"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's on Your Hook / Needles?

This post, for me, was FUN with a capital F-U-N! I asked a few of my online yarn diva friends a fairly simple question and got very different answers. I wanted to do a blog post that would feature a few of my pals from different parts of the country and various levels of crazy (heh) who have one thing in common:  yarn.
So I asked them, "What is on your hooks/needles right now? projects/yarns/stitches involved. Anything you wish to share about it is appreciated like what drew you to the project(s) in the first place. If you've got more than one project going right now, pick three that you're willing to share along with links to the patterns if you can." And my girls delivered.
First up is Talia who ran away from corporate America and is now living the dream as a stay-at-home mom, spinner, and knitter. She is also the web mistress extraordinaire from International Fleeces. Here's what she had to say:
Oh, Ravelry, Ravelry, how you inspire! Moms have a lot of odd moments where the baby isn't quite awake yet but is not quite asleep. There are times when a quick check of my boards on Ravelry is all I can do in a day and this usually takes place in those odd-almost-awake-baby moments. I found the two projects I am currently working on in such a way.

The first is a scarf made from commercial yarns by Knit Picks. The pattern caught my eye when I saw a movie still, of Jude Law conversing with Robert Downey Jr., from the movie "Sherlock Holmes:  A game of Shadows." A kind knitter on Ravelry, after seeing the movie, started a discussion about the scarf. It is a basic knit 1, purl 1 striped scarf. As the discussion about the scarf and Mr. Law's hunkiness continued to grow, someone posted photos of the actual scarf that they got to see in person, which helped other knitters to count the number of stitches, rows, and repeats. It was communally decided that there are 72 stitches of K1,P1 pattern done in repeated stripes consisting of 12 rounds of brown, 2 grey, 6 blue, and 2 grey. Teresa Ferreira offers a free pattern to download from Ravelry called "Elementary, Dr. Watson." (LINKY: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/elementary-dr-watson) She uses 3 colors of Knit Picks:  Wool of the Andes, which is nice because it didn't break the bank. Her pattern is slightly different with 12 less stitches and different row counts but her scarf came out as fabulous as the original.

The second project is a garment I truly adore though it comes without the handsome model of the first. It is an Orenburg triangle shawl called Four Season:  The Autumn created by Russian Lily Designs. (LINKY: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/four-seasons-the-autumn-orenburg-triangle) Russian Lily showcased this shawl in a Spinner's Marketplace listing to give an example of lace yarn made from grey Orenburg goat down that she sells. Needless to say, I bought the down to spin on my Orenburg metal-tipped spindles, which I had previously purchased from the designer. I plied the Orenburg gossamer lace singles with some grey, commercial spun, silk thread that I imported from India. If I were forced to make a choice between Jude Law and the handspun yarn for this shawl, I would pick the yarn.

The pattern for this shawl is incredible; it is like an e-book. Russian Lily talks about the music of shawls and goes into traditional Orenburg methods of construction. There are 2 complete sets of charts and an excellent photo tutorial. This project is still in the beginning stages of knitting but I am already finding it to be a thrill. Don't worry all you not-yet-handspinners, the designer suggest several different commercial yarns in the directions so you don't have to learn how to spin...yet.
Next is Megan whose blog, Crochet Every Day, featured one free pattern each day last year and her commitment to complete every posted project by the end of 2014. That's how we met and became online friends. You can also find Megan at Newlywife.
the woman herself, Megan, holding her finished Basket Case Scrubby designed by Laurie Laliberte (yes, me)
I just finished a gingham blanket and let me tell you -- I am so excited to be done! It was on and off the hook for about a year. Once I found out my friend was pregnant with a boy, I knew it had to be hers! That gave me a deadline (the shower last weekend) and I made mini goals to finish. I was done about a week ahead of schedule and it felt good! Why was it so tiring? Each square was 2 rounds of a granny square -- that's tiny! So lots of joining and weaving (and I hate weaving in ends). I've moved into a ripple blanket in bright summer colors -- so fun! The pattern is from Attic24 and the yarn was a gift from my Mother-in-Law. When I picked it up to work on it a few days ago, I realized that I had done the whole first portion in dc and not tc like the pattern calls for... so dc ripple blanket it is! And I have some scrubbies on my hook -- the perfect gift for a bride to be. In case you were wondering, it's a set of both the basketweave and horizontal stripes in a few different colors.
And now, Melissa, whose tastes are so similar to mine in everything we do that I call her my "Sistah from anotha Mistah." She is definitely my official online bestie. Melissa left the navy to settle down with her sailor and become a stay-at-home mom to her two boys. She swears she's going to get her Etsy shop up and running, but seems to be doing a great job of selling her finished crochet projects by word of mouth. You can find her on twitter @coppertop97.
Awww!! I DID settle down with my sailor!! So cute how you put it!! Okie doke...here goes.

