Sunday, December 10, 2006

Art Walk, Year Two

I have many images of finished baby items to post, but first, I wanted to share some pictures from the December '06 Silverdale Art Walk. This was the second year I participated in this event, but the feel was completely different from '05. Last year, there was a substantial crowd, and my hats sold pretty well. This year, well, not so much. It was a bit discouraging, given the amount of time spent preparing for it, but that's how events of this nature go. It can be a real hit or miss. Happily, the Art Walk is not my only avenue for sales of my merchandise any more. Cake, a small boutique in Winslow on Bainbridge Island, just started carrying my felted hats a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed, they will sell better there than at this year's art walk.

Well, enjoy the images (you'll see that Drew had some great prints for sale too, but he had the same luck as me) and stay tuned for more baby knits (only about 11 more weeks to go till motherhood!).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Blog is Back (and so is Mr. Monk)

After a few month's hiatus from the blog in order to deal with morning sickness, first trimester woes are behind me, and I'm ready to blog again, al beit irregularly. For a while, the pace of my crafting slowed, but I've got an upcoming baby to clothe, and in recent weeks I've been hooking and knitting up a storm. One of my first finished projects for the baby is the Li'l Monkey Afghan from The Happy Hooker. I've made the matching hat as well, and will wait to complete the hat's trim (straight across or scalloped edge) till we find out if we're having a boy or a girl.

Also completed for baby so far: 2 sweaters and another hat.
In the works currently: A baby bunting.

I'm also hoping to work on some things for sale this winter, but I must admit, knitting for baby has been fairly consuming. Regardless, my new love of crochet has been fueling me with a few ideas. I'm thinking that in addition to felted hats, I may develop some non-felted crocheted hats (both adult and children's sizes). These would be faster to make. We'll see if I'm motivated enough to move beyond the quintessential baby booties as my belly grows over the next several months.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hooking with Debbie Stoller

It has been an overwhelming month. Aside from work hell, good weather and a lack of desire to commune with computers outside of the 37.5 hours I'm at my job has kept me from posting. I also have no pictures to share at this time. However, the hands have been working, and I've been hooking away. In fact, I've not been knitting at all since becoming crochet-obsessed a few months ago. Ideally, I'll be working on a knit and a crochet project simultaneously, but right now, crochet is my new toy, and I only want to play with it. I have made several items from "The Happy Hooker," including the Cold Shoulders Capelet (pictured below), the Ruffled Corset Belt, and a variation on the Sweet Pea Shawl. I did this last project using silk yarn I picked up at Good Will for $1 a skein (marked down from $20). It was a joy to make and I'm really pleased with the results. I hope to have pictures posted sometime before a pulse bomb renders all computers inoperable for a hundred mile radius.

Currently, I'm working on a project from Interweave Crochet's Spring 2006 issue. It's the cover project, called Titania's Capelet, and is a perfect project for summer. I must admit that I chose this particular project because I'm attempting to "knit from my stash" and save some moola, and I just happened to have a linen yarn in the correct gauge (actually, it's a linen/cotten blend called Cotton Connection from New Zealand that I picked up at last year's rotary auction). It's turning out to be a wonderfully fun project. Thankfully, it's also taking me a long time to complete. I've been burning through projects lately, which is not so good for the stash or the wallet. It's been nice to have a more lengthy project to concentrate on.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that my copy of "The Happy Hooker," along with my other Stich n' Bitch books are now signed by Debbie Stoller, who I saw read right here on the Island at the beginning of the month. She was just as witty as I thought she would be, though I sense she had to tone things down a bit for the Bainbridge crowd. It might have been nice to see her in Seattle, but I am absolutely thrilled that she ventured out to the Island. We need more of that sort of thing here! I wore the Cold Shoulders Capelet to the event, even though I felt a bit self-conscious doing so. I figured that if I wrote a knit/crochet book and people came to the book-signing wearing the designs from my book, I'd be thrilled. And indeed, she seemed happy that I and one other woman came wearing Happy Hooker creations. She had me show it off and pass it around for everyone to see. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet her.

