Monday, April 30, 2012

listening (to off-hand comments) and learning (from experts)

I was back in my favourite fabric store, looking for more stuff to make more stuff. And Darrell, the genius designer, teacher, all-round good guy, was there. (He's at, if you are in the area. Oh, the buttons!!!!!)

I found fabric but was concerned that it might not be drapey enough. He said "So you'll just cut it on the bias."

Of course that's what one would do! But since I hadn't had a sewing lesson since high school, I think that solution was too deeply imbedded in my brain for me to mine for it. I needed that one little off-hand comment to register for me to have my solution.

Often we are too busy for those gems to register. The answer to something is presented ever-so-briefly, and we don't hear it. I am reminded of the Buddhist story, in which the young man kept asking the older the lesson of life. Finally the older said "Pay attention." Whether it's to that tiny voice within or the expert voice without, we need to train ourselves to listen.

BTW, I had already bought some batik fabric for another top. I'd bought extra because I thought I might have to match the stripes at the side, but I hadn't cut it because I didn't know which way I wanted the stripes to run. So--after hearing Darrell--I knew to cut on the bias, for which I had enough fabric. This solved all problems: the stripes are gorgeous on the bias, and the fabric hangs beautifully. A two-fer!

bias version of BEST-OF-BOTH TUNIC TOP, available on

Sunday, April 22, 2012

not sleeping and why we knit

So sure enough, and as predicted, I had trouble sleeping last night. (Woke constantly, and got up in one fierce leap at 5:18!) I think it was partly because today's the day I sew the fabric for the fourth version of my new top (see previous post). But mostly it was my brain talkin' to me . . . something about why we knit and what makes it so exciting! Too exciting for sleep!

In way previous posts I talked about knitting as good for the brain, the blood pressure, the heart, the psyche--all the reasons to defend knitting as process. But what my head was so full of  this morning was thoughts of knitting that raises the heart rate. (Please, I'm not the only one????) And this exciting stuff speaks to knitting as product.

Knitting is heat-racing for me as I approach the finish line--ready to complete something I will wear, give to someone, hang on a wall. It speaks to the maker in us all--the person who puts personal content into her clothes or her gifts or her home decor. And it doesn't matter how simple or complex the piece was or that it was made from someone else's pattern: we made it ourselves, we own the work that was done. That's reason to be excited! Way more exciting than going shopping, dontcha think?

But what fun when we put even more of ourselves into the piece. There's a wonderful shawl on RAVELRY--the Stripe Study. It's a perfect piece: easy, artistic (because it's asymmetrical), wonderful to wear. (These are my three criteria for a great design.) But the best part may be that you choose your own two colors. Only two, but what a variety of results! 

Ramping up the personal content raises the heart rate. We make a choice (two colors for a shawl . . . or yarn + fabric for my new top), and the result will be all your own! Risk and reward! These two get our juices flowing--even when we are engaged in an activity that is naturally calming.

Best of all possible worlds! Aren't we lucky!!!
But I would wish a better night's sleep tonight.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

as exciting as the EINSTEIN COAT

I spoke earlier about working on something that has me as excited as the EINSTEIN COAT--a pattern that has the same elegant simplicity and that has me over-the-moon about it!

But I also must admit that it's more than the pattern itself (although it's pretty darn cute!) that has me excited. What has me certain I won't sleep tonight is that I've finally moved into this century and put something for sale online. Never done that before!

I'm not the most tech-savvy person in the world (and at that my children would roll their eyes . . . like YEAH!), and for me to put something out there in the correct format was a HUGE accomplishment.

The thrill I feel must be akin to what a new knitter feels when she finishes her first successful piece. What a wonderful place to re-visit! If everyone felt this with some regularity the world would be awash with big smiley faces.

So here she is, the BEST-OF-BOTH TUNIC TOP, available as a download on RAVELRY. (Click on the photo to see an enlarged version with more detail.)
It's a combination of knitting and fabric in which each gets to do what they do best. My mind is a-whirl at further possibilities!

BTW, as an addendum to previous posts, I have already made 3 of these (and am working on a 4th), and it is definitely a piece that I will wear and wear and wear.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Confessions of a "closet" knitter

Thinking about my previous post (about making something more than once) led me to describe myself as a closet knitter! And it is so not what you think (since I knit in public all the time!).

