My Week at Puppet Fantasy Camp

Beyond the Sock puppetry workshop

I just got back from the best vacation ever.

My husband and I went to the Beyond the Sock Puppetry Workshop where we spent a week learning how to make – and perform – hand and rod puppets.

So! Much! Fun!

Here we are with our instructors (and our finished puppets).

Beyond the Sock - our teachers

From left to right that’s Peter Linz, Noel MacNeal (both puppeteers for Sesame Street and lots of other shows/movies) and Pasha Romanowski (puppet-builder and pattern-designer extraordinaire).

What an incredible week! We spent every morning working on our puppets, and every afternoon learning how to perform them.

I’ll start with the making – the part that was definitely my happy place. 🙂

Everyone worked from the same pattern – which was a great way to learn. This year it was a cute cat. 🙂

Beyond the Sock 2018 - cat pattern

Previous years have been rats, monkeys, chickens, penguins, and pirates.

Even though we all worked from the same pattern, we all used different materials and ended up with wildly different puppets. And we didn’t get to choose our materials – we got mystery boxes like on Master Chef.

Beyond the Sock 2018 - mystery boxes

I got this really thick, lush, grey fur.

Beyond the Sock 2018 - my fur

And the fur my husband got may look familiar to some of you!

Beyond the Sock 2018 - Alan's fur

I used it for one of these monsters and in this tutorial showing how to cut fur. It’s one of my favorites!

We built a foam structure, staring with the mouthplate and basically building out from there.

Beyond the Sock - building the mouthplate

After the foam structure was finished, we sewed all the fur and everything into a skin and slipped it over the foam – a very tight fit!

Then it was time to add eyes and accessories and all that and I forgot to take pictures because I was totally engrossed. 😉

But take a look at some of the finished puppets!

Here are mine and Alan’s.

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

I love his bowler hat and mustache!

Mine has a little gemstone stud in her nose and she was supposed to get purple feather streaks in her hair, but I ran out of time. I’ll add them later. 🙂

Here are some others. . .

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

Aren’t they awesome?

Now – the performing.

This was the part that was WAAAY out of my comfort zone – but I still loved it!

Beyond the Sock - learning to puppeteer

We were learning how to puppeteer on TV – not live – and that’s a very different thing. You have to make sure your puppet is standing up straight (a constant problem for me) and moving/looking in the right direction. For those of you who have watched my “welcome to the new month” videos where I show the new Ami Club pattern – you know I’m very directionally challenged when it comes to recording! 🙂

In that shot above, we’re trying to make all our puppets look in the same direction – which is surprisingly hard!

And in this one, you can see what we look like performing, and on the monitor.

Beyond the Sock - learning to puppeteer

We were trying to get our group of three centered on the screen, filling the screen, not showing our rods, and all looking at the camera. 🙂

And then they had us acting and lip synching and doing improv on top of all the puppeteering! So many things to remember!

We did a bunch of performances on the last night, including a big song and dance number that had over twenty of us packed into that space below our puppets. Crazy!

Really – it was a totally incredible week and we want to go back next year.

If any of you are interested in making puppets, Pasha has a terrific website with video tutorials and sells really well-designed patterns. It’s called Project Puppet and I can’t wait to make my next one!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

How to Use a Stitch Marker in Crochet

How to Use a Crochet Stitch Marker - from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make adorable crocheted stuffed animals with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make Amigurumi here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make an easy amigurumi from start to finish using simple crochet stitches.

It’s a fun, inexpensive, and totally portable craft. You can do it!

Besides your hook and yarn, a crochet stitch marker is your best buddy and most useful tool!

You want to look for a locking stitch marker, which is a lot like a fancy safety pin.

Locking Stitch Markers from Shiny Happy World

Locking stitch markers come in a few varieties, but the most important thing is that they open and close! Don’t get fooled into buying those ordinary ring markers that are for knitting needles. . . they don’t work for crochet.

Do you have your stitch markers ready? Let me get you and your new best friend acquainted!

Handy Use #1: Mark the End of the Round

The most common problem crocheters have when crocheting in the round is losing track of where the round starts and ends – which leads to an incorrect stitch count and mayhem! So, I’ll show you how to use a locking stitch marker to mark the end of a round.

I don’t tend to use a stitch marker for the first couple of rounds (because there are so few stitches per round), but I usually start at the end of the third round. Here I’m crocheting the snout of the cow, but many circles begin the same way.

Crocheting in the round - starting a circle.

Since I crochet through the back loop only the front loop is available to hold a locking stitch marker.

Adding a stitch marker to the front loop of the last stitch in a crochet round.

Slip the stitch marker into the front loop of the last stitch in the round, close it up, and keep crocheting!

small crochet circle with stitch marker attached to the last stitch

I know I’m finished with my next round when I’m just above the stitch marker, like this:

Using a stitch market to show where a crochet round ends.

Then I can move the marker and start my next round. No confusion!

Handy Use #2: Counting How Many Rounds You’ve Done

A lot of amigurumi are made by crocheting in the round. When teaching classes, I’ve noticed that counting rounds is something that gives a lot of crocheters trouble… I mean, who wants to count every stitch? I’ll show you how a crochet stitch marker can help you in counting rounds.

small crochet circle with locking stitch marker attached.

