My Best Knitting Discovery

As a designer, I think I probably do more swatching (and ripping out), than the average knitter. Part of figuring out a design is to experiment, and I accept this as part of the job. Deborah Newton is a big proponent of swatching for fun and says this is the most important stage of her design process.

I am not sure how yarn companies decide what needle size to suggest on their ball bands, but it often functions as a starting point for me. If I’m starting a new project, and I’m not sure what needle size I want to use, I start swatching with the suggested needle size and then go up or down based on what fabric that makes and what kind of fabric I’m trying to achieve.

Recently, I did a bunch of swatching with different yarns, and I started noticing a pattern. I realized that no matter the thickness of the yarn or the fiber type, every single swatch came out much more drapey when I went up a needle size or two from what is on the ball band. And I realized almost every knitted piece I’ve been most happy with has always been using a bigger needle size than what is on the ball band.

These two swatches are done in chunky yarn with the same number of stitches. One is knit on size 11’s, and the other on size 17, and you can see the difference in drape. I liked what I was getting on the 11’s until I did the one on 17’s. Now the swatch done on 11’s feels and looks very stiff to me.

Again, both swatches have the same number of stitches, just different sizes. This is a sport weight yarn done on size 6 and size 8. Again, I am happier with the drape of the swatch done on the larger size.

You get the idea – same number of stitches, this is double stranded done on sizes 7 and 11. This one surprised me – I really loved the first swatch done on smaller needles, and was considering just going with that. But when I did the second swatch, I realized what a difference in drape there was, and if I were to make a sweater out of this, I would definitely go with the larger needles.

This would be the best tip I could offer fellow knitters: don’t be afraid to go up a needle size or more to get the best possible drape in your fabric. In all of these swatches, and usually in most of the projects I’m happiest with, the best drape has come from using needles at least 1 or 2 sizes larger than what is recommended on the ball band of the yarn. If you can spare the time, even if you like the swatch results, try it on larger needles and compare your swatches because you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

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Daily Creativity – February 2018

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am practicing a daily creativity habit this year (loosely following the book mentioned in that post). I am not completing a piece of art every single day, but I am spending 30 minutes a day being creative. I didn’t get that many mandalas completed this month, as some of these took me a week+ to complete.

I’ve been posting my projects on my Instagram under #createwithelizabethkaybooth if you want to see them all in one place. I love having a theme because it is more relaxing completing the challenges in the book knowing that I just have to translate them into a mandala. It gives focus and allows me to just sit down and get to work instead of feeling overwhelmed with the proverbial blank canvas.

makesomething365, mandalas
A manadala made with my non-dominant hand. It was very tiring to work with my non-dominant hand – some of the sloppiness in here came from the awkwardness, but more of it came from just getting tired! 
makesomething365, mandala art
A mandala that took me a week+ to complete. The idea was to make something that blended into the background. I usually love color and rarely work in black and white, but I thought maybe just leaving it all in linework would assist with the blending in part of this project.
makesomething365, mandala art, makingarteveryday
Mandala inspired by a dollar bill. Pen and marker. I’ve never examined a dollar bill so closely before!
makesomething365, mandalas, dailyhabit
The challenge in the book was to write a love letter and illustrate it. I decided my project would be to crochet the heart mandala out of the book I mentioned

Daily Creativity – January 2018

mandala art, createwithelizabethkaybooth
Day 1 in the book – make something with whatever materials you have on hand. My first ever mandala – colored pencil and pen.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am practicing a daily creativity habit this year (loosely following the book mentioned in that post). I am not completing a piece of art every single day, but I am spending 30 minutes a day being creative. So far, I’ve done pretty well sticking to the goal.

I’ve been posting my projects more regularly on my Instagram, but I thought it might be fun to post a monthly update here. I have to say, making mandalas is so enjoyable, I look forward to sitting down to work on them. They take me awhile, especially the first two, which took me an entire week of 30 minutes each day to complete. But I can already see the benefits of this habit and it is relaxing to be focused on enjoying the process instead of racing toward a finish line like I do with work things.

createwithelizabethkaybooth, mandala art, dailycreativehabit
Day 2 in the book – week 2 for me. Create something inspired by your favorite animal – if you can tell which animal this is inspired by, PLEASE leave me a comment, just for fun!
Colored pencil and pen.
createwithelizabethkaybooth, mandala art
Day 4 in book – Day 15 for me – take a 5 minute walk and make something with whatever materials are available where you ended up. It was POURING rain, so I walked 5 minutes TOTAL and got very wet setting up this little beauty, but I love this photo. Such a great color combo!
createwithelizabethkaybooth
Working with something I collect. No secret there about what I collect. 😉 Even though this was working with my favorite thing in the world, this is my least favorite mandala from the entire month. 
createwithelizabethkaybooth
Look in the kitchen and work with the first fruit or vegetable you spot – which was my basket of citrus. Biggest trick here was to keep the lemons and limes from rolling around.

I attempted Day 3 in the book, which was to make something out of paper, but don’t use scissors or glue or draw on it. I tried, friends, I really did, but have you ever tried to make a mandala this way? If you have successfully, please share, because all I ended up with was a crinkled up piece of paper. I was annoyed, and decided to just let that one go. There have been other prompts in the book that I found equally uninspiring and also decided to let go.

My biggest takeaway for the month: if you want to establish a habit of daily creativity, you need to be focused on enjoying the creative process and not on following rules or the quantity of what you’re producing. I hope you enjoyed the update, and if you want to create with me, use #createwithelizabethkaybooth to post your creations.

