Category Archives: Tools

Exchanging Fire Featured in “In a Sknit” Video PodCast!

Often in the wee hours of the night when I’m shipping out a large group of orders for the morning mail run, I try to imagine who the people are that these goodies are going to. While I’ve gotten to know my repeat customers over the years, everyone starts out as a stranger. So I enjoy writing thank you notes and gathering context clues from nicknames and addresses – is Kathy from Menlo Park a fun grandmother knitting for a passel of family members or is Bea from Berlin a young, urban knitter adding to her stitch marker collection? Who knows!

But the truth is, while my products are winging their way around the world, I don’t always know where they are going or how they will be used. So it’s fun to occasionally find a blog, tweet or Ravelry post about my shop, and boy was I surprised to find Exchanging Fire featured in a whole video podcast last week! Check out this clip of Kristi reviewing my digital row counters and mini french macaron holders below at the 30 minute mark:

It was so much fun watching them getting just as excited about my stuff as I do. Hee. In a Sknit is a video podcast run by two women in Illinois who are really cute and manage to simultaneously run a podcast and knit at the same time. This is not the same thing as just running your mouth and knitting at the same time, which I still often fail at doing. So go back to the beginning of the video and watch the whole thing – Sarah and Kristi are super relaxing and fun to “hang” out with virtually.


Buttons, Buttons, Who’s Got the Buttons?

I was totally inspired recently by a friend on Ravelry, Saturdays-child, who regularly finds and repurposes thrift items in the most unique and creative ways. Her latest find was a lazy Susan style spice rack to hold her button collection.

“Buttons?!” I may have quietly screeched at the computer. You see, I have a long-held addiction to button collecting. As a child I took the cut-off bottoms from a pair of my mother’s khakis, sewed them into one long ribbon and then sewed tons and tons buttons on them, creating, essentially, a long, long strip of buttons, This, I realized as an adult, was a little useless, since I couldn’t actually see the buttons except when I dragged them out of my closet, and one big long strip of buttons is a little hard to manage unless you are going to wear it as a scarf. So I undid all of the sewed-on buttons and they went into my notions drawer, where they have languished in the dark. So, of course, nothing would do but I get my own spinny button holder, stat.

I went on eBay and immediately fell in love with a $3 vintage spice rack that had brightly colored lids, which thrilled my OCD tendencies to no end. I won the auction (yey!) and the day the rack arrived I immediately dragged out my mess of buttons and started organizing them. My biggest issue is always trying to dig through all of the brown, white and black buttons to find the fun colored ones I need (or simply want to admire like a magpie inspecting it’s strips of bent aluminum and tin), so this was a perfect solution for me. All of my colored buttons are wonderfully segmented and I have a glorious wheel of color now!

buttonsI highly recommend finding or repurposing a spice rack for your button collection. It’s dead easy to do and cute as a button to top it off. And it spins. Whee!

Snap ‘n Go Notions Case featured in The Organized Knitter podcast

I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I woke up to discover one of my products, the Snap ‘n Go Notions Case™, had been featured in a brand new knitting podcast today!

Dawn, the author of the Knit Naturally podcast, has just begun a brand new podcast called The Organized Knitter.  In case you haven’t heard of Dawn before, she’s a fun-loving Texan who considers her podcasts to be sort of like sitting around on the front porch with your friends. The casts are full of her rapier wit and stories about her family and life, interlaced with knitting tips and tricks. This podcast is specifically designed for the knitter who wants to create an organized, peaceful (though not perfect) environment.

The Snap ‘n Go Notions Case is featured in Episode 4, and is about 1/3 of the way through the podcast. Here is a link to her show notes. She purchased the lime green case from my shop, Exchanging Fire, as well as a violet purple one that she gave away to one of her Ravelry group members.

Jumbo Snap ‘n Go Notions Cases


I turn my camera on…

“I turn my camera on / I cut my fingers on the way / on the way” – Spoon

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I know I did. Why did I have a good Christmas, you might ask? Because I got a new camera! And it is totally, absolutely, fabulously gorgeous! I’m really thrilled with it and I wanted to show all of you how much better my pictures are going to be because of it.

