Author Archives: Lynn

About Lynn

Join me on my journey as I sew, knit and craft my way through my stash, exploring creative possibilities and stretching my imagination to fulfill my stash’s potential and bring it to life.

Creative Play

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I’ve always been interested in the origins of creativity so I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. Most recently, I took Brent Eviston’s Becoming Creative – An Artistic Guide to Creativity on Skillshare. It was the last lesson when I had my epiphany.

Research shows that children are naturally creative but we tend to bury it as we get older. I could go on about divergent vs. convergent thinking, connotation, left vs. right brain and a bunch of other high falutin terms. But let me ask you this – what is the one thing that usually sets children apart from adults?

Play.

Play at it’s best, captured in Dublin, Ireland.

Creativity is nothing more than tapping into our powers of play. This was so obvious to me after the last video in Eviston’s class. He called it “divergent exploration”. I loved his class but when he described “divergent exploration” I thought the term was ridiculous. Why not just call it what it was – play? I mean, which sounds more fun? “Hey kids, today were going to do some divergent explorations!” or “Hey everybody, let’s play!”

Granted, it’s a more structured, intentional type of play than most kids do, but it’s still play, nonetheless.

I had another epiphany while doing a journal exercise for his class. I design and make a lot of fashion and home decorating related items but in reality, after taking both fashion and interior design classes, neither fashion nor interior design is my passion. I’m not drawn to these fields because I’m interested in them, I’m interested in the creative process inherently used in these fields.

It’s the creative process that is my passion, probably because it is play. I have fun doing it. Making things with fabric and fiber (like sweaters, hooked rugs or quilts) is just my preferred method of expressing it. And after taking Eviston’s class, even though I didn’t know the science or fancy words of what makes the creative process, I realize my creativity hasn’t been buried like most adults. I’ve been intuitively using it all along.

In a video I talked about one of my favorite tools to generate ideas – the stencil. Check out it out here if you want to learn more about it. This got me thinking about other fun ways to spark your imagination. These are not all specific to fashion, they can be used to brainstorm ideas no matter what your medium.

Mr Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head, in case you don’t remember, is a plastic potato with interchangeable parts. You could change the lips, eyes, ears, nose, etc to create a bunch of expressions or unique characters. What if you applied this concept to your design? For instance with a sweater, you could get a picture of a basic sweater and then try different types of necklines, collars, cuffs, ribbings, etc.

Cut Outs

Hooked rug with flower motifs. Paper cut outs of the different flowers helped me determine where to place them.

There are a lot of ways you can play with these. First, I used cut outs to figure out the designs for both of my hooked rugs. I knew one would be circles and the other flowers. I cut actual sizes of the motifs and moved them around on the canvas until I came up with a pattern I liked.

Second, you can cut out words and throw them in a pile and randomly pick some and write something (poem, paragraph, short story) using just those words.

Third, you can cut out pictures from a magazine. You can follow a theme (flowers) or just go with whatever catches your fancy. Once you have 5-10 pictures, play around with them. What combinations can you come up with?

Interior designers use this technique when playing around with furniture placement on a floor plan.

Roll of the Die

Take a pair of dice and assign something different to each number. If you were knitting it might look like this: roll 1 – make a bobble, roll 2 – bind off 5 stitches, roll 3 – change colors, etc. For drawing it could be 1=hash marks, 2=organic shape, 3=body part, 4=thick lines. You get the idea. Part of the fun is thinking up what each roll will be. And every time you play, you’ll create something different.

Bibliomancy

My friend Jean did a whole video on this idea. This is a fun journaling exercise but if you’re a writer you could use your notebooks and create a mismash of characters, plots, etc. If you’re an artist use your sketchbooks and see what zany combinations – whether it be color, shape or form – that you come up. News stories could create an interesting murder plot or conversation. Use a dictionary to write a poem. Use an atlas to come up with the place to set your story. Your high school yearbook could give you some interesting traits based on personalities of classmates or teachers. It would probably be the most you ever used it.

100 Day Project

The way to come up with a good idea is to have as many ideas as possible. A lot of times the first 10-20 are the mediocre, run-of-the-mill ideas. In other words, pure crap. So the challenge of creating a new idea a day (for instance, a new sweater design a day via a quick sketch) is a great way to push yourself beyond the hum-drum into the interesting.

Many of these ideas are variation on a theme and their sole purpose is to just play, the outcome isn’t important. You’re not trying to create a masterpiece. You’re looking for interesting sparks of ideas, unusual pairings and combinations and ways to disrupt your habitual thoughts.

So bust loose, have fun, connect with that inner child and just play.

