Monday, November 20, 2017

Test Knitting and Holiday Gift Ideas

I am officially a Test Knitter!  I feel special.  As if I've achieved a new level of knitting proficiency.  When in truth anyone can be a test knitter.  All that it requires is that you be willing to boldly go where no man has gone before.  Beam me up Captain Kirk I've acquired a taste for exploration.

Kidding aside there are a few aspects of test knitting that I hadn't considered prior to being one myself.  For example when you agree to test knit you must follow the instructions exactly.  This might not be a problem for most knitters but I generally like to adjust patterns to better fit my figure.  This issue is obviously more of a concern with a sweater as opposed to a cowl or hat.  Note that I chose to test knit a cowl.

You must also commit to a time table, which isn't a problem for me as I'm a pretty fast knitter.  But it also occurred to me (while I was in the middle of this test knit) that I might be blithely knitting along only to find the pattern had a major error in it.  Which would require that I frog back.  And I must do so with a cheerful countenance as that is part and parcel of being a test knitter.  I was happy to discover there were no errors in this pattern.  Which makes me wonder if I really am cut out for test knitting.

Prepare yourself the compensation is meager. You will receive a final published version of the pattern and a thank you.  But I'm going to posit that the real reward is that by test knitting we all support the indie pattern designers who have made knitting today the vibrant, fun and exciting time that it is with a wealth of excellent patterns for the hand knitter.  I remember as a young woman visiting yarn shops that simply had a few baskets filled with yarn books and a few pattern leaflets to choose from.  The internet and the indie pattern designer has revolutionized knitting  in a way that is hard to comprehend for those who did not experience it as it was.

For my first test knit I lucked out with the Eureka Cowl.  I knew as soon as I saw it I wanted one.  As much as I love the modern designs a large part of my heart is firmly rooted in the rustic styles of the frontier and the 1800s.   It was also a pleasure to work with Jessica Gore and knit her wonderful design that is warm and cozy and easy to wear.  And, as a plus, it knits up fast in a worsted weight yarn!  I love it and will wear it often on my morning hikes with Simcha.  If you are interested in test knitting for Jessica then I suggest joining her Ravelry Group, The Sweater Collective, where she posts upcoming test knits.

Particulars:  Eureka Cowl; designed by Jessica Gore (website The Sweater Collective); 3 skeins Mostly Merino Vermont Wool - discontinued - (worsted weight wool/mohair blend ) 300 yrds total; US 8 needles.  My gauge swatch was dead on but the wool I used is slightly heavier than the yarn it is designed for and as a result I used more yardage and the length of my cowl is slightly longer.  My finished blocked (relaxed) measurements are: 17.5" (length) x 19" (widest point); 9" (top opening).  My advice for knitting this cowl is that you use a yarn that is warm and will have a good drape when blocked.  The yarn I used for this project was left over from my Cabled Riding Jacket.


Thanksgiving and the holidays are a fun time of the year with lots of decorating, baking, and gift giving opportunities.  Personally my oven barely has a chance to cool down the entire season!  To get you in the spirit here's my list of gifting ideas which are all items that I've bought or received myself over the years.  Nothing is over $75 and a few are stocking stuffer priced.  If you are looking for big ticket splurge then I recommend you consider a yarn club or a sweater quantity of yarn but that's a risky gift in my opinion because it's highly dependent on personal taste so I've not included them on my list.

Gift Ideas for Bakers
  1. Designer Apron.     If you enjoy entertaining or baking in style then these are a must!  I have a number of aprons but my favorites come from a small shop in San Clemente, California, called Just B'Cuz.  In the picture above I'm wearing an apron from their shop. A big plus is that these are reversible.  
  2. Sourdough Start Kit.  If you have never tried baking with a sourdough starter or know someone who would like to try then this is good place to begin your adventure. This is the very same kit that I purchased from King Arthur Flour 30 years ago and I've been enjoying wonderful breads ever since.  Incidentally, in the picture above I'm holding a loaf of Sourdough filled with Apricots and Oats.  For a more experienced sourdough enthusiast I recommend the Tartine Bread cookbook.
  3. Lame Bread Slashing Tool.  A handy tool for all bread bakers.  The black walnut one is on my wish list.
  4. Bake From Scratch or Sift Magazine Subscription.  I really love both these magazines and have made many wonderful treats from both including lots of cookies from the recent Bake from Scratch Holiday Cookie issue
Gift Ideas for Knitters
  1. Magic Yarn Ball. These are really fun to make and receive.  Basically you buy a skein of yarn and then rewind it wrapping within the ball small gifts such as buttons, ribbon, lip gloss and anything else you can think of.  It's like a stocking for knitters.    
  2. Project Bag.  Knitters can never have too many project bags.  Because I knit a lot of socks I have a number of the smaller single skein bags that I purchase on Etsy that are hand sewn and beautifully made.   
  3. Progress Keeper.  I never thought I would use or want a progress keeper until I had one.  Now I love using them and add them to all my projects.  I linked to the Etsy vendor that I purchased from but there are many options on Etsy.
  4. Signature Knitting Needles.  These are lovely needles.  I have a set of their 5 DPN stiletto point sock needles and I love using them. Monogramming is an option.
  5. Kidsilk Yarn.  This is a fun yarn with excellent yardage that there are a million uses for and everyone loves (although it is tricky to learn to knit with).  I always have a kidsilk haze project lined up and these shawls and scarfs are my favorite knits to wear.  I've linked to ColorPurl who I most recently purchased this yarn from and she has several kits that include this yarn.  But there are many indie dyers who carry kidsilk in their inventory and of course Rowan yarns made it popular.  
  6. Needle Case/Cozy.  If you knit socks then you probably have sock needles rolling about everywhere like I do.  These cute needle cases are on my wish list.
Don't forget to shop for deals online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Jodie the editor at Knit Like Granny has published a helpful guide to online shopping (including some excellent knitting discounts) in her article Ultimate Guide to Black Friday and Cyber Monday Knitting Deals!  


Until next time be well and love well and from all of us at The Knitting Blog by Mr Puffy the Dog we wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season!  Notice how Simcha's ears perk up at the mention of Thanksgiving.