Monday, April 30, 2012

Too Big For My Britches

I've been working on this new baby shirt/sweater all weekend.  I started with 440 yards of fingering weight yarn.  I wrote out the pattern and did the math and figured out that a long-sleeved 12 month size sweater would take about 430 yards.  Cutting it close, sure, but I wasn't scared.  I could always adjust the sleeve length if I needed to. 

As I worked, it was like that story about Jesus and the loaves & fish.  I knew I was using yarn, but the ball was getting smaller at such a slow rate that I got cocky.  Instead of doing a simple ribbed hem or whatever, I did something fancy that probably used an extra 30 yards of yard.  You know, because the yarn was lasting so much longer than my logical math skills had told me it would last.

I worked my little edging trim and button band, then triumphantly put my remaining 19 grams on the scale.  The plan was to evenly divide the remaining yarn into 2 balls and just knit the sleeves as long as the yarn would allow.  I might have to rip them back to short-sleeved length, but maybe I'd get 3/4 sleeves out of it.  And, for a thin summer knit sweater, I actually thought 3/4 sleeves would be perfect.

So I divided the yarn into two balls, made the cut, then it dawned on me:

I haven't finished off the neckline yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Podcasty Goodness

I just spent a lovely afternoon working on a new design while watching a whole bunch 'o videocasts from "The Fat Squirrel".   I actually started with her last night and for the first episode, I was thinking, "This could go either way....this lady could be intelligent and hilarious or she could be a total poser who will annoy me."  (This feeling may have been exacerbated by the fact that the first episode I downloaded was entitled "Don't Knit Angry, Yo!" and she exclaimed "Yo!" at the end of sentences far more than I am used to any grown woman doing.  But, as it turns out, her enthusiasm is real and her exuberant manner grew on me.  I''m all for excitement and exuberance, as long as it is genuine, and after watching about 6 of her videocasts, she appears to be the real deal!

Her podcast is a fun mix of silly stories, mommy talk, knitting show & tell, and some other random odd bits.  But it's all fun and if your attention is pulled away for a could moments while you are knitting, you can easily pick back up with whatever she is talking about.

She was actually looking extra-good by the time I stumbled across her podcast because I had spent the better part of yesterday looking for new podcasts and failing miserably.  Note to podcasters - here are some things I do not want to listen to (but had the unfortunate experience of hearing from various podcasting sources yesterday):

People eating while podcasting (seriously, even if you are doing this and making fun of it at the same time, it is gross to listen to.  I don't want to get up close and personal to the sound of other people chewing.)

Podcasts that record at such a low volume that in order to hear it at all you have to turn your volume up crazy high and therefore get a ton of hissing that pretty much covers up the sound of the voices anyway.

Podcasters that sound like a sixth grader reading the essay they wrote in front of the class.  There was one knitting podcast that seemed like it might be good - nice sound quality, pleasant-sounding host, started with a fun story about an old lady that gave her an unwanted work-in-progress.....but as the story went on, it became apparent that she was reading it word-for-word.  It ended up really formal sounding and not fun or spontaneous at all.  I like a little spontaneity in my podcasts.  If I want to read a perfectly worded story, I'll read it myself, thankyouverymuch.

Husband and wife podcasting teams that either actually fight while recording or pretend to fight while recording, resulting in an awkward 5-minute segment where the husband is refusing to talk and the wife is apologizing over & over.  I don't want to know that couple in real life and I don't want to listen to them on iTunes, either.

"Inside jokes" with your fellow podcasters.  I'm sure they're hilarious to you, but the people listening have no idea what you're talking about and have to sit there for the 90 seconds it takes all of you to recover from your fit of laughter.  Just jokes we're gonna understand, please.

So....yeah.  I tried on about ten different podcasts and came up with only The Fat Squirrel Speaks as a winner.  I already listen to the Knitting Pipeline, but since there was no episode out this week, I decided to expand my knitting repertoire.  I also - whoops, almost forgot this! - watched a few episodes of "Mommy Needs Yarn" earlier in the week and liked that one a lot, too.  Finding that video cast was another kick in the pants for me to see if I was missing out on other "cast"-ing goodness. 

