Saturday, December 24, 2011

Handmade Holiday Gifts... an Etiquette Course

Ahhhh! Spock!! I can't eat peanut brittle!
We've all received them, the handmade gifts that you can't stand. Hell, I'm sure that I've given them.  The fudge with the walnuts (and you're allergic to walnuts), or the crocheted blanket made with horrible acrylic yarn, or the handknit hat that is such an awful shade of yellow that there is no way it could look good on anyone - let alone you.

Now, you're a courteous person.  You understand the effort that went into the pair of handknit socks that Aunt Matilda made for you, right?  No?  Well, here, let me break it down for you: a really fast knitter can get a pair of socks done in about 20 hours.  HOURS.  That is a fast knitter.  Slower knitters take longer, and usually mess up more frequently.  This might not sound like a lot, but that pair of socks probably took the better part of a week or two to make.  For YOU.

That hideous blanket?  While, yes, crochet is faster than knitting, a blanket still takes a while.  Poor Grandma probably sat in the same position, popping Advils like candy in order to make that for you in time to give it to you for Christmas, as you neglected to come to the senior home to visit.  Way to go.  ;)  Also, she probably used the horrible acrylic because that's what her budget allowed.  Were you expecting cashmere?

There IS in fact, a etiquette to handmade gifts.  I hear all the time "I'm only making something handmade for so-and-so, because she is the only one who appreciates it."  How wrong is that?  Why is it so difficult for people to appreciate the things that are crafted specifically for them?  Is it because they are jealous that they can't do it themselves?  Is it because they don't understand the amount of time it takes?  (And yes, some crafts are faster - take a look at Etsy.  The shops that have more items are usually a faster product.)  Maybe they are so used to living in a disposable world that they just don't get that handmade is usually better and lasts longer.  I don't deny that a lot of things in big box stores are, in fact, hand made on industrial machines, but we're not going to get into the sweatshop debate here.

So.  What SHOULD you do if you get a handmade gift that just isn't, well, you?  First and foremost, be gracious.  Remember when you went to a friend's house for dinner and they had liver and onions?  Remember the "No thank you bite"?  The same rule applies here.  Say thank you (and mean it), even if you don't like the particular item, you need to understand the work, the time, the effort, that went into it.  Remember, this person made this for you, hoping that you would like it.  No one wastes their time on a gift thinking "Muahahahaha, I know they're going to hate it!"

After the holiday, and you're sitting on the couch looking at the said hideous throw, knowing full well you have no intention on keeping it, what do you do with it?  Look up local charities that accept hand made donations. Some do, some don't.  Some are picky on what types of items they take.  That blanket may keep someone on the street warm next week.

All in all, just acknowledge the time that it took to make the gift in the first place.  As crafty types, really, that's all we want.  A simple, "Wow, this must have taken forever!  Thank you!" usually will go a long way.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Calm before the Holiday Storm

As we began to inch closer to the holiday season that we're now in the middle of, I began to have some pretty severe shoulder and back pain... its holiday prep, right?  As someone who works with their hands, and occasionally, arms, legs, feet, and head (you have to wind yarn somehow, right?), random pain is part of the business. 

A few years ago, I visited a fantastic spa, called Aequis in downtown Portland.  At the time, it was in kind of a crazy location, upstairs in a kind of odd building, across from the Paragon restaurant and bar.  It had kind of a back alley, what is the secret knock kind of feel... and it was awesome!  I remember it had these really cool showers, and was all dark and mysterious.  All in all, it was totally cool.  It was also really expensive and I had a gift certificate.  As the years passed, they changed locations a few times, and are now really close to their original location.

First and foremost, as I've stated before, I don't promote businesses that I don't feel do good things for the community and I don't support businesses that I don't like.  This particular spa, however, does charitible donations, works with community organizations, has a great social media presence, and rewards clients.  I won a massage on Twitter not too long ago, and thought... "Ahhhhhhhhhh!" All of the yuckiness that was going on in my back? I'll be able to get it taken care of!

I made my appointment with Brittany.  Cancelled my first appointment with Brittany (I was REALLY sick) and rescheduled with no issue... I think she felt bad for me - I sounded horrible.  When I went in, I filled out the standard treatment form - which was on a laminated sheet that you fill out with a overhead marker so there is no paper waste - and awaited my massage therapist.  Now, I could care less if it is a guy or a girl that I'm scheduled with, but they do offer a choice.  I was scheduled with Isaac, and it was super awesome.  They start with a welcome ritual of a foot salt scrub/massage, then move into the treatment room.  Never once did I feel uncomfortable, or off-put. 

My only downside to the new location that they are in, is that (according to some Yelp reviews) they cannot use aromatherapy anymore due to complaints by their neighbors.  This makes me sad, as one thing that I associate heavily with Ayurveda is the use of fragrance.  Personally, I can't imagine anyone not wanting to have an office smell good as opposed to having it smell like toner, but that's just me.

The environment is dark, quiet, and unobtrusive.  Furnishings are tasteful and in an indochinese styling, with lots of dark woods, stone, candles, and Buddha figures.  Music is quiet, yet conceals outside noises from the lobby area... including from my four year old, who came to pick me up when I was done.  I didn't even hear him from the treatment area.

All in all, the experience at Aequis is fabulous and I will be back... hopefully they can work out an arrangement with the neighbors!

Aequis offers:

- Body Treatments
- Couples and Wedding packages
- Private event packages
- Facial care
- Massage treatments
- and more

More information is available here, including information about holiday specials

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Death Sock... as in, this sock will be the death of me

I like doing test/sample knitting.  It is a break from the usual orders or Etsy items, and it gives me a chance to not only try a new pattern, but also a new yarn.  After the discussion this week regarding test knitters and payment, here's my two cents:  Working for actual payment is cool, working for trade (i.e. free yarn) is cool too; and sometimes, doing it out of the goodness of one;s heart for a pal is cool too.  I just think there needs to be a balance between the three.

