Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com)
  Class: Intro to Blocking
  with Johnny Vasquez - 5/23/2013

Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com) Class: Intro to Blocking   with Johnny Vasquez

I was very excited about taking this class on blocking. In my opinion as a longtime knitter/crocheter, one can never be too rich, too thin or know too much about finishing methods for knitting and crochet!

In this class, Johnny covered wet blocking, steam blocking and towel blocking, plus, he specifically covered lace blocking. He answered numerous questions from people about blocking various fibers, since some fibers are sturdier and some are much more fragile and/or prone to felting. Fortunately, there were some taking the class who were quite knowledgeable about blocking, and they generously shared their expertise.

It was nice to see the various methods and how they work from start to finish. Often, when actually blocking, waiting for items to dry can make one lose track of the look of the beginning item, but for these purposes, there was no waiting time for drying and the results were quite timely, shown before one could lose track of the look of the beginning item.

The clips were very specific, easy to follow and the questions and answers were very informative. This class is offered as bonus content for New Stitch A Day paid members, rather than a standalone class that can be purchased, so if you're interested, by all means, join and be prepared to find the perfect method for blocking your knitted and crocheted items!

For the listing of the different deals offered by the Yarn Craft Academy:
http://newstitchaday.com/Academy/
To check out the class lineup:
http://newstitchaday.com/classes/

Another review from Stitchboard.com


Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com)
  Class: Bind Offs 102: The Ultimate Guide to Knitting Bind Offs 2
  with Johnny Vasquez - 4/12/2013

Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com) Class: Knitting 103: Lace Knitting for Beginners with Johnny Vasquez

I'd like to start this by saying I'm not a beginner knitter; I've been knitting for many, many years. My favorite part of knitting has always been learning something new. When I received an email notifying me of this class, I was looking forward to taking it, since I really only previously knew a few different ways of binding off. I was prepared to be dazzled...and I was!

In Bind Offs 102, Johnny took us through five different bind offs: the Decrease Bind Off, which produces a stretchy edge (Johnny showed how this can be accomplished in two different ways, producing two somewhat different results), the Suspended Bind Off, which produces elongated stitches, the One Over Two Bind Off, which is used to "gather" stitches, the Yarn Over Bind Off, a stretchy edged bind off for ribbing, and the Two Row Bind Off, which is accomplished in two rows, rather than one, as with the more customary bind offs.

I felt the explanations were excellent and quite easy to follow. The videos went slowly enough to glean a good understanding of each bind off, but not so slowly they left me fidgeting impatiently, waiting for the next step. Johnny is such a super instructor, too...he patiently answers questions and always explains things when someone doesn't understand.

For those knitters who believe "a bind off is a bind off...what's the big deal?" I would say, "It's quite a big deal!" Without decreasing your stitches, you can make an edging smaller with a well-chosen bind off. Without increasing, you can make an edge flare out with a well-chosen bind off. You can also change the elasticity and the look of an edge with a well-chosen bind off.

I'm so glad to have taken this class...it was quite beneficial and gave me more insight into how to accomplish a particular effect with a bind off!

For the listing of the different deals they offer:
http://newstitchaday.com/Academy/
To check out the class lineup:
http://newstitchaday.com/classes/

Another review from Stitchboard.com


New Stitch A Day: Cast Ons 102:,The Ultimate Guide
  to Knitting Cast Ons Part 2 with Johnny Vasquez - 3/24/2013

I'm a huge fan of cast ons, and a firm believer that one can never be too rich, too thin or know too many cast on techniques!

In this class, Johnny went through the Austrian long tail cast on, the German twisted cast on, the super stretchy slip knot cast on, the Channel Island cast on and the I-cord cast on.

Each cast on was presented in a separate pre-recorded video. Johnny also explained the uses for each one, as every cast on is best suited for a particular purpose. IMO, these are some of the more "exotic" cast ons, not being in the mainstream of the proportional cast on, the knitted cast on, the cable cast on or the (original) long tail cast on. Since they all serve a very different purpose, they're all really nice to learn.

