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.
Purl Soho Worsted Twist Yarn
100% Merino Wool
For Christmas, my wonderful husband bought me nine hanks of the Purl Soho Worsted Twist. It runs about $20.00 a hank, unless on sale. A hank is approximately 164 yards with a 4-5 st/in gauge. This is a little more thank I like to spend on yarn when I am just putzing around and making something for myself. (Gifts are a completely different beast, I tend to overspend a lot when making gifts. Whoever says handmade gifts are cheaper than store-bought gifts is seriously delusional.) However, I got around this yarn purchasing guilt by planting the little seed in my husbands head that it would make a lovely gift. So, I didn't buy it- he bought it. Blame defaults to him.
I love looking through the free patterns on Purl Soho's website, but this is the first time I've ever used their yarn. I have to say, I am more than pleased with the quality and feel of this yarn. I am working on the Seed Stitch Wrap available in their free patters. (http://www.purlsoho.com/create/2013/09/05/new-worsted-twist-seed-stitch-scarf/) I felt this was a beautiful way to showcase the yarn in a wide, simple stitch wrap with large swaths of color. It works up fairly fast, too, which is a bonus. I am actually pleasantly surprised by how obvious a difference there is in this worsted weight merino compared to some of the more economical options available out there. It is so soft, it really doesn't even feel like wool. I would say if I did a blind touch test, I would have thought this was a soft cotton over a wool, though I would be very sad if I washed it like cotton. I would even dare to say it could be baby blanket soft.
More impressive than the feel, though that is quite impressive, are the colors! I love the richness of the colors. The Super Pink really is as bold as it looks on your computer screen and the Timeless Navy is rich with an expressive depth. I think the potential for unique and beautiful projects is quite expansive with the yarn.
Bottom Line: This yarn is very nice. It is a little pricey for casual use, but if you have a special project in mind- it's a luxurious feel with great color.
Have you ever wondered where to get those brilliant finishing touches for your knitted pieces? Like elegant shawl pins, unique buttons or the hardware for a nice knitted clutch? I did. My local knitting store is a wonderful place, but it just doesn't have the traffic to support a large collection of the after-knitting add-ons. Well, wonder no more and wander no further, JUL Designs is a one-stop shop for a lot of those needs. Granted, their artistic style might not match the project at hand; they have a beautiful inventory that is handmade, but the breadth of styles is not huge. I actually stumbled upon this site after reading a post in Knitting Daily about different ways to wear a shawl. In the article, they mentioned receiving a box of various pins, sticks and leather from JUL and put them to good use. Using the provided hyperlink, I stumbled upon a lovely website for shawl knitters.
I ordered a nice shawl pin to accompany a lace shawl I knitted for my mother. (It was the Passion Flower Shawl Pin, featured here.) There is free shipping on orders over $25 and the pin arrived within a week. I was very pleased with the weight and craftsmanship of the pin. This particular piece was handmade with fair trade in mind in Indonesia. I was a little disappointed with the packaging. Not the shipping package, but the package the actual pin resided in was a little lackluster. It was a clear plastic bag. For the price, I wasn't hoping for a wooden box, but I was hoping for...well...something a with a little more umph so perhaps I could leave the pin in its packaging when gifting it. (Something about leaving it in a clear plastic bag doesn't scream high quality gift to me.)
The website is well organized, easy to use, and updated regularly. You can also subscribe to a newsletter so you are notified of sales and special deals. Their inventory includes completed items such as bags, hardware for things such as purses, pedestal buttons, patterns for an array of shawls, hats, etc., jewelry, shawl pins and sticks as well as other interesting items I'm too lazy to list here.
Bottom Line: The prices are very reasonable, the items are meaningfully artistic, the shipping was fast and free and the item was high quality and in excellent shape when it arrived. The lackluster packaging aside, I would recommend checking out this site, especially with the holidays just around the corner.
KnitScene Accessories 2015
Displayed until August 31, 2015
List Price: $14.99
I picked up the special issue KnitScene recently. As it is a rather pricey magazine (justifiably so with the number of patterns), I thought I'd give it a quick review in case you were on the fence. As you can quickly ascertain from the cover, there are 33 patterns for accessories included in these pages. They range from shawls and socks to the more unique hats and clutches. Featured shawl patterns include the designs of Megi Burcl and are very colorful. The article has a lot of good advice on choosing colors for your work. There is also some good advice on sock construction, too. Spoiler alert on the advice...swatching turns out to be important. Who knew? Also, if you've never done bead work, there are a few pages of helpful hints on adding beads as you go, the pre-strung method and beads between stitches. It's quick and dirty but very informational.
