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Knitting Groups: Have You Joined One?

knitxmidwest project
I’ve never belonged to a regular knitting/crocheting group. I used to get together with a group of friends to work on various types of craft projects (mostly scrapbooking), but we drifted apart when, well, life intervened. I also hang out with crafty family members, which is so much fun.

But I do feel a little disconnected from the fiber crafters in my area, and it seems like a missed opportunity. I’d love other chances to meet others in the area who love yarn as much as I do! Apart from special events (which I haven’t attended for a long time) and the instances mentioned above, most of my crafting time happens with the husband, Netflix and the cat (when she deigns to grace us with her presence) for company.

Some crafters I know have to really concentrate on their projects when they’re working on them, and it can be tough for them to carry on a conversation. I can relate to this on some projects, so I think I’d have to pick something fairly simple/repetitive for a group meet up.

This is really just a long-winded, rambling way to ask: What has your experience been like with your local knitting or crocheting group?

Yarns

In My Stash: Knit Picks Curio (Tea Rose and Ice Lily)

I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper – in fact, I had most of my Christmas gift shopping done well in advance of it. I’ve been making a more concerted effort to buy gifts throughout the year while I’m shopping (“Hey, I bet _____ would like that!) instead of just making a mental note and immediately forgetting. Still need to work on that, though.

The only sale I was really excited about was this one that’s still happening at Knit Picks. It’s an awesome time to stock up on my favorites. With my preference for thread crochet, it’s a no-brainer to grab some more Curio thread. It’s hard to beat $2 per 721-yard ball!

Curio

These photos were taken a while ago (green trees, I miss you), and I’ve used up a lot of this thread already. I have a few more colors on the way and can’t wait to see them. Knit Picks hasn’t released any new colors since introducing Curio, and while I love the ones they have, I’d be happy to see more.

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I love the Tea Rose color way – it’s easily the prettiest shade of pink thread I’ve been able to find. It appears a lot darker in person than it does on my screen – it’s actually pretty close to the next darkest color (Victorian), which I’ve also used.

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The light purple shade, Ice Lily, was also a lot darker than I expected. Here’s a comparison of Ice Lily and Tea Rose.

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I’ve used Comfrey (a darker purple color – not pictured), and Ice Lily is closer to the shade that I expected from Comfrey.

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I just finished up all of my Ice Lily…

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…you can see a peek at the centerpiece project I used it for here:

Mother's Day Centerpiece

I also used a bit of Tea Rose for, appropriately enough, the accent roses. The leaves are the Sagebrush color way (also shown in the first photo in this post), and the off-white sections are leftover Aunt Lydia’s in Natural.

Finished Objects

Sparkly Broomstick Lace Cowl

Now that the weather is getting cooler, I can break out some of the scarf projects I’ve made over the past year. Including my first (and so far only) attempt at broomstick lace.

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I made this sparkly broomstick lace cowl using this helpful tutorial. The yarn is Feza Jewel in Plum from my stash (two skeins). Wish I’d had a little more yarn to use so I could have made a longer infinity scarf.

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I’d also use a larger “broomstick” next time. I ended up using a jumbo knitting needle, but it didn’t make holes that were as large as I would have liked. The tutorial at the link above offers some good suggestions, and you can also buy broomstick lace pins that seem like they would work well. It was a fun and mostly stress-free project – a good one to try if you’re looking for a project that doesn’t require constant pattern-checking.

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WIP

Try, Try Again

As much as I’d like to share a post about a successful project that’s DONE (on the heels of my failed attempt to salvage an old project), here’s another cautionary tale. This time, it’s about the importance of counting your stitches when working crochet in the round… even when your pattern doesn’t provide a stitch/chain space count for a particular round. Especially when the pattern doesn’t provide a count. Do the math. Count the stitches.

If you zone out during a simultaneous Netflix/crochet session (ahem), you’ll make a rookie-level mistake that costs you hours and hours of effort. See that out-of-focus loop in the center of this (terribly blurry, so sorry) snapshot? Yep, that’s one skipped stitch that completely wrecked the tension and counts on every subsequent round.

Skipped Crochet Stitch

Which means all of the off-white stitches in the photo below have now been frogged – a process that took twenty minutes in itself. It’s times like these that it’s important to remember that the process, not the finished product, is what I really enjoy. 🙂 So help me feel better about this – what frustrating crochet/knitting mistakes have you made?

Table Topper

Fun Stuff

Getting Started

Do you remember learning how to knit or crochet? When you’ve been doing something for a long time, it’s hard to remember where you started and how difficult it was. That’s certainly the case for me – I’d rather forget the frustration and frogging. 🙂

A woman named Dayna has started posting about a series of challenges that her family and friends have given her to help her learn new things and get outside her comfort zone. Aside from being a great idea in general (who hasn’t made a “bucket list” at one point?) I love that one of her challenges was to learn how to crochet from her mom.

It seems that, more often than not, this type of craft is passed down from one generation to another. It just makes the hobby that much more meaningful. Who taught you to knit or crochet?

