Thursday, January 31, 2008

Live and learn

I have recently learned two very important things:
1) If your base chain is 4 ch per stitch, but your stitch consists of 5 trc, your piece will slowly circle back on itself. DUH. I think I knew this would happen, but was worried about the base being too, what? No Allison, it's just math. So...I need to learn math for design projects. And I think it's just a matter of trial and error. So I lost a whole night of work because I didn't think it through, but I have learned to be more deliberate with the numbers, and that is a very valuable lesson.
2) I should trust my instincts with patterns. I was very skeptical of this pattern, because it's just a big long tube with armholes basically, and the top of the tube is supposed to be a "cowl"...I knew this sounded weird, but the picture didn't look too bad and it looked like a quick project. Well, it wasn't a quick project, first of all, and this is what happened:

That is not a cowl. That is...the top of a big tube. Blah. Made me grumpy, as I am illustrating in this photo. I should have known better.

Anyway, now I am turning that yarn that I am actually kinda in love with into some pretty. That is, if I can learn how to count...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yay finished object! Yay design! Yay Project Spectrum!

Well the Unending Sweater of Death (as I affectionately think of it) is finally done, and I gave it to its recipient last week. She was very, very pleased which makes me happy, and then she said that her friends would love it too and I "should be expecting a lot of orders". Gulp. I finally got around to telling her that I don't want to do sweaters any more, since I would like to spend more time focusing on creating my own designs and such and sweaters are just so labor-intensive. She was really understanding and said she felt privileged that she now has a handmade sweater from me. (One of these days I'm going to actually post photos of these things...)

This weekend wasn't really productive on the crocheting end, moved apartments and that takes up um all of your time and energy. But Sunday night I sat down and started working on a wrap design I've had in mind for a while, just chaining away with no real concept...and last night I started all over again. I actually took time to swatch, which I've never really done before, and it took me a couple of hours to come up with something I was moderately pleased with. It felt good though, it felt like productive work. And then this morning I made a different swatch...I think I'm actually going to be making two different designs based on one stitch concept, one in a solid color to show off the stitch, one in variegated in a simpler stitch. I'm excited now. I feel good about this project. Will take me a little while but I feel good.

This wrap is going to be called "Fireside" and I envisioned it in colors of red and colors of the forest. And what do you know, this morning I stumbled onto Project Spectrum (have I mentioned how much I love Ravelry? holy cow), which is a "create-along" for anyone to make anything around a color theme picked for each three-month period. This year's theme is Elements, and this season's element is...Fire! Yes! What a coincidence! Now I am even more inspired, and feel like maybe I will start thinking about working some more designs in this theme. I'm so pumped. Woo!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

lessons I've learned recently

I am about 94% done with the Unseamly Sweater that a coworker commissioned from me. I have learned several things from this experience:
1) I'm suffering from severe project ADD. I've never had three projects going at once before but I do now, because I am SO BORED with the sweater. It fills me with dread knowing it's not done yet and I feel guilty doing other things but I just can't handle it some days.
2) I'm never taking a commission again, unless it's for something small. It makes me feel pressured, and like I can't work on anything else, and it takes all of the joy and relaxation out of the project and makes it something I have to do instead of want to do.
3) Sweaters are a completely impractical thing to make for sale. I will be able to recoup my material expenses but there's no way I can charge enough to pay myself for the three weeks of labo I've put into it. Blah.

Anyway. I should finally finish this evening! That will be a relief. And these were things I needed to learn anyway...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

a quick note about the Unseamly Sweater

I started and stopped this sweater twice before I finally got it right. Thanks to the beautiful people at Craftster (not sure who was the first to suggest it, but it's a miraculous save!) I took the suggestion to do the base chain with an N hook (otherwise there is NO WAY that sweater's going to fit around your hips), switch to J hook (or whatever hook you would need to achieve the original gauge) for the V-stitch portion, and switch to a K hook (if not bigger) for the waist shaping. Unless you are concave-chested, in which case the waist as written should slip on you just fine.
(I tend to use the K hook for the seed stitch of the sleeves too, but that's not as important.)

Without these suggestions, I would still be looking at my half-frogged sweater and weeping a little inside. I think it's actually physically impossible to create this sweater (and have it be wearable) as written.

exciting update

My first crochet patterns are with a tester! Woo! I wrote patterns and now someone is testing them for me! Woo!