Till next time...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Amber's First Crochet Project

Amber becomes a "Happy Hooker"

About 4 weeks ago, I gave up my resistance to crochet, bought Debbie Stoller's new book, The Happy Hooker (and here's the link to the NPR story), and became an instant convert. I LOVE crochet! I know there is a long-standing feud between crochet and knitting (knitting is hip and cool, crochet is dorky), but I don't really see the point in comparing them in order to shine one or the other in a negative light. And now that I've learned the basic elements of crochet, I am quite proud delighted to say that I'm
a happy hooker (read Stoller's book to hear which came first, the prostitute or the crafter). My new-found exuberance for this fiber art should be apparent by the numerous pictures of my very first crochet project, the Cold Shoulders Capelet, from The Happy Hooker. I went against my own advice and chose a project with mohair. Mohair complicates beginners hands by making the stitches harder to see clearly. I always caution new knitters against using novelty yarns of any kind for their first projects for this reason, and here I found myself loving this project so much, I just couldn't resist. While it slowed me down at first, I soon got the hang of it. I'm glad I went with this project, as it's fast become one of my favorite hand-made items. More crochet (and knitting) to come later.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blankets for Babes

2 of the 7 members of my stitch n' bitch are awaiting the arrival of new babies. When we found out Jill and Melissa were pregnant, we decided to knit up squares (2 squares each person for each blanket) and then put them together and present them to the expectant moms as a surprise. We even tricked Jill and Melissa into knitting squares for their own blankets by convincing them they were knitting for the other woman. Once everyone knit their squares, I gathered the pieces and sewed them together. I was a little worried at first, I'll admit. There were a lot of different colors going on in each blanket, and I was concerned that the end result would not be pleasing to the eye. After rearranging the squares again and again, Drew's keen eye for color and pattern stepped in and helped settle me on the final layout which I ended up really liking. The moms-to-be seemed genuinely surprised and happy with their baby blankets. Good job everyone!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Plight of the Left-Handed Knitter

Finally, after a month and a half hiatus, I am returning to my poor neglected blog. My excuses for not updating my blog for so long are numerous and I will spare you, dear reader, by not naming every one of them. However, I must mention something that happened in February that relates to my knitting output. If you've read past entries, you know that I completed course work for Level 1 of the Knitting Guild Association's Master Knitters program. They were very prompt to return my portfolio, and I was very prompt in my response to their criticismthat of shedding big crocodile tears.

Now, I was expecting, even hoping for constructive criticism. I want to improve, after all. But the basis for their criticism was that I knit left handed and that is simply not going to fly with them. They cannot, apparently, work with me reversing everything so that my hands can coordinate with my brain. "Oh, now, we wouldn't expect you to become right-handed, but you do have to knit right-handed." I mean, what is that! Yes, I can knit right-handed. I was taught continental knitting right-handed and stuck with it for a good 3 months. And let me tell you, those three months were the worst of my knitting career. I never felt like I got a flow, and I worked at it for hours upon hours. After a while, I started knitting less and less, and even got to the point where I felt like I should just stop all together. After all the joie de vie was gone. Then one day I said to myself "you silly girl, why don't you just reverse which hand you hold the yarn in." And I did, and all was well in Mayberry again.

Let me be clear about something: I did not choose to be left-handed. I was born this way. I knit left-handed because of the way my brain is hard-wired and because it is what feels natural to me. I would challenge any of the right-handed people at the knitting guild to switch gears and knit entirely left-handed for several months, and see if they ever gain the flow and speed they have when knitting the way they are accustomed to. Everyone's brains work differently, and those with ambidextrous tendencies may be able to achieve this, but I am not of this camp; I know I'm not because I gave it a good college try. Still, I am grateful to be able to go back and forth. I'll switch to right-handed knitting if I'm teaching a righty how to knit, for example. But do I totally give up the method of knitting that comes natural and enables me to reach a meditative state just because an association says so? Hhmm.

So, after receiving word from the Knitting Guild people that knitting left-handed made me a crappy knitter, I was left with a big decision. No, wait, first I was left with days of pointless depression. I didn't knit, I cried over spilled soy milk, I put Drew on the front seat of my emotional roller coaster, I let work stress get to me, and so on. And then, I got over it. At least mostly. Then I was left with the big decision: do I kowtow to the powers that be, reverse my knitting so that I give them what they want, even though I won't enjoy my art any more, or do I tell them to take a hike, branch out on my own, and consider this whole experience a kick in the butt for me to do my own thing and not let the Establishment crush my spirit. I commiserated with other leftiesmy parents, my best friend back in Wisconsin, and with sympathetic righties as well. They all said the same thing, and now I will officially say it too. Fuck you Knitting Guild Association, fuck you.

