Every March the Open Knitting group at Alpaca Direct goes on a knitting retreat to Camp Bighorn in Plains, Montana. It’s a beautiful retreat space and everyone always has lots of fun.
This year we’ll be hosting one in the fall as well. Here are some photos from our latest retreat on March 12-15.
We had beautiful weather on the retreat and got to go for a hike. The scenery at Camp Bighorn is beautiful.
We also enjoyed some time relaxing at Quinn’s Hotsprings, which is just down the road from Camp Bighorn.
Camp Bighorn provides comfortable cabins and good food for us so that we can relax and do what we came to do – knit!
As you should expect from a knitting retreat, we spent the majority of our time hanging out and knitting. We stayed up late, we had lots of fun, and we can’t wait to do it again. We hope you’ll join us next time!
People get busy and it can be difficult to find time to do things you enjoy. Work and family obligations often take precedence. Making time to do something you enjoy is an important part of self-care. It will help you recharge so you are more easily able to meet the demands of your schedule and obligations.
Here are our top suggestions for finding time for your craft:
1.Join a group. Here at Alpaca Direct we have several groups that meet weekly. There are Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon knitting groups as well as a monthly spinning group that meets on the first Friday of the month. If you’re part of a group that meets regularly, and you make it a priority to attend, you’re guaranteed that you’ll have at least that amount of time on a regular basis to work on your craft. You’ll also get the added pleasure of making new friends and getting to spend time socializing with people who have a common interest.
2. Craft while waiting for other things. Bring along your current project to your next appointment and work on it in the waiting room. Portable crafts like knitting, crochet, and spindle spinning are great in these situations. Waiting for water to boil before you put pasta on? Knit a couple of rows, or at least a few stitches. If you keep your project with you, it’s easy to get a little bit done in these pockets of found time. Little bits of time here and there add up, and you’ll eventually finish that project.
3. Work on a project in front of the TV. I think this is probably when most of us get the most work done on our current works in progress. It’s fairly common to sit and watch TV for a while in the evenings. This is prime time for working on your fiber crafts. I know I do the majority of my knitting while watching TV.
4. Put it in your calendar. I know that may seem silly at first. But, taking care of yourself is important. Pursuing hobbies that you find enjoyable is part of taking care of yourself. People schedule other hobbies – sports, fishing, camping – why not craft hobbies? When I was in college two of my friends and I had a standing Monday knitting date in my apartment. They’d come over and we’d watch our favorite TV show and knit or crochet, depending on our preference and current project. It just happened one time and we enjoyed ourselves so much it turned into a weekly thing. We all made sure not to schedule things over it if we could help it.
I always have a project that I can stuff in my bag and take with me. I usually have several projects on the needles at one time, so I just pick whatever seems appropriate for the situation. I work on larger projects (like my top down raglan cardigan that I’m currently knitting) at home or at knitting group. I have a sock to stick in my bag and take with me if I get stuck waiting somewhere.
With a new baby it’s a bit trickier to find time to knit. But I try to do at least a little every day, because it’s something I enjoy and it recharges me.
How do you find time to work on your crafts? Let me know in the comments.
If you’ve come to the Tuesday night Open Knitting group lately, you know that I’ve been pregnant. My baby made his appearance in the world on January 30, 2015.
This means that any time someone in the knitting group decides to knit for a baby, they ask my opinion first.
As the (apparent) resident expert in what to knit for a new baby, I thought I’d offer up my biggest suggestion and top five picks for baby knits.
Take Washing Into Consideration
Do you want to make something out of a lovely, soft merino silk blend? Or some other luxury fiber for someone’s little tyke?
Ask yourself this: will Mom or Dad be willing to hand wash whatever you’re making?
I know that there are some yummy soft yarns out there and they seem perfect for something snuggly for a wee one. But, remember that new parents, especially first time parents, are frazzled and probably don’t want to worry about hand washing much of anything. If it can’t be tossed in the wash with everything else, one of two things will happen. It will never get worn or it will get destroyed in the first washing.
