I am working on a cardigan for my husband, and I was delighted to see the pattern called for size 8 double pointed needles. I, in fact, did not own any size 8 dpns and was happy to have an excuse to finally buy a new set. I was mostly excited because I have been wanting to try square knitting needles for quite some time. However, when I have a set of very serviceable needles in the required size already in my collection (that just happen to be round and not square), it's hard to justify going out and buying more. This cardigan solved my problem. Yay!
So, with great anticipation, 17.5" of the body worked and permission to move on to the sleeve, I pulled out my brand new 8" Foursquare Majestic Wood double pointed needles from KnitPicks. I figure, double points were a good way to really test these needles out, too...take them for an in-the-round spin, so to speak.
First, let's talk about their appearance. I am a huge fan of wood needles, always have been. KnitPicks has some particularly beautiful needles in a variety of woods and finishes. The Foursquare needles are the laminated birch wood in the "majestic" colorway, meaning they have a nice combination of blues, purples and greens. These needles have what I would call a "high gloss" finish, which surprised me, but I will get back to that in a moment. As the name implies, the needles are square, having four flat sides with slightly rounded edges. They come to a nice, rounded point (on both ends, in the case of the double pointed needles). They are the same size as their rounded counterparts, meaning you can use the same hole in a gauge to see what size needle you are dealing with.
*Side note: Luckily my stitch matched my gauge from the round needles I worked with throughout the rest of the sweater. KnitPicks does encourage you to check, however, as some people's stitch size is different when they switch from the round to the square needles.
Now that the appearance is taken care of, let's talk mechanics. As I mentioned, these needles are very glossy. I was worried, especially working in the round, that this would lead to stitches easily falling off. However, those crafty designers at KnitPicks know what they are doing. I guess it's the perfect blend of gloss and edge, my stitches slide off easily when I want them, but stay put when I don't. I found these needles to work very well with my tweed wool in my current project, making every stitch feel consistent and smooth. I like that the needles are offered in a variety of lengths (4, 5, 6, 8"); I personally like working with the longer 8" for worsted weight yarns. These 8" needles are available in sizes 4-11. However, I did see that sizes 0-3 (with the more precise metric sizes included) were also available in the 4-6" lengths.
Bottom Line: If you are looking to try something new, I would recommend getting a pair of these needles. Especially if you enjoy wood needles. I am sure they are not for everyone (as is the case with all needles) but I really have enjoyed knitting with them. I get consistent stitches and the motion of knitting is very comfortable. The needles fit well in my fingers and the flat sides might actually help with my grip. And of course these needles look beautiful, too, with their swirls of greens and blues acting as eye candy as you knit. For such an affordable price, these are great needles. I plan on buying more.
My husband is addicted to subscription boxes. Fortunately, he never has more than one going at a time, but he has tried a great many of them. Some of them have been comic book themed, others sent a tie or pair of socks, and others still sent personal grooming products. It's like receiving a present every month, even if you are the one paying for it. I see the joy these boxes bring to my husband each month (even when he doesn't care for the contents, he just likes getting them) but have never thought to find one for myself.
However, for Christmas, my lovely parents got me the perfect gift. It was very generous, as well. They gifted me with a subscription to Yarnbox Luxe. This is a quarterly subscription box with high-end yarns. I believe this subscription is sold out for the year, but their other subscription options are not. The first box, which arrived a few days before Christmas (and I am not going to lie, I peeked) contained three cones of fine Habu textiles. (If you've never heard of Habu, I've linked their name to their site...they have some remarkable fibers.) One is a blend of silk and stainless steel. How cool is that? That box also included beads, a beading needle, a beading crochet hook and a pattern code for either a knit of crochet shawl.
The box that this monthly subscription arrives in has a warning on the side. It reads; "Caution!! Yarn inside. May cause extreme happiness." In my case, that has been very true. My second box arrived this past week and contained three skeins from Artyarns. These skeins were artfully wound into what appeared to be a single hank (but don't worry, the three skeins are easily separated). My tummy filled with those happy butterflies when I opened the box. I can't wait to see what comes in June.
And that brings me to my conclusion about Yarnbox- it's wonderful. I cannot make it out to my local yarn store as often as I would like, and many of the fibers that come in this box are not ones I would splurge on for myself. But they are, hands down, so beautiful and a very special addition to my yarn stash. I've had countless hours of fun just dreaming of exactly what I am going to create from my new yarn. And who doesn't like getting a package in the mail? It's a surprise in each box, too, which is fun. Now, if you're not one for complete surprises, you can tailor the box to your personal tastes a little. You can choose color families and also list colors you would never like.
