Everyone Gets Tacos. Everyone Gets Kits. A KnitCrate Fiesta!

Everyone Gets Tacos. Everyone Gets Kits. A KnitCrate Fiesta!

Celebrate Stitch Up Chicago the KnitC rate Way. Everyone gets tacos. Everyone gets a KnitCrate Kit. And everyone has a good time! Toss in a little impromptu birthday celebration and you have the makings of a fabulous Saturday night! This post includes affiliate links. Read full blog disclosure here.

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Fun in the Sun Summer Tops – Six Premium Patterns

Fun in the Sun Summer Tops – Six Premium Patterns

For some reason, and even though Spring is a great season, my mind jumps right to Summer when Winter season is officially over. I mean… I love Summer! Summer is a great time to dress up in different fashion styles. You can certainly play around with color, designs, layers – yes, layers – and some ah-mazing crocheted Summer Tops!

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Allison's Pajamas & A Free Shawl Patttern

Allison's Pajamas &  A Free Shawl Patttern

When Allison sent me her worsted in Allison’s Pajamas and Chocolate Brownie I was not only hungry and wanted to have a PJ party but I knew instantly I wanted to design a transitional season shawl. The Highland Shawl is exactly what I envisioned - and we know that never happens in deign process so yay for that bonus! This post includes affiliate links. Read full blog disclosure here.

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Say Hello To The Oliphant Kat Shawl!

Say Hello To The Oliphant Kat Shawl!

Continuing my New York City roots exploration and shining a spotlight on other makers & designers, I want to introduce you to Katrina Walser of Oliphant Kat and her newest design for us: Emilia’s Nursing Shawl. And don’t worry - no baby is required to create and love this designer and this design!

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Say Hello To Free Pattern Mondays!

Say Hello To Free Pattern Mondays!

We all know Mondays can lag and drag ... so why not make sure to start the week right? My gift to you and help spread the fiber love. So Check back to the Free Patterns Section every Monday morning to start your week with a fresh new pattern to create and make the week FIBER FABULOUS!

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VKL 2018: The Haul

When I was packing for my first Vogue Knitting Live, I had that sudden crisis moment every knitter probably has: yarn or clothes? I wanted to keep my luggage manageable since I was going to be in New York for a whole week and transferring between Airbnb locations, but still needed my best knits. So in the end, I opted for a small duffle that easily popped up on my back and a small carry on with a few wips. I was so proud of myself for minimal packing and streamlining. I brought only the two projects I planned to work on and no extras.

And yet this was an epic fail. Why you ask?

Well, because when I devised my master packing plan I had fully intended NOT to buy anything at VKL. Yes, you read correctly. I had told myself I was going to make this an exploratory trip, take it all in and go for the lessons, classes and people. With the best intentions I set myself up for an epic failure that may have resulted in an extra suitcase purchase to ship a box of yarn home. Live and learn.

I have to say that it was still a small modest hall by my normal show standards. Anyone who has seen my standard Stitches Midwest hauls knows I don't play. So even though I broke the "no buying and no accepting yarn" pledge, I did stay within reason and made what I think are some smart decisions, which was not easy.

The Market Place was sensory overload. I have to admit I had to take it in doses because there was just SO MUCH happening. And though I tried, I did not even cover 2 thirds of it! But that didn't stop me from making some amazing finds. So let's check the haul:

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One of the cooler aspects of the VKL Marketplace was how much space they dedicated to education. Books, teachers - it really was as much about feeding the knit soul and mind as stocking up on good finds. I grabbed an advance copy of the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Guide along with a copy of Knit New York which is a curated collection of New York inspired patterns published by One More Row Press. I am so excited for both of these. The patterns in Knit New York are perfect for the theme and I cannot wait to work them up.

One booth I was beyond excited to visit was The Third Piece. You may or may not know that I sort of stalk them on instalk-gram. They are such an empowered women's knitwear brand and they just opened their flagship store in Boston. I have been dying to get my hands on their chunky fiber and as soon as I did I was NOT disappointed. I also got to spend some time with Kristen & Jin (Owner / founder & designer respectively) and fell in love with them. I got enough Lavender to make their New Yorker scarf and the pink to make the boyfriend cardigan.

What is really awesome is that they offer both finished goods to help grow the handmade knitwear industry as well as materials, kits, fibers and host classes. They truly are bringing knitwear to the people of Boston and I love it! And now I will KNIT IT!!!!

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The fine folks at Love knitting dot com hosted a pre-VKL party for lots of us bloggers and it was SO MUCH FUN and they loaded us up with all kinds of British themed swag and some of their yummy in house fibers Willow & Lark! I arrived late (more on that later) so I made sure to visit their booth and get the low down on all they are offering. The colors they are offering are so vibrant and fun I am totally keeping them in mind for some fall projects.

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One super happy awesome discovery at the Marketplace was Clinton Hill Cashmere. It was instant love. For real I could have just called it a day because I found my divine inspiration fiber. Now I don't typically like cashmere because is typically a finer fiber an I do not like anything under DK weight. BUT... this is worsted weight and so squishy soft. I barely made it out of the market place before I had the first ball cast on my needles to make a hat. It is simply amazing. Yes it is a bit spendy so I will be saving up to do the shawl kit, but it is worth EVERY PENNY I tell you!!!  Meet Becky the founder and Learn more about them here.