In any event, a few months ago, I agreed to do some sample knits for Lorajean of Knitted Wit (you can read more about her and her schtuff in previous posts).  The first was the Virginia cowl with her Bulkan - gorgeous stuff.  Great color, great feel. I also signed up to do the 'Love Letters' sock, designed by Irish Girlie Knits.  Looked at the pattern and thought, "Cool.  A cuff that stops, a pattern down only part of the foot, Rad. I'll knock this out in no time."

Irish Girlie Knits 'Love Letters'
It is now three months later, and I just (finally) finished it.  I'm not sure exactly what happened during that first part of the sock.  The lace pattern isn't that difficult, the yarn is great, size 1dpns are fine... I don't get it!  In doing that first part of the cuff, I think I redid that first pattern repeat about SIX times.  Granted, yes, I was working on it at night, but I don't think it was any more challenging than Cookie A's 'Monkey' and I did that one practically in my sleep! 

Once I got past the cuff (which carried the lace pattern around the entire leg), the rest was a piece of cake.  I would certainly make this pattern again, with a few modifications.  I think I would do the whole sock like the foot is done, with just one needle carrying the pattern the whole way down, bump up the needle size to a 2 (personally easier for me to work with), and reduce the no. of cast on stitched to adjust for the needle bump.  I was really pleased with the end result.  I think the yarn and the pattern work really well together.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five Gifts for Knitters

I know that the lovely Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (AKA the Yarn Harlot) has already done a gift guide, but this idea has been percolating in my brain for about a month, and well, I'm going to do my version.  Though, if you want to see hers, click here

While I agree with many of her ideas (especially the yarn swift... I find that a child or the back of a chair works in a pinch), I wanted to do something that was easy and things that wouldn't frighten a non-knitter.  Let's face it, going into a LYS can be intimidating! Especially a large one!  So this focuses on those little items that can be found at non-scary stores that anyone can go into.

Shea Set from L'Occitane
Number One:  Lotion
Sure, there are a bazillion types of lotions out there.  When working with cotton or wool, and especially around the holiday season, our hands get dry.  Really, uncomfortably, skin cracking dry.  I have found that the Shea Butter hand cream from L'Occitane, well, it rocks.  Very lightly scented, and it comes in several sizes and gift sets.  I prefer the "original scent" but there are several others as well.

Number Two: Books
A common complaint among knit designers is that everyone wants patterns for free.  While buying a book of knitting patterns can be tricky, as in "But, I don't know which ones they already have!"  Don't worry.  Really.  Hold on to the gift receipt.  They'll be more impressed that you actually bought a pattern book. 

Some really good ones that I like:
-Vintage Modern Knits
- Knit. Sock. Love.
- Modern Top Down Knitting
- Teeny Tiny Mochi Mochi

Number Three: Yarn
Knitted Wit's Bulkan in "Cedar"
If your gift recipient is a knitting newbie, then they would probably be happy with a chunk of yarn from a craft store.  If not, then, well, you're going to have to go a little bit bigger.  Now, you can venture into the world of the local yarn store... most of the help at any LYS is more than happy to help.  Especially if you have no idea what you are doing.  Names to keep in mind: A Verb for Keeping Warm, Malabrigo, and Madelinetosh.  These are great names and some really great yarns.  You will pay for them.  They are not cheap.  If you are okay with buying things online, well, then things get a bit more tricky.  Etsy is a great resource for indie dyers, and there are many... a few names to look for:  Dyeabolical Yarn, Knitted Wit, Yarn Pirate, some shops are bigger than others, and in the interest of full disclosure - I'm twitter pals with these shop owners, and I like to help promo indie dyers and makers whenever possible. 

If you are okay with shopping online and are looking for a lot of bang for your buck, head over to and pick out some of their favorite colors.  Don't necessarily worry about weight... knitters can find a pattern to go with just about anything.  :) 

Number Four: Soap
Eucalan's Grapefruit No-Rinse wash
Huh?  Soap?  How on earth does this relate?  Welp, most knitters tend to hand wash hand knits.  Makes sense, right?  When you spend hours upon hours working on a project, somehow, tossing it in the washing machine doesn't exactly work!  While you can in fact, use the machine for a variation on hand washing, you really shouldn't use regular detergent.  It can be damaging.  So, what to do?  I really like Eucalan.  (Although others I know prefer Soak)  Eucalan comes in several different scents, as well as unscented, and I am partial to the grapefruit.  It also have several different sized bottles, and one is the perfect stocking stuffer size.  You can get this at a LYS or also some little indie children's boutiques carry it as well. 

Number Five: Lantern Moon
Lantern Moon's Interchangeable Rosewood set
What the heck is a Lantern Moon?  They are a company that imports some pretty rad crafting items.  Everything from needle rolls in really cool fabrics, to baskets, to needles.  I know several knitters who have their interchangeable circular needle set on their Christmas lists.  You can find their products a good LYS, or head over to their site for more info.

I hope I've given some options that aren't too overwhelming and can fit into various budgets.  Gift cards to a craft store aren't a bad idea either... everyone always needs cotton for washcloths! :)  Another really easy idea is to get a gift certificate for a class at a local yarn shop, or find out when their "Knit night" is and make arrangements for your giftee to be able to go - line up a sitter, leave work early, etc... and snag a cool new bag for them to show off while they are there!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Putting a Bird on It?

