Friday, November 18, 2016

Gratitude Knitting Challenge

Thanksgiving feels kind of buried and lackluster with all the negative focus going on right now. What does Thanksgiving mean to you, and how do you keep it special when times are hard emotionally, financially, or physically?

My mother always had us go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and declare what we were thankful for. I hated this, but not for the reasons she probably thought.

I was young - grade school age, yet the oldest of my three siblings. I suffered depression, and was far more emotionally sensitive than my disconnected/disinterested attitude/coping mechanism let on. Finally, even though I knew it was coming every year, I always felt put on the spot. I wanted to declare so many things, and have my gratitude by heartfelt by my family, but sibling pressure, performance pressure, and the acute understanding/belief that I could light myself on fire and still not be taken seriously held me back and translated to insincerity - if only in my own perception.

In hindsight I realized Mom was trying to instill the "gratitude attitude" and bond her family but, alas, it took decades and, or course, advice from strangers - sometimes paid - for that lesson to take hold.

As I find myself turning to things that bring me joy as a means to push out stress and negativity, I look at Thanksgiving with a renewed sense of gratitude. I have so many things not to be simply grateful for, but deeply, spiritually indebted for.

At work last week on my lunch break (I work in a hospital), I was witness to a homeless man - suffering malnutrition, dehydration, having difficulty communicating, wearing severely oversized pants, t-shirt and just one sock, but no shoes. His hands were horribly chapped and beginning to scar from the cracks that had bled. His exposed toenails were overgrown and gnarled, hobbling his gait, and his underweight skeletal structure was hunched and clearly stiffened. He could have been 50... he looked and moved like 80. As I observed him, I became so embarrassed by the hot soup I was enjoying from my bagged lunch. I dug through my lunch pail and found a granola bar, and took it to him. I asked if he was hungry and he replied simply "Yes." I gave him that bar, and he struggled to hold it for a moment before it dropped to his feet. I picked it back up and put it in his hand. I still ach to think of him, remembering how he asked if I could help him get some water. As I recall this encounter, I still cry. I feel shame and embarrassment.

My shame is simple. I know I should do more for others. We all should.

My embarrassment comes directly from knowing I take my life for granted; my home, food, clothes, car, job, husband, rights, liberties, love I receive...all of it.

And I turn to knitting to comfort myself.

It is my solace.

But even as I knit quietly in search of inner peace, the mind wanders and stress and distress leak in.

So as I pondered all this, it occurred to me that I could revisit some things and make a better way.  I'd like to invite you to join me in this exercies; this challenge if you will...

Instead of waiting until New Years to make a resolution or change, let's make a change at Thanksgiving this year.  (If we lose sight of the goal, New Year's can be our restart/reminder.)

Here it is:

For each round/row you knit - focus on something you are grateful for. See it, feel it in your mind and really delve into its impact on your life. Let it fill you with gratitude for one round/row.

Repeat, with each round/row, dedicating one gratitude for each.

And don't get bogged down with trying to come up with deep, grandiose things. This isn't supposed to rob you of your energy or depress you. You can be grateful for simple, incidental things, as obvious as the tools, fibers or pattern you are using and build from there. Gratitude is contagious and building. You'll soon expand to deep concepts without effort, only joy and awareness of abundance. Simply remain positive, reflect on one thing for one round/row, and repeat.

And if that challenge isn't enough...

Knit something for someone else - someone known or strange to you that you've never knit for before, who expects nothing from you, and give it to them with NO expectation of getting anything in return except the gift of having given.

Me? I'm casting on a hat to keep in my lunch pail for the next homeless person or cold child I encounter on my lunch break, because I can, and should, give.  And I'm casting on a gift for a coworker who's planning her retirement, She has extended me welcome, support, and warmth - all of which I'm grateful for, and I'll miss her when she is no longer just a few cubicles away.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Start-itis Explained... Maybe.

You've been there... the sudden antsy, overwhelming desire to cast on all.the.things. We crafters generally refer to this phenom as "start-itis". But what is it really? What causes this, and how do you deal with it?

