Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hiatus

I am not a consistent crafter. The commitments in my life call all of my attention, and I put the act of making to the side for a while. Of all the creative pursuits I have explored, knitting is the one I have returned to, year after year.

I know I'm not alone here, that their are others like me who suddenly find themselves back at their craft after a hiatus. But sometimes it feels that way; that I'm the only one who puts on hold something they so obviously enjoy while other events in life sweep them off their feet. How absurd.

This time I stopped knitting because of a new job. Only a week after I finished the final requirement for my music teaching credential I received a call to be a long term substitute. While exciting as my first full time teaching position, those first weeks were emotionally and physically exhausting. I don't really know why I stop knitting. It probably would have been a quiet respite in the middle of that upheaval. I still carried my knitting around in my purse and for weeks it sat in the drawer of my filing cabinet at work, untouched. Maybe I was too overwhelmed to put any of my energy in to any kind of creative pursuit. Maybe I was just tired of it. Maybe I needed a break.

I know why I come back though. The simplicity of the act, the push and pull of yarn and needles, and the feeling of familiarity. I come back and it feels like returning, after a long journey, home.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Perfectionism and My First Quilt

Perfectionism
noun
:refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.

We have battles, perfectionism and I. It nearly got me two weeks ago in quilting class when my blocks weren't lining up just so. I nearly threw the thing across the room. Then someone handed me a piece of chocolate and instead of ripping everything out, I just kept going.

I don't know where my uncompromising standard for visual acuity came from, but I know its debilitating nature. I am not perfect and most of my creative endeavors will not have perfect results. Accepting this fact is something I have struggled with and will likely continue to encounter for the rest of my life.

Several things help me back into the realm of normality. Chocolate, perspective, and friends. Chocolate just makes everything better. It helps to squelch the tidal wave of feeling that begins in my intestines and swells through me when something is not precisely where it should be. Perspective is the death of perfection. This one block off by 1/8" is unimportant. No one but myself will notice. I am not making this to be judged. It is my first time quilting. Finally, friends help enormously. Most of my friends are not perfectionists. They happily continue on about their craft without caring about whatever mistakes they may contain.

Because this is, after all, my first quilt, my progress isn't perfect. It is, however, gorgeous. I am in love with it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thank You Cards! - DIY Tutorial


These "Thank You" cards are easy to make and add that personal touch to expressing gratitude. I just finished my student teaching and made these cards to thank my professors, supervisors, and mentor teachers for their guidance along the credential journey.



They look great and are very easy!


Materials
  • Cardstock, scrapbooking, or construction paper scraps
  • Scrap paper for template
  • Glue Stick
  • Paper trimmer or a ruler and scissors
  • Edging scissors and regular scissors
  • Corner punch (optional)
Steps

1. On a piece of good quality plain white computer paper write "Thank You!" in the top left corner. Practice first until you find a lettering you like. (Or, you can print "Thank You!" using your favorite font.) Leave 1/2"-1" space around the lettering for trimming. Using the paper trimmer, cut underneath the lettering across the paper. You should now have a strip of paper about 1 1/2" tall x 8 1/2" wide. Make as many of these as you plan on making cards.

2. Using the edging scissors, cut the bottom and tops of the thank you strips. 

3. Make a template. I wanted my cards to fit into a 6 1/2" x 3 5/8" envelope. I folded a piece of scrap paper and cut it until it fit neatly into the envelope.

4. Using your template, find a piece of scrap paper big enough for the main part of the card. I cut cardstock so that I would have some cards that opened up and some cards that were flat. I often used scrap pieces that ended up a bit smaller than my template. Or, you can use a new sheet of cardstock, trace, and cut.

5. Choose a piece of contrasting scrap cardstock that is wider than your thank you strip and narrower than your card. Trim it to size, place it, and glue. You can place it in the middle for a symmetrical look or lower down for an asymmetrical look.

6. Place a thank you strip on top and trim to fit. This allows you to choose where the edges will lie. Glue in place.

7. The Insides! Cut a piece of good quality plain white computer paper using the card as a template or use white cardstock. Then, trim 1/8"-1/4" from the top and one side. This will make the paper slightly smaller than the card. Write your message, fold in half if necessary, and glue in place. I often mess up writing messages and this method allows you to redo the inside before you glue it down!