You have to remember that babies cover everything in goo eventually. Between explosive poop and spit up, nothing is safe. Even things you wouldn’t think are likely to get nasty, like hats and booties, aren’t safe. If you’ve never had a baby, or it’s been a long time, you may not realize or remember the amount of effluvia that a tiny baby can produce. Let me assure you, it is astounding.
Personally, I love dressing my babies in wool. I actually use wool diaper covers, so I do a certain amount of hand washing. However, I am a knitter and used to hand washing hand knits. That said, I still prefer superwash wool for sweaters, hats, blankets, booties, and things like that. I’m willing to lay things flat to dry more than I am to hand wash, especially larger items like blankets.
For even easier care, Berocco Vintage is a great choice. It’s an acrylic/wool blend and can go in the washer and the dryer.
While that cashmere or merino/silk blend is lovely and soft, I definitely recommend keeping it for a project for yourself. You’ll know how to take care of it and it’s far less likely to get spit up or pooped on.
What to Knit for Baby?
Now that we’ve discussed yarn choices, let’s talk a little about what kinds of things to knit. Here is a short list of my favorites to knit, give, and use.
1. Baby blanket
This one’s pretty obvious, and it might seem a little overdone. It’s important to take into consideration whether you think the parents are likely to appreciate a hand knit baby blanket. But, if they will, then you really can’t go wrong with a blanket. No matter where you are, a baby will need a blanket of some variety. Infants can’t regulate their body temperature very well, so it’s important to help them stay warm. New parents are often gifted blankets, but they are pretty useful, so it’s hard to have too many. Plus, you can unleash your creativity a bit with a blanket. It’s a large blank canvas, so you can play with different stitch patterns and color combinations.
If you’ve never made a sweater before, a baby sweater is a great place to start. The construction is nearly the same, though with less shaping in general, and baby sweaters are really quick knits. Here are some of my favorite patterns:
I’m partial to cardigans, especially with newborns and little babies. They’re a lot easier to get on and off than pullovers. Sweaters are also great for putting on a baby or child in a car seat. They’re thin and warm and won’t interfere with the functioning of the car seat. (Bulky coats and snowsuits aren’t suitable for use in car seats. They compress in a crash and can the baby can be ejected from the car seat because of the extra space created by the compressed coat.)
This one is a less obvious choice than some of the others. But, let me tell you, a little baby in knitted pants is undeniably adorable. When made of regular wool, these can be lanolized and used as a diaper cover (which is what I do). But, they’re great even just as pants. They, like anything else, can be made from superwash wool, cotton, acrylic, or a blend. The pattern I use the most is Braided Longies, but there are lots of cute ones available. A couple others I’ve knitted are (cargo pants pattern from Knitty) and (that other one in my queue).
4. Hats and Booties
No matter what time of year a baby is born, hats and booties are useful. If you live in the northern part of the country, it gets cool in the evenings even in the summer, so lightweight knitted hats and booties help then. In the southern part of the country, everything is heavily air conditioned to approximate meat locker temperatures in the summer, so hats and booties are good for babies in that climate, too. The sheer number of hat and booties patterns is rather overwhelming. Hats are a pretty easy pick, though. Find a pattern you like, or a basic recipe and play with your own stitch patterns.
Hopefully this gives you some good ideas to knit for the babies in your life. And remember, babies don’t have to be dressed in pastels. Choose colors you know the parents will like. The baby doesn’t have an opinion yet.
With Valentines Day just weeks away, I thought I would share some of my favorite Valentine themed scarf and cowl patterns.
As any knitter knows, there’s a little love in every stitch. What a great way to show your love and appreciation for the special person with a hand knit scarf or hat.
This pattern is fit for a beginning knitter. The pattern is a series of hearts that can be knit on the needles two at a time using any worsted weight yarn. I used Misti Alpaca tonos 50% alpaca, 50% merino blend color #51 Zinnia then attached using the kitchener stitch once each half reaches the desired length. The pattern is called “Heart” by Stephannie C. Roy and can be found on Knitty or Ravelry and is a free download.
