Tracking my Stash

For a long time, I used an app to keep track of my needles, my yarn, and works in progress. But twice now, the apps I’ve used – and paid for – stopped being supported. Any time I tried to add a new yarn or needle, the apps would crash. I needed an alternative and preferred a digital solution that I could access anytime, anywhere.

Many knitters and crocheters use Ravelry – I too have an account – but I found their desktop interface too convoluted and their app even more so. I searched for other knitting apps in the App Store but mostly found online counters and not the comprehensive digital tool I was looking for. Then, it hit me. I’ve been using Evernote for some time now. I use it to track information that I need to have handy but may not need every day, such as my mom’s prescription list. I use it to jot down blog ideas, which is what it was intended for – to take quick notes, write drafts, capture thoughts. If I see or read something that interests me that I want to explore further, I can take a screen capture, upload a photo, or copy a link into a note and add my own commentary. I can then go back through my notes and decide which ideas I want to pursue. So, it occurred to me that I could use Evernote to track my yarn stash and needle inventory. It has all the basic fields I need and much more functionality than any knitting app. There is the added benefit that Evernote is available in a desktop version for when I want a large screen and has phone and iPad apps. Even better, all my notes are automatically synchronized across all platforms.

In Evernote, you can take and track notes on anything. You can create notebooks to keep all your related notes together if you like. I created a “stack” for notes having to do with my blog. I have eight notebooks in my stack. This organization works for me, but you don’t have to make notebooks or stacks if you don’t want to.

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In my Yarn Stash notebook, I uploaded a photo of every gorgeous yarn in my possession.

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I entered basic data about each yarn – name, brand, weight, fiber type, yardage, color, and where it was purchased. This is all the same information I entered into the Vogue Knitting app which I lost when the app kept crashing. It did require a one-time manual effort to type up all my notes, but now that they’re entered, I can copy or export my data anytime. I couldn’t do that with the app. Here’s what a full-page note looks like.

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You can also add tags that allow you to filter your notes. You define the tags that make the most sense for your notes. For example, I used a filter to find all the self-striping yarn in my stash. Apparently, I have six kinds of self-striping yarn.

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You can run a regular “Search” for any words in your notes without having to create a tag. A search for “Bulky” found 15 notes.

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I didn’t stop there. I entered notes on my Fiber Stash as well. Now I can search for specific fibers, like merino, yak and alpaca, or search by color.

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I also created a Fabric Stash …

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… and started a listing of all the Yarn Shops I’ve visited.

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And, since I did not want to risk losing all my information on needle sizes and kinds (dpn, circular, straight), I entered them into an Excel spreadsheet and uploaded it into a note. Now, if I don’t have the size needles I need and purchase a new set, I simply update the Excel spreadsheet and all my information is automatically synchronized on my Evernote apps and on the desktop version.

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Now I have all the information I need about my needles, yarn, fibers and fabrics. Evernote is a free app which gives you 60MB of data per month. I have Evernote Premium ($69.99/year) because I thought I would need more space when I started my MBA program. You may not need the extra space.

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On-the-Go Project Bag (and a Giveaway!)

When carrying my knitting around, I like to keep it in nice project bags. I used to drop works in progress (WIPs) into ziplock bags and throw them into my purse or tote bag. It was handy but not very attractive. I have a couple of large bags that I’ve acquired through the years that are my standbys. Those are better suited for large WIPs; one of them is currently holding a blanket that will ultimately fit a double-sized bed. Another is a tote bag with a witty phrase. For small projects – like socks – I use this little silk bag.

Silk Project Bag 1

The bag is 8.5″ tall, 8″ wide and about 2″ deep (21.5 cm x 20 cm x 5 cm). It fits the necessary yarn, needles, notions, and patterns for socks, hand warmers, a hat or other small projects.

Silk Project Bag 2

It is fully lined and cinches closed. And it’s pretty. It’s meant to be a nice evening bag but I repurposed it for knitting.

Silk Project Bag 3

I happen to have a couple of these in flowery peach and light blue colors so I thought I would have a giveaway in celebration of spring. I will randomly select one recipient for the silk bag (and perhaps a few other surprises) on or around the Spring Equinox.