I had so much fun hanging out and romping about the Stephen & Penelope booth. They are  such a bright happy place and group of fiber peeps! I had such fun meeting and hanging out with Petra from Undercover Otter. Her fibers were for sale at Stephen & Penelope and well, I may have left with 15 skeins. Hey now... I got plans for them skeins. They will become a beautiful shawl, a marled sweater and something else I haven't thought up yet. Her colors are SO VIBRANT and she is so rad. These will be my spring reward waiting for me when I get through the season.

My last big yarn splurge was with Northside Knit Co. What a hidden gem they were! I was knitting with my friend Chantal Saturday night (instead of going to the gala and I think I made the right call!) and she had this cotton that was simply insane. The color was incredible but the feel of this for a chunky cotton was actually something I have not felt before. They dye it naturally and so the next morning Chantal and I met up to visit the gals of Northside Knit Co. so I can get my hands on this yummy awesomeness. If I was gonna go broke it was going to be in this booth. This fiber just called me. I got 5 skeins of their bulkier cotton. It is an aran weight but really a thick thick Aran. I have some ideas of what I will be making and cannot wait.

So all in all not a bad trip to the Marketplace. Even though I originally planned not to buy at all, I still kept it modest (especially in comparison to the damage I usually do).  I certainly made only thoughtful purchases or accepted yarn I would truly use. To get the full recap watch below.

Stephanie's Big Stitch Story!

YARN MAKES US HAPPY

YARN MAKES US HAPPY

One of the gifts of what I do (knit and crochet and this blog) is that I get to meet amazing people. Even when I least expect it. I once paid a whopping $125 for an online "mentorship program for my Maker Business". While that quickly revealed itself to be anything but a mentorship program it didn't matter. Because the purpose, I found out, of my presence in that group was to meet and become friends with Stephanie of Triple Knot Studio. She is truly one of my BFF: Best Fiber Friends. And had I not taken that wrong turn I would never have made the right friend. So before I go off on a tangent of how we need to always be open to what God may REALLY be doing in our lives, let me tell you about Stephanie.

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She is smart and sassy. And when I say smart - did you know she is a scientist? Yeah... she is THAT smart. She makes me laugh. Once she made me cry. I don't think I have gone a day in the last 2 years without talking to her. Her kids are the best. I love them so much. They even sent me HAND PAINTED yarn bowls as a surprise gift. (Yes, I cried. Wouldn't you?). And when I am having a really bad day I am often cheered right up by a facetime from Stephanie and her merry gang of three littles. She is talented and truly makes me want to be a better human being.

So when, with the help of Sarah at Mama Knows Luxury, I was able to help cross off a wish on Stephanie's fiber bucket list - you know I jumped at it. Then, because I am who I am... I asked her to guest blog about it... so read on for Stephanie's Big Stitch Story!  


Like many knitters and crocheters out there, I have a fiber bucket list.

With my current lifestyle, and budget, the vast majority of what I make still used predominately acrylic yarn.  But that doesn't mean I haven't dipped my toes into the ocean of good stuff.

I save my pennies for a few skeins of hand dyed yarn here and there (and usually end up spending a few more pennies than I had planned because I have ZERO self control when it comes to yarn - and chocolate - but I digress), but I still have that bucket list.

And smack dab at the top of that list?  Big Stitch Wool - like the kind I have been drooling over ever since I discovered Mama Knows Luxury.  

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Now Michele, knowing this and being the most amazing friend, took it upon herself (with the permission of Sarah at Mama Knows) to send me a some of the wool she had left over from a collaboration she did.  Seriously - how awesome are these ladies - and there was no way I was saying no to Michele when she asked if I wanted some.

Well the box arrived....in the middle of my big push for market prep and holiday prep.  So there it sat, opened (because how could I NOT take a peak), taunting me.  And I promised myself, I would NOT let 2017 end without getting started on something - anything - with the wool.

A few days after Christmas I decided it was time.  Included in the box was a ball of wool, beautifully vibrant in color green color that was just calling my name.  So I took it out and cuddled it, and mulled it around in my hands a bit, getting a feel for the fiber.  Almost immediately I knew what it was destined to become.  I live in the desert and have little use for any apparel or accessory that many use this wool for. Over the course of my fiber journey, my makes have shifted from apparel and accessories to home decor and "care-free" plants.  This green ball was to become a cactus.

I unrolled a bit of the ball, and using the ginormous 40mm hook, made a few stitches, and immediately frogged them.  While the cactus would be gloriously huge with that hook, there was no way I had enough to finish it.  I had to split the yarn...Insert minor panic attack here.

I headed over to Sarah's YouTube tutorial for splitting yarn.  She made it look so easy, and explained it so well that it gave me the confidence to finally do it.  Splitting that yarn terrifying but exhilarating - the "what if I mess this up and ruin this beautiful yarn" was quickly replaced with "damn, this is easy! I've got this".

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Using the split yarn, I started in on the cactus form, gently frogging as I needed, to adjust my design to accommodate the yarn and yardage.  For all the "talk" about how delicate the yarn is on social media, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to work with.  Like most things in life, if you treat it with respect it will shine beautifully for you.  

I got through most of the main body of the cactus when the first ball of split wool ran out.  So back to Sarah's tutorials I went to learn how to felt the balls together with a felting kit I purchased from Sarah's shop.

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Again, a process I had never done before - but had seen done and heard mention of.  Oddly enough the felting process was similar to the splitting.  Her YouTube tutorial made it seem so easy, but when it was time for me to give it a go, my head was swimming with self doubt.  But after ripping that bandaid off (and maybe drinking a beer), I was "gently" stabbing away with the wool per the instructions - and was giddier than a kid in a candy store when the balls were actually connected - I DID IT!

I finished up the design with a grand total of 6" of wool left after weaving and felting in the ends.  A little poly fill and some sewing later and the cactus was born.  I used some acrylic yarn I had on hand for the "soil" and some and dyed wool scraps for the flowers.

While I love making cacti, this one is hands down my favorite.  So many firsts are embodied in each squishy stitch, this is the first cactus I'm keeping for myself - be proudly displayed in my work space.

A huge thank you and virtual bear hug go out to Sarah and Michele for providing me with this opportunity.  I can't wait to sink my hooks into more of this squish.

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The Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Ok you guys... in an ideal world I would make every single gift I ever give. But let's be honest... that is just not possible. Plus, I like to give things I may not know how to make and support other artisans and makers buying from them. So I am still giving the gift of handmade (but made by a fellow creative and their hands not my own). With holiday mayhem, Black Friday and Cyber Monday and deals abound, I wanted to take a minute to share with you some of my fave handmade gifts ideas. Click each photo below to be taken to the shop directly.

Flowers are such a great hostess gift if you are going to a party or dinner. How about a handmade twist. If you follow me on social media, you know the wooden handmade flowers I have are one of the most valuable and important things I own. In that spirit,  I bought these from Stephanie at Triple Knot Studio and LOVE them. They are made so well, and she gives such care to shipping. A perfect gift that lasts a lifetime.

 

Want a little razzle dazzle? How about the perfect gift for your crochet or knit loving maker friend something that is really special? Check out this beaded hand dyed yarn from VanessaKnits. The color is one amazing aspect but then the pop and sheen of the sporadic beading makes it really just so special. 

 

One of my favorite things about being in a community surrounded by other talented peeps, is how I also get to support them Tanya posted this hat on Instagram one day and I instantly knew I had to have it. Sure I can get the colors and make my own but chances are it would look different and why copy when I can get the real deal from the original designer? Tanya so graciously sent me one and I have literally worn it nearly every cold day since. IT IS MY FAVORITE HAT EVER. Get one for yourself or if you run out of time to make all the gifts, get one for someone else!

 

The Sexy Knitter Tool Kit is in my bag and the perfect gift for makers on the go. I cannot tell you how many times I have been so happy to have this handy kit in my bag! You can get them in a variety of fun sayings and images on the tin cover. I love the mini sheep tape measure too.

 

 

Three things I NEVER leave home without: My yarn, my favorite TooShayCrochetHook handmade hook and my knitting project bag with my Clever Cove pins. For real.. this is me putting each in use while at a Coldplay concert. The bag is perfect and I decorated it with two of the cutest pins from the Clever Cove Shop on Etsy. . The hooks are my favorite because not only are they handcrafted wood handles, but the paint and design is just so special. I have a full set!

I have been a fan of my handmade crochet hook cases from Soyun Park ever since I got my first one a few years ago. I now have three - 2 for hooks and one for knitting needles. Soyun always does an amazing job with detail and her works stands up to my every day use. I LOVE THEM! If you have a special maker in your life or want to truly treat yourself, I cannot recommend Soyn's cases enough!

 

 

If you follow me on social media then you know one of my favorite things is my mug collection. It is not just fun, but really encouraging throughout the day to have a bit of fuel on a mug with a message. The one that started it all, this blog and my gusto if you will, is my Create. Hustle Repeat. mug from Small Glow. I am such a fan of Zenia and her maker small biz Small Glow. She took some time off after the birth of her new baby but is back with a whole new line of Boss Babe gear that is the perfect gift for all your maker tribe. And even for yourself!

 


If you are looking to to stat an amazing new project  then check out the kits from Mama Knows Luxury. Because trust me, Sarah (mama) KNOWS! I myself am currently working up something fun with her big merino wool and I tell you that this would be such a treat to get as a gift. For real... this is so much fun that you may want to get a kit for yourself. I have designed home items. accessories, and am working on a poncho now. SO MUCH FUN TO BE HAD WITH THESE!!!


So there you have it... awesome handmade finds for people who love handmade or even to Treat Yo’self this holiday season.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!!! 
xoxo
Michele
 

A Hedgehog & A Butterly For A Perfect Match

One of the most exciting things about the internet and social media is the world it opens to us. As a small business and fiber enthusiast I find it especially exciting (and freakishly overwhelming at times). I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible fellow fiber friends. One such fiber find is Hedgehog Fibres.

For about 6 months I had seen the vibrant colorways created by Beata Jezek's Hedgehog Fibers stream across my social media feed. Bright colors. Bold combinations. All of it so exciting. And what I love most about Hedgehog colorways is they are fearless. They scream personality. They are, in essence, me in a fiber. 

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So when I got the opportunity to collaborate with Hedgehog for the Galway Shawl, well yeah... I was kind of stoked. OK, I WAS SUPER STOKED! I may have run around to all my fiber friends so excited saying "GUESS WHAT I GET TO DO". My friend Laura may or may not be able to confirm this ;-)

Now I want to say something about the team at Hedgehog: I have so much respect for how this collaborative process has progressed. Every detail was met with ease and attention. It was not a matter of "let's send you some yarn and make something". Oh no, they care about every bit of the makers that will get their fibers. They care about their customers and makers and creating things to best serve them. It is such an honor to work with such an amazing team. After a few emails to talk about inspiration and colors and texture we landed on the Aran Merino base and a crochet shawl inspired by the flight of a butterfly and the colors of the fields in fall in her Pod colourway. All was set for a collaboration of beauty.


When the yarn arrived I was BLOWN away. The colors are way more vibrant in person (like how is that possible???) and even my friend Laura said "THEY GLOW"! I mean Beata must have some magic in those dye pots in Ireland. I seriously could not stop looking at the colors. When I wound it up to cake the skeins they kept the vibrancy too.

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I love the weight and texture of this fiber. It works up so easily and is not clunky. As a crocheter and a knitter I am always excited about yarns that work well for both. This yarn is one of those. The design itself went through a few tweaks and changes along the way to get the drape and shape that I envisioned.

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Once I settled on the shape though, it flowed with ease creating my vision.  A vibrant butterfly emerged and I could not wait to block this beauty.

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A drop of my fave Eucalan in the blocking bucket with some water followed by a quick soak and my butterfly was ready to rest and let her stitches settle.

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You know the saying a watched pot never boils? Well I am sure there is a saying "the watched block never dries". I kept checking but had to leave this beauty on the blocking mats overnight. In the morning though, the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen emerged and the drape and shape are perfection. I could not wait to wear it and show to my local fiber friends.

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And now - The Hedgehog Fibers team and I want to share this beautiful collaboration with YOU! You can get the free pattern here and enter below to win a KIT to make your very own:  yup 2 skeins of this beautiful fiber, hook, pattern and toggle. And check out Hedgehog Fibers. Make your world a little more colorful!

Truly The Heart Of Mine

I was so excited when Wool And The Gang asked me if I wanted to try the new crochet kit for the Heart Of Mine Jumper. Like excited is probably an understatement. I may have squealed in excitement! I mean come on... the honor of them asking me to try a kit... and a CROCHET Kit. Yes... EXCITEMENT!

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Ok so first I have to tell you that even though knitting has become a mainstay in my life, my first love and passion will always be crochet. So whether they ask me to review a kit or not, Wool And The Gang offers some of the most fun and awesome crochet kits. As a hooker these are not always easy to find. So I was already a fan and have made several of their kits. (See all their awesome crochet kits here). Anyways... back to this gem.

When the kit arrived I was blown away. I had just finished designing my Tuckoe Knit Scarf using Wool And The Gang Wool so was excited to switch to a crochet project. PLUS... SO MUCH COZY! They send enough for all sizes. Not all companies do this so I was really excited about that and the option to make any size I wanted. I could not wait to dive in.

The pattern was super clear and easy to follow. The diagrams helped when I had to add the sleeves. Their construction is a bit different than how I design garments so those diagrams helped. It worked up so fast that I made a whole sweater in a single day. I could not believe it. I blocked it - assembled it and have already gotten more yarn to start another.

And now - the most awesome folks at Wool And The Gang are giving one of you guys a Heart of Mine Jumper Kit Too!!! YES!! HOW AWESOME!!!! Enter below and if you don't want to wait to see if you win, Wool And The Gang is giving our community 20% off their Crazy Sexy Wool AND my all time favorite Shiny Happy Cotton Yarn AND ALL THE KITS!!!! WHAT?? Yup - use code 144Stitches through Sunday 11/19/17 at midnight.

Thanks WATG for always keeping crocheters in mind and yes, you have that Heart of Mine ;-)

It's A Pom Pom Party!

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If you know me then you know Pom Poms make me smile. They do. It is like a little POP of awesome.

Someone once told me that Pom Poms on hats originated in the Scandinavian Navy for sailors to prevent them from hitting their heads when entering their quarters. I have no idea if that is true or not. But I do really like that story and have certainly passed on that tale a time or two. It is simple and gives Pom Poms a bit of a noble purpose.

But for me? They are just awesome and fun.


As a matter of design they add contrast or whimsy to an item. I can use them for color pops too. And lately, I must say, I have gone on from Pom Poms to Tassels, but that is for another day. Let us stick with the Pom Pom shall we?

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So when I heard that Craft Yarn Council was hosting a Pom Pom Party for September, well, um... YES PLEASE! Not that I need a reason to celebrate Pom Poms but I love Pom Poms and I LOVE parties so it felt like it was calling me to join in the fun.

They have so many fun ways to join the party: CYC will be hosting a Pompom-Along September 11-15 to show you all the ways you can make and style your pompoms. On social media check the hashtag #pompomparty too.

Be sure to follow them and the Pom Pom Party on Facebook and Instagram throughout the week and check out their Pinterest board for even more ideas!  And check out all these fabulous projects featuring Pom Poms.

And that is not all... LEGIT.. WAIT THERE IS MORE!!! 

I teamed up with the incredible team at Clover USA to bring you ALL YOU NEED to make your perfect Pom Poms (and tassels)! Check this out and enter below to win the WHOLE POM POM MAKING KIT!

I used to use cardboard scraps to make my pom poms. Yes, this works but dang it is a pain in the butt and they were always uneven which meant lots of trimming and shaping.

Then I stumbled on to the Clover Pom Pom Maker. Have you seen it? This thing is the bees knees of pom pom making and now I cannot tell you how I lived without this for so long! It is so easy to use and Clover offers a variety of sizes so you can pretty much make any Pom Pom in any size you need. I make poms poms in seconds now and also - a great way to repurpose scrap yarn!

Now I know, because it happened to me, that upon first sight these handy tools can seem odd or overwhelming to figure out. It is strange to me now looking back because truly once you get the hang of it they will be your best friend. I highly recommend this how to video from Brittany at B. Hooked on how awesome these Clover USA Pom Pom Makers are.

Like I said, once you get the hang of it, these will become one of your favorite tools in your tool box. I was so happy when I reached out to Clover for this post that they wanted to sponsor this giveaway. You can win a Clover USA Pom Pom maker kit! WHAT? I KNOW!!!!!  Enter below.

 

 

Disclosure: Clover USA sent me the Pom Pom Makers free of charge for the purpose of this review and collaboration Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

Stitches Midwest - Worth It Every Time!

I first heard of Stitches Midwest in 2012 as my fiber business was proving to be my path and I knew it was time to step it up a notch and fill in some holes in my self taught crochet knowledge. So I searched for area events and voila... my discovery of Stitches Midwest. The classes I wanted were sold out so I attended the marketplace to see what it was all about. I fell in love. In 2013, I had recently rebranded my Etsy shop and just been accepted to appear in the upcoming One Of A Kind Show in Chicago. As luck would have it this time I was ready for Stitches Midwest and, Drew Emborsky (The Crochet Dude), who was a big inspiration of mine and a name I recognized, was teaching a class, so I knew it was serendipitous. I enrolled right away and was grateful for a not only a local event but one that would become a staple in my fiber journey!

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

While it seemed to be more a knitting event the first time I went I could quickly tell there were more crocheters this time and felt at home instantly. I had a blast and the class I enrolled in was simply fabulous. There were several A-Ha! moments and "oh man that's HOW you do that" light bulbs going off in class with Drew. I learned so much and could not have been happier and, in fact, we are friends to this very day! I also shopped until I dropped (for real) in the market and discovered all sorts of tools, fibers and delights. I learned Tunisian Crochet and discovered the Big Alpaca Bump from Becca Smith. That was also the year I met indie dyer Katie of Dragonfly Fibers, who I have worked with ever since.  A total success!


In 2014 I returned with Katie to grab my enormous haul of incredible hand dyed delights she made for me. For real... it was So. Much. Yarn. I wandered a bit and got to discover Karen and her company Fringe Supply Co with her lovely rosewood hooks and notions for fiber folk. That was also the year I met Stephen West and Steven Be,  which launched our fiber affair. (more on that later). So all in all... another success!

I had to skip 2015 due to being on location for a shoot so was super excited to return in 2016. I was pleased as punch to discover that so many more crochet oriented classes and vendors were there. These were MY people. My fiber business was taking off and thriving, I had just launched this blog and was dialing in to go full time and full steam fiber dream chasing so I had a feeling it would be special. It was more special than I could have imagined.

Due to my schedule, I wasn't able to take any classes but was able to see some amazing humans and tear it up in the market. I got to spend some time with The ShibaGuyz Shannon & Jason Mullet-Bowlsby in person. We had basically become social media besties at that point so being in the same room was just too fun. And of course, Jason & I landed in a deep discussion about photo apps. I mean, no one was surprised by this.

And HUGE Bonus, Shannon introduced me to Theresa & Ron of The Buffalo Wool Co.. Not only are they two of the nicest human beings I have ever met, they have an incredible story and fiber. You know I didn't leave empty handed. Please check them out - you will NOT regret it. 

Then I made a mad dash over to Steven Be's booth for what can only be described as fiber fabulosity and the birth of our fibar antics and mayhem! At this point, I had to resort to using my auxiliary shopping bag because the yummy fiber finds were just to good to leave. I needed to get All. The. Yarn. It was my introduction to Freia Fibers and I have never looked back. And of course there's always time for fun fiber antics with Steven.

I hopped over to Yarn Culture New York where I met Patti and discovered her amazing fibers, including Crave Yarn. I was immediately in love with the colors and textures of Crave Yarn, appropriately named by the way because I was craving it on sight and it was SO SOFT! I also had to grab some of her Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino because it was very interesting and a bit heavier than most DK weight fibers and the colors are so vibrant. Total score!

A quick haul to the car to unload the day's finds and then a yarn break to recharge. It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car. Convention entrance seemed to be a good place to park for a minute.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

Fully recharged I was super excited to stop by and see what the gals at Dragonfly Fibers had for me this year. I also finally got to meet Nancye, the other half of the magnificent dyeing duo!

And I was not disappointed. Normally I am drawn to their bulky Super Traveller but the new gradient kits had me swooning over worsted & dk weight like never before. Their colors are always so vibrant and fun.

 

Before heading out, I wanted to stop by the Halos of Hope to thank them for all they do. I have been partnered with Halos of Hope since 2014 to make and send chemo caps to cancer centers nationwide. You can read the full story here. 

Even though I had partnered with Halos for years, I had never met Pam in person. It was such a treat to see her there. She is spunky and fun and fabulous and genuine and exactly all the things you can imagine of such a kind person.  I was blown away by this beautiful woman and sharing a few minutes with her.  We bounced around Stitches Midwest booths and laughed and it was so much fun to connect. The absolute highlight of my day and a perfect way to cap off Stitches Midwest 2016.


When the Early Bird registration email for Stitches Midwest 2017 arrived I was ON IT! I was particularly excited when I realized Shannon & Jason (The Shibaguyz) would be back teaching the classes I missed last year. SCORE! And they added Jason's photography class. Um... HELLO please take my money and sign me up!

Now... before I get into the market madness and all my fabulous finds (and trust me, this may have been the BEST YEAR YET), let me do a little classes review first. Short review: THEY WERE SO GOOD. I learned so much. Longer review...

The Alter to Fit class was great to fill in some gaps in my self taught design knowledge. I also learned so much from hands on measuring and what I call Designer Math. If you ever want to get a pattern but Alter it to Fit, this is the class to take. If it comes to a town near you sign up, you can also get started online here.

Fab Crochet Fabrics was so good, though it did fly by. The class was small enough that Shannon & Jason taught a bit more conversationally than by following a strict layout. I feel like we could have gone on all day. It was such a joy to discuss and learn about texture, drape and how to determine the right yarn and stitch for your project. What a great thing to be in a room full of creative people on the same page as you. I just didn't want the class to end. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

The photo class was great but definitely too short. What was super cool is that it was interactive. Learning stances. Learning about lighting. Not from seats but from being up with our cameras or phones and doing it. It was great to have a photography class that focused on FIBER. What we are trying to show and feature in our work. So many great tips tricks and hacks too that I am blown away.  OK... so that is the classes.

 

Now on to the market... and Oh - Emmmm- Geeeeeeeee. If you follow me on Instagram you saw the awesomeness as it happened!

One of the best parts of Stitches Midwest is seeing fiber friends who are too far to see often. One of my faves is Steven Be. At first when I didn't think I would make this year's event missing out on a shopping day with Steven be was the worst part. But then when I was able to attend, well it was of course a highlight. His whole team, Missy, Pippin, Erin and the King Bee himself, are all so much fun to play yarn with.

And they curate some of the most FANTASTIC fibers that make me swoon. Colors and texture... it is a sensory overload upon arrival in the best way.  I may have stopped by a few times over the course of the event, going back for more each time. I even got a new Blue Sky Kit for the most incredible cocoon I cannot wait to make.

Speaking of seeing fiber friends, of course I stopped by Dragonfly Fibers a few times and may have left with 2 large bags of yarn. Thank you Nancye!

 

I made my way over to Yarn Culture New York to visit with Patti and see all her new fibers. Oh my goodness, her offerings are always so classic and modern all at once. It is that perfect balance. The new "joy" weight of Rosy Green Wool Cheeky merino is so fabulous and is indeed full of joy. Of course I had to grab some in shades of blue and cannot wait to design something fabulous... for the Fellas! We had time to chat a bit and cook up a few new ideas together so stay tuned... because some fun things from us are coming soon.

The other great thing about Stitches Midwest is discovering all of the amazing new Fiber Friends. I found an incredible hand carved size S Crochet Hook when I met Sandy & Dennis from S & S Camelid Co. They have an Alpaca Farm and sell the big Bump's of yarn! Rugs will be made!!!

making important yarn decisions with Dami of Magpie Fibers

I also met Dami from Magpie Fibers. Dami gets me. I had breezed by Magpie on my first trip as I must have been in a daze and missed her offerings. Thankfully she tagged #StitchesMidwest in an Instagram post and it caught my eye as I searched the hashtag. So I made a point to head to her booth.

After staring at her fibers for what must have been an eternity, she came over. Clearly I needed assistance lol. You know how it goes... you see a fiber you REALLY want to work with but you don't have a plan yet? Lord knows I don't need to grow my yarn stash. So the staring game begins. Between me and the yarn. It tells me to take it home and I tell it I must first devise a plan. Dami could see I was clearly in over my head staring down her incredible offerings so I am glad she came over to introduce herself and help.

