Make

There was a moment in grad school. Kevin and I had split up and I was desperately broken-hearted. I’d been getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to an alarm because it was the best time for me to concentrate, when the world was dark and still, writing by the light of a candle. I’d gotten about halfway through drafting Bodies in Motion at that point; I had been working so hard, for so long. I loved the book, but I was otherwise very tired and very sad. I cried all the time.

There came a day when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. I found myself — and I honestly don’t even remember making the decision to go — at the art store, ringing up $200 of supplies (money I didn’t really have, but I just didn’t care). I came home and I made things — candles and collages mostly. They weren’t very good but I needed to do something that wasn’t just brain work, that didn’t require so much deliberate thought. I needed to use my hands. It helped. (My mother still has the candle I made her that year. She thinks it is too pretty to light it.)

• Welcome to Memoir
• Designing in Inkscape for Cricut
• Survival Cooking

I was talking to Jed a few nights ago, trying to explain why I haven’t been able to let go of the idea of the maker space, even though it takes lots of time that would perhaps be otherwise spent on writing (I am still writing, but inevitably slower than I would normally be).

• Fix Your Own Garbage Disposal!
• Checklist for a Renovation
• Visible (Beautiful) Mending

I did try to set the makerspace aside, over and over, for the last few years. I told myself, “This would be a nice retirement project, but first, write the damn novel.” Then I’d find myself scouting out spaces, or making workshop lists again, or thinking about whom I knew that had skills they could teach. (Lots of people, it turns out. Lots and lots.)

• Stop-Motion Animation with Legos
• Intro to Weaving on the Rigid Heddle Loom
• Botanical Soaps and Candles

Workshops I wanted to teach, workshops I wanted to take. And many of these don’t fit neatly into some conceptions of a ‘makerspace,’ but to me, these are all making. Making with hands and mind and generous creative hearts.

• Getting Started with Arduino Controllers
• Firespinning!
• Drawing Comics

A friend just offered to pass along some shoes for Kavi, and she didn’t want money for them. I am going to leave her some handmade soap and caramels and a book. Gift economy, and how much more satisfying that is.

• 3D Print a Custom Drop Spindle
• Planting a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
• Jewelry Making with Resin

I am not quite old enough to be focused on my legacy yet, but the thought does pop up now and again. I’ve done some good things in politics, and hope to do more. I’ve done some good things for science fiction and fantasy too, and ditto. But if I can leave behind a thriving Oak Park makerspace, one that might even (a girl can dream) spin-off into Austin and Berwyn locations too, encouraging collaboration, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship throughout our community, bridging silos and ending isolation — that would be a legacy to be really proud of.

• Worm Composting
• Knitting with LEDs
• 3D Printing for Cosplay

I can just see it, humming with life, in my mind. A makerspace, an artist shop, a free art supply exchange, cafe and lounge, co-working space, an artist residency program, low-income artist housing, and more. I hope we can make it happen.

• Stained Glass using the Copper Foil Technique
• Songwriting
• Welcome to Podcasting

(Pictured, dried marigold petals harvested from my garden for marigold-turmeric soap, made with a coconut milk base, unscented. I’ll be selling them at Pem Hessing’s Colorful Holiday fair, featuring the work of makers of color in our community, Saturday 12/15, 10 – 3:30. I’ll also be donating some to the Garden Club holiday sale, where they’ll be incorporated into hostess gift baskets to be raffled off at the December meeting, to support club activities. We’re hoping to host a fundraiser for the makerspace in December as well — details soon.)

• Art Journaling
• Resume Writing
• Crowdfunding for Beginners

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Moth repairs

Scenes from day 3 of a cold, when I was too sick to take on anything ambitious, but starting to get restless from not accomplishing very much for days. (This was Friday. Today, two days later, I have been mostly in a TERRIBLE mood about how little I’ve gotten done over the weekend, and have apparently decided to address it by just walking on the treadmill until I exhaust myself. Possibly not the wisest course of action ever, but when I stop, I get really crabby. I am an awful convalescent.)
 
This was satisfying, though. About five minutes with an embroidery needle and some yarn I already had on hand, which wasn’t exactly the right color, but close enough for jazz. My repairs are not perfect either, as I basically just pulled the edges together with the new yarn and then went back and forth a few times reinforcing it; I didn’t make any serious effort to match the stitch pattern or anything.
 
