I Was Smiling the Whole Time

There’s no doubt we could use more reasons to smile lately. It’s been a while since I’ve knitted something that made me excited to plan, happy to knit, and gleeful to wear. But this neck warmer was just the ticket!

Happy sheep cowl neck warmer

This is the I’ll Pack a Cowl for Rhinebeck by Deb Jacullo. Pssst — it’s FREE! Another reason to smile.

Sheep neckwarmer cowl

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern. I made the cowl smaller in circumference by leaving off one of the sheep from the chart, and since the chart is repeated twice, that means the width of two sheep were left off the circumference. This resulted in a closer-fitting neck warmer which I much prefer — I’ve never understood the use of scarf or cowl that gapes open around your neck…but then again, I do have a serious hate-on for any kind of cool breeze getting anywhere near my neck. It was a 7-stitch wide sheep, so I just cast on 14 fewer stitches to start and went from there.

sheepcowl3

Umm, those are snowflakes in my hair, not dandruff. Just sayin’.

I also made the neck warmer less tall by leaving off a few extra rows of ribbing at the top and bottom. If I did it again I would probably leave out some rounds below the sheep, as it’s still a bit too tall for me. Regardless, I feel happy whenever I’m sporting this cozy-cute thing! I highly recommend it as a pattern. And if you’re new to colour knitting, this is a great first project to give it a try. There are 4 colours in total but you only ever have to deal with two colours at a time in any given row, so it’s not terribly complex. It’s a great yarn stash busting project as well.

Here are a couple more things that make me happy: handmade knit socks. Watching the stripes and patterns develop makes them fun to knit, and wearing hand knit socks in winter is one of life’s great pleasures. Wool is naturally breathable like no other sock material I’ve ever tried, so it keeps you warm but if you do start to sweat you don’t get that horrible clammy feeling.

Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Regia sock yarn

turtlepurlstripeysocks

Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Turtlepurl Perfect Pair sock yarn

I must’ve knit myself about 8 pairs of socks in the last few years, and I’ve used this same Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley every time. (More free pattern happiness!) Occasionally I think I should try another type of sock design but I’m so happy with the fit of these that I figure why mess with a good thing? But I must admit that a few patterns have  made me consider cheating on poor Ms Atherley, like these Dotty Knots Socks — because colour! Or these Watermelon Slice Socks — because, well, watermelon! Or these Nightingale socks — because, holy shit, drop-dead gorgeous show-stopping outrageousness! So many happy-making sock pattern choices.

Here’s another thing that’s making me happy: next week I am leaving for a trip to Kenya. I’m taking a group of my university students who will be producing a short documentary as well as content for a social media campaign for AMREF — the African Medical Research and Education Foundation. We’ll be visiting AMREF’s drop-in centre for kids from the Dagoretti slum of Nairobi, where at-risk kids can make art, learn media production, learn cooking, and learn SEWING! We’ll also be spending a week in a Maasai village learning about AMREF’s Alternative Rites of Passage project, which aims to phase out the dangerous (and illegal) tradition of female genital mutilation by helping girls, village elders, and the young men the girls might marry to understand the risks involved with FGM, and to implement new traditions for this rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Last week we were lucky enough to have a young woman from Kenya named Nice visit our class to tell her story. As an 8-year-old, she was scheduled to do her rite of passage, which involves having the clitoris and parts of or all of the labia removed without anaesthetic. She and her older sister ran away the morning of the ceremony, and were beaten when they were caught. Nice ran away again when the ceremony was rescheduled, and has been working with AMREF ever since to help spread the concept of an alternative rite of passage. Happily she has become a leader in her community and travels around the world to help raise awareness.

rtainkenyateam

Nice, third from left, and part of my team traveling to Kenya next week. Photo by Jennifer Foulds.

AMREF is doing amazing work and I’m so happy that my young students have an opportunity to learn about a completely different culture and have their perspectives and minds expanded. Open minds are another thing we could use more of these days, don’t you think?

I’m looking forward to telling you about my travels when I return. But beware, I’ll also be asking you to help support AMREF! I figure an organization that is providing sewing lessons to kids in need would be A-OK in your books, and worthy of support. Here’s a link to donate if you’re interested. AMREF is a registered charity and can provide tax receipts for your donation. http://www.amrefcanada.org/ryerson

What are the things that are making you happy these days?

