Sunday, November 29, 2009

All I want for Christmas

My sister asked me last night what I want for Christmas. She said "Mom has no idea". I thought, "What are you talking about? I'm easy! Just look at my wishlist...

And then I looked at my wishlist. Hmm. There's not really anything on there. So I started thinking, and looking, and that was when I realized -- I have everything I need.

Now that's a scary thought. I mean sure, I always want more earrings, and more shoes - because really, what femme girl DOESN'T want more earrings or more shoes? But when I look at my life, for the first time in years - YEARS, people!! - I actually have enough money to cover my needs. This is a new thing for me. It's kind of exciting. And scary.

So the only thing I really want is more hours in the day. I'm working on some fun, exciting stuff, people!!!

I did finally finish some of these, and they are now for sale in my etsy shop.

And here are some works-in-progress:

I have miles to go on this one.

And then there's him. The red was just going to be a base color, but I really like it. I think he just needs some shadowing and a finish coat.

I also have a box half-full of overdue gifts for my family, and I must finish the four things that still need to go into that box so I can ship it -- because it has to be there before Sunday!!!

Here's a look at that pile:

The worst thing is that the person who reminds me to eat and sleep when I get like this is out of town for a week. Which means that the kitchen is a disaster and I'm out of food. So anyone who wants to come clean my house and cook me healthy, delicious meals, is welcome. I'll pay you in yarn! (must. destash.)

So... what do you want for Christmas?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Working working working

Wow, I have been BUSY! I got a full-time job recently and it's amazing how much of a shift it is to go from working about 20 hours a week to working 40 hours a week. I also get up at 4am to be at work by 5:30 and I think my body is still rebelling. The last few nights I haven't gotten much sleep, and I'm baking frantically for the Susan G. Komen bake sale tomorrow at work. I only have about 6 dozen cookies done - and I feel like a slacker!!

In other news, I've been knitting and stuffing madly. I have so many things to finish and so many things to photograph!

Here's a bit of what I've been working on.

I just finished this Boheme for a friends baby:

And I've been working on this for another baby:

And here's a sneak peek of things to come in my etsy shop:

Wondering what it is? You'll just have to wait and see...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Long time no SEA

I hate bad puns, but I couldn't resist.

After five years away from the water, I've finally started doing this again:

If you would also enjoy doing this, you should go here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anniversary Dress

Here's the second dress made for Yvonne! This was made for her (new) husband's parents 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. I had every intention of taking pictures at the final fitting... but we ended up doing it at my (day) job while I was on my 30-minute lunch break, and snapping photos was the last thing on my mind... So I adjusted a strap, added another little ruched detail at the hem, and sent her on her way. Whew!

She's promised me pics, but until then, here are a few process shots:

This is the underdress. Isn't it pretty? I almost hated to cover it up with the burgundy embroidered rayon. The front piece of the skirt was draped on the bias. I wanted it to skim over the baby belly without adding extra bulk, so I cut the underskirt differently from the overskirt. I don't know if this was a stroke of brilliance or just plain insanity.

And then the overdress. The front was draped in one piece. Again, I didn't want to add unnecessary bulk by putting a seam there. And, again, this may have been a stroke of brilliance or sheer madness.

And here's the detail of the side ruching. (Please ignore the TOTAL DISASTER that is my sewing room. I can't figure out if I am seriously overestimating my abilities or seriously underestimating the amount of time it takes to do things.)

What I will say is that I'm kind of impressed with myself. Between Jessica's Wedding Dress (I just searched my blog and realized that I NEVER posted pictures of this. I wonder if it's because I'm STILL WAITING for the reception photos. [HINT HINT]) So here's a process pic of her wedding dress:

That was ... hmmm... early 2008. MAJOR undertaking. One-of-a-kind, original design, all of the bodice draping was done in one piece, etc etc... Then there was Yvonne's wedding dress, which was a simpler design, but still one-of-a-kind and, again, created entirely by ME. And then the dress above. Each of these dresses has been different, some more difficult than others, but each presented different design challenges and different fabric challenges.

So I guess -- I'm proud of myself? I didn't take draping in college, I muddled along and got some pointers here and there, but most of the time I find myself on a collision course with a deadline and, truth be told, NO FUCKING CLUE what I'm doing. (Scary, no? Notice I don't mention this until AFTER deadlines are met) But I guess I've picked a few things up along the way, because -- SUCCESS! Right? I mean, these dresses look pretty good, don't they?

And I don't want to admit this in a public forum, because I'm presenting myself as a professional, (and I am, dammit!!) But I'm committed to PROCESS and, especially, learning from process. So I want to get on here and admit the mistakes I made. Admit that in one point during the draping of the anniversary dress, I thought that I could drape the underdress in one piece, and that the pleats forming the bust could drape into pleats for the baby belly. Here's a pic:

It's a mess, isn't it? Because it doesn't work that way. And I didn't know that (which is why we drape in muslin!) But I know it now - and not only that, but I UNDERSTAND it now. And I believe that there's a lot of value in that!

So I'll continue being honest. That's ok, right?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Isn't she lovely?

