Not with yarn

Tonight, I am headed to a neighbor’s house to do some sewing. It’s an opportunity to get to know some of the parents on our street better, and to make some skirts for the girl with fabric that I bought last month. The fabric was purchased from They had a trunk show in my neighborhood. If you live in Pittsburgh, they will be having another one this fall.
 Heather was so excited that I had plans to make the skirts this weekend that she immediately started requesting additional colors and themes. I see a Gryffindor skirt in my future, if this pattern goes well…
 I spent last night’s free time cutting the fabric and assembling my materials. I realized that I don’t have thread to match one of the fabrics, but I think I found a nice alternative to a perfect match. I definitely don’t have time to drive out to the ‘burbs for more thread before tonight.

 My sewing basket is packed and ready to go. Now for the long wait until 9pm!

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Trial and Error and Experience

I have once again been distracted by something shiny.

 The shiny has led me to work on a crochet shawl design this week. The yarn is from SpaceCadet Creations and the inspiration was a submission call on ravelry. I’m going to talk a little bit about my process and why a good design sometimes takes more time than it may seem like it should. My goal is that my pattern, when it is done, should be straightforward and as simple as possible. But the path to work out that “simple” design is not always linear or a simple process.
 The shawl has two motifs. The first is one is pictured above. I found it a few months back and had already swatched, but I was concerned that it was too flowery for an adult shawl. The call on ravelry is for kid’s items, and I love the idea of a shawl for little girls. I quickly realized that the motif in question is definitely not too flowery for young ladies. Easy peasy.
 Sort of.
 The next step was to determine what the second motif would be since I didn’t want the shawl to be all flower motifs. I wanted something that would show off the variegated yarn, connect the other motifs together as you work, and have some sort of line work in it…because, as the name Structured Stitches implies, that is what I like to see in my patterns.
 I spent three evenings and lunch hours crocheting different options. I thought I finally had it on Wednesday night. I even did a second one during lunch on Thursday. But I was disappointed that the directions were going to be slightly different depending on the orientation of the flower motifs around the second motif. And I didn’t love the edge of the connector motif. It wasn’t smooth and really didn’t want to crochet around the whole shawl when the motifs were done.

So…close, but no cigar
 It was actually the act of working a connector motif with flower motifs on all four sides that finally helped me figure out the motif that would meet all of my criteria. This weekend, I can crochet my heart out and make real progress instead of this one step forward, two steps back craziness. (And speaking of crazy. I may work out a larger version with fewer flower motifs. I think one of the yarns that I bought at MDSW might be perfect for this shawl. Because, you know, I don’t have enough on my plate already…)

 I’d like to think that once I have more designs under my belt, it will get easier and easier to figure out the straightforward solutions with less trial and error. If this isn’t the case, please don’t tell me. I’d like to live in ignorance.

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Fascia Shawl

My latest design came together rather quickly. I charted it out and swatched during a design class with Sivia Harding, and by that evening I had cast on for the sample. It was a little challenging to work on in my normal manner, since you can’t just pull out your beading supplies anywhere that you can knit. But I was able to get into a rhythm of adding them as I went and it was the most beads I have ever used in a project.

FasciaBaahVerticalClose2And then, just as I was finishing the sample and focusing on the pattern writing, I received a message from my friend Stephanie at SpaceCadet Creations. She was planning the launch of a new yarn base, and did I have any upcoming patterns that might work well in the yarn. Sometimes timing works extremely well in the fiber world! She sent me a skein and I made a second sample without beads. (This is where I confess that I could have gotten one or two more pairs of lace repeats out of her yarn, but time was of the essence…)
FasciaSCFrontDrapeBrickSo today we both have launches for you! I am launching the Fascia pattern for sale on Ravelry and SpaceCadet is launching her new Maia yarn base. This incredibly smooth yarn is 80% Bamboo and 20% Merino. I was a little worried when I saw the loose twist that it would be splitty, but I didn’t find it to be tricky to knit with at all. It is light, but the bamboo gives it a lovely drape. In fact, it drapes so well after blocking that I didn’t even pin the lace open while it dried, I just stretched it carefully into shape and left it to dry.

Do note that the fabric will crease temporarily. I had the shawl folded up for a few days before my photography session, and it took some light misting to get the visible fold out at the center of the piece. All the reason to keep wearing your knitting instead of putting it away. ;-)

And without further ado, presenting the Fascia Shawl!
FasciaBaahFrontDrapeI am forevermore convinced that Japanese stitch dictionaries are awesome. Once I fell in love with the lace panel at the top of the shawl, I looked for an edge to go with it that repeated the columns of faggoting. I included a panel of stockinette in between to show off the variation in the lovely hand painted yarn. (The brighter sample is Baah LaJolla, which is a lovely yarn to work with as well – springy, soft and beautifully dyed.)
FasciaBaahFrontDrapeBrightRequired Skills:
The pattern includes common stitches found in lace knitting, with patterning on both sides of the work. The shawl pattern is written in words and represented in charts. The shawl is worked end to end, including increases for the first half and decreases for the remainder. The shawl can be made larger or smaller by weighing the yarn that you have as you go and switching from increasing to decreasing when approximately half of your yarn is used. Beads are added as you knit (they are not pre-strung) and their use is optional.

