To Columbus and Back…

Last week, as many of you know, I had the pleasure of road-tripping with Alisa The Yarnista to TNNA – a giant convention for retailers, teachers, and designers in the needle arts. It was my first time and therefore I spent a lot of time overwhelmed. Correction, I spent most of the time overwhelmed. Really you can’t not be, there’s a ton of incredible stuff and amazing people there. Team that with spending almost all my time with a cohort equally addicted to knitting & fiber and it makes for a very, very full trip.

While I can’t really disclose my favorite things or many of the highlights because a lot of these tidbits will translate to future classes & goodies that will debut at Firefly Fibers in the coming months, I can tell you some general things I learned while at my first TNNA.

1) There are a lot of incredible options out there to choose from. If your local yarn shop stocks a selection you love, understand that it’s because the proprietor is making really tough decisions to bring these particular items into your hands. It is no small feat to carve out a specific vision for a shop & stick to it.

2) Think of every single yarn you can think of. Then think of all the needles. All the notions. All the patterns. Triple that & display it beautifully all under one roof. Now you have an idea of what TNNA is like.

3) I think I got a cavity from the folks at Blue Sky Alpacas/Spud & Chloe. They are just that sweet.

4) I am really, truly lucky to have the working relationship I do with Alisa at Firefly Fibers. In every aspect of our dealings she is kind, fair & honest. We discuss opinions on any topic openly & candidly. Our strengths are very different, but we use this as a tool to help each other. For all these things, I am very grateful.

5) Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is as good as everyone says it is.

6) I did not come back with a carload of swag, but I don’t really care about that. What I saw & learned far surpasses any amount of random stuff I could have filled my suitcase with. The swag I did score, though, I assure you is 100% awesome.

7) Over the next few months, I may require emergency trips to Firefly Fibers for new product box openings. This means I will drop whatever I am doing, whenever I am doing it to be present for the unveiling. The stuff coming is just that good.

8) I need to start saving money for said incoming boxes of pure awesomeness.

9) Alisa & I can indeed discuss knitting & fiber for nearly 5 days straight and still not be bored of it. We were pretty sure this would be true, now we know it is a fact.

10) Even if you really love something, never settle for using only one brand of anything in this industry. It’s not that you can’t go back to your favorites again and again, it’s just that the more you sample, the richer your experience & the deeper your understanding will be of the craft & the materials. There are just way too many beautiful yarns & great notions available to use the same every time. If you don’t know where to start, ask your local yarn shop for ideas of new yarns or needles to experiment with — you won’t be sorry!

Many thanks to Firefly Fibers for letting me tag along to TNNA this year — I can’t wait to do it all again!

How to Finish Projects Without Really Trying

A few weeks ago, I posted that anyone with class ideas or suggestions should let me know because a class planning meeting was on the horizon. A local knitter came up to me at my son’s school and said, “I have a class idea for you. I want you to teach a class on how to finish projects when you have children.”

She was joking — I think — but I do get asked this a lot. How do I complete knitting projects in the midst of motherhood (one child in school full-time, one at home full-time), marriage, vacations, random home & car repairs — you know, life? To shed some light on how I manage, I thought I’d share my guidelines for successfully completing projects in a timely manner. In fact, following these simple rules may even make it feel like you don’t even have to really try to finish.

How to Complete Projects Without Really Trying
by Knitting Sarah
1) Strength in numbers. Have more than one project going. I usually have a couple super easy things going that I can easily pick-up & put-down and at least one or two things that are a little harder in case I start to get bored.
2) Choose wisely. If you are watching & interacting with your kids or cheering on your favorite team in the play-offs, don’t try to knit lace or anything that involves counting or focus. Pick a project to work on that takes as much attention as you have to give it.
3) Stolen minutes. The bulk of my knitting time is laced with interruptions. If I waited until I had a nice, long relaxing block of time I would never get anything done. I knit while I’m waiting for water to boil or while my kids play together nicely. Steal those brief moments for yourself & your craft and they will add up.
4) Knit daily. I knit pretty much every day, even if for only 5 or 10minutes. Not only will the minutes add up as in #3, the more you knit the faster stitches will come off your needles. Quicker stitches = shorter project completion time.
5) Set realistic goals. A big draw for the sweater workshops I teach goes beyond the techniques & skills covered. It’s the schedule — an agenda that clearly states deadlines for finishing sections and the project as a whole. For almost every project I work on I make projections as to when I plan to finish. Make these goals reasonable — the point is not to rush through projects, but to give yourself a little structure & accountability. You’ll know you’re setting good goals if you feel great reaching them. If they are stressing you out, relax your deadlines.
6) Share your work. Sometimes it helps me to show my kids or husband what I’m making and tell them why I’m so excited to finish. Knowing it means something to me often makes them interested in my progress which in turn inspires me to make headway.
7) Use Ravelry. The tools for marking progress on Ravelry are great. Nothing feels better than changing a project’s status from ‘In Progress’ to “Finished’ (with a toothy grin, of course).
8) Knit al fresco. There are no rules that say you can’t knit outside. Or in a boat waiting for fish to bite. Or in the car (thank you, again, darling husband for driving). I know many knitters afraid of getting their work dirty outdoors. I bring almost anything out into the backyard with me when I’m watching my kids play. Use project bags & be mindful of where your work is & you’ll be fine. There is great woolwash out there, so a little dust or dirt never hurt anyone.
9) Location, location, location. Just like you need to chose projects appropriate for the attention you can give them, choose projects that work with where you are. Work on small projects like socks in the car. Take washcloths or more rustic projects camping. Work on your fancy lace & luxury sweaters in the comfort of your home. Likewise, remeber to pay attention to temperature of where you are. Don’t work on a bulky wool throw in the heat of August outside. That’s what sock & hat knitting are for.
10) Work on things you like. This sounds silly, but just say ‘no’ to projects for which you only have lukewarm feelings. Nothing makes a project stall faster than a lack of interest. Pick the projects that make you say, “Wow,” the ones you can’t stop thinking about. Those are the ones that will get done.

This is How I Roll: Travel Socks

I found inspiration while reading this post on Jane Richmond’s blog. In it, she talks about wanting to be one of those knitters that always has a bit of knitting in her purse. Where ever you go, some knitting goes, you know?

I’m one of those knitters. I never know when I may have to wait — a side trip to a playground or a trip across town turns into an day-trip with the family to a less local destination. I have to be prepared. I thought I would share how I roll here today.

This is my new Namaste Bitty Bag. I love it. Oh, and my Mini-Clutch which I use as a wallet — also from Namaste, although I think it may be discontinued. See the little grey mesh bag?

Yep, that one. It’s my sock — see how nicely & neatly it fits in my purse? The fit is so grand.

This is what the sock looks like in the Oh Snap! bag (also from Namaste). I bought the Oh Snap! set of 3, not really sure what I would use the smallest size for because, really, it’s quite small. I have a lot of students who use it for notions, but I am covered there. When I realized how much these pouches can expand, I knew exactly what would fit — a sock!

I think my absolute favorite element of this bag is that the snap closure allows me to feed my working yarn through the gaps in the snaps, containing my center-pull ball neatly within the bag. This is always nice, but it’s especially convenient when traveling. No more yarn getting tangled on keys or cords for my iPod. It’s a little self-contained unit of pure travel-sized happiness.

PS – I have to plug my local Namaste retailer (you know it well if you follow me), Firefly Fibers in Beaver Dam, WI. Alisa at the shop carries most of the knitting-related Namaste products. If you aren’t close enough to visit Alisa’s fab selection, go here to find your own local retail. Shop local & support the businesses that support your knitting community!