Crafts


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A perfect Saturday afternoon

So, I don’t talk about this a lot, but it’s really hard to get out of the house. I have depression which makes it hard to get up and move and I have anxiety which means that when I do get out of the house, I can spend a lot of time feeling out of place and stupid, instead of just being in the moment where I am. Now, I’m an adult who is gainfully employed, so I do manage to get out of the house for things like my job and the essential errands I have to run to be a functional adult. But that often means that I have no energy to go out and do anything else.

One of the many reasons that meeting Ron was one of the best things that happened to me is that he makes it easier for me to go out and have fun. He will come with me to run errands, which makes it easier to do them and makes them less draining. And in more social and fun situations, he acts a buffer between me and that voice in my head that tells me I’m too weird and everyone is staring at my stupid outfit and that thing I said was really dumb and I should just go home where it’s nice and isolated. But, about six months ago, I got an amazing job opportunity in the Bay Area. Because Ron is supportive and wonderful, he encouraged me to take the job, and suddenly I am 400 miles away from my main support. (Ron and I are fine; we didn’t break up; we are doing a weird long distance thing for the moment, which admittedly sucks, but we have plans and shouldn’t be quite so long-distance in the not-too-distant future.)

I think ultimately, this has been a good thing, despite how much I miss him. It has forced me to be more independent and I have to say that my new job was right for my career. But I have been a bit of hermit these past few months. I don’t know many people up here; those I do know are busy people (as am I), and my anxiety makes it hard for me to do too much. I’ve been to a few knit nights, forced myself to go play guitar alone at a few open mics (more on that some other time), and gone to a few movies, but have done very little to explore my new neighborhood.

This Saturday the weather was beautiful and with Ron’s encouragement, I went to my city’s incredibly adorable downtown, where I took a walk and explored some of the shops. There is a great used bookstore, where I found an The Art of Fine Baking, an old baking book from the 1960’s, and The Good Housekeeping New Complete Book of Needlecraft from 1971. I love old cooking and craft books, especially ones with handdrawn illustrations, like in the picture below.

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I may never make a swiss broyage (or will I?), but tell me that isn’t an absolutely charming illustration?

I then settled at a little outdoor table in a small local coffee shop with my new book (Knitlandia by Clara Parkes), some tea, and my knitting (plus a cookie, because cookies are delicious). I had a wonderful time out and about and nothing terrible happened, in spite of my anxiety assuring me that it would.

Knitlandia is all about Clara Parkes’ ravels as a knitter to places like Iceland and the people she’s met, sometimes because she was unafraid to go talk to them. It’s a wonderful read, but on further reflections I am struck by irony…I’m afraid to go a few miles on my own, let alone to Iceland, even though I paradoxically dream of seeing far flung places and meeting interesting people. And while I wish that I could change how I feel immediately and be completely unafraid to jet off somewhere alone, that’s not how anxiety works. But I think that I’m going to make more of an effort to at least explore my own backyard. Maybe inch by inch I can make it to Iceland some day.

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I’m exhausted. My feet hurt. There are new yarn and fiber pets in my home that I must find a place for….it’s the end of another successful Stitches West.

I did a more low-key thing this year. I didn’t take any classes. I didn’t go to any of the events like the dinners and the pajama parties. Instead, Melissa came up and we shopped and saw a movie and ate at good restaurants. I wasn’t feeling too terribly social (and Melissa is never social). I worked on Thursday morning and then she and I met up at the convention center. After some lunch, we sat and knitted for a bit, waiting for the Thursday night market to open. We hit most of the booths we wanted, but some of them were just too crowded. But I found some lovely, lovely things including some cashmere from Lux Adorna and some vintage buttons. I also picked up some cross-stitch kits from The Frosted Pumpkin, some fiber from Pigeon Roof Studios, and some yarn from Twisted Owl. The last one in particular amused me because they had named a lot of their yarns after classic rock songs.

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Pretty things from the first day

Friday, I worked again in the morning and then met Melissa for our second round of shopping. After a few hours on the floor, the crowds really got to us, so we left and went to The Witch, which was creepy and atmospheric and I really recommend it if you’re into those kinds of movies. Then we ate Ethiopian food and headed home to knit. I was working on the last few rows of a massive shawl (I’ll post pictures when it’s blocked) and managed to get quite a bit done on Friday night while we watched John Wick. (Side Note: I had not seen this movie before, but it was surprisingly good.)

We hadn’t planned to go back to the marketplace on Saturday, but we decided we would at the last minute on Saturday morning. It was then that we finally made it into the YOTH Booth. It had been too crowded before. Melissa managed to snag the very last Puppy gradient set in pink in the fingering weight base. I was a bit sad I hadn’t seen it first, but I decided that it was okay. We only spent a few hours in the market on Saturday. Melissa had hurt her foot last week and had already been walking too much, so we went home and kept her off her foot.

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The Puppy, in all its glory

Saturday night, I dreamed about the puppy. When I told Melissa on Sunday morning, we worked out a trade. She gave me the puppy and has promised me some other yarn she had that I had been coveting in return for a sweater of my own design that I had never really been happy with (because it fits her much better than it fits me). I’m happy that the sweater has a home that will love it now.

