On Designing Less & Knitting More

A few months ago, I made a conscious decision to take on less design work. As I get older I find I want more time to myself and I care less about growing my business. That's not to say I'm giving up on designing, but I've become more and more content to do this my way, at my pace, rather than worrying about what I need to do to become the next big thing. Working full time once again has forced me to face my limitations and accept them.

Back in 2012-2014, I was working full time and spending almost every night and all weekend knitting samples. If I wasn't going to finish something in time, I forced myself to stay up late knitting it. I passed on events and time with friends unless they were going to come over and hang around while I knit. I remember going back home to visit a friend from high school and I was working on the Heliopath Vest. I sat in the middle of a party knitting it while everyone else around me was doing shots. (I mean, I did some shots too...but I made myself complete a chunk of knitting first! No drunk deadline knitting allowed!)

Honestly, there were times in that era when I HATED knitting, despite how much work I was accomplishing and how hopeful I was for my burgeoning design career. I told myself I had to stay on the grind and the next release would be it, I would reach the next level of exposure....then it was oh well next year it will happen....then it was if only I had more time to work on my business... 

Since then I've slowly gravitated towards using sample knitters, which has been a huge boon on my productivity and my sanity levels. I love my sample knitters! But even when I first started to use sample knitters, I was still taking on too much work. I have some designs I'm not proud of, because I know I could have perfected them if I had more time and wasn't as overburdened. I hate that I have work in my portfolio that makes me feel that way, and I want to avoid that from happening.

I've been talking a long time about slowing down and working less and finally, I feel like I've put that into practice. I'm relying on my awesome sample knitters to help me out for those third-party submissions that really speak to me but otherwise, I'm sitting those submission calls out. The FOMO is hard, really hard! But instead of working on 5 designs at once, I'm working on 2 or 3 and only knitting actually one of those, and there are plenty of stretches where that one design is the only thing on my plate. It's leaving me plenty of time to focus on other things in life that matter to me: spending time with my honey, exercising, cooking new things, and oh yeah--selfish knitting!

So I guess the point of this is...2017 might look different here. More FOs, and less releases. I'm ok with that though.

My two current selfish WIPs

My two current selfish WIPs

Pole Antics

For those of you new to this blog, I pole dance. I'm not a stripper, meaning I don't pole dance to make money and I don't remove articles of clothing while dancing with the intent of becoming partially or fully naked. (Some lovely acts involve costume changes while dancing, hence the 'naked' qualifier at the end.) That aside, there are plenty of similarities between what strippers do and what I do, and it would do them a huge disservice to pretend that I am 'better' than they are--because I'm not. Pole dancing in any situation is an extremely athletic act, and many modern moves were born in strip clubs rather than being adopted from Chinese pole or mallakhamba. I have nothing but respect for strippers--hanging from one knee is difficult enough, let alone having to do so while wearing 6" heels and possessing the customer service skills of a waitress or hospitality industry person! Anyways, that's not the point of this post but I felt it needed to be said. I understand the impression most people have of pole dancing though and I'm not offended if you are uncomfortable with it--feel free to skip my pole posts! I'm performing in a Halloween showcase in a week, alongside many other lovely ladies and I just had to go full making my own costume! Today was our dress rehearsal so I snagged some photos afterwards.

pole costumeArmed with this great printed spandex from Spandex House, my favorite source for stretch fabrics, I immediately went back to my comfort zone of sewing--aka, making shit up. There are a few practical considerations for making a pole costume, primarily in terms of coverage. Obviously I wanted something secure enough that it would stay on as I spin and invert, but you also need a certain amount of skin exposed to ensure better contact with the pole. Your knees and inner thighs are used while climbing and sitting on the pole, respectively, while your waist needs to be bare for certain inverts. In short, sex appeal is not the only reason why pole dancers wear what they do!