I'm a little late to the Owl party, I'll admit.  That being said, they are still adorable, and so when I had a request from a client to make her daughters (6mo old twins!) little owl hats, I said sure and went in search of a pattern!  After playing around on Ravelry for a while, I found one that I liked and away I went!  I found some great yarn that was a merino, and a fantastic mix of pinks, greys, and a little bit of tangerine... also known as the 'girly without being pastel pink' yarn. 

The pattern can be found here, on the Daisy Cottage Designs blog.  :)

After finishing up on those, Xavier (my four year old) decided that he wanted one as well.  He has been living in the hat, wearing it every day since I finished it, and won't take it off.  His I did in the Bertagna Filati Essenza (which is discontinued, so when I find it, I tend to snag it.)  It is an 80/20 merino/alpaca blend and the colors are great. The grey trim around the edge I did in baby cashmerino, and the eyes are a little wonky. (We'll say I did that on purpose...) I would most certainly make these again - in fact I have green one up on Etsy right now!

I really enjoyed both this pattern, which, though I altered - this is a bulky weight yarn, was a great base to use as a resource.  I like crochet, it goes a crazy ton faster than knitting, and for hats for Xavier, it is perfect.  He tends to run on the warm side, so the "holes" in the crochet act as little air vents, keeping him warm, yet giving air flow to his head.  Win all around. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

On updating Ravelry...

First and foremost, I love Ravelry. It is a fantastic resource that the developers have made available, and I would like to thank everyone who advertises for doing so and keeping it a *FREE* resource. The fact that I can find a yarn, its yardage, its weight, and local shops that carry it around me is fantastic. I hate ordering yarn, and prefer to support local shops whenever humanly possible.

I don’t update my Ravelry page that often. I find that I am always a few projects behind. I did take a few minutes the other day to post the Nutkin socks that I just finished (with yarn from Indigo Dragonfly in the ‘Captain Tight Pants’ colorway - see my previous "Socks" post for more info), as well as the vest that I finished as well. However, all of the items that I did for the recent craft fair I did aren’t up. The newest yoga socks, sweaters, and hats that I did for a local boutique aren’t there, and neither is the plethora of armwarmers/fingerless that I did for another shop. I find that if I don’t have the time to post it from my phone, then I rarely update.

I wish I had the option of an app to post my stash as I acquire it, or projects as I finish them. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across an app. It is my understanding that there is one for Android users, however, I have an iPhone… and no Ravelry app. If there is a developer out there reading this… please?  I would (and I’m sure that there are many other knitters out there) love you forever, and ever, and ever!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Socks, socks, and more socks!

The first pair...
Approximately one year ago (give or take a couple of weeks) I decided, “Screw it. I’m learning how to use those stupid itty bitty DPNs and I’m making socks.” Five days later, I had my first pair. They were done in a Red Heart Heart and Sole with Aloe yarn, and I haven’t looked back.

Obviously, my sock yarn palette has become more sophisticated, but for that first pair, I didn’t want to screw it up, so I used something cheap. I don’t think anyone can fault me for that! I still have this first pair of socks and I love them. They show that even though I was a beginner (with socks, at least), I was able to set a goal and accomplish it. Now, I have enough socks to wear a hand knit pair every day for about a week, and I have about five other balls of sock yarn sitting in my stash waiting for me to get to them. I think they sit there, not so much waiting as lurking. ;)

Horseshoe Cables with ShiBui

After starting with said Heart and Sole, I moved on to some Hazel Knits, then to some ShiBui Sock (which, in my humble opinion is still one of the best deals out there in terms of quality to price ratio), I have in my stash some gorgeous blue from Miss Babs (purchased at Sock Summit specifically for Tardis socks), a beautiful bright yellow with sparkles from Knitted Wit, a really cool camo colorway from Pico Accuardi, and yes, even some of Lion Brand’s sock… what can I say, it was on sale, and I kinda dig the color.

Ann Budd design with Sanguine Gryphon
I love the sense of completion when a pair of socks is done. You know that you will get use out of them. Probably more so than anything else that you take the time to knit. You ALWAYS need socks. Yes, I know there is magic loop, and knitting two at a time on circulars, but something about doing them each individually is ultra satisfying to me. Watching this little tube grow… I don’t know. It’s just kind of cool. There are so many methods and different types of heels, toes, cast-ons, cast offs… the variety is endless, and so are the patterns! I have several sock pattern books, yet always crave more! Cookie A is one of my favs, but I also really enjoy just a simple ribbed sock, which makes for great tv knitting, or audio book knitting… or knitting when there are kids around.
Nutkin with IndigoDragonfly's Captain TightPants

I don’t think that my love for socks is going anywhere anytime soon… and I look forward to the next time Sock Summit comes to PDX!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Social Media and... Contests?

I don’t win things. Flat out. The only thing I have ever won was an Atari 2600 when I was about four years old. Okay, my parents won it, but I was the one that put up the hissy fit about going to McDonald’s that night, and if we hadn’t gone, they wouldn’t have entered, and we wouldn’t have won. Ergo, I won the Atari. (That my stupid little brother then turned around and sold a few years ago… but I’m not bitter or anything…)

Over the last few weeks, I seem to be on something of a winning streak. I haven’t been crocheting very long, and usually when I see a crochet contest, I’ll enter, because I would love to round out my knitting books with some additional crochet books! A few weeks ago, I did just that, and entered a contest on the Cute Crochet blog to win a copy of Sarah London’s Granny Square Love. I’m really good with crocheted washcloths and hats, but the world of Granny Squares is one that I haven’t ventured into. Imagine my shock and surprise when I got an email saying that I had won! I was so excited! When the book arrived, I flipped through the pages, and I am delighted to say that it is a gorgeous book and the images are fun, vibrant, and a great resource to compliment the pattern. We have all seen or attempted patterns that, even though they have a beautiful image, aren’t the most clear, and the accompanying image is of little to no help. I seriously can’t wait to do several patterns from this book… after Christmas.

