So-called “selfish” knitting

DISCLAIMER: I disagree that knitting for yourself is, in any way, selfish.

NaNoWriMo ends in 10 days, which has got Matt and I both a little frantic. Though that’s probably also due to lack of a good night’s sleep in over a month.

Even so, I am using precious writing energy juices to challenge this idea of “selfish knitting” that seems to be cropping up everywhere. I’m not sure how it started, but I’ve heard about it both on The Knitmore Girls and Knit Knit Cafe. From what I remember, it sounds like the original idea was proposed as a “good” thing. As in, we should take the time to do some “selfish knitting” during the crazy holiday season. Both the Knitmores and Abby of KKC found this term to be offensive, and so do I.

Last night I finally finished my mom’s Christmas present, which was the last of the items I’m making for the holidays. Once they’ve opened them, I promise to post photos, but for now it must remain a surprise for my parents and sisters. It was a relief to finish it, as it had taken me longer than expected, and I felt an overwhelming urge to immediately cast on something for myself.

Listening to Abby get so worked up today made me feel inclined to share my thoughts on the matter. It takes time and money to finish a knitted item. I love making gifts for other people, but it can also get exhausting, often because I’m the kind of person to put a lot of pressure on myself. Many experienced knitters stop knitting for others, knowing that more often than not gifts that have taken hours to make will not be properly appreciated or cared for.

I think that’s part of why I’m enjoying my Rock Coast cardigan so much. I’ve run out of yarn at the moment, so I need to wait until the weekend to stock up and get back to it, but I’ve finished the body and one sleeve.

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Last night I did a little writing, and then wound up a skein of Malabrigo sock in the Solis colorway, to be combined with my already wound Ivy ball to create a Daybreak shawl for myself.

For my Daybreak

For my Daybreak

What I’ve realized in the process of making so many items for others lately (with many projects for friends and one for my sister still on order), is that I don’t mind as long as I simultaneously have a project on the needles for myself that I really enjoy.

I read this article today (23 things women should stop doing), and I think this all ties into the same thing. Why is it that when women do something for themselves, it’s considered selfish?

It’s not even a men vs. women thing, it’s a society vs. women thing. We perpetuate this idea that women should be selfless all of the time, conditioning which starts practically from birth. “Boys will be boys” aka “boys can do whatever they like all of the time with no regard for consequences” is a terrible cliché.

I say do things for yourself, whether it’s crafting, taking time to spend on your own, or just a bit of R&R, YOU ARE NOT SELFISH, you’re human and it’s healthy.

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The Fan Enough headband tutorial

Crafty Football Blog HopWelcome to the knits by emma entry for the 2013 Crafty Football Blog Hop! Crafters from various disciplines have gotten together to bring you some projects that will get you geared up for a great season. There’s a reason we love this time of year, so get in touch with your creative side, and while you scream at the TV all of Sunday afternoon, GET CRAFTING!

Anyone who has actually met or spoken to me is probably aware that I am a massive Green Bay Packers fan. Growing up in Minnesota as the daughter of a hardcore Cheesehead and Wisconsin native wasn’t always smooth sailing amongst the throng of rabid Vikings supporters. But my sisters and I never lost faith in our boys and taunted and heckled our peers right back, knowing our team would (and does) always come out on top!

For this tutorial I decided to design a piece that combined my love of the Green and Gold with my passion of knitting headbands. This was designed to be unisex. It’s also a quick little project and would suit most any skill level.

Fan Enough headband

Fan Enough headband

Fan Enough headband

Materials used:

  • 1 skein in main color (MC) – approx. 54m (Debbie Bliss cashmerino Aran 50g ball)
  • 1 skein in contrasting color (CC) – approx. 63m (Loyal machine-washable DK/8ply)*
  • A 5mm, 40cm circular needle (US size 8, 16” circular needle)
  • 1 stitch marker (SM)
  • 1 tapestry needle

    Perfect Packer-colored yarn

    Perfect Packer-colored yarn

Gauge and tips:

18 sts and 24 rows for a 10cm square

I chose two different yarn weights because of the colors available at my local yarn store, but this headband would best be done on *two Aran/Worsted weight yarns. The DK will knit up looser on a 5mm needle, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it becomes holey. Knit consistently, don’t pull it too tight or it won’t stretch as nicely over the head. Always change colors at the beginning of a round. Pay close attention to which rows are in MC and which are in CC.

Pattern instructions:

Cast on (CO) 74 sts in CC and join in the round. Place SM to indicate the beginning of a new round. (TIP: I sometimes cast on an extra stitch and knit the first and last stitch together [k2tog] when joining in the round to make it smoother and firmer)

CO in CC, then purl in MC to create a lovely striped effect

CO in CC, then purl in MC to create a lovely striped effect

Rows 1-6: Purl in MC

Row 7: Purl in CC

Rows 8-11: Knit in CC

Rows 12-17: Purl in MC

Rows 18-23 Purl in CC

Row 24: Purl in MC

Ends to be woven in

Ends to be woven in

Rows 25-28: Knit in MC

Rows 29-34: Purl in CC

Bind off (BO) loosely in MC (TIP: I recommend this article on Crafsy)

Weave in ends using tapestry needle. Take care when weaving in the loose ends; you don’t want to make it too tight, especially in the CO and BO areas.

Block lightly if need be.

