Obsession Thursdays

Are you a Fan of Knit,Swirl and Mountain Colors? Have I got a giveaway for you!

The Knitty 10th Anniversary giveaways just keep coming here at the KnittyBlog and today’s is a doozy!

 

Knit, Swirl!

Are you a fan of the book Knit, Swirl? The folks  at Fiber Wild! in Galena, Illinois are; they sell a lot of the book and the yarns to make the sweaters. When they discovered that the original yarn for the Plum Perfect sweater in the bestselling book was no longer available ,they took up the challenge to create a replacement.

They worked with author Sandra McIver and the wonderful yarn people at Mountain Colors and came up with a gorgeous solution. Plum Perfect knit in Mountain Colors Alpaca Blend (Alpaca and Wool) and Twizzle yarns:

Plum Perfect!

They also have a luxury version  in Mountain Colors Mountain Goat and Jeannette (cashmere/silk blend ) yarns . Yum. Both kits are available exclusively at Fiber Wild.

To help spread the word about these unique kits, Fiber Wild is giving away a kit for Plum Perfect in Mountain Colors Alpaca Blend (Alpaca and Wool) and Twizzle yarns.

Plum Perfect colorways. Some plum, some not so plum.

One reader will win a kit for for the Plum Perfect sweater and a copy of Knit, Swirl!  Thanks to the generous folks at Fiber Wild!

Prize value: $234.90

You know how it works: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, November 12th, 2012. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the prize. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

 

If you are interested in buying a kit for Plum Perfect, Fiber Wild has a deal for you.

When you buy a kit, either the Alpaca/Twizzle or Mountain Goat/Jeanette version  you get both a copy of Knit,Swirl! and shipping free.

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It’s Thursday, How About an Addi Click Starter-Set Giveaway?

In June at TNNA, the wonderful and charming Cirilia showed Amy and me this very fabulous little taster set of Addi Clicks.

Have you see it in the wild yet? It comes with one Turbo® (4.5 mm), one Lace (4.0 mm), and  one Natura (5.0 mm) tips, along with two cords (24″, 32″) and a connector. Try out 3 of the best selling Addi tips, the wonderful Addi Click system and have a cute travel set of needles. A little Addi dim sum.

Cirilia has given me 4 sets for giveaways. I told you she was wonderful!

Prize value $49.95

You know how it works: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, November 4th. 4 comments will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the prize. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

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Obsessing on Project Bags & a Madbird Giveaway!

I’ve been a knitter, off and on, for 20-some years and have only recently started using project bags. Of course, now I have bunches and I love them all.

Before I used project bags I used plastic zip bags, which would tear, needles would poke through and I always stuffed them too full to zip closed.

A small selection of my current project bags.

Project bags are fun. They come in bunches of patterns and sizes. They stay closed. Best of all they somehow make a pile of UFOs, like the one above, seem downright happy. I always felt such accusation from plastic zip bags.

I can also tag them.

Project tag on a project bag

Name of the project, needles size, anything I need to know to grab the right bag.  Another use for tags that I love, too.

 

For your own project bag obsession, we have a giveaway from Madbird.

Project Tote from Madbird

A Project Tote, gorgeous, no? I reviewed it in this current issue.

Alecia at Madbird has donated a Project Tote for a giveaway, winner’s choice of in-stock fabrics.

Prize value $34.

You know how it works: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time,October 22nd. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the prize. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

 

 

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I Like Hand-Knit Socks. And Sock Knitting. And Especially Sock Yarn. Want Some? Springtree Road Giveaway

I guess it qualifies as an obsession.

My sock drawer is overflowing.

15+ years of sock knitting….

My sock yarn stash is an embarrassment of riches.

Spot the soon-to-be Halloween and Christmas socks. The Halloween yarn is from The Amy Lee show.

And I have a disturbing number of sets of 2.25 and 2.5mn DPNs and long circulars.

