Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning Swap Meet!

So I'm taking part in the Spring Cleaning Swap Meet!  Although I'm not actually offering up any stash items ... as I only brought my "most likely to use" stash up with me to Portland (erg, yes, I do have an embarrassing amount of stuff still at my parent's place in CA, one day I will make the trip with my car and grab the rest of it.  Or maybe it should all just get donated?  And here I was, feeling smug about how I'd pared down!  The lies we tell ourselves, LOL.)
 
Anyhow, I'm offering up a couple handknit sweaters that I've made and loved and yet, because my life has changed, no longer really wear.  Mostly it's the sleeve length - the eternal drizzle, combined with a cold office, means that non-full length sleeves are less functional for me than they were in a warmer climate where my organization liked to keep the building toasty warm.  As a result, I've had to really prioritize which shorter-sleeved sweaters stay in rotation, and which ones that, while I still love them, would probably be happier if they found a new home :-), and hopefully, the opportunity to be worn as much as they deserve!
 

First up, this 50's inspired sweater.  As you can see, it's reversible - so for those of you who like a multitasking wardrobe, this is like 2 looks in 1!  *Pats self on back.*  Color on the right is pretty true to life.  Fair warning - it's slightly sheer, so a nude bra is needed, and I knit it to hit high hip on me ... which, since I'm 5'2", would probably put this in the "cropped" category for most women.  I'm not personally a fan of tucking my blouse into skirts, but I know that there are tons of fabulous indie pattern designers who make skirts like this ... and if you've got a couple of those lingering in your wardrobe, this would probably pair really nicely!


Second up, my gray Trina.  Really, I adore this sweater.  I get comments on it every time I wear it - something about that fabulous statement button, the sleeves, the silhouette.  It's the one thing I've made that my uber fashionable, Japanese (former) roommate commented on.  Sadly, due to sleeve length, I don't wear it very often!

Both are made of wool, although the blue sweater is a blend with silk and nylon and maybe something else.  For reference, I am 5'2", 36" bust, 29" waist, high hip measurement ~33".  I am happy to ship worldwide, but if the shipping winds up being more than $15, I might ask you to chip in a little bit to help me out :-).

So!  If you're interested in either, just drop me a comment between now and Monday April 7 to let me know, specifying which you'd like!  I might slip an extra goodie or two into the mix for you :-).  If more than 1 person is interested, I'll do a random drawing - and if you're really crazy about either, feel free to leave comments on other blog posts around here and I will give you bonus points (hehehe, this is an ego boost for me, I can be honest with myself + you!).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Recently

Hello hello!  Spring is officially here, Portland flirts with sunny days betwixt sprinkles and showers, and life marches happily forward in this little corner of the universe.  Returned from an East Coast work/pleasure trip last night, and was struck by the remarkable change my life has undergone in the past year.  The changes I've sought out in the past year.

Meanwhile, I tiptoe towards the holy grail of sewing - for me, that's pants - by completing the runner up in that category of intimidating makes (at least for me).  Coats.  This one took me 3 months; I took it slow, it was my first foray back into sewing since moving, and I was feeling no rush.  A learning project for sure!  But I adore wearing it.  There really IS something to be said for making the cakiest of sewing cake, those utilitarian garments one wears constantly.


And how basic is a navy wool peacoat?  Swoon.  I had a brain fart and cut it with the nap going sideways, and the camel hair in my blend is thus already starting to pill, but honestly, I'm still pretty darn happy with this make.  I'd love to use the pattern again (V2873, OOP) perhaps in corduroy with contrast plaid lapels?  Because I am obnoxious like that :).  Hideous or fabulous, baby!  I've also got my eye on the Minoru.

But first, pants, because I've only got 2 pairs of jeans - one that's half a size too small and requires some minutes of wriggling dancing, post-wash, before I can comfortably sit in them, and one that's been darned in several places and needs several more patches.  Thurlows, I'm looking to you!


As you can see, I've also been knitting, rather unexpectedly, to a theme.


At a Baltimore museum with one of my best friends.  This place has the awesomest sense of color!  The exhibits were so much fun.  There was one that kept John and me laughing for a good 5 minutes, starting with the reindeer coming out of toilets, and right on through the nutcrackers with aliens emerging out of one side of the body.  The Nightmare Before Christmas on LSD.  Really, Baltimore gets such a bad rap, kind of like Oakland.  I personally have always loved my visits there.  A quirky, laidback city with down to earth folks.


