Posts Tagged: 'knitting'

Making Kitchen Cleaning Fun Again

Confession: I enjoy cleaning. I treasure tidying. Putting possessions in their proper places provides a domestic bliss I have savored for years.

But the kitchen? After several hours of cooking – or even a quick dinner of tacos or spaghetti – how much to charge for cleaning is what leaves on everyone’s mind. It leaves something to be desired. The spills and splatters that adorn our kitchen counter (check the Renew here), cabinets, and (yes) the floor require a Herculean strength … especially on weeknights.


Cleaning with something pretty and charming, in bright colors and soft textures, can lighten my stress of keeping our kitchen clean. Which is why, after discovering Lion Brand Yarn’s Kitchen Cotton, I spent a recent weekend knitting a handful of washcloths.


You have to keep your kitchen beautiful after getting it renovated by a renovation company. With my trusty US 10 knitting needles and around forty stitches (or so) to start, I knitted at a relaxed and casual pace. I used some of my (well-worn) washcloths as a guide on size. In just a few hours’ time, I had a new set of colorful, handmade washcloths that are easy to use, delightful to display, and make for great gifts.

They wash up beautifully and are ideal for all the cleaning that comes with the kitchen. And the cotton yarn is a much better choice versus its wool counterparts.


Our good friends, Lowell and Diane of St. Joseph, Missouri, recently hosted our extended family for an overnight’s stay. What better way to thank them for their hospitality and truly SPECTACULAR wine selection than with a knitted washcloth of their very own.


Editor’s note: This blog post was published in collaboration with Lion Brand Yarn. Follow Lion Brand Yarn on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube for more knitting inspiration. 

The Resurgence of Handmade

Colorful skeins of yarn have slowly, seemingly effortlessly taken up residence in my home. I can’t quite pinpoint when my casual interest in knitting transformed to a full-time hobby. But I can tell you that, on likely a subconscious level, I had grown increasingly weary of digital devices and can’t-quite-touch data that seemed to dominate my hands at any given hour.


And I began referring to my home office as my craft room.


My mother-in-law taught me to knit. After observing her pass the time using a craft whose hallmark is repetition, I slowly began practicing this time honored tradition. A year later, I’m happy to have gifted a number of knitted pieces to family members and friends, proud enough of mastering the basic techniques of casting on, the knit stitch, changing colors, and casting off.


The weights and textures and rainbow of colors at any craft store or website is easy on the eye. I experience a sublime sense of calm while circling my hands around a chunky wool yarn or a more sleek and thinner variety. (Yes, I’ve even rubbed the yarn on my face while shopping. It’s true!)


Inspiration for new knitted pieces – largely scarves, wraps, coasters, and small blankets – surface in a number of places. A color combination might catch my eye at the grocery store, such as the pinks and yellows of Easter candy. I tend to turn the colors around in my head the same way I might a peppermint in my mouth, until I locate the colors of yarn that mimic those same pleasing, pastel hues.


>> Continue reading my latest essay, “The Resurgence of Handmade,” at COOP, an online lifestyle publication produced by Birdhouse Interior Design.



Light, Warmth of Heartland Yarn

So long as the howling winds and sub-zero wind chills of this Nebraska winter stick around, my knitting needles remain full and in motion. While I’m drawn to the pastel hues of pinks and yellows, an obvious eagerness for spring, there’s still a satisfying comfort with countless cozy yarns.


Last month I shared the results of using Lion Brand Yarn’s newest yarn, Unique. And although we’re already a month out from Christmas, I wanted to share one of my most favorite gifted items of this past holiday season: a blue scarf for my brother-in-law Ben.




As I hinted around for Ben’s Christmas list, he mentioned that he needed a new scarf. Given the fact that I’m an avid knitter (taught to knit, as luck would have it, by Ben’s mom), I was more than happy to craft a warm scarf in his favorite color: blue.