My one complaint, and it is a tiny one, is that I do not love the patterns that come with these super high-end yarns. To me, they are sort of "nothing special" patterns for such special yarns. However, this is just my personal opinion, it would be impossible for the good people at Yarnbox to pick a design that everyone loves. What they do is pick a nice pattern that suites the yarn, offering a pattern for the knitter and the crocheter. And really, this isn't a problem...I just thought it was worth mentioning. I like the freedom of choosing or designing something myself, anyway.
To be completely fair, this luxe line from Yarnbox is not something I would have purchased for myself. It is a little too expensive. But it made such a wonderful and special gift. I am likely going to try out their sock box and see what that has to offer. My birthday is coming up and I have put it on the list. I am tempted to try out another of the yarn subscription companies, and probably will one day, but since I've had such a nice experience with Yarnbox, I've decided to stick with them.
Bottom Line: I really have loved both of my Yarnbox boxes. The price tag is steep for the luxe line, but technically you do get the yarn for a discount...it's just not yarn an average knitter would buy for themselves. But if you can spare the funds, have a birthday coming up, or know someone who wants to spend some money on you, it is a delightful treat. The more economically priced box from Yarnbox is the classic, which is about $40.00 a month and can be cancelled at any time. Cheaper still, and probably loads of fun, is the sock box. This box is an affordable $20.00 a month plus shipping and can also be cancelled at any time. Subscription boxes are convenient and fun, it is so nice to have one tailored to a knitter (or crocheter).
Blog written by
Stephanie Pearl McPhee
If you are an avid reader of knitting blogs, you likely have already come across Stephanie Peal-McPhee's "Yarn Harlot." If you are a casual blog peruser, it is possible you might not have come across this wonderful site. Ms. Pearl-McPhee, perhaps, has been a pioneer in knit blogging- her blog started in 2004. That is a beautiful thing. In 2004, smart phones were not in every person's pocket and some people still used dial up. Do you remember that horrible noise as your computer connected itself to the world wide web? Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is that this blog has stood the test of time. Thirteen years is a long time to keep knitters engaged, and I think this blog has done a wonderful job engaging..the awards it has received are just proof in the pudding.
This is not a "how-to" blog, per se. The posts I have read are more about Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's knitting life, which I hazard to say is a large chunk of her life. The posts chronicle her projects and adventures. With that said, there is a ton of invaluable information in her posts. First, you must consider, these posts are written by an expert in the craft. Just by writing about what she is doing, she imparts knitting knowledge on her readers. Learning her process, her style, her mistakes, etc. can only serve to make you, the reader, a better knitter. Second, she has built quite a following- deservedly so- so each post has quite a few comments. If a particular post has caught your interest, it is worthwhile to read the comments, too. She encourages discussion and responds accordingly. It is in these comments that you can find new ideas or perhaps answers to some questions.
Bottom Line: Overall, the website is a no fuss blog. Reading her blog makes me feel like my blog is too convoluted, but alas, we cannot all be the Yarn Harlot. Us lesser bloggers must fill the bottom rungs of the knitting ladder, and that's okay. Her posts are witty, interesting and informative. This is a woman who knows what she is doing. It is my humble opinion that if you read knitting blogs, this one should be at the top of your list.
Knit Picks Preciosa Tonal Yarn
Available from KnitPicks
100% Merino Wool Worsted Weight
$11.99 100g Hank
featured in Pokeberry
I had the thought yesterday that perhaps it would be helpful for me to review more of the yarns I used in my projects. Especially with yarns that are predominately available through online retailers, it's sometimes hard to know what to expect. Today, I'm working on a hat using KnitPicks Preciosa tonal yarn in pokeberry. It is a vivid pink color. On my computer, it looks a little more purple than it is in real life- in real life it is PINK. Like in-your-face pink. But that's okay because that is what I wanted. I read up on this squishy worsted weight yarn, and apparently it was a reserve yarn that was so popular, KnitPicks added it to their permanent collection. There are 16 colors available that include jewel tones as well as black, brown and grey.
The yarn is a single-ply merino wool. What this means is that there is only one strand in the yarn. In contrast, something that is two-ply (or greater) would have two strands of fiber wound together to make the yarn. There is something very special about single-ply yarns. I feel they really allow the fiber to show its natural texture; it reminds me of roving, in a way. This particular single-ply yarn is very squishy and soft, too, which makes it perfect for things like hats or scarves but can also be used for larger projects like sweaters to great effect. In my experience, single-ply yarns can be a little temperamental, I sometimes have trouble with inconsistent thickness and breaking. However, Preciosa seems to be very even and strong; I have not had any trouble with breaks.
