Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Studio Entourage

Some of you perhaps haven't been reading this blog for very long and aren't familiar with my team, so it's time to introduce them and to publicly declare how grateful I am for their support.

Samba is the queen of the roost, and the very sweetest of kitty persons in the world. She supervises extremely well and never puts her paws on any of the projects or supplies in the studio. (Just in case she gets tempted, I try to keep every project and most supplies inside of plastic boxes.)

Amelie is my inner assistant. She is organized and hard-working, a little bit too much of a perfectionist, and very hard to find. She hates working while I'm around because I always get in the way of her getting anything accomplished. Her services are engaged when the studio is too much of a mess to find anything. Like those darn bacon truffles in the last post. (Which turned out to be in the closet on top of a dresser--remember there was clothes changing because of the heat?)

Valerie, my head model, arrived by a circuitous route. Years ago she woke up on the side of the road with no recollection of who she was. While sitting there in a daze she was approached by a band of gypsies and decided to run with them. It was fun for a time, but they eventually abandoned her in an old warehouse in the middle of the night. An Ebay seller found her and later sold her to me.

Valerie actually has a good head for business and is my main confidante when she's not modeling hats. I still owe her some hair. Must go wig shopping soon.

Tink and Tank, the circus midgets, are new additions to the team.  Valerie met them back in her gypsy roving days. They wouldn't let us take their photos because they are on the run from an exploitative midway owner.  They also wouldn't tell us their real names, so we gave them some. The taller of the two is Tink. He loves to unravel knitting projects gone wrong. He actually loves to unravel everything and had to be trained to keep his itchy little fingers off my successful projects. Tank is the more portly of the two. He loves to drink.

Tink and Tank needed a place to stay, so the deal is that they must amuse Samba, lend four willing hands when I need them for tricky projects, help find missing things, chase dust bunnies, and otherwise keep out of the way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Vanishing Bacon Truffles

The other night on the way home from the office, the idea of chocolate for a reward settled into my brain. It was deserved, wasn't it? After all, Mr. Cha Cha had gone off for a week of dance workshops at Stanford while I had to stay home to work on my business. (To be fair, because of some foot pad atrophy I can't dance more than a couple hours and then need two days of foot rest, so long dance workshops are now a thing of the past.)

There he was, though, off dancing and having a terrific time. I was going to the day job, and then coming home to knit, design, take care of the house, socialize with Samba, coordinate the assistants, etc. All alone. Poor me.

Chocolate would fix that. I'd get some for me that didn't have to be shared.

Actual product by Ladybug Chocolates

How cute they are. Who ever heard of bacon truffles? Would they be as good as the bacon maple bars from VooDoo Donuts? I should take their picture for the blog because they're so cute.  Right now, while the light's still good. Then change clothes 'cause it's actually warm today. Oh, I forgot to check the mail...and bring the garbage can back from the road. There's some weeds over there that need pulling. Those wild flowers would look nice in a vase. Gosh, I need to plant the lemon cucumbers and basil starts in containers on the deck.

That was the thinking. Probably I had already had too much sugar for the day.

After dinner with some protein in it, good conversation with a friend, some music, and then some spinning, I remembered the chocolate bacon truffles but


I looked everywhere. Even got all my assistants out looking: Samba, Valerie, Amelie, Tink & Tank (those last two are new). None of us could locate the darn missing truffles.

It was a mystery where they were but no mystery why they couldn't be found. It was seriously time to organize the studio. Who knows what else besides bacon truffles have gone missing in there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spinning Goals for Yarn

At the beginning of the year I laid out my spinning goals for the year in this post. The goals were:
  1. To be able to spin an even  two-ply yarn equal in dimension (between DK and worsted weight) to a favorite yarn by Mountain Colors, and then to be able to go back to purposely spin a bulky yarn (accomplished!)
  2. To learn to spin an even worsted weight single . . .wait for it...

    Ta Da!

Meet "Silver-Haired Babe", which is being spun of a scrumptious blend of merino and tussah silk.

This buttery blend practically spins itself. The roving, from Barn to Yarn, was purchased at Designer Yarn in Sandy, Oregon. This yarn store has a wonderful selection of staple, novelty, and discontinued yarns. They also carry lovely roving for spinners. It's a fiber lover's heaven!

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Technicolor Interactive Ballroom of the Future

    This was a dream in color that I had about an incredible dance space.