It would be my first time using Lion Brand’s Heartland yarn (I picked a very pretty and very patriotic color: Olympic) and I was curious about the final product. The lighter weight allowed for a more detailed scarf, showing off the dazzling blues throughout the piece.



I have taken for granted the quickness with which I can knit a basic scarf using a thicker yarn (hence the name, Wool-Ease Thick & Quick). The Heartland yarn takes a bit longer to knit, but the scarf is no less lovely (if I do say so myself).


Just ask Ben, who so kindly agreed to show off his Christmas gift before we took down our tree earlier this month.


Anyone who knows Ben knows that he just loves the camera, as you
can so easily tell. His expressions are truly priceless!


Is it any wonder he and Matt are radio personalities and comedians? We spend a considerable amount of time in stitches (pun intended!), as you might imagine.


But back to the yarn: I could easily envision using several skeins of colorful Heartland yarn to knit a blanket or oversized throw. It would be great to have in the winter, but also during the warmer months when a lighter blanket will do.


The best part of knitting and crafting in general: my to-do list continually grows!


One of the other knitting highlights of the holidays was a handmade gift I received from my equally creative husband, Matt. We call it the Yarn Barn: a wooden box designed to hold my knitting projects and needles while effortlessly feed the yarn I’m using. I can easily work on two projects at once without the hassle of yarns getting tangled. And when I’m ready to take a break? I simply close the lid.


Every knitter needs a Yarn Barn!






Editor’s note: This blog post was published in collaboration with Lion Brand Yarn. Follow Lion Brand Yarn on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube for more knitting inspiration. 



Colorful Stitches for Christmas

Since learning to knit late last year, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to begin knitting pieces for family and friends. (Well, OK. Let me stop right there. Even more exciting than knitting is shopping for yarn. Am I right? So many colors! And textures! And weights! Honestly, my head becomes a just a little dizzy thinking about it.)


But back to the knitting. By the time I mastered the standard knit stitch, it was nearly Valentine’s Day, which meant any knitted gifts for Christmas would have to wait another ten months. So I perfected the basics and my technique, stockpiled yarn to the point of hoarding, subscribed to a million knitting blogs and email newsletters, and yes, even opened the virtual doors to a modest online shop through Etsy.




Fellow knitters, crafters, and DIY-ers can understand my delight when, earlier this year as July became August and the days grew longer, I slowly began planning my knitted gifts for the Christmas season. Given the fact that Christmas is only five days away and I’m fairly certain the recipients of my handiwork read my blog, I’ll keep my lips sealed on the details of the aforementioned gifts. (For now.)


However, I can tell you that after grabbing my eyeglasses each morning I immediately reach for my knitting needles. The past few weeks they’ve rarely been empty. When I’m not knitting, I find myself thinking about knitting.




It’s a wonderful way to relax, unwind, and ignite my creativity. Just shopping for yarn provides enough motivation that I often leave Hancock Fabrics, Michel’s, Hobby Lobby, and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft with multiple projects on my to-knit list. When I learned about Lion Brand Yarn’s new Unique yarn, I was drawn by the variety of color and pattern just one skien effortlessly provides.




I began experimenting with a basic scarf. The Unique yarn provided a lighter weight than my trusted Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, but with a gorgeous variety of hues. Rarely have I knitted with needles smaller than US 11, so I was skeptical how the final product would look. Now that my Unique (pun intended) scarf is complete, I couldn’t be happier. The ombre effect is beautiful, the texture is soft, the weight is light, and the stitches are flawless. The red/maroon/navy combination is perfect for the bolder colors of winter; however, I’m eager to try Unique’s other colors in the coming months.




Next month I’ll provide an overview of Lion Brand’s other newer yarn, Heartland.

What’s on your crafting table in these final days before Christmas?


Editor’s note: This blog post was published in collaboration with Lion Brand Yarn. Follow Lion Brand Yarn on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube for more knitting inspiration. 


Knever Stop Knitting

It’s the holiday season, which means my fingers (when not texting or scrolling) have been busy knitting.


