Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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!

creative-hours

et si j’ai du mal, c’est noye, c’est noye

Sometimes you’re given a day. It’s always a normal day for me, routine in every way. I still get up at 7 am. I still commute. I still know that terrible things are happening, I know that people hate and fight and die.  It just so happens that on that perfectly usual day, the past doesn’t hold weight and the future doesn’t scare me. Everything in the world is golden, a birch’s leaves falling all over the place. Dying, maybe, but oh, so brilliant.

The Gift by Czeslaw Milosz

C’est Noye by Victoria Vox

My Dream by Ogden Nash

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He made my dream come true

I was brave today and tackled the refrigerator.  A frustrating, hit-my- limit-ready-to-explode week at work had ended.  So what better thing to do on Saturday morning? The fridge hadn’t been cleaned in months …yes months (I am not proud to admit this).

And oh my…. it was a true adventure: 4 containers of sour cream with small amounts of green goo, a small pitcher with what must have been some sort of sauce that boasted its own ecosystem…. I don’t need to go into great detail.

The upside was a lunch consisting of wonderful finds: 1 canned peach, a small sliver of almond paste, a small glass of homemade grape juice.  I think cleaning the fridge was my way of taking control over a small part of my life after feeling so out of kilter all week.

Another get-my-life-back-in-order task was organizing my yarn stash.  I had skeins of yarn hither and thither throughout the house in various drawers and closets.  My first year of knitting I was monogamous – 1 project and 1 yarn.

This soon deteriorated – kind of like my fridge.  I didn’t know what I had where and how much.  As I was walking through the grocery store one day, a wine bottle rack caught my attention and an idea struck me – this is exactly what I needed for organizing my yarn – only bigger.

I am blessed to be married to a handy man, woodworker, artist, photographer, birder, luthier, computer guy.  Upon returning home from shopping I chattered and chattered about this great idea.  Well, you know what he did?  Yup…. he made my dream come true.  All my yarn is now in one spot right by my chair where I knit at night, beckoning to me and whispering dreams of projects ahead.

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The projects just kept flowing (pun intended)

Artesian: relating to or denoting a well, drilled perpendicularly into water-bearing strata lying at an angle, so that natural pressure produces a constant supply of water with little or no pumping.

Synonym: flowing  (Google search)

Artesian1

Yes, Romi Hill’s Artesian shawl is just that:  flowing asymmetrically off the shoulders to points.  What a brilliant pattern and yet so simple and quick to knit – just knits, yarn overs, and short rows.  Time from start to finish?  A neat 10 days of evening knitting.

So much fun… I knit three in a row. A knitting record!

The first creation, intended for my sister Diane, was knit from Madelinetosh lace weight, color Spectrum (the blue above).   I tried it on, wore it to a dinner …. I LIKED it a lot!!!  I never considered myself a shawl-bearing person but its beauty and simple elegance captured me.

The shawl insisted on staying with me.  We had multiple discussions – it was supposed to be a gift! – but the shawl would not relent.

No sweat. I had purchased 2 skeins of Spectrum and used only one.  I could just knit a replica for my sister.  But where is that other skein you ask?  Hmmm…. if only I could find it.  BUT… 2 partial skeins of Madelinetosh Wicked (the deep purple above) peaked out from my stash so…  a second Artesian was born.

Then the missing Spectrum reappeared on the floor behind my knitting chair while vacuuming (yes, cleaning does have some benefits).  The first Spectrum shawl was so lovely and I knew my sister would love one just like it.  I checked in with the original and indeed, it was adamant about remaining with me.  So a third Artesian shawl was born.

artesian3

New technique learned:  Russian splicing.

When I first started knitting with lace,  I joined new yarn by knotting it to the last of the old yarn.  I couldn’t figure out how to hide the join – with heavier weight knits I would knit the 2 yarns simultaneously for a while, then weave in the ends. Hiding the ends in an open lace pattern is much more difficult.

Then I came upon Russian splicing.  This method looked a little unnerving at first, but I bought  a sewing needle with a sharp end and a large eye and found that if you slightly untwist the yarn as you thread the needle through the strand, you end up with a fabulous, strong join that is imperceptible.  Nice! You also have to make sure you thread a long piece of strand through.  If it’s too short, then it is not strong and gives way. Give it a try!

