Excruciatingly Slow Building

A winter pattern in process – a tube cowl with half white on black, half black on white, of nature elements found on Whidbey Island

I had been on a mailing list for over a year for SWATCH Studio, a wonderful online network for knit designers, new and not so new. September, a note popped into my inbox that new members were being accepted for a brief window. I thought there’s no way I can manage this now. But noticing scholarships were available changed my mind, so I applied and graciously was accepted for a year access. I worked ten, 14-hour days to afford the fee, and walked in the door.

I’ve found many folks who are as busy or with more commitments than I managing to do the work and creating gorgeous things. What is absolutely brilliant about it is, everyone is encouraged to commit to 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Because my job relies so heavily on my arms and so does knitting, I end up doing an hour one day, skip the next, but averaging any given week 30 minutes a day in one of the following activities: Reviewing educational masterclasses, going through instructional videos on specific topics of design, tech editing, math, pattern writing, publishing software. One day a week I participate in a Zoom accountability group of three Pacific Northwest designers.

On the one hand, I’m finding myself amazed at how much it is possible to get done by committing to 30 minutes a day on anything. On the other hand, it feels excruciatingly slow with my pace of working seven days a week to pay bills. I have three patterns in the works, but honestly, because there are so many steps to professional pattern writing, at this pace I question whether I will get my first pattern published before next September.

My pattern goals: A light shawl based on a flower/leaf, a capelet based on turkey tail mushroom, and this cowl here by winter 2020, unless I decide to forgo all the steps of setting up my brand format, tech editing and test knitters, and just get it out there post New Year. Probably not a great way to start a second income stream.

Everything I create will be grounded in elements from the natural world around me, and once I get a platform set up, a big part of my mission is to support groups involved in restoration & regeneration of our ecosystem and soil, like global tree-planting groups, organic farm schools, and like-minded programs local to me. When possible, I’m using wool from local to me sources from local animals, like Abundant Earth Fiber’s cinnamon Merino/Targhee in the cowl design.

Today a little daydream of a scenario popped into my mind. Since to meet my current needs requires me to work daily without weekends, and since 30 minutes a day is great but frustratingly slow for absorbing coursework, teaching oneself software, sketching, designing and creating samples, I wondered what it would feel like to have 30 days of my bills magically covered to give me one solid month to devote to getting my infrastructure in place.

Pondering whether it crosses some ethical no-man’s land to do crowdfunding for a month’s living expenses with a clear schedule outline of what you intend to get accomplished with your time. I’ve seen people do such a thing for travel with a purpose, so why not creating with a purpose? I’m considering this.

Vignola – Top wool on steep sale, Oasis from Expression Fiber Arts,
bottom cake from Fidalgo Artisan Yarns Radiant DK as payment for test knitting

Always need to have a piece of on-the-go knitting I can take anywhere, something more mindless than chart work or design. This is my second Vignola, the result of a two-week love affair with mauve that no longer calls me so much. I intend to make this larger than the pattern with a third ball of charcoal gray, since most shawls are expandable and never seem quite large enough to stay on the shoulders for warmth. I’ve given away all but one of the more than 25 shawls I’ve made for this reason, something I’m keeping in mind for design.

I’m not so into Christmas whoo-ha, but this year I decided to create my own little advent calendar out of stash yarn, where I am wrapping tiny bundles of different colors, one for each day from Dec 1-25, with the intention to build a linen stitch blanket with the random colors, knitting one bundle each night. I’m making an identical “calendar” to give someone else as well. Great way to use up yarn available to me in a methodical, joyful way before anything new comes in the door in 2020.

Thanks to Ciasbod Poddar for the idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWW-zbcwE2g

A Tale of Two Finished Objects

I.

Impressionists Shawl by Helen Stewart. A fun knit to dissuade me from biting nails during time of great transition: Sending my only child off to college and moving from the house I’ve lived in 14 years within the same month. Someone asked me why I continue to knit shawls when so few folks wear them. Answer: They give me a sense of accomplishment because I can finish a shawl faster than a garment, they make a simple shaped canvas in which to play, and more to my point are about a fifth to a sixth the cost of a sweater in yarn volume.