Let’s do a little example.

I’ve been following my pattern instructions for the first three rounds, and now my pattern says:

Rounds 4-6: sc in each st (18)

How can we do this without counting?

I take a crochet stitch marker (the orange thing in the photo above), and lock it onto the last stitch of the round. Then, I’m just going to keep crocheting around and around until I’m exactly 3 rounds above my marker!

Crochet sample shown crocheting three rounds past the clocking stitch marker.


Check out the photo above… and you’ll also see why I prefer crocheting through the back loops- each round leaves behind a little horizontal ridge that makes each round super-easy to count!

Handy Use #3: Position Your Pieces for Attaching

Attaching pieces can be a little tricky, too… but stitch markers can help! So, let’s look at some instructions that say, ‘attach legs to rounds 9-14’.

What you want to do is find out where round 9 is, and place a locking stitch marker there. Start counting (see the ridges?) from the center:

Count until you’re at round 9, and place a marker. Place another at round 14. Now you know where your leg should be located on the body!

Handy Use #4: Use Crochet Stitch Markers to Hold Pieces While Seaming

So now you’ve marked where your pieces should go… but locking stitch markers have one more great use. I use crochet stitch markers to hold my pieces in place while I’m sewing pieces together. It’s like having a few extra hands!

They’re big enough to go through a couple layers of crochet fabric, and by placing a couple around the piece that you’re attaching it’ll be held in place – making your sewing even easier. Yay!

I’ve been showing you lots of examples of circles… but this exact same trick can be used when assembling a sweater or afghan blocks! It keeps everything nice and even!

Handy Use #5: Keep Your Work from Unraveling When You Travel

how to keep crochet from unraveling - using a locking stitch marker to keep the yarn from pulling through

Throw your crochet into your bag, and you’re just one snag away from all of your work coming undone. Eep!
But not with a stitch marker!

Put your locking stitch marker through the loop when you’re done… and it can’t unravel even one stitch! Fabulous!

Caring for Your Crochet Stitch Markers

I bet you didn’t think these handy tools needed any special care, but there’s one little trick that will make them even easier to use.

Store them open!

That’s it! That’s the key to a healthy and long-lasting locking stitch marker.

Why? If you store your marker closed, the plastic slowly bends until the ‘open position’ isn’t very open anymore.

crochet stitch marker - barely open

It’s not a huge deal, but it makes the marker just a little bit harder to slip onto your crochet piece. Store them open and there’s no problem!

There you go – lots of handy ways to use your crochet stitch markers to make your projects just a little easier and more fun.

Happy stitching!

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.

How to Find Sea Glass

Did you know that I collect sea glass?

Yup! It’s a little hobby of mine that I indulge in whenever I visit a beach. How about I tell you a bit about it?

What is Sea Glass?

sea glass definition

Sea glass is glass that has been tumbled around in sale water until it’s smooth and frosted (wikipedia says that glass tumbled in fresh water is called ‘beach glass’- I actually collect both types).

The color of the glass is determined by the original color of the glass, as well as some slight chemical changes in color that can occur during the weathering. Some colors are quite rare, with the most common being white, green and brown.

sea glass colors

The shape is determined by how the glass broke and tumbled. Although many pieces are rounded squares and triangles, you can sometimes identify pieces from their original glass: like a neck of a bottle.

neck of a bottle

Sea glass occurs naturally on beaches. However, there is a lot of artificial sea glass used in jewelry and sold in craft stores. Artificial sea glass is made by tumbling glass in a machine, and does not have the randomness or true weathering of genuine sea glass.

How do you find Sea Glass?

For a long time, I’ve been just picking up pieces as I come across them on beaches. It’s very hit-or-miss… sea glass requires a collection of conditions (specific ocean currents, a source of glass…) to turn up on the beach.

This year, I decided to do a little research to increase my odds of finding sea glass. I checked out the beach guides on Odyssey Sea Glass to see if there was a good beach near me.

And there was! Malabar beach near Sydney, Australia was reported to be sea glass heaven. So I went, and here is what I got:

pile of sea glass

I actually had to stop myself because there was SO much!

Tips for Collecting Sea Glass

Would you like to start a sea glass collection of your own? Here are some tips:

  • When you visit a new area, google to see if there are any beaches nearby with good sea glass track records. (don’t forget to also find a yarn store when traveling!)
  • Bring a little baggie to store your finds
  • Do a bit of research to see which colors of glass are rare, or decide which color is your favorite. It will help you narrow your pickings if you’re overwhelmed with choice!
  • Search Pinterest for ‘Sea Glass’: you’ll get lots of ideas for storage and craft projects!

And above all, enjoy! It’s not worth collecting if it’s not fun!

A Yarn Lover’s Guide to Washington, DC

Today’s guide to yarn stores in DC is written by Jennifer Crowley, the designer/teacher/blogger at www.tinkingturtle.com.

Jennifer

Jennifer Crowley is a knit and crochet designer who teaches up and down the east coast. You can check out her designs on Ravelry. Recent and upcoming publications include Sockupied, Knitpicks and Classic Elite Yarns.