This is a tonal yarn, so the color is variegated as you move through the hank. I have noticed a little pooling and striping, which sometimes frustrates knitters. It is not a hand-dyed yarn, so there is some uniformity expected in the yarn's tonal shifts. I read some other reviews of this yarn that proclaimed it to be self striping, but I have not had quite that severe an experience. I only mention this so you can plan your project accordingly. If your last wish is for pooling or subtle striping, this is not your yarn. The color range within the hank is very nice, not creating too drastic a shift in hue. In my pokeberry, the color shifted from the dark bubble gum color to the lighter candy pink, but the two extremes are not drastically different from one another, allowing you to create a unified looking project. I am including a photograph of a swatch done in a 2x2 rib followed be a stockinette stitch so that hopefully you can see the stitch definition (which I think is quite lovely) and the color shifts. You can see some of the striping that occurred in the stockinette stitch and the pooling that happened in the ribbing. This, I think, is just a natural part of using variegated yarn, though.
Bottom Line: I really like this worsted weight single-ply. It is very soft, feels good while you are knitting it, and is very affordably priced. The tonal shifts are not crazy, put there can be some pooling or striping in your project. The colors available are vibrant and fun, it is a yarn that will make you smile.
Intwined Pattern Studio is a fantastic, affordably priced pattern design software for fiber artists. The software retail price is $44.00 but is often available on sale on KnitPicks for a discounted price. The makers of the software also support a group on Ravelry for Intwined users.
*This is not a tutorial on how to use Intwined Pattern Studio, I just want to highlight some of its awesome features.
I know there are many different software options available out there for people who would like to design fiber art. However, if you are like me, and you are new to design or perhaps just working on a limited budget, it is hard to justify spending big bucks on software. It is possible to use a program like Excel to make your charts and patterns, I know because I've done it. I must say, though, that having a program with a stitch library and easy to use chart features makes a HUGE difference. And that, my friend, is the beautiful thing about Intwined. Intwined is low fuss yet still a powerful tool for knitters, crocheters, cross stitch, and weavers alike. If you cross genres with your fiber art, this is a great program because you can design for any of your interests in the same program. Right now, I will focus on knitting, but keep in mind these features can be applied to any fiber craft.
When you open the intwined software and go to make a new pattern, you are given a window to type in the name of your project what size chart you would like as well as the focus of fiber art (knit, crochet, cross stitch, etc.). As you can see from the screenshot below, the interface is clean and easy to use with helful icons.
Once you have your chart open, you can have a lot of fun. There are options to chart out color work as well as an extensive stitch library. One of the cool features of this software is that you can create your own icon and stitch if, for whatever reason, they do not have what you are looking for. For knitters, you can chart flat or in the round and they also have a lace option. Very cool. In the screenshot below where you can see that as you create a chart the written directions are tracked underneath. And this neat little feature works both ways, you can write your instructions and the chart updates to reflect your written work, too. You can also simultaneously work on a pattern document for your charted pattern.
The program helfully keeps track of the stitches you use and the colors, so it saves you considerabe time when drafting your chart. There are also more advanced features that allow you to copy and mirror parts of your pattern. Of course there are options to add or delete rows, as well.
Intwined uses vector graphics, so you can resize your images to your hearts content and never have to worry about pixelation. The charts also save in a format that allows them to be opened on any computer and be used as graphics in places outside the Intwined environment. That means the graphics you make for your patterns can be used on your blog, in your pattern, in a book, in a magazine...you get the idea.
Bottom Line: If you have $44.00 to spare and you are a fiber enthusiast, I would highly recommend getting this software. Even if you are not designing patterns, this software has applications as an excellent place to store notes and charts of things you are working on that you may want to reference later. It seems like a great tool to have in your arsenal with the potential to be extremely helpful to your craft.
by Hunter Hammersen
Available from Pantsville Press for $21.95
(Both a digital and physical copy are available.)
Curls is a book of 14 patterns. These patterns are for what the author has named "curls," as their unique construction gives them an interesting curved shape. The truly awesome thing about the designs in this book is that it allows you, the knitter, to use any yarn at any gauge for a project of any size. Take a moment to let the sink in...the stash busting possibilities alone are breathtaking. The end project can be as tiny as a cuff, grow larger into a cowl or scarf, or be as large as a full blown shawl. The freedom makes these delightful to knit, as you can knit the same pattern more than once and still be creative. That is my biggest problem with socks...I knit the first sock and it's exciting, I knit the second sock and I'm bored.
