Archive for the ‘In progress’ Category

On wellness

June 15, 2012

I’m sorry to have dropped out suddenly and in the middle of my series on the male gaze, too. Basically, I’ve been sick for a month now, and it’s been really wearing. We went to the Maker Faire in May, our yearly big family outing, and we went for both days, which was a blast. But I was recovering from a head cold at the time, and surprisingly, heading out into a crowd and being really active for a couple of days when your immune system is on the fritz is not the best way to get better. I got sicker just after the faire and I’ve been sick ever since. I’m tired of it, but what can you do? I’m starting to get better now, and it’s slow, but it’s happening, so that’s good.

But illness is only part of my life and I’ve had a lot of good things happening in this time as well. As you may know if you’re a longtime reader, or if you follow me elsewhere, I have never finished my undergraduate degree, and I’ve always felt self conscious and embarrassed about this. Last autumn, I started applying to universities to go back to school full time. It was a harrowing process, one that I loathed along every step, but the end result is exciting: I’m going back to school this fall to finish my degree at Mills College in Oakland! Mills is a women’s college, the oldest women’s college in the West, and I’m smitten in every way. It turns out a lot of my crafty Bay Area friends are also Mills grads, so I’ll be entering some lofty company.

While being ill is hugely unpleasant in many respects, lying down a lot gives one a lot of time to knit and I haven’t been idle.

Cables in Lark

Cables cables cables cables

I’m working on a couple of little boy sweaters for a dear friend with two dear boys, and I’m in love with everything about this project. The yarn is Quince and Company Lark, which makes the bounciest happiest cables ever. The color is River, a cool, gentle blue that is very cheery and very much outside my usual range. I’ve progressed quite a bit since that photo was taken and I’m still just as crazy about the project as before. The yarn is a delight to knit with. It’s not a fancy yarn, but it’s so clearly well thought out for the hand knitter. It’s lofty and strong and bouncy and each stitch feels good on the needles.

Lovely pears

The lovely Bosc Hat, by Robin Ulrich

I also knit a Bosc Hat as a chemo cap for a friend’s grandma. The yarn is Knit Picks Comfy in Peony. The pattern, by Robin Ulrich, is clean, easy to follow, and results in a lovely hat. I plan to make another in wool, which I think will show the stitch pattern better, but the cotton blend is perfect for a chemo cap and will wash well. It’s very soft and very pleasant to look at. I highly recommend the pattern, and there is a matching scarf, should you wish for a set.

There’s secret knitting just finished and secret knitting started, and so my life is very full of knitting at the moment. And in the moment, it is my wellness. I may be sick, but I can make something. I can keep my mind and hands occupied. It takes the place of physical wellness until my body can catch up.

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Collection design and me

May 14, 2011

First things first – thank you to everyone who entered my raffle for earthquake relief in Japan, and congratulations to Natalie, Rosemary, Jenny, and Hanne, who won the prizes! I sent them off yesterday, and ladies, my apologies for the weird handwritten notes in blue marker. I couldn’t find grown up writing implements. Yup.

It’s been a long week. I had all three kids at home for a lot of it, and then I caught whatever bug they had, which meant that there was one ugly day where they were getting better and I was coming down with what they had, and they had a lot more energy than I did and basically ran the show all day. There was also one blessedly easy day where two of the sickies slept for the vast majority of the day, so I suppose it evens out.

Heyo! I’ve returned, slowly, to the ebook I was working on prior to Understory. I had it in my head that it was best not to show anything from that enterprise until it was done, but frankly, that no longer seems to make as much sense to me, and I can’t quite remember why I had that idea. I’m planning for the collection to have 9 or 10 accessory patterns, but which ones are still in flux.

