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This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Ever since I saw Valleyviolet’s Pony Pattern collections, I’ve wanted to make one. I finally bought the collection in order to make the Pink Fluffy Unicorn mascot for Quelab (who is apparently MIA right now, likely stolen by the same person who vandalized the room sign; much sadness. She was a lot of work!), but I didn’t want to jump right into fighting with fun fur, and I’m fortunate enough to know a little girl of around the right age to enjoy a pony, so…


Custom my little pony for V


I went with blue and stars not out of any particular reason other than I liked the way the two fabrics looked together. The recipient’s young and lives far away from me, so I don’t know much about her preferences yet! However, I *do* know that her mom’s a mathematician and that her dad would like me to be a science role model for her. So the pony came with a book:


Custom my little pony for V


The book, as you can’t quite see in that photo, is “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős.” I was super excited when I first heard of it, as it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a rather famous mathematician. One of the things he did was travel the world, collaborating with mathematicans all over the place. Mathematicians sometimes talk about their Erdős Number, which indicates degrees of collaborators on your published papers leading back to the man himself. (I published a paper with someone who’s number is 2, so mine is 3, a number worthy of bragging about at math parties!). My Calculus prof, an excellent storyteller, used to tell us tales of Erdős at the end of class sometime, and I was totally enchanted to hear more of them through the book. And the art works a lot of careful math and real people into the story, which is amazing. I also love that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a man who couldn’t do his own laundry but helped do so much math that people were willing to welcome him into their homes.


The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life…
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)


I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a kid in your life who could use a gift!


It’s also a kind of funny pairing with this pony, as some folk have this theory that one of the My Little Ponies with somewhat similar colouring also really likes math. Not an intentional joke on my part, but I’ll take it!


So back to the pony construction…


Much like how representations of humans can have an uncanny valley effect if things are close but a little off, my experience is that this is a pattern that can go kind of horribly wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. I originally sewed her head on in a weird way and was totally disappointed with the end result. I wasn’t even going to give it to V, it was so awful. I didn’t even take pictures (which is a shame in hindsight because the comparison was so striking). But after ruminating a while, I tried again, and with her nose tipped up just so, she got the curious look I was hoping for.


Custom my little pony for V


Valleyviolet’s instructions are very detailed and clear, and there’s a lot of work put into the shaping that really shows in the final product. There’s also just a lot of thought put into the instructions. I’ve actually never worked with a pattern that was so careful about explaining things, and I’ve got to say the patterns are worth every penny as a result. You can can buy her pony patterns here, and I promise you can make much more polished ponies than I did!


Custom my little pony for V


I think when I do my next one, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about marking the notches and just generally careful about the stitching. I also need to invest in some heavier weighting for her legs since, as you can see, she doesn’t quite keep all four feet on the floor sometimes. (This was right after she came out of my suitcase from my flight to Ottawa, though, so I can’t blame her for looking a bit disheveled!)


Custom my little pony for V


I don’t know how much the recipient cared for the pony, and to be honest she’s a bit young for the book yet, so I didn’t win any gift giving awards here, but it was fun to do and I really loved the pattern.


I think I’m going to try out the shoulder pony pattern next, once I find some suitable beanbag filling!

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This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This month, I joined a yarn subscription club that No One Talks About on the Internet. So of course, I’m going to talk about it on the internet. I hope I’m not breaking some unspoken rule by telling you about it. Oh heck, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be pleased if I broke some rule. Knowledge for all!


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


First, though, let’s back up to how I wound up joining this club. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of yarn subscriptions.


On the plus side:

+ Surprise yarn!

+ Trying new things!

+ Learning about new dyers and mills and whatever!

+ Getting some patterns to inspire me!

+ And having enough yarn to complete the projects!


But on the down side:

– Most of the boxes are moderately expensive. Around $40/month is pretty normal, and you can pay much more.

– … so if you hate what you get, you’re going feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money

– I don’t think I actually use 2+ skeins of yarn every month, so it’s going to start to pile up


Some pricing:

Knitcrate has 6 subscription types, ranging from $22.50 for 5 minis/month to $65/month for indie yarns. Likely subscription for me would have been $55 for an intermediate/advanced box.

