Choices, Power and Gifts

HelpingHandsThe last few weeks, since I came home from TNNA, I have felt life converging on me. I was so busy before and during the show that I ignored everything except the tasks at hand. Things are now weighing on me because I’m finally in a position to process them. I want to share my new mother/daughter activity with you all, because right now, it seems particularly relevant.

The nightclub shooting in Orlando happened while I was in Washington, DC, as did the death of a former coworker/friend whom we all thought had beaten a particularly vicious cancer. I also have to say goodbye to someone who has been an immense source of wisdom and good advice throughout my time here in CA, and whom I will miss more than words can say. On the other side of the friendship coin, I have also lost what I considered a very close friendship with someone who has tossed me aside for some inexplicable reason.

These things are all part of life, and everyone deals with similar losses at some point or another. I think whether it’s a national tragedy or a personal loss, what most of us struggle with is trying to make sense out of things that simply don’t make sense. We try to understand why it is that some individuals think the only answer is to start shooting schools and nightclubs and, in the case of a friendship that randomly ends, we try to sort through every conversation and detail to figure out what went wrong.

Kittens!
Kittens!

There is power to realizing and accepting that we don’t have to find a reasonable explanation or have the answers for the “why” of everything. Our power lies in holding on to our right to choose what we put out into the world and to not let pain and loss dictate that choice. Power also lies in embracing our gifts, because we all have them, and channeling our bad feelings into doing good. We may still feel our pain and need time to grieve, but it is empowering to know that we always have the choice of what kind of person we want to be.

Catherine_TuttiFruttinewborn
A puppy named Tutti Frutti who was still nursing with its mother. My daughter got to hold it while the mother was out for a walk.
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Tutti Frutti a few weeks older after weaning.
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Cuddling the kittens is the best reward for hard work ever!

One of my daughter’s biggest gifts is her love of animals, so I am doing my best to encourage and nurture that gift. Several months ago, I found a pet store that operates on volunteers, works with all the local shelters to fill the store with rescue pets, and accepts younger volunteers. The only time we can do it consistently, especially during the school year, is the early Saturday morning shift. As you might guess, it was hard for me to give up my only morning to sleep in. But in turn, it’s the only morning I don’t have to drag my daughter out of bed to be on time – she’s ready to go with time to spare. With that said, I am always happy I made the effort. She loves it so much, and always works hard throughout her shift without prodding from me.

Cuddling a sick kitten is the best reward for cleaning kitty cages!
Cuddling a sick kitten is the best reward for cleaning kitty cages!

I hope this volunteer job will be something we do together for a long time to come. And I hope it will teach her how to focus herself when she hits a rough spot in life. It has taken me awhile to help her figure out her “thing”, and besides the fact I could never complain about being surrounded by puppies and kittens, it is very rewarding to see her so fulfilled. And I realized that it has been a good lesson for me in accepting things as well. There is nothing wrong with the animals, no reason they deserved to be abandoned, and instead of wasting energy on that side of it, we are all there of our own choice to take care of them and help them find new homes.

The photos I’m sharing with you always put a smile on my face, even on the worst days. I hope whatever is going on in your life, and whatever happens on a national level, you will hold onto your power and find that thing in life that never fails to make you happy at heart. And if you’re already doing it, please comment and share!

 

TNNA Spring Show Highlights

Shot of my designs hanging in the Colinton Australia booth at TNNA.
My designs hanging in the Colinton Australia booth at TNNA.

If  you’re wondering where I’ve been (since it’s been awhile since I’ve posted), the answer is back and forth across the country – the TNNA Spring Tradeshow in Washington, DC to be exact. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had four designs in the fashion show, so this trip was a big deal for me.

As you might imagine, it was incredibly exciting to see my designs walk the runway, but it was also an incredible amount of work beforehand. However, the fashion show is only an hour or so out of a 5-day trip, so I also wanted to share my other personal highlights from the tradeshow.