Can you keep a secret? A handful of family members will find knitted pieces under the tree this year. Which means shopping for yarn has never been more gratifying or adventurous.


There, I said it: shopping for yarn is an adventure!


Then there are the pieces I’m knitting for charity, those for close friends, and the orders from my Etsy shop.


I’m finding (and sharing) color, texture, and design inspiration from Pinterest, #knitting, and Instagram, of course, but also in the countless catalogs clogging my mailbox. It’s a sensory-overload time of year, yet I couldn’t be happier.


And speaking of good cheer, I’m excited to mention another partnership with Lion Brand Yarns. You may recall Lion Brand’s involvement earlier this year when I hosted an afternoon of newbie knitters.


Next month I’ll try my (knitting) hands at two of Lion Brand’s newest yarns, Unique and Heartland. Unique’s colorful tweed design has kept my wheels turning on a number of potential projects.


Watch for my post next month with a snapshot of my finished products.


‘Tis the season for everything handmade and DIY. Even the simplest and least expensive projects can make the best gifts. What are you crafting this month?



Matching Wits with Julie and The Knits

Not long after I discovered the joy of knitting did I stumble upon the blog Julie and The Knits. Twitter, Pinterest, Google searches (and the like) introduced me to a number of crafty knitters, Julie Picard being among them.


Julie, a native of France, has used the web to share her truly adorable creations far and wide. Most recently, Julie’s knitted works have been lovingly featured in Gathered by Mollie Makes, a weekly iPad magazine on all things crafty and creative. (Yes, I’m a satisfied Gathered subscriber and eager julie-picard-polaroidreader!)


After following Julie from afar and exchanging knitting tips via social media, I realized there was plenty more I wanted to know about this fellow knitter from across the pond.


>> Also! One lucky reader will receive Julie’s custom knitted name accent, as featured in her Etsy shop. To win, simply comment below, being certain to include your email address and/or social media links. One winner will be selected at random. The giveaway closes on Friday, July 12. Good luck!


WT: Tell us a little bit about you and your background: where you grew up and where you call home.

JP: My name is Julie Picard and I live in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. I was born in France and grew up in Normandy then 8 years ago, while I was studying English at Uni, I was offered a teaching job in the UK. It was supposed to be short term experience but I loved living in the UK so much that I decided to stay! France will always be home though and I miss my family and friends a lot – and of course the food!


What sparked your interest in knitting?

I first learned how to knit with my grandma who used to make me and my brother awesome Tintin and Astérix jumpers. I’ve always loved crafts and used to be an activity leader – I taught children how to make salt dough modelling, paper mobiles, jewelry, etc. – so ‘handmade’ has always been in my life. I picked up my knitting needles again a few years ago and have not left them out of my sight since! I work in social media and spend so much time in the virtual world these days that it feels good to go back to a traditional craft at the end of the day.




What is it about knitting that keeps you creating new patterns and new pieces?

The whole creation process is so personal and fulfilling – from having an idea for a new knit vaguely taking form in my head to seeing the finished product on someone. I’m not one to follow traditional patterns you get from the yarn shop – I find this boring! I try to come up with unusual ways of using wool. Original items such as the heart-shaped coasters and the knitted words are usually what catch people’s attention. The interest from my family, friends, and colleagues has been so positive and encouraging that it makes me want to try even harder! I also love when my customers challenge me to make something completely different, it’s so inspiring.




Where do you go to be creatively inspired?

I simply get inspired by the things I love most in life. I love animals and my little dog Spike is a great source of inspiration as well as the perfect model for my pet accessories. Fashion accessories, fabrics, and homeware also give me new ideas – I love browsing Pinterest and blogs. My other big love is Japan and I find the kawaii culture fascinating! Cute and quirky things make me happy. We might all own the same plant pot from Ikea, but mine has a rainbow cozy on it.




I discovered you via the Gathered iPad magazine. How did the relationship begin? And how has your knitting business and blog grown since then?