Next up was a random contest from Keen Footwear. I have sworn by Keen shoes for the kids for years. Ethan got his first pair when he was in preschool and Xavier got his first pair of sandals when he was barely a year old. They are by far the most durable, perfect for kids shoes I have ever come across. Not only do they last for one kid, my kids (who tear through shoes) have passed their Keens along to other kids, who have worn them for just as long! Todd has had several pairs, and although he is currently banned from any more sandals (they just reek after a few weeks… nothing that can really be done about it), he found a great deal on a pair of mid-height boots at REI during one of their sales.

Jenni's Betty Boots!

If you couldn’t tell, I really swear by (and LOVE) their shoes! So when I saw a tweet from them asking if you won a Keen Recess kit, who would you share it with? I immediately thought of Ethan’s Second Grade teacher. She is his favorite teacher ever, and quite frankly, with all of the cutbacks in our district, well, they don’t get rewarded enough for all that they do.

My Bern Baby Bern Boots!

WE WON! Our kit included t-shirts for both of us, socks, note pads, lanyards, hacky sacks, lip balm (side note: one of the best lip balms I have ever used!), and a pair of shoes for EACH of us! She didn’t believe me when I told her we actually won!  It was a great surprise and many, many thanks to Keen for choosing us! For us, they are a local company that does a TON of great things for our area and I am happy to promote and support what they do!

Fyberspates Scrumptious in Teal
Finally, I commented on the Lantern Moon blog and won DK/Worsted weight of their new Fyberspates Scrumptious yarn! I’m waiting on this to arrive and will do a full review when it does, but I am SO excited to get this one!

All in all, I’m considering myself a pretty lucky girl! I’m pretty sure I should go play the lottery now. I am recusing myself from any further contests until after the new year though, to give others the chance to win something!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holiday Shop Updates!

Let’s face it, as crafty people, the last thing we really want to be doing is spending hours upon hours listing items for the various sites that we sell our wares on. Saturday afternoon/evening, however, that is exactly what I did. I got about half of them up. After about three hours.

I have a ton of new stitch markers, including the ever popular Lego heads, as well as some Pirate themed ones, some adorable hands with little hearts in them, and some basic little ones too with pearls and beads. In addition, I have HANDSPUN cowls (only two!) for only $35 dollars! I am not above shameless self promotion on my blog. :) I haven’t figured out a way to effectively list the TON of project bags that I have available as well, so if anyone is interested, just shoot me a message and I can create a custom listing.
For my lovely Twitter and Facebook pals, enter either ‘Twitter’ or ‘Facebook’ into the coupon code area for an extra 10% off! Also, starting on Black Friday, if you enter ‘PDXETSY2011’ as your code, you will receive FREE SHIPPING!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dennis' Seven Dees Holiday Fair

For the third year in a row, Dennis’ Seven Dees (a local landscaping/nursery company) held their Holiday fair/bazaar/crafty festival as a benefit for the Tucker-Maxon School here in Portland. This school focuses on children that have hearing and speech issues, whether it be complete loss of hearing, partial loss, cochlear implants, etc., but they also have welcomed children that have full abilities as well. I’m not sure what the exact politically correct terms are, so forgive me if I have misspoken. We actually considered Tucker-Maxon when we were looking at preschool options for our youngest son, Xavier, who has been in speech therapy since he was almost two.

When I got the Etsy convo, I was most certainly in! The totally cool thing was that there was no table fee. Table and application fees are the bane of my existence, and quite frankly, the reason I don’t do more shows. I hate having to wait to see if I’ve been accepted, and I don’t keep a ton of stock on hand, as I tend to do more custom work than anything else. What they do for this show, and did I mention it is a FANTASTIC idea, is they ask for an item donation from each of the vendors in lieu of a fee. They then sell raffle tickets, and people put them in little jars at each table for the item that they want to be entered into the drawing to win. I am far more inclined to donate a higher value item than I am to pay a table fee! For this, I donated something that I had actually intended for myself, and it was made with a gorgeous silver Madelinetosh merino wool yarn, with a retail of around $30 (and I under price things, so it was probably worth about $45 from another seller).

Not only was this my most successful show ever, it was also the most successful event that they have had, and raised the most that they ever had for Tucker-Maxon! Even though it was rainy, cold, dreary… and both Ethan and I were sick, we still had a great time and totally enjoyed meeting everyone! It was lovely to see some of my Twitter pals and fellow PDX Etsians. I am excited to participate next year, especially since I have a better handle on what sells at this event!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bulky Lace? Why Not?

Back lace section in progress...
As anyone who knows me is well aware, New England Knits is one of my most very favorite books… I love nearly every pattern in the book, and have made four of them at this point. One that caught my immediate attention was the Montague Bulky Lace Vest.

I know that a lot of people don’t care for bulky weight yarn when used in garments. I, however, am super tiny and can get away with it. Quite honestly, it kind of helps me look a little less tiny and more normal sized! I found this particular yarn at a stash sale at Urban Fiber Arts in downtown Portland a few months ago. I passed on it at first, thinking, okay, well, we don’t really have a random $40 to spend on yarn that I don’t necessarily NEED. But, when I met back up with Todd, he asked how much it was versus how much it would normally be. That’s when I kind of realized how good of a deal it truly was! (And that Todd is awfully understanding when it comes to yarn sales!)