The lovely Yvonne, in her non-traditional wedding dress. She selected the fabric, I draped, patterned, and sewed it.

Whew! Someday I'll tell you how, the day before the wedding, I was pressing seams and melted all the clear elastic that was in the back part of the dress (I used clear elastic because I wanted to play with the sheerness, and didn't want to see white elastic through the sheer overlay) and had to re-thread it all the night before the wedding, which meant rushing the dress down the hallway to the Bride's hotel room minutes before she left for the wedding! I didn't tell her this, of course.

And thanks to Jules for deciding we should stay in the hotel across the street from the venue, even though we only live 20 miles away. This also helped post-wedding, after we'd consumed as much alcohol as possible in a 4-hour period. (At the request of the Bride & Groom, I might add. Half of their guests don't drink, and they wanted to get their moneys worth! And no, you WON'T be seeing those pictures!)

Thursday, May 28, 2009








(okay, yes, that's Xander sleeping, but trust me - he's a helluva lot cuter than me sleeping! Plus I think it's adorable that he plants himself wherever I've been the most - so since I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, he's curled up by my sewing machine. And I know I promised not to post too many pictures of my cats, but COME ON! That's freaking adorable!)

Occasionally I even knit:

Okay, so I haven't photographed any of that lately. Hey, did I mention I've also been working full-time at my temp job? Yikes!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Working from Home

This is how my mornings usually go when I'm working from home. I get up at around 7 (okay, 7:30) and get some coffee and turn on my computer. I open Firefox and my mail, and I've already drunk the first cup of coffee, so I get another cup (and manage to drink this one slowly). I spend approximately two hours doing mostly useless stuff on the computer machine. Some of it isn't so useless, but it's mostly checking out recaps on TWOP, making snarky comments on other peoples' status messages on Facebook, and catching up on the latest inanity on HuffPost.

At some point, I realize that I am hungry, and I spend 20 minutes trying to find something to eat that doesn't require any actual preparation. By the time I realize that I need to actually prepare something, I give up and have a bowl of cereal. By this time, it's 10:30 and I'm awake enough to try to get some work done.

Four hours later, I'm still in my pajamas, I'm hungry again, I haven't brushed my teeth, and my feet hurt because I'm standing there barefoot. I'm also not being very productive, because I haven't put my contacts in, and it's amazing how inefficient you can be when you can't see what you're doing.

New plan: one cup of coffee, oatmeal, brush teeth wash face get dressed put in contacts and go to work! I'll let you know how it turns out.

I'm making a Hawaiian wedding dress for a friend of mine whose wedding is the 30th of this month. She's pregnant, so the plan is to make a dress that can be quickly and easily altered if necessary, and that gives room for the baby belly. She lives in Houston, so fittings are tricky. She flew in last week for a first fitting, and although I took photos for my reference, she really doesn't want pics of what she calls "The Casper Dress" (because the mock-up is in white muslin) being shared, and of course I respect that!

So here's a pictorial diary of the process, sans human body:

First off, padding my size 6 dress form to resemble an actual human woman (as opposed to an LA actor-size woman.)

First, I used an old tee as the base for the padding:

Then added a layer of batting over that:

And then tacked the batting to the tee using a really long whipstitch:

I then draped a fitted sloper in muslin and sewed it into shape:

And fitted it over the padding, safety pinning the back and adding a bra in the size of my client:

I padded it out to a standard size 12, so that I can use it again. Then I can customize the hips, bustline, and waist to the size of the person I'm draping for. For this one, I am also adding a "baby belly" section.

At some point I'll put a zipper in and finish the raw edges so the entire thing is encased, but right now I am working on the wedding dress!

Draping it was so much fun! I love being able to throw fabric on a form and be able to see right away what it looks like, as opposed to flat pattern drafting. The first fitting went pretty well, and now I'm adjusting the pattern and doing a second mock-up. The challenge here is that I won't see the bride again until three days before the wedding, so I'm putting seams in strategic places and building room into them. We've also done an elasticized back -- similar to a sundress -- both for her comfort and to allow for any changes her body may go through in the next few weeks.

This is such a challenge, and so much fun! I'll be posting followup pics as I get them done.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spoiled again!

Gentle Readers,
It's been a long long while since I posted here, and for that I offer my sincere apologies. And now I have so much to blog about (the Final Four, the massive [to me] amounts of money I spent on yarn while in St Louis for the Final Four, the Final Four!, the wedding dress I'm making [GULP!], my latest adventures in knitting, the Whedon-stalking that I'm hoping to kick into high gear later this year, and of course my deep and abiding love for parentheses) that I don't even know where to begin!

But the incredible generosity of my spoiler in the Ravelry Warm-Ewe-Up Winter Swap cannot go another minute without being acknowledged!

Y'all, "WOW" does not even begin to cover it. Underneath all the goodies is a knitting needles roll-up bag from Katie Fleck Designs which happens to match the boxy bag and the zippered bag that I received in two previous packages. This is so great!!! A place to put my needles! And I love the pattern of the fabric. I take the boxy bag with me everywhere I go, it's absolutely perfect and I love it so much. I'm so excited to add the needle case to it.

