Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Calling All Knitters!

Good morning, everyone...I'm looking at the shower from where I'm sitting, and the bottom line is that I'm just not ready.  I think all I ate yesterday was discounted chocolate from my employer, a Dunkin Donuts coffee, and a falafel sandwich from Subway.  Between that and my days flying by because of my penchant for weirdos coming up to me, I'm pretty exhausted.

But it's okay.  I have a plan, and it involves getting ahead.  This is one of my New Year's Resolutions, see...and that's why I'm writing this morning.

If you are a knitter (and my guess is that you either read this to humor me, you read this because you are a knitter, or you read this because you have a crush on a knitter and this is your perfect chance to talk with them), I need your help.  What are your knitting New Year's Resolutions?  Shoot me an email to amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com and I'll try and get as many quotes in examiner.com as possible.  Don't want me to use your name?  No problem!  Just let me know that beforehand.

To get an idea of what I usually write, my Knit Tips Tuesday column is gaining popularity...it often appears on examiner.com's national site:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-the-purl-stitch

And then I also try to write at least one local story a week, which usually looks more like this:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/string-theory-yarn-co-warms-the-community-with-3rd-annual-scarf-project

I'm currently working on my Scarf Pattern of the Month series on Etsy, and my New Year's Resolution is to get ahead of the game.  The patterns are pretty well written, and I have a test-knitter or two but I still need to knit the scarves on my own as well.  I want to do nothing but scarves (not literally...that's not realistic but I do want to pare down on the sixty projects I have going at a time) until I finish the projects relating to my series.  By the way, it's not too late if you'd like to join us...here is the link:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/83297166/scarf-pattern-of-the-month-series

So here's what I'm looking for...if you knit, shoot me an email with your full name, age, a contact phone number (even though I'm not likely to use it, since I'll have your email address...it's just a backup), and a detailed description of your Knitting New Year's Resolution.  You can make it one good sentence, or you can give me some background as to why you are resolving to change this knitting behavior in 2012...either way is fine with me.  But do shoot the message to my personal email if you can...I don't want to have your email address posted in the comments on the blog.

Yesterday, the Lion Brand Yarn Company re-posted my blog post about knitting lace on their facebook page...I was reading through the comments and people were very receptive to the positive, which I certainly appreciate:

http://blog.lionbrand.com/2011/11/30/how-to-knit-lace/

And now that I have bombarded you with links to other stuff, I am going to go to a coffee shop and...what else?...finish knitting a scarf.  I'm so excited about the first pattern of the series to come out...it blocks as cute as I had hoped...ha ha ha.  Thanks in advance for your response, and of course good luck with YOUR resolutions as well!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ahh, Christmas

Good morning, everyone!  I'm sitting on a chair, watching Bluto and Penny fight for what appears to be the only bone not sliding under furniture on the pergo flooring, and doing as much reflecting as I ever do on Christmas.  That is to say...not much.

I get the big deal...I do.  I am just not a fan of how expensive the rituals are, how greedy many seemingly-decent children (and adults, really) can become, and how out-of-control some shoppers can be.  But the family part, the dinner and togetherness part, and the "take a break from the daily grind" part...I'm all for it.  I'm even all for church visits if that's your thing...I went into St. Williams Parish at 2600 N Sayre last week, and I asked if I could cantor for them again.  The organist was almost dancing, he was so happy...he hugged me twice.  I have a deep appreciation for church, for togetherness, for giving, and for remembering why we gathered in the first place.  I do not have a deep appreciation for what commerce has done to Christmas.

It's okay, though...I don't begrudge others, or anything.  My point is that I'm not sitting in my chair and looking at a Christmas tree.  I'm actually sitting here, wondering what time I should wake up the husband and make him clean up the torrential mess he made in the kitchen.  THAT is the important stuff holidays are made of, people.

I have one more week until it's time to start spitting out a scarf pattern per month to my subscribers...it's not too late if you'd like to join!  Here is the link...just use the coupon code "NEWKNITS" so it's only $29.75 instead of $35.00:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/83297166/scarf-pattern-of-the-month-series

You'll also have until about March or April to join...once it becomes a wash to buy the patterns (as opposed to getting a discount for the whole series), I'll stop offering it.

I have to finish one of the scarves today or Wednesday (my next day off), actually.  Meanwhile, I'm looking at my still-unpacked house and I came to a conclusion this week.  You know those cute ruffle scarves that are made with one skein of yarn?  Some examples of the yarn are Triana, Flounce, and KFI's Ripple.  Well, I have determined...with no scientific evidence whatsoever but a ton of personal biased opinion...that these scarves are easier to knit if you are an English-style knitter.  English knitters tend to hold the yarn closer to the needles, and they can more easily just manually shoot the needle through the holes in the yarn with more ease because they have a better view of that side of the yarn.

You don't have to believe me...I didn't even take a poll for this one.  Seriously.  But I know that I finished six inches of a ruffle scarf in about fifteen minutes, and I determined that part of the reason was that I could see the yarn so much better than a picker.

So yeah...my plan is to eat and knit at Mom's house.  It's just like any other Christmas.  Have a good day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vacation from Knit Tips Tuesday

Good morning everyone!  Allow me to explain why I have taken a hiatus from my knitting side (apart from Blackhawks games, and even THAT didn't work out perfectly):

1.  Last Wednesday, I drove 997 miles to my brother's house in Peoria.  I could have actually made it to Chicago in a day, but thought it would be a better idea to play with the nieces and visit with the mom and brother.
2.  Thursday, I drove to Chicago, played with the dogs, saw the husband, emptied my car, and (I think) slept.
3.  Friday, I started moving stuff around, unpacking, building a bedframe for the guest room, moving more stuff around, building stuff, and making a list of things we needed to get for the house.
4.  Saturday, I went to Home Depot, Ikea, and Walmart...I cried in every store.  Too much.  Just too much.
5.  Sunday.  I don't even remember Sunday.  I just know I did something with about two stacks of clothes, and I was DONE...I had to get out of the house.  I left early for the Blackhawks game, visited with my friend Dawn, and knitted on her couch while we kvetched for a few hours.

Then at the Blackhawks game...because yes, I do in fact bring knitting with me for between periods...the girl in front of me in the ticket line opened her bag to show the police.  There was a ball of Lilly's Sugar 'n' Cream in there.  I said, "Do you have yarn in your bag?"  She said, "Yes I do!"  I showed her my bag, we laughed, and had a teeny weeny bonding moment right there at the United Center.  "Those are long bus rides," she said.  Yay!  We ARE taking over the world!

Anyway, then I started my new job on Monday, so Monday and Tuesday was spent at the new place of employment from about seven in the morning to nine at night.  I'm tired.  And I thought about writing Knit Tips Tuesday but I didn't have it in me.  Today, I have a plan, however.  I'm going to knit.  I may unpack, but I may not.  I feel like a zombie.  Thirteen hours in a Calvin Klein suit and three inch heels makes for a WIPED OUT chick.  Me, in case you weren't following this story.

Anyway, I bought this skein of laceweight loveliness one day when I was in Yarntopia, and I casted on that day even though I had probably two hundred (maybe that's an exaggeration) projects on the needles already.  I wrote the pattern, tested it, and figured if it didn't work I could always toss the yarn (hey...it's lovely but it's only eight bucks), and started knitting.  Then, the other night at the Blackhawks game, I dropped a yarnover.  And this was during intermission, when I have no excuses because I wasn't distracted.  I just tropped it.  I wasn't even in a place for a lifeline yet...I was only on the twelfth row of the pattern and it repeats at row 19.  The distractions did start to come, however...the horn blew, the ref dropped the puck, and now here I was, with my favorite hockey team blurred in my farsight, and I finally just gave up.  I pulled out my circular needle and ripped it out.

To tell you how awesome of a friend Alex is...in case anyone needed to know why we are such good friends...he sat there with my limp, non-finished project in his hands and helped me unravel it during the game.  Cookie!

So yeah...I need to get my yarn on before I am ready to be a grownup today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bitter-sweetness

Good morning, everyone...your Knit Tips Tuesday is all about reaping the benefits of circular needles:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-circular-needles

To my new readers, thanks for joining me!  If you would like to subscribe to the examiner.com page, where the articles are just sent to your email inbox automatically, all you have to do is click on my name near the article and you will see another button that says "subscribe."

This week may be a "slow knitting news" week, mostly because I'm taking a two-day road trip.  Either way, I hope everyone is knitting away as I am, and if there IS anything that is newsworthy, I'm happy to pull over to a truck stop, load up on coffee, and write about it.

