Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Christmas Ornament Pattern for Sale!

I am definitely in the Christmas spirit and cannot wait to go home to Virginia in two weeks and celebrate the holidays with my family! It seems to me that Madrid is just bursting with Christmas decorations this year, and I was super inspired to make some cute ornaments! Here they are:

I am in love with this little stocking, wreath and snowflake, and I can't believe how easy they were to make! I finished each one in under 30 minutes!!!

I was sure to write the pattern so that every level of crocheter can enjoy. If you can work in rows, work in the round, and do basic stitches (including front post and back post double crochet, but don't worry - I explain how to do it!), you can make these cute and quick ornaments!

You can purchase this pattern in my Etsy shop here.

You can also purchase this pattern as a Ravelry download! Instant gratification! :)

Happy holidays and happy crocheting, everyone! :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Chunky Crochet Nesting Basket Pattern

Hi guys! As a Christmas gift, I am working on some nesting baskets based on the pattern provided by Liz at Crochet in Color. You can find her awesome patterns for the large and medium basket on her blog here.

I wanted to make a third, smaller basket, to nest inside these two. It turned out so cute, and I hope it helps if you want to make a nesting set! Please post comments if you make this basket, including a photo so we can see your amazing handiwork!

All three baskets in a cute little nest!
Please note that you will still be working with two strands of extra chunky yarn. I used two strands of Katia Alaska and a 7.00mm hook.

The small blue basket measures approximately 6" / 15.5cm in diameter and is about 4" / 11cm deep.

Small Nesting Basket:

R1: Ch 2 and 8 sc in 2nd ch from hook. Join with sl st to ch 2. (8)

R2: Ch 2. Hdc in same st. 2 hdc in next 7 sts. Join with sl st to ch 2. (16)

R3: Ch 2. Hdc in same st. Hdc in next st. [2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st] around. Join with sl st to ch 2. (24)

R4: Ch 2. Hdc in same st. Hdc in next 2 sts. [2 hdc in next st, hdc in next 2 sts] around. Join with sl st to ch 2. (32)

R5: Ch 2. Hdc in same st. Hdc in next 3 sts. [2 hdc in next st, hdc in next 3 sts] around. Join with sl st to ch 2. (40).

(R6 begins the body of the basket)

R6: Ch 1. Sc around basket working in loop behind the back of the stitch. (Note: This is not working in back loops only, but rather the loop created behind the back loop of the stitch in the previous row. Crocht in Color has a wonderful tutorial on how to do this step here.) Join with sl st to Ch 1. (40)

R7: Ch 2. Hdc in next st and around basket. Join with sl st to Ch 2. (40)

R8: Ch 1. Working in back loops only, sc in same st and around basket. Join with sl st to Ch 1. (40)

R9: Ch 2. Hdc in next st and around basket. Join with sl st to Ch 2. (40)

R10: Ch 1. Sc in same st and around basket. Join with sl st to Ch 1. (40)

R11: Ch 1. Working in back loops only, sc in next st and around basket. Join with sl st to Ch 1. (40)

R12: Ch 2. Hdc in same st and in next 6 sts. Ch 5. Sk next 4 sts. Hdc in next 18 sts. Ch 5. Sk next 4 sts. Hdc in next 7 sts. Join with sl st to Ch 2.

R13: Ch 1. Sc in next 6 sts. Work 6 sc in the handle (the Ch 5 space from previous row) Hdc in next 18 sts. Work 6 sc in the second handle (the Ch 5 space from previous row). Hdc in next 7 sts. Join with sl st to Ch 1.

Note: I added a round of slip stitch to all three nesting baskets because I like the finished look that it gives to the top of the basket. This is optional.

R14: Ch 1. Sl st in next st and around basket. Sl st to Ch 1. Fasten off and weave in ends.

I hope that you enjoy this basket, and I want to send out a huge thank you Liz from Crochet in Color for her inspiration for this pattern!

Hugs and stitches! :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Madrid Metro Mod's Catalog

I still love Etsy, although I find that clients get frustrated when they can't see my entire inventory in one spot. Maybe I've sold an item and it's difficult to find under "sold items," and then I get an email or a Facebook message saying "Remember that cute hat that you made with the braids? I'd like one of those." Then I get frustrated, because I've made 10 hats with braids, and I'm sure that at least 6 of them were cute!

To help out, and to create a portfolio where all of the items that can be custom ordered are shown, I have created a blog called the "Madrid Metro Mod Catalog." Please check it out here!

Thanks a bunch!

Hugs and stitches,

Lanas Sixto at last!

Last Saturday, I made my first trip to Lanas Sixto! Lanas Sixto, along with Pontejos and El Gato Negro, is probably among the most famous yarn shops in Madrid. Unlike Pontejos, it deals exclusively in yarns. Unlike El Gato Negro, it does not sell yarn by weight... even though the antique facade of the building still professes "Ventas al peso" (sold by weight). I'm not making it up:

Photo Credit:

Lanas Sixto is not located in the yarn-opolis near the other famous yarn and haberdasheries, but it is super close! Check out this map:

It was a really nice fall day to take a walk, so we scooted up to Lanas Sixto looking for LOTS of yarn. I am making some crochet baskets using this pattern by Crochet in Color for Christmas gifts, and I wanted to pick up a few skeins of yarn to begin the work.

