The Mayans Lied, So I Guess I’ve Got to Do Stuff

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I am going to be spending my day clearing the decks to prepare for 2013, because nothing motivates me to clean more than a looming arbitrary deadline.

Hilarity brought to you by Hyperbole and a Half.

Hilarity brought to you by Hyperbole and a Half.

I’m still not quite clear why I do this. I never seem to get everything done that I want to. I don’t think of it until there are only a few days left in the year and then I procrastinate for most of those days thinking somehow I have developed the ability to bend the time-space continuum to my will and compress a week’s worth of work into a few hours.

Today though, I’m gonna try to go easy on myself and acknowledge that it REALLY is an arbitrary date and my success or failure at finishing ALL THE THINGS before midnight has no bearing on how the rest of the year is going to play out. Here are the things I plan to accomplish today in order to wake up tomorrow without shame:

  1. Blog post (hey look at that, I already finished something!)
  2. Send out thank you emails to my Indiegogo contributors. Bonus points if I manage to do it without sounding too socially awkward.
  3. Clean my room. Vacuum it too.
  4. Laundry (why is there always more laundry?)
  5. Go through my WIPs bin and rescue all of the notions and needles that are no longer in use.
  6. Spend the rest of 2012 photographing yarn and projects!

That’s not too bad, right? I think I can handle this…maybe I’ll even take some pictures with Sven for once so I can justify having a mannequin in my bedroom watching me sleep.

Also, I don’t usually make resolutions per se, but I do make some fuzzy goals based on the fact that a new calendar has been hung up and somehow that means I have a “blank slate” or whatever. Not that I ever look at the calendars I hang up, I have a smart phone, a computer, and a TV telling me what day it is. The calendars really don’t give me any new information…

Looking forward a few more hours to 2013 here are my fuzzy goals:

  1. Earn money. I’m not even going to specify “turning a profit” because for the first year of business that may be aiming too high, but I would at least like to be able to convince people to give me money for my skills.
  2. Bend technology to my will. I know, I know, that’s never going to happen, but I would really like to have it stop failing so spectacularly on me like it did all throughout 2012. I still haven’t found any of my documents in my back up files from the old computer – meaning I have NO knitting patterns and any ebooks I may or may not have had are currently missing. I’m trying not to panic, it’s possible they’re still in there somewhere. Also, my BlackBerry has decided that having a battery life longer than 4 hours is no longer its responsibility. I suspect it’s been conspiring with my camera, which seems to think AA batteries grow on trees. In other news, I’m starting to get really twitchy without easy access to any of my music thanks to the fact that my iPod is still probably under a couch in some crack-den in Vancouver. An iPhone 5 has been ordered in hopes that it could remedy all of these problems. If something happens to that iPhone and somehow it doesn’t work or gets lost or broken or I can’t figure out how to use it or ANYTHING…I give up. I’ll just go live under a bridge or something.
  3. See daylight at least 4 days a week. My sleep schedule is completely upside-down right now and the days are so short anyway due to the whole axial tilt thing that I can’t quite remember what daylight looks like. I really need to work on my outdoor photography skills anyway, so I should go outside sometime and take some photos. Though I recently got some REALLY cool night shots…I’ll show you later.
  4. Knit a sweater. I still can’t believe I haven’t done this yet. Put down the shiny shawls and cast on a freaking sweater.
  5. Try to spend at least one continuous hour a day NOT sitting down. Exercise can happen too, but there are plenty of days when I am simply not up for it. Regardless of whether I am mentally or physically prepared to actually exercise, spending some time NOT sitting should be on the agenda. My spine will thank me for it.

I could add more, but that sounds like more than enough ambition for one year. What insanity has New Year’s Eve inspired for you?

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How Yarnologist Got Her Groove Back

Yesterday my mother finally got sick of seeing me moping around the house and randomly bursting into tears and took me to the Apple store to see if we could get me a new computer. I had an estimated cost in mind based on poking around the Apple site and guesstimating what I would need in a laptop. That estimated cost was almost $5,000 after I configured the laptop to what I thoughtmight need.

