Friday, July 27, 2012

On Being a Grown-Up

I'm super anxious to cast on a fall sweater, my next pair of socks, and a ton of other stuff for the cool weather that I'm really, REALLY, REALLY looking forward to. But I won't.

Instead, I'm forcing myself to spend the next couple weeks knitting nothing but my continental practice scarf. Why, you ask? Because 24.

Twenty-four is the number of stitches I can currently knit in 1 minute using the English method. Tweeeeennnnnntyyyyy-fffffoooooouuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr. That's me, knitting at the speed of mud. Nope, whatever you're picturing is too fast. Slow it down. More. Yep, that's it.

So I'm gonna be a grown-up about it, take a break, and go slow to go fast. I mean, have you seen my Ravelry queue? I'll never get all those lovelies made unless I stop throwing and start picking. (I know some knitters can throw really fast--I'm just not one of them.)

If you've ever tried continental knitting, you know that regulating your tension is one of the hardest and most important things to figure out. I've been hunting down resources on the Internets, and just came across some fantastic videos by the woman who runs

She also has a video course on continental knitting for $13 on her site, and considering how much I liked her YouTube videos, I'm probably gonna pop on that. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your experience knitting continental. Do tell!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

or, Giving Up Feels So Good.

Cool Story, Sis #1
Yesterday I decided to wind up a hank of this yummy yarn for my next pair of ankle socks:

I had read from multiple sources about how you can hand-wind a center-pull ball of yarn. So I decided to give it a go. It went thus:

     :00 "Look how self-sufficient and frugal I'm being!"
     :01 "Okay, winding the core was easy."
     :02 "Hmm, maybe I should check a YouTube video."
     :04 "This doesn't look right."
     :06 "Holy fuck, I'm only a quarter of the way through
                ... and this was only a 65-gram skein!"
     :08 "OMFG OMFG OMFG"
     :10 "Dear Gail, do people actually do this? It sucks."
                (Gail's reply: "No, they actually don't.")
     :12 "Helloooooo, WEBS!"
     :14 *click* *click* *click* *KA-CHING*

Even though the Internet told me that hand-winding a center-pull ball isn't too hard, it didn't tell me all the ways it can go terribly, horribly wrong. What happens if your ball falls apart because you didn't wind it evenly enough? What happens is: you are in a world of hurt.

This morning, I spent another 15 minutes rewinding my pitiful attempt into a hank. It was a complete pain in the ass, and I'm very lucky that the knots weren't even worse than they were. Lesson learned.

Cool Story, Sis #2
Today, I was working on Simplicity 2886, which I was hoping to use for my border-print dress. And you know what? That pattern is too hard for me. So I'm ditching it. Not gonna tell what I'm doing instead though, ha ha! You can find out in a few days.

ps--You can still leave a comment on my Pay It Forward post to get a nifty gifty from me! Please do!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

FO: Hooded Scarf for a Little Cutie-Pie

My next-door neighbors had their daughter's first birthday party yesterday. I think they partly invited us just so we won't bitch about the noise, haha. But the kiddo is adorable and I wanted to make her a fun present. Even though she cries every time she sees me.

The invite said "Hailey says that she needs winter clothes for her birthday and that she does not need any more toys or stuffed animals." Works for me! Here's what I came up with:

It's got a brown corduroy exterior, with flannel lining. Perfect for keeping a little bay-bay warm, I think.  The flannel has lots of birds:

The plain corduroy was looking a little drab, so I made a flower using Hug Snug and a clear vintage button!

I didn't have a pattern for this, so I used the hood pattern piece from Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby. To adapt it for a hooded scarf, I just straightened the bottom edge and played around with how deep the scarf should be on the front edge. Each half of the scarf is about 3 1/2" wide and 13" long.

Of course, it was too fucking hot yesterday for Hailey to try it on. I'm guessing that the scarf can be tied tight to cover up her nose and mouth on really cold days, or loose to keep just her neck warm.

Bonus: This counts as an item for my stash-busting pledge! Not only was everything from my stash, but the corduroy is upcycled from a skirt I made 2 years ago that doesn't fit anymore. Yay!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pay It Forward (Hey, look! You can get a nice present!)

Alright, it's time to give back to the online crafting community that I've learned so much from!