Morning Glory Sweater Coat - my new design with Brown Sheep Company
Morning Glory Sweater Coat – my new design with Brown Sheep Company
Sheba - my newest design with Colinton Australia - on the fashion show runway
Sheba – my newest design with Colinton Australia – on the fashion show runway

Obviously, I have to start with the fashion show. As a designer, it’s very rewarding after many months of work to see it all being modeled and walking down the runway. My three designs with Colinton Australia were in the show along with a brand new design with Brown Sheep Company. This is a sneak peek of my new design, which will soon be up on Brown Sheep’s website. I did my best to take photos of everything at the show, but the truth is that TNNA’s photographer did a much better job, so I encourage you to check out my Facebook page to see better shots of my designs on the runway (as shared from the TNNA official page). If you visit TNNA’s page, you can see photos of every design in the entire show. Many thanks to Colinton Australia and also Brown Sheep Company for entering my work!

The Colinton Australia booth, with owner Brandyn and her daughter Maegan
The Colinton Australia booth, with owner Brandyn and her daughter Maegan

Which brings me to my next highlight – working with Colinton Australia at their booth. I spent the majority of my time with them – setting up, manning the booth after the show opened to help tell people about the yarn, answer questions, etc. This was a huge learning curve for me, since I am a designer, not a vendor, but it is always helpful to have another viewpoint of your own industry. Running a yarn company takes as much diligence and dedication as being a designer or a yarn shop owner. They came all the way from Australia, so it was great to meet the people I had previously only talked to on the phone. I thank them for the opportunity to learn.

If you aren't familiar with Jill's work, I encourage you to check her out!
If you aren’t familiar with Jill’s work, I encourage you to check her out!

I am always happy to meet fellow designers, and I had the privilege of meeting Jill Wolcott this trip. If you are not familiar with Jill’s work, you will want to look her up. She is an extremely experienced knitter, and in addition, taught at FIDM in San Francisco. She is very knowledgeable about garment construction and writes detailed, concise patterns. She teaches at shows, maintains online classes, and was a dedicated volunteer at the TNNA Fashion Show. She was gracious enough to give me feedback about my work and to share her thoughts on the industry and designing, and I can’t recommend her enough. If you would like to build your knitting skills, particularly in making clothes, you will not be sorry to take a class with her.

My new "friend" - taken at the Little Gidding Farms booth. Lovely yarn, and lovelier people!
My new “friend” – taken at the Little Gidding Farms booth. Lovely yarn, and lovely people!

Awhile back, I noticed someone by the name of LGFSuris followed me on social media. LGF stands for Little Gidding Farms and the name caught my fancy, so when I noticed they had a booth at TNNA, I had to introduce myself. Take it from me, their alpaca is as soft and lovely as you could wish alpaca yarn to be, and they were as lovely as their yarn. They even graciously took my photo more than once when it didn’t turn out the first time. Their name, by the way, is a reference to a T.S. Eliot poem.

I am very happy to tell you that my final highlight will be ongoing, and a great opportunity for all of you. Colinton Australia and I will be partnering on kits, starting with my Unfurled shawl. Their colorist put together a number of palettes, and you will be able to order kits that include your choice of palette, plus the pattern for an excellent price. Save your yarn money, because it will be a great deal from a company that NEVER puts their luxury fiber on sale! I may also do a KAL at the same time, just to make it more fun for all of us. More details coming soon in another post!

Sheba

20160501_152934As promised, here are more photos and details about my latest design with Colinton Australia. This started out as a long-sleeve sweater with different yarn, and after working on it for a short time, we changed direction. We realized if I worked in UltraFine Lace, I would have a design in each of the Colinton bases. It also works well for us both to have three pieces in the TNNA fashion show featuring my collection of work in mohair and all three weights of her yarn.

She also suggested I take a look at 1920s fashion, which surprised me at the time, because my focus has been to show mohair in a modern way. However, once I started perusing all of my books on fashion in that era, (Coco Chanel’s work in particular), I realized how much the 1920s silhouettes still influence what we wear today. (And who am I kidding – I really love the fact I had an excuse to study Coco Chanel’s work for a week!)

The 1920s featured a very loose, drapey look, with wide v-necks in the front and back. All of the clothing was very heavy with beading and embellishments, and women tended to wear more makeup – strong lipcolors, eyeliner, etc. Even though the fit was relaxed, it was still a very formal look. A popular look was called tabard, which was basically a top with an opening for the head, but did not have side seams. I was inspired by the drapey look of these tops, although seaming the sides seemed much more practical for today.

