Ok, I’m dying over how cute Noelle is. This is my precious little niece, who is 6 years old. Back when she was a baby, I made Wendy Bernard’s “Girlfriend’s Swing Coat“ in a 2T size. Well, she ended up not wearing it, partially because I made a 2T for a baby and it’s kinda hard to remember it’s there by the time she can fit into it.
Last night, we tried it on her and it FIT! The cropped style on Noelle is precious and she is rocking that thing to kindergarten this morning. LOVES.
The coat will be featured, alongside two other items I’ve knitted, in my Knitting Guild‘s fashion show next month. This time, they are highlighting children’s knits, which are my favorite by far. I will be 8-months pregnant, though, so I hope I’ll be able to go to the meeting. If so, I’ll take lots of pics because this should be ADORABLE.
See what I did there? Ha! So, I’m usually the one giving away baby knits but THIS time is different. See…I’m pregnant with my first child, little Owen Paul Scalzo, due 4/29/13. Yay!!!! (super happy dance)
It explains why I haven’t exactly been an active participant on this blog/website thing for a while. I have been designing, but getting projects finished, written, and edited while also prepping for baby AND buying our first house has been a bit of a challenge. It’s a good thing I have such wonderful knitters (and a crocheter) in my life! Behold the handmade bounty of my baby shower!!
The baby hat is my 6-year-old niece’s very first project, made on a Knifty Knitter. I don’t recall the patterns for the green and white blankets, but the blue one can be found here on Ravelry!
Who’s got four thumbs, a big ole belly, and is one lucky mama? THIS GAL!
For those of us who spend the bulk of our time in our homes, it can often be difficult to gain inspiration. I have a vast reservoir of tidbits in my imagination that, with time and opportunity, will rise to the top and eventually blend into something pretty cool. There are times, though, when that reservoir feels like it’s drying up and I need to bust out and breathe some new air.
I was incredibly fortunate, therefore, that I was scheduled to leave the sunny San Diego shores and attend Vogue Knitting Live’s most recent event in Chicago! I attended fashion shows and lectures, and also took a few design courses from Kristen Rengren, Shannon Okey, Debbie Stoller, and Josh Bennett. Simply amazing. I can usually knit through classes and get the gist by listening leisurely, but I was furiously scribbling notes for three days (between visits to the Marketplace, of course). I didn’t even touch one of the projects I brought with me.
I wish I could just upload and share some of the design worksheets I received during the classes but I’m pretty sure they’re proprietary and it would be unprofessional (and just plain rude) to distribute the meat of their content without providing monetary compensation/permission. I can, however, offer some advice given via panel discussions and classes that you might fund helpful and thus avoid feeling as if I’m cheating anyone:
1) Never knit a gauge swatch drunk (or heavily buzzed). Yeah, I already figured that out. If boozin’, my needles go back in the bag. But, really, it does change your gauge and your project will not be what you expected. If you’re already past the swatch stage and working on your project, the risk of gauge inconsistencies and mistakes is not worth it. I know, I know, “you’re no fun”.
More after the jump!
My mother once cross-stitched and framed a quote for me when I was a kid. It said, “Creative Minds are Seldom Tidy.” I loved it because it was pretty and my mom made it for me. I didn’t quite get the whole “your room is a disaster but you’re a little eccentric, so I’ll let it slide for now” thing. Creative minds, I think, owe part of their mess to all the random projects they are juggling at once. In my home now, there is an unfinished shoe design (complete with a Barbie doll who sacrificed her leg to the cause), a few knitting projects, a trash/recycling concept that is now half-finished and cluttering up the kitchen, skull reproductions and silicone casts of the interior of the skulls, a bell pepper trapped in a chunk of acrylic (don’t ask), you name it…there are so many things to make and do and they become this little graveyard in your living space…until, that is, you see them through and put them to use.
I’ve decided to try harder to see more of my ridiculous side projects (RSP), through. I think it would help clear out all the closets in my mind and my home. Sounds like a good recurring post here, too! So, without further ado…my first RSP: The Waffle Iron Cozy. It’s ridiculous because I’m sure there are other ways I could protect this thing, but knitting is way more fun. And it’s a side project because it is almost totally unnecessary while keeping me from checking items off my to-do list. My poor husband.
