Life Long Maker

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. IMG_0061My 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.

10391654_1190185527029_8038564_nI 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).

02_Lepidopteric_Dichotomy_Production01_Lepidopteric_Dichotomy_Decay

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.

img_2565

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. IMG_1275I’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.

A Year of Making

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.daisy_sock_medium2 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.

 

Holiday Knitting Rant

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?

No Pain, No Gain

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 16

Have you ever had a knitting related injury?

Hoooooo boy have I ever. I have been absolutely plagued by hand and wrist problems since I started knitting. When it first started happening in 2011 I thought it was Rheumatoid Arthritis. I went to see specialists and they basically told me I was too young for that kind of problem, gave me ibuprofen and told me to stop using my hands. This wasn’t really an option for several reasons – namely I was in school for a degree in textiles and as a general rule, you need to use your hands to make them. I’ve since given up on doctors.

The worst it’s ever been was 2013/2014. I was working wayyyy too intensely. I was in constant pain, I was having a really hard time doing simple tasks like buttoning shirts or holding a toothbrush. I would get shooting pain up to my elbows if I turned my wrist a certain way. I could no longer hold a pen to write more than a few words- which makes taking notes fairly difficult when a lot of professors didn’t want computers in their classrooms. My hands were also randomly spasming and I would drop whatever I was holding- which was often at the coffee shop I worked at- let’s just say my shoes smelled permanently like PSL.

I try to be ergonomic as possible when I’m working but I also tend to knit for long periods of time without very many breaks. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they were but every so often it hurts too bad to knit and I try and take a break for a few days. I’ve learned to deal with it and have found that if I knit at least a little bit every day, especially when I just wake up, my hands tend to be less stiff and hurt a little less over all.

Thoughts from a reformed yarn snob.

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 9

What fiber or yarn do you love working with?

As with most things certain yarns and fibers work better with certain projects. I’ve been really lucky to be able to work with lots and lots of different materials over the years. I’ve raised silk worms and spun from silk hankies and silk roving. I’ve been to a few sheep sheering events, one alpaca sheering, and an angora bunny sheering. I’ve washed very poopy fleeces and have been able to turn them into workable material. I’ve also been able to learn quite a bit about dying different fibers with mx, acid, and natural dyes. It’s really really hard to pick a favorite.

For a while I really enjoyed weaving and knitting lace with very very thin tencel yarn. It has a silk like quality and dyes beautifully, with the added bonus of being a plant fiber and much more cost effective.

I have also been lucky enough to have had access to a lot of 100% merino. I know a lot of people who don’t really like wool because it’s always scratchy or whatever but merino throws all of those ideas out the window.

That was all in school though. Outside of school I’ve mostly just used things I can get at chain stores and every once in a while I’ll splurge on something really nice. Most of my yarn now is mixed with acrylic and is super cheap. But honestly it gets the job done just fine. I can throw my socks in the washer because who the heck wants to hand wash a bunch of socks every week? It certainly isn’t me. I think with the things I make the most, which seem to be socks and the occasional mitten or baby sweater, functionality, durability, and ease of care out-way the yarn snob in me. Fancy yarns seem too precious some how. There’s a lot of pressure in my brain to make THE BEST PROJECT with THE PERFECT PATTERN with fancy yarn and it just kind of takes the fun out of making. I also think acrylics have come a long way from the stuff my grandmas would crochet afghans with in the 70s. I have a few blankets from them and you can literally see the strands of plastic hanging out but bonus points for still being warm and cuddly, totally washable, and not eaten by moths.

#WIPWednesday

I’ve had a pretty busy week. I made two loaves of bread (one when I was very very intoxicated). I read a real live actual book which I haven’t made time to do in what seems like years. I finally made curtains for my living room – I’ve got the sewing bug now so I’ll probably be working on some more sewing projects coming up.

I  spent the week thinking I was going crazy. Every evening I could hear something 5703F15E-F226-4B5F-9C2A-FA06CC14A7DArustling around in the kitchen. I kept checking but didn’t find anything, not even a hole in the bag of cat food. Thankfully the cat confirmed I wasn’t crazy and kept guard on the kitchen for me.

Last night I cleared out all my cabinets and set a mouse trap just in case. Not five minutes later it snapped. So I’m not nuts. I can’t bring myself to look  in the cabinet so I’ll have to wait for K to get home and check for me.

