Review: Artistic Differences

First, I have to apologize. This post was supposed to go up yesterday and it didn’t. It also was probably somewhat different because when I logged in to check why it hadn’t posted as scheduled, I found instead a draft that wasn’t completed. So…I rewrote it.

Today I have another great book review for you. Artistic Differences by Talitha Kuomi.

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This book is awesome. It’s different from other books in that it follows two different “personalities”. Each design has two versions, one for each personality—a unique format and presentation.

There are 10 beautiful designs, which really means there are 20 variations!

IMG_9239The collection includes four garments, two pairs of socks, fingerless mitts, a cowl, a hat, and a bag.

One personality is the Rocker and the other is the Boho. I identify more with the Boho, and found that I tended more toward that version of the patterns…coincidence?

My favorite pattern is this cabled pullover, Setto.

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I love the coziness of this. The Rocker variation is cropped just under the bust reminding me of the spencer-style. I, of course, am more fond of the Boho version, which goes to the hip.

My second favorite is the cover sweater, Forte. This casual top-down raglan is simply fabulous. I love the detail in the v-neck.

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All the designs are simply elegant and completely approachable for all skill levels.

If you are looking for some  great wearable projects with personality, pick this up today! You can find it in your local yarn store and in e-book form from Ravelry.

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Review: Sock-Yarn Shawls 2

I love lace. And what’s a better medium for lace than shawls? So many of us have found lace via shawls, and more specifically, with sock-yarn shawls. In 2009 sock-yarn shawls exploded onto the knit scene, and in 2015 they are still going, strong as ever!

Today I have a review for you. Sock-Yarn Shawls II, by Jen Lucas.

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First, let me start by saying, Jen is a fabulous person as well as a talented designer. I met her for the first time in Phoenix at this year’s winter TNNA show. She put up with me and my craziness for at least two days, so you know she’s awesome. There she gave me two signed copies of her new book. One for me, and one for YOU!

The Review

Sock-Yarn Shawls II is the follow-up to her first book, Sock Yarn Shawls. The second is divided into three sections based on shawl size; small, mid, and large. I like this set-up. Each of the 16 shawl patterns has both charted and written instructions, making this book accessible to even beginner lace knitters. For even more help, Jen has also included some excellent photo tutorials of some of the trickier lace techniques.

The small shawls are designed to use just one skein of sock yarn. Perfect for those special skeins you just couldn’t leave the store without! I love that Jen also has tips on how to make them bigger. There are 6 shawls at this size, and my favorite is Juniper. I love the color and the bottom-up construction.

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There are 7 stunning mid-size shawls, including the one on the cover, Lycopod. I love that each of these has a different type of construction or shape; some are bottom-up, top-down, sideways, semi-circular, etc. It’s a great way to see the versatility of shawl knitting. Many of these also feature more than one color. Playing with color is always fun!

My absolute favorite project in this book is Daylily. I love circular shawls, and this one is no exception. It’s simply stunning. Don’t judge based on my photo, make sure you click through to the Ravelry listing to see all the beautiful-ness this shawl provides!

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All the photos in the book are beautiful. The text is clear and the paper (something I’m a stickler about) is super-high quality. I recommend getting it in print format. Although I’m sure the e-book is just as beautiful, a book like this is a true pleasure to page through in hardcopy.

I’m so glad Jen gave me two copies, because with only one it would have been hard to not keep it for myself! But lucky for you, she gave two, crisis averted!

Win It!

My second copy is available as…you guessed it, a PRIZE in my Fogliame KAL! The KAL is ongoing until May 1st. There’s still plenty of time to cast on and finish to be entered to win this amazing prize!

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Salita

I have a new pattern that I’m excited to share with you: Salita which uses 3-5 skeins of Yellowstone. The sample is in the lovely Sand Verbena color.

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Salita is perfect for spring. It’s a cocoon shrug made from just one large rectangle and minimum seaming. I wore it to some events earlier this month, perhaps you got to see it in person? I adore this shape and style as it looks great on everyone, but is so simple to make.