I had this brilliant idea to do a nesting set of these baskets in fading colors, from light to dark. Seeing as how I was making three baskets (plus a trial basket for hats and gloves in our apartment), and each basket requires 2 skeins of chunky yarn, I knew that I was going to pay a pretty penny for my supplies!

I went to Pontejos, but the least expensive chunky yarn that I could find (that wasn't horribly ugly!) was 5.25€ per skein of 50g. Ummm, so that would make my little "project" total somewhere around 60€! Before I committed, I decided to head to Lanas Sixto, and I am so glad I did!

First of all, the buying experience at Lanas Sixto (on a Saturday morning, mind you, when EVERYONE is buying yarns) was really nice. There were no pushy shop people demanding that you pick out your yarn immediately, and they had lots of yarns out where you could touch them. Here's a photo of the shop so you can get an idea:

Photo Credit:
Lanas Sixto deals mostly in Katia yarns, and their prices seemed very reasonable. I settled on eight skeins of Katia Alaska:

For now, I won't reveal the color scheme, just in case the receivers of my Christmas baskets happen to read this blog, but I am super excited! I also picked up a 7mm hook to make said baskets.

I finished one basket in about 2 hours for our apartment. I chose mustard yellow to go with our walls, although I'm not crazy about how the photo turned out... apartment lighting is tough! But just to give an idea:

So how much did I pay for said 8 skeins of yarn and hook? Sixty buckaroos? No way!! I paid 24€ for the yarn and hook, and there were lots of yarns in all price ranges at Lanas Sixto.

If you are content with a fine Spanish brand of yarn and are scared to face the crowds of Pontejos or El Gato Negro, I'd definitely recommend walking up the street and see what deals you will find at Lanas Sixto.

And if you're scared about your (developing) Spanish yarn vernacular, check out my awesome English-Spanish Crochet Dictionary!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Charity scarves

We visited Olombrada this weekend and attended mass on Sunday morning. The parish was celebrating "Día de la misión," or a day celebrating religious missions of all types. They might be personal, within the town, or around the world. The priest emphasized the presence of missionaries all around the world and he, being from South America, gave thanks for the missionaries who brought Catholicism to the Americas.

The priest encouraged everyone to give what he or she was able to give to help support missions around the world. Since I'm not in a position to give financially, I thought that I would work on some scarves that the priest could send to missionaries around the world or give to some of the elders in the parish that don't have anyone to take care of them. Even though this will take some time away from my Etsy shop, I believe that it's important to give back, and I am looking forward to this project.

I will be using yarn that I have stashed and patterns that are (hopefully) easy and quick so that I can make as many scarves as possible by our next trip to the village in November.

I will also post the patterns that I am using on this blog post.

1. Ribbed Scarf, by C. L. Halvorson, on

If you have a quick or easy pattern that you would like to send my way, please leave me a comment!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baby Gabriela!

I absolutely love seeing my little creations on the babies they were made for, and so I present to you...

Baby Gabriela with her adorable ankle boots and sleeping owl hat! You can find more of these items in the following sections of my Etsy shop:

Baby footwear

Animal Hats

Double Pom Newborn Beanie - Pattern!

Hi, everyone! My September was taken up with custom orders and getting myself used to my new job, so I didn't have much blogging time.

Last Friday, I noticed that I still had 50g of a beautiful Italian yarn that I bought at Lanas Pinguino last year. Lanas Pingouin is located in Chamberí, at calle María de Guzmán, 55. I used to live around the corner from that yarn shop, and I didn't purchase much there, but I love the quality of the yarns that I did purchase. In fact, I'm thinking of heading back soon, because the owner had great prices on thicker yarns. I wanted to use up the blue-grey yarn, so I made this cute little beanie, and I thought I'd share the pattern with you.

Even though I've written lots of them, this is my first attempt at sharing a pattern. If anything is unclear, please let me know.

  • 50g bulky yarn
  • 6.00mm crochet hook
  • scissors
I did not measure my gauge, but the finished measurements can be found on my Etsy listing.

R1: Make a magic ring. Ch 2 and 8 hdc in ring. Close ring and join with a sl st to top of 1st hdc. (8)

R2: Ch 2. 2 hdc in each st around. Join with sl st to top of 1st hdc. (16)

R3: Ch 2. 2 hdc in joining st. 1 hdc in next st. (2 hdc in next st, 1 hdc in next st) around. Join with sl st to top of 1st hdc. (24)

R4: Ch 2. 2 hdc in joining st. 1 hdc in next 2 sts. (2 hdc in next st, 1 hdc in next 2 sts) around. Join with sl st to top of 1st hdc. (32)

R5-8: Ch 2. 1 hdc in joining st and each st around. Join with sl st to top of 1st hdc. (32)

R9: Ch 1. Sl st loosely around hat. Join with sl st to ch 1 and fasten off. Weave in ends.

Make 2 large pom poms (I wrapped the thick yarn around 4 fingers 25 times for each pom pom) and attach to hat. Trim pom poms to appropriate size.

I hope you enjoy this pattern! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photo Face Lift!

