All posts by mackenzie

My training as an artist encourages me to see knitting as a canvas for all kinds of surface design, so I'm teaching myself to grade patterns and hope to release my first collection soon. I'm currently raising a Little One, and working knitting in wherever it fits!
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the clearfix

Welcome to the world in which I, your friendly knitting blog host, have been overdosing on html, CSS, and Javascript. It’s a strange world, full of div tags and octothorps (that’s a # sign – but octothorp is more fun to say, right? Almost like a comic book villain).

As a lifelong lover of the semi-colon, JavaScript makes me happy. I hope you don’t mind if I drop a few technical notes in here and there on this fiber-based blog. Particularly since I’m considering a career change into technical writing, I’d love to start practicing now (and not just in the realm of knitting patterns, which are definitely a form of technical writing!).

Let’s start with a handy-dandy way to keep floated elements from collapsing into each other and overflowing while you’re doing a web page layout. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the tl;dr is: web pages use secret behind-the-scenes boxes to create a pretty website, and sometimes the boxes overlap when you don’t want them to and then it looks ugly. )

Some Googling leads me to believe that there are a million and a half ways to solve the problem. Here’s the simplest one I can find that’s been working for me on my practice sites, on browsers back to IE8. It’s a two-step process.

1. In your CSS, create a new rule targeting a class. You can call your class whatever, obviously, but .clearfix and .group are the two most commonly used monikers for this fix. For others reading your code, .clearfix is probably the most readable.

.clearfix::after {
content: “”;
display: table;
clear: both;
}

2. In your HMTL, assign class “clearfix” to the parent class of your problem children. In my case, I had a wrapper div. Like this:

<div class =”clearfix”>
content
</div>

Because the clearfix is a class, you can assign it to as many elements in your website as you need to. Enjoy all the new pretty options that are open to you! Also, if you know about pseudo-elements (apparently that is what the double colon in “clearfix::after” means, please enlighten me!

foxcoat

yo, knitters, where did you go?

Here’s a common, everyday sort of example of what is engaging my energy. My toddler went to bed screaming and woke up screaming in the middle, every night, for a string of more than 15 nights. He has an unusually large vocabulary for a 2-year-old, so he is able to tell me that he has bad dreams about elephants.

It’s an obvious place to apply analytical thought, under pressure and in less-than-ideal conditions. So let’s go for it, let’s over-analyze. We are mothers, are we not? That’s how we roll, at least around my house.

Are bad dreams actually the problem, or is waking now an established habit? Is this behavior a developmental stage that solves itself? If the former, how do we demystify elephants for a toddler? If habit is the problem, how do we identify and change the problematic elements? If it’s a location-based habit, we could change where he sleeps. If it’s a habit that feeds on attention or a developmental stage that simply has to be weathered, how do we withdraw our attention in a way that meets our ethical standards?

The major ethical principle in play is: be kind to babies. Sounds simple, right? Something that is easy to agree with? Responding to a toddler’s cry is kind. In this case, though, it might be reinforcing behavior that makes it more difficult for him to sleep self-sufficiently, thus contradicting the greater good of the toddler. So, if we decide that responding immediately is not kind, we still have to reconcile our actions as closely as possible with the basic ethical principle: i.e., we have to decide how long to let the toddler cry and what kind of reassurance to offer when we do respond. Our response must also incorporate our research on what is developmentally appropriate.

Since toddlers are less than rational, it’s also possible that if we let him cry for too long, our lack of response becomes part of the trauma of bedtime and night waking. So, let’s dig deep into our well of empathetic thinking and emotional intelligence, and add the toddler’s perspective, as best we can, to the solution we devise.

Are you already rolling your eyes at the amount of thought going into this one simple problem, a pretty common one? Let me take you deeper, into the reflective questions I am prompted to ask myself. What does my response say about my character, and does it align with the kind of parent I want to be? Does my response help or hinder the long-term trajectory of my relationship with my child and my spouse?

While I am busy rabbit-holing and test-driving earplugs, my husband goes through this thought process:

He’s scared of elephants because of a movie (damn you Winnie the Pooh). What’s his favorite movie? Mary Poppins. Can we incorporate Mary Poppins into bedtime? How about a soundtrack? Does the library have the soundtrack? Yes! I’ll go out tomorrow and rent it. 

And do you know what? The Mary Poppins soundtrack sends him off to sleep, all night, in complete peace. For two nights in a row now (knock, knock, knock on wood).