The general idea is that each of these projects, with the exception of a shawl that is not pictured, would use relatively small amounts of yarn, enabling a knitter to get some pretty matching accessory sets out of one or two skeins of yarn. I like this idea because, I hope, it would give knitters a chance to try some luxury yarns without spending as much as one would on yarn for a large project. I also got excited about this because, like many knitters, I have a lot of pretty scarves and hats and mitts and other cool weather accessories and most of them cannot be worn together without making me look a little silly. Matching accessory sets can make an outfit look neat and tailored, and I’m hoping that many of the items in the collection can be mixed and matched as well.

As it stands, I’m currently planning on the collection consisting of two hats, two shawls, one cowl, one neckwarmer, one mitt set, a pair of boot socks, and a headband. Work on it is sporadic, as it comes between deadline projects, but I’m still excited about it.

This is the first ebook I started, but has become my second ebook. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I thought I’d talk a little about how I plan a collection. I don’t claim to be speaking for anyone but myself, and I suspect there are better, more efficient ways to work. However, for me, a pattern or a collection starts with a color palette. I want the different items in the collection to be harmonious with each other, but also to showcase different colors. I also think color can set a mood and a connecting theme behind a variety of disparate items.

In Understory, the colors were meant to reflect the setting of the collection – the understory of a forest after spring rains. The basic palette was suggested by Hannah Thiessen, and I had some leeway to choose my own colors, picking spring greens, yellows, greys, and a flash of bright red. The current project, Jolie With Pointy Sticks, is somewhat vintage inspired, more urban, and has a palette primarily of reds and yellows with beiges, golds, and purples, not currently in the picture. I have an idea board for a future collection as well with a completely different palette of bright and dark colors meant to convey youth and energy.

Colors tell a story, whether we mean them to or not, and it seems to me that any design is itself a story that we’re selling. There are many patterns out in the world, but the ones that speak to us as knitters and consumers are the ones that tell a story we want to hear or be a part of. My personal rule for knitting patterns is that I have to have fun knitting them myself before I’m willing to sell them to other people. I also try to tell stories I want to hear. None of us can please everyone, and I think in trying, we tend to create something pretty bland that doesn’t reflect our personal vision. (The painting experiment form of this is Komar and Melamid’s Most and Least Wanted series, in which they created paintings based on polling information from different countries.) This isn’t to say that the opinions of others should be disregarded outright, but that if a project doesn’t speak to you, it probably won’t be one you invest in wholly. I start with colors because they set a tone, literally, that lets me know which way I want to go with the project as a whole.

The colors sort of direct the aesthetic for me a bit. The reds and yellows I picked are less high school mascot colors and more warm tones that I have seen used in a lot of vintage dresses. I started looking at movie stills and vintage fabrics and picking up on ideas and details I liked from them. The end results are not necessarily going to reflect their inspiration to everyone who looks at them, but if the story is harmonious to me, the projects fun to knit and wear, and the end result feels whole, I think at least I can be comfortable with what I’m offering.

New! Low fat! Portable!

September 29, 2010

I’m releasing a new pattern on October 1st, a hat with a garter tab called Maple Leaf Rag. It’s a very simple, very fast knit, but I think it’s got enough of interest to keep a knitter from getting bored, and it takes very little yarn, to boot. I am not 100% happy with my pictures, the more time I spend with them, so if I get a chance, I will reshoot today, but otherwise, thanks to some very industrious and wonderful test knitters, the pattern is ready to go! Hooray test knitters! The hat takes one skein of OrangeFlower Superwash Merino Worsted for most sizes, and the stretchy garter band means that each size fits a wide range of heads. There are two styles, as well, a cloche style hat and a slouch style hat.

Also new is the Surtsey I’m working on for a new baby in our circle of friends. The green and silver colors are very pleasing to me, but there was this nagging thought at the back of my mind that they seemed so familiar, before I realized that ah, yes, I’m using Slytherin house colors for a brand new baby. I sincerely hope that the parents are not Harry Potter fans and that they don’t think I’m projecting a future of ambitious evil upon their child.

Sorry for the short post. I’m going to be rather scarce around here, but I’ll try to update when I can. I’ve become very busy with the doing of things, which is leaving less time for the writing about the doing of things. I haven’t forgotten that I need to conclude the Lace Triangle tutorials, though.

