Your Questions - Part I

My Studio

I recently ran a little giveaway on Instagram and one of the contest requirements was to either 1) suggest a tutorial or 2) ask me a question. Yes, I shamelessly pump my followers for blog content ideas! For tutorials, a beginner's guide to embroidery was the overwhelming ask and is currently in the works, but in the interim, I thought I'd answer the non-tutorial related questions. 

Here's a question for you:  how do you balance your work as a maker with your domestic and family life? You seem to have a great time doing both! - Carneykar

Balance.  That's the eternal question, isn't it? Ask any tightrope walker and they'd tell you that balance isn't a one-time trick and you've got it all figured out; instead it takes focus, constant adjusting and having a big stick to help even you out doesn't hurt. At least, that's what I'd guess they say, I don't know any tightrope walkers. 

In terms of mindset, making is a priority for me. You first make time in your life for what you need, (i.e. go to work to make money to feed your family and pay your mortgage, clean laundry, etc.) and then you prioritize (I hope) what you love, and I love both my family and making things.  

Making is as habitual for me as brushing my teeth, so I always have a variety of projects or ideas in the works and I give myself tools to work on them whenever an opportunity arises. Most of my sample knitting is done either on my carpool days or while I'm watching tv at the end of the day. I  always carry a knitting or embroidery project in my bag so I can stitch during lunch breaks or while waiting for appointments. I keep paper around to draw out new ideas and a notebook in my nightstand to jot down story ideas. I'm almost always doing something, but the majority of the time, making is how want to spend my "me time," even if it's for work purposes.

My daughter's playroom and my studio share a space - so we can "play" together. I've learned what I can and can't do with my daughter around: gardening or baking together - a hearty yes; tracing sewing patterns while she's coloring - yes;  cutting out fabric - no way. I've also learned to do everything in bits and pieces. When I really need to focus or do computer work, I work during naptime and I'm usually the last one in the house awake by a long shot. 

As much as I (mostly) enjoy all the aspects of my handmade business and want to grow it, I try to be forgiving of myself when I choose not to work.  I stayed up late last night weaving in ends and blocking a sample that is due shortly. I've got three more projects with deadlines in the queue, but if my daughter asks me to nap with her on the weekend, I probably will, because I know those chances to snuggle and plan her epic "Happy Heart Day" party before we fall asleep are short-lived.

I would also be remiss if I didn't give HUGE credit to Mr. Cleaver. He does 90% of the cooking and laundry in our household and the majority of things like grocery shopping as well. This means when I get home from work, I get to spend time with my daughter instead of rushing to make dinner and I can clean up the dishes in stages across the evening. I work from home one day a week now, which means I can help out more on the laundry/dinner/shopping front and try out fancy new recipes - which again I do in pieces. For example I made some spaetzle with pesto the other day - I made the pesto first thing in the morning before my workday started; mixed the dry ingredients and set out the pots I needed at my lunch break; and then dove into making it while Little Miss Cleaver watched My Little Pony after pickup from preschool. 

I'm certainly not prefect. Somedays I'm not as present with my family as I want to be. I'm terrible at actually taking a break. I wouldn't recommend eating off my floors.  It often feels like it takes me twice as long to get something done as I'd like it to. But I've also become more aware that life has a rhythm and an ebb and flow. So I keep my eyes on the wire, adjust as necessarily, and allow myself to be supported by those who help bring balance to my life. 

Beach Beauties in Progress

 I would like to know what is the inspiration for your designs? - cclynn14

A writer friend of mine introduced me to the phrase "plot bunnies" - the definition being that once you get one idea, it seems to multiply like rabbits until you have more ideas than time. I'd say the same is true for both my knitting and embroidery design.

Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to open and patient. I'm constantly seeing something that triggers an idea for a new design and that trigger can vary widely - I've designed four shawls based on bird-titled songs from my favorite bands, I've got a colorwork sweater in the works that came from a peeling wall paper image I saw in a friend's Instagram post about their home renovation.

