Thursday, March 20, 2014

Knit your way through?

A few weeks ago I started listening to the Knitmore Girls podcast. (And actually as I wrote that I legitimately thought that it was only a few weeks, only to look back to find that it was at the beginning of the year. My brain is a sieve.) I listened to a few of their recent episodes, and was enjoying it so much that I decided to go back and listen to the archives. All 270+ archive episodes....

Basically the show is a mother and daughter who knit and talk about it. When you say it out loud it sounds a little ridiculous to be so into listening to that, but they are really engaging and knowledgeable, and I've been really happy with a lot of their book or pattern recommendations. I'm sure I've learned a few things as well, but again, brain is a sieve. The mother of the pair, Gigi, has a little bit of a reputation now for knitting her way through entire books or pattern collections. So far she's gone through Rosemary Hill's 7 Small Shawls collections (you'll need a ravelry sign-in for some of these links, which is totally worth having by the way) and the Little Box of Socks. In the latest episodes on my tear through the back catalog, she's starting on all the socks in the Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet, and I just have to say that there is something about working your way through a collection that totally appeals to the more obsessive parts of my nature. There is evidence of this aspect of my personality right in the very act of wanting to listen to the show right from the beginning. Netflix has been a wonderful enabler as well, because I just love tearing through old TV shows, one episode after the other. My preference is actually for shows that have been cancelled, because then I know I can go through right from start to finish! I've been known also to read books I'm not even enjoying that much because I just have to know how the series turns out.

All this to say....I feel like I would love to do that someday. Take a collection of work, and knit my way all the way through. My problem with that, apart from absolutely not having time to dedicate to such a project right now, is that I haven't found that soulmate designer or collection just yet. It seems to work out for Gigi because she knits a ton of socks. Personally, I don't really see the appeal of some of the more complicated socks. If it's warm enough for lacy socks, I'm more likely to just not wear any at all. I could maybe see a shawl that I've been knitting awhile, I'm being brainwashed into thinking of shawls less like something Magda (Miranda's housekeeper/nanny from Sex and the City? Anyone?) would wear and more like a large scarf. Maybe that's just what "they" want me to think? Shawl knitting seems to be an inevitability of knitters! A sweater book would be cool, because it would be cool to have that many handknit sweaters, but #1, whoa expensive. #2, whoa, that would take a lifetime. and #3, my tastes tend to run to the simplistic and classic in my own wardrobe. I'd love to be one of those people who just has those classic pieces that never go out of style, and I feel like many of the pattern books out there tend toward the fussy or the trendy. Does anyone have any suggestions for pattern collections to knit through?

In the meantime, I had to put a halt to all the projects I wrote about in the last post to get 2 pairs of mittens out to a customer. My hope is that she's planning ahead for next winter, but I think we all know that this winter just isn't going to actually end. Yes, I know it's the first day of spring, but to that I say....prove it.

Once those went out, I went back to the Solar Sweetie dress I've been working on. I'm making good progress I think! I'm almost done with one of the sides. I'm all the way down to the last 5 rows. The pattern calls for a garter stitch edging. I can't decide if I should just do that, or if I'd rather do some sort of pretty lace edge. I'm going to mull it over this morning and maybe figure it out over my lunch break. I'd love to bind that half off, and then finish up the first of my pair of socks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Project Juggling

Typically, I'm what you might call "project monogamous." I like to focus all my energy on one particular thing until it's DONE. I don't really like cleaning up after this burst of finishing energy, but that is neither here nor there. In fact, I'm usually most motivated to clean up and organize when I'm ready to start the next project, which leads to sort of consistently messy project space. Which is why I need my own space to lock away my mess. :)

So about a month ago, my shop started slowing down as people get tired of buying warm weather knits after the holidays and set their sights on spring. Can't blame em, I'm right there with you! I seized this opportunity to start making things for myself! I whipped out a cowl, and then I started on a pair of fancy convertible gloves for easy phone access. And....well, it was sort of a fail. I usually knit small items in the round on double pointed needles, which look a lot more impressive than they are. However, I also usually knit on thicker yarn than the fingering weight this pattern calls for.


And I ended up with what they call "laddering," which is basically loose spots between where you switch from one needle to the next. Grrrr.

See the stretched out bits between the ribbing? Unacceptable.

