Category Archives: knitting

Having an Etsy shop is addictive

I’ve been to a few knitter gatherings around town lately, and finally ran into Kristin of Craft Leftovers.com.  I found her site a while back, have chatted  with her through Ravelry to get the inside scoop on fiber activities in Ames, and had heard about her from others, but we hadn’t met until a couple weeks ago.

At that point, I had just started working on my Etsy shop, had maybe 3 items listed and hadn’t sold anything yet.  We were talking about Etsy and she warned us to “Watch out, Etsy is addictive”.  I was skeptical at the time, but now I see why.

It is such a thrill to get an e-mail in my inbox telling me someone has purchased my creation.  It has made me want to make more, make them better, come up with other products and generally spend all my time in my craft workshop.  A few sales was all the encouragement I needed to start a full time obsession.  In general, I’m as happy as I can remember being in a long time.  Even though Scott has to work such long hours and goes back to work after dinner every day, being busy makes being alone a lot less lonely.

I’d say I should have started this earlier, but this is the first time we’ve moved in 10 years that we don’t think we’ll be moving again soon.  Having time and space to develop something counts for a lot.

I’m very thankful for the sales I’ve had so far, and it has driven me to list new items.

Shameless promotion time:

A notions pouch in black, white and red paisley.

An organizer set for hat and mitten sized DPNs

And my newest set:

The Sock Knitter Set which includes 6 dpn holders, cards for recording sock recipients’ foot measurements in a custom holder with grafting instructions on back, a stitch marker holder and a work in progress (WIP) holder.

I think next I may change gears and work on another holder design, rather than stocking the shop.  Or I may just make another one of each of these in a different fabric.  I guess it depends on if the creative juices are flowing, or I’m in a production mode.  The flexibility of a little online shop really suits my work style. 🙂

I think I’ll end this rambling post, but heed this as a warning: Etsy Shops are addictive!

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There’s always a learning curve…

Well, I have a long way to go before I’ll be comfortable saying I run a business, but I’ve learned a lot already.

I’ve learned there is a lot to be done to get things made, photographed, posted, and ready to ship.  I can tell I am still just ramping up, since I have been knitting for pleasure and sleeping 8 hours.  🙂

Taking photos that measure up to the Etsy average has taken a lot of time and learning.  I built a collapsible light box from this Instructables tutorial, that has definitely helped, but I could still use better lighting.  I’ve read a bunch of articles on Etsy about taking better pictures and have fiddled with my camera until I finally got something decent and then I fixed the white balance some more with Gimp.  I’m still learning, but after a couple of photo shoots, I got pictures I was content to use to list new items. Here are a couple examples.

As you can see, I got some new fabric (with a gift card from my mom to Crafty Planet in MN) that happens to have a 1 inch pattern that lends itself well to the top edge of the bags.  Getting the color right in the photo is still a tricky proposition and the real color is probably somewhere between these two.  The second item is my latest addition to what I hope to be a set of tools for the serious knitter.  🙂  I have a lot of double pointed needles, and I don’t want to carry them all around, so I use these little individual pouches to just carry what I need.  This set is for the mid-range needles, used for hats and sleeves and mittens.  I hope to make a set of smaller pouches for smaller needles some time this week.

Smaller needles have been on my mind since I got my book “New Pathways for Sock Knitters” by Cat Bordhi on Saturday.  This  book has been on my mind for a while, ever since Larissa got it and was excited about it.  I resisted a while, but I finally broke down and bought it.  This book was mentioned by the Yarn Harlot on Nov. 14th 2007 and it has been on my mind ever since. As the Yarn Harlot states:

” I think “There has got to be a simpler way” and Cat thinks “Screw simpler – get curious. There has got to be ANOTHER way.” and then all of these door swing wide open and it turns out that there really are whole new ways to knit stuff that you I thought were pretty firmly established.”

This is my kind of knitting.  I don’t really like doing the same thing over and over, even if socks are small and utilitarian.  This book has 8 different sock architectures with master patterns and tables of numbers to help you get the perfect fit.  She has different toe and cuff patterns to mix and match, too. I was so excited, I even used Inkscape and MS Word to make these little cards to store people’s measurements.

