Year in Review, part One

So, it’s already February and I’m just now pushing myself to look at the year of 2013. Whew, where the hell did it go? It was an incredibly rewarding year, and at the same time quite trying. I learned lots about life and business. My fingers flew across the knitting needles constantly. After putting my sweet black lab, Olivia to rest in the fall of 2012, Kirk and I adopted an adult yellow lab, Suzy this past summer. I traveled across the ocean for the first time, signed my first book deal, and signed a contract with my husband for our first house; lots of firsts! For your viewing pleasure, here are some snippets of the year 2013 in my life which you may or may not care about:

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TNNA, Long Beach, February 2013. Good times. My awesome boss, Yonca Ozbelli and I made our first trip together and got to know one another a little better. We got to escape cold Charlotte to warmer weather in admittedly seedy Long Beach. And when I say “cold” Charlotte weather, I mean, like, 50 degrees. In February. Yep, I’m from Iowa and I know that sounds ridiculous.

 

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In February, I finally unpacked my favorite xmas gift from my favoritest friend in the whole world, Sarah H: Zombie magnets. Highly recommended. But I don’t have children, so if you do, maybe you should stick with the poetry version. It feels kind of bandwagony to love zombies, but I don’t care. I just don’t.

 

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In March, I was treated by my employers to a trip to Cologne, Germany. It happened to be my birthday, so I thought of it as the best birthday present, EVER! Airports in Europe are friendlier to smokers which I really appreciated, especially after a gazillion hour flight with some not so great company. I found German bathrooms really odd. They have these weird push buttons to flush, or at least the ones in the airport did. There also happened to be a Starbucks just around the corner from our hotel, right next to the pretzel stand. Oh, happy days. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about feeling my spirits lift when I see a Starbucks in unfamiliar territory. Like a walking cliche. But I’m over it. Mochas rock.

 

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The point of the trip was actually not my birthday, but the annual Handarbeit craft and hobby show. That place was lousy with awesomeness, let me tell you. It was maybe half yarn, half fabric and other assorted crafty goodness. I’m not just a knitter and crocheter, but I also love to sew clothing and quilt. I wandered around for hours taking covert pictures and being incredibly inspired.

 

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When I wasn’t wandering around the show pretending to be an American LYS store owner so I could spy, I was busy tearing up clothing shops, touring the ugliest yet most magnificent cathedral you’ve ever seen (the Dom), and eating sausage chased with German beer out of a giant mug. The bad part about Cologne in March: it’s really freaking cold. Like, midwest in March cold. But who am I to complain, really?

 

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After I got back from Germany it appeared Kirk had done no grocery shopping. We had almost no food in the house, so Kirk made hot dogs with crescent roll buns, topped with chili and corn. They were actually pretty good.

 

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Aforementioned awesome friend Sarah H. visited in April. Our fun times included meeting this giant St Bernard and visiting the Mint Museum. The Mint has a great permanent craft floor. I’ve been there a few times and will continue to go.

 

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Kirk and I continue to develop our passion for the best thing about The South: Bojangles fried chicken. Seriously. It’s BO time!

 

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After having been in the NASCAR capital of the world for about a year in May of 2013, Kirk and I decided it was time to immerse ourselves fully. The best part: BYOB. Really! Aside from that, it was pretty much what you’d expect. There were very red necks, yelling, boob cleavage, the works. I’m pretty sure I scratched my NASCAR itch for life with that one trip. But if we do happen to be crazy enough to go again, I’m definitely springing for prime seating.

 

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My first batch of fingerless gloves ready to send to the photographer! Yay! More on this process in posts to come.

 

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In June, we adopted Suzy, a very energetic 2 1/2 year old yellow lab. A friend of a coworker was looking to adopt her out because she found out her young son was allergic to dogs. She’s a “dudley” variety of yellow lab features as we could see due to her lighter nose and eye features. Yellow labs usually have black noses and other features. But if they have chocolate lab in their background they can be dudleys. Dudley. I just like saying it. Suzy is not the cuddlemonster Olivia was, but she is much more athletic and outgoing which is refreshing. Before we finally got fed up with the pit bull attacks at the dog park, Kirk was taking Suzy several times a week where she was able to chase and be chased to her heart’s content. For now, she’s having to settle for two monkeys to wrestle with and walks in the woods instead.

