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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Spurts of Knitting

Somehow between running multivariate regressions, drawing supply and demand curves, case studies and five forces analyses, I found time to knit.

The projects took longer to complete as I fit in spurts of knitting between exams and assignments. These socks started out at Mom’s house so it was fitting that they be for her.

This is the first time I used a Schoppel Crazy Zauberball and what a joy it was to knit. The colorway is Papagei (parrot). The colors flowed into each other languorously. Row by row, the transitions morphed into rich textured colors.

Knitting these socks was like a process of discovery wondering what the next color combination would look like.

These were a labor of love knitted in small spurts. The time out from school was like a special treat, like smoking cigarettes behind the gym between classes.

Mom loved them. She called to tell me she put them on as soon as she opened the package. Her feet were cold and she was trying to get comfortable. From my hands to her feet. Feet that paced the floor while she held me in her arms, scurried around the kitchen while she prepared dinner and which stayed firmly planted while she scolded me for some childhood transgression.

I didn’t tell her they were in the mail. I could almost see her ripping the package open wondering what was in it. I hope she wears huge holes in them.

 

All-Nighters and Second-Hand Yarn

It’s hard to grasp that I am almost halfway through my Executive MBA program. The last eight months have flown by or perhaps I didn’t notice the time passing. The days are filled with meetings that need to be attended, decisions that need to be made and people who need to be met. Nighttime is school time. At this stage of life, I am once again pulling all-nighters. And like those college days, the next day feels euphoric as if I just climbed a mountain or won a marathon. Then comes the crash on or about mid-afternoon of the third day.

There have been the moments of wondering why I chose to do this to myself. There have been stretches of dread trying to figure out if I should fail to reject the null hypothesis and whether the price of a good causes a movement along the demand curve or shifts it entirely, either to the left or to the right.

Having survived the “quants,” we are now in the midst of courses about launching and leading business ventures. I have learned a tremendous amount and despite those twinges of regret that usually come between 3 and 5 in the morning, I am so glad I am doing this. The academic learning challenges me and keeps me sharp and the case studies and classroom discussions round out my experience. Plus, I now have approximately 180 new friends from all walks of life and careers all the way from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Santiago, Chile and from the west to east coasts of the United States.

We recently had our second residency on the Cornell campus. Between work, school, family and the occasional nap, my time is consumed. But such is my passion for yarn that I arrived one day early in Ithaca so that I could visit the local hipster yarn spots. If you read my last Ithaca post, you may recall that the yarn shop closest to campus was closed. This time, I made it there twice in one week … in the snow.

I learned that Homespun Boutique has been an Ithaca gem for over 40 years. Every surface is covered with all types of wool, both spun and unspun, and many other fibers. Upon entering, a cardboard cutout sheep displaying lovely balls of yarn greets you.

There are baskets and bins neatly arranged on almost every square meter of floor, like these skeins of organic wool in various weights.

I found a whole shelf of earthy pure Alpaca undyed to showcase its natural hues.

My favorite was the lo-cal yarn – fewer calories, less fat, and tastes great! The Looney Tunis label is for the wool from a flock of tunis sheep located on a farm in nearby Spencer, NY.

Then there were these swoon-worthy displays and the ubiquitous wall of yarn.

Not to be outdone, the other half of the shop was filled with bolts of fabrics grouped by shades of red, yellow and green and all the other colors of the rainbow.

The shop’s only drawback was that it did not have a space for wool-gathering. If they moved a few fabric displays to a back room, they could easily fit in a table and some comfy chairs, and perhaps even an espresso machine for those chilly Ithaca winters.

Homespun Boutique is located on one end of Ithaca Commons, a 4-block pedestrian shopping area flanked by boutiques, restaurants and second-hand stores. At the opposite end of the Commons is SewGreen, a non-profit focused on upcycling fabrics and yarn. Very cool.

Because it relies on donations for its inventory, you never know what treasures you will find at SewGreen. They had cubbies full of yarn, cones of thread, knitting patterns, vintage hooks and needles, embroidery hoops and buttons.

Most of the space was devoted to fabrics. Someone had recently donated several yards of fabric with various bird designs which covered an entire display table.

SewGreen has a boutique of gently used Eileen Fisher clothing. The staff will carefully mend any flaws and the items are cleaned and steamed before being put out for sale. I love their tagline – “We Make ReUse Beautiful.”

My visits to both stores resulted in the following souvenirs: 2 skeins of Zen Serenity Silk Singles in two colorways; 1.5 yards of the red, teal, and yellow fabric; some vintage straight knitting needles; and a few fat quarters.