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While just knitting a rectangle, an interesting stitch pattern keeps even experienced knitters interested. Leaves climb up the back, crossing here and there.

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Here are the details:

Sizes
S/M (L/XL)

Measurements
34 (431⁄2)” 86 (110.5) cm wide and 28 (38)” 71 (96.5) cm tall

Yarn
Stitch Sprouts, Yellowstone (80% wool, 20% silk; 285 yds 260 m / 100 g): sand verbena, 3 (5) skeins

Needles
US #6 4 mm; adjust needle size as necessary to achieve gauge

Gauge
22 sts and 32 rows = 4” in lace st

Notions
cable needle; tapestry needle

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Vispo

Today I have a new pattern: Vispo. Vispo is a super quick, super fun cowl worked in just one skein of Shalimar Yarns Equus.

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Equus is a deliciously squishy worsted weight yarn. It comes in skeins of 200 yards and a wide variety of beautiful colors from Shalimar.

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During the month of March, Shalimar runs a special event called Shalimarch. There are tons of KALs and sales and such over in the Ravelry group, so be sure to check it out. For my pattern, I’m offering a special 50% discount on Vispo until the end of March. To get the discount, simply use the coupon code: shalimarch2015 at checkout.

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Review: Nova Platina Needles + Prize

I love needles

LOVE. Well, ok, I love everything about knitting. There’s just something about the tools of ones craft that makes me want to collect them all. For example, I cannot be left alone in an office supply store…the pens! the markers! the paper! Same with yarn stores and their notion/needle sections.

I collect needles

I’m a firm believer in using the right tool for each job. Knitting is no exception. For cottons and slippery fibers, I choose bamboo or wooden needles; for most wools I prefer metal; for super-firm/non-stretchy yarns I like plastic. But my favorite, and the ones I always return to are metal.

I love the quickness, the zoom factor. When I heard a new metal needle was on the market I jumped at the opportunity to review them. I already have sets of Karbonz, Dreamz, and Nova’s. Now Nova Platina is available, and boy are they sweet!

Nova Platina

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How are these different from the regular (still awesome) Nova’s? First, they are chrome plated. As much as I love my regular metal needles, the nickel plating tends to tarnish over time. Also, stainless steel needles give me the willies with some weird texture issues I have. With chrome, both of these problems are solved; I get super smooth knitting with no more tarnish! Also, these could be great for people with nickel allergies—more testing required.

Second, they are pointer. Yes, they are the pointiest needles I have ever used. If you’re a fan of pointy, look no further! These needles have a nice long smooth taper. Perfect for lace or anything that requires tricky stitch manipulation. As a lace knitter, I LOVE the points!

Like all Knitter’s Pride needle sets, the cords are soft and flexible with very little memory. They are also interchangeable and come in different lengths. This is especially important when you have as many needle sets as I do…all the parts work together!

Here’s everything in the deluxe set. It comes with needle tips in sizes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, and 11; 4 cords in sizes 24″, 32″ (you get 2 of these), and 40″; a carry case for the cords; a carry case for the tips; PLUS a set of needle size tags. Each cord comes with a key and end caps. It’s a huge set of pure AWESOME.

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Use Testing

I’ve had these needles for some time now and have used them almost exclusively for many projects. Currently on the needles, a super secret project for a magazine. Another Mulinello sample for shows. And a secret sweater for an upcoming collection. I can only show you a photo of Mulinello.

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Check out those points!

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These are now my first choice when starting a new project. I’m disappointed if I go to cast on but the size I need is already in use. I will have to stock up on some extra points—another thing I love about these sets; the tips are available individually so you can get extras of the sizes you use the most.

Prize

If the needles themselves weren’t amazing enough, the wonderful folks at Knitter’s Pride have donated an entire set to my Fogliame KAL! This means, if you participate in, and finish your project before May 1st, you can enter to win a DELUXE set of Nova Platinas! Doesn’t that make you want to cast on right away? Head over to the KAL thread and get started—another prize donation will be announced next week!

