Photocalypse: How to Make Stuff Up

I’ve been attempting to knit and crochet this entire yarn bomb freeform, which is quite a feat considering how much of a control freak I am. I actually had to read a book in order to learn how to make stuff up as I go along. This is the book I’ve been reading.

Staging and lighting: I put the book on the footrest of my recliner. The lighting here is a bit odd. It’s mostly from the entryway light which is behind and to the left of the foot of the recliner.

IMG_4932

IMG_4931

Instagram edits: cropped closer, used tilt-shift vertically and moved it so it didn’t obscure the title and author, used the lux function, Hudson filter, and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, and increased the blue

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Conclusion: this is a really bad spot for photography. The lighting is just too weird. It’s a wonder how I get so much crafting done in this chair.

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Level Up Your Knitting: The Yarn List

As I plug away on the needle felting (update on that tomorrow) I’m starting to miss my yarn. The needle felting is fun, I swear! It’s just that I have all these pretty skeins hanging out in my room begging for attention.

To get my knitting fix without actually knitting I’ve been leafing through The Knitter’s Life List by Gwen W. Steege. It’s a great book full of information, inspiration, and of course LISTS. I love lists, but especially these lists, which read like a skills menu in a knitting RPG. (Is there a knitting RPG? If there is I am SO IN!)

Each chapter covers a particular area of knitting interest, like sweater, hats, bags, know-how, etc. The first chapter is all about yarn. Since I’ve had yarn on the brain I decided to review the lists in that chapter to see what I’ve done and pick out a few things I’m really excited to get started on.

Here’s some of the knitting achievements I’ve unlocked:

  • I’ve attended a Clara Parkes lecture. She’s a fabulous speaker and can make subjects as dry as ply and twist seem fascinating.
  • Use multiple, closely related colors in a project:
  • Knit something for myself with special yarn that you just love to touch – That’s like, every knitting project ever. I actually have a hard time giving away my knits because the yarns I use are so precious to me.
  • Dig through your stash and examine yarns with different plies – I did that after reading Clara Parke’s The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and tagged all of my stash entries on Ravelry accordingly. I haven’t really kept up with tagging new stash as I acquire it though.
  • Knit with a silk-Merino blend: my Toorie hat used a 50/50 Silk-Merino blend and was luscious to knit with!

Toorie - pom pom side

  • Knit with angora: I have knit with it, but I didn’t really do it justice. I still need to frog this so I make something more wearable out of it.

Angora Scarflet

There are lots of things on the list that I haven’t done yet, but here are a few that I can’t wait to get started on!

  • Knit with qiviut: I splurged at the Sock Summit and treated myself to this tiny ball of 100% qiviut! I plan to make a Madeira Lace Scarf out of it.
  • Knit with cashmere: I’ve used it in lots of blends, but I have one precious skein of 100% cashmere that I will making into Wood Elves Gloves.
  • Knit with alpaca: I’m actually surprised I haven’t knit with this yet, but I do have four skeins in contrasting colors that I will use to knit Andrea’s Shawl.
  • Knit with orange: It’s one of the colors that I rarely (or never) use, but I have a very orange yarn that is destined to be a pair of socks – Baldersquash.
  • Pink is another color I don’t work with often, but I finally found a pink that I’m sort of obsessed with. This one will be a Gunn au lait hat.
  • Knit with solids: I’m so devoted to hand-dyed yarns that I sometimes forget that commercially dyed solid-colored yarns even exist. And in my stash, no less! Here are a couple I have plans for – The first will become a Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, the second will become an Aeolian Shawl, and the last will be used for an Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap.
Novita Charlie Mohair (I'll just be using the gray)

Novita Charlie Mohair (I’ll just be using the gray)

What’s on your must-knit yarn list?

The Great Book Debate

Yesterday Cooperative Press posted a “State of the Press” message about some of the changes they are making to their printing processes. The gist of it is; the cost of printing books is rising, and in order to cut costs and keep printed books an option they’ve switched to a different printer with matte instead of gloss pages.

Cooperative Press is a small, but fabulous publishing company that puts out, in my opinion, some of the most innovative, interesting, and relevant books in the knitting industry. So far I only own one Cooperative Press book (in print) – The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, and I subscribe to their digital magazine Knit Edge, and these have both been some of the most influential additions to my knitting library in the past year. Many more of their books are on my wish list.

The State of the Press announcement brought two things to mind for me:

1) It reminded me how much I want to buy some of their other books, particularly Extreme Double Knitting, California Revival Knits, Beyond Knit & Purl, and now the newly released Knit Accessories, and if I wasn’t dead-broke I would add them all to my cart RIGHT NOW.

