Monday, February 02, 2009

2009 Goals List - 1st Quarter Check-in 02

My ability to focus is cyclical (hello, bipolar disorder). Sometimes I can work on the same project for weeks, without any tendancy to get distracted. Other times I can't commit to one thing for more than a few hours (or even minutes!) without wanting to start something different.

Rather than suffer, attempting to force myself to focus when my brain simply does not have that capacity, I'm working on embracing the disjointed times. And thus my short attention span of late has effected my choice of projects, as you'll well see. Since my last Check-in I've finished five more things! Granted, they're all small, but still, that's pretty good. They're finished, and that's what counts. And they work toward my project goals for the month.

Tom wanted a pair of thick squooshy slippers to replace his felted ones (they wore through) for around the house. This time I went with a superwash wool so that I could throw them in the washer and dryer with his socks. He's happy, and that's what counts.

This photo was taken after the slippers had been through the washer and dryer, and they came out soft yet plump and squooshy. I carried a thread of woolly nylon on the sole and heel to add to their life span, and have most of a skein of yarn left (these took 4.2 balls) to do patching when they begin to wear out. They are a doubled worsted weight yarn, 100% wool, ONline Linie 157 Tessa.

Also in the list of little things are a pair of crocheted fingerless mitts (my own design), a lacy Ice Queen Cowl (shown blocking, two layers thick), and two Chickadee Cowls (all pattern links are through Ravelry). Yes, that's one more cowl than I'd put on the list, but I got excited by the linen stitch after the first Chickadee Cowl (made in the gorgeous Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Chunky) and tried another one, this time in a wool / acrylic blend (Lang West).

These fingerless gloves were crocheted in Lorna's Laces sport weight superwash wool in the colourway Aslan, and took about two thirds of a single 70g skein. The buttons were in my stash. They're handy for driving (steering wheels can get cold in the winter).

I don't have a photo of me wearing the Ice Queen cowl, and probably won't (not in the mood to model these days). But trust me, it's lovely! The yarn is a fingering weight wool, mohair, cotton, nylon blend with metallic gold bits, so I didn't add any beading (not necessary - the gold bits add all the glitz of beads, without the effort). While it blocked to 18" long, it shrunk back to shorter off the pins. When I make this pattern again (and I will - I want at least one more, beaded) I'll make sure I have more yardage and add extra pattern repeats for length. This one drapes like a cowl neckline, all flowy and pretty, but isn't great for wearing up over the head. But oh, the pretty!

The cowl above is the alpaca one, and is just a little too long (8" as I wanted to use all of that expensive yarn) and itchy to use. Plus it isn't really my colour. I think this will go in a bag to be given away to someone who loves the colours and can handle the itch. Those pesky guard hairs! The skein felt amazingly soft, but I still cannot handle this yarn. Oy - a $22 lesson in my low tolerance for alpaca. Oh well, it could have been a sweater!

The colouring of the blue/brown cowl above is gorgeous, and perfect with a denim jacket. It will become a staple of my wardrobe, I think, for days when I need a little extra warmth with the denim, but don't want to change coats. The scalloped edging was a little extra I added to the bound off edge, and ate up most of the remaining yarn from the skein (less than 5 grams left after adding the scalloped edging). For a one ball project, it has high wearability and practicality, and I really like it. Not bad for $7!

All of these smaller projects kept me interested and busy through the latter part of January, and now in early February I'm working on a pair of slippers for me, from the same yarn in a different colour. Tom's are so warm and nice that I decided I needed a pair too, especially seeing as I've been wearing through all of my hand knitted socks like crazy lately. I think I should wear slippers indoors and save the handknit socks for when I leave the house, and that will extend their lives. So after I finish the first pair of my slippers, I'll put another pair on a future project goals list. And no, my slippers aren't beaded (the yarn is too thick to use with my beads), so they will be the exceptions to the beaded footware plan. Socks = beads. Slippers = nope!

I've been having great difficulty deciding on what sweater or cardigan to make. With such a large stash, I have lots of different options. And with Ravelry in my life, my list of favorite patterns is long. Hopefully I'll make my choice within the next week or two and get started while I still have time to finish in this quarter!

My sewing room is not progressing at all, and I really need to buckle down on that. But with this flightly brain of mine at present, that's a bit tough. I'll ride it out a bit longer, and push back the quilt goals if I have to. Bummer, though.

Next update in mid February! Hopefully I'll have made a start on some larger projects.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Goals List - 1st Quarter Check-in 01

Not quite half of the first month of the first quarter of the year has already passed by ... and I'm on track. I've finished two pairs of socks, one each for Tom and me. Mine were beaded (yippee!), and Tom's were heavy and very appropriate for wearing in his steel toed boots while working up in Fort McMurray.

Both pairs used the special heel developed by Wendy Johnson of WendyKnits, in her pattern called Southwestern Socks (Ravelry link), which can be downloaded free from The Loopy Ewe. The link to their free pattern downloads is here, courtesy of Sheri at The Loopy Ewe. I'll put my two cents in about the yarn Wendy made her socks in: Fiesta Boomerang is delicious! I made a pair in Boomerang ages ago, and they wear like iron, are super soft, and come in amazing fun colourways. None of which appeal to Tom, thus the use of charcoal (again) for him. Thank goodness he lets me put in some crimson stripes for variety!

More details about my two latest sockish FOs can be found on their respective RavPages: the BecSocks and the TomSocks. Here are some photos, just to alleviate the dull.

Immediately following the completion of Tom's socks, I cast on another pair for him (these ones are intended for use as slippers), as I was not yet quite ready to start a more substantial project. I'm waffling on which cardigan or sweater to make first, don't have a plan for a bag, and haven't gotten my sewing room up and running yet. So more socks it is!