Harsh words, yes, I know. Despite my f-u statement, however, I will go back and re-read all of the criticism handed down by the folks at the Knitting Guild. The woman writing to me did try to be nice, she did give me high marks on all of the written work, and I have no doubt that some of what she said regarding my knitting is totally legitimate. I don't want to be a spoil sport who cannot take personal criticism. Honest! When my portfolio showed up in the mail and I read over everything with growing dismay and disenchantment, I had to put it aside and let it in the corner of the office for a while, so that I could regain my sense of purpose. It really was an ego blow because the criticism centered on something about myself that I can't changemy left-handedness. It's made me seriously doubt my abilities. Maybe everything I've knit really is crap. Maybe I'll never be able to design a decent pattern and have it published. Maybe they're right and I should conform or die. Well, at that point, reading again and again how horrid my portfolio was wasn't going to help matters. But the time is drawing nigh. It's reaching the point when I must face facts and see if I can take anything useful from what they've handed back to me. I'm sure I can. But I will not be resubmitting the work, and I will not be sending them any more money for future courses. What I will be doing is knitting, and lots of it. My knitting will not conform, or die.

That being said, it's the end of March and I'm back in the groove. The images above shows you two hats I worked on in the midst of the Knitting Guild debacle. I've been asked to do another art walk, this time on Bainbridge (sometime next fall?) so my goal is to keep making hats every now and then in order to build up a stock. Also, if I don't procrastinate, I'll have time to experiment with different ideas. Leading up to the last art walk, I really had to stick with what I knew would work in order to have enough merchandise. So now, I can take more chances, artistically speaking.

Also, I've already got several forthcoming blog entries in the works. My stitch n' bitch group just completed 2 blankets for our two expectant mothers, so there's that. Then there's my big exciting news. I learned to crochet last weekend, thanks to one of my heroes, Stitch n' Bitch author and Bust magazine editor Debbie Stoller. And I just finished my first project. More on that, coming soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Finished Fair-Isle

As promised, here is the finished product, completed after a few weeks of work. The color is slightly washed out, but you get the gist. Overall, I am very happy with the results. The biggest challenge with fair-isle is to keep the tension of both yarns you are carrying even throughout the row. This went pretty well, though the result is less-than-perfect. The only thing that drove me a bit crazy was the finishing work. Once I complete knitting a sweater, I am most impatient to have it all seamed together and completed. I really don't want to be bothered with sewing and blocking. But, alas, these things are unavoidable, and the color pattern dictated that there would be many ends to weave in. In a few places colors peaked though due to hasty weaving, and had to be pulled through to the back of the work. It was a pain, and well, I've learned my lesson. Once all ends were weaved in (properly), I heavily steam-blocked the areas that needed it, such as the sleeves, and the bottom and top, which curled up regardless of the garter-stitch boarder. And, ta-da! Fairly Easy Fair-Isle is finished!

Next, I've got several hat orders and most of my hats have already sold, so I best get crackin' and turn out a few more.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fair-Isle, Finally

After three years of resistance, the fair-isle bug has finally got me. I figured I was long overdue to delve into the world of color patterning. Still, I decided it would be best to start with something basic. That said, I chose the Fairly Easy Fair-Isle sweater from Debbie Stoller's Stitch n' Bitch Nation as my jumping off point. Right now, I've finished the sleeves, and am more than half-way done with the yoke, which, being full of fair-isle, really is the fun part. Hopefully, I'll have pictures of the completed project posted by the end of this weekend.

I've gotta say, realizing that fair-isle doesn't have to be so complicated opens up a whole new world for me. The cardigan, even with the fair-isle, is an extremely basic pattern. Why didn't I try this a long time ago? The possibilities are endless. But before I get too cocky, a week or so ago, I stumbled across the blog of a knitwear designer, Eunny Jang, who deserves all of our praise and adoration. If you have a moment, check out her blog, called See Eunny Knit! She is incredible, and certainly puts me in my place as an admiring amateur. Her site includes works-in-progress, past projects, patterns (for free and for sale) and very well done tutorials. Eunny, you are my new hero.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Level 1 is in the hands of the knitting fates

On Tuesday, I mailed off my portfolio for Level 1 of the Knitting Guild's Master Hand Knitting program. I await their judgment. Once received, the portfolio will be sent to several expert knitters to look at and critique. They will then ship it back to me and have me redo anything that isn't quite right. I sent a cover letter indicating that I'm left-handed and therefore knit "backwards" from most knitters. I wonder if they'll be able to tell.

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but I wanted to give you some idea of what went into completing level 1, and I am not the expert photographer in the family. These pictures were taken with inadequate lighting, and by the time Drew realized what I had done, I'd already packed up the box and mailed it off. So, no photo redos. Anyways, the program dictated that I complete 16 swatches. Each swatch is meant to show competency in one or more skills, including ribbing, increasing, decreasing, cables, joining yarn, etc. I also completed 14 questions pertaining to the skills learned knitting the swatches, plus a short report on blocking, and detailed knitting directions for a cable pattern of my choice (see single swatch picture).