Card to be printed on Avery Business Card 8371

Card to be printed on Avery Business Card 8371

I plan to print a sheet of  business cards to carry around and get family foot measurements if they express an interest in wearing hand knit wool socks.  Want to use these cards yourself?  Try downloading the  Foot Measurement Cards-corrected pdf for a full page of business cards. I used Avery Business cards with template 8371, but plain paper would do.

ETA: My Cut and paste technique had some problems that have been corrected.

I’ve got one sock from the “Riverbed Architecture” nearly finished and I think I will try a different architecture for the other sock.  As long as they are the same color and the ribbing looks the same, who’s going to notice?   I may never make a matching pair (for myself) again.  🙂

Well, I guess I should get back to work…

New Experiences

I’ve jumped into the new year with both feet.  On my list of things to do:

  • Start an Etsy Shop
  • Eat better
  • Exercise More
  • Look for Work

With the exception of the last one, I’ve made progress on all of these things.

Etsy Shop

I’ve gotten my Etsy shop started, though my inventory is still small.  I need to learn to take better pictures and make more things to sell, but at least I’ve got a few items listed.  Check it out at stellarb.etsy.com.  So far I have a couple of cacti for sale, in case there are people out there that like Claude the Cactus, but would rather buy him than make him.  Since these cacti are made with different materials and are larger than the original, I have named the boys Clyde and the girl Cora.  Cora is sporting a flower that is as near as I can get to an actual Barrel Cactus Flower.  Here’s a picture of the love birds cacti.

I’ve also got the first in what I hope to be a series of tools for the knitter or crocheter.  I’ve been a serious fiber fanatic long enough to have made myself several custom accessories.  I hope to make the same tools for sale in coordinating fabrics on  my Etsy shop.  The first and most valuable tool I have is my vinyl pouch and stitch marker holder.  I never leave home without them.  I only have one fabric choice at the moment, but lots of other fabrics waiting to be used.  I also plan to make double pointed needle holders, and possibly a circular needle pouch, though I haven’t found a style/method I really like yet, so it could be a while.

I would appreciate any constructive feedback on the shop including pricing and shipping.  It is all new and I want to get it off to the best possible start.

Eat Better

Moving to a new place is always stressful, and I’ve never been good at creating routines, so it is no surprise that Scott and I have been eating out more than we should.  There is a restaurant here in Ames, called Hickory Park, that offers good food at reasonable prices and can feed my carnivore husband with all the meat he can handle, since I don’t have much meat in the house.

This is about to change.  With the house, we inherited a large chest freezer in the basement.  So large in fact that, though we requested they take the freezer out of the house because it was old and we knew it was going to be hard to get out, they tried the night before closing and couldn’t get it up the narrow stairway.  Long story short, we’ve had this freezer plugged in to keep the compressor running without any food for several months, and I figure we might as well use it.

Though I’d prefer to eat fresh, locally grown food, there’s not much to be found in the middle of winter in Iowa, so I’m going the freezer meal route this winter. I’ve known about the book Frozen Assets for a while now, but I finally picked it up from the library and am going to give it a try.  The basic premise is to cook enough meals for a month in one day by preparing several meals from several recipes amd freezing them.  The book has a proposed grocery list and all the recipes you would need for 30 days of dinner entrees.  I don’t plan for us to eat completely from the freezer for a month and then start all over, but I am going to use it to “open the bank account” in our freezer.  I picked up another book titled Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer, that suggests recipes that you just triple as you are making dinner to have two more in the freezer, and I hope use that one to supplement the Frozen Assets meals.  Couple this with the fact that my grandpa gave me his old Foodsaver vacuum sealer when I saw him at Christmas, and I’m ready to go.

The original Frozen Assets book has traditional comfort foods like meatloaf, meatballs, and ham and scalloped potatos that make it more calories than a lot of people would make for themselves these days, and as I was looking up the amazon link I found she has the Frozen Assets: Lite and Easy book coming out in June, 2009.  I think I’ll look into that one when it comes out.

