Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sneak Peek

If you subscribe to my email newsletter, you probably saw this sneak peek already. If you don't subscribe to my email newsletter, you can do so here.

I have some fun things planned for 2020. My previous post was about one of them: The MKAL! I'm really excited about that, and MANY thanks to those of you who have already purchased the pattern and contacted me to sign up for the class!

Another big thing coming in 2020 is....well, I can't tell you exactly what it is because I'm still working out the details. But if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you can probably put two and two together and figure it out....but for now, know this: I'm putting a lot of work into the "behind the scenes" aspect of this and will have a big fun announcement when everything is ready to go.

In the meantime, enjoy this eye candy.

Friday, November 29, 2019

2020 Mystery Knit Along

In August, I started brainstorming fun ways to kick of 2020. I came up with a few ideas, but I'm just going to talk about one for now: 2020 Mystery Knit Along (MKAL)!

What is an MKAL?

An MKAL is a really fun way to knit a project without having any idea what it's going to look like before you start. The designer (sometimes!) tells you what the project will be and some other details--like yarn requirements, needle size, gauge--and then releases the pattern instructions a little at a time. That way, you can't read ahead, and you have no idea what's coming next! It's very fun! Is it sometimes very disappointing? Yes! Honestly, I've participated in many MKALs and only once was I disappointed with the results. But the nice thing about yarn is that you can rip it out and use it again for something else, which is exactly what I did. Typically, though, you can look at the designer's other work and have a pretty good idea if their designs are a good fit for your taste or not. 

What type of MKAL will this be? 

If you know me at all, you know I love shawls. I kind of have a shawl obsession. So, this will be a shawl. I will tell you these things: 
  • It is a triangle that is mostly symmetrical in shape.
  • It is not symmetrically knit. 
  • It features three stitch patterns:
    • Modified Garter Stitch
    • Mosaic Color Work
    • Short Rows
  • It is written for fingering or worsted weight yarn. Both weights will result in similarly sized shawls. You may use a different weight if you like, but it will affect both yarn requirements and finished size.

What else can you tell me?

Well, I'm calling this "A Few of My Favorite Things" shawl because the stitch patterns are a few of my favorites. I love the way modified garter stitch stripes look. I enjoy knitting mosaic color work. And, this short row method is so fun! 

The shawl is designed for three colors that contrast well. In my samples (which you cannot see because it would give away the mystery!), I used a variegated or speckled yarn for Color A and solids or semi-solids for Colors B and C. If you opt for this, I recommend that B and C coordinate with but do not exactly match any of the colors in A.  That said, all three colors can be semi-solids or solids. You can use as few as two colors, or you can use more. 

For the fingering weight sample, I used about 400 yards each of Color A (center): Black Trillium Fibre Studio Lilt Sock in Super Happy Fun; Color B (right): Sweet Tea Yarns Sweet Sock in Dad’s Worn Denim; Color C (left): Sweet Tea Yarns Sweet Sock in Dreamsicle.


For the worsted weight sample, I used about 315 yards each of Malabrigo Rios in Color A(center): Arco Iris; Color B (right): English Rose; and Color C (left): Apple Green.

OK, I'm intrigued. How do I sign up?

Easy! You can purchase the pattern on Ravelry! When you purchase the pattern, an information document will be added to your Ravelry Library (just like any purchased pattern). That information sheet includes materials requirements and the first bit of the instructions--the first small section of the shawl that also makes an excellent gauge swatch. Then, additional instructions will be added to that document on January 7, 14, 21, and 28.  

If you'd like a bit more social interaction and instruction with your MKAL, I'm also teaching it as a class! You still need to purchase the pattern on Ravelry, but I'll walk you through the entire process of knitting the shawl in person. Class will meet at Northend Community Center on Tuesdays, January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 7-9pm. Cost for the class is $80. To sign up, just shoot me an email at gaeacreations1 AT gmail DOT com.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Favorite Stuff for Knitting and Yarny Goodness

I've been thinking a lot lately about simplifying everything. Life feels so complicated sometimes, and simplifying where I can just makes sense. Simplifying means different things to different people. To me, it means getting things out of the way that are keeping me from feeling comfortable in my own space and being able to get things done easily and as effortlessly as possible.

