Sunday, December 22, 2013

Please help me find my stolen shawl

I hate to be writing this sort of post so close to Christmas, but sadly this is the state of affairs. I have had multiple handmade items stolen this month, and they all pain me. But the biggest loss is this shawl. This piece was stolen from a mannequin at Seed Stitch Fine Yarn in Salem, MA. It is one of a kind - the design is my original design, and the yarn has been discontinued. There are no others exactly like it, and I miss it very much.


Please keep an eye out. If you see someone wearing this, it is the original, because it cannot be duplicated. If you do spot it, I would appreciate it if you could take it from the thief and get it back to me.

On that note, let's please stop being so crappy to each other. To the thief: I bet you thought you were pretty clever, stealing such a unique piece. I bet you didn't even think of the person who spent days pouring time, hard work, and love into it. If you're the one who took it, please return it. I won't ask any questions.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Gentle Rant About Knitting

A while ago, my friend Liz of Made in Lowell posted Paying for Handmade: A Gentle Rant. Her post has generated a wonderful discussion on the value of handmade. I wanted to take some time to discuss the value of a more specific niche of handmade: knitting.

Knitting is often looked down on as a craft. It's true. Whenever I participate in a craft show, it seems to be the craft that people look down on the most - it's the craft that everyone thinks they can do. In reality, anyone can do any craft - knitting, sewing, jewelry making, pottery, etc. It just takes knowledge and practice. But because knitting is a common pastime, there's this notion that knitted goods have no value.

I often get people coming up to my table and saying things like, "this is easy-peasy" and openly asking me how I made something so they can replicate it. At my last craft show, a woman approached me. "Excuse me, can you tell me what needle size you used for this?" I braced myself. "Actually, I'm sorry but I don't provide pattern information." She stared at me blankly for about a minute, expecting me to say something else. Then she finally said, "you really mean that?" "Yes. I worked hard to design all of these." She left without another word.

So I feel like I have to put this out there: Knitting is not easy. A lot of people knit. Fewer people knit well. Even fewer people have enough understanding about the structure and mathematics of knitting, and are able to make their own designs.

I am a knitting teacher, and people routinely sign up for classes that are too advanced for their skill level - "I figured knitting is knitting!" they say to me, as they realize they won't be able to execute the project. I have had several people with zero knowledge of knitting sign up for my intermediate level class on fingerless mittens - and be completely shocked when they spend a full hour just learning how to cast on stitches. They rarely make it past the ribbed cuff, being completely baffled by the alternating stitches. This is because: knitting is not easy. It's not something everybody does. It's not something you learn in five minutes. It's not something without value.

Knitwear makers work hard on their craft - they spend days designing pieces, making swatches and samples, and refining the design. They work very hard to find a good balance between complexity and time to produce to create affordable goods. Knitting is not a fast craft, even if you're a fast knitter. But people are shocked to not be paying $10 for something it takes us hours to make - because there is a widespread notion about the lack of value of knitting. But I'm sure very few people out there want to be paid $2 an hour.

And something else to think about - J. Crew charges more for most of their machine-made knitted goods than I do for my hand-knitted goods. Please don't expect Walmart prices from me.

Next time you examine an artisan's work, I urge you to think carefully about the skills and time that it took. Please don't undervalue and undermine handmade.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Knitting Saga, Part 2

Prep School Mitts

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and here we are in December. Yikes! That happened super fast. There seems to be a common affliction among makers this time of year: this is when we should be focusing on producing as many things as possible, and it's when our brains go into overdrive with new ideas that we don't have the time to work on. Inevitably, we end up caving at least once. To keep myself at least a little sane, I allowed myself to make these new mitts: The Prep School Mitts. Simple, classic, and cute.



I came across this beautiful roving from a farm in New Hampshire and couldn't resist bringing it home. It's now part of my holiday gift knitting list, which I'll be working through frantically after my last show of the season on December 14th. I have to keep this one secret, since the recipients might see this post, but I'm excited to make it!

It's hard to believe that in less than a week, I'll be traveling to Berkshires for Alchemy Initiative. Will I see you there?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pattern Review: Opera Gloves

I've come to realize that I am terrible at posting about finished projects when they're things I'm making for myself. I started these gloves back in May 2012, and picked them back up last summer. I did actually finish them by the end of the summer, but never got around to taking photos. They're my go-to gloves this season.