Making my own sunshine

August 5, 2010

This is a weird grey summer here in usually sunny California. I like the fact that it’s not been hot, but it really hasn’t even been warm all that often.  My summer garden is suffering – our usual bumper crop of tomatoes is reduced to the odd fruit here or there, and my peppers have nearly given up.

Yellow Sunniva, though, is like a sunshine injection for me. It’s such a pretty soft golden color, and it’s so soft and drapey and cheerful that it has to make the world look a little brighter.

Sadly, the lack of light is affecting my photographs as well!  It’s a brighter, more cheerful color in real life. I’m excited about the buttons as well – I always like grellow knitwear, but since grey looks bad on me, I can’t usually wear it.  Grey buttons I can manage.

To give you a better idea of the flutter sleeve when worn, here’s a bad picture I snapped in my poorly lit bathroom before I’d finished the neckline.

I’m now working on the lace edging for the neckline, and then it’s just a matter of sewing in ends, attaching buttons and lace, and taking pictures! Well, and writing up the pattern, but I’m very excited to already have some great test knitters lined up.  I can see an end in sight for this poor pattern!

I am also planning an end to the Lace Triangle series soon, too, with a long awaited post on edgings.

Stuff ‘n things

July 7, 2010

I finished Red-Violet Sunniva, and in keeping with the process I’ve been documenting, I thought I’d have some finished, if not polished, pictures to show you today.  However, after blocking the neckline, I tried on the sweater and found that the neckline I did hangs funny in back.  I think I need to go down either in needle size or stitch count or both.  It right now wants to bell out and hang loosely when it’s suppose to fit closely.  Otherwise, I am completely thrilled with the sweater and how it fits, and very, very smug about my button choice.  My buttons are from the ever-awesome green ray productions on Etsy, and they are the bee’s knees.

As you can see, I added a small garter lip to my neck edge.  Overall, I’m pleased with how that looks, but that back droopy part needs some work.  I was worried that the garter, not incorporated anywhere else in the sweater, would be a poor choice, but I think it actually looks good with everything else.  My bind off was a little sloppy, though, so I guess the ripping and reknitting is my chance to remedy that sloppiness.  Still, it’s a little discouraging to think you’re done, done, done, and find that blocking in this case actually creates a problem you didn’t know you had.  (I may try a couple of things before ripping just to see if I can avoid that.  Not sure what to try, but it’s worth looking around.)

While Sunniva was blocking, as a present to myself, I allowed myself to cast on for a little coat I’ve been wanting to make for Nora.  I’m using Malabrigo Twist, and after working so long with light fingering weight yarn on an adult sweater, it is a real pleasure to use thick yarn to make something small.  In two days I had the body of a little jacket.

No pattern, and very little in the way of math or planning.  It was a knitting vacation.  It’s knit from the bottom up and the sleeves will be knit from the top down.  I really, really like the fabric you get with Twist on size 8 needles.  It’s not tight, but it creates a smooth, soft, thick fabric that should be warm and cozy for fall and winter wear.  One thing I do have to change is the shoulder length.  I thought they might be too short, but after blocking they were too long.  That’s an easy fix, though.  Eleanor is a very small child, so it’s very easy to make her something quickly.

Other than all of that, I’m mostly gathering materials for the ebook I mentioned a little while back.  I’m very excited about this and hope to be able to offer something fun and relaxing.  It’s a fun opportunity for me to use some of my favorite luxury yarns, as well, since I want to keep the patterns small and simple.  One skein of luxury is a lot easier on the budget than a sweater’s lot.

Oh yes.

June 29, 2010

It’s blocking.  I still have to pick up the stitches around the neck and add a lip (garter? another turned hem?) but the vast majority of the knitting is done.  It is likely premature to say this, but I think this is my favorite thing I’ve ever knitted.  A lot of this is the yarn, which blocks out so beautifully, and picks up light in a really lovely way.  Part of it is the shape, which is modeled on some of my favorite shirts.  Part of it is the color, which is constantly revealing new surprises in different lights.

