Monday, March 31, 2014

Pattern Release: Salt Creek Cowl


At long last, I'm happy to announce that the Salt Creek Cowl is available for purchase on Ravelry! This cowl has become a cold-weather staple in my wardrobe - worked in just one skein of buttery-soft alpaca, it's a quick knit and a slouchy, warm little thing, perfect for tucking into your jacket on a chilly morning.

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I was originally inspired by the yarn, Juniper Moon Farm Herriot, for its incredible hand and lovely natural shades. When I saw that they had introduced a selection of soft, sophisticated colors to the Herriot lineup, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to knit up another sample for Lumberjack in a warm green. I enjoy the challenge of designing pieces that appeal to all genders, and I'm super happy with the Salt Creek Cowl in this area - the softness of the yarn is balanced by the lines of the design, which lends itself nicely to a variety of personal styles.

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To that end, I couldn't leave out Sparklepants - she's been on a grey kick lately, so I knit one up for her in a deep charcoal color. We have very different styles usually, but for fun we switched it up a bit for this photoshoot - she was wearing a Cory outfit (blouse, cozy sweater with sweet details, vintage skirt, ) and I was wearing a Melody outfit (draped top, skinny jeans, combat boots). It was a windy, bright day yesterday, and we had so much fun taking photos after getting some brunch and walking through the farmers market!

So there you have it! I hope you enjoy knitting this one as much as I enjoyed designing it.


Yarn: Juniper Moon Farm Herriot, 1 skein each cowl - shown in Travertine (light grey), Moss (green) and Charcoal (dark grey).

Recommended Needles: Size 8 US (5 mm) 16" circulars.

Pattern Details: Salt Creek Cowl, available for $4 on Ravelry. Pattern is both written and charted. Additional information about gauge, yarn substitution, etc. is also listed on Ravelry.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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This morning, I got all excited to set in the freshly blocked, brand-spankin' new reknit sleeves of Zelda. I sat down and eased one in using these nifty little clips, and sewed it in accordingly, and looked in the mirror... and was not happy. Still too much ease in the back of the sleeve! At this point, I threw convention to the wind and decided to set the dumb thing in any way that made it lay correctly, side seam and underarm seam matching be damned. I tried to move the junction mark of the sleeve back, making the shoulder seam meet the sleeve further from the front of the sleeve cap, and sewed it in.  It helped a little bit with the situation in the back, but then there was that sad little pocket in the front of the sleeve, back to haunt me. (No, Armpit Pocket, I still don't need to keep my keys there, thanks though.)

And I came to the sad, sad realization that there is still simply too much ease in the front of the sleeve and the top of the sleeve cap is too wide. It needs that little extra flap of fabric taken out, or it will always bubble unattractively. Luckily, I can easily rip back 15 rows and decrease out the extra (hooray for easy fixes!) but it means that my blouse won't be done this afternoon.

At this point, I think any other person would shrug and accept the silly thing the way it is. But if this blouse doesn't meet a certain threshold of sartorial greatness, there's no way I'm going to wear it, and I've already spent wayyyy too much time fussing with it to accept defeat now.

And so, onward!!

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Tale of Two Sleeves

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In an effort to clear out my studio, I've started grabbing projects that have been on the back burner for a while to reevaluate, rip, and fix them. This one you might recognize as the Zelda I started two and a half years ago, finally picked up again a year and a half later, and then realized was totally messed up in the sleeve and shoved into the bottom of my WIP basket. I made plans for how to fix it, but put off the actual execution for goodness knows what reason. So the other day, I pin-basted the sleeve in with the extra fabric pinched out, which gave me a starting point to base the new sleeve pattern on.

I ended up keeping the sleeve cap shaping the same in the front, but gradually decreased out about 15 stitches in the back. The problem with the original sleeve was that it was symmetrical in the front and back, which gave too much ease across the back of the sleeve cap; this extra fabric smushed in anywhere it could, giving a lumpy, unattractive shape to the sleeve. Given my usual modifications for forward rotated shoulders in front and prominent shoulderblades in back - severe curve in the front of the sleeve cap, soft curve across the back - it makes a lot of sense that I would need to make the same sort of changes on a knitted garment. Although knits give a lot more leeway in terms of ease, the same basic rules of fitting apply, and a sloppy sleeve is never going to look as nice as a tailored one.

