Knitting Tips for Beginners

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One of my motivations for knitting would have to be my love of scarves. Summers are great for live music, festivals, food, and fireworks. However, the cooler months in the Midwest are dear to my heart. Starting in late September or early October, I can’t leave the house without at scarf. I love going all out in stylish large sweaters, jewel tone tops, and brown booties. It’s my favorite part of the year where I like to get very crafty making table runners, placemats, and baby size quilts.

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When I first started learning how to knit, I envisioned myself learning how to knit a scarf. Knitting a scarf is a great beginner project. In order to knit a scarf, you only have to learn two basic stitches and those are called “knit” and “purl.” You also have to learn how to cast on at the very beginning and later bind off at the very end. The longer you practice, the easier starting and finishing a project becomes. At the beginning, my fingers were very sore, and it seemed almost impossible that I was going to make anything. I was watching Craftsy and YouTube before work, at lunch, in my car. It just seemed as if I wasn’t getting it, but the more I tried through the first two weeks, the better I became at forming stitches. Eventually, I was knitting everywhere. It was an activity I did to keep my mind focus. Knitting results in something tangible where you could actually see your progress. I ended up making three scarves that season. My creations weren’t perfect, but I couldn’t believe myself after a while.

A few helpful things I learned along the way helped me on my knitting journey.

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1. Start off with knitting with  bulky or worsted weight yarn
As a beginner, I Iearned very quickly that my little fingers were not ready for the pretty lace, finger, sport, or novelty yarn. It was hard to pass up the gorgeous indie dyed yarn, I would see on Etsy, but I just wasn’t ready at first. And, then I jumped right into knitting with curly yarn and somehow I made it. I recommend finding a medium worsted weight yarn or bulky weight yarn to start your first project. Also you want to the yarn itself to have the same texture all the way throughout. Stay away from novelty yarn for your first project. Sometimes novelty yarn, can be too curly making it hard to see your stitches. Bulky weight yarn knits up fast and you can also see your stitches better. I find it easier to see my mistakes before I get too far in my project.

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2. Purchase wood or bamboo Needles
In my experience I was dropping stitches very easily with aluminum needles. They seemed so slippery when I first started knitting. I knit better and have better results with wood or bamboo needles. The wood needles are much more steady making it easier for you to concentrate on knitting accurate stitches. If you are daring and want to use a novelty yarn that’s a bit curly it’s easier to make the stitches with wooden needles.

3. Don’t toss your yarn labels in the trash
Yarn labels are very important. The yarn labels contain the weight of the yarn, the knitting gauge, washing instructions, and drying instructions.

4. Buy enough yarn for your project
Purchase the yarn you need for the project that day. You want to make sure that you get the exact color you need for your project. If you return to the store later looking for the same yarn, the same color could possibly be there, but the color might be slightly different from the yarn you purchased with your project earlier because it’s not of the same dye lot. I hate to run out of yarn when I’m enjoying a project. For me I always purchase extra yarn. To some it might seem wasteful, but it’s just better to be safe and have enough, then to be running around in panic mode trying to think of steps to finish your project.

5. Visit your local yarn shop
It’s important to visit your local yarn shop because the yarn shop owners can provide helpful information to you while you are on your knitting journey. Yarn shop owners are experts. They know yarn because many of them have been knitting for over 10 years or more. They can be very helpful at making suggestions. Many of them offer services such as helping you get started on project or helping you when you are stuck on a project. Most local yarn shops offer classes which leads to you meeting other knitters.

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6. Make friends with knitters
The first person who helped me learn how to cast on my first stitches was a friend who knitted on and off.  She helped me as much as she could getting my fingers together.
Meeting other people who knit gives you a sense of community. Join a knitting circle or make friends through social networking. I remember when I first started knitting, and I posted photos of my progress on Instagram. My projects weren’t perfect, but I received support from people I didn’t know online. The encouragement kept me going.

7. Stitch Markers

How could I almost forget? Yes, purchase stitch markers for your knitting. There have been several times when I started knitting and I didn’t use stitch markers. I regretted each time. Stitch makers are a must. They come in handy when you are trying to learn a new pattern or when you need to remember when to make a particular stitch. Keep some stitch markers in your knitting bag. You never know when you might get interrupted in the middle of knitting.

I hope my tips prove to be helpful to you.  It’s ok to be ambitious. Try new  patterns. Grow! After awhile you are going to get bored with garter stitch. Create your very own knitting journey.

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Share the Love: Quilting

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I learn that its best to just make the effort in life. I’ve been very sick lately with an upper respiratory infection, and the  hardest part is trying to find relief during the mornings and late nights. For the past two weeks, I just haven’t been able to get enough sleep due to the amount of coughing and pain I’ve been in. My chest and back were so sore that at one point I couldn’t turn or lift things. Sleeping became very painful. I’ve been to the doctor twice. I’m on several cold and allergy medications, but it’s becoming very tiresome which depleted my energy.  During the day, I feel nervous leaving me on edge with no appetite at times.