When not knitting or crochet, she can be often seen zipping around DC and the surrounding area on her bike.

So you are planning a trip to Washington, DC, and you want to visit some yarn stores while you’re there? Well, you are in luck. In addition to being a city full of cultural attractions, there are a number of yarn stores in DC, accessible by a combination of riding the Metro, bus, or walking. If you are fortunate to have a car, the access to yarn stores improves even more. Recent changes have meant that old yarn stores have closed, and new ones are joining the group this year, so it’s a great time to go and check them out.

When I first moved to DC, I didn’t have a car, and was entirely dependent on my bike and public transportation. I have firsthand experience about what stores are the easiest to get to, and in this quick tour I’ll highlight the ones that are accessible by public transportation.

Yarn stores in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

I think of the yarn stores in DC by region. In Maryland, there’s: Woolwinders (8), The Yarn Spot (5) and Knit & Stitch = Bliss (4). In DC, there’s Looped Yarn Works (1) and The Knitting Loft (2). And in Virginia, there’s: Fibre Space (3), Uniquities (7) and Aylin’s Wool Gatherer (6).

Disclaimer: I teach classes at Woolwinders, Fibre Space, and The Yarn Spot as a contract. I do not believe this influenced my review.

Looped Yarn Works

Looped Yarn Works (1) is located on the second story of a beautiful building near Dupont Circle Metro Station, about a 2 ½ block walk away. Looped offers a nice range of different priced yarns. One of the things I love about Looped is the amount of Natural light they have in the store. Susan and Janie, the owners, have put such careful work into making the space welcoming to customers, and are constantly featuring new activities, visiting authors and other events in the store.

Looped Yarn Store DC

How to get there: Looped is located on 1732 Connecticut Ave, NW #200 (remember, they’re on the second floor!) in Washington, DC. The best way to get there is by metro, as there isn’t that much parking in that area of town. Dupont Circle, located on the Red Line, is very close to the store.

The Knitting Loft

The Knitting Loft (2) is one of the newest yarn stores in DC, having opened in the Summer of 2013. As a new store, their selections of yarns are still expanding, but the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming when I stopped by over the summer. The great thing about this store, is they are wheelchair accessible and on the ground level. Located near the Eastern Market, the store is the perfect stop on a day of window shopping.

How to get there: The Knitting Loft’s address is 1227 Pennsylvania Ave Southeast, and is near both the Blue/Orange Line Metro. You can get to it from both the Eastern Market or Potomac Ave stops – both are about a 3 block walk away, though Potomac Ave is marginally closer. Parking, if you choose to drive, is a little bit easier to come by, but I think it’s still easier to metro in.

Fibre Space

Fibre Space (3) is the hip yarn store of Old Town Alexandria. They specialize in hand painted and hand dyed yarns, but have a good range of workhorse yarns too. Fibre Space offers a vibrant array of classes and great space to sit and knit. I always love checking out the window displays when I come to visit – they always have something creative put up! This last time I visited their window had a mannequin with a packed box of yarn – referring to the fact that in a few short weeks they’ll be moving around the corner to a new location that offers more space and versatility. It’ll be exciting to see how the store continues to expand!

Fibre Space Yarn Store Alexandria VA

How to get there: While technically in Virginia, Fibre Space is very accessible to DC and so it’s easy for tourists to visit. Fibre Space’s address is 102 North Fayette Street (for now) and is about 6 blocks from the King Street Metro. It’s a little bit of a walk, but under a mile, and it’s a pleasant walk at that, with lots of stores to widow shop. If you choose to drive, it’s easy to get off 495 and go straight up Route 1 (N Patrick St). You should consider parking along King, Prince, Duke or Queen Street, or any of the cross streets. Then walk to the store. Most parking is one or two hours – so be careful how much time you spend in any one place. If you are planning to make an afternoon out of looking around Old Town Alexandria, take the Metro and save yourself the worry.

The Yarn Spot

The Yarn Spot (5) is my personal “local yarn store” and until I moved this past year, I could easily walk to it in about five minutes. The Yarn Spot features two great places to sit and knit (a circle of couches and chairs and a table) and a friendly welcoming atmosphere. Yarn is arranged according to weight, with a middle section that rotates out different yarns that are being featured. They also have spinning supplies and fiber. With a knowledgeable staff – this is the perfect store to go to if you have a “knitting emergency” and need some help. They feature a wide range of yarns, from hand dyed yarns to workhouse yarns like Spud and Cloe Sweater and Encore.

Yarn Spot Wheaton, MD

How to get there: The Yarn Spot’s address is 11406a Georgia Ave, Wheaton, MD. Unfortunately, they are a bit hidden from the road, but if you look for “The Anchor Inn” sign, they are in the shopping center located behind the sign. The store has parking if you choose to drive, or it’s about a 1/2 mile walk from the Wheaton Metro to the store.

Woolwinders

Woolwinders (8) is one of my favorite yarn stores in DC for classes. They have very knowledgeable teachers and staff, and every time I go there I learn something new. They have a good selection of mid-range yarns, and highlight some really interesting higher range yarns. The last time I was there I appreciated their selection of Rowan Pattern books. I love how two of the walls of the store are windows, and how much natural light comes into the space. It really makes it easier to choose colors for my projects.

