Twinning in Tweed

When I last updated, I included a green and brown tweed hat as part of my hat-knitting streak.

I’m happy to report I was able to turn around and make another one with the same colors, just in reverse order of the first. They’re soft and lightweight and absolutely perfect for fall.

So now I’ve got two tweed knit hats that would fit anyone from a child through tween/teen and it didn’t scare me off from working with tweed, even with the neps! 😀

I haven’t listed any of the knit hats in my Etsy shop yet; I haven’t decided if I want to do a whole shop restock when I amass a certain number or whether I want to do a trickle of listings.

did decide to list the knitted cowl I completed a little while back and an amigurumi squid I completed over the weekend. Check ’em out! Everything ships free within the United States.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend. It still feels like summer in my neck of the woods but we’re supposed to have actual fall temps a week from now. I can’t wait!

Knitting Frenzy

I have knitting news!

I invested in a couple of short circular knitting needles last weekend and in one week’s time, I was able to accomplish knitting two hats AND a pumpkin.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

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Remember when I first started learning to knit and all I wanted was to knit a hat? Well, I accomplished that via the magic loop/half loop method a while back, but then once I got my hands on some good shorties (I bought two bamboo ChiaGoo 16″ needles from a local yarn shop), I discovered how much more I enjoyed knitting in the round on the short circular and transferring to magic loop for decreasing. That’s not to say I won’t be using magic loop for sock knitting or making mitts down the road–those are still goals!–but for now, I seem to have unlocked a reliable method to whip out some hats.

I was also on the struggle bus with a rather simple knit pumpkin pattern but after some tries and fails, I busted out the new short circulars again and that helped a lot. (Plus, the designer was kind enough to answer my newbie knitting questions!) I didn’t think the acrylic yarn did as well on bamboo; a bit too much texture going on. But wool glides really well on the bamboo needles. That said, I understand why people amass a collection of different types of needles. I still want to get some more red lace ChiaGoo 16″ needles, among others.

Blue knit hat: women’s XL done in Knit Picks Chroma Worsted. Colorway is Weathervane but I believe it’s discontinued. Simple pattern from the Craftsy/Bluprint class on magic loop with Lorilee Beltman.

Green and brown tweed hat: unisex medium (would fit child/teen/petite woman) done in Knit Picks City Tweed DK. Colorways are Chipmunk and Sage — unsure if either or both are discontinued. Pattern is a FREE one from Ravelry called Bankhead and is quite popular!

Pumpkin: done in Knit Picks Brava Worsted (can you tell I have a lot of Knit Picks yarn to get through?). Colorway is Persimmon and I crocheted the stem in another colorway which I think is Dublin but I’m not 100% on that. Pattern is available on Ravelry and Etsy for a low price. I learned a lot with the pumpkin because I learned how to knit a large tube in the round and then sew up the ends. Nothing wrong with leveling up on sewing skills!

I need to give my hands and wrists a rest but I’m already scheming up what to work on next!

 

 

A Cute Raccoon and an Update on Etsy

Hello, friends!

It’s been longer than I would prefer between updates. Life was pretty hectic for a while and the blog took a longer snooze than I thought it would.

I finished a custom raccoon order back in March and things were so busy at work, I didn’t have time to process the photos I took or blog about it. So now I’m posting the update on that. I was a bit worried that because I hadn’t done a raccoon in a few years, I would find the pattern overly technically challenging, but I was pleased to find it wasn’t. The most challenging aspects of making it were:

  • The color changes on the snout — getting nice, even tension with the changes
  • Placement of the eyes and eye patches and getting everything just so with the symmetry
  • Making sure to stuff properly but not overstuff; the head and body needed a lot for proper shaping!
  • All the sewing

via GIPHY

In the end, though, the pattern and my skills prevailed, and I was just as in love with this raccoon doll as I was when I made the first one. If you’d like to try your hand at this pattern, you can find it in Little Muggles’s shop.