Today is kind of a bummer...two years ago today, I was with CJ's mom in the hospital, finally realizing that no magic liver and pig valve was going to just show up at the door of the cardiac unit for him.  Saying goodbye to CJ was so, so hard...I pushed him away for twenty years, including the five when he followed me around in high school.  Right when I stopped pushing him away, he died.  The good news, though, is that he died happy and surrounded by the people closest to him.

I did a lot of knitting in those nineteen days in the hospital...I made a scarf for my former tenant that looked like an homage to the Detroit Redwings, only cuter...but it still broke my heart to actually make a Redwings scarf for a Redwings fan.  I also made a lacy dark-blue scarf for her roommate using yarn I purchased in Paris, a pink scarf which was ultimately given to one of the nurses, and a manly-scarf that I only recently gave away.  I'm sorry, but I'm a scarf girl.

Anyway, knitting and the companionship of CJ's mother was really the only thing that got me through the hospital stay, and they are both mainstays in my life two years later.

Today, I also have to say goodbye to my other crop of favorite knitters, so while I'm looking forward, I can't help but also look back on this day.  I'm wearing his Back to the Future tee shirt in his honor.  That, and of course I married his best friend.

Thank you all for being in my life.  Think happy thoughts to me on my road-trip!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two More Days Before Road-Trip Time!

Good morning, everyone.  Yes, it's Monday...normally, I would have been literally FOUR hours into my work-day already.  However, I'm starting my new position next weekend, and I was scheduled off this weekend, so I think that means it's blogging time!

Today, I am going to a friend's house to say goodbye to the knitting group which meets at the Katy Library, and tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to the knitting group that meets at Yarntopia, otherwise known as the "mecca of all things soft that you want to rub on your face, which you really shouldn't do unless you have already purchased it."  I wanted to give something to the lovely ladies of each group, so this is what I've been working on for the past two weeks:


I dare say, this is my new favorite stash-buster.  I still have five more to make (worst-case scenario, anyway), but they use about seven yards of yarn, a safety pin, two bamboo marking pins, a tapestry needle, and a dot of glue.  POOF.  Instant keepsake.  Although the photo quality isn't stellar, here's a close-up of one of them:


I just wanted the ladies to know I cared so much about them during my time here in Texas, so what better way to do it than to plow through that teeny weeny yarn ball in the stash that you always think, "Maybe I could trim a mitten or something..."?  Here's how you do it...

Gauge - unimportant
Materials - ten yards of worsted-weight or aran-weight yarn , two Clover bamboo marking pins (they come in packs of ten, so you can actually make five and give them to your knitting group, like I'm doing), 1.25" to 1.5" safety pin, tapestry needle, craft or wood glue, size 3 (US) or 3.25mm (European) knitting needles.

Using knitting needles, cast on 12 stitches for aran weight, and 14 stitches for worsted weight yarn, using the knitted cast-on.  Clip the tail of the cast-on to one inch...it obviously doesn't get woven in, but make sure you give it a good tug so it doesn't unravel. 

Knit in garter stitch (knit every row) for two inches, ending with the right side facing.  Grab a marking pin and knit half of the stitches (six for aran, seven for worsted) onto it...the pin is actually the same size as a size 2 (2.75mm) needle, so the stitches will be nice and snug on it.  Take the left-hand needle out of the stitches and CAREFULLY replace it with the other marking pin...this is not an easy project to drop a stitch and pick back up, but then again, ripping out and starting again won't kill you.  Anyway, insert the right pin into the first stitch on the left pin as if to knit through the back loop, and slide the stitches evenly so the outer stitch on each pin is close to the bulb on the end of the pin. 

Cut the yarn tail so it's about 24 inches long.  Wrap the yarn around the right needle as if you were knitting the next stitch, and then wind the yarn into a ball.  Secure it on the right side of the piece as if you were sewing on a button (up and over, down and under three times).  Weave in the end on the wrong side of the piece, secure a safety pin through two loops on the wrong side as well.  Place a dot of glue where the two markers meet in the middle.

I have to finish the last few bits before heading out of town, but I really, really need to knit before I go crazy...I have had so much fun making these teeny projects but it's time I busted out something I can just make progress on.

Think happy thoughts to me when I embark in the Aveo for 1,116.3 miles.  My little boyfriends Jose and Macon over at the Pep Boys on Fry Road told me that my car was good to go.  When I'm settled, I'd be happy to be commandeered to make these little pins for your knitting group if you'd like, for a small fee.  I saw someone on Etsy charging twelve bucks for pins similar to these, and I think that's downright highway robbery...I'm thinking maybe less than half that.  I'm open to suggestions, of course...

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Best Week of the Year to Travel

Good evening!  I'm currently at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, on my way back to Texas for the last four days of my tenure on that god-awful planet.  By the way...no offense to those who love Planet Texas...this is my personal opinion, and I do not mean to sway anyone's judgment on the subject.  However, it DOES suck.

That said...I spent the last few days at my stepmom's house, cuddling with the speckled pooches and continuing to have bizarre dreams.  I'm also making pins for the knitters I love the most (in other words, I love a lot of them but have a limited number of markers to make pins, so...).  I have the pattern down to a half-hour project.  SCORE!  And I thought knitting washcloths were knitting-instant-gratification...they don't hold a CANDLE to this sort of pleasure.  I finished two of them from Panama City Beach to Atlanta.

Anyway, for anyone interested in the Scarf of the Month Series (seen here), the first one will be a knit-and-purl arrangement, the second one will also most likely be knit-and-purl, and then March and April will be either lace, cables, or lace AND cables.  As always, no matter where I am in the country I will be on-hand to answer any questions about the patterns, yarns used, or whatever else.  Just ask anyone who has bought a pattern from me.  Speaking of which...and this merits a re-post...I received this feedback from a girl who bought my commuter headband pattern.  Etsy shop owners dream of having something THIS positive on their page: 

I'm about halfway done with knitting up this pattern, so I think I've seen quite enough to leave feedback on it. This is only the second thing I've knitted and it was a very painless introduction to cables and i-cords. The seller was quick in sending it and told me she'd be happy to answer any questions, but the pattern was well-written and I have had none. Good seller, great product.

See?  She knows how to break it DOWN, man!  (I meant me.  Although I do VERY much appreciate the feedback, thankyouverymuch, Caitlin Stone).  Oh, and I have no idea why I'm using so many all-caps...it must be Atlanta.

My friend Sean was complaining that he didn't have a good scarf, because he likes to wrap them around more than once and it's hard to find them that long nowadays.  My first thought, of course, was "Jeez...you really need to learn how to knit."  A close second in the thought department, however, was that I have the sample of the Squiggly at the house, and I could use that extra square foot of space in my car by mailing it to Sean.  The second one I made was a human length...I just kept knitting and knitting and knitting the first one, wondering how close my measurements were...but the one in the photo is seven feet long.  The second one I made...well...someone else was a recipient of it, and it's 66 inches long.  I still have to make one for Andrea...damn, I'm behind.  Anyway, Sean will be getting the seven-foot long scarf and he was all atwitter when I offered it to him.

Have a good night...I'm about to board on my final flight before hopping in my car and looking forward to getting attacked by my two killer pit bulls!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gosh...Tuesday Just Disappeared!

Good morning...I normally feel bloggy on Tuesdays, but yesterday wasn't easy.  I had to finish Knit Tips Tuesday, pack, prepare for the fact that I already had my last day at my previous position so I will be starting my future position in two weeks, and other stuff I would like to blame for not blogging yesterday.  I also, quite honestly, didn't have a lot to say.

Today, I can't shut up.  It might be the coffee.  Or the coffee and couscous.  Or the coffee, couscous, and Clif bar.  Maybe it's just Florida, I don't know.

I'm visiting my stepmom on the Florida panhandle at the moment, and then of course I'm putting the final touches on the house-clean before heading up north for good.  Either way, here is the article I published for Examiner.com this morning, relating to what to get a knitter for the holidays:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/chicago-area-yarn-expert-weigh-on-gift-giving-for-knitters

And then since I didn't post it yesterday for the blogosphere, here is the Knit Tips Tuesday.  It's about tips for organizing your post-holiday yarn stash.  Or, you can just do what I do...shove it all in the back of the Chevy Aveo, and hit the road with it:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/chicago-area-yarn-expert-weigh-on-gift-giving-for-knitters

So last week, I realized I had to change the January scarf for my Scarf-Series-of-the-Month, since I need to make sure I get the color-change part right on the ORIGINAL January scarf.  This may make it a February scarf, and it may also make it an October or November scarf, I don't know yet.  All I know is that the new January scarf is almost finished, and then after a day of blocking it will be time to accost strangers who want their photo taken in it.  It's actually turning out quite lovely, and I worked part of it up with a few different yarns so I can offer substitutions.  I haven't ripped out this much in a week in forever, but it's for a good cause. 