This past Tuesday,  I had a little energy to make it to work. It was the only day I could make it to work. There were plenty of emails waiting for me after the Memorial Weekend. I still have programs to plan for work. I had my water, soup, and meds nearby. I would cough so bad that I was losing my voice. The coughing would send me into these instant panic attacks. Just trying to make it in and out of the store was a challenge. However,  in the back of my mind, I knew there was something that I had to do.

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I carried  a quilting book with me. The quilting book is called, The Splendid Sampler: 100 Spectacular Blocks from a Community of Quilters by Jane Davidson and Pat Sloan.  I wanted to loan the book to someone in a quilting group at the local church I partnered with nearby my job. A huge part of quilting and the quilting community is sharing.  Quilter share techniques, tools, fabric, and etc. The Splendid Sampler is a great book for quilters who want to learn new techniques and quilt blocks.

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I was so busy during the fall season last year that I didn’t have enough time to practice sewing at home. I was going through a transitional phase in my life between jobs. I figured it was time for me to share the book with someone else. Someone else could be making pretty quilt blocks while I get my personal life back to normal.

I sure did enjoy playing with fabric during that time. I remember going through a whole learning process just to piece together one block. After that I ended up making several of the same blocks. The fabric featured in the photos is  from Katarina Roccella’s line called Lavish for Art Gallery Fabrics.

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But, enough about my love of fabric…That Tuesday, I couldn’t do any serious outreach for work, but I got in my car during lunch and decided to pay  the quilting group a visit. I didn’t have to stay, but I needed to get out. When I arrived there, the chairperson of the quilting ministry said she wanted to meet me. She said she’s been seeing me around and she wanted to support our library’s quilting group. She knew that I had partnered with the quilting instructor, but she also wanted to help us.

It was something about that moment made me feel good. I think it big part of it was finding community and being apart of a quilting social group. For the longest, I’ve been struggling trying to learning quilting on my own. It’s great to finally share my joy with others.

Super Cute Kawaii Mug Rugs

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For over two years, I spent a lot of time in an area of my life that made me completely miserable. I cried out for a very longtime. I was isolated, and I didn’t have the support that I needed at the time to handle things well. I would curse, and cry out in anger. I would think of ways to call off work. I would get to the work parking lot and then consider leaving early. I was in a unhappy state in my life. I was slowly spiraling out of control.

Throughout that time period, I watched as people walked away from me. I guess I was a reminder of what they didn’t want to become. Through that lonely phase of my life, I did have my little sewing time. I wasn’t a very skilled sewist. Mostly, I didn’t collect a lot of patterns. I basically would find ideas on Instagram, and I would go to YouTube to figure out how to make them. One of the cute ideas  I discovered was making mug rugs.

Mug rugs are these cute little patches of fabric that help you hold your coffee or a warm bowl of soup. They are similar to coasters. They don’t take a whole lot of fabric to make. I would go through my small fabric collection to find cute combinations to patch up.

My interest in quilting helped me get the motivation to start. It’s a small creative project that can be completed in a short time period. I felt pretty accomplished at the end. I didn’t bind them, mostly because I struggled with binding at the time. However,  I had a fun time making them before work or during the evening.

Making mug rugs with kawaii-like fabric  brings me joy. I love all things cute. I like being around cute things. One of the first things I did when I started sewing was collecting a lot of fabric that was cute, but didn’t make sense.

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I had these lovely ideas to take my favorite fabric and makes these little novelty mug rugs. The fabric matching didn’t make sense to some, but to me it screamed joy. My favorite fabric including prints featuring unicorns, cats, and cupcakes.

cats loveBefore I could give them away. My mom told me she would like to have one of my mug rugs. She took it to work with her and a co-worker asked about them. I flirted with the idea of making many more and perhaps selling them one day, but I needed to come up with better techniques I thought to myself.  I’m always this super perfectionist about things that you shouldn’t have to fuss about.

Overall, I really enjoy the idea of mug rugs. I certainly enjoyed making them while trying to beat the increasing frustration that I tackled during a bad period of my life. They make great gifts. The combinations that one can come up with are endless.

 

Craft your way out of the rejection spirit

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Several years ago, I was the cute single girl who couldn’t find a date. Despite all my accomplishments in life, people were puzzled as to why I never had a date or a serious relationship. I think my singleness made people uncomfortable based on their reactions. Did I have a secret? Was I a lonely and bitter person? The truth was that I was painfully shy around men. I’m very much afraid of men. I don’t think I ever grew out of it. I don’t think I ever really faced why I’m afraid of men in the first place? Why can’t I behave naturally around men. Why is it easier for me to talk to some men more than others?

