Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The BIG Announcement!

I'm very excited to announce my latest adventure...
Dye Monkey Yarns!

I have a new blog specific to my hand painted and dyed yarns over at http://DyeMonkeyYarns.blogspot.comwhere I will be announcing all things yarny including new products, Etsy shop updates, yarn sales and clubs, as well as pattern releases that feature my yarns.

Come play with me!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Pattern Available: Swift River Cowl

Twisting and turning alongside the equally winding Kancamagus Highway, the Swift River feeds the dense trees whose leaves transform from summer greens to breathtaking shades of yellow and red just as autumn’s temperatures turn crisp.  Pull on the Swift River cowl, hop on your motorcycle and wind your way along the river and through the woods.

Finished Measurement:
This cowl is knit in the round with no seaming.  Directions are given for a 26” 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 12.  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 380 - 410 yards were required for the 26” circumference/13” tall cowl as instructed.

Shown in Shalimar Yarns, Zoe Sock
(450 yards/100grams, 4 Ply – Fingering, 100% Australian Superwash Merino, color: Sapote).

Recommended Needles:
Size 4 (3.5mm) 32” (80cm) Circular needle or size required to get gauge.

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

Approximately 28 sts / 36 rows = 4” (10 cm) in stockinette stitch in the round.

 Ravelry $2.50 USD

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Pattern Available: Aliqua Duo

Any two competitors can become a team and any two teams can become competitors.  Want to show support for your team but want something with a little more pizzazz than that logo’d cap and scarf? Worked in garter stitch with simple increases and decreases, you could whip this up while watching the game, and end up with something distinct, classy and still full of team spirit.

Finished Measurement:
Measurements will vary depending on how strongly or subtly you block your finished piece.  Approximately 74” x 14.5”

Yarn Requirements:
100 g each of two colors (A & B) Worsted Weight
Shown in Malabrigo Yarn Rios
(210 yards/100grams, 100% merino, colors:
66 Lavanda (A) & 138 Ivy (B)).

Recommended Needles:
Size 8 (5mm) 40” circular or size required to get gauge.  Please note – gauge is flexible, but yardage will vary

Tapestry needle for weaving in ends.

Approximately 18 sts / 23 rows = 4” (10 cm) blocked

 Ravelry $2.50 USD

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

WIP strategy fail

Sometimes things just don't work out, no matter how good our intentions.

I've been working hard to get my WIP pile down. One of the strategies I've been employing is the 15(ish) minutes a day(ish), in which I focus on one WIP for a short period of time to eat away at the task. I've been focusing on completing a second sock for about 2 weeks now. To make this seem more successful, I was NOT comparing my progress against the first sock.

Fail. This "not comparing" so as to be surprised by my progress was not a good strategy.

I discovered my fail during my lunch break at work today. I was knitting along in the sun, feeling very proud of myself that I'd made such progress. I knew I was very close to the end of the leg on this toe up pattern and finally chose to pull out the first sock to compare. I was sure I was going to be finishing a cuff over tomorrow's lunch and celebrating the completion of another beautiful pair of socks. NOPE; not unless I shorten one of my feet by an inch and a half. UGH. I started the heel too soon on my second sock, and the only way to correct it is to rip out the entire leg and heel, back to the foot.

I'm horribly disappointed. So much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole project in the trash. I've also considered simply ripping out both socks and putting the yarn back into my stash.

My husband is very supportive. He says I should just rip back and do it right, which is ultimately the right answer, but I am concerned about how well this yarn will rip back. This yarn is a 80% wool / 20% nylon, but it is incredibly soft... almost feels like it has some cotton content.

I think this project is headed for time out until I find strength enough in my heartache to make a solid decision.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tax Evasion

I do my own taxes. Every year I buy the software and spend my weekends preparing - piling up receipts, adding totals, gathering W-2's, 1099's, etc. and making notes. Eventually I sit down and plug all the data into the software. Then I walk away. I never submit the taxes first time around. I simply don't trust myself. I take a week or two off from the project and let the numbers and paperwork just sit. Then I go back, well rested with a clear head, and review all of my entries to be sure I didn't make any mistakes. I live in fear of the almighty audit.

