Blog, Sweet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘crafting

Mood: toil and trouble
Music: tUnE-yArDs – Hatari


Your hostess, bearing the fruit of her needles.


Ed. This is a long essay about knitting, you guys, but please try to read it…for me, ok?  Think of it as a Gumpian chocolate box filled with some hot knitting action, a few funny bits, a couple of life lessons, a magickal shout out, and delightful animal photography.  In other words, there’s something in it for everyone!  Enjoy!

……………………..

I finally finished that beret.

I feel…well, not as great as I thought I would.  Yes, do go back and look at the date of that post in the link above.  I started this accursed head covering in January and finished it in April.  To those of you who are unfamiliar with knitting, three months is kind of a long time to work on one hat.

I chose the lace grace beret for my second project because I thought it was cute and it seemed like a challenging, though reasonable way to increase my knitting skills.  How wrong was I?  So very wrong.

I felt qualified to  begin this non-beginner-level beret because I had completed one scarf and a few, small practice swatches for learning different beginner techniques (ribbing, increases, decreases, etc.).  Those tiny projects left me feeling powerful and crafty, as if possessed by the very spirit of Athena (goddess of crafts, y’all) herself.  I took my Athenian confidence  down to the local yarn store (LYS) in search of new yarn for mah new project.

The pattern called for a DK weight yarn, so I bought two skeins (on the shop’s recommendation) of a pretty blue-grey baby alpaca.  It also called for use of a set of five double pointed needles (DPN) or a circular needle in a gauge I didn’t have.  “Huzzah, new skills!” I cried as I left the store with my new yarn and a set of 5 bamboo DPNs.

I couldn’t wait to start!  I checked the pattern and immediately got stuck at the cast- on part, a.k.a “the beginning”…

With crochet hook and waste yarn, chain 65 stitches. With working yarn, and US4 needles, pick up 60 stitches from back of crochet chains. Distribute stitches evenly over dpn’s and join in the round, being careful not to twist.

…which, given my extremely limited experience, might as well have said…

Place the platypus paw in the colander with 15 parts unicorn tears,  three silver bells, and the scrapings from an old woman’s shoe.  Agitate the solution by alternately telling knock-knock jokes, humming the chorus to “Midnight at the Oasis”, and petting the auxiliary kitten for approximately twelvyty-two quartons.

The Rosetta stone for the “modified crochet cast-on” wasn’t included with the pattern and I only knew one cast-on method (long tail).  I spent hours asking the Internet until I found an explanation.  I finally figured out how to do it, but, as the following comments show, many of my fellow beret knitters weren’t as lucky…

Love the look. NO CLUE what you’re talking about with the whole cast on method you use here. I’m giving up and moving on to another pattern because of it.

Hi i’ve just started knitting and this pattern completely boggles me.

Spent 2 hours trying to figure it out and ended up with just a massive knot.

Maybe it was just me, but I could NOT figure out the ’simplified tubular cast on’

So, off to a rough start, but still hopeful.

The next step was to join the ends and start knitting an increase round, then a knit round, then a purl round.  I can’t even tell you how long it took me to get past these first three rounds! I must have started over AT LEAST ten times.  The problem is the knit and purl rounds had an extra step that I didn’t know how to undo.  So, when I made a mistake, I couldn’t unknit them and had to start from the beginning.  The DPNs complicated things as well.  Knitting projects can be a bit, how do you say, unruly for the first few rows and it’s even worse when you’re trying to hold four different needles in one hand and knit for the first time ever with the other needle while not trying to drop stitches or get twisted.

I like to call this period of the project, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  It was an awful, crushing time.  I daily doubted my love for knitting and often wondered if I was going slowly mad; I would fail at the same task, over and over again, yet expect a different outcome, every time.  And I couldn’t stop for the night until I failed again or made it past those three rounds…just like an obsessed crazy person!

At some point, the stars aligned and I managed to finish those three rounds from Hell.  The next step called for an inch-long band of purl  1/knit 1 ribbing, which I actually knew how to do.  It was loads easier because I knew how to back to a problem in the round.  For that one inch, I felt like a knitter who knew what she was doing.  Knitting was fun and satisfying again and I couldn’t wait to start the large, final part of the beret, the lace pattern.

If the weird crochet cast-on was a difficult puzzle, the lace pattern was learning Mandarin Chinese in a long afternoon.  I screwed up, lots.  I started over from the very beginning, lots, again.   Are you beginning to see a pattern here?  Every new knitting thing was another exercise in doing the same thing over again ten times.  Nothing came easily, everything was a struggle.  The good news about starting over so often is that it took much less time to complete the previous steps; just like I was human being in possession of the capability to learn.

