Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weeks of November 7th - 27th

I've been working hard this entire month, both in my shop and at Joann, and it has certainly paid off. It's been a great month for business. It also doesn't hurt that I often have my cat friend napping by my side while I work, interrupting me periodically to be petted. Having lived with us for over a month now, Teddy is settled in and seems perfectly happy with his new life as an apartment cat. Since he used to be a stray, I was a little afraid he'd try to escape, but so far he's expressed no desire to slip out the doors and only a little interest in looking out the windows. He seems quite content as long as he gets his daily doses of play time and affection. And he enjoys my cat blankets. :)

In knitting news, I finished a new baby sweater using Ella Rae Amity Prints:

Otherwise, it's been lots and lots of hats and gloves!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weeks of October 17th - November 6th

Yes, I know it has been three weeks since my last post. I was distracted first by being sick (better now), then by being busy, then - the best by far - by adopting a cat! For the first time in our married life we're in a cat-friendly apartment, and on a cold, drizzly Friday a couple of weeks ago we went to the Cleveland APL and adopted a handsome 4-year-old tabby we're calling Teddy:

He was picked up as a stray on the west side and brought to the shelter. Though he shows signs of living on the street for a while, I suspect he started out living with people because he's adjusted so well to our home. He's still fond of hiding in corners, but he loves being petted and is quite playful. Teddy is a quiet kitty, but he purrs readily and he's learning to ask for what he wants - he has a tiny meow that sounds like a squeak! He's been with us just a week and a half, but we're already finding it hard to imagine life without him. He is just the best cat.

As for work - I've been knitting mostly shop stuff, but last week I made a couple of hats and a pair of mittens for the new Afghans for Afghans campaign:

I now have some custom orders to keep me busy over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weeks of October 3rd - 16th

I've put in a lot of hours at Joann Fabrics lately, mostly at the cutting counter - it has been so busy there! At home I've done a couple of custom orders, most notably this cute toddler sweater:

It's made with my new favorite non-wool yarn, Lion Brand Cotton Ease; it's for a two-year-old living in the deep South, so wool wasn't really an option! I borrowed the basic shape and added the wildflower knot design to the body to keep things interesting and to add a feminine touch. The adorable pink buttons are from my workplace.

Otherwise I've been stocking up on shop staples - gloves and such. I'm giving myself a refresher course in Spanish, since I'll be going to Guatemala for a week in December and I want to be somewhat functional! I know it's just a week, but I want to make the most of it. And it's good manners.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Week of September 26th - October 2nd

Fun stuff first. I spent a while going through the Mother Bear Project photo gallery and was rewarded for my efforts with three new photos of my bears with their children. These are in South Africa, Togo, and Mali:

Now the boring stuff. I was dedicated over the weekend and listed patterns for my red lace sweater (finally!) and my knitted necktie. Here's the red sweater on a real person - namely, me - and now I have to sign off and go work on a custom order. The holidays are coming!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Week of September 19th - 25th

It's been a productive week. I finished the last headband of the current set; I don't expect to knit any more for a while. This one is dark blue, and you can find it here.

I also completed my cat blanket pattern, which is listed on Etsy, Ravelry and Artfire:

And I've finished my first necktie. I came across some trouble because the tie kept curling to the right; somehow the stitch pattern worked out so that the end of the right-side rows were looser than the beginning, no matter what I did. I solved the problem by whipstitching along the edges, so now it lies nicely flat. No listings until I've knitted one or two more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weeks of September 4th - 18th

I put off blogging last week because I didn't have any interesting pictures or new listings to show. Now I do. I was almost out of headband/cowls in my shop, so I got out a few pretty oddballs left over from my Mossy Jackets and knit three headbands in pink/orange, multi, and forest green. They're great for the fall and winter.

I have a new men's sweater design on the agenda, as well as a line of knitted neckties, which I'm working on now. I've never been a fan of machine-knit ties; while some guys can make anything look awesome, I think on most men they're irredeemably dorky (and this is coming from me). Hand-knit ties are a different matter entirely. There's a fine line between dorky and geek chic, and they tend to fall in with the latter. I seem to have found a good combination of gauge and stitch pattern for neckties, so I should have photos by next week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weeks of August 21st - September 3rd

We made it through the move and are now in our lovely new apartment, though it's still cluttered with boxes. Joann Fabrics has given me a ton of hours over the last couple of weeks - a bit ironic that it's now, but I'm not complaining.

