Neapolitan Scarflette – Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

I’ve been really enjoying Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bags, but I haven’t been so good about photographing my projects for both happy and sad reasons I won’t go into right now. But despite my lack of documentation, these are great! These are like the grown-up cousin to their little yarn sample bags: more yarn, projects that are more wearable (think shawls, hats, cowls) and less trinket-like (think coasters, finger puppets). What really seals it for me is that these are a perfect “fits in the purse and keeps me entertained for hours” project when I’m running off in a hurry and need something that doesn’t require planning or fancy swatches and already has yarn measured out so I’m not carrying multiple full-sized balls in my bag. I had no idea I needed grab and go kits until I had a little stash of them!

Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

There’s the August kit: nice drawstring bag, glossy printed pattern, 4 balls of yarn, a packet of hand lotion (sometimes it’s wool wash, which I prefer), and a little notions box. The notion changes every month, and sometimes the yarn isn’t 4 balls, but it’s similar most months.

I like the little notions box, although I haven’t quite figured out what to put in all its little teensy compartments, and I should have taken a picture with it open for you to see them all!

If you’re curious, here’s the Jimmy Beans (small) beanie bag and the Yarn of the Month bag for August 2016, since this was an overlap month before I decided to drop the smaller subscriptions.

Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

August’s yarn came from Koigu, a brand I’d heard of but didn’t realize they were from Ontario. So I learned something new! The yarn very easy to knit with, maybe a bit less fuzzy/haloed than I like for my shawls, but that makes it easier to wear when it’s not really *that* cold in the office.

Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

The pattern for August is Neapolitan Scarflette by Rachel Roden. I think she’s RachelUnraveled on Ravelry, but this design doesn’t seem to be up so it might be someone else. This is a pattern that is simple to knit but annoying to count, since there’s a lot of sections that are almost but not quite the same. I assume a lot of this was just in trying to make good use of the 4 same-sized balls of yarn, but it did have me thinking a lot about how to optimize pattern writing to make the changed sections easier to notice. I suspect my next more complicated patterns are going to have a lot of colours or something as a result of this. Or possibly just be more simplified in memory of all the times I’ve cruised past the directions because I’m in a rhythm.

One thing I really liked about this pattern was the fact that it calls out a useful skill to learn: knitting the ends in as you go. Definitely this shawl encourages you to learn that one with all the colour changes! Knitting in ends as I go is not something I did all the time before and I think I’ll find myself doing it automatically now after all that practice, so I’m pretty pleased that they put that in. I’m leveling up in fibercraft in leaps and bounds lately!

Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

Here it is all balled up more like I’d wear it as a scarf, and you can see that there’s still some yarn leftover! I love the colours, so hopefully I’ll find a nice time to use these in a spot of colourwork. Doing colourwork remains one of the reasons I was willing to get so many small balls of yarn after all!

Jimmy Beans Big Beanie Bag: August 2016

Overall I was very pleased with this kit. I actually started my subscription up again right after the initial 3 months finished because I heard they had a few of these left and I could get one, and I’m pretty pleased that I did.

Taking No for an Answer (Open Source Bridge 2016 talk)

I gave one talk and ran one tutorial at Open Source Bridge 2016 back in June. For those of you not familiar with it, Open Source Bridge is an open source conference with a focus on “open source citizenship” that leads to a great combination of technical and social thought from people who are part of the open source community. My favourite part is actually the super chill hacker lounge, where it’s quiet enough to actually talk, and it’s totally cool to meet new friends around the lego table or bring my knitting. I don’t mind a few alcoholic conference mixers, but I have to say I meet and remember way more people at open source bridge than many other conferences.

Talk I gave this year, entitled “Taking No For an Answer,” isn’t entirely open source specific, since it’s really about a bad community behaviour you see in many other communities, but the focus and my examples come from my work in open source. I can’t seem to find the audio recording they made, so this is reconstructed from my slide notes. You can find the whole slide deck here: Taking No For An Answer (Open Source Bridge 2016) slides.

Taking No for an Answer: a talk by Terri Oda at Open Source Bridge 2016

[Title Slide] Taking No for an Answer: a talk by Terri Oda at Open Source Bridge 2016

Open source (like many fields) rewards people who are confident and even a bit pushy. Those of us who go furthest are often those who offered to fix bugs and followed through, who were ready to argue about their architectural ideas on a mailing list or irc channel. In many ways, open source is do-ocracy, where those with the time and the confidence to do things become leaders. In volunteer led communities, it can often be the case that the quality or merit of the work isn’t the big focus: it’s whether it’s getting done by anyone at all.

[Slide 1] This slide shows a collage of book covers and articles related to confidence: "How to overcome impostor syndrome" "Women don't ask" "Lean in" "Closing the confidence gap" "The impostor syndrome"

[Slide 1] This slide shows a collage of book covers and articles related to confidence: “How to overcome impostor syndrome” “Women don’t ask” “Lean in” “Closing the confidence gap” “The impostor syndrome”

So because of this, In the tech world, there’s been a lot of focus on getting people to step forwards, negotiate, lean in, DO. This can be super valuable — sometimes people do need a reminder, need some tips, need an invitation to speak, need to evaluate their internal censor and not let it stop them. There’s a reason my google image search pulled up a bunch of stuff aimed at women: there’s been a lot of push to encourage folk who are under-represented or socialized not to step forwards.

[Slide 2] Slide shows the phrase "But what about the men?" in a bold, playful font

[Slide 2] Slide shows the phrase “But what about the men?” in a bold, playful font

So clearly, as in all discussions about women and minorities, it’s time to consider what about the men? (room laughs)

[Slide 3] reads "What about self-improvement for leaders?" and shows Superman and The Hulk action figures, apparently in the middle of an argument

[Slide 3] reads “What about self-improvement for leaders?” and shows Superman and The Hulk action figures, apparently in the middle of an argument

Okay, just kidding. But surely self-improvement isn’t just for folk who haven’t stepped up yet. What about self-improvement for people who are already leaders in our communities? What about training confident people to be better? So this talk is aimed not at our most vulnerable but at some of our more powerful, as well as those who want to become more powerful and effective community members.

[Slide 4] reads "So let's talk about NO" and has a picture of a sign with a person holding up a hand to indicate no.

[Slide 4] reads “So let’s talk about NO” and has a picture of a sign with a person holding up a hand to indicate no.

So, it looks like I have a great audience of existing and future community leaders. Let’s talk about no.

[Slide 5] reads "No is a powerful tool" and has a picture of a circular saw

[Slide 5] reads “No is a powerful tool” and has a picture of a circular saw

No is a powerful tool with many uses. In my professional life, I do open source security, and a lot of my job involves saying no: No, this code isn’t right. No, you can’t skip validation. In my volunteer life, one of the things I do is coordinate a large summer mentoring program for the python software foundation. No, you can’t have more students than you have mentors. No, you can’t sign up even though it’s past the deadline. And as a minority in tech, I say a lot of no. No, I’m not available to help you with more diverse hiring. No, I don’t have time to educate you on issues facing minorities in tech. No helps me do my job, manage my time, make my volunteer program better, and so much more.

[Slide 6] reads "Now, I'm a NO professional... But lots of folk are not." there is no image on this slide, only stark text.

[Slide 6] reads “Now, I’m a NO professional… But lots of folk are not.” there is no image on this slide, only stark text.

I get paid to say no: it’s a huge part of my job, and I’ve learned a lot about when to say no, how to say no, techniques to make it easier for people to accept no, when I need backup on saying no, etc. But while I’m a professional naysayer, that’s not true of a lot of other folk in our communities.

[Slide 7] reads "Saying no can be exhausting" with emphasis on the word exhausting.  There is a picture of a tired looking kitty on the slide.

[Slide 7] reads “Saying no can be exhausting” with emphasis on the word exhausting. There is a picture of a tired looking kitty on the slide.

And frankly, saying no can get pretty exhausting. It’s not at all helped by all those “but you should put yourself forwards!” self-help books, let me tell you. I had some dude give me a unsolicited pep talk at work about imposter syndrome and seriously, some people need to learn the difference between a lack of confidence and a knowledgable evaluation of personal skill. No is hard, especially if you’ve been socialized to be agreeable, and some people take advantage of that.. There’s a whole talk to be had about how to say no effectively, and maybe some day I’ll give it, but I feel like the people who might need some help saying no are mostly the same people who needed help saying yes, and I want to talk to the other people. The people who make saying no so exhausting, whether they mean to or not.

[Slide 8] reads "That's not really a security bug" and has a picture of a box that has a label that says "enjoy denial" in the style of a coke advertisement, and a "hello my name is denial" sticker in the style of a name sticker

[Slide 8] has a title of “1. denial” and a quote that reads “That’s not really a security bug” and has a picture of a box that has a label that says “enjoy denial” in the style of a coke advertisement, and a “hello my name is denial” sticker in the style of a name sticker

Let’s talk about some common anti-patterns you get when you say no. The first one is denial. I hear this a lot in my professional life: That’s not really a security bug. That’s not exploitable. No one would ever do that.

[Slide 2] has a title that reads "2. Anger" and a quote that says "Failing this will destroy my future career!" over a picture of a young man making weird face that could be interpreted as anger

[Slide 2] has a title that reads “2. Anger” and a quote that says “Failing this will destroy my future career!” over a picture of a young man making weird face that could be interpreted as anger

The second reaction to no is anger. I hit this one a lot when teaching and mentoring: students sometimes have been effortlessly at the top of their class and don’t know how to handle having to work for results. Or they just have no way to handle failure and dust themselves off to try again. So they yell at me. They yell at people who they think have power over me. They blame anyone but themselves for the fact that I’m telling them something they don’t want to hear, and let me tell you they *really* don’t want to hear that I’m not destroying their life, their poor performance is destroying their life. And I wish I could say it’s just students, but try telling a project that they’re going to miss their shipping deadline due to a late breaking security issue or their failure to do due diligence. This is totally an understandable response, but it’s not a productive response.