Thanks so much for stopping by for a read!

With a Little Help From My Friends, Part 2: THANK YOU

Hey friends! Guess who won second place in the Pattern Review Handbag Contest??

Handbag Contest 2016

Thank you SO MUCH for helping me out with your votes. I am very grateful and very happy! And I’m loving my new bag.

Red Leather Bundle Bag

I’ve been busy lately, including work on the next episode of the Clothes Making Mavens podcast which will be released soon, so things have been a bit quiet here on the blog front. But I have a few projects to share with you just as soon as I get some focused time to sit down and write. Here’s a peek:

Colette Zinnia Skirt

The Zinnia Skirt by Colette

The Emmanuelle Sweater

The Emmanuelle Sweater

And as the weather gets cooler I’m doing more rugging up in front of the television (living vicariously through Luke Cage‘s bullet-proof, thug-thwarting swagger, and feeling inspired by The Get Down to make a gold lamé dress for disco dancing) and knitting away at this Velvet Morning Cardigan

Velvet Morning Cardigan in progress

Velvet Morning Cardigan in progress

…which obviously won’t go with the gold lamé dress or be suitable for nailing thugs in Harlem, but will be perfect for more rugging up in front of the TV. I’m on a slippery slope, here, friends, a very slippery slope. 🙂

 

 

Thanks, Mom, for Teaching Me to Love Sewing

My mother sewed my prom dress for me. It’s a MASTERPIECE. It was 1988 and we were big on, well, BIG. Big hair, big flounces, and lots of taffeta.

Taffeta prom dress

Look at that sweetheart neckline and that flattering drop waist. And there’s boning in that bodice — boning!

But wait, there’s more icing on the back:

promdress_back

Look at those layers, and that BOW!

promdress_backbow

Points to anyone who can identify the pattern this came from! I don’t have the pattern anymore, but it would’ve been one of the big 4 pattern companies, published around 1988 or so. Mom and I picked it out at our local Fabricland where we also bought that gorgeous teal taffeta.

Here’s the dress in action in 1989. My friend Sue took home the award for biggest sleeves, and we both got honorary mentions for having had our shoes dyed to match our dresses exactly. 😉

prom dresses

I *looooved* this dress. I still do. The taffeta is crisp and makes wonderful swishy sounds when I move in it. If you look closely you can just make out a sort of wood-grain pattern in the fabric. And that colour? Best. Ever. What are the chances 80’s gowns will come back in fashion so I can wear this out somewhere?

I can’t believe my mother made this for me. She spent countless hours, and did such an amazing job. It’s hard to express adequate gratitude for such an extraordinary and personal gift…but here goes:

Thanks, mom, for your effort and sacrifice in making this dress! And for teaching me to sew when I was young. I think the first thing we sewed together was a few small stuffed Christmas ornaments that showed up on the tree year after year, remember those? Then there was the Grade 8 graduation dress you made for me:

gr8graddress

You taught me to knit, too, and I still remember that ridiculous forest-green “scarf” I made, complete with unintentional dropped-stitch “eyelets” and featuring a “stylish too-short-for-a-scarf look” because I got too frustrated to knit a full length scarf. I think dad might’ve actually worn it out. I’m still blown away by the curling sweater you knitted for dad in the 60s — I found it in the cedar chest in the basement the 80s and wore it religiously for a while — even in the rain, sorry! — and it’ll be a cherished keepsake for years to come.

curlingsweater

Mom, you’re a great role model who instilled in me a love of creative arts such like sewing, knitting, and baking, too. Thanks for making those things part of my life as a kid growing up. And thanks for giving me your old Singer sewing machine when you finally decided you wouldn’t be doing any more sewing yourself. Having that in the house allowed me to dive back into sewing when the notion took me a few years ago. Thanks for all of that, and for being the best mom ever. I’m a very lucky person to have a mother like you. Love you! xo

Mom & dad on their wedding day in 1957

Mom & dad on their wedding day in 1957

Ok, you didn’t think I’d be able to write another sentimental post without adding a little smart-alecky-ness here at the end, did you? This may actually be my favourite photo of me wearing the prom dress in 1989 (sorry, mom):

Flipping the bird in my prom dress

A little teenage contempt was just the right accessory for this frilly dress.

