Friday, January 13, 2017

Simple Herbal Remedy for Coffee Aftertaste: Mint in Your Coffee!


Plenty of people in the world love coffee. I never drank it until I had children. Yep, that’s right, my children drive me to drink, no surprise there! Coffee that is. The one thing I positively detest is that coffee aftertaste that lingers on the back of your tongue following a cup (or three as the case may be). I began thinking that there had to be an easy way to eliminate this, so I didn’t have to relive the worst aspects of coffee. I was drinking my first cup of coffee while looking out at my deck herb garden. All was rarely quite; none of my children were awake, so I was savoring the moment…. And then I got an idea.

 

I went out to my chocolate mint plant, and clipped off a single sprig. It was about two sets of leaves in total. I put it in my empty cup, and filled it with coffee. Cream and sugar added and I had my experiment ready! I gave the mint leaves a minute or two to release their oils, and I took a sip. The flavor released by the leaves was just the barest hint of mint, meaning it was not overpowering. More importantly, when I was done with the cup, I did not have that taste on the back of my tongue!


My trooper chocolate mint plants!


 

I discovered this trick in the summer, and I have been using it with almost every cup of coffee. I brought my herbs indoors in pots. They grow a bit slower, but I also pilfer sprigs from my spearmint plant as well. Buy yourself a couple of mint plants, or find a neighbor like me, and be prepared to enjoy your coffee without that lingering taste!

Friday, January 6, 2017

To Frog or Not to Frog?

I am working on a design for a shawl I am going to call “Springtime”. It is a combination of two stitches, to evoke two images we often associate with springtime: little leaves and raindrops. I was going to do it all in a lovely mint color I got from my first DBNY.com order, but as I reached the end of the first skein, I realized I wasn’t going to have enough yarn. Plus it took me one iteration of my planned stitch pattern to get the border just the way I wanted. So I had one section where the border wasn’t quite right. I started playing with the idea of adding another color of yarn into my project. I have a nice blue, and that was when I was inspired!
I was planning on alternating the leaf stitch pattern and raindrop stitch pattern, but then I thought, “if I am going to add blue, then I can just do the raindrop stitch in blue!” I had already done some raindrop in the green though…. So it was decision making time. Do I continue on, with my new design ideas, and just leave the previous work the way it is, or do I pull it all off the loom and start over? Eventually, I came to the realization that what I currently have planned will be a more artful design, better conveying the idea of springtime.  I want my first prototype of the shawl to be everything it can be. I am hoping that this design will be my first paid design, and I want my prototype to be as beautiful, so that the pictures I take of this shawl speak to those who might have an interest in making one for themselves.
Conversely, I have made mistakes in my knitting and just left them. For example, I was making a garter stitch hat for one of my boys, and I accidentally did two rows of knit stitch. If you are a needle knitter, it would be like you throwing in an unnecessary row of purl stitches when trying to produce garter stitch. I hadn’t notice my error though, and produced about 1.5 inches of hat before I saw it. I was going to go back, but my husband said “Don’t worry about it. He won’t notice, it adds character anyway.” With my shawl though, the errors did matter, and if I had left them, I wouldn’t have been able to use the shawl for my pictures and for the final production of the design.
When deciding to frog a project (or not as the case may be), you should weigh the pros and cons. You don’t want to always leave noticeable errors in your project, but neither do you want to be such a perfectionist that you take forever to finish even short projects. Our mistakes are what help us to learn and grow, so they aren’t always all bad.
When you are knitting something for yourself, your mistakes may not glare at you as badly as when you are knitting a gift for someone else, or even knitting something you intend on selling. When you are knitting something you want to give or sell to someone else, the mistakes you make can bring down the perceived quality of the item, depending on what the mistakes are. You generally want to present your best work to others. In pattern design, you want to give people using your pattern the best example of the project you can. Your prototype should be an exact example of how other’s project can turn out if they follow your design.
Basically, I think frogging or even going back to far on a project should be a decision you make on a case by case basis. Having to go back to far can be very discouraging. If it is for someone else though, your motivation is different, and it becomes more important that the item appear exactly as you mean it too. We are not machines, to never make errors, but the work we sell or give as gifts deserves our best effort. Even if that effort means starting over, or undoing a lot of the project.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Publishing on Ravelry


I published my first pattern on Ravelry today. Wow, what a great feeling! The pattern I published was the Lace Stitch Legwarmers pattern. If you have read it before, go check it out again here. I added an option to use the 31 peg large gauge loom for larger calves. I love legwarmers because with loose boots, they work great as boot toppers as well. Wonderful for flats and leggings or boots or leggings, so what is not to love? I still plan on doing the same pattern with bulky yarn instead of super bulky, so the pattern may see an update when that happens.

