Birthday

Today’s my birthday – yay! I get to eat as much cake as I can! And also reflect on what’s happened in a year …

I’m in such a different place  mentally; last year I was still recovering from something that happened in January and still struggling with drinking. I took my last drink in July, so I know I was craving it badly on my birthday – how else was I supposed to celebrate than to let loose? I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way this year. I can let loose any time, I just need to give myself permission to do so. I don’t need alcohol to relax, I can do that on my own in a number of ways, including fiber art stuff (knitting, spinning, even my nemesis, crochet).

I was also still playing roller derby. I was on two travel teams and the captain on one. The pressure I put on myself to be a good captain was really bringing me down last year. I had a hard time focusing and being happy about the things I was doing well and only focused on the things I was doing badly, and that applies to my derby skills as well. I think I hit my peak skill level at the end of 2014 and 2015 was a slow descent into still okay but not as physically strong as I was in November & December of 2014. I stopped getting MVP Jammer awards (I have 9 or 10 from my 4 year derby career) and also stopped playing in as many jams, partly because my endurance was down after January and partly because my anxiety was shooting through the roof. I decided to quit the team I wasn’t captaining in May and take a step back after the season was over in June. What I didn’t realize is that I’d be done (for a while or for good, I haven’t decided yet).

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All 100 of my 100 Day Project pictures

Last year I was also in the middle of my 100 day project. I designed and released two new patterns: Feathermoss and The Double Rainbow Scarf. I finished two hats, a sweater, two scarfs, three shawls, and did a lot of spinning. Luckily the project overlapped a bit with Tour de Fleece, so I got two birds with one stone. I also made felt and dyed it with false indigo; it’s the bright green felt I beaded & embroidered as the Moss Garden and this shmancy upcycled Sucrets box. And I felted one of my husband’s store bought wool sweaters (it no longer fit him) and embroidered on that with handspun naturally dyed singles (also what I used in the Moss Garden & the box).

This year, I was on the lookout for the start of another 100 day challenge but it seems that there are a number of them; I might as well start a new one on my own any time. Rather than being so formal about it, I’ve just been trying to do something every day either with knitting, reviving my etsy shop, writing this blog, or keeping up with social media. I feel really good about reviving the etsy shop even though I haven’t had any recent sales. I’m positive I’ve paid etsy more than I’ve made off the shop, but my traffic and favorites are up thanks to working on my SEO so I still have some hope.

I also feel good about designing – I will eventually move away from cowls to something else – and I’m looking into ways to expand my reach and become a little more professional about it. I found another designer group on Ravelry, one that actually has calls for submission. I’m working up the courage to respond to one of these and see where I can take this design thing.

My family is doing well; my oldest will be graduating from high school in June and has decided where he’s going to college next year. My middle son has his learner’s permit & is doing really well with driving. He’s also running track this spring and breaking his previous PRs. And he thinks he just aced the AP Psychology exam. My youngest son has adjusted really well to middle school and I’ve been squeezing in all the hugs and kisses on the cheek that I can before it gets too weird/embarrassing for him. My husband is stressed in his job and travels every week and I wish he had time to look for a new one that’s local, but overall I suppose he’s doing okay – our marriage is more solid than it’s ever been.

Lastly, pet-wise things are a lot different than they were last year. We had to euthanize our smallest dog, a toy fox terrier mix, last June. She badly ruptured a few disks in her back, lost control of her hind legs, and was in a lot of pain. Poor chick – she was a good dog, much more like a cat than our other two dogs. In November I started talking up cats to my husband (and myself – I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another pet) and in December we found the perfect cat for us thanks to some friends who foster cats for a rescue organization. Jeffrey Lebowski (aka The Dude) was just under a year old, is very calm/chilled out, and has fit in with our family so well – I post a lot of pictures of him to Instagram.

All in all, I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing! If you made it this far into my post, congratulations – I’d share my birthday cake with you if you were here, but you’re not, so go find some cake and have a happy Tuesday!

