Holiday Shopping for Knitters

knitting-books

Picking out the perfect gift for the knitters in our lives usually has us standing in front of the shelves at our local knitting stores. We stare into the cubbies and let ourselves get overwhelmed by the options: color, texture, material, price, weight (what even is that?), and God forbid you pick out something acrylic ;-). The truth about knitters and gifts is that while we do love getting a good skein in our stocking, we will treasure the new tools and books for years. So this year I put together a knitters' Holiday list cheat sheet packed with needles, scissors, unique tools and books. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Starting from the top left (Some of the images have multiple types of tools in them; I have listed each of those items as well below): 

  • Twig & Horn square gauge ruler: $15 (twig&horn)
  • Twig & Horn wool soap: $17.50 (twig&horn)
  • Twig & Horn wool yarn bowl: $75 (twig&horn)
  • Wool Tree Mill single knitting spindle: $54.50 - $62.50 (wool tree mill)
  • Gingher knife edge shears: $39.00 SALE: $23.91 (amazon)
  • Gingher embroidery scissors: $29.99 SALE: $16.96 (amazon)
  • Gingher thread nippers: $25.99 SALE: $15.08 (amazon)
  • Clover bent tapestry needles: $4.58 (amazon)
  • Clover plastic cable needles: $2.66 (amazon)
  • KA Bamboo cable needles: $16.40 (purlsoho)
  • Baggu leather stash clutch: $68.00 - $98.00 (purlsoho)
  • Clover thread scissors: $17.80 (purlsoho)
  • Merchant and Mills baby bow scissors: $10 (purlsoho)
  • Merchant and Mills bespoke measuring tape: $9.50 (purlsoho)
  • Knitted Cable Sourcebook: $21.21 (amazon)
  • Knitbot Essentials: $22 (amazon)
  • Stitch Encyclopedia: $16.72 (amazon)
  • Journey A Collaboration: $26.95 (amazon)
  • Woolens: $32 (brooklyntweed)
  • Extra Yarn: $11.31 (amazon)

Knitalong with Thingsknit!

This December we're taking a bit of time to knit something for oursleves! Thingsknit is hosting our first knitalong and we're doing it on Slack! We'll be making the pattern for the Chunky Cable Cowl. 

Couple of things to know if you want to join us. We'll be knitting together as a group using Slack (an online messaging/collaboration tool that we're currently addicted to). To join the ThingsKnit slack channel, send us your email (either in a comment or to kathy at thingsknit dot com), and we'll get you an invite. From there it's easy to follow the sign up steps and then you're in. 

There will also be progress updates right here if you'd rather follow along from the side lines. Here's your update for today: get your materials! 

2 Skeins Madelinetosh ASAP (or any yarn with a 2-2.5 stitches = 1 inch gauge)
Size US 11 circulars; 16 inches
Cable needle
Tapestry needle
Stitch Marker
Scissors
Tailer's measuring tape

I like to order my yarn from Jimmy Beans. They're fast and usually well priced. Ping us if you have any questions or are wondering about substituting the yarns out. The color I've chosen for my cowl is "Dirty Panther." 

Hope you'll join us! 

<3 wool

Fall is for layering and legwarmers

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Every year my boyfriend and I take an early spring trip to Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe. We like to stay a few nights on the rocks over looking Dick's Lake. This gives us a great vantage point of Lake Tahoe down below. Desolation is one of those places that commands its own weather. On one of these trips we spent the night getting buried under over a foot of snow; meanwhile we looked on down to Lake Tahoe and saw clear, sunny skies. Luckily we were prepared for the storm, but it did leave me wanting something cozy and knit to cuddle up to once we got into our tent. 

This year I decided to put together one of my favorite patterns for our upcoming Desolation trip. I actually made these on a whim a few years ago and sold a few pairs in my etsy store. Now, I've finally gotten around to two fall goals, I made a pair for myself and a pattern for you.  (Also available on Ravelry.)