When I launched Julie And The Knits in 2012, I set up a Facebook page and used my Instagram account to show my work in progress. Instagram is my favourite platform, my visual journal and I have met the most amazing and sweet creative people on there. One day the editor from Gathered got in touch via Instagram and asked me to create a tutorial for one of my bow headbands and that’s how the relationship began. Mollie Makes is such an incredible magazine and I am honoured to feature in their iPad app.


Writing tutorials was such an exciting experience that I decided to create a blog – something I’ve always wanted to do but was too busy/lazy/didn’t know where to start – I’m loving it so far! I’m planning on creating more tutorials for my blog in the future and have been showcasing creative people that I love as well. It’s so important to support each other in the creative world. It means a lot to me and I’m so grateful that you asked me to feature on your blog, Wendy!




What’s your favorite comfort food?

Cheese and baguette. So cliché but oh so true!


What three books have you recently read?

I recently finished The Hunger Games trilogy and can’t wait for all the movies to come out now! I’ve also been reading Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff, a collection of writings about rock music, which I’m a big fan of. I’m now reading a shojo manga called Vampire Knight. A varied bunch, basically.


Any final thoughts?

I love discovering new creative people and writing about them on my blog. So if you’re reading this and make anything cute or quirky, feel free to get in touch!


A Gathering of Newbie Knitters

Knitting and I have become the very best of friends since my mother-in-law showed me the ropes in December. Since then, knitting has evolved into a craft, hobby, and opportunity to gift pieces for family and friends.


Connecting with other knitters around the world (thanks to Google, Instagram, and Twitter) has been a lovely byproduct. When seeking inspiration for a new style of scarf, pot holder, coaster, or even a blanket, I grab my iPhone or my iPad and start searching.


Sharing the progress of my pieces has been another great way to connect with knitters half-a-world away. Yet with the reach social media provides, it’s often easy to forget that friends and family mere miles away are knitters, too.


And if they’re not, they’re eager to learn.


That was the case earlier this spring. Updates and photos of my latest knitting projects yielded not only likes and kind comments, but requests to learn this longstanding craft. The more I thought about my small circle of knitters – at the time it only included my mother-in-law and my cousin – the more I realized that an increase of local knitters could mean more inspiration and more gatherings. (And if tasty snacks and beverages accompanied our little knitting parties, all the better.)


Which is why, last Saturday, I opened my home to a handful of lovely local ladies who yearned to learn how to knit.


We began with the basics: understanding the relationship between knitting needles and yarn, casting on, and the common knit stitch. (Well, actually, we began with a few nibbles and refreshments that my cousin, Shannon, and I discovered on Pinterest: corn dip, party popcorn, white sangria, along with chocolate and vanilla macaroons from Trader Joe’s.)


The knitting lesson began after snacks were shared and introductions were made. Two of my friends knitted once before but suffered, as Beth comically described it, “knitting amnesia.” After a few starts and stops, my friends (and now, fellow knitters) were helping each other learn, stitch by stitch.


I was struck by the contrast of it all. While my twenty- and thirty-something friends texted and tweeted during our get-together, they (and I) were forced to put down our phones to learn a craft that easily dates back hundreds of years.


From the excitement of learning and the talk of new knitting projects, I’m pleased to report that my cozy knitting circle has now grown by six. Later in the evening on Saturday, I delighted in seeing tweets and photos that displayed the progress of my fellow knitters. It seems they have thus far found success and even caught the knitting bug. Further proof that it’s truly contagious, in the best way possible.




























Editor’s note: I wish to extend a special thank you and round of applause (when I’m not knitting, of course) to Lion Brand Yarns, the sponsor of today’s blog post. Lion Brand Yarns provided each newbie knitter with needles, two skeins of their signature Thick & Quick Yarn, a tape measure, and a tote bag. Lion Brand Yarns is a wonderful resource for new and seasoned knitters alike. Follow @lionbrandyarn on Twitter, subscribe to their blog, and connect with the company on Facebook and Pinterest.