I bought some pretty calicos from my workplace and I've been making half-window curtains with them. I started out on my Singer sewing machine, but we got into a fight pretty quickly and so I've been hand-sewing them instead. It kept jamming and breaking needles, and I need to get it serviced, but we're not currently on speaking terms. I don't mind hand-sewing; it takes longer, but my hands never jam and seldom break needles, and the finished effect is just as good.

Going to go unpack clothes and maybe put together a bookshelf.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weeks of August 7th-20th

We're in the midst of moving and things have been quite crazy for the past couple of weeks. Our new place is literally just five minutes up the road - it even has the same zip code as our current address - but even so it's stressing me out! I do have another cute custom-order baby sweater, also in Vickie Howell Sheep(ish), to show for last week. The color is Chartreuse(ish). Here's the photo, and I'll get back to packing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week of July 31st - August 6th

The red sweater pattern is typed up, but I didn't get to the photos yet. However, I do have two sweaters that I completed this week. The first is a unisex baby sweater I did as a custom order. I used 3 balls of Vickie Howell Sheep(ish) in Yellow(ish). The cute cow buttons came from Fine Points.

After putting it aside briefly to complete the baby sweater, I finished my newest Mossy Jacket, also a custom order for a family member. This is the 5th one I've made, but since the yarn comes in so many pretty colorways, I haven't gotten bored with them yet! This one is in Trendsetter Tonalita color #2349 Bright Multi.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Week of July 24th - 30th

I mostly worked on the red lace sweater for the past week. It's finally finished, and I have a picture:

It's oversized and, meaning no offense to my dressmaker's dummy, generally looks better on someone with arms. I'll try to get some photos of myself in it this week while I write up the pattern.

Speaking of patterns, I FINALLY sat myself down and finished the men's vest pattern I've been sitting on for a while. It's listed here.

I have two custom orders on the needles right now: another Mossy Jacket for a family member and a baby sweater. The baby sweater is taking precedence right now; I'm hurrying to get it done by Friday.

All in all, I've been having an exceptionally good few weeks, sales-wise, for the summer. Most of my sales lately have come from Australia, where of course it's winter. I'm very grateful.

I sometimes worry about my international pattern buyers because I write all my patterns American-style, using the silly, antiquated English system of measurements. I've considered adding metric measurements, but I'm not mathematically-minded and the metric system is daunting. I didn't learn it very well in school and I don't understand it well. Also, every country has its own way of writing knitting patterns, so how can I accomodate every method? So I make sure to clarify US sizes and hope that my fellow knitters don't mind converting from inches to centimeters.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week of July 16th - 23rd

This week I have one new addition to my shop: a skein of handspun wool made from Bluefaced Leicester top, soft white, 94 yards. It's a lovely, squishy yarn and very soft.

Otherwise I've been plugging away at the red lace sweater. Last week I got a last-call email from the current Afghans for Afghans campaign, so I put the sweater on hold and knit up two more hats. That's pretty much the end of my scrap wool stash, and two more people will have warm hats this winter!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week of July 9th - 15th

Dealing with photo-editing software this morning has made me irrationally cranky, so I'll keep things short and sweet. I'm pleased to have completed and listed three new infinity scarves in Ocean, Salsa and Cerulean:

I was also very excited to learn last week that the legendary Ohio Knitting Mills has a summer pop-up store in Ohio City. It's only open for a few weeks, so on Wednesday I braved a trip to the west side to visit.* I was thrilled to get to see all the vintage, never-before-worn sweaters they had for sale there. I expected them to be prohibitively expensive, but while there were some that were out of my price range, I was pleased to find that many weren't. Since sample garments tend to be in the smallest size, a lot of the early pieces (1940s and '50s) were too small for me; they would probably be XS according to today's measurements. The later pieces were generally larger, and I came home with two attractive ones from the '70s:

They're vintage without being too dated, they fit well, and - most importantly - I'll wear them both!

