Saturday, December 31, 2011

One-by-One Rib

Last week, somewhere in the sky above the midwest, I fell a little bit in love with one-by-one rib.  I had been furiously "making" things for weeks and weeks--peppermint bark, gift-buying lists, books, blog posts, HeyAllday Bags, trips to the post office, trips to the dog park--and I realized I had not spent a lot of time doing what I truly wanted to be doing. Relaxing. Enjoying the sensation of coming inside from the cold. Icy beers with friends. And I have been lacking a fraction of the dimension required to do what I have really been wanting to be doing these days: write. It was in the air, in a janky Spirit Airlines jet, that I began to make a new winter hat for Robb, and I found a fraction of an eighth of this space.

You see, I'm a knit girl, not a purl girl. I like to work round after round of mindless Stockinette without even looking down, then suddenly look at my hands to see that I've knit an inch or two. So I was a bit chagrined to discover that the hat I wanted to make was worked in 1x1 rib--one knit, one purl, over and over again, for what feels like the rest of your life. It's that bring the yarn forward, bring the yarn back thing that really slows you down and ruins the flow of the movement. There I was, on an airplane, in what was probably the first two hour stretch of non-rushed time I had experienced in a month, and I was concerned about speed. (Note: This irony did not occur to me until much later. I think we hardly ever realize, in the moment, when we are being ridiculous.) I slogged through the first few rounds of this hat, begrudgingly noting how smooth the merino was (it's Berroco Pure Merino). By round five, the fabric had started to double in on itself in that way that ribbing does, where the purl columns get hidden beneath the dense squish of knits. The fabric takes on a quality that I can only describe as "sproingy," and it just gets better and better with ever round. Denser, sproingier, squishier, cozier. Soon enough I realized that I could not put it down, and it wasn't because I wanted to be finished, but because I was fascinated by what I was making. I did not listen to music, I didn't talk to a soul, I didn't think about the people in the neighboring seats. I may not have even had a sip of water.

Enough has been said on the topic of knitting being a meditative activity, so I won't bore you with further description of my trancelike state. (Nor will I pretend that knitting this hat solved any of my problems or removed any of the knots in my shoulders--in fact, it probably introduced a few.) But having two hours to focus exclusively on something so delectably simple and repetitive was a necessary transition for my brain.
I'm sure at this point you're becoming scared that this blog post will get too serious, and so to assuage your fears I felt I should probably include this photo of Robb trying on his hat. Almost there!

And now, it's New Year's Eve. I'm decreasing the crown. I'm writing this blog post. We've taken the dog to the dog park every day since we've been home (sometimes twice!). We've seen our friends. We've watched really bad movies (including Mannequin and Christine). We've napped, we've slept in, we've eaten pizza three times this week. In essence, we've slowed down and enjoyed some peace, preparing ourselves for this new year. For its challenges, transitions, discomforts, and excellent successes. I've been asking myself today, what have I done this year? And aside from some obvious things that were pretty exciting (A promotion at work! A puppy at home! The creation of the Modern Carpet Bag!), I can't help but feel that this has been one of those years that sets you up for other years. Let's call it a stepping stone year.

I will tell you a secret: I write this blog so that I will keep writing. One of my authors asked me recently, in all seriousness, what book are you going to write? And I was a little surprised to find that she asked. And I was even more surprised to find that I didn't know. I do love crafting. Would it be a craft book? Probably not exactly, though I'm not ruling it out. What I do know is this: I like to write about life--both the awful and the hilarious--and that is what this eventual book will be. This blog, in its own peculiar way, is me practicing. I hope you like my drafts.

And to that author who asked me what book I will write, thank you for taking me seriously.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To My Parents, Who Make Funny Faces

December in our family is not just about Christmas. It is about birthdays--two of them, in fact--my mom and dad, the love birds who are five years and one week apart. I could probably say something about both of them being Sagittarius--I do, after all, have a history of writing horoscopes--but truth be told, I don't know a lot about their shared astrological sign. What I do know a lot about is their shared tendency to make crazy faces in photos.

We recently stumbled upon a few prime examples from their youth, and my parents were just silly enough to put them into a digital format and send them to me. ME, who has a BLOG. Didn't they know that these photos would eventually find their way onto the interwebs?

But see, that's the thing--they don't really care. In my family, there has never been a lot of vanity. It takes quite a lot to embarrass one of us, and I consider that to be one of the greatest gifts that they could bestow on me and my sister. When we were growing up, comedy and kindness were always king in our house. Fart jokes trumped poise-and-beauty most days of the week, and when a camera came out, we tried to make nice faces--we really did--but more often than not, one of us looked ridiculous, and the most ridiculous photos always seemed to be the ones that made it onto the fridge.