Pattern: Opera Gloves by Mac and Me
Yarn: Toil & Trouble Merino/Nylon Sock in Sun Also Rises
Needles: US 1

The owner of Mac and Me, Leslie, is a local designer who also lives on the North Shore. I didn't know her when I first bought the pattern, but I've had the good fortune of getting to know her this year. She is super sweet and I definitely recommend checking out her patterns.


I really enjoyed this pattern and I love my finished gloves. I knit the size small, and made them full length. They are quite long, so I think they would still work if they were a couple of inches shorter. I admit I did not do a gauge swatch, but my gauge turned out to be right when I checked after finishing the first hand (note: I do not recommend this irresponsible knitting behavior!).

I did make a few modifications to the pattern. Rather than knitting in the front and back loops for the thumb increases, I opted for "make one left" and "make one right" increases. I prefer this type of increase aesthetically. I also modified the index finger. The fingers are knit without any shaping, except for the decreases at the very top. I found the index finger to be a bit too baggy, so I ripped back and added some shaping throughout.

Overall, I loved the pattern and I highly recommend it. It is a great project for variegated yarn.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Holiday Knitting Saga, Part 1

The holiday gift knitting continues, snuck in here and there in between making piles of cowls, hats, and mittens for craft shows. I am lucky that my family doesn't really get the whole blogging thing, so they're unlikely to see these sneak peeks.


Pattern: Mountain of Light
Yarn: Shibui Cima
Needle Size: I honestly don't remember. I finished this shawl a while back, but just got around to blocking it.

I really love how this came out. The yarn is laceweight, so it's not a quick knit, but the result is simple yet elegant. I had a brief moment of "feeling too attached" to gift it, but I think the recipient will love it. The yarn is 70% Alpaca, 30% Merino, so it's very light and soft. The pattern is pretty straight forward, with the cute elongated stitch detail where the two colors meet. It's a good introduction to intarsia if you've never tried it.



Pattern: Potholder with Textured Heart
Yarn: Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton(had been sitting in my stash for at least 3 years)
Needle Size: US 8

Tonight is the Holiday Potholder Exchange at Seed Stitch, so I whipped up this little guy. I considered skipping it in favor of staying in and frantically knitting more hats and cowls, but I realized it's healthy for me to go interact with people. Now I just need to find the motivation to put on "real people clothes" in the next few hours. Locals, hope to see you there!


This is not knitting related, but I've also been enjoying getting to know my new Wild Unknown Tarot deck. I've been collecting tarot decks for about 20 years. I first heard about this deck from Tara when she came to visit, and then Alena, one of my favorite artists, started posting pictures of hers. I couldn't resist, and now I'm totally captivated by the imagery.

Are you making holiday gifts this year? Have you come across any projects you really love? I'm always looking for inspiration!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Knitting On

I am still learning what my "new normal" is after so many changes in the last couple of months. My head has been spinning, and I've been unintentionally neglecting this blog as I figure out how to structure being self-employed. I've also been busy teaching lots of knitting classes. Now, all of a sudden, it's late November, and having to get ready for holiday shows is forcing me to let go of the hurt of the last few weeks and focus on knitting.


If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been stock-piling hats. This is a variation of my Transitive Property Super Slouch - same design, but a more traditional amount of slouch. I am having lots of fun experimenting with color combinations.


Yarn: Toil & Trouble Merino/Nylon Sock in Typhoid Mary
Pattern: Modified from Indi Girl Sock Pattern Generator

I am also sneaking in tiny bits of non-work knitting, since I would like to give more handmade gifts this year. I always buy gifts from other artists and artisans (which obviously counts as handmade), but I'd like to make more gifts myself. This might turn out to be an unreasonable goal, but I am remaining delusional positive at this point.

If you're wondering where to find me this season, I am doing two holiday shows:

Alchemy Initiative in Pittsfield, MA on December 8th and 9th


SOWA Holiday Market, Saturday December 14th only

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In Which Things Change Rapidly

Another hard to write post. When I was finally feeling like my life was back in some state of equilibrium, it turned completely upside down.

Many of you knew I was managing a new studio community on the North Shore. As of two weeks ago, I am no longer involved with this project. After ongoing immoral and illegal behavior by the landlord, I left, along with about half of the artists. I wish those who stayed behind the best of luck, as they are great people. This has been a painful and heartbreaking process. I put in 5 months of very hard work, as a volunteer, to bring a community to life, and walked away in less than ideal circumstances. I have no intention of airing grievances publicly, so this is all I will say on the matter. I am happy to answer any questions you may have privately.

I've allowed myself time to grieve over what happened, and now I'm dusting myself off and moving on. For the time being, I'll be working out of my home studio. I am teaching a variety of classes at Seed Stitch Fine Yarn, so I can still be found out and about.

