Thursday, November 30, 2017

post 10: 3 things I'm doing again

After a long hiatus, a return to
 1) Yoga .....November is my least favorite twelfth of the year. It's always hard but by the first day Nov 2017 I was stressed and agitated over various goings on. And the darkness didn't help. Thanks to some wise words (perhaps not even intentionally delivered), I returned to yoga on an unlimited pass for the month. I went 10 times. Not bad considering I was gone for a few days, twice.  What a joy. I feel  great. And I made it through the month without imploding. I may be addicted!
 Stone Fences Cowl by by Elizabeth Elliott Knits --

2) Listening to classical music_ I usually listen to books on Audible, or podcasts,  on  long drives and while editing photos, and  while knitting late at night. This month's book group selection, Lincoln in the Bardo made me sad and jumpy (yes I know it's amazing--just wrong for my mood) 
I was thinking of what would take me away-- and thought of how much time I spent in my teenage years listening to classical music, as a devoted but definitely UNtalented viola player. I was, in fact, an out-of-tune viola player, yet I stuck with it passionately till college.  Sitting in the middle of the string section surrounded by music was a happy place. Turns out blasting a Mozart station on Pandora is a good mood lifter in my office and around the house.
(The wonderful design, above, is a favorite recent release from a photo shoot last summer. I didn't have a classical music photo--but I could say this design is a symphony of beautiful yarns cleverly worked together......but then I'd have to issue a schmaltzy prose warning, too....)

3 Sewing clothing --- I've been meaning to crank up the old Singer FashionMate machine for too many years. I grew up sewing and loved making clothes for myself, then costumes for my kiddos when they were little...and then I got out of the habit, completely. A weekend in New Hampshire with my dearest maker friends, formerly my housemates when we all taught at a retreat annually, got me seaming. Our generous hostess and crack indie EVERYTHING designer (seriously--Ellen Mason makes sewing patterns, knitting, crochet, and her own yarn, too) set us up with an unreleased pattern that I love. And then patiently coached me.
Is that the BEST sizing ever? She melded a larger bottom with a medium top, just like nature did for me ;-)  . I may be triangular but I am also very appreciative. 
This pinafore jumper/ apron dress will be out in 2018. I want to sew a jillion of them. 

Ok, you'll notice a return to blogging regularly, let alone DAILY,  is NOT amongst the three. I'll keep trying.....

For more 3 Things on Thursday, look over at the bottom of Carole's blog.

Monday, November 27, 2017

post 9: talking yarn still lifes (and talking and talking...)

One of several balls I wound off my Jill Draper Makes Stuff Empire yarnbaby, sitting in for a lighting and prop test. I really like this off-the-cuff image. I also really like this yarn and what I am knitting with it--but that is another blogpost. 

I've had occasion to think about still life photos lately. I mean, I make still life photos for the blog and instagram, and in my commercial work as called for. I usually stack things and create three dimensional setups.
 Some happy handspun I was gifted last spring, with out of focus little pompom props. Love this yarn, too.

 I hadn't ever stopped to formalize my thoughts and preferences on shooting still lifes. Photographing people is what I'm most often hired for and lucky for me, many are people wearing knits or holding yarny things.  But in teaching and interviews, I'm often speaking on  how to make better still life photos. If you'd like to hear what I have to say on the subject, Leanne of Stitchcraft Marketing podcast had me as her guest, and the episode just released.

Listen to the StitchCraft Marketing  Business of Craft Podcast episode 20 and show notes here.*

I found myself with a lot to say, particularly on the subject of flat lay photos.

Spoiler, on the topic of flat lays: They are a great way to compose still life, especially for social media. Plus it is a style that is accessible and a style that works well if using a smartphone for photos. And, fun to shoot.   BUT...they are all starting to look alike!  If you don't believe me, go on Pinterest, search How to Make Good Flat Lay photos, and see how they all look the same despite coming from multiple sources.   So little incentive to click on any of them!

My advice is, from there, click on something like  " 50 Best Props for Making Flat Lay Photos".  Read the list of suggestions and then DON"T use any of those items!  That puts you on the way to making something that will get noticed.

I'm shooting yarn still lifes of some gorgeous yarn for a client on Friday, and looking forward to pushing us a little. Probably not too many will be flat lays. The chair, up top, passed the audition, but we'll  light it a little more dramatically. I raided an artist friend's studio for partially painted background canvas......and I'll go poke around Ikea's kitchen stuff, that's a place I find inexpensive things to throw in a composition and hopefully not too many holiday shoppers yet.  And in a couple of months--I'll show it as a Behind the Scenes here. 