    The fodder:
    Reading about gesture technology
    Seeing the cool HP tablets given to design contestants on Project Runway
    Reading Cats that Paint
    Struggling to learn to use Adobe Illustrator
    15 years of social dance and addiction to every dance show on television
    Holiday viewing of Avatar 3D on the curved screen of the Archlight Dome in Hollywood

    The dream:
    The large dance space has an interactive curved screen that wraps around 3/4 of the room. The fourth wall is painted black but has LED screens spots of various colors sort of like a collection of luminous eyeshadows mounted on the wall. Along this black wall the floor is bottom-lit plexiglass and has pool of colors at various locations. Think of this side of the room as the dance color palette.

    Both professional and non-professional dancer-artists rent the room regularly. After paying in advance for the rental, they choose the colors for the dance color palette and determine the placement of the various hues on the palette wall and floor. They also choose the music to be played for their session.

    The music begins and their act of dancing creates a painting on the screen as they move through various color spots of the palette. The natural dance movements, through gesture technology, apply colors and strokes to the wrapped computer canvas of the screen which becomes a painted memory of the dance. A waltz may have a totally different "painted" result than a hip-hop session. A single dancer might create a simpler visual than would a whole dance crew.

    Your dance session is recorded, and you can purchase the 3D video of your dance and the development of its accompanying work of art and music when you leave. You can sell copies of your especially good dance sessions to collectors.

    The hope:
    That this dream comes true in my lifetime.

    Illustration adapted from The Wonder of the Surreal by Jomama1152

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Out of the Oregon Gloom with a Sunshine Award

     Here I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself yesterday because I had too much to do and no focus with which to act. All it took to get a sense of renewal was to spend the evening spinning with all the wonderful women of the Vancouver Spinner's Guild. I spun my first really successful single ply yarn. . .

    and then I got home and remembered:

    Erin at Dropped Stitches awarded me the Sunshine Award last week, and I haven't posted about it nor named my nominees!

    The Sunshine Award "is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world." The rules once this award is received are as follows:

    1. Post the logo on your blog.
    2. Pass the award on to 12 other bloggers.
    3. Link to your nominees.
    4. Let your nominees know that they have won the award by commenting on their blog.
    5. Link to the person who gave you the award.

    This is my first blog award! I am very thrilled to have received it and hereby bestow this award on these awesome bloggers who always bring sunshine into my day with their posts from around the world:

    Firefly Cottage
    From the High North
    Inkberry Blue
    Moonlight and Hares
    Ponder and Stitch
    Portland Peeps
    Phydeaux Designs
    The Ardent Sparrow
    Travel, Fibre, and Thread

    Perfectly timed for the presentation of these awards, we have our first really gorgeous sunny morning here in Portland today.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Buried in the Details

    Since attending the Summit of Awesome last week, my brain has been swimming in details about running a small business with an online store. In addition, there is all this chaos in the studio as the result of designing and making new things for fall and winter. Then there's the state of my desk, which looks like a few lighted firecrackers and cherry bombs were thrown among the papers.

    My brain is full and is running too fast. None of my ADD games are working very well this week.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Knitting in Seafoam

    Although my ADD mind will often flit from idea to idea and from one project to another, it does sometimes gets obsessively occupied with a single thing. Especially knit and crochet stitches.

    It seems that every year, a different stitch takes hold of my imagination. My brain becomes fascinated by endless possibilities of fiber choices for the stitch pattern and different pattern variations. Last year I was mesmerized by a European rib stitch and created many scarves based on it.

    Since I am now a spinner, this year I was exploring stitch patterns that would show off hand-spun yarn. Dropped and elongated stitches are perfect for this.

    My muse, the Knitting Mermaid, a mythical friend who lives in the ocean off Cannon Beach, Oregon, inspired me to look at the seafoam pattern which is described in Barbara Walker's A 2nd Treasury of Knitting Stitches on p. 218.

    Here what it looks like:

    This is basically a garter stitch pattern in which you create some elongated stitches on every fourth row that create little eye-shaped lace inserts.

    In Barbara Walker's instructions, you create the elongated stitches by making one or more yarnovers between the knit stitches of the eye sections. These yarnovers are dropped when knitting the next row of stitches.

    An alternative method for making the elongated stitches, and one which works better for me, is to knit them as follows: (1) Insert the right-hand needle as if to knit the next stitch. (2) Wrap the yarn 1-4 times around the needle and pull all the wraps through the stitch onto the RH needle. (3) On the next row knit into this wrapped knit stitch once. The extra wraps will create a long stitch.

    You can vary several different elements of this pattern:

    • the number of rows of knitting between the eyes 
    • the number of stitches within and between the eyes
    • the number of yarnovers or wraps for the stitches within the eyes
    • the number and color variation of yarns used

    In the photo above two different colors of yarn were used on every four rows with the yarn not in use being carried up the side of the fabric. You can vary the look depending on when you make the color change. This swatch used a color change right after the wrapped stitch row.

