Knitting Blog Challenge Day 29 & 30
What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?
I’m lumping these two together and then the list is finished! I am mcglarin on Ravelry, where you can creep on all of my projects. This is actually a good spot to see if there’s an upcoming pattern I’m designing because I use the project page to keep track of a lot of info. If you’re interested in the patterns I’ve designed and have available for purchase I am Kristen McLaren Designs on Ravelry as well.
Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?
There’s so much stuff to learn when it comes to knitting. There’s about 10 different ways to accomplish the same thing and what you do mostly depends on who you learned it from. I’m not going to go into technical things right here, I’ll save them for a future blog post maybe, but here’s a few things I’ve learned in my years of knitting:
WRITE IT DOWN
I can’t even tell you how many times I wish I kept better notes about something. I always assume I’m going to remember exactly what I’ve done. Part of my brain knows I won’t which is precisely why I knit most things two-at-a-time because at least they’ll match even if the next pair won’t. I’m going to work on getting better at this though because it tends to make more work for me when I’m trying to publish a pattern later and I can’t remember which way I started the heel or something.
This kind of goes along with writing everything down but it more applies to yarn. I recently re-balled, weighed out, and bagged up most of my knitting stash. Everything is labeled now and protected from any hungry moth creatures. I’ve also tried to be diligent about adding my new yarn to the stash page on Ravelry and also adding yardage and yarn info to projects so that it automatically updates my stash page (SO HELPFUL). This way I know pretty much exactly what I have and if I’m out shopping I can easily pick up more of something or I can remember which yarns I really didn’t like working with and to find something different for next time.
DON’T SKIP THE SWATCH
This is something I begrudgingly started doing after too many projects ended up being a let down due to size. It seems like such a bother when you want to jump right into a project but as they say ” A stitch in time saves nine.” Not only is swatching just good for checking that your gauge is correct, it’s also good to practice the stitch pattern and to check that you like the drape or feel of the fabric it makes. Knitting those four inches seems like such a pain, but it’s a lot less painful than ripping out half a sweater that you already know isn’t going to fit.
EMBRACE THE FROG
I am a notorious ripper-outer. If I don’t like how something is going I will rip that shit out. Part of this is perfectionism but why wouldn’t I want something I made to be perfect? I’ve ripped out entire projects in front of other people and the sheer horror in their eyes brings me a secret joy. Basically my philosophy on the subject is: if I know I’m not going to like it why would I finish it? Spending 40 hours making something you’re not going to wear is way worse, in my opinion, than frogging a project half way through and then spending 60 or 80 hours re-making it knowing you’re going to love it.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 28
Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?
These kinds of prompts are fun for me because I get to spend half an hour digging through all the photos on my computer (wishing they were actually organized..) and relive a bunch of memories and shitty hair cuts.
I have been creative from very early on in life. I spent a lot of time playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos and was lucky enough to get piles of art kits as gifts for most of my life. I was also fortunate enough to go to a Montessori school where my creativity was not only encouraged but fed with new skills. We were taught to make crochet chains with our fingers by age three (what an excellent way to build fine motor skills while also keeping a group of preschoolers quiet), we also learned to do basic running stitch embroidery by age 4. From there I hit the ground running. My mom tells this story of me around age 4 that I vaguely remember; she walked into the kitchen to find me sitting at the table where I had traced, cut and was now sewing an entire outfit for my doll by hand without help. I remember not being able to get the shirt over her giant doll head so I cut up the back of the shirt and used yarn to lace it back up for an edgy and decorative and reusable closure. Textile things have always come easy to me, and I’ve always enjoyed them. Lanyard keychains and friendship bracelets were basically my shit in the late 90’s.
I majored in art in high school, mainly paintings and print making but I did crochet myself a full human spine out of plastic bags which was pretty cool. From there I went to art school and fully developed my love (obsession) with all things fibers and textiles. The main philosophy of the school was to teach you from the ground up. So for textiles we learned to dye our own yarn and fabric, we learned to make our own yarn and fabric and from there we basically could do anything we wanted. I really really liked weaving. The meticulous threading process, spending hours hunched over the back of the loom threading hundreds of threads through the reed and heddles. During my weaving course I taught myself how to knit (we didn’t really have a knitting course at that time, and by the time they added one I far surpassed the knowledge range of the teacher on that particular subject). I also learned to quilt at the end of my senior year. This class was only offered once a year and each year I never seemed to have time for it in my schedule. I’m so grateful I was able to fit it in, but I wish I could have learned sooner, if I had my trajectory might have been very different. These are some of my favorite pieces from the end of art school. The top two are from my senior show in which my partner and I studied the duality and dichotomy of silk moths and wool eating moths. One moth is lauded for created fiber and one moth is loathed for consuming it. (Top Image is a silk grid on a silk screen with a projection of silk moths spinning cocoons, middle image is a woven wool screen with handspun wool grid covered in different food stuffs used to encourage different larva to eat the screen – we were NOT ALLOWED to bring wool moths into a fiber department for obvious and disappointing reasons).