I did find blue-faced leicester whose texture I love to work with for nearly the cost of a shawl though, and will begin a winter rainy day project the Oban sweater or Oban cardigan but think of it as a no pressure slooooow make in the field of mindfully made items.

BFL Sheep

II.

A gift from my past to my future. During process of sorting through all belongings and packing to move, I uncovered this in a long line of nearly finished sweaters I thought I had dealt with by either unraveling or finishing. Usually they are missing only one sleeve or seams. It became such a consistent habit of mine, I stopped making sweaters. I have no idea what the pattern for this was, but I know I made it likely over 30 years ago. The condition it was resting in all these years was complete except for a 6-inch seam on a sleeve. Almost unbelievable I hid it away.

The sweater fits me well now, is super soft, and perfect for whenever fall arrives. I imagine I set it aside because of my severe tendency toward perfectionism in my 20s with the noticeable blip in the lace edging. I can hardly believe how even the stockinette is, looks machine made, but no, just two hands, two sticks and some yarn. Now I happily embrace the imperfection and, in the tradition of many design concepts of the world’s cultures I’m going to say this was intentional imperfection. Yes, I meant to do that.

If I could build a yarn store inside my mind, it would be this. I was thrilled to drop in and chat with the lovely people at the Starlight Knitting Society in Portland this week. I crammed so much into 48 hours of following my bliss away from work for the first time in four years, that I imagine a part of me is still there soaking in all the vegan eateries, hiking all the parks, hugging all the trees, and dreaming of a yarn library such as this beautiful space. I did walk away with something from the sale bin which I will share when I create a piece with it, and a free but priceless badge of courage.

Although I fit the millionaire to millennials meme in not ever being able to afford to buy a house in my lifetime, I eat avocado toast or restaurant food for that matter only 3-4 times per year. So housing and luxury eating in my life appear not to be correlated. Plus, this was a transcendent moment of peppery, lemony, plant fat goodness I wouldn’t trade for a house.

PS. The lace yarn in this photo is normally the price of a house, but I got it at an annual half-off sale. I knit in the lap of luxury but always for reduced prices.

Vision Mojo

I have not knit much in 8 months, which is something like a personal record. A piece of my ideal life has been strangely absent in order to prevent work injury. My mojo is most happy when I do two things: Get even a brief walk every day somewhere in nature and knit a bit every day. If someone should offer to pay me to knit and walk so those could be the core of my life, that would be even better, but not likely going to happen.

After reading an inspired article about physics and knitting in the New York Times, I encountered this lace designer’s work, Sharon Winsauer. So I bought a pattern and suddenly felt the return of that excited buzz of joy of creation. My mojo was back. I knew without a doubt, I have to attempt this piece of lace, no matter if it takes a year or a decade. The size will be big enough to cover a queen bed, a mandala of a bedspread. And it just so happens, I did enough test knitting last year to obtain hand-dyed, lace weight silk/wool for this in exchange.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CrazyLaceLady

Then my brother sent me another great knitting idea where someone took data from his child’s first year of sleeping patterns and turned it into a baby blanket. And “poof” a vision was born for what I would really like to do if I won the lottery. You know that mythical brainstorm board titled “When Money Finds Me”? Mine has gone through a gazillion revisions. This is gazillion and one.

The vision: Host hiking/knitting retreats for nerdy folks from around the world based on nature connection and knitting. Transform data from nature observation (bird songs, fern frond math, Fibonacci, etc.) into blankets or wall hangings, with an option of giving an item away to people in need, like sand mandalas that get blown away, only in yarn. I would invite guest teachers like math nerds who can explain more than I can about mathematical structure, and knitting nerds who focus on a specific expertise of design, while I lead groups traipsing about the woods gleaning nature’s beauty, data, and spirit.

And then this feather fell from the sky literally in front of me. It’s always a sound idea to have a good dream for when money should find you.