6 Lessons about Creativity

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Creativity is self-expression and I’ve expressed a lot over a lifetime of knitting, sewing and generally making stuff. What lessons can I draw from all of my efforts?

Creativity works better if you make it a habit

Creativity isn’t some magical gift bestowed upon us by divine intervention. It’s a skill and like any other skill, practice makes perfect. It’s not passive, you have to take action. You learn by doing. If you want to be (more) creative, then make it a regular habit. Ask questions – “What if…?” is a good place to start.

Creativity is like a bank account

What happens if you make more withdrawals than deposits in your bank account? Eventually, you can’t take out any more money because you don’t have it. It’s the same with creativity. Burnout comes when you take too much without giving back (or replenishing it). I am SO guilty of this (I’ve done a lot of whining about this in recent posts).

You need to feed your inspiration. This means stimulating your imagination. For me it’s a two prong approach. First it’s self-care – making sure I get enough sleep, exercise, down time and proper nutrition. Second, it’s exposing myself to different things including culture, nature, people, perspectives and ideas (books, documentaries, etc).

Creativity needs constraints

A blank canvas or page is intimidating. To move past it we need to define what we want to achieve and be as specific as possible. It sounds counterintuitive but creativity works best within well-defined parameters. Designers rarely have free reign to do whatever they want.They are given a brief with specifications of the job. Unlimited options throw us into overwhelm which only creates a sudden urge to clean out the fridge and alphabetize its contents.

Comparison, judgement, and assumptions kill creativity

I didn’t do a lot of things because I wasn’t good at them. Thing is, when I first started sewing, knitting and crocheting, I wasn’t good at those either. I’m good at them now because I practiced – a lot.

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially people who have been at it longer. Talent will only get you so far. Practice can take you further.

Don’t judge your work, your only job is to do it. And if you enjoy doing it, if it gives you any measure of enjoyment, peace, relaxation, joy – whatever – who cares about the outcome? If it’s crap, chalk it up as practice. (The great thing about knitting is you can unravel your failures and no one is ever the wiser).

Don’t assume something is hard/not possible until you actually try it. Don’t assume there is only one way to do it. Don’t assume their’s a “right” or “wrong” way.

You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval

This isn’t rocket science. No one’s life is on the line. If you want to be a painter, a baker, an artist or designer you don’t need a fancy degree, permission or approval. If you paint, you’re a painter, if you write, you’re a writer, if you bake, you’re a baker, if you design, you’re a designer. You get to decide.

Creativity isn’t just for those in arts and design

As human beings, creativity is our birthright, not just for the chosen few. We express our creativity everyday by how we parent, dress ourselves, decorate our homes, cook a meal, solve a myriad of everyday problems, deal with customers, show our love or organize a spreadsheet (though “creative” accounting is frowned upon…), just to name a few. Creativity enriches our lives and you don’t have to be an “artist” to be creative.

The Wonderful World of Socks

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Last post was all about things decorating projects but I’m dog sitting this week so to have something to do, I shoved some yarn, needles and pattern in a bag. I’m knitting socks, inspired by my recent deep dive into hygge. Warm, cozy socks are an integral part of hygge. Also, my feet are always cold. Even in summer.

I wasn’t enamoured with sock knitting at first. I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about and thoughts of socks turned to – as Kansas sings – dust in the wind.

I’m not quite sure what changed my mind. Or maybe my skills got better and they were no longer a fussy knit. They don’t take as much time as a sweater and I found a pattern that I really like – Monkey by Cookie A. It’s an easy repeat and a nice lace design.

Round and Round I go…

The first couple of rows knitting on double pointed needles is always a bit fiddly. But once you get past that and have a rhythmn going, they’re fun. And a good way to use up those small balls of yarn. I’ve made socks out of worsted weight (they were more like slippers but the technique was the same. Look through my archives for the pattern) as well as sock weight yarn.

I decided to go down the rabbit hole of the sock history. Turns out socks are the oldest piece of clothing still worn today. In fact, they go all the way back to cave man times when they were probably made out of animal skins. Knit stockings were a status symbol by the year 1000 and by the 15th century Italian and French men of nobility wore finely hand-knit silk stockings because they were easier to move around in than woven ones and, as vain as they were, showed off a “shapely leg”.

In the 16th century we see “sock police”, as hosiery was highly regulated. Guards were positioned outside the gates of London to make sure people weren’t wearing improper hosiery. Just what constituted “improper”, they don’t say. Holey socks? A stretched out ribbing? We may never know. Perhaps the more interesting question is why did stockings need to be regulated?