With this goal in mind, I went through my bathroom and got rid of expired products, stuff I knew I was never going to use, old makeup, etc., etc.. I need to do this in my kitchen. Like, big time. How many measuring cups does one person need? Apparently I think I need ALL of the measuring cups. Same with wooden spoons and tongs.

This got me thinking about my craft supplies, including my knitting supplies. I'm much more hesitant to get rid of craft and art supplies than I am with pretty much anything else. They don't go bad! I have them well-organized! Don't touch my watercolor paper! STEP AWAY FROM THE YARN!

So here's the thing. I have found that there are some things I really can't live without when it comes to knitting and yarn.

1. Yarn

I know: DUH!  I often say my real hobby is collecting yarn, and I just happen to also knit a lot. Do not ask me to cull my yarn stash, because it will not happen. I love all of my yarn. Also: I am a yarn snob. If it's mostly acrylic, I won't touch it. I just don't like the way acrylic feels. I prefer natural fibers, with a real focus on protein fibers (wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere, silk). I don't own a lot of cotton or linen, though I do have times when I enjoy working with those. I have my stash very well organized and inventoried. I can pretty easily put my hands on the yarn I'm looking for without too much digging. Over the summer, I even made labels for my yarn containers to make locating what I need even easier!

2. Knitting Needles

This is another duh, but hear me out. Every knitter has their favorite knitting needles, right? But we have a tendency--at least I do--to collect many different kinds of needles. At one point, I had lots of nickel-plated needles, bamboo needles, and other wooden needles. Several years ago, I found out I'm highly allergic to nickel, so I got rid of all of my nickel-plated needles. A couple of weeks ago, I realized I still have a lot of needles I just avoid because I don't like their join or their tips aren't pointy enough. So, I pulled out the needles I avoid and put them in a small box. My favorite needles are Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz fixed circulars or interchangeable. I love the join. I love how pointy they are. I love the smoothness of the finish. Yes, they still have a little metal on them, but I can live with it because that part is usually covered with yarn. My point to all of this: I have reduced my needle collection down to just what I enjoy using, which makes my life easier. I also moved from a hanging circular needle holder in an armoire to zipped binder pouches in a glittery pink binder. I even made labels for the pouches with my Cricut. It's super fun, and I have my needles right next to where I do most of my knitting. Simplify!!!

3. Ball Winder and Swift

I know many knitters who don't own ball winders or swifts, and they are perfectly happy with life. I have three ball winders. Two are the classic plastic ball winder you see at most yarn shops. They are small and portable and easy to use. The other is a larger metal ball winder that winds large balls. The descriptions says "up to 10 oz," but I've wound larger balls without any problem. I love this ball winder and highly recommend it. I have it set up on my secondary craft table at all times.  The swift I own is the classic wooden swift (this link isn't the exact one I have, but it's darn close), but the metal and plastic ones are probably fine for at-home use.

4. Stitch Markers

In my years of teaching knitting, I've discovered that I'm maybe a bit pickier about stitch markers than most knitters. I really prefer the thin, rigid plastic discs, which I used to get from River Knits and now can't find online, so I can't give you a link. Instead, I'll give you a photo.

I'm also a sucker for pretty beaded stitch markers. I don't usually enjoy using them as much because they're a little fiddly for me, but they are pretty. So I use them sometimes. I really love this TARDIS set I got from Brenda and Heather Yarns at the Fiber Event.

One kind of stitch marker I absolutely cannot live without is a locking stitch marker that looks like a plastic safety pin. I use these so much! In fact, I just ordered this off-brand collection of 300 of them from Amazon. We'll see how they hold up. I rarely use this as on-needle markers. Instead, I use them to mark my place. I tend to be a row-counter, especially when it comes to matching sleeves or socks or mittens--anything that comes in twos. So it's not uncommon for a sleeve to look like this:

This project (Boxy by Joji Locatelli)  has 5 different skeins of handpainted yarns. So, I marked my transition rows and "solid" rows. I couldn't have done this without these amazing locking markers.

I know you're saying, "But what about split ring markers?"  Answer: I hate them. They fall out way too easily. I will admit that I have a few, but I only use them once in a great while. Like if I see a mistake that needs to be fixed on the next row, I'll put a spit ring marker on the spot to mark it temporarily. Otherwise. No. I don't like them. I also strongly dislike rubbery stitch markers that can stretch or bend or stick to my needles. Oh! One more thing: I mostly use small gauge needles (I don't like working with anything much over a US7), so I prefer smaller stitch markers too. I hate using a large stitch marker on a small needle.