Anyway, having some fun stuff to watch/listen to while I was working yesterday and today made it extra-enjoyable, so thanks to all you lovely podcasters who keep us entertained!  (Except the guy eating the bag of chips on the mic.  That was G-to-the-ross.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

S-s-s-s-s-s-swatch me!

I've only published one design this spring, which makes me feel like a slacker.  But the truth is, I've been working really hard on two designs, one sweater and one dress, but those patterns won't be released until late summer or early fall.  I have learned my lesson about releasing patterns at the "wrong" time of year (they have a really hard time finding an audience.)  So, as difficult as it is for me to have finished patterns and just hold on to them, I'm going to do it!  It's fine though, it gives my pattern testers plenty of time to get their projects done (which is great because they both take a fair amount of time!)

I like to keep my designing to one or two things at a time.  Mostly because it's difficult for me to remember all the details when testers ask me questions if I am already three more projects down the road.  So I tend to work really intensely one one thing while the pattern I just completed is being tested and prepared for release.  Because of holding on to these two designs though, and because I have a 10-pattern e-book that I'm just casually working on, I really have about 4 projects going on right now.  And so far, it's all good.  I'm just being really dilligent about keeping really detailed notes and not relying on myself to actually remember anything.

I bought a skein of yarn from my LYS a couple months ago and it has been calling to me since then.  It is fingering-weight merino wool dyed with beautiful shades of pink and orange.  I am a sucker for pink, and this colorway reminded me a lot of the skein of Malabrigo "Light of Love" sock yarn that I used for a scarf last winter.  This skein was made by an independent spinner from Peoria, Illinois.  She just labels her yarns "E's Yarns", and only sells locally.  I'm hoping that next time I visit the yarn shop she will have refilled her display basket with some gorgeous new colors.

Since I was at a stopping point with my dress design (until I can try it on my little model, anyway), I started swatching with this pink yarn yesterday.  I have a new little girl's pattern in mind and I think I've got it all figured out.  Now I just need to do the math and see if I'm going to have enough yardage to make the size I want to do as a sample!  I was a little hesitant to do a pattern sample in a yarn that I know most people won't be able to purchase, but the fact is, it's just your basic fingering-weight yarn.  I can think of a dozen perfect substitutions right off the top of my head (including that Malabrigo sock yarn I mentioned).  So I'm just going to go with it and knit up this yarn so it will stop staring at me from across the room.  ("Nicole......when are you going to pay attention to ME??....I'm so pretty.....just come over and give me a little pat........)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Charlotte Dress

Could I get any luckier with the adorableness factor of this little model?
 I'm going to start with one of my personal favorites.  This was the first little girl's dress that I designed where I was 100% happy with every aspect of it.  I did it on a challenge to myself: knit something that uses smocking.  I intended to first knit something designed by someone else, but I didn't find anything that interested me.  So I went on You Tube and watched a few videos on smocking.  The technique screamed out for a child's dress, so this idea formed pretty easily.  I used Knit Picks Stroll Tonal Sock Yarn, which I think was a really good match for the pattern.  It is interesting enough to make the marathon of stockinette skirt knitting a little more interesting, but not so varied that it competes with the smocking stitch on the bodice. 

Close-up of the smocked bodice
Another thing I love about the smocking (besides how easy it is to do and how cute it looks) is that it is super-stretchy.  I think this could easily be a two-year- dress for most little girls.  The first year, the arm holes would have to be a little extra-deep and maybe she'd wear a little t-shirt or tank top under the dress so the arm holes weren't a problem.  The second year, she'd grow into  the arm holes and the stretchiness of the bodice would still accommodate her growing chest width.  In this year, she could wear the dress alone and it would be a perfect fit!

I've had some feedback on the pattern that people get suspicious while knitting the skirt.  They think "this skirt is WAY too long to fit my little girl!"  But you have to remember, this dress has an empire waist.  If the skirt doesn't look ridiculously long, your dress is going to turn out as a mini.