Huzzah! Me and my Sweetheart are back together!

Look at this swagger! Why? Cause I opened a can of serger whoop-ass on this sweater. I feel like a certified DOMIKNITRIX.

Sweetheart sweater with pink intarsia bow

When I finished knitting this sweater (Sweetheart from Domiknitrix by Jennifer Stafford),  it was way too big. More details and sucky pics here.

Sweetheart sweater before and after

But now my Sweetheart fits much better. And this is how I feel about it:

Sweetheart sweater jumping for joy

I used my serger to trim away the extra room from the sleeve hem all the way along to the waist on each side. Then I pinned up the extra bulk around the sleeve heads and serged around the armholes. Lastly, I wove black elastic thread around the neckline and cinched it in. So many thanks to readers who offered suggestions and encouragement! It worked, y’all!

Sweetheart sweater

And I love it!

Sweetheart sweater

 

YOU WILL SUBMIT, SWEETHEART

[Warning: this post is full of frowny, sucky pictures!]

There are a lot of things I love about knitting. It’s portable and can be done almost anywhere. Wool yarn is lovely to smoosh and fondle. Handmade wool socks are the best. And so on. But if there’s one thing that I absolutely hate about knitting, it’s spending three months knitting a sweater that doesn’t fit.

Exhibit A: The Sweetheart Sweater from DomiKNITrix (aka Jennifer Stafford). This was going to be a masterpiece. The cleverly constructed pattern with waist darts, short row bust shaping, an intarsia bow, and a sweetheart neckline was going to produce a cute-but-sexy fitted sweater. I carefully checked my gauge. Commenters on Ravelry warned that the sleeves were very tight, so I erred on the side of knitting small sleeves instead of extra small. But what I seem to have finished up with overall is a size Large.

Sweetheartsweater_before3

It fits well from the hips to the waist but gets inexplicably much larger after that, moving up towards the shoulders that could accommodate a set of football pads. This is a disaster on par with my I Thought I Was Sewing a Dress But It Turned Out to Be a Bathrobe with Storage Compartments for Groceries dress.

Sweetheart sweater before

And this was no easy knit! This is the first time I’ve tried the intarsia technique, which is a way of knitting more than one colour by using small bobbins of yarn for each area of different colour in any given row. I found this quite tricky and very slow going. And weaving in all those ends! The horror, the horror.

I have no idea what's going on here, either.

Knitting intarsia: I have no idea what’s going on here, either.

So I’ve decided to take the advice of Jennifer Stafford, author of the book from which this pattern came, and Whip My Knits Into Shape. I will not be dominated by this “sweetheart”. SHE WILL SUBMIT TO ME!

I plan to give her a close-up tour of my serger where she’ll get a close shave along the sides, around the armholes, and down the sleeves. That’s right; I’m going to CUT my knitting. It’s my only hope. Pray for me, and for Sweetheart. We both hope there will be no reason for Sewzilla to come visiting.

Sweetheartsweater_before1

Have you ever altered a hand knit with a sewing machine or serger before? Any advice is welcome!

And in the meantime, I think I’ll knit a few more of these to cheer me up because they’re just so damn cute.

Baby Socks! From the free pattern by Kate Atherly. Click to go to the pattern.

Baby Socks for my neighbours’ new baby! From the free pattern by Kate Atherly. Click to go to the pattern.

Neon Stripe Blanket and Erniebertzel PuddinPie

neonstripeblanket1

This cat! I can’t even.

He models my work-in-progress neon stripe blanket well, doesn’t he? He must be tuckered out after tearing holes in the sewing pattern sheets I left out on the table. This is Ernie-of-a-thousand-names, one of which is featured in the title. He’d be embarrassed if he weren’t a cat and therefore expert at not giving a shit what he’s called. Other names — much to my own surprise at choosing to admit this in public — include: Toop Toop, Tiny Chicken, T-Chook, Bagel Bum, Chicken Pot Pie, Banana Bear, Belly Goat, Smeagol Beagle, BertieBert, Stink Bug, Potato Bun, and Snoopy Loop.