I have NO reason to be afraid of being audited. I have every receipt, copy, and form from the past 8 years stored away in marked folders, far in excess of the recommended retention. I don't take any chances and don't guess. If I question anything, I ask questions and research until I'm comfortable I'm compliant. And yet, I'm still nervous. I sort of believe the IRS wants everyone to feel the way I do. The way they word questions and lines on the forms leaves me at a loss. According to a study conducted by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literary, 32 million adults in the US can't read - a full 14% of the population, and 21 percent of adults read below a 5th grade level. Someone needs to send a memo to the IRS!  I read quite well, and I still do not understand half of the language on these forms, which is part of why I buy software to spoon-feed me through the process. And even then, the software often takes ambiguity to a new level.

So, this is a knitting blog. WHY?!?! am I talking about taxes?

Ha! Tax evasion, of course.

This is the weekend I'm supposed to be doing my last review before submitting. So far, I've gotten groceries, done laundry, had a haircut, done dishes, taken myself out to lunch, finished a new knitting pattern design, written the pattern for said new design, sent it off for testing, started blocking a shawl, repotted several house plants, taken the winter divider door off the mud room (spring is here afterall), weeded the garden, washed the basket I collect my garden produce in, set up not one, but two crockpots full of porkbutt for shreading, visited my chickens, collected eggs, read, cleaned, updated my annual yardage tracking, updated my Ravelry stash tracking, refilled a soap pump, washed a mirror, gone through old coats and determined what needed to be donated, dusted, and now I'm typing a blog entry. I'm seriously considering baking bacon for the work week and perhaps making a batch of cupcakes. There is also an opportunity to go plant carrot seeds in the garden, and the dog could really use a bath and shave.

No, I haven't reviewed my taxes yet.

Of course, had I simply done the review first thing this morning, it would be done, but look at ALL the things I accomplished by avoiding this one chore.

Now if I simply substituted working on my WIPs for all these chores, and pushed this off for the allowed 10 more days, I might finish my WIPs pile...

Yeehaw! The dryer just buzzed. I've got laundry that must be folded.

Psst, yeah, you read that right... new design coming ;) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Coupon Code

Psst… coupon code: Spring1540 will get you 40% off any/all of my Ravelry patterns that have a lace stitch. Pass it on! Ends 03/31/15.

WIPs and Blahs

It is very much Spring here in New Mexico. The weather is gorgeous - I'm sitting in the garden in nothing more than shorts, a tank top and flip flops while I type this - and spring activities abound. We've begun our seedlings and are already seeing sprouts. Weeds are already taking over and I'm sporting a sunburn. My husband is busy plotting changes to our vegetable garden and I've sewn new pillows and cushion covers for our patio furniture. All these things fill me with joy... so why do I feel so "blah" right now?

Lunatic Fringe Pattern by Jennifer Dassau
WIP by Jessica L'Heureux since 2013!
First, let me be clear. NO, I'm not depressed. I am filled with joy and loving the early Spring. It's my knitting that is "blah".

This time of year always fills me full of creative ideas. New growth brings forth beautiful colors I want to capture in yarny creations (or in the yarn itself when I'm inclined to dye) and I'm always eager to start new projects. It's almost like the reverse of Spring Cleaning because instead of cleaning and uncluttering, I become overwhelmed with ideas and the need to start new projects and designs. I akin it to mental fireworks. This year is not different. I have an idea for a garter shawl, a lace shawl, another pair of socks, etc, etc, but I also have a startling number of WIPs laying around.

Why so many WIPs?  A number of reasons.

My full-time occupation doesn't afford me time to knit during the day, with the exception of my lunch break, whereas prior to this year, I literally knit at my desk while working part-time hours, then left and stopped at my LYS on the way home, only to knit some more. I have far less knitting time at my disposal, therefore, less gets finished.