Saying goodbye to another of my best friends from grad school.  Kristy's headed back to Taiwan, and Wei Jie is probably returning to Singapore ("Sing" as she calls it) next year.  Asia trip 2015 is all I can say!  Once I dry my tears, that is.


Oh, and I finally unearthed this quilt top that I started when I was 16, and finished piecing it, then sandwiched it and have begun hand quilting.  Wool batting, mmm, perfect for PDX winters.  So squishy and lofty and soft and warm.  Had been slightly tempted to leave it until I turned 32, as I could then call it the quilt that took half my life, but at the rate I've been going, it might not get done until then all the same!  Haha.  Besides which, I've really been digging the blue side of the spectrum for the past year or so, which, as you can see, were perennial favorites in early life, as well.  A return to my roots.  Which is really how I feel.  So much more like myself.  So it seemed fitting.

And how's writing?  Well, good!  Thank you for asking!  Right before my trip, I whisked myself away to a cottage situated on a 230 acre nature preserve, to read through my book draft in 1 go.  Between you and me, internets, I got about 60% in and then my brain rebelled, so I hope there was nothing important in those last 40K words!  LOL.

But it's good.  It gave me the chance to evaluate What are you, book, and what do you want to be?  And I think that I am finally, maybe, starting to see the contours of this story.

It usually takes me about 3 drafts to know what my story is about, another 2 to get all the pieces roughly in place, and then another 2 to refine and polish and fix things up.  Assuming no drastic changes, of course.  Most people raise their eyebrows when they hear this, and you can just see them thinking, though they are too polite to say it, Why, woman, would you put yourself through that???  Because it's a bit like what I imagine motherhood to be like - watching characters (or ideas) begin to define themselves, emerge, and blossom, in ways you both anticipate and cannot imagine.  But then you also have a hand in the process, in the artistry of the form of the story, even if the substance is not entirely in your hands.

And the beauty of writing memoir is that it asks you to revisit and reunderstand seminal moments in your past.  Which, given the deep bout of reflection and soul searching I've done in the past year, has really grounded me in myself.  The timing has been perfect.  Or perhaps this book has been a catalyst of sorts?  Likely these have been intertwined, cause and effect muddied.  Regardless, the result has been so, so worthwhile.

May you experience a beautiful spring!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Book writing: the process

Over the summer, when I first began thinking about writing a book from start to finish, I found the prospect equal parts mystifying and daunting.  (Before, to cheat my way around that, I'd decided to write a series of essays for a book collection - ah!  I only have to think in 5K word chunks, I don't have to hold 80K words in my head!  And then I realized that wouldn't work, and that I'd have to Start Over.)   Before I could really dive into it, I decided I needed some handholding from the experts.  So I read a number of books about writing books to find a template process that I could build out and embellish with the quirks of nuances of how I like to write, dream, create, and polish.

So if you've ever wondered what it takes to write a book ... here's what I've discovered so far.  (And bear in mind that I'm not in the clear yet!  But I thought it would be fun to get these thoughts down on paper.  At the very least, I can revisit in a year or two and think, "Silly bear!  That's only the tip of the iceberg!"  Track the evolving process, because sometimes when you get to the end, you forget where you traveled along the way, you know?)

Definition of a draft.  Over the summer, when I asked my creative writing instructor for suggestions on the revision process, he replied (and imagine this said with repeated palm slaps to table, for emphasis): Every time I revise, I make myself work through a FULL draft.  A full draft means you've landed the plane.  You've got some sort of start, a muddy middle, and you've tried out an ending.  Now, you may not like your ending.  There may be stuff in the middle that you absolutely hate.  It's your best guess - at the time - of what the story should look like.  It might be crap.  But at least you can say, now THAT, that is NOT what I wanted.  Let me try this instead.

Or, to paraphrase Stephen Koch, 26 versions of 1 page is not 26 drafts, it's a really rough page.

Which was helpful.  I've wanted to write this type of story for 20 years now, and began seeing a good chunk of the specific topic 8 years ago, so every couple years I'd write 100 or 200 pages of notes - fragments and pretty sentences, essay pieces, longhanded stream-of-consciousness pages where I try to make sense of everything, character sketches, pieces of dialogue - and then I'd get stuck and put it away for a couple years.  But I didn't have much of a clue what the book was about, because I hadn't tried shaping it into an actual narrative.  I had a series of vignettes, but not a story.