At the end of the century William Lee created the first sock knitting machine. Queen Elizabeth l wouldn’t grant him a patent though because she thought they were scratchy (God save the Queen from itchy wool) and would take jobs away from her people. France, on the other hand, jumped all over this new invention and the machine soon spread through out Europe – wool for the commoners, fine silks for the upper classes. And prices drastically dropped as they were easier and cheaper to make. William Lee’s invention and the principles used are still found in modern textile production.

As pants grew longer, stockings became shorter and it is around that time the term “socks” started being used. Today socks have exploded into a whole subcategory of knitting with different methods (magic loop, toe up), fibers to help esxtend the wear and dyeing methods that create stripes without having to change yarn.

I can’t help but wonder though, did our ancestors also struggle with losing a sock or is it just modern day phenomenon? Is there some sort of secret patented design on washers and/or dryers that suck socks into a third dimension? Is dryer lint just the leftovers of disintegrated socks? I’d love to hear your theories.

Future Projects

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Work is busy. I’m buried in emails and constantly juggling resources so by the time I clock out I have little energy for anything else. But over the weekend I did manage to FINALLY get some clarity and I feel my creative mojo coming back. With my job being what I can only describe as organized chaos, it’s nice to come home to my projects, even if I’m not burning through them as quickly as I was a year or even 6 months ago.

Last winter I concentrated on home decorating projects – specifically dressing up my bedroom with a new quilt, pillows and art work. There are still a few projects I have planned for that room that I haven’t gotten around to – more pillows, a new lamp shade and possibly some sort of valance. I’m on the fence about the valance but it would be nice to have something a bit prettier than the generic window blind header. I haven’t found the right thing yet so it might just stay as is.

The lampshade is definitely on my project bucket list though. I found several pretty embroidered shades that I liked. I also inherited a bunch of old 35mm slides from my mother. I mean, what do you do with these things except look for the one that supposedly has the ghost in it. I don’t want to throw them out because that’s an environmental hazard. So do I let them sit around in its box, taking up space in my apartment? To resolve this dilemma I want to the Holy Grail of ideas – Pinterest. Turns out slides make excellent lamp shades. I really liked this idea and found this. I’ll need a different lamp base but Goodwill has plenty.

How cool would it be to modernize this with a funky shade made from 35mm slides? Imagine how the slides would be illuminated on the walls!

The real project I want to tackle is my living/dining room. This is basically one big rectangle and is more of a book nook/sewing room at the moment. I have a huge leather chair/ottoman, a couple of dressers and my sewing machine. I want it a bit more inviting to guests as I want to entertain – a lot. Since it’s not safe to do it now, this is the perfect time to prepare for it. I have the layout in my head and know how to delineate the space.

A dining room table and chairs is a necessity. I would call my decorating style eclectic. I like a mix of metal and wood, color and pattern. My ideal table would have a rough wooden, farmhouse vibe with a steel base/legs. These tables are expensive and I don’t have the budget right now to buy new/custom made furniture. Money aside, second hand is just better. Cheap Ikea and Ikea rip-offs aside, you can find better quality. It’s better for the environment AND, for the most part, it’s already off-gassed the dangerous chemicals.

Another issue is size. I have room for a table but not a lot. It needs to be rectangular – specifically about 67-68″ long by 30-32″ wide. Custom tables do not come cheap, unless you make it yourself. I have two basic wooden bar stools that I found (i.e. free). The beauty of living in an apartment complex is coming across perfectly good stuff that people throw away (I didn’t dumpster dive, they were sitting next to the dumpster).

I rarely use them as stools, they mostly act as plant stands or hold my laptop when I watch YouTube or Netflix (I don’t own a TV). As I was looking at Pinterest for ideas on making a sofa, I eyed my barstools and it occurred to me they could be the base for a dining room table. All I’d need to do would be make a table top and if I could make it so the barstools could be easily detached, it would not only make it easier to transport but I could break the table down if I needed the space for something else. Now all I have to do is barter with a friend who has the space and power tools to help me make it.

Chairs will be a bit easier. I don’t want them to match and thrift stores or FB marketplace has a lot of odd ones I can pick up cheap, paint and reupholster.

While I am working on gathering the furniture, there are a lot of things I can work on now – table decorations such as napkins and tablecloths and sourceing dessert plates, pasta and salad bowls and serving pieces at thrift stores. Napkins are an oddly satisfying thing to sew as it’s just a big square with mitered corners. There’s more ironing than sewing. I want mine in a mix of colors and patterns with a lacy, crochet border.

Also, I will need a large scale art piece to anchor the space and define it as the “dining” room – I’m thinking a quilt. I love Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s graphic style but I’m not opposed something a bit more realistic – something with flowers – in the style of Ruth B. McDowell. Figuring out a design that I can use the fabrics I have will be the biggest challenge but it will be a fun quilt to make.