But I honestly don’t think anyone other than me (or possibly an avid knitter friend) is likely to notice, and now I can wear one of my favorite sweaters without having to fight the temptation to poke my fingers through the holes…
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Patience

A lot of the domestic things I do are forgiving. If I forget the cardamom, the beef curry will still be fine. If I don’t get around to pruning the roses for a week or two, they’ll survive. I tend to prefer crochet over knitting, because crochet hides the mistakes a little better, and I don’t feel compelled to rip back several rows when I notice a tiny error. ‘Good enough,’ is my mantra, and is part of how I get as much done as I do. Some of my friends are more perfectionist with their work, and though I admire their precision, generally, I don’t feel the need for it myself.
 
Sewing, though — sewing is a lesson to me in patience. I’m not a very skilled sewist, to begin with. I’ve taken one basic class, eight hours spread over four weeks at the park district, $60. I already knew some of the basics, from friends who had showed me how to thread a machine, how to hem curtains, or even follow a pattern to make a Halloween costume. But the class solidified those long-neglected skills.
 
Mostly, the class reminded me about precision. I’d gotten a little sloppy in my curtain-hemming — it’s not as if anyone but me would care if I had a raggedy hem. But if you want something you sew to look good when you’re done, it helps immensely if you actually pin it out first, if you pull out the iron and set the creases in. Even if you’re doing something as simple as running a hem — as a short girl of 5’0″, every skirt and dress I own seems to need hemming to look its best, even if I find it in the petite section — slowing down and doing it right will reward you.
 
And I’m honestly still not sure I’m doing it actually *right* — there’s a lot more to dressmaking than I’ve learned about so far. I’m not even sure I put in those pins correctly. But a little patience and care gives me a result I’m happy to wear, which is really what it’s about.
 
(And hey — my local dry cleaner charges something like $18 to hem a dress. These two dresses took me 40 minutes total, and that includes hemming the lining on the purple dress. Good deal! That park district class paid for itself very quickly.)    
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Yarning

Sometimes we are not running around. Sometimes we are just yarning and singing. Jed and I have a history of doing a lot of singing in the car, but it turns out that while he’s helping me wind a skein is also a perfect time for singing. Christmas carols at the moment, but it’s often musicals.

(Kel, I’m making this Flowers Scarf for Kavi with your beautifully dyed gradient set! It has lots of the pinks she loves, but also feels quite delightfully Hawaiian in its floral cheer. https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/flowers-scarf)

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Sparkly

I was upset to discover that we had closet moths a few months ago, and that they had eaten holes in my absolute favorite sweater (plus a few others). Argh. I could have tried to do an invisible mend, with matching grey thread, but the sweater has a fine weave, and one of the holes was quite large — I didn’t think I had the skill to repair it invisibly.

Instead, I decided to experiment a little. Several months back, I’d picked up a book, Kazuko Aoki’s _The Embroidered Garden_, and I’d been itching to try embroidering some little flowers. This seemed like the perfect piece to experiment on.

Now, I am basically a complete beginner with embroidery. I took one basic hour-long class at one point, where they ran us through the simpler stitches: running stitch, outline stitch, back stich, satin stitch, chain stitch, split stitch (which is my favorite, for some unknown reason). We also did French knots, which are useful, but finicky. The class was years ago, though — I had no idea where my embroidery hoop even was.

I should have hunted it up before starting, because as I was working, the fabric did pull in sub-optimal ways, and I started to get really worried that it was going to look terrible when done. Also, I was impatient, and had decided to work with several strands of thread, to do the filling faster, which is effective, but gives you a lot less fine control, making for a slightly messy result. Anyone who really does embroidery should feel free to scold me for my laziness there. I’m not sure I really have the patience for embroidery as an art form — crochet is much more forgiving for hiding errors.

But in the end, I’m still happy with the result. The two holes are mended (while I was watching a couple episodes of Chopped), and the final result has a sparkly whimsy to it that I quite like. My daughter loves it (but anything sparkly has a big edge with her). I’ll block it a little (misting with water and then patting down the threads with a q-tip, to smooth the fibers), which should help. Now, the flowers aren’t exactly where I would have chosen to place them, but it’s not terrible, I think. I may, at some point, go back in and add more flowers or vines — but I’m going to live with it for a while first, see if I really want them.