I spent the fall chipping away at a complete draft now, and as tough and ugly as it was, I feel like I can finally feel the contours of the story.  100s and 100s of pages gave me some insights and a lot of fabulous details.  A complete draft is laying down an infrastructure on which to build a house.  Later, I might decide that I want 3 bedrooms instead of 2, and the kitchen and dining room need to be swapped, and that, oh hey, we no longer want a basement or the two skylights or the wraparound porch ... but I'll be inching closer to the house I want.  Before, I felt like I was working on one of those American pioneer-town shanties: I've got three walls here ... and a stack of logs there ... and I'm not quite sure where the hearth is going to go ... oh, but I know that I want a stack of patchwork quilts in this corner and ooh whee, lemme go cut up a bunch of fabrics to make one!  It'll be log cabin and blue and red and ... uh ... what's this house supposed to look like again?  I give up, I'm gonna let it sit for a couple years while my subconscious figures it out!  Haha.

Types of drafts.  There's two phases to writing.  There's creating and there's editing.  Some people love writing --- I love revising.  Which means it's tempting for me to write 100 new words and then go back and polish the last 300 ... which means I mix the two phases together.  Many authors alternate two types of drafts; each type focuses specifically on one phase.  Start with a really fast, really messy 1st draft (a 'down and dirty' writing phase), followed by a long and nuanced 2nd draft (a big revision phase).  In one, you're using speed to work holistically.  Writing towards the big picture.  In the other, gosh, you're in the weeds and you just LOVE testing out three different kinds of aphid killers to figure out which is going to work on this one corner of your garden.  (There's a third phase - polishing.  It's where you're sprucing sentences, not killing off useless characters.  I used to think revision was sprucing sentences, which is why I was so mystified: but how/when/where do you figure out the big picture stuff???)

They also recommend breathing time between drafts, so that you can get some perspective on your work.  Which is why I pushed hard to finish a 1st draft in December, and am taking a short story class now.  Try something new.  Let the book breathe.  I'll pick it up again mid-March.  See what I've got.  Evaluate the beast in its entirety: what is it saying?  Is it saying what I want it to say?  After 3 months away, what feels extraneous and what feels underdeveloped?

With shorter pieces, at least, I've found that it generally takes me 3 drafts to get some sense of what the story is about, another 2 drafts to get all the pieces excavated + present in some form + hopefully in something of the correct place/shape, and a final 2 drafts to get things polished.  A couple months between drafts is enough time to see the work in new light, but not so much time that I've forgotten everything!  On the other hand, maybe things work differently for a book, I don't know.  That's what sucks about figuring out your personal writing process for a book - you can really only find out by experimenting on book-length projects.  On the other hand, I still love writing more than just about anything else in the world.  Takes a strange kind of masochist to want this, but if that's you, there's no use in running from the truth!  May as well embrace it and work with it.

Writer's block.  OMG, the bane of existence for all creative folk, no?  And totally fear-inducing.  We live for the days the words flow, we dread the days when writing feels like plucking words out of our brain with a pair of blunt tweezers.

There's a lot of controversy about this one.  That it happens is a given.  But everybody has a different opinion for dealing with it.  And again, two camps.  People who don't force the creative process and work when inspired.  And people who think that half the work is showing up to the page, day in and day out, the ones who have a writing schedule and keep at it, even when they're blocked.  Which might sound torturous, but I'm in the second camp. 

Often I'm blocked because 1) I don't know something, 2) I fear something, 3) I doubt myself (which is a variant on #2).  And in my life I've found that it's best for me to face those kinds of situations head on, lean into the discomfort, get as intimate and specific with the fear and unknown as possible ... because that also tells me how to get through it.  So if I'm blocked because I don't know where to go next - I don't know the character or the story well enough - I use writing exercises to explore that problem.  Sometimes it means freewriting prompts (As protagonist: I tend to present the illusion that ...; As antagonist: I am least proud of this characteristic ...") ... or else I throw my characters into a new situation to see how they react.  Maybe I don't use any of the words I've written, but the exercise helps me understand them better, which helps me see how to move forward.



Actually, what I'm discovering could probably fill a book.  (Haha, and you wonder why there are so many "how to write!" books out there.  I bet it's all of us writers, procrastinating on our novels and writing this kind of stuff instead.  I bet we're all reminding ourselves what works for us.)

So maybe I'll just stop there.  (For now?  We'll see.)  More thoughts to come, especially as I pick the book up again for Round 2, come spring.  In the meantime, I find myself pleasantly surprised by how much I'm enjoying my short fiction class!  Maybe there's another book in there :-).  Heh - that's the danger of embarking on this process!  You begin conceiving of projects in book-length terms ...

