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Monday, October 3, 2016

Stitch House Dorchester

I'm so lucky to have gotten a chance to do a little traveling this year, and I'm just back from my first trip to Boston!  While there, I got the chance to visit the most awesome yarn store called Stitch House Dorchester



What a wonderful selection of yarns, and, in my efforts to design more baby items, I picked up a kit of local, Wonderland hand dyed yarns by Frabjous Fibers.


I also am excited about trying the Dreambaby DK by Plymouth Yarn (I'll be posting separately about some ideas I have for that luscious yarn!)

But the best part of the visit was getting to talk with the lovely Carrie ("just like in the Stephen King novel!" she says ;-).  Turns out she's very familiar with the DC area, so it was fun talking about LYSs and the fiber arts in general.



The shop really is a must-visit if you're in the Boston area.  Be prepared to do some serious shopping (no sales tax on yarn in Mass.!) and hanging out in the shop, you'll be glad you did.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

O Canada!

We just got back from a trip to Montreal and Quebec City.

It was just so wonderful. The people could not be nicer, the streets were so clean and safe-feeling, and the scenery was amazing. Though, the highway drive between the two cities seemed like "bizarro America" because it was just like driving through Maryland or Pennsylvania but with French signage!  I wonder if I could live with 8 feet of snow a year...

And, thanks to a wonderful and indulgent hubby, I was able to stop by a yarn store in each city.  The concierge at the Intercontinental Hotel in Montreal obviously was not a crocheter or knitter because she just pulled up a random shop that didn't quite sound right; thankfully I got my internet working and was able to do a little searching of my own (tried to do research before leaving home, but couldn't figure out on the map how close/far things were).  Hence, right before heading out of town, we stopped at La Maison Tricotee (The Knitting House).  Everyone there was so friendly and tolerant of my attempts at French (though French is definitely the first language, everyone switches to English as soon as they see a blank stare in response to whatever they've just ), and they pointed out a lovely locally-dyed yarn that I grabbed up (and it was very reasonable in Canadian dollars, and, with the exchange rate, was even better in US dollars!).  It's definitely a modern, hip yarn store, with a comfortable seating area, a cafe, and all the bells and whistles you'd want in an LYS.  The neighborhood in which it's located sure seemed like a nice place to live as well.




Then off to Quebec City!  We stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Le Frontenac; it was like a fairy tale castle!  



We wore ourselves out running around the hotel hallways to the indoor pool and spa and then through the quaint alleyways full of shops and restaurants.  In the afternoon, we went driving in search of a yarn shop.  The first one I pulled up in my search, Softi, now is a beautiful art gallery but not what we were looking for.  So, off to La Dauphine we went (and thankfully there was an organic boulangerie next door for the husband :-).  



Although when you first enter, it appears a bit unorganized with no sitting area, you soon discover the amazing selection of yarns they have, really good quality, reasonably priced beauties.  Again the ladies there could not have been nicer or more helpful to me as I stumbled around trying to decide what to buy.  As soon as I actually unpack (got back late Sunday night and had to go to work on Monday :-(, I'll be posting pix of my finds and my plans of what to do with them! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Trip to Knitlandia

As I'm working on a post about baby blankets and trying to figure out some technical issues about how to make a fabulous chart of measurements available to you all, I decided to take a little "trip."  I've been meaning to get Knitlandia by Clara Parkes (note: affiliate link to book on Amazon provided below) and had a digital credit on Amazon, so I got the Kindle version, though I'm tempted to get the hardback, actual book as well because, while reading her stories, it just feels like you should have a real book in your hands!  I've really only just started the book but felt the need to recommend it to anyone looking for an escapist read.  I'm in the portion where she's telling about her trip to Iceland.  I've always wanted to go to Iceland, and, after starting this section of the book, I want to go all the more.  Ms. Parkes' writing style is easy to read and very descriptive, so you really feel like you're there with her as events unfold.  But, in a way, her storytelling is deceptive:  she's sharing an incredible amount of technical information about yarn production from sheep to mill to store.  I'm finding myself wanting to read this book rather than crochet or knit myself, play games on my iPhone, or do a bunch of other things, and, these days, that sounds like pretty high praise for a book!



