Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New Release: Jillian

 Last year, my local yarn shop started carrying a new Dream In Color yarn, Jilly  The colorways were fun & vibrant and I could not resist selecting a few to take home.  And then I stared at them for a few weeks thinking, "What am I going to make out of 3 different colors of fingering-weight yarn?"

I settled upon a sweater pattern that I found on Ravelry.  It was something where the gray color would be the background, the blue would be the stripes, and the green would be a little highlight color just under and just on top of each blue stripe.  I got about 5o rows into this pattern before I was willing to admit what I already suspected: this blue & this green deserved to be featured.  They didn't want to play second fiddle to the gray!

And so I set about creating a new design.  I went with the open neckline that I love so much, and raglan sleeves for an easy top-down knit.  The electric green, which is such a FUN color to wear, had to go right on top, then a 20-row striped transition brings in the blue, and later the gray.  This time the colors were very happy together, and I have people stopping me to ask about the sweater every time I wear it.  I wore it to a knitting retreat this past spring and at least 20 people stopped me to ask about it - and many of them also wanted to know where they could buy the green yarn.  I've never heard so many people say, "Green isn't really my color, but I love THAT green!"  I loved hearing that, because it's exactly how I feel about it!

This sweater is written with a few inches of positive ease built into each size.   The detailed schematic will tell you exactly how much ease you'll be getting in for the size you choose.  Make sure to choose the "To Fit" size (on the first page of the pattern) that is closest to your full bust measurement - unless you are particularly busty.  If you normally have to add bust darts or short rows to accommodate "the girls", then you'll get a better fit by choosing one size smaller than your full bust size, then adding the bust shaping that you normally add.  Another option for ladies who don't want to mess around with bust shaping is to begin one size smaller than your full bust size, then do extra bust increases until your stitch counts match the counts for the next size up once you get to the point where sleeve stitches are placed on holders and the body is joined in the round.

The wide neckline and gentle shaping of Jillian creates a sweater that is flattering whether you're a trendy 20-something or an elegant grandma.  Your only worry will be how you will ever be able to decide between all the lovely color options available!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Big, big, big!

I'm so predictable.  This is the second summer in a row that I've finished up my work projects in the spring, thinking, "Now I'll take the summer to knit some patterns I didn't write!"  And then something comes up that I just can't say no to.  Last summer it was being asked if I wanted to write patterns for two new types of yarn that were being introduced to yarn shops.  I thought "They're new yarns, my patterns will be among the first to use these as recommended might be a good way to get my work in front of people who haven't noticed me before."  And so I wrote the Herriot Hat and Hepatica.

This summer, it's self-imposed, although the spark of the idea came from a request from my LYS owner.  And it has turned into something big.  BIG.  By far, the biggest thing I've done yet.  I'm so exited to talk about it and so happy with the way this project is shaping up, but I'm going to be a secret squirrel about it for just a couple months longer.  I can say this: it's a collection, and it has a quality that I believe will please just about any knitter.  I am having a lot of fun working on it, and I'm not the least bit sorry that I'm using my summer for this rather than knitting other people's patterns.  There's always time for that after Christmas!

Anyway, since I'm going to stay mum on what I'm knitting right now, I thought I'd put up a different crafty sort of post.  I'm still working on redecorating my living room.  I'm going with a blue/beige/muted teal sort of color pallet, and I needed an end table to go next to a dusty-blue couch.  I was out at Gordman's one day and found these two little tables.  The paint was a little too bold to really fit in with what I already had going on, but I thought that it might look nice whitewashed.  You'd still see the teal through the white paint, but it would tone it down enough to sit next to the lighter blue couch and not look crazy-bright.

I went with the table on the right because I thought it would also provide some space to stash my knitting equipment.  The blue couch is what I refer to as "my office", it's where I most often work on my knitting and writing projects, so I needed to have some storage in my end table.

I wasn't a big fan of the basket drawers included with the table - they were very rustic and I thought they would scrape the paint off the table over time.  So I stopped by the lumberyard on the way home and asked them to cut me two rectangles of wood that would fit into the basket spaces so the table could have shelves instead.  I think the wood was like $10, and gave it a "cleaner" look that I was happy with.

