Monday, November 28, 2011

Daily Review - Brioche Knitting e-book

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.  Sorry I've been so quiet - we were pretty busy and had a nice time with family in town.  PLUS - I had the opportunity to meet my 5 week old nephew (so small, squishy and completely adorable!)

Given the extra day off work, this finally gave me a chance to review an e-book tutorial for Beginner and Intermediate Brioche Knitting.  I was excited to review this as it's something I've been meaning to try and I'm always happy to learn a new technique.  Thank you to Liat of KNITFreedom for providing a copy of this e-book for me to review.

[NOTE:  This e-book does require the latest version of Adobe Reader to view, although there is a handy link within the e-book that you can follow to download an update (which I needed anyway!)]

This e-book lesson is a wonderful collection of step-by-step Brioche knitting videos with written direction.  The videos are nice and clear, and I found I was able to knit along at the same pace as the video was going even though I was learning.  They compliment the written directions well as I think that trying to learn this stitch using written directions alone would have me completely lost.  The videos are also presented in both American and Continental knitting styles so you can follow on no matter which way you prefer to knit.  By a half-hour in, I was comfortable with the cast on, set up, had knit about 10 rows of my swatch, and even learned a new bind off technique.  

Although just starting out, I did try the section regarding brioche knitting in the round, which I know I'll want to be using for hats along the way.  This involving learning both the brioche purl stitch and joining in the round.  I also tried Brioche knitting with two colors - which makes for beautiful scarf designs that I've seen but never known how the patterns were achieved.  Following along with the video, it didn't take long before my little swatch started taking shape and I'm thrilled that I was able to produce this just by following along with the videos.  [I was using a bigger needle than necessary for my yarn, so my stitches are super wonky in the swatches that I did below, but you get the idea.]

Plain one color Brioche stitch. 
Two color Brioche.  
This is definitely going to take more practice and I'll probably stick with the one color Brioche working flat for a little while until I get the hang of it.  While I'm learning though, this e-book is a great reference guide and the table of contents is really nicely laid out so that I can jump to whichever section is needed as I want to learn new things.  There's also a variety of helpful links throughout, plus tips for blocking techniques and fixing mistakes (which I know will be coming in useful at some point!)  It's like taking a knitting class, except you can refer to it over and over!

The e-book is selling for $34.77 on Liat's website, or through Ravelry.

This is what it's supposed to look like....with a little practice!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Review -

I'm a tactile person and when it comes to buying craft supplies, I've found that I generally like to buy in store.  I like being able to touch things and get an idea of size or color without the concern of monitor color variances.  Having said that, I recently found out about while looking for some findings in specific metal colors not as easily available to me in store and it has to be said, I was impressed.

I found the site pretty easy to navigate and had no trouble finding what I wanted with the search.  Their selection doesn't seem quite as huge as Fire Mountain Gems (the only other site I've ever really explored), but I actually found that it wasn't as overwhelming and I was able to explore the different sections without losing myself!  I think that one of my favorite things was having an option to buy almost everything individually - which is great if you don't want to get stuck buying an entire bag/strand when all you want are a couple of an item.  If you do want to buy in higher quantities, the prices drop the more you buy.  I also liked that you only have to spend $10 to get free shipping, which is a nice low minimum and not hard to meet! 

My order was shipped the day after I purchased and took about a week to arrive.  Let me tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to open the package.  It was neatly packaged, wrapped, and even had a little note to say who had fulfilled my order.  A very nice touch!  Everything was so nicely packaged and labeled that I really enjoyed going through everything.

Seeing as I always default to earrings first, I decided to dive right in and knock out a couple of pairs using fun Czech glass roundelles.  They have what is called a half Picasso effect, which is essentially a marbling on the top and bottom of each bead.  It gives them a really unique look and I think it allows the bead to really be the focus of the piece.  The red beads used for the copper pair were far more vibrant in person than on the website, and that pair found a new home within 24 hours of being made!  I already had the Celtic metal findings for the other pair, but they'd been waiting for the right bead.  I think it's a good pairing. 

I think that another great feature of the Art Beads site is the user reviews.  It even allows the reviewer to upload a picture of their finished products, which says more than words can when trying to describe how a product was used.

I think I'm always going to enjoy buying in person more, but I'm definitely sold on this site and I'm sure they'll be getting lots of my business in the future. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daily Tip - Jewelry photography

When I started photographing jewelry for my shop, Crave Creation, I wanted a consistent clean background with as few shadows as possible.  I discovered that for earrings, this wasn't a big problem as they're quite light. I taped some thread across my lightbox, and was able to suspend the earrings to photograph.  However, necklaces were proving to be a bigger problem.  I wanted a way to photograph them that would show how they hang but the thread I was using for the earrings just wasn't going to be strong enough.

The answer?  Use a wire coat hanger!  I bent the "neck" of the coat hanger at a 90 degree angle so that it provided a base, and then I can use the rest of the hanger to drape the necklaces from.  That allows me to take a photograph from this.... this...

...or even something more like this (which shows more of the necklace length).

I can also use this for earrings as the wires are easily moved to whatever position you need them in.  I finally have a purpose for those dry cleaning hangers!

I found this tip while surfing the internet on a lunch break.  Unfortunately I've forgotten which site I found it on (as I'd love to give credit where due) but it was too good not to share.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daily Craft - All done!

Remember that cardigan I was knitting in sock yarn that I thought would take me 6 months to make?  I'm proud to say that one month and six days later, I am DONE!  I think I surprised myself a little bit with this one, especially considering I didn't actually spend every day knitting obsessively and giving myself carpel tunnel.