I googled for solutions, and while a lot of them suggest which stitches to pull tighter, and alternating where your needles join, those weren't working for me. I saw several message board posts that point to using either 2 circular needles or one super long one in a magic loop configuration as a potential solution. I opted to try 2 circular needles for a few reasons. I've heard that magic loop can be tricky if your cable isn't flexible enough, and I didn't want to deal with experimenting with a bunch of different brands. I also thought that if I got circulars in a few lengths, I'd be able to tell which needle was #1 or #2, so I'd know which was the end of the round. I also thought that I'd have a better shot of having the right length needle for all the sweaters I have queued up in my mind. So I ordered a bunch of needles from Knitpicks, because that was the most cost effective way of getting the quantity I wanted.

In the meantime, I worked on a few other things, which I might someday get around to posting about in more detail. For now, a few photos.

When my needles finally arrived, I cast on my gloves for the 3rd time, and it went much better!

I nearly finished the ribbing....and then I discovered something horrible and wonderful. You can buy other people's unwanted yarn on Ravelry for sometimes very, very cheap. And then I started dreaming about wearing nothing but hand knit socks because this winter has been oh so very cold, and so have my feet. I may or may not have had packages of sock yarn....and enough for a few sweaters....arriving at my house every day for about a week and a half. And now I am grounded from Paypal, so says my bank account. In order to make good use of this accidental stash enhancing, I started my odyssey to hand knit socks with some yarn a friend from knitting group de-stashed to me months ago. It's a sport weight, so it's slightly heavier and easier to learn on than true sock yarn. I've done a version of socks before from the top down, but I sort of feel like those don't count because the yarn and needles are so huge! For my first pair of "real" socks, I decided to switch things up and go toe up, so that they could be as tall as possible. I have 2 skeins, so one per sock. I figured that by starting from the toe, I could just knit till I run out of yarn. It's going very well so far!

As you can see, I got nearly done with one sock before I got distracted..... I was cleaning out some things, and I came across a pattern I saved YEARS ago. I've always wanted to knit this little dress, but never knew if I'd have the right recipient. It just so happens that I DO have a little lady in mind....and the sizing for this dress only goes up to 24 months! Which means I'm running out of time! I decided to work it up in cotton yarn because that would make a more sensible summer dress. It also gives me 2-5 months to finish, whenever summer decides to arrive. :) In this case, having a few projects going is a good thing, because I'm just noticing what everyone says - cotton is a little hard on the hands. The yarn doesn't have as much give as wool or acrylic, so the loops on the needles sort of dig into my hand. The fabric itself feels nice though, so I just need to work on it in shorter bursts.

I love how it's starting out though!

In the OTHER meantime though....I got an order for a few pairs of mittens, presumably for someone planning ahead for next year, so those jumped right to the top of the list!!

Ah, if only I had all the time in the world. :) We'll see if this project juggling is something I keep doing, or if I go back to my monogamous ways. I could see a logical doubling up of projects coming from trying to have a personal project going alongside Etsy orders. I think I've been a little too shop focused lately, and it's been nice to have some personal gain happening, both for me and little gifts for people. It will be nice to have some finished projects sticking with me instead of heading off to new homes!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Everything in its place

I've tried for years to make the first floor bedroom in our house work as an office/craft room. And it just....never does. We started out with a corner desk from my husband's bachelor apartment that in my opinion was good for exactly nothing. What kind of sense does it make to have all the available desk surface behind the computer? It was hard to even pay bills in there because there was no place to spread out the papers, checkbook, calculator... We bought our house almost 6 years ago so it's hard to even remember now, but I think I brought an old drafting desk in there as well to put next to the corner desk for some work surface, but I hated that too.

I checked this and a few other of my defunct old blogs. and I've never posted a full picture of the office....I guess because it just doesn't work. I eventually got rid of the small desks and traded up to a long Ikea dining table. I remember looking for something solid wood, but never managed to find anything that was in budget and that I could arrange transportation for, so Ikea and their flat pack boxes won. This is the one we have. I added some wall shelves above the filing cabinet to the left of the desk in an attempt to get stuff OFF the surface. As you can see from the partial photo below....that hardly ever works (you can sort of see the shadow of the shelves above the printer).

