Where’s Andee?

Hey there, yes the blog has been very quiet.

Mainly because I have been very busy with lots of challenges and changes in my business. I’m working on implementing some new ways I publish my designs and expanding how and where I teach crochet and healthy crafting.

One of those changes may be moving my blog to a more customized website, the learning curve for that has been a bit more extensive than originally expected. I have every confidence in accomplishing it, just takes more time than I have easily to hand.

Meanwhile, here is some eye-candy for you yarnie ones. The following are  few of the wonderful goodies I acquired at the TNNA Winter Trade Show in Phoenix the second weekend of January. Was a perfect time to travel south as the weather in Colorado and on my mountain was very cold and snowy. Spending a couple of days in warm and mostly sunny Phoenix was a nice change. Brutal returning to snow, ice and freezing temperatures when I came back though.

Yarnit

This was an exciting new product that I first saw being used by another attendee. The “Yarnit” is just too darn cool. Completely protects your ball of yarn and travels along with you easily. You can learn more about their products and where you can purchase them at their website.

Clover Amour Large Hooks

I’m really enjoying these new larger sizes of the Clover Amour hooks. They come in a range of sizes. K-6.5mm, then 7mm, 8mm, 9mm and 10mm size. The handles are shaped just like the Amour Yarn hooks, but the material is different. The hook part is a wonderfully smooth hard plastic with the handle a slightly softer plastic.

The best thing about these larger hooks are they have a decent length of shaft above the handle. This is really key if you want to crochet any stitches taller than a single crochet. Most of the larger sizes of hooks with handles on the market sacrifice shaft length to accommodate the handles.

ElementalAffectsyarn

The yarn above is from ElementalAffects and I’m going to be doing some exciting things using their yarns this coming year. The 2 hanks I brought home with me are both Fingering weight, the Cormo is 100% Cormo wool and has a lovely tight twist that gives marvelous stitch definition; the Civility is 70% Merino wool with 30% Mulberry silk so very soft with luxurious drape.

I only got a little bit of yarn during this show. Monday is usually the day at the show that I get samples of yarn, but our time on the floor was cut short when the fire alarm went off around noon. Then it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport and head back home.

Since my return I have been finishing a slew of patterns that will be self-published on Ravelry over the next couple of months. Currently they are out for final testing and technical editing. I’ll let you know as they become available.

Where I am now? Learning new stuff and creating new products for other crocheters and crafters. I’ll be back soon, I promise.

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag!

One can never have too many bags right? Well that is the theory I operate under.  I do have quite a collection of bags, especially ones that are used for carrying around my various crochet, knitting or crafting projects.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on point-of-view) I tend to wear my bags out. Eventually they begin to look fairly ragged and sad. They may still be used around the house or demoted to shopping bag status at that point.

An opening in the queue though, means I need a new bag, and I’m always on the search for a bag that is beautiful, functional and durable. A trifecta that is not always easy to manage.

Enter my friend Jan, who is an enabler extraordinaire when we go shopping together. Jan has an amazing bag that she travels with to our many conferences, it’s a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis in the amount of stuff she seems able to fit in it.  At the Indianapolis Knit & Crochet Show she told me it was a Vera Bradley bag.

Then the real trouble began, the hotel we were staying in was connected by walkway to a very nice upscale mall, and Jan had been exploring there during her free-time one day. I hadn’t had all that much free-time myself, so on Sunday after the show market floor had closed we decided to go over there.

And Jan pointed toward the Vera Bradley store. Oh My!

As many of you that know me personally can attest to, I like color.  Brilliant, Flamboyant, Bright Color.  The Vera Bradley store looked like color Nirvana to me.  I was drawn inside it like the proverbial moth to flame.

Loaded Tote

I knew I was in real trouble when I spotted this tote bag. Not only was it beautifully colorful, it was in my favorite colors. The patterned fabric it is accented with is called “Heather”. This is a signature Vera Bradley fabric that I really like. Though it was hard to narrow down to a favorite initially, the tote bag helped me make up my mind.

Cosmetic Bag

I had to wait for the bag to be shipped to me, as I already had a full suitcase for the flight home from the conference. But I did purchase this handy little cosmetic case to take along with me.

Pocket

Since the bag’s arrival here on the mountain it has rapidly become my favorite. It is wonderfully designed and constructed. There are 2 generous outside pockets that are ideal for my water bottle and other necessities.

Interior of Bag

The inside is just as wonderful as the outside, with seams completely covered and reinforced, plus a nice sized zippered pocket (handy storage for stitch markers and scissors), and a reinforced polka-dotted fabric bottom flap. The solid color sides are a sturdy twill fabric that I am hoping will stand up to some wear, and the outside seams are reinforced with a vinyl leather-like piping that help it stand up and should help with wear as well.

