Friday, October 29, 2010

Knit-Knacks: Yarn Ball Winder

Being a knitter I often find myself surrounded by a mountain of unsorted and un-stored yarn!  And I've recently taken it upon myself to remedy this AVALANCHE-OF-EPIC-PROPORTIONS problem before I'm buried alive and someone has to use a trained dog to ferret me out.  *random side note* Just look at my puppy!
Sorry I couldn't resist! :D

Anyways, I've found that I absolutely hate yarn the way it comes...whether that be in hanks, shanks, skeins, or queens (obviously going for a rhyme...and failing).  And then it donned on me...I should get one of the local yarn marts to wind my yarn for me.  Unfortunately for me, even though I offered to pay them, they would not wind yarn that was not purchased from their stores.  And I respect their decision to have such a policy, but it totally screws me!  

After a few days of sulking in my tangled yarn existence, I decided to get out of my wool prison and just buy a yarn ball winder of my very own.  That way, I could ball the yarn I buy online myself, and also the yarn I buy from my local suppliers (since I normally have to make a quick run during my lunch...I often don't have time to wait for them to ball it for me).  

So after perusing eBay for an hour or so, I finally purchased my very own yarn ball winder!
And it's RED too! My favorite color!

Needless to say, after I received this bad boy in the mail, I've been getting ballsy!  After balling all of my yarn at home, I even took it to work and balled almost our entire yarn stash for our Craft Cafe program.  I think I might have a problem...especially since now I just really want to buy yarn to ball it...not because I need it :D.  

I'm glad I bought it; however, I think that it is just going to exacerbate my yarn addiction to epic proportions.  So now instead of being buried alive by a messy, tangled mountain of yarn...I will be buried by a neat, color-coded mountain of precariously stacked yarn balls.  Ah! Progress!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fantastic Fibers: Yarn Fiasco!

I plan on using this section of my blog to highlight recent yarn purchases I've made for various patterns, or yarns that I just happen upon during my travels. And what better way to christen this section than by spinning a yarn of my own. And this tale, boys and girls, is truly terrifying. So buckle your seat belts, secure any loose objects, and keep your tray table in the up and locked position during the duration of the story. Thank you, and we hope you enjoy you stay on Knitting...With Balls! We know you have options when choosing who to follow, and we thank you for selecting us. And without further to to, it's time to get ballsy!

Before I begin I feel that it is imperative that I remind my readers that I, Jonathan, am a sweater-holic. I've struggled with this addiction for years, but I really don't see a need in fixing it...because no one can have too many sweaters, right?!? RIGHT!!? Anyways, I recently found a pattern that I'm obsessed with from a website I featured in my Featured Finds section awhile back: Boy Meets Purl. The sweater in question is a *seemingly* simple single cable sweater.

Beautiful, right? So needless to say when I saw this sweater I just HAD TO MAKE IT!! It spoke to me, and it said, "fjeiooklk dknihkfll;; jojanfjfiojt!! jiojtklcmkfie!!" Well, how am I suppose to know what it said? I don't speak fluent yarn, but I'm taking lessons. There was just one teeny...tiny...well, HUGE problem that this sweater has and that HUGE, GIGANTIC, IMPOSSIBLY GARGANTUAN problems is that the yarn used to make the sweater was discontinued years ago!!

What was a sweater-holic to do? Well, I'll tell you what this sweater-holic did...nothing. For awhile. I just thought that perhaps the magical yarn fairy really did exist and if I wished hard enough...she would leave the six balls of yarn I needed underneath my pillow (for a small fee of course...she doesn't do it out of the kindness of her heart. She has bills to pay too, you know.) But, alas, the yarn fairy ignored my desperate cries for fiber and I had to take matters into my own hands.

Flash forward a few months. I was visiting my brother, who is attending graduate school in Missouri, and after our brief visit, I was just dropping off a bicycle for him, I decided to make a detour and visit their local yarn store, who's owner stayed open especially for me to come and peruse her wears; however, she shall hence forth be referred to as SHE-WHO-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED (for the obvious connotations).