Speaking of Etsy shops…

Between January and July of this year, Etsy has made some pretty significant changes to their platform. There are definitely some pros to what they’re doing for mega sellers. For smaller shops like mine, I’m afraid the overhead costs of having an Etsy shop are proving to be too much. I haven’t officially decided to close my shop because having the potential buyers on such an enormous platform is definitely worth some of the expenses. (Operative words: potential and some.)

Due to the changes Etsy made, I saw a SIGNIFICANT decrease in sales. I was getting the visits, largely due to Pinterest (I’ll save a rant on Pinterest for another time), but almost zero sale conversions. It wasn’t just me. I took to the forums to see if others were experiencing the same frustrations and they are.

I work hard to price my items fairly for my time and quality materials. I am definitely not someone who has all the time in the world to make a bunch of amigurumi and sell them at a discounted price. Nor am I selling at craft fairs. (Maybe someday.) I was also still using promoted listings at $1 a day to get my items in front of buyers. However, even dropping $30-35 a month on promoted listings, I have barely been able to sell anything, and I’m spending that money with zero guarantees that more sales will be forthcoming. On top of out-of-pocket costs, Etsy changed how they bill sellers and are taking a little extra chunk out of the total sales, as well.

The most recent change in the last few weeks is that Etsy has updated their algorithm to favor listings with free shipping. Honestly, I get it. I do. Everybody loves free shipping. But all that means for small-potatoes shops like mine is that we have to include the shipping cost into the price of the item, which makes the items seem overpriced, and I’m not sure free shipping is going to be the clincher to get a sale. If I were to tell someone that the hippos I sell are $45, they might say, “Okay, a bit pricey but seems worth it for a quality handmade toy.” (By far my most popular one.) But when I say they’re $54, I picture eyebrows winging up and a much faster decision being reached that that’s far too much. At least when I was listing shipping fees separately, a buyer could see that I did my best to keep them at $10 or under, and it was because I ship Priority Mail and with insurance.

I’m pondering over all of these changes and wondering what the best route for me to take is. I have had my Etsy shop for five years now and for the most part, it’s been really great. I have enjoyed the process, I’ve really liked having a wee side business that earns some extra spending money, which mostly helped me repurchase supplies for new listings, and I’ve evolved as a crafter and honed some more business skills. But with these latest changes, I feel as if my shop is being swallowed up unless I am willing to invest much more money up front, which I don’t have. If I were churning out items left and right, that would be one thing.

At the end of the day, having this shop is primarily supposed to be for fun. Crocheting and knitting are FUN hobbies for me. I don’t want to equate those activities with the drag of Etsy’s new policies or being a strain on my personal finances.

So what I’ve done in the meantime is keep a handful–and I mean handful–of listings active. I also have the “Request Custom Orders” turned on because anybody can go through my prior sales and figure out what kind of work I do and request something to be made. The listings that are available have free shipping but their prices look higher.

I’ve turned off priority listings, which means I’m not shelling out $35 a month for the potential of a sale. Not having as many listings also gives me time to make items in my own time and list them for sale as they become available. One of the options I have been considering is letting all of my listings expire and doing a shop restock when I get 5-10 items made. I’ve also considered selling items only through this website, which I am able to do, but I don’t have the audience, and purchasing options are more limited (e.g. only being able to take PayPal).

If you are an Etsy shop owner or if you are someone who shops on Etsy, and in particular if you’ve ever purchased something from me, I would love to get your feedback. I have found posts from people I follow on Instagram and the like, voicing similar frustrations, with some people actively shutting down their shops altogether. I’m still open…just…but need to figure out a way to make my craft hobby work for me without being subject to these large monkey wrenches.

For now, I’m knitting and crocheting at a leisurely pace and trying my hand at things I haven’t had the time for and I’m enjoying it. I hope you are all enjoying a lovely summer!

 

Branching Out to Baskets with Bernat Maker Home Dec

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A few months ago, I purchased a couple of skeins of Bernat Maker Home Dec yarn because I thought I would make another pillow with it. I had fallen in love with this smock stitch (Tunisian) from TL Yarn Crafts and couldn’t wait to get started.