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

5 Must-Have Crochet or Knit Baby Shower Gifts

Yup, "Aunt Phyllis" is gearing up for some upcoming baby showers and arrivals!  And, though I've written about baby wear before, I'm not sure I've done it in an organized way all in one place, so I'll be putting together a series of posts on baby gifts that will link back to this outline post.

So, first, I wanted to do an overview of "baby essentials" (and then focus on items that can/should be crocheted or knitted).  Boy, does this concept mean different things to different mamas!  Basal Baby has simple, beautiful gift subscriptions for organic cotton basics for baby's first year, but it's a bit pricey.  Primary.com also has baby and kids clothes in simple styles and bright colors, and you can get 25% off on your first order (enter code: WELCOME25).  Now I haven't tried nor have any affiliation with either one but each caught my eye during research for this post.

I think the most comprehensive and well-thought out checklist for baby essentials and add-ons I came across is the one on Squawkfox.  There's a downloadable checklist and some great tips on how to save $$ on baby clothes.

So, here's what I'm going to be concentrating on in terms of baby shower gifts you'll want to crochet or knit (starting at the top!):

1)  Hat

Depending on when baby is going to arrive, which may dictate the style and thickness of yarn you use, a handmade hat could be the perfect baby shower gift.  There are just so many beautiful crochet and knit baby hat patterns out there!   And it can be a quick and easy project with yarns that you already have on hand but still a really special and useful item.  In a future post, I'll be discussing the different styles and constructions of baby hats and suggesting some ways to make decisions from the vast array of choices you have!

2)  Bib

The bib truly is a canvas, for baby with his or her food but for you as a creative crocheter or knitter.  Chances are your handmade bib is going to be a keepsake and used for photo sessions with baby, which frankly gives you a lot of latitude to create something one-of-a-kind and really special.  One thought is to package together a set of practical, easy-to-wash bibs along with your handmade gem.


3)  Sweater/Jacket

You might want to save this project for baby's first birthday so that you can really plan a customized style, color and yarn weight that fits just right.  A baby sweater or jacket is a great project for the crocheter or knitter who's ready to experiment with garment construction.  Again, the patterns out there are endless, so, in a future post, I'll explore some ways to choose a pattern that will result in a fun project for you and an amazing wearable for baby.

4)  Blanket

A baby blanket is a great crochet or knit project for the beginner because it gives you the chance to hone your stitching skills while creating a useful item that baby will drag around for years!  Which should steer you towards choosing a soft yet sturdy and easily washed yarn choice.  In a future post, I'll concentrate on providing the various sizes of baby blankets based on intended use as well as the yarn properties to consider when planning your project.

5)  Booties

If you're looking for a baby shower gift that will have the future mom and guests ooohing and ahhhing, little baby booties get them every time!  Add a coordinating hat, and you'll be getting orders on the spot.  Top considerations for this project include a) fit so that they aren't easily kicked off by baby and b) style (Mary Janes, cowboy booties, etc), so I'll be posting some tips and tricks to optimize and customize.

I'm really looking forward to exploring these and other crochet and knit projects for baby with you!!  I've got placeholders in each category where I will insert links to the future posts as they get done, so you might want to save this post link since it will have everything in one place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

3 Critical Tips for the Crocheter Who's Beginning to Knit

What's the expression, we tend to learn the hard way?!  Well, I think I'm in that spot...  Nothing that can't be worked around, but I have discovered some great tips that I wish I had learned about BEFORE starting my Vintage Sweater project!

TIP # 1:  Using the right amount of yarn for the long tail cast on.