Well, SHE-WHO-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED was extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and carried A TON of fiber brands I had never seen, nor heard of. All of which made me feel all warm and cozy on the inside. And when you feel all snuggly in a yarn store, you know you are going to spend some money :). This was no exception. After showing SHE-WHO-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED the pattern for the sweater above I asked SHE-WHO-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED if there was any yarn in the store that met my gauge requirement. As I've stated in an older post, I've never made a garment before and the concept of gauges is a language to which I'm just beginning to understand. But SHE-WHO-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED had examples of her knitting all around the store: a sweater here, a shawl there. All of which inspired great faith in her ability to follow a pattern's gauge, etc.  Needless to say she suggested a fiber, and a quite expensive one at that, for the sweater.  And like anything expensive, I seemed to gravitate towards the fiber she selected.  I also need to mention that she said it would work up in the proper gauge as well.  So I bought the yarn...and it is BEAUTIFUL...just look

However, on the way home I decided I just couldn't wait to start working on my sweater, so I did a gauge sample of the yarn, and wouldn't you know it...IT IS THE WRONG GAUGE!  Not only is it the wrong gauge, but to make the sweater I want I would have to buy DOUBLE the amount of yarn that I purchased!  And since I had already spent almost 100 dollars on the first round of yarn I decided to try and ferret out the discontinued yarn that was used in the original pattern.  

This brings us to yarn fiasco number two!  Yes, boys and girls, there is a part two!

After searching through numerous website haystacks, I finally found the needles!  I ended up having to order the yarn from two separate companies: one was in the UK and the other was in Ireland.  Well, when the yarn came in from Ireland I thought everything was perfectly fine, that is, until the UK order arrived.  I ORDERED TWO DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SAME YARN!!  The Ireland order was for MEGA chunky and the UK (the correct order) was for chunky.  So I had to find another supplier of the DISCONTINUED yarn (both places sent me all they had)!!  Luckily for me the Canadians seem to be yarn hoarders to a degree that they might need to seek professional from the A&E show, Hoarders!  And I just received the final order I will ever place for Sirdar Denim Chunky 503 yarn!

And now it is time for a celebratory dance, and for this occasion I've decided on.....

P.S. Apologies for the tome worthy post!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slip Stitches: Book Review - The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger GamesCatching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

For those of you who happen to be living underneath a very large and cold rock, these three books are currently all the rage in Young Adult fiction.  But do they deserve all of the hype and acclaim?  In my humble, yet entirely infallible opinion, HELL YES THEY DO! 

These three works take place in a dystopian world where twelve districts, each focusing on a particular trade or skill, are under the tight control of The Capital.  This government imposed occupation of each district stems from the uprising of the thirteen districts against The Capital years ago, and as punishment for their actions, district thirteen was completely annihilated and the remaining twelve districts are each forced to send two tributes (children) into the Hunger Games.  These children are then forced to battle one another to the death for the amusement of the Capital.

All these works follow Katniss Everdeen as she navigates her way through life, trying to stay alive and provide for her family, and as she is thrown into the horrific Hunger Games.  I won't give away anymore because if you haven't read them yet...READ THEM!!!

I love these books so much that I dedicated my Halloween pumpkin to them...BEHOLD!!

Yep! I carved all the book covers onto ONE pumpkin AND made all of the stencils myself!  Eat your heart out Martha Stewart!!

On a Halloween related note, does anyone have any ideas for who I could be for my Halloween school visits?  I was thinking either Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Cookie Monster.  Ideas? Thoughts?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cast On: Doctor's Bag (Update #2)

So I FINALLY have accomplished enough on the Doctor's Bag to make another update! 

First of all, I have to admit that I haven't been working on the bag as often as I could be.  For the past few weeks I have can I put this...avoid this project like the drunk chick/dude at a party.  Sure, they might look enticing from afar...luring you in with their good looks and come-hither colors, but no one who karaokes for hours in a key that offends even the hearing impaired, and who dances as if they are just renting their body with the option to own is worth the effort.  And not to mention the fear of projectile vomiting the likes of which exorcists have never seen!  

But, against all my efforts, the drunk chick/dude always stumbles around...swinging from person to person like some sort of possessed spider monkey until they find me...lucky, lucky me!  And that pretty much sums up my relationship with this bag.  Absolutely beautiful, but a MAJOR piece of work!          

So, needless to say, I've been working haphazardly on the bag...doing a row or two here...cursing and swearing a little bit there, but all of the begging, pleading, and perseverance has paid off, and BIG time!  Since the last update I've finished both of the small sides and...drum roll, please...THE FRONT PIECE!!!

Here are the completed pieces:

And here is a close up of the drunk chick/dude:

Isn't she/he beautiful?  And it only took two whole weeks to get her/him into a presentable state!

With the completion of the front piece I have only two more pieces left to finish before I can start assembling the bag.  Unfortunately, both of these pieces are the friends of the same drunk individual, and they won't leave without her/him.  So, I guess I will have my hands full for the next...eternity, but until the next update...wish me luck!