I have been super busy this month! I started a new job teaching English in a school in Móstoles, Spain, and dealing with first and second graders sure takes the energy out of you! You can read about my adventures as an owl-xiliar on my Tumblr page. I have a goal to write one entry for each and every school day!

I have also been working on three custom orders for my Etsy shop! I have finished all of them and will be shipping out the third tomorrow!

The first was for a friend from my university. Her baby, Gabriela, will look so adorable in this owl hat / ankle boots set:

She also ordered a baby elf hat in turquoise and white to match her magenta winter coat. I would have never thought of that color combination, but it will be so adorable! I added a little white bow to make the elf hat extra girly. :)

Then it was on to custom order number deux. This was a second order from a French photographer. Her business is Art Est Sur Images, and you can check her out on Facebook. This included two Christmas elf hats, in red and white, for 3-6 months and 12 months. They turned out so adorable.

She also requested an elf hat in blue and green for her 2 year old nephew. I had never made such a large hat, but I figured out how to do it by googling a bit, and it turned out really nice. The tail will be really long (think Randy from "A Christmas Story") but, as my boyfriend has reminded me a couple of times, that's why it's so cute.


The third custom order was for a family member, and since it is a gift to another family member, I can't post any more details! :) 

It has been so flattering to get so many custom orders all at once, and it was so rewarding to finish them all!

In my other (spare) time (haha), I have been working on my crochet photography skills. As a novice photographer, I quickly learned that taking pictures of tiny little booties in your apartment is nothing like taking pictures of architecture, people or landscapes. It requires specialized lighting and exact positioning. I got the positioning down quickly, but the lighting in my apartment is... special.

Because it's so hot in Madrid, and we live on the top floor, I have to keep the blinds drawn all day. Yes, it makes me feel slightly like a vampire, and it also makes it really difficult to take pretty pictures. So I pull up the blinds and roast, but even then, I had shadows and my (beautiful, lovely, precious) yellow walls gave the white backdrop a tinge that made me crazy... and not in a good way.

After some research out on the interwebs, I found a way to make a homemade lightbox.
 I made one with some white construction paper, and even though I just laid them in the box instead of taping / draping / crazy-woman-making, I usually don't photograph the sides or the corners, so you don't see the seam. I also bought two small lamps from Ikea (oh, the European Wal-mart) and use those if I am taking really, really close shots, like this one:

Encouraged by my improved photos, I decided to give the front page of my Etsy shop a face lift. I photographed all of my items (except for two, because the sun set... I shake my fist at you, Mr. Sun!) and edited them. I made them the first shot of each listing so that my main shop page has a more uniform appearance. I didn't like the cluttered look before I did this, and I feel much better after all that hard work!

Why don't you check out my new and improved Etsy shop page? Oh, and give us your photography secrets in a comment! :)

Stay tuned, as I will be posting the pattern for my vintage marguerite bonnet soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back from vacation!

After two weeks of sleeping in, daily siestas, delicious food, and virtually no schedule to think of, I quite understand why Spaniards become so grumpy on September 1. Vacations are over and it's back to work after quite a long time away from reality. I start my new job tomorrow, and I spent my last day of "vacation" getting Madrid Metro Mod back up and running as well as listing all of the little confections I made while away from Madrid.

Vacation was amazing! We spent the first week in Olombrada, Segovia (Spain), the town where my boyfriend's mother grew up. I can't imagine growing up in the house that she grew up in, mainly because the hallways have a lot in common with the staircases at Monticello (that is, to say, they are very, very narrow) and there is no heat in the house. It was in the 90s during the day, but we still slept with blankets at night. I also met the boyfriend's Aunt Reme, who is a nun in Navarra. She was really nice, did a lot of dishes, and taught me three new card games. We played cards... a lot.

The first night of vacation was spent dancing to a street band in Cantalejo, a neighboring town that had its yearly festivals. We ate churros y chocolate (think funnel cake meets really thick hot chocolate and they had a trashy love affair in your belly) and danced until super tarde... or 1am, when I was about to fall over.

Churros y chocolate from a street vendor. Yum!

The best son in the world, taking his mom for a stroll around the dance floor.

The boyfriend's brother and mom, dancing!

The plaza filled up quite a bit when Paquito el Chocolatero (think Spanish YMCA) started playing!

The next morning, to do penance for our sins - and mainly to have a drink at the wonderful café next to the church - we attended mass at El Santuario de la Virgen del Henar. Legend has it that the Virgin appeared there to some shepherds and made the water begin running in the fountain that had dried up. It still runs to this day, and I love going to mass here every time we go to Olombrada.

The ceiling of the church, like the rest of it, is absolutely gorgeous.
We went swimming at the local pool, we went shopping in Cuéllar, and on the way home, we ran into a herd of sheep! With a shepherd! And I took a picture with them, because I thought they were incredibly awesome.

While in Olombrada, I also made my first tortilla española, or Spanish omelet. The trick is to use about a gallon and a half of olive oil to fry the potatoes at a low heat, then remove the potatoes, mix them with the beaten eggs, and then put it all back in the skillet with some oil. It was lots of fun, and I didn't drop the tortilla when I flipped it!