[Slide 10] has a title of "3. Bargaining" and a quote that says "can't you just do this one thing?" and a picture of an advertisement with a cartoon farmer saying "you'd be crazy to miss this bargains"

[Slide 10] has a title of “3. Bargaining” and a quote that says “can’t you just do this one thing?” and a picture of an advertisement with a cartoon farmer saying “you’d be crazy to miss this bargains”

Next is bargaining. The worst experience I have ever had saying no was to someone who exhibited both the denial and bargaining anti-patterns. She wanted me to run a program that I’d run in previous years, which is a totally reasonable thing to ask, but when I said I wasn’t available because of a more impactful commitment, she would repeatedly come to me with things and it was always “couldn’t you just” — “couldn’t you just look over the wiki?” “couldn’t you just help with this one part of the project” “couldn’t you just help this one person get set up” “couldn’t you just answer this question.” It was exhausting and awful, because I absolutely did not have the time to do these things, and I’d actually made it clear that I didn’t even have time to keep telling her no. And yet, the questions still came.

But bargaining can also be a useful and productive pattern. In my professional life, when I say no, it’s pretty normal to negotiate a solution together with the dev team. Even in that dreadful volunteer experience, my final out came by begging a friend to work with her — negotiating it so that there was a buffer of no between me and her so she had a resource willing to help her and I had the ability to do the other thing I had committed to do.

[Slide 11] has a title of "4. Depression" and a quote that reads "Well, if you can't help me, then this program will die" and a picture of a young woman sitting at a picnic table with her face in her hands

[Slide 11] has a title of “4. Depression” and a quote that reads “Well, if you can’t help me, then this program will die” and a picture of a young woman sitting at a picnic table with her face in her hands

And then there’s depression, which honestly can be both emotional manipulation as well true dismay.

[Slide 12] has a title of "5. Acceptance" and contains an artistic photo of a cheerful looking T Rex toy

[Slide 12] has a title of “5. Acceptance” and contains an artistic photo of a cheerful looking T Rex toy

And finally, of course, acceptance. If you haven’t already recognized them, as well as the 5 stages of no, that was also the 5 stages of grieving. It’s sort of disturbing how much they line up. But why do we need to think about no anti-patterns?

[Slide 13] reads "So few experts, so many asks" and contains no picture

[Slide 13] reads “So few experts, so many asks” and contains no picture

And the answer is that these anti-patterns harm our communities. In a situation where you have very few experts and many people asking, anti-patterns surrounding no contribute to communities denial-of-servicing our few experts. This happens to me as a security expert sometimes: I’ve had weeks where I wind up arguing with people about lousy decisions endlessly, so much so that I then don’t have enough time to do advanced secure code review, or help other groups triage security issues well. It happens to me a lot more than I would like.

[Silde 14] has a title "Causes of burnout" and then a copy of a slide by Cate Huston that has a picture of an owl and reads 1. lack of control 2. insufficient reward 3. lack of community 4. absence of fairness 5. conflict in values 6. work overload"

[Silde 14] has a title “Causes of burnout” and then a copy of a slide by Cate Huston that has a picture of an owl and reads 1. lack of control 2. insufficient reward 3. lack of community 4. absence of fairness 5. conflict in values 6. work overload”

My friend Cate has been giving a great talk on burnout and I just wanted to share this slide, which talks about the fact that burnout isn’t just caused by high workload. No is a great tool for avoiding high workload, but it’s also a great tool for avoiding being put in situations where you’ll be hit by the other 5 things on this list. That’s one of the reasons that it’s absolutely essential that leaders need to learn to take no for an answer so that their communities can actually be *healthy* and not burnout factories.

[Side 15] has a picture of a ballerina in a practice outfit holding a pose that requires strength and below the words "How do I accept a no with strength and grace?"

[Side 15] has a picture of a ballerina in a practice outfit holding a pose that requires strength and below the words “How do I accept a no with strength and grace?”

So how can I learn to accept no with strength and grace?

[Slide 16] has only large text that reads "Step 1: Accept"

[Slide 16] has only large text that reads “Step 1: Accept”

The first step to accepting gracefully is to actually accept that no was in fact the answer given. If you catch yourself doing any of the anti-pattern things, you aren’t really doing a good job at this. Consider the lady who wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept asking me “couldn’t you just…” — if she’d been able to accept the no, we could have had time to help her find a better solution. But instead, the whole experience left me frustrated, exhausted, and telling my friends cautionary tales about the experience. This was a bad outcome for both of us, and for the people she wanted to help.

[Slide 17] has only large text that reads "Step 2: Listen:

[Slide 17] has only large text that reads “Step 2: Listen:

The second step is to listen. If you’re convinced this was the right choice, take time to find out why the answer was no. Be prepared to have that answer challenge your assumptions. One of the things I do at work sometimes is review open source libraries to see if they have good enough security hygiene for inclusion in our products, and I get a lot of push back when I tell people they need to choose a better library. They’ve made assumptions that don’t match up with my metrics, and the only way for them to learn to make better choices and thus get products to market faster is to learn what assumptions are leading them to poor decisions.

[Slide 18] has only large text that reads "Step 3: Plan"

[Slide 18] has only large text that reads “Step 3: Plan”

The last step is to form a new plan. You might be able to do this with the help of the person who said no, but you shouldn’t assume that — No means no, folk. If you want to be a great leader, you need to take responsibility for finding a new plan if you want the thing to be done.

[Slide 19] reads "But I don't want to get a no" with emphasis on the words "don't want"

[Slide 19] reads “But I don’t want to get a no” with emphasis on the words “don’t want”

But I don’t want to get a no.

[Slide 20] reads "But I can't afford to get a no" with emphasis on the words "can't afford"

[Slide 20] reads “But I can’t afford to get a no” with emphasis on the words “can’t afford”

But I can’t afford to get a no.

[Slide 21] says "How do I turn no into a yes?" with no emphasized in red to evoke a "stop" and yes emphasized in green to evoke a "go"

[Slide 21] says “How do I turn no into a yes?” with no emphasized in red to evoke a “stop” and yes emphasized in green to evoke a “go”

How do I turn no into a yes?

[Slide 22] reads "If you want to turn no into yes, first consider: Am I being an asshole?" The phrase "Am I being an asshole?" is emphasized.

[Slide 22] reads “If you want to turn no into yes, first consider: Am I being an asshole?” The phrase “Am I being an asshole?” is emphasized.

If you want to turn a no into yes, first consider: Am I being an asshole? (audience at OSB laughs, pulls out smart phones to take pictures of the slide). This is a legit thing you should ask yourself pretty regularly as a community leader, actually. For example, sometimes you’ll be asking for things to be done in a way that makes them easier for you at the cost of others. Sometimes you’re just demanding that things be done the first way you thought of when that’s not the important part of the request.

[Slide 23] reads "If you want to turn no into yes, first consider: What do I really need?" The phrase "What do I really need?" is emphasized.

[Slide 23] reads “If you want to turn no into yes, first consider: What do I really need?” The phrase “What do I really need?” is emphasized.

But perhaps more usefully, ask yourself what you really need. The answer is almost certainly not “I need to irritate my valuable volunteers” but what is the answer?

[Slide 24] has an image of a hand raised as if to ask a question and reads "How do I improve my ask?"

[Slide 24] has an image of a hand raised as if to ask a question and reads “How do I improve my ask?”

So, if you’re getting a no and you want a yes, clearly you are doing something wrong in the way you ask. How can you improve your ask to get better results for your community even if you have to get a no sometimes?

[Slide 25] has a picture of a woman looking into a microscope in a scientific lab and reads "Step 1: do your research"

[Slide 25] has a picture of a woman looking into a microscope in a scientific lab and reads “Step 1: do your research”

Step 1: do your research.

[Slide 26] repeats the title from the previous slide "Step 1: do your research" and follows it with a list of questions: What do you really need? Who else can you ask? Where else can you get more information? How long will what you’re asking for actually take?  How stressful is it?

[Slide 26] repeats the title from the previous slide “Step 1: do your research” and follows it with a list of questions: What do you really need?
Who else can you ask?
Where else can you get more information?
How long will what you’re asking for actually take?
How stressful is it?

  • What do you really need?
  • Who else can you ask?
  • Where else can you get more information?
  • How long will what you’re asking for actually take?
  • How stressful is it?
[Slide 27] has a picture of two kids sharing and reads "Step 2: use your empathy"

[Slide 27] has a picture of two kids sharing and reads “Step 2: use your empathy”

Step 2: Use your empathy

[Slide 28] repeats the title from the previous slide "Step 2: use your empathy" and asks a range of questions (will appear in text below this caption) The emphasis is on the final sentence, which reads "Empathy is not about what you want, but what they want."

[Slide 28] repeats the title from the previous slide “Step 2: use your empathy” and asks a range of questions (will appear in text below this caption) The emphasis is on the final sentence, which reads “Empathy is not about what you want, but what they want.”

  • How can you make saying yes more beneficial to the person you’re asking?
    • Can you pay them?
    • Can you provide other rewards?
    • Can you make it align better with their career or life goals?
    • Can you make sure they get more thanks, recognition?
  • How can you make it easier for them to say yes?
    • Do they need childcare?
    • Do they need a better schedule?
    • Does the task need to be better-defined?
    • Could they help with something smaller?
  • Should you just leave them alone if they say no?
  • Empathy is not about what you want, but what they want.

If you don’t know how to empathize, you’re going to end up with asks that are utterly unappealing or outright insulting to the people whose help you want.

[Slide 29] has a picture of a snowy scene with my mom and her dog Buster and reads, "I'm Canadian.  People die of exposure"

[Slide 29] has a picture of a snowy scene with my mom and her dog Buster and reads, “I’m Canadian. People die of exposure”

And in a striking example of that, one thing I and many others often get offered for my time is “exposure” — I’m from Canada. My people DIE of exposure. But jokes aside, exposure is often a double-edged sword for people in your community, and you need your empathy and knowledge of your community of volunteers to know when that’s something they might want and when it’s something they want to avoid at all costs.

