Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Giant Granny Square Afghan

Sharing a photo of the world's largest granny square -- I have a ton of cute, scrappy granny patterns saved in my ravelry queue, but I am lazy and made a single great big square instead.
If you can double crochet, you can make a huge granny, too!

I used a lovely yarn from Noro, Iro; this is one of those cool kettle dyed yarns that gradually shifts from one color to another--so I got a great striped effect without having to change colors (or weave in all those nasty little thread ends. It's also made from wool (75%) and silk (25%) so it should be nice and warm. You can see a pretty pic of the yarn I used on the Waldorf mama blog--she's used the same color for a pretty little dress.

I was totally optimistic when I started this (and obviously have no ability to estimate yardage at all), so I bought three skeins and got to work. The first lasted a good long time (this project starts in the middle and grows, so each round eats up a little more yarn). #2 lasted a good long time too, so I was feeling very proud of my awesome estimation skills...until I attached skein #3. Which got eaten in just 8 rounds of the blanket (which was then about 24 inches across, not really a blanket at all).

Back to the yarn store. Do I need to add that these are $15 per the "cute, quick little blanket" is rapidly becoming the "kind of costly blanket"...

Just to be safe, I picked up skein #4 and #5 (my LYS officially loves me and my poor math skills). I am sure you are much more clever than I am at this point, because I really thought this would be enough--not only enough, but that there would be copious amounts left over for the chunky tassels I was planning for each corner....

Not exactly. Skeins #6 and 7 (yep, back to the store, who had thankfully put aside the remaining skeins in my dyelot, "just in case"). They ran out, so I bought 4 more skeins from Webs (at just $10 a skein, yay!).

Behold, the finished yarn eating granny in all of her glory:

This project has been dubbed the "rainbow blankie" and has been stolen by my 4yo for her bed...

If you want more colorful crochet, check out Lucy's work at Attic 24; you'll find pretty ripples, grannies and more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review of Heartsy -- for Buyers

Heartsy - Exclusive deals on fabulous handmade designer items at members-only prices.Have you been to Heartsy yet? If you are a fan of handmade, and want to save a few bucks, head on over to Heartsy and check out the deal of the day. I shop on Etsy just about every day, (usually when I am supposed to be working) so when I heard about Heartsy, I had to check it out.

Heartsy works like the popular coupon site, but the deals are all with shops offering handmade goods, mostly from etsy or artfire artisans. Customers purchase a heartsy coupon code, that can then be used with an online seller. The deals change each day, with plenty of jewelry, art, photography and accessory shops to choose from.

Like Groupon, Heartsy offers coupons for a set price; the coupons can be redeemed in the store immediately or within the next 30 days. Regular Heartsy deals offer about 50% off a particular store or item. VIP deals increase the savings, and are worth the cost of a VIP membership ($10 per month, optional) if you buy a lot of handmade items.
Recent offerings include:
$10 for a $21 coupon for handmade jewelry
$10 for a $31 VIP coupon for handmade, organic kids items (yep, I grabbed one of these)
$10 for a $31 VIP coupon to a hand-dyed yarn and roving shop (got one of these too...)
Save on handmade, like this luscious soap from the Soap Seduction

Since the deals change each day, you'll need to visit and keep an eye on current offerings; Heartsy does send an email each day letting you know what's up next.

The Good Stuff about Buying on Heartsy:
You'll save money: Obviously, the savings is the big draw here. If you are like me and spend a decent amount on handmade soaps, kids toys and other gear each month, then you can save a considerable amount of money by using Heartsy.
Creative and fun jewelry from XOXii shop, featured on Heartsy this week.
Fewer flakes: If you buy a lot of handmade, then you already know some shops can have great items--but less than stellar follow through. Shops that are using Heartsy are actively marketing their businesses, so you can be sure that the products you get will be great quality. The main draw to sellers is the exposure and potential good publicity; all of my purchases so far have been great, and I am planning on buying again from at least one seller (full price, but worth it). 

Support handmade: When you buy handmade items, you put money directly into the hands of the artisan. If you haven't taken the handmade plunge yet, using a Heartsy voucher is a good way to get started without much risk. Click here for a great post on why handmade is "expensive" by Lex, the creative genius behind SmarmyClothes and WhattheCraft. I read this awhile ago and bookmarked it to share, it is a must read.

Heartsy is juried: Part of the Heartsy application process involves jurying; users can vote on the stores that they would buy from if a code was offered. What does this mean to you? Just like real life art fairs, jurying means that the shops that make it through likely offer appealing items that you'll want to check out.

Shipping is included: You can use your Heartsy coupon for shipping, so if you plan your purchase right, you won't have to pay out of pocket for shipping. 
Upcycled comic books meet pencils, notebooks and more at Colleen and Cohort, a featured Heartsy shop.

The Not so Good Stuff about Buying on Heartsy:

You'll get hooked on handmade:This isn't really a bad thing, but once you try real, handmade soap or custom made clothing that fits your style and figure perfectly, you won't want to go back to the retail, mass produced stuff. Consider Heartsy a gateway drug...once you're hooked, you won't look at jewelry, clothing or accessories the same way again.

Timing: You'll need to snap a deal up when you see it, so if you are looking for favors for a birthday party or a gift, buy early. You may not see a deal you like if you try to shop at the last minute. The site has also run out of coupons for popular stores in the past, so if you see something you like, grab it before it's gone.

Expiration dates: Heartsy coupons are only good for a month, so you'll need to use yours before it expires! If you buy a code, don't forget about it (though Heartsy will remind you that your code is languishing, via email).

Lower stock levels: While most shops stock up prior to offering a Heartsy deal, they can get overwhelmed. Most shops are run by a sole proprietor, so  expect your items to ship out a little later than usual if you buy during a big Heartsy rush. (A little later means 3-5 days, not 3-5 weeks in most cases.) Shops can get pretty depleted when a Heartsy deal is offered, so either pounce and order immediately, or buy your code and wait a week or two until the shop restocks.

Flakes: It happens when you buy handmade...just like it happens when you buy commercial. The last order I placed and didn't' receive was from Burpee, the seed giant, so it can happen with any vendor (I am still waiting for my garlic and potato seeds, Burpee!!!). The flake rate seems to be a little higher with Artfire shops than Etsy ones, but be aware that it can happen. If you don't get your item, you can get a credit (not a refund) from Heartsy, so you will be covered.

So there's the deal for buyers--Heartsy is pretty much a win for those of us who love handmade. My husband is a fan, even though he has never visited the site; thanks to the reduction in my etsy/artfire spending.

But what about the sellers? 

Does offering such a substantial discount really pay off for sellers? Check back soon for the scoop, I am working on a review of Heartsy for sellers this week.

Boring small print disclaimer: 
 I don't work for Heartsy, and purchased the codes I used to evaluate and learn about the site on my own; no freebies, nothing to see here, move along... 

This post is part of the TA DA Tuesday Link Party on  Mommy by Day, Crafter by Night
Click the link to drop in and visit!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

FO: Thrummed Mittens

I spotted a pair of thrummed mittens somewhere recently, and loved the idea...of course, when I gathered some supplies and sat down to knit a pair up, I had no idea where I had seen the original pair. I suspect it was in a recent issue of a knitting magazine, I was browsing them in the bookstore before Christmas. Anyway, the idea is that the "thrums"--the little white fluffy bits of wool--conform to the shape of the hand as the mittens are worn. They are supposed to be super warm and I just finished these in time, it is supposed to be very cold here this week!:
Finished mittens, the fluffy one is inside out so you can see the stuffing!

Since I didn't have a pattern to go on, I just made these up as I went along. I chose a little girl friendly color combo (Plymouth Galway in a rainbow variegated) and figured they would fit someone in both size and style. It turns out they are a perfect match for our 7 year old, so it worked out well...I will just adjust the size up a bit for the 9yo and down a bit for the preschooler, and everyone will have warm hands! One skein was plenty (see the leftovers in the pic?), and I think I used about 2 ounces of roving.

Project notes (aka boring technical deets):
Yarn: Plymouth Galway and white roving (from the awesome Sheep Shed Studio)
Needles: Size 6, knit on 2 circs
CO 36 stitches, 2 1/2" of 2x2 rib, switched to stockinette and added a thrum pattern every 4th row. Reserved space for the thumb with waste yarn (7 stitches), no gusset.

My big girl is shopping the yarn closet now for "her" mittens, I will cast on for the next pair as soon as she chooses.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goodbye, Jaws, Hello Harry?

Say goodbye to Jaws...and hello to Harry Potter? Rumor has it that the Jaws attraction at Universal Orlando will be replaced by an expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, complete with a Gringott's themed ride. While this info is still in rumor form (Universal has not confirmed or denied), the park has announced the permanent closure of Jaws, starting today. The Theme Park Insider has full details on the proposed attraction, including a ride map and a look at the ride vehicle. Pretty detailed info for a rumor! Check it out on the Theme Park Insider site.

I am a little bummed about the closing of Jaws, though. It is one of the first rides I tried at Universal, and one of my favorites...I jump every time that rotten shark jumps out of the water towards the boat! Sorry to see this one go, it joins the ranks of other rides/attractions I miss--Mr. Toad, Millionaire and 20,000 Leagues....

Get plenty of extra time on your favorite rides on 2/29/2012!

This has been a busy week for Disney travel news! First up, the Disney Company revealed its newest promotion, "One More Disney Day", on New Year's Eve. You can get all the details on my Examiner post here; the short version is that the Magic Kingdom will be open for 24 hours on February 29, 2012 (leap day), and there are a few ways to save on your vacation if you travel during this time period.

I have seen plenty of Disney sunsets, it would be fun to see the sun rise from inside the Magic Kingdom!