The next pattern is called “Besotted” by Adrian Bizilia which is also a free pattern that can be found on Ravelry and is a charming series of x’s and o’s made with cables. Use this pattern to knit your way into your loved ones heart! If you enjoy cables then you will love knitting this pattern.
Modeled by our staff member, Courtney, this scarf is beautiful in red, but would also shine in pink, purple or whatever your Valentine’s favorite color is!
We’ve just returned from the annual TNNA yarn trade show and have a variety of new yarns as well as new colors in our favorite yarns arriving in the warehouse.
For spring and summer knits we’ve added CoBaSi from Hikoo, a fingering weight blend of cotton, bamboo and silk. This yarn has a beautiful stitch definition and feels lovely in the hand. Versatile, you’ll want to make summer shawls, socks and garments from it’s wide color range.
If winter is still clinging to your landscape, you may want to make a cozy scarf or sweater from Hikoo Simpli Natural, an alpaca/wool/silk blend that combines sheen with drape and warmth to become a luxurious knittable yarn. The fiber drinks in the dye for an amazing depth of color and the silk adds a marvelous subtle shine.
Many of us have spent the last few months creating Christmas gifts. After the frenzy of holiday parties and gifts, it’s nice to spend a few moments to reflect on the past year and what we hope to accomplish in the new year. For many, this takes the form of New Year’s Resolutions.
As knitters (or other fiber crafters) it can be fun to come up with some goals for our knitting in the new year. Here are our top five picks for New Year’s Resolutions for Knitters for 2015.
1. Knit More For Yourself
After spending so much time knitting gifts for everyone else, it can feel like ages since you’ve knitted anything lovely for yourself. What does your Ravelry queue look like? I know mine is full of stuff I’d love to knit but just haven’t done yet. While I do still have a few small projects for others going, I’m spending most of my knitting time working on a sweater for myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve knitted myself a sweater, and while I still wear and like the others, it’s time for something new. I’m working on Ink by Hanna Maciejewska.
2. Knit Down Your Stash
This can go along nicely with the previous resolution. It might take a slightly different shape – choosing the pattern to go with the yarn, rather than the other way around. But, you could easily kill two birds with one stone. One of my favorite features on Ravelry is the pattern browsing function that allows you to narrow your results by yarn weight, yardage, and a wide variety of other attributes. Just remember, though – sock yarn doesn’t count as stash!
3. Advance Your Knitting Skills
Knitting is pretty basic, really. There are only two stitches – knit and purl. But these two simple stitches can be combined in seemingly endless ways. What technique is on your hit list for this year – cables, intarsia, stranded color work, lace? Or maybe you feel the need to brush up your finishing techniques – master the mattress stitch, learn to block, or weave in your ends so that no one can tell. Whatever it is, Alpaca Direct offers a variety of classes to help you. Don’t see what you need? Send an email and ask for it! We’ll also be adding more tutorials here on the blog about these topics. Sign up so that you receive the new blog posts in your inbox!
4. Finish Your Pile of WIPs
This can happen to even the most conscientious among us. You start a project and get frustrated or distracted and it sits in your knitting bag or basket for a while until it eventually gets shoved in the back of the closet. Maybe you have a whole closet full a few of these yourself. Decide whether to finish them, or just send them to the frog pond (y’know where you riiiip it, riiip it) and reuse the yarn for something you like better.
5. Learn a New Craft
Have you been knitting for a while and want to learn something new? Now’s a great time to do it. There is a whole world of fiber crafts open to you, many of which can go right along with your knitting addiction hobby – crochet, spinning, and dyeing to name a few. Weaving is also a fun way to make textiles, and you can get started pretty simply with a Zoom Loom or a rigid heddle loom. Not sure where to start? We offer classes for beginning crochet and beginning spinning. Not a knitter yet? Well, we offer a class for that, too.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Did any of these make your list? Any other fiber related resolutions you have? Let us know in the comments!