This was the larger of the 2 bags they had in this style, but I am thinking I may be acquiring some of the smaller sized ones for individual projects. Because, you can’t have too many bags. Right?

Pointy Hooks

Orig 5 w Set

In May of 2009 I went to my second Knit & Crochet Show. It was there that I first saw Laurel Hill Hooks in person and tried them out. I ended up purchasing 5 hooks in my favorite sizes.

First L hook

One of the fun thing about purchasing the hooks there was looking through all the available hooks to find the ones I considered the most beautiful. There was a variety of color changes in the woods and I really liked the ebony hooks that had some lighter color mixed in with them. My first purchase was this L hook, the beauty of the wood drew me in, plus it is a size that was a bit more difficult to find at that time.

I have used my Laurel Hill hooks quite a bit since I obtained them. They are very pointed on the end, which means that they work nicely when doing tight stitch work as well as when working with fluffy yarns. The shape of the hook is very comfortable in my hand as well.

My dear friend Jan has often heard me bemoan the fact that I didn’t purchase a full set when I had the chance. I’ve been searching the market floors at every yarn enthusiast type event I’ve gone to since then.

Jan & I both have H.A.S. (Hook Acquisition Syndrome, for those of you outside the addiction).  This isn’t really an issue since neither of us have any desire to be cured, but it does mean I have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on about missed opportunities for hook purchases.

Case closed

Recently a box arrived at my house, when I opened it this was inside (with a note about the number of birthdays this covered).

All my LH hooks

Thanks to my dear Jan, I now have a full set of Laurel Hill Hooks as well as 5 duplicates.

Comp Old n New

It is very interesting to note the difference between the hooks I purchased in 2009 and these newer Laurel Hill hooks. Can you spot all the differences in the photo?

Older hook on top
Older hook on top

It seems a lot of hook manufacturers change their products over time. If you are a fan of Bates and Boye hooks for the past 30 years you will have seen this too. The changes are not necessarily bad, but they do tend to be a bit disconcerting if you are in love with the original design.

I still like the Laurel Hill hooks even with the changes, though I think they have lost a bit of their “beauty” with some of the changes.  Now if Laurel Hill would just make their hooks in a size “P” life would be very good.

The Best Brother Ever!

There is that old saying, “You can choose your friends, but you are stuck with the family you’re born into.” Fortunately I am pretty lucky on that count. I have undoubtably the very best younger brother in the world. We have gotten closer over the years, and it is really funny how similar we are. I love the rest of my siblings too, but Cy has always held a very special place in my heart.

Cy and I

When my parents brought him home from the hospital my 7 year-old self was thrilled to have a real live baby to play with instead of dolls. Of course as he has grown he has gone from being my “baby” brother to being my “little” brother onto being my “younger” brother. Cause let’s face it, when the little brother towers almost a foot over you in height, you really can’t call him “little” anymore.

Cy is a very talented and expert woodworker. He started learning his skills from our father as soon as he was old enough to hold tools in his hands. He’s been making amazing djembe drums and other tribal musical instruments for over 20 years, you can check them out on his website: Djembeanddidge.com. He even made a massive drum for the Kansas City Cheifs Football Team this past Fall.

I’ve been bugging him for years to make crochet hooks. He finally decided to create some as well as other lovely fiber arts tools like knitting needles, nostepines, and spindles. He is even making yarn bowls.

The weekend before Thanksgiving he and his girlfriend came to visit. When they were here he and I talked about hooks a lot. I showed him various hooks in my collection and told him what was good or bad about them.

I helped him refresh his memory of how to crochet, since it had been a long while for him. My siblings and I all learnt to crochet from our mother when we were little. You could say that with making fiber tools he is marrying the 2 talents he inherited from both our parents.

During his visit we talked about hand health and how different shapes for hook handles can help reduce stress that leads to injury. So he has been experimenting with various handle shapes, and we had talked about me testing some out for him.

HooSet-from-Cy

Last Thursday I got this wonderful surprise in the mail from him. I was only expecting a page with his and his girl friend’s footprints so I can make them some slippers. He had told me there would be a little something extra in there. But I figured at most it would be just one hook, not a lovely set of 5!

Pencil-hold-w-Cys-Hook

I really like the shape he used for these handles. It works great and fits comfortably in my hand, no matter what hold I use: Pencil hold (pictured) , Knife hold, or Modified knife hold.

These hooks are made from Mulberry wood, which is very lightweight as well. Funny thing, when he was about 3 years old I had to rescue him from the mulberry tree at our house. I’m wondering if he remembers that and it guided his choice in the wood? Wouldn’t surprise me if he did as he has an incredible memory. I’ll have to remember to ask him next time we talk.