I used an existing pair of booty shorts as my 'pattern' for the proportions and shape of these ones, but added in the open side panels with elastic strapping. You can't see it in these photos but the butt features that scrunch butt ruching that is very flattering. ;) The top was harder since this was my first time using soft bra cups and I found them really hard to place properly in the lining--mostly because the strappiness of the top meant I wasn't able to really try it on until it was fully assembled, and I needed to put the lining in before then! Luckily, I have a small chest so I didn't need anything more than the cups and a thick elastic bottom band to keep everything supported. The center of the bust is also gathered to match the shorts and create a more flattering neckline for my shape. And that strappy back (or backless)....perfection! Exactly what I was going for, and incredibly comfortable it turns out.

Now I just need to practice my full bracket grip until Friday!

Revisiting the Kangaroo Dyer

I am extraordinarily lucky to have contact with fantastic creative people every day, whether it's my coworkers at the store on a work day there, the myriad of knitters and designers I'm in contact with online, my pole dancing/circus family, or my friends. Getting out of my creative niche to explore someone else's is fun AND mentally refreshing! I've dyed with Gail (the Kangaroo Dyer) once before, four years ago--my one and only time dyeing until recently, when she invited me back in her studio for take two. Now I'm older, wiser (lol right)....well at the very least, I was more confident in my dyeing skills this time since it wasn't completely foreign! 2One of the more awe striking sights in Gail's dye studio is her large collection of orange juice containers, testament to her lifelong love affair with Vitamin C...In all seriousness, friends and students donate the containers to her so she doesn't overdo it on the OJ! Those shelves house her ready-to-go dye mixtures and the dye powders themselves are conveniently lined up behind each solution when the time comes to make a new batch.

First agenda was to dye some superwash merino worsted yarn. With the help of handy dye color cards, I picked out three colors that sparked my interest and tested them on coffee filters until deciding on the right level of saturation for each.

dyeing processThen...dyeing time! I handpainted the hanks in sections and tried to blend each color into the next to avoid any harshness.

photo 2I can't wait to use my gorgeous yarn and see how it looks knit up!

Next, Gail offered something new--a chance to dye silk fabric! I have extensive summer camp tie-dye experience but that's about it. Since I decided I wanted to pleat the silk before dyeing it, this part was somewhat familiar thanks to my tie-dye days! Gail helped me fold the 2 yards of silk and then roll it up like a jelly roll. I submerged each side of the roll in a different dye color before opening up the fabric and overdying in stripes. I then scrunched up the fabric before adding the final layer to create the dimension I was looking for.

photo 3I plan to sew with it and I've got my eye on La Sylphide (the blouse version), once I have some fun money to snag the pattern with. I love's like yummy chartreusey endivey goodness!

Gail's studio is so cute. Her whole house in general is overflowing with her love of color and her work--there is yarn draping over furniture, drying on her front porch if the weather is nice, scraps of silk and other dyed fabrics on her kitchen table. I couldn't help but take a few shots of of her workspace to try and share that Kangaroo Dyer essence.

studioMy creative mojo is now working overtime!


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!

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!


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!

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 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?


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!)


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!

A Whole New World

I have a very exciting announcement to make. In about a month, I'll be leaving my job so I can focus on designing! Ok, I'm not exactly jumping off a financial bridge sans bungee cord. I'll still be working for Webs in a different, part-time capacity--enabling me to pay bills and all that good stuff. But there will be plenty of free time in my schedule which means more designing, more time on social media and definitely more time on here, which is something I've been severely neglecting. (Ahem. Sorry about that.)

In preparation I rearranged my bedroom. Meet my new bedroom-slash-studio!

photo 6I have no before pictures which is probably a good thing, because it was a lot messier before. But for reference--my bed was positioned where the rug is now, pushed up against the right side which you can't see in this photo since it's around a slight corner. I also had a bunny guest for an extended period of time whose luxurious daytime enclosure took up most of the space where my bed now lives. It may not look like much but I have my desk, my sewing machine and my yarn & fabric stashes, all of which used to live downstairs. And that floor space, with the cutest Ikea rug to boot! I've been sprawling out on it to sew (more on that in another post) and it is glorious. It functions beautifully as a backdrop for photos, which my Instagram feed will attest to.

In the spirit of new beginnings, I'm thinking of hosting a KAL in the near future. Something casual (with prizes of course), so if you are interested or have any thoughts on the matter head on over to my Ravelry group and answer a quick poll about KALs, won't you?


