The little tweaks keep crafting fun!

Hi readers! It’s the Monday night of a three-day weekend and I have to say I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after a good weekend of fun, friends, quality time with my man, and of course plenty of knitting.

A new cable, a new copper beauty

A new cable, a new copper beauty

I finished this new headband design for the shop in a beautiful copper shade, and wore one of my other headbands out on Saturday night for a bit of casual promotion while catching up with mates. Since it picked up a hint of “pub” smell, I had a great excuse to test the yarn for machine wash-ability. It came out of the machine completely intact and even softer than it went in!

I also played around with some ideas for an upcoming craft blogging event in which I have been kindly invited to participate (won’t give too much away just yet).

Today after a good gym session I spent most of the day just adding potential patterns to my Ravelry queue. I must have been living under a rock because I haven’t really gotten into the site until the last month or so. The long weekend gave me the time to actually browse through patterns properly. Any knitters not already on the site should join immediately. It’s such a great source for patterns, advice, ideas, yarn reviews and to see what other knitters are up to.

I was keen to try something a bit more fun this evening, so I landed on the Kimono Slippers. This was a great, simple little project that I could tell would be super quick and give me a great chance to dip into some stash yarn. I ended up using Panda Tempo 100% acrylic (I’m not exactly a fiber snob, and this yarn happens to be very pretty and soft) which I bought on sale for $3/skein some time ago.

Kimono Slipper prior to stitching up

Kimono Slipper prior to stitching up

As you can see, these slippers are worked flat, which is great for a quick project. I didn’t bother with gauge or even using the recommended needle size. I just went for it and made sure to sew it up well.

One down, one to go

One down, one to go

I finished one slipper tonight while Matt kindly cooked up our steak dinner. I was in the knitting zone. After dinner I sewed up the edges according to the instructions. I think this one is actually meant to be the left slipper, but it feels more comfortable on my right foot, so I’ve just gone with that. I was ready for a break, so I resolved to make its partner later in the week.

However after leaving it be for about 10 minutes, I decided it just wasn’t right. It needed a bit of an embellishment before I’d really be satisfied with it. And so…

Garter stitch strap with button hole to the rescue!

Garter stitch strap with button hole to the rescue!

I thought it would make a nice touch to knit up a quick garter stitch strap and add a button to make it a bit more exciting. Matt agrees that it looks heaps better, and I’m pretty happy with it too. The strap is also functional, as it’ll keep my foot from slipping out. It’s great to take the framework of an existing pattern and spruce it up using your own knowledge. This is definitely one of my favorite things about crafting.

I made the smallest size as my feet aren’t all that big, but I could maybe have gone medium. In any event this slipper is easy to “try on” while you’re stitching it up to ensure it will fit. I still have plenty of yarn on the skein as well, so hopefully I can get a second slipper out of it without having to break into another.

Booty from below

Booty from below

These acrylic slippers are great for the Australian climate, since they protect my bare feet from the chilly floors, but also won’t make me overheat in the warmer months. If you want something really cozy, I’d go for wool.

For the strap, I cast on 6 stitches, working a garter stitch pattern (knitting every row) and creating a button hole three stitches wide a few rows before the end (there are heaps of great buttonhole tutorials out there, it can be tricky the first few times). My advice for this whole project (including the strap) is to slip the first stitch of every row (knitwise or purlwise appropriately) to keep the edges nice and clean.

I encourage everyone to take chances in your crafting. You never know what sort of touch ups might just add a little personal flair to your project. Plus it’s great to use extra supplies that are just lying around your craft space. I have a whole bag of buttons just waiting for opportunities like this.

Always carry a pen

I’m sure the other writers out there subscribe to this motto as loyally as I do. To be caught without a pen is absolute suicide. You never know when inspiration will hit, you never know when a networking opportunity will strike. Won’t you feel foolish meeting a key player in your industry and not being able to offer a pen when he/she inevitably isn’t carrying a business card. How else will you get that elusive contact information?

It also isn’t a bad thing to be the first to proffer a writing utensil every time the “Does anyone have a pen?” scenario occurs. It will make you look organized and professional, whether you feel it on the inside or not.

But who knew that having a pen could be crucial to solving a knitter’s dilemma? As I’ve mentioned before, I am completely enamored with cables. I love cabling in my knitting; I think the effect is just stunning. Yesterday morning I decided to have a crack at knitting on the bus during my commute. Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts on the bus, as I am someone who feels easily queasy when trying to read. I LOVE to read, and still attempt to do so nearly everyday. But often I don’t make it all the way to the city before the dizziness sets in.