So, anyway. Evan and I go camping from time to time with our friends. We registered for some new equipment for our wedding and received all kinds of fun toys! I especially enjoy anything having to do with food, so the marshmallow forks and sausage cookers and burger thingies are my favorite. The waffle iron, which you hold over a fire, is cast iron and requires some upkeep (ie. greasing) to prevent rusting. But that makes it hard to store, so I wanted to knit a cozy for it! It is entirely possible that the very idea is ill-fated. Maybe the cotton will absorb too much and the iron will just rust anyway, or even quicker. Who knows! I could probably look up stuff like that but I kinda like learning the hard way. Nothing like good, solid life experience as your teacher.
Now, this isn’t exactly a pattern, since I just winged it and I seriously doubt you need to know how to make a cozy for the waffle iron I happened to receive. My patterns are a lot more clear and thoughtfully laid out (see “heartypants” for a sample), but I only have so much room here. I’m not a fan of finishing and seaming, so this is also kind of a glimpse into my particular “finish while you work” style. If you’re curious, this is what I did:
1) Make two flat circles. If you haven’t done this, it’s pretty easy. Using dpns of a recommended size for your yarn, CO 3 sts and purl across. Next row, kfb all sts. Purl next row. Kfb all sts once more. Then one more purl row. Join in the round and continue your increases by doing (kfb, k1) across all sts. Knit the next round plain. You’re now alternating increase rounds with plain stockinette rounds. So, the following round, being an increase round, will be (kfb, k2) across all sts. Every increase round from this point on just adds 1 st to the repeat. In effect, (kfb, k3), (kfb, k4), (kfb, k5) etc. – I needed to stop when the diameter of my circle came to 8″ across and left the sts live on a circular. Repeat for second circle.
2) Make small tab at the top for the hinge. There is a small hinge at the top of the waffle iron, so I casted on 16 sts (8sts = width of hinge) and worked those 16sts in the round until the work measured about 1.5 inches.
3) Attach tab to first circle. Splitting the 16 sts onto 2 dpns, I used the kitchener stitch to attach 8 sts to 8 live sts on one of the circles. I made sure that the right side of the circle was facing the same direction as the right side of the tab.
4) Seam the sides almost halfway. I continued to use the kitchener stitch, but used the live stitches from my second flat circle when the 8 sts from the tab ran out. I stopped just short of halfway around the circle so there would be room for the handle when everything was finished. Then I switched to binding off the remaining sts for the second circle, leaving the first circle sts still live on a circular needle.
5) Attach tab to second circle. I stopped binding the second circle off when there were 8 sts left. The second set of 8 sts from the tab remained, as well, so I kitchenered the tab to this second circle.
6) Work button band. With the remaining live stitches, I worked them back and forth in 2×2 rib, decreasing about 4 sts on each side every other row. Once 8 rows had been worked, I quit doing decreases and bound off 2 sts 4 times, evenly spaced, as my buttonholes. I added 2 sts in the same locations on the next row to complete the button hole. I worked 2 more plain 2×2 rib rows, then bound off.
7) Sew ends and buttons. Self-explanatory. I was happy to have found buttons of the right size in my stash. They came from a garage sale and their packaging looks like they’re from the 70s or 80s.
So there you have it! A waffle iron cozy to keep my iron well maintained and my other implements from getting greasy. Yet another ridiculous side project to keep me from the ones I’m supposed to be doing. But this time, it won’t be cluttering up my space or my mind for years to come!
Hello there! After many long months, I have returned from the land of matrimony and honeymoons and am now ready to re-enter society! I would like to ease myself back into this by sharing a bit of the benefits of guild membership.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the San Diego North Coast Knitters Guild and it is surprising to me how few under-50 individuals are a part of the group. It really is a wonderful resource for knitters, young and old, and hopefully we can keep the next generation interested enough to pick up the reigns in the future. They have a library, philanthropic events, workshops, classes, trips, you name it! They also provide fantastic programs during their monthly meetings. The last two I’ve been able to attend featured Lisa Cruse of Ambrosia Cottage and Anna Walden, clinical psychologist and designer extraordinaire.