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to meet these self-imposed goals. Time will tell, but I'm optimistic. And I have cute beaded socks, so what could possibly go wrong? Right? Right? Hmmm. Crickets are chirping in the background, aren't they?

Friday, January 09, 2009

A New Year, and Some (really freakin' lofty) Goals

Historically I have wasted far too much time waffling about, swatching this that and the other thing, favoriting hundreds of great projects and patterns in Ravelry, downloading and printing binders and binders worth of terrific patterns and ideas, yet not actually committing to or finishing many projects.

I'm an ideas person, and I often create (and complete) things that seem like great ideas in my head, but never actually get used once they're made. These are things that, while lovely and interesting to make, are still totally impractical in my lifestyle. Think numerous lace shawls that rarely come out to play with utterly non-girly non-lacy me, heavy wool sweaters that make me feel like I'm burning alive, huge art quilt pieces that I don't have the wall space to hang, bags that are adorable but just to small or girly for me to ever use, etc.

This year, I will try to be more structured in my approach to crafting (knitting, crocheting, spinning, quilting and sewing). So I've set out a series of guidelines, methods and goals that will help me to complete 2009 with lots of FOs that are actually useful.

The Qualifiers (questions to ask myself BEFORE I start a new project)

- Will I actually use this? Not CAN I use this, as I can talk myself into just about any project with hypotheticals like "I could wear this shawl to the opera" and other unrealistic situations. Nope. Will I actually use this in my day to day life? This needs to be a "Keep it practical" check. If a garment or item won't fit into my regular lifestyle, it shouldn't be considered. For example, heavy wool pullovers are out, yet (surprisingly) delicate doilies are in (I like to center vases, candle holders, framed photos, etc on a doily - yes, I'm weird that way).

- Is this physically possible to construct? This is an important question to remember when I start thinking about bed quilts (we have a king sized bed, and quilts that large can be extremely difficult to quilt on a home machine) and purses (lining can be a pain in the ass, and hold up completion). There's no point wasting my time and materials starting something I'm physically unable to complete for logistical reasons.

- Do I need special tools / materials / skills to finish this project? This year I'm focusing on working from my stash (beads, yarns, fibres, fabrics, notions, etc), so I want to keep the additional purchases to a minimum. If a cardigan needs 15 buttons and I only have 12, then I need to restructure it to use 12. This may require some fussing about, but working from the stash will be my reward. Fine, fine, if I need a specific size and colour of zipper, I can go out and get that. But no running out to by lining fabric, cashmere, or 19 new colours of beads. Use the freakin' stash first!!!!

- Will this make me look utterly dorky? Okay, a little dorky I'm okay with. Let's face it - I'm in my late thirties, fat and not very well groomed. So a tailored slim fitting tank top is not a good look for me. This year I'll review my garment making choices (whether knitting, crocheting or sewing) a number of times before I commit, to ensure that I wasn't having a brief fit of overly positive thinking that will later bite me on my substantial ass.

The Quantifiers (now that I've set out The Qualifiers, above):

- I will use yarn / fibre / fabric from my stash for a minimum of 75% of my projects (by count, not by weight or volume).

- I will mix it up to avoid boredom. This includes craft, project type, scale, colour, etc.

- I will forgive myself the occasional lapse into swatching, sketching, or researching that goes nowhere. It happens. I can't always be productive, so I should stop beating myself up for spending the occasional day dithering.

- I will make more things for Tom. He will receive a lot of socks this year, and one sweater. And I will continue to work closely with him to ensure that the fit / colour / fabric / style pleases him, even when he greats a completed sock with "this needs an extra quarter inch of length in the foot, and then it will be perfect". If he is the intended recipient, he needs to be happy.

- I will do quality control. On everything. If I'm doubtful about fit / form / function, I'll set the project aside until I can look at it with an unbiased eye, and make proper decisions. Sometimes I need to step away from the needles!

- I will set goals. Lots of goals. Good, realistic, attainable goals. See below!

In order to structure my project output, I'm instituting required minimums for each quarter, plus goals for totals for the year.

The quarterly minimums will help to ensure that I have a variety in project scope and scale in each time period. And they are minimums - I can focus my project output to make more socks in one quarter and more sweaters in another, aiming to complete the annual goals while still maintaining the quarterly minimums overall. The idea is to vary my projects to keep things interesting, while still focusing enough to attain growth and experience in a variety of crafts. Sounds pretty good, eh?

So here are the current quarterly and annual goals (I may add to these later):

Quarterly: 2 pairs of socks (1 for each Tom and me)
Annual: a minimum of 12 pairs (6 for each Tom and me)

Quarterly: 1 sweater (cardigan or pullover)
Annual: 3-5 sweaters for me, 1 for Tom

Quarterly: 2 doilies (1 each knitted & crocheted)
Annual: set of 5 small knitted doilies for framing (art cluster), plus 2 crocheted doilies by each Mary Werst and Patricia Kristoffersen

Quarterly: 1 quilt (lap or bed)
Annual: 4 lap quilts, 2 bed quilts

Quarterly: 4 small knitted or crocheted winter accessory items
Annual: enough hats, cowls, scarves, mittens, etc to keep Tom and I both warm next winter

Quarterly: 1 bag, purse, tote or wallet
Annual: a variety of useful project bags, purses, etc (minimum 4 - they are a great way to showcase knitterly or crochet skills to the world, and darned useful!)