Spring Cleaning

Some people clean in the spring. I don't because let's be honest, I hate cleaning no matter what the season. My dream is to be rich enough to afford a house husband who can stay home and do all the cooking and cleaning so I don't have to. (But without the actually being married part because right now in my life I don't believe in marriage. House lifetime partner?) Though I don't break out the vacuum when nice weather hits, I'm not immune to that tantalizing rush of Change and New Beginnings that flows through the air--I find it more seductive than the other time of year when people love to plan Big Changes, aka January 1st. What new things have I been testing out then? As of a few hours ago...plants!

succulentsMaybe it's a tad pathetic that I'm proud of my ability to pick out plants at Home Depot and put them all in a pot together but look Ma, plants! I am not Green Thumb Girl. I am more like apathetic, I will have a garden if you do all the work just so I can get fresh vegetables Girl. Plants are a mystical confusing world that has never really interested me, though I can agree that they are pretty. Plus these ones thrive on neglect, according to the internet, which is perfect for me! I would have kids if kids also thrived on neglect! (Just kidding. That is why I have cats though.) I have to admit, I've been looking at pictures of succulents in cutely shaped planters after bringing home these babies and I am not against getting more. Waiting to make sure I don't kill the test batch first though!

I'm also halfway through my April Challenges! I meant to post about this on April 1st and here we are...13 days later... As I'm sure you've guessed, health and fitness challenges are my jam if I'm going to do any kind of personal challenge at all. See: Whole 30, Rugged Maniac, and so on. I felt like I was coasting and wanted to set myself a few challenges to push myself a little this month and hopefully ingrain some new habits. They aren't a very hard investment which is good since I am pretty busy in general right now and didn't want to feel overwhelmed.

  • My first challenge is a Green Smoothie Challenge! I am pushing myself to drink 3-4 green smoothies a week. Currently I am on a kick of spinach, mango and pineapple smoothies but I have also done spinach and various berries. I have yet to branch out into other greens instead of spinach, though I did make one avocado, pineapple and coconut milk smoothie which still counts as green in my book. Once I found some good green smoothie tips and got my proportions all sorted out, this challenge came easy! No more swamp water concoctions for me.
  • My second challenge is a Hula Hooping Challenge! One of my friends posted this hooping challenge to Facebook and I really liked it, but I can't commit to 30 minutes of hooping every day. Especially on days where I have a circus or pole class after work, by the time I get home I'm wiped out already! Instead I told myself I simply need to hoop every day this month, no matter what the time span. I haven't hooped in a long time so just getting in the groove regularly is really helpful, even if I'm only managing to do it for 10 minutes! Unfortunately...I already technically failed this one since I missed a day last weekend. :( Completely forgot about it. One mistake doesn't mean giving up and I'm soldiering on to finish it with a 99.9% success rate.
  • The final challenge is a Squat Challenge! This one was not planned originally, but a fitness group on Ravelry I'm a member of is doing a group squat challenge for April and I couldn't resist joining in. When the month is out, I'll have completed 2,035 squats--yowza! I am mostly doing them with just bodyweight, but if I happen to be in the gym doing squats on the same day as challenge squats are assigned, my back squats count towards the day's challenge total I decided. Mostly because if I do a bunch of squats in the gym I am not re-doing them all again at home later.

Other new things: took an aerial rope workshop yesterday; just started watching Mad Men; changed the background on my phone. (Scintillating, I know.)

What's new in your life?

Friday Night Music Videos: Birthday Madness Edition

Friday night is extra-special this week because... I turn 26 on Sunday!!

So this is my birthday WEEKEND as far as I'm concerned. I fully intend to spend it knitting my little fingers off since that's what I do almost every weekend. Also I am getting a birthday biscuit breakfast which incidentally, is the same thing I had for my birthday breakfast last year, except that birthday was in Seattle! Do you sense a theme? I really love biscuits, man. You can't age out of that.

I'm also giving a gift to you! Saturday and Sunday (3/29-3/30) use the code 26BIRFDAY on Ravelry to get 26% off one of my eligible self-published patterns (aka Striated, Brooklyn Bridge Mitts or Elektrocute. Short list, sowwy.)

