Monday, December 13, 2010

Ready of Not, Here Comes Christmas & My Favorite Knitter Gifts

Wow, the holidays snuck up on me this year.  I have so many people to knit gifts for this year, compared to last year when I was still working full-time on the road.  This year I'm knitting for my three daughters, son-in-law, grandson, grandchild-on-the-way (due in June & probably named June if a girl), two bosses and their families, mailman who has been so awesome this year and friends.  And, simultaneously, keeping this blog somewhat up-to-date, my shop on (HipKnitizer) stocked, adding new knitting designs on Ravelry, prepping my loft for Christmas from scratch (all my Christmas decor is still in TX) and managing to work my full-time job.

If I get everything done it will be a miracle.  Here's my list of current projects:  Star afghan done in the round, fringed infinity scarf like one my daughter saw at Anthropoligie in Austin, postal blue "Dudester" scarf for mailman, several other men's scarves, more "Oatmeal" hats to stock my Etsy store (they keep selling as soon as I list them), hats for Jocey & Luke, the prototype for the silly "Sayde Sunshine" doll and more.

I normally buy myself something for Christmas (usually yarn), but this year I am foregoing this treat.  I will probably be moving again in the next six months and am trying to not accumulate more to move.  It did get me to thinking about the best knitter gifts and knitting treats I like to buy myself.  And, for what it is worth, here is my list:

Under $20 gift budget:

1) The original Stitch 'n Bitch book by Debbie Stoller - the best basic knitting book there is, period...
2) KnowKnits "Go Knit" Pouch -a  brightly-colored nylon pouch with drawstring perfect for sock knitting
3) Several pairs of 9 - 14" bamboo single point knitting needles - preferably in the 3-9 size range
4) Stitch holders, markers & point protectors - I'm fond of the double ended stitch holders, Knitpick's brass markers and blue Boye point protector sets
5) Knitpicks,,  JoAnn, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or A.C. Moore gift cards

Under $50 gift budget:

1) Ball winder - the Boye electric winder is the Cadillac of ball winders
2) Yarn swift - see wood swift link above - I have one just like this and I love it
3)  Sock blockers in several sizes - I like Knitpick's heavy blue plastic ones
4) Any knitting stitch collection book - always useful to a knitter
5) 10 skeins Stitch Nation Alpaca Love yarn  (enough for a sweater) - my favorite color right now is "Cobblestone"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My 9 Top Basic Stash Yarns

I just returned from a two-week trip to my East Texas home.  While I was there, I  took a peek at the 20 boxes of yarn and knitting books stashed in my yarn room there waiting to be moved somewhere this summer.  I had forgotten much of the yarn there as I hadn't been back in a year.  Dang!

I am further reminded as I gaze at my Oregon yarn stash today that I have WAY too much yarn.  I am a sucker for a good yarn sale and typically buy 100-200 skeins when I order by mail.  Between the two homes (and two yarn rooms), I probably have well over 1500 skeins or enough to knit at least 200 - 300 projects.  Shocking and I should be ashamed. 

Anyway, it begs the question, how much yarn is enough (but not too much)?  I don't know the answer to this question, but I do think there are certain brands/types of basic, utilitarian yarn that should be in every knitter's stash for last-minute projects or when it is just too darn much work to get out and buy yarn when you're dying to start a new project.

So here's my list of what should be in every yarn "pantry":

1) Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool  (100% pure virgin wool with natural lanolin oil, 465 yd skeins, worsted).  I am fond of the "oatmeal" colorway for the rustic neutrality.  This stuff is great for felting, knitting men's projects and come in ginormous skeins.

2) Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride (85% wool/15% mohair, 190 yd skeins, worsted).  The softness and deep, beautiful colors in this yarn are to die for.  It felts well, has a nice shine and slight halo.  Just great for a fairly economical sweater or accessories.

3) Paton's Classic Wool (100% pure new wool, 223 yd skeins, worsted).  Maybe my all-time favorite go-to yarn for basic knitting, felting and down-to-earth colors.  Fairly economical and the large skeins go a long way.  This is the yarn I recommend to new knitters just starting out.

4) Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian highland wool, 220 yd skeins, worsted).  This is a classic, universally-loved yarn for felting or regular knitting.  It has great stitch definition, comes in a wide range of good colors and is moderately-priced.

5) Plymouth Encore (75% acrylic/25% wool, 200 yd skeins, worsted).  Again, another classic yarn with many attributes of wool, but the washability of acrylic.  This is a softer yarn that is a pleasure to knit with and perfect for the look and feel of wool but easy to care for in kid's clothes, afghans and pillows.

6) Lily Sugar 'N Cream (100% cotton, 120 yd skeins, worsted).  Who doesn't love using this basic cotton for dishcloths, home accessories and summer items?  It washes well with no special care, comes in a wide range of colors, easy to locate and very economical. 

7) Paton's Grace (100% mercerized cotton, 136 yd skeins, sport).  I'm starting to fully appreciate the beauty and usefulness of this smooth, slightly shiny basic yarn.  The stitch definition is excellent and it is perfect for lighter-weight, summer projects.  It has a surprising drapability and pretty colors.

8) Stitch Nation Alpaca Love (80% wool/20% alpaca, 131 yd skeins, worsted).  This relative newcomer is gorgeous and has the attributes of a high-end yarn in a very economical form.  The colors are exceptionally bright and vibrant and it can be found at regular craft stores.  The yarn has good stitch definition and adorable free patterns, and will also felt well.

9) Red Heart Heart & Sole with Aloe (70% superwash wool/30% nylon, 213 yd skeins, sock).  I'm a sucker for this inexpensive, self-patterning sock yarn.  Maybe because it's easy to find at most craft stores, feels good and softens your hands while knitting (and later your feet in the socks).  It comes in a limited range of colors, but  the ones they offer are pretty appealing.  I've knit socks, kid's clothes and accessories with this yarn and the washability is excellent.

What are your go-to yarn basics?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Book Signing with the Superstar Herself

I'm here to report that Debbie Stoller's book signing at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland, Oregon last weekend was a great success!  There were 50-60 attendees and lots of them purchased the book and had it signed.  Knitting needles clicked in the awe-struck audience as Debbie spoke about her knitting inspiration, knitting tips (stitch positions involving audience participation was priceless) and background about her new book, Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting which was officially released 11/01/10.

Debbie had brought a trunk show of some of the book's projects, including my design, "Baby Corn", and "The Life Aquatic" pattern designed by Serena Murphy, also from the Portland area.  We were introduced to the audience, too.  The project models featured in the book were passed around and it was interesting to see the models in person.  I cringed when "Baby Corn" was passed to me, dreading how the model I knit might be faring through all the modelling, handling, etc.  There were a few loose ends and pulled stitches, which I remedied as best I could.

It was fun to meet Debbie's mom, Mrs. Stoller (I'm sorry I didn't catch her last name).  She was along for the ride on Debbie's book tour on the train.  She told me she would rather fly than ride a roller coaster after having been traumatized on a roller coaster years ago.  Debbie prefers riding the train on her book tours and still had Seattle, WA and several cities in California to hit before having to fly home to Brooklyn for the holidays.

I went to the signing with a couple of friends and was pleasantly surprised when my day job bosses and their families attended to show their support of my first published pattern (and hopefully not the last).  The kids, Jocie and Luke, were wearing sweaters I had knitted both of them so it was really special.  I've put their pictures on the left.  I even got to sign some books myself and got Debbie's signature on my book copies. 

I was wearing a black wool/angora version of "Coco" from the book I whipped out for the occasion.  I wasn't feeling the sequins in the original "Coco" so used a selection of random buttons along the bottom and sleeve edges.  I was sorry several times as it was overly warm and the angora kept going up my nose!