*As is probably true of many cities, there's a strange divide between the east and west side of Cleveland. Though I'm far from a native Clevelander, I fell right into it when I moved here. If you live on the east side, you may never go to the west side unless maybe you work there, or vice versa. "Your" side is familiar; the "other" side is uncharted territory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week of July 2nd - 8th

Cleveland hasn't been spared the heat wave, though we're lucky to have had a few days' rain last week and no windstorms yet. Thanks to our new window unit, I have two baby sweaters and my completed TARDIS scarf to show for this sweltering week.

First, the Hooded Cardigan by Debbie Bliss, from the pattern in Design It, Knit It: Babies, knit using two balls of Ella Rae Amity Prints acrylic/wool blend:

This hoodie pattern is one of my favorites for baby sweaters; it's quick, easy, and very cute. I knit this one for a baby girl in the family. For a boy, I decided on another old favorite, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I used the newsletter pattern from The Opinionated Knitter and two balls of Plymouth Yarn Encore Colorspun:

That one always turns out bigger than I expect, but I guess too big is always better than too small, especially when it comes to babies. I found the adorable elephant buttons at Joann Fabrics and couldn't resist; they don't match exactly, but I think they work anyway.

And, last but not least, I finally sat down and finished my TARDIS scarf. I would have liked to have made it longer, but I ran out of medium blue cotton and ultimately decided it was fine as is:

I'm considering putting the pattern up here for free, my only hesitation being the copyright issues of using the word TARDIS or the police box image. I'll see.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week of June 25th - July 1st

My big achievement of the week is a toy monkey for a baby in the family. I used the pattern "Tucker the Monkey" from Toys to Knit by Tracy Chapman. Though it's not my design, I really think I outdid myself, especially with the mattress stitch seams and the fancy endless scarf:

I set out determined to follow the pattern to the letter for once (something I never do), but at the first line I was already making adjustments. These were the critiques I put on

- The pattern called for using worsted-weight yarn doubled and US 3 needles, which seemed unnecessarily time-consuming and difficult; I used a single strand of worsted-weight yarn and US 4 needles, and the toy came out just as nicely, I thought.

- The whole pattern was designed to knit the pieces flat, then sew up the seams. That was fine, but certain parts - like the legs - could have been worked in the round just as effectively, taking less time in the process.

- The tail is made using a 7-stitch i-cord, which I find near impossible to do in a way that looks good. I had to use 3 dpns for it.

- This is really nit-picky, but it calls for the hands and feet to be knit separately and sewn on later, when you could just pick up stitches right off the arm or leg and knit them. I just hate unnecessary seams.

I don't mean to be overly critical, however. This is a pretty easy pattern that makes a very cute toy, and I'll probably knit it again someday, with the adjustments.

And it's kind of dark, but here is a picture of the five bears assembled this week:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week of June 18th-24th

Despite the sluggish heat, I managed to knit two infinity scarves in teal and rust:

Also got five new bears knit up, but I don't have pictures because they're not yet assembled. At the moment I'm starting a lace cotton sweater design, which I would much rather work on now than blog, so I'm going call it a day.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week of June 11th-17th

Two things to show for this week. First, my new scarf. I've gradually been knitting up some of my handspun yarn into infinity scarves for my shop, and the newest is listed here.

One-of-a-kind pieces are always kind of a leap of faith; I could probably count on one hand the number of OOAK items I've sold on Etsy. I love knitting OOAK pieces, but I'm not sure if I have the knack for making them sell. Still, it's worth it to get to work with my handspun and make something pretty and unique.

Second, my complete set of bears. I've made as many as I think I can afford to do right now (Mother Bear Project asks for a donation of $3 per bear to help with shipping costs, which adds up). Here are the new ones:

And here's the full set, eight in all:

I'll get them in the mail this week. I'm still in the mood to knit bears, so my mother and I have worked out an arrangement. I'll knit the bears, then send them to her to stuff and finish, and she'll mail them with the donation to Mother Bear Project. That should keep me going for a while longer!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weeks of May 28th - June 10th

A few weeks ago I had our friend Rene start me a custom Doctor Who TARDIS-themed My Little Pony. I got it yesterday, and I feel like a little kid with a new toy. TARDIS Pony is just so beautiful! Rene did an AMAZING job; the coloring and designs are just perfect. Here we have the front and back view:

I chose the Pegasus body, partly because it fits with a flying time machine, and partly because the only other Pegasus pony I had was stolen by a girl in my preschool class. (I don't even remember her name, but I'm still kind of mad about that. Childhood grudges die hard.) It's a first-generation pony circa 1984, which incidentally makes it older than both my husband and me. How about that.