So, trust the pattern, have a great time working this bodice (it really is a lot of fun to see the smocking take shape) and make your favorite little girl a very special dress to wear this summer!

The Charlotte Dress pattern can be found here:

Monday, April 23, 2012


The job I'm most qualified for is that of an educator, specifically music.  As part of my education courses, I studied the different types of learners.  After all, if a teacher's job is to get her students to understand something, it's essential that she understand how they might be best able to process the information.

I've known all my life that I'm a visual person, and if I can add a physical action to the learning, all the better.  If I don't write it down, I'll never remember it.  And it's not so much that I need to go back to my notes to remind myself - it's the act of writing something down, of seeing the words on the page.  More times than not, I can remember what I need to just because for the seconds that it took me to write down the information, my focus was on that action, and the information is now something I know. 

It's a little funny then, that I chose music education as my (first) career.  Don't get me wrong - I love music.  I love kids (well, most of them.)  I love being able to teach kids something they didn't know, to be able to watch them grow and develop their skills and to surprise themselves by doing something they never thought they could.  That part of being a music teacher is fantastic.

But I'm really not an aural person.  I love to perform music, and I think I'm pretty good at it.  But the funny thing is, when I'm playing the piano or singing, I "see" the music as much as I hear it.  My voice students know that all the metaphors I use to coax them into proper vocal technique are visual ones.  "Your consonants are clothespins on a clothesline of vowels!"  "You have to breathe like you're a tree sucking water out of the ground through the roots in your toes!"  "You have to sing that phrase like it's flying out that window in front of you!"  Those are the kinds of things I say.  It's rare that I'll throw out something like, "You need to 'warm up' that tone."  Certainly, it's something we vocalists talk about, but what exactly does that mean?  I find 'throwing my voice out the window' way easier to understand than 'warm tone'.  But I know that has a lot to do with how my brain is wired.

Teaching music has worked out really well for me.  I enjoyed the three years I spent as a first- eighth grade general music & chorus teacher, and I'm incredibly grateful for the private music studio I've had for the past 12 years.  It allowed me to keep a toe in my career and contribute to the support of our family while also being able to stay home with my kids.  I know what a rare gift it is to be able to find that kind of balance between having a job and being the mom you want to be.

A couple years ago I fell into designing.  I'll save that story for another day.  But it's not something I ever intended to do, nor is it something I realized I was able to do until I started doing it.  And now I can't believe it took me until my mid-30s to find this creative outlet.  All the pieces are there - it's completely visual, but there is a big physical component to it (the actual making of whatever it is).  It blends together shape, color, texture, form....allows me to draw from whatever attracts my interest.  I get plenty of use out of my math skills and my problem-solving skills.  And at the end of each pattern, I get to play photographer (which I love) or model (which I don't love, but will pretend I do so I can get to the final step - pattern release!)  And I love the interaction I get to have with knitters who contact me about the patterns, and the people who write about their projects on their blogs or Ravelry project pages.  I've found that 99% of knitters are generous, enjoyable, friendly people.  And I'd say that's a larger percentage than you'd find in the general population. :)

Slowly but surely, my designing work is drawing me in.  I try not to get too obsessed most of the time because I still want to be a good mom and take care of my family.  But I understand now what people mean about "finding their passion".  Music is great - I love performing, I love my students, but teaching music has always been a job to me.  My design work is different.  Much of it doesn't feel like a job at all.  I would be knitting and coming up with my own designs even if no one was looking.  I love every single project that I create, and I can't wait to share them with you.  I've been thinking about starting a blog for about six months now and have put it off wondering if I would have enough to say.  (I already have a family blog that I am forever falling behind on posting to!)  But as my knitting and work life keeps steadily taking over more and more real estate on my family blog, I decided it's time to make the split.  Here, it'll be all things crafty & creative, and I'll keep the talk of the kiddos on my family blog.  Hopefully there will be plenty of stories to go around!