The next day, Debbie was featured on local TV on "AM Northwest" and showed the projects we had seen at the book signing.  Several of my friends saw "Baby Corn" and my name mentioned as the designer and contacted me afterward.  What a fun experience and Debbie is an excellent, clever speaker.  I would highly recommend making the effort to see her if she comes to your town!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boogie Shooz #1 Released To the Public

I FINALLY finished the Boogie Shooz #1 pattern and posted it on late last night.  It took w-a-y longer than I had expected, as I decided to do two other versions simultaneously (#2 & #3 natch), while I was finishing up several  projects and whipping out "Coco" from Superstar Knitting in record time to wear today.  Oh, and I wrote the pattern and am half-finished with "Sleet", my latest new scarf pattern which will be offered for free download on this blog (hopefully this coming week, if I can finish the prototype to photograph).  It is my favorite scarf pattern yet.  And there's the interruption of having to stop my knitting and go to work outside Knitworld 35 hours a week...

Boogie Shooz resemble quirky baby booties as you can see from the photos to the left and come in 3 sizes for grown a** women.  They are pretty quick and easy for some instant gratification.  I definitely let my freak flag fly on this one - why the heck not??  This is my first foray into selling patterns on Ravelry.  I've been giving away "Big Honkin' Bag" and the "Elusive Blue Rose Hat" for almost a year now and they've had a good response, as well as the two scarf pattern downloads on this blog linked to Ravelry.  This may prove if the hundreds of patterns were downloaded because they were awesome or because they were ....  free.

I chose Debbie Stoller's Stitch Nation Full 'o Sheep to knit them in as it comes in an array of bright, interesting colors and is my current fave yarn.  Debbie's book signing is at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland today and I will be in attendance.  I 'm taking all 3 prototype pairs of Boogie Shooz for Debbie to see knit from her yarn and my next design sketches for "Sayde Sunshine", a bizarro doll also out of Stitch Nation yarn.

If you're interested, each Boogie Shooz pattern download can be purchased for a mere $4 on Ravelry.  I will do my best to get #2 and #3 on there this coming week.   I would love your opinion on these so feel free to post your comments.  I will also be posting the rules of the drawing for 3 copies of Superstar Knitting (one signed by Debbie) soon. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: Design It, Knit It, Babies by Debbie Bliss

After buying and enjoying Design It, Knit It published in 2009 by Debbie Bliss, I was excited to check out her "sequel" for babies which came out Summer 2010.  My interest was definitely piqued in the first volume by several inexplicable photos of darling baby garments not included in that book, which proved to be teasers of patterns in this book.  Clever marketing idea, along with several other novelties which are included in this book.

PROS:  I like knitting books that feature a spiral wire binding like this one - it easily lays flat and is infinitely more useable than a regular binding when referring to pattern instructions.  The pattern instructions are clearly-written and easy to follow with plenty of diagrams and photographs to illustrate each.

The eighteen projects included in the 158-page book range from easy (tiny unisex Garter-Stitch Cardigan with minimal shaping) to more complicated, but still not overly difficult (boy's Shawl-Collar Jacket with clever northwoods styling).  My favorite pattern is the precious Hooded Cardigan which is charming in its simplicity or as a blank slate for design customization.  I can see using this pattern again and again.

There are also several baby afghans, accessories like a fair isle beret, several dresses, cardigans for boys and girls, and imaginative pullovers.  I'm intrigued by the colorful little girl's Chevron Cardigan as it is similar to a design idea that had been floating around in my head and appeals to my affection for ripple stitch patterns.

The photography is soft and beautiful, a hallmark of Debbie Bliss books and showcases the pretty babies and muted colors of the Debbie Bliss yarns utilized in the designs.  Really makes you want to grab some needles and whip out a baby project on the spur of the moment, even if there isn't a baby to knit for right this minute.  Even though it may be purely staged, I enjoyed the glimpses of Debbie's design studio (and Debbie herself with a tape measure around her neck) sprinkled throughout the book.

CONS:  If you are into designing patterns for babies (like Debbie Bliss clearly is), there is some helpful creativity advice, but little about the actual mechanics of calculations and the like, as she mentions herself in the book's introduction.  This is purely soft core knit design information.