Knitting by Wendy is Open on Etsy

Of the five sets of knitting needles that I own, at least two are occupied with a project at any given time. Bundles of soft, colorful yarn sit in piles throughout my home office. A scarf here, a coaster or pot holder there. Just this morning I stopped by the post office to mail two separate knitting orders.


What joy this small, quiet, and unobtrusive craft has created!


After hearing from many of you, I spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon and opened my first Etsy shop. Knitting by Wendy currently has four styles in stock, but more will be added as I continue knitting … and knitting and knitting.


It’s spring in Nebraska and it should be in the sixties and seventies. But today? It’s rainy, windy, raw. Highs in the mid-thirties are forecast, along with snow — yes, snow! — on Thursday. Seems as though cozy knitted scarves may be worn just a bit while longer.


And now, a few snapshots of what’s filled my knitting needles these past few weeks.


Say Hello to Purl Soho

In the past few months, knitting has quickly become a hobby-turned-passion-turned-obsession. There’s something about the serenity, relaxation, and creativity that this craft provides at literally any hour of the day, any day of the week.


I have mastered the traditional (and most common) knit stitch, finishing a number of soft, colorful scarves for family members and friends. Coasters quickly followed, a small and quick project that looks adorable when bundled together and tied with a ribbon.


Hobby LobbyMichaels, and Mangelsen’s have become the holy trinity of my knitting sanctuaries in Omaha. Hours spent wandering the yarn aisles, reflecting on the possible projects, and touching every skein are nearly as enjoyable as knitting itself.


Yet the internet, as we all well know, brings forth limitless possibilities of anything. A few searches on Pinterest, Google, and Twitter yielded a bevy of knitting blogs, knitting groups, and knitting retailers. (Needless to say, my Feedly account has never been more plentiful with inspiration.)



In the links and links I clicked and saved, I discovered Purl Soho. From its branding alone, I was hooked. Purl Soho is a boutique knitting shop in New York that appears as friendly and charming as it is inspirational.


While planning my next knitting project, I sent a quick email to Purl Soho, requesting a yarn recommendation. Within a few hours, their reply sat in my inbox, including links to their yarns. Success!


Earlier today my first Purl Soho order arrived on my doorstep: two skeins of Super Soft Merino in Yellow Yellow, one skein of Baby Alpaca Chunky in Poppy, and Straight Bamboo Knitting Needles, size 13.


The Poppy yarn will be made into the heart coasters. As for the Yellow Yellow? Possibly a scarf or a few more heart coasters.


What are you knitting? What’s on your project list for the spring? I’d love to learn more!










Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of One Sheepish Girl and Purl Soho.

Awash in Colorful Yarn

Blog posts last week were light for two reasons. One, I wanted to focus your eyes on my first blog reader survey. The feedback I collected was thoughtful, honest, and detailed. Thanks to everyone who participated.


And a special congratulations to the winner of the $20 Starbucks gift card: Laura Shelton of The LBeau Room!


The other reason? In a word: knitting. Around the holidays I asked my mother-in-law to teach me the ins and outs of knitting. And since then, with plenty of practice, patience, and YouTube videos, I have mastered the basics! My first piece, a simple gray scarf, was quickly followed by scarves and coasters for family and friends.


The traditional knit stitch is what I now know best; however, the more intricate purl stitch is next on my list to tackle. Along with an eternity scarf and, if I’m lucky, a small throw.




I continue collecting and following knitting blogs, including The Purl BeeMaxwell HandmadeMadalynneCherry HeartCraftsy, and, of course, Ravelry. These varied blogs not only offer ideas and inspiration  but the motivation I need to knit every day, improving this little craft of mine that has evolved into quite the hobby.


What’s more: knitting is relaxing and creative. And as someone who loves showing my appreciation to others, it has become a very handmade effort for thanking (and surprising!) family and friends both near and far.

Editor’s note: Photo courtesy of Michael Connors.