Secondly, I hosted a couple of KAL this past fall.  Now, I don't know about other designers/KAL hosts, but if I have knitters all working on a project together, whether in my classes or strewn across the plant and participating online, I knit the project in time with them. These projects override any other knitting I'm doing. They are my focus so that I am there to support my knitters if and when they need me.  I love doing this, and seeing all projects, mine and yours, develop together. That being said, if the class or KAL is for socks, often the class/KAL focuses only on completing one, leaving the knitter to finish the second one in their own time.  I have two first socks laying around waiting for their friends to emerge from my project bags.

Thirdly, I have budding designs in various stages of testing. These stop and go as issues arise in the design and as my time demands pull me to and fro. Sometimes designs need to rest and pull themselves together. Often this can take time. Sometimes a design is dependent on other factors such as fiber or tools, where acquisition can cause delays. I have a very exciting shawl full of multiple lace panels that I've been working on since July 6, 2014. I got going a little too comfortably on it and made a mistake in my work that needs correction in order for me to test the math, and sadly, I just haven't had the strength to face that correction yet. (I HATE ripping back, and can't see through how to drop back the error and simply correct the stitch yet. It will take more fortitude than I have at the moment.)

Finally, there is the personal knitting. The patterns I purchase from other designers that I intend to knit for myself or as gifts always end up on the bottom of the pile. I have a shawl I started for myself March 22, 2013. Yes, OVER TWO YEARS ago. How did this become so neglected? Easy. I can't make money knitting someone else's pattern for myself. My design work has to come first, and therefore anything I'm doing purely for myself is the first thing I sacrifice.

I made the mistake of piling it all up and reviewing the stack.

WARNING. Don't do this.

I find myself overwhelmed with knitting obligation.

I tried the usual tactics - I sorted into 3 categories. Love it, Like it, Frog it. Everything fell into Love it;only one item teeters precariously on the Like it/Frog it border, and it is a pair of socks from a now reworked design, so my practical side is hard at war reminding me that they are socks and I will wear them and love them, if only I will finish them. I managed to eliminate nothing from my workload.

So I moved to the next tactic - 15(ish) minutes a day(ish). This is a great way to slog through projects that you just aren't feeling inspired about, in a baby-step approach. I'm more than confident in my ability to turn 15 minutes into 2 hours simply by starting a row in front of the television. Suddenly I am mindlessly knitting along, and had my yarn been a bag of orange cheesy puffs, my fingers and teeth would be stained and I'd be facing two treadmill hours to recover from the weight gain. I still find I cheat a little here. Sometimes I'm simply not in the mood and replace the knitting with other activities, like working triage on the plethora of dog toys that have lost limbs to the wild beasts in my home, or doing prep-cooking for the work week (we all need cupcakes in our lunches), or flipping through knitting magazines, or designing a new paint theme for my mailbox (yes, really) - anything to avoid finishing these projects. I carry my projects with me to and from work daily, yet often skip knitting on my lunch break in lieu of a book on my Kindle (that I've already read three times!). Can you say "blatant procrastination"?

And so I move on. Now I'm strongly considering a new tactic. Bartering. I desperately have held off starting an new project for fear it would trump the WIPs and I'd only grow a larger pile. I've warred with myself and set demands that I must finish things before moving on. This has only served to squelch my creativity and frustrate me, which in turn has enhanced the "blahs" and made me even less ambitious to face the baby-steps so resembling mountains. And so, negotiations have begun.

When I review the ways that the WIP pile formed, I'm reminded again that all new designs stop and start. This allows time for other things. Provided I allow for the truly organic nature of that ebb and flow, and don't get all time-table about it, and I promise myself that "when Project A tires me, I'll grab Project B for 15(ish) minutes" I may yet be able to muster through the "blahs" and accomplish two things at once.

Now it's just about giving myself permission.

Do you suffer the crafting "WIPs and blahs"?  What tactics do you have for getting yourself back on track? I'm always open to trying new methods. (insert cry for help) Tell me how to relight that fire.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Keeping Perfectionism in Check... Mostly.