Yarnbox: $35.95/month, more for the luxe version (presumably)

There are lots of others, but those were the two that came up the most.


In the course of doing some research about options, I encountered Yarn of the Month, which sends out little teensy yarn samples instead of full skeins. Because it’s only a taste of yarn rather than a full meal, it rings in as a $9.25/month subscription (less if you get a few months at once). That hits that sweet spot on subscription boxes for me, where it’s easy to write off a bad month and won’t result in rapidly growing pile of stuff in my life. I’d miss out on some of the advantages, in exchange I’d basically wipe out all the disadvantages I listed, and instead miss out on extras that fancier boxes throw in. (That’s actually kind of a shame because I haven’t been knitting long enough to acquire a lot of the small tools that show up as extras!)


What finally pushed me to the decision brink was the assertion that you’d be able to do little 5 inch swatches from your teeny yarn balls, and put them together to have a blanket at the end of the year. So it wouldn’t even be a pile of craft clutter when I was done admiring them, and I’d be motivated to actually *use* the yarn. Awesome!


The problem is, I couldn’t find pictures of the yarn, the swatches, or even many people talking about this club. It was a giant social media void. I could find pictures for yarnbox, pictures for knitcrate, pictures for random yarn of the month clubs on etsy… but only a few forum stale threads for Yarn of the Month.


What to do? I contemplated for a bit, then figured I could afford to try it out and see what happened. But in the interest of helping others, I was darned well going to post some pictures when (if?) I actually got a shipment!


So here’s a review. Hopefully the lack of posts about the yarn is a lack of social media marketing rather than a sign that I have paid money into some sort of mysterious yarn cult that will be upset at this breach of unspoken social etiquette.


First, let me show you the yarn again on a different background to give you a sense of colour:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


I guess February was kind of red themed for valentine’s day.


Not pictured: the February Socks pattern from Birgitte Zeuner and instructions for 3 square swatches. Frankly, they’re printed on thin US letter paper and just not that attractive as a photography subject after being mooshed through the mail. Totally legible, but I might have invested in stiffer paper if I were running YOTM.


February Socks by Birgitte Zeuner


The February Socks pattern looks cute enough. I would have liked better pictures, but obviously I can find them on Ravelry so that works out.


Unfortunately, having just finished my first pair of adult socks, I’m not actually that excited about starting another one, so I think this is getting shelved indefinitely. I’m going to have to find a binder I can put these in! Maybe I’ll find a friend who’s super excited about this and I can pass it on, though.


Angora Lace


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Angora Lace

“Luxurious with a delicate bloom”

6.5 sts/inch on US 2

50% Merino Superwash 20% Angora 30% Nylon

462 yds Color: 102


This is soft and lovely in the ball as one would expect for Angora, and quite pleasant to knit with. It’s not fluffy and doesn’t seem to shed (ask me about my experience knitting pure angora bunny fur sometime) but instead just results in beautifully soft yarn. It’s tightly wound enough that it doesn’t split on those little size 2 needles, and it held up to some unknitting as I tried to end my swatch as close to the end of the ball as possible and mis-calculated.


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


It’s not the easiest thing to photograph since it is subtly fluffy and catches the light a lot, but that’s only annoying for the purposes of this post and not in general. (Actually, I’d totally be into anti-photography yarn… I should work on that with some retroreflective stuff.)


The swatch pattern provided uses double-wrapped knitting stitches, a technique I hadn’t tried but a video tutorial wasn’t too hard to find. I actually usually prefer non-video tutorials, but this one is short and clear. You put the needle through as if to knit then wrap the yarn twice instead of once around and knit those, leaving two loops on. then when you come across it in the next few rows, you don’t bother trying to keep those doubled but instead slip stitch through them, leaving you with one longer stitch floating over the fabric.


Here’s one regular vs one weirdly processed photo to show you the floating stitches:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The finished piece is super soft and pretty light. I suspect it'd be pretty warm, but it's hard to tell with just a swatch!