I also stopped by the paint store and brought the drawer in with me.  I asked hem to color match the drawer so I could get a little jar of paint to use on the shelves.  I bought one of those little sample size containers for a couple bucks.

Once I brought it home, the girl cat had to inspect it.  It passed.

I used wood glue to secure the shelves into place, then painted them with the teal paint.  I was impressed that the match was so close.

Then I took white paint and watered it down, and brushed that over all the outside surfaces of the table.  I left the inside surfaces of the shelves the darker teal, just for a little contrast.  Each coat was very thin, so I did it 3 times before it was toned down to the degree that I liked.

Here's a view of the top surface where the whitewashing is easiest to see:

And here's a view of the finished table sitting in place in the living room.  I'm still working on finishing up the room decor, so I don't have any cute little containers for my knitting paraphernalia yet, but you get the idea!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Release: A New Leaf

I'm happy to release a new shawl pattern today!  This one is called "A New Leaf"

Construction begins with the leafy lace border.  Once you've knitted a long strip of lace, stitches are picked up through yarn-over holes, then the shawl body is worked almost entirely in stockinette stitch.  Once the border is complete and you've moved on to the body of the shawl, it's great "tv, road trip, or social knitting" if you're looking for a fun project that doesn't require too much brain power!

 I wouldn't call the lace border difficult, just takes a little more focus than plain Jane stockinette!

Border instructions are offered in both written and charted form so you can work from your preferred format.

Body instructions (since they're so simple) are only in written form.

 If you knit to pattern gauge, the finished size is a nice, big 70" wingspan and 21.5" at the deepest part of the gentle triangle shape.  If you prefer a different size, or if you would like to use a yarn weight other than fingering (and needles that are appropriate for your yarn weight), instructions are given on how to easily modify this pattern.

Many thanks to Elin76, ekolatch, & DeChertsey, the trio of test knitters who pioneered this project.  I appreciate the time and work that all three of you put into your projects, and the feedback you gave me about your experiences with the pattern!

I am also thankful for my lovely friend who modeled for the pattern pictures.  We took them on a misty evening, and she was a trooper to help me get photos done while there was still light to do it, and not worrying about the possibility of getting an extra shower in the process!
If you are looking for a fun summer knit, you can click here to purchase A New Leaf!

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Release: Wavelength Tee

 You know what the 2014-2015 school year was going to be as far as my pattern writing was concerned?  I had declared it the "Year of Accessories".  After publishing a dozen patterns the previous school year, with six of them being garments, I decided I needed to scale back a little bit this year.  I think I did pretty well....11 patterns published with one more ready to go next month will still make 12 for this year, but only 3 of them were garments.  I really did have fun focusing so much on accessories.  But sometime during the winter my local yarn shop got a new order of Hempathy delivered, and when I saw the blue-green color, I couldn't resist designing a summer top for myself!

My favorite tops are usually loose without looking baggy or oversized.  The fit I chose for this one keeps the upper chest & shoulder areas at close to zero ease, but the body is loose and flowy with plenty of room for one more cookie.  The back is fitted as well, which helps keep the tee from looking oversized.

I also really enjoy the versatility of this style.  I could wear it to church or to a "business casual dress"-type of job paired with dress pants of capris.  But since I work from home, I'll usually be pairing it with jeans or shorts for a more casual look.

The hems of the body and sleeves use a 3-row stitch pattern that creates a gentle wave.  Lay the garment flat after washing for a subtle wave when dry, or use pins to emphasize the waves for a more pronounced undulation.

I used Hempathy for this project, and I can't say enough good things about this yarn.  It's easy on the hands, has no itch-factor so it's very wearable for this sensitive-skinned girl, and it gave a flowy, drapey fabric when knitted to pattern gauge.  It's listed as a DK-weight yarn, but I can't compare it to any DK-weight yarns that I'm familiar with.  (It knits up as a much lighter yarn - look at the photo to the right, under the arm where you can see the light shining through the fabric.  Yes, the gauge I use in the pattern is technically in the dk-weight range, but the fabric is VERY thin when knit to that gauge.)