 

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I was stuck in traffic one day in June with yarn and no knitting needles, so I was forced to discover the joys of knitting with pencils. I have this habit of tucking a pencil behind my ear at work and then forgetting about it until I get in my car to head home. So I have quite the stash of sharpened pencils in my car cup holder.

 

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TNNA, Columbus, June 2013. Apparently the most memorable things I had to take a photo of were my scallops and hotel knitting.

ADDD

Yes, you read it right: ADDD. Attention design deficit disorder.

Mostly, I enjoy designing garments. I love sweaters with an interest detail or two, but still very wearable. I want to enjoy what I’m knitting, but what I love most about hand-made items is function. First and foremost, it must be destined for use!

Oh, but I love a satisfying quick accessory project, too! Cowls, berets, fingerless mitts. And stripes, I can never have enough!

I like cables and fair-isle. I love to do intarsia and intricate lace. There’s nothing like interesting construction; inside out, sideways, picked up stitches off an edge. And colorwork-did I mention I love fair-isle? Embroidery, twisted stitches, dropped stitches, pleats and ruffles: bring it on! And texture, and, and…

It didn’t occur to me until just the other day, that I have pieces in 4 fall issues of different knitting magazines! I guess I was more productive than I realized about 6 months ago. These 4 pieces are all very dissimilar, and very much represent the kind of designer I am: ADDD.

The first of these fall pieces appears in Knitscene Fall, 2012.

Rizzed Raglan

Rizzed (“ribbed” + “zipper”), is a top down, seamless ribbed raglan, featuring a zipper at one of the raglan seams. It also contains one of my favorite details in clothing, the thumbhole. I am 34, and am pretty sure I’m not going to get tired of thumbholes any time soon.

Next up: Pirouette Gloves

One of the inspiration themes for this issue of Interweave Knits had to do with felting. I can’t tell you exactly how I ended up with this design. It doesn’t especially reflect my personal style, although the colors I swatched in were black and white, which would be closer to what I’d wear. I wanted to design a felted piece, but I had never actually felted anything! Certainly, I understood the concept behind felting, and that knowing gauge before and after the felting process is crucial. A small project of some sort seemed like a good bet. And, hey, what about a project that was both felted and non felted? What sort of item might that be? Oh, how about cuffs on a pair of gloves? Oooh, and they should have a keyhole! Ooooh, and the cuffs should be layered, and when you wear them, it’ll look like you have a miniature ballerina on your hand!

I love how Interweave ended up styling little Pirouette Gloves. As you can see, my original colors were changed to a more muted palette, and more in line with Interweave’s distinctive good taste. Per usual, when I’m working on a piece involving buttons, I took the finished gloves with me to purchase the buttons, spent an hour holding up a variety next to the gloves, and ended up leaving the store with at least 5 different options. I laid a different button on each glove, put them in separate rooms, and walked by them occasionally. After several days of this, the choice was eventually narrowed down to vintage orange round buttons. It kind of makes them look like they belong in a vegetable garden, picking turnips or something, no?

Coming soon, installment 3 of my exciting fall ADDD collection…

New Knitscene Stuff!

Another issue of Knitscene, and another two new patterns to show for it!

The new Knitscene Accessories (premier accessories issue) is jam-packed with shawls, mitts, hats, and loads of technique info. In addition to my two pattern contributions, I even wrote an article on Dropped Stitches! So, like, I totally can’t believe I’ve authored an informative article on a knitting technique; what a great experience! I do enjoy writing, although I do very little these days. I tend to be tersely spoken in real life, and getting things out in words on a page is therapeutic.

So, for the patterns:

Sideways Argyle Beret is, you guessed it, worked sideways! It begins with a provisional cast on and is shaped with short-row segments. The best part about the flat knitting, as opposed to standard in-the-round hat construction, is the ability to do colorwork via the intarsia method! Many, if not most knitters seem to be put off by the technique. I hope this small project encourages some folks who haven’t yet tried intarsia to give ‘er a whirl.