I sat down to practice with my yarn and hook and didn’t fall in love with making the stitch the way I thought I would. (I may try again, but I impatiently moved on.) I really wanted to make something else as a home decor project that wouldn’t take all day and was as attractive as it was useful.

Enter baskets from Yarn and Chai! I loved the look of the mini bean stitch and once I read through the pattern for her nesting baskets, knew I wanted to get started right away. I flew through making a large basket with the pretty aqua skein. For my basket, I used I and H hooks (5.5mm and 5.0mm) instead of H and G hooks, as I wanted it to be slightly larger than what the basket size would yield. Because the design gives a double lined basket, you don’t have to worry about the spaces between the stitches as much. It’s sturdy and will hold up well. I did not insert the plastic ring in my basket but I will experiment with that down the road. I think it’s a terrific technique that she offers up for making the baskets extra sturdy, in addition to keeping their shape.

I loved working with this yarn, by the way. It’s soft and doesn’t split, due to the cotton/nylon blend. I have another skein in the colorway clay with some aqua leftover. I haven’t decided if I’ll do another basket or if I’ll try my hand at a pillow but I will figure something out soon, considering how much I like it. The yarn also shows off terrific stitch definition, and the mini bean stitch is perfect for it.

Knowing me, I’ll probably put odds and ends in my basket, or I could even put it out in the family room to hold some items. It’s quite eye-catching. I also want to experiment with doubling or tripling the pattern to yield a much larger basket when I get my hands on more of this yarn.

What have you made with it? Do you love it, too?

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“Ocean and Sand” Blanket Using Caron Cakes

As we amble on through winter, I’ve found myself tackling cheerful projects like this precious baby blanket. I bought the yarn on a whim (Caron Cakes in colorway Faerie Cake) and decided to see how it would work up as a blanket. The colors are just so pretty, aren’t they?

This blanket wasn’t done using a pattern — I winged it — but I’ll list the basics of what I did below, in case you want to try something with this line of yarn.

Due to the small amount of wool in it, the blanket feels slightly denser than a typical baby blanket, but it’s not what I would consider heavy. It adds just the right amount of weight and warmth. The stitches hold up well and the blanket has a nice drape. I was able to make a blanket about 28″x 30″ which includes four rounds of a border, using only two cakes.

Hook: H (5mm) 

I started off with a chainless foundation row of half-double crochet stitches and then kept the height by using extended double crochet stitches throughout for the body of the blanket.

For the border, I did one round of single crochet, followed by two rounds of standard half-double crochet, and ended with one round of twisted single crochet, which mimics crab stitch without the headache.

It worked up quickly and prettily — the stripes do all the visually pleasing work, really, although I really do like that edging with the twisted single crochet in the aqua color.

I ended up listing this blanket in my Etsy shop giving it to some friends as a baby gift. I call it the “Ocean and Sand” blanket because of all the shades of “water” it has in this colorway. Of course, being named Faerie Cake, it could be used in any number of magical-themed projects where you need some beautiful shades of blue. Below are the photos with more closeups of the blanket itself.

If you’ve tried this colorway or Caron Cakes in general, let me know what you think of working with it!

Donation: Knitted Baby Blanket

img_2970 zvcAt long last, I finished my practice knitted baby blanket! By the time I completed it, including giving it a gentle wash, I realized it would make a terrific donation to a local charity or hospital.

I bought two skeins of this sweet yarn that knits up into stripes with little flowers when you do stockinette stitch. For my practice blanket, I did a border of seed stitch. The colorway is Buttercup but if you follow that link above, you’ll see there are tons of different colors! (So hard not to buy more…) I even have some leftover that I think I’ll try a hat with down the road.

The blanket took me a while to complete, since I started it when I was brand new to knitting, and I would pick it up and put it down. Although it could be tedious at times, it really did help me practice my tension with knitting and just becoming overall comfortable with the pastime. There are plenty of mistakes in this blanket but no holes, and it is just the cuddliest blanket, perfect for a baby’s skin to snuggle up with.

I’ve chosen Project Linus to start and if I don’t get anywhere there, I will try Knots of Love next. It feels good to give back and know someone will benefit from the hours of toil I put into this piece.