I had one more giant meltdown when I was about 2/3rds of the way through it.  I’m not going to lie; that one was hard, you guys.  I let it sit in a sad heap of failure and silent mockery on the kitchen table for over a month.  Ripping out hours and hours of hard work loses its luster after a while, and I was too tired and beaten to keep fighting.  I had convinced myself that DPNs were the root of evil and the source of all my problems.  I would continue, but not until after rewarding myself with a shiny new set of Addi Clicks.

I started over again from the very beginning for the last time and it all seemed so effortless, like I actually knew what I was doing!  I flew through the pattern at three times the speed and finished late one night, et voila!

Another view, on jack-o-lantern pottery


So, where are all these “life lessons”, you ask?  Mellow out, Betty, I’m getting there.

With a very few exceptions, every part of this project involved learning some new technique.  My mother had bought me a copy of Debbie Stollers’s Stitch & Bitch for my birthday last year and it has been my constant companion.  I read (ok, skimmed) a lot of it while working on those first projects, but there’s so much that didn’t sink in…

-bring the yarn in front before you purl

-make sure it’s in the back before you knit

-use round markers

-round markers go on the needle cord, not the yarn, dummy

-don’t believe them when they say you need two skeins of yarn to knit one beret

-make test swatches…they’re boring, but important

-check your work, count your rows

-television and complicated knitting patterns don’t mix

-drinking and knitting is a bad idea

-you get better results when you pay attention to what you’re doing

-little mistakes shouldn’t keep you up at night

-persistence and hard work pay off

-the people that say knitting is easy are not your friends

-it’s ok to ask for help; challenge builds character

-we only truly know ourselves in the face of adversity

…and on and on.

I finished it two weeks ago, but I wanted to block it and take some decent pictures before posting this.  In case you were wondering, there are a few major mistakes in it, but they’re something only other knitters would notice.  Here the crazy thing about knitting, you guys: I wanted to start work on a new, mistake-free version the very next day.

The mistakes don’t matter though, I’ll love it and cherish it forever…or I’d better keep it forever. I told a friend that this simple hat had become a sort of Horcrux for me.  Like, I had invested so much of myself in its creation, that it felt like a piece of my soul would be lost if something happened to it or it fell into the wrong hands.  Knitting just might be the secret to immortality!

So there it is, knitting (and crafting) can save the world and make you a better, smarter, more attractive and successful person, but you might have to suffer through months of desperate living before you get there.  Mileage varies, but my learn-to-knit experience has seemed closer to and nearly as profound as crossing the Abyss.  I still have so much to learn, but I feel like I can finish any project now…and I’m def pro at making berets.

So, what should I make next?

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Mood: 10% wistful, 50% ebullient, 22% other
Music: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Heads Will Roll



Continued from here.

Let’s just get right to it, shall we?  Here’s a picture of the scarf I completed right around the beginning of the new year…

Anna with scarf #1 FTW!



…and another look…

Who's a pretty scarfy scarf?



It’s my first real knitting project and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.  I used 17 gauge bamboo knitting needles and one skein of lovely, variegated, chunky alpaca (I think) wool.  The color is a weird, almost ugly combination of orange, magenta, purple and grey.

Mom bought me the yarn, some Addi turbo lace needles, and a copy of Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch for my birthday when she and my aunt came out to visit.  My aunt taught me to knit when she was here, but it took me a couple of weeks of practice making swatches on cheap acrylic yarn before I felt ready to move to the more expensive yarn.  I didn’t follow a pattern, I just made a garter stitch (knit every row) and played with the width until it felt right.

It’s about 8″ wide, which is pretty wide for a scarf, and around 7′ long, which seems crazy, Dr. Who long.  Regardless, I love it.  We’ve had some really cold days here this year and it’s nice to have a soft woolen scarf to wrap around your head and neck like five times if need be.

Next up is my first foray into embroidery and cross stitch since I was a teeny tot.

untitled (lol) by Anna Hell


I apologize for the crap photos.  I’ve had to resort to using my webcam until I buy another, big girl’s camera.  Anyway, I started this project almost a year ago! I awoke from a feverish dream (or something) with the basics of this pattern in mind and I felt compelled to finish it…very slowly.  It’s approximately 5×7 inches and it felt like it took me a google-illion hours to finish.  The truth is prolly closer to 50 or 75 hours, but there are a lot of stitches in it.  I’m pretty happy with it, but I feel like it’s more of a sketch/practice piece than anything real.