 

Next we have Deconstructed Mitts. Also worked sideways, these fingerless wristers feature a single dropped stitch that serves as a thumbhole and just general edgy coolness. It’s a simple, quick project that is a great way to practice a provisional cast-on, grafting, and dropping stitches.

This is a great project for using up a small amount of leftover worsted weight yarn, too!

A champagne lesson (with a small amount of knitting talk)

So, I’m in the process of moving cross-country. I’m already here in Charlotte (yes, as in North Carolina, the new anti-gay state–boo!!), but Kirk and Olivia are still back in Iowa City. Things are pretty chaotic at the moment; I’m now living in a rental house while we do some house hunting for something not quite so “subdivision” as the rental house is. I have no furniture, not even a single chair. I did splurge and spend 7 bucks on a camping mat so I’m not totally “roughing it”.

My set-up includes: coffee maker, refrigerator well stocked with beer, frozen burritos, and condiments; camping mat and suitcases upstairs in the bedroom, and temporary craft room in the dining area. I am moving to Charlotte for a yarn related job (yay, exciting!), so I have come well stocked with knitting books, all my needles and crochet hooks, plenty of yarn, my swift and ball winder, etc, etc. Because all my other stuff is still back in Iowa, I have no table on which to attach the swift and ball winder. Bummer! The kitchen counters are too thick for the clamps, but luckily there is a spare bathroom with a counter-top sink that is the perfect thickness. So I currently have a really awesome bathroom/yarn ball winding room. I could, like, wind a yarn ball, and then jump in the shower, and I’d only have to walk 2 feet; how convenient!

Anyway, back on topic. So, a couple of weeks ago, Kirk and were busy packing boxes. Moving is something I’ve done a fair amount of over the past 15 years, but every time I do it, memories are stirred; old photos and books, childhood stuffed animals, knickknacks…

Something I’ve been moving around with me for many years, is a bottle of Dom Perignon, 1985.

 

This was a gift from my old friend, Brendan Lynch, for my 19th birthday. (Brendan, are you out there?) It also came with a sweet Scottish tweed newsboy cap that I still wear today. As many times as I’ve been desperate for a drink of booze at 3 a.m. over the years (after 2 am when stores in Iowa stop selling), I never did break down and bust out the Dom. I think I wanted to save it for some sort of special occasion. Although I’ve had a few of those over the years, I have somehow managed to  refrain from opening this bottle.

It was a night or two before I was to set out on my 20 hour drive from Iowa to The South, that Kirk suggested we open the champagne. Just for fun, he checked online to see how much a bottle from the year 1985 was selling for; something like 200 bucks, he found out. Well, gosh, that was exciting! We were about to consume sought after, expensive beverages!

I let Kirk do the honors. Pardon the crappy pictures of our rental house, particularly around moving time.

Ooooh, we have foam. And bubbles! Vintage bubbles!

Now, unfortunately the photo chronicle ends here. If I had kept going as I should have, I would now insert a picture of Kirk with an unpleasant, scrunched up look on his face as he takes his first sip. The flavor experience from this vintage beverage is not what it should have been. It was sour and kind of rotten tasting. That didn’t actually stop me from trying several small sips, just to make sure this was actually happening. I’m not the classiest person ever, after all, and thought maybe people who actually drink this stuff prefer stinky champagne. But, alas, it was determined our lower class taste buds were correct in their assessment that this bottle of garbage was, in fact, trashed.

The problem, my friends, is bottle storage. Specifically, this bottle was stored upright at times, keeping the cork from staying wet. This is what ultimately killed the Dom. How was I to know? I’m just a vodka drinking simpleton from Iowa.

The one-liner of wisdom for the day: always keep your cork wet.

 

Lighten Up!

Latest pattern offered through Knit Picks, Lighten Up!