So there I am, all the way at the back of the bus so I can spread out a little. I take my needles and headband-in-progress out of my bag, when FACEPALM. In a “could have had a V8” sort of moment, I realized I hadn’t brought my circular needle (my alternative to a cable needle). However would I work the cables efficiently? I knit one cable without a needle, but it was so slow and tedious with the rumbling of the bus, that I quickly gave up, resolving to solve this issue later at the office.

Enter: The trusty pen. Before we’d even reached the city, a light bulb went on. Of course!  I thought.

Pen cap to the rescue

Pen cap to the rescue

So I gift to you all, in my infinite wisdom, another handy cable cheat: the pen cap. When I got to the office, I finished working the row I had been in the middle of, before setting it down to begin my work day. I hate leaving knitting open in the middle of a row. It would have just eaten away at me until lunchtime.

Surfer's Paradise in progress

Work in progress

So while I wasn’t at a logical stopping point, at least I had finished the row. I proceeded to use the pen cap while knitting on my lunch break as well. Just goes to show, there are myriad reasons why you should always carry a pen.

The back of the finished headband

The back of the finished headband

Just as a sort of P.S. I thought I’d include an image of the finished product from the back. A provisional cast on leaves the live stitches on either side. Using kitchener stitch, you can graft the two ends together in a clean and nearly invisible manner. My advice: when picking up live stitches that have been twisted and cabled, TAKE YOUR TIME. Stay focused and pay close attention. Also, of course, count your stitches so you know that there is an equal number on each end. When done properly, it can turn out so wonderful. I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and you can’t even tell where the two ends meet without very close inspection (and a keen knitter’s eye). Plus the lighting in this last photo captures the true color much better than the overexposed lighting in my office. Let me know if you try this method and run into trouble. I use provisional cast on and kitchener for most of my headbands.

What to do when crafting gets you down

Picture this: You’re home after a long day, compounded with the fact that it’s been a long week and it’s not even Friday yet. You can’t wait to get in PJs and settle into some warm and fuzzy crafty goodness. Before long, nothing is working out the way you planned. You become frustrated, tired, and just plain over it. What do you do? You don’t want to waste this prime opportunity to be creative, but nothing is going right.

This was me last night my friends. I wanted to knit. In fact, I’d been longing to knit all day. I still need to pump out a few headband samples so I can get them on models and take photos. There is one design that I started the other day, but ended up ripping out when it proved a bit thin. Last night I started over using the same pattern, but on slightly larger needles. This left gaping holes where the cabling occurred, so I produced a heavy sigh and ripped out to start over.

Next I decided to take a break from that design and make something new. I have a few headbands floating around in my mind, but I have yet to actually sit down and work out a stitch count. I must have tried to work out about three different patterns to no avail. I was much too frustrated to take the time and work it out properly.

My fiancé could hear me getting frustrated with every dramatic ripping out of my projects. He prodded, asking what was wrong and if there was anything he could do. He was kind enough to spare me the logical suggestion of just setting down my work and taking a breather.

It was getting late, so eventually I had to rip out yet again and go bring the laundry in off the clothesline and cook dinner. I was feeling depressed, so I let him keep playing video games, rather than asking for help in the kitchen. Normally I love cooking together. It gives us a great chance to catch up on our days and it makes the process go faster when we’re really not in the mood to be stuck in the kitchen. But at that point, I just needed some time to myself to regroup.

After the quiches were safely in the oven, I came back into the living room to try one more option. This was the original design from the other day, with an extra cable. I thought these extra stitches on the original smaller needles would make it wide enough without creating gaps when stretched over a person’s head. So I did one (almost) final cast on and got to work.

Amazingly, the short pause was enough to keep me sane. Even when I had done a few rows of only 22 stitches when I needed 23, I had peace of mind, and dutifully ripped out and cast on again. This time it was project success!

I think that is what gets me down sometimes during frustrating knitting sessions. I don’t mind the ripping out and starting over, it’s the cast on that makes me insane. Especially a provisional cast on. I ended up needing to get out new provisional yarn after overworking my original crochet chain in the myriad other cast ons throughout the evening. (A provisional cast on knits into a crochet chain to create “live” stitches making it cleaner to graft the two ends together when a project is finished. It works great with headbands and infinity scarves or cowls.)

Now the headband is looking even better than I could have imagined. I still wish I could have finished it last night, but I’m glad that I took a break and got perspective rather than giving up completely.

So I say when crafting, writing or general creating has you banging your head against the wall, don’t give up. Just take a short break and come back with a clear mind. Last night I considered just giving up and watching TV or working on hexipuffs instead, but I knew I wanted to make progress on my headbands.

As a writer, I know I should be applying this same strategy. Lately I haven’t been in the mood to devote the necessary energy to my fiction writing. But I really just need to sit down and get to it, taking pause when I really need it, and coming back revitalized.

