Friday, 27 January 2017

5 Shawls, 5 Days Roundup

Well, it's exactly what it sounds like . . .almost. 

Hosted by the wonderful Francoise Danoy of Aroha Knits, the challenge was to knit 5 mini-shawls in 5 days.   Note the mini-shawl part.   That's the 'almost'.

When I first saw the challenge, I did a mental 'eek, no way!'  I thought there was absolutely no way I could knit 5 shawls in 5 days.  But, rest assured, they're mini-shawls, I promise.   Indeed; the e-mail instructions included such things as 'knit for no more then 30 minutes.'

Now, the official challenge is closed, but if you'd like you can still sign up for a 'DIY version,' which I strongly recommend.  It teaches a lot about various shawl constructions, and has sparked several design ideas for me!

So, onto my 5 days, 5 shawls:

A miniature winged shawl done in stocking stitch with a garter stitch border, made in turquoise aran-weight yarn.
Day 1: Winged Shawl

Day 1 was triangular shawls, and this was a pretty familiar construction (as I suspect it is to many people who've knit shawls before).  I altered mine by adding an extra set of increases, to give it a longer wingspan.

A miniature semi-circular shawl done in stocking stitch with a garter stitch border, made in turquoise aran-weight yarn.
Day 2: Semi-Circular Shawl
Day 2 focused on semi-circular shawls, which are very similar in construction to triangular shawls, just with a different pattern of increases.

A miniature crescent shawl done in stocking stitch with a garter stitch border, made in turquoise aran-weight yarn.
Day 3: Crescent Shawl
Day 3 was the crescent shawl. While the basic construction wasn't new to me, the method of increases was, so that was interesting.  I also had a bit of trouble getting this one to block evenly, but that might have been because I was in a hurry to get this one done!

A miniature triangular shawl knit side-to-side in stocking stitch with a slipped-stitch edge and YO increases on one side, made in white worsted yarn.
Day 4: Side to Side Shawl
Day 4 focused on shawls knit point-to-point.  I've done a shawl knit sideways before, but not constructed like this one.  Despite my best attempts at blocking, it does still curl a little.  I don't know if that's me, or if that just means it needs another round with the iron!

A miniature non-symmetrical triangle shawl knit from point to edge in stocking stitch, with a slipped-stitch edge, made in white worsted yarn.
Day 5: Asymmetrical Shawl
Day 5 was actually the most interesting for me, despite making mistakes on the pattern.  I think this would work out amazing with a knitted on lace border of some kind.   This is also one where I altered the pattern, swapping M1L and M1p for the YO stitches.

So, there you have what I've been up to recently!   If you're still curious, again, you can check out the course for free in the DIY form.

Until next time!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Inspiration, Sunrises, and Making Lemonade.

Ok.

That's got to be a break from my usual post titles. Consider yourself warned you're going to get a far more emotional post then usual.  Also, personal feelings ahead.   If this isn't your type of post, consider yourself warned.




Onto the explanation.

I've been having a bureaucratic nightmare with one of the government agencies I've been dealing with.   I haven't posted publicly about this until now, because I strongly believed I would get through this, and things would work out in the end, and it would be an annoying, stressful-in-the-moment but minor, bump in the road.  Sadly, new information shows that it's turning into a more major bump in the road, one that actually could threaten my ability to keep this fledgling business alive, and possibly even my threaten personal financial stability. And, frustratingly, it's something that's mostly outside my control.

Needless to say, I've been a little stressed.
 
And yet. . .
I couldn't sleep from worry about this, so I ended up sobbing on the shoulders of a good friend (I woke her up for this, so, very good friend indeed!) before sunrise. 

A gold and blue sunrise backlighting a city skyline.
Flickr Creative Commons -- Photographer: Nathaniel F. 
 And as I could see the sun come up through the window, it was one of those perfect sunrises over the city. . . and my brain started playing with the colours and the texture of the buildings and the trees, and I started to decompress.  I was still crying, still angry, but my brain went somewhere else, playing with art and yarn and colour. And now, for the first time in a while, a bunch of things happened.

1) I have inspiration again.  While I'm still not sure exactly what I want to do with the image of that sunset, it's -something- for sure, and the image and colour has seared itself into my brain and my muses are demanding it be -something!-  It's a feeling I haven't had for at least a month, and I realize how much I missed that creative spark.

2)  It's the first time in about a week that this work has felt 'good.'   Even just going through e-mails feels productive again, instead of a 'why should I bother if I'm going to have to shut this down?'

3)  I want to knit for the first time in over a week.  Really.  When I don't want to knit, something is -very- wrong.   And yet I'm only realizing that I haven't been knitting last week as of this morning.  All of the fear, worry and anger, had me so stressed out I didn't notice that I hadn't been knitting.    That says something right there.  I knit as an aid for both my own physical and mental health, and I hadn't even realized I wasn't knitting  I had no idea this was getting to me so badly.

