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Knitting, Storytime, What Knitting Adds to My Life

What Making Adds to My Life: Thoughts from the Calou Shop

I’ve been a creative person for as far back as I can remember. I’ve never shied away from trying my hand at a new craft either. As of late, I’ve grown to love the flexibility and exploration that comes with fiber arts. Over my lifetime, I’ve used my creativity to center myself and reconnect with my core. Creating is a way for me to remember who I am and how I connect to the world. I’ve found that I delve deeper in to that creativity whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed. Enter motherhood stage left: the most overwhelming and confusing adventure ever.

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The little boys that made me a mama.

When my first son was born, my husband and I agreed that becoming a single income family made the most sense for our family. It has always been a dream of mine to stay at home with my children, just as my mother had done for me, and it’s an opportunity that I’m relishing for as long as our family is able to swing it. For all the joy and precious moments being a stay at home mom brings, it is also isolating and hard. When you’re absorbed in your children and their needs it becomes very easy to lose your self. My identity quickly shifted from Cassandra to Mama and I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with my new responsibilities and the fear and intense love that came along with raising a child. They say having children is like having a piece of your heart outside of your body and I feel the weight of that love and responsibility intensely.

I needed a respite and way to center myself from all the overwhelming feelings that came along with my newborn son. I think I picked up my first ball of yarn within his first week of life. After some YouTube tutorials on learning crochet, I was well on my way to a budding romance with yarn. After a few months into mommyhood, the routine got easier and my crochet skills grew and grew. Soon the question that every other stay at home mom seems to start to think about floated across my mind too: how can I stay at home and contribute to my family’s income? Enter Calou Shop stage right.

making with my second son in my lap

Crocheting while my littlest guy takes a rest.

Family and friends supported my shop in the beginning and I had fun making things, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthralled with my newfound hobby of part-time Etsy shop owner. Making was relaxing but it wasn’t exactly engaging for me anymore. And then the game changer happened. My cousin asked for a stuffed animal to go with her blanket order. A stuffed animal!? I said, “Do you care what it looks like?” I’d never made a stuffed animal or a pattern or anything remotely three-dimensional like that with yarn or on a sewing machine before. I wasn’t making any promises, but she had faith in me and I was willing to give it a try. That’s when a spark… no, more like a flame… illuminated my brain.

My first bear ever on the left and what my bears look like today on the right.

When I make a stuffed animal for my shop, I design it from scratch. Everything starts out as an idea doodled out on some scrap of paper. Crochet animals come together through trial and error and my experience with shaping yarn. Sewn creations are a little more involved both in design and time. The paper and cardboard comes out and I scale out the pattern pieces and how it all is going to come together. I pick fabrics, do some test sewing, rip out seams, stuff some things, sew it again and eventually I’ve got a 3D thing sitting in front of me that a few weeks ago was just an idea in my head.

pattern designing

Stages of stuffed animal design.

The process of making something entirely from an idea in your mind is an absolute creative rush; it’s an engineering problem that must be solved and way for me to engage my brain meaningfully. Juxtaposed against the calm and reflection that comes along with making the design that I created from scratch over and over, I feel like I’ve found the ultimate creative loop. But sewing is a challenge to do with little ones under foot. It takes some planning to be able to sit down at my machine for any length of time to get some actual creating done. So in this season of life, I don’t get much of it done.

work in progress

Designing a crochet toy.

Which is why I love both crochet and knitting because of how easy it is to pick up and put down a project when you are needed throughout the day. Baby asleep? I’ll knit a few rows. Oh! Baby is up, set down the project. Whenever I’m making something, even a few rows are like a little retreat in to myself. A moment to step inside and just be quiet even when the world is not. Sometimes I’m crocheting and relishing the silent brisk morning while my babies sleep in, and other times I have a sea of Legos at my feet and I’m huddled in an armchair with my ball of yarn as my little one imagines and chaos ensues all around me. And when I feel the din of boredom sneaking up on me, I bring out the pen and paper and start engineering a new design and start the whole process over again.

pattern writing with my first son in my lap

Caffeinating, crocheting and cuddling all at once!

My hope is that my story leaves you with a sense of optimism, hope and a spark to reconnect with your creativity; that you find the motivation to pick up a creative project you’ve wanted to try; that I can inspire you t discover the joy of making something for yourself and of creating with your own two hands; that you feel the rush of figuring it out along the way; that you know the happiness of seeing your work in the hands of others. Life can be overwhelming, but if you take that leap, you may connect with something new and find a part of yourself along the way.

buried under squatches

Handmade happiness.