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Like most people, I have feelings. I could be afraid, but I would like to be loved too someday. I realize that my behavior has played a role in why I’m still single. As I grew older, I would develop crushes. I believe crushes are these comical things that start off very  innocent, yet end painfully. Sometimes, I wonder if having a crush is a way to hide behind going after what one truly wants in life.  The idea of having a crush sets you up for failure at times. I put a lot of time in admiring those who showed no admiration for me. I would get so depressed and hide in self-pity. I kept repeating to myself that no one would ever love me. The truth was that I kept finding crushes to hide behind my fears. Having a crush is safe because it allows one to not have to do any work in actually being in a relationship. Instead, I would sit around and complain about being unloved. Life was passing me by. When it happens, I had to learn to pick up the pieces and move on. I was missing too much of life. I wasn’t developing new relationships.

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I remember looking from corner to corner one night. I remember being downtown after 9 p.m. one day on a cold winter’s night. “Where is the love of my life?” That question popped in my head. “Why did I have to wait those cold evenings alone?  Can someone  out there just be there for me?”

What disturbed me more was that I was feeling sorry for myself? There are plenty of women who are single? I bet they aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves? If you have to spend Tuesday nights getting by alone downtown, then so be it. Deal with it, I told myself.

I looked within and I told myself that I would have to be strong. There will be times when you will feel like you are the loneliest person in the world. It hurts so much. But, I told myself that I would work on my crafts. My maker life seemed very exciting to me. It was a positive aspect of my life. I made up my mind that I would focus on it.

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I would study, experiment, and learn through the early mornings and late nights. I would push myself even when I didn’t feel like going any further. I would keep busy even when I found my mind slipping to a place that reminded me of how lonely and undesirable I felt in life. I learned years ago that what I focus on is what I will become.

There are days for dealing with your feelings and then there are other days when you have to get the motivation to get moving with your life. As painful as it was I had to find something to occupy my mind. I remember crafting my ways through quilt blocks, failing my way through quilt blocks, and ultimately improving upon my failures. I remember feeling happy and satisfied when I learned a new skills. There was this feeling. It’s a feeling you get that after so many failures you find the answer to the idea you develop sometime ago. I started regaining my confidence.

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When you can’t seem to take your mind off of rejection, focus on how you can create your own happiness. What can you create to make your life a little easier? What beauty do you want to see in life? What life do you want to craft for yourself? I remember creating several projects last year. Some good and some bad. However,  the point was that I was determined to keep moving forward. I’m not saying that crafting is a remedy for everything. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to start investing in your own self-confidence. Build a little bit of yourself each day. Get out of the depths of darkness.

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Seeking Joy

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It’s my first post for the year 2018, and I can’t believe I’ve been away from my blog for so long. I started a new job back in December 2017. I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Have you ever been in a negative situation for a few years and when you get out of the negative situation you feel as if you will never be comfortable again?

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For the past two years, I spent a lot of time looking for signs of love and happiness. I looked for friendship and kindness when there was anger. I searched for empathy when there was spite. When I thought I discovered something great, it would eventually slip out of my hands. Just look for signs, I told myself. Let’s see how all these obstacles line up for my good.  I later decided that the safest way to live was to not have such high expectations. I would be gracious, but in the back of my mind I would try not to show how hurt I was from inside.  I want to be confident, but after all that has happened I don’t know if people want what I necessarily have to offer. I sometimes doubt my abilities because I can hear previous voices and visualize previous experiences.  I know what it is like to fail, and I know what it is like to be alone while failing. What really hurts is when people sit around and watch you struggle. What I’ve learned is that as long as I know how to find the right resources, depending on people is not something I have to do in life.  I can survive the struggle on my own. I don’t need who I thought I needed.

However, my faith in God and my love of crafting keep me motivated. God is someone I continue to depend on even when I look for beauty and sometimes see ugliness. There are going to be times when I don’t feel like myself.  When I find myself feeling overwhelmed I try to train myself to think about God, family, friends, and my hobbies. It’s very challenging. But, I’m determined to come out successful through this new experience in 2018. I know that things aren’t perfect, but if I can take my mind off of the negative things, then my perspective on life will improve.

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One thing I find myself indulging in lately is mindless sewing. I’ll cut strips of fabric and create a rail fence mini quilt. I’ll purchase pre-cuts of 5′ squares and make a baby quilt. Sometimes, the stress from work and this feeling of guilt and shame takes over. I have no choice, but to focus my mind on other things. I spend nights learning how to make new quilt blocks. Through the steady cutting, pressing, and sewing material together, I find peace. It’s hard work, but its good work that strengthens me.

