Friday, July 31, 2015

Checking In

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This last week, I weeded my front yard. My current projects are both secret and all-consuming - work that somehow makes me exhausted and furious and intensely fulfilled at the same time, work that has kept me frustratingly absent from this space - but in between the long days and late nights, I've been driven outside. Mostly to chisel dead grass from the cracks in the sidewalk, but also to get to know this little piece of land around our home.

So lately, the internet, the local nursery, and the neighborhood landscape have been my guide to the unfamiliar language of plants: the cost of a palm; the proper plants for shade; the name of the climbing vine that has taken over the front fence. The neighbor gives us a bag of ripe figs in a brown paper bag and they spoil on our kitchen counter in a day or two. Each day the climbing rose shakes loose a fresh carpet of petals to rot on our front step, and each night the neighbor's cat comes by and uproots our little yellow decorative cactus from its pot. It occurs to me that there is a deep and stubborn wilderness to even the most cultivated of land.

And yet, there is a satisfaction in putting things in order: trimming the hedge, sweeping the sidewalk, pulling the bindweed from the side yard. No matter what I do, entropy will continue its slow-growing sprawl across this particular patch of earth, but perhaps that's the charm of it: the constant growth and re-imagining of space; the reminder of a world untamed by human laws and structures. The opportunity to shape something beautiful from that wilderness, if only for a moment.

Happy Friday, friends.

Friday, July 17, 2015

FO: Violet Lupine

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Oof, this week. Looming deadlines, business paperwork, class planning, and a veritable layer cake of family emergencies... looking back at the last few days, I'm impressed that I stood on two feet and spoke English, much less dealt with the aforementioned Important Adult Things with any semblance of competency. Not to sound unprofessional, but imagine a golden retriever wearing a propellor beanie at a laptop sending emails, and that's about where I've been for the last four days.

But hey, on the bright side, I finished a thing! This is my second Lupine shawl, knit in some Evil Genius Dye Lab single ply merino, which I bought at local shop in Puyallup a few months before it closed. It's not quite as squooshy as the Mechita, but with a tighter twist and overall texture reminiscent of Tosh Merino Light, I think it bodes well for this pattern playing nicely with a variety of yarns. (Clearly, I must make another one in a plied yarn, for science...)

As for this weekend, I'm going to head over to the Makers Market at Tolt Yarn and Wool with my friend Sooz to say hey to the Spincycle and YOTH gals, squish a prodigious amount of yarn, and check out all the other awesome local makers. And after this ridiculous week of mine, hanging out with yarn folks - who, according to my empirical evidence, are the nicest and best people on the planet - sounds positively luxurious.

ETA: Oh yeah... and details of my Violet Lupine are on Ravelry here.

Happy Friday, friends!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Three Fates Design Challenge Part III: Photography & Aesthetic

   Hi friends! As I start thinking about styling and shooting photos of the Nusa cowl - my contribution to the Three Fates Design Challenge with Ariel - I wanted to talk a little bit about the photography and overall aesthetic of my work. Whenever I begin to approach the task of visually representing a design, these are always the avenues that I explore first.

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I want people to be able to look at my patterns and recognize a sense of both character and aesthetic context, based solely on visual information. For me, a huge part of that is in styling. In each shoot, I think about garment type, silhouette, proportion, color, drape, and fit, all working together with the designed garment to frame it in the best possible light. Currently I release most of my designs independently, which means that I either model or shoot almost everything I release - and that gives me final say on the image and presentation of my work, which is a great position to be in as a designer!

It's important to me that the styling of my designs is bright and dynamic, with colors and proportions that complement and showcase each piece. I also want to give a sense of my own personal style, so I tend to choose outfits that I would actually wear. One of my biggest goals as a designer is to create things that are not only fun to knit, but are also essentially functional, so I try to express that easiness and wearability in the styling as much as possible.

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As much as I love writing (and oh, I do, I really do!) I've found more and more that I would rather create the narrative of a design through a really great photograph.

A single photograph is an incredibly efficient method of conveying information: it can tell the viewer about color, fit, construction, ease, wearability, style, and mood, and all in a few seconds! It would take a lot more words to do the same job, and probably only half as well. To me, well-executed photography is an awesome, and surprisingly natural, way to fling open the door and invite the viewer to experience the world of your imagining.

And as far as actually getting that image that I want, I've found four things to be very important:

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1) The model & photographer are on good terms, with a high level of mutual respect and excellent communication skills. Modeling and photography are both physically - and sometimes emotionally - demanding activities. My best shoots are always between friends or kindred collaborators, and it makes the whole thing so much more fun when you can pull a silly face every now and again. And in-the-moment joy really does come through in photographs, I think!

