Fashion Friday :: Stitch Fix #1, a review

Are you familiar yet with Stitch Fix? I learned about it last spring, when I was in the process of trying to refine my wardrobe a bit and several of my flickr friends were trying it out. It’s a personal styling service – you fill out a style questionnaire on their site so that they get a sense of your “style profile.” Then you pay a $20 “styling fee” and they hand-pick five items for you, based on your preferences. They ship the box to you, you try everything on, and then you select what, if anything, you want to keep; the $20 styling fee goes toward the cost of anything you choose. If you don’t want to keep anything, you ship everything back in the package provided (they keep the $20 styling fee). If you decide to keep everything, you get a 25% discount (minus the $20 you already paid them). Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

It is, actually. At least as long as they ship you at least one thing you want to keep. I’ve done it three times now, and each time, I’ve kept at least one item. I got the first box in May. Here’s what they sent:

Stitch Fix #1 - May 2013

Stitch Fix #1 – May 2013

I received five pieces:
1 – a dark purple v-neck cap sleeve jersey top
2 – an orange skirt with a little front zipper that unzips at the thigh
3 – a necklace with white, blue, and orange squares
4 – a faux wrap tank dress – they call the color red but to me it is more of an orange-red
5 – a white longsleeve open cardigan

I fell in total and complete love with the dress, which is not something I would’ve ever picked out for myself – I would’ve skipped over the color entirely, and, even in a different color, I would’ve skipped it because it’s sleeveless. (professionally, I don’t wear sleeveless clothes except with a cardigan or jacket). But I really loved this dress and the price was just right.

I loved the dark purple jersey top, too. It’s got a really nice neckline and I love the feel of it (and the color). It’s pricier than I would tend to pay, but I’ve actually gotten so much wear it out of it that it’s definitely been worth it.

I really liked the skirt, too, but I sent it back. It was the most expensive thing in the box, and I just won’t pay nearly $90 for a cotton/spandex skirt. I know how easy (and cheap) it is to make a skirt, and this one just isn’t worth that price, even with the cute zipper detail. I love the color, though, especially with the purple top and white cardi.

I also sent the necklace back, even though it was cute. It felt really cheap and trinkety, not at all worth the almost $50 they were charging for it. I typically don’t pay more than $25 for costume jewelry – anything more than that and it needs to either be sterling silver, or have actual gems/stones in it, or be handmade.

The white cardi is the one piece I was on the fence about. I really liked it – it’s definitely my style. I have something similar to it that looks a bit worn now, so it could’ve been a nice update to replace my old cardigan. But it was again more money than I would typically pay for a piece like this in the store, so I sent it back.

Overall, I was very pleased with this way of shopping. The dress was a real find for me, and I’ve enjoyed wearing it to summer weddings and out for dinner. The purple top has been a perfect work piece for me. Even the items I didn’t keep gave me ideas of what to look for as I shop elsewhere.

All-in-all, it was a great experience, and one I was eager to repeat. I did it again in June – I’ll be posting that review next Friday.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, you can schedule a Fix for yourself on their site here. (Full disclosure: if you use that link, I will get a credit towards my next Fix!) If you have questions about how it works, you can see their FAQ here – and I am more than happy to answer any questions based on my experience, too.

a thing I love about knitting :: the fix

No matter what you mess up with knitting, you can almost always fix it. I know there are times when things seem too far gone for a fix, and sometimes you could fix it but the knit just doesn’t seem worth the time and effort involved. But if you have enough patience, enough motivation, enough stubbornness, and enough yarn – you can fix almost any problem.

With my current pair of handspun Cut & Paste Socks, I started the contrast cuff with Louet Gems Fingering held double. I liked the color but didn’t like the feel of how it was knitting up when held double. So I ordered some Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Solid in “Blackberry,” which I overdyed with Dharma Acid Dye in “Deep Maroon.” I am very, very happy with how the overdyeing turned out. So when it was time to knit the second cuff, I happily finished off the tube with that yarn.

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(old yarn in top cuff, new yarn in bottom cuff)

So what to do about the original cuff?

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Cut it, baby!

Wooo! It’s so gratifying to snip into my kniting.

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A few snips later, and I’m ready to unravel the little bit of purple yarn left, put the exposed stitches back on needles, and then knit with the new yarn.

If only problems in regular life could be unraveled and redone so easily!

9 things I’ve learned by blogging every day

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This November, I participated in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), as I’ve done for the last two years. It’s quite an interesting discipline, especially for a sporadic blogger like myself. As someone who is primarily a knitblogger, I find it easy to fall into a habit of only blogging when I finish a project. But when I push myself to blog every day, I find there is no lack of things to write about.

For those of you interested in reinvigorating your own blogging rhythm, here are a few things I’ve learned by blogging every day.