Living room furniture will be pretty straightfoward – a loveseat, coffee table (with storage) two side chairs and a small table to put between them. One of my dressers, which is used as fabric storage right now, I will either donate or stick in my closet. The other will remain. Again, I’m hoping to find all of this secondhand. It needs to to be on a smaller scale also as the room is not that big.

This is the layout I’m going for (imagine your are sitting on the couch facing the fireplace, except I don’t have a fireplace). I want something that invites conversation.

I am toying with the idea of turning my big leather chair into a couch. I think all I would have to do is remove the upholstery and cut the frame in half and extend it. I’d also narrow the arms. I’m sure it can be done but I wouldn’t know exactly what I was getting into until I ripped it apart. I’m trying to find YouTube videos on sofa frames so I can see what this project would entail but I’m not having much luck – they show reupholstery but I want to see more of what the frame looks like. Another issue is where would I do all of this? In my living room? It would probably be more work than it was worth and buying something secondhand would save me time and money in the long run. But I’m still thinking about it.

The big question is where will I put my sewing machine. I think I can keep it in the room. It’s in a cabinet so I can close everything up and it looks like a piece of furniture though a dated piece. It has white melamine cabinet doors that I’d love to paint.

Or I can stick it in my bedroom where my makeshift desk currently is. If the sewing cabinet is all closed up and the machine tucked away, I could use it as a desk and kill two birds with one stone. The dining room table could also serve as a desk. I have options.

I don’t see work easing up anytime soon and after moving tons of boxes in 90 degree heat, I fell asleep about 8 pm last night. It was a hard, I’m-totally-spent, dead-to-the-world kind of sleep, too. I woke up disoriented, not sure where I was, or what time it was. I am productive at work, no doubt, but it’s requiring intense mental and sometimes, physical energy, leaving me little for when I’m home. Having a plan in place, a big project in mind, is feeding my motivation. I have an assortment of tasks so depending on how much energy I have, I can take on a no-brainer (napkings) or charge forward with building a table or designing an art piece.

I needed a vision with it’s related projects like this to help ease the stress of everything else that is going on in my world.

What do you do to recharge?

Crafting a Legacy

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A friend posted an article to Facebook about Oya (I’ve seen it spelled Oya and Oyah), which is an umbrella term for Turkish Lace. It’s a needlecraft lace edging that was used to decorate a variety of garments starting all the way back in the 8th century B.C. The lace was made using a variety of techniques: crochet, needle and shuttle (I’m assuming similar to tatting) just to name a few. I looked in my Encyclopedia of Victorian Needlework by S.F.A. Caulfeild to see if there was any mention of Oya. Here’s what it says:

A lace made in the harems in Turkey, Smyrna and the Rhodes and sometimes called Point de Turque. It is formed with a crochet hook and with coloured silks, and is a description of Guipure Lace; but, as it is made by ladies for their own use, it rarely becomes an article of commerce.

There is no entry for “Point de Turque” but there is one for Turkish lace but it’s just a regurjitation of the previous entry. Following the links I came across and interesting website for the Turkish Cultural Federation which shares Turkey’s rich, cultural history, not just in the needlearts but culinary, music, literature, military etc. Of course, my interest lay in the arts and crafts.

I don’t know if the Anatolian women invented these techniques. Needlework edgings have been used by multiple cultures to decorate clothes and household goods. What I found interesting about Oya was the meaning behind these laces. In a time when woman didn’t have much of a voice, they used their craft to voice their feelings. The choice of flowers and colors conveyed their mood, their love and their displeasure. Gifts would convey the makers feelings about the recipient as brides-to-be in one region made an oya cloth that was sent to her prospective mother-in-law. If the relationship was cordial a “meadows and grass” design might be chosen. If the relationship was a bit rocky, she might send a ‘gravestone” or “hairy wolf” oya. Of course, the groom’s family also presented the bride with a “bridal” oya of which 2 or 3 flowers were used so they could express their own pleasure/displeasure of their prospective daughter-in-law.

I am fascinated not only with the care that went into making utilitarian objects decorative and therefore beautiful, but also the meaning infused in them. It sparked some interesting ideas for research projects.

But the question that came up that really intrigued and inspired me was:

What does my work add to the legacy of crafting traditions?

History is a huge hole in my life. I don’t know much about my parents and there are very few people left on either side to ask. My mother has been selective about what she tells me but I have enough information to know her life had few moments of happiness in an otherwise ocean of hurt and frustration. She refuses to give me the details and I respect that. Plus, maybe she doesn’t want to relive those memories.

We weren’t a communicative family. I didn’t hear stories about my parents or my grandparent’s childhoods. And I didn’t think to ask. Or maybe I did and got brushed off so I quit asking. I don’t remember. The point is I don’t feel a bond to my ancestors, there is no connective thread.