Now, I know very little about Macs. I’ve been a PC user all my life, but my life has changed quite a bit. I was once on a science career track and now most of my activities are more artsy. Supposedly Macs are better for creative pursuits than PCs. I’ve also heard rumors that the displays are more true to color than most PCs, which is something I was constantly struggling with on my previous laptop (and don’t even get me started on my sister’s computer – trying to color correct photos on her display was an exercise in futility). Many of the creative professionals I know are Mac users. Everyone I’ve ever known who has owned a Mac has LOVED it. I also know from personal experience that PCs, especially laptops, tend to only last 3 years or so before they start getting so buggy they’re unusable (see my sister’s computer) or just crash, while I’ve heard Macs tend to last much longer. When I got an iPod this summer and saw the way Apple products work first-hand that sealed the deal for me – my next computer would be a Mac. It would HAVE to be. To get another PC knowing I’d have to struggle with displays and using more visually based programs, not be able to sync anything from my iPod (or future iPhone?) with my computer, and that it would only be a few years before I had to get buy a brand new one would just be stupid.

Of course when I made this decision I was counting on my PC sticking around for another year or so. I was NOT counting on it being stolen, leaving me in a technological bind.

So back to my mom being awesome, she suggested that since I really was just guessing at what I would need for a Mac we should just go to the Apple store and get a professional to help us figure it out. THEN we would know exactly how much it would cost and can plan accordingly.

So we did. A very nice man named Chad helped us out and listened to all of my inane questions about computers and a detailed accounting of precisely what I need a computer to do for me. It turns out I really don’t need a lot of the add-ons I originally thought and the actual cost was more like $1,400. Mom had already set aside some money to loan me after everything was taken and was able to buy it right then and there!

Here comes my PSA for the day…one thing I learned from having to file a police report for stolen property is that serial numbers are very useful. You know where you can find those? On the things that were stolen. So, the first thing I did with my new computer is write down the serial number and all of the specs and file them away, just in case. If you have any technology that could potentially go missing – laptops, phones, MP3 players, etc. – I would encourage you all to find those serial numbers and write them down! If they ever turn up that’s the only way the police will be able to tell they’re yours.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t need help raising money anymore. Actually it means I need even more help, because now I have to pay back my mom. So please, if you have anything to spare, donate to my Knotty Narwhal campaign on Indiegogo. Even if you can’t contribute you can still help by telling others about my plight. I have a computer and can move on with my life, but now I’m in debt. To my own mother. I also would like to get some applications to make this computer work smoothly for me, like Pages, a task management program, photo editing software, antivirus, and definitely LoJack.

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…

In Which Technology Hates Me

I know I promised to blog about Knit Fit today, and believe me, I really want to. Unfortunately technology has conspired against me. I took some awesome photos while I was there and I’m still struggling a bit trying to figure out how get them onto my sister’s computer and formatted and edited properly. It was so much easier on my computer…

In addition to that, our DVR box is on the fritz and will be replaced tomorrow morning, so I have to watch all of the shows we have recorded TONIGHT or they are gone forever.

In the meantime I will try to entertain you all with a new blogging trick my friend Jessica taught me. On the sidebar right underneath the calendar I now have a Blogroll! This is where you will find useful or interesting links (not all of them are blogs). It’s small so far but I will slowly add to it as other links come to mind.

Jessica just started her own blog called Jessica’s Yarn Tales, and her first post was today, so go check her out! She already has a blogroll set up ’cause she’s smart like that.

At Ars Poetica you can find handcrafted candles made from natural and sustainable materials and beautiful hand drawn cards. A college friend of mine started this business very recently, and in the Poet’s Corner she has blogged about the grueling process of setting up a small home business.

Another artist friend of mine is Peppermint Monster AKA Sarah. She is a wickedly fabulous artist/illustrator who just released a Sueussian, nudity-filled comic called Star Power. You can buy it in her Etsy shop (and I highly recommend you do).

If you want to know what is going on in the knitting world, just look to the Yarn Harlot. She has her finger on the pulse of knitting culture, and when she speaks, fiber fanatics listen.