IMG_2274 IMG_2269

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog hoppers below. I can’t wait to try out some of these great ideas myself. Happy crafting everyone, and GO PACK GO!

knits by emma hits the streets!

Picture 8

I’m proud to announce that knits by emma will make its first public appearance at the Smart Street Parties series happening down in Mandurah’s Smart Street Mall.

The series includes four events spread out over the next four months, and I will be showcasing at the January and February Suitcase Markets next year. I will fill a suitcase of beautiful knits to sell and display. 1 suitcase=1 stall. It will literally be a trunk show!

Check out their blog for more information. The Twilight Markets will take place on Fridays from 5-9pm on November 8th, December 6th, January 17th and Valentine’s Day.

I’ll post more info as it gets closer to the date. If you’re a Perth-based crafter looking to participate, I encourage you to apply quick as places are limited!

Knitbusters: knitting myths unraveled

The life of a 20-something knitter is a funny thing. Admitting your yarn habit to the world can be a tentative process, as it’s often followed up with, Oh, that’s…nice? or Huh..my grandma used to knit.

I can hear how boring I must sound to others when I’m chatting excitedly about a new project or a pattern I have my eye on. But I can’t stop myself, it’s my passion!

Even in 2013 when knitting seems to be trendier and more widespread than ever, common misconceptions are still flowing around. I thought I would bust a few of my favorite knitting myths for your enjoyment. *Please note that this is not a rant, I find these myths rather cute and funny.*

1) Knitting is for Nanas

This one is fair enough, let’s be honest. Knitting traditionally seems like a dated pastime, and the worlds of knitters and non-knitters hardly seem to collide, so the myth lives on. It’s true that many of the knitter groups in the local communities are decidedly 60+ (retirees have room in their schedules to meet on a Wednesday morning at 10am), but with cool classes, conventions, knitwear designers, and the magical land that is ravelry, there are people of all ages getting into knitting and crochet these days. There’s a great little yarn store/café near us in Wembley, and just the other day I made the acquaintance of two girls in their 20s (like me) who had met up to chat, knit and compare their projects. I was working on the arms for my knitted toy quietly in the corner, and they approached me to ask what I was working on. Seek out a local yarn store if you’re curious. You’ll see it’s a whole new world out there. And don’t be shy to ask knitters what they’re working on. Most of us are dying to talk about it with anyone who will actually listen!

2) People save money by knitting handmade gifts

Mate, you’re dreamin’! Most people who take the time to make a gift for someone have carefully picked out (and paid around $4-10 for) a pattern, selected beautiful soft yarn made from quality (read: expensive) fibers, and spent hours of their free time knitting it up. Even if it’s “just” a hat or a pair of socks. These are labors of love, and they take time. Luckily we knitters get genuine pleasure, or flow from knitting, so we’re happy to make these gifts. I myself am leery of making gifts for others as I never want someone to feel like they HAVE to like it for my benefit. (This hasn’t stopped me from planning myriad Christmas gifts this year. Family: You’re getting knits. You’ve been warned.)

3) Knitting is all scarves, socks and sweaters

I think busting this myth would get a lot more people interested in knitting. It’s so much more than just scarves and stockinette. There are unlimited techniques to learn and projects to take on. There are shawls, hats, headbands, toys, boot cuffs, handbags, kindle and phone cases, not to mention twists on the old standbys. I’m still working on my giant beekeeper’s quilt a little at a time. And have you seen all the cool crazy tea cozies out there? This craft is not just Nan’s moldy old afghan anymore.

4) Knitting is hereditary

These days, with knitting reaching “cool” status, everyone and their sister can get into it. I learned in one afternoon how to cast on, knit, purl and bind off from a friend when I was 16. I followed up on it myself, getting a couple of books, some needles and plenty of scratchy acrylic yarn that would eventually become hoards of ugly scarves to bestow upon my innocent friends and family. I didn’t know about quality fibers back then. But if you have the drive, in today’s online age you can learn anything. I cannot believe how my skills and yarn knowledge have grown in just a few short months since I picked up the needles again. I did not learn from my mother or grandmother. There was no one at home to help me. I don’t even have any friends who knit. If I desperately need help, I consult the internet. I am jealous of knitters who learned at age 6 and never looked back, but that just wasn’t the case for me, nor was it for many others out there. Even designers these days are often self-taught. If you have a keen interest, you can do it. And lastly…

5) All yarn is the same

I touched on this a little already, but I want to reiterate this point as I believe it’s important. I make my knits by emma headbands from beautiful machine-washable 100% Australian merino. Considering the quality and size, I think the price per skein is actually really reasonable, but I’m sure a regular person’s jaw would drop. When deciding how to price my items, I’ve asked advice of non-knitters, and I’ve learned that I probably shouldn’t do that. I think most people think more about the look of the product and how long it took you to make. But a lot of it is just making back the cost of materials. I knit for fun and, for now, I don’t plan on making it a huge source of income. But a 100g skein of acrylic sock yarn is not the same as a Worsted weight gorgeous merino cashmere hand-dyed blend. I’m sure most people would be shocked at the worth of any given knitter’s yarn stash. But we knitters like our yarn to be beautifully dyed, made from quality fiber and to feel like butter against the skin.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this little segment on knitbusting. I’ve added this last little one as an added bonus:

5.5) Knitting is for chicks

See brilliant Brooklyn Tweed designer Jared Flood.

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?