Category Archives: Design

Recalculating…

With considerably more time on my hands than has been usual for a while, I’ve been able to kind of splash the road grime off my brain and look around a bit. Man, have I been doing stuff wrong or what?

First off, let’s be straight. I hate sales. Or perhaps I should say that I hate the active participation in sales as I’ve learned the concept within this industry. Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the services that good sales reps provide, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with most of the sales reps who visited me when I was buying for ThreadBear. I just hate doing it. And it’s not a judgmental thing in any way. But I’m only good at selling what I honestly believe wholeheartedly will be beneficial for my customers, and I’m not the kind of person who can abstain from offering an honest opinion if one is requested. Depending on the depth of the belief and the importance of the question, one really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m going to offer an opinion whether I’m asked or not. Fairly obviously, I have at least a healthy respect for my own opinion.

I do so because I know me. I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to shift my perspective long enough to hear the other guy’s side. And if the other guy’s side has merit, I’m willing to incorporate new beliefs and methods with relative ease. Having never—as an adult at least—been particularly dogmatic, I can respect sales as a calling while acknowledging that selling a full assortment of other people’s products is never going to be an arena at which I excel.

That being said, I know I did an excellent job for some of my customers. And yes, I know that I also did a crummy job for some others for the most part out of no malice whatsoever. Generally, the issue was more economic, but I digress. Several of my wholesale customers have remained very friendly with me since I stopped repping at the end of last winter. We chat a bit, and a few truly have become friends. But for the most part, the relationship of mutually interested colleagues didn’t change much.

We talk about their shops. We talk about new yarns, designers, market influences, promotions, industry gossip, and all the things I talk about with people who share a love for something that 90% of the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis don’t get. I help them. They help me. That’s what I did when I was a rep with those who would let me, and I continue to do it for free with just about anyone else who will let me. Only now, there’s little profit in it for me beyond personal enrichment and professional networking.

So with time on my hands, that’s a lot of what I’ve done. I’ve talked to people. And one of the things I’ve realized is that I really don’t need a job to be a professional. I am a professional. I have marketable skills and monetizable talents. I know these things. I’ve just been so busy trying to make a living that I forgot what my life was about.

I’m not going to go all schmaltzy. I’m a yarnie. That’s what I do. I love knitting. That’s what I do. And I freakin’ balls-to-the-wall LOVE what the fiber arts industry can bring to their—or rather our—market. That is what I do.

But let’s be specific. I was a corporate web developer looking for work in the Indiana boonies when Rob and I started ThreadBear. I worked in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, CFML, ActionScript, and PHP and used Flash, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion. I’ve also done some work in Drupal and WordPress installations and theming. So, I’m blowing the dust off my web developer’s hat. I’ve always kept a toe in, but I’ve been surprised at how easily I’ve been able to shine lights into dark corners of my memory. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll market that skill, but that makes one.

A very dear friend has graciously offered her services as a writing mentor. That might seem like a much bigger deal when I tell you this is a published writer who makes her living at the craft and business of writing. I’m ecstatic. I love to write, certainly, but this blog is likely the least planned repository of writing ever to grace the Internet. And Miley’s on the Internet. So—maybe not.

Also, yet another dear friend who is also an established professional in her field has offered to mentor me in the mysterious science of tech editing. Squee!

If you’re not aware, I’m a puzzle fan and always have been. Nothing terribly ostentatious: crosswords, logic problems, Sudoku. The usual fare. But nothing tantalizes like a garment pattern. Well, nothing tantalizes me like a garment pattern. I expect those little amigurumi characters have some interesting geometry, but personally I’m not interested in making them. At this time.

Furthermore, I’ve been ripping apart patterns and putting them back together as a shop owner and teacher for years. I’ve even dabbled however slightly in pattern design myself. So for someone I truly love and trust to offer that kind of assistance was tantamount to deus-ex-machina.

And finally, deus ex machina. Another dear friend who is an accredited professional in her field despite now working in yarn has agreed to work on a project with me that surrounds her background: theology. Maybe nine months before I stopped repping, she and I had a private conversation in which she began asking me probing theological questions to help me pin down or at least consider my own belief system. I have to say that it was one of the most empowering evenings of my life, and we barely scratched the surface.

