The Christmas Season brought with it a snowstorm of projects to be finished, packages to be wrapped, and priorities to be re-evaluated (sigh).We hope you’ve been able to share time with family and friends and even find some restorative moments for yourself.
2016 (the Chinese year of the monkey) will usher in some fun and exciting projects here at Alpaca Direct. To kick off the New Year, the Critter Challenge is sure to delight knitters and crocheters of all skill levels! Do you have a fur child, a feathered baby, or a favorite mascot? How about a dream pony or animal guide? Pick up needles or hook and capture your love in any kind of critter at all. Use any pattern or let your imagination carry you along. Enter more than once – it’s free and you can win prizes!
When you’ve completed your critter(s), snap a photo and send it to us. We’ll post it on our Facebook Critter Challenge Event Page and the voting will begin!
Entries will close March 25th and voting will continue until 3/31/16. Each visitor to the site may vote once per day. People’s Choice (the entry receiving the most votes) will receive a $50 gift certificate from Alpaca Direct. Each entry will also be entered in a random drawing for another fabulous $50 gift certificate. So get started on that parlor cat, bunny rabbit, or dragon. We can’t wait to see what you create!
Did you know when a foster child turns 18 he or she no longer qualifies to live in the foster system? Rather than have services available to help these young adults continue becoming a productive member of society, these kids are often turned out into the streets to find their own way. The Red Scarf Project extends a hug to these kids in the form of red scarves knitted by you and me and then donated to their cause. We offer a large assortment of red yarns and knitting needles for your consideration, plus several super cute scarf patterns! Also, the Red Scarf Project organizers’ website offers patterns for you. You can access the Foster Care to Success website to learn how you can help in many other ways.
The red scarves need to be submitted by Nov. 30th so let’s whip one up for a young person in need of your hug.
Shorter days. Cooler nights. Nothing is as comforting as hand knit socks! Here in Northern Idaho we’re enjoying cool nights and warm days and as the leaves turn to red and gold, it’s time to knit socks! It’s Socktober!!!
Sock knitting is a varied as knitters. Toe up, Top down. DPN. Magic Loop. Fabulous lace patterns knit from fine merino, self patterning sock yarns for simple fun, chunky weight slipper socks that warm your toes and your heart. We all have a favorite technique or two, so our staff is sharing with you some of our favorite patterns, yarns and techniques.
I chose one of Michelle Hunter’s patterns, as she makes patterns that are fun and easy to follow. Kaika is the Japanese word for “bloom” and it uses a beautiful and easy to memorize Japanese inspired stitch pattern. I used this pattern to make a toasty pair of light weight leg warmers that will keep me nice and warm during the cold winter months here in North Idaho. I used a picot cast on and a picot bind off to dress up my leg warmers. This gorgeous yarn is Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Optic” .Now that I have finished this pattern, I will search for another sock pattern or leg warmer pattern as we have lot’s of new fingering yarns that I am eagerly waiting to try! Kelley
I just finished my first pair of socks in ten years. Until recently, the thought of working with fingering weight yarn would turn my stomach. Oh, I made a number of pairs with worsted weight yarn, but somehow, in my book, they didn’t seem to count. They were workhorses-not the sprightly ponies of spots and blotches of randomly strewn color, crafted out of the finest gossamer threads.
Anyway, soon after beginning my new internship with Kelley, Kjirstine, Jennifer, and Maria at Alpaca Direct, I was affected by a strange affliction….Zauberball Crazy! While stocking a shelf with marvelous, mind-bending orbs of color and texture, I was overcome by a desire to knit on size 1 needles! Even more fantastically, to simultaneously create a PAIR of socks (not one, but two at a time!) on 1 ridiculously long circular needle! In my library (books I absorb, without ever reading), was a copy of “2-at-a-time socks”, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. While everyone at work had moved on to knitting a pair of socks, two at a time, from the TOES up, I was completely entranced, bewitched and beguiled! The easy to understand and painless to follow step by step directions caught my attention and inspired me beyond belief! Within two short weeks, after a family wedding and during a family reunion, the “Earth” color way of Zauberball Crazy became the “Twilight” socks of Morgan-Oakes.
I am hooked. One more thing to add to the never-ending and ever-expanding list of things I mustn’t live without! Susan
I love to knit socks! The first class I took, after I learned to knit, was a sock class. I love to knit them the old fashioned way, top down, on double pointed needles. It’s soothing to my soul. I love the portability of sock knitting (I have kids at home, we’re always on the go). There is one pattern I have knit several times and I think that may be linked to my addiction to fantastic hand painted sock yarns! The pattern is found in “One-Skein Wonders” and is called “Hand Paint Highlights”. It is a great, simple pattern that really brings out the beauty of a hand painted yarn. This pair is a yarn from a local independent dyer, but I’ve used it many times with many hand painted yarns. So jump in, buy the one gorgeous skein from a hand dyer and make some great, one of a kind socks!!