And Finally,

4) I realized it really is about making lemonade from lemons (to borrow from the saying). 

So, yeah, this still sucks, and I'm still angry.  If I could just get a few straight answers, it would fix 99% of the problems.

But. as I was imagining all the dire things that can happen, I realized that even in the worst-case scenario my brain can imagine (and I can imagine some pretty dire things),  I don't have to shut down, I can continue working on this.  I can still run this business without those supports, it will just be slower, I won't have access to as many supports/resources. If, (God forbid), this does take a strong toll on my personal finances, there's still nothing stopping me from knitting using the tools and yarn I already own.  Even if I end up not having the money to back the expenses of self-publishing (which honestly aren't that extreme), I could knit for magazines and respond to calls for submissions.  And, even in the middle of this mess, I got handed an awesome inspiration.

So, this morning, I made my tea, sat down at my computer, and started typing this up.

It's not just about release for me (though there's definitely some catharsis involved, I admit!).  It's not about 'here look how awesome/artsy/strong I am'. 

It's about the fact that when horrible things happen, we're not nearly as powerless as we might first think.  When things go bad, you don't need to cower and hide, or back down on your dreams.   So what if the road to your destination takes a different turn, you can still get there in the end.  And only you get to decide if you truly need to back down.

It's about recognizing what you can and can't control.  I can't fix the bureaucratic problems.  Those are within the agencies I'm working with.  But I can realize just how much it is getting to me and do something about it.   This morning, I adjusted my schedule, setting aside more time for just knitting; and I'm going to talk to a councilor about help with managing the stress from this.

It's also about recognizing who is on your team. Most of my friends think that my new business is awesome.  I have an incredibly supportive business advisor (who's also quite unhappy with this bureaucratic mess, and has been a good source of general information support).   I believe I'd have my Grandfather's support (he passed away, but I remember him telling teenage me 'I don't care what you do for a job so long as you're happy with it').  I even have the support of the random general public: 'You do -what- for your job?  That's so cool!'  So clearly I have a number of people who thing this is something worthwhile, beyond just myself.   And even with fellow designers, there's a sense of camaraderie, of companionship, not competition.  I'm paraphrasing, but 'the ocean is big enough for us all, we don't have to compete.' is the general message I get from the fiber arts community.

Finally, it's about taking a step back.  Humans are very good at catastrophizing. (spell check insists that not a word).  But when you really start looking at how things work and what's really important, you usually realize that things aren't as bleak as you first thought.  You also realize just what's important to you -- and doing this business is important to me, I know that now more then ever, and that realization would not have come to me without this problem.

I'd like to close with something awesome, some sort of wonderful quote, maybe?  But nothing's coming to mind that would encapsulate all of what I just wrote, except the often-quoted Serenity Prayer:

Text of the Serenity Prayer
Flickr Creative Comons -- Source: Violette79
 "Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference."

I'm going to be applying that a lot over the next few months, I think. But I also think that's a good thing.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

How to Block Acrylic!

Hello all!

So I originally posted a tutorial ages ago on my personal blog about how to block acrylic, now, welcome to the updated edition!

This started when I had to block a pair of socks that were partially made from acrylic sport-weight.

Side Note:  Acrylic -does not- work for socks.  An acrylic blend might work out alright depending on the exact blend; but straight acrylic doesn't breathe at all and is completely not suitable for socks. (I'm never doing -that- again).  These socks are partially acrylic and partially wool, so they're wearable, but still not something I would do again.  

Anyway, I had to block these socks, and I kept hearing that you couldn't block acrylic.  But these were colourwork socks, and really needed blocking.

So, more research lead me to the concept that you can steam-block acrylic.  But I don't have a garment steamer; my sock-blockers are plastic and I was worried they would melt; and I'm not the most coordinated person, and didn't want to drop the iron on my newly finished socks.
 

Here is my solution.  However, please note, this solution only works well for fabrics that sit flat (lace, colourwork).   Textured knits, like cables and heavily textured patterns, can lose some of their texture with this method. 

You will need:

  1. Two towels
  2. An iron (steam setting helpful but not required).
  3. Water
  4. Whatever you're blocking. (In this case, the first of a set of Pacific Rim Socks by Sonja Launspach.)

A slightly blurry picture of a single colourwork sock.

Step One:    Take your knitted object and get it wet.  Soak it through with cold or room temperature water.  If it's a bigger or thicker project, you'll have to immerse it in water and make sure it's soaked through.  A bucket works well, or the bathroom sink.  Try not to jostle it around too much, you don't want to risk felting any natural fibers that you've used.

Step Two: Lay one of the towels flat on a solid surface (here I'm working outside on my balcony).  Place your knitted object flat on the towel.   Then, cover it with the other towel.

A colourwork sock laying flat on a towl.  The sock is slightly puckered.