For visual learners:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0103qC6GH8I

For written instructions:

Increases- Techniques with Theresa: Knitty Spring+Summer 2010

http://knitty.com/ISSUEss10/FEATss10TT.php

creative-hours

the calculus of a naptime

gardening-gloves

Packing the stroller – 20 minutes
Walking to the park – 30 minutes
Playtime at the park – 30 minutes
Snacktime at the park – 20 minutes
Walking home – 30 minutes
Filling each little belly with blueberries and scrambled eggs when we arrive home – 30 minutes

peas-and-tomatoes

Time each child napped after our marathon morning? 2.5 hours, my friends! I cleaned the studio and managed to start cutting out a new tunic/dress/thing. And then I knit a little. I’m not sure what kind of calculus I would need to figure out the mental value of that creative time, but boy, that number is high.

deco-cardigan
Deco Cardigan – designed by Kate Davies. Silky Wool from Elsbeth Lavold.

 

creative-hours

from the inside out

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My mentor in college had a rare, rare gift. She dealt with the work of her students from the inside out. That is, she had the ability to understand your work’s intentions, to find out where you would like to take the piece, and to advise you on how to actually communicate that intention to your audience.

This was useful to me as an artist, but even more as a teacher: deeply useful feedback doesn’t start with the teacher’s ideal style or product. It starts with what the student would like to achieve.

Sounds basic, right? But I’m finding that giving that kind of feedback needs practice, practice, practice.

I teach a lot of standalone classes, 2-3 hours long. My biggest challenge, in that brief amount of time, is to connect with each of a dozen or more students long enough to pick up on his or her aims – and then help them forward.

In a monotype workshop a few weeks ago, I got lots of practice giving feedback and then getting out of the way while students made decisions.  The group was flexible and fun, willing to be stretched, and all knew each other well.  And I think every student left with something they were proud of.P1018123

Not that there weren’t bumps along the way! One student in particular hated everything she made with the initial assignment in mind. After our mid-class check-in, she decided to go in the opposite direction. Immediately, her body language relaxed and she completed six pieces in quick succession, which truly took advantage of the unique properties of vellum + akua ink (lots of lovely transparent color and some light texture). They also fit her poetic interests – small, boiled down to essentials, intimate.

I was happy to see my assignment pushed out of the way while she charged headlong in her own direction. In a lot of different ways, every day, we have to make those decisions. Do we keep going in the same direction? Do we stick with what other people want or expect from us? How do we figure out what we want?

P1018146In an art class, the answer is much easier: always, always, my loves, follow your own voice.

 

creative-hours

jeans jamboree

finished jeans
Yes – that’s my Little in the background. “Photos, mama? I can haz?”

Momentous News: these things actually fit me pretty well. You may have seen the first selfie snap a few weeks ago if you follow me in Instagram – but, well, daylight hours and spare photographers are a little hard to come by around these parts. And I didn’t want to leave you with just one grainy selfie. I wanted you to bask in the glory that is a second pair of jeans.

Sorry I’m not sorry.

And y’all, I have learned so much. With the help of a few fake-o darts hidden at the pocket seams, some creative cussing, and a whole mess o’ naptimes, they fit. Did I say that already? They fit.

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Are you curious about lessons learned? Me, too. Allow me a quick recap:

  • What on earth kind of home sewing machine can actually make it through 12 layers of denim at a go? There were several areas – final top-stitching of the waistband and the belt loops in particular – that were just simply too thick to fit under the presser foot. There must be some smart ways to thin things down. Drop me a link or comment if you have a suggestion!
  • Flat-felled seams sound awesome. They’re no doubt durable. But they are just too thick for this material.
  • I need a little additional shaping around the waist area built into my pattern so I don’t have to fake darts at the 11th hour.
  • It’s more of a relaxed-fit pattern than a skinny-jeans pattern, despite my re-drafting the leg lines. Probably just as well, since this denim doesn’t have as much stretch as my store-bought pair.
  • I averaged a 1/2″ seam allowance ’round the whole thing, for those of you who were following my saga of annoyance. In a couple places, I might have slipped out to 5/8″, but I neglected to note exactly where. So for future pairs, 1/2″ it is.
  • You should always, always, ALWAYS double-check which side the button belongs on and which side the hole belongs on BEFORE you take a seam ripper to your pants. Or else you’ll end up with a hidden patch on your otherwise lovely jeans. Not going to lie, it took me a week or two to recover my courage and put on the finishing touches after that mistake.
  • And on the note of buttonholes – my automatic buttonhole stitches didn’t work for jeans. Thread and fabric too thick for those tiny little stitches. So I set a straight stitch at 2.4 mm and created a slightly sloppy square of stitching instead. This worked, once I figured out which side the hole belonged on.

