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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snug-as-a-Bug Knit Loafers

I finally finished my sister-in-laws birthday gift. Granted her birthday was in August, but life was busy and I knew these would be the perfect gift for her...even if they came really late. Now, it didn't take me 3 months to actually knit them. However, I did a bit of procrastinating on actually ordering the yarn. Once I got the yarn in though, it took me only a week or two to draft the pattern and knit up the loafers. When I presented them to her on Thanksgiving she was ecstatic and wore them all day...the best thank you a hand knitter could ever receive, don't you think!

You've probably noticed that they're an adult-sized version of the Goody Two Shoes Knit Baby Loafers. Response to that pattern was so great that I decided babies shouldn't get all the goods. I contemplated various names and landed on Snug-as-a-bug Knit Loafers because when you wear them, you feel comfy, cozy and ready to snuggle up. I'm so excited to get the pattern out to you because these are sure to be the perfect match for your bare tootsies so stay tuned!

Shown is a set created for a woman's size 7-8 foot. The charcoal black sole is double knit for extra durability and the bulky weight yarn lends itself to a sturdy wall yet still soft enough to flex easily with the foot and conform to each individual foot's curves. These comfortable, cozy, secure-fitting loafers are made with comfort in mind without forgoing the need for practicality.

Especially now that it's winter time, curling up in a blanket is the number one activity during the winter time and rainy, cold afternoons. However, have you ever tried to curl up with stiff soled slippers on? Doesn't quite work, does it? I always end up marching right back down to my bedroom for a pair of socks but then a sock is just a sock.

One of my favorite details about these slippers is the button. With all the fantastic choices to be had out there, the button is the place to add that splash of color, touch of sparkle or even a throw back to old memories of good times. If you're like me, you have already begun to think of the different color combinations you'd like a pair in. Personally, I think I'm going to knit myself some dark brown with cream loafers with a wooden carved button.

As I work on editing the pattern, I'd love to get your feedback on the finished product as seen above. What do you like? What would you change? Tell me what you think and what color combinations you want to see on your feet!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Santa Has To Knit

Why do I ever think Santa pictures are going to go off without a hitch? With all the fuss and the chaos, all I want to do is grab my knitting needles...whether to knit or to stick in my ears is entirely up in the air.

Today, two of my girlfriends and I decided to take our children (totaling 6) to the mall to get Santa pictures. This is year three of our tradition and each year we actually look forward to the insanity of long lines, screaming kids and grumpy "elves". This year there was a bonus: we could buy a USB with the photos on them to make our own copies instead of paying the outrageous price for 1 5x7. Anyway, my son, who's 3 1/2, is past his freak-out-over-Santa phase (whew!) but my daughter, 15 months, is just entering it. I love the picture because it captures both of them in there natural states - happy-go-lucky and tantrum-central.

Next up, we had the three older children sit all together with Santa. It's a wonder that we even were able to get a picture with all three of them looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. Check the sky for UFOs and all sorts of other paranormal activity. The last batch, however, was the most classic. Three little ones on Santa's lap and poor Santa trying to maintain his joyful smile! My friend's 11 month old son weighs more than my daughter (who's 4 months older) and Taylor refused to let go of her Ritz. Meanwhile, my other friend's daughter (9 months) is taking it all in and wondering what the fuss is...she's found the most comfy pillow in the world!

I feel for Santa, I really do. Who else has to grin and bear screaming kid after screaming kid. (Hmmm, should I look in the mirror?) That's why I know Santa must knit. There's no other thing in the world more relaxing (except maybe a foot massage). I can just see him up there at the North Pole. Elves scurrying about, Mrs. Claus mending his suspenders, Santa, knitting yet another pair of red, green and white striped socks.

So, I've got a plan that's sure to work. I'll buy Santa a new pair of needles to go with his cookies and milk this year. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll find some in my stocking too!

What other knitting gadgets are great stocking stuffers? What's on your wish list? Make your mark below and be sure to send hubby the link!