2) It made me wonder what format I would buy them in…would I buy the print version, knowing it’s not only more expensive for me, but sounds like it’s also more expensive for Cooperative Press? Or would I go with just the digital version, despite the fact that I rarely read books digitally?

I know this argument will probably sound hilarious after I laid out my case for digitally managing my to-do lists, but when it comes to reading books I seem to much prefer them in physical form.

I say that I seem to prefer them that way because I’ve never really put that much thought into this preference. I know there are plenty out there who are very strong advocates on either side of the fence. Some people consider the feel of the paper, the act of turning the pages, the weight of the book in their hands, to be an integral part of the reading experience and would never dream of trading in their filled-to-the-brim bookshelves for a tablet full of their favorite novels. I personally could care less about the feel of the book, though I must say my hands do get tired after holding a book too long while reading in bed, but not prohibitively so. Then there are those who love the freedom of being able to toss a single device into their bag and have access to hundreds of books at the touch of a button wherever they go – no need to plan ahead, the tablet is typically lighter than a book (I’ve heard), and their love of reading doesn’t create a storage crisis. That all sounds nice, but I’m concerned about whether or not the things I actually want to read are available in digital form. Not to mention the fact that I am still too broke to own a tablet.

This doesn’t mean I don’t own eBooks though, I do. I have bought several eBooks, all of them about knitting, and there’s even that Knit Edge subscription I mentioned earlier. The problem is, with the exception of Knit Edge, I’ve never read any of them. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of paper books on my shelves that have never been read, there are plenty of those too, but the difference with those is that I can see them on a regular basis and am reminded of their existence. As soon as I downloaded those eBooks and stashed them in my eBooks folder on my computer, I sort of forgot they existed. In fact, there’s another book offered by Cooperative Press that I really want, Market Yourself, that I did not add to list above, because I had the sudden nagging feeling that I already have it in eBook form. In fact, now that my brain is on the subject, I’m not entirely certain California Revival Knits isn’t locked away in one of my back-up files too. I know it’s been in my cart before, I’m just not sure if I was able to pull the trigger. I won’t know for sure until I’m done sifting through the back-up files from my old computer and transferring them to my MacBook.

“Why don’t you just put a reminder on one of your fancy lists?” you may ask. Shut up, that’s not the point. The point is, when I sit down and start screwing around on the computer, my brain never jumps to “reading a book” as a logical thing to do. It just hasn’t been trained that way. “Reading a book” is an activity that my brain translates as something to be done with the TV off (it’s rarely off while I’m on the computer), and either sitting at a table or desk with a pad of paper and pencil at hand in study-mode, or lying in bed in attempting-to-slip-into-unconsciousness mode. NOT sitting in a recliner with a laptop on my lap half-watching “Monsters Inside Me” while in social-networking mode, or looking-for-inspiration mode, or photo-editing mode, or aimlessly-wandering-the-internet mode.

Now, if I had a tablet, then reading may be a natural thing to me when the tablet is in my hands and I would be far more likely to want eBooks. I don’t really know, I’ve never had one. I would like one, but I have no idea when that might happen. If I do get a tablet and it turns out I really like eBooks it would make me really sad to have spent a ton of money getting paper books when I could have been getting them digitally all along.

What are your thoughts on the paper vs. digital debate? Are you one of the people who has strong opinions one way or the other? Or maybe your opinions are more situational like mine seem to be? Either way I want to hear about it. At this point I’m kind of on the fence and I’d like to hop down to one side before I buy another book.

 

The Art of Stabbing Oneself

I’ve had several questions lately through my Indiegogo campaign about needle felting. Namely: “what is it?” Well, I think I am prepared to share with you all my “sketches” in needle felting to illustrate the process.

Basically, it’s just a form of sculpting, except with wool instead of clay. You start with some unformed batts of fluffy wool, a very sharp needle, and a surface (preferably not your hand).

I had some needle felting kits I got from the Moxie booth at Urban Craft Uprising to work with. Since I was still very new at this, I also bought My Felted Friends which had some great instructions on how to make and connect certain shapes.

I decided to try for a pony, of the My Little Pony variety of course. In order to turn those balls of fluff into something with any semblance of form, you have to stab it with the needle. A lot. This locks the fibers together into one mass, felting them. Ideally this process would be done on a stab-worthy surface, like this Ecofoam provided in the Moxie kit, but I found it difficult to control the felting process that way, so I ended up picking up the wool and stabbing it in my hand. Sometimes into my hand. I stabbed myself many times actually, but I only drew blood once. What is art without suffering, anyway?