When I buy a knitting book, I calculate the value of the book by dividing the cost by the number of usable patterns in the book.  Only 18 patterns in this book is a little on the skimpy side (although I found few page fillers) and the value of  "design inspiration" is subjective.  I admire Debbie Bliss and what her talent has accomplished in the knitting world, but I either want my knitting books to be either a knitting pattern book or a design inspiration book.  Or, contain enough of each in a hybrid to make me feel like the book was a good investment of my knitting dollars.

The jury is still out on whether the 15 pages of "Design Workbook", composed of grids and sweater outlines to embellish with one's own ideas was all that necessary.  I don't like writing or drawing in my books, so that was not something I would ever use.  Including a tear-out tool in the back for measuring knitting needle, gauge and knitting abbreviations is an interesting idea.  The flimsy laminated page clearly won't take the place of any of these more permanent tools you currently own.

Overall, I give Design It, Knit It, Babies by Debbie Bliss a 3 1/2 * rating (based on a 5 * system).


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why I'm Obsessed With Knitting

I've been thinking about my knitting addiction this week.  It is my only obsession  that I don't feel somewhat apologetic for.  I will admit I am ashamed of my sugar cravings (damn those gummy worms, chocolate parfait Nips and pumpkin spice Hershey kisses) and blatant caffeine addiction (hello Starbucks and my daily mega coffee consumption).  I feel bad about my periodic cheeseburger attacks and frequent BBQ Pringles weaknesses. 

I would even admit a little guilt about my love of Reality TV, Mad Men, Soup, Project Runway and TMZ...  I watch way more tv than anyone I know, but justify that since I currently live alone, don't necessarily have to eat on a schedule and am knitting almost every minute I'm not asleep or at work.  I won't even go into my reading, computer and secret obsessions with Jon Bon Jovi and John Corbett...

Here's my list of why I justify any and all aspects of my knitting fixation:

1) It has probably kept me from weighing 300 pounds.  I'm not a small person or particularly fit, but I'm weird about making sure my hands are super-clean when I knit, so simultaneously eating ice cream, cookies or chocolate just won't work.  These are two completely separate activities in my world.  I've also been known to skip a meal or two on the weekend when caught up in a knitting project (who has time to stop and rustle up something?)

2) I truly feel like I am hypnotizing myself when I get into the rhythm of knitting.  The repetition opens up my right brain (as I mentioned in a previous post), I feel my blood pressure dropping and I slip into another place, like a trance.  I can't get that feeling from anything else I do and I'm definitely hooked on the feeling.

3) All my tv/movie watching is justifiable when I'm knitting something useful, creative and sometimes lucrative.  I have never been able to sit and stare at a screen without doing something simultaneously that accomplishes a goal.  Thanks to knitting, I am never bored, ever...

4) I have found a creative outlet that meshes with my talent and background.  I was working on quilts during my high school classesl, sewed many of my clothes from a young age and earned money in college doing alterations and custom sewing.  I always loved creating things, good design and fashion.   Designing my own knitting patterns and customizing someone's pattern is right up my alley.  Continually expanding my knitting skills and knowledge is challenging and addictive in its own way.

5) I've never been a collecter of things people usually collect, like thimbles, cats, shoes.  But I am a huge collecter of yarn and it makes me very happy.  My obese yarn stash is so large that it has its own rooms in both my residences.  Collecting yarn gives me something to search out anywhere I travel, from the handspun Amish Corriedale yarn to hand-dyed Blue Moon sock yarn in the "Siren Song" colorway from the Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, OR.  I'm always on the search online and offline for good deals on beautiful fibers.  And knitting with my finds reminds me of when and where I found them, like a good souvenir should. 

6) The first place I go when I get online (after checking my email and this blog) is  I love that knitting community more than I can express and would've never been a part of it if I wasn't a knitter.  The comments, shared obsession and information from that website are an integral part of my life.

7) The pure pleasure and satisfaction I gain from knitting something awesome for a friend or family member that is loved and appreciated.  How better to show people you care about their importance to you?  The finished project is proof enough of that, but also the hours and hours of knitting time I spent thinking good things about them while working on the project certainly counts for something, like the Prayer Shawl phenomenon. That positive energy is worked into everything I knit.

