Saturday, January 9, 2010


It's time. 2010 is here. Stitches is but weeks away. It is the hour to clean out the stash, re-organize my yarn bin, toss barely readable yarn labels (after carefully making notes in my knitting journal and on Ravelry), and plan my upcoming projects and designs.

Reduce: I went through my beloved bin and cleaned out any and all yarn wrappers. Those that were repeats went straight into the garbage pile.

Those wrappers that were curious finds were compared against project information in my notebook and on Ravelry. If they weren't already recorded, I carefully put down all necessary info and then promptly threw them away. There were even a few wrappers that I had to look up online to figure out what the yarn actually looked like. They were identified, then thrown out.

Look at my garbage pile! "Melissa!" you exclaim, "There is yarn in your garbage pile!" Yes. There is. It is yarn that I a) hate and therefore will never use or b) have a plethora of so that I'm confident I will not need that extra 4 yards I've been holding onto for 2 years and haven't yet used.

All that trash was taking up useless space in my beloved bin!!! Think of all the yarn I can now put in its stead!

Reuse: Any yarn of which I have less than half a ball but enough to make some good striping goes into a quart-sized ziploc bag. All yarn of which I have more than half a ball goes back into the bin.

I'm limiting myself to one bag of this size because I figure that's a lot of striping. Besides, I usually buy all new yarn for projects anyway!

Reorganize: My bin is now re-packed, loose ends woven into balls, all balls, hanks or skeins gathered in sections by weight.

Ahhh...I feel so much more relaxed when things are all in order (I truly am a Penelope). Now, let the creative juices flow!

How do you organize you stash? How often? What do you do to keep the scraps from overtaking your stash? Please, enlighten me so that I may learn from your wisdom...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beat of My Heart Knitted Scarf Is Done!!!

Hooray! The project is done and the pattern is ready for you! I'm so excited because I just love this scarf! It's the perfect length to wear under a coat or by itself over a nice sweater.

The softness and drape of the silk/merino blend can't be beat. It's incredible to touch and lovely to look at!

Using approximately 140 yards of gorgeous Anzula fingering weight yarn, the Beat of My Heart Knitted Scarf is delicate, feminine - ideal for any situation whether you're going out on the town or for a cup of coffee with the girls!

If you're ready for this project (or even if you're not!), grab your needles (US 5 and 7), download the pattern below and enjoy some peace and quiet while you knit away!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Unsticking the Stuck Part 2

Ok, so I've conquered a huge part of my fear since we last visited the topic of projects stuck in a perpetual state of frustration. My problem with the "Not Your Standard Issue Sweatshirt" wasn't a stitch problem, it was a length problem. So, I decided that it was time I conquered my fear and tackled this problem by literally cutting my sweater in half, knitting to my desired length and then grafting it back together.

At Stitches 2009, I took a class by Margaret Fisher that essentially taught me how to do this. I highly recommend taking a class from this master knitter because not only did I learn the initial course material, I soaked in her vast knowledge of everything knitting and crocheting. So, as I go through the steps she taught me, I am by no means giving this knowledge as a teaching lesson but simply showing you how I've applied what I've learned from an incredible woman.

First, before I begin, you'll notice that my sweater is completely seamed. So, before I can begin to cut, I have to unseam my sweater till about an inch above where I want to cut.

Leaving this extra space allows me to cut freely and then will help the seam appear continuous once I've knitted and grafted my two pieces together.

Second, chose a row that I wanted to cut right above my pattern stitch. It's easiest to cut in a section that is all stockinette because then I don't have to worry about knitting in pattern stitch later on.
I took a large tapestry needle threaded with a contrasting color and began to thread my yarn under one leg of each stitch in the row below my chosen row (see picture above).

Third, I threaded under one leg of each stitch in the row above my chosen row.

By threading the row below and above, I've created anchors for the stitches to rest on when I cut the center row.

Fourth, I repeated this process on the other side of my sweater, trying my best to thread the same rows and leave the same center row open.