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Grafting Adventures

I practiced grafting in-pattern with mixed results. I’ve been designing & making a lot of infinity cowls this spring. Most of them start with a provisional cast on and end by grafting the working edge to the provisional cast on. I’ve grafted k1, p1 ribbing in pattern successfully, and moss stitch, and knew that grafting herringbone stitch was going to be just a little bit different.

To start, a lesson on grafting, aka Kitchener stitch. I’m not including diagrams – please feel free to find a video youtube or look at the tutorial on Knitty if you are unfamiliar with grafting and need a visual.

When you graft two pieces of knit fabric (knit 1 row, purl 1 row) together, you hold the backs of the fabric together with the live stitches on separate needles (or opposite ends of the same circular needle) with tips to the right, and thread a darning needle with a length of yarn about twice as long as the the width of your knitting – I usually just leave a long tail at the end. To set up, insert the darning needle in the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front) and pull the yarn through. Then insert the needle in the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit (from front to back). To graft:

  1. On the front needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, then insert the darning needle in the second stitch (now the first stitch) as if to purl and pull the yarn through.
  2. On the back needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to purl, pull the yarn through, and slip the stitch off the needle, and insert the darning needle in the second (now first) stitch as if to knit and pull the yarn through.

Repeat these two step to the last 2 stitches (one on each needle). To finish, on the front needle, insert the darning needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, and on the back needle, insert the darning needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle. When you pull the needle through the stitches, you have to be mindful of the resulting tension of the grafting in the knitting; too loose and it looks loose and sloppy, too tight and it looks like the two rows are tied together with a tight drawstring. The goal is to simulate the same stitch size as your knitting so the graft blends in.

You may notice that to process the knit stitches on the front needle you enter them with the darning needle as if to purl first, process the next stitches, then when you come to the stitch again, you enter it as if to knit and slip it off the needle. Something similar is true for the back needle, which looks like purl stitches from your perspective of holding the fabric back to back. You insert the darning needle into purl stitches as if to knit, then then next time as if to purl and then off the needle.

Instead of following the steps, it’s easier for me to just look at the stitches as they are on the needle and work them accordingly, remembering to process 2 stitches on each needle before switching needles (except for the set up and ending steps). The first time you put the darning needle through a stitch you do it in a way that’s opposite the stitch type (as if to purl for knit stitches and as if to knit for purl stitches). The second time, you put the darning needle through a stitch the same way as the stitch type (as if to knit for knit stitches, as if to purl for purl stitches). This made it easy for me to graft ribbing and moss stitch – you just have to keep track of what type of stitch you’re processing and whether or not you’ve gone into it yet, not which step in the process you’re on.

Patterns that would be more difficult (impossible?) to graft are those with increases, decreases, or slipped stitches in every row. Lace and cables and just about everything else can be grafted using a wrong side row of purl stitches or a mix of knit & purl. But the herringbone stitch pattern I’ve been working on is difficult (impossible?) to graft because it has decreases in each row; it’s is a two row repeat of:

  1. *k2tog TBL, slip first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, knit.
  2. *p2tog, slip the first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, purl.

IMG_5192You’re essentially working each stitch twice before slipping it off the needle. When I tried grafting herringbone stitch, I thought this would be a problem, but it wasn’t too difficult to put the darning needle through two stitches instead of one and dropping one while processing the other with the next stitch. I think the yarn I tried with was too sticky for me to get better tension in the grafted row.

But there’s another potential problem with herringbone stitch: not being able to simulate the slant of the stitches. On my sample swatch, the two grafted rows and the graft all look like they’re not slanted at all, just extra long stitches. I don’t know if it’s the tension of the yarn or if it’s just not possible to graft herringbone stitch. I’m going to try it again with smoother yarn and see if a) I just need practice to get the tension right or b) it’s just not possible or c) it’s not possible but this looks better than regular grafting (already true, IMO).