Thank you to those of you who have been supporting me during this difficult time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ender's Game and New Patterns

Since they finally made an Ender's Game movie, I decided I had to read the book before the movie came out. I made it through the book in a few days, while taking some breaks to work on a sweater collar. Size US 1 needles and repeating cables - I really hope I love this sweater when it's done.


I honestly avoided this book because I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was glad to find it well-written. It is a very interesting commentary on the human mind, manipulation, and ethics. I was also impressed with the foresight Orson Scott Card had in terms of technology, since this was originally written in the late 1970s. In the end, I wasn't surprised by the "twist," which I had already guessed at, but I am definitely looking forward to the movie adaptation. I know people tend to have very strong opinions about this book, and I'd love to hear yours.

New Patterns

I've also been busy planning a series of classes, which I'll be teaching at Seed Stitch Fine Yarn this fall and spring. Classes include the basics of shawl design, working through my Nimue Wrap pattern to learn chart reading and cables, and some other basics. I designed some cozy mitts and a simple slouchy hat for the classes, but these patterns are also available on Ravelry.

Who wants to take a class with me?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review: Promise Not To Tell

As I sat down to write this book review, I realized there is one thing I will miss about commuting for work: seeing what other people are reading. I would always look around at other commuters' books, and if something caught my eye, I would write it down. This book is the last one that I found this way.

Promise Not To Tell

Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon is described as a cross between a mystery-thriller and a ghost-story. It is the story of a nurse who is forced to deal with stories of death and betrayal from her childhood when she returns home to care for her ailing mother.

As someone who has read her fair share of horror novels, I did not find this story to be particularly scary. But I enjoyed the plot twists, which were definitely unpredictable. It's a fun, short read, but probably not a book that I would re-read. If you've read it, what did you think?

The second book in the photo is A Mesa Voadora by Luis Fernando Verissimo, a well-known Brazilian writer. I've pledged to read more in my native tongue to keep my vocabulary from degrading. Sometimes I forget it has already been 11 years since I moved here! This book is a compilation of real-life anecdotes centered around food, eating, and comedy. I enjoyed it, but the funniest chapter was the first one.

Now that I won't be seeing new books while commuting to work anymore, I need suggestions! What should I read?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Brooksby Farm


For my birthday, I had Nate take me apple-picking. I moved to New England 11 years ago, but somehow completely missed out on this Fall tradition.


Brooksby Farm is a short drive from our home. Not only do they have apple-picking, they also have strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and peaches. I can't wait to go back next year and pick all of those!


They also have a very adorable and delicious farm shop, with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and fresh baked goods. Of course we tried the apple cider donuts.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Big News

Here we are, almost two months later to the day. The last couple of months were a roller coaster for me, which included turning 30, and leaving my job to run Toil & Trouble full-time. I've been struggling with how to write this post for a few weeks because it seemed like there was too much to say and too much to explain. I didn't manage to find the right words, so instead I decided to go for this super-abridged version.

So come out to the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl and support this newly self-employed fiberista. I'll be having a trunk show at Black Sheep Knitting Co. on Saturday, October 5th from 9 am to 5 pm. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Pattern: Nimue Wrap

I'm excited to tell you about this new pattern! I've been slowly working on a variety of cabled designs, all inspired by my undying love for Mists of Avalon. It started with the Avalon Mitts, then the Igraine Cowl, and then I decided to get a bit more ambitious.


This is the Nimue Wrap, named for the daughter of Lancelot and Elaine. Nimue is known for her exceptional beauty, but she ultimately leads a tragic life where her duty forces her to betray her true love.

This pattern is great for people who are new to cables. I designed it to look complicated, but it's actually a pretty simple repetition. It's also designed so you're only cabling on the right side of the work. You don't have to worry about the wrong side at all!

I've often found that while cables are pretty, they can often create stiff fabric. I wanted this to be light and supple, so the design uses aggressive blocking to create delicate drape.

I hope you love this as much as I do! The pattern is available for pre-release purchase on Ravelry, at a discounted price until August 9th. It will be officially released August 10th.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Overly Ambitious

Remember how I said we went fabric shopping last weekend? We visited Grey's Fabric, where I always get hypnotized by the pretty fabric and over-estimate my free time. I seriously over-loaded my sewing queue, so I decided to do a separate post so I can show you all the pretties. Now I just need to get my sewing machine serviced already so I can get started... My beloved machine is having some thread tension issues. Heartbreaking.