On our last day in Olombrada, Jorge took me to Peñafiel, a town that has a medieval castle that dates from the 10th century. It was amazingly horrific, especially the open areas of the castle where the guide reminded you several times to hold onto your small children because they can fall through the cracks. If you get too freaked out, you can go have a drink in the Museo Provicinal del Vino, or the province's wine museum. It was pretty cool to learn so much about how wine is made! I promptly forgot most of it over a glass of tinto.

The castle sits on top of a terribly high hill.

Although I loved being in Olombrada, the best cure for "end of vacation blues" is to promptly go on another vacation, which we did. We packed up five adults, a bird, a dog and luggage for a week (please, read that again... I'll wait) into a Honda CRV - which, might I add, is considered a small SUV in the United States - and headed to Calpe, Valencia.

Beaches on the Mediterranean are nothing like the Carolina coasts where I grew up vacationing. The beaches tend to be very small, overcrowded with umbrellas and people, and there are very few waves. If there are waves, it's because there is a storm, and the red flag goes up and the lifeguard (yes, there was a real, live lifeguard) tells you to get out of the water, and you promptly get soaked by a downpour. This happened several times, but the beach was gorgeous.

Jorge and his family in Benidorm, another beach close to Calpe.

Calpe on the last night of vacation!
In Calpe, we visited some super important caves where cavemen and their dogs lived over 50,000 years ago! We also saw the Fonts del Algar, a natural spring with waterfalls that you can swim in... or, perhaps, kill yourself, as I saw lots of people fall on their culetes while attempting to traverse the rocks.

The diving area of Fonts del Algar.

The original cave entrance in Cueva de las Calaveras. Can you imagine having to climb down that barefoot?!
I also had a birthday while in Calpe! As a present, I threw caution to the wind and went for a 20€ haircut in a salon with a bald barber and a lesbian stylist. It turned out to be one of the best haircuts I've ever had!

After two long weeks, a birthday, missing my family, and surviving a double ear infection and gastroenteritis, I hopped back in the Honda CRV with the other four adults, one bird, one dog, luggage, and souvenirs, and traveled back to Madrid. Tomorrow, back to work, but I can't wait for next year's vacation... possibly in the USA!! :)

Oh, and yes I did do some light hooking on vacation. Allow me to toot my own horn and say that I think I made some cute things, as the first pair of ankle boots that I listed on Etsy today sold within the hour! Yipee! :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

One last quick word about yarns before V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!!!

I just had to update about my quest for the best yarns in Madrid!

I recently embarked upon an Odyssean journey to El Corte Inglés to mail a package. The local post office closes at 2:30pm in August (which, had I known, I would have left the house before 2:55pm, and thus arrived on time!), so if you want to mail anything after that time, you have to go to a bigger branch. I decided to head to El Corte Inglés in Puerta del Sol because I have a direct metro line there and the train system is an f(·/$%ing nightmare since they closed the Recoletos tunnel and it won't be fixed until I leave for vacation which is really, really inconveniente!!!... So, ahem, I ended up at El Corte Inglés Preciados.

Since I trekked all the way up there on a day when the high temps were well over 100ºF, I decided to take full advantage of the air conditioning and visit the Rowan Corner - that is to say, the yarn supplies shop, located conveniently next to the baby apparel shop... talk about inspiration!

If you've never heard of El Corte Inglés, it's sort of like Coach, Macy's, Target, Carolina Herrera and Bergdorf Goodman had an only child and spoiled him rotten until he became the only respectable place to shop for those who make more than 1,500€ per month. I'm not kidding. It's huge, and remarkable, and they have everything when you can't find it anywhere else... even Peter Pan peanut butter, for a minimal fee of 4.65€ for about 4 ounces. That kind of quality, it seems, doesn't come cheap, folks!

Twice a year, El Corte Inglés looks down upon the face of the mileurista (sort of a minimum-wage working class Spaniard-esque term) and sees him sweating to afford quality clothes not sold by a chino (that's Spain speak for "Chinaman"). The CEOs take pity and decide to start up REBAJAS, a sale that comes as close to clearance as Spain ever gets. Yep, there's no Target 75% off rack to be had in Spain. It's rebajas or nothing.

Now I usually don't get too hyped up about rebajas, because for me, that dress that used to be 69.99€ on sale for 39.99€ is still a little... as they say... outside of my price range. However, when it comes to the yarns, drop what you're doing and get to the rebajas now!!! Pronto. Ahora. Now.

So what did I discover at the Corte Inglés on that hot day? Well, they had a bazillion yarns on clearance for 0.99€. We're not talking acrylics (although they had huge "super saver"-esque skeins for 1.99€), we're talking the real deal. Cottons, wool blends, silk blends, all for 0.99€ for 50g! That's amazing!

I snagged 6 balls of a gorgeous summery-mustardy yellow in 100% cotton for.. yep.. 0.99€ a pop. I also got three balls of silk / acrylic blend for baby booties that is so soft and shiny that I just want to rest my face on it. Yep, you guessed it, 0.99€ each (normally 2.60€). They also had huge deals on other European yarns, such as the French Cabotine that I used to make an adorable piggy hat and diaper cover. It was on sale for 3.45€ per 50g.

If you happen to be visiting Madrid in January (usually from January 6-31) or August / September, be sure to visit El Corte Inglés for their rebajas pricing on beautiful yarns! You will be glad you did!