Wool Winders Yarn Store MD

How to get there: Woolwinders is a brisk walk from Shady Grove Metro Station – just under a mile. Located at 404 King Farm Blvd in Rockville, MD, this is also a good store to drive to, with plenty of parking street-side or behind the store.

Knit & Stitch = Bliss

Knit & Stitch = Bliss (4) is one of my favorite stores to go to if I’m looking for patterns or books. They have a really good selection, and a nice area to sit down and flip through all the books and patterns as you are deciding what to work on. Yarn selection runs from midrange to some nice high priced yarns, and they have a great selection of needles and notions. Located near the heart of Bethesda, there’s great shopping and restaurants nearby if you wish to make a short trip of going to the store and picking up dinner or lunch.

How to get there: Knit & Stitch = Bliss is located at 4706 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda MD. If taking the metro, walk West down Rockville Pike until you turn right on Bethesda Ave. If driving, there’s plenty of street parking available, and a few different parking lots if you don’t relish parallel parking.

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer and its compatriot, Uniquties, are both a bit harder to get to by public transportation, but still worth the visit.

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer (6) has the honor of being one of the longest running yarn stores in DC metro area, running upwards of 35 years. Specializing in offering a wide selection of mid-range yarns, including some nylon blends I haven’t noticed elsewhere, this store is a solid addition to the Metro DC Yarn stores. When shopping, prices are listed on sheets throughout the store.

How to get there: Aylin’s is a bit hidden from the street, being located on the third floor of a building (however, there’s an elevator!). Their address is 7245 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church, VA. However, when walking or driving to the store look for the Starbucks in Loehmann’s Plaza, and go around the corner. You’ll see a side entrance to the building; take the elevator to the third floor. The store is down the hall. If you have difficulty, call the store at 703-573-1900 – they are old hands at giving directions. As to transportation, this is one store where driving is definitely easier, though it is possible to take public transportation. If you ride the Metro to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station, you can then walk to the Temp Bay D (follow the signs). From there, you can catch the 1B bus towards Ballston Station. Get off at Arlington BV & Graham Rd, and walk towards Loehmann’s Plaza.

Uniquities

Uniquities (7) offers not only yarn to knitters and crocheters, but is one of my favorite stores to check out for their spinning supplies. One of the other things I love about the store is their separate class space, which makes taking classes very pleasant. I also love their yarn choices, with a stunning collection of sock and laceweight yarns, and a wide range of worsted and aran weights too. They carry some of my favorite yarn lines, like Mountain Colors, Blue Sky Alpacas and Manos Del Uruguay.

How to get there: Uniquties is also a store that is easier to drive to. They’re located at 421 Church Street Northeast, Vienna, VA. Driving, there’s a spacious parking lot to park at. If you are looking to take public transportation, take the Metro to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station, then walk to Bus Bay B. Take the 2T towards Tysons Corner and get off at R 123 Maple Ave & Beulah Rd. The store is a block away.

Want more stores?

While the eight yarn stores I’ve highlighted here are the easiest to get to via public transportation, there are a few others that deserve honorable mention.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Do you look for yarn shops wherever you travel? We’re also got a guide to yarn shops in Sydney, Australia, and a guide to yarn shops in Manhattan.

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.

Crafts in Vietnam

I saw oodles of great crafting on my trip to Vietnam! I’m going to give you an overview of some of the most popular crafts, as well as some resources and tips (whether you’re looking to purchase finished crafts or materials to do your own crafting!)

In general, Vietnam is a very poor country where the average worker doesn’t earn very much per hour. This means that you will be able to purchase incredibly beautiful handmade works of art, for much less than you would in the US or Europe (which have higher labor rates).

Vietnam is also a place where counterfeits and cheap imitations (both of finished items and materials) are abundant. So, use your best discretion when shopping.

Lacquerwork

Lacquerwork (or Lacquer Work/ Lacquerware) is an art form where a high-gloss lacquer is applied to wood, typically with a decorative mother-of-pearl inlay.

mother of pearl lacquer work in Vietnam

While the mother-of-pearl inlay is most popular, we visited a studio which created inlays with duck egg shells:

Lacquer work in vietnam egg shell

Bits of eggshell are applied, with tweezers, piece by piece to create the intricate design. After the design is completed, layers of lacquer are applied until a smooth finish is achieved.

lacquer work vietnam

To Visit

  • Tay Son Lacquerware: 198 Vo Thi Sau, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh. Studio and showroom.

Embroidery

Vietnam is home to stunning Silk Embroidery, where fine strands of silk are embroidered onto a canvas to create amazingly intricate designs:

Silk Embroidery vietnam

A piece can take months to complete, and since silk absorbs dye brilliantly, the final piece of work can be jaw-dropping.

Across the country, you’ll be able to find embroidery of varying levels of detail. There are many places selling embroidery pieces created with silk, but lacking the fineness of the top-notch silk embroidery studios.

