The Holidays and Winter Aftermath – Effects on Art and Business

What is it about brutally cold winters and the aftermath of the Holidays? January was a month for wanting to hibernate. Like a bear. The week after Christmas and the first week or two of January usually finds me plotting my next year’s goals, coming up with a “theme” for the year and plotting strategy. Not this year, I floundered. I’d think of the year’s priorities for my creative and business life and five minutes later they would all change. What should I be doing? What should my goals and priorities be? Harrumph.

I’m going to blame some of it on the winter. I just don’t like being cold. It is also less painful than blaming all of it on me 😉 But, some of it was my review of 2014. I just didn’t make the progress I had hoped for a year ago. After some serious review of what I did and didn’t do, I decided I just cast my net too wide. To many fish to chase, too many ideas, goals and projects in the works, all at once. With so much that I wanted to do, I couldn’t focus on one thing long enough to do any of them. So, I spent a little time whining (not much, I’m not a whiner by nature). A little time being stern with myself. And a fair amount of time trying to suss out the cause of this “shot-gun splatter” syndrome I’ve had lately. Let’s face it. All of this soul-searching and mind delving stuff is pretty subjective. The bottom line? I’m tired of floundering and want to move forward. You can only stand at the fork in the road so long before you have to pick one. Even Gandalf finally made a decision based on nothing more important than the smell of the air.

So I decided one of my causes was too many distractions and my “theme” for 2015 emerged.

My Theme for 2015
My Theme for 2015

I made some decisions about what I want to focus on this year; buttons (obviously), wearable art (and all of it’s components), and growing the business. That will give me focus (well, more than I had) and still give me latitude. This could be dangerous but so is feeling creatively trapped. I still have some strategy issues to work out but, I have focus. Yea!

My hibernation (for want of a better word) was not spent sleeping though. I made my daughter some Dragon Paws.

Dragon Paws Fingerless Mitts for Ashland
Dragon Paws Fingerless Mitts for Ashland

I made some custom ones too.

Rainbow Dragon Paws
Rainbow Dragon Paws
Detail of Rainbow Dragon Paws
Detail of Rainbow Dragon Paws

 

I made a dear friend some hand warmers for her healing hands.

Healing Mitts knit for my Friend, Betsy. Pattern is Autumnal by Bo Jangles
Healing Mitts knit for my friend, Betsy. Pattern is Autumnal by Bo Jangles

I turned my “Simple Toe-Up Socks” class I teach into a pattern and it’s currently in the hands of my editor, so watch for that to be released on Ravelry soon.

I made some custom buttons

Aqua Fused Glass Buttons
Aqua Fused Glass Buttons

I have my taxes done 🙂

I played with fire. Yes, I need more practice 😉

A monthly challenge with GlassAct! sponsored by Reichenbach Glass
A monthly challenge with GlassAct! sponsored by Reichenbach Glass

My FiberArt Group has a Fiber Art exhibit hanging in Gallery 194 in Lapeer, Michigan this month and I have several pieces in that. The Artists’ reception was very well attended and we all got quite an ego boost ;-). Getting art ready for the show was hugely motivating and invigorating but, I’ll talk more about that another time.

Gallery 194 FiberArt Junkies Show, this month in Lapeer, Michigan
Gallery 194 FiberArt Junkies Show, this month in Lapeer, Michigan
Twinchies - mini art quilts for the Gallery 194 show
eight of us participated in the show, we all made “Twinchies” – mini art quilts for Gallery 194
One of my pieces, a detail os "Fleeting Shadows", acrylic, ink, and stitching on canvas
One of my pieces, a detail of “Fleeting Shadows”; acrylic, ink, and stitching on canvas
The "Twinchies" were fun and addictive, I got about 23 done!
The “Twinchies” were fun and addictive, I got about 23 done!

Meanwhile, my floundering turned into hyper-focus and the effects on my blog were the same. Ignored. Oops.