24-Hour Vacation

Stone stack in Port Townsend

As someone who never takes vacations (truthfully, two 4-dayers off work in past decade), on April Fool’s Day I created a 24-hour one for me and daughter while she was on spring break. I had to photo document a bit, since who knows when the next day will be that I’ll not be working. Eking out a bit of time with my adult daughter before she heads out into the big wide world on her own is wonderful. She took a great photo of both of us, but I honor her preference to leave her out of my blogs.

Woke early to bake vegan blueberry muffins for the trip – scrumptious! Link to recipe I used, making 1-1/2 x recipe for 12 muffins, avocado+coconut oil, 1/3 flax meal substituted for total flour

We drove 30 minutes up to walk on the Port Townsend Ferry, where we meandered in the olive store, tea store, spice store, chocolate store, spiritual book store that sells a gazillion types of incense and abundant oracle decks I love. I’m quite sure my rational-minded daughter thinks I’m over-the-top woo-woo, but yes, I am. And since we neglected to check our favorite Japanese noodle place was closed Mondays, we enjoyed some wonderful Thai food.

I love these stone stacks – conservationists say they are a bad habit in wild spaces, but this looks to me like it may have been a contest.
Gorgeous day near abandoned former ferry dock
Hastings Building, circa 1890

There are two lovely yarn stores in Port Townsend, and I forced myself to only pick up one item, a needle.

A year of global gathering for a local design based on harvesting countless pounds of nasturtium on an organic farm – Backyard Fiberworks (Maryland), New Day Farm (Whidbey Island), Shibui Knits (Oregon), Black Elephant popping purple Peruvian merino dyed in Sheffield, England

I’ve given up knitting for months now, in order to protect my arms from injury while typing 70 hrs/week during 2019. I miss it. For a year I’ve been gathering the above wool for a wrap design that exists only in my mind. Thanks to a generous gift certificate to Woolly Thistle from my sister, a few awesome sales and a gift from a local shepherd/hand dyer, my collecting is complete and I’m one step closer to getting my nasturtium project going. When all a person can do is one little bit at a time toward a creative endeavor, it still is satisfying to gather and dream. The colors and quality, hand-dyed fibers came together beautifully, and I look forward to 2020 (or winning the lottery) to make it a reality.

Meantime, the first month I increased my hours of typing to 80 hours/week, I started to feel physically similar to descriptions I’ve read of people getting paid to lie down on a bed for two months for NASA. Thankfully, I committed to myself that I would work in my food bank’s garden 10 hours/week on top of my work-trade rental yard work, and now I feel more human. Satisfaction of planting rows of spinach and kale babies, carting wheelbarrows and digging in dirt outdoors with awesome people one full day each week allows me a bit of balance. Earth is a forgiving, restorative place.

Knitting Code

Knitting is code. It’s a thousands years old human craft transforming fiber into fabric. Some of my earliest childhood memories are dreaming in code and texture…I know, I’m an odd duck. A while back, I learned textile mills used punch cards to determine shapes of fabric by 1800, long before our first computers used punch cards. Check out the Jacquard loom.

Weaving, not exactly knitting, but it’s all fabric code

Observing loom punch cards was essential for Ada Lovelace‘s understanding to create the first computer program, solving for Bernoulli numbers and having a programming language named after her, I believe used by air-traffic control even today.

Now this article crosses my path titled, “Physicists are decoding math-y secrets of knitting to make bespoke materials,” and my mind is a little bit more blown by intelligence inherent in knitting. All it takes is a knitting physicist to reduce it to equations. This article relates it to three elements.


It all comes down to three factors: the “bendiness” of the yarn, the length of the yarn, and how many crossing points are in each stitch. 

Ars Technica

But I can see more elements to add to the equation. How many times and how tightly any fiber is plied when spun impacts how the yarn will behave. Whether a knitter throws the yarn or picks the yarn (English versus Continental) will shift the twist in the fiber. Even whether the yarn is pulled from the center of a cake/ball or from outside the ball can impact tension in the fabric, something beautifully described in this Mason Dixon Knitting post, a go-to source to learn about anything and everything knitting.