Front view, shawl pin from Twisted PDX
Out of the stash sale, I snagged five balls of Rowan’s Big Wool, which, though the pattern called for more, I really only used about four and a half balls. My gauge was spot on, too… Hmmmm. I guess I used less for seaming than was planned by the designer. I had even gone and purchased an extra ball of baby alpaca for the front banding, just in case I didn’t have enough. So, now, I have a half a ball of the Big Wool left, as well as a whole ball of chunky baby alpaca… hellooooo pretty cowl!

One change I did make though, the pattern calls for changing needle size for the front banding. Instead of changing to a 10(US), I felt this would be a little small for the scale of the rest of the vest, so I went down to an 11(US) instead. I think that this turned out perfectly. It made the front banding tighter, yet doesn’t pull up on the bottom. I also did about half an inch less on the banding, as I didn’t want the back of the neck as high as it was in the pattern image.

An unexpected outcome was that (again, because I am tiny) I was able to wear it without needing to block it! Since I am the impatient type, this is always a good thing for me. Usually I will make the next size up, specifically so that I don’t have to block it, or worry about having to block it when I wash it. I don’t know if this gets me bonus points for foresight or negative points for being lazy…

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crocheting for Clients, Part 1

I'm a newbie to the world of crochet, I'm not going to lie.  One of the things that I LOOOOOOVE (and I'm sure I've said this many times) is how quickly things work up. So, when a repeat client wanted hats for her daughters, I suggested that I crochet them instead of knitting them.  It would go faster, and it would also be a great break for my hands too.

This was an original customization (if that makes any sense at all) of a hat pattern from Lion Brand.  I took the basic pattern for the Worms in the Grass hat, added earflaps and also kitty ears - two triangles, one brown and one pink, as well as a bow to distinguish the two hats from each other.  This is how they came out...

Delilah sporting her new hat and foldover mitts...
I think for a pattern I created off the top of my head, they came out pretty darn cute!!  The cute kid modeling them doesn't hurt matters either... :)  If you're interested in the pattern that I used, leave a comment below and I will write up the mods that I made to the Lion Brand pattern. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Upcoming projects...

After a month of custom work, and prepping for a craft show, I'm ready to do something for ME!!!  I have about 6 different projects planned including:

- Montague Bulky Lace Vest from New England Knits - Rowan Big Wool and a Bulky Baby Alpaca for the front edging

- Cascade Yarns Boat Neck pullover (I'm cheating and using Blue Moon Laci because I have a TON left from last year's barn sale

- 'Nutkin' socks using Indigo Dragonfly's 'Captain Tightpants' colorway

- 'Snicket' socks using Knitted Wit's 'Bling' in a super bright yellow

- 'Tardis' socks using Miss Babs' fingering in a perfect shade of blue

- and I'm looking for a new cardi pattern to use for the Eco Duo I'm going to go get at Happy Knits this week...

Too much knitting, not enough time!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Go Little Sewing Machine GO!

Handpainted Asian, Seersucker Floral
Ikea Stripe

Those that know me are familiar with the saga of my sewing machine.  It's an older (I got it from my mom when she upgraded) model Singer.  Nothing crazy, just a simple little machine.  It doesn't do embroidery, require computer skills, or codes, or programming.  It sews in straight lines unless you move the fabric differently.  I like it.

Unfortunately, when I took it in recently for a tune up... they found that one of the gears (or something...) was cracked.  It was going to cost over $300 to fix the poor little dude.  It's only worth about $150.  So, it works with the needle all the way over in the right position - for now.  Consequently, that is how I've been using it.

Superman, 'Donna's View from the TARDIS',
French Countryside, Bright Floral

I have a craft fair coming up the first weekend of November (more on that in another post) and with all of the knitting and crocheting I've been doing for custom orders... my hands have been killing me.  I needed a day off, I had a ton of random fabric and toggle thingamabobs laying around, so I decided to make some project bags to peddle at the fair along with my other knitting notions that I have.  I like making notions (like stitch markers, end stoppers, etc.) because they provide a maximum return on the time invested.  All of my fabric is either left over from other projects, or purchased from SCRAP.  All of the toggles and cording (ok, they are really skinny shoelaces) are also from SCRAP.

(This is the new little gal I want... isn't she cute?!?!)
Yesterday, I cut out and ironed around 50 project bags (this also includes the little guys for the endstoppers, which come in their own little bag for the set).  By the time I finished last night, I had 39 of them sewn.  On a broken little machine.  It is a great little machine, and I will be sad to see it retired.  However, I am REALLY hoping to make enough at this craft fair to buy a new little Bernette from Modern Domestic, here in Portland. 


Aqua Print, Orange Blossoms,
Swirls and Butterflies, Leafy

So for my social media pals... here are some pictures.  If you see one or two that you like, let me know and I can create a custom listing on Etsy for you, or set them aside for you to pick up at the show.  Each pattern is available in multiple sizes.  Little bags are going to be $3, medium bags $5, and large bags $8.  (I have the fewest of the large bags, but a ton of the small and medium sizes)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Opportunities with other Knitters

One thing that I haven’t done before (although I keep saying that I want to…) is do test knitting or sample knitting. Especially for local shops or individuals whose product or business model I really respect or believe in. I’ve been approached several times, but there was really no follow through. I was told, “Oh, I’ll email you” or “I’ll give you the (insert pattern, yarn, whatever, here) the next time you’re in” and it never happened. Kind of disappointing!

his past month, I volunteered to do a few items for Lorajean of Knitted Wit, here in Portland. She’s a total sweetheart, with two adorable little munchkins, and makes gorgeous yarn. I picked up one skein of her fingering/sock weight at Sock Summit in a beautiful sunshiny (and did I mention that it has sparkles?!?!?!) yellow and I am still undecided on what pattern to use it with, as I don’t want to wreck such a pretty yarn with the wrong pattern!