This casting on business is such a pain in the neck, definitely my least favorite part about knitting.  But, so far, I really like how the long tail cast on looks; plus, I needed to do a 1x1 ribbing cast on for the bottom of the sweater.  There's a great video on YouTube for that particular cast-on, and, once you get a rhythm going, it's not that hard.

But, I really wish I had seen this article before I started (I've gotten the back done and am currently working on the left side of the cardigan): No More Estimating Tail Length for a Long Tail Cast-on by Coco Knits.  I'm definitely trying this for the right side of the sweater.

TIP # 2:  How to stop stockinette from curling

Well, I'm not going to be able to do anything about this problem except follow some of the after-the-fact tips given in this article by Loveknitting.  I always thought it was me:  I wasn't doing it right or I wasn't blocking properly, etc.  But it's not us; we just didn't know these tricks!  I kind of like the idea of adding some ribbon and have seen that inside of sweaters before, so that might be my solution this time.

TIP # 3  Do some research BEFORE starting your project

This is the toughest tip for me!  I usually just jump into a project without really thinking about it too much beforehand.  But, this is a good lesson for me:  I need to slow down, really read through the pattern, think about all the instructions, and do a little investigating before starting.  Great tip for life in general in a way, though I probably will still keep jumping in ;-)

What critical tips have you experienced?!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Focus

What a great vacation in Jamaica I had!  And there was some wonderful crochet sightings during my stay (see photos on my Facebook page).  I took the opportunity to unplug as much as possible and try not to think about things; I figured, with a clearer mind, the right path(s) for me to take would just pop into my thoughts...

Well, not sure that happened, but one thing that did help me was to start reading Dave Crenshaw's The Focused Business: How Entrepreneurs Can Triumph Over Chaos (note:  my affiliate link below).  He's got a clever (albeit a bit hokey after a while) way of presenting how easily small business owners can get distracted from their mission and goals (or have a hard time formulating them in the first place).  I especially like how he gives an action item at the end of each chapter, having led you through how to do that action item throughout the chapter.

His basic premise is Focus, Master, then Diversify.  Simple message, hard execution!  But there are a lot of tips on how to embrace this message and make it your own.  Focus has always been my toughest challenge; I am a great example of someone distracted by bright, shiny objects (as my recent purchase of polymer clay will attest!).  So, I am going to be focusing on focusing...

With that in mind, if you are one of my Ravelry pattern purchasers, thank you so much, and you'll be getting a very short (just 3 questions) survey soon asking for feedback.  I hope you'll take a few moments to respond.  If you're not a pattern purchaser, then I'd love to hear from you as well:  please let me know why -- contact at manycreativegifts dot com.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Featured Fruit of the Week -- Cherries (Red)

We are entering cherry season.  They are not only one of the sweetest and tastiest of the red fruits, but they are also packed with health benefits. Cherries are a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-complex, phytochemicals, anthocyanins, and melatonin, all of which make cherries helpful in lowering bad cholesterol, maintaining healthy skin, protecting DNA from free radicals, fighting the risks of heart disease and colon cancer, and helping to fight insomnia. They also help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.

At market, cherries usually can be found starting in June and lasting throughout the summer. Look for cherries that are shiny and plump with no blemishes, cuts, bruises, or stale and dry stems. Sweet cherries should be firm but not hard, while sour cherries should be medium-firm. Look for cherries with the stems still intact, they will have a longer shelf life. Also, try to buy organic cherries to avoid pesticide contamination.

You should store cherries unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash just before eating. Let them come to room temperature; the flavor will be much better. Use your fresh cherries within 2 to 4 days. Cherries can be frozen, but you should remove the pits first (otherwise, they will take on an almond flavor from the pit). Place pitted and washed cherries in a plastic bag with all the air removed and freeze, or place cherries on a baking sheet, freeze, and then store in a plastic bag. Frozen cherries can last in the freezer up to 10 to 12 months.