I bought the new Hawthorn dress pattern when it first came out, and then Ashley at Grey's Fabric suggested this pretty butterfly print. Now is when I confess I am completely intimidated by all the buttonholes. The fabric on the right, with its adorable mountains and roaming foxes, is for a surprise gift.


The golden fabric is going to become a Victoria Blazer by By Hand London, lined with the light gray cotton. I've always struggled to find blazers for my frame, so I might as well try making my own. The black tulip print fabric will be the sleeveless Datura blouse, with a solid black Peter Pan collar.

Now who wants to do my laundry and wash my dishes for the next month so I can make all this?

What's in your making queue?

Monday, July 22, 2013

A SOWA Sunday

Yesterday Lucinda, Karissa, and I met up in Boston for an afternoon of fabric shopping and shopping at SOWA Open Markets in the South End. It had been a ridiculously long time since I had gone to SOWA, and I really love being on the buyer end of the craft show sometimes. I know a lot of the local handmakers in this area, so I'm always excited to find new people to stalk love. This time I found two new-to-me sellers.

Jon Wye

Jon Wye makes "Artist-Driven Graphic Clothing," and when I saw this t-shirt of a robot eating robo-cereal, I couldn't resist getting it for Nate. Those who know Nate know he has a serious fondness for cereal, especially late at night.

New Moon Studio

I am completely smitten with this turquoise pomegranate vase by New Moon Studio. As a mythology lover, I have a special place in my heart for these lovely fruits. I've seen many artistic interpretations of pomegranates, but I had to have this gorgeous turquoise version.


I also spent some time tending to my veggie garden this weekend, and it looks like I'm going to have a bountiful tomato harvest soon. I can't wait!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and that this heatwave is being kind to you. We lost power for a while on Friday, and some pretty uncivilized things were yelled by someone in this house. Ok, it was probably me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Things I Learned from Knitting

Knitting can be a strange thing. Some of us are process knitters, some of us are project knitters. I am a project knitter. A few of us are single-project knitters, enjoying monogamous experiences, knitting one thing at a time. I am not a monogamous knitter. I am always knitting, but when it comes to making things for myself, I usually have many projects going on. Some get finished pretty quickly, and others get tossed aside for months.


These gloves? I started them in May 2012. I was really excited about them, until I knit up the index finger and found out it was too baggy. I ripped back that finger, lost my enthusiasm, and put them aside. Until this weekend. I decided I really want to wear these this winter, so I modified the index finger, knit up the thumb, and cast on for the second hand. I often get asked how I stay motivated to knit during the summer, and this is the answer. I love knowing I'll have pieces ready to wear when the cold starts.


This is how I spent my weekend, completely immersed in knitting: knitting these gloves, and reading my new Yarn Harlot books about knitting.

Have you read her books? Did you enjoy them? I've already finished Things I Learned About Knitting, and am starting Free-Range Knitter today.

I admit I am feeling the itch to start a new shawl... but I'm going to try staying focused on the gloves.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sweaters and Wraps

Avalonian Wrap

Even though my holiday weekend didn't include fireworks and cookouts, it did have a whole lot of knitting. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been working on a cabled wrap for a while. I designed this pattern to use in an introduction to cabled knitting class I'll be teaching this fall, and I'll also have it up on Ravelry for sale. The actual knitting portion is done, now I just need to block it, photograph it, assemble the pattern... Ok, there's still a lot to do.


I also made a lot of progress on some sweaters I've had hanging around for a while. After giving myself some time to be grumpy at the project and punish it by sticking it in the corner, I finally knit the collar in a contrast color and ripped back the neon cuffs. Now I just need to block it and model it!

Blank Canvas Sweater

This is my almost-finished Blank Canvas Sweater. I changed the grading of the sweater to add a couple of inches at the hips, and accommodate my waist and bust size without getting baggy arms, so it's been as much of a math project as a knitting project. In general, I prefer top-down sweaters because you can try them on and it's easy to add length. I'm a little worried this will be shorter than I want, but I'm really excited to finish it and try it on. If it turns out a bit short, oh well.

What have you been making? Are you a top-down or bottom-up sweater knitter?

Project Notes
Pattern: Breezy Cardigan by Hannah Fetig
Yarn: Araucania Huasco

Pattern: Blank Canvas Sweater by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Toil & Trouble Merino/Cashmere/Nylon DK in Kelpie and Wine Harvest

Monday, July 8, 2013

Picnics and Thoughts

Ah Monday, always arriving too quickly. I hope you locals had a great 4th of July weekend. We spent ours at home, watching scary movies, eating good food, and generally resting. Not terribly exciting, but exactly what we needed. The weekend before, however, we ventured out with some friends for a picnic at Salem Willows. We've lived in Salem since 2009 but this was our first time there. Probably because I would rather stay home and hang out with yarn most of the time...


