracting.

Combs in Safety Mode

These are NOT helping me finish my gift knitting on time. But they do produce my favorite form of fiber: hand-combed top. Unlike hand cards, which give you light, fluffy packages of wool with the individual fibers going in random directions, combs give you light, fluffy packages of wool with the individual fibers all aligned in one direction. They also get out all the little short fibers and neps that would give you lumpily-spun yarn and pill in your knitted object. Cards give you fiber that's awesomely prepared for woolen spinning, while combs give you fiber that's awesomely prepared for worsted spinning


I won't be giving up my handcards any time soon, but the combs are easily my favorite. My default spinning method is worsted or semi-worsted, so a combed prep is ideal.


Here you can see one comb loaded with washed polwarth locks, while I pull combed locks off the other comb. That process looks kinda like this:


The tool between me and the comb is a diz, which is basically a curved piece of wood with holes in it. There are three different size holes, so you can have different thicknesses of top. You pull the fiber through the hole to get the fiber in top form, which is wound into little nests. I spent two lovely afternoons combing this week, one doing the polwarth locks from Verb and the other using the dark grey locks left over from my first fleece. I now have a brown paper grocery bag filled with happy little clouds of white, silver, dark grey, and chocolate brown. They're calling to me, waiting for me to finish the gift knitting.

On top of all this I'm also getting ready for another big announcement, hopefully before the holiday but definitely not until after final exams are over. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Joy to the world, all the boys and girls!

It feels like everything is coming together, now that we're in the thick of the holiday season. For starters, it got crazzzzy cold here over the past few days, so I've been actually wearing hats. Hats, people! But I'm kinda glad that it's cold, because I love getting use out of my knits and this feels like it really belongs:

Christmas Tree!

I am so ridiculously excited to have a Christmas tree, words cannot do my feelings justice. The significant other and I sometimes still feel stuck in college-student mode, and having a real honest-to-goodness tree makes me feel like we're really celebrating the holidays together, instead of just waiting until we go home to our parents' places. We bought some ornaments to get a little variety (it started out with a very large proportion of owls and squirrels), and went to the hardware store to get a little string of battery-powered lights. When we got home, we realized we'd neglected to buy batteries, so the tree is dark for now. I didn't want to buy tinsel or a garland, so I made a long crochet chain out of some red chenille yarn from deep within the stash. That's the only non-gift knitting I've done since Thanksgiving, and although I've since finished two items, I've added a few more small ones to my list as well. It'll be okay, though, as those don't need to be delivered until about a week after the 25th.

Verb Holiday Party

In other holiday news, this weekend I managed to spend a few hours in Berkeley at the Verb Workshop's holiday bash and 1-year-brick-and-mortar anniversary event. People were shopping, sitting, talking, knitting, spinning, drinking spiced cider, and eating cupcakes. My kind of day.

Verb Holiday Party

They've just opened a new classroom space across the way from their shop, which was filled with some other fantastic bay area fiber vendors. Krista of Pigeonroof Studios had a table full of lovely, saturated colors:

Verb Holiday Party

Faerie Mountain Fibers had a huge collection of spinning batts, and even made a few to order!

Verb Holiday Party

Verb Holiday Party

I could not resist these wooden cross-stitch ornament kits from Girl on the Rocks, so I got one along with an awesome owl-shaped needle gauge and some gift tags.

Girl on the Rocks

Along with these goodies, I brought my Snow Chains mittens for Kristine to see in the flesh. I got to see a few of the other entries, which were all pretty amazing. Kristine gave me my prize package for winning the design-your-own mitten category. I confess I've been biting my nails wondering what our prizes would be, but this went beyond my wildest expectations. It starts off with this awesome canvas project bag, printed with peacocks derived from the Verb logo, and inside it had 3 (THREE!) sets of Darn Pretty Needles from DyakCraft (formerly Grafton Fibers) in US sizes 1, 2, and 4, and a bunch of coupons. I used two of them immediately; one for a free skein of Creating sock yarn (in Magic Bean), and one for 20% off anything in the store.

Verb Smitten with Mittens Prize Bag

So, I was pretty stunned when I saw all this. But once my brain had time to catch up with me, I knew there was really only one way I was going to use that 20% off coupon. I'll give you all two hints, in picture format:

Comb Clamps

and in case that was too obscure...

Combs Label

And now, I'm off to enjoy the holidays a bit more and play with my new toy.