The following actions will enter you into the drawing. Multiple entries are encouraged!

  • Follow Agujas blog (if you are already a follower, you are already entered!)
  • Reblog this post or blog about this giveaway with a link back to Agujas
  • Follow Agujas on Twitter
  • Like Agujas on Facebook
  • Follow Agujas on Tumblr
  • Like this post
  • Comment on this post

Thank you for reading Agujas and enjoy the spring weather!

Knitting Tools

Besides yarn and needles, there are a few tools that come in handy for knitters and crocheters. These are some of the knitting tools that I’ve been using lately.

DPN Tubes

Now that I’m knitting socks, I have found these double-pointed needle (DPN) tubes to be absolutely necessary. With DPNs, there is a higher risk of stitches slipping off the ends. With these tubes, you can store your knitting safely inside without fear of losing stitches. Just carefully line up your needles so that they are side by side and your work is concentrated in the middle. Lay the needles and your work inside the opening of the blue tube. Most of your knitted piece will stick out. Next, slide the red tube over the blue one lining up the openings. Twist slightly to hold your knitting in place.

DPN Tubes 1

I picked these up at the Must Stash Yarns booth at a fiber festival. (Try saying “must stash yarns” three times very fast). It came with two DPN tubes and a set of tubes without the opening to store and carry your DPNs or crochet hooks.

DPN Tubes 2

Cable Needles & Stitch Holders

I already have a reliable and boring cable needle in my toolkit but when I saw these colorful chunky cable needles, I had to have them. They’re so much fun in pink and green. Those little round felted thingies are stitch holders. They are handmade locally and come in several colors. I like using these stitch holders made out of felted fibers instead of those rubbery point protectors, although I have some of those as well.  (The cable needles are from WC Mercantile; the stitch keepers from Yarntopia.)

Cable Needles Collage

Nøstepinde & Set Gauge

Then there are these beauties in black walnut and oak. The one on the left, a nøstepinde, is used to wind a center pull ball. No kidding! Sometimes the simplest tools are the best. To read how to use this tool, try this post from Hatchtown Farm.

The tool on the right is a set gauge. The thinner section at the top of the gauge is 1 inch wide. To determine the weight of your yarn, wind it around this part of the gauge from end to end. Keep count as this will give you the wraps per inch, which you can then translate into yarn weight.

Both of these simple yet beautiful tools are hand carved at Marsh Mellow Meadows. (Not to be confused with marshmallows. Lots of tongue-twisters!)

Nøstepinde & Wraps Per Inch Tool

Blocking Mats

Until very recently, I’ve been blocking my knitted items on large towels. Not always effective because they don’t always lay flat. I looked for blocking mats online and in stores in the arts and crafts and children’s sections and frankly found them way too expensive. Then I found these at a dollar store. $1 each! I even like that they can be broken down into even smaller mats. Or I can make them as long or wide as I need depending on the size of my project.

Blocking Mats 1

Of course, for a dollar, you can’t be picky about the colors. These come in all shades princess!

Blocking Mats 2

Do you have a favorite knitting or crocheting tool? Do you like it because it’s simple, cute, one-of-a-kind, handmade, fast, or budget-friendly?

Recycled Jars

No one in my immediate household drinks coffee, except for me. So rather than making a whole pot, I make a cup at a time using instant coffee. Over time, I have accumulated a few empty glass coffee jars. The shape of these jars fit perfectly in my hand and I hated to simply throw them away. It seemed like such a waste. So, I found ways to reuse the jars.

Recycled Jars - Spices

They turned out to be perfect for spices like cinnamon sticks and leftover sesame seeds. I reduced the clutter in my pantry by saving smaller items in these jars rather than keeping bulky cardboard boxes or using plastic baggies. They also look very nice lined up in my pantry.

Recycled Jars - Kitchen

When I spin my own fiber, I use an old ball of acrylic yarn to tie up my skeins for storage or before dyeing. This little strawberry jam jar was just the right size. My son punched a hole in the lid and presto, I had a yarn pull jar.

Recycled Jars - String

Leftover candle jars are also great for storing items in plain sight. When the candle burned out in this thick glass, it became a repository for my double-pointed needles and other knitting doodads.

