A Few of My Favorite Things

Who needs Coach when you can carry a bag that was designed to carry yarn?!

Who needs Coach when you can carry a bag that was designed to carry yarn?!

I love it when people give you something that has special meaning, but can be incorporated into your daily living. Apparently, I’ve been knitting and crocheting just long enough to have developed a reputation with my family and friends. Lately, come every birthday or holiday, a new crafty-related item appears somewhere in our house. These are my top three favorites – deserving of their priority because I use them ALL the time.

First is my Namaste Poppins bag. This was meant to be my master project bag, I swear. But it’s turned into the handbag I carry everywhere, all the time, and just happen to throw projects and notions into when I need to transport them with me. I can’t count the number of compliments I’ve received on this bag, and take it from me, raspberry is the new black. Somehow, magically, this bag just goes with everything! For those of you who may not like the fact it’s $89, let me wish you the best of luck in finding a Dooney & Bourke bag for anywhere near that cost!

The first knitting-related item my husband gave me

The first knitting-related item my husband gave me

I will be so heartbroken if anything happens to this mug! It was a very thoughtful gift from my husband a few Christmas’s ago, and the only days I’m not drinking my morning coffee out of it are the days it’s sitting in the sink waiting to be washed. He gave it to me right around the time it became apparent that knitting was not a passing hobby, and our house would be keeping a yarn stash on a permanent basis.

Look closely!

Look closely!

The most recent yarn-y related gift – earrings for my birthday. These earrings have received so many compliments, and I wear them all the time. I like them better than studs, but they’re small and tasteful enough they go with everything, and if I fall asleep in them, they’re not bothering me all night long. My husband said they weren’t expensive, but they are precious to me because I thought it was such a thoughtful gift.

If you have favorite craft-related items you use in your daily life, I would love to see.


Collecting…and Being a Collector

My ever growing Lorna's Laces collection

My ever growing Lorna’s Laces collection

A week or two ago, I realized as I was sorting through my yarn stash, that I have always been a collector. The object of my collections has changed over the years, but I’ve never lost my tendency to collect. I suspect this is an issue for most knitters and crocheters, as well as craftspeople in general. Our tendency to collect yarns and notions is necessary, at least in part, because our materials and inspirations are central to our work. Just as fine artists need to have their materials and inspirations on hand, so do we. Grocery lists are very cut and dry, but I’ve found shopping for materials to do creative work is different. If you see yarn that speaks to you, you MUST buy it when you see it, and in enough quantity to complete whatever you’re making with it, as you might not be able to match the dye lot later if you run out.

Necessity aside, I realized I do just like to collect. I like having complete series of things, or for instance, as with Lorna’s Laces, I like seeing the collection together. She does such gorgeous colors, I don’t want to miss any. Of course, this is the downside of collecting, and if you’re not careful, you will start feeling like a hoarder, even if your friends are gracious enough not to accuse you of being one. Since this is an issue for most of us creative sorts, I decided to put together a little list of things to consider when it comes to collecting. This list is based on what I’ve learned over the years in trying to manage my collecting tendencies.

Know What’s Special

My first collection started when I was 8 or 9 and became fascinated with stamps. I had a few penpals in different countries. We exchanged letters regularly, and the stamps from their countries fascinated me because they were so different from ours. It started small enough, but when my dad told people in our church what I was doing, the next thing I knew, my bedroom had an avalanche of stamps from kind, well-meaning people who just wanted to encourage a little kid. I started soaking them all off the envelopes and putting them into books. I gave up about 1/10 of the way through however, when I realized I had about 500 of the same, exact, US Flag stamp. And all these stamps didn’t excite me! I didn’t realize what made me quit at the time, but now I do: I didn’t want a collection of stamps. I wanted a collection of UNIQUE stamps that were all different and inspiring! The truth about collecting is that it’s very easy to get a huge collection, but it’s not so easy to build a collection that excites and inspires you every time you look at it.