18 sts and 28 rows = 4“ (10 cm) in stockinette after blocking.

Finished Measurements:
60″ (152.5 cm) long x 18″ (45.75 cm) wide at center, measured after blocking. Instructions are included to use as much yarn as you have.

Needle and Hook:
U.S. Size 4 (3.5 mm) needle or size needed to produce noted gauge
U.S. Size 14 (0.8 mm) hook for beading (optional)

FasciaSCCloseUpAdditional Supplies:
Tapestry Needle, Scissors, Blocking wires, Blocking pins, Blocking board, 2 stitch markers, and magnets or other tool to keep track of chart rows.

Yarn and Beads:
Blue Beaded Sample: Baah LaJolla,
100% Superwash Merino, 400 yds/100g
1 skein, “Maldives” colorway, Used approximately 400 yds
Approximately 223 size (~20g) 6/0 seed beads (Miyuki).

Icy Blue & Green Sample: SpaceCadet Creations Maia,
80% Bamboo, 20% Superwash Merino, 400 yds/100g
1 skein, Shown in a one-of-a-kind SpaceCadet colorway,
Sample used approximately 325 yds

Good Substitutions – Any sock or fingering weight yarn in wool or a wool-blend. A sock yarn with 25% nylon content may not drape or block open as easily, so consider going up a needle size or two in this case. A handspun yarn in wool or wool-blend in a fingering weight should work well, too.

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Ripping Out & More

My first post this year was sort of a summary of the fact that I knew change was coming in 2014 and listing a few goals for the year. Since we are past the halfway point, I was curious to see where I stood on my goals.

“The short term, smallish goals are pretty clear.
1: Publish at least 12 patterns this year – based on my current plans I expect them all to be in locally dyed yarn and/or yarn available at my LYS.
2: Get more sleep – staying up too late doesn’t help me at work, as a parent or in my fibery pursuits
3: Streamline and prioritize my design process and better organize my teaching supplies
4: Be more organized about the business aspects of designing and teaching – invoices, receipts, etc (boring!)
5: Organize my studio and make it more usable”

#1 – Publishing 12 patterns seems rather unlikely at this point, though not impossible. My next pattern (due later this week) will be #3 for the year. I have several others in various states of completion. At the very least, I think that one pattern release per month is possible, which would get me up to 7 patterns. That, at least, is more patterns than I published in 2013, so it is momentum in the right direction.

Also, when I set this goal, I did not know that I would be changing jobs or that the change would put my design process on hold for several months. Our summer has also been seriously packed with fun plans – some of these allow for good car knitting time and some mean zero productivity all weekend. Example, trip to Washington D.C. when we needed to take two cars:

#2 – Nope. I suck at this. Still trying to get there. But I’m often with kids until 8:30 or 9 and then doing chores until 9:30 or 10. If I went to bed at 10, I would get very little downtime to myself, ever. I have been trying to limit morning weekend commitments, so at least I can sleep in occasionally.

#3, #4 & #5 – These items are a bit more general, but also the area where I feel I’m making the most progress. I have made great strides in cleaning up my studio. To the point that I was able to remove many bags worth of items from my bedroom and put the yarn/patterns/books up in my studio where they belong. So now only the projects that I am actively working on are at my bedside – limiting the clutter and making it easier to focus on what should be getting my attention. I also pulled out two full bags of yarn to donate to a local group that knits for charity. My stash feels lighter and better curated already.

All of my paperwork is in one place, ready to be filed and sorted. All of the files on my computer are better organized by project, and I recently backed up all of my project photos with the help of my husband. (He maintains our back-ups and archives.) And having a standard pattern template, as well as a template for invoices and receipts, has helped a lot in the streamlining of the work.

Lastly, we come to the reason for the post title. The fact that I have mostly given up teaching probably had the biggest effect on the curating of my stash and the de-cluttering of my bedroom. There were a lot of skeins of yarn that I was keeping “in case I needed them for teaching” or partial projects that I was hanging on to for demonstration purposes. Now that my teaching roster is very limited and sparse, I was able to rip a number of things out entirely and either reclaim the yarn or move it directly to the donation bags. It means that I have gotten some needles and hooks back in my cases and I have fewer tote bags packed with samples, yarns, handouts and books.

I also ripped out a few designs in progress. Some were second samples that I know I’m never going to finish. Some were original samples that were replaced by better yarn. The ripping was a bit cathartic, a sign that I am moving in a new direction. As much as I miss teaching, the advantage of giving it up is that my designing does not have to work in harmony with my teaching. So I don’t have to pursue a design idea just because it would make a good class. I can abandon the ideas that no longer excite me, no matter how awesome they would be for teaching.

2014 seems to be about resetting and refocusing on priorities! Will 2015 be the year that I self-publish 12 patterns?