Of course, if I didn't tell you that, you probably wouldn't see the connection, even if I placed them side by side. I find inspiration almost works like a dream - it takes familiar things, takes and element or two of familiarity - a mood or a color -  and shifts it into something different. With that wallpaper sweater, there's a muted color palate similar to the original and both have patterns with a circular quality, but that's about it. The songbird shawls set out to capture a mood (Leading Bird), a rather literal translation of the lyrics (Paper Bird and Tributary, aka "Cage the Songbird"), or the layout of the performers on stage (yet to be released Darlingside-inspired shawl).  

My embroidery designs are much more illustrative, and more literal in translation from concept to final design.  Often when I introduce someone to embroidery, I'll teach them by drawing a daisy on the fabric for them to trace- the Coneflower design took that idea and made it a bit more formal. (That pattern is also a secret sampler, which you'll see in the Embroidery 101 series coming up). With my embroidery designs, I'm often illustrating my dream life - something slightly agrarian and rooted in a sense of place, with a timeless quality. When I wanted to come up with a summer-themed hoop, I started thinking about all the things that would be a dream summer to me - inner tubing on a lazy river, rope swings, leaping off a dock into a lake, sun hats on the beach. Of all those ideas, the sun hats won out (see design in progress above), but it doesn't mean I won't revisit the other ones next year.  

One thing I've had to adjust to in designing is the forward-looking nature of it - as soon as I hit my current deadlines, I'm going to be working heavily on Christmas/Winter designs, in August.  Magazine work generally works on a 6-9 month lead time, so I'm designing summer sweaters in January and am knee deep in wool in July.  In those cases, mood boards from the call for submission are a great help, or I'll use Pinterest to make my own.  I'll often collect images for years before they coalesce into something - I'd been collecting images of strong rural women in early 20th paintings and photographs for sometime before it was translated into the Prairie Wife Cardigan and I'm far from done playing with that concept.  I still have a treasure trove of inspiration I've yet to translate yet - art from Andrew Wyeth and Barbara Cooney, Anne of Green Gables and my love of 1950s sci-fi - all hundreds of design bunnies, just waiting to be born. 

Something else you'd like to know? Ask in the comments below and I'll include it Part II.


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Big Projects, Little Projects, WIPs, and FOs

 

I've gotten really bad at sharing my projects here. I've been posting WIP photos on Instagram pretty regularly, but then I forget I haven't put them here, and months go by and here we are.

As LMC nears closer and closer to her third birthday, I've learned that a toddler's fashion choices have very little to do with my own preferences, and that a great interest in an item one day, may translate to no interest whatsoever for next several months. For example, LMC was super interested in this dress as I was sewing it, but has never worn it aside from those photos. In general she has no interest in dresses at all. So all those lovely detailed Oliver+S patterns I had purchased, have gone into a box.

What she will happily wear almost every day of the week and most nights to bed are tutus (or ballet skirts as they're called in the Cleaver household). So I got smart, bought some tulle and knocked out a few in her favorite colors over the holidays. They even managed to supplant the previous tutu, which was worn every other day for months and has now been relegated to the back of the drawer. As Mr. Cleaver said "You could make her one in every color and she's wear them all the time, light pink, dark pink, light purple, dark purple..." (LMC has some specific color preferences).

I haven't been quite as successfully in supplanting the "doggie hat" (see every photo of my child this winter, indoors or out) with a hand knit one, but I did give myself the greatest chance of success. It's purpley-pink, has earflaps, pompom, and an animal on it. She's worn it a handful of times, which I consider a great success.

But the nice thing about both the tutus and the owl hat is they were low-commitment projects. I made a second tutu before the first one had finished it's round in the wash, and the hat took two knitting sessions, tops.  So even if she didn't like them, ripped them, lost them, etc. It's no harm done. And THAT, I've found is the key to making handmades for this child.

The bonus of only making super-quick simple projects for LMC is that I can do the complex projects I crave for myself. And when it comes to myself, it seems, there are no simple projects. 

After number of deadline-driven knits, I was feeling a bit burned-out on knitting and instituted selfish-stitching Sundays for myself, where I could work on anything I wanted. For my first selfish-stitching project, I chose the Shersock's pattern from Lattes and Llamas. I'm a fan of the show, so I wanted something to commemorate that, but also something that was nice-enough looking that they'd still look neat even if you didn't catch the show reference, and these fit the bill perfectly. They were also the perfect selfish-stitching project, because I don't do a ton of colorwork and it gave me a chance to work on my skills.