Very quickly I had roughed out a body that looked remarkably like a pony!

After making a few edits to the overall shape I started to add what details I could given the limited color palette I had to work with. I tried adding a unicorn horn, thinking making something so small and specifically shaped would be difficult, but it was surprisingly easy!

I took a good look at the colors I had left and consulted with my sister, the resident Pony expert, and determined that despite the horn, this was mostly likely going to be Roseluck. I added a rose Cutie Mark and then worked on installing the mane and tail. Now, keep in mind, this is only a sketch. The mane turned out…alright. The quality of wool provided in the kit was great for needle felting purposes, but it was rather wooly-looking and not very hair-like. For a more finished product I would use a higher quality wool for hair details, possibly even something with silk content. Even if I had taken the time to comb the wool before installing it may have improved the overall appearance, but I was really just testing out techniques with this pony and wasn’t particularly concerned with how it turned out. I didn’t have the right colors to attempt to add eye details, so I just left that out.

Not bad for a rough sketch of Rose Luck.

Here’s a pic of Rose Luck for comparison:

Roseluck from fimfiction.net

So, there’s my first rough, just-trying-to-figure-out-the-basics attempt at needle felting! Just from that short experience I can already tell that practically ANYTHING can be needle felted. Especially if I have a reference photo to work from (which I did not have Roseluck in front of my as I did this, just a few other Pony figurines so I could get the basic body shape right) I should be able to replicate figures fairly easily! By the end of it I was even getting better at NOT stabbing myself. For more example of what other people have done with needle felting, try checking out the Moxie Flickr Pool. I have also seen some really cool needle felted interpretations of celebrities from Felt Alive.

I am still trying to raise money to replace my stolen computer and tools so I can start my own business. Any amount helps, but if you donate $25 to my Knotty Narwhal campaign I will needle felt anything you want! Even if you can’t donate money you can help out by spreading the word.

Knit Fit: Day One

Last weekend I trekked to Ballard, WA to attend the very first Knit Fit! This is the third knitting convention I’ve been to, the others being the Sock Summit in Portland, OR and Knit City in Vancouver, BC. Knit Fit seemed smaller than Knit City, but it was very cozy feeling. The main hall was filled with knitters and spinners, milling about the registration tables, winding yarn from swifts, chatting with friends, and partaking in delicious sandwiches offered by Wild Wheat Bakery.

I arrived a bit early for my first class, so I had some time to poke around the marketplace. It was the perfect size for me, not so large as to be overwhelming, but big enough so I felt like I could spend hours in there without getting the least bit bored.

Foreground is The Fiber Gallery booth, in the background is Goody Golly Miss Olli! and the hanks of handspun hanging on racks are from Spincycle Yarns.

I found some Chibi darning needles to replace some of those that were lost in Vancouver (now I can weave in the ends on all of those nearly finished projects that have been piling up!). Mostly I just enjoyed fondling all the pretty yarn and fiber the vendors had to offer.

The Textiles a Mano booth was very nicely decorated!

Pepperberry Knits also looked rather fetching with their hanging hanks of novelty yarns.

I even found the perfect skein to fill a color gap in a gradient project I was working on.

That’s Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Rogue (one of a kind color) bridging the gap between a medium toned teal and a very dark green in my Aranami Shawl.

I managed to wrest myself from the siren song of the marketplace just in time to make it to my first class, Self-Publishing Your Own Knitting Patterns taught by Lee Meredith.

Not just an excellent teacher, but a fabulous designer too. I mean, LOOK AT THAT SHAWL! Rav link here: Junction

I was blown away by this class! Lee managed to get through so much useful information in only 3 hours, I swear she must have bent the space-time continuum to make it work. The handout alone would have been worth the price of admission. It was a small class and we were able to ask Lee lots of questions about the many nuances involved in self publishing, from the more technical aspects of building a PDF file, to the types of experiences she had had using different platforms to sell and market her work. I came away from her class with pages and pages of notes. The process of self-publishing has been completely demystified for me now! I now have all of the information I felt like I was missing after reading The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. It’s still a great book to start with, but it really only gives a general overview of what it’s like to be a designer. If you’re considering publishing your own knitting designs and ever have the opportunity to take Lee’s class DO IT! It’s like an expansion pack for the book! You know, the kind that adds all sorts of cool elements to the game that the developers really should have included in the first place…

Welcome!

You have just stumbled upon The Secret Life of Yarn! Before I start revealing some of those secrets, let me introduce myself.