This doesn’t even include the needles in the 4 sock projects I have on the go right now…

Still, there are worse addictions to have. My feet are never cold, and there’s no gluten, caffeine or sugar in sock yarn. There are no calories or trans fats or artificial sweeteners. Sock yarn doesn’t rot my teeth or damage my health or keep me up at night. (Ooh… actually, that one might not be true.)  And there are more expensive collections to have. Guitars, A/V equipment, golfing equipment, skis. And there are hobbies that require more space: gardening, motorcycles, cars.

But still, I do sometimes worry that I have too many hand knit socks, or I buy too much sock yarn… but then I fall in love with something like this…

Springtree Raod Navarre Sock Yarn, mmmmmmmm!

We have a sock yarn giveaway! Three skeins of Springtree Road Navarre sock yarn to make whatever your sock yarn loving heart desires.

Navarre sock yarn is 75% Superwash Bluefaced Leicester/25% nylon, 460 yards/420 meters, 4-ply, fingering weight yarn.

One winner will win all three skeins, colors are Corinth, Leafy and Ttanis. Prize value $78.
You know how it works: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time,October 8th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the prize. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

Thanks to Maya at Springtree Road for providing this giveaway!

 

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Sock Knitting Giveaway!

Sock knitting is an obsession for a lot of people. I know it is for me.

For some people, sock designing is the obsession. And one of those people is Hunter Hammersen, author of the remarkable Silk Road Socks, and her latest book, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet.

I want to knit them all.

This new book features 20 patterns inspired by vintage botanical illustrations, and all feature Hunter’s fabulous patterning and attention to detail. There’s a great mix of socks and accessories.

The Loasa Socks. I definitely want to knit these. And if you do, enter the contest!

And for today’s giveaway, we’ve got two prizes for obsessed socks knitters:

The Big Prize: a copy of the book + an e-book copy (value: $26.95), and a skein of Rune sock yarn from Barking Dog Yarns to make the Loasa socks (pictured above) from the book (value: $26.95). Total prize value $53.90.

The Excellent Second Prize: a copy of the book + an e-book copy (value: $26.95)

You know how it works: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, September 5th. Two comments will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question, one for each prize. If the commenters answer correctly they will win the prize. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

Thanks to Hunter and Suzanne at Barking Dog Yarns!

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Obsession: Good Health. The Stitch Red Project

With patterns from many of your favorite designers

Stitch Red is a nationwide campaign in the US that raises awareness about heart disease, the #1 killer of women in the United States. Manufacturers and designers in the Needlearts industry are creating and selling Stitch Red products to benefit the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health in support of The Heart Truth. Yarn shops are carrying these products and hosting Stitch Red events to raise funds for heart disease awareness.

Yarn retailer Jimmy Beans Wool is leading the charge, and they recently released the book Knit Red, which features 30 red, heart health-inspired patterns and personal stories from industry greats.

The team at Jimmy Beans Wool was inspired by the experiences of some friends and family members, including  sales rep Marta McGinnis who had  survived a major heart attack. Marta was a key member of the team developing the campaign, but she sadly passed away in 2008, and never saw the results of her work.

The main goal of the campaign is to spread hearth health awareness nationwide –  and maybe even internationally. Heart disease has been traditionally considered a men’s issue, and it’s critical than women are aware of it and how it affects them. Heart disease is most common in women ages 55 and older, but it can affect younger women. It’s never too early to know the risks of heart disease so young knitters can start preventing and controlling the risks.

Launched this year, the campaign will be ongoing, and spread beyond knitting: the bok Sew Read is being published in February 2013, just in time for American Heart Month, and the goal is to get the sewing community as involved as the needlearts community has been!

Although the campaign is primarily about information and awareness, all of the manufacturers/designers have partnered with The Heart Truth and pledged to donate at least 5% of gross profits of their Stitch Red products.  Knitters can get involved by purchasing Stitch Red products, and by helping ensure that knitters get involved in the conversation.

I talked to Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool and author of the Stitch Red book, about the campaign. I asked her if she has changed anything in her own life since she’s got involved in the project:

“I’m already pretty active- I have a three year old son who keeps me running around! I have made a commitment to myself to eat one piece of fruit per day. If I’m honest with myself (sigh), I have to admit that I’m always finding excuses to eat chips and fatty stuff instead of fruits and vegetables. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I’m just challenging myself to make 1 small change at a time. Once I’ve made eating 1 piece of fruit a part of my lifestyle, then I’ll take the next step (2 pieces?! Oh my!). On a more general level, I’ve just started being more aware of the signs and symptoms and am committed to not ignoring things about my body that seem out of whack.”