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I'm a big believer in backpacking clothes that look good and are comfortable. I used to do the dirtbag thing when I would go into the woods. My shirts often had holes in them, and my pants usually shouted some horribly unmatched pattern. I should attribute this to reading too many Patagonia catalogues, but through my years of backpacking adventures I've picked up a few tips on how to bring style and comfort into the woods with you. One of them has to do with making knitted accessories for myself that don't remind me of the itchy, marshmallow effect garments from my childhood. 

In October, when I'm pulling out my fall knits I sometimes find myself thinking about the "sexy not sexy" feel to them. Maybe it's the "what Grandma made" stereotype that's so often applied to knitters. Once a couple of co-workers admitted to me that they thought I was mormon because I wore "all the sweaters." I swear I'm not frumpafrump (but yes, I do have lots of sweaters in my dresser, and I love wearing them on cold fall and winter days). It surprises me that knitting and prudishness so often get paired together. Subscribe to Vogue Knitting and you'll see some good looking ladies in some very sexy knits. Lately I've been playing around with different accents that spice up traditional patterns. That's why these leg warmers have a cable running up the back that interrupts the stockinette.  I've always found nylons with a seam running up the back to be playful and elegant. The cable on these leg warmers are meant to mimic that line. I want whoever is wearing them to feel like they're throwing on something out of a ballet dancer's drawer.

There's something very "snow bunny" about leg warmers, and there's a lot of fun in feeling sexy, stylish and (most importantly) warm. This winter when we're skiing up to Dick's Pass in Desolation Wilderness, I'll be proudly sporting my cable leg warmers. 

That Yarn Stash

Let's talk about yarn storage. Something that happens to knitters over time: the obsession with yarn. I can't go a month without ordering a box of wool. There's something about the anticipation and potential of an untouched skein that is too beautiful. It's a wonderful addiction, but that's not what I'm here to talk about today. 

MY YARN HAS YARN BABIES

I usually make about 2-3 projects/month, so I'm definitely ordering more wool than I can turn into projects.  What do I do with all that yarn? I dump it all over my bed and roll around in it; isn't that what you do? But really,  yarn storage is a constant struggle. I'd love for my stash to look as beautifully color coded and stacked as it does in my favorite yarn stores, but that's not my reality. 

 

There are many angles to my yarn storage struggle: how do I keep it organized? How do I keep from buying duplicate skeins when I can't find that ball of Madelinetosh that I swear I bought last month? How do you keep it from spreading all over my house and taking over my life (that's not spaghetti I'm cooking with, that's sock yarn). Finally, my least favorite battle: how do I keep the dust away. 

I hadn't ever really thought about the effects of dust on yarn until I started storing it on my book shelves. I thought "this would be a great way to display my skein's colors and keep things a bit more tidy." Turns out that as many other San Franciscans know, this city is dusty! When I pulled down a skein of ASAP to knit a Christmas present last year I had a delighted to see that it was covered in dust. Have you ever tried to get dust off of yarn? It's not easy. To prevent this, I started storing my yarn in boxes. This was a great move until the boxes started taking over and the yarn started spilling out. I guess I'm not as disciplined with organizing my crafts as I'd like to be. Still, this is good progress for me and it does the trick for keeping most of the dust at bay. It was time to level up. 

WRAP IT IN PLASTIC

When I'm prepping a larger project that requires multiple skeins of yarn, I pull the skeins together, swift them and lay them out to plan my project. I usually end up stacking the prepped balls on my crafting table so that they're ready to go when I need them. And the problem with this is pretty obvious (I hope): dust. So, I started storing my yarn in ziplock bags. I'm contemplating doing this with all of my yarn and the up side is that I can collate the crap out of my yarn stash: by color, by project, by weight, by company, etc. Then I can label everything and finally step back and marvel at my perfectly organized yarn wall. GOALS