Wonderful

June 28, 2010

I came out of last week exhausted, but I am going into this week feeling happy and refreshed.  My tenth wedding anniversary was on the 24th, and yesterday, my husband and I finally got our big anniversary date.  (We did go out on our anniversary as well, making this an unprecedented two-dates-in-one-week extravaganza.)  I have yet to get the rather silly pictures off of Mr. Kninja’s phone, but we went to Stow Lake and rented a rowboat and had a romantic afternoon out of a Renoir painting.  It was perfect, and I feel like my soul has been refreshed – rather lavish wording for a pragmatic atheist, but it’s true nonetheless.

I’m also so so very close to finishing up the first Sunniva sample.  I’m a knitting monogamist at the moment, very unusual for me, but I feel so excited, both about finishing and about starting on a new idea, that I’m sticking to finishing Sunniva until I find out that I need to do something else.  (I have some submissions still up in the air places, so it’s possible that my monogamy will be broken by an acceptance.  I’m not counting on it, though.)

So Red-Violet Sunniva is currently one-sleeved, with most of a second sleeve done.  I expect to finish the second sleeve today and then it’s a matter of edging the neck and deciding whether to add the lace to this sample or not.  (Since the lace is optional, I’m thinking I’ll do one with and one without.)

Anyway, once the Sunnivas are done, I have had an inspiration for a small collection of accessories, and the sketching, yarn planning, and various inspiration boards have already begun.  I’m very, very excited about this idea.  Many of the projects are quite small, but I think they’re all a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get started.  I’m using the energy I have for that new project as inspiration to finish up my current project!  And I got to scout out some gorgeous yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm for one of the projects this weekend, so as soon as I have the extra cash on hand, I’ll be picking up some more lovely yarn for my future projects!  Happy happy.

I need to get together with knitting friends, something I’ve been wanting to arrange for a while yet, but while Mr. Kninja’s schedule is so wonky, it’s quite hard.  So that’s the one little thing left to wish for this week, but overall, life’s pretty darn good.

Finally seeing progress

June 15, 2010

So this isn’t the most flattering picture of me ever, but this is what Sunniva currently looks like.  I love the edge, which has a hem bind off that looks nice and neat and tailored, and I love the color, which is so rich and beautiful, and I love the way the Bluefaced Leicester wool feels and drapes.  (I have the worst time spelling Leicester.  I pronounce it Lester in my head, which I think is right or close to right, but then I want to spell it sans the ce. English, man.  Tough language.)

This version is going to have three quarter length sleeves that puff close to the ends.  I have a shirt with this sort of sleeve, and I think it’s very flattering, though there’s a part of me that thinks I shouldn’t push it and should just make fitted sleeves instead.  Or half sleeves.  A number of people have commented on liking the sleeves as they are, as cap sleeves, too, but I think I’d like this version to be the longer sleeved version.

The kids are now home for the summer, and we’re in the midst of our annual Rotten Cereal Week.  This is a tradition I have carried on from my childhood.  We’re pretty healthy eaters for most of the year, but one week out of the year, the week school lets out, each child can select a box of sugar coated evil and have it for breakfast.  Most mornings, breakfast is a bowl of Joe’s Os and milk with eggs and toast and orange juice or something.  But not this week.  This week breakfast comes in candy colors and candy flavors and it will make you completely insane.

Despite the unhealthy start to the day, we’re having a pleasantly laid back week thus far.  Poor Liam has a virus in his eyes, and he’s passed it on to me, but it’s not full blown pink eye, and we’re weathering it OK.  We’ve extended Rotten Cereal Week into Rot Your Brain Week as well, and have been watching far more cartoons than is usual, but I feel like the kids worked hard through the school year and need a little decompression right now.