Tonight I'm jamming out to my latest earworm courtesy of Arctic Monkeys. This is exactly the type of band I would have listened to in high school, I was way into the 'garage rock revival' trend of the early 2000s that consisted mostly of bands with 'The' in their name. IE The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, The White Stripes, and so on. Of course, in my advanced age I haven't bothered to keep up with new music and as such, this is the first Arctic Monkeys song I've actually heard. It's pretty awesome.

P.S. I finally made a Ravelry group that's ALL ABOUT MEEEE. Check it out!

Happiness is...

...having a whole bag of Unjunked Peanut Butter Cups in your cupboard. unjunked...spending lazy weekends with these two weirdos.

the duo...finally finding the perfect lipgloss formula! Laura Mercier Lip Glace, in Violet.

lipgloss...completing your first aerial fabric recital in a most spectacular fashion. Yes, I'm wearing a pink fishnet shirt. We performed to Britney, 'nuff said!

1625579_10203234742612046_784485390_n1781905_10203234643329564_941986863_n...hearing that a Heliopath KAL is about to start and being super flattered that people like your pattern enough to run a KAL!

Wait, what?

Two awesome ladies, The Unapologetic Knitter and Ghostface Knitter decided to run a KAL for my Heliopath Vest. The KAL just started this weekend, but right now the only goal is to get a swatch done so there is still time to grab your yarn and cast on. Some great prizes await all who participate...including a pattern donated by yours truly. Check out the first week's post! I love how they are taking this KAL to Instagram as well, since I am a huge IG fan. In case you couldn't tell by all the perfectly square photos I recycle into blog posts so I can pretend to be relevant. :P I'm cool, I swear!

Graze Box Review

This post has not been sponsored by Graze Box, nor have I received any compensation from them. Total free will here! In case you hadn't noticed by now, I really like food. I also really like getting stuff in the mail. So when one of my co-workers sent an email around about his free codes to join Graze Box, a snack subscription site, I decided to check them out!

For $6 a shipment (which includes shipping), you get snack-size portions of four different healthy snacks. Healthy is variable depending on your ideals of course, but the full ingredient list for all snacks is available on line and most are free of scary, unpronounceable ingredients--the exception being some of the cracker-y things but really, what do you expect from crackers. (Those scamps!) You can sign up to get a box every 2 weeks or every 4 weeks, I've opted for the latter and have received three boxes so far.

box shotsThese snacks are definitely SNACK sized. So if you want more bang for your buck, buying bulk bags of your favorite snacks and divvying them up yourself would probably be better. If you have problems with portion control or just want to try some new things then I think this is a good way to go.

photo 1 (3)Graze Box snacks fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Cracker-y type items, which includes the sub-category of 'dippers'--a (usually) cracker-like item served with some type of dip or sauce
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Chocolate
  • "Flapjacks" which is just a fancy-ass way of saying granola bar

There is much overlap in the fruit/nut/chocolate category. Ok, they give you lots of trail mix you could say. But it's GOOD trail mix, and I've never been a trail mix fan. Things like Dark Rocky Road (pecans, cranberries and dark chocolate buttons) or Jelly Doughnut (raspberry fruit strings, raspberry infused cranberries, almond slices and sponge pieces.)

closeupsThe coolest part is that when you sign up, you can browse their list of snacks and adjust your preferences. Hate anything spicy? 'Trash' the chili and honey almonds and you'll never receive them. Can't get enough of fancy-ass granola bars? 'Love' the flapjacks to receive them in your boxes more often. I nixed most crackers and spicy items from the get-go, along with any unpalatable flavor combinations, and left the rest set to 'try' so I could taste-test as many concoctions as possible. If you're allergic they can't guarantee no cross-contamination, but picky eaters are safe. Heck, you could even 'trash' all the chocolate if you believe in a world without chocolate. (Like a world without shrimp, a la Anya's explanation of other dimensions in Buffy. But why would you want a world without chocolate?!)