This is the first best:

I love how she used little post-its to cover up the parts of her message that referred to the stuff I may not have opened yet! Isn't that great? Because of course I tore open the card immediately because I couldn't WAIT to find out who it was! And she of course knew that I would do that!

And the spoiler is: mobarger!

Ok, so last month when I got package #2, I got a little obsessed with trying to figure out who my spoiler was, and I narrowed it down to about 4 peeps in the group, but I kept going back to mobarger. She farms full-time in upstate NY and also works full- time and STILL manages to find time to knit. That's inspirational.

Also, there must be something in my genetic memory (both sets of grandparents grew up on farms) that makes me long for a farm. It's completely unrealistic given my career choice, but I still fantasize about living on a small farm. Oh, I know it's an obscene amount of work, that's why it's a FANTASY! But I was pretty darn excited - word of warning to Mo -- I'm coming to visit you someday! I think it was the pics of the roosters that did me in. That and having read BOTH The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the past year has made me really think about where food comes from, and why oh why we are so OK with the industrialized process from which so much of our "food" comes from in this country.

But that's a rant for another day.

Now for the close-ups!

Lovely Linen Yarn. My mind is spinning with the possibilities!

SCHAEFER!!! I've been lusting after this in various yarn stores for months. I must be psychic or something because every time I've decided, regretfully, not to purchase any. And LOOK! I'm being rewarded for my restraint:


Look at all those tiny little chocolate sheep! And my two favorite kinds of chocolate bars: cherry & almond in dark chocolate and ginger in dark chocolate. YUM YUM YUM! Yes, you can see I cracked right into one of those already.

In the back is a mug from the Ithaca Coffee Company (it has a rooster on it! How cool is that??!!) with BEANS from Ithaca Coffee Company - it smells HEAVENLY. This morning my roommate was about to pour me some coffee and I yelled "NOOOOOOO!" and ran into my studio where I had just photographed everything (yes, I actually photographed everything BEFORE COFFEE. Does that tell you how excited I am?) and had to get my new mug and wash it so I could use it.

yes, I am a five-year-old.

THREE - count 'em, THREE patterns - two for socks (hooray for socks!) one of which teaches the toe-up method on one circular -- which I've been dying to learn! She also sent me some gorgeous sock needles to replace the ones I broke. And some lovely lovely little bits: a tiny little ornament with a sheep on it, a sticker from Ithaca Coffee Company, and a vinyl sticker that says "knitgirl"

I feel like I'm in that lovely state of bliss that you get after a well-prepared meal and a few glasses of wine. This was my first yarn swap and I feel so very lucky to have gotten Mo. She got to know me SO WELL and obviously took the time to pick through my blog and my wishlist and find things I would really love and appreciate - and many things I needed as well. Her generosity leaves me speechless.

Ok, not speechless, because that would never happen.

Mo, thank you so much.

ETA: Did anyone else notice that the colors of the knitting organizers and the colors of the yarns I just got match the colors I've selected for my blog? Is Mo really that clever, or is that just a coincidence? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ravel and Rave

Right before we left for the Grand Canyon, I got this BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL package from my secret swapper. I have already dispersed and absorbed everything into my daily life, but just to show you how wonderful it is I have gathered it back together for a reunion show.

WOW. And I do mean wow. An accessory bag that matches the boxy bag she got me last month - EXACTLY what I needed, especially right before a trip! A little pin from the Loopy Ewe, which I put on the accessory bag, some awesome stitch markers (one of which is already in play on the socks I'm knitting for my dad) and a keychain retracting tape measure, also from the Loopy Ewe. (A tape measure in your knitting bag!?! Who comes up with these things???!!!)

Oh, and of course the chocolate, which, naturally, is already gone. (Peanut M&M's? PERFECT in trail mix! And caramel kisses... sighhhhh... I will be spending the next three hours at the gym.)

The yarn. Can we just talk about this for a minute? I love it. It's a yarn I've never used and it's SO AWESOME. She even included a sock pattern with it! Socks for me, HOORAY! Of course I have three birthday presents I'm working on right now, so socks for me are going to have to wait a while, but they'll be so cute with my new Merrell Mary Janes that I got from my mom over the holidays (and I've been looking for the perfect socks for them, too!)

The sock blocker keychain -- SOCK BLOCKER KEYCHAIN, y'all! -- is too adorable for words, and even better: it came with a teeny-tiny little pattern so the sock blocker doesn't have to go barefoot.

The lotion is simply lovely, the perfect scent, not overpowering, and absorbs quickly and makes my hands feel soft. The incense is HEAVENLY. I must know where she got it because I've burned 3 -- make that 5 -- sticks already and I'm about to light up a fourth -- make that sixth. I love it! The candle too! Such a wonderful scent. And check out the "Sheep" hangy placard thingie. AWESOME. And it all comes together just as I'm putting up my cutting table again for the first time in years. It's just the perfect thing to make this a wonderful, peaceful, creative space so that I can get my groove back and kick my etsy shop into high gear.

