Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter White and New Year's Fashion

“Fashion 8 ©” photo by Vincent Boiteau

The snow has all melted and I miss it not, but it has put me in the mood to look at white and festive fashion. Don't you just love the snowball bonnet above and the snowball sleeves on the sweater? How did they get the sleeves to stay so poofy and full? Is there some stuffing inside? Can you wear this sweater while driving? How do you get it underneath a warm winter coat? (Do you think it's too much for the office?)

Witness the stunning stockings! There is texture and technique galore in those hose, and they go so well with the pale pink shoes. I think I'm in love with this leg wear, although I cannot imagine them in my real world. The sweater, too, is quite beautiful. If only I could wear white without looking like an influenza victim and without being a total culinary slob and splattering it with my lunch.

This is a dress that was on display at the Strand Arcade in Sydney. Follow the photo credit link to see some photos of the other dresses that were on display as well. What strikes me in this dress is the contrast between the structural bodice and the flouncy skirt. The cluster of draping fiber flowers works really well as a bridge to connect these two styles. The change to gold and yellow in the two bottom flounces really sets the whole thing off. I'm going to a New Year's Eve dance tonight. If I were taller and richer and younger and had long bright red wavy hair, this dress would be mine!

I'd like to give special thanks to the above photographers for making their photos available through a Creative Commons license.

The next four photos were taken by Dennis when he and I were in Manhattan two years ago. If you've never been there during the holidays, it is a recommended trip. You can find some good specials at hotels during this season. The streets are filled with tourists in a bright festive mood and the store windows are incredible!

NYC Holiday Fashion Window 12-30-06

I forget which store presented these windows, but aren't they sensational! I really like the beautiful beaded bodice of this empire waist cocktail dress with a mid-century aesthetic.

NYC Holiday Fashion Window 12-30-06

The beading on this vintage-inspired crepe dress was lovely. Doesn't the setting have an air of mystery? Is this woman alone? Is she talking to someone off set? How about that monkey? What kind of personality does it have? Does it serve the drinks?

NYC Holiday Fashion Window 12-30-06

If ever there was drama in a posture, this embodies it. I had an exercise ball very similar to that, but I never looked so good on it.

NYC Holiday Fashion Window 12-30-06

This is a rather large bird, don't you think? It's truly frightening, but she looks as if she's about to kiss it. Seems like this is some alternate universe from the The Subtle Knife, which I am currently reading. Perhaps the bird is her daemon. The candlelight chandelier sets a quirky romantic scene. The jacket, which is fiber, not fur, is beautiful!

Budapest Fashion Spring 2006

This is a photo I took earlier in 2006 during a trip we took to Budapest. The shopping there is sensational, and it is in Budapest that I really saw the essence of true Bohemian fashion like nothing I had ever seen before or since. This particular boutique was filled with lots of beaded bell-bottom denims in a huge array of colors. The prices were even reasonable. I tried on a totally gorgeous pair of embroidery and bling-encrusted, gold denim pants that looked stunning on the hanger but not on my non-rock star body. Oh, well.

I hope you enjoyed the New Year's Eve fashion fantasy tour! Have a great evening and a spectacular new year. Let us all pray for a global return of confidence and hope for worldwide prosperity.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Making Etsy Treasuries

Making treasuries on Etsy can be addicting not only because it's a fun creative exercise, but also because you wander your way through lots of cool shops in the process. You pick a theme and then go on a treasure hunt through various Etsy shops to find items that fit your theme.  

One day while trying to think of a theme, I came across a shop with a pair of Ruffle Potato Chip earrings.  They looked good enough to eat and they gave me the idea for the theme "Ruffles or Ridges?" in which I would feature items in a variety of styles that had either of these two design elements. 

This was my first treasury to make the front page of Etsy.  That is a cool thing because when your treasury gets chosen for the front page, your shop gets exposure from the link to it that appears with the gallery photos.

A few days later, on Christmas, no less, I had another treasury make the front page! This one was my entry in a Etsy community challenge to put up a treasury that showcases your highest ideals, your greatest hope, a wish you have, for yourself, for the world, or anything else inspiring or moving.

The criteria from Etsy admininistration was
  1. To have a beautiful, artistic composition of the list as a whole. 
  2. Have a total of 16 items (12 for the Treasury list, plus 4 alternates), all from different sellers
  3. No mature items.
Other helpful suggestions were to include no more than 4 items under $10, or no more than 6 under $20 (including alternates).  This is because if the treasury contains too many lower priced items, they might all sell out before the gallery of photos expires. 