P.S.  In case I haven't made my point clear with the overly elaborate and convoluted analogy above....I....HATE....HERRINGBONE!

Just look at it...the sheer nerve of it to show its face! :D

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shameless Promotion...

To anyone who might be in the Little Rock area, I am starting a new craft group at the Dee Brown Library in Southwest.  All crafters are welcome: knitters, crocheters, quilters, quillers, etc.  I will be supplying yarn, needles, crochet hooks, and a sewing machine, but any other materials will need to be supplied by your lovely selves :D. 

We will be meeting during lunch and finger foods and beverages will be served; however, if you would like to bring your own lunch you are more than welcome.

The Cafe will be open from 11 to 1 p.m. on Monday, September 13th and 27th

I hope to see many smiling faces at the Craft Cafe!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Knit-Knacks: Needle Case

I have to say that the one thing that is extremely frustrating with being male in the knitting world (besides the lack of sweater patterns) is finding gender appropriate accessories.  For the last few months I have been on the prowl for a knitting needle case to hold all my various supplies; however, I have been very unsuccessful.

The only needle cases I've been able to find are extremely effeminate, featuring either intense floral patterns in noxious pastel shades of pink and purple or solid color cases that are also only available in  vomit-worthy pastel shades.  Not that there is anything wrong with these items, if you are of the female persuasion, but it tends to draw a lot of unwanted attention from passers by if you are male.

And being a male knitter already tends to draw the eye to you so no sense in giving people additional ammo in which to judge your mental state, and a pink pastel paisley case with weapon-like tools held inside tends to send the wrong message...don't you think?

I was almost to the point of having to make my own with my limited sewing ability...not a prospect I was looking forward to, but luckily I didn't have to muster the courage to tackle a sewing project because I found the holy grail of knitting needle cases!

Behold! My Holy Grail!
Mimi Knitting Needle Case 15-1/2"X5-1/2"X1" - Scarlet

YAY! I finally found a case that is both gender appropriate AND stylish!  And when one stumbles upon an item like this after months of searching it is always customary to perform a celebratory dance in the manner of your choosing.  For this particular purchase I chose the subtle art of the tootsie roll...

To the left, to the left, to the right, to the right, to the front, to the front, to the back, to the slide with it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Featured Finds: Boy Meets Purl

With this section of my blog, I want to highlight the amazing, out-of-this-world, can't live without, things (whether that be a website, a craft book, or a pattern) that I happen across during my Internet stumbling, or stumbling in real life.  For the first edition of Featured Finds I chose to showcase the brilliant talent of a fellow male knitter.

Recently I've become obsessed with the idea of making my own sweater.  For those of you who don't know, I'm a self-proclaimed sweaterholic, and I'm proud of it!  At last count I own enough sweaters to wear a new one everyday for almost two months...that's around 60 sweaters!  I know what you are thinking...if you have that many sweaters why in the world would you want to make your own?  Surely you have enough already!

Enough sweaters?  NEVER!  You can never have too many sweaters, and it isn't like all 60 of them are the same...they are all snowflakes.  :D

But I digress.  Since I've become obsessed with this idea I have been scouring the Internet and knitting books for a modern, stylish pattern and have come up entirely empty handed!  That is until I happened upon this website, Boy Meets Purl.  EVERY SINGLE PATTERN IS AMAZING!  As soon as I saw the patterns, I bought them all!  Now I have the unfortunate dilemma of choosing between all of them for my first sweater project; however, that is a problem I'm happy to have.

So if you are hunting for a modern sweater pattern, whether you are a boy or girl (he has girl sweaters too!), visit his site and be amazed!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Slip Stitches: Book Review - City of Bones

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)In addition to being an avid knitter, I'm also a ravenous reader!  Because I work for a library as a Youth Programmer, it is part of my job to stay abreast on the latest and greatest in Young Adult and Juvenile fiction.  Although it is part of my job, I love reading these books...except for the Twilight series, but I will spare you my less-than-nice thoughts on those books and move on to a series that is WORTH reading.  The Crafty Octopus is the one who recommended I read this series, and since we have similar tastes when it comes to literature, I thought I would give it a go.  And what's the worst that could be another Twilight?  The series she suggested was The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, whose first book is The City of Bones

A brief teaser:
This work follows Clary Fray as she goes about her daily life in the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Everything is normal until Clary and her friend Simon decide to head out to the local club, Pandemonium.  She never would of expected that her life would forever change by stepping through the entrance.  That night, Clary witnessed a murder committed by three teenagers covered in intricate tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons.  Clary knows that she should alert the police; however, the body vanishes into thin air and she is the only one who can see the three teenagers.  Equally as startled that Clary can see them, the teenagers explain that they are Shadowhunters, and they are charged with the task of ridding the earth of demons. 