Thank you. SO much.

And now it's time for the Ravelry Warm Ewe Up Winter Swap Bi-Weekly Question:

What knitting/crochet pattern have you worked that you could see yourself making over and over and never get tired of?

Hmm. This is tough. I tend to not EVER want to make the same thing again. I get bored easily, and I like to create my own patterns. So my first thought is: "Socks." Does "socks" count as one pattern? I'm working on the Stalwart Left Right Socks from Heartstrings Fiber Arts for my dad. It's an awesome pattern (and I'm knitting from a chart again! egads!)

So if I wanted to narrow even further, I could say baby socks. I love knitting up these tiny little bits of wonderful. They're so quick, they use up those little leftover bits of yarn in my stash, and the results are too twee even for me.

mmmmm.... socks....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No work! More working!

My seasonal gig has ended for the... well, season, naturally, which means more time to focus on the stuff that I live for, which is designing.

The last few days have been busy. I finally got my cutting table out of storage and pulled everything out of my workspace/office/studio. Let's just call it a studio, I like calling it a studio. It makes me feel all designery, and not like someone who just can't get a "real" job.

So I'm completely reorganizing to make room for the cutting table, and right now things in here are just plain chaotic. I've been working on it for three days, and for quite a while there it looked worse than when I began, but things are finally starting to come together, just in time for me to go out of town for a few days. Sigh.

I can't complain though -- my roommate Jules just got an exciting (well, if you're a geek it's exciting, I barely understand half the things that come out of her mouth) new job, and wanted to take a break between her old job and the new one, so we're leaving for the Grand Canyon early tomorrow morning! I'm so excited; I've never been, plus Jules is going to drive most of the way which means I get to work on the Clapotis, which I finally cast on for yesterday! I'm using the gorgeous ella rae lace merino from my yarn swap, and I just love the way it's knitting up. Plus it's a very simple knit, which makes it perfect for travel. And I just LOVE the way this knits up. From far away it looks almost grey, and then you get close and it's this wonderful mix of purpley auburney hues.


In a related, but sadder note, I (almost) finished the baby socks I was knitting, and I RAN OUT OF YARN! Know anybody who can send me about 3 yards of Trekking? I'm thinking about ripping back the toe on the finished one and then redoing both toes in a contrast color, but I don't ahve one in my stash, so I may end up buying more Trekking anyway. Which I sort of ok, I guess, because I do love the colors, but -- ARGH.

Of course, I could also knit a matching cap out of it. hmmm... Ideas? Anyone?

And while I try not to post too many cat pics, this one is irresistable. This is the Xander-mouse, who was pretty content with all the rearranging bustle yesterday, because he found the perfect vantage point from which to watch:

That's all for now!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Previously, on ellaluna: babies babies babies!

Well, just the first part is about babies. After I posted the bit about designing my own patterns, and Miriam commented, (and later sent me a very helpful and informative email) I started panicking.

Do I really have the audacity to lump myself into the same category as the amazingly talented Miriam L. Felton? Do I even have the talent to do such a thing? And how dare I enter a field where so many much more talented and much more experienced designers have gone before? I've only been knitting for three years, what makes me think I have ANYTHING to offer the varied and abundant world of knitting patterns? At BEST, I've only just come over the cusp of novice. I mean I've never even knit a REAL sweater, for hecks sake! Lace makes me dizzy! My mind is still not able to fully comprehend the magic of turning a heel, and now I think I have the expertise to DESIGN a SWEATER? I must be smoking crack.

The baby argyle sweater goes into hibernation.

But I need something to do now. The yarn for the flutter scarf (coincidentally, a Miriam pattern!) has not arrived yet, and I can't find my gorgeous size 5 Lantern Moon needles to cast on for the Clapotis scarf that I am knitting for ME out of the luscious ella rae Lace Merino that I received from my "spoiler" as part of the Winter Yarn Swap on Ravelry.

So I pick up Ann Budd's "Better than Booties" baby socks pattern. Baby socks are easy, right?

I look over the three different patterns. Hmm, the Ruffle Rib socks are cute, but that's almost an entire page of knitting instructions. I wanted something easy. The Cable Rib are also nice, but since this is for a baby girl, I decide on the Chevron Lace. Only one paragraph of instructions, plus they'll look adorable in the Trekking XXL that I have left over from the Simple Trekking Socks (oh, look, another Miriam pattern!) I made for my mom last year. The colorway is heavenly and perfect for this baby, whose mother is NOT fond of the traditional soft pinks for her baby girl.

I start easily enough, and before I know it, I've done a folded picot edge. Wow. This is a TOTALLY new thing for me, and I just love the way it looks. I admire it for a few minutes before diving in to the lace pattern.

Crap. The lace pattern doesn't come with instructions, only a chart. I've never knitted from a chart before. Oh well, it's a very short chart, I'm sure I can figure it out. I start in on it, and it makes perfect sense. Ok, cool. Wow! Before long I've memorized the pattern and I'm knitting merrily along.

