Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Project: Knitted (::gasp!::) Homespun Baby Blanket

Here's blanket #2 for KMP's bun in the oven. Detail on blanket #1 can be found here.

Knit Homespun Baby Blanket 1

Can you believe I'm knitting this blanket??? Me neither. I've never knitted a blanket before and given the time crunch I'm under, I'll be lucky if my slow knitting skills get the job done.

I'm using size 11 circular needles and Lion Brand Homespun yarn in Corinthian. The color isn't your typical choice for a baby blanket but it was the request of the Mom-to-be. I, myself, love it as it is colorful, soft and warm. Plus it's washer/dryer safe so Mom can throw it in the wash without worry. I've gotten a number of compliments from people during my commute and trips about how lovely the color is.

I'm knitting and purling good vibes into every stitch and row. Can't wait to meet the little guy in person!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Post #201

Wow. Over 200 posts on this little crafty blog of mine. I started it with the hopes that it would foster my creativity and get me to focus more on (and enjoy more of) my crochet projects. I think it's done just that - as well as helped me branch out into knitting and increase my knowledge of different fibers and yarn brands. It's been a fun almost 2 years of blogging and almost 14,000 visitors. Thanks for reading my ramblings and for your continued support!

A quick check on my 2008 crafty compared to my half-year check back in July...

1) Finish the following UFOs:

Update: The infamous shawl. Will it ever be completed???

2) Make, block and stiffen 25 snowflakes (and yes, the two I've already made count toward the 25)

Update: While I really want to make them, perhaps have them adorn Christmas presents and our Christmas tree, I'm not too hopeful right now that I'll actually get them done considering it's only a couple months to Christmas.

3) Learn to knit socks on double pointed and circular needles.

Update: I ordered some DPNs in the normal sock sizes and my purchases from Portland are some great sock yarn to try to learn. This is still a resolution I can attempt.

4) Organize my yarn, books and other crafty supplies in the new craft room

5) Make a shawl from the Amazing Crochet Lace book

Update: I still have the yarn for this; but I don't think I'll have the time to start and finish it.

6) Go to MS&W 2008 (this is a no-brainer)

7) Complete the following new projects:
  • Make at least 1 blanket for donation (charity TBD)
  • Baby blanket for Mindy Jr.
  • Crochet a rug from the yarn bought at the 2006 MS&W
  • Complete A-Z pillows for baby Brodie
  • Crochet Christmas stockings (but this one is a bit iffy)

  • I still need to mail the hat I made for charity in place of the blanket. I did order some yarn for a charity blanket - which will probably be made in 2009.
  • The A-Z pillows have been taken off the list. The A pillow I started has been frogged. The bright acrylic yarn will be used for some other project.
  • A rug and Christmas stockings? Seriously? It's not gonna happen.

Two months to go and two definite-must-finish projects (the blankets for KMP's baby). As for the other resolutions, they may be pushed off to 2009. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yarn Shops in Portland, Oregon

Portland 3

Portland 2Portland 1

I had a wonderful time in Portland last week - for business and for yarn. The photos above were taken from the top of the tram at the university. It's a free ride down and you get great views of the skyline. But now onto the important part - YARN!

There are a number of yarn shops in Portland but (as usual) I was limited to which ones I could see as I was sans car. I took the free shuttle downtown to Powell's bookstore as it was midpoint between two stores.

My first stop was The Knit Knot Studio.

Portland Knit Knot Studio

The Knit Knot Studio
1238 NW Gilsan
Portland, OR 97209

This was a tiny, little yarn shop. I'd say it the store space was no bigger than my bedroom, but with higher ceilings. It was well lighted, had nice displays and had a decent selection of yarns given its size. As I walked around, I found two yarns I really liked - one was some kind of cashmere blend and was uber expensive while another beautiful hank (also very expensive) was from Blue Heron Yarns in Easton, Maryland. Even if I loved it enough for the price, I refuse to buy yarn from my home state when I'm all the way out in Portland.

I kept searching around the store for something from the Northwest, or at least the West coast. I was going to ask the store owner if there was anything specific to Portland but she was busy with an enthusiastic customer. I listened in to their conversation (not that I could avoid it since the store is that small). The owner was very nice as she explained some kind of yarn to the customer (she also said hello when I walked in) but when talk turned to payment, my ears perked up. It seems she doesn't take any credit cards that give the customer points or miles or have some kind of rewards/points associated with purchases. The credit card companies charge a higher percentage for those cards so she doesn't accept them. This is the first time I've ever heard of a retailer not accepting such cards. I was shocked. I understand that the economy is shaky and owning your own business requires you to find cost-cuts where you can, but this was ridiculous. If times are tough, you should either lower your prices to increase the volume of sales, move to a cheaper lease/rent location, or work on marketing to increase sales. Limiting your customer's choice of payment? Not a good idea to inconvenience your customers. The only credit card I use has reward points so when I heard her say she wouldn't accept it, I left. I had found nothing in the store that was worth the price let alone the hassle of not being able to use my credit card. So in summary - it was an okay store but I can't honestly recommend you stop by there if you're visiting Portland.

I was slightly disheartened after my first stop. It's rare to find a yarn store that disappoints. Though it was now 3:00 pm PST, it was 6:00 pm EST and I was starving. I stopped by one of Portland's many microbreweries, Deschutes. Sadly, another disappointment. Of the 6 beers I sampled, only 2 were good. My burger was extra well done instead of medium and the heaping pile of fries was unappetizing.

I left the pub and headed toward the second yarn store on my list. I must say that I was not expecting much given the first two stops that left me unfulfilled. Plus it was quite chilly and I was the genius who didn't bring a jacket as it had been 80 degrees in DC the day before. Cold and disappointed, I walked to KnitPurl.