We're all passing gifts around like there's no tomorrow. Back in May, Gail posted that she would make a gift for the first three commenters to her post, just as another blogger had done for her. I was one of the three to comment, so now it's my turn to pay it forward!

Here's the deal:
I'll make a sweet little pressy within the next 365 days for the first three people who leave a comment below. The only rules are that 1) you have to promise to do the same, and 2) you have to have a blog so that I can lurk it and figure out what kind of stuff you like.

Fun, right? I love how creative and generous sewing and knitting bloggers are, and I'm really excited to make something nice for some peeps. So ... leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts on the Creative Process

Last time, I mentioned how my work can really get in the way of my hobbies (piano, knitting, and sewing). It's not about free time, so much as mental energy. It's cyclical, based on my deadlines. And it really flummoxes me every time: I feel off-kilter, unproductive, and not normal.

But ya know, when something happens almost every week, at some point you have to admit that that is your normal. Maybe if I accept that and learn to flow with it, I'll be happier and more productive over the long run.

Here's what I mean: Let's say I have a big presentation due in 5 days. Chances are good that I'm going to spend the first 3 days planning, conceptualizing, and just plain old thinking about it. Then I spend the last 2 days in a crazy haze and create the entire thing in a short amount of time. It's like giving birth to a full-grown adult (but less painful).

During those first few "blank" days, it doesn't feel like I'm working, because I'm not actually building the presentation. It feels like I'm procrastinating, so I end up berating myself, trying to force myself to work, and trying to keep all my other activities going at full speed (learning new piano music, sewing clothes, whatever). Because, geez, you're procrastinating on your work and you're skipping piano practice? WTH?

No more! Here's what I've realized: If I've got a big work thing going on and can't concentrate on anything else either, it's because my brain is busy thinking through the work thing. It's not that I'm being lazy--I just need to give myself time to develop ideas.

With that in mind, I'm going to do some experimenting for the next couple weeks. I'm going to keep my "blank" days open, not stress about how productive I'm being, and be nice to myself. And I'm going to keep some easy activities around, so that I have something to do while my brain does its thing.

This is the best time to focus on:
  • TV knitting
  • hand sewing
  • cross stitch
  • piano scales & technique
  • polishing piano music I already know
  • easy, mindless chores around the house

It's not the time for:
  • starting new projects
  • learning new knitting skills
  • solving fitting issues
  • altering patterns
  • learning much (or any) new sheet music
  • doing logic problems (my breakfast activity of choice)
  • working on any projects that involve extensive planning

So if I'm going to sew a pattern I've never sewn before, I should wait until after my deadline. If I'm going to practice piano every day, I should learn the new music after my deadline, then polish it when preparing for the next deadline.

Basically, I need to start acting like an artist who is bound by a creative process. Because, apparently, that's what I am. I think I'll be much happier that way, too!

Have you discovered something like this in your own work? How did you deal with it?

(ps--In case you're curious, I'm just finishing the "blank" days for this cycle. Time to get cracking on my presentation now!)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Aaaand we're back.

As it would turn out, when my work is making me miserable, just about all my hobbies go out the window. But things have recently gotten back to normal, which means I'm back to knitting, sewing, and playing piano. Ahhhhhh!

So, what have I been working on? I finished a pair of Pom Pom Peds in Sockotta, which is a discontinued wool/cotton/nylon blend:

This was my first ever pair of socks. They were pretty easy, as socks go, though they took more hours than I expected! Tiny yarn, tiny needles, go figure. I learned a lot from doing these, which I'm now applying to my second pair. For one thing, I started off way too loose. So the cuffs and heel flaps turned out huge, and the socks are weird around the ankle. (See how the right cuff is rolling a bit? That's because it's too damn loose.) Also, the pattern is taller than I want, so I'm experimenting with a shorter heel flap and an adapted gusset to match.

I ripped and reknitted the first sleeve of my Miette:

This gave me the chance to practice proper tension on DPNs. The first time I did it, the sleeve was noticeably tighter than the body. This time, it's all even. Yay!

I knitted about a quarter of the body of a basic sweater for my boyfriend:

This is my TV knitting. I'm using Valley Yarns Northampton, which I absolutely love. It's so nice to work with.

And just this weekend, I started my second pair of Pom Pom Peds--this time in Cascade Heritage Paints:

And finally, I'm working on the muslin for my border-print dress. No pics yet on that one.

More to come...