Quarterly: 1 handspun project (from fibre to yarn, then make a knitted or crocheted item)
Annual: 4 small scale and 1 large scale projects from handspun (I'd love a handspun shawl - not very practical, but a great showcase for handspun and a more realistic goal than a handspun sweater)

Quarterly: blog at least twice a month with progress updates
Annual: showcase every single completed project on the blog (in addition to putting all knitted and crocheted items on Ravelry) with an annual minimum of 26 blog postings (24 will be the twice monthly updates, plus this initial outline, plus a final year end wrap-up)

So, to get things kicked off, here are my specific goals for the first quarter of 2009:
- 1 Cardigan (for me)
- 2 pairs of TomSocks
- 2 pairs of BecSocks
- 2 cowls
- 2 lacy scarves
- 2 hats
- 1 pair of fingerless mitts
- 1 knitted doily
- 1 crocheted doily
- 1 bag
- 1 bed quilt
- 1 lap quilt
- 1 other quilted project (bag, pillow cover, or wall hanging)
- 1 project from handspun (can be one of the projects set out above, but I do want at least one thing finished from my own handspun yarn per quarter).

In an aside, I'm planning to add beads to all of my socks this year, focus on thicker socks for both Tom and myself, focus my cardigans/pullovers on easy care warm weather fibers (with one major exception - a cabled wool cardigan), and focus my quilting efforts on the quilting more than the piecing.

And finally, I will be open to change as it is needed, but will not actively seek change just because I'm feeling obstinate.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Crochet Tutorial: Joining a new Colour

I've been having a blast learning to crochet, but have found some gaps in the information available to newbies like me. My (three!) How-To guides all show how to change colours in the middle of a row while working double crochet back and forth, but not how to change colours in a new round of a granny square or other motif shape.

After some playing around and experimenting, I found a way that works for me without leaving a bulky knot hanging over an open space in the previous row.

After you've finished off the yarn from the last round, you're ready to begin the new round with the new colour. In this case, I'm about to be working [ 5 dc, ch 3, 5 dc ] into the chain space in the corner.

Pass the hook through the space from the front. Fold the end of the new yarn over the hook, leaving six inches for sewing / weaving in the end of the yarn (Photo 1). Pull the loop through the chain space (Photo 2).

Wrap both the working yarn and the end over the hook (Photo 3), and pull them both through the loop, together (Photo 4). The stitch you just made anchors the end of the yarn in place, but you still need to weave the cut end in later (once you have enough completed stitches in that colour through which to weave and hide the end). I made the next chain stitch with just the working yarn (Photo 5), and you can see the slightly thicker stitch made with the doubled yarn.

From then on, just crochet as normal. In the case of this square, I worked enough chain stitches to be equivalent to a double crochet, then worked the remaining stitches that were needed in the space.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Secret Project

Secret projects. Many bloggers have them.

Usually they're gifts that the blogger wants to keep secret from the intended recipient, who may read the blog, thus ruining the surprise. I've had a number of those.

Some times secret projects are secret because the blogger isn't sure of success, and wants to keep the mocking to a minimum (I've had those, too).

And then more rarely, bloggers will have secret projects because they hope to submit the item for publishing in a magazine, book, or web-site, and part of the conditions of submission require secrecy. That's what I'm playing with right now. If this project works out like I hope, I plan to try submitting it to a magazine for publication. Yep, I'm dreaming big. Huge, in fact.

However, just because I'm working on a secret project doesn't mean I don't have blog fodder (although it is pretty slim right now). I'm going to post a few photos of parts of the secret project, just teaser shots really. Because
(a) I'm happy with how it is turning out so far,
(b) I hate posting on the blog without photos, and
(c) I'm working hard on posting at least once a week right now. Ignoring the blog for long periods of time just seems wasteful!

So here are some shots of the secret project, with no details at all. Annoying, eh?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A New Bag & Things to Think About

First, the new bag ... made from one skein of taupe and two of stone (had plenty left over of both colours) of Lion Brand Cotton Ease. The pattern is a really popular one on Ravelry, accessible via my project page (Ravelry link). It's closed with a magnetic snap, and I sewed a shell disc over top to hide the metal ugliness. There's a pocket inside to corral pens, crochet hooks, etc. Yep, I lined it with freakin' expensive quilt fabric - but better used and in a bag than sitting in storage in the crawlspace, eh?

Just for fun I made one larger square in a fancy lace block pattern, and stuck it on the bottom of the bag in place of four regular squares. I'd rather have people behind me on the street / in the grocery store looking at the bottom of my bag than the bottom of me.

Emo always helps with the photo styling. He considers himself extremely photogenic. He's right. Cute little bugger, isn't he? And now I know that the bag easily transports 8lbs of squirmy cat, with the only damage being the addition of a layer of fine cat fluff.

Now on to something more serious than crocheted cat carriers / tote bags ...

Lately I've been stricken with a pretty serious case of take yarn out from stash, fondle, swatch, rip out swatch in frustration, put yarn beside chair for later consideration, go back down to stash and begin again. The pile next to my chair is threatening to smother me! But I'm really struggling to commit to a particular project (except the bag - it only took three days so doesn't really count).

So I need to start asking myself some serious questions before I start swatching yet another completely new project. Quick project or a serious time investment? Practical or frivolous? Product or process? Just for me, or potential for pattern sales?

My tendency is to choose projects that are quick to provide satisfaction, such as my recent trend toward cotton trivets and the latest bag. And a lot of my recent swatching has been for shawls / stoles / scarves, some of which would be pretty darned quick. But the swatch itself is the ultimate in quick projects. Sadly I'm not getting a lot of useful results from this time, though, so I need to start committing to investing a decent amount of time on a more serious project.

Again, most of what I've been doing lately is frivolous stuff. The cardigan was the major exception to this, and the fact that I've worn it nearly every day since I finished it indicates to me that maybe more cardigans are in order. Because really, I don't wear shawls / stoles / scarves in the home, yet I spend the majority of my time here! So more than one cardigan sounds like a damned good idea.