Lisa Cruse is a fiber artist who specializes in fulling, felting, and embellishing, especially for hats. Back in June, she was kind enough to fly out from Connecticut to talk to us about her work and the things you can do to spice up ordinary projects. She has a wonderful command of color and is endlessly creative.
Piles of her work sat on the tables, available for us to sift through for inspiration. It was great! As a person who almost never wears hats, I wasn’t really “shopping” for my own projects, but for the embellishment ideas she offered. I wish I could offer more specifics of her talk, but I didn’t take notes. The best advice I remembered, though, was to play and to have fun and see what comes out of it. Even an icord, artfully placed, can make something boring into something special. I may just have to learn how to needle felt now!
So, this week, I attended the Anna Walden program, “Getting Into Shape.” She is one of the program chairs of the guild AND a designer in her own right. There were a few things I took away from her presentation and I hope to talk to her more in person:
1) Design work is an exercise of “visual yoga”. Be mindful and you will see things in your surroundings that inspire you. Be flexible and you will open your mind to new possibilities. Be strong by arming yourself with new techniques and skills. It’s so true. Go to a museum or people watch at a busy restaurant. Take pictures of things that look interesting to you. There is so much inspiration in your everyday life!
2) Don’t reinvent the wheel. You can use the schematics of existing patterns, even sewing patterns, to create the foundation for your garment. I am DEFINITELY going to use this piece of advice. Half the battle is trying to be creative completely on your own and nobody needs to do that. The groundwork has already been laid. It is the pavement you walk upon.
3) All design is about creating a canvas out of a simple shape and then putting your stamp on that shape. She presented slides of designs that are all, say, a rectangle. But they are each distinct designs. You don’t have to get too complicated to create something unique and beautiful. You just alter that rectangle with things like stitch patterns, sleeves, pocket placement, color variations, embellishments, etc. That is where your influence resides.
I did have to leave early, so I’m sad to have missed anymore insights after my departure. But programs like these are invigorating and inspiring. If you have a guild or club like this in your area, I highly recommend joining and participating. It is worth more than the dues you pay. If one doesn’t exist, or yours is lacking, I hold up my own guild as a wonderful template. Check out their website sometime. Perhaps you are the missing ingredient for their success! Good luck!
I’ve always said that the secret to getting strangers to talk to you is to do one of three things: 1) hold a puppy, 2) hold a baby, and 3) knit in public. People love it! So, why not knit in public more often and give the people what they want? Enter Worldwide Knit in Public Day. A woman named Danielle Landes started the event in 2005, which attracted 25 events around the world. Over the years, it increased to 70, 200, even 800 events! If it weren’t for the local organizers, it wouldn’t work!
According to the website, “Each local event is put together by a volunteer or a group of volunteers. They each organize an event because they want to, not because they have to. They bring their own fresh ideas into planning where the event should be held, and what people would like to do…In the past some people have used this event as a means to show the general public that ‘not only grannies knit!’ and while that’s great and all, keep in mind that without those ‘grannies’ we wouldn’t have the wealth of knitting knowledge that we do. WWKiP Day is really about showing the general public that knitting can be a community activity in a very distinct way. In some places there are many different knitting groups that never interact with each other, on WWKiP Day they come together in one place, making them hard to miss.”
Now it should be noted that we’re not limited to one day. It just depends which day your local organizers choose to hold the event. Every year, WWKiP Day is held for an entire week: from the second Saturday to the third Sunday of June each year. My local event was happening on Sat. June 9 which was, unfortunately, my bachelorette party day. So, Alice and I both had to miss the Balboa Park experience. We did make up for it by knitting “in public” poolside in the house we all rented in Palm Springs! So, if you consider 15 non-knitter girlfriends “public”, then we succeeded. The final day is June 17, though, so we have the rest of the week to celebrate a wonderful tradition.
This afternoon, I stopped at Dumpling Inn for some dim sum reconnaissance, aka “lunch”. Ooooohhh baby. I love to make dim sum and love eating it even more. Dumpling Inn is usually busy and requires a wait time, so I signed up for a table. While I’m waiting, a woman in her 50s chats me up about the baby blanket I’m working on for my friends, Kim and Joe. Her mother used to knit but she does not. It’s a pretty standard knit-in-public moment. Seeing knitters really makes some people happy. It reminds them of their childhood, their moms, grandmoms, and other people they love.
