Monday, March 30, 2015

FO: Talus & Heather


Sometimes the boundary between creative integrity and unreasonable self-criticism is a dark and murky line to tread. Take for example, this hat: I started and finished it a few weeks ago, and blocked it soon after, but I haven't had the heart to photograph it until now.

The reason? Because, in my infinite wisdom and forethought, I left it on my blocking table for a few days after it had dried. Each day I would walk by it, sitting in its little patch of sun, and think: now that is a good hat. It's pink and cute, and though it feels different than the original, I'm still quite fond of it.

It wasn't until I picked it up to weave in the ends that I had the sinking realization that while it basked in that bright patch of sunshine, the hat had faded from a clear, lovely pink to a tea-stained rose - just on the side that was facing the sun. A faint yellowed line marked the difference between front and back, and if I could tell, then goddamn it, anyone could.

So I got upset: with myself; with the yarn; with myself again. And I grumpily took photos, and I asked my fellow knitters for their advice. We all came down on the side of overdyeing it, and I let the matter rest until I could stomach the idea of actually doing it.


But yesterday, I picked up the hat, and I tried it on again. And somewhere between last week and this week, I unconsciously made the decision that sometimes 'good, not perfect' is good enough. I don't need to tear myself apart over a hat - a hat which, if I didn't point it out to anyone, wouldn't even register as flawed - just because it doesn't live up to my usual (read: unreasonably high) personal creative standards.

Because, for all my misgivings about it, the ethos that has served me best over the years is not perfection, but adventure. Without it, I never would have learned to knit socks, or gone to Indonesia, or gotten married; I wouldn't have built a ballgown, or worked at a yarn shop, or taken jazz piano lessons in Japan. All of those things were scary; they also define the moments at which I've been most thankful to be a human being.

So while perfection can be gorgeous, I don't want it, and neither does my hat. Which, if I do say so myself, is still pretty darn cute.

Details are on Ravelry here.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 27, 2015


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It was a stunning day yesterday in Seattle: as Sparklepants and I drove over the hill towards home after breakfast with friends, we could see all the way across the water to the mountains, bright and sharp like they were etched in light.

The house next door is stripped down past the foundation, and they're running some sort of hydraulic dirt tamper that sounds like a friendly helicopter is landing next door, so working at home has been a bit of a chore. Yesterday, instead of turning up the music and suffering through it, Sparklepants and I decided to take advantage of the amazing weather by taking our notebooks and pastries to the Ballard Locks for a little work picnic.

It's like the city was finally taking off its winter coats: the water, blue-black and sparkling; flowering apple trees lining the water; a raft of ducks silently charging towards the locks' mossy walls. The ground was still damp and covered in Canada goose shit, but the sun was shining and warm and everything was in bloom.

I ate a pastry and did some copy-editing and worked on a sample, and in the late afternoon I walked home without my coat. It was pretty glorious.

Happy Friday, and happy spring!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NYFA Graduation: Or, Three Little Birds Leave the Nest


Three and a half years ago, I walked into New York Fashion Academy with ambition and a pair of Fluevogs; Sunday afternoon, I walked out with a different pair of Fluevogs and a certification as a Master of Fashion Design & Construction.

And I did it with two of my favorite fashion people in the world: Melody (left) and Marisa (center). We met when we were working on our collections for the 2013 NYFA fashion show. Over those three and a half months, we worked countless 12-hour days, and had spontaneous dance parties, and ate a monumental amount of pizza. We stabbed ourselves with pins, and went on trips out for thread and falafel, and cried on the floor of the workroom when things got rough. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life, and it was made so much better because of the friendship, compassion, and support of these two amazing women.

Since then, our friendship has only grown. Both of them were in my wedding; all three of us have done photoshoots together; Blake and I have lived with Melody for the last two years. I love Marisa for her badass attitude, tenacity, and kindness; I love Melody for her fearlessness, integrity, and curiosity. I'm so thankful to have them in my life.

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And on Sunday - after two fashion shows, three ballgowns, three tailored jackets, and thousands of hours of hard work - we all dressed up and Went To Tea. More specifically, we went to high tea at the Queen Mary tea room with Terry, the director of NYFA, where we received framed certificates of completion and enjoyed our official graduation ceremony together.