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Taking a closer look, you can see that the overall shape of the fixed sleeve (right) is much more natural and flattering on the body. The grain of the sleeve lies straight, and there's very little extra fabric bunching anywhere. It's a small detail, but I think that it will be the difference between a garment that is cute but not quite successful, and one that I'm excited to wear.


In other news, you may have noticed that I got new glasses! They're by LA Eyeworks - the style is called Corncakes, in the colorway Surf and Turf. I've had my old ones for about five years, and a few weeks ago I finally made the plunge and ordered a rather pricey new pair. Considering that I wear my glasses all day every day, I figured it was worth sinking a little extra money into a pair that feels a bit more designed and special. These ones in particular feel very modern, with a retro twist, which I just love. I think they make my face look totally different than my old glasses, but in a good way - it's like getting a new haircut or a tattoo, but I can take them off!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Outfit: That '70s Thrift

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Last Friday I went on an epic thrifting outing with a friend, and came up with this layered, easy on-and-off outfit for the occasion. I always try to wear full-coverage leggings and a camisole while thrifting - for the times when there aren't any dressing rooms and you try on clothes willy-nilly in the aisles - so even though I looked a little more dressed up than usual it was actually the perfect thrifting ensemble! I also found out that this vintage skirt from the '70s goes with practically everything - it paired nicely with tons of colors, from fawn to deep turquoise. It's my first vintage skirt that fits my smaller waist, and I have a feeling that I'm going to get a lot of wear out of it.

For some reason, I've been finding myself really drawn to '70s silhouettes and colors. Something about prairie blouses, earth tones, and collegiate plaids have been really resonating with me lately - they make me think of crisp spring afternoons in Oberlin and pictures of my mom when she was a long-haired teenager. I think it's interesting how vintage clothing as objects are reflective of the sociopolitical context of the time, and something about the '70s aesthetic feels more positive and progressive than other vintage eras. There's a softness to it, but also a strength; Victorian-inspired crochet blouses are beautiful and feminine, but they're also a marked upgrade in comfort from the fitted styles of earlier decades.

I've been thinking a lot about it lately, because although I absolutely love fashion from the late '40s to the early '60s, I can't quite separate the beauty and craftsmanship of those garments from their more problematic aspects. Much of the New Look aesthetic feels deeply tied to the walking back of women's rights in the post-war era - the clothing, while beautiful, created and enforced physical restrictions on female identity and mobility, with full, unwieldy skirts that made movement more difficult; girdles to make the body smaller and more shapely; and cute, lacy aprons to normalize and beautify domesticity. Although I still love my mid-century vintage garments, I find that I have to mix them with contemporary clothing or vintage from other eras to enjoy them fully.

These two garments from the '70s, on the other hand, have an easiness and confidence to them that I really enjoy, to the point that I don't mind being era-matchy while wearing them. Plus they complement our giant owl coffee mugs nicely, which is pretty great (and pretty '70s) too!

Cardigan: Cynthia Rowley cashmere
Blouse: '70s, from Trove Vintage in Ballard
Necklace: Love Nail Tree
Skirt: '70s, also from Trove
Socks: Kai Mei by Cookie A
Shoes: Fluevog Bellevue Laura Evans

Friday, March 21, 2014

Design Notebook: Gatsby Camisole

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Many, many years ago, when I was a new and foolhardy knitter hanging out at my beloved Smith's yarn shop in Oberlin, four balls of sparkly red Katia Gatsby sang to me a siren song of the cutest camisole ever knitted. Never mind the fact that I didn't (and still don't) own zero sparkly items of clothing, or that I wasn't really sure what the camisole actually looked like, or that Gatsby is an unusual yarn that is slinky and crunchy at the same time and likes to slough off its tube in great sparkly gobs, making it a spectacular pain in the ass for anything but sitting there looking pretty. That didn't matter - every time I'd see it, I'd touch it and sigh.