She had me do a Virginia Cowl with a gorgeous aran weight MCN in a blue-grey color… I didn’t want to give it back. (Seriously) Soft and pliable, this yarn slid along the needles like none other that I have used - even some of the straight cashmere yarns that I have worked with.  Little to no splitting, and it should block very easily.  I really think that the reason I got it done so quickly is because it was so incredibly easy to work with. And next up is the ‘Love Letter’ sock in a fingering weight of the same type of cashy wool… OMG. I don’t think I will want to part with that either… she's KILLING me!

You can find her shop here, at Knitted … and go buy things! Totally worth it… and you’re supporting a rad chick too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Exciting Autumn Season!

A return to Sugar Me is first on this list of exciting things for late September/early October! Kate has requested the ever popular fingerless mitts make a return, so I have been furiously working on those, as well as stockpiling other random yarns I’ve been finding for her next order! Everything from classy and simple to bright and loud to little owls, I’m expecting the first run of these to go pretty quickly… as they tend to! Hopefully some cowls and some more armwarmers will make an appearance during November and December as well. Due to the increase in materials cost, however, these are going to be going up in price slightly, but I don’t want to lose my core ideal of keeping things affordable. Handmade is a luxury, but I don’t want it to be ridiculously priced!

Second, I am so thrilled to announce that I will be entering into an awesome children’s boutique on NE 30th/Killingsworth called Milagros! Milagros is well known around the Portland area, and they are going to be carrying my little baby yoga/learning to walk socks, as well as some baby sweaters and hats for the fall/winter season! More pictures and such to come as things get closer to the delivery date (only two weeks away!) to the shop. I am very excited for this, as Milagros has the reputation of being a quality shop, focused on environmentally friendly, and quality products – both locally handmade, and also from companies with the same values!

So excited for things to come!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hello Etsy!

Welcome to Portland! Last weekend was the global Hello Etsy! event. Here in Portland, ours was held at PNCA – a great and wonderful partner to our local Etsy team. The combination and relationship that both I Heart Art Portland and our PDX Etsy street team have with the college is fantastic and allowed us to have the perfect space for this event!

I volunteered in the morning, working with other fellow Etsians, to bring a plethora of muffins, croissants, and fruit to the masses. Now, if you are wondering what happened with the coffee, let’s pause for a moment to explain… the first huge percolators blew one of the fuses, so what should have been ready (had it started brewing when it was supposed to) was not. When I got there, we were told it was going… and going… and the coffee colored water started flowing. Yup. It was really just dirty looking water. Fortunately (for those of you that *got* coffee before the opening remarks), I found the “restaurant style” machine in the back kitchen area. We started brewing those, and then moved one of the large machines in the back. Which promptly blew another fuse… once it was finally working, I was pulled off of that duty to go be a ticket taker/bouncer/slide flipper for one of the presenters. So. My most sincere apologizes for the lack of caffeine!

The presentation I attended/bounced/was AV tech for, was held by Andrea Mansfield, of Brand and Bloom (@brandandbloom on Twitter). Called ‘Tasty Branding’, this session was about building a successful brand and recognizing the core values and principles that you want your small business to model… and how to get there successfully. Of all of the morning sessions, this was the one that I was hoping to attend, as I felt it would be the most useful to me! I did learn some interesting techniques and heard some useful questions and commentary. (Though the copyright/intellectual property lady was probably in the wrong seminar to be asking what she was… it was almost as if she was asking the question to show that Andrea didn’t know what she was talking about, and so she could answer herself – my two cents).

We were able to make some adorable little journals; an activity that was presented by Collage PDX, and was able to meet some of our Etsy peers. The Keynote address, featuring Duane Sorenson of Stumptown Coffee, and Rebecca Pearcy of Queen Bee Creations, was both informative and hilarious. And yes, I can TOTALLY see employees crashing on Duane’s couch. The lessons that they talked about and how each of them started (in very different ways) were very interesting, in that each demonstrated you don’t have to have a MBA to have a successful business. I think that in today’s business climate, people often get wrapped up in not having the degree and think “I couldn’t possibly…” or, on the flip side, they DO have the degree, but an intense lack of passion.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference at the midpoint, but from what I heard, and the vibe that was to be had (and my twitter feed later that afternoon), it seemed as though the second half of the day went just as well as the first! Some people I was glad to catch up with (or meet in person – not just on the twitter machine) were Janelle of Prunella Soap and Cool Jane Designs, Helene Hughart of HHKnits, Dryden of Designated Dryden, and also Kirsten of PiperEwan. AND my pals from Supportland! I did miss out on meeting up with a couple of people… so to those, hopefully soon!! SO many talented, terrific individuals to be had in one small area!

Thanks to all for a fantastic morning and I’m so glad that I was able to participate!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Giveaway!

One of the things I like to do is prep things in the summer for winter charity drives. This year, I've decided to do a Facebook giveaway in conjunction with that project.

If you would like to enter to win one of these cute little hats, head over to the Kusala Knitworks page, give a like, and comment on the picture of the grey cloche hat!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A different sort of craft...

There are many, Many, MANY, great things about living in Portland. Okay, the lack of sunshine isn’t necessarily one of them. However, we do have a phenomenal crafty community. When I say phenomenal, I mean, insanely huge, awesome, and wonderful. Many of the things that others wouldn’t necessarily consider craft, we do; for example, ever heard of ‘Craft Brewing’? Pretty sure that term was developed here… or at least our PBS affiliate told me so.

Combining craft with recycled materials is something that a lot of local artists are known for, some nationally renowned for. I discovered a cool place in North Portland about six months ago, and also found out that they have other locations nationwide – which only adds to the coolness. What comes to mind when I say recycled materials? Bottles, cans, milk jugs, etc., right? What if fabric, zippers, old trophies, binders, buttons, paint, folders, odd pieces of wood, spent CO2 cartridges, old patterns, snaps, signs, and random plastic tubes were included?