Melissa headed back to her house on Sunday morning, and I headed back to Stitches for one last go-round. I got to see Sandra and Jennyfer from the knit shop back home, hang out with the Knitmore Girls and company, and (of course) see Laura from Dizzy Blonde Studios. I picked up a few more things I couldn’t resist. Mostly fiber for spinning, because now that I can spin decent yarn, I get twice the enjoyment from fiber than I do from yarn (I get to spin it and then knit it!). I got some gorgeous stuff from Abstract Fiber, from Anzula, and from Purlescence. I also got Clara Parkes’ new book (which she signed) and some octopus stitch markers I could not resist from Miss Babs.

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More Stitches loot. All the colors!

While I am tired after this Stitches, I’m not nearly as tired as I have been in years past, when I took classes and did a lot more. Which is good, because while all I really want to do is play with my new pretty crafty things, I have to go back to work on Monday. Boo. Farewell Stitches. Until next year.

For the first time, I decided to enter some of my knitting into the Orange County Fair. I’ve wanted to enter in the past, but I’ve always missed the deadline, but this year I managed to be together enough to do it. I entered 5 pieces, three shawls (Tiong Bahru, the Romi Hill Cactus Flower Shawl, and the Frost Flowers Shawl) and two sweaters (the Alice Starmore Saint Brigid sweater I made my mom for Christmas and the Safe at Home Cardigan I designed as a tribute to Gram Parsons).

When you enter things in the fair, they don’t tell you if you’ve won and they don’t post results online until at least 3 weeks after the fair opens. So when the fair opened last weekend, even though I tried to pretend that I didn’t really care, I really, really wanted to see how I did. (I didn’t expect to win anything, but I wanted to see anyway). So I kind of badgered Ron into going to the fair with me last Sunday. We walked around a bit, looked at some of the ridiculous fried food that was on offer (apparently, fried Jack Daniels is a thing this year), and then made our way to the home arts and handcrafts building. All of the fiber arts displays (which includes quilting, needlepoint and embroidery, sewing, tatting, weaving, and knitting and crocheting) were lovely and there were some absolutely gorgeous pieces. So imagine my surprise when I saw that I was a division winner (which is one step below Best in Show) for both knit and crochet fashion accessories (the Romi Hill shawl won) and hand-knit clothing (for the Safe at Home Cardigan).

Safe at Home Cardigan and Cactus Flower Shawl

Proof of the wins

I was so very surprised, simply because there are so many very talented fiber artists in Southern California, but I’m really happy about it. What surprised me is that the pieces I thought had the best chance of winning (the Frost Flowers and the Alice Starmore, simply because they are both huge and complicated) didn’t even place in their classes. I’m hoping that when I get my stuff back, there will be judges comments, because I’d love to know what I can do to improve myself and what I’m doing well.

Did you enter your county fair? Let me know; I love to hear stories about your triumphs or learning experiences.

Craftcation Program.So, I had reservations about going to Craftcation this year. I’ve gone to Craftcation for the past two years and I’ve had an amazing and inspiring time every year. But I’ve always come back feeling a little down on myself at the same time.

I always have great intentions. I give myself a pep talk every year. “This year,” I say to myself, “I’m going to meet people and network. I’m not going to let my social anxiety get in the way. I’m going to feel like I belong there, instead of like a complete fraud compared to all of these other absolutely amazing and confident women who have adorable dresses with orange dinosaurs and cute flowers in their hair. I’m going to make goals I can actually stick to. I’m going to learn not to be so hard on myself and not hate everything I do in the creative workshops. I’m going to BE BRAVE.” And every year when I come home I’ve managed to disappoint myself a little bit.

This year was no exception. Kari Chapin told me I had a cute dress and of course I became a stammering, mumbling bull in the conversational china shop. After all this time, I still haven’t learned how to take a compliment. Plus, I have a huge creative-girl-crush on Kari Chapin. I want to be her when I grow up. So I was not so great at talking to her.I chickened out on introducing myself to people and asking hard questions about a hundred times.

In spite of all that, I am still so incredibly glad I went.

For one thing, I was not the only person in Kim Werker’s class about confronting our self-doubt/insecurities/other ugly parts about being a creative person. Which isn’t really surprising; a normal person would assume that any class at a conference like this would have a fair amount of attendees. But there are times that I feel absolutely isolated in self-doubt, that on some deep level of myself I did kind of think I might end up sitting alone in a conference room, just me and Kim.

Everyone else at Craftcation has always seemed so amazingly confident and put-together and like a grown up. I was sure I was the only person there who ever felt less than sure of herself or doubted her skills and talents. So when Kim asked us to name aspects of our business that we doubted or felt insecure and everyone in that very full conference room was raising their hand and voicing the same concerns I have felt for years…let’s just say it was a little eye-opening. I tend to compare my insides to everyone else’s outsides and assume that that is an accurate picture of the world. Newflash: It is not. The stark reminder that, oh yeah, everyone else feels that way too, was a relief. (By the way, you can read Kim’s blog post about Craftcation and her class here.)

