Lace, Bacon & Apples

It’s another purge and scrub day at the house, and I’m playing the procrastination game a bit while coffee brews, the bacon sizzles away in the cast iron on the stove top, and an episode of Orange is the New Black is on the tube.  I’ve never been great at taking the time to actually cook breakfast, call it a side effect of not being a morning person, but when I do cook something up it’s usually on Sunday mornings.  If I get moving fast enough I should be able to do what I need to do to the kitchen and go to an open mic night later today.  The kitchen is probably going to be the easiest of the rooms to go through this purge process on, it stays pretty clean for obvious reasons, but I am guilty of accumulating too many free pint glasses and coffee mugs, have gadgets I haven’t used in ages, and need to dump a few doubles.

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Knit-wise, I’m still exclusively working on The Philosopher’s Stone shawl.  It’s been a while since I jumped into an intricate pattern.  This one is beads (a real pain in the ass), lace and cables.  It’s been noticed by at least two other knitting friends that this has been the case and another pattern was discovered. The only times I really dive into complex lace projects is when there is stress kicked off by a significant life change.  It’s not often I talk about work here, but this time it’s a work thing. My boss has the opportunity to cut back to an as needed status and spend more time with her young child.  As a friend, I’m thrilled for her, as a co-worker, I want to bang my head into the wall until I pass out. As far as management types go, she’s a huge loss. Big changes in the working life pushes my anxiety levels through the roof.  I only have my income and a very meager savings account, so I’ll admit, I panic, and always default to “is the end nigh” thinking. That thinking really isn’t justified at this point, but it still happens. Anyway, the shawl is about two-thirds of the way complete, and after that I’ll dive back into the sweaters I need to finish.  Fall is going to run up on me fast if I don’t pay attention.

Despite all the fussing, I did have a cool beans situation come up that allowed for me to upgrade my old iPad, and just in time too, it’ll be falling off the iOS update list this year.  I now have my hands a nice shiny iPad.  So what does that have to do with knitting…a lot actually.  Big screen means I can actually see Knit Companion.  I’m looking into what it would take to become a certified teacher for the program.  I had kinda halfway looked into it a few years ago, but wasn’t really at the point I would have been comfortable teaching it despite knowing the ins and out of the program.  Even if I don’t become a teacher for it, it’s still nice to have something that I can use it comfortably on again.  The mini iPad I used had its benefits, but there was the squint factor on charts.  I’ve also made a bold move for me, I’m going further in limiting my social media time.  Facebook is still a consistent time suck for me despite turning off notifications, and alerts months ago.  The facebook app, messenger, and the page manager for the Coffee and Wool facebook site have all been deleted from every one of my mobile devices.  Unfortunately, I’m still loosing the battle with disconnecting from it entirely, but I’m more than comfortable saying I’m not only going to check it a couple of times a day when I’m doing something on the actual computer.  Now the folks that keep insisting on sending messages through that infernal messenger app may finally understand it’s just easier to text me if they actually need to talk to me.

In the time I’ve taken to blab away, the bacon has been consumed, the coffee is nearly finished, and this episode of Orange is nearly over.  So time to suck it up and get to work on the house so I can escape this afternoon.

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.

Nerdy Knitting Tools: Knit Companion

All of us crafty folk have had it happen, we’ve printed our patterns, broke out our favorite methods of keeping track of rows such as highlighters and post-it notes and have gotten to work.  Days, weeks, maybe months into the project something happens to that piece of paper, the pattern itself disappears, or the post-it you’ve been using as a tracker falls off.  You’re lost!

Okay, maybe it’s not the end of the world, you figure it out and keep going but managing piles of paper can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you’re as guilty as I am for working multiple projects at the same time. I teach, make shop samples for my LYS and make stuff for myself completely unrelated to the first two types of projects, it’s not unusual for me to have 4-8 projects going at once.  I’m trying to reign that in a bit, 8 is a bit much right now but I’ve gotten behind on things. 

Recently, I found myself able to replace my ancient iPad with the latest and greatest (Verizon has some awesome deals once in a while) and rediscovered Knit Companion.

Knit Companion is a pattern management app that has come a long way since I tried it out several years ago when it was in its infancy.  So what does this thing do? Knit Companion (KC) allows you to import patterns from both Ravelry, KC Designs (they have partnered with several designers) and your own PDF patterns from a personal Dropbox into the app.  From there KC gives you a ton of options as to how you’re going to manage that pattern.

img_0041-1At the simplest of set ups you import a pattern, select the pages you need, and it goes straight into the user interface.  From there you can flip between pages through a drop down option at the top of the app, have a moving marker bar to keep track of your place on the page, and have several counters available at the right side of the app.
Then you can get into beefier features with a bit of work on your end to set up the pattern as you like.  KC is an extremely powerful tool if you take the time to work with it.  It’s not entirely intuitive but KC has quite a few tutorials and a user guide available on their website.

img_0040-1If you have a love for complex patterns that include a bajillion charts and page after page of instruction you’ll appreciate the advanced features.  KC can be programmed to track charts with the press of a button. The example here is just a quick one I set up for a shawl I’m designing (much more on that little project later).  I have yet to unlock all the features for myself, there is a feature called Magic Markers that will read your charts and highlight special/repeated switches for you when you set up.

Ultimately you can take a pattern, load it in so that you have access to flip through pages using the top drop down bar.  Counters can be renamed on the right hand side to track repeats, stitches, whatever else that may need counting.  The pull up from the bottom can be programmed to include keys or special instructions for charts.  Then there are options to add notes, highlight specific places within the pattern, and the best part is, once you set up the project it will auto save your every move until you delete it from the app. Switching between multiple projects doesn’t phase it.  My knitting bag has lost what feels like 15 pounds of paper, post-it notes, highlighter tape, and markers.

Since my introduction to KC as a iOS only app, they now have an Android version too.  The app itself is free, but it will limit you to KC only patterns and tie your hands on a lot of awesome features.  A 1 year subscription that unlocks all features is $12.99.  Yeah, yeah, I hear some of you groaning, but with the abilities of this app it’s worth it for an avid knitter or crocheter. If you are doing a project or two a year I could understand passing on it.

Give it a shot!  Look at the tutorials and the user guide, you’ll be amazed at what this little thing can do, and keep an eye out on the class schedules at your local yarn shop, there are a few out there that will offer classes on how to use all the features of this app to your advantage.