Connective thread is an interesting choice of words given that knitting, crochet and sewing are nothing more than linking threads. I don’t know if there is some deep significance other than I just love making things but it is food for thought.

I wasn’t curious about my family history when I was younger, it’s only been in the past decade or so that I’ve given it much thought. What are my Polish roots? Where did my ancestors come from? What were the traditions, foods, costume, etc? I don’t know. I was told family records were destroyed in WWII. One day I’d like to go to Poland see if that’s true. Go on a quest for my heritage.

My family history may be lost to me, but what am I leaving behind for future generations? What am I contributing to the craft? Is anything I’m doing adding value, something new, something different? Do the things I make just have a utilitarian value? What could I do to add to the larger story?

Then again,what if I wasn’t supposed to bring something new to the table, but something old? This is a bit more intriguing given my desire for, but lack of, personal history. What if I was the one to preserve the history of these traditions, to tell the untold stories of crafters – current and of yore? The decorative needlearts have been mostly the jurisdication of women. How many stories have we lost because these pursuits were deemed frivolous. Yet, the things that were so lovingly made – a quilt, a wedding gown, a brides trousseau, a christening gown, an Easter dress – don’t they tell a story? Of course there is the story of skill and design, but what about the story behind the object? The intention, inspiration, struggles, feelings and emotions of the maker?

Maybe the question isn’t “what does my work add to the legacy of crafting tradition?”, maybe it’s “what’s my story?” Not everything I make has a story behind it. Some things are just an excuse to keep my hands busy. But there’s a reason why I make all these things. I think about the struggles I had to create the floral crochet sweater, how I had to work the design out in my head, finding the mistake and having to unravel it and fix it. What does this say about me as a person, about my craft?

I don’t know if I’ve given much thought to the intention behind my makes and spending some time contemplating it may enrichen my experience. I’d like to learn the stories of other needleworkers as well. We may be nameless in a sea of makers but don’t we each contribute something, even if it’s just keeping the craft alive?

I enjoy writing about what I make but is it enough? I don’t think so anymore. I take my skill for granted because I’ve practiced it for so long it is effortless (most of the time). It’s time I appreciated the work I put into it and the lessons I’ve learned and see my work in a larger context.

It’s no longer about making something, it’s about crafting my legacy.

Journal Hacks – Playing with Words

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Working in a journal is an act of self-care. When you combine pictures with words you engage both sides of your brain – the left, analytical side and the right, intuitive side. It’s a place to play and explore. I work in my journal when something is bothering me or I can’t figure something out.

While a visual person, I also love words. I love looking up meanings and origin. I like to find synonyms and antonyms. Whenever I do a vision board, I always have more words than pictures. One of my favorite journal hacks is to create what I call Ransom Notes. Now ransom might not be the best word but I think it does a good job of conveying what I mean.

Ransom Notes is nothing more than cutting out words you like from a magazine and then arranging them in a way that speaks to you. Maybe Ransom Poetry is a better description but that might put too much pressure on you.

Before the pandemic, I had a little group of creatives that would meet once a month. I thought Ransom Notes would be a fun project. I asked everyone to bring some magazines and once we settled down, I told them the plan. They should go through the magazine and pick out words that spoke to them and we would write a poem with those words. Everyone got busy chopping up the pages to find the right words.

Then I threw a curve ball.

I told them to put them all in the middle of the table and then I proceeded to mix them all up. Responses to my little surprise varied. One participant later confessed at that moment she was really pissed at me. No one expected that and their carefully curated words were gone. It was now the luck of the draw as I told them to pick up a pile. Those were the words they had to work with.

In the end, everyone created some remarkable, meaningful prose. My angered friend admitted that the poem she ended up creating was more meaningful than the one she intended.

For myself, I recently watched Hanif Abdurraqib’s Skillshare class Writing for Expression: How to make your words more artful and lyrical. While I love words, normally what I write is what I would describe as utilitarian – it helps me work through the mental stuff. I rarely look back at it as once I’ve purged it from my system the lesson tends to stick. There’s nothing elegant or lyrical about it. I wouldn’t even know where to begin writing poetry except maybe to make it rhyme. However, creating within the parameters of a set of words and playing with them took away a lot of the “shoulds” and “supposed to’s” and I was able to tap into something deeper.

All I can say is there is magic in this little game.

My Journey to Designing Knits

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I learned to knit when I was around 10 or 11 years old. Both my grandmothers knew how to crochet so I was already fascinated with the idea of taking a ball of yarn and making it into something. My mother wanted to learn how to knit and of course, I went along for the ride.