I’ve also been anxiously awaiting my test knitters to finish up so I can publish a pattern I’ve been working on for months. It’s been a very long process but hopefully it’ll be worth it. My group of knitters have had a lot of feedback which is great. A lot of people have worked really hard on the pattern and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

I mentioned working on some sweater socks in my last #fridayfavorites post. I finished them and suddenly it was 75 degrees. Now that it’s appropriately freezing again it hasn’t stopped raining so I haven’t been able to take better images. These are super cozy and used up some yarn I’ve had laying around for a few years. I made the hat mostly to make a pompom. I haven’t made a pompom since like second grade and it was SO satisfying.

3EA6F34B-EAC3-48AC-9DF5-2310A2529154

Since the tree socks went so quickly I decided to make some more cozy socks. I started some snowflake socks the other night with more stashed yarn but ran out of red last night. I think I’m going to make three patterns and release them as a set before the holidays.

 

 

#WIPWednesday

FB0AE9BC-D575-4E76-A9E0-DA2CACA387A1Its another dreary, gloomy day. I’m playing the annual fall game of chicken with the weather – see how long we can freeze in the house before I have to turn the heat on. The weather might win this one early as I’m wrapped in two blankets on the couch, the cat hasn’t left his pillow in hours, and The Boy has the mattress heater turned on while he sleeps. My coffee went cold. I’m avoiding the shower because I don’t want to deal with wet hair for the next four hours. I wanted to quilt something today but my studio feels colder than the living room for some reason. It’s really very tempting to just stay under all these blankets binge watching something and knitting away at my shawl.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.34.36 PM
http://www.ravelry.com/designers/kristen-mclaren

But alas the lure of feeling productive beckons. As of yesterday I’ve officially been publishing knitting patterns on Ravelry for one year. Today I have ten patterns available!   Thinking about it blows my mind. I’ve recently decided to get very serious about producing patterns. I started by having my last pattern test knit. I put out a call on Instagram and a few people agreed to help me out. This ended up being a mostly disappointing experience. For my latest pattern, I went with a professional Tech Editor. So far it’s been really good, although getting my first draft back was like getting a term paper back covered in red marks. It forced me to really edit myself though and I ended up reworking a bunch of stuff I was too lazy to deal with in the first draft. All good things. Much learning.

Anyways – since I’m kind of refusing to leave my nest on the couch today except for more tea and the resulting potty breaks – It’s time to go through my old patterns and apply some things I’ve learned over the last year to fix ’em up.

Creative Constipation

sept socks heel detail

This weird thing seems to happen when I finish a knitting project and run out of seasons of a show at the same time. I find when these two things coincide that I suddenly lack any motivation to knit something new or find a new show to watch. It’s not like there’s a shortage of television to watch or yarn in my studio, but some crazy thing happens in my brain where I have no motivation to start anything new for a few days. This time it seems to be lasting for about a week. I’ve had my new pattern open in Illustrator all week- barely worked on; I’ve had my socks blocked and hanging on a door handle- unphotographed.

It’s one of those weirdly bright overcast – perfect for shooting my work, so at least I managed to get one thing done today. I decided today to force myself to sit here and try and finish it (which turned into procrastination via. blogging). I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but it gets pretty frustrating.

What do you do to light the fire under your creative brain when you’re in a rut?

 

# WIP WEDNESDAY

Since I’m finishing up my latest pattern I thought it would be cool to go through my design process. I think without even realizing it, we’re constantly consuming media all day. While there are definitely terrifying things about that aspect of our culture, I’m going to try and focus on the positives of this. As a visual, and an observant person I choose to see the inundation of information as a constant source of inspiration for my practice. Whether I’m scrolling through Instagram, falling into the black hole that is Pinterest, or selling my soul to Netflix I’m constantly taking in visual information and therefore collecting a vast bank of inspiration.

The ah-ha moment for the pattern I’m working on now came about while I was test knitting a sock pattern for another designer. I was casually knitting in front of the tv, watching Vikings on the History Channel (Such a soap opera, but full of incredible textiles). I kept seeing this woven screen in the background of one of the sets and every time it caught my interest.

Vikings-woven screen
It’s very possible I’m not just into this show for the textiles…

At first I was thinking about a weaving project and doodled it a few different ways in my sketchbook.

I ended up finishing the socks I was working on and needed to find another project for myself to knit. After doodling it a few more times I started playing with it in my knitting software and the pattern was born. Two weeks and a computer crash later I’m about to write up this pattern and find some test knitters.

Here are some in-progress shots I’ve posted on Instagram. Follow me there and be the first to get pattern information, more #wip updates, and cute cat pictures.