Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Phat Fiber

Have you heard of Phat Fiber? Every month, Phat Fiber offers a box of handmade yarn and fiber samples from a range of online vendors. The contents of each box are a surprise beyond the theme of the box and having the option to buy a fiber-only box, a yarn-only box, or a mixed box. It is an exciting mystery as to what will show up at your door.

Though I heard about them a while ago in the Spring 2009 Knitty, I bought a Phat Fiber box for the first time in January. I was particularly attracted by this month's theme, Chinese New Year, though I'm also at the point in my spinning where I want to experiment with different types of fiber. A fiber-only box was the perfect way to get samples of a range of fibers from a variety of hand-dyers and hand-carders.

The box did not disappoint. It was very interesting to see how the contributors interpreted the box's theme by sending samples of silk, angora (for the year of the rabbit), dragon-inspired colorways, or even just packaging things in red paper sleeves covered in Chinese symbols. While all of the samples are under 1 oz, I am looking forward to trying some new things out--especially the silk hankies and the silk top!

Beyond the fiber, I also received 2 knitting patterns, several stitch markers, a pair of earrings (below), and a number of coupons from vendors who didn't contribute fiber. I recognized some of the shops, but it was nice to be aware that there is such a big community of hand-makers out there.

Overall, I would have to say that I enjoyed getting this box but I won't be making this a regular purchase. At $36 per box (including shipping) it's worth buying once to expand my fiber horizons and awareness of hand-dyers, but in the future I'll be spending my money on larger lots of fiber in colorways I choose.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Pair of New Knitting Books

I added two new knitting books to my bookshelf in December; the first, Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting, I bought for myself and the second, The Ohio Knitting Mills, came to me as a Christmas gift from my sister. They are both excellent books and it's worth telling you a little bit about them.

I've raved about the Stitch 'n Bitch crochet book in a recent post and I have to say that this new Stitch 'n Bitch book is even better. Unlike the previous Stitch 'n Bitch books, this book covers advanced knitting techniques, giving pointers on everything from fair isle and lace to cables and designing your own sweaters. Everything is covered so well that even more experienced knitters will learn a new trick or two here.

While this book discusses more advanced techniques than the other Stitch 'n Bitch books, the creative and varied selection of patterns are just what I expect from this series. The patterns themselves build upon the techniques discussed in the first part of the book and include socks, sweaters, blankets, gloves, hats, and even a pair of beautiful skirts. I was also happy to see a few previously published patterns in the pages of this book, including Ysolda's Gretel hat, Elli Stubenrauch's Squirrelly Mittens, and Elena Rosenberg's Rococo Shawl (above).

The new Stitch 'n Bitch book is worth buying for the patterns and the useful information on advanced techniques, but it's the chapter on designing your own sweaters that really makes this book a keeper. This chapter cover a variety of sweater constructions and customizations, as well as how to work out the math for these designs. While this information can be found in other books, such as those by Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker, this Stitch 'n Bitch book's lighthearted writing style makes sweater construction accessible to the modern knitter.

Now that I've waxed poetic about the first book, let me move on to the second. The Ohio Knitting Mills chronicles the history of the Rich-Sampliner Knitting Mills Co. the Ohio Knitting Mills in Cleveland, Ohio and focuses on its sweater designs from the 1940's through the 1970's, providing modern patterns for these vintage styles. This selection of 26 sweater patterns for men and women is brightly colored and sometimes kitschy, but really captures the style of these four decades.

I love looking at vintage pattern books to see how styles change over time and sometimes come back into fashion. I'm happy to add this book to my knitting collection alongside my other vintage pattern book, A Stitch in Time, which covers the 1920's through the 1940's. I will have to review that book in a future post because it is also a really lovely book. In the meantime, I will be enjoying lots of vintage inspiration!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zero Zilch Nada None

A very rare and curious thing happened over Christmas vacation--for 4 whole days I had absolutely no works in progress. It's been several years since I could last say that I had absolutely nothing on the needles, and I must admit that there is something very special about having no current projects to burden you so that you are free to dream about all of the possibilities of your next project.

The very last project to come off the needles was the Swallowtail shawl that I was working on in November. I'm really happy with the way the shawl came out, but I'm swearing off Mohair for the rest of my life. If I find one more little green fiber in a place it shouldn't belong, I might just go crazy. Still, this shawl is doing an excellent job of keeping me warm at the moment (which makes up for having to take a lint roller to my clothes later).

With the shawl done, I'm on to dreaming up new projects and a few original designs. You saw some of my swatches in the last post and I'm looking forward to knitting these projects up and telling you about them in future posts!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Thoughts on Blogging in the New Year

I'm not good with New Year's resolutions. We're not even going to talk about how last year's negative-stash-flow resolution turned out, because the results aren't pretty. So instead of new resolutions in 2011, I plan to continue focusing on something that occupied a lot of my thought in 2010: improving this blog.

Since the New Year is a good time for reflection and I'm sure that a number of my readers also have blogs, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my thoughts on blogging and a few blogging resources with you in this post. I hope that you will find something interesting in my musing that can help you also improve your blog in 2011.

I feel that I've made a lot of improvement here at 'Briney Deep Designs' in 2010 by simply focusing on three central goals:
(If you want evidence of the improvements, just check out the posts from my first year of blogging; they're not pretty.) I think that these three goals are pillars on which to build a good crafting blog, but there are other resources that have helped along the way, of which the following three have been most helpful:
  • The Craftypod blog - I can't recommend this sight enough as the go-to place on the internet for information on improving your craft blog.
  • Google Analytics - A site that allows you to track what people view on your blog, where that traffic is coming from, and more. There is lots of interesting stuff to be learned here.
  • Google Reader - Every member of the blogging community should have a way to easily follow other blogs and Google Reader is great for managing and organizing a lot of RSS feeds.
All of these resources should help you focus on improving your blog by examining the content that draws people to it and understanding how your blog fits into the larger community.

My goal for 2011 is to continue strengthening the three pillars of my blog, specifically working on better photography and more original content. With the help of my new DSLR camera and some good ideas, I'm hoping that 2011 with be the best year yet for 'Briney Deep Designs'!