Embroidery in action vietnam

For a low-priced souvenir item, you will also be able to find simple embroidery pieces. These are typically created with a thicker thread, featuring a less-intricate design and made for function:

embroidery in vietnam

While I discovered one little cart selling white silk thread, I was not able to find a shop that sold the lovely silk (already dyed) for personal crafting.

To Visit

  • XQ Siagon Silk Hand Embroidery: 37 Donk Khoi Str, Dist. 1, HCMC Studio and showroom for fine silk embroidery.
  • Da Lat Su Quan: 110 Hang Gai, Hanoi Studio and showroom for fine silk embroidery.
  • Tran Gia Huy: 66 Ton Duc Tang, Dong Da, Hanoi. Showroom for fine silk embroidery.

Sewing

If you’d like a tailor-made garment sewn for you, then Vietnam is your place. Particularly in cities like Hoi An, you can find a tailor that will custom-make clothing to your specifications in under 24 hours.

Sewing in Vietnam

For the crafter, there are ample supplies of fabric and notions in local markets (particularly in Hanoi and Saigon):

Fabric in market in Vietnam

However, you should take care when purchasing your fabric. I’m suspicious that the ‘Versace Wool/Cashmere blend’ I saw for a few dollars a yard was the real deal. Many of the fabrics and notions are imported from China, and you’ll need to stay on your toes to ensure that what you’re purchasing is actually a good deal. After all, you’d like your fabric to hold up after a few washes, right?

buttons

Knitting and Crocheting

Although I happened upon a few women knitting/crocheting on the streets, Vietnam is a very hot country… so you can imagine that the demand for scarves is rather low.

Yarn in Vietnam

I found yarn for sale in markets in major cities, but almost everything was acrylic (they even stocked Caron Simply Soft!). Even the ‘Advanced Cashmere’, after closer inspection, was actually acrylic.

Dyeing and Weaving

The ethnic minorities in the Northern Highlands grow hemp, spin it, dye it with indigo and weave it into fabric. Here’s a photo of some indigo I saw growing:

Indigo plant Sapa Vietnam

The ‘Black Hmong’ minority is named for the indigo-dyed clothing that they make and wear:

black hmong clothing indigo vietnam

At first, I was curious if the local women really made their own clothing… but then I spotted oodles of women spinning hemp into thread:

black hmong woman hemp

And a loom in a local home:

Loom in Vietnam

Isn’t it lovely to see such crafting at work?

You can purchase locally-made products from the minorities at markets in the hill-country around Sapa. As with much in Vietnam, use your best judgement when purchasing. I saw a vast amount of identical-looking pieces being sold for super-cheap that I predict were mass produced (elsewhere) for tourists). However, after a little shopping around, you can find some more genuine articles.

To Visit

  • Indigo Cat: 046 Fansipan Str, Sapa. Shop featuring locally-made crafts.
  • Indigo Store: 47 Hang Gai, Hanoi. Shop featuring ‘modern’ Indigo clothing.

Stonework

Ever seen those giant stone lions outside of an Asian temple? They have to be carved somewhere, right?

stone carving in vietnam
carving

We happened upon a place that carves huge carvings on the drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. If you aren’t looking to purchase an 8-foot-tall Budda, you’ll still be able to find lots of pieces of stone carving in shops around Vietnam.

If you’re lucky, you may even find a shop with works-in-progress!

Stone carving in progress

Cross-Stitch

Hands down, the most popular craft (judging my what I observed most often) is cross-stitch.

cross stitch in vietnam

I saw no completed cross-stitch pieces for sale, so it seems like the craft that women do for fun and use for personal display in their home (and not for selling).

I spotted a few cross-stitch kits at markets, so if that’s your craft, keep your eyes peeled!

So many crafts!

I found Vietnam to be lovely and really inspiring from a craft perspective. It’s a great chance to purchase a beautiful work of art for a reasonable price.

In terms of raw-materials to use for your crafting, supplies abound, but you’ll need to keep a keen eye out to make sure you’re getting quality materials.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my crafty-view of Vietnam… and take a peek at a few of the websites (or add some stops to your itinerary if you’re visiting!)

Best,
Stacey

House of Wool, Blackheath, NSW, Australia

House of Wool, Blackheath NSW Australia wool shop

I love traveling, and I love visiting yarn shops. It’s probably no surprise to you that I like to do both things at the same time!

I was delighted to hear about a new yarn shop, House of Wool, opening in rural New South Wales, Australia… which was directly on the road to my trip out to the country! Yippee!

House of Wool Yarn store Blue Mountains Australia

House of Wool is in Blackheath, a popular (and adorable) town in the Blue Mountains. It’s an area known for beautiful scenery… but it’s worth stopping in the towns to have a look at the shops, too!

house of wool yarn store in the blue mountains

The store just opened a few months ago, but it’s already obvious that it’s a fabulous place to be for yarn-lovers. It’s full of beautiful yarns (with a strong focus on local & eco-friendly yarns), has a full roster of classes available and sports a lovely interior.

Blackheath is about 2 hours outside of Sydney (you might also want to check out my guide to yarn stores in Sydney), and the scenery is worth the drive if you have time. It’s close to the famous ‘three sisters’ rock formation:

Three sisters blue mountains

Pretty, huh?