    In the next swatch, two colors are used on selected rows to create a design within the design, and the number of knit rows between motifs were varied.

    It was the above swatch which led to the choice of edging for my Edgewater Treasure wrap of which you saw a peak in the last post.

    Not content to stop there, I have another wrap with a seafoam edge in progress:

    It was an endlessly fascinating stitch--until I thought about making elongated stitches in crochet.

    So now I'm off on a new tangent. Obsessively.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Sneak Preview

    A little look at something ready to go into the store.

    In the next post I'll talk about the journey of making it.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    Summit of Awesome

     If you are a crafty person in Portland, you will want to check out this cool event sponsored by the non-profit group Hello Craft starting next Wednesday June 16. I'll be attending workshops on Friday and hope to learn more about selling at crafts fairs: how to jury well, and how to take remote credit card payments.

    Here's the official info:

    The Summit of Awesome is three days of business and technical education seminars as well as hands-on workshops produced by the non-profit Hello Craft. Taking place in the Alberta Arts District of Portland, OR, from June 16 to 18, this year’s Summit is co-produced by Hello Craft’s event partners and PDX craft superstars, Crafty Wonderland and DIY Lounge. Summit seminar topics range from how to organize craft fairs and develop successful product lines to teaching crafters how to prepare taxes and form LLC’s. At the 2nd annual Summit, Craftnote speakers are crafty renaissance man Mark Montano and BuyOlympia founders Pat Castaldo and Aaron Tuller. Full speaker list can be found here. A special addition to this year’s event is the “Show of Awesome,” a 40-vendor craft show on Saturday, June 19, at Doug Fir Lounge.

    Etsy Virtual Labs will be there for Etsians who cannot attend.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Dive into the Procrastination Pool

    I am a stalwart ADD-brained procrastinator. (That should be with a capital P.)

    Don't believe it? How about that it's only now, after blogging for just about two years, that I finally got around to playing with a little design for this blog. Blogger's made it easy to play with the design, so today you see some new colors and a different layout than you've been accustomed to seeing. It's a work in progess, so be forewarned that you might see it change some more.

    Lots of ideas have always flitted into my ambitious little pee brain; however, I am one of those folks for whom being overly busy strikes a chord of terror. It feels overwhelming to have too much to do, so things have to be put out of mind, and that doesn't always happen in a way that guarantees things eventually get done.  It's not unusual for me to have hundreds of unmanifested ideas and to-do items lounging around in the pool at the back of my brain for years. That pool is now full, and something has to change.

    To stay focused and to get things done, I have developed lots of coping mechanisms over the years. You may remember from previous posts, if you've been following for a while, about the "Put 50 Things Away" game, the "Hire Yourself as Your Own Assistant" game, or the "Focus of the Day" game. The games become less effective over time, and new games have to be developed.

    This is my new one: During June I have vowed to drag one or two things a days from out of the procrastination pool, dry them off in the light of day, and get them done.

    So far, so good. Things have gone to the goodwill, clothes have been carted off to drycleaners, the hand-weights have come back out of the closet, and some unfinished objects are being completed.

    A big item, that has been put off for the past year, is to start the process of getting some patterns completed and listed for sale on Ravelry. It has always felt like an insurmountable task: all that technical writing and geeky stuff about pattern writing, all the unknowns about getting the Ravelry designer status set up, etc.

    Two nights ago, after posting the tutorial for the Understatement Necklace on this blog, I contributed it as a free pattern on Ravelry. Last night I was blown away upon discovering that 270 people in Ravelry had marked the necklace as a favorite, it appeared on the site in 112 queues to be made by Ravelers, and my Etsy store had five times the amount of page views as normal yesterday. Whoa, Nelly! That's exciting!

    Good golly, this game could be fun. Care to play along? Do you have any unfinished business lurking around?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Tutorial for the Understatement Necklace

    This is a tutorial for the understatement necklace that was featured in the previous post. Go there for pictures of the finished piece and for the supplies list.

    This post will cover the steps to make one for yourself. If you want one, but you don't crochet, you can buy one in my Etsy store. If the store is sold out, I'd be happy to custom make one for you. Just let me know.

    Crocheters, to start you need to pre-string your beads in the following order: a small 11/0 seed bead, a drop bead ( or a size 6/0 seed bead), and then another 11/0 seed bead. Do this 120 times.

    You will be crocheting the beads into 120 clusters.

    After you have them all strung, it's helpful to have a little cup in which to put your thread and its supply of beads in waiting.