Okay, so I've realized that there are three major types of knitting teachers / designers out there, many of whom we all know and love:
  • the artists (who design fabulous art-to-wear, who usually concentrate on teaching classes in color or texture, who probably went to some kind of art school);
  • the traditionalists (who design within ethnic frame-works, who teach classes in traditional techniques, who may come from--but at least have a love of--the countries where these wonderful traditions originated);
  • the technique experts (who design work, or teach classes, that celebrate a technique and that pay a whole lotta attention to detail).
Many teachers are a combination of the above, but I don't have any of the second and almost none of the first. And while I do kinda fit with the last, I realized that there was still something missing. Where does my work as a designer or teacher come from?

Upon being asked where my main source of inspiration comes from, and answering that question honestly, I realized the following:
  • that my main inspiration is the clothes I actually wear 
  • that I try to wear a knit garment every day
  • that I want to teach my students how to make the connection between their closets and their knitting so they can do the same
  • that my main focus (my rant) has become Knit what you wear, wear what you knit. (You have surely read that in a previous post!)
And so I realized that I am a closet knitter! Most of  my teaching, my design, my focus, and the majority of my inspiration comes from what hangs in my closet.

The products of my hands are not traditional, nor are they art-to-wear, nor do they necessarily explore a particular technique. They are usually rather simple garments. They are not the most impressive garments: no-one every looks at me knitting in an airport and says Wow, I gotta make that! But while they might be unimpressive and not the most exciting through the actual knitting, they are like the clothes that we wear every day. What does happen in airports is that people ask if I've knit what I'm wearing and where they can get the pattern.

So, to relate to the previous post, not only do I design from my closet but I regularly repeat that experience. If I like wearing something, I really like wearing something . . . and want it in an alternate colour and fibre.

I am currently working on my fourth version of something that has me as excited as the original EINSTEIN COAT. I should be ready to show it to the world this weekend!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

S(econd) S(ock) S(yndrome)---NOT ME!

Okay, so this really exists: there are folks out there who knit the first sock but never get around to finishing the second. They think this is a problem! I say . . .  What's the big deal!?!? Just wear un-matching socks! . . . You won't get tired of them? . . . And there are worse afflictions? Consider mine! Here's it is, laid bare for the world to see.

As soon as I finish a sweater that I am happy with
I wear it constantly 
pretty much immediately knit a second version in a different color . . . which I wear whenever I'm not wearing the first
buy yarn and am thrilled to start a third version.

Then a couple of kinda sad things happen.
1. I find myself having difficulty finishing the third version.
2. I find myself not wearing the original two. (Remember, I wore them pretty much every day for some time.)

So what's the problem with this? Is it not better than not having a matching pair of socks to wear? Here are the issues I see with this behavior.
  • I've got another UFO (un-finished-object) in my closet.
  • I probably should be spending my time, money, and creative energy on a new project?
  • I've got two wonderful sweaters that I am no longer wearing because I simply wore them too often when I first made them.
How to solve these three issues . . . .

issue number one There will always be UFO's in every knitter's closet. Some "rainy day" when I need yarn, I'll rip it out and knit something else. Or some other rainy day when I need knitting, I'll finish it! (This is, seriously, what I tell myself. Isn't it wonderful how optimistic / delusional knitters are?)

issue number two If the original was so fabulous, why not make a second--in a different fabric and color? After all, how many blouses do I have in my closet? If I have 4 white blouses, one gray, and one blue, why do I think I can have only one of those gorgeous cardigans I just finished?

issue number three Like any addict, I simply have to learn to pace myself.

So, today and yet again, I'm off to the yarn shop to buy more yarn: browns + something else . . . to knit another version of the charcoal and red sweater I finished last week to go with my new boots.

(Yes, I knit a sweater to go with a pair of boots. Seems like the wrong way 'round? But you should see these boots: red plaid. I swear, you'd do the same. I've never worn these boots without people asking about them. And then I shamelessly--in lines in coffee shops, for heaven's sake!--open my coat to show "the sweater I made to go with the boots." Soon, after knitting the brown version, I'll have a second version to throw open my coat and show. This feels so very very sad.)

So, is there anyone else out there who does this--immediately knits a second or third version? And what do we call this affliction? Second sweater surplus?