Oops. Forgot something. The Trekking likes to split. A LOT. Especially with lace patterns. And I'm knitting such a tight gauge that it gets especially splitty when I'm doing the SSK (sorry, non-knitters, I know I'm using a lot of completely foreign terms today!) It's while negotiating the "K" part of an SSK that my needle breaks in half. This has never happened to me before.

After staring in horror for a few seconds (that seem like minutes) at the two halves of my needle, I pick up my nail file and file the broken edges into a point. I soon find that these little needle stubs are actually PERFECT for the little lace patterns.

I eventually get to the heel, and see this:

Heel: Work as for Ruffle Rib socks.

Hm, okay. I turn the page back, and there is the page of instructions I was avoiding. At this point I can only laugh. I'm too far along to go back now.

It takes a little while, but I get the hang of it, and it's actually starting to LOOK like something. People walking by my little low-walled cubby (oh, did I mention that I'm doing this in between calls at work?) are actually stopping in their tracks and heaping praise on my meager efforts. Quite frankly, I'm kind of thrilled.

When I get to the toe, and read that I need to go back to the instructions for the heel and do the same thing, I'm completely unfazed. I blithely flip back to the page where the instructions begin. It is then, and only then, that I glance up and see three tiny words:

SKILL LEVEL: Experienced

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?

That's the bi-weekly question from my Ravelry Swap Group.

For starters, I'm REALLY HAPPY that I'm not working today. I worked yesterday and it was probably the worst day I'd had. I think 95% of the calls I took were "Service Calls" which means: people unhappy about something.

In case you've not been following along, I'm doing seasonal work in the Call Center at Proflowers for V-Day. That means on the day before, people are calling because they waited until the last minute and are now going to scream at me because delivery on a Valentine's Day on a Saturday is more expensive than the cheap (but lovely, of course) bouquet they are buying at the last minute and they're certain that if they yell at me long enough the Procrastination Fairy will magically make the earth spin backwards or something.

Or they're calling because the flowers they ordered two weeks ago aren't there yet and they don't understand why because they ordered them two weeks ago and it's already 10am and that's "plenty of time" to deliver a box of flowers, never mind that there are half a million other people who are also getting flowers today and so you might not get them until 8pm, which is what we told you when you bought them.

Having said that, it's a great company to work for, and yes, the only calls I get all day on the day before a Major Holiday in the floral industry are of course going to be from people who did not receive the normally stellar service and product from Proflowers, (or the aforementioned procrastinators, and I'm not going to be too hard on them because half the time I'm one of them, except that I'm smart enough to know that if I fuck up and wait until the last minute there are going to be consequences, and most of the time I try NOT to blame someone else for them) and I'm not saying that because I'd really like to continue working there for a little while but also because honestly, if I ever needed flowers for someone, I'd use Proflowers without a seconds hesitation.

Having said THAT, I also need to add that working there is actually fun, even when half the calls you get begin with someone screaming in your ear. I arrive at work a little before 6am, have breakfast (provided by the company during Valentine's week) and go to my my seat assignment for the day (multiple interim peeps working means not everyone gets their very own desk). There are large windows everywhere, flowers everywhere, and the upper muckety-mucks do a great job of empowering and supporting the people on the front lines. (Despite my earlier sarcasm, I'm quite good at managing the service calls and have a lot of options for making it right without having to "talk to my manager", which is one of the reasons I like working there, because not only do they expect me to think, they also give me the tools to fix stuff once I figure out what went wrong)

Um... where was I? Oh yes. So I answer calls for a few hours and then eat lunch, also provided by Proflowers, then I go back to my cubby (in natural wood tones with frosted plexi dividers) and take some more calls. About an hour later, someone comes around to my desks with cookies and milk. Seriously. The day before that it was Jamba Juice. And right before I leave? A dozen beautiful long-stemmed pink roses.

So yes, if I'm going to be working a day job, this isn't a bad one to have.

Oh, but this question was about what I'm doing TODAY. Yeah.

Earlier in the week (on my day off) I made sugar cookies and when Jules got home from work (her cubby is all grey and industrial-looking and there are no windows and no flowers and they don't even get WATER, let alone cookies) we cut them into heart shapes and decorated them. Since I was covered in frosting, flour, and cookie dough for a good portion of that time, here is the ONLY picture I took. I'm sure Jules will be thrilled that I'm sharing it with you.

Last night we went to the Teppan place we like in Escondido. We had great food and shockingly bad service. Came home, had a few beers, watched Galactica (my head is still spinning!!!) watched Burn Notice (really it's just good clean fun) and went to sleep. Got up early this morning (well, 7:30, which would be early for me normally but after getting up at 4:30 all week it's more like sleeping in) and I've been alternating shopping for yarn online (it's so nice to have a paycheck) with cleaning the bathroom (really, I have the shortest attention span when it comes to cleaning. I find something out of place, go to put it away, see something else I meant to do, start to do it, remember that I was going to put something else away first, start to do THAT, and two hours later Jules is following the trail of lights I've left on around the house and muttering about the electric bill.)

