Monday, October 28, 2013

Design Brainstorm: Baby Blanket

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We found out a few days after the wedding that there's a baby due in the family early this spring, so of course I immediately started scheming a baby blanket design for them.  It's been a new challenge for me, since I'm not very baby-focused, thinking about the functionality as well as the look of a pattern.  I want it to be the perfect blankie for dragging around, snuggling, and throwing in the wash, so I've had to nix a few ideas right off the bat: although I love lace, little fingers might get caught in the holes, and since it's meant to be transported and used every which-way, I want it to be somewhat reversible.

With these ideas in mind, I did a bit of swatching a few weeks ago with some Berroco Comfort DK.  This yarn has the proud honor of being the only mostly-acrylic yarn I've ever enjoyed working with, so it has the convenience of acrylic yarn while still satisfying the texture snob in me.  We haven't yet heard the sex of the baby, and I hesitate to give gender-normative colors to children so early in life anyhow, so I settled on this lovely clear aqua blue.

I think I've worked out a pattern I like, so now I just need to crunch some numbers and cast on!


In other news - for the last month or so, Mr. Mackie has been trying for the world record in vet visits per week.  He's currently doing okay, but still angling to squeeze in one or two more.  He had a broken tooth 3 weeks ago, an abscess a week after that, and so much inflammation near the abscess site yesterday that we took him to an urgent care vet.  Poor little dude!  We'll be taking him to his normal vet again tomorrow, and hopefully he'll be back to his bouncy self soon.

Friday, October 25, 2013

WIP: Snapdragon Plain Socks

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Last week I went down to Portland with some knitting buddies for a class with Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits at TwistedPDX (which was awesome!), and I needed some new knitting along the way.  I've been carrying around plain socks in my purse for the last month or so and really enjoyed having something simple to work on, so when I finished knitting my Geodes plain socks in the car on the way down, I immediately cast on for a new pair.

And oh boy, am I in love.  The yarn is by Pigeonroof Studios, a dyer whose gorgeous wares I've coveted and stashed for many years.  I saw Krista's yarns in person for the first time in New Haven, Connecticut, while visiting a friend, and was entranced by her use of color.  This yarn is an 80/10/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend in the colorway Wildflower, and it's knitting up really squishy and lovely.  The complexity of the colors is just amazing, and I've been having the best time watching each one come into play as I knit.

This will be pair #4 of socks this year, and although it's a far cry from the 12 pairs I planned, I think it's pretty good nonetheless!  My sock drawer is getting fuller by the minute, so maybe I can even start throwing away some of my old, holey hiking socks.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Patternmaking: Basic Tee, Part II

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I spent this morning working on a muslin of my basic tee pattern out of a scrap of jersey I had left over from the show.  I've already tweaked the fit a bit by grading the bottom out 3/8", and haven't decided yet what I'm going to do about the fold of extra fabric in the lower back.  I have a feeling that if I slashed and spread up the center back, it would help, since it looks like the pattern is the right width at my waistline, but is bunching up because there's not enough width to cover my butt.  (For lack of better phrasing.)  I've definitely noticed that this jersey has much less horizontal stretchiness than the other fabrics I'm planning to use, so the fit will change as I start to use them.  I'm going for negative ease in the bust, just a touch of positive ease in the waist, and a lovely hip-skimming amount of positive ease in the hip, which will be greatly affected by the stretchiness and bounce-back of the fabric, so I'll just have to wait until I'm working in the final fabric to see how this pattern drapes and fits.

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It's funny that my initial thought was that the body would be the easy part, and the sleeves would give me problems, because: holy range of motion, Batman!  I'm pretty impressed by the fit on this sleeve on the first try.  After copying the sleeve pattern, I changed the shape of the sleeve cap and added an extra 1/8" on each side of the underarm so that it would fit the armhole without any ease.  There's definitely bunching in the back of the underarm, but I'm trying to suppress my need for everything to fit perfectly when it's not in motion, because arm rotation is pretty important in a t-shirt, and as it stands, there's the perfect amount of ease to move my shoulders and arms around.

I also opted to baste this muslin together the way I'm planning to sew the final garment: shoulder seams first, sleeve set in flat, and side and underarm seams sewn up in one go.  Setting in sleeves in the round is, in my opinion, a total pain in the ass, so I decided to borrow a production trick.

Next up is serging the thing together at the shoulders, figuring out the hem treatment at the neckline, setting in the sleeves and sewing up the side seams, and finishing the bottom and sleeve hems.  Then onto real fabric!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Patternmaking: Basic Tee

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This morning I was doing a bit of laundry, and as I was folding my clean shirts, I realized that my drawer of basic tees is pretty sad.  I have less than a dozen t-shirts that I wear on a daily basis, and of those dozen, I probably only really like two or three of them.  These are the tees that I grab whenever they're clean, and then have to wait until I do another load of laundry so I can wear them again.  One of them is a shirt I bought at Powell's in Portland about five years ago, and it's looking pretty sad, but it fits so well that I can't bear to part with it.