A mere day later, Clary is pulled into the world of the Shadowhunters with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and she, herself, is attacked by a vicious demon in their apartment.  Puzzled by the presence of the demon and by the absence of her mother, Clary wonders what these creatures would want with ordinary people like them?  And why is it that she can suddenly see these demons and weapon-wielding teenagers?  She is not the only one curious about her new abilities, the Shadowhunters have some questions, and possibly some answers for her.

Is Clary who she thinks she is? Where has her mother been taken? And why does she get the feeling that she is more connected with the Shadowhunters' world than she ever realized?

My thoughts:
As for my thoughts on the book, I have to say that I really enjoyed this story.  It had the same cliche elements of vampires, werewolves, faeries, and demons that are all the rage these days; however, it was done in a unique and refreshing way.  The writing was superb and the characters were all fully realized and show actual growth through the course of the work (unlike *cough* Twilight).  Even though this is only the first in the series, I will DEFINITELY be reading the rest of them.  My only complaint with the work is that it can be, at times, extremely predictable; however, this is no way detracts from overall reading experience. 

Overall I give it a solid 4 out of 5 needles, and I recommend that anyone who liked Twilight give this book a read to see how a real book is written, and for those who hated Twilight, like myself, read this book to see what Twilight could have been.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cast On: Doctor's Bag (Update #1)

So this is my first update on my project for my mother...the devil spawn of a bag!  I have finally completed a small portion of the Doctor's Bag, though it isn't one of the major is enough to keep me motivated to keep going!! 
Here is what I've done:

 Pretty awesome, huh? huh? huh?!?

Hopefully this one side piece will be the beacon of light to help guide me through the dark, foreboding, seemingly-never-ending tunnel that is this project!  I have to say that I'm not entirely happy with the way that it turned out...the edges look wonky to me, but maybe they are suppose to be and will be covered up with the joining stitches later can dream!  That is, if I make it that far!  Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Slip Stitches: Movie Review - Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

With this section of my blog, I want to focus on the world outside of knitting: whether that be movies, books, video games, or whatever random happenings I stumble upon or into.  For the very first edition of Slip Stitches I've decided to do a movie review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

For those of you who don't know, this film is based on a graphic novel series, and if you have any desire to learn more about this series follow this super awesome link to nerdiness

But even if you have never read the graphic novels, like myself, you will still have your face rocked by its shear awesomeness if you like any of the following: video games, nerds, awkward social situations, kick-ass action, 8-bit music, and a storyline that doesn't take itself too seriously. 

I will not give away any spoilers, just in case anyone has a desire to see this film, but the basis of the plot is that Scott Pilgrim falls in love with a girl; however, in order to date her he has to defeat all of her evil-exes.  And the hilarity ensues!

So here is my breakdown of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:

The Good: Fans of video games will absolutely LOVE this film.  The 8-bit music and constant homage to classic games is a nerd's wet dream!  I hate the main actor of this film, Michael Cera ,and I have to say that I STILL loved it...even with his face in every frame :D.

The Bad: The only bad thing I have to say about this film, besides Michael Cera, is that there is nothing ever at stake.  Scott just randomly goes through life happening upon each member of the "Evil League of Exes."

The Ugly: I really feel that only a select audience will truly appreciate this film.  But for those who do, it is one kick-ass, rolling in the floor with laughter, nerd-out of a movie!

Overall, I give it 4.5 out of 5 needles.  I couldn't give it a 5 because of Cera's presence in the film!

Cast On: Doctor's Bag

Okay, okay...I know what you're thinking, Jonathan, why are you making a ladies purse if you are trying to encourage men to knit?  Well, about a year ago I promised I would make my mom this purse for Christmas.  Then, Christmas turned into her birthday, and now it looks like her birthday is turning back into Christmas, which is TERRIBLE!  I just can't seem to get excited about this project.  I cannot tell you how many times I've started working on it to stop 20 or so minutes later.  I really think that my reluctance to complete this project stems from two problems. The first problem is that the pattern, which is another first for me, is extremely tedious.  Herringbone makes me want to NEVER KNIT AGAIN!  I can't even really explain why I dislike this technique so much...with all of its slip stitches!  The second problem is the yarn I've chosen.  Much like the picture above the yarn I chose is red with blue and yellow flecks in it, which when knitted looks AMAZING; however, the texture of the yarn is murder to the touch!  Every slide of the yarn through my fingers feels as if sandpaper is being rubbed against my flesh.  And for those two reasons it has just remained one of those unfinished projects...a what-could-have-been...a promise unfulfilled.