Everyday Fancy by Fran Jepperson, designer Fidalgo Artisan Yarns

I hope I am not overstepping bounds by posting this photo from their March newsletter, but I had a lot of fun test knitting this beautiful linen garment for Fidalgo Artisan Yarns last summer, and this is my first time seeing it blocked and worn. Thought I’d pass along that the designer is hosting a two-Saturday class (today, right now!) 10:30-12:30, on this Everyday Fancy pattern. Even if you live nowhere near Anacortes, Washington, I highly recommend Fran’s gorgeous and well-written patterns that can be purchased online.

Sunburst

Satisfying to finish a project in my own time, a “Fall KAL” in Winter. The moment I saw the Drums of Autumn pattern, I envisioned a giant sunflower medallion on fall leaves.

I had no idea the twists and turns it would take me on though.

  1. First, I had trouble with achieving the lace medallion from the pinhole cast-on, so I constructed it flat and joined in round after a few inches.
  2. Then, as often happens when you set down a project for too long to remember how you started it, I created a slightly different lace for each side of the gold side sections. In the center double decrease where you wave your magic wand and turn 3 stitches into 2 (slip 2, knit 1, pass 2 over), on one half I slipped 2 knitwise, the other slipped 2 purlwise. Very different appearance (above images).
  3. As I was blocking the wrap, one of my blocking pins slightly grazed a ply of the center lace medallion enough that I woke the next morning to find a large hole had emerged in the center from one strand breaking. If left to its own devices, it would have unraveled all that lace. So it’s sewn together in the best way I could.

Moral of story: As long as you don’t look too closely, this wrap is a glorious sunburst of learning to overcome.

Yarn used:

  1. Sunset Cascade Heritage, Gold Fusion
  2. Tosh Merino Light, Rocky Mountain High

Hiatus

“A pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process .”

Other than accepting commissions, I am putting myself on a knitting diet as I work to create a different future for myself. Just wanted to give a heads up, in case anyone who follows this blog wonders if I have withered away after a certain gap. Should anything fascinating in the knitting world cross my path that I’m compelled to share, I will.

I have taken on extra freelance work in order to create an ounce of freedom of choice when my current housing is no longer available, anticipating move by year’s end. To meet my financial goal, I transcribe 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week. When not typing, understandably, it becomes imperative to move my body rather than knit … though from time to time I do knit and walk. I will, however, continue sketching design ideas and playing with yarn whenever my arms can handle it.

Part of my financial survival plan begins a month from now when I’ll be working alongside apprentices 10 hours a week in the Food Bank Garden through growing season, and receive most of my food there.

I’m bypassing anything that is not aligned with my financial goal, including spending no money on my craft. I have quite a bit of stash to work from yet. One of the most amazing features of my character is ability to focus, so I intend to use it. After looking at all my options for financial gain, holding a fundraiser, crowdfunding, I decided the one that fits me best is to use my super power to work more intensively than I ever have to carry me to a next phase in life closer to where I’d like to be, in a tiny space of my own ideally without housemates, as my daughter transitions to college life.

I’ll leave you with one designer’s just released pattern I absolutely love, and a little slide show of some past knits I forgot I’d made two years ago.

LOTUS by Hanks and Needles

Credit: Makenzie Alvarez, Hanks and Needles

Snow Knitting

I love snow. And when a weather forecast is for greatest snow dump in Washington in decades, I am both super grateful I can work from home to pay for heat AND get myself out in it as much as possible. “Sidewalk” becomes a relative term.

And trees look extra amazing.



Then there’s lichen ornaments, a sign of healthy air.

And a bench for snow lovers to sit and knit.

In gaps I carve in my usual 7-day work week, I will be picking up stitches on this square and hope it turns into the baby blanket I’m envisioning. If we get a power outage with 60-70 mph winds predicted, I will be unable to work (Yay) and I’ll wrap up in blankets and knit to my heart’s content by candlelight. I’m close to completing several projects, just need more time…and a break from icing my overworked typing arms.

Diversity Learning Curve

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart.

