Monday, August 31, 2009

Introducing Qoop

Hello, Mr. Mitten here. I haven't blogged in a long while -- I'm back full-time at work, and late summer is very busy time of year in the world of education (I work at McGill University in Montréal).

We're not quite ready to go forward with our plans of having a self-hosted shop (this requires lots of work and lots of time), but we're making small steps toward that goal. One of them is cutting back on our dependence on Lulu, and we're now glad to introduce an option to buy printed copies of our books through Qoop, which is another on-demand printer like Lulu.

Qoop offers a number of benefits over Lulu. First of all, they provide similar quality printing services, but at a significantly lower price. For example, a wire-bound colour copy of the "Festive Knits" on Lulu costs $23.55, and on Qoop it is $19.03. They also offer a USPS "Media Mail" shipping rate, which literally costs about 3-4 dollars to ship a copy of the book across U.S.

Qoop also gives you more control over how you want your book done. If you prefer "Perfect Bound" books to "Wire-O," you are welcome to select that option (it's fifty cents cheaper, too, though I find that pattern books are way nicer when wire-bound). If you don't care for colour and just want it for the text, then you can even choose the "Black and White" printing option, which further cuts the price by about $5 (a black-and-white wire-bound copy of "Festive Knits" is $14.22).

If you've been holding out until the price of the book drops, then now is your chance. :)
Once the new edition of "Fuzzy Knits" is done, it'll be available both at Lulu and at Qoop as well.

Hope you have a good evening, and happy knitting! :)

-Mr. Mitten

Friday, August 28, 2009

golden harvest chili

I've had quite the bounty of tomatoes from my garden the last week or so. I planted 5 varieties of heritage tomatoes: 2 kinds of sauce tomatoes, a pink, a white, and a yellow (I can't see the tags under the jungle of plants to give you the exact names). The sauce and pink tomatoes I'm saving for preserves, but I wanted some fun ways to use the white and yellow ones, besides just eating them (they are nice for that too). The varieties I have are quite sweet and mild, and I thought they might go nicely with some sweet corn I picked up at the local market. The resulting chili I concocted was so tasty, I just had to share my recipe with you.

Golden Harvest Chili

1/2 lb ground beef or chicken (optional)
1 small yellow onion*

4 med to large white, yellow, or orange tomatoes

1 yellow bell pepper

1 can romano beans (drained and rinsed)

2 cobs of corn (about 1-1.5 cups)

1 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dry oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh)

hot chili seasoning of your choice (I used 1/4 tsp hot Hungarian paprika)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

salt to taste
Sour cream to serve.

Chop onion, tomatoes, and pepper into small pieces. Cut corn from cobs.

Brown ground meat in large pan. Add onion and cook until translucent (if not using meat, cook onion in 1 tbsp oil). Add spices and stir until fragrant (~1 min). Add tomatoes, beans, and yellow pepper. Simmer for 20 min. Add corn and simmer another 5 min. Season to taste with salt, and add more chili if it's not hot enough.

Serve over wild or brown rice with a spoon of sour cream, or with corn bread.

*I made mine without the onion, since I'm allergic, but I'm sure it will be awesome with onion too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

where did summer go?

Yesterday evening we had our first real picnic of the summer, and I thought, "It's nearly the end of August. Where did the summer go?" We haven't been to a beach or even a swimming pool once. We went on a couple short hikes in a local park, but never out of the city. We did go strawberry and blueberry picking, although we were too late for my favourite, raspberries. Mr. Mitten has limited holiday time, since he took so long off for parental leave, so we didn't have a vacation (besides being a little short of holiday money because we bought a house). Lev and I didn't even spend that much time out in the backyard, as I had envisioned in the spring. Also, my garden has been less than successful, and a bit frustrating for someone who's supposed to be a gardener.

I suppose some of this lack of summery activity was due to the crummy weather. Lots of rain and cool temperatures for June and July, then hot and humid for much of August. Both make me feel like being inside where we can be comfortable. Also, Lev is a little too young to make it really worth the expense of a pool membership, and none of the beaches around here can compare to the mountain lakes I swam in as a kid (although I don't envy B.C. the hot and dry summer they've had).