Cassandra

@caloushop

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Knitting, Storytime, What Knitting Adds to My Life

What Knitting Adds to My Life: Thoughts from The Naptime Knitter

 

One of the best things about the knitting community at large is our willingness to share our knit stories.  I love hearing knitters (and makers in general) talk passionately about why they love their craft.  So I asked Sarah, the mind behind @TheNaptimeKnitter, what knitting added to her life she was happy to share her story as follows:

Naptime

I have never been a crafty person.  Crafts just did not come easy to me.  On the other hand, my mother was extremely talented when it came to crafts.  I cannot think of one thing that my mom wasn’t good at. As a child, my mom tried to teach me to crochet repeatedly, but I just could not understand the concept of turning my work after making the foundation chain.  (And yes, I know just how ridiculous that sounds.) Then, in late 2013, I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. The reason I even decided I wanted to knit is actually kind of funny. I was browsing Pinterest one day and I saw a pattern for a scarf, well a cowl, but I didn’t know that then.  My mom had really gotten into knitting over the past couple of years so I asked if she would make me the scarf. She said no.

To be fair, my mom had plenty of other things to knit.  I’m not sure she had even finished a project at that point, so I was asking for a lot.  However, she did tell me that she would teach me how to knit. At first I declined, but I really wanted that scarf!  So a couple of weeks later, I asked if she would teach me and of course, she agreed.

“I picked up knitting fairly quickly which came as a surprise to everyone. I’m not sure anyone in my family ever thought that I would be able to do some sort of craft, but I did!”

When I first started knitting, I figured that I would learn just enough to be able to make this scarf and be done with it.  I picked up knitting fairly quickly which came as a surprise to everyone. I’m not sure anyone in my family ever thought that I would be able to do some sort of craft, but I did!  So you can imagine their surprise when I actually stuck with it!  The first thing I made wasn’t actually a scarf though. I decided to start just a little smaller, so I made a garter stitch headband.  I was so proud of it and I wore it everywhere. I look back at a few of those pictures now and wonder what the heck I was thinking. It’s not hideous, but it definitely wasn’t my best look either.

I continued to knit a couple other things and made my friend a matching headband for Christmas, which I never gave to her, thank goodness.  Then in 2014, I learned I was pregnant. Morning sickness was rough on me and I just kind of quit knitting. I look back at this and think, “Dang it, Sarah! That was prime knitting time!”  However, when my daughter was about a year old, I did pick up the needles again and I haven’t really put them down since.

“…for now I really want to focus on my wellbeing, my family, and what I call my year of selfish knitting”

In 2017, my mom and I decided to become indie yarn dyers and we opened an Etsy store.  I started dyeing yarn as a hobby for myself. With a small child at home, I felt like I needed something that would make me feel more useful and valued in my life as a stay-at-home mom.  I loved knitting, but dyeing seemed to give me a little bit more purpose. I loved when customers would send their pictures to us and I would get to see a finished object made with our yarn.  Unfortunately, I decided just recently that I am no longer going to dye yarn. Although I miss dyeing yarn, I really don’t miss the stress that comes with it.  I really admire the indie dyers that make this their full time job because it is hard work! There is so much more that goes into an indie yarn dyeing business than just dyeing yarn and honestly, dyeing yarn is the task that I spent the least amount of time on.  What started as a side hobby for me became more of a stressor that left me frustrated and exhausted. For me, it wasn’t worth these feelings of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough as a mom and so I let it go. It was hard and sometimes I regret it, but ultimately I believe I made the right choice.  However, there is still a silver lining. My mom has continued with the shop and I am still able to dye some skeins for myself when I want to. It’s possible that I will dye yarn again in the future, but for now I really want to focus on my wellbeing, my family, and what I call my year of selfish knitting.

Socks

I tend to gift the majority of my finished objects.  It’s not because I don’t like them, but because I enjoy making items more than I care about using them.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to wear the few hand knit items that I do own; however, the truth is that I really don’t need a million shawls or hats.  However, late last year I noticed I only own two of my hand knit items and as a knitter that just isn’t acceptable! Thus, my Year of Selfish Knitting was born.

 

This year, I am spending my knitting time working on things for me.  I put together a list of projects at the end of last year that I wanted to complete this year and nearly every project I chose was something for myself.  In January, I finished my first item off that list – a pair of socks. I had never knit socks before, but now I am addicted! Currently, I am working on a sweater and as soon as it is done I plan on casting on to a Find Your Fade shawl that I have wanted to knit ever since the pattern came out.

