The San Francisco Marathon 2015

Yesterday, I ran The San Francisco Marathon with Courtney, her sister Marissa, our friend Heather, and my mom. Although it wasn't my first marathon, I was nervous and scared! It was the first race I had trained for with a time goal in mind. I was pretty dedicated to the training plan and had truly worked hard, so my time goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes was doable, but I knew it would be close.

Anyway, we headed to San Francisco early Saturday morning to pick up our bibs and do some shopping at the expo. Because the expo was at Fort Mason and parking was limited, we parked by the race start and took the shuttle to the expo. What a mistake. The shuttle ride took 30 minutes and ate into our 2 hour parking limit. So we decided to look around for a bit then take the shuttle back to the car to park at Fort Mason, which would allow us lots of time at the expo.

First, we stopped to purchase some official merchandise and then Courtney and Heather headed back to pick up the car. Anyway, Courtney and I each wanted to purchase a zip up. After showing them to Marissa and Heather months ago, we all wanted one so now we have matching zip ups! After Courtney and Heather left, my mom, Marissa, and I walked around the expo sampling lots of goodies and making a few purchases. I bought a few Mama Chia squeeze gels (so good!) and sparkly headbands from Sparkly Soul.

Side Note: These headbands are incredibly comfortable. I like them better than my SweatyBands. They don't itch the back of my ears and they stay on incredibly well. Plus, they just look better without the black elastic in the back. They are my new go to headbands! I picked up a few for everyday wear as well.

When Courtney and Heather got back, we picked up our bibs and walked around the expo again. It was a lot smaller than I expected it to be. I expected it to be like CIM's expo. That being said, there were lots of high quality vendors.

After the expo we headed to Gracias Madre, our favorite restaurant in San Francisco. It's an all vegan Mexican menu and it is delicious! We love their Papas Al Horno, roasted potatoes and spicy cashew cheese sauce. This time we ordered the Papas Al Horno (of course), Coliflor Frito, Quesadillas de Calabasa, Chilaquiles, and the Flautas. I loved the Chilaquiles, but they were super spicy.

Then it was back to the hotel to prep for race day and relax. We laid out our clothes, loaded up our packs with fuel, and took flat runner pictures. Our room was pretty nice...comfortable and it had a nice view from the 25th floor!

Courtney's mom and dad arrived later and went out to dinner. Because we had just eaten we didn't go, but they brought back tomato chow mein. Yum! We visited in their room for a bit and then headed up to our room to go to sleep.

We woke up at 4 AM on race morning. I like to shower before a race and Courtney likes to eat hours before she runs. My mom was just along for the ride! Anyway, the shower was such a pain. It was literally hot or cold, no in between. After showering and getting dressed, I ate my pancakes and peanut butter that I had brought along. I like pancakes before I run and they work well, so why fix something that's not broken? I packed up all my non-race stuff so that Courtney's dad could load up our stuff and easily check out of the room later.

We met everyone else in the lobby at 5:30 AM and headed to the race. Surprisingly it wasn't that cold. I would even say it was perfect weather. I think it was .8 miles to the start line, which was a nice warm-up. We dropped off our drop bags in the UPS trucks (clever!) and then hit the porta potties. The lines were so long I was freaking out that we would get locked out of our corral. Thankfully we made it in time after jogging from the bathrooms to the starting area. Although we really didn't need to jog as they hadn't even let our wave into the chute yet. We took a few pictures and then it was time!

I kept telling Courtney how nervous I was and she kept reassuring me. It felt good to finally cross the start line and GO! We went out pretty fast. We knew we would have to run around people as we had estimated our finish time at 5 hours but training dictated we could run a 4:30. We ran the first 3 miles weaving in and out of people and up and down curbs. Probably not the best idea, but I think we both knew we needed a fast start to create a buffer for the hills.

