I love reading reviews of new things. Listening to lots of knitting podcasts, you know exactly what the hot new thing is, because they all review it. That’s not a criticism, because each podcaster brings a different perspective, invaluable when something’s new. If the book is only just published, then unless you were a tester/editor, you can’t know much about it beyond “it looks good”, so having multiple people tell you how it looks good is really helpful. Everyone brings their own perspective, even if none of them is “I tried this and it works.”
But what I really love are reviews of things that people have had for ages and know work. The book you’ve made eighteen pairs of socks from, or the yarn that’s still looking beautiful after a year’s wear. In that spirit, I’ve got a couple of (very different) things that I now feel I’ve thoroughly road-tested and am incredibly happy with.
The first is my wonderful handbag by Lisa of U-handbag. Normally, you’d only be able to buy the pattern of this, but I was lucky enough to snap it up in a sample sale. I’d been looking for something big enough to fit my iPad in, but small enough to go inside my rucksack for travelling to and from work. I’d got tired of unpacking my rucksack of essentials – phone, wallet, keys, notebook, tissues etc – every weekend, and packing them in again every weekday, not to mention their tendency to get lost at the bottom of my bag. Now, everything lives in this bag. It comes out with me for shopping at lunchtimes or when I’ve overfilled my rucksack. It takes my iPad even with its keyboard cover, or a book, and as it’s grey, it goes with pretty much everything I own. The quality of the making is as superb as you’d expect, although for the first few days, I over-filled it a little and some of the handle stitching is stretching. That’s not really a problem though. If I have serious problems with that, I’ll just sew the handles back on!
And that’s one of the nicest things, in some ways. If the handles wear out, I’ll just replace them. The long strap isn’t quite long enough to go across my body, so I’m thinking of replacing it. When the whole thing finally wears out – because I plan to use this thing until it’s threadbare – I can make myself another one (Pattern here. Hey, that’s my bag!). It feels like a very personally made bag, in my colours, made just for me. But because I know how it’s made (at least roughly), I’m not scared to make changes and use it to death. And unlike a leather bag, it doesn’t weigh down my rucksack too much! I honestly wouldn’t be without it now, and have received more compliments for it than any other handbag I can remember. If you know how to use a sewing machine, I reacommend it whole-heartedly, and if you can’t, then follow u-handbag on Twitter and snap up a sample in their next sale. You won’t regret it!
The other thing I’ve been using a lot lately is an app for my phone (Android) called Memento. As this is my Year of the Stash, I wanted something that gave me the same kind of listing as my Ravelry stash, but for fabric. Oh, and I didn’t want to pay for it. If you’re an iPhone user, there are some really good options for you, designed specifically for fabric stashes. If you’re an Android user, your choices are more limited. I chose Memento in the end and have found it great to use.
I think what I like most is that it’s almost infinitely flexible, because it’s a general database app, not just one for fabric. You have to do some setting up, deciding what you’re going to record about your fabric, but you can edit it later if you decide that you need to record more. Adding a thumbnail photo is incredibly easy, and you can have as many databases as you want, so I plan to list my patterns, books and notions as well (maybe then I’ll stop buying packets of needles I don’t need!). If you like setting up Excel spreadsheets, than you’ll have no trouble with this! With the free version, you can sync 2 of your libraries to Google Drive, which was the other thing I really wanted. I move from place to place, and in any given day I’ll access sewing sites on my phone, my work PC, my iPad and my iMac at home. Being able to see things from anywhere is essential for me, and while the initial sync was rather slow, it worked brilliantly. I also like the little features that made life easier, silly things like being able to copy entries, so that if logging lots of FQs from a single collection, you don’t have to type everything in again.
It’s not terribly pretty to look at, and you do have to do lot of the setting up yourself, but for something so customisable and usable, it’s worth the effort. At the moment, I’m happy only syncing 2 libraries, but if remains as useful as it seems at the moment, I might even consider spending some money on it!