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New Patterns + KAL

It’s been a busy month! Already I’ve released two new pattens Fogliame and Mulinello. Both are included in some awesome collections Stitch Sprouts published with Anzula and Baah Yarns, respectively.

Mulinello

This is my newest pattern, a striking shawl worked from the top down in a half circle. Short rows swirl the beautiful Baah colors, while the half-pi formula makes shaping easy.

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Mulinello is available on its own for $6 or as part of of the e-book for $15.50 where you get 4 beautiful mult-colored shawl patterns! It’s an easy-to-knit pattern, the hardest part will be picking your 3 colors!

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This cardigan is part of the Stitch Sprouts Anzula Squishy booklet. It’s just $7 on it’s own or $18 for the entire e-book with 5 beautiful patterns.

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It’s worked seamlessly from the top down as a raglan which flows into a leafy peplum.

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Knit Along

I’ve been asked by several people to host a knit-a-long for Fogliame, and so I will! I’ve started this thread in my Ravelry group.

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Currently we are just gathering supplies. Cast-on, although not very scary, will be this Friday, the 13th. Projects that are finished before May 1st and posted to the finished projects page will be eligible for prizes!

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Feroce

A new pattern! This time a colorful hat. I love mixing bright, bold neon with more subtle neutrals; this is yarn I had left over from my Tromen cowl. I decided to make a simple and whimsical hat.

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Feroce is simply a tube closed at the top. This shape creates playful cat-like ears. Attach pompoms or tassels for even more fun.

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The stitch pattern, although complex in appearance, is quite simple. Only one color is used at a time and elongated slipped stitches create the clever chevrons. Using a 3-needle bind-off, the top is clean and neat.

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Here are the details:

Size
S (M, L)

Measurements
18¾ (20, 22¾)” brim circumference; sample shown is 20″

Yarn
Manos del Uruguay, Maxima (100% merino; 218 yds [199 m]/100 g): #M2175 shocking (A), #M2237 reindeer (B); 1 skein each

Needles
US #8 [5 mm] 16″ circular needle
Adjust needle size as necessary to obtain correct gauge.

Gauge
24 sts and 24 rows = 4″ in charted stitch

Notions
Stitch marker, cable needle, tapestry needle

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KAL Winners!!

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I confess, I have been a bad KAL leader in the last few months. In fact, you probably didn’t even know there was a KAL going on. Anyway, I was “hosting” an Everyday Lace accessories KAL in my Ravelry Group. I never announced prizes, and didn’t participate much…and still people contributed! I’m so very thankful for my lovely knitter fans and friends!

So, what I’ve decided to do is to give everyone that posted a finished project a prize (free pattern on Ravelry). And then randomly pick one person to get a Grand Prize. Then Grand Prize is really GRAND—at least I think so, but I’m biased. It’s a prize pack of yarns that I love to use for accessories.

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The Grand prize winner is: !
Please contact me with your address so I can mail you the yarn pack.

Thank you again to all who participated. I truly appreciate your continued support even when I drop the ball.

Posted in Everyday Lace, KAL | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

FTF: Tea

Today I’d like to talk to you about tea. I love tea. I love bagged teas, loose teas, even crappy tea that comes in plastic bottles, I love it all.

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What is it about tea that I love? Everything. I love the aroma before brewing, the way the flavor seeps out into the cup, and the way brewing feels a little like magic. I love the flavors—complex and earthy. Most of all I love the way tea warms me from the inside and relaxes me after a stressful day.

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Do you love tea?

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Cordiale

Cordiale is a pattern that I released before the holidays, but forgot to blog about. So…here’s my post!

I recently went out to a relatively new shop, Lori’s Yarndezvous, for an Everyday Lace trunk show and book signing. Upon entering I spotted this yarn on the shelf and instantly fell in love. I don’t really buy yarn anymore, but this was too beautiful not to. In fact, I bought two skeins.