Then there's the consideration of product versus process. Yes, I enjoy the finished products. But sometimes I don't feel like labouring over the same stitch pattern in the same yarn for the weeks required to make a cardigan for a fatty like me. If I was a size two, wearables would be a lot faster to produce. But I'm not. And seeing as I tend to be more of a process person than a product person, I abandon a great many projects part way through, having bored of that particular process (combination of stitch pattern and yarn) and wanting to move on. We won't talk about the stacks of milk crates with UFOs in them. Nope. Not at all.

So I need to become more of a product knitter / crocheter / spinner / quilter. But shifting that mind set is neither easy nor quick. It will take time and dedication. But I think that if I allow myself occasional pointless swatching and intersperse the lineup with instant gratification projects, I may be able to make the change.

Finally, I love the fact that I have a self-published pattern that is somewhat successful. There are shawls out there in the world made following my pattern. That's pretty freakin' cool! But in order to write and publish another pattern, I need to choose projects that are (a) of interest to others, (b) made of yarns that can be easily found or at least easily substituted, and (c) sized appropriately. Thus the not publishing another pattern yet. It's a shitload of work! And knowing in advance that I might publish the pattern limits my ability to ad-lib. Okay, it kills it. And those projects that I've started with publishing in mind have so far crashed headlong into the wall of damn-I'm-tired-of-this-and-it's-way-too-much-freakin'-work-so-I-quit.

So after all of this thinking and copious note taking, stash analysis / review, sketching, swatching, and general whinging and moaning, I've decided to start on three new projects.

1. Another lacy cardigan. It's the most practical choice for me (something I'll actually wear / use!!!), but the most work if I decide to publish (sizing from fat me to all the smaller sizes that are standard in most patterns). I have some yarn options, so swatching will ensue. This could go one of two ways. Either I'll end up creating something original and struggle through the pattern work, or I'll get sick of the writing and calculations and just make another cardi identical to the last, in all but colour.

2. A casual scarf in a luxurious lace weight yarn. This will be a fun break from slugging through the cardigan. But the goal is definitely to have this be publishable, so the project will require dedication to the writing and editing part. Ugh. But fun scarf? Yay!

3. A two piece bag set. I'm envisioning a large tote suitable for hauling library books around or carrying a large knitting / crochet project, plus a smaller purse for wallet, Kleenex, keys, cell phone, etc. Ideally they would be from the same yarn and kind of match, while still each being a stand alone piece. I've sketched up a bunch of ideas, and have a good handle on the look I'm going for, but am running into the issue of lining. Good bags / purses are nicely lined. But I don't want to have to write up a sewing pattern for each bag as well as a knitting or crochet pattern! Yet "line if desired" seems like such a cop out. I'll have to do some market research on this.

So after all of this head scratching, scribbling, swatching and general mess making, I still can't commit. Maybe I'm just not ready yet. So I think I'll go do the dishes and maybe some laundry. Those things, at least, I have a plan of approach for, and know how to properly see them through. Product, not process. Clothes to wear, and clean dishes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Perfect Summer Cardigan

Sometimes I can envision the perfect article of clothing in my mind. I know exactly what I want, down to the tiniest detail. Finding said article of clothing in stores, though, is very rare. I'm often disappointed when I go looking. So this time, I did the only thing I could do that would assure my happiness - made it myself.

This started with two things: a lovely crocheted lace stitch pattern (as seen in the Short and Sweet bolero in the Debbie Stoller book Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker) and an idea of the perfect summer cardigan. I wanted something that was lacey and girly and pretty, had long sleeves and was long enough to land just below the waist band on my jeans, was made from a fibre that wasn't warm like wool, was the perfect summer neutral (wearable with as many as possible of my pretty coloured tank tops), and buttoned up. Yep, asking a helluva lot!

So, tackling the issues one by one:

1. Lacy, girly and pretty - I really wanted to use the stitch pattern from Short and Sweet. Well, after looking at all of the finished versions on Ravelry, I decided to just try adapting the pattern to what I wanted, rather than just using the lace pattern. Why mess with a great starting point? The information was there, I just had to use it.

2. Adapt a pattern for a short sleeved bolero into a long sleeved full length cardigan - doable. It took some swatching, some sketching and a bit of math, but I managed.

3. Summer fibre is a bit tough. I love natural fibres, and wanted something lighter weight than the worsted weight mercerized cotton used in the sample sweater. And it had to come from the stash. After some digging, I found I had 1500 yards of a dk weight (listed as worsted, but after knitting a swatch when I first got it I found I only got DK gauge from it, could not get worsted gauge to save my life) 100% bamboo with a chained construction. It's a bit shiney, but not annoyingly so (no "bling" nastiness), and feels cool and slinky against the skin. Cool is good for summer wear.

4. The perfect summer neutral - hmm. I had the same yarn and yardage in both black and taupe. After pulling apart my collection of tank tops, I decided to go with the taupe. It looks great with teal, blue, pink, coral, burgundy, beige, white, black, and some greens. Not so good with red and a few other colours, but still that gave a lot of wearing options. Taupe it is.

5. Buttons and button bands. I dug through my small collection of buttons, and found that (this is why I stash stuff!) I had buttons that looked great with the yarn, in an appropriate size, and more than enough (I've got enough left to use for another cardigan). And the button bands were easy - do 2ch instead of 2sc, with 6sc between each button hole.

So, with all of my options covered, I got to work. In about three weeks of not terribly dedicated work, I had a pretty finished cardigan. I blocked severely (having first practiced with a swatch of the pattern lace stitch) and was able to get my desired dimensions without any issues, and used slightly less than 1400 yards!

I'm very very happy with the finished product, and have received some nice compliments. Of course, those were from when I wore it into the local yarn store, but still, it was nice to get them. And I like the shape and look of this cardi so much that I will make another soon - possibly right away. In the black bamboo, most likely. Then maybe in russet wool/silk/cotton blend, for fall wear.