Margaret J. Wheatley
Diversity of hats gifted to shelter in 2016

Because I am white and carry all the systemic privileges (and community isolation) of being white, I am systematically attempting to teach myself about knitters and designers who are not white, in order to break out of my bubble of awareness. Currently I am of limited purchasing power so plans are on hold, but it is my intention to broaden the scope of my future pattern and yarn choices and support folks whose work has up to now escaped my white gaze.

To this end, I want to be yet another blog to share this eye-opening dissertation by Lorna Hamilton-Brown titled, “Myth: Black People Don’t Knit”. What I especially love, along with all the visuals she compiles, is the oral history obtained from elders and colleagues suggesting people in many non-white cultures of the world have been knitting resourcefully using whatever materials available for much longer than is widely appreciated.

Lorna’s contribution to historical understanding inspires me to offer my services as a professional transcriptionist accustomed to listening to a wide range of dialects, should anyone need assistance in capturing recorded oral histories for further work on the topic of piecing (knitting) together the history of knitting from a much broader perspective than white European-American. Just hit me up if you are a historian or researcher or just plain passionate knitter interested in interviewing people, and I will happily transcribe the interviews for you.

I am grateful to Jeanette Sloan in compiling her list of POC designers and crafters. No one single person could make an exhaustive list, but her dedication to offering this to others while living a very full life inspires me.

CarpeYarn.com is a wonderful treasure trove of interviews with Craftivists and ways to support “makers, stores and people worldwide who inspire us.”

All these resources expand my view of intentional use of any craft and give me lots to incubate in contemplating how to best use my own future designs and participate in lifting others alongside myself in some way.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT WITH MY OWN FORM OF DIVERSITY

As a woman only beginning to accept my place in the neurodiverse community with self-diagnosis, I am also interested in using my craft to support organizations specifically researching how autism spectrum presents in women and breaking down barriers to informed diagnosis and support for women.

Part of my knitting obsession and skill I feel is directly related to autism, because for me, it has paralleled periods of heightened anxiety. Since shifts in America since November 2016, for example, my knitting has reached new heights because I have spent more and more time with it. While all humans have some form of self-soothing or stimming and many knitters say they knit to soothe, the need to stim is apparently more exaggerated in autistic people and absolutely essential to mental health. If I can’t move my hands, I notice tension and anxiety slowly rising. Knitting fits the bill perfectly because it allows socially acceptable stimming and even social interaction without eye contact. Food for thought.

It is still not fully clear to me whether fitting my life’s experiences into a convenient self-diagnosis based on strong “yes” on three online autism quizzes (in no way diagnostic) and lots of life review is valid to anyone but myself, but regardless, I hold vision of a day when it is safe for all people to be authentically who they are and make it in this world.

Pausing to Honor

Sharing a favorite e-book by two talented women who translated shawl patterns from the past into present day usage. I have long wanted to make “A Shawl For Aunt Harriet,” a modernized version of the shawl gifted to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria in 1897.

Donna Druchunas’ jaw-dropping work and the entire Stories in Stitches set can be ordered on Ravelry. When I try the link to her website it appears no longer available, but I did order my copy of Stories in Stitches in e-book form there.

If you would like to see a photo of the original shawl preserved by descendants and then donated to the museum in 2009, look here. And to see photos of a younger Ms. Tubman, here.

1/30/19 – Sunset down my street, the real deal, no filter

Over the next weeks, I will highlight on this blog patterns by designers of color whose work I admire. I will be taking a pause from my own knitting in February to preserve and ice my arms and continue as I did in January transcribing 70 hours/week in order to attempt to move in 2019 to a less restricted financial space. The next step in my knitting evolution will be obtaining coaching, software and accountability around design process, so that requires investment. But this year is also about getting by and working toward finding a place to live. Starting March, I’m excited to work regular shifts in my food bank garden to get my hands in Earth, work for glorious veggies, and have better activity counterpoint to all my sedentary work.

When the crazies get you down, just remember:

(Unknown source, thanks to Molly in knitting group)