Each of these projects will be explored further here. I’ve missed you. And I’m eager to play.

Shall we?

Changing of the Guard

I have a literary question particularly for those of you who have small children in this age of iPads, but first, I have an announcement to make.

The Technicolor Ram has turned in his resignation. No, no. Not me. The graphic that I’ve used on this site, my business card, vendor line sheets, newsletter, and just about everything else I’ve generated for several years now. This guy.

140302technicolorram

Truth be told, he’s not a bad guy. Frankly, he’s done his job admirably. And he’s definitely come a long way, baby.

Earliest version of the blog banner I could find
Earliest version of the blog banner I could find
And its matching blog button
And its matching blog button
A bit later. And yes, I do proudly admit both my enjoyment of the Star Trek franchise and a youthful dalliance with Microgramma. Don't act like you never.
A bit later. And yes, I do proudly admit both my enjoyment of the Star Trek franchise and a youthful dalliance with Microgramma. Don’t act like you never.
This second rendition of The Technicolor Ram was created from the same original photograph when the file for the earlier orange version when it mysteriously disappeared during a period in which my whereabouts can be verified. Really. Not entirely sure what was going on with the font on this one, but thankfully the top part was lost. Seriously, I think this format lasted a week or two.
This second rendition of The Technicolor Ram was created from the same original photograph when the file for the earlier orange version mysteriously disappeared during a period in which my whereabouts can absolutely be verified. Really. I’m not entirely sure what was going on with the font on this one, but thankfully the top part was lost. Seriously, I think this format lasted a week or two.
To be fair, this is also not my best work font-wise, but it beat the previous one...
To be fair, this is also not my best work font-wise, but it beat the previous one…
...so I built a button and ran with it.
…so I built a button and ran with it.
This may have been developed a little earlier, but my recollection is that this was created specifically for use as a real logo when I started my wholesale repping business.
This may have been developed a little earlier, but my recollection is that this was created specifically for use as a real logo when I started my wholesale repping business.
And upon this resurrection of the blog, I dropped in a black background.
And upon this resurrection of the blog, I dropped in a black background.

And yes, all I did was muck around with Photoshop filters over a photograph I pulled randomly off the Internet. I’d been using Photoshop for a while for basic cutting and slicing of web images as a web developer, but I hadn’t spent much time really working with it. So yeah, despite the sophomoric effort I was pretty proud of him. And yes, the file was Technicolor Ram.psd. I think of these things. Hey, knowing that the mechanical shark used in the filming of Jaws was dubbed Bruce won my Granny and me a mug from Tyler’s Restaurant when I was a kid (this was the even more homespun version of Jack’s when they pulled out of Georgia). It would have been in character for even an eight-year-old me to give it a name.

So now I’m learning several new things, and among them is Illustrator. I know. I’m coming late to the game. I’ve been a software junky since even before I learned to program, and since leaving college that passion for [what are now called] apps that really do their job well has only been refined by my understanding of what goes into building them. I collect apps like freakin’ Beanie Babies. And I have always LOVED (did you notice the capitalization? L-O-V-E-D) Photoshop. And because I was usually under a deadline and working under budgetary restraints you likely wouldn’t believe, I made do with what I had in terms of Adobe products.

But now there’s Creative Cloud. And no, I’m not being paid by Adobe or anything. I just hadn’t really realized that the entire Creative Suite… PLUS… was going to be available online as a subscription service that is infinitely more affordable for those on minimal budgets. I’d heard, but I hadn’t really digested how affordable the service would be compared to purchasing outright the software that even in its last most recent incarnation would have placed it well out of my budget. And because I already own a Creative Suite product, I get a rather significant discount on the subscription. I bought Photoshop CS5 when I started repping—again since I was most comfortable with it. But I’ve had various versions of Dreamweaver and Photoshop for years. I was also a Macromedia Dreamweaver user and an Allaire ColdFusion developer. I worked during college in an ad & graphics agency as a web developer and even went to several intensive courses on how to use PageMaker 6.5, the predecessor to InDesign. (By the way, does anyone else’s fingers want to make that iDesign? God, muscle memory’s an insightful bitch.) But I never really “got” Illustrator. Granted, I never tried at the agency because I was too busy with my own work, and every time I downloaded a trial and attempted to learn even the basics at home, it became evident very quickly that my resources were required elsewhere.