Oh, and Asshat. Just because I love the word Asshat.

The blanket! I’m afraid I blatantly and shamelessly ripped the design off after seeing Julie Harrison’s post on her blog Little Woollie. My eyes DOINGGGG-ed out of my head and I channeled a desperate Captain Kirk as I whispered to myself, “Must…have….this…….blanket!”

neonstripeblanket3

Julie’s version is crocheted; I’m making up a knit version. I’m knitting 12 rows with Nashua Isabella yarn in Labradorite, a tweedy grey worsted weight, then doing 2 rows with one of 4 neon Madelinetosh Vintage yarns (Blue Nile, Neon Peach, Edison Bulb, and Fluoro Rose). When I’m finished I will do an i-cord edge using one of the neons. I am LOVING the mindless garter stitch knitting.

neonyarn

Not to be outdone by her arch-nemesis Ernie, Miss Pie photobombs the neon yarn shoot.

In case you read my earlier post about almost losing my knitting mojo before being saved by the prospect of knitting a Winter Wheat cardigan, that project is indeed in progress but on temporary hold while I get my neon stripe fix.

Oh, hai, sweater that I’m going to knit the shit out of

I thought it had finally happened: losing my knitting mojo. Knitterly mojo-lessness. I couldn’t get excited about starting a new knitting project. Which has been UNHEARD OF since I started knitting in 2009 — I don’t believe I have ever not had a project on the go. Is it possible I was suffering from worsted world-weariness? DPN disgruntlement? Entrelac ennui? Fair-isle Fuggettaboutit?

I even bought new yarn just before my vacation in order to make this cool Anna Sui dress (my version was going to be a sweater).

I knit most of the back piece before saying to myself, “Meh,” and putting it away. I wasn’t even tempted to work on it during the 13 hours I spent on various trains, buses, and a 9-hour flight home. Something was seriously wrong.

Truth be told, I was a little panicky. Had my knitting craze finally come to an end? Had I knit everything I was going to ever want to knit? (Lawd knows I have too. damn. many. sweaters. Even for a Canadian.) Had my knitting universe collapsed in on itself? And, most importantly, HOW ON EARTH WOULD I MAKE IT THROUGH FACULTY MEETINGS? I’m pretty sure my colleagues would put their foot down at me setting up my serger in the meeting room.

But then I saw an ad on Ravelry for the Winter Wheat pattern by Anne of Atelier Al-fa:

Stripes? Check. Asymmetry? Check. Interesting stitch patterns? Check. Even contrast piping — check. And, sock-weight yarn for a lighter, finer garment — check.

And then I saw this perfectly executed Winter Wheat project by Charlotte (Lolotte1409 on Ravelry):

And then I remembered that my amazing LYS — Romni Wools — has 20% off all yarns this month!

And then I thought, HELLS YEAH! I’m gonna knit me some Winter Wheat! (Cue finger snapping and hip gyrating)

And girlfriends, I picked up these to-die-for Madelinetosh sock yarns…

madelinetosh_winterwheat

Madeline Tosh Sock yarn (left to right): Victorian Gothic, Dirty Panther, Smokestack, Composition Book Grey, and Fog.

…and BAM!!!! Knitting Mojo Restored! No more stockinette same-same! Vanished is the yarn-over yawning! I have conquered cabling commonplaceness! Is that even a word? Who cares?? Garter stitch gloom is gone!!!

elainebenesdancing

Oh, and if you don’t see a finished Winter Wheat on this blog within the next 6 months, you’ll know this was just Starting A New Project Enthusiasm talking. Time will tell; so far I am half way through row 2. Wish me luck. 😉

 

Vanessa Cable Cardi

I completed this sweater in December using the Vanessa Cable Cardigan pattern from MillaMia Sweden.

vanessacablecardi5

I’m a tad disappointed because I had dreams I would look like this woman…

Milla Mia Vanessa Cable Cardi

…complete with cool neon yellow trim. But I would’ve had to buy neon yellow yarn and knit with it, as opposed to choosing burgundy yarn. I guess I didn’t really think that part of it through. 😉