I also made that chemo cap for Arlinda...you probably saw the picture and the thank-you note.  Well, I had almost half a ball left, so I thought I would exercise my crocheting prowess and make a discloth with it (that's about as far-exercised that my crocheting prowess ever gets...I can't shape anything and I have to look at the instructions if I'm doing anything other than single crochet).  Then, I realized I didn't have enough yarn, so I turned it into a little bag.  It won't hold much...maybe a pocket bible or your cosmetics necessities...but at least it's cute.  My hand is in the picture so you can see just how diminutive it is.  Oh, and the reason the flower was added was because I couldn't live with myself throwing away two yards of cotton yarn, apparently:


So today, my stepmom and I are either seeing Hugo or The Muppets, but either way, I'm happy to indulge in such activities.  Excuse me while I go back to my knitting...I'm trying to finish up a project that's actually several teeny weeny projects, and it's taking me longer than I thought.  More on that later.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bloggy, or Just Groggy?

Man, it's almost past my bedtime.  I guess that means it's AT my bedtime, anyway.

The power of social media is astounding, seriously.  This morning, Lion Brand posted my guest-blog entry on their website.  Here it is, for those of you who want to get over your fear of knitting lace (or, you're like me and you think that as far as mass-produced yarns go, Lion Brand is the bomb):

http://blog.lionbrand.com/2011/11/30/how-to-knit-lace/

I knitted the sample, photoshopped the photos (which should explain the inconsistency, since I'm not much of a photoshopper), and made clever wit-bits all by myself!  And I can't thank Lion Brand enough for selecting me in their guest-blog program.  Flattered beyond words.

Then, I had a great chat with the lovely Janet Avila at String Theory Yarn Company yesterday...she is doing this great charity-project where her customers donate hand-knitted scarves and she sells them to donate the money to charity.  I was actually planning on calling her this morning, but I bumped up the call a bit when I was trying to figure out how to cast off stitches at the beginning and end of a round without ending up with an extra stitch.  Epic Knitting Fail.  So we had a good laugh over it.  I asked her to send me a photo to use in the article, and she took one from her phone...it's freaking gorgeous (click on the link to see the photo):

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/string-theory-yarn-co-warms-the-community-with-3rd-annual-scarf-project

Then, maybe because I was feeling all scarfy after writing Janet's article, I finished another pattern for my personal scarf project, the Scarf of the Month Series for 2012.  Now, of course, I have to break down and cast the sucker on to make sure it works.  It's pretty much the first of December, so I have a month to finish two scarves and write the patterns if I want to stay at least one full month ahead.  I'm feeling lucky.

But I need to stop working on other projects...there is a skull cap, a sock (well, THE sock), a crocheted washcloth, and three extra sets of needles in my bag at the moment.  It's a wonder the laptop still fits in there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brain...Is...Full...

Good afternoon!  Yes, it's afternoon...I couldn't do my normal Tuesday-morning blog because I was verifying trailer numbers at sunrise.  Sad, but true.  Anyway, here is the latest Knit Tips Tuesday, about casting off at the end of a project:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-binding-off

This has been an unusually turbulent day for a Tuesday.  Usually, I wake up and try to turn into my normal self for the entire first half of the day.  Today, I woke up at 3:40am, took my pills, thought I could go back to sleep for a few hours, and ended up getting out of bed ten minutes later.  I showered, made myself pretty (well, as pretty as I have to be to make it in public without getting cold or arrested), and drove to Sealy, Texas.  I wrote Knit Tips Tuesday at McDonald's, otherwise known as "the only place in Sealy with wi-fi."  I then went to work for a few hours, went a-knitting, and my head started to explode on the way to lunch.

Too many ideas, not enough time.

After lunch, I needed to make sure my electric bill was paid.  I checked my email and had a message from Lion Brand Yarn Company...they are posting my guest blog on their website TOMORROW!  I will say this for both me and the masses...EEEEEEEEE!!!

I already woke up weird today, because I received correspondence this week that sort of haunted me in a good way.  A truly lovely gentleman who worked for me at the current place of employment decided to transfer to another location two months ago.  Four weeks later, he committed suicide. I had the task of telling my crew, which I made the mistake of doing in the morning. I reached out to this dear man's sister, just to send my condolences.  She wrote me back.

It was basically a message that explained what led to the events of his death, what demons were haunting him, and most importantly, this sentence:

"There was nothing anyone could have done."

So this time, I was more prepared.  Sadly, this is not the first time I had to tell a crew that a beloved coworker killed himself.  But this time, with this new message, I wanted to share it with the team.  I had a meeting at 6:25pm, right before we all left on Monday.  This is what I said:

"I sent a condolence letter to Chad's sister, and I heard back from her.  Her message isn't pretty, but I also know it may make some of you feel better.  If you would like to hear it, I will read it.  Otherwise, you are welcome to leave now.  If you change your mind, or you want a copy of it, I will leave it in my inbox.  But like I said, it's not a very happy message so I would understand if you didn't want to hear it.  The offer of me to read it is here, though."

Nobody moved.  At all.  I read it.

I think everyone felt deflated, but at least they had sufficient warning this time.  I felt so horrible after telling them the last time around...I still don't know if there is anyone who could have prepared me for how to tell everyone, but I know for sure the second time we talked about it was better than the first time.  So now I have a desire to knit this woman something, with love of course.  Food for thought.

Between thinking about that message yesterday, the scarf project, and a host of other things in my life requiring the phone to ring, I can't get my ideas to slow down enough for me to get them on paper.  I will do my best.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 25, 2011

EEEEEEE!!!

Good afternoon!  Here is the greatest news of my week, since I was by myself on Thanksgiving and my world has been isolated in the knitting house this week:

I BOUND OFF THE WAVES AND WARMTH SHRUG!  I BOUND OFF THE WAVES AND WARMTH SHRUG!

Oh, and I walked to the grocery store.  This may not seem like a big deal to others, but there are not too many sidewalks in Texas, as far as I can tell.  I'm cat-sitting for a friend's herd, however, and she not only lives in a neighborhood with sidewalks.  She lives in a neighborhood with sidewalks and STORES.  So in a weird way, it's been an exciting holiday.

Did you all find time to throw a knot on a needle in between bites of Turkey...or downs during the football game...yesterday?

The rest of my day will be spend seaming the sleeves on the shrug, and writing out a few more patterns.  Well, one at least.  Anyway, I use Lion Brand Vanna's Choice for this shrug...the reason I chose it in the first place was because the original recipient, Judy, won't wear anything that LOOKS itchy.  While I have my yarn-snobby moments, if you are knitting with acrylic yarn, nothing beats Vanna's Choice.  It's soft, a teeny bit sheeny, and obviously is washable.  The PR person for Lion Brand generously re-tweets my Knit Tips Tuesdays, so I was thinking of sending her the pattern as a thank-you (what DO you get a knitter, anyway).

Here is a story about Small Business Saturday, and local yarn shops in Chicago having deals...please share with anyone you know in Chicago regardless if they knit.  Bottom line is, everyone KNOWS a knitter or crocheter, even if they don't do it themselves:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/support-your-local-yarn-shop-on-small-business-saturday

Thanks very much for your support this year.  Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Is Really Thanksgiving Week?

Good morning!  I am watching a torrential downpour, and loving every minute of it.  ~~sigh~~

And I'm reciting a mantra to myself, since I was up late last night reading a knitting book published in 1980 and eating food that is more suited for a State Fair than a late-night snack:  "I WILL finish a project this week, I WILL finish a project this week..."

I have banned myself from buying more yarn, casting on another project, or ripping out a current one until I actually finish something.  Hey...I have no excuses, since I have no family here this week. I have nothing but time on a holiday where every business, except ones that cook turkeys and show cinematic money-suckers, is closed.

Anyway, Knit Tips Tuesday is all about the cast-on...I could probably write six or seven articles on casting on, but I kept it short and sweet and limited the number of methods to five (seven, if you include the last paragraph, which I don't):

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-casting-on

But I'm already making plans for AFTER I finally cast something off.  It might be the sock, it might be the shrug...heck, it might even be BOTH!...but after that, it's All Scarves All The Time.  I have a couple of designs that will be great for the scarf series, but I really need...umm...twelve.  Not a couple, but twelve.  TWELVE.  Sometimes, I hate when my brain is completely full and I have to tip over the top of my thoughts to make room for other ones, similar to taking off that creepy layer of cream atop that hand-delivered milk that Oberweis brings you.  That's right...I just compared my thoughts to a disgusting layer of sour fat that I don't even eat or drink, because it's not very vegan.