Let me know if you make any of these! I'd love to see them. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sea Arrows Scarf

When I knit a scarf it has to be for someone who deserves it. I don’t enjoy making scarves. The monotony of the long rectangle is not something I anticipate with pleasure. Once I am done knitting a scarf I inevitably try it on to find I’m only halfway there.

Despite this justifiable disapprobation for knitting scarves, I still have people I love in my life with cold necks. When I need to knit a scarf, I search around for stitch patterns that will be interesting enough for me to knit, will not take forever, won’t curl, and will look at least decent on the reverse.

When planning a scarf, I peruse my stitch dictionaries first. I have a Japanese one called Knitting Patterns Book 300 (ISBN 978-4-529-04172-0) and despite really liking many of the stitches I had never actually used one of them, until the Sea Arrows Scarf. 


Many things drew me to pattern #158 that I chose. The yarn over stitches gradually get farther from their corresponding decreases, which means the pattern gently curves the fabric. There are purl and knit stitches inherently in the pattern, something that guards against curling. There is one knit stitch that travels on the foreground of the fabric and never disappears. I can trace my finger along this stitch all the way through the scarf and I just think that’s nifty.

Knit in the decadent Prism Symphony yarn in the mottled Deep Sea colorway, the pattern looks like arrowheads on the sea floor seen through ocean water at dusk. And I didn't pull my hair out from boredom knitting it. Everybody wins.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Herringbone Socks

The name of this pattern sounds decadent. Herringbone. It is one of those words that makes me feel, with my poet’s heart, like it means more than it is letting on. As if it were a pattern for royalty.

Terri chose the pattern for these stranded colorwork socks from Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden and I suggested the colors, a classic gray and spicy pumpkin. The yarn is Knit Picks Stoll and, this being my first time using this yarn, I will judge it based on its performance with this project.

While I have knit a colorwork sweater in the round, I’ve never made socks with more than one color. One concern is a resulting sock with too tight floats. To combat this in advance I decided to try knitting using the needle farthest from myself. This will keep the floats on the outside of the knitting and will be, essentially, like knitting the sock inside out.

I used the slipknot cast-on to create a stretchy beginning row. Although I was doubtful that knots would be stretchy, the resulting edge follows the rib and actually is very stretchy. I had some trouble getting it going until I figured out that keeping tension on the back of the loop helps tremendously. 



A pretty good start for the royally named socks. Now I just have to get past 15 rows of ribbing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Expanding the Stash


I have been avoiding something for years. Quilting. Not because I'm afraid I won't like it or that I won't be good at it, but because of the stash of fabric I am sure will come with it.


Over my years as a knitter I have enjoyed maintaining a stash of yarn that inspires me to create. I can go there and find wonderful materials which inspire me. This positive outlook on my stash has only come about recently when I realized that my stash is not out of control and that I enjoy having it.

However, this isn’t to say I’m fearless about it. I have been afraid of my stash suddenly growing to proportions beyond my control. As if I would go to a convention, come back with yarn, and have no where to put it. This fear, whether rational as a practice of managing my possessions or irrational as if my stash was suddenly going to gain Harry(from the-panopticon blog)-like sentience, has prevented me from exploring the realms of crafts outside of knitting.

My sister does not have this fear. She consistently is making astounding pieces of art in various crafts as well as taking art classes to further her skills. Her papercut art, for example, is exquisite. This is one of my favorites from her Create 400 (birds) blog.


I aspire to her kind of exploratory nature, of listening to the call that comes from within to create, to make with my hands.

As I have come to curate my yarn stash as an asset I have also become more willing to create another stash pile. One for fabric.

I have admired quilting from a distance for some time, but have avoided actively exploring it. I think a part of me knew if I got too close I would dive in immediately. I have never perused the quilt books that are ever so close to the knitting books on the library shelf, never stared at quilting fabrics, and never perused quilting blogs.

 
But I’ve finally done it. I’m taking a quilting class. By the end of the class, I’ll have made a baby blanket sized quilt. I have explored two quilting fabric stores and enjoyed the same planning process of choosing materials that I also enjoy when planning a knitting project.