It's also a pretty unique yarn as far as its fiber content.  Test knitters on this project found it difficult to approximate the fabric density and drape of the Hempathy with substituted yarns.  Often, when I publish patterns, I think it's fine to use substitute yarns and even list them on the pattern page when I am aware of yarns that would be a good match.  But for this project I'm going to recommend that knitters use Hempathy rather than substituting.  (And I say that with no connection at all to the Elsebeth Lavold, the yarn company that makes Hempathy.  They have never given me any sort of payment in the form of money or yarn support for this or any other pattern I've published.  I just think you will not be disappointed with this yarn and want to see you get the nicest finished project possible!)

If you must substitute, do it with this in mind: Hempathy is 34% hemp & 25% modal (both fibers are thin and very drapey like linen), and only 34% cotton.  In this yarn, the linen-like qualities of the hemp & modal far overpower the cotton qualities.  (In my experience, cotton is often "puffy" and sheds quite a bit.  Hempathy has neither of those qualities.)  Finally, there are 153 yards of Hempathy in each 50g ball.  So appropriate substitutes would have fiber content that is about 1/3 hemp/modal/linen and 1/3 cotton.  It would also contain close to 153 yds per 50g ball or 306 yds per 100g skein.  If the substitute yarn has less yards per ball/skein with a similar fiber content, then the yarn is going to be too thick.  If it has more yards per skein with a similar fiber content, it is going to be too thin.  For my personal projects, I use the 10% rule.  If I'm trying to substitute for a yarn that has 153 yards per 50 g ball, I can use yarn with a very similar fiber content as long as it is + or - 10% of that yardage.  So it could contain between 138 and 168 yds per 50g ball, and I am pretty safe assuming that I will be able to achieve gauge (maybe going up or down a little in needle size) AND I will get a resulting fabric that is a reasonably close match to what the designer intended.

I hope that little explanation helps, and I hope you find this an enjoyable summer knit!  I'm happy that mine is all finished and I'm actually wearing it as I type this.  It's perfect for the beautiful "highs in the 70s" sort of day we had in Central IL today!

The Wavelength Tee pattern is available now on Ravelry!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We Interrupt This Knitting Blog.....

I've been up to some stuff, and shockingly, not all of it involves knitting!  I've been saving my nickels for a couple years now with the goal of being able to replace our living room & family room furniture.  You see, what happened was that we adopted two kittens.  They were two baby orphan kitties whose mom was kidnapped by well-intentioned people who didn't realize she had recently given birth and would be abandoning two babies who were just a few days old under the bushes outside our church.  (By the time we figured out what had happened, they had been separated for a few months and it was too late to try to re-establish that bond.)  By some miracle, the kittens survived at least one full day and overnight in early-April weather (we're talking overnight lows still near the freezing mark), and they were heard meowing loudly by a preschooler who walked by the bush they were hiding under. 

So when I happened to stop by the church the day after they were found, and I saw these two tiny furballs on the church secretary's lap, my kitten fever kicked in.  (Some people have baby fever - I am much more prone to kitten fever.)  The church secretary told me that she would love to keep them, but she had cat allergies, so she knew she couldn't.  I told her I needed to go home and talk to my husband, but that I was definitely interested in adopting them.

My husband wasn't too difficult to convince.  He grew up with pets (dogs), then lived with my childhood cats that my parents transferred to my guardianship once I was out of college.  (They wanted to get rid of the cats when I was in high school - one of the cats had peed down a heat vent in the floor.  Bad cat.  I totally understand where my parents were coming from, but I was very attached to those cats.  I huffed and puffed and begged, and maybe I threatened to run away or start being a juvenile delinquent.  I don't remember how it all went down, but for some reason, my parents changed their minds about sending the cats to a farm....."As long as you realize they are YOUR cats and they will live with YOU as soon as you are on your own!"

But those two cats had died a few years before, and I was now cat-less.  I had two kids, but they were 4 & 7 now, and I was starting to feel like I wasn't running a marathon every single day.  I wasn't overwhelmed by the idea of taking on two newborn kittens, who, by the way, need to be bottle-fed every 4 hours around the clock, kept warm with heated rice bags, and "cleaned" in a particular way, because that's what stimulates them to poop.  Instead, I felt like, "I have had cats all my life, I've now successfully kept two kids alive for the past 4 & 7 years, I'm probably exactly the right person to take these two kittens."  And I was very happy that my kids would get to experience growing up with pets around.  I didn't even let the vet discourage me when I took the kitties to get checked out and she told me, "Don't get too attached.  Kittens who are abandoned this young don't usually make it.  You can do everything right to take care of them and they might still die."