In comparison, modern fashion is all about mixing high and low. I think this is why 1920s looks can be translated so well into modern fashion. You can take things that are embellished or formal, and pair them with jeans and flip flops if you’re running errands or dress up your ripped jeans with heels (as I did here) and be ready for a night out. All body types look good because of the loose, easy fit, and it makes the wearer feel confident. Fashion is known to be cyclical, but it seems like the 1920s have had a far-reaching influence, and I’m inclined to think it’s probably because the silhouettes were so flattering for everyone.

With all that said, I present Sheba (inspired by the film of the same name that garnered so much attention in the 1920s).

Front

Back

It is a fun, relaxing knit with an easy-to-memorize slip stitch pattern, a V-neck in the front and back, and a drapey, loose fit. It is worked from the bottom up and includes a few simple short rows to add a flattering hemline shape in the front and back. The textures in this piece subtly mimic the rows of beading in original 1920s clothing, and you can customize the neckline to be open or more tightened up.

Closeup

I hope you like this design, and if you choose to make it, please share photos with me. I would love to hear your thoughts, and I hope to be able to share highlights from the fashion show with all of you. Have a beautiful weekend!

A Fashion Show!

Montage

I have exciting news to share with you all, which I hope will make up for the fact that it’s been awhile since my last post. I apologize for that, although as you will see, I have been VERY busy!

I am excited to tell you that Colinton Australia is placing my work in the upcoming TNNA fashion show (held in Washington, D.C. next month). This is exciting for both of us as it shows all three of the designs I’ve done with them, and also features all three of the Colinton Australia yarn bases.

Unfurled is done in their Light Fingering, Urban Lines was done in Lace, and Sheba (my latest, and as yet, unpublished design) is done in Ultrafine Lace. All three garments are made to show off the mohair while still being modern pieces – no lace patterns here. I love lace, by the way, but since mohair has been so traditionally linked with lace, I wanted to design things that would make people view it from a different perspective.

In preparation for this fashion show, I re-knit Urban Lines in a different color scheme (photos coming soon!), and of course, designed and knit Sheba from scratch. There is also behind-the-scenes work, such as writing the text that will be read when the garments come down the runway. As you can see, I was busy creating in the time I haven’t been posting!

I hope you enjoy this little preview of my latest design, Sheba, which I will be publishing shortly. I will do a separate blog post for it to give you all the details and more photos. Many thanks, as always, for reading, taking interest in my work, and sharing these special moments with me!

Roundup of Inspiring Sites

Here are links I’ve come across lately that I am putting all in one place as much for my own sake as for all of yours. What books to read next (based on what you like), creating art, and people who knit to make the world a better place. Enjoy!

If you loved a certain book, type it in and get more recommendations. How genius is that?!

Everyone’s painting their own abstract art, and you should too!

Inspiration with arrangements of random objects. Her whole site is awesome, but this is my favorite page.

No matter where you are, or what mistakes you’ve made, you can still choose to do something to make the world a better place.

Series: All About Mohair

Closeup1As a follow up to my previous post in this series, I wanted to share more details about mohair specifically. This fiber is often maligned, and people write it off as scratchy, annoying to work with because of fluff going up your nose, too difficult to get stitch definition, etc. In truth, I used to be one of those people – I never liked the stuff and didn’t have any interest in working with it. Even when our shop got the entire Colinton Australia line, I resisted it, and only ended up giving in because I was attracted to the array of colors.

Obviously, once I started working with it, I changed my mind, and I am now knitting my fourth piece for them. Now that experience has taught me all that this fiber has to offer, I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

The first thing to understand is that not all mohairs are the same. Many of the yarns marketed as mohair are actually mohair with a nylon core. It is very important to know this when choosing your mohair, because if you are planning to capitalize on its natural properties, you will not get the desired results with a blend.  Pure mohairs such as Colinton Australia have alot of halo and loft, but are also very soft and lustrous. They are pleasant and soft going through your fingers, and despite their halo, they still give good stitch definition.