I have 3 things going on right now, well 4 but you only want 3, but I gave you 4. Cause I prefer even #'s. [ed. See? We're so much alike, it's scary!]

Color Me
It's dc in one st and sc in next using an H hook. I find it makes for a really neat texture for the crayon. I have to drop colors and change them, then pick the old color back up. There are TONS of ends to weave in and slip stitches for the letters. I'll also have to attach the words to the crayon and each crayon together, which is something I've never done before. I also had to do decreases for the crayon point, much easier than I thought!! It's really a labor of love!! Since I'm making it for my 5-yo son. I'm using Red Heart Super Saver so it's a little sturdier and can hopefully make it through his childhood without getting all stretched out. I have to admit, I've come to adore RHSS. The colors are so pretty & vibrant. The yarn is surprisingly soft once washed.

Swirl Baby Blanket
I've made two of these before. At first I didn't understand how to start the pattern and I didn't know how to make sure it kept getting larger with each round. Thankfully another crochet friend taught me how to make it when we were living in VA. I'm really proud of myself for starting another one (for an upcoming baby shower) all by myself. I'm using a baby yarn from my stash, Bernat Baby Jacquards, Berries & Cream. It is SO soft & pretty, and the design the variegation creates is lovely. It's going to make a very light, soft, but warm baby blanket.

Purely Square Baby Throw
This is my first granny square baby blanket and I'm hooked, lol. I'm in love with variegated yarns. I chose Bernat Baby Sport, Pajama Party, for its springy colors, and an H hook. It's for another baby shower. The pattern is very easy. I'm surprised I don't need to look at the pattern anymore. You just keep going around and around. I already have a bunch of ideas for more granny square blankets, all sorts of different color combos.

Shell Sleep Sack & Cap
I'm also giving this a try. I've tried making sleep sacks/baby cocoons before, but they haven't gone well. This one MIGHT. I'm using another beautiful variegated Bernat Baby Sport, Chiffon Print, and an H hook. If I can get this sack done, I might have the confidence to make a matching hat. Hats and I do NOT go together well. I wish I could make hats.
These lovely ladies have given us all so many patterns to checkout that I think I'll leave it at that. Maybe I'll talk about my finished projects after April's big event. Thank you all for helping me make National Craft Month worth its weight in yarn.
Oh, by the way, the first five yarn divas (male or female) to leave a comment to share their latest projects with us will receive a complimentary copy of the Basket Case Scrubby pattern. Don't forget to leave us a link for the pattern or your project on Ravelry so we can check it out.
Happy Crafting!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Friend (Mine) and New Patterns (Not Mine)

My online life has been a whirlwind lately. But there are so many positives coming from it, I can't complain. In the midst of cleaning up my blog address SNAFU a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet (via email) the hard working brain behind one of my favorite websites, dish and washcloth mania. Norma collects kitchen and bath themed patterns from all over the web to gather them in one easy to use location. In its lifetime, my blog has received just under 10,000 hits from her site. You can imagine how honored I was when Norma agreed to be interviewed here on the blog. So, without any further introduction, I present to you the goddess of dishcloth patterns, Norma:

The Big Girl Scrubby was the first of my patterns listed on Dish and Wash Cloth Mania

Laurie:  Assume anyone reading this has not had the opportunity to visit your site. Tell us what to expect when we arrive.
Norma:  The left side of the page contains posts that I have written about changes or additions to the site. There is an occasional post on a topic I think may be of interest to visitors. The upper right portion of the site contains two static text areas. The first one provides details about the header picture. The second one provides detail about the purpose and intent of the site. Below these text areas and on the left, is a column labeled Pages. Each page contains links to specific categories of items.

L:  When did you begin Dish and Washcloth Mania?
N:  I started it in August of 2006.

L:  What motivated you to start it?
N:  I was not working outside the home at the time and needed to replace my supply of store bought dishcloths. My decision was to make my own using cotton yarn in my stash and free patterns on the Internet. As I began looking for patterns I discovered a "new to me" world of knitting and crocheting. I was totally fascinated by the beauty and variety of dish and wash cloths that were and are available. The most wonderful part was that most of them were free. I was so excited at my discovery that I wanted to share it with everyone. Listing links on a blog seemed to be the best way of doing so. As time passed this became my way of returning to the online fiber community part of what I had received from it over the years.