I purchased my copy of this book at my local yarn shop. There was a trunk show to accompany the book, so I was able to see the finished products of many of the curls in this book as well as the second volume. It really was amazing to see the affects of all the different yarn choices right there in person. And you know what, none of them looked bad. Of course there are a few patterns that stand out as my favorites, but I am confident any of these patterns would make me happy. I will not divulge any of the secrets of curl making here, you should buy the book for that, but I will say that Hammersen did an excellent job explaining how to create these flexible, versatile delights. There are detailed, color coded charts that show you exactly how to increase the blocks of lace that create the curl as well as a whole section with helpful hints and tips for a successful project.
The beautiful shape really does lend itself well to any body type and can be worn in such a variety of ways with a natural looking drape. Just imagine coupling a curl with a shawl pin or adding some decorative clasps and you would have an absolutely stunning gift. I have one of these curls on needles now, I am working it in a solid color, but I imagine it could be very fun to play with tonals or even use more than one color. Even better, these patterns can be the savior of that lonely ball of yarn you just had to buy that is patiently waiting for you at the back of your stash. And that leads me to my bottom line...
Bottom Line: This book is worth the money if you enjoy making shawls, scarves or cowls. The wonderful thing about each design is that its inherent versatility means you can use the pattern over and over and get vastly different (yet still beautiful and satisfying) results. Having seen many of these curls completed in the trunk show, I can attest to their lovely shape and appealing drape first hand. This was an imaginative idea that is fun in its simplicity and flexibility. You can have a single skein you need to use up, or you can have three skeins you want to apply to this endeavor, the freedom to stop when you need to and knit the gauge that you want is very nice.
Storefront & website
Purl Soho is a New York based store dedicated to needlecrafters. When they say "needlecrafters," the good people at Purl Soho are casting a wide net. This term includes knitters, quilters, embroiderers, and all shades of needlework in between. While a brick and mortar store, their online presence is really remarkable. Not only is their online store wonderful, but they maintain a blog-like "Create" section of their website called the Purl Bee. There are not a lot of sites I visit with regularity, but this is one of my few online standards. It is a gold mine of information, ideas and inspiration.
Something I find almost as inspiring as the patterns Purl Bee shares are the number of patterns they share for free. *Gasp* The designers at Purl Soho seem to care a lot about moving needlecraft forward, keeping it relevant, and helping fellow crafters. The instructions are clear, the photographs are great...and they are sharing it like it is information that should belong to everyone. I really appreciate that mindset. Perhaps that is one way they have engendered such loyalty in me, and probably helps me splurge and buy their products...so perhaps it is by design and less altruistic than the picture I'd like to paint. However, if a company is willing to treat me well, I have no problems returning the favor. Besides, their patterns are beautiful in their simplicity and are a breath of fresh air when compared to other free patterns available.
With these numerous free patterns, Purl Bee is set up more as a community crafting group than a counterpart to a retail store. They encourage people to reach out, and as far as I can tell, they do an excellent job responding to those that do. Many of their patterns are coupled to products that they sell, which may justifiably give you pause, but there is no pressure to purchase. Granted, their yarns are breathtaking and scrumptious, though expensive. And as I mentioned, they always make such beautiful projects with their yarn that in the end, you want to make something that looks just like theirs...right down to the expensive yarn. Those devils. (There is a review of the Purl Soho merino in an earlier post.)
I tend to focus on the yarn offerings and knitting patterns, but the site is also the source of my Cricket Loom and I enjoy perusing their sewing section from time to time. My dream is to one day be the proprietor of an establishment such as Purl Soho, but until that dream comes to fruition, I am happy to indulge in reading this website on a near daily basis. As such, I felt it only right that I let you, my dear reader, know in the most blatant of terms, that if you consider yourself a needlecrafter of any kind, you should take a journey to Purl Soho and see what they have for you.
Bottom Line: Purl Soho is a WONDERFUL website. It seems to be an endless source of great photographs, clear organization, wonderful products and bountiful inspiration. If you are not familiar with the site, please go and check it out. It's worth it.
Purchase for $19.95:
(You can get a signed copy on Etsy)
I do not know where to begin on this charming book. For me, it was the perfect way to blend my passions and share them with my son. This book contains beautifully illustrated pictures that go with a sweetly told story. Following this is a set of knitting patterns! You can knit little Freddie and his blanket! (The pattern is also available on Ravelry.) There are actually six patterns included in the books. There is Freddie's blanket, a boy platypus with overalls, a girl platypus with a dress, children's overalls, a baby swaddling blanket and a small hammer. All the patterns are adorable, but the platypus is, by far, my favorite.
