How I Learned...

As I look back at my recent (and terribly infrequent) posts, I’m a wee bit embarrassed. But, life around here has been, you know… life. With the arrival of spring, I’ve been making changes to lighten my responsibilities so I can have more time for myself, my family, and to also spend more time with you on Instagram, Facebook, and here on the blog. It’s slow progress, but I can feel the load lessening each day and it’s an awesome feeling. After all, I'm here with you today.

Last month I tried very hard to complete the daily April @yarnlovechallenge on Instagram. I started out strong and I was having so much fun, but later in the month, posting started slipping away a day at a time and then all of a sudden (you know, out of nowhere) May showed up. How does that happen?

So, clearly I’m not cut out for a daily challenge, but May brings a new challenge and this time there are weekly prompts - I can post once a week (which I should totally be able to do) or as much as I want during the dates for that prompt. You can join the fun, too!

 
 

As I was thinking about posting the quick answer on IG, I thought this week’s prompt #HowILearned would also be a great blog post and I hope you enjoy my extended answer below!


I learned to knit in 2001 and I had no idea how two sticks and some string would change my entire life… I was working through some pretty big “life stuff” and needed something to ground me, and I decided that “thing” was knitting. I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased the Boye I Taught Myself Knitting Kit (I think the lady with the pretty hair and big smile sold me), some size 11 circular needles (plastic with an unyeilding cord), and ONE skein of Lion Brand Chenille (because, clearly this was all I needed to knit a skirt). It's okay if you're laughing, because how could you not be? It's really funny and I'm giggling now. Thankfully, it was only a short wait for Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch Handbook (a book I still recommend for beginning knitters) and she guided me to the light with her great writing style and good tool & yarn recommendations!

I did discover the local yarn shop, but I was quite intimidated in the beginning because 1) I was self-taught, 2) the knitters in the shops seem very tight-knit (pun intended), and 3) I felt like a total newbie because the yarn and everything else was overwhelming. It was A LOT to take in and felt like I was back in high school and the knitters were the cool-kids and I again didn’t fit in. However, what I know now is that 1) many of us are self-taught and that’s awesome (you don’t have to take formal classes to be a "real" knitter), 2) knitters *are* tight-knit, but most are super friendly and LOVE to talk about knitting (I dare you to try and stop us from talking to anyone that seems like they *might* listen), and 3) I had actually developed some mad knitting skills though my self-studying (I am a researcher at heart and probably spent just as much time knitting as internetting about the knitting).

The fear of the yarn shop is one that I hear about frequently at Firefly Fibers and to that I say... get into your yarn shop, ask questions, and support your LYS so they'll be around for years to come! We are here to help and want to do what we can for you to have fun knitting. And, if you have the opportunity, visit more than one shop – most shops are run by one or two people and their personality is part of the shop and you may feel more comfortable at, or like the selection better, at a certain shop. Take a deep breath, walk through the door and get to know them!

I’d been knitting for a couple years when a co-worker told me about the Madison Knitter’s GuildWHAT?! There were actually enough knitters in the area to make a “club”?! Apparently, yes (and several times over). My friend invited me to my first meeting and my knitting universe broke wide open – there were SO many lovely knitters at the meeting and I discovered a whole new world that was full of people who loved sticks and string as much as I did. Until then, knitting was mostly a solitary activity for me and I was so happy to finally find that there was (a lot) more of my brand of freak out there and it's only grown more since then.

Here's where I date myself.... when I learned to knit 16 years ago: the internet was a baby and had very limited knitting resources, yarn was nothing like what we have now (we were coming out of a decade - or two - with A LOT of acrylic and little to no indie dyers) and Ravelry didn’t exist. This last one may be hard to believe, but it’s true. There was a time before Ravelry.

I signed up for Ravelry when there was a wait list, so I entered my email and then I waited to be granted access… I remember the day I got my email notification and signed up immediately – January 14th, 2008 and I am Raveller #64,320.  How do I know my Ravelry number and do you want to know yours? Here’s a fun little trick (you’ll have to do this on a computer):

Hold the Ctrl key and (using the arrow keys) Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

After doing this, your Ravelry number should appear below your “Raveler Since” date, just like this…

Pretty cool, right? If you give this a try, feel free to leave a note below with your Ravelry number. It's fun to see where everyone falls - especially since as of February of 2014 (over 3 years ago) there were 4 MILLION ravellers!

Speaking of Ravelry… many congratulations to these amazing folks on their 10-year anniversary this month! Knitting and crocheting have grown beyond what I could have hoped for, or imagined, because of Ravelry. They’ve connected knitters and crocheters all across the world with each other and created the most incredible database of patterns and yarn. Knitting and crochet has been transformed because of them.

If someone would have told me in 2001 that future-me would own a yarn shop, design patterns, teach others to knit, and knit the beautiful things I do now, I would have told them they were bonkers! After all these years, I am so very thankful for making that fateful decision to pick up that silly kit with the super-happy smiling lady on the front of the booklet, those terrible plastic circular needles, and that awful chenille (it was purple, just in case you were wondering), because it was the stepping stone to where I am today.

CHEERS!