And with that said, I'm packing my bags and am off for the land with beautiful weather, tractors in the streets, sheep herders living large... and no internet. See you in September!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Going on vacation!

Even though I have been "on vacation" (aka, unemployed) since July 31, I am leaving for parts unknown on Saturday morning.

Having August "off" has brought forth a few changes in my life.

First, I feel like a "real" teacher, resting up for the 9 months ahead of screaming primary students.

Second, I have finished the rewrites of the first chapter of my dissertation (finally!) and I began writing the second chapter. I have always been a very fast writer - finishing my MA and PhD exams in record time, finishing term papers in one day, whipping up a blog post in 7 hours (err.. ok, blog excluded) - so I wrote my first chapter like everything else: quickly and without much editing. When my adviser returned my chapter with the dreaded "Start again, please," I feared editing, but it turned out to be a great process. I started formatting my dissertation properly, learned that you only use one space after a period for MLA (and not two) and began enclosing my punctuation "within the quotation marks," instead of "outside the quotation marks". The second chapter is coming along much better because I am setting smaller writing goals and only write one section at a time, instead of pages and pages over one hard day. I should be finished within a month, and I'm certain that this chapter will be much stronger than the draft of Chapter 1. Yay!

Third, I have a had a lot of time to work on my Etsy shop. I've been working with new patterns, buying new yarns, and creating adorable little things. My favorites of the month have been, hands down, these crochet ankle boots, these adorable elf hats with matching leg warmers, and headbands!

I have finished skeins of yarn - a huge accomplishment for someone who, throughout most of her life, has had a problem finishing projects - and I think it's because it's really rewarding to add to my projects on Ravelry and to see my shop stats grow on Etsy.

So, after a great fortnight, I am headed away from Madrid! I will be spending a week in Olombrada, a very small town in Segovia, with my Spanish boyfriend's family. They have an amazing house with a private patio, and my puppy loves to walk off-leash and be outside all day long. I also get to meet Aunt Reme, and I hear that she loves to play Parchis (my new favorite Spanish board game) and cinquillo, an awesome card game. I taught my boyfriend to play "Go Fish!" and will teach his family there.

After a week in Olombrada - where the nightly temperatures call for a jacket! - we head to Calpe, a beach area in the Mediterranean. I am really looking forward to going to the beach and have had lots and lots of fond memories of beach trips with my own family over the past few weeks. We will be staying in a small apartment (so that the puppy can join us) and I'm sure that we will have lots of adventures!

While I'm gone, I am going to dar de baja - or close - my Etsy shop, because I would hate to have someone order and not be able to ship until September. I hope that when I get back, I will be able to list lots more adorable items... and... I will be debuting a few patterns that I have been working up over the past month!!

The best part about going on vacation is spending it with people you love and experiencing new sights, smells, and tastes, but it's also very exciting to come home from vacation with new and exciting projects... and a brand new job that I begin on September 4!

Yep, August is shaping up to be a pretty awesome month! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why I love Ravelry (and why you should love it, too!)

When I lived in Columbus, many moons ago, my crafting supplies were stored in the closet under the stairs (ahem, note the recurring Harry Pottery theme... thank you very much!). Later, I found out that they were also stored in the upstairs guestroom closet. Then I realized that they were also stored in my bedside chest of drawers. From patterns to yarn to hooks, to chocolate lollipop supplies, to a sewing machine and all necessary haberdash, my 700 square feet apartment was like a treasure trove for crafters.

When I moved to Madrid, I sold the chocolate supplies, I sold the yarn, I sold the patterns, and I kept the sewing machine in storage. And I resisted the urge to travel across the ocean with my hooks. This, in retrospect, was a mistake... not that I'm bitter, mind you.

Now that I live in a much more humble 500 square feet apartment with only one closet and a Spanish boyfriend who - surprise! needs his own space, too - I have to be smart about my crafting supplies. There are days when I leave the house with four or five skeins of yarn on the couch (and beg for mercy, or at least mumble an apology as it's 6:30am and I am not fully awake), but for the most part, I have figured out ways to be more organized.

Tangent: That's one thing that I like about Spaniards. They don't clutter. They live in very small apartments (by American standards) with small children, who eventually turn into big children, who then turn into live-in adult children, and yet the house is usually presentable and the clutter is hidden. If my nieces and nephews saw that there was no space in Grandma and Grandpa's house for their 3 laundry baskets of toys, they would probably throw a hissy, but I quite like the idea that less is more.

I store all of my yarns with members of the same genus and species (Nilo in the 2nd row, Lanas Stop in the 1st row, all Gato Negro yarns in their neat little balls in a box, scraps in the right top corner) in one drawer of an armoire in our living room. I store all of my items from my Etsy shop in another drawer in a second armoire in our living room. I store my buttons, hooks, scissors and threading supplies in a small plastic Ikea box that I can throw in a small bag or in any of the above-mentioned drawers. It works.

But once I started my Etsy shop (aka This is a plug), I realized that I had to keep more than my yarns organized. Inventories and pricing lists and order invoices... not to mention the patterns! How could I keep my projects organized as effectively as my yarns?