Laura’s parting words are wise – that we should all take care of ourselves:

“Make a conscious effort to eat healthy, exercise (even going for a walk counts), and pay attention to your body.”


Gorgeous!

We are giving away a prize – a copy of the book, courtesy of Soho Publishing, and a yarn pack to knit Norah Gaughan’s fab Cable Cardi, courtesy Berroco Yarns. The value of the prize pack is $75.95.

There will be one winner. Our usual contest rules apply, leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Monday July 16th to be eligible to win. If you’ve won a giveaway in the last year, please give other knitters a chance.

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A big anniversary deserves a special logo!

And we’ve got one.

[Did you miss the beginning of this story? It’s over here…]

I’m not sure if you knew this, but I’ve been Knitty’s graphic designer since we began. Everything about the visual look of the magazine is in my job description, and I love the graphic part of working on Knitty just a little too much. When I’m stressed, I design stuff for the Knittyshop. It calms me. I’m weird, aren’t I?

Anyway, I worked hard on a logo for this big occasion, and came up absolutely empty. It was too important to me. I was dry. So I put out a call on Twitter, and a lot of really great designers came forward. One really stood out, though, as the most Knitty-esque, and I was very glad when she agreed to work with us! You’ll see why when I show you the result of our collaboration:

This is the work of Cynthia of Green Couch Designs. I think it’s whimsical but stately. Is that possible? Yes. I say so.

This logo feels a lot like us.  Cynthia was wonderful to work with, and I would recommend her without question to anyone looking for a designer. She has none of that pretentious ego that some designers I’ve met [in my past life…it’s none of you, don’t worry] can bring to a project. She simply gave me a lot of options, and was great fun to work with. And fast. Okay, enough of that.

This logo will be used throughout the 2012-2013 publication year, and yes, we’ll be putting up a special Cafepress shop with Anniversary merch for those who like shwag like we do. We’ll let you know with a blog post when it’s ready for y’all to browse.

Cynthia designed this logo to work the way I like to — the current seaside blue can be swapped out for any color we want. Here are a few examples of what we could do, edited to fix my error — I had the 10 in the contrast color, not black as it was supposed to be. Blame me, not the designer! 

So, tell us. What do you think? Do you like the logo? What color would you like to see it in?

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Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 3

My journey to become a better photographer continues. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Step 7: Get familiar with basic photo editing software.
Cropping is your friend. Even the simplest of apps – the Windows Microsoft Office Photo Gallery application enables cropping and provides basic light tools. Crop out stuff you don’t want. Lighten up a dark shot.

And I know this isn’t directly related to being a good photographer, but it makes you a good friend: If you’re planning to email your photographs around, learn to create smaller copies so you don’t jam up your friends’ mailboxes.

And learn more about what else you can do with photo editing software. Franklin Habit, photographer extraordinare, recommends The National Geographic Field Guide to Photography. I learned tons from this book about what you can do with photographs once they’re on your computer. Adobe Photoshop is the grand master at this stuff, but there are others.

Step 8: Take your camera everywhere.
I know, this one seems obvious, but just today I walked past an amazing garden thick with daisies, and I didn’t have my camera with me. The worst photo of all is the one you never took.

Other Tips To Improve Your Photography From The Very Wise

  • Buy a reflector Laura says it best. $14 and it’s like you’ve got your own lighting studio!
  • If you’re taking photos of your work, or posed shots, take your time: don’t expect to be able to create a really great posed shot in 5 minutes. Set aside time so that you can experiment. Sometimes, you won’t know if the photo is good or not until you’ve looked at it on your computer, and you may want to go back and reshoot.
  • Play with clever settings on camera I bet your camera has some clever pre-programmed settings. Mine has settings for sports (a fast shutter speed with shorter time between shots), for low-light shots, for shooting in fireworks, for shooting in snow (tweaks the colors so that the white doesn’t blow out the other colors). Play with them!
  • Learn from your camera: when in Auto mode, your camera display should tell you what settings it’s using to take a shot. Make note of those, switch your camera over to manual and recreate those settings. Take a few shots. Then change one of the settings and shoot again. And set the first one back and play with another setting. Take notes as you’re doing this so you know which settings you changed in which order. Then when you’re going through the photos later, you can compare the adjusted settings to see the differences.