And really, that’s why I go to Craftcation–the community. Yes, the parties and the food and the beachfront accommodations and the classes are all straight-up amazing, but it’s the great community of supportive and inspiring artists and makers that really makes Craftcation so special and keeps me coming back year after year.

A little less than a week ago, I started my Camp Loopy project for July. July’s challenge is to knit a popular pattern that you have never knit before. Since I’ve knit very few popular patterns (I do not pay enough attention to the knitting trends, so I’m usually two or three years behind the bandwagons), I had a lot to choose from.

I decided to knit the Tempest Cardigan by Ann Weaver. I’m using Dream In Color Smooshy yarn in the colors Charged Cherry (a cranberry) and Rosalita (a pink), so I’ll have a nice tonally striped sweater.

Guys, I have never knit anything so fast in my life, I swear.

This was where I was on late Monday evening:

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Fifteen rows done, not too shabby

This is where I am now:

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That’s a back and one and a half fronts done!

Seriously. This sweater is just flying. As long as I can keep from procrastinating on the sleeves (Ugh, sleeves), it’s definitely going to be done by the end of July. I don’t know if it’s the stripes or the fact that I really love the yarn, or the fact that it’s a pretty easy pattern (Straight stockinette with some increases, some decreases, and shaping that I modified to be shortrows instead of bind offs) so I can take it basically everywhere, but I’ve never had a sweater work up so fast.

It’s like magic. It’s the opposite of the knitting black hole. I feel knitting charmed right now.

(Now let’s hope that my happiness doesn’t totally cause a knitting meltdown where everything is ruined.)

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Artsy lace shot, just because


I spent the month of June at camp. Not real camp, Camp Loopy. The rundown of Camp Loopy is that each summer month, the Loopy Ewe issues a challenge. If you complete the challenge in a month, you win! You don’t win an actual thing, just the knowledge that you did something. Although I think if you do all three challenges you get yarn. It’s hard to turn down free yarn. Or yarn you earn by knitting. (As a side note, I’ve never been to real camp. From all of the various shows and movies that I watched as child featuring kids at a sleep away camp, I don’t know that I’m heartbroken about this.)

The challenge for June was to knit a one-skein project that used at least 375 yards of either lace- or fingering-weight yarn, in a yarn that you had never used before.

I loved this challenge because it’s not like I need an excuse to try a new yarn, but it’s nice to have one. I chose to use some Fleece Artist Saldanha Two Lace Yarn, in the colorway Vermillion. And the shawl I chose was the Tiong Bahru by designer Asa Tricosa.

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The whole shawl, blocking

I loved this pattern. It was wonderful to knit. But blocking it kind of sucked, I’m not going to lie. You see all of those little loops on the edge? They all had to be pinned out one by one.

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Like this. Seriously.

It took forever. Especially because I had to keep stretching and re-pinning. That’s kind of par for the course when it comes to blocking lace, but when you have about twenty times the pins you normally do, it’s pretty painful.

I actually had to throw in the towel the first time I tried to block it. It was a night that I had work the next morning and it was taking way to long and getting way too late for me to finish. So I had to re-do it on a weekend, when I had more time.

I guess it’s worth it though, because now I have this:

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More artsy lace!

Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

When I was at Stitches West, I bought a mystery knit-a-long kit for a Romi Hill Shawl, with yarn by A Verb for Keeping Warm. Last month I needed something to cast on that I could knit in my guild meeting, so I started it that morning. I believe it was the first of my stitches yarn I actually cast on. (It’s okay, the yarn needed to age. Yeah, that’s it.)

I have to say, this shawl was like those potato chips with the slogan about not eating just one. I found myself saying “Just one more row” all the time. Part of it was the yarn–which was very soft and wonderful to work with, because it’s a blend of alpaca, silk, and cashmere. The only issue I had was that the yarn got a little tangled in the center-pull ball. I don’t know if it’s my ball-winder or the yarns I’m using (alpaca and silk can both be kind of sticky), but I’m just making an executive decision to start using my cakes as outside pull balls. I think I’ll be happier.

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A close up the shawl. I loved this part of the pattern.

The pattern itself also lent to the potato chip aspect, because it was so interesting, with a nice rhythm. I seriously knit this shawl in about two weeks (we won’t talk about the two more weeks it sat waiting for blocking and end weaving in). The only part that felt even remotely long was the knitted-on bottom border, but that may have been an unfair comparison because the section before it (with the colored diamonds) was just so much fun. (I won’t give away the secret, since it’s a for-pay pattern, but the method for making them diamonds is pretty ingenious and not how you would normally think colorwork would be done).

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The shawl in the wild.

The design is supposed to be reminiscent of a cactus flower, and even though I used different colors, I still totally see it. And as an added bonus, each pattern clue had a haiku on it that gave hints about the final pattern, until the last clue, which revealed it. I really love small, thoughtful touches like that from designers. It just makes me smile.

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