Perhaps my favorite accessory in the magazine is the Grace Clutch by Julie LeFrancois. It has officially landed on my project list. It is simple chevron pattern with appealing pleats. It would probably look cute in any contrasting colors you could think of, but the black and white featured with the model is very attractive. I think the most unique item is the hat featured on the cover, the Regina Hat also by Julie LeFrancois. It is an amazing piece of knitwork, very creative, but I am not a huge fan. I feel like it would be very easy for it to not look like the picture in the magazine and/or not look good on the average person. I could be completely wrong. I'll keep my eye on Ravelry and see what projects look like when completed.
For me, there are probably three projects in the magazine I would actually make. However, three patterns pays for the magazine, so I don't feel guilty about the price. There are plenty of interesting accessories, even if I'm not going to make them, they are inspirational. I love accessories. They tend to work up faster and typically do not take a lot of yarn (keeping the price down). I enjoyed this issue of KnitScene and will look at it more than once, which is one of my rules for purchasing knitting magazines.
Available at various retailers
Price: $10-20 for 12 oz bottle
Blocking is such an important part of knitting. It really makes a huge difference in the finished product. Also, garment care is crucial. If you spend hours making a sweater, there is a good chance you want it to last. Perhaps you might even want to make it last longer than it took to knit. Crazy, I know. This means having a mild detergent made for hand-washing is key. I recently decided to try out Soak. It is a Canadian based company with an eco-friendly line of washes in great scents (as well as scentless). It is an affordable wash that is made with knits in mind. It can also be used for lingerie, baby garments, quilts, workout clothes...the list goes on. It is designed for hand-washing, but it can also be used in HE washers. It is very gently on your skin, too, so go ahead and throw those fingers in the water to give your shawl a good swish. (And don't worry about the manicure, either.) The thing that got me hooked, other than the great scents and ease of use, was that it is no rinse. No rinse? That's pretty amazing. The wash I was using before was a powder and left a little grit in my garments if I did not rinse thoroughly, which is sometimes difficult when you have a big, drippy wool sweater you are trying to wash in your tiny bathroom sink. With Soak, you put a tablespoon in for a gallon of water, throw in your garment, let it soak for 15 minutes, and you're done. How easy is that?
Bottom Line: Try it out, it is well worth it. As its name suggests, it makes soaking knitted items a breeze. It makes garments smell fresh and it is super easy to use. Now that I've found this product, I don't see myself switching any time soon. I particularly like the fig scent.
The Genuine Purl
Yarn and Needlework Shop
Last weekend I went on a family vacation to Chattanooga, Tennessee. (That is a very family friendly/walking friendly/stroller friendly city in the South. It really makes a great weekend trip. Especially when the weather is nice.) While there, I decided to check out the local knit scene. Why not spread the word about cool yarn shops in places I am fortunate enough to visit? I found one knitting/needlework store located on the north side of town. It is called The Genuine Purl and is a great shop. The woman who greeted me in the store was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. She was also very welcoming to my husband and 1.5-year old son I dragged into the store with me, too. There is seating in the store for knitters and waiting husbands alike. It is always nice to walk into a store and feel like you just made a friend.
The store itself is cozy and well-stocked with a utilization of wall space that is nothing short of impressive. The layout is a bit strange, with four different "rooms" that you can walk through in a circle. Two-and-a-half of the rooms are filled with yarn and knitting/crochet notions, all organized well...at least to me. The rest of the space is dedicated to needle-work. I did not spend a lot of time in this section, but there were a lot of flosses. The selection of needlework patterns seemed eclectic, though I have only dabbled in cross stitch and there was not much of that to be seen, so I feel I do not have enough knowledge of the field to assess whether it was a "good" collection or not.
The store has good hours, open daily except Sunday; and was open promptly at 10:00, as posted. (I hate it when stores open late. I know, things come up and I should be more forgiving, especially of small, local establishments. If I flip that statement around to something more positive, I love when a store opens on time.) Also, as a bonus, it is right across the street from the most delicious biscuit breakfast place I have ever been to. Completely unrelated to yarn, I tried milk and honey (mixed together) for the first time...I had no idea it was so yummy!
As far as I have been able to unearth, there is no webpage for the store, but there is a Facebook page that you can access by simply googling "The Genuine Purl, Chattanooga." I would have liked to see a webpage, but I looks like they keep their Facebook page pretty current and avidly support their local knitters, both beginners and experienced knitters.
Bottom Line: It was a great shop and if you ever find yourself in Chattanooga, it is worth poking your head in to see. It makes a great souvenir...buy some yarn and then make a small project that will help you remember the great time you had in that location.
Price: Free! (You must create a login/membership.)
There is a pretty good chance you have already discovered the joys of Ravelry, but on the off chance that you haven't...or maybe you'd forgotten about it...I felt like I needed to include a review of this wonderful website. I use it so often it only seemed fair and just to pay it the proper homage.