These days, though, I don’t have those kinds of distractions, and I’m quite delighted to announce that I’m a proud new subscriber (thanks to a dear friend’s generosity) to Adobe Creative Cloud. I’ve already downloaded the apps I know how to use, but I’ve also taken the time to download and install Illustrator. God bless YouTube. I’ve been able to immerse myself in tutorial videos enough that I don’t feel like a squishy-headed newbie. I’m obviously not a trained artist, but I feel like I could use the software if necessary and will improve rapidly. Realistically, I’m a geek with a new toy. If I can use it to drive a nail through wood, I’ll likely give it a shot.

So again true to character, I’m offering another sophomoric effort to replace The Technicolor Ram.

New Crowing Ram Logo - Main

New Crowing Ram Logo - Compact

I was going for something evocative but much simpler, easier to reproduce, more scalable, and more recognizable from a distance. What do you think? I’m genuinely curious to know. And any Illustrator masters are encouraged to provide pointers or resources. These are the first two versions I’ve built, but I think they’re certainly good enough for the banner on my blog if nothing else.

Now if only ColdFusion were part of Creative Cloud. Sadly, no. The standard edition runs about $1.5K. So for now, I’ll be sticking with PHP and MySQL… when I’m not relying on WordPress.


And now for the literary portion of our program. Oh, ye friends of the written word, I’m looking for a source. Or maybe a conversation. Or both.

In A Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein made a reference I didn’t recognize, but it sounded ominous. Here it is. “The truth was that he did not want to ask the Bear what had happened to Algy. The Bear might answer.” At that point in the book, there’d been no previous mention of The Bear or Algy, so I suspected an allusion. But I didn’t get it.

Through a handful of  Google searches, I was able to find the reference source in this humorous poem.

Algy met a bear.
The bear met Algy.
The bear was bulgy.
The bulge was Algy.

I found it in a few places online, but I haven’t seen a source. Is this of the Purple Cow variety of traditional children’s poems? I don’t recall having seen it elsewhere.

What hit me about the situation was that as an adult who has little contact with children, I haven’t seen this kind of poem in years. Is it just me? Is it just because I don’t have much contact with kids? I believe these were wonderful tools for learning the subtleties of our language, and certainly the physical books that I had growing up were sometimes the only things with which I had to entertain myself. I pored over books of rhymes and nonsense verse.

For those of you who don’t recall or weren’t exposed, The Purple Cow goes as follows.

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

It’s one of a hundred million billion gazillion of these things that were likely the bane of my mother’s existence for years. They might have been why she went back to work so early. Really. It could be a thing.

But they were as formative not only for my language skills but as references within the culture that I can’t imagine not having been exposed to them.

Can you?

Now, please assure me that there’s some method being employed to keep children engaged with the written word. I know friends who are writers—and readers for that matter—who will set my mind at ease quickly. Please, do.

Edited to include note: I found the source for The Purple Cow on Wikipedia: Gelett Burgess. Apparently, I wasn’t checking the bibliography very thoroughly in the third grade.

All for me, head to toe

I have three projects currently on the needles just for me: a hat, a coat, and a pair of socks. Our friend and ThreadBear instructor, LynnH, declared January Selfish Knitting Month, and I was all for it.

Trekking 315 socks

Trekking 315 socks in progress
Trekking 315 socks in progress

I’m knitting a pair of socks for myself out of a colorway of Zitron Trekking that I fell in love with some time ago. It was one of those skeins that caught my attention a couple of times several months apart, but every time I saw it, I was excited anew. Finally, I took a skein out of stock, and I recently cast on.

I almost always knit socks on US0 needles using magic loop, and this time, I used a figure eight cast on. Assuming that I would wind up with eighty stitches, I should have cast on about twenty-six, but apparently, I wasn’t thinking and cast on twenty-two. I have a slightly more pointed toe than I generally find comfortable, but I didn’t care to rip it and reknit. It’s wool, it stretches well enough, and so far, I’m happy with my results.