We have created a visual step by step guide to help you learn about the basics of crochet. Whether you’re new to stitching and would like to learn how to crochet or if you’re a knitter looking to diversify your skills today we’ll teach you how to get started crocheting!
Make A Slip Knot
Before we begin we’ll need to start with a slip knot. Hold a loop of yarn in your right hand, with the yarns crossed. Pick up the strand that is still attached to the ball. This is underneath the cut end of the yarn and is called the tail. Pinch the strand of yarn that’s still attached to your ball of yarn and pull through the loop on your right hand, holding the ends in your left hand. Place this loop on your crochet hook, you’ve created a slip knot! Pull the ends of the yarn to tighten the knot on your crochet hook. Now we’re ready to crochet.
Step 1: Bring the yarn over your crochet hook, making sure that the yarn is coming from behind the hook and towards you over the hook.
Step 2: Pull this loop through the stitch on your hook. You’ve chained one stitch!
Continue to chain stitch until you have enough stitches for your pattern, or you’re happy with the width of your crochet piece.
Single Crochet: First Row
Step 1: Skip the first stitch down from your hook, and insert your crochet hook into the second stitch from the hook, inserting through the center of the stitch.
Step 2: Bring the yarn over the hook, making sure that the yarn is coming from behind the hook and towards you.
Step 3: Pull this loop through your chain stitch, you’ll now have two stitches on your crochet hook.
Step 4: Bring the yarn over the crochet hook again, then pull the loop through both stitches on your hook.
Step 5: You’ll be left with one stitch on your hook, you’ve just completed your first single crochet stitch! Insert your hook into the next stitch, and repeat from Step 2 until you’ve worked a row of single crochet into all of your chain stitches.
Single Crochet: Next Row
This is what your piece should look like after completing your first single crochet row.
Step 1: Turn your work, and chain 1 stitch by bringing the yarn over the hook, then pulling it through the stitch on your hook. This will give height to the edge of your work so that you’ll have straight edges and clean corners.
Step 2: Insert your hook into the first stitch of the first single crochet row, going through the center so that you’ll have two strands over your hook. Single crochet as before, going back to Steps 2-5 of the Single Crochet First Row. All consecutive rows are started like the this, and the single crochet is the same throughout. It’s important to remember that on the first row you skip the first chain stitch, and then on consecutive rows you chain 1 stitch at the beginning of each row.
To finish cut your yarn, and pull the stitch on your hook up until the cut end of the yarn comes out the other end of your work. Don’t forget… when learning a new skill it will take some practice. Soon you’ll be crocheting like a pro! Have you tried crochet? We’d love to hear your thoughts on learning to crochet.
Knitting. It’s the new yoga. It’s hip. It’s trending. You can knit on your arm or fingers. Celebrities knit. We hear more about knitting today than any other craft.
What’s happened to crochet?
Plenty! Crochet is full of innovation, creativity, and beauty. I sometimes feel crochet is the craft people “admit” to doing. I hear customers in our store say, “I don’t knit, I only crochet.”, almost as if crochet is something less than knitting.
But it’s not less, it’s just different.
I did a quick search on youtube- the word knitting returned 717,000 videos. The word crochet returned 1,670,00 videos. I believe that people like to crochet!
Crochet was the first needle craft I learned. I grew up surrounded by thread crochet pieces that my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had made and I was impressed. At age 17, I went to my local yarn store and took a beginning crochet class. That began a fiber adventure that has lead me to knitting, spinning, tatting, and now even working in a yarn shop. I still enjoy crochet. It’s my personal favorite way to use a lace weight yarn.
If crochet has been overlooked by the major pattern and yarn companies, it has not been overlooked by independent designers. There are patterns all over the internet, both free and purchased that are beautiful and wearable.
I know that crochet has a bad wrap sheet- I remember the days of toilet tissue covers and Christmas candles crocheted to fit over aluminum cans. It was ugly.