So, if you’re driving by (or scheming for a road-trip from Sydney), check out the House of Wool!

Are you looking for some fun yarn stores near you? Then check out my blog post on how to find yarn when you travel, and find some in your area!

7 tips for planning travel knitting & crochet projects

The holidays are a typical time for traveling. And of course, you don’t want to set out without a project… but picking the right project for your travels can be tricky. In this blog post, I’ll give you some tips for picking the right project for you, and I’ll give you a peek at the travel knitting projects I’m planning!

airplane

Tips for picking the right project, and preparations

  • Think about your travel itinerary. Are you going to spend most of your time chatting with family or are you going to be alone on a plane? Thinking about your situation will help you decide whether you want a mindless project or one that can hold your interest.
  • Keep size in mind. Especially if you’re traveling by plane, luggage weight & space is important. Choose your travel knitting project accordingly. I tend to pack a shawl, since one skein of fingering weight yarn is fairly compact.
  • Keep notions to a minimum. If possible, you’d like a project that only requires one needle size, to keep your supplies to a minimum. If you require a large number of needles, consider a compact set, like an interchangeable set.
  • Do gauge swatches and investigate techniques in advance. This is an extension of the previous point: you want to keep your pack small. So, go ahead and do your gauge swatch so you know what needle you need. Also, look up any tricky stitches and print your pattern in advance, so you’re ready to roll!
  • Think about your seating situation. Have you ever lost a double point needle under an airplane seat? Or do you get carsick reading a pattern in the car? These things matter! Plan accordingly.
  • Investigate yarn shops in advance. Is there a yarn shop where you’re going? Jot down the address even if you’re not planning on a visit. You’ll never know when you’ll need more yarn!
  • Bring a back-up project. I can never decide on just one project. It’s easy to get bored or get stuck. Bring a backup just in case.

My travel projects

Tomorrow, I’m departing for Australia, which involves a 2 hour drive to the airport, a 6 hour domestic flight, a 5 hour layover and a 14 hour flight over the Pacific. Talk about needing a travel knitting project, huh?

My first project is Spectra by Stephen West. It’s been in my faves forever, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve selected my two skeins of yarn:

Blue Yarns

I’ve even done a swatch! The pattern calls for two fingering-weight yarns. The multi-color yarn I’ve chosen is listed as a worsted, but it looks quite thin to me. Fortunately, a swatch reveals that the two will play together nicely:

gauge

My second project is the There and Back Again Socks, a lovely pattern given to me by my friend Hollie. I’ve picked two close-in-color yarns:

purple yarn

Socks are a great portable project, and the color changes will keep the pattern exciting.

For these projects, I’ll bring along a size 6 24″ circular and a size 1 9″ circular. (I love 9″ circular needles so much that I wrote a whole post about them here.) Not too much needle baggage!

Plus, if I run low on projects, I can pick up a new skein of sock yarn and either knit another shawl or pair of socks!

What are your travel tips?

Do you have any tried-and-true travel planning tips to share? I’d love to hear them!

Got yarn? How to find a yarn store when you travel!

As you know, I’m spending this weekend in Minneapolis. What’s the first thing I do when planning a trip? Scope out the yarn stores!

Today, I’ll show you my favorite sites for finding LYSs. In addition to being handy when you travel, you can even use these sites for finding a store near you!

Ravelry

Oh, I love Ravelry. You knew it was handy for finding patterns and yarns, but did you know it can help you find a yarn store, too?

Click on the ‘Yarn’ tab at the top of the main screen, then look below the list of yarns on the left:

Enter a city or zip code, and you’ll get a list of results!

Once the list of results comes up, you’ll want to go to the website to make sure that it’s actually a store. For example, since Ravelry contains a database of Indie Dyers, some of the listings that come up are for Etsy shops (and the dyer does live in the city), and there’s nothing for you to actually visit.

The results give you a street address and a link to the website, as well as the distance from the address you entered… so planning your trip is easy!

Knit Map

KnitMap is a site specifically designed for this purpose! In addition being a database of yarn stores, it allows you to search by features (like ‘open now’ or ‘has spinning supplies’) and read reviews of each shop.

When you enter the city you’re searching for, a list of yarn stores comes up as well as a map with the stores on it:

Click on ‘details’ to view the reviews for a store. Seeing the reviews can really help you decide if you should put a store on your ‘must see’ list… particularly if there are oodles in a city or if you’re wondering if an out-of-the-way shop is worth your time.

Planet Purl

Planet Purl also has a yarn shop directory, just click on ‘Yarn Shop Directory’ on the top toolbar:

Type in your city, and you’ll get results!

The downside to the Planet Purl results is that you only get the name of a shop, the address and phone number. There is no website listed for the shops, and they’re listed in alphabetical order (instead of distance from the center of the city), so for big cities, you’ve got a serious sorting problem on your hands.

The upside of Planet Purl is their travel guides. For a number of cities, bloggers have written a ‘yarn guide’ to the city, which can help you sort out the great spots to hit!

Where will you search?

Are you headed anywhere that’ll get you to put one of these sites to use? Or maybe you’d like to search around your hometown… you might find somewhere new!