I resisted for month - because who needs sparkly yarn, right? - but then, every time I would get up from my chair at the back of the store to stretch and check out all the new yarn in the shop, I would be drawn back to it: something about that color, and that glitter, and the way it shattered all my notions of what a good yarn should be. So finally, when my birthday rolled around, I took it as a sign that it was not only still there waiting for me - it was on sale. I bought it and took it home and tucked it away, waiting for the day that it would emerge from its protective cocoon of confusion and sparkles and become the beautiful camisole butterfly it was meant to be.

So it's fitting that I should wake up in a cold sweat one day nearly five years later with the image of a slinky red camisole burned into my brain, every detail sharply in focus: the wide bands of stockinette rib and twisted stitches; the waist shaping that flows upwards into a deep v neckline; the stupid, fussy, beautiful red yarn winking cheerfully in the glow of lamplight on a hot August evening. The perfect camisole.

So yesterday I swatched, and I poked some numbers into a calculator, and I think I've got something. To say I'm excited about this silly camisole is an understatement.

Hooray for sparkles, and happy Friday.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Light & Dark

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In Darkness

We've had a weird week here in Seattle so far. Yesterday morning, I was drinking my coffee when I heard the news that there was a helicopter crash near the Space Needle. Sometimes I forget how small Seattle feels as a place and a community, but yesterday it really hit home. The pilot and photographer who died in the crash were both from our local news channel, so the newscasters reporting on the story were visibly shaken. I can only imagine how that must feel, to lose two colleagues in a split-second tragedy and then to have to walk in front of a camera and talk about it. How heartbreaking.

The thing is: yesterday was beautiful. Sometime in the night, thousands of tiny green shoots emerged from dormancy, and as I walked out of work, the street in the afternoon sun held a strange, blue-green glow of spring. When I got home, the trellis in our neighbor's front yard was covered in new blossoms, and I was able to snap some photos as the light faded.

And it was strange for it to be so beautiful, because all day, I was distracted by darkness. The color of the street that my housemate crosses to work every day, covered in foam and ash and kerosene. The black slant of shadow as the metal belly and blade of the helicopter fell through the sun to the ground. The faces of the photographer and the pilot in the cockpit, the soft morning shadows sketching across their faces, not realizing that these were their last moments. That crushing dark, in the middle of the bright morning.

So it seemed bittersweet that the day should be so lovely, as the whole city shuddered with loss.

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In Light

I love the work I've been doing lately. I'm working on my tailored jacket; knitting samples and sketching new things; measuring and calculating and organizing my thoughts. I worked at Vogue Knitting Live last weekend, then I helped reorganize the shop yesterday, and at the end of the day, it was immensely satisfying to see the result of all our hard work - the bright stacks of older yarn shuffled and neatened, the samples shaken out and re-hung, the new yarns all tucked away.

And I've been taking joy in objects: a leather notebook with removable inserts; a new issue of Interweave Crochet with romantic garments and beautiful shapes; laser-cut wood coasters with cherry blossoms and fir cones on them. The days are starting earlier and ending later, and along with the light, the spring is bringing newness and possibility.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Monday, March 17, 2014


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For the last two Fridays, my friend Sooz and I took a spinning class at The Weaving Works in the University District. We took the Beginning Spinning class with Shirley Shaw, and dipped our toes in the basics of spinning, from drafting and carding to different wheels, tools, and sheep breeds. I had taken the class a few years ago with my mom and brother while on break from Oberlin and enjoyed it, but wasn't quite ready to take the plunge on a wheel. In the years since, I've started to appreciate handspun more and more, and when I was almost irresistibly drawn to roving and spinning wheels at Madrona this year, I decided it was time to give it another shot.