 

Fun Stuff, Yarns

New Orleans

The husband and I celebrated a milestone anniversary this year with a cruise out of the Port of New Orleans. Neither of us had been to NOLA before, so we specifically chose this cruise so we could spend a couple of days there prior to setting sail. We stayed quite close to the French Quarter and focused most of our time in that area since our stay was short.

Naturally, the trip included a crafty shopping component. In the spirit of keeping things relevant around here, I’ll cut to the chase and deliver the yarn store goods first. Then, if you’re interested, stick around for some other trip highlights. 🙂

Yarn

The Quarter Stitch on Chartres St. is lovely, with a selection that’s broad without being overwhelming. There was definitely a “community” vibe when I was in the store – the staff was very friendly, stepping in to offer customers advice on patterns and chatting about the merits of different fibers with customers. Overall, a very pleasant experience.

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I picked up a skein as a souvenir of the trip. I just love it when yarn stores pack your purchases in fancy wrapping. Here’s mine, on the ledge of our hotel window.

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I’m a big believer in the importance of providing a unique and memorable customer experience. There’s a lot of competition in the market, and seemingly small gestures can turn a relatively ordinary experience (making a purchase) into something special. Ribbons? Tissue paper? Heart-shaped confetti and an adorable tag? My yarn purchase is still stored in this wrapping, in fact, and you can bet I’ll remember the store when I’m ready to use it.

And here’s my yarn – a skein of my beloved Blue Heron Rayon Metallic.

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I picked the Mossy Place colorway because of its fun and festive shades – a reminder of the vibrant character of the city. I also had my eye on the Tapestry colorway, but ultimately couldn’t resist this one.

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Gorgeous as always – I just love this yarn and save it for really special projects. (I just finished my Gail shawl in Turquoise – it’s blocked and drying as I type!)

Visiting

Although our stay was short, we discovered that there really is something for everyone who visits. And, apparently, anyone who is in the market for real estate. Whatever your stance on the supernatural, there’s a property for you. (Budget allowing, of course. 😉 )

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Food & Drink

One of the first orders of business was to check out the infamous Bourbon Street. The Pat O’Brien’s location on Bourbon Street has a beautiful courtyard – a welcome oasis after traveling. Hurricanes and mint juleps all around. Speaking of unique customer experiences – they wash out your glass for you, box it up and let you take it home as a souvenir. Again, small gestures make a difference.

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We ate dinner at Mother’s one evening, which is something of a New Orleans institution. It’s not cheap, but they do make a great po’ boy.

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Rounding out our tourist-heavy food & drink itinerary is the obligatory Café du Monde pilgrimage. We stood in an impressively long line at the “to go” window, to avoid an even more daunting line for those wanting to eat “inside” the airy structure. There were some areas to sit behind the French Market, and so we grabbed our beignets and coffee and sat in the relative peace and quiet to enjoy. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s a long wait. But we weren’t about to visit NOLA for the first time without doing it.

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Sights

We also made our visit a cultural one, stopping at two Louisiana State Museum sites in Jackson Square: The Cabildo (pictured below – and note the jazz musicians playing on the nearby balcony) and The Presbytère. The latter is home to a compelling Katrina exhibit with multimedia displays and artifacts, plus a Mardi Gras exhibit that includes many costumes, parade float components and other treasures.

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Jackson Square is so pretty, and look! Thanks to a combination of luck and a sudden, short burst of rain that cleared the area, I got the iconic Jackson Square photo without a ton of (other) tourists in it. I know everyone takes a photo from this spot, but it’s still by far my favorite one from the trip. 🙂

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We peeked inside Saint Louis Cathedral while we were there, too.

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One of our last stops was Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. It was quite a hike to get here from our hotel. I’d done a bit of reading about the cemetery before our trip, so we saw most of the highlights (including Nicholas Cage’s pyramid tomb…). If we’d had a bit more time, I think we might have benefitted from a guided tour.

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So there you have it – our short and sweet trip. Have you been to New Orleans, and if so, what were the highlights of your trip?

Inspiration

Fair Contest Report

I’ve mentioned it before, but the main reason I enter my local contest is to get inspired by others’ projects. It’s fun when I even recognize some of the patterns and yarns that were used.

Of course, the competitive aspect of the contest is also part of the fun. I was completely shocked – and extremely flattered – to receive Best of Show for crochet, among other honors. But mostly, I’m lucky to have access to such a large and impressive display of talent – the picture below doesn’t even include half of the exhibit space for fabric and threads!

Fair Contest

I’ll show pictures of my projects (with as many construction/materials details as I can remember) in future posts. But first, I wanted to show my photos of a few projects that inspired me at the exhibit. The most visible names on the projects have been clumsily Photoshopped out to protect privacy – I’m sensitive to the fact that not everyone wants their name displayed online. But on the off chance that one of them is yours and you’d like to claim credit by name, let me know! 🙂

If you happen to recognize a pattern for one of the projects pictured, feel free to mention it in the comments – I’d love to add it to the post so others can make it too!

