September 11, 2014
by Emma
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Participation

Let’s talk about Kickstarter. Pledge a donation to the project of your choice, whether it be an indie dyer’s studio start-up or the publishing of a book, and get sweet rewards in return. It’s easier and more fun to participate as a donor when you get a taste of what your money is helping to support–fuzzy feelings only go so far! But there is a lot more to be garnered than just goodies. Crowdfunding is currently one of the best tools we can embrace as members of the fiber arts community.

The rise of indie, DIY ethos in our industry has changed everything. We can pick out individual game changers, like Ysolda Teague who really championed the business model of the self-published designer, or Knitty and Ravelry who gave those designers easily accessible venues to showcase their work in. (But that’s not the point, as wonderful as those three are!) We as a community embraced the tide of change and not only went with it, but encouraged it. We flocked to Knitty and Ravelry. We support indie designers without their own yarn lines, who aren’t attached to distributors or publishing houses. In short, our little crafty environment is what it is now because of all of us. Burning Man has a principle of radical inclusion, where everyone is welcome. I see this principle in action on Twitter, in the booth of an up-and-coming dyer at TNNA, in the varied types of customers that come into Webs.

Obviously we’re all creative people. We’re crafters! Which is why I think we have (and should continue) to feel comfortable dictating the trends and terms of the industry. Crowdfunding allows us to all participate in the future of our community in a more direct way that buying an individual pattern or one skein of indie yarn, by supporting the projects we NEED to see come to life. I dearly love and enjoy the products that large yarn companies and well-known publishers put out, so this is not a diss to them. I simply believe that the more resources and ideas we have available as crafters, the better! If we limit our access, aren’t we limiting our creativity?

So next time you see a great idea on Kickstarter, think of what our knitting world will be like with that idea–and what it would be like without it. Participate in some radical inclusion by donating for the ideas you truly believe in. I supported Doomsday Knits when it was first proposed, and I’ve recently contributed to Midwestern Knits (which is still funding!) Make a difference AND get some pretty yarn or something. Wins all around!

August 28, 2014
by Emma
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Different Kind of DIY: Garage Gym Makeover

In June, Mark and I undertook the massive task of converting our not-a-real-garage into a garage gym!

beforeBefore: outside and in

“Not-a-real-garage” because it had no door and that opening isn’t large enough to fit a car into, so it mostly became the repository for random stuff. (Obviously these before pictures are after it was cleaned out of junk.) We rent, and this structure was already here and wired, which was great because we didn’t have to mess with that–only needed to get our landlord’s permission!

The first step was to prep for a poured concrete floor. Since Mark has a contractor’s license and this was his baby, he did most of the labor though I helped out when I could. It was his first time working with concrete but luckily, his father used to work as a mason so in addition to watching lots of This Old House videos, we had an expert who advised us on the prep and then helped out the day of the pour. Super win! We rented a plate compactor for the day to tamp down the dirt floor in preparation, and to press down some gravel that we used to level out the floor. Somehow we managed to fit it into the backseat of my Honda Civic–the rental guy was very impressed with that trick. Then Mark laid down the concrete mesh, which is just thick wire mesh that covers the floor to make the concrete stronger. (I was able to help a little with this part, ha.) Seeing as we had an opening in our structure and weren’t pouring a closed off foundation, we had to place boards across the opening and shore them up with little props so the concrete wouldn’t spill out on to the lawn.

We contracted a local company to deliver the concrete on a Saturday morning and the truck was HUGE! It’s one thing to pass one on the highway and quite another to see one dominating your driveway:

duringDuring: concrete delivery and Mark hand float finishing the surface

Once the concrete is poured and spread to all the areas you are covering, it comes time to float the surface! Floating=making the top nice and smooth, leveling and filling in any gaps, basically creating the look of the finished floor. (The concrete delivery guy had left by this point, they don’t help with anything past dumping the concrete.) We rented a bull float, which kind of looks like a large metal Swiffer without a pad on it, LOL, but it was in poor condition and was messing up the surface rather than smoothing it. Mark’s dad to the rescue! He showed us how you can finish it entirely by hand, using boards to kneel on to avoid sinking into the concrete, though we did have to wait a little bit after it was poured for the concrete to reach this stage to make the support possible. You can’t wait too long to float the surface or the concrete becomes unworkable and the ‘cream’ (the moisture that rises to the top when you float it) is no longer present, and that’s needed to smooth things over. Professional concrete contractors have power float machines which can get that super smooth and shiny finish seen in stores, but we weren’t about to get into that so our floor isn’t perfectly smooth (though entirely useable). Mark and I also put our handprints into one corner before the concrete dried :)

After the floor had cured for a few days, Mark began framing the opening so we could put in a door.

afterDuring/after: framing and the final outside (I’m wearing an unpublished sweater design, hence the censorship!)