The first hill around mile 4 was scary. We ran the whole thing, but it was hard. Then it was on to the Golden Gate Bridge for miles 5.5 - 9.5-ish. This was my least favorite part of the race. I knew that it would be foggy, damp, and a bit of a hill, but I was unprepared for how crowded it would be. There was one lane out and one lane back, which was far too narrow for the number of runners in the race. Most of the time Courtney and I were dodging around people...again.

By mile 10 my legs were tired and heavy and I was questioning what I was doing. I told Courtney that by mile 20 I would be begging to walk, but also told her not to let me unless it was a walk break or a steep hill. I also knew that Courtney's parents would be in Golden Gate Park at the halfway point so that kept me going. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see them until mile 19. I really struggled from the halfway on. Golden Gate Park was pretty, but there were lots of turns and we had to run by the first half marathon finish line. Talk about disheartening!

After we saw Courtney's parents at mile 19, I got a little boost. I kept mentally switching between 'I can't do this' and 'I CAN do this'. It was hard. I knew I was holding Courtney back, so I told her to continue on without me. I knew by this point that I would finish, but I knew that she deserved a better time. She wouldn't leave though, so I kept plugging along. I haven't looked at the stats yet, but we were moving at a decent pace. We were passing lots of people, so that helped me keep going.

Miles 21 through 25 were hard. Endurance wise I felt fine, but my legs were so tired from the speed and pushing up the hills. Seeing AT&T Stadium and the mile 25 marker was a shock. I knew we were close, but I didn't realize how close. The last .2 of a mile was the longest section of the course. Thankfully there were some friends from our running group cheering us on near the finish line. I was so happy to see the finish line, but it never seemed to get any closer. Obviously it was getting closer and Courtney and I finished in 4:33.29 (unofficial). When we ran across the mats and I paused my watch and saw our time, I wanted to cry. We were so close and I knew that I had held Courtney back. I thought she was going to be pissed. Like a good best friend, she wasn't and reassured me that she knew I had tried my hardest and that finishing together was worth the 3 extra minutes.

Courtney really helped me through the race, she had a great attitude and would talk to me even if I wouldn't respond. I was happy that we ran together the entire time as planned. She knew when to push me and when I was struggling. Plus she would stop at aid stations to grab me Nuun so I didn't have to stop.

Interestingly, I never hit the 'wall'. Yes, I struggled from mile 10 on, but I never truly wanted to drop dead and lay on the ground. I did have some fueling problems and spent a lot of time feeling cold, tingly, and nauseated. It was hard to get Nuun, Gus, or shot blocks down which only added to the problem.

We got our medals and snacks and headed back out to the cheering section along the finish line to meet with the people from our running group. Only when we sat down with them did I realize that we needed to pick up our drop bags which were in the direction we just came from. So Courtney and I went and picked those up and found her parents along the way. They had accidentally missed our finish, so we talked with them for a bit. Then it was back to the cheering section to wait for my mom, Marissa, and Heather. Thankfully there was a race app with live tracking so we could follow their progress. We figured out that my mom had split up with Marissa and Heather and would finish first. Courtney and I got to run a tiny bit with her before she ran through the finish line at 6:12.


We kept tracking Marissa and Heather, but nothing showed up beyond mile 17. After awhile, Courtney called them and found out they were at mile 25. She headed out to run them in. I had changed into flip flops, so I stood at the finish line watching all of our stuff. It was sad to see the crew breaking down the finish line. Although they diverted the course a bit, they were still registering finish times and handing out medals. My mom and I were cheering on the finishers that came through and even got video of Marissa and Heather coming in. They were so happy to finish and get their medals!

Unfortunately, Courtney wasn't with them and had left her phone with me. Come to find out Heather and Marissa weren't at mile 25. It was a guesstimate because there was no course support at that time so they had to follow the course map on their phone. Courtney ended up calling us from her Dad's phone and we all met up and headed back to Courtney's parents' car for a ride back to the hotel. Cupcakes were bought and we visited every level of the parking structure in search of the car. Hah!