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It was the colors of course. Malabrigo always has lovely colors. This colorway is Arco Iris. It’s an interesting mix of basically every color. Tricky, most dyers would probably end up with a muddy mess, but Malabrigo made a masterpiece.

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Finding the right stitch pattern for a highly variegated yarn such as this can be difficult. I knew I wanted to make an oversized cowl, but I wanted to avoid pooling and other pitfalls of knitting with variegated yarns.

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I chose to use a slip-stitch cable to help break up the colors and to give the fabric some movement. The result is simple but beautiful, and perfect for brightening up a dreary winter day. Also, it’s huge and I love it.

Here are the details.

Size
One Size
Measurements
12” tall; 30” around
Yarn
Malabrigo, Rasta (100% merino; 90 yds 82 m/150 g): #866 arco iris, 2 skeins
Needles
US #19 15 mm 24” circular needle Adjust needle size as necessary to obtain correct gauge.
Gauge
8 sts and 13 rows = 4” in pattern stitch
Notions
Cable needle, tapestry needle

Get it Now on Ravelry!

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FTF: Frixion Pens

I’ve decided for 2015 to bring back my Favorite Thing Friday posts. Today, my favorite thing is: Pilot Frixion (aka magic) Pens.

I LOVE pens, all pens, but these pens are special because they are erasable. And not like the old “erasable” pens. Remember those? With the black erasers…that wouldn’t really do anything except rub the paper until the upper layer was scraped off into tiny bits of rubber and paper crumbs. If you tried to erase all visible traces of ink you just ended up with a hole in your paper and a crumbly eraser.

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A box full of LIES

I hated those pens! They promised something they couldn’t deliver.

But these Frixion Pens are different. They are magic. The trick: the eraser isn’t actually removing the ink, in fact, it’s not even an eraser.

WHAT?!?!

The “eraser” is actually a rubbery bit of plastic. It doesn’t degrade and it doesn’t leave little rubber crumbs all over the place. The plastic rubs the ink, heating it up. This heat is what changes the color of the ink from having color, to not. Basically making it into invisible ink.

© JetPens.com

© JetPens.com

I’m a perfectionist, but I prefer using pen over pencil. So I really love these pens. I use them all the time in my planner (a possible future FTF post topic). I love being able to jot down notes and/or appointments without worrying about permanence.

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The kind I use are gel pens and they come in an array of colors and sizes. The ones I use regularly are two 4-color multi-pens and two .7 sized pens.

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You can get the .7 size in most office supply stores. These typically come in sets of three colors: red, black, blue; and pink, purple, light blue. I bought my multi-pens on JetPens. They come with .5 sized red, blue, black, and green inks and are refillable. I purchased some of the .38 refills to fill up my second mult-pen.

Note, the .5 and .38 size pens and refills are NOT interchangeable with the .7 pens and refills.

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Unfortunately, these magic pens do have a shortcoming. Because the ink is heat activated, you must be careful where you store or leave your pens. When they reach a certain temperature anything you wrote with your pens, and even the ink inside the pens, will disappear. Obviously, this is because the heat will erase your ink. People online say that putting your writing into the freezer will bring it back; however, others have told me this is not the case.

Note: Pilot also makes Frixion markers, ball point pens, color-pencil-like pens, highlighters, and stamps! I have no affiliation with Pilot and have not received any compensation for this post.

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Lanugine

A couple of weekends ago I decided I wanted to make a super quick scarf. I found this completely squishable yarn at my LYS, grabbed my ginormous 15mm needles, and casted on. In about 5 hours I had this super cozy, super quick scarf!

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Lanugine means fluff in Italian. And that’s exactly what this scrumptious Mirasol Ushya yarn feels like around your neck. I’ve never worked with a chainette yarn before, but I am in love.