Have you ever knitted or crocheted for a charity? If so, what have you made and given away?

The Two-Year Knit Hat Project

By now, all seven of you who read this blog know that I started my journey into learning to knit in 2017. I practiced and practiced and practiced. And then I practiced a whole bunch more. I knitted and frogged, knitted and practiced binding off (horribly), and swatched until I couldn’t swatch anymore.

Since knitting hasn’t come as naturally to me like crochet did, I had to work even harder to get a comfortable muscle memory going to where I could knit without wanting to throw something.

I got into making washcloths, then a knit scarf for my husband, a small baby blanket (which I still need to post about!), and even a cowl, which turned out really well. I made so much more progress in the first 18 months of knitting than I thought I could or would.

However.

HOWEVER.

I have watched other people new to knitting start whipping out hats immediately and I’m wondering, what am I not getting? Why can’t that be me? What’s the secret? I basically took up knitting in order to make hats and two years in, nothing.

Part of the frustration for me has been that I don’t want to work with double-pointed needles. I wanted to learn the technique that would allow me to decrease without using a whole bunch of extra sticks. In addition to watching several YouTube videos on Magic Loop, I bought a comprehensive class on Craftsy (now Bluprint) with Lorilee Beltman, one of my favorite teachers I’ve found there, and I proceeded to watch the lessons on getting a hat completed a couple dozen times.

There are so many elements to knitting in the round that present tricky situations: which type of circular needle you use, joining, decreasing, which tools you’ll use to decrease, and finishing your hat so there aren’t any holes, to say nothing of keeping an even tension. A friend pointed out I could have tried knitting flat and then seaming, but I have tried my hand at that with other crafts (Tunisian crochet, for one) and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Completing a knitted hat in the round was the goal.

At last, something clicked after I finished some of my other projects, and I felt I was ready to try the half-loop method, followed by decreasing with Magic Loop. I swatched and made sure my gauge would be similar, if not exact, prepared my needles, and got started.

I swear, I almost stopped before I’d even finished round 2, because I had messed up something with the join. It didn’t click until round 2 or 3 but once I was under way, I kept on going and didn’t look back. I was nervous to try decreasing and moving into Magic Loop but I plowed onward.

Somehow, some way, a hat came together. I watched a separate video on Craftsy (a free one for Chemo Caps) on properly binding off the last 8 stitches and sewing the hole shut. Once I did that, I was finished. And then I couldn’t actually believe I was finished.

One final thought is that I found it odd that even though I used a smaller needle for the brim (k2, p2 all the way around for 2.5″), it’s looser and looks bigger than the knitting in the round for the remainder of the hat with a larger needle. That stumps me.

Something else to figure out, I’m sure! (If you’re experienced and can speak to that, please leave a comment!)

For now, I’m reveling in the fact that I accomplished a MAJOR goal of mine with knitting in the first month of the year, so I hope to continue the streak of challenging myself for 2019. Ultimately, I want to do some color work and a fair isle hat someday, but…one thing at a time. I mean, I still haven’t made that wreath I blogged about in 2017, either! (Whoops.)

If you are a hat knitter and can share any favorite patterns, please do!

Luminosa Cowl and Happy New Year!

Earlier in the year (2018), I ventured to a nearby city and visited two independent yarn shops. At the second one, I found a cowl made with some gorgeously soft and also shiny yarn. The shop owner told me it was Luminosa by Cascade. She also pointed me in the direction of the free pattern, which is this one here, if you’d like to try it yourself!

Her cowl was done in pink and a brighter teal. They were out of the teal but I picked up the pink and a darker black and blue, which I thought would let the pink shine but still give a nice balance of color.

Still very new to knitting, as I only began to learn in 2017, I was nervous about the pattern and the fact that I dropped $40 on two hanks of yarn. It helped that the kind shop owner caked the hanks for me, so I could pick them up and start the project more easily.

