Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Staying focused and getting the gift knitting done

The holiday season is upon us. Well if you pay any attention to the store displays, ads, and TV commercials, the holiday season was upon us over a month ago in early October. It amazed me that stores were setting up for the holiday before we even made it to Halloween. But I digress, this post isn't about how the holidays creep up faster and faster every year, its about, how do you stop yourself from getting knitting sidetracked during this time of year.

For me, I find myself surfing Ravelry and for patterns to knit for gifts or for myself. I get so excited about all the patterns that I want to try that I can't stay focused on knitting the actual gifts. Every year I struggle with this dilemma. This year I took time off from product knitting because I got really burned out trying to keep up with shows, farmer's markets, and trying to figure out what will sell and what people will buy (this is an on-going process, I still haven't figured out). It was also to give me time to get back to making gifts for my family and friends, which I've neglected over the past few years because I have been focused on product/custom knitting.

How do you keep your knitting on track? What tips and tricks can you share that help you to stay focused and get the gift knitting done and not end up sending Christmas gifts after the new year (which has been my trend for the last few years, which usually are not handmade - which is frustrating and disappointing).

Some ideas I've been using this year to keep me on track are:
  1. Once I'm home for the night, fed and taken out the dog, and I've had my dinner, I turn on my DVR'd shows and watch them back to back, which for me could be anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of shows, depending on when I decide to watch them. I totally unplug, I stay away from my phone which is a total distraction with apps like Pinterest, Facebook, email, etc. I totally engross myself in the shows that I'm watching and the needles just fly and before I know it I have a fingerless mitt done, or I'm able to get quite a few rows done of a cowl. I find this to be very rewarding and it keeps me motivated to go to the next project and get it done.
  2. At work when I'm on my lunch break, instead of browsing Ravelry like I normally do, I plug in some ear buds and listen to some music while I knit away, tuning out all that is going on in the office around me.
  3. I made a list of the items I want to give as gifts this year, I prioritized the list by difficulty and time it will take to complete. Once I've completed the item on the list I cross it off, this gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  4. And of course I reward myself when I complete an item on my list, by giving myself permission to browse patterns, check my Facebook or Pinterest page, or just giving myself my favorite piece of chocolate.
I'm finding that sticking to these simple little tricks have made it possible for me to get more done this year than I have in previous years. I'm also not feeling so overwhelmed with how much I have to get done.

For me one of the hardest parts of staying focused  and completing the tasks I set out to do, whether it's knitting, work, studying, etc. is keeping myself motivated. But I found that if I remind myself why its important to complete the task it helps me to stay motivated and focused on getting the task done, which for me the importance of completing my gift knitting is to give handmade gifts to my friends and family as well as get my Christmas gifts out on time this year.

While I was thinking about what I do to stay focused and motivated I did a search on the web to find some others tips and tricks to help stay focused and motivated and this what I found:

From How to Stay Focused at  

Make a to-do list. Making a to-do list at the beginning of every day or week can make you feel more focused and motivated to continue your work. If you make a list of all the things you have to do, no matter how small, you will feel more accomplished when you check those items off your list and move on to the next task. This will also keep you focused on one task at a time.   

Find your purpose. Having a purpose to finish your work will keep you motivated and will therefore keep you focused.Part of the reason we lose focus is because we can't see the point of whatever task we have to get done and would rather be doing something else. Once you find your purpose, write it down, or repeat it to yourself to keep your energies in the right place. Your purpose can be the key that unlocks the door to your focus. 

Pinpoint your goal. What is your goal for completing your task? The goal can be the carrot at the end of the stick that makes the task worth doing. 

Repeat your "focus mantra." When you know exactly what your purpose and goal are, you can create a focus mantra that you repeat to yourself whenever you get distracted. It can be just a simple phrase that you repeat when you're getting sidetracked that helps get you back in order.

Don't procrastinate. Procrastination is the thief of time. Avoid delaying any of your activities by leaving things to be done for tomorrow, next week, or next month. Rather have them done now and move on to the next project. 

From How to Stay Motivated at

Remind yourself of your goals. Usually before devoting time to any specific endeavor, we tend to make short and long term goals. If you start to lose sight of your goals, then you may be less motivated than if you were always checking to see how much closer you are getting throughout the whole process. Keeping track of your goals and checking your progress can help keep you motivated day in and day out. 

