Saturday, February 13, 2016

Side Projects Part 2: Knitting

Many moons ago (is that nights or months? I never figured that one out) I splurged and purchased the utterly rad steampunk/post-apocalyptic knitwear collection Doomsday Knits. I drooled over every page, and then finally settled on the Fennec shrug for my first project. I loaded up on Cotlin DK in Linen and Brown Sugar and got to work. I had to adjust my math on the fly to account for a slightly loose gauge and my own measurements, but knitting the main body, hood, and sleeve trim was a breeze. Even the seaming was straightforward and quick.

Then I got to the front trim/band thing. I hadn't realized at first that the band was only longer than the shrug on one side. Sometimes I can deal with asymmetry, but a long tie that I can't even TIE? What is this madness?! I knew it would drive me crazy, and the only sensible solution seemed to be making it long on both sides so that I could cross them, wrap them around my body, and tie them again the front. I somehow arrived at a length of 11 feet for this purpose, and cast on a whopping 594 stitches. It took me weeks just to knit this narrow band.

This is where a picture of that monstrosity being blocked would go, if I could find it!

Even after it had blocked, it was just so heavy that it would hang curled into a dense, heavy rope when draped over me. I held out (completely unrealistic) hope and started attaching it to the hood, but it was obviously no good. The weight of it was making it at least an extra foot longer, and it was just so heavy and unwieldy that I was unpleasantly reminded of trying to tie on a Moby wrap.

Frustrated, I shoved it in a box and ignored it for an entire year.

I probably would have gone on ignoring it, except that I spotted the box taking up room in my closet and couldn't honestly remember what was in it. I pulled it down and was suddenly convinced that I could fix it!

Step 1: Rip off and frog the entire 11 foot band. No hesitating. Just do it.

Step 2: Soak the rest of the shrug and throw it in the dryer on high heat to see if you can get it to shrink at all because even with all my mathing, it was still roomier than I'd like.

Step 3: Reknit the band to have NO TIES AT ALL. Only make it long enough to be decorative trim.

Step 4: Shrink and seam that sucker, and wear it with pride!

I'm happy to say that all steps were followed with success. I even wound up putting a small button right at the neckline to hold it closed. While it's still kind of a weird sweater that I won't wear super often, I'm glad I rescued it! And I got compliments!

Forgive my derpy expression. I was trying to look like a cool magazine model. I'm a terrible model. >_<
In fact, the first time I wore it was the to the first Shawl Ministry meeting I attended - Part Two of my knitting side project story! A much shorter part. I signed up for the UUCCWC Shawl Ministry, I showed up the first Saturday in February with yarn, tools, and brownies. Everyone was happy to see me, I had a lovely time, and I cast on for a purple lace shawl that will be added to the stash of scarves and shawls donated to those in need of comfort. Next month we're all going on the Rose City Yarn Crawl together! Wooooo yarn nerdery!

Side Projects Part 1: Sewing

I finished the first fifth of my Design Challenge surprisingly quickly - I still had the fox hat lying around that I had knit for the craft fair, and it didn't take long to whip up a pattern by studying my sample. Because it's a rectangular hat, it also was very simple to resize, and I created a slightly larger size version of the face and ear appliques to go with the larger adult size. I sold one just a few days after posting it on Ravelry and Craftsy!

Since it was still only the end of January and I already had one published pattern in the bag for 2016, I felt comfortable taking a break to work on a few sewing projects. I had been to the craft store in mid December with Chloe and she dug a small roll of rainbow tie-dyed fleece out of the remnants bin. It was only a couple dollars, so I grabbed it for her, and was able to make her some simple pants the same day. The pattern I printed out for them wound up being so large, I had to hem something like four inches up from the bottom, but she loves the super wide leg!


Then, on my little hiatus, I discovered I had more than enough left over to make this super fun dino/dragon/monster hat for the birthday of a friend of hers, although unlike the pants, this one came out much smaller than I expected... I may have to remake it. But if I do that, I believe I can just pull the spikes out and re-cut only enough fleece for the body of a larger hat. and reuse those same spikes that are already cut and stuffed.