I want to use a short-row heel for this pair, and I really liked the way I was working the wraps into the fabric. As is too frequently the case, I hadn’t measured, and finished the heel only to realize that the foot was about an inch too long. I worked another US0 into the fabric about an inch before the heel and ripped back Tuesday evening watching NatGeo.

Zitron Trekking in shade 315
Zitron Trekking in shade 315

Barn coat

Full view of my barn coat
Full view of my barn coat

I’m also playing design-as-you-knit with a barn coat for myself. It’s a basic cardigan with set-in sleeves and a shawl collar. Yes, the fronts are wider than the back. A good reason for that would be that I happen to have more front than back, so I made the panels accordingly. The true reason is that my gauge was off on the back, and I widened the fronts under the arms to make up the difference. The lower edge is cuffed; I used a flexible but sturdy cast on (I used the same cable cast on that I almost always use unless I have specific reason not to), knit about one-and-a-half inches of stockinette, worked a row of reverse-stockinette to create a folding line, and started the body of the fabric at that point.

For the armholes, I bound off about sixty percent of the difference between the width of my body and the width of my shoulders. To get rid of the rest of that difference, I worked a full-fashioned decrease every other row until I was down to shoulder width.

Collar detail of my barn coat
Collar detail of my barn coat

At the same time on the front center, I worked a low-visibility lifted increase just inside the reverse stockinette fold-over collar area every fourth row to give me just a little extra fabric in the shawl. I’d love to claim some sort of amazing planning, but as it happened, I got the last of the collar stitches increased at about the same time I hit my desired shoulder width. Ta-dah! I cast on the sleeves last night.

Fabric detail of my barn coat
Fabric detail of my barn coat

The fabric itself is very dense and all hair fiber. I wanted something warm enough to wear during very cold weather for long walks. As I mentioned earlier, I made a composite yarn of a strand each of Cascade 220, Reynolds Whiskey, and Needful Super Alpaca. I had originally added a strand of Needful Feeling, but the silk content was too shiny and just didn’t come together in the fabric. Thanks to Marcia Bailey for helping me take measurements and choose fibers and colors. Much appreciated.

The three yarns in the composite
The three yarns in the composite: Cascade 220 in a dark eggplant heather, Reynolds Whiskey in a muted algae green, and Needful Super Alpaca in a rich cocoa powder brown

Morgan hat

Morgan from Fall 2008 Knitty in progress
Morgan from Fall 2008 Knitty in progress in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed

Finally, my third current project (and frankly, the least immediate of the three at the moment… I need that coat), is Morgan from the Fall 2008 issue of Knitty. I’m working this pattern in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed. The original was designed in lighter weight yarn knit at a nineteen-over-four , but I was after a firm fabric, so I went with a yarn that would normally be recommended for that gauge. More than anything, though, I just love the Silkroad line, and I really love that green.

Dog whispering myself

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve been so busy that you’ve forgotten your larger goals? I had one of those moments Tuesday. I was taking a day off and working around the house, and an episode of The Dog Whisperer caught my attention. Canine crusader, Cesar Millan, was helping a beautiful chocolate lab, blind since birth, let go of mealtime angst and an adorable shepherd-corgi mix detoxify interaction with other dogs.

It wasn’t that this was a particularly intense or unusual set of challenges for our intrepid people trainer, but it struck me that both dogs were—as is so often the case—caught up so much in the instant that they couldn’t relax without the help of the people that shared their lives. As soon as the immediate anxiety cycle was broken, these otherwise loving animals were able to step back into their otherwise healthy roles.

I realized that I’ve got some fairly nasty triggers that need a healthy dose of PSSSHT! While I’d love to have Cesar Millan around to help me work through those, I suspect that the fantasy is far more entertaining than having a straight, married dog psychologist following me around and hissing at me in stressful moments would actually be. But the basic idea is a good one. When I start locking down on the durm und strang of life as a small business owner, I need to PSSSHT! myself. I suspect it may scare the PSSSHT! out of a couple of people around me before I get the hang of handling it internally, but it ought to be entertaining if nothing else.

What’s on my needles
So, for the time being, let’s catch up on knitting. I’m currently working on three active projects. I use the term active projects, because I’ve got tons of things on the needles that are on hold for one reason or another, and we’ll just have to get to those over the course of time.