With abject gratitude, I immediately ordered Mary Poppins the 50th anniversary DVD and the soundtrack (and Looper, for the man of the house). Let’s be honest, I also collapsed into a puddle of exhausted not-knitting. And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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To Hogwarts and Beyond

I cannot believe that it has taken me so many weeks to show you another cute project I made for the baby shower!

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Why yes, they are onesies printed to look like Gryffindor robes.

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I got a panel of fabric from Spoonflower, and it was basically a cut & sew kind of thing.

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The onesies are adorable now that they’re done, and my extended family is a huge bunch of Harry Potter fans. So we all got a book-worm-y thrill out of them. But can I talk about my frustrations a little bit, too? This is my first time ordering from Spoonflower, and I learned a lot of important lessons.

That’s crafter’s code for: I should have planned more carefully and done more research and not tried to do anything at the last minute.

None of the pieces on this particular yardage were labeled (it looks like if you order newborn size, they are). So it took extra effort to figure out how things went together, and in particular, how to do an envelope neck (I still ended up doing it backwards, but aesthetically it was better that way, and it will function).

When you do a garment from an unlabeled panel, there’s no handy list of required notions to reference! I forgot about snaps until the 11th hour. But, thank goodness, my mother-in-love had a snap pliers and spare snaps on hand. So the very morning of the baby shower, we put the finishing touches on.

I’m also not sure about this fabric, the organic cotton knit. I am anxious to hear how it wears. It doesn’t seem to have the stretch recovery I would want in a baby garment, although I think it will be fine (it’s just not perfect the way you always want gifts to be). I’m left wondering, would the cotton/spandex blend have been better?  So… online buyer beware? I would now heartily recommend ordering a sample book first – it’s only $1, and it’s a whole heck of a lot easier than knitting and washing a swatch (which you should always do! I shout, as I’m in 3″ into an extremely complicated sock without doing a single stitch of swatch).

creative-hours

hi, perfectionism. thanks for coming, but i’ve got knitting to do. can we talk later?

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I had the opportunity to teach last week (in a creative journaling series), and although I didn’t feel excited to teach, the students and the creative process gave me a huge gift (I don’t know why I’m still surprised by that; teaching is always a gift): a reminder that perfectionism is the enemy of good work, of learning, risk-taking, exploration, and quite frankly the enemy of happiness & fun.

I taught papercutting! This is my fancy M.
I taught papercutting! This is my fancy M.

It’s good to have high standards and good taste, but putting your inner critic into place – not powerful enough to derail you, but not so weak that you produce crappy work – is such a huge challenge. It’s a challenge that I’m starting to understand might be a thing for the rest of my life, something I might never outgrow.

And it’s funny, as a parent, to see how early the struggle can start. For example: my son knows how a particular puzzle is supposed to go together. But getting all the pieces in is difficult. Some days he’ll work at it patiently until he figures it out. Some days, he’ll turn a piece around just twice before crying and running away.

Knitting is (one of) my puzzle(s) right now, and I’m trying hard not to lose my temper with it. My current recipe for success? Er, recipe for not crying and running away? Start again on something easy, and focus for a while on how satisfying it is to have inch after inch of knitting drop away from my needles.

creative-hours

Baby Sweaters x3

ErikSweater4
Malabrigo in color Impressionist Sky (pretty sure)

Let me tell you which baby sweater pattern has been getting a lot of use at my house lately: Tiny Rocky Coast by Hannah Fettig.

Now that the baby shower is over, I can show you the finished products! I knit one for each of my sisters-in-law, and one for a good friend. I knit one each month, in fact, in October, November, and December, from Malabrigo I had in stash (pretty proud that this is in line with my Make More with Less theme for the year).

CharleneSwetaer4
Malabrigo color Stonechat

The buttons, it turns out, are what makes a tiny sweater unbearably cute for me. They can make it look pretty or professorial. Tiny Rocky Coast doesn’t call for buttons, but for a 3-month-old, I really feel that it is more practical to have them.  ErikSweater1

Let me also say that I am sick, exhausted, and can’t think of anything else relevant to say about these projects. So here are some more pretty photos, and I will see you on the flip side (of whenever I feel better). CharleneSweater6 CharleneSweater2 CharleneSweater1

DanielleSweater5
Malabrigo in color Eggplant

DanielleSweater4 DanielleSweater3 DanielleSweater1

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!

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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).

photo-2

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?

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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!

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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!