So instead of wearing it today, I decided to garment duplicate it.  So far, the Garment Duplication series has been one of the most interesting courses I've taken at NYFA.  It's really taught me to look at commercially manufactured garments in a different way, both for appreciating the patternmaking and construction tricks used, and for recognizing the failings and inaccuracies of mass-market clothing.

It's also changed my thinking about the nature of originality and the ethics of copying.  It might seem like cheating to duplicate a favorite garment, but if the manufacturer has changed the process or the design of that garment, or it's very old and no longer produced, it may not be possible to buy that exact one again.  There's a reason we choose favorite t-shirts and sweaters in our closets, and I think it's perfectly reasonable to use those favorites as templates to design or create new things.  It's always easier to start with something pretty good and change it than to start from absolute scratch - it cuts a lot of time and muslins out of the fitting process.  Although I think it's disrespectful to copy an unusual or innovative design wholesale, I think garment duplicating basic items can be a very useful exercise, especially if the designer uses it as a framework to build upon rather than as an end point.


So, now I'll get back to the plans for my basic tee.  It's pretty typical for t-shirts to be slightly off-grain - the shirt I'm duplicating today definitely is - which isn't the biggest problem ever, but is annoying nonetheless.  I'm hoping that my duplicated version will be just a notch better than the original by fixing little details like this.  I'm also thinking about changing the neckline treatment to a lace edging instead of ribbing; it will dress up the garment a little bit, while keeping it washable and easy to wear.

To start with, I'm creating a pattern map for both the front and back of the garment on a cut-up paper grocery bag.  (What can I say - inspiration struck and I realized I didn't have any butcher paper or sturdier craft paper, so I improvised.)  I have a feeling that I'll have to tweak the pattern once or twice after the initial draft, but I already know that the body fits me really well, so it's likely that the sleeves will cause the most trouble.  I have some warm yellow rayon/lycra jersey in my stash, so I'll probably use that to start with, then move on to a gorgeous nautical-stripe bamboo blend once I get the pattern perfected.

Friday, October 18, 2013

WIP: Scully Tee

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Last week I was feeling restless about all of my works in progress, so I decided to cast on for something new.  I've been going through my knitting magazine and book library, rediscovering patterns that were published a while ago, and Knitting Lingerie Style was one of them.  Although my one attempt at knitted underwear from the book was somewhat underwhelming (hahah) I do like a few other patterns from the book very much - specifically the Shaped Lace Tee (also known as the Krista Tee) and Bed Jacket.

The other day, I was in the mood to cast on for a sweater or blouse, and I've had some King Tut mercerized cotton in my stash with the Shaped Lace Tee written all over it since I was a first year in college, so I grabbed some needles, did a very haphazard swatch, and cast on.

Disclaimer: Don't do as I do.  Starting a project without swatching properly is a terrible, very bad plan with almost certain disastrous results.  I am flirting with catastrophe and it feels like freedom absolutely horrible.  Always swatch, friends!


Anyhow, I'm now past the armholes on the front and have already started scheming the ways I'm going to change the pattern to fit my large bust and small back measurements.  We'll see how it goes, but in the meantime, I'm just happy to get this yarn actively on the needles after six years mouldering in my stash.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FO: Ptarmigan

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I finished this cowl over a year ago, right after we moved to our first apartment in Seattle, so it's kind of ridiculous that it took that much longer for me to give it a quick soak and lay it out to dry.  I had some trouble when I first cast on: I usually go up a needle size for Jared Flood patterns, so I did, which resulted in me hating every second of knitting a cashmere/silk blend.  (I didn't think this was possible.)

I ended up ripping out and re-casting on with the given needle size, which played much nicer and gave me the lovely knitting experience I was expecting.  Then, when I was binding off, I used the bind-off given in the pattern and didn't like it.  I had already cut the yarn, but it ended up being too short, so I had to join during the bind-off with less than half a yard of yarn, which made me mad, so the cowl went into a pile for a year.  Sigh.

I pulled it out a month or so ago and realized it was a perfectly good cowl out of gorgeous yarn, blocked it, wove in the ends, and voila! - it's amazing.  The moral of the story is: I am silly sometimes, and cashmere is great always.  The end!