Have a good holiday week, everyone!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Designing: A Lot of Eraser Marks

Good evening!  My team at the j-o-b had an EXCELLENT day.  It was probably the first time in a year I didn't feel like just sighing to the point of tears (not that a few other factors in my life don't also contribute to that).  So I was driving home and rapping about knitting with a girlfriend of mine.

Last night, while listening to the Blackhawks game (seriously...ask anyone in section 333 what I do during intermissions), I wasn't knitting.  I was writing down my ideas for patterns.  There is more rubber-shard-volume on the floor of Starbucks than there is dead skin cells from hipsters.  But I came to a conclusion:

I like making very complicated scarves.

And then I came to a second conclusion shortly after that, while on my way home to go to couch:

I can't expect everyone following my series to like making very complicated scarves.

So now I have a whole new direction to go into...five of the patterns are pretty much written, either in chart or in written-instruction, so I have that going for me.  The samples are not as far as I would like them to be, but trial-and-error isn't something I have to do six feet at a time.  In other words, I'll know a few inches into the scarf if the idea is going to work.  But a few of the ideas will need to be simplified.  I know some of the knitters joining me on this journey, and they are all fantastic in the talent department.  The problem is that I don't know all of them, and honestly I want this to be fun for everyone involved.

So now I have something to think about to and from the j-o-b at four in the morning.  I figure if I stay two months ahead on the scarf series, I'm in good shape.  Time to bust out the needles.

On a related note, Arlinda...the recipient of the pink chemo cap...told her sister to please tell me again how much she loves that hat.  Her husband asked me how he could wash it, and I said, "It's yarn for babies.  Just toss it in with the other stuff!"  Whenever I think about my insignificance among seven billion people on the planet, I actually am very fortunate to have several of these moments to fall back on.

See, you don't have to have a plan to change the world.  You just have to be the kind of selfish that makes you feel good for doing nice things for others.  I freely admit that I made that hat for Arlinda because I wanted her head to be warm and non-itchy, and I reap the warm and fuzzy benefits of knowing I made her happy.  Is that so wrong?

So now it's time to do that with scarves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Kind of Stuff That Warms The Heart

Well, I'll go ahead and get this out of the way FIRST.  It's Knit Tips Tuesday, people!  Here are a few tips on reading knitting charts:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-reading-charts

That said, if you have been following the blog you know I have two friends at work who are brother-sister in-laws, and their common relative (the man's wife and the woman's sister) has been battling cancer for a few years.  Joselyn, the sister, mentioned to me one day that maybe she could learn how to knit so she could make her sister something.  I told her I would like to make her sister a hat, since she was about to lose her hair for the third time, so I asked her a bunch of questions that are relevant when making a hat for someone with no hair whom you've never met:

How sensitive is her skin?
Is she allergic to anything?
How big is her head?
What colors does she like?

So here is the hat I came up with, made on size 7 DPNs with Universal Yarns Supreme Cotton Batik yarn.  The quality of the picture isn't stellar, but you get the idea.  It's just a stockinette hat with broad shaping, and a crocheted edge to make it more girly.  Sidebar...I seriously couldn't say enough amazing things about this yarn.  It's freaking fabulous:


So I gave the hat to Hector, the recipient's husband, on Saturday morning.  On Monday morning, Hector said, "Did you check your mailbox?  I left you something."  I asked him, "Is it a pony?"  It wasn't.  It was the nicest thank-you note in the world from his wife:


If you have trouble reading the note, she said a few things that I think say a lot about the yarn (it's SOFT), the hat and asking the right questions when makings something for someone (it FITS), and just how warm and fuzzy a hand-made item can make someone feel.  Especially, I might add, if it's made expressly for them.

All I can say is that in addition to hearing about her from Hector and Joselyn, her thank-you note (both the gesture itself and the words in it) indicate to me that this is one extraordinary lady.  I hope to meet her before I ditch Texas altogether.

Now that I only have two projects left in my bag, I am going to make an effort this week not only to finish them, but also to do the technical stuff relating to my Scarf Pattern of the Month series.  I write patterns in two ways...either I try something, write it as I go, and then knit it again based on the written stuff, or I conceptualize and write down the pattern first before test-knitting it.  I have twelve scarves I have to design and test-knit, and while the expectation to the people knitting with me is to get one a month, I would rather get ahead of the game so I know the fellow-scarf-knitters are getting the best pattern possible.

Talk soon!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knitting in the Round: Choose Your Method

Good afternoon, friends.  I'm going through this phase where I'm enjoying making tubular items, and I don't know why.  Once I bound off the last store sample, I went hog-wild and started casting on instant-gratification projects to balance the tedium (I should say glorious tedium...making garments is a blast if you can compartmentalize).  I started looking at designs I've created, and how many of them can be worked in the round (not many, but the Waves and Warmth Shrug probably could).

So I whipped out the Noro and made a cowl in the round, and I gave it to Kelly at the library as promised.  She loved it.  Then, I cast on a cotton hat for a sister and wife of two friends (one woman, two relations) and ripped it out about four times before I sucked it up and got out the double-points.  In case the gluttony wasn't dripping vigorously enough, I sure did cast on my first-ever sock.  It was at this point where I looked around and thought, "Hmm..."

I need some straight-needle knitting.  And big-needle knitting.

So screw it...while my brain was processing how to do the Waves and Warmth Shrug in the round, I just busted out the fat needles it requires and started making one, in black.  The one I made for Judy is Vanna's Choice Brick, but I didn't have enough of it left to make the same color for me and...well...I should probably start knitting from my stash.  More often than not.  Starting right now.

I have the above three unfinished projects in my bag, and remember:  these were under the category of "instant gratification."  It turns out that my attention span is so short right now, if I wanted instant gratification I would just make a Tic-Tac cover or something.  Tomorrow, I will be at Walmart all day, singing the national anthem for Veterans Day.  Not a bad gig if you can get it, and I'll be sitting around for a few hours in between, trying to see if finishing at least ONE project is an option.

Again...these are the only projects in my BAG.  You should see other three...or four?...at the house that are still on the needles.  I need to start reeling this in.

Speaking of which...if you are a sock knitter or just a generally charitable person, please contact me abut possibly helping out with Crystal Bowersox and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  I will give more on that later.  Also, stay tuned because Lion Brand is going live with my blog post sometime soon, and while I have no desire to be both rich AND famous, I'm hoping people see my post and just spontaneously send me six-figure checks in the mail, so I can buy yarn for all of my Tic-Tac covers...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Knit Tips Tuesday, Once Again!

Good morning!  I started a new feature on my little knitting beat last week called Knit Tips Tuesday, and since the response was mostly positive I decided that continuing was a pretty good idea.

By the way, "pretty good idea" is right about the height where my bar is set at the moment.  I have huge ideas and no way to make millions off of them, so I'll just make twenties and fifties on that many more "pretty good ideas" a little at a time.

That said, today's tip is a list of ideas for second projects, new knitter projects, and projects that don't involve shaping so newer knitters can think beyond the scarf and washcloth:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-easy-projects-that-involve-no-shaping

I spent the day yesterday, covering DA Receiving instead of Breakpack Orderfilling, and my body is paying for it.  After three days in Breakpack, my arms and back feel like they need a nap separate from the rest of me.  Because of that, my Tuesday knitting projects tend to be on larger needles, easy give on the yarn, and not too much death-grip.  After being in DA Receiving all day, my legs feel like jello so this is the first Tuesday in three months that I can knit complicated, teeny-needle stuff.  I am thinking of sitting by the fire (and without a fireplace, "by the fire" in my case translates to "near a plate with three candles on it") and just knitting until I fall back asleep.  This Tuesday morning feels like a mulligan waiting to happen...I'll just re-live Tuesday tomorrow.

Time to get a few projects OFF of my needles...I'm finishing a Noro cowl, which isn't what I wanted but I'm going to give it to Kelly at the library.  It's actually beautiful, but the yarn is doing all of the work so I could have just knit it in garter stitch...ha ha ha.  Then, I have to start and finish a hat, and finish the first of twelve scarf patterns I'm doing as a series for next year.  The first eight inches of it are everything I pictured in my head, which is a good thing!

http://www.etsy.com/listing/83297166/scarf-pattern-of-the-month-series

Also, gulp, I have cast on my first sock.  My knitting went from garter stitch to making stuff up so I sort of skipped the sock phase most knitters either pass through or permanently land on.  I feel like I'm growing!  Especially since I'm using yarn from the trunk of my car...I refrained from purchasing yet another ball.  I'm hoping to completely knit through my stash by...well...2048 or so.