[Slide 31] has a title of "Step 3: make a backup plan (or several)" and a Foxtrot comic about the need to make computer backups *before* doing something on the computer

[Slide 31] has a title of “Step 3: make a backup plan (or several)” and a Foxtrot comic about the need to make computer backups *before* doing something on the computer

Make a backup plan (hopefully this will be easier with the research!) If getting a yes is really important to you, you should try to do all of these things in advance.

[Slide 32] is a summary slide described in detail below.

[Slide 32] is a summary slide described in detail below.

Refusing to take no for an answer is damaging behaviour: it contributes to burnout, denial of service, assholism.

Steps to graceful acceptance of no:

  1. Accept
  2. Listen
  3. Plan

If you really need a yes

  1. Do your research
  2. Use your empathy
  3. Make a backup plan

And do all of this before you ask if you want the best results and the happiest community. If you’re asking for something, the onus is upon you to figure out who might want to do this and find a way to make them feel great about saying yes.

Learning to accept no well and productively will make you a more effective leader.

nopetopus
Nopetopus source

Photo credits:
“Superman vs Hulk (131/365)” by JD Hancock https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/4600608792
“Talk to the hand” by Bridget McKenzie https://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetmckenz/7822818160/
“Power tool” by Helen Cook https://www.flickr.com/photos/hvc/2681974174/
“Sleepy” by Sera Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/seraphing/15305580251/
“Denial pack” by andres musta https://www.flickr.com/photos/andresmusta/6175939561/
“Anger” by kunkelstein https://www.flickr.com/photos/21370407@N08/2091127037
“You’d be crazy to miss these bargains” by Christian Heilmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/codepo8/1309725237
“Acceptance” by Kitty Mao https://www.flickr.com/photos/kwseah/21683299393
“Beautiful Ballerina” by Grace Trivino https://www.flickr.com/photos/graceyheartphotography/4741052547
“Raised hand” by usdagov https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/22484527807/
“Sharing” by Binny V A https://www.flickr.com/photos/binnyva/8600465534
“Out for a walk in the woods” by Terriko https://www.flickr.com/photos/terrio/8304718546/

Spinning continued

My class has been done for a couple of weeks, but I’m still spinning! It’s actually kind of killing me to leave my wheel behind for my upcoming trip, but I haven’t even tried a spindle yet so there will be no spinning for a little while. So to tide me over, I’m posting some pictures of my almost-finished skeins today. Hopefully I’ll have some comparison photos with them after washing and finishing later when I have time for more photos.

First plied yarn

Before washing:
First skein of handspun yarn

This is two different PCC fleeces. At least I’m pretty sure it was: the label on the bag of the white is definitely PCC but I didn’t check the bag of the brown since that was what we were using in class. That brown skein is my very first thing off the wheel, from the very first class! (It was also done on a wheel that we decided didn’t quite suit me, so I switched out for the rest of my class rental.) Both colours are natural and undyed.

Second plied yarn

Second handspun yarn

This is the same white from the two-toned first skein, out of the same bag. I found the white way easier to spin than the brown since it wasn’t as “sticky” and all of a sudden I could keep it consistent and smaller. Of course, it could have just been that I’d had more practice!

My second handspun yarn!

I was focused on spinning so I didn’t stop quite often enough for bits of grass and stuff stuck in there, making this a little extra-rustic. Can you spot any in the photos?

Third plied yarn

In progress:
My third handspun yarn, during plying

This is a super beautiful hand-dyed fiber braid from Kashmaier Creations. I decided after the success of my second yarn, I wanted to treat myself by trying out some of her beautiful fiber, and I’m really pleased by how it came out!

Looking dramatic:
My third handspun yarn

The fiber is a corrie cross that was recommended to me as suitable for beginners, and I think I agree. I was intentionally making it thicker than the 2nd yarn because I wanted it squooshy, and the plied yarn turned out almost exactly how I envisioned.

Yarn having a bath:
Yarn having a bath

Look at those colours! I’m not sure what this yarn will be yet, but I definitely want to make it into something I can show off.

Next up, one more hand-dyed extravagance with a different sheep breed as base, then I might try to do something a little more slippery to see how that works out.

I’m really enjoying the process: running the double treadle wheel I’m using is like a little moving meditation, and since I had a hard week of sore leg and sore head, I was sorely in need of that. I didn’t think I needed a new hobby, but I definitely don’t mind having one. If you want a little spin-spiration, check out enfiber‘s great spinning series and fascinating guide to understanding different fiber types. They’re part of why I was willing to stretch my horizons with a new fiber craft, so I was ready to sign up when the right class came along!

Starry Stole

Starry Stole

This was actually my first beaded knitting project, and it’s a miracle it wasn’t my last, as it called for threading hundreds of beads (700 the pattern said!) on beautiful laceweight wool.

It took me 5 years to finish.

Well, okay, I can’t be sure it was 5 years, because I didn’t actually put this project in Ravelry with a start date, but it was pretty early on in my knitting career, and was started when I lived in Albuquerque, so that only really gives me a possible 2 year window. It’s at least 4 years, anyhow. It felt like forever. I’ve probably finished another half dozen beaded projects before I came back to this one and finally finished it off.

Pattern: Starry Stole
Yarn: I believe it was the discontinued Knitpicks Shimmer Hand Dyed Lace
Ravelry Link: My Starry Stole

I can definitely tell you that I wouldn’t try to string beads on that yarn again — it felted little rings as you slid the beads along, the beads wrapped around each other making terrible almost-knots. I’m more experienced now, and I know that fighting with yarn and beads like this is unnecessary now thanks to nice tools like my bead-aid. Stringing them on meant I could slip-stitch them to float on one side, though, and that is actually pretty nice in the final feel of the piece.

Starry Stole

Despite many frustrating moments and the huge number of times I set it down in favour of some less irritating project, the final piece is beautiful. The soft lace yarn floats over my skin with the beads providing sparkle and just enough weight. I wish the yarn wasn’t discontinued! It feels like something out of a fairy tale, and it looks like it too.

Starry Stole

Because this was a very early project for me, it’s pretty easy for me to spot the mistakes: here’s where I had too heavy a stitch marker and it pulled on the yarn, here’s a place where I botched the lace edging and guessed at a fix, here’s a section where the tension isn’t quite even. But blocking smoothed most of that out and the result is beautiful even with some signs of my inexperience knit in to the piece. Maybe that tangible record of how far I’ve come is part of the magic of this shawl.

Starry Stole

I learned a lot from this one, and I’m glad I finally finished it, because it really is lovely.

Starry Stole

Craftsman Shawl

This shawl is another part of my fall finishing spree, which was inspired by someone in one of my online groups asking how many WIPs I had. I took stock, then finished this one before posting my answer (which is probably cheating) and then started in on the gloves and another one I’ll post soon.

Craftsman Shawl

I saw this in the shop at Twisted and it’s very striking with those square holes, and I love the inspiration from Craftsman homes. Combine that with a local yarn, and you get a pleasantly local pattern. I suspect those are always an easier sell around here, since “buy local” is something that people really commit to in the PNW. I know I’m quickly becoming a sucker for pacific-northwest themed stuff, and I’ve only lived here 3 years. (But oh, when I step out into that misty fall rain, sometimes it feels like my heart’s been here forever.)

Craftsman Shawl

Pattern: Craftsman Shawl. While this pattern looks pretty ornate, it’s surprisingly simple, and has lots of straight-up knit rows which were very pleasant while I was on conference calls or watching videos or whatever. I don’t think it’d be a great beginner project, but it’s probably only a few steps up from beginner level.

Craftsman Shawl

I love the aesthetics of the pattern, but once I got it finished, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t nearly as warm as I expected because the blocking opened up those big holes so it no longer trapped air as well as it did while I was knitting it. So don’t plan for this to be a great warmth piece. But it’s actually kind of nice as a mid-weight piece, and it’s more or less earned a place on my favourite chair for when the sun goes down and the living room starts to cool off.

Craftsman Shawl

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silky Victoria. I picked this up also at Twisted, I think maybe using a coupon intended to get people to come back after the Rose City Yarn Crawl. Smart marketing, although the store is kind of picked over at that point. Twisted is one of the first shops I visited in Portland, and it’s still one I take yarn-loving visitors to because it’s got a nice selection of local dyers for your tourist yarn needs and gives me an excuse to drive across the city.

Craftsman Shawl

This was a *giant* ball of yarn. It’s soft, but still wooly, and doesn’t feel super silky to me (compared to my fancier blends) but it shines with that silky almost-sparkle. that’s really highlighted by the tonal reds. I’m a big fan of the Blue Moon colourways, and this is a pleasant base that really shows the rich colours at their best. It’s not one of those yarns that makes me immediately want to run out and buy more just because it feels so amazing, but their colours (and their hilarious names) always tempt me.

Craftsman Shawl

My project on ravelry, in case you want to queue up your own.

How am I doing on that finishing spree? I had 8 works in progress if you count this one, 4 are done, and I started and finished a 5th that’s currently blocking.

Two WIPs you know about are the abandoned cardipalooza cardigan and the dreaded second glove from the catch a falling star MKAL. I’ve got two more WIPs that I don’t intend to finish right now because there’s pattern rework to be done.

But then I started a hat this morning because I needed a purse-sized project that wouldn’t poke holes in things (the needles for those fingerless gloves are deadly) and the new yarn from the flock and fiber festival was calling to me. So I’m currently at 3 in progress, two stalled. Good thing I’m not *too* worried about having a few things on the needles at once!