1. The conventional wisdom about blogging seems to be true: consistency in creating content is key to building an audience. I have seen a roughly 40% jump in my readership without changing anything else but how frequently I post. I’ve always blogged simply because I wanted to and because I enjoyed the community, not in some quest to gain lots of readers; however, it’s helpful to be reminded that content is still the most important thing, and can actually help build readership.

2. Consistency is also key in maintaining any kind of blogging momentum. I’ve always found that the less frequently I blog, the less I feel like blogging. Inertia begets inertia. But blogging every day – even if it’s only a single photograph and a single sentence – creates its own momentum. It’s like exercise or any other discipline, I suppose – it is harder to start doing after a hiatus than it is to just keep doing it.

3. There is still a place out there for knit blogs. There have been times in the past when I have thought of shutting down this blog – Ravelry, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest fill so many gaps that blogs used to cover, at least for crafters. But I really enjoy having my own little space on the web, and it’s been invaluable for me to have my own photo-documentation of knitting, spinning, and all manner of making. One thing I’ve discovered during this NaBloPoMo is a lot of other knitters and knitbloggers (as well as bakers, cooks, foodies, and fashionistas) that I didn’t already know. I am using WordPress’s features now more than ever, especially on my phone, and it makes it very easy to connect with new community all the time. Also, all those other places – Ravelry, Pinterest, Facebook – often serve as gateways back to relevant blog posts. I think the relationship between blogs and these other venues will continue to morph, and I’m interested to see how things will change.

4. People will read on the weekends. I don’t know where I got the idea that they didn’t. I think I’ve read here and there that people do most of their leisure reading online during the workweek (!) and that on the weekends they are too busy to read. Maybe smartphones have changed that? I don’t know. But I am finding that there are readers out there on Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s worth making the effort to blog.

5. You guys love the fashion-related posts. This is a new feature on my blog this fall, and it’s been an interesting surprise to see how my reader count jumps on Fashion Fridays.

6. Especially the Stitch Fix posts. Seriously, y’all. For my last Stitch Fix review, my readership tripled from the previous day.

7. It’s easier than I thought it would be to blog from my iPhone or iPad. This is something I’ve only started doing in October, and now I do it regularly. The WordPress app for mobile devices is pretty great. I still find it much easier to link to other content when I blog on my laptop, though, so that is still my preferred mode of blogging.

8. It’s harder than I expected it would be to keep pimping my blog on Facebook. I have an earthchicknits Facebook page, but I also link to my posts on my personal Facebook page (and I have an automate update set up on Twitter as well). I do wonder how off-putting it is for my real-life friends to see daily status updates from me linking to my blog, and I have seen interaction with these Facebook updates go down during NaBloPoMo (even while blog readership has gone up). I may experiment with linking on my personal page less.

9. Having a blog plan helps, but its no guarantee that it will create a true and orderly map for blogging. In fact, most of the time, the blog plans I draw up from time-to-time end up bearing very little resemblance to what actually gets posted, and in what order, on my blog. I have posts I’ve been planning since September that I still haven’t managed to take pictures for or write. What’s more, despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to manage scheduling posts ahead of time. I have created little calendars for myself of content I would like to pre-post, and I never can seem to get ahead of the game.

Except this time! I wrote this post on Sunday night to post Monday morning, so maybe there is hope for me yet. It’s one of my blogging goals for this very busy month – to schedule some of my posts ahead of time. We’ll see how it goes.

So that’s it. My little list of a few things I’ve learned by posting every day. It’s fascinating to me to see how blogging has changed in the almost-eight years I’ve been doing it, and I’m so interested to see how it will continue to evolve.

Then there were 14. Sort of. (Smitten)

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I mean, I can’t really call them done until I’ve gotten all those ends taken care of, can I?

Not to mention the little loop thingies.

But I’ve been leaving off all the individual finishing details for the sake of momentum – it seems to work well for me to immediately cast on for the next mitten as soon as I’m done knitting one. I timed myself on the most recent one, and it took me 49 minutes to make it. That was without reading or watching TV, and I usually do at least one of those things while I knit. Watching TV while knitting doesn’t slow me down at all, but I know that reading does, at least a little bit.

My goal is to get these finished (including the weaving in of ends! including the sewing of the little loop thingies! including the crocheting of a chain for them to hang on!) in time to get them in the mail in a little more than a week, so my friend will receive them in time to hang for Advent.

I know it sounds like I’m a great friend for doing this – but you should see what she made for me! And you will, soon.

(Fashion Friday will be back next Friday, with – at last! – another Stitch Fix! My box is finally on its way to me now, scheduled to arrive on Monday. It’s all I can do to keep from looking at my account info to see what they’ve sent me. I’m trying to be surprised. Happily, I hope.)

