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.

Travel Season is Here. What Are You Taking With You?

Long car rides and flights, days on the beach, evenings on campsites, summer vacation season is days away.  What are you taking with you to work on?

If you’ve never taken a project on the road, give it a shot on your next trip!

So what makes a good travel project?

I’ve traveled with everything from socks to sweaters, it really depends on the type of trip, but I’ve found that there are few guidelines to making travel crafting pleasurable.

  • Think small. I know summer seems like a the wrong time of year to be thinking about hats, socks and scarves, but these are great small projects to bring along.  They take up just a little space and in most cases don’t require more than yarn, needles/hook, and maybe a pair of scissors.
  • Think simple.  If your project requires multiple charts or a novel of directions, it can get fidgety when confined to a small work space like a plane or car.  There are plenty of one page projects or one page, easy to remember charts out there to pick from.
  • Think color.  One color is your friend!  Trying to manage multiple colors can be light fighting an octopus when you’re on the move.

Here are a few ideas for projects to throw into a project bag and carry along on your next adventure….

Lataa can be made with a single skein of sock yarn and has a small repeating chart.

The Vortex Shawl can get a little large but is still manageable on the road. Once you’ve completed a few repeats of the pattern, it’ll stick with you until it’s done.

These Poseidon Socks pack a lot of punch without a lot of fiddling around.

Coraline in Wine Country has an easy to memorize pattern and it’s a crochet piece so it’ll move along fast.

Vanilla Latte Socks are a quick work up, and would work with virtually any colorway.

With a linen based yarn the Clapotis Cowl would be a great summer piece for those chilly office spaces you’ll have to return to after your vacation.

There it is…just a handful ideas to pack up and take with you on the road this summer.  Give it a try! Want to share your favorite travel projects? Post them up in the comments.

Woolly Wonders!

img_0069I’ve wanted to get a new knitting group going for a little while.  A couple of the ones I had participated in over the past few years either fizzled, evolved into other things, or real life kicked all of our asses at once and have been on a very long hiatus.

Between work, knitting shenanigans, slowly enacting my plan for world domination, and strong introvert tendencies, social commitments can be difficult at times.  I think everyone is in the same boat paddling for time, so setting up a groups that meets the second Sunday of every month sounded like a good plan.  To toss in a bit more fun, why not move the knit up location every time? The group wouldn’t stress one location consistently.  That also allows us group folk to support more than one local business.  I’m also a huge fan of crafting in public, when it feels like most of the world is staring at a smart phone, stitching away in public seems like an act of social deviance.  We can all use a bit of that in our lives.

After creating one of those infamous event things on Facebook I crossed my fingers and hoped a few people would show up to Mocha Moe’s in Flowery Branch.  One person came somewhat by force because I kidnapped her.  That’s not entirely true but a funny visual.  Three more people came!  Is that a huge knitting group, no, but it’s a damn good start.  Deborah, Kelly, Lia, DeAna, and myself had a good afternoon filled with knitting, coffee, and a few laughs.

We’re doing this again on March 11th at 1:00pm – 3:00pm at Left Nut Brewery in Gainesville, GA.  Keep an eye out for one of those event things, with the set up at the brewery I’m going to need a head count so I can beg them to reserve us one of the bench tables a few days in advance.

If you’re in Northeast Georgia feel free to drop on by.  Woolly Wonders (that name may change eventually) is meant to be open to anyone who enjoys any fiber craft; knitting, crochet, needlepoint, or anything else requiring fiber to make, with a welcoming spirit.  I hope for a diverse group of women and men, of all ages, walks of life, and skill levels.

We have very few rules.  Please leave the political debate at home, it has destroyed too many crafting groups over the years, and treat others respectfully.

There is no obligation to come every month.  There’s no rigid structure here, simply come and spend some time working with some crafty people.

All of us will have one thing in common, our love of fiber craft, everything else can be built on from there.

The Stories Strangers Tell: Knitting Adventures at 39,000 Feet

As a habitual knitter there’s always a small project that lives in my bag or backpack to work on if there’s a bit of downtime. It’s much more appealing to craft something tangible if a couple of rows can be thrown into a project than sitting and poking at a smart phone screen.

While sitting on a flight I pulled out a pair of Knitted Knockers (hand knitted breast prosthesis) to work on since I was trapped in the dreaded middle seat and there was absolutely no chance of a nap. Once in a while I’ll get a question or two about what I’m working on, but largely the yarn fidgeting goes unnoticed, other times like several other knitting in public adventures, there will a conversation I won’t forget.