Cadfael Shawlette

I did a lot of crochet in August, mostly amigrumi for ABQ Maker Faire, but there was also this pretty little thing for myself:

Cadfael Shawl

Pattern: Cadfael Shawlette by Kat Strieby

I really loved the Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Cake Shawl that was the crochet mystery-a-long for the Rose City Yarn Crawl 2016. I’d only chosen to do that one because I met Kat at my local yarn shop, but I particularly like Kat’s crochet charts, which are exceptionally pleasant to use, and will rave about them to anyone who asks.

I don’t know if I ever posted pictures of me in that shawl here, so here’s one:

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Day 3 - Mystery Crochet-a-Long

That shawl remains one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever made, as well as a great experience to make. So when my friend M suggested that we do another of her patterns and a knit-a-long together, I took her up on it. It became an excuse to send her ridiculous photos of the shawl in progress for a while:

img_20160905_192934

The new shawl isn’t quite as striking as the coloured layers of my old one, but it’s certainly going to become a favourite piece for me to wear:

Cadfael Shawl

Yarn: Teresa Ruch Designs Tencel 5/2. I don’t know the name of the colourway (It had just come in the day I bought it and I’m not sure any name had stuck yet at the time that I bought it), but it’s a special shop colour exclusive to Black Sheep at Orenco, so you should order from them if you love it.

Cadfael Shawl

This tencel is quickly becoming my favourite thing to crochet with, especially for shawls, because it’s light and drapey and the colours come through as saturated and shiny. Since it’s a very smooth synthetic, it doesn’t stick to itself which means you can slide things around easily during blocking. It’s also quite nice for beads. I’d guess you could even string them on in advance since this yarn doesn’t felt, but I used a Bead Aid because it’s so much easier.

This shawl is a somewhat unusual shape, which becomes more striking during blocking.

Before blocking:
Cadfael Shawl (pre blocking)

During blocking:

Cadfael Shawl (during blocking)

Although to be honest, you don’t see it much the way I’ve been wearing it as a scarf lately:

Cadfael Shawl

It’s a really lovely piece and I’m glad M convinced me it was time to try this pattern!

My project on Ravelry in case you want to see more pictures or queue it up yourself.

Learning to spin!

I really don’t need new hobbies, especially not ones that require a bunch of equipment. But sometimes you get an opportunity and you just have to go for it: in this case, it was a class taught by an instructor who I was sure would be great for the way I learn. So I’m learning to spin yarn this week and next.

I’ve got to say, I’m not exactly a natural at this, but it’s still kind of a relaxing set of motions, and I’m quite enjoying it. Here’s my first attempt (the fluff on the right is just some unspun stuff at the end):

My first attempt at spinning!

And my second, which is still on my borrowed wheel waiting for me to continue practice. (The class sensibly includes a wheel rental for practice, although I need to switch wheels tomorrow when the new rental wheel comes in).

My second attempt at spinning

Both of these are, I believe, from fleece from the flock at the Portland Community College. Undyed, just different sheep.

Grey gloves (Phase 1)

Grey gloves for J

I’ve been on a bit of a finishing spree, pulling out older projects. This one technically isn’t finished yet, since I’ll be putting a finger cover to make them convertible gloves, but since I gave them to J to try out in case it’s cool while he’s traveling east I figure they’re finished for now!

These were started in the spring, but abandoned when it got too warm for them to be useful. It’s still too warm, but I wanted to make sure they were done before it actually got cold.

Pattern: Line by Line mittens. This is a bit of a silly pattern to use with a solid grey yarn, but I had a copy (I think maybe it was a giveaway once?) and it has a size that’s suitable for J. Since this wasn’t a surprise, I got J to choose how long to make the fingers, so it’s not exactly to pattern.

Yarn: Misti Tui from Misti Alpaca. Sport weight, chains of thin alpaca. This is the same type of yarn I used for my Easy Kitty Hat. It’s probably not ideal for gloves, but it’s so soft and easy to stuff in a pocket that I thought J might enjoy some gloves out of it and offered to make them.

I don’t know if I’d recommend it for gloves in general because I doubt it’s super hardy, but so soft, and if they got worn out it’s not too hard to patch them up or make more.

Crochet Pokéball Postcard Pattern

My favourite local yarn store, Black Sheep at Orenco, got turned into a pokémon gym with the advent of Pokémon Go, and I was so pleased by this that I thought I’d make a pattern! Now, pokéball patterns are a dime a dozen, but what I wanted was something that would be easy to print up nicely and give away, so that’s what I made. I’ll have a batch to give away at Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire on Aug 27-28, and hopefully the lovely folk at Black Sheep at Orenco will let me give away some there too.

Here’s the pages as images, but if you’d like to print it yourself or save it in your collection, I recommend the Pokeball postcard pattern pdf. It’s intended for a 4×6 postcard, or both sides will print onto a single 8.5×11″ sheet of paper. (Also, you can queue it as Pokéball Postcard on ravelry.)

Pokeball-pattern-1

Pokeball-pattern-2

(The text version of the pattern is at the bottom of this post)

Need help? There are lots of great tutorials out there, including video tutorials on youtube. If the first one you find doesn’t work for you, there’s many more options!

Here’s a few tutorials you might need for this pattern:

Still confused? You can probably also find an expert or a class at your local yarn store.

Love the pattern and want to thank me? Here’s a few things you can do:

  1. I don’t take tips, but I love seeing photos of what people have done with my patterns, so feel free to drop me an email at terri (at) toybox.ca.
  2. Make a pokeball and leave it for someone to find at your local pokestop or gym!
  3. Buy something at Black Sheep at Orenco so my favourite yarn store stays in business. (If you’re a crocheter and haven’t tried Teresa Ruch’s tencel, I recommend splurging on a ball and making a shawl or scarf. Such saturated colours with beautiful shine; the pictures hardly do it justice!)
  4. Buy something from my pattern editor’s most excellent store Flying Corgi Studios. I’m a big fan of her teacup pincushions, as you may have noticed in my photos!

Feel free to print this pattern out for friends or strangers and do whatever you’d like with your pokeballs! (Although please don’t hurt anyone with them!)

Crochet PoKéBall

A free amigurumi pattern by Terri Oda

Materials: Yarn in red, white, black. Crochet hook appropriate for yarn or smaller to avoid holes.
Yarn needle. Stuffing (polyfill and/or beans work well)
Picture uses worsted weight and size I or 5.5mm hook.
sc single crochet
inc increase by doing two single crochet in a single crochet stitch
dec “invisible” decrease: pull up loop in outside-of-ball half of next stitch, then full following stitch. Finish by pulling though all 3 loops on hook.
When starting your next stitch, be careful not to re-use the 2nd stitch in the decrease by accident.

Button:
0 (white): 6 sc in a magic circle loop
There are great tutorials for magic circles online!
1 (black): Switch colours to black, 2sc in each stitch (for total of 12 stitches)
Cut yarn, leaving a long black tail for sewing
Ball:
0 (red): 6 sc in a magic circle loop (6 stitches)
1 (red): increase (inc) 6 times (12 stitches)
2 (red): { inc in next stitch, sc in following one } repeat 6 times (18 stitches total)
3 (red): { inc, sc, sc } 6 times (24 stitches)
4 (red): { inc, sc 3 times } 6 times (30 stitches)
5-7 (red): sc around (30 stitches)
8 (black): change to black, sc around (30 stitches)
Don’t worry if your colour change looks obvious, it will be covered by the button.
9-11 (white): change to white, sc around (30 stitches)
12 (white): { dec, sc 3 times } 6 times (24 stitches)
13 (white): { dec, sc, sc } 6 times (18 stitches)
Start filling ball. You may need to stuff more as you go
14 (white): { dec, sc } 6 times (12 stitches)
15 (white): dec 6 times (6 stitches). Last chance to stuff!
Cut thread and pull through to close circle.

Sew button onto ball, covering the area with colour change. Toss at a pokémon to catch it!

Yarn Subscription preview, August 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags vs Yarn of the Month

Not pictured:
Beanie bags came with the usual bag (olympic themed), t-pins, a packet of soak, and some coaster patterns that I’m excited about because crochet mandalas are still all the rage.

YOTM came with swatch patterns and a copy of this pattern. It was printed with a printer clearly running low on ink, but legible if a bit more stripey pop-art than probably intended.

As is somewhat usual, Beanie Bags offers more, smaller samples than YOTM. The YOTM samples are both silk blends so probably a bit more fancy than the BB ones this month, although they’re a neat range of linen and cotton and blends. Love the colours in both.

There’s also a 3rd option in the smaller yarn subscription front! Jimmy beans has a “BIG beanie bag” that comes in at $25 and contains everything you need (except knitting needles) for one small project. I signed up to get 3 bags (May, June, July) and have thus far received one for fingerless gloves and two fairly different cowls (which I will take pictures of later, but you can see the first two here), the second of which was a brioche thing that I was really excited to try. Two of these I’ve already knit up because they’re perfect “grab and go” kits with the pattern and everything inside, and especially with the chaos of this summer, I’ve had need for easy kits, so it worked out pretty well. I’m not on an auto-renew, though, so no August kit for me!

Both beanie bags and YOTM continue to be a nice value for your money if you want to try little yarn samples, but it’s nice to have a slightly larger option too. It’s tempting to drop the two little subscriptions and have just the big one for a while!

Yarn of the Month Club, July 2015

Hello my poor neglected maker blog, long time no see! It’s been a busy few months, in good ways, in bad ways, in sad ways. But I have been making things, and maybe I’ll eventually take pictures of my wedding dress and maybe I’ll eventually frog that section of the cardi that wasn’t right and maybe I’ll take some better photos of the pokéball and get some cards printed to hand out. Or maybe I’ll get caught up in the new things I want to make for maker faire and disappear again. Such is life.

What I will do today is document July’s YOTM shipment, since I finished those swatches and finally got around to taking some photos of them.

Debbi Bliss yarn samples (YOTM)

These two yarns are pretty similar, with the black Cleo slightly thicker than the pink Loli, but both with a similar icord type structure.