Maria’s favorite socks right now are the fabulous lace pair that Becky knitted, entered in the fair, won first place, and then gifted them to Maria! A gift of hand made socks says volumes about the giver, but a receiver who truly appreciates them, and knows the value of the time and love invested in them, is a treasure as well!
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!”
Courtney has already finished her pair of socks! She loves the fact that they are sized to fit her feet precisely and is planning to make another pair that incorporates a pattern design.
Tina’s report for this week:
“Had a slight mishap in my dragonfly pattern…..darn those yarn overs. Ended up carefully taking out 5 stitches down 4 rows, figured out the mistake and laddered up each stitch correctly with a crochet hook. Success! Can’t even tell which stitches I was working with. Around and around I go toward the heel…..”
This is Melissa’s first pair of socks and she’s learning many new techniques.
“I completed one sock using 4 dpns and it was a royal pain. So…I bought 2 circular needles and some thicker yarn and started over working 2 socks on two circular needles . I got through the toes easily enough and now am working in the round, I am being careful to knit on/off the same needles, I am finding that as I go, one set of needles is facing the opposite direction on every other half…”
Any advice for her?
“This is my first attempt at a short row heel and I am pleased with how it came out. It was easy to do and fits nicely. I wasn’t sure how long to knit my cuff, but Tina suggested that it should be approximately as long as my foot. Sounds good to me! Anyone have a different “Rule of Cuff” that you use?”
We are having a lot of fun knitting these together and watching each other’s unique progress. Until next week!!
We’ve been knitting along on our socks for a week now. We have slow starters and speedy knitters. We have socks!!
Tina chose to work a pattern on her sock, and it is the lovely, lacy, Dragonfly Socks. Here’s her report:
“Chose the Dragonfly Socks from Cavyshops.com. Pattern was written as top down, so inverted dragonfly pattern to work as toe up. Have about 1-1/2 to 2” before beginning heel. Here is where tiny feet would be a plus!”
Courtney is already on her second sock! This is what she’s shared with us.
“When moving from short rows of toe and heel I needed to pick up stitches to avoid getting a hole. I just knit the picked up stitch together with another on the next row.”
Kjirstine is ready to start the heel.
“This is when having big feet is a disadvantage. I finally finished the 8.25” for my foot and I am ready for the heel. I am incorporating the pattern Socks on a Plane. White socks seemed too boring, so a little cable twist gives me more to think about.”
Melissa is enjoying some time away with her family, but she plans to start soon.
She says “ I’m on vacation and then casting on. Since I”m working worsted I think I”ll finish no problem during the KAL.”
Kelley is also ready to do her heel! Her update is:
“ I am ready to turn my heels. I am not sure if I will do the short row heel or pick another heel from a different pattern. I decided to do a pattern on the top of my socks. It is a broken rib pattern which has a 2 stitch repeat + 1. Row 1 – knit across row. Row 2 – P1 K1, P1 across row.”
October will be here before you know it! We’re excited to be participating in the second annual Spinzilla week. Last year all the spinners combined to spin 1,373,175.06 yards of yarn. Our Alpaca Direct team spun more than 17,000 yards! All in one week!!!
Sign ups for participation start August 4, 2014 at 10 am Eastern time and continue until September 22, 2014. You can sign up here: Spinzilla registration
There is a $10 registration fee, paid to The National Needle Arts Association Spinning and Weaving Group. This fee is donated to the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP) which was founded in 2000 as a fiber arts program for at-risk students.
During the event, there will be prize drawings, specials offers and lots of fun. Find our team forums on the Spinzilla Ravlery page or you can find us also on the Friends of Alpaca Direct Spinzilla team thread. Please consider joining us for “A Monster of A Spinning Week”!! Spinzilla 2014!
We are so excited to be participating in our first Alpaca Direct Knit Along! I’d like to introduce a few of our staff who are knitting along with everyone else:
Kelley is planning to do her socks two at a time using the magic loop technique. Her gauge is 7.75 sts/inch on a #1 addi Turbo needle.
Tina is also doing her socks two at a time using the magic loop technique. She is using a #0 Kollage needle. Her gauge is 7.5sts/inch.
Kjirstine is using double pointed needles, Kollage #2.5 and her gauge is 7sts/inch.
Courtney is using the magic loop technique and a #0 needle. Her gauge is 7sts/inch.
Melissa plans to use a size 8 needle with a gauge of 4.5sts/inch
We’re knitters of all different levels and styles. It will be fun to see how each person puts a little of themselves in their project. We’re looking forward to knitting with you for the next few weeks. If you haven’t signed up yet, go to our Ravelry page and join the fun.