:) Carry on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Al on the bus

A few days ago I started taking my crochet WIP on the bus, mostly because I've been commissioned to make a sweater so I'm trying to do it quickly, and it's the Unseamly Sweater, whose sleeves were almost the end of me the first time I made it, so I figured I could do the mindless repetitive sleeve stitching while I commuted and get it over with quicker.
At first I felt like a bit of a geek, actually. I was aware that a lot of eyes were on me and I was self-conscious (for some reason). But, it did make the commute go by waaaay faster, and indeed, the sleeves didn't seem to take such a death-defyingly long time. In fact, the first day we got stuck in traffic for a long time, and I didn't even realize that it took twice as long to get home. Not getting ticked off at my evening commute=a positive and unexpected consequence.

But even more than that, people have started to talk to me. This made me uncomfortable at first, because I like to be left alone for the most part, but then I started to notice what nice conversations we were having. A young guy in a business suit talked about how his girlfriend tried to teach him to knit and he was all thumbs, but he thought it was cool anyway. A lady from the Netherlands reminisced about learning yarn crafts in elementary school, and we talked about Dutch lace-making and the way that crafts maintain a sense of identity. Last night a lady from Colombia sat down next to me and started talking about her mother, and her sister who knits and sews, and she talked about her children and what a treasure children are. She learned new English words ("embroidery" was a new one), and she talked about how important it is to make something by hand, to be able to give loved ones something you've worked hard on, especially since everything else in this world is "buy and destroy", as she said.

Sometimes people don't say anything, but they notice me and I see them smile or see recognition in their eyes. They look knowing, and content; either they crochet themselves, or their grandmothers did, or someone else, but either way they are always good memories that come up.

All of this was unexpected. But it just reinforces my belief that there is a connection to be made with other people, even in brief moments of contact. We don't have a lot of traditions in America that everyone can respond to, but hands working with yarn to make something warm, that resonates with almost everyone. I feel lucky to participate.

Oh, and a word re: knitting vs. crocheting. I realize that among crafty folks this is a huge debate, and obviously they are two very different crafts. And I admit that I often feel a little defensive about crochet (especially as someone who wants to make crochet designs, and therefore needs to fend off bad crochet stereotypes). But I'm learning not to get offended when a "lay person" gets the two confused, and I don't usually correct them any more. People repeatedly say something like "my mom used to do that, but with two needles". To 97% of people in this world, it's not the difference between the two crafts that is important at all; it's the wonderful things the two share that speak to them, and I'm very okay with that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seriously, though

Why I started to crochet:
When I was small, my grandmother tried to teach me how to crochet and knit and sew and tat and cook and garden and probably other things I'm forgetting. From her I inherited my love of needlework, a warm home, big trees, healthy tomato plants, and dinners that take a long time to make and are shared around a table. She was the stereotypical domestic goddess. Unfortunately for me, my small hands and short attention span meant that none of her diligent craft lessons really stuck, I got tired of fumbling with the various shapes and sizes of needles and would inevitably run off to play in the backyard. But even then I appreciated it, and her.
A few years ago, we finally had to move my grandma to a nursing home. My grandpa had passed away a few years before, and my grandma had had a severe stroke from which she never fully recovered. She was no longer able to take care of herself, and no longer able to use her hands to create and to share. It was very strange, having Christmases without handmade gifts from her. Her health was deteriorating rapidly, she wasn't able to speak any more, and the nursing home upset me too much for me to visit very often. But she was my grandma, and I wanted her to know that I still cared, that she really had made a difference in my life, that she had passed something on to me and I treasured it.
So I re-taught myself to crochet. I wasn't very good, but holding the aluminum hooks in my hands took me back to our days on her couch, and I knew I was doing something good. I made her an afghan as a surprise, and presented it to her for her birthday. I wanted to show her, tangibly, that I had learned from her. She couldn't say much about it, but she looked happy. And proud.
I've gotten a lot better since then. I'm sad that I can't show her, but I have a feeling she's proud anyway. And it makes me proud, to know that I'm participating in something that goes back for generations. I'm not just making things out of yarn, I'm acting out a sacred ritual that my grandma and countless other amazing women (and men) have performed for centuries. And that's very important to me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

the way of all flesh

I have caved. I have begun a crochet blog.

I finally realized that crochet/yarn/knitting blogs have become very resourceful for me; they are fantastic places to find inspiration, corrections to patterns, information on yarns for certain patterns, etc. Plus I'm really bad at forgetting things, so this way I'll be able to track my projects and remember what I've done and what I want to do.

I don't have any pictures of projects I really strongly desire to post right now, so here is a picture of me illustrating just how much I love hot sake:

Mmm. Sake.