Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Full Circle with Loop-d-Loop

About six years ago (or was it seven?), I quit my job as an editor on physics books in order to pursue a more creative life. I had many ambitions, including finish the novel, drink more coffee, write more songs, knit more often, eat breakfast frequently with friends, and try to write magazine articles. And so, it was on one of these lovely unemployed afternoons that I found myself at Borders in San Francisco's Union Square perusing the magazines. Stacked nearby on a rack all of its own was a book called Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham, which I was not immediately sure was a knitting book. I had never really seen anything like this before. The styling was so severe and other-worldy, yet absolutely pretty and captivating. The book's paper was so thick! The trim size so large! It was the first knitting book I had ever seen that felt more like a coffee table book--an art collection, really--than something that a person would use in a utilitarian fashion (i.e., to knit from). Little did I know that this would be the beginning of my obsession with high-quality craft books.

Flash forward two years. I am living in New York, working at Stewart Tabori & Chang. In my first month working here, I passed by a marketing closet and discovered a box full of knitted ponchos that had been "on tour" with yarn shops. They were the ponchos from Viva Poncho! A book that was so popular in the yarn shop where I worked in San Francisco. It was like finding a celebrity in the closet! Or perhaps like running into a box full of old friends. This sort of thing seemed to happen day after day when I started working here.

Not long after the poncho incident, Melanie told me that she wanted to do a third book with Teva Durham--Loop-d-Loop Lace--a book which I wound up editing. It's rather surreal when you can actually recall the moment you first saw a designer's work--where you were, how it felt--and then later you find yourself working side by side with the artist. We sat in my office with the amazing photographer, Adrian Buckmaster, admiring the garments and contemplating abstract hairstyles--to loop, or not to loop? The first book was chock full of interesting hair choices which, over time, became signature with Teva's brand. And we laughed, because I have been looping my hair up into twists not unlike this model below (from the first book) for years...perhaps, subconsciously, my hair has been inspired by her original book?

So last month, Teva submitted a pattern to Knitty.com, and when it came time to photograph it, she asked if I would lend my hair twists to the shoot. I agreed, and after a quick and chilly photoshoot with Marianne Rafter, here we are. Full circle.

Lady Lovelace, as this piece is called, is a scrumptious sampling of what's to come in Teva's upcoming Lace book. I can't wait for the world to see her newest edgy-yet-feminine creations this spring! (And no, my face won't be in that book, but my name will be.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stabby Stitching

Many moons ago, I started to make a tunic from Alabama Studio Style. Sometimes it's hard not to get all swept up in a book when you're editing it. I started working on this second book by Alabama Chanin at a later phase in the editorial process, when the headaches had been mostly dealt with, the icky questions had been answered, and photography was in place. It was my job to read through the book with a fresh set of eyes and make sure things made sense. It's sort of fun coming in at the late stage because you catch little things and feel pretty smart. But also, it's in good shape so you're not all stressed out about it, and therefore you have a little bit of brain space left to dream and drool. By the time I got to the end of it, I was ready to hand-stitch my whole wardrobe, make pickles from scratch, and move to Florence, Alabama. I also had a peculiar hankering for coconut cupcakes.

What I decided to do was make the Camisole Tunic, but without the swirls. I know, I know, the swirls are exciting...but I wasn't feeling very swirly that day! The beauty of hand-stitching your very own Alabama Chanin tunic, however, is that you can add on to it later. Want a beaded hem a few months down the road? Go for it! Suddenly feel you need some applique? Why not?!

When the mood strikes to make something, you just reach for the materials you have at hand and go for it. On that night last spring, I didn't have any proper pattern paper at my house (ahem...I still don't), so I used wax paper instead. I just traced the pattern onto my wax paper with a Sharpie and cut 'em out with scissors....actually, the wax sorta worked as a lube, so the scissors slid through the paper in a very satisfying way. Was that TMI?

The patterns then hung on the wall in my craft room for awhile, right between the bulletin board and a shelf. I never know what to do with my pattern pieces. I hate folding them up because the crease makes it hard to lay on the fabric when you're cutting it out, so I like to just stick a push pin through all the pieces and tack them to the wall. Does anybody else do this? Is this extraordinarily weird and silly?

I eventually got around to cutting out the fabric pieces, and then just last weekend, I actually started stitching them together. Can you believe it? Usually when something goes unfinished that long in my house, it's dead in the water. But I did it! Well, most of it anyway!

What I love best about hand-sewing is that my stitches look terrible. I mean, really really awful. Primitive, actually. Look at how uneven they are! Was I angry? Distracted? It looks like I was stabbing the fabric with my eyes closed! I mean, just look at this section, above, where I got off track and started sewing in the open spaces instead of parallel to the existing stitches. But did I go back and fix it? Nope! For this type of garment, it's just not necessary. In fact, I sort of kind of believe that it looks even better when it's off.

As of today, I now have the front and back of my lovely tunic finished, and I just need to sew them together. So satisfying! This is truly a weekend project! (Well, a weekend plus about ten months.)