The photo at top features my mom and her sister, and I see so much of me and my sister in their expressions. (Especially after a drink or two.) When we were growing up, Aunt Ginny and her family would come over for holidays, and we would watch our mother transform from a vacuum-wielding stress case to a goofy sister. Between the two of them, there would be jokes mumbled under their breath followed by loud eruptions of laughter. Each year as we got older, the mumbled jokes got a bit louder (and crasser), which was how we learned to be quite polite yet incredibly bawdy little ladies--one of the more important lessons I've learned in my life, I must say.

My dad, on the other hand, has always been an outright goofball--there's nothing subtle about it. I looked through one of his photo albums recently from when he was a kid and was delighted to see that he was making a funny face or doing something unorthodox in nearly every photo. On Halloween, his friends dressed as space rangers or cowboys, and there he was, dressed in a hula skirt with a coconut bikini top. And here he is again in the photo below--yup, he's the one on the right, in yet another bikini top. (Who the other two guys are, I'm not sure, but, um, they seem to share a similar sense of humor.) I guess I didn't realize that people took pictures like this in the '50s. Didn't their mothers scold them for making faces? Or tell them not to cross-dress? Did I imagine that everything looked like a Norman Rockwell painting? Well, clearly it didn't--my father is living proof.

And so, for their birthdays this week--my Dad's was the 13th and my Mom's is today--I wanted to pay homage to their goofy sides. This personality trait is one of my favorite inheritances, and, I believe, has contributed greatly to the richness of their lives. To know my parents is to know great fun. After all, nothing is so serious that we can't laugh about it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nothing Gold Can Stay

On the very top of Bernal Hill I found myself thinking, isn't there a photo of me in this very same spot from just over 5 years ago? I wasn't quite sure of the direction I had been facing, but I remembered the day. We had taken kites up to the top of the hill and let the wind whip them up into the air.  They got all tangled now and then, which led to a game called Kite Fights in which you would try to intentionally take down your pal's kite. I sat on the hill and watched the boys play. I wonder if I knew then that I would be leaving. Sometimes you know things before you say them to yourself, and in certain moments--particularly the sweetest ones--you can feel a golden glow of nostalgia, a pang of loss for what you are currently experiencing. Or as Ponyboy would say, nothing gold can stay.

And so, on this recent trip to San Francisco, I took a photo of myself in that spot. Everything was different, and yet everything was the same. I had a chill in my bones. You'd think five years in New York would have toughened me up, but I just couldn't get warm on this trip. I had forgotten how San Francisco homes lack those powerful radiators that dry us out at night in Brooklyn. I was always cold in San Francisco, but I got used to glorious years of frozen toes and summerless summers. It was ironic, I thought, that I was wearing a gray turtleneck and a black pea coat, my non-silly sunglasses--a New Yorker costume on a grassy green hill. Five years ago, I donned a cruddy red zip-up jacket from an ex-boyfriend and my Elton John sunglasses. My reddish hair was greasy and it whipped around my head. I had not yet discovered my anti-acne/anti-aging facial cleanser (that was in 2008), but the lipgloss has stayed the same (Burt's Bees in Raisin).

It rained in the morning. My friend Megan is pregnant and she was missing the taste of beer--compounded, I bet, by my presence in her kitchen--and so we decided to take a walk. These San Francisco walks were the very beginning of our friendship, up 20th Street to Sutro Tower (when the fog rolls in, the top of the tower looks like a ship lost in the ocean), or, as always, up to the top of Bernal. And with our feet marching forward, slightly out of breath, we talked and talked--the kind of talk that is about nothing specific, but feels greatly important. I guess you could call it dreaming. But on this chilly day, five years later, with everything different but everything the same, there was a great rainbow that spanned the entire city, starting at Coit Tower and stretching over into the Bay. It was almost cliche, and it was definitely indulgent--like dozens of red roses on Valentines Day--and yet I loved that nature had given us this most obvious of gifts. And there I was, once again, already mourning the moment that I was in, for the rainbow clearly couldn't last and I would soon be going back to New York, where we have no grassy green hills to speak of. But perhaps one day I will learn that a life is made up of many happy afternoons--none of which are to be mourned, and none of which can ever be repeated--and that this is okay. (After all, nothing gold can stay.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Slightly Satanic Sewing

Last week I had the thrill of taking a spontaneous vacation. This never happens! But the world came together in several different ways to make a last-minute trip possible. The parents had bought a new house in the mountains I was dying to see, the plane tickets were cheap, the friends in San Francisco were willing to put me up for a couple nights en route, the husband was willing to take off some work, and my work was willing to let me sneak off for a couple of days, allowing me to effectively take off the entire week of Thanksgiving. Hallelujah!