The verdict?  I'm actually very happy with it and my only complaint would be that it's perhaps 2 inches shorter than I'd like it to be.  I should have trusted my instinct on that when I was knitting it up and gone a little longer.  Hopefully it'll stretch out a little bit with some love and washing.

Knitting a garment with sock yarn wasn't as painful as I thought it might be, and I find that lighter yarns are better for me anyway - both more flattering and better for my internal temperature control (I run warm).  I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy the DROPS pattern was to follow.  When I was a less confident knitter, I remember looking at a couple of DROPS patterns and being completely intimidated/confused.  Apart from anything, the way the patterns are laid out in a clump of text makes it all look far worse than it actually is.  I ended up cutting and pasting into a word document, which I formatted to my liking and made it much easier to follow.  They have a truly extensive database of good patterns though so I'm glad I'm over my mental block when it comes to their patterns!

I've dubbed it the "Year Round Cardi" as I suspect this will be getting lots of use.  I've got the cardigan bug now though and I'm contemplating what I may make next.  Hopefully I can finish another in a similar time frame!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Daily Review - Blog Tag! You in?

So, who's up for a game of tag?  This one isn't a bunch of random (and probably useless) information about me.  This is a game of Blog Tag, where I get to look back over my blog and posts that I've written.  Thanks to my blog buddy, Lucy, for suggesting the game.  If you decide to do this, come back and share the link - I'd love to give your posts some love!

Which is your most beautiful post?
The photographer in me is having a hard time choosing between my Vegas weekend, where we visited Red Rock Canyon, and my birthday weekend, which involved a trip to Griffith Park Observatory.  I think that Red Rock Canyon wins in the end, seeing as it's quite humbling to be surrounded by something so beautiful created by nature.  It reminds me that I should take my camera out for weekend field trips more often, seeing as sometimes pictures say more than I possibly could in words. 

Which is your most popular post?
My review of definitely wins.  As a follow-up, I've been using these needles almost exclusively in the last 18 months and have only run into one problem (where the cable came off the needle).  Still can't beat them for the price (and that reminds me that I need to order a new set of double pointed needles!)

Which is your most controversial post?
I try to stay away from controversial most of the time, but when some asshats sprayed graffiti on the outside of my building, I couldn't hold back on the rant.  Still not particularly controversial I think, but that's about as close as you're gonna yet.  

Which is your most helpful post?
Based on the number of views?  My [dummies guide to quilting] tutorial for a disappearing 9-patch block.  You can see what the finished quilt looked like here.  

I actually very much enjoy creating tutorials and the few that I've done have a link on the sidebar.  I've been meaning to come up with concepts for more tutorials that you guys may find interesting so feel free to make suggestions if you have any. 


Which post's success surprised you most?
When I randomly took my camera on a walk one morning in my neighborhood, I figured I'd shoot some pictures on my route for fun (and to attempt to keep me motivated to get off my butt and walk in the morning).  I had no idea that other people would find the random photos so interesting.  This post is second to my knitting needle review in terms of views.  Perhaps I need to do it again.  :)

Which of your posts do you feel didn't get the attention it deserved?
To me, it's surprising that some of the recipes I have posted haven't received that many views.  You can see all of them if you click "daily dish" on my sidebar, but the Tagine that I made didn't get much love (although very much loved by my belly).   Now that we're in winter, I'm definitely going to be making this more often - it's excellent comfort food and super simple given that you can leave it in the crockpot all day, with the added benefit that it makes the house smell delicious. 

Which post are you proudest of?
Without question, it is my post - "I made it!"  That post was speaking to everything I've worked toward during my adult life.  The trials and tribulations of my immigration from England to the US could practically be a book.  [If I were ever to write a book, there would definitely be a chapter on things NOT to do, another on what to do when stranded in another country without your clothing...]  Regardless, the day I got my green card held a sense of accomplishment, relief, and pride in my own determination. 

It's interesting to look back at my posts, some of which I'd completely forgotten about, and see how my blog has progressed.  When I was writing my old blog, I spent too much time worrying about what I thought people might want to read and staying true to a theme.  As a result, it became a chore for me.  When I started over with this blog, I just wanted to have fun and share a piece of me, no matter how random.  I feel like I've made a few friends, and gathered a few followers along the way - and [as Tosh.O may say] for that, I thank you. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Daily Ramblings - It started with a mullet....

While that may be the strangest post title I've ever used, it's true.  Last week, Joann's was getting rid of their Halloween section at 60% off, and I happened across a rather fantastic mullet wig with matching mustache.  For the bargain price of $5, it was too funny NOT to buy it, so it came home with me.  I didn't really think too much about what my costume plans were but, using the mullet as my entire inspiration, I woke up yesterday and raided my husband's closet for the most redneck things I could find and ended up with this. 

Holy crap, I'm sexy.

Things I discovered while dressed as a redneck:
1) It's impossible to eat nachos with a handlebar mustache attached to your face with tape...unless the melted cheese dripping from said mustache can be considered part of the costume.
2) When wearing men's jeans, I naturally start walking like a trucker. 
3) Apparently, when completely decked out in my husband's trashy clothing, I look like I'm 12.  I found this out while trying to purchase the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boy on the way into work.  The guy behind the counter didn't want to sell it to me, which had nothing to do with the fact that I was buying beer at 8:30 in the morning!  It took both my ID, backed up by debit card for name verification, before he'd take my $2. 
4) Boxer shorts are far more comfortable than thongs.

I was pretty proud of my rather last minute costume attempt, especially after winning 2nd prize in the work costume contest. 

Meanwhile, I gave to give props to the crew upstairs who turned the lobby into a "Dexter" style kill room.   They're quite the creative bunch!

How was your Halloween?  Any good stories to share?