Yep. You’d have SCRAP. Located on MLK in North Portland (very close to the Nike store, for you Portlanders) this little store is a little wonder in a very small package. Materials are donated, and resold, at a HUGE discount. Make an art project, get your back to school binders, make a garden art plaque, how about a baby hat? Sure thing. The funds go to help get art to kids and schools that might not have a lot of the funding that they need, and as many people are coming to realize, are incredibly important for well rounded development. Helping to create hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, group collaboration, and more, art is an essential part of a developing (and well functioning) brain as we grow older.

During the summer, SCRAP hosts two different summer camps: Camp SCRAP and Trashion to Fashion. Camp SCRAP is a week long gig, where each day the kids focus on a new material, learning its properties, and exploring what they can create out of it. Trashion to Fashion is all about creating wearable garments from recycled materials. We were lucky enough to receive a scholarship to Camp SCRAP (with me still not being able to find a “real job”… the $275 for the week was way out of our budget). Ethan, who is 10, had a blast. They made crayons, shrinky dinks, rubber band balls, stained glass sheets, and more. Quite frankly, he was rather hesitant about going… “Whaddya mean, an art camp?”, however, in the end, I’m pretty sure he had more fun than he did at his OMSI computer programming camp that he was so stoked to attend.

From this experience, he has decided to create an entry for SCRAP’s upcoming youth art show – I think he has decided on a space lander craft… but we’ll see what we find when we go up there to search for more materials! Oh, and he has decided that “even though I'm a boy, that Trashion to Fashion camp sounds pretty cool, and I think I want to do that one next year.”

Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, Mom was right?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sock Summit 2011

It’s taken me a few weeks to write this posting, since I wanted to do the experience justice – and I knew it was going to be a long one. I have put in hours and hours at the Oregon Convention Center over the past few years, working everything from bridal expos to food equipment sales shows. Sock Summit was a totally different experience.
{Clockwise: OCC Readerboard, Lorajean from Knitted Wit,
Krugers Farm baskets, Sanguine Gryphon Tent;
Center: The Sockgate}
I attended Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, even though my actual class was on Sunday. Let’s start with Friday… I was there for a few hours, wandering around, looking for that specific, perfect blue to make my much anticipated Doctor Who socks. (By the way, entering through the Sockgate was SWEET – Huzzah for geeks!) After finding the perfect shade of blue from Miss Babs, out of Tennessee (although I found out later that another vendor had a color specifically called ‘Tardis’ – more about them later); I headed over to visit with Lorajean from Knitted Wit, and wound up getting some lovely bright yellow sparkly yarn.

For my purchases during Sock Summit, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, which tend to be hand painted yarn with LOTS of colors worked into one colorway. I managed this by staying with solids or semi-solids, with only one purchase of a multiple color handpainted… though it is in colors that I don’t normally use.

On Saturday, I took some handmade stitch markers and attached them to some business cards, and passed those out to some pals… Shan, Rebekah, Jen, and a few others. Why? Well, I was a Girl Scout for a long time, and when we went to conventions, camps, etc., we brought these fun little things called Swap Its to trade with other Girl Scout groups. Just a fun little “Oh my gosh, so nice to meet you in person!!” present. Also on Saturday, I visited the fantastic kids from Indigo Dragonfly. They had all sorts of fun geek yarn! Being a MASSIVE Firefly and Serenity fan, I completely appreciated the yarns dyed for each character – dark greens for Jayne, bright colors for Kaylee, and deep browns and burgundies for Mal. My one acquiescence to habit was the Mal yarn. Named Captain Tight Pants, this yarn is perfect for fall, and I already have a pattern selected.

{Clockwise: Yarns from Miss Babs, Knitted Wit, Sanguine
Gryphon, Indigo Dragonfly; Coral Cloche crochet hat,
SS11 badge and show book, Jen Andersen of
Anderson Fiber Works}
In a strange turn of events, I purchased my only pattern on Saturday as well, and it was a crochet pattern. I’m new to crocheting, and this lovely little number was a perfect “first hat” – especially since it doesn’t LOOK like a first hat. I brought the pattern home, and worked it up that night in a gorgeous silvery grey Madelinetosh that I had stashed away. (Far upper left)

Sunday, the final day, was my actual class, a One Hour Wonder called “Math for Knitters”. I’m not so great at math. I didn’t have a math teacher I understood until I was into my 20’s, and I think there were various reasons for this, but Beth was great and understands that we all don’t think the same way, or do math in the same way. I have a very convoluted way of doing math, which makes sense to me, but usually not to others. Or, even better, HELLO CALCULATOR!! I also made my final purchase – a lovely hank of “Little Traveler” fingering from Sanguine Gryphon. Of course, to quote Zoe from the aforementioned Firefly, “Sanguine, as in hopeful, or it can mean bloody”

{Lorajean of Knitted Wit, and Kristine of AVFKW,
Gnomes from SplitYarn, and rows and rows of
super fun buttons!}
There were a few things that I missed out on, opening night party, the Sock Hop, and the Flash Mob (you can check out that craziness here: Sock Summit Flash Mob), but all in all, I would say it was a fantastic experience, and many thanks to all of the staff and volunteers (though I volunteered, I never got a response… maybe next time). Hopefully this is something that will continue to happen. We have such a great yarn community here in Portland, and really, in the whole Northwest – um, all it does is rain… we’re pretty good at socks and sweaters here, and I know everyone would be incredibly excited to see Sock Summit return again very soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and Portland

I love Harry Potter... We have several traditions in our family regarding the Wizarding World. The books started when my sister was little and they always came out right around her birthday. When she was old enough, I started taking her to the midnight releases at the bookstores.

