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.

tiny-volcano1
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)

tiny-volcano-flames

“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.

cheryl-hat-laugh

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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cheryl-hat-note

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

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.

vogue-85-crop-aran

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

vogue-85-cable-color

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.”

vogue-85-zimmerman-s

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.]

vogue-85-calvin-klein

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.

vogue-85-then-now

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!

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!

Jul 282014
 

Before the unveiling of my knitted interactive tree project, which is still in progress (yikes, the deadline looms), I’d like to share a peek at my process notes. I’m fascinated by the process that goes into people’s creative projects, and reading Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work! reinforced the importance of sharing that process for me. Kleon also curates Think Process, Not Product: A Scrapbook of Creativity Behind-the-Scenes, a collection of images where folks share their own creative processes.

Here are the index card notes that travel in my knitting bag. The text is perhaps too cryptic even for knitters. But look: purple ink, sketches, and a pretty background!

tree-process1

Initially I was planning on five spheres for the treetop leaves. As I was knitting, I realized three spheres seem more reasonable for the interactive element. At least, that’s the direction I’m pursuing right now.

tree-process2

Unveiling what I mean by “interactive”…the tree will turn inside out into an acorn! I love toys with interactive elements that invite you to play. My friend Anna’s Mochomochi Land designs have been really inspiring for me in this regard, like Which Came First and the Sleepy Snake & Mischievous Mouse. And then there was that time I knit a snake big enough to eat a baby.

tree-process3

I started working on the acorn portion of the tree on Friday, and I was having trouble visualizing the inside-out connection of the two pieces. Drawing this rough sketch helped:

tree-process4

More to come on this project soon – crossing my fingers I can finish without losing too much sleep. The knitted piece debuts on Thursday, July 31! If you’re in the NYC area, come check it out as part of the group exhibit/performance/party PHOTOSYNTHESIZE: Creative Communion With Our Greener Teachers.

Jul 202014
 

This past week I switched gears in my knitting projects. For a little while I was swatching peacock-inspired lace patterns for a summery cardigan. Now that project is on hold while I work up a piece for a PLANTS art show my friend is curating.

Here’s a little sneak preview of what will grow up to become an interactive tree toy, if all goes well:

tree-sneak

I’m excited to design and make a project to contribute to an art exhibit. The short time frame is appealing: both motivating and a little terrifying, as I’ve gotta finish by the end of the month (yikes). I plan to write up and publish the pattern after the show.

Switching gears to kitchen craftings, wanna see some tasty pie?

cherry-cheesecake

Oh cherry cheesecake, your layers are beautiful and delicious.

My partner’s birthday was last week, and in continuing the tradition of making raw desserts for each other on special occasions, I prepared a raw cherry cheesecake. I mostly followed this recipe, while drawing some inspiration from this lemon cherry cheesecake as well.

Modifications from the first recipe: in the cherry pie layer, I used less coconut oil, added lemon juice, and substituted psyllium seed husk powder for xanthan gum since that’s what I had in the pantry.

As with most raw desserts, I store this cake in the freezer. Thaw for 15 minutes, add some sliced cherries, and devour.

cherry-cheesecake-slice

In addition to enjoying the occasional raw dessert, we drink a lot of tea in this household. I stopped by the tea shop near my work, Harney & Sons SoHo, for some oolong to add to Charles’ birthday gift. The only label indicating the type of tea was on an ugly bar code, which I simply can’t abide. So I labelled the bag using a little hand-lettering technique I’ve been practicing.

hand-lettered-tea

Basically you make the downward stroke of each letter thicker. I’m still a total newbie at this, practicing by making names pretty on the envelopes I address at work. Skillshare has several hand-lettering classes I’d like to check out.

hand-lettered-tea-closeup

For the tea drinkers out there, this Dong Ding Oolong is delicious, and re-steeps well – I’m sipping on a third steeping right now and it still has a nice flavor.

One day when Charles went to make some of the tea, he looked at the bag and asked, “Is this someone’s handwriting?” When I smiled excitedly and said yes, he studied it again and said, “Wait, is it your handwriting? It looks really cool!” Oh sweet bonus reward of crafting praise, I never tire of you.

Mar 152014
 

I love knitting sweaters. Something about choosing (and tweaking) a design to match my style, crafting two-dimensional pieces to fit a three-dimensional torso, and incorporating a sweater into my daily life…so satisfying.

While I never paid much heed to the sweater curse, perhaps my superstitious subconscious led the way, and I didn’t get around to knitting my partner a sweater before we got married. Too many sweaters to knit for myself, plus he only started wearing sweaters regularly a couple years ago. Argyle pullovers are in his regular rotation, as is the color purple, and so in late 2012 I hatched a plan with his input and cast on.

Almost eighteen months later, I do wonder why I chose that light-fingering weight yarn. I prefer fine-gauge sweaters, true, but this stuff is tiny! Practically laceweight at 9 stitches per inch. The yarn knit up beautifully – Isager’s Tvinni (merino wool) in deep eggplant, medium purple, and light-medium grey.

argyle front in progress

These argyle lines are soon to disappear – too thick and high contrast

I used Erika Knight’s New Classic V-Neck pattern as the basis, adjusting for my gauge and using a more fitted variation of Charles’ favorite argyle pullover for measurements. I added a column of three tiny diamonds to the upper back for interest on the otherwise plain piece. One of the sleeves has a large diamond for an elbow “patch”. He requested asymmetrical sleeve designs, so the other has deeper ribbing and no elbow patch.

I stalled on this project for various reasons, most recently because I was worried it wouldn’t fit. When I finally finished knitting all the pieces, after blocking I basted the front, back, and one sleeve together and Charles tried it on. Success! I ripped out the basting, spent several commutes weaving in all the ends, and now I’m planning the argyle lines.

Why would the lines need planning? Well, I created my own argyle chart and didn’t plot out the lines in advance. My background color diamonds are one stitch wider than the contrast color diamonds, and so the lines would be off by one jag. When I mentioned this, Charles said he was wondering about non-traditional embroidered lines anyway…

Now to see if I can finish this project before sweater season is totally over!