Friday, September 28, 2012

On crafting space

Slowly, slowly, slowly, my craft room/office is coming together.

I finally got it cleaned out and sorta kinda organized this weekend, moving a bunch of non-crafting stuff that had been tossed in there to the basement.

Here's the space:



And here's the latest addition to it:


This is my new Hemnes Secretary from IKEA.

It opens up like this:


And now I have a work space for computer work--pattern writing, blogging, emails, that sort of thing. The best part is getting to close it back up to hide all the clutter I'm sure will accumulate.

And the cabinets at the bottom give me even more storage space.

Perhaps I'm a bit spoiled, getting my own CRAFT room, but I really expect to use it more like an office, as I work to develop and expand my freelance translation business. And of course, work on new designs.

I would never get anything productive done from the couch.

The next step is to add a decorative storage bench, a pseudo window seat, which will go right here, and cover that lovely stain the previous owners left us.


Then at some point I'll get to painting and decorating. And curtains.

And probably new carpet.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

Ack! I've been caught in my beddie! Abort! Abort!

Dory told me she was too embarrassed at having been caught actually using her bed to give any advice this week. But I pushed her, and here's what she had to say.

Dear Dory,

I often see ads and promos for yarn clubs--are they worth it? And there are so many, how do I pick one?

Yarn-obsessed in the Yukon

Dear Yarn-obsessed,

These kinds of clubs can be a good deal, but you have to do some research.  Then you have to decide if you should buy more cat treats or yarn. And the answer is always cat treats. But just in case you don't have kittehs (eek!):

First, work out the math--usually these clubs require a lump sum up front, and then you get a certain number of shipments per year. Sometimes the shipment is just yarn, sometimes you'll get a pattern and/or other goodies with your yarn as well. So do the math and see what you're actually paying.
Most importantly, can you afford the lump sum? Even if it's a reasonable price, we don't always have a few hundred bucks sitting around (especially here because--true story--that bad Nelly cat steals money). 
Is it worth it to you to pay extra for an exclusive colorway?
Also consider that the patterns are usually exclusive as well, but they're also a surprise--if you don't like them, you're paying extra for something you won't actually use.

Next, read those details. Many clubs will tell you which yarn bases will be included, or which designers are providing the patterns. So if the yarns are all mohair, or the designers aren't among your favorites, you know you'll probably be disappointed.

Then, check out Ravelry. Often these clubs have groups, or threads within the dyer's group. You can browse through past threads and see whether people were happy with the club selections or not, see if there were any problems, such as late shipments, etc. Some people might post photos of their kittehs playing with the yarn, and then you know it's a safe bet. You can also often see past club yarn and pattern selections, which might give you an idea of what to expect.

Right now, Kristen is receiving shipments from the Tanis Fiber Arts Year in Color Club, and she's been very happy with the yarns and the patterns. She would love to do the Knitspot Fall in Full Color Club one of these years, but it's a bit pricey.

Good luck picking your club, and have a purrrrrrfect day!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Namaste Bags

Disclaimer: I've received no compensation for this review, and actually purchased all of these bags myself. However, should anyone ever want to send me stuff for free to review, have at it.

To celebrate fall, I purchased (well, ok, CP purchased, with my nagging encouragement) the newest bag available from Namaste, Harlow, in the falliest of fall colors, pumpkin spice. It arrived a few weeks ago, and I waited patiently for fallish weather to put it into action. When the time finally came to switch bags, I decided to inventory all of my Namaste Bags, so I could offer you a review. So let's get started!

Namaste bags are all non-leather (yay!), and the particular ones I'm going to review range in price from $69 - $85.

First up, Harlow.


I would first note that the photo does not do the color of this bag justice. In fact, no photo I've seen does. Orange is hard to photograph, it comes out looking brighter than it really is. In fact, this bag is the perfect, slightly muted, ever-so-slightly pinkish shade of pumpkin.

This one retails for $85 (or at least, Jimmy Beans Wool sells it for $85). It has detachable handles (with a clasp to hold them together, if you so desire) as well as a detachable shoulder strap. There are pockets galore, both inside and out, which I love, and metal feet on the bottom, which I can't say enough good things about. The hardware seems sturdy and the construction solid. It's a zip top, handy to keep out all that autumn rain. The inside is lined with microsuede:


And you can see all the pockets are accented in pumpkin spice.

This one is roomy enough to double as your purse and knitting bag, particularly with all the pockets, you can keep your stuff well-organized.

Did I mention it's pumpkin colored?

It's not easy to find sturdy, non-leather bags, so I find the price tag quite reasonable.

However, no bag is going to last forever.

Which brings us to the next Namaste bag, which I'm about to retire.


This is the Zuma bag, which retails for $69. Though out of stock at many stores, Namaste tweeted just yesterday that this bag is being re-released, and in a slew of new colors!

This is, in my opinion, the most fun of the bags. Look how cute:


Also, this front pocket:


Rather strong magnets on all sides hold this one closed--more than once I've gotten a strand of hair caught between, and they really hold tight!