We headed out of SF in search of a Chipotle, which is typically my preferred post-race meal. Almost the whole way home Courtney, my mom, and I chatted about the race and our upcoming marathon in Philadelphia!

// Lauren


Melodia Shawl

In May my LYS began a knit-along (KAL) and the chosen pattern was Melodia, a simple crescent shaped, garter stitch shawl. While I liked the pattern, I've always wanted to join a knitting group and knit socially, so that was a bigger draw to me. I convinced Courtney to join in as well. She was scared she was going to be the worst knitter there and embarrass herself, so the night before, we practiced all the techniques she'd need to know, specifically a garter tab cast-on. At the cast-on party I think she surprised herself by being able to cast-on on her own while others struggled, making her not the most beginning (aka nice way of saying worst) knitter there.

A few weeks before, the store had held an anniversary sale where I picked up a skein of MadelineTosh Merino Light in the store's exclusive colorway, Susquehanna. I had no plans for it, but I love this yarn base and the blue with hints of green was too pretty to pass up. It ended up being a great yarn for Melodia!

Anyway, the pattern was super simple, which I enjoyed. I tried to only work on it at the shop during the KAL meetings, but towards the end I did some extra knitting at home. I was scared I was going to run out of yarn, but I had plenty left at the end. In hindsight, I wish I would have added a few more rows or even gone into a second skein. It was 12" deep and 44" long before blocking. Even after blocking, the shawl ended up on the shorter/smaller side. It's still wearable, but I'd prefer something larger. Live and learn, I guess.

And the best part? There were prizes for completing the shawl on time and posting a picture and I won a gift certificate! Courtney won another pattern from the designer.

Pattern // Melodia
Yarn // Tosh Merino Light
Needles // Size 5 Dyakcraft Rosewood Needles
Ravelry Notes // Here

// Lauren


Koigu + Plucky Knitter Triangle Shawl

I was able to finish up my Koigu and Plucky Knitter Triangle Shawl awhile back, but I lagged on getting some finished shots of it. With a tiny apartment and no yard, photo shoots have to be planned, so I like to accumulate a few things before heading outside to find a suitable back drop. Plus, Courtney needs to be available to man the camera.

Anyway, this shawl made a couple of appearances in my WIP Wednesday + Yarn Along posts as I was making it. It was a really fun and most importantly, simple knit. I saw something similar in my LYS, asked a few questions and jumped in. Basically, you start with a few stitches, increase until half your yarn is gone, then start decreasing. Plus I added an i-cord edge. There are basic instructions for how I made it here, but if you'd like a real pattern, here's the one from my LYS. 

As I wrote before, the plan was to knit until I finished one skein of the Koigu, since it had less than half the yardage of the Plucky. However, the Plucky skein was a One Hit Wonder, meaning it wasn't labeled with a base when I bought it. I went around touching different things in the Plucky Knitter booth at Stitches West to figure out what it was. I'm pretty sure it is Primo Fingering, so I went off the listed yardage on Ravelry. Imagine my surprise when I run out of yarn a few inches from the end...I think the yardage was definitely off in this skein. It was a One Hit Wonder, so no harm no foul. I had to finish up the decreases with a different yarn. I chose a similar weight grey sock yarn, KnitPicks Stroll to be exact.

It turned out to be kind of a weird size, but definitely still wearable. I like how the solid Plucky (and eventually the KnitPicks Stroll) calmed down the variegated Koigu. All in all I'm happy with the project and can't wait to wear it come fall. 

Pattern // Made up recipe, but Drea's Shawl is close
Yarn // Koigu KPPM | Plucky Knitter One Hit Wonder | Knit Picks Stroll
Needles //  Size 4 DyakCraft Rosewood Needles
Ravelry Notes // Here

// Lauren


WIP Wednesday + Yarn Along | July 1

I've been enjoying sharing pictures of my current knitting projects every Wednesday. It's fun to link up with Ginny's Yarn Along and see what everyone else is working on.

