creative-hours

Holiday Dahlia

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Photo taken at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s store in downtown Lancaster, PA

I’ve had the opportunity to wear my holiday dress a lot this year! My first stab at a Colette Dahlia, an extremely successful wearable muslin. The pattern was fabulously easy to follow, of course, and gave me the opportunity to learn how to use my blind hem foot, use bias tape, and insert an invisible zipper.

Since this blog doubles as a sort of project journal, let me also catalog the things I want to adjust next time: make the neck opening smaller; maybe adjust the bodice to be smaller for my tiny bust; I think I might prefer the look of larger contrasting bias tape; I forgot to add any pockets!; and last but not least….

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Use a different technique for finishing the inside hems. I’ve been relying on some of the serger-like stitches my machine has. And overall, I think they work well. But they also inevitably look sloppier and more frayed than store-bought clothes. Maybe I should get zigzag shears? Or finish the insides with bias tape, too? Or finally figure out how to do a french seam? Let me know your favorite finishing techniques, and I will work my way through them as only an obsessed sewist can!

creative-hours

color dreaming

I’ve been dreaming of alternate colors for the Mountaintop Pullover – and have huge amounts of fun. Sueno comes in a boatload of colors, but here are a few of my top picks.

IF YOU NEED TO IMPRESS STEPHEN WEST:
Chartreuse, Shamrock, Charcoal

Sueno1190chartreuseSueno1143shamrockSueno1133charcoal

 

WARM TOWARDS NEUTRALS:
Mud Puddle, Buttercream, Natural

Sueno1103mudpuddleSueno1193buttercreamSueno-Worsted1300natural

 

BASICALLY GREYSCALE:
Ice Ice Baby, Silver Sage, Grey, Grey Heather

Sueno1141iceicebaby Sueno1196silversage Sueno1101greyheather

 

MY SECRET FAVORITE FALL COLORS:

Rust, Buttercream, Natural

Sueno1120rust       Sueno1193buttercream Sueno-Worsted1300natural

 

Have some other great yarns that are close in gauge to Sueno? Leave them in the comments!

creative-hours

forward motion

Some folks are happy with a goal-driven all-out sprint towards the holidays with their crafting (I just read my daily dose of Yarnharlot and almost cried, but Stephanie seems to love her process). Some people break into hives at the mere mention of a crafting deadline. I fall somewhere in the middle – I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t making anything. But I see no reason to let my irrational ambition take over the holidays – because, unfortunately, I do take deadlines seriously.

I limited myself to sewing superhero capes for my son and his BFF, and creating a cardboard stepstool so that he can learn to wash his own hands. Plus I’m making steady progress on a few baby shower gifts that need to be done by mid-January.

As I truck along on those few handmade things, I’m mostly thinking about my theme for next year. In 2014, my theme was “say no” (I had just had a baby, and wanted to create realistic expectations of what I was going to get done). In 2015, my theme was “say yes” (try new things, meet new people, accept a challenge again).

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I’ve done well with both of those things. I set ruthless priorities in 2014, and it’s actually become kind of a habit to think, “Is this necessary to my creative life, does it contribute to the family, does it strengthen my relationships?” and if not, I just say no, with ever-decreasing levels of guilt.

And of course, in 2015 I published my first sweater design. Challenge accepted and enjoyed. I also tried yoga, started guest blogging for Lancaster Transplant, and I made an effort to meet new people and invest more love and energy into my existing network of fabulous folks.

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Both of those were necessary resolutions to my creative life – when I stopped and looked at it carefully, the only ones that made sense. So what’s necessary this year?

I think it might be “more with less.” Or maybe it could be rephrased as “do the best with what you already have.”

In the micro: I have a yarn and fabric stash to work from. I have the incredible Creative Reuse Center nearby. I want to take creative aim at spending less money with less intensive use of new materials in my work.

In the macro: I have been given enough resources, skill, and support to make a life I’m really happy with. I often lose sight of that, feeling like there isn’t enough time or money to go around, or mismatching my ideas with my reality. But really, truly, I can and should focus on using what I have in the best way possible.