Cleo by Debbi Bliss

4.75 sts/inch on US 8
62% cotton, 38% polyester
98 yards. Color: 60001

Front of swatch:
20160812-IMG_0865.jpg

Back of swatch:
20160812-IMG_0866.jpg

I really love this swatch: it’s pleasantly sproingy and black, which means it would make a lovely face scrubby for makeup removal. I may just adopt it for that rather than saving it for the swatch blanket.

Loli by Debbi Bliss

6 sts/inch on US 6
80% cotton, 20% polyester
120 yards. color: 61006

Loli by Debbi Bliss (YOTM Sample)
The colour pops are actually looser than the main yarn, which was a surprise!

Front of swatch:
20160812-IMG_0867.jpg

That’s definitely not the promised 5″ square, but I decided I wasn’t in the mood to re-knit it at the time because the needles I was using tended to snag.

Back of swatch:
20160812-IMG_0868.jpg

This blend is much more cotton-like than the Cleo, feeling more like a more stretchy cotton rather than like a lofty polyester.

Both of these yarns were pretty similar to knit: springy, liable to catch on the lousy needles I was using but no problem with good needles. I liked the swatch patterns (thankfully no mistakes in the swatch this time!) I gather from a bit of searching that they’re meant to be beginner-friendly yarns, which makes some sense.

They knit up quickly once I switched needles. I’d definitely consider using these yarns for kids toys or anything else where washability and durability was a priority. They’d probably be good for summer stuff or folk avoiding animal fibers, although they don’t feel particularly luxurious to me so I don’t think I’d make big projects out of them. Still, fun to try!

Pi day t-shirt (free silhouette cut file)

I designed this shirt for my sister as part of a belated pi day present:

Pi day shirt

This was done using my Roboknife (also known as a Silhouette Portrait Craft Cutter, but that’s way too much of a mouthful to talk about my robotic knife. Well, okay, it’s more of a scalpel, but whatever.) and two colours of heat transfer vinyl (HTV). This is surprisingly nice stuff to work with, once you get the cut settings right on your roboknife.

Here’s the pi day t-shirt .studio3 file. There’s been updates to the silhouette cutting software since this was created, but hopefully it’ll still work.

When you open it up, you should see two pieces in there, reversed because of the way HTV is applied:

View of the pi day shirt pattern in silhouette studio: on the left is digits of pi with a pi-symbol hole in the centre.  On the right is the corresponding pi symbol as a separate piece.  Both are reversed because they are intended for heat transfer vinyl, which applies backwards.

View of the pi day shirt pattern in silhouette studio: on the left is digits of pi with a pi-symbol hole in the centre. On the right is the corresponding pi symbol as a separate piece. Both are reversed because they are intended for heat transfer vinyl, which applies backwards.

I basically grabbed the first hundred digits of pi, made a nice block out of them, then used the pi symbol to cut a hole so that I wouldn’t be layering things that wouldn’t be seen in the final design. (This tutorial on layering HTV is very helpful if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) If I were going to make this design, I would use a thicker font for the background part, and one that was easier to weed. This looks lovely but it was a pain to pull out the little centres, especially those 0’s with the dots that had to be left behind!

3am math art. Really wishing I'd thought of using a stencil font for this. So much weeding.

A photo posted by Terri Oda (@drterriko) on

Plus, after all that work I’m worried that eventually the lettering will come off in the dryer. My sister says she’s been a bit afraid to wear it and decided to save it for when it would be seen by people who’d appreciate it, and I can’t blame her!

The continuing cardi story…

The cardipalooza cardi is still coming! It’s been a month and I’ve been knitting it while reading weird gardening texts:

#gardeningproblems

A photo posted by Terri Oda (@drterriko) on

While enjoying my actual garden:

Late afternoon knitting and tea time ☕ Glad to be done work before the sun is gone!

A photo posted by Terri Oda (@drterriko) on

But mostly I’ve been knitting it in lengthy, upset work phone calls as everyone got stressed out about the pending release. (That’s not as photogenic, though it *did* help keep me a bit more even-keeled through the process.)

And my Acorn Trail cardi has been slowly getting bigger:
Cardipalooza proto-cardigan (Acorn Trail pattern)

And bigger:
Cardipalooza proto-cardigan (Acorn Trail pattern)

And bigger (Don’t worry, the shaping isn’t that intense, it’s just rolled over a bit and unblocked):
Cardipalooza proto-cardigan (Acorn Trail pattern)

And soon it will have sleeves:
Cardigan sleeve selfie for cardipalooza

It’s been a learning process. I’ve had to rip back this and that as I did too much knitting while distracted. I’ve had to learn how to alternate balls of hand-dyed yarns. I decided not to knit the sleeve flat and instead do that in the round, which took a few tries before the “seam” of switched yarns looked right to me. I’m terrified that the math won’t work out and my sleeves won’t fit right into the body, because I’ve mostly done top-down seamless baby sweaters and I’ve never had to think about this before, let alone for such a big project. I’m trying to trust in the pattern, but then I mess something up and don’t go back or make a tweak here and a tweak there to make it fit me better and… it’s scary!

But despite the worries and despite the learning process, it’s coming together. I’ve reached the ennui stage of things as I finish off the first sleeve, so I’m eager to be done (and yet, there’s still button bands and sewing to go — next time, more seamless!) but I’m on track to hit the finish line this month!

Mandala bunnies

I’ve been working diligently on my cardi and more diligently on security for a software release at work, but I did find time in March and April to make a few presents. This pair went to two awesome little girls:

Mandala Bunnies

Their mom tells me there has been much singing of “Little rabbit foo foo” as a result!

The pattern is Easy crochet bunny (Ravelry link) and as promised, it’s pretty easy. Make a couple of round granny square centres and go from there! I did change up the second tail, though, when I realized my first pom pom wasn’t sturdy enough to be age appropriate for the younger giftee:

Mandala Bunnies

Other than the variant tail, I followed the pattern as written, but I kind of think it would be amazing to scale these up a little bit and use a fancier mandala in the front to replace the simple granny square.

Have you seen how amazing crochet mandalas can look? Here’s a roundup of a few free crochet mandala patterns, but that barely scratches the surface. Check out this tutorial and this artist’s crochet overlay mandala patterns and I imagine you might find yourself deep in a “crochet mandala” google image search eventually.

Here’s a few example photos to get your mind imagining the same thing as mine:

Round 33
Overlay crochet potholder
Here's a second #mandalasformarinke

Aren’t they lovely? Overlay crochet is on my list of things to learn; I’m debating doing that with some of my beanie bags now that I’ve collected a few without using them again. But no new projects until I get my cardigan done!

Strawberry gloves

My other goal for 2015 was to try some more stranded colourwork that wasn’t double-knitting. I had intended to do more simple stuff, but I fell in love with this pattern and you know how it goes from there.

Strawberry Fields gloves

The pattern is Strawberry Fields by Jami Brynildson. It was one of the shop patterns offered by Knitting Bee during the 2015 yarn crawl (shops offer one or two patterns free with purchase during the crawl and they’re available for sale after the event). I got the kit at Knitting Bee during the crawl since it was one of the patterns I knew I wanted to make.

The yarn is Black Trillium pebble sock yarn, which is amazing and I would totally work with again. The kit was more than enough to do the pattern, so I’ve got some nice little balls left over for a dash of colour in some future project.

Watermelon helmet, Strawberry gloves

These gloves have actually been done since sometime in 2015, and I wear them around town all the time because they’re among the smallest warm gloves I have. I particularly like that the colours go with my watermelon bike helmet, which is from the delightful Nutcase Helmets. I also like to think that their name is a statement on my mental state, which I assume is why they put it on the front of the helmet. I saw someone with one of these out on the road by the grocery store and knew I wanted one when my helmet was due for upgrading.

The gloves a little more beat up than they were fresh off the needles (you can see a yarn tail that’s come unwoven in the photos) but I hadn’t shared them when they were finished so now’s as good a time as any!

I did modify the thumb a little bit, as the original one felt too tight for my comfort. I don’t like having my motion restricted, and being able to spread my hands wide is kind of important when braking on the bicycle!

Strawberry Fields gloves

Things I learned from doing this:

  1. Working with wool for colourwork is much easier than acrylic or cotton. My other tests had been with cheaper yarn, and it turns out I wasn’t doing myself any favours. The wool is much more forgiving, blocks better, sticks to itself better, and is just all ’round easier.
  2. Don’t pull anything tight. Those floats behind need to be longer than you think, and I can still see places where I pulled a bit too tight to fully block out.
  3. I need more practice doing colourwork while using magic loop (I did two gloves at a time on a single long circular needle).
  4. Blocking is magic. These looked ok on the needles, but they look beautiful after blocking.
  5. I want to do more colourwork!

As to the last, I’ve already started on more experimentation with colours thanks to my yarn sampler subscriptions, but expect more projects in 2016!

Japanese Knot Bag

I was browsing this thread about project bags, saw this design, and thought I should try it out. A quick search of the internet found me some basic instructions (this tutorial has particularly decent pictures and nice clear indications of where to sew), so I free-handed a pattern and gave it a shot.

Japanese Knot Bag

In the picture above, you can see my free-handed pattern. I knew I wanted a project bag for my current knitting project (the sweater) that always has me carrying at least two balls of yarn (that’s to allow me to switch back and forth between two balls and avoid abrupt colour changes when I switch balls). So I basically put the two balls and proto-sweater on my grocery store ad and drew around it.

Japanese Knot Bag

You cut two of both the inner and outer colours, then pin them right-sides in.

Then sew the outside/bottom edge of the bag EXCEPT the outside handles. Basically, start below the handle part and sew along the bottom until you get to where the handle starts on the other side. If you look at that first picture of my template, you’re basically ignoring everything above the grocery store ad likes that say “organic” on one side and “home & family care” on the other. Snip along the curve if you want it to sit better.

Also, sew the top flat part of the handles at this point.

Then, you turn the inner lining right-side out and stick it into the bag, re-pin, and sew the whole top curve INCLUDING the handles but only the one side of them.