And if I'm not completely sick of it by that point, in a wool blend for winter wear, in red or teal. Or one in red and one in teal. And why not olive green, too? Because when you find the perfect article of clothing, you get it in every possible colour that you like, and love it, love it, love it. And I love this cardigan.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ravelry Ate my Homework!

Okay, it didn't really. But sometimes it feels that way.

I've been loving Ravelry, the online community for knitters and crocheters (with a side in spinning). It has been described as a "social networking site" for crafters, and yes, it is that. It's also so much more. I've learned soooo much from my time on Ravelry, like:

  • How to spin! I'm the proud owner of two dozen drop spindles (a Ravelry link - only works if you're a member - I'm not being elitist, it's just how it works) and one SpinOlution Mach 1 spinning wheel. By starting with spindle spinning I got a good basic understanding of yarn construction, twist, grist, etc. Now I feel armed with enough information to move on to spinning with a wheel (which I've had for two weeks today - whee!).

  • Fibre is just as much fun to stash as yarn. I've already got a few boxes worth. Nothing like the yarn stash, though. And once spun, it just adds to the yarn stash. Not like that's a problem.

  • And I'm crocheting! I've made some small things, and am working on a few not-so-small things too. The not-so-small things include a lacy bamboo cardigan for summer wear, an afghan of fancy squares, and a lacy shawl. Too much on the go? Yep, as always.
  • Doilies are cool! After months of looking at and admiring doilies, I dove in. Now, I've made doilies, both knitted and crocheted. They're kind of useless, but I really enjoy making them.

My favorite part of Ravelry, though, has been the friends I've made. Real friends! Real life women I would never have met except for Ravelry.

We get together once a week and knit, crochet or spin together (whatever pleases each person at the time). We've shared skills (I may have convinced a few others to try spinning, and I've gotten hooked on crochet), worked on a group project, and generally enjoyed getting to know a group of people who would not ever have run into each other but for Ravelry.

So, yeah, I love it. But it isn't everything in life, so moving on now ...

The furcritters are doing well. Fae is her usual enthusiastic doggie self, and it turns out she's pretty well behaved in the company of other dogs. She had a big adventure earlier this week when we went to yrnjunky's house (RavFriend meet-up!). She got to play with yrnjunky's two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and tinkpink's Molly (a blend of everything that is sweet and cuddly and little). And did well. She only peed on the living room floor a little bit! Good dog.

Emo is his usual loving self, Peanut is pissy as usual (but has a few less teeth than last time we spoke, having had another necessary dental surgery). Bean has made huge strides - she's out and about a lot more, having finally realized that the dog only chases her if she runs first. She's now holding her ground, and will even walk past the dog if she needs to. Slowly, and with extreme caution, and a neck that swivels amazingly to keep Fae in sight. But she's out, and that's good.

After a year of living at home and driving to the office every day, Tom is back up north (Fort McMurray again) working a fly in project. He's Project Manager, and is enjoying the new responsibilities. He really needed this - working in the office was okay, but he really missed fieldwork. I think he's happier this way.

I've been busy too - spending far too much time on Ravelry, coming to terms with being an atheist (I've finally said goodbye to agnosticism), and playing with fibre. Some photos, so as not to bore you ...

Crocheted Trivets:

A Crocheted Doily (Tencel):

A hat from my own spindle spun yarn (Romney, dyed by an Etsy vendor):

Hanging Garden socks, in KnitPicks Risatta (cotton wool blend sock yarn), with beads, my own design:
There have been a lot more finished items than just these four photos show, but I'll hold back some for later blog-fodder. Know that life is good. All is well, warm, and filled with creativity and good friends. And fur. Lots and lots of fur.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pay It Forward

I joined a Pay It Forward swap - started by Nurhanne (love her lace - love!). I'm a degree removed from her (Hi Kat!), and can only hope that I get someone (well, three someones) to sign up from me. Here are the guidelines:

“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

What a great idea! I also want to specify - I don't think that the gifts need to be knitted. It's about handmade gifts, so soaps, sewing, quilting, jewellery, hand spun and dyed yarn, etc. are all possibilities. And, as the people who sign up need to have a blog (or cannot continue the Pay it Forward chain with their own commenters), it's easy to go back through the archives and get a sense of what each person likes. Yep, I like this.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Waa Haa Haa!

What a difference a different model makes ...

I was so incredibly disappointed in the finished Beatrice shawl - it just didn't hang right on me. But then, my MIL tried it on - perfect! Exactly what I had wanted! The neck shaping hugged her like it was made for her, and tucked under her collar practically without any helping hands.

The central back panel draped beautifully, the shoulders sat exactly where they were supposed to sit, and the front bands lined up perfectly and exactly.

And then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I buttoned in the (surprise!) optional removable button-in front panel, and it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone down ... okay, I'm pushing it a bit, but really, it was friggin' brilliant!

Apparently, Beatrice fits a 36-40" bust perfectly. Sadly, I'm not in that range. I guess she just wasn't meant to be mine. I have to sew 6 more buttons in place (the gaps between the buttons are a bit large with only the 4 buttons on each side of the panel), then she will be ready for her photo shoot - yep, I'll be publishing this one after all. Granted, she looks awful on me, but that's a problem with my body size/shape, not with the shawl. She looks great on Sandra, and will likely look just as good on Janet (who will probably be the cover model - heads up girl!).

While I was still steaming about how badly Beatrice fit me, I worked on some small projects - a (really, really, really boring) 2x2 ribbed hat for Tom (which he loves - the more boring the knit, the more he loves / wants the knitted item), and my first two-colour stranded knitted mitten, for me. It's actually the first time I've made a mitten.

I based the design on the work of Anna Zilborg, author of Magnificent Mittens (out of print - but I just picked up a copy from my LYS, at the original cover price - don't choke on your coffee when you see the asking price on Amazon - oy!). The orchid design is part hers, part mine (from a cuff pattern in her book). The pinstripes are an exercise in yarn dominance (Google it - definately worth the reading if you're ever going to do stranded knitting).