Step Three:  Iron the object with the towel over top. Use the lowest possible heat, and use the steam setting if you have it.  If you don't have a steam setting, keep a small bowl of water at hand, and pour it onto the top towel in small amounts, making sure that it soaks through both the towel and the knitted object.  The heat from the iron will convert the water into steam.  If you find that the heat from the iron isn't getting through the towel, increase your heat by a tiny amount and try again.

A towel being steam-ironed on a flat surface
Step Four: Continue ironing until your finished object is to the dimensions you want.  If you have metal pins or sock blockers (anything that can stand up to the heat), you can use those to help you get to the right dimensions.

Never touch the iron directly to the object!   Always have the one layer of towel between your knitted object and the iron.  This is so you don't accidentally scorch your knitted object.

A sock placed between two towels.  One towel is folded back, exposing the cuff of the sock. The tip of the steam iron is where the towel has been folded back.
Here you can see that I'm ironing up near the cuff.  I've pulled back the towel so I can see what I'm doing and I don't accidentally over-block the sock.

Step Five:  Once you do one side of your object, pull back the towel and press the other side of the object, if necessary.

Step Six:  Work slowly and check your work often. Blocking acrylic is permanent, and cannot be undone.   What you're basically doing is melting the plastic of the acrylic ever so slightly.   If you over-block acrylic, you 'kill' it, and you get a superbly drape-y and non-elastic fabric, which you only want for specific objects (and in this case, a sock would not be one of those).  And, because this particular sock has some natural fibers in it, it would cause major problems, since the wool would block out differently then the killed acrylic.   

The colourwork sock being worn.  It now is flat and fits perfectly to the model's foot.
Step Seven:  You will eventually end up with a blocked, finished object, ready to wear!  Wear your object as soon as you can stand the heat, to avoid any pleats from the ironing process.

And finally, since no tutorial would be complete without a picture of my dedicated assistant, I present to you, my assistant, general troublemaker, and lover of blocked objects:

A grey tabby-cat, stitting on the blocked colourwork sock and towel. The cat is looking right at the camera.



Anyway, I hope this is a helpful guide on how to block acrylic (and mixed-fiber) projects. Again, please note that this technique doesn't lend itself as well to textured and cabled knits, because they can lose some of their texture in the ironing process.

If you're looking for more information and guides on blocking, you can find lots of information in this Ravelry Thread (though the thread is long enough you'll probably have to take advantage of the search function).  If you've got specific questions about this tutorial (or about blocking in general), please don't hesitate to ask questions here on the blog, on Ravelry, or by E-mail (sarahdawnsdesigns@gmail.com).

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017 New Years Resolutions!

*I posted a copy of this to Facebook, but I decided to post it here as well.  If I'd been thinking, I would have posted it here and then shared it to Facebook, but, I didn't think of that until about 30 seconds before I started typing this.

Oh well. I guess this just demonstrates that I'm still learning the quirks of social media!

- - -

Well, it's 2017 now. I've been celebrating with friends and family, but now it's time to buckle down and do the work that will (hopefully) make 2017 awesome.
I've complied a list of things I'd like to do in 2017. Will all these get done? I hope so. If they don't because of things outside my control, I'm ok with that.

1) Knit with more direction. I've got -so- many half-finished projects because I fall in love with KALs, patterns, yarn, etc. I want to seriously stop and think 'am I going to finish this?' I want to clear my old WIPs out, but then I want to think twice about casting on. 

2) Publish at least 3 (hopefully more) new patterns. I've got a whole bunch of pattern prototypes that are done, with the first draft of the patterns written up, they just need to be photographed, finalized, and sent to my wonderful test-knitters and tech editor.

3) Write more. I've got a lot of patterns in the 'here are my notes and my prototypes' stage. I need to get them written up into a proper pattern format, and do the math for things like grading, etc.

4) Write More (part two!) I want to write more original content for my blog. Articles and tutorials, that sort of thing. I've got some ideas for tutorials and such, but I actually have to organize the photography, write the text. I'd like to get stronger at that.

5) Promote more. I'm self-conscious of my work, so it's too easy for me to just kind of stay quiet rather then saying 'hey, look at my stuff!' I want to start running some advertising, either on Facebook, or on Ravelry.

6) Collaborate more. There are a lot of local artists who I'd love to work with, I just don't have the nerve to approach them. I'd like to start working on that this year. That also means collaborating with other designers, dyers and fiber people too.

7) I'd like to do a web live-chat. I have to organize real-time captioning for it, so it won't be happening immediately, but I'd like to do one.

8) Video tutorials. I've got a pattern in the works that has some very interesting techniques to it. I want to try my hand at doing a video tutorial for it.

9) At the end of the year, my goal for 2017 is to break-even this year. As a small startup, it's actually a very ambitious goal, but I'm willing to try and be ambitious this year. Will it happen? Well, I don't know, but I'm going to give it my best! And if I strive for something ambitious and fall short, it means that I've still moved forward, which is the important part at the end of the year.