Anyway, knitting stuff. I'm back onto the bears, since I feel like it and since it's hard to knit wool hats when you have sweat pouring down your back because your apartment is too hot. (We really should get that AC unit.) So here's my latest batch:

Today's project is assembling and finishing two other bears I have on hand. Last week I quit my dog walking job (with a month's prior notice, I should add, so "my" dogs have the proper care with a new walker), so now I have some more room to breathe and to get things done. I really like my Joann Fabrics job, but I usually work evenings and get very tired, so the extra work-at-home time is helpful.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weeks of May 14th-27th

I skipped last week's blog post because last Sunday was my husband's grad school commencement, so I was busy with ceremonies and things all day. Knitting-wise, my sock binge has continued, with two more pairs of A4A socks:

Also, two more pairs of "leftovers" socks for myself:

Aside from those, I knit a couple of my usual men's hats for the fall. I think I've more or less exhausted my sock stash for the time being, so I should have something more interesting to share in my next post - probably the Sunday after next.

In other news, I've been enjoying the hot, sunny weather. I love spring; it can make even the urban blight look pretty. Day jobs are going okay, though I'm working on phasing out the dog-walking. I've done it for over a year and a half now, and though I love my dogs, now that I have the JoAnn Fabrics job I think it's time to move on.

I've been reading Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art by Susan M. Strawn. It's much like the excellent book No Idle Hands: A Social History of American Knitting by Anne MacDonald, except it's more of a coffee table book and has lots of pictures. I'm drawn to the history of textile arts, and I find wartime knitting particularly interesting because of my family heritage - both my great-grandmother (World War I) and my grandmother (World War II) knit for the war effort, and I like to knit for the peace effort (Afghanistan, etc.), which feels like a natural progression in time.

In case anyone is wondering how I get all this knitting done, it's because I work ALL THE TIME. I am either away at work or home at work. All jobs combined, I can work anywhere from 50-70 hours a week. When I am not working, I am usually asleep (I need a good nine hours a night to feel truly rested) or eating (at least two meals a day, preferably three, but I often forget to eat lunch). Once or twice a week I'll go grocery shopping and do housework. Occasionally I socialize, but that's usually accompanied by knitting, so whether or not that counts as work or rest is up for debate. I may well be a workaholic, but I'm pretty happy and my husband's pretty happy, so I figure there's no reason to change my lifestyle until we have kids.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week of May 7th-13th

I didn't have to work this weekend and also have very little scheduled to do, so for the past two days I've been doing little other than knitting socks. The socks are great, but honestly I've been a little bored. Boredom isn't common for me; I was an only child with working parents and therefore learned early on to entertain myself. Part of it was that my husband was out of town, and he usually keeps me entertained. It's not that I fall apart or anything when he's not around - of course, I miss him, but I'm not upset - but I tend to revert to my natural reclusive state when left to my own devices.

Anyway, socks. I finished the A4A pair I had on the needles when I wrote last week, and I knit myself a wool-acrylic blend pair from yarn leftovers. Most significantly, I finished my Pink Zebra jacket this week, all except for the button.

I went by Fine Points yarn store yesterday afternoon to help my mother-in-law pick out yarn for a jacket I'm making her. Fine Points is a lovely LYS (Local Yarn Store) and a real fixture of the Larchmere neighborhood. I've taught several knitting and crochet classes there in the past. But here's the funny thing: I always have to psych myself up to go there, because it gets me down. Or to any LYS, for that matter. This is a fairly new thing - I used to love going to yarn stores to admire all the beautiful designer yarns. But over the past couple of years, as I've been more serious about my shop and have been knitting with simpler yarns, going to an LYS tends to make me depressed. The reason is the cost.