Saki Bamboo


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Saki Bamboo

“Soft and yummy with great stitch definition”

7 sts/inch on US 0

50% Merino Superwash 25% Nylon 25% Rayon from Bamboo

230 yds Color: 203


This one feels great in the ball, all silky smooth, but I found it actually a bit odd to work with. While I’m knitting it, it has that sort of squeaky/roughish feel that I associate with some acrylics, even though the finished piece feels nice.


I was so pleased when I figured out the swatch pattern:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


I’m thinking that I might see if I can incorporate this into the hem of a baby sweater in the near future. I’m not sure I’d buy this yarn, though. It wasn’t hard to work with and it does as promised have great stitch definition, but with so many yarns in the world “feels a little weird to knit” is enough to drop it off my personal to-buy list. I’ve never knit with bamboo before so I don’t know if that’s a function of the fiber or if I just didn’t love this particular blend, but I suspect the latter so maybe I’ll try some other bamboo blends out.


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


And finally here is is, blocking on my chair, so you can see the repeats better:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The finished, blocked piece is smooth and very light, so it might be a great for summer knits. To be honest, I like the stitch pattern best when it’s a single row, but the swatch was still fun to do!


Saki Silk


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Saki Silk

“Beautiful, subtle sheen and drape”

7 sts/inch on US 2

55% Fine Merino 25% Nylon 20% Silk

440 yds Color: 305


Silk blend yarn is one of my favourite treats for myself. I’m not sure that the stitch pattern really showed off the drape at all, though:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


It’s kind of a bumpy rib pattern with twisted stitches. It’s quite dense and doesn’t drape at all! What’s neat about this pattern is that it’s very reversible and feels completely different on both sides.


The bumpy rib side:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Much smoother back:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The smooth side is where this yarn really appeals, since it’s got that little bit of silky slippery-ness.


I would strongly consider using this to replace ribbing on worn items like sweaters and mitts, since I like the look of the one side and the feel of the other.


The one thing that this pattern does show off is the yarn’s stitch definition:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Overall, I liked working with this yarn a fair bit: it’s soft, easy to work with, doesn’t snag too much, and the results are reasonably striking. I do wish I had a way to see if I actually like the drape, but I enjoyed the swatch pattern so much that it’s hard to really mind.




So in conclusion…


Do I still want a fancier, more expensive, larger yarn subscription?


Heck yeah, they sound lovely. But while I can afford more, this seems like a good balance of price and quantity for me. I think I’ll aim to spend money in my local yarn stores (there are so many here!) rather than risking it on a larger subscription at the moment.


Am I happy with this month’s box?


Heck yeah! I *loved* making the swatches. I’d never done any of those stitch patterns before, and I’m glad to add to my repertoire. And I’m glad to have tried all the yarns, although I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of any of them unless I had a specific project in mind. But I really like having samples of them all so I can tell if they *would* fit a given project.

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This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A local designer (PDXKnitterati) started advertising her February Knit-a-long (KAL) and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s an excuse to try out one of her lovely patterns, to take more pictures for sharing (I definitely need more practice photographing my knitting projects to best effect) and there are even prizes, which is fun. This one came at just the right time for me, since those rainbow socks (see previous post) had been almost ready to come off the needles and I needed a push to get them done.


I’ve never tried a KAL before, although I guess I did have a mutual “create as many crocheted angry birds as possible before PAX East” pact with my friend M one year, which I guess is sort of similar, maybe?


Feb 1st, I gathered up my ingredients… The pattern I’m using comes out of the Knitpicks “under 100″ (as in under 100g of yarn).


February 2015 KAL prep


The yarn is Knitpicks Gloss fingerling in the Kennai colourway. (Two 50g hanks, you see?)


February 2015 KAL prep


I had 3 bead options, all of which I liked. At a suggestion, I tried a swatch with them all to see which ones worked best for me:


February 2015 KAL


The silver and gold were clearly better than the blue/greens (which barely showed up) but what really decided me was thinking of ferns and what the fruiting bodies look like:


Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from  A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from A Digital Flora
of Newfoundland and Labrador
Vascular Plants


The pattern beads are designed to go in the center, but I liked the idea of brown to remind me of real ferns anyhow. Perhaps someday I’ll work on some fern lace with pairs of beads, though!