It's important to thread under only one leg or else you won't have passed your needle through the stitch but in back of it.

In Unsticking the Stuck Part 3, I'll show you Phase 2 - cut and knit. I'll finish up with grafting in Unsticking the Stuck Part 4 and model my "new" sweater for you! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

They Call Me January Girl

Yes, you may not know it, but you are reading about the knitting adventures of one famous girl here. Ok, famous may not be quite the most accurate adjective, but I am the official January Girl on The Urban Sheep's site! I know I mentioned it a few posts ago but it's official! You can read about me on someone else's site! How exciting! Anything else I can write where I can use an exclamation mark? No? OK.

Moving on. I love my little shop. As I think about it, my LYS is more than just a shop it's on and see...

As a full-time mom of two toddlers, time alone is a precious commodity. When I am blessed with the chance to get out of the house, during daily business hours, without the kids, I seem to always be at a loss as to where to go. There are so many places and so little time. However, I find myself always drawn to The Urban Sheep, my quaint, adorable LYS.

As a knitter you're probably thinking, "Hello...this is not earth-shattering, mind-boggling news." We all love to go yarn shopping - ogling the lush, vibrant colors and letting our fingers slide into a ball soft, sumptuous fibers.

Seriously, sometimes I wish I was the size of the Travelocity Roaming Gnome so I could just live inside the yarn cubbies at the shop. Anyway, this incredible experience is not solely what draws me in like a mosquito to a zapper.

Community is.

There is no community like one you'd find at a beloved knitting store. I know you've seen this: lone knitter enters the store, queries streaming across her furrowed brow as if written with a sharpie, all eyes turn to her hands where she holds a mangled ball of yarn with two bamboo sticks poking out at odd angles. We all know the look because we've all come to our LYS in the same state.

What happens next is why I love our community - more than one voice will call out, "How can I help?" and then there's, "Come here, take a seat, and let's get this all sorted out." We are helpers, we are teachers, we are of a kind that doesn't want one screwed up project to ruin another's love for our beloved craft.

You pick the problem, the response at the shop is always the same. Helping hands, kind hearts, encouraging words. Bring a cup of joe and your latest project, take a seat and enjoy - I know I do as much as I can!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mixing Yarn and Beads

I'm sure you've seen the yarn with beads randomly weaved in. I salivate when I see it. I'm not your "everything frilly, gotta be stunning" sort of gal. I'm pretty classic and I like my pieces to be timeless. Beaded yarn may be a fad, but I hope it's going to last my lifetime because I think it's absolutely gorgeous. The way the iridescence catches the light, plays with colors and transforms a simple yarn into an elegant medium. Plus, usually the yarn is a sumptuous blend of fibers that practically caress the skin. However, all that gorgeousness comes with a price tag that is often quite high.

I want beads placed throughout my yarn but I don't want to buy pre-beaded work. What's the solution? Pre-bead your yarn. How? Simply buy a bead that will slide easily over your yarn and string dozens, even hundreds depending on the size of your project and how often you want to add a bead to your work. I've seen this technique used and it's becoming quite popular. So, I'm going to test it out on a design I'm working on for a Valentine's Day piece.

Thus, before I begin my next project, I'll string nearly 100 beads onto my yarn, push them down to ball and begin to knit the "Beat of My Heart" work of art. I'm not going to tell you what the finished product will be because that would just ruin the whole surprise! If you want to be notified the second I get the pattern up, just enter in your name and e-mail below - don't forget that your information is safe and secure with me, I don't like to share secrets! Once the pattern is ready for you, I'll send you a quick e-mail and it's all yours!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Exciting Steps!

Do you every look back on your life and think, "I cannot believe so much has happened in such a short amount of time!" Back in July, I was two years into dreaming about designing knit patterns. I was in a place where I loved knitting so much, that I didn't want to go to the next level out of fear that my love for my craft would be overshadowed by my own expectations and pressures. Week after week, my husband encouraged me to just try it. "Take it at your own pace, design what you want and see where it goes." Well, I've done just that and I have to admit that my fears were unfounded because now I love knitting even more!

