The Word of the Day is Namaste

Back a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away I wrote a review of the Namaste Train Case and Buddy Case. Overall, they are holding up well and were good purchases but with some and travel a small update is warranted.

The Train Case is a great idea in theory and does work well for car travel, and knitting sessions outside of the home, but after flying with it twice there’s a downside, unless you fly first class and have enough leg room to move that case in and out from under the seat in front of you it may not be the best choice as your small carry on.  I would still call it a great purchase but limited on air travel.  The designers certainly put a lot of thought into making it flight friendly but in actual use it misses the mark.  That Buddy Case though…worth every single penny, and maybe a bit more.  That little box is within reach every time I knit, I just have to toss my scary looking scissors out of there before I get to the security checkpoint at the airport.  They look more like a hand wrought tool of torture than a snips.

87900Large_34b9After the train case missed the mark on its airplane suitability I went back to looking for something a little easier to work with.  I fly several times a year and have the attention span of a gnat unless I’m making something with my hands or working, so this is one of those oddly important things to me. I saw the Namaste Maker’s Foldover Bag and thought, hey this could work.  Not going to lie, the numbers on that price tag burned a little bit, but I’ve been looking for not only airplane friendly but everyday carry bags that could accommodate my daily stuff and a project on the go.

I’m not a tiny purse type. I either have a good amount of stuff I like to have access to when I need it, or I just put my wallet and keys in my pocket. It’s always one extreme or the other.

The requirements are:

  • Can it comfortably fit a tablet and my beast of a planner – yep, I’m still running on an old school paper one.
  • Organization pockets – Bags that are just giant open caverns on the inside make my skin crawl.
  • Heavy material – My stuff needs to take a beating. Things that easily rip, or scuff do not stand a chance.
  • Can it squish under a seat if I need it to. 

So the Maker’s Foldover Bag met all of those requirements on paper.  I’ve had it for a two months now, and it’s survived a few flights and regular abuse at home, it’s withstanding the beating.  It holds all the daily stuff – keys, wallet, planner, small notebook, sunscreen (don’t leave home without it) and all the other stuff you would likely find in a woman’s handbag.  On a trip to California I had two projects crammed in, a not so tiny shawl, and socks. A third project probably could have been comfortably stuffed in but project overkill does exist.  It will also hold my beast of a tablet.

I’ve finally found a single knitting/daily gear bag that travels well and looks professional if I happen to have a situation where I’m going to be meeting with someone related to my job. Considering the abuse it’s taken as a travel bag I expected a scuff or two by now and I have two small marks on the sewn corners of the strap at the high points.  No one would notice unless it was pointed out so I declare it has passed the heavy material requirement. I could see after a few years of service the high points in other places being scuffed and the backing material underneath the “vegan leather” showing through, unfortunately that’s white in color, but I would be surprised if I saw wear or scuffing though the body of the bag itself. Your mileage will probably be better, I’m hard on bags. (Let’s not discuss what my luggage looks like these days or the fact I just had to replace my carry on roller-board because it was cracking in bad, bad, places.) The interior of the bag has a built in project bag dead center in the main compartment, making three large areas in the bottom of the bag and then there are multiple smaller pockets throughout the center, leaving enough space for the top to fold over if it’s not packed to the brim.

There are few negatives to this bag and anything I would call out as a negative would be pure knit-picking, but there are things worth noting.  It’s a physically heavy bag.  When I pulled it out of the shipping box I was surprised by the weight.  It’s also a beast as far as size!  The measurements are accurate in the description at Jimmy Beans, but until you see it in person it doesn’t sink in.  For me these aren’t issues, but for others that have handled the bag those two things are almost always mentioned as potential downsides.

Is it worth the investment, yes, if you’re an oddball like me that really wants both access to crafting and daily gear all in one place.  If you’re just a casual knitter that doesn’t have the compulsive need to keep an active project with you at all times, I would lean towards no, and that opinion is centered from the idea that unless you plan on using it often, that amount of money is better spent on yarn or other crafting tools.

Got any questions about things I may not have mentioned, just toss them into the comments and I’ll answer as quickly as I can.