Available on the Knit Picks website or through my Ravelry pattern store

 

Dark graduates to light, in this simple yet interesting take on the zig-zag. Knit center out in the round, there is no need to worry about matching cast-on to bind-off since you’ll be binding off all stitches in one fell swoop! Follow the suggested striping sequence or make up your own for a totally different look!

 

Pattern includes instructions for shortening scarf. Finished size pictured is 85” long x 18” wide from point to point.

Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss Fingering 70% merino wool, 30% silk; 220 yds/50 gms
Color: #24612 Kenai (turquoise); 3 skeins Color #25017 Sea Spray (light blue); 3 skeins
Needles: Two US 4 (3.5 mm) 40 inch circular knitting needles
US 8 (5 mm) straight or circular needle, for binding off
Notions: Tapestry needle, stitch markers

Techniques required:

  • knitting in the round on two circular needles
  • Judy’s magic cast-on

Links are provided in the pattern to free tutorials on the above techniques, but are not explicitly explained within the pattern itself.

I’m in Knitscene!

So, I’m awfully proud to have a couple of pieces in the upcoming Knitscene, Summer 2012.

We have, Quinn:

Quinn is a top-down, seamless tee with circular yoke shaping, darted waist shaping, and asymmetric yoke detail with mirrored asymmetry at the hem.

I had a lot of fun designing it, and Knitscene did a spectacular job with the styling. I mean, really, I think they just nailed it; the soft shades, that cute pleated skirt, the doorway shot…

This piece is a great example of how mood boards, which are often provided with submission calls from magazines, etc, can really ignite creativity. The general idea of the yoke was something I had already been sketching and playing around with. Then, I saw one of the categories for this issue:asymmetry. Immediately, I saw my radiating yoke work its way out gradually, and a slanted yoke to encourage the idea. My initial vision was in grey, but we ended up with brown (after actually ordering navy and getting the wrong color, oops!), but I really couldn’t be happier with the result.

And, let me say, the result you see here was actually hard to come by. I’m not the most experienced knitter on the block (well, probably I am on my block, but anyway…), but I certainly know not to begin knitting a garment without swatching, for chrissakes. So, anyway, I learned, that bamboo is smarter than me, and that unless I properly weight my swatch and remember that bamboo will grow like a motherf*****, I will have to knit said garment at least 3 times. Yes, that’s how many tries it took. Learn from my mistakes, dear knitter. Seriously…I am so not a loose knitter, either.

Moving on…

We also have, Breezeway Cardigan:

Breezeway Cardigan is top-down, with raglan shaping, straight sides, gathered sleeves, and patch pockets. My original swatch was in a lime-apple green cotton blend with orange buttons–very cheerful. The yarn I was eventually assigned conveys a different feel, but I’m happy with the choice. The Fibre Company Savannah is scrumptious! It’s tweedy, lightweight, complex, and knits up sort of papery. I foresee myself returning to this yarn for future projects, for sure.

I’m a total sucker for pleats, gathers, and most any type of fabric manipulation. Before I was a knitter, I was an avid sewer. I love both mediums, but they both have their limitations and quirks.  I once sewed a raglan shirt with gathers at the raglan sleeve lines, although in that piece, the gathers were much more abundant than in Breezeway. Unlike sewing, where several layers of lightweight jersey all layered and scrunched together is not a big deal, too much yarn can just be overwhelming and tedious. My goal with this cardi was simply to make a good looking gathered sleeve that is interesting and flattering, but not “too much”.

Tutorial: Coffee table leg cozies

As promised, here is my little tutorial on sewing cozies for dangerous table legs. Thanks again to Christine who masterminded the fix to my problem! I have a good deal of sewing experience, so her idea sounded quick and easy to me.

First, I decided that my best fabric option would probably be vinyl. I headed over to my local Jo-Ann fabric store to peruse my options. They had just the thing I was looking for–black leather-look vinyl with non slip backing. I had already measured the height and width of my table legs before leaving the house, so I had a pretty good idea of the yardage I’d need. The legs are about 18″ high, and the vinyl came in a 54″ width, so I had a 20″ piece cut, allowing me a little extra seam allowance.