Publishing on Ravelry was super easy. Much easier than I thought it was going to be. Actually, the pattern generator is what caused me to add the option for a larger circumference legwarmer. The pattern generator introduces fields in sections, and it is very easy to begin a draft and come back to it later. I have a draft saved for the Bamboo Stitch Scarf I am working on. I am just finishing up the scarf, and I plan on publishing that pattern once I have some pictures to go with it.

The generator even draws your attention to anything that is left blank, so you can make sure you leave no fields empty, unless that is your intention. As soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button, my pattern was searchable on Ravelry! It is exciting to get my first design out into a forum in which I hope it will be helpful to others. There are not a lot of free loom knitting patterns for legwarmers available right now, so I am glad that I was able to contribute to an accessory niche in need of patterns!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sublime Bamboo/Silk Yarn Review

I received a couple of orders of yarn last week, and overall I am very pleased with what I purchased. The first yarn I pulled out was a bamboo/silk blend by Sublime. I had never heard of this company before shopping on DBNY.com, but I am so glad I took a chance on it! I decided to try a lacy spring shawl on my infinity loom, in the Key Lime colorway. The feel and texture is similar to that of Yarn Bee Hint of Silk, however I don't think that Sublime Bamboo/Silk blend is as prone to fraying as much as Hint of Silk is. The Sublime Bamboo/Silk blend is prone to splitting thought; I have to keep an eye out or I will lose threads. If you are loom knitting, be careful because it is easy to not remove all of the yarn from a peg because it is so soft and smooth.

The Sublime Yarn Company was started in 2006, and they strive to produce only the best in luxurious natural fibers in beautiful soft colors. Their website also has a lot of designs for knitting and crochet, but of course, not loom knitting. You cannot purchase yarn directly from the site; as I said, I got mine from DBNY.com.

My initial impressions of the yarn suggest that it will give a lovely sheen and drape to any project you choose to use it for. With this Key Lime color, it will be perfect to wear through spring and summer, since it is a bamboo/silk blend. I know it seems a bit early to be considering things to knit and wear for summer, but the Spring Equinox in is March, and April will be here before we know it. Typical of bamboo and silk yarns, I wouldn't suggest using it for anything that requires a good yarn memory, like anything with cuffs and such. A cotton silk might be better for that. If you were planning a long sleeve top that doesn't need to be snug, you could definitely still use this yarn for that, as long as you planned for a relaxed fit.

I will, of course, do a separate post for the spring shawl, but it is going to take me awhile to finish. I bought 4 balls of the Sublime Key Lime, so hopefully it is enough. On my infinity loom, I cast on 60 pegs (classic knit cast on), did 3 rows of garter stitch (6 rows altogether), and then started my lace pattern.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Coveted Yarn Review

The first site I ordered from and have actually received the yarn is Coveted Yarn.com. First of all I give them 5 stars for shipping costs, and 5 stars for delivery time. I was charged $5 for shipping, and it was only 5 days from the time I placed my ordered to the time I received it. Wow! Cheap and fast is the way I like my shipping! Coveted Yarn took me awhile to find online, I’ll be honest. I was looking for good wholesale and discontinued yarn sites for a few days when what must have been a slight quirk in my search query brought up Coveted Yarn. They should work on their SEO (meaning Search Engine Optimization) to bring the joy of Coveted Yarn to more people!

From what I can tell, Coveted Yarn doesn’t have quite as large of a selection as some of the other sites, but they do appear to add new inventory at least once per week. It is hard to tell; they have a new items page, but it is alphabetical order. Their website itself leaves a few things to be desired. I would love it if they added how many of each yarn colorway that they had in stock as part of the item listing. You don’t know if they have the number you want until you try and put it in your cart. Then the site tells you “Sorry we edited the number in your cart” or something to that effect. So if you wanted 5, and they only have 3, there is a warning about that in your cart item list.

They have a great clearance tab, where you can see all of the clearance items, but there are a ton of items that are on sale, that are not on clearance, which you won’t see. I remedy this by using their “Yarn by Fiber” page to look for natural fibers and blends that I am interested in purchasing. You also cannot see the yarn’s price until you click on that yarn and look at the color options. Sometimes certain options for the yarn (i.e. single skein versus bag of 10) are on sale while others are not, so I understand why they don’t list the price. I think this could be fixed by listing the lowest price, or a price range for the yarn, so you know if that yarn is even in your price range before clicking on it.