Disclaimer: The products referenced in this review have been purchased with my own funds and have not been biased in anyway by the maker or seller. However, if you are interested in a product review, I’ll happily try your product if you’ll send it my way, and review it fairly.

 

Knitting Goodies – Namaste Train Case

I’m a huge fan of buying a gift for myself sometime during my birthday month.  It may seem a wee bit selfish, but I chalk it up to a self-care.

Being the knitting junky that I am, I saw the Namaste Knitter’s Train Case and my reaction was an instant ooooooooohhhhhhhh pretty, it may have been the dark teal that caught my eye.  I’ve seen Namaste’s products throughout the years and considered them a little too girly for my taste.  I’m more utilitarian than I am “fancy”.  This particular case came out last October, so it has been on the market for a little while and in general has had good reviews.  My case arrived this afternoon, and I’m glad I gifted this to myself. My initial impressions are it’s well designed, beautiful,  well made, and a good choice for a knitting tool.

This case will be great for long-term projects that require the entire arsenal of tools it would take to complete it…think sweaters, multi-color work, or intricate lace work.  The train case is designed for knitters on the move.  I may be traveling less this year (I hope) but this case is designed with travelers in mind.  The size will easily fit under the airplane seat (honestly, it’ll fit under most seats or floorboards in typical travel situations) in front of you, or on the tray table when you are allowed to have it down. It will also travel well to your local coffee shop, knit shop, or pub for those knitting sessions with friends.  The magnetic closure on the front is solid, and it holds a surprising amount of yarn and goodies. Currently, I’ve loaded up the 2nd sleeve of a sweater I’m working on, tools in the included mesh bag, a Namste Buddy Case (more info below) and 5 caked skeins of yarn, and a ChiaoGoo needle set. I could cram more in, but didn’t feel the urge to stuff it full. As soon as that second sleeve is finished, I’ll be able to roll right into the body of the sweater without having to hunt for anything.  When opened, the lid easily accommodates holding a pattern with a few included magnets for easy access on the go, or you can work with the case lid closed and feed yarn through a U-shaped hole on the side, perfect for those long periods of mindless stockinette or garter stitch knitting. I can see this as a solution to the crazy bag lady problem a lot of us knitters have, just load everything you need for your WIP into this case and go, leave the bag for the tools, the bag for the extra yarn, and the bag for the project itself at home.

As far as pricing, it’s not the cheapest knitting case, but it’s the most reasonably priced online, as far as reputable sellers go, over at Jimmy Beans.  If your local yarn shop has a few of these on hand, please consider buying from them instead of online.  The case is constructed of vegan leather, which looks better than I imaged it would after it arrived, and includes the magnets to hold a pattern to the lid, a darning needle, and a button closed pouch for all the little things that you wouldn’t want running wild.  I ordered the matching  Namaste Buddy Case as well.  I’ve had a little tin case that I put stitch markers, and tools in for a while, but it always seemed small and for lack of a better phrase, a complete clusterfuck on the inside.  Once again, this case includes magnets to hold finishing needles, a small tin for markers, and other goodies.  Both pieces seem to be constructed to handle regular use and abuse.

So what is the first project to be worked out of this Train Case? I just finished the Mitali Shawl referenced in a previous post with the exception of blocking….a blocking day is in the near future….so it was time to kick back into the sweater I promised to make for a friend.  She bought the yarn and I’m doing the work, and yes, she is absolutely knit worthy.  The pattern is called Seachange by Jennifer Steingass and I’m working it up in Berroco Quechua (yak, alpaca, and wool blend).  The pattern called for a DK weight but I dropped down to a sport weight and made a few minor adjustments to the pattern.  I want the recipient to be able to wear this sweater more than the one freakishly cold day we get a year in Georgia, and even though the difference between DK and sport weight yarns are minor there’s just enough difference in weight it can make a considerable difference in how warm this sweater will be.  So far, so good, I’ve finished sleeve one, and well into sleeve two after having to pull out a few times and adjust needle size for not only gauge but color work.  Stranded knitting hasn’t always been my strongest point.