So anyway, yesterday I went grocery shopping with the list from the book.  Just to get a feel for the quantity of food we are talking about, I bought 3 whole chickens, 9 lbs of ground beef and 2 lbs of bulk Italian sausage.  That’s just the meat.  🙂  I’ll start the cooking today, but I don’t know if I’m actually going to do it all in one day.

Along with all that food, I also bought the ingredients to make granola from scratch.  I’ve been eating oatmeal for the last couple years, and I’ve finally gotten sick of it, so I was looking for a way to make it tastier without paying large amounts of money for cereal.

I found this recipe with a google search and decided to make it.  IT IS DELICIOUS!  Even though I forgot the sesame seeds, I did add toasted almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, toasted wheat germ, coconut, raisins, dried apricots and dried cranberries.  It was really easy to make and they even have a video to make it simpler.  I’d  recommend this to anyone!

Here’s a picture from their post, just to make you want it more.  🙂  Scott really likes it, and he’s not a fan of sweet things, so you know it’s not too sweet.

very-large-spoonful-of-granola

And finally…

Exercise

This one hasn’t gone quite as well as planned, but we do have a treadmill in the basement I use every so often.  Shovelling snow and walking downtown have been my primary activities lately, and considering how often it snows, I exercise at least 3 times a week.  🙂

Sorry for the incredibly long post, but it’s been a while and I’ve been busy.  I’ll let you know how the massive cooking and freezing experience goes.

Blogging makes shoveling more fun

We had another snow storm today, and blizzard conditions tonight, but taking my new canon powershot camera with me to do the shoveling made things more fun.  I can’t really remember a winter here quite like this one.  Snow piles have gotten to the point that you can’t see if cars are coming at the intersections.  Almost every day it seems we wake up to more snow to shovel!

It is often easier to walk than to dig the car out, so I’ve been playing around with a hat pattern for those occasions.

I like my cloche, but it has the distinct disadvantage of not having ear coverage.  Out here on the prairie, the winds can really get going and my ears really ache after a walk to Main Street on a cold day.  The brim on the cloche really helps with the bright sun, so I started another bucket hat.  I used my Barbara Walker Treasury 1 and some math to come up with a stitch that would make a stiff brim and a pattern that would make a fun band.  I wore it on a walk once and realized that even though it fit closer to my head and was knit so I could shape it over my ears better, it still left my ears too exposed.  Solution?  Add 1 x 1 ribbing under the brim using short rows to cover my ears and still have the brim in front.

And after shoveling today, I can finally say I have found my winter hat.

Part bucket hat, part stocking cap.

Part bucket hat, part stocking cap.

At least that was one bright spot in the latest round of shoveling. I’ve got other pictures of the winter weather on my Flickr site, and here’s one that shows the size of the piles.  There is a lot of lifting involved to get the snow on top of the massive pile.

Yes, that pile is higher than the fence, and I threw most of it over the fence myself during the last couple months.

In other news, I have been slowly moving toward opening an etsy shop, mostly as a diversion to pay for my own yarn, etc.  I’ve got my resume tuned up too, so I am trying to get my job search rolling.  Only so many options in a town as small as this one.

Let’s hope the snow lets up for a little while so other things can get done!

ETA: Here’s a shot just to compare with the last post.

Stunning!

Well, there I was going about my business on the computer, taking a break from knitting by checking e-mail, browsing Ravelry, and making a wish list of seeds at the Seed Savers Exchange, when I decided to check in on my blog stats.  It is always fun to see the 50-80 hits a day and know that people are using my patterns and checking in.

Much to my surprise, the blog stats that wordpress provides said that I had over 600 hits to my webpage, specifically the Mock Cable Neckwarmer pattern.  And it keeps climbing!  My blog has over 1000 hits today and I have no idea why.  It seems that a lot of the viewers are being referred by an e-mail, but I have no idea who sent it or what it said.  My curiosity is killing me and I’d love to thank the person for the referral.  If any one of those viewers would like to leave a comment to let me know what is going on, I would greatly appreciate it.  It could be a good last minute holiday gift pattern, so I’m assuming that was the reference.