Now that I'm basically free for the summer, I have a lot more knitting time. I have quite a few projects going right now, which is unlike me. Usually I'm a monogamous knitter. One project and a portable sock project. So technically two projects, but socks don't really count. Anyway, I only had Courtney's sweater on the needles when my LYS started a knit along for Melodia, so of course I had to join that. Then I was bitten by the shawl bug and had to cast on for a couple more shawls. Specifically, Tales from the Isle of Purbeck (which I bought yarn for, oops!) and a Boneyard with some special alpaca yarn I've been hoarding.

I've finished Melodia and the Purbeck shawl, so I had one shawl and a sweater on the needles. Then my LYS started another KAL for Laylow. So I joined that! It sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I love walking to the LYS with Courtney and knitting and chatting with other knitters while surrounded by pretty yarn.

At first I wasn't so excited to knit Laylow because I'm not a fan of dropped stitches. I really wanted to knit with the group, so I decided to leave out the dropped stitches in the center panel and only knit the dropped stitches (that was weird to type, haha) in the border. But when I saw the first row of dropped stitches in Courtney's shawl, they grew on me and I decided to add them in after all. Because I added them in last minute and after I had already begun knitting the shawl, I am adding extra rows between each row of dropped stitches. If I were to do it over, I'd knit them a little closer together, but what can you do?

As of now the plan is to knit until I run out of the main color and then add a simple garter stitch border without the called for dropped stitches.

In the last couple of days I've been really motivated to finish Courtney's sweater and I've decided that it needs to be done before I leave for California.

It's a Grandpa Cardigan. Unfortunately it's covered in cables which makes it time consuming to knit, but in the end it will be worth it. I finished the first sleeve yesterday and rewarded myself with knitting the collar before the second sleeve. I'm not looking forward to doing a tubular bind off on almost 300 stitches, but it's better than knitting the sleeves.

What are you working on this week?

// Lauren


My First Shawl | Color Affection

Way back in 2013 I attended my first Stitches West. While there, a yarn shop vendor was having a clear out sale in which you could fill a gallon sized Ziploc bag for $50. I found some super soft Ella Rae Lace Merino and stuffed eight skeins in a bag...six of a light grey, one cream, and one purple-ish grey. It ended up being a great deal.

When I got home I quickly cast on for a Color Affection. I had fallen in love with the pattern and thought the neutral greys and cream would make a perfect shawl. I was right.

Anyway, it was a pretty simple shawl. I made a few modifications based on things I had read and because I was new to shawl knitting. Like many others I added a YO in the border on the right side and dropped it on the wrong side. So each right side row started with 'Knit 1, YO, knit 1....' instead of 'Knit 2'. I also used a kfb increase instead of m1l and m1r.

In terms of techniques I used this method for carrying the different colors up the side of the project. For the cast off I k2tog tbl, slipped that stitch back to the left needle, and repeated.

It took me so long to get pictures of the finished shawl because I am always wearing this thing. It's soft and goes with everything, making it the perfect accessory. My only (small) complaint would be that it ended up not so deep and very long. I would trade a bit of the length for some more depth, but that's what I get for not swatching.

The yarn has held up well. Of course there are a few fuzzies, but I just went over them with a sweater shaver and it looks as good as new.

Pattern // Color Affection
Yarn // Ella Rae Lace Merino
Needles //  Size 6 [Addi Turbos, which were super slippery with this yarn]
Ravelry Notes // Here

// Lauren


Running Recap | June 15

Because I haven't written an update on my running (besides quick notes in my recap posts) since the Resolution Run, I think an update post is in order. I feel like I've made a lot of progress since then, especially in terms of overall fitness and speed.

First of all I've been more consistent in sticking to a running schedule. Part of that is having races on the schedule and time goals. If I know I will be running a race, I don't want to waste money and go out there unprepared and feel unhappy with my performance. So Courtney and I planned to run the San Francisco Marathon when we went home during the summer to visit. Then we added the Philadelphia Marathon, since 'duh!' we are in Philly. Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia was also added because it seems like a cool race with a fun atmosphere and bling...plus we wouldn't have to travel.