So that's my exciting tale of Valentine's Day: Heart-shaped sugar cookies, Battlestar Galactica, and cleaning the bathroom. I really must stop now because I think I've used up my quota of parentheses for the week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babies, babies, babies! oh, and pricing

It seems that everyone I know is having babies! Aside from being crazy jealous, (what's THAT? Is this the biological clock thing I hear so much about on the TV machine?) I am in knitting - well, heaven or hell, depending on how you look at it. So many babies! So many cute things to knit for them! So few hours in the day!

I haven't posted anything new to my shop on etsy for a while. It's not just the aforementioned job but also realizing that I'm not charging enough for what I'm selling there.

The struggle I'm having is, as always, a complex one, one I think other artisans understand, and that's Perceived Value. First, we tend to undervalue ourselves, secondly many buyers don't value handmade when they can get "the same thing" for one-tenth the price at Wal-Mart, and third, we are often competing with OTHER sellers who undervalue THEMselves. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before.

So I tend to price things for "what I think they'll sell for" instead of what I think they're WORTH, and as a consequence I frequently find myself packing something up to ship and then, after paying postage and PayPal and etsy and looking at what's left in my account, I get this sick feeling.

At the same time, no matter how long it takes me to knit a cover for a tin can pencil cup, no matter how beautiful it is, and no matter what the yarn cost, I still can't comprehend anyone paying $45 for a pencil cup. (No, you haven't seen any pencil cups in my etsy shop and you never will, but I do love the way my paintbrushes look in it.)

There is a point to all this, and babies do figure into it, and I'm fairly certain I'm about bring it all together and make my point. Stay with me!

For several months I've been searching for the "perfect" argyle vest pattern for my nephews, and I've been unable to find anything that fits my exacting specifications. Having never knitted a vest at all, I kept searching and searching and searching.

Then I got some great stuff for Christmas, and started playing around with all the patterns in the stitch dictionary. When I found the argyle pattern, I started playing around with it, and suddenly realized that I am completely capable of DESIGNING MY OWN PATTERNS.

This isn't a HUGE revelation, as I've been making up my own patterns since I started knitting, and I've done draping and patterning with cloth for years, and in general I don't like following patterns anyway (and let's not start making assumptions about what that says about my character, even if those assumptions might be right!)

So I start in on the argyle sweater vest. Yes, I used the stitch dictionary, but naturally I needed to make some modifications to the classic.

Two days later I was STILL plotting out the pattern just for the argyle. I started knitting it, made more adjustments, and now it's been a week, I'm 6" into it and this isn't going to fit either of my nephews for about two years.

I am incapable of ripping this out. I can't do it. I HAVE TO SEE HOW IT ENDS! But I also can't justify spending every spare minute knitting adorable things for my adorable nieces and nephews and adorable friends and THEIR adorable kids (oh, and the rest of y'all fit in there somewhere, you know that) if I want to make my etsy shop a success, even if all I WANT to do every spare minute is knit adorable things for my nieces and nephews.

So then I think about selling the way-too-large vest in my etsy shop, but with all the work that's going in to it, there's simply no way to make it profitable. Of course I could always knit several dozen more so the patterning cost gets spread out over the knitting, but I'm really more interested in the "figuring-things-out" part than I am in the "making-the-same-thing-over-and-over-again" part.

Some of you have figured this out already, right? No?

I'm going to start selling the patterns for my original designs.


I'll start small, with a simple pattern that I will post here on my blog for free. (I already have several in mind)

Once I finish the argyle sweater pattern, I'll want to grade it (customize it for different sizes) and I'll need pattern testers!

So all my knittery friends, if you are interested in testing some patterns for me, watch this space!

p.s. I've had to edit this something like five times because I used the word "that" approximately 45 times in the original post, and occasionally as many as three times in the same sentence. I wish I was exaggerating.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Did I mention that I'm spoiled?

I did? Well allow me to mention it again: I'm SPOILED!

I picked up my package from my Ravelry Tuesday night. (It had been there since Saturday but does my mailbox service tell me these things? NOOOO. What am I paying them for?)

Okay, so Tuesday was my FIRST DAY on the phones at my new (seasonal) job. I get there super early in the morning and then I'm on the phones all day. I'm doing customer service for (side note -- Awesome flowers, awesome company. If you need to send flowers to someone you love, call them. Really.)

Anyway, I get to knit when I'm not on a call! So Tuesday I stuffed my knitting into the mesh pocket in my backpack, and it worked okay. I mean I had it, right?

So then Tuesday night I get THIS:

More about the yarn in a bit. That gorgeous bag is from Katie Fleck Designs and it is PERFECT for carrying my projects to work. PERFECT! It has a little strap on the side that loops over my wrist so I can easily walk and knit and it's stylish enough that I don't feel like an even bigger dork by walking and knitting.

I love even more that it's handmade! And it is BEAUTIFULLY made as well. Love love love.

But that's not all! See that yarn under the bag? It's mine, and you can't have it. It's Ella Rae Lace Merino with the most intriguing colorway. I've already untwisted the hank, stroked it, twisted it up again, cuddled it, sniffed it, petted it -- well I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to propose to it pretty soon. It's luscious, and I've never heard of it before, and I love that it's "Ella" Rae, because, you know, with the "ella".