My third stop was a charm.

Portland Knit Purl Store 2

1101 SW Alder
Portland, Oregon 97205
503 227-2999
866 656-KNIT (Toll Free)

What a wonderful store! Not too big, not too small, wonderful layout and an amazing selection. This next photo, which they so graciously allowed me to take, is for the Queen.

Portland Knit Purl Koigu Heaven

Have you ever seen such a selection of Koigu in your life? They seemed to have every color! Click on the photo and see the larger version. The selection made me drool. I wanted to buy it all though I had no idea what I would use it for. I also found some beautiful silk blend yarn but it was expensive and from a New York state producer. Luckily I had come to the source of some fabulous sock yarn from Shi Bui Knits. Here's my purchase which came in this cute little bag:

Knit Purl Bag 1

Shi Bui Sock Yarn 1

I got one skein in Earth (left) and one skein in Tweed (right). They were about $10 per skein and should make a pair of socks per skein. I'm hoping this yarn will be the motivator for me to get out the DPNs and learn to make a pair of socks, regardless of the simplicity of the pattern.

Needless to say, I highly recommend a stop at KnitPurl when you're in Portland. And if you're looking at the Shi Bui Knits sock yarn online or at your LYS, it's worth buying.

After the great experience at KnitPurl, I went back to Powell's bookstore to wait for the shuttle. I popped into the gigantic store which stretches more than a city block. I perused the craft book section but didn't find anything I needed. I also checked for a new release, Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt. Dr. Schutt was one of my favorite professors in college and since I loved his classes so much, I'm anticipating his book to be just as entertaining and informative. Sadly, I didn't find it at Powell's (but I did order my copy from Amazon when I got home). And yes, this is a shameless plug for his book. But I really do think it will be a great read! :)

I'm trying to convince Sean that we should use our frequent flyer miles to make a trip out to Portland. Not only are there more yarn stores to visit, but there are also numerous vineyards around the Portland area that I'd like to visit. I also think he'd enjoy the vibe of the city and the other things to see and do - just so you know the suggestion isn't a completely selfish one.

I will leave you with one of my favorite photos from my trip. This has to be one of the funniest street signs I've ever encountered. Enjoy!

Portland Street Sign

Friday, October 10, 2008

Traveling Again

Last week I was in Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, this Yankee girl ventured into the deep South for a work trip. I'm not going to lie to you - I was a little scared. There's just a little too much Nascar, NRA and neoconseratives for this chica to handle. Expect for the general lack of urgency (why do they talk soooo slow and move so slow??? Or maybe I just need to learn to slow down...) it was an enjoyable trip. I kept my inner NY-girl in check and didn't make an ass of myself. Score one for me. While there are a couple of yarn stores in Birmingham, they were both far from my hotel so I couldn't check them out. I have heard, thanks to first hand reports, that both are fabulous.

Next week I'm off to Portland, Oregon - land of tasty pinot noir, a huge used and rare bookstore chain, and oodles of fabulous fiber. I have to double check how many LYS's are close to my hotel. I'm hoping to be able to check at least 2 (if not more) during my short stay.

Then in November, Sean and I are off to the wedding of a future Congressman or Senator in Columbus, Ohio. From what I've seen, there isn't much to do in Columbus. Luckily, we're driving up there and I'm going to map out stores to see on the way and while in Ohio.

As you can imagine, I'm racking up tons of frequent flyer miles and points. Too bad I can't turn them in for more yarn.

New Project: Afghan for the Sandman - Blue Edition

KMP's bun in the oven is due mid-December. I'm happy to report that both blankets have been started. Here's the first one...

Sandman Afghan Blue 02
Sandman Afghan Blue 01

I'm using the Afghan of the Sandman pattern from Crochet Garden again. The first time I made this blanket in pink for little Brodie. As I loved they way the blanket turned out, I thought it would be a great blanket to make for all the new nieces and nephews.

All the details are available on Ravelry. Details about the second blanket coming soon!

Completed Project: Knitted Dish Cloths

While camping back in August, I was being crafty near the campfire. My friend's Mom, Grandma and Aunt immediately wanted to know if I made dish cloths. I said I hadn't before, but I was sure I could figure it out. While they may have wanted round ones, they'll have to do with these...

King Charles Brocade Dish Cloth

Brocade Dish Cloth 1

Brocade Dish Cloth 3
(The color in this photo is truer to life. The yarn is called "Blueberry" but it really is a bright teal color.)

I made this by taking the King Charles Brocade pattern from one of my instructional kniitting books, added enough repeats so it was long enough and knitted the first three of every row to make the border. Uber simple.

Aunt Ann's Dish Cloth

Simple Dish Cloth 1

This is a super easy dish cloth to make. I got the pattern from my cousin whose Mom (my Aunt Ann) had given it to her. I must admit it was really cool to make this pattern knowing that she had used the pattern and my cousin had usedthe pattern and now I had used the pattern. It's nice to know there are still traditions passed down generation to generation.

These two dish cloths accompanied the lace dish cloth and a photo book of pictures from camping that were sent up to my friend's parents as a thank you for having us all up for the weekend. From the email I got, they loved the book and the kitchen additions.

Completed Project: Sean's Blanket

What do you get when you have 18 skeins of yarn and a husband who needs a big blanket? Voila!

Sean's Blanket 6

Yes, 18 skeins of Lion Brand Colorwaves in Carribean created this 50" x 81" blanket. It's HUGE.

Sean's Blanket 3

Finished it the last day of September and full details on Ravelry. And of course, Sean loves it. :)