My second selfish-stitching project was a pair of very useful  fingerless mitts knit up in some yarn I had dyed in 2011 and spun in 2012. I don't have a selfish project on the needles right now, but I just saw a new design Bristol Ivy has in progress that is absolutely stunning, so I'm pretty sure I know what its going to be.

As for sewing, my motto seems to be no small projects! As I leapt from sewing my first pair of jeans to sewing a winter coat. The jeans are the stovepipe leg version (View A) of the Ginger Jeans. With the inclusion of the sew-along, I found making jeans very do-able if time consuming. I made the lower-waisted version, which I raised a bit by making the waistband twice as wide (hence the two buttons). She's since released a tutorial on doing a mid-rise variation, which I'd probably do the next go around. I'd also make them a size down, because I didn't account for how much the denim would stretch throughout the day. But even with those caveats, I'm super proud of my jeans making. Seriously, making your own jeans makes you feel like a sewing BOSS.

As for WIPs, I'm currently working on my plaid Cascade Duffle Coat. I've been itching for a new winter coat for years, and this pattern was just the thing I was looking for. As with the jeans, it's not hard to sew per-say, there's just a ton of pieces/steps, but it's coming along. I doubt it'll be done by the end of the month as I hoped, but I live in Maine and the winter in long, so I'll still get plenty of use methinks.

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What I'm Working On

I have so many ideas these days of things I want to design, make, create and only so much time and/or energy to do such a small portion of them. It's a bit frustrating, but better than having no ideas or motivation!

After two months of straight deadline knitting, my time has opened up somewhat, and I've picked up my long-neglected Lady Heartrose Cardigan, which is inching ever closer to being finished, though I'm nervous about running out of yarn and having a heckuva time finding the kind of buttons I want. I'm thinking about holding off publishing it to do a double photo shoot with that sage lace number, which is the next knit in my queue. It's in some gorgeous Shalimar Yarn that I can't wait to knit more with.  There are going to be a lot of sweater from me this fall. 

I've also been swatching and sketching, coming up with new ideas for sweaters and embroidery projects. I've been talking with yarn dyers and companies and am trying to figure out my schedule for designs, because I have so many projects now that I have to schedule things (which is awesome and a little bit scary).

In this midst of all this, I've managed to make a 30 minute skirt for Little Miss Cleaver in 40 minutes, which was a rip-roaring success that was worn three days in a row before I insisted it needed washing. (Fabric from BeautifulWork) and spend some time with friends, and even drop in on Thursday afternoon knitting at KnitWit, where my Belacqua Cardigan sample can be found hanging by the Quince & Co. yarns. 

It's a good time for making. :) 

(PS - all these photos are from my Instagram feed, if you're into that sort of thing).

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Works in Progress

Tea and Quilting
Quilt Top
Hand-Quilting
Fort Building
Good Night Sleep Tight Embroidery in Progress by Ms. Cleaver
Sock in Progress
Banana Bread
One Bowl Banana Bread with Two Spatulas
Cleaning Up
Mommy's "Ballet Shoes"

Between the snow and the seemingly never-ending stream of sickness in the Cleaver household, there's been a lot of indoor days. Some with just enough energy to build a fort to "nap" in, others of a more productive sort. 

I finished piecing my quilt top, made my "sandwich" and have begun the actual quilting of my quilt. Huzzah!

I decided to hand-quilt it. I'm enjoying the ever-so handmade nature of my uneven stitches and since there's no deadline to be finished (I started it over 2 years ago after all), there's no need to rush. I haven't done much beyond those few test circles, as my hand-work time (read: evening tv time) has been filled, as it most usually is, with knitting.

I've finished one sample sock for a new pattern (and if you're interested in being a tester, let me know!) and have been working on a number of swatches for all kinds of different designs. I sat yesterday with a stack of stitch dictionaries and post-it notes and came up with at least one idea I really adore for a submission call. I had to tell myself to bind off the swatch because I wanted to keep knitting it.

On days I've been home with LMC, for illness or weekending reasons, she keeps me on my toes- sometimes literally, as she's become very interested in ballet, which to her means yelling BALLET! and doing something akin to an arabesque attitude. I have since taught her to plié as well.