Start-itis for me is dangerous. I have to be really careful when I have an episode. Just about any project I cast on during a bout of start-itis is doomed to failure. I'm hectic, frantic, antsy and impulsive during these episodes. I suffer an overwhelming blast of creativity. I impulsively buy patterns; I'm sure designers LOVE this, but my wallet doesn't. My episodes almost always happen later in the evening, a mere hour or two before bedtime, or about 30 minutes before I need to leave for a trip, meeting, knit group, dr appt, etc.

I inevitably make tragic combinations of patterns and designs. I frantically wind skeins, search for needles and cast on disasters - often repeatedly and eventually killing otherwise excellent fiber. I make dozens of heavily edited charts, piles of sad swatches, and in the end, I'm so disappointed and burnt out that I often can't knit for days afterwards.

It took many, many episodes before I started to watch the symptoms and work out strategies to survive start-itis.

I think start-itis stems from the intersection of boredom (or fear thereof) and inspiration. When these two states meet, inspiration by contrast is exponentially bigger, and with a lack of structure becomes a wild fire. Therein lies perhaps an answer: structure.

Inspiration in a structured environment channels into great designs, great projects, great everything. Take the pressure cooker "Project Runway" as an example. Give designers a limited budget and limited timeline with a general goal and blam! Genius happens. Loosen this structure, give them a bigger budget, send them home for 6 weeks, and flop! Designers without discipline and self imposed structure develop expensive ten piece collections that lack coherence and vision and spend three days in a panic reworking and starting from scratch. My start-itis differs only in that I often have a time constraint, and I'm the only judge.

And so now when I recognize an outbreak coming on, I apply structure. My structure consists mainly of a forced lengthened timeline and a current project. I pull out a notebook, a WIP and I determine that I won't cast anything new on until x amount of the current project is complete and/or I have a definitive plan/design in place - with ALL the details worked out.

This plan can vary. As I work my WIP, I fantasize and work my way through a new design, plotting through shape, drape, color, sizing, stitch pattern, editing, and target market, whilst taking notes. Sometimes my start-itis takes on the form of knit.all.the.things because I'm over inspired by Instagram/Pinterest/Ravelry (aren't these AMAZING gifts?!?). In this instance, again, I mentally prioritize a list of these future projects determining wearability, color, feasibility, and materials on hand. Wearability is always a biggie - often patterns for me present a fantasy that doesn't necessarily fit into my daily wardrobe. Mindlessly progressing through a pair of useful socks whilst coming to terms with my un-glamorous life has saved me from casting on numerous ill-fitting expensive sweaters, dresses, capelets, legwarmers, ponchos, and novelty designs.

I've found this technique solves the boredom, channels the inspiration, prevents disaster and in the end I'm infinitely more satisfied with my cohesive plan vs being horribly disappointed and burnt out.

Have you found ways to channel or control your start-itis?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Studio Renovations Done-ish...and back to work!

I'm proud and excited to announce the studio renovations are done(ish). We still have a couple of projects to finish before it will be truly complete, but the work on the space itself is finished, right down to the trim work. Now I have a functional, peaceful space to knit and design in.

So, no more excuses, right?

Well, I don't have any grand new designs for you right now, but I have recently released a couple of designs that had previously only been available via the Signature Series Kits. The Ebbenflow Cowl became available for individual pattern purchase in January, and as of today, the Ferndale Shawl is also available. You can find each of these patterns on Ravelry.

Part of the studio upgrade included an upgrade to my product photography via a photobox. If you pop into my Etsy shop Dye Monkey Yarns anytime in the next couple of days, you'll notice a number of products have new photos. I'm working hard to provide the absolute best color representation possible. And just for you, I'm adding new colors too!

Oh, and if you read the whole blog post you win! Use "LOYAL15" in either my Ravelry or Etsy shops until February 14th and get 15% off your purchase. Coupon code is good in BOTH shops.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Creating Time

The older I get, the faster the years seem to pass me by. This year certainly went quickly, but looking back on it, I think I filled it up pretty well.