P.S.: Note that in the photo above, I am only wearing the front side of the garment. To pin it to myself, I used these red flower hair clips and snapped them onto a tank top underneath. Know where else I wore these red flower hair clips? My wedding.

Isn't it fun to see what people do with treasured heirlooms after their special day?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dandy vs. Manly Sketches

Friends and fellow knitters, I am writing to you from TNNA! The National Needlearts Association's winter gathering in Long Beach. I took a plane to get there (obvs), and that plane flew over Colorado, which was pretty. When I was not looking out the window, I decided to make some headway on Robb's new sweater! And seeing as I promised you updates on said sweater, with this post you can hereby consider yourselves updated.

Robb has put a lot of thought into what he wants. He would like a cardigan. He does not want fancy stitching. He would like the fabric to be tight knit, but not stiff. He picked the yarn and insists on a zipper even after I showed him the one other zipper I've ever installed in my life (a real massacre). All of that being said, there was no one pattern out there that covered all of these bases, so I've had to venture out on my own...I'm writing my own pattern, people! Let the 2011 knitting challenges begin!

The one thing we couldn't decide on was whether or not the sleeves should be set-in (as shown above) or raglan (as shown below). I thought the baseball-jersey style raglan sleeve would be "cute" on my man, but when I sketched it out, I found myself thinking it looked more "dandy" than cute. Granted, it could just be the way I drew it...the raglan man has a little more sass, don't you think? As a deciding factor, I went through all of Robb's sweaters and realized he doesn't own a single raglan...case closed, the boy seems to know what he likes. Set-in-sleeve ho!

I've decided to follow the top-down set-in-sleeve formula in 10 Easy Steps from Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits. To do this, you have to start by taking some fancy-sounding measurements. Then you need to figure out how much ease you want to add. (In other words, how baggy or fitting you want it to be.)

Then you knit a swatch, figure out your gauge and you're ready to go! Oh, except you have to do some math to figure out, you know, how many stitches should be on your needles at a given time. To be honest, this math is NOT HARD. It just looks hard in the photo below because I made a mistake: I didn't add any ease to the crossback measurement. I sent Wendy an email the next day to confirm I'd made an error, and she informed me that yeah, it might look a little weird. The actual quote was that it would look "like a woman's sweater with room for boobs." Since Robb probably does not want a woman's sweater with room for boobs, I ripped out everything and cast on again.

Despite having to start over, I'm very much enjoying this experience so far! Somehow graph paper always makes me feel smart. It's like, whoa now, time to roll up the sleeves...she's sketching something on graph paper. And despite my constant eff-ups, I continue to sketch the pattern in pen. Call me confident (I guess?).

Well, hope you've enjoyed the man sweater update. I'm off to eat something deep-fried now... have a beer, maybe watch a ridiculous girly movie that I would probably never watch at home. I love business trips! Particularly knitting-related ones.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday Head Gear

There's so much to write about after Christmas! All those crappy crafts I made for people...I can finally write about them! I can write about the ones I received, too!

But as I clicked through my photos from last week in California, a different theme began to emerge: people in my family like to put a lot of stuff on their heads. Have we always done this? Have I ever realized this before? I don't know! But this year, we sure outdid ourselves.

On Christmas Eve, we had something like 14 people come over to eat homemade pizza. Somehow over the last decade or so, it has become tradition to give everyone those poppers (or "snappers," as Mom likes to call them) where you pull the ends of the tube and a paper hat comes flying out. I think these are typically done on New Year's Eve, but somehow that fine point has been lost at our house. Up above are Mom (in the middle) and Aunts Ginny and Cheryl on either side. They know how to work the crown!

Here's Dad, who maybe doesn't know how to work the crown quite as well as mom and the aunts. Do you think it might be just a smidge too small?

Here's me and Robb and cousin Kiera.

And here's Erin with her friend Lena--Erin was so hardcore, she wore her hat until it was time to go to bed! (I won't mention how late that was...it was very late.)

Even the Pope wore a hat on Christmas Eve!

Christmas day was full of hats, too! Here's Robb wearing the faux fur hat my mom bought for ME. It was too big, so Robb gets it. I like that it has a chin strap. (For safety, I'm sure.)

There was the knitted beard that I bought for my Dad from Five O'Clock Shadows on Etsy!

And also some tulle that Dad used as a kerchief whilst opening his new IPod Touch.

Best of all, there were the "family hats" that Dad got for everyone that are only to be worn when visiting their future home in the mountains.
Seriously, moments after this photo was taken, Dad grabbed all of our hats and put them away. He was very serious about none of the hats going home with us.

After gift-giving, we headed over to Aunt Ginny and Uncle Chuck's for dinner, where I gave Erin her "sister hat," made from the same yarns I used in my red beret.

Erin also gave Dad's beard a whirl. Tres Willie Nelson!

And finally, at dinner we decided to adorn my head with most of the napkin rings at the table. It's sort of a holiday version of Chiquita Banana...it was also very heavy!

Whew...that's a lot of hats. I hope you've enjoyed the wrap-up of what me and my family put on our heads this year for Christmas. Hope we inspired you to put something weird on your head next time you get together with your loved ones!