This was a very fun way to help my youngest son transition to a big boy bed and share my love of knitting with him. While the connection is not readily obvious, it was a stroke of genius the Johnsons had when they wrote this. My sons always love to see what I'm working on and are thrilled when it's something for them. (It also keeps me diligently working because they are always checking to see if I'm "done yet.") Now that I'm working on a character in a book they both enjoy reading, they are beside themselves with giggly glee. It is such a nice idea combining this story with knitting patterns that relate back to the characters. I will post the completed platypus as soon as it's finished, but I am including some of the photos available on the Etsy page as well as the Ravelry page.
Bottom Line: This is such a sweet book that is well worth the money. If you have small children or grandchildren, they will love this very adorable stuffed animal and the story that goes with him. As a side note- if you are interested in classic children's illustrating, Eric Johnson has an excellent class on Craftsy. You can really tell a lot of love and care went in to this book.
817B Regal Drive
Huntsville, Al 35801
I cannot put in words how much I love this store. The proprietor is a friendly, unimposing, knowledgeable woman who seems to care about her customers as much as her store. On the shelves with her beautiful yarn selection are the projects of customers hanging proudly, showcasing not only new patterns but also the yarn that made them. It is a very tactile place, and that is wonderful.
I stumbled on this store quite by accident when I was about two weeks from having my second son. Needless to say, I was about the size of a house and was the type of pregnant that makes people nervous...like I could pop at any moment. My husband, the sweet man that he is, wanted to take me somewhere that would distract me from my very pregnant state of being. He saw online that this store was open. What we did not know was that it was having its grand opening in its new location the day we chose to check it out. (Really, that meant there was a tray of cookies out for incoming knitters. I cannot say no to a cookie on a good day. I certainly cannot say no to a cookie when I'm pregnant.)
While it was clear the store was still getting itself organized, I was very impressed with the selection and loved the setup. It is my ideal sized knitting store. (Is that a weird thing to love? I am not a fan of huge spaces for knitting stores and sometimes you can be a little too cramped. Like the story of the Three Bears, the size of this store is just right.)
Fast forward a little less than a year to Knit in Public Day 2016 and I found myself once again within the cozy walls of this fine establishment. This time I was significantly less pregnant and probably a lot calmer overall. The store seems to have hit its stride already, offering great yarns, great company and a lot of fiber knowledge...and fixed heddle looms! How fun. I hope to become a regular at this fiber shoppe, though my schedule with my tiny tots does not allow me to get out to the yarn store as often as I like.
There is a website for the store at www.fiberartwork.com and there is a group on Ravelry that is very active. Please check out both.
Bottom Line: This is one of my all-time favorite knitting stores. This should be a must on your list if you live in the Tennessee Valley.
Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom: Discover the Full Potential of the Rigid-Heddle Loom, for Beginners and Beyond
by Syne Mitchell
Available at Multiple Retailers
Knit Picks: $20.90
Barnes and Noble: $20.50
I am always a little hesitant to purchase a book for a given craft. This trepidation derives itself from many sources. One source is that often I find I like one or two things in a book and the rest does nothing for me. Also, the limited space in my craft room makes me feel claustrophobic on a good day, I do not want to add tombs that I look at once or twice that then become dust collectors on my all too limited shelf space. However, I occasionally will take the plunge and buy a book, especially one for a new craft or interest. There are very worthwhile books out there- books that fill a gap in the internet knowledge, have valuable information all in one place, are worth reading and/or are a go-to wealth of reference material. If a book does a really good job at one of those things, I'm happy. I am okay sacrificing some shelf space to a good book.
This book is not one of those things, it is ALL of those things. I was so pleasantly surprised. This book was written well, had a wealth of information for, as the title indicates, someone who is just starting out all the way to someone with some experience under their belt. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of my little loom. I had no idea there was so much I could create...I loved my little loom, but I thought of it more as a one trick pony. I am very happy to say I was utterly and completely wrong. I was excited about my loom before, but now I am really pumped. It is rare that I read a tutorial book cover to cover. Usually there is just one section I need or a few projects I'm interested in, but this book had me hooked. Even stuff I knew I enjoyed reading over.
Bottom Line: This book has very clear instructions, lots of photos, a conversational writing style, and projects for each major skill. I would recommend anyone who has recently purchased a rigid-heddle loom, or even someone who maybe has had one for a while but needs some inspiration or a refresh, to purchase this book. It is worth more than the $20 it cost, to be sure.