8) I always have something portable to keep me occupied in any situation with my knitting projects.  Doesn't matter if I'm facing a long plane flight, long phone call or traffic jam.  I have a small project tucked in my purse (usually a sock) for any emergency.  Time flies when you're absorbed in a fun knit.

I could add dozens more reasons, but I would like to hear other peoples' opinions.  Why are you obsessed with knitting and how has it added to your quality of life?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stitch 'N Bitch Superstar Knitting Is In the House

I am so excited to report my copy of the newly-hatched Stitch 'N Bitch Superstar Knitting  has arrived!  I am having a blast seeing my pattern, "Baby Corn", and my name and bio in print and enjoying the other forty pattern contributions, as well.  My pattern not only has a 4-page spread with two photographs, but made the back cover (see photos on the left).

Debbie Stoller's writing is awesome, as always, and the first half of the 356-page book is devoted to her humorous spin on advanced knitting instructions.  There are some great diagrams and insight into doing everything from knitting with beads and deciphering a lace knitting chart to designing your own sweater creations.  She has really outdone herself on this one.  I think it is the best Stitch 'N Bitch book yet.

As mentioned before, I will be attending Debbie's book signing at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland on November 7th at 4:00 pm.  I am 2/3 finished knitting the "Coco" cardigan from Superstar Knitting in black angora/merino and will hopefully be wearing it for the event.

I will also be having a giveaway here for 3 copies of the new book.  If you want your copy RIGHT NOW, click on the Amazon link and get it for a great price and quick.  Stay tuned for more info!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Current Knitting Projects

In between working full time and day-to-day domestic survival tasks, I do find plenty of time to knit. I manage to squeeze in 3-4 hours a day most days. It helps preserve my sanity, lowers my blood pressure and opens up my right brain very effectively. I keep Sharpie and paper handy always when I pick up my knitting. It feels like a door opens on my creativity about 15 minutes in to knitting, especially really repetitive knitting like stockinette or garter.

Several days ago I had one of the best "creative spillages" I've ever had. I had put in a stressful 9 hour day at work and finally sat down to work on a simple boy's pullover worked in stockinette with sock yarn (on size 3 needles). I had been working only a few minutes and was alternating between the knitting and watching my favorite Thursday night TV shows when the ideas started flowing. Out poured great solutions for the my new slipper design pattern, color combinations that had never crossed my mind, embellishments for future designs and new pattern designs. I was writing and sketching so fast that I almost couldn't keep up. It was great - probably the high point of my week. Hope it happens again soon!

Does this happen to anyone else? I would love to hear about other knitter's experiences with the whole right-brain phenomenon. It fascinates me to no end. Feel free to post your creativity stories below in the comments section.

Meanwhile, I'm back to finishing the second slipper of my newest design. I posted a picture of the first one to the left, along with several other recent projects both finished and in progress. I particularly like the pink cabled cardigan. It is for my 3 year old friend, Jocelyn, to keep her warm this fall and winter. She will wear nothing but pink, so this awesomely pink creation should tickle her fancy. It was kind of tedious with all the cabling and double-stranded yarn, but I love the way it turned out and can't wait to see it on Jocie.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Debbie Stoller's Book Tour

I was contacted by Debbie Stoller's publicist at Workman Publishing about her upcoming book tour to promote Superstar Knitting this fall/winter, since my "Baby Corn" dress design/pattern is included in the book. The tour starts November 1st, 2010, the same day the book is released. Debbie says she got a first copy this week and I'm expecting my copy soon. From what I have seen, it is definitely one to add to your knitting library.

I am helping to let people know where to find Debbie as she goes across the country on her tour. If you are in the areas she will be visiting, be sure to grab a copy of the new book, meet her and have her sign your book. I was fortunate enough to have gone on the first "Stitch 'N Beach" cruise in 2008 with Debbie and Shannon Okey, super talented knitters and really fun women!

Here's Debbie's tour schedule:

I will be at the Powell's event in Portland, OR on Sunday, November 7th at 4:00 pm.