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What’s chainette? The mill makes a yarn, and then knits it into an i-cord, making a fluffy, ultra cozy, super bulky yarn.

Using just 2 skeins I was able to make a scarf about 70″ in length and 11″ wide. This gives you plenty to wrap around your neck like a bulky cowl.

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Or leave the ends hanging for a dramatic look.

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Lanugine is the perfect last-minute quick gift! Here are the details:

Size
One Size

Measurements
11” wide; 70” long

Yarn
Mirasol, Ushya (98% merino, 2% polyamide; 114 yds 105 m/100 g): #1705, 2 skeins

Needles
US #19 15 mm needle
Adjust needle size as necessary to obtain correct gauge.

Gauge
10 sts and 10 rows = 4” in garter stitch

Notions
Tapestry needle

You can get Lanugine today via Ravelry (no account needed)!

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Tempest E-Book Winner!

I’ve done a random selection on the comments from the Tempest Review post. And the winner is…

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Connie Buckwalter!! Connie, please contact me asap to get your e-book :)

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On Asking for Help

As an entrepreneur, asking for help is something I find incredibly difficult to do. I’m a self starter, someone who dreams up ideas and implements them, a doer.

Admitting that I need help feels like I’m admitting to failure. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I need help because I’ve become successful. My business is doing well and I have so much to do that I cannot handle it all alone.

I recently decided to try getting regular help in the form of a part-time assistant. Someone to help me with the Stitch Sprouts office-y work. Filing patterns, packing orders, data entry, yarn winding, etc.

FullSizeRender-7Even looking up at what I just typed about being successful, part of me feels like this is admitting to defeat.

I’m an optimist when it comes to people. I think the best of everyone…until proven otherwise. But I truly believe that most people are genuinely good, caring folks. Here’s the thing…

People WANT to help.

They want you to ask them. Helping you helps them. Denying people who offer help is like taking something away from them—the feeling of being needed, of being able to offer something, of being able to help.

Accepting help is like accepting a pact of friendship. It’s saying you trust the other person.

I trust you so much, I’m relinquishing some of my closely guarded control and placing it in your hands.

So today, I’m trying this asking for help thing. I will let you know how it goes.

For more on The Art of Asking, check out this awesome TED talk by the amazing Amanda Palmer.

Posted in Wednesday Wisdom | 1 Comment

GAL: An Indie Designer Interview

The Gift-A-Long is still going on! Have you joined the fun? Remember it’s more than a sale, it’s a KAL/CAL and contest too!

Today I have an interview with one of the hundreds of designers that are participating in this years’ event. Erica Mount is a new-to-me designer who creates beautiful works of art on the canvas of the mitten! Having never designed mittens myself, I am in awe of Erica’s talent and creativity. Please have a gander at her designs and check out her Ravelry group.

Here is a link to Erica’s Gift-A-Long bundle. Remember, you can use the coupon code: giftalong2014 to get 25% off until November 21st.

HZ: You design beautiful mittens! What draws you to the mitten over other projects?
EM: The first pattern that I knit in stranded color work was a mitten pattern, Hippocampus, by Tori Seierstad. I think this set me on the path.

I love that mittens can be useful and beautiful at the same time. They are also very visible, so I can enjoy looking at them when I wear them.

Mittens are a good match for my personality. I get bored quickly and prefer starting projects to finishing them. I’d probably never finish anything as big as a sweater.  You may notice that some of my mitten designs are different on each hand. This was done to keep me from getting bored after knitting the first one.

HZ: What inspires your designs?
EM: Growing up in Nova Scotia, I saw my fill of lighthouse artwork, and always thought of it as something for tourists to buy. When I moved away to where there was no ocean, I appreciated it more. Then I very badly wanted a mitten with a lighthouse on it and could not find a pattern, so I had to make one. That’s how Moonlit Coast began.