I’ve included a few photos of the Namaste Train Case and Buddy Case with tools and yarn included so there’s an idea about how much these two goodies hold, as well as the organization it can provide.  I hope this Train Case and Buddy Case will be part of my knitting tool arsenal for quite a while.

 

Disclamer: I am not compensated for my brief review of this product or seller. This is an unbiased opinion of a knitting/yarn product. If you have a knit related product that you would like for me to try, please feel free to reach out anytime. 

Last but not least, the coffeeandwool.com domain name will continue to remain active instead of this blog reverting to it’s original WordPress address for another year, an anonymous donor insisted on paying the renewal fees for WordPress as well as the domain name, with the condition that I update more often, so that those that enjoy this blog will continue to have easy access.

Double, Double Toil and Trouble -Two at a Time Socks

I definitely didn’t win the lottery last night, so I’m on the road again and stashed in the travel gear is a sock project, my ever faithful travel partner…well…as long as the pattern is simple enough.

There’s a set at home that are in the UFO (unfinished object) cabinet that requires 6 pages of cable charts.  Those are NOT good travel partners.  Having neglected knitting virtually all summer I got a wild hair to work up a quick, simple pair based on the Time Traveler Socks (simple toe up – Fleegle heel) , before jumping back into Area 51 – the unfinished object cabinet – to finish a sweater, two tops, multiple shawls, the complicated socks, a blanket, and a few stuffed animals.  Yeah, I know, I might have a problem.  A lot of those projects were left over from when I was teaching on a more regular basis and as the class ended they went on the back burner to finish at a later date as time allowed.  My gut hunch…this winter is actually going to feel like winter with appropriate weather to stay home on cold days and catch all this stuff up.

So….those socks.

I had kidnaped a friend from a car dealership while her car was in for a bunch of regular maintenance and we just played the day by ear until the car was ready to go. Both of us being craft nerds found ourselves in Yarn Junkies in Hoschton, GA. We didn’t plan on going to a yarn shop…it just happened…money was spent, it happens, despite swearing I wouldn’t buy any more for at least a year.   Yarn Junkies is a well stocked shop with a good selection, and on the new arrivals wall, I saw a box with two balls of yarn.  Attention grabbed!  It was Uneek Sock hand-dyed self-striping sock kit by URTH designed to make two matching socks.  I’m lazy when it comes to matching stripes, if the yarn doesn’t do this magic trick on it’s own I’m not bothered with it.  The shop only had two boxes left in two different color ways.  I did notice something immediately though, the sample photo on the boxes does not seem to remotely match actual colors of the yarn.  I picked up sock kit 59 which shows yellow, black, purple, red, grey and maroon striping on both the packaging and the URTH website.  The colors actually in the box were purple, black, mustard, lilac, rust, and green.  My friend, purchased the second kit, and it had very different colors than the indicated photo as well.  From a review standpoint, this would be a huge turnoff if I had ordered yarn offline and received colors so vastly different, but coming straight from a shop and seeing what I was actually purchasing didn’t cause a bother.  The yarn itself is soft enough to be comfortable on one’s feet, but has enough nylon included that it should wear well for quite a while.  The quality of the Uneek lines have improved under the URTH brand name, but I’m still curious about the link between URTH and Feza, but that’s some research for another day.

pCaxb63hRN6uKjaNol96PASince these kits were split into two even balls of yarn, I thought it would be a good time to try knitting two socks at a time using the magic loop technique.  I’ve seen it done a few times, and get the logic, but oddly enough have never tried it, which is a little surprising since I have experienced Second Sock Syndrome on a few patterns.  There’s quite a few videos out there explaining the technique and how to start, this is one of the few times I’m going to let you find a video instructor that works best for you (until I get around to making a video – wink wink).

My friend and I both picked up Size 1, 40″ circular needles and headed off to go cast-on until the car was ready.

So how’s it going?

So far, so good.  Cast-on, and the first two or three rows were a little odd getting started with a toe up pattern. I would imagine this would be an issue with any experienced knitter but one that can be worked through with a little patience and practice.   Let’s be honest, the beginning of a single sock, on either circulars or double pointed needles can be a bit fiddly.  I used Judy’s Magic Cast-On.  I set up sock one, and then tied a very simple knot with the working yarn and the tail to keep sock one from running away while I set up sock two.

