Thursday, August 28, 2014

Project page

...or a database if you're feeling extra fancy!

This is a site update that very likely only matters to me, but that's ok. I was listening to an episode of one of my very favorite podcasts last week (Elise Gets Crafty), and she did a whole chat about FOCUS. One of her tips about how to focus if you feel like you have just too many ideas swirling around in your head to focus on any of them is to simply write them down. There's more to the exercise, but basically by giving them a place to live outside your brain, you can clear out some space to think without feeling like you're going to lose all those thoughts by not focusing on them and running through them over and over again.

I'm definitely a proponent of the "write it down" school of thought - I do it at work in a physical notebook (somehow digital task lists don't work for me there), making lists for all the to-do's of the different projects I'm on. My google calendar is my lifeblood - if I haven't written it there (and set alerts for myself!) I'm unlikely to remember that it's happening. I use Goodreads to remember what books I've read....and if I liked them (yep, it's come to that!). I use a physical notebook to organize my personal business ideas, posting schedule, pattern notes, etc.

I love Ravelry for its project page, but it's specific to yarn craft, and, as I mentioned in a comment on my last post, I'm multi-craftual! I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, and sometimes, man, it's just hard to remember where you've been. It's also sometimes hard to remember you're already working on 4 projects when you excitedly start a new one....Plus I've got an inkling that the busy season for my shop is going to creep up on me pretty soon, so I wanted to get organized.

I've divided it up into 3 sections - things I'm working on, things I've finished (and when!), and a very sneaky 3rd category that seems to plague many crafters, things that are thisclose to being done, but still need finishing. For me, I need to sew on the buttons and do an inside ribbon detail on the Nova sweater dress. The poor thing is fully knitted, seamed, and I've even woven in the ends. Then I had to buy the ribbon and it landed in a pile in the closet. So close!

To keep myself on task, I've listed my "in progress" projects in the order in which I'd like to finish them. Sometimes - in the case of gifts or Etsy orders - there are even due dates! Because I plan for this to just be an always updating list, I didn't include photos, but I did link to the projects when I've done posts on them. (I have another page coming next week that WILL have pictures, and I'm pretty excited about it.) I just went back a couple of months for my "finished" objects, but I'm excited to be more on top of it in the future. Nothing is more motivating, for me anyway, than seeing everything I've done all gathered up into a master list!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I'm in need of some new twin bedding in the next couple of months, and I haven't been able to decide what to do. I don't really know what colors I want to do, I don't have a clear vision, but I am running out of time. I have been going back and forth on how I feel about quilts for years. My tastes run decidedly modern, so I suppose it makes sense that much of quilting doesn't really appeal to me. I actually made a quilt in 2011 for our bed, which I seem to have exactly zero pictures of. It's really nothing that spectacular, just 4-8" long strips the length of the bed with straight line quilting.

My very talented cousins made this one for me based on a similar one I'd pinned on Pinterest a few years ago, and it's pretty reflective of my taste - simple and graphic:

Lately I've been feeling a BIT more traditional, but still not "flying geese" traditional. I read several blogs that just make quilting, or rather, living with quilts, seem like something I want.

Alicia from Posie Gets Cozy is probably the largest influencer of my newfound appreciation for a bit more softness and eclecticism. Our styles are almost totally opposite, but she's created such a lovely aesthetic that I'm about ready to ditch my whole house for hers.The entire blog, it's just such eye candy to me.

 I love the casual rumpled throw and cupboard of full of quilts of Amy Badskirt.

Ashley of Film in the Fridge is a really prolific quilter with fairly modern taste which appeals to me.

So when I got my Interweave "Free for All" what did you miss this month email this weekend, well, I was in an impressionable place. I saw these cute little hexagons and thought....that might be just about right.

I followed the links and got the 5" hexagon template from Patchwork Posse on Craftsy (it's free!). I went with the 5" over the seemingly more common 2" because, well, bigger hex's will go faster!

However, I then counterbalanced that bit of sensibility with the decision to piece the quilt hand. Darn you Posie Gets Cozy!! She just makes everything seem so appealing!