Make weekly checkpoints to track your progress. Everyone needs to see how they are keeping up with their goals if they want to stay motivated. If you see that you are on track or even excelling every time you check your progress, you will be motivated and happy that you are getting there. If you see that you are lagging on your goals, it may be the kick start you need to help get you back on track.  

Make sure to reward yourself every time you achieve your weekly goals. This could be as simple as a bowl of ice cream after a long, hard week of working out. Or as rewarding as a trip to the spa for all your hard work. Whatever rewards will keep you going are the ones you should be giving yourself.

Give yourself breaks. Sometimes even the most determined people get overwhelmed. You may be burning yourself out, and a much needed break might be just what you need.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone falls short sometimes. If you fail to meet your goals for the week, don't get too emotional. Let yourself take it as a lesson. It's not always how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving. Don't dwell on failure, just accept it as a human occurrence, and continue working towards your goals. 

I hope some of these tips and tricks are helpful to you as well and they can be used for any task you set out to do. But if you have tips and tricks that help motivate you and keep you focused that weren't mentioned here, I'd like to hear from you. Tell me what keeps you focused and how you stay motivated when you have 10 more pairs of fingerless mitts to finish before Christmas!!!

Happy Knitting!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

If you haven't started your holiday is the time

I've been slowly getting some holiday knitting done, in between a few custom orders. I recently finished two custom orders for owl hats with matching owl fingerless mitts.

Made using Kenzie by Hikoo by skacel
 50% wool, 25% nylon, 10% angora, 10% alpaca
using Kenzie by Hikoo by skacel
50% wool, 25% nylon, 10% angora, 10% alpaca

I'm currently working on a cowl that I've designed myself, with simple stitches like 2x2 ribbing, garter stitch, k2, p2 then p2, k2; giving the cowl some texture. I'm in the home stretch with it and I can't wait to see how it turns out after blocking. I'm using a yarn called Dolcetto by JoAnn Sensations. A bulky weight yarn that is 54% wool, 24% nylon and 22% cotton, this combination gives it a nice smooth feel and drapes really well once you block it.

I was very excited when a co-worker handed me a sandwich bag full of wine corks! Now I can make enough Pint Sized Pines for just about everyone on my holiday gift-knitting list. And no sooner than I posted the finished trees on my Facebook page, I got an order to make two of them right away.  A few days later I got another order to make four more! Good thing I got another bag of corks, I couldn't possibly drink enough wine to keep up with the orders!!!

I'm looking for more ideas for this holiday gift-knitting. What are your projects this year? What do you make to give as gifts? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Knitting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baby it's getting cold outside

The trees are changing, the rain has settled in, and the air is brisk. Winter is on its way. What do you like about this time of year? I like that it's not too cold yet, but it's cool enough to start pulling out the headwear, maybe some fingerless mitts, or even a cowl or two.

As a matter of fact, I saw today two of my co-workers sporting neckwear. One had mysteriously received a hand knit scarf (which she came to my cubicle to thank me); I laughed and said it wasn't me who gave it to her, but it was obviously someone who knew her well, because it was in her favorite color (purple) and it just so happened to match her outfit today. I myself have just started my gift giving knitting so I haven't had any time to finish a scarf yet.

The other co-worker had on a pretty mustard colored cowl that her mom made for her last year. It was a very nice pattern and I remember admiring it last year when I saw her wear it for the first time. This co-worker's mom is a great knitter and she knits so fast. She made a lovely turquoise colored cable scarf too last year, but didn't have time to make a matching hat, so my co-worker asked me if I would make one to go with her scarf. She bought the yarn, I showed her some designs, she picked one and I knitted it for her. She loved it and wore them together to work and they complimented each other so well. The hat design she picked was this kind of swirl pattern beret called Reverie designed by Amy Swenson in the Knitty Spring 2009 edition. You can see three examples of this beret on my Hats page.

I'm currently working on a cowl for a friend in a worsted weight yarn in a pink and white blended color. I got the yarn from another friend who decided to give up on a scarf she had started several years ago. I frogged the garter stitch scarf and decided to make the Mesh Cowl (designed by Sarah Bass) that I found in 60 Quick Knits from America's Yarn Shops. It's a quick and easy pattern and I've nearly completed it. I can't wait to give it to my friend, she loves all things pink so I'm sure this will be a great addition to her wardrobe.

When I'm done with this cowl, I'll finish the UW reversible cup coaster that I designed.

I got inspired after I finished a 12th Man Seahawks reversible cup coaster that I designed and made last month.