Eventually, you’ll fall into a rhythm with managing two separate balls of yarn and having two separate parts going at the same time.  I thought a 40″ cable would be overkill, but it does allow ample room to manage both socks without risk of sliding your project to the very end of the cable loop and loosing that divide between the front half and back half of the sock.

Even the most simple of sock pattern will require just a touch more attention, once you accidentally forget to drop the yarn from the first sock, and knit it into the second sock and realize you’ve begun to knit the crotch of tights instead of separate socks, you probably won’t make that mistake again.  The technique will begin to feel like you’ve done it a thousand times after you get a an inch or so into it.

For the heel in this case, I will have to work one heel completely and then slide over to sock two and complete that heal, I don’t see a logical way to work my favorite heel without having to move unworked stitches around from one side to another on every pass.  I could, it would insure 100% consistency in this case, but personally, I’m not sweating it.  As long as the the foot, and leg are even, I’m happy.

At least there are a few obvious benefits to taking the wee bit more effort to manage two socks at a time.

  • No Second Sock Syndrome! You’ll either have a pair at the end of this process, or you just won’t.  LOL
  • Row counts and measurements will be consistent between both socks, which should eliminate a lot of time measuring or counting between the traditional one at a time process.
  • Did I mention no Second Sock Syndrome?
  • Gauge will be more consistent between the two – there’s been an odd occasion or two that a second sock has been a half to full stitch off on gauge no matter what I do.  Same needles, same yarn, just slightly different.  It’s not greatly impacted fit for me, but it can be frustrating when you can see a slight size difference, especially if you’re gifting a pair.
  • If you make a change in a pattern you can carry it right over to the second sock then – you know – just in case you forget to write it onto your pattern (cough, cough, guilty, cough)
  • And again, no Second Sock Syndrome

If you’ve not given two socks at a time a shot, get experimental on your next pair.  If the magic looping two socks at a time doesn’t work for you, throw one sock on a stitch holder and work one at a time.  No harm done.

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Addi FlexiFlips – The Good – The Bad – The Ugly

Since my last post, I decided I would get my knitting mojo back by putting my current projects on hold for a bit and knit up something tedious and challenging and touch no other project until this one is completed.  It sounds nuts, but its technique I’ve used when I’ve been in a funk with other things.  Just hit pause and find a good challenge.

I cast on the first of a pair of Coffee Cantata socks and got to work.  There’s a brain melting amount of cable work but my God are they gorgeous.  I’ve considered framing these when I’m done as a joke.  Imagine that on the wall as a conversation starter for guests.

When it comes to socks I break out the double pointed needles.  Always.  I’ve made socks using the magic loop technique before and I don’t find it enjoyable.  I use magic loop on plenty of other things like sleeves and toys just not socks.

After casting on these tediously cabled socks I ran into a minor issue with my beloved double pointed needles.  I started hitting multi-stitch cables and twists spread between two needles in the middle of sides.  It’s fidgity where you don’t want fidgity. Ugh.

I began looking a little more seriously at Addi Flexiflips.

So all of us knitting junkies have seen Addi FlexiFlips appear on the market, and they apparently have been a big hit.  They’ve either been unavailable for order, backordered, or when found have had pricing that is grossly inflated.  The worst pricing I’ve seen is $45 per set for immediate shipment.  It finally looks like after several months these needles are popping up more often with reasonable pricing, but some of  the most common sizes are still hit and miss on availability. The concept looks intriguing, essentially they are circular needles with very, short fixed cables as a join.

I located two sets from the same seller in sizes that would be good to have the arsenal, Size 0 and 2.75mm (1.5 or the larger size 1 – it drives me nuts that there are companies out there that are marketing two size 1 needles Addi is one of them) at a bargain basement price of $18 a set.  They arrived in the mail box yesterday and once I got in from an evening of shenanigans with friends I worked them into the socks and flew through enough rows to feel comfortable writing a review.

Time to break it down…

The Good:
The design itself is pretty sound, and will please both magic loopers and double pointed fans alike.  It’s an excellent blend of the two.