This image is of a very large quilt I made and cherish. It’s a lone star quilt with a hand dyed gradient and hand quilting with hand dyed matching thread. My sister still has the actual images she took for me but I’ve never seen them.
Since then space has been a little limited, so its hard to produce large works and life gets in the way of spending 200 hours laboring over one project. I’ve made some smaller wall quilts and other little things, but mostly focused on knitting. My new house has a tiny extra bedroom that I’m using as a sewing/craft room but my loom is definitely not going to get in there. We have a mud room with great light that I might end up using once we get the giant couch out of there. I would love to be able to weave again. I do have some quilting and sewing projects lined up in the mean-time.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 27
How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favorite?
I spent a solid twenty minutes digging up this photo. This is my weaving stash in the summer of 2014.. I started collecting yarn out of the yarn closet at school. There was a lot of junky yarn in that closet, most of it was donated by old ladies or mill companies sending us mill ends or discontinued items. I spent quite a bit of time in that closet going through all the yarn and picking out the good stuff. I sort of had a knack for it.
Since then I’ve mostly gotten my yarn from box stores. It’s what’s available, it’s what’s affordable, and I’ve been able to make a lot of it work. I like supporting LYS or indie dyers but its just not financially sustainable considering how much I knit. If I’m in a good rhythm I can usually finish most projects in a weeks time. I’ve ordered some yarn from online retailers but I really do like to be able to touch everything and match up the colors in person before I buy it. For more of my thoughts on yarn check out this post from a few weeks ago.
I do miss dying my own yarn. I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a sock yarn I can purchase in bulk and dying my own skeins. I don’t have any wool dyes left (besides the stash of vegetable matter clogging up my mother’s freezer) and I would need to buy a big kettle designated as a dye pot, but otherwise it’s sounding like a better and better idea. The ability to make any color I want is a skill I sorely miss taking advantage of.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 26
Have you ever been a part, or wanted to be a part of a knit-a-long? What was it? If not, why?
I have never done a knit-a-long. I’ve seen them around but they never really interested me, especially the mystery knit-a-longs. I like to know what I’m making before I start making it. I can see where the group deadline dynamic would be helpful for some people, but I don’t often need motivation to knit. I also don’t see myself enjoying ‘knit nights’ or stitch and bitches. I just have too much social anxiety to enjoy that kind of a situation, especially going into it cold. I don’t really hang out with any other knitters. I use knitting as a way to check out most of the time – putting myself in those situations would basically have the opposite effect I’m going for.
Are Anti-Social Knitting Clubs a thing? Can we make it a thing? Like we all just binge watch the same season of something at the same time from the comfort and safety of our beds and couches?
Short one today, but I’m almost through all of the prompts. I can’t believe that tomorrow is already December (and also my birthday…). I’m really not a birthday kind of person, in fact I rather dread them.
My sleep schedule has bee absolute garbage for like two weeks now. I’ve been getting like four hours at a time and I’ve just been falling asleep at random times and not being able to wake up. It’s making motivation to do anything rather difficult, but here’s a little WIP for Wednesday (it is Wednesday, right?) I spent all of Monday trying to stay awake and managed to knit all the way to the heels on a set of socks. My needle is just a smidge to small for two at a time mens socks, so it’s taking a little extra hand power and after about 20 hours of pretty much straight knitting my hands are not pleased.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 25
Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!
I really should have a knitting book. I have a book for just about everything else. I have a quilting book, I’ve been keeping a bullet journal, and I have one for notes for my tech knitting course, but not one single place to keep knitting things. It would probably make my life a lot easier. I mostly just have hundreds of random sticky notes all over the place. Nothing is labeled, they’s usually only half of the information I could want on them and I lose them constantly. It’s a pretty dumb system for someone who writes knitting patterns but so far it seems to work. I’m pretty good at reading my own knitting and have a weird sensory memory when it comes to patterns. I can pretty much see in my brain what I’ve done which helps when writing things out later. It would however make things much simpler to write everything down as I’m actually doing it. Maybe I’ll get a new book in January and start keeping everything in the same place…
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 24
Have you ever made your own pattern or dyed your own yarn? How did it turn out?