Please tell me I’m not the only one examining and re-examining my life as I stitch. What are your themes and thoughts for the holidays and the new year?

creative-hours

The Mountaintop Pullover

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It’s here! My first published knitting pattern. Part of the incredibly cute Winter 2015 Knittin’ Little collection, the Mountaintop Pullover is alongside some beautifully wearable and beautifully quirky selections for your Littles (I especially dig the skunk scarf).

Can you believe I started thinking about this design, oh, I don’t know, 18 months ago?  In toddler world, that is literally a lifetime. Indulge me while I take you on a tour of all the little details.

I’m a huge fan of stranded colorwork, but I know it looks intimidating to many people. So I chose to put a band of colorwork around the waist, where you won’t have to fuss with increases and decreases at the same time you’re juggling two yarns.

It’s a top-down raglan with a larger neck opening built in for your toddler sizes.

Each repeat of the colorwork motif adds 1″ to the length of the sweater, so it’s super easy to calculate if you want to make the colorwork part longer or shorter.

It’s geometric and unisex (depending on your choice of colors). I initially envisioned it as a pattern I’d be happy to have my son wear, and I have to say it looks super adorable modeled on a little girl for the magazine.

The design started here:

Original-Swatch-web-1

photo 4 (2)
It hit a little snag here,
photo 1 (6)

went through a few variations,
photo 3 (6)
photo 4 (5)

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and ended up here!

knittinlittlewinter-web-1

You can find the pattern on Knittin’ Little’s website and on Ravelry. Go check out the whole collection, and if you knit my design (well, I’d be thrilled regardless)…  pics or it didn’t happen!

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Little Bit of Good

I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store last night. A cookie pack in my hand was my contribution to the lock-in at my local yarn store (Stitching Memories).

Lock-ins occur one night a month and consists of  knitting, eating, laughing, and sharing – while knitting with fellow knitters, of course. It’s a great time to escape the grind and connect with fellow pickers and throwers.

As I was waiting to pay for my pack of cookies, the gentleman in front of me was getting ready to pay for his groceries. When the total cost of his groceries was tallied, he was short. I looked away, thinking that by looking away I would ease his discomfort at having to go through his groceries and figure out what to leave behind and what to keep. Inside I was thinking “I’ll do this man a favor by acting as if nothing is happening. This will make him feel less uncomfortable.”

The process of picking out one item at a time and re-tallying his total went on for 5 or 6 items when the lady behind me spoke up and said “Excuse me, but how much are you short?” The gentleman said “about twenty – two dollars” at which the lady replied “I’ll pick it up.” The gentleman expressed his thanks and the lady picked up the rest of the tab. I could have said things like “but you were buying chips and lemonade mix and things that aren’t essential, so why should I help?” or “everyone has hard times and you have to learn how to live with whatever is given to you,” but honestly… the lady behind me got it right.

She showed compassion without judgment. Every time I think of compassion lately, I also think of all the news stories of so many refugees fleeing such horrific living situations that they are willing to risk their lives to escape. That’s a fast track to becoming totally overwhelmed with the needs of so many. So the subject of charity has been swimming and swarthing (that’s a made up word, by the way) in my head and heart.

I have come in contact with so many knitters that knit for others, out of pure compassion.  Making hats for preemies, for instance. I recently ran into someone who knits blankets and outfits for stillborn babies in the hospital. Western Michigan University has a special scholarship program for kids who have graduated from foster homes. That may sound great, but these kids are basically too old for foster care and have not been adopted – so a local group knits items to give to these young adults for Christmas each year. There are so many ways for knitting to touch the lives of others.

I have been knitting several items for a nonprofit organization that provides coaching and support to missionaries. This organization (Coaching Mission International) has a fundraising Christmas Bazaar each year. I have a lot of time to knit in the evenings so why not use some of my knitting time to turn yarn into items to donate for this cause? So here are a few of the items that I made this year:

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And as I keep stitching and shopping and moving through my life, I’m going to keep working on this compassion thing and hopefully get it right more often.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu