jennifer

Mar 042015
 

I recently finished knitting a “maternity capable” Lanesplitter for myself.  I have previously knit a Lanesplitter and LOVE it.  With my growing belly, however, I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to  dress myself in a stylish manner and still be comfortable.  My old and trusty Lanesplitter has recently become something that is simply too tight around around my belly to wear anymore.

So, I made a new version of the Lanesplitter, with the same yarn (because I love the colors!).  This version is quite a bit larger around and I added a folded hem waistband that I can cinch tighter (as needed) with an icord drawstring.  Additionally, while I am rarely someone who adds seams to my knitting, I actually knat this skirt in two main pieces that I sewed together at the sides, hoping for a bit more structure.

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All in all, I am delighted with how it turned out.  The icord drawstring does add some more bulk around the waist, which I am not the most fond of with the already added bulk, but soon I anticipate filling out the skirt more completely to not even need to cinch the waistband tight at all.

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I really want to knit more skirts.  I had always thought that knit skirts would sag and droop over time, but my old Lanesplitter still hangs very nicely, even after almost three years.  If you haven’t made yourself a Lanesplitter, I suggest that you do.  The pattern is a joy to knit and it’s great fun playing with a variegated or self-striping yarn.

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Anyway, my 16 week appointment went very well earlier this week.  We were able to hear baby’s heartbeat loud and clear, and right on target.  Even though I don’t look big, I feel HUGE.  I only gained about 4 pounds during the first trimester but have gained another 4 pounds in the last month, all in my belly.  And I swear, half of that has just been in the last week!  These days, I’ll wake up in the morning and my belly will feel noticeably larger than when I went to bed.  Apparently, I’m at the time when baby is experiencing a big growth spurt and will double in size over a short period of time.

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Mar 012015
 

Until recently, I had no idea that knitting for a baby would be such a joyous experience.  Everything is so cute and wee…oh my.

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I just finished knitting several garter stitch baby cardigans.  Two of them have detaching front panels that you can change out and wash without having to change the entire sweater (I got this idea from the Presto Chango pattern) and the other is just a basic cardigan.  The smallest one is a 0-3 months size and the other two are 3-6 months, based off the baby sizing measurements of the Craft Yarn Council Standards.  They are all very basic, bottom-up, seamless, dolman sleeved cardigans.

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Another great aspect of baby knitting is the opportunity for stashbusting.  I’ve had several skeins of Knit Picks Comfy (which is a very soft cotton blend yarn) in my stash for years… Unfortunately, when knitting for myself, I prefer wool.  But soft cotton seems like it would be absolutely perfect for baby! The yellow colorway is Crème Brulee and the orange is Sweet Potato (though, I think that color has been discontinued, but the colorway Carrot looks pretty similar).  I kept knitting with the Comfy until there was none left – – on the sweater below, I had to finish up the back with a different yarn, but I don’t think baby will mind.

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Obviously, I went a little bananas with the stripes, but hey, I love stripes.

Actually, the other day ago, Josh and I went to one of the local baby consignment stores (mainly to satisfy our curiosity, not that we were planning on buying anything) and I ended up buying baby’s first onesie, which has some very stylish stripes.  Clearly, our baby is going to be very stylish and well-coordinated!

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I also recently finished knitting a maternity-capable skirt for myself, which I hope to photograph and show you soon, but I’m wondering what my next project will be.  I think maybe I should cool it on the baby knitting but it’s so satisfying and addictive.  I recently scored a couple of beautiful skeins of the Knit Picks Hawthorne (which is a handpainted superwash wool blend) and I feel an overwhelming desire to knit baby a colorwork cardigan.  Even though it’s in Norwegian, the Bergen Baby pattern is really calling to me!

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Tomorrow morning is our 16 week appointment and I am looking forward to finding out if everything is going as it should.  My instinct is that it is, but there is always a small part of me that worries about stuff I cannot control.

Feb 142015
 

I’ve finally finished the baby blocks that I started about three months ago!  Considering that I made 48 blocks, I’m sure any reasonable person would think that a titch excessive but I’d prefer to have too many blocks than too few.

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I first found the idea for these blocks on Pinterest.  Naturally, now that baby is on the way, I’ve spent a lot of time browsing baby and toddler crafts and Pinterest and my ‘queue’ of things I want to make overfloweth.

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The instructions that were included with the original pin that I saw for these blocks, unfortunately, weren’t very good.  They basically suggested that you cut upholstery foam into 4″ cubes, cut fabric into 5″ squares (0.5″ for the seam allowance on each side), sew 6 squares of fabric together to form a fabric cube (leaving one side unsewn), squish the foam cube into the fabric cube, and handstitch the unsewn side.  VOILA!  A perfect baby block.

Of course, my blocks are FAR from perfect.

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The first problem I ran into was cutting out the upholstery foam.  The Pinterest tutorial suggested that one can simply use ordinary scissors  for the job.  Nope.  One does not simply use scissors to cut upholstery foam!  I ruined several pieces of foam attempting that.  Upon further research, I learned that a much more successful and precise approach is to use an electric carving knife.  I then embarked on a journey to find such a device at a thrift store and, lo and behold, found one for just a few dollars at only the second thrift store that I went to.  And I was equally delighted that cutting the foam using an electric carving knife was also successful.  Hooray!

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The other problem I encountered from the instructions was in cutting the fabric with a 0.5″ seam allowance on each side, resulting in a fabric cube that was the same size as the block.  After I cut out ALL of the fabric and sewed together my first fabric cube, I squished in the block and found that the fabric was much too loose and floppy. I removed the foam from the fabric and resewed all of the sides, so that there would be some negative ease, and that worked much better to fill up the block.  I later found an Amy Butler sewing for babies book wherein she has a pattern and instructions for blocks, and she likewise recommends negative ease.

This meant that I had to sew all of my fabric sides with a 5/8″ seam allowance (which was just a lot of wasted fabric).  I also chose to trim the excess with pinking shears.  And of course, handstitching was a great opportunity for me to make that final edge look bad.

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So yes, these blocks are not perfect.  But they are soft and squishy, with some different colors and patterns of fabric.  They can be stacked in many different ways, matching colors and patterns, or not matching.

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And one of the joys of building blocks is always knocking one’s creation over into a big block heap.

As a kid, I loved playing with blocks… so of course, anticipating my own baby is an opportunity to recreate some of my favorite childhood moments.

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Feb 022015
 

For my New Year’s post, I indicated that Josh and I are embarking on a new adventure this year.  To accompany our new adventure, I’ve knit up some cute items for our little kumquat.  Actually, I am officially 12.5 weeks along and the little kumquat has grown to the size of a lime.  I had an appointment this morning, and we were able to see a very active acrobat for a baby, along with a heartbeat, and I’m now ready to officially announce!

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I started my knitting for baby in November with some booties. The pattern is Closeknit’s Striped Baby Bootie pattern.  A few years ago, I made several booties from this pattern for a friend’s baby, and she said that my booties were the only ones to stay on baby’s feet.  I made several pairs in a variety of sizes, using scrap sock yarn.

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And here are some wee mittens for baby.  The pattern is Fingering Weight Baby Mittens and I think it’s a nice, simple design.

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Oh yes, and baby needs a few knit hats!  Pattern is the Norwegian Sweet Baby Hat, modified to be in garter stitch because babies deserve garter stitch.  Even though one of these hats contains pink and some of the booties contain blue, right now we’re not planning on finding out the sex of baby and, regardless, I think that a boy baby can wear a pink hat and a girl baby can wear blue booties.

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These were all great patterns for me to work on the past three months (I actually cast on for the booties the day that I got my positive test result!) because I have had so little energy and mental focus.  They were so easy to just pick up and knit a bit, without having to do any thinking or paying attention to what I was doing.  And each one knat up so quickly that it felt satisfying to get so many cute little FOs.

I have to say, the first trimester was pretty rough.  Anxiety, exhaustion, bloating, exhaustion, constipation, exhaustion, nausea, as well as complete and utter exhaustion.  It wasn’t until 7 weeks when I finally realized that my body just needed to sleep for 10-12 hours every night and have 40 naps every day, so I just let my body rest as much as it felt like and refused to feel bad about what a blob I felt like.  Though, I should get a prize, because despite the sheer exhaustion, I was able to exercise almost every single day of my first trimester.  Of course, most days all I could manage was a hike and some yoga, but I did a bit of running when my tummy felt up to it and I rode my stationary bike a few times each week.

And, OMG, I’ve been so bloated!  At 9 weeks, some person I didn’t know actually came over and touched my bloated belly and commented on my “baby bump,” which at that time was just gas.  Really really bad gas.  Awkward!

But then I hit 10 weeks, and instantly felt better.  I no longer needed a ridiculous amount of sleep and rest everyday – – I felt energetic and could function for an entire day without needing 500 naps.  The nausea completely went away and the bloating became more reasonable.

Baby is due in the middle of August and I am concerned about being 7-9 months pregnant during the heat of summer, when we can get temps around 110 F (and we don’t have air conditioning at our house).  However, I am very excited to have a summer baby!

Anyway, you should expect to see a lot of knitting and sewing baby related projects coming through over the next many months.  And if you’re at all interested in pregnancy details, I may or may not post about that from time to time over on my personal adventure blog.

Jan 052015
 

In the past, my yearly reflections and goals have tended to focus on quantity – – how many yards of yarn will I knit, how many sewing skills will I learn, how many miles will I ride on my bike, how many races will I finish.  While it’s good to have measurable goals, they tend to cater to my Type A / control freak personality and, if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I ought to depend less on my ability (or, as is usually the case, my inability) to control things and instead learn to appreciate all of those little things that can make life so wonderful.  In this coming new year, if all works out, Josh and I will be embarking on an entirely new set of adventures, adventures that might be so far beyond my control that I might finally learn this important lesson.

Slow Down, Reflect, and Appreciate

While it may have escaped the attention of my blog, I worked hard this past year.  I spent the first part of last year, updating and revising some older knitting patterns and then spent the second half releasing new patterns – – all in all, it was one of my most productive years.  At the Day Job, I experienced tremendous upheaval and variations in my responsibilities, without losing my marbles and, I think, maintaining an even keel.  In the garden, I sowed, grew, maintained, and harvested a ginormous amount of crops and ornamentals – – months after the final harvest, I have a chest freezer full of food from my garden, from which I regularly make meals for Josh and I.  As but one specific example, I tended to 41 tomato plants, which is a ridiculous amount of tomatoes for a two person family (six, if you count the chickens, who definitely enjoyed their fair share of tomatoes).

In the coming year, I want to slow down, reflect, and appreciate.  I want to be less focused on how many knitting patterns I release, I want to feel no guilt at how much or how little I sew, I will have a much smaller (and more efficient) garden, and I am not going to obsessively track my running and biking miles.  I want to work on knitting patterns when I feel inspired to do so, I want to sew when I am excited about a project, I want to garden for the joy of gardening, and I want to ride my bicycle because it’s a fun activity.  Already in the throngs of the new adventure, I have been exhausted beyond belief.  While I anticipate the exhaustion to subside, I want to get away from my compulsion to do, do, DO, more, more, MORE, and instead enjoy and appreciate my experiences.

An Adventurous Spirit

The thing about adventure is that it’s not really an adventure if you are determined to control it.  It’s not an adventure if the outcome is known before the beginning.  So much of my life, I do the same thing over and over, and what I do generally has expected outcomes.  I go to the same restaurant and order the same thing.  I set out on a hike, and travel the same route each time.  When everything I do is the same as the other thing that I did, the days become indistinguishable from each other and I forget that life can be a great adventure.  Part of the shift in focus from doing more to appreciating experiences is also enjoying and being curious about the unknown and excited by possibilities.

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Dec 282014
 

After finishing my winter coat project, I had planned to sew a nice blouse but instead found myself gravitating towards patterns for knit dresses.  I have, after all, been wearing a lot of knit dresses this winter, with wool tights, boots, and of course a handknit sweater (or two).  So it made sense to make more of what I’ve felt like wearing.

This is M6697, a knit pullover, biased, and flared dress and I thought it might be a good way to use some of my stashed knit fabric.  I’m mostly happy with my fabric choices – – the purple fabric is probably a heavier weight than would be ideal for this dress and it doesn’t drape perfectly (it also can get rather clingy against my wool tights despite my wearing a slip underneath) and the flower fabric is a bit too flowery, even for me.

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Happily, this pattern was very quick and easy!  I could have easily started and completed it in one evening, but I spread it over two days instead.  Cutting out the pattern pieces and then the fabric was definitely the most time consuming part of this project.  And now that my pattern pieces are all cut to size, making another version of this dress will be a breeze!

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Overall, I’m very happy with the fit of this dress.  I cut a size 8 in the top part and then graded out to a 12 in the hips.  I should probably not admit to the internets that I didn’t make a muslin or do any fitting and didn’t even try it on as I sewed… instead, I sewed the entire dress and then threw it on to see how it fit.  I also want to mention that I’m very pleased with the shape of the neckline – – it’s just perfect for me.

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I will definitely be making another version of this dress.  On the pattern envelope, one of the drawings features this dress in gradient fabric colors, starting with the lightest color on the bottom corner and getting darker all the way to the opposite shoulder.  That sounds appealing to me, as does simply using more subdued colors.

Dec 262014
 

I’m officially calling this sewing project DONE.  This is the winter coat that I’ve been working on (very haphazardly) for months and it was a huge SLOG, so cumbersome, unwieldy, and bulky.  I’m mostly happy with the “finished” result, but I’m mainly happy to be done with it.  And, I’m honestly happy to be done with it in time to enjoy wearing it during the cold winter.

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Just as a reminder, I used a vintage sewing pattern – S5930 – and the outer fabric is boiled wool, unerlined with fleece (so warm!) and had intended to line it with some vintage taffeta.  Because I just really need to be DONE with this project, the full taffeta lining is not currently attached to the coat.  Maybe one day, after I have regained my sewing mojo, I will attach it, but maybe not.  When the process of sewing for me is not enjoyable, it’s very difficult for me to continue with a project, and this was my struggle with this project.

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The coat turned out pretty okay.  I think it would hang better with a nice taffeta lining (of course!) but it fits just the way that I had wanted (big enough to wear multiple sweaters underneath) and the bottom hem hits just at my knees.  The big front patch pockets are awesome and the collar can be worn upright or folded down.  The coat is very warm, cozy, and comfortable.  It also weighs about 30 pounds and is fairly cumbersome to lug around if I’m not wearing it.

Oh, and in the below photos, I was trying to pose with the deer in the background (we have lots of urban deer in Boise) but it’s mostly just their butts facing the camera.

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I’m very much enjoying my current sewing project, the foam blocks that I wrote about in my previous post.  They are so quick and easy, not bulky or cumbersome.  Fortunately, I do like my finished coat and maybe one day I will attach the taffeta lining.  Maybe.

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Dec 222014
 

With the longest night of the year in the past, I am excited for more sunshine in my life.  The SADs haven’t hit too hard this year, though in the past few weeks I’ve had several evenings where I felt pretty listless and weird.  I love the summers, when the sun doesn’t set until 10pm, but I really struggle in the winter when it’s dark by 4:30.

Of course, the best way to beat the SADs is to stay busy!  Josh and I have been trying to go on some adventures when the weather permits.  Last weekend, we went out to the Bruneau Sand Dunes and had a glorious day hiking around in the sunshine.

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Several weeks before that, the only thing to do was snowshoeing on a very gray day.  Part of our challenge this year of doing adventures is that we haven’t been feeling in top form – – Josh hurt his back while riding his bike on the ice and I’ve been feeling off.

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I’ve been doing a lot of knitting and sewing.  This is a doubleknit blanket that I am working on, to stash bust a lot of Jamieson DK wool that has been collecting dust for a long time.

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The pattern is derived from my Whorl Cowl, which I recently released and haven’t gotten around to writing anything about.

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And I’m almost finished with my coat (just need to add one more toggle button).  This project has been such a SLOG and I kind of want to hide the coat away and never look at it again.

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I have started on a fun sewing project!  I’m making foam blocks, using upholstery foam and fat quarters.  I saw the idea on Pinterest and it seemed like such a fun and easy project, perfect to get over the slog coat project.

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Interestingly, none of the helpful Pinterest tutorials mentioned anything about how to actually cut upholstery foam.  At first, I tried taking scissors to it, which resulted in a horrible butcher job.  I also tried a variety of knives before doing research about how best to cut it.  The internet suggested that an electric carving knife would be best.  So I headed out to various thrift stores, on a mission to find a used one.  And much to my delight, I only had to go to two thrift stores before I found one and it was only $5!  As you can see, it cuts the foam pretty well!

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And I’ve got a couple of blocks done!  This project is nice because the fabric is so easy to work with (as opposed to thick layers of wool and fleece) and is pretty satisfying in how quick and easy it is to make up a single block.  I’ve got enough foam for 49 blocks.

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I’m also gearing up to start working on this blouse in some nice Ana Sui shirting that I got on sale from Mood.

Anyway, sorry for the silence around here.  The SADs definitely make me less motivated to keep up with the old blog!

 

Dec 042014
 

As part of this year’s Indie Designer Gift-A-Long, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing one of the participating indie designers, Selina S,, from Kitchener, Ontario.

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My Little Slug pattern by Selina S

Selina’s store includes patterns for some of the more adorable softies I’ve ever seen!  Making them even more adorable are her cute models – – I don’t know who I want to squish more, the softies or the ferrets!

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My Little Blowfish pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer:  Selina, thank you so much for your time!  First of all, what is your favorite thing to knit?

SelinaMy little slug is my comfort knitting. I know the pattern by heart and it is easy enough for me to knit even during a meeting. I like to make a slug from left over project yarn and have a little collection stuck to my dryer. Some day, I’d like my house to be overrun with them :).

My Little Slug

My Little Slug

Jennifer: The little slugs are so adorable and I love how you’ve done the eyes – – they have so much personality!  And I’m always looking for ways to use up my leftover bits of yarn.  So, how did you first get started designing?

Selina: I suspect it is like most designers, looking and not finding the perfect pattern and deciding to have a go at making it up. It didn’t occur to me to write these efforts down until a local dyer asked my knitting group for designs, and I had just finished a hat I thought would look good in a variegated yarn.

Jennifer: Your designs really are ADORABLE! What is your inspiration?

Selina:  Thank you! A lot of it is actually problem solving for me, like Platypus, where I was inspired after weaving in 20 ends from a pair of gloves I knitted with sock yarn held double. For my little blowfish, the story is a bit longer. My brother didn’t want me to buy stuff for my niece when she was born, so I knitted her some toys, and started a collection of little octopuses (variation of my little slug) for her. I thought it would be fun if she had hundreds (well, maybe tens!) of the same stuffy in different colours. Then niece #2 was born and I quickly realized asking a child to share toys with their sibling isn’t going to work. So I set about trying to come up with a similar size and shape toy that I can knit with minimal finishing. The round shape was very important as my younger brother had been juggling the octopus for my nieces. Niece 1 (~5yr) has 17 octopus and Niece 2 (~2yr) has 7 blowfish, with more on the way. I tell people I’ll keep making these till they are 18, and I’ll either be the best or worse aunt ever ;).

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Platypus pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer: I can imagine that having a family of little slugs and blowfish would be so much fun for a child.  They could be piled up, lined up, and thrown about.  Okay, so pick one of your own designs that you think makes the perfect gift and tell us why.

Selina:  I’d have to go with my little slug. Who doesn’t love a silly little alien creature? You don’t have to worry about fit. Mistakes aren’t as big a deal and they’ll be hidden if you felt your slug. It doesn’t take long and you get a lot of smiles out of it.

Jennifer:  I completely agree!  From your profile, I see that you love ferrets… Do these cute animals influence your designs at all?  :)

Selina:  They don’t really influence me in my designs, but I’m always trying to think of a way to fit them into my pattern photos! My favourite ones are definitely those of my partner playing a trumpet harmonica to one of my girls.

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Ferret sings along with the trumpet harmonica! Also, the rand() sweater pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer:  Oh my goodness, that is so cute!  So, what is your favorite and/or least favorite thing about designing?

Selina:  I love seeing other people make my patterns and add modifications that made them even cooler! One customer made a 2 colour version of my Platypus mitts and I just had to try that modification myself! My least favourite part would probably be writing the pattern down.

Platypus with colorwork

Platypus with colorwork

Jennifer:  Ooh, I love it!  I also feel so happy when I see people modifying my patterns and making them uniquely their own.  As a programmer, do you notice any parallels between this work and designing?

Selina:  I love problem solving with programming, and I approached some of my designs the same way. So far, I have a small obsession with regards to how to make a complex object with no more than 2 ends. In one case, for my sweater rand(), I actually wrote a python program to generate all the random sequences needed based on gauge and sweater size. I really should comment that program and put it alongside the pattern pdf…

Jennifer:  Wow, that is so cool!  Besides knitting, what do you enjoy doing?

Selina:  I love cooking, reading and gardening. My partner and I also brew homemade soda and kombucha, and we started keeping bees about a year ago. I tried growing mushrooms for a while and would like to get back into it. So many fun things to do and so little time!

Jennifer:  Oh, geez, I am completely obsessed with gardening, reading, and cooking!  And I have been THIS CLOSE to starting a mushroom garden and have entertained the idea of keeping bees.  I agree, there are so so so many fun things to do and not nearly enough time!  Well, it’s been wonderful interviewing you – – thank you so much for your time!!!

Selina S. is also known as littlesplines on Ravelry and you can also find her Shop there.  And just a reminder that the Gift-A-Long is continuing through the end of the year.

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Nov 132014
 

With an “Arctic Blast” happening around my home right now, I am suddenly reminded that winter is approaching fast and, with it, opportunities for my loved ones to appreciate my knitting hobby, in the form of handknit gifts.  Some of you may remember last year’s Indie Designer Gift-A-Long and may be excited that it is happening again this year!

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The Gift-A-Long  (click on the above logo for more details!) starts tonight (Nov. 13th) at 8pm EST and kicks off with a pattern sale and a knit or crochet gift-a-long.  And there are TONS of prizes.

The pattern sale starts tonight at 8pm EST and goes through the 21st.  Participating designers are offering a selection of their patterns at 25% discount using the promotional code “giftalong2014″ when checking out on Ravelry.  For a list of participating designers, click here.  Even though most of my patterns aren’t very “gifty,” I do have a bundle of things on sale – – click here to see my sale bundle.

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I’m planning on casting on for several gifts and participating in the A-Long!  I’ve so far managed to whittle my wish list down to about 400 patterns, so I need to spend a bit more time making my list a bit more achievable.  Cast on starts at 8pm tonight, so I still have several hours to decide on what pattern to start with and select my yarn…  And to be clear, the pattern sale ends on the 21st, but the A-Long goes until the end of the year.  So, plenty of time to make gifts, win prizes, and have fun with the chatting and various games being offered!