As boring as it may sound, I have to give full props to the dried fruit. I don't know what magic they inject into each tiny dehydrated nugget, but all the fruit is really juicy and tasty. You know when you're eating a bag of raisins or dates or whatever, and there are always a few depressingly hard ones, like they're shells of their former fruity selves? I haven't found any of those in my boxes yet which is pretty slammin'. A+ to the fruit. The cheesy sombreros (seen in the top right above), however, are a lie. I pictured a festival of cheesy, vaguely Mexican taste sensations in my mouth. Like Goldfish or Cheez-Its, but with a more fun name. Instead they are hard, decidedly un-cheesy rice wafers.  The biggest Graze Box blow so far, F-. I immediately trashed any other sombrero-containing snacks out of my future boxes.

Currently you need a referral code to sign up, or you can ask to be put on their wait list. I happen to have two shiny codes, so leave a comment if you would like one! First two people to comment with their emails included get them--and maybe you can spread yours around once you sign up to anyone else wanting one? Sign-up via code gives you your first and fifth boxes free, yay, and the person whose code you used gets $1 off a future box so that's all the kick-back I receive. I'm big on disclosure.

Snack happy!

2013 in Instagrams

2013 jan-marpretty nail polish, new haircut, birthday breakfast in Seattle

2013 apr-junenew shoes, pattern release prep, TNNA flight home

2013 july-septJersey shore selfie, healthy snack, Rugged Maniac aftermath

2013 oct-decHalloween masks, WIP shot, Kitsune goes outside

In 2013 I:

  • Left my relationship and started a new one (with some insane online dating in the interim!)
  • Fell in love...with compound lifts!
  • Participated in my first obstacle 5k and regular 5k.
  • Saw my most popular pattern to date (Heliopath Vest) be released.
  • Dove headfirst into self-publishing with 5 patterns!
  • Attended TNNA for the first time as part of Team Webs.
  • Went to the Pacific Northwest for the first time and the Jersey Shore for the second time.
  • Set the wheels in motion for some really awesome stuff for 2014 :)

It's been real--catch ya next year!

Baking: A Study in Contrasts

I'm a (former) baking addict. I own both The Cake Bible and The Bread Bible along with the book I actually consider to be my baking bible, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. I even won a ribbon in high school for a cake I entered in the Topsfield Fair. But in a health-conscious, mostly grain-free world they don't get dusted off quite like they used to and I have to admit that I miss it. I dabble in paleo/gluten-free/grain-free baking on occasion and it's all fine and dandy in a curiously-interesting-yet-nervewracking way, where the rules you're used to don't apply anymore. Everything turns out delicious of course, the journey just looks different and you're less sure of your footing. I can't rationalize baking a "real" cake for myself on whim nowadays but a-ha! There's this little thing at the end of the year called the holidays and now suddenly, with other people in mind I can get down n' dirty with some gluten-filled flour for a change. browniesI prepped myself with some peanut butter cookie dough brownies for my Secret Santa at work. I followed this recipe for the concept and the pb cookie dough top, but used Smitten Kitchen's brownie recipe for the base. I winged the topping a little bit--more peanut butter, less flour, only brown sugar, and so on. Tasty tasty stuff! I labored on something else this weekend but that has yet to be revealed...

Then on the other side of the spectrum we have....protein pumpkin pie?!

pieAs part of my exercises in non-traditional baking I've also been researching baking with protein powder. I've made protein powder pancakes before (which are darn good!) but wanted to stretch my wings further while also making a fun, festive post-workout snack. It's good! The texture is different from regular pumpkin pie though.

Protein Pumpkin Pie (slightly adapted from Anna Sward)


  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp honey


  • 200g pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whey protein powder
  • liquid stevia and spices to taste

Combine ingredients for crust and press into bottom of a pie pan. Bake at 360° for 10-15 minutes (essentially par-baking the crust.) Blend filling ingredients together in a food processor or blender then pour over the crust. Bake at 320° for 45-50 minutes or until filling is just set. (I did mine for 45 and it was already overdone, so I'd check earlier and frequently.) Sliced into 8 equal pieces, a slice is approx. 155 calories, 9.5g carbs/9g fat/10.5g protein.

Liquid Breakfast

I'm ashamed to admit that my blender has been broken for over a year out of pure laziness--but no longer! (It needed a new blade which involved tracking down the right part for a model number that wasn't listed anywhere on the blender or the manual...#FWP.) Now whenever I get tired of my usual ol' eggs + something else breakfast routine I can make myself a cold refreshing glass of calories:

smoothieTo be drunk out of a beer glass for ultimate classiness, of course!