I'm not criticizing independent stores for having higher prices than chain stores; they have to if they want to stay in business, and on the whole I don't mind paying an extra dollar or so if it's to support a local store and it saves me having to wait for an online order. But when you're on a limited income and like to make large things like sweaters, the extra couple of dollars per ball of yarn quickly makes a project prohibitively expensive. Even if you do order online, designer yarn is designer yarn, and it's going to cost more than what you get at a chain craft store. Again, I'm not saying they should be cheaper, because I know they often contain fine materials and require a lot of time to make. And it seems like, for most knitters, it's fine. Most of the knitters I know or know of are women in their 40s and up and are fairly wealthy, so they can buy a $15 ball of beautiful, one-of-a-kind handpainted yarn. But for me, looking at a shelf of luxury yarns feels a bit like looking at a case of fine jewelry: I can appreciate the beauty, but I can't afford any of it, so I just get depressed.

Which is why I typically stick to sturdy, simple yarns from places like JoAnn Fabrics and Hobby Lobby. You can find some affordable and good-quality wools there. I'd be more inclined to buy "nicer" yarns if I could sell what I make from them, but from my experience a hat made from plain worsted wool is much more likely to sell than one made from a fancy wool/mohair blend. Leftover designer wool that I bought when I was a new knitter tends to wind up in my A4A pieces.

Yesterday, as a gift, my husband's grandmother bought me a lovely skein of a silk/mohair blend - something I would never allow myself to buy nowadays - along with a pattern for an airy shawl/cowl/scarf to make from it. It's soft and decadent and only marginally useful. And I'm going to love knitting and wearing it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week of April 30th - May 6th

The new Afghans for Afghans campaign is posted, and here are my pieces from this week. I have two hats that are a bit misshapen because I used bulky and thick-and-thin wools rather than worsted, but nevertheless they're toasty warm and perfectly wearable for an adult or older child.
I also have one completed pair of adult-size socks and another on the needles. Since I learned the two-at-a-time method I've been trying to develop the perfect design for worsted-weight socks - mine always come out too loose around the foot - and I think I've found it! By just adding a slip 1, knit one round every other round at the foot, I can get the foot to fit more snugly without making the rest of the sock too small. These pure wool ones are going to Afghanistan, but later on I'm going to knit some for myself in a washable wool blend.
I worked this week but got the weekend off. My husband and I went to see The Avengers on Friday, which was a lot of fun; it lived up to my high expectations of a movie written and directed by Joss Whedon! And superheroes aren't usually my thing. I also have to add with some pride that the outdoor scenes set in Germany and New York City were actually filmed here in Cleveland, mere blocks away from my apartment. I was working at Filene's Basement while they were filming last summer, and movie people would come in periodically and buy up tons of clothes and accessories for filming. They would never say what movie they were working on, but come on, we all knew! Stuff like that doesn't happen here every day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week of April 23rd-29th

I started my new job this week and I'm utterly exhausted, so it'll be a short post tonight. I worked some more on my Pink Zebra jacket this week: both front panels and about half of the back are finished. Yesterday I got an email from Afghans for Afghans giving details on their new campaign (not up on the website last I checked), so I indulged a bit and started a hat this evening. I dug out some designer wool oddballs and I'm putting them to good use in a couple of hats. Then I have some multicolored worsted wool that should make at least one nice pair of socks. Pics when I have them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week of April 16th-22nd

Finished the Mossy Jacket today! I probably could have gotten it done yesterday or Friday, except we were on overnight dog-sitting duty at my in-laws', which always seems to put me into vacation mode. Instead of working, I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon finishing Mockingjay, the third and final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. It's really a brilliant piece of work. At any rate, here's the photo of the finished jacket in the lovely Starry Night colorway, plus one of my hubby modeling the men's vest, which I still need to finish writing up. My only excuse for not getting to that pattern sooner is that it's not sweater vest season and won't be for a while yet, so I have time to devote to other things. But what shall I work on next? I started my Pink Zebra jacket, but I also have a crocheted dragon on the hook (is that a pun?), and both are vying for my attention.