Up until recently I was a “scientist” – that is I studied Biology in college and intended to continue my scientific studies in grad school as soon as I saved up enough money to do so. When the money manifested I suddenly found that I didn’t really want to go to grad school, which I thought was just nerves at first. Upon further examination I discovered the problem was not the school, it was the career – I didn’t want to be scientist anymore! For the past 7 years something else had slowly been overtaking my interest in the microscopic world, and once I was released from homework obligations it had turned into an obsession. Now I’m a knitter.

I’ve been fiber-curious since learning how to crochet in ’97, but I didn’t really get into it until I learned how to knit in ’05. All my friends were doing it and I wanted to do it too, but I never do anything half-way so I went straight from garter stitch scarves to cables and large lace pieces and I still show no signs of slowing down. I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the knitting culture ever since (yes, there IS a knitting culture). Now I’m on a mission to launch a fibery career! I just haven’t quite figured out what that career will look like…

So, back to the secret life of yarn. Many knitters, and certainly most non-knitters, don’t think there’s much more to knitting than stitches. Sure there’s the yarn you buy to knit with and needles you buy to construct the stitches and even the patterns you get to show you what to knit, but you don’t always put a lot of thought into how those things came to be and how they got into your hands or how the idea to knit this particular item entered your brain. To many people knitting is simply an act, which primarily consists of constructing knit stitches and purl stitches to create a fabric. That’s not what this blog is about.

There is an entire industry surrounding yarn, fiber, and knitting*! The reason you are able to buy that gorgeous yarn, use those fabulous needles, and knit that stylish shawl are because of the work of thousands** of people within the industry. This work consists of designing, dyeing, yarn manufacturing, teaching, hand spinning, event planning, web designing, photography, graphic designing, modeling, tech editing, writing, test knitting, publishing, creative directing, social networking, etc., etc. etc. Also largely unseen by the general public is the more subtle force behind knitting, the thing that makes someone who knits into a knitter, and that is the culture of knitting. The sense of community and identity knitters cultivate is also very important to knitting and helps keep the knitting industry afloat. It’s what makes us want to congregate at sock-themed conferences, spend hours on internet forums, and fuels controversies that spill out into the non-knitting world when that culture is denigrated. This is the secret life of yarn, and I am going to tell all!

I haven’t found many resources for people looking to start a career in knitting (though I haven’t been looking for long, so perhaps there’s more than I realize?), but I did find one book which gave me a great start. It’s The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, by Shannon Okey. I initially bought it thinking it would help me learn how to design, but it’s not a how-to-design book at all, it’s a how-to-be-a-designer book which turned out to be MUCH more fascinating. I’ll be talking about this book more in-depth in future posts, but suffice to say it’s extremely useful in my current endeavor. However, the book is written from the perspective of people who are already established in the industry. The people interviewed and even the author herself got established early-ish in the knitting explosion that occurred in the late 90s and early 2000s. Establishing a knitting career NOW with Ravelry, Facebook, Twitter, and a much larger market (and much more competition) to work with is going to be a little different from the stories given in The Knitgrrl Guide. It was also missing (and understandably so) much of the nuts-and-bolts of starting up a business and becoming self-employed which can be very overwhelming for someone like myself who doesn’t even know where to begin. With this blog, I hope to provide a newbie perspective as I troubleshoot my way into the industry!

Along with posts about my journey into the professional knitting world, I will also be providing insights into knitting culture. Sometimes this will be from the perspective of knitters, other times it will be concerning knitter/non-knitter relations. Knitter-adjacent people may want to tune in to better understand their knitters – if it seems like your knitter is speaking a foreign language, I can help. Since I am trying to get into the knitting business there will of course be posts about what I have on the needles from time to time! I will be sampling many different fiber-related activities to try to find my place in the industry, so you can expect to read posts about photography, dyeing, spinning, designing, tech editing, test knitting, and whatever else strikes my fancy. There will also be lots of posts (and likely rants) about the nuts-and-bolts of self-employment and running a crafty business, so I hope that other crafters, makers, artisans, and wannabe small business owners will find this blog helpful too. Non-knitters are welcome here!

Well, that was quite the introductory post wasn’t it? I guess all that’s left to say is   “allons-y!”

*I want to be clear to all the crocheters out there; I am not at all discriminatory against crochet! I would love to add “and crochet” every time I mention knitting, but that would get tiresome. Since I am primarily a knitter and “knitting” and its derivative words are easier to type than “crochet” that is what I will type for simplicity’s sake.

**totally made up number, I have no idea how many people it takes to knit a shawl…yet