Ultimately what I've learned about yarn storage is that it's all about the little things (coincidentally that's sort of what knitting is all about, too). When I've reached the ultimate level and am an old lady with oodles of knitting wisdom, then maybe I'll have combined all these tricks and be surrounded by yarn stash harmony. Until then I have a subscription for ziplocks

Always be making

I've been making a sweater for a friend who lives out in New York for the past few weeks. It's been pretty great to let my knitter brain get absorbed in something new and challenging. What I've learned is that designing knit-wear beyond the simple hat, or scarf, etc. is super difficult. Who knew? (Answer: All the knitters) 

One project, two needles

Now that I'm coming down to the end of putting this sweater together, I've been thinking about a rule I made for myself a few years ago. This one is in a book I should write called, "The Knitters Golden Rules of Productivity." Rule one: Only one project on the needles at a time. Cast on, knit your project, finish it, repeat. 

Why the rule? 

I found that if I start too many projects, I never finish any of them. Sounds familiar, I know. The struggle is really for a lot of knitters. It's super exciting to cast on, and while it's a great feeling to have a finished product, for a lot of reasons projects can wind up hanging out on the needles. This is a safe space, you can admit to the guilt you feel when you see that unfinished project laying on your craft table. 

How it works. 

Like I said before, you cast on, then you knit your project, and then you finish it. It's an exercise in discipline and one of the tricks I've come by is keeping a running journal of all the projects I want to tackle with potential deadlines attached. I actually just bought this new journal to help organize. I can justify this purchase cause crafters always need more crafter crafts, right? 

If you find this rule interesting and want to try it out, I think you'll see that you power through a lot of projects. Often I'm asked how I can knit so prolifically, and I attribute it to this one rule. Try it out for a few seasons, or maybe the Christmas season and see how it goes. 

Be a weekly knitter

Leave it to me to put this rule on steroids. I've been knitting by the one project, two needles rule for a while now, so I need a new goal. I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and see if I can't pull off knitting a project each week. The season of giving is upon us after all, so now is the time to light my needles on fire.

I'm kicking it off this week with a pair of leg warmers! I've made these in the past and plan on getting the pattern up on Ravelry as soon as I'm finished (which will ideally be this weekend if my math is right.)  I'm 1/2 done already, check it out: 

Like I said, pattern and photos of the finished project coming soon. If you wanna join in the weekly project fun, hit me up! I'd love to know what you're working on. 

Until next week, let those needles burn! ;-)

Winter on the Lost Coast

A couple of weeks ago, Kelly and I took the dogs up to the lost coast to go backpacking. It took us seven hours to get to the trail head from San Francisco. I'm not going to lie, the drive was intense and I don't think there's a way around it, unfortunately. Was it worth it for the trip? I think the photos prove that it was. 

My super slouch hat kept me warm and also what I like to call 'camping chic.'  

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One of my favorite things about backpacking in California is being able to sit back, relax, and take in the view--with a bottle of wine! Recently we've discovered the perks of 'single serving' box wine (single in quotes because there are 3 glasses per box even though the look little). These little dudes let me maintain that 'camping chic' vibe all the way to the fire pit. And then in the morning I am packing out a foldable cardboard box instead of a heavy glass bottle. I highly recommend! 

Hiking along the lost coast is fairly straight forward as long as your calves are willing to put up with hours of sand walking. The one thing that you have to look out for is the tide. I say that like it's no big deal, but it is a really, really big deal. On the map there are markers for impassable locations along the trail because the tide is at full throttle. Trust the map, friends, trust the map. We saw a few hikers get stuck on the bluffs for several hours when the tide was full. The Pacific is no joke. 

The Pacific Ocean will draw you in and swallow you up

For our trip, we did a pretty good job at reading tide charts and moving with nature, but there was one moment while we were hiking out when we caught up with a major flow. We ran through it and were totally fine, but when we got to the top Kelly yelled, "Hey, turn around!" and caught the, "I don't know if we should be stopping here..." look on my face (Mogwai's too). 