So here's what I didn't realize before I adopted these kittens: newborn kittens learn a LOT from their mama cat.  That mama doesn't just feed them, groom them, and keep them warm, she shows them everything - how to eat, how to use a litterbox, how to play, how to sharpen their claws.....and since I am not a cat, these two little ones did not immediately figure out that they were supposed to be imitating me.

Take, for instance, learning how to eat.  For the first month of their lives, they ate formula out of a tiny bottle.  That was pretty easy - stick the bottle in their mouth, squirt a little taste of the formula onto the tip of the bottle, and they figured it out pretty quick.  But transitioning to kitten food from a bag?  They had NO idea what they were supposed to do with that.  I tried putting a piece of it in their mouths.  I tried getting down on all fours and putting my own mouth near their food bowl and making eating sounds.  I tried putting their heads near their food bowls hoping they would think it smelled like something they wanted to investigate (with their mouths!)  I tried putting their formula on the food and holding it up to them to smell and taste.  It was shockingly difficult to get them to eat food, and I'm sure if they had a cat mama to watch & imitate, it would have been a snap.

They did eventually manage to learn to eat food.  They did learn to use the litterbox.  They did become quite competent groomers.  But there was one subject that they totally failed: appropriate scratching.

I won't go into the whole 7-year saga of trying to train them to scratch in one of the 5 appropriate places we had in the house for them (or outside!), but many strategies were attempted.  If it's "scratching advice available at the vet's office or on the internet", we tried it.  And once we hit the 7-year mark, I was ready to admit defeat.  Despite being generally against declawing, I had to admit this might be a special case.  I felt like I had failed the cats by not being able to teach them appropriate scratching behavior, but we were at the "declaw the cats and replace the trashed furniture" or "don't declaw the cats and let them run your lives" crossroads.   I was prepared for it to be terrible, and it was - for about 3 days.  After that, the cats started bouncing back, and maybe 10 days after surgery, they were pretty much acting normal.  (I know that kittens often act normal almost immediately after declawing, but older - and fatter - cats understandably have a rougher time of it.)  Now....about 6 months later, I know it was absolutely the right choice for our situation.  That doesn't mean I'd do it again if we got another cat in the future, but for these cats, it was the right choice.  

So anyway, that brings me back to replacing the furniture!  We got new living room furniture last month, and I've been looking for things to put up on the one large wall in the room.  I was watching reruns on hulu last winter and saw this idea - 

I thought it would be an interesting thing to sit down with my husband and kids and make a list of character traits we think are important.  I think that one of the things that is lost in my kids' generation is time to think (because they can so easily fill every minute with distractions.  I am in a constant battle with my son to keep his cell phone out of the don't need to watch Minecraft videos while you're doing your business!)  So to take the time to have a conversation where they have to think about what qualities they appreciate in people, or want to have themselves, or that their parents think is seemed like a worthwhile thing to do.  And to drive the point home, we made a big wall-hanging using the words we came up with together.  

I found there was a definite gender difference when it came to what traits we listed.  My daughter and I came up with words like "love, kindness, empathy, grace, and optimism" while my husband and son listed "dependability, honesty, responsibility, and commitment.

Step one for this project was to go to Michael's Craft Store and buy a whole mess of canvases.  We lucked out and happened to be there on a week that their canvases were 40% off.  Even still, I think the 17 canvases we bought totaled somewhere in the $80-90 range.  I think the largest one we got was 11x14" and the smallest were 5x7".  I laid them out on the floor of the store because I wanted to make sure I was getting sizes that would fit together in a way I liked.  The other people in the aisle didn't even seem to think I was nuts once I explained what I was doing.

Once I was back at home, I played with their arrangement a little more until I was totally satisfied.  Then I took a picture so we would know which way to orient the word on each canvas so they would all be easily readable once the canvases were all hooked together.  I printed out this picture and we wrote the words on each canvas in the picture so we could plan ahead for the larger or more-important words to go on the larger canvases, and the smaller or less-important words to go on the smaller canvases.