There were dozens of types of tea to choose from, and tiny sandwiches with no crusts, and multicolored sugar crystals to put in our tea. We dressed up in the most cupcake-y clothes we owned, and chatted with the owner about our work, and drank from rose-painted cups with our pinkies raised. It was just about the fanciest thing I've ever done, and it was the perfect way to celebrate - especially with Terry, who has been an incredible resource and mentor throughout my tenure at NYFA.

I'm so proud of the three of us. I'm proud of how different and strong we all are as people, and how we have grown and thrived throughout this experience, and how we were able to commit to and complete this challenge on our own terms. Together.

And I can't wait to see what we all do next.

Happy Wednesday, friends.

Monday, March 23, 2015

FO: Ondrea Prototype

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The moment that I cast off the sleeve for this sweater last week, I had the harebrained notion that I could finish it in time for my fashion school graduation ceremony (around NYFA it is simply called "going to tea") this last weekend. This sweater was one of the first pieces that I started for my senior collection in 2013, and around week 6 of preparing for the runway show, I dropped it after completing everything but the second sleeve and button band, thinking I could finish it really quickly afterwards.

That, my friends, did not happen. Although I haven't talked about it much here before, the months after the fashion show were pretty rough for me: there's this post-creative depression thing that seems to happen to a lot of people who work on big, overwhelming long-term projects, and I got hit with a pretty nasty case of it. And because of it, I could barely look at my sewing machine, much less this sweater, for almost a year.

But time heals many things - or at least, makes them seem less catastrophically exhausting - and after a long time, I began to entertain the idea of making things again at all. Which turned into a ballgown, and a tailored jacket, and finally, this sweater.

So it feels very fitting that I should finish the last loose end of my official fashion eduction, just hours before going to my final send-off. I'm very proud of this piece, and I'm very proud how far I've come as a designer and as a person in the years since I cast on for it. 

And with that - tally-ho, fashion degree! Let us advance into the world with winged eyeliner, fabulous shoes, and the best damn buttons a girl could ask for!

ondreafo - Version 2

All the details are on Ravelry here, and I'll be posting a little about our ceremony on Wednesday.

Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, March 20, 2015

WIP: Ondrea Prototype

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After almost two years of sitting around waiting to be finished, this cardigan is finally on its way again. I knit the second sleeve last week, and this week I crocheted the button band on using math, a crochet hook waaaaay too small to be pleasant, and a fair bit of determination. Since this was a design that I created for my senior fashion show in 2013 - and thus, never meant to be a written-up pattern - I took incredibly crappy notes, which I promptly lost. Because of it, this last bit of work has been pretty much improvised.

It's been a slog, but I think it's worth it: I'm super happy with the way it's turning out. Louet Gems Sport, while a total pain to work with, settles into a heavy, luxurious fabric after blocking; the crochet button band, which made my left index finger cramp and put an indent in the palm of my right hand from working it so frigging tight, is firm and stable and precise. The fit is exactly what I wanted, and I think this sweater will get a fair bit of wear once it's finished.

Now all that's left is to finish setting in the second sleeve, weave in a million ends, give the button band a spritz-blocking, and attach the buttons.

Think I can do it by Sunday? Who knows, but I'm gonna try.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


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Yesterday was a pretty crappy day. Construction on the house next door starting at 7 am and continuing for the next eight months; a sick rattie who can't see the vet until this afternoon; a brand-new hat, ruined by the sun. All small things that can't be helped, that shouldn't overshadow the things that are big and good - but still do.

Never mind the freshly-completed first draft of a short story that I'm really, really proud of. Never mind the second sleeve of a sweater I started over two years ago, finally finished and drying on my blocking boards. Never mind my graduation ceremony with two of my closest fashion friends on Sunday - a goal that we set together ages ago, that we're getting done in exactly the way we planned.

It's so easy to get caught up in the minutiae of things, to forget the arc of our lives by getting lost in the white noise underneath. So yesterday was crappy; today will be better, if I let it. I have my planner and a good book and the dishwasher is running. I have beautiful buttons for my green sweater and another finished shawl to block. I have patterns to order, and clothes to wash, and everything will be pretty okay.

Happy (or at least less-crappy?) Wednesday.

Monday, March 16, 2015

FO: Suki

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Are you sick of seeing finished things yet? Wheeee I hope not!