And for a little life update: Portland's been blanketed in 4 inches of snow, which means the city is effectively shut down.  Which is a bit amusing to me, as 4 inches in Boston was just another winter day ...  My brother, who is in town visiting, said that he began to fear for his nose and left ear while crossing the Morrison Bridge yesterday (after waiting in vain for a bus for an hour, he and some other folks decided to walk instead).  He thought it'd be ironic to develop frostbite in Portland, of all places, after having lived through long, cold winters in New York and Beijing ... but luckily, all extremities are still present and with feeling, so we're cooped up inside but feeling cozy and glad to have one another for company!  Hope you're all well!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy 2014!

Hello hello!  I hope you're having a lovely start to 2014!  I spent the last 2 weeks with family in California, and can I just say - why is the sun so bright in California?  Haha, if ever I needed a sign that I've acclimated to the Pacific Northwest, I guess that was it!  Today I came back and popped out for a mid-afternoon run and found myself strangely pleased by the many shades of gray, the tall, dark trees, and the quietness on the streets.  Yes, the place for me.

Have you any resolutions this year?  In years past, I'd pile up a huge list for myself.  Usually more than I could count on one hand, and even if some small part of me doubted that I could even remember all those resolutions, never mind make progress towards them, I just couldn't pick one or two to focus on.

But 2013 was really an exercise in prioritization for me, and I'm planning to flex that muscle in my resolutions.  So this year, I've really only got one, although it's got several subcomponents, of the "it'd be nice if this happened' variety.

So in 2014, I resolve to ... take it easy.

Yep.  Taking it easy is not something that I do well.  Or rather, I did for the first two decades of my life, and then in my 20s I started making my own clothing, and when I began living on my own, I often opted not to outsource my daily errands/chores (like cooking meals vs. eating out), which took up a lot of time as well.  Add in work, seeing friends, exercising, writing, commute times, massive guilt over building fabric/yarn stash = rush to keeping making and making and making ... yeah.

I distinctly remember this one Sunday evening, I'd waded through my 13-item to do list all weekend, and I thought, "Well, it's 7PM and I've got 4 items to go.  Great!  If I allot 45 minutes to each, I can still get in bed at 10!"

And then I thought: "Am I crazy???  That sounds like a terrible way to spend Sunday evening!"  So I bargained with myself.  "How about you only do 3 of those items?  Give yourself a little break?"

LOL.  How about you do NONE of those items and kick back for a couple hours, woman? 

And I wonder why I had a breakdown earlier this year.  So anyhow, prioritization in the name of Taking It Easy is the name of the game.  Some ways I'd love for this to play out:

Internet-free Sundays.  This sounds crazy, but the Internet makes me kindof jittery.  I don't feel like I actually unwind until I've unplugged from it for a good stretch of time.  Here's hoping I can regularly stay off the Internet once/week!

Only check email 3x's/day at work.  Seriously.  Are you one of those people who obsessively clicks on the little "message" button every time a new email comes in?  I know I'm guilty of this.  It leaves me feeling frenetic and harried and exhausted as I try to switch back and forth in mental concentration.  Enough!  Batch process the emails, Jessica, and get on with it.

Get out for a walk once/day during the week.  I used to be really good about this, but stopped in my last job (probably because I was doing 2.5 people's work).  Even 10 minutes makes a huge difference!  I relax, the air and exercise feels good, and work woes get put into perspective.

Gratitude mantras.  This is a bit New Age-y, but when I start my day by longhanding out a series of mantras, I really do approach the workday with more perspective and less OMGthisislifeanddeath.  Simple things like, "I am lucky to have a job that makes use of my skills and training, with people I like ..."

Make fewer things.  I've really enjoyed my sewing break this fall!  And I think I've finally come around to viewing the stash NOT as a guilt trip, but as the opportunity to work with beautiful colors, nice textures, and fun materials ... whenever I get around to them.  I also find that when I'm making a lot, I tend to want a lot.  Sometimes, when we only add a couple new items into the rotation each season, it helps us cherish them more and cultivate a less-is-more mentality.  I think.  2014 will be the test of that theory!

Anyhow, wishing you all the best this January!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Of Late

So.  Where the heck did I disappear to and what's been going on behind the scenes?