I had just finished another painting project for the same room and had about half of the sample-size of paint left that I had bought from Lowe's (that's the teal green in the pic).  I bought a couple bottles of craft paint - one in lighter blue, one taupe, and one white.  I used the white to mix lighter versions of the three basic colors we were going to use (teal, light blue, & taupe).  

We used the lighter versions to cover each canvas with a background color.  We used the printed out pic of the canvases to also figure out what color to paint each canvas so we wouldn't have a bunch of the same color touching once they were reassembled.  

We then used the full-colored versions of each paint to paint words on each canvas.  That way, they stood out more from the background color and were easier to read.

I'm not gonna lie - my daughter and I did the bulk of the word painting.  The boys did help, but they were easily frustrated and claimed that it was 'too hard to make it look nice'.   I made it easier by using my friend's Cricut machine to cut out & trace many of the letters in different fonts so all we had to do was paint in the outlines.  But some of them were done freehand, and I like the fun little touches on some of the canvases.

Once the words were all painted, we assembled the entire collection of canvases face-down on a hard floor.  Then we took paint stirrer sticks and laid them across areas where we could drive small nails through the paint sticks into the wood that the canvases are stretched over.  I probably used about 10 paint stirrer sticks to connect the whole thing and provide enough support that it wouldn't come apart once it was on the wall.

I think it turned out great, and I love that it's something we all made together that we can see in the middle of our house every day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wonderland Tank

It's time for a new release!  I've been in percolation mode with Cheshire Cat yarn every since my local yarn shop started carrying it quite a while back.  More recently, they started stocking Mad Hatter, which is the sport-weight line from Frabjous Fibers.  I was all-in on the Mad Hatter because it is such a soft, smoothly spun yarn and comes in a number of rich colors.  Ravelry users seem to love it, too....the Ravelry yarn page has 71 people who have rated it, and it's got a solid 5 out of 5 stars!

So because it's such a soft yarn, I wanted to create a garment that could be worn without anything underneath.  And because I was also loving the colors in the mini-skein packs (I picked "Mice in the Tea"), I wanted to incorporate the colors from that collection.  I had been kicking around the idea for this tank top for a long time, and this yarn seemed like a good fit.

This top is based on a favorite store-bought tank top that I got maybe 10 years ago from New York & Company.  I've worn it so much that it has a few tiny holes in it from getting bitten by the washing machine.  The original shirt has a color pattern across the yoke that's made from beads, and I was thinking about using beads in my knitted version.  But once I saw the Mice in the Tea color pack, I knew that doing a bit of knit color work would approximate the design quite nicely.  Say hello to my sister who is with me in the picture on the left.  And, if you were wondering, in the photo on the right, I'm throwing an atlatl spear.  (I'm not a hunter...we were at an Amish tourist community.)  Hopefully these pictures give you a decent idea of what I was going for with this top!

Anyway, I was very happy with the way the knitted version came out as a good approximation of the well-loved store-bought shirt.  And now I won't have to gaze sadly at the store-bought shirt that I kept in the closet for once-or-twice-a-summer use (because I was afraid to wear it more than that for fear that the holes would get bigger and it would be completely unwearable!)

As luck would have it, I caught our flowering crabtree in full bloom on the day I needed to take pictures for this pattern.  We call this our daughter's "birthday tree" because, when we have "normal weather", the tree is bloomed out on her birthday.  Last spring it warmed up, then we had a week or so of cold temps that killed all the early blooms, so the tree didn't get to flower at all last spring.  And a couple years before that, we had 70ยบ highs starting in February (not normal for Central IL), so the tree bloomed out 6 or so weeks early.  This year it was perfectly timed to her end-of-April birthday, so I'm hoping that means it will be a good year for the garden!

Anyway, back to the tank top!

This design has a lot of ease, but it's all in the front of the body.  The back is more or less fitted, which keeps the whole thing from looking like a tent.  The upper chest / shoulder area is also fitted.  What this means (if you're a lady like me who has had a few babies and is not a big fan of the fitted waist / abdomen because it clings in all the wrong places) is that this top is very comfortable to wear.  It clings in the right places (upper chest), and is very loose in the places that don't need any attention drawn to them!