Recycled Jars - Needles

These empty candle jars collect my leftover yarns. From time to time, these leftovers become useful – like for wrapping packages, adding a hint of color to another knit piece, or for anything where a piece of string is needed. The lids keep the dirt and moths out and they display nicely.

Recycled Jars - Yarn 1

Recycled Jars - Yarn 2

My yarn jars make me happy and I feel like I am contributing just a little bit to making the earth greener.

A Day at the Fiber Festival

My very first spinning lesson was at the Kid’N Ewe And Lamas Too fiber festival a couple of years ago. This past weekend, I revisited this annual festival which is spread out over three large barns at the Kendall County Fairgrounds. There was weaving, spinning, felting, knitting and crocheting everywhere!

I spent hours swooning over fibers from animal and plant sources including camel, yak, buffalo, sheep, goat and silkworm as well as hemp, bamboo, and cotton. Many were hand dyed in stunning colors like these wool batts …

Gorgeous merino, bamboo, and angelina batts from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Gorgeous merino, bamboo, and angelina batts from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Luscious browns and golds from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Luscious browns and golds from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Glistening waves in a deep blue sea from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Glistening waves in a deep blue sea from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)

… and this hemp fiber in deep tones.

Hand-dyed natural plant fibers from the Fiber Lady. (www.fiberlady.com)
Hand-dyed natural plant fibers from the Fiber Lady. (www.fiberlady.com)

There were countless hand crafted tools throughout including this lovely assortment of spindles and shuttles.

These wooden spindles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn't pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
These wooden spindles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn’t pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
Turkish and top whorl drop spindles from Heritage Arts. (www.heritageartstexas.com)
Turkish and top whorl drop spindles from Heritage Arts. (www.heritageartstexas.com)
Unique hand painted wooded spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Unique hand painted wooded spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Hand crafted glass and wood spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Hand crafted glass and wood spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
These wooden shuttles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn't pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
These wooden shuttles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn’t pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)

Behind rows of vendor stalls in one of the barns, several teams were in full swing for the Fiber to Fashion demonstrations. Spinners using spindles and wheels were busily turning fiber into yarn. The yarn was fed to the weaver who meticulously wove it on a loom. The goal was to create a finished product – a 20″ x 72″ shawl – in one day.

One of the Fiber to Fashion teams working on their woven shawl.
One of the Fiber to Fashion teams working on their woven shawl.

The team pictured here held a raffle for their shawl. I bought one ticket for $1 but, alas, did not win. I watched them as they were making the fringe and putting the final touches on the shawl. It was absolutely gorgeous.

The air was cool, the sun was out, the animals were adorable, kindred spirits were plentiful, and there were three barns full of fibery goodness – perfect!

My Knitting Library

This was an early holiday gift from friends. They know me so well! I had paged through the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook at the bookstore and became engrossed with the back story of all those wonderful fibers. Now I can read it anytime!

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook -Sample

Just in time for the holiday break, there is this collection of stories about knitting. If it wasn’t so warm out (you know, Texas) I would kindle a fire in the fireplace and start reading now.

Knitting Yarns

This made me think of other knitting books I’ve collected. There aren’t that many but each one has a purpose – spinning, dyeing, intricate color work, knitting art, and gift ideas.

Knitting Books

I also realized I had a few quilting books from prior attempts. Quilting with Japanese Fabrics has photos and instructions for stunning silk quilts. I picked up Hidden in Plain View during a trip to Gettysburg. I found it fascinating how quilt patterns were used as signs on the Underground Railroad.

Quilting and Sewing Books

What’s in your knitting library? Any favorites you recommend?

We have two winners!!

The response to the “Made in China” giveaway was so amazing that one winner just didn’t seem to be enough. In looking through my China stash, I had enough goodies for two care packages so we have two winners!