While in San Francisco, I stayed with my dearest of dear old friends Megan. One night while lounging around her apartment, she told me that she had her great grandmothers old sewing machine. I immediately insisted that we pull it out and have a looksie! Old sewing machines are so much fun. I love that no matter how old the machine is, there's a good chance that it will still work...the mechanics of new machines and old machines are fundamentally the same, and the old ones were really built to last. So as long as you can figure out how to thread the machine, chances are the old gal will make some nice straight stitches!
When Megan pulled out her machine, I did not at first notice its name--I was too busy trying to figure out where the thread spool goes. Megan asked me to tell her the name of the machine so that she could look it up on the internet, and when I said it aloud I kind of couldn't believe me ears: The Charger 666? What the? Isn't that, like, the number of the beast or something?

We had a gooood long laugh about her satanic sewing machine, and couldn't help but wonder why oh why Brother would have picked that name for this model. I mean, hasn't "666" always been the devil's number? Or was "666" not considered satanic until the '80s or something?

After awhile, we figured out that a piece of the machine that holds the thread spool had broken off the back, so no sewing for us. (She's gonna super glue the piece back in place and see if that will work.) So at that point, we moved on from the Charger 666 and started rummaging through her great grandmother's vintage sewing supplies, which were a treasure trove of vintage notions. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a little doo-dad called The Witch. (Something spoooooky was going on with this sewing kit, we must assume!)

The Witch, as we learned, is an old-timey needle threader. This one looks to be from about the '40s or '50s and was produced in "East Germany." I was having quite a time trying to figure out how it works until our friend Emma came along and solved the mystery. To see how it works, watch this video we made! It's very professional looking, I know.
Isn't The Witch super cool? I want one of my very own!! I actually hate threading needles, so if I were doing a big embroidery or hand-sewing project, I would absolutely invest in a Witch, which would make me feel less murderous each time I ran out of thread.

Anyway, if  you've ever wondered what old girlfriends do when they visit each other, now you know. They go through their old stuff and try to figure out why they have it and how it works, and then they  make crappy videos about their discoveries. Hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Dear friends! I'm sorry to have disappeared on you! It seems like it's been AGES (or at least a week) since I last wrote. Not that you're looking for excuses--we've never been ones for excuses, you and I--and not that you've been counting the days. But I do feel I need to explain. See, there was a last-minute cross-country trek to see my parents who have just moved to a tiny town in the Sierras, and there were all those mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving along with several glasses of wine and a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and then there was a quick jaunt to San Francisco to see my glorious left-coast friends and eat super burritos from El Farolito and animal-style grilled cheeses from In N Out Burger and hike to the top of Bernal Hill. And then there was this puppy. That's right, all in one week! From turkey-day travels to first time dog owners, it's been a week for the record books.

Yesterday marked the first day I attempted to re-enter real life. After a few hours of playing with our new little pup (who is tentatively named Indie--or Doctor Jones, if you prefer), I turned to Robb and said, I need to photograph my newest bags! And the sun is going down at like 2pm these days! And so we grabbed the camera and the dog--who only the night before had learned how to walk on a leash (see me snapping my fingers and whistling above? That's how he knows I'm the boss!)--and we headed down to my favorite neighborhood brick wall for a little photo shoot. 
We didn't intend for Indie to be in the shots, but he just sat his cute butt down next to me and refused to move. So I stepped on his leash so he wouldn't run out into the street (not that he would do that...he's a very civilized dog), and Robb started snapping photos. Of course, most of the shots are squirmy and ridiculous, but there were actually a few usable ones in the mix!
Other than Indie lending his cuteness to the photos, I must say that yesterday was the first day I started to see how one can be a puppy owner and still manage to have a life. Or a job. Or a blog. As we were sitting in the dog shelter on Saturday afternoon, waiting for our adoption paperwork to go through, I have to admit that I wondered if we weren't losing our minds. Who gets a dog during the holidays? How am I going to make HeyAllday bags with a puppy running amuck in the house? Are we total lunatics??? And yes, perhaps we are lunatics. But if the last two days have shown me anything, it's that part of life is accepting new challenges. And while constantly watching a puppy to see what he's put in his mouth can be tedious, just having him around is opening up my heart in all sorts of new ways. Maybe I won't make as many bags as I wanted to this holiday season, and maybe all of my Christmas shopping will have to happen online this year. But I have a sneaky suspicion that it will all be worth it.