For all you creators out there, I would love to hear your stories of when you got stuck and how you dealt with it. With so little precious time for being creative amidst life’s many challenges and demands, how do you find peace and time for your activity of choice? How do you find your flow?

The dreaded knitter’s shoulder

We’ve all heard of tennis elbow right? According to Wiki, this is a misnomer, as the majority of sufferers are not actually professional tennis players. It’s a soreness rather than an inflammation.

Well this morning I am a sufferer of what I’m going to call Knitter’s Shoulder. Yes this is probably the silliest sounding ailment EVER, but I have it.

Last night after work I went to the gym for a Body Combat class. This is one of the few classes I’ve never tried before in Les Mills’ program of workouts. It’s sort of like an aerobic boxing/kickboxing class set to music. Some of you may not know that I used to frequent a boxing gym. I completely love it, there is hardly a better workout out there. So to be punching air instead of another person’s palm was a bit of a letdown.

But back to the matter at hand shoulder…After the warm-up, I started to feel fatigued in only my right arm. It was puzzling, since I hadn’t worked that hard yet, and my left side was kicking some serious imaginary face.

It was only when I settled down to my knitting after dinner that I realized what was happening. My right shoulder (more accurately my delt and upper bicep) is actually aching from all the knitting I’ve been doing!

I nearly finished an entire scarf last night in, embracing the burn and knitting up a storm. It helps that I was using 15mm needles, which speeds up the process and are almost comically large.

This morning I would much rather finish up the last few rows than go to work, but unfortunately I need a paycheck to survive. Funny that. But I’m a little excited because I have an interview with a fascinating environmental researcher later this morning (I’m a Journo, as the Aussies would say).

My arms and shoulders are both sore from all the pushups and tough punches, but my right side is especially mad at my brain for not allowing me to just put down the needles and have a rest.

Am I alone? Or have you other knitters out there been prey to the dreaded knitter’s shoulder?

 

If at first you don’t succeed, just go to bed

There are two types of people in this world: morning people, and night people.

If you ask most people, I’m sure they would say, “Oh, I’m not a morning person.” To this statement, many nod in recognition, declaring war on anyone and anything that would deprive them of a little extra shut-eye in the early AM hours.

Then there are people like me, who basically stop functioning around 10:30pm (sometimes earlier). One reason for this is that I am accustomed to getting up early to fit in my workout before I head the office, usually seated at my desk by 8 o’clock. Another is that I am a slave to the sun. Even on weekend mornings, the blaring light through my bedroom curtains tells me it’s time to get up by 7:15 at the latest.

That being said, I am also at my most clear-minded and productive between about 7:15 and 10am. Fortunately for my employer, this mostly falls while I’m at work. Unfortunately for my knitting, my free time usually lands in the late evenings.

Last night I fell prey to my own stubbornness, as 11pm came and went while I refused to set down my knitting. I reached the row that I had deemed would contain two buttonholes. Now, I’ve learned to do buttonholes in the past, but I have not applied them much in my own knitting, and that fact combined with the late hour was a recipe for disaster.

This was a beautiful cream merino headband, and the third I had made this weekend as samples for my knits by emma line. Before I go any further I just want to say I have found yarn love. I have heard others express love for yarn, but I had yet to truly experience it myself. For my line of headbands, I will be using exclusively Australian 100% chunky merino by Heirloom. The best part is it’s apparently machine washable (though I still need to test them). Here’s a little preview for you, lovely blog readers.

New headbands in Moss and Slate

New headbands in Moss and Slate

Last night I just couldn’t seem to calculate the spacing and number of seams for my buttonholes. I don’t know what was with me, but it was as if I was too sleepy and frustrated to get it right. Every time I failed to make them look as perfect as I wanted, I ripped back about 4 or 5 rows, re-knit to my place, and tried again. (Thankfully my beautiful Australian merino is so durable, that there is no visible evidence of how much I reworked the final section of this headband.)

Eventually my poor fiancé begged me to give up and resume in the morning. By the time he’d protested for the third time, I conceded it was time to throw in the towel and go to sleep. All day at work I itched to get home and try again. This afternoon I got it on the first try, and proceeded to “try on” my knitting in front of the mirror.

After all of that effort, heartache and lost sleep…I like it better without the buttons! I ended up ripping back AGAIN and finishing it off with a mattress stitch. I will probably try it with a provisional cast on and kitchener next time just to see which way looks better for the pattern. There’s a little sneak peak of the finished product in my instagram over on the sidebar, for anyone who wants to check it out. It’s amazing how such a simple headband can cause so many problems. Thankfully I love the end result!