HZ: When did you begin knitting? Designing?
EM: I was taught to knit a few times before it stuck. In 2010, I was pregnant and I wanted to knit something for my baby, so I learned again. My first attempts were without patterns. I remember making my mother some horrible, lumpy, mittens in bulky yarn, that were full of holes. She said that she liked them, but that can only be because she loves me.

Then I discovered Ravelry and its pattern search. I knitted several stranded mittens from patterns. In 2012, My toddler niece asked me to make her flower mittens, and I couldn’t find any patterns that fit what I was looking for. I drew a simple orchid chart in excel and published it to Ravelry, in case anyone else needed flower mittens.

HZ: What’s your favorite yarn?
EM: For colorwork, I really like Cascade 220 fingering. It’s got a great color selection, is soft, and just a little bit sticky.

I recently tried Fleece Artist merino 2/6, which is local to me, and absolutely gorgeous. I really can’t say that I have a favorite, though, because there are so many great yarns that I love for different reasons, and I’m sure I’ll discover more.

HZ: What’s next for you?
EM: I’ve got a couple more mitten patterns that I’m working on. One called “The Swordsman in Love”, which is similar to The Spear Maiden’s Heart. I’m trying a selbu style thumb for the first time on this one. People who have seen it say that it reminds them of a playing card.

In future, I would like to try a hat or cowl, possibly socks, (likely in color work), but I’d like to finish up the mitten ideas that I’m working on first.

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Gift-A-Long 2014

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This year I’m proud to be contributing to the Gift-A-Long! What is this? It’s several things.

First, it’s a sale. The sale runs from 11/13-11/21. Everything in my Gift-a-Long Bundle will be 25% off for this time period only! The coupon code is: giftalong2014

Second, it’s a knit-a-long. Knit any of the gift-a-long patterns, including mine, and be entered to win prizes! Check out the gift-a-long group for more details.

Third it’s a game. There are several ongoing games which also result in prizes. Again, check the group for more details.

Remember, the sale runs from the 13th to the 21st – patterns bought before the 13th or after the 21st will NOT get the discount!

Games and contests run until the end of the year!

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On Saying No

Today’s post is as much for myself as it is for everyone else who happens to stumble upon my blog. This is something that I struggle with on a daily basis, perhaps you do as well.

No is one of the hardest words to say because unfortunately, it often means saying no to money. For me:

…as a designer, saying no to a contract is saying no to money.
…as an editor, saying no to a client is saying no to money.
…as a business owner, saying no to a customer is saying no to money.

Q: Why would anyone ever want to say no to money?
A: When saying yes means saying no to yourself.

I love this quote by Paulo Coelho.

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I love it so much I made it my phone’s lock screen as a constant reminder.

Saying no to yourself and your well-being will only lead to stress, anger, resentment, and frustration. I don’t want to resent my job, clients, or customers. I’ve found that I could push and say yes to everything, however, this usually ends in my hating everything and everyone—not a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, you cannot do all the things all the time. Sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Posted in Wednesday Wisdom | 2 Comments

Tempest: a review + giveaway

Today I have a book review to share with you. Tempest is a new book collaboration with designer Holli Yeoh and yarn-dyer-extraordinaire Sweet Georgia.

Tempest E-book Cover - Front

Sweet Georgia yarns have been a long time favorite of mine. I used her Merino Silk Fine in my Pequea pattern. Her colors are simply stunning and the yarns in Tempest are no exception. Holli presents 11 beautiful patterns that perfectly showcase these yarns.

I love that Holli chose to use both the solids and the variegated color ways. Variegated yarns are notoriously difficult to design with, but Holli does so with ease.

My favorite project in the book is probably Breakers.

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I’m in love with this super cozy cowl. It’s simplicity makes the perfect canvas to show off the deep rich colors of Sweet Georgia.

You can see all the beautiful patterns on Revelry. But be sure to also check out the Tempest website where you can join the community for extras like video tutorials and forums.

Giveaway

Want to win a digital copy of Tempest? Leave a comment below telling me which the Tempest projects is your favorite. Next Monday (11/17) I will select a winner, so be sure to comment before then!