Rawr! Sleeping models are SO easy to work with!
I also stole a quick bit of time to refashion a gauzy skirt I'd received in a bag of free clothing. The skirt wasn't really my style, but I loved the fabric and I didn't want to just give it up. I came across a reader submitted post on ReFashionista that turned a maxi skirt into a cute peasant dress, and I was inspired! I cut out the horribly frayed lining, kept the waistline intact as a neckline, and just slit and seamed about 8" in from both sides to create sleeves and voila! The shoulders don't always sit perfectly neat but I don't think anyone who didn't know it started life as a skirt would be able to tell! I wore it to church the day after I made it. :D

Next up: I dig out and finish an ancient WIP and join the shawl ministry at my church to do some charity knitting!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Design Challenge 2016

I felt so good about reentering the pattern publishing game that I decided to challenge myself this year to keep designing, writing, and publishing! I wanted something that would stimulate my creativity, and keep me motivated, productive, and on schedule. I wanted to make sure it would be fun, and exciting, and not feel like a chore, and that by the end of the year I would feel like I've really grown as a designer and earned a lot of practical experience. Earning a little money wouldn't hurt, either.

I Googled for a while but couldn't find anything even remotely close to what I was imagining. All my results were either KALs (knitalongs) or design contests. So, I simply made one up on my own. Perhaps someday other people will use it!

I started with the Ravelry pattern browser filters for inspiration. There are five main categories of items: Accessories, Clothing, Home, Toys and Hobbies, and Pet. There's a sixth category, too, called Components, which is a sort of catch-all for appliques, blocks and squares, charts, tutorials, etc. I decided to ignore this one for now and focus on the first five.

I would like, by the end of the year, to have one pattern available for sale in each category. This means either coming up with a completely original design, or using something completely original that I've already knit in the past, and writing out a full pattern for it, complete with photos, editing and formatting it, and listing it on Craftsy and Ravelry. I haven't decided yet if I'll have all of them test knit first. The clothing one I probably will, because any good clothing pattern should be available in multiple sizes. But I may not have enough time to have them all tested.

so damn cute
I've already selected my item for Accessories - a crazy cute fox hat that I knit for the craft fair. It didn't sell that day, so I have it on hand to study closely, which is fortunate because I didn't write any of it down while I was improvising it! I also have no idea what brand yarn I used, so I'll have to do some retroactive yarn hunting to figure that out, or at least get close enough.

Here's a peek at my brainstorming for the other categories:

  • Clothing - probably a shrug or bolero. Keep it simple. A complicated pullover could take you all year just by itself! I'm thinking a square lace back knit in the round, with added sleeves and collar.
  • Home - Hmmm so many possibilities! Cafe curtains for the kitchen? Throw pillow? Nerdy coasters? I'm the least decided on this one of any category.
  • Toys and Hobbies - Could be a stuffed animal, but I'm leaning towards creating another dice bag! They're so fun! And I got inspired and went a bit nuts sketching out some steampunk fairisle ideas. 
  • Pet - A small dog sweater that looks like a turtle shell, with a long snood. I don't know where this idea came from but once it was in my brain it would NOT go away. I even made a sketch. I must make this a reality.
Oh! And part of the challenge is that I need to blog regularly about it, at least once a week, partly to keep me on-track and accountable but mostly because I need an excuse to write more often! See you soon!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

An Overdue Resolution

Almost exactly two years ago, a mom in my local parent group commissioned a custom knit hat from me. She sent me a handful of Googled pics of what she had in mind, but I wanted to design something original and hopefully, eventually, publish a pattern, so I used her pictures for inspiration rather than to inform a Ravelry search of existing patterns.

She wanted it to be chunky, cabled, and billed. I had fun coming up with something beautifully geometric, texturally rich, and of course, snug and cozy. The bill was an especially exciting challenge as I had never knit a billed hat before and I had to tackle some pretty unfamiliar techniques to get the shape and firmness just right.

Rocking the original commissioned hat in 2014

It took me all of three days to knit that hat and note down the details of what I'd done, and another day or so to flesh out a proper pattern. Shortly after I sold it to her, I realized I would need better procedural photos to include with the pattern, so I started knitting a second hat - the pictures my husband took while I was knitting that extra hat became my smocking tutorial post. I finished the main body of the hat in a day, and set it aside to do the bill and button band later.

Later never came.

By that time, I had found out I was pregnant with Cyrus, I was also working like crazy on getting the Silicon Forest pattern polished and published. More new projects called, my belly expanded, and the 90% finished hat pattern project just sat and sat and sat. And then, naturally, I had the baby, and for quite some time, anything I wanted to do in my precious spare time had to be excruciatingly prioritized.

I knit fewer than two dozen items in 2015 and most of them were for that craft fair at church.

So when 2016 took over, I didn't necessarily resolve to do anything. But I took a good look at what I had left unresolved for too long. And I decided to stop making excuses for the ones that I had no honest reason for ignoring. Like this hat. All in all it took me just over two hours to knit the bill, take the pictures I needed, proof the pattern, and fill out all the listing information to sell it on Ravelry and Craftsy.

Accomplished adult couch selfie!

And now I have TWO patterns for sale. Ha. I'm so legit.