*  In real life I promise I am not gasping for air between sentences.  My new earphone microphone kinda makes it sound that way at times in the podcast. Or, just mayyybe I'm being oversensitive!  yikes it is hard to listen to yourself, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

post 8: my best thanksgiving

I posted this in 2006, and I'm sharing it again. with some edits and additions, 11 years later.

My best Thanksgiving dinner ever was 27 years ago. Far from home, far from the Land of Pochohantas and the Pilgrims. I was in South America. These were the guests of honor :
(when I first posted this  I added the 16 yo age, he is 27 now)
The cuties were in the process of being adopted from an orphanage, by families from the US. Dave and I had received an official adoption decree in court the day before, after a very long process, for the tiny guy on the far left. The US Embassy was closed to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.  We needed to wait till Friday to get our baby's green card, to take him home.
We found other families in similar limbo to share the day. The meal itself was forgettable, save for the can of jellied cranberry that a woman from Kansas had oddly brought with her. What is forever memorable is how thankful we were to have our son, and be a family, and how we marveled at the dips and turns life takes to place you in such wonderful moments.

Being an adoptive parent makes me forever conscious of what family means. Years later I worked on a book about what happen to kids who age out of foster care. The one thing the subjects all said, whether their lives were going well or a struggle, was they wished they had a mom or dad. Not for the big things but for the small. Someone to show up at your sports games, or know you won a prize, or to call on a bad day when your car breaks down and fail a test or have a problem with a co-worker. One man in his twenties, a huge strapping entrepreneur and former college football player got tears in his eyes telling me that no one, zero, zippo, was there to see him graduate from college.

ETA:  When that baby in the photo and his younger brother, adopted 3 years later from the same orphanage, became teenagers, they brought home an assortment of friends. Some were quite likable, some were tough nuts to crack. Some had problems at home that'd make your toes curl, not that we'd know details until years later, when they finally felt OK to tell.  Some spent weekends here, some seemed to just be here a lot.  Mostly, and especially when they were younger, they just wanted to sit at the table and eat a meal together, have me yell at them to go to bed or rinse dishes and do homework and stay away from partying and give them a ride, or run their idea for a school essay by me.  Believe me, I was not always gracious about all this, it just happened. In fact, it happened before I even knew it was happening.  I'm not a "cool" parent but I listen and give opinions. 

So what can anyone do? Most of us can't make grand gestures but here are some small acts
- Be a mentor, or  volunteer at a community center, even just once in a while
- Calling the local high school and offer to have a kid shadow you in your job for a day. 
- Talk to a kid who looks rough around the edges.  A little goes a long way.

And --back to the knitting! While we are on the subject of kids without support systems and/or families
Consider a quick knit for the Red Scarf project . They are collecting handmade red/red-ish scarves  throughout December.  The students who get a hand knit scarf in a care package this February don't have families to send them something that says"I'm thinking of you". But they'll know that someone was, thanks to the efforts of Foster Care to Success , who also have an easy-to-donate-to emergency fund and textbook fund, from that link.
 I've worked with this organization for a decade+, and I will vouch for the good folks there.

Sorry for turning into Ms Preachy McPreachPants today-- I only do it once in a very long while.  I'm about to turn my attention to FOOD  and dive in to the Thanksgiving prep/ whirlwind housecleaning. Make a mess, clean a mess, make a mess. 

I'm doing pretty poorly with the daily blogging this month but hopefully I can squeeze in  Three on Thursday, tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

post 7: yoke colors

Old yokes! Vintage yokes! I dug out two sweaters I knit for Dave and me when we were twenty-something. A while ago. They have seen a lot of wear and serious staining.  Mine was partially felted in the 90's--it seemed like a good idea at the time. Lopi patterns although I knit in mostly Brown Sheep Lambs Pride. That was the wool most available near where we lived at the time, in rural eastern Connecticut. (No internet ordering !? Seems weird now.)
The bodies are stained and ill-fitting --but I kind of want to save the yokes. Any suggestions? 
Well, that's easier on the eyes for tender knitters, right? Choosing new yokes! I spent the weekend with dear and talented maker friends.  Jani Estell, the  dyer and yarn maker and owner of Starcroft Yarns brought her whole palette so we could choose colors for a pattern we are all testing for Kirsten Kapur , who was also there. It's the sweater she's wearing in that link, and we all have a personal connection to it--but that is her story to tell. . The center natural is a ball of the fabulous Doc Masons Wool by Ellen Mason, who was our dreamy hostess. Plus had the patience and chops to coach us through sewing one of her wonderful designs. This table has a Lazy Susan top, so it was a game of roulette color picking.
I highly recommend this method if you are amongst the indecisive.
Not like there are any bad combinations.......