Instead of feeling bad for not taking advantage of summer this year, I'm trying to think of ways to make next year more fun. I can only hope the weather will be better, but Lev will be one year older, and I won't need to worry as much about wet or heat. Mr. Mitten will have more holiday time, so we can plan for some sort of vacation - maybe just camping, a trip to the East Coast, or to B.C. to visit my family (any of those will include a nice beach). We're going to expand the garden and put a fence around it, so I don't lose so many tomatoes and zucchini to the squirrels and skunks! I'm going to plant a tree in our backyard too, so there's a wee bit of shade.

And who knows? Maybe this Autumn will be lovely. It is my favourite season, and I find it hard to remain inside when the sun is shining and there's a cool breeze. I'll also have lots of fun in the garden, tearing up the front flower beds to redesign them, and digging a bed for raspberries.

My cup of tea is nearly done, and I have a long list of things to accomplish before the weekend. Hopefully I'll be back soon with some photos for you, instead of just rambling words :o)

Friday, August 21, 2009


Now for the fun! I just couldn't keep these new designs a secret any longer - they were just so cute I had to share them once I had a few photos. If you haven't seen them via Facebook, here they are.

Peanut, a chipmunk with a cable pullover. He's sweet on his own, but in the pullover he looks like the star of a 70's knitting pattern book. His stripes are done with duplicate stitch, so you can follow what I've done or improvise your own stripe pattern based on the chipmunks in your neighbourhood.

Kelby, a smooshy faced pug in a seamless hooded anorak. He's about the same size as the big teddy and bunny, so super cuddly for a little kid. His face is more complicated than most of my patterns, but it was necessary to get him to look just right. Don't forget to check out his tail.

Mr. Mitten will get working on the individual patterns as soon as he has time (work is a bit crazy right now), so you can look forward to them soon! These two patterns will be replacing the Squirrel and Big Teddy in the new edition of Fuzzy Knits, so you can also look forward to them there.

Monday, August 17, 2009

pattern design poll results

We've been discussing the poll results and comments for the last few days, and we've come up with some preliminary plans on how to make the most of your ideas. (this post is a little wordy, so I'll try to have something more fun next time)

The most popular poll result was to number the rows in the patterns. I've already started on this, and will continue to work through all the patterns as I have time. Mr. Mitten should have time soon to start publishing new editions of the patterns, so keep your eyes open for news of that.

The second most popular idea was for more photos of the toys, such as close-ups of the pattern details. Including more photos in the patterns themselves would make the files rather large and more difficult to download, and more costly for you to print. Instead, I'll be making a Flickr set for each toy, and the pattern will include a link to that set. Then you can look up more photos if you need them (in better resolution too!). I'll probably be doing this as we publish the new pattern editions.

The third most popular idea was to separate the toy and clothing patterns. We've been thinking of doing this for ages, but the logistics of the problem have stalled us for now. We'd like to set it up so you could get discounts for buying more patterns, but this is difficult or impossible to set up in the shops I have now. Also, that many different patterns would be confusing to browse through on Lulu and Ravelry. Mr. Mitten is looking into setting up a shop on my website, which would have lots of great options for you, but it's going to take several months before we can get it ready. In the meantime, I'll be offering some pattern bundle discounts on Etsy.

Other popular answers included different animals, or more patterns like the Scraps Chaps, as well as more fun clothing patterns. I'm keeping lists of all the ideas you've given me, as well as any I've had, and it's enough to keep me busy for a long time! What I work on really depends on what inspires me at the time, or what will please the most people. At the moment I'm considering some costume patterns for Halloween, and maybe one or two new toy patterns I've been thinking about.

I know lots of you would like more toys knit in the round, but I still think it's best to keep the patterns simple enough for most beginners. I will try to design a few more seamless clothing patterns, for those of you who hate seaming. If you need any help converting the patterns to knit in the round, please check this blog post, leave a comment on Ravelry, or email me.