This time, it clicked, and I found myself happily lost in the process. The first day of class, I looked up after almost three hours and felt as if no time had passed at all. During the week between, I rented a Lendrum double treadle wheel and practiced at home. One night, I sat down at 10 pm to spin and came back to reality somewhere around midnight, my eyes bleary and my bobbin suddenly full of impossibly, wonderfully fine single ply yarn.

It was magic, and I can't stop thinking about it doing it. I returned the wheel last Friday, but it's been in my daydreams ever since.


It's made me wonder why spinning has suddenly become appealing to me, especially because I've been exposed to it for years but never had a particular urge to pick it up. It makes sense on paper that I would like spinning. I like yarn, and I like making things with my hands; ergo, I should make yarn with my hands. But for some reason, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that my brain made that leap from "I should try to make yarn I guess" to "I need to try to make yarn right now".

When I really think about it, though, the reason is pretty simple. Since my weight loss and illness, I've felt very disconnected from my body; before this, I felt I had a firm intuitive sense of how my physical self existed and interacted with the world, and it's been really challenging to suddenly lose that. I think I connected with spinning this time because that link between movement and creation is so solid. Something about the physical immediacy, the tangibility of it, is just wonderful: the pull of each individual fiber on the next to create something larger; the little tornado between your fingers; the curl and motion of the hand as you draft. The way small decisions of time and movement are directly translated into being, spun into a length of yarn.

And I think that's a huge comfort: that even though I don't know how I'm going to feel tonight or tomorrow or next week, I know that with a wheel and some wool and my two hands and feet, I can make something of today.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Design Notebook: Details & Materials

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These past few weeks, I've been sourcing swatches, trims, and buttons for my ballgown presentation and tailored jacket for school, which has taken me on adventures all across Seattle: from the drool-worthy District Fabric in Fremont, to the charming & friendly Artist & Craftsman Supply in the University District, to the magical ribbon room of Nancy's Sewing Basket on upper Queen Anne.

I think at this point I've crossed into Deeply and Hilariously Scattered Artist territory. I have a Ziploc baggie full of crystal embellishments, printed silk georgette, Copic markers, and bits of French lace that I carry around my purse and occasionally whip out at random moments to stare at. I'm considering doing major research into home bookbinding. The other day, I spent an hour in the cardmaking section of Paper Source waffling between four colors of pre-fab folded cards to best complement the color of my swatches. Plus, Sparklepants and I are both working on our ballgown presentation projects at the same time, so it's become common for one of us to punctuate a completely normal conversation about sandwiches or television with things like, "I really just want to find tulle the color of the mist from that one Tarkovsky film and it's stressing me ouuuuut" (And then I have a moment where I wonder what kind of floaty goofball says stuff like that and realize OH HEY IT'S TOTALLY ME)


In the midst of all of this sourcing, I find myself focusing on the most minute of details - in particular, these past few weeks I got really fixated on finding the right buttons for my jacket. I had this beautiful Balenciaga suit in mind when I designed it, and as a result, I have a very specific vision of the materials and feel of the final garment. I knew that I wanted vintage black glass, Czech if possible, in a faceted style, but beyond that I couldn't tell you what they looked like. And I needed 5 or 6 big ones, and 8-12 little ones. Easy, right?


So I went to every fabric store in the greater Seattle area and a couple in Portland, and...nothing. Each time I walked in determined, and each time I deflated a little as I faced the button wall and was not immediately drawn to my Destiny Buttons. (Who knew being weirdly specific about buttons that may or may not exist would be a complicating factor?) Then, in the stroke of luck/fate/timing, I was able to attend a trade show through the school last week, and not ten minutes after we arrived, I walked into one of the vendor's rooms and there they were: two different sizes of vintage, cut glass Czech buttons with a gentle swirl motif that set off the herringbone of my jacket fabric perfectly, with just the right weight and sparkle, that walked that fine line between beauty and functionality.