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The quilt project I’ve been working on lately is my little red riding hood quilt. I love whimsical fabric. It reminds me of being a kid walking into this fairy tale world where anything is possible. Woodland animals, bright colors, and elaborate patterns fill my heart with happiness. I remind myself how blessed I am to be able to come home from a rough day and play with fabric. “It’s a blessing,” I tell myself. It’s a blessing to have a safe place to go to when it seems like your mind can’t find any rest from anywhere else.

 

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There are times you can’t always run to people. During those times, I remind myself that to be still. Find your peace. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”-Psalm 46:10 That scripture takes me back to the present. When I’m away from work, I have a tendency to dwell on it. The truth is that I have a lot to be grateful for in life. Through the years, I plan to stay focus on God and his plans for my life. When it’s hard to stay at ease, I will turn to building a creative life centered around God and joy.

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The Halloween quilt that wasn’t

When I first started quilting, I unintentionally broke all the rules. The most I knew at the time was that I needed batting, a patchwork foot, and a walking foot. I don’t recall being an expert at cutting my squares. Luckily, I wasn’t working on any intense quilt pattern designs. After looking back at my first quilt project, I realize how far I’ve come in almost a year. My quilt turned table runner was definitely an experiment.

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Looking back on the project, I realize why I never finished a full size Halloween quilt. Several factors contributed to it. One major problem I remember was cutting my pieces all wrong. If I had only did research on different rulers and rotary cutters, I would have saved a lot of time. I wouldn’t have struggle so much with organizing my project.

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I struggled through the project, but at the end I came up with something that resembled a table runner to most people. It’s quirky, but it makes sense for the fan of Halloween. My family and friends enjoyed the crazy Halloween table runner and never noticed my mistakes or shortcomings.

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One thing I do look forward to during the change of seasons is being able to customize my own decorations for my home. Today, I know of smart tips and techniques to sew table runners. However, this past Halloween, I still pulled out one of my very first quilt project. It’s not perfect, but fabric and the idea of it represents me .

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Novelty Fall Display

 

What did I ever do with those woodland animal pillows?

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I created a fall display in little corner of my bedroom. During this present fall season, I haven’t been able to decorate the living and dining room with fall decor. I haven’t been able to complete a lot of fall crafts. Those who know me well know how much I love fall. I just didn’t have the energy and time this year. It bummed me out a bit.

So, I gathered the handmade items I had around my house along with a few pieces of fall decor to make a display. The display features my handmade throw pillows, Funko Pop vinyl figures from the hit television shows Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. I also featured a Halloween  table runner I quilted from last year that covered the table.

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I went ahead and added a few more items to make it even more festive. I hope you enjoy my fall display. I know I certainly enjoyed making it.

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-Stephanie

Happy Pink Woodlands Baby Quilt

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What I love doing is in my free time is making baby quilts with adorable fabric. As a beginner, it’s fun and rewarding. It’s a great opportunity to practice piecing fabric, utilizing my walking foot, and binding the finished quilt.

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I was determined to finish. I had a few mistakes here and there, but I wasn’t going to allow it to discourage me. It’s always about the journey for me. Each project you learn and your grow. Problem solving becomes the exciting part of the project.  With each finished project, I feel that I’m getting closer to starting my own baby line.
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Starting my own baby quilt business  is a goal of mine. Quality work is also a goal, I want  to reach. I will continue to explore this idea. Maybe someday, I’ll get so great at making baby quilts that I will write a book. For now, I just want to keep learning and growing through my craft. There’s no rush. I’ll know when I’m ready to move forward.
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-Stephanie

So Long, Summer

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During the month of September, I remember accomplishing a small amount of sewing. I understand that I had a lot going on, but what was stopping me from committing time to the hobbies that I enjoyed. Various sewing projects are incomplete, and my home life is becoming very disorganized.
Fear could be one of the reasons why I wasn’t accomplishing much sewing. I also work a full-time job, and there are times I have work after work. My bedroom and handbags are becoming dumping grounds for all my problems.
So for October, I told myself that I would dedicate time to cleaning up my sewing area which is located in my bedroom. I know that I would feel much better if I would simply clean up and start completing projects again. I simply can’t concentrate or get any sewing complete when my home life is so disorganized. My walls are so dull an uninspired. What will I do? I did what any crazy person. I started crafting. I searched around for fabrics that reminded me of fall. I took my best shot at 12 am in the morning. (Yes, I get a lot of sewing done with my family is asleep.)
In my messy room, I made an attempt to complete a quilt block from the book, The Splendid Sampler by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. I have a desire to gain new skills through my messy phase. This block that I chose to complete from the book  is called Sweet Candy by Kris Thurgood.
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As a beginner I probably should stay away from directional fabric until I get better with my piecing skills.  I have more blocks I’ve been working on. I hope to share my blocks on the blog soon. I also hope to come up with a strategy to organize my sewing area. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,
Stephanie