I think that's quite enough writing for one post! If you have any other ideas you'd like to share, please leave a comment or email me. Now I need to go put a little munchkin down for a nap :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

monday morning news

Thanks for all your input so far on the poll and in the comments! There's still a couple days to vote, if you haven't yet.

Mr. Mitten and I have been discussing the results already. Some are pretty obvious, like the numbered rows, since I had a poll about that already. I've started doing that with all the patterns I've been working on recently, so expect to see it in any new or revised patterns.

Other ideas I find very exciting or intriguing. Some I can try to get to soon, some will have to wait a while because we don't have time, or it's not feasible with the way my shops are set up right now. Anyway, we'll give you a better idea of things to come once we've seen the final poll results, and figured out the best way to meet the most popular ideas.

I wanted to let you know we've decided to change a couple of patterns in the Fuzzy Knits book, so there is no overlap in toy patterns between the two books. The new patterns will be similar to the Big Teddy and Squirrel, but still unique from those in Festive Knits. I'm going to keep them a secret until the new version is released, but maybe I'll get a couple of photos for sneak peeks, once they're done (I'm having a terrible time designing the face of one, but I'll get there eventually!).

new face for the panda

Also, we are working on ways to get you the updated versions of the patterns and books, without you having to buy them again. If you bought something on Lulu, it's very important to save your receipt, since I have no way to check what a customer buys there. I'll post more info once the first of the patterns are ready.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

penny for your thoughts

When I decided to make a go of Fuzzy Mitten full-time, my hope was that I could build up a good business that would allow me to be a stay-at-home mom until my kids were in school. So far I think we're doing okay, but Lev is not even close to school age! I know I've been really short on time to dedicate to Fuzzy Mitten this year, and as much as I love all the time I get to spend being a mom, I don't want my business to fall apart as a result!

So, in the interest of making the best use of the time I have, and writing patterns you *love* and not just sorta like, I'm hoping for a bit of help. Here's a few thoughts I've had:
  • Would it help if I gave more particulars for yarn brands etc?
  • Would more detailed instructions help? I know I keep promising tutorials, but they take a lot of work, and I'm short on time the last few months. Maybe you can bug Mr. Mitten to help me ;-)
  • Would you like a different style of clothes on the toys - something more detailed, more versatile, or more customizable?
  • Do you want patterns like the Scraps Chaps, which has simple variations for making a variety of animals?
  • I know new toy patterns have been scarce this year as I adjust to being a full-time mother, but I do have some great ideas that I hope to work on over the next 6 months. Let me know if there's anything you're dying to knit!
In case you're shy and don't want to comment, I've put up a poll too. It's got a few other ideas I had. Maybe this sounds a bit like marketing research, but really I just want to make my patterns as awesome as possible, so they deserve all those lovely comments you leave me here, on Ravelry, and on Facebook. (I know I don't reply to them all, but believe me, I am so grateful!)

And here is a super adorable shot of Lev having a bath in the garden, in case you needed a smile today :-)

P.S. If you got an earlier version of this post, I apologize for being over-tired and lacking in confidence when I wrote that. Please ignore my bad mood.

Monday, August 3, 2009

thanks so much

I had no idea people would like my fabric toys so much! When they never sold, I thought there must be something wrong with them, so I never made any more. Now I feel like it might be worth it to make one or two, when I feel in the mood for something different.

It was very difficult to choose winners for the three toys, since you all left such lovely comments! The choice was also a little difficult because most people had a particular favourite, and I can't give the same toy to 3 people! So anyway, after some time with a random number generator, I cam up with these winners:

Gilda goes to shadows.slave (you will need to email me - barbara at, since I don't have your address)
Betsy goes to Erin Starkie
Callum goes to Sara (sarloz)

Thanks so much to everyone for participating! There will be more give-aways in the future, so you'll have other chances to win Fuzzy Mitten stuff.