The Truth about Knitting Needles on Airplanes

The question I see most often popping up on knitting/crochet discussion forums is:

Are knitting needles/crochet hooks allowed on airplanes?

There’s some helpful advice out there, but also a lot of advice that ranges from weird to just plain wrong. So, let’s clear it all up, shall we?

Today, I’ll talk about (and link to!) the actual travel regulations in various countries. I’ll also share helpful tips for traveling in countries without clear policies regarding knitting needles.

In this post, I’m going to say ‘knitting needles’ (for brevity), but I really mean ‘knitting needles and crochet hooks’, since I don’t know of any policies which specifically distinguish between the two types of tools.

Knitting needles on domestic flights in the USA

According to the TSA, knitting needles are permitted on domestic flights. You read it! That’s the word straight from the TSA blog.

And guess what? Many of your helpful tools are allowed, as well! Blunt-point scissors with blades less than 4″ long (think: child scissors) and tapestry needles are also permitted. What’s not allowed? Those circular thread cutters (which are erroneously rumored to be ‘airline safe’).

Click here to read the full list of prohibited items.

I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories that have you scared to bring your needles along. But it’s okay! Many of those stories occurred immediately after 2001, when the regulations were super-strict and not as clear-cut or consistent as they are today. If you’re still worried, scroll down and read my tips about how to carry your needles to attract the least attention.

Knitting needles on International flights

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but I’ll say it: if you’re planning an international flight, you’ll need to check the regulations in both the countries you’re visiting.

There are three types of countries:

  • Countries that officially state (in the flight regulations) that knitting needles are allowed. These include the US, the UK and Australia.
  • Countries that explicitly prohibit knitting needles on flights. (Greece and other countries in the EU fall into this category.)
  • Countries where the official policy states, “sharp objects are prohibited”. In these countries, the determination of what counts as ‘sharp’ is left to the security officer.

Not sure about a country’s policy? The easiest thing to do is Google “[name of country] prohibited items on flights”, and you’ll find the official website (usually) in the top 5 search results.

If you’re flying in between countries where knitting needles are permitted, but you’ve heard rumors about needles being taken away, it can’t hurt to print out the page that clearly specifies the policy, and carry it with you.

Tips for carrying knitting needles

Unfortunately, many countries fall into the third category: sharp objects aren’t allowed on board, but it’s unclear whether a knitting needle counts as ‘sharp’. In this case, you have two options:

  1. Play it safe, and put your knitting needles in your checked luggage.
  2. Put your needles in your carry-on luggage in a way that minimizes the possibility they will be viewed as threatening, taking the risk that they may be confiscated.

I’m not encouraging anyone to break the rules, so if knitting needles aren’t allowed, don’t bring them in your carry-on. However, keep in mind what the security agent’s job is: it’s to confiscate items that look threatening and could be used to harm others. If your knitting needles don’t look like they will harm others, then they’re less likely to get taken away. Makes sense, right?

Here are a few tips that will help your knitting needles look more ‘safe’:

  • Long, straight needles look scary. (I’m just being honest!) Try circular needles or double points.
  • Metal looks scary, too. Consider wood or plastic needles.
  • If you have a crochet hook or double points, put them in a pencil case with some pens and pencils. They’ll blend in.
  • If you have interchangeable needles, disconnect the tips from the cord. Store the tips in a pencil case (above) like you would double points.

Those are a few quick and easy tips. But that’s not all! I have two more tips that are so important that they’re too big to put in bullet points. Want to hear them?

Don’t bring anything you can’t stand to lose

Your pricey Signature needles? Leave them at home. A cashmere lace shawl (containing hundreds of dollars in yarn and hundreds of hours of work)? Don’t even think about it.

In the case where a security agent confiscates your ‘dangerous’ item, they may take the whole bundle… knitting included. You can try to negotiate for your knitting back, but there aren’t any guarantees.

Did I say ‘negotiate’? That brings me to another really important tip…

Be nice

I’m serious. I fly (domestically and internationally) really often. And since I don’t check my bags, I put lots of weird stuff in my carry on. A one-gallon lead-painted (i.e. x-rays can’t penetrate) sauerkraut crock? Yeah… I’ve done it!

The security agents aren’t trying to ruin your day. They don’t have the goal of making your flight boring and miserable. They have the very difficult job of analyzing thousands of pieces of luggage for dangerous items… by giving each piece of luggage a 5-second glance. They make mistakes.

I’ve been pulled aside often. The security agent asks about [whatever weird thing] I’m carrying. I politely and calmly explain its purpose. Remember, the agent is still judging how safe the item is.

What do you think the agent will do if you get hysterical and start yelling about how ‘it’s your right to carry on this item’? Uh… he’ll take the scary item away from you (the crazy person).

So, be nice.

There you go! Now you know the truth about traveling with knitting needles!

Do you have any travel plans or stories? Do share!

A Yarn Lover’s tour of NYC (with pickle detour!)

Like me, my friend, Ellen, is a yarn-lover. And an all-around crafty-chick.

So, when it came time for Ellen to visit New York City for the very first time, I knew I needed to include the best yarn shops in Manhattan on our tour.