L:  Would you give us an estimate of how many pattern links you've amassed so far?
N:  I estimate there are links to about 500-600 patterns.

L:  Did you have any specific goals in mind when you began?
N:  The primary goal I originally had was to list all of the free dish and wash cloth patterns I could find on the Internet for the fun of doing so. I also wanted to share my exciting discovery with others.

L:  Have those goals changed as you've progressed?
N:  This is a difficult question. My goals have changed a bit although the original goal of listing links to as many free patterns for dish and wash cloths remains the same. I have chosen to expand the scope of the site to include links to other kitchen items and to some bath related items. A few months after the site began, I realized that it could be a way of returning to the fiber arts community part of what it has provided me over the years.

L:  How long have you been at it and what keeps you motivated to continue?
N:  I have been doing this for a few months less than six years. My motivation to continue is three fold. My primary motivation is that searching for and finding patterns is fun. Adding them to my site is the next step in that process. The second motivating factor is my commitment to make a contribution to the fiber arts community by providing a resource for people to find kitchen and bath related patterns easily. Last, but not least, I have learned that there is an amazing group of men and women all over the world who give their time, energy, and talents to design and make items for others. By providing links to free patterns my site also promotes the work of many designers.

L:  How much maintenance is required to keep your site running?
N:  The site is relatively easy to maintain. Most of the reason for that is because it is hosted on WordPress.com. In my opinion it is the perfect match for my personality because while it is intuitive to use it is also very logical and organized.

L:  How many hours per week do you put in?
N:  On average I would say I spend about six to eight hours a week on the site. When I decide to do a major update, such as the one I am now doing, I easily spend twenty-four to thirty hours a week on it. I am fortunate to have a very supportive family who understand my need and desire to work on the site.

L:  Do you receive any help or is maintenance pretty much a one woman show?
N:  This is definitely a one woman show. I do my own research and site maintenance. My husband and son serve as editors and content advisers at times.

L:  I love that the look is very clean, simple, uncluttered. Is that how you tend to work when you're crafting?
N:  Thank you for the compliment. Yes, that is how I tend to work when I am crafting. The majority of my knitting and crocheting time is done at the kitchen table or in the computer/craft room. In order for me to concentrate and work efficiently those areas have to be uncluttered. My immediate work area does appear cluttered at times, but I try to keep it so I can reach what I want without looking for it.

L:  How do you go about finding all the great patterns you link? Do you seek them out? Do they find their way to you somehow?
N:  When the site first began, I used a variety of search engines and spent countless hours doing research to find them. That is still my favorite method to find patterns although it has changed a bit over the years. I now have a list of sites to periodically check for new additions. There is one designer who sends me an email when she adds a pattern to her site. Others know that I visit their sites and add links to their patterns as I find them. As the member of some online groups and Ravelry, I keep my eyes and ears open for patterns that might not be listed on my site.

L:  Let's say, in an average month, how many hits does the site get?
N:  Thank you for asking this question. It is averaging a little more than fifty-three thousand hits per month.

L:  I really like that the site is "bi-craftual," both knit and crochet. Are you as well?
N:  Yes! I am definitely be craftual. I fell in love with the art of crochet when I was six years old. Much to my dismay I had to wait to learn to do it until I was twelve or thirteen. I learned to knit when I was eight or nine. I enjoy them both and do not have a favorite.

L:  Do you have a particular type of pattern you prefer to make?
N:  My favorite dishcloths are knitted ones. I don't have much strength in my upper body and it is easier for me to squeeze the excess water from knitted cloths. One favorite kitchen item in my house is crocheted hot pads and table mats. We use an assortment of knitted and crocheted dishcloths as coasters for cups and bowls.

L:  Do you have favorite stitches?
N:  Not really. I do enjoy using a variety of stitches when knitting or crocheting.

L:  I think I've taken enough of your time, but is there anything else you'd like to share with my readers?
N:  There are a couple of things I would like to add. The first one is that if you have a link to a pattern you would like to see added to my site, please feel free to contact me by way of the Contact Page on my site. Due to my work schedule it might take a day or two for me to respond.

L:  Anything I've overlooked that you'd like to tell them?
N:  I cannot think of anything. Thank you for taking the time to interview me. It was a pleasure.

Thank you, Norma, so much for sharing your time and your thoughts with us. I wish you much continued success with the site.