We painted our door red because, why not? The wall we built to close the opening is painted brown, but it pulls more purple in some light which is why it looks purpe-ly above. Currently the rest of the structure is unpainted, though we’d like to paint the rest of it someday and add gutters, if we can come to an agreement with our landlord to reduce rent in exchange for those labors.

So what’s inside?

photo 4After: the finished inside!

All the workout goodies! We have:

  • power rack with T-bar row attachment, on the lifting platform Mark built
  • Olympic bar and 500 lbs of plates (that’s including the bar’s weight)
  • adjustable weight bench
  • two mirrors
  • ballet barre for stretching
  • heavy bag
  • full set of dumbbells and 2 kettlebells, ab wheel, wrist/ankle weights
  • exercise ball, pull-up bands and resistance bands
  • yoga mats and blocks
  • two pull-up bars (one is part of the rack, the other is separate)
  • gymnast rings

It’s incredible to have this at our disposal 24/7, only a few feet from our house. Mark lifts almost daily, since he’s currently following 5/3/1 (a powerlifting program). I use the gym more sporadically because I’m attending fabric and pole classes every week, but it’s great to have the freedom to pop in when I want a quick workout or have the urge to try something new. Currently my favorite use of it is to do some short lifting sets, either squats or deadlifts, and then do pull-ups and aerial conditioning on the rings. I like to invert on them and cycle through different positions (split, pencil, pike) and lower myself down really slow. My goal is to be able to do skin the cat!

If you’re local and want to workout with us…let’s do it!

August 24, 2014
by Emma
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Balance

balance and progressFinally nailing my shoulder mount (left); handstand progressions & improving form (right)

So far, the best thing about my new gig is that I have time to enjoy being me. That includes extra pole sessions, late night Fallout 3 marathons, and the luxury of spending an afternoon reading–something I haven’t done in years because of the guilt of not constantly forcing myself to be productive, to do something ‘worthwhile.’

When I imagined my new life I thought I would be ten times more productive, because I assumed I would spend all my spare time knitting and doing the myriad assortment of related designer tasks (as I had done previously in every spare moment I had outside of work). More spare time=more work, right? Instead, I’m taking time to live…and my designing isn’t suffering.

This is your regularly scheduled reminder to strive for balance. I’m a couple years late to the message though!

August 7, 2014
by Emma
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Free Pattern: Rainbow Slip Mitts

smilehI have a free pattern for you today! These were inspired by some work I’m doing with my friend Gail, The Kangaroo Dyer. She put together these colorful mini skeins in her Poet Seat Fingering base–she calls it her ‘first aid kit’ for color–and gave me a batch to play with. I decided to put them to good use in this super easy pair of handwarmers! They are worked flat and seamed partially up the side to create an opening for the thumb.

Rainbow Slip Mitts

Finished Size: 7″ around, 4.75″ long (17.80cm x 12cm)

Yarn: approx 50 yards of natural and scrap amounts of 5 colors. I used RainCityKnits MCN Fingering in Natural, and a Kangaroo Dyer Poet Seat Fingering Mini Skein Kit. This is a great way to use up precious leftovers!

Materials: US 3 (3.25mm) needle, tapestry needle

Gauge: 30 sts by 38 rows = 4″ (10cm) in rainbow slip pattern. Gauge is not crucial for this project.

Using natural, CO 49 sts leaving a long tail to seam with at the end. Row 1 (RS): Slip 1, *p1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 2 (WS): Slip 1, *k1, p1; rep from * to end. Repeat these 2 rows until work measures 1.5″ from beginning. Knit 1 row, then purl 1 row. Begin rainbow slip pattern.