SIMPLY HANDMADE-Along | Wrapping Up

With only 2 weeks left in the year and a week and a half until Christmas, the pressure is on. I'm feeling it and I'm sure you are, too. So, to wrap things up with the Simply Handmade-along, I'm focusing on 2 quick and simple projects that are fun to make and perfect for gifting. 

WRAPPING UP | THROUGH DECEMBER 31st

The first project is one of our newest additions at the shop, the popular Katrinkles Sweater Ornaments:

I adore these wee ornaments and, in addition to looking adorable hanging on a Christmas tree, they're also fabulous for dressing up gift packaging. With the hustle and bustle this time of year, I appreciate these quick projects because 1) they're pretty awesome, 2) I'm sure at least one can be completed in an evening (really, several could be stitched up if I can take a deep breath and not overthink it), and 3) they're handmade by Katy at Katrinkles and when they're stitched up with love (and some pretty floss or yarn), I'm sure they'll be well-received. 

We're stocked at Firefly Fibers here as the blank only or as a kit with a variety of 6 colors of floss and a size 24 tapestry needle (both include the cord for hanging). There have been some super fun versions posted on Instagram and one of my favorites used variegated sock yarn, so you can even stash dive for some fun bits of fingering weight yarn for stitching. Fun, right?!

I did say I had 2 projects this month, so we also have one of my all-time favorite projects from one of my all-time favorite designers... Marian by Jane Richmond:

I've knit several of these cowls over the years and several have made the rotation as a shop sample. When the new Sugar Bush Chill arrived a few weeks back, I had grand dreams of knitting Jane's new Entwine Scarf (you know, in all the free time I have), but reality set in with looming deadlines, so 2 balls of Chill and some big ol' needles seem to be just perfect for an "instant-gratification" project. 

I've got 2 balls of Chill in Grey River stashed in my knitting bag with a set of needles. Maybe I'll cast on tonight?

So... what do you think? Do you need to whip up a couple last-minute projects for gifts or do you just want to knit up a cozy, squishy, soft cowl for yourself? After all, it's cold outside now and we're expecting a BIG storm this weekend.

We love seeing your projects (and they get you chances to win), so be sure to share on social media with #HandmadeAlong and also here on Ravelry in the Firefly Fibers group. We'll have a final giveaway to officially wrap up this year's Simply Handmade-along, so be sure you're signed up here, share photos, and stay tuned for details... 

psst... you can use any yarn for Marian, but if you want to try Chill and order from the Firefly Fibers online shop on or before Sunday, December 18th, we're working hard to ship ASAP, so your order will be shipped out no later than Monday, December 19th. 

CHEERS!

SIMPLY HANDMADE-ALONG | AWESOME AUGUST

The new August Simply Handmade-along project really is AWESOME! I sound pretty confident, don't I? Well, I know it's AWESOME, because I've already knit one and I absolutely LOVE it! The first was for the Blue Sky Fibers Summer KAL - our shop sample is amazing - and I *might* have worn it once (or twice) because it's just so squishy and irresistible.  Say "hello" to the Caledonia Cowl... 

 

AUGUST | CALEDONIA COWL | THROUGH SEPTEMBER 5TH

photo by Blue Sky Fibers

photo by Blue Sky Fibers

The Caledonia Cowl is knit in my favorite cotton, Blue Sky Fibers Worsted Cotton and it's a perfect pairing of project and yarn. Really, the super-soft organic cotton and the garter stitch make a cowl that's not only gorgeous, but the cotton makes it a perfect summer accessory. And, what's even better... it's a super-fast knit with the yarn held double on size 13 needles! 

I knit the first one as a shop sample using the colors pictured [3 skeins (MC) 614 Drift, 1 skein each (CC's) 625 Graphite, 626 Stone, and 639 Wasabi] in just a couple evenings and quickly decided that I was going to knit a 2nd one for myself. I had enough of the 3 contrast colors left that I *could* have made an identical one with just 2 more skeins of the main color (you do have about half of a skein left), but I decided to swap one out one of the contrast colors and I'll share the new color combo soon on Instagram. It's not crazy different, just enough for a slightly different version. 

 

Here's a 2nd version recommended by Blue Sky Fibers using 3 skeins (MC) 80 Bone, 1 skein each (CC's) 643 Ash, 635 Sleet, and 628 Azul.

There are also some really fabulous color combos in the Blue Sky Fibers Caledonia Cowl KAL thread. 

 
photo by Blue Sky Fibers

photo by Blue Sky Fibers

So... if you fancy joining the fun this time around, you can (as always) choose any yarn you want for our KAL, but if you'd like to use the Blue Sky Fibers Worsted Cotton (and I highly recommend this because it's a great yarn), Firefly Fibers is offering 20% OFF all in-stock Worsted Cotton through Monday, August 22nd for our Handmade-along at the brick-and-mortar shop or online with offer code 'CaledoniaKAL'

As an added bonus... if you complete your cowl before August 31st, be sure to share your FO photo in the Blue Sky Fibers group for a chance to win the prize for their KAL! Of course, just casting on and starting a project counts for prize eligibility in our group, but I know you won't be able to put this one down and you'll have one finished in no time at all!

I hope you'll join the fun this month, because it's REALLY FUN! If you're new to the Simply Handmade-along, you can find all the details and sign up here

CHEERS!