Life
I quit my job and moved to Portland OR.  Was it terrifying to pick up for a new city where I had very few friends and no job waiting?  Absolutely.  But I was stuck, stuck, stuck in California, and I finally decided that if, at 30, I let my fears of what might happen stop me from doing what my intuition told me that I needed to do, well, then fear would increasingly rule my life.  I don't imagine life-changing decisions get easier to make as one gets older.  Facing down your fears is a bit like a muscle, it's gotta get flexed now and then or else it atrophies.  So here I am, nearly 2 months in, and every day I wake up and am glad I did it.  Yes, there are terribly lonesome moments, and also periods of great uncertainty (do I really think I'm going to find a job?  The economy is still shit and Portland is a tiny job market).  But it was what I needed, and I'm glad I did it.  Even if Portland itself doesn't stick, and I wind up moving someplace else (or moving back to CA), it was the step that was right at the time.  I think this city is going to stick, though.


Sewing
At the end of 2012, I decided stashbusting was my top priority for 2013.  I was tired of looking at stacks of fabric and feeling guilty for not using it; some people might look at a stash and see potential, I look at it and see obligation.  Seriously.  It weighs on me that I haven't sewn things up, or fast enough, and I wind up tackling projects not out of joy or inspiration, but out of this feeling that I gotta get through C, D, and E on the list so that one day I can maybe work it all down and stop feeling guilty.  Craziness!  So I culled 4 bags of fabric and donated them to a scrap reuse store, sent bundles off to friends both local and international, and then got to it.  Unblogged (and possibly never-will-get-blogged): 2 knit dresses, 4 woven dresses, 4 blouses, a PJ set, and miscellaneous household items.  And oddly enough, I haven't sewn a stitch since getting to Portland.   My machine's out, but it hasn't felt right.  I'd like to make myself a couple mini skirts for fall/winter, but we'll see if that happens.


 
Knitting
I shall always think of 2013 as the year I went crazy making socks, and the year that my friends decided to start having babies.  Who knew baby clothing was so fun to knit?  An entire garment out of a single skein of yarn?  Mind boggling.  Throw in a couple hats, finishing up an odd sweater or two, and you've got my year in knitting (to date).  Somehow, sweaters for me just feel less compelling at the moment.  I guess I've already got a little stack of hand knits that I cherish, although every time I look at colorwork, I think that I'd really love to make a colorful, intricate, fair isle sweater or two.


Other creative endeavors
I'm writing a book.  This is not one of those jubilant "I got a book deal!" kind of announcements; ever since I could read, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and finally, 25 years after my first realization, I woke up one day and realized I was ready to get on with it.  A writer is somebody who writes, regardless of whether or not they are ever published, and so I am writing the book that I wish I could have read when I was younger.  I'm taking advantage of my free time in Portland to spend lots of time thinking and journaling and freewriting and shitty first drafting and excavating notes and ploughing through old drafts.  It's exhilarating and discouraging, all at the same time, but I have never regretted the decision to take the time off to invest in this project.  I spent a lot of my 20s crafting as a way to avoid writing, but looking back, I don't think I was personally ready yet to really dig in and write, so the way I see it, I gained two incredible skillsets in the process of becoming ready :-).


What now for this space?  Not sure.  I never claimed it on Bloglovin' so I'm guessing about 3 people will see this, but likely it will be the 3 bloggers that I absolutely adore (just kidding, there are more of you that I adore, but you know what I mean!  I feel lucky to have gotten to know some really cool people through this blog!).

When I decided that I was really going to get serious about writing and not go crazy, I knew I'd have to jettison other things from my life.  Writing, personal relationships, and work (when it comes, gotta pay rent!) go at the top of the list, which means crafting falls somewhere below exercise and cooking, although I know I'll never give it up completely.  (If you're curious, writing and crafting used to be inverted!)  I find there is no better way to unwind from a hard week than to put on a couple episodes of Masterpiece and sew/knit a garment.  Maybe this will just become a regular blog - you know, documentation of life, with extra musings on creativity and creative endeavors.  Or maybe it will just fall away.  I do miss this community of people, though, so I guess we'll have to see where life takes us.

One step at a time.  Which is all we can ask for, really.

Anyhow, I hope you are all well and experiencing a good Fall!
 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Hello there!  Sorry for the long radio silence, I've been enjoying being on the road in Turkey and have felt reluctant to break from the rhythm of the trip to fiddle around with setting up a new blog.  However, MMM is right around the corner, so I took that as a signal to get on with it.  Here goes:

I, Jessica, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2013.  I will be traveling quite a bit this month, so I pledge to wear at least one handmade garment each day of the month.  There will be many repeats, but they will be well-loved repeats, to be sure!

