Thursday Things: Crochet

Crochet gets an undeserved bad rap.  

Sure, there are some pretty unflattering and unattractive patterns made in unappealing yarn, however that's not crochet's fault. 

There are some pretty cool stuff that you can only make with a hook, rather than a needle. 

Last week I saw a beautiful example of crochet pop up on my instagram feed.  Unfortunately, it was because Catherine of ZigZagStitches was sharing her evening's pursuit and that it wasn't going to keep doing it.  

However it sparked something in me. 

I've crocheted before, and enjoyed it.  I made a couple of baby blankets a few years back when I got a kit from KnitPicks. 

I also went on a bit of an amigurumi bender ... 

So after a couple years off crochet, that image from Catherine hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wanted it, I wanted it so bad. 

And as someone with some serious sock yarn scraps (and access to more from my sister!), I decided (after asking said sister to talk me out of wanting to make it) to make one for myself. 

My plan is to use the Flowers in the Snow pattern from Ravelry, but instead of changing colors on every round, do them solid and then outline and join them in white.  This means that I can make the centers now, and only when I get around 200 centers together do I need to worry about the outsides. 

The original from Sols(tr)ikke - and my main inspiration

The original from Sols(tr)ikke - and my main inspiration

I've started making the centers, and I love the way they are working up.  Just another 198 to go!

Thursday Things: Hello Sunshine!

So, the thing that is making me happiest for the last little while is the Sunshine!

I know we will probably get spring, but this little taste of summer has been delightful and exactly what we all needed to shake off the long, cold winter that stretched from November till April.

I've been working a short contract at a local planning firm (yay for work in my field) and while I'm sad that I'm not able to spend all day, every day, outside, my knitting lunch breaks are making due.

And what is better than knitting in the sunshine?

Knitting in the sunshine with sunny yarn, which in this case is Georgian Bay Fibre Co. Kilcoursie Fingering in McKellar Honey.

One of my fave things about BFL yarn is the dynamic shimmer that you get from the slightly longer, larger BFL fibers.  They have a shimmer and shine that just glows in the sun. 

The sunshine also means that my outdoor activites have been kicked into high gear.  While I did get out for a hike nearly every day of the winter (despite the cold temperatures), there is something so much more fun about being able go out without spending a half-hour gearing up.  Although, I do find myself a little bit lost without pockets.

I've been to add a bit of running into my walks to get them over with quicker.  So far I haven't been able to make much of a difference, but every step is a good step. Oh, and the uglier the shoes the faster you move, so my new pair (the last pair were completely dead) are super comfy and also majorly ugly.

Also, for the last couple mornings I've been using my balcony to it's full effect and done some morning sun salutations, facing the Muskoka River. There is something about the smell of the sunshine and the river that is just unparalleled and so special.  

I'm not the only one who has been enjoying the sunshine, Jack says that he misses being the star of Feline Friday so he asked that I include his favorite way to enjoy the sunshine.

So how have you been enjoying the sunshine of late? Are you getting your garden ready, or just taking a book out to the backyard?

Thursday Things: Podcasts

I'm still here, and I'm sorry for the radio silence.  In addition to working and teaching at the Creativ Festival last weekend (which I will tell you about soon, tell but not show, because I'm a terrible person who forgets to take pictures, all the time), I've been working a day job.  It's been good but it's a pretty big adjustment and I just need to get myself more organized to make sure that I'm keeping to my blog schedule, in addition to trying to keep my place clean, knitting and getting exercise.

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Thing: Podcasts

These past couple of weeks I've been relying heavily on this week's Thursday Thing - Podcasts. 

I am a big time podcast fiend, I am currently subscribed to 20 of them and always looking for more. I listen to them when I'm driving, when I'm hiking, when I'm doing chores.  One of my favorite things in the world to do is sit outside in the sunshine, do my knitting and listen to an amazing podcast about Mrs. Winchester's Mystery House, or at least it was my favorite part of today.

And sit in the sun, knit and listen to podcasts, I did!

And sit in the sun, knit and listen to podcasts, I did!

My current podcast collection - in no particular order (source listed in brackets)

  • The Longest Shortest Time (WNYC) - Parenting
  • Savage Lovecast (The Stranger) - Sex & Relationships
  • On the Media (WNYC) - Journalism and media coverage of media coverage of news
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour (NPR) - News and entertainment roundtable discussion
  • The Allusionist (Radiotopia) - Words and etymologies
  • 99% Invisible (Radiotopia) - Design
  • Criminal (Radiotopia) - The fall out from criminal activities
  • The Heart (Radiotopia) - Sex and love
  • Death, Sex & Money (WNYC) - death, sex and money conversations
  • Under the Influence (CBC) - Marketing
  • White Coat, Black Art (CBC) - Medicine
  • The Moth (NPR) - True stories told live
  • This American Life (NPR) - Stories about life based around a weekly theme
  • Planet Money (NPR) - Economics
  • Radiolab (WNYC) - Amazing stories told with unique radio techniques
  • Cities Alive - Urban planning
  • Woolful - Yarn and Fiber
  • Serial - A story told week by week
  • Invisibilia - Science stories about invisible forces that surround us

For me podcasts are like little windows into different worlds, and the closest thing I've had to lectures since leaving graduate school.  I was one of those nutty kids who really enjoyed going to class, because I got to listen to a very smart person talk about something they really cared about. 