Double Giveaway

If you will recall, any of the following actions entered you into the drawing:

  • Follow Agujas blog
  • Reblog this post or blog about this giveaway with a link back to Agujas
  • Follow Agujas on Twitter
  • Like Agujas on Facebook
  • Follow Agujas on Tumblr
  • Like this post
  • Comment on this post

The original drawing included “passive” entries or followers of Agujas on any venue who did not necessarily comment or retweet or reblog, etc.; but also included multiple entries for those who did. Using a handy random number generator from the web, the first care package goes to:

hipoptimist

Hipoptimist has been following Agujas for almost a year and half! Thank you and I hope you enjoy your goodies.

For the second drawing, entries only included those who actively promoted the “Made in China” giveaway either by liking the post, commenting, retweeting, reblogging, liking on Facebook, etc. As in the first drawing, multiple actions earned multiple entries and you were included in both drawings. Using the same random number generator, the second care package goes to:

idiosyncratic eye

Idiosyncratic eye had multiple entries and one of those did the trick! Thank you for being part of the Agujas family.

Please contact me at veronica (@) agujasblog (dot) com and provide me with your preferred mailing address. If you are outside of the United States, I will probably use an overnight carrier and may need your phone number as well. (Don’t worry, I will not share it and will promptly delete the information once you confirm receipt).

This has been so much fun!

A Made in China Giveaway

One of my favorite pastimes in China was shopping in local markets. The chaotic aisles and aggressive salespeople in the touristy markets got old after a while. The local markets were much calmer. They were still busy but mostly filled with locals who needed basic household items. While haggling was still expected, the starting prices were usually much more reasonable.

As I wandered the aisles, I found these bags that I thought would be perfect for knitting projects. There were all sorts of patterns and color schemes. The size is just right for 4-5 balls of yarn and a small project, like a hat or scarf.

China Knitting Bag

I love the drawstring top and inside zippered catchall pocket.

China Knitting Bag Drawstring
China Knitting Bag Interior

It’s easy to clean – just wipe with a damp cloth. It has this nifty side pocket for needles or a pattern.

China Knitting Bag Outside Pocket

Then I came across these tin pencil boxes. Some had hinged lids and others like this one a zippered closure. I thought they were perfect for crochet hooks and other notions.

China Notions Box Zippered

China Notions Box Zippered Samples

My next finds were these pill boxes. Some were clearly for medicines with their standard labels for each day of the week. But others were just for small stuff.

China Pill/Notions Boxes

For a knitter, crocheter or seamstress, they’re the right size for stitch markers, safety pins, buttons, sequins and whatnot.

China Pill/Notions Boxes Yellow

China Pill/Notions Boxes Compartments

Lastly, I was in need of stitch markers and had not seen any in the yarn stores I located, so I had to improvise. Every market had bins full of these little charms. There were lucky cats, teapots, and colorful beads. They were very light and made the cutest stitch markers.

China RePurposed Stitch Markers

China Charms/Stitch Markers

To celebrate the end of an amazing overseas experience, I am having a “Made in China” giveaway. I will send a care package of various items like the ones above (plus some yarn and a few surprises) to one winner selected at random.

Any of the following actions will enter you into the drawing:

  • Follow Agujas blog (if you are already a follower, you are already entered!)
  • Reblog this post or blog about this giveaway with a link back to Agujas
  • Follow Agujas on Twitter
  • Like Agujas on Facebook
  • Follow Agujas on Tumblr
  • Like this post
  • Comment on this post

Multiple entries are okay! I will ship the package to you anywhere in the world. Thank you for reading and good luck!

Blogging – Plan or Serendipity?

Back when I decided to start a blog, I thought of all the knitting things I wanted to learn about and share. I came up with a list of topics and drafted several posts before Agujas went live.

The first few months, I planned my posts using an editorial calendar of sorts. I researched, visited, knitted and wrote. I also became an avid photo-taker. I love the process of discovery, both about my subject matter and my writing. I found that the creative processes of knitting and then of writing rejuvenated me. Even after a long day at the office, I still had surplus energy for these creative pursuits. Now the process has become rather organic. Almost as if the blog has taken on a life of its own.

Just when I fear I’ve run out of things to say, some interesting exhibit or artist comes along and incites my curiosity and a story takes shape. So with a little bit of planning, and a good dose of serendipity, I keep blogging.

2012 Blog Planner

What is your process for blogging? Do you set goals to post once a day, once a week? Do you post around certain themes? Or does it just come to you?