I would take a more current photo....but that would involve actually downloading pictures from my camera. Which I never do. Because I don't have an always ready space to do that in. I have at LEAST 3 posts worth of photos living on my camera, destined to never be downloaded. At least not in a timely fashion. So I have my covered in junk work surface, which actually does work perfectly for bill paying and sewing, but the room itself does NOT work well for actually doing sewing projects, which makes me really sad. I have the closet - not pictured, sort of organized, really full - and a storage box below the futon/guest/mostly cat bed which takes up the room opposite the desk that serve as supply and book and random storage, but I have nowhere to cut. This has to be the bane of crafters everywhere. With my sewing machine and laptop/TV set up on my desk, I don't have the work surface to lay out pattern pieces or pin things out. This leaves me to either spread out on the precious little floor space and trip over it every time I go to the ironing board, or I can squeeeeeze out the door to get across the house to the dining room table. This is annoying because it's on the other side of the (small) house, and because I have my ironing board on the back of the door. This is a space saving holdover from (even smaller) apartment living, but it means I have to have the door to the office closed to pull it down. I can open it juuuust enough to squeeze out, but it's irritating enough that I usually cut on the floor, which is super ergonomical. Real word that I just made up. Sad that my dreams involve buying a full sized ironing board. Is that what it's like to be a grown up?

Anyway, since my interest in sewing and knitting and generally making a disaster of the office/craft room has continued to grow over the years, I set my sights on the basement. Our basement is roughly divided into fourths, like most of the rest of our cape cod. 1/4 is laundry, 1/4 is the area for water heater, furnace, storage, just over 1/4 was always sort of horribly finished by previous owners which left the remaining slightly less than 1/4 with no purpose at all, which we used to house extra pantry storage and the dog crate. My goal - convert the finished and purposeless half of the basement into a den/craft room extraordinaire. Last year we built a ton of wood shelving, which I did not yet photograph, in the storage 1/4 of the basement in anticipation of all the junk in the rest of the basement needing a place to live. It worked out really well for my parents, who were moving, who actually stored a bunch of their stuff there last summer and fall while they were between homes. However, this meant that we couldn't start clearing out all of our stuff until all of their stuff went to their new house, which happened a few months ago. A few months after that, our stupid less than 6 year old washing machine irreparably broke, so we had to replace it.

Nice matching appliances in fancy blue:

Sad new washing machine in dumb floor sample white:

In the time since this photo was taken, the man of the house pushed the washer back next to the water pipes, and moved the dryer to its right. Which is actually be able to toss things right into the dryer from the washer, rather than either carrying them across the room wet, or using a basket to transport them. It's the little things I guess. Oh, and he swapped out the flex duct to rigid. Apparently flex is a fire hazard. As an added bonus, you can see that our basement actually gets great natural light most of the day - this is with no lights on! A not-scary basement was on my list during house hunting. Also, I ultimately plan to replace the giant, gross, leaky wash tub with a smaller, single basin. I actually bought it years ago for $10 on craigslist...just need someone (ahem, man of the house) to do some plumbing work and brace himself to get the concrete monster up the stairs. It's possible I'll have to help with the hauling.

Anyway, so here is the ultimate plan for the basement. Drawn in CAD, because that's how I roll.

And because I accidentally closed the pdf editor before saving (cursewords), enlarged plans of the finished side are without refined annotation.

The "den" portion, which will include the ability to stream my netflix stories right to the TV so that I don't have to use my laptop and can use it for other things, once we get some wires to connect new netgear box to old tv:

And the craft studio side:

The plan is to mostly work with furniture we have, to keep the budget down and give this project a chance of actually happening. In fact, the only new piece is the standing height cutting table, which I plan to build from an Ana White plan and which will be AWESOME!!!

Modern Craft Table

The only other new things might be the studio lights and some of the wall storage for all of my fabric and crafting paraphernalia and some of the storage for office supplies and books and such. Most of the cost will be to put lighting where we want it, rebuild the wall running vertically down the basement, since studs at 48" on center are not exactly sound, and to re-paint the walls and floors with some of that fancy water blocking stuff. Our basement stays mostly dry, but some of the corners DO get a bit damp from time to time, so we want to make sure that we've done what we can before putting up new drywall. We also have the unique idea to use moisture resistant boards and studs which I can only guess that previous owners did not do....They definitely didn't use moisture resistant ceiling tiles, which is gross and saggy and I have only been too happy to start pulling down.

There's the stupid wall that will come down. I had a few hours to myself on Sunday, so I ran to Home Depot and set up a bagster in our garage to give me a place to put all the tiles. I did it in there because it keeps freaking snowing and I didn't want it to fill up with powder. I figure the tiles are light and we can drag it down to the street before starting to fill it up with heavier stuff. Like that stupid wall.