Truly though, there are a couple of reasons I decided to do this by hand rather than by machine. As I've mentioned ad nauseum, my sewing room is still under construction. This means that my current sewing room is pretty much filled to the max, and I've lost the urge to keep it fully organized (other than my thread!) knowing that a new room is on the horizon. I also felt like I'd have a little more control over how the "Y" corners meet up. I've been putting an extra couple of stitches at those points to hopefully ensure that they don't open up over time, and it's something I'm not sure I'd do well with the speed of the machine as well as my inexperience at piecing quilts. Finally, since this is something that I think would take a good time investment no matter how I do it, I like the mobility around the house that I have doing it by hand rather than by machine. I can knock out a dress or something in an evening or two - this will definitely take longer. Even though I know it will take LONGER by hand, I like that I can bring it into other rooms or outside for now. And if it gets too fiddly, there's nothing to say I can't do a mix of hand and machine piecing!

My tentative plan is to do white centers and colored "petals." I don't have a specific color scheme throughout, but I have a pile of fabrics I like. I think I'll just make the flowers and then put them together at some point to see how it's shaping up. If it's too much, I can always throw in some solids or neutrals to tone it down.

So. Yeah. It's an experiment.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Simple sewing room organization

I think I got my sewing machine almost 15 years ago. It came with a little sampler pack of thread that was probably intended for little hand sewing jobs, and from there I've purchased and lost a ton of separate spools of thread. The spools I managed to hold on to, along with their corresponding bobbins, were neatly stored in an equally organized dresser drawer in this box.

It was obviously super effective, and spoiler alert, I'm all done doing it that way. If you are jealous and want to implement this method, I will totally send you this bottom half of a box of checks, just as soon as I find homes for these things which definitely needed to be stored with thread.

So now my thread storage (purchased at Joann's during their storage sale) looks like this:

When I get into the new space, I'll hang it on the wall, preferably near the sewing machine. The location actually isn't critical as it's not like my work space will be enormous. I don't find I do a ton of color changing mid project. In fact, it might end up making more sense near my fabric. Anyway, it's awesome that my sampler threads are no longer tangled with my bobbins, and I won't fill bobbins with the same color thread I already have (I'm looking at you, whites and tans), and I'll actually be able to see what I'm out of and what I need more of. This was honestly such a relief!

Hi there starter threads. We've come a long way.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm 2/3 "real" knitter

I've joked before that I'm not a REAL capital "K" Knitter (despite knitting for 5 years and crocheting for over a decade) because I've never made myself a pair of socks (the kind with tiny yarn on tiny needles that can actually be worn in real shoes) or a sweater. In fact, I said so here at the end of May. Here we are now at the end of August, and I'm almost there on both counts!

I've got socks with heels turned, and a sweater with sleeves finished (FINALLY!) and over half the back in progress! My socks live in that orange bag (which is actually the packaging that a set of sheets come in from Target - fancy and thrifty!) in my purse, so I only pick away at them here and there. Mainly I knit on them during my lunch break, as a passenger in the car, and even in a few meetings when I just want to keep my hands busy. I worry that it makes it look like I'm not paying attention, so I make a conscious effort to keep my eyes up on the presenter or screen. I'd wager that I'm far more engaged while knitting than if I was checking email on my phone! 

That being said though, it feels like they've been taking a long time since I never work on them for more than an hour. Even so, I've turned both heels with a TON of mistakes (seriously, I ripped one almost completely out), but I was glad to be past that, mistakes and all, because now I'm on to the cuff and I don't have to think about that at all. Just keep knitting, keep your mind busy. I think working two at a time may have contributed to my heel mistakes, but that could just as easily be due to lack of experience at that particular technique, as well as always only paying half my attention to what I was doing. I've tried them on (oh the beauty of toe up and circular needles!) and decided it didn't bother me enough to make them perfect. In fact, the lesson learned may be that I need to start the entire heel increases a few rows sooner. Live and learn!

I think a potential lesson learned on the sweater side might be sleeves first. That may definitely be true in a sweater like this where the sleeves are done in a texture pattern while the body is a straightforward stockinette. I cast this on back on June 30, and didn't finish the sleeves until last Friday night, August 15! That's a long time! It didn't help that I made a ton of mistakes, and ripped a LOT. (There have been many rows and half rows taken back one stitch at a time - far less dramatic than a big ol RIP, but painful nonetheless.) The pattern definitely wasn't hard, but it needed to be focused on, at least a little. 