And finally, a funny story...I spent my store credit at my favorite yarn shop in Texas like any Kaspar would.  Kathleen grabbed me a basket, I started throwing in yarn and mentally adding up the price with tax.  When all was said and done, the closest I could get to an exact amount was within $1.20 of the credit, because there is no such thing as a $1.20 ball of yarn.  Somewhere, my stepmom is cringing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quick Update for a Thursday

So yes...I am in fact blocking something on my car seat.  It gets nice and warm in there, so all is well.

I am turning in the final shop sample this evening...victory of all victories!

And finally...support your local yarn shop because if anything, you don't want your knitting group, favorite brands, gas money, and buddies to go away...

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/local-yarn-shops-are-a-victim-of-economic-downturn

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Apologies

Good morning, everyone!  If you are wondering why I have been so distant this week (and, judging by the scores of you who care, you haven't been), the answer is that I have shipped my husband off to Chicago with our three pets and all of our stuff.  It was, as it turns out, not a fifteen-minute job.  I kept behind the following:
1.  One set of kitchen-stuff for one person
2.  A couch that will be left behind
3.  Clothes
4.  Laptop
5.  Printer
6.  Yarn

I feel like I'm squatting.  The good news is that I can be gone from five in the morning until midnight if I would like, and I don't have to worry about walking the dogs, waking the husband, or telling Bluto that my face is NOT a pillow for his waggy pit bull butt.  The bad news, of course, is that I can't relocate yet.

So I'll knit.  A lot.

And write!  I have decided that in addition to my weekly local articles about knitting on examiner.com, I'm going to start Knit Tips Tuesday.  Here is the first article, regarding the importance of knitting a gauge swatch:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/knit-tips-tuesday-the-gauge-swatch

Then, I finally figured out what to do with my single ball of Noro Taiyo.  I'm making this chunky-lace cowl that will probably look better on someone other than me, since I don't think I have the neck for a good cowl, let alone an average one.  I'll post a picture when I'm finished, and if you want it, it's yours.  If more than one of you wants it, then the first person to answer a trivia question of my choice will get it.

It's time to start making the prototypes for the Scarf Pattern of the Month Series...I just finished the free pattern (if you have already purchased the series, you will get it in the next couple of days), and it's a good indicator of what details will be included in the other patterns.  If you like what you see, then buy the series!  If you don't, that's okay because at least you got a free pattern out of it!  See?  I'm all about the win-win.

I also would like to make a hat for a friend's sister who has cancer, so I was thinking a top-down roll-brim cotton hat.  The wool would irritate her, and there's this great cotton yarn by Universal that I've been dying to try.  Match made in heaven, I tell you!

And finally, I should have exciting news about something I may be doing to help regarding a knitting charity.  It was right up there with getting the email that Malabrigo Yarns is now following ME on twitter, only this time, it was a celebrity human instead of a celebrity yarn company!  More on that later...I will be screaming whatever details I can from the rooftops as soon as I can, since it's a charity thing.

Okay...if you look for me, I'll probably be knitting at Starbucks, or on the couch, or...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Necessary Mulligan

Good morning!  It's early.  Like, not even six yet early.  The dogs are outside, the cat is outside, and I'm literally looking at my knitting.  I'm not even ready to actually pick it up yet.

I think my knitting juju is tarnished at the moment.  It started last Thursday, when I cast on what I thought was going to be some sort of twisty cowl with this one ball of Noro Taiyo that I have.  It's the prettiest yarn when it's knitted up, but after about four inches of it, I realized it's not going to be big enough for what I want, so it's time to rip out and start over.

Then, on Friday I was working on the seaming and edging for the store sample.  Thankfully, the shoulder seams turned out nicely, and I was sitting across from the recipient so I could just throw it on her and make sure there were no bumps or bruises on it.  When I went to pick up and knit the edges, I used the number of stitches the pattern told me to, but it was obvious that it was too many.  I was binding off and looking at the shoulder edge, thinking it looked like something that belonged on Soul Train.  Not a compliment.

So I ripped that out as well.

The good news, though, is that after finishing Agnes' scarf, I saw how pretty it turned out and how well it blocked, so I decided to throw the pattern up on Etsy after all.  I am also sending it for free to everyone who has made a purchase from me, and it will come free with the Scarf Pattern of the month series.  That's thirteen patterns for...right now, with the discount applied...thirty bucks!  Not a bad deal in my humble opinion.

A woman sent me a message on Etsy the other day, saying she can make really pretty things just knitting and purling, but liked the Side Salad Scarf and asked if I thought a new knitter could make it.  I told her that ABSOLUTELY a new knitter could make it, and I sent her a video link about how to make cables.  I then asked her if she would like me sending her name to another person who had purchased it, so she could get an honest (and unpublished...Etsy has its share of praisers and bashers who write things solely because they can do it anonymously) opinion on the difficulty of the pattern.  I gave the woman's name and user ID to a girl in England named Emma...she is about halfway through the pattern and the cables were what made her apprehensive as well.

The next day, I had an email notification that the first girl bought the pattern.  Ahh, customer service.

So yeah...that's on my list to do this morning...finish the pattern to give out to customers and post up on Etsy.  But it might get pushed back to tomorrow, due to the lost-juju factor.  We'll see.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October is the BEST MONTH EVER

So, I suppose you're wondering why I say that...

Well, I'm okay with people not believing in signs, or thinking I'm nuts because I DO believe in them, but here is what I know.  I went to watch the Blackhawks opening game at a sports bar near here, and I ended up getting free chips and salsa (which means I had a tab of zero, since I don't drink).  I was there for over three hours, but my server forgot about me after the first period.  Then, I went to Starbucks the next day and ordered a latte, which I NEVER do because their green tea is so fabulous, and I walked away with a latte AND a free tea.

A fee days later, I got a title refund check from the mortgage company in the amount of $1,577.60.  So I'm now starting to look around, a bit suspiciously, because apparently my dad is up there giving me his Chicago Cubs playoff-ticket refund (he did, in fact, die hard as a Cubs and Red Sox fan) a little bit at a time.  Again...make your fun, because I don't care.

What's really nice is that business is booming at the Etsy shop...I have sold more individual patterns than I did all through September, and the month is just two-thirds over.  Then, just in case I couldn't get any cooler (in my head...understand that Planet Amy is a rockin' place in my humble opinion) I get an email from Twitter that says @MalabrigoBuzz is following me.

A major yarn company is following ME on Twitter.  ~~sigh~~  Both the Stove Stack Hat and the Side Salad Scarf are made with their yarns...they just knit up beautifully.  For any of you interested in browsing the Etsy shop, here it is:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFiberFriend?ref=si_shop

Here is my article for Examiner.com today...sometimes I'm glad to not be a REAL reporter so I can get away with innuendo.  Examiner.com actually put this article on their banner page!

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/spend-the-next-eight-months-doing-it-public

I have about fifteen yards of yarn left for Agnes' scarf and I'm not going to bed until it's finished.  Then, I have about thirty rows of the main body of the last shop sample, and I may not go to bed until it is also finished.  And finally, since there are no corrections for the lacy hoodie I was knitting, and Sheryl and I couldn't find the problem within the pattern, it's time I ripped that sucker out.  Heartbreaking, but true.  The good news is that I'm left with over 2,000 of Cascade Cherub Aran to do with what I want.  Might just have to design a different hoodie...

Thank you for your support, and if you have any questions about the patterns in the Etsy shop, please let me know...I'm a fairly accessible knitter!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Back To Work Time!

I wanted to write yesterday to update people on where I was with my vaycay-knitting progress, but I had the wind pretty much yanked from my sails before it happened.  All is well, though.

While dreaming up scarf patterns (I now have five of them brewing in my head, but of course need at least two knitted and written up by Christmas so I can tease people), I started to sell my series to...you know...some people who DON'T actually know me.  I appeciate the business regardless, but it's nice when a stranger sees your stuff and likes it enough to buy it.

Then, through the wonders of social media, a guy who has thousands of Twitter followers decides to screen me, and then follow me, and then post my listing on his underground newspaper:

http://paper.li/NeedlesNStash/1308448909

And then I realized something a bit horrifying.  I have a signature panel on the bottom of my gmail address, since that's where I contact people about the examiner.com stuff:

The Fiber Friend
facebook: The Fiber Friend
twitter: @TheFiberFriend
Etsy: TheFiberFriend
Ravelry: TheFiberFriend
 
I just figure if someone wants to reach me over the six thousand different ways and means, they should know where to look.  My...ahem...dozens of followers are loyal, but you never know when someone else wants to hop into the circle.  Again...fine.  Problem is, the gmail address is my "normal" email address...I don't feel right applying for jobs and such through my yahoo address.  Sometimes, I do something boneheaded.  You know...like reply to a higher-up about a promotion at work and not delete my signature panel.  Like...this week, or something.
 