The one genuinely big project that has my attention is a winter coat for myself. It’s fah-reezing in Michigan at the moment, and while I have an adequate jacket, I’ve been wanting a nice handknit barn coat for years. I’m following the frankly ill-advised tack of designing as I go, but the idea is simple. It’s a basic cardigan with set-in sleeves and a shawl collar. I got a hand taking my measurements, knit a gauge swatch, and cast on. From there, it’s been miles of stockinette and many, many more before we rest.

The fabric, as I said, is just stockinette, so I’m jazzing up the visual texture by blending three strands of basic wool in much lighter weights to create a rather bulky yarn. It’s one strand each of Cascade 200 in a dark eggplant heather, Reynolds Whiskey in an algae green heather, and Needful Super Alpaca in a rich chocolate brown. I’ll have to post photos later since Rob’s got the camera with him at the shop today, and I’m working from the house. In any case, I’ve finished the back and left front, and I’m currently up to the collar/shoulder area on the right front.

On the needles

Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear
Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear

We had a great visit with Cookie A last weekend. Her classes appeared to go well from the outside, but we had genuinely glowing reviews from the folks in the chairs. From my own perspective, it was wonderful to actually get to spend a little time with her. We’ve met several times at busy industry events where one seldom has more than a few minutes to get what you need, make a little small talk, and move on, but this was the first time we had a real conversation. I hope she had fun. For myself, I was charmed.

One of the things that we discussed was her great regard for Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat for prospective authors. Cat had suggested the retreat to me over sushi during her visit to ThreadBear in August, and while I was certainly intrigued, I’d back-burnered the idea in the face of the heavy-duty workload that I’ve set for myself at ThreadBear over the year or so. Cookie’s obvious reverence for the experience, though, gave me the incentive to pull that idea back onto high flame. No, I won’t be headed to the island this year, but I’m definitely blowing the dust off the designs and concept.

Along those lines, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the School Days Pullover pattern that I wrote for the CAYSC Back-to-School Shop Hop that ThreadBear participated in at the beginning of September. We’re in the process of culling the e-mails from the backs of everyone’s passports, and they should be sent out next week. I’ve already got a couple of people knitting from the pattern already, so if any problems crop up, I’ll be sure to let you know here.

Since this is supposedly a knitting blog, I suppose you might like to see what I’m working on.

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction in Opal

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction detail

This is a model for a class that I’ve just scheduled called Totally Tubular Sock Construction. The idea came to me as Rob and I were packing to go to Long Beach this January for a trade show. Since Rob and I tend to be squeeze in pretty tight on planes, I thought a very compact project that didn’t require a lot of thought would be ideal. I also had a beautiful skein of Colinette Jitterbug that everyone had told me wouldn’t make a pair of socks in my size. So, I cast on the number of stitches that I’d normally use to make socks for myself, and just started knitting. I didn’t worry about cuffs, heels, or toes. I just knit.

Over the course of the trip and trade show, I had a very simple project that I quite literally was able to walk the trade show floor working on. I had tons of people within the industry—designers, vendors, and other shop owners—ask me what I was doing, and when I explained, it was as if I’d told them the sky was falling. “Why go to all that trouble?” they asked.

Well there are a few reasons not the least of which is that I don’t own a pair of my own hand-knit socks. I own several individual socks, and I have no compunction about wearing any two of them. I’ve had more than one person genuinely delighted to see my mismatched hand-knit socks, and frankly, I enjoy the silliness of it. But I really would like to have pairs. And I do suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. If I’ve already knit one sock in that yarn, casting on a second one sounds like the soul of boredom.

This way, I only cast on once, and by the time I’m done with the original tube, I have all of the basic fabric for both socks, and all I have to do is the fidgety bits that are really the most fun for me, anyway. Where’s the downside of that? Yes, I wind up picking up stitches, but if you’ve ever worked an afterthought heel, you can work an afterthought toe and cuff. It’s not hard work, and it doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Yes, in the pair that I’m currently working on, I did start off with a cuff, because I hadn’t intended to make this pair tubularly, but as it happened, it became convenient to do so. I also added some calf shaping, but the essentials are there. As for the Jitterbug socks? Well, I had more than enough of the Jitterbug for the body of both socks, and decided to use another technique to jazz up the cuffs, heels, and toes, but that’s for another post.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Detail of Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Working ball of yarn(s) from Symphony Jacket

