Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learning to Knit

One of my 2012 goals is to learn to knit. I can crochet at probably an Intermediate level, but I had never held a pair of knitting needles in my hands…until Christmas. You see, Mr. knew about my goal and decided to push me along by giving me knitting needles of many sizes and knitting books as a Christmas present.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

1. There are two stitches in knitting – knit and purl. Anything that is knit is a combination of these two stitches.

2. The purl stitch is a backwards knit stitch.

3. There are two different methods of knitting (okay probably thousands of methods because of people’s individual style, but two well known methods) – English and Continental.

4. English (or American) knitters are sometimes called throwers because the yarn is held in the right hand and “thrown” around the needle.

5. Continental knitters are sometimes called scoopers because the yarn is held in the left hand and the needle “scoops” it up to form a new stitch.

I searched books, YouTube and individual knitting sites and I ran across a knitter who prefers the Continental method, but originally learned the English method. Because of this, she posts videos of everything she teaches in both English and Continental.

Out of curiosity, I watched a Continental video and it looked foreign to me, so I moved on and kept learning the English method. But as I kept practicing, I kept getting pulled back to the Continental videos. I decided to give it a whirl and it stuck! After learning the English method, I feel like I had a foundation and suddenly the Continental method didn’t look so foreign.

Here is my very first swatch that was done entirely in English method. It's not pretty.

I started at the skinny end. I must have dropped a stitch or two at the beginning, because it gets skinnier and then I must have started picking up or making new stitches because it starts getting wider again. I then must have figured out more of what I was doing because it seems to stay the same width.

Here is my very first completed project – a washcloth.

I started this project with the English method, but somewhere in the middle decided to give Continental a try. I again switched back to the English method for a couple of rows toward the end to see if I liked it any better and eventually finished it off with the Continental method.

What I noticed is that my tension is very tight with the English method compared to the Continental, which makes getting into stitches difficult (and frustrating). Toward the very end, when I decided to give the English another try, I immediately noticed that I started picking up stitches again. I feel like I can be more consistent with Continental.

I have so much more to learn, like why are there two holes in my washcloth? I don’t know if I picked up a stitch or dropped a stitch, but I know I didn’t plan for those two holes. Oh well, it’s soft and functional.

So from one beginner to another…I urge you to give both methods a try and do what feels comfortable to you. And to those advanced knitters out there who may be shaking your heads because I’ve explained something terribly wrong, please correct me. Happy Knitting!

Monday, January 23, 2012


I’m a DIYer. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t. In fact, when I search my brain for times that I may have been prone to buy something vs. make it or do it myself, I can only think of things that confirm that I’ve been this way always.

I remember touring a huge department store for a marketing class in high school. Our tour guide stopped in the women’s formal department to brag that this beautiful black number on the mannequin had recently been sported by some celebrity at one of the awards shows. The price was some umpteen thousand dollar number. As we walked away I muttered to a classmate… “I could make that.” She stopped dead in her tracks and said, “I was waiting for you to say that. But that’s the difference between you and me…you say you can make it and I think – how many hours would I have to work to pay for that.”

So whether I’m cooking or sewing or fixing or creating, I usually DIY and here’s why…

1. I’m cheap! I’ve stated this in other posts and there’s no getting around it.

2. I love to be able to pronounce and know what the ingredients are in my food. When you do it yourself, you control what goes into your body.

3. If you grow it or raise it, (chickens/eggs, goat milk, produce, flowers, etc.) you can’t beat the freshness.

4. It’s healthier – see number 2 and 3.

5. There is an unbelievable sense of accomplishment and pride when you complete something yourself.

6. Life is too short to spend working to pay bills - see number 1.

7. I love a challenge. There are certain things that I can’t do well. I can’t bake bread that tastes good consistently. And because it’s not the best that I know I should be able to do…I try, try and try again.

8. It’s fun! Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way that you planned – see number 7. And sometimes it turns out so far from what you planned that you have a great story and usually a great lesson in what not to do.

So there you have it. I DIY and I’m proud of it. Did I miss something that should have been on the list? Why do you DIY?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another "DUH" Moment

I just had another “duh” moment and it’s one that has created a change in how I’m going to be doing things in the future. More specifically, it’s going to change how I make soap. So for all of my soap customers I will start by saying “I’m very sorry!” But at the same time, I have to say to you, “You’re very welcome!”

Here’s a little of the back story of how I reached this moment (and what exactly this moment is). In July I met Miss Effie and we talked about having my soap in her Summer Kitchen. In conversation number two with Miss Effie she gave me a challenge…she wanted to know if I would be interested in creating a signature scent for her. To say that I was excited would be an unbelievable understatement.

I got to work immediately. I tinkered, I changed, I threw out, I started over, I bought new essential oils, I named it, I renamed it, etc, etc. And then we found two scents that were definite possibilities. We decided it was time to take these scent formulations and make soap with them. After both cured, she put them to a scent test and the winner was chosen unanimously! The process took 2 ½ months; “Miss Effie’s Signature Bees Knees Goat Milk Soap” was created and available for sale exclusively in the Summer Kitchen.

And this is where my slump started. Slump? Who said anything about a slump? I did, and I was in one. I suddenly didn’t like making soap anymore. What?!?! After all of that, I don’t like making soap anymore? Nope! It was a chore. It wasn’t fun. I even considered not making soap at all.

Buy why? What happened? And here was the “DUH” moment in the shower this morning, (I do my best thinking in the shower – using my soap) it’s not that I don’t like making soap. What I don’t like is the rut that I have fallen into jumped into head first. As a business owner, I have this self-proposed stigma that I can never be out of anything. If a customer wants a bar of Lavender soap, I better have a bar of Lavender soap. And because of this, I have fallen into production mode. By pushing myself into this way of thinking I have killed my creative ability. I have no time to create something new because I’m constantly working to make sure I have my shelves stocked with scents that I’ve already created.

Not anymore folks! Yes, I’ll still have staple scents like lavender and peppermint. Sometimes the Lavender soap will be simply Lavender, but sometimes it might have Patchouli in it or maybe even some oatmeal. So back to my apology…if you have a favorite scent, you should stock up because there is now a chance that at times I won’t have it. (Disclaimer: As long as Miss Effie wants her signature scent in the Summer Kitchen, she will have it.)

I can say for the first time in a couple of months that I am excited about making soap! I have herbs and loufa sponges that we grew for the sole purpose of my soaping adventures and I can’t wait to use each and every one of them…just not together, or maybe I will!