Of course, I can't wait to tell you more about my other adventures last week, which include cowboy hats made out of construction paper and a satanic sewing machine, but I felt I would be remiss to not first introduce you to our new addition.

Yay!! Puppies!!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2011: Year of the Bedroom Lettuce Garden!

2010 was the year of the bedroom peppers. Remember how Robb and I dug up his pepper plants around this time last year, put them into giant pots, and then moved them into our bedroom windows? That was kind of weird. But it worked! Sort of. Actually, they kind of "died" for awhile, but then came back to life in the spring, and then we moved them outdoors and they grew tons of flowers, which all beared fruit...but the peppers tasted kinda weird. Like, not really hot, and sort of papery. So, a fun experiment! But also sort of a failure! I'm okay with those odds, but I got to thinking we could do better this year...with lettuce!
And chard! (That's what's shown above.)

OK, actually, the lettuce was supposed to go outside. I had this whooooole thing planned out in my head where I was going to plant the lettuce in October and then build this sort of shitty coldframe type of structure so that I could keep them from freezing. But then it snowed on Halloween, which pretty much killed all of the lettuce I had already moved outdoors. I still had a bunch of lettuce growing in pods on our sunny bedroom windowsill, though, so I got out a long container, filled it with soil, and transplanted the lettuce pods to the container. 

So far so good! They seem to like our bedroom! I have the window cracked open so they can get that chill that they like, but the radiator nearby keeps 'em from getting too chilly.

I admit, it might be a little weird to take your salad spinner into the bedroom to grab your evening's side dish, but those are circumstances I can live with. 

In the meantime, I wanted you to enjoy these pretty green leaves on this dreary day (well, dreary in NYC anyway). See, look! Green things!! Growing! Don't you feel better?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swimming in a Sea of Fabrics

Oh friends, I have been for FABRIC. Yummy yummy fabric. You see, I've come to a realization: when you're making bags (or sewing anything, I suppose), it really is all about the fabric. Seeing how it behaves (is it thick and unruly when folded or does it glide right under the presser foot like a dream?), and picking a lining that "sings" with the outer fabric.

And then, once I've picked my fabric, I must decide on the right look and shape for each particular bag. I swear to you, some of the bags I have been making lately speak to me (and, unbelievably, it's not because I've been making so many bags that I'm losing my mind.) What I mean is that I look at each one as I'm making it, hold it up to the side of my body (you know, like it's a bag), and if I pay attention, it tells me if I'm on the right track...if the bag is showing the fabric in its best possible light. If it's wrong, I simply turn it inside out and start trimming away to create a new shape, almost like I'm whittling away at it, and then sew it up into a new configuration. In this process, I've learned that I prefer to eyeball things rather than measure. And I've also learned that I don't like to make the same bag twice.
In some instances, like with this hot pink checkered bag, it would be nearly impossible to make the same bag twice since I used an old wool skirt as the bag body. It was a sweet little skirt, but it had some holes near the hem, so its days as clothing were over. But now it lives again in a new form! And since it was made from an old vintage skirt, there is literally no other skirt out there just like it. So this is it folks!
I've also committed to a checkered lining theme. Don't even ask me how this happened. Sometimes you're just in the fabric shop and all of a sudden something seems so RIGHT. Before I knew it, I had ten yards of a thin cotton checkered fabric in five different shades. Including orange! (When I got home, I literally could not remember why in the world I needed orange, but c'est la vie...I'm sure I'll find a use for it.)
In my opinion, the checkers work equally well with neutral modern fabrics, vintage 80s style fabrics, and even with this Indian fabric above! In this case, the crimson checkered lining has a keffiyeh-like effect, which I'm way into.
A word about this Indian fabric: it is so amazing! My mom bought it for me on Etsy last year, and they are actually fat quarters cut from old saris that a woman in India then mails to people all over the world. I've been trying to figure out all year what to do with these, and I love love love seeing them put to use in bags. I decided to go a little girlier with the orange sari fabric above and picked a floral lining. (Yes, the orange check fabric with the orange sari fabric was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.)

So yes, so far I have found fabrics from vintage skirts in thrift stores, from discount fabric shops, and from Indian saris. But last week, I couldn't resist also buying some new pretty upholstery-weight fabrics from Fabricworm. They're just so luxurious! And vibrant! Oh, I had such a hard time choosing, and yes, I wound up going with just about every color of the rainbow. And so, going in rainbow spectrum, here's a pic of each fabric, all of which are destined to become HeyAllday Handmade bags. 