Last but not least is the Craft Emergency Relief Fund which provides emergency assistance to professional craft artists. They also provide emergency preparedness information for artists. In the wake of Sandy I’m sure there are many people out there whose studios have been badly damaged putting their livelihoods at stake. They have set up a special emergency response page specifically dealing with Sandy aftermath here.

Plenty can go wrong even without the help of a hurricane, as Judith MacKenzie-McCuin can attest. Her spinning studio at The Rainforest Arts Center in Forks, WA  burned to the ground. Friends of Judith have set up a site, Rebuild Judith’s Studio, where you can donate money or materials to help this international artist and teacher return to her craft. I know the loss of my computer has pretty much leveled my ability to pursue my business, I can only imagine what it would be like to lose EVERYTHING.

Hopefully I can get the photo situation sorted out tonight so I can share my Knit Fit experiences with you tomorrow!

The Case of the Stolen Blog Post

I had a lot to blog about. I had notes typed up, outlines made, pictures saved and the whole bit. I was going to tell you all about how I rearranged my room and about how awesome Knit City was. I was going to show you loads of pictures from Vancouver, BC and tell you all about this cool new knitting technique I learned. Then my laptop was stolen.

All of the notes and outlines I had saved, and all of the pictures I took in Vancouver were on that laptop, and it’s all gone now.

We were all packed up and on our way out of town when we stopped to get something to eat. While we were gone someone broke into our car and stole my laptop bag. That bag contained:

  • my laptop
  • my iPod, which I bought 3 months ago and was right in the middle of a good audio book
  • all of my DPNs from size #1-#6 including 4 sets of Signatures (knitters will know what this is and scream in horror)
  • ALL of my knitting notions, including the 100+ unique stitch markers I got in the stitch marker swap at the Sock Summit
  • Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns (the first book in a series of THE BEST stitch dictionaries out there – a must-have for designers)
  • my graphing calculator – granted I don’t really use it for graphing these days, but it was really nice to see everything I was typing in long calculations and to be able to go back and edit if there was an error instead of having to type the whole damn thing over again.
  • Small Time Operator – the book I was reading to get a sense of what all I needed to do to set up my business (I went out and got a new copy of that IMMEDIATELY)
  • and the real kick to the gut…my blue ribbon winning fingerless gloves, Barmaids Are Tasty

RIP – I really hope someone found you and you aren’t lying in a dumpster somewhere

I’ve ordered yarn from indigodragonfly to make another pair, but it still won’t be the gloves that earned a blue ribbon.

Aside from that sadness, I am now missing a computer and a crapload of my knitting tools. This makes starting an online knitting business…tricky. I’m limping along on my sister’s computer, but it’s so old and buggy it’s practically impossible to use. Some interesting things I’ve learned about my sister’s computer in the last week:

  • YouTube videos are a no-go. They just won’t play. Weird.
  • PDF files are also a no-go. It simply refuses to open them. This means I can’t look at any knitting patterns or online forms for business applications, or ANYTHING.
  • Sometimes (frequently, really) the keyboard likes to lag, making typing extremely painful. It’s doing it right now. If there are typos in this post, I’m not backing up to fix them. It’s just not worth it.
  • If you want to save anything, like a document or a picture, you HAVE to save it to the desktop first. The computer will not file it anywhere else until it has been stored on the desktop. Guess how many things are on the desktop?

I need a new computer NAO. Basically every asset I had to start this business with was in that bag, so I’m desperate. I have spent the last week scrambling to get a business plan together ASAP.

I now have a name! Knotty Narwhal

My sister designed a logo! Here it is:

That’s as far as I can get right now without your help!

I have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to replace my stolen computer and tools and start my business. There are many amazing perks for you to claim in return for your contributions. You could get cute kitty thank-you emails, or buttons, stickers and t-shirts with the Knotty Narwhal logo! I could needlefelt you anything you would like, and since I am a Brony (I refuse to be called a Pegasister, that’s just silly), that thing could totally be a pony – any pony at all! You could get an exclusive color copy of the concept sketch of my first design, and a free copy of the pattern! If you’re extremely awesome and donate a lot of money, I’ll even knit for you! More perks may appear if I reach certain milestones in my funding too, so keep spreading the word!