2015 saw the launch of my indie-yarn line Dye Monkey Yarns, which has been a tremendous amount of fun.  I've loved developing new colorways . I've also loved developing new patterns specifically for those yarns, and had the pleasure of releasing my Signature Series Kits - pattern/yarn combos for purchase.

2015 also saw a continuation of my pattern design work. I released new patterns for two cowls, three shawls and a hat - whether as individual patterns or as part of a kit.  I have patterns for a hat and a shawl still in the tech edit process waiting for release, yet another shawl being test knit, and so many ideas for more patterns my head explodes for the possibilities! I'm so in love with the develop and design process. I wish I could dedicate more time to it.

And that is the big thing... finding more time to dedicate to what I love. I think we all struggle with that. Don't get me wrong - I don't hate my day job. In fact I really enjoy my "real job" and gain a sense of fulfillment out of it, but it does take a significant amount of time from all the other things I love - my home & family, dyeing, knitting, reading, writing, cooking...

This year, as a gift to myself, my husband and I will be renovating my studio. I talk about wanting more time to do the things I love, and sometimes the best way to make time is to remove the things that slow us down.  Right now, my studio slows me down, mentally, emotionally, even physically.

This renovation will be refining and refreshing. We'll be taking out the scruffy old, stained carpet that depresses and embarrasses me and putting in a floating vinyl "wood" floor.  We're going to paint the walls in colors I love, remove the panel doors from the closets that are always open anyway, and add a bookshelf to consolidate all the knitting and dyeing books into one area. (I currently have books tucked into six widespread locations throughout the house!) The project will be generally updating the space to provide me an organized, friendly work space.

We've got a week off from our jobs to make this happen, and although I know it's going to be a lot of work, I'm looking forward to it. Not only will I get a new workspace, I'll get a week at home, working with my husband to improve our space, an activity we really enjoy. I'm betting I can work some dyeing, knitting, reading, writing and cooking in to that week too. ;)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Signature Series Kit 2: Ferndale Shawl - Now Available!

I'm very excited to announce the Ferndale Shawl kits are now available for purchase.

Kit includes 2 skeins of Twist Monkey in “Old Money”, ravelry/digital delivered copy of Ferndale Shawl pattern (written & charted), and a coordinating fabric project bin courtesy of Harbor House Baskets - retail price for items individually is $80.50 -
KIT PRICE $70.00 + S&H 
International Shipping is available.
Click to Purchase

The project bin included with this kit is lovely! Square base 6.5" x 6.5" (16cm x 16cm) / 7 3/4" (19.5 cm) tall. Cotton with stabilizer/stiffener - shown with top edge turned down to show off contract/coordinating internal fabric. Lovely shades of cream/ecru/beige - will compliment almost any decor; excellent size for your current knitting project & tools. Could readily hold 4 skeins of yarn + project. Multiple home uses as well.

COUPON CODES DO NOT APPLY to this item. Thank you.

Please, if you are not a member of ravelry, let me know what email address to deliver your pattern to. Patterns will NOT be delivered in print format. Thank you.

Quantities are limited, so act fast.  Pattern and yarn will not be available again until February 2016.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Please be sure to add the Swift River Cowl pattern to your shopping cart. 
Price will be discounted off at time of purchase.  No coupon code needed.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Pattern Available: Ebbenflow Cowl

Energy, water, air, love, and laughter all experience an ebb and flow. The trick is learning how to go with the flow and, oddly enough, it is ultimately the most natural way. It actually takes more effort to strain against the ebb and flow in our lives. Soft, elastic, light and pretty, this slightly biased cowl will accentuate any outfit. It may not help you sort out all the stresses in your life, but it will give you an easy project to work on while you ride the waves.

Finished Measurement:
This cowl is knit in the round with no seaming. Directions are given for a 56” circumference cowl with a height of 13”. This pattern is easily adaptable. To change circumference you need only cast on more or fewer stitches in multiples of 20. Changes in height are achieved by working more or fewer vertical repeats of the lace chart.