Either way, I predict that I will be creating lots of wonderful new memories crocheting with these lovely hooks. My hands and heart will be happy as each time I work with them will be a reminder of my dear brother, who my sons call Uncle Cy.

If you would like to have one of his marvelous hooks for your own crocheting joy you can find them at his Etsy Shop: UncleCysWoodworking.

In the Bag

I’ve always felt the best project bags are those that are designed by other yarn-crafters. Because only a fellow addict can appreciate the various demands we make of our project bags.

Laura and her husband Nick at the Reno Show

This certainly holds true for the talented Laura Lundy the designer behind Slipped Stitch Studios. I was delighted to find her booth at the Reno Knit & Crochet Show, it was filled with gorgeous and fun project bags of every size you could think of as well as other marvelous project aids like Pattern Wallets and Magnetic line markers (so you don’t lose your place in the pattern when you have to set it down).

Of course I had to have one of her bags for myself.  I couldn’t resist this generously sized bag with the adorable sheep on it. Currently it is holding a sweater project without straining (I could fit even more yarn in there!).

Her bags are packed with all kinds of awesome features; like numerous pockets for all those goodies you need when you are on the go, as well as big expandable pockets that will hold your yarn separate from your project.

A really wonderful feature is there is nothing for your yarn to snag on, no zippers or velcro.  A drawstring closure at the top of the bag keeps everything in its place.

If you can’t wait to have one of these bags for yourself, pop on over to their website at www.slippedstitchstudios.com to see all the wonderful helpful products available. Currently they are having a special promotion for Free Shipping on your order until October 15.

What’s in a Hook?

I’m reminded of Juliet’s soliloquy about a name. So what is in a hook, they are all the same right? Maybe not.

I’ve written articles about handle shapes and how they affect your grip.  But did you know that the shape and smoothness of the “business” end of your hook can also have an impact on the health of you hands, wrists and even neck?

Matching the hook you are using to the project and type of yarn can make a big difference in your comfort level. If your hook doesn’t work well with your yarn the adjustments you have to make while crocheting can add up to long-term pain.

There are a number of hook styles and shapes available commericially.  Here in the US hook shape debate seems to be between the “Boye” tapered style and “Bates” inline style hooks.  Now, no offense to either manufacturer, but there is far more to hooks than that.

First let’s look at the anatomy of a hook. The “business” end is the Point, Head, Throat and Shaft.

The shape of the point is key when you are looking at how easily the hook slips into a stitch. This is particullarly important if you are doing stitch work that requires a dense fabric…like amigurumis.

Another important thing to consider is the sharpness of the edge of the head in front of the throat.  When there is a sharp edge or sharp point there it can get caught on splitty yarns.

In fact, having the right hook for your project and yarn can change your mind about what types of projects and yarn you like to work with.  I used to think I didn’t like working tight stitched projects like amigurumi. Then I discovered that using the Clover Soft Touch hooks made them much easier. I now design projects like these regularly.

The Clover Soft Touch hook has a fairly tapered point that is slightly rounded.  They are also very smooth with an almost “teflon” finish that slip into snug stitches without splitting your yarn.  Unfortunately, being the visual person I am, I have never been thrilled with the color of the handles. I recently saw that Clover has come out with a new line of hooks called “Amour”. Colorful Elastomer handles with an interesting shape. Hopefully I will get my hands on some soon, and can post a product review.

Clover does have their Reflections sets too, which I think are beautiful.  These are acrylic with an elastomer inset on the thumbgrip and handle. Over the years that I have had these sets the elastomer has begun to peel and occassionally the edges between elastomer and acrylic can wear on my hands as I work.  I do wish they had these hooks in a wider range of sizes.

They have a similar shaped hook point to the Soft Touches, but the material that the hook is made of  isn’t always the best match with acrylic yarns.  Definitely not a good match for a project that requires tight stitch work.

Next hook post I’ll write about In-line versus Tapered.  This is really the debate for many American crocheters between the Boye and Bates hooks.

My Little Purple Wagon

Okay, it’s not really a wagon. But it does sort of behave like one.

This is my new Tutto Carry-on. It has 4 wheels that can go in all different directions, an incredibly strong yet lightweight frame, and a nifty telescoping handle that allows me to either push or pull the case when it is full.

After my recent trip to Phoenix for the TNNA Winter Show I knew I needed a better way to carry stuff at shows I attend. My neck, shoulders and back were not happy with me hauling around heavy totes.  My big black bag will still be useful at shows and conferences, but hopefully this little “wagon” will also serve me when I need something that can manage the weight better than my shoulders.

What is really nifty is how it folds up so I can store it easily between trips.  I’ll give a more comprehensive review in the Fall once I’ve tried it out on a trip.

Let There be Light

One of the joys of “maturing” is that my eyes do not like to look at lots of crochet stitches without good light. They will punish me by creating whirling vortexes of pain in my head if I persist.