It’s going to look kind of goofy as you turn it right-side out:

Japanese Knot Bag

You pretty much have a big oval bag attached in the center with handles sticking out. Wrap it all around and you get a bag with holes in the handles on either side. You need the holes in both handles for it to turn correctly, don’t try to do something clever like I did or you’ll be making friends with the seam ripper. There’s probably some way to do that so it works, but I wasn’t going to experiment too much.

Japanese Knot Bag

Iron the edges so they’re folded in and then complete the seams, do a bit of stitching at the bottom of each handle for strength, and voila, you have a bag!

You fold the long handle through the short one, and it stays reasonably closed and looks like it could be a cousin to the little hobo bag on a stick of the type you see in cartoons (wikipedia tells me this is called a bindle).

Japanese Knot Bag

It’s a pretty simple project, on the same scale as my favourite drawstring bag, but with curvy seams instead of a fiddly drawstring.

Japanese Knot Bag

We’ll see how it does after I’ve toted it around for a while, but it certainly looks prettier than the beat up old small cloth conference bag that I was using before! This is also a great bag to hang on a wrist if you’re knitting while standing in line or just want your yarn close at hand so it doesn’t get tangled or tempt a kitty.

Overall, I think I’d need to be a bit more careful if I were giving this as a gift, since I didn’t love my final seams that much, but I like it enough that I kept my freehanded template in case I want to make another!

A sweater for me (just started!)

One of my goals for 2015 was to knit an adult-sized sweater, but I cheated a bit and made one for my sister (who’s smaller than I and one of the smaller adults I know).

So I revised my goal for 2016 and here’s the start of something cool, I hope:

Cardipalooza swatch

That’s the swatch for my very first sweater for myself!

I’m participating in Cardipalooza (Ravelry Link) in hopes that having a group to post pictures to will help me stay on track. It’d be better if there were weekly checkpoints or something, but I guess I can make my own.

The yarn is Malabrigo Rio, a beautiful 100% merino wool superwash that comes in the most lovely colours. I wanted to treat myself but still have something that wouldn’t be so hard to care for that I’d never want to wear it.

Proto-cardigan

I’m trying Acorn Trail, which might be a bit of a challenging pattern for me because of all the many many fit options, plus all the seaming. But I like the way it looks, and it’s not like anything else I have, so that’s what I’m starting with. Probably not the most scientific way to choose, but honestly, I think most yarn projects are just “I want” and anything else is just justification anyhow.

The photo is from earlier in the week — despite having to tear back twice due to messing up the decreases, it’s bigger now!

Yarn of the Month Club, January 2015

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

January’s Yarn of the Month package has some serious variety in it! Raffia, cotton-linen gradient, and a single ply acrylic-wool super-saturated gradient. These were all super fun, but I was most taken with learning to block raffia. So flexible and shape-able when damp!

Classic Shadow

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Classic Shadow
“This yarn has such beautiful colourways – it would be perfect at jazzing up a simple project”
4.5 sts/inch on US 8
70% Acrylic, 30% wool

Single ply, acrylic-wool, super-saturated colour goodness. I love the swatch pattern!

Front unblocked and blocked:
Yarn of the Month, January 2016
Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Back unblocked and blocked:
Yarn of the Month, January 2016
Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Those colours are great, although I will caution that they bled a little upon blocking. After a wash or two, though, I could totally see using this in a brilliant “screw all those pastels” baby project.

Good Earth Adorn

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Good Earth Adorn
“This yarn is perfect for lacy spring knitting”
4 sts/inch on us 8
47% linen 53% cotton

This is a really nice linen-cotton blend. I could actually see making a garment out of this one, even though I’m not the hugest fan of working with linen (the “so soft after many washings” is too long a pay-off for me).

I think the stitch pattern might make a nice dishcloth, though, and those things get washed a lot more than garments:

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

It wasn’t evident to me that it would be a gradient from the ball, so that was a neat treat. Here it is blocked:

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

And in kite form! 😉

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Yashi

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

Yashi by Universal Yarn
“This yarn is challenging to knit and creates beautiful and sturdy projects”
3.75 sts/in on US 9
100% Raffia!

I’d been curious about raffia but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a whole ball to try it out. Thankfully, this is exactly the sort of reason I subscribed to Yarn of the Month so I was quite pleased to get such an unusual yarn! It feels weird to be knitting something that feels like paper, but I got used to it quickly. I honestly didn’t think it was that hard to knit after you got into the swing of things: the raffia is much more flexible than I’d have expected.

I didn’t like the seed stitch swatch recommendation because it didn’t really show off the neat flatness possible with this fiber, so I switched mine up with some bands of stockinette to show the difference:

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

The biggest surprise of using the raffia was learning that it can be blocked. (Thanks to the fine folk at Black Sheep at Orenco for telling me that!) It was super satisfying to block, as the damp raffia becomes flexible and soft.

Yarn of the Month, January 2016

I was surprised by how taken I was with the Raffia. I might have to see about making myself a hat or something!

Conclusion

An interesting batch of yarns, but the real winner for me was getting to try out the raffia. Who knew I’d like it so much? I should see if there’s still some in the sale bin at Black Sheep at Orenco…

Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags, January 2016

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, January 2016

January 2016’s Beanie Bag was all about yarn construction. I got the purple version, which was really quite nice! This month’s notion was a shawl pin from Knitter’s Pride (I was so glad mine arrived intact — apparently a few got broken in transit!), there was the usual little package of wool wash from soak, a pattern coupon (I forget if I used this one or not), and of course the 4 balls of yarn.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, January 2016

I just want to give a quick shout-out to January 2016’s bag: The snowflakes are so cute, and I was initially disappointed that the new zipper didn’t look as pretty until I realized that it also doesn’t seem to catch the yarn as much as the chunkier old ones. So score one for improved functional design!

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, January 2016

There are 4 samples. You can read about them on the Beanie Bags website for Jan 2016, but in short they were:
20 yds of Alpaca Lana D’Oro
20 yds of Highland Duo
20 yds of Cloud
20 yds of El Cielo

The last one is exactly the same, including the colour, as a sample I’d tried from YOTM, so that was amusing. I used it very differently in this project, though.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, January 2016

The pattern was a simple kerchief, like a big chunk of granny square since I did the crochet version because I like crochet colour changes better. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but that super-soft edge is really nice. I’d never really worked on a project with 4 completely different types of yarn before. Kind of fun, and something I would totally do again.

20160115-IMG_9662.jpg

Just to do a quick compare/contrast, here’s the Beanie Bag yarns beside my Yarn of The Month yarns. The YOTM sample (on the left) has a broader variety of unusual yarns to try (a single ply with bright colours, raffia, and a gradient linen-cotton mix), while the Beanie Bag yarns although different are intended to go together. It’s kind of interesting how the strategy is different. Also, in case anyone’s curious, I weighed the yarns and the Beanie Bags samples came in a bit heavier than YOTM in January, but it’s pretty close.

Also, I had forgotten that Jimmy Beans does a 5% cashback on yarn, and that this applies to the Beanie Bags and was auto-applied to this bag because I’d gotten to the threshold of $1, so I got this bag for $9 instead of $10. It might have been fun to build up a larger discount over time and then treat myself, but this is so much more convenient and practical and I never forget to use it. Handy! Between this and the fact that YOTM has had to raise their prices a bit to $9.50 (from $9.25), the prices are even more close than ever for people who keep a continuous Beanie Bags subscription.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, January 2016

Overall, I don’t think I learned as much from this Beanie Bag as I have from others, but it’s still a very nice bag! I got a usable project (although I don’t know how much I *will* use the kerchief as it’s started to become itchy as I wear it to write this… and I’m not sure which yarn I’m reacting to!), a nice shawl stick, a great bag, and a convenient travel size of wool wash.

Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags, December 2015

Beanie Bags, December 2015

December’s theme was “superwash” and it included 5 samples in worsted weight. This seemed like a perfect time for me to practice my colourwork, since “do a small fair isle project” is on my craft goal list for this year, and I need practice with colourwork.

Beanie Bags, December 2015

In addition to the yarns, there’s some pom-pom makers, patterns for wine bottle cozies, a packet of Soak wool wash, and a coupon for a discounted pattern (which I forgot about before it expired, alas!)

I took quite a few photos of this bag, but honestly when I’m looking for info on a bag I often wish there were more pictures rather than less, so if you’re curious, I put even more pictures up in my curiousity.ca/things I’ve made album on flickr.

Here’s some photo spam of the yarns:

Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash

Beanie Bags, December 2015

This was the softest yarn of the bunch!

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash

Madeleinetosh Tosh Vintage

This has the subtle colour changes that Madeleinetosh is known for, although they aren’t super obvious in my photos of the little ball.

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Madeleinetosh Tosh Vintage

Lorna's Laces Shepherd

Beanie Bags, December 2015

This is a nice woodsy variegated with a looser, squishy ply.

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Lorna's Laces Shepherd

Rowan Pure Wool Worsted

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Rowan Pure Wool Worsted

A pleasant heathered yarn. I particularly liked working with this one.

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Rowan Pure Wool Worsted

Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted

Beanie Bags, December 2015

Another pleasant heathered yarn which was a great match for the Rowan.

Beanie Bags, December 2015 - Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted

My Fair Isle sampler

Overall, they all felt pretty similar, and it’s possible that difference in softness was a function of the dyes more than the yarn itself (although the different plying does make some difference). This was great for my purposes, since it meant they worked okay together!

Beanie Bags, December 2015

This detail shot shows you two important things: #1, the variation in colour in the madeleinetosh sample. #2, the lesson I learned about fair isle samplers, which is that you *really* need to work in some sort of border to anchor the colour changes. I’ll keep this in mind for the next time I do a colourwork sampler!

Here’s the whole piece:

Beanie Bags, December 2015

The patterns were taken from “Mastering Colour Knitting

I’m not sure how I’ll fit this long sampler into my blanket made of samples yet, but I think I’m at the point where I should start putting it together rather than filing all my samples in a binder!