Suki is another striped shawl that I started (and finished) a while back, but it took a while to block and photograph. The mink yarn created an incredibly light, soft fabric that almost feels too luxurious for everyday wear. The pattern had been in my queue for a long time, and it ended up being super fun and quick to knit.

I had a hard time coming up with how to style it - all of the outfits with mid-century vintage dresses that I tried ended up sort of flat and dull. Then I grabbed this strappy silk printed dress on a whim, and surprisingly, it worked! I love the juxtaposition of such a classic color with a fun, modern print. The dress does have a bit of a '70s vibe to it because of the blouson effect, the deep neckline, and long, figure-skimming silhouette - not too much of a surprise, though, since a) I've been jamming on the '70s for the last year or so, and b) mixing genres is fun!

The dress is destined to be garment duplicated, and the shawl has been keeping my neck warm in the wildly variable early spring we've been having in Seattle.

Details on Ravelry here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

FO: Gabrielle Collar

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To start with, I might have a bit of a collar problem at the moment.

I've had one ball of this nutty Trendsetter Arabesque in my stash for years and years, and it wasn't until my recent collar excursions that I started eyeing it again. I've wracked my brain about this yarn for years: it was an impulse buy, and it's just fluffy and odd enough that it would be overwhelming as a larger-scale accessory, much less a full-sized garment. It's also sort of spidery and weird to work with, and well... it's eyelash yarn. (Enough said.) And yet, through stash purges and moves between and across countries, I kept it, because somehow, the flippy, impractical stuff still spoke to me.

So it sat, and it waited. And this week, as I knit my first collar, the seed of an idea began to form in my brain. What if instead of fighting against the ridiculousness of the yarn, I worked with it: paired it with another yarn with a more classic texture to create a fabric inspired by the flashy & classic pairings of a Chanel jacket trim?

So I grabbed some pink Kidsilk Night that I got from a friend's destash, held it together with the Arabesque, et voilĂ ! Just the right balance of sparkle and substance - and finally, this stash orphan has found its purpose.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

UFO Pile: Or, This Sweater Thing is Getting Ridiculous

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In the past, I've tried not to be too precious about my shameful finishing issues. I am fully aware that as a knitter and maker, I live two separate but parallel existences: the wildly creative and productive fantasy life in my brain, and the actual one where I finish a few things and shove a few more in the bottom of my knitting basket to ignore.

Of course there are always reasons: I get the odd bout of tendinitis in my wrists and can't work with cotton until it improves; I can't find my pattern notes; I need to rip back and fix a mistake before continuing. But at some point these reasons resolve themselves, and I really don't have any excuse at all besides I don't wanna.

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So last week, I did some of that knitterly housekeeping that is a necessary pain in the butt: I figured out where I was in my Custom Fit sweater and finished the back, and I ripped back the sleeve to my Ondrea Cardigan - which, by the way, is finished except for the second sleeve and button band. (Seriously??? Seriously. This is so dumb I can't even.)

At this point, I am so over knitting both of these garments, but I have to admit that I'm pretty excited to own and wear them, which makes me think that I need to rethink this whole process-knitter identity of mine. Perhaps instead of all process, I need to get a little more motivated to work towards the product as an enjoyable part of the experience.

Food for thought as I hold my breath and try to bust these suckers out.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 9, 2015

FO: Little Bird in the Briar

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The making I do seems to run in cycles. I'll go for weeks or even months without finishing anything, and then suddenly, wham - it's all done, in a flood of wool, or cotton, or cashmere, or alpaca, or whatever. It's frustrating sometimes, because in all other aspects of my life, I'm a slow-and-steady kind of person, but it's happened enough in my crafting life that I'm starting to think I need to make peace with it.

I have a bit of a fear of putting the finishing touches on things, I think. It's the last moment at which the puddle of crappy fabric you've made has a chance to redeem itself before you uncover its true nature. If something is wrong, the finishing will out: a too-heavy yarn will stretch to its limp, saggy glory; the gauge swatch you ignored will mock you from its grave; fixes that seemed terribly clever in the moment will announce their incompetence (and by proxy, yours.)

And in my heart of practical hearts, I know that the success of a garment is often entirely in the fiddly, annoying, dumb parts of finishing - like clipping and grading the curve of a sewn seam, or threading blocking wires through 5,832,934 tiny fuzzy garter bumps on the side of an asymmetrical shawl at 10 o'clock at night in a poorly lit room, like Lumberjack and I did the other night. (Bless that man, for real.) These are the moments that make you look down at your pin-stuck, throbbing fingers and think, now, why do I do this again?