I am pro-smoothie when they're done right. A fruit+fruit juice base is a sneaky sugar bomb and does nothing to keep one full until lunchtime. With only a few trial runs I managed to get my favorite formula down pat and I can dress it up as I please with different flavors--easy breezy smoothie girl?

Emma's Anytime Smoothie Base

  • 1 serving protein powder (preferably where one serving=20-30g of protein)
  • 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp natural unsweetened nut butter (add 2 for extra calories)
  • approx 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I add all other ingredients and then fill with almond milk til the 16oz line on the side of my blender)
  • 1 tsp psyllium husk powder (optional, if you need more fiber)

Here are a few of my favorite combinations!

PB Banana Chocolate: Base plus 1 small frozen banana (in pieces), use peanut butter for the nut butter, 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. If the banana alone isn't sweet enough, you can add stevia or the sweetener of your choice. Added sweetener or sweetened protein powder/nut butter/almond milk etc will change the total calories and sugar. Breakdown: Approx 436 calories, 30g carb/30g protein/23g fat.

Blueberry Almond Butter (pictured): Base plus 1 cup frozen blueberries, almond butter as the nut butter, sprinkle of cinnamon. Breakdown: Approx 415 calories, 28g carb/27g protein/23g fat.

PB & Strawberry "Jelly": Base plus 1 cup frozen strawberries, PB as nut butter, sprinkle of cinnamon. Breakdown: Approx 403 calories, 22g carb/29g protein/22g fat.

Pretty much any fruit with your choice of nut butter is win. I buy already frozen berries but chop and freeze fresh bananas myself. I've found that a standard can of coconut milk has enough for 4-5 smoothies in it, but if you don't want to have multiple smoothies in a week you can use it up in other recipes. And if you don't use whey protein powder, these smoothies are dairy-free and vegan!

Are you a smoothie devotee? What's your winning recipe?

For the Sake of Convenience

This is not a sponsored or compensated post! Any specific brands mentioned are by choice because I truly enjoy their products. As much as I like to cook, there is nothing better than coming home to ready-made leftovers or convenience foods--more time to knit, yo! Eating healthy and fast are not mutually exclusive and these are some of my favorite quick n dirty options. Depending on your personal food needs these might not work for you, and that's ok! We all have our own magic list and I'd love to hear some of yours.

Protein powder: This shit saves my life. If your focus is on whole, natural-state foods then protein powder doesn't make the cut but I love it. While I do eat meat/fish/eggs etc, this is an easy way to get in extra protein. Right now I'm on a breakfast smoothie kick (a subject of another upcoming post!) and protein powder is a main feature in those. I'm flexible on brand as long as it meets my main criteria: whey protein vs any other kind, contains 20g+ of protein per serving, and unsweetened. Organic, grass-fed or hormone free are additional pluses! Currently digging Tera's Whey Unsweetened Grass-Fed.

Protein bars: Similar deal as above re: foods in their natural state. I don't believe in using these as full meal replacements (not enough calories) and I don't depend on them as a daily staple. I mainly use them for snacks or delaying meals, like if I want to wait until Mark gets out of work at 8:30 to eat dinner with him, or if I need a boost before a run since I can't run on a full stomach. I'm majorly in love with ThinkThin high protein bars, despite the stupid name. 20g protein and gluten free! They do contain soy protein, and I try to avoid lots of soy in my diet, but at least they only use non-GMO soy. The only other drawback is that they contain sugar alcohols for sweetness, so if you're looking to avoid those then they are off-limits. I don't mind, and my sugar intake is low so these bars are almost candy-like to me! <3 the creamy peanut butter flavor. Some of them are a little dry/weird in texture--chocolate espresso and brownie crunch, I'm looking at you!

Ready-to-go meats: Huge category, tons of options!