I'll likely do one or two roundups, since there will be a lot of repeats.  You can find my new site here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blog relaunch + socks


Hello there!  Thank you so much for your comments on my last post, they were incredibly sweet and supportive.  I've decided to relaunch this blog elsewhere - new space, new me, that sort of thing - and refocus towards the topics that are more relevant to where I'm at right now.  Writing, creativity, food, short vignettes from my life, adventures large and small, musings.  I'm much more of a "stories" kind of blogger than I am a "hey, lookit this cool thing I just made!" kinda blogger.  The latter feels awkward to me, and I don't possess great technical skills nor do I get adventurous with the latest patterns (the exact opposite, in fact, I am slower than slow to hop on bandwagons).  Trying to force this blog into that mold has left me feeling stymied.  Whereas I love telling stories and thinking about life, so that's where I'm taking things.  I still sew and knit and I still plan to blog about those projects now and then because they are still a large part of my creative life, they just won't be all that I blog about ... which is what I've felt like I'm "supposed" to do with a blog with the word "craft" in its title!

Anyhow, I've been a bit snowed under by other obligations, and I'm still trying to figure out which blog hosting service to use (probably Wordpress?  Gotta love the price tag on free!).  I am also taking a month long trip to Turkey and giving my mother a heart attack because I'm leaving in less than 2 weeks and haven't much of a clue of where I'm going or what I'll be doing.  I've got 6 nights in Istanbul booked for when I land, and beyond that?  Not sure.  Jodi was kind enough to provide some suggestions, but if anybody has been to the area, I'd love any and all recommendations!  But I will try to relaunch before then and to bring my camera uploader with me, so that I can post up some photos as I go.


In the meantime, I leave you with socks, because they have become my latest knitting obsession.  I spotted this great ball of Zauerball at a LYS a couple months ago and fell in love instantly.  It was one of those impulse, stash enhancing purchases, but after a tough week at work, I figured "treat yourself!" was in order.  The instant I finished the first pair and put them on, I was overcome with this intense desire to wear nothing but handknit socks to sleep.

Our house is cold in winter, so cold, in fact, that I finally sewed up some simple heat packs which I would pop into the microwave every evening, right before bed, and then slip them between the sheets to warm the bed as I brushed my teeth, just like they used to do back in the frontier days.  I would also layer a couple quilts upon my bed, and, on the nights when that failed to warm me up, I would pull a pillow beneath the blankets and squarely over my stomach, because when I was in college I found this was the single most effective way to get warm enough to be able to fall asleep.  The heat packs got me through January and February, and so did socks.


It sounds so melodramatic, but insomnia has rendered me a finicky sleeper.  Anyhow.  Socks are small, portable and fast, plus I love wearing them.  And to keep the project on the level of "autopilot," I picked one sock pattern and just kept making it, with little tweaks here and there.  I think I've got it memorized.  My second pair has cables, as you can tell.  They're not hard to shoehorn into the pattern, just take out two 3x1 repeats for each cable and put in a 6-stitch cable, with 1 purl on each side.  For now, I think this is as crazy as the socks will get.  I don't like monkeying around with cable needles and slipping stitches front and back, especially not on socks, where the repeats come up way too often (as opposed to, say, a sweater, where you've got miles of stockinette before you have to contend with the fiddly bits).


I love this third pair.  Props to my friend Rita for finding the pattern and suggesting a knit-along.  As I was knitting it up, I thought, "Wow, this is fugly."  And then I knit some more rows and thought, "Wow, this is getting fuglier by the row."  And then I knit some more rows and realized, "Holy crap, this is the awesomest sock I've ever knit!"  That fine line between fabulous and hideous, I do love it so much.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Ode to Stripes // Your Opinion Please


Hello, hello!  I'm not sure why it took me so long to get on the stripey bandwagon, but the bug has bit me in a big way recently, and in the spirit of the spontaneity that I hope will characterize the rest of this year, I sat me down at the sewing machine and whipped up a couple makes.