Fully automatic mode.

This is a tricky shot. Backlit, and it’s clear the camera wasn’t really sure what I wanted to emphasize more. And then I turned to manual mode and left everything the same but for the aperture, and what results is this:

F-stop 2.8 for shorter depth of field (i.e. blurry background); lets in more light, too.

In the second one, the sock is better lit and I love the way the sunshine lights up the beer.

And Steps 9 through 1,000,000: Take Pictures!
Remember, you can’t get better if you don’t practice.

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Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 2

Part 2 of a series documenting Kate’s efforts to take a decent photograph. Part 1 appeared last week.

Step 4: Get to Know Your Camera

My choice, but there are several available for most major models of camera.

The manuals for most cameras are pretty terrible for photographers in my position. They’re sort of like computer manuals – they explain what a button does (e.g. “Av sets the camera into Aperture Priority mode”) without actually explaining what that all means and why I would want to do it.

As soon as I realized this, I bought myself a copy of a guidebook specific to my camera manual: David Busch’s Canon Powershot G12 Guide to Digital Photography. Not only does it explain what all the buttons and dials and settings do, it shows you how to use them, and why you might want to use them.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

You can’t get better at something without practicing, and it was Caro who suggested a ‘photo a day’ project.  Every day, I make a point of taking out the camera and take some photographs. Easy.

And every day, I make a point of looking at the shots I’ve taken and posting one of them to my ‘Photo a Day‘ page on my blog. They are not all good – in fact, most of them aren’t – but being forced to look through them and choose which one I like best is making me really look at the pictures I’ve taken.

And all the shots have something to teach me. For example, I love this one, except for the edge of the table on the right side, and the stray sunglasses on the left. And if I’d cropped those out, I would have lost the top of the straw.

Not bad - getting better.

However, I like the composition and the colors – the red and white of the straw really pops –  and the light is pretty good.

This is the great thing about digital photography – you’re not paying for film or developing – it costs the same to take 200 pictures as it does to take 2. And as long as you’ve got space on your memory card, you can take as many as you want. Take the same picture from 10 different angles. Take  the same picture with and without flash. Take the same picture on fully automatic mode and in other modes. Take the same picture with different settings.

Step 6: Look and Learn
Caro, photographer extraordinaire, wrote this brilliant article “10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Finished Object Photography” for Petite Purls. She teaches by example – showing pictures of good & bad photos.

Follow Caro’s lead – look at your own photographs, and look at everyone else’s too. What do you like? What do you think works? What do you think doesn’t?

For example, this one: great concept, but I don’t like the result. Rather than just deleting it, I spent some time looking at it.

Cute dog, nice knitting, but sorta terrible photo. Good learning opportunity!

It’s all very orangey-brown: orangey-brown dog on orangey knitting on orangey-brown floor. And the framing is pretty terrible: there’s a chair leg center left, a corner of our kitchen floor top right, and part of the seat of a chair bottom right. And this was taken at night, so the flash is reflecting off the floor just above the dog.

But it’s a picture, and it taught me a lot about color. Now, wouldn’t that blanket look great against the concrete I used for the background of the picture of the book, top left? Hmm….

To Be Continued
More next week!

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Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 1

I’ve never been confident with a camera. I’ve always had ‘point and shoot’ models – fully automatic cameras that make all the decisions for you – and I’ve never practiced enough to get a sense of how to compose and shoot a good photo.

Case in point:

Poor framing; bad light; hard to see the sock detail; also boring.

 

Funny story: at Sock Summit last year, I took Franklin Habit‘s amazing photography class. I was such a novice that I didn’t even know whether my camera had most of the options he was talking about, let alone knowing how to use them. (Turns out my camera didn’t.)