Here is my treasury, "Go with the Flow" which was selected for the front page for this challenge:

Anyone can make an Etsy treasury; you do not have to be an Etsy seller. Just sign up as an Etsy member (no salespeople will call!), read this article, and use the poster sketch tool to create your treasury. 

Helpful hints to snagging a treasury:
  1. You need to be prepared by having your title copied to the clipboard so that you can paste it into the treasury dialogue box when it appears
  2. Type your item numbers into a text editor in the order that you want them arranged, so that you can enter them quickly in the photo gallery when you get a list.
  3. When the treasuries number less than 333, the list opens to new ones. When the list gets down to that point, have the page open on your computer. Do not refresh your page, just wait for the dialogue box to open--it will eventually.
  4. When you get the dialogue box, click in the title field, paste your title, and then click on "CREATE".
It will take some practice, but you too could get your picks to the front page. What was helpful to me in getting a treasury to the front page was reading this blog post by Pink Polish Design. Thanks, Pink Polish!

Leave me a comment here if this post was helpful, or convo me at Etsy if you get a treasury up so I can come to see it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joyeux Noël! ¡Feliz Navidad! Buon Natale!

Merry Christmas!
Seasons Greetings! 
Happy Holidays!

Thank you all for stopping by to read my blog!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Blocking Berets

This is just a short post today on the blocking of knitted wool berets.

First, fill a basin with some cool water and add a fine wool washing product like Eucalan or Soak™. (I choose an unscented variety for items that I plan on selling.) There is no need to rinse the item with either of these products. Then follow these steps:

  1. Gently swish the beret a little and then let it soak for a while.
  2. Remove the beret from the liquid and press some of the water out by hand without wringing, twisting, or scrunching the beret.
  3. Lay the beret on a thick Turkish towel and cover it with part of the towel. Press the beret between the two layers of towel.
  4. Immediately remove the beret and give it a shake to remove any little wrinkles created in the last step.
  5. Lay the beret out flat, brim side up, and let it dry by 50-75%
  6. Put the beret over a dinner plate to shape it and let it dry thoroughly.

Below you can see the arrangement of plate and bowl that I use in blocking my berets.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In Which I Try to Put a Table in a Post Because Valerie Needs Some Hair

I wanted to show you some side-by-side photos of Valerie's posing in the berets of many colors, but this involves writing the code for a table.

I decided to give it a go, because she has been begging me to get hat photos up on the blog and to get hats listed in the store. The deal was that Valerie is working on commission, and there must be enough hat sales for me to justify buying her a wig.

Personally, I think she looks just fine in the berets without hair, but she has her heart set on a bob.

Here she is. . .

Beret 826

Beret 827

Beret 825Beret 826

Beret 827 Beret 825

The table coding wasn't really all that bad. Rather fun actually.

Please let Valerie know what you think of her photos and what color hair you think she should have when she gets some.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Life was very good yesterday at chez nous. Although the winter solstice occurred this morning at 7:04 a.m. EST,  we celebrated last night, snowed in as we were, with some waltz, tango, and cha cha dancing at home followed by a nice dinner.

Samba always coming running to the living room when we roll up the carpet to dance.  She joined in the fun by dancing with her toy mouse in the corner.

That was then...
This morning I really was glad that I had made myself these hand warmers because we had no power and consequently no heat. 

I awoke at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of the calculator on my desk over in the studio going "Chuckita, chuckita, chuckita..."  Luckily, there was no paper tape in the spool because it would all have been fed onto the floor before the darn thing woke me up.

Then I noticed that the light of the computer monitor off/on switch was flashing like crazy. "What the *?!," I thought.  Still sleep-logged and barely conscious, I tripped in the dark to the bathroom and flipped on the light.  What was this strange root-beer colored haze?  After turning the light off and on again, and getting the same result, it finally dawned on me that were having power issues.

I unplugged all the electronic equipment, reset the flashing alarm clock in the bedroom, and crawled back in bed where Dennis and Samba were obliviously to the sounds of the ice-laden branches of an alder tree grinding on the house just outside the bedroom window.  

Two hours later, the situation had not improved.  We were powerless and heatless. It was 21 degrees outside.

But I had style...

The rust and cinnamon-colored scarf, which was completed last night after dinner, looked really hot with my forest green terry-cloth robe and the tobacco-colored hand warmers. A pair of extra-warm socks made from brown Socks-That-Rock completed the ensemble.  The only item out of sync was those red and green plaid, flannel, pajama pants.
Without electricity, the only heat source available to us is the gas cooktop. The house was scoured for matches, because the electronic igniter on the cooktop wouldn't work, and water was set to boil for coffee. 