From what I can tell, I have no discernible palette, which might well be a problem when you look at all of the bags together. But for me, as foggy as it may be, I see a through-line: The fabric must have a sense of humor. Whether it has a lively design or features an elephant or a whale, there must be something that is just slightly over the top. I love the gold of the sari fabric because it's just so gutsy and glitzy, not trying to hide from anything. And sometimes the size of the bags I make is comically large, the straps generously long, and yeah, I find that kind of funny too. Though it's also practical!

But what's interesting--and what I've only just recently come to understand--is that once I've made one bag one way with a particular fabric, I'm not interested in making it that way ever again. Why pretend that I'm a factory? Each piece is meant to enchant me while I make it, and hopefully, enchant others too when they see it. And for me, there is nothing quite as enchanting as transforming a yard of glorious fabric.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nancy Drew Book Review

I have to be honest. It has taken me DAYS to write this book review because I have just been too excited about my Nancy Drew book and haven't known where to begin. From the moment I opened it up and felt that vintage yellow spine sort of crack, a thrill ran through me. And every time Bess made a declaration about what she was going to eat or Nancy made an unheartfelt observation about a victim, I was so tempted to underline the text, and yet, I felt like I needed to keep my copy pristine for the next reader. It's just. So. Good.

So here's how Nancy Drew re-entered my life. Last June, my sister and I descended upon our parents house to help them clean it out. You see, they're moving for the first time in 32 years, and we had a lot of crap to sift through in order to dig them out of there. (Not that they're hoarders or anything. You just, you know, accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of 32 years.) One of the discoveries we made was a giant box full of old hardback Nancy Drews. I believe that somebody, maybe my grandmother, bought these for me and my sister when we were kids. But truth be told, I never really got into Nancy Drew. I remember reading a couple here or there, but I was always much more interested in what the Wakefield Twins were up to over at Sweet Valley High. (I mean, they were getting felt up and going on motorcycle rides with bad boys and getting into accidents and falling into comas...Sweet Valley was pretty enthralling for a 13 year old girl.)

So when we found the box of Nancy Drews, me and my mom and my sister all kind of sighed. Oh Nancy, we thought, why do you have to be so boring? We felt bad that we had never really read the Nancy Drews and we kind of knew deep down that Mom was going to donate them to Goodwill, so we each took one and promised to read it. I chose The Clue of the Broken Locket.

Reading a Nancy Drew book as a 34 year old woman in the year 2011 is sort of a strange experience. As you read the book, you find yourself wondering what "ladies hiking shoes" looked like in 1965. Or how long it took for Nancy to re-do her titian coif after getting dunked in the lake when mean old Mr. Driscoll drilled holes in her canoe to keep her from her "nosy sleuthing." One hour? Two hours? Did she have to sleep in rollers? One of my favorite would-never-happen-in-2011 oddities is when the girls' boyfriends come out to visit them at Misty Lake (where they are sleuthing) so that they can go see a groovy band, The Flying Dutchman, play a show--but the boys aren't allowed to stay at the cottage with the girls. Even though the girls have, at this point, been physically attacked not once, but twice (both times with logs and rocks hurled at their heads, knocking them out), had their cottage broken into and their possessions wrecked, and Nancy has been kidnapped and escaped. But no, the boys are going to stay at Mrs. Hodgkins lodge up the way. For the sake of modesty. "Goodnight, girls! Good luck fighting off your attackers!"

But other than these little societal oddities that we modern ladies might find amusing, the stories are pretty darn enjoyable, and the mysteries are pretty well unraveled. Note that author Carolyn Keene doesn't mess with things like emotions or descriptions of scenery or clothing. She makes sure that Nancy sticks to the facts--who cares how Nancy feels about Ned Nickerson (or if, in fact, he feels emasculated by Nancy's line of work?). Nancy, after all,  only has a mind for clues and evidence--nothing else matters when she's on the case. Except there is one odd thing that happens throughout the book: I am fairly certain that every single meal is reported, and it is usually reported by her best friend, Bess, who is introduced to us as "a pretty blonde, inclined to be overweight." I swear to you, if Bess opens her mouth at all in the book, it's either to talk about food, or to put food into it. One of her first lines in the book really gave me insight into her character and her near-constant fear of running out of food: "We don't know a thing about how good the food is in Misty Lake. Why don't we stop for an early supper?...Look! The sign says fresh broiled lobster. Mmm!"

Other than Bess's hunger, I suspect that Carolyn Keene used meals as a way to help the reader understand the passage of time. As in, "two hamburgers, a bowl of tomato soup, and a pecan pie later, Nancy decided to investigate the grounds of Pudding Stone Lodge once more."