But all is well...I haven't alienated anyone lately.  So I have one more panel on Store Sample Number Two, and Miss Sheryl tells me that people are buying the linen-stitch kit after they touch Store Sample Number One.  I didn't design the thing, but I'm still glad I knitted it well enough to inspire others.
 
Of course, I realistically know it doesn't have much to do with me.  Sheryl and Shop Amy are the best enablers in the world without being inappropriate...it's like a jedi-mind-trick.  I was walking around the yarn store on Friday, muttering "I don't need any yarn, I don't need any yarn..." but SHEESH.  The Universal Yarns Papier was a dollar a ball.  What the hell was I supposed to do?
 
Anyway, Agnes' scarf has three panels and the final triangle left to knit before the sucker gets dumped in the water for some shaping.  Then it's time to bust out the scarf yarn, knit knit knit, and start writing down the ideas swimming around in my head:
 
 
I stand by my contention that my series would make a good holiday gift for a knitter in your life, and I will continue to shamelessly advertise and promote until I'm a multimillionaire, rolling around in my platinum microspun super-bulky rasta-style yarn in any shade of platinum I request.  Oh, and the needles will be 24k white gold, just to confuse people.
 
I have a bunch of photos I have to yank off the camera...stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Four and a Half More Days

Good afternoon!  Odd of me to blog in the middle of the day, I know, but basically I just ate a piece of chocolate cake because insurance companies depress me.  I sing, so smoking is an incompatible addiction for me, and I don't get chocolate-cake-depressed enough to worry for my mental health.  So all is well.

I am now full on into Shop Sample Number Two, and the first one, everyone agreed, was much nicer in person than the picture would indicate (although the picture does make it look pretty, it's unattainably gorgeous in person).  I also wrote an article about National Coming Out Day today, because I wanted to give simple pattern ideas on Gay Pride Weekend and missed the boat completely...it was a mere ten days after I started writing for examiner.com.  So if you need simple pattern ideas, here they are...

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/support-your-loved-ones-with-knitted-items-on-national-coming-out-day

The single-panel entrelac for Agnes is actually working out QUITE well...she deserves it, considering the gas money and research she spent on ME.  But then I have to sit down and do all of the administrative stuff...write out a few patterns and then go back to knit them.  Does anyone want to be a test-knitter?  Let me know, and I'll see if I can work something out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yesterday

Good morning!  Despite seven hours of driving, yesterday was WAY more productive than I thought it would be.  Kathleen and I took a field trip to Comfort, Texas, where I had given a yarn-shop owner my Side Salad Scarf pattern to give away to her customers.  Both the store, The Tinsmith's Wife, and the people who are a part if it, are lovely.  We met customers that were instant friends, in addition to the most accomodating owners on the planet.  The pictures on the website don't do this place justice...it's hand-painted and art-yarn as far as the eye can see, combined with some mainstream brands as well.  All you want to do is touch EVERYTHING.  Kathleen and I had to remind ourselves that the face is NOT the place to rub yarn that does not belong to you.

Then I came home, and I took the linen-stitch scarf off of the board...just like the picture that comes with the pattern, I couldn't take one that indicates just how stunning this is in person:


What's even better is that A BEGINNER CAN DO THIS!!!  It involves no purling whatsoever, and the pattern is so easy that it could be a good second project.

And, of course, Bluto had to make an appearance.


Kathleen had never been to Buc-ee's, so taking care of myself sort of went out the window yesterday, but that's okay.  One day won't make my pants too tight.

I am also almost two feet into Agnes' scarf, and the yarn looks great when it's knitted up...I have never used the yarn before, so there's always that moment of "What if it was just the yarn ball that was pretty?"  But all is well on that front, too.

The second store sample is plowing right along...I hope to be finished before the end of the week before I go back to being a Walmartian on weekends.  Also, over 160 people have viewed the Scarf Series package...let me let you in on a few secrets:  Some of the yarns that will be used are Louisa Harding, Lion Brand, Cascade 220, and Halo.  There...I hope that tidbit tied you over.  Please keep sending the link on to your friends and family...everyone has a scarf person in their lives!



I don't know what to write for the Examiner.com site this week, but I have two stories in mind, so I might just write both.  Oh, and the super-secret project?  I can't talk more about it, but it turns out that speaking of Cascade, they have pretty much every color I need in the weight I'm looking for.  EEEEE!

Have a good week!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Almost Halfway There!

Okay...so here is the update.

Shop Sample Number One will be finished this morning.  I was going to finish it last night, actually, but I called this sports bar down the street from our house, and it turns out they were televising the Blackhawks game.  So...you know...travel became necessary.  And in case anyone needed more proof that I attract the nutballs:

I am sitting at a table by myself, with my chips and salsa (which I only paid a tip for, since the waitress who was helping me forgot I was there and another waitress comped them) and knitting during commercial breaks and intermissions.  I'm wearing my Cam Barker jersey...for those of you who don't know the story, Cam Barker gave me the jersery off of his back after the last game of the 2008-2009 season.  It still has his blood on it!  But of course, it's the size designated for a 6'3" man with a bunch of equipment under it, so it's huge.  Anyway, I'm also wearing a green headband and my camoflauge cargo shorts, and black flipflops.  If Bert is ever concerned that I go clubbing behind his back, just picture THAT.

Of course, though, a guy comes up to me.  I can't escape it...the last time I was in a room where no strangers approached me, I think, was two weeks ago at the Katy Library when I was looking at books on CD in complete peace and quiet.  This guy is bald, hammered, and of course says to me, "I don't recognize your shirt.  Is it a sports shirt?"

Err...why yes.  It's a "sports shirt."

I tell him it's a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, so he proceeds to tell me how hockey is the greatest game on earth because the puck moves so fast, and everybody beats the shit out of each other.  Now, when a so-called hockey fan tells me that all they like is the fighting, that's usually when I tune him or her out.  But this was even better.  "Honey!" he yells.

A large, overly-made-up woman with big hair and a sequined belt (including the buckle, dontchaknow) approaches.  Welcome to Texas.

"This girl is a hockey fan.  And she's knitting!"  He looks at me.  "This is my wife, Teresa.  You would like her."

So he's assessing my personality, and hers, with a compatibility factor to boot, after five seconds.

"Ooh!  My Aunt Sally knits!"  Of course she does.  And just like that, they were waving goodbye and heading toward the door.

Anyway, Shop Sample Number Two will be done next week, Agnes' scarf should be done around the same time, Kathleen and I are visiting the lady in rural Texas tomorrow, and the taking-care-of-myself thing is going well.  Also, I have had over a hundred views of my scarf series in two days...I still say it makes a good holiday gift for a knitter.  Everyone knows someone who can benefit from a scarf:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/83297166/scarf-pattern-of-the-month-series

So there you have it.  Have a good weekend...I think I'm going to crash Yarntopia today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day Three: Stash Not Busted

Good afternoon!  So, I am almost...ALMOST finished with Shop Sample Number One.  I hope to finish it by this evening, even if it involves fighting off the dogs who think that Schaefer hand-painted yarn has the lick-equivalent of a roasted pig ear.

So I have that going for me.

I also finally...FINALLY joined the Windy City Knitting Guild.  It's twenty bucks per year, and you get to do awesome things like get a newsletter related to knitting and get discounts at yarn shops.  That sucker will practically pay for itself as I'm passing my first "WELCOME TO CHICAGO: RAHM EMMANUEL, MAYOR" sign.  In terms of education and networking, I think it has already paid for itself.  I was so excited, I decided to make it the subject of this week's examiner.com article:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/windy-city-knitting-guild-offers-a-community-for-knitters-of-all-levels

I even have the FREE pattern written out...if you go to my examiner.com page and hit "Subscribe," forward the confirmation email to amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com and I'll send you a free knitting pattern.  It's that easy!

Then...I added something to my Etsy store.  Here is the official listing:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/83297166/scarf-pattern-of-the-month-series

Oh, I'm doing it.  I already have four scarves in mind of all different shapes, sizes, yarns, techniques...I am addicted.  It's funny because after knitting two side-to-side scarves in a row, I would have thought I would want to burn my entire scarf collection just so smell the ravenous whiff of lamb, but not the case.  Please share with any and all who may be interested...it would be a great gift for any knitter as well as yourself.