Imagining myself as Pioneer Woman, (without a microwave to heat up the syrup), I decided to fix scrambled pancakes and sausages while it was still a balmy 57 degrees inside. 

It's hard to cook wearing hand warmers.

Luckily for us city-slickers, the power was back on before noon.  Here are some more photos after nine inches of snow and more on the way.

Samba says "Hi!" to you all and doesn't understand why she cannot go out on the deck today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


It's snowing today.

It is going to keep snowing all day!

I'm prepared!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Scarf it Up! It's Cold Outside!

There's nothing like cold weather to make my fingers twitch to knit scarves!


This week has been scarf week around my studio. This teal scarf is one of my favorites because it's so cushy warm and soft. Some great squishiness resulted from the combination of seed stitch bands and ribbing sections along with the airyness created by knitting with unplied multiple strands.

It was knit with 4 strands of fiber held together: two strands of a teal/teal metallic fingering weight rayon/polyester yarn, one strand of a teal 90/10 acrylic/nylon DK weight yarn, and one strand of polyester eyelash yarn in teal and copper.

It feels so yummy, I don't know if I'll sell it in the store or keep it for a pet.


This next scarf was actually knit out of the last thing you might think of for a scarf: Plymouth Wildflower DK (51% cotton; 49% acrylic). I thought it might be nice for someone who was allergic to wool. It's a 7-foot, skinny, tube scarf and was knit entirely on a Clover 22 cm (8½") plastic mini-circular needle.

Each piece of fringe has hand-knotted beads worked near the end. (Yes, I had a lot more time on my hands before I started this business.)


In the blog post from this past Tuesday, there was a photo of the first half of the next scarf. The last half of the scarf was knit in a totally different pattern.

This Dijon-colored scarf was very fun to do because both of the stitch patterns were total improvisations. Creating swatches of dropped stitch and elongated stitch patterns has filled my play time recently, and this scarf shows me getting carried away with texture.

The yarn for this scarf is Jo Sharp's Silk Road Ultra, a wool/silk/cashmere blend. It has a soft hand and produces great stitch definition.

One half of the scarf is a play with a dropped garter stitch pattern and the other half is an elongated seed stitch pattern.

Valerie insisted that her neck was cold so I let her wear it for a while. She liked the softness of the yarn against her composite material.


Last night, out of the blue, the urge to crochet a scarf hit me. I crochet a lot for bags, but haven't used this technique for a scarf for a very long while. Probably because I crocheted too many scarves "back in the day". Here's last night's swatch:

This stitch pattern is called "Asymmetrical Shell" in Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet, which is a great book, (along with her Encyclopedia of Knitting).

The scarf is being crocheted out of
  • two strands of "Baby" a lace weight, handpainted, superfine Australian merino yarn in a beautiful cinnamon colorway by Dream in Color, and
  • one strand of Nashua Handknits "Creative Focus Worsted" a 75/25 wool/alpaca blend in the color rust.
Wow! This color combination looks good against my skin! I may have to sell the teal scarf and keep this one instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Etsy Treasury

This is my latest Etsy treasury!  It's the sixth one that I've done, and I've finally figured out how to screen capture it on my Mac.  

A treasury is a group of items that are currently for sale on Etsy that you as a curator like and want to promote.  None of the items can be from your own shop.  Usually a theme is chosen, and you try to have a title that attracts people so they look at your treasury. 

You can see a larger view of my Winter Citrus Light collection by clicking on the photo.  Check it out!  There are some great items from some great sellers featured!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Portland Snow of the Year

This was the majestic tree that stood sentinel over the path we choose into the woods on Sunday.  It was at least twenty feet tall and had a grand spiritual presence.

The path was muddy under the snow for it had not yet been below freezing for very long. We followed the trail to High Bridge where I paused to look down at Tryon Creek, surrounded by snow covered branches.
The water below looked so cold.  

The air was frightfully chilly and I was wearing so many layers of clothes that I could hardly shuffle along the path. 

Across high bridge Dennis took this beautiful photo, and then I was ready to come home:

At home I fixed us some hot chocolate and then I worked on this new scarf design:

All in all, it was a very good day!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It Snows Outside and Almost Floods Indoors

It snowed yesterday and we're in for a week or more of temperatures below freezing. In Portland, with all the hills, that makes for dangerous driving conditions. I'm hoping to avoid driving until after the thaw.

Yesterday Mr. Cha Cha and I went out for a long walk in the woods near our home. It was lovely and serene. It was also a nice break from knitting, photographing, writing, and online promoting.