But my love of listening (as opposed to reading or watching) the news started when I lived in Texas as a pre-teen. My big rebellion at the age of 13/14 was to stay awake until 10pm (I think) and listen to the BBC World Service on NPR and hope that I didn't get caught staying up so late. (I'm drafting this post at 9:53 pm and wondering how long after 10pm I will be able to get to bed!)

Podcasts have this way of settling me down and allowing my mind to be taken to a different place.  This is great for when I'm in a situation where I need to sort-of focus, like when driving long distances or when trying to go out on a long hike. 

In fact, one of the ways I was able to stay so active this winter was that if I walked I would get a chance to listen to my favorite podcasts.  

And there are so very many favorite podcasts. 

Generally my listening habits can be broken down into a few categories of podcasts;  the storytelling podcasts, the educational podcasts and the advice podcasts.

The storytelling podcasts have a habit of making me cry, from The Heart to The Moth to This American Life, these intimate pieces find their way into your heart and soul and make it impossible to ignore the humanity within us all.  Even The Sporkfull, the one for eaters, brings together humanity around the experience of eating (and Dan Pashman is a funny dude). 

The Educational podcasts, like Planet Money, 99% Invisible and Under the Influence, help me learn about economics, design and marketing, respectively, and make sure that my brain remains active, and I get to engage with a topic that doesn't come up in my day to day life.  

And the advice podcasts are just fun!  I consider The Savage Lovecast with Dan Savage to be my candy.  The good, but irreverent, advice that Dan gives his callers has been keeping me company for almost 10 years (how on earth did that happen!).  His was the first podcast I started listening to, and now 444 episodes and 9 years later I look forward to hearing Dan give advice, as much as I did back in undergrad. 

I know many people discovered podcasts for the first time with the pop culture phenomenon of Serial, but looking back I've been listening to podcasts since around 2006 (I think I started when I learned about the Savage Lovecast before it was called the Savage Lovecast).  The only other thing that can give me the same experience, is audio books, and even then I like the variety of podcasts to listening to a book. 

So what are your feelings on podcasts?  Are you a fan, do you have any great recommendations for one I should be listening to?  Please share any suggestions in the comments because there aren't nearly enough hours in the day to listen to all the podcasts out there, but I seem to always be running out of new ones to listen to. 

P.S. I managed to get this post ready to go by 10:30, so not too late at night, but a bit late to catch BBC World Report back in 1998.

Thursday Things: Embroidery with Rebecca Ringquist

In the summer of 2013, I had my first exposure to embroidery, through the blogs and social media of the likes of Susan B. Anderson and Jillian Moreno (of Knitty), among others.  I was intrigued so I went digging and I found the samplers of Rebecca Ringquist of Dropcloth Samplers.  And I'm so glad I did. This week, her new embroidery book has been released and what a wonderful book it is.

Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshop

I find embroidery to be the perfect counterpoint, or balance, to knitting.  For me knitting is about precision and math, because as a part-time technical editor and designer I can't help but think about the structure of the knitting and pattern as the enjoyment of the knitting. By contrast, embroidery is totally freeform, yes the pre-printed samplers do give you guidelines, so much more of the design work is up to the stitcher.  I find this freedom enjoyable and totally terrifying.  While I know, intellectually, there are no wrong answers in embroidery, I can't help but think that I'm doing it wrong all the time. 

Thankfully, Rebecca Rinquist's Embroidery Workshops reminds me that there are some proper ways to make stitches, but other than that you can follow the mantra of the book "A Bend-The-Rules Primer" and just make your art.  And that the embroidery police aren't going to come and take away your work because you decided to try something strange and new. 

Also, that I need to throw caution to the wind, because some of what has been holding me back on the samplers I already have, is a bit of analysis paralysis.  I can spend a lifetime working out the right colors to use on a sampler, when really, all the samplers I've done so far are just fine, wait, no they are kind of awesome. 

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

But back to the book, it is broken down into 6 sections: Get Ready, Stitch, Trace, Draw, Layer and Finish.  Get Read, Stitch, Trace and Finish beautiful job showing the tools, stitches and techniques you need to get stitching and displaying your work, while Draw and Layer highlight the beautiful embroidery work of Rebecca and gives you projects and inspiration to go beyond the sampler.

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

So whether you are a totally new to embroidery, or have lots of experience, the book is suitable. For those of us who lack inspiration, her projects all have ideas on how to start.  

My favorite part of the book is that it is filled with Rebecca's lovely little illustrations.  

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Thing: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

They are so adorable and approachable, and makes the book feel like it's a gift from a friend who just wants you to get out and make art. The binding, a hardcover without a slipcover, is beautiful and the endpapers are printed in electric orange.  