About three years ago I started to get bored with making other people’s patterns. I think it came about from having mostly weird sized yarn and not very much money to buy more. I designed a few mitten patterns for holiday gifts and just kind of whipped them together. Over the next few years I started making a few socks and baby sweaters just based on gauge and measurement standards. Nothing too fancy, just the basics. Then in the summer of 2016 I made these Daisy Socks and the rest, as they say, was history.
I got a lot of positive feedback on instagram and tumblr so I figured why not write up a pattern for them, how hard could it be? I already had the charts and the construction really isn’t that difficult to explain. I even found someone who wanted to test knit them (it only took her like five months to get around to finishing). I didn’t publish this pattern yet because I was hoping my test knitter would finish knitting, but in the mean time I was already working on another pattern. I ended up publishing two different patterns that October and decided to just go for it and publish the daisy socks without the test knitter in November.
It’s been about a year since I started and I now have 13 patterns available on Ravelry. I honestly can hardly believe it- people I don’t even know making things that came directly out of my jumbled brain garbage. There are definitely aspects I need to improve on this year as I take designing into a more and more professional realm, but I’m learning things with each pattern and always working to get better.
Once I make it through the holiday knitting rush I’ll have time and hopefully be bored enough of vanilla-ass socks to start designing patterns for next year. I also have every intention of maybe getting an etsy shop up and running. Lucky for you guys, you’ll probably be the first to know all the new things.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 23
If you had the supplies (and patience) for it, what project would you start today?
This one! This one! This one! I’ve definitely talked about this pattern in a POST before but it’s Persian Dreams by Jenise Hope. It’s been in my queue for a while. It seems like such an extreme project to take on but it’s so stinking beautiful and would be so fun for me to knit. Picking a color-way is probably the biggest obstacle to starting this project. I love how fun the original is (image on the right) but the more monochromatic ones suit my style and taste a little better and would probably get more use. I also think the budget for this project would run rather high – If I’m going to put this much effort into something like this I would like the yarn to be a rather high quality. I think wool obviously, but I would opt for super wash since having this thing felt up and shrink down would be a major disappointment. And then… there is my cat who would probably knead the final project into shreds.
But alas, it’s not time for starting fun new projects. It’s Thanksgiving here, which means I can no longer procrastinate on the gift knitting. I went and bought all the yarn I needed for my gift projects yesterday (except for K’s because he was with me and I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to make him… ). I ended up only needing to go to one store much to the relief of K. I started the first pair of socks yesterday evening and immediately remembered why I don’t like those variegated yarns – especially not for socks. As you can kind of see in the picture, I had to pull out yards and yards from either end of the skeins in order to find the color repeat so I can make matching socks. I found one set so far and I’m not entirely convinced that they’ll stay matching. It kind of seems like this yarn is made by just dumping a bunch of colors into an industrial spinner and hoping for the best. It looks great and enticing in the skein – which is why I somehow keep buying them – and then they turn into a giant jumbley pain in the ass to knit up. But that’s how it goes – maybe the blue ones will be easier since there’s a little more contrast. Time for me to get off the computer and get to knitting.
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 21
Do you knit gifts for friends and family for the holidays or birthdays?
I used to do this a lot more than I do now. One year I think I made like ten things as gifts and I don’t think I bothered to start until at least Thanksgiving. I’ve cut down a bunch in the past years for various reason’s that I’ll probably get more into tomorrow, but mainly it ends up being so stressful that it takes the fun out of it. There are certain people that I’ll happily knit gifts for. I know they’re going to appreciate them and I know that they’re going to take care of whatever I give them.