Selling on Etsy is totally fun! Even more so when you have a good sales day like I did on Friday--I sold seven items from my store! It was floating on air I was, you betcha!

Selling on Etsy is a lot of work! I thought the big learning curve was just in the setup of the store, creating the store banner and avatar, and getting Paypal interfaced with the shop. Well, that's just the beginning. For every product you make, there are a bunch of steps beyond the hand finishing of the item itself:
  • You try to get five really good photos of your item so that someone will buy it without being able to touch it or try it on. For me that means taking a few dozen photos in varying lighting conditions and from varying angles, in the hope that there will be five worth using. Quite often I have to go back and do another photoshoot.
  • Then you need to review your photos. I do this in Adobe Lightroom. Quite often I have over or under exposed the photos and this can be adjusted in Lightroom. I usually sit the item next to me on my desk so that I can adjust the photo to look as closely like the item as possible.
  • Then you have to write the copy that will go along with the listing on Etsy. You need to describe the item very well so that you answer any potential questions that the buyer might have and you make the item sound interesting. Perhaps you might want to describe how the item was made or what makes it unique from its competition.
  • Then you sign into Etsy and start the listing process which includes entering the title and description, classifying the item including adding up to 14 tags that describe it, uploading photos, entering the shipping charges, etc.
So much for stocking the store. Then you have to get out there and promote your shop so people navigate there to see your goods. This is the focus of my December learning.

Here are some decent photos of the lovely Valerie, she who was recently nameless, that I managed to get yesterday while she was trying on hats.

Valerie is an excellent model. She is patient, cheerful, and willing to work long hours without complaint.

The other thing about Valerie is that she has a decidedly wicked sense of humor. I love that in an assistant! She has such a good memory for jokes, unlike me.

After all the photographing yesterday afternoon, and then the long walk in the snow, I was ready for a nice hot bath after dinner.

The tub was almost full of nice hot water. The bottle of cold water and reading matter were at hand. Just before stepping into the tub, I reached to turn off the water spigots. No problem with the cold water one, but the hot water faucet would not turn off. It was liked stripped or something goofy.

I went running downstairs screaming for Mr. Cha Cha, came running back up, reached in the tub and pulled the plug so the water would drain out. All that lovely hot water, going down the drain while we figured out what to do. Well, not "we". Actually the Mister was the brainiac and ran downstairs to turn off the water coming out from the hot water tank.

Thank god he was home, or you can imagine what the water bill would have been!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Handmade Hats for the Holidays

It's holiday gift-giving, overwork-your-hands time for most crafters.  I know from the two knitting guilds to which I belong that many of you are frantically trying to finish all the hats and such on your list for nieces, nephews, kids, and grandkids. Year after year this used to happen to me, too.

What to do? You're running out of time and cutting short your sleep!  Instead of just giving up and handing out gift cards to all, why not gift a knit or crochet item handmade by someone else?

Now, mind you, I'm not saying that you should take all the credit for this handmade gift that you give but didn't actually produce.  I am not promoting the idea of taking out the seller's label and slipstitching in one of your own.  It's just that you don't have to do all the work yourself; you can give your gift of good taste by choosing quality handmade goods that someone else created.

So here's a suggestion for you hat gifters: I came upon an Etsy store called TipTopApplesauce where you can find the most adorable hats for infants and children! With the gracious permission of the owner, Lucinda, I am featuring her store here.   

When you enter Lucinda's online store you are immediately struck by the incredible photography for her products.  The photos really grabbed my attention because I had been trying to photograph my still nameless new head mannequin wearing some of my hats, and only one photo out of thirty was even marginally good.

At TipTopApplesauce you will find some sensational photography.  The three photos above were taken by an award-winning New Jersey children's photographer, named Carrie, at EMA Photography.  The photos are reproduced on this blog post with her special permission. Check out her website and blog for more amazing children's photos.

Even the photos taken by Lucinda, the store owner and hat maker are really good.  View, for example the two photos which follow (which are, BTW, photos for two crochet patterns--just in case you still think you want to do it yourself).

For those of you who like my suggestion, give a gift handmade by someone else, even if you know how to do it yourself, because it's a gift that gives in many ways:
  1. Your young relative gets a great gift.
  2. You give the seller the gift of a sale, and you support the handmade economy.
  3. You get the night off.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hats Off: New Knot-cha-chá! Model Arrives

Here she is! My lovely new assistant and official hat model, yet to be named, who arrived for work this week! You see her here as I first saw her on Ebay. Even hairless and hatless, poor thing, she is beautiful!