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

And, there is a stitchable sampler right there in the book!  I will be leaving my safe and sound for now, because my pile of unstitched samplers is a bit large, much to my embarrassment.  But thankfully samplers pack up a whole lot smaller than a yarns stash does.

As a subscriber to the Dropcloth Stitch of the Month and Colorburst Samplers, and someone who owns nearly all of Rebecca's samplers that have been available since I first found her shop, I have a whole bunch of stitching to do, but this book serves as both inspiration and guide to help me make my way through them.  

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

I think what I might do is try to commit to doing at least one sampler a month, because it helps me turn off my knitting brain and engage with a completely different skill set.  I already have a head start on April's, but mostly because I think I started it last summer. 

Lone/Maple Studio's Thursday Things: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

So keep your eyes on my instagram feed, that is where I usually post my latest projects and finished designs.

Thursday Things: The Best Knitting Needles

Tools, good ones, make such a difference when working on a project.  As a knitter, the primary tool is the knitting needle and what makes a knitting needle "good" is just so subjective.

Some of the considerations include the needle material (wood, metal, or acrylic), configuration (DPN, circular, straight), needle shape (round or square) and tip pointy-ness.  And then within each of these sections are subsections upon subsections.  And each one of these begets more decisions.  Oh and if you are a circular needle fan, do you do fixed circulars or an interchangeable set?

Fixed Circs, Interchangeables, DPNs and 9in Circs - my ChiaoGoo Collection.  Jack just can't help but get in on the action.

Fixed Circs, Interchangeables, DPNs and 9in Circs - my ChiaoGoo Collection.  Jack just can't help but get in on the action.

For me, the best knitting needle is the ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles. I have them in interchangeable, fixed, 9in circs and DPNs.  These needles work for me because they have very pointy tips, and amazing wire-y cables that are AMAZING for magic looping.  

They are steel, so they don't make my hands smell like pennies (like Addi needles used to, I know they've changed).  They have a crazy smooth join, which means when my stitches are too tight they don't snag (like the KnitPicks/Knitter's Pride needles do).  They also have their sizes (and lengths on the interchangeable cables) lasered in, and somehow they don't wear off or have any sort of impact on the smoothness of the needle. 

Two interchangeable needles, they show the size in US and Metric as well as the cable size.  In the interchangeable set, there are two cable sizes so that the joins are proportional to the different needles.

Two interchangeable needles, they show the size in US and Metric as well as the cable size.  In the interchangeable set, there are two cable sizes so that the joins are proportional to the different needles.

ChiaoGoo is not the most popular or flashiest brand  Signatures), they don't come in fun colors (KnitPicks/Knitter's Pride), and they aren't square or have leather cables (like Kollage).  But, they also don't cost a fortune (Signatures) or have a miles long waiting list (DyakCraft - which has cleared its backlog, but are unfortunately unable to make their DarnPretty Needles after a fire at their suppliers factories).  

The matching cases for fixed circulars (bottom), interchangeable (middle) and DPNs & 9in circs (top) just make me so happy.

The matching cases for fixed circulars (bottom), interchangeable (middle) and DPNs & 9in circs (top) just make me so happy.

Now all the things I've mentioned make them the perfect needle for me, but you may need a totally setup.  Maybe the Addi Sock Rockets are the only ones that make it possible for you to knit socks, maybe you can only get gauge with a square needle. 

This whole idea of finding your best needles was inspired because recently I stupidly left a knitting project out on the couch and Jack (the cat) managed to get his teeth into the cables.  This meant that it was time for me to order a few new ones, because the idea of not having cables for my interchangeable set, was seriously upsetting, because these needles are my most favorite of all!

I also saw that they have 37" cables, which I haven't found before.  With the 5" tips that makes a 47" circular needle.

I also saw that they have 37" cables, which I haven't found before.  With the 5" tips that makes a 47" circular needle.

Since getting my ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles I've tried others (including their traditional tip needle) and it just didn't work for me.  My knitting was was slow and sluggish and I kept splitting stitches.  I was not being the best knitter I could be. 

But that doesn't mean that everyone should be running out to by ChiaoGoos, although I am a big fan and suggest that you might try one if you are looking for a pretty fast, pointy needle and you plan to do magic loop (or not).  But if you find that there is something not quite right with your needles, try another kind.  

If you are in the KnitPicks/Knitter's Pride universe, they have a million different types of tips (okay maybe a dozen at this stage) and I know there are ladies in my knit night group who swear by the Carbonz because they are fast like metal but are warmer and have a bit of flex in them.  

I know of one knitter who loves the Knitter's Pride needles because she can switch between material types depending on where she is going, like out hunting with her husband.  When she uses metal needles the clicking sound drives him batty, but the wood ones don't make a peep.

So what are your favorite needles and why? Please share with me your favorite needles and why.  I would love to have a way of recommending needles to new-ish knitters based on their knitting needs, rather than thinking that all needles are the same.  Maybe your hint will make knitting easier for another knitter out there.

Oh I found buttons for the little red sweater.  Now I just have to convince my mom to sew them on for me, because she is the official button sewist of the family.  Maybe another pair of knitted socks will be a fair trade to her.

Sheep buttons for a baby sweater