But today you can find a huge variety of patterns and styles that are stunning. One of my favorite designers is Tara Murray. Her patterns are a delight. I made these cuties out of Cascade 220.
She was busy the rest of the summer, filling requests to make more!
Another staff member, Tina, made this beautiful cowl from Cascade Kid Seta and taught it as a class here in the store.
So, do you crochet? We do!
We haven’t forgotten crochet here at Alpaca Direct. We carry a variety of crochet hooks, both beautiful and practical. You’ll find crochet patterns on our website, and a passion for crochet in our staff members! If Alpaca Direct is your local yarn store, look for a Begin to Crochet Class in January 2015 followed by other crochet classes in the late winter and spring.
Here’s my contribution to the crochet pattern community. I hope you enjoy it!
My sister sent me photo of a scarf she admired, asking if I could make something similar. This pattern is the result. When my sister-in-law saw the finished scarf, she asked for one too! So it’s the “Sisters” scarf, because I’ve been blessed with a wonderful sister and sister-in -law!
Gauge is not terribly important to this project. You should adjust the hook and yarn to produce a fabric that you like. I wanted it slightly drapey, but still wanted to maintain a certain amount of structure.
Approximately 8” x 60”
Dc- double crochet- wrap yarn around hook once
Trc- triple crochet- wrap yarn around hook twice
Row 1: Dc in 4th chain from the hook, dc in each chain across. Ch 3, turn
Row 2: Trc in 2nd dc, trc in each dc across, dc in top of turning chain, ch 2, turn
Row 3: Dc in 2nd trc, dc in each trc across, dc in top of turning chain, ch 2, turn
Row 4-5: Dc in 2nd dc, dc in each dc across, dc in top of turning chain, chain 2 turn
Row 6: Dc in 2nd dc, dc in each dc across, dc in top of turning chain, chain 3 turn
Row 7: As row 2
Row 8: As row 3
Row 9-10: As rows 4-5
Row 11:As row 6
Row 12: As row 2
Row 13: Dc in 2nd trc, dc in each trc across, dc in top of turning chain. Finish off.
Block gently, stitch buttons on one end to correspond with Triple crochet rows, which are used as buttonholes.
We’ve been knitting for nearly a month now and have made great progress! I think we’ve all learned something that motivates us to knit another pair of socks and try a new pattern or technique. There’s always something to learn!
Kelley finished her socks and has worn them already!
Courtney finished her socks and is ready to start a new pair.
Tina checks in this week:
“Finally knitting the leg(s)! I’m so pleased with the fit of the sock and especially the heel. However, note to self, on my next sock KAL, don’t decide on a 10-row lace repeat and expect to get them done in a month……LOL. My new mantra……KISS……keep it super simple! Or knit for someone with very tiny feet.”
“ I’m almost to the second heel where I get another shot at practicing short rows! I can’t wait to have two finished socks!”
“This pattern came out great. This is the right sock, with the cable on the right side of the foot. The first sock had the cable on the left. I usually knit socks top-down with a heel flap, which is reinforced with slipped stitches. I’m wondering if the short row heel is as durable?”
We’ve been knitting along on our socks for three weeks now and we’ve already had some pairs finished!
Courtney is done! Speed Knitter!!
Tina’s update is: “Two heels just barely done through the short row phase. Will set up socks for knitting in the round next. I used the Fish Lips Kiss heel pattern as I find I have better success with the heel shaping. Used lifelines at beginning of heels……didn’t need them this time:) “
Melissa: “I’m ready to cast off my first ever sock! Anyone have any tips on the cast off? I’m a pretty tight knitter so I think I’ll use a stretchy one to get the most comfortable fit.”
Kjirstine says: “I just cast off sock #1 last night, using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. It fits and looks great! Ready to cast on sock #2. I think the short row toe will come much easier the second time around!”
Kelley: “Finished my socks and will wear them to the fair!”