Another misconception is that mohair yarns are weak and break easily. It’s true that mohair is delicate and should be hand-washed, but that is the case with the majority of fine, pure fibers. Contrary to alot of the mohair blends, pure mohair is actually very strong. It is also much more slippery than blended mohairs, which makes it very easy to unravel or to tear out a swatch. The new garment I just designed with Colinton is done in Ultrafine Lace, single stranded. Many of the mohair patterns I’ve seen use a strand of mohair paired with something else, either to strengthen it or provide some softness. However, when working with pure mohair, you don’t need an extra strand for these purposes, and it’s very easy to frog back if needed.

While fiber blends have their place, I’ve found that it’s important to be aware of what you’re buying and what results you expect to achieve. The blends can be great to work with, and are often designed to bring the best qualities of the individual fibers to the mix. However, in the case of mohair, I prefer the pure fiber. I really love its strength and sheen, and I like being able to block it to specifications and count on it to retain the measurements when dry. I also haven’t found a blend that has the softness of the pure fiber, which of course is important for clothes.

Mohair has become one of my favorite fibers to work with, and I’m really proud of the design work I’ve done with it. But until I learned how to choose a good mohair yarn, I couldn’t fully appreciate its capabilities. I hope this will save you the trouble and make it easier to pick a good mohair that will be enjoyable to work with.

 

Snapshots of Spring

This spring is flying by, as spring usually does for me. There are always too many end-of-the-school-year obligations, but because both of my kids were born in the spring, I try very hard to take time to enjoy time with them and not let the stress get to me. I hope you will enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed being there to take them, and I hope your springtime is filled with sunshine and happy times too!

First day of spring break. Those of you who know me at all know the beach tops my list of priorities to visit first!
First day of spring break – my daughter and her friend. Those of you who know me at all know the beach tops my list of priorities to visit first!
I managed to get the perfect sunset photo if I do say so myself! :) Minutes after I took this shot, the kids and I watched the sun go below the horizon and we drove home.
I managed to get the perfect sunset photo if I do say so myself!:) Minutes after I took this shot, the kids and I watched the sun go below the horizon and we drove home.
My daughter being a kid and climbing a tree in our backyard.
My daughter being a kid and climbing a tree in our backyard. In case you were wondering, yes, I was sitting there knitting!
My second mother has a knack with plants. This was taken on Easter before the kids had an egg hunt. No flowers were damaged in the scramble.
My second mother has a knack with plants, as does my mom, come to think of it. This was taken on Easter before the kids had an egg hunt. No flowers were damaged in the scramble.
Taken in our backyard with a selfie stick on Easter. Selfie sticks come in handy. And I know you want to laugh, but take it from a non-gadgety sort of person, they are helpful! :)
Taken in our backyard with a selfie stick on Easter. And I know you want to laugh, but take it from a non-gadgety sort of person, they are one of those little things you never knew you needed until you have one. :)
HooverDam
First stop on spring break – Hoover Dam. I love the contrast of the water and stone.
HooverArchitecture
Another shot of Hoover Dam, which is an amazing piece of architecture, if you’re wondering. We spent a very relaxing day walking all around the dam, and amazingly enough, it was free, if memory serves. We didn’t even have to pay parking.
InsidethePyramid
Vegas was the final destination for spring break. We were only there a few days, but we got to satisfy our curiosity about what it’s like inside the Luxor. This is a shot of the pyramid when you’re standing in the casino and look up. I know it’s Vegas, but this made me feel like I was indulging my fascination with all things ancient Egyptian.
LuxorRoomPainting
A painting hanging inside our room at the Luxor. Unfortunately, there is no signature so I don’t know who the artist is, but this is a good example of my favorite kind of art – color and geometrics.
I couldn't resist taking this photo as we were driving home from Vegas. The last time we were in Vegas, my kids were much younger, my husband got food poisoning at one of the restaurants, and it was hot - think about 120 F. This trip was completely opposite - a fun time with good weather, and seeing snow-capped mountains in the middle of the desert made me think it's always good to give everything a second chance.
I couldn’t resist taking this photo as we were driving home from Vegas. The last time we were in Vegas, my kids were much younger, my husband got food poisoning at one of the restaurants, and it was hot – over 120° F. This trip was completely opposite – a fun time with good weather. Seeing snow-capped mountains in the middle of the desert made me think it’s always good to give everything a second chance.