According to the publicist, Debbie will also be at The Yarn Garden at 1413 SE Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, November 6th at 6:00 pm. I plan to be at this event as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

SSS Part 2

The shop had been a gratifying experience and turned me on to knitting. I had just had a pattern accepted for the next Stitch 'N Bitch book (Superstar Knitting) and was excited about whiling away the days in my new knitting studio designing more patterns. This was going to be my ideal retirement, or so I thought...

Unfortunately, fate had another plan. My husband was diagnosed with malignant melanoma with about a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 5 years. He had surgery to remove the original tumor and no melanoma cells were found in his sentinel lymph nodes, which was the good news. The bad news was our private health insurance wanted rid of us a soon as possible with that diagnosis. No other private insurance companies would accept someone with that pre existing condition, either. I was forced to return to Edward Jones in Tyler, TX as an office administrator to qualify for the group health insurance since Mike was having countless CT scans, MRI's, biopsies and removal of other suspicious skin growths.

Back to a 45 hour a week job (long commute) I barely had time to knit anything, much less devote any significant time to designing new patterns. I managed to do that almost a year before getting re-licensed as a financial advisor and hitting the road as a Transition Rep. I figured the constant travelling and weeks at a time in hotels would give me more design time and a better paycheck.

I covered 18 offices without a financial advisor in the almost two years I travelled all over the US. I got to visit some awesome yarn shops everywhere I went and churned out more knitting than I had while parked in east Texas. Fortunately, my husband has remained melanoma-free and beaten the odds. He stayed in Texas while my youngest daughter finishes high school this year.

A combination of events brought me back to the Portland, Oregon area. Since my two older daughters and Spuds (my grandson) live in the area, I was spending more and more "weekends home" here. I came in from the road, moved to a really great loft in the Hillsboro area and Edward Jones friends needed an office administrator a mere 5 minute walk from my current place (no commute). Fortunately I have been able to go to a 4 day work week and focus the other 3 days a week on my knitting and designing.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Siren Song Stitchery

I guess I never mentioned owning my own yarn/needlework shop on here, so bear with my ramblings. It all began in the spring of 2001...

For the previous 6 years I had been working as a financial advisor with Edward Jones in my own branch office in Beaverton, Oregon. Moving to the Northwest to run that office was a huge leap from our Southwest roots at the time, having lived the previous 8 years in New Mexico. I had fallen in love with everything Oregon had to offer and we adapted to the rain pretty easily.

The mid to late 90's was an exciting, yet highly stressful time helping investors with all the stock craziness. I had managed to build a successful business (at the expense of time with my daughters, my health and any home life) but dreamed of giving it all up and moving to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. I made steps in that direction from putting up a poster-sized photo looking down the coast at CB right over my desk to buying a small weekend beach house in Seaside and a residential lot in Cannon Beach I someday hoped to build on.

In the late spring of 2001 we were spending the weekend in the Seaside house and wandering around Cannon Beach, when I spotted a "For Rent" sign in the window of a prime retail space on the main street where the tourists hung out. One thing led to another and I ended up leaving the investment world, moving to the coast with my middle daughter, Jade (ready to start high school that coming fall), and opening my own needlework shop. I've taken a lot of risks in my life, but that was the most difficult decision I ever made - I was terrified I had made a huge mistake. In addition, we accepted an offer on the Seaside house that was too good to pass up and I had to get a home built on the Cannon Beach lot so we had a place to live at the same time.

I called my shop "Siren Song Stitchery" with the tagline "DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO" and the original business model only involved cross-stitch, needlepoint and embroidery kits and supplies. I designed a mermaid logo, painted the space a beachy blue/green, filled it with fun merchandise and opened the doors on July 28, 2001, hoping the money I had socked away to cover the bills for the first year would hold out.

Less than 2 months later, 9/11 happened. After the initial shock, it became apparent that people were seeking solace in crafts and needlework and business was good. About that time, my mother noted that her knitter friends spent an awful lot of money on yarn and suggested I add knitting supplies to my inventory. I had never learned to knit or crochet and couldn't see how that would work when I was barely familiar with those crafts. How could I assist my customers buying supplies or give the advice/instruction necessary?