I’ve been using a very old Samsung Digimax A7 camera for many years now, maybe since college? I think it’s 7 years old. And I’ve pushed it’s abilities to the max. It takes wonderful photos for me, but that’s only because you can’t see all of the images lying on the cutting room floor. It burns through batteries and it has a very slow shutter time.  In some ways it’s made me a better photographer because I had to train  myself to use my body well – I have a very steady hand now and I understand how to angle myself to get just the right images. But this year, especially as we crept closer to the Winter Solstice, I found both my time and patience drastically decreased. There were too many days where I saw there wasn’t the right weather or light for taking the photos I had queued up waiting, and that slowed me down. I also had evenings where I would spend 20 minutes doing a photo shoot of products, only to discover when I loaded the SD card onto the computer that not one of my shots had come out properly – blurry, shadowy, etc. Clearly, the Samsung’s days were numbered.

Enter the new love of my life, the Canon SX150 IS. This big, black wanna-be-an-SLR point and shoot is well-known for it awesome low light and macro shot abilities. Well, fancy that, just the features I need! Amazing zoom, incredible focus, and a great white balance (the Nikons I looked at had a yellowy undertone, no matter how we tried to fix them), and the macro focus on this baby goes all the way down to 1 cm. Its big claim to fame is its full manual capabilities. I don’t care so much about that as I do about the low light and macro, clearly, but it’ll be good to have a camera that allows me to work a fully manual system if I so choose. I also like that it tells me what f/stop, shutter speed it’s automatically setting the image to. Maybe that will help me relearn all that stuff so I can sound smarter when talking to photo freaks. 😉 Top it off with a flash that stays down and out of the way unless I call on it by manually flipping it up (I never do, because I abhor flash) and an automatic stabilization feature that makes my images perfectly in focus every time and I’m eating cake. For under $200 and way smaller and less bulky than an actual DSLR would be, this little camera really satisfies my cravings.

Exchanging Fire Featured in Knitting Podcast!

So a Ravelry friend of mine has a knitting-related podcast called Knit Naturally. She’s a fun-loving Texan who considers her podcasts to be sort of like sitting around on the front porch with your friends. The casts are full of her sparkling wit and generous stories about family antics, interlaced with knitting tips, tricks, and mistakes (of course!).

Her annual “My Favorite Things” podcast just came out this week, and Exchanging Fire’s stitch markers were featured in it! Her podcast specially focused on local artisans this year, from Etsy sellers and outward. She featured my twisted dangle-free rings, To Please the Moon and The Sunset Caught Me. How exciting!

To Please The Moon

The Sunset Caught Me

Its name is Linty.

I have a new nostepinne. Its name is Linty.

Linty, my New Nostepinne

Hehehe. Ok, obviously this isn’t a nostepinne, but it makes a pretty good substitute in a pinch! I’m going to visit my relatives in Georgia for my cousin’s 40th birthday party. I decided to knit her a scarf at the last minute, however, I wanted to use a fingering weight yarn held doubled to create the pattern I am in love with. Therefore, I needed to make myself a real live cake so I can knit both ends of the skein together at the same time. Usually I just ball my yarn up and have done with it. Plus, I will be knitting this scarf while I’m traveling (plane, train and automobile) so I’d like it not to bounce around so much.

What’s a girl without a ballwinder, swift, or nostepinne to do? Create her own! This brand new lint roller was a fabulous substitute, and I made myself the darn prettiest cake you’ve ever seen in your life. Proving yet again that I am the MacGyver of knitting.

Pretty Cake! And Linty the Lint Roller Nostepinne

My cousin loved the finished scarf made out of this yarn, and the ball worked absolutely perfectly all the way through to the end. The pattern? I’m never knitting it again because it was such torture on my hands.

My hot cousin Laura oohing over her new scarf

Grandma’s foot-form darning “egg”

When I started knitting seriously, I discovered that my grandmother, Irene, had owned a darning egg. My mother and her sisters grew up on a farm, and Mom vividly recalled her mother sitting in the evenings on the farmhouse, diligently darning socks using the wooden darner.

My aunt Kathy apparently was given the darning egg when my grandmother died in 1989, and used it in her country-eque decorated homes all over the world. So for a year I patiently hinted and pondered and “mentioned” to my aunts how much I’d like to have Grandma’s darning egg someday. Imagine my surprise when yesterday, an unknown package arrived in the mail for me. It was the darning egg from Aunt Kathy! She had decided to surprise me, instead of tormenting me with the idea of getting it one day if I was nice to her (we are all about blackmail on mom’s side of the family).