For double pointed needle fans, you are juggling fewer needles, but absolutely have the feel of four in the sock and one to work stitches.  There are only four pointy ends poking out of your sock instead of eight reducing the places your working yarn can catch when you’re in the knitting groove.  I can’t quite articulate it, but having the short flexible cable between tips makes the process feel more compact.

For the magic loop folks, yes you’ll have more than two tips to manage but guess what you don’t have to do. The loop dance.  You know what I’m talking about, the pull one needle tip, re-folding the cable, and all the fidgeting that needs to happen to switch from one half of the sock to the other.  You simply will move from one needle to the next without all the readjusting.  Besides the addition of more pointy ends and learning to manage those, there isn’t much change in the rest of your normal knitting process.

These needles will travel well.  I’ve used several versions of double pointed needle/sock holders and I can fold these needles up to fit any of my existing holders.  Realistically, I could go without these holders once I secure the third working needles into either the yarn ball or the sock itself.  Magic loopers will find that the project itself will be more compact and with the loss of the actual loop, won’t have a snag point.

The Bad:
The points themselves…
Addi ment well by offering their dual tip technology on these needles.  Each needle has one sharp tip, the other side is a more rounded one.  This is great if you’re working a simple sock without a lot of design features.  Simply pick your preference and consitantly use it from one needle change to the next.  If you’re doing cables (especially without the assistance of a cable needle, the pinching method or drop and shift method) you will be arranging and rearranging stitches on both a sharp point and a rounded one. If you’re working a yarn that is on the splitty side, this can be a frustration point.  It’s not a huge issue, but it would be nice to have a choice of all tips being one shape or the other.

The Ugly:
The issue I’ve consistently had with every single set of Addi circular needles that I’ve touched…the joins.
If someone at Addi reads this, why can’t you make a smooth join between cable and needle?!? For what would be considered a prestige or luxury brand of needles, having joins rough enough that yarn doesn’t easily slide ir worse yet splits at the join is disappointing.

Overall, are these worth the investment? Yes.  They are a great concept, and despite the concerns will get the job done.  Are they worth paying the demand pricing for?  No, be patient and wait until you can find the size you need in the $18-25 range.  These are already more pricy than an individual set of double pointed needles or standard circular needles, but for die hards, a worthy tool.  Will these replace all of my beloved double pointed needles? Nope, but they will be a standard fixture on my traveling sock projects. When I have a little money in the fun budget I’ll pick up another size 1 (the smaller size 1 LOL) and a set of size 2 and that’ll be it.  That covers the sock gamut for me.  I will finish out my current socks on these despite my feelings about those variable tips and intricate cables.

Now it’s time to get some photos in.  By mid-morning it was warmer outside on the porch this morning than it was in my house, so the photo shoot was on my porch table, which needs a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning, so just excuse that. Click on the images for some captions and info.

If you’ve tried these for yourself, tell me what your thoughts are.

 

 

Sticks & Cables: Knitting Needles

When I began knitting a little over 10 years ago, my teacher bought me a set of size 8 Takumi straight bamboo needles, and I’m convinced most of us that have started knitting in the past decade probably started on those needles, others started on aluminum, some on plastic.  Those sticks with capped ends got us through those first projects, and either made us or broke us as knitters.

Then, inevitably we begin to get adventurous and begin to look at projects that require a size other than an 8 and we start buying our own needles, and find that materials and options are endless.  Bamboo, wood, plastic, carbon fiber, straight needles, circular needles, interchangeable sets, double pointed, and on, and on, the options can get a little intimidating.  But we get over it and eventually find the combination of materials and needle type that fit our own knitting styles the best.  Then we all eventually get adventurous again and start find what preferences fit us best depending on what we are actually knitting or to fit yarn preferences.  I’m sure you get the idea by now, we can be a fickle band of people when it comes to the bits of sticks we work with.