Soon after, the waitress came out and asked me to share a table with a couple of guys my age on their lunch break since only a 6-top was opening up. Why the hell not, right? I tell them, “Don’t worry. I’ll keep to myself.” So we sat down and I kept feverishly knitting.
One guy asked me what I was working on…
Let me break off from this narrative for a moment to explain one of my best talents: embarrassing myself in any situation. For example, at 16 years old, I went to fill up the tank in my car for the very first time. I didn’t exactly know what to tell the attendant. This was, after all, before the age of “pay at the pump.” So I walked in, stepped up to the cashier (a cute boy my age), and said, “I…I got gas.” He laughed at me and I have never forgotten how badly I wanted to sink into the ground, never to be heard from again. I had just told this cute boy that I, apparently, needed to cut the cheese. This is traumatic to a 16-year-old. Fast forward to age 31…
My table-mate asked me, “What are you making?”
I reply, “A baby blanket. I’m late.”
Now you’re probably wondering why I said this. I was, in fact, late to finish this blanket since Kim’s baby shower was last weekend. I was NOT, however, trying to tell this poor stranger that I had ceased to bleed. I stammered, “I, uh…I’M not late…um…my friend is…I’m late to make the blanket.”
He looks at me and just laughs. Yeah, I’m embarrassed. Then he says, “how long does that take? Why don’t you just buy a blanket?”
It’s a common question. I gave some canned answer about the meditative benefits and sense of accomplishment and brushed it off. I wasn’t going to let that distract me from pork and chive dumplings with garlic chili sauce. Delicious.
When I got home, I finished the blanket. I was astounded by how much I loved the finished product. I managed to retrieve it from under the cat (naturally) and then gently spread it out on the floor, raving about how pleased I was. Evan asked, “why? What do you love so much about it?” He didn’t ask this because he disagreed with my opinion on the blanket. He really want to know what it was that made me so happy. I was surprised by some of the answers that popped out of my mouth: I loved how you could see the very very subtle spiraling of colors in this variegated skein, how the two edging colors managed to look like they belonged there, how this skein was an unlabeled and unloved orphan from my stash that flowered right before my eyes, how I hadn’t fully “seen” the once-crumpled project until it was off the needles and revealed to me, that the beauty of it cannot exist without the divine powers of mathematics. It is soothing, it is challenging, it is transformative, it transcends both art and utility, and it is beautiful. That’s why.
As I sit down to write something about the juggling act I call “my knitting projects”, I am at a loss for which part to talk about. Should it be the new technique books I recently bought? The joy and beauty of polygonal knits? The multitude of new babies for whom I feel compelled to design? An opportunity to submit a dog sweater to a non-profit raffle? All I can think about, though, is how I could possibly have this many projects in the air at one time.
Maybe a few of you will feel me on this one. I am a classic victim of “I can do it!” syndrome. Seriously. I have way more confidence in my abilities to quickly roll out complicated projects than I have a legitimate right to have. Call it an artifact of late 20th century “you’re the best at everything ever and can do anything” parenting. (Thanks, mom and dad! No, really. Thank you for that.) But, in cheezburger language: The syndrome. I has it.
My secondary malady is the “It must be difficult” fever. Why not roll out a nice raglan T with some cabling down the side seams and call it a day? Oh no. That will not do. Right now I’m trying to make gloves look like wood grain. Yeah. You heard that right. It is a single, 100+ row chart with zero repetition. The added bonus is you get that overwhelming feeling that you might die before you actually get to the end. So there’s that.
Currently, I’m trying to submit ideas to magazines and Knitty and Twist Collective, etc. and they don’t want you talking about or showing pictures of projects that might be published by them. I understand that and will need to focus my blog on other things. So, that leaves the wood grain gloves out of the running, haha. I also need to plan my projects accordingly and realize that people won’t want to knit things that make me crazy designing, or that I write out poorly because I didn’t give myself the time to do it really well.
My prescription, then, will be to chill about all of this and take it one project (maaaaaybe two) at a time, and leave all the others to wait until their day has come. I can do it!