I used double knitting (here you will find tons of videos on how to double knit) technique which for the 12th Man coaster was a little difficult because I had to work the pattern backwards on the opposite side. But it came out pretty good.

I'd like to make some more fingerless mitts this year to give as gifts. I've found a few patterns I like but I would like to know if you have a favorite pattern you like to use when you make fingerless mitts. What do you like about this pattern? How many pairs of fingerless mitts have you made using this pattern? Looking forward to hearing from all you knitters and crocheters out there.

Happy knitting!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's that time again...Holiday Knitting

I love this time of year when the trees start to change color and there is a briskness in the air, not too cold yet, but you know the colder weather is coming.

It's also the time of year when I like to get started on my holiday knitting. Earlier this year I had hit a knitting slump that lasted until about early August. I'm now actually looking forward to knitting this holiday season. Taking that break was what I needed and it has now motivated me to make some gifts for family and friends and not struggle to complete product knitting that I have to have ready for a show. I can finally get to some of my long awaited projects that have been sitting on needles begging to be finished and some new ones I've discovered that I'm itching to try.

I wasn't totally without knitting these last few months. I took a break and didn't participate in any spring shows, or Farmer's Markets over the summer, therefore, I wasn't knitting to meet some deadline or to keep up with product. I just knitted for the pure enjoyment of knitting and I really did start to enjoy it again.

I wanted to make something that was fun and frivolous, so I searched and searched until I came across a pattern by Kimberly Kwon who has so many fun designs to choose from, but I settled on the Stash Busting Monster, because it didn't call for a lot of yarn and I had some yarn I wanted to use that I purchased at a summer garage sale. It was really nice quality yarn (Zitron Noblesse) that only cost $1.50 a skein, but there was only two skeins of it. Not letting that deter me from my goal I headed to my LYS to find two more colors of this same yarn, unfortunately, they only had one color, so I picked that up and substituted another brand (Austermann Alpaca Silk) in red for the face, hands, and feet. I also came across some unique buttons to sew to the front of my monster. In no time at all I had my little monster done, so meet Buttons, he's a little smaller than the pattern suggested due to the yarn weight I used, but I still think he's really cute.

One of my favorite patterns that I tried was the Caribou Bear from the Caribou Critters pattern, by CiD Hanscom. The pattern called for Caribou yarn which was very soft and fluffy and you stranded it together with a DK weight yarn called Simplicity, both by Hikoo by Skacel. I hit a few rough spots along the way due to the long eyelash strands of the Caribou wrapping around my needles as I was knitting, but the end result was well worth it, which is Harry who is sporting his very own WSU colored scarf (he's a big Cougars fan!)

I also had some fun making the Pint Sized Pines by Julie Tarsha, which uses wine bottle corks as the base of the tree. I had intended to make these last year to give as gifts, but I hadn't collected enough wine bottle corks, so with help from friends who were happy to save their corks for me over the holidays last year, I have a nice colledtion of corks to make these to give as gifts.

My first attempt came out really well, but looked kind of plain because I used a solid colored yarn, so my next attempt I added beads along the way and I got a totally different look.

Solid green that I used kind of made the tree
look unfinished.
Adding some beads gave it a more
finished look - like a decorated
Christmas tree.

I've made two of the beaded versions of the Pint Sized Pines. I really like that they look like little decorated Christmas trees. I'm going to make more to give as gifts for my co-workers. I like giving handmade items and they are always appreciated by the recipients.

I designed my own adult headbands after seeing a really awesome one worn by one of my knit buddies at knit night. She told me she used a bookmark pattern and added i-cord ties to the ends! That was such a clever idea so I decided to give it a try, but instead of using a bookmark pattern I searched through my pattern books and found two designs in The Knitter's Bible that I liked and gave it a shot.

This one is called the Vine Pattern

This one is called the Dainty Chevron Pattern
I added i-cords ties on the ends and there you have it and easy peasy headband you can tie behind your head so you can make it as tight or as loose as you want. These will probably be Christmas gifts for two of my nieces. They will be unique headband that none of their friends will have!

I also finally finished the gingham dress that I started last year to go with the knitted doll I completed last November to give to my grandniece for Christmas. But I didn't have any clothes made for the little doll, so I held off on sending her to my grandniece Tatiana. But her dress is done and I will be adding some shoes and maybe another skirt and sweater, so that Tatiana can have fun dressing and undressing her.
Designed by Arne and Carlos