Being trapped, both passengers on either side saw what I was up to pretty quickly. The first was a man in his mid-twenties who had just pulled out a game system. He commented that if he wouldn’t be teased that he would love to learn how to knit. Our conversation fell along the lines, of why worry about what his friends think, if he wanted to he could just knit in private, and there were plenty of men who knit. He asked a few more questions about where and how to start, and he was pointed towards his local yarn shop in Pennsylvania.

Now on the other side, sat a woman, well into her retirement years with a thick Brooklyn accent. “I knit. Mom taught me. Nothing fancy. Mom could really knit.” Really?

Her mother would knit her and her siblings new sweaters every year, ripping apart the sweater from the year before, knitting it a little larger and adding more yarn when necessary. When the yarns were finally too worn to reuse for the next year, the kids would pick from a handful of colors for their next sweater. Nothing too bright, nothing to extreme, simple colors that could matched if more yarn had to be added to in following years. She missed her yearly sweaters.

She asked me how I learned, and I filled her in. She asked where I bought yarn in Georgia, since she was going to be staying for a few weeks and wanted to make a couple of scarves for her grandkids. Filled her in there too, and how I was always there on Saturdays, but since it would be a long drive for her, I told her about a few shops I knew about near the family members she would be staying with.

Then she asked the big question. “What are you making anyway?” Knitted Knockers were explained and her expression changed entirely. It’s hard to describe what I saw on her face. Pain, grief, a touch of happiness, surprise. It was hard to read. I froze, and didn’t really know what to say.

She spoke first. I can still hear her story in my head.

Mom died in the early 80s. She found a lump in her right breast, and went over a year before going to the doctor about it. You’re far to young to know how cancer of any type was treated then. It wasn’t talked about, like it is now. There wasn’t support groups. There wasn’t information out there. The treatments were brutal. Mom had her breast removed. It didn’t heal well. It was always painful, there was no reconstruction choices. She was told to stuff the empty place in her bra, and go on with life. She began isolating herself. She was a housewife, she only left the house for errands stuffing her bra and wearing the baggiest clothes she had.

Mom found another lump in her remaining breast two years later. She chose to let it take her and was gone within a year. If she had one of these knitted things and felt better about herself, maybe things would have been different for her.

The woman went silent. I didn’t know what to say other than I’m sorry.

She spoke again.

The woman who started this organization and the people who are knitting these things are doing a great good in this world.

She picked her book back up and began reading. I took that as a sign that I should pick my needles back up and not speak further.

Others around us had heard her story and began sharing their own stories about family members that had fought cancer in many forms. I sat, worked, and listened. My neighbors in the row sat and listened.

The woman next to me, put her book back down, sat and listened in silence. Knitting triggered her memories of both happiness and pain. There were no more words between us for the rest of the trip.

I hope that the happy memories of the childhood sweaters and the scarves that she will make for her grandchildren will bring her comfort.

It’s been a few weeks since our conversation on the plane, she never made it up to Yarn Rhapsody during the time she said she would be in Georgia. I wish her nothing but peace.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Knitting on the Road

planeI’m escaping Georgia tonight for some shenanigans with friends this weekend.  Being the fanatical knitter that I am, there is always at least a pair of socks on needles in my purse and there is always a project bag tossed in my luggage for downtime on trips.

I’ve been asked at nearly every gate waiting for boarding about the legalities of traveling with knitting needles, so it’s time for a quick primer on air travel with projects.  My experience here is limited to domestic air travel, other rules may apply to international flights.

Are knitting needles and crochet hooks allowed in your carry-on bag?
The simple answer is yes.  But when is the simple answer ever the complete one?  All it takes is one misinformed TSA agent or a flight attendant to think your needles look intimidating and you’ve got a problem on your hands.  As much as some of us love our nice, pointy, metal ChiaoGoos or Addis you may want to leave those home.  Kick over to wood or plastic, and circular needles would probably be preferred over straight.  Besides using straights in a tightly packed airplane may be uncomfortable for you and the passengers seated next to you.

How about scissors?
This is another yes, but, answer.  Blades must be shorter than 4-inches, and the type that fold up onto themselves are recommended.  Those nifty thread cutting pendants, or anything that looks like it may have a razor style blade are a no-go.

Regular needles, you know the ones you finish projects with?
Ummmm this one is a bit gray.  I’ve flown with finishing needles with rounded points, but I’ve heard more than one person complain that theirs was taken.  So, you may want to leave those at home.