Curate, Curate, Curate

Knowing what’s special leads to the very important skill of curation. My next phase of collecting was with fashion magazines. Honestly, I still struggle with this one. I love to read them, and I love having some sitting around the house to page through when I need a break or inspiration. However, before I had my kids, I didn’t realize how out of control my habit of keeping all the old issues was until we had to convert my studio/office into a nursery. Let’s just say the 6-foot high piles of fashion magazines had to go, and it was the family joke for a long time. Aside from a few particularly memorable issues, I didn’t miss most of them, and I learned lesson number two about collecting: to have a good collection, you MUST curate! I have put this into full practice when I’m buying yarn.  For instance, I really love Lorna’s Laces, and I buy alot of her stuff. However, I do NOT buy everything of hers, even if it’s limited edition. I only buy the colors that I fall completely in love with. Whatever you add to a collection, make sure it is something you really love, and if something no longer excites you, don’t be afraid to eliminate it, even if it “belongs”.

Ask Yourself What You Want

A collection is supposed to be a grouping of items around a theme that you find particularly interesting or inspiring. It is meant to be something you use, and more importantly, enjoy. It should not take more money than you can afford or stress you out. Another of my collections started when I was in high school and got obsessed with a few celebrities. I bought every magazine with their photo (bonus if it was on the front cover!), poster, and any other items I could find. And then I started getting stressed. I was living at home, and really, how many huge posters can a girl put up in her bedroom? It frustrated me to have all these things and then not be able to use them. When I got older and wiser, I realized that I was collecting all these images because I had a fantasy of what the celebrities’ lives were like, and I wasn’t very fulfilled in my own life at the time. If you find that your collection is stressing you out or frustrating you, reevaluate what you’re expecting from it, especially if it’s something that’s taking up alot of space and money.

Don’t Be Afraid to Edit

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to be wasteful, and throwing things away makes me feel wasteful. However, a truly great collection only stays that way if you keep it that way. When something is no longer useful or no longer inspires you, then it no longer belongs in your collection. Don’t be afraid to edit. You can always donate things you don’t want, or if you have friends with similar interests, do some swapping. Most collectors do trading with each other, and this is a great way to avoid feeling wasteful but still keep yourself surrounded only by things that truly inspire. However, as in the case of my magazines, sometimes you really do need to just throw things out. You will be glad you did!

And one last thing: when you are truly passionate about what it is you’re collecting, you don’t need to worry about time. You can build it very slowly and carefully, and will probably enjoy the process much more than say, having an avalanche in your living room overnight!  Whatever it is, however long it takes, enjoy the process!


My Favorite Knitwear Artists

Nothing gives me more excitement than finding a new designer to follow. Or learning about a well-established designer that I hadn’t heard of before! The best designers are the ones who constantly pursue creativity, and their dedication shows. They’re the ones you watch with anticipation to see what they will release next. Here is my personal list of favorites, but I would LOVE it if you share yours with me! I’m always on the lookout for someone else to follow. Enjoy!

IrinaShabayeva

Irina Shabayeva

Irina Shabayeva is a fashion designer whom most people probably know from Project Runway. She is a great fashion designer, but I love it when the fashion world takes a few minutes to appreciate the knitwear world. Knitters may remember her patterns being published in Vogue Knitting – her fabulous welted coat has been on my list to make for a very long time! The photo above is one of my first-ever knitting projects, made as a gift for a dear friend.

I have not yet knitted up a Galina Carroll design, but I think she is also an incredible artist with a good eye for fashion. When her autobiographical book was featured in Vogue Knitting, I ordered it and devoured it from cover to cover. She even wrote a very nice personal note to me when she shipped it.