Now back to studying.

Back when I used to knit socks…

Some time before starting graduate school, I had time to knit socks.

Guy Sock in progress

This yarn came from Knitty City on New York’s upper west side between Amsterdam and Broadway. The place is long and deep and has a huge selection of yarn, all neatly arranged in cubbies and baskets.

Knitty City - NYC
208 West 79th St., New York, NY 10024, pearl@knittycity.com, 212-787-5896

Knitty City - Yarn Cubbies

It was a bit narrow (like so many little shops in the city) but that did not deter a table full of knitters from hanging out and gossiping about everyone and everything!

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As has become my habit of late, I spent most of the time perusing the sock yarns. That bottom cubby was brimming with Alpaca Sox.

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These were to be guy socks but I still wanted them to have pops of color. The yarn is Schachenmayr Regia Design Line by Arne & Carlos  (75% Virgin Wool, 25% Polyamide). I think I used two 230 yard, 50 gram balls for a pair of calf-length socks. To make the yarn go farther, the heels and toes are knit in a solid black from my stash.

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These socks are very cushiony. They make a nice sporty pair to wear with sneakers or boots. The pattern is a simple K3, P1 ribbing that is way less boring than K1, P1. The full pattern can be found here.

Guy Socks - Completed

Guy Socks - Close-up

The next pair was all for me.

Confetti Sock in progress

This is the yarn I bought at Gauge during a trip to Austin, Texas. It’s Lane Cervinia’s Forever Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Wool, 25% Polyamide). It took two 230 yard, 50 gram skeins to make the pair.

Confetti Sock in progress - close-up

I loved the bright colors! They reminded me of the confetti in Easter eggs so I call these my “confetti socks.” For the pattern, I used Jaywalker by Grumperina.

1st Confetti Sock Completed

The chevron pattern is simple and complements the self-striping colors of the yarn. The color way for these socks is #72 – pink, yellow, turquoise.

Pair of Confetti Socks

Here’s the second sock on top of my stack of textbooks.

Confetti Sock - another view

My fingers are itching to cast on a new pair but multiple regression tables and p-values await.

What’s a Journey without Yarn?

First stop … Ithaca.

I arrived in Ithaca a day before the MBA program to get acclimated. The agenda foretold of long hours ahead and I wanted to see the campus. I ventured down the hilly terrain from the campus to Ithaca Commons, a pedestrian-friendly area with restaurants and shops. My destination – Homespun Boutique.

Homespun Boutique - Ithaca, NY

I read that Homespun Boutique had been around for over 30 years. Besides yarn and fibers, it also carries fabrics. I arrived early and wandered in and out of the shops. When I returned to the yarn store, it was still rather dark inside. I peeked through the door and that’s when I noticed the “we’re closed today” handwritten note taped to the inside of the glass. Noooooooooo! : (

Homespun Boutique - Giant Needles

Dejected, I walked back up the hill with the sun at my back. At least I got my workout in. I will try again next time. You can find Homespun Boutique virtually on FaceBook and in real life at 314 E. State St., Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-277-0954.

Next stop … Kingston.

During the week in Kingston, Ontario, there was precious little time for anything but classes and studying. Assignments had to be turned around in 24-48 hours. I usually skipped dinner so that I could work or nap before the long night ahead. On the very last day, after all assignments had been submitted, I had a couple of hours before heading out to the airport. This was my only opportunity.

The hotel arranged a car to take me to my destination. The driver was part of the program staff and, as I came to learn, a knitter herself. An immediate friendship was struck as we made our way to Knit Traders of Kingston. I was there for only 15-20 minutes and made the most of it. The staff was very helpful. They pointed me to locally spun wool but it was a bit too scratchy for me so I picked up sock yarn instead.

Knit Traders - Wall of Yarn

Besides the ubiquitous wall of yarn, there were plenty of fibers and tools for spinning.

Knit Traders - Fibers

Every yarn store should have this sign!

Knit Traders - Touch the Yarn Sign

Knit Traders is located in a nondescript strip center, so you need to look for it. I don’t recall seeing a spot to sit and knit. They didn’t have some of the brands I typically look for, such as Madeline Tosh, but they were getting ready to bring in more local yarns.

Knit Traders - Logo
KnitTraders of Kingston, 725 Gardiners Rd, Kingston, ON, K7M 3Y5, Phone: 613-384-3951.