This all took longer than I anticipated, partly because I procrastinated, partly because each answer needed to be referenced. Well, mostly because I procrastinated. I'll have to wait a number of weeks now to see how I faired. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

3 years of knitting

Last month marked a 3 year anniversary between me and my knitting obsession. I originally learned to knit while in grad school for Library Science as a way to control stress. Now that I'm out of school and have a real grown-up job as a librarian, I still use it for this purpose and consider it a form of meditation.

I honestly don't know what I did with my time before
I taught myself to knit. Although in many
ways, I'm still very much a beginner, I have been think a lot about how much I've learned during the past three years. The pictures, I hope, illustrate some sort of growth. Taken right outside our front door, these two scarves retain their own unique place in my knitting history. The grey, white, and tan scarf was one of my very first projects, knit in December '02. It's a garter-stitched pattern using cheap acrylic yarn--no frills. I didn't even know how to purl at the time of it's creation (though that skill came with my next project).

The lace scarf, created in the Fall of '05 was also a first for me: this is the very first project knit from wool I had spun and dyed myself. The wool comes from Bart the sheep, who lives in the pasture shown in the background. Before spinning, I dyed the wool with Kool-Aid and, amazingly enough, got all of these subtle earthy tones, rather than the neon greens and yellows one would expect from Kool-Aid. If you want to know more about knitting with this substance, there are many sites available online. The Fall '02 issue of discusses it nicely (although I didn't follow this exact method). If you do decide to try out Kool-Aid dying, remember, Kool-Aid makes a great and simple-to-use dye, but it is disgusting, non-the-less. It is best not to ingest it, in any form. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT breath in when opening the packages. I speak from experience. The dust is deadly, and you will smell fabricated grape fragrance wherever you go for days. Same rules apply to contact with skin.

The lace shawl is an alteration of a pattern from VOGUEknitting Fall '05 issue. Lace is still difficult for me as it entails remaining mindful all of the time, and my attention span leaves something to be desired. Hence, many rows had to be ripped out and redone. But it was worth the headaches. Although I have a long way to go until I can say with assurance that I'm an expert knitter, I feel like my progression over the past three years at least shows that I've started on the path.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mom gets a hat

I sent my mom, who's back in Wisconsin, one of my clotche hat creations. Doesn't she look great?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Drew's Hat

At long last, Drew surprised me by glancing at a hat pattern in a magazine and actually exclaiming that he liked what he saw. His choice was not what I expected, but as I have wanted to make him a hat for quite a while, I went with it. The pattern is from the fall/winter 05 issue of Knitscene magazine. The Earflap Hat is a great, super-easy and quick, versatile pattern worked from the top down. Drew even said he wanted the 4 pom-poms, though I've told him since that I can always remove them (they do tend to knock around quite a bit when he moves). Since I really wanted him to like the finished product, I insisted that he pick out the yarn. That Saturday, we headed to my fabulous local yarn store, Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, and he selected his yarn. Unfortunately, the brand escapes me, and I've already lost the tag, but it is a soft wool and the green matches his eyes perfectly. That night, I knit the hat, and he was wearing it the very next day! A success! Maybe some day I'll be brave enough to make him a sweater.

I have been neglecting my blog, but not my knitting for the past month. I am mostly finished with the work for the Master Knitting Level I course. I had intended to finish over winter break, but decided it wasn't worth stressing out over. The knitting assignments went fast, but the written work has been dragging by. Every answer given must be referenced, which is as it should be, but it has slowed me down. At the same time, I've been learning a lot more than I thought I would. Particularly, I've learned how much I don't know. Because I'm self-taught and lazy, I tend to stick with learning one particular cast on, one increasing technique, etc., instead of branching out and learning which techniques are the best for particular situations. I have a feeling that this fact will result in the instructors asking me to redo a few swatches. It makes me a little nervous at the thought of them closely scrutinizing my work, but it's certainly what I need to truly improve.

Over the past month, I've also completed a couple additional projects, besides the 16 swatches for Level I and Drew's hat: A baby sweater and hat, two hats for my niece and nephew, a ribbon scarf, and a sweater for myself, knit in the round from bottom up with a yoke (my first attempt at creating my own sweater pattern as I knit it and my first time knitting a yoke).

Last month marked my 3 year "knitting anniversary." More on that in my next entry... Coming soon!