Over the years, I’ve been trying to assemble my own master set of workhorse knitting tools, and with the arrival of a surprise gift yesterday think I may have filled the stable, with virtually every size I could need.   Am I saying I will never buy another set of needles again, no, of course not.  I travel now and then, knit on the road, and have a fear of having a favorite set of needles snatched by TSA during pre-flight screening so I will pick up a wooden circular set here and there that won’t crush my spirit if they are taken or lost.  Even though knitting needles are leagal to fly with all it takes is one misinformed or cranky TSA agent to ruin your day.

Picking out needles boils down to personal preference more than anything, but here are a few options to consider if you are on your own mission to build a master set of tools.

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My personal preference has led me to appreciate interchangeable sets, tons of options, plenty of cables, all wrapped up in a cute little package that’s easy to keep all the bits organized.  After switching to circular needles, I use straights once in a very blue moon.

The ChiaoGoo 4″ Twist set is a stellar set for someone that’s getting serious enough about knitting to invest some cold hard cash.  This package comes with a lot of bang for the buck with stainless steel needles ranging from sizes 2-15, a wide range of cable lengths, tightening keys, end stoppers, needle gauge/ruler, and stitch markers, pretty much everything you would need to start any project.  I’ve owned this set for a little over two years, and have put a lot of yardage on it.  The points are sharp, making them great for lace work, or yarns that have a tendency to split.  These are stainless steel, I think they are less slippery than aluminum, but still slippery enough that yarn will move easily for tight knits, and the tink tink of metal hitting metal doesn’t seem to be as loud on steel.  The cables are flexible, and have “no memory” they can stay wound up in the case for months, and will lay flat as soon they are pulled out of the case, so there is no frustration caused by a cable wanting to stay curled or not move freely.   The joins where cables and needles meet are smooth and stay connected well.  It’s a very rare occurrence when I can feel the cable beginning to loosen up from the needle, but always in ample enough time that I can pull out the tightening key and set things right again.  If I could recommend one set of interchangeable circulars for a knitter looking for their first set of interchangeable circulars ChiaGoo Twists are it. 

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Now on to the newest addition to the knitting arsenal, a surprise gift, and what I fondly call knitting porn because these needles are bee-you-tee-ful, it was love at first sight when I saw them at the local yarn shop.  These are the Lykke interchangeable circulars.  Even though the ChiaGoo set is extremely versatile, wood has a very different feeling to them, as odd as it sounds they feel alive and feel warm.  As soon as I was off  work yesterday I switched out the ChiaGoo set that was in my current project over to the these just to see how they felt, and yep, birds sang, the sun rose, and love happened.  But like I said wood needles are a different monster from metal ones.   This set ranges from sizes 4-17 and comes with cables, tightening keys, and end stoppers.  The cables are a little less flexible than the ChiaGoo cables but it’s barely noticeable.  The joins are the same size from 4-17 which I think is a plus.  There’s a few projects in my queue that alternate rows between two different sizes, I can put both sizes I need on the same cable and not manage two different sets.  Whoo hoo!  This set is made of birch and stained to look like driftwood, they are very smooth but “grippy” stitches aren’t going to slide off this set unless you intend for them to  but the yarn moves on and off of them well.  These are functional pieces of art, which I will use quite often, but they probably won’t be my go-to-set for detailed lace work or on yarns that are likely to split.  These are great and gorgeous, but a set that may not be the best option for a newer knitter.

img_0753And last but not least, double pointed needles make it into the discussion, and this set is the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz.  Personal preference has left me making socks and small toy knits on DPNs instead of circulars.  This set ranges from sizes 0-3 in groups of five for each size.  After snapping a few wood needles or finding flaws that caused snags while working, and loathing metal DPNs (tink scrape tink scrap ughhhh sound) I thought I would give these a shot and went all in on the full set, and didn’t regret it.  The body of these are carbon fiber, the sharp tips are nickel-plated brass.  So you have the benefit of a sharp metal point where you need it, the grip of wood in the body, and Herculean strength.  The size 0s can be used without fear of them snapping like little toothpicks in your hands.  When you break a needle mid-project and drop a bunch of stitches broken needle phobias develop instantly.

No matter what type of needles you prefer, my greatest recommendation is get the best you can get within your budget, like most tools, the better the quality, the longer it will last.  If at all possible please order from your local yarn shop and support your crack yarn dealer!