At home, I gathered my tools:

 

  • Vinyl fabric, 20″ x 54″
  • heavy duty thread
  • lighter weight thread for the bobbin
  • cardboard, for cutting a template
  • scissors
  • pen
  • ruler

Remember, don’t forget your coupon when visiting Jo-Ann. With 40% off, my leg cozies cost just over 8 bucks!!

Next step, make the template. I held the piece of cardboard up to one table leg and traced around the outside with my sharpie. Then, I used my drafting ruler to mark a line 1 inch outside the first line; this is for the seam allowance. I would normally not use such a generous width, but the vinyl is somewhat thick. For sewing clothes, I’ll usually go with 5/8ths of an inch; for quilting, I’ll use 1/4 to 3/8ths of an inch.

 

ANYWAY. Next, I cut out my template from the cardboard, and traced it onto the back of my fabric 8 times. Four table legs will need 2 pieces each.

Cut out the pieces. I had some leftovers, about 20″ x 20″. Maybe I’ll do a wallet tutorial next…

Next step is to sew them sumbitches together. Put two pieces, right sides together, starting at one end, and use the guide on your sewing machine for the proper seam allowance. Since the pieces were cut with an extra inch all the way around, be sure to align the edges with the 1″ mark on the metal plate of the sewing machine. Mine doesn’t actually have a 1″ mark, but there is a 7/8ths mark, so I’ll guide my fabric just to the right of that line. If I ever have a really wide seam allowance, or am trying to sew a straight line more than an inch from the center of the needle, I’ll measure with a ruler and then make my own mark with masking tape.

So, yep, sew all the way around the perimeter of each set of leg cozies, but leave the top edge un-sewn. Then trim off the excess seam allowance leaving a quarter inch or so. There’s no need to have the extra bulk; it would just be a lumpy, ugly mess with a bunch of fabric all bulged up inside. Oh, and here’s my best sewing tip of the day:

(Pardoning my crappy sewing there…) On curved pieces that are convex, such as this, it’s a good idea to trim out little snippets as shown, especially if you’re doing something like this, where the work will be turned inside out. This will make for a much smoother looking curve. This is a trick I learned when I quilted, but I’ve put it to use in many other sewing projects.

Once you’ve cut away all the extra fabric and trimmed the curves, it’s time to turn these puppies inside-out. Turning stuff inside-out is at the top of my list of least favorite sewing related activities. These weren’t too bad since they’re not overly narrow.

After turning the pieces right side out, I folded under that extra inch at the top. Voila: a hem! Vinyl is awesome, because you can practice sloppy sewing. It doesn’t fray and it won’t slide down.

Here’s the dog trap upside down,

and here’s Olivia, underneath at last!

Oh happy days!

And the winner is…

Christine Guest, with her suggestion of sewn coffee table leg cozies!!!

Christine has chosen the lovely shade of orange fire in Ella Rae Lace Merino

I’d like to thank all of you for your totally awesome ideas!!

Allison suggested cutting some acrylic sheets to fill in the open spaces of the legs; Nance thought of figure 8′s around the legs with leftover yarn; Sheila’s idea was to lace up some boots on those suckers; Emily’s plan was to de-leg another used coffee table with more suitable legs and use those instead. Really, really great brainstorming, guys. I had a damn hard time deciding which to choose!

I’ll be doing a how-to in the next few days on sewing the cozies. I’m pretty excited to hang out in my living room without worrying about Olivia ensnaring herself in that coffee table.

Something Fishy

As much as I’ve been enjoying designing this past year, I really miss my “free” knitting time. Don’t get me wrong, I like making money. And I love developing new ideas. But sometimes, I dig on the relaxation of picking up somebody else’s pattern, one that she or he spent many hours on crunching numbers and ironing out wrinkles, and just follow instructions. I know that most likely I will not have to bother myself with the pesky task of thinking. I can just focus on important topics such as, “What kind of pizza should I have tonight?”, or, “I really should focus on adding more clothing to my wardrobe that is not black.”