After showing each cast on video, Johnny carefully answered people's questions. It was quite an enjoyable class, and I felt the speed was just right. Sometimes I'm scrambling to keep up, sometimes I'm right in step, and this was one of those times I was right in step. With a little practice, I'm sure these cast ons will become second nature!

I highly recommend this class. A beginner might find it a little more uncomfortable, in which case I'd recommend starting with Part 1 of this class, where the more customary cast ons are undoubtedly taught. I feel this is a bit more of an advanced class...good for beginners who are quite comfortable with more traditional casting on techniques, intermediate knitters and above!

Another review from Stitchboard.com


Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com)
  Class: Knitting 103: Lace Knitting for Beginners - 1/31/2013

Yarn Craft Academy Live (newstitchaday.com) Class: Knitting 103: Lace Knitting for Beginners with Johnny Vasquez

I've taken a lot of classes over the years, but until now, never a live one online. I have to say that for a first experience, it was wonderful! I'm not a beginner knitter or a beginning lace knitter, but I had received an invitation and really wanted to experience an interactive online class.

Johnny's class is very relaxed, with instructions repeated for newbies and helpful people in the chat to advise if you need help. Johnny speaks clearly and slowly, and he definitely knows his stuff!

The class was comprised of pre-recorded videos interspersed with live, interactive instructions. Johnny was very responsive to questions, which made it easy for anyone to follow along with him if they got stuck (and for anyone who didn't, it was still informative, just a bit more relaxed).

I noticed that my chat got "stuck" at one point, so I was frustrated when I was trying to help someone, but that apparently was a UStream glitch and absolutely not the fault of Yarn Craft Academy.

The pre-recorded material was very helpful and nicely done. I greatly enjoyed the segment on reading charts, because I never learned charts...as a self-taught knitter learning primarily from books available at the time, I learned how to read patterns, not charts, which apparently weren't used quite as much at the time. There was also a pre-recorded segment on using the backwards loop cast on for a good lace knitting edge. This is a perfect cast on, IMO, and one I'd never used, despite having knitted lace before. I'll be sure to use it in the future. I also loved the segment on different types of yarns. This is essential for any beginning lace stitcher!

Overall, I would highly recommend these classes...my understanding is that if you purchase classes, you get recordings of them; with a free class, understandably, that's not the case. Since I didn't opt for the recording, as I don't need it, I'd have to opine that for a beginner, it would be quite helpful to have the recording for reference. The lineup of classes is excellent (culled from people's suggestions), so be sure to check them out if there's something you're interested in learning!

For the listing of the different deals they offer:
http://newstitchaday.com/Academy/
To check out the class lineup:
http://newstitchaday.com/classes/

Another review from Stitchboard.com


Knitting Patterns for Kelly Dolls by KazKnitz

I ordered this book when it first came out. I was so excited and could hardly wait to get it. Since I live in the US, there was a bit of a wait, as this book comes from Australia, but I have to say, it was well worth the time it took to ship.

The book has approximately 45 outfits in it (I'd guess more than 50 pieces altogether, since some outfits have more than one piece). There isn't anything the author (Karen Kolleth) hasn't thought of...skirts, dresses, pantsuits, jackets, even hats. One thing I especially love about this book: there is very little crochet involved. Don't get me wrong, I do know how to (and immensely enjoy) crochet, but am often discouraged to find out there are so many crochet embellishments to knitted outfits in "knitting" books. For someone who doesn't crochet at all, I imagine that can be quite a disappointment, so with this book, someone who knits exclusively has nothing to worry about. I believe there was only one crochet embellishment in the entire book, perhaps two.