I discovered Ravelry as a fluke, but it has since become my favorite place to keep my Etsy shop organized! It's free, and you can create an account quickly. You can use Ravelry to:
  • Search for Crochet and Knitting patterns
  • See lots of pictures of other people who have made the same pattern and brainstorm for your next project
  • Research yarns that you like and see ideas for new projects
  • Get to know other Ravelers in your area and attend their meet-ups or other events (note to self: this doesn't work so well in Spain)
  • Ask questions or read topics in the forum
  • Buy from friends and Ravelers in the Marketplace (meaning that you might save money on a pattern)
  • Buy yarn! (I haven't tried this yet as I'm in Spain, but if you have in the US, please leave a comment and let us know how it went!)
This website is great, but my favorite feature is yet to come!... Enter the Ravelry Notebook. Here's a quick look at my Ravelry Notebook:

In your Notebook, you can keep track of your projects, your yarn stash, your favorite patterns, your needles and hooks and your interaction with other Ravelers. So how does the Ravelry Notebook work?

Let's say you want to crochet this amazing bonnet that you found when you were browsing the amazing selection of patterns:

From this screen, you can access the pattern (description), see who else has made this project and what pictures they have posted ("10 projects"), check out yarn ideas and... add it to your notebook. There are four ways to do this, all located in the top right corner of the page:
  1. "add to favorites" - this is a great option if you're browsing, but you aren't committed to the pattern
  2. "add to library" - this adds it to a wonderful library with thumbnail views of your favorite projects, sort of a way to browse within your own little collection of wonderful (note that on my screen it says "In my library"... well, cause I've already added it!)
  3. "add to queue" - this helps you save the pattern for your future projects... so if you're buried in three projects, but you want this to be the very next one you begin, put it in your queue in position 1
  4. "hook it" - this is your note page on the project, where you can put down what yarn you use, what hook you use, what size you make, etc.
Hook it is always my last step, because that's how I keep all of my projects organized. Here's a peek at my "Hook it" / "Projects" page for the pattern above:

When editing the page, you add in all the information (which is a really helpful way to keep track of this project in case you want to reproduce it in the future... say, for example, if it's something you list on Etsy, sell and need to make more). You can even add a picture, the date you started and completed the project, state how difficult you feel the pattern is, and put notes to yourself (very helpful if you, like me, are constantly modifying patterns).

Adding a project takes about 2 minutes once you finish the project, and it can save you a long time of looking through a million bookmarked crochet patterns in search for the very one you used to crochet the first baby booties you made this year and now you can't find the f")$/"@∞|@ pattern but you need it para hace cinco minutos!!! (Not that that's ever happened to me, mind you.)

Here's my current projects page:

Every time I start a project, I add it to my Notebook, even if it's just to put down the hook size and yarn and pattern source. I update it as I go along if I find errors in the pattern or modify the pattern. When I'm finished, I note the date and jot down any last minute notes. After I list the item on Etsy, I put a picture so that I remember exactly which item I made. It really helps when you start getting upwards of 25 projects... and imagine how much it can help when I have sold hundreds of items (to my closest friends and relatives) and end up making hundreds of euro pennies!!! Ahem...

So that's that. You should join Ravelry. You should take advantage of an amazing and free site that lets you connect to the bigger brain cloud of yarn crafters all over the world. And you should look me up. My name is scuttleboose.

.... and now for the credits:

I am honored to thank Katherine and her blog Crochetlatte for amazing patterns that she shares with us and some of the best yarn photography I have yet to see. Her site is still developing, but she has some amazing things! So, credit where credit is more than due, please check out Crochetlatte's blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mercería Marquina - Katia Yarns in Northeast Madrid (Diego de León)

One of my students lives near Diego de León, and I had stopped by a yarn shop located on the way to her house a few times, but yesterday's purchase was so great that I had to recommend it to everyone looking for yarn and crochet or knitting supplies in Madrid.

1. Marquina Labores y Complementos

Address: c/ Eraso, 10, 28028 Madrid

This shop has a great selection of Lanas Stop, Nilo and Katia yarns, the Caron or Lion Brand Yarns of Spain. I previously had purchased two skeins of Lanas Stop Top Merino for my baby boy crochet sleeping owl hat and was really impressed with the quality of the yarn. It cost around 4.50€ per skein, but since it is a bulky yarn, it was worth the cost.

This shop breaks tradition and puts the yarn out WHERE YOU CAN TOUCH IT!!! Yes, the yarn is NOT behind the counter. Observe:

Yesterday, I stopped in to ask if they carried Nilo yarns, since the skein that I had purchased at Pontejos on Saturday - and subsequently used to crochet my first! baby dress using this pattern - was 100g, and even though the pattern says that you need 3oz (85g) of yarn, apparently you need about 150g of cotton yarn. To my surprise, they had one skein left in the color that I needed! Great! Now if only the dye lot matches nicely!!