That said, I am pleasantly surprised by this knit, despite it being a total pain to block: a modified Nurmilintu shawl, which I knit to the end of the last repeat and realized was way too frigging short for my taste. I put it down for a bit in annoyance, then in a flash of brilliance a few weeks later, dug up some extra Tosh Merino Light, ad-libbed a striped garter and lace repeat, and - voila! I finished knitting the damn thing, and only the blocking remained to see if I was successful.

And, funny enough, I think I was. It grew and stretched its little wings into a light but substantial thing, long in the spine and gracefully curved. The bias of the fabric makes it fall in soft folds, and the stripe detail looks like it was meant to be there. I think it's the proportions of the pattern that made my unintentionally beautiful hack possible, but I'm pretty delighted with it nonetheless.

Details on Ravelry here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Design Notebook: Frilly Things

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As I've grown older, sometimes I find myself shying away from some of the parts of fashion and design that drew me to it in the first place - pink, sparkly, ornate or frilly things in particular - for fear of engaging in this strangely infantilized/sexualized and strictly gender normative vision of femininity that, in my opinion, is relied on way too heavily in both fashion and culture.

At the same time, the sparkly stuff was my fashion gateway: I have strong tactile memories of my favorite pink nightgown as a little kid; the fluffy tulle skirts we wore for ballet class; the seductive glitter of my grandma's costume jewelry drawer. The substance of those memories make me quite fond of the materials that shaped them.

And as much as I gravitate to the experience of unusual shapes, bold color pairings, or contemporary fashion and art, the classic and the pretty will always be my north star. Occasionally, as I find myself thinking a lot about avant-garde fashion, or feeling really inspired by a contemporary artist, I wonder where and how Classic Pretty can possibly fit in with everything else in any sort of logical and genuine way.

What I'm slowly coming to find is that it doesn't have to; that maybe it's actually the duality of our nature that is endlessly fascinating and inspiring. And so, maybe it's time to party down with my badass frilly self.

So with this in mind, I grabbed some some special vintage pieces from my closet, some pink polka-dotty novelty stuff, and a bit of alpaca boucle yarn for inspiration, and set out to make a fluffy, girly, absolutely ridiculous Peter Pan collar to spiff up some of my plain sweaters.


And your know what? I think I'm onto something.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pattern Release: Talus

Talus Hat (Release Front)

Of all of the designs I've done so far, Talus has been one of my favorites. Trees have been a recurring motif throughout my life: fir, maple, and apple trees shaded my childhood home; I hid in the brush of cedars as a homeschooling teenager at wilderness school; I went for long solitary walks under snowy canopies in the Cascade foothills while on medical leave from my first year of college.

For me, trees have long been not only a symbol of familiarity; but also of strength, and beauty, and insight. Upon putting on my first pair of glasses at age nine, I saw the branches of a Japanese maple come into focus out of my optometrist's window and exclaimed, "But Mom, there are two trees!" - as if by seeing them clearly for the first time, I had uncovered something true about the world as well.

And so, the little trees of Talus capture a bit of that moment for me. I hope they do for you too.

talusshoot Talus Hat (Release Back)

The pattern is available for download for $5.00, or you can check out the details on Ravelry on the Talus pattern page.
As usual, a huge thank you to my wonderful test-knitters, who make me a better designer and pattern writer every day. <3

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 2, 2015

FO: Arctic Circle

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Long before I started working at The Fiber Gallery, I was a pretty regular customer - it was my main source for cool books and patterns, with the occasional yarn dalliance thrown in. One of those dalliances was this stunning green Fibre Company Tundra, with the accompanying pattern for the Arctic Circle cowl. The shop has a beautiful mint green sample, and I fell hard for the subtly textured design and the rich, buttery softness of the yarn.

It sat neglected in my stash until a little over a week ago, when I was itching to knit something fast. I cast on, and knit it in less than two days. It took longer for it to dry after blocking than it did to make! The color and shape is exactly what I wanted: the perfect jewel-green to wear as an accent piece, the fabric cozy and warm against the neck. This would make a great quick gift knit, and I expect I'll be making more of them in the future.

Details on Ravelry here.

Happy Monday!