Stephanie Steinhaus

Stephanie Steinhaus

Yes, this is my boss. However, she is also a designer who has an eye for things that will pop into your wardrobe and go with everything. I’ve knit alot of of her designs, and they always end up being go-to pieces that I end up throwing on at the last minute when I don’t know what else to wear. Plus, I have learned a great deal about writing patterns from her personally, but also just from working through her pattern instructions. I also appreciate her ability to create something practical with yarns that I might not even consider buying otherwise, such as this poncho I’m wearing above.

Lori Versaci

Lori Versaci

She caught my eye when this sweater pattern was published in Knitty. At the time this was published, I was just learning to knit, and this pattern seemed totally out of my league. It sat in my queue for a LONG time, but her design stayed in my head, and after I started feeling more confident, I knitted it. It is a complicated pattern, and I was very proud of myself when I finished it!

No list from a color fanatic like me would be complete without Kaffe Fassett! I did not realize until I started reading his biography that he is a local artist! He now lives in England, and it seems everyone thinks of him as English, but he was born and raised in California. He is a very long-established artist, but his knitwear in older books is still very striking and inspirational color-wise, even though many of the sweater silhouettes are now out of fashion. He is truly a master of color, as well as all different media. If there is one person in the universe who could make me want to abandon knitting and take up quilting, it would be him!

I’m very grateful to the friend who introduced me to Kieran Foley. I just finished knitting one of his designs for a friend’s birthday. She is celebrating a milestone birthday, so I wanted to do something extra special for her, and his Camino Bubbles fit the bill. It takes a special skill as a designer to design a pattern that looks way more sophisticated and complicated than it actually is to knit.

Stephen West

Stephen West

What can I say about Stephen West except that I love him! His patterns are some of the best written out there – very clear and easy to follow. I met him and had him sign books for me at an event our shop held a few years ago. He was extremely polite and so nice. And I am always amazed when he releases new patterns how creative he gets with just simple Stockinette and garter stitch. He is a designer who truly understands how to take the basic elements of design and turn them into something innovative! Even though I have a good eye for color and usually pick my own, I think it’s very generous of him to take the time to put together color palettes for other knitters when he releases designs. But then again, if you have the chance to meet him, I think you’ll agree it’s not surprising!

Crocheters, lest you think I’ve ignored you, no worries! I am saving my list of favorite crochet designers for a separate post!


Fiesta Week

Every year at the beginning of September, we have a week of celebration. My birthday and our wedding anniversary is in the same week, and we have a week of randomly eating cake and celebrating life. Here, a few photos I hope you all will enjoy as much as I did being there to take them!

My constant source of inspiration and place to clear my head - and my allergies when needed - THE OCEAN.

My constant source of inspiration and place to clear my head – and my allergies when needed – THE OCEAN.

Another photo of our favorite place in the world taken a few weeks ago during the high surf. I wish my photography skills could do its beauty justice!

Another photo of our favorite place in the world taken a few weeks ago during the high surf. I wish my photography skills could do its beauty justice!

Is there anything better than seafood with an ocean view? I think not!

Is there anything better than seafood with an ocean view? I think not!

Homemade. Well, the guacamole is anyway. :) LA has been having temps over 100 degrees, and nice cold beer and homemade guacamole is a perfect way to celebrate.

Homemade. Well, the guacamole is anyway. :) LA has been having temps over 100 degrees, and nice cold beer and homemade guacamole is a perfect way to celebrate.

I haven't figured out yet which is more inspiring - the ocean or flowers. My husband gave me these for my birthday, and I would love to have some yarn dyed based on the colors in this bouquet!

I haven’t figured out yet which is more inspiring – the ocean or flowers. My husband gave me these for my birthday, and I would love to have some yarn dyed based on the colors in this bouquet!