It was a pretty long project as the front panels were comprised of endless amounts of cabling. On one of the panels are a few rows of tight, kinda messed up knitting, which will be my everlasting reminder of that time I was knitting while watching the Season 5 premiere of the Walking Dead.

vanessacablecardi6

I’m also a bit bummed because I thought the neck might be more like a funnel neck, but the collar just lies flat. Note to self! — don’t be fooled by models holding up collars in the pattern photo! I have been fooled by this more than once (see my asymmetrical moto jacket).

vanessacablecardi1

It’s a lovely warm sweater, and the cabled fronts are extra warm as the texture makes the fabric thicker and seems to trap body heat.  I used one of my favourite yarns: Sandnes Garn Mini Alpakka for the taupe sections (colour #2650). It is soft and a bit fuzzy and lightweight yet warm. I love it. The burgundy contrast is Garnstudio Drops Alpaca in colour #3969. This is a very similar yarn but not nearly as soft and fuzzy.

vanessacablecardi3
This is the third pattern by MillaMia Sweden I have knit (see my Annika cardigan and Erika cardigan), probably because I can’t seem to get enough of their use of colourblocking and contrast trim on their designs.

vanessacablecardi7

This might be next on my MillaMia hit list (but how many cabled cardigans does one compulsive knitter need?). It’s a free download…click the image to get it.

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan – free download

Or perhaps this:

MillaMia Bella Jacket

MillaMia Bella Jacket

2014: A Year of Living Creatively

Was 2014 a creative year for you? A handful of years ago I remember making a list of what I thought were the primary areas in life that were important for happiness & well being. Something like this:

Relationship/Marriage
Family
Friends/Social Life
Health
Career
Creativity
Learning
Spirituality (although I’m not a religious person, I still consider spirituality to be an important factor)

There were probably a few other things on the list that I can’t remember right now. Anyway, I rated each area out of 10. At that time, I rated Creativity as one of the lowest of all — probably 2 or 3 out of 10. I’m happy to report that’s not the case anymore; my Creativity Index has shot through the roof over the last few years, and it’s made quite a difference to my overall happiness & well-being! (In many ways, it’s made quite a dent in my wallet, too, but that’s another story.) It’s amazing what can happen when you take stock of who you are and where you’re at, and think about what you’d like to do or change to make a positive difference.

In any case, 2014 continued to be a big year for both Creativity and Learning for me. Here are some of the highlights.

  • took Intermediate Fabrication from Jewel Envy where I made a silver necklace and this ring

Silver Curlicue Ring with Amethyst CZ

  • I took a course on enameling from Jewel Envy (click the link to see what I made)
  • I took a 4-week course on making rings with metal clay with Jenn Jevons of Metal Clay Atelier (post about these rings coming soon!)

silver metal clay rings

  • I set myself up with a small jewelry workshop at home (cripes, tools are expensive!)
  • Following on from 2013, I took a second course on Wearable Electronics and built a motion-activated, light-up skirt!
  • I took another course on casting from Jewel Envy, where I made the silver & pearl ring pictured in my favourite makes of 2014, below

I didn’t have a bad year in knitting, either, considering I get a good chunk of my knitting done during meetings at work. (This says more about how many damn meetings I have to go to than about the speed of my knitting.) I knit:

  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 hats
  • 5 scarves
  • 3 cowls/neckwarmers
  • 2 pairs of socks

knitting projects Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 8.04.51 AM

Biggest fails of 2014

Vogue 8825 dress

The Grocery Cart Dress

zipperneckdress3

The This-Fucking-Fabric-Is-A-Fucking-Nightmare Dress

My favourite makes of 2014

diagonallinesdress sparkleskirt

silver&pearlsring neonhat

Creative Goals for 2015:

  • 3D printed jewelry is in my immediate future. I can feel it.
  • I hope to learn how to take better pictures, especially of jewelry.

Thanks for supporting me in my creative endeavours and sharing yours with me through this blog! May your 2015 be very creatively fulfilling. Make it happen! Cheers!

Blog Hop!