Pi day swap!

One of the Ravelry groups I enjoy runs a pi/e themed yarn swap and I decided to participate this year because seriously, how awesome is that? The deal was that you had to include yarn or spinning fiber, some edible goodies, a handcrafted item, and other goodies related to pi or pie. Target value was $30-40, which was actually hard shopping in all the yarn crawl stores with their beautiful handpainted, hand-made items! But I managed!

My swapee likes batman, so I made her a project bag which *might* have just been an excuse for me to buy some batman fabrics.

It’s reversible, so here’s the outside and the inside:
Batman project bag for Pi Swap
Batman project bag for Pi(e) Swap

I also made some papercraft pie boxes to fit the bag and some tea into. The lemon meringue one is a pattern from the silhouette store, and I modified it to make a blueberry pie one since I was putting blueberry tea inside:
Pie boxes for Pi(e) swap

I also made some magnets and a button, and a whole set of pretty stitch markers suitable for even bulky needles, but I didn’t take pictures of those separately.

Here’s two views of the whole package:
Pi(e) swap package

Pi(e) swap package

It included lovely yarn from Thoroughly Thwacked, a Brittany Crochet hook that my swapee was looking for, and some wooden buttons that I thought looked cool as well as the other things I mentioned. I hope it suited her!

And, since I’m sure you’re all curious, here’s the package I got from my upstream partner:

My Pi(e) swap package!

I see she noticed that I like tea 🙂

Also, check out the amazing little cherry pi pie charm:

Cherry pi pie charm from my Pi(e) swap package!

And the hat fits perfectly!

Super awesome hat from my Pi(e) swap package

Yarn Subscription preview, February 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

One more preview photo for today!

Yarn Subscription preview, February 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

These yarns have been sadly neglected in favour of Rose City Yarn Crawl stuff, but they’ll be coming up soon! I’m very much looking forwards to more teensy tiny sample knits.

Yarn of the Month is on the left, with that tempting stained glass pattern that might have me ditch the usual swatch patterns in favour of trying a two-colour affair. Jimmy Beans is on the right with the Eddie the Eagle-themed package. Apparently they yarnbombed the Sundance film festival in celebration!

Yarn Subscription preview, January 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

I took this picture back in January but apparently never actually shared it, so here’s a belated preview, if that makes any sense:

Yarn Subscription preview, January 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

Yarn of the Month is on the left, Beanie Bags on the right. Since I’m planning to block the YOTM samples tonight and nearly done with the project for the Beanie Bags, I’ll leave further discussion of the contents until the full reviews.

I had not taken a picture for February because the Beanie Bags package was delayed to the point where I was completely entrenched in Rose City Yarn Crawl knitting when it arrived, but I’ve taken a quick snap today that I’ll put up shortly!

Yarn Subscription preview, March 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

Both my subscriptions arrived on the same day, so here’s a quick preview!

Yarn Subscription preview, March 2016 (Yarn of the Month and Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags)

My Jimmy Beans Beanie Bag on the left is a collection of sport weight merino in pretty pinks, with the newer square bag like they did last month, a Soak wool wash packet and this month’s notion, which is plastic spiral stitch markers. I don’t have any of those so I’m pretty pleased!

My Yarn of the Month Club mailing has two larger samples without any obvious theme. The yellow is a neat wool/linen blend with an interesting texture. The white is a slippery, shiny wool/polypropylene/nylon blend that is unlike anything I’ve ever knit by feel alone, but it’s even neater than that because it changes colour in the sun! I’ll try to get some better pictures of it tomorrow when I’ve got more sunlight!

Rose City Yarn Crawl – Mystery Crochet-a-long (Clue 3 and 4)

Crawl starts soon, and of course I’m last-minute blocking!

Here’s clue 3:

Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Crochet-a-long Clue 3

And the final clue, clue 4, unblocked. I actually missed the final colour change, those last points are supposed to be cake-coloured. But honestly, I’m so in love with the yellow/orange yarn that I’m kind of glad I made the mistake. Plus it looks better with the beads I wanted to use.

Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Crochet-a-long Clue 4

Soaking so you can see that I did actually add beads:
Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Crochet-a-long Clue 4

Or maybe I should call them sprinkles, given the cake theme?

Blocking:
Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Crochet-a-long Clue 4

Great pattern, but now I’m going to bed to get some sleep for tomorrow’s crawl!

Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Crochet-a-long (Clue 1 and 2)

I’d planned to just do the knit-a-long for the Rose City Yarn Crawl, but then I went out to a knitting group and saw what the pattern for the crochet-a-long looked like… Not only does it look lovely all crocheted up, but the pattern itself has the most gorgeous crochet charts I’ve ever seen. Colours to distinguish rows! Highlighting to show you where pieces should line up with rows below! Careful layouts to make everything easy to read! One of the reasons I learned to knit (besides needing something to do on the 3hr long car ride to the Very Large Array) is that there are so few good crochet patterns and learning a similar craft was the easiest way to expand the range of patterns I could do. So it would be a shame to know of such a nice pattern and not try it out!

The Yarn

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Crochet-a-Long

I’d been so good about using stash yarn for the MKAL that I decided to treat myself to something at Black Sheep for this one. These are both from Teresa Ruch, a local dyer who works with synthetic fibers and uses amazingly saturated beautiful dyes. The yellow-orange ball is Tencel, the grey is bamboo rayon. It’s a neat combo because the tencel is much shinier than the rayon, so there’s a serious contrast between my two colours. And it’s a nice excuse to try some different synthetics, since I’m always on the lookouts for allergy-friendly options.

The pattern

Here’s a teensy peek at those charts I’ve been raving about:

mcal-chart

Not only are the charts clear, well-written, and easy to follow, but the “flavour” of this pattern is cake, so it’s described in layers of cake and icing. People in the thread have been naming off cakes to go with their colours, and it’s awesome. I’m calling mine creamsicle mousse.

This pattern is named after Rimsky-Korsacoffee house, one of the local places that takes “keep Portland weird” as a personal mission. Also, it has great cake.

Clue 1

Clue one included a layer of cake and the first layer of icing:
Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Crochet-a-Long Clue 1

It’s approximately kerchief-sized at this point, and a bit to fit into my photo lightbox unfolded, so I kind of need natural light to take pictures of it (my flash is somewhere in a box from the move).
Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Crochet-a-Long Clue 1

Clue 2

Clue two, also included a layer of cake and layer of icing. The icing is pretty similar, but the cake is quite a different stitch pattern! At this point, it’s starting to really look like a shawl:

Rose City Yarn Crawl MCAL - Rimsky-Korsacoffee-Cake Shawl Clue 2

And a close up:
Rose City Yarn Crawl MCAL - Rimsky-Korsacoffee-Cake Shawl Clue 2 detail

This is the first larger, non-amigurumi crochet project I’ve done since I got some “ergonomic” crochet hooks, and I’ve got to say that it makes a difference. My right hand doesn’t get tired nearly as quickly. In fact, it’s usually my left that gets tired first now! If you crochet at all, I highly recommend investing in a set. It doesn’t even have a very expensive investment: They are cropping up at absurdly cheap prices on amazon and elsewhere, maybe $10-15 for a set of hooks with a case and sometimes with some stitch markers or other notions thrown in. I have a set from clover that has a significantly more expensive list price (I got it on sale) but I honestly can’t tell the difference between it and the cheaper sets. I do admit I haven’t tried crochet with the cheaper ones for any length of time, though.

The only weird thing about these hooks that they don’t match up with the sizing of the other hooks I own, so my new G hook is a bit smaller than my old one (4mm vs 4.25mm). Thankfully, it seems to be working out fine on this shawl.

Doing both the MKAL and the MCAL was probably a bit too much, since it’s meant that I haven’t even touched my January Beanie Bags or YOTM samples, let alone the February ones, but I’m really excited about the final piece taking shape, and it’s kind of neat to be doing the less-common one. The last clues came out this past Wednesday and my deadline for the shawl is when the Crawl starts in two weeks, so it’s looking like I’ll be able to finish both without much trouble!

Rose City Yarn Crawl Mystery Knit-a-longs (Clue 1 and 2)

As I mentioned in my post about knit-a-longs, the Rose City Yarn Crawl runs both a knit and crochet a long in the month leading up to the yarn crawl. It’s a real treat seeing people wear their creations out on the crawl, and I wanted to be one of those gals sporting a new finished object on the crawl this year.

I decided that enough of my yarn was unpacked that I should be able to find some stuff out of my stash. This is actually hard, since I mostly buy yarn for specific projects and this is my first cowl, so I haven’t really shopped with that in mind. Since it’s Presidents day down here in the US, I’ll show you the red-white-and-blue yarns that became my short list before I decided on my two required colours:

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Knit-a-Long

Okay, so it’s actually blue-white-red like the French flag, but I am Canadian after all! This is KnitPicks Diadem yarn, bought during the big yarn sale in November two years ago on spec, because it sounded lovely and I wanted to try it. It’s a super fluffy alpaca-silk single ply that *feels* like heaven, but it’s kind of hard to work with because it sheds fluff, splits, and the fluff felts into little loops around the yarn that I have to cut off pretty frequently plus it sometimes loops around to make knots. And it’s hard to photograph because of the halo of fluff.

I was initially pretty disappointed by the yarn, but as I’ve gotten used to it, the luxurious feel balances out the finicky nature of the yarn. This is going to be one luxurious cowl, although I’m going to have to work for it!

I really wanted to do red & silver but once I saw the first clue, I decided silver & blue would suit it better:

Rose City Yarn Crawl - Mystery Knit-a-Long

Clue 1 is supposed to remind you of bike treads. I think it does!

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 1 detail

The whole pattern is written like a story about a bike ride, with twists and turns. Clue 2 involves some scenery and then some winding roads.