Spring seems to have brought me back into balance. I feel like I can move forward and still take a little time for life, tea, blogs, and chocolate (not that there wasn’t any before).

So, how have you weathered the winter, and the first Quarter of 2015?

Deb H

Art-scale Your Wearables
one button at a time…
The Holidays and Winter Aftermath – Effects on Art and Business

Juggling Projects, Staying Sane

So, when you have a million different interests, hundreds of subjects that grab your attention and make you want to dig deeper, tens of creative interests that you pursue, and projects that are mountainous and many – how do you stay sane, juggle it all and, most importantly, get anything done? Oy!

My Bohemian Sweater, a little artsy, a little random
My Bohemian Sweater, a little artsy, a little random

Pick and choose.

From Louet's pattern "Harmony"
From Louet’s pattern “Harmony”

Not in a life-long-committment sort of way, that would never work for someone who is scared to death of missing something. But sometimes I just have to say to myself “This week (day, month) I will focus on this one thing, and this one thing only. The rest can wait until next week (day, month).” I can do anything if I know there is a (reasonable) time limit to it. It’s those open-ended limitations I can’t cope with. “I will work on designing and building the worlds first fusion power generator until I find the solution, and work on that only, abandoning my interest in breeding killer earthworms for the rest of my life.” Yea, that generator would get derailed by day 3.

Bohemian Sweater, neck detail
Bohemian Sweater, neck detail

My Bohemian Sweater was a project that kept getting put aside for other things. I finally made it a top priority project and concentrated on it with a firm deadline in mind and a determination to finish it. I really wanted to wear it! The pattern is an older Louet pattern called Harmony that has been in my knitting queue for years. To be honest, the color changes and number of ends to weave in was a stumbling block for me. Then I found Stonehedge Crazy .

Stonehedge Crazy - their story
Stonehedge Crazy – their story

The perfect yarn and the perfect solution! Spun from mill ends grabbed at random, this yarn never has any two skeins the same. The colors are not carefully planned out and grouped to make a pleasing combination, they are random. And it works. The yarn is so fun to knit with, each row is an adventure. This sweater was also a very rare knitting experience for me in that I did not rip it back (or out) and re-knit it several times. Once through. Really. I just followed the pattern (also rare) and it all worked.

fused glass button, one of 5 mis-matched for the Bohemian Sweater
fused glass button, one of 5 mis-matched for the Bohemian Sweater

And, I’m a button maker. Part of that results in random single buttons that were experiments. I have a small (snort) jar of these hanging around. I decided that a sweater made out of random yarn needed random buttons so there are 5 totally mis-matched fused glass buttons to finish it off. I got to wear it about three times before the weather got too warm. It fits great and I love it – a total success. You can see it on my Ravelry page.

Detail of attached grosgrain button band and backing button
Detail of attached grosgrain button band and backing button

This was a project that hit the “I will work on this, and only this for one week” list.

See, even I can get things done sometimes  😉

Deb H

And just in case I didn’t use the word enough – random!

Art-scale Your Wearables
one button at a time…

 

 

Juggling Projects, Staying Sane

Taiyo Dragon Paws

If you have visited here before, you may have noticed that I’m addicted to knitting Dragon Paws Fingerless Mitts, I can’t seem to help myself, they are potato chip knitting for me.

Dragon Paws knit in Taiyo
Dragon Paws knit in Taiyo

So, here is my latest pair. I used one ball of Noro Taiyo Sock yarn. The yarn did all the color work for me, no decisions to make after the initial picking out of the only skein used (most of the Dragon Paws I knit use 3 to 5 different yarns).

Beaded Dragon Wing Ruffles
Beaded Ruffles

For those not familiar with Noro, they are variegated (of sorts) wool or wool blend yarns, famous for having long color repeats with lots of colors. Usually, about 10 colors before starting to repeat and, not all the colors will repeat in the same order. The colors have long runs resulting in bands of stripes, one row to several inches depending on the project.