Yarn Requirements:
Necessary yardage will vary with any sizing customization you choose to execute.
Approximately 350 - 380 yards were required for the 56” circumference/13” tall cowl as instructed.

Shown in Dye Monkey Yarns, HipHop Monkey
(400 yards/100grams, Fingering, 100% Superwash Merino, color: Chalk Line).

Recommended Needles:
Size 8 (5mm) 40” Circular needle or size required to get gauge.

Tapestry needle for weaving in ends.
Stitch markers and row counter may be helpful.

Approximately 12 sts / 28 rows = 4” (10 cm) in lace pattern in the round, blocked.

Pattern released exclusively in Dye Monkey Yarns Signature Series Kit 1: June 2015

The kit includes: Ravelry pattern download or digital delivery of PDF for Non-Rav Members and one (1) skein of Dye Monkey Yarns HipHop Monkey Colorway: Chalk Line (100% Superwash Merino 100g/400 yards)
$35.00 Each, S&H included

If you would like to order your kit with additional skeins of "Chalk Line", please contact me for pricing and I will invoice you directly.

I am happy to ship kits as gifts. Please specify in "additional instructions" when ordering or email me directly.

Kits will ship on or before June 13th.
A Knit-A-Long will be hosted in my JesseKnits Ravelry Group. Feel free to join us!

My apologies - at this time I am only shipping to North America (ie US & Canada).

Public pattern release scheduled for January 2016.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Knowing when to call it quits...

Today, I killed a WIP. Dead. It wasn't working for me. I tried. I tried valiantly, but in the end, it had to go.

I'm still not sure what was wrong with it. It was a sock pattern I'd knit a couple of times before. I liked the yarn - the color wasn't quite me, but the hand was nice. The first time I ripped back was because I'd realized I'd knit the foot about an inch too short. The second time was because somehow I was on the wrong row after the heel was completed. I studied those socks against each other and could not find the error. I'm still not sure if the problem was with the first or second sock, or simply with the knitter.

In the end, I announced to my husband that I was simply going to throw the whole mess away, and for once, instead of encouraging me to fix it and move on, he agreed that this horse was well beaten and it needed to go. I suggested ripping it all back and gifting the yarn. He said no. The negative energy I'd twisted into that yarn would only torment the next knitter. And so, I yanked out my needles and threw the whole thing away. It was stunningly liberating. The weight lifted from my shoulders instantaneously. Now I'm on to new things.

I need to learn when to call it quits. I think I work a lot of things way past dead. Is that part of being a perfectionist?

Strains of Kenny Rogers now haunt my thoughts... "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."

Friday, May 1, 2015

New Pattern Available: Moontrimmer

Fastest way to get anywhere is by broom, but what if you want to fly to the moon?  Simple, grab a Moontrimmer broom and attain previously unimaginable heights and greater successes. Flying higher since 1901.

Finished Measurements and Yarn Requirements will vary based on your yarn & needle selection as well as chosen number of Body Chart repeats. As a general guide I offer the following:

Sizes / Blocked Dimensions:
Small: (7 body chart repeats) 54” wide x 23” deep
Large: (10 body chart repeats) 75” wide x 31” deep

Yarn Requirements:
Small: Approximately 490 yards of fingering weight
Large: Approximately 980 yards of fingering weight

Shown in Fino (color: 419 Brass Button) by Manos del Uruguay (490 yards/448 meters per 100g – fingering weight – 70% Merino, 30% Silk)

Needles: Size 4 (3.5mm) 40-47” circular needles
Note: For cast on and setup, I prefer to work on either short straights or DPN’s.  It provides more control and less clutter, allowing you to establish your setup with more stability.

Supplies: Cable needle, tapestry needle for weaving in ends, and row counter may be helpful.

Gauge: Approximately 24 sts in pattern = 4” (10cm).  Your gauge will vary depending on your yarn and needle choice.

  Ravelry $5.00 USD

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Store, A Brand, An Adventure!

Dye Monkey Yarns Etsy store is officially open! And my Ravelry account has been upgraded to Yarnie status so that my brand is officially recognized by Ravelry.

Come join the adventure!