Then we decided we wanted time goals. Our last marathon was pretty slow due to the fact that we weren't as dedicated to training as we should have been, it was cold, and we decided to run as a group. I don't really know what happened, but once I started training again I just run faster. Courtney says that she's always known I could run faster, but that I just didn't want to. It makes sense, I would always freak out about going out too fast and not be able to finish so I stuck at a 12:00 - 12:30/mile pace. Now my long runs have been 9:50 ish minute to 10:15 minute/mile pace. My midweeks vary based on how I'm feeling, but overall I am faster now.

Although I ran AR 50 last year, I took a long break from running and lost quite a bit of my fitness. So the thought of building up to these long distances was a bit scary. I think my confidence around running has increased. I know that I can run faster than I think I can, so the long runs don't seem as scary now.

Each week I would tell Courtney, 'This was my longest run since ______ ' and when we finally ran a half-marathon distance I was so excited. My last half marathon was in June 2014 so it was a big deal.  Then in early May, coincidentally on the same day as the Parkway Half Marathon, we ran another half and PR'd. 

Each time we run a longer distance and stay within our 'goal' pace I get a little boost of confidence. That being said, there have been some hiccups along the way. There are Saturdays where I don't want to get up and run. There are weeks where it's hot, so I spend a lot of time on the treadmill. And there are weeks where I want to take it easy and run a bit slower. I know that's okay, it's about getting the miles in so I let my body dictate the pace.

I think being able to run outside has definitely helped my motivation. Once things warmed up enough to do long runs along the river, I started enjoying running more. I think we did a couple of long runs along the frozen river with snow on the ground, but mostly it's been nice-ish weather.

When it was cold outside, we would wake up whenever on Saturday and go running in the afternoon. That's when it was the warmest. However that wasted a lot of the day. I would spend the morning and early afternoon dreading the run, then actually running, and coming back to the apartment with most of the day gone. Now that it's getting hotter and more humid, we have been trying to get up early and get our run out of the way so that we can enjoy Saturday. Running in the early morning, like with SacFit, is a much better fit. Plus there are less people out (bikers and runners).

Because of the increasing heat and humidity I've learned about chafing...the hard way. My bra clasp chafed my back pretty badly.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to avoid making it worse and preventing it in the future and my only fail-proof solution has been to stick a piece of plasticized gauze between the bra clasp and my back. The plastic-ness and my sweat (gross, I know) keep it in place and prevent further chafing. I haven't really had chafing problems anywhere else, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

May 16 // The worst running fail was falling on a gravel pathway 2 miles from finishing a 17.5 mile run. There was a crew regatta along the river so Courtney and I were weaving in and out of the crowds. We were running on a little gravel path because there were less people walking on it than the main path. I guess I wasn't paying attention because I tripped on a tree root and down I went. I knew I was going down as soon as I tripped, so I'm glad my hands made it out in time to break the fall. I ended up scraping up my hand, elbow, and knee. Since I was wearing my hydration pack with no way to easily rinse off my cuts, Courtney used her water bottle to help my clean up. After cleaning up the best I could, I got back up and finished the run. I was covered in dirt all up one side and had blood dripping down my leg. Thankfully my fall only resulted in superficial cuts.

May 23 // This long run was 18 miles and has definitely been my hardest training run. Because of my knee I took it easy with the rolling. The open cut and tenderness made it hard to roll, so I just avoided it. Unfortunately that made the next Saturday run incredibly hard. For the first half I felt okay, not great, but I knew I could get through it. As the run progressed and we turned around at the halfway point things started to get hard. My calves and hips were tightening up and by the time we got to mile 16, I was doubtful I could finish the last two miles. We ended up slowing down a bit and I did finish the run. When I looked at our stats once we finished, I was surprised. We had managed to finish with an overall pace of 10:16 minute/mile...the same as last week. Runs like that make me confident that I can push through hard patches during the marathon and that I shouldn't just give up if I'm struggling for a bit.