And finally, save for a baked good here and there, I have in fact been finally...FINALLY taking care of myself.  It's all about the green tea and plant products.  The one piece I have yet to address successfully is the stressed-out one...I need to calm down.  I need to take charge.  And as goofy as this may sound, my biggest fear right now is my hair falling out due to stress.  Hey...I don't have a thyroid and it has happened in the past.  To such a degree, in fact, that I finally shaved my head and donated the hair to Locks of Love.  I also donated all money raised from a "Who Wants To Be The Lucky One To Shave Amy's Head?" auction to the American Hearing-Impaired Hockey Association, a charity near and dear to my heart.  Here is the proof, taking the Friday after Election Day, 2004:



I'm getting there, slowly but surely.  For now, I'm headed to HEB, where my husband made me tofu parmesan (proof that he's totally in love, since he eats enough meat for the two of us so my veganism gives balance to the universe), and then I'm heading straight to the yarn store to finish the shop sample.  Watch me go!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Eleven Days of Stash-Busting

One of the few great things about my job is that if I am off for a weekend, I am really off for a week and a half.  My normal days off are Tuesday through Friday.  I am off next weekend, Saturday through Monday, and then of course off Tuesday through Friday of next week again, so one work-week of vacation equals eleven days off.

While not EVERY plan I have for my time involves yarn, yes...most of them do.  I have too many ideas pouring out of my head right now, and it's about time I got this little side-business of mine off the ground.  So here are my plans:

1.  Finish the two shop samples.  DAMN I can't wait until I don't read that sentence again.  But what's funny is that I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not.  Linen stitch is like college...it's long, it's tedius, it's fun every now and again, but the long term end-result is freaking fabulous.  So there you have it...I'm enjoying every knit and slip I make.
2.  Work out the details of a "Scarf Pattern of the Month" series.  For 2012, I wanted to design twelve scarves and sell the package as a series, emailing a new scarf pattern on the first of every month.  If you buy all twelve, you get a discount of course, but I will still have all twelve scarf patterns available for purchase online.  See, if you are like me, you're either a scarf person, or your know a lot of scarf people so you always have someone to make something for.  Feel free to email me at amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com for more details...I'd love to know if anyone would be interested in this project.
3.  Write out the Montana sweater pattern.  I may have to buy more yarn and make a size small so I can test my math (as my brother starts cracking up at the idea that I would ever NOT trust my math).
4.  Drive to rural Texas to meet a lady I promised to meet.  Hey...don't judge.
5.  Get more work done on my super-secret project that I know will take me three months to complete.  I have actually set a goal of Thanksgiving for this one, but I don't know how likely it is...I may have to recruit test-knitters to finish on time.
6.  Take care of myself.  I have done just a knockout job of driving my body and mind into the ground, so it's about time I did a U-turn on that one.  Yesterday was the perfect end to that cycle...I sent my employees home early because basically, there was a problem of galactic proportions and for the first time since I got there, it really wasn't my fault.  I'm not sure I'm ready to bike-commute yet (although I'll feel better about it when I'm in Chicago full-time), but I may just go crazy and go to the gym.

There are a couple of other details in the plan, but these are the main ones.  I may have to take a super-duper-long road trip, though...financial details of THAT will be working themselves out in the next day or two.

You don't have to comment publicly on the blog if you don't want to, but either join my facebook group or send a note to the email above to tell me what you're up to!  Blogging isn't nearly as much fun if there isn't a random conversation or two to be had.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where's me?

My apologies for any of the...you know...tens of you who wait on the edge of your seats, wondering what I am going to do next.  Here's my story in a nutshell:  after leaving Midway Airport practically in tears last week, I realize that for the next month or so, I don't have enough time to do everything I need to do.  I am not even sure I can crack the 75% mark on that list, at least in my head.

So...anyone that knows me would know what's coming next...I made a list.  Heaven forbid I make it a week without getting reorganized:

1.  Write scathing letter to person's boss
2.  Call utility companies
3.  Finish two shop samples
4:  Start Agnes' gift
5.  Verify Primerica got my fax
6.  Wire money to B of A for cashier's check withdrawl
7.  Format coupon

That, up there...that's about a third of the list, and I have until Friday for most of it.

In the meantime, I'm watching Penny outside, just chilling with the bone fragment she stole from Bluto.  And that stubby little fat-f()(k is currently leaping around the backyard, trying to catch flies in his mouth.  My dogs are nothing if not totally gifted.

Anyway, the good news is that Examiner.com has opened up the field a bit, and I can now write ANYTHING I WANT about knitting for my column.  It doesn't have to be Chicago-focused!  So because I'm busy doing other things right now, my columns (with their permission) may, in fact, be more generally- or nationally focused while I try to put all of my pieces together.  So please do share this blog with others and send me more suggestions as to what knitters (and non-knitters, I suppose as well) would like to read.  I get a fair amount of suggestions to my gmail account, but any way any how is fine with me!

If you look for me the rest of the week, I'll either be on a mad cleaning frenzy with one hand and on a phone in the other while knitting with my feet, or the feet and hands will be opposite and I'll have a phone between my toes.  Next time I come out to the backyard to blog, I'll bring my camera so you can all see how big of a goof Bluto really is for chasing down flies with his mouth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free Pattern Update (if there needs to be one)

So yesterday, I gossiped with the biddies at a local yarn shop and bought a ball of Cascade 220 Heathers, one of my favorite worsted-weight yarns.  I whipped out my old-school size 8's (stainless steel, AND they have a ruler on them!) and started casting on.  I made almost half of the sample of the pattern I'll be giving a way.  Not a bad day.

Oh, and I also made another foot of the Lace Tutorial scarf...Lion Brand liked my submission but I'm sure there's some sort of board approval and editing process that has to take place before the Lion-Brand-Reading world will read it.  I'm okay with that.

And finally, the linen-stitch shop sample is turning out stunning, but it put me to sleep on the plane.  Or perhaps, I was already exhaused from not sleeping for a few days, and I was just due.  Either way, I only did three rows of that one.  But in my defense, three rows of a 400-stitch pattern isn't so bad, is it?

I need coffee...excuse me...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Welcome to William P Hobby Airport!

Good morning, everyone...it's sort of odd to be writing this anywhere but the white plastic chair in the backyard, watching the dogs act like idiots.  I have a plane to catch, however, and it's sort of a pivotal trip so I'm willing to compromise on my adherence to the Rain Man rituals now and again.

This weekend, I sold two more patterns for the Side Salad Scarf (seen here, along with the other available patterns) this weekend, and it got me to thinking.  Incongruently, of course.  I need to increase readership of the examiner.com column for two reasons:

1.  Because knitters need to know what is going on in the knitting world
2.  Because I need to know what is going on in the knitting world

So based on that, here's my idea...let me know if you're game, interested, in support of...whatever.

I'm told...and understand I don't have any subscriptions on examiner.com, since I read pretty much anything I find interesting on it...that if you subscribe to my column, you get an email which says something to the effect of, "You are now subscribed to Amy Kaspar's Chicago Knitting Examiner articles" or something.  So while I'm tying together a few loose ends this week, I thought I would go to the local yarn stores with a stack of postcards/fliers/leaflets/semaphore signals to ask the owners to give to their customers.  It will say something like, "Subscribe to Examiner.com's Chicago Knitting Examiner!  Forward the email to amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com and receive a free pattern with your subscription...it's THAT easy!"  I'll probably jazz it up with glitter and sequins, but the message will have the same meaning.  The offer will...starting when I can write up a pattern, so I'm thinking next week or so...apply to ANYONE who subscribes.  If you are subscribed, forward me any of the emails from examiner.com with the link on it as proof, and I'll send you a free pattern.

And get your knitting friends to do it, too.  They don't have to live in Chicago...the articles are just generally Chicago-based, but sometimes they are more nationally- or generally-focused.

This week, I have two store samples to finish, a sample to make for a free pattern (if I'm reading two paragraphs up correctly, anyway), and the Trekking Hands shawl which I just need to buck up and finish already.  Oh, and the Lace Tutorial scarf...hopefully, Lion Brand will agree with my musings and post at least part of what I wrote on their page.

That's all for now...thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good News Good News Good News!

Many of you know that when I'm emphatic about something, I will utter a phrase in triplicate.  For instance, "Amy, do you want to have buffalo wings with a side of pulled pork for dinner?"

"No, no, and NO."

Well, I actually get to exhibit that trait in the positive today.  I got an email from a woman named Margaret Dunham, whose first word was "Congratulations."  Of course, this can go both ways...like all of you, I sometimes get an email that belongs in my spambox which starts out congratulating me, only to find that I won an international lottery in the amount of either a million pounds or a million euros, which I can't collect anyway because it's against the law for Americans to collect international lottery earnings.