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday I tidied up part of The Yarn Office, my work/studio space (and the name of my etsy shop). I used to occupy the room in our house known as the office but outgrew that several years ago and took over our formal living room. One of my sons called it “The Yarn Office,” which we all thought was very funny at the time, and the name stuck.

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My work space in The Yarn Office

I feel so much better having cleared my desk off and tidied most of the boxes and baskets that are hidden underneath it. I also cleaned off the top of my yarn stash cabinet, but not the inside – I still need to go through my stash (which has spilled over into a basket and box) and sort out the bottom shelf, which is where I shove yarn & project bags and where I keep things I don’t want to part with, like old journals and projects the kids have done. The bottom drawer also needs a good clean-out; it’s where I keep my knitting needles, beading supplies, extra whorls for my spinning wheel, and other miscellaneous things.

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The Yarn Stash Cabinet

See those rolls of fabric in the corner in the yarn stash picture? I need to do something with them, like sell them or give them away. I’ve had one of them for 5 years and the other for 2. I was going to make curtains, but I don’t get along well with my sewing machine (ironic because I come from a long line of seamstresses). If I haven’t done anything with that fabric yet, I don’t think I’m going to. That pretty much applies to the rest of my fabric stash – I need to use it or lose it. This spring has been all about being realistic about what I can and want to do and letting go of things & projects that I’m not going to tackle any time soon.

I haven’t even touched on my fiber stash, which is taking up a little room under my desk and an entire corner of my dining room. I’m hoping to take my unwashed fleece & washed but not carded fleece to Maryland Sheep & Wool next weekend to drop off at the Singleton Fiber Processing booth. They’re within driving distance; I just haven’t gotten around to getting my fleece there since I decided 2 years ago that I’m not interested in processing them myself. I’m glad I know how to go from sheep to yarn but I’d rather work with finished roving for now, which I haven’t been doing because I have fleece guilt. Ah, the life of a procrastinator is filled with guilt, but I’m working on both of those problems.

How about you? Have you done any spring cleaning?

Sale Experiment, Inspiration

I’ve decided to offer 20% off my patterns on Ravelry and 20% off everything in The Yarn Office to celebrate my upcoming birthday (May 3), Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival (May 7-8), and Mother’s Day (May 8) – just use coupon code HBD2016. This is the first time I’ve offered a discount and I’m hoping it helps spur some sales and then some projects from my patterns.

I managed to post about the sale all over Facebook while leaving out the coupon code. Oops. Facebook doesn’t make it easy to track down your own posts in groups, or if it does, I haven’t found it – editing those four group posts was clunky and slow. I wish FB had something similar to Ravelry where you can see your latest posts in groups.

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Double Rainbow Scarf (what does it mean?!?!?!) pattern & scarf available on etsy

Sale experiment #2: instead of posting a picture of what I’m selling to Instagram, I hand wrote info about the sale and took a picture of that. Here’s hoping that catches people’s attention and gets them to check the shop out and maybe even buy something.

20% off my patterns on Ravelry & etsy, 20% off finished knits, objets d'art, & spinning fiber in my etsy shop (link in profile). Coupon code HBD2016. <3
The handwritten coupon. Cheesy or cool? I’m not sure. 

This week I stumbled on two new sources of inspiration: a thread in the Designers group on Ravelry which has some really interesting designs, many from one knitter who has a really interesting story and fabulous super bulky sweater designs. I’m glad I read all 297 posts in the thread, but if you’re not up for that, you can just browse through the pictures instead, a shortcut I learned while perusing super long threads showing dye and knitting FOs.

The second source of inspiration I found is the Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners Facebook group, which actually has intelligent people with really interesting posts, unlike many of the other groups I joined to help promote my etsy shop. I know that sounds terrible, but I won’t spend time in a group that’s full of spammy posts or posters who don’t use spellcheck/autocorrect (or both). Also, FB groups aren’t really that easy to use, IMO – posts shift around too much and it’s still difficult to find things even with the Search function. So Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners is full of actual fiber artists posting about their work, which is fascinating to me.