Friday, November 17, 2017

post 6: 3 things rectangular wraps

Shawl wrap, stole... whatever. There's something about a rectangular length that is 1) elegant  2) also a bit like wearing your security blanket. 3) Added bonus, no shaping while knitting. 

First up, Box of Rain  from Apple Tree Knits. When I wrote about her new collection and shooting it last post,  I had too much too include. So it gets it's own lead today!
Oh, the details!  It's a beautiful center out stockinette rectangle, with lace edging.  It's the kind of thing you can wrap up in and instantly feel amazing. It'd make a fab new mom gift, to wrap herself or the baby in .

And if that much fingering weight knitting is not your jam, consider this
Laight by Kirsten Kapur--in her Shawl Book One and on Ravelry as a single pattern, in aran weight yarn.

And I can't leave out Glama from Drop Dead Easy Knits. You'd think I'd be immune to its charms, what with carting of this sizable sample around the country to trunk shows--however last week Kirsten showed me a stunning red one, also in Malabrigo Rasta, and I fell for it all over again. Bulky yarn but the drop stitches make it drape so beautifully. 

Ok that's my Three Things for this Thursday posted a few hours later than intended.  More to look at, from  links on Carole's blog

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

post 5*: Apple Tree Knits collection BTS

Behind the Scenes with Apple Tree Knits Fall Winter Collection - released just last week.  Here's the link to the patterns on Ravelry.  That's the Awestruck Shawl **by the genius behind Apple Tree Knits, Liz Capik, herself, knit in one of her gradient skeins.
We try to look serious in the photos but between shots, we crack ourselves up. Liz models her own yarn!  Usually when designers or dyers say they'd like to pose in their own samples I hesitate. It's a lot of pressure to be the client, the artist and the model, including looking fabulous. But she nailed it, right?
When Liz contacted me to start planning a shoot, she sent  a moodboard and said "autumn-ish" and Boho. And she is based in New Jersey.  Bingo. I knew we had to shoot at stylist/ creative director /writer Karin Strom's place near the Delaware Water Gap, and have Karin style it.  Done and done!
Except we shot on a hot August day, with the gardens still we had to be careful framing to make sure you wouldn't know the season. In the shot above on the brick walk, we scavenged the yard for early fallen leaves to scatter for a cooler weather vibe.  I am not sure how Liz managed to look serene and cool through all ten pieces. Some people have all the skills.
See?  This scarf, Fluidity Life, is a fave from the shoot. Not just because of the styling :-). You know how it is very very hard to find a pattern that is interesting to knit and works with--not against- a variegated handpainted yarn. This one is a fun project--click on that link by the name- it says it's started in the round, then continues knit flat. An adventure.  Liz' yarns, if you've never seen them in your LYS, are sometimes  subtle and water color-y gentle in their hues. But she's got some punch, too. 
See how UN-autumn-like it was? That's Karin Strom on the left, and my cheezin' assistant Yliana on the right. She's wearing a hat we were handing in and out of the photo for a prop, you can see it in the photo above this one.  Liz is balancing on a bucket so I can shoot her at an angle to crop out the cheery green grass.  The big white reflectors are down to try to block off green from taking over and tinting the photo***. 
I can't only show bright colors when I loooovvvve the more subtle yarns Liz dyes. This ruana is a perfect example. All of the intensely speckled yarns that have become popular this season are fun but hard to wear in garment form if you're not a bright speckled person. If you know what I mean.  
Had to include this. The only downside of shooting at Karin's Victorian farmhuse property is I want to just wander around and make pretty pictures of all the little vignettes she creates there. That's a whole 'nother story. 
and now the footnotes 
* yeah, so...the November daily blogging hasn't quite been daily.  I'm still trying. 

** That Awestruck Shawl is especially fab because she designed it to be knit with gradients and use every inch of the special yarn. You can keep going until you run out of gradient, and not waste any of a beautiful  skein, at whatever yardage you have. Love!

*** Getting on my photographer soapbox here: I often hear new photographers say "oh, you can just fix that in photo editing, it doesn't matter " -in regard to shooting with poor shadow detail, or in situations with a mixed light source that give a color cast. While it is true that you can correct, you will have much better images- and be a much better photographer--if you learn how to control light and color. You can make a flawed picture better in photo editing but you ain't never gonna make it great. Don't you want to make great photographs?
Ahem. Steppin' down! 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

post4: the Never Fail Watch Cap

Here you have it, the Never Fail Watch Cap from Mason Dixon Knitting Knitstrips, knit in The Croft yarn on US size 8 needles. Easily less than one skein.  What is not to love?