The wind wasn't terribly cooperative, so I had some failed attempts at kite flying which mostly involved a lot of running around in a circle and panting.


We also played a game of Koob. Nate found this at a toy store in Falmouth while I was doing a trunk show at Sage Yarn last year. Apparently it might be a game of Viking origin, which is pretty interesting, if it is in fact true.

My first impulse is to apologize for not having more action shots, but as I sat writing this post and getting way too introspective, I realized there is a struggle in being a person who processes memory visually. Some people have strong associations with music or smells, but for me it's images. This means I want to take my camera everywhere and document everything, but it can sometimes get in the way of actually being in the moment. I get caught up in documenting, and forget to participate. So I've been working on taking fewer pictures - enough that I satisfy my constant photographic cravings, but also trying to be more present. If you're also attached to your camera at the hip, do you struggle with this too?


And of course, there's always some yarn-making going on.

Monday, June 24, 2013

On Squam, part 2

Dear friends, I hope you had lovely weekends. What I expected to be a quiet, restful summer has turned into quite the frenzy, which comes along with unexpectedly becoming a studio manager for a new artist community. So before I forget what peace and quiet feels like, let me tell you about the classes I took at Squam.


I took two classes, both about knitting. It let me pretend that Squam was at least in part about "expanding my work skills" rather than just pure indulgence.


One of my classes was on the basics of Shetland lace, taught by the absolutely adorable Gudrun Johnston. She is amazingly sweet, and I seriously have the biggest crush on her.


I admit I don't know if I am sold on garter stitch lace patterns, but I learned a lot about traditional Shetland shawl construction and it gave me some new ideas about how to develop patterns. I really enjoyed this class, and find myself lamenting the lack of more hours in the day because there is so much I want to experiment with.


My other class was a shawl design class with Stephen West. While I am pretty familiar with shawl design using standard shapes, I was hoping to learn a bit about how to approach more unconventional design. By the way, Stephen is almost a foot and a half taller than me. He was crouching for this photo.


For the first half of the class, he went through how to set up a basic, top-down triangular shawl, which I was already very familiar with. But, to my delight, he asked us what we wanted to do for the second half of the class, so I asked him to talk about unconventional shapes.


He brought out a suitcase packed with several of his own designs, and went over some of the design concepts. We talked about ways to distort some of the more basic shapes, and the idea of knitting in multiple directions to achieve different shapes. I definitely came out of it with a new appreciation for being fearless in design and breaking the rules after understanding them.

And that was Squam, in a very tiny nutshell. I procrastinated on writing this final post because it meant accepting that it really is over and I have to wait a full year before going again.

Have you ever gone to Squam, or any other creative retreats?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Squam, Part 1

Thank you, everyone, for the sweet and supportive messages you sent me about our cat's passing. I am trying not to dwell, but rather accept and move on, so I decided it's time to write about Squam. I am in that strange post-Squam limbo, where I desperately want to cling to the "Squamness," but at the same time, even though I've only been back a week and a half, it feels like a lifetime ago.


Last fall, I went to my first Squam retreat and absolutely loved it. I loved the environment and the creativity, and knew I had found something special. So I went back this year for the spring retreat. I loved it even more. As much as the fall retreat was amazing, it wasn't quite as "niche" as the spring, with a mixed-media focus. The spring retreat is fiber oriented, with a heavy focus on knitting. This time, I wasn't the only one walking around with a couple of knitting projects in my bag at all times. This time I truly felt surrounded by my people.


Much like last year, I feel like it's impossible to wrap up the experience of Squam in one post. This is because there are two amazing overarching themes to Squam: the setting, and the classes. Squam Lake is beautiful, magical, and completely removed from "regular life." It's amazingly restorative to be in the woods yet surrounded by water, living with strangers who quickly become dear friends. That alone is transformative.


If you told me, in my daily life, that you were going to put me in a cabin with 9 other women I had never met, I would panic. The thought sounds truly terrifying. But at Squam, it's a wonderful thing. My cabin mates were amazing woman, each one so different and bringing something unique to the group. Friends for life.



And then there are the classes. The classes are fantastic and inspiring, and Elizabeth manages to bring in the most amazing teachers. I'll tell you all about the classes I took in the next Squam post.