Using the right stitch markers for ME makes my knitting life easier! Once you find something that works for you, it's perfectly fine to stick with it and be a curmudgeon about it, like I am with stitch markers.

5. Susan Bates Silvalume Handi Tool

This little guy is so handy. I've used it to pick up stitches, make a chain for a provisional cast on, work Emily Ocker's cast on, fix a pulled stitch, fix a snag on a finished garment, and more.  I've linked you to Amazon, but if you have a local yarn shop, check there. Amazon has these marked up a lot, and you can probably get it at your LYS for less than $2.

6. Apps for my iPad and iPhone (also available for Android devices)

KnitCompanion is, hands down, the most necessary app in my life. You can have all of my other apps. I have to have KnitCompanion. It's free to download and try, but it's 100% worth the $14.99 per year subscription rate. I never use paper patterns anymore. Everything is in KnitCompanion. In KC, I can set up charts, row-by-row instructions, take notes, easily refer to abbreviations and other necessary information, and so much more. It also helps familiarize me with a pattern before I cast on, which is always a good thing.

Sortly is an inventory app that I've found extremely useful for keeping track of my yarn stash (along with other collections like fabric, sewing patterns...and I just realized I could use it to keep track of knitting magazines, books, patterns, pattern booklets, etc.!). I'm kinda weird in that I like having an easily navigable inventory of stuff that I collect. So much so that I'm actually looking forward to working with my husband to inventory his vacuum tubes and possibly other components. So, why do I like having a yarn inventory on my phone? When I'm shopping for yarn, I can check to see what I already have, including colors and dye lots. I have photos for everything, which makes it easier to find other yarns that might coordinate. It also helps when I find a pattern I love because I can see if I already have yarn that will work for it. Now for the sort-of down side: Sortly has a monthly subscription price of $4.99 if you want to enter more than 100 items. To me, it's worth it because I keep track of more than just my yarn, and I'll be expanding to add other inventories as well. [Edited to add: Sortly has recently changed their subscriptions, and the $4.99/mo option is no longer available. As a legacy user, I can continue at that rate. If I weren't a legacy user, I would not sign up with Sortly now. I will likely be searching for a different app. Eventually, I'm sure they will discontinue the legacy support.] Umm..yes, I also maintain my yarn inventory in Ravelry and in Excel. Why do you ask?

Apps for listening to stuff. Amazon Music, Downcast, Audible, Chirp, Hoopla, and Libby. Those are my six most-used listening apps. Amazon Music is (duh) for music. Downcast is a podcast app. I know many are happy with the native podcast app on their iPhones, but I wasn't. I've been using Downcast for years and love it. Audible and Chirp are audiobook apps. Hoopla and Libby are apps that work with my local library to borrow audiobooks. I don't watch a lot of TV, so while the others in my house are watching TV, I'm usually listening to a podcast or audiobook.

7. Ravelry

I almost didn't add this here because it's such an obvious thing, but I figured if I added yarn and needles, I better add Ravelry.  I use Ravelry for so much, I don't know how I existed before...well, I do. I had lots of binders full of patterns, project notes, yarn inventories... you get the picture. So much paper!  Enter Ravelry: I can buy PDF patterns and open them in KnitCompanion for use. I can sell my own patterns (to enable me to buy more patterns by other designers). I can keep track of all of my projects. I can look up projects done by other people to see how they look, if they ran into any problems, or if they made any alterations. I can connect with other knitters who might have similar interests to mine. Doctor Who? Yep. Animal Crossing? Yep. Curling? Yep. You name it, there's probably a group for it!

I know someone is probably wondering how I feel about Ravelry since they made their anti-racism policy change on June 23. I fully support it. Trump and his administration have proven themselves to be highly supportive of white supremacy. Regardless of your own personal beliefs, support of the Trump administration is undoubtedly support for white supremacy. You may not consider yourself a white supremacist or a racist, but you are certainly supporting them if you support him. So, I support Ravelry, and that's that.

8. A Good Lamp

It doesn't have to be an expensive lamp, but I need good lighting when I'm knitting anything much more complicated than stockinette or garter stitch. Yes, I have a simple stockinette project just for movie theater knitting.  At home, I have this lamp from IKEA clamped to the end table. (I actually have an older version of this.) I can shine it directly at my knitting so the rest of the room can be dark, which is how my family likes it for watching TV or playing video games. And I use a bulb with relatively low lumens. I think what I'm using now is an LED that roughly equal to a 25W or 40W incandescent bulb.

9. A Supportive Spouse/Partner/Housemate

I cannot stress this enough. There are times when all of the floor space in our bedroom is taken up by blocking shawls, or the kitchen and dining table are inaccessible all weekend because I'm dyeing, or we have to turn down an invitation because it's the same day as The Fiber Event, or any other number of things related to yarn. My husband is fully supportive. Why? Because he has his own interests and side hustles that affect our life together, so he gets it! I have plenty of friends whose partners are not as supportive. They won't allow them to have a large yarn stash. They complain if there are knitting projects left on the coffee table. They expect to be able to use the kitchen to prepare a meal. (😉Yes, we can use our kitchen to prepare meals....just not while I'm dyeing...) I guess what I'm saying is this: My husband makes my life easier by being supportive of my interests and activities.

So there you have it: the nine things I can't live without that all work together to make my life easier, simpler, and much better.

PS: I'm planning a big announcement Friday, so be sure to check back!! 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Yarny Fun

Many of you know that I enjoy (and have even taught classes about) dyeing with Kool Aid. A few weeks ago, I decided to play around a little bit with Kool Aid again. I had some white worsted weight and fingering weight yarn, and I wanted to try dyeing some true self-striping and gradient yarns. There are a handful of ways to accomplish this, but I decided the knitting blanks would be a fun way to play. So, I ordered a hand-crank, 40-needle knitting machine from Amazon. (For some reason, I haven't taken a picture of it....) It's a finicky little tool, but once I got it figured out, I was off to the races! I made four 50g tubes of fingering, one 100g tube of fingering, and two 100g tubes of worsted. I laid them out on my kitchen table, mixed up my Kool Aid, and had some fun. 

The picture below of my yarn steaming might look pretty familiar to those of you who attended the River Knits Retreat a couple of years ago.

After steaming and drying them, I decided I wanted them in skein format (even though you can knit directly from the blank). I'm blessed with a dad who is an amazing woodworker, and he made me a skein winder so I wouldn't have to use a niddy-noddy!

This fabulous tool makes winding skeins go so much faster! But look at how kinky they are!

A little soak and hanging to dry straightened them right out. Below, from top to bottom: two 100g skeins of worsted in self striping cool and warm colors, respectively; two 50g skeins of self-striping fingering weight (shown above on the table); two 50g skeins of fingering dyed in rainbow gradients; one 100g skein of fingering dyed in a long rainbow gradient. 

Y'all. This was so much fun! But I found myself wondering what kinds of effects I could get if I had "real dye." Note: Kool Aid is a real dye. It dyes yarn beautifully and safely, but it does have some limitations. There are a limited number of colors, and color mixing to expand the pallet is disappointing. For example, if you mix cherry (red) and mixed berry (blue), you won't get purple. The red will take up very quickly, and the blue won't take up much at all.  

So, I went to Bluprint (formerly Craftsy Unlimited) and watched a couple of classes. Professional Yarn Dyeing at Home and Next Steps in Yarn Dyeing were both very helpful. Last weekend, I dyed some mini skeins (that I made with my awesome skein winder!), and you guys? I'm in love.

I took this basket of bare yarn (the grey ones have stellina in them! SPARKLES!!!), and dyed tons of samples, playing with color mixing, depth of shade, and fiber content.

Pure colors in jars in a water bath, ready to steam:

Mixed colors, after steaming:

Sparkle yarn, ready to steam:
Here's the same basket, filled with all of my little sample skeins.
Now I have some ideas for how I want to do some full skeins and projects I'd like to knit with them. Guess how I'm going to spend my weekend!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

River Knits Closing; Gaea Creations hoping to continue

As you likely know, River Knits is closing its doors forever on July 3. Many people have asked me if I plan to continue teaching knitting classes. I would very much like to continue, and I'm exploring some options for locations.  The only classes I will be teaching in July and August are the currently-running Year Long Afghan classes. I hope to have a few fall classes, though, starting in September. If you would like to stay in the loop via email, you can sign up here:  I've also created a Gaea Creations Facebook page where I'll post updates. I promise I'm better at keeping my knitting students updated than I am at updating this blog. :)