I can't wait to get on to Ravelry and see what others have done with it. And, as others have said, I'll likely make something for ME with it, because I don't think I can bear to part with it. I'm thinking of a lace scarf. I've been trying to knit lace (for the first time) with mohair, and can I just say -- Mohair is NOT GOOD for a first lace project!

But this looks like it will have gorgeous stitch definition and resilience... Oh, I'm SO EXCITED! Plus there's a little sample of a fiber wash that I've never tried -- how cool is that?


Stephanie Pearl-McPhees Page-A-Day Knitting Calender (I saw earlier that someone else had gotten one, and I was so jealous! Now I have one of my very own!)

A chocolate Wonder Bar (another thing I've never hear of, it's so funny! And yummy! Yeah, it didn't last long.) and cinnamon coffee with these wacky little cinnamon swizzle sticks (and we all know how much I hate coffee!) and this wonderful handmade ceramic plaque (you can see it in the picture. LOVE IT!) PLUS a cinnamon-scented candle, sticky notes with my initial on them, and a card with a cat sleeping in the clean laundry -- EXACTLY what Xander does!

Oh, thank you, secret swap partner, you're SWAPTASTIC! (Okay, I am dorkier than usual this morning, what with the gifts and the coffee and the yarn-sniffing and the candle-sniffing and the chocolate.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yarniness and more spoilage

I can't for the life of me figure out why it's taking me so long to get back in the swing of things. Maybe I can blame my foot, which still hasn't healed, making it difficult to wear shoes and walk at the same time. I can wear shoes and sit on my butt, or I can walk around barefoot. Neither are conducive to getting a whole lot done.

The plus is that I have no qualms about sitting on my butt all day knitting! Which means that in under a week I made this: (From the Knitting Nature Book)

and this: (my own design, and it's so much cuter on Jules, but I need to snag a pic of her wearing it)

I'm also making washcloths using slipstitch patterns from the Barbara Walker Stitch Dictionary. So much fun! I LOVE this book! I'm finding myself designing more and more.

And speaking of knitting, I'm about two weeks behind on answering the latest Ravelry swap question, which is:

Bi-Weekly Blog Question #2
If you could only knit or crochet with one brand of yarn for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

If we're talking about yarn I've already knitted with, I'd probably have to go with Berocco. The first high-quality yarn I bought was Berocco Ultra-Alpaca, and knitting with it was so blissfully different from knitting with other yarns I'd used. And then I was sorting my stash the other day, (well, if by "sorting" you infer "spreading all the yarn out on the floor, trying to organize it, getting frustrated because you don't have as many boxes as you have categories, and shoving all of it back into whatever boxes and bags you had it in before, only LESS organized)

um. where was I? Oh yes. I noticed that I actually have quite a bit of Berocco in my stash. Maybe it's because it comes in so many varieties. Maybe it's because my nearest LYS carries a lot of Berocco.

But I really love how Patons Classic Wool felts up into such a solid, dense fabric. And I love the colorways of Patons Soy Wool Stripes & Solids, although it does shed a bit much for a lot of projects.

And of course I love KnitPicks, whose prices and range have allowed me to experience with so many different kinds of yarn. Lately I've been reading some bad reviews about KnitPicks on Ravelry but I've yet to be disappointed by them, nor do I expect to.

Of course there are SO MANY yarns that I've only heard of or fondled briefly that I'd love to try as well. So how's that for a non-answer?

And hey, it's already time for: Bi-Weekly Blog Question #3:
What is your favorite way to keep warm when it’s snowing outside? (And if you live in a warm weather climate, what would you do to stay warm and cozy while it’s snowing?)

I love cold weather, I love rain, I love fog -- and I live in Escondido. It's 69˚right now. Actually it's a perfectly beautiful day, the sun is shining and there's a light breeze. But last summer we routinely hit 100˚, and I'm really enjoying the cooler weather.

But I did grow up in Utah, for the most part, and my favorite thing to do when it's cold out is bake bread and make soup. While the bread is rising and the soup is simmering, I like to curl up on the couch with whatever cat is willing to grace me with his or her presence and watch either some delicious period movie with lots of lush costumes -- A Room With a View, Pride and Prejudice [the BBC version, please], or Sense and Sensibility, and of course my old standby when nothing else will do -- BUFFY! Ideally, I doze off while the bread is rising, wake up in time to put it in the oven, and finish a sock before I eat.

I also like to curl up with a book, but so far have not figured out how to read and knit at the same time.

More Spoilage:

I returned from the visit to my family to find NEW TIRES on my car! Jules bought them and had them installed while I was gone. (Installed? Do you install tires? hmmm...) She also had the plastic that covers the headlights cleaned up and polished, AND I got new windshield wipers and a happy sun air freshener!

Anuj got me a Jane Austen Action Figure which is almost too awesome to be believed, and Michael Pollans latest book, "In Defense of Food", which I am devouring (pun intended) and getting all militant about. (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll simmer down eventually.)