It's not as roomy as the Harlow, obviously, and the interior is a plain fabric rather than microsuede, so it's not as soft. I've used this one more as a purse than a knitting bag, as it's just not spacious enough for larger projects, and doesn't feature enough pockets to keep things quite as organized.

This is also my oldest bag, probably around 3 years old. I've used it often, particularly in the spring and summer because of the color. I've gotten many compliments on it, from knitters and non-knitters alike. And while I would still call it a good investment, all good things must come to an end:


The handles have broken, and the inside has started to pill and look worn out. Most importantly, the finish has peeled in various spots, which just looks ratty. This bag has lived out its life, and it's time to say goodbye.


The last Namaste bag I have is the Hermosa.

And I LOVE it.

CP bought this one for me about 1.5 years ago. I suspect this is one of the Namaste bags promoted more as a diaper bag, because look:


Hedgehogs, owls, birdies, it's all too cute. And in some kind of waterproof-type plastic-y  . . . material.

Although, while not a mom yet, I don't think I would use this as a diaper bag because it doesn't have nearly the number of pockets I would probably want.

I like pockets.

But as a combo purse/knitting bag, it's a winner:



You'll find this bag for about $85. It features front, back and side pockets (the back pocket is large enough to hold patterns documents!), a few internal pockets, metal feet on the bottom, and most importantly, it's a monster.

This is not a tiny, slouchy bag. It's BIG, structured and sturdy. It's practically an overnight bag. It's a bag to whack people with when they start invading your personal space on the subway.

My only complaint is that I think a bag this hefty needs a more secure closure. Instead it has a simple magnetic snap. Which perhaps is sufficient if you're using it as a diaper bag and need to get inside quickly, I simply personally prefer several strong snaps or a zipper.

It is starting to show some initial signs of wear at the points that rub most frequently against your clothes, but I think it still has plenty of life in it.


I also wanted to comment on 2 Namaste knitting accessories.

First, the circular needle organizer.

Big fan. Before buying this, I was always on the lookout for a case for my fixed circulars, and never happy with anything I found. This keeps the needles organized in a reasonable amount of space. Lots of pockets for various needle sizes, easy to label. The only thing it could do better is wander around the house while I'm not home collecting empty needles.

And second, the Buddy case:

The buddy case, sadly, did not work out for me. I really wanted to like it, but the magnet inside that was supposed to keep my metal notions in place wasn't strong enough, and everything basically just fell out the instant I opened it. And despite being quite large on the outside, the inside really didn't have much space, particularly for larger items like stitch holders and yarn cutters. I retired it, and cannot recommend it.

The good news is, Namaste has a new buddy, the Better Buddy. I have not tried it, so I'm not aware of exactly what new features it has, but I understand the magnets are stronger, which is a good start. If you decide to give it a try, I hope you have better luck than I did with the original!

And just for fun, take a look at all the crap hiding in my purse when I did the Seasonal Bag Exchange:


Yes, apparently I carry computer games in my purse.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pattern Debut: Chispas

Here it is, the latest from MediaPeruana Designs: the Chispas cowl.

You may be wondering, "Why is Kristen designing a stranded colorwork cowl when she actually isn't very good at and doesn't very much enjoy color knitting?'

This is an excellent question.

And I don't really have an answer.

The design just popped into my head, and had to be done.

I dutifully sent a sketch off to a yarn company, and was thrilled when it was accepted into the Malabrigo Quickies program.

That's right, this snugly cowl is knit up in Mmmmmmmmmalabrigo.

Specifically, in Malabrigo Arroyo, a newer sport weight yarn from Malabrigo, which is 100% merino wool, and as cozy, soft and snuggly as you would expect. Each skein boasts a hefty 335 yards, and of course, it's available in Malabrigo's many gorgeous colorways.

I adored working with it, which is probably why I actually got a colorwork project done for a change.

I was more than a bit worried about combining a white with a dark color--I knew I would need to give the cowl a good soak so I could even out all the stitches, and after my previous disaster combining light and dark colors, I feared bleed.

But a creamy, warm winter white seemed so essential for the coming season.

Fortunately, things worked out much better this time around. No bleeding!

To complete this project, you'll need about 150 yards of your main color, and 100 yards of a contrast color. I recommend using a variegated yarn for the contrast color, which gives the design more depth (and makes it look like you worked a lot harder than you actually did).

I used a size 5 16" circular needle for my project, which resulted in a cowl about 8.5" square. Of course, it doesn't matter too much how long the cowl is, but it's important that it be wide enough to fit over your head, particularly since stranding doesn't provide much flexibility.

The name of the design, Chispas, is actually the name of pinky-red colorway as well. It means "sparks," which seemed the perfect way to describe the varied geometric shapes that spiral around the cowl. The top and bottom edges feature just a hint of twisted rib, which helps to hold the cowl close to your neck. And all that stranding creates a snug, double-thick fabric that should get you through fall and into winter.