I'm not sure where she picked it up, as the only ballet I can recall showing her prior to this was bits of the nutcracker at Christmas and the occasional SYTYCD clip.But perhaps it stuck as the other day she found and insisted on wearing mommy's "ballet shoes."  Then again it could be something from daycare, as it took me a while to figure out her "ski" impression from school - there's only so much those daily report sheets tell you.

In there anything you've been working on lately?

 

 

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Works in Progress

Sock in Progress
Good Night Sleep Tight in Progress
Good Night Sleep Tight Sketch
Box of Swans Island Yarn

Nature, and my hands apparently, abhor a vacuum. 

I know I said I was in-between projects, but now it seems like I have so many ideas that I don't know what to do with myself. 

I picked up a half-finished pair of socks from over two years ago and am about one episode of Jeopardy! + one episode of Doctor Who  away from finishing that long neglected sock later this evening. And in a fit of productivity, I wrote up a multi-size pattern for it, like you do. Pending some good light for photos and some Adobe time this weekend, we may have an unexpected new pattern out soon! (It looks more interesting on, believe me.)

I got my new backing fabric for my embroidery piece and am being perfectionist over the "font" (as much as handwriting translated to stitching can be a font). Being a perfectionist, it's slow going and contemplative, which is how I like my embroidery to be.  

When I picked up my embroidery fabric, I also picked up my backing and batting for my quilt. I still need to attach the border to the top, and sweep the floor before I try basting anything, but I feel like it's coming along nicely. I think I'm going to hand quilt it, in a super simple way. I'm too scared to try out machine quilting just yet. at least, i'd prefer to be some practice in on a pillow top or something first before I dove into a whole quilt. 

Last and not least, my box of yarn arrived from Swans Island this week, which means I can start swatching. I've got plans for two women's sweaters, a spring/summer cardigan and a fall/winter pullover that I can't wait to start working on. And then there's the shawl ideas in my head, and LMC's second birthday is coming up soon and I have  to make something for that, and.. well you get the picture.

What's keeping your hands busy these days?

 

 

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Snow!

We ended up with 20 inches of snow yesterday, somewhat shy of the 30+ inches in February 2013, but a whopper of a storm nonetheless.

But Mainers handle storms like no others I've known. We hunker down at home, wait it out, and then start cleaning up after the last flakes have fallen. I drove to work today a few hours late past some large snow mounds,to arrive at a full parking garage and office. Its amazing how quickly Mainers moves on. Of course it'll be a few days yet before the piles are moved, and we have more snow in the forecast for Friday and Monday, but that's winter in Maine for you. 

Granted, I don't have to do any shoveling (Mr. Cleaver does yeoman's work there), but the nice thing about a big snow (provide you keep your power) is how its forces you to slow down, take it easy for a day. Of course me being me, I made up some storm scones in the AM and took naptime to finish up a deadline project and sew on the sashing for my quilt top. 

As for the quilt, I've learned quite a few things already, like I would have saved myself a whole heap of seam ripping if I had just pinned my pieces together first, instead of thinking I could sew evenly in a straight line (which gets harder when the line is several feet long). Also I now know to not assume that the solid-colored pieces are dyed and not printed. But I'm very please with where it's at right now, and LMC has certainly claimed it (as with any piece of fabric or knitting I leave out) as the perfect place to "nap" or hide. 

I'm in a bit of an inbetweeny place right now. As of last night, I'm halfway through my first read of The Little Prince, and I've got nothing much in the queue to follow, I've got one knitting project finished and nothing new on the needles yet, and an embroidery piece that's stalled until I purchase some different fabric. But while my hands were empty while watching TV last night, the possibilities are open and I've got several new ideas I want to get started on, including a box of yarn that should be arrived on my doorstop soon.

I'm thinking I'm might share the process of my next knit design from start to end, would that be of interest to anyone?

 

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Resolve

Ella Raglan sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Rabbit Repaired
Ella Raglan sewn by Ms. Cleaver
PeekaBread
Quilt in Progress

It seems like I can never quite make up my mind regarding resolutions by the time December 31st rolls around. I feel like I should review my year and make goals for the next, but in the midst of the Holiday season, it never happens.

Now that the calendar has turned to quieter days of January, that time for reflection seems more appropriate and available. I'm thinking I should just give up the Gregorian calendar and make my resolutions for the upcoming Lunar New Year (which falls soon enough on February 19th). 

