****Since first posting this, Yarnbox has gone out of business! I must say, I was saddened by the news. They changed ownership and I think a series of unfortunate events led the company to go under within a year. While Yarnbox is no longer around, there are other subscription yarn boxes. I think the general idea of this review would stand true for many of these subscription boxes, because really, who doesn't love getting yarn in the mail?
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).
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.
Schacht Spindle Co. Cricket Loom
Available on purlsoho.com
Price: $175-$195 (depending on size)
The Cricket Loom comes in two sizes, the 10" and the 15" models. I got the 15" loom for my birthday, and with only a $20 price differential, I would recommend going with the large size (you can always make a smaller project on a larger loom, but you can't make a larger project on a smaller loom). It is a fixed heddle loom with the option to change out the reed for a smaller or larger dent size. This means there is some rigidity in the potential patterns you can think up, but it certainly does not diminish the charm of this little loom. The loom comes with the 8 dent reed, which is good for a worsted weight yarn. There are also 5, 10 and 12 dent reeds available to accommodate other yarn weights. The loom is well made and sturdy and has other accessories available, including a travel bag and a stand.
The size and price point of this little gem are really what caught my eye. I am not a weaver, but I have interest in the craft. I cannot justify spending the money or allocating the space for a large loom. There aren't many people with the space in their homes to set up a floor loom on a whim, unlike a pair of knitting needles, weaving is a bit more of a commitment where equipment is concerned. This Cricket loom allows the user to get their feet wet and create some wonderful projects while not taking up the entire family room or breaking the bank. In fact, this loom fits on a coffee table, a kitchen counter, a desk...really anywhere. It's easy to move and easy to use. The loom comes with, as mentioned, the 8 dent reed as well as two shuttles, a warping peg, clamps, a threading hook and two balls of yarn. It provides you everything you need for your first project. (The instruction booklet is also very helpful.)
Bottom Line: If you have a birthday coming up or little stash of cash, this is totally worth the small splurge. It is super easy to use and does not take up a lot of space. There are a ton of possibilities, and the projects you can whip up move quickly and look great when finished. It is fun and very satisfying.