Map of favorite yarn shops in Manhattan, New York City

I admit it: this isn’t a guide that hits every yarn store in the city. If you’re a New York-native, it’s probably too touristy of a walk for you.

What this guide will give you is an amazing day’s journey around mid-town and lower Manhattan, with lots of eye-candy for the crafty person. (And… just because I’m obsessed- you’ll notice a small pickle detour you should feel free to add-on!)

This walk begins from Grand Central Station, and proceeds as follows: walk West on 42nd st, turn left (and head South) on 6th Ave. Turn left (head East) on 15th Street and then turn right (going South) on 5th Ave. Turn left (heading East) on Broome St., then left (to head North) up Broadway. The pickle lover’s detour heads East on Houston, South on Essex and loops back to Broadway (then continue North to rejoin the walk instructions). Head North on Broadway (eventually hopping onto 5th) will take you back up to 42nd! The walk is approximately 9 miles.

1: Kinokuniya

address: 1073 6th Avenue

Kinokuniya is a Japanese book store (read my review of its Sydney branch in this post). Why is a Japanese book store on my yarn-lover’s tour? Because Japanese craft books are amazing! Check out this adorable needle felting book I bought:

So cute! The best part is that you don’t have to know Japanese to enjoy these books: they’re amazingly well illustrated and the knitting/crochet books are charted. So, with a little previous experience (of knitting/crochet/needle felting) and some effort- this whole new world of books is available to you!

2: M&J Trimmings

address: 1008 6th Avenue

This shop is a wonderland of trimmings: buttons, edgings, closures… whatever you need to finish off a knitting/crochet project in style will be here!

3: Habu Textiles

address: 135 W 29th St # 804

This stop is a block off of our walk down 6th avenue, but well worth it. Habu is known for its unique and interesting yarns. And even though you’ll occasionally find it in yarn stores, nothing’s like visiting the actual shop!

4: Container Store

address: 629 6th Avenue

Okay… this may not be terribly exciting for many folks in America, but Ellen is from Nova Scotia, and they don’t have the container store. And if you’re going to be buying yarn, you need to organize it, right?

For those who have never been, the Container Store is a magical world of boxes and organizational gadgets that you never knew you needed… until now.

5: Lion Brand Studio Store

address: 34 W 15th St

(Read a full review of the store in this blog post)

If all you think about when you hear ‘Lion Brand’ is cheap big-box store yarn, this store will seriously surprise you! This is the only store where you can visit Lion Brand’s ‘LB Collection’: an exclusive line of luxury yarns.

Lion Brand Studio Store - one of the nicest yarn shops in Manhattan

Combine the exclusive yarn line with beautiful (and ever-changing) art displays and samples and a comforting LYS-atmosphere… and you’ve got one of the nicest yarn shops in Manhattan.

6: Purl Soho

address: 459 Broome Street

(Read a full review of the store in this blog post)

I love Purl Soho. And Ellen loves their blog… so it was a must-see on our list.

Purl Soho - one of the loveliest yarn shops in Manhattan

It’s beautiful. It’s well-stocked with delish yarn AND fabric. It’s also filled with irresistible samples (the visit inspired me to add their Wedding Shawl to my queue).

Purl Soho is one of the loveliest yarn shops in Manhattan – the main reason our walk extends down into Lower Manhattan. It’s worth the walk! You’ll also probably like shopping around the rest of SoHo, too.

7: Katz’s Deli

address: 205 East Houston Street

(Just so you don’t get corrected by locals, the street is pronounced ‘HOWs-ten’, even though it looks like the Texas city).

Katz’s is a legend (and wonderful pickles come with their sandwiches)… which gives it the first spot on my ‘pickle detour’. And, come on… you have to eat, don’t you?

Try a yummy corned beef sandwich (or my fave, the Reuben), and don’t be alarmed by the zany ticketing/ordering system. Go with the flow, and you’ll be fine. Besides, you may even spot someone famous! (I saw Tommy Hilfiger last time I visted!)

8: The Pickle Guys

address: 49 Essex St # B

Like I said, I love pickles. So, if you’re like me, The Pickle Guys is the place to visit.

There’s more than just pickled cucumbers, here… I bought some pickled garlic and pickled mango. Delicious!

I admit, the biggest flaw on this walk is planning to look at food after you’ve just had an enormous sandwich at Katz’s. My advice: forget that your stomach is bursting, and stock up on pickles for later. You won’t regret it.

9: Chinatown

Chinatown isn’t really a stop, but a fabulous place to walk through. Filled with interesting markets, restaurants and stores, it’s a real delight. Besides, it’s on the way, so why not enjoy?

10: Farmer’s Market

address: Union Square

The farmer’s market at Union Square is really fabulous: on my most recent visit, I spied an ostrich egg (!), local NY wines, cheeses and countless other yummies. You might also want to pop into Eataly, an Italian-style market that’s nearby.

Aside from these stops, enjoy the walk up Broadway and 5th! There’s lots to see!

Enjoy your visit!

Of course, this walk is only a tiny part of New York City, but it was a bite-sized chunk that Ellen and I could tackle in one day. We were back on the train, heading home by 7pm.

What are your favorite yarn shops in Manhattan?

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.