I was excited to see there was a blog, and then immediately disappointed to discover that the last post was in 2014. The blog could be utilized for featuring a particular yarn company, yarn type, yarn fiber, new inventory, etc. I would love to read yarn reviews and about some of the lesser known yarn companies sold by Coveted Yarn. Some of the yarn sold on the site comes from companies I have never heard of. By having a blog post on a company’s history, it would inform buyers and give them confidence when purchasing the yarn. I give the site itself 3 stars.


The site is the only thing I am not a fan of for Coveted Yarn, that being said, if they are putting more into customer service as a result, then I’m fine with it since it is usable. Coveted Yarn is a site I would definitely recommend you check on a regular basis to stock up on hard to find fibers that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Overall, my rating is 4 stars, with a note that despite the website, I will be purchasing more yarn in the near future!

Shopping Online for Luxury Yarn

How to Buy Luxury Yarn Online
Silk. Bamboo. Cashmere. Angora. Mohair. Llama. All of these, among many others, are considered luxury fibers. Most manmade fibers are designed to feel like a natural fiber of some kind. This usually makes manmade fibers cheaper to make and sell. As a knitter, I love natural fibers. The normally breath better, absorb moisture, or keep you warmer that manmade fibers. You know what I don’t love? Luxury fiber prices!

Don’t get me wrong. I do not begrudge these hard working fiber creators their profit. It is a product I’m willing to buy. It is hard, expensive work taking care of the animals or plants that produce the fibers I love to knit with. That being said, anywhere I can get my luxury fiber fix for cheap is something I’m going to look into.

Before ordering yarn online, I would try visiting your local yarn store (Google it, you probably have one near you). By local yarn store, or LYS, I don’t mean Hobby Lobby or Michaels. I mean a small locally owned craft store. They often have a huge amount of natural yarn and natural blends. Go there, and look around. Touch the yarns, so you know what they feel like. Buy some if you find some you like; I love supporting small businesses.

If you don’t have a LYS to visit, or if you find a yarn online that intrigues you that you cannot find in a store, I recommend looking for reviews of that yarn, either on the yarn producer’s site or in an online crafting community like Ravelry.com. On Ravelry.com, you can find the yarn, and see projects in which that yarn was used, and see reviews for most yarns. When you can at least see the sorts of projects people used the yarn for, it can shape your expectation for what you will receive if you purchase it. If you cannot find that specific yarn anywhere (meaning it could be from a very small producer), then look for yarns with a similar make up. For example, I found a yarn on Numei.com that is cotton/bamboo blend that I cannot find reviews for. I went on Ravelry and looked at yarns with similar fiber profiles to get an idea for how this yarn might knit up.

A lot of discontinued yarn sites will have yarn from producers you have never heard of. If this is your first time looking outside places like large chain stores for your yarn, this isn't a huge surprise. So look up these yarn producers. Just because you haven't heard of them, doesn't mean that they aren't putting a quality product out there. Be wary of any off label yarn. It might look nice, but I have heard of people getting balls or hanks full of knots, and yarn that snags on EVERYTHING. Do your research if you aren't confident in the producer. 


With this new knowledge, you have a better chance at choosing yarn that will meet your hopes for a project’s final appearance. The sites I have found that have the best prices for yarn are discontinued yarn sites. These sites by leftover yarn from stores, and in some cases, from individuals who need to destash their personal collections. The benefits of shopping on these sites are the extremely low prices. The main detractor I have come across so far with this sort of sourcing is limited quantities. You find a yarn normally out of your price range that you would love to have, and it would be ideal for a blanket, for example. The site you found this dream yarn on only has 3 balls. Definitely not enough for a blanket. If you need or particularly want a certain fiber or type of yarn though, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay full price. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holes in My Loom Knit Cables

Wow, so I tried to get started on a black cable scarf for my husband a couple nights ago, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to make these cable without giant holes in them! I was trying to do a four stitch cable, and I tried everything to get rid of these holes. I must have restarted the project from the beginning at least four times over the last couple days. I would be okay with small holes, but these holes are huge! The point of the scarf is to keep his neck warm. It won’t do that if it is full of holes (I know, I am being dramatic, but I can stick my fingers through them!).
I did some searching online, and I followed a few different sets of instructions, and I still end up with holes. After reading some forum posts, it sounds like some people just accepted that there will be holes with their cables, and I cannot believe this to be true. I am going to continue searching for a way to make cables on my loom. A way that does not involve pretending that there are not holes in my knitting.
 

If you know of a way, please share it! If I find a way, I will update this post. Check out the size of these holes!