Determined, I did pick up those cakes of yarn and got started not too long after this shopping trip, since I wanted to try something that would allow me to practice knitting in the round without worrying about decreasing (a hat I have YET to complete!). While it took me a while to completely finish the cowl, since I let it sit finished except for bind-off for about two months, I was extremely pleased when all was said and done. There were definitely some challenges along the way, as the purl-2-together was tricky for me, but I plowed through.

You guys…it is SO pretty and it is incredibly soft! Due to its size, it has some versatility with how it can be worn, but simply draped around one’s neck and shoulders looks lovely.

I’m still deciding whether to keep it for myself or list it in the shop. I put the Etsy shop on vacation over the holidays and now that I’m coming up on FIVE years of being an Etsy seller, which is nuts, I have started to think about where I want to take things with my craft and if I want to do occasional restocks versus having mostly made-to-order listings. More to come on that front.

If you are newer to knitting as I am, or if you are a yarn addict and need some inspiration for a project, grab some of this delicious yarn and maybe give this pattern a try. I would absolutely make another of these — but now I’m working on all the practicing of hats. 2019 is going to be The Year of the Knitted Hat!

❤ P.S. I also tried a technique I saw on Facebook from Petals to Picot about binding off with a crochet hook and once I tried that, it cleared the path for me to more easily and quickly finish knitted projects from here on out. It’s so comforting to know I don’t have to let things sit, lest they be ruined with terribly done bind-offs!

Llama Rama Ding Dong

Over the summer, I had a request to do a custom llama – white with some black included, based on a photo.

This animal is a challenge for several reasons, one of which is the abundance of llama patterns out there. I ultimately settled on one where the emphasis was not on sewing a bunch of limbs together, and the final shape was a very obvious llama.

My only challenge with this pattern is that you have to turn it inside out before seaming it up the back, and then you quickly have to stuff all the limbs before moving forward. It’s unconventional but I will credit the designer with a pattern that works well in the end. The llama stands up on its own and is really cute.

Due to the success of the first one, I received another order for a pink one to send to a family member who’d just had a baby girl. This one was a bit easier because it was all in one color and it turned out great!

I finished this amigurumi in October and I have taken a little break since then. I am gearing up again since the holiday season is on top of us (where did this year go?) and I would like to get a few things accomplished that are holiday-oriented. (Remember this post from last year?)

Cute photos below!

Chevron Convert

IMG_2202 zvcWhen chevron was blowing up a few years ago, I didn’t get into the trend right away. But after I tackled a couple of projects that used it, I really liked the look of it, colors depending.

Last year, Jeanne from The Crochet Crowd designed this chevron “hugs and kisses” blanket using Caron Baby Cakes. I liked it as soon as I saw it. My transfixed inner voice said, “I must make the thing.”

It took me longer to complete than I would have liked, but largely that was due to my getting sidetracked with orders, work, and other life goings-on. It is not a difficult pattern.

For my blanket, I decided to blend two different colorways, Dreamy Mint and Frosted Pansies. I wanted a pop of yellow in there to break up the teal, grays, lavender, and cream. I liked working with this yarn, for the most part, but it can split at times. It is very soft and warm, though, and I like how easy it is to wash and dry it.

I found this project relatively soothing to create, although I had to keep careful track of my rows, since it the pattern repeat consists of 8 rows. For the bobble stitches, I switched from my usual comfortable Clover hook to my Furls Odyssey hook, which has a nice long neck, ideal for working with a fluffier, thicker yarn such as this one for bobble stitches. Because you alternate with something different each time, it keeps you on your toes. It is not dull or mindless to complete.

I ended up not using all four cakes, since I did not chain as many initial stitches, opting to make something slightly smaller than the pattern calls for. (I believe it calls for 6 cakes.) Because I didn’t want the blanket to be overly taller than it is wide, I stopped with the cream color of the fourth cake. I had enough to do a single crochet border in cream around the entire blanket, which gives it a nice finished look. My blanket is roughly 31″ wide and 36″ tall.

I didn’t have an intended recipient for this blanket, so I’ve listed it in my Etsy shop. It’s largely neutral and I think the colors pop so nicely with the chevron pattern. Jeanne did such a nice job with the design.

Have you tried your hand at this one?