Last year, my good friend Tara started learning to knit. (Pick it back up, lady!) Her husband wanted to get her some knitting “stuff” for her birthday and wondered if I had any ideas. Oh man, of course I did! I’ve been knitting for a long time and have built up quite the array of tools to choose from, but here are some of my favorites.
These are the best darning needles and the little case they come in is very helpful to prevent the immediate loss of said best needles.
2. Chart keeper
This is the best tool to keep things straight when knitting lace or colorwork from a chart. You attach the chart with magnets and use other magnets to keep your place. When you are using it, it stands up like a little easel, making it easy to check your place often. It folds in half, keeping everything nice and secure, for when you want to take your projects on the go.
These are my favorite stitch markers, especially the smaller ones included in this package. I find stiff stitch markers to be annoying, but these are pliable and allow you to transfer them from one needle to the other with ease.
I use both this physical counter and an app on my phone, depending on what project I’m working on and whether or not I have any physical counters left. This clicky type is way better than those where you have to turn the small dials and comes with a lock to prevent it from getting clicked when you put it in your bag. You can also use it for other things. Gavin used one to count his running laps when he lived in Chicago.
Interchangeable circular needles forever! I stubbornly love DPNs but for everything else, give me a circular needle – no straights! These are my favorite because the points are very sharp, the cables are extra-bendy, and the metal tips are super slick. I hate wood needles, but these do also come in various colors of laminated birch for those who prefer something stickier. I’ve had my set for about seven years with no problems.
Gavin and I went back to the University of Illinois this weekend for homecoming. We met tailgating our senior year so heading back to the fields and parking lots south of Memorial Stadium always makes me feel warmly nostalgic. Here are five of my (many) favorite things about our great university!
1. Homecoming! The University of Illinois has the first collegiate homecoming experience, starting in 1910. They skipped homecoming in 1918, so it’s not the longest running homecoming, but it is the oldest official college homecoming.
2. The Morrow Plots. How can you not love the first experimental field in the US, located right on the main quad? It’s now a National Historic Landmark and the university built the neighboring undergraduate library underground, so as to not cast a shadow on the corn.
3. The Altgeld Bells. I would think this bell tower above our main math building (slash castle) is awesome even if Gavin hadn’t taken me there on our first date and subsequently proposed to me there. If you’re on campus, take a tour!
4. Libraries. The University of Illinois has the fifth-largest library in the US and the second-largest academic library in the US. There are tons of library buildings, plus the huge stacks. Gavin and I went into the stacks as part of our senior year bucket list and I was in awe of the sheer number of items.
5. Illinois Loyalty. While I like all of the songs, this one is my absolute favorite. It was written in 1906 and was eventually replaced with a more appropriate fight song, but the lyrics are amazing, especially the last few lines.
We’re loyal to you, Illinois,
We’re “Orange and Blue,” Illinois,
We’ll back you to stand ‘gainst the best in the land,
For we know you have sand, Illinois, Rah! Rah!
So crack out that ball, Illinois,
We’re backing you all, Illinois,
Our team is our fame protector,
On! boys, for we expect a victory from you, Illinois!
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha! Go Illini, Go!
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha! Go Illini, Go!
Illinois! Illinois! Illinois!
Fling out that dear old flag of Orange and Blue,
Lead on our sons and daughters fighting for you;
Like men of old, on giants placing reliance, shouting defiance,
Amid the broad green fields that nourish our land,
For honest Labor and for Learning we stand,
And unto thee we pledge our heart and hand,
Dear Alma Mater, Illinois!
These are five of my favorite kitchen items under $20 that I would replace immediately if they died.
1. Analog timer. Using a my phone or the oven timer just doesn’t cut it for me – I love my timer. In fact, my old timer (pictured) died recently, after living with me in FOUR states, and it was incredibly distressing. I reached for it many times while waiting for its replacement to arrive from Amazon Prime and am really happy with the new one. It’s magnetic so it can stick to my pot rack and stay off the counter!
2. OXO 12″ nylon head tongs. If you know me in person, chances are good that you have received these from me as a gift (I even gave them to my bridesmaids as part of their gifts) because I seriously don’t know how to cook in a kitchen without good tongs and don’t know how anyone else does either. I reach for these daily and we have talked frequently about getting a second pair because it’s just the worst when they are in the dishwasher.
3. Pyrex storage containers. We have a dedicated shelf for the many we own and I love them all. Being able to see your leftovers means being more likely to eat them, plus they are glass so you can feel good about storing and even microwaving your food in them. We have one of this set, two of this set, and a set similar to these. Gavin prefers the tiny rectangles but the meal-sized circles will always be my favorite. (Even though they are technically less efficient for storage).
4. OXO heat-resistant spatulas. I own four of these, in various sizes. And I love them all. The most recent addition is the mini jar spatula, which makes using the gigantic Costco jars of peanut butter we buy totally painless. Along with a thousand other things. The others get used to cook scrambled eggs, stir anything, scrape bowls…there’s a reason we have three.
5. Nordic Ware half sheet pans. I could NOT find a cookie sheet I liked after moving out of my parents’ house. They have heavy stainless steel cookie sheets, which I liked but couldn’t find ones of a similar quality for a reasonable price for myself. After the finish scraping off one too many (read: two) I did a ton of internet research and bought two of these. I like how big they are and they are the perfect size for my silicone baking mats.