The mitten was started with Judy's Magic Cast-On, at the fingertips, then worked down the hand. I started the thumb the same way, worked to the join, joined it to the hand, then continued working in the round (using magic loop on a 32" circular needle).

This is also the first time I've tried corrugated ribbing - and loved it! I don't know if I did it right, though - I was having too much fun faking it to bother looking it up. I worked the ribbing one round in the main colour (dark olive green) as [k1, slip 1 p-wise], then the next round in the contrast colour (a heathered ochre) as [slip 1 p-wise with yarn in back, bring yarn forward, purl 1, bring yarn back]. I cast off with a purl round, as I have a weakness for the way that looks (it's like punctuation after the ribbing).

Anyway, I immediately started the 2nd mitten, and am doing it exactly the same (I was thinking of reversing the colours, but changed my mind).

It doesn't take much to totally improve my outlook on the knits. Much better now, thanks. :-)

Oh, I've also been learning to spin on a spindle - so far I've made "novelty yarn". I hope to graduate to half-way decent someday. There's a definate learning curve, and I've only just started the climb...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Design, she is a Fickle Mistress

Beatrice is finished. All ends are woven in. Blocking is history. But I don't like her. She's, um, kind of ugly. Ungainly. I'm just not happy with the finished product.

Why? Well, the shawl doesn't hang like I had expected. I did the Faroese-esque shoulder shaping popularized by Myrna Stahman, but can't get the finished product to hang like Myrna's shawls do. The sizing is right, and the execution was bang on, but she still doesn't hang properly. The problem is with the shoulder area - back to the blocking drawing board, I guess.

I think I'll put her in time out for a few days, then re-block. Hopefully that will solve some of the problem. Unfortunately, I know it won't solve all of it. There is too big a gap between the finished product I had in my mind and the actual completed shawl.

I don't think I'll be offering this one as a pattern for sale. It doesn't seem right to be asking money for a pattern that results in a shawl that even the designer feels failed her.

But that leads me to wondering - what do other designers do when the end product doesn't meet with their expectations? Some designers seem to sell the pattern anyway (there are some really disappointing designs out there). They pump out designs so regularly it's amazing. I have to wonder if that is motivated by financial need, or by a demanding public following? Other designers produce fewer patterns, but those that they do publish are consistently interesting and of high quality. I guess I want to be (eventually) associated with the second group, not the first.

While it might seem wonderful that a designer publishes a pattern a month, sometimes that is just too intense a pace. I now feel I've spent the entire month of November wasting my time on a failure, and that it's time to take a break - from designing, from trying to force my passion to be a source of income, and most of all, from guilt. I've got a huge list of things that I promised various family members would get done - but all that list of items is doing is weighing me down with guilt.

Well, guilt is what killed my passion for quilting. I don't want guilt to kill my passion for knitting, too. I need to step back and cut cleanly the guilty hold that certain things have over me. To that end, I will be packing up and sending out the components of the projects that glare at me from the corners of my studio. My MIL will be getting the bits of her imaginary vest back. She won't be getting hand-knit socks, either. Dad & Marion won't be getting the place mats I promised them two years ago. Mom won't be getting her requested bag (but I did re-block the red cashmere scarf I made her - she can pick it up next time she visits).

I think I'll be throwing out the projects that are stalled at the WIP stage. If I'm not sure how to finish it, or I'm no longer feeling it, out it goes. It's time to use the garbage can, if only to lighten the psychic load. I'm so tired, so weighed down by all of the crap I carry around in my guilty conscience - I need it to be over. DONE. WITH. Enough already.

There may be another break in the blogging, too...

Monday, November 26, 2007

It never happens like I plan

Just when I'd decided to put Beatrice away for a while and focus on sock design, I had a breakthrough. All of the design problems I'd been unable to figure out just vanished - I woke up one morning (really, really early - like 2:30am early) with the solution fully formed in my mind. I guess it was just Beatrice's time.

So, here she is, modelled by a napping Emo. The bottom border is charted, the final instructions are written, and now all I need to do is (re)execute them. I actually finished the shawl this morning, but found a mistake that was going to glare at me loudly and forever, so unpicked the cast-off and pulled back 14 really long rows. Ugh. However, I'll be happy with the end result, and that's all that matters, right?

Another shot, taken after I finished the second skein of yarn. The full shawl took four skeins. I blocked after two skeins to make sure I was happy with the design - and I was, thus the whole keeping-going-ness.

This is the view of my legs, in their standard state while knitting. Fae is keeping watch so that Emo can nap without interruption.

And, finally, because it was so darn cute... Fae sacked out on Emo, on the couch in my studio. Aww. And yes, I need to vacuum.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Sock-ish Question

Hmm, long time no post. Sorry!

Beatrice (my second shawl design) is coming along - I'm nearing the bottom border, but have put her in time-out as there are a few details that aren't really pleasing me right now. Yep, she may end up frogged.

However, I've also been playing some sock-y games. I'm loving Cat Bordhi's new sock book, especially the way it gives you architectures for shaping, but lets you go off on whatever design tangent you want. I'm tempted to put my designing mind just to socks right now - but I don't want to have to write out full sock patterns. Is it wrong to just want to focus on the stitch pattern / body patterning of the socks, and ignore heel and toe shaping? Probably not saleable, but maybe some free patterns...

In my brain right now are two (maybe three) men's dress socks, and four womens' socks. I just want to knit single socks! Maybe I want to design like Cookie A. when I grow up...

Hmm. Things to think about.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Away We Go

I'm off this weekend - I'm going on a quilt retreat with Mom. We're off to the Palisades Centre near Jasper, Alberta (in the mountains, in Jasper National Park), where we will be working on different quilts.