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I’ve talked about the Crackerjack project before. It is made following a recipe on ravelry, where each knitter decides what to knit when their favorite baseball team wins or loses. It is an April to October project, and as of the All-Star Game, I was all caught up.

I have been a Cincinnati Reds fan since I was about 9 years old. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and I remember my grandparents watching baseball regularly. But it wasn’t until I started playing softball in 3rd (or 4th?) grade that I started to really pay attention to the television.

Since I was a right fielder (and yes, that is a direct indication of my talent for playing softball…though I was later upgraded to second base), I remember being especially interested in the skills and triumphs of the outfielders on the Reds as well. Notably Paul O’Neil, Eric Davis, and Dave Parker.

That is the long way of explaining why someone who lives in Pittsburgh is a Reds fan. I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else and I consider Pittsburgh to be home. I’m also raising two young Pittsburghers and taking that responsibility seriously. ;-) It is a testament to how parenting can change a person that I now attend Pirates games and cheer for the Pirates…as long as they aren’t playing the Reds! The 1990 version of Amy would be horrified.

So back to the knitting. While I was watching the All-Star game I caught up on the previous week’s stripes and I then decided to knit a special section for the All-Star Game itself. The Reds had five players chosen for the team and I wanted to mark the halfway point in the season. So I used the inverse of the regular texture on the cowl – I knit a red garter ridge, white and grey rows in stockinette and another red garter ridge. In the stockinette section I included 5 eyelets to represent the five all-stars.

But now I must admit to you that I have not touched the project since. The Reds have had an appalling record since the break and I just haven’t been able to bring myself to knit that many losing stripes. I was spoiled by the amazing record they had in June, and I am having trouble facing the past couple of weeks. But the season is a long way from over and I want the resulting cowl, so I’m sure I will get back to the knitting before I get too far behind. I just need to get over the depression of so many recent losses or distract myself while I’m knitting.

P.S. I’m still knitting on my socks and enjoying it as my out and about project! Because I have small feet, there are enough leftovers to make my daughter a pair, too.

P.P.S. Yes, the pool was a bit green. Safe for swimming, but due to the timing of our visit, we had a choice of swimming in cloudy water or not at all.

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The need to knit

This weekend, we decided to take the kids to see the new Planes movie. About an hour before we were going to leave, I realized that I didn’t have any movie theater knitting, and I was feeling like I REALLY wanted to knit during the movie. We don’t go to as many movies as we used to, and when we watch movies at home I can generally knit or crochet on anything I want to, since the room isn’t dark.

You know when you have those moments when the act of knitting or crocheting is a necessity? I was happy to see the movie and spend time with my family, but I really needed to knit, too. I can’t explain quite why, it was just a very strong urge.

That doesn’t mean that it is unusual for me to knit at family activities, but often I do it when the projects I have on the needles mesh well with the activity. It is only occasionally that I will start a project just because nothing I have on the needles is a good fit for our plans.

So I cast on a sock. This is sort of momentous, in that I can’t remember exactly when I last knit myself a pair of socks. I love my handknit socks and I have a nice array of sock yarns in my stash, but for whatever reason (baby gifts, designing, having a week’s worth of socks already) it has been several years since I have knit any new pairs.

I forgot how incredibly fast a plain stockinette sock can be! I knit the toe during our drive to the restaurant and dinner…

And the whole foot during the movie…

Actually, I knit so much that the foot was too long and I had to rip back about 8 rows that night!

The yarn is Wendy’s Sunrise in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. This is from their Color Commentary series…from 2009. So I went into deep stash for this one. I love the colorway, which is saying a lot for a yarn I purchased 5 years ago. I must really love it, if I STILL love it after all this time.

I am trying a Houdini sock construction for the first time. I admit that I didn’t even read Cat Bordhi’s pattern, but I have heard the Knitmore Girls describe it enough times that I understood how it worked. So far I seem to be getting a very nice looking sock that fits well! And though I will need to return to some design samples soon, for the moment it is nice to have something easy to pick up and put down when I can squeeze in a few stitches.

I am knitting a bit on it at lunchtime today, and I’m now about 3″ up the foot. I will have to decide if I want to use all of the yarn up or stop when the leg is as long as the foot so I can make matching socks for my daughter. We’ll see if I’m feeling generous…

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Well then…

Look at that. It’s July. Time seems to be moving faster than a speeding bullet around here, and I am assuming it is doing the same wherever you are.
 Two and a half weeks ago I took photos to share with you here and on Ravelry. They are still sitting on my camera. I feel like they are taunting me each night as I fold the laundry, or lay in bed, too hot to do anything.
 I showed off my next design a couple of weeks ago on twitter when I bound it off.

 It is now blocked and the pattern is off with my editor. I’ve started a second sample, and my mom is making one, too. I am thrilled with the result, and I can’t wait to share more!
 For now, an underlit, unprocessed blocking picture…

 (For those paying close attention, my next design was supposed to be those crocheted mitts. I have not given up on them. It is just that the shawl does not involve grading, and gave me the boost I needed to get back into design mode. The mitts require a few hours of concentrated effort. They’re still coming, I promise.)

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