There were very few things I disliked about the book, and nothing at all major. The patterns are outstanding, the instructions quite clear. What I would have liked to see were more stitch counts, as some rows didn't have them. I ended up having to count and calculate to ensure I wasn't doing anything wrong. Another thing in the "would be nice" department is a notation of whether the project starts at the top or the bottom (to give some perspective -- I completely ruined a hooded coat by mistakenly starting it with four rows of garter stitch to counteract curling at the bottom, only to discover when almost completely through that the pattern started at the top), and then some kind of measurement at certain points, to tell me if I'm working too large or too small. While the author does give a general stitch gauge and talks about making the outfit a second time if it's too large or too small (rather than a swatch, which would ultimately take more time to accomplish), I'd really like to know a little earlier than when I'm at the end of making this outfit if it's not right. And another thing I found myself wishing to see was a needle size conversion for US sizes for each pattern. While there is a handy dandy guide at the back of the book, often, I just want to get going without having to first flip back to look up the correct needle size. And one of the patterns had an odd needle size (3 1/4mm) I had to look up online before I could start it.

Again, these are minor points, as this is an excellent, well-written book overall, containing great projects and wonderful photographs. These patterns practically call me to make them -- they're so irresistible, I hardly know which one to make next. I've already made a poncho, a cape for a friend's doll, an adorable "petal" dress, a t-shirt and a karate suit. With just a few skeins of yarn and this book, my Kelly dolls will no doubt be well-clothed year-round. I plan to eventually order book 2, as well. If you're a Kelly doll fan who loves to knit, I promise, you won't be disappointed. Karen Kolleth is definitely a designer to watch.

Another review from Stitchboard.com


Boye Needlemaster Knitting Kit

I first found the Boye Needlemaster back in the 1980s, advertised in a knitting magazine.

I was in serious knitting lust, drool and all. I purchased one from a yarn shop, for $85.

Fast forward to the present. I now own two (more) of these kits. Yes, they are undoubtedly expensive. I bought one from a craft store with a discount coupon. The other I purchased from a discount store, for much the same price. (As of this writing, my original $85 Needlemaster is likely sitting in a tote full of water, many months after a devastating flood.)

The Needlemaster retails for around $75 from most craft stores. It is quite an investment, even with a discount, but here's the thing: what you get is so much more than what you'd get if you paid for all of these items piecemeal.

You get needle sizes 2-15, 4 cables in varying sizes, 4 button stoppers (for when you want to use them as straight knitting needles instead of circulars), tools to help tighten your needles and a rubber piece to turn the needle to tighten it. And then you get it all nicely packaged in a compact case, ready to take along wherever you want to travel.

In all of the years I've used this kit -- and that's a long time -- I have very few complaints about it. Mostly, what I would like to see are more cables; though four are adequate, it generally leaves you with different sized needles if you're using this kit as a straight knitting kit. I'd also like to see some larger-size needle tips made available for this set, as well. I have had a need for a certain length circular needle, which wasn't readily available, and I'd had to improvise with the two-circular-needles trick, as the needle I needed was a size 19, much larger than what's available for the Needlemaster, even as a supplement.

The needles themselves are aluminum, smooth to the touch, in different colors for each size, so they're easy to tell apart. Though they are smooth to the touch, I also like the sound they make when they rub against each other, a bit of a soft "zzzzz" sound, which is not at all unpleasant -- just the opposite. It's quite soothing.

In over 20 years, floodwater-soaked Needlemasters aside, I've never had a cracked cable or a problem with a needle. I did, however, experience difficulty with getting the stopper buttons from a newer kit properly screwed onto the end of the cable. This may have been operator error; I honestly can't say it's the fault of the kit. I did eventually get them on adequately for their intended purpose: to keep the stitches from falling off of the needles. So though I was worried about the pieces falling off, they didn't.

With the exception of the above problem, I have no complaints and more suggestions about what I'd like to see for this kit than anything. And personally, I'm not a big fan of brown (after my first home was monotonously decorated in brown paneling throughout), so I wouldn't have minded a different color available for the case, even after 25 years. But that's not a big issue either, and I envision eventually making a nice knitted or beaded cover for it, anyway. What the heck...maybe I'll use my Needlemaster kit to help me make that knitted cover.

Another review from Stitchboard.com