Nevertheless, I could see that was the right move, so added knitting and crocheting supplies to my shop. About that same time I took another giant leap of faith and finances and moved to a stand-alone building almost twice the size (and double the rent) of my original place. I poured everything I had into filling the new space and teaching myself to knit from a beginning knitting brochure and Debbie Stoller's first Stitch 'N Bitch book.

The business grew and prospered and the seeds of my knitting obsession were planted. I hired several employees to help and I spent my days working with other devoted knitters, gradually shifting to a yarn shop from a needlework shop. In the 9 months of rainy evenings I sat by the fire and knitted shop models and yarn samples as my knitting skills improved. I put out a shop newsletter and held classes and a weekly knitting group as the shop expanded and improved. We were totally riding the knitting/crocheting wave that followed 2001.

Several things happened simultaneously that led me away from beach life after six years. My husband still lived over in Portland with my youngest daughter (80 miles away) and my middle daughter had been off at college for a year. The lease was about to expire on the shop building, both our homes were worth ridiculous amounts (right as the real estate bubble was about to burst) and the isolation of the coast and never-ending stress of running the business was starting to wear on me. It was time for a change.

We ended up selling both homes, Siren Song Stitchery, my husband's business and relocating to east Texas. I sold the shop and it was renamed "Coastal Yarns". It still exists today in Cannon Beach near my first location on Hemlock Street. Meanwhile, we built our dream home, invested the real estate money and planned to semi-retire. I was going to while away the days designing knitting patterns but that was not to be.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm a Junkie

It suddenly dawned on me that I've never mentioned how addicted I am to I go on there several times a day without fail. I really don't know what I did before it existed. In case you are unfamiliar, it is the for knitters and crocheters and combines everything from message boards to patterns to thousands of other knitters all over the world. Everytime I check my personal email, I do a quick scan of what's new on Ravelry. In fact, I could probably exist just fine with only online access to those 2 places and nothing else.

I currently have 2 free patterns to download on Ravelry. One is the "Big Honkin' Bag" and the "Elusive Blue Rose Hat" pattern. I originally spent countless hours designing, writing the pattern and photographing the bag pattern to submit to Big mistake that - I think from the time elapsed it probably made it into one of the final groups to be published on Knitty, but was ultimately rejected for reasons I will never understand.

I was so incensed over all my wasted effort on that experience that I vowed NEVER TO DO THAT AGAIN and let my awesome pattern languish for awhile. I considered selling it on Ravelry, but decided to give it away for free on there as a kind of pay back for all the free patterns I have downloaded and enjoyed from the site myself over the last several years. Several people requested the hat pattern after seeing it on my finished projects page, so I added that pattern as well.

If you haven't had the chance to set up a free account on, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent place to record your finished knitting projects, read other people's ratings and observations of most knitting and crocheting patterns out there and see photos of countless finished projects (which can be both depressing and inspiring). The various message boards devoted to everything from Prius lovers to local knitting shops is an endless source of amusement. My current obsession is the Mad Men board where we discuss knitting and my favorite tv show endlessly.

If you want to see most of my finished projects in the past several years, feel free to check in on me (user name HipKnitizer) and feel free to "friend" me as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Much Longer Now!

I'm really getting excited about the upcoming publication of the Stitch 'N Bitch Superstar Knitting book. Only 41 more days until it comes out! I have seen several previews of the contents (Knitpicks has photos) and got an advanced copy of my Baby Corn pattern pages to proof several weeks ago. Baby Corn is the yellow dress in the first preview photo on the Knitpicks website upcoming books preview - funny that they would put my pattern first.

Debbie asked for current addresses of the pattern designers so she could send us each a copy of the book. I'm hoping it comes soon. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell's have been advertising advance ordering of the book for months now. I went on my local public library website and there were already 4 holds on the book also in advance of publication. I sure hope it gets the press it deserves when it is finally on the shelves. It is a really beautiful book - great photography, lovely projects and Debbie's great writing style is throughout. Can't believe it has been over 4 years since I first submitted my pattern!

I just had a total knitting hibernation weekend. It was rainy and perfect to stay indoors knitting and designing. I finished the Vanilla Ice Cream scarf pattern which I will be posting soon on here. Also am nearing the finish line on the pink hooded cable cardigan for a friend's 3 year old daughter and a self-patterning sock yarn pullover for their 5 year old son. I also quickly knit a ruffled wine bottle drip-catcher for a wine gift and finished my knitted bead necklace (will post a picture later). I am about half finished with the dinosaur/dragon toddler hat design and hope to have that pattern completed by mid-October.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Big Faucet Will Be Turned "ON" Soon

September and October are truly the best months of the year to reside in Portland. The days are typically sunny, mild (low 70's this week) and rain-free. As we were warned when we first moved here from New Mexico 15 years ago, "If you want to do anything outdoors, do it before November 1st." That is about the time the Big Faucet in the Sky comes on and the next 8-9 months of uninterrupted rain commence.

I'm like most people around here. We accept and embrace the inevitable rain that gives us the year-round green landscape, amazing produce, beautiful Douglas firs, great vineyards and more bookstore and coffee places per capita than anywhere else in the country (except for maybe Seattle). The first few weeks of rainy season are welcomed with extra coffee and hot tea, curling up under an afghan with a good book and evenings spent next to the fireplace cozily knitting away. Ahhhh, this is why we live here...

I will be spending this winter tucked into my cozy place as seen in the adjacent picture. I was really lucky to end up in this situation as my unit is one of only three currently inhabited. This is my favorite home so far - high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful wood floors. I spend many pleasant hours knitting and designing here in my cozy little tree house.

Currently my designing and knitting it is in an out-of-control phase. I have 5 project designs in the works including a baby cardigan, adult slippers, a toddler creature hat, a mohair adult pullover for a contest and a lengthwise scarf (probably the next one finished which I will post on here). My WIP (work in progress) list includes: 2 adult cardigans, 3-4 pairs of socks, a pink toddler cabled hoodie cardigan, a boy's pullover knit from sock yarn (that will take awhile), knit bead necklaces, and ongoing chunky scarves to sell on

I must point out that is only the projects in my Oregon place. The WIP's in my workroom in the Texas house probably number in the dozens at this point. I can't even begin to remember, much less count all of them since it has been nearly a year since I was there. I have packed a number of them ready to be shipped up here eventually and plan to finish as many as possible when I spend several weeks there at Thanksgiving.

Writing about my WIP's is making me anxious. Better wrap this up and get busy !

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Now that its been almost 13 MONTHS!

I'm treating Labor Day 2o1o weekend like my own New Year with a bunch of fresh starts. Hard to believe it has been almost 13 months since my last blog post. I'm determined to do better this time and am aiming for weekly updates at the very least.

So much water under the bridge in the last year. I am no longer a travelling financial advisor as of this past March. I finally had my fill of the non-stop hotels, planes and rental cars and inability to return to my home base for months at a time. The two years of travel experiences were great and I don't regret any of the places I spent time and new friends I made all over the US, but I'm basically a homebody at heart. There's something to be said for dwelling among your own things and sleeping in your own bed at night. Plus I have way too much knitting paraphernalia to be toting it all over the place for weeks at a time...

So now I'm situated in a cool urban loft back in Portland, Oregon, truly the knitting epicenter of the US. I live a 5 minute walk from my work at an Edward Jones financial office and use all my extra non-commuting time to (what else?) knit even more. My place has great natural light, bookshelves crammed with yarn and knitting books and a whole extra room devoted to knitting and designing (photos to follow eventually). The Max (lightrail) runs right out front and I can easily get to the airport if I need to head down to East Texas to check on my house there.

I'm anxiously awaiting the publication of Debbie Stoller's newest Stitch 'N Bitch book, "Superstar Knitting" coming out November 1, 2010. I've seen the previews of my pattern design, "Baby Corn" and am blown away by the photos and layout. Yes, I knit the yellow dress the model is wearing in the picture on the beach and it will go all over the country in the upcoming trunk shows promoting the book release. Just hope I wove all those ends in tight enough!