But not anymore!

I am bound and determined to finish this freaking purse if it kills me!  I've made a secret deal with myself:  if I finish the purse then I can splurge on the yarn for my next project, a sweater!  So with that motivation I've started to create my very first bag...and a woman's purse at that.  And the progression of this project is painfully slow.  In about a day, I've only managed to accomplish 2/3 of the small side of the bag.

Here is my dismal progress:

Pretty sad, huh? But it IS pretty!

But I will be damned if I give up now!  I foresee much begging, pleading, and cursing in my near future, but that is to be expected when knitting a pattern created by Satan himself and using the coarsest yarn known to mankind...DAMN YOU HERRINGBONE!

P.S. I will be posting more dismal progressions as I have them to might be awhile!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bind Off: My First Cable Scarf!

Early this month, my family and I went on our first family vacation since...well, I don't actually remember the last time we went on a trip together, but that's not the point.  For this vacation we decided to go to the magical land of Sandusky, Ohio for Cedar Point Roller Coaster Amusement Park!  Just for the record, I'm obsessed with roller coasters, and I am an adrenaline junky.  So this place was pure crack-cocaine, and trust me I was tweaking with excitement as if I had been on a week-long bender in some dark, dank ally.

Here were some of my favorite "fixes:"
Millennium Force

Top Thrill Dragster
Each of these rides were amazing in their own right, and just represent a small fraction of the roller coasters at the park!

But back to the world of knitting.  Since we were going to be driving to and from the great state of Ohio...a grand total of 30 + hours on the road...I decided it would be the perfect time to whip out a new project.   And before going on our trip I found an amazing pattern for a cable scarf.  The only problem: I've never done a cable knit before and had no idea how to achieve the desired look.  So, after a quick visit to my local yarn shop, The Yarn Mart, I purchased my very first cable needle and was armed with the knowledge to do battle with the monster that was my first cable scarf!  And when I say it is a monster of a scarf, I do not is over 96 inches long and is made with SUPER bulky yarn!  But I have to say that the scarf is amazingly kick-ass and looks like something out of an up-scale magazine like Vogue or GQ.  And now I present to you, the slain-beast-of-a-scarf:

And here is the scarf in all its grandeur (just for scale you should know that I'm 6 foot, 3 inches tall)

I have to say that after completing this project, I have the desire to make one in every possible is that amazing and cozy warm, but, sadly, there just isn't enough time...if I want to complete my other projects.

However, I will get the oppurtunity to revisit this pattern for my brother...after he saw the completed project he asked if I would make him one for Christmas this year...and that is one present I know I can deliver!

Here are the details of where I got the pattern, etc, etc:

Men's Knits: 20 New ClassicsPattern: Men's Knit by Erika Knight (it's the scarf on the cover!)
Needle Size: US 17
Yarn: Lion Brand - Monterey Lime, Super Bulky
I would love to hear if anyone else has done or plans to do this project and what they think of the end result :D.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to get ballsy!

Hello, and welcome to my blog and to the wonderful world of knitting...from a male perspective!

As a guy I find it trying at times to be a knitter in today's world.  Often times you are either looked at like a freak-of-nature or just the random nerdy guy with too much time on his hands (both of which might be true :D).  But the truth of the matter is that I've never been one for the outdoors, or anything that involves physicality in any respect.  For starters, the sun and I and don't really get hates me, and I, in turn, hate it!  I can't really go anywhere without sunscreen lest I incur the wrath of the fiery one!!  But I shall leave our feud for later discussions.  Thus, I became the "artsy child," the "free spirit," the "black sheep," which suits me just fine, and knitting, among other crafts and hobbies, has always served as that much needed creative and expressive outlet.

However, the world of knitting, which was originally practiced mainly by men, has lost its hold in the "man sphere."  I suppose wielding two bamboo needles isn't quite the image of masculinity it once was...though, they make great tools for slaying the blood thirsty undead :D.  I plan on helping to change this...the perception of knitting, not the killing of the undead part!

I hope to show that knitting is a worthwhile endeavor for all genders, but mainly to show fellow guys that knitting is not just for the can make something special for that special lady (or gentleman ;))