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.