“I honestly never thought that I would inspire anyone to learn how to knit and I really had no idea of the impact that knitting would have on my life.”

When I first began knitting, I started a separate Instagram account because I didn’t want to bore my friends and family with my projects.  I didn’t even tell anyone that I was making the account. Some of my friends and family have since found the account on their own and followed me.  Most of them didn’t even know I knew how to knit. Since their discovery, I’ve had several people ask me to teach them. I knit a baby blanket this past year for my nephew and after the baby shower I got a text from my husband’s cousin saying that she had stopped at the craft store to grab some needles and yarn so she could learn to knit.  I honestly never thought that I would inspire anyone to learn how to knit and I really had no idea of the impact that knitting would have on my life.

It probably sounds a little funny when I say that knitting has changed my life, but I think other knitters will definitely understand.  Knitting is not a hobby for impatient individuals. Handmade clothing, especially knitwear, takes time. I read somewhere that it can take 30-40 hours to knit a sweater.  Of course, smaller items can be knit more quickly, but they still take hours. Knitting has taught me patience and persistence in more ways than I can count. It became a hobby for me, but also a way to relieve stress.  If I am having a bad day, sometimes I will just pull out my latest project for a few minutes and I instantly feel better. I cannot imagine what my life would be like now if I didn’t knit. I would probably spend a lot more time bored out of my mind.  I love the challenge of learning new skills and I can’t wait to see where knitting will take me next. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I never did make that scarf.  ~ Sarah, The Naptime Knitter

 

I have to say, this inspired me so much that I want to challenge myself and anyone who would like to join me to make 2018 the Year of Selfish Knitting.  Use #2018SelfishKnitting to share your selfish WIPs and finished objects.  Let’s celebrate this together!

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Knitting, Storytime, Tutorial

Yarn Weights

So you’re thinking about casting on a new project, or even trying your hand at designing a pattern.  Yarn weight is one of the first things to consider when starting a new project or even buying yarn for your stash.

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Lace Weight

The Basics:

34 sts = 4″ (10 cm) or less
545 yards = 100g (3.5 oz) ball or more
US 1 (2.25mm)

Lace weight is easily one of my favorite weights to work with.  Something about it is so dreamy and substituting a lace weight for other weights is almost always a delight because it knits well on any needle size.  However, lace weight can certainly cause problems in patterns if used inappropriately.

Some examples of when using lace weight might not be the best choice for a project are socks, dishtowels, market bags, felted projects, outer wear, hats (generally), and gloves.  Granted, there are exceptions to everything and if you choose to knit a slip out of lace weight on US 000 needles please send me a photo because it sounds amazing but also something that not many would attempt.

There are some patterns that were written begging for lace weight adaptations.  Some of my favorite projects for lace weight are shawls, sweaters, wraps, cowl, basically anything that you want to be light and airy.  I have knit two sweaters out of lace weight and I love them both because they are perfect for keeping the chill off my shoulders from super cold air conditioners during a hot summer.  A light, lace weight cowl or shawl is perfect for travel because it can bunch up small in a bag, doesn’t add much weight to a bag, but will keep you warm on an airplane or on a road trip.  Besides, who doesn’t love a glamorous silk blend shawl for vacations?

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Fingering Weight

The Basics:

Fingering Weight

28 – 32 sts = 4″ (10 cm)
370 – 460 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 1-3 (2.25mm – 3.25mm)

Sport Weight (aka Heavy Fingering Weight)
24 – 28 sts = 4″ (10 cm)
290 – 360 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
Needle size: 3.25 – 3.75mm (3 – 5US)

Fingering weight yarn is bae.  Any time I travel, I look for some fingering weight yarn that is special and that will be my memento of that trip.  Also known as sock weight, this yarn is super versatile and I have knit hats, shawls, sweaters, socks, cowls, gloves, you name it out of this amazing weight.

However, not all fingering weight is perfect for all projects.  For example, a single ply 100% merino fingering weight is a wonderful yarn for a shawl or sweater, but is a terrible choice for socks.  Socks are better suited for a fingering weight that has multiple plys, some nylon for strength (I don’t want to have to darn my socks after a year or less), and at least 60% wool (I know there are vegan knitters who like cotton, but plant fibers have so little give that I find they stretch and no longer fit, whereas wool is amazingly resilient and will bounce back from wear and tear well).