I remember going to the yarn store in Deerbrook Mall. It was actually outside the mall but it was a shop filled with basic wool and acrylic yarns for knitting, crochet and needlepoint. Back then there were no indie hand-dyers or spinners. Variety only pertained to fiber, color and thickness of yarn. I remember the first sweater my mother made – a peachy, sleeveless top with a ribbed type stitch. I came across it decades later on one of my Half Price Books visits and it gave me a little smile.

My first sweater, however, was a white worsted weight acrylic top with a shawl-like collar that I used a green ombre yarn for contrast (also on the cuffs too). I’m sure it took me forever and I’m not even sure how long I had been knitting before I tackled such a huge project. I think I got the yarn from my grandmother (who mostly crocheted afghans) and it was probably from K-mart. Directions were concise in those days, they told you what to do but not how to do it. There were some basic guides but for the most part, they assumed you knew how to do it or would go to your local yarn store to learn. This was before Ravelry or Youtube. There were barely even any books on the subject, I would have bought them if there were. I’m sure my finishing skills were lacking, piecing things together based on my sewing skills.

I didn’t understand gauge at the time and that sweater was actually too small for me. I gave it to my neighbor whose kids I babysat for, thinking it would fit one of the girls.

Let me tell you something about myself before I go on. I’m a rule follower. Oh how I wish I was a rebel but that is just not me. I like order, I like rules. But, I’ve also learned that just because I like rules, doesn’t mean I can’t be the person who makes up the rules! That was a HUGE game changer for me, but I’m getting off track. That can be a story for another day.

I mention this because I saw a knitting pattern as The Rules I’m Supposed to Follow. A pattern was a mysterious thing to me and though I would have loved to design my own stuff I didn’t think I was capable of it. I collected a lot of patterns (and yarn) but my output was scarce.

I don’t remember the chronological order but there were a couple of things that started my shift away from relying on patterns to making my own designs. One defining moment was a weekend trip I took to Pennsylvania for The Knitting Guild of America’s knitting conference. I signed up for a class on making mood boards taught by Susan Lazear. It was the first time I even heard of such a thing and I was enamoured with the idea. Of course, anything related to the creative process fascinates me. But it was actually the bus ride to the airport that got me thinking. I was talking to another participant and she showed me a kit she bought. She talked about how she was drawn to the colors but the pattern wasn’t exactly to her liking and she was going to change it. In my mind that wasn’t ever a possibility until the moment she said it. So a pattern isn’t written in stone. Huh.

Knitting was becoming a bigger business and more books were being published. There was the grand-daddy (or should I say grand-mammy?) of them all – June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting – which is still in print. This encyclopedic volume tells you just about everything you want to know about knitting technique. But it isn’t the book that had the most impact on me. Carmen Michelson and Mary-Ann Davis’ book The Knitter’s Guide to Sweater Design holds that spot. I still refer to it today. It breaks down the process in such easy to understand terms, basically demystifying the process. I saw how it really is just a case of basic math with some geometry thrown in (if I had known you could chart a sleeve with the pythagorean theorem, I would have been way more interested in the subject).

The best money I’ve ever spend on a knitting book.

Another milestone in my development was getting into knitting machines. At one point I owned three. A Passap, which was an older model I bought off of a widower. HIs wife took great care of it but I never really warmed up to it. I also had a Brother with a ribber and a Big Phil, which you could use hand knitting yarns on. I sold all of them a long time ago as I prefer to hand knit.

Knitting machines have their own language and since most of the patterns (at least then) came from Japan, charts were always included (even if you didn’t understand Japanese, you could always knit one of their designs by following the chart). Pictures were part of the missing link to my design education. As a visual person, schematics opened the door to design. Even though they are standard for patterns today, look at any of the older knitting magazines and there are none. Words couldn’t bring a pattern to life, but a simple line drawing leapt off the page and into my imagination. It is also from knitting machine patterns that I developed my shorthand for writing a knitting pattern.

Having knitting machines also got me a job for a machine knitting magazine. I was the technical editor in charge of articles so I worked with a lot of talent. It was an amazing education on so many levels. It helped me leaps and bounds in my own design work. And while I did have some of my designs published in the magazine, the one that I am most proud of is a handknit design I submitted to Knitting Digest (now defunct, see picture above). I did it on a whim and it ended up on the cover. I also have a design in Not Your Mama’s Knitting by Heather Dixon.

Seeing my name in print and having one of my sweaters on a cover is intoxicating but being a commercial designer is not the path for me. Coming up with my own patterns is fun, but having to grade it for different sizes, find pattern checkers, write it up, etc, isn’t. I’d rather just stick to doing it for myself and writing about it.