Fashion Friday :: the sweater dress

O Rhinebeck, I am so sad not to be in you this weekend. I will miss being with so many wonderful knitty friends, and seeing all the wool and fiber, and petting all the animals, and eating all the fair food. Those of you who are going to be there, I hope you have a fantastic time! (I know you will)

I’ve gotten to go to Rhinebeck twice, once in 2010 (when I broke my ankle the day before leaving town, and had to ride around the fairgrounds on a motorized scooter and meet people from below eye level and basically be in unremitting pain all weekend – and yet! it was still fun!) and once in 2011. Last year, I couldn’t get away due to my doctoral studies and this year I just can’t afford the time away due to work, family, and the fact that I have already been gone so much this year. I do hope to get back there sometime (next year?), because it really is a lovely and magical experience.

For Rhinebeck 2011, I did something I hadn’t done before (and haven’t done since – YET). I knitted a dress. A babycocktails design, it was a completely yummy experience. I made it out of Plymouth Tweed (discontinued within a month of my falling in love with it), in a delicious autumn gold:
knitted :: Allegheny

This is Allegheny, from the first volume of Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People.

Man, I love this dress. It looks so great with purple tights and my chocolate boots:
knitted :: Allegheny

And the cable-y detail is just perfection:
knitted :: Allegheny

And the fun thing is that once I got to Rhinebeck, I discovered that one of my housemates, the gorgeous and amazing Elspeth, had also knit an Allegheny for Rhinebeck! Do you know what is even more fabulous than walking around Rhinebeck in a babycocktails-designed handknit tweedy fall dress? Walking around with this gorgeous creature in her own version of the same dress. To wit:
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(photo by Kirsten Kapur, used with permission)

We hadn’t planned on matching, but once we realized we’d made the same dress, Elspeth threw on some yellow tights and I threw on a purple scarf (my handspun Damson, actually a shawlette), so we could just be full-on color-coordinated. We had a hilarious and wonderful time.
candid :: Allegheny, side view

Sigh. I am missing my housemates, and my carmates, and seeing all the wonderful fiber-type friends this weekend.

But I digress! This post is about fashion! It is about the knitted dress! A thing I had never made before, because I was always scared of the stretch factor (because who wants to spend all that time knitting only to have something that ends up with a saggy bottom?), and I was also not sure I would wear it. But I do wear this one, very much. And it has held its shape right well. Which makes me wonder, why haven’t I made another one?

This pattern was wonderful, and it truly didn’t take much more time than knitting a sweater. For awhile I had thought I might design a knitted dress myself, but for now the design I had in mind is still locked in my mind, bumping around with all my other un-knit and un-released ideas.

And what about you? Have you ever knitted a dress? Would you? What do you think of the concept in general, and have you seen any knit dress patterns in the last couple of years that really caught your eye?

(By the way, I have scheduled my next Stitch Fix! It won’t come until next month – waaah – but I’m looking forward to it. Have any of the rest of you received and/or reviewed any new Fixes?)

back in town, back on the needles :: more handspun Cut & Paste Socks

I’m home from a very fun, very full trip to New York City, during which I managed not to knit a single stitch. Though I have many, many things currently on the needles (natch), I needed to get something going that I could take camping with me this weekend, to work on in low-light or no-light conditions. More Cut&Paste Socks it is!

handspun purply goodness

handspun purply goodness

This yarn is some of my truly early handspun, from four years ago (I had been spinning about five months or so when I made it). It’s Pigeonroof Studios BFL in “Bridle,” a delicious mix of purples and browns.
for Rav: Pigeonroof Studios BFL

The unevenness of it doesn’t bother me, but it is spun and plied very tightly (pretty different from my spinning now, which, if anything, tends more towards looseness). This means the socks are coming out a little dense, even going up a needle size than what I’d thought, but I think they’ll be okay. I am LOVING how the colors are playing out.

No Fashion Friday today (though I’m getting ready to order another Stitch Fix, yeah!). Just playing catch-up in all things related to work, home, and knitting. The only fashion you will see me in today is my Detroit Tigers gear. Yeah, yeah!

The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

For a little boy, a little late (Hap Blanket)

I finally finished the blanket I’ve written so much about (I can’t remember the last time I’ve blogged about a work-in-progress as much as this one). I started this blanket in September 2012, for my great-nephew’s 1st birthday. It’s the same pattern I made for his older brother in 2009, only in reverse colors. I knew from that experience that this was a fun, relatively fast knit – you basically just knit a garter square, which goes quickly, and then about the time you get tired of knitting garter, you add a feather and fan border, with stripes.

Only this time, I made a glaring mistake in multiple places in the lace. I was about 12 rounds in (out of 36) when I noticed it. I tried to figure out how to fix it without ripping all the way back, but I never managed to get it sorted. I set the blanket aside for a bit, and then “a bit” became a few months, and then the next thing I knew, it had been about a year-and-a-half since I worked on it. Ridiculous, I know. I shouldn’t let little mistakes create such big obstacles to completing projects, but sometimes I do.