Needless to say, reading this book made ME awfully hungry. I knew I was really invested in the book when I found myself one Saturday reading the book in bed, in my pajamas, while eating macaroni and cheese. Delicious!

Some other interesting observations about Nancy: she really is rather unfeeling. And this was, in fact, one of the only places where I did write a note in my book because I was laughing SO HARD. It's at the end of the book [SPOILER ALERT: She solves the mystery], and they finally find the woman who has been held prisoner inside of Pudding Stone Lodge--this woman's children, in fact, have been held captive by the villains, who are training them to perform in the circus!--and the woman is now free and reunited with her children. She has literally been free for 15 minutes when Nancy says "Sit down, Susan, and clear up a few more puzzles for us," and she goes on to ask her a million questions about the clues so that she can tie up her mystery. As a reader, I'm thinking, Nancy, this woman has been locked in the cellar for a year! Show some tact! Have you even offered her a glass of water?

Ok, in looking back at what I've written, I've come to realize that this is less of a "book review" and more of a "Nancy Drew in general" review. But the point is this, if you like campy writing, and you like Scooby-Doo style mysteries (this one even included a phantom boat!), you should really pick yourself up a Nancy Drew mystery. I guarantee that you will be telling all of your friends about the insane things that Nancy and her friends eat, and thinking to yourself "No, Nancy, don't break open the antique clock in order to search for a's probably valuable! And it's not your property! And...oof...too late." The books are all worth reading. In fact, my sister and I are desperate to know what happened to the rest of the books in the box at my parents' house! Perhaps we need to hire Nancy Drew to track them down at the local Goodwill?

And now, you're probably all wondering, what on earth does Nancy Drew have to do with crafting? The answer is this: very little! EXCEPT for the fact that I realized recently that one of the photos in an STC Craft knitting book, My Grandmother's Knitting, has a photo of a very pretty girl in a very pretty sweater reading THE VERY SAME Nancy Drew book. Other than that, there is absolutely no connection to craft.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow Down, Focus

I just spent I don't even want to tell you how long trying to decide which photo I should include at the top of this post. Mind you, the photo really has nothing to do with the post. It's just one I like. A photo I thought of using for the banner of this page, in fact.

But actually, perhaps this is a good metaphor for today's theme: I need to focus. Don't get hung-up on the dinosaur picture. They are all cute! Just pick one and move on.

You see, I have decided that I would like to participate in a holiday craft fair, and this particular craft fair will take place in approximately 5 1/2 weeks. At the moment, my current HeyAllday Handmade inventory includes 7 turban headbands, 3 1/2 carpet bags, and 4 stuff bags. But in order to participate in this craft fair? I will need a lot more stock than that. What if it's crowded? What if the customers like my stuff? I mean, it is the holidays...the one time of year when society tells everyone that they have to buy gifts for EVERYONE. Maybe these customers will be jolly and generous? Maybe they will be drunk? Either which way, I must be prepared. And so I start to make a list--a very scary list--of everything that must be done before then:

-Make 15 carpet bags and 15 stuff bags (at LEAST).
-Forget about the sewn turbans for now...those are for springtime anyway.
-Crochet 20 turbans...these make great impulse buys!

So that means that I need to make 3 of each type of bag and 4 crocheted turbans every week between now and December 10.

And suddenly I am feeling insane. Can I do this? What if they turn out shitty because I'm working so damn fast? What if I stop sleeping altogether? What if nobody even wants to buy any of it? And then I have, like, 40 bags at my house and a zillion turbans, and alllll that time spent. Will I literally be crocheting at the Thanksgiving table?

And yet, I actually think that I can do this. And I am just hopeful enough to believe that maybe, just maybe, the customers will buy some of it. If I can just keep my head down, keep to my schedule, continue to love every second of the creative process, and possibly lure friends over to cut out fabric in exchange for home-cooked meals. If I do these things, then maybe, just maybe, I will succeed.

I wrote this yesterday on the way home and felt somewhat calmer after getting it out. So I thought, hmm, maybe this could help another insane crafter somewhere who is attempting to prepare for a holiday craft fair. And so I share it with you.

11/1/11  6:30ish pm
Slow down, focus. There is no need to mindlessly hit refresh.

I know what it is. The synapses want to fire in that way, the one that you have come to recognize as self worth. It's in numbers, hits, pageviews, dollars spent, likes, loves, and comments. It can be bought and bartered, but it doesn't matter. What is said is said, what is made is made, regardless of whether or not anyone else is looking. To care so much extracts the heart from the matter.

I know what it is. I am vulnerable. To tell the world and not succeed (and here's where someone--probably your mother--says it's better to have tried...).