From the time I was in middle school, up through college, I dutifully made a scrapbook for each calendar year. After several years off, I returned to the tradition of the annual photo albums in 2013. Of course now I make them digitally and get two copies printed, one to be perused, poked, and enjoyed today, and one kept safe for LMC someday.

My 2014 books arrived in the mail over the weekend allowing me to look back on the past year to some events seemingly so far away now (her first birthday! summer!) and some as near as two week ago. We did a LOT of stuff last year.

Some of it, much of it, wasn't a big deal - like going to Old Orchard Beach for pizza and pier fries in the snow, or trying out the splash pad at a local park. Others were medium deals - trips to the nearby petting zoo, apple picking. And there were handful of big deals - the vacation in Camden/Rockland and the trip out California. But all put together, it was a very full year. Looking back, my only regret was not taking off more days in the early summer to just be.

So I guess if I have one concrete goal for 2015, it's to take more vacation days in June and July.

But since I've taken so long to come up with my resolutions, why stop at one? 

I thought I had made a list of ten additional of disparate goals, but upon review they all sort bunched into one: 

Fight the entropy.

Or what Mr. Cleaver calls "entropy" - the gradual descent into disorder, the propensity of any flat surface to accumulate "stuff," for things once ignore to stay ignored, etc., etc. 

Yes, I'm going to try to put things away, or recycle or shred them, but more importantly - I'm attacking those stacks of needs-repair or half-finished or planned and purchased projects. Whether that means completion or admitting that its really not important to me. Sock without a mate from 2012? Unpainted closet door from 2010?  I'm looking at you!

I've actually made some good headway on this project thing, including sewing up a raglan dress for LMC and a dress for her doll I cut out in early September. I turned a broken necklace into a new bracelet/necklace.  I've repaired no less than three stuffed animals mauled by Steinbeck in his pre- and post-travel anxiety days. And I started working on a quilt I did some piecing on back in 2013. 

I'm sure in a few weeks I'll get all excited by some shiny and new project, but even it that turns out to be, I've still made a good dent in my existing stacks of stuff. 

What about you, did you make any resolutions this year? 

 

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Slowing Down, Stitch by Stitch

Cross Stitch Stocking in ProgressWaldorf DollCross Stitch Stocking in Progress
Waldorf DollCross Stitch Stocking in Progress

Waldorf DollThe end of summer came all too quickly this year bringing with it big changes (LMC started daycare two days a week) and big deadlines (knitting and day-job related), and the sad realization that I should have taken more days off of work. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all and have found some soothing simplicity in hand-work. Setting all knitting aside for a a few weeks, I've been focused on my cross-stitch, and this newly finished Waldorf Doll for LMC. At other times, I would find it all a bit tedious, but for me, for now, it's just right.

What do you turn to when you need some quietude in your life?

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Yard Work

We took advantage of decent weather and a long weekend to get some yard work done. Mr. Cleaver mowed the lawn, Little Miss did lawn mower maintenance (it's electric and I'd highly recommend it), and Steinbeck keep guard. Meanwhile, I put on my best Bobby C. shirt, pulled out the tools, and put together two very long overdue frame for raised beds.

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Introducing: Latitude

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My final design in the Strata and Line Collection is Latitude, a cozy and simple sweater coat.

The coat is worked from the top down with round yoke shaping and a bit of waist shaping. The buttonholes are worked with the rest of the body, while the oversized collar and cuffs are picked up and worked after in the striped pattern (though you could always knit separately and seam on if desired).

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The sample features Quince & Co's Puffin yarn in a range of seaglass blues. This fluffy single-ply yarn makes the coat super warm and cuddly.

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As a sweater coat, Latitude was designed to be worn with approximately 2" positive ease. The modeled shots show the coat with about 4" of ease. For comparison here's a shot or two of me wearing it over a 38.5 week baby bump and 1-2" of negative ease.

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Latitude is available for download as a solo pattern for $6.00 USD or can be purchased from my Ravelry store with my other two designs from the collection, Longitude and Lamina for a discounted $12 (with the coupon code LINE).

Latitude $6 USD

If you want to queue it up on Ravelry, the collection can be found here.

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