I was nominated to participate in this blog hop thing by Raphaelle over at Deux Souriceaux (thank you, Raphaelle!). She paid me the nicest compliment I could’ve wished for which is that she said I’m “smart and fun”. How did she know that those are way up there on the list of how I’d like people to perceive me? Awesome. Anyway, the way this blog hop is *supposed* to work is that highly organized people manage to respond to their nominations within a week and post their response to a set of questions on their blog the following Monday. Ha. In my world it works like this:

1. Be flattered and excited that someone wanted to nominate me to talk about my blog and think “for sure, I can TOTALLY write a response for next Monday!”

2. #RealizeImAnIdiot

Right. So here is my post, late as it may be, and definitely on the wrong day….

“Why Do I Write?”

A very good question. Truth is, I’m not sure. In trying to answer this question I asked myself whether I actually like to write. I’m not sure I do. I know I like to write when what I’ve written turns out to be interesting and funny, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Maybe I write because I am a little obsessed with collecting, categorizing, and cataloging…when I make something, I have to keep some kind of record of it to satisfy my anal retentive impulses. (Discovering Ravelry was like a dream come true for me, what with options to catalogue all my knits and even the yarn in my stash. Except I couldn’t keep track of my sewing and jewelry and other things on Ravelry.) So, writing about my makes on a blog seems like a good way to keep a record of my process and outcomes. I guess writing is a necessary means to an end for me!

“What Am I Working On?”

Currently I am working on knitting a friggin’ sweater that is taking *forever*. It’s Milla Mia’s Vanessa Cable Cardi. I really like the cabled zigzags on the fronts, but what a lot of cabling on every right-side row. I’ve been at this since July. And how much would I rather be knitting this in the colourway shown in Milla Mia’s photo? After working with this taupe and burgundy for a while I’m not feeling terribly inspired. This one should be finished in time for the 2022 winter Olympics in Kazakhstan (or whatever other unlikely country the IOC desperately manages to get to agree to host while most other countries quite sanely say NO). Oh, that is, if my local yarn store manages to get in the special order I placed in July for yarn I will need to actually finish this. YES, I started a sweater without actually being sure I will ever be able to get ENOUGH YARN TO FINISH. That’s me in a nutshell.

Milla Mia Vanessa Cable Cardi

Milla Mia Vanessa Cable Cardi

Vanessa Cable Cardi - my version in progress

My version, in progress

“How Does My Blog Differ From Others in its Genre?”

I am interested in a lot of different creative practices, from sewing and knitting to jewelry making & silversmithing and even wearable electronics and 3D printing. So perhaps that mix makes it a little different? Or maybe just a little scattered? Ultimately, though, I share something in common with a lot of other blogs I read — a passion for creativity and an excitement to share that passion with others.

“How Does My Writing Process Work?”

Hmmm, something like this, I think:

  • get an idea for something to write about (or finish creating something to write about)
  • procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate
  • spend time seemingly doing nothing except cuddling with the cats, knitting, or sitting in the backyard with a cup of tea (but really during these times my mind is ruminating, often subconsciously, on the thing I want to write about or create)
  • take photographs — my writing depends almost entirely on having decent-quality photographs to go along with it, since I’m usually writing about an object or a garment I’ve made
  • Usually when I’m editing the photos is when I’m finally able to pound out the writing, often in one go. I’m sure I could use some sober-second-thought editing but I find it very difficult not to hit the Publish button as soon as I’m done. I’d probably be more careful about proofing and editing if I were writing for any other reason except for fun.

Now it’s my turn to nominate two others to do this blog hop thingy!

I’d like to nominate Olgalyn from O! Jolly! Crafting Fashion with Sweater Knit Fabrics. I only recently discovered her blog but it’s very intriguing. She’s a knit designer and off-handedly mentioned in one post that she used to be in an electronic art music ensemble “known for building/designing/performing with original music synthesizers”. Cool! Would love to hear more about her and her blog.

I’d also like to nominate Metalsmithing Poodle. I enjoy following her posts about learning metalsmithing in art school, where she created some truly amazing pieces. I like that she’s so open about sharing her post-graduation struggles: finding her place in the world, and the place of art-making in her life. She’s also into Parkour — how cool is that?

Hop on over to their blogs and check them out!