I have been knitting continuously the past few days, even though I told myself I wouldn’t make so many gifts this year.  The biggest project has been finishing a sweater for Scott that I started over a year ago without a pattern and only a vague notion of what the final product would look like.  I knit a 3x 2 rib in the round up to the armholes, but it took 3 tries(including one with a partial sleeve that had to be ripped out) before I got it right.  Ever since I got two books: Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton and Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti in December of 2007, I have been planning this sweater.  Maggie Righetti is a big fan of circular needles and even outlines a method of using short rows to create the sleeve cap for set in sleeves.  I used this method and the sleeve cap math from Deborah Newton to finally get the sleeves right.

I worked a couple of full days on it last week and as soon as I cast off the collar, he wanted to wear it.  I took it back to weave in the ends and haven’t touched it since.  I hope to block it and he would like the sleeves to be a little longer (so I will probably pick up stitches and add the same ribbing I used on the collar) but I have no idea when.  I also hope to get a picture with him in it but I was planning to block it first.  🙂  The 5 inches of snow and high temperatures of 8 degrees F make his first and only wool sweater very attractive.  He has worn it to work every day this week.

When I get photos I will add the other knitterly details.  Now I must get back to weaving in ends, blocking and felting gifts that will be revealed after the recipient knows about them.

Happy Holidays, and good luck with your last minute preparations.

Mock-cable scarfette: the neckwarmer revisited

I have been hanging onto a skein of gorgeous Catalina Baby Alpaca/Silk since I knit my urban necessity mittens after getting the yarn from my parents on our trip to Lake Placid, NY. I had probably 50-60 yards leftover from the mittens plus one whole skein. Since knitting those mittens, I realized that alpaca wants to stretch an drape and that hats and mittens don’t work that well with alpaca/silk. So it sat for a long time as I pondered what to do with it.

When I went to the knitting group at the Ames Public Library a couple of weeks ago, I was wearing my mock-cable neckwarmer for a little more warmth, not thinking much about it. Well the ladies there noticed it, and that got me thinking about that neckwarmer again. I had also just finished my St. Vincent cloche, and wanted something burgundy to go with it.

I started rifling through my boxes of unorganized stash, and with the leftovers from the mittens, I started another neckwarmer. I got about 2/3rds of the way through when I ran out of yarn. I liked the texture and drape, but it was a little too narrow and way too short.

I thought that this might be just the stitch pattern for a one skein scarf using that whole skein that had been waiting for a project, especially if it had buttons to hold it in place. I looked through a couple stitch dictionaries for a different stitch, but kept coming back to this one. So the mock cable scarfette was born.

The pattern is just a riff on the neckwarmer that can be pulled up to keep you chin and nose toasty. I cast on 10 more stitches ( 2 repeats) and knit until I ran out of yarn for a length of 40 inches( I used some of the skein to finish the neckwarmer, so I was probably 30 yards short of a skein). If you knit it longer, button it up higher and allow the end to hang down further.

Download the PDF

Here are the directions:

Needed: 1 skein of worsted weight alpaca yarn(~180 yards). I used Catalina Baby Alpaca/Silk.

Size US 6 needles and at least 2 ea 5/8″ buttons

Gauge: ~19 st/4 in stockinette ( I didn’t actually swatch, and it is not critical for this pattern)

Pattern:

Note: psso= pass slipped stitch over (in this case over the two knit stitches and off the needle)

yo= yarn over – (just wrap like you were going to make a stitch, but without a loop from the left needle)

CO 38 st.

Row 1: s1, k2, p2, *s1, k2, psso, p2*, repeat * * 5 more times, k3 (42 st on needle)

Row 2: s1, p2, k2, *P1, yo, P1, K2* , repeat * * 5 more times, p3 (38 st on needle)

Row 3: s1, k2, p2, *k3, p2*, repeat * * 5 more times, k3

Row 4: s1, p2, k2, *p3, k2*, repeat * * 5 more times, p3

Repeat rows 1-4 until yarn runs out or you have at least 40″ length.