Also on the needles, is Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket. I saw this garment on Chris, and I was immediately smitten. I love blending yarns anyway, and this project is the perfect canvas. The basic idea is picking a palette of yarns in various colors, textures, and fibers that suit the project and chopping them into bits and tying them back together. It sounds a bit crazy, but the results… well, judge for yourself.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Progress on Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

And finally, I’m knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket as inspired by Franklin Habit. Franklin’s coming to ThreadBear in January to teach the class and for a book signing for It Itches, a collection of his knitting-related cartoons. I’m loving the project, and I’m having a lot of fun watching the Jojoland Rhythm migrate through colors.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Cookie monster

Ok. I’m a fan.

I’ve always liked Cookie, but actually spending some time with her last night in the car riding back from Grand Rapids and today in the store, I’m hooked. It’s amazing to me having worked in academic and corporate offices to be in an industry so incredibly packed with wonderful, creative, and both wonderful and creative people.

I flipped through the calendar for the next several weeks, and I’m excited to meet Lynne Vogel next week. Meg Manning’s here a couple of weeks later with Chris de Longpre here immediately on her heels. The following week, we get to spend Rob’s birthday (All Saints Day) with Robyn Chachula. Arnhild Hillesland is here the following week (YAY!), and Jillian Moreno is here the week after that! AH!!! I’m on awesome people overload! I look back at my corporate life and wonder how they do it. How do people get this fortunate?

We’re headed out for Thai tonight, but in the meantime, I’m trying to get my pullover pattern from the recent shop hop finalized so I can get that out to the participants who’ve been waiting for it for three weeks now. Fortunately, the dogs are sleeping, and Rob’s busy, so I should be able to get it finished without too much interruption.

Hogs


Harley Davidson FXCWC Rocker C

As much as I’d like to say, yes… no, I’ve not gotten a new motorcycle. It is lovely, though, isn’t it? Brooding, yet full of the potential for noise and movement. It’s easy to see why these spectacular machines are so popular.

Realistically, though, I run a yarn shop, and the overwhelming majority of our income goes right back into the business. *evil grin* But not all.


Raleigh Passage 4.0 Hybrid… in Green

I spent the morning with this bad boy under me riding Lansing’s Riverwalk. Um… if you haven’t been on a nice bike lately, you really should consider it. I had the most wonderful ride. The wind was in my face, the morning air was cool but sunny, and the views (despite the low level of the Grand River at the moment) were spectacular. And that was nothing to how good it felt… to be out… knowing that you’re doing something pleasurable that is also very, very good for you. I’d forgotten what that endorphin buzz could do for you. I like it.

As of today, I am thirty-eight years old, and I am morbidly obese. That’s the medical term for it. I’m so overweight that it could literally kill me. No, I’m not going on a crash diet. No, I’m not having liposuction or joining a cult. What I am doing is getting things under control. ThreadBear is a big boy, anymore, and while it still needs constant supervision, it doesn’t need every moment of our time and energy. And we… I, in particular, need to spend some real time getting life back in order.

Exercise, certainly, is one of the things that I’m doing. I’m also putting a significant focus back into my teaching. I won’t be teaching every other day, but I think I can reasonably dedicate a little more time to being "in the classroom." I’m also hoping to spend a little more time in the kitchen, so keep an eye out for good recipes or places to find them. And, of course, I’ll be reading.

Most of all, though, I’m pointing my rocket toward design. I’ve had several designs in my head or in the drawing or swatching stage for too long. That’s about to end. And it will end, very specifically, with this:


Schematic for Bad Ass Baby

This is the rough schematic for a plush baby biker’s jacket… for the biker-to-be with a very understanding old lady. 😉 The pattern is forthcoming, but the yarn arrived today, and I’ll be casting on tonight for the prototype.

Now, does anyone know where to get very tiny chains?

Inspiration

I’ll have to motor through today, but I’m frantic to get a post up. We’ve got company in from Atlanta/Baltimore in our old friend Crystal B (Sister Paul, to those who know her well), and it’s been a busy week to boot.

