Feb 222015
 

Fire energy has been on my mind lately. I started exploring the Tarot in late December, and I keep drawing wands – the suit of fire, ruling the quality of will. As an Aries (fire sign), going through a personally transformative stage, I’ve been working to channel elements of the fire spirit, including my creative forces, enthusiasm, and courage.

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Enter the tiny volcano! I knitted this volcano for a dear friend, who was also going through a transformative period and cultivating her fire spirit.

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“If all that changes slowly may be explained by life, all that changes quickly is explained by fire. Fire is the ultra-living element. It is intimate and it is universal. It lives in our heart. It lives in the sky. It rises from the depths of the substance and offers itself with the warmth of love.” (Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire)

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“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” (Rumi)

tiny-volcano-top

Pattern: Tiny Volcano (Ravelry link) by Anna Hrachovec
Yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (for the dark brown) plus scraps of variegated red sock yarn
Needles: US 1
Time: Worked in little spurts over a week or so, finishing on January 23, 2015

I found my childhood stash of stationery at my parents’ house a little while ago. Lisa Frank cards!!

tiny-volcano-card

The wish I wrote on the card was as much for myself as for the volcano’s recipient. “May this tiny volcano talisman nurture your fire energy – from softly glowing embers to brightly burning flames to the whole range of sparkling spirit in between.”

Jan 262015
 

cheryl-hat1c

I’ve always enjoyed trading with other makers as a way to get my knitting out in the world and bring other crafters’ work into my life. So when an opportunity to negotiate a crafty trade surfaced this fall, my ears (and knitting fingers) perked up. A woman I know through work asked how much I would charge for knitting her a hat. When I found out Cheryl runs her own CSA (community supported agriculture) of fermented goods, we started talking barters instead of monetary exchange.

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My photographer is hilarious

I met up with Cheryl monthly to pick up my CSA, and the hat came along in various forms throughout its construction. During the first pickup in October, I brought the freshly purchased yarn to make sure she liked the colors. I also brought one of my finished hats to test out the sizing.

Hat in progress

Hat in progress

In November, I was on the bind-off row of the hat and we tried it on for fit – success! And during the December CSA pickup, I gave Cheryl the finished hat.

The bulk of knitting happened over two weeks, including an epic knitting session at an epic day-long brunch. I had forgotten how much I enjoy carting my knitting around with me to social events. That was a big part of my routine back in North Carolina, and for whatever reason I hadn’t worked that into my Brooklyn social scene. With most of the hat completed in November, I predictably procrastinated over choosing buttons, knitting the button flaps, and finishing the final details until right before my self-imposed deadline.

The ferments I received in exchange included: apple-ginger chutney, teff cookies, fermented hot sauce, juniper berry sauerkraut, pumpkin kombucha, 1-year aged miso, clove kombucha, and rosemary cashew cheese. SO TASTY, and things I never would have made myself. Yay for food exploration and supporting a healthy gut by eating more probiotic-rich food.

cheryl-hat4

Finding dark wood buttons proved to be quite the challenge when I tried to stick around my work neighborhood. The fabric stores in SoHo and the Lower East Side had wood-look buttons, but not actual wood. One day after work I trekked to Tender Buttons in the Upper East Side – what a treasure of a shop! Apothecary drawers hiding button delights, floor to ceiling boxes (labeled and organized) showcasing a gorgeous variety of buttons, precious buttons curated and displayed behind glass… I’m glad I had a specific project in mind or I could have easily spent hours and too hefty a chunk of my paycheck there.

cheryl-hat-button

Pattern: mash-up of One Day Beret (Ravelry link) and Button-tab Hat (Ravelry link).
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Jet (4002) and Anis (8908)
Time: November 1 – December 14, 2014

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Here’s a photo of Cheryl wearing the hat. She seems pleased and tells me she’s received lots of compliments on it. Cheers to a fun, tasty trade!

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Have you ever performed crafty alchemy? I’d love to hear your stories of bartering between makers.

Nov 222014
 

I am now in possession of this mysterious almost-finished sweater, knit by a stranger’s hands. Brooklyn Craft Company hosted a craft swap where people gathered to exchange art supplies. After the event, I came by to look through the leftovers and pick up materials for the nonprofit organization I work for. Going through the boxes and bags of yarn, I found this:

mystery-sweater

No one seems to know the sweater’s true story. Word has it that someone came in, dropped off the sweater and left without sticking around for the swap. I picked up the sweater a few times as I was looking through the assortment of yarn and choosing which materials would work for my office. I felt the soft hand-dyed yarn, felt the hours of handwork in each inch of the fabric.

