Chicago Trip

The husband and I snuck away for a weekend in Chicago recently, and it was wonderful! In the midst of a busy season, it was great to take a mini trip and get in some quality time.

Our “must-do” was the Willis Tower Skydeck Chicago, 1,353 feet above the ground. 103 stories. See those tiny cubes on the side of the building in this very zoomed-in photo? Yeah, that’s where we headed.

Chicago Skydeck

I was worried about crowds (having been warned that it gets busy on weekends), so we got there very early. We were there on a Saturday, and it opened at 9:30 a.m. – not 10 a.m. like the website indicated. That was good news for us, because we were in the first group to go up for the day. The process of getting in and going through security/ticketing was remarkably efficient. We didn’t feel rushed at all as we took photos in the Skydeck. Here’s a view from the top – not for the faint of heart.

Chicago Skydeck

We got out nice and early, and headed off to do more sightseeing. Next up was another iconic landmark at Millenium Park. After taking some obligatory reflection photos in the Cloud Gate and seeing the park’s other highlights, we were ready for the next stop.

Chicago Millenium Park Cloud Gate

The husband and I walked over to Navy Pier, but didn’t do anything except stop in a gift shop and take some photos at the end before continuing our tour of the city.

chicagonavypier1

We happened to be visiting during the Open House Chicago event, and since we had time we decided to go to Tribune Tower. The building is beautiful, and stones from famous locales are embedded in its exterior.

Chicago Tribune Tower

Because of this special event, we were able to tour the Tribune’s digital media department, which is located where the newspaper used to be printed. It’s a very open, industrial-looking space that combines old and new elements. I was so glad we were visiting during this rare time it was open to the public.

Chicago Tribune Tower Digital Media

Final stop for the day: The Art Institute of Chicago. We were pretty wiped out by this point, and didn’t have the energy to see as much as we would have liked. It was great to see the highlights of the museum, however, such as Marc Chagall’s America Windows.

Art Institute Chicago America Windows

The next day we spent a significant amount of time at the Museum of Science and Industry. This museum was playing host to a fantastic exhibit of Disney memorabilia. It was amazing to see items such as the carpet bag from Mary Poppins, the prop storybooks from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the first ticket ever purchased at Disneyland, and Walt Disney’s personal notes written on scripts and signage. Just wow.

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

Capping off the trip was a stop at a yarn shop – Loopy Yarns. Like my other experiences with local yarn stores, it was wonderful.

chicagoloopyyarns1

Helpful staff, a nice selection (including a lower-level sale section), and, importantly for the ever-patient husband, a comfy sitting area. 🙂

Chicago Loopy Yarns

I picked up a couple of skeins of yarn, branching out into a color that I wouldn’t normally choose. It was an unusual choice for me, and will be a nice reminder of our fun trip. They even wrapped up the yarn in tissue paper – it’s the little things that make a difference. More info about this yarn to come!

chicagoyarnpurchase

I’m Just So Busy… and Other Terrible Excuses for Putting Your Hobbies on Hold

Sunburst Pineapple Crochet Hooks

I’m not sure what causes the innate desire to “justify” our personal time, but I know I’m guilty of it. At times, especially when I’m extremely busy (as I have been the past few weeks), I feel like the time I spend on hobbies is somehow wasteful.

This feeling often occurs on an unconscious level, and it’s only upon later reflection that I realize I didn’t enjoy my already limited crafting time as much as I could have – because I was worrying about all of the other things I was “supposed” to be doing. How unfortunate! The truth is that those things could wait. If the task needed to be a priority, then I wouldn’t have been working on my hobbies in the first place.

I know that personal time is important, and that having my own hobbies is rewarding. Here are the main reasons that, for me, using some of my free time for them is worthwhile:

  • Working on my hobby is personally satisfying. I love the feeling of turning skeins of yarn into beautiful knit or crocheted items. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride in my abilities – especially when I have learned a new technique.
  • It allows me a chance to relax. Anyone who has a creative hobby knows that it isn’t always relaxing. Just ask me how my closed-loop cable-knit scarf is going. 🙂 But most of the time, knitting or crocheting (or scrapbooking or blogging or…) help me clear my mind. And that refreshes me for when it’s time to get back to necessary errands or tasks around the house.
  • I have a new opportunity to connect with others. I’m always amazed by the interesting conversations that get started when I mention my hobbies. More often than not, the person I am talking to has either tried knitting or crocheting or knows someone who has. They may even begin talking about a loved one who has passed on, sharing fond memories of how that person enjoyed the hobby. In any case, it’s an opportunity to learn things about a person I might never have discovered. This goes for online interactions, too – how fantastic to have online social channels on which to share projects and advice!

Those are just a few of the many reasons why I find taking time for my own pursuits so important. I do have to be careful not to add my craft projects to my “to-do” list, letting each one become just another thing I have to get done. These activities are supposed to be fun, and if I need to take a night off to just relax in front of the TV or surf the internet, I know that’s okay too!

What are your main reasons for spending your valuable spare time on your hobbies?