  • Rotisserie chicken, especially when Stop n Shop does $5 chickens on Friday.
  • Pre-made burgers. Trader Joe's has frozen uncooked turkey burgers and chicken chili lime burgers for RIDICULOUS prices--$2.99/box of 4 and $3.99/box of 4 respectively at my TJ's.
  • Precooked sausages and meatballs. I'm a fan of the chicken ones by Aidells that come in tons of flavors and most are gluten free and nitrite free.
  • Deli meats are a good option unless you're worried about sodium. Applegate Farms is nitrate and nitrate free though. Since I don't eat sandwiches, these are good on top of salads or just rolled up and eaten by themselves/with cheese as a snack. Also good in omelets or torn up and added to scrambled eggs!

Vegetables...I have no easy shortcuts, sorry! Bagged salad is about as convenience-y as I get. I don't like canned or frozen vegetables and I actually like chopping veggies in a martyring myself kind of way, so I tend to avoid the pre-chopped stuff from the supermarket. But if you truly hate prep work those are great options! Instead I just make big batches of veggies that will last for multiple meals and keep supplementing it with different protein.

What are your shortcuts when you're low on time or energy but big on hunger?

Catching Inspiration

I am one of those annoying diehard book fans who sit through a movie adaptation and think "But she said that line different in the book! And he completely changed the original intent with that facial expression! Gah!" I remember leaving the theater after seeing either the 4th or 5th Harry Potter movie with my friends and line-for-line QUOTING the book and pointing out the difference in wording. #buzzkill This all to say, I saw Catching Fire last night and was extremely pleased with it. As my favorite book of the trilogy I was most looking forward to this one--I can still nitpick things that weren't ~omg the exact same as the book~ but on the whole I found the mood to be a lot more suitable to Collins' original work than the first movie. And the clothes, oh the clothes! Super inspiring for both knitting and sewing purposes. I spied some great knitwear, shall we take a gander together?

catchingfire11.3-1024x682The eponymous shrug/cowl/one sleeved vest thing everyone is in love with. Hella cool but less than practical for my everyday wardrobe. I'm sure I could come up with a look for it but all I forsee is the thing bunching up one side and annoying the hell out of me--you can already tell in the photo above how it's sliding to Katniss' right. The post-apocalyptic version of your pants falling down your ass and having to eternally pull them up; not practical for killing people while wearing. Verdict: Costume (except for a few brave fashionista souls.)

439932_600Finnick can has sweater?! Adorbs! Side note: I didn't get involved in the Sam Claflin bash-fest before the movie premiered, since I didn't know who the hell he was until now, but I have no gripes with his performance as Finnick or his looks. Great choice in my opinion. Ok, on to the sweater. My favorite detail is the cables that transform into part of the ribbed collar, so inspirational and reminds me of other pieces that use the same effect like Bristol Ivy's L'Acadie Cardigan. Meh on the weird closures that make me think of binder clips, they fit the movie but are too costume-y for real life and I hate the way they pull the fabric out of whack. Liking the almost faux-lapel look of the collar. Verdict: Wearable, with buttons subbed in for the binder clips.

tumblr_mgdugzIPg51qabk4ho1_1280Katniss' mother's cardigan and Prim's sleeveless vest, not any different from patterns we already know and love! I wanted to put this here to show that it isn't all crazycakes anarchist sweaters. Verdict: Beyond wearable. Almost boring.

hq-scan-catching-fire-calendar-1This sweater shown in a tiniest fraction of the movie is AMAZING. The directional knitting and modular look to it instantly make me think of Norah Gaughan, and of course colorblocking is in like whoa lately. I think it really highlights J.Law's waist and I love the higher hem at the front. I see this being a lot of fun to recreate, and think of all the color combinations! You could go all Effie Trinket on it and do something crazy like orange, purple and pink. (Not really. That might be overkill.) What I really dislike is that awful shirt underneath it--not only does it ruin the cool high-low hem of the sweater but it looks like a dickey for your crotch. I know it's all the rage in the Capitol right now but Just Say No to crotch bibs. Verdict: @%&*^(@! LOVE IT. Kill the underlayer with fire.