Ravelry Page: Ptarmigan
Pattern: Ptarmigan by Jared Flood
Yarn: Handmaiden Cashmere and Silk, colorway Cedar, 1 skein
Yardage: ~185 yards
Needles: Size 7 US 16" Addi Turbo Lace

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rastita Design Challenge Part II: Execution & Pattern-Writing

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So in my last post, I wrote about the conceptualization aspect of the design process.  Today I want to talk a little more about the nuts and bolts of designing and writing patterns.  As with inspiration and the initial design process, most people work very differently.  For me, most of the pattern writing happens after the fact - the initial notes are more of a sketch than a full, readable pattern.  I gather most of my information about the design from the materials and the way a design element unfolds as I knit, so I don't usually bother to write a full pattern before I begin.  Instead, I swatch with the yarn and needles that I think will work for the design, measure gauge and crunch some numbers based on the size and shape of the design.  From there, I figure out where to start in construction, then write a rough draft of the cast-on and first design elements.

After that, I build upon those first elements, taking time to make sure that the next step is working in harmony with the first step and the design as a whole.  In both knitwear and fashion design, I'm the sort of designer who is constantly taking a step back, trying things on, and editing.  It's very important to me that a design lives up to my conceptual vision of it, so I tend to be pretty ruthless about ripping out and re-knitting or re-working.


As I knit, I write notes about numbers, color changes, and unusual or unexpected shaping.  Often the end product in my notebook is covered in arithmetic, weird shorthand, and crossed-out instructions, so I have to go back and translate my notes into a workable pattern.  Usually this is after the piece is finished, so I can use the garment as a visual reference for the pattern as well.

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From there, I take all of my notes and start inputting them into InDesign.  After that, I really focus on not just writing the pattern down, but writing and formatting it in such a way that it's clear, concise, and accessible to a variety of skill levels of knitters.  Although most of the patterns that I've worked on so far are intermediate, I want adventurous beginners to be able to tackle them as well - this was the way that I taught myself almost everything I know, and I have great respect for folks who are constantly challenging themselves to learn.  I also know quite a few people who prefer written instructions, so I try to make sure that both the written and charted instructions are represented in my patterns.

Since I'm a perfectionist, I have a hard time accepting that something is really done, but at some point it has to be released into the wild!  My pattern-writing and layout process is constantly evolving, so I really appreciate constructive criticism and suggestions.

I've just started this process with Folded Lotus (the working title of the Rastita shawl) and am finishing up tweaking the pattern for the Salt Creek Cowl - which I knit last fall - so stay tuned!

Rastita Design Challenge Previous Posts

Part I: Conceptualizing

Part I: Design Process
Part II: Pattern Writing

Saturday, October 12, 2013


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I have almost two skeins of BFL/mohair worsted weight handspun by Spincycle Yarns left over from the yarn garland we made at the wedding, so I'm scheming a plan for the extra yarn with some Shibui Silk Cloud.  I'm super in love with the idea of striping the textured handspun with a light, ethereal yarn for a long, snuggly cowl.  I treasure my handspun skeins, so I'm always looking for ways to extend them - Silk Cloud has great yardage and a beautiful range of colors, so it seemed like a great choice to pair with a smaller amount of special yarn.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Warning: Wedding talk ahoy! If weddings aren't your jam, feel free to stop here.  For real.  It's about to get gnarly.

A little over a month ago, our friends and family came from near and far to celebrate our marriage.  After over a year of planning, approximately four billion emails, and more dollars than I was ever anticipating spending, it all came together.  And, even though I joked about eloping more seriously than I ever thought possible, I am so, so happy that we did everything the way we did.

One of the things we decided to do was rent a house out in the woods for our out-of-town friends to stay in.  It was a great home base - before the wedding, we arranged flowers, ate epic meals cooked by my mom, and did hair and makeup; after the wedding, people were able to take day trips into Seattle, swim, eat more epic food, hang out and knit, and do karaoke.  It was amazing to have all of our friends in one place - especially since many of my Oberlin friends live far away - and I feel so grateful that we were able to reconnect and relax with so many loved ones when the stressful part was over.

The weekend after the wedding has been dubbed "The Magical Weekend" in our house.  Between the environment - which included trails littered with lanterns right out of a Miyazaki film - and the awesome company of almost every close friend we have, the time we spent at the house was hands-down the most magical, beautiful, life-affirming, squishy-love-filled weekend I have ever experienced.

But let's start from the beginning.

Our awesome officiant, Annemarie (left), and photographer, Jenny (right)!