This darning “egg” is actually not egg-shaped at all. It is, in fact, a foot-form wooden darner, a design that was patented in Nov. 1907 and was commonly used in the early to mid-20th century. It has the words “FOOT-FORM” stamped across its top, and you can clearly see how much it was used by the tiny scrapes in the wood. I’m glad to see that these antique foot form “eggs” are often found on eBay for rather affordable prices, so that anyone, if they like, can own a little piece of history.

Grandma married my grandfather, Pap-Pap, in 1945, and they left the farm life and moved to the “city” in 1957, when my mother, the middle child, was 9. They bought their first house for $3,000 and were thrilled to have indoor plumbing. In this photo, from 1950, my mother is the one simultaneously holding her naked dolly and her bladder, while my Aunt Kathy is the one in bunting in my grandmother’s arms. I do love the turned down cuffs of Grandma’s white bobby socks in this image. While Grandma only lived on the farm for 12 years,  I’m sure that she used this wooden darner for many more years of her life. I’ll treasure it always.

How To Skein (or Reskein) Yarn for Free

Seriously, you don’t need any high tech equipment at all. You don’t need to pay your local yarn shop for the privilege of using their swift, you don’t have to shell out big money to buy a ball winder, you needn’t waste your husband’s time and hands every evening, or even become dizzy by walking yourself in a circle around the back of a chair! Skeining yarn is really quite easy. All you need is your own two hands and a nice, comfy couch. If you have a ball or cake of yarn that you want to turn into a nice pretty skein, here’s a picture-based “how-to” that will demonstrate how do it.

Start with a corporate skein (really an oblong center-pull cake):

Or a ball of yarn:

Or a cake of yarn that needs to be reskeined:

Now, what you want it to look like is this – a skein, or hank, of yarn:

First, sit cross-legged (or Indian style):

Set the ball in your lap. Unwind a couple of yards from the outside of the ball and loop it once over your knees, making sure to position it in the place where you want the yarn to wind. I’d advise letting some of the beginning of the strand of yarn hang down over your thigh, so that you don’t loose the beginning of it. Then start winding (this illustration is a good approximation):

When you get to the end of the ball of yarn, wrap both the beginning (which you’ve let hang out a bit) and the end of the yarn around the skein a few times. This keeps the large loop from tangling on itself.

Hold the yarn in both hands stretched out in front of you. Make the loop taut by pulling at either end. Then start twisting the skein into itself. Once the yarn is well-twisted (not overtwisted) bring both of the ends together and watch the center of the yarn twist automatically. Sometimes I hold the center of the loop under my chin as I bring my hands together to create a tighter twist. Here is a video demonstrating how skeining yarn works:

Pull or shake the finished skein to make it straighten out, and then you’ll have this:

Pretty! Now, keep in mind that if you want to turn a skein into a ball or cake, all you’ll need to do is reverse the process – unwind the skein, place it over your knees, and get started!

My First Project – The Knitting Jenny

Recently I discovered an old thing I’d made as a child, buried in the back of a closet at my parents’ house. It greatly amuses me so I thought I’d share. I’d forgotten completely that I’d worked with yarn at an early age. I looked it up online and after a bit of searching I discovered that what I had was a version of the famous ’80s crafting toy The Knitting Jenny.

The Knitting Jenny

I received the Knitting Jenny as a gift when I was a child of about 10, most likely from my grandmother or great-aunt. As I had already learned how to sew, I quickly threaded the acrylic yarn through the square plastic “potholder” type object, using a different colored yarn for each row so that it created a fun concentric design. Now that I think about it, this was probably supposed to be one of those rug-like objects, where you pull the yarn through and create an image out of the short, fluffy bits that pop through the top. Oh well, I wasn’t really into instructions even then.

The Potholder Thingie

I remember that I lost interest in the loom when it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to. It wasn’t very sturdy, I didn’t know what all oft he other little oddments were that went with it (pompom makers, crochet hook, knitting needles) and I was hitting my “anti-Barbie-pink” phase. Needless to say, it took another decade before I actually began knitting. I can proudly say, though, that my first “knitting” project was attempted at a much younger age.

My Knitting Jenny

I’m amazed that all of this stuff survived to adulthood, and I rather like that the knitting needles are so well-designed for small hands. Naturally, if I’d never gotten back into yarn stuff I would probably have just pitched this all, but it seems appropriate to keep it because it shows how far I’ve come. I think I’ll save this for nostalgia’s sake and for my kids to learn to knit with.