Mom is making Dancing Leaves by Animas Quilts, and I'm making a variation of Drunkard's Wave by Judy Niemeyer. Why a variation? Because I just can't follow a pattern exactly as written. My need to "tweak" and to do an individual interpretation is strong - so strong, in fact, that even though I purchased the kit (pricey, too) I'll be ignoring some of the kitted fabrics and substituting from my stash, not making up the blocks as the pattern sets out, adding extra borders, and generally changing things until my quilt looks nothing like the original. At all! But, that's me.

I had to phone ahead and check that I can access my Etsy account and email program from the Palisades Centre so I can keep up with Internet orders of the Agatha pattern while I'm away - shouldn't be a problem. Shawl pins ordered on Friday won't go out until Monday, though (we leave Friday morning).

And then on Monday - I have a surprise for Tom! He has been in Cambodia for 10 days (I'm picking him up at the airport at 1:45am tonight/tomorrow morning), and when he gets back I'm promptly taking off for the quilting retreat and leaving him alone with the critters. So, I wanted to do something special with him to make up for not being here long when he gets back, and I found just the thing!

Henry Rollins is coming to Edmonton. Tom remembers Henry from his days with Black Flag, a punk band (Tom has always liked punk music - yup, he's a bit funky), and we both enjoyed him very much as the co-host of Full Metal Challenge on the Discovery Chanel. Right now he's on tour doing a spoken word thing - apparently it is a rant type of performance - Henry has very strong political leanings, is a comedian, and reminds me a bit of Lewis Black (often featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). Tom doesn't know Henry Rollins is coming here (I just found out today, and was able to get tickets in the nosebleed section, at the last minute), so this is a surprise. I wonder if I can keep the surprise? Probably not. Huh.

Anyway, I hope to resume regular blogging next week - I have a new shawl designed that I want to get started on. In the mean time, I hope to finish Agatha's socks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Agatha is finished, blocked, written up, PDF-d, and the pattern is for sale in my Etsy shop! Woot!

I finished knitting Agatha over a week ago, but blocked her during a humid spell, and she took four days to dry (it probably didn't help that I'm now blocking in the basement, and the weather is considerably cooler now). Then (Murphy rears his ugly head) my digital camera had some temporary hiccups, so a photo shoot was out of the question. However, all is well again now, so I was (finally) able to insert photos into the pattern and turn it into a PDF file.

Agatha's Stats:
  • 3 skeins of ShiBui Knits Merino Kid (not brushed, DK weight) in the colour Mulberry, 218 yards each (used ALL of it!)
  • 24" deep from top edge to bottom point
  • 50" wide from edge to edge, as shown in photo below
  • Two weeks of often interrupted knitting time
  • And yes, I designed and charted her, and wrote up the pattern
  • Lace stitch pattern in body of shawl based on pattern 76 in Estonian lace book Pitsilised Koekirjad, by Leili Reimann

This was a fun knit, and the stitch pattern was easy to memorize and read. I'm pretty proud of the transition into the border - I had some false starts on it, but am happy with the final solution.

Yes, I'm blowing my own horn a bit, but it's exciting to be publishing my first pattern! Darn it! Squee! I can only hope that if anyone actually buys the pattern they find it logical and easy to follow. No test knitters were harmed during the making of this pattern (tee hee - okay fine, I don't have any test knitters - the only knitters I know personally are way to busy for me to even ask). Anyway, I hope to get over myself sometime later today, but will enjoy the giddiness for a few hours more, if that's okay. ;-)

Oh, and there may be (cough) coordinating socks (cough) in the future. I've finished one, and am working on the second. The socks aren't the same colour or yarn, but they do use the same lace pattern.

I'm knitting them out of Crystal Palace Maizy in Hibiscus, and LOVE IT! This stuff (82% corn fiber) is incredibly soft - even softer than Merino! With only one sock done, it has already become my favorite sock yarn - and that's saying a lot considering some of the gorgeous luxury yarns I've worked with.

While there are some lovely solids, I'm not that thrilled with the print colours that are available. However, I can't find anything in my stash that comes even close to being as soft. And, the 18% elastic nylon keeps them springy and bouncy, and helps the lace keep its shape. Yummy. I'll keep you posted as to how they wash. Oh, and they've already been claimed - they fit my Mom perfectly.

Sock Monkey

I've been listening to Jonathan Coulton's "Code Monkey" for days now. It is SO in my head! Press the blue listen icon next to "Play the song" at the top of the page and you can get it in your head, too.

Anyway, I got to thinking (not always a good thing) that maybe there was a knitting song (or two, or three) in there somewhere...

Sock Monkey
(the Version)
Lyrics by ThatLoganChick

Sung to the tune "Code Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton

Sock Monkey get up get coffee
Sock Monkey sit in chair
Sock Monkey surrounded by knitting
Yep, projects everywhere
First pick up and work on new Pomotamus
Such a funky sock
Cookie A designs better than rest of us
Hedera she rock
Sock Monkey think maybe Cookie have SSS, never finish second sock
But she write up pattern real nice
Red Herring stranded knit with spice

Sock Monkey like knitting
Sock Monkey like Rosewood Double Points
Sock Monkey like circulars
Addi Turbos and bamboo too
(but only with good joins)

Sock Monkey made Tangled Garden
But can’t get them on
Sock Monkey have real high instep
Wide feet very long
Knit lace 'cause lace is very stretchy and
Can fit over foot
And also thinks lace looks very pretty on
Even ginormous foot
Sock Monkey make Beaudelaire, Broadripple, Fuzzy Feet, and Falling Leaves
Sock Monkey think Knitty real cool
Sock Monkey thank Amy, no fool

