Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV

When you think of Las Vegas, yarn isn’t what comes to mind first.  But where people are, knitters are, and there are fiber finds even in Sin City.  So when a book event called me to Vegas this spring, I went. Okay, the chance to see Penn & Teller may have added a bit of motivation, but hey, can you blame me?  

Lots of people I know go to Vegas frequently, but I’m not a casino person.  Still, I can appreciate the drama and theater that the strip offers.  So while you’ll see a bit of casino attractions that are my favorites listed, this post is like every other DestiKNITions adventure: just fun things to do, eat, and knit.

We always start with the coffee, so head down off the strip for a little local java fix:

Grouchy John’s
8520 S Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89123
702-778-7553

Most of us can find the chain establishments in many large hotels, but I always seek out the indie spots.  This place serves up good coffee with a funky, geeky vibe that I really enjoyed.  Let’s face it, we’re living in the golden age of the geek—why shouldn’t our coffee come along for the ride? Lots of art decorates the wall, with most of it for sale.  If you’re a StarWars fan, this is definitely the spot to grab your java (or should I say Java the Hut??—sorry, couldn’t resist).

Onto the fiber:

Sin City Knit Shop
2165 E Windmill Ln
Ste 200
Las Vegas, NV 89123
702-641-0210

Debbi McCarty and yours truly
Owner Debbi McCarty is a tiny woman with a king-size personality.  She opened the store four years ago in another location, shifting here after two years to accommodate “the crowd that packed in from day one.”  

It was packed the day I got there, too, with lots of lively conversation and yarny friendship.  Debbi recognizes her tourism-based clientele with lots of different kinds of yarn and  a big selection of chairs to sit down and make new friends.  “Pilots even come here to knit on layovers,” Debbi says.  She specializes in one- or two-skein projects that make excellent gifts or prime travel knitting.  

Like most great yarn shops, Sin City boasts several elements beyond just retail.  I love that they keep a “Knit Doctor” on site several days a week to help you with your problems. Got a group of 10 knitters or more?  Debbi will host a “field trip” for you, with meals and discounts to make your visit a full-scale event. The shop produced an anniversary pattern book with some of their staff and customer favorites. Best of all, you don’t just get a discount on your birthday, you get a discount your whole birthday month!  It’s worth noting that fiber became a family affair as Debbi’s daughter Laci launched TINK hand-dyed yarns.

Here are a few projects worth your exploration:

Maria’s Bracelet Class
Ideal for gift-giving, this lovely loop combines yarn, beads, and a button in any variety of ways.  This Christmas you could make a dozen different bracelets a dozen different ways.  I thought it would make a clever personalized bridesmaid gift as well (if any upcoming bride actually has time to knit…or just needs time to knit to calm down.)

Christmas Machine & Hand-Knit Scarves
Speaking of Christmas, here’s one of the most unique holiday items I’ve come across.  Sin City has an on-site knitting machine that can help you get a leg up on your holiday project.  Save your fingers for the decorative elements and get all that stockinette mechanized by booking time on the knitting machine.  Ingenious.  Plus, how adorable are these for the kiddo in your life (or someone who just acts like one)?

Double Down Hat and Cowl
This store exclusive pattern takes 2 skeins of Cascade Pure Alpaca and swaps base and trim colors to create a pair of hats and cowls.  “Double down” is a gambling term for a Black Jack player’s chance to increase their odds of winning on a hand by doubling their bet in exchange for one additional card.  So this pattern set is thematic:  You double your bliss by getting two items with a variety of style choices to get just the pieces you want.

Knit A Long:  Willow Cowl
This well-designed Ravelry pattern by Amelia Lyon tackles one of my pet peeves of cowls:  how they flop aimlessly around your neck.  Clever edging and ridges enable this accessory to lie in elegant rings around your neck and shoulders.  I’ll be using merino-nylon-stellina glam sock yarn by local firm Downtown Dye Works, but 350-420 yards of any sock yarn will do the trick.  With just a bit of sparkle in my “Red Rock” colorway, this one promises to be a pleasure to stitch.

If you’re ready for lunch, here’s a local favorite you won’t find in any guide book:

Boulevard Bar and Grille
9860 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89183
(702) 939-2583

The gaming restaurant is a Vegas staple.  This unassuming eatery is a favorite of Sin City locals, boasting super-friendly servers and a huge, diverse menu.  Not much snazzy decor or bright lights here, just good food served up nice 24 hours a day.  They’re famous for their eggplant parmigiana appetizer and “real” New York style (i.e. super thin) pizza.  I opted for a spinach salad with truly splendid dressing while watching the Chicago cubs play baseball on the huge wall of televisions that lines one side of the restaurant.  Tons of homemade desserts can round out your meal, including huge chocolate and carrot cakes, but I can also recommend the Kahlua cheesecake.