 

Will You Join Me in Joining a KAL?

lopi sweater KAL
Ready to swatch for my lopi sweater

I have wanted to make a lopi sweater for about as long as I’ve been knitting. When I saw this post, and realized today is February 1, I knew it was a sign that now is my time! 🙂

I am planning to knit Antipodal, although mine will be a closer-fitting version. This design has the bonus feature of being reversible, which seems unusual to me.

Above, you can see the yarns I’m hoping to use (all out of my stash), although this might change if my swatches don’t thrill me.

If you’re not crazy about my choice, or if you’d prefer to knit a cardigan, you should definitely check out the other options listed in Berrocco’s post.

I hope this will inspire you to join the fun, and if you do, please share with the rest of us! 🙂 I always welcome your photos for this or anything else on my Facebook. Of course, Berroco has a Ravelry group where everyone involved in the KAL can share progress and discuss their patterns.

100 Sweaters

In Los Angeles, it’s generally about 100 degrees (at least!) until at least the end of September. Sweater weather doesn’t start until mid-to-end of October, and sometimes later. But, depending how fast you work, now can be the perfect time to start a sweater project because by the time you finish weaving in ends and blocking it, you will be able to actually wear it.

I came across this post with 100 sweaters, and it spoke to the designer in me. But even if you’re not a designer, you will find this helpful if you’re not sure what kind of sweater you’re in the mood to make. You have 100 options here for different silhouettes, sleeve styles and necklines, so you can either choose what you like to help you decide what sort of pattern to buy, or if you’re designing your own, you have helpful visuals to help you decide which combo of necklines, sleeves and stitch patterns would make your perfect sweater. And this will exponentially help narrow down a Ravelry search, which will yield you 115,394 choices if you just type “sweater” into the pattern search.

Have fun, and happy making!

Why I Decided on Etsy (Instead of Amazon Handmade or Others)

As you all know, Colinton Australia made it possible for me to offer you all a really good deal on their Light Fingering yarn, which I decided to sell in kits on Etsy. If you haven’t already checked out my shop, I hope you will, but in the meantime, I wanted to share my research on the various platforms out there that help artisans sell their work.

I did alot of research prior to deciding on Etsy, and I thought I’d share what I found out. I hope this will be helpful and save alot of time for any of you who are wanting to sell your work online but not sure where to start. I researched four platforms – Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Kitterly, and Zulily. I also researched a few others, but they were specific to the UK, so I am only including the international ones here. Obviously, Etsy won out, but I will try to give you all an objective breakdown of each with pros and cons.

Amazon Handmade

I was really excited about this, but quickly decided against it when I researched it. The major pro is that your market would be Amazon’s market, which as we all know, is about as big as you can get. The major con to selling with them is that they charge $40 per month, which is a huge fee compared to everyone else. When you’re just starting out and getting a feel for things, this is alot of money to take out of your profits, or to spend up front when you really have no idea how the market will respond to your product. I also saw complaints that Amazon can force you to lower your prices or otherwise control your shop, which seems out of place to me when dealing with creative people who usually have a style and vision for their product and image. Their definition of handmade is also a bit contrived – the complaint I read the most is that Martha Stewart Inc. (and other big brands) are included in Amazon Handmade. All in all, I really couldn’t find a good reason to deal with Amazon other than the fact their market is so huge and it’s a popular place to shop.

Kitterly

This site was founded by a former LA yarn shop owner and a marketing executive. It is a beautifully curated site with excellent photography and is there for the sole purpose of tempting knitters into their next project. The one major downside from the designer/vendor side is that you have to contact them and get approved. It is up to them to decide if they want to work with you or feature your pattern on their site, and the process takes a few months. If you have your product in hand and just want to start connecting with customers, this is not the place for you. The other thing that frustrated me is that there are no details on the site as to what kind of profits you would receive. My conclusion is that this site is excellent for marketing yourself because if they decide to work with you, you will get good promotion with your target audience, but it’s pretty much out of your hands once you contact them.

Zulily

Zulily has a customer base of 5 million and offers a large number of brands. This is not just for knitting or crafts, but includes fashion and lifestyle. Your brand would receive excellent promotion and from what I’m reading, they do have a marketing team that works to actively promote the companies they work with. The major con, from my perspective, is that they vet everyone they work with, so again, you would need to contact them and take the month or two needed to go through the process. Their site mentions that commissions can be up to 10%, which means that you would need to sell alot of volume to really make money off of your products. These are also week-long sales or promotions, so if you want to have a permanent shop somewhere, Zulily is not your place.

Etsy

I had my hesitations about Etsy because I’d heard alot of complaints. People don’t agree with how they define the term “handmade” and didn’t like it when they opened up the market to China. And to be honest, I still do find Etsy a bit overwhelming. However, after doing all my research, I think it is still the best place to open up shop. They give you an open, honest breakdown of their fees, which are much, much lower than anyone else’s. Their interface is very easy to use when setting up your shop, and you have complete control over your product and image. Etsy has gotten huge, but it is still the most supportive of the craft/handmade market. Unfortunately, it is very hard for craftspeople to make a living when we pretty much have to compete with Walmart and all the mass-produced cheap goods. Etsy was founded to help artisans sell their work, and my conclusion after comparing it to the other platforms out there is that it is still the most proactive about following that mission.

Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with my conclusions, or if you know of any other sites that work with craftspeople. I’d love to hear your input, and feel free to let me know what you think of my shop too! And if you’re just figuring everything out, I hope this post helps save you time and money!

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.