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.