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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.
Yarn /Fiber Store
Myrtle Beach, SC
I had the opportunity to vacation with my family in Myrtle Beach, SC this past month. It is a popular vacation destination, and I am happy to report it has a lovely yarn store for those of you knitting while catching a few rays. It took some convincing to get my family in the car and away from the beach to drive to, yes, a yarn store...but really, it was very close to the popular hotels and boardwalk and easy to find. The store itself had much to offer. The selection was decent, there seemed to be a good client base as demonstrated by the ladies sitting around a central table knitting away, and the store was spacious. (I actually prefer a smaller space, but I can definitely see the benefits in expansion.) The thing I loved the most about this store was the number of knitted items around the shop that showed exactly how a particular yarn would look knitted. It was wonderful. I always hate when I spend money on a skein thinking it will look and drape one way only to find I was sorely mistaken. The shawls, scarves, shirts and blankets posted around the establishment were placed near the yarn they were made with, allowing the shopper to really touch, feel, and see what their own project my end up looking like. It was wonderful! The staff was also very friendly. The woman working when I was in their allowed me to browse uninterrupted but was there at the drop of a hat when I needed assistance. It was my ideal shopping experience.
There is a website, linked above, with more information about the store hours, products, and expertise available.
Bottom Line: If you are vacationing in or near Myrtle Beach, you should take the time to check out this store. It is a great shop with a lot to offer and an ideal location to pick up yarn to make that vacation project. If you live near Myrtle Beach and haven't scoped out this local business, you really should, it's worth the trouble.
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.