Focus. What do you want to make? What do you have to say?

Last week, I understood. Not the full picture, but my next step anyway. I was hit with the thought that I had finally percolated and was ready to be consumed. This is where I am supposed to be. I nearly burst out laughing as it hit me. Tears of relief in my eyes.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

DIY Candy Corn

When I first started vetting projects to include in the Bust DIY Guide to Life, there was one project that truly intrigued me. Possibly more than any of the other projects in the book. The DIY Candy Corn! (Or, as it is called in the book, "Confection Perfection"). You see, this is my kind of craft project. It's one of those things that had never even occurred to me I could make at home. As in, this candy seems so inhumanly manufactured that I'm shocked it contains ingredients that one might find in a grocery store. But alas, it can be made! By human hands, in fact. And so, since it's Halloween and all and on Saturday it snowed and we couldn't conceive of actually going anywhere for the first twelve hours of the day, we decided to make candy corn.
The first step to DIY candy corn is to make a boiling mess of granulated sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Nine out of ten dentists agree that just thinking about this combination of ingredients will make your teeth lose enamel. Once this combination reaches a kind of voluptuous sinister boil, you add some powdered sugar and powdered milk, a little salt and vanilla, and your "dough" is done. Are you horrified yet? 

Once it's cooled down a bit, you separate the "dough" into three parts and dye one group yellow and one group orange, and you leave that last group au naturel. 
Around this time, Robb walked into the kitchen and I could tell by the fascinated-yet-disturbed look on his face that he wanted to be a part of the candy corn making. And thank goodness he did! Because someone had to keep their hands un-sticky to take photos. Robb got to rolling that dough out into thin little snakes. (The orange ones, when photographed alone, look disturbingly like long hot dogs.) He laid them out side be side and squished them together with his hands.
Then he smoothed them across the top with the flat end of a wooden spoon, which really seals the gap between the layers.
Then, the fun part! We grabbed a knife and started cutting out the strips into "corn" shapes. (Also, I'm sorry, but  candy corn is not shaped anything like corn. Just FYI.)

We were super stoked when we cut out our first strip of candy corn, but then we quickly grew a little tired of the process. You see, the candy hardens up as it cools, so you have to work fast. And there were so many candy corns to make! It was seemingly never ending! (In reality, however, the whole production probably took about 45 minutes. We just have short attention spans.) We also got tired of the classic Halloween colors and did one batch with a green stripe. Hilarious true story: a guy at the bar last night, who happened to be dressed as Salieri from Amadeus, ate a piece of the regular candy corn and then ate a piece of the green candy corn. While chewing the green candy corn, he actually said, "mmm...I like the fruit flavored kind!" There was no fruit flavoring. They are all the same. (Of course, we did not tell him this.) The power of suggestion is strong, my friends!
Ultimately, I can't decide if these taste anything like the storebought ones do. People say that they do, but Robb and I both think they taste like butter. Which is not exactly a bad thing. They definitely don't look like the storebought ones, which pleases me. Final verdict? I like these weird little candies.
Finally, because it's Halloween, I have to share with you a story of great coincidence!  See these two pugs above? Well, when I asked all of you to vote on which dinosaur I should knit a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine was dogsitting these pugs. And when I opened up the voting to include kids and pets, these two dogs voted! But what's spoooooky is that my friend did not tell the pet's owners about the dinosaur votes (I mean, why would she?), but then just this week, she sees these photos on Facebook: Wonton and Mu-Shu dressed up as dinosaurs for Halloween! And look at those tiny forearms on Mu-Shu!! Anyway, I can't help but see this as a cosmic coincidence of the dinosaur variety.
And I'm sure that the pugs, along with any other interested parties, will be happy to know that my T-Rex is nearly stuffed! I will do a great reveal soon! Promise!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pretty Stuff

It's Friday. Why not look at some pretty things? These are all, in fact, pretty things that I have had the pleasure of looking at in person in the last few weeks. I remember a creative writing teacher saying to me once, "notice what you notice." And so here I am, noticing what I notice. And sharing them with you. (I usually just share this stuff with my hard drive, where I then promptly proceed to forget it exists.)

I feel like each photo should have a "Deep Thoughts" type of caption, or perhaps a motivational slogan. But alas, most of them go like this: Brooklyn, pretty.