This style is very flattering on people with a small-to-medium bust.  In the photos, you're looking at a 32 C/D cup size (remember, cup sizes on smaller band sizes are smaller than the same cup sizes on larger band sizes.  So while a 40D might qualify as a "large bust", a 32 D is firmly in the "small-to-medium bust" range.)  Through test knitting, we found that people with larger bust sizes might prefer to 1) go up a size from their actual high-bust measurement, 2) drop the neckline a couple inches so it cuts into the bust line rather that sitting high atop it and highlighting the large bust with a large swath of stockinette, or 3) both.  If you are a larger-busted woman who wants to give this a try, just know that specific instructions for these modifications are not included in the pattern, so I wouldn't recommend this project for large-busted knitters who are not experienced at making pattern modifications.  There is a detailed schematic though, so if you are comfortable making modifications, you should have all the information you need on the schematic to be successful.

When choosing a yarn, please keep in mind that Mad Hatter,, the yarn used for the sample, is on the heavy side of sport-weight.  It contains 344 yds in each 113g skein, which is the same as a 100g skein that's 304 yds or a 50g skein that's 152 yds.  To compare, I filtered yarn on Ravelry to "sport weight" and clicked on a few random 100% merino yarns.  They were listed at 328, 335, & 340 yds per 100g. So while all 3 examples are more or less within the 10% weight-to-yardage ratio I like to stick to with my own projects, they were all slightly thinner yarns.  This was a bit of an issue during testing, as I had a couple testers choose yarns that had a significantly different weight-to-yardage ratio than the Mad Hatter.  They absolutely could still get gauge, but yarn usage is going to be quite different when you're using a yarn that isn't within about 10% of that weight-to-yardage ratio.  So take a tip from the testing pros: make sure to buy extra yarn if you're going to use something that has more than 304 yards in each 100g skein!  Speaking of testers, shout out to the fantastic ladies who helped to work the kinks out of this pattern!  Icyflames, REJ, karenlwallace, & chau7 - I appreciate all the work you put into your projects and the great pattern suggestions you gave me!

Skills needed for this tank are very basic: knitting flat and in-the-round, VERY basic chart reading (pattern is written, but colorwork section is charted), VERY basic color work for about 11 rows, decreases (K2tog, modified SSK - explained in pattern), Kitchener Stitch at shoulders (you can use a 3-needle-bind-off if you're morally opposed to Kitchener), and picking up stitches around arm holes & neckline for finishing trim. That's really all there is to it!

This project would also be a perfect one to take along for summer travels since about 80% of the top is nothing but stockinette stitch in the round.  By the time you get to the colorwork, you're almost finished!

Buy now on Ravelry.  Frabjous Fibers yarns are available at a number of local yarn shops, many of which will ship orders to you!

Also, to celebrate releasing my 60th design, I'll be paying attention to my Ravelry "user activity" feed today. Every 60th person to favorite, queue, link to, comment on, create a project for, or post a photo linking to any of my patterns will receive that pattern in their Ravelry library! Feel free to share so more people can have a chance to win a free pattern today!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Da 'Burbs

We took a weekend trip to Chicago to visit a couple friends.  One is a friend I've known since we were 7.  He and I were in class together from 2nd grade until he left in 10th grade to go to a different high school.  As adults, I've remained in various places in IL where we grew up, and he relocated to LA.  Luckily, his family still lives in IL, so he visits a couple times a year and I try to make it up to see him at least every few trips he makes. 

 The second friend is a mutual friend that my husband and I met in college.  He now lives in one of the western Chicago Suburbs, so we do get to see him every once in a while, but since we were already making the trip to see the California friend, it worked out well to meet the college friend for lunch the next day.  And as a bonus, husband and I got our once-a-decade night away from the kids, since my parent's house was on the way up to Chicago and they were willing to host overnight grandkids!

Anyway, I hadn't been thinking about visiting any yarn shops on this trip, but as it turned out, we got to swing by two different places!