Switch to pink (or your first color). Row 1 (RS): K1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 2: Repeat the last row. Row 3: Knit. Row 4: Purl.

Switch to orange (or your next color). Row 5: K2, slip 1, *k1, slip 1; rep from * until 2 sts remain, k2. Row 6: P1, k1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * until 1 st remains, p1. Row 7: Knit. Row 8: Purl.

Switch to yellow. Row 9: K1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 10: Repeat the last row. Row 11: Knit. Row 12: Purl.

Switch to green. Row 13: K2, slip 1, *k1, slip 1; rep from * until 2 sts remain, k2. Row 14: P1, k1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * until 1 st remains, p1. Row 15: Knit. Row 16: Purl.

Switch to indigo. Row 17: K1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 18: Repeat the last row. Row 19: Knit. Row 20: Purl.

Switch to pink. Row 21: K2, slip 1, *k1, slip 1; rep from * until 2 sts remain, k2. Row 22: P1, k1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * until 1 st remains, p1. Row 23: Knit. Row 24: Purl.

Switch to orange. Row 25: K1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 26: Repeat the last row. Row 27: Knit. Row 28: Purl.

Switch to yellow. Row 29: K2, slip 1, *k1, slip 1; rep from * until 2 sts remain, k2. Row 30: P1, k1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * until 1 st remains, p1. Row 31: Knit. Row 32: Purl.

Switch to green. Row 33: K1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * to end. Row 34: Repeat the last row. Row 35: Knit. Row 36: Purl.

Switch to indigo. Row 37: K2, slip 1, *k1, slip 1; rep from * until 2 sts remain, k2. Row 38: P1, k1, *slip 1, k1; rep from * until 1 st remains, p1. Row 39: Knit. Row 40: Purl.

Switch back to natural. Knit one row. Row 1 (WS): Slip 1, *k1, p1; rep from * to end. Row 2 (RS): Slip 1, *p1, k1; rep from * to end. Repeat these two rows once more, then work 1 more WS row. On next RS row, BO all sts in pattern and leave a long tail to seam with.

Weave in ends. Using your tail from casting on, seam the bottom of the mitt 2″ up the side. Use the tail from your BO to seam the top of the mitt 1″ down the side. This will leave a 1.75″ opening along the side for your thumb, but adjust the length and placement of side seams as needed to comfortably fit your hand. Repeat for the second mitt (they are identical.)

IMG_1776 editedHappy slip knitting!

August 3, 2014
by Emma
1 Comment

My Finished OAL Dress

I finished the day after the deadline…but I finished my Outfit Along dress all the same!

photo 3I went with the official OAL pattern, Simplicity 1803. This is bodice view C with cap sleeves. I cut a 6 on top and graded to an 8 for the bottom, since the finished measurements for the waist on a size 6 was my exact waist measurement and I wanted to have room to move, but I probably didn’t need to do that as I wound up taking out a lot of ease at the waist when I put the zipper in. I also made the adjustments for petite ladies because I’m short, yo. The only other mod I made to the original pattern was moving the pockets to the side seams where they BELONGED rather than keeping them in the weird princess seam panels along the front.

photo 1(2)The fabric is a Betsy Johnson floral cotton print I bought from Mood Fabrics, which was really fun because I could pretend I was on Project Runway when I got the package in the mail. It’s definitely super girly, but I don’t have any girly pink floral dresses! I wore it belted with my kitty shoes yesterday (for comfort) but I can totally see this with flats, sandals, heels, a slouchy cardigan in winter….lots of options.

I am really proud of the insides of this dress! For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been sewing since I was a teenager but I always made up my own patterns because I didn’t have the patience and understanding to follow patterns. I even participated in a fashion show in high school with my own collection! I never finished seams and worked a lot with knits, where it didn’t matter that I didn’t finish seams. So this dress is pretty special to me since it’s probably the first time I have followed a pattern to the letter AND did all those professional niceties to the insides.

insidesTo stretch my wings I used a variety of techniques. I did clean finish seams on the center and sides of the bodice, zig zag edges for the princess seams, skirt and sleeves, and a bound seam for the waistband with bias tape. (Plz to be ignoring my less than perfectly straight stitching on the waistband and hem.) For the hem, I chopped a bunch off since the dress as it stood was too long for lil ol’ me, but I calculated wrong and chopped too much off to do a turned hem. Thank god for Lauren and her wonderful OAL posts–I stole her idea of hemming using seam binding! I used some cream ribbon I had on hand to match the waist binding, though by that point I was pretty fed up by fussing with the hem so my stitching is terribad. You can’t see the thread from the right side though so IDGAF.