You can contribute to the Indiegogo campaign here: Knotty Narwhal needs YOU!

You can “like” Knotty Narwhal on Facebook here: Knotty Narwhal has a cute face

You can follow Knotty Narwhal on Twitter here: Betcha didn’t know a narwhal could tweet

Please help me spread the word! I will try to recreate some of the lost blog posts in the following weeks, so stay tuned!

Victory Lap

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, but I’ve been very busy knitting. A lot. And then once the knitting was over I had a mountain of chores and other errands to catch up on since I really didn’t do anything else but knit for 17 days straight. In my last post I outlined my completely insane goals for the Ravellenic Games and I am happy to report that I finished ALL of them! Completely finished too, as in blocked, sewn up, photographed and everything. After the dust settled I ended up with 10 medals and pile of beautiful handknits to enjoy! Meet the Highly Improbable Ravellenic Projects of DOOM:

Curse the Bunnies

Pattern: Whippoorwill (size small), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly Merino Sock in Bunnies, Bunnies, It Must Be Bunnies! (purple) and Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal! (green)

Toorie

Pattern: Toorie (small gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly Merino Silk DK in Edward Discovers That Woodchippers Make Excellent Juicers

Bored Now.

Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals (small gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCN Sport in Bored Now. (Evil Willow)

Elsewhere, As in Far Far Away

Pattern: Faraway, So Close (small size), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCS Worsted in Don’t You Have An Elsewhere To Be? (Cordelia)

Hello Sweetie

Pattern: Dovetail Cowl (size small), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCS Worsted in River Song

Damsels With Batteries

Pattern: Regina, by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly DK Polwarth Silk in A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries (purple) and Young Helpless Damsels in Damp Climates (green)

Barmaids Are Tasty

Pattern: Corseted Mitts (small/medium gauge), by Carina Spencer

Yarn: indigodragonfly MCN Worsted in Who’s a Guy Gotta Kill to Get a Drink Around Here? (Angelus)

So, you can see now why I was too busy to write. I still can’t believe I got them all done on time. I was only planning on getting them knitted by the deadline, I never dreamed I would have the time to block them and all that jazz. What I didn’t count on was that my knitting speed would more than double within the first 6 days, so by day 13 I found myself with nothing on the needles! I learned some interesting things during the process of cranking out these projects:

  • Carina Spencer designs are relatively quick! The longest (Whippoorwill) took 20 hours to knit and the quickest (Corseted Mitts) took a mere 8 hours.
  • I really can’t burn out on knitting. I figured if anything would get me to want a break from knitting, this would do it, but once I bound off the last project I got a little panicked and had to find another project to work on while these were blocking.
  • The playhouse is not a suitable long-term blocking space solution. I live in a small cat-filled house and fur/claw free floor space is hard to come by, so I cleared out the old playhouse in the backyard to do the blocking in. Apparently it’s humid in there even with the windows open because when I went to check on the projects after a full day in there they were still as wet as when I left them. With the help of my mother and sister I had to carefully transfer them to my bedroom and put them on my bed in front of the fan to finish blocking. Then I had nowhere to sleep….
  • As long as I take lots of stretch breaks I can knit for a very long time without breaking myself.  I spent a total of 92 hours knitting in 17 days. I had some trouble with my thumbs getting tired, but that didn’t start up until I started slacking on stretching, and I recovered fairly quickly. I don’t anticipate having to knit like that ALL the time, but it’s good to know how far I can push myself if I’m up against a tight deadline.

Now that I’ve seen how quickly these projects knit up (and how much fun they are!), the idea of knitting more of these to sell sounds much more appealing. The next step in the licensing process is to set up a business. I could apply for a license to knit Carina’s designs now, but I don’t want to pay for months when I have no way of selling things if it takes a while to get a shop set up. That makes sense right? Before I get too ahead of myself I need to learn the basics of running a business, so I’ve started reading Small Time Operator and making a to-do list.

Now we’re getting somewhere…