So what do I do if TSA tries to confiscate my needles or hooks?
The most important part of traveling with craft projects is to be prepared, just in case.  Carry a copy of the TSA policies related to your particular project, there are some agents that may not be clear on the guidelines, but screeners can confiscate any items they feel are unsafe despite of the guidelines.  You can find some help with this information on the What Can I Bring section of the TSA website.

If you think an item may be pushing a guideline, put it in your checked bag, or have a self-addressed, pre-paid mailer to ship your item to your destination or back home, and don’t risk flying with expensive or sentimental items.

Always be polite, and informed if questioned.  From personal experience here, I’ve only been questioned about my knitting once, and after showing the screener the policy from the TSA site all was well.

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, now what?

Bring something small with you, socks, scarves, and other items of similar size are perfect on adventures.  Just think about projects that don’t require grand gestures to manuver when flipping over to do the next row, since space is limited, and your row-mate may not want to be covered with a half finished afghan.  Simple projects are best for a couple of reasons.  Patterns that require you to reference printed patterns may become fiddly in a limited space, also it helps if your project is simple enough to be able to stop quickly (God-forbid mid-row but it happens) and is easily memorized.

Other things to consider…
Yarn:  try to have yarn caked or rolled into center pull balls so you can leave your yarn in a project bag while you work.  Having a ball fall to the floor and roll halfway down the plane isn’t as funny as it sounds. Trust me.

Needle Holders: Travel isn’t alwasy the safest things for needles, find a way to protect  your needles when they aren’t in use.

Project Bags:  I’ve always had great luck with project bags that have carry handles built in.  You can loop the bag around your arm and have the yarn feed from it while you work.  No worries about anything falling in the floor there.

Knitting in airports and on the plane is an excellent way to pass the time and maybe spark the interest of your fellow passengers, so enjoy it!

Social Knitting?

When knitting comes up in conversation the image of a matronly woman sitting in a rocking chair often comes to mind.  There she sits, alone, needles clicking away at some beige colored yarn.  This is the reality of some, well, maybe without the rocking chair, or the age….or the beige yarn….

It’s the norm for some of us knitty types to just work in the comfort and privacy of  our own homes.   At the end of a stressful day I’m absolutely guilty of grabbing a project and heading for the couch, with a cup of tea, or something harder depending on just how stressful that day was.  I knit alone for the first four or five years after picking up needles for the first time, and then there was the discovery of whole knitting social networks out there.

It happened after I moved to the current homestead and stumbled into a local yarn shop.   In the center of this shop was a long table with chairs set all the way around it.  No one was there that afternoon but the owner brought up she had several times a week where other knitters would come in and work on projects together and invited me to come.  The concept was a bit foreign to me, it took a few weeks to take her up on the offer, but I finally packed up a project into a bag and headed back down to the shop on a Saturday afternoon.

No joke, my social life changed.  This introvert found her tribe! The shop was filled with a group of vibrant and varied individuals, both male and female, working away and laughing their asses off.  All ages, and walks of life were sitting around that table.  I was made to feel welcome within minutes after getting grilled with the typical who-are-you and what-do-you-do questions.  You know, the typical initiation into any group.  After meeting these people, my knitting began to travel with me wherever I went, and if there was more than a few minutes of waiting time, out the needles would come.

Sunday mornings would  usually begin with a caramel macchiato, people watching, and yarn manipulation at the local coffee-house.  That led to another invitation to a knitting group on Thursday evenings packed full of more amazing people after being discovered knitting in a corner.  For the better part of a year and a half, Thursdays and Saturdays had standing plans to meet up with these knitting nuts.  The Thursday group began to disolve after jobs and life began to impact schedules, but both groups have introduced me to friends that have become family.  I really don’t know how I’ve survived without some of these people in my life, and we all have one thing in common, we love making things out of yarn.

All that said, there have been studies pop up over the years (just google them) that have shown crafting with others can improve confidence and self-esteem, reduce stress, and help with feelings of isolation (well duh on that last one).

If you are in northeast Georgia, or north-metro Atlanta wander into Yarn Rhapsody  in Gainesville, on Saturday afternoon, we’re a welcoming kind of people, and don’t bite.  Claudia (owner) also carries an amazing selection of yarns.  Side note: there has been no payment for this endorsement, this shop has turned into my home away from home.

Grab your yarn and tools of choice and get out there.  Find a group!  Or just start knitting at your local coffee house, the group will find you.  Thank me later.