As I began sketching out and planning my first designs, I realized how much designing fit my personality. There is the creative side where you get to play with style, fit, pattern stitch and all the little details that make a piece a work of art. Then, there's the planning, organizing, math and actual fooling which is the best part there! However, as much as knitting is my most beloved part of the process, it's exciting to put all the pieces together. Figuring out the calculations, writing it down, choosing the stitch pattens, making the dream a reality means putting together all the parts and seeing if the design works.

As I moved from project to project, sent out patterns for test knitters, received glowing feedback, and began selling patterns, my confidence in my abilities as a knit pattern designer have increased tremendously. In fact, I have exciting news - and no, for all of you moms out there, I'm not pregnant!

My Textured Simplicity Knitted Scarf is officially a show piece at our local yarn shop. Given yarn support for the project, I knit a second version specifically to display at The Urban Sheep along with copies of the pattern. Because the pattern is available free here on Monday Morning Knits and on Ravelry, I thought it most honorable to give it away at my lys as well. After a few weeks, I went back in and the stack of copies had been reduced to a few sheets. I was nervous before I walked through the door but after I saw the response to the project I went away elated.

It gets even better! They have invited me to be the honored knitter on their website for the month of January! How great is it for one's confidence as a knitter, a designer but also as a person to have others acknowledge your work, appreciate it and want to showcase you? I'm blown away! I never thought in a million years that others would seek me out for my knitting skills. As soon as Melissa Monday, January makes it on the web, I'll be sure to let you know and share the link!

I know I'm not the only one with exciting stories about our knitting adventures. What's yours? I'd love to hear about how someone else's praise of your work boosted your confidence and gave you the desire to challenge your fears and move out of your comfort zone. Don't worry, I know you're not a boaster, but we all need to toot our own horn every once in a while!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Unsticking The Stuck

Though I've been knitting for years now, I inevitably always make errors as I'm knitting a new project. I have to go through the tedious process of ripping out row upon perfect row to get to the glaring eyesore two inches down. Do you feel my pain? It happens to all of us...usually more than once on any given project. Well, I have a problem that has been stuck for nearly three years now. "What's the hold up, girlfriend?" you ask so sweetly. My simple and unabashed reply is, "I'm scared."

This isn't your ordinary problem. This is the "I'm a new knitter and I've completed my very first sweater project, seamed it all together, slipped it over my head and it's too short" problem. Last year I took a class at Stitches called "The Long and Short of Knitted Garments" specifically to learn how to fix this problem. So, why am I still stuck? Like I said above - I'm scared.

I'm scared that I'm going to fix the problem and still hate the sweater. I know we all have projects that we finish and don't like. I'm battling my perfectionism in this case. I'm scared that I'll cut my sweater in half and then not be able to fix it. This is completely unreasonable because I know how to fix it and I've practiced. I'm scared, I guess, that I'll try and fall flat.

On that note, I think it's time to face our fears. I was talking with a girlfriend a while ago and we discussed how fear can really paralyze us from moving on, growing, succeeding and doing what we never believed possible. It's time to take a dose of my own medicine. If I fail, so what. It's a knitted sweater. I've knit it once, I can knit it again...and probably do a much better job! If I never try to tackle the problem, I'm always going to see it, folded and stored high up in my closet and wonder, "Ooh, what if...?" As I venture forward and begin to unstick the stuck, I'll keep you updated on my victories, big and small.

I'm sure you have some knitted project that has been stowed out of sight. I encourage you to embark upon this journey with me. Take the challenge. Let's take the big girl medicine together, take that problem by the horns and kick some knitted butt! Pardon the messy mix of idioms, I get a little excited sometimes and tend to go a tad overboard. Anyway, don't let your fear keep you down. Share your trials and your successes below to help encourage others who may be stuck to rise up, go forth and conquer that yarn.