There’s tons going on at the shop as we continue to bring in summer fibers and work on bringing in fall stock. We’ve pushed out our next Yarn Tasting since several of the yarns that we wanted in either weren’t in the States yet or needed models knit and weren’t yet in the store. Every yarn has to have at least one model for the event to make sense, and if the yarn’s still on a boat, then nothing’s on the needles yet. EEK! So that’s pushed back.

Yarn’s still pouring in, though, and we’re very excited to be working with Alchemy again. We’d tried a bit out when we were still in Indiana, but A) we didn’t have models, and B) we never reordered, so that went the way of the dodo. We had a long, wonderful conversation (if an hour or so of giggling and being generally evil with Austin and Gina constitutes a conversation), picked out tons of patterns, got offers from them to supply us with some fantastic models, and we’re back in the game. They’ve got beautiful product, and I’m really happy with what’s come in so far.

So much so, in fact, that you’re soaking in it. Yup. The swatch from my last post is Alchemy-based. What is it? Oh, silly reader. You know better than that. I’ll get there eventually. But not today.

Today, I want to talk about inspiration. As corny as it sounds, my family has been much of my inspiration lately.


Ailing Connor resting her weary head on Tate’s back.

Well, yeah, they’re my inspiration, too, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about Rob. When we’re together and talking and generally relaxed, I see things that just make me want to design something. Sometimes it’s an architectural thing.


Stained glass dome inside Houlihan’s Restaurant. Lansing, Michigan.

Every time we eat at Houlihan’s not far from the shop, my eye is drawn to this dome. How it’s going to show up in a knitted piece, I have no idea, but it’s in my head, and it won’t go away.


Decorator pillow from a recent visit to Pier 1.

Sometimes it’s a combination of colors or shapes that catches my eye. This decorator pillow didn’t leave Pier 1 with me, but it’s with me constantly. I can’t get the multiple tones of each color our of my head, and the sections of colors over multiple blocks is making my teeth itch. I want to translate this into fabric… badly. My own fabric, I mean. Knitted fabric!

How will it happen? Hell if I know. When will it happen? Ha! That’s funnier than the first question. The point is that it’s in the cooker. It’s rolling around, banging into the sides of the pot with steam roiling around it. Eventually, it’s going to hit something and stick. Hopefully, it won’t be cauliflower. I’m not a big fan of bland design, and cauliflower doesn’t particularly excite me.

What does excite me, though, is happening. Change. I don’t know how, but my life appears to be changing. I’d like to say I’m at the helm of this boat, but I think I might not be. But I can feel the engines. And they’re rumbling pretty hard.

And on a final note, this is me. First of all, the rest of the picture was horribly overexposed as many of my images lately have been. Why? I’m using my phone to take pictures. They suck, in my less than humble opinion, but that’s what I’ve got at the moment. We keep the good camera at the shop, but I’m looking strongly at having a nice, new camera soon. Why? Well, because I’m a raccoon, and I like new and sparkly things. But more realistically, I see wonderful things all over the place very, very frequently, and I sincerely want to share them with you. And if my camera sucks, you might not see the beauty that I do. And we simply can’t have that.

P. S. What I’m working on: updates to the website. Here’s yet another teaser:


Screenshot of new ThreadBear main page under construction.

More Magical Knitting

While I’ve got Harry Potter on the brain, I’d like to present you with a little bit of a teaser. One of my dearest knitting friends fell in love with a swatch that I was playing with and inspired me to design a women’s cardigan with a touch of her essence about it. Her name is Sheila, and I credit her and our mutual friend Judith with bringing me back into knitting full-force as an adult… and helping cement the decision to return to Lansing. Her design is Bewitching.


Swatch for Bewitching

No, that doesn’t mean that the men’s book is on hold. It means that I’m impatient, and I’m positively giddy to get a design into the hands of knitters. The men’s book is coming, and you’ll get teases of that along the way, too.

For now, though… keep an eye out specifically for this one.

Not MY work, per se…

Things have been a bit chaotic on this end, but I’m very pleased that one of the projects that was recently chosen for Knitting Olympics was ThreadyBear. Kirsti of Kirsti Knits finished hers for a gold! Congrats, Kirsti!

Kirsti's ThreadyBear
Kirsti’s ThreadyBear

Much love, folks.
-Matt.