Sock Monkey like knitting
Sock Monkey like Rosewood Double Points
Sock Monkey like circulars
Addi Turbos and bamboo too
(but only with good joins)
But only with good joins – uh huh

Sock Monkey knit Crusoe anklets
And they fit really well
Sock Monkey make Thuja for man
He think they very swell
But man he likes his socks in solids ‘cause
He thinks stripes too wild

So Sock Monkey stops knitting new socks for him
She likes socks with style
Sock Monkey think someday she knit every sock, scour Internet each day
Sock Monkey have Wait List so long
Sock Monkey can’t die ‘til it’s gone

Sock Monkey like knitting
Sock Monkey like Rosewood Double Points
Sock Monkey like circulars
Addi Turbos and bamboo too
(but only with good joins)

Of course, JoCo's Code Monkey is available in a Karaoke version so that you can sing Sock Monkey, too. For free (whole song! trial version), or for a buck if you want to download and keep it. Go on, sing it out. I dare you. Hee.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Code Monkey Dance

Me Like Code Monkey

I was listening to back issues of the Knitters Uncensored podcast yesterday, and they closed one of their podcasts with a Jonathan Coulton song (Ikea). It rocked.

So, I looked up JC's website, and ended up buying his whole music collection. The man is talented! You have to enjoy a musician who writes with wit and intelligence, and is also a great performer. I love that he writes with equal passion about science, computers, and drinking. Warning, though - don't listen to "First of May" at work! (Heavy use of the f-word).

I also watched a number of the YouTube videos of his songs, and my favorite is Emily's Code Monkey Dance, which I've put up above for your enjoyment too. Love it!

Back to knitting content: Agatha is finished and blocking (she's been drying for two days already, but the basement studio is quite cool, so I anticipate another day - heavy yarn, and I didn't press out enough water before blocking - lesson learned). I completed writing and editing the pattern, so just need a photo session and I can post it in my Etsy shop. Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Open for (some) Business

After months of wanting to do it, I finally opened an Etsy store!

Right now I'll only be posting a few things, as I'm having difficulty getting useful information out of Canada Post. (Aargh!) Their website insists that I need a postal code to determine a price for sending items in Canada, even when all I want is an estimate for shipping a parcel of know size and weight. Sigh.

Then, I also need to figure out shipping to the US. And to Australia and New Zealand (just in case). How about worldwide? Oy.

Anyway, I'll be selling my (freakin' awesome) shawl pins, some sets of stitch markers, and some knitting patterns (in PDF form).

I'm about 75% of the way through the knitting of my Agatha shawl (yup, changed the name from Pavilion Shawl to Agatha - I'm going to name the patterns alphabetically so I can easily remember them / know when they were designed). However, I already have a pattern format designed, and have written Agatha up.

I think I'll be doing a free sock pattern, too, using the same lace as the shawl. It may be a "free gift with purchase" kind of thing - but it's based on the Riverbed sock architecture from Cat Bordhi's newest book "New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book One", so won't have complete stitch-by-stitch instructions. Rather, it will be a companion pattern, meant for use with the book. If I later decide to sell the sock pattern, I'll have to write it up too, but will need to get Ms. Bordhi's permission to refer to and use her architecture and techniques.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get the Canada Post thing sorted out soon, and put more of the pins and some stitch markers into my shop. I've got some favorites that I may have to keep, but right now have over 30!!! pins ready to go. And they're all lovely, if I might say so...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Pavilion Shawl

Well, that might be it's name... it has had a number of different names already, and I'm only 55/300 grams in.

I've been designing virtual shawls for quite a while now. By "virtual shawl", I mean one that gets charted in Excel, printed out, notes made, etc, but no actual knitting gets done. On a few I've got so far as casting on and knitting a few inches, but then ripping out as something doesn't please me.

My friend Janet took at look at them last Friday, and then proceeded to give me a stern talking to. She thinks that some of those designs are good - even good enough to share. So, I started knitting my most recent design yesterday. I tried three different yarns and four needle sizes, but finally came up with a combination I was happy with. I'm now just under 20% in, based on using all 300 grams of yarn.

I'm using ShiBui Knits Merino Kid, which is a DK weight merino and kid mohair blend. It's not brushed, so the mohair gives it sheen instead of fuzziness, although it has a small amount of halo. The colour is Mulberry, and is rich, rich, rich.

I found the stitch pattern in my book of Estonian lace patterns (Pitsilised Koekirjad). The density of the pattern and the curving of the columns of stitches screamed out to me that they should be knitted in a shiny, thick yarn. When I swatched, I wasn't pleased until I went with a very dense texture - the density really showed off the pattern the best.

So, after much mucking about, I've begun. The shawl has some minor start-up rows, a set-up chart, two charts that are alternately repeated for the body of the shawl, and then a final chart for the bottom border. In just one night of knitting I've gotten into the third repeat of the first of the two repeating charts. Yippee!

Also, I've got most of the pattern written out and formatted already. I just have to make a few changes, then leave it for a while to hibernate so that I can edit with a fresh brain later.

I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and I made a sweater for Nephew Nolan, with two removable / exchangeable fronts - will post on that once it's blocked.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Story in Pictures

When I went to put Fae in her kennel tonight before taking myself off to bed too, we found it already occupied. Emo had invaded. Fae was not exactly thrilled, but went in anyway.

It took some convincing, but I was able to get her to lay down. She complained a bit...

but once Emo settled down again, she seemed resigned to sharing the kennel.

So, she laid down her head and settled in. It looked like the two of them would be sharing a bed for the night.

But, as is the way with many things in this world, such was not to be. Whether it was the unexpected body warmth, the fur, or the dog breath, Emo decided that his choice of beds for the night was no longer satisfactory, and that his only option was to get up and leave.

Oh well. Fae likes her kennel better when it's feline-free anyway.