    We are going to start by making the button loop. You may remember that I did not include a button on the supplies list. That was intentional. Some of you crochet a little tighter or a little looser no matter how closely you try to match the gauge. You will want to crochet the button loop before choosing the button because you want to have a snug fit.

    The button loop:

    • Leaving a 12" tail, make a slip knot with your thread and insert your hook into it. Ch 12.
    • Join with a sl st to form a ring, being careful not to twist the chain. Ch 1. Do not turn.
    • Work 24 sc into the ring. Join with a sl st to the first sc of the round.
    • Pick up the tail and ch 3 using both the tail and the working thread together as one.
    • Drop the tail. Ch 3 with just the working thread. Do not cut off the tail. At the end you will come back and bury the tail by weaving it into the back of the sc sts of the button loop.

    Gauge and Finished Length:

    For this project, the gauge is not critical, but I recommend that you aim to get it as close as possible. Your gauge will probably vary over the length of the necklace anyway. Don't worry about it. You can add more beads at the end if you crochet too tightly and want a longer necklace. Conversely, if you crochet more loosely, you can finish the necklace without using all of the beads that were pre-strung.

    Aim to have 10-11 bead clusters per 4 inches. You will want to have a finished piece that is 46-48 inches in length.

    The Strand of Beads:

    • Work a bead cluster chain stitch (see the following explanation). Ch 3.
    • Repeat the above until you have used all the beads or have achieved your desired necklace length.

    The Bead Cluster Chain Stitch:

    Step 1: Move three beads close to your hook as in the photo above.

    Step 2: Yarn over.

    Step 3: Pull the thread through the loop on your hook, locking the beads into place.

    After you have made all the bead clusters, find a button that fits your loop snuggly and sew it on the other end. Weave in the tails at both ends of the necklace.


    To give your necklace a professional look, you will want to block it before wearing it.

    Put your necklace in a bowl of warm water and let it soak for 20 minutes or so. Then blot it with a hand towel. Next lay the necklace on a blocking board (or your ironing board) so that all the bead clusters are on the same side and the necklace is not twisted. Stretch it ever so slightly and pin it into place. Let it dry for a day before you wear it.

    If you make one let me know. I'd love to see photos.

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Understatement Necklace

    Are you one of those fashionistas that loves the statement necklaces? You know the ones. They come in sizes big and bigger.

    They look like a whole garden of flowers was turned into metal or Lucite and attached to a chain by some evil witch whose jealousy over their beauty caused her to cast the spell. The flowers' destiny is to now hang about someone's neck for a year or so until they go out of style. Then it's to the back of the closet along with the 6-inch platform shoes.

    Don't get me wrong, there has been many a statement necklace that tempted me to buy it, but then I visualized what it would look like on my body and decided against it. While admiring the complex and wild, I usually go for the simple and clean-lined pieces.

    Here's an option for a simple necklace that you could wear with your casual wedding dress or your summer tees.

    It's a simple-to-make crocheted necklace with decorative glass beads. You could make it dressier by using silk and actual gemstones.

    The beauty of this simple long necklace is that you can wear it once, twice, or three times wrapped around your neck. You can also wear it six or seven times wrapped around your wrist.

    It has a simple button closure. Basic crochet skills are all you need. Well, that and some supplies:

    1. Size 8 pearl cotton thread
    2. Size 8 beading needle or any sewing needle that will accept the thread and go through the beads
    3. A pair of scissors
    4. A size 11 crochet hook (Size 9 will work if you crochet tightly.)
    5. Some size 11/0 seed beads
    6. Some size 3-4 mm drop beads (Alternative: size 6/0 seed beads)
    7. Not shown, and not needed yet will be a button. Don't worry about that item just yet.

    The next blog post will be a tutorial on how to crochet this necklace. If you want to work along, assemble your supplies, come back in a few days, and we'll begin. If you want one and you don't crochet, or you don't want to make your own, check out my store. There might be one there for sale--if not, I could custom make one for you.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Bridge of Glass: Part 2

    Having seen such magnificent art glass in the first covered area of the bridge of glass, it was with excitement that we hurried along to the second. There, to the delight of everyone passing underneath was a ceiling of splendor:

    The ceiling transformed us into explorers under a sea of glass.

    Every inch contained stunning art.

    Urchins, seashells, and underwater flora abounded.

    Mr. ChaCha and I were transfixed, shooting photo after photo of the magical space.

    I kept thinking of my friend, the knitting mermaid, and wondered how she would like this place.

    I wondered how this compared to being a deep sea diver.

    This was the most incredible art installation that I have seen.

    If you ever get a chance to see the Tacoma Museum of Glass, do it! I cannot recommend it enough.