Someone put all this work into making a sweater, and then just gave it away?!? I’m so curious about the sweater’s story. Or really, about the knitter’s story. Did the sweater not fit and the knitter simply got fed up? Why not just frog (unravel) the sweater and re-use the beautiful yarn? Was it a gift for someone else, and then the relationship changed and the knitter couldn’t bear to look at the yarn anymore? Did someone die?

Dramatic perhaps, but giving due weight to dozens of hours of work mysteriously abandoned feels fitting.

I have plenty of unfinished projects, ones I know will never get completed in their current iteration. But at the same time, the materials are very precious to me, and I can envision myself re-purposing them one day. Or at least unraveling the project back to raw yarn. Offloading the partially finished project feels categorically different to me.

When I took more time to explore and think through my catalog of unfinished knits, I did eventually find a project or two I could picture myself abandoning the same way of this sweater. Like that striped felted laptop messenger bag (Ravelry link) that seemed like a great idea in 2005, which I have zero desire to line and finish. It just sits in a craft bin, waiting for the day when I decide its final fate. I would gladly offload this onto someone who would make use of it. Seriously, do you want it?

felted-messenger-bag

Given my sizable yarn stash and backlog of projects, I was hesitant about taking ownership of the mystery sweater. After the third time I picked it up and again commented to Brett (bkcraftco’s founder) about it, she said the sweater would get tossed out if I didn’t take it. OK, that did it!

mystery-sweater2

I’m this yarn’s last chance. So I took the sweater home – I love the yarn color, and have dreams about giving it new life.

I tried the sweater on for curiosity’s sake, knowing full well that I wouldn’t wear it even if it did fit (which it didn’t). The design doesn’t suit my style. The yarn, however, is perfect for me, and the semi-solid (hand-dyed?) colorway will take very well to complex and simple stitch-work alike. There was an extra skein of yarn along with the balls still attached to the sweater, but no yarn label. It feels like wool sock yarn, plied with a fairly tight twist.

I feel a twinge of sadness about unraveling a stranger’s handwork. But my excitement about giving this yarn a new life – in the form of a wearable sweater – is much greater. I’m thinking of a long sleeve cropped pullover, with a horizontal cable band at the waist.

Do you have any projects you would anonymously abandon part-way through like this sweater?

Nov 022014
 

I’m feeling the startitis bug set in. I want to start a new sweater, pursue a few toy design ideas, knit slippers with leather soles, chart some colorwork for a pair of mythological tree armwarmers…basically, I want to craft ALL OF THE THINGS. I’m learning that I feel more gratification in my craft world when I finish some of the things too, so I’m forcing myself to tackle the final stages of Charles’ argyle sweater before I start on a new sweater for myself.

argyle-BO1

When I last worked on the argyle, stopping (predictably) when it got hot outside, I was stuck on stitching a tidy bind-off for the 2×2 ribbing on the neckband. Ribbing bind-offs need to be elastic enough to move with the stretchiness of the ribbing, but not so loose as to cause the ribbing to flare out. I tried following Monste Stanley’s tubular 2×2 rib BO instructions, and the results were pretty awful. A loose strands spaghetti yarn kind of mess. I’ve tubularly bound off 1×1 ribbing successfully, but this was tripping me up and I got annoyed. How dare I not immediately grasp a knitting thing I’ve never done before? Aah, those high expectations and admitting I still have things to learn…

argyle-BO2

In the clear light of early fall, I got over myself and decided to knit a couple of 2×2 rib swatches and practice different bind-offs to determine which I wanted to use for the neckband. So far I’ve tried the following:

-convert to 1×1 rib (as follows: *k1, cable next k st over p st, p1, k1, p1*), work 2 rounds of double knitting, and work a tubular BO on one needle (a la Revknits’ instructions)
-same as above, except work the tubular BO on two needles
-2×2 invisible rib bind off: video instructions

In this case, the second option gave me the tidiest finished edge. I’m happy I experimented and learned a few new bind-off techniques in the process. Now I can bind off the neck for real, seam all the pieces together, and call this sweater finished!

argyle-BO3

Resources:
-I enjoyed the 2×2 rib bind off explorations in this Ravelry post though I didn’t end up using any of them.
-TECHknitting’s tubular cast off
-Ysolda’s tubular bind off

Oct 042014
 

If you know me reasonably well or have been reading here a little while, you probably know I have a thing for quirky, adorable animals. So of course I was excited to come across the whimsical artwork of Jenn Hales while visiting Durham, NC for a wedding last month. The street fair taking over downtown was a welcome surprise, as was running into Jenn’s booth – Charles and I purchased a print of her artwork around five years ago at a street fair in Chapel Hill.