I may be on hiatus from designing knitwear while finishing up wedding details, but I still need my brainless go-to project! A friend of mine had requested a black scarf about 3 years ago so I thought it was a good time to get that going. Creating a scarf, especially for a male, can be maddening because you are fraught with limitations. It has to be reversible, the fabric needs to lay flat, it can’t be too girly or stylish, it shouldn’t be too bulky or too thin, etc. We knitters oftentimes default to doing a ribbed or seed stitch scarf for guys and that’s that. Snooze…
I thought this would be a really good opportunity, therefore, to try double knitting. This technique is used to create a double-sided fabric, with both sides being worked simultaneously. I decided not to push it too far and do simple stockinette for my first attempt, one color each side. The joy of double knitting is that you can also choose to alternate your stitch colors, like you would normally work a 2-color motif. This creates a design that shows up on both sides, but with the colors in reverse on the opposite side. Very cool!
But what yarn to choose? Choosing a thicker yarn will make it go quickly but can be bulky, while a thinner yarn will make it go slowly and end up wimpier. What to do? Mix ‘em up! I took a chance on a lace weight gray and a worsted weight black to see how it worked itself out. Turns out, it works great! As Alice says, it’s very “squishy” and feels nice. I am also very pleased that, by the nature of double knitting, they have the same gauge (magic!!). The only caveat I have is that the dominant (i.e. thicker) yarn still tends to force some rolling and the opposing, thinner fabric on the back is only able to hold it back a little bit. I think, however, that it will behave better after I finish and it is blocked.
Basic technique: Mechanically speaking, your hands are doing a 1×1 rib motion so it’s not that difficult. You do need to remember to twist your yarns when beginning a row or you will end up with two separate scarves. Also, it is easier to hold your yarn with the “right side” yarn in front of your finger and the “wrong side” yarn in back. Here, let me show you. Please pardon the video quality and abruptness, as I haven’t yet set up my multimedia capabilities! I did attempt to make up for that, though, by getting Buddy into the shot. hahaha
I love Project Runway, mostly because I love the idea of designing something based on outrageous inspirations and materials. On the show, a designer must work within the creative parameters of the various challenges, like a place or a random object like…let’s see…a butter knife, and either repurpose it into their fashions or use some aesthetic qualities as loose jumping off points for their designs. Now, I don’t think Project Runway has ever used cutlery as inspiration, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Let’s take a look at my own quick “butter knife” designs. Don’t laugh.
Now bear with me as we ride this train of thought to the next station: our perceived failures in knitting when the project doesn’t meet our standards or aesthetics. A sub-par result is not an automatic failure. A half-finished sweater that ended up too small doesn’t have to live out the rest of its days as an article of clothing that lost its way, just as a butter knife can be viewed as something beyond just a tool you use with your meals. It is a beautifully cabled piece of fabric that you can fold and sew into a new shape, pick up stitches and strategically add to, and maybe even mix yarns and textures by working a lace detail on an edge or two. The whole endeavor may be a bit of a rabbit hole but it is a really fun way to expand your mind. No hallucinogens required (unless you have some on you).
Case in point: Alice, my knitting buddy and good friend, is a relatively new knitter, but talented and adventurous! She just finished a cowl and it’s lovely. She feels, however, that it is both too thin and too long. It has no volume. Personally, I like the idea of folding it over at the neck and putting a brooch or shawl pin through it. Just this once, I want to have a reason to buy a shawl pin!! But I feel her pain. My own little basket of rejects is sad. It reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Homer finds his old half-finished robot in the garage. He throws it into the street and the poor thing calls out to Homer, “Father, give me legs!” Homer rejects it and the robot is last seen slowly dragging its torso down the street in apparent agony….yeesh, that just got depressing. Sadly, so is a collection of unloved knitted fabric!
Whatever Alice chooses to do with her cowl, it will be fun to observe. I’m hoping she wants to throw caution to the wind and try something brand new. Disposing of the very idea that it’s just a cowl, she could use it as the base portion of a clutch, a child’s dress hem, the central band of a pillow/cushion, or even a circular needle holder. Whatever! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with! Perhaps I will be inspired to pick through my own “basket of fail” and give a few pieces new life.