You’ll notice I didn’t make a full outfit–I have enough knitting to do for work that I wasn’t up to knitting an accompanying piece. I am so glad Andi and Lauren put this together though! I feel like my sewing mojo is in full swing and I am super excited to add more pieces to my handmade wardrobe.

August 1, 2014
by Emma
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It’s KAL Time!

Looking for some knitting motivation? Join the Accessorize Yourself KAL! From August 15th to September 30th, choose any of my accessory patterns and knit along with us in my Ravelry group. My currently available self published accessory patterns will be 20% off from now until the start of the KAL with coupon code ACCESSORIZE, so if you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on one of those designs, now would indeed be the time!

Of course, I am offering lovely prizes to the victors. The grand prize for one lucky person will be a one-of-a-kind skein of Valley Yarns Charlemont Hand Dyed, a Blue Sky project bag and 2 free patterns of their choosing (from my self published patterns only) from now until the end of 2014. You’ll want to save at least one of those because I have some awesome fall releases coming up!

KALprizeAn awesome OOAK skein!

I’ll also pick two runners up who will each receive 1 free pattern of their choosing, same stipulations as above.

Head on over to the KAL thread and join in! What better way to close out summer and kick off fall right than with a beautiful accessory and sparkling Internet conversation, eh?

July 25, 2014
by Emma
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Something Magical

Last year a sub call came out that I instantly squealed over. I was already swimming in work and did not need another project added to my pile–but this was a theme I could not resist. I have always been a big reader with a special attachment to fantasy, mythology and science fiction. One of my favorite books as a child was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, a book I loved so much that I covered the paper dust-jacket with contact paper so it wouldn’t become torn. (I still have that book and it sits on the upstairs hallway bookshelf.) I wasn’t limited to Greek mythology though and devoured books based upon legends and fairy tales from all cultures. As an adult, my single favorite book not from a series is Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, which mixes Russian fairy tales with the modern world. So when the call was released for Enchanted Knits…I couldn’t help myself. It was my dream call.

comboKitsunetsuki is a foxy red cardigan inspired by the Japanese mythology of the kitsune. While kitsune is the Japanese word for fox, in this context it refers to the fox spirits who frequently appear in their stories. Kitsune possess the ability to shapeshift between fox and human forms, often taking the form of a beautiful young woman. They can act as a trickster figure (akin to the wily coyote of Native American tales), have romantic dalliances with humans, or offer wisdom. Kitsunetsuki refers to the state of being possessed by a kitsune’s spirit.

I wanted to create a garment that was flattering, wearable and inspired by the myth rather than being too obvious. The front features a traveling cable across the chest which imitates the shape of a fox head, and also serves the purpose of demarcation between the reverse stockinette body and the stockinette yoke. The simple front allows the large unique cable on the back to stand out. Each individual cable is meant to represent one of the kitsune’s tails, as the stories hold that older and wiser kitsune are capable of earning more tails, and they join together to form a fox tail shape.

I have to admit the extent of my nerdery…my cats are named Kitsune and Tsuki.

2 kittiesKitsune (left) was the first, and I named her as such because she’s gingery and has a big fluffy fox tail and as it turned out, is wily, manipulative and kind of a bitch. But I love her with all my heart because she’s unabashedly herself, no holding back. As I like to joke, “Like mother like daughter!” Tsuki (right) came second, and I wanted them to have coordinating names because I am a dork. I tossed around a few other ideas based on Japanese words/mythology but none of them sounded pretty.

If you’re interested in reading more about kitsune, I recommend the following:

  • Foxwife by Hiromo Goto, a short story found in The Fairy Reel
  • The Fox Wife by Ellen Steiber, a short story found in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears
  • Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling – technically this is Chinese, not Japanese, and as such the relevant stories are about huli jing. There are many similarities though, and I studied this particular book as part of my focus in Chinese History when I was in college.

Happy knitting AND happy reading!