And the funny thing is: in the midst of all this scatter and distraction and stress, that single moment of clarity - that moment when the last detail softly clicked into place, and my jacket turned into My Jacket - it made it all absolutely worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finished Object: Quincy

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At long last, I've finished the Quincy cap I've been planning for 2 years as part of my self-imposed Hat Challenge! Bet you thought I'd forgotten - fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you slice it, my brain is like a small, yappy dog when it comes to plans and commitments. Remember that thing you said you'd do five years ago for someone you barely knew? How's that goin? Do you feel bad yet? Huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Well anyhow. I cast on for it in July of last year, knitted for a bit, got distracted with wedding plans, and dropped it. Then Beetlegate happened, blah blah blah... long story short, two or three weeks ago, I picked it up for a paltry forty-five minutes and finished the sucker. It has been waiting, dry and happy, for woven-in ends and photos ever since. Monday morning, I decided to tackle a few little repair and finishing projects, and voila! Super cute '20s-vibe cloche and one less Work In Progress for the Brain Chihuahua to obsess over.

Done, and done.

Edited to add details!

Ravelry Page: coryellen's Quincy
Yarn: Araucania Azapa, color 80073
Yardage: ~130 yards
Needles: Size 10 US (6.0 mm) 16" bamboo circulars, Size 9 US (5.5 mm) double pointed needles

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finished Object, in the Nick of Time: A Blankie for Hayden

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Sunday around 5 pm, my brother- and sister-in-law welcomed our nephew, baby Hayden, into the world. I was up until after midnight on Saturday knitting furiously, and finally finished the blanket around 10:30 am on Sunday morning - just in time to give it a quick bath and a tumble through the dryer before heading to the hospital.

 We knew that he was arriving a little sooner than expect, so as I worked on the blankie this weekend, I settled into a happy rhythm, thinking of this tiny little person with every stitch: how he is in this tender liminal space of being; how our world is made a little more new and hopeful by his entry into it; how that joy changes our hearts in the strangest and most sudden of ways.

So I knitted, and I slept, and I woke Sunday morning thinking, baby. And I knitted, and I knitted, and my arm cramped up, and then I bound off all my stitches and soaked the blanket in warm water and woolwash, and still I thought baby. And then I waited for the call and nervous-cleaned - scrubbed my bathroom sink and loaded the dishwasher and vacuumed under the oven - and thought, baby.

And then it happened. We got the call, and we drove to the hospital, and we waited - not very long - and then we were meeting him for the first time, and it just struck me over and over like so many waves. I have no idea what color his eyes will be, or what he looks like when he laughs, or if he likes green beans, and yet I'm standing here awkwardly clutching a knitted blanket that I made for him while I imagined all the feelings I didn't yet feel for him, and he's whuffling softly in his sleep, and I am absolutely dumb - struck and adrift and in awe.

Here are his mother and father suddenly ageless in their limbs, this new weight of love in their eyes. Here are my parents-in-law, holding the baby of their baby and seeing each future fall into place ahead of us. Here is my husband standing quietly holding my hand, both of our hearts silently overfilling with the thought of someday.

But most of all, here is baby Hayden, who gnaws the knuckles of his right hand and creases his eyes a little deeper in sleep. And it is perfectly, wonderfully, enough.

Happy Monday, friends.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thoughts on Spring

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Look: the first day of spring
Wearing my wedding rings and no scarf

Throat bare,
I peer up as the drawbridge opens to meet the sky.

Surrounded by new growth;
grey wool and soft wet moss on a slab of rock,
greeting the sun

My skin warms as a boat passes through the channel,
two Canada geese on its
tail, honking.

Good news:
wet earth and strong bones
are unfolding and crackling after a long winter

I memorize this moment as if frozen:
the first breeze
the first breath
the first stretch of waking
after a long, dark night.



My health is slowly getting better, and as a consequence I've been using my free time to pick up projects that have been on the back burner for a long time. My foothold on life is feeling firmer every day, and it feels really good. Hopefully I will be back with slightly less esoteric content in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I'm staying focused on moving forward and enjoying happiness when and where it comes.

Which right now is reworking an older unreleased pattern in buttery soft alpaca. Pretty sweet deal, eh?