A few months ago, my mother in law asked if I could make another fish hat for a friend’s grandson. You know, the uber-famous Knitty pattern, Fish Hat (Dead or Alive)? I was finally between projects and had some spare time this past week to whip up Fish Hat #3. Fish Hat is an ideal fun knitting project. It’s small and uses worsted weight scraps. There are no charts to follow. You, the knitter, get to make design choices regarding stripes and/or patterning. It’s a fish. It’s a fish hat. Freaking awesomeness.

As you can see, Olivia has taken a real liking to this latest fish hat. (She was pretty upset when I took it out of snuggle-reach)

Just like thousands of other demented knitters, upon first discovery, I was instantly drawn to the fish-shaped hat with x’ed out eyes. I made my first one a couple of christmases ago for my niece, Madelyn. I was unsure at the time about the appropriateness of gifting a dead, mutant fish hat to a baby. After careful pondering, I decided it was really the perfect gift for a young child; kind of a first primer into the sick ways of the world. (Actually, in the year since, I’ve noticed that babies don’t pay attention to such oddities nearly as much as uptight grown-ups do.)

Madelyn’s cousin, Drew, reportedly had a serious case of fish hat envy after seeing it on a visit one weekend. Upon hearing this, it immediately became clear to me what Drew’s x-mas gift would be the next year. Drew is very hyper, so I decided the most appropriate version of fish hat would be the craziest I could muster.

Back at that time, when I was pretty new to knitting, I was using a lot of upcycled (fancy way of saying “used”) yarn. This was also before the time when I owned a swift and ball winder. My OCD tendencies really thrived on the time-consuming activity of picking apart seams of a thrifted sweater, unravelling, washing, and rewinding the yarn into balls. All by hand. Very time consuming; I loved it! But then, I discovered it’s actually much easier and more enjoyable to knit with yarn that has some twist in it. So I made a homemade drop spindle out of a dowel, a CD, and a hook, and started twisting my used yarn. Much better! And it only took, like, a thousand hours! So, yeah. That obsession didn’t last more than a year.

Um, anyway, maybe I’ll get back to the topic of reusing yarn at some point; I could go on and on. And on.

So, for Drew’s hat, I grabbed every crazy thrifted, unravelled sweater yarn I could find, and combined them all for the hat I called, “31 Flavors.” It actually has 31 different yarns in it.

Regrettably, there is no action shot.

And now, after revisiting the chronicles of the three fish hats, I’m having some pretty serious fish hat envy, myself. Next time I have a lull in knitting, I think I’m finally going to make one for myself.

And you-how many fish hats have you made?

Challenge: Dog-proof my coffee table

Meet my 8 year-old black labrador, Olivia.

In people years, that would be 56. But in black lab years, that would be right around…2. Olivia is the nicest, sweetest, most snuggly dog you could ever hope to have as a companion. But her comprehension and motor skills are, well, not especially well developed.

Meet my coffee table.

I purchased this table at the Salvation Army (or Goodwill, or some other thrift store) for three dollars about 15 years ago. The swirly mosaic design you see here is the second reincarnation of the table top. It used to be trees. I got sick of the trees, so now we have swirls. Anyway, see the legs, here? They’re simple and attractive and hold the table off the floor. See Olivia? Whose legs are drawn as though by a magnetic force to the space in between the open table legs? Yes? Then you see my problem. Olivia has an uncanny ability to get her legs stuck in the table legs, making her yowl in pain, and causing those around us scramble to free her, and hope there isn’t a huge vet bill about to be incurred.

I don’t want to get rid of the table, and Olivia is certainly not going anywhere. So, I need to engineer a fix for the table legs so poor Olivia doesn’t get stuck again; it upsets her terribly! I also don’t want to just wrap a bunch of duct tape around the legs, because that would be really ugly.

The challenge: Come up with an attractive, low-cost solution to above described problem.

Your reward: A free copy of my Tangerine Trifle scarf pattern and a skein of Ella Rae lace merino in your desired color

Leave your solution in the comments by the end of the day, Feb. 28. I’ll choose a winner and notify her/him by the first couple of days in March. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Also: no knitted table leg cozies. The thought did occur to me, but I already have enough knitting to last until the middle of next year!