In contrast, all the knitting on the body so far was done in little scraps of time on Saturday and Sunday - it is positively FLYING in comparison to the sleeves. I think if I'd knit the body first, the long slog of the sleeves would have been tough to bear. I'm glad I did the sleeves at the same time too. If the first one had taken a month, it would have felt like a pretty big job to start the second one. I guess I just like doing pairs of things together! When you're done with one, you're done with both, and I like that. 

I considered doing the body all together in the round, but didn't think through needing a longer circular needle, and just wanted to get going already. Still, I might do the fronts at the same time, similar to how I did the sleeves. Yep, I'm a little worried about confusing my left and right side, but we'll see how it goes. And the bummer is that in the end, I'll still have to get that longer needle - I've left the bottom edge as a provisional cast on so that I can assemble and finish the whole sweater, and just do the ribbing on the bottom until I run out of yarn to make the cardigan as long as possible. Bah! I wish I'd remembered that before casting the back on to work in pieces. Ironically, the reason I started the back in the first place is because I realized I needed different needles for the sleeves of my Wonderful Wallaby. Oh knitting. You can certainly be an expensive hobby. Lucky I love ya!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Burlap tote bags

I started making these tote bags at the end of last year, and I thought they were awesome. I really love those vintage printed flour and burlap sacks, and was thrilled to find a local source of burlap sacks that I could upcycle into whatever my heart desired. I started out with these super durable tote bags. I made about 8....and they just didn't sell. And, well, it wasn't really hard to figure out why. These photos man....they're SO. BAD!!

Good lord, that is embarrassing. I'm so happy that someone saw through the desperate-for-space-backdrop and the hasn't-figured-out-white-balance photography and, while I hate the word "styling"....seriously. This needs styling.

My POINT was to show that the front is funky and different and decorative. The back is a soft but sturdy flannel, reinforced with interfacing, and the interior is a contrasting fun fabric. There are interior pockets that can hold cell phones, laptop chargers and mice, pens, notions, etc. The bag is closed with a magnetic snap so that your stuff is secure, but still easy to access. The canvas straps are tough and rugged, and a great length for slinging over your shoulder. Do these photos express any of that? No. So much no. It's no surprise that these moved MUCH better at craft shows and in real life. My mom and sister both requested them, and carry them every day. While the studio and photography space chug along (I'm making baby steps! I ordered a tripod and lighting today!), I took to the outdoors to get some better "lifestyle" type shots of my sister and her bag.

Hi there. YES. Now THIS is the image I wanted to project! I've got two bags left from the original batch, and plans for new burlap projects like bags of this same style, along with another type of true "laptop" bag, baskets for the home, and cross-body totes (like this sneak peek at one I did a while back!):

Interested in having one of your own? Check out the listings in my shop here and here! (I still haven't improved my listing photos to the degree I'd like, but this is better than before I think. Plus I added the "lifestyle" shots for scale and a sense of the bag in use. I hope that's not too confusing for shoppers!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The year things grew

I must say, this is the best my garden has ever looked! It makes me regret limiting myself - I wish I'd grown all the things! In about a month or so, we've gone from this:

to this!

Despite feeling like I got a late start this year, I managed to get a few peas, and the lettuce recovered from the early weed attack.

I've even managed more than just the one salad I thought I'd get!

I ate some of the beautiful basil in the bowl above that day, but I put some of the stems into some water by my kitchen window. I read about rooting fresh basil into more plants a few years ago from Benita at Chez Larsson. I miss her blog so much! I follow her on Instagram, but it's just not the same.

Uh. it's possible I left them in there too long..... Also I need to wipe my sink.

All nice and transplanted - I hope they take!

My tomatoes are doing well, lots of fruit on the vine but nowhere near ripening. Ok, one plant is doing well, the other is doing nothing. The one doing well is doing double duty or something. I had to grab a spare fence stake to try to secure the seemingly useless tomato cage. I think I might have to try making my own like Kit from DIY Diva did next year.