At the top are a collection of chairs made from twisted champagne wires. And this is a pretty street in Park Slope.
 This is my street this morning.
And these are my boots beneath that tree.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Woman of Many (Ridiculous) Hats

As I may have mentioned before on this blog, my absolute favorite thing to knit are hats. You see, you can make them so FAST. Each one is just a little noggin warmer, after all--a couple hundred yards of yarn, give or take--and if you get real compulsive, you can knock one out in a night. In fact, the first hat I ever made was a pink and red crocheted cap that I started making at around 9pm and finished at 4 o'clock in the morning...I was so enthralled by what I was doing, I don't even think I got up to pee. When I was finally done with the hat, I plopped it on top of my head with the tail still hanging down from the middle and ran to the bathroom, realizing somewhere along the way that I had probably done permanent wrist damage....but no matter! I had made a HAT! A glorious girly hat! (And because I'm sure you're distracted by the giant beard in the photo above, I will tell you that this beard belongs to my lovely friend and former bandmate, Marc...he just happens to be in one of the only photos I have of this illustrious hat, circa 2004, San Francisco. Lucky Marc!)
It was just this last week, however--when I sold the Big Kiss Blue Hat (shown above) to a dear friend--that I realized my choice in hats might verge on the ridiculous. And that it maybe wasn't just an isolated incident or two. It seems that, more often than not, my hats turn out a little crazy!
Case in point: the hat shown above is probably the most normal hat I've ever made. I literally call this pattern my "One-Hour Hat" because you can make it so quickly (btw, it's more like two hours...I like to lie to myself when knitting). I made it with bulky Blue Sky Alpacas yarn that I had left over, and while it's a wee bit sporty with the stripes, it's cute, warm, and not too freaky-deeky. A couple months after I made this hat, I went to make another one in the blue yarn I used for the Big Kiss hat. I "thought" I was creating a crown just like I did in the One-Hour Hat, but as it turns out, I was making a spiral. A biiiiiig spiral. One that started out nice and wide and just kept on going. By the time I figured out I was making a wizard hat, it was too late to turn back. (I mean, you can always turn back, but honestly, I was kind of thrilled by what I had done!) I quickly realized that I loved the hat, but it was not "for me," so I put it up in my Etsy shop, where Sara snatched it up like the smart girl she is and wears it proudly!
Now, the reason why I think the elfin cone incident happened is because between the One-Hour Hat and the Big Kiss hat, I made this hat above, which DOES utilize a nifty swirl decrease to shape the top. However, in a beret-like situation, you CAN start out with a zillion stitches and do a slow spiral decrease and not create a "point." (Just in case you're wondering, and I know you are, this "slow spiral" I speak of is where you decide to decrease and you, say, *knit 9 stitches, knit 2 together* all the way around, then knit a plain round; then on the next round you *knit 8 stitches, knit 2 together* all the way around, then knit a plain round; and you keep decreasing like this until you have only a few stitches left.) OK, but do you notice something funny about this grey beret? It's huge. HUGE! And that's after I felted it to make it smaller.

Which leads me to my next problem: I hate making gauge swatches when I make hats.
Which is what happened with this hat. This was supposed to be a BERET. Let this be a lesson to all of us about the importance of gauge.
There have also been hats that I just knit too long, like this one from Modern Top-Down Knitting which was supposed to be a cute hip hat (like it is in the book!), but somehow turned into more of a flying nun type of situation. (Or, if I knit it in yellow and unrolled the brim, I could look like a Gorton's Fisherman ad.) 
(Total sidenote: doesn't this guy also look a lot like the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World"? Could it BE?)
Believe it or not, the Flying Nun/Gorton's Fisherman hat is not even the weirdest bonnet I've made. The question is not "why did I make a bonnet with bear ears"--oh no, the pattern itself is cute (it's from Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation). The question is "why did I make it using that gross pubic-looking yarn?" Needless to say, this one hasn't been worn out a lot in Brooklyn. Not even on Halloween. And yet...I can't seem to part with it.
Ok, ok, there have been a few winners, too. Like this Sunflower Beret that I made from Knitting Nature. It was a mother of a stitch pattern on the top, but it FITS and it is hands down one of my favorite winter staples and it really does keep me warm and goes with everything.
(Here it is from the back...look at all that fancy stuff!)
And then there's the "suit of armor" hat. Knit up in a yummy natural-colored alpaca, it is soft as can be and drapes beautifully, though it also sort of drapes into my eyes every now and then too.
And so I added a giant pom-pom, which keeps the hat sliding down the back instead of down the front.

But I swear to you, I am still searching for the perfect handmade hat. Even with so many hat patterns available and so many hats already in my collection, I still feel like I could make fifteen more and not be done. Knitters: if you have a favorite hat pattern that you love to make, please do share in the comments! I will love you forever. Non-knitters: you may proceed to make fun of me and my hats now.