First, what is Ravelry? Well, it is a wonderful website that hosts a community of fiber artists. It is a place where you can find patterns, yarn suggestions, read forums, post comments, see finished products and keep your own knitting stash and patterns organized. That is not an exhaustive list, either. The website offers so much, it would take pages to describe it all, but I hope you get the general idea. It was originally designed by a knit blogger who felt there was so much valuable information out there, it would be great to consolidate it to one place. Boy oh boy, did they do that. (Please still read my blog, even if you become a Ravelry junky.)
There are so many features on Ravelry that could be very useful...but I only actually use a few of them. One really neat thing that Ravelry does is the Thursday Tip where, on the homepage, they walk you through one really cool thing that Ravelry has to offer. Tips have included things such as how to find Knit-a-longs and using the "remember and compare" feature when browsing patterns. I like to see the "Community Eye Candy," too, which is posted to their homepage and features themed patterns. These are just things that pop up as soon as you visit Ravelry, the really cool stuff is once you start using the website.
Like I said, I only use a few of the features. Mostly, I use their website to find patterns. Their search feature is great. You can type in something very generic, like "baby blanket," and then the have a ton of qualifiers to help narrow your search. You can filter the patterns by yardage of yarn, yarn weight, project popularity, star ratings, etc. Using their filters, you can whittle your search down to something actually searchable. You can also do what I like to call a reverse search. Let's say you want to do some stash busting but you do not have a project in mind for a skein of yarn. Well, you can actually search for a project with the same amount of yarn you have or even see projects made with the exact skein you have. It's great for inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, I love looking at pictures of finished projects. I do this for patterns I have purchased from Ravelry as well as patterns I have purchased elsewhere. It is so much fun to see how other people's projects have turned out as well as seeing what a project might look like in a different yarn or color. I try my best to post my finished projects, as well. It is a great reference for checking you project progress, comparing finished work, or seeking inspiration for what yarn to use. I love it. They also keep a library of all the patterns you own as well as patterns you have "liked." You can organize yourself with a knitting queue, as well, which is great if you have a ton of holiday gifts to finish and you need to keep yourself on track.
Lastly, I will mention Ravelry is a great place to sell original patterns you have designed. They make it very easy to set up a shop and the have a clear and fair scheme for what it costs to host your patterns. Best part is, it is completely free if you make less than $30 a month on your patterns. They host patterns from professionals and casual home-knitters alike. That's part of what makes browsing Ravelry so much fun. However, if you decide to post a pattern, it must be a complete project...no tutorials, stitch swatches or lone charts. It also has to be original work.
Bottom Line: I love Ravelry. Have I mentioned I love Ravelry? I can wile away hours browsing their patterns and looking at pictures of projects. There are so many truly talented people out there, and Ravelry is a place for showcasing and inspiring. It is also international, so you can connect with knitters all around the world...it is truly remarkable. Ravelry is worth checking out. See what features are helpful to you. Make sure you have some time, though, because I can almost guarantee it will suck you in and you will lose track of space and time. Enjoy!
Booties, Blankets & Bears: 20 irresistible hand knits for your baby
Available on Barnesandnoble.com for $16.40
I purchased this book a few years ago and just recently dusted it off to rediscovered its cute yet extremely functional knit patterns. As stated in the title, there are 20 knit patterns included in the 144 pages of the book. I have made five of the patterns for baby #1 and am now choosing what to make for the little man on the way.
One of the things I like most about this book is that the patterns are varied. It is not a book full of one type of knitwear or toy. There are booties, big bird cushions, memory book covers, hangers, building blocks and blankets (just to name a few). This is a huge selling point for me; there seems to be something new to create every time I take a look through the book. Not only are there great knits for my own children, a lot of the projects are small and work up very quickly and would make excellent shower gifts for friends and family members. (I would particularly recommend the booties, they look very professional in a nice box and people will love the thoughtful handmade gift that looks store bought.)
There are a few things that deserve consideration with this book. First, while many of the patterns do not require much yarn, there are some that require quite a bit and could be pricey if made. A perfect example would be the Big Bird Cushion...super cute but requires 21 balls of 50g Aran weight yarn. Depending on what brand and fiber you chose, that could set you back a pretty penny. Also, pay attention to the finished blanket sizes. Some of the blankets seem quite small and perhaps would only be appropriate for a newborn baby. It would stink to take the time to make a baby blanket and have to use it for a tea towel instead.
Bottom Line: If you have small children, plan on having babies or have lots of friend popping out little ones, this would be a great book for your personal library. It will get a lot of use. However, if you just want a pattern for baby booties (or one specific baby themed project) you would be better off browsing Ravelry for a pattern. This book is definitely worth taking a look at, though, especially for the price.