I think what made me an instant fan of hers was that before she asked me if I needed assistance she offered to join me in the stare down. THIS IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! So we stared. Then we chatted. Then she helped me come up with a plan and I cannot wait to show you what I make.

Truth be known, there was no way I was going home without some of her fibers. But at least I can feel better about it now with a plan. :-)

So many incredible finds. Over the next few months I will be showing you some close ups and launching special collaborations and projects that showcase some makers and finds from the Stitches Midwest market. We have some really special stuff planned for you guys and you know that means a few AWESOMESAUCE giveaways too.

Click the photos below to get to the vendor site of some of my fave finds. 

If you have ever considered attending an event like Stitches, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Being around YOUR people. Supporting small businesses. Learning and meeting fabulous humans.  It's been 5 years since my first Stitches Midwest. Some years I took a class and some I didn't. Every year was different. Some vendors the same and some new ones to discover. Always awesome. Always worth it.

And of course... when you go... make some time for antics and a hat lesson with Steven. Enjoy.

Mama Knows And That Ain't No Lie!

Ok... I have to force myself not to use all caps for this entire post because I am so excited I want to yell and jump and dance and make sure everyone knows it. I MEAN THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! for real... I have had the time of my life collaborating with Sarah and Mama Knows Luxury. She knows fun too by the way!

I had seen all of these big chunky merino projects over the last year. Blankets and knits and hand knitting and arm knitting. It was all exciting and curious and totally overwhelming. I wanted to try but those big projects didn't seem to call me by name. I had a feeling I would start with a bang then see them over in that endless pile of all my other "in progress" projects. I wanted to do something different to try this stuff out. This stuff I talk about is big bulky huge balls of merino wool. I reached out to Sarah with my crazy idea for bright colors and home decor with a twist. I am so glad she was on board for this because I have had SO MUCH FUN!

Ok... let me sidebar a minute:

If you read my post about Brand Partnerships, then you know how important partnering with the RIGHT brands is for success. Partnering with Mama Knows Luxury was more than Right, it was perfect.  Originally, we had agreed to have this collaboration post for Easter. I had a big fun Easter spread planned. And then my sweet Sadie got sick. So we moved the project to be for Mother's Day. Then my Sadie suddenly died. And my world fell apart. I didn't want to create. I wasn't feeling inspired. I hardly wanted to make anything. I tried. I took out the project bag so many times trying to force myself to feel creative but all I felt was sad missing my Sadie.

A big Box Of Fun waiting for me

I emailed Sarah feeling terrible. I had never missed these deadlines or not delivered on a collaboration. I was so excited she wanted to work with me I was worried I would ruin the relationship missing all these deadlines. But then Sarah emailed me back. She said "Take your time and get yourself right". She got it. My head space wasn't there. And because I partnered with the RIGHT brand and the RIGHT small business owner in Sarah, the stress was lifted in an instant. I had the freedom to take the time I needed without added stress.

Then it happened. Time passed and I found myself reaching for these big fluffy chunky merino balls. In fact, they helped bring me back. Like magic balls of yarn. So thank you Sarah for being who you are and to all of YOU reading this.. partner with the RIGHT Brands because it makes all the difference.

OK... now back to this AMAZING project.

At first I just wanted to squeeze all of the yarn. I admit, once I got going there was some play time before getting down to business and it was awesome. I knit it. I crocheted it. My husband threw the big yarn gum balls (as he called them) at me. It was just FUN.

My initial idea was inspired by my favorite placemats but that didn't quite work out. Making them square was sort of boxy and didn't have the look or feel I had envisioned. But the yarn was so fun to play with that it was not long before I had a new plan. I switched to round placemats and then it hit me... barstool pads AND placemats. GENIUS!

Then...I decided... hand crochet. I WANT TO HAND CROCHET. 

Ok if you have never tried hand crochet then let me tell you: IT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!! This is the perfect project for it because you can make each Barstool Pad with a single ball. Which, by hand crochet, I kid you not... 15 minutes. 30 if you are having fun and undo it only to remake it again! Think about it... a brilliant fun handmade home accent you can MAKE in 15 minutes. YES!

I decided to make my first set LSU Colors... because... GAUX TIGERS! They are great for mini playroom stools and big barstools too. You can make them in any team colors for your game day accents.

As I was making these magnificent fun barstool pads I had a brilliant idea. My FAVORITE coffee house is a super chill place in Peoria called Zion Coffee Bar (more on them later but if you follow me on social media you know it is my joint). so I asked them if they would let me come in and add a pop of color and BAM!!!!  How amazing is this?


Now for Phase II: The tables. My friend has the perfect North Carolina home with such beautiful decor. But what she is missing is a pop of color. So I sent her a set of these beauties and will you look how much fun they bring to your summer tables!

Big_Stitch_Extreme_Crochet.jpg

This whole experience, even with the challenge I faced personally losing my Sadie, was incredibly perfect. Sarah is the real deal. A woman with a passion for people who make things. It is what this blog is about . She made the project beyond my dreams awesome. I Love how the pads came out. I loved learning hand crochet. I loved playing with this big chunky merino. I love the whole shebang. If you have been wanting to try big merino but afraid of the big projects, this kit is for you.  A perfect start and introduction to Big Stitch Merino.