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 2 detail

It was at this point that realized that I’d somehow chosen my high school colours, silver and blue, because it reminded me of an old high school shirt when I started to get into the “scenery” part. Oh well, they’re great colours even if it is a bit funny.

Now let’s zoom out and see clue 1 and most of clue 2. I needed to take the picture while I still had nice light and figured you’ll see the last part next time. Clue 3 has been out since Wednesday so I’m a bit behind!

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL - Velo Cowl Clue 1 & 2

That… does not look like a cowl at all, to be honest. What a strange beast! I look forwards to seeing how this construction is going to work in the end.

Overall, the story of this cowl kind of makes it fun, and I’m loving how it feels even if the knitting process can be a tad annoying thanks to finicky yarn. I do think I’m done with mystery knits for a while after this, though… after seeing how beautiful other people’s cowls look with colour two as a variegated, I have a deeper understanding of how much I like selecting colours with advance knowledge of how they’re going to work together. But I did choose something high-contrast which looks pretty good, so I can’t be too sad!

Catch a Falling Star MKAL Clue 3

I’ve paused on this knit-a-long since the Rose City Yarn Crawl ones have started and I foolishly have tried to do both, but here’s what it looked like at clue 3:

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 3)

I really liked the bind-off in this. You can’t tell from the in progress photo, but it’s designed so that the bind off is thicker in places to follow the curve, so I plan to block it curvy. Overall, this was a very technically interesting pattern! And very nice for a free KAL to start the year, although not the easiest one on my hands. I really need less slippy small double pointed needles, I think, but my knitpicks laminate ones broke while I was using them. (They replaced them, but I’ve been too nervous to try the replacement.) Anyone got any recommendations?

I’ve actually finished this one glove, since as you can probably guess there’s just a few thumb stitches left. I haven’t finished the second glove because I’m on to the next project, but it’s cast on and waiting for me when I’m done and ready to come back to it!

Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags, November 2015

I finally sat down and made a decision about what to make with my Beanie Bags yarn. So freeing!

First, let’s look at the package. The mailing envelope contained a single bag filled with stuff:
20151110-IMG_9149.jpg

The packaged contained 4 balls of yarn in the same shade of grey (although the light catches them differently in the photo below, they’re clearly the same shade in person), a plastic yarn needle, and a packet of soak fabric wash.
Jimmy Beans Beanie Bag, November 2015

Here it is all together with the card and packaged-by note so you can see the other side of the bag, which is fun too:
Jimmy Beans Beanie Bag, November 2015

Very cute! You can read about the yarns on the Jimmy Beans Wool website. The “learn a thing about yarn” theme here is blending. I’m familiar with doing custom yarns in this way since here in Portland we have Yarnia, an entire store dedicated to custom yarn blends. I visited Yarnia as a stop on the Rose City Yarn Crawl and while I wasn’t willing to wait for winding something custom, I was impressed by the huge selection of options.

As I said in my previous post, it took me a while to sit down and decide what to do with these yarns, since there were a bunch of possible combinations. I finally settled on a pair of two-yarn blends.

Shibui Pebble and Cima

I just want you all to admire how black and white the yarn ball photos look. I had a momentary freak-out when they downloaded from the camera because I thought something had gone wrong and I was getting a greyscale photo instead of the original, but no, I just took very monochrome pictures.

Shibui Cima and Pebble
Shibui CimaShibui Pebble

Cima is super soft, Pebble has nice texture. The combo gives you the best of both worlds! I grabbed a stitch dictionary and tried out a kind of leafy swatch. Here it is unblocked:

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

This is “lace ribbons” on page 63 of Melissa Leapman’s “The Knit Stitch Handbook” if you’re trying to duplicate it.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

The end result is soft, flexible, and has that texture. Very nice! The swatch stretches out and looks a bit more angular when blocked, but the flexibility and softness of the yarn remain.

Shibui Maai and Staccato

Maai is pretty similar to the chained alpaca yarn I used for my kitty hat (it’s Misti Tui) and my one complaint with that yarn is that it’s too soft and fuzzy show much stitch definition.

Shibui Maai and Staccato
Shibui MaaiShibui Staccato

This blend, however, is all “by our powers combined!” and it’s got reasonable stitch definition with a bit of a sheen, but it’s still soft and plush with a halo of fuzz.

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags, November 2015

The swatch is “tumbling blocks” from page 46 of Melissa Leapman’s “The Knit Stitch Handbook.” Chosen because it’s a knit/purl only texture so there isn’t too much help if the yarn can’t carry on its own. The photo is unblocked and only one side, but it basically looks the same blocked and on the reverse side.

Conclusion

Once I got around to using it, I really loved this Beanie Bag. I got to try a new technique and honestly, once I sat down with the stitch dictionary I didn’t have any trouble figuring out what to do. Just needed to get over the hump of indecision, I guess, and decide that swatches were the plan for this bunch. I loved the Shibui yarns and could see myself buying more of any of these, and it’s nice that I can turn around and just get them from the Jimmy Beans Wool website..

I’m not sure I can see myself doing a whole lot of yarn blending in this way, mostly because I can’t see myself building up a stash with appropriately matching colours for that. It seems to me that it would make more sense to take advantage of local store Yarnia if I wanted a blend, since they have a huge range of yarns and colours right there.

But I *could* see myself going out of my way to blend a yarn that wasn’t working for me, and now I’ve got a better sense of how a couple of blends work, so I feel like I learned a useful technique. Thanks JBW!

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Astute readers may note that I’m doing the December YOTM review but still haven’t done the Beanie Bag full review. That’s because even though it’s January I still haven’t knit up anything with any of my Beanie Bag yarns. How embarrassing. Now, I could blame a busy holiday, but I the answer is much simpler than that: I don’t know what to knit. Without a recommended swatch just sitting there in the bag, and a combo of yarns to choose (remember, this was the “try two held together of different types!” package), the barrier to just sitting down and doing it is a lot harder. What needle size should I use? What should I knit? Which combo of yarns? Should I try the included headband pattern even though I barely ever wear headbands? This isn’t a “grab all the supplies and throw in purse” kind of project and apparently that’s a barrier.

This isn’t an unsolvable problem, of course, but since the idea behind doing tiny yarn samples was that I wouldn’t have a huge backlog of unused yarn, it’s a bit distressing to realise that not having swatch patterns in the bag makes such a difference. I’m approaching the end of my self-imposed “I’ll try this in 3 months and then decide” and I’m torn. I love the packages, they feel like a serious treat and I like the way each one has a theme that involves teaching you about fiber, and I like taking pictures of them, but if I’m not using them, I should probably give up and move on.

So expect some experimentation on that front soon! I’ve grabbed some stitch dictionaries and a set of interchangable needles and queued up an episode of Dr. Who, but there’s a percent chance that what you’re going to see next is a bunch of tiny octopi.

Anyhow, in the meantime, here’s the easy-to-use Yarn of the Month for December!

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

This month’s yarn was *super* posh. The black is fuzzy and soft, and the red is one of the nicest silk blends I’ve ever used. It was a huge contrast to the pleasant-but-unexciting superwash in my other yarn bag, which isn’t to say that the other was bad at all but wow did I ever want to play with these first!

The pattern

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

It’s a Santa hat! I think I might stop mentioning the patterns; I hardly ever use them.

Soavia

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Soavia
“Really soft and smooshy with a beautiful sheen”
5.5 sts/inch on US 7
65% Wool 20% Kid Mohair 15% Silk
164 yds Color: 60

This yarn is plush and soft. You can’t tell too much from the photo, but it’s got a really pleasant halo and somehow manages a teensy sheen as well in person. It would make a positively lovely scarf or cowl, or anything worn close to the skin. It’s the sort of yarn you just want to sink your fingers into.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Given the halo, it’s pretty surprising how easy this is to work with (sometimes fuzzy yarns can be pretty temperamental). The stitch pattern with the long criss-cross thing really shows off the yarn. It’s soft even knit into tiny stitches, but those long ones are especially easy on the fingers. So very soft. It makes me want to do a bigger project with fuzzy yarns, even though it’s getting warmer and warmer here.

Roslyn

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

Roslyn
“Colourful and subtle and a workhorse yarn with great texture”
5.25 sts/inch on US 6
65% Wool 35% Silk
382.76 yds color: 06

This is one of the nicest silk blends I’ve ever worked with. It’s flexible, soft, and feels like it would make amazing clothes because it’s a bit lighter than many wools. It somehow feels silky without feeling too slick. The heathering and colour is fun too.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

The stitch pattern is a pretty neat cable. Although I don’t think I got the sides quite even! Yarn was very easy to work with, the slight side-to-side difference is a me problem, not a yarn problem, and it might even block out.

Yarn of the Month Club, December 2015

I was surprised to see that this yarn’s regular price is $15/100g because it feels like a much fancier and more expensive blend. Thank you Cascade for producing such nice luxury yarns!

Summary

December’s YOTM was a real treat, even in the face of me working with the super nice yarns I was using for presents in December. I’d definitely use either of these yarns again, and Cascade at least should be a thing I can find around here so I can check out the other colours. Guess I’ll keep an eye out during the yarn crawl!

Catch a Falling Star MKAL week 2

The week 3 clue came out on Friday, so I’m a bit behind still. But Clue 2 was much easier than clue 1, at least! Here’s what clue 2 looks like for me and my dino buddy:

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 2)

Still loving that thick cuff, but not so much loving the transition at the wrist bead line — it feels and looks a bit lumpy around my wrist, and the beads make strange cool spots. Of course, this is also the part of the pattern that cramped up my hand. Bah!

Catch a falling star MKAL (Clue 2)

This is where the mystery is a bit of a disadvantage: if I’d seen the finished product, I might have done something about that transition line. Or maybe I just have absurdly dainty wrists? Either way, I’m not willing to rip back now, though I’m debating a little bit of elastic thread or ribbon to deal with the issue, or maybe it will block a bit flatter. I will ponder it. In the meantime, on to the next clue!