For a while I followed HandEye magazine‘s Textile section for the same reason: interviews with artists & craftspeople and in-depth looks at their process. And that also reminds me of the PBS series Craft In America, which I’m happy to see is producing new episodes. I may actually rewatch some of it today while I knit (probably the Threads episode); they are fascinating interviews and peeks into artist/craftspeople’s journeys & processes.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend with lots of inspiration!

New Project & Pattern: Herringbone Infinity Cowl

I’ve been working on another cowl, this time in herringbone stitch. I tried herringbone stitch a long time ago, in 2008 or 2009, and had a lot of difficulty knitting it. I think I was using right-sized needles for the yarn which was too tight; this time I used much larger needles than what’s called for (US size 15 for bulky yarn vs. 9-11 recommended by the Craft Yarn Council) and it’s much much easier to knit.

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Finished Herrinbone Infinity Cowl in Noro Akogare

I posted a progress picture of the first cowl last Wednesday,  finished the cowl on Friday, wrote the pattern up & sent it to my tech editor friend on Sunday. My project pictures & notes are on Ravelry, of course. Anyway – to make a long story short: the pattern is ready, but I’m not. The cowl is knit like a regular scarf, from end to end (rather than long side to long side), so to finish it and make it a loop, it has to be grafted. I just used regular kitchener stitch to graft the first cowl and if you know where to look, you can see what looks like two rows of stockinette breaking up the herringbone pattern. I want to see if I can graft it in pattern somehow, which I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around. I should probably be practicing on a swatches and working it out on paper instead of starting a whole new scarf.

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WIP: Herringbone Infinity Cowl in Cherry Tree Hill Bunji

But I couldn’t help myself – I needed to try this yarn. It’s Cherry Tree Hill Bunji, a chained tape yarn that’s so elastic it’s like knitting with soft, silky rubber bands. I got it in a stash sale on Ravelry along with the Noro Akogare I’ve been using; both are bulky weight and both are discontinued, which probably isn’t the best yarn to design patterns around but I enjoy the challenge of using the yarn in a way that highlights its best qualities. And buying yarn from a stash sale makes me feel like I’m helping the seller and I know I’m getting a good deal on the yarn.

Bunji is bulky yarn but so thin & stretchy that I swatched it on size 10 needles, which was too tight. I upped my needle size to 13, which was better but still not right. I ended up with size 15, which is what the pattern calls for and will make a better example of the finished cowl, and I’m knitting unnaturally loosely for me so I don’t stretch the yarn too much. I’m still not getting gauge, but it’s close. And it’s only a cowl – gauge isn’t quite so important for sizing and fit of a scarf or cowl.

The finished fabric is super stretchy but loose and still dense enough when it’s slack to not too look lacy. It’s very soft, much softer than I expected considering the texture of the yarn. I posted a macro of it last night to Instagram; I like that it shows the chain ply & color transitions in detail. One of my friends said it looks like something from the sea, which I hadn’t thought of before. The colorway, according to the seller on Rav, is rose reds – that doesn’t really suggest the sea to me. But it does look like coral or an exotic underwater plant.  What do you think?

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Herringbone Infinity Cowl II Macro

TBT: My First Sweater

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That’s my youngest son in 2004 sporting my first sweater. Isn’t he sweet? I wish I could squeeze his cheeks and tickle his toes today (I could but he’s old enough for that to be awkward). The pattern is Sweetheart Pullover by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas from their book Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions. It was a great pattern to use as a first sweater and gave me lots of confidence.

Not long after, I took a big risk and made my second sweater: the Rogue hoodie by Jenna Wilson, which I don’t have pictures of. Rogue is intricately cabled and technically complex but it’s a really well written pattern and because of Jenna’s pattern-writing skills, I was able to make it. I’m curious about first projects; for anyone reading who knits or crochets or weaves or does something else fiber art-related, what was your first project involving a particular garment?