For dinner, here’s another place that locals favor:

Sicilian Ristorante
3520 E Tropicana Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89121
702-458-2004

There’s something so engaging about “old school” Italian restaurants.  Our server, Louie—really, that was his name—struck me as what Al Pacino would be like waiting on your table.  A total character who made our meal a memorable experience complete with running commentary and wise-cracks.  I kept waiting for Dean Martin to hoist a cocktail from the next table.  My dining companion, who really knew her Italian cuisine, said the food was top notch, and my bruschetta bore that out.  Photos of Italian scenes fill the walls.  This is as authentic as it gets!  The desserts are good, but save yourself for one of our next stops.

Now we’ll default to the strip.  I like early evening—dark enough to let the lights work their magic, early enough that the crowd’s most colorful elements aren’t quite in play.  If you’re not staying at one of the strip properties, then the good (and free) parking at here makes it an excellent launching point:

Talking Statues at Caesars Palace Forum Shops
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
866-227-5938
The walk through the Forum Shops shopping mall to get to the fountain is entertainment enough (the overhead painted sky changes!), but the over-the-top drama of “The Fall of Atlantis” played out by the 9-foot animatronic statues is not to be missed.  Is it cheesy?  Absolutely, but that’s part of the charm.  Plus, there’s a 20-foot winged dragon, so there’s that.  The show plays every hour on the hour, but get there a few minutes early before the crowds thicken and have your camera ready.

Erupting Volcano at The Mirage
3400 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-791-7111

I give credit to the guy who can make lights and water look like erupting lava.  This outside show sends fireballs and “lava” so high into the sky you can feel the heat even if you’re standing at a good distance (so stand at a good distance, okay?).  While spectacular to watch, the event’s mesmerizing score takes everything to the next level. If you want to get up close and feel everything, sources say the best spot is right in front of the hotel.  Eruptions take place at 8pm and 9pm nightly, with a 10pm addition on weekends.  Seriously, you’ll be tempted to bring your marshmallows.

Fountains at the Bellagio
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-693-7111

I’m torn if this attraction is better at sundown or full night.  Both are surprisingly peaceful and entrancing.  The shows start at 3pm and run every 30 minutes until midnight, with different songs for each presentation.  The sheer numbers are impressive:  8.5 acres of lake, over 1,200 jets shooting up to 24 feet high maintained by a staff of 30 working 24/7 to keep the aquatic ballet going.  This, in my view, is a can’t-miss.  While you’re at the Bellagio, however, walk through the exquisitely decorated Conservatory as well.

For me, there’s only one place to end the night (and you’ll be back near your car if you parked at Caesar’s Palace):

Serendipity 3
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Yes, you can eat actual food here, and I’ve heard it’s good, but for me, this place is all about the dessert.  No, DESSERT—this selection deserves all caps.  My mom took me to the original Serendipity in New York City as a child, and I have fond memories of the place.  I’ll tell you, I loved it just as much as a grown-up. There are a selection of I-dare-you-to-finish-it size sundaes in decadent flavors, but the signature sweet is their frozen hot chocolate. Nothing else tastes like it in the world.  Go ahead, you’ve maxed out your FitBit pedometer steps today anyway.  And it is the perfect—if sinfully hypoglycemic—end to a fun day in Sin City.

Next up, we’ll cast on the Willow Cowl.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Done!

Exquisite mitts!

Often I shy away from "dainty" or frilly looking accessories, opting for bold drama.  And I can't say I wouldn't adore these just as much in a bright, bold hue. There's just something I love, however, about how these turned out.  They have a certain vintage elegance to them.  A classy mitt, wouldn't you say?

Sure, the size 0 needles took patience and commitment, but don't lots of worthwhile things?  They were excellent traveling partners, and I look forward to wearing them.

And, it must be said:  I have BOTH of them!  No "second sock syndrome" here--hooray magic loop!

And hooray to Yarnivore for a knitting adventure in a new place, color, and style for this grateful knitter.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Day 5

Thumbthing to think about...

Thumbs are important.

They separate us from many other species.  They give one-gesture opinions, they text, they wrestle, they are essential PlayStation equipment, Facebook icons, and way back before Aunt Allie was old enough, an extended one could gain you a form of transportation.

So don’t just rest those digits on the spacebar, show them some respect.

Thumbs in fingerless mitts are rather a one-note samba, a place to show a little style without having to go through the complications of gloves.  I’ve done hand or wrist warmers where the thumbs just peek through a hole in the tube, but I prefer a nicely crafted thumb as in these and these.

Here, our thumbs get a delicately sensible garter trim to finish off the stockinette of the palm and gusset.  Just enough of a detail to compliment the rose motif without competing with it.

What’s extra nice is that they work right off the magic loop.  I was thinking I’d have to cast the thumb tube back on to double-points (not something I was looking forward to), but nope, I’m all set.


Now I just have to finish off the hand and its own  border, and I’m done.  The color continues to charm, and I’m finding all those teeny stitches worth the effort.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Day 4

If at first you don't K3TOG...

Let me just say this:  it is INSANELY difficult to knit three together on size 0 needles.   Especially with a beautiful but splitty yarn like this one.  