He and his sweet family came for a visit a couple of weeks ago, and I at least got to show him the blanket, almost done.

I think he likes it

I think he likes it

He’s two-and-a-half years old, and the sweetest little guy. The nice thing about giving a blanket to a toddler is that they do seem to appreciate it more than a baby can.

I loved making this the second time around as much as the first (which is nice, because in general I’m not big on making blankets – they seem to take so long! and then I obviously make them take way longer than necessary). But I’m very pleased with the final product.

Hap Blanket

Hap Blanket

I made it a little more rectangular than square, which I believe is how I did the first edition:
YIP.7.19 - Hap Blanket

The pattern calls for stripes across the body of the blanket as well, but I don’t care for those at all, so I omitted them in both of the blankets I’ve made.

scallops

scallops

I’m so glad I kept reasonably good notes the first time I made this (thanks, Ravelry!), so that I remembered I didn’t care for the bind-off included in the pattern – it made the edges too tight for me. So I did the Russian lace bind-off, purl version: p1, (p1, slip both sts back to the left needle, p2tog)*, till done. The edges turned out perfectly.

love those corner points

love those corner points

The yarn is Socks that Rock Heavyweight, which is the same yarn I used on my other Hap Blanket. I used 1.5 skeins of In the Navy and a skein of Stonewash. I love this yarn as much as ever y’all. It is a dream to work with, the semi-solid colors have so much depth, and the final product is squishtastic.

squish!

squish!

Because the yarn I used is not the aran weight called for, I did as I did last time, and cast on more stitches than the pattern indicates, and then just knit until it was the size I wanted. (If you do this, make sure to knit in multiples of 12 so that your lace pattern turns out right).

The blanket has been a big hit in our household. One of my big guys is now asking me if I’ll make one for him…

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I suppose if I start making it now, it might be done by the time he’s in middle school. Wait, that is now less than 18 months away (gulp!), so I’m guessing it wouldn’t be done by then.

This blanket is going in the mail to its sweet little recipient, whom I hope will enjoy it for years to come.

love this munchkin!

love this munchkin!

raveled

Towards whimsy

Thank you so much for your sweet and fun responses to my New Year’s Whimsolutions. So far things are going pretty well.

On New Year’s Eve, I managed #1 – wear false eyelashes.

On New Year’s Day, I hit #3 – play the Wii U – as well as #4 – watch some hockey:

Go Red Wings!

Go Red Wings!

The Red Wings lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic, but I had fun watching the game, and I kept up reasonably well. The rhythm is so very different from that of baseball, but it was fun to try to keep up with it.

I’ve also been keeping up pretty well with #5 – paint my nails – and #6 – play music:

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And I got on #7 – read more fiction – right away, getting completely absorbed in 11/22/63 (by Stephen King).

knitting and reading while traveling

knitting and reading while traveling

It was such a good book!

I haven’t gotten started on #2 – learn to speak elvish – yet, but I did watch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with my family during the snowstorm a few days ago.

At any rate, eight days in, I’d have to say there’s been a fair amount of whimsy.

There’s also been a wee bit of spinning and knitting. More on that soon!

resurrected :: Vestvember 2009



for Rav: the start of Vestvember, originally uploaded by earthchick.

When Cascade Elite Skye Tweed was discontinued, I bought enough in four different colors to make sweaters for each person in my family. I made a Cobblestone Pullover for Tiny Dancer and started a Fishtrap Aran for Little Buddha in this gorgeous orange. It was so pretty!

January Aran, WIP

I was well into the knit when I realized I had miscrossed two cables much earlier.
January Aran, WIP
It sat around for well over a year waiting for me to fix it – and by then it was much too small for anyone in the family.

So I decided to harvest it for a vest for myself. That started out like this:
Vestvember FAIL
Yeah, yeah, I know: take time to save time and check gauge.

For what it’s worth, I was knitting this vest on the same size needles I’d used for the fishtrap aran – I thought I knew my gauge. But apparently not. So I ripped, did a gauge swatch, and started again. I ended up with this:
Vestvember FAIL #2
Yeah. Still way too big.

So I ripped one more time, started over with 36 fewer stitches, and went roaring ahead. It went great, and fast, except I totally failed to do the front armpit decreases, and didn’t notice until I’d attached the front to the back:
Oh yeah, Vestvember.

I must’ve had some sort of mental block with this vest. So I put it away and let it sit in the closet for the past two years. But after the triumph of resurrecting and finishing My Old Man’s Anniversary Vest, I’m ready to tackle this baby. All that’s involved is ripping a little (the top of the front), redoing that part (with armpit decreases this time!), reattaching front to back, and then adding the trim (that’ll be the long part).

It ‘s Vestvember, y’all. I’m finally ready to BRING IT!

raveled