I’m doing a lot of blogging and designing and I need to improve the quality of my photography.  With help from some knowledgeable friends, I’ve dipped my toe into this exciting – and sometimes a bit scary – world.

The first issue for me was even learning what questions to ask and how to understand the answers. That took a bit of research, but once I had a bit of knowledge, it became a lot less daunting and a lot more fun. I suspect that there a lot of knitters out there in the same position I was, so I thought I’d share some of my learnings with you.

Step 1: Do Some Reading

Before I ventured into a camera shop, I did a bit of reading so I didn’t feel quite so silly.

Get familiar with the categories and price ranges: How to Choose the Perfect Digital Camera for Your Needs

Key concepts, explained beautifully: Photography’s Three Basic Tenets in Eight Bits and Nine Minutes.

There’s a ton of great stuff on the Lifehacker website photography section, (some of it from sister website Gizmodo, which is also wonderful) although it can be a little overwhelming.

Step 2: The Camera

Just what I needed.

Up until now, I’d only owned fully automatic models. These are great cameras, and aren’t expensive, and are perfect for everyday snapshots and vacation pics and the like. Someone with a good eye can take great pictures with one, no question. What they lack is the ability to control how the camera takes pictures.

What I needed was a camera that could be automatic, but could also let me play with the various options – shutter speed, aperture, focus – to change the photographs I was taking.

I chose a Canon G12. Canon was the unanimous recommendation for photographers of my level – that is, someone looking to move up from a fully automatic. They’re very high quality cameras, and can be operated in fully automatic (i.e. the camera decides for itself what to do), fully manual (e.g. I know what the heck I’m doing and can set the exposure and focus myself), and various semi-manual modes. This allows me to learn to control one element at a time, to really understand it. It’s also got lots of clever pre-programmed modes for things like shooting fast-moving subjects (e.g. the dog at the park), in low light (e.g. knitting at night), and the one I’m most excited to use – for shooting fireworks!

There is a very similar model, the Canon S100, that’s a little newer a little smaller, and a little less expensive – but just as powerful. I definitely recommend that you look at both if you’re shopping. I ultimately chose the G12 because I like how it felt – more important than you might think! And I like that it’s operated with dials; the S100 is controlled more through the software. What became clear to me is that either choice was a very good one, the decision is entirely about how the camera feels to you.  This means that when you’re shopping, it’s important to actually get your hands on the cameras. I can’t recommend highly enough that you get yourself to an actual camera shop, if at all possible. Go to a store with a knowledgeable staff and ask questions, and touch and feel.

When I was camera shopping, I took some knitting with me so that I could show the salesperson what I would be shooting, and so that I could see how the camera handled those kinds of shots.

Note: I learned pretty early on in my research that the term ‘point and shoot’ is a bit misleading. My G12 is considered a ‘point and shoot’ because it can be operated in a fully automatic mode. You’re looking for a camera that offers manual control in addition to  automatic modes. (When I told the sales staff initially that I didn’t want a point and shoot camera, they pointed me to professional level multi-thousand-dollars cameras.)

Step 3: Start Taking Photos Immediately

I got the camera home, I charged the battery, I read the quick start booklet, and first thing the following morning I starting taking pictures. I had no idea what all the various buttons and dials were for, but that was ok: I made sure that everything was set to ‘automatic’ and starting taking pictures.

Sounds like a silly thing to do, but this was an incredibly useful exercise for a few reasons: it helped me get over my shyness about carrying a camera: I look ridiculous! They’ll think I’m a tourist! These photos will be terrible!

Yes, all of these things might be true: but so what? Carrying a good camera will make you look like a knowledgeable tourist. And if they think you’re a tourist they won’t judge if you spend twenty minutes taking pictures of a bike rack. And most important of all: you can’t take good photos until you’ve taken bad ones.

My first day with my new camera I took about thirty pictures of Dexter playing with his friend Daisy…

Not a great picture, but not a bad one.

To Be Continued
Next week, I’ll write more about my adventures and I’ll show you some more of the shots I’ve taken.

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