And standby... because there is more to come from me and Mama Knows Luxury.

The Cotton Club!

While it is true, I am a cozy vibe, snowboard loving, scarf making kind of gal, anyone who knows me knows I am truly an ocean loving Pisces to the core. Nothing gets to me like the fresh waves and salt air. When I lived in Australia, there wasn't a single day that went without a dip in the South Pacific, of course it helped that I lived and worked a short walk from the beach. With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before my two passions (yarn and ocean) collided.

beachside-knittng

About two years ago, while on location in Florida for a shoot, I got the idea to make myself some lightweight cotton garments to wear. But while on location with super long shooting days, and still prepping for the Chicago One Of A Kind Show... well let's just say such an undertaking would have to wait.

Last year, while in Miami for several weeks, the idea reignited and so the journey began. Over the last year I have experimented with various fibers and cotton was always the winner for this idea. Like the commercial says, it is the "fabric of our lives" after all. I began my process of swatching and sketching and found the old ideas I had tucked away coming to life again. In the process, I quickly fell in love with a few specific cottons that lent themselves in both color and texture to my vision.

Thus my first Summer Cottons Collection was born.

cottons-design-process

Within a few weeks I had edited it down to a variety of looks I would want in my own closet. I drew inspiration from the many coastal places I have been and created pieces that spark a memory from each place they are named for.

I have put my heart into my first Summer Cottons Collection. This collection features garments made from some of the softest cottons and breathable for those summer days. Garments I enjoy both making and wearing. And I hope they are garments many others will enjoy both making and wearing.

The collection is made up of 20 new designs for makers to enjoy and be inspired by and a handful of made to order garments available here. And you can try the Inwood Summer Beach Top free pattern here.

For a deeper look at the fibers, read on to learn about the materials. (disclosure: the following contains affiliate links where I may get credit or commissions but these are not sponsored posts and opinions are my own).

Wool And The Gang Shiny Happy Cotton
Ok... this is by far the most superior cotton of all the fibers I have used and tried gearing up for this collection. Yes, I work with WATG often, no they did not pay me to say that. My order receipts can be proof enough how much this material factors into my designs and offerings. Why is it so special? First of all, it is just a wee bit thicker than most other cottons on the market. It has that few added strands that makes a difference in how it holds structure of my stitches. And still, it does not sacrifice drape effect for being a wee bit thicker which is awesome because when designing with lightweight fibers drape matters!  Last, I do not know what their color process is but this cotton has a sheen like none other. It truly is Shiny Happy Cotton and I love it! And because WATG is awesome, you get 15% off with code WATG144S through 6/9/17!

Betta Knit Pima Cotton
I discovered Betta Knit last winter when I collaborated with them on the Stella Jumper design and fell in love with their chunky wool. I was thrilled to discover they are offering Pima Cotton for summer. This cotton is great for those drapey and lacey designs. It holds the stitch structure well for a finer fabric. This is technically a category 3 DK yarn but in truth it works up like a sport weight and I just love it. I designed my Megan's Bay Shrug specifically for the way this fiber drapes. And... Betta Knit is giving you 20% off with code 144XBK through June 30, 2017 WOOT WOOT!

Lion Brand Yarn 24/7 Cotton
Lion Brand continues to deliver for affordable yarn options. The 24/7 Cotton is mercerized adding a sparkle and sheen even after multiple washings. Trust me, I tested this claim out and it passed the test! This fiber is interesting because it is a little bit "rope-like" for lack of a better term. It was interesting to work up and I quickly fell in love. It is perfect for my Saratoga Shrug design! I loved it so much I reached out to Lion Brand and we teamed up to collaborate on a design specifically for this collection and this yarn. More coming on that very soon!

Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme
The name says it all. It truly is Cotton Supreme. One of my favorite things about this fiber beyond the awesome texture is all the colors they offer. You can get so many blends and without much effort in yarn change, your garments will have style and color all their own. This is a heavier weight cotton, definitely more category 4 worsted. And yes still gives you the soft drape of the finer fibers. It is ideal for garments like my Manchester Tunic where you can let the yarn do the color work for you!

DebbieBlissCottonDK

Debbie Bliss Cotton
I discovered Debbie Bliss Cotton well into this project. In fact, most patterns were already out for testing when I came across this gem. I discovered it while checking out a new Local Yarn Shop Wool & Company that opened about 15 minutes from my home. (More on them in a future post). This fiber is delicious! In colors and in texture, I was delightfully surprised. It says it is DK, but more of a sport weight for sure. You can order from them here and they provide free shipping in the US!

I know there are endless other cottons out there and have tried many. But these are the ones that inspired and are featured in this collection and I encourage you to try them out. Do you have a favorite cotton you want us to know about? Share in the comments below. And tag #stitchandhustle on social media so we can see your summer cotton projects. Happy summer and see you in the Cotton Club!

And to celebrate.... I am giving away the whole collection of designs. Yep - ALL 20 PATTERNS could be yours! Enter below