You know what comes next, right? I get cocky and royally mess up a pair of jeans for my husband. I can practically smell reality knocking.

photo-(4)

And when it does, you’ll know where to find updates!

shoo, fly, don’t bother me

I hope that the first few steps of jeans sewing are the most difficult.

Turns out, putting in a fly zipper is pretty complicated. And when the pattern leaves out a key detail like seam allowance (see my complaints in the previous post)… and the fact that you have to sort of offset the one zipper tape (so that you can hide the zipper and everything will close up flush – does that make sense to you? Photo below)….

Adding a zipper to my jeans
See on the right side of this photo? The zipper is sort of recessed back from the edge? Took me a few tries to get that right.

Yeah, it took me a while. Several days’ worth of naptimes. It’s cool, though. I’m taking extensive notes for the next pair. #wearablemuslin

Things that I’m still mystified about:

  • Good zippers for jeans. The shortest one in Joann’s is still too long, far too long. If you sew jeans, do you usually order the zippers online?
  • Good buttons for jeans. Joann’s, again, had only 2 choices and I wasn’t in love with either of them (looks-wise).
  • How to use a twin-needle with my machine. That would cut my sewing time down pretty drastically, and make my top-stitching more even and professional-looking.
  • Will the gosh-darn things fit? Contrary to a normal wearable muslin, I’m going whole hog with this pair – finishing the edges, doing all the techniques. I want to test-drive it all. I’m subbing in flat-felled seams, for one thing, and trying out a different finishing stitch on my machine. It’s basically science, y’all. Hypothesize, test, and test again.

I also want to know how these new seams & finishing touches wear. Which ones are going to fall apart in the wash, which stress points tear first? I’m in it to win it with this jeans game. I will bet you a big, fat load of Party Points that I tear a hole in the first two weeks.

Nothing like optimism, right?

creative-hours

jean jam

I have another confession. Crafting confession #1,000?

When it comes to knitting, sewing, printmaking (anything in the craft realm really) I have little or no idea about what skill level most projects are – and I don’t care. I would rather try to make something I want and need and love – and spend four weeks cussing and Googling and picking out seams – than go through measured steps to slowly build my skills. The intermediate projects always look so boring, right? Tell me I’m not the only recklessly impatient one around this neck of the woods.

So you won’t be surprised to hear that my latest sewing project is a pair of jeans. Never set in a zipper before? No problem. Looking for a chance to test out flat-felled seams because you read about them in the Colette Sewing Handbook? Sounds perfect. Eager to excuse your impatience by utilizing the phrase “wearable muslin”? Me, too!

The first seam in my new jeans!
The first seam in my new jeans! Does anybody know if you’re supposed to use the jeans-specific top-stitching thread for the whole project? I did….

Also, I am down to one pair of jeans that still fits me, and if I’m going to spend $30-$60 on a pair of pants, I am darn well going to have the fun of making something at the same time.

I understand that this might make me crazy. But let me take you on a tour of my latest-and-greatest sewing madness anyway. (I figure, if you’re sticking around, you’re probably crazy, too.)

I spent about 20 minutes surfing around and looking up jeans-patterns-reviews online, ordered a Sew U Built by Wendy book based on the lovely creations of a few sewers, and got some clearance denim for my wearable muslin.

Before you run over to Amazon and buy that book, though, you should know (due to what I can only imagine is a publisher’s error on a huge scale) there are no seam allowances included! The book says that seam allowances are noted on the pattern pieces (because Wendy recommends anywhere from 1/2″-3/4″ depending on the garment), but it’s a big fat lie. You are going to be guessing like crazy the whole way through.

This makes me angry. There are so many good independent pattern writers out there who go to great lengths to ensure that their patterns are accessible to all levels by including information about ease, seam allowances, and tutorials for the hard parts. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a “big name” pattern or book again – I’d rather stick with the indies, and know that I’m getting a good product with actual customer support if there’s a printing error.

However. I have the book now. I did a lot of manic math while I was adjusting the legs for more of a skinny-jeans look. The legs should fit OK. It’s anybody’s guess about the behind-area, of course, until I finish.

I do recommend the Colette Sewing Handbook. I will probably never make most of the actual garments (see impatience with slowly building skills above), but there is a wealth of information about fitting adjustments, different seams, and common techniques you’ll run into when garment sewing. I’ve referred to it multiple times while adjusting and sewing my jeans.

Next time, on The Jeans Diaries: zippers turn out to be hard.

I’ll see you then, hopefully with more photos.