I’ve only been to two classes so far; yet, I already created a Quilting Pinterest board where I am saving pictures of inspirational quilts and tutorials. I’ve been reading quilting blogs. Searching for fabric on Etsy. I can feel the call of creativity in this new to me craft. And I think I can find some space next to my yarn stash for some fabric.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012

2012 demonstrated the eclectic nature of my knitting habits.

 Road to Amethyst in six colors of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes
(Patt "Road to Golden" by Lisa Shroyer)
Platinum and Pumpkin in naturally dyed Sincere Sheep Keen
(Patt "Chadwick" by Stephen West)
Kai Mei and Drooping Elm Socks in Cascade Yarns Heritage
(Patt "Kai Mei" by Cookie A) 


"Road to Golden" was a pattern that has been sitting around taunting me to make it. I would hear it calling to me, from my little collection of knitting magazines. It would say things about how I ordered the magazine specifically for that pattern, about how fun it would be to do a large stranded colorwork sweater, and about how pretty all the other Road to Golden sweaters on Ravelry were. So I finally made it.

Speckled Owl in a white/black boucle I brought back from New Zealand
(Patt is Big Snowy Owl by Purl Soho)
Octopus Phone Cozy in Oink Pigments Sock and my own hand dyed purple yarn 
(Patt for Octopus is Demi Octopus by Jennifer Wang) 
Rose in Knit Picks Swish
(Patt is Crocheted Rosettes by Lion Brand)
 
The octopus made an impression on me as a young child staring up at a tank in an aquarium. Although I don't know for sure, it was probably the Monterey Bay Aquarium and it was probably a Giant Octopus.  I marveled at its ability to so easily squeeze through tiny spaces as well as at all those arms! I've been a fan ever since. I use my phone cozy all the time and it brings back these happy memories.


Owl Baby Blanket in Knit Picks Comfy Worsted
(Inspired by Sleepy Owl Blanket by Lori Emmitt)
Elijah the Elephant in Classic Elite Inca Alpaca
(Patt is Elijah by Ysolda Teague)
Baby Socks in Oink Pigments Sock
(Patt is Cozy Little Toes by Judy Kaethler

 My very good friend had a baby and of course I knit a few things for the new arrival. The Knit Picks Comfy worked very well for the blanket. It is super soft and oh so machine washable! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Little Things

The first friend in my circle of acquaintances is having a baby. It is the time in one's life where you realize that most of the people you know will eventually have progeny. It is a little scary. Well, with some of my friends anyway...

It's a good thing then that this first friend to get pregnant is my best friend. I've known her for over half of my life. I am excited about the baby, already nicknamed Zebulon by the way, but I may be slightly more excited about knitting stuff for the baby. Little things! Oh the cuteness!

For my first project I chose this darling little sock pattern called Cozy Little Toes by Judy Kaethler. Judy did all the math to resize a normal sock pattern for baby feet so you don't have to. Yay! I can cheat and not have to think.


That was the plan, anyway. Grab an odd ball of sock yarn, needles, and knit away. And then I screwed it up. A pretty moment, as the Knitmore Girls would say. And then I screwed up again. These socks were an exercise in how well I could screw up little socks.

Screw up count:
  1. Rib pattern on instep not centered = asymmetrical gussets. In other words, the right and left sides of the sock look different.
  2. After knitting the 12 rounds plain rounds for the foot of the sock and knitting the toe, I set them down and looked at them from far away. Too long. They would be good for elven children with freakishly long feet, but not normal baby feet. Was my gauge off? Ripped out the toe and took out 3 rows from the foot of the sock.
  3. Toe decreases on one sock are one stitch off = kitchener toe is a little funny looking.
How much do all of these little things matter though? Not much. The baby will surely never know. No one will really know, and any knitter who stares at the socks and dares to comment will get a baby sock on their nose before they can sneeze another word out.

 
It is really hard for me to let these little things go, to accept imperfection. But I must. The socks are actually quite beautiful. I look forward to making more Little Things, for the little one, with little mistakes that show my humanity and are a demonstration of unbounded love.