Dress #13 // Johnnie B.
Pattern: Sewaholic's Renfrew, scoop neck with cap sleeves (no cuff), lengthened to dress length (no cuff), patch pockets attached (finished dimensions: 4.5"x6")
Fabric: 1 yard, striped cotton/lycra/rayon blend


So totally get all the Renfrew love that's gone around the blogosphere forever and a half already.  (I know, I'm so late).  Inspired by the Boden aesthetic, I was originally going for a tunic, but like it as a short dress instead.  I think it'll work well with flats and leggings in spring, with chunky jewelry and sandals in summer, and with a cardigan, tights and boots in fall.  My kinda Cake!  Next time around, I'd move the pockets up 2".


Blouse #12 :: Refashion #34 // Airelle (Wearable Muslim)
Pattern: Deer & Doe's Airelle, size 34 with heavy mods
Fabric: XXL Mens button down blouse, quilting cotton scraps

Credit for this blouse goes to Roo, who every time she makes something, inspires great bouts of covetousness combined with envy that seems to land me in the "monkey see, monkey do" camp of unabashedly copying her.  I took a page from Paunnet, too.  My workaround for the C cup drafting was to cut a smaller size in the bust - and somehow between the measuring and the adding and then the subtracting out darts I seem to have lost 4" or so, because this blouse is clearly too small in the bust and shoulders, yet somehow my math indicated I'd have a good 2" of ease.  Hm.  So I let lots of seams out and lowered darts and everything, and this was the best I could come up with.  I think it's going in the Goodwill pile, unless anybody out there who is a 33" bust or so would like a package in the mail :-).


(I've been bitten hard by the sock bug of late)

So here's my question for you.  Of late, I feel as though I've lost my blogging voice, and I'm curious what you like best about this blog?  What do you like to come here and see, and what leaves you feeling kinda 'meh'?  I thought about quitting this blog entirely, but I knew I'd miss you all, and I do like writing ... so I thought I'd see what you all thought!  If you've got a moment, please help me out and give me a little something to chew on :-).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2 FOs; Ali sighting; Treat Yourself

First finished sweater (and handknit) of the new year:
 

Fiber #58 :: Andi
Pattern: Chuck
Yarn: Cascade 220, a shade my mom calls "more brown than yellow" in response to the "Asians shouldn't wear yellow!" that I keep throwing around.  I need more mustard in my life like I need more handknits, but hey, it's a gorgeous pattern and I love it.  (Color on the right is more true to life)
Mods: added an extra cable twist, lengthened pattern to hit at high hip, used 2*2 ribbing instead.

I took a hard look at my handknit sweaters and realized the ones I wear most often are long sleeved, unfussy pullovers, and in colors that match everything else in my wardrobe.  So I decided those were the types of sweaters I'd knit more of.

And a skirt to go with it.


Pattern: Simplicity 2451, again
Fabric: Liberty twill Mirabelle, plus leftover red piping
Mods: shortened at hip and skimmed some of the curve out of the hipline, added a Rayon bemberg lining.  This skirt was meant to be piped!

Also, for those of you dying for your Ali fix, rest assured, she's still alive and kicking.  Late in 2012 I asked if she would be willing to do a swap, a handknit hat in exchange for a couple Renfrews.  I think I came out ahead, check out the stripey beauty she made me!  (Erg, the hat is awaiting a second skein, via Ravelry, to be completed).  Ali and I wear roughly the same size, and sometimes when we grow out of enamorment with our own handmades, we'll do a swap.  We had a stripey exchange, one might say!



Over the holidays, my brother and I took a quick jaunt up to Portland for a couple days.  The city is on both of our "maybe, someday" lists and we thought it would be fun to treat ourselves to a bit of a relaxation.  We found a place to stay through Air BnB - which I highly recommend - and opted to use Portland's public transportation the entire trip - which I do not recommend, not in winter, at least.  There was a lot of waiting for buses in the rain.  However, if I had to do a lot of waiting for buses in the cold, cold rain, there is nobody I'd rather do it with!

We napped.  We cooked.  We spent a lot of time in cafes.  I knit and read and wrote and dreamed and journaled and people watched.  We stared off into space.  We took a ridiculous number of "use iPhone to take pictures of self" photographs that we then had way too much fun hipster-izing with Michael's phone's editing tools.


Michael really likes the show It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and during the trip he told me about one episode where the characters decide to treat themselves for the entire day.  I haven't seen the episode, but apparently it involves people running around in Batman costumes, increasingly ludicrous scenarios (as seems to be the show's mantra), and a whole lotta "TREAT YOURSELF."  So, that was the motto of our trip, too.