Final Dimensions, 40″ long x 4″before blocking. It will easily be an inch wider after blocking, but I don’t know about the length until i block it myself. 🙂

Sew buttons to second and 5th “cable” on row 5 ( the first cross). Wrap around your neck once and button into yo holes along the other end.

Where has the time gone?

I suppose now that we have lived in Iowa for 2 months, it is time to update my blog. Although it is impossible to list all that we have done, here are my highlights.

When we got to Iowa, we had a couple of days before we closed on the house and were fortunate to stay at my aunt and uncle’s house in West Des Moines (~35 miles from Ames). They are both ISU alum and big Cyclone fans. They actually went to the Iowa vs. Iowa State Game in Iowa City that weekend. All the potential for a good football season got me excited about ISU, and I knit a scarf while I was sitting around and Scott was on campus working.

Now you see it...

Now you see it...

...and now you dont.

...and now you don't

It is an illusion knit scarf using the basic instructions found at Wikihow and the ISU Chart (pdf download) I created. I also added 3 stitches on each side that I knit in garter and slipped the first stitch in each row. After I did the letters once, I switched to wide stripes ( 4 chart rows wide) that can only be seen at the sharp angle. The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted from the Rose Tree Fiber Shop in Ames. One skein of each color made a scarf 8.5″ side by 61″ long without blocking. The garter stitch edging seems to curl under, so if I made it again I would probably omit that and just knit the chart as written, slipping the first stitch of each row. That would make it 7.5″ wide and quite a bit longer.

I also finished sewing the buttons on my Central Park Hoodie and have been wearing it continually this fall.

Since then, I’ve knit Christmas stockings from the Cascade pattern that reads like a “choose your own adventure”. They are knit in Cascade 220 Heathers of Shire and Cranberry and Cascade 220 Natural.

I’ve knit and felted a St. Vincent Cloche, also out of Cascade 220.

This was taken today at the beginning of our first sticking snow storm.

This was taken today at the beginning of our first sticking snow storm after I walked back from the knitting and crochet group meeting at the Library.

I finished my first pair of socks from the pattern Charade out of Red Heart’s Heart & Sole in Tequila Sunrise. I had some trouble with the fit of the pattern and ended up decreasing an extra 4 stitches on each side of the gussett to get it to fit my foot better. Next time I will probably pick a pattern that lists a gauge so I know if I’m in the ball park. My gauge was ~ 5 st/inch.

I just sewed the buttons on my February Lady Sweater, which is one of those viral knits on Ravelry that ~3000 people have made. This is out of 5 balls of Cascade 220 Heathers in Cranberry. It was a pretty simple knit and the lace stitch got a little tedious. It required just enough concentration to make it hard to multi task, but not enough to be interesting by itself. I did have to rip back every now and then when I let my mind wander. I’m still going to look for buttons, these were just what I had in the house this morning.

I have a couple Christmas projects in the works, but only those specifically requested. If any of my family have something in mind they would really like me to knit them, they should let me know now… otherwise the will be getting purchased gifts this year. 🙂

In addition to knitting, I’ve obviously been unpacking. We don’t have good pictures of the house yet, but I did get a picture of my craft room in the basement. The biggest drawback is how cold it is down there, but at least I have my stuff organized and it has gotten me excited about finishing UFOs (unfinished objects) and thinking about how to use all the scrap yarn I have left from other projects. Fun!

)

To be fair, the top and bottom shelves are not craft things, just extra blankets, etc that are being stored. In other words, I still have room to expand. 🙂

We are currently living only in the downstairs of the house while the upstairs gets some work done. My parents came in early October while Scott was still in NJ to help me rip carpet out of the back bedroom upstairs. We are now stripping paint from the baseboards, and when that is finished we will sand them and see where we are. They may be white again or we may try to stain them. Then on to the next room, hall and bathroom. Once our work is done we will have someone in to redo the wood floors. It will probably be a year before we are in the bedroom upstairs, but we will certainly have learned a lot. 🙂

We’ve done more, but that’s enough for one post. I will try to post more often after the holidays.