On Saturday, we stopped by Knit Nirvana in Forest Park, IL.  I've been looking for Malabrigo Rios yarn in the Azul Profundo colorway and having no luck finding it online, so I was hoping I might get lucky since their website listed Malabrigo as one of the brands they carry.  I struck out though.  They had a lot of nice yarns, but most of them were brands that my local yarn shop carries, so I didn't have trouble resisting the urge to bring it home with me.  They also have a super-sweet dog that was at the shop with a woman I believe is the owner.  The dog is 13 years old and very mellow...he just wants to sniff you hands, convince you to pet him, and push his head between your legs, where he hides it while you pet him!

The next day, I found plenty to buy.  String Theory Yarn Company in Glen Ellyn was a cute little shop full of lovely yarns, a few of which I was not already familiar with.

I picked up 4 skeins of Manos del Uruguay "Serena", a cotton/baby alpaca blend that I previously used when I wrote The Sweetest Thing.  It's so soft and has a beautiful halo - I can not wait to turn these skeins into a pattern for next winter!

Another yarn that I was already familiar with, but couldn't resist bringing home a couple skeins of is Dream in Color's Classy with Cashmere.  It's $30 a skein, so it's a special treat for sure, but it is worth every penny.  Gorgeous tonal colorways, super, super soft, and just an all-around scrumptious yarn to work with and to wear!  

Don't just take my word for it - Ravelry users give it a solid 5 out of 5 stars!

One of my new-to-me purchases was this "Mesa" from Classic Elite Yarns.  It is 100% cotton and really has a nice feel to it in the ball.  It's definitely not your "sugar and cream"-type craft store cotton.  I can see myself using it for a baby sweater or something else worn next to the skin, and I couldn't resist the tonal colorway.  That's usually not seen very often in cotton yarns.  I was happy to see that this yarn is also highly rated by Ravelry users!

The other new type was "Cotton Silk DK" from Sublime.  I bought small quantities of both the Mesa and the Sublime since I had no idea what I'd be using it for.  I just wanted enough to use for swatching so I could play with it and figure out if it would be right for whatever project ideas might come up in the future.  I picked a natural linen-type color, but the Cotton Silk DK had a nice array of colors to choose from.  I'm pretty sure this is a new yarn since it only has one user rating on Ravelry and only 10 people have it listed in their stash.

I rounded out my haul with a new Size 4, 40" Chiaogoo circular needle.  I have a set of Knit Picks interchangeable needles that I like quite a lot, but I have to admit, I like the feel of the one Chiaogoo needle that I own even more.  It's a size 3, which is once size smaller than my interchangeables run.  I like it so much, in fact, that I tend to knit more projects with a size 3 needle than I probably should.  My Knit Picks Size 4 needle has been used so much that the nickel coating has started to wear off on one of the needles, so I thought I'd replace that with another Chiaogoo needle (even though Knit Picks has a lifetime guarantee on needles, I just haven't gotten around to exchanging it).  If you're still working with craft-store-type needles, I could highly recommend either the Knit Picks nickel-plated or the stainless steel Chiaogoo needles with the red cables.  Both have a really nice feel to them, and I promise, once you compare them to the Boye or Takumi Clover circulars that you can buy at places like WalMart or Michaels, I think you'll have a hard time going back to your old needles!

If you do visit String Theory Yarn Company, make sure to cross the railroad tracks and go up the street about a block to the Blackberry Market.  We stopped there to grab a snack for the ride home and both of us picked treats that were delicious!  My husband got a blueberry muffin that he said was fantastic.  Because of my lactose intolerance, I can't usually eat much in the way of baked goods when I'm away from home because they so often contain butter, milk, or other dairy products like sour cream or cream cheese.  But when I asked the cashier if there were any options available that might be ok for me, he pointed out a little rack of vegan cookies.  I'm always a little suspicious of vegan baked goods because I haven't had the pleasure of tasting many that are very good, so I grabbed two different types of cookies thinking that if one was terrible, maybe the other kind would be ok.  I ate the chocolate chip cookie on the way home and it was excellent.  So good, in fact, that I polished off the other one later that evening - a chocolate chip/oatmeal/dried fruit concoction, and I think it was even better than the plain chocolate chip!  Anyway, the Blackberry Market is a little cafe that also has baked goods, packaged snacks, and a few other doo-dads like jars of jam, bags of coffee...that type of thing.   I highly recommend it for any hungry knitters!