On the drive to Knit Traders, I learned that there was a truck full of yarn that traveled around Kingston. Yes, a TRUCK – FULL – of – YARN. Think food truck but with yarn on the menu. According to the Purlin’ J’s Roving Yarn website, the truck stops at several locations. You can find it by checking the “Where’s The Truck” section of the website. They even do day trips to fiber festivals! Imagine, riding in a truck full of yarn to a fiber festival.

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A journey without yarn is just a road trip.

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 EDC Kit

Admittedly, I’ve been caught up in the urban survivalist subculture. Maybe it was one episode too many of The Walking Dead. I’ve been looking at lists of Bug Out Bag essential gear and hoping I can remember everything my son learned in Cub Scouts. I think I can start a fire in a pinch but not too confident in my orienteering skills.

One item that keeps popping up are EDC kits (that’s Everyday Carry in survival lingo). There are many organizational pouches and molle back packs (pronounced like Molly, stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) in which to store survival tools just in case the world gets overrun by zombies. As someone who is a bit OCD about organization, I keep thinking of ways I can use all those velcro and elastic bands to carry my things around neatly.

The EDC kits that have really captured my attention are the small pocket-sized ones. You have to be very selective and a bit clever to carry everything you need in a discreet package. This one is one of my favorites.

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I love how they reused an empty Altoids tin to house basic survival supplies including a compass, whistle, fire starters, duct tape, flashlight, water purification tablets, fishing gear, and more! At one point, I had been looking to minimize the number of knitting tools that I carried around with me, particularly for traveling. I filled an Altoids tin with some of my notions and have been using it since. This wasn’t an original idea as I’m sure I saw it somewhere online. Here are my everyday carry knitting essentials:

EDC Knitting Tools

  • Scissors – These were the hardest to find. Most foldable scissors have pointy blades which are a problem at airport security. I found these with the bright yellow handles in the baby section. They’re for cutting tiny little baby fingernails.
  • Tape measure – My solution came about serendipitously. I was at IKEA and needed to measure a piece of furniture. The paper tape measure made its way home with me. I was going to throw it out when I realized it would fit perfectly in my tin! The coiled tape measure wasn’t there originally until I dropped it and the outer plastic casing shattered. After winding it tightly, it fit quite nicely.
  • 2 stitch holders – medium and small.
  • 1 cable needle in pink.
  • 7 stitch markers in aqua and orange.
  • 1 stitch counter.
  • 2 felted point protectors in blue and tan.
  • 1 tapestry needle.
  • 2 magnets – to attach the tapestry needle to the lid.
  • 1 pen.
  • Hand cream – a knitter has to have hand cream.

You will be amazed at how much fits inside this tin! I have all the tools I need except a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches. I couldn’t find one small enough but the cable needle and stitch holders do the trick. Here’s the tin with my notions packed inside.

Knitting EDC Kit

This little tin has replaced my previous notions travel bag. Do you have a compact way of carrying your knitting essentials?

Post-Apocalyptic Skill

 

Sock Therapy (or How I Made It through the Holiday Blues)

I’ve been furiously knitting socks lately. As soon as I weave in the ends of one, I immediately cast on another.

Simple Skyp Sock #1 in progress

I have always found knitting to be soothing. As I knit, I can feel worries and angst slowly evaporate. Mostly, focusing on knitting helps me drown everything else out. For those moments, I am in a state of calm.

Turning the Heel

Lately, a sadness has enveloped me. Nothing has happened. On the contrary, I am living a blessed life surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I want for little. I am very fortunate. But I am sad. Often.

Monkey Sock #1 in progress

It comes and goes. At this moment, all is joyous and warm. But some days, just getting out of bed and dressing seems like an insurmountable challenge. Maybe it was a case of the holiday blues. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just life.

Monkey Sock #2 in progress

The one activity that helped me through the holidays was knitting. Knits, purls, yarn overs and slipped stitches forced me to focus. The rhythmic motions of my hands on the needles soothed me. I was creating something and in that process of creation I found peace.

Knit Coffee Mug

I have read articles (like this one and this one) where experts share results of research studies on the positive effects that crafts like knitting have. They serve to reinforce what I already knew – knitting is like “chicken soup for the soul.” Knitting to me is comforting. And it snaps me out of my doldrums. A simple pair of socks is a victory to celebrate.

Self-Striping Yarn Sock #1 in progress

There is something incredibly special and satisfying about making something with my own hands. I am reminded of a few lines from one of my favorite poems:

And in time, I plant geraniums

I tie up my hair into loose braids,

And trust only what I have built

with my own hands.

From Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway by Lorna Dee Cervantes

The last sock that I knit fit perfectly. Now to cast on the second. A warmth fills my heart and a smile lights up my face as I reach for the yarn and needles.

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?