Jessica (in fabric store): Hm, that's kind of a lot of fabric.
Michael: Jessica?  TREAT YOURSELF.
Michael (reaches into wallet): Here, I'll treat you to this one.  *Hands me bill, pats topmost bolt.*


Michael: Fake Moleskine?  Real Moleskine?  I came here to buy the fake one.
Jessica: TREAT YOURSELF.

Jessica: Should I get that flourless chocolate cookie the size of my head?
Jessica: You know what, I should really TREAT MYSELF.


So ... I treated myself this holiday season.

Some Liberty and Sewaholic patterns.  Will 2013 be the year I finally tackle pants?


Some Cake and organic jersey.  Trying not to go too crazy in the knits department, but it's so tempting ...


A yummy new pattern, and some stash yarn.  My latest attempt to control the yarn stash is this rule: for every project I take on with new yarn, I have to complete a project using stash yarn.  Now, some of the stash projects are hats, which is not as stash busting as, say, a sweater, but I will take all the help I can get.  Perhaps I should extend this rule to fabric, too.  Anyways, I used my Christmas money to splurge.  Usually I use my Christmas money to buy boring things like groceries and pay for electricity and such, but this year I figured, it's been a long year honey.  TREAT YOURSELF.

Since this is not exactly a sustainable trend (Christmas money comes but once a year!), I started thinking about the small ways I like to treat myself.  I find it hard to walk that line between frugality and, well, misery.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I am indulging too often in 'simple' pleasures of the non-free variety, but other times I remind myself that it's important to be nice to yourself.  Maybe it's just a question of degree.  Anyways, here are some of my little indulgences.  I figure it's never a bad thing to have a list like this to turn back to from time to time.

Naps. Better still, two in one day!

A skein or two of tasty yarn.


Fresh berries in summer. A basket of fresh figs in fall. Heavenly!

Sunday afternoon meals that take 2-3 hours to prepare. Even better is when I clear my plate for the evening as well, so that I'm not rushing around but can linger in the kitchen.

Decaf lattes. Don't laugh, I know that defeats the purpose of the espresso in the latte! I can't do caffeine, but every once in awhile I will hop into a coffee shop and ask for a decaf. It always makes me feel ridiculously indulgent to do this, probably because I take the opportunity to linger in the cafe, do some people watching, or pull out some knitting, my journal, or a book. Ah, unstructured personal time, what bliss.


Filling a large glass half full with ice, topping it off with a fizzy drink, squeezing in half a lemon, and climbing into the tub for a good soak.

What about you?  What are your small indulgences?  I figure it never hurts to have more ideas for this type of thing!

Friday, January 04, 2013

That bright purple dress (Dress #12 // Mari)


About half a year ago, my coworker found me at lunch and said, "You have to go to the Crate and Barrel Outlet Store in Berkeley, they've got walls of Marimekko fabric marked 75% off."  Hello, I was there.  I'm not sure what it is about me that is drawn to prints that are clearly not intended for apparel and try to make them into clothing, and clothing I might try to sneak into a work wardrobe, no less.


(I mean, I could conceivably wear this outfit to work, right?  Maybe?)


Self-piping.  I really like that detail on a dress with a simple silhouette.

Dress #12 // Mari
Pattern: Sorbetto with those little cap/kimono sleeves like my Danburry, eliminated front pleat, extended to skirt length.  Might need to take it out by an inch at the hips if I ever make another SorDressto.
Fabric: 2 yards of satin-finished cotton, Marimekko for Crate and Barrel, plus grey Bemberg lining so that it won't stick to tights.


I was paying enough attention to not have bursts of leaves emanating from, well, the girls, but forgot entirely about the potential for "Garden of Eden" jokes.  That bright pink leaf you see at my bellybutton?  It is extremely serendipitous that it does not fall 6" lower.  Personally, I wish I had scooted the print horizontally about 6" so that it is a bit better distributed (and that bright pink bellybutton leaf was offset), but it'll do.


The greatest thing I got from this dress is the power of slapdash.  A recovering perfectionist, I went really slapdash on this one ... which for me means I did things like sew without pinning.  Gasp.  I know, I know.  I'm expecting you to fall down at that revelation, too.  Things like - I set the back darts too wide - I thought about ripping out and fixing them, and then decided - "HONEY.  It is a bright purple striped dresss with enormous leaves on it.  How often you think you're wearin' this thing anyways?"  That's right, I left the wonkiness in.  For a recovering perfectionist, that's saying a lot.

But slapdash goes a lot faster, and without too much appreciable impact on the quality of the finished product.  So, I think my sewing resolution for 2013 is to embrace the slapdash.