Learn More

To learn more about Tempest, to read other reviews, and for other opportunities to win, be sure to check out the other posts in the blog tour:

Friday, Oct 17 Hunter Hammersen, Violently Domestic
Monday, Oct 20 Megan Goodacre, Tricksy Knitter
Saturday, Oct 25  Kate Atherley, Wise Hilda Knits
Monday, Oct 27 Stephannie Tallent, Sunset Cat Designs
Saturday, Nov 1 Julie Matthews, Knitting at Large
Monday, Nov 3  Very Shannon
Saturday, Nov 8  Davina Choy, Sheep & Stitch
Monday, Nov 10  Heather Zoppetti Designs
Saturday, Nov15  Donna Druchunas, Sheep to Shawl
Monday, Nov 17  Shannon Okey
Saturday, Nov 22 Anniken Allis, Confessions of a Yarn Addict
Monday, Nov 24 Lucy Neatby, Happy Stitches
Saturday, Nov 28 Knit Social Event Company
Monday, Dec 1 Miso Crafty Knits

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Election Results

Ah, the day after election day. The day when social media lights up with disapproval, name calling, and plain old nastiness.

I think many people forget how voting works. Unfortunately, in a majority-rules system up to 49% of the population could be unhappy with the results.

However, please remember that if your candidate was not elected, it’s because you are in the minority. This doesn’t make you wrong or stupid, it just means there were more people that voted the other way. And that doesn’t make them wrong or stupid either.

The important thing to remember is this. Whoever wins the election is there to represent you, whether or not you voted for them. Your voice is still welcomed to give suggestions, ideas, and criticism. Write or call your officials’ office, let your voice be heard. Help them serve you better. But DO NOT throw up your hands and refuse to take part in helping the community, the state, or the nation. DO NOT hate on your fellow citizens. And remember, you were in the minority.

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Writing on the iPad – Part 1

As many of you may know, the new iPad Air just came out. Of course, my husband needed the new one —and so, I got his old iPad Air!

I decided I wanted to use it more as a business tool. I had an iPad 4 before, but didn’t use it for much of anything because I didn’t like typing on it. The first thing I bought for my new iPad was a great keyboard. Here is my current set-up.

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This is the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard. I LOVE it. First, it has all the regular keyboard keys —and they all are in the same place as a regular keyboard. This is important. I had actually ordered the non-pro version of this keyboard but had to return it because of key mapping issues.

The key mapping I use is called Dvorak. It’s a great system, and I find it to be way faster and more ergonomic than the stupid QWERTY system (which was designed to slow you down, btw).

The non-pro keyboard had split the punctuation keys in a weird way such that my “s” key (; [:] in qwerty) was down beside the space bar and there was no “z” (/ [?] in qwerty) key at all! For most people, this lack of z might not be an issue, but because my last name starts with Z, it is quite necessary to me.

This keyboard has two magnetic “holds” or angles for the iPad to rest in, making it feel just like a tiny laptop. I can even flip it so that the iPad is in portrait mode.

The keyboard has a backlight, which I don’t turn on, but is pretty cool. I decide to keep mine off because it drains the battery faster.

I also like that there are function keys specific to the iPad—and they just work without having to install any kind of software. For example, there is a key for the home button. And, surprise, it works just like the home button—press once to go home; press twice to open the running apps carousel.

Other keys include volume control, spotlight, music playback controls, and screenshot.

The keys themselves have a very nice feel when pushed. They don’t feel squishy or soft, which I find impressive. They are also a decent size, small, but not too small. I didn’t have to spend any time getting used to typing on it, it just feels natural.

With the help of the ultimate pro keyboard I’m finally set up to get some real work done on the iPad. I’ve figured out how to do all my writing (manuscripts, blogging, e-mail, and even spreadsheets) on the iPad. I’ll share my workflow, along with what apps I use, next time!

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