I asked the shopkeeper if she had any other cotton yarns for baby dresses, and she surprised me with four different options. Mind you, that's only cotton. She also had plenty of wool and acrylic blends, and she told me that beginning in September, they would start getting in better selections of wools, even fur-like wools that reminded me that the fur coat obsession is still going strong in Madrid (an obsession that I never really understood, particularly when my boyfriend told me that his mother's engagement gift was a fur coat for which his father paid the equivalent to 6,000€... and that was over 30 years ago! Did I mention that I've only seen her wear a parka?). I will grant the optimistic shopkeeper that the sample that she showed me of the "furry wools" was really nice and very soft. I might just see a white faux-fur cardigan in some little baby's future, but only because it's faux!

The clerk was very nice, in a Spanish way (those of you who have lived here know exactly what I'm talking about), and helpful. She informed me that they have classes for knitting and crocheting in the shop, and they will be offering classes in a local café that they have rented beginning in the fall. I asked her for more information, and she said that if I stop back in after a few weeks (by the way, this is the answer you will always get from a procrastinating Spaniard), she will have an informational sheet for me.

They also have a lot of finished pieces in the shop that they make and sell. They sell kits for many of the items, so if you see a dress you love, chances are they will either sell you a kit to make it at a great price (I have seen them from 10-14€) or that they will sell you similar supplies and explain how to make it. She told me that they made this adorable cardigan using the same Katia Capri yarn that I purchased, but using a double strand.

 I ended up purchasing the Nilo red skein and two Katia Capri skeins in violet and white. The bill was 10.60€, but she only asked me to pay 10€. You can't beat a discount! (And no, for all of you skeptical types, I didn't tell her that I would be writing a blog entry about her shop until after I had shopped and paid.)

This shop doesn't have too much in the way of buttons and laces, but the price is right and the selection of yarns can't be beat! If you're near the neighborhood Salamanca or want to take a quick trip to metro stop Diego de León, check out this lanería. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to Buy Yarn in Spanish, aka The English-Spanish Crochet Dictionary

If you're visiting Spain, or if you haven't polished your hooking linguistic skills quite yet, you're going to need some specialized vocabulary. I learned this the hard way, when I asked for thread instead of yarn, holes instead of hooks, and didn't even know where to begin with acrylic, cotton, wool, and viscose.

After a few months, and lots of patient shopkeepers, my "Spanish Hooker Parlance" has improved. Since you might not be able to spend months traipsing around Spanish-speaking cities to different yarn shops, I thought I'd create this handy awesome English-Spanish Crochet Dictionary! Even if you print it and take it with you on your quest for Spanish yarns and do the me-point-you-understand gorilla game with the clerk, it will help you much more than the hope that shopkeepers will speak English. Trust me, they don't. I have yet to encounter a shopkeeper with a working knowledge of English, despite having shopped for yarns for almost a year.

Here are a few quick phrases that will be useful:
  • May I see... - Puedo ver...
  • How much does it cost? - Cuánto cuesta?
  • Do you have any... - Tiene...
  • May I pay with a credit card... - Puedo pagar con una tarjeta?
  • crochet - ganchillo
  • hooks - aguja (also the word for needles, specify by saying "aguja de ganchillo")
  • yarn - lana

Check out the full dictionary (lots of supplies, types of yarns and colors!) with pronunciation guide in Google Docs:

 English - Spanish Crochet Dictionary in Google Docs

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shopping for Yarn (and Crochet Supplies) in Madrid - City Center

In my last post, I vowed to get my big butt out of bed early on Saturday morning to go explore what I have since named the "Haberdashery District" of Madrid, which I had discovered the weekend prior. However - in the grand tradition of mutable schedules characteristic of Spain - everything was closed at 5pm on a Saturday, and so I had to either "early to rise" or miss out on yarn and supplies.

Sooo... Saturday. Noon. I was shopping for yarns... with the rest of the world, apparently, as you had to take a number in a few shops I visited or at least wait a while to be helped.

(Fun Fact: Noon is "early to rise" in Madrid. Particularly in summer. Trust me on this one.)

I took the train from good ol' Vallecas to Atocha and then to Puerta del Sol, where I walked up Calle del Correo to the first plaza on the right. Behold, I was confronted with a LARGE store front of a HUGE yarn and notions shop with an ENORMOUS crowd of everyone wanting to buy things IMMEDIATELY... or, as they say, para hace cinco minutos.

Here's what I found out about the shops (Almacenes Pontejos, Almacenes Paz, Almacenes Cobián and El Gato Negro) I visited. I could have spent hundreds, perhaps billions, of euros in these heavenly stores, but I limited myself to what I could crochet for the rest of the month. (That was an arbitrary and unrealistic goal, much like those I set for writing my dissertation or practicing better eating habits.)

1. Amacenes Pontejos - Plaza de Pontejos, 2

If the candy shop in Willy Wonka sold yarn instead of candy, it would remind me of this shop. Especially the screaming customers who "want it" and they "want it now."

To the right of entrance is the yarn section. Take a number, or ask who is the last person (¿Quién es la última?), and start looking at the beautiful wall of yarn... behind the counter. The impatient shopkeeper will be with you in less than 20 minutes, if you're lucky. I had all of my yarns picked out by the time he got to me, which made both of us happy. The prices here are great on Lanas Stop yarns and Katia yarns. 100% cotton yarns are also inexpensive and they have good color selection. Check the dye lots, as I saw a lot of people getting multiple ovillos with slightly different shades.