Anyway, Ms. Dunham works for the Lion Brand Yarn Company, and she was congratulating me on being selected as...wait for it...a guest-blogger on the Lion Brand Notebook!  It was  my OH EMM GEEEEEE moment of the evening!  Lion Brand has 201,260 "likes" on facebook, 10,939 followers on Twitter, and let's face it...however many millions of people worldwide who visit their website for free patterns (and purchase-ones, as well).  One of the patterns I sell on Etsy is made with Lion Brand Vanna's Choice (it's the Waves and Warmth Shrug, in case you were wondering), and one of my current projects is on Lion Brand.  I just can't say enough nice things to say about them, really...sure I love my ridiculous luxury yarns, but in towns where there are no yarn stores, there is most likely a Walmart or a Joann Fabrics and a ball of Homespun with my name on it at either place.

Click here to read their most updated blog...I'm so excited and honored to be a part of their site for a post!  Now all I have to do is choose a topic.  Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Right now, I'm doing two shop samples.  Well, one...the other one is in my car, and it's not fair to say I'm doing it until it's actually cast on.  But in keeping with my big-needle-knit phase, it requires size 11 needles and I'm actually thinking of taking a break from the Schaefer scarf to finally (after four days, I am using the word "finally") start it.

But I can't seem to break up with the Schaefer long enough to do it.

I will probably update this blog tomorrow...there will be a new article in the Examiner.com website that I'll be posting, plus maybe I'll just knit with lightning-speed and finish both shop samples within the day.

Not likely, but picturing me move that quickly is pretty darn funny.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Need to Get My Hands on Free Stuff

Now that my life is at this weird, in-between-identities crossroads and everything is costing me more money, I have realized that free stuff is WAY better than paid-for stuff.  That said, here is the math on the knitting patterns, money-wise:

I pay xxx dollars for yarn.  I then design something.  If I have more than one size, I have to knit two things.  Then I write up the pattern, save it to a .pdf, and email it to anyone who buys it from me.  The overhead is the cost of the yarn, and if I REALLY wanted to start a business, I could charge for the time it takes me to write the stuff out or to knit the samples.

Well, maybe not the time it takes to write stuff out.  I get distracted way too easily, so I would end up charging someone thirty bucks for a pattern that didn't seem complex, but took me forever to write down because celebrity gossip was much more interesting at the time I set out to write the pattern.

Anyway, I don't have a brick-and-mortar store, employees, and all of the insurance and fun stuff that comes with owning a business.  I rely on the internet, which generally is seen as a free tool, to promote my designs.  I then rely on the generous sharing of you fine folks to get the word out.

It seems to be working...the Side Salad Scarf has become the most popular pattern to date, largely because of promotion on Etsy and a local yarn store.  So I thank all of you.

This holds true for the articles I write for examiner.com as well...this week, examiner.com asked us to push stories about September 11 and the anniversary of the attacks.  I thought, "How the heck am I going to be able to find something related to 9/11?"  Seriously...I googled everything.  "Knitting for 9/11, stories 9/11 knitting"...blah blah blah.  Then I had my off-center thought of, maybe someone designed a knitting pattern that was inspired by the events of 9/11.  Voila:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/ladder-of-life-a-knitting-designer-s-inspiration-from-the-9-11-tragedy

This may seem like a story about a nice woman in suburban Denver, but go ahead and google Ann Budd.  I have the highest respect for her, and was completely flattered that she agreed to speak with me regarding an article for an online newspaper on which...let's face it...probably dozens of people read my stuff.  So to me, this is a huge deal.

But back to the free stuff...the more money I can make (no matter how limited...I am pretty sure I won't be quitting my day-job) doing all-things-knitting, the longer I can knit and enjoy and fuss around and make stuff up and hopefully entertain some of you in the process.  So after doing a shop sample for Yarntopia this week, I picked up two more.  One of them...you know who you are...ended up being a mutual challenge of sorts, and I look very forward to seeing the progress a week later.

The other one...well...I'm still on my big-needle-knit kick, and it called for size 11 needles.  Reason enough to knock the sucker out.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Pattern Alert! New Pattern Alert!

Here is the listing for my newest pattern, found on Etsy.  If you purchase before MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, you can take 15% off your order of this pattern plus one more of your choice by using the coupon code "NEWKNITS".

Eeeeee!  Also, I have a very exciting interview for an upcoming examiner.com article.  She is famous in the knitting world, and I'm very honored she is granting me an interview.  Stay tuned!  Please pass on my Etsy page (or the articles on examiner.com, for that matter...ha ha ha) to any of your yarny friends...I am happy to convert a pattern for gauge for a small fee if anyone needs it.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/81272973/side-salad-scarf-knitting-pattern

Oh, What To Do

It's dark and...dare I say...cool outside, despite the fact that there is a wildfire burning 150 miles west of here.  I was up at 5:30am because one of the several beasts in the house was stirring.  So here I am.  My natural inclination in this situation is to knit.

However, I think writing up the pattern to Bluto's green scarf is a better idea.

The next store sample I'm making for Yarntopia is on size 15 needles, so I'm hoping to finish it in lightning speed.  Maybe even faster!  It's a beautiful pattern, and the yarn is just plain fabulous.  See, I really enjoy knitting for myself, but two things make that concept take a backseat to other projects:  the first is that I am a sucker for great yarn.  Yes, I do my share of knitting with Lion Brand and Bernat and other acrylic-based yarns, but there is nothing like an animal fiber that's been groomed by the processing-plant version of a high-end spa and salon to make an alpaca hair feel like heaven through your fingers. 

Other than that, it's about time I finished the three larger projects I have.  One of them is sleeveless, and it is getting to the time of year where it will have to either be worn over a turtleneck when it IS finished, or it will have to be packed away for the year (which, any knitter can tell you, is pretty much no fun at all to finish something and then not get to swing it over your neck or head right away).  The lacy hoodie will obviously be useful, but I have to feel motivated and every time I look at it, I think "Is there something else I'd rather knit?"  It's even an easy knit and I'm STILL not feeling it.  Then, there is the shawl.  That is at least useful year-round when it's done, but it the colors and style of it will probably be no longer fashionable by the time I cast off.  That would be just my luck...the 2011 version of puffy sleeves coming off the needles JUST after 1984, the year people stopped wearing them.

I think I'm just going through an instant-gratification phase.  Ooh...I should look on the bright side!  Maybe I can finish a billion little projects before Christmas and slowly but surely knock my stash to a respectable size!

Although, a note on THAT concept:  go ahead and ask your fellow knitters what a respectably-sized stash would be.  I know two camps of knitters.  One camp is of the philosophy that if you have too many choices, you have too much yarn.  I actually have a friend who buys yarn for the project which she is working on that day, and then she buys more when she finishes.  Essentially, her "stash" consists of remnants of yarn balls, that is until she can think of something to make small enough to use up that little ball.  She is a model of efficiency.

Then I have another friend who claims to have a yarn-room...I have never seen it, but I am assuming everyone gets the same picture I do:  the third bedroom has no bed for guests, but it sure does have a chair and four walls stacked with yarn.  THAT is a stash.

But these two camps could, if they were of the mindset and not docile beings to begin with, rumble like the Greasers and the Socs from "The Outsiders" over the respectability of the stash:

"THAT's not a stash!  That's a couple of half-balls of yarn!"
"What about YOURS?  You have a ROOM!  You can't even hide YOUR stash from your husband!"

On the contrary:  the husband can probably hide in the stash and never be found.

Have a good day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Any Smokers Looking for a Way to Quit?

If so, then check out my latest article for examiner.com.  Turns out there are people out there who ARE successful, and in my humble opinion, he did it in the best way possible:

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/tales-from-the-chicago-yarn-crawl-an-out-of-towner-makes-the-rounds

I finished the Malabrigo loveliness...here is a preview of the pattern, courtesy of Bluto:


Clearly, he doesn't like modeling knitted wares NEARLY as much as Penny does.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I picked up another shop sample to knit for Yarntopia.  I'm literally looking through the available samples, and saying OUT LOUD, "I don't need any more yarn...I don't need any more yarn..."

But I actually just couldn't resist trying my hand...literally...at the Rowan Chunky Alpaca.  Who could, I ask you?  So hopefully since it's a big-needle knit, I'll plow through it before next week's end.  I am also hoping to write up the pattern for Bluto's newest accessory by Tuesday or Wednesday...let me know if you would be interested in purchasing it (or testing it for me).

Thanks as always for your support!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Living by the Nordstrom Standard

Maybe my expectations are too high because I worked for Nordstrom for six years, I don't know.  Even after writing this article, I'm still a bit irritated by Bernat's response, even though some companies wouldn't have even bothered with a letter.

http://www.examiner.com/knitting-in-chicago/when-adequate-customer-service-is-not-enough

But considering the competition in cotton yarns at places like Michael's Walmart, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, and the like, I would think turning a negative into a positive for a customer would be the best way to get a leg up on the competition, especially when Bernat is known for high-quality yarns.

Please feel free to share...I would love everyone's opinion on this.