The number of times I wrestled that skinny little needle through those three loops only to come up with a single ply—well, it should be illegal.  Several not-nice things came out of my mouth after the third or fourth try on any given row.

So, I did what any smart knitter does—I found a work-around.  

The essential purpose of K3TOG is to decrease by two stitches, making a “point” of sorts.  It’s designed to lean one way, as the far easier—in this case—S1-K2TOG-PSSO (slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over) accomplishes the same decrease leaning the other way.  So, I needed to decrease by two in the correct direction, as it were.  And I needed something that could be accomplished without nasty words or broken needles. 

I came up with knitting two of the three together—usually possible with sufficient grunting—, returning the knit stitch to the right hand needle, and then passing the final stitch over that one before returning it to the right hand needle.  It wasn’t perfect, but it leaned the correct direction, decreased the correct amount of stitches, and didn’t result in an angry knitter.  


Did I make up a stitch?  I don’t know. I later discovered that the folks at Heartstrings Fiber Arts came up with the same idea, so I know I'm probably not the first person to face this predicament.  

What I did do was make my knitting experience a whole lot nicer.  And on a weekend filled up by a killer set of revisions on my current book due Tuesday, that made all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Day 3

Magic markers...

Magic loop can be confusing.  With socks, you’re just doing the same thing for both pieces—there isn’t a “left” or “right”—and when you get to a “front” or “back” being important, you’ve got the gusset and heel there right in front of you.

Things are a bit different here.  Without a clear front or back, I might misconstrue whether or not I’ve made it clear around a round because every side looks the same.  I have learned this lesson through painful, lopsided experience.  To save myself from myself, I use different color stitch markers for the front and for the back. Since the working yarn always must come from the back to begin at the right side of each mitt, it only takes a few seconds of scanning to know exactly where I am when I return to my work.

My mitts and I traveled to North Carolina this weekend to visit my daughter, and I was once again reminded of the pleasures of travel knitting.  Airports these days are all about the wait—from security lines to boarding to “the fasten your seatbelt sign is still illuminated” to yesterday's 27-minute taxi upon landing (otherwise known as the complete tour of every inch of tarmac in O’Hare).  Did I stress?  Well, maybe a little bit, but mostly I happily knit.  Glad for the guilt-free time where opening my laptop is not permitted, but knitting most certainly is allowed.


Hooray for adventures accompanied by yarn!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Day 2

Double-Pointless?

The results of my experiment were clear and useful:  I’m not a fan of bamboo double-pointed needles (dpn's) for this project.  For tiny stitches like these, I prefer the slide of metal needles and the simplicity of magic loop.

I have a line in one of my books, Homefront Hero, where a war hero is learning to knit socks on dpn’s, and he says, “I feel like I’m wrangling a porcupine!”  That’s exactly how I felt working this.  It’s not that I don’t like double-points—I don't mind them in larger sizes.  These itty bitty ones, however, gave me fits.  I found it poignant—and amusing—that they came with the following warning on the package:

These should be used with all due care as these may cause injury if used improperly by an untrained/unfamiliar person.

Maybe not injury, and I’m certainly trained, but they caused frustration and annoyance in this particular knitter on this particular project.

And so, it is with great delight that I share the news that the next section—the Rosebud Wrists—settled itself perfectly on a two-at-a-time magic loop circ. Hooray!  I’ll fly through the four repeats in happiness.


Until the thumb gusset, which may (or may not) require the reintroduction of dpns.  Ah, the adventure of knitting…

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yellow Rose Mitts from Yarnivore - Day 1

I love it, and it will require devotion...

Knitting can be a humbling adventure—especially when you consider yourself “experienced.”  K2tog on size 0 needles, for example.  This is enough to set my 50+ eyes to squinting, twitching, and my middle-aged fingers to cramping.  Were I to shoot a video of my face while doing all the “pass stitch over”s required on the cast on, I’m sure the faces I made would be mighty entertaining.  

And we’re not discussing how I had to call Caryn at Yarnivore to figure out where I went wrong and start over.  It happens to the best of us, right?

While the color of this super wash merino from The Sheepwalk Fiber Arts Studio—called “Love & Devotion”—is delicious, it’s somewhat splitty.  That nature can be frustrating when working on such a small scale.  I know—without a doubt—that I’ll have to do both of these mitts at once because I’ll never be able to convince myself I have enough patience to do the second once I finish the first.

And so…an experiment of sorts.

I much prefer magic loop—most especially two-at-a-time magic loop—to one-at-a-time-on-double-points when knitting such pieces. However, sometimes lacy patterns don’t always lend themselves to the immovable divisions of magic loop.  Some patterns you can tell it will divide up nicely.  Others, you can’t.

What to do?  Do both!  Do one magic loop and one on DPNs—at the same time.  After the first round of the Rose pattern (the part I think will give me trouble), I should know whether or not I can slide both of these onto a single circular needle ala magic loop.  Sure, I may have to split them up again when I get to the thumb, but I’m okay with that.


Onward—for science and craft!