July 19, 2014
by Emma
1 Comment

A Different Kind of Stash

Thanks to horrible/wonderful enabler Emily Ringelman I discovered the wonders of Girl Charlee, online fabric paradise for the print lover on a budget–hey, that’s me! In preparation for my upcoming descent into poverty, I snagged some fabric now so I can keep on sewing. I have a super modest fabric stash, most of which is leftover pieces from old projects….so this is really my first official fabric haul!

dresses

I grabbed both of these knits to make as-yet-undetermined dresses. Thinking Lady Skater for one and not sure on the other–any suggestions?

tops

That adorable (and now sold out) fox knit is destined to become a Briar! I’m liking the cropped version but we shall see. The multi is crepe de chine which I’ve never used. I think it would be suitable for blouse, maybe something tunic-y? Suggestions also welcome there! (And if my fabric + pattern matching skills are completely off base, do speak up experienced sewists. I WILL thank you!)

fabric4

And lastly, some cotton lawn for a Hollyburn! I’ll have to line it though since the fabric is a little sheer.

First of all though, I need to finish my damn dress for the Outfit Along! I only have to sew in the zipper, hem and finish up the armholes but I’ve been dragging ass on it since I don’t like doing zippers. If I make decent progress on my deadline knit for this weekend I’ve told myself I WILL finish the dress. Not allowed to play with new fabric until I do!

July 14, 2014
by Emma
1 Comment

Adventures in Wonderland

IMG_5376smAll photos in this post by Lindsey Topham unless stated otherwise

I’ve once again teamed up with Gynx Yarns to bring you an amazing accessory collaboration! Meet Advice From a Caterpillar, my contribution to Laura’s Alice in Wonderland themed kit she is debuting at SSK this month.

Laura contacted me asking if I could whip up a one or two skein accessory design to fit her planned theme and of course I had to say yes. She is always a joy to work with–not only is the yarn beautiful, but she trusts me as a designer and lets my imagination run wild. Laura dyed up three exclusive Wonderland inspired colorways just for the kits (my shawl uses ‘Wonderland’) and asked Little Skein in the Big Wool to contribute a matching project bag. Take a look!

kit collagePhotos by Gynx Yarns – yarn colors from L to R are Wonderland, Cheshire Cat & Caterpillar

I happen to have one of those project bags myself (advance perks y’all!) and the construction is FABULOUS. Really sturdy and the fabric is adorable.

In case you couldn’t guess it from the name, my shawlette drew inspiration from the Caterpillar. I have to admit, I am a bigger fan of Through the Looking Glass but I wanted to go with the original book for this one. I was imagining the cables as wriggly caterpillars at first, then I realized the cables’ transition to ribbing and back again was an apt metaphor for metamorphosis. Caterpillar to butterfly, Alice to Big and Little Versions of Herself, and so on. Pretend you’re an art student and fill in with your long-reaching explanation of choice.

blog collageAs luck would have it, this turned out to be the most perfect photoshoot yet! Lighting, location, styling–everything was on point to create a magical mood.

If you’re not attending SSK, look for kits/preorders to appear in the Gynx Etsy Shop around July 22nd. I’ll make an announcement when the pattern is available for individual sale. Til then, beware of the Jabberwocky, eh?

June 26, 2014
by Emma
1 Comment

Long Overdue

Some of the best things take forever. Over a year later…I finally finished my Sugar Maple!

photo 2SO. GOOD! The pattern is by Carina Spencer and is genius in its simplicity. I obviously don’t have much free time to knit other designer’s patterns anymore so I really relish it when I do. It’s a vacation, but I learn a ton at the same time studying how they write and format their patterns, seeing how different we brain things, etc. The yarn is a double gradient maki of Play at Life Fiber Arts Scrumpet in the Silky Cocoon colorway. First of all, having only two ends to weave in=amazing. Oh I’m sorry–I should have said first of all, DAT GRADIENT!

1I was unsure on how this style would look on me at first, since I prefer fitted clothing and this has a bit of a swingy A-line shape. Of course, no need to worry as it’s flattering and wearable! My only changes were to work it at a slightly different gauge (laziness) and I knit regular 1×1 ribbing for the edges instead of twisted ribbing (not reading properly, then laziness.)

Summer of 2014 is officially on, popping and stylish!