Happy Knitting and Crocheting everyone!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Sneak Peek... In Pictures

I was really hoping today to be able to make the big announcement, but things don't always go according to plan. That's okay, we drop back and punt. Instead, I'll hand you a sneak peek at the upcoming release of my first crochet pattern book. The book, titled Quick Crochet for Kitchen and Bath will include a total of twelve patterns from three of my collections. Scroll down for pictures of all twelve. (squee!)

For at least the first 90 days the book will be available exclusively on Amazon. It will be offered in mobi format for Kindle and in print. Because of this, I'll have to pull the patterns from Etsy and Ravelry, so below the photos, I'll share with you a clearance bonus going on in my Etsy shop right now.

 your first look at the cover by Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics
the bread basket collection
the X-Factor collection
the Dominoes collection

The various parts of what has become Quick Crochet for Kitchen and Bath were mostly gone from my Etsy shop, but there were still five listings that would need to be pulled. I decided to move those five listings to a CLEARANCE section and change them to include all twelve patterns. Until they sell, or the book's release, the listings will be available at the mobi (Kindle) price. They will not be Kindle files; they will be pdf files.

You will receive all twelve patterns, in the pdf format, for $4.99. If you were to buy those separately, the way I've sold them in the past, you would pay $22.44. That's the bundle price, not the individual pricing. So, if you prefer pdf files, grab them now (all 12 for $4.99). I have not yet decided whether I will make the pdf files available again after my 90 days with Amazon is done. That will depend on how the e-book does.

The print edition is a separate entity and will not be affected. In fact, it's possible the print edition will be available in a few local yarn shops in the near future. Regardless, my blog will feature a link direct to the book as soon as Amazon has it. Most likely the print edition will be available first.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

More Things I LOVE (the knit addendum)

We went through my top crochet items a couple of weeks ago. Most of those can be placed on my favorite knit items list as well. However, I must add a few things for that list to properly reflect both of my needlework passions. So here they are:

1.  My bamboo needles -- Yes, I could go on ad nauseum about how much I adore my bamboo needles. One major reason I like them so much is that I generally work on scarves because I'm still a newbie knitter. My bamboo set is 8" long which is the perfect length for scarves and the perfect length for my arms. I find 10" to be a bit less comfortable and 14" to be difficult to manage while lazing on the couch.

2.  My Boye/Simplicity accessories kit -- I picked up this kit for cheap at Michael's and it's been a sanity saver. It contains almost everything I need including a pouch that's big enough that I could add the accessories I already owned. Now everything is in one place and I'm less likely to lose my stuff.
Added 3/20/12:  I've gotten this question a couple of times now, so I thought I'd add the answer. What's in the kit and what did I add? Well, the pic shows everything in the kit, but I'll list them. You get locking stitch markers in two colors, a 60" tape measure, 2 pairs of point protectors (1 large, 1 small), 2 plastic darning needles, a small stitch counter, a stitch holder (which doubles as a shawl pin in a pinch), and a 3 in 1 tool that acts as a knit and needle gauge and converts for yardage. I added more point protectors, a couple more row counters (one that works on circulars and larger needles), and a cable needle.

3.  Knittinghelp.com's knitting abbreviations glossary -- Since I am a completely self-taught knitter with no IRL knitter friends, I continuously rely on this site for instruction and help. Their glossary features links to videos so I can learn techniques without searching all over youtube (which is wonderful, but not as good). AND I'm a Continental knitter, not an English knitter, so double their goodness because knittinghelp.com features virtually all of their videos in both methods.

4.  HULU -- I don't watch much TV. Pretty much whatever television programming I watch is on hulu.com and lately I'm kind of hooked on Grimm and Once upon a Time. I don't really watch when I'm crocheting because I'm usually also designing and need to pay close attention, take notes, etc. When I knit, I knit for me, and most of that involves following a repetitive pattern, so I can zone out, knit, and watch.

5.  Ravelry -- I know I've already mentioned them in this series, but this site has been instrumental in encouraging my knitterly tendencies. Because I can search patterns so many different ways and store them all in my favorites list, I'm never at a loss for that next project. It's as close as my laptop. Whether I want to learn a new technique, find a simple rectangle to keep my hands busy while I watch HULU, or just browse and fantasize that my knit abilities are further developed than they really are, I can do it on Ravelry. And I'll say it again:  The BEST thing about Ravelry is that they're based in the Boston area. Wicked Pissah.

There you have it! Five more things (okay 4 more, but who's counting?) to add to that favorites list. Is there anything I'm missing? Feel free to post in the comments.

Happy Knitting!