May 27 // Less than two weeks after my last fall, I fell off the treadmill at the gym. It was just an off day and I wasn't paying attention. Let's just say it was embarrassing and painful. If you want all the details, there's more about the whole thing at the end of this post. I felt the effects for the few days...not a good running week. I missed Monday's run because of the painful 18 mile run, I did do my track workout of 4 x 1600, which ended up being 8 miles total with warm up and cool down. On Wednesday I only ran about .5 mile before falling off the treadmill and I skipped Thursday's run to rest my bruised back and hurt knee.

May 30 //  I was supposed to run 16.5 miles, but I skipped it in order to let my injuries heal. Sleeping in was a nice bonus.

June 6 // 18 miles completed. My watch was acting up, so I don't have stats. 

June 13 // The miles are ramping up so long runs are taking longer (obviously). Courtney and I knew 19 miles would take over 3 hours and not wanting to run in the heat and humidity, we woke up at 4 am to be out the door by 6 am. It was still 78 F when we started. The humidity was awful...I was drenched in sweat less than a mile in. We ran nice a slow...no point in dying of heat exhaustion.

This Saturday is a 20 mile run followed by 12 miles and 21 miles. I know if I can get through the 20 and 21 mile runs at a decent pace, I can get through the marathon. Since I have a time goal in mind, I do want to get stronger on the hills. My next goal is to work on core strength and some leg exercises so the hills in San Francisco aren't as hard.

Although it may seem like I love running and am motivated to get my runs in, Courtney is a huge part of it. She is the motivated one and by default it makes me want to get out there and get my midweeks in. I think she uses reverse psychology on me and says I don't have to run and it's totally up to me. It works!

Also, I know I need to get better about staying hydrated during the week and properly stretching and rolling. I can tell the difference in runs where I've been lazy about rolling and when I've been diligent. Rolling and Trigger Point hurts, but it helps the tightness in my calves and hips. If my calves are tight my knees and feet start to hurt as well, so that's extra incentive to keep on rolling. 

// Lauren


WIP Wednesday + Yarn Along | June 10

I've been enjoying sharing pictures of my current knitting projects every Wednesday. Plus it's fun to link up with Ginny's Yarn Along and see what everyone else is working on.

It's finals week (of my last quarter of my first year of grad school) for me, so this post is going to be quite short. I have a couple of lose ends to tie up before I'm truly free!

Anyway, I've been plugging away on my Melodia shawl. It needs to be completed this Sunday with a picture posted to be eligible for the prize, a gift certificate to my LYS. I only have 2 rows and the bind off so I'm feeling confident. Right now it's bunched up on the needles so it's hard to photograph its true size and shape.

I've also been enjoying knitting my Tales from the Isle of Purbeck MKAL shawl. On Monday I finished clue 3 and clue 4 was just released...literally 10ish minutes ago. I'm excited to finish my work and get started on the last clue. Again, it's hard to photograph the shawl in a meaningful way while it's still on the needles.

Last week I purchased a wooden shawl pin to wear with the finished shawl. It's a simple bulb headed shawl pin, but I love it!

A couple of nights ago I knit a few rounds on a long-on-the-needles pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks. I'm hoping to finish those up soon and start a pair of Rose City Rollers. Although, I hear the next KAL at my LYS might be socks!

// Lauren


Boye Needlemaster Hack

When I first started knitting I wasn't incredibly particular about my tools. I don't think most beginners are. Since I had learned from books and the occasional video, I didn't have anyone to talk to about knitting. I relied on the internet for advice and reviews where eventually I discovered the magic of interchangeable needle sets. Because I was in high school, spending a lot of money wasn't really an option so I held off. Luckily, I had my great-grandmother's knitting needles, which were mostly straights and a few plastic circulars. I'd buy needles at the thrift store when I saw them, but if I needed a size I didn't have, I'd buy a cheap circular at the craft store. I made it work.