This first project was in the baby blanket class. I loved the abundance of texture in the pattern. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful in-the-round baby blankets I’ve seen. I kind of want to make it as a doily, too!

Fair Contest

Lately I’ve been loving lacy knit shawls in white/ivory yarn. It’s tough for me to pass up colorful yarn in favor of the simplicity of white yarn, but after seeing so many stunning results I’m going to have to give it a try.

Fair Contest

I can’t confirm the pattern for this crocheted afghan, but it does remind me of the Popcorn Ripple Afghan pattern that I’ve had in my Ravelry favorites forever.

Fair Contest

I took several photos of this shawl – I just have to make it! Any leads as to the whereabouts of the pattern would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

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This crocheted cardigan appears to have been made from Loops & Threads Payette. I have bunch of that yarn in my stash for another project (in another color way), and it was nice to see that it works up so beautifully.

Fair Contest

Look at those tiny perfect stitches! The shawl below has great colors, a lovely, simple design, and wonderful technique. An all-around winner in my book!

Fair Contest

I swear I just saw the pattern for this gorgeous square doily, and now I can’t find it. I’m thinking perhaps it’s adapted from a table runner, but that’s a guess. In any case, it’s another one I want to make myself.

Fair Contest

This yarn. It’s beautiful and I would want to get some ASAP… if I knew what it was. The crocheter showed it off to advantage with this swirling fan pattern. (Update: I figured out that this is Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in Sunrise. And yes, I bought some. 🙂 )

Fair Contest

Finally, here’s one I recognize – it’s the famous “Bigger on the Inside” shawl! I’ll be completely honest – this awesome TARDIS-inspired shawl pattern is one of the key reasons (in addition to cables) that I wanted to learn how to knit in the first place. As a beginner, I looked at the pattern, sighed at my lack of skill, and filed it away for future use. But I just bought the yarn to make it and hope to get started in the not-too-distant future. I wonder which stitch markers I’ll use…

Fair Contest

Thanks for sticking with me through this post – I hope you enjoyed looking at these inspiring projects as much as I did!

Finished Objects, Past Projects

Crocheted Lorelei Shawl

I find out tomorrow how my projects rated at the contest – exciting! Not to mention the main reason I enjoy going, which is all of the awesome inspiration I get from others’ projects. Now that I’m on my third year of entering, I can recognize names of fellow entrants I admire – and even the names of some of the patterns/designers and yarns/colorways they have used. I love it.

I’ll be more timely about sharing the latest round of entries, but I’ll also continue to share projects I’ve entered in the past. This shawl was from my very first year of entering the fair contest.

Crocheted Lorelai Shawl

The pattern is the Lorelei shawl by Kimberly K. McAlindin, and the yarn is Lily Sugar’n Cream. The variegated colorway is Country Side. The solid color is just some coordinating green.

Crocheted Lorelai Shawl

I love the look of the yarn, but one of the judges questioned the choice (but didn’t really elaborate on why). To be fair, the cotton is pretty heavy for this type of project – it’s not a terribly useful shawl, but it’s nice as a “lapghan.” 🙂 I doubt I would pick it again for this project.

Crocheted Lorelai Shawl

This one got a fourth place prize, and I was over the moon to get awards in my first year of entering. It’s a fantastic pattern, and I’ve actually been wanting to recreate it with lighter yarn.

Crocheted Lorelai Shawl

Until then, the work progresses on my Gail (Nightsongs) shawl and I’ve finally gotten the hang of it.

Finished Objects, Past Projects

Ready or not…

…it’s almost time to enter my knitting and crochet projects into this year’s fair contest. It looks like I’ll have 16 entries this year – down from last year’s 20, but still not too bad. 🙂 Here’s a peek at a few of my projects:

Victorian Romantic Pineapples 5

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Circular Motif Shawl by Babycakes Creates

Nennir Scarf

Donna Spiral Doily

And now that I’ve cut myself off from making contest projects before this year’s deadline, I’m spending time on some fun projects with no pressure. I’m finally using my Blue Heron Rayon Metallic to make a shawl, and it… is… amazing. It just knits up beautifully. More on that project later!

Finished Objects

Seaside Tote

Here’s a project that’s perfect for summer – the Seaside tote! I created this one a couple of years ago using Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombres & Prints. I haven’t been able to find the name of the color way… anyone? Summer Splash is similar but includes yellow tones.

Seaside Tote

Instead of creating a round bottom as specified by the pattern, I modified the bag to have an oval bottom. To do so, I just used a free pattern I found for an oval rug to determine the structure/increases, then kept working it until I had the number of stitches I needed to begin on the sides. For additional strength, I then made a second oval and attached it inside the bag with a row of slip stitches.

Seaside Tote

I also added a row of single crocheted stitches to the edges of the straps to help prevent stretching and give them a nice finished look. The single crocheted edge actually continues around the top edge of the bag for additional reinforcement.

Seaside Tote