I'm a firm believer that a photo can never catch a California sunset. There's something about the Pacific that is better left for the in person experience. The Pacific Ocean will draw you in and swallow you up. I'm so happy to live in a place where I can draw inspiration for my craft from the environment around me. Looking forward to creating something that represents The Lost Coast!

The Super Slouch

My love affair with the super slouch hat started with a request from my sister (pictured above). She currently lives in New York, where she needs a hat way more than I do. She has a lot of hair, so her request was for a simple, warm, comfy hat to tuck all those locks into. Also, when you have a lot of hair, there’s something magical about being able to throw on a hat on your way out the door without having to check the mirror. So with that in mind, I started scoping out patterns for my sister’s hat.

About the pattern, mine is a modified version of Purl Soho’s Simple Pleasures hat. I call my version the Super Slouch because I added a lot more oomph in the crown. I also adjusted the ribbing so that it’s a bit tighter around the brow. The reason why I did this is so that the wearer doesn’t have to cuff the brow if they want even more of the slouchy goodness. Then, after the ribbing, I put a few rows of increases in so that the crown has some roominess (this is the oomph).

About the yarn, there’s little I hate more than ichy wool. It’s a pain to work with, and no one likes to wear it. My rule is that if I’m going to spend the time making the knit thing for someone (or for myself for that matter… but these days I find myself knitting for others way more than I knit for myself), then I’m going to make it out of a material that they will enjoy. Spend the extra money on the nice stuff, and you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth out of the day to day wear. For my first Super Slouch I chose Madelinetosh Chunky in Charcoal. Since this first hat, I’ve made them in many other colors from Madelinetosh. Recently I made a hat for a very special lady out of Quince and Co’s Puffin in Crow. I am very excited about this hat and there are pics and a story coming soon. Working with Quince and Co yarn was a dream, and I definitely see more of it in Things Knit’s future.

I think it’s safe to say that for now, this is my favorite hat pattern (and that’s not just because you can make it look like a squid is eating your head). That’s saying something, because just a few months ago I was completely obsessed with this 70s ski hat pattern, and ended up making about 20 hats with it.

Chunky snowflake cowl

Chunky is definitely in season at my house. I recently became addicted to Madelinetosh ASAP and have since splurged on more than one massive box of the stuff from Jimmy Beans Wool. But really, I shouldn’t be apologizing because the stuff is amazing. The colors are perfect, and the feel of the wool is to die for. It’s merino, but feels like baby alpaca (or in other words, like clouds and marshmallows).

Since I’ve acquired this addiction (in December 2013), I’ve made a handful of cowls, a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a hat. The weight knits up fast which is very gratifying. I love everything I’ve made so far (and a number of my lucky friends love the ASAP pieces as well… ), and my favorite is the chunky snowflake cowl.

The idea for this cowl came from my favorite knitting blog, The Purl Bee. Their version is a scarf made from their amazing Super Soft Merino. If you’ve never knit with Purl Soho’s super soft merino, you really need to order some right now. The stuff is gold!

Alright, so the inspiration came from the Purl Bee’s scarf, but since I love me some cowls I had to see what I could do with combining ASAP with the snowflake pattern. It worked like a dream. I adjusted the Purl Bee pattern by a couple of inches, and made a 60 inch scarf. Then I used mattress stitch to seem the ends and turn it into an infinity scarf. This made it large enough to wrap around once, bringing the cozy stitches close to the wearer’s skin.

A quick note about the color, it’s Silver Fox. I’ve worked with silver fox in many different weights from Madelinetosh, and I love it. I’ve always used it as an accent to mellow out some of their more bold colors (like what I did with the loop scarf). But I figured that since I was making a cowl with a stitch called snowflake, then it had to be close to white, but not all the way. Silver fox gives this cowl a snow like glow complete with a sheen which makes it pop more than a simple white would. And as you can see from the collage, even Mogwai loves the cuddliness of this yarn!