I bought a few postcards. It’s hard to imagine actually mailing them, they’re so lovely!

Postcards by Jenn Hales

“Ballunar”:

Ballunar by Jenn Hales

Ninja bunnies robbing a vegetable store.

24 Carrot by Jenn Hales

“We Race”: a mysterious verdant clifftop.

jenn-hales-clifftop

Tentacular owl silliness.

Owl by Jenn Hales

On our way out of the booth, Charles spotted the 8×10″ prints and chose this piece to bring home. Now that I have both the postcard and the print, I think I can bring myself to send the postcard off for a friend to enjoy!

Double Dog  by Jenn Hales

Here’s the large print that’s been hanging in our living room(s) for several years and two moves:

jenn-hales-mushroom-city

For a better view of the actual work, sans reflection, check out Mushroom City.

I hope you have the pleasure of stumbling across Jenn’s booth at a craft fair! Until then, you can pick up postcards, prints, and originals from her online shop and her brick and mortar studio/shop in Raleigh, NC.

Sep 282014
 

Last weekend I had the joy of gifting one of my dearest friends and her now-spouse with a framed handmade papercut for their wedding. Now I can reveal the full scene of where the sneaky bunnies from this post live!

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Click to embiggen for more detail

Since I had plenty of time to work on it over the summer, this was my go-to project whenever I had a few minutes to craft at my desk. With longer cutting sessions I developed the infamous claw-hand, so I was pleased with myself for not procrastinating and being able to keep my sessions short.

I picked up the distressed gold-painted frame at Brooklyn Flea on the same outing where I found the teal frame for my embroidered hedgehog.

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A few detail shots:

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Bunnies!

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The design is by Bmore Papercuts, all cut out with an X-acto knife by me. I hand-lettered the central part of the design, which included the bizarre task of figuring out how to write a block ampersand backwards.

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And a final shot of the piece, before I adhered it to the green backing (cover weight paper chosen from the many shades of green I picked up at Paper Presentation):

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Here’s the card I made, photographed while sitting outside of Looking Glass Cafe in Carrboro, NC. It was lovely to visit my old stomping grounds the day before the wedding, and to get some work and play done at one of my favorite hometown spots.

lauren-card

We received some very touching handmade gifts for our wedding, including cross-stitched pieces and a sewn patchwork rendering of our wedding website (which had in turn been handcrafted by Charles). I felt so loved and special that people chose to make us gifts with their very hands, and so it felt natural to channel my love and creative energy into crafting this piece for Lauren and Ryland. Lauren’s sweet reaction to the gift couldn’t have been more gratifying.

Have you ever received or given any handmade wedding gifts?

Sep 192014
 

The fall/winter issue of Vogue Knitting from 1985(!) fell into my lap through work, and I gladly took it home to immerse myself in the handknitting culture of the mid-80s.

The first thing I noticed (well, after the 80s styling) is that almost all of the outfit shots for the sweaters incorporated garments made from Vogue sewing patterns, and the pattern numbers were included. Multi-crafting must have been much more common 30 years ago. Way to go, multi-crafters! A couple of patterns for machine knitting were also in the issue.

I like this cropped cable sweater, and it would totally fit into my wardrobe today – sans shoulder pads, and in a bold jewel tone or dark neutral.

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I like the use of color here, with the white cable on a bright solid background.

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Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote an article for this issue! (For the non-knitters reading, EZ revolutionized the modern world of knitting.) In exploring Bohus knitting and Emma Jacobson’s legacy, while she provides tips on knitting your own versions, EZ implores readers to avoid trying to recreate original Bohus sweaters verbatim. “You must resist the impulse to copy. Emma and her designers must be left to rest in peace with their lovely work.”

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The magazine includes patterns by capital-F Fashion designers such as Adrienne Vittadini, Calvin Klein, and Perry Ellis. I’m not that tapped into today’s knitting mags – does this high fashion publishing still happen? [Update: I got my hands on a recent issue of Vogue Knitting, which features designs from Eileen Fisher…so, yes. Not so surprising – it is Vogue, after all.]

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Click to embiggen and see the full effect of the comedy/tragedy pullover, and the greyhounds frolicking on the turtleneck.vogue-85-perry-ellis

Acknowledging the circular nature of style, the magazine republishes a Vogue sweater pattern from 1962 in the “Then and Now” feature.

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And bringing us right back into the mid-80s – knit your own shoulder pads!

vogue-85-shoulder-pads

One of my main takeaways, leafing through the pages and reading the ads, is realizing what a fortunate time we knitters live in with our easy access to information – with the internet in general, of course, and Ravelry in particular. Since I started knitting 11 years ago, I wasn’t in the yarn world at the time when yarn-crafters had to send in mail orders to receive yarn samples and swatches. Now we just pop on to Ravelry to find out about yarns and patterns, and to get inspired and informed by other knitters’ projects. Even projects from a Vogue magazine from 1985!