When the last few movies have come out, my oldest son has been old enough to come to the midnight shows with us. Last summer, before Deathly Hallows, Part One came out, he had to read all of the books- and he did it! This past Halloween he went as The Boy Who Lived, and I am delighted to report, he wore his robes to the movie premiere.

Unfortunately, my hat was crushed in Halloween storage, so I had to settle for just a t-shirt... And my spiffy twenty(ish) minute Gryffindor coffee sleeve. Living in Portland, we have Starbucks in the majority of our movie theatres... Awesome, right? :)

So, here is the quick little coffee sleeve pattern I came up with on Thursday afternoon:

Sz (US) 8 dpns
Worsted weight yarn in your favorite House colors

-CO 30 sts - divide 10 per needle
-Work main color in stockinette stitch (knit every round) for 8 rounds
-Switch to contrast color, work in stockinette for 6 rounds, carrying MC along. After 6 rounds, break contrast color
-Picking up MC, knit one round even.
-R2- *K4, K2tog, K4* repeat this sequence on each needle.
-R3-7 knit even
-R8 - BO

And that's it! Weave in your ends and you have a stylin' way to represent your favorite House, Team, School, etc.

(disclaimer: there are lot of coffee wrap patterns out there, this was made up on the fly sitting at my table. Similarities are coincidental. Please use this pattern all you want. Should you want to sell items from it, please contact me at kusalaknitworks @

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Sweater? In June? Welcome to Portland!

One of my most favorite books that I've found (well, in terms of knitting books, anyway) is New England Knits, put out by Interweave.  I love almost every single pattern in this book, and chances are I will be making pretty much all of them. 

The first one that I selected was the Augusta Cardigan... yep.  I started it the last week of June. JUNE!!  We have had a really wet, chilly, and yucky spring here in Portland, and quite honestly, I know I will still get wear out of this sweater this summer.

I chose the Aslan Trends Artesanal cotton/mohair blend for this project, first, well, because it was on sale; but also because (shhhhh) I like cotton.  I know that many of my fellow knitty types don't, because of it's drying effect on the hands, but I like that it dries in half the time, and has a similar worsted-ness as many wools.  I just make sure to keep a bottle of lotion nearby. :)

This was an easy pattern to knit, although, the button banding... I didn't pick up the right number of stitches, and it was fine.  Were I to do it again, I would slip the first stitch, even though it isn't specified to.  I also used 7/8" buttons, as opposed to the 1" buttons that were called for, and I would recommend this.  The buttonholes used are just a YO, and even blocking doesn't make them THAT big. 

I would absolutely knit this again... it would sure be pretty in a dark wine or a forest green color!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Congratulations to Sarah!! My number generator chose you! I will be in contact with you to find out what colors you would prefer for your coffee wraps!

Thank you so much to all that participated... I will be doing another contest in a few weeks!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Quick Birthday Present

MONKEYS!  Okay, so it's two days before your nephew's birthday... thankfully you remembered in time... want to make something handmade, but still cool to a five year old (and something that will hopefully be semi-useful, and something that won't last for 15 seconds before he outgrows it...

MOCHI MOCHI to the rescue!!  I got this book a while ago and have been wanting to try nearly everything in it for a long time... this gave me the perfect excuse!  While I didn't use the Cascade, I used Berocco's ReMix (I like the nubby quality, and I thought that it would be appropriate for a little boy) instead, the patterns was simple and easy to follow.  Not to mention, AWESOME!!  Who doesn't like monsters that look like they are eating feet?!?!?

Here's how they came out! And while I think I put the little ears a little too far back, I DO like the buttons instead of the embroidered eyes... :O)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Giveaway, schmivaway...

As of late, I've noticed that a lot of my Bloggy/Twitter pals have been doing some giveaway action.  I sponsored one through a client, however, I think I'm going to branch out and offer something through here... This leaves me in a quandary though... what to give away?  Something I've already made?  Something custom?  Usually, I will do something custom, but at this point I have SO many projects already lined up that I'm not sure...

That being said... what would you like to win?  I'm going to post THREE options and the rules are going to be as follows... 1) In the comments, pick one of the three items 2) why you chose that item 3) a random fact about yourself.

Here are the options:
1) A cute little crocheted sunglasses case with a fun button closure in cream organic cotton
2) A mini market tote in random bright colors
3) A set of two reusable coffee wraps in lime green and purple cotton (also with fun button detail!)

I will be closing the giveaway at the end of this weekend - June 5th, and will be drawing the winner using on Monday the 6th.  Good luck and I can't wait to learn fun random things about all of you!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I love my metal DPNs... well, I used to...

For a long time (well, it seems like a long time) I would only use metal DPNs... granted, part of this is due to the fact that they are, well, cheap.  Okay, perhaps inexpensive would be a better word.  Then, one afternoon, I came across a set of Sox Stix on clearance while browsing at Twisted.  Now, clearance for said Lantern Moon Sox Stix was still $16.00.  That's about $10 more than what I would usually pay. 

I tried them, I really liked them.  I liked that they weren't as slippery as the metal needles, and they were nice and short, which meant less laddering on my finished project.  While I still wish that the larger sizes had a sharper point on them, I am in the process of replacing the DPNs that I currently have with wooden or bamboo versions.  I would LOVE to buy all of them from Lantern Moon, I think they have a fabulous thing going on over there, however, they are a little out of my price range, unless I can find them on sale.  I have found that I also like the ones from Crystal Palace, and I've also gotten a set of the Hiya-Hiyas.
A selection of needles from Lantern Moon

I still have my metal ones, just in case I need an extra set, but I think I've been converted!  :)