Mr. Kninja’s week is not so laid back.  He’s working on a freelance job currently, which means his hours are 9 to 7 three days a week, and 9 (AM) to midnight the other two days.  He’s enjoying himself, but I have to admit that I’m looking forward to a time when he’s home more and gets a little more sleep.

I’m going to see this week how easy it is to transition to working on pattern design with three kids present nearly all of the time.  This should be exciting!

Color is colorful

June 4, 2010

Long time readers will not be surprised to hear that I’ve been sick.  Sorry for the silence!  It’s so frustrating to be taken down by your body when things seem to be going along swimmingly, or at least non-sickly.  I’m most of the way better now, which is good, as it means I won’t have to shank Fate.  Two of my friends and I have been planning a getaway for about a year now, and that’s to take place this weekend.  Had I been horribly unwell, I would have had to, at the very least, punch Fate in the kidneys. You do not mess with Piecation.  Dammit.

New Sunniva continues, slower than Old Sunniva, because the smaller gauge means more stitches.  I have to admit to feeling a little intimidated at making two of these at this rate, but I think it’s good that I’m making the longer sleeved version first this time.  The second one will be quicker.  And it’s still fun looking at the color of the red violet yarn in different lights and imagining how it will look when worn.  The semi-solid yarn is pooling and striping in a really pretty way that reminds me of velvet.

I think I solved my false button band problem.  One set of knit stitches is still slightly looser than the other, but I don’t think it’s the horrible problem this time that it was previously.

I’m using a modified heel stitch to create the band.  I like how this looks, and I like the sturdy fabric it creates.  It’s a simple conceit, but I find that simple is what I return to again and again.  I’m attracted to the complex initially, but I come home to simple, and I have been trying to aim my design that way, for a middle ground between frustrating and boring, someplace challenging, but not teeth grittingly so, and simple, but not mindlessly so.  If it stops being fun for me to knit, there’s a good chance it won’t be fun for other people to knit, either.

I’m also in the midst of a test knit, which I do during my down time, and once again, it’s color that’s got me hooked.

When I’m test knitting, I generally try to work from the stash, but this is harder than you might think, as my stash is not generally overflowing.  I do have a stash, it’s far larger than it used to be, but most of the yarn is either committed to a particular project or leftover from something else and in very small amounts.  So while the top yarn, ShibuiKnits Sock, is leftover from Surtsey, the bottom yarn, Sanguine Gryphon Bugga!, is purchased new for the job.  I decided to use the opportunity to whip up a gift for a friend and try a yarn I’ve been curious about at the same time.  And yeah, it’s great.  What I actually like most, though, is the fact that the Sanguine Gryphon has gone out of their way to make the yarn so easily available.  A lot of popular yarns are next to impossible to procure, but Bugga! is available regularly in large dyelots on the Sanguine Gryphon website.  Deciding to use it was simply a matter of heading over to their site and picking a color.  The shipping cost was excellent, and it shipped fast.

The color is Beyer’s Jewel Scarab, and it really as bright as pictured.  The cashmere content of course makes the yarn very soft, but what I actually like is the shape of the plied yarn.  It feels firm and slightly square (that sounds weird, but I can’t think of how else to describe it) and it doesn’t split easily, because the plies are very firmly wound together.

I doubt most of you need me to tell you that Bugga! is awesome (I cannot leave out that exclamation point) because it’s been insanely popular for a while now.  But it is indeed awesome, and the availability makes it accessible to a lot more knitters than some of the other spifftacular yarns I’ve reviewed here in the past.  Here’s a better portrait of the yarn on its own.

How green was my scarab.

Mostly just pictures

May 21, 2010

Real post soon, including a continuation of the Lace Triangle tutorial (and I found some places where the illustrations need improvement in previous posts, so I may return to those and tidy them up) but in the meantime, here are some images.

Saartje's Bootees in Wool Candy Meringue in Damson

Westknits test knit in Malabrigo Twist in Sealing Wax

madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Wicked