Here’s what it looks like in the shawl:

February 2015 KAL


After a few false starts and times where I had to rip back to where I went wrong, I finally made it through a few repeats of the pattern. Here’s how far I was near the end of the first week:


February 2015 KAL


I guess I must have been tired since I blocked it upside-down. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter!


Now that we’re at the end of week 2, I’ve gotten much further! Here’s one to show the current length.

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


I was actually the lucky recipient of the week 1 prize, which was a pair of bead aids. This has made it way easier to put on the beads, as previously I was using a teensy crochet hook that didn’t quite grab all the yarn, so sometimes it would take me 2 (or more!) tries to get the bead on. The bead aids are much easier to get right, so that’s helped a lot. Here’s a wingpsan-y view to show the beads and the detail of that blocked tip while it’s rightside up!


February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


And finally, here’s a photo with real live ferns!

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


Those last photos were taken along the Columbia River Gorge, since we have an out-of-town friend visiting and since she’s a photographer and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, we’ve been trying to hit some prime photo spots. So to round this out, here’s a picture of the famous Multnomah Falls:


Multnomah Falls


It’s a bit of a unusual photo because the falls are usually photographed vertically to show off how tall they are. I was showing off my new very wide lens to my boyfriend, which is why I took this one, but I kind of like it because it’s not a shot you see that much! (Sadly, I didn’t get it perfectly horizontal, so clearly I’ll have to try this again another day…)


Want more KAL photos? I have an album for them which has a few that I didn’t put here. More waterfalls will probably show up in my flickr photostream shortly as I process the weekend’s photos.

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This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A yarn swift is something that holds a hank of yarn so you can wind it into a ball or skein. Here’s a useful link on the typical ways to package yarn, in case you’re not familiar.


Yarn swift


When I was mostly buying relatively inexpensive yarn at the craft store for amigurumi, I’d get it in skein form and be ready to go. Which is awesome! But those ultra-washable bright coloured acrylics that I enjoy for crochet don’t work as well for some of the fancier knitting patterns and colour work I want to do now — it really helps to have some forgiving natural fiber that can be wetted and reshaped to look just so.


(Yarn snobs here might give me a hard time over the synthetic yarns, but they still have a place in my repertoire!)


So the end result is that I get a lot more yarn in “hank” form, and while I find winding balls to be pretty relaxing, I don’t love trying to wrap the yarn around my knees and keep it from getting tangled as I do it.


February 2015 KAL


Thankfully, the internet knows how to make a yarn swift. I modified this a bit, because I didn’t care as much about portability and I wanted something a bit smoother with some real ball bearings in there, so when John and I were wandering around the hardware store finding parts, he came up with the idea of using a Lazy Susan bearing.


This one was a joint effort between me and John, with him doing a lot of the heavy work and me doing more of the detailing. I feel a bit silly about this, as I’d intended to do it myself, but he’s got much steadier hands and greater strength so it’s probably safer to have him to it. He did teach me to use the router, though, which is one of the few pieces of woodworking equipment we own that I’d never used!


Routing!


But mostly I took photos and measured and turned things over to John for drilling or cutting:

Measure twice...John at the drill press


I also cleaned the garage workspace, vacuumed, and at least tried to keep him company. I also did some sanding and hand filing for things that didn’t quite match up. As you may have noticed in that earlier picture, neither of us is super precise at the routing.

Doesn't quite fitThe base


I asked John to round the ends so they wouldn’t catch on the yarn, and he did a lovely job, then I stained the whole thing up, let it dry, and reassembled it… only to find that the pegs for holding the yarn no longer fit in the holes due to expansion. Oops. A bit of drilling later, though, and we got it up and running.


Stained pieces:

Stained yarn swift piecesStained yarn swift pieces


First test with yarn!

Yarn SwiftYarn swift with wool!