I believe everyone should learn how to design their own patterns because of the freedom it gives you. Most commercial patterns are written by yarn companies for their yarn. My stash, however, is full of discontinued brands that I bought years (decades!?) ago, thrifted or were given to me. Also, I like to use repurposed yarn (from unravelled thrift store sweaters). Trying to find patterns for these yarns is hard if not impossible. It’s just easier to make up my own.

Another advantage to designing your own sweaters is you will get the fit you want (as long as you got the gauge right). I still use commercial patterns as last year’s knitting can attest to, but almost every single one of them I made some sort of adjustment to achieve the fit most flattering for my body. (There are no wrong bodies, only wrong clothes).

I’ve significantly culled my collection of reference materials over the years. I’ve let go of most of my pattern books. At this point I can pretty much make any sweater I want just by looking at a picture. I’m more interesed in books that talk about technique, knitting traditions and the design process. Lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to quit buying books and write one instead. Just goes to show the journey never ends, it just evolves.

A Million Loose Ends

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I spent today finishing up this sweater and weaving in the loose ends. A lot of them although a million might be a slight exaggeration.

It’s a basic top down v-neck I started to use up some odds and ends I had on hand. No particular design in mind, I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out a color scheme, I just made a swatch and started knitting.

On the one hand, it’s a satisfying sweater in that it took very little brain power yet kept my hands busy. On the other, I can’t say it’s one of my favorites. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either.

My creative dry spell has lasted longer than normal. Usually I need some time to recharge but this has been going on for quite awhile now. Working through my stash the past year has given me a challenge to fill my extra time but now I just feel lost, drifting along in life. Purposeless. Maybe it’s just too hot to knit. Or maybe I need to do more to reboot my creativity than sitting around waiting for inspiration.

I need to act and the first step was to journal.

I know there are “experts” that stand by a daily journaling practice but that doesn’t work for me. I see journaling as a problem-solving tool. When I’m on a roll and productive I have no need for it. But when the shit hits the fan, I find writing about it helps me move through it.

I’ve filled a lot of journals over my life but I don’t keep them. Once I’ve figured out my mood, solved the problem or untangled my emotional baggage, I’ve let it go. I don’t need to revisit it. So old journals get thrown away/recycled. Which is probably why I all of my nice blank books are still blank and I use cheap spiral notebooks instead. My preferred method now is digital since it’s cheaper and less wasteful. And I can delete it all with just a touch of a button. But I do keep a spiral notebook around for those time when I don’t have access to my laptop.

This little epiphany of why I love journals but don’t use them made me see a pattern. There are things I love the idea of but in reality just don’t work with my nature. For instance, I love the idea of a day planner but the reality is I don’t use them. I’ve taken workshops that have you block out your calendar for specific tasks. Nope, doesn’t work for me. You know what does work for me? My Google calendar. I use it mainly for appointments but I also put in reminders. What I don’t do is block out my time. Yet I still managed to maintain my weekly blog posting schedule.

This made me wonder what else am I hanging onto because I love the idea of it yet doesn’t align with my natural tendencies? Are there things in my life that are just wishful thinking? And of these wishful thinking items, are they a hindrence? I have many books but some of them I rarely ever crack the spine. Are they really inspiration or do they keep me from trusting myself, tying me to “expert” opinions instead of figuring out what comes naturally?

These questions intrigue me and I admit figuring it out has piqued my interest. I’m excited about something for the first time in a long time. My life has been moderately successful in that I’ve always had a roof over my head and have never really lacked the necessities but as far as career success goes, I’m nowhere near some of my contemporaries. Is it because I’m not aligned with “what makes me tick”, letting myself be swayed by experts and what other people do instead of trusting my gut? Is that why I feel like a train off its track? What would happen if I actually got on track?

Time to cut off those loose ends and see what I end up with.

Re-Integrating into Society is Hard, Y’all

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I have a sewing project (patchwork quilt), knitting project (lace cardigan) and crochet project (filet tablecloth) and I’m not motivated to work on any of them.

These are weird times and I’m going to chalk up my lack of enthusiasm to the fact that I now have to wake up early to get my run in, drive in traffic, go into an office and interact with people in person! It’s exhausting and I only have to do it three days a week. Remember when we had to do this shit FIVE days a week? Madness.

I wish I was joking but after sheltering in place for over a year, it is tiring for this introver to get “back into the swing of things” and it’s affecting my productivity. I imagine it’s what hibernating is like, slowly lumbering out of a cave, blinking as you try to adjust to the sun.

Sometimes when I take a nap (Why are naps wasted on the young? How I live for a job that has a nap room), I wake up disoriented, not sure what time or day it was. That kind of feeling.