It wasn't until early on in college that I felt I needed a set. Still not ready to spend a bunch of money, I settled on the Boye Needlemaster set, available at most big box craft stores for about $70. It was metal and had a wide range of sizes, which was important to me. I ended up finding a new set on Ebay for less than $30, making it cheaper than waiting for a coupon at JoAnn / Michaels.

[Yes, I am missing my size 6 needles. I truly have no idea where they went.] 

I loved having this set. It changed my knitting. However, after graduating from college my love of knitting really took off. I became interested in nicer yarns and needles...not to mention the willingness to pay for patterns! I tried Addi Turbos and ChiaoGoos and set out to amass Addi Turbos in every size with a 40" cable. I liked knitting everything on circulars, so I figured I could get a longer cable length and knit smaller diameter items using magic loop. I had quite a collection going before I found DyakCraft Darn Pretty Needles. After receiving my sets, they were pretty much the only needles I used (except for knitting socks).

That being said, I couldn't get rid of my Boye set. Over time I realized how much the cables sucked, but I genuinely enjoyed knitting with the metal tips. I ended up (sort of) giving it to Courtney who was just beginning to get into knitting. Then I discovered that the red ChiaoGoo cables could be used with the Boye tips! All you need a set of small connectors in order to connect the ChiaoGoo cables to the Boye tips since they are both female.

Initially I ordered one connector set and one cable to make sure it really worked. News flash, it did! Now I had a wider selection of needles since the Boye set ranges from size 2 - 15 whereas the DyakCraft set only goes from 4 - 10.5. Plus, they are metal which makes knitting with some yarns easier.

The screws aren't exactly the same, so a bit of looseness is possible, especially in the smaller sizes. I've found that if you glue the connectors into the needles (super glue works well), it fixes any looseness and the cables don't unscrew. Of course that means that you will need a set of connectors for each size of needle and you will no longer be able to use the Boye cables. Even so, it's not an expensive hack. A set of small connectors retails for right around $2 and each cable is about $6. Even better, it makes an unused set usable again.

My favorite place to order the connectors and cables is Mimi's Needle Basket. The prices and shipping are great, plus I was able to meet the owner at Stitches West when she participated in the stitch marker swap. 

// Lauren


Dyakcraft Darn Pretty Needles | Rosewood

I wrote a blog post when I received my Dyakcraft Darn Pretty 3.5" Winter Sky set and it's been a pretty popular post, so I thought I'd write another one about my 5" Rosewood Set. I'm not exactly sure why I never wrote a post about them...

Anyway, the condensed version of how I found the needdles is that I stumbled upon the needles while on Ravelry and was sold pretty quickly. Initially I ordered a set in Sunrise, but after seeing the Rosewoods, I switched my order and added on a 3.5" Winter Sky set. Interestingly, I received the Winter Sky set first and then my Rosewood set a couple of months after.

I didn't fall in love with the needles right away. I thought they were a bit over hyped, to be honest. They seemed to have a bit more 'drag' compared to the metal needles I had been using. However, after a couple of projects (and months), the needles seemed to get a bit slicker. Not as slick as Addis, but that wasn't truly enjoyable for me either. I had knit a Color Affection shawl with Addis and it was kind of hard to wrangle the slippery size 6 needles and fingering weight yarn. So I did want something with a bit of drag, but not too much.

Now a year-ish later, they are my favorite needles. I'm sad when a project calls for needles smaller than 4. The set goes up to 10.5, but I rarely knit with anything that large. I never understood when people said the wood was warm until now. The wood is light and very easy to knit with...they hold the heat from your hands nicely without getting sweaty. 

Since I've been using the needles for awhile, I feel like I can add more beyond, 'the needles are so pretty!'. Most people seem to wonder about the sharpness, joins, and cables. Preferences surrounding knitting needles (and tools) are so personal, that it's hard to definitively say whether something is 'good' or 'bad'. What works for me may not work for others, so I'll just give you my take on these needles.