So every time I have seen a good sale on OttLites my little ears perk up. I do not work for the OttLite company in any way shape or form. I simply adore their lights, because they really do live up to their claims to reduce eye-strain.

Currently I own 5 different desk-style OttLites. I also purchased a portable OttLite that has a large rechargeable battery.  It reminds me a bit of those first mobile phones. The ones called “The Brick”.

It weighs about  3 1/4 pounds with an adaptor that allows it to be plugged into an electrical outlet that weighs an additional 1/4 pound. I purchased it because I wanted a good OttLite to use at classes at conferences.

Lighting in convention center rooms is typically not great for working on needlearts, and I usually find myself dealing with the aforementioned whirling vortexes of pain. Electrical outlets in these same rooms are also a bit hard to come by, so something that doesn’t have to be plugged in is quite handy. I purchased my “portable” OttLite in preparation for the Buffalo Chain Link conference in August, 2009. Thus began a bit of an educational adventure.

First of all, I think that the solid brickish nature of it alarmed TSA. It was in my checked baggage and when I opened my bags at the hotel I discovered a nice note from TSA telling me my bag had been searched.

Being that the light is actually pretty hefty I decided to use my small rolling carry-on bag to schlep the light and my other class materials about with me.  It was handy to have the light, but hauling it and the bigger bag around got old quickly.  By the end of the conference I was leaving the light in my hotel room to use while stitching there in the evenings.

I still use it a lot at home, it’s especially great to grab when I want some extra lighting for shooting photos. But it hasn’t gone to anymore conferences. Too much additional weight in my luggage and to lug about at the conference.

So I was very excited this past Thursday when I was doing some retail therapy at Michaels and I saw a small LED Flip Light by OttLite. I was even more excited to see that it was regularly $20 and on sale for $10. I quickly grabbed one of the lights to purchase, the light had a white housing and was just a bit bigger than a pager.

Unfortunately, I had not checked the package very well. After taking the package out to open it at home, I discovered someone had already opened it.  The compartment for the batteries was broken. It was a very sad moment.  Fortunately, my family and I were planning a trip to Denver the next day. So I put the light and the receipt in my bag to take with me.

That morning we stopped at the same store on our way to Denver and I exchanged the broken light for a new one. The clerk at the shop was very nice and I looked over the packaging to be certain it hadn’t been opened.  I set it aside and had a fun outing at the Aquarium with my family.

Once I was home again I quickly grabbed a couple of batteries and opened the package. I was talking on the phone at the time with my friend Stacy and she got to witness first hand my displeasure on discovering that the clip on the back of this light was broken.  The packaging had disguised that fact earlier.

The following day I was headed to Denver for my monthly stitching group meet-up.  Which was the reason for Stacy and I’s phone call…we were planning out our day and when to get together.  Of course, discovering I would have to exchange the light again put a wee dent in our plans. I would need to stop at Michaels on my way to Denver once more.

Then Stacy came up with the brilliant idea of me taking the light to a Michaels near where we would be having dinner in Denver.  That way she could purchase one of the little lights too and we would have more time to visit.  I decided to bring batteries, a small screwdriver and my utility knife with me so I could open the package and check that the light worked at the store. I really did not fancy another trip up the mountain and back down to get a working light.

Saturday afternoon I headed down the mountain and picked up Stacy.  We arrived at the Michaels store, which was one of the largest I’ve ever been in.  We began wandering around the store looking for the OttLites, but couldn’t find them.  Finally I accosted a Michael’s employee, who turned out to be the store manager. He quickly took us back to where the OttLites were displayed.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have the little flip light.

I had told the kind manager the tragic story of the 2 broken lights and he said he would check with some other Michaels stores to see who had them. In the process he discovered that they were supposed to have the lights in stock at his store. So he had us make ourselves comfortable in the store class room and he went on a hunt for them.

A little while later he returned with this package. I was excited because the light was PINK!  And not just pink but “in-your-face” Fuchsia Pink, one of my favorite shades.  Note: this photo was taken today after I had already customized my light with my 2hands logo. 

Fortunately they also had the light in white or black so Stacy wasn’t stuck with a wild pink light. She does not share my enthusiasm for pink. Though it’s a good thing there wasn’t a purple one as we might have had a battle over it.

A Wonderful Palm Sized Light

We opened the packages and put in the batteries I had brought to test that our lights worked. Then we did a bit of shopping in the store, made our purchases and headed off to have some dinner.  After dinner we went to PJ Jam where we both showed off our nifty new lights.

I am thrilled with my little light. It is very light weight in my project bag and the light output is marvelous.  The clip on the back will allow me to attach it to my clothing or on my notebook to use it easily at conferences.  It is also going to be very handy when I am doing color matching for fabrics and yarns when I go shopping.