Besides, I have a few more sweaters to mend first…

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Block Afghan

Blocking is one of those things you could easily miss if you teach yourself how to knit or crochet on the internet, but blocking is an essential final stage to many projects. This is your opportunity to shape the piece, coaxing the fibers to go where you want them to go — you can lengthen sleeves a bit, straighten lines, soften curves.

For this mostly-alpaca afghan, I let it soak in water for a few minutes, squeezed it out gently, rolled it in a towel and squeezed out a bit more, and then laid it out on my interlocking blocking mats, using T-pins to get the lines where I wanted them to be. Blocking will give you a much more professional result, and it’s so quick and easy, there’s really no good reason not to do it. The hardest part is waiting for the yarn to dry, so you can unpin it and luxuriate in the gorgeousness of your final result.

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Sweater!

Finished blocking the first sweater-type thing I’ve made for myself. I’d hesitated for a long time, because it seemed like shaping would be trickier than sweaters for kids, and it was a big time commitment for something that might not come out.

Results — mixed, I think. This one is a learning experience. I love the yarn (Lana Riga, a gift from my sister Mir Mo Ga) to pieces — it’s super-soft to work with, and striped up beautifully. It took just over three skeins to make this.

The pattern I chose is fine through the body and fits well, but the straps on the top feel a little narrower than I’d want — I sort of wish it had cap sleeves instead.

That’s minor, though — a bigger issue is the flare at the bottom. It’s more dramatic than I realized, almost like a peplum. If I could do it again, I’d do those increases in a more graduated way, I think (instead of one increase row followed by one knit row, I’d do one increase row followed by two or three knit rows).

Now, here’s the interesting part. I don’t really want to add another layer under this, but I do want sleeves, I think. So I’m contemplating taking an inexpensive long-sleeve t-shirt, cutting off the sleeves, and sewing them to the armholes of this. That should work, right? (And I can hopefully frugally turn what remains of the t-shirt into a tank?) I’d love to have three-quarter sleeves added to this.

That’s the plan, when I next have a little time to sew. I’m not sure which shirt I’ll use — I have one in rose pink, and another in a striped cream-white. Will try them both, see how they look.

(Note: Ravelry project notes say I started this 2.5 years ago, oof.)

Pattern: http://www.ravelry.com/…/lib…/rosas-sleeveless-cardi–jumper

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Autumn Reynard

Whoa. I think I’ve made my first color work knitting pattern. Cool. Lots of long floats, sorry, but it actually looks like what I wanted it to look like. Weird.

Two sides of a fingerless gauntlet. If anyone uses this pattern, I’d love to see the result! I’m knitting it myself, but I’m slow, so it may take me a while.

(please use under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license)

I still like the colors I picked for it, but I admit, they look a little more Wonder Woman / Hogwarts than I anticipated, somehow.

Spring is my favorite season still, but autumn does have its charms.

This yarn is Lana Riga, a gift from my sister — finally getting back to this project after a long time in hiatus. First sweater-type thing I’ve made for myself; we’ll see how the sizing works! Ravelry tells me I started it in April 2015, when I’m pretty sure I was a size bigger than I am now. But I may have radically misestimated the size anyway….

Question — I see people saying that when you do a top-down sweater, you can check the sizing as you go. But the needles are in the way. Do you transfer stitches to waste yarn? Is there an easy way to do that? Feeling dense that this isn’t obvious to me.

Have now ducked out and picked up cheap over-door mirror (thanks, BB&B) for basement, which will hopefully make it easier for me to tailor clothes. I have a fair number of pieces from larger-size days, and I still love them, but they’re not nice enough to be worth paying a tailor to size them down, not when I have a perfectly good sewing machine and the ability to sew a straight seam — but I do wish Kavi was just a little older, so I could have her pin me appropriately. Pinning self = tricky.

(This is apparently my super-domestic weekend — I have been running a bit ragged with start of school, etc. writing and work stuff, and am feeling a strong need to immerse myself in space opera tv and textiles. Hopefully will be back to writing by tomorrow — we’ll see.)

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Taupe

Kavya and I might have had a bit too much fun doing a photo shoot to model the sweater-poncho-thingie I just finished knitting for my niece. Kavi quite likes it, and is pondering whether she wants one of her own — in pink, though, not taupe! A quick, easy knit — recommended.

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