Many, many thanks to Malabrigo for their support. I was lucky enough to coordinate this project with the lovely Alex Tinsley, who blogs over at Dull Roar and designs awesome, awesome hats, among other things!

You can buy Chispas now on Ravelry for just $3.99!

Also available on Craftsy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Mexico City

And we're back in action! A quick trip to Mexico City for work, but now home and back to business. A few things about Mexico City (or Mexico DF--believe it or not, Mexicans don't call it Mexico City):
  • Mexico City is home to almost 9 million people, even bigger than NYC, and most of them seem to spend their days wandering the streets aimlessly. So. very. crowded.
  • It smells like an open sewer.
  • They will ruin guacamole by topping it with FRIED CRICKETS.
Sadly, I don't have much good to say about the DF--I wish I did, but I'm just not a fan of crowds and smog. Less so pregnant--I can't enjoy a michelada or go out dancing in smoky bars. This was my second trip there, and I did do a few touristy things the first time around (if you find yourself in the DF, you should certainly visit the Zocalo and the Templo Mayor, and the boats in Xochimilco are fun), but this time, it was in and out in 3 days, work only. No photos, even.

I'm thrilled to be back home as we head into fall. Hard to believe September is half over!

I'm also thrilled to announce that I'll be releasing a new pattern tomorrow! In fact, Dory is letting me take over her usual Tuesday spot to do it. So keep an eye out. It's called Chispas, and it's perfect for fall.

And speaking of Dory, look who I caught actually using her cat bed:


Monday, September 10, 2012

Sneak peek: new pattern on the way!

Here's a wee peek at the pattern I'll be releasing next week:

Somehow, between the now and the release date, I need to finish writing the pattern, edit the photos, get it all purtied-up and pdf'd, and, oh, fly back and forth to Mexico City for work. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 7, 2012

On goings on

It has been a hectic week here.

(So hectic that even Dory needed a day off to recover.)

It was a holiday week, with Labor Day Monday, so you'd think things would be relatively calm.

But no.

First, we had our big anatomy scan on Tuesday morning, where we found out that the Peruanito/a is . . .


Just about everyone on the planet was convinced I was having a girl, including me. Right up until a couple days before the scan, when I realized I was so absolutely convinced it was a girl that I was bound to be wrong.

We also had a gorgeous girl's name all picked out, and not a single boy name, another clear sign.

So I've been spending the week reorganizing my imaginative wonderings and daydreams to be boy-centered. It will take some getting used to, but I'm already excited about, for example, dressing him up like this one Halloween:

Then, in the midst of all the excitement, CP decided it was a good time to back our almost-brand-new car into the neighbor's Mercedes.

I will note that our car has a rearview camera, specifically designed to make sure drivers DON'T BACK INTO THINGS. But I've come to terms with the fact that this is who CP is--the kind of absent-minded person who can back his car into things while watching it happen on a video screen in front of his face.

The neighbor, who has a 2 car garage and a 4 car driveway, insists on parking her car on the street, directly behind our driveway. So it was bound to happen eventually, I guess. No one was injured, and just some minor damage to both cars, but you never like to throw money away on something so absurd. Oh, the yarn I could've bought! (Or, um, baby stuff. See, I'm not selfish or yarn obsessed.)

Also, not exactly the way to make friends.

But we get our car back tomorrow (we've been driving a rented Chevy Tahoe, which feels very much like driving a tank--or so I imagine), and hopefully things will calm down and get back to normal so I can return to rambling about knitting. I've got a review of Namaste bags on tap for you all, and a look at the wee bit of progress I've made on some fall knitting.

I wanted to conclude with an update to my previous post--in addition to being available for purchase on Ravelry, the Cielito blanket pattern is also now available on Craftsy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday Sampler: Round the Virtual Neighborhood

I can't say goodbye to summer without giving it its due--it may have been waaaaaaay too long, too hot, and involved too many mosquitoes, but summer isn't all bad. Here are a few things I'll be a smidge sad to say goodbye to:

Fried green tomatoes. I prefer mine sliced thin and coated in just flour, but any way you cook them, they're fantastic.

Corn on the cob. Quick and painless on the grill. I eat mine with Old Bay.

Mojitos. I grow mint just to make them. Of course, this year, they were virgin. Hmph.

Sundresses. Always comfy and quick to throw on.

Maryland crabs. 

Flip flops. Hideous, but so comfortable. And cheap.

So there you have it, a fond farewell to summer. It will be here again before we know it.

(Yes, I am aware that the last official day of summer is September 21. But I think we all know the ACTUAL seasons are: Winter, December - February; Spring, March - May; Summer, June - August; and Fall, September - November. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

And as we welcome in fall, some other hopefully welcome news: you can now purchase my Cielito baby blanket pattern directly. It was previously available only through Knit Picks, but you can now find it on Ravelry as well, for just $3.99!