PS: I didn't knit the button band. I didn't need a picture of that. I'll get to it... later...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My First Craft Fair

After 3 months of knitting like crazy (or as crazy as you can when you can't put down the steampunk series you just discovered), I managed to produce a decent handful of stuffed toys. It wasn't nearly as many as I had hoped to fill my table space, but fortunately I had a plentiful stash of previously unsold items to display - a few tops, scarves, shawls, and hats to show off my range of ability and style.

I also spent several hours putting together a portfolio of my best work, since commissions have always been my best source of sales.

The sale was in the church basement directly after the service, so for the first hour, we had a built-in stream of customers in an exit-through-the-gift-shop kind of way. I made two sales and lined up a commission very quickly, and then a visit from friends garnered a third sale. And then, as the congregation made their way home, I eagerly awaited the dozens of people who would surely make the trip to our little tucked away corner of Hillsboro for such an event.

The hours crawled by. The kids of vendors popped in and out but rarely was the sound of the basement door opening accompanied by the appearance of an actual customer. By the time 3 o'clock rolled around, I hadn't made any more sales, and I had an awful lot more to pack up and take home than I had expected.

Despite the dismal turnout, I could hardly have asked for a better "practice fair." The cost of my table space was a percentage of my sales rather than a flat fee, so there was no risk of losing money. Most of the customers already knew me, so they weren't (visibly) annoyed by my embarrassing lack of business cards or shopping bags. There was a ready supply of coffee and snacks, for which I was especially grateful since I had entirely forgotten to bring a lunch. The woman who won my hat in the raffle was adorably gleeful and didn't take the it off for the rest of the time she was there.

 And a special shoutout to my husband, who was not only endlessly supportive and helpful while I was knitting and agonizing over inventory and pricing, but took care of the kids the whole time I was at my table, shuttling them home from church and back again to pick me up. And then sprang for beer and gyros. What a guy. ^_^

I had hoped to walk away with more cash and less yarn, but all in all, it was an exhausting, educational, and most certainly memorable experience.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Hoo boy.

I started attending a UU church back in May. Fabulous people. Completely welcoming. I love everything about it.

So, this past Sunday in the weekly newsletter I happened to see a notice about a craft fair in November. Craft fair! Those words make my heart sing and my brain flood with the smell of wool and fabric glue. Blithely refusing to think it through, I marched straight to the coordinator, Sandi, and asked her what it would cost to have a table.

Much to my delight, the table is free! With a requested donation of a craft item to the raffle and a suggested donation of a small portion of my earnings for the day. Absolutely! Sign me up!

Apparently they are really not lacking for knitters (imagine that), and especially not lacking for knitters who mostly knit hats (oh darn), but Sandi pounced when I stuttered out stuffed animals in the list of things I could potentially provide. There used to be a knitter of stuffed animals, I was told, until she moved back to Germany, leaving quite the sad, knitted-stuffed-animal shaped hole in the UU church craft fair offerings.

Blitheness unchecked, I cheerfully asserted that I could certainly knit a table's worth of stuffed animals in barely more than 90 days. While raising two tiny children. And finishing the gifts for my new niece and nephew. Absolutely. Piece of cake.

Hoo boy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sailor Dress - Ruffles and 'Rithmetic

I got about 6 rounds into the cable section before I realized I was just kidding myself. This dress was going to be WAY too small, even for my petite princess. Rather than rip all the way out and start over with a heck of a lot more cast on stitches, I decided to simply give up the box pleat dream and ruffle the skirt instead. Ruffling is pretty dang simple, technique wise, since all it means is really rapid decreasing. As in, decreasing over half your stitches in a single round. And heck, it'll mean less ironing and blocking, too.

I know I say all the time that knitting (especially designing or heavy modding) involves a lot of math. It's usually super basic level algebra, sometimes just plain arithmetic, but I enjoy doing it. It makes my brain feel stretchy. To give you an idea of what my knitting problem solving looks like, here's the Notepad window I used to keep track of my thought process and calculations. Sometimes I write it out on paper; sometimes I type. Either way, it helps me enormously to write out each plodding step, no matter how insignificant or easy to do in my head, so that when things don't come out right in the end, I know exactly where it went wrong. This is even more of a necessity with pregnant-brain.

The proper desktop wallpaper is a crucial part of the process.
So, here's the product of all that math! I've successfully worked the ruffling round, now have the correct stitch count for a 22" body circumference, and am putting in some narrow stripes before I start the cabled top section. I'm fairly happy with the degree of ruffletude - I think it'll drape nicely once the curl is blocked out of the stockinette!

Ruffletude... ruffleosity... rufflishness...?