The long search for her was started last summer, and there are a bunch of hats waiting to be seen with her. She's working on commission to start--if she sells some hats, I'll buy her some hair.

Some good name suggestions have been offered from coworkers at my day job, my students, and friends. Feel free to comment and offer a name choice of your own. So far, the top choices are:


So many good names--it's hard to choose.

Here's my girl, nameless still, getting acquainted with one of the berets from a previous post.

Isn't she lovely? It's amazing how different she can look with different lighting. Her face is very reflective and it's already apparent that the light wants to really bounce off her face. She and I will have a photoshoot soon and we'll post some of the results here. Meanwhile, in my next post, I will show you some truly great photos of great hats made by someone else.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching is Learning: Holding the Yarn

Teaching a beginning class is a great way to rediscover the process that you went through when you were first learning a craft yourself. It forces you to analyze steps that have become automatic for you and to think about why you do things the way you do them.

For example, how do you tell a beginning knitter how to hold their yarn? Do you initially teach everyone to hold the yarn the same way that you do? What if a beginner has a different dominant hand than you do?

Originally, I learned to knit from a book that showed only the English method of wrapping stitches. I found it to be so slow-going that I just went back to crochet which I found to be faster. Then one day some years later I found a different book that showed continental knitting in which the yarn is held in the left hand as in crocheting. So I tried knitting again and this time I liked it.

The lesson in this is that sometimes a certain method will just not work for someone. So I try to encourage my students to experiment and to think about whether what they are doing is working or whether they might want to try a different approach.

Even within the categories of "English" and "Continental" knitting there are different ways of holding the yarn. Finding your best way is all about experimenting and the willingness to try different things. This experimenting can be augmented by viewing some of the great videos on YouTube that many knitters have posted. Following are two examples.

This first video from stell66 shows great technique for continental style knitting. Note how she holds the forefinger of her left hand very close to the needle. This allows her to knit smoothly with great speed. Watch and see:

And this second video shows both English and Continental styles:

You can learn new methods from watching You Tube videos or by just watching people who are learning to knit.

In my last knitting class, Jack showed me a way of holding the yarn in the left hand with the yarn coming from under the left index finger instead of over it. The method works well to tighten the tension when needed. Melanie, a left-handed knitter who was also holding her yarn in the left hand, needed to focus the primary movement of needles and the picking of yarn to be centered in her left hand and needle. The right needle needed to remain relatively stationary for her. Cynthia, a left-hander using the English method, developed a good regular rhythm throwing the yarn with her right hand.

There are so many ways of knitting and they are all right.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Rings the Loudest

Ever since the day my boss was buried, I've had a ringing in my ears.  

The sound is different for various sufferers of tinnitus, as this condition is called.  For me, the sound is like a chorus of cicadas (v. Magicicada septendecim) chirping away on a hot summer night.  It is a continual sound that lays over the top of every other actual sound from the outside world.  

At first I thought this was kind of cute because, you see, I have always been fond of the sound of cicadas.  Especially at night.  A month later, the cuteness is wearing off.

An elementary scholar search on Google yielded some good basic information about the onset of this condition (which runs in my family).  It is often initiated by stress or by grief.  It typically doesn't go away and is unresponsive to known treatments.  The psychological makeup of the hearer is key to the successful "treatment", or shall we say "management", of the condition. 

So I'm looking for a good spin on this and have decided to adopt a metaphor to pay attention to what rings the loudest in all areas of my life.

I have been grieving and worrying about what will happen in the work world of my day job, but what rings the loudest for me really, is moving ahead with my business, writing up patterns for new designs, getting more inventory listed in my Etsy store, getting back to blogging, and bravely going out in search of readers who will leave a comment to let me know they're out there.

So, to get started, here's what I've been up to lately:

  • Searching for the perfect beret shape has yielded a flock of berets. Here's is a triplet laying flat like frisbees.
  • Combing the Internet for a head mannequin that doesn't cost an arm and a leg in order to photograph my hats is a top priority. 
  • Bead knitting bracelets are fast becoming one of my pastimes, and next March I'll be teaching a bead-knitting class at a LBS (local bead store) to help others catch the contagion.  Here are three jazzy bracelets for partygoers, dancers, or members of a wedding.  
  • Finding others uses for my favorite sock yarn, because I don't really wear handknitted socks much, but love sock yarn.  Coming soon will be some fun patterns to accessorize anything but feet out of Socks That Rock.
  • Getting a new business organized is proving to be an super challenge so, in the spirit of discipline, I've mapped out a detailed weekly plan for getting things done.  It's a good thing I have a lot of hats, because as a new business owner, I sure need them.