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!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Etsy shop update!

My goodness, it's been ages since I updated my poor, neglected Etsy shop. The largest part of this is due to the fact that I really want to completely overhaul it. Once I get my basement studio completed, I plan to set up a few areas where I can easily take product photos. I can't wait to get good lighting, a tripod, and some consistent props and backdrops. We (ok fine, mostly my husband lately) are making pretty solid progress on the space, but we have busy jobs and other responsibilities that make it hard to just dedicate a few solid days to getting a lot done down there. Despite these setbacks that make it easy for me to make excuses, I got myself together to show off a new product line!

About six months ago, I was contacted by a friend on Facebook to make a pair of baby booties for her sweet baby girl who was born this summer. I loved them so much, I always planned to list them in the shop...but I couldn't hold on to them long enough to actually get them up there! I think in all I've sold four pairs so far, which is pretty good considering they weren't technically something I was offering!

Aside from the fact that these are tiny (I can do sizes 0-6 month and 6-12 month) which automatically make them adorable, the yarn is a real star. It's a long repeating gradient yarn from Knitpicks called Chroma, and it's gorgeous. It's 100% wool, which means handwash and lay flat to dry, and it's one of the softest things I've ever felt. There's just a slight fuzzy halo around the fabric which makes them perfect for sensitive little baby feet, and a total bear to rip back if someone makes silly mistakes while crocheting them....don't ask me how I know.

Because of the gently transitioning colors, I couldn't take the "make to order" approach that I do with a lot of my other listings, because this makes each pair totally unique depending on where in the color repeat I begin and end. I didn't exactly want to start out a new line by stocking every color line, so I started with one color that lent itself to boys, and another to girls. I'm not a stickler though for strict gender lines around colors though, so to each their own.

As of Tuesday, I've got one of each colorway listed in the shop - you can find the PINK here and the BLUE here. Check back on the shop (you can always find a shortcut at the top of my blog) for new versions of these colors, and new ones in the future! I'm excited to see how these will be received, and thanks so much to the lovely ladies who have already purchased for giving me the push to make these cutie booties!