While none of my current projects grabbed my attention, I still wanted to do something. Otherwise I found myself thinking about going to bed at 7 pm.

I had a bag of yarn which had a bunch of leftover skeins. Same brand, different colors. I don’t do a lot of color work but figured a top down striped sweater would be the perfect way to use it up. I did a quick swatch and set to work.

I still have the sleeves to go and am pretty sure I won’t have enough to match the stripes on the body. I’m not even sure the sleeves will be identical so that’s fun. And nothing beats a top down sweater for mindless knitting, because that’s all I can handle right now.

Only a week and a half till my next vacation.

A Passion for Purple

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I’ve been curating a new wardrobe for myself. Right now I am focusing on casual summer tops to wear with shorts. All I have are tank tops and a couple of $5 t-shirts I got on sale at Michael’s. Functional, yes, but not really stylish nor necessarily the coolest thing for hot Texas summers.

I went to a couple of thrift stores (I pledged to only buy my clothes secondhand. The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters and I don’t want to contribute to it anymore. There are more than enough used options around, at least if the thrift stores in my area are any indication). Since I wasn’t able to try anything on, I did get a couple I’m not totally in love with but for the most part, I found some real gems. And a pattern emerged. The majority of stuff I bought had a definite bohemian vibe – Indian-like prints and embroidery. No big surprise there. Also, there were a lot of blues and purples.

I love color. I have always been attracted to it yet haven’t had a lot of it in my wardrobe. Maybe because black and grey were just an easy option. I have another theory though. My wardrobe and it’s lack of cohesion, color or style has been an outer manifestation of an inner confict. How could I possibly develop a personal style when I was flip-flopping around, trying to be what everyone else expected me to be? If I didn’t know who I was how could I dress her? Only now that I am learning to listen to and trust my authentic self have I been able to see my true style emerge.

And purple in all of it’s glorious forms, is definitely on the menu!

What is Color?

I’m not going to pretend to understand how color works optically (apparently it has something to do with how different wavelengths of colored light combine and how cones in our eyes percieve it or something like that) but I do know from elementary art class that purple is a mixture of red and blue. Mix in more red than blue and you get purple. Mix in more blue than red and you get violet. This analogous color scheme (red, purple and blue) is my favorite so it’s no wonder that I now have quite a collection of it in my wardrobe. (I would extend that range to teal blues also. Not only do I love these jewel tones, they look good on me.)

Purple Dyes

The color purple as a dye has an interesting history. Apparently purple is rare in the nature (though it doesn’t seem like it thanks to having everything at our fingertips these days). Even if we don’t live in an area where lilacs, grapes or eggplant are indiginous, we still know what they are.

The color purple as a dye has been around since biblical times. The most important dye originally came from what is now known as Lebanon. It was extracted from a snail – mucus of a snail to be exact (the history of dying is quite fascinating and also a little gross – maybe it’s the grossness that makes it fascinating…) which had to be dried out in the sun for a particular amount of time to get the right hue. The reason purple is considered the color of royalty was because it took about 250,000 of these snails to produce one ounce of dye, making it extremely expensive but the color was deep and long lasting. If you wanted to display your wealth, wearing purple spoke volumes.

There were other natural sources for purple including purple moss, blackberries and mulberries but these created colors more on the red side and weren’t as colorfast.

Synthetic purple dye didn’t become prevalent until the mid 1800’s when William Henry Perkin, who was trying to produce synthetic quinine, created the first aniline dye instead. It was known as mauveine and shortened to mauve. He took full advantage of this discovery, set up a factory and it became readily available (i.e. affordable) to the masses.

Meaning of Purple

I’m a sucker for symbolism so naturally I’m interested in what meaning people have attached to the color purple. According to the website Color Matters :

purple symbolizes magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty – and it evokes all of these meanings more so than any other color.

I find the link to royalty rather interesting given my life archetype is The Empress. (I’m a sucker for these type of personality quizzes. And whether or not you believe any of it, I strongly identify with everything about my archetype.) While it doesn’t state a particular color, purple is definitely an empress color.

Am I drawn to purple because it is such a rare color? That it evokes “deep mystery? Because of its “royal” heritage? Or because my skin tone has a reddish undertone so the coolness of purple keeps me from looking like a beet?

I confess the idea of being mysterious and rare does sound better than being an outcast and weird, which is kind of how I felt my whole life. Being a little older and wiser, I’m no longer concerned about fitting in. Actually I’m okay with being weird. What’s the other option – normal? When I was younger I did everything I could to be like everyone else – to be accepted – but now that sounds so…boring. And life is so much easier and enjoyable embracing my weirdness instead of trying to hide or erase it, like it was something to be shameful of.

So yeah, color me purple.