I've often written about being a perfectionist.  There are aspects of perfectionism that are good and useful.  It helps me produce clean finished designs with clear instruction. It gives me humility and pushes me to make corrections quick and publicly so other knitters don't get stuck or frustrated with my patterns.  It gives me pride in my work.

Perfectionism has a dark side as well.  Striving for the ultimate is frustrating. It fills me with self-doubt and makes me second guess every step of my design - every aspect, choice and idea from fiber to needles, gauge to stitch pattern and name to choice of abbreviations.  It bins ideas before they get a fair shake.

Double edge swords need to be kept sharp, stored well and used wisely.  I think perfectionism is just such a beast; sometimes you need to indulge in it, and sometimes you need to make efforts to keep it in check.  Today I had the pleasure in doing just that.

There is a wonderful business here in Albuquerque that offers "Sip & Paint" classes.  Each date has a different offering. Book for the image of your choice, grab an apron, glass (or bottle) of wine, listen to good music, follow along with a skilled, entertaining and fun instructor, and anytime your inner perfectionist starts to butt in, have another swallow of wine and remind yourself to let go.

I went with my dear friend Becks.  Becks is the best kind of friend. She inspires me, supports my work (she's my test knitter and exquisite at it!), listens, advises and balances me to so many ways.  She is fun loving, enjoys a good glass of wine, and is up for adventure.  We each painted our version of the class painting. We both encouraged each other to push off our own personal perfectionist. We laughed, we shared a bottle, we painted.

This exercise hasn't eliminated my perfectionist, but it has made me feel more balanced.  I ended up with a painting I love. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of each moment, each decision that I hesitated thinking it wasn't good enough, then set my hesitation aside and let go.  I "wung it" and just painted, knowing that I wasn't there to create art - I was there to have a good time.  And in the end, I actually like the result. It's proof that not struggling each choice doesn't always make the end product better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jumping into the deep end of the pooling

I'm forever trying new knitting techniques, stretching my boundaries and exploring new territories for design inspiration.  Most recently, I've been playing around with the techniques presented by Laura Militzer Bryant in Artful Color - Mindful Knits and her companion class on Craftsy, Color Patterning with Hand-Dyed Yarns

I love hand-dyed yarns. I've amassed quite a collection as anyone looking at my ankles can tell you - I've knit MANY socks with hand-dyed yarns! - but sometimes I feel... limited.  What? I know, that sounds really weird.

Hand-dyed yarns, although offering gorgeous colorways with vibrant self-striping patterns often detract from the look of fancier stitch patterns.  Sometimes you want the stitch to be the focus, sometimes you want the color to be the focus, and sometimes you want to approach the delicate balance of both.

Laura Militzer Bryant presents her close study of hand-dyed yarns and the math necessary to CONTROL them.  Through use of a "Magic Number" which is actually a simple measurement and calculation of color repeats, you can actually creatively FORCE color pooling into more pleasing stripes, stacks, argyles and controlled chaos.

Want to play?

I purchased the book before she developed her Craftsy class, and can honestly say I'm not thrilled with the presentation.  It was a lot to swallow and wordy with tons of high-gloss vibrant pictures that left me just overwhelmed.  (That's me - this is my personal opinion.) Then the class came along.  In her Craftsy class she presents the concept, math and examples clearly and concisely with a complementary video format that allows me to go back and watch it again, make notes and even ask HER questions.  Having taken the class and referred back to the book, the book has become more comprehensive and manageable. (Again, all me, all my opinion. You may find otherwise.)

So, what did I learn?

Cool math, neat yarn magic trick, and that overall, I'm not interested in designing with this technique in mind, but I'm likely to try to make someone a gift only because controlling a colorway in this manner is a super-cool impressive knit-master kind of thing to do.

And here's where I tell you, no one asked me to review this. I'm not getting paid.  The only benefit I could possibly get for this is if you use one of the Craftsy links here on my blog to purchase a class, I will receive a minor referral fee (and thank you very much if you do), but I don't request or require it of my readers.  I simply tell you about things I like.