Beans are coming like crazy too! I put them in this 3 bean salad I saw on Pinterest, and it's pretty darn good!

Still to come this fall, I set some garlic out on a windowsill, and I'm hoping that I'll get some shoots I can plant this fall for new bulbs next year. I may plant some more spinach and lettuce from seed yet this year, though honestly it's been so cool that my original plants are still producing! What a crazy summer. The growing season has gone so well this year, I'm thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts, like that I might finally pull the trigger next year and plant myself a berry patch. I've loved having the strawberries so much, that I'd really like to have raspberries and blueberries as well. And as for veggies, maybe I'll try some green peppers and cabbage next year! I know cabbage needs a lot of space, but I've heard you can grow it in a large pot. Has anyone tried that? I'm also considering planting a pumpkin or two, and maybe some cucumbers. I might let the pumpkin run a bit, but maybe something like Kit's strong tomato cages might be enough that the cukes could crawl up them? I had good luck this year training the beans to climb the cages and not take over the whole garden, and I'd really love cucumbers too. Just watch....not one thing will grow next year.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Howard Hoodie sneak peek

I'd planned to have a more finished and polished reveal at this point, but when summer evenings beckon in a land where winter seems to last 9 months of the year, you roll with it. That being said, I do have a little something to share!

About two weeks ago, I shared this even smaller sneak peek:

It hasn't always been a full fledged intention, but I'm dipping a toe into pattern design. I suppose, it was only a matter of time - I design in my day job, I've been knitting and crocheting for long enough now that it doesn't feel false, and I've got a head for details. Plus I took an even smaller step in several months ago with my free pattern for an infinity cowl that has been fairly well received. I started out with the sketch you see in the photo above. I was inspired by a couple of things. The shape of the hat, or "hoodie," as is a popular term around the cozy cape cottage these days, is reminiscent of the twin baby bonnets I made a few months back. I modified it to be a bit larger as I wanted it to attach to a scarf or cape of some sort, and I love the rolled brim detail on a small sweater we were given a few years back. For this winter, the attached scarf detail has definitely been something I've been percolating for awhile. My sister has really gotten into snowboarding the past few years, and she brought her balaclava with her last time. I really enjoyed teasing her about it because it looked so silly, but it's actually really smart because it doesn't let in any of that cold air or snow, so I'd put it in the back of my mind that a cuter version of that would be GREAT for kids. It would keep them warm, and you wouldn't have to worry about them getting tangled up or choked by a separate scarf. Plus there's the added benefit that you can't lose it if it's attached! I went back and forth about some kind of infinity scarf, maybe it looped once or twice, but eventually I settled on something that looks more like a cape and buttons at the neck - off to the side so it shouldn't annoy little chins or cheeks! I'm a fan of a little intentional asymmetry.

I think there's definitely an alternate design in here where the whole thing is worked in garter stitch. It would have the benefit of almost no purling (I'd still keep the stockinette in the front for that little rolled brim), and garter is a bit warmer in my opinion. For this self striping yarn though, I swatched a garter version and I just didn't like the way the colors fell as much as in stockinette. You can see in the photos above the outside pattern versus the inside - garter stitch would have made both sides look more like the bottom photo, which I just didn't like. I think it could be great in a solid though, so I'll probably write up that option as well.

I finished up the sample last night, and immediately decided I wanted to change it. I think the second set of increases is a little too much, so I think I'll go back and re-do those. While I love a ruffle, I don't like it in this context - the bottom needs to lay a bit flatter under a coat. I know how I want to change it though, so I should be able to have the pattern written in legible, not chicken scratched out notes to myself in the next day or two. I have one tester all excited to cast this on, so let me know if anyone else out there might be interested in test knitting this as well! As far as details, this took a single skein of Universal Worsted Tapestry which is just under 200 yards, and fits a 2-3 year old. I'm planning to work up sizes for 6 and 12 months as well, and maybe 4-5 year olds, though that might take more than a single skein. A contrast color edging would also work if you didn't want to buy two skeins and do a little stash diving instead. So there you have it - a sneak peek of my new design, the Howard Hoodie! Let me know what you think!