A Tale of Two Harunis

Hot on the heels of my Chroma Lollipop Haruni project wrapup, here is the other Haruni shawl that I made soon after. This one was made with my Knit Picks Comfy in Sea Foam.

knit picks comfy yarn haruni shawl

I’m still not too sure about this one. Because the yarn doesn’t have the “halo” that the Chroma has, it seems less forgiving of my uneven stitches.

knit picks comfy yarn haruni shawl

When it’s flat, like it is in the photos, it looks great. But drape it over anything… like, oh, say, shoulders… and it doesn’t seem to hang quite right. I do love the color, though, and it was nice to use a solid shade to give more emphasis to the pattern. Another thing I like? The fact that I went with the crocheted edging on this one rather than the I-cord option (which I used on my Chroma version).

knit picks comfy yarn haruni shawl

In any case, I was very pleased to make this lovely pattern again! I rarely repeat patterns, but I wouldn’t mind creating several more Haruni shawls.

Pssst… I went on a little weekend getaway and yes, it involved a yarn-store stop. Can’t wait to share the details and my haul. 🙂

To see this project on Ravelry, click here.

Chroma Lollipop Haruni Shawl

You may recall that I purchased some Knit Picks Chroma yarn in Lollipop to make a Haruni shawl. Well here it is!

Chroma Lollipop Haruni Shawl

I got the idea to use the yarn for this pattern after seeing one created by a Ravelry user. It’s a fantastic way to take advantage of the gradually transitioning colors – just look at the neat ripples it makes on the edging!

Chroma Lollipop Haruni Shawl

I had a lot of trouble keeping my center stitches even in this pattern. I thought it might just be because of the varying thicknesses found in the yarn, but I had the same problem with the one I made with my Comfy yarn.

IMG_5428

There are two edging options for this project – a crocheted edging and a knit I-cord edging. For the sake of trying something new, I went with the I-cord edging. Now that I’m done, I think I would have preferred the daintier crocheted edging option. Oh well – now I know! Practice makes perfect, and I still need a lot of practice. 🙂

Chroma Lollipop Haruni Shawl

See this project on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/BabycakesCreates/haruni

In My Stash: Yarn Bee Soft Secret

Here’s another acrylic yarn, because, let’s face it – not every yarn purchase can be a splurge. In this exciting episode, I once again prove that I have a problematic addiction to anything the turquoise/teal family. 🙂 This particular manifestation? Yarn Bee Soft Secret in Teal.

Yarn Bee Soft Secret

This yarn has a noticeable sheen to it, and is also very smooth to the touch. It is similar to Caron SimplySoft, which some people don’t like because it feels too “plastic-y.”

Yarn Bee Soft Secret

I personally really like this “shiny” characteristic, however. Soft Secret comes many jewel-tone shades that beckon from the Hobby Lobby shelf…

Yarn Bee Soft Secret

I have five or six skeins of this colorway. I keep changing my mind about what pattern I want to use it for – any thoughts?

There’s No Crying in Casting On

Learning a new skill is incredibly humbling. I have crocheted for a long time, and feel fairly confident in my abilities when I start a new pattern. Knitting, though? A whole different story. I think it’s good to be put back in the position of a beginner – it makes you appreciate how far you have come!

I have no problem admitting that getting started (using a garter stitch tab) on my Haruni shawl was difficult for me. (If you recall, I had some Chroma in my stash that I wanted to use for this project.) Ironically, I used the crochet provisional cast-on method to get started – and that’s the part that gave me trouble!

haruni shawl in progress

In hindsight, I have no idea why creating a garter stitch tab was so darn tough. I just kept trying, frogging, and trying again. Finally, I watched the video below for help. It was incredibly useful. What did we ever do before YouTube? Oh, but it’s important to note (as the video’s creator does in the comments) that at the end, she should have placed the last three stitches on her left needle, then knitted them onto her right. Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense right now – all will be revealed when you watch. 🙂

I’m happy to report that I finally made a garter stitch tab that I am satisfied with, and the Haruni shawl is done! Update to come.

In My Stash: Stroll Tonal Sock Yarn

Have I mentioned that I love cable knitting? Because I love cable knitting. So when I saw the Nennir cowl pattern, I knew I wanted to give it a try.

Such a beautiful Celtic cable pattern called for a gorgeous yarn to match. Specifically, I wanted a variegated green to complement the cables in the pattern. I found exactly what I was looking for when I bought Stroll Tonal Sock Yarn in Canopy.

stroll tonal sock yarn canopy

I’m actually using this yarn to make a full-length scarf in the Nennir pattern, instead of just a cowl. As I near the halfway point of the scarf, I’m very happy with how the project is going. As always, I promise pictures when I’m done. 🙂

stroll tonal sock yarn canopy

I would absolutely use this yarn again. The only odd thing? It has a very noticeable (chemical? dye?) smell. I’m optimistic that it will go away when I wash it, though. Has anyone else noticed it with this yarn? I haven’t experienced it with other Knit Picks yarns.