Photography: Jenny GG
Hair & Makeup: Andrea Chin
Venue: Robinswood House
Officiant: Annemarie Juhlian
Flower Arrangements & Bouquets: My bridefolks, with special help from Ethan's partner Alyx <3


Ceremony Dress: Vintage Emma Domb
Ceremony Shawl: My Issaquah Tinkers knitting group, organized by my friend Rebecca.
Ceremony Shoes: Fluevog Keepsakes, Vans Authentic in Scuba/Chili Pepper
Reception Dress: Cory Ellen Designs - Betty Dress
Reception Necklace: Material + Movement
Reception Shoes: Fluevog Cana
Bowtie & Ties: Fox & Brie, The Tie Bar,
Bridefolks Dresses: Modcloth
Groomsfolks & Bridesfolks Pants: Bonobos, carried by Nordstrom


Catering: Twelve Baskets
Cupcakes & Cutting Cake: Cupcake Royale
Jams: My mom

Looking back at this pictures, I can remember everything so clearly.  I started getting sick the day before the wedding, so I was running on six hours of sleep and a lot of tea and echinacea.  I felt like absolute crap, but decided that I was going to enjoy my day, dammit.  In a funny way, it made me remember everything better, because I was so focused on the moment that I didn't have time to stress about cupcakes turning over or there not being enough flowers for all the tables.  And in the end, our friends and family stepped up and took care of everything.

BOOP.  Lol!!!!

Have I mentioned that this location was magical?  It was magical.  The house itself was great, and then there was a swimming pool, two outdoor hot tubs, a stream running through the property, and a clearing with benches and swings to drink coffee and watch the sun come through the trees.  It was so peaceful.  It was also a really great way for me and Blake to reconnect with each other after a long, stressful wedding planning process.  By the end of the weekend, I felt like we had made this huge step and commitment together as romantic partners, and we had also reinvigorated our friendship.

The wedding party and their partners were rockstars: they kept me hydrated, jumped in to help with setting up, solved multiple crises, and drove us to the venue so I wouldn't have to drive a stick shift in 4-inch platforms and a sequined gown.  And, as I later found out, our kickass housemate jumped in to help my mom out at the venue, and basically made the wedding happen.  I've been absolutely blown away at how kind, hard-working, and generous our friends are.

After we got to the venue and had pictures taken with family, more than a few people shooed me upstairs to rest before the ceremony.  Blake found me a granola bar, water, and more cold medicine.  Melody and my mom came and kept me company upstairs while I put my feet up.  I looked out through the window on the second floor and watched everyone signing our guestbook; adding notes to the yarn garland; talking; looking at the book my mom made of pictures from our childhoods.  I was feeling pretty crappy by this point - I had been up since early that morning and had already gotten hair & makeup done, gone to my doctor, and had a zillion pictures taken, and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed.  But then it was 5 o'clock - time to go make it official - and the adrenaline got me going again!

Everything did not go perfectly, but kind of in the most perfect way.  Our processional song finished right as we hit the bottom of the stairs, and the wireless lapel mic that the officiant was wearing started cutting out less than a minute into the ceremony, but it didn't really matter.  Everyone laughed a lot, and it cut any tension that might have been left.  Then it got to our vows, and Blake read his, and I lost it.  And then I read mine to him, and he lost it.  I am making ugly-cry faces in a lot of pictures, and I don't even care.  At that point, I didn't even feel sick.



My New York Fashion Academy ladies.  So much love!

 We weren't sure initially that we were going to have toasts, but we ended up doing them informally with Martinelli's.  My brother and our friend Derek did a hilarious little toast, gave us towels (so we'd always be prepared) and told us to be excellent to each other.  Our friend Charlie and my dad spoke, and Blake and I each got up and thanked everyone for being there and sharing the day with us.

It was so amazing to have friends and family from all these different parts of our lives - high school, Oberlin, knitting, our brothers, Blake's work - come together.  My Seattle friends finally got a chance to meet the Oberlin friends I've talked about so often; people from my different knitting groups got to meet and nerd out.  Since the wedding, more than a few people have become friends with people they had only heard stories about, and it makes me smile every time I see these new friends exchanging comments on Facebook.

Because we've been waiting for years for the right time to smush cake in each others' faces.


It started getting dark earlier than we expected, so we escaped the party for a minute and had Jenny take some quick newlyweds photos - I had also wanted to get photos of my gorgeous necklace from Material + Movement.

My parents generously gave us their Honda Fit as a wedding gift.  And apparently the whole wedding party got in on decorating the car with streamers, cans, and hundreds of post-its covered in hearts - with a few dicks thrown in for fun.

Finally, it started getting really dark, and guests started heading home.  Blake, Melody and I grabbed coffee and had a quiet moment before all the take-down started happening.  Then Blake and I drove to the nearest Denny's for another cup of coffee and some late-night greasy breakfast food.

It was the longest day ever, and probably the best.  I can't even express how overwhelmed with gratitude and joy I was, and how dumbfounded at how well everything went - it was almost as if my being sick was the disaster for the day, and everything else went perfectly as a result.

And in the end, when I look back at our wedding day, I remember all that love and friendship the most.  And that's what's important.