I knit a few things for my best friend when she announced she was pregnant. I love making baby items – they’re so fast and they’re just so stinking cute. Knitting baby items is basically like making sample sizes. I can experiment with new techniques or make dumb adorable stitch patterns with a lot less time and a lot less yarn. She loved the little things I gave her, and sent me pictures of her little guy wearing them which is basically the greatest thank you I could ask for. She then told me that anything else I make for them she’s insisting on paying for. At first I was a little hurt by this but she explained to me that what I make is worth a lot more than I give myself credit for. This has kind of been simmering in the back of my head for the past year or so. Yes, knitting is my hobby, but it’s also my passion and I’ve worked really hard to become very good at it. It goes back to discussions my studio had over and over again about the value of “art” and “craft” practices and how they’re both perceived by people in the art world and everyone else. I’ve always felt like the craft world is highly undervalued by most people and I know there’s conversations all over the internet that basically boil down to people expecting crafters to make things for free or for material costs – like it’s something we’re going to do anyways so we should be overjoyed that someone is willing to buy us yarn.
Sorry for ranting but this is where my brain is at as the looming holiday deadline approaches and I internally debate what and for whom I should be knitting. I know most of my readers are knitters and crocheters and crafters in general, what are your thoughts on all this? Do you knit for everyone or just a select few?
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 20
Do you knit in public? Was anyone offended/incredibly happy/curious that you were doing so?
For how often I knit in public, this seems to be the only good image. My friend Mel caught me knitting in the wild. We were watching a bunch of our friends make fools of themselves playing a very intense game of beach frisbee one morning.
I take knitting with me wherever I know I’ll be sitting or bored. I’ve taken knitting to family gatherings. I used to take knitting for my 20 minute lunch break. I knit through a history through film class in college (not an unusual thing to do in art school, also see previous post). I take knitting on planes and have never had trouble getting through security. I once knit an entire baby sweater on a train ride to visit my friend in Michigan. I knit on long car trips. I knit at coffeeshops if I need to be there for any amount of time. I knit in bars.
Most people don’t seem to have any sort of reaction when I’ve knit in public. I’m sure I’ve gotten weird looks but I’ve never noticed since I was in my own little knitting world, which is kind of the point isn’t it? Occasionally someone will ask me what I’m making but usually don’t linger for a chat. This past summer while at my favorite traveling beer garden I was knitting and chatting and drinking my beer like any normal 20-something. The sky ripped open and it started pouring. We weren’t finished drinking so we made our way to the little shelter where the polka band was playing. In the true beer garden spirit, everyone who stayed crammed onto the few tables and started chatting with strangers *gasp*. I kept knitting because I was in a groove. An older lady asked me about the socks I was working on and then talked to my mother about how her mother used to crochet or something (beer garden memories tend to be a little fuzzy) but then left me alone. It’s been my experience that most older people who see me knitting will talk to my mom (if I’m with her) instead of me about knitting or crocheting. For the record she hasn’t made anything with yarn since the 70’s and likes talking to strangers about as much as I do.
While it’s much easier to dick around on my phone for those ‘sitting and waiting’ times, I just find knitting to be a more relaxing and productive use of my time. I don’t think it’s any different than picking up a magazine or bringing a book. It’s definitely not as common anymore but that shouldn’t stop anyone!
Knitting Blog Challenge Day 19
Do you watch movies and/or listen to podcasts while knitting? What are your favorite things to knit to?
I actually really really hate knitting without something else to pay attention to. I end up getting trapped in my own brain and that’s not often a happy or productive place so I pretty much always watch or listen to something while I’m working.
I work a lot faster when I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. It makes sense, there’s nothing for my eyes to be distracted by and I can look at what I’m working on. I am more inclined to do this while I’m quilting or weaving since both of these things require much more visual attention. For a while I was really into audio books; I listened to all of the Outlander Series, Game of Thrones, Anna Karenina, The Stormlight Archives (<- highly recommend Brandon Sanderson), and a bunch of others. Most of these books are between 700 and 1200 pages so I clocked a lot of hours working on stuff.
I “Netflix and knit” so frequently that I actually have a hard time just watching a show or movie without knitting. It makes me antsy and I have a hard time focusing on what I’m watching, I don’t even like going to the theater for movies because it’s usually too dark in there to knit. I tend to watch shows because it saves me from finding something else to watch every two hours. K and I have worked our way through the Marvel shows on Netflix and we’re currently catching up on The Walking Dead. This show is so intense I’ve barely gotten any work done. And I’ve been blowing through the old Will and Grace seasons when he’s busy (I really love 90/early 2000s network tv – ER anyone?).
I don’t really know how to explain this but I’ve noticed basically like flashbacks of what I was knitting to when I’m working on bigger projects. It’s like the memory of what I was listening to or watching is now imbedded in my work – which explains why I can hardly remember what happened on a show within hours of watching it, it’s been trapped into my knitting.