I've already talked about how simple the pattern and how delightful the yarn. I may have whined a bit excessively about the need to make one long Kitchener seam. It really was no big deal.

An entertaining little knit, and sooo quick. Pretty sure another will be on the needles soon. But not, however in my other skein of The Croft, in the blue/green for Dave. When asked what he thought about the hat, and if he wanted one, too,  the reply was something like "It's a good one. I like it. Ummm no I don't want matching hats.......I'd really like if you'd finish my sweater though....."
See? They named it right.

As far as Dave's sweater...I have tons of knitting time this week, a Woolapalooza of Knitting Time! FOs ahead. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

post 3: felting has its limits

This right here is exactly how many felted balls a five year old will make with you before she remembers that felting little wool balls is actually quite boring.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

post 2 Nov: 3 things about The Croft

1) On Saturday I popped into my LYS , Knit New Haven w here I discovered they'd gone and stocked new yarns  without telling me. So many good ones! A shelf of The Croft from West Yorkshire Spinners especially got to me--and they had a skein out for sampling a few stitches. Boom. Done.

2)  It's Shetland wool, aran weight, lofty, soft, woollly natural sheep colors blended base. With muted speckles. Not so crazy as to be high contrast or pool. Just the right kind of speckles. And, a little lanolin sheepy whiff. I settled on two skeins in different colors--a new hat for me and for Dave.  (I don't buy random single skeins, without a project in mind. That never ends well for me).

3) All other projects immediately set aside to knit a Never Fail Watchcap from Mason Dixon Knitting Knitstrips feature.  Above is a testament to how much I love this yarn--I have knit nothing else since Sunday. And I don't love plain garter stitch.  But I should love this hat, just in time for the chillier weather.

My only point of uncertainty: I was thinking of knitting the same pattern for Dave but we've avoided wearing matching hats since we were this the time to start? 
ETA: now that I am at the long kitchener seam, above,  I can safely say Dave's The Croft hat will be a different design...knit in the round.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

post 1*: Grand Central Scarf fr DDEK

There's a train station in New York City,
That's elegant, old and so pretty.
Waiting or onboard,
Simple knitting's adored.
Empty handed? You have my pity!**

We're talking the Grand Central Scarf by Kirsten Kapur from Drop Dead Easy Knits.

At a glance, its a  striped textured scarf with fringe. Take a closer look! I am crazy about this clever pattern. Here's why:

Instead of the expected knit back and forth on looooonnnnngggg rows, it is actually knit in the round. Yup, that's right, in the round. Mind blown?

You cast on a lot of stitches and knit around till you have the desired width of your scarf, (or run out of yarn).  Cleverly designed to have no finishing , it has a section where you let stitches drop and cut once, to create the fringe.

OK. As one persnickety and mean-spirited review pointed out, there is the very minimal finishing of needing to knot the fringes at their base.  And optionally, block it.  Shhh don't tell anyone, you could skip the blocking if it is draping nicely.
thanks to the beautiful Sarah Hunt of Fibertrek podcast for modelling.
The texture is a simple slip stitch with a good rhythm-- you'll not need any glancing at a pattern. Which is why it is great travel/waiting knitting. If you've ever knit a Honey Cowl (and holy cow there are close to 24,000 of them on Ravelry, though I think half of those were knit by Mason Dixon Kay), I refer you to that kind of vibe.  Though not the same texture. It is, however, really pretty on both sides.

Kirsten designed it using two shades of DK weight yarns but Mary Lou cleverly used a skein of Jill Draper Makes Stuff Rifton, which has long color changes-- making the project even Drop Dead Easier, by not needing to switch skeins. ***   If you fell for beautiful gradients at a festival or yarn shop recently, this might be a good use for them.


* Every November I attempt NaBloPoMo but despite good intentions, fall short.  Me+Rules = UNlikely To Follow. So I number my posts for the month and do what I do. .

** The three authors of Drop Dead Easy Knits--Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops, Mary Lou Egan, and I- committed to blogging about each of the patterns in our book. If you visit our blogs, you'll find the posts. I said I'd do it in haven't slipped up yet.

*** I cast on for  Grand Central in Rifton, too, but idiotically decided to work it from both ends, for the stripes, rather than just knit through it. About halfway in I realized my folly: I had a frustrating tangle from the two end knitting (so. not. easy.). Plus, Jill had spun this yarn so the color changes repeated, her colors were so thoughfully and gracefully appearing yet  I was ending up with matching sections instead of stripes....It was not working. If you use a color changing yarn, just go straight through it and let the dyer do the heavy lifting.