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?