You might recognize the stain as the same one I used on Puppy K-9, as this is the only stain we own.


Here’s the final product:

XOXO


I’m pretty happy with it! I wish I’d looked for a smaller bearing than the lazy Susan as I found out that it’s possible to fit a yarn tail into the bearings where it gets all slimy from the lubricant. But that’s what the store had, and it does make this a pretty solid device. And I only got the yarn tail caught once out of the 5 balls I’ve done on it so far, so it’s reasonably avoidable if you know you need to wind up the tail on a pole.


I do like how it looks so fancy all stained up. I was worried that I’d find it too bulky and be sad I hadn’t gone with the collapsible version, but I’m actually kind of tempted to try sticking it to the wall with that 3m wall hook stuff and seeing if I can use it as functional art!

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I finally dropped my Wantable subscription, since I'm at the point where I didn't really need more soft bras, sleepware, or even probably socks for a while.

To be fair, I don't need makeup either... but Birchbox is fun and only $10/month. :)

Here's January's box:

Birchbox January 2015
My blush brush is in there for scale (not included in the box).

Birchbox January 2015

Davines OI / Shampoo


This was a very generous sample! The shampoo lathers well, cleans nicely, and the smell doesn't linger too strongly once my hair is dry. But it is pretty strong while still wet and honestly, the smell just wasn't for me.


Davines OI / Conditioner



The instructions for this suggest you towel dry hair, apply, and then rinse out. I agree that this needs a rinse out because the smell is much too strong otherwise. But that's way too much work unless the product does something amazing, or smells so great that you'd want to be in a cloud of it all day. Sadly, I don't love the smell, and my existing leave-in does just as nice a job on my hair while being less hassle.

Davines OI / Oil Absolute Beautifying Potion




Given my dislike for the smell of this, I couldn't really bring myself to use it as directed and put it directly in my hair. I may eventually try it as an overnight hair mask, but only if I've got enough time to wash my hair thoroughly in the morning.

Birchbox January 2015

Sweet Science Invisible Daily Tint SPF 35



Nice, simple tinted sunscreen, smells vaguely fresh and citrus-like. Cute container. Hard to blend because it's so thick and sticky, but that might mean good things as far as being effective sunscreen.

You can see how thick it is by how the sample is a giant blob on the lid:
Birchbox January 2015

Still, it looks hilarious while I'm putting it on:
Birchbox January 2015

Birchbox January 2015

Mirenesse Mattfinity Lip Rouge

I love the cityscape packaging! (I tried to get a picture of it but it's more a thing you see as you turn it in your hand. Lovely, though!) All of these are named for cities and I got the "New York" colour, which is a bright red with a hint of orange to make it more coral-like. I was worried because the applicator looked kind of sketchy (think gooey velvet) but the product itself is nice.

Here's a picture of the brush. It's sort of scoop shaped with a slimy velvet cover. Works, but not exactly a texture sensation. (You can also see that the silver "new york" lettering on the cap is suffering some from a few trips to work in my pocket.)
Birchbox January 2015


And here's a very simple look with me wearing the tinted sunscreen and the lip rouge (note how it looks more orange on my lips than it does in the tube):
Birchbox January 2015
I like it!


Birchbox January 2015

Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion

The old school medicine bottle really works with the slightly medicinal scent of this body lotion, while still feeling fancy. I am strangely taken with this little body lotion as a result! Birchbox combined with J's mom kind of keeps me in more body lotion that I'm going to use, but I'd consider buying this because I find it amusing.

Birchbox January 2015

Harvey Prince Hello Liquid Loofah

Normally I complain about scents, but I actually kind of adore "Hello" which is some sort of citrus-y thing. I feel like it makes me feel more awake in the shower, although I suppose that could be the caffeine. I'm not so sure about the whole "liquid loofah" thing, though: this is such a light exfoliant that I can barely feel it if I apply it to my face, which is usually too sensitive for such things. But as a shower gel, it works and I like the smell, and that's basically all I want.


Birchbox January 2015

In conclusion...

I disliked the scent of the hair products, but the rest was pretty good!

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