A Solution to a Common Problem

I LOVE these ideas for what to do with yarn scraps! Most of the time, I throw mine away, but I always hate doing it. It goes back to that whole, I-Hate-being-wasteful thing. Check out a tutorial, save your scraps and share your photos if you like. I’m going to have to find a special spot to start saving my scraps from now on. :)


Worth the Time

It always makes my day when someone buys one of my patterns or follows my blog or other social media. Hopefully I’m not the only designer out there whose biggest fear is that no one will like her work. Whenever I release a new design, I always feel like I’m putting a little piece of myself out there, and I am incredibly grateful and relieved when people like it. I am also extremely honored when a fellow artist or designer follows me and deems me worthy of their time and attention. Recently, Sue Wong (among others) followed me on Twitter, and when I watched her intro video, I had to share it! Her beautiful clothes and talent as a designer are on full display, but for me, it was worth the time to watch it because she also shares her joy in being creative and tells her story, from her life as a poor immigrant and how she grew into her success of today. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!


My Summer of FO’s

For you non-crafters, FO stands for Finished Object. Today is the first day of school, and in recognition of the end of summer, I would like to share all the projects I finished over the course of summer vacation. This finishing of projects I’d lost interest in required way more self-discipline than I am usually capable of, so I think it deserves recognition. And celebration, because I can finally see my coffee table again. :)

Since every crocheter and knitter I know has this problem from time to time, let me encourage you to finish up some of those things laying around! I recommend picking a set amount of time (for me it was the summer), and for that amount of time, work on only one project at a time. Focus on the one closest to completion, then move on to the next. Cut yourself off from buying yarn. Don’t start anything new. This last piece of advice was really hard for me because summer is usually a time I like to start new projects. However, it was also a good length of time to finish things because it’s long enough to see progress, but short enough I knew I could tough it out for the three months! If you set yourself up to a similar challenge, try to strike that happy balance between allowing yourself enough time to see a stack of projects through, but not such a long time you just get sick of it and give up. And when you do meet your goals, reward yourself! I hope you enjoy browsing mine!

As simple as this pattern was to knit and design, the truth is it sat around for a few years because I was intimidated by the fringe.

As simple as this pattern was to knit and design, the truth is it sat around for a few years because I was intimidated by the fringe.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by something simple. :)

My go-to outfit for work, the airport, chilly late summer nights...

My go-to outfit for work, the airport, chilly late summer nights…

This pattern is one I plan to make many times over! This one did not actually sit around for a long time, but I included it because it was something I finished early in the summer.

Bobble hats from a Noro magazine - shown with the bobbles and inside out because I liked the look of both sides!

Bobble hats from a Noro magazine – shown with the bobbles and inside out because I liked the look of both sides!

Gifts for my nieces. I don’t have a good explanation for why I started these and then took 2 years to finish them. But the fact that I went to see my family and had a deadline helped me get motivated to finish. :)

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

The only bit of design work I’ve done this summer. I started it back in March or April, and decided to push to get it done so I could give my brain a rest. :)

Stephen West's safety cowl, which was designed by the master himself for our shop as an exclusive offering in the Yarn Crawl a few years ago.

Stephen West’s safety cowl, designed by the master himself for our shop as an exclusive offering in the Yarn Crawl a few years ago.

The only reason I can think of that I let this one sit around was that other items took more priority until I decided to give this as a gift to my sister. Note to self: having a firm idea of what you want to do with an item when it’s done helps you get it done! :)

First time ever doing Tunisian crochet.

First time ever doing Tunisian crochet.

I knew from the start that I wanted to give these to my sister. She likes to decorate her kitchen seasonally, and I thought she’d enjoy these Easter egg colors during spring. I wanted to try Tunisian crochet, and decided this would be a good project because they were just flat rectangles. The problem is, to have a set, you must do FOUR.

A shawl from the Ysolda Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

A shawl from the Ysolda Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

IMAG2554

This was not really languishing that long, but um, I didn’t get it done by the end of the mystery KAL. I was in the middle of alot of design work at the time and so it went on the back burner. But it’s a whole lot of camel, silk, and merino to wrap myself up in when the weather gets cold. Which, to be honest, was THE best motivator to get it done before I started anything else!


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