This is the doodle I started the other day…


pop heart sketch by Anna Hell


I have an idea for how I might use this later, but it really just started off as a fun diversion after I finished the bohemiath above.  I know it sounds weird to take a break from needle work by doing some more needle work, but regular embroidery is way faster than cross stitch and it was nice to be able to sketch out something so fast.  Like I said, this might be incorporated into a larger piece (8×11 or pillow size?), but I just started this…

Grace Lace Beret

Elizabeth's Grace Lace Beret



…and I should really finish it before I get distracted with five other projects, as is my nature.  I’d also like to do a Blog, Sweet Blog title card and experiment with some “topographic” embroidery.

So, I’m happy to have finally finished a couple of projects, but only the heart thing and beret will count towards my viva la resolutions art things if I finish them this year.  Wish me luck!

What projects are you guys in the middle of/planning to start?

Mood: Get down with the sickness
Music: some episode of The L Word


https://i1.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/06/24/article-1028992-0008A25300000258-379_468x316_popup.jpg

O hai Englandz! We'z gonna need to have deez castlz and landz, kthxbai!


If this seems out of order,  it’s because I started this the other day when I was home sick…and why I made reference to it here and showed some here. Let’s just pretend like this is a Blog, Sweet Blog time machine ride to the not-so-distant past!

O hai Interntubes!

So, I’m sick today, but I couldn’t help but share some of the cross stitch/embroidery and knitting work I’ve completed recently.   I also want to show you some of the super wonderful Innerwebz stitch art I’ve seen over the past couple of months.

I’m not sure if the other people’s stitch art thing will become a regular feature or not.  There are plenty of great websites that do this all the time, e.g. feeling stitchy, mr. x stitch, and craftster.org.  Also, I tend to think every.single.project I see on those sights is lovely and amazing.  I would just be re-posting every item I see and that’s hardly the sort of top-drawer, Blog, Sweet Blog curating you’ve come to expect.  I think I’ll just let the pros handle craft blogging and I’ll just add some of my new besty craft sites to the right-hand blog roll.

Let’s start with the some of the online projects I’ve really loved…


[Max04.jpg]

Max by mimilove, click the photo for her page!




The piece above made me do a weird combination of gasp and squeee the first time I saw it.  It combines many of the elements of life I love…Hello Kitty, actual kitty, watercolor, an interesting color palette, and weird, delicate embroidery.  Mimi’s site is a treasure of similar wonderment.

So…have you ever been up in your own head, working on a certain project and you start thinking…

Wow, that is some good stuff right there.  I am soooo good at art!  I think I might even be sell-the-cat-move-to-Portland-and-join-an-art-collective good.

…and then you stumble onto something from Tod Hensley and it makes you feel like you just graduated from Baby’s First Art Class?  Well, that totally happened to me when I saw his work.  It’s a hurtful experience, but I highly recommend looking at super-talented artist’s work when you need to go back to keeping it real.

[il_fullxfull.75100722.jpg]

Untitled by Tod Hensley

The subject matter isn’t exactly something you’d show your mother (unless you’re me), but the stitching and design are expressionistic, tribal, folky, and sickeningly complex.  I think I like this one more…

excerpt from a larger, untitled piece by Tod Hensley



The last of the other’s work is an off-the-cuff, yet totally mind-blowing relaxation sampler by Mrs. Kitty.

[Cats+Sewing+07-09+032.jpg]

Playing with color and texture by Mrs. Kitty



It’s so good, it makes me a little bit angry and full of the awe.  I think a lot of the old-timey samplers are interesting to look at, but would have been dreadfully boring to actually work.  Mrs. Kitty’s piece looks like the most fun way to learn every stitch and also work with color and design.

This is getting long, so I’m going to cut it up into two posts.  Click here for a look at what I’ve been up to lately, craft-wise.


an introduction





Hi, I'm Anna and I love cheese!

This blog is a chronicle of my life and a catalog of happy ephemera. The About page has a little bit more information, but, remember, none of this is really me...it's just a supplement, a thumbnail sketch, a mostly anonymous Intarwebs placeholder. I'm way better/less wordy in person. :-)

Oh, and if I wrote something about you and you thought it was mean or hurtful, I'm sorry. It's how I felt at the time, but probably isn't how I feel now. Chances are, I love you and I think you're awesome.

copyright

All content on Blog, Sweet Blog is copyrighted by me, Anna Hell. Unless otherwise noted, all photos, words, and content on this site are mine, created by me, and should not be used without my permission (or at least attributed and linked back). I try to embed links or quote original source material if I use another person's work.

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