2) Good, natural lighting. I've seen this advice a lot of other places, but I've found it to be so true: diffuse natural light is where it's at. Cloudy or lightly shaded conditions have always given me the cleanest images, best colors, and easiest post-processing. I think natural lighting tends to be especially well-suited to knitwear photography because it gives photos a soft, approachable look and feeling.

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3) Appropriate background. I try to choose backgrounds that give a good amount of contrast with the outfit; that set a scene but don't unnecessarily distract the eye. I avoid having signs, people, objects, or other extraneous elements in my backdrops - that is, unless they are just way too cool not to include. Personally, I'm a sucker for industrial & urban spaces, bright colors, and natural (especially water-oriented) backgrounds.

4) If you have a stray cat hair or weird folded-up hem, fix it as soon as you see it. Photoshop is a powerful tool, but it's a lot more work to fix something in post-processing than it is to lint-roll a sweater.

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The last - and perhaps most important - element of this whole thing is the editing process. Although for the most part, I want to show my work in the best possible light, I also want to be transparent about the fact that I have bad ideas, and I make bad things, and that is part of the process too. For every ten ideas I have, maybe one is a good one. I've had to learn how to recognize the bad ones for their badness, but also, for their potential goodness; over time, I've found that there's almost always a lesson in bad design. I've also had to learn how to cultivate the good ones after I've found them: to give them plenty of food and light and water, to help them become what they need to be.

Those two photos above are an example of what you haven't seen - what I've edited away - and the reasons are pretty simple. The first photo, on the left, is from one of my failed Talus shoots. This photo just doesn't work! I like the pose and the railing, but the colors are washed out, the hat isn't particularly visible, and the image isn't representative of me or my design aesthetic. It's visual oatmeal.

The second photo doesn't work on two levels: first, the background is too busy, and the combination of sunlight and forest canopy gave a green cast to the photo that I couldn't color correct without killing the lovely color of the cowl. Second, this is a design that just doesn't quite make it: it's knit in one of my favorite yarns, but the size I made is weird, and it's hard to wear, which means that it's a no-go. I had it test-knit and everything, but after a bit of consideration, I decided not to release it. In the end, integrity of vision is important, and it's better to be fearless and fail at it than to be too afraid to try something amazing.

And cutting the chaff, so that only I see the truly spectacular failures? That is why I love editing.


Whew! Thanks for reading! Ariel has her own post on the subject over here, and the links to the previous posts are below.

Three Fates Design Challenge

Part I: Swatching

Part 2: Color Inspiration

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July So Far

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From my picture window, I've watched the summer sink its hot teeth into the landscape. In the space of a few weeks, the parking strips have crisped to the color of straw, and most days, the air has laid still and hot over the city, cooling only in the deepest part of the night. The heat is stifling, wilting, and wholly abnormal for this time of year. Even the animals are like, fuck that noise. The other day, I watched as a young crow flew into the yard and perched on the hedge for a second, only to find its feet entangled in the undergrowth of the juniper as it tried to lift off again. Taking this as an affront to its birdliness, it started flapping and squawking and fighting the branch as if it was the most dangerous kind of interloper - but then, somewhere in the middle of this bird-on-tree scuffle, it seemed to realize the absurdity of the endeavor, and hopped off sheepishly into the brush.

I feel ya there, crow.

Thankfully, our basement remains a cool refuge from the heat, and I've kept myself more than busy working, cleaning, designing, reading. I've managed to work steadily on a handful of design projects, and have finally started arranging the house into something approaching a habitable adult dwelling - but, as usual, even after one project is finished, there's always more to do.

And so, onward, July. Have the happiest of Wednesdays, friends!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

FO: Lupine

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It's been ridiculously hot in Seattle for the last week or two, which is exactly what I don't want in my summer. Give me 65 degrees and drizzle any day and I'll be happy! All I want to do when it's this hot is to sit around in shorts, knitting and drinking red wine with ice and seltzer water. Instead, I've been slowly working through my blocking basket, moving, and writing patterns. High five, self!

As a side effect of this industriousness, I have a pattern that's just about ready for testing: Lupine, a fun little bias shawl with a garter & lace stripe detail and scalloped edging, knit in one skein of gorgeous Malabrigo Mechita. She'll be exclusive to The Fiber Gallery for a bit, after which she'll be available to all of you lovely folks! I'll be sure to keep you posted on her release.

In the meantime, I might go lie on my floor with a popsicle and a rat. This weather, seriously!

Happy Wednesday, friends - and stay cool!