8686-LA_Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire_Red-carpet_400x400_V51I walked out of the theater thinking about this cowl. I thought it was knit but upon looking at pictures now it looks like it's woven (closer look here.) Still a fiber art, still cool! I bet this could be really easily recreated with a rigid heddle loom and some Noro yarn. I can also imagine a knit version using strategic basketweave/cabling to create a similar look. Slight tangent to make a point--Do you ever look at something, figure it out to look one way and then realize you were completely wrong and it looks totally different? I don't know if this happens as often to non-glasses wearers but this happens a bunch, especially when I don't have my glasses on. And usually what I THINK I saw is more interesting than what is actually real. In this case, I'm digging the woven look but I thought this cowl was completely different and it sparked some cool ideas for me. And that is movie magic. Verdict: Wearable. Weavers, feel the love!


This sums it up:

Posing at the Lorna's Laces booth with my new "friends." That foxy redhead behind me is an actual new friend, the lovely Amanda from LL!

May Happenings

This is what my life has looked like lately:

Clockwise from top left: Selfish knitting; surprise dessert from one of the amazing guys I'm dating; new pattern sneak peek; a girl, her best friend, and her cat.

I'm currently knitting up Carina Spencer's absolutely gorgeous Sugar Maple in a giant skein of Play at Life Fiber Arts' Scrumpet. Chrystee custom-dyed a double skein for me over a year ago, when the tee was just a project on Carina's Ravelry page. Now it's finally been released and I cast on the day the pattern came out. When I was finishing up my last batch of design work I kept telling myself "soon you can knit for yourself, soon you can knit for yourself," the designer's version of the Little Engine That Could. But I have to admit, it's hard work keeping myself on schedule for myself! I've been spending a LOT of time dating and probably should scale back so I can get back to my old life--you know, the nights where it's just me, my knitting, my Netflix queue and my cats. I have no problem being a stereotype! (On the plus side, when you date nice boys sometimes they surprise you with fancy dessert for no reason!)

I have a fun accessory pattern I'll be releasing in a few weeks, seen above in all its mid-layout glory. (With wine.) I enlisted my best friend Kerry to help me model...wanna see?

From the lovely Topham Photo as usual

Babealicious, right?! That morning was one of those perfect moments where everything crystallized for me and I thought, "This is what I want to do forever!" I got to style, direct and model in my own mini-shoot for one of my patterns. I can't wait to do it again...and good thing I will be! There is an exciting collaboration coming down the pipeline involving me + some really gorgeous indie-dyed yarn, so stay tuned!


Top Row L-R: Voodoo Doughnuts; Mt. Hood; streets of Seattle. Middle Row L-R: Signs in Astoria; Seattle graffiti; Biscuit Bitch. Bottom Row L-R: Dick's Burgers in Seattle; Multnomah Falls; hiking by the falls. Last weekend I went to the Pacific Northwest for the first time with my friends Tom and Matt from high school. We spent a day in Seattle and 3 days in Portland. Amazing! It happened to be my birthday that Saturday which made the trip even more special. I decided to let loose and placed no rules upon myself during the trip--I did have a set budget, but rather than nickel-and-diming myself on every purchase I ate, drank and shopped however I want. No financial or dietary restrictions!

In Seattle we hit up:

  • Pike's Place Market
  • Perennial Tea Room
  • Biscuit Bitch at Caffe Lieto
  • Multiple bars on Capitol Hill

The next day we drove to Portland via the coastal scenic route, stopping briefly in Aberdeen (be still my 14-yr-old-Nirvana-obsessed-self) and Astoria. As a country gal I loved seeing the lush green backroads of both states.

In Portland we trekked to:

  • Happy Knits
  • The Cultured Caveman (A paleo food cart! My one good food choice the whole trip.)
  • Voodoo Doughnuts
  • Groove Suite (My birthday night dancing destination!)
  • A TON of restaurants and bars
  • Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls (A short drive outside the city.)

That's the super abbreviated round-up--we hit up a lot of Portland but most of it was walking around and stopping wherever looked good, rather than crossing set destinations off a list. We were lucky enough to have gorgeous, non-PNW weather the whole weekend there (sunny, 60s & 70s) so we wound up getting an unexpected spring vacation.

And now I'm back in good ol' Massachusetts, where the temps are still in the 40s and 50s and everything is brown. Sigh. Paradise never lasts!