I'd tell you about all my other wonderful gifts, but I can tell you're getting jealous.

Whew! That's a lot to cover in one post! New Years Resolution: blog more consistently! (Wait, didn't I say that last time?)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spoiled, and rotten

I had an absolutely delightful Christmas holiday with my family, and was also quite spoiled. In addition to a myriad of other fun gifts, I got the Nora Gaughan "Knitting Nature" book and Barbara Walkers first Stitch Dictionary. I also got the KnitPicks Harmony Wood Options Needles.

Needless to say, I am in knitting heaven.

I also spent a lot of quality time with my seriously adorable nieces and nephew. The girls had a slumber party, complete with toenail-painting, cookie-decorating, movie-watching, and we even spent a little time learning to knit. The evening was capped off by sleeping in fancy eye shades.

In other news, last week I put up a couple of robe hooks in the bathroom, and they went up so fast I got ambitious and decided to put up a shelf. While holding it above my head, I dropped it. I tried to jump out of the way, but my foot had other ideas, and a corner of the shelf landed smack in the middle of the foot. After screaming in agony for about five minutes (and saying words that will never be featured on this blog, but which the neighbors could tell you) I spent the rest of the day with my foot up on the couch, alternating ice packs, and happily -- aside from the searing pain -- knitting. Lest you think the injury was a convenient reason to do nothing but knit, I invite you to witness the enormous on my foot.

That was day three. The picture does not do it justice. The center, where the gouge is, is swollen, and the bruising surrounds it on both sides and over my toes.
edited to add: Do you notice the difference in color between one foot and the other? It's not a lighting thing. My left foot really did look like that.

But here are some of the results of being couch-bound for two days, from my new knitting book!!!:

Over a week later, I'm still hobbling around and waiting for the swelling to go down. That did not stop me from going camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert this weekend with Jules and Anuj. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and far too short. Also, I somehow managed to only take one picture, and a crappy one at that, but Jules is the designated photographer and got some amazing shots of these.

And as soon as I get them from her, I'll post one or give you the link to her site!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ravelry "Warm Ewe Up" Winter Swap Question

Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this; I just got back from a nice long visit to Utah where I spent 2 1/2 weeks visiting my family. It was 23 and snowing in Utah when I left. I landed in San Diego yesterday to a balmy 62˚afternoon.

Hopefully I'll be back on a semi-regular blogging schedule soon. In the meantime, here's the Ravelry Warm Ewe Up Yarn Swap Question of the Moment:

Why did you learn to knit?

I didn't have a beloved family member teach me how to knit. My dad's mom used to crochet, although I've never actually seen her do it, and she says she stopped because she got the "Carpal Punishment" (we don't know if she is making a joke or if she is confused. Regardless, it's funny!)

My mom's mom sewed, and my mom even remembers her sewing on a treadle sewing machine (which, fair warning to my siblings and cousins, I'm going to fight tooth and nail for when it comes time for it to be passed on).

I was definitely inspired by my maternal Grandmother's ability to "make stuff." One year she made my sister and I these wonderfully cozy flannel nightgowns and gave them to us on Christmas Eve, thus inspiring a lasting tradition of pajamas on Christmas Eve in my family. I remember mine had worn through the upper back - I don't know where she got the flannel, or how that happened -- but she just sewed another piece of flannel behind the worn-out part. I kind of loved that. Maybe she didn't have a big enough piece to cut out the entire back, and she just made it work the best way she could. That's always inspired me. (plus it made the back extra-cozy) I wish I'd been old enough to learn more from her before she died, but every time I sew, I feel like I'm paying tribute to her.

--side note: on cold winter mornings, we'd stand over the heater in those nightgowns, and when the heat went on, they would fill up with warm air and poof out. I still remember how soft and warm they were.

Anyway, it didn't take me long in college to gravitate from the stage to the costume shop. There was this AMAZING woman who worked in the costume shop. She was so much fun, and she seemed to me to be able t do anything. She was married to one of my profs, and she also knitted him sweaters. I remember being in awe of those sweaters. It seemed like such a miracle to me, the ability to create fabric and clothing in one fell swoop. I wish I'd had the courage to ask her to teach me, but I didn't. She died of cancer many years ago, and I always regretted not getting to know her better, or not forcing her to teach me to knit.

Finally, two years ago, I was at a Target and saw a knitting kit. It was on clearance, and it claimed to teach you how to knit a poncho. It came with the grossest acrylic yarn, in brown and pink, and some very stiff, very slippery aluminum circular needles. So I snatched it up, the directions were awful, and I never did learn to knit that damn capelet. I ended up getting online and finding much better directions, and then I bought a bunch of Lion Brand Wool-Ease and "Knitting for Dummies" and started knitting swatches, which I fully intend to make into some kind of afghan someday. Really.

Then I was on a bulletin board, asking if it would be possible to cut up old jeans and knit with them, because I was broke and I was bitten. An incredibly generous woman on that board sent me an assortment of yarn from her stash, and I discovered the joy of knitting with pure wool. And it was HEAVEN.

And I've been knitting ever since.