Sep 052014
 

After months of living in a cigar box with my embroidery supplies, and with a little help from the mini iron I mentioned last time, this embroidered hedgehog is ready for a new life on display!

hedgehog-close

I finished stitching the hedgehog over a year ago, but the right frame eluded me. A trip to one of the frame vendors at Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene earlier this summer turned out this teal frame, and I’m so pleased with how it coordinates with the fabric and stitching.

The hedgehog design is by Sublime Stitching from the Forest Friends pattern pack, and the plaid fabric is from one of Charles’ old shirts.

Framing process. I used the glass from the frame itself as a template to position the design. Then I traced around the hedgehog with tailor’s chalk, marked a 1″ border all the way around the square, and cut the fabric with a rotary cutter. To make the backing, I cut a piece of foamcore the same size as the glass using an X-Acto knife. I stretched the fabric around the foamcore, and pinned it into place with flat-head dressmakers pins. (These pins were unreasonably difficult to find locally – probably because I didn’t feel like making a special trip to the garment district with nothing else on my shopping list – and I ended up ordering them online.)

hedgehog-pins
Then I folded the edges over the back neatly (channeling my gift-wrapping skills) and taped them down. I felt a little squeamish about using tape on the raw edges rather than something cleaner or more fancy, like lacing the edges together with thread. But honestly, getting the project DONE was way more important to me than making the back pretty this time around.

Thank you, crafting, for providing yet another opportunity to practice letting go of my perfectionist tendencies. So, releasing the last, tiniest sprinkle of my residual shame, here’s some tape!

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It feels so satisfying to have this project framed and ready to go on the gallery wall!

hedgehog

Aug 312014
 
still-life2

My craft desk the weekend after getting back from vacation

Earlier this summer I manned the embroidery table at Brooklyn Craft Company’s summer craft extravaganza. I enjoyed teaching folks how to embroider (many were learning it for the first time – so rewarding to introduce people to a new craft!) and seeing how creative people got with their pieces. Check out some of the photos on Instagram: little bunny poopoo, the embroidery table, a pair of heartbroken kitties (they live together but alas, don’t get along), and a hamburger.

At the end of the night, there was a drawing for several raffle prizes – and I won the grand prize! The package included tons of sewing goodies, like this mini iron. Aww, so cute.

mini-iron

Admittedly, at first I thought this would be a gadget I’d hold onto for a while but never use. Turns out it’s great for ironing all the little crevices of fabric in an embroidered design without pressing your stitches. Do you spot a little stitched face peeking out from behind the iron? More to come on this project soon.

Another gadget I’ve had collecting dust in our apartment is this spiralizer. I got it months ago (um, over the winter holidays? <blush>) so I could make zucchini noodles, and never got around to actually using it. Inspiration finally struck when I was organizing another picnic with friends at the Botanic Garden. I broke out the raw foods cookbooks for “live spaghetti” recipes. Spiralizing vegetables feels pleasantly ridiculous, and so satisfying!

spiralizer

I marinated the noodles in a sauce made with fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oil, Bragg’s, and a little nutritional yeast blended in the food processor – delicious. I added sliced black olives and basil to the dish and let it marinate overnight. Apparently that was WAY too much sauce for the 4 zucchinis I spiralized, and so I made gazpacho out of the leftovers. It feels great to soak up the last of these summery foods before the evening chill we’ve had this past week starts seeping into daytime.

Do you have any weird crafty gadgets you’re not sure what to do with? Or that you finally got around to using?

Aug 192014
 

I put the last finishing touches on my knitted acorn tree on the way to the art exhibit where it debuted. What an energizing, inspiring evening! I really enjoyed sharing my work this way – walking up to people and handing them the acorn, inviting them to explore. People’s reactions were very rewarding: squeeing, making the tree dance, snatching the toy from my hands because they saw a cute stuffie and couldn’t help themselves, kissing the acorn’s little face, etc. Now I’m working on writing up the pattern, re-knitting the acorn for process photos, and brainstorming where else to take this project.

This last week I’ve been on vacation, visiting with friends and family in NC for the first few days. Now Charles and I are enjoying a much-needed beach getaway with the pups. Saki says hello on a brief break from chasing his beloved ball and getting his face all covered with sand:

beach-saki

I always think vacation will make for way more knitting time than it actually does. Instead, my time is full with socializing, eating tasty food, reading, and walking outside as much as possible. And lounging. Feels just right for an August getaway!