Sharpness // Both my sets are 'lace tips', so sharper than the 'regular' tips DyakCraft offers. I like sharp needles so that made the choice easy. I typically knit socks with Hiya Hiya Sharps or ChiaoGoo 2.0 mm needles, so pointy is my thing. The DyakCraft 'lace tips' are perfect for me. I haven't had any problems with splitty yarn or lace knitting. Although the 'lace tips' don't appear too incredibly pointy at first glance, apparently the long, smooth taper makes the difference. I just appreciate that they don't hurt my finger tips.

Joins // I am picky about my joins. I'll just put that out there. I hate the joins on Addis, especially the smaller sizes. ChiaoGoo and Hiya Hiya Sharps pass my test. I don't have any problems with the DyakCraft joins besides the fact that they advertise them as 'swiveling', when the cable just moves up and down in the ferrule. Other than that, I find them smooth to knit with. The yarn rarely snags and when it does, it's because I've pulled an end stitch (typically with magic loop) too tight.

Cables // Yes, I magic loop with these cables. Some think they aren't flexible enough and while they aren't as flexible as other brands, I don't have any issues with them. I have noticed that the cables changed a bit in between my two sets. The first cables I received are a bit stiffer. The cables with the second set, as well as the custom cables I ordered, are more flexible. My suspicions were confirmed when I realized that the newer cables have more of a pink tint and are in fact different. I only noticed when my cable was sitting on top of some white fabric, otherwise the color is not noticeable.

The needles do come with a handmade case, which I thought was pretty cool. It's not my favorite fabric, but it keeps the needles safe. On one of my cases, the strings are too short to wrap completely around the case and secure the ends, so I added a pin back button and wrap the ends around that. Also, I don't keep the cables or the stops in the case even though there are pockets for both. I didn't want to fold the cables up like that and the stops made it too bulky. I keep them in a separate zippered pouch. Just a note: I don't really take my entire set out in public so I don't know how secure the needles really are in the provided case. At some point I would like to make my own case that holds both sets, but I can't settle on a design and it would cut into my knitting time! 

While I was waiting for my needles, I frequented the DyakCraft Ravelry board. One of the major complaints surrounding the company is their customer service. They are a bit slow to respond to emails and updates are few and far between, so patience is a truly a virtue when dealing with this company. That being said, my interactions with them were mostly great. They responded to my order request and change promptly, but when I asked about my ship date the estimate was overconfident. As an excited customer I'd rather have a conservative estimate and be pleasantly surprised rather than let down when my needles don't ship. Oh, and they are slower to respond to emails so a phone call is always your best bet. As someone who expects great customer service if I am going to give you my money, this would not stop me from purchasing more of their needles in the future. They are a small business overwhelmed with orders so I try to be understanding. It's hard to make it, especially when they let you pay when your needles are ready rather than in advance (if you prefer).

However, when dealing with a product deficiency they are incredibly responsive and helpful. Like I said, I don't knit with large sizes very often so it was a couple of months before I noticed a nick in one of my size 10.5 needles. I sent them an email with a picture and was told it was a lamination error, it shouldn't have made it out of the workshop, and a replacement would be sent to me with no need to send the faulty needles back. At that point I ordered a set of 2.00 mm DPNs and asked them to ship everything together, even if it took longer. About 2 weeks later, everything was on it's way to me. They truly are a good company and I really appreciated them making it right so quickly.

Although I love love love my DyakCraft Darn Pretty sets, I'm constantly thinking about selling my 3.5" set because I much prefer the 5" needles, but after knitting a couple of hats, the ability to create 16" circulars has kept them in my possession. Plus Courtney likes to use my needles, so it's nice to have two of every size. Just a heads up to think about the length that truly makes sense for your knitting.

I know it's kind of cruel to write about these great needles when they are unavailable to order (a fire destroyed their wood supplier), but they do offer aluminum and stainless steel needles as well. I am tempted by their Heavy Metals, an interchangeable set the goes down to 2.0 mm!

// Lauren