Substituting fingering weight yarn is great because there is so much selection, but it is important to look at the fiber blend and the ply count.  Take it from me, there are few things more frustrating than knitting a great project and finding a few months later the fiber blend won’t hold up to the wear and tear of the object.

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DK/Sport Weight

The Basics:

22 – 24 sts = 4″ (10 cm)
240 – 280 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 5-6 (3.75mm – 4mm)

DK is my favorite weight for sweaters.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find that a worsted weight sweater is way too warm for me in the winter months when everyone seems to be blasting their heat and fingering weight is just too light to keep off the winter chill.  Do I sound a bit like Goldilocks?

DK weight is also popular with a lot of baby projects.  It is about twice as heavy as fingering weight (in fact, DK stands for double knitting which told knitters to hold two strands of fingering weight to get gauge) but lighter than worsted.  This is ideal for baby projects because they won’t be as heavy as a worsted weight sweater on a small child but you won’t spend ages and ages knitting a fingering weight dress just to have it outgrown in a month or two.  Some ideal projects for DK (other than baby blankets and sweaters) include gloves, hats, and of course cozy sweaters.

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Worsted/Aran Weight

The Basics:

Worsted Weight
19 –  21 sts per 4″ (10 cm)
200 – 250 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 7-8 (4.5mm – 5mm)
Aran Weight (aka Heavy Worsted Weight)
16 – 18 sts = 4″ (10 cm)
170 – 200 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 8-9 (5mm – 5.5mm)

This is the weight that I recommend beginners use!  It is a nice durable weight that is easy to hold and manipulate without being cumbersome.  It is also a perfect weight for many different types of projects, I can find almost any type of project using worsted weight on Ravelry.

I am really drawn to this weight when I am trying to knit with a deadline rather than something lighter.  A standard 100g ball is about 220 yards (201 meters) which is enough for a hat (even for people like my dad with REALLY large heads), meaning that deadline is even more possible with a small project.

But seriously, when I want some mindless knitting that is easy zone-out, or pick-up and set-down projects I always go to something using worsted weight.

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Bulky Weight

The Basics:

Bulky Weight
 11 – 15 sts = 4″ (10 cm)
140 – 170 yards = 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 10-11 (6mm – 8mm)
Super Bulky Weight
10 sts = 4″ (10 cm) or less
120 yards or less per 100 (3.5 oz) ball
US 13 and up (9mm+)
I love the look of chunky knits, don’t you?  I actually get sucked into the Pinterest black hole of bulky knits when there is a hint of fall in the air after a long and hot summer.  Once in a while, I actually knit some accessories inspired by those several lost hours of Pinterest browsing and this weight and up is what I turn to!
The best thing about heavier yarn weights is how quickly they knit up!  Finishing a hat in an evening, a cowl in a day, or a sweater in a weekend is totally possible with these weights.  But as you can see above, a standard ball does not have a lot of yardage so if you are buying for someone else get at least two so they can at least make a cowl.

Roving

Okay, okay this is not technically yarn but it is fiber so…. Let’s chat about it!  Roving is clean, combed fiber for spinning into yarn or needle felting.  But, the aforementioned bulky knits Pinterest hole that I fell down got me thinking about arm knitting with some roving.  I think you would still have to give it a little bit of a twist before knitting so the fibers don’t just catch on everything… more to come on this idea at a later date!

 

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Springtime in Paris, Storytime

Introducing Springtime in Paris!

 

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This is my first official line and I am so excited to share it with you!  Every colorway came right from my heart and was inspired by my time living in France.  I was studying abroad in fall of 2015 and this line came straight from my heart!  However, this line is limited edition so when it’s gone, it is gone.

Each color was carefully thought about and looks amazing with any of the other colorways in the line, perfect for brioche, color work, or to stand alone.  Plus, with all the new base yarns, there is something for your next cast on!

EiffelTower copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storytime

Coming Changes

 

If you have seen my Instagram post, you know that I am going to be taking some of my colors down at the end of January.  This is to freshen up my shop and to make room for some new colors.  On February 16th, I will be releasing a whole new line of yummy yarn goodness!

So I want to let you know which colors will be going away at the end of January.

Caribbean Water

Vintage Christmas

Reef

Sunshine

Salted Caramel Latte

These will be going away on all bases, so if you were thinking of placing an order now is the time!  Plus, for reading my blog use this discount code SPRINGCLEANING to take $5 off your entire order of $30 or more in addition to the 15% off on all discontinued colors.

Happy Knitting!

Katie