To the left of entrance, you have spinning displays of amazing button-ness. I didn't look because, frankly, there were too many screaming people, and I am amassing a huge collection of adorable buttons without booties to which I can attach them.

There are also lots of patterns, supplies, silk and ribbons, lace and everything you would need to make wedding or communion or baptism favors --- and I was informed that most of the people were there to buy these very things.

Be sure to check the counter tops to the right of the yarn wall, as I found some great yarns from Mallorca that were on "clearance" (or as close to anything in Spain ever really gets to clearance, which still amounted to 1.95€ per 50g for cotton / acrylic mix). The colors were definitely off-season, but hey, the heat wave can't last forever. Right?

Once you pick out your yarn, the gentleman hands you half of a card and you go to the cashier. He takes the other half of the card to the cashier - which seems like a lot of traveling for him, and I now understand why he's slightly grumpy - and you pay and collect your yarn there. I paid around 12€ for five balls of yarn (4 of the clearance yarns I previously mentioned and one skein of 100% cotton Nilo yarn in red).

Here is an image of the button selection from around the web, since they weren't too keen on me taking photos.
Photo Credit to

2. Almacenes Paz - Calle Marqués del Viudo de Pontejos, 7

This shop is great for buttons, because they're cheap and you can touch every single button, if you so desire, without having to ask permission from the clerk. They also have some things in the way of clothing fabrication, and many finished baby pieces for sale, but they don't have a yarn selection. I paid 1.80€ for six buttons.

They have the buttons organized by color, although there are more on the right side of the shop behind the counter.
3. Almacenes Cobián - Calle Marqués del Viudo de Pontejos, 2

This shop has three floors, each with something a bit different, but they are more into thread crafts and garment making. They have a button wall on the button level, which is nice, but the buttons are expensive. They also have a great "venta al mayor," or warehouse pricing, section. If you're looking for a lot of notions for jewelry, garment making, or lace crafts, this is the place to be. For yarn crafts, not so much. The following is a photo of their mercería, completely devoid of yarns. Le sigh.

Photo credit to 

4. El Gato Negro - Plaza Mayor, 30 (with entrance on Calle de la Sal)

I really cannot say enough good things about the Gato Negro, a yarn shop that has been in business for over 200 years. There is no better place to buy quality yarn in Madrid. I repeat, no better place (that I am aware of... I hope to change this opinion in the future... but for now, no way.)

This research is really touch work, as you can tell from the HUGE smile on my face!
 I went to the Gato Negro a few weeks ago, but they were closing for siesta, so they only let me in to buy two skeins of yarn very quickly. However, those two skeins are my favorites to work with, and I made this hat with the bone colored yarn and a few pairs of slippers - that I have yet to put on Etsy - with the blue color.

Even though they, in the Spanish tradition, have all the yarns behind the counter, they have sample yarns hung up at the front of the store, grouped by materials and colors. They have everything from acrylics to viscose to my current obsession, 100% cotton. The wall is a great way to get a feel for the yarn, and it includes the prices on the tag.

The yarn in El Gato Negro is priced by the kilo, with most yarns ranging from 26.00€ per kilo up to 64.00€ per kilo. The minimum that you have to buy is 100g (so 100g of high quality 100% cotton yarn cost 4.20€ per 100g, which isn't much more than in other shops... ok, it's a few cents more, but the quality! oh, the quality!!)

You tell the ladies which yarn you want, they get it for you from behind the counter (notice the recurring theme) and weigh it for you. On a produce scale. Awesome! You pay at the cash register and go on your merry way. I can't say enough good things about the staff. They are happy to answer any questions you have (not sure which yarns to pair? not sure which size hook to use with a yarn? not sure where to find something that they don't sell?) and are very generous with their time - practically a myth in Spanish retail.

Another great feature of this store is that they have finished pieces hanging on the walls and tell you which yarns they use and how much the project costs (for example, a granny square afghan with lots of cute flowers for less than 20€ for supplies). It's a great way to get inspired! You can see a bit of it in the pictures above.

I spent 8.55€ and got one skein of 100% cotton yarn in butter yellow and one skein of 100% cotton multicolored yarn, in the pink / coral / orange family with white accents. Love it!

One thing that I don't love about El Gato Negro is that they sell their yarns in madeja, not ovillo, form. This means that you get a big bunch of yarn that has been tied up in several places and have to take it home and get someone to hold the yarn while you spent 20 minutes making a ball out of the yarn. It is important that you know this, so that you don't get home and start playing with the yarn for an hour before you realize that you have created A GIANT KNOT and your beautiful investment is now laying in A GIANT KNOT at your feet. Nobody likes A GIANT KNOT.... Not that I've experienced the GIANT KNOT personally or anything.

(Buyer beware: I did notice that the same Nilo yarn that I bought at Pontejos was about .80€ more for 100g at the Gato Negro, but you can't buy the Gato Negro cotton yarns anywhere else)

So there you have it! A quick run-down on the best places to buy yarn in Madrid city center. After an exhausting morning of yarn shopping, you should treat yourself to a frozen yogurt at Llao Llao, the most awesome froyo I've tried in Madrid.

Lastly, thanks to my very patient boyfriend, who spent the morning shopping for yarn and buttons. I'd like to emphasize the patient part. ¡Gracias cariño!