I wound the skein of Taiyo Sock into two equal sized balls (by weight, for the curious) and just started knitting the hands (two at a time on one needle), letting the colors come up as they would. I did the same with the ruffles, with the exception of looking at what color was coming up next and deciding which ruffle was the best fit for it. Letting serendipity decide what to do (and Noro’s own color sense) made this pair super simple to make – and fun. I chose the blue/green/black/brown color-way (#25) and decided the overall look was kind of an ocean side forest. I picked matt finished teal beads for the (very subtle) bling – no surprises there, teal has been my favorite color lately – and the results were better than I could have planned.

Casual or dressy, you choose
Casual or dressy, you choose

This particular pair was knit with a snug gauge, the same I use for socks (about 8 sts/inch in stockinette) and a 1×1 rib instead of the pattern’s 2×2 rib. I have been trying to knit a pair for me to keep for ages but they keep selling. I decided if I knit a pair to snuggly fit my small hands, no one else could wear them and I’d finally get to keep a pair! 🙂

the Dragon Wing ruffle
the Dragon Wing ruffle

Well, this sort of worked. I only have one to photograph and show you because I have already taken the mate to the yarn shop where I’m teaching the class in October to show as a class sample. If you are in the greater Detroit area, you can come knit a pair with me. To sign up for the class, click here. To buy the pattern visit Ravelry, my Etsy shop, Patternfish, or visit the shop, Heritage Spinning & Weaving.

Pure Fun!
Pure Fun!

Revel in color!

Deb H

Taiyo Dragon Paws

Cashmere, a little Luxury

I’d like to mention that cashmere is not included in my rule (if I make one for me, I have to make one for my Etsy Shop). These are for me!

Cashmere Handwarmers
Cashmere Handwarmers

Yes, it’s still chilly and I’m still knitting hand warmers!

I had three skeins of Mountain Colors 100% Superfine Cashmere in colorway Moose Creek that I have been hording since about 2006. What to do with 285 yards of seriously luxuriously (and expensive) yarn?

Cashmere Cowl
Cashmere Cowl

I’ve been pondering, lo, all this time. Perusing an Elsebeth Lavold book (Book #17, Small Things Matter) and seeing the Malin pattern for a cowl, my search was over!

Cashmere, yum!
Cashmere, yum!

I did a shorter version because I knew I would never pull it over my head for a hood and that left me one skein for some hand warmers.

Easy Lace Pattern
Easy Lace Pattern

The lace pattern causes a collapse effect that is perfect for a cowl.

Plain palms for less snagging
Plain palms for less snagging

Admittedly, I ran out of yarn and the last 1/2″ at the fingers and thumb is finished off in Shepherd’s Wool Fingering in Midnight Lake. It blended so well I decided I did not need to rip them out and do a re-do.

Shocked all my knitterly friends, that.

Little Fountain Lace Pattern
Little Fountain Lace Pattern

And I used a different lace pattern for these than was on the cowl. I found one that was similar but a smaller scale in my favorite pattern reference, 365 Knitting Stitches a Year Perpetual Calendar by Martingale Publishing (as usual, you can find this and other of my favorite books in my a-Store, click on My Book Store under the Pages section on the side bar). The pattern I chose for the hand warmers is called the Little Fountain Pattern and it’s on February 11.

So touchable!
So touchable!

I had to throw in one more picture of the cowl – it’s just so pretty and soft!  🙂

Deb H

Cashmere, a little Luxury

Raggy Ruffles

Raggy Ruffled Hand Warmers
Raggy Ruffled Hand Warmers

Why does spring make me want to knit hand warmers? Because it’s not that warm yet and my hands are still cold!

Raggy Ruffles - cuff detail
Raggy Ruffles - cuff detail

I had so much fun knitting the raggy ruffled hands warmers I showed you previously, and the fact that every time I wear them people accost me wanting some too… I knit some more  🙂 I raided my stash of luscious fingering and sock weight yarns to find some that went together nicely. The yarns used were Claudia Handpainted fingering weight in Poppy,  Schaefer Anne, and two colors of SWT Tofutsie. Now, orange is not usually my color but I find I am liking it more and more. It must be that after a long Michigan winter I’m starved for color!

Raggy, Ruffled & Posh!
Raggy, Ruffled & Posh!

I started with the basic Martha Mitten pattern from Heritage Spinning & Weaving and then started to ad-lib, as it were. After having done this a couple of times in a similar vein, I knew it would be easier to pick up the stitches for adding the ruffles if I put in a row of purl stitches where I wanted the ruffles attached. This being the grand sum of my pre-planning, I knit into the fray.

Think Eliza Doolittle...
Think Eliza Doolittle...

Decisions, decisions… how long to make them? Should they match exactly or should I mix it up a bit? Which color next?

Think Steampunk!
Think Steampunk!

Beads? Let’s see.. a tiny bit of bling? That would be a big yes!

And to follow my latest rule of self -discipline, ahem, they are for my Etsy Shop. What’s my rule? If I make one for me, I have to make one for the shop (sweaters not included). We’ll see how long this lasts  😉

Deb H

Raggy Ruffles

Warm Hands, Cold Heart!?!?

Cushy Sweater Sass!

Last spring, just in time for warm weather, I finished a very warm winter sweater I dubbed my Cushy/Cozy Sweater. I then had to wait four months (short summers, long winters) for it to get cold enough to wear it. Now, this may seem a bit bass-works but it turned out to be a brilliant way for me to not dread winter quite so much. So this spring I’m on a hand-warmer knitting roll.

Cozy Hand-Warmers

A pair to wear with my cushy/cozy sweater next winter! It’s the same lovely yarn; Araunania Azapa 30% alpaca, 45% merino, 15% silk, and 10% donegal.

Cozy, cushy, soft, and warm!

At about 12-1/2 stitches over 4 inches, a very quick knit!

Ragggedy Ruffled Hand-warmers

Then you have to have some just for fun! Ages ago I knit some raggedy ruffled hand-warmers from some leftover bits of (mostly) worsted weight yarns and they turned out very cute and fun to wear.

Raggedy Hand-Warmers , the Sequel

I decided I needed another pair in leftover odd bits of sock yarn.

When Rags are Posh

I have nearly worn these out already as they just make me feel happy to wear them  🙂

So, here we are, marching into spring and warm weather with winter wearables just new off the needles. But that’s me, the queen of good timing  😉

Deb H

Warm Hands, Cold Heart!?!?

More “Fun” Knitting

Detail - Zig-Zag Bag before felting
Detail - Zig-Zag Bag before felting

Another finished project and some knitting that was just plain fun! There is something thoroughly satisfying about knitting with really big needles on occasion. Especially if your usual bent is sock yarn on size (US) 1’s or 0’s.

Baby Zig Bag, before felting
Baby Zig Bag, before felting

My Niece had a birthday recently and I wanted to make something for her that was fun, even quirky, and practical too. This little felted bag (pattern by LynnH of ColorJoy!) seemed the ideal project. Made with a lovely teal color of Shepherd’s Wool Worsted and a skein of hand dyed (by me, of course!) Cascade 220, it felted consistently and without an excess of fuzz.  I failed to include anything in the above photo to show scale but the bag, before felting measured about 21″ wide.

Teal Felted Baby Zig Bag
Teal Felted Baby Zig Bag

After all the knitting comes the brave bit. I tossed it into the washer and dryer. Since I have a front loader it took three times but the end result was a fabulous sized small purse. I photographed it with my wallet, phone, and iTouch for scale. They all fit perfectly and now I want one of these bags too. It’s a good thing I have more yarn, yes?

the perfect little felted bag
the perfect little felted bag

I hope she likes it as much as I did making it  🙂

On another subject, for those who have wondered… Yes, I’m still using my AeroGardens constantly. One is always herbs

Herbs in the AeroGarden
Herbs in the AeroGarden

and one is always salad stuff. I like having fresh salad greens I pick myself when the ground is covered in snow!

Salad greens in my AeroGarden
Salad greens in my AeroGarden

I think salad is on the menu for tonight!

Deb H

More “Fun” Knitting

Silly Fun!

Knitting socks for the Fairy Folk is just silly fun – but I really like to do it! And I’m sure their tiny little feet appreciate it too  ;o)

Tofutsie Fairy Sock
Tofutsie Fairy Sock

I had included a free pattern for my easy Fairy Sock in the December 2009 PHAT Fibers box with a note that for more detailed instructions, they were to go to a certain web page. To all the PHAT Fiber box recipients who tried this, I apologize profusely!!! I could not figure out how to make a private page. I have published it here, under my “Free Patterns” section (see side bar) and made it accessible to all my Blog readers instead.

Enjoy!!

Deb H

PS – I’ve got the whole private page thing figured out now (I think), but hugs to everyone anyway  🙂

Silly Fun!

Elvish Socks!

Rivendell Sock
Rivendell Sock

Being crazy busy does not rule out all knitting. It just means I’m teetering on the brink of crazy. But that’s not news to my inner circle – busy or not. So I’ve still managed to finish a pair of socks and aren’t they just tooo lovely?

Rivendell - cuff
Rivendell - cuff

When The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman came into the shop (had to have been last spring?) I could not stop looking at it.

The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman
The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman

The cover was tantalizing, the title  a tease, and the patterns are an adventurous delight (anybody want to hire me to write Ad Copy?  😉

Published by Rustling Leaf Press, it has 96 pages of full color, very well photographed socks, techniques, color charts, and discussions of swatching , yarns, WPI (bravo Janel!), color, needles, and some basics. In the back are some photos and instructions for the cast-ons and stitches she uses in her patterns. All very clear and understandable. What I like about her book is that she did not spend a lot of her precious book pages on these things by going into a lot of detail. She used the bulk of the pages on her great patterns. So, while I would not recomend it to a brand new knitter, or maybe even a first time sock knitter, I don’t believe that is her target. Janel has found the happy medium; these are fresh, beautiful and interesting, with opportunities to learn for the sock knitter who is bored with “basic” but not as mind-bending as Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways.

Since I wear Burkies, I ribbed all the way to the tip of the toe.
Since I wear Burkies, I ribbed all the way to the tip of the toe.

Back to the socks… I sucumbed and the book followed me home. It stayed in the kennel (book shelf with all my other “pet” books) until late summer when I could not ignore it’s soft mewling anymore. I took it off the shelf and it popped open to the sock that had to be made first. I confess, as geeky as this is, I’m a Lord of the Rings fan, have been since Jr. High. The first socks from this book had to be Rivendell.

Graceful blending from the ornate rib to the leaf pattern
Graceful blending from the ornate rib to the leaf pattern

I had yarn in my stash from the sale bin in almost the same colorway as the socks in the book; a soft blend of pastels – appropriate for an Elvish design. The pattern was just challenging enough to keep me interested and excited. It would have been perfect except for the yarn. I used Maizy from Crystal Palace Yarns and I have to say, it’s not my cup o’ tea. 82% corn fiber and 18% elastic, it was too stretchy and too wimpy. I usually knit socks on a size “0” or “1” needle to get gauge but had to use a size “3” with this stuff that was like knitting with limp rubber bands. I like the finished product but it was less than ideal to knit with. I also learned, the hard way, that you do not steam socks with elastic in them – it melts! The socks are fine, undamaged and look great but if you rub your hand over the surface (outside only, thank goodness), it has a scratchy feel that the melted elastic gives it. Yes, I should have known better – I guess I was on automatic pilot when I blocked these. Oy!

The cuff again
The cuff again

For the next pair, I will return to my beloved wool sock yarn.

But which pair next, Nordic Lights or Migration? Decisions, decisions…

As always, you can see more of my favorite books, that I highly recommend, by visiting My Book Store (there is a link in the sidebar under Pages). This is an aStore or Amazon store that only lists books I choose.

Deb H

Elvish Socks!

Sock Blank? Its not blank!

Why is it called a sock blank if it’s not blank?????

a knitted sock blank
a knitted sock blank

Because it did start out that way; a blank, knitted rectangle; a blank “canvas” as it were. Usually knit double stranded on a knitting machine and with a total of 100 grams of yarn, enough to knit one pair of socks. This one is pinned out on a foam board, ready to be painted with dye.

sock blank being painted
sock blank being painted

Thickened dye is applied with a foam brush, or other painting tool, in any pattern or design you can dream up.

ready to wrap and steam
ready to wrap and steam

Continue to add layers of color until you have achieved sock-blank nirvana…  or at least something you are reasonably happy with. Seal with a heat-proof plastic wrap (Seran works well) and steam your blank to set the dyes. I’m assuming here that you are using acid dyes on a protein fiber.

knitting socks with a sock blank
knitting socks with a sock blank

After the dyes have been set and the yarn blank rinsed and dried, you are ready to knit. Since the blank was knit with a double strand, you can knit both socks at the same time. Both socks will be done at the same time, avoiding the “second sock syndrome”, and both socks will match exactly. Simply unravel at the appropriate end and start knitting.

Toe-up socks with waffle stitch instep
Toe-up socks with waffle stitch instep

Yes, the yarn you are knitting with is kinky, like Ramen Noodles. Once you have gone a few inches you will be used to it and it should not bother you or be a problem. For those that are annoyed by kinky yarn there are two possible solutions. To lessen the kink  (but not eliminate it) you will need two ball winders. Simply unravel the blank and wind the yarn into two center-pull balls as you go. Let them sit in your stash and “mature” for about a week/month/year and the yarn will be more relaxed when you go to knit with it. To remove the kinks entirely, unravel the blank into two skeins, wash them in cool water and hang to dry. Ball them as you would any skeined yarn and knit.

Waffle socks are not fattening  :o)
Waffle socks are not fattening :o)

Colors combinations and designs are only limited by your imagination, dye supply, and time. You must remember that the design you paint on your blank will not be reproduced in your knitted sock. Blanks are knit flat; back and forth. Socks are knit in the round. For what-you-see-is-what-you-get socks, stick to simple stripes. For everything else, you can only rely on a general mottled color distribution in the final knitted project. If you have a dominance of brown at one end of the blank and mostly blue at the other, so will your socks. Don’t assume that a fancy design or pattern painted on your blank is a waste of time. You will enjoy knitting from a beautiful blank and the dyer has enjoyed creating something wonderful, even if it will get ripped apart.  😉

Zig-Zag painted sock blank
Zig-Zag painted sock blank

Cool idea! Use your double stranded sock blank to knit a scarf. Cast-on with a provisional cast on and knit your scarf from the center out. Go about one inch in one direction, then pick up your live cast-on stitches with the other stand and head off in the other direction. Just keep switching back and forth so both ends progress at approximately the same rate. This is the same technique (knit on one for a while, then the other – back and forth) for knitting your two-socks-at-a-time on double point needles.

detail

Now, are you sorry you asked?

Waffle-socks-1
I even have a finished pair of socks out of this deal 🙂

Waffle-socks-2

Sock yarn is a superwash merino and nylon (90% wool/10% nylon) that I got from Heritage Spinning & weaving